Polity & Governance
- Government introduces Bill to amend the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002
Government Schemes & Policies
- Ayushman Bharat for a new India -2022
- BharatNet phase II gets Rs 10,000 crore
- Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE), an initiative to step up research investments
Issues related to Health & Education
- Ekalavya schools for tribal children planned
- Gift City gets unified regulator
Bilateral & International Relations
- India joins Ashgabat agreement
Defence & Security Issues
- New tunnel at Sela pass in Arunachal Pradesh announced
Art & Culture
- Magahi writer Madhukar awarded Sahitya Akademi’s Bhasha Samman
Science & Technology
- Odisha bags ‘Geospatial World Excellence Award-2018’
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Khelo India School Games’
- Ghodazari to be a new wildlife sanctuary
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Polity & Governance
Government introduces Bill to amend the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002
The Union government proposed changes to various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 through the Finance Bill.
Objectives behind this amendment bill:
- The Amendments aim at further enhancing the effectiveness of the PMLA, widen its scope and take care of certain procedural difficulties faced by the Enforcement Directorate in prosecution of PMLA cases.
Amendments to Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002
Amendment in definition of ‘proceeds of crime’:
- The amended definition of “proceeds of crime” allows the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to proceed against assets of equivalent value located even outside the country.
Amendment in bail provisions:
- Section 45(1) of the Act has been amended in a move to de-link PMLA proceedings from those involved in scheduled offences pursued by other agencies. It proposes uniform applicability of bail conditions, instead of only those offences under the schedule which are liable to imprisonment of more than 3 years.
- A further limit of Rs 1 crore will allow the court to apply bail provisions more leniently to less serious PMLA cases.
- This amendment came after the Supreme Court recently struck down the previous provisions which could deny bail even when there were sound grounds to believe that a person was not involved in money laundering.
Amendment to Section 8(8) of the PMLA, 2002:
- It allows the Special Court, if it deems fit, to consider the claims for the purposes of restoration of confiscated assets also during the trial. Earlier, the assets could be restored only after completion of the trial.
Inclusion of Section 447 of the Companies Act in the list of scheduled offences under PMLA:
- Section 447 of Companies Act is being included as scheduled offence under PMLA so that Registrar of Companies in suitable cases would be able to report corporate frauds cases for action by Enforcement Directorate.
ED to share relevant details with other agencies:
- The government has introduced a new Sub-Section (2) of Section 66, making it mandatory for the ED to share relevant details with other agencies.
- This shall enable exchange of information among agencies and enhance effectiveness of efforts against black money.
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.
Government Schemes & Policies
Ayushman Bharat for a new India -2022
As part of Ayushman Bharat programme, the Government has announced two major initiatives in health sector.
National Health Protection Scheme:
- The second flagship programme under Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
- This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme.
- Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme.
Health and Wellness Centre:
- The National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system.
- Under this 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
- These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
- These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
- The Budget has allocated Rs.1200 crore for this flagship programme. Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.
- These two health sector initiatives under Ayushman Bharat Programme will build a New India 2022 and ensure enhanced productivity, well being and avert wage loss and impoverishment.
- These Schemes will also generate lakhs of jobs, particularly for women.
BharatNet phase II gets Rs 10,000 crore
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has allocated Rs 10,000 crores in 2018-19 for phase two of BharatNet, the government’s ambitious scheme to connect the country’s villages with high-speed optical fibre network.
- The deadline for completion of the second phase of the project is March 2019–December 31, 2017 being the date when the first installment got over.
- In its first phase, the BharatNet project saw over one lakh gram panchayats being connected across the country with high speed optical fibre network as of December 31, 2017.
- Under the first phase, the project saw 2,54,895 km of optical fibre cable being laid covering 1,09,926 gram panchayats out of which 1,01,370 gram panchayats have been provided active connectivity.
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).
- BharatNet infrastructure is expected to catalyse digital delivery of services for the rural poor — health, education, livelihood skills, e-agriculture and e-commerce.
- Besides telecom services companies which are the implementation partners, BharatNet stakeholders include optic fibre cable manufacturers and equipment suppliers and technology partners.
About the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):
- USOF was formed by the Central Government to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas.
- Established in 2002, it is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
- The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
- The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) were made an exception to this process since Bharat Broadband Nigam Limited (BBNL) was the sole party involved in the implementation having been specifically created for it.
Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE), an initiative to step up research investments
In his Budget 2018 speech, the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled a new scheme called Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE).
- The RISE scheme will be financed via a restructured higher education financing agency (HEFA) that is functioning for the last two months as a non-banking financial company.
- It aims to lend low-cost funds to government higher educational institutions.
- While HEFA was granted a budgetary allocation of Rs250 crore in the fiscal year 2018, in FY19, the lending body will be provided a budget of Rs2,750 crore.
