DRAFT WITNESS PROTECTION BILL

CONTEXT

Recently Supreme Court directed all the States to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Need of witness protection:

  • The issue of witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher.

  • Even in Himanshu Singh Sabharwal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. 2008 case, the court observed that witnesses are the eyes and ears of the justice system and when a witness is threatened or killed or harassed, it is not only the witness who is threatened but also the fundamental right of a citizen to a free and fair trial is vindicated.

  • Similarly, in the Neelam Katara versus Union of India case, SC observed that the edifice of administration of justice is based upon witnesses coming forward and deposing without fear or favour.

  • If witnesses are intimidated or allured, the foundation of administration of justice gets weakened and even obliterated.

  • Supreme Court in National Human Rights Commission v. State of Gujarat had acknowledged the need of witness protection law.

What is witness protection?

  • Witness Protection  may  be  as simple  as  providing  a  police  escort  to  the Courtroom,  offering  temporary  residence  in  a  safe  house  or  using  modern communication   technology  for   recording   of testimony.

  • In other  more  complex  cases,  where  cooperation  by  a  witness  is critical  to  successful  prosecution  of  a    powerful  criminal  group,  extraordinary measures are required to ensure the witness’s safety.

Draft Witness Protection Scheme

  • The objective of this Scheme is to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.

  • The scheme shall extend to the whole of the India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

  • During the  course  of  investigation  or  trial  of  any  serious  offence,  an application  for  seeking  identity  protection  can  be  filed  in  the  prescribed  form before the Competent Authority.

  • The scheme has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception, and the states should start enforcing it:

  • Where the threat extends to life of witness or his family members and their normal way of living is affected for a substantial period, during investigation/trial or even thereafter.

  • Where the threat extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family members, only during the investigation process or trial.

  • Where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment or intimidation of the witness or his family member’s, reputation or property, during the investigation process.

  • Witness Protection Fund created for bearing the expenses incurred during the implementation of Witness Protection Order passed by the Competent Authority under this scheme.

  • Witness Protection Cell means a dedicated Cell of State/UT Police or Central Police Agencies assigned the duty to implement the witness protection order.

Others rights entitled to witness:

  • Right to give evidence anonymously

  • Right to protection from intimidation and harm

  • Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect of privacy

  • Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime

  • Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings

  • Right to transportation and lodging arrangements.

W itness protection scheme worldwide

Committees and commission till now:

  • India does not have a witness protection law as of now. The subject was addressed by several committees and commissions in past.

  • 14th Report of the Law Commission (1958) had addressed the inadequate arrangements for witnesses and recommended some travel allowances and facilities for witnesses. 

  • 4th National Police Commission (1980) report which said that while a prisoner suffers from some act, witness suffers for no fault of his own.

  • Law Commission in its 178th report, 2001 addressed the issue of preventing witnesses turning hostile. Recommended amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and insert a new section164-A which would to provide for recording of the statement of material witnesses in the presence of Magistrates.

  • Justice Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, law should be enacted for giving protection to the witnesses and their family members on the lines of the laws in USA.

Challenges with formulating draft

  • Since police and public order are State Subjectsunder the seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the state governments are responsible for witness protection also.

  • At the same time, the criminal law and criminal procedure are under concurrent list, so best the Central government can do is amend those laws to the extent of its jurisdiction.

  • Witness protection programme would incur huge expenditures also which shall be paid by the states.

YUVASAHAKAR SCHEME

CONTEXT

The NCDC has come up with this youth-friendly scheme for attracting youth to cooperative business ventures. It has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme. It helps in creating young entrepreneurs.

KEY FACTS

  • The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC.

  • It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.

  • The funding for the project will be up to 80 percent of the project cost for these special categories against 70 percent for others.

  • The scheme envisages 2 percent less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.

  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.

  • It would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.

  • The scheme is expected to meet the needs of youth.

WHAT IS NATIONAL COOPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION?

  • The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.

  • It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.

  • It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.

  • It has extended financial assistance of Rs 63702.61 crore during 2014-2018 (as on November 13, 2018), which is 220 percent more than Rs 19850.6 during 2010-14.

  • Being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, it has also initiated Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.

PARDONING POWER OF GOVERNOR

CONTEXT

Recently, Three AIADMK men, serving life sentences for setting ablaze a bus in Dharmapuri resulting in the death of three girls of the Tamil Nadu AgriculturalUniversity (TNAU), were granted remission and set free from the Vellore CentralPrison.

In this context:

  • The discretionary powers of the Governor are once again at the centre of a fresh controversy to decide on the remission of convicts of Dharmapuri incident.

  • Before this also, remission of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case created lot of controversy.

  • The Governor had earlier returned the file seeking remission of their life sentence for reconsideration by the government.

  • The State sent back the file sticking to its stand.

  • The convicts were originally awarded the death penalty by the trial court which was later upheld by the Supreme Court, but on a review petition their sentence was commuted to life imprisonment two years ago.

Governor’s pardoning power:

  • Article 161 of the Constitution provides the Governor with the power to remit or commute the sentence of any prisoner.

  • The Governor’s decision will be subject to judicial review by the constitutional courts.

  • Nevertheless, the immediate question is whether there is an independent, discretionary power vested with the Governor with regard to Articles 161 and 163 (Council of Ministers to aid and advise Governor).

Article 161

  • The Governor can grant Pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishments or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the state extends.

  • The Governor cannot Pardon a death Sentence. (The President has the power of Pardon a death Sentence).

  • The Governor cannot grant pardon, reprieve, respite, suspension, remission or commutation in respect to punishment or sentence by a court martial. However the President can do so.

Controversial Issues

  • The area being traversed in this case is alien to our Constitution, not having envisaged a situation where the Governor exercises his power under Article 161 against the express recommendation of the Council of Ministers.

  • Such a decision will result in a tragic rejection of the Constitution and its founding principles such as the federal structure, Cabinet responsibility and accountable governance.

  • This may also be interpreted as the Governor having lost faith in the State government with regard to the performance of its executive functions.

Judicial pronouncement in this regards:

  • In the view of the Supreme Court, speaking through a five-judge Bench in NabamRebia and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker (2016), the discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and entirely amenable to judicial review.

  • Even when the exercise of discretion is concerned, a seven-judge Bench of the apex court in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974) had held that the Governor may do so only in harmony with his Council of Ministers.

  • Maru Ram case the apex court has held that the power of pardon cannot be exercised by the governor arbitrarily –Governor is bound by the advice of the council of ministers.

  • In Kehar Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court has held that while exercising his power of pardon, the governor can scrutinize the evidence recorded by the court and act accordingly.

Conclusion:

Thus, there are at least three constitution bench decisions of the Supreme Court, which have held that the governor must act on the advice of the council of ministers. The three convicts must, therefore, be set free.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDIA

CONTEXT

  • India voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the use of death penalty, saying it goes against the statutory law of the country where an execution is carried out in the “rarest of rare” cases.

  • The Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty for three convicts in the Nirbhaya rape-murder case.

  • President signed Ordinance to provide death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years in wake of Kathua rape case.

Capital punishment

As India reattired in UNGA, India awards death penalty in rarest of rare cases , and proper safeguards are already in place to check it. The most cited reason for death penalty is that it acts as a deterrent, thus preventing further heinous crimes.

Legal/historical context

Article 21 and subsequently various provisions of IPC, legislations of GOI allow capital punishment in India.

  • In Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab (1980) Honorable Supreme Court laid that Death penalty can be given in rarest of rare cases.

  • In Mithu vs. State of Punjab (1983) SC struck down Section 303 in IPC, thus making mandatory Death penalty Unconstitutional.

  • The Law Commission of India in its 262nd report on the issue of ‘Death Penalty’ recommended abolition of Death Penalty except in cases of Terrorism related offences.

L aw commission report:

  • As cited in 262nd report by The Law commission, Death penalty acts as a deterrent is a myth and as in more than 140 countries across the globe death penalty is abolished.

  • About 30% of death penalties are acquitted in higher courts, which present a worrying sign , given the slow pace of Indian Judicial system. Supreme Court’s data thus shows that trial courts erroneously impose the death penalty in 95.7% cases and 93.5% of those sentenced to death for terror offences are religious minorities or Dalits.

