Current Affairs Analysis

22nd February 2018 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Mass nesting of olive ridleys; Enforcement Directorate (ED); Bagori Ganga Gram project; New Swajal Project; Gangotri as Swachh Iconic Places; private commercial mining in coal; N Gopalaswami committee; Scheme of Institutions of Eminence; Olive Ridley sea turtle; Gharimatha Marine Sanctuary: India’s aid to Tonga; India-UN Development Partnership Fund; Prithvi-II missile; What is Blockchain technology? YH Malegam committee; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
February 25, 2018


Polity & Governance

  • Enforcement Directorate grapples with severe manpower crunch

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Ganga Gram, New Swajal Project and Gangotri Swachh Iconic Place launched
  • Cabinet clears private commercial mining in coal

Issues related to Health & Education

  • UGC forms N Gopalaswami committee to select 20 ‘institutes of eminence’

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Mass nesting of olive ridleys begins in Odisha

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India offers USD $1 million aid to Tonga

Defence & Security Issues

  • India successfully conducts night trial of Prithvi-II missile

Science & Technology

  • Blockchain tech could help prevent frauds like at PNB

Key Facts for Prelims

  • YH Malegam committee

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Polity & Governance

Enforcement Directorate grapples with severe manpower crunch

The Enforcement Directorate is grappling with a severe manpower crunch.

Enforcement Directorate crunch

  • The directorate is currently functioning with less than 50% of the approved strength of 2,064 posts.
  • While there are 900 officials handling operations at various levels, there is a vacancy of more than 300 investigating officials, which has resulted in increased work pressure on the present set-up.

About Enforcement Directorate (ED):

Enforcement Directorate (ED) is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.

  • It is part of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.


  • The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1 May 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.
  • In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’.


  • It comprises officers of the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Administrative Service.


  • The prime objective of the Enforcement Directorate is the enforcement of two key Acts- the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA).
  • Other objectives are primarily linked to checking money laundering in India.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Government Schemes & Policies

Ganga Gram, New Swajal Project and Gangotri Swachh Iconic Place launched

Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Uma Bharti launched the Bagori Ganga Gram project, New Swajal Project at Bagori and Gangotri as Swachh Iconic Place at Dunda village in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

Ganga Gram, New Swajal Project and Gangotri Swachh Iconic Place iastoppers

  • These both projects will create cleanliness, provide basic amenities to the people of Ganga bank villages and will also generate employment.

Bagori Ganga Gram project:

  • Bagori Ganga Gram project is a solid and liquid waste management scheme with a total expense of Rs 11.88 lakh.
  • Open Defecation Free village Bagori is one of the 24 pilot Ganga Villages picked up to be transformed into Ganga Grams this year.

New Swajal Project:

  • Swajal is a community owned drinking water programme for sustained drinking water supply.
  • The project was inaugurated at Bagori.
  • It has budgetary support of more than Rs. 32 lakh.

Currently, Swajal scheme is successfully running in village Sadag since 1996.

Gangotri as Swachh Iconic Places:

  • The project aims to make Gangotri as Swachh Iconic Place (SIP). For this, CSR funds of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) will be used for making Gangotri SIP.
  • The SIP project is coordinated by Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (MDWS), in collaboration with Union Ministries of Housing & Urban Affairs, Tourism, Culture, state governments, municipal and local agencies.
[Ref: PIB, Indian Express]


Cabinet clears private commercial mining in coal

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved methodology for auction of coal mines/blocks for sale of coal to private sector under Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

private commercial mining in coal iastoppers

Implications of the move:

  • The opening up of commercial coal mining for private sector is the most ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of this sector in 1973.
  • This decision opens coal sector to commercial mining by private entity, ending 41 year old monopoly of state owned Coal India Ltd (CIL).
  • It will allow power cement and steel producers to source fuel more efficiently.


  • Supreme Court in its September 2014 order had cancelled 204 coal mines and blocks allocated to various Government and Private Companies since 1993 under the provisions of Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973.
  • The pursuance of this order, Parliament had enacted Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 to bring transparency and accountability for allocation of coal mines by way of auction and allotment for the sale of coal.

About the new methodology:

  • As per the new methodology, there will be no end use restriction or price restriction for the coal that is mined from these blocks. The blocks will be awarded through a forward auction.
  • The amount accrued through the bids will be in addition to the royalty that the States get. All the revenue from the sale of these blocks will go into coffers of the States where they are located.
  • It will incentivise these states to utilize this increased revenue for growth and development of backward areas and their inhabitants including tribals.