- Presently, HEFA is looking to raise Rs20,000 crore and Budget announcement hiked this number to Rs1 trillion. HEFA will have a total investment of ₹1,00,000-crore in the next four years.
Key features of the HEFA:
- The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with an authorised capital of Rs. 2,000 crore. The Government equity would be Rs. 1,000 crore.
- The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crore for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.
- The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.
- The HEFA would finance the civil and lab infrastructure projects through a 10-year loan.
- The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ (earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc.) of the institutions. The Government would service the interest portion through the regular Plan assistance.
- All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA.
- For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market.
- Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals.
Issues related to Health & Education
Ekalavya schools for tribal children planned
The government has proposed to establish Ekalavya Residential School in each block of the country where tribal people constitute a majority of the population.
- It has been decided that by the year 2022, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an Ekalavya Model Residential School.
About Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS):
- Eklavya Model Residential School Scheme was started in 1998 and first school was started in the year 2000 in Maharashtra.
- EMRSs have been functioning as institutions of excellence for tribal students.
- A total of 259 schools have been sanctioned during the last 17 years, out of which, 72 EMRS were sanctioned during last three years.
- As per existing EMRS Guidelines of 2010, at least one EMRS is to be set up in each Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) / Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) having 50% ST population in the area.
- The capital cost for setting up the school complex, including hostels and staff quarters etc. has been earmarked at Rs. 12 crore with a provision to go up to Rs.16 crore in hill areas, deserts and islands.
- Recurring cost during the first year for these schools would be Rs. 42000/-per child, with a provision of raising it by 10% every second year to compensate for inflation etc.
Objectives of EMRS:
The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional educational courses and as jobs in government and public and private sectors but also to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non ST population.
This would be achieved by:
- Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.
- Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met,
- Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
- Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.
Gift City gets unified regulator
The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced setting up of a Unified Regulator for International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in India.
- The announcement is set to benefit the Country’s first IFSC set up at Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) near Gandhinagar.
- Currently, the financial services provided at GIFT-IFSC involves multiple regulatory bodies including insurance regulator, IRDA, banking regulator RBI and stock market regulator SEBI.
Significance of the move:
- The announcement of setting up of Unified Regulator for IFSC in India would help India achieve its full potential in the Global Financial markets. Globally, most of the financial centers host Unified Regulator in the same Centre which helps it to promote the financial center.
- The move is likely to contribute to better regulation and supervision of the financial entities in the City.
- Notably, earlier last year Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor, Urjit Patel supported the need of a unified financial regulatory framework providing for a single regulator for GIFT City.
- Recently, GIFT-IFSC found a place in the top 15 emerging Global Financial Centres across the world. In September 2017 edition of Global Financial Centres Index 22 (GFCI) – London, GIFT-IFSC was featured at the tenth place.
What is an IFSC?
- An IFSC caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy. Such centres deal with flows of finance, financial products and services across borders.
- London, New York and Singapore can be counted as global financial centres. Many emerging IFSCs around the world, such as Shanghai and Dubai, are aspiring to play a global role in the years to come.
What are the services an IFSC can provide?
- Fund-raising services for individuals, corporations and governments
- Asset management and global portfolio diversification undertaken by pension funds, insurance companies and mutual funds
- Wealth management
- Global tax management and cross-border tax liability optimization, which provides a business opportunity for financial intermediaries, accountants and law firms.
- Global and regional corporate treasury management operations that involve fund-raising, liquidity investment and management and asset-liability matching
- Risk management operations such as insurance and reinsurance
- Merger and acquisition activities among trans-national corporations
Can an IFSC be set up in a special economic zone (SEZ)?
- The SEZ Act 2005 allows setting up an IFSC in an SEZ or as an SEZ after approval from the central government.
Why are banks taking up space in the GIFT SEZ?
- Commercial banks are allowed to open offshore banking units (OBUs) within SEZs, which are deemed as overseas branches.
- Such OBUs can trade in foreign currencies in overseas markets and also with Indian banks, raise funds in foreign currency as deposits and borrowings from non-resident sources and provide loans and liability products for clients.
- State Bank of India set up its first OBU at Santacruz Electronics Export Processing Zone in Mumbai, in 2003.
Bilateral & International Relations
India joins Ashgabat agreement
India has been admitted to Agreement on the Establishment of an International Transport and Transit Corridor” between Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed on April 25, 2011, known as the Ashgabat Agreement.
- All the four founding members have consented to the accession of India.
- India’s accession to the Agreement will enter into force on February 3, 2018.
Significance of this accession:
- Accession to the Agreement would diversify India’s connectivity options with Central Asia and have a positive influence on India’s trade and commercial ties with the region.
