Polity & Governance
- First sale of electoral bonds from March 1
- Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) for NER
- Global Corruption Perception Index 2017: India slips in ranking
Government Schemes & Policies
- UP Cabinet approves ‘one district, one product’ scheme
- DoT unveils strategic plan for synergy among seven PSUs
Bilateral & International Relations
- Pakistan added to FATF grey-list
Defence & Security Issues
- Over 53,000 cyber security incidents observed in 2017
Art & Culture
- Khajuraho Dance Festival 2018
Science & Technology
- Super critical carbon di oxide Brayton test loop facility
Key Facts for Prelims
- National Integration Tours
- First fully women operated non-suburban station
- Cora – AI-powered ‘digital human’
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Polity & Governance
First sale of electoral bonds from March 1
The first sale of electoral bonds will start from March 1, 2018 for period of 10 days at four main branches of State Bank of India in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi.
- These bonds will have a life of 15 days, and citizen of India or an entity incorporated or established in the country can purchase them.
What are Electoral bonds?
- Electoral bonds will be bearer instrument in nature of promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument.
- These can be redeemed only through the registered accounts of a political party in a prescribed time frame.
- It aims at rooting out current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to generation of black money in the economy.
- Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of Rs.1,000, Rs.10,000, Rs.10 lakh, and Rs.1 crore from any of the specified branches of State Bank of India (SBI).
Who can purchase?
- A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond.
- The purchaser is allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfilment of all extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account. It will not carry the name of the payee.
- In essence, the donor and the party details will be available with the bank, but the political party might not be aware of who the donor is.
Eligibility of Political parties:
- Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.
- It will have a life of 15 days during which they can be used to make donations to registered political parties.
- The electoral bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in months of January, April, July and October with additional 30 days to be specified by Central government in year of general election so that this does not become a parallel currency.
Concerns related to the conventional system of political funding:
- The conventional system of political funding is to rely on donations. These donations, big or small, come from a range of sources from political workers, sympathisers, small business people and even large industrialists.
- The conventional practice of funding the political system was to take donations in cash and undertake these expenditures in cash.
- The sources are anonymous or pseudonymous. The quantum of money was never disclosed.
- The present system ensures unclean money coming from unidentifiable sources. It is a wholly non-transparent system.
Why Electoral Bonds are necessary?
Elections and political parties are a fundamental feature of Parliamentary democracy.
- Elections cost money. The round the year functioning of the political parties involves a large expenditure. Parties run offices throughout the country. Staff salaries, travelling expenses, establishment cost are regular expenditures of political parties. There has not been a single year where election either for the Parliament or State Assemblies have not been held.
- Besides expenditure of individual candidates, political parties have to spend money on election campaigns, publicity, tours, travels and election related establishments. These expenditures run into hundreds of crores. Yet there has not been a transparent funding mechanism of the political system.
- India is the largest democracy in the world. However, despite strengthening various institutions for the last seven decades, India has not been able to evolve a transparent political funding system.
Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) for NER
The first meeting of Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) for North East Region (NER) is scheduled to be held in March 2018.
- It will be co-chaired by Secretaries of Ministry of Development of North-East Region (MDoNER) and AYUSH.
About Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs):
- It aims to create synergy in various programmes of Union Government to enable medicinal and aromatic plants sector become vibrant and develop resources to its potential.
- The IMC will comprise members from various Ministries, Departments and several organisations in the relevant fields.
- MDoNER will be coordinator for IMC of MAPs.
- IMC will review existing mechanism or institutional arrangements for management and development of MAPs resources of NER.
- IMC will suggest actionable measures for enhancing the livelihood and economic transformation based on cultivation and sustainable management of MAPs resource in North East Region.
- It will identify gaps in existing mechanism or institutional arrangements, suggest policy intervention for optimally harnessing MAPs resources of NER and accelerate development of MAPs sector, suggest Plan of Action for dovetailing of schemes and programmes of concerned Ministries and Departments.
- It will also suggest actionable measures for enhancing livelihood and economic transformation based on cultivation and sustainable management of MAPs resource in NER.
Global Corruption Perception Index 2017: India slips in ranking
India was ranked 81st among 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2017 released by NGO Transparency International.
About the CPI:
- The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption.
- CPI ranks countries on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) based on their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector.
- The index is compiled by using data of World Bank, World Economic Forum (WEF) and other institutions,
Highlights of CPI 2017:
Performance of various countries:
- New Zealand and Denmark were ranked as the cleanest countries in the 2017 list as in 2016, with scores of 89 and 88, respectively.
- Syria, South Sudan and Somalia were ranked as the most corrupt countries with scores of 14, 12 and 9, respectively.
