20 cities chosen for first phase of Smart City Programmee :-
Background :-The Union government has announced the names of the first 20 urban areas that will be developed as smart cities. These 20 cities will be the first to receive funds, thus starting the process of developing them into ‘smart cities’. The selected cities will be equipped with basic infrastructure, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity and e-governance mechanisms.
Criteria for selection and Weightage:-
|Implementation framework , feasibility and cost-effectiveness||30%|
|Smartness of proposal||10%|
|KPI-Key performance Indicator||5%|
- Bhubaneswar has topped the list of 20 Smart Cities followed by Pune and Jaipur coming second and third
- 5 capital cities among the 20 smart cities chosen.
- No city from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.On the contrary , some states have two or more nominees – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
What is Smart City:-
- There is no specific definition of smart city as such. It varies from people to people and country to country.But , in a broader sense it has the objective of promoting cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.
- Components of smart city :-
- Accordingly, the purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart outcomes. Area- based development will transform existing areas (retrofit and redevelop), including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving livability of the whole City.
- New areas (greenfield) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas.
- Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services.
- Promoting mixed land use in area based developments–planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The States will enable some flexibility in land use and building bye-laws to adapt to change
- Housing and inclusiveness – expand housing opportunities for all
- Creating walkable localities –reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The road network is created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking or cycling distance
- Preserving and developing open spaces – parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in Areas and generally promote eco-balance;
- Promoting a variety of transport options – Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity
- Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective – increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices. Forming e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites
- Giving an identity to the city – based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc
- Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better. For example, making Areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services
AMRUT:-Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation
The Mission focuses on the following Thrust Areas:-
i. Water Supply,
ii. Sewerage facilities and management,
iii. Storm Water drains to reduce flooding,
iv. Pedestrian, non-motorized and public transport facilities, parking spaces, and
v. Enhancing amenity value of cities by creating and upgrading green spaces, parks and recreation centers, especially for children.
IMF reforms: India, China, Brazil get more voting rights:-
Background:- The IMF reform has been on the agenda for quite sometime now , however it was delayed for one reason or the other.
Implications of the Reform:-
- The reforms are targeted at 3 major economies and mostly there is shift in balance from European and Gulf states to now Emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil
- More than 6% of the quota shares will shift to emerging and developing countries from the U.S. and European countries.
- China will have the third largest IMF quota and voting share after the United States and Japan, and India, Brazil and Russia will also be among the top 10 members of the IMF.
- China’s voting rights has increased to 6% from 3.8% and India’s voting rights has increased to 2.6% from the current 2.3%.
- Voting share of USA will drop to 16.5% from 16.7%
- Also for the first time, the Executive Board of the IMF will consist entirely of elected executive directors, ending the category of appointed executive directors.
IMF Quotas :-
Quota subscriptions are a central component of the IMF’s financial resources. Each member country of the IMF is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative position in the world economy. A member country’s quota determines its maximum financial commitment to the IMF, its voting power, and has a bearing on its access to IMF financing.
When a country joins the IMF, it is assigned an initial quota in the same range as the quotas of existing members of broadly comparable economic size and characteristics. The IMF uses a quota formula to help assess a member’s relative position.
The current quota formula is a weighted average of GDP (weight of 50 percent), openness (30 percent), economic variability (15 percent), and international reserves (5 percent). For this purpose, GDP is measured through a blend of GDP—based on market exchange rates (weight of 60 percent)—and on PPP exchange rates (40 percent). The formula also includes a “compression factor” that reduces the dispersion in calculated quota shares across members.
Quotas are denominated in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the IMF’s unit of account. The largest member of the IMF is the United States, with a current quota (as of January 25, 2016) of SDR 42.1 billion (about $58 billion), and the smallest member is Tuvalu, with a current quota of SDR 1.8 million (about $2.5 million).
A member’s quota determines that country’s financial and organizational relationship with the IMF, including:-
Subscriptions. A member’s quota subscription determines the maximum amount of financial resources the member is obliged to provide to the IMF. A member must pay its subscription in full upon joining the Fund: up to 25 percent must be paid in SDRs or widely accepted currencies (such as the U.S. dollar, the euro, the yen, or the pound sterling), while the rest is paid in the member’s own currency.
