India-Japan to strengthen defence cooperation for ‘regional stability’
- India and Japan affirmed on 8th May, plans to strengthen their military cooperation amid rising tension in the Asian region.
- Defence minister Arun Jaitley told his Japanese counterpart, Tomomi Inada in Tokyo that India hopes to pursue a strategic partnership with Japan for regional peace and stability.
- His visit comes at a time of rising tension in the region, including territorial rows over the South China Sea and nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
- Jaitley welcomed a planned trilateral naval exercise among the US, India and Japan in July as a way of strengthening cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.
- Japan and India have been stepping up defence cooperation amid China’s increased assertiveness in the region.
- China has long been wary of joint maritime exercises between India and the United States. Japan, a staunch US ally that hosts about 50,000 American troops, has in recent years developed military cooperation with other countries, including Australia, France, Britain and the Philippines.
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to expand Japan’s defence role and capability amid security concerns over China and North Korea. Jaitley visited Japan to attend an annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank that ended on 7th May.
Donald Trump picks Indian-American for key post in energy agency
- US President Donald Trump has appointed Neil Chatterjee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees electricity, natural gas and oil at the national level.
- Chatterjee will play a key role in Trump’s programme to reshape energy policy, most of which is opposed by environmentalists and Democrats, if his appointment is confirmed by the Senate.
- He is the second Indian American to be appointed by Trump to a major regulatory position with a controversial mission.
- The other is Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who is spearheading the administration’s drive to end net neutrality, a policy that prevents internet service providers from giving special treatment to preferred web companies.
- Chatterjee held the influential position of energy policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and helped shape energy legislation.
- His work backed the Senator’s campaign against regulations to restrict use of coal for electricity generation.
- A lawyer by training, he started as an intern with the House Works and Means Committee.
- Between his stints on Congressional staff, he has been a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
- Chatterjee, 40, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where his parents worked in cancer research. He is married with two sons and a daughter.
- Among issues he will likely deal with are Trump’s plans to allow the construction of the Keystone pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada to Texas in the US, which was stopped by former President Barack Obama, and several gas pipeline projects.
India- Indonesia Co-Ordinated Patrol Commences
- The 29th series of IndiaIndonesia CORPAT is scheduled from 09 25 May 17 with the opening ceremony being conducted from 09 -12 May 17 at Port Blair under the aegis of Andaman and Nicobar Command.
- The Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Sutedi Senoputra has arrived at Haddo Wharf, Port Blair to mark the commencement of the 29th series of INDINDO CORPAT today. An Indonesian Maritime Patrol Aircraft also flew in with the Indonesian Naval delegation led by First Admiral Bambang Irwanto to INS Utkrosh, Port Blair.
- First Admiral Bambang Irwanto called on Maj Gen PS Sai, Chief of Staff, Andaman and Nicobar Command and the delegation also interacted with Commodore Ashutosh Ridhorkar, the Naval Component Commander.
- Apart from securing the trade sea route, the Coordinated Patrol also serves to enhance mutual understanding and interoperability between the two navies.
- The CORPAT thus reflects the shared concerns between the two countries for a peaceful Indian Ocean for the benefit of international community.
- During the stay at Port Blair from 09 12 May 17, the visiting crew shall be engaged in interactions at various strata, including sports fixtures, ship visits, professional interactions and visits to places of historical and tourist interests.
- The closing ceremony of the CORPAT is scheduled at Belawan, Indonesia from 22 25 May 17.
- The close defence relations between India and Indonesia have been growing steadily with regular joint activities and exchanges of personnel between the Armed Forces of the two countries.
- Under the broad ambit of this strategic partnership, Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) and the Indian Navy have been carrying out coordinated patrolling twice a year since 2002 near the International Maritime Boundary Line to keep this part of the Indian Ocean region safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade.
Centre Tells States To Link Prisons With Courts Via Video
- The Centre has asked all states to link prisons with courts through video conferencing for expeditious trial and to save costs of escorting undertrials to courts.
- In an advisory to all states, the Ministry of Home Affairs also said prison e-system should be integrated with Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) as well as e-courts on priority basis.
- Combined training of prison, police, health department and judiciary on under trial management should be conducted periodically.
- Separate training course on deradicalisation of prisoners should also be conducted, it said.
