Polity & Governance
- Panel moots UID numbers for cows
- Solve a problem, win ₹1 crore
- The Paths We Walk
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM)
- SC for broad anti-torture legislation
- Hindi being ‘promoted’ as per Act: Rijiju
Issues related to Health & Education
- ‘Child artistes can work only for 5 hours a day’
Environment & Ecology
- Niyamgiri’s hero gets Goldman EnvironmentalPrize
Science & Technology
- Worms versus plastic
Key Facts for Prelims
- Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2016
- Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to pilot GSK malaria vaccine from 2018
- e-Puraskar Award
- Northeast India’s largest IT hub opens in Tripura
Polity & Governance
Panel moots UID numbers for cows
In a bid to avail better protection of cows and prohibition of smuggling of cattle across India and Bangladesh border, the Centre in its report to the Supreme Court said each cow and its progeny across India should get a Unique Identification Number (UID).
- A government committee has also iterated the same.
- The plan is the brainchild of the Union Agriculture Ministry for “tamper-proof identification of cattle using polyurethene tags with a Unique Identification Number Sequence.”
Need for tagging:
- Cattle smuggling has become a “by-product” of the dairy industry. Stray, “retired” and abandoned cattle face high risk of falling into smugglers’ hands.
Important recommendations made by the committee:
- The responsibility of safety and care of abandoned animals is mainly of the state government.
- Every district should have a shelter home of the capacity of at least 500 animals for abandoned animals. This will help reduce the smuggling of abandoned animals.
- Special care should be given to cattle beyond the age of milking, adding the animals that stop milking are mainly smuggled outside India.
- Scheme should be launched for farmers in distress so that they do not sell animals that are beyond milking age. Funding of shelter homes should be done by the State Government. The existing shelter homes lack facility and human resources.
- Each animal be tagged with proper records of identification details, including age, breed, sex, lactation, height, body, colour, horn type, tail switch and special marks.
Solve a problem, win ₹1 crore
The Centre is set to launch a scheme, called IDEAS, or Innovations for Development of Efficient and Affordable Systems for students from higher educational institutions to volunteer to offer innovative, original and practical solutions to problems facing the country and get rewarded for their efforts.
About the scheme:
- It is an initiative to challenge young minds with problems of society in general, to come up with innovative, original, practical and economical solutions.
- The Human Resource Development Ministry has identified a handful of areas pertaining to which the problem-solving skills of students will be tested. These are affordable healthcare, computer science and ICT, energy (making solar/renewable resources cheaper, energy efficiency, etc.), affordable housing, healthcare, agriculture, education, water resources and river systems, affordable infrastructure, defence, cybersecurity and information security, and environment and climate change.
- The scheme will invite students to find solutions to problems in these fields — and offer a prize of ₹1 crore to the best solution in each field.
- Under each of the above areas or themes, 10 problem statements will be prepared and widely publicised.
- All higher educational institutions will be eligible and encouraged to participate, but participation of IITs, NITs and CFTIs will be mandatory.
The Paths We Walk
A Documentary Photo exhibition called “The Paths We Walk” was recently inaugurated in New Delhi.
- The exhibition has been organized by the National Trust under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with Society for Child Development.
- The Documentary photo exhibition is intended to tackle negative myths of disability and employment of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability and Multiple Disabilities.
- The photo exhibition is just a glimpse of the vast capabilities of persons with Disabilities. It has been a joint collaborative effort of NGOs working for the welfare of persons with disabilities.
- The month of April is celebrated across the World as the World Autism Awareness Month. The National Trust has been organizing conferences and events during the months to create awareness and celebrate diversity.
About National Trust:
- The National Trust is a Statutory Body under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
- For its establishment, the National Trust Act for the welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities was passed in the Parliament on 30th December 1999.
Functions of National Trust:
- The National Trust has been set up to discharge two basic duties – legal and welfare.
- Legal duties are discharged through Local Level Committee (LLC) set up at district level under the chairmanship of the District Collector / District Magistrate and providing legal guardianship.
- Welfare duty is discharged through the schemes and activities.
- The schemes and activities of the National Trust inter-alia include training, awareness and capacity building programmes and shelter, care giving and empowerment.
- The National Trust is implementing 10 schemes for overall development of persons with disabilities which have been revised and launched last year.
Government e-Marketplace (GeM)
What is GeM?
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is the first Government portal that places all the procurements- big or small- by Government organizations in public domain, with details about the buyer, seller, item, quantity and price.
Why in news:
- In the light of alleged irregularities, the government has reiterated that GeM is the most transparent, accountable and efficient public procurement portal and has already resulted in savings of crores of Rupees to the Government.