Voting power. The quota largely determines a member’s voting power in IMF decisions. Each IMF member’s votes are comprised of basic votes plus one additional vote for each SDR 100,000 of quota. The 2008 reform fixed the number of basic votes at 5.502 percent of total votes. The current number of basic votes represents close to a tripling of the number prior to the implementation of the 2008 reforms.
Access to financing. The amount of financing a member can obtain from the IMF (its access limit) is based on its quota. For example, under Stand-By and Extended Arrangements, a member can borrow up to 200 percent of its quota annually and 600 percent cumulatively. However, access may be higher in exceptional circumstances.
Zika Virus and WHO :-
WHO expects the Zika virus, which is spreading through the Americas, to affect between three million and four million people.
Until recently, Zika was a rare tropical disease associated with mild symptoms. It takes its name from the Zika forest in Uganda where it was first identified by scientists in the 1940s. It is spread by mosquitoes, and so is called an “arbovirus”, in the same family as West Nile and dengue fever. It attacks the nervous system and can lead to potentially fatal paralysis.
Zika is spread by the Aedes genus of mosquito, which transmits the disease when it bites a person infected with Zika, then bites another host. The two most common mosquitoes to transmit the disease are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species.
- There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
- An estimated 80% of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.
- It is believed that Zika is linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads.
Recent developments :- Scientists opine that it may take another year to create the Vaccine for Zika virus.
Denmark the least corrupt country, India at 76th position :-
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI):-
Transparency International (TI) is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. Originally founded in Germany in May 1993 as a not-for-profit organization, Transparency International is now an international non-governmental organization.
It publishes an annual Global Corruption Barometer and Corruption Perceptions Index, a comparative listing of corruption worldwide.
Corruption Perceptions Index (2015) Rank: 76/175
Significance:-India has improved its past year’s position of 85 and has a grade index score of 38 out of a possible 100 which indicates the least corrupt.
Analysis:- Though the index is a good news for India, yet , the ranking by NGO instead of a inter-governmental platform such World Bank should be treated with due care and due diligence.And this principle of caution applies for any other NGO as they are not inter-governmental engagements.
Marshall Islands sue India, Pakistan and Britain over nuclear weapons:-
The Marshall Islands will seek in March to persuade the UN’s highest court to take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain which they accuse of failing to halt the nuclear arms race.
In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits.
In 2014, the Marshall Islands — a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people — accused nine countries of “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.
The government based in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro said by not stopping the nuclear arms race, the countries continued to breach their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — even if the treaty has not been by signed by countries such as India and Pakistan.
But the court only admitted three cases brought against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.
In March 2014, the Marshall Islands marked 60 years since the devastating hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, that vaporised an island and exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.
The 15-megaton test on 1 March 1954, was part of the intense Cold War nuclear arms race and 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Bikini Islanders have lived in exile since they were moved for the first weapons tests in 1946.
International Court of Justice :-
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
Ready to frame law on euthanasia, Govt. tells SC
After 14 years of debates and several draft Bills, the government has said it is ready to frame a statutory law on passive euthanasia, the act of withdrawing medical treatment with deliberate intention of causing the death of a terminally-ill patient. However, it said its “hands are stayed” because of a pending litigation in the Supreme Court on mercy killing.
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Indo-German team finds dinosaur bones in Kutch
A team of Indo-German geologists and palaeontologists may have found fossils of a 135-million-year old herbivorous dinosaur in Kutch, Gujarat, possibly the oldest such fossil found this century.
The so-called Jurassic era spanned 250-145 million years during which herbivorous dinosaurs flourished and laid the ground for beasts, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. These flourished during the Cretaceous period —145 to 65 million years ago — after which the double blows of a meteor strike and overflowing volcanoes are said to have destroyed these animals.
Quality control for AYUSH drugs:-
With AYUSH industry currently being regulated under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act that regulates the modern pharmacy industry, the AYUSH Task Force has recommended a separate regulator for the industry for providing quality products.
