Current Affairs Analysis

22nd December 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Frog species Odorrana Arunachalensis; Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary; National Service Scheme Awards 2016-17; National Service Scheme (NSS); Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act; DARPAN Project; National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC); National Highways Authority of India (NHAI); SAMEEP (Students and MEA Engagement Program); India-Swiss deal on data sharing; MoU for development of Rakhine state; Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) ICGS Sujay; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
December 22, 2017


Polity & Governance

  • President presents National Service Scheme Awards 2016-17
  • Govt introduced the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 in Parliament

Government Schemes & Policies

  • DARPAN launched for financial inclusion of rural population


  • NHAI creates National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC)

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • New frog species identified in Arunachal

Bilateral & International Relations

  • MEA launches SAMEEP
  • India-Swiss deal inked on data sharing
  • India and Myanmar sign MoU for development of Rakhine state

Defence & Security Issues

  • Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) ICGS Sujay

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Polity & Governance

President presents National Service Scheme Awards 2016-17

The President Shri Ram Nath Kovind recently presented National Service Scheme Awards 2016-17.


Objective of NSS Awards:

  • The objective of NSS Awards is to recognize and reward outstanding contributions towards voluntary community service made by the Universities/ Senior Secondary (+2) Councils, NSS Units/ Programme Officers and NSS Volunteers, with a view to further promote NSS.

About National Service Scheme (NSS):


  • National Service Scheme (NSS) was launched during 1969, the birth centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi, in 37 universities involving 40000 students.
  • NSS is an extension dimension to the higher education system to orient the student youth to community service while they are studying in educational institutions.
  • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India.

Aims and objectives of NSS:

  • To understand the community in which they work;
  • To understand themselves in relation to their community;
  • To identify the needs and problems of the community and involve them in problem solving process.
  • To develop among themselves a sense of social and civic responsibility;
  • To utilise their knowledge in finding practical solution to individual and community problems;
  • To develop competence required for group-living and sharing of responsibilities:
  • To gain skills in mobilising community participation;
  • To acquire leadership qualities and democratic attitude;
  • To develop capacity to meet emergencies and natural disasters; and
  • To practice national integration and social harmony

Motto of NSS:

  • The motto or watchword of the National Service Scheme is “NOT ME BUT YOU”.


  • NSS is being implemented in Senior Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities.

Programme Structure

  • The design of the NSS envisages that each educational institution covered under the Scheme has at least one NSS unit comprising of normally 100 student volunteers, led by a teacher designated as Programme Officer (PO).
  • Each NSS unit adopts a village or slum for taking up its activities.

Nature of Activities under NSS:

Briefly, the NSS volunteers work on issues of social relevance, which keep evolving in response to the needs of the community, through regular and special camping activities. Such issues include

  • literacy and education,
  • health, family welfare and nutrition,
  • environment conservation,
  • social service programmes,
  • programmes for empowerment of women,
  • programmes connected with economic development activities,
  • rescue and relief during calamities, etc.
[Ref: PIB, NSS]


Govt introduced the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 in Parliament

The Centre has introduced the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 in the Parliament.


  • The Bill proposes to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics on their own terms.
  • The amendment paves the way to remove an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, which requires overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.

What is Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act?

Section 20A lays down the special provisions for citizens of India residing outside India. They are as follows:

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, every citizen of India —

  • whose name is not included in the electoral roll;
  • who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country; and
  • who is absenting from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to his employment, education or otherwise outside India (whether temporarily or not), shall be entitled to have his name registered in the electoral roll in the constituency in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in his passport is located.


Reasons for passage of this bill:

  • Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act provides for registration and inclusion of overseas electors in the electoral rolls.
  • Additionally, the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provide for overseas electors to register themselves in the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies on the basis of self-attested copies of their passport and valid visa, and exercise their franchise in person on production of the original passport at the time of voting at the specified polling booth.
  • Thus, the rules demand for the physical presence of overseas electors in their respective polling stations in India on the day of polling. This causes hardship to the overseas electors.

This amendment proposes facilitating an external mode of voting, that is, voting by proxy, whereby such electors can exercise their franchise from their places of residence abroad.

Significance of this move:

  • If the Bill is passed, overseas voters can appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to certain conditions to be laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. This would considerably mitigate the difficulties presently faced by overseas electors in exercising their franchise.
  • The government’s decision to allow NRIs to vote from overseas could emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics as there are 114 countries that conduct such voting.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Government Schemes & Policies

DARPAN launched for financial inclusion of rural population

The Union Ministry of Communications has launched DARPAN – “Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for A New India” Project to improve the quality of service, add value to services and achieve “financial inclusion” of un-banked rural population.


What is DARPAN Project?

DARPAN is Information Technology (IT) modernisation project aimed at realising financial inclusion of un-banked rural population. It offers core banking services to the account holders.

