11 , November 2017

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The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has named Debjani Ghosh its president-designate. She will succeed RChandrashekhar after his tenure ends in March 2018. It will make her first female president global trade body representing software companies. She is former Managing Director of Intel South Asia. She is also member of NASSCOM’s Executive Council and a trustee of NASSCOM Foundation.

KOLKATA-KHULNA TRAIN KEEPS TIES ON TRACK

A new train – Bandhan Express – was inaugurated between Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh, covering a distance of 172 km.
Railway passenger and freight services between India and the erstwhile East Pakistan [later Bangladesh], which had continued after Independence, were stopped during the 1965 war.

Also inaugurated was the second Bhairab and Titas railway bridges on the Dhaka-Chittagong route over the Meghna and Titas rivers, respectively, in Bangladesh and also the railway passenger terminus with immigration and customs clearance facilities at the Kolkata station.

Delhi pollution: NGT says no odd-even unless Delhi govt justifies its necessity

The NGT chairperson noted that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) had indicated that no real benefits in reducing air pollution accrued from the odd-even scheme when it was implemented in the past.

1.Centre approves creation of National Testing Agency
Source : PIB, The Hindu

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, and as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.

Features:

  • The NTA would initially conduct those entrance examinations which are currently being conducted by the CBSE.
  • Other examinations will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up.
  • The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best.
  • In order to serve the requirements of the rural students, it would locate the centres at sub-district/district level and as far as possible would undertake hands-on training to the students.

Constitution:

  • NTA will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by MHRD.
  • The CEO will be the Director General to be appointed by the Government.
  • There will be a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions.
  • The Director General will be assisted by 9 verticals headed by academicians/ experts.

Finances:

NTA will be given a one-time grant of Rs.25 crore from the Government of India to start its operation in the first year. Thereafter, it will be financially self-sustainable.

Impact:

Establishment of NTA will benefit about 40 lakh students appearing in various entrance examinations. It will relieve CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from responsibility of conducting these entrance examinations, and also bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem solving abilities of the students.

  2. 2nd Meeting of EAC-PM focuses on Job Creation, Social Sector and Infrastructure
Source: PIB, The Hindu

The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM), in its second meeting, outlined a roadmap for stepping up skill development, job creation, enhanced resource investment in the social sector including for health and education and for boosting infrastructure financing. The EAC-PM,chaired by Niti Aayog Member Bibek Debroy.

  • It formulated recommendations to guide the evolving framework for the 15th Finance Commission, including the incentivization of states for achieving health, education and social inclusion outcomes.
  • The Council is also evolving the design of a new Economy Tracking Monitor, linking economic growth indicators with social indicators.

EAC-PM:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constituted five member EAC-PM in September 2017 as an independent body to provide advice on economic issue to the government, specifically to the Prime Minister. It consists of economists of high repute and eminence. It serves as an independent institutional mechanism, to provide informed advice to the Prime Minister on addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and related aspects.

3.Cabinet approves appointment of Second National Judicial Pay Commission for Subordinate Judiciary in the country
Source : PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved appointment of Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC) for Subordinate Judiciary in the country.

The Commission is to be headed by Shri Justice (Retd.J P.Venkatrama Reddi, former Judge of Supreme Court of India. Shri R. Basant, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court is the Member of the Commission.

The Commission will make its recommendations to the State Governments preferably within a period of 18 months.

About SNJPC:

  • It will examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of Judicial Officers in the States and UTs.
  • The Commission aims to evolve the principles which would govern pay structure and other emoluments of Judicial Officers belonging to the Subordinate Judiciary of the country.
  • It will examine the work methods and work environment as also the variety of allowance and benefits in kind that are available to Judicial Officers in addition to pay and to suggest rationalization and simplification thereof.
  • The Commission will devise its own procedures and formulate modalities necessary for accomplishing the task.
  • The Commission also aims at making the pay scales and conditions of service of Judicial Officers uniform throughout the country.
  • The recommendations of the Commission will help in promoting efficiency in Judicial Administration, optimizing the size of judiciary etc. and to remove anomalies created in implementation of earlier recommendations.

4.India to face U.K. in ICJ election
Source : The Hindu

The government is putting “all efforts in” to ensure the election of its nominee Judge Dalveer Bhandari for the International Court of Justice.Officials said on Friday that India failed to secure enough support in the first few rounds of voting for the court where the Kulbhushan Jadhav case is being heard.

Election Process:

  • To be elected, any candidate must obtain a majority of 97 votes or more in the UN General Assembly
  • They must also have a majority of eight votes in the Security Council.

India’s Performance:

  • During the last unsuccessful round, India won 115 to U.K.’s 74 votes in the UNGA, but won only six out of 15 U.N. Security Council members, while U.K. won nine.
  • India’s task is made more difficult, given the U.K. is a permanent member and has a vote in both the UNSC and the UNGA.

Why is it important for India?

  • India has a particular interest in the ICJ spot, given the trial of Jadhav, the man convicted of spying in Pakistan, which is now in the international court at The Hague.
  • In October, Pakistan had nominated an ad-hoc judge Tassaduq Hussain Jillani according to ICJ rules to sit on the Bench.

  5. 11 Trade ministers reach deal on Pacific trade without US
Source: The Hindu

Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries said they reached a deal to proceed with the free-trade Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. An accord was reached on “core elements” of the 11-member pact. The deal was in doubt after US President Donald Trump abandoned it.