  • The data also showed that nearly 74% of convicts were economically vulnerable.

Way Forward

  • India needs to fast track Death penalty cases so that wrongly penalised citizens don’t languish in jails.

  • State must not act in as a Knee jerk response. as it’s often noted that death penalty to Rape convicts doesn’t do much for the victim , as the victim at times do not receive proper treatment and post-care.

  • Proper procedure and sensitivity must be developed in lower courts so as to reduce fictitious cases and remove bias etc. in awarding death penalty.

US AGREES TO GRANT INDIA WAIVER FROM IRAN OIL SANCTIONS

CONTEXT

The US agreed in giving waiver to India and seven other countries from Iran oil sanctions come as a relief for the Indian refiners struggling because of the high crude oil price.

Key highlights

  • The United States is announcing the re-imposition of the second batch of penalties on November 5 that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.

  • The sanction penalizes countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign companies that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities.

  • India, which imports over 17 per cent of its oil from Iran, is among the eight countries granted a temporary exemption, US announced on Monday. The other countries are China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

  • The waivers are temporary, and the US will expect countries to keep cutting Iranian oil imports in the months ahead.

Sanctions by US

  • The US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA reinstates two sets of sanctions. The first set of sanction came into effect August 7, which included restrictions on:

    • Iran’s purchase of U.S. currency

    • Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals

    • Sale to Iran of auto parts, commercial passenger aircraft, and related parts and services

  • The second set of sanctions, which will come into force on November 4, restricts sales of oil and petrochemical products from Iran.

  • These sanctions will remain until Iran meets demands such as sending support for terrorism, ending military engagement in Syria and halting its nuclear and ballistic missile development completely.

Joint comprehensive plan of action:

  • JCPA was a pact aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear activities, between five annexes reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015. 

  • In May this year, the United States (US) ended the participation of the US in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA).

Terms given in lieu of sanctions

  • Countries like India, if granted exemption, would be asked to bring down oil imports from Iran to zero in six months.

  • Countries that get waivers under the revived sanctions must pay for the oil into escrow accounts in their local currency. 

  • Money won’t directly go to Iran, which can only use it to buy food, medicine or other non-sanctioned goods from its crude customers. 

How sanctions impact India?

  • India being pushed by the US to restrict its monthly purchase to 1.25 million tonnes or 15 million tonnes a year.

  • INDIA’S ENGANGEMENT IN OTHERS PROJECT

    • Apart from energy security, there are also issues of connectivity and trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    • India is committed to develop Chabahar Port. The port will expand Afghanistan’s options and reduce its dependence on transit trade through Pakistan. 

    • The project has been welcomed by all the Central Asian countries. 

    • The expansion of Chabahar Port is in no way linked to Iran’s oil exports, which go through the Kharg terminal in the Gulf. The port does not add much to Iran’s revenue; it currently handles less than 1.5% of Iran’s total maritime trade.

    • India also has interest in International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC), which runs through Iran.

    • Indian exports mostly consist of agricultural commodities, and pharmaceuticals.

    • India does not export weapons or dual use items to Iran.

    India citing the adverse impact on its economy and the inflationary impact it would have.

  • India and Iran are working on a rupee-based payment arrangement with UCO Bank and Bank Pasargad.

  • During the previous sanctions regime, India adopted a barter-like scheme to buy oil from Iran while the Middle Eastern country used rupees to import goods from India.

How sanctions impact Iran and oil trade?

  • Oil is Iran’s main source of income and is also the third-largest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). 

  • US has managed to reduce Iran’s oil exports from 2.7 million to 1.6 million barrels a month, according to internal US estimates.

  • Sanctions also come at a time when Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis.

  • The economic chaos prompted mass anti-government protests.

Way ahead

  • At present, India and Iran still have to figure out shipping and insurance details for a smooth trade between two countries. It is likely that India and Iran will stick to the existing mechanism under which 55 percent of payment is made in euros and 45 percent in the rupee.

  • Currently, Iran provides its tankers as well as insurance for oil cargo to India. The US sanctions have driven away Indian as well as international shippers and insures from extending their services for Iranian oil imports.

TALIBAN DIALOGUE

CONTEXT

  • Russia has quietly invited a group of senior Afghan politicians to talks with the Talibanin Moscow, bypassing President Ashraf Ghani’s government in a move that has angered officials in Kabul who say it could muddle the U.S.-backed peace process.

  • The talks, known as the “Moscow format” will include a “high-level” delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan’s “High Peace Council”, along with representatives of 12 countries, and will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table with the Taliban representatives based in Doha.

Background

  • The Taliban is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan which is at present waging war within that country.

  • It was founded in 1994 and from 1996 to 2001, it was governing the country enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic or Sharia law.

  • Many leading Muslims as well as much of the international community were highly critical of the Taliban government and ways.

  • Taliban then ruled it after 1996 as a totalitarian regime till it was removed by NATO-led coalition in 2001 forming a new democratically elected government political structure.

  • Hamid Karzai became the first ever democratically elected head of state in 2004 and the current President is Ashraf Ghani, since 29 September 2014.

  • Even after formation of a democratically elected government and removal of Taliban from power in Afghanistan, it still faces several internal issues and multipronged attacks by groups like Taliban and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

  • Taliban still controls very large parts of Afghanistan and insurgency and terrorist forces are still strong in the nation. The control of government is limited only to urban areas and highways in reality.

  • US led NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces have been in Afghanistan in the longest conflict engagement since World War II. They are trying to establish a Government in Afghanistan to a substantial extent and there is a ‘Rule of Law’.

P eace talks at glance

India’s response

  • India announced it would participate at a “non-official” level. Two former senior diplomats will attend talks on the Afghanistan peace process.

  • India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country. 

  • India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Government of Afghanistan.

India’s significant shift

  • India has in the past declined to participate in the Moscow format with the Taliban unless the Afghan government participated.

  • India preferred a direct process between the Ghani government and the Taliban, but since that is not possible, a regional process like this one is the next best option.

Role of India in Afghanistan:

  • India has focused on development of infrastructure and military aid in Afghanistan. India has aided the overthrow of Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.

  • India wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan and has worked on projects like Salma Dam.

  • India is also investing in the expansion of Chabahar port in Southeastern Iran, which will improve its connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Way ahead

  • The Moscow talks underline the increasingly active role Russia is playing in Afghanistan, decades after Soviet forces withdrew from the country, with business investment plans, diplomatic and cultural outreach, and small military support for the central government.

  • Peace negotiations also need to involve regional powers, most notably Russia and China as well as neighbors including Iran to make the negotiation process more holistic and consensus-based.

SEZ POLICY

CONTEXT

How a SEZ is created?

  • There is a well – defined approval mechanism for SEZ. The developer submits the proposal for establishment of SEZ to the concerned State Government.

  • The net worth of the applicant is to be Rs. 50 crore minimum and investment criterion of Rs. 250 Crore for sector specific SEZ. Net worth for Multiproduct SEZ was fixed Rs. 250 Crore and investment of ` 1000 Crore.

Other notable features:

  • The units must become net foreign exchange earners within 3 years

  • SEZ are allowed manufacturing, trading and service activities.

  • Full freedom for subcontracting.

  • The domestic sales from the SEZ are subject to full custom duties and import policy is in force, when they sell their produce to domestic markets.

  • There was no routine examination by the custom authorities.

  • The corporation in SEZs will not have to pay any income tax on their profits for the first five years and only 50% of the tax for 2 more years thereafter.

  • If half of the profit is reinvested in the corporation, the concession of 50% tax is extendable for next 3 years.

  • For SEZ developers, the raw material from cement to steel to electrical parts are subject to zero tax and duty.

  • For the SEZ, the Government acquires vast land tracts and gives to the developers. The basic condition involves that 25% of the area of the SEZ must be used only for export related activities. Rest 75% area can be used for economic and social infrastructure. However, all SEZ benefits are applicable over the entire SEZ area.

  • There were provisions for sector specific SEZs and Multiproduct SEZs.