- The government has also assured that there are adequate checks and balances in place on GeM which do not allow suppliers to get away with supplying at a higher price to the Government, than the prevailing market or Last Procurement Price (LPP).
More about GeM:
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) aims to transform the way in which procurement of goods and services is done by the Government Ministries/Departments, PSUs, autonomous bodies etc.
- DGS&D with technical support of NeGD (MeitY) has developed GeM portal for procurement of both Products & Services.
- GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-market place that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.
SC for broad anti-torture legislation
In its latest remark, the Supreme Court has observed that India may be finding it tough to secure extraditions because there is a fear within the international community that the accused persons would be subject to torture here.
Context of the remark:
- The remark was in context of the setback suffered by the CBI in its efforts to get Kim Davy — a Danish citizen and prime accused in the Purulia arms drop case of 1995 — extradited from Denmark.
What was the setback?
- A Danish court had rejected the plea on the ground that he would risk “torture or other inhuman treatment” in India.
- Considering it a matter of both Article 21 (fundamental right to life and dignity) and of international reputation, the court has asked the government to consider promulgating a standalone, comprehensive law to define and punish torture as an instrument of “human degradation” by state authorities. Such a law is in the national interest.
- India has signed the UN Convention against torture way back in 1997. But, it has still not ratified it. The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
- A bill was also proposed in this regard. But, no action has been taken on the Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 even six years after it was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2010 and recommended by a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha of which he had been Chairman.
- The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.
Hindi being ‘promoted’ as per Act: Rijiju
Faced with criticism that the Central government is unfairly imposing Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking States, the government has iterated that it was only promoting the language as per an Act of Parliament.
What’s the issue?
- In March, the Department of Official Language of the Home Ministry pulled out a 2011 report of a Committee of Parliament on Official Language and sent it to the President for approval.
- The “progressive” use of Hindi in the Central government offices is reviewed by this Committee every 10 years under the Official Languages Act, 1963 and the Rules framed under it.
- As many as 110 out of the 117 recommendations in this report were accepted by the President.
- The Home Ministry has issued an advisory to all States and government departments to implement the recommendations.
In May 2015, the government had issued an order that as per the Official Languages Act, 1963, all government files would have to be issued bilingually, in Hindi and English.
Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations:
- Giving students the option of writing their exams in Hindi.
- Making minimum knowledge of Hindi compulsory for government jobs.
- Ensuring that the government spends more on Hindi advertisements than English ones.
- The railway ministry should buy equipment with lettering in Devnagri script.
- Railway tickets should be bilingual, with Hindi being one of the two languages.
- Hindi should be an option for UPSC aspirants.
- Cabinet ministers should deliver their speeches in Hindi as much as possible.
- Making it mandatory at railway stations in ‘C’ category (non-Hindi speaking) states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Kerala to have announcements in Hindi.
Article 351 says it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.[Ref: The Hindu]
Issues related to Health & Education
‘Child artistes can work only for 5 hours a day’
The Labour Ministry has proposed the draft Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017 to fix the working conditions for child artistes and for employing children in family enterprises.
- The government had brought a new law to govern child labour, known as the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, which put a blanket ban on employment of children below 14 years of age. However, it had made two exceptions in favour of child labour: children could work as child artistes (in the entertainment sector), and could “help” in their family enterprises.
Key provisions of the draft rules:
- While a child artiste will not be allowed to work for more than five hours a day, a child “assisting” in a family business can only work for three hours a day.
- Children will be allowed to assist their family in running family enterprises “without affecting” their school education. The family would include parents, real siblings, and “real brother and sister of the parents”.
- Such children will not be allowed to engage in any production, supply or retail chain which is “remunerative for the family and hazardous activities.”
- At least 20% of the income earned by the child artiste will be required to be deposited in a fixed deposit account “in a nationalised bank”.
- The money would be credited to the child after she turns 18.
- The permission of the district magistrate would be mandatory for engaging a child artiste.
- The production unit must nominate a person, who would be held responsible for the safety and security of the child artiste.
- A child cannot take part in a “street performance for monetary gain”.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Environment & Ecology
Niyamgiri’s hero gets Goldman Prize
Activist Prafulla Samantara is one of the six winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2017.
- He is being honoured for his historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondhs’ land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminum ore mine.
About Goldman Environmental Prize:
- The Goldman Environmental Prize was created in 1990 to honour grassroots environmentalists undertaking risk of their lives for the cause of protecting the environment.
- The award is given to six persons every year- one each from six geographical regions of the world, namely, Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America.
- The prize is given by Goldman Environmental Foundation of San Francisco. The prize is also known as the Green Nobel.
About Niyamgiri Hills:
- The Niyamgiri Hills form a mountain range in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa.
