Polity & Governance
- Centre mulls nodal body for transport
- Lawyers’ plan nationwide agitations against Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017
- New guidelines for inland fisheries
Bilateral & International Relations
- A step forward for Indo-Bangla ties
- Plenary Meeting of the Development Committee (DC) and IMFC of the World Bank Group and the IMF
Science & Technology
- Tiangong-2: China’s first cargo spacecraft docks with orbiting space lab
- Material tougher, more conductive than copper developed
- 3D-printing conquers glass
Key Facts for Prelims
- April 24: National Panchayati Raj Diwas
- India becomes no 2 LPG importer
- Astronaut Peggy Whitson Sets NASA Record for Most Days In Space
- India is now 5th largest military spender
Polity & Governance
Centre mulls nodal body for transport
The Union government is planning to establish a single unified transport ministry by merging the Ministries of Aviation, Railways, Surface Transport and Shipping so as to ensure greater ease of doing business and boost India’s trade.
- In this regard, inter-ministerial discussions have already started discussions for establishing a ‘Logistics and Integrated Transport Board’ as a nodal body at the central level for all transport-related matters across modes.
- Nearly all of the 100 largest economies, all of the OECD countries, and all of India’s emerging market ‘peers,’ the BRICS countries, have a Ministry of Transport or similar integrated equivalent rather than the collection of mode-specific ministries found in India.
- Some of these consolidated national agencies are also combined with the Ministry (or equivalent) of communication, a categorisation reminiscent of India’s early post-independence structure.
- In this regard, the National Transport Development Policy Committee, chaired by Rakesh Mohan had recommended setting up of a single unified ministry with a clear mandate to deliver a multi-modal transport system that contributes to the country’s larger development goals including economic growth, expansion of employment, geographic expansion of opportunities, environmental sustainability, and energy security.
About the board:
- The Board is likely to be chaired by a Union Cabinet Minister or a Secretary to Government of India.
- It will include top officials from other Ministries concerned such as Finance, Commerce & Industry, External Affairs and Home, as well as senior representatives from the Indian industry and legal experts, especially to address competition aspects.
- The aim, however, is to gradually set up a single unified transport ministry by merging the ministries of Aviation, Railways, Surface Transport and Shipping to ensure greater ease of doing business and boost India’s internal and external trade.
- It is also in line with the NDA government’s slogan of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Lawyers’ plan nationwide agitations against Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017
Bar Council of India (BCI) has called for a nationwide stir against what they allege as the undemocratic provisions of the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
What’s the issue?
- The Law Commission of India has proposed various amendments to the Advocates Act, 1961 so as to usher in forward-looking reforms in the legal profession. It has placed before the government, the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
- BCI has planned to submit a memorandum to the Union Law Minister to reject the Law Commissions suggestions to amend the Act.
- BCI has condemned those proposals that deter lawyers from going on strike and also those that allow entry of foreign law firms and lawyers to practice in India.
- According to BCI, the Law Commission has hastily prepared the amendment bill without waiting for its final suggestions.
- It has stated that all the proposed amendments will take away the freedom of lawyers to practice fearlessly in the court proceedings.
- The Law Commission as a part of its recommendations has proposed that the bar council(s) should comprise one non-lawyer member so that it can be made sure that effective actions are taken against lawyers indulging in professional misconduct.
- BCI has vehemently opposed this demand too. It says that this provision will destroy the autonomy of the state council and the Bar Council of India.
Law Commission’s Response:
- According to Law Commission, the recommendations was worked out after receiving the suggestions of the BCI, which clearly supported for imposing punitive action against those lawyers who go on strike causing inconvenience to the litigants and the justice delivery system.
- Law Commission also feels that if medical councils, press councils and other institutions can have members from other fields then bar councils can also have non-lawyers as members so as to to usher in accountability in the system.
New guidelines for inland fisheries
Amid mounting concern over the pollution and encroachment of waterbodies in Kerala and the long- standing demand to protect the traditional rights and livelihood security of inland fishers, the Union government has issued guidelines for the States on framing a Bill on inland fisheries and aquaculture.