- The home ministry suggested to the states that the existing vacancies in all ranks of prison departments be filled up expeditiously.
- The advisory was issued following a national conference of heads of prisons in states and UTs on prison reforms.
- The state and UT governments have been advised to consider for implementation of some suggestions which are aimed at having an effective prison administration system.
- These include, the nomenclature of Prisons Department may be changed to “Prisons and Correctional Administration”, which should have integrated prison, correctional and probation services, it said.
- Every state should establish a welfare wing under prison department comprising welfare officers, law officers, counsellors and probation officers.
- In order to ensure basic uniformity in prison rules and regulations, all states and UTs should revise their existing prison manuals by adopting the provisions of model prison manual, 2016 prepared by the home ministry and circulated to all states and UTs in May 2016, it said.
India, Turkey ink 3 agreements after delegation level talks
- India and Turkey signed three agreements after delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New Delhi.
- The pacts were inked in areas of culture, communication and foreign relations.
- Prime Minister Modi said, India and Turkey have agreed to deepen bilateral economic and commercial ties.
- Mr Modi said he and President Erdogan feel that strengths of the economies present an enormous scope to expand and deepen the commercial linkages.
- He said India will encourage stronger partnership of Turkish companies with India’s flagship programmes and tap into diverse and unique opportunities inherent in rapidly growing India.
- He said, the two countries should see the all business opportunities in a strategic and long-term manner.
- On terrorism, the Prime Minister said, the world needs to work unitedly to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and put a stop to cross border movement of terrorists.
- Mr Modi said, there is also a need to stand and act against those who create, support, shelter and spread terrorism.
- Mr Modi said he and President Erdogan have decided to work together to strengthen cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to effectively counter the menace.
- Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is with India in the fight against terrorism.
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar launches Vidya-Veerta Abhiyan
- Union Minister of Human Resource Development Shri Prakash Javadekar on 2nd May launched the VIDYA VEERTA ABHIYAN here in New Delhi.
- He was accompanied by Minister of State for Defence Dr. Subhash Ramrao Bhamre, writer Shri Tarun Vijay, Senior Officers from Indian Army, Air Force and Navy Lt. General Sarat Chandra, Air Marshal H.N.Bhagwat, Rear Admiral K.K.Pandey, Paramveer Chakra recipient Grenadier Sanjay Kumar and Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav on this occasion. A collage of photo portraits and book on Paramveer Chakra recipients was also released and presented to Vice-Chancellors of universities.
- Highlighting the importance of the occasion Shri Javadekar expressed his gratitude towards the most difficult service rendered by our armed forces.
- He said we feel secure just because of the continuous vigil and alertness of our forces busy in securing our borders.
- The Minister said these are our real post independence heroes while the freedom fighters who laid their lives and faced atrocities for the cause of freedom are the natural heroes since the days of Satyagraha which culminated in the revolution for getting independence from the foreign rule.
- Shri Javadekar said through this campaign a wall of valour will be built in colleges and universities across the country and this will be built on contributory funding by students and teachers on voluntary basis.
- He said this wall will be 15X20 feet in size and will depict the portraits of all the 21 Paramveer Chakra recipients. The Minister expressed the hope that this will help revive and re-energize the patriotic fervour in our young minds.
- The Minister said organising of such events help in changing atmosphere in our colleges and universities. It is just to revive the patriotic feeling in our youth.
- He said we are not interested to teach lessons of patriotism to anyone as it is innate in every individual. But its continuous revival is a dire need. Shri Javadekar said we do not want to force it.
Department of Telecommunications launches Portal for Information on Mobile Tower Radiation
- The Telecom Department today launched a portal that will allow people to track radiation emitted from mobile towers within a locality and check their compliance with the stipulated norms.
- Launching the ‘Tarang Sanchar’ web portal, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha hoped the site will help in clearing “myths and misconceptions” about mobile towers and emissions from them.
- He said the portal will empower consumers to know, at the click of the mouse, about the towers working in a particular area and whether they are compliant to the Electromagnetic field (EMF) emission norms defined by the government.
- The timing of the launch coincides with the recent SC order on deactivation of a mobile tower in Gwalior on the plea of a 42-year-old cancer patient.
