Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves rightsizing the Competition Commission of India
- Government plans to have more NCLT benches
Government Schemes & Policies
- SEBI eases algo trade rules in commodity exchanges
- Transport ministry, petitioners argue on requirement of environment clearance for Char Dham project
- Digital Initiative for Ease of Export
Bilateral & International Relations
- India opposes ‘weaponisation’ of outer space in United Nations
- Pakistan approaches World Bank over India’s completing of Kishanganga hydropower project
Defence & Security Issues
- India third most vulnerable country to cyber threats: Internet Security Threat Report
Key Facts for Prelims
- 9th India, Japan, US trilateral meeting
- India becomes second largest manufacturer of crude steel
- Cabinet approves closure of Burn Standard Company Limited
- India-UAE MoU on Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves rightsizing the Competition Commission of India
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for rightsizing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) from One Chairperson and Six Members (totalling seven) to One Chairperson and Three Members (totalling four).
Benefits of downsizing proposal of CCI:
- The downsizing proposal of CCI is expected to result in reduction of three Posts of members CCI in pursuance of Government’s objective of “Minimum Government – Maximum Governance”.
- In several major jurisdictions such as in Japan, US and United Kingdom Competition Authorities are of similar size.
- Moreover, it also pursuance of Government’s objective of easing mergers and amalgamation process in country.
- It will help in faster turnaround in hearings, resulting in speedier approvals that will help in stimulating business processes of corporates and result in greater employment opportunities in country.
About the Competition Commission of India:
Competition Commission of India is a body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition in India.
- Section 8(1) of the Competition Act, 2002 (the Act) provides that the Commission shall consist of a Chairperson and not less than two and not more than six Members.
- CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
- It is the duty of the Commission to:
- Eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition,
- Promote and sustain competition,
- Protect the interests of consumers and
- Ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
- The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
About the Competition Act, 2002:
- The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
- The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
Government plans to have more NCLT benches
The government is planning to have more benches of the National Company Law Tribunal on the basis of case load, amid rising number of insolvency cases coming up before the NCLT.
About the National Company Law Tribunal:
National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a quasi-judicial body that will govern the companies in India.
- It was established under the Companies Act, 2013 and is a successor body of the Company Law Board.
- The setting up of NCLT as a specialized institution for corporate justice is based on the recommendations of the Justice Eradi Committee on Law Relating to Insolvency and Winding up of Companies.
- NCLT will have the same powers as assigned to the erstwhile Company Law Board (which are mostly related to dealing with oppression and mismanagement), Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) (revival of sick companies) and powers related to winding up of companies (which was available only with the High Courts).
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves the Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018
The Union Cabinet has introduction of Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018 in Parliament for better protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
- The Bill will amend Protection of Human Rights, 1993 which was last amended in 2006.
Salient features of the Bill:
- The Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018 proposes to include National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as deemed Member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It:
- Proposes to add woman member in composition of NHRC.
- Proposes to enlarge scope of eligibility and scope of selection of Chairperson, NHRC as well as State Human Rights Commission (SHRCs).
- Proposes to incorporate mechanism to look after cases of human rights violation in Union Territories.
- Proposes to amend term of office of Chairperson and Members of NHRC and SHRCs to make it in consonance with terms of Chairperson and Members of other Commissions.
- The amendment will strengthen Human Rights Institutions of India further for effective discharge of their mandates, roles and responsibilities.
- Moreover, the amended act will be in perfect sync with agreed global standards and benchmarks towards ensuring rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of individual in the country.
- The amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 will make National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) more compliant with the Paris Principle concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.
SEBI eases algo trade rules in commodity exchanges
The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has relaxed algorithm trading norms at commodity derivatives exchanges.
- The market regulator has raised limit of trading using algorithm trading process up to 100 orders per second by user from the existing limit of 20 orders per second.
What is Algorithmic trading?
- Algorithmic trading in financial markets refers to transaction orders generated by using advanced mathematical models that involves automated execution of trade.
- It uses mathematical models and software codes to make transaction decisions on exchanges and execute them at high speed.
- This technology-driven trading enables traders to take advantage of any profit making opportunities arising in the market much before a human trader can even spot them.
- At present, on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), algorithm trades accounts close to 16% of all trades. On the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), it was 8.56% in January 2017.
