Polity & Governance
- Nari Shakti Puraskars
- India first in bribery rate, says global NGO Transparency International
- India’s longest cable-stayed bridge inaugurated
- FM releases the Revised General Financial Rules (GFR) 2017
Environment & Ecology
- Workshop on Arsenic problem in ground water and its remediation in Ganga Basin held
- National Conference on Jal Kranti Abhiyan organised
Bilateral & International Relations
- Commonwealth card mooted
- Commonwealth unveils initiative to stamp out domestic violence
Art & Culture
- Special Commemorative Postage Stamp on 100 years of Yogoda Satsang Math released
Key Facts for Prelims
- Surya Kiran – XI
- IISc ranked 8 among world’s best 10 universities
- PAU develops country’s first Bt cotton varieties
- National Awards for Innovation in Educational Administration
- Hyderabad Airport ranks 1st in Airport Service Quality Survey
- International Yoga fest
- ‘Hubbi’: First smart tribal village
- China overtakes Eurozone as world’s largest banking system
- FOIN 2017
- Exercise Al-Nagah-II 2017
Polity & Governance
Nari Shakti Puraskars
President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2016 at a ceremony in New Delhi on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017.
About Nari Shakti Puraskars:
- To acknowledge Women’s achievements, the Government of India confers Nari Shakti Puraskars on eminent women and institutions in recognition of their service towards the cause of women empowerment.
- The Nari Shakti Awards were initiated in the year 1999.
- The awards recognize the efforts made by women & institutions in rendering distinguished services for the cause of women, especially vulnerable and marginalized women.
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development announces these national level awards for eminent women, organisations and institutions.
- The Nari Shakti Puraskar carries a cash award of Rs.1 Lakh and a certificate for individuals and institutions.
Eligibility for the Puraskars:
- The Puraskars are open to all Indian Institutions, organisations and individuals.
- The WCD Ministry invites nominations from the State Governments, Union Territory Administrations, concerned Central Ministries/Departments, Non-Governmental Organisations, Universities/ Institutions, private and public sector undertakings (PSUs) working for empowerment of women.
- However, in exceptional cases, the Selection Committee may also, suo moto, recommend a person or institution for the award, with justification.
Selection process for the Puraskars:
- A Screening Committee to scrutinize and short list the nominations received for the Awards and a Selection Committee constituted for the purpose considers the achievements of organizations and individuals nominated or recommended for the Puraskars by the prescribed authority.
- The outstanding contributions in the field are of primary consideration in identifying the recipients of Puraskars.
- The final selections of the Awardees are made by the National Selection Committee which takes into account the recommendations of the Screening Committee.
- The National Selection Committee may at its discretion also consider individuals other than those recommended by the State Governments/Central Ministries.
India first in bribery rate, says global NGO Transparency International
According to recent survey released by Transparency International (TI), India had highest bribery rate among the 16 Asia-Pacific countries surveyed between July 2015 and January 2017.
- The survey was conducted among more than 21,000 people in the region.
- It revealed that more than one in four people, when accessing basic services like medicine, education or water.
- For the purpose of this survey, TI concentrated on bribes paid for procuring six key public services viz public schools, public hospitals, official documents (such as identification card, voters card), public utility services, the police and courts.
Highlights of the Survey:
- 69% of the study group in India said that they have paid a bribe, done a favour or given a gift to receive services.
- Vietnam follows this suit with 65%, Thailand 41% and Pakistan 40%. China reported a much lower 26%.
- Japan had the lowest incidence of bribery at 0.2% followed by South Korea and Australia recorded 3% each, Hong Kong 2% and Taiwan 6%.
- In India, nearly seven in 10 people who had accessed public services in the country have payed bribe.
- 46% to 60% of Indians said they have paid bribes for various public services, including in public schools and hospitals, getting IDs, voter cards and permits and accessing utilities and police and court services as well.
- Police, a key law and order institution suffer most from corruption. Nearly two in five people in the region mentioned the police were mostly or entirely corrupt (39%).
