Current Affairs, 06 August 2018

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Current Affairs, 06 August 2018

Paper 2:

Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

 

Bhoomi Rashi and PFMS linkage

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Bhoomi Rashi, PFMS.
  • For Mains: Significance of PFMS.

 

Context: The government has proposed to integrate Bhoomi Rashi with Public Financial Management System (PFMS). Integration of Public Financial Management System (PFMS) with Bhoomi Rashi is one of the key functionalities to facilitate payment related to compensation for land acquisition to all the beneficiaries directly through the Bhoomi Rashi system.

 

What is Bhoomi Rashi?

  • Bhoomi Rashi, the portal developed by MoRTH and NIC, comprises the entire revenue data of the country, right down to 6.4 lakh villages.
  • The entire process flow, from submission of draft notification by the State Government to its approval by the Hon. Minister of State for RT&H and publication in e-Gazette, is online.
  • The portal, created for expediting the process of publication of notifications for LA, is now being fully utilised for issuing the notifications.
  • Bhoomi Rashi portal has been instrumental in reducing the time taken for approval and publication of notifications pertaining to land acquisition.

 

About PFMS:

The Public Financial Management System (PFMS) is an end-to- end solution for processing payments, tracking, monitoring, accounting, reconciliation and reporting.

  • It is administered by the Department of Expenditure.
  • It is implemented by the Controller General of Accounts.

 

Functions:

  • It provides scheme managers a unified platform for tracking releases and monitoring their last mile utilisation.
  • It provides platform for efficient management of funds through tracking of funds and real time reporting of expenditure and receipts through treasury and bank interface.
  • The line ministries/departments utilise this platform to monitor the utilisation of funds provided to the implementing agencies and state governments.
  • PFMS is also used for DBT payments under MGNREGA and other notified schemes of the Government of India.

 

Significance of PFMS:

Introduction of the PFMS resulted in effectiveness and economy in public finance management through better cash management for government transparency in public expenditure and real-time information on resource availability and utilisation across schemes. It also resulted in improved programme administration and management, reduction of float in the system, direct payment to beneficiaries and greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

 

Sources: pib.

Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

 

Digital Literacy Library

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Digital Literacy Library- features.
  • For Mains: Significance and benefits of the library.

 

Context: Facebook Launches Digital Literacy Library to Help Youth Build Skills Online.

 

About the Digital Literacy Library: The Library aims to help young people build the skills they need to safely enjoy online technology.

  • The library is a collection of lessons to help young people think critically and share thoughtfully online.
  • Divided into themes such as privacy and reputation, identity exploration, security, safety and well-being, the lessons reflect the voices of young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, geographies, and educational levels.
  • The lessons can be found on Facebook’s Safety Center as well as on Berkman Klein’s Digital Literacy Resource Platform.

 

Significance of the library: There are 830 million young people online around the world, and this library is a resource for educators looking to address digital literacy and help these young people build the skills they need to safely enjoy digital technology.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Topic: transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

Defence India Startup Challenge

What to study?

  • For Prelims: The challenge.
  • For Mains: Importance of participation of domestic industries in the defence sector.

 

Context: Defence Minister has unveiled the Defence India Startup Challenge.

 

About Defence India Startup Challenge:

  • Defence India Startup Challenge is part of iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) schemeannounced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April meant to build an eco-system of innovation and entrepreneurship in India for the defence sector to make India self-reliant.
  • It is an initiative to tap startups for finding safe and futuristic Indian solutionsto critical needs of the three Armed Forces.
  • A list of 11 technologiesthat the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force need, have been chosen. They included remote air vehicles, laser weapons, secure and safe communication systems and bandwidth, precision targeting systems, sensors, and protected and informed movement of soldiers in battle tanks.
  • Those that come up with prototypes of usable products would be supported with ₹1.5 crore each and friendly procurement procedures from the Ministry under SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart in Defence.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: AIBD and its features.

 

Context: India has been elected as the president of the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development.

First time opportunity: India got the presidency of the organisation, servicing countries of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development, for the first time by defeating Iran in the election that took place in Sri Lanka.

 

About Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD):

The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) was established in 1977 under the auspices of UNESCO.

