Polity & Governance
- SC/ST Act: Government files review petition
- Election Commission affidavit on ‘one seat-one candidate’ triggers debate
Issues related to Health & Education
- NIRF India Rankings 2018
- Govt levies 10% import duty on key smartphone components
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Changing climate puts, among others, India at risk: global study
Bilateral & International Relations
- Second lead-up Conference to 3rd Annual Meeting of AIIB
- World chemical watchdog to meet over spy nerve agent claims
Science & Technology
- NASA’s Hubble telescope captures image of Icarus, farthest star ever seen
Key Facts for Prelims
- Multi Modal Logistic Park at Balli Inaugurated
- Startupblink Report
- MoUs on Defence Salary Package
- Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)
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Polity & Governance
SC/ST Act: Government files review petition
The government has filed a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court order diluting the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which protects marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities.
What’s the issue?
- Dalit organisations and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions of the Act might lead to increase in violence against Dalits.
- On March 20, the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act, triggering widespread criticism and outcry from the dalit community.
- The apex court said public servants can’t be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority, and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
- It further ruled that preliminary inquiry in a case under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations are not frivolous.
- The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
About Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act:
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is popularly known as POA, the SC/ST Act, the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or simply the Atrocities Act.
- The SC/ST Act was enacted on September 9, 1989. The rules for the Act were notified on March 31, 1995.
- The prime objective of the SC/ST Act is to deliver justice to marginalised through proactive efforts, giving them a life of dignity, self-esteem and a life without fear, violence or suppression from the dominant castes.
- The SC/ST Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community. This includes denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the legal process.
- According to the SC/ST Act, the protection is provided from social disabilities such as denial of access to certain places and to use customary passage, personal atrocities like forceful drinking or eating of inedible food sexual exploitation, injury etc, atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation.
- For speedy trial, Section 14 of the SC/ST Act provides for a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.
Election Commission affidavit on ‘one seat-one candidate’ triggers debate
The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it supports the proposal to allow one candidate to contest from only one constituency in an election.
- The EC expressed this view in an affidavit it filed in the petition over the matter.
What’s the issue?
- Political parties across the country field senior leaders from more than one seat in a bid to ensure victory. If they win from multiple seats, these leader are then required to vacate other seats and continue to hold only one. This means a general election is usually followed closely by a bye-election to the seats that have been vacated.
- The Supreme Court had in December 2017 issued notices seeking replies from the Election Commission and the Centre on the issue. At the time, the Supreme Court had said the practice of one candidate contesting multiple seats was a drain on the exchequer since it necessitated bypolls.
- A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 that allows a person to contest elections to Parliament and state assemblies from two constituencies and sought an end to the practice.
What is Section 33(7) of Representation of People’s Act (RPA)?
- Section 33(7) of the Representation of People’s Act permits a candidate to contest any election (Parliamentary, State Assembly, Biennial Council, or bye-elections) from up to two constituencies. The provision was introduced in 1996 prior to which there was no bar on the number of constituencies from which a candidate could contest.
‘One candidate, one seat’:
- One person, one vote & one candidate, one constituency is the dictum of democracy. However, as per the law, as it stands today, a person can contest the election for the same office from two constituencies simultaneously.
- When a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats if he wins both. This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer, government manpower and other resources for holding bye-election is also an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from.
Alternative suggested by the EC:
- The ECI has alternatively suggested that if existing provisions are retained then the candidate contesting from two seats should bear the cost of the bye-election to the seat that the contestant decides to vacate in the event of his/her winning both seats. The amount in such an event could be Rs 5 lakh for assembly election and Rs 10 lakh for parliament election.
Issues related to Health & Education
NIRF India Rankings 2018
The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) India Rankings 2018 have been announced. NIRF Indian Rankings 2018 was the third edition of the rankings that were introduced in the year 2016.
Highlights of the rankings:
Performance of various institutions:
- The Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru and Delhi’s Miranda House are India’s best university and college this year.
- All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi, Nalsar University of Law in Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur ranked number 1 in their respective categories.
- Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras was declared the best engineering college.
- Delhi University’s Miranda House topped the college category this year as well.
- Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad occupied the top position among management institutions this year also.
What is NIRF?
The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to rank all institutions of higher education in India.
- It has been approved by the MHRD and was launched in September, 2015.
- This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country.
- The methodology draws from the overall recommendations and broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.
- The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources”, “Research and Professional Practices”, “Graduation Outcomes”, “Outreach and Inclusivity” and “Perception”.
- NIRF has been given the responsibility of ranking institutions that have applied and submitted their data.
- The ranking of the Institutions will be done based on the parameters proposed by NIRF for different disciplines. It ranks nine categories of institutions including universities, engineering, management, pharmacy, architecture, Law, medical institutions and general degree colleges.
- Ranking promotes competition among the Universities and drive them to strive for excellence. The rankings assume significance as performance of institutions has been linked with “Institutions of Eminence” scheme.
