Polity & Governance
- New format for police officials recording road accidents
- Amnesty faults sedition law in its State of the World’s Human Rights report
- BharatQR code unveiled
Environment & Ecology
- Corbett gets nod to kill poachers
- Four new tiny frog species found in Western Ghats
- National Biodiversity Congress 2017
Bilateral & International Relations
- 6,000 Indian millionaires moved abroad in 2016: New World Wealth report
- India, Japan ink pact on rail safety
- MoU between India and Australia for cooperation in civil aviation
Defence & Security Issues
- Cyber Swachhta Kendra
- Defence ministry clears coastal surveillance network project
Science & Technology
- Green tea-laced capacitor to power wearable devices
Key Facts for Prelims
- Cauvery Tribunal gets new head
- Punjab bans manufacture, sale of gutkha, pan masala for one year
Polity & Governance
New format for police officials recording road accidents
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has released the new format for recording and reporting road accident data.
- The uniform accident-recording format has been drawn on the lines of developed countries.
- It has been forwarded to all state police and transport departments for adaptation and to furnish annual road accident data.
- The new format has been designed by a high-level committee set up by the transport research wing of the ministry comprising senior officials and experts from IITs and World Health Organization (WHO).
Under the new format:
- Police, transport department and other agencies rather merely putting blame on driver, should consider factor in circumstances such as road conditions, visibility, signage and weather that led to an accident first.
- The concerned authorities will have to furnish five-point information regarding every accident, which will be monitored centrally.
- Five points:
- Section A contains accident identification details like location, vehicle type etc.
- Section B captures road conditions and features like culvert, gradient, pothole etc.
- Section C would capture details about vehicle – both motorized and non motorized, overloading etc.
- Section D would capture traffic violations by drivers and
- Section E would capture details about persons other than drivers involved in the accident.
- These five points include the site of accident, details of vehicles involved, weather condition, victims’ details and nature of mishap.
Significance of this move:
- This development is important as the data forms the basis for analyzing the cause of accidents, identifying black spots and taking corrective steps to eliminate the same.
- This is also the data that gets compiled by the Transport Research Wing of the Ministry in its annual publication Road Accidents in India.
- Over a period of time the data will reveal patterns which will provide solutions and enable action to be taken.
Need for new rules:
- The recording of accident data is done in FIRs at police stations. These records are liable to be subjective as the police personnel fill it up according to their understanding and assign reasons for accidents as per their interpretation.
- There are apprehensions that due to limited technical understanding, the police persons recording the data are not able to recognize the role of road engineering defects, the nature of impacting vehicles and other such technical details that may have caused the accident.
- As a result, these aspects that are so vital for ensuring road safety but remain unreported or under reported.
In India, every day 1,374 roads accidents and 400 deaths are reported across the country, which translates into 57 accidents and 17 deaths every hour on an average.[Ref: PIB]
Amnesty faults sedition law in its State of the World’s Human Rights report
Amnesty International has released its State of the World’s Human Rights Report for the year 2016-17.
- AI’s annual report is a comprehensive survey of the state of human rights in 159 countries.
Highlights of the report:
- The report has expressed concerns over a range of human rights violations in India. It has slammed the use of legislation such as the Foreign Currency (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and the sedition law to silence government critics and crack down on civil society organisations.
- It noted the suspension of FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective, and government’s refusal to renew the FCRA licences of 25 NGOs “without offering valid reasons”, which constitute a violation of the right to freedom of association.
- The report expressed concerns over extra-judicial killings in different States, including Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh.
- The report criticised the Indian state’s handling of the protests in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
- It pointed out that India’s draft national education policy released last August “made no mention of human rights education.”
- The report notes, “Human rights activists and journalists faced intimidation and attacks from both state and non-state actors in India.”
- The report also noted that “Dalits and Adivasis continued to face widespread abuses”.
- Besides, the report drew attention to India’s amendment to the child labour law, which allows children under 14 to work in “family enterprises”, and children between 14 and 18 years to work in occupations not classified as “hazardous.”
