Polity & Governance
- Need to link Aadhaar with details of voters
- Land of religious body can be acquired: HC
- ‘Google Tax’ detrimental to startup ecosystem: Experts
Bilateral & International Relations
- Pakistan urges World Bank to fulfil commitment under Indus treaty
Defence & Security Issues
- India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni 5 ballistic missile
- Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon
Art & Culture
- Kuchipudi performers dance their way into Guinness Records
Science & Technology
- Bacteria-powered battery built on single sheet of paper
- First functional biological pacemaker developed from human stem cells
- Scientists identify world’s most heat resistant material
Key Facts for Prelims
- Twitter Seva
- ‘Smart Consumer’ & ‘Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC)’
- ‘Digitally Safe Consumer’ campaign
Polity & Governance
Need to link Aadhaar with details of voters
Recently Election Commission of India has given a mixed response to the Supreme Court on providing absentee voting rights like electronic voting and proxy voting and noted that there is an emergent need to link Aadhaar with the electoral details of voters.
- The Supreme Court had asked the Election Commission to study the possibility for electoral reforms to allow inter-State migrants voting privileges like postal ballot available to government servants.
- In this regard, EC had last year set up a committee to study the possibility of amending the electoral law to empower voters who have migrated to other States within the country.
Difficulties in providing absentee voting rights:
- “Domestic migrants” do not constitute a “uniquely identifiable and countable class.” There is also no reliable information or documentation on the number of domestic migrants in the country. The last one on them is the 15-year-old 2001 Census data of 314.5 million.
- Therefore, any provision of absentee voting rights to the “loosely defined term domestic migrants” would become a logistical nightmare for the Commission, that is, for example, they are so spread out that an election in one Assembly constituency would mean electoral arrangements in 4,120 Assembly constituencies.
- Besides, multiple vernacular data and “varying patterns of spelling” and difficulty in ascertaining the date of birth of voters have given rise to multiple entries of voters.
- EC has not totally negated the idea of providing domestic migrants with absentee voting rights.
- It is in favour of extending these rights only to a small subset of migrants who formed an identifiable and countable class of electors not delinked from their present place of registration and only “temporarily absent” from their place of ordinary residence.
Land of religious body can be acquired: HC
Allahabad High Court has ruled that land belonging to religious body can be used for public purpose.
What’s the issue?
- High Court made its remark while asking the Church of North India Association and NHAI to “work out modality” for “demolition or shifting” of a church for construction of a six-lane road.
- In its plea, the petitioner had argued that acquisition of the land by NHAI violates the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act which safeguards “all religious properties”.
- The petitioner had also argued that the move violated the “right to freedom of religion” and the “freedom to manage religious affairs” guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
- The court noted that once there is public purpose for which land in question has been acquired, invoking provision of National Highways Act, 1956, then no relief can be accorded to the petitioner.
- The court also said that the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act only “bars any person from converting any place of worship of any religious denomination or different religious denomination”
- The court ruled that the provision had been introduced to see that communal harmony is not disturbed and persons of one religious community may not take on the other.
‘Google Tax’ detrimental to startup ecosystem: Experts
According to tax experts, Google Tax is expected to adversely affect the startup ecosystem going forward in India.
What is Google Tax?
- It is an equalization levy, which the Indian government is imposing on online advertising revenue by non-resident e-commerce companies earned in India
- The levy which is at 6% presently became effective on June 1. If passed on to startups, the applicable tax is expected to be in excess of 22%, including the 15% service tax and could further increase if GST comes into effect.
Why this tax is detrimental to startup ecosystem?
- The fact that the levy has been notified in addition to taxes payable by a businessman on imported online services unduly increases the cost of doing business for startups which in turn stifles innovation.
- Usually, small scale technology driven companies generally do not have enough capital to engage employees inhouse for all necessary business activities. Google tax adds to this problem.
- Also, emerging startups burn a lot of cash in the first few years before becoming profitable and when the levy is expanded to include a vast number of other digital services the burden is set to multiply exponentially, hampering even more serious cost to innovation.
What needs to be done?
- A cap should be placed on the rate of taxation at the very least, and the number of notified services subject to the levy should not be expanded until there is an impact study undertaken by the government.
Bilateral & International Relations
Pakistan urges World Bank to fulfil commitment under Indus treaty
Pakistan urged the World Bank to fulfil its commitment in regards to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) under which no party can pause the performance of its role.
- The demand was made by Pakistan in response to the World Bank’s decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration.