- It also assumes significance given Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of which the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), that leads to Gwadar port in Pakistan passing through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, is a major part.
- India’s stand has been that while it is all for connectivity, such initiatives should respect the territorial integrity of other countries.
About Ashgabat Agreement:
The Agreement is an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
- The Ashgabat Agreement, which aims to develop a shortest trade route between Central Asian countries and Iranian and Omani ports, was initially signed among Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar back in April 2011 and was given additional support in 2014 when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.
- Whilst Oman called for early completion of basic technical requirements so that the corridor can be operational by 2015, Qatar withdrew from the agreement in 2013. However, Kazakhstan promised to join instead, which will increase the project’s significance and extend it further into Central Asia.
- The Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan (ITK) railway line will be the major route according to the Ashgabat Agreement, which became operational in December 2014 and was also included as part of India-funded North-South international transport corridor (NSITC).
Location of Ashgabat:
- Ashgabat is the capital and the largest city of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, situated between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range.
- It is known as Poltoratsk between 1919 and 1927.
Defence & Security Issues
New tunnel at Sela pass in Arunachal Pradesh announced
The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced while presenting the Union Budget 2018 that the government would be building a tunnel through the Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The construction of the tunnel will ensure faster movement of troops in Tawang, a strategically- located town in Arunachal Pradesh bordering China.
- According to the Defence Ministry, the approval for the construction of Sela pass in Arunachal Pradesh has given further impetus to the defence preparedness.
- The proposed Sela Pass tunnel would be an all weather transport tunnel and hence, would enable movement throughout the year.
About Sela Pass:
- The Sela Pass is located at a height of 13700 ft between the strategically-located Tawang and West Kameng Districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The Pass is considered crucial from strategic perspective.
- Sela Lake, near the summit of the pass, is one of approximately 101 lakes in the area that are sacred in Tibetan Buddhism.
- It crosses a sub range of the Himalayas that separates Tawang District, which borders China, from the rest of India.
- While the Border Roads Organization (BRO) of India works to keep the Pass open throughout the year, it shuts down temporarily after landslides and during heavy snow.
- The BRO’s Project Vartak has already started land acquisition and double landing of the national highway as part of the larger plan. Two tunnels — of lengths 475 m and 1,790 m — will be constructed by BRO.
Art & Culture
Magahi writer Madhukar awarded Sahitya Akademi’s Bhasha Samman
Magahi writer Shesh Anand Madhukar, who has been working extensively for the development of the language, has been honoured with this year’s Sahitya Akademi Bhasha Samman award.
- He is the second writer of Magahi language to be given the award.
About Magahi language:
- The Magahi language, also known as Magadhi, is a language spoken in Bihar-Jharkhand region of eastern India.
- Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magadh, from which the latter’s name derives.
- It is believed to be the language spoken by Gautama Buddha.
- It was the official language of the Mauryan court, in which the edicts of Ashoka were composed.
About Bhasha Samman:
- It identifies and honours literary works in those languages which are equally spoken in different parts of country but are not among 24 regional language recognised for Sahitya Akademi Awards.
- The award is an attempt to make writers of other languages feel equally important.
- The award comprises Rs 1 lakh cheque and memento.
Science & Technology
Odisha bags ‘Geospatial World Excellence Award-2018’
Odisha has bagged Geospatial World Excellence Award-2018 for successful IT application on tracking of mineral production, dispatch and value accrued on real time basis through its i3MS website based software.
About i3MS web-based software:
- i3MS is GPS-linked web-based software designed by scientists of Odisha Space Applications Centre (ORSAC), Bhubaneswar.
- This system has enabled for first time in India to fix GPS devices on large number of moving objects in the mining sector.
About Geospatial World Excellence Awards:
- Initiated in 2007, Geospatial World Awards is an internationally-acclaimed private award recognizing exemplary innovations and practices in the global geospatial industry.
- With the ceremony taking place at Geospatial World Forum every year, Geospatial World Awards have recognized over 150+ individuals and organizations till date.
- It is given in three categories viz. Geospatial Application Excellence Awards, Geospatial Technology Innovation Awards and Geospatial Policy Implementation Awards.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Khelo India School Games’
- Khelo India School Games as a part of the Khelo India Programme has been launched.
- The mission aims to develop a sporting culture in the country, identify talents from grassroots and groom them for international success.
- The Khelo India Games will witness athletes fight it out in 16 disciplines at various venues in the Capital.
Ghodazari to be a new wildlife sanctuary
- The Maharashtra government has approved Ghodazari in Chandrapur district as a new wildlife sanctuary in the state.
- The sanctuary, in the North East of Tadoba, will include 159 sq km of Brahmapuri forest.
- This will not only save the forest, but will also improve tourism in nearly 40 villages in the area.