Polity & Governance
- PM Modi launches e-governance app Umang
- Government to reintroduce Bill to grant Constitutional Status to NCBC
- Centre Promulgates Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017
- SC Declares Money Laundering Bail Provision Unconstitutional
- Task Force for drafting New Direct Tax Legislation
Government Schemes & Policies
- India to help Mauritius on digital locker
Bilateral & International Relations
- China, Djibouti to forge ‘strategic’ ties
Science & Technology
- AGLAE: World’s Only Particle Accelerator for art revs up
Key Facts for Prelims
- Indian Navy’s first woman pilot
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Polity & Governance
PM Modi launches e-governance app Umang
The government has launched a new all-in-one application called Umang which offers 100+ center and state government services under a one-single platform.
- The UMANG App was launched with an aim to make the government accessible on the mobile phone of the citizens.
- UMANG stands for ‘Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance’ and is envisaged to make e-governance.
- Umang is an initiative to promote Digital India program.
- The app was developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD).
Key features of UMANG App
- The UMANG App provides a unified approach where you can install one application to avail multiple government services.
- It contains 162 services of 33 departments or applications and 4 States.
- It is a single mobile app that have an access to 1200 services of various government offices from Centre, State and utility services.
- It provides all pan India e-Gov services like Aadhaar and Digilocker on one single platform.
- Whether one needs to pay utility bills, file income tax, book a gas cylinder, know about your Provident fund account or have Aadhaar related query, UMANG provides all these services.
Government to reintroduce Bill to grant Constitutional Status to NCBC
The Union government will reintroduce the Constitution (123rd) Amendment Bill, 2017, in the winter session of Parliament, which seeks to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
- The proposed Constitutional amendment bill (the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017) was first introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha then passed the bill but with certain amendments. This resulted in two different versions of the bill being passed by the two houses. Therefore, the bill will now have to be reintroduced in the Lok Sabha.
- Responding to a long-felt demand from all categories of OBCs, the government had introduced the bill to grant constitutional status to the NCBC – on par with the National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – in the last parliament session.
Significance of the move:
- The NCBC currently plays a recommendatory role to the government on inclusion or exclusion of a community in the Central list of OBC. The proposed legislation will allow the NCBC to look at grievance redressal and safeguarding the interest of OBCs, powers that until now vested with the SC Commission.
Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill 2017:
The bill is for:
- Constitution of a Commission under Article 338B for socially and educationally backward classes by name of National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Insertion of Clause (26C) under Article 366 with modified definition viz. “socially and educationally backward classes” means such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purpose, this Constitution.
Centre Promulgates Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017
In a landmark initiative, the Centre has promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling/transit permit for its economic use.
- However, bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
- Earlier, the Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of the Ordinance on amendment of Section 2 (7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in this regard.
Major objective of the amendment:
- A major objective of the amendment is to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
Need for this amendment:
- Bamboo, though a grass, was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Under the Act, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA, 1927). This was a major obstacle for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.
- India has largest area under bamboo cultivation and is second richest in terms of bamboo genetic resources after China. India has 19% share of world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in sector is only 6%. But, India’s massive potential was not utilised to increase country’s share in global bamboo market. As result, India is currently importing timber and allied products such as pulp, paper and furniture, etc.
Significance of Amendments
- The amendment and the resultant change in classification of bamboo grown in non-forest areas will usher in much needed and far-reaching reforms in the bamboo sector.
- While on the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed and on the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.
- It will enhance the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in North-East and Central India.
- The amendment will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation/ block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under agroforestry mission.
- It will also enhance the supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based/ paper & pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units.
- It will promote major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind. Moreover, it will also help industries such as those dealing with food products (bamboo shoots), constructions and housing, bamboo charcoal etc.
- The amendment will greatly aid the success of recently constituted National Bamboo Mission and is in also line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development.
- As per the assessment of United Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the North-East Region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5000 crores in the next ten years. The amendment will therefore, help in harnessing this great potential and enhance the scope to increase the present level of market share and improve the economy of the entire country, particularly the North Eastern region.
Bamboo as a source of employment:
Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes.
- About 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.
- One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment.
- An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.
Bamboo’s ecological benefits:
- Bamboo has several ecological benefits such as soil-moisture conservation, landslide prevention and rehabilitation, conserving wildlife habitat, enhancing source of bio-mass, besides serving as a substitute for timber.
SC Declares Money Laundering Bail Provision Unconstitutional
The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 45 (1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, which imposed stringent conditions on the grant of bail.
What is Section 45(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002?
Section 45(1) imposed two conditions for grant of bail in offences punishable with a jail term of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule to the Act.
It requires that
- The public prosecutor must be given an opportunity to oppose any application for release on bail and in cases where the public prosecutor opposes the bail plea,
- The court must be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was not guilty and was unlikely to commit an offence if granted bail.
- The court said Section 45(1) to be unconstitutional as it violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
- The court also ordered fresh trial in all cases in which bail was denied because of these conditions.