- The order had intensified the debate on the impact of radiation from mobile phone towers on health. However, the government has maintained that the mobile tower emissions rules in India are ten times more stringent than the global norms.
Centre Clears 3,000 Crores For VVPATs, Vote Machines With Paper Receipts
- The next general election in 2019 will be conducted entirely with new electronic voting machines that print a paper receipt for each vote cast.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced on 19th April that the centre is releasing 3174 crores for 16 lakh odd machines to BEL ECIL, and will be ready by September 2018, as needed by the Election Commission.
- The decision comes as opposition parties have attacked the machines currently in use as being vulnerable to rigging.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court said that the Election Commission must introduce the new machines called VVPATs (machines with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) in phases.
- The court said that the 2019 national election must be run entirely with these upgraded machines, but the Election Commission has been warning that it is running out of time to place orders for VVPATs.
- Last week, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission and the centre to explain the delay in switching to VVPATs which function like this: when a button is pushed to choose a candidate on a voting machine, a slip of paper shows the party symbol of the candidate selected. The receipt is visible to the voter for a few seconds before it drops into a sealed box.
What happened in the past?
- Opposition parties including Mayawati’s BSP have asked the top court to order that only VVPATs are used in all elections; if that is not feasible, they want India to return to using ballot papers.
- Their case was filed after the BJP’s outsized victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in March, where they allege voting machines were gamed in favour of the BJP.
- The Election Commission has firmly rejected the accusations and said that in May, it will hold a hackathon to prove that the voting machines in use cannot be manipulated.
- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who was the first opposition leader to suggest that machines had been rigged to help the BJP – he said this was the only explanation for his Aam Aadmi Party falling well short of winning February’s election in Punjab.
- Mr Kejriwal said that next week’s municipal corporation election in Delhi should either be conducted with VVPATs or ballot paper, but was turned down by the Election Commission.
Disabled People Exempted From Standing During National Anthem In Movie Halls
- The Supreme Court has exempted six categories of disabled people from standing when the national anthem is played in theatres.
- These include people suffering from cerebral palsy, Parkinson disease, muscular dystrophy and other categories of disability.
- In November the Supreme Court had made it mandatory to play national anthem in movie halls before every screening with the image of the national flag displayed on the screen.
- Delivering the order, the SC had observed that standing up for the national anthem in movie halls will “instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism” in people’s minds.
- It had later clarified people need not stand up if the national anthem was played as part of the film. The verdict had however resulted in a number of people who refused to stand up for the national anthem being physically attacked by fellow movie goers.
B.N.Mohapatra takes over as new Financial Commissioner
- B.N.Mohapatra has been appointed as the new Financial Commissioner (FC) (Railways) and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India and has taken over the charge on 17/04/2017.
- Prior to this posting, Mohapatra was posted as Additional Member/ Finance since 01.11.2016.
- An officer of Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) of 1980 examination batch, Mohapatra completed his post graduation in Political Science and graduation in LLB.
- During his career, Mohapatra has worked on various higher and middle level management posts on the Indian Railways like DRM/ Tinsukhia, NFR, Assistant General Manager (AGM) on East Coast Railway.
- In Railway Board he has worked in various directorates like Pay Commission, Establishment, Expenditure and Accounts as Executive Director and Advisor.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14th April launched the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money mobile application—at Nagpur on the 126th birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
- The new interface will enable customers to make payments using a merchant’s biometric-enabled device. The merchant merely has to download the BHIM app on his smartphone and link the device to an Aadhaar biometric reader.
- To avail of this service, a customer has to first link his bank account to his Aadhaar number.
- To make a payment, all he has to do is select the bank’s name and enter the Aadhaar number.
- His fingerprint will serve as the password to authenticate the transaction.
- To start with, no transaction fee will be levied on either the merchants or customers to encourage adoption of the new digital payment service, especially in small towns and rural India.
- The government statement said 27 major banks had already tied up with 300,000 merchants for accepting payments using BHIM-Aadhaar.
- It went on to add that all public sector banks have been instructed to go live with Aadhaar Pay.
- In his speech, Modi said that the time is not far when premise-less and paperless banking will become part of people’s lives. He announced two new incentive schemes for the BHIM app—cashback (for merchants) and referral bonus (for customers). The schemes will start from 14 April and end on 14 October, he added.