The task force said in its report, “The AYUSH industry regulation gets neglected with many States not even having qualified manpower for AYUSH regulation and hence, on the ground the consumer does not get access to quality products as intended under the regulation.”
It said, “There is poor inflow of samples to AYUSH laboratories for testing quality, and laboratories set up by investing considerable funds by the Ministry of AYUSH function poorly.”
The manufacturer should have an in-house drug testing laboratory which should be approved by the AYUSH Ministry and have the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories accreditation, the report said.
While international standards for good manufacturing practices (GMP) have been prescribed by the WHO for herbal medicines, AYUSH regulation was still short of international standards such as the GMP. Therefore, “AYUSH products are not globally competitive,” the task force said.
As per the data in Traditional Knowledge Digital Librarythere are about 2,00,000 herbal formulations in ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani texts. However, about 500 formulations are manufactured for contemporary practice, the report said.
There was a need for a scheme to encourage establishment of semi-processing industries for supply of quality raw/semi-processed material, including those managed by community-based enterprises.
Uniform syllabus, uniform duration of courses, uniform evaluation, and better faculty and infrastructure are the need of the hour to ensure quality education in yoga and naturopathy.
AYUSH manufacturer should have an in-house drug testing laboratory
Set up more labs in non-governmental and private sectors
Promote excellence through voluntary certifications
Encourage establishment of semi-processing industries for supply of quality raw/semi-processed material
Establish links with other departments
Instead of functioning in isolation, the AYUSH Task Force has recommended that the Department of AYUSH develop an effective interface with other departments such as Commerce, Ministry of External Affairs, Tourism, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, Tribal Development, Women and Child Development, and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
It has recommended promoting AYUSH schemes in Union government programmes such as NRHM and NHM. It said a budget of Rs. 50 crore a year could to be created for “inter-departmental cooperation”.
At least 10 well-designed pilot projects, implemented by reputed NGOs/colleges/universities, should be supported by the National AYUSH Mission, for demonstrating effective models for integrative healthcare in selected rural taluks.
India sets an example in subsidised TB diagnosis:-
There is a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy TB scenario in India. Of the 12 high-burden countries where the private sector is a major player in providing health care, the Indian private sector offers the cheapest price for the WHO-approved Xpert MTB/RIF, a molecular test for diagnosing TB. India also has the highest number of private labs offering the test, with 113 labs offering it at a subsidised rate.
As a result of the subsidised pricing agreement with the manufacturer, there has been an increase in the number of people in India accessing the highly accurate diagnostic test since 2013. From 15,190 people who availed the test between March and December 2013, it has gone up to 131,440 tests in 2015. The total number of tests done since March 2013 stands at 208,550.
While it costs only Rs.2,000 in the 113 labs (with 5,200 collection centres) which are part of a novel initiative — Improving Access to Affordable & Quality TB Tests (IPAQT) — that was launched in India in March 2013, the charges are anywhere between Rs.3,500 and Rs.5,000 in labs that are not part of the IPAQT initiative. (The ipaqt.org site provides the details of other labs in the country that offer the WHO-approved subsidised tests.)
Rise in space junk could provoke armed conflict, say scientists
Background:-In a report to be published in the journal Acta Astronautica, Vitaly Adushkin at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow writes that impacts from space junk, especially on military satellites, posed a “special political danger” and “may provoke political or even armed conflict between space-faring nations. The owner of the impacted and destroyed satellite can hardly quickly determine the real cause of the accident
The steady rise in space junk that is floating around the planet could provoke a political row and even armed conflict, according to scientists, who warn that even tiny pieces of debris have enough energy to damage or destroy military satellites.
Researchers said fragments of spent rockets and other hurtling hardware posed a “special political danger” because of the difficulty in confirming that an operational satellite had been struck by flying debris and had not fallen victim to an intentional attack by another nation.
Space agencies in the U.S. and Russia track more than 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 cm long, but estimates say there could be half a billion fragments ranging from one to 10 cm long, and trillions of smaller particles.