About the scheme of Institutions of Eminence:
- The scheme of Institutions of Eminence was rolled out by University Grants Commission (UGC).
- It aims to help 20 higher education (10 public and 10 private) institutions from country break into top 500 global rankings in 10 years, and then eventually break into top 100 over time.
Facilities provided to these institutes:
- These selected institutions are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education institutions.
- They will be free to decide their fee for domestic and foreign students and have flexible course duration and structure.
- They will be exempted from approvals of government or UGC for academic collaborations with foreign institutions, except institutions in MEA and MHA’s list of negative countries.
Procedure of selection:
- Once identified, the target for Institutions of Eminence will be to break into top 100 bracket in one internationally reputed ranking framework in 10 years.
- The 10 government institutions selected will also get Rs 1,000 crore each from HRD Ministry to achieve world-class status. There will be no financial assistance to the private institutions.
Who can apply?
- Only higher education institutions, currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), are eligible to apply for eminence tag.
- The private Institutions of Eminence can also come up as greenfield ventures provided sponsoring organisation submits convincing perspective plan for 15 years.
Govt levies 10% import duty on key smartphone components
The Central Bureau of Excise and Customs (CBEC) under Finance Ministry has imposed a 10% duty on imports of key smartphone components such as populated printed circuit boards (PCBs), camera modules and connectors.
- At present there is zero import duty imposed on the three components.
Implications of the move:
- This move will make imports of components expensive while giving stimulus to local manufacturing under Make in India program.
- Such input parts for making these components locally, will not attract any import duties. But it will lead to increase in prices of mobile phones for those companies that do not make or source these components locally.
- This decision follows the government’s announcement to impose 20% basic customs duty (BCD) on fully built mobile phones, which came into effect from February 1, 2018 as part of its phased manufacturing program (PMP).
About Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP):
- Government had PMP in May 2017 for promoting the growth of domestic manufacturing of Cellular mobile handsets.
- It is called phased manufacturing programme because it will give fiscal benefits to domestic manufacturing of various components of cellular handsets in different fiscals.
- Its overall aim is to impose duties (differential duty regime) and give tax reliefs and incentives on select products involved in domestic manufacturing of cellular handsets.
- This programme is under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MieTY).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Changing climate puts, among others, India at risk: global study
India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests.
Highlights of the study:
- Climate change caused by 2 degrees Celsius global warming is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of world. Such weather extremes will increase vulnerability to food insecurity.
- The countries at greatest vulnerability to food insecurity due to climate change are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
- Global warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average causing floods and putting food production at risk. But agriculture may also get harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas caused by climate change.
- Wetter conditions are expected to have biggest impact in South and East Asia, with most extreme projections suggesting flow of River Ganges could more than double at 2 degrees Celsius global warming. Some areas are projected to see increase in flood event lengths of 4 days or more, particularly India and Bangladesh, for which such increases are projected in all ensemble members to some extent.
- The areas worst affected by droughts are expected to be southern Africa and South America – where flows in Amazon River are projected to decline by up to 25%.
- Some climatic change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller approximately 76% of developing countries than at 2 degrees Celsius.
Bilateral & International Relations
Second lead-up Conference to 3rd Annual Meeting of AIIB
Second lead-up Conference to 3rd Annual Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on ‘Enhancing Port and Coastal Infrastructure’ is being held Visakhapatnam.
- The Regional Conference is being organized by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India in collaboration with AIIB, CII and Research and Infrastructure System (RIS) for Developing Countries.
- The panel discusses various issues relating to trade promotion through sea route, building-up robust port & coastal infrastructure and revising & relaxing maritime regulatory issues to promote blue economy in India.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an international financial institution that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.
- It has 57 member states.
- It was proposed as an initiative as well as hosted by the government of China.
- It was founded in October, 2014, and will have its headquarters in Beijing.
- Its goals are also to boost economic development in the region, create wealth, prove infrastructure, and promote regional cooperation and partnership.
- China is the largest shareholder with 26.06% voting shares. India is the second largest shareholder with 7.5% voting shares followed by Russia (5.93%) and Germany (4.5%).
- The value of AIIB’s authorized capital amounts to $100 billion, with almost $30 billion invested by China.
- The bank expects to lend $10 billion to $15 billion a year for the first five years of its operations, beginning in the second quarter of 2016.
Composition of AIIB:
Board of Governors:
- The Board of Governors consists of one Governor and one Alternate Governor appointed by each member country.
- Governors and Alternate Governors serve at the pleasure of the appointing member.
Board of Directors:
- Non-resident Board of Directors is responsible for the direction of the Bank’s general operations, exercising all powers delegated to it by the Board of Governors.
- This includes approving the Bank’s strategy, annual plan and budget; establishing policies; taking decisions concerning Bank operations; and supervising management and operation of the Bank and establishing an oversight mechanism.