- Under the referral bonus scheme, an individual will earn Rs10 for every new referral made—i.e., educating another person or merchant about the BHIM app and ensuring that they carry out three transactions using the same.
- Under the cashback scheme, merchants can earn up to Rs300 per month for transactions made using BHIM.
- An updated version of BHIM (version 1.3) is available on Android and ioS.
- Several new features have been added to its interface such as new languages, the option to block unwanted collection requests and pay by scanning QR (quick response) codes.
- Three new languages—Punjabi, Marathi and Assamese—have gone live on the app.
- According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics and information technology, 20 million people have downloaded BHIM so far, and payments worth Rs823 crore have been made. The app was launched on 30 December.
- It was one of several measures aimed at promoting digital transactions in the aftermath of the 8 November demonetization of high-value banknotes, which triggered a nationwide cash crunch.
ASCI lays down rules on celebrity endorsements
- From now on, celebrities will be held responsible for the claims made in ads in which they appear.
- The council puts the onus on the advertiser and the advertising agency to ensure that celebrity brand endorsers are aware of ASCI codes.
- Magical charms and pseudoscience-based products that are the staples of teleshopping channels will almost certainly fall afoul of ASCI’s guidelines.
- Some of these products are promoted by has-been Bollywood actors and TV actors.
- Most of these ads violate the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, which prohibits the promotion of a charm of any kind alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings.
- The Act also prohibits the promotion of products that claim to cure baldness and change skin colour.
- Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India, agrees: “Teleshopping ads must stop because they sell all kind of absurd products and celebrities should not endorse them.”
- Still, Dabas says it is unfair to expect a celebrity to know the technical details of a product.
- Pan masala (mouth fresheners made from betel leaf, areca nut, and which sometimes include tobacco) ads came in for special attention from the regulator, which specifically said in the new guidelines that celebrities should refrain from promoting any product that by law requires a health warning on its packaging or advertisement.
- Most pan masala brands are endorsed by popular Bollywood stars including Ajay Devgn (Vimal Pan Masala), Shah Rukh Khan (Pan Vilas), Govinda (Paan-E-Shahee) and Sunny Leone (Shilajeet pan masala). The future of endorsements for such products may now be in jeopardy.
UP CM Adityanath Removes Reservation For SC, ST, OBC Candidates For Pvt Medical Colleges
- Yogi Adityanath government has made a move to ban caste-based reservation quota for SC, ST, OBC in private medical and dental colleges. The newly appointed chief minister just passed an order to remove quota for SC, ST and OBC in medical colleges in the state. After the moral policing of the anti-Romeo squad and the meat ban, this move comes as a huge step forward
- The UP government has passed an order to introduce English as a compulsory subject right from the nursery and a compulsory foreign language for all the school-going kids. They also plan to teach self-defence to every girl student in UP.
Why was caste based reservation introduced?
- Caste-based reservations, when introduced in India, were originally meant for a larger good. With the inhuman atrocities meted out to a certain section of the society, there was an urgent need to bring them back to the mainstream and give them their rightful place.
- While reservations helped provide them with an opportunity to better their position in the social fabric, it gradually became an opportunity to just bag a good job.
- Reservation of seats in engineering and medical colleges on the basis of caste has led to a dilution of education. Institutions that produce future engineers and doctors should have nothing but merit as a criterion of admission.
- At a time when politicians have shied away from banning reservation for fear of backlash, the UP’s government’s move to ban it in medical colleges is a huge step towards quality education.
- Of all professions, the medical profession is one that should be kept out of caste-based politics and we’re glad it’s finally happening.
President Pranab Mukherjee gives assent to 4 supporting legislations on GST
- President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to four key legislations on goods and services tax (GST), paving the way for the roll out of one-nation-one-tax regime from 1 July.
- The legislations were: The Central GST Act, 2017, The Integrated GST Act, 2017, The GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017, and The Union Territory GST Act, 2017, officials said on 13th April.
- These bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on 6 April and by Lok Sabha on 29 March.
- The GST, the biggest taxation reform since Independence, will subsume central excise, service tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) and other local levies to create an uniform market.
- The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, provides for the levy of the Central Goods and Services Tax by the Centre on the supply of goods and services within the boundary of a state.