Significance of this new methodology:

  • The methodology gives highest priority to transparency, ease of doing business and ensuring that natural resources are used for national development.
  • It opens commercial coal mining for private sector and will help in boosting the economy. It is most ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of this sector in 1973.
  • It will bring efficiency by moving coal mining from era of monopoly to competition and enable use of best possible technology.
  • It will also attract higher investments and create more jobs in mining sector.
  • It will also lead to the availability of low cost power as 70% of India’s electricity is generated from thermal power plants.
  • States in Eastern part of the country will be especially benefited from this new methodology.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Issues related to Health & Education

UGC forms N Gopalaswami committee to select 20 ‘institutes of eminence’

Government has constituted Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) to select 20 Institutions of Eminence from among 104 institutions (public or private) that have applied for the status.


  • The committee will be headed by former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami.

About the scheme of Institutions of Eminence:

  • The scheme of Institutions of Eminence was rolled out by University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • It aims to help 20 higher education (10 public and 10 private) institutions from country break into top 500 global rankings in 10 years, and then eventually break into top 100 over time.

Facilities provided to these institutes:

  • These selected institutions are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education institutions.
  • They will be free to decide their fee for domestic and foreign students and have flexible course duration and structure.
  • They will be exempted from approvals of government or UGC for academic collaborations with foreign institutions, except institutions in MEA and MHA’s list of negative countries.

Procedure of selection:

  • Once identified, the target for Institutions of Eminence will be to break into top 100 bracket in one internationally reputed ranking framework in 10 years.
  • The 10 government institutions selected will also get Rs 1,000 crore each from HRD Ministry to achieve world-class status. There will be no financial assistance to the private institutions.

Who can apply?

  • Only higher education institutions, currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), are eligible to apply for eminence tag.
  • The private Institutions of Eminence can also come up as greenfield ventures provided sponsoring organisation submits convincing perspective plan for 15 years.

Need for world-class institutes in India:

  • India today educates only half as many young people from the university age group as China and ranks well behind most Latin American and other middle-income countries.
  • India lacks world-class universities according to international rankings, and Indian academics, compared internationally, are rather poorly paid.
  • Students also suffer an immense shortage of places in top academic institutions and throughout the higher education system.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Mass nesting of olive ridleys begins in Odisha

Starting the mass nesting this year, more than 3,100 female olive ridley turtles have come out of the sea to the sandy beach of the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha.


About Olive Ridley sea turtle:

The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting only in warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.


  • These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  • Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
  • The Olive Ridley turtles live in the Indian Ocean, but they can’t mate there.
  • They have to come all the way to the Bay of Bengal by travelling thousands of kilometres to mate and to lay eggs.
  • Interestingly, the male turtles won’t reach the sandy stretch, but wait for their mates to return to the waters. After laying eggs, both male and female turtles return to their native ocean.
  • After laying the eggs in the sandy stretches, they begin their return journey. Hatching takes place naturally and the baby turtles too swim back to the Indian Ocean by June every year.
  • The ‘Homing’ characteristics of the Ridley sea turtles make them more prone to mass casualty.

Conservation efforts:

  • WWF-India, along with the fishermen community, has been involved in protecting the Olive ridley rookery at the mass nesting site at Rushikulaya, in Orissa, by fencing off the nesting area and patrolling it till hatching and ensuring a safe passage for the hatchlings to the sea.
  • Olive Ridley sea turtle has found place in Schedule – I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (amended 1991).
  • The sea turtles are protected under the ‘Migratory Species Convention’ and CITES (Convention of International Trade on Wildlife Flora and Fauna).
  • India is a signatory nation to all these conventions.

About Gharimatha Marine Sanctuary:

ias toppers Gharimatha Marine Sanctuary

  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is a marine wildlife sanctuary located in Odisha.
  • It extends from Dhamra River mouth in the north to Mahanadi river mouth in the south.
  • It is very famous for its nesting beach for olive ridley sea turtles. It is the one of world’s most important nesting beach for turtles.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

India offers USD $1 million aid to Tonga

India has contributed $1 million aid Tonga for rehabilitation efforts after island was hit by Tropical Cyclone Gita which had caused massive destruction across the pacific ocean archipelago.

India offers USD $1 million aid to Tonga ias

  • India has allocated USD 500,000 in the India-UN Development Partnership Fund for the rehabilitation efforts while USD 500,000 will be provided for immediate relief assistance.