Aims and objectives of DARPAN Project:

  • The project intends to provide low power technology solution to each branch postmaster (BPM). This will enable each of approximately 1.29 lakhs branch post offices (BOs) to improve service delivery.
  • It aims to increase rural reach of Department of Posts (DoP) and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance and Cash Certificates.
  • It also aims to improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article.

Significance of the project:

The Project shall

  • Increase the rural reach of the Department of Posts and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance, and Cash Certificates;
  • Improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article;
  • Increase revenue using retail post business;
  • Provide third party applications; and
  • Make disbursements for social security schemes such as MGNREGS.


  • So far, 43,171 Branch Post Offices have migrated under the “DARPAN”project with the aim of financial inclusion to rural population and it is targeted to complete the project by March, 2018.
[Ref: PIB]



NHAI Creates National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC)

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has created a National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC) for attracting domestic and foreign investment for highways projects.

National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC) gettyimages

About National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC):

  • The NHIPC will focus on engaging with global institution investors, construction companies, developers and fund managers for building investor participation in road infrastructure projects.
  • The NHIPC will be working in close co-ordination with various connected Ministries and Departments of Government of India, State Governments, Apex Business Chambers like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, and InvestIndia etc.
  • NHIPC will also work in close co-ordination with Foreign Embassies and Missions in India and Indian Embassies and Missions situated in foreign countries.

Need for such move:

  • The Government has set an ambitious target of construction of 35,000 km. of National Highways in the next five years involving an investment of Rs. 5,35,000/- crores under ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’. Given the scale of investment required, both foreign and domestic investment from public and private sector is pivotal.

About NHAI:


  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is an autonomous agency of the Government of India.
  • It is responsible for management of a network of over 70,000 km of National Highways in India.
  • It is a nodal agency of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The NHAI was created through the promulgation of the National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988. In February 1995, the Authority was formally made an autonomous body.
  • It is responsible for the development, maintenance, management and operation of National Highways.
[Ref: PIB, Economic Times]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

New frog species identified in Arunachal

Scientists have discovered a new frog species in the fast flowing streams in Arunachal Pradesh’s Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) Lower Subansiri district.  


  • The new species has been named after the state Arunachal Pradesh as Odorrana arunachalensis.
  • The new species is one of the five discovered in India in the recent times and the 59th in the world. There are over 50 species of frogs belonging to the genus Odorrana.

About Frog species Odorrana Arunachalensis:

  • Odorrana (commonly known as the odorous frog) is a genus of true frogs (Ranidae) from East Asia and surrounding regions including India.
  • It is a medium-sized green frog adapted for a life in torrential waters of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The presence of a black band-like mark between the eyes is a distinguishing character of the Odorrana arunachalensis that separates it from all the other frog species of this genus.
  • This new species dwells in moss and fern covered rocky section along the hill streams in mixed wet tropical forest type.
  • The Odorrana Arunachalensis species is majorly sighted during the wet season from April to September. They are not seen in the dry seasons.
  • Currently, they are being sighted within and outskirts of the Talley Valley WLS but are expected to be found in a wider range due to the availability of similar habitats of this species in other parts of the state.

About Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary:

Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary iastoppers

  • It is a wildlife sanctuary as well as a bio-diversity hotspot located in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is situated at the altitude of 2400 metres with rivers like Pange, Sipu, Karing and Subansiri flowing through the Reserved Forest and Sanctuary.
  • Talley is plateau with dense forest of silver fir trees, pine clad plateau of beautiful grandeur, and vast wasteland.
  • It mainly comprises sub-tropical and alpine forests and has variety of flora and fauna, many of which are endangered. It is home to highly endangered species like clouded leopard.

Talley_Valley_Wildlife_Sanctuary_AP clouded leopard iastoppers

  • Pleioblastus simone is a bamboo variety only found in Talley Valley.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

MEA launches SAMEEP

The Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has launched SAMEEP (Students and MEA Engagement Program).


What is SAMEEP?

  • SAMEEP is an outreach mission that aims to take Indian foreign policy and its global engagements to students across country and also to look at diplomacy as a career option.

Objective of SAMEEP:

  • The objective of outreach program is to familiarise school and college students in India about functioning of the MEA.
  • It also seeks to introduce them to key elements of India’s foreign policy and its success stories.


How this program works?

  • It is a voluntary programme for MEA officials, undersecretary and above with option of going back to any school or college in their hometown or to their alma mater.
  • Under it, MEA officials will go to their hometowns and particularly their alma mater while on leave to engage and interact with students in schools and colleges.
  • The officers will convey how MEA works, India’s foreign policy, how they do diplomacy so that student consider about this as a career option.
  • The MEA will provide its officials standardized presentation for this outreach programme and officials will be free to make changes for betterment of it can add their personal experiences.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]


India-Swiss deal inked on data sharing

In a move aimed at combating black money stashed abroad, India has signed an agreement with Switzerland that would allow automatic sharing of tax- related information from January 1st 2018.