- The guidelines were issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture to address the inadequacies in the existing regulations by States.
Key features of the guidelines:
- According to the guidelines, encroachment or reclamation of rivers, lakes and wetlands and pollution of water sources is to be treated as a punishable offence. Dumping of solid waste in lakes, wetlands and lagoons has also been recommended for punishment.
- The guidelines propose regulations on the use of fishing craft and gear to protect commercially important fish species from exploitation.
- States have been asked to notify protected areas and fishing holidays in waterbodies during the fish breeding season and ensure safe passage for migration of fish brooders to wetlands.
- The Centre has also instructed States to consider aquaculture on a par with agriculture and ensure uniform incentives, tax benefits and concessional tariffs for both sectors.
- Certification of fish seed and fish feed, disease monitoring and control and curbs on exotic species and destructive fishing practices are other provisions recommended for inclusion in the Bill.
- A participatory approach with the involvement of NGOs and self help groups has been mooted to ensure sustainability of inland fisheries.
Bilateral & International Relations
A step forward for Indo-Bangla ties
The Tripura government has commenced the land acquisition process for the construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge over river Feni that demarcates boundaries between the two countries in south Tripura.
- The process for acquiring land for a four-lane approach road and a connecting road on Indian side in southern Tripura has also begun.
- Government of India is bearing the entire burden of expenditure towards the construction of the 150-metre bridge which will connect Sabroom of India and Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
- Rehabilitation package is ready to compensate people who would be dislodged for construction purposes.
- The bridge would facilitate implementation of a protocol India earlier signed with Bangladesh to use Chittagong sea port as a ‘port of call’. The port is 72 kilometre away from Sabroom.
- India is also expanding rail network up to Sabroom to handle cargo consignments that would arrivefrom Chittagong port.
- Ultimate connectivity plan is to benefit Tripura and other landlocked northeastern States with international and domestic shipments using the sea port.
Plenary Meeting of the Development Committee (DC) and IMFC of the World Bank Group and the IMF
Plenary Meeting of the Development Committee (DC) of the World Bank Group and the IMF and the Restricted Session of the International Monetary and Finance Committee (IMFC) were recently held in Washington D.C.
What was discussed?
- The meetings comprised of discussion sessions on the ‘Forward Look’ exercise carried-out by the World Bank focusing on ‘A Vision for the World Bank Group in 2030 – Progress and Challenges’, Progress Report on the Shareholding Review and a paper on ‘A Stronger World Bank Group for All’.
- The discussions also centred on the global economic outlook, the resource base and governance framework of IMF and the importance of inclusiveness in terms of distribution of the benefits from global integration.
- Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley participated in the meetings. He called for renewing the commitment to reach a decision on Selective Capital Increase (SCI) and General Capital Increase (GCI) by Annual Meetings 2017 in line with the 2015 Lima roadmap.
The IMF Board of Governors is advised by two ministerial committees:
- International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC):
- The IMFC has 24 members, drawn from the pool of 187 governors.
- Its structure mirrors that of the Executive Board and its 24 constituencies. As such, the IMFC represents all the member countries of the Fund.
- The IMFC meets twice a year, during the Spring and Annual Meetings.
- The Committee discusses matters of common concern affecting the global economy and also advises the IMF on the direction its work.
- At the end of the Meetings, the Committee issues a joint communiqué summarizing its views. These communiqués provide guidance for the IMF’s work program during the six months leading up to the next Spring or Annual Meetings.
- There is no formal voting at the IMFC, which operates by consensus.
- Development committee:
- The Development Committee is a joint committee, tasked with advising the Boards of Governors of the IMF and the World Bank on issues related to economic development in emerging and developing countries.
- The committee has 24 members (usually ministers of finance or development).
- It represents the full membership of the IMF and the World Bank and mainly serves as a forum for building intergovernmental consensus on critical development issues.
Science & Technology
Tiangong-2: China’s first cargo spacecraft docks with orbiting space lab
China has successfully docked its first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 with the Tiangong-2 space lab.
