Polity & Governance
- Phase 1 of Bharat Net project to be completed by December
- SC questions Centre on judicial posts
Government Schemes & Policies
- Seven firms get LoI for 14 monuments under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme
- ‘PFMS vital to monitor funds flow to Central schemes’
- ‘Decision on removal of fishing subsidies certain in WTO’s Dec. meet’
- SIDBI revamps portal for easy credit access
- International Conference on Green Initiatives & Railway Electrification
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- ADB commits $65.5 m to check coastal erosion in Karnataka
- Arctic sea ice waning faster than predicted, says study
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, France to boost defence ties
- Burundi becomes first country to leave International Criminal Court
Science & Technology
- Scientists link new virus to kala-azar
Key Facts for Prelims
- Establishment of permanent campus of six new IITs
- National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE)
- Technocity project
- Australian court disqualifies deputy PM for dual citizenship
- 27 October: Infantry Day
- 2017 Hridaynath Mangeshkar Award
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Polity & Governance
Phase 1 of Bharat Net project to be completed by December
The first phase of national optic fibre network christened as Bharat Net project will be completed by December 2017, thus providing internet access to 100,000 gram panchayats.
- It was announced in ‘i-Bharat 2017’ conference organised by industry body FICCI in association with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology based on theme of ‘ICT Elucidations for Unserved and Unsolved’.
- So far, Bharat Net has connected 83,000 gram panchayats. But now it is imperative to create fibre-first programme where government, as well as private sector join hands to achieve objective of doubling the reach of telecom fibre network in the country by 2020.
What is BharatNet?
BharatNet is Centre’s rural internet connectivity programme which is implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).
- It is world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre.
- Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly the rural areas, through demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps to realise the vision of Digital India.
- The project is being funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- The three-phase implementation under the BharatNet project is:
- Under the first phase, one lakh gram panchayats would be provided connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by March 2017.
- Under the second phase, connectivity will be provided to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country. It is to be completed by December 2018 (now extended to March 2019).
- Under the third phase from 2018 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks would be created.
About the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):
- USOF was formed by the Central Government to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas.
- The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators as a percentage of various licenses fees being paid by them.
SC questions Centre on judicial posts
The Supreme Court agreed to examine the issue relating to delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
What is the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)?
- The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is a document to guide appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
- Under the current MoP, the SC collegium initiates the proposal to recommend a new chief justice before the term of the incumbent ends to ensure timely succession.
- An acting chief justice cannot be in office for more than a month.
What’s the issue?
- In 2015, the top court struck down a law the government brought — the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act — to end a more than 20-year-old practice, unique to India, of judges appointing judges under a collegium system.
- The court had then asked the government to draft a so-called new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) to lay down guidelines for appointments to the higher judiciary in consultation with the chief justice of India and the collegium. But the two sides have failed to agree on it.
- A bench of justices observed that more than 22 months had passed since the top court had asked the government to write an MoP.
- The court viewed that even though no time limit was fixed by this court for finalisation of the MoP, the issue cannot linger on for indefinite period.
- After the NJAC was declared unconstitutional, there has been a tussle between the NDA government and the top court’s collegium over some tricky issues in MoP.
- The government reportedly wanted to have “public interest” and “national security” as grounds for rejection of names for judgeship which was not acceptable to the collegium.
- The two sides also had differences over setting up of a secretariat to assist the collegium in selection of judges.
What are the concerns?
- More than four million cases are pending in 24 high courts which are together short of 378 judges.
- Also, six of the 24 high courts have been without a full-time chief justice.
- Some High Courts like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have acting Chief justice for more than a year now while such arrangement should not have continued for more than a month.
- There should be no further delay in finalisation of MOP in larger public interest.
Government Schemes & Policies
Seven firms get LoI for 14 monuments under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme
The Union Ministry of Tourism gave Letters of Intent (LoI) to seven shortlisted companies for adopting 14 monuments under Adopt a Heritage Scheme at the closing ceremony of ‘Paryatan Parv’ held in New Delhi.
- The shortlisted companies will be future ‘Monument Mitras’ who would associate pride with their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) activities.
Adopted monuments include:
- Jantar Mantar, Purana Quila, Safdarjung Tomb, Agrasen ki Baoli, and Qutub Minar (Delhi),
- Hampi (Karnataka),
- Ajanta Caves (Maharashtra),
- Sun Temple, Raja Rani Temple and Ratnagiri Monuments (Odisha),
- Leh Palace and Mt. StokKangri (Jammu & Kashmir),
- Mattancherry Palace Museum (Kerala),
- Gangotri Temple Area and Trail (Uttarakhand).