  • The Sector specific SEZ may have 7500 houses, hotels with 100 rooms, 25 bed hospital, schools and other institutions, a multiplex in 50000 sq. meters.

  • Multiproduct SEZ are allowed to build 25000 houses. 250 room hotel and 100 bed hospital along with a multiplex with 2 lakh sq. meters.

Baba Kalyani committee for SEZ reforms has submitted report to the govt.

BACKGROUND

  • The commerce ministry has set up a committee headed by Bharat Forge chairman Baba Kalyani to make its Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules after the US challenged India’s export subsidy program at the multilateral trade body.

  • The committee has been set up to encourage manufacturing and the services sector and lead to maximising utilisation of vacant land in SEZs

MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE

  • Reincarnation of SEZs in India as ‘Employment and Economic Enclaves (3Es)’.

  • Delinking fiscal incentives from exports and linking them to investments made and employment generated.

  • Flexibility to enable 3E units to seamlessly support businesses outside the zones.

  • Development of last mile and first mile connectivity infrastructure.

  • Supply of power directly to units from IPPs at competitive rates.

  • Fast-tracking various approvals through online application process.

  • Integrating MSMEs with the 3Es and giving additional incentives to zones focusing on priority industries.

  • For services in SEZs, tax benefits must be retained including extension of sunset clause, lowering taxes for identified strategic services and allowing supplies to domestic market in Indian currency to bring parity between goods and services.

WHAT IS SEZ?

  • A SEZ is a designated duty free enclave to be treated as foreign territory for the purpose of trade operations and duties and tariffs.

  • The main objectives of the SEZ Act are:

    • Generation of additional economic activity;

    • Promotion of exports of goods and services;

    • Promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources;

    • Creation of employment opportunities;

    • Development of infrastructure facilities;

ISSUES WITH SEZ

  • According to last year’s CAG report,about 52% of the land allotted to SEZ’s is lying idle. Lack of flexibility to utilise land in SEZs for different sectors.

  • Existence of multiple models of economic zones such as SEZ, Coastal Economic Zone, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, National Investment and Manufacturing Zone, food park and textile park .

  • Only about 1/3rd of the approved SEZ’s are in operation today.

  • About 57% of the projects are in IT and IT enabled services with manufacturing projects constituting only about 10%.Thus, SEZ’s have failed to attract investment and create employment in the high end manufacturing.

  • There has been no development of the backward areas as envisaged under the policy.

  • The tax incentives provided to the SEZ’s have been offset by 20% MAT and 20% DDT.

  • A large number of FTA’s have been signed by the Government with other countries which acts as disincentive for global players to set up their bases in Indian SEZ’s due to high import duties.

  • The issue of land grab by Real estate industry.

INDIA’S FIRST MULTI MODAL TERMINAL

WHAT IS IWAI AND WHERE IS IWAI LOCATED?

  • Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India.

  • Mandate: building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.

  • Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.

CONTEXT

PM Modi inaugrated India’s first multi modal terminal on National Waterway-1 at Varanasi.

BACKGROUND

  • It is part of larger Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) of IWAI that aims to develop the stretch between Varanasi to Haldia (West Bengal) for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1500-2000 tonnes.

  • The JMVP is being implemented with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank, at an estimated cost of Rs. 5,369 crores on a 50:50 sharing basis between Government of India and the World Bank.

WHAT IS JAL MARG VIKAS PROJECT?

  • It aims to enable commercial navigation of vessels on NW-1.

  • It includes development of fairway, multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj, two inter-modal terminals, five roll-on-roll-off (Ro-Ro) terminal pairs, modern River Information System (RIS), strong river navigation.

  • Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, construction of navigational lock at Farakka.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF JAL MARG VIKAS PROJECT (JMVP)?

  • The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country and reduce traffic burden and congestion on roads and railways.

  • JMVP will provide an alternative mode of transport

  • This transport mode will be environment friendly and cost-effective.

  • The JMVP will help in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.

  • Huge employment generation due to Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids.

WHAT IS NATIONAL WATERWAY-1?

  • The National Waterway-1 (NW-1) or Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system is located in India and runs from Haldia (Sagar) to Allahabad across the Ganges, Bhagirathi and Hooghly river systems.

  • The National Waterway-1 is 1,620 km long and is longest waterway in India.

HOW MANY NATIONAL WATERWAYS ARE THERE IN INDIA?

  • There are 111 officially notified Inland National Waterways (NWs) in India as per The National Waterways Act, 2016.

  • Out of the 111 NWs, 106 were created in 2016.

    • NW-1:Allahabad- Haldia stretch of the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly Rivers

    • NW-2: Sadiya-Dhubri stretch of Brahmaputra River

    • NW-3: Kollam-Kozhikode stretch of West Coast Canal and Champakara canal and Udyogmandal canal

    • NW-4:

      • Kakinada-Puducherry stretch of canals and the Kaluvelly Tank.

      • Nashik-Bhadrachalam-Rajahmundry stretch of Godavari River.

      • The bridge near village Galagali-Wazirabad-Vijayawada stretch of Krishna River.

    • NW-5:

      • Talcher-Dhamra stretch of Brahmani River-Kharsua River-Tantighai River-Pandua Nala-Dudhei Nala-Kani Dhamra River.

      • Geonkhali-Charbatia stretch of East Coast Canal.

      • Harbatia-Dhamra stretch of Matai River and Mahanadi Delta Rivers

ADVANCED MOTOR FUELS TECHNOLOGY COLLABORATION PROGRAMME (AMF-TCP)

National Policy on Biofuels 2018

  • The policy categorised biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” (bioethanol and biodiesel) and “Advanced Biofuels” (second generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Sold Waste to drop in fuels, Third Generation biofuels etc).

  • It also expanded the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, cassava etc.

  • The policy will help to reduce the import dependency, help to achieve cleaner environment, help to better manage municipal solid waste, improve rural infrastructure and also help to generate employment.

CONTEXT

Recently, it was reported that India will be joining Advanced Motor Fuels Technology Collaboration Programme as a member.

Background

  • During UrjaSangam 2015 PM had directed to reduce the import in energy sector by at least 10% by 2022.

  • Indian government had also recently introduced the National Policy on Biofuels-2018 which focusses on giving impetus to R&D in field of advanced biofuels such as 2G Ethanol, Bio-CNG, bio-methanol, Drop-in fuels, DME etc.

  • Furthering its goal of introducing alternate and advanced motor fuels, India has decided to join AMF TCP as member.

  • Significance of joining AMF TCP

    • It will facilitate market introduction of Advanced motor fuels and alternate fuels with an aim to bring down emissions and achieve higher fuel efficiency in transport sector.

    • It will provide an opportunity for fuel analysis and reduction of R&D cost as the costs and technical assistance are pooled.

    • Duplication of efforts is avoided and national Research and Development capabilities will be strengthened

About AMF TCP

  • These are multilateral technology initiatives under the International Energy Agency (IEA) that encourage technology-related activities that support energy security, economic growth and environmental protection.

  • It provides an international platform for co-operation to promote cleaner and more efficient fuels and vehicle technologies through-

    • Pooling resources and information on an international level

    • Identifying and addressing technology gaps and barriers to deployments

    • Performing cooperative research on advanced motor fuels

    • Demonstrating advanced motor fuels and related vehicle and after-treatment technologies

    • Aggregating data and deriving key recommendations for decision makers within governments, municipalities, and industry

  • The vision of AMF-TCP is
    • a sustainable transportation system that uses advanced, alternative and renewable fuels

    • renewable fuels

    • reduced emission of GHGs and air contaminants

    • meet the needs of personal mobility and the movement of goods on a local and global scale

  • India had the status of ‘Association’ since 30th March 2017. Other member countries of AMF TCP are USA, China, Japan, Canada, Chile, Israel, Germany, Austria etc.

ECB NORMS FOR INFRA COMPANIES RELAXED

CONTEXT

Recently, RBI relaxed the ECB norms for infra companies in consultation with Government.

More from the news

  • Details of the liberalised ECB norms and tweaked hedging provisions are as follows –

    • Average Maturity – The average maturity requirement for the ECBs in the infrastructure space to 3 years from 5 years irrespective of the amount of borrowing.

