Polity & Governance
- Tripartite MoU signed for broadband services to Post Offices
- Over 21 lakh LED Street Lights installed across India under SLNP
Issues related to Health & Education
- Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan
- Health Ministry launches ‘Test and Treat Policy for HIV’
- 60% work on Kundli-Palwal e-way over
Bilateral & International Relations
- India to seal pact with Russia-led grouping
- US places India yet again on IPR ‘priority watch’ list
Defence & Security Issues
- Money laundering may be made criminal offence
Science & Technology
- A safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries
Key Facts for Prelims
- Kerala hosts country’s first ever transgender athletic meet
Polity & Governance
Tripartite MoU signed for broadband services to Post Offices
A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between BBNL, Department of Posts and BSNL to provide broadband connectivity of BharatNet to Post Offices in rural areas.
- BSNL would provide broadband services.
- The infrastructure expenses and the operational expenses would be paid by the Department of Posts.
- BBNL would facilitate and coordinate the entire project.
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. This phase is nearing its completion.
- 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.
- Under the third phase from 2018 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks would be created.
Over 21 lakh LED Street Lights installed across India under SLNP
Under the Government of India’s Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) over 21 lakh conventional street lights have been replaced with LED street lights across the country.
- The installation of LED street lights has resulted in Annual energy savings of 295 million unit kWh, avoided capacity of over 73 MW and reduction of 2.3 lakh tonnes of CO2 annually.
- Rajasthan had the highest replacement of LED bulbs.
About the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP):
- The Central Government’s Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) was launched in January 2015.
- Under the programme around 3.5 crore conventional street lights will be replaced with smart and energy efficient LED street lights by March 2019.
- The programme aims to install LED bulbs street-lighting across different cities in the country. The LED lights will replace inefficient lamps.
- The project has been implemented across 23 states and union territories.
- Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI) is the implementing agency for SLNP.
- EESL also undertakes social audits in all states post the completion of the project.
- Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a joint venture of NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and POWERGRID, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) was set up under Ministry of Power (India) to facilitate implementation of energy efficiency projects.
Issues related to Health & Education
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan
About the scheme:
The scheme was launched in March, 2009 with the objective to enhance access to secondary education and to improve its quality.
- It is envisaged to achieve an enrolment rate of 75% from 52.26% in 2005-06 at secondary stage of implementation of the scheme by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation.
- The other objectives include improving quality of education imparted at secondary level through making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms, removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers, providing universal access to secondary level education by 2017, i.e., by the end of 12th Five Year Plan and achieving universal retention by 2020.
Important quality interventions provided under the scheme are:
- appointment of additional teachers to reduce PTR to 30:1,
- focus on Science, Math and English education,
- In-service training of teachers,
- science laboratories,
- ICT enabled education,
- curriculum reforms; and
- teaching learning reforms.
Important equity interventions provided in the scheme are:
- special focus in micro planning
- preference to Ashram schools for upgradation
- preference to areas with concentration of SC/ST/Minority for opening of schools
- special enrolment drive for the weaker section
- more female teachers in schools; and
- separate toilet blocks for girls.
Implementation mechanism of the Scheme:
- The scheme is being implemented by the State government societies established for implementation of the scheme.
- The central share is released to the implementing agency directly.
- The applicable State share is also released to the implementing agency by the respective State Governments.
Why in news?
- In Tripura, under a special campaign by the State’s School Education Department and the Centre’s Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), altogether 596 students who had dropped out of school have returned for admissions to them.
School drop-outs in Tripura:
- Tripura had an alarming rate of school drop-outs at the height of insurgency, when scores of schools became non-functional, mainly in the hilly areas.
- Most had left school in Classes VIII or IX mainly due to family reasons. The majority of school drop-outs are girls.
Health Ministry launches ‘Test and Treat Policy for HIV’
Union Health Minister JP Nadda has launched the Test and Treat policy for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) patients.
- As per this new policy, anyone who is tested and found positive will get the necessary treatment free of cost.
- Anyone found positive will be provided with ART (Anti- Retroviral Therapy) irrespective of his CD count. The scheme will be a centrally sponsored scheme.
- All men, women, adolescents and children who have been diagnosed positively can benefit under this new policy.
- HIV destroys the CD4 T cells in the human body and weakens the immunity levels. A person who has CD4 cell count below 200 is considered to be at significant risk of developing serious illnesses. Before the announcement of this new policy, the government was providing free treatment to people with a count of 400 and below.
- The government is set to soon launch a National Strategic Plan for HIV for the next seven years, which will be significant for ending AIDS.
- Recently, the government also passed the long-pending HIV/AIDS Act. The HIV/AIDS Act has the key provisions such as the prohibition of discrimination, informed consent, non-disclosure of HIV status, anti-retroviral therapy and opportunistic infection management, protection of property of affected children, safe working environment and provision for the appointment of ombudsman in every state.
- In India, around 21 lakh people are estimated to have HIV. Out of them, only about 14 lakh people have been identified yet. To identify the remaining cases, the government has revised national HIV testing guidelines.
- Recently, the treatment provided by about 1,600 ART and Link ART sites have crossed the 1 million people mark making the country the second in the world to have such large number of people on free lifelong treatment.
60% work on Kundli-Palwal e-way over
The government has informed that 60% of the work on the 135-km Eastern Peripheral Expressway, being constructed from Kundli to Palwal, has already been completed. Efforts are being made to complete its construction by August.
About the Eastern Peripheral Expressway:
- This is the first access-controlled expressway being constructed at a cost of Rs. 4,418 crore.
- After its completion, vehicles would not have to enter Delhi for mutual transit to the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Eastern Peripheral Expressway would pass through Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Gautambuddh Nagar and Faridabad.