Adopt a Heritage Scheme (Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan Project)
The scheme was launched by Union Ministry of Tourism on World Tourism Day (27th September).
- This scheme was launched by Tourism Ministry in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- Under it, Private, Public Sector Companies and Corporate individuals were invited to adopt heritage sites and to take up responsibility for making them and promote sustainable tourism through conservation and development under their CSR activities.
- It envisages at developing monuments, heritage and tourist sites across India and making them tourist friendly and enhance their tourism potential and cultural importance in planned and phased manner.
‘PFMS vital to monitor funds flow to Central schemes’
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the use of Public Finance Management System (PFMS) will help in effective monitoring of the flow of funds to beneficiaries of different government welfare schemes.
What is Public Financial Management System?
PFMS is an electronic fund tracking mechanism compiles, collates and makes available in real-time, information regarding all government schemes.
- The PFMS, also known as Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS), tracks fund disbursement and ensures that state treasuries are integrated with the Centre to ensure money is send as and when required.
- PFMS, administered by the department of expenditure, is an end-to-end solution for processing payments, tracking, monitoring, accounting, reconciliation and reporting. It is a web based application.
- It provides the government real-time information on resource availability and utilisation across schemes.
- In addition, the platform will allow government expenditure to adopt a Just-in- Time (JIT) approach, with payments made only when they are needed.
- The government has set a target to integrate PFMS with all state treasuries in current fiscal and implement Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for welfare and scholarship schemes.
In future, Government aims to transform PFMS to Government-wide Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS) as a comprehensive payment, receipt and accounting system.
Significance of the PFMS:
- The PFMS aims to help in complete tracking and monitoring flow of funds to implementing agencies and ensuring timely transfer of funds.
- It will help government to ascertain actual status of utilization of funds by multiple implementing agencies of central and the state governments.
- It will also cut need for paper work and in long way help in monitoring and tracking of any unnecessary parking of funds by implementing agencies, thus minimising cases of delay and pending payments to large extent.
- It will help to plug leakages in system and help to manage and maintain data that government can use to develop more scientific approach.
‘Decision on removal of fishing subsidies certain in WTO’s Dec. meet’
The forthcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest decision-making body called the ‘Ministerial Conference’ will be held at Buenos Aires (Argentina) in December 2017.
- An agreement on elimination of ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies is likely to be the only major outcome of this meeting.
Fishing subsidies are not good. Why?
- Fishing subsidies (globally) is a harmful as they contribute to overfishing (estimated to be as high as $35 billion).
- Government subsidies in the fisheries sector can have severe negative social and economic impacts for the most vulnerable countries and communities.
- Subsidies weaken the sustainability of global fisheries while increasing inequality among fishers
- Addressing government incentives that drive unsustainable fisheries practices is not just an environmental imperative.
Elimination of fishing subsidies: Implications for India
The small-scale fisheries sector in India provides employment to six million people including three million women, as well as livelihood support to around 30 million people.
- Elimination of certain forms of fisheries subsidies could severely hurt small and livelihood fisherfolk in India. This is because the definition of Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is being primarily targeted (for removal of subsidies), does not explicitly exclude them (small-scale fisher-folk). Most fishermen in India and in other developing countries will therefore fall under this (IUU) category.
SIDBI revamps portal for easy credit access
Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has revamped its portal www.udyamimitra.in with enhanced features to provide easy access to credit and hand-holding services for micro small medium enterprises (MSME).
Key features of the revamped version of the portal:
- It brings transparency and competition among lenders and removes the need to approach several banks individually.
- It removes the need to approach several banks individually.
- It is mobile-enabled and provides a self-assessment module.
- It sends various information on registered MSMEs from time to time.
- It also allows loan applications to be perused and picked up by multiple lenders.
Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), is an independent financial institution aimed to aid the growth and development of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSME) in India.
- Set up on April 2, 1990 through an act of parliament, it was incorporated initially as a wholly owned subsidiary of Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI).
- Currently the ownership is held by 34 Government of India owned / controlled institutions.
- It is the Principal Financial Institution for the Promotion, Financing and Development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector and for Co-ordination of the functions of the institutions engaged in similar activities.
International Conference on Green Initiatives & Railway Electrification
At the inauguration of the ‘International Conference on Green Initiatives and Railway Electrification’, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal launched the railways’ first set of solar plants with a total capacity of 5 megawatt peak (MWp).
