Polity & Governance
- National Conference on E-Courts Project
- MSME launches online portal ‘MSME Sambandh’
- Adultery law: Supreme Court to re-examine IPC provision holding only men liable
Issues related to Health & Education
- National Trachoma Survey Report (2014-17) released
- Asian Development Bank grants $346 million loan to upgrade Karnataka highways
Bilateral & International Relations
- India joins Wassenaar Arrangement
- 9 December: International Anti-Corruption Day
- Burial urn, pots unearthed in Pallavaram
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Polity & Governance
National Conference on E-Courts Project
The e-Committee, of the Supreme Court of India in association with the Department of Justice (DoJ) of the Government of India recently held a National Conference on e- courts project in New Delhi.
- The Conference focused on the progress, sharing of best practices, experiences, important issues and emerging challenges under the Project.
What is e-courts project?
The eCourts Mission Mode Project is a national eGovernance project for ICT enablement of district and subordinate courts of the country.
The major objectives of the Project are to make whole judicial system ICT enabled by putting in place
- Adequate and modern hardware and connectivity;
- Automation of workflow management in all courts;
- Electronic movement of records from taluka/trial to appeal courts;
- Installation of video conferencing (VC) facility and
- Recording of witness through Video Conferencing.
It has two phases:
- Phase I 2010-15
- Phase II 2015-19
- It is being implemented by the Government of India with a total outlay of 1670 crores (Phase II).
Specific targets set under the Project include:
- Computerization of all the courts (around 20400) and DLSA and TLSC;
- WAN and cloud connectivity in 3500 court complexes;
- Full Installation and use of Video Conferencing facility at 3000 Court Complexes and 1150 prisons;
- Charting out key identified citizen services like electronic filing, daily orders, delivery of decrees, online case status in all the district courts etc.
MSME launches online portal ‘MSME Sambandh’
The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched the Public Procurement Portal ‘MSME Sambandh’.
- The main objective of the portal is to monitor the implementation of the Public Procurement from MSEs by Central Public Sector Enterprises.
- With this app, the Micro and Small Enterprises would be able to access the information about the products being procured by CPSEs. Thus, it would help the MSEs in participating in the procurement process.
- By creating an online portal, the Ministries and the CPSEs can assess their performance.
Procurement Policy 2012:
- The Procurement Policy launched in 2012 mandates the Central Government Departments / CPSUs to procure necessarily from MSEs.
- Under the policy, every Central Ministry / Department / PSU shall set an annual goal for procurement from the MSE sector at the beginning of the year, with the objective of achieving an overall procurement goal of minimum of 20% of the total annual purchases of the products or services produced or rendered by MSEs.
Potential of MSME sector in India:
- MSME sector generates more employment next only to Agriculture sector. 80% of jobs in industry is given by MSME with just 20% of investment.
Adultery law: Supreme Court to re-examine IPC provision holding only men liable[Read IASToppers’ Mains Article on this issue: http://www.iastoppers.com/adultery-law-india-punish-married-men-alone-adultery-mains-article/]
Issues related to Health & Education
National Trachoma Survey Report (2014-17) released
What is Trachoma?
Trachoma is a chronic infective disease of the eye and is the leading cause of infective blindness globally.
- Trachoma is an outcome of poor environmental and personal hygiene and inadequate access to water and sanitation.
- It affects the conjunctiva under the eyelids.
- Repeated infections cause scarring leading to in-turning of the eyelashes and eyelids which further causes damage to the cornea and blindness.
Trachoma in India:
- Trachoma was found affecting the population in certain States of North India like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Nicobar Islands.
- Trachoma infection of the eyes was the most important cause of blindness in India in 1950s and over 50% population was affected in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.
- It was the most important cause of corneal blindness in India, affecting young children.
Why in news?
- Union Health Ministry released the National Trachoma Survey Report 2014-17.
- The Ministry also declared that India is now free from ‘Infective Trachoma’, a contagious bacterial infection of the eye.
- With this, India met the goal of trachoma elimination as specified by the WHO under its GET2020 program.
Highlights of the National Trachoma Survey Report 2014-17
- The survey findings indicate that the active trachoma infection has been eliminated among children in all the survey districts with overall prevalence of only 0.7 per cent.
- This is much below the elimination criteria of infective trachoma as defined by the WHO. As per WHO, Trachoma is considered eliminated if the prevalence of active infection among children below 10 years is less than 5 per cent.
- The Survey results indicate that active trachoma is no longer a public health problem in India.
- This has been possible due to decades of inter-sectoral interventions and efforts that included provision of antibiotic eye drops, personal hygiene, availability of safe water, improved environmental sanitation, availability of surgical facilities for chronic trachoma.
- States which still report cases of active trachoma, need to develop a strategy for community-based case finding of patients of trachomatoustrichiasis (TT).
- These cases must be provided free entropion surgery/ treatment in local hospitals.
- Adequate surveillance of the disease must be done all over the country in order to certify India as trachoma free.
Asian Development Bank grants $346 million loan to upgrade Karnataka highways
Asian Development Bank (ADB) will fund highway upgradation project in Karnataka for which it has approved a loan of $346 million.
- This is ADB’s second funding to Karnakata, whose per capita income is higher than the national average and has lower unemployment and poverty rates.
About the project:
- The project will carry out a road safety survey to identify critical accident spots across the state highways and carry out measures to improve these.
