Polity & Governance
- IIIDEM Conducts Training for SAARC Nations on Election Management
Environment & Ecology
- MoEF declares 4-km area around Sanjay Gandhi National Park as eco-sensitive zone
- Winter Fog Experiment (WIFEX 2016-17)
Bilateral & International Relations
- BRICS nations vow to automatic sharing of tax information
- Pradhan moots Asian buyers forum to counter OPEC clout
Defence & Security Issues
- Banks to bear liability in case of online security breach
Science & Technology
- TIFR discovery challenges theory of superconductivity
Key Facts for Prelims
- Ambedkar’s birth day to be celebrated as Water Day
- 45th All India Police Science Congress
Polity & Governance
IIIDEM Conducts Training for SAARC Nations on Election Management
With the aim of conducting free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections in the country, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has brought together delegates from Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of SAARC Countries.
- The officials from SAARC countries are in India for training at the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM).
- The course is being sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
- The 11-day course encapsulates several sessions on principles and practices for election management.
- During the program, the 28 participants from SAARC countries will share their experiences on election situation in their respective countries.
- Additionally, the program aims to train officials on various aspects of election management like capacity building of stakeholders, code of conduct, voter inclusion and registration et al.
- The participants have unanimously agreed on the continuous need for exchange of experiences and expertise between the SAARC Electoral Bodies for improved election management.
- India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) is an advanced resource centre of learning, research, training and extension for participatory democracy and election management.
- The institute is a national and international hub for exchange of good practices in election management.
- It works for enhancing voter education, and developing human resource for efficient conduct of free and fair elections in India. Along with this it is also set to develop mutually beneficial partnership with other countries.
Environment & Ecology
MoEF declares 4-km area around Sanjay Gandhi National Park as eco-sensitive zone
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on Monday declared an area of up to 4 kilometres around Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).
- The Eco-Sensitive Zone has a minimum extent of 100 metres and maximum extent of up to 4 km from the Park boundary.
- The objective behind declaring a further area around the forest, located within the city limits, as an eco-sensitive zone is to create a buffer area for the protection of the national park.
- This step has been taken with a view to avoid man-animal conflict.
Implications of the move:
- The declaration of the ESZ will impact all new construction in this area.
- According to the notification, all development in this zone will have to be in accordance with municipal by-laws, development control regulations, applicable regulations under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act and provisions of the ESZ notification.
- The Notification also provides that in areas around Housing Societies and with high human habitation, and in view of the fact that the National Park has a large population of leopards, a high wall with fencing may be erected to ensure that man-animal conflict is avoided.
The state government will now prepare a ‘Zonal Master Plan’ to monitor the ESZ, within a period of two years. The plan needs to be made in consultation with local residents.
About Sanjay Gandhi National Park:
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), previously called Borivali National Park, is a large protected area in the northern part of Mumbai city in Maharashtra.
- It is spread over three districts – Palgar, Thane and Mumbai Suburb.
- The National Park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna.
- Notable amongst them are large mammalian species such as leopard, wild boar, four-horned antelope, black-naped hare, wild cat, jackal and porcupine and many bird species such as Lesser grebe, Purple Heron, Smaller Egret, Lesser Whistling Teal, Pariah Kite.
- Many reptiles, including snakes as Indian Cobra and Viper are also found in the National Park.
- Tourists also enjoy visiting the 2400-year-old Kanheri caves sculpted out of the rocky cliffs which lie within the park.
Winter Fog Experiment (WIFEX 2016-17)
To better understand the science of fog formation over New Delhi, the Ministry of Earth Sciences recently inaugurated the Winter Fog Campaign at the New Delhi Airport.
- This move is aimed at understanding different physical and chemical features of fog and factors responsible for its genesis, intensity and duration.
- The goal of the WIFEX is to develop methods for forecasting winter fog on various temporal and spatial scales, and help reduce its adverse impact on aviation, transportation and economy, and loss of human life due to accidents.