About PMLA 2002:
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering.
- PMLA and the Rules notified there under came into force with effect from July 1, 2005.
- The Act and Rules notified thereunder impose obligation on banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries to verify identity of clients, maintain records and furnish information.
Task Force for drafting New Direct Tax Legislation
The Union Government constituted a Task Force to review Income-tax Act, 1961 and to draft a new Direct Tax Law in consonance with economic needs of the country.
- Arbind Modi, Member (Legislation) of CBDT, will be the Convener of the task force.
- Besides other members, Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian will be a permanent Special Invitee in the Task Force.
Terms of reference:
- The task force will draft an appropriate Direct Tax Legislation keeping in view the direct tax system prevalent in various countries, international best practices and economic needs of the country.
- The Task Force will set its own procedures for regulating its work and will submit its report to the Government within six months.
- During 2017 Rajaswa Gyan Sangam held in September, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had observed that IT Act, 1961 was drafted more than 50 years ago and it needs to be re-drafted.
About Rajaswa Gyan Sangam:
- Rajaswa Gyan Sangam is an annual conference of senior tax administrators to enable two-way communication between policy-makers and senior officers in field offices with view to increase revenue collection and facilitate effective implementation of law and policies in key result areas.
Government Schemes & Policies
India to help Mauritius on digital locker
With Mauritius showing keen interest in India’s DigiLocker service, the Government of India will assist Mauritius to develop and set up digital locker services.
About the DigiLocker:
Digital Locker (DigiLocker) is one of the key initiatives under the Digital India Programme.
- It was launched by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), under the ministry of communications & IT.
- Digital Locker is aimed at minimizing the usage of physical documents and enable sharing of e-documents across agencies.
Main technology components of the DigiLocker system are:
- Repository: Collection of e-documents that is exposed via standard APIs for secure, real-time access.
- Access Gateway: Secure online mechanism for requesters to access e-documents from various repositories in real-time using URI (Uniform Resource Indicator).
- DigiLocker Portal: Dedicated cloud based personal storage space, linked to each resident’s Aadhaar for storing e-documents, or URIs of e-documents.
Benefits of DigiLocker:
- Citizens can access their digital documents anytime, anywhere and share it online. This is convenient and time saving.
- It reduces the administrative overhead of Government departments by minimizing the use of paper.
- Digital Locker makes it easier to validate the authenticity of documents as they are issued directly by the registered issuers.
- Self-uploaded documents can be digitally signed using the eSign facility (which is similar to the process of self-attestation).
Bilateral & International Relations
China, Djibouti to forge ‘strategic’ ties
Djibouti, where China has opened its first overseas military base, agreed to establish strategic partnership to strengthen all-round cooperation with Beijing.
- China operationalised its naval logistic base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa on August 1. It is the first Chinese base abroad.
- Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations. With PLA Djibouti base, United States and China will become neighbours in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert.
- The establishment of the PLA Djibouti base was a decision made by the two countries after friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides.
Why is US worried over Chinese base?
- Established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 personnel. Some are involved in highly secretive missions.
- U.S. strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
- The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa.
For China, how significant is this PLA Djibouti base?
- Chinese officials play down the significance of the base, saying it will largely support anti-piracy operations that have helped quell the threat to international shipping once posed by marauding Somalis.
- The support facility will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation for the Chinese troops taking part in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue.
- The base is aimed at ensuring China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia.
- The base will also conduct overseas tasks, including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.
Where is Dijbouti located?
- Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa.
- It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast.
- The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east.
Science & Technology
AGLAE: World’s Only Particle Accelerator for art revs up
The world’s only particle accelerator, ‘AGLAE’ dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris to help experts analyse ancient and precious works.
What is AGLAE?
- It is a particle accelerator machine, which can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples.
- It is a powerful scientific tool that allows to safely analyze pieces of art in order to confirm their date of creation and authenticity.
How AGLAE works?
- The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 km per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed.
Significance of AGLAE:
- While analysing paintings, the conventional particle beam might change the colours when it hit the pigments in the paint. In case of AGLAE, it identify all chemical elements present in the object’s outer layers, even trace amounts, without affecting the colours.
- The old accelerator — which was built in 1988 — could only work between eight and 10 hours a day, but the new one can function around the clock.
Where the new AGLAE will be used?
- The 37-metre AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials.
Key Facts for Prelims
Indian Navy’s first woman pilot
- Shubhangi Swaroop becomes first woman to be inducted as Pilot in Indian Navy.
- Swaroop was among four women officers who had passed out of the Ezhimala Naval Academy in Kerala. The other three women officers are Aastha Segal, Roopa A and Sakthi Maya S.
- These three women cadets were inducted at the Naval Armament Inspectorate (NAI), where no female officer has ever worked.
- The NAI branch looks after the inspection and assessment of the arms and weapons of the country’s naval force.