25 , November 2017

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) is observed every year across the world on 25 November. Observance of this day seeks to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, end violence against women. It also seeks to show that prevention is possible against violence of women. The theme for the year 2017 is ‘Leave no one behind: end violence against women and girls.’ It aims to reinforce UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to create world free from violence for all women and girls and reaching out to most marginalized people including refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples, minorities and populations affected by natural disasters and conflicts.

The Communal Harmony Campaign Week was observed from November 19-25, 2017 by National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH). The observance aimed at fostering and reinforcing the spirit of communal harmony, national integration and pride in vibrant, composite culture and nationhood.

NFCH is an autonomous organisation under Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It organises Communal Harmony Campaign coinciding with Qaumi Ekta Week and also observes the Communal Harmony Flag Day. It promotes communal harmony and strengthens nationa; integration. NFCH under its Project ‘Assist’ provides financial assistance for relief and rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal, ethnic or caste, terrorist violence.

India, Sri Lanka to expedite projects

Expediting decisions on joint projects and “solving the problems that have emerged” was at the top of the agenda of Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s visit. Among the projects discussed in particular were the plans for India to develop (1) the Trincomalee harbour, including the Oil Tank farms project, as well as the Indian bid to lease and manage (2) the Mattala airport in Hambantota

1.Cabinet Secretary Chairs the first meeting of Prabhari Officers for Rapid transformation of 115 Backward Districts
Source: PIB

In a significant step towards realisation of the Prime Minister’s vision for creation of a New India by 2022, Government has identified 115 backward districts for rapid transformation by 2022. For each of the Districts, a senior official in the rank of Additional secretary and Joint secretary has been nominated as Prabhari officer. The First meeting of the Prabhari Officers was held today under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary. The meeting was attended by Secretaries of the important central Ministries.

  • Prabhari officers would take it up as a challenge and succeed in their mission by making a difference in the lives of millions of citizens in these districts. Prabhari officers would form a team with State representatives and bring convergence in their effort.
  • Prabhari officers will assist the District administration in sharing the vision for 2022, to ensure the convergence of the efforts of central and state government and to set up a robust mechanism to monitor the improvements in key outcomes in the district.
  • Funds are not a constraint in this program since large funds are available under different Schemes. The officers will explore the availability of funds in District Mineral funds, wherever available for this purpose. In addition, they will also use flexi-fund which are significant in amount and are available under different Schemes of the Government.
  • For the program to succeed, third party validation of key performance indicators in the field of education, health and nutrition, basic infrastructure including roads, electricity, household toilets, agriculture and irrigation is necessary.

Significance:

  • If these districts are transformed, there would be tremendous improvement in the internal security environment of the country.
  • While 35 Districts have been selected on the basis of reported violence by Left Wing Extremism, 55 districts out of 115 are affected by Left Wing extremism and another 15, including districts in J&K and North East are affected by terrorism.
  • If Prabhari officers can bring convergence in the development efforts of different Ministries and state Governments and the schemes specially launched by Home Ministry in these districts, it would serve as a great opportunity to ensure rapid development in the country.

2.Rajnath to chair meet on Centre-State relations
Source: PIB, The Hindu

Home Minister Rajnath Singh will chair a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Inter State Council (ISC) to discuss the recommendations made by the Puncchi Commission on Centre-State relations.

About Puncchi Commission:

  • The Punchhi Commission, which was notified in 2005, submitted its report in 2010.
  • Its recommendations pertaining to national security, communal harmony, Centre-State financial relations and planning are expected to be discussed.

Commission observations:

  • The Commission in its report had said that ‘National Security’ as a subject was not specifically listed in any of the three Lists, i.e. the Union, the State or the Concurrent List.
  • The subject of Security under the Article 352 and under the Emergency Provisions in Part XVIII of the Constitution has been assigned to the Union Government. Though it is an overriding executive power of the Union, in Constitutional practice, however, ‘Security’ is a subject in which the States and the Union have a common interest and are expected to act in a co-ordinated manner.
  • The Commission also said that in case of communal riots, which has a potential of causing widespread violence within a territory, “the use of Article 355 may be in order.” “A clarificatory line in this, regard, if required, may be inserted making the provision explicitly clear that the Centre can depute Paramilitary Forces to such trouble spots in exceptional circumstances even if a request from the State Government is not received. The aim has to be to ensure quick control of the situation, bring it back to normal, hand over the area to the local administration as quickly as possible and then withdraw the Central forces.

About standing committee of Interstate council:

The standing committee of Interstate council is constituted under the chairmanship of Union Home Minister. Apart from Home minister the committee consists of 5 union cabinet ministers and 9 chief Ministers.

The key functions of standing committee include:

  • To monitor the implementation of decisions taken on the recommendations of the Interstate Council.
  • To process all matters relating to Centre – State Relations before they are taken up for consideration in the inter-State Council.
  • To consider any other matter referred to it by the Chairman/Interstate Council.