India-Swiss deal inked on data sharing iastoppers

Present scenario:

  • So far, India had to ask Switzerland for specific bits of information by proving that a valid inquiry was on against the account holder. The Swiss could delay or deny the information altogether.


  • A joint declaration for the implementation of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) was signed last month between the two sides and it provided that both countries would start collecting data in accordance with the global standards in 2018 and exchange it from 2019 onwards.
  • The AEOI conforms to a norm set by global economic body the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for tax transparency.
  • While Switzerland has conformed to the global standards on automatic exchange of information with the signing of the declaration, India, on its part, has promised to safeguard the confidentiality of the data.

Significance of this move:

  • Confidentiality and data protection requirements are to be strictly followed under the automatic information exchange framework. This process ensures the signatory always maintains control over its exchange partners and the treatment of the data exchanged, as per OECD.
  • The automatic exchange of information will also discourage Indians from stashing black money in Swiss banks. However, Indian deposits in Swiss banks have been falling already.
  • Though the deal will do little by way of bringing back black money from Swiss accounts, it will have a deterrent effect. The black money hoarders will be under pressure with one big safe haven gone off their list.

Need for such move:

  • Switzerland, which has always been at the centre of the debate on black money allegedly stashed by Indians abroad, used to be known for very strong secrecy walls till a few years ago around its banking practices. A huge global pressure has resulted in Switzerland relenting on the tough secrecy clauses its local laws gave to the banks.
[Ref: The Hindu]


India and Myanmar sign MoU for development of Rakhine state

India and Myanmar signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at developing Myanmar’s Rakhine state.


About the MoU:

  • Under the signed MoU, India will provide Myanmar with $25 million for development projects including prefabricated houses in troubled Rakhine state to enable the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled the area.
  • This support is intended to help the Government of Myanmar achieve its objective of restoration of normalcy in Rakhine State and enable the return of displaced persons.
  • Under this MoU, Government of India proposes to take up, among others, a project to build prefabricated housing in Rakhine State so as to meet the immediate needs of returning people.
  • Besides housing, the proposals include building schools, healthcare facilities and building bridges and roads.



  • As per United Nations, more than 600,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh after attacks by insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
  • The international community demands the Rohingya be allowed to go home in safety, and Bangladesh and Myanmar have begun talks on repatriation, but huge doubts remain about the Rohingya ever being able to return in peace to rebuild homes and till fields.
  • India, which is concerned about the influx of the refugees into its territory, has stressed economic development of the Rakhine region as a way to help lower tensions.

India’s assistance to Myanmar:

  • India has been trying to promote economic cooperation with Myanmar to try to push back against China’s expansive involvement in infrastructure development across south Asia.

China’s assistance to Myanmar:

  • Beijing has also stepped into the Rohingya crisis and proposed a three-phase plan including a ceasefire, bilateral talks and then tackling poverty long-term.

Significance of Rakhine state for India:

Rakhine is critical to strategic objectives of India in the region.


  • Kaladan multimodal project, India’s dream connectivity project in region, originates from restive state.
  • In addition, number of ongoing friendship projects also includes Sittwe port (capital of Rakhine province) and road from Paletwa–Zorinpui.
  • Other key projects that are being built by India are Rhi-Tiddim road project, India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) Trilateral Highway road from Kalewa to Yargyi, project to build 69 bridges on Tamu–Kyigone–Kalewa road, Yamethin Police Training Centre and hospital projects.
[Ref: The Hindu, Live Mint]


Defence & Security Issues

Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) ICGS Sujay

An Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) named ICGS Sujay was recently commissioned into Indian Coast Guard (ICG).


About ICGS Sujay:

  • It has been designed and built by Goa Shipyard Limited.
  • It is 105 meter OPV fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machineries.
  • It can also carry pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea. It has latest and modern equipment and systems that provides ship capability to perform role of Command platform to accomplish all ICG charter of duties.

Deployment of ICGS Sujay:

  • ICGS (Indian Coast Guard Ship) Sujay (meaning Great Victory) will based at Paradip, Odisha under operational and administrative control of Commander Coast Guard Region (North-East).
  • It will be deployed extensively for EEZ surveillance and other duties as enshrined in Coast Guard Charter, to safeguard maritime interests of India.


  • The commissioning of ICGS Sujay will enhance ICG’s operational capability to discharge multifarious maritime tasks.
  • It will also give fillip to maritime protection of India’s vast coastline of Eastern Seaboard in general and maritime state of Odisha and West Bengal in particular.
[Ref: PIB, Times of India]


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