- The project will see construction of planned pedestrian, installation of women-friendly elements including bus shelters, marked crossings, footpaths and proper signage, among others.
About Asian Development Bank (ADB):
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966.
- It is headquartered in the Ortigas Center located in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines.
- The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional developed countries.
- ADB has been modelled closely on the World Bank.
- ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
Functions of ADB:
- Provides loans and equity investments to its Developing Member Countries (DMCs)
- Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services
- Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development
- Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs
Bilateral & International Relations
India joins Wassenaar Arrangement
In a significant victory for India’s non-proliferation track record, India has finally joined the multi-nation Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), which monitors and controls the export of arms and dual-use technologies by global powers.
- With this, India becomes the 42nd member of the WA.
- India was trying to become part of the arrangement for the last two years, but was blocked by Italy, owing to the dip in bilateral relations.
What is the Wassenaar Agreement?
- The Wassenaar Arrangement is an elite club of countries which subscribe to arms export controls, similar to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.
- The body came into being in 1996 to succeed the Cold War-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls.
- The name comes from Wassenaar, a suburb of The Hague, where the agreement to start such a multi-lateral cooperation was reached in 1995.
Who are all members of the Wassenaar Arrangement?
- The WA has 42 members, the latest entrant being India. With the exception of China, all the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are signatories of the WA, which is headquartered in Vienna.
How does it operate?
- Each state is to have national policies that govern the transfer of dual-use and military items.
- All nations generate a standard list of items that require special clearances or export controls by the federal government. India drew up this list of items in 2015, as part of its efforts to join WA.
- The idea is to prevent an unauthorised transfer of all such items. All nations report the arms and dual-technology transfers to the WA every six months.
What are Wassenaar Control Lists?
- The Arrangement works according to what it calls WA Control Lists. The controls are subject to ratification by the participants.
- WA members agree to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and report on such transfers and denials of controlled items to non-participants.
Critics of WA:
- Critics see WA simply as a Cold War instrument with a different name. According to them Arrangement perpetuates a digital divide by restricting western companies and governments from supplying crucial technologies to emerging markets.
- Computer scientists and policy analysts have also expressed concern about developed economies using less developed countries as Guinea Pigs for their cyber security research by supplying them with intrusive technologies that could be used for mass surveillance.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, has accused the United States of going for even narrower restrictions on technology transfer.
How will this membership help India?
- India’s entry into the export control regime would enhance its credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
- The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
- Further, since India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes, the country entry to the Export Control regimes will help secure the supply of nuclear fuel more easily.
- It will also facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high-tech items for our defence and space programmes.
- It will also create grounds for realignment of India in export control policy framework of other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exceptions.
- India will gain from joining WA, as Indian companies will now be able to undertake exports and get a boost in their effort to be a part of the global supply chain on defence products.
9 December: International Anti-Corruption Day
The International Anti-Corruption Day was observed across the globe on 9 December 2017.
- 2017 Theme: ‘United against corruption for development, peace and security’.
- This year United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.
- The 2017 joint international campaign focuses on corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- On 31 October 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption and requested to designate the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as secretariat for the Convention’s Conference of States Parties. The Convention entered into force in December 2005.
- The Assembly also designated 9 December as International Anti-Corruption Day to raise awareness of corruption and of the role of the Convention in combating and preventing it.
- December 9, 2006 was the first International Anti-Corruption Day observed in India, signing the UN Convention against corruption.
Scale of corruption:
- Every year USD 1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated USD 2.6 trillion are stolen through corruption, which is a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP.
- In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.
About United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC):
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a United Nations office.
- Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, UNODC operates in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices.
- It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and was renamed the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2002.
- UNODC relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from Governments, for 90 per cent of its budget.
- UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.
- The World Drug Report is a yearly publication of UNODC that presents a comprehensive assessment of the international drug problem, with detailed information on the illicit drug situation.
About United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the United Nations’ global development network.
- UNDP was established in 1965 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Status of UNDP:
- The status of UNDP is that of an executive board within the United Nations General Assembly.
- The UNDP Administrator is the third highest-ranking official of the United Nations after the United Nations Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General.
UNDP’s work is concentrated on four main focus areas:
- Poverty Reduction and Achievement of the MDGs
- Democratic Governance
- Crisis Prevention and Recovery
- Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development
- UNDP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from member nations.
- The organization operates in 177 countries, where it works with local governments to meet development challenges and develop local capacity.
- Additionally, the UNDP works internationally to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
- Currently, the UNDP is one of the main UN agencies involved in the development of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
- UNDP provides expert advice, training, and grant support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries.
- To accomplish the MDGs and encourage global development, UNDP focuses on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, social development, and crisis prevention and recovery.
- UNDP also encourages the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women in all of its programs.
- UNDP publishes an annual Human Development Report (since 1990) to measure and analyse developmental progress.
Burial urn, pots unearthed in Pallavaram
A six-foot-high burial urn, mudhumakkal thazhi, made of clay, and pieces of pots were unearthed at Old Pallavaram.
- These pots could be at least 2,000 years old, going by their black and brown colour.
What is mudhumakkal thazhi?
- It was ancient Tamil practice by family members to create a huge earthen pot called mudhumakkal thazhi to bury old people.
- The history of mudhumakkal thazhi goes back to over 3,000 years.