Polity & Governance
- CVC to take Aadhaar route to detect bureaucratic corruption
- Govt. tightens its grip on fake news
Government Schemes & Policies
- States allowed to set up crop insurance firms to execute PMFBY
- SIDBI launches Samridhi – the virtual assistant
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Delhi becomes first city to roll-out Euro VI fuel
- New plant species Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis discovered in Western Ghats
Art & Culture
- 34 projects successfully implemented under National Culture Fund Scheme till date
- Six monuments / historical sites in North Eastern States identified for listing under World Heritage Site
- Taj Mahal up for ‘adoption’, GMR and ITC in the race
Science & Technology
- NASA successfully tests supersonic Mars landing parachute ASPIRE
Key Facts for Prelims
- Malaysia approves law against fake news
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Polity & Governance
CVC to take Aadhaar route to detect bureaucratic corruption
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is planning to use Aadhaar to track the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt bureaucrats.
Why this move is significant?
- Aadhaar is being made mandatory for numerous financial transactions and property deals. Information made available through a person’s Permanent Account Number (PAN) and Aadhaar cards could help the CVC check if financial deals carried out by the cardholder were within his or her means.
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption.
- It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority.
- It is charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India, advising various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
- It was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.
- It submits its report to the President of India.
- CVC is advisory body.
- The Commission shall consist of:
- A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;
- Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members;
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs (Member) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People (Member).
- Their term is 4 years or 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner can be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner, as the case may be, ought to be removed.
Govt. tightens its grip on fake news
Noticing the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting amended the guidelines for accreditation of journalists.
Highlights of the guidelines for accreditation of journalists:
- On receiving complaints of “fake news” will be referred to Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media & to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media.
- Accreditation of a journalist (both television and print) can be cancelled/annulled if the new reported by them is found to be “fake”.
- Both the agencies will have to dispose off each complaint within 15-days. During the period of probe, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended.
- The Accreditation Committee of the Press Information Bureau, which consists of representatives of both the Press Council of India and NBA, shall be invariably be reached out to for validating any accreditation request of any news media agency.
- If publishing or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the journalist’s accreditation shall be suspended for 6 months for first violation, one year for second violation and will be permanently cancelled if there is a third violation.
- Additionally, while examining the requests seeking accreditation, the regulatory agencies “will examine whether the `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists” and it would be “obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines”.
- Some incidents in the past few years have shown that society and its conflicts manifest themselves in what has come to be known as “fake news” — and the internet does aid its rapid distribution. That is not the malaise of the internet or social media platforms, however.
- It is the actors, very often, competing political and other special interests which are producers of such content. But, fake news is a huge problem and demands an urgent solution.
Government Schemes & Policies
States allowed to set up crop insurance firms to execute PMFBY
The Centre has allowed states to set up their own insurance companies for implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
- Presently, five public sector insurers and 13 private insurance companies are empanelled for implementation of the scheme.
- The move comes after several requests from states as well as observations made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2017 report that old crop insurances schemes which have now been merged with PMFBY, were poorly implemented during 2011-2016.
About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY):
The PMFBY, launched in April 2016, compensates farmers for any losses in crop yield. In the event of a crop loss, the farmer will be paid based on the difference between the threshold yield and actual yield.
- The scheme is compulsory for farmers who have availed of institutional loans.
- The threshold yield is calculated based on average yield for the last seven years and the extent of compensation is set according to the degree of risk for the notified crop.
- The scheme insures farmers against a wide range of external risks — droughts, dry spells, floods, inundation, pests and diseases, landslides, natural fire and lightning, hailstorms, cyclones, typhoons, tempests, hurricanes and tornadoes. The scheme also covers post-harvest losses up to a period of 14 days.
- The Scheme covers all Food & Oilseeds crops and Annual Commercial/Horticultural Crops for which past yield data is available and for which requisite number of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) are conducted being under General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).