  • It is a unique regional inter-governmental organisationservicing countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development.
  • It is hosted by the Government of Malaysiaand the secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Mandate:

  • The AIBD is mandated to achieve a vibrant and cohesive electronic media environment in the Asia-Pacific region through policy and resource development.
  • The Institute seeks to fulfill this mandate by mobilizing the intellectual and technological resources available within the national broadcasting organizations of its member countries as well as regional and international bodies through a well-established infrastructure and networking mechanism which includes government agencies, non-governmental organizations, institutions of higher learning, private sector and individual professionals.

 

Membership:

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) are founding organisations of the Institute and they are non-voting members of the General Conference.
  • The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) is also a founding organisation of the Institute and is a non-voting member of the General Conference.
  • Full membershipof the AIBD is confined to sovereign states and they are invited to designate the broadcasting authority of the country to be the beneficiary.
  • The AIBD currently has 26 Full Members (countries), represented by 34 organisations, and 67 Affiliate Members (organisations) with a total membership of 101 representing 48 countries and regions and over 50 partners in Asia, Pacific, Europe, Africa, Arab States and North America.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: ccNSO, ICANN and its key features.

 

Context: The nominating committee of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has selected Ajay Data, Founder & CEO of Data XGen Plus and a global leader in email linguistic services, as a new council member of Country Code Supporting Organisation (ccNSO).

Ajay Data is the first Indian to have been selected as a member of ccNSO and will be representing India at a global level. He will be the custodian of Asia, Australia and Pacific Islands as a member of ccNSO.

 

About ccNSO:

  • ccNSO of the ICANN is the policy-development body for global issues regarding country code top-level domains (ccTLD) within the ICANN structure.
  • The members of ccNSO, which is ICANN’s policy development body for ccTLD (country code top-level domains) issues, are all country code top level domain operators from around the world.

 

What is the ICANN?

  • The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non profit organization that was set up in 1998 to oversee the administration of domain names.
  • ICANN coordinates and ensures the smooth and secure functioning of the cybernetic framework.

 

What it does?

The global nature of the Web today means that there are constantly increasing numbers of Domain Names, Host Names, IP addresses and web sites that are emerging on a daily basis. ICANN oversees this interconnected network and ensures that computers across the internet can find one another through defined unique pathways and identifiers.

 

ICANN performs four major functions namely:

  • Approval of companies that can become accredited registrars for domain names.
  • Decision making regarding the addition of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) to the Root system.
  • Coordinating technical parameters to maintain universal connectivity.
  • Creating a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) for competing domain names.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3:

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 first Blockchain district in Telangana

What to study?

  • For Prelims: First blockchain district.
  • For Mains: Blockchain- features, potential and concerns.

 

Context: Tech Mahindra and the Telangana government have signed an agreement to establish a Blockchain district in Hyderabad, a first-of-its-kind Centre of Excellence for Blockchain in India.

 

What is it and how it works?

  • Initially it would be a virtual cluster, connecting with the stakeholders working in the emerging technology. It would have a physical building at a later phase.
  • In short, it will be “a cluster of buildings”, which will house start-ups and other stakeholders working on the development of the platform.
  • Tech Mahindra, as a founding member of the Blockchain district, will provide platform and technology assistance to all the incubators in the district.
  • On its part, the Telangana government would provide regulatory and policy support to promote the growth of Blockchain.

 

What is Blockchain technology?

Blockchain is a new-age technology that helps in record-keeping through the use of cryptography, a secure method of writing digital codes. With blockchain, many people can write entries into a record of information, and a community of users can check the records to reduce the scope of fraudulent practices in altering information.

 

Benefits of blockchain technology:

  • As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
  • All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
  • Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
  • It allows decentralization of the technology.

 

How blockchain can be used in public administration?

Blockchain has the potential to optimize the delivery of public services, further India’s fight against corruption, and create considerable value for its citizens.

  • By maintaining an immutable and chronologically ordered record of all actions and files (“blocks”) linked together (“chain”) in a distributed and decentralized database, Blockchain creates an efficient and cost-effective database that is virtually tamper-proof. By doing so, blockchain promises to create more transparent, accountable, and efficient governments.
  • In addition to creating a more efficient government, blockchain can also help create a more honest government. A public blockchain, like the one Bitcoin uses, records all information and transactions on the decentralized database permanently, publicly, and most importantly, securely. By allowing governments to track the movement of government funds, blockchain can hold state and local actors accountable for any misappropriations.
  • Blockchain not only deters corruption through accountability, but it can also do so by bypassing the middleman entirely. Earlier this year, the World Food Programme began testing blockchain-based food and cash transactions in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Refugees in Jordan’s Azraq camp are now using the same technology, in conjunction with biometric registration data for authentication, to pay for food.