- They are home to more than 8,000 of the Dongria Kondh people, whose lifestyle and religion have helped nurture the area’s dense forests and unusually rich wildlife.
About Dongria Kondhs:
- The Dongria Kondh in southwestern Odisha is one of India’s so-called “particularly vulnerable tribal groups.”
- The Kondhas are believed to be from the Proto-Australoid ethnic group. Their native language is Kui, a Dravidian language written with the Odia script.
- They have a subsistence economy based on foraging, hunting & gathering but they now primarily depend on a subsistence agriculture i.e. shifting cultivation or slash and burn cultivation or Podu.
- The Dongria Kondh call themselves Jharnia meaning those who live by the Jharana (streams). Hundreds of perennial streams flow from Niyamgiri hill, and there are hundreds of Dongria villages by the streams.
- The Dongria are considered the protectors of these streams, hills and jungles by the people of the nearby plains.
Science & Technology
Worms versus plastic
The researchers found a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene, one of the toughest and most used plastics, frequently found clogging landfill sites in the form of shopping bags.
- The scientists have observed that the degradation rate of the wax worm is extremely fast when compared to other recent discoveries.
- Last year, a bacteria was found to biodegrade plastics at a rate of just 0.13mg a day.
Significance of the discovery:
The present discovery assumes significance for getting rid of the ever increasing Polyethylene plastic waste that degrades the environment.
- It is estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used every single year. The plastics are highly resistant to breaking down, and even if it does the smaller pieces usually tend to choke up ecosystems without getting degraded. The wax worms were found to transform the polyethylene into ethylene glycol.
- To make sure it was not just the chewing and degrading the plastic, scientists mashed up some of the worms and smeared them on polyethylene bags and got similar results as above.
- The molecular details of the process of breakdown could be used to come up with a biotechnological solution for managing polyethylene waste.
What are the Wax Worms?
- Wax worms are medium-white caterpillars with black-tipped feet that live as parasites in bee colonies and are commercially bred for fishing bait.
- They are the caterpillar larvae of wax moths. Wax moths lay their eggs inside beehives where these worms hatch and grow on beeswax.
- The wax worms feed on cocoons, pollen, and shed skins of bees and are considered as parasites by the beekeepers.
Key Facts for Prelims
Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2016
- Renowned filmmaker and actor Kasinathuni Viswanath won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2016.
- With this, Viswanath became the 48th recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest recognition in Indian cinema.
- He is best known for his award-winning movies in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.
- He won the Padma Shri in 1992 and the Andhra Pradesh goverment has honoured him with 20 Nandi awards.
- He will be the 48 recipient of the award, the highest recognition in Indian cinema, which consists of a golden lotus, a cash prize of ₹10 lakh and a shawl.
- Dadasaheb Phalke Award was introduced in 1969 by the Union Government to recognise the contribution of film personalities towards the development of Indian Cinema.
- The award prize consists of a Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl.
- The first recipient of the award was Devika Rani (1969).
Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to pilot GSK malaria vaccine from 2018
- Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will pilot the world’s first malaria vaccine from 2018, offering it for babies and children in high-risk areas as part of real-life trials.
- Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.
- The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa.
- This is WHO’s pilot programme to assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged 5 to 17 months can be replicated in real-life.
- It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed, and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease.
- Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Department has bagged e-Puraskar Award for the best performance in empowering panchayats by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools, for 2016-17.
- The State bagged the award for its Ganshi Sakshi Kayak GPS-enabled ICT tool.
- Kerala bagged the second prize, while West Bengal secured third prize in the category of ICT tools.
- Ministry of Panchayat Raj has been conferring e-Puraskar for bringing in transparency, efficiency and accountability in the functioning of panchayats through ICT tools.
- The cash prize for the first position is Rs. 2 crore, Rs. 1 crore for second position and Rs. 50 lakh for third position.
Northeast India’s largest IT hub opens in Tripura
- Northeast’s sixth and largest hub for information technology has been inaugurated in Agartala, Tripura.
- The hub is expected to create more employment opportunities for the youths and extend the e-governance to cover all the people of the region.
- Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), under the union Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, helped the state government in setting up of the hub by sharing the technological knowledge.
- Last year, Tripura got an award for its performance in IT and e-governance from the central government.
- Tripura has a vast pool of skilled English speaking IT manpower. Opening up of IT hub offers a new opportunity for not only Tripura but the whole of northeast India.
- With India’s recent agreement with Bangladesh over the purchase of surplus bandwidth and its close proximity to Bangladesh, Tripura can act as a “backyard” of the fledgling IT industry of Bangladesh. It can make use of Bangladesh’s plans to double its IT exports by 2017.