Polity & Governance
- Govt in rush to start flagship mobile app by Dec
- Election Commission writes to Centre, seeks power to postpone, revoke polls
- Himachal Pradesh gets green-concept based state data centre
- India ranks second in retail potential
Environment & Ecology
- Arctic regions getting greener due to climate change: NASA
- Guwahati becomes first city to have City Animal
- Rajasthan CM launches mobile app ‘RajVayu’ on air quality index
- Swiss back India’s bid for nuclear group membership
Defence & Security Issues
- Ships get relief from piracy related insurance premium at Indian ports
Polity & Governance
Govt in rush to start flagship mobile app by Dec
The Ministry of Telecom and Information Technology is working hard to make the government’s flagship mobile application, UMANG, a reality by December this year.
- UMANG (unified mobile app for new age governance) would be available in 12 Indian languages, in addition to English.
- It would be a window to access almost all sorts of government services, including national scholarships, women’s safety, health care applications, e-District and Passport Seva.
- The app would be a common mobile app which would give services of the central government, state governments and the local bodies. People will be able to scan thousands of government services.
Other key facts:
- Till now, 768 apps in various regional languages have been launched by the government in association with the units of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) across the country.
- According to the Department of Electronics and Information and Technology officials, the Prime Minister’s Office has given them standing orders to develop and promote apps for specific purposes, as smartphone penetration in urban and rural areas has drastically increased.
- Of the 905 million smartphone users in India, 70 million are from rural areas.
- Most of these apps have been developed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and various other regional languages.
Election Commission writes to Centre, seeks power to postpone, revoke polls
The Election Commission of India has written to the Centre seeking amendment to the Representation of the People Act to confer specific powers on the election watchdog to postpone or countermand polls based on evidence that money power was used to influence voters.
- The move comes days after the EC rescinded the poll notification for two Tamil Nadu Assembly constituencies, Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, following reports of large-scale distribution of money and gifts to voters by the candidates and political parties.
- The action was taken under Article 324 of the Constitution. The Commission is yet to announce the fresh dates for elections in the two constituencies.
Why an amendment is needed?
- Currently, there is no specific provision in the law to postpone or countermand polls based on evidence that money power was used to influence voters. The Constitutional provisions need to be invoked sparingly.
- Therefore, EC have sought insertion of a clause empowering the ECI to take action in case there is evidence proving that money was used to influence voters.
Election Commission’s demands:
- The Commission demanded that a new clause ‘58 B’ be inserted in the Act to allow adjournment or countermanding of election in the affected polling areas on the grounds of use of money power.
- The proposed provision would also empower the Commission to re-schedule the elections in such areas.
- The Commission said in Clause 58 A and the proposed provision 58 B, the expression “countermand the election” would mean ab initio rescinding of the entire electoral process in the constituency.
- Clause 58 A empowers the Election Commission to cancel polls only if there is an evidence of booth-capturing or use of muscle power to influence the outcome of elections.
Himachal Pradesh gets green-concept based state data centre
Himachal Pradesh became the first state in the country to have a State Data Centre (SDC), designed using green data centre concept, to offer 101 people-oriented service online through an integrated data base.
- SDC would integrate the websites of various departments and all services could be accessible through the integrated data base, saving time and money spent on creation of infrastructure.
- It is a major green initiative as all services would be provided online and online and paperless governance will become a reality.
- The Chief Minister directed all government departments to make use of SDC for hosting e-Governance applications instead of creating their own infrastructure.
- It would help in reducing the burden on state exchequer and at the same time help in the integration of online databases of various departments.
- SDC would further help the departments to roll out more government-to-citizen-services and people can avail them from anywhere and anytime.
India ranks second in retail potential
India jumped 13 positions and was placed second in retail potential in the 2016 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), released by AT Kearney, a Chicago-based consultancy.
- China is ranked first in the 2016 Index.
- India was ranked 15 in the previous year. The report profiled 30 developing countries.
India according to the report:
According to the report,
- India is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy, overtaking China, and retail demand is being fueled by urbanisation, an expanding middle class, and more women entering the workforce.
- India’s high ranking is driven by GDP (gross domestic product) growth, improved ease of doing business, and better clarity regarding FDI (foreign direct investment) regulations.
- India’s retail sector has expanded at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8 % between 2013 and 2015.
- Analysts, however, did not agree that FDI was a key driver of retail growth in India. They even questioned if India had made it easy to do business.
- They argued that while investment was allowed by the government into multi-brand retail stores, the riders put in place made it almost impossible for money to truly flow into the country.