What’s the issue?
- India is constructing two hydropower projects on the Chenab River. Pakistan has objected to the construction of the 850 MegaWatt Ratle and 330MW Kishanganga hydropower schemes, saying that both projects would have adverse impact on the flow of the Chenab and Neelum rivers.
- Both countries had initiated separate processes in the World Bank under the IWT, with India requesting the body for appointment of a ‘Neutral Expert’, and Pakistan calling for the appointment of the chairman of the Court of Arbitration.
- The World Bank explained the pause saying: “Both processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the Treaty.”
- World Bank said Pakistan and India should look to resolve the conflict mutually and within the bounds of the IWT.
Defence & Security Issues
India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni 5 ballistic missile
With an aim to strengthen its nuclear deterrence, India successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear-capable, inter-continental ballistic missile Agni 5 from Abdul Kalam island off Odisha coast.
- This will be the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the long range missile.
- The Agni-5 has a range of over 5,000 km covering almost all of Asia including Pakistan and China and Europe.
- It is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.
- It is three-stage solid propellant ICBM indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- India describes the Agni – 5 missile system as a ‘weapon of peace’.
- Unlike other missiles of Agni series, Agni-5 is the most advanced having new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.
- It carries Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) payloads. A single MIRV equipped missile that can deliver multiple warheads at different targets.
- It also incorporates advanced technologies involving ring laser gyroscope and accelerometer for navigation and guidance.
- The missile will enhance India’s strategic and deterrence capabilities.
- Once this missile is inducted in Services, India will join the super exclusive club of countries having ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom.
- The first missile of the series, Agni-I was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and tested in 1989.
- At present India in its armoury of Agni missile series, possesses Agni-I (700 km range), Agni-II (2000 km range), Agni-3 (2,500 km range) and Agni-4 (more than 3,500 range).
Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon
The Defence and Research Development Organization (DRDO) successfully flight tested Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) from Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft at integrated test range in Chandipur, Odisha.
About Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW):
- SAAW is an indigenously designed and developed 120 kilogram class smart weapon.
- It has been developed by DRDO.
- It is capable of engaging ground targets with high precision up to a range of 100 kms. Thus, it gives IAF edge to hit adversary airfields with high precision from a safe distance.
- The light weight high precision guided bomb is one of the world class weapons systems that can be used to destroy runways, aircraft hangers, bunkers and other reinforced structures.
Art & Culture
Kuchipudi performers dance their way into Guinness Records
Recently Andhra Pradesh’s own classical dance ‘Kuchipudi’ has found a place in the Guinness World Records yet again when a record 6,117 dancers came together to present a show at the IGMC Stadium in Vijaywada.
- In 2012, a similar feat was achieved when 5,900 dancers performed ‘Kuchipudi’ in Hyderabad.
- The Guinness World Record adjudicated for the 12-minute “Jayamu Jayamu” item as the ‘Largest Kuchipudi dance’ performance.
- ‘Jayamu Jayamu’ was choreographed by the legendary Vempati China Satyam and it was chosen for the record attempt ‘Mahabrinda Natyam’.
What is ‘Mahabrinda Natyam’?
- The ‘Mahabrinda Natyam’ was part of the 5th International Kuchipudi Dance Convention hosted by the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Department of Language and Culture.
- Kuchipudi is one of the classical styles of Indian dance.
- It is the classical dance form from the South-East Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
- It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, a small village about 65 kms from Vijaywada.
- The Kuchipudi style was conceived by Siddhendra Yogi, a talented Vaishnava poet of 17th century.
- It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative / dramatic character.
- Kuchipudi is characterized by fast rhythms and fluid movements, creating a unique blend of control and abandon, strength and delicacy.
- Kuchipudi exhibits scenes from the Hindu Epics, legends and mythological tales through a combination of music, dance and acting.
- Like other classical dances, Kuchipudi also comprises pure dance, mime and histrionics but it is the use of speech that distinguishes Kuchipudi’s presentation as dance drama.
- It is a dance-drama performance art, with its roots in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.
- It begins with an invocation to Lord Ganesha followed by nritta (non-narrative and abstract dancing); shabdam (narrative dancing) and natya.
- The dance is accompanied by song which is typically Carnatic music.
- The singer is accompanied by musical instruments like mridangam, violin, flute and tambura.
Science & Technology
Bacteria-powered battery built on single sheet of paper
Scientists have developed a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper that can power disposable electronics such as diagnostic sensors.