International Advisory Panel:
- The Bank has established an International Advisory Panel (IAP) to support the President and Senior Management on the Bank’s strategies and policies as well as on general operational issues.
- The Panel meets in tandem with the Bank’s Annual Meeting, or as requested by the President.
- The President selects and appoints members of the IAP to two-year terms. Panelists receive a small honorarium and do not receive a salary.
- The Bank pays the costs associated with Panel meetings.
- The United Nations has addressed the launch of AIIB as having potential for “scaling up financing for sustainable development” for the concern of global economic governance.
- The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
World chemical watchdog to meet over spy nerve agent claims
The world’s chemical watchdog is meeting after a British laboratory said it had not proved that Russia manufactured a deadly nerve agent used to poison a former Russian spy.
- The talks at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have been requested by Moscow which said it wanted to “address the situation around the allegations in regards to the incident in Salisbury.”
About Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW):
- The OPCW is an independent, autonomous international organisation with a working relationship with the United Nations.
- The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997.
- As of today OPCW has 192 Member States, who are working together to achieve a world free of chemical weapons.
- The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”.
The OPCW Member States share the collective goal of preventing chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security.
To this end, the Convention contains four key provisions:
- Destroying all existing chemical weapons under international verification by the OPCW.
- Monitoring chemical industry to prevent new weapons from re-emerging.
- Providing assistance and protection to States Parties against chemical threats.
- Fostering international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the Convention and promote the peaceful use of chemistry.
About the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):
- The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.
- The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is headquartered in The Hague.
- CWC negotiations started in 1980 in the UN Conference on Disarmament. The convention entered into force in 1997.
- The OPCW receives states-parties’ declarations detailing chemical weapons-related activities or materials and relevant industrial activities. After receiving declarations, the OPCW inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.
- The CWC is open to all nations and currently has 192 states-parties.
- Israel has signed but not ratified the agreement, while three other UN member states (Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan) have neither signed nor acceded to the treaty.
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits:
- Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
- The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
- Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
- Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
- The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”
Science & Technology
NASA’s Hubble telescope captures image of Icarus, farthest star ever seen
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest individual star ever seen — an enormous blue stellar body nicknamed Icarus located over halfway across the universe.
About the discovery:
- The star, harboured in a very distant spiral galaxy, is so far away that its light has taken nine billion years to reach Earth. It appears to us as it did when the universe was about 30% of its current age.
- The star, located in a distant spiral galaxy, is at least 100 times further away than any other star previously observed, with the exception of things like the huge supernova explosions that mark the death of certain stars.
What is Gravitational lensing?
The scientists took advantage of a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing” to spot the star.
- It involves the bending of light by massive galaxy clusters in the line of sight, which magnifies more distant celestial objects. This makes dim, faraway objects that otherwise would be undetectable, like an individual star, visible.
Significance of this discovery:
- These observations by astronomers from NASA provide a rare and detailed look at how stars evolve, especially the most luminous stars.
- Detecting the amplification of a single and pinpoint background star has provided a unique opportunity to test the nature of dark matter in the cluster.
About the Hubble Space Telescope:
- The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.
- It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.
- It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy.
- Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.
- Expanding the frontiers of the visible Universe, the Hubble Space Telescope looks deep into space with cameras that can see across the entire optical spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.
Key Facts for Prelims
Multi Modal Logistic Park at Balli Inaugurated
- Multi Modal Logistics Park at Balli Station near Madgaon in Goa was recently inaugurated.
- The part is located on Konkan Railway route.
- It will benefit trade and industry from economic transport solutions and state of art facilities.
- It will generate additional source of revenue for Konkan Railway.
- According to report released by global startup ecosystem map Startupblink, India was ranked 37th out of 125 countries in global startup ecosystem in 2017.
- Startupblink is a global startup ecosystem map with tens of thousands of registered startups, coworking spaces, and accelerators.
- Its report prepared in association with ANSYS Startup Program measures startup ecosystem strength and activity.
- India ranked below Latin American countries Mexico and Chile which stood at 30 and 33 respectively.
- Bengaluru, New Delhi, and Mumbai featured in the list top cities in the global ranking.
MoUs on Defence Salary Package
- Indian Army has signed Memorandum of Undertaking (MoU) with HDFC Bank on the Defence Salary Package.
- This MoU will benefit large number of serving and retired Indian Army personnel providing them an opportunity to access modern banking facilities.
- Currently Indian Army has MoUs on Defence Salary Package with 11 public and private sector banks.
Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)
- PMI is an indicator of business activity-both in the manufacturing and services sectors.
- It is a survey-based measure that asks respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from month before.
- PMI is usually released at start of month, much before most of official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth is made available. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity.
- Manufacturing growth measured by PMI is considered good indicator of industrial output.
- It is calculated separately for manufacturing and services sectors and then composite index is constructed.