Bilateral & International Relations
India to seal pact with Russia-led grouping
India is set to formalize a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, clearing the decks for negotiations on deepening trade relations with the five former Soviet republics.
- The joint statement on the FTA is likely to be issued during the upcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at St. Petersburg.
Significance of this pact:
- The Eurasian market could open up new export opportunities in medical tourism, IT and IT-enabled services, besides traditional sectors like spices, marine products, coir and rubber.
About Eurasian Economic Union:
- The Eurasian Economic Union comprises Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
- A treaty aiming for the establishment of the union was signed on 29 May 2014 and came into force on 1 January 2015.
- The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars (PPP).
- The union introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common policies in macroeconomic sphere, transport, industry and agriculture, energy, foreign trade and investment, customs, technical regulation, competition and antitrust regulation.
- Trade between India and the five Eurasian countries stands at about $11 billion.
[Ref: The Hindu]
US places India yet again on IPR ‘priority watch’ list
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office has once again placed India on the ‘priority watch’ list in this year’s Special 301 report despite the country rolling out National IPR Policy last year.
- India has been placed in ‘priority watch’ list owing to USTR’s view that India has not made adequate changes in its intellectual property (IP) laws and regulations.
- Out-of-cycle review (OCR) of the India’s IPR regime by the USTR was started under the Obama administration in which both American, as well as Indian firms and other stakeholders, submitted their reviews on India’s IPR laws.
- In May last year, India rolled out a National IPR Policy to address the concerns of the US trade bodies. The policy was drafted confirming to the World Trade Organisation’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- Similar to USTR’s Special 301 Report, India is being ranked poorly in the IPR index being done by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC).
- United States Trade Representative (USTR) is an agency that is part of the executive office of the President of the US.
- USTR creates an annual Special 301 list since 1989.
- USTR places those countries that have either national laws or regulations that detrimentally affect U.S. trade or the rights of IP holders on this list.
- USTR places these countries in three categories. The most egregious violators are featured as Priority Foreign Countries (PFC), serious offenders are featured on the Priority Watch List (PWL), and less serious offenders in the Watch List (WL).
- The Special 301 list has continuously placed India most often as a PWL country.
Defence & Security Issues
Money laundering may be made criminal offence
The Central government is considering a proposal to make money laundering a separate criminal offence to be investigated by the Enforcement Directorate, irrespective of a probe by other agencies.
- The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money has also been of the view that money laundering investigations by the Enforcement Directorate should be allowed without any dependence on registration of cases by other police agencies under the legal provisions listed in the schedule of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
- To classify this as a criminal offence, the government will have to bring about several amendments to the PMLA, including the current definition of the “proceeds of crime” that is right now dependent upon the predicate offences as listed in the Act’s schedule.
Need of this move:
- Under the current arrangement in India, the fate of money laundering cases depends on that of the probe and prosecutions in predicate offences pursued by primary agencies.
- Such restrictions on money laundering investigations on several occasions cause impediments in taking the cases to their logical conclusion.
- Classifying it as a criminal offence will facilitate quick action against those indulging in money laundering.
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.
Functions of ED:
Directorate of Enforcement is a specialized financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, which enforces the following laws:
- Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (FEMA) – A Civil Law, with officers empowered to conduct investigations into suspected contraventions of the Foreign Exchange Laws and Regulations, adjudicate, contraventions, and impose penalties on those adjudged to have contravened the law.
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) – A Criminal Law, with the officers empowered to conduct investigations to trace assets derived out of the proceeds of crime, to provisionally attach/ confiscate the same, and to arrest and prosecute the offenders found to be involved in Money Laundering.
Practice in developed countries:
- Money laundering in itself has been defined as a criminal offence in several countries.
- There are also separate legislations for dealing with funds generated through activities like drug trafficking or terror financing.
- The United States has very stringent laws to check money laundering.
- In the United Kingdom, police have to prove predicate offence through circumstantial evidence, linking it to the funds generated and laundered. Wherever money laundering is treated as a stand-alone crime, U.K. agencies are not required to wait for the outcome of investigations into the predicate offence.
- Also, they are not supposed to prove that the funds are proceeds of a particular offence. Based on enough circumstantial evidence, they have to just establish that the proceeds had a criminal origin.
Science & Technology
A safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) developed the nickel-zinc (Ni-Zn) batteries in which a three-dimensional Zn “sponge” replaces the powdered zinc anode, or positively charged electrode, traditionally used.
- Previous zinc-based rechargeable suffer from a major drawback: Repeated cycles of charging and discharging cause zinc atoms to pile up on one of the electrodes.
- That causes the growth of “dendrites,” tiny zinc spears that can pierce other parts of the battery, causing it to short-circuit and fail.
Significance of Ni-Zn batteries:
- With 3D Zn, the battery provides an energy content and rechargeability that rival lithium-ion batteries while avoiding the safety issues that continue to plague lithium.
- Zinc-nickel battery provides nearly the same electrical jolt, but not the fire risk of Li-ion cells.
- With the benefits of rechargeability, the 3D Zn sponge is ready to be deployed within the entire family of Zn-based alkaline batteries across the civilian and military sectors.
Key Facts for Prelims
Kerala hosts country’s first ever transgender athletic meet
- Kerala has conducted the country’s first-ever transgender one-day athletic meet in Thiruvananthapuram.
- The event was jointly organised by Kerala sports council and Sexual Gender Minority Federation of Kerala.
- In the competition, six events were conducted, namely, 100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres running; 100x 4 relay race, high jump and shot put.
- The event saw the participation of 132 participants belonging to 12 districts of the state.
- No participant representing Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts participated in the event.