What is the difference between Algorithmic trading and High Frequency Trading (HFT)?
- Both are often used inter-changeably, but they are not really same. HFT refers to high-volume orders executed within split-seconds to make immediate gains from market opportunities.
- HFT trading are often backed by algo trading, which spot trading opportunity.
Transport ministry, petitioners argue on requirement of environment clearance for Char Dham project
Ministry of road, transport and highway (MORTH) has recently submitted an affidavit before the National Green Tribunal(NGT) in matter of Char Dham widening road in Uttarakhand.
- In their affidavit, MORTH has stated that in all the total 53 projects/stretches of Char Dham, none is above 100 km which is why no environmental clearance was obtained.
- Stretches upto 100 km are exempted from environmental clearance under Environmental Clearance Notification.
- A petition was filed which said that the entire project of 900 km was misleadingly fragmented into segments which are actually continuous stretches of five national highway to avoid environmental clearance.
- It stated that the criteria of Cumulative Impact Assessment and carrying capacity study must be followed for Himalayan terrain while considering any infrastructural projects.
About the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna:
In December 2016, PM Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone for the Chardham highway development project in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun.
- The project is an ambitious initiative to improve connectivity to the four main Himalayan pilgrimage centres in Uttarakhand, called Char Dham.
- The project’s main objective is to develop around 900 km of national highways.
- These highways will be built in Uttarakhand at an approximate cost of Rs 12,000 crore.
- The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.
- The project will make travel to the Char Dham (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) safer and more convenient.
- The project involves widening the existing, geometrically deficient highway that connects the four abodes.
- Apart from widening, the road transport and highways ministry plans to improve the stretches to two-lane carriageway with paved shoulders, protect landslide hazard zones, construct bypasses, long bridges, tunnels and elevated corridors to ensure safety for the users.
- It will have proper slope stabilisation to ensure protection against landslides.
- The project is expected to be completed by 2018.
Significance of the project:
- The project will benefit people visiting holy shrines in Uttarakhand.
- It will generate additional employment for the local population and will change the economy of the State as it will give strong boost to connectivity and tourism.
- The roads leading to Gangotri and Badrinath are also equally important from a strategic point of view as these roads are used for supply and deployment to the defence establishments along the Indo-China border areas in Uttarakhand.
Digital Initiative for Ease of Export
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry have launched digital initiatives of Export Inspection Council (EIC) for ease of export to boost to India’s potential for agricultural and food export.
- These initiatives were launched under flagship Digital India Initiative to keep pace with changing dynamics of the world.
About Export Inspection Council (EIC):
EIC is the official export certification body of Central Government.
- ECI was established by Central Government under Section 3 of Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963.
- It was established to ensure sound development of export trade of India through Quality Control and Inspection and for matters connected thereof.
- EIC is advisory body to Central Government. It is empowered to notify commodities which will be subject to quality control and inspection prior to export.
- It establishes standards of quality for such notified commodities.
- It also specifies type of quality control and inspection to be applied to such commodities.
- EIC also exercises technical and administrative control over the five Export Inspection Agencies (EIAs), one each at Channai, Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata and Mumbai established by Ministry of Commerce for purpose of implementing various measures and policies by it.
Bilateral & International Relations
India opposes ‘weaponisation’ of outer space in United Nations
India voiced its concerns related to “weaponization” of outer space in the recently held UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) session.
- India has voiced opposition to the “weaponization” of outer space, saying it should not become an area of conflict while calling for collective efforts to strengthen safety and security of the space-based assets.
About United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC):
The UNDC is a deliberative body and a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly.
- It is mandated to consider and make recommendations on various disarmament related issues and to follow up the relevant decisions and recommendations of the special sessions devoted to disarmament held so far.
- The Disarmament Commission was re-established at the first Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament in 1978 to succeed an earlier Disarmament Commission, which ceased to convene after 1965.
- Since 1978, the Disarmament Commission has dealt with numerous disarmament related questions, both nuclear and conventional.
- It has also submitted guidelines and principles on various subject items, including guidelines for appropriate types of confidence-building measures, guidelines and recommendations for regional approaches to disarmament within the context of global security, and guidelines and recommendations for objective information on military matters.
