Polity & Governance
- Government makes Aadhaar mandatory for MGNREGA work
- Two-day 20th National Conference on e-Governance concludes in Visakhapatnam
- Delhi Government unveils ‘Good Samaritan Policy’
- SC wants paper trail in EVMs for fair poll
- Minigrids can power rural economic activity
Bilateral & International Relations
- Bengaluru Hosts 14th Edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
- Ex-Pak army chief Raheel Sharif appointed head of Islamic anti-terror alliance
Science & Technology
- New Ginger species with medicinal properties found in Andamans
- Astronomers discover ‘powerful cosmic double whammy’ with help of India’s GMRT
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes
Polity & Governance
Government makes Aadhaar mandatory for MGNREGA work
The Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Rural Development have made ‘Aadhaar’ mandatory for members and pensioners of the Employees’ Pension Scheme and for those registered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) Scheme.
- For this purpose, government has invoked Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
- It is important to note that the expenditure for the MGNREGS is met by Government from the Consolidated Fund of India.
Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016:
- This section allows Government to ask an individual to undergo authentication or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar when the government gives subsidy, benefit or service from Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).
Rationale behind the move:
- The rationale behind making Aadhaar cards mandatory for the MGNREGA is to prevent leakages of subsidies and ensure that the beneficiaries get their due.
- Implications of the move:
- It will ensure effective implementation of the Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme aimed at checking leakages of welfare funds.
Two-day 20th National Conference on e-Governance concludes in Visakhapatnam
The 20th Edition of the National Conference for e-Governance 2016-17 has started in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
- The conference is aligned with the Digital India programme of Union Government and it is the largest annual event in the arena of Governance reforms in the country.
- Last year it was held in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
- The conference has been organised by Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) in partnership with Information Technology, Electronics and Communication (ITE&C) Department, Andhra Pradesh Government.
- The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Internet of Things and e-Governance’ and will be covering newly evolving areas of e-Governance across five plenary sessions.
- It is being held on the premise of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”.
- It will provide an opportunity for the public and private sector to discuss best practices and explore new areas of partnership in areas related to e-Governance by leveraging various technology initiatives.
Mandates of DARPG and DeitY:
- DARPG has been entrusted the role to promote e-Governance activities in consonance with the overall national objectivities and priorities. E-Governance is one of the subjects allocated to DARPG under the II Schedule to the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961.
- Whereas, DeitY’s mandate is to encourage e-Governance to empower citizens, promote inclusive and sustainable growth of Electronics, IT & ITeS industries.
Delhi Government unveils ‘Good Samaritan Policy’
Delhi Government has approved ‘Good Samaritan Policy’ to encourage people to help road accident victims in emergency situation.
- Under this policy, monetary incentive of Rs 2,000 and appreciation certificate will be given to people who help road accident victims in the national capital.
- Its main intention is to encourage people to take accident victims in emergency situation to hospitals so that someone’s life could be saved.
Significance of this policy:
- At present, most of people are unwilling to help mainly because they are scared they will land in trouble or be harassed by police. This policy seeks to change this attitude of people.
- This policy will give bystanders incentive to help accident victims and more importantly provide them with legal protection.
- As per the Law Commission of India, 50% of those killed in road accidents could have been saved if they had received immediate assistance.
- A report by World Health Organisation (WHO) also claimed that “skilled and empowered bystanders play a crucial role in saving lives” and “in order to enable bystanders to come forward and help injured persons, a supportive legal and ethical environment is needed”.
- Earlier, under the same scheme in April 2016 Delhi Government had decided to provide basic life support training to all auto-rickshaw drivers to provide helping hand in case of a road accident.
SC wants paper trail in EVMs for fair poll
The Supreme Court has reiterated the necessity to implement the Vote Verifier Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in electronic voting machines (EVMs) to ensure 100% transparency in elections.
- This is the second time the Supreme Court has directed Election Commission (EC) for the implementation of VVPAT in EVMs.
- Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections.
- SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes.
- In response the EC had informed the apex court that the VVPAT can be introduced in a phased manner.
What is VVPAT?
- The VVPAT system is a new initiative of the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections.
- In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter.
- It is intended as an independent verification system for EVM designed to allow voters to verify that their votes are casted correctly, detect possible election fraud or malfunction and provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
Minigrids can power rural economic activity
A study has found that mini grids can spur economic activity in rural areas and accelerate the process of expanding mobile phone network across the country due to their large capacities and the ability to connect to the national grid.
What is a mini grid?
As defined by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, a mini grid is an off-grid power system with a generation capacity of between 10 KW and 500 KW.
- Sometimes it also referred to as a “micro grid or isolated grid”.
- It converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and it provides safety as per REC and CEA standards.
- Mini-grids are usually supplied by a single power generation station (e.g. Micro-Hydro power plant, Wind turbine, combustion engine running on Biogas or a Photovoltaic array).
- However, the combination of two or more generation technologies (hybrid power systems) attracts greater interest, as this is an option to improve the reliability of the electricity supply.
Significance of mini grids:
- There are a number of other solutions of smaller capacities that rural areas can use such as a solar lantern, a solar home solution, or even a community solution like a micro grid. But a mini grid is the only alternative that provides the kind of electricity that can be used for business activities.