The junk poses the greatest danger to satellites in low Earth orbit, where debris can slam into spacecraft at a combined speed of more than 48,280 kmph. This realm of space, which stretches from 160 to 1930 km above the surface, is where most military satellites are deployed.
Rafale pact concluded, but no deal yet on price:-
Background :-India and France have signed 14 agreements, including an intergovernmental agreement for the purchase of Rafale fighter jets, nuclear reactors, French railway locomotives and a major commitment to counterterror cooperation. However, the financial component of the Rafale deal is yet to be finalised.
Significance of the Rafale Deal:
- For India, it’s another step in a quest to modernize its air force that first began in 2007. About one third of the country’s air fleet is more than 40 years old and set to retire in the next decade, putting pressure on the incumbent government to quickly acquire new warplanes to keep pace with neighbors China and Pakistan.
- India originally picked Dassault in 2012 to build 126 warplanes at an estimated cost of about $11 billion. As talks stalled over price and quality guarantees, Modi flew to France last April and sought to directly buy 36 fighter jets from the French government in a bid to speed things up. The cost of the 36 jets is expected to exceed 600 billion rupees ($9 billion).
Space: India and France signed three agreements on expanding space collaboration. The Indian Space Research Organisation and its French counterpart CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) have agreed to work together in the next Mars mission, as well as a satellite launch and a thermal infrared observation mission.
Rail: Under the ‘Make in India’ banner, India and France signed a deal that will allow French industrial major Alstom to make 800 high horse power locomotives in India. The locomotives are expected to be made in the electric locomotives factory in Madhepura, Bihar.
Road: Both sides also signed an agreement on upgrading the Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 kmph, in keeping with France’s special focus on Chandigarh ‘Smart City’ project.
Terrorism: The two countries have said that they would embark on new ways of cooperation on fighting terrorism, including intelligence-sharing and joint exercises along with the annual strategic dialogues and a joint working group on counterterrorism meetings.
Cultural exchange programme: There was an agreement on cultural exchange programme for the period 2016-2018 too.
Padma Awards 2016:-
The awards will be given across three categories: the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. These awards are given on Republic Day, for the over six decades now, to people who the government recognises have excelled in their fields.
- Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service
- Padma Bhushan is awarded for distinguished service of high order
- Padma Shri is awarded for distinguished service in any field
Operation begins to curb money laundering, terror funding:-
Government agencies have launched a massive National Risk Assessment (NRA) exercise, to identify the sectors that are susceptible to money laundering and terror funding, and plug the loopholes.
- This exercise is in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. While India has met its obligation of mutual evaluation with FATF, it is now required to make a risk assessment and put necessary mechanisms in place.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF):-
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally. In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
The FATF has developed a series of recommendations that are recognised as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They form the basis for a co-ordinated response to these threats to the integrity of the financial system and help ensure a level playing field.
FATF consists of 34 member jurisdictions and two regional organisations, the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council. The FATF also works in close co-operation with a number of international and regional bodies involved in combating money laundering and terrorism financing. It also has 8 associate members and 25 observer members.
Shome panel Suggestions on Tax reforms:-
The government is considering the recommendations of the Parthasarathi Shome committee aimed at simplifying tax administration.
The Tax Administration Reform Commission or TARC was a committee appointed by the Government of India for giving recommendations for reviewing the public Tax Administration system of India.The committee was headed by Parthasarathi Shome.
- Income Tax Return forms should also include wealth tax details.
- Retrospective amendments to tax laws should be avoided as a principle and that the post of Revenue Secretary be abolished.
- Merger of the CBDT with the CBEC.
- Widen the use of Permanent Account Number (PAN).
- Separate budget allocation to ensure time bound tax refund and a passbook scheme for TDS (Tax Deduction at Source).
- Cover both central excise and service tax under a single registration as both the taxes are administered by the same department and cross utilisation of credit is permitted between central excise and service tax under the CENVAT credit rules.
- Minimum of 10% of the tax administration’s budget must be spent on taxpayer services. At least 10% of the budget should be alllocated and spent for ICT-based taxpayer services.
The stained steel frame:-
Background :- This article look into why civil servants do corruption and what could be the course correction.
It is a must read article :- Click here to read the article