Significance of UNDC:
- At a time of growing mistrust and rising international tensions as well as numerous challenges to both the disarmament agenda and the disarmament machinery, the role of the UNDC as a platform for dialogue and cooperation assumes a greater significance.
Pakistan approaches World Bank over India’s completing of Kishanganga hydropower project
Pakistan has informed the World Bank about India’s completing of the Kishanganga hydropower project during the bank’s “pause” period and has urged it to “recognise its responsibility” under the Indus Waters Treaty.
What ‘s the issue?
- Pakistan has approached the World Bank, the mediator between the two countries of the water distribution treaty, in the past and raised issues over Kishanganga and Ratle projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
- In December 2016, the world bank had announced that it had “paused” the process for either appointing a Court of Arbitration (COA) or a neutral expert and started mediation between the two countries on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of the treaty on the mechanism for resolution of faulty designs of the two projects. Since then, the bank has arranged two rounds of talks between the two sides.
- It has been flagging concern over designs of India’s five hydroelectricity projects – Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Ratle (850 MW), Kishanganga (330 MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) – being built/planned in the Indus river basin, contending these violate the treaty.
About Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant:
- The Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant is an $864 million dam which is part of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin.
- It is located 5 km north of Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir, India and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW.
- Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete in 2016.
- Construction on the dam was temporarily halted by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2011 due to Pakistan’s protest of its effect on the flow of the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan).
- In February 2013, the Hague ruled that India could divert a minimum amount of water for power generation.
About Ratle Hydroelectric Plant:
- It is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station currently under construction on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The project includes a 133 m (436 ft) tall gravity dam and two power stations adjacent to one another.
Defence & Security Issues
India third most vulnerable country to cyber threats: Internet Security Threat Report
According to recently published Internet Security Threat Report, India emerged as third most vulnerable country in terms of risk of cyber threats, such as malware, spam and ransomware in 2017.
About the report:
- The report was published by security solutions provider Symantec.
- The global threat ranking of countries was based on 8 metrics viz. malware, spam, bots, phishing, network attacks, web attacks, ransomware and cryptominers.
Highlights of the report:
- The US was most vulnerable to attacks at 26.61% followed by China at 10.95%.
- India is the third-most vulnerable country in terms of cyber threat risks including malware, spam, ransomware and one of the most recent and difficult-to-detect ones – cryptominers.
- India continues to be second-most impacted by spam and bots and third-most impacted by network attacks and fourth-most impacted by ransomware.
- In terms of cryptomining activities, India has ranked second in Asia-Pacific and Japan region (APJ), and ninth globally.
Concerns raised in the report:
- With the threat landscape becoming more diverse, attackers are working harder to discover new avenues of attack and cover their tracks.
- From the sudden spread of WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya, to the swift growth in coinminers, 2017 that digital security threats can come from new and unexpected sources.
- Cryptojacking has captured the top slot at the attacker toolkit, which signals a massive threat to cyber and personal security. Cryptojacking is defined as the secret use of a computing device to mine cryptocurrency.
- There is also a 200% increase in attackers injecting malware implants into the software supply chain in 2017. Threats in the mobile space continue to grow year-over-year, including the number of new mobile malware variants rising 54%.
Key Facts for Prelims
9th India, Japan, US trilateral meeting
- The 9th India-Japan-US trilateral meeting was held in New Delhi and was represented by senior diplomats by three countries.
- It held consultations on regional and global issues of mutual interest and focussed on connectivity, counter-terrorism and other regional and global issues of common concern.
India becomes second largest manufacturer of crude steel
- According to Steel Users Federation of India (SUFI), India has overtaken Japan to become world’s second largest producer of crude steel in February 2018.
- China is the largest producer of crude steel in the world, accounting for more than 50% of the production.
- Earlier in 2015, India had overtaken US to become third largest producer of crude steel.
Cabinet approves closure of Burn Standard Company Limited
- The Union Cabinet has approved closure of Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) Burn Standard Company Ltd (BSCL) under Ministry of Railways.
- This decision was taken in view of continuous poor physical and financial performance of company for more than decade despite financial assistance and other support from government and low probability of its revival in future.
- The company was engaged in manufacturing and repair of wagons and production of steel.
India-UAE MoU on Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector
- The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector.
Location of UAE:
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federal absolute monarchy sovereign state in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north.