 

Sources: the hindu.

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.

 

IMPRINT-2

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of IMPRINT.

 

Context: For advancing research in the high education institutions, the government has approved 122 new research projects at a cost of Rs 112 crore under IMPRINT-2 covering Energy, Security, Healthcare, Advanced Materials, ICT and Security/Defence domains.

 

About IMPRINT:

  • IMPacting Research, INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) is a national initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD)designed to address all major engineering challenges relevant to India through an inclusive and sustainable mode of translational research.
  • IMPRINT-2 has been approved by Government of India (GoI) with a revised strategy under which, this national initiative will be jointly funded and steered by MHRD and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • While any faculty member from an MHRD funded Higher Education Institute (HEI) including Centrally Funded Technical Institution (CFTI) may lead as the Principal Investigator (PI), single or multiple partners from stake holder ministry, institutions, PSUs, strategic agencies and industry are welcome as Co-PI, partner or collaborator.
  • Proposals under IMPRINT II Projects should (a) address any declared theme(thrust area) under one of the 10 domains of IMPRINT, and (b) connect either with already identified or new research topics defined by the PI under the same 10 domains.
  • Projects proposals should provide clear and convincing evidence of promise for translational research leading to viable technology (product, process or prototype) development.

 

Sources: pib.

Topic: Infrastructure- waterways.

 

Jal Marg Vikas Project

What to study?

  • For Prelims: IWAI, Jal Marg Vikas project, NW 1.
  • For Mains: Significance of Waterways for India and challenges involved in development of these waterways.

 

Context: IWAI recently held a large public outreach along Ganga for Jal Marg Vikas Project. Two-Day long advocacy meetings were held in Jharkhand leg of Ganga.

 

About Jal Marg Vikas Project:

What is it?

The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.

Implementation: The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.

Benefits of this project: Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.

 

Environmental challenges: Though the project is ambitious in its intent, it does not account for the monetary value of the environmental costs that are imposed upon society. The river Ganga meanders across the landscape and spreads over its riverbed making pools and shallow areas. Fish and turtles lay eggs in these shallow areas. But thanks to dredging, which is already being done in the Ganga under the NW-1 project, the river is now channelised in one deep channel. The river no longer meanders and no longer has pools and shallow areas, destroying the habitat of fish and turtles. The stretch of the Ganga near Varanasi has been declared as a turtle sanctuary and studies in other countries indicate that large numbers get hit by fast-moving tourist boats because turtles move slowly.

The stretch of the Ganga near Bhagalpur has been declared a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of the Ganges Dolphin. This animal does not have eyes. It navigates and catches its prey by the sound made by the movement of other aquatic creatures. The plying of large barges will create a high level of sound and make it difficult for them to survive. The paint on ships and barges will also pollute the water. The carbon dioxide released by the ships will be is absorbed more by the water because of its proximity and this too pollutes the river.

 

What can be done to minimize impacts in sensitive zones?

A ban on dredging in protected habitat areas. In other areas that are known to be the habitat of valued aquatic species, no dredging should be allowed in the breeding and spawning seasons.

The speed of barges travelling along the protected areas of the sanctuaries should be restricted to 5km per hour. All vessels plying on the Ganga should be fitted with noise control and animal exclusion devices so that aquatic life is not unduly disturbed. All vessels will also have to comply with `zero discharge’ standards to prevent solid or liquid waste from flowing into the river and affecting its biodiversity.

 

Way forward:

It is time to ensure that the small direct benefits from cheaper transportation shall not have large environmental costs.

 

Know about IWAI:

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.

 

Sources: pib.

Facts for Prelims:

 

‘Mosquito Terminator’:

What is it? It is a special train which will help in preventing mosquito breeding along the railway tracks in Delhi. It has been launched jointly by the Delhi Division of Northern Railway and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC).

The train has been envisaged to control and mitigate the menace of mosquito breeding in the burrow pits alongside railway tracks, as a measure to contribute towards public health and, more importantly, for the health safety of people residing at places adjoining the tracks.