- Pakistan with a score of 32 and China with 41 are perceived to be more corrupt than India.
- Russia is more corrupt than all three counties with a score of 29. South Africa is at 71st, having dropped seven places from 2016.
- Countries with the poorest protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tended to have the lowest ranks on the index.
- India has been ranked 81st. While it maintained its score at 40 on a 100-point scale where anything below 30 is considered seriously corrupt, its ranking changed from 79th last year partly because Vanuatu, one of the countries added to the rankings this year, was rated higher and partly because others improved.
- The index also characterised India as “among the worst regional offenders” in the Asia Pacific region on grounds of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies being threatened or even murdered. In this, it was clubbed with the Philippines and Maldives.
Government Schemes & Policies
UP Cabinet approves ‘one district, one product’ scheme
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved ‘one district, one product’ scheme to promote products indigenous to every district.
What is ‘one district, one product’ scheme?
- ‘One district, one product’ scheme is aimed at giving a major push to traditional industries synonymous with the respective districts of the state.
- Under this scheme, one product indigenous to every district would be showcased at the three-day UP Diwas event.
- This will boost economic development of the state, and also help in generation of five lakh new jobs annually.
- ODOP is basically a Japanese business development concept, which gained prominence in 1979.
- It is aimed at promoting a competitive and staple product from a specific area to push sales and improve the standard of living of the local population. Over time, it has been replicated in other Asian countries as well.
DoT unveils strategic plan for synergy among seven PSUs
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has unveiled a ‘strategic plan’ to enable seven state-owned companies under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to work closely.
Seven companies include:
The action plan covers
- Indian Telephone Industries (ITI),
- Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT),
- Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL),
- Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipments (TEC)
- BharatNet (BBNL)
What is the strategic plan?
- The strategic plan among other things entails effective utilisation of human resources, optimum use of vacant space and promoting ‘Make in India’.
- Under the plan, the government has identified specific areas where teams will work on including manpower, settlement of legal issues and utilisation of vacant space.
- The plan aims at promoting greater operational synergy among the PSUs, including pooling in of resources and effective utilisation of human resources as well as land and buildings.
- Some units have excess manpower whereas others face a shortage. Under the plan, the Centre intended to train and redeploy manpower.
- Also, telecom PSUs will refrain from going to court against one another and, instead, first approach DoT for resolution of disputes.
- The strategic roadmap will also cover other areas such as standards and certification, and preparing to tap opportunities in areas like 5G and Internet of Things. These PSUs will also look at pooling in resources to address new business opportunities in Digital India, Smart City and Internet of things, and develop mechanism for sharing of revenues and expenses.
Bilateral & International Relations
Pakistan added to FATF grey-list
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global anti-money laundering watchdog, in its just concluded meet at Paris, has added Pakistan’s name to the grey-list of terror-financing watch list.
- Pakistan was previously on the list for three years until 2015.
Implications of this move:
- Pakistani analysts say being put on the FATF watchlist could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy, making it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the country.
- It would be counterproductive to put Pakistan on the watch list as it would hurt its capability to fight terrorism.
- Also, being put back on the grey list would heighten Pakistan’s risk profile and some financial institutions would be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and counterparties.
What does it mean when a country be placed on FATF watchlist?
- Being placed on the FATF watchlist carries no direct legal implications but brings extra scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions that can chill trade and investment and increase transaction costs.
About Financial Action Task Force (FATF):
- FATF is an inter‐governmental policy making body with ministerial mandate to establish international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
- The FATF was created in 1989 at the behest of the G7, and is headquartered In Paris.
- Its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to integrity of international financial system.
- The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.
- In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
- A large number of international organizations participate in the FATF as observers, each of which has some involvement in anti-money laundering activities.
- Organizations such as Interpol, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and World Bank are observers.
- Initially it was only dealing with developing policies to combat money laundering. But in 2001 its purpose was expanded to act against terrorism financing.
- Currently, it comprises two regional organisations (the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council) and 35 member jurisdictions, including India, UK, US, China and the European Commission.
Defence & Security Issues
Over 53,000 cyber security incidents observed in 2017
As per CERT- In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) data, over 53, 000 cyber security incidents like phishing, website intrusions and defacements, virus and ransomware attacks were observed in the country during 2017.
- The types of cyber security incidents included phishing, scanning/probing, website intrusions and defacements, virus/malicious code, ransomware and denial of service attacks etc.
Efforts made by govt. to prevent such attacks:
The government has taken a number of legal, technical and administrative measures to prevent incidents of cyber crime. These include:
- Enactment of the IT Act, 2000: It has adequate provisions for dealing with prevalent cyber crimes
- Establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC): for protection of critical infrastructure in the country.