- The scheme is implemented by empanelled general insurance companies. Selection of Implementing Agency (IA) is done by the concerned State Government through bidding.
- The scheme is compulsory for loanee farmers availing Crop Loan /KCC account for notified crops and voluntary for other others.
- The scheme is being administered by Ministry of Agriculture.
SIDBI launches Samridhi – the virtual assistant
The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) celebrated its Foundation day on April 2nd with launch of ‘Samridhi’ – the virtual assistant’.
- It will answer standard queries of aspirants 24*7.
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.
MSME Sector in India:
- MSME is second largest employment generating sector after agriculture sector.
- It provides 80% of jobs in industry with just 20% of investment.
- It contributes around 31% to nation’s GDP and 45% and 34% share of the overall exports and manufacturing output (2017 report).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Delhi becomes first city to roll-out Euro VI fuel
New Delhi has become the first city in India to deploy Bharat Stage 6 Fuel (for both petrol and diesel) two years ahead of the rest of the county.
- The idea behind this implementation two years ahead of the previously scheduled date of April 1, 2020, is to help battle Delhi’s long-standing terminal pollution problem.
Benefits of this upgradation:
- Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution.
- Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world.
- The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
- With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia show that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.
Challenges in implementation:
- First, there are questions about the ability of oil marketing companies to quickly upgrade fuel quality from BS-III and BS-IV standards to BS-VI, which is likely to cost upwards of Rs 40,000 crore.
- Second, and more challenging, is the task of getting auto firms to make the leap. Automakers have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US.
What are BS norms?
- The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time-lag of five years.
Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:
- The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
- As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.
- It will also bring down cancer causing particulate matter emissions from diesel engine cars by phenomenal 80%.
New plant species Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis discovered in Western Ghats
Researchers have discovered new grass-like plant species named Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis in Ponmudi hills within the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot.
- It has been classified as sedge, the grass-like plant and has been named after the locality from which it was found.
- The new species belongs to the Cyperaceae family. In India, the genus is represented by 122 species, of which 87 are reported from the Western Ghats.
- Many of the known Cyperaceae species are medicinal plants or used as fodder.
- Researchers have recommended preliminary conservation assessment of plant as ‘critically endangered,’ according to IUCN criteria.
- The report says the species is highly prone to wild grazing.
- It is also subject to anthropogenic pressures as its habitat falls within tourism spot and perimeter of place of worship that could lead to its extinction in absence of scientific conservation.
About Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR):
- Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve is situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over two southern states Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- It was established in 2001.
- It is named after Agastya Mala peak that rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
- In March 2016, it was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO.
- ABR covers Peppara and Shendurney wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.
Flora and fauna:
- Its flora mostly consists of tropical forests and is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic.
- About 400 Red Listed Plants, 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.
- It is also home to rare endimic animals include tiger, Asian Elephant, and Nilgiri Tahr.
- It is home to Kanikaran tribe, one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.
Art & Culture
34 projects successfully implemented under National Culture Fund Scheme till date
As per latest data released by the government, 34 projects have been successfully implemented under National Culture Fund Scheme till date, thus, promoting, protecting and preserving India’s cultural heritage.
What is National Culture Fund?
- National Culture Fund (NCF) was set up as a Trust under the Charitable Endowment Act, 1890 in November 1996 by the Government, with a view to mobilize extra resources through Public Private Partnerships.
- The Fund aims at inviting the participation of the corporate sector, non-government organizations, private/public sector as well as individuals in the task of promoting, protecting and preserving India’s cultural heritage.
- The National Culture Fund is managed and administered by a council headed by Hon’ble Culture Minister to decide the policies and an Executive Committee headed by Secretary, Culture to actualize those policies.
- All the projects undertaken by the NCF are completed within a specified period, in accordance with an MoU signed by NCF with the concerned donor organization.
Six monuments / historical sites in North Eastern States identified for listing under World Heritage Site
As many as 6 monuments/historical sites in the North Eastern states have been identified tentatively for listing under World Heritage Site.