About Amnesty International:
- Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty and AI) is a non-governmental organisation focused on human rightswith over 7 million members and supporters around the world.
- The stated objective of the organisation is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.
- Amnesty works to mobilise public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.
- Its moto is “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
- The organisation was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prizefor its “campaign against torture,” and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
BharatQR code unveiled
The Union Government has launched BharatQR code, a quick response (QR) code to enable digital payments without card swiping machines.
- It is world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution launched by Indian Government to move towards less-cash economy.
What is QR code?
- QR code (Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone.
- It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers.
- It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading.
- QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code.
- It carries information both horizontally and vertically. It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.
How does QR codes work for online payments?
- In case of retail payments, QR code eliminates the need of a Point of Sale (PoS, or card swipe) machine for carrying out electronic transaction.
- If the merchant and the customer are using the same payment application, such as PayTM or a bank’s app, then the customer can scan the merchant’s QR code to make the payment.
What is BharatQR code?
- BharatQR code has been developed by jointly by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Visa, MasterCard and American Express under instructions from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
- It works as common interface for the MasterCard/Visa/RuPay platforms and also facilitate acceptance of Aadhaar-enabled payments and Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
- It enables person to make payments to retailers without using the merchant’s ID or number. It eliminated need of using card swiping machines making digital payments.
- Using, BharatQR code merchants will be required to only display one QR code instead of multiple ones. Users can make payment by scanning the code.
Types of BharatQR code:
BharatQR code is of two types static and dynamic.
- In static QR code, first code need to be scanned and then amount is entered to make payment.
- In case of dynamic QR code, new QR code will be generated in real time for every transaction. In this case there is no need to enter the amount. The payment is just made by scanning and entering the PIN.
Need for BharatQR:
- BharatQR is ideal for small roadside merchants who find it tough to invest in point-of-sale terminals for card payments. For them, BharatQR is an asset-light and cheap payment solution.
- There is no need to invest on a terminal hardware, the merchant just needs a smartphone and a QR code printed sticker to accept digital payments.
How will it be implemented?
The RBI has instructed the payment companies to develop the solution and then pass it on to banks which are expected to hand over printed QR codes to merchants who are current account holders with the bank.
This ensures there’s interoperability and customers will not have to bother which mobile wallet app to use or which bank’s app to pay with.[Ref: The Hindu, ET]
Environment & Ecology
Corbett gets nod to kill poachers
In a stringent anti-poaching measure, authorities at Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) have issued shoot-at-sight orders “to prevent killing of big cats in the reserve”.
Besides the shoot-at-sight orders, various other steps are being taken by the authorities, including barring villagers in the vicinity from entering the protected area and subjecting visitors to the park to extensive frisking.
Poaching in Uttarakhand:
- Incidents of poaching of tigers and leopards have been on the rise in Uttarakhand.
- According to a report, the hill state reported seizure of 22 leopard skins and bones in 2016.
- Numbers are equally alarming when it comes to tigers. Between 2012 to March 14, 2016, 50 tiger deaths were reported from CTR, out of which 13 big cats were killed by poachers.
- In March 2016, the special task force (STF) of Uttarakhand police in the biggest haul of its kind seized the skins of five tigers from a gang of poachers.
About the Jim Corbett National Park:
Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger.
- It is located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand and was named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment.
- The park encompasses the Patli Dun valley formed by the Ramganga river.
- The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
- The park is surrounded by the dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, peepal, rohini and mango trees. Forest covers almost 73% of the park, 10% of the area consists of grasslands.
- Corbett National Park is one of the thirteen protected areas covered by the World Wide Fund For Nature under their Terai Arc Landscape Program. The program aims to protect three of the five terrestrial flagship species, the tiger, the Asian elephant and the great one-horned rhinoceros, by restoring corridors of forest to link 13 protected areas of Nepal and India, to enable wildlife migration.
Four new tiny frog species found in Western Ghats
Scientists exploring the forests of the Western Ghats have come across four new species of tiny frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail.
The newly discovered frogs include:
- Athirappilly Night Frog,
- Sabarimala Night Frog,
- Radcliffe’s Night frog and
- Kadalar Night Frog.
