Current Affairs Analysis

9th January 2018 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

18th All India Whips’ Conference; What is BharatNet? Domestic Content Requirements (DCR); Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF); e-Sansad and e-Vidhan; Hepatitis C; “Drone” cameras (UAV/NETRA); National Solar Mission; Composite Ecological Task Force (CETF) battalion; Territorial Army; Pratyush, India’s fastest supercomputer; Zuma mission; SpaceX; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
January 14, 2018


Polity & Governance

  • 18th All India Whips’ Conference

Government Schemes & Policies

  • BharatNet Phase 1: Target Achieved
  • Parliament to go paperless with e-Sansad and e-Vidhan

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Free treatment for Hepatitis C in new scheme to be launched this year
  • Supreme Court sets aside order cancelling larger tobacco health warnings

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Indian Railways conceives to deploy “Drone” cameras in all its Zones/Divisions

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India rejects US solar claim at WTO, explores new defence

Defence & Security Issues

  • Territorial Army battalion of ex-Armymen to clean Ganga

Science & Technology

  • India unveils Pratyush, its fastest supercomputer yet
  • SpaceX launches secretive Zuma mission

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Polity & Governance

18th All India Whips’ Conference

The 18th All India Whips’ Conference was recently inaugurated at Udaipur, Rajasthan. The conference is hosting around 90 Delegates belonging to 19 States and Centre.


About the 18th All India Whips’ Conference:

  • The purpose of this conference is to strengthen the parliamentary democracy, its institutions and ultimately serve the people at large.
  • The conference provides a platform to Whips of various political parties – ruling as well as opposition at the Centre as well as the States to exchange their views and experiences and discuss the challenges facing them in discharge of their Parliamentary duties and evolve norms for efficient working of parliamentary machinery.

Who is Whip?

  • A whip is an important member of a political party’s parliamentary body, having a central role in ‘Floor Management’ in both the Houses of Parliament and is responsible for discipline within the party.

What is the role of whip?

  • Whip’s main job is ensuring that his members in Parliament and legislature vote in line with the party’s official policy on important issues and make sure that the members turn out for important votes.

Significance of the office of whip:

  • In the parliamentary form of Government, Whips of various political parties are the vital links of the internal organization of parties, inside the legislatures.
  • The efficient and smooth functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures depends, to a considerable extent, upon the office of the Whip.
  • The Whips can be rightly said to be the managers of the parties within the legislatures.

Key facts about the whip:

  • The importance of Whips in the Parliamentary system was acknowledged through the First All India Whips Conference at Indore in 1952, in the very first year of general elections to the First Lok Sabha.
  • The office of whip is neither mentioned in constitution of India nor in the Rules of the House nor in the Parliamentary Statue. It is based on conventions of parliamentary government.
  • However, organizing the All India Whips Conference is one of the functions assigned to the Ministry of Parliamentary affairs, under Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 made under article 77(3) of the Constitution.
[Ref: PIB]


Government Schemes & Policies

BharatNet Phase 1: Target Achieved

Government has achieved a significant milestone under the BharatNet by completing Phase-1 of the project by connecting over one lakh Gram Panchayats (GP) across the country with high speed optical fibre network as per the declared deadline of 31 Dec 2017.

BharatNet Phase 1 ias

  • BharatNet network built under Phase 1 envisages delivery of high-speed broadband services in over 2.5 lakh villages benefitting more than 200 million rural Indians.

What is BharatNet?

BharatNet is Centre’s rural internet connectivity programme which is implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).

ias toppers BharatNet

  • It is world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre.
  • Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly the rural areas, through demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps to realise the vision of Digital India.
  • The project is being funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

About the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):

  • USOF was formed by the Central Government to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas.
  • Established in 2002, it is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
  • The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) were made an exception to this process since Bharat Broadband Nigam Limited (BBNL) was the sole party involved in the implementation having being specifically created for it.
[Ref: PIB]


Parliament to go paperless with e-Sansad and e-Vidhan

The Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) has proposed rolling out of e-Sansad in Parliament and e-Vidhan in State Legislatures to digitize and make their functioning paperless.

iastoppers e-Sansad and e-Vidhan

About e-Sansad and e-Vidhan:

  • They are mission mode projects of Union Government under Digital India to make the functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures paperless.
  • They aim to digitise and make available Parliament and state legislature documents, including debates, speeches, committee reports and questions on internet.
  • MoPA is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of both the projects.

Significance of these projects:

  • These projects will make functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures participative, responsive, transparent, productive and more accountable to public.
  • They will make the entire Legislative process more efficient.
  • They are environment-friendly initiatives in line with the Go Green initiative of the government.
[Ref: PIB]


Issues related to Health & Education

Free treatment for Hepatitis C in new scheme to be launched this year

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is going to roll out National Programme for Control of Viral Hepatitis, a new scheme free treatment of Hepatitis C from the 2018-19 financial year.


What is Hepatitis?

  • Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It may be caused by drugs, alcohol use, or certain medical conditions. But in most cases, it’s caused by a virus. This is known as viral hepatitis
  • Scientists have identified 5 unique hepatitis viruses, identified by the letters A, B, C, D, and E. While all cause liver disease, they vary in important ways.

Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that primarily affects the liver.

Hepatitis C

  • During the initial infection people often have mild or no symptoms. Occasionally a fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow tinged skin occurs.
  • The virus persists in the liver in about 75% to 85% of those initially infected.
  • Early on chronic infection typically has no symptoms. Over many years however, it often leads to liver disease and occasionally cirrhosis.
  • There is no vaccine for HCV.

Hepatitis C: How Does It Spread?

  • It spreads through infected blood. In the U.S., sharing needles or other items used to inject drugs is the most common cause of infection.
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing with an infected needle is another means of exposure.
  • A mother may pass the virus to her child at birth. In rare cases, unprotected sex spreads hepatitis C, but the risk appears small.
  • Having multiple sex partners, HIV, or rough sex seems to raise risk for spreading hepatitis C.


Hepatitis C 2

What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently.

  • Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment.
  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems.
  • There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C.
  • If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.
[Ref: Indian Express, Business Standard, CDC]


Supreme Court sets aside order cancelling larger tobacco health warnings

The Supreme Court has stayed Karnataka High Court order reducing size of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products to 40% of the package space from earlier 85%.


  • The apex court took decision saying that health of citizen has primacy and emphasised on importance of public health and harmful effects of tobacco products.

Significance of this move:

  • The court’s decision comes as a relief for health advocates and central health ministry who say bigger health warnings deter tobacco consumption. More than 900,000 people die each year in India due to tobacco-related illnesses, the government estimates.


  • The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in 2014 had amended Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules prescribing mandatory 85% statutory warnings space on both sides of tobacco packaging telling consumers that cigarette smoking and tobacco chewing were harmful to health.
  • These rules were framed under Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

What was the Karnataka High Court’s judgment?

  • In December 2017, Karnataka High Court judgment had quashed MoHFW rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85% of tobacco product packaging space, holding that they violated Constitutional norms.
  • However, it made it clear that 40% pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to amendment rules, will remain in force.
  • It had held that rules framed by MoHW in 2014 was violation of the Article 77 (Conduct of Business of Government of India) and Transaction of Business (ToB) rules framed under it as subject of tobacco control and legislation was not attached to one department or Ministry.
  • Moreover, these rules are also contrary to Article 19(1)(g) (right to practise any profession,or to carry on any occupation, trade or business).
[Ref: The Hindu]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Indian Railways conceives to deploy “Drone” cameras in all its Zones/Divisions

Indian Railways has decided to deploy “Drone” cameras (UAV/NETRA) for various railway activities especially project monitoring and maintenance of tracks and other railway infrastructure.


  • In this regard, directions have been given to Zonal Railways to procure such cameras.
  • This is in-line with Railways’ desire to use technology to enhance safety and efficiency in train operations.
  • Under this initiative, West Central Railways with headquarter at Jabalpur (M.P) has become the first Zonal Railway to procure “Drone” cameras in Indian Railways.

Advantages of this initiative:

  • “Drone” cameras will help in monitoring activities of relief and rescue operation, project monitoring, progress of important works, conditions of track and inspection related activities.
  • It shall also be used to assess preparedness of Non-Interlocking (NI) works, crowd management during fairs and melas, to identify scrap and also for aerial survey of station yards.
  • Drones will be instrumental in providing real time inputs related to safety and maintenance of tracks and other railway infrastructure.

Railways safety in India:

  • Safety has been one of the biggest concerns in the Indian Railways system.
  • While the number of accidents have gone down over the last few years, the number still remains over 100 accidents a year.
  • Railway accidents happen due to several reasons. An incorrect signal, a mistake or an act of negligence by one of its staff directly associated with the running of trains, deficiency in tracks, a rash act by one of the millions of road users, an irresponsible act by a passenger who carries inflammable goods. Added to these are the acts of sabotage.
[Ref: PIB]


Bilateral & International Relations

India rejects US solar claim at WTO, explores new defence

India hit back at the United States’ legal assault on its solar power policies at the World Trade Organisation.


  • India rejected a US legal claim and said it was exploring new protection of India’s own solar industry.

What’s the issue?

  • Since India enacted “Domestic Content Requirements (DCR)” under its National Solar Mission (NSM) in 2011, which requires solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured cells and modules, American solar exports to India have fallen by more than 90%.
  • The US had, in 2014, filed the complaint before the global trade body alleging discrimination against American firms.
  • In February 2016, the WTO panel found in favour of the US in a dispute challenging India’s “localisation” rules discriminating against imported solar cells and modules under India’s NSM.
  • Last month, the United States had triggered a new round of litigation at the WTO, arguing that India had failed to abide by a ruling that it had illegally discriminated against foreign suppliers of solar cells and modules. However, India said it had changed its rules to conform with the ruling and that a US claim for punitive trade sanctions was groundless.