- Most of the growth we see is driven by domestic funding. FDI was allowed in single brand retail stores and despite the likes of Zara and H&M, along with some other luxury brands, opening shop in India, their contributions are minimum.
- India’s growth story still comes from independent and unorganised retail markets.
- The report admitted that infrastructure bottlenecks and state-level power dynamics still remained big concerns.
- E-commerce was once again a big driver for retail growth in India, with several foreign brands using the likes of Jabong and Amazon to make their entry into the country.
- India’s rank was further amplified by the collapse of the South American and Russian economies.
Environment & Ecology
Arctic regions getting greener due to climate change: NASA
According to a new Nasa study, Arctic regions of North America are getting greener, with almost a third of the land cover looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems due to changing climate.
- With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground.
- The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America.
- According to the study, temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils.
- Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser — changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles.
- Landsat is a programme that provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land vegetation in existence.
- It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes.
- Landsat, like other satellite missions, can use the amount of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the green, leafy vegetation of grasses, shrubs and trees to characterise the vegetation help researchers to mask out areas that burned, or are covered in water, to focus on vegetation changes.
Guwahati becomes first city to have City Animal
The Assam state capital Guwahati become the first city in the country to have its own City Animal with the Kamrup Metropolitan district administration declaring the Gangetic River Dolphin as the mascot.
- The animal, locally known as ‘Sihu’, would be the ‘City Animal’ of Guwahati.
- Along with Gangetic River Dolphin, the other two animals were Black Softshell Turtle (Bor Kaso) and Greater Adjutant Stork (Hargila).
- According to the recent survey, while less than 2,000 Gangetic River Dolphins remain in the Brahmaputra along Guwahati, only a small population of Black Softshell Turtle were found in the river and its tributaries.
- The number of Greater Adjutant Stork is less than 1,200 in and around the state capital.
Rajasthan CM launches mobile app ‘RajVayu’ on air quality index
On the eve of World Environment Day, Rajasthan CM has launched two mobile apps.
- A mobile app ‘RajVayu‘ for sharing information about air quality index of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
- Another app ‘Drishti’ for monitoring of pollution levels in industrial regions
- RajVayu is based on the data collected by sophisticated air quality monitoring equipment and weather sensors.
- It would share details about the air quality, such as levels of pollutants likes Particulate Matter, SOx, NOx, CO, Ozone particles with the city residents and tourists.
- Also, temperature, humidity, wind speed, weather forecast and advisories would be issued through this.
- Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) is the first state Board in the country to have this app for its citizens.
- This is based on the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Research (SAFAR-India).
- Presently, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune are connected with this system.
Swiss back India’s bid for nuclear group membership
India got the backing of Switzerland in its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ahead of the group’s crucial meeting.
- Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his country’s support to India’s membership in the 48-member grouping after holding comprehensive talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
- Both the countries agreed to expand cooperation in tackling the problem of Indians stashing black money in Swiss banks besides resolving to step up ties in areas of trade, investment and vocational training.
- Indian tax authorities are probing cases of tax evasion and black money stashed abroad.
- The NSG looks after critical issues relating to the nuclear sector and its membership will help India expand its atomic energy sector. Therefore, India has been pushing for membership of the bloc for last few years and had formally moved its application on May 12.
Defence & Security Issues
Ships get relief from piracy related insurance premium at Indian ports
Ships entering or leaving Indian ports are not required to pay a piracy related Additional War Risk Premium (AWRP) now.
- The move would help thousands of the vessels.
- Between 2010 and 2015, about 22,000 ships, that called on Indian ports, paid an estimated AWRP of about Rs. 8,500 crore.
- The development has come after seas near the country’s western coast were removed from the list of the High Risk Areas (HRA) for piracy.
- Earlier, the IMO and members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) had decided to move the longitude marking of the HRA from 65 Degrees to 78 Degrees East, extending the high risk area closer to the Indian coastline in order to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.
- Thereafter, Ministry of Shipping took up the issue of redrawing of the HRA Line back to 65 Degrees E (from 78 Degrees E) in the International Maritime Organization and as a result the HRA was redrawn at 65 Degrees E. Thereby, the ships coming to or leaving Indian ports do not have to pay AWRP now.
- Established in New York in 2009, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), is an international governance mechanism to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among states and organizations to suppress Somali piracy.
- The CGPCS was established in response to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008), later recalled and replaced with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1918 (2010).
- To date, more than 60 countries and international organizations have become part of this forum, all of which are working towards the prevention of piracy off the Somali coast.
It should be noted here that at the CGPCS’ recent meeting in Mahe, India was chosen to co-chair the Working Group on improving maritime situational awareness in the region through consensus.[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]