US out of TPP:

In January this year, Mr. Trump pulled out of the deal. Leaders of the 11 countries remaining in the TPP had been due to meet and endorse a deal. The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the U.S., the biggest economy

  • The U.S. president lambasted the World Trade Organization and other trade forums as unfair to the United States and reiterated his preference for bilateral trade deals
  • He said that he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to U.S. involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP

Impact of Open Trade:

Open trade has an unequal impact on workers. There are also concerns over automation in manufacturing that could leave many millions in a wide array of industries with no work to do.

APEC summit:

All this is going on the sidelines of APEC summit being hosted in Vietnam. APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues non-binding statements.

APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S, and Vietnam

China‘s view on Free Trade:

Speaking at the APEC summit in Vietnam, Mr. Xi conceded that the philosophy behind free trade needed to be repurposed to be “more open, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all” but defended multinational trade deals, which he said helped poorer nations benefit from global commerce.

He also called globalisation an “irreversible historical trend”, in comments that offered a contrast to the “America First” doctrine espoused by Donald Trump moments earlier.

China is not part of the TPP

Trans Pacific Partnership:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), is a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States (until 23 January 2017) and Vietnam
  • The TPP began as an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) signed by Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore in 2005
  • The TPP contains measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade and establish an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism
  • The agreement will enter into force after ratification by all signatories if this occurs within two years
  • APEC members may accede to the TPP, as may any other jurisdiction to which existing TPP members agree. After an application for membership is received, a commission of parties to the treaty negotiates conditions for accession.

6.Govt. offers free bus rides during odd-even scheme
Source: The Hindu

The Aam Aadmi Party government on Friday announced free bus rides aboard its Delhi Transport Corporation fleet from November 13 to 17, the proposed dates of odd-even car rationing scheme, even as the National Green Tribunal questioned the rationale

  • According to sources, the free rides are expected to cause a loss of around Rs. 9.5 crore to the cash-strapped public transporter.
  • The government’s decision of free bus rides is subject to the NGT’s final call on the odd-even scheme.
  • Meanwhile, the DTC will operate 500 additional buses under its ‘Paryavaran Seva’, with half their seats reserved for women.

7.ICRISAT RESEARCHERS HELP RAISE GROUNDNUT CROP FREE OF TOXIN
Source: The Hindu

Researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad have developed dual strategies to keep groundnuts almost free of contamination by aflatoxin — a toxin produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus .

While one strategy prevents groundnuts from being infected by the fungus thereby preventing the toxins from being produced, the other strategy prevents the fungus from producing the toxin even if groundnuts somehow get infected with the fungus.

Genetic engineering approaches were used for inserting two alfalfa genes into groundnut plants to enhance immunity against fungal infection and growth.

Alfalfa is a flowering plant of the pea family.

8.Facebook introduces Disaster Maps in India for better response to disasters.
Source: IE

Facebook Inc. rolled out Disaster Maps for India to help communities across the country recover and rebuild from natural disasters faster by sharing critical pieces of data sets with humanitarian agencies in a timely manner.

Disaster Response Summit:

The new product was launched at the company’s first Disaster Response Summit in India along with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to improve disaster response and disaster management in India.

According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) data, India is the third-worst affected country by natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones and drought. Moreover, the response time during and after these crises is often slow and it takes significant time and resources to understand where help is needed most.

Disaster Maps, powered by Facebook’s technology and intensive research, will address this critical gap in data that government organizations face when responding to a crisis.

What are Disaster Maps?

Disaster Maps, which was introduced globally in June, uses aggregated, de-identified Facebook data to help organizations address the critical gap in information they often face when responding to natural disasters.

Facebook provides multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts, which include aggregated location information people have chosen to share with Facebook.

This helps NGOs and relief agencies get a clearer picture of where affected people are located so they can determine where resources—like food, water and medical supplies—are needed.

Facebook researchers have built three kinds of maps:

Location density maps: These show where people are located before, during and after a disaster. We can compare this information to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster.

Movement maps: These illustrate patterns of movement between different neighbourhoods or cities over a period of several hours. By understanding these patterns, response organizations can better predict where resources will be needed, gain insight into patterns of evacuation, or predict where traffic will be most congested.

Safety Check: These maps are based on locations where our community uses Safety Check to notify their friends and family that they are safe during a disaster. We are using this de-identified data in aggregate to show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help organizations unders

ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme:

Facebook is also supporting pilot of ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme with SEEDS. Under it, SEEDS will establish a network of trained volunteers to provide real-time, first-hand information on disasters in their local communities. It will provide supplementary information to inform relief efforts through Facebook Workplace platform. The programme will be piloted in two disaster-prone States — Assam and Uttarakhand.

Background:

Facebook has 2 billion-plus users globally and according to a media report, its users in India have crossed the 240 million mark, making it the largest audience country for the social media company.

While globally Facebook has partnered with organizations like the Red Cross, in India, initially it will join hands with two organizations: the NDMA and SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) and will share data about Facebook users with them in times of disasters. Over time, they will add more such partners.

Facebook has developed a number of crisis response tools. It activated the Safety Check feature in 2014 and launched Community Help in 2015, which allows the Facebook community to find and give help such as food, shelter and transportation.



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