iastoppers-india-nepal-drug-deal
Current Affairs Analysis

24th August 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

MoU between India and Nepal on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking; Commission to examine the Sub-Categorization within OBCs; Framework for Consolidation of PSBs; Moss serves as a cheap pollution monitor; Mechi River; Project Brainwave; Global Commission on the Future of Work; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 24, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Cabinet approves setting up of a Commission to examine the Sub-Categorization within OBCs

Economy

  • Approval for Public Sector Banks to amalgamate through an Alternative Mechanism (AM)

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Moss serves as a cheap pollution monitor

Bilateral & International Relations

  • MoU between India and Nepal on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking
  • MoU between India and Nepal for construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River

Science & Technology

  • Microsoft launches ‘Project Brainwave’ for real-time AI

Key facts for Prelims

  • Global Commission on the Future of Work

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Polity & Governance

Cabinet approves setting up of a Commission to examine the Sub-Categorization within OBCs

The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a Commission under Article 340 of the Constitution to examine the issue of sub-categorization of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

  • The Commission will be known as the ‘Commission to examine the sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes’.
  • It will be required to submit its report within 12 weeks from the date of appointment of the Chairperson of the Commission.

ias-toppers-Sub-Categorization-within-OBCs

Terms of References of the Commission

  • It will examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the communities included in the broad category of OBCs.
  • It will work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorization within OBCs.
  • It will identify the respective castes, communities or sub-castes in the Central List of OBCs and classify them into their respective sub-categories.

Implications of the move:

At present, many feels that the more advanced OBC castes corner the lion’s share of the benefits and have become influential.

  • Not only will such a move offer more opportunities to the most backward castes among the OBCs but also give the government and the ruling party an opportunity to carve out a new political constituency.
  • Politically, this can be seen as an attempt by the government to reach out to the most backward castes among the OBCs.
  • The setting of this commission will pave the way for the provision of sub-quotas for the most backward castes within the OBCs. This means that the most backward OBC groups will compete among themselves for government jobs, educational seats, fellowships and so on rather than with the better-off OBC castes.

Is sub-categorisation within backward classes permissible under the law?

  • The Supreme Court in its order in Indra Sawhney and others vs. Union of India observed that there is no Constitutional or legal bar to a State categorizing backward classes as backward or more backward and had further observed that if a State chooses to do it (sub-categorization), it is not impermissible in law.

How are OBC reservations offered at present?

  • At present, there is a single Central OBC list, with entries from each State.
  • People belonging to all these castes can seek reservation from within the single 27% OBC reservation pie for Central government jobs and Central educational institutions.
  • Nine States, however, have already sub-categorised OBCs. These are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
  • OBC reservation became a reality after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, which categorised many castes as constituting the backward classes and deserving of quotas. New castes have been added to the list over the years.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]

 

Economy

Approval for Public Sector Banks to amalgamate through an Alternative Mechanism (AM)

The Union Cabinet has given in-principle approval for Public Sector Banks to amalgamate through an Alternative Mechanism (AM). 

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  • The decision would facilitate consolidation among the Nationalised Banks to create strong and competitive banks.

The salient features of approved Framework for Consolidation of PSBs:

  • The decision regarding creating strong and competitive banks would be solely based on commercial considerations.
  • The proposal must start from the Boards of Banks.
  • The proposals received from Banks for in-principle approval to formulate schemes of amalgamation shall be placed before the Alternative Mechanism (AM).
  • After in-principle approval, the Banks will take steps in accordance with law and SEBI’s requirements.
  • The final scheme will be notified by Central Government in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India.

Significance of this move:

  • The decision is expected to facilitate the creation of strong and competitive banks in public sector space to meet the credit needs of a growing economy, absorb shocks and have the capacity to raise resources without depending unduly on the state exchequer.
  • It will further add commercial strength and prevent multiplicity of resources being spent in same area.

Background:

  • In 1991, it was suggested that India should have fewer but stronger Public Sector Banks.
  • However, it was only in May 2016 that effective action to consolidate public sector banks began to be taken by announcing amalgamation of six banks into the State bank of India.
  • The merger was completed in record time, unlike earlier mergers of State Banks of Indore and Saurashtra.

We need fewer but stronger PSBs, why?

  • Currently, there are 20 PSBs other than SBI. The banking scenario has changed since 1970/80 when banks were nationalised, with an increased banking presence from Private Sector Banks, non-banking Financial Companies, Regional Rural Banks, Payment Banks and Small Finance Banks.
  • To meet the credit needs of a growing economy, absorb shocks and have the capacity to raise resources without depending unduly on the state exchequer, presence of strong and competitive banks in public sector space is necessary.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Moss serves as a cheap pollution monitor

What are Mosses?

Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations.

ias-toppers-Mosses

  • The individual plants are usually composed of simple leaves that are generally only one cell thick, attached to a stem that may be branched or unbranched and has only a limited role in conducting water and nutrients.
  • Although some species have conducting tissues, these are generally poorly developed and structurally different from similar tissue found in vascular plants.
  • Mosses do not have seeds and after fertilisation develop sporophytes with unbranched stalks topped with single capsules containing spores.
  • The main commercial significance of mosses is as the main constituent of peat, although they are also used for decorative purposes, such as in gardens and in the florist trade. Traditional uses of mosses included as insulation and for the ability to absorb liquids up to 20 times their weight.

Why in news?

  • As per the latest research by scientists from Japan, delicate mosses found on rocks and trees in cities around the world can be used to measure the impact of atmospheric changeand could prove a low-cost way to monitor urban pollution.
  • Researchers found that moss- the “bioindicator”- responds to pollution or drought-stress by changing shape, density or disappearing, allowing scientists to calculate atmospheric alterations.

Significance:

  • Mosses are a common plant in all cities so this method can be used in many countries. They have a big potential to be bioindicators.
  • Mosses – which generally absorb water and nutrients from their immediate environments – are often cheaper to use than other methods of environmental evaluation, and can also reflect changes to ecosystems.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

MoU between India and Nepal on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking

The Union Cabinet approved signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Nepal on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

iastoppers-india-nepal-drug-agrrements

  • The MoU lists out the areas of cooperation on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, their precursor chemicals and related matters between both neighbouring countries.
  • It also indicates mechanism of information exchange and competent authorities between both countries responsible for the implementation of the MoU.

The MoU provides that the Parties shall endeavour to:

  • Develop mutual cooperation with a view to effectively resolving the issue of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, cooperate in drug demand reduction through prevention, education, awareness and community based programmes, treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Exchange of information:It will be in operational, technical and general nature in drug matters. Morever, there will be exchange literature on their existing laws, rules, best practices and methods of curbing illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs.

Background

  • India has always supported global efforts to counter drug trafficking.
  • It is party to several multilateral and bilateral initiatives in this regard as also United Nations (UN) led initiatives.
  • India has entered into mutiple bilateral agreements/MoUs with neighbouring countries and countries having direct bearing on country’s prevailing drug situation in accordance with the spirit of UN Conventions on Narcotic Drugs. Such bilateral agreements have already been executed with various countries.
[Ref: PIB]

 

MoU between India and Nepal for construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River

The Union Cabinet has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between India and Nepal for laying down implementation arrangement on Cost sharing, Schedules and Safeguard issues for starting construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River at Indo-Nepal border.

ias-toppers-Mechi-River

Key facts:

  • Mechi Bridge is the ending point of Asian Highway 02 in India leading to Nepal and provides critical connectivity to Nepal.
  • National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has been designated as the implementing agency for this project.
  • The new bridge is part of up-gradation of the Kakarvitta (Nepal) to Panitanki Bypass (India) on NH 327B covering a length of 1500 meters.
  • The estimated cost of construction of the bridge is Rs. 158.65 crore, which would be funded by Government of India through Asian Development Bank loan.

Significance:

  • The construction of the bridge will improve regional connectivity and has potential to strengthen cross border trade between both the countries and cementing ties by strengthening industrial, social and cultural exchanges.

About Mechi River:

  • The Mechi River is a trans-boundary river flowing through Nepal and India.
  • It is a tributary of the Mahananda River.
  • The Mechi originates in the Mahabharat Range in Nepal.
  • It flows through Nepal, forms the boundary between India and Nepal and then flows through the Indian state of Bihar to join the Mahananda in Kishanganj district.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

Microsoft launches ‘Project Brainwave’ for real-time AI

Software giant Microsoft has announced its Project Brainwave deep learning acceleration platform for real-time artificial intelligence (AI).

ias-toppers-Project-Brainwave

Background:

  • Real-time AI is becoming increasingly important as cloud infrastructures process live data streams, whether they be search queries, videos, sensor streams, or interactions with users.

About Project Brainwave:

  • The ‘Project Brainwave’ uses the massive field-programmable gate array (FPGA) infrastructure that Microsoft has been deploying over the past few years.
  • With the help of ultra-low latency, the system processes requests as fast as it receives them.
  • The system architecture reduces latency, since the CPU does not need to process incoming requests, and allows very high throughput, with the FPGA processing requests as fast as the network can stream them.
  • The system has been architected to yield high actual performance across a wide range of complex models, with batch-free execution.
[Ref: Economic Times]

 

Key facts for Prelims

Global Commission on the Future of Work

ias-toppers-Global-Commission-on-the-Future-of-Work

  • Recently, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has established a high-level Global Commission on the Future of Work.
  • The commission will be tasked with undertaking an in-depth examination of the future of work to serve as the basis for delivering social justice in the 21st Century.
  • The new commission will be focusing on the relationship between work and society, the challenge of creating decent jobs for all, the organization of work and production, and the governance of work.
  • The Global Commission on the Future of Work was set up under the ILO’s Future of Work Centenary Initiative in 2013.
  • Members of the commission will produce an independent report that will be submitted to the Centenary Conference of the ILO in 2019.

 

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