GS II Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Setting up of Industry Driven SRTMI
Ministry of Steel is planning to set up an Industry driven institutional mechanism namely Steel Research & Technology Mission of India (SRTMI), to facilitate joint collaborative research projects in the iron & steel sector in India.
The salient features of SRTMI
- SRTMI is an industry driven initiative which will be setup as a Registered Society wherein Ministry of Steel is a facilitator.
- SRTMI will be governed and administered by a Governing Body comprising the steel CEOs, Domain Experts and a representative of Ministry of Steel.
- Initial corpus for setting up of SRTMI is Rs. 200 crore of which 50% is to be provided by Ministry of Steel and the balance by the participating steel companies.
- Thereafter, the centre will run on yearly contributions from the steel companies based on their turnover of the previous year.
GS II Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Honorable Supreme court refuses to lift ban on jallikattu
The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea filed by Tamil Nadu to review a 2014 apex court judgment banning Jallikattu.
- The apex court questioned the need to “tame” a domestic animal like the bull and further held that Jallikattu has nothing to do with exercise of the fundamental right of religious freedom
- The event had nothing to do with the exercise of the fundamental right of religious freedom and runs counter to the concept of welfare of the animal, which is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
Tamil Nadu’s argument:
The State has countered that the event was defined as an act of “taming” of bulls under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act of 2009 and did not amount to cruelty.
About the issue
Tamil Nadu has been arguing that Jallikattu – the mostly southern bull-racing sport – should be permitted as it showcases a cultural tradition that has been part of the custom and culture of people of the state for 5,000 years.
- The ban was imposed by SC as it violated provisions of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; fundamental duty Article 51A (g): compassion towards animal; Article 21 (Right to Life), which prohibits any disturbance to the environment, including animals as it is considered essential for human life.
- However, in January 2016, the Union Government through notification lifted this ban and allowed use of bulls for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. But, the apex court put on hold of the Union Government’s notification.
- Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. It is a Tamil tradition called ‘Yeru thazhuvatha’ in Sangam literature(meaning, to embrace bulls), popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period.
- Jallikattu is based on the concept of “flight or fight”. All castes participate in the event. The majority of jallikattu bulls belong to the pulikulam breed of cattle.
GS II Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Soon, search engines to blank sex selection ads
The Supreme Court has directed the Central government to constitute a nodal agency to monitor and trigger search engines to crack down on online pre-natal sex determination advertisements.
- The court has ordered that the nodal agency should receive complaints about illegal online advertisements under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994.
- It should communicate the tip-offs to online search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which would delete these advertisements within 36 hours of getting the information.
- This interim arrangement would continue till it took a final decision on the continued existence of online sex selection ads.
About the issue :
The court was hearing a petition filed in 2008 in the background of increasing instances of female foeticide. The petition contended that pre-natal sex determination tests continue with impunity despite being made illegal in 1994.
PCPNDT law prohibits pre-natal sex determination. The PCPNDT Act was brought in to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. Under this Act, gender selection is prohibited.
About PCPNDT Act:
The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
- Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection
- In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Key features :
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
Not a pipe dream: Govt to set up national gas hub
The government is planning to come up with a national gas hub, which would be a trading platform for gas at market-determined price.
- A gas hub is a physical point where several gas pipelines come together or intersect.
- The ministry of petroleum and natural gas is working towards setting up a common gas hub after the government introduced a new gas pricing formula in 2014. This gas price is applicable for six months wherein the average prices of US-based Henry Hub, the UK-based National Balancing Point, Canada’s Alberta Gas and Russian gas gets reflected.
- A gas hub works exactly like a stock exchange does. There are buyers and sellers, and prices are determined by market forces. Gas is thus freely traded.
- If the idea gets cleared, India will also have a gas-trading place similar to international hubs .
- This is a huge positive for upstream companies in India as prices will be market-driven. Moreover, it seems like the domestic natural gas pricing will be uniform with the move.
At present, the Indian domestic natural gas price is calculated on a half-yearly basis, based on a weighted average of Henry Hub, National Balancing Point, Russian gas and Canada’s Alberta Gas.