- Whereas, the Integrated GST Act deals with the levy of Integrated Goods and Services Tax by the Centre on inter-state supply of goods and services.
- The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, provides for compensation to the states for the loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
- The Union Territory GST Act makes a provision for levy and collection of tax on intra-state supply of goods, services or both by the Union Territories.
- The GST rates are to be discussed by the GST Council headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley on 18-19 May.
- Jaitley had in Rajya Sabha last week said that the GST Council, comprising finance ministers of Union and states, had agreed to take a decision on bringing real estate within the ambit of the new tax regime within a year of its roll out.
- The GST Council will also take decisions regarding inclusion of petroleum products and alcohol in the GST network, one by one, in the foreseeable future.
- As regards Jammu and Kashmir, the finance minister had said the law will not apply there because of Article 370 that gives special status to the state.
- Jammu and Kashmir will have to legislate its own law and integrate with the GST regime, Jaitley had said.
Petrol, diesel prices to change every day from May 1, trial run in five cities
- Petrol and diesel prices will change every day in sync with international rates, much like it happens in most advanced markets.
- State-owned fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), which own more than 95% of nearly the 58,000 petrol pumps in the country, will launch a pilot for daily price revision in five select cities from May 1 and gradually extend it across the country.
- Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan indicated that the government has encouraged market-based pricing of fuels.
- A pilot for daily revision of petrol and diesel price will be first implemented in Puducherry, Vizag in Andhra Pradesh, Udaipur in Rajasthan, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Chandigarh, he said.
- State fuel retailers currently revise rates on the 1st and 16th of every month based on average international price of fuel in the preceding fortnight and currency exchange rate.
- Instead of using fortnightly average, pump rates will reflect daily movement in international oil prices and rupee- US dollar fluctuations.
- Daily price change will remove the big leaps in rates that need to be effected at the end of the fortnight and consumer will be more aligned to market dynamics.
- While petrol price was freed from government control in June 2010, diesel rates were deregulated in October 2014. Technically, oil companies have freedom to revise rates but often they have been guided by political considerations.
- Rates differ by only a few paise between pumps of the three state fuel retailers. Unbranded petrol at IOC pumps in Delhi costs Rs 66.29 per litre, while the same at BPCL pumps in the city is priced at Rs 66.37 a litre. HPCL pumps sell for Rs 66.48 per litre.
- Unbranded diesel at IOC pumps in Delhi costs Rs 55.61, Rs 55.66 at BPCL outlets and Rs 55.69 a litre at HPCL pumps.
- Petrol price was last revised downward by Rs 3.77 a litre on April 1 and diesel rates were cut by Rs 2.91. This was the first revision in two-and-half-months as oil firms did not change prices during assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab
India and Australia sign six pacts
- A pact to significantly expand counter-terror cooperation was among six agreements India and Australia inked on Sunday as the two countries called for strong action against those financing and providing sanctuary to terror groups.
- The agreements were signed after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull. The two leaders decided to significantly expand their ties in several key areas including defence, trade, energy and education.
- The relaxed body language of the two Prime Ministers clearly reflecting the thaw in ties between the two nations. Australian PM Malcom Turnbull, who is on a four day visit to India, held hour long talks with PM Modi at the national capital’s Hyderabad House.
- The discussions also veered around energy with Turnbull saying that Australia is ready to supply uranium to India as soon as possible.
- The two countries had signed a civil nuclear cooperation three years ago but the actual supply has not yet commenced in the absence of any commercial contract.
- Australia will support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and also for Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the two export control regimes.
- Both countries agreed share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication.
- They have also recognised importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS. Defence:
- Both countries agreed to remain strongly committed to the breadth of their defence ties and recalled the Special Forces Bilateral Exercise conducted in October 2016.
- They agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise first held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015 will be repeated off Western Australia in the first half of 2018.
- They took decision for first bilateral Army-to-Army exercise to take place in 2018. They also agreed to look forward to the inaugural secretaries’ defence and foreign affairs dialogue in the ‘2+2’ format as a new mechanism to build on the deep strategic partnership.
The MoU’s signed by India and Australia
- MoU on Cooperation in Sports.
- MoU on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine.
- MoU on Cooperation in the field of Environment, Climate and Wildlife.