- The campaign is being conducted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), with full cooperation and support of Airport Authority of India and GMR, IGIA. India Meteorological Department, National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast under MoES and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali are participating in the observational campaign being led by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.
What is fog?
- Fog is a visible mass consisting of cloud water droplets suspended in the air or near the Earth’s surface.
Problem of fog in India:
- The presence of heavy and extended period fog in the northern regions of India is one of the major weather hazards, impacting aviation, road transportation, economy and public life in the world’s most densely populated region.
- Maximum fog occurrence over the Northwest India is about 48 days (visibility < 1000m) per year, and occurs mostly during the December-February time period.
- All India annual morning poor visibility days (PVD <4 km) has increased from 6.7 to 27.3 % days.
- Recent studies on fog in India during the past 10-15 years have prompted significant socio-economic concern due to increase in frequency, persistence and intensity of fog occurrence over the northern parts of the country.
Factors responsible for occurrence of fog in India:
- Land use changes and increasing pollution in the region are responsible for growing Fog occurrence.
Bilateral & International Relations
BRICS nations vow to automatic sharing of tax information
BRICS nations, including India, have pledged to share tax information automatically and adopt global standards on tax transparency to check cross border tax evasion.
- The decision was taken during the recently concluded meeting of the heads of Revenue of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).
- They have reaffirmed their commitment to prevent of base erosion and shifting of profits (BEPS), exchange of tax information and capacity building of developing countries.
- To eliminate BEPS all member countries agreed to tax profits in those jurisdictions where the activities deriving those profits are performed and where value is created.
- BRICS members will exchange tax information, both on request and on automatic basis, and to adopt global standards on tax transparency.
- They also reiterated their endorsement for global Common Reporting Standard for Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) on a reciprocal basis to prevent cross-border tax evasion.
- Expressed “deep concern” with the process of erosion of the tax base by aggressive tax practices including incomplete disclosure of information by MNCs.
- The BRICS nations have faced major tax dodging by big corporate and individuals that diminishes their efforts to reduce societal inequality by taxation.
- US based think tank Global Financial Integrity has estimated that BRICS countries have faced huge flows of illicit fund flows in the last decade.
- BRICS member countries occupy five of the top seven places in the global ranking of countries for illicit outflows.
- China has been the biggest source of illicit fund outflows followed by Russia during this period.
Pradhan moots Asian buyers forum to counter OPEC clout
Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan has mooted the idea of a large Asian LNG buyers forum to negotiate more equitable trade deals and balance the influence of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Rationale behind this idea:
- The idea assumes significance in light of the ongoing increase in oil prices resulting in an adverse impact on the Indian exchequer and the government’s commitment to move towards a gas-based economy.
- A number of large Asian LNG buyers, including India, could benefit by joining hands and thereby, possibly, bring in more equitable trade deals.
- Today a large number of LNG deals are linked to oil prices. Only geographies with LNG hubs have prices lower than the oil-linked prices. The view is that Asian LNG buyers pay higher rates since there is no LNG hub in Asia and there is no unity among consumers.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of oil-producing nations that was first established in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1961.
- OPEC is one of the most powerful international organizations in the world and was a major player in the shift towards state control over natural resources. It has a massive impact on oil production and price around the world.
- Before OPEC was formed, the oil market was dominated by a group of multinational companies. The formation of OPEC was a major act of sovereignty by the founding nations, and it helped ensure that private companies could not unilaterally cut prices throughout the world.
- Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are the founding Members of the Organization.
- Today, OPEC is comprised of 13 members. They are:
- Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (six in the Middle East)
- Algeria, Angola, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria (five in Africa)
- Ecuador and Venezuela (two in South America)
Defence & Security Issues
Banks to bear liability in case of online security breach
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that banks will have to bear the full liability in the event of any security breach or compromise in the authorised card network.
- Besides, RBI also has relaxed additional factor authentication (AFA) norms for online transactions up to Rs. 2,000. This decision was taken in a move to save time for customers amid the government’s push for digitization of payments.
