Current Affairs : 12 March 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
National Knowledge Network
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: What is NKN? – objectives, features and significance.
Context: India has decided to extend its National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh.
What is it? NKN is a multi-gigabit pan-India network which facilitates the development of India’s communications infrastructure, stimulates research and creates next generation applications and services.
Aim: With its multi-gigabit capability, NKN aims to connect all universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions across the country to address such paradigm shift.
What it does? It enables collaboration among researchers from different educational networks such as TEIN4, GARUDA, CERN and Internet2. It also enables sharing of scientific databases and remote access to advanced research facilities. The leading mission oriented agencies in the fields of nuclear, space and defence research are also part of NKN.
Role of NKN:
- Establishing a high-speed backbone connectivity which will enable knowledge and information sharing amongst NKN connected institutes.
- Enabling collaborative research, development and innovation amongst NKN connected institutes.
- Facilitating advanced distance education in specialized fields like engineering, science, medicine etc.
- Facilitating an ultra-high speed e-governance backbone.
- Facilitating connection between different sectoral networks in the field of research
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Home Min allows States to use 9,400 enemy properties
What to study?
- For Prelims: Meaning of enemy properties and key features of the enemy properties act.
- For Mains: Significance and key features of the act.
Context: The Centre has allowed State Governments to take some enemy properties for public use. The guidelines for disposal of the Enemy Property Order, 2018 have been amended to facilitate “usages of enemy property by the State Government exclusively for public use”.
What are enemy properties?
- When wars broke out between India and China in 1962, and India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the central government took over properties of citizens of China and Pakistan in India under the Defence of India Acts. These Acts defined an ‘enemy’ as a country that committed an act of aggression against India, and its citizens.
- The properties of enemies in India were classified as enemy property. The properties included land, buildings, shares held in companies, gold and jewellery of the citizens of enemy countries. The responsibility of the administration of enemy properties was handed over to the Custodian of Enemy Property, an office under the central government.
- Of the total properties left behind by those who took Pakistani citizenship, 4,991 are located in Uttar Pradesh, the highest in the country. West Bengal has 2,735 such estates and Delhi 487.
- The highest number of properties left by Chinese nationals is in Meghalaya (57).West Bengal has 29 such properties and Assam seven.
- The estimated value of all enemy properties is approximately Rs 1 lakh crore.
Enemy properties Act:
- After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the custodian’s powers.
- The government amended the Act in the wake of a claim laid by the heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, known as Raja of Mahmudabad, on his properties spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
- The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.
Relevant articles from various News Papers:
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
‘Trends in International Arms Transfers–2018’
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Highlights and significance of the report, concerns over increased arms trade and need for their regulation.
Context: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released the Trends in International Arms Transfers 2018 Report. The assessment was done for a five-year period (2014-2018).
Highlights of the report:
- India was the world’s second largest importerof major arms in 2014-18 and accounted for 9.5% of the global total.
- After eight years of holding the position of the largest importer of weapons, India has been superseded by Saudi Arabia and dropped down to become the second largest importer of weapons in the world. Last year (for the period 2013-17), India accounted for 13% of all imports and was the world’s largest importer.
- Reasons for gradual lowering of imports by India:Imports decreased by 24% between 2009-13 and 2014-18 (two five-year blocks), partly due to delays in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008.
- The five biggest exporters in five-year block period 2011-2015 were the US, Russia, France, Germany and China. The US and Russia remain by far the largest exporters, accounting for 36% and 21%, respectively, of the total global trade.
- China, which is now the fifth largest exporter of weapons, has been aiding Pakistan and Bangladesh in stepping up their military prowess in the region. The two countries accounted for 53% of Beijing’s exports from 2014-2018. On the other hand, Beijing is also an importer. China is the world’s sixth largest arms importer in 2014-18 and accounted for 4.2% of the global total.
- Pakistan recorded a 39% dip in arms imports in 2014-18 compared to 2009-13, with the US becoming “increasingly reluctant” to provide military aid or sell arms to Pakistan.
- US arms exports to Pakistan fell 81% between 2009-13 and 2014-18. Pakistan has instead turned to other suppliers. For example, in 2018 it ordered four frigates and 30 combat helicopters from Turkey.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:
- Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) established in 1966 is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
- Based in Stockholm the Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Critically analyse how has India’s acute dependence on imported arms and ammunition eroded combat readiness of its armed forces and its stature as net security provider in the region.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
World Gold Council (WGC)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: WGC- composition, functions and significance, demand for gold- concerns and demands.
Context: World Gold Council (WGC) has released a report on gold holdings of various countries.
- India, which is the world’s largest consumer of gold, has the 11th largest gold reserve, with the current holding pegged at 607 tonnes.
- International Monetary Fund (IMF) is third on the list with total gold reserves of 2,814 tonnes.
- Top slot is occupied by the U.S., which boasts of gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes, followed by Germany with 3,369.7 tonnes.