- MoU for Promotion and Development of Cooperation in Civil Aviation Security MoU on Cooperation in Combatting International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
- Implementation arrangement between ISRO and Geoscience Australia on Cooperation in Earth Observation and Satellite Navigation.
Malala Yousafzai made youngest UN Messenger of Peace
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has been made the youngest ever UN Messenger of Peace.
- The 19-year-old, who is doing her A-levels and has an offer from a top UK university, will take the role with a special focus on girls’ education.
- In 2012 Ms Yousafzai was nearly killed by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ rights to education.
- UN Messengers of Peace are selected from the fields of art, literature, science, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life.
- Other messengers have included Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stevie Wonder and Charlize Theron.
United Nations Messenger of Peace
- United Nations Messenger of Peace is a title bestowed by the United Nations to “distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of art, music, literature and sports, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations.”
- The messengers are initially chosen for a period of three years; although three of the current twelve messengers, Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall, and Yo-Yo Ma have served for more than ten years.
- The Messengers of Peace scheme was instigated in 1997 as a central addition to the system of UN goodwill ambassadors and honorary ambassadors, which has been run by the different UN agencies since 1954, when UNICEF appointed Danny Kaye as its first goodwill ambassador
- Whilst the goodwill and honorary ambassadors mainly promote the work of the UN agency they are ambassador for, the messengers of peace are intended to promote the work of the United Nations in general and are appointed directly by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Lok Sabha passes bill for constitutional status to backward classes commission
- The Lok Sabha on 10th April passed a constitutional amendment which introduces a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes in the Constitution, despite opposition parties claiming certain clauses affected the federal structure of the country.
- The National Commission for Backward Classes Bill 2017 to repeal the 1993 law was also passed.
- This is the first step towards making the backward classes commission a constitutional body.
- The amendment envisages a five-member panel with several duties, including investigating and monitoring matters regarding safeguards provided for the socially and educationally backward classes, inquiring into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards, advising on their socio-economic development, and submitting reports on the working of the safeguards.
- The constitutional amendment also empowers the President to specify communities which would fall under backward class for states and union territories, in consultation with the concerned governor.
- Minister for social justice and empowerment T.C. Gehlot assured the lower house that there would not be any violation of the state commission’s powers. None of the powers of the commission are going to be taken away or weakened in anyway, he said.
AICTE all set to release model exam format
- The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has set the ball rolling for the provision of a model examination format to technical education institutions to test the students’ understanding of concepts and skills, as part of a slew of reforms finalised recently by the technical education regulator.
- The final exams being conducted by the institutions shall test the understanding of the concepts and the skill — rather than the subject knowledge
- A model exam format would be prepared and shared with the institutions and the technical universities for suitable adoption. This aspect would be reviewed at the time of approval.
- Curricula will also be revised annually, the AICTE has resolved.
- Every affiliating technical university shall constitute subject-wise industry consultation committee (ICC) with the mandate of examining the existing curriculum and for making suitable changes in the curriculum every year.
- This process shall be completed in the month of December each year for the courses to be offered in the coming academic year.
- Each institution, while applying for approval, shall certify completion of this process, which will be mandatory,” the resolution says.
- Teachers in technical institutions will also be required to mandatorily undergo an annual online refresher course to ensure better quality in teaching.
- Heads of institutions will also have to undergo leadership training.
- Every teacher in each of the technical education disciplines shall mandatorily undergo an annual refresher course delivered through SWAYAM portal, encapsulating all the major advances in the field of their study.
- Online courses would also be prepared and delivered through the SWAYAM platform for improving the pedagogical techniques of the teachers.
- The participation in the courses by at least 50% of the faculty would be a mandatory condition for approval of the institution
- Similarly, there should be leadership training to the heads of the institutions once in 2 years. These trainings would also be hosted through the SWAYAM platform.
- This apart, there will be compulsory student induction training to ensure the brushing up of fundamental concepts and required linguistic skills.
Prasar Bharati moots global news platform to counter ‘anti-India’ narrative
- To challenge the “anti-India” narrative in foreign media and to report events from the country’s perspective to global audiences, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is planning to launch a high-tech platform.
- The Prasar Bharati board had approved a report for the creation of a new web-based platform in addition to AIR and Doordarshan, whose primary focus is domestic audience.
- The report has now been forwarded to Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.