- It is hailed as a major step towards China’s ambition of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.
The Tiangong-2 space laboratory, or Heavenly Palace 2, was home to two astronauts for a month last October in China’s longest ever manned space mission.
- The cargo spacecraft mission provides an “important technological basis” to build a Chinese space station.
- It can reportedly carry six tonnes of goods, two tonnes of fuel and can fly unmanned for three months.
- It is part of China’s ambitious Project 921-2 space station program aimed at creating a third generation space station.
- The Tiangong-2 and its predecessor, Tiangong-1 (launched in September 2011), are prototypes for China’s ultimate goal to launch a permanent 20-ton space station after 2020 just as International Space Station (ISS).
- It will make China potentially the only country with a permanent space presence.
- The US Defence Department has accused China of pursuing activities that are aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis. However, China has refuted such claims and has stated it has only peaceful ambitions in space, but has tested anti-satellite missiles.
- In 2011, the US Congress ordered that Chinese astronauts should not be allowed to enter International Space Station (ISS) owing to national security concerns.
Material tougher, more conductive than copper developed
Researchers have developed thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness about 50 times higher than copper films, currently being used in electronics.
How was it made?
- Tough nano-architectured conductive textile are made by capillary splicing of Carbon nanotubes.
- Beginning with catalyst deposited on a silicon oxide substrate, vertically aligned carbon nanotubes were synthesised via chemical vapour deposition in the form of parallel lines of 5 micrometre wide, 10 micrometre in length, and 20-60 micrometre in heights.
- Aligned carbon nanotube sheets are suitable for a wide range of application spanning from the micro to the macro-scales.
- The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics, including biological and structural health monitoring sensors.
3D-printing conquers glass
Scientists have developed a novel way to 3D-print objects using glass, an advance that could be used to make very small optical components for complex computers.
- The process is known as Stereolithography.
What is Stereolithography?
- Stereolithography is a form of 3D-printing technology used for creating models, prototypes, patterns and production parts in a layer by layer fashion using photopolymerisation, a process by which light causes chains of molecules to link, forming polymers.
- The material, which remains a liquid, is washed out in a solvent bath, leaving only the desired cured structure. The polymer still mixed in this glass structure is subsequently removed by heating.
Key Facts for Prelims
April 24: National Panchayati Raj Diwas
- National Panchayati Raj Day is the national day of India celebrated by Ministry of Panchayati Raj on 24 April annually.
- This date marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
- The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from 24th April, 1993 has institutionalized Panchayati Raj through the village, Intermediate and District level Panchayats.
- The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010.
- Every year on this day Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj organises National Conference and awards best performing Gram Panchayats with ‘The Panchayat Shashakatikaran Puraskar/Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar’.
India becomes no 2 LPG importer
- India has replaced Japan as world’s number two importer of liquefied petroleum gas or LPG.
- The main reason behind the increase in the consumption of LPG in India is due to the two government schemes coupled with free gas connections.
- Japan recorded a drop of 3.2% in LPG imports during the period under review to 10.6 million tonnes.
- China continues to occupy numero uno position as world’s largest LPG importer.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson Sets NASA Record for Most Days In Space
- NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has officially set the U.S. record for most cumulative days in space, surpassing astronaut Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days.
- Whitson also is the first woman to command the space station; she has commanded it twice.
- Her first stint as commander was in April 2008 and she’s commanding the current crew.
- She also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut. Whitson took her eighth spacewalk in March.
India is now 5th largest military spender
- The report titled ‘Trends in world Military expenditure, 2016, which ranks countries based on their military spending was recently released.
- The report was released by Swedish think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
- India is now the world’s fifth largest spender on defence for 2016 after having moved up from the 7th place following its largest annual military spending increase since 2009.
- While India spent $55.9 billion in 2016, its northern neighbour China — the second largest spender — did four times more at $215 billion. Pakistan does not figure in the top 15 spenders.
- The US is the top spender at $611 billion. Russia is third at $69.2 billion and Saudi Arabia fourth at $ 63.7 billion.