 

 Editorial: The warping of the logic of reservations

Reservations in India:

Reservation in India is the process of facilitating people in education, scholarship, jobs etc that were faced historical injustice.

Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations.

The system of reservation in India comprises a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.

The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality and discrimination faced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.

The primary objective of the reservation system in India is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives.

 

Present Context of the Issue:

The Maratha reservation demands, like those of the Patidars in Gujarat, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh and the Jats in Haryana, are the inevitable outgrowths of the political warping of the logic of reservations.

This has been a contested issue since its inception. The Constituent Assembly fiercely debated the potential divisiveness of a policy of religion or caste-based reservation during a time of nation-building.

Mahavir Tyagi summed up a strain of thought that has persisted since when he argued that he did not “believe in the minorities on community basis, but minorities must exist on economic basis”.

 

Why Reservations have been promoted initially:

when it comes to certain groups that have been systematically oppressed for centuries, community identity and economic outcomes are difficult to disentangle. The Dalit experience has often been compared to the African-American experience. The comparison holds true here.

A solid body of study in the US has shown that centuries of slavery followed by decades of discrimination in housing, education, employment and law and order continue to affect African-American communities today in terms of capital formation, social capital and economic mobility.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes face the same problem in India. In addition, economic opportunities, entrepreneurship, access to credit and the like are still mediated to a large extent through informal kin and caste networks today.

In India, there has been no significant convergence in the occupational mobility of SC/ST men and non-SC/ST men. In addition, SC/ST men are more vulnerable to moving down the intergenerational ladder. Given that no other caste group in India is so uniquely disadvantaged, it is difficult to argue against reservations for it.

 

Economic basis for the reservation not plausible:

  • Affirmative action on an economic basismust be nuanced.
  • It cannot be the job of a state as large and diverse as India to carve out a slice of the pie for every economically disadvantaged citizen.
  • Its job is to grow the pie via inclusive growth,ensure good governance that will give citizens a fair shot at it and put in place social safety nets for those who can’t find a place at the table.

Economic reservations, if they are to exist, must be only in instances of persistent, intergenerational poverty.

  • This is where successive governments at the Centre and in the states have failed comprehensively.
  • Decades of a closed economyfailed to deliver the growth necessary for socioeconomic progress and rid the country of entrenched modes of crony capitalism.

Various administrations have also failed to put in place policies and governance structures that will allow them to fulfil their basic functions: delivering public goods to citizens and enabling them to partake of economic growth.

 

SC/ST Amendment Act, 2018:

Recently, Cabinet has approved the SC/ST (PoA) Amendment Bill 2018, which restores the original provisions to prevent atrocities against the SCs/STs.

  • The amendment bill seeks to restore the power of the investigating officer to arrest an accused who is alleged to have committed atrocities against SCs/STs.
  • It rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for the accused
  • It provides that no preliminary enquiry will be required for registering a criminal case (FIR) and an arrest under this  law would not be subject to  any approval

 

Initial times of Debate in Constituent Assembly:

In May 1949, Vallabhai Patel had said during the Constituent Assembly debates that rather than quotas on the basis of religion, he would wait for the blossoming of toleration and fair-mindedness for the growing conscience among my own countrymen, for there can be no future for this country except on the basis of true democracy and fair opportunity for all

The caste consciousness still runs deep in Indian society and it shapes socioeconomic structures in negative ways.

A dedicated study has to be made analysing the relationship between the reservation, growth and development. Based on the study, the reservation policy has to be revamped. Reservation pleas without proper justification and rationale should not be accommodated.

 

Constitutional provisions related to Reservations:

  • Article 46– promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other weaker sections of the society and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation
  • Article 338– National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  • investigate and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and other legal safeguards for the SCs and to evaluate their working;
  • inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the SCs;
  • 338-A – National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
  • Its functions are same as that of NCSC, but with respect to ST than SC

 

Conclusion:

The reservation nourishes the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs) by the Government of India and also those designated as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs).

It would take political courage and effective governance of a high order to push back against quota politics. Even then, results would be slow in coming.

Reservation is no doubt, one of the appropriate positive discrimination tool for the benefit of downtrodden and backward section. But in India the policy of reservation has never been subject to a widespread social or political audit.

And the issue of reservation has remained a cause of disagreement between the various sections of the society. Hence before extending reservation to more groups, the entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its benefits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.

 

 

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