- Among Asian countries, China and Japan have more reserves of the precious metal when compared to India.
- Pakistan, with its gold reserves of 64.6 tonnes, occupies the 45th position.
About World Gold Council:
- The World Gold Council is the market development organisation for the gold industry. It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
- The World Gold Council is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies. It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
- Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: AstroSat- objectives, accomplishments and significance.
Context: The Indian multi-wavelength space observatory AstroSat, launched in September 2015, continues to yield exciting results. Using this observatory, astronomers from Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai have identified a new population of ultraviolet stars in the globular cluster NGC 2808.
What are globular clusters?
Globular clusters are collections of thousands to millions of stars, moving as one unit. These stars are tightly held together by gravity of the cluster itself, and are believed to have formed together at roughly the same time. Some globular clusters could be among the oldest objects in our Milky Way, which hosts over 150 of them.
ASTROSAT is India’s first dedicated multi wavelength space observatory. This scientific satellite mission endeavours for a more detailed understanding of our universe.
- ASTROSAT is designed to observe the universe in the Visible, Ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum simultaneously with the help of its five payloads.
- Astrosat aims at understanding the high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
- This mission has put ISRO in a very exclusive club of nations that have space-based observatories. Only the United States, European Space Agency, Japan and Russia have such observatories in space.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Pinaka Guided Weapons:
Context: The indigenously developed Pinaka Guided Weapons System was successfully test fired at Pokhran desert in Rajasthan.
- Pinaka rocket systems are developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The rocket system was named after Pinaka, the bow of Lord Shiva.
- It was initially a 30 to 40 km range rocket. Its range was increased 70 to 80 km with Pinaka Mark II.
30th birthday of World Wide Web:
Context: Google Doodle marked the 30 years of the innovation of World Wide Web on March 12, 2019 with a GIF doodle, which featured an old, plugged-in computer with a rotating globe.
What is WWW?
The inventor of WWW, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, was 33 when he first submitted the ‘Information Management: A Proposal’ for World Wide Web while working at Europe’s CERN lab. He submitted his proposal on March 12, 1989, which led to the invention of World Wide Web. Today, it nearly has 2 billion websites online.
- Berners started out with his invention by typing out the basic HTML language, the HTTP application, and WorldWideWeb.app, which became the first web browser and page editor. And by 1991, the external Web servers were up and running.
- The web was made public in April 1993, after which the first search engine was launched called Mosaic.
- The World Wide Web has been central to the development of the Information Age and is the primary tool billions of people use to interact on the Internet.
Context: A species of wood snake that wasn’t seen for 140 years has resurfaced in a survey conducted by scientists in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The species is endemic to the Meghamalai forests and the Periyar Tiger Reserve landscape.
In News- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA):
NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established, inter alia, to fix/ revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995.
The organization is also entrusted with the task of recovering amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers. It also monitors the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
Functions of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority:
- To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order in accordance with the powers delegated to it.
- To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority.
- To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
- To collect/ maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies etc, for bulk drugs and formulations.
- To undertake and/ or sponsor relevant studies in respect of pricing of drugs/ pharmaceuticals.
- To recruit/ appoint the officers and other staff members of the Authority, as per rules and procedures laid down by the Government.
- To render advice to the Central Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.
- To render assistance to the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to the drug pricing.
Summaries of Important Editorials:
- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Model Code of Conduct
What to study?
- For Prelims: Features of MCC, constitutional status.
- For Mains: Significance, need for reforms of MCC, committee constituted in this regard.
Context: With the Election Commission of India announcing the polling dates for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force.
Model Code of Conduct(MCC):
What is MCC? These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
Aim: To ensure free and fair elections.
When it comes into force? So far, the Model Code of Conduct came into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
Status: The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
Evolution: The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
What it contains? The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.
Drawbacks: The biggest drawback of the MCC is lack of statutory backing. This imposes limitations on Election Commission to proceed against those violating the norms of MCC. Hence Election Commission is bound to use moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.
What restrictions does the Model Code of Conduct impose?
The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.
As soon as the code kicks in, the party in power — whether at the Centre or in the States — should ensure that it does not use its official position for campaigning. Hence, no policy, project or scheme can be announced that can influence the voting behaviour. The party must also avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
The code also states that the ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same. The ruling party also cannot use government transport or machinery for campaigning. It should also ensure that public places such as maidans etc., for holding election meetings, and facilities like the use of helipads are provided to the opposition parties on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.
The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media is also considered an offence. The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc. which may influence the voters.
Political parties or candidates can be criticised based only on their work record and no caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters. Mosques, Churches, Temples or any other places of worship should not be used for election propaganda. Bribing, intimidating or impersonation of voters is also barred.
Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited. The 48-hour period is known as “election silence”. The idea is to allow a voter a campaign-free environment to reflect on events before casting her vote.