Polity & Governance
- President of India Presents National Corporate Social Responsibility Awards
- Vice President seeks a new political normal based on 15-point reform
Government Schemes & Policies
- National Education Policy dilutes assurance on RTE up to Class 12
Issues related to Health & Education
- National Digital Health Blueprint report submitted to Health Ministry
- Bihar sells Kashmir apples through co-op. to help traders
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- New Species Of Beetle Named After Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
- The role of mountain streams in carbon cycle, newly assessed
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Saudi sign strategic partnership pact, focus on security cooperation
Art & Culture
- Finance Minister Releases Commemorative Coin on Paramahansa Yogananda
Science & Technology
- From the cloud, computing moves to the edge
- New class of quantum materials for clean energy technology
Key Facts for Prelims
- Fourteen start-ups selected for 2019 SEED Awards
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Polity & Governance
President of India Presents National Corporate Social Responsibility Awards
The President of India presented the National Corporate Social Responsibility Awards (NCSRA) in New Delhi.
- The NCSRA has been instituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to recognize outstanding contribution in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
About Corporate Social Responsibility
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) acknowledges the corporation’s duty that the corporation owes to the community within which it operates.
Methodology of CSR
CSR is the procedure for assessing an organization’s impact on society and evaluating their responsibilities. It begins with an assessment of the following aspects of each business:
- Communities; and,
The most effective CSR plans ensure that while organizations comply with legislation, their investments also respect the growth and development of marginalized communities and the environment.
CSR in India
- India is one of the first countries in the world to make CSR mandatory for companies following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 (Companies Act) in 2014.
- Since the applicability of mandatory CSR provision in 2014, CSR spending by corporate India has increased significantly. In 2018, companies spent 47 % higher as compared to the amount in 2014-15, contributing nearly INR 7,500 crores to CSR initiatives.
- Under the Companies Act, as part of CSR, businesses can invest their profits in areas such as promoting rural development in terms of healthcare, sanitation, education including skill development, environmental sustainability, etc.
- The Section 135 of Companies Act prescribes thresholds to identify companies which are required to constitute a CSR Committee – those, in the immediately preceding financial year of which: (i) net worth is Rs 500 Crore or more; or (ii) turnover is Rs 1000 Crore or more; or (iii) net profit amounts to Rs 500 Crore or more.
CSR amendments under the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019
- The Ministry of Law and Justice, in July 2019, issued a notification enacting the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019 (Amendment Act). The Amendment Act, inter alia, amends Section 135 of the Companies Act, the cornerstone for the concept of CSR in the statute.
Transfer of unspent funds
- Previously, if a company was unable to fully spend its CSR funds in a given year, it could carry the amount forward and spend it in the next fiscal, in addition to the money allotted for that year.
- The CSR amendments introduced under the Act now require companies to deposit the unspent CSR funds into a fund prescribed under Schedule VII of the Act (Clean Ganga Fund, Swachh Baharat Kosh, etc.) within the end of the fiscal year. This amount must be utilized within three years from the date of transfer.
Penal liability for non-compliance
- It prescribes for a monetary penalty as well as imprisonment in case of non-compliance from INR 50,000 to INR 25 lakh.
CSR in case new companies:
- Companies are required to spend, in every financial year, at least 2% of their average net profits generated during the 3 immediately preceding financial years.
- If the company has not completed 3 years from incorporation, the amount to be spent on a CSR fund will be equivalent to 2 % of the net profits made by the company in the previous financial year.
- Prior to the amendment, the language of the act appeared to keep out of its purview companies younger than 3 financial years.
Central government to have rule making power:
- Under the Amendment, the central government has been empowered to make rules and issue directions to ensure compliance.
Benefits of CSR
Vice President seeks a new political normal based on 15-point reform
Vice President of India unveiled a 15-point reform charter as the basis for a new political normal to enable effective functioning of the Parliament and State Legislatures.
Highlights of the framework to strengthen parliamentary institutions
- Both pre and post Legislative Impact Assessment to be done
- Longer tenure for Department Related Standing Committees of Parliament instead of reconstitution every year
- More reservation of women in legislatures whose representation is at present only about 13%
- A minimum number of sittings for both the Parliament and State Legislatures per year
- Law makers should abide by the Rules of the House and political parties should take this by evolving and enforcing a code of conduct
- Making rules that automatically take effect against erring Members in case of interruptions and disruptions
- Political parties to evolve roster system for ensuring attendance of at least 50% of their members in the legislatures everyday
- Publishing regular reports on the attendance of members during the proceedings and the extent of their participation
- Legislature parties to ensure that the new entrants are given adequate opportunities to participate in the debates
- To address the problem of rising number of legislators with criminal backgrounds, tickets to contest elections will not be given merely on the criteria of winnability by political parties
- Review the functioning of the Anti-Defection Law to address grey areas like incentivising members to resort to activities that invite expulsion from the parties.