    • Hedging Requirement – The average maturity requirement for exemption from mandatory requirement for ECB borrower has been reduced to 5 years from the earlier 10 years. The ECBs issued with minimum average maturity of 3 to 5 years in the infrastructure space will have to comply with 100% mandatory hedging.

  • The notification also clarified that ECBs raised prior to the date of notification will not be required to mandatorily roll-over their existing hedges.
  • RBI 26th November 2018 circular also reduced the mandatory hedge cover from 100% to 70% for ECBs raised under Track 1 of the ECB framework for a maturity period between 3 to 5 years.

  • The Circular clarifies that the ECBs raised prior to this Circular will be required to mandatorily roll-over their existing hedges only to the extent of 70% of outstanding ECB exposure.

  • Significance

    • It will also encourage the efforts of increasing the capital flow in the backdrop of widening current account deficit.

    • These measures will also make it cheaper for the Indian companies and banks to avail the debt market overseas.

    • Increase in the inflow of ECBs would also help to ease the pressure on the rupee-dollar exchange rate

What is External Commercial Borrowing?

  • External Commercial Borrowing (ECBs) are commercial loans raised by eligible Indian resident entities from non-resident entities. Most of these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions.

  • ECBs are considered as a source of finance to expand the existing capacity of the Indian corporates and finance new investment ventures to promote sound economic growth.

  • The framework for raising loans through ECBs comprise the following three tracks –

    • Track 1 – Medium term foreign currency denominated ECB with minimum average maturity of 3/5 years.

    • Track 2 – Long term foreign currency denominated ECB with minimum average maturity of 10 years.

    • Track 3 – Indian Rupee (INR) denominated ECB with minimum average maturity of 3/5 years.

  • The various types of ECBs which can be raised are loans including bank loans, Securitized instruments (e.g. floating rate notes and fixed rate bonds, etc.), Buyers’ credit, Suppliers’ credit, Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs), Financial Lease etc.
  • ECBs are governed under the FEMA guidelines. ECBs can be assessed under two routes i.e. Automatic route and approval route.

  • Under the automatic route the cases are examined by the Authorised Dealer Category-I (AD Category-I) banks. Under the approval route, the prospective borrowers are required to send their requests to the RBI through their ADs for examination.

  • Advantages of ECBs

    • Cost of raising ECBs is much lower than that of domestic borrowings

    • Global financial market id much larger source of credit.

    • Foreign lenders provide far more flexibility in terms of providing security for ECBs

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM TO PROMOTE INNOVATION & RESEARCH IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY (INSPIRE) – 2018

CONTEXT

Recently, INSPIRE 2018 was inaugurated by the Power Minister.

About INSPIRE 2018

Related News

#InnovateToINSPIRE challenge

  • As a run-up to the INSPIRE 2018, #InnovateToINSPIRE challenge was also organised by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) and World Resources Institute (WRI).

  • Under the challenge entries were invited for sustainable and scalable solutions for seven specific challenges such as grid management, e-Mobility, energy efficient technologies and financial instruments.

Energy Efficiency Resolving Fund

  • EESL and Asian Development Bank signed an agreement during the INSPIRE 2018 for grant from Global Environment Facility of 13 million USD for establishing an Energy Efficiency Resolving Fund (EERF).

  • The Fund aims to expand and sustain investments in the energy efficiency market in India, build market diversification, and scale up existing technologies.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL)

  • It is under the administration of Ministry of Power. It works towards mainstreaming energy efficiency.

  • EESL aims to create market access for efficient and future-ready transformative solutions that create a win-win situation for every stakeholder.

  • It is drive by – Enabling more – more transparency, more transformation and more innovation.

  • EESL has also begun its operation in UK, South Asia and South-East Asia.

  • INSPIRE 2018 was a three-day symposium. It has been organised in collaboration with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI).

  • The aim of INSPIRE 2018 was to bring to the forefront global experiences and best implementation practices, and put the spotlight on technology, policy and financing innovation and cutting-edge research.

  • It brought together policy-makers, influencers, innovators, government agencies, business leaders and other stakeholders to deliberate on key energy policies, market transformation strategies, and sustainable business models that will help leverage the full potential of energy efficiency and bring its multiple co-benefits to the fore.

  • It has been held in the backdrop of the success of the first INSPIRE held in 2017. INSPIRE 2017 was attended by over 300 delegates from government, non-government, international agencies, multi-lateral development banks and bilateral development partners.

BHUDAAR PORTAL

CONTEXT

Andhra Pradesh government recently launched a web portal called “ Bhudaar” , which allows the people to avail land records with unique identification numbers similar like Aadhar number.

KEY DETAILS

  • It’s 11 digit unique identification code given to each agriculture & rural- urban property.

  • This will allow people to get the details of their land record online with ease.

  • Temporary numbers given to the land under some dispute and litigations.

  • The unique ID for permanent Bhudaar will start with 28 and if it is a government land, 28 is followed by 00.

  • There are two types of Bhudaar cards :

    • e- Bhudaar

    • M- bhudaar– in this one can download mobile application on mobile.

  • Initially it will provide the transaction history for past 12 years later on for the last 15 years.
  • A geo-referenced facility would be available which enable the people to view the details of their land through satellite mapping.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • This step will inculcate transparency in the administration of the land records, which is one of the core components of good governance and perfect example of e- governance.

  • The integration of verified and updated land records will end litigation and corruption in land records and prevent tampering and eventually fast track the land related disputes.

  • It will bring coordination and cooperation among the different departments as 8 departments dealing with land records are participating in Bhuseva including Revenue, Panchayat Raj, Municipal Administration, Registration, Survey and Settlement, Forest, Endowments and Wakf.

  •  It would reduce construction timelines and overall cost for the developer, the benefits of which can be transferred to consumer making property prices more attractive.

EASE OF DOING BUSINESS

CONTEXT

Recently, Ease of Doing Business report was launched by World Bank.

FROM THE NEWS

The distance to frontier score captures the gap between an economy’s current performance and the best practice across the entire sample of 41 indicators across 10 Doing Business indicator sets.

  • India has been one of the biggest ‘improvers’ in the 2019 study, with its rank shooting up from 100 to 77 last year, among 190 countries.

  • Its rank crept up from 142 to 77 in the five years from 2015 to 2019.

  • India has become top ranked country in South Asia for the first time and 3rd among BRICS nations.

What is Ease of Doing Business Index?

  • Ease of doing business Index has been developed by the World Bank and it uses 11 indicator sets to measure aspects of business regulation that matter for entrepreneurship.

How are the Ease of Doing Business rankings calculated?

T he Ease of Doing business rankings are calculated on the basis of the Distance to Frontier (DTF) score on the basis of 10 parameters and their sub-parameters:

Issues with EODB

  • In large economies, only two cities are taken for consideration under the rankings. In India, it is done for Delhi and Mumbai. Thus, it does not give a true reflection of the economy.

  • It only measures the policy side i.e. government efforts and ignores market forces and other factors like human resource.

  • The Ease of Business Report in India does not cover Proprietary and Partnership Firms. Despite the fact that proprietary firms dominates small business space, while EODB covers only companies.

  • A better indicator will come by WB which is called as Enterprise Survey which actually goes into details how enterprises in different part of the country perform.

  • Methodology challenge- expand the coverage of the index to make it more real. The kind of laws the index looks at are at state level laws and not national laws. So more importance has to be given to state level challenges.

Sectors where India improved

  • Jump in overall Indian Ranking was driven by improvements in 2 parameters:

    • securing construction permits (181 to 52) and

    • Trading across the borders(146 to 80).

  • India’s score on all 10 parameters except “paying taxes” improved.
  • Reforms: enforcement of single window clearance in Delhi & online building permit system in Mumbai helped streamline construction permit process.

Areas India is yet to improve

  • India ranks low on total of 5 parameters ( starting business, enforcing contract, registering property, paying tax, insolvency) and in some areas its rank declined.

  • For e.g. India’s score remains dismal on registering property, where it ranks 166. While it takes 69 days to register a piece of property in India, in New Zealand this can be done in a single day.