Monuments/sites identified/placed under tentative list for listing under world heritage in the north eastern states are:
- Apatani Cultural Landscape, Arunachal Pradesh.
- Iconic Saree Weaving Clusters of India.
- Moidams – the Mound – Burial System of the Ahom Dynasty, Assam.
- Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh.
- River Island of Majuli in midstream of Brahmaputra River in Assam.
- Thembang Fortified Village, Arunachal Pradesh.
About the UNESCO World Heritage Site:
- A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
- The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
- Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
- UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.
- As of July 2017, 1,073 sites are listed: 832 cultural, 206 natural, and 35 mixed properties, in 167 states. Italy is the home for the largest number of sites with 53.
- To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area).
- It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
What is the World Heritage In Danger List?
- The List of World Heritage in Danger is compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through the World Heritage Committee according to Article 11.4 of the World Heritage Convention, which was established in 1972 to designate and manage World Heritage Sites.
- Entries in the list are threatened World Heritage Sites for the conservation of which major operations are required and for which “assistance has been requested”.
- The list is intended to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures.
- Threats to a site can be either proven imminent threats or potential dangers that could have adverse effects on a site.
- The convention defines the kinds of natural or cultural sitesthat can be included on the World Heritage List.
- The 191 nations that have signed the convention have pledged to conserve their World Heritage Sites.
- The majority of the endangered natural sites (11) are located in Africa.
- As of 2017, there are 54 entries (17 natural, 37 cultural) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
- According to Wikipedia sources, only two sites are recognized as World Heritage In Danger List in India i.e. Group of Monuments at Hampi and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.
Taj Mahal up for ‘adoption’, GMR and ITC in the race
Infrastructure conglomerate GMR and tobacco company ITC Ltd are currently bidding to adopt the Taj Mahal under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project.
- The iconic tomb in Agra was not initially on the list of monuments to be adopted under the Adopt a Heritage scheme, because of its importance. However, it was added to the list in February and a seven-member Oversight and Vision Committee will now decide whom to hand over the bid to.
- In 2007, the government of Maharashtra had announced its own adopt-a-monument scheme, inviting private and public sector companies to adopt heritage sites for a period of five years. This was extended to 10 years in 2014 because of the poor response from companies. So far, the only site to be adopted by a private company under this scheme is Osmanabad district’s Naldurg fort, where tourism amenities are now being managed by Unity Multicons.
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.
- Successful bidders selected for adopting heritage sites / monuments by the Oversight and Vision Committee shall be called as Monument Mitras.
- The basic and advanced amenities of the tourist destinations would be provided by them.
- They would also look after the operations and the maintenance of the amenities.
- The ‘Monument Mitras’ would associate pride with their CSR activities.
Science & Technology
NASA successfully tests supersonic Mars landing parachute ASPIRE
NASA has successfully conducted Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) to test supersonic parachute that will help its space exploration missions to land on Mars.
- The parachute was launched aboard of sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in US.
- It was tested in sky, mimicking conditions of entering red planet.
- NASA’s ambitious Mars rover mission is set to launch in 2020 to deploy six-wheeled vehicle on martian surface to study rocks on site and cache samples for eventual return to Earth.
- It will rely on special parachute to slow spacecraft down when it is entering Martian atmosphere at over speed of 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second).
- The six-wheeled rover body is based heavily on NASA’s earlier Curiosity Mars rover.
What is Mars 2020 mission?
- The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet
- The mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by deploying rover for investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth
- It will carry out search by conducting drills for core samples that may contain proof of microbial life from the past
- The rover will also examine different methods to create oxygen from Mars’s atmosphere
- The mission is timed for a launch opportunity in July/August 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars.
Key Facts for Prelims
Malaysia approves law against fake news
- Malaysia has approved a law banning fake news ahead of elections.
- The law covers all media and extends even to foreigners outside Malaysia.
- The law makes “fake news” punishable with a maximum six-year jail term.