Possible Venus ‘twin’ discovered
- Astronomers, using NASA’s Kepler space telescope, have discovered a Venus-like planet orbiting a dim star that is one-fifth the diameter of our Sun and is located 219 light years away from the earth.
- The newly found planet is only slightly larger than Earth, and it tightly embraces its low-temperature star called Kepler-1649, encircling it every nine days.
- The tight orbit causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be 2.3 times as great as the solar flux on Earth. For comparison, the solar flux on Venus is 1.9 times the terrestrial value.
- The discovery will provide insight into the nature of planets around M dwarf stars, by far the most common type in the universe.
- While such stars are redder and dimmer than the Sun, recent exoplanet discoveries have revealed instances in which Earth-sized worlds circle an M dwarf in orbits that would place them in their star’s habitable zone.
- However, such worlds may not inevitably resemble Earth, with its salubrious climate. They could just as well be analogues of Venus, with thick atmospheres and scalding temperatures.
- The study of planets similar to the Venus analogue Kepler 1649b is “becoming increasingly important in order to understand the habitable zone boundaries of M dwarfs
- There are several factors, such as star variability and tidal effects, that make these planets different from Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars
- It is said that Venus is Earth’s sister planet, but in many ways it is not a close sibling.
- Despite being the same size as Earth, and only 40% closer to the Sun, its atmosphere and surface temperature are wildly different from our own.
- If we wish to find life on other Earth-sized worlds, we should get to know the territory.
Twenty Two Agreements Signed by India – Bangladesh
- In a bid to give boost to their ties, India and Bangladesh on 8th April inked nearly two dozen pacts in strategic areas of defence and civil nuclear cooperation after “productive” talks between their Prime Ministers.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi held extensive discussions with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on ways to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.
- He also announced a new line of concessional credit of $4.5 billion for the implementation of projects in Bangladesh.
- Announcing an additional line of credit of $500 million to Bangladesh for military supplies, Mr. Modi said it will be driven by the requirement of that country.
- However, much-delayed pact on the Teesta water sharing remained elusive for the two sides. Admitting that the pact was “important” for India-Bangladesh ties, Mr. Modi assured India’s commitment to the issue.
- The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September, 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
- Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.
Cabinet approves closure of Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana
- The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 5th April approved closure of the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) which was set up in 2012 to address the social security-related issues of the Emigration Check Required (ECR)-category workers going abroad for employment to the ECR countries.
- The subscription under the MGPSY was very low and no new subscription was received for more than a year.
- Closure of the scheme will, therefore, obviate the avoidable recurring administrative and record-keeping expenditure.
Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana
- Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) was a special social security scheme for overseas Indian workers on a temporary work permit in the Emigration Check Required (ECR) countries.
- This main motto of this scheme was helping the workers to save money for their retirement, their return to India and provides life insurance cover against natural death during the period of coverage.
- The Scheme considers a co-contribution of Rs 1000 by Government to overseas Indian workers who save Rs 4000 per annum so that on return to India, an MGPSY subscriber could utilize these savings for return and resettlements purposes.
- It provided home and a life insurance cover of Rs 1 Lakh for workers.
- Indian Workers Resource Centre or IWRC was the support center fo Indian workers in the UAE while Bank of Baroda was the official banking partner of the scheme to enroll the workers.
Rajnath Singh to inaugurate the web portal “Bharat ke Veer”
- The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh will inaugurate the web portal and mobile application named “Bharat ke Veer”.
- The portal is an IT based platform, with an objective to enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a brave-heart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty. The Minister of State for Home Affairs Shri Kiren Rijiju and actor Akshay Kumar will also participate in the function.
- The site “Bharat ke Veer” will be available on web portal as well as mobile application.
- The amount so donated will be credited to the account of ‘Next of Kin’ of those Central Armed Police Force/Central Para Military Force soldiers.
- This domain allows anyone to financially support the brave-hearts of his/her choice or towards the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.
- This website is technically supported by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and powered by State Bank of India.
- To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of 15 lakh rupees is imposed and the donors would be alerted if the amount exceeds, so that they can choose to divert part of the donation to another braveheart account or to the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.
- “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus would be managed by a committee made up of eminent persons of repute and senior Government officials, who would decide to disburse the fund equitably to the brave-heart’s family on need basis.