About the National Solar Mission:

  • National Solar Mission, launched in 2010, aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible.
  • The Mission has set the ambitious target of deploying 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022 and aims at reducing the cost of solar power generation in the country.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]


Defence & Security Issues

Territorial Army battalion of ex-Armymen to clean Ganga

The Union Defence Ministry has sanctioned raising of Territorial Army (TA) battalion comprising ex-servicemen of Indian Army as part of its mission to clean the Ganga by 2020.


  • The battalion will be raised in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh as a Composite Ecological Task Force (CETF) battalion of TA for National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the nodal agency for cleaning Ganga.

About CETF battalion of TA:


  • The CETF TA battalion, to be commanded by a Colonel-rank officer, will have eight officers, 20 JCOs and around 500 other ranks on its roll.
  • For the task, it will only enroll ex-servicemen, who will be embodied under TA rules.


  • The government has allocated Rs 167 crore for the battalion under NMCG, the nodal agency for cleaning the Ganga.
  • The battalion will work on a book debit system with funding provided from the budget of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Functions of CETF TA

  • CETF TA will be responsible for monitoring ecological and environmental projects related to Ganga River, and also raise public awareness through campaigns.
  • It will patrol sensitive river areas for the protection of biodiversity, keep a tab on the river pollution levels, plant trees and check soil erosion.
  • It will assist government in enforcing pollution control measures, support local civil administration and police in managing the ghats, and provide support and assistance if and when there is flood or natural disaster in region.

About Territorial Army:

Territorial Army which comes under Defence Ministry is considered a second line of defence after the regular Army.

Territorial Army battalion iastoppers

  • Territorial Army is an organization where volunteers apply for a short period of training every year, so as to be ready to tackle any emergent situation or to serve for the defence of India.
  • The Territorial Army, also known as the ‘Terriers’, is part of a Regular Army and its present role is to relieve the Regular Army from static duties and assist civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the communities is affected or the security of the country is threatened and to provide units for Regulars Army as and when required.

Key facts:

Lt.Colonel Mohanlal iastoppers

  • India’s first Governor General Shri C Rajagopalachari formally inaugurated the Indian Territorial Army on October 9 in 1949.
  • So far 9 Ecological Task Force (ETF) battalions of TA have been raised to execute specific environment-related projects.
  • Actor Mohanlal, cricketers Kapil Dev and M.S. Dhoni are honorary members holding senior ranks in TA.

Are women eligible for Territorial Army?

At present, Territorial Army recruits only males [gainfully employed]. Due to this institutionalised discrimination, women are being deprived of their right to serve in the Territorial Army.

women eligible for Territorial Army iastoppers

  • However, the Delhi High Court observed that Women are eligible for recruitment and appointment to the Territorial Army under Section 6 of the Indian Territorial Army Act, 1948.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]


Science & Technology

India unveils Pratyush, its fastest supercomputer yet

India’s fastest and first multi-petaflops (PF) supercomputer named Pratyush (meaning Sun) was unveiled at Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).


Key Facts:

Supercomputer Pratyush will be national facility for improving weather and climate forecasts and services under umbrella of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

Top five Supercomputers iastoppers

  • Pratyush has 6.8 PF computational power installed at two MoES Institutes. 4.0 Peta Flops HPC facility at IITM, Pune and 2.8 Peta Flops facility at NCMRWF, Noida. (PF is a measure of a computer’s processing speed).
  • Pratyush is fourth fastest supercomputer in world dedicated for weather and climate research. It follows supercomputing machines in Japan, US and United Kingdom.
  • It will improve rankings of Indian supercomputer from 300s to 30s in Top500 list, a respected international tracker of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
  • India had till now occupied the eighth position with a capacity of 1 Petaflop. With the new system, it has now jumped over Korea (4.8 Petaflop), France (4.4 Petaflop) and China (2.6 Petaflop).

Potential applications of Pratyush:

  • It will help India with better forecasts in terms of monsoon, extreme events, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, air quality, lightning, fishing, hot and cold waves, flood and drought among others.
  • It will also help those dependent on agriculture, hydrology and power sectors.
[Ref: The Hindu]


SpaceX launches secretive Zuma mission

Private spaceflight company SpaceX launched the secret Zuma Mission for the United States government.


  • SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the secret Zuma spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

About Zuma mission:

  • Zuma mission is a secret mission in its nature or purpose and the agency behind it remains a mystery.
  • It has been manufactured by Northrup Grumman, Virginia-based aerospace and defence company.
  • The only thing that remains known to this mission is that it is for the US government and will be delivered to low-Earth orbit.

About SpaceX:


  • SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company headquartered in California, US.
  • It was founded in 2002 by Internet tycoon Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and former PayPal entrepreneur with the goal of creating the technologies to reduce space transportation costs and enable colonization of Mars.
[Ref: The Hindu]


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