Polity & Governance
- Procedure to remove ECs vague, says petition in SC
- CIPAM’s Website launched
Government Schemes & Policies
- Ministries of Power & Textiles join hands under new initiative SAATHI
- A fourth of dairies ill-equipped’: FIAPO report
- Govt announces mega Rs 2.11 lakh crore bank recapitalisation and Rs 7 lakh crore road plan
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India freezes requests to commercially release GM mustard
- TRAI plans 40% reduction in carbon emission by 2022-23
Bilateral & International Relations
- 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus to be held in Philippines
Defence & Security Issues
- INS Sukanya at Indonesia for Coordinated Patrol of IMBL
Science & Technology
- Organic near-infrared filter developed
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Queen of Thumri’ Girija Devi
- Vigilance Awareness Week, 2017
- World’s oldest astrolabe
- Xi Jinping joins the league of Mao and Deng
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Polity & Governance
Procedure to remove ECs vague, says petition in SC
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court pointing out the vagueness in the procedure for removal of Election Commissioners, saying it affects the panel’s autonomy.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a permanent constitutional body established in 1950 and consists of the CEC and two Election Commissioners.
- The proviso to Article 324 (5) of the Constitution safeguards the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) from arbitrary removal.
- The CEC and the Election Commissioners have a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, and enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to apex court judges.
- The CEC and the ECs enjoy the same decision-making powers which is suggestive of the fact that their powers are at par with each other.
- The CEC can be removed from office only by the order of the President, just like a judge of the Supreme Court.
What’s the issue?
- Article 324(5) does not provide similar protection to the Election Commissioners from arbitrary removal.
- The same constitutional provision is silent about the procedure for removal of the two Election Commissioners. It only provides that they cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.
What the petition seeks?
- The petition has sought to provide same and similar protection to both the Election Commissioners so that they shall not be removed from their office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as the Chief Election Commissioner.
- The petition has also sought directions to the Centre to take appropriate steps to confer rule-making authority status on the ECI, similar to the powers vested in the apex court, to empower it to make election-related rules and code of conduct.
- The petition also pointed out that the protection granted to the CEC was to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pressure.
- The PIL has also sought direction to the Centre to provide an independent secretariat to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and declare its expenditure as charged from the Consolidated Fund of India.
CIPAM’s Website launched
The official website for the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) was launched by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- The website is interactive providing regular updates on all upcoming events including awareness and sensitization programs being conducted, as also information on all Intellectual Property Rights.
- The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is nodal agency under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- It is working to ensure effective implementation of the National IPR Policy 2016.
- CIPAM is working towards creating public awareness about IPRs in the country, promoting the filing of IPRs through facilitation, providing inventors with a platform to commercialize their IP assets and coordinating the implementation of the National IPR Policy in collaboration with Government Ministries/Departments and other stakeholders.
Government Schemes & Policies
Ministries of Power & Textiles join hands under new initiative SAATHI
Ministries of Power and Textiles have joined hands under a new initiative SAATHI (Sustainable and Accelerated Adoption of efficient Textile technologies to Help small Industries).
- The SAATHI initiative of the Government will be jointly implemented by EESL and the office of the Textile Commissioner on a pan-India basis.
- Under the initiative, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), would procure energy efficient powerlooms, motors and repair kits in bulk and provide them to the small and medium powerloom units at no upfront cost.
- To kick start the implementation, cluster wise demonstration projects and workshops will be organized in key clusters such as Erode, Surat.
- The use of this efficient equipment would result in energy savings and cost savings to the unit owner and he would repay in instalments to EESL over a 4 to 5 year period.
- This is the aggregation, bulk procurement and financing model that EESL has successfully deployed in several sectors like LED bulbs, Smart Meters and Electric Vehicles.
- Under the initiative the unit owner neither has to allocate any upfront capital cost to procure these equipment nor does it have to allocate additional expenditure for repayment as the repayments to EESL are made from the savings that accrue as a result of higher efficiency equipment and cost savings.
- The Powerloom sector in India is predominantly an unorganized sector and has a large number of micro and small units which produce 57 percent of the total cloth in the country. There are 24.86 lakhs Powerloom units in this country, most of whom use obsolete technology.
- With a view to upgrading the technology, the Government of India has been implementing the INSITU upgrading the technology.
- Under it, plain Powerlooms are attached with process control equipment leading to higher productivity, better quality and more than 50 percent additional value realisation.
- So far 1.70 lakhs plain Powerlooms have been upgraded under the scheme, with a total Government of India subsidy of Rs. 186 crores.
About Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL):
- EESL was set up under Ministry of Power (India) to facilitate implementation of energy efficiency projects.
- EESL is a joint venture of NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and POWERGRID.
- EESL is an energy service company (ESCO) that seeks to unlock the energy efficiency market in India, estimated to be at US$12 billion. This can potentially result in energy savings of up to 20 per cent of current consumption, by way of innovative business and implementation models.
- EESL is the implementing agency of the UJALA scheme meant for ensuring widespread distribution of energy efficient appliances across the country.
A fourth of dairies ill-equipped: FIAPO report
According to a report prepared by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), a fourth of India’s dairies had no shelter for animals and half of these institutions housed sick and injured animals.
Key findings of the report:
- Nearly 55% of dairy owners allowed their sick animals to be milked.
- To increase milk production, hormone Oxytocin was being wantonly administered, even though it is a restricted drug that can only be given after advise from a registered medical practitioner.
- Illegal use of Oxytocin to increase the milk let down is a common occurrence in 46.9% dairies. Dairy owners use it in excessive quantities (3 to 4 ml.)
- Delhi had the “worst” cattle management problem in the country. None of the dairies had a male calf of more than two months of age and were flourishing in “illegal establishments”. There was also minimal veterinary care and indiscriminate use of Oxytocin here.
- In Uttar Pradesh — India’s largest milk producer with over 20 million tonnes of production — 92% of dairies didn’t have a visiting veterinarian and 48% of them used sick animals for milking.
- The findings were part of an assessment of conditions in 450 dairies, spanning 10 of the country’s top milk-producing States and involved assessing the health and living conditions of about 25,000 cattle.
About Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)
- FIAPO is a collective of animal protection organisations in India to help, represent, connect up, and inform, animal protection organisations and activists across India.
- It was registered on November 25, 2010 under the Indian Trust Act 1882.
Govt announces mega Rs 2.11 lakh crore bank recapitalisation and Rs 7 lakh crore road plan
The Union government unveiled an ambitious plan to infuse ₹2.11 lakh crore capital over the next two years into public sector banks (PSBs).
- Along with this, the government also unveiled a mega Rs 6.9 lakh road building programme which includes the Bharatmala project aimed at boosting growth and creating jobs.
What is bank recapitalisation?
- Bank recapitalisation, as the name suggests, means recapitalising banks with new capital to improve their balance sheet.
- The government, using different instruments, infuses capital into banks undergoing credit crunch.
- Capital is the money invested by shareholders in the business. Since the government is the biggest shareholder in public sector banks, the responsibility of infusing capital majorly lies with the government.
When do the bank recapitalisation plan come into action?
The recapitalisation plan comes into action when banks get caught in a situation where their liabilities are comparatively higher than their assets.
- The liquidity with banks is a liability as it is the money deposited by customers, which needs to be paid sooner or later. Due to this their balance-sheet weakens and banks find it difficult to raise capital from the open market. The government, which is also the biggest shareholder, can infuse capital in banks by either buying new shares or by issuing bonds.
How government plans to recapitalise public sector banks?
- The government is currently focused on maintaining its fiscal deficit at 3.2%. This means that the government cannot take out money from state coffers and give it to banks.
- Hence, the government bifurcated the entire Rs 2.11 lakh crore amount in two parts: First, through budgetary allocation and second, by issuing recapitalisation bonds.
- The government plans to infuse Rs 76,000 lakh crore capital by giving it space in budgetary allocation and through markets, and rest 1.35 lakh crore by issuing recapitalisation bonds.
Need for Recapitalisation in India:
- Several economists opine that the recapitalisation of banks — so that they can lend more freely and help revive private investment — is critical for revitalising the growth momentum at a time when the global economy is recovering.
- Indian PSBs are saddled with high, non-performing assets (NPAs) and facing prospect of having to take haircuts on loans stuck in insolvency proceedings.
- NPAs of banks had more than doubled to Rs. 7.33 lakh crore in June 2017 from Rs. 2.75 lakh crore in March 2015. Due to this, PSBs were unable to give fresh loans.
- Even under the Indradhanush roadmap introduced in 2015, Central Government had announced to infuse Rs 70,000 crore in PSBs over four years to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk Basel-III norms to keep these banks fully solvent.
- The move is vital for the slowing economy, as private investments remain elusive in the face of the “twin-balance sheet problem” afflicting corporate India and public sector banks reflected in slow bank credit growth.
Implications of Recapitalisation:
- Strengthening banks will lead to more jobs, more growth and more investment.