UD Ministry begins approval of long term investment plans
Seeking to ensure timely implementation of basic urban infrastructure projects and achieve mission targets by 2019-20, the Ministry of Urban Development, in a paradigm shift has begun approving investments in water supply, sewerage networks etc., for the next three financial years under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
AMRUT is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). It adopts a project approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, storm-water drains, transportation and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children.
- Under this mission, 10% of the budget allocation will be given to states and union territories as incentive based on the achievement of reforms during the previous year.
- AMRUT will be implemented in 500 locations with a population of one lakh and above. It would cover some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few state capitals and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.
- Under this mission, states get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring. States will only submit state annual action Plans to the centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. But, in a significant departure from JNNURM, the central government will not appraise individual projects.
- Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakhs.
- Under the mission, states will transfer funds to urban local bodies within 7 days of transfer by central government and no diversion of funds to be made failing which penal interest would be charged besides taking other adverse action by the centre.
GS II Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
International Research Conference on Brucellosis in New Delhi
- On the sidelines, the centre also launched programme of “Brucella Free Villages” for implementation on pilot scale in 50 villages covering 10 states.
- This programme will be supported by guidelines and standard operating practices along with an IT enabled application.
- Organized by the Department of Biotechnology in collaboration with Indian Council for Agriculture Research.
- The conference is result of DBT’s network programme on Brucellosis launched in 2012 to address this epidemiology and for development of new generation of vaccines and diagnostic kits.
- The Conference provides a technical platform for scientist and experts from all over the world.
- The three days deliberations would address various issues on Brucellosis covering broad and interdisciplinary field of “One Health” concept revolving around Brucella Pathogenesis & Host-pathogen interaction; Human Brucellosis; Epidemiology and Control; Brucella research in India; Canine and Wildlife Brucellosis; Diagnostic methods; and Vaccines & Immunology.
Brucellosis is a dreadful disease caused by the genus of the bacteria known as Brucella infecting cows, buffalos, sheep, goats, deer, pigs, dogs and other animals as well as humans. The disease causes economic losses of about Rs. 28000.00 Crores. Brucellosis is endemic in India.
GS II Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India and UK Sign three Bilateral Advance Pricing Agreements
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has signed three Bilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with the Competent Authority of United Kingdom (UK) to reduce tax litigationtaking the total number of APAs signed [both- bilateral and unilateral] so far to 111.
- The Competent Authorities of India and UK had earlier exchanged mutual agreements amongst them under the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) Article of the India-UK Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC).
- The newly signed Agreements cover international transactions in the nature of payment of intra-group service charges and pertain to the telecom industry. They also have a roll-back provision.
What is Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) Programme?
- The Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) Programme was introduced by the Finance Act, 2012 with a view to provide a predictable and non-adversarial tax regime and to reduce the litigation in the Indian transfer pricing arena.
- An APA is usually signed between taxpayer and central tax authority on an appropriating transfer pricing methodology for determining the value of assets and taxes on intra-group overseas transactions. An APA can be entered into for a maximum of 5 years at a time.
- Rollback of APAs was announced in the Budget in July 2014 to provide certainty on the pricing of international transactions for 4 prior years (rollback years) preceding the first year from which APA is to be applicable.
Revised DTAA Agreement signed between India and Cyprus
A revised Agreement between India and Cyprus for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal evasion (DTAA) with respect to taxes on income, along with its Protocol, was recently signed in Nicosia. The agreement will replace the existing DTAA that was signed by two countries in June 1994.
Provisions of the revised DTAA:
- New DTAA provides for source based taxation of capital gains arising from alienation of shares, instead of residence based taxation provided under the existing DTAA. However, a grandfathering clause has been provided for investments made prior to 1st April, 2017, in respect of which capital gains would continue to be taxed in the country of which taxpayer is a resident.
- The new Agreement provides for Assistance between the two countries for collection of taxes.
- updates the provisions related to Exchange of Information to accepted international standards, which will enable exchange of banking information and allow the use of such information for purposes other than taxation with the prior approval of the Competent Authorities of the country providing the information.
- It expands the scope of ‘permanent establishment’ and reduces the tax rate on royalty in the country from which payments are made to 10% from the existing rate of 15%, in line with the tax rate under Indian tax laws.
- Updates the text of other provisions in accordance with the international standards and consistent policy of India in respect of tax treaties.