About the India-UN Development Partnership Fund:


  • The India-UN Development Partnership Fund will implement country-level projects that are catalytic towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
  • The initiative is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, education and equality, and expanding access to clean water, energy and livelihoods.
  • The fund will focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
  • The fund is managed by United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
  • Initially, the fund will start with an initial contribution of USD 1 million for its first project Climate Early Warning System in Pacific Island Countries (CEWSPIC).
  • CEWSPIC Project was formulated by India and the UN Development Programme in consultation with the governments of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The project will increase resilience to natural disasters in these seven Pacific island countries.

Location of Tonga:

tonga map ias

  • Tonga is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited.
  • The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres scattered over 700,000 square kilometres of the southern Pacific Ocean.
  • It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east, Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Defence & Security Issues

India successfully conducts night trial of Prithvi-II missile

India successfully conducted a night trial of its indigenously developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile from a test range in Odisha.


About Prithvi-II:


  • The Prithvi-II is a short-range surface-to-surface missile.
  • The missile is capable of carrying warheads weighing 500 kg to 1,000 kg.
  • Notably, Prithvi is India’s first indigenously-built ballistic missile.
  • With a strike range of 350 km, Prithvi-II is powered by twin-engines which use liquid propulsion.
  • It uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target.
  • It is one of the five missiles being developed under the country’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
  • The missile was inducted into the armed forces in 2003.
[Ref: Economic Times]


Science & Technology

Blockchain tech could help prevent frauds like at PNB

According to bankers and blockchain specialists, the adoption of blockchain by India’s banks could help avert frauds such as the one at Punjab National Bank.


How does it possible?

  • As per experts, the disaggregated and transparent nature of the blockchain technology, which updates information across all users simultaneously, would have ensured that various officials would have instantly been alerted to the creation of the letters of undertaking (LoUs).

What is Blockchain technology?

Blockchain is a sort of distributed ledger or decentralized database that keeps records of digital transactions.

Blockchain tech ias infographics

  • Blockchain technology was first developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • Since its inception, it has been used as the basis for several cryptocurrencies from around the world, including Bitcoin and Bitshares.
  • Once a transaction is entered in the blockchain, it cannot be erased or modified.
  • Blockchain removes the need for using a trusted third party such as a bank to make a transaction by directly connecting the customers and suppliers.
  • Each transaction is recorded to the ledger after verification by the network participants, mainly a chain of computers, called nodes.

Advantages of blockchain technology:

  • A blockchain is anonymous, protecting the identities of the users. This makes blockchain a more secure way to carry out transactions.
  • The algorithm used in blockchain reduces the dependence on people to verify the transactions.
  • Blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, have not yet been hacked. They are considered to be very secure.
  • It is very challenging, almost impossible, to change any transaction information once it is validated and becomes part of a block.
  • Bitcoin is commonly referred to as digital gold. Referring to bitcoin as insecure or unsafe is like calling gold insecure or unsafe.

Blockchain tech can reduce transaction costs:

  • According to FICCI report, the next generation blockchain technology can help in reducing cost of transactions in various government schemes.
  • For example, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 per cent of the GDP is lost due to unclear land titles and the litigation cost associated with competing claims only serves to exacerbate the problem further. Here the use of blockchain technology has the potential to make the agri-supply chain more secure, transparent and efficient.
  • As per the report, Blockchain solutions, if implemented, may lead to the elimination of intermediaries or middlemen, thereby leading to improved pricing, decreased transaction fees, thus eliminate issues of hoarding

Disadvantages of blockchain technology:

  • Blockchain is still relatively a new technology. There are ongoing concerns about privacy in the settlement and storage of securities – blockchain providers are working hard to address.
  • Banks are also at threat with blockchain, since more and more firms (using their IT service providers from India and elsewhere) will build systems that can create and exchange ‘blocks’ with one another completely legally, without ever having to use the banks as a financial intermediary.

Blockchain is not bitcoin.

  • Bitcoin is digital money, a virtual currency that was the first successful blockchain product. Blockchain is the technology that enables cryptocurrency like bitcoin. While they go hand-in-hand, there are other use cases for blockchain besides bitcoin.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times, Forbes]


Key Facts for Prelims

YH Malegam committee

YH Malegam committee iastoppers

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted an expert committee to look into the entire gamut of issues relating to classification of bad loans, effectiveness of audits and rising incidents of frauds.
  • The committee will be headed by Y H Malegam, a former member of Central Board of Directors of RBI.

YH Malegam committee mandate iastoppers


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