- They also perceived political decision-makers at both the national and local level to be highly corrupt. Legislative representatives, officials and local councillors were also highly corrupt (from 35 to 37%).
- Religious leaders were seen as far cleaner, with fewer than one in five were highly corrupt (18%).
About Transparency International (TI):
- TI is an international non-governmental organization based in Berlin, Germany.
- Its purpose is to take action to combat corruption and prevent criminal activities arising from corruption.
- It publishes annually Corruption Perceptions Index and Global Corruption Barometer
What should India do?
As per the survey report,
- At the state level, anti-corruption policies must be focussed on catering to the poor. Uniform best practices for state levl lokayuktas must be agreed upon and any overlaps with other law enforcement agencies must be resolved at the earliest.
- At the national level, India needs to urgently align its foreign bribery laws with its UNCAC (United Nations Convention against Corruption) obligations. Signing OECD anti-bribery commission is key in this process. The legal infrastructure for public procurement in India falls under the remit of the General Financial Rules.
- TI recommends that a national procurement law that incorporates international best practices including debarment, appeal processes and a review processes be enacted. This will substantially reduce fraud in public contracting which will in turn affect the quality of public service delivery. For grand corruption, a key step would be to set up effective enabling regulations and institutions for the LokPal.
- 63% of the respondents in India felt that they as individuals had the power to fight corruption. Across the region, people thought that reporting corruption (22%) followed by refusing to pay bribes (21%) were most effective. Over a half of the respondents from India were positive about the government’s efforts to combat bribery.
India’s longest cable-stayed bridge inaugurated
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dedicated India’s longest extradosed bridge across river Narmada at Bharuch, Gujarat.
- Previously, the record for being India’s longest extradosed bridge was held by the Nivedita Setu over the Hooghly in West Bengal.
- An extradosed bridge employs a structure which combines the main elements of both a prestressed box girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge.
- The bridge is 20.8 metre wide, with 14.5 metre carriageway and 3 metre footpath.
- The bridge will be lit by more than 400 light emitting diode (LED) lights.
- The bridge is a part of National Highways Authority of India’s project for six laning of Ahmedabad-Mumbai section of NH-8.
- This section of NH-8 will have state-of-the-art Highway Traffic Management System (HTMS), variable message sign boards, median plantation, traffic aid post, medical aid post and radio-frequency identification (RFID).
- Smart card swapping enabled infrastructure was put in place at the toll plaza of the bridge.
FM releases the Revised General Financial Rules (GFR) 2017
The Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley recently released the Revised General Financial Rules (GFRs) – 2017.
Aim of the Revised GFR:
- The Revised GFR -2017 aims to provide a framework within which an organization manages its business in a financially prudent manner without compromising its flexibility to deal with varied situations.
Significance of this new GFRs:
- The new GFRs 2017 will enable an improved, efficient and effective framework of fiscal management while providing the necessary flexibility to facilitate timely delivery of services.
What are GFRs?
- The GFRs are rules and orders dealing with matters involving public finances.
- General Financial Rules were issued for the first time in 1947 bringing together in one place all existing orders and instructions pertaining to financial matters.
- These have subsequently been modified and issued as GFRs 1963 and GFRs 2005.
Environment & Ecology
Workshop on Arsenic problem in ground water and its remediation in Ganga Basin held
Workshop on Arsenic problem in ground water and its remediation in Ganga Basin was recently held.
- It was chaired by Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Shri Uma Bharti.
- It was organized by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
- There is an urgent need to start a nationwide movement to make people aware about the arsenic problem.
- The government has underlined the need to make people aware about the negative impact of Arsenic in Ganga basin area.
- It has also proposed to prepare an exhaustive work plan to meet the challenges posed by presence of arsenic in ground water on the basis of the outcome of this workshop.
Arsenic in groundwater:
- Arsenic in ground water is a geogenic contaminant i.e. caused by natural geologic processes.