GS III Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
India’s combat-capable Rustom-II drone successfully completes maiden test flight
India’s indigenously developed long-endurance combat-capable drone, Rustom-II (TAPAS 201) successfully completed its maiden-flight. The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, Karnataka, which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.
- RUSTOM–II is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV. It has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based lab of DRDO. It has an endurance of 24 hours.
- It is multi-mission UAV which can conduct Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the armed forces. It can also be used as an unmanned armed combat.
- It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Long Range Electro Optic (LREO).
- It can also carry Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.
Scientists produce faster-growing crops by improving photosynthesis
- The scientists had used genetic modification technology to improve photosynthesis in the plants. Crop plants can channel this increased amount of sunlight energy into food production.
- The breakthrough has increased the yield in the experimental crop by 15 per cent.
- What is Photosynthesis?
- Photosynthesis is a chemical process through which plants produce glucose and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water, in presence of the light as a source of energy. Some bacteria and algae also produce their own food using photosynthesis. The photosynthesis process is extremely important for plants to carry out essential growth and other life processes. It is also important for life on earth as it provides the oxygen that all other life depends on.
How research was conducted?
- Scientists had targeted plant’s natural Sun-protection mechanism. This mechanism evolved in plants along with its ability to produce food using sunlight energy. The Sun-protection mechanism evolved in plants to protect them from Sun damage by slowing down the photosynthesis by losing the excess heat. Scientists inserted extra copies of the genes responsible for this heat-loss switch in the plants to remove inefficiencies in crops resulting in loss of the excess heat. This gene stopped heat-loss switch and stopped the heat loss and used excess heat for enhancing photosynthesis.
Navy inducts four indigenously developed sonars systems
Navy has formally inducted four types of indigenously developed sonars that will boost its underwater surveillance capability.
- The systems have been designed and developed by NPOL, a Kochi based laboratory of DRDO.
- With the induction of these four systems, the underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy will get a boost, besides providing a fillip to the quest for self-reliance in this critical area of technology.
The newly inducted systems include:
- ABHAY – COMPACT HULL MOUNTED SONAR FOR SHALLOW WATER CRAFTS- Abhay is an advanced active-cum-passive integrated sonar system designed and developed for the smaller platforms such as shallow water crafts and coastal surveillance/patrol vessels. It is capable of detecting, localizing, classifying and tracking sub-surface and surface targets in both its active and passive modes of operation. Indian Navy has proposed to induct this SONAR on three of the Abhay class ships.
- HUMSA UG – UPGRADE FOR THE HUMSA SONAR SYSTEM- Humsa -UG is designed for upgrading the existing Humsa sonar system.
- AIDSS – ADVANCED INDIGENOUS DISTRESS SONAR SYSTEM FOR SUBMARINES -AIDSS is an Emergency Sound Signaling Device which is used to indicate that a submarine is in distress and enable quick rescue and salvage. It is a life-saving alarm system designed to transmit sonar signals of a pre-designated frequency and pulse shape in an emergency situation from a submarine for long period, so as to attract the attention of passive sonars of ships or submarines in the vicinity and all types of standard rescue vessels in operation. It is also provided with a transponder capability.
- NACS – NEAR-FIELD ACOUSTIC CHARACTERISATION SYSTEM- It determines the in-situ performance of the SONAR systems, which are used to find the frequency-dependent 3-D transmission and reception characteristics of the SONAR. It is also used to measure the magnitude and phase characteristics of the SONAR transmission and reception electronics and the transducers.
GS II Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Bhutan blocks India’s ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan
An ambitious road connectivity plan involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) has hit a roadblock with the upper house of Bhutan parliament deciding against ratifying the motor vehicle pact.
- The BBIN agreement – signed in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in July – will become operational only when all the four countries ratify it. India, Bangladesh and Nepal have already ratified the pact.
- This is the second time that the Indian government’s sub-regional road connectivity plan has hit a hurdle. Earlier, Pakistan scuppered the Saarc motor vehicle agreement by refusing to come on board. So India shifted its focus to eastern neighbours.
A large cross-section of people in Bhutan, including lawmakers, have expressed concerns over the environmental impact of allowing large number of vehicles enter the country after it ratifies the pact.