- Recapitalisation of banks helps in lending more freely and help revive private investment which is critical for revitalising the growth momentum at a time when the global economy is recovering.
- It will address the bank balance sheet problem and push growth forward.
- The recapitalisation of state-owned banks would be followed by a series of reforms to make them more accountable.
The BharatMala project will include
- Economic corridors (9,000 km),
- Inter-corridor and feeder route (6,000 km),
- National corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km),
- Border roads and international connectivity (2,000 km),
- Coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km) and
- Greenfield expressways (800 km).
- Further, the remaining road projects of 10,000 km under the National Highways Development Project will form a part of the programme.
- The government has identified new routes between economically important cities that would be 20% longer in terms of distance but take relatively less travel time.
- Under programme, roads will be built along borders with Bhutan and Nepal, bottlenecks on existing Golden Quadrilateral highway network will be removed.
- Moreover, road connectivity to small industries will be ensured and manufacturing centres will be connected with national highways.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India freezes requests to commercially release GM mustard
India has frozen requests to commercially release a locally developed genetically modified (GM) mustard amid stiff opposition to lab-altered food from activists and politicians.
- But the environment ministry’s genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) has deferred approval despite a panel the ministry supervises giving GM mustard technical clearance last year.
- Subsequent to receipt of various representations from different stakeholders, matters related to environmental release of transgenic mustard are kept pending for further review.
- The environment ministry told Parliament on 31 July that GM mustard had been recommended by GEAC to it for consideration for environmental release and cultivation.
- GM food has been opposed by activists and politicians in India due to fears that it could compromise food safety and biodiversity. Some experts have also questioned claims that GM crops are more productive than normal varieties.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- It was set up under ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- The GEAC approves activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- It is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials (Biosafety Research Level trial-I and II known as BRL-I and BRL-II).
Authorities under the Rule of 1986:
The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities for handling of various aspects of the rules.
- Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
- Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
- Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
- State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
- District Level Committee (DLC).
- Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops sown between mid-October and late November.
- It a self-pollinating crop difficult to hybridise naturally as it cross-pollinate.
- It is largest edible oil yielding crop of India.
About GM Mustard DMH-11:
- DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11 is genetically modified variety of mustard developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. It was Government sponsored project.
- However, researchers at Delhi University have created hybridised mustard DMH-11 using “barnase / barstar” technology for genetic modification. It is Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crop.
- If it gets the green light from the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India.
- Cotton is the only GM crop currently allowed to be sold in the country.
TRAI plans 40% reduction in carbon emission by 2022-23
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended to set the target for reduction in carbon emissions by the telecommunication sector as 30 per cent by 2019-20 and 40 per cent by 2022-23, taking the base year as 2011-12.
- It was mentioned in TRAI’s recommendation to Department of Telecom (DoT) on approach towards sustainable telecommunications.
- The targets should be reviewed in 2022-23 and telecom service providers (TSPs) should evolve a ‘Carbon Credit Policy’ in line with carbon credit norms, with the objective of achieving the reduction in carbon footprints.
- The accuracy level of the carbon footprint should be taken as adequate, based on self-certification by TSPs. No independent third-party audit of the carbon footprints is recommended in the current scenario
- The TSPs should voluntarily adopt the renewable energy technology (RET) solutions, energy-efficient equipment and high-capacity, fast-charging storage solutions to meet the target.
- It said the government should make necessary provisions mandating all telecom products, equipment and services in the telecom network to be energy- and performance-assessed and certified ‘Green Passport’ utilising the ECR rating and the Energy Passport determined.
- The regulator has also suggested that the government should pass all the benefits granted under various schemes for using renewable energy technologies to telecom operators.
- The telecom authority said the approach already adopted for calculating carbon footprints, including scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, should be continued.
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India.
- Telecom Regulatory authority of India was established on 20 February 1997 by an Act of Parliament to regulate telecom services and tariffs in India. Earlier regulation of telecom services and tariffs was overseen by the Central Government.
- TRAI’s mission is to create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in India to enable the country to have a leading role in the emerging global information society.
- One of its main objectives is to provide a fair and transparent environment that promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition in the market.
- TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, Direct To Home (DTH) services and mobile number portability.
Bilateral & International Relations
4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus to be held in Philippines
The fourth edition of ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus will be held in Philippines.
11th ADMM & ADMM-Plus:
- The Philippines, chair of the ASEAN this year, is hosting the 11th ADMM and 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) that include eight of ASEAN’s dialogue partners namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.