- Arsenic-containing groundwater in Ganga River basin is hosted by the sediments deposited by the rivers during the late Quaternary or Holocene age (<12 thousand years).
- Incidence of high arsenic in groundwater reported from various parts of the country, particularly in the Ganga- plains is a serious threat to the health of human being.
- Arsenic occurrences in ground water in these areas is highly sporadic in nature and all the sources in these areas are not necessarily contaminated.
Over the last three decades numerous measures have been initiated which includes alternate arrangement for supply of arsenic free water to the affected populace and providing arsenic removal plants.
Technological options to combat arsenic menace:
In groundwater, to ensure supply of arsenic free water, in the affected areas, following technological options are available to combat arsenic menace:
- In-situ remediation of arsenic from aquifer system,
- Ex-situ remediation of arsenic from tapped groundwater by arsenic removal technologies,
- Use of surface water source as an alternative to the contaminated groundwater source,
- Tapping alternate safe aquifers for supply of arsenic free groundwater or combination of above techniques.
What has the government done in this regard?
- The government is tapping alternate safe aquifers, for supply of arsenic free groundwater in many areas on a local scale; however, this approach would require extensive studies and analysis for mapping of groundwater availability, freshwater reserves and to examine mobilization of arsenic in the aquifer, both on spatial and temporal scale, due to forcing perturbation.
- Under the National Aquifer mapping programme (NAQUIM) of CGWB special attention has been given to this aspect and water wells have been constructed tapping arsenic free aquifers using state of the art technology in parts of Ballia and Ghazipur districts of Uttar Pradesh”.
- However, the growing arsenic occurrences demands a systematic translation of success stories of one place/region to another and formulating a comprehensive plan to mitigate the arsenic problem through a wider consultation process.
National Conference on Jal Kranti Abhiyan organised
The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation organised a national conference on Jal Kranti Abhiyan in New Delhi.
- The day-long conference saw around 700 participants, representing various stakeholder groups such as officials, farmers, students, NGOs and panchayat members.
About Jal Kranti Abhiyan:
- The nation-wide programme was launched by Union Minister Uma Bharti on 5 June 2016.
- The programme mainly aims to create awareness among various stakeholders about the importance of water conservation and security and also to help resolve several water-related issues in the country.
- It was launched with the objective of consolidating water conservation and management in the country through a more integrated approach involving all stakeholders and making it a mass movement.
- It aims to bring together all relevant existing and planned schemes of the Government of India on one platform to achieve the objectives.
Some of the broad goals of the programme include:
- To strengthen grass root involvement of all stakeholders including local bodies and Panchayati Raj institutions in the water security and development schemes like Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM).
- To encourage the adoption of traditional knowledge in water resources conservation and its management.
- To utilize sector level expertise from different levels in the government, NGOs and citizens.
- To enhance livelihood security through water security in rural areas.
Bilateral & International Relations
Commonwealth card mooted
Commonwealth nations could consider a scheme similar to the Business Travel Card scheme, used across the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, as a means of promoting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
- This was proposed by the chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, ahead of the inaugural Meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers in London on March 9-10, convened by the CWEIC, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
- The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) is a membership organisation with a small secretariat supported by an Advisory Board comprising Government and business leaders from across the Commonwealth.
- The purpose of the Council is to promote trade and investment by facilitating engagement between Government and the private sector throughout the Commonwealth.
- CWEIC is a value based organisation reflecting the commitments of the Commonwealth Charter. Central to CWEIC’s work is the understanding that businesses require a set of values under which trade and investment can take place; transparency; good governance; respect for the rule of law; enforceable physical and intellectual property rights; equal opportunities and a diverse workforce and an overarching understanding that financial probity from government and the private sector is key to a flourishing business environment.
- CWEIC is the apex organisation representing private sector businesses within the Commonwealth and is the only institution with a remit to promote intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
- The CWEIC is also responsible for organising the Commonwealth Business Forum alongside the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
APEC Business Travel Card scheme:
- Under the APEC scheme, which includes 19 fully participating countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and Singapore, business travellers are able to apply for five-year-long, short-term, multiple-entry permits to other member states, freeing them from the need to apply for visas every time they travel.