Payment authentication solutions:
- Banks issuing the cards will offer the ‘payment authentication solutions’ of the respective card networks on an optional basis to their customers.
What has RBI clarified?
- Only authorised card networks will offer such payment authentication solutions with participation of card issuing and acquiring banks.
- For this purpose customer’s consent must be taken while making this solution available to them.
- Customers opting for this facility will go through a one-time registration process. They are required to enter card details and additional factor authentication by issuing bank.
- Thereafter, registered customers will not be required to re-enter card details for every transaction at merchant locations that offer this solution, thus save time and effort.
- The card details already registered will be the first factor while the credentials used to login to the solution would be the additional factor of authentication.
Science & Technology
TIFR discovery challenges theory of superconductivity
Physicists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, have made a landmark discovery that challenges the conventional understanding of superconductivity.
Why does it challenge Nobel-Prize-winning theory?
The discovery has surprised the physics community because prevailing wisdom doesn’t allow bismuth to become a superconductor in the conditions in which it did. As a result, physicists will now have to find new explanations and rework a four-decade-old Nobel-Prize-winning theory.
What they have discovered?
- Researchers have discovered that when temperature of bismuth semi-metal in bulk form is lowered to 530 microKelvin (about -273 degree C), it becomes a superconductor. It acts as superconductor at temperature three orders of magnitude higher than the theoretical prediction.
- This landmark discovery challenges the conventional understanding of superconductivity based on Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory. It cannot explain the superconductivity seen in bismuth as it only explains superconductivity in most low Tc (critical temperature) superconductors.
Significance of this discovery:
- The discovery demands a new theory and a new mechanism to understand superconductivity in bismuth.
- It provides an alternative path for discovering new superconducting materials which are very different from the conventional superconductors.
What are Superconductors?
- Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance whatsoever.
- In order to achieve superconducting state, the element should have mobile electrons, and these electrons should come together to form pairs, known as Cooper pairs.
What is Bismuth?
- Bismuth is a chemical element with the symbol Bi and the atomic number 83.
Unusual phenomenon in bismuth
- Unlike other elements in the periodic table, bismuth has unusual phenomenon. Bismuth has only one mobile electron per 100,000 atoms. Whereas, the metallic superconductors have one mobile electron per atom. Since carrier density of bismuth is so small, it was believed that bismuth will superconduct. Thus, superconductivity in bismuth is puzzling.
Key Facts for Prelims
Dr. Ambedkar’s birth day to be celebrated as Water Day
- The Union Government is going to observe birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar (April 14), the father of Indian Constitution, as “Water Day” in the country.
- It was announced by Union Minister for Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti in New Delhi.
- The idea behind observing Water Day on birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar is to sensitise people about managing precious water resources.
- Dr Ambedkar, during his tenure as Member (Labour) of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (1942-1946), had steered formation of an all-India policy for the development of water resources in the country.
- For this purpose, he had laid the foundation of the Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission (CWINC) which was the forerunner of the present-day Central Water Commission (CWC).
- Dr Ambedkar advocated the concept of River Valley Authority or corporation for integrated development of rivers.
- He introduced the concept of multi-purpose development of river basins and his efforts in this direction culminated with multipurpose development of Damodar, Mahanadi and other rivers immediately after independence.
- He was instrumental in inclusion of Entry 56 of List 1 and introduction of Article 262 concerning the adjudication of disputes related to waters of inter-sate rivers or river valleys.
45th All India Police Science Congress
- The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and Kerala Police are jointly organizing the 45th All India Police Science Congress at Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram.
- The main objective of this prestigious national event is to provide a common platform to the various police forces/units, social scientists, forensic experts and other stakeholders to deliberate on selected themes of topical interest to the Indian Police.
- It will also provide an opportunity to learn from each other’s experience by understanding the best practices being followed in other States/UTs.
- The deliberations of All India Police Science Congress will provide a future roadmap for all the police forces/services of the country to provide quality service to the people.
- The First All India Police Science Congress was held in 1960 at Patna.