About the agreement:
The Union Cabinet had approved a proposal to sign the SAARC MVA during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. The SAARC declaration at the Kathmandu Summit in November 2014 also encouraged Member States to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity.
- Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) may be pursued.
- The pact will allow seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries.
- Under the agreement, the “contracting parties” will allow cargo vehicles for inter-country cargo, including third country cargo and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles, to ply in the territory of another country “subject to the terms of the agreement”. All vehicles, however, will require a permit for plying through the other country.
Russia withdraws from International Criminal Court
An executive order signed by President Vladimir Putin mentioned that Russia is pulling out of the 2002 Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC’s status and powers. However, Russia had never ratified the statue meaning it was never member subject to its jurisdiction.
- Russia was against by ICC’s declaration that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula was an armed conflict.
- Russia is also under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria over the issue of bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations.
- Besides, ICC is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief 2008 war.
About International Criminal Court (ICC)
- ICC based in The Hague, Netherlands is an intergovernmental organization and international tribuna It was established by the Rome Statute which was adopted in July 1998 end entered into force in July 2002.
- ICC is seen as a successor to Nuremburg trials after World War II and ad-hoc UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Currently, there are 124 states which are party to Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC (India and China are not its members).
- It has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
GS II Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
National Student Startup Policy
President Pranab Mukherjee launched the National Student Startup Policy (NSSP) to promote technology-driven student start-ups. It was launched during the second Visitor’s Conference held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
- The NSSP has been formulated by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
- To create 1 lakh technology based student start-ups and a million employment opportunities within the next 10 years.
- To propel Indian youth to contribute to the nation’s socio-economic progress through promotion of technology-driven student start-ups.
- To develop an ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem by lending crucial soft skills like decision-making in the students.
- To promote strong inter-institutional partnerships among technical institutions.
Second Visitor’s Conference:
It is a conference of Vice Chancellors/Directors/Director Generals of Institutions of higher learning for which the President is a visitor. This is the second time President has convened such a conference which has brought together all heads of higher education institutions in one forum. Earlier, separate conferences were held for Vice Chancellors of Central Universities, Directors of IITs, IISERs, NITs and IISC.
Important Facts for Prelims
Doctors from Netherlands perform brain implant for the first time in history
Doctors from Netherlands have performed the first-ever brain implant on a 58-year-old woman paralysed by Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-ALS). With this, she became the first patient to use a brain-computer interface.
- The implant has enabled paralysed women to communicate in day-to-day life via a speech computer.
What is the case?
Prior to this implant, the ALS disease had caused nerve degeneration in the women and she was left completely locked-in. Her motor neurons had deteriorated to the point where she could only control her eye muscles.
First-ever brain implant
Doctors in first-ever brain implant directly installed a device called an electrocorticograph (ECoG) on the women’s brain. The device has electrodes fitted in the brain. Using these electrodes in brain, the patient can control the computer using brain signals, spell out messages at two letters per minute.
Iran becomes India’s top crude oil supplier
Iran for the first time ever has surpassed Saudi Arabia to become India’s top crude oil supplier. It was revealed by ship tracking data and a report compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts. Earlier, Iran used to be India’s second-biggest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia till 2010-11. However, it had ceded its position to Iraq after the tougher western countries sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear development programme.
- For the eighth consecutive year, China has retained the top spot in the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers for its ‘Sunway TaihuLight’ which can perform 93 million billion calculations per second.
- This was announced in the latest edition of the semiannual Top 500 list of supercomputers released recently.
- TaihuLight made its appearance in June, replacing the former champion, Tianhe-2, also a Chinese system but built based on Intel chips.
Quami Ekta Week:
- With a view to foster and reinforce the spirit of Communal Harmony, National Integration and pride in vibrant, composite culture and nationhood, the “Qaumi Ekta Week” (National Integration Week) is being observed all over the country for one week.
- The observation of the ‘Quami Ekta Week’ will help to highlight the inherent strength and resilience of our nation to withstand actual and potential threats to the eclectic and secular fabric of our country, and nurture a spirit of communal harmony in its widest sense.
- This occasion also provides an opportunity to reaffirm age old traditions and faith in the values of tolerance, co-existence and brotherhood in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society.