Commonwealth unveils initiative to stamp out domestic violence
The Commonwealth of Nations has launched “Peace in the home” programme to help member states tackle domestic violence which still remains a “stubborn stain” on communities, disproportionately impacting women.
- The programme was launched on Women’s Day (March 8) and will continue through till 2018 when there is expected to be an accord on ending domestic violence in the Commonwealth.
Key features of the programme:
- It will build a coalition of governments, businesses, human rights institutions, civil society and individual citizens to choral our efforts to address domestic violence.
- It will include toolkits to help governments across Commonwealth involve multiple agencies such as schools, hospitals and doctors as well as government and law enforcement agencies to work together effectively.
- It will help countries highlight and share details of initiatives that had been particularly successful at dealing with domestic violence.
- It will also be a mentoring programme for women and an initiative to address the issue of violence around elections and politics.
About Commonwealth of Nations:
- It is an international intergovernmental organisation of countries that were mostly former territories of the British Empire and dependencies.
- It was established by the London Declaration in 1949. Many countries from Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and the Pacific have joined the Commonwealth.
- Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth. She is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth realms.
- Membership is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation.
- Current membership includes 52 counties (including India).
[Ref: The Hindu]
Art & Culture
Special Commemorative Postage Stamp on 100 years of Yogoda Satsang Math released
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 7 March 2017 released a special commemorative postage stamp on 100 years of Yogoda Satsang Math.
About Yogoda Satsang Math:
- The Yogoda Satsang Math are the headquarters of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS).
- Its major aim is to reveal the complete harmony, basic oneness and common foundations of all true religions.
- Yogoda Satsanga Society of India is a non-profit religious organization.
- It was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1917.
- The society is known as the Self-Realization Fellowship in countries outside the Indian subcontinent.
- Mrinalini Mata is the current President of the YSS.
- The word ‘Yogoda’ was coined by Paramahansa Yogananda. The world is derived from Yoga, union, harmony, equilibrium, and da, “that which imparts”.
- Paramahansa Yogananda is renowned for his book titled Autobiography of a Yogi. The book is an international bestseller.
- The HarperCollins featured the book in the 100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.
- YSS’s headquarters, Yogoda Satsanga Math, is situated in Dakshineswar, Kolkata, West Bengal. The YSS oversees more than 180 Kendras, Mandalis, Retreats and Ashrams all over the globe.
Key Facts for Prelims
Surya Kiran – XI
- The eleventh edition of joint military exercise ‘Surya Kiran 2017’ between India and Nepal began in Pithoragarh area of Uttarakhand.
- In this exercise, Indian Army is represented by the officers and troops of Ekta Shakti Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. While, Nepali Army is being represented by Durga Baksh Battalion.
- The Surya Kiran XI aims at training of both the troops in the area of various counter insurgency operations over a prolonged period.
- It will focus on other important aspects such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations and environmental conservation.
- The Surya Kiran series of military exercises are being conducted bi-annually, alternatively in India and Nepal.
- It is largest exercise in terms of troop’s participation in series of military training exercises undertaken by India with various countries.
- It aims at promoting military relations while increasing interoperability in conducting joint counter insurgency operations in mountainous terrain.
- The 10 edition of the exercise was held at Army Battle School, Saljhandi in Nepal in November 2016.
IISc ranked 8 among world’s best 10 universities
- The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was ranked 8th in the top 10 of Times Higher Education’s (THE) Best Small Universities-2017 global rankings.
- IISc was only the Indian university to feature in the list of 20.
- It is also the second-highest ranked Asian University. The global rankings ranked only those universities with fewer than 5,000 students.
- The list was topped by California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
- IISc has a full-fledged postgraduate and Ph.D. programme and around 3,400 students study in it.
- In the world university ranking, however, it ranks in the range of 201-250 when compared with larger universities also.