- These species are among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ discovered by the researchers.
- Night Frogs belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus endemic to the Western Ghats and represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago.
- The discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are diminutive in size (less than 18 mm).
Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are threatened with extinction. Out of the seven new species, 5 face considerable anthropogenic extinction threats and require immediate conservation.[Ref: The Hindu]
National Biodiversity Congress 2017
The National Biodiversity Congress (NBC) 2017, hosted by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, was held in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).
- NBC is one of the significant biodiversity mega events of the country.
- It aims to identify practical, evidence-based case studies at the regional level to support the plan of action.
- The focal theme of 2017 NBC was “Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Sustainable Development”.
- National Biodiversity Conference, governed by a national advisory committee comprising biodiversity conservation experts was also held.
- Number of experts in field of biodiversity conservation had delivered keynote address and plenary lectures on variety of key issues related to biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing.
- Members of academic and research institutions, civil society, biodiversity management committees, NGOs, farmers, students, corporates also participated in the event.
Bilateral & International Relations
6,000 Indian millionaires moved abroad in 2016: New World Wealth report
According to a report by New World Wealth, around 6,000 uber-rich Indians have changed their domicile in 2016, while in 2015 as many as 4,000 millionaires had shifted base.
Definition of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs):
- Millionaires or High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) refer to individuals with net assets of $1 million or more.
Highlights of the report:
- India is among the top five countries globally which saw the maximum number of millionaire outflows with as many as 6,000 ultra-rich people shifting overseas in 2016, 50% more than the previous year.
- Over the next decade, India is expected to benefit from strong growth in the local financial services, IT, real estate, healthcare and media sectors.
- In particular, the local hospital services and health insurance sectors are expected to grow strongly.
- Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore are expected to lead the pack in terms of wealth growth.
- According to the report, France saw the maximum outflow of millionaires, with as many as 12,000 super rich leaving the country. France is heavily impacted by rising religious tensions between Christians and Muslims, especially in urban areas.
- Some of the other countries that witnessed significant ouflow of millionaires include China (9,000), Brazil (8,000) and Turkey (6,000).
- Other European countries where religious tensions are starting to emerge such as Belgium, Germany, Austria, the UK, Holland and Sweden will also be negatively affected in the near future.
- Meanwhile, in terms of millionaire inflows, Australia topped the chart as it saw as many as 11,000 uber rich people shifting base there, followed by the US (10,000) and Canada (8,000) in the second and third place respectively.
- The reasons behind HNWIs preferring Australia to the US and the UK is that Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and its location makes it a good base for doing business in emerging Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and India.
- Moreover, Australia is relatively immune to the turmoil in the Middle East and the related refugee crisis in Europe and it has lower inheritance taxes than the US and much lower inheritance taxes than the UK.
- Other countries that experienced large inflows of HNWIs in 2016 include Canada, UAE, New Zealand and Israel.
India, Japan ink pact on rail safety
India signed an agreement with Japan on enhancing railway safety in the Indian Railways with focus on railway track and rolling stock safety.
- The areas of cooperation include rail inspection, rail wielding and providing automatic railway track safety inspection, maintenance of rolling stock and “any other relevant railway safety matters jointly determined by both sides” with the aim to prevent major rail accidents.
The agreement with Japan comes at a time when the train derailments are on the rise. In 2016-17, the number of consequential train accidents remained the same level as last year at 95 while derailments rose from 56 to 74. Unmanned level crossing accidents fell.[Ref: The Hindu]
MoU between India and Australia for cooperation in civil aviation
- The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Australia for promotion and development of cooperation in civil aviation security.
- The MoU will provide an opportunity to Indian aviation security authorities to share the expertise of their Australian counterparts and enhance the overall aviation security environment in India.
- The MoU will provide compliance of international obligation as well as enhance promotion in the area of security cooperation between the two countries.
Defence & Security Issues
Cyber Swachhta Kendra
The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra in New Delhi for Botnet cleaning and Malware analysis.
- It was launched as part of Union Government’s ambitious digital India initiative to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections.