- Setting up of cyber crime cells: They have been set up in all states and union territories for reporting and investigation of cyber crime cases.
- National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is an organisation created under Sec 70A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- It is designated as the National Nodal Agency in respect of Critical Information Infrastructure Protection.
NCIIPC has broadly identified the following as ‘Critical Sectors’:
- Power & Energy
- Banking, Financial Services & Insurance
- Strategic & Public Enterprises
What is the meaning of critical information infrastructure?
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 defines Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) as “those computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which, shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety”.
Art & Culture
Khajuraho Dance Festival 2018
The 44th edition of Khajuraho dance festival has begun at Khajuraho temple, the UNESCO world heritage site.
- The Dance Festival is being organised by the culture department of the Madhya Pradesh government.
About Khajuraho Dance Festival:
- Khajuraho Dance Festival is annual cultural festival that highlights richness of various Indian classical dance styles.
- During the festival, dances were performed in an open- air auditorium, in front of Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Chitragupta Temple dedicated to Sun God.
- The festival showcased classical dances including Kathak, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Mohiniattam.
About Khajuraho Temples:
- Khajuraho Temples is a group of Hindu and Jain Temples in Madhya Pradesh build by Chandela Dynasty between 950 and 1050 AD.
- They are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.
- The first recorded mention of the Khajuraho temples is in the accounts of Abu Rihan al Biruni in AD 1022 and the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta in AD 1335.
Architecture of Khajuraho Temples:
- The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures (about 10% of total sculptures).
- The temples at Khajuraho are all made of Sandstone.
- The largest temple at Khajuraho is the Kandariya Mahadeva temple which is attributed to king Ganda.
- All the towers or shikhara of temple rise high, upward in curved pyramidal fashion, emphasizing temple’s vertical thrust ending in horizontal fluted disc called Amalaka topped with Kalasha or vase.
- The erotic expression of sculptures in these temples gives equal importance in human experience as a spiritual pursuit, and it is seen as a part of the larger cosmic whole.
Science & Technology
Super critical carbon di oxide Brayton test loop facility
Scientists from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have indigenously developed country’s first super critical carbon dioxide (S-CO2) Brayton Test Loop facility.
- It is first test loop technology coupled with solar heat source in world that will generate clean energy from power plants, including solar thermal.
- The facility is part of Indo-US consortium- Solar Energy Research Institute for India and United States (SERIIUS).
- It was developed by research group at inter-disciplinary centre for energy research of IISc as part of consortium.
- Funding was provided by Department of Science and Technology (DS&T) under Indo-US Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre programme.
- This facility uses supercritical CO2 (SCO2) instead of steam to generate more power.
What is super critical carbon dioxide?
- Supercritical refers to state of CO2 above its critical temperature of 31 C and critical pressure of 73 atmospheres, which makes it twice as dense as steam.
- S-CO2 operated in closed loop Brayton cycle increases efficiency of energy conversion by as much as 50% or more.
- This early stage research could potentially be useful for meeting the energy needs of the country. The new generation high efficiency power plants with closed cycle CO2 as the working fluid have the potential to replace steam based nuclear and thermal power plants, thus reducing the carbon foot print significantly.
Significance of this technology:
- This next generation, efficient, compact, waterless super critical CO2 Brayton cycle test loop for power generation will be useful for meeting energy needs of the country.
- It has potential to replace steam based nuclear and thermal power plants, thus reducing the carbon foot print significantly.
- Besides, increasing power generation and making process more efficient, the new technology will make power plants cheaper with lower operating costs.
- It will be indigenous initiative for setting up next generation of solar thermal power plants. This gives India opportunity to become world leader in this technology, and fulfil major objective of National Solar Mission which emphasizes indigenous manufacturing.
Key Facts for Prelims
National Integration Tours
- As part of the Indian Army’s ongoing outreach programme to foster the spirit of National Integration across the entire swathe of the country, a tour for students from Manipur is being organised.
- National Integration Tours are educational and motivational tours for youth of North Eastern States and J&K.
- These tours aim to provide an insight into the rich heritage of the country as well as various developmental and industry initiatives that are underway.
First fully women operated non-suburban station
- The Gandhi Nagar railway station in Jaipur, Rajasthan became the country’s first major non-suburban railway station to be fully-managed by women.
- It is the second in the country to be managed solely by women – the first being Matunga in Mumbai.
Cora – AI-powered ‘digital human’
- NatWest, a bank in UK, has developed a new “digital human” prototype called Cora to have conversations with customers and help them out with banking queries.
- Cora is the digital teller answers simple questions on getting a mortgage or what to do if a customer loses their card.
- The AI-driven personality can answer more than 200 banking queries.