About Inter-State Council (ISC):

  • The inter-state council was established under Article 263 of the Constitution of India through a Presidential Order dated 28 May 1990.
  • The Council shall consist of prime minister who is the chairman, chief ministers of all states who are members, chief ministers of union territories and administrators of UTs as members, and six union ministers of cabinet rank in the union council of ministers nominated by the prime minister are also members.
  • The inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and union government.
  • It can be established ‘at any time’ if it appears to the President that the public interests would be served by the establishment of such a council.

Note:

Article 352: Proclamation of Emergency
Article 355: Duty of the Union to protect States against external aggression and internal disturbance

3.36th International Geological Congress
Source: PIB

A high level delegation of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) recently visited India to discuss the preparatory aspects of the 36th International Geological Congress (IGC) to be held in Delhi, India in the year 2020.

Described as the Olympics of Geosciences, the IGCs are held quadrennially under the aegis of the IUGS through a process of global bidding. India won the bid in 2012 at Brisbane, Australia to host the Congress in 2020. The win is a remarkable achievement as the event makes a come back to the Indian soil after nearly 6 decades much to the excitement of the entire geoscientific community.

The event is being jointly funded by the Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Earth Sciences with the active support of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), and the Science Academies of the other neighbouring co-host countries, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

About the International Geological Congress (IGC):

  • International Geological Congress (IGC) is the prestigious global platform for advancement of Earth Science.
  • The first session of IGC assembled in 1878 in France with an aim to provide the global geological community with an opportunity to create an organizational frame work for meeting at regular intervals.
  • It envisaged a spirit of fraternal cooperation that transcends boundaries, languages and has the ability to bring together the geo-scientific community across the continents and oceans.
  • Founded as a non-profit scientific and educational organization in 1878, IGC came under the aegis of International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in 1961. Since then the meetings of IGC are held in collaboration and under scientific sponsorship of IUGS.
  • Since the inception of IGC, 33 Congresses have been hosted by 24 countries throughout the world at 3- to 5-year intervals.
  • The 34th Session was held at Brisbane, Australia during August 2012 and the 35th IGC is scheduled to be held at Capetown, South Africa in 2016.

About IUGS:

  • The IUGS was founded in 1961 and is a Scientific Union member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which it recognizes as the coordinating body for the international organization of science.
  • Currently geologists from 121 countries (and regions) are represented in IUGS through 121 Adhering Organization. It is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology.
  • IUGS is a joint partner with UNESCO for the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and they also participate in the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN).

4.Arrest Hafiz Saeed and charge him for his crimes, U.S. tells Pakistan
Source: The Hindu

Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack was released from house arrest by Pakistani authorities.Saeed is a designated global terrorist and the U.S. has declared a bounty of $10 million on his head.

The US reaction: Pakistan should ensure that Hafiz Saeed is arrested and charged for his crimes, the U.S. said a day after he was released from house arrest.

‘Act against LeT’:

  • The U.S. has repeatedly asked Pakistan to act against the LeT.
  • In May 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a specially designated global terrorist under Executive Order 13224.
  • Saeed was also individually designated by the UN under UNSCR 1267 in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people, including six American citizens, were killed.

5.‘No fresh polls if NOTA votes exceed candidates’
Source: The Hindu

Chief Justice of India rejected a public interest litigation petition suggesting fresh elections whenever the public chose overwhelmingly the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option. 

Supreme Court advocate Ashiwni Upadhyay opinion (in PIL):

  • If NOTA got the highest number of votes, it would amount to an expression of public dissatisfaction with the candidates in the fray.
  • If this happened, the result should have to be nullified by the Election Commission.
  • His petition had even sought a ban on the parties and their candidates who failed to NOTA in the first election from contesting the fresh polls.

Arguments put forward by SC against the PIL:

  • Let us say the highest percentage of votes polled by a candidate is 40 and the rest goes to NOTA. Does this mean we subject this candidate to another election
  • This means there should be an election each time a candidate gets less than 51% of the votes polled. Saying this will be crossing a constitutional barricade

CJI Dipak Misra’s Observation:

  • Holding elections in our country costs money.
  • The court said a voter had the right to express his dissent by staying at home.

NOTA option:

  • “None Of The Above”, or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system
  • It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions
  • When “None of the Above” is listed on a ballot, there is the possibility of NOTA receiving a majority or plurality of the vote, and so “winning” the election
  • In such a case, a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including having the office remain vacant, having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or holding another election (in a body operating under parliamentary procedure), or it may have no effect whatsoever, as in India


 6.S&P stands pat on its rating
Source: The Hindu

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) retained its BBB- rating for India’s sovereign with a ‘stable’ outlook.