  • Another major bottleneck in India is regarding “paying taxes” (declined to 121 from 119).While many Indian businesses make about 13 tax payments in a year (giving away as much as 53 per cent of their profits), those in businessmen in Hong Kong make just three payments a year.

  • India’s rank dropped in “insolvency” as well.

Reforms needed

  • India has significant room for improvisation in almost all the sub-indices. India fares among the best in access to credit in the South Asian region.

  • Access to credit should be assured for small businesses and rural entrepreneurs through penetration of formal banking channels into rural areas.

  • Effective implementation of reforms like GST, Insolvency and Bankruptcy code is needed. The limit of 180 days prescribed in Insolvency and Bankruptcy code should be pertained to.

  • Governments should be proactive in obtaining regular feedback about the implementation and initiating the changes accordingly.

  • States can work towards providing a robust online system for registering property.

  • Digitizing land records, improving titling and streamlining procedures for transfer of property should be taken up.

  • Foreign trade needs to be boosted by cutting red tape and reducing transaction costs.eg; trade facilitation, minimal physical verification.

  • Fast track commercial courts, paper-less courts need to be set up to speed up the judicial processes.

  • Create awareness about the reforms and procedures of institutional arbitration.

  • The government’s assessment of states for implementation of Business

  • Reforms Action Plan is a step in the right direction and helps to reinforce the idea of competitive federalism.

Conclusion

A high ranking in one year is not the end in itself. To reach the target of top 50 in the rankings, India needs to be more vigilant in its approach. Reforms should not be restricted to Mumbai and Delhi as this would improve the ranking on Ease of Doing Business Index but doesn’t account for the actual ground picture of the whole country.

GUIDELINES FOR ANTIBIOTICS’ JUDICIOUS USE

CONTEXT

  • Irrational prescription and use of broad- spectrum antibiotics, poor regulations of sale of antibiotics are becoming prevalent factors which driving AMR (anti-microbial resistance) in the country.

  • In this regards ICMR released Antimicrobial Stewardship Guidelines to advise hospitals in setting up Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs (AMSP) for this purpose.

  • AMR is one of the major public health problems as in India infectious disease burden is highest in the world.

WHAT IS ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE?

According to WHO, Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

ANTIMICROBIAL STEWARDSHIP PROGRAMMES (AMSP)

  • This is hospital-based program dedicated to improving antibiotic use. It enhances the quality of heath care of patients and safety through increased infection cure rates, reducing treatment failures and increasing the frequency of correct prescription for therapy and prophylaxis.

  • As antimicrobial resistance is major public health challenge and to curb this, there is urgent need to improve antibiotic use in hospitals.

  • AMS guidelines aims to provide guidance in setting up structure and processes of AMSP in healthcare institutions, discuss essential elements of antimicrobial stewardship and diagnostic stewardship and provide information on the tools that can be used to measure progress.

CHALLENGES POSED BY AMR

  • Anti-microbial resistance causes difficulty in controlling the diseases in the community and ineffective delivery of health care services.

  • It also increases out of pocket expenditure on health care specially on medicines as high order drugs or second line expensive antibiotics are prescribed which is pushing treatment cost high. Annual healthcare cost due to antibiotics resistance is also estimated to be very high.

  • Neonates and elderly both are prone to infections and are vulnerable.

  • WHO published list of ‘priority pathogens’, also called superbugs which pose the greatest threat to the human health.

  • Antibiotic resistance is emerging as the threat to successful treatment of infectious diseases, organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy and major surgeries.

  • Excessive use of antibiotics in bovines or poultry can cause further complication in the later food chain. For example – of tested birds destined for meat consumption, 87% had super germs based on study published in journal environment health perspectives.

  • It will pose socio-economic problems in the nation like more budgetary requirement goes to the health care and this will eventually hamper the country growth both in respect of materialistic and social values.

  • Recently scientists found that gut bacteria are reservoir of drug resistance genes which, when transferred to disease-causing bacteria, may make them untreatable.

FACTORS CAUSING AMR IN INDIA

  • Antibiotic Consumption: Inappropriate consumption of broad spectrum (last resort) of antibiotics is high because of changing prescription practice in healthcare system due to nonavailability of narrow spectrum of antibiotics.

  • Social Factor: inappropriate antibiotic use among the general public like

  • Self-medication to avoid financial burden

  • Doctors may perceive that they are compelled to give antibiotics as patients come with preconceived idea of quick relief.

  • Nexus between doctors and pharmaceutical companies put pressure on doctors and pharmacists to prescribe new antibiotics.

  • Antibiotics Consumption in Food-Animals: Use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals and poultry is a common practice and later it evolves in food chain.

  • Poor Sanitation: The large proportion of sewage is disposed untreated into receiving water bodies, leading to gross contamination of rivers with antibiotic residues, antibiotic-resistant organisms.

OTHER INITIATIVES TO CURB MENACE

  • To prevent the Over the counter sales of antibiotics, central drug standard control organization (CDSO) prohibits medical stores from selling 24 key antibiotics without doctor’s prescription.

  • India’s Red Line campaign – which demands that prescription-only antibiotics be marked with a red line, to discourage the over-the-counter sale of antibiotics– is a step forward.

  • National Health Policy, 2017, terms antimicrobial resistance as one of the key healthcare issues and prioritizes development of guidelines regarding antibiotic use and check on restricting the growth of antibiotics.

  • The National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (NAP-AMR) 2017 has assigned coordinated tasks to multiple government agencies involving health, education, environment, and livestock to change prescription practices and consumer behavior and to scale up infection control and antimicrobial surveillance.

  • FSSAI has set certain guidelines limiting the antibiotics in food products such as fish and honey.

WAY AHEAD

  • A robust surveillance network is fundamental to monitor resistance patterns in pathogens of public health importance through a chain of regional laboratories that report data to a central system.

  • Audits of antibiotic use in public and private health facilities and in the community can provide information on the impact on resistance and reinforce the need for initiatives to curb inappropriate use.

  • AMR research in India is need of the hour.

PRADHAN MANTRI ROJGAR PROTSAHAN (PMRPY)

CONTEXT

The Government has targeted 10 million jobs by March 2019 under the scheme and has already achieved 8.5 million jobs now.

About the Scheme

  • The Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY) is a scheme to incentivise employers registered with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) for job creation.

  • The Government will pay 8.33% contribution of employers to the Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) in respect of new employees having a new Universal Account Number (UAN).

  • For the textile (apparel) sector, the Government will also be paying the 3.67% Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution of the eligible employer for these new employees.

  • Implemented by: Union Ministry of Labour and Employment

  • Eligibility: The PMRPY scheme is aimed for workers earning a salary below Rs. 15,000/- per month. It is applicable for unemployed persons that are semi-skilled and unskilled.

  • Benefit: The Government will be paying the 12% (increased from 8.33%) contribution of employers to the Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) in respect of new employees having a new Universal Account Number (UAN). The Government has extended the programme to all the sectors.

  • Advantages:

    • The employer is incentivised for increasing the employment.

    • The employees will reap the benefits of social security schemes available under the organized sector.

SAFE CITY PROJECT

CONTEXT

The safe city project is being implemented by the Uttar Pradesh police in Lucknow.

About the Project

  • The project aims to enhance safety of cities with comprehensive view of women safety. Various states adopt a mix of solutions based on their requirements.

  • Features:

    • Establishing Integrated Smart Control Room.

    • Establishing Pink Out-posts administered by Women police so that women feel at ease to file complaints.

    • Creation of Pink Patrols under Women police.

    • Establishing Women Help Desks in all Police Stations with Counsellors.

    • Strengthening the existing Asha Jyoti Kendras.

    • Providing Safety measures in buses and including Cameras in them.

    • Better Street Lighting in busy areas.

    • Establishing Pink toilets.

    • Creation of Emergency number ‘112’ for Women.

    • G ender sensitizing programmes and capacity building in collaboration with the community and civil society organizations.

  • Implemented by: Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, Union Ministry of Urban Development, Union Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, respective municipal and police commissioners of the cities in co-ordination with the civil society organisations.

  • Cities under the project: Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Lucknow.