- To review the functioning of Whip System.
- Setting up special courts/tribunals for time bound adjudication on criminal complaints against legislators and election related matters;
- Timely and effective action against legislators for non-ethical conduct
- Governments to be responsive to the concerns of the Opposition and the Opposition to be responsible as well. Both sides need to avoid cynical and adversarial position in debates.
- Consensus to be built on the proposal for simultaneous elections.
Pitfalls of our parliamentary democracy:
- Declining number of sittings of legislatures.
- Persistent disruptions.
- Declining quality of debates.
- Growing number of legislatures with criminal record.
- High degree of absenteeism.
- Inadequate representation of women.
- Rising money and muscle power in elections.
- Lack of inner democracy in functioning of the political parties.
- Poor knowledge, low argumentative power of the masses, negative influences of poverty and economic disparities.
- Faulty ‘First Pass the Post (FPTP) election system.
- Society’s perpetual habit of accepting all permeable state to control public and private affairs.
Government Schemes & Policies
National Education Policy dilutes assurance on RTE up to Class 12
The HRD Ministry has tweaked the draft National Education Policy (NEP) to dilute the provision on extending the Right to Education (RTE) Act up to Class 12.
Changes made in the National Education Policy (NEP)
- Dilute the provision on extending the Right to Education (RTE) Act up to Class 12.
- Include three years of early childhood education.
- Starting a National Tutors Programme (NTP) and Remedial Instructional Aides Programme (RIAP). Both were meant to strengthen basic reading and mathematics skills. Under NTP, the best teachers in each school will work five hours a week as tutors during school hours for fellow students who need help. RIAP was a 10-year project to draw instructors, especially women, from local communities to help students who have fallen behind and bring them back into the fold.
- The original draft proposed a three-tier institutional system for higher education under which, by 2030, all institutions will either become research universities or teaching universities or colleges running undergraduate programmes. Now, this categorisation of has been given up. In its place, classification based on the main purpose of the institution, research or teaching, has been retained.
- The original draft suggested that, by 2032, all colleges affiliated currently must develop into autonomous degree granting colleges or merge completely with the university that they are affiliated to, or develop into a university themselves. Now, the NEP proposed the gradually phasing out the system of affiliated colleges.
Issues related to Health & Education
National Digital Health Blueprint report submitted to Health Ministry
The report charting out the process for implementing the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) has been completed.
About National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB):
- It lays out the ‘building blocks’ for the implementation of the National Health Stack (NHS), which aims to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) in leveraging health records.
- The blueprint proposes the linking of multiple databases to generate greater and granular data that can be leveraged by the public as well as private sector – including insurance companies, hospitals, apps and researchers.
- To establish national and regional registries to create single source of health data.
- Creating a system of Personal Health Records accessible to the citizens and to the service providers based on citizen-consent.
- Promoting the adoption of open standards by all the actors in the National Digital Health Ecosystem.
- Promoting Health Data Analytics and Medical Research
- All citizens should be able to access their Electronic Health Records, preferably within five clicks.
- Citizens need to undergo any diagnostic test Once Only, during the course of an episode, despite taking treatment from different health service providers
- Integrated health services at a single point, though multiple agencies/ departments/services providers are involved
- NDHM shall assure Continuum of Care to the citizens, across primary, secondary and tertiary care and across public and private service providers
- The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in November 2018, constituted a Committee on National Health Stack (NHS) chaired by J Satyanarayana to create the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB).
Bihar sells Kashmir apples through co-op. to help traders
With the apple trade in Kashmir affected by terror attacks, the Bihar government has taken an initiative to help traders and farmers by selling Kashmiri apples through Biscomaun (Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union Limited) and NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation Limited) at much lower prices than the market.
- Established in 1958, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) was functions under Ministry of Agricultureand registered under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act.
- It was setup with the object to promote Co-operative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
- Agricultural farmers are the main membersof NAFED, who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of NAFED.
- NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.