- The power generated from a mini grid can be seamlessly transferred to the national grid since it is already going through a charge controller which manages the flow of energy and an inverter which converts the electricity from DC to AC. It also has a storage facility to meet night demand as well.
- Sharing limited resources and power among users in a mini-grid requires rules and a tariff structure that ensures sustainability in the operation.
Criteria for location:
- One of the important criteria in selecting a village to install a mini grid is to see whether there is at least one customer in the area – like a telecom tower, petrol pump, school or bank – that could make up a significant portion of the energy demand from the mini grid.
- The potential of existing commercial activity and future potential demand should also be considered.
Bilateral & International Relations
Bengaluru Hosts 14th Edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
The 14th edition of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) began in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
- The theme of this edition is “Redefining Engagement with the Indian Diaspora”.
- The ‘Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ was also inaugurated as part of the PBD 2017 with an aim to connect with the youth, the new generation of Pravasis growing up all over the world.
- Indian-origin Portugal Prime Minister, Dr. Antonio Costa is the chief guest.
About Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD):
- PBD is an annual event organised since 2003 by Ministry of External Affairs to foster greater interaction between the Indian Diaspora and Indian government.
- It is held annually on 9 January to mark the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India i.e. on 9 January, 1915.
- During the event, individuals of exceptional merit are honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to appreciate their role in India’s growth.
Significance of PBD:
- It is a very important platform for engagement of the Union Government and the state governments with the overseas Indian community.
- It provides the single platform to Indian diaspora to put forth their issues and grievances before the government and in turn government can leverage their resources in nation building activities.
Ex-Pak army chief Raheel Sharif appointed head of Islamic anti-terror alliance
Pakistan’s former Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (retired) was appointed head of Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 39 nations.
The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) was created by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 to combat the Islamic State and other groups.
- Currently, it has 39 members, including Turkey and Malaysia.
- It is based at a command centre in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
- The coalition was envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.
- The coalition includes countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen among others.
- It has been established in pursuance with objectives and principles of the charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
- Member countries of this alliance will coordinate and support military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt.
- Saudi Arabia’s arch rival (for influence in the Arab world) Iran was not named as member of the IMAFT. Currently both regional powers are engaged proxy sectarian conflicts in Syria to Yemen.
Pakistan & IMAFT:
Pakistan initially had taken aback for being part of IMAFT, after Saudi Arabia had announced Pakistan also part of the alliance.
However, Pakistan later confirmed its participation in the alliance but has not committed itself to providing troops for any possible military operations.[Ref: Hindustan Times]
Science & Technology
Astronomers discover ‘powerful cosmic double whammy’ with help of India’s GMRT
Astronomers have discovered two of the most powerful phenomena in the universe by combining data from India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes.
- These discovered phenomena include a supermassive black hole and the collision of giant galaxy clusters about 2 billion light years from Earth.
- These two phenomenon combined to create a stupendous cosmic particle accelerator.
- This was the first time, scientists found cosmic combination in a pair of colliding galaxy clusters.
- It was found from the two colliding galaxy clusters called Abela 3411 and Abell 3412 located about two billion light years from Earth.
- These two clusters are very massive and each weigh about a quadrillion or a million billion times the mass of the Sun of our solar system.
- This discovery solves a long-standing mystery in galaxy cluster research about the origin of beautiful swirls of radio emission stretching for millions of light years, detected in Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 with the GMRT.
About Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT):
GMRT is an indigenous project set up by Pune based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA).
- It has been designed for investigating a variety of radio astrophysical problems, ranging from nearby Solar system to the edge of observable Universe.
- Astronomers from all over the world use this telescope regularly to observe many different astronomical objects such as galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, HII regions and Sun and solar winds.
- It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
New Ginger species with medicinal properties found in Andamans
Scientists from Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered a new species of Zingiber (commonly referred as ginger) from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The new species has been named as Zingiber pseudosquarrosum and belongs to genus Zingiber.
- It is used for its medicinal values by the local Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of the Andamans.
- The pseudo stem of Zingiber pseudosquarrosum is red in colour. Its flowers are lotus shaped and have a vermilion tinge and dehisced fruit.
- This species has tuberous root and its inflorescence buds are urceolate in shape. The morphological features of this species make it distinct from other species belonging to the genus Zingiber.
Usage of the new species:
- Like other species of Gingers, it is edible and can be propagated vegetatively from the rhizome. The new species possesses ethno-medicinal uses.
- The fresh extract (juice) of fleshy tuberous roots of this species is used to treat abdominal pain and anti-helminthic troubles by native tribal communities.
- As per scientific information available, there are 141 species of genus Zingiber are distributed throughout tropical Asia, including China, Japan and tropical Australia.
- Of these, 20 are reported from India, which include seven (latest being Zingiber pseudosquarrosum) from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Most of the species of these Gingers are endemic to India.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes
- China is setting up the world’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes in a Tibet prefecture close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, with a budget of $18.8 million.
- The telescope aims to detect the faintest of echoes resonating from the universe, which may reveal more about the Big Bang theory.
- The telescope, located 5,250 meters above sea level, will detect and gather precise data on primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere.
- The telescope will be located at Ngari.
- Ngari, with its high altitude, clear sky and minimal human activity is said to be one of the world’s best spots to detect tiny twists in cosmic light.
- It is expected to be operational by 2021.