  • Fund allocation: Nirbhaya Fund scheme

What is Malaria?

  • Malaria is a Vector borne disease which is spread through the bite of female anopheles mosquito.

  • Malaria is caused by protozoan parasite called Plasmodia.

WORLD MALARIA REPORT 2018

CONTEXT

Recently World Malaria Report was released by WHO.

ABOUT THE REPORT AND FINDINGS

  • The World Malaria Report is an annual report which provides a comprehensive update on global and regional malaria data and trends.

    Malaria Related Anaemia

    This year’s report includes a section on malaria-related anaemia, a condition that, left untreated, can result in death, especially among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children aged under 5 years.

    Despite its importance as a direct and indirect consequence of malaria, the prevalence of anaemia among populations vulnerable to the disease has not been reported consistently as a metric of malaria transmission and burden.

    Data from household surveys conducted in 16 high-burden African countries between 2015 and 2017 show that, among children aged under 5 years, the prevalence of any anaemia was 61%, mild anaemia 25%, moderate anaemia 33% and severe anaemia 3%.

  • The latest report tracks tracks investments in malaria programmes and research as well as progress across all intervention areas: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance.

  • The report is based on information received from national malaria control programmes and other partners in endemic countries; most of the data presented is from 2017.

  • Findings –

    • In 2017, an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide as compared to 217 million cases in 2016.

    • Although there were an estimated 20 million fewer malaria cases in 2017 than in 2010, data for the period 2015–2017 highlight that no significant progress in reducing global malaria cases was made in this timeframe.

    • The WHO’s 2018 report on malaria shows that for the second consecutive year, there is a plateauing in numbers of people affected by malaria.

    • Fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 80% of the global malaria burden. Five countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), Mozambique (5%), India (4%) and Uganda (4%).

    • In 2017, there were an estimated 435 000 deaths from malaria globally, compared with 451, 000 estimated deaths in 2016, and 607,000 in 2010.

ALLIED AND HEALTHCARE COUNCIL OF INDIA

CONTEXT

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the establishment of an Allied and Healthcare Council of India and corresponding State Allied and Healthcare Councils which will play the role of standard-setters and facilitators for professions of Allied and Healthcare.

More about it

  • It will provide employment opportunities to millions of youth in the country and will help standardize allied healthcare.

  • the Central and State Allied and Healthcare Councils will include 15 major professional categories including 53 professions in Allied and Healthcare streams

  • Professional Advisory Bodies under Central and State Councils will examine issues in detail and provide recommendations relating to specific recognized categories.

  • Allied and Healthcare Professionals (A&HPs) constitute an important element of the health human resource network, and skilled and efficient Allied and Healthcare Professionals (A&HPs) can reduce the cost of care and dramatically improve the accessibility to quality driven healthcare services.

  • This legislation will bring all existing allied and healthcare professionals on board within a few years from the date of establishment of the Council.

  • This will provide an opportunity to create qualified, highly skilled and competent manpower in healthcare and enable professionalism of the allied and healthcare workforce.

  • This will pave the way for high quality multi-disciplinary care in line with the vision of Ayushman Bharat.

SRI LANKAN FROGMOUTH

CONTEXT

Recently, rare bird Sri Lankan Frogmouth was sighted in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary of Western Ghats.

More from the news

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS)

  • CWS is a unique protected area which is located in the rain shadow region in the Eastern side of the Western Ghats, adjoining Tamil Nadu.

  • It is home to a repository of medicinal plants and large population of animals such as grizzled giant squirrel, star tortoise, tufted grey langur, gaur, spotted deer, wild elephants, tigers, leopards etc.

  • Chinnar and Pambar rivers are the major perennial water resources in the sanctuary.

  • There are about 11 tribal settlements in the inside CWS of which main habitants are Muthuvas and Pulayars.

  • The ecosystem of the Wildlife Sanctuary consist of mostly grasslands, wet grasslands, montane rain forest and higher shola forests.

  • The bird is rare and was sighted for the first time on the eastern side of the Western Ghats which is usually confined to its habitation in the western side of the Western Ghats.

  • The bird was also sighted in Thattekkad bird Sanctuary, Nelliyampathy, Chimmini, Parambikulam, Thenmala and Wayanad. It was also sighted in Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.

About Sri Lankan Frougmouth

  • There are about 13 species of this bird which are found all over the world of which two are found in India. The Sri Lankan frogmouth is endemic to Western Ghats and Sri Lanka.

  • The main physical feature of the bird is its wide mouth, which resembles the mouth of a frog.

  • The bird has a coloration which resembles dead leaves and bark which makes it difficult to be spotted in its native habitat.

  • It lays only one egg a year after mating in during April-May.

  • It makes its nest using moss or leaves of soft plants and barks of the tree which is later on destroyed the male bird who flies away with the new born.

  • It also has a very close resemblance to Nightjar. It also eats insects and prey during night like Nightjar.

  • It is also nocturnal in nature.

LEOPARD PROTECTION

CONTEXT

Recently, Supreme Court had directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to set up Project Leopard.

Background

  • Leopards in India have been listed as a vulnerable specie in the IUCN list and is also protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1976 Schedule 1.

  • T his means that hunting and attacking the Leopard is illegal and is a punishable crime with a minimum sentence of up to 3 years or a fine of Rs 10000.

  • In 2016 India lost 455 leopards and 431 in 2017. It gets graver in the 2018 with 106 leopards dead in January and February alone.

  • Following this Centre filed a plea to seek directions for protection of leopards with Supreme Court.

  • Also, a PIL was filed by Anupam Tripathi pointing out the unchanged ground realities i.e. continued dwindling population of Leopards.

ABOUT LEOPARDS

  • About nine species of Leopard have been recognised which have been distributed across Africa and Asia.

  • The leopard is the smallest of all the big cats and can adapt to variety of habitats.

  • Leopard is a nocturnal animal and hunts in the night. It feeds on herbivorous animals such as hog dear, chital and wild boar.

  • Leopards usually mate throughout the year producing two to three cubs after a gestation of 90 to 105 days.

  • In India Leopards are found in all types of forests. It is also found in dry scrubs and grassland only exception being deserts and mangroves of Sundarbans.

  • The biggest threats which Leopards face are – human-conflicts, poaching for illegal trade and some cases of road accidents.

Feasibility of Project Leopard on lines of Project Tiger

  • Analysis the working of Project Tiger –

    • Project Tiger was launched in 1973 after which massive measures were taken to protect tigers in natural habitat. In 1995 the tiger population stood at over 1300 and by 2015 the numbers jumped to 2226.

    • Despite this there has been a 63% jump in the cases of poaching and confiscation of tiger parts in the country between 2014 and 2016 (according to response of former Union Environment Minister in Rajya Sabha).

    • The case of every Tiger death is treated as a case of poaching until proven otherwise as a standard operating procedure issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. A detailed investigation is thus required for every case to determine the cause of death.

    • Therefore, there are about 3000 court cases which are pending due to delay in laboratory examination and about two third of the tiger deaths in India remain un-investigated.

    • There is also a very abysmal conviction rate of 10% of the registered cases which has resulted in poaching being a high reward and low risk business.

  • It has also been found that the correct figures of Leopard population are not known as Census of 2015 did not cover the states such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir which Leopard sighting is random.

  • The environmentalists also point out that Leopards are very different when compared with Tigers. It is known to be most adaptable and can adjust to human – dominated environment. If the project Leopard is launched it might stand to alienate Leopards from their habitat which is shared by the humans.

  • With the above discussion it is quite evident that running Project Leopard on the lines of Project Tiger might not yield desired results. Therefore, Project Leopard should be launched independently with more stringent norms.

Way Forward

  • Some of the suggestions of PIL filed by Anupam Tripathi are –

    • It also had sought directive to Ministry to set up Project Leopard and allocation of funds for its protection.

    • It was also suggested to increase the scope of the duty of existing tiger task force and forest guards to include leopards on priority basis to save them from threat of poachers.

    • It also directed the Centre to take drastic and tough steps including ‘right to shoot and kill poachers’ by forest guards and poachers.

    • It also sorted to fix accountability, responsibility and liability on forest departments’ officers who are in charge of the jurisdiction in which the man-leopard conflict has taken place.