- It is an ambitious project aimed at reducing the national transporter’s carbon footprint.
About the project:
- The project is part of the government’s National Solar Mission in which Indian Railways plans to commission 1,000 MWp solar plants across its network.
- The plants on the roof tops of Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Anand Vihar and Delhi railway stations will generate 76.5 lakh units of solar power cumulatively per year, and shall meet about 30 per cent of the energy requirement of these stations.
- Through the project, the railways will save Rs 421.4 lakh annually and will reduce 6,082 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
- The project was awarded in December 2016. The cost of the project is Rs.37.45 crore and has been bought in by the developer under the PPP model.
- The developer will also maintain it for 25 years and the Railways will only pay energy consumed at Rs 4.14 per unit
- Indian Railways is the most energy efficient mode of transport and therefore, is considered as the most environmentally sustainable transport system.
- Transport sector being the biggest consumer of energy, especially railway as the single largest consumer with share of about 2% of National energy consumption.
Indian Railways’ electrification drive:
- Mission Electrification, a strategic shift for Railways is a bold initiative taken up by Indian Railway wherein it has been decided to undertake electrification of complete railway network at a rapid pace.
- Indian Railways by applying economies of scale shall be able to accomplish 100% electrification at lower prices with “an incentive cum penalty” framework scheme. A holistic plan is required to carry out 100 % electrification.
- This along with Decarbonization initiatives will propel increased use of Renewables in Railways.
About Institution of Railways Electrical Engineer (IREE)
- IREE is a professional body of Railway Electrical Engineers.
- It is a technical body under the auspices of Ministry of Railways sharing knowledge and experience of various Railway engineers and others connected with Electrical Engineering.
- The Institution, registered at Nasik in 1995, has been recognized by Railway Board in the year 1998.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
ADB commits $65.5 m to check coastal erosion in Karnataka
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a $65.5 million loan agreement with India for checking coastal erosion on the western coast of Karnataka.
- The loan is the second tranche of a $250-million financing facility under the Sustainable Coastal Protection and Management Investment Programme.
- The financing will be used to address the immediate coastal protection needs and for strengthening institutional capacity of Karnataka’s public works, ports and inland water transport department.
- The Programme consists of eight coastal protection subprojects to address issues of medium to severe coastal erosion resulting in protection of about 54 km of coastline in Karnataka.
- State Department of Public Works is responsible for implementation of overall program which is due for completion by September 2020.
Coastal erosion in Karnataka:
Karnataka’s coast supports the state’s major economic sectors, which include fisheries, agriculture, tourism, ports and other major transport and communication sectors.
- Coastal erosion in the State, where the project is focussed, poses a high risk to human wellbeing, economic development and ecological integrity through loss of land, infrastructure and business opportunities.
Arctic sea ice waning faster than predicted, says study
According to a latest study, Arctic sea ice, a key indicator of climate change, could be dwindling faster than predicted.
- The Research has found that satellite measurements over the years have overestimated the thickness of Arctic sea ice by as much as 25% because of the presence of salty snow.
- The study found that salty snow — formed when brine is expelled upward from the ice surface — does not allow radar waves from satellites to penetrate, leading to skewed measurements.
What researchers proposed?
- The researchers have proposed a snow salinity correction factor that could bring down the error in estimation of sea ice thickness.
- Dwindling ice cover hastens the warming of oceans, and has an impact on weather phenomena like the El Nino that influences the Asian monsoon.
- The thinning ice would make it difficult for animals like polar bears and seals and organisms like phytoplankton to survive.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, France to boost defence ties
French Defence Minister Florence Parley has held extensive talks with her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman during her visit to India.
Highlights of the meeting:
- Extensive talks covering a variety of issues, include the regional security situation, joint development of defence platforms and expansion of military-to-military ties.
- Most importantly, India and France decided to expand military cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region, besides resolving to ramp up the overall defence and security ties.
- French side explored the possibility of a follow on order of additional Rafale fighter jets by India.
- Comprehensively reviewed developments in defence equipment and industry cooperation between the two countries.
India-France Bilateral relations:
- Six Scorpene submarines are being made in India with transfer of technology under the P75 project by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL). The submarines are being built in collaboration with French shipbuilding major Naval Group (formerly DCNS).
- The joint venture is part of Dassault’s offset obligations for the Rs 58,000 crore deal to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to India.
- An aerospace park is being set up under a joint venture by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Aerospace Ltd.