- The meeting hopes to come up with frameworks for maritime interaction, education and training exchanges, aircraft encounters among others.
- The ADMM is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in the ASEAN.
- It aims to promote mutual trust and confidence through greater understanding of defence and security challenges as well as enhancement of transparency and openness among the 10 ASEAN member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- The ADMM-Plus is platform for ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners from Asia and the Pacific.
- The inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2010.
Defence & Security Issues
INS Sukanya at Indonesia for Coordinated Patrol of IMBL
To participate in the 30th edition of CORPAT (Coordinated Patrol) and 3rd bilateral exercise between the Indian Navy and the Indonesian Navy, INS Sukanya arrived at Belawan, Indonesia.
- The exercise is aimed to foster closer maritime ties with countries located on the rim of the Indian Ocean.
- The exercise seeks to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship between India and Indonesia, and underscore India’s partnership and solidarity with friendly countries of the region.
- As part of the Indian Government’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has also been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with EEZ surveillance, Search and Rescue and other capability enhancement activities.
- Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Indonesia.
- The two navies have been carrying out CORPAT on respective sides of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) twice a year since 2002.
- The main aim of CORPAT is to keep the vital part of the Indian Ocean Region safe and secure for commercial shipping, international trade and legitimate marine activities.
- The 29th India–Indonesia CORPAT has commenced at Port Blair under the aegis of Andaman and Nicobar Command.
Science & Technology
Organic near-infrared filter developed
Scientists at the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST) based in Thiruvananthapuram have developed an organic filter that allows only near-infrared (NIR) light to pass through.
- The filter was found to absorb light from 300-850 nm (both ultraviolet, visible and a part of NIR light) and transmit NIR light from 850-1500 nm.
How it is developed?
- The researchers developed filter by mixing organogel with transparent polymer (polydimethylsiloxane).
- The addition of the dye turns the transparent polymer into a semi-transparent one and the filter appears black as it absorbs most of the ultraviolet-visible light.
- The researchers tested it for night photography and found the filter responsive only to NIR light.
- Currently available inorganic filters are expensive and brittle whereas organic filters are easy to process and flexible too.
- The new NIR filter can be used for night vision glasses, night photography, and will have applications in security and forensics such as identifying blood stains on a dark fabric.
- A potential application of the new material is in the design of hidden security codes on documents which can be viewed only through a NIR-readable camera.
- Dried blood stains on a black cloth that remained invisible to naked eyes became clearly visible and detectable when viewed through a camera with the NIR filter.
- Tampering of a cheque which was not discernible to naked eyes could be easily identified when viewed through a camera with the filter.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Queen of Thumri’ Girija Devi
- Eminent classical singer and Padma Vibhushan awardee Girija Devi passed away.
- She is considered as the queen of thumri.
- She is a legendary singer of the Benaras gharana.
- She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972, Padma Bhushan in 1989 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016.
- Thumri is a common genre of semi-classical Indian music.
- The term ‘thumri’ is derived from the Hindi verb thumakna which means “to walk with dancing steps so as to make the ankle-bells tinkle.”
- The form is, thus, connected with dance, dramatic gestures, mild eroticism, evocative love poetry and folk songs.
- It is primarily linked with folk songs of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and so the Thumri lyrics are in Hindi dialects.
- The text is romantic or devotional in nature, and usually revolves around a girl’s love for Krishna.
Vigilance Awareness Week, 2017
- Observance of Vigilance Awareness Week every year is part of a multi-pronged approach of the Central Vigilance Commission, the apex integrity institution of the country.
- This year the Vigilance Awareness Week would be observed from 30th October to 4th November, 2017 with the theme “My Vision-Corruption Free India”.
- One of the strategies is to encourage all stakeholders to collectively participate in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption.
- The Vigilance Excellence Awards will be given during Vigilance Awareness Week, 2017.
World’s oldest astrolabe
- An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.
- Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.
- It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.
- The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer which sank during a storm in the Indian Ocean in 1503.
- The boat was called the Esmeralda and was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.
Xi Jinping joins the league of Mao and Deng
- “Xi Jinping Thought” has officially become part of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Constitution following days of codifying a three-hour speech by the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
- “Xi Jinping Thought,” formally known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” will also become a mandatory topic in Chinese schools.
- With this, it became clear that Xi Jinping is now the paramount leader exercising authority previously only held by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
- Mao’s “mass line” and Deng’s “seeking truth from facts” have become official tenets of Communist Party dogma.