    • It also sought directives to ensure diligent and meticulous follow up on cases involving ‘mob justice’ of the animal.

    • Education and awareness should also be spread among the farmers and people who come in conflict with Leopards.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND INDUS VALLEY CIVILLISATION

Other Important Facts about the Harappan Culture

  • The Indus River Valley Civilization, also known as Harappan civilization, developed the first accurate system of standardized weights and measures, some as accurate as to 1.6 mm.

  • They created sculpture, seals, pottery, and jewelry from materials, such as terracotta, metal, and stone.

  • Evidence shows that Harappans participated in a vast maritime trade network extending from Central Asia to modern-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Syria.

  • The Indus Script remains indecipherable without any comparable symbols, and is thought to have evolved independently of the writing in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

CONTEXT

According to a study climate change has drove the Harappans to resettle far away from the floodplains of the Indus.

More from the News

  • Over 4,000 years ago, the Harappa culture thrived in the Indus River Valley of what is now modern Pakistan and northwest India

  • Around 1800 BC this advanced culture had left their cities and moved to smaller villages in Himalayan foothills.

  • Change in temperature and weather pattern made survival difficult near Harappan cities.

About Indus Valley Civilization

  • TRIFED

    The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) came into existence in 1987.

    It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India.

    TRIFED has its registered and Head Office located in New Delhi and has a network of 13 Regional Offices located at various places in the country.

    TRIFED is engaged in marketing development of tribal products and provides marketing support to the products made by tribals through a network of retail outlets

    TRIFED also organises National Tribal Craft Expo called “AADISHILP”, painting exhibition called “AadiChitra”, “OCTAVE” for North Eastern Artisans and Tribal Artisan Melas to facilitate the sale of their products.

    The Indus Valley Civilization is the earliest known culture of the Indian subcontinent of the kind now called “urban” (or centered on large municipalities), and the largest of the four ancient civilizations, which also included Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China.

  • The society of the Indus River Valley has been dated from the Bronze Age, the time period from approximately 3300-1300 BCE.

  • It was located in modern-day India and Pakistan, and covered an area as large as Western Europe.

  • Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the two great cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, emerging around 2600 BCE along the Indus River Valley in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan.

  • Their discovery and excavation in the 19th and 20th centuries provided important archaeological data regarding the civilization’s technology, art, trade, transportation, writing, and religion.

AADI MAHOTSAV

CONTEXT

To celebrate, cherish and promote the spirit of tribal craft, culture, cuisine and commerce, Aadi mahotsav have been organised by Ministry of Tribal affairs and TRIFED.

More about the Mahotsav

  • The Mahotsav will comprise of display and sale of items of tribal art and craft, tribal medicine & healers, tribal cuisine and display of tribal folk performance, in which tribal artisans, chefs, folk dancers/musicians from 23 States of the country shall participate and provide glimpse of their rich traditional culture.

KONARK SUN TEMPLE

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • A World Heritage site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural,historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties.

  • The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.

  • To be selected, a World Heritage site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area).

  • It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.

Why in news?

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Union Minister for Culture, Mahesh Sharma, highlighting alleged irregularities in the Archaeological Survey of India’s restoration of Konark Temple

About Konark Temple

  • Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century CE sun temple at Konark about 35 kilometres (22 mi) northeast from Puri on the coastline of Odisha, India.

  • The temple is attributed to king Narasingha deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty about 1250 CE

  • Also called the Surya Devalaya, it is a classic illustration of the Odisha style of Architecture or Kalinga Architecture

  • Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984

NONGKREM DANCE FESTIVAL

Tribes of Meghalaya

  • Meghalaya tribes can be mainly divided into three groups – Garo, Khasi and Jaintias.

  • These tribes follow matrilineal lineage.

  • These three tribes derive their names from the hills they are located in.

Why in news?

Recently, Nongkrem dance festival was celebrated in Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.

About the Nongkrem Dance Festival

  • It is an annual dance festival which is usually celebrated in the month of May and often in November at a village named Smit situated in Khasi Hills near Shillong. This is due to shifting of lunar position which determines the time of the next Nongkrem Festival.

  • It is one of the most important festival of Khasi tribe – Hima Khyrim during which men, women and children dance to drums and pipes and are dressed in their traditional ethnic clothes.

  • The celebration begins with the sacrifice of a goat. A special dance is performed by the men called ‘Ka Shad Mastieh’ in which they hold sword in their right hand and a whisks in left hand.

  • The dance festival attracts a huge number of tourists which helps in preserving the rich heritage of the state and also boosting the economy of the state.

GSAT-29

Context

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its heaviest satellite GSAT-29, a communication satellite, into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.

About the GSAT-29

  • It is a multi-beam, multiband communication satellite of India, configured around the ISRO’s enhanced I-3K bus. This is the heaviest satellite launched from India.

  • GSAT-29 carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders which will bridge the digital divide of users in remote areas including those in Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern regions of India.

  • It also carries Q/V-band payload, configured for technology demonstration at higher frequency bands and Geo-stationary High Resolution Camera carried onboard GSAT-29 spacecraft. 

GSLV MK3

  • The GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy-lift rocket with two solid fuel strap-on engines in the first stage, a liquid propellant core as second stage and a cryogenic engine for the third stage.

  • It is designed to carry satellites weighing in the range of 4000 kg into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or satellites weighing about 10,000 kg to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

  • The cryogenic upper stage in the GSLV Mk III rocket, called the C25 engine, is an improvement on C20 cryogenic engines used in the GSLV Mk II rockets

  • The indigenous cryogenic C25 stage engine operates on Gas Generator Cycle using extremely low temperature propellants Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) at 20 Kelvin ( -253°C) and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) at 80K (-193°C)

  • The cryogenic stage is a highly efficient rocket stage that provides more thrust for every kg of propellant it burns compared to the solid and earth-storable liquid propellant stages.

  • The specific impulse achievable with cryo-fluids is 450 seconds compared to 300 seconds for other fuels.

  • Cryogenic engines provide unprecedented power in terms of thrust to GSLV rockets in their final stages while keeping fuel loads on the rocket relatively low.

  • Nearly 50 per cent of the power for GSLV rockets as they push into space comes from the cryogenic stage.

  • India is among six nations — apart from the US, Russia, France, Japan and China — to possess cryogenic engine technology, a key frontier in rocket science.

Significance of the Launch

  • The GSLV Mk III rocket has been designated as the launch vehicle for India’s second moon mission Chandrayaan 2 which is scheduled for January next year and India’s first human space flight which is being targeted for 2022 as per an announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15.

  • The successful launch of the GSLV Mk III makes the rocket a viable choice for ISRO to use while launching communication satellites weighing over 2,500 kg.

EXSEEDSAT 1

Why in news?

India’s first private satellite, built completely by individuals without support from agencies such as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), launched by California-based SpaceX

More About ExseedSat1

  • ExseedSat 1 will provide a multifunction UHF/VHF NBFM amateur communication satellite.

  • Exseed Space is a Mumbai-based startup that has designed and constructed India’s first privately built satellite. It is currently working to create India’s first satellite manufacturing facility that can cater to the growing interest and demand in global markets for Nano and Microsatellites, and Cubesats.

GROWTH- India Telescope

Why in news?

The 0.7 m GROWTH-India telescope at the Indian Astronomical Observatory located in Hanle, Ladakh, has made its first science observation which is a follow-up study of a nova explosion

More about the news

  • Novae are explosive events involving violent eruptions on the surface of white dwarf stars, leading to temporary increase in brightness of the star.

  • Unlike a supernova, the star does not go on to die but returns to its earlier state after the explosion.

About the GROWTH

  • The telescope has been taking readings since its installation, and this is the first ‘follow-up’ work.

  • The telescope is potentially fully robotic and can operate on its own

  • The GROWTH-India telescope is part of the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen.

Goals of the GROWTH

  • Search for explosions in the optical regime whenever LIGO group detects a Binary Neutron Star merger

  • Study nearby young supernova explosions.

  • Study nearby asteroids.

Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in the nervous system that communicate by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy.