- IISc, a public university for scientific research and higher education, was established in 1909 with active support from Jamsetji Tata and Sir Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore.
- In 2015-16, it became the first Indian institute to be ranked among the top 100 in THE World University Rankings for engineering and technology at 99th position.
- The Times Higher Education World University Rankings was founded in 2004 by the U.K.-based Times Higher Education (THE) magazine. It provides the definitive list of the world’s best universities, evaluated across teaching, research, international outlook, reputation and more.
PAU develops country’s first Bt cotton varieties
- Punjab Agricultural University has successfully developed the country’s first Bt cotton varieties.
- The ICAR has identified three varieties, namely PAU Bt 1, F1861 and RS 2013, for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan.
- It is a cheaper alternative to Bt cotton hybrid seed.
National Awards for Innovation in Educational Administration
- The National Awards for Innovation in Educational Administration were recently presented to the participants in New Delhi.
- The Awards have been instituted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi.
- The main objective of the programme is to recognize innovative ideas and practices adopted by district and block level education officers for effective management of the educational administrative system at district and block levels, and ensuring institutional development and performance at school level.
Hyderabad Airport ranks 1st in Airport Service Quality Survey
- GMR’s Hyderabad International Airport ranked 1st in the world in the prestigious Airports Council International (ACI)-Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey in the 5-15 million passengers per annum (MPPA) category in 2016.
- Hyderabad Airport is designed to cater to 12MPPA is running in to its 9th year of operation.
- It has witnessed a growth of more than 20% in 2016 with a passenger throughput of close to 15MPPA.
International Yoga fest
- The two-day International Yoga fest was held at Talkatora stadium in New Delhi.
- It was inaugurated by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu.
- It was organised by Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga in association with the Indian Yoga associations.
- More than 3,500 participants including eminent yoga gurus, yoga masters, scholars, policy makers and representatives from 15- 18 countries had participate in this mega event.
‘Hubbi’: First smart tribal village
- The first smart tribal model village ‘Hubbi’ was inaugurated at Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The village was developed by Rural Development Department of the State Government.
- The smart tribal village has been introduced with smart classes in the schools, better roads, electricity and water facilities.
China overtakes Eurozone as world’s largest banking system
- According to Financial Times, China’s banking system has overtaken the eurozone to become the world’s largest by assets.
- It indicates both, China’s increased influence in world finance and its reliance on debt to drive growth since the 2009 global financial crisis.
- Chinese bank assets had hit $33 trillion at the end of 2016, versus $31 trillion of the eurozone, $16 trillion of the US and $7 trillion of Japan.
- The value of China’s banking system is more than 3.1 times the size of its annual economic output, compared with 2.8 times for the eurozone and its banks.
- China’s GDP had surpassed EU’s economic bloc in 2011 at market exchange rates, but its banking system did not take over the top spot until the end of 2016.
- 3rd Festival of Innovation (FOIN) was recently held in President’s house.
- The Festival of Innovation (FOIN) is a unique initiative of the Office of the President of India to recognise, respect and reward grassroots innovations and foster a supportive ecosystem.
- Hosted in the month of March at The President’s House, the FOIN has become a national celebration of creativity and innovation at and for grassroots.
- In sync with the policies of the government of India, FOIN will provide a window to the creative and innovative solutions for social development through grassroots innovations, student ideas and other technologies for agriculture, rural development, sanitation, health, women and child development, biotechnology and medical innovation for grassroots.
Exercise Al-Nagah-II 2017
- The joint military exercise Al-Nagah-II 2017 between India and Oman began in the Dhauladhar Ranges in Bakloh belt of Himachal Pradesh to strengthen the military ties between the two countries.
- This is the second edition of the exercise in continuation of a series of joint exercises between the armies of the two countries.
- The first edition of the exercise was held at Muscat, Oman in 2015.
- The 14-day joint exercise aims to acquaint both forces with each other’s operating procedures in the backdrop of counter insurgency, counter terrorism environment.
- The exercise will also enhance the interoperability between the two armed forces in conducting joint military operations.