- The paper-based bacteria-powered battery design is part of a new field of research called papertronics, which is a fusion of paper and electronics.
Significance of this finding:
- This bio-battery is cheap and can be easily manufactured as power source for medical sensors in remote and developing areas.
- In this case, the power is generated by common bacteria found in wastewater. Thus, it store power generated by organic compounds.
- The simple components are needed to make these kinds of paper-based batteries. This makes them a reliable backup in places where grid electricity or conventional batteries aren’t available.
First functional biological pacemaker developed from human stem cells
Scientists have developed the first functional pacemaker cells from human Pluripotent stem cells.
- It can regulate heart beats with electrical impulses, paving the way for alternate, biological pacemaker therapy.
- Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to differentiate into more than 200 different cell types that make up every tissue and organ in the body.
- Sinoatrial node pacemaker cells are the heart’s primary pacemaker, controlling the heartbeat throughout life.
- Defects in the pacemaker can lead to heart rhythm disorders that are commonly treated by implantation of electronic pacemaker devices.
- The researchers used a developmental-biology approach to establish a specific protocol for generating the pacemaker cells.
Significance of this research:
- Biological pacemakers represent a promising alternative to electronic pacemakers, overcoming such drawbacks as a lack of hormonal responsiveness and the inability to adapt to changes in heart size in pediatric patients.
- Learning how to generate pacemaker cells could help in understanding disorders in pacemaker cells, and provide a cell source for developing a biological pacemaker.
What is pacemaker?
- A pacemaker is a device which is placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heartbeats using low-energy electrical impulses.
Scientists identify world’s most heat resistant material
Scientists have identified materials that can withstand temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Celsius.
- According to research, Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are world’s most heat resistant materials.
About the discovery:
- Both the materials are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat.
- New Laser-heating techniques were used to find the temperature at which TaC and HfC melted, both separately and in mixed compositions.
- Researchers found TaC melted at 3,768 degrees Celsius, and HfC melted at 3,958 degrees Celsius. Besides, the mixed compound (Ta0.8Hf0.20C) exceeded its previous recorded melting point.
- These materials at present are mainly used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors.
- So far, TaC and HfC have not been potential candidates for hypersonic aircraft, but new findings show that they could be useful materials for new types of spacecraft that can fly through the atmosphere like a plane, before reaching hypersonic speeds to shoot out into space.
Significance of the discovery:
- This discovery may pave the way for improved heat resistant shielding for the faster-than-ever hypersonic space vehicles. It means that future spacecraft could become more faster than ever.
Key Facts for Prelims
- The Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has launched Twitter Seva to directly engage with citizens in country and abroad, tourists and business travellers for speedy resolution of their visa and passport queries.
- Under the new service, a tweet to any Twitter handle of the Ministry will automatically land in the Twitter Seva platform which will provide for prompt resolution of the grievances.
- Under the service, authorities concerned will be assigned to resolve problems and difficulties of people on a real-time basis.
- Twitter Seva helps process a large volume of tweets and assigns them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution.
- With the help of the Twitter dashboard, queries and complaints can be easily monitored and quick actions can be taken.
‘Smart Consumer’ & ‘Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC)’
- The Union Government has launched ‘Smart Consumer’ mobile App and an ‘Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC)’ to provide speedy redressal of consumer grievances.
- The OCMC has been launched in association with Bengaluru based National Law School of India University (NLSIU) to provide speedy redressal of consumer grievances in New Delhi.
- The basic purpose of this Centre is to encourage consumers and companies to go for pre-litigation and provide them with an option to settle disputes amicably.
- Initially, the OCMC deal only with cases related to e-commerce companies. It will also facilitate online and even physical mediation between consumers and companies.
- It will help consumers for being vigilant and not falling prey to cyber frauds.
‘Digitally Safe Consumer’ campaign
- Google has teamed up with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in India to launch a country-wide ‘Digitally Safe Consumer’ campaign in order to raise awareness and protect consumer interest on the internet.
- As part of the campaign, Google will work on educating consumer organisations in India, help in training members of the Consumer Affairs department, and also work with officials in the National Consumer Helpline.
- Google will start rolling out this year-long campaign in January 2017, and it will work towards organising ‘Digital Literacy, Safety & Security’ workshops.
- Google will rely on the ‘Train the Trainer’ model for this exercise, and plans to train around 500 people, including 250 consumer organisations across the country.
- The educational campaign will also feature write ups, posters, interactive quizzes and audio-visuals that will help educate users about the challenges of Internet safety and security.