- In 2008, it had established, National Spot Exchange, a Commodities exchange as a joint venture of Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. (FTIL).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
New Species Of Beetle Named After Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
A tiny beetle of the Coleoptera family Ptiliidae, called featherwing beetles, was named after 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg by researchers of the Natural History Museum in London.
About Nelloptodes gretae
- It is a species of beetle named after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
- This beetle is from Ptiliidae family. Beetles of this family are found all over the world, yet they are not particularly well known because they are so small (less than 1 mm).
- It has no eyes and has reduced wings to move around in the soil’s pores and fissures.
- Feeding mostly on plant debris and fungi, they convert dead organic matter in new nutrients, providing sustainment for other soil organisms and higher plants.
- Biological names comprise two words, one for the genus and the second for the species. Traditionally, it is the species name that scientists coin to honour a prominent personality, and sometimes even a friend or a relative.
The role of mountain streams in carbon cycle, newly assessed
Scientists have reported the findings of the first large-scale study of the carbon dioxide emissions of mountain streams, and their role in global carbon fluxes.
Highlights of the new report
- Mountain streams have a higher average carbon dioxide emission rate per square metre than streams at lower altitudes, due in part to the additional turbulence caused as water flows down slopes. (All freshwater streams and rivers release carbon dioxide).
- Mountain streams account for 5% in the global surface area of fluvial networks. The share of mountain streams in carbon dioxide emissions from all fluvial networks are 10-30%.
- Mountains cover 25 % of the Earth’s surface and the streams draining these mountains account for more than a third of the global runoff.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Saudi sign strategic partnership pact, focus on security cooperation
Prime Minister of India said that the signing of the agreement on the Strategic Partnership Council by India and Saudi Arabia would strengthen the already robust relations between the two countries.
Highlights of visit of Indian PM to Saudi Arabia
Establishment of a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC)
- Both countries signed a pact for the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC). India is the fourth country with which Saudi Arabia has formed such a strategic partnership, after the UK, France and China.
- The SPC will have two parallel tracks: Political, security, culture and society, headed by Foreign Ministers; and economy and investment, headed by India’s Commerce Minister and Saudi’s Energy Minister.
- A trilateral partnership has been formed between Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co and a consortium of Indian oil majors to set up the world’s largest greenfield refinery in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.
- Launching the RuPay card in Saudi Arabia to facilitate payments and remittances by the Indian diaspora.
- Integration of the e-Migrate and e-Thawtheeq portals to facilitate the process of migration of Indian labor into the Kingdom.
- Keen to enhance maritime security cooperation and are considering joint naval exercises in 2020.
- Saudi Arabia will be hosting the G20 Summit in 2020 and India will host it in 2022, which is also the 75th anniversary of Indian independence.
- India imports around 18 % of its crude oil from the Saudi Arabia, making it the second-largest source of crude oil for India. It also supplies 30 % of India’s liquefied petroleum gas needs.
- The ‘Future Investment Initiative’, also known as Davos in Desert, is an annual investment forum held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss trends in the world economy and investment environment.
Art & Culture
Finance Minister Releases Commemorative Coin on Paramahansa Yogananda
The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs released a special commemorative coin on Paramahansa Yogananda to mark his 125th birth anniversary.
About Paramahansa Yogananda
- Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian yogi who introduced the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India.
- He was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West, and the first prominent Indian to be hosted in the White House.
- He arrived in America in 1920, and proceeded to travel throughout the United States on what he called his spiritual campaigns. He is considered as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
- His book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West.
- He was a chief disciple of the Bengali yoga guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
- Kriya Yoga is an ancient meditation technique of energy and breath control (pranayama). It is part of a comprehensive spiritual path, which includes additional meditation practices along with right living
- The ancient technique of Kriya Yoga was revived in 1861, when the yogi Mahavatar Babaji taught the technique to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. Then, Yogananda popularized Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.
- Kriya Yoga is union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya).
- The Kriya Yogi mentally directs life energy to revolve around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac.
Science & Technology
From the cloud, computing moves to the edge
As per global research company Gartner, by 2025, companies will generate and process more than 75% of their data outside of traditional centralised data centres, that is, at the edge of the cloud.
What is cloud computing?
- Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services, including servers, storage, databases, networking, software etc, over the Internet (the cloud).
Types of cloud services:
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
- Most basic category of cloud computing services. R
- Renting of IT infrastructure (servers and virtual machines (VMs), storage, operating systems etc.) from a cloud provider such as Google or Microsoft.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
- Supplies an on-demand environment for developing and managing software applications.