Reason:

  • S&P cited India’s low per capita income, the sizeable fiscal deficit and high general government debt as factors that continue to weigh down the country’s credit profile and reiterated its stable outlook — indicating that the rating is unlikely to see a change in the near future.

BBB- Rating:

  • A BBB- rating denotes the lowest investment grade rating for bonds.
  • Ratings are constrained by India’s low wealth levels, measured by GDP per capita, which is estimated at close to US$2,000 in 2017, the lowest of all investment-grade sovereigns.
  • S&P also added that India’s GDP growth rate is among the fastest of all investment-grade sovereigns, and it expects real GDP to average 7.6% over 2017-2020.

In Contrast with Moody’s rating:

  • By contrast, Moody’s Investors Services had raised India’s sovereign rating, citing the country’s high growth potential compared to its similarly rated peers and economic and institutional reforms that have been undertaken or are works in progress.
  • This is clearly a conservative call wherein S&P would like to see the results of the reforms initiated before a ratings revision while Moody has taken the Call based on the reforms initiated.

 7.Sagardhwani retraces historic Indian Ocean expedition routes
Source: The Hindu

Marine acoustic research vessel INS Sagardhwani is riding a wave of history that charted the course of oceanographic research in the Indian Ocean.

The Kochi-based ship, operated by the Navy and equipped with eight scientific laboratories, recently joined an international campaign to revisit the first major interdisciplinary ‘International Indian Ocean Exploration (IIOE)’ undertaken by 13 countries with 46 vessels in the 1960s.

‘International Indian Ocean Exploration-2:

  • IIOE-2, as the ongoing commemorative expedition is known, is organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) under the UN.
  • It hopes to furthering the scientific community’s understanding of the Indian Ocean biophysical variability in response to monsoon and human activity. A total of 52 nations are taking part in IIOE-2, carrying out oceanographic research in designated areas in the Indian Ocean.

8.Centre to seek 20,000 MW of solar bids
Source: PIB , The Hindu

The government is planning bids for a total of 20,000 MW of solar energy plants projects in this financial year, of which 3,600 MW have already been completed

The Ministry is planning bids for 30,000 MW of solar projects in 2018-19 and 2019-20, each. In wind energy, the Centre announced the third wind power auction of 2,000 MW, the largest of its kind in India so far

Solar Component Manufacturing:

  • Government would soon invite expressions of interest for the setting up of end-to-end solar component manufacturing in India of 20 GW capacity
  • SEC: Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) will invite two separate bids for 3,000 MW of solar projects in December 2017 and January 2018 each
  • NTPC: NTPC is to invite a bid for 5,000 MW of solar projects in February 2018, and another 6,000 MW will be bid out in March 2018 by SECI and other Central PSUs

50% of 2022 target met:

In wind energy, the Ministry said it had already received bids for 32 GW of projects, which is more than 50% of the 60 GW target set for 2022 The government is expecting bids for a total of 8-9 GW this year, and 10 GW each in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

9.Doval for cooperation on cybersecurity
Source: The Hindu

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said all stakeholders, including States and the private sector, need to cooperate to mitigate the negative effects of cyberspace, especially amid emergence of technologies such as artificial intelligence and internet of things

The security agencies of geographies also need to have better cooperation and they should have very specific cybersecurity structure which are able to do faster exchange of information, identify the defaulters, to see against them give support to law enforcement agencies so that the cybernorms and laws are adhered to

Artificial intelligence

He warned that the situation would get more complex as “we are entering into domain of artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoTs, robotics are going to create and compound these problems manifold. So we have got to think of the structures, systems, methodologies, inter-operability, governmental support, multilateral and bilateral cooperation, which will be able to cope

Need of the hour:

Never before has there been any change which is so wide in its expanse, and which can affect the lives of so many people but if it provides you global connectivity, it also provides global connectivity to terrorists and criminals. It also provides connectivity to the people who want to subvert the minds and hearts of young generation and take them to a certain path of thinking,

10.World’s smallest tape recorder built from bacteria
Source: The Hindu

Researchers have converted a natural bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring.

  • The Team created the microscopic data recorder by taking advantage of CRISPR-Cas, an immune system in many species of bacteria
  • CRISPR-Cas copies snippets of DNA from invading viruses so that subsequent generations of bacteria can repel these pathogens more effectively.
  • As a result, the CRISPR locus of the bacterial genome accumulates a chronological record of the bacterial viruses that it and its ancestors have survived
  • When those same viruses try to infect again, the CRISPR-Cas system can recognise and eliminate them.

Potential Applications:

This research lays groundwork for new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring. It may help to record biological changes taking placing in digestive tract which can yield an unprecedented view of previously inaccessible phenomena. It can be also used in environmental sensing and basic studies in ecology and microbiology, where bacteria could monitor otherwise invisible changes without disrupting their surroundings.



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