SPINNAKER

Why in news?

The Spiking Neural Network Architecture machine, the world’s largest supercomputer designed to work in the same way as the human brain, has been switched on for the first time.

More about SpiNNaker

  • SpiNNaker, built at the University of Manchester in the U.K.,

  • It is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.

  • It mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.

THE KILOGRAM

CONTEXT

The Kilogram redefined in terms of Planck’s constant, a central feature of quantum mechanics.

The Planck constant

It is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency. It is described in a unit that has the kilogram built into it.

Why redefine the fundamental units?

  • Because scientists want to create a measurement system that is based entirely on unchanging fundamental properties of nature.

  • Le Grand K, the “international prototype kilogram”, is the last physical object used to define an SI unit.

  • It is far from unchanging — it gets dusty and is affected by the atmosphere, and when cleaned, it is vulnerable to change, however minute that change is.

SHAKTI – PROCESSOR PROGRAM

CONTEXT

Recently, India’s first and indigenous microprocessor was developed by IIT Madras.

RISC-V

  • It is an open source instruction set architecture (ISA) based on established reduced instruction set computing (RISC) principles.

  • In contrast to other ISAs RISC-V is a free open architecture.

  • The project began in 2010 in University of California, Berkely.

Instruction Set Architecture (ISA)

  • It is the programming or machine language and provides commands to the processor instructing it on the its functions to be executed.

About the Program

  • It is an open-source initiative by the Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) laboratory at IIT Madras.

  • RISE is building open source, production grade processors and also associated components such as interconnect fabrics, verification tools, storage controllers, peripheral IPs and SOC tools.

  • Under the project a family of 6 processors based on RISC-V Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) are being developed.

  • They can be used in low power wireless systems and networking systems.

  • Processors work as the brain of all computing and electronic devices that are connected to computers and are used to operate larger high-speed systems and super computers.

  • The project has been funded by Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

  • The Shakti team is now ready with ‘Parashakti’ which is an advanced microprocessor for super computers. It will be ready by December 2018. It can be used in desktops and if 32 such microprocessors are attached together then it could be used in supercomputer.

  • Significance

    • It further reduces India’s reliance on imported microprocessors in communication, defence sectors and other strategic areas such as NAVIC and Internet of Things electronics.

    • It will also impart independence to India in designing, developing and fabricating end to end systems within the country thus leading to self-sufficiency.

    • It will also boost India’s Make in India program.

    • These microprocessors also pave way for development and production of many hand held and control devices as most of them work on sub 200MHzprocessors.

INDIA’S NEUTRINO OBSERVATORY

CONTEXT

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has upheld the environmental clearance granted to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO). While this removes all current legal hurdles in building the facility, there are still other hurdles to be overcome before work can begin on this project.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

  • The INO promises to be a one-of-its-kind facility to detect and study neutrinos.

  • Neutrinos are extremely tiny elementary particles that are omnipresent in universe but very difficult to detect because they pass seamlessly through all kinds of matter. Neutrinos carry no electric charge. They are considered to be the second most abundant particle in the universe — after the photon, or light particle.

  • Neutrinos are believed to hold important clues to some of the basic questions on the universe.

  • Research on neutrinos has led to award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 and 2015, and before that, in 1988 and 1995.

ABOUT THE OBSERVATORY

  • INO would be the biggest research facility in India.

  • The underground laboratory will be located nearly 1.5 km below the Earth’s surface, where a giant neutrino detector is to be placed. The laboratory will consist of a cavern of size 132 m × 26 m × 20 m and with several small rooms, and will be accessed by a tunnel nearly 2 km long and 7.5 m wide.

OTHER HURDLES BEFORE INO CAN BE BUILT

  • Due to the delay in obtaining clearances, the budget cost assessments have increased by about 25% now.

  • A clearance from National Wildlife Board is pending.

  • There is a case pending in the Madras High Court which has passed an interim order asking the INO not to begin any research work until final clearance is obtained from the state Pollution Control Board.

VAJRA PRAHAR

Why in news?

The Sapta Shakti Command and troops of the US Pacific Command Special Forces were engaged in a 12-day long joint exercise, Vajra Prahar, in Rajasthan.

More About Vajra Prahar

  • It is a military exercise between special forces of India and USA, started in 2010

  • It involved a rigorous joint training in semi-desert and rural terrain to boost interoperability between the armed forces of the two countries.

  • Exercise Vajra Prahar involved training on desert survival, hostage rescue, building intervention and combat firing, along with three-day outdoor drills.

  • The exercise is aimed to boost mutual synergy and joint effort to counter the growing threat of global terrorism.

INDIA- RUSSIA DEFENCE DEAL

Why in news?

Russian Igla-S system has been confirmed as the lowest bidder for a mega deal to procure shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles for the Indian Army

More about the news

  • The Russian bid for $1.5 billion considerably undercut offers by France and Sweden and is believed to be even lower than the benchmark price of $2 billion that was estimated by the Indian side.

  • The process to procure Very Short Range Air Defence (Vshorad) missiles was initiated in 2010 under the previous government and went through several rounds of trails before the Igla-S qualified in January, along with two other competitors.

  • The Vshorad programme to replace the Russian Igla-M systems that have been used by the Army since the 1980s is considered critical for defence against incoming helicopters, UAVs and ground attack aircraft.

MISSION RAKSHA GYAN SHAKTI

The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) is under Deptt. Of Defence Production , Ministry of Defence.

This organisation is more than hundred years old and provides Quality Assurance (QA) cover for the entire range of Arms, Ammunitions, Equipments and Stores supplied to Armed Forces.

Apart from QA activities, the organisation is responsible for import substitution and associates with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the development projects.

It also ensures Documentation, Codification and Standardisation Action for minimizing the variety of components / equipments. The other services rendered are promotion of small scale industries, Post procurement services, Defect Investigations and Technical Consultancy to the users, Ministry and the Production Agencies.

CONTEXT

Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti has been launched by the Defense Minister of India.

More about it

  • As part of the ongoing initiatives to enhance self-reliance in defence, the Department of Defence Production has instituted a new framework titled ‘Mission Raksha GyanShakti’ which aims to provide a boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.

  • The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the programme.

  • The event brought out that the end objective of ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ is to inculcate IP culture in Indian defence manufacturing ecosystem.

Ballistic missile submarine

  • A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine capable of deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with nuclear warheads.

  • The United States Navy’s hull classification symbols for ballistic missile submarines are SSB and SSBN – the SS denotes submarine (or submersible ship), the B denotes ballistic missile, and the N denotes that the submarine is nuclear powered.

  • These submarines became a major weapon system in the Cold War because of their nuclear deterrence capability.

  • They can fire missiles thousands of kilometers from their targets, and acoustic quieting makes them difficult to detect (see acoustic signature), thus making them a survivable deterrent in the event of a first strike and a key element of the mutual assured destruction policy of nuclear deterrence.

  • Their deployment has been dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union / Russia, with smaller numbers in service with France, the United Kingdom,China, and India.

INS ARIHANT

CONTEXT

The indigenous INS Arihant India’s first nuclear-powered submarine successfully completed its first deterrence patrol.

More About It

  • The ship submersible ballistic, nuclear (SSBN) submarine is part of Indian Navy’s India’s Eastern Naval Command.

  • The name Arihant derives from two words – Ari meaning enemy and Hanth meaning destroy.

  • The second SSBN under the project, INS Aridhaman, is undergoing sea trials.

  • The vessel has been designed by the Indian Navy’s Submarine Design Bureau and developed by the Indian Navy, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

  • It has been built at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam, with assistance of Russian designers assisted in building the vessel

  • Now India has joined a select group of countries (US, Russia, China, France and the UK) which builds and operates Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear (SSBN).

  • At present, the only nuclear powered platform in service with the Indian Navy is the INS Chakra, an Akula class SSN on lease from Russia.

  • The design of the vessels has been based on the Russian Akula-1 Class submarine and weighs 6,000t. Considered to be the longest in the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet it can carry up to 95 crew.

  • It has the ability to stay underwater for long periods undetected due to the nuclear-powered 80MW pressurised water reactor (PWR), which has been developed by the BARC.

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