- Designed to make it easier for developers to quickly create web or mobile apps, without worrying about setting up the underlying infrastructure.
- Focuses on building app functionality without spending time continually managing the servers and infrastructure required to do so.
- These are event-driven, only using resources when there is a need.
Software as a service (SaaS)
- Method for delivering software applications over the Internet, on demand and typically on a subscription basis.
- Users connect to the application over the Internet (Google Apps), usually with a web browser on their phone, tablet or PC.
What is edge computing?
- Edge computing enables data to be analysed, processed, and transferred at the edge of a network.
- Edge computing analyse data locally, closer to where it is stored, in real-time without delay, rather than send it far away to a centralised data centre.
How is edge computing different from cloud computing?
- The basic difference between edge computing and cloud computing lies in where the data processing takes place.
- At the moment, the existing internet systems perform all of their computations in the cloud using data centres.
- Edge computing, on the other hand, manages the data by storing and processing it locally. That data doesn’t need to be sent over a network as soon as it processed; only important data is sent. Therefore, an edge computing network reduces the amount of data that travels over the network.
- Experts believe the true potential of edge computing will become apparent when 5G network comes.
Challenges associated with edge computing:
- According to experts, edge computing introduces several new security risks. One of the most prominent concerns is the physical security of the devices, which are more vulnerable to malicious attacks and mishaps of all kinds than typical office equipment and technology safely held within corporate walls.
- Micro data centers, such as those being deployed by telecommunication companies — in some cases, at the base of cell towers — introduce a level of physical vulnerability that didn’t exist with corporate data centers and large cloud providers.
- Meanwhile, many organizations will be challenged to understand, track and monitor what data they have and where, what protections are required at the various points based on the data and vulnerabilities specific to each endpoint and how to govern what could soon be a sprawling infrastructure at many companies.
New class of quantum materials for clean energy technology
Researchers from IIT Bombay have discovered special properties in a class of materials called “semi-Dirac metals” that have been recently talked about in the scientific literature.
What are Dirac metals?
- Normal metals like gold and silver are good conductors of electricity. A key aspect that decides the quality of conduction is the way energy depends on the momentum (mass*velocity) of electrons.
- Dirac metals differ from normal metals in that the energy depends linearly on the momentum. In other words, the energy of electron increases as the momentum of electron increases. This difference is responsible for their unique properties.
- Semi-Dirac metals behave like Dirac metals in one direction and like normal metals in the perpendicular directions (since their microscopic structure is different along the two directions).
- Within any material, charge carriers, such as electrons, acquire an effective mass which is different from their bare mass depending on the nature of the material.
- The effective mass and the number of states available for the electron to occupy when it is excited by an electric field, for example, determine the conductivity and other such properties.
- This is also true of a semi-Dirac metal. In particular, the effective mass becomes zero for conduction along a special direction. Examples of semi-Dirac metals are systems such as TiO2/V2O3 (Titanium dioxide/ Vanadium (III) oxide) nanostructures.
- Examples of Dirac matter are Graphene, topological insulators, Dirac semimetals, various high-temperature superconductors and liquid Helium-3.
- In Dirac metals, the energy of electron increases as the momentum increases (linear), leading to large velocities and small effective masses.
- The velocities can be over a 100 times more than normal metals, thus increasing the mobility and currents that can be carried across devices made of Dirac materials. In the semi-Dirac metals, these properties are direction dependent.
Findings of new research
- Direction-dependence of the microscopical properties gives a material special optical properties.
- As Semi-Dirac metals are direction specific, it can be made transparent to light of a given frequency. These metals can be made opaque to the same light when it falls on it from a different direction! There are many known applications for transparent conducting films, the common example being touch screens used in mobiles.
- Semi-Dirac materials can also display such thermoelectric properties (heat-to electricity conversion).
Key Facts for Prelims
Fourteen start-ups selected for 2019 SEED Awards
Fourteen start-ups have been selected for 2019 SEED awards.
- SEED was founded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
- It is a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy.
- SEED works in Asian and African countries and supports small and growing enterprises with business and capacity-building support.
- SEED was originally conceived as an acronym for Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development.
- The SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development is an annual awards scheme designed to identify the most innovative locally led eco-inclusive enterprises in developing and emerging economies.
- Every year, awards are decided under various categories. 2019 categories include SEED Low Carbon, SEED Africa Awards, SEED South Africa Climate Adaptation Awards and SEED Gender equality award.