Burundi becomes first country to leave International Criminal Court
Burundi has become the first country to withdraw its membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- It accused the ICC of deliberately targeting Africans for prosecution.
- However, in theory its withdrawal from the ICC has no effect on the court’s ongoing investigations on the country.
- The government of Burundi is accused of committing crimes against humanity, including execution and torture.
Location of Burundi:
About the International Criminal Court (ICC):
- The ICC, set up in July 2002, is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands.
- The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
- Rome Statute, also called the ICC charter, is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).
What is the Rome Statute?
- The Rome Statute is a founding document that establishes the rules of criminal proceedings in relation to matters that fall under the ICC’s competence.
- The Rome Statute established four core international crimes:
- Crimes against humanity,
- War crimes, and
- The crime of aggression.
- Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves.
- The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if they are committed by a national of a state party; an exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorized by the United Nations Security Council.
Science & Technology
Scientists link new virus to kala-azar
What is kala-azar?
Kala-azar, also known as black fever and Dumdum fever, is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
- The parasite primarily infects reticuloendothelial system and may be found in abundance in bone marrow, spleen and liver.
- It is zoonotic (or parasatic) infection transmitted by sand fly (Leishmania donovani), a blood-sucking pest, which is one-third size of mosquitoes and found in moist (humid) mud and sand and in close proximity to livestock.
- Kala-azar is a vector borne disease.
- It signs and symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia, and substantial swelling of liver and spleen.
- It is treatable and requires a medical diagnosis.
- If untreated, kala-azar can kill within two years of onset of ailment.
- Kala-azar belongs to Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) family of diseases which affect poorest populations.
- It is second-largest parasitic killer in world after Malaria.
- It is endemic to Indian subcontinent in 119 districts in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
Kala-azar in India:
- India accounts for half the global burden of Kala-azar disease.
- In India, Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing this disease.
- Sandfly of genus Phlebotomus argentipes are the only known vectors of kala-azar in India
- Indian Kala-azar has a unique epidemiological feature of being Anthroponotic; human is the only known reservoir of infection.
Why in News?
- Scientists have found that parasite called Leptomonas seymouri hosting virus called Lepsey NLV1 may be also responsible for spread of kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis).
- Earlier it was believed that parasite Leishmania donovani (sandfly) alone is responsible for spread of the dreaded infection.
- However, scientists are still not clear how parasites cause infection and how it manages to hide within body.
Key Facts for Prelims
Establishment of permanent campus of six new IITs
- The Union Cabinet approved a Rs. 7,002 crore plan for construction of permanent campuses for six new IITs, to be completed by 31st March 2020.
- Each campus will have facility for housing 1,200 students, beginning from the academic year 2020-2021.
- Six new IITs at Tirupati, Palakkad, Goa, Dharwad, Jammu and Bhilai.
National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE)
- National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), an autonomous institution of Ministry of New and Renewable (MNRE), is the apex National R&D institution in the field Solar Energy.
- The Government of India has converted 25 year old Solar Energy Centre (SEC) under MNRE to an autonomous institution in September, 2013 to assist the Ministry in implementing the National Solar Mission and to coordinate research, technology, skill development, training, consultancy, incubation and other related works.
- Recently the 4th Foundation Day celebrations of NISE has been held.
- President Ram Nath Kovind launched the Technocity project in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and laid the foundation stone for the first government building in Technocity.
Australian court disqualifies deputy PM for dual citizenship
- Australia’s High Court has disqualified the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and four senators from sitting in Parliament in a unanimous ruling.
- The constitution bans dual nationals from Parliament, a prohibition that critics have condemned as outdated in a country where almost half the people are immigrants or have an overseas-born parent.
- Critics argued for exemption from the ban because he had not voluntarily acquired or retained citizenship of another country.
27 October: Infantry Day
- The Infantry Day in observed every year in India on 27 October to commemorate supreme sacrifices made by Indian Army’s infantry against Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in 1947.
- It was first infantry action by Indian Army after independence.
- The operation was undertaken following orders of then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru after Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of princely state of J&K signed Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947 to accede or merge state with India
2017 Hridaynath Mangeshkar Award
- Veteran writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar was honoured with the 2017 Hridaynath Mangeshkar Award.
- The award was established in 2011 by Mumbai-based socio-cultural organisation Hridayesh Art in honour of music composer and singer Hridaynath Mangeskar.
- It felicitates and recognises successful individuals across country from various walks of life.
- Hridaynath Mangeskar is son of renowned musician Deenanath Mangeshkar and is younger brother of Indian music legends Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.