About Cyber Swachhta Kendra:
- The centre mission is to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections in India and to notify, enable cleaning and securing systems of end users so as to prevent further infections.
- It is being operated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under provisions of Section 70B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
- The centre complies with the objectives of the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013 which aims at creating a secure cyber eco-system in the country.
- It operates in close coordination and collaboration with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), academia, banks and Product and Antivirus companies.
- The Centre will also work in close collaboration with the Banks to detect malware infections in their banking network and enable remedial actions.
Significance of Cyber Swachhta Kendra:
With the growth in digitalization and proliferation of broadband and mobile internet, security of end users’ systems is vital for enhancing their trust in ICT and online transactions. User information from the computer and the mobile devices can be compromised if systems get affected with Bots. Users therefore need to practice a rigid cyber hygiene regimen to prevent malware infections on their systems and to ensure security of their systems through suitable anti-malware tools.
The launch of the Centre will help the Internet service providers and the banks to keep their networks clean and prevent cases of cyber fraud and theft.
Cyber security tools:
Apart from Cyber Swachhta Kendra, MeitY also launched some cyber security tools.
- USB Pratirodh: It is a desktop security solution to protect from USB mass storage device threats.
- AppSamvid: It is a desktop solution to protect systems by allowing installation of genuine applications through white listing. It helps in preventing threats from malicious applications.
- M-Kavach: It is an indigenously developed mobile application to address the security threats in mobiles.
Defence ministry clears coastal surveillance network project
The Union Defence Ministry has given its nod to the Phase II of coastal surveillance project to expand the coastal radar surveillance network.
- The decision was taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
- It will strengthen surveillance of over 7,500-km coastline of the country.
- DAC also approved proposal of setting up of a shore-based intermediate engine repair facility for the Indian Navy’s MiG-29K fighters at the Naval yard in Goa.
About Phase II of coastal surveillance project:
- Phase II of coastal surveillance project involves setting up 38 additional radars aimed to give gap less electronic surveillance of Indian coastline.
- The project will be executed by Indian companies and Bengaluru based Bharat Electronics Ltd will be the lead integrator for the various works.
- Under it four mobile surveillance stations will be also set up and will be integrated with two vessel traffic management systems (VTMS) in Kutch and Khambat in Gujarat.
Science & Technology
Green tea-laced capacitor to power wearable devices
Scientists have used green tea compounds to develop a new flexible and compact rechargeable energy storage device which may power more comfortable wearable electronics.
How was it developed?
- The researchers prepared polymer gels in green tea extract, which infuses the gel with polyphenols.
- The polyphenols converted a silver nitrate solution into a uniform coating of silver nanoparticles. Thin layers of conducting gold and poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) were then applied.
- The resulting supercapacitor demonstrated power and energy densities of 2,715 watts per kg and 22 watt- hours per kg — enough to operate a heart rate monitor, LEDs or a bluetooth module.
Key Facts for Prelims
Cauvery Tribunal gets new head
- The government has appointed Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre of the Supreme Court as chairman of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
- He was nominated for the post by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar.
- The post fell vacant following the resignation of Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan.
- The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was constituted by the Government of India on 2nd June 1990 to adjudicate the water dispute regarding inter-state river Cauvery and the river valley thereof.
- The Tribunal had also passed an Interim Order in June, 1991 and further Clarificatory Orders on the Interim Order in April, 1992 and December, 1995.
- The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal has submitted its reports and decision under Section 5 (2) of Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to Government on 5th February, 2007.
Punjab bans manufacture, sale of gutkha, pan masala for one year
- Punjab government has prohibited the manufacture, storage, sale or distribution of food products containing tobacco or nicotine like gutkha and pan masala in the state for one year.
- The ban also applies on processed, flavoured, scented, chewing tobacco, whether they are packaged or unpackaged or sold as one or separate products.
- The decision has been taken in view of the orders of the Supreme Court wherein it observed that to circumvent ban of sale of gutkha, the manufacturers are selling pan masala (without tobacco) with flavoured chewing tobacco in separate sachets.