29 July 2017

29 July: International Tiger Day

The International Tiger Day (also known as Global Tiger Day) is celebrated every year on 29 July to raise awareness for tiger conservation. The goal of observance of the day is to promote the protection and expansion of the wild tigers habitats and to gain support through awareness for tiger conservation.

The International Tiger Day was founded in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. The summit had issued St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation with an aim to double the big cat population by 2022. It is has been founded that in the last century 97% of all wild tigers had disappeared due to many factors including habitat loss, hunting and poaching, climate change. According to WWF, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, of them, India with more than 2500 tigers has the highest number.


Former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar was conferred with the Japan’s imperial decoration ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ award for his contribution to fostering Japan-India ties. Kumar had served as Special Envoy of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan during the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan to India in December 2013, and contributed to the success of the visit.

Building block of life found on Saturn’s moon Titan

An important building block of life has been discovered in the hazy upper atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Using data from the Cassini mission, scientists identified negatively charged molecules called ‘carbon chain anions’ in the atmosphere of Titan.

These linear molecules are understood to be building blocks towards more complex molecules, and may have acted as the basis for the earliest forms of life on Earth.


1.Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns
Source: The Hindu

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resigned from his post after the Supreme Court disqualified him in the Panama Papers case. This is the third time Nawaz Sharif has been unable to complete his term in the chief executive’s office. In a landmark judgment, a five Judge bench of Pakistan Supreme Court unanimously ruled to register a case against Nawaz Sharif and his family guilty of money laundering.

  • Prime Minister had been dishonest to Parliament and the courts, in not disclosing his employment in a Dubai-based company in his 2013 nomination papers, and thus, could not be deemed fit for his office.
  • It ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference in an accountability court in six weeks and the case must be completed within six months.
  • It also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a notification declaring the Prime Minister’s disqualification.


Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and two sons were engulfed by corruption charges as pointed in Panama Paper leaks. The scandal had revealed that Nawaz Sharif’s sons, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz owned offshore companies illegally which managed their family’s properties.

Panama Paper leaks

  • The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca based in Panama.
  • The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
  • The documents had leaked the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
  • The leaks disclosed 12 national leaders among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known using these offshore tax havens.

No democratically-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan has managed to complete a full term in office in the nation’s 70-year history. Only one Pakistani government has completed its full term, but it had two prime ministers. Besides, Pakistan also has witnessed three successful coups and spent more than half of its time under military rule.


2.SC rejects abortion plea of 10-year-old
Source: The Hindu

On July 24, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar had directed doctors from P.G.I., Chandigarh, to medically examine the 10-year-old rape victim and file a report in court on whether the “health of the girl child concerned, who is stated to be of the age of 10 years, and also that of the foetus, would be adversely affected, if the pregnancy is continued for the full term”.

Termination is not possible

  • Medical opinion: abortion will endanger both the girl and her 32-week-old foetus.
  • Supreme Court: denied the permission to grant abortion of the foetus.
  • Supreme Court urged the government to consider setting up permanent medical boards across the States so that women, especially child rape victims, could receive expedient access to medical care.

Why such boards?

  • Presently, women are forced to undertake the cumbersome process of approaching different courts, from district courts to high courts and finally the Supreme Court, for permission to medically terminate their pregnancies which are over 20 weeks.
  • The frequent number of such cases which have come to the Supreme Court range from child rape victims to destitute women to women with substantial foetus abnormalities.


3.NPCI gets RBI nod to operate Bharat Bill Payment System
Source: PIB

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has received final nod from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) and operate the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).

The final clearance from RBI comes almost a year after NPCI launched the BBPS pilot project to make payment of utility bills easier. The pilot started in August 2016 with eight BBPS operating units that had received in-principle approval from RBI. The total number of Bharat Bill Payment Operating Units certified by NPCI now stands at 24. The certified units include 10 private sector banks, 3 public sector banks (Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank), five cooperative banks and six non-bank biller aggregators.

Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS)

  • BBPS is an integrated bill payment system offering interoperable and accessible bill payment service to customers through a network of agents, enabling multiple payment modes and providing instant confirmation of payment.
  • The BBPS initiative aims to provide a major push to digital payments as it is a big step forward in formalizing the bill payment system in the country.
  • Under the BBPS framework, a customer will be able to pay several bills such as electricity, telephone, water, gas, and DTH television at a single location—physical or electronic—and receive instant confirmation once the payment is made.
  • Nearly 45 crore bills are permitted under BBPS. Payments through BBPS can be made using cash, transfer cheques and electronic modes. Bill aggregators and banks, who will function as operating units, will carry out these transactions for the customers.
  • At present the bulk of transactions on BBPS are of electricity bills. It contributes to about 180 million bills per month out of which only 10% is digital.


4.Sagar Vani: An Integrated Information Dissemination System launched
Source: PIB

The Union Ministry of Earth Science has launched Sagar Vani, an integrated information dissemination system on the occasion of its foundation Day. Sagar Vani is an integrated information dissemination system that will serve the coastal community, especially the fishermen community with the advisories and alerts towards their livelihood as well as their safety at Sea.

  • Sagar Vani has been developed by ESSO-Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) through the Industry M/s. Gaian Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
  • It is a software platform where various dissemination modes will be integrated on a single central server.
  • It includes Multi Lingual SMS, Voice Call/Audio Advisory, Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Mobile Apps (User/Admin modules), email, Fax, GTS, Digital Display Boards, IVRS, Radio/Television broadcast units, Cloud Channels, etc.
  • The system also has facility to provide access to various stakeholders (State Fishery Departments, Disaster Management Authorities, NGOs etc.) so that they will be able to further disseminate these ocean information and alerts to the user community.
  • This ‘Sagar Vani’ system compares with the most advanced countries’ services in terms of speed of delivery, diverseness of services and omni channel capabilities.
  • It can disseminate services in local languages using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities.


5.Most private hospitals evade tax: CAG
Source: The Hindu

Highlights of “A performance audit of India’s private hospitals” by CAG

  • Majority of the institutions is evading tax.
  • Data on ‘non-filers’ of income tax was available only in three states — West Bengal, Assam and Gujarat.
  • Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu had no process of identifying hospitals that were evading tax.
  • Most private hospitals and practitioners did not submit valid Permanent Account Numbers (PAN).
  • The private sector accounts for 80% of outpatient care and 60% of inpatient care in the country.


6.CAG spots weaknesses in missile defence system
Source: The Hindu

Deficient in quality – The strategic missile system, a medium range supersonic surface to air missile system to counter aerial threats were “deficient in quality,”

  • Over 70 % of the under vehicle scanners (UVS) installed at Indian Air Force (IAF) bases were non-functional
  • The IL series of aircraft, which provide vital transport support to IAF during contingencies, “has not been upgraded, and continue to fly with 1985 vintage avionics.” Air to air refuelling is a crucial capability both during combat as well as peace time operations. IL-78 aircraft are dedicated for this purpose. However, due to inadequate infrastructure and support facilities the air to air refuelling capability was hampered.

Importance of Strategic missile system:

  • Strategic missile system is vital for the country’s air defence and deterrence capability.
  • Audit found that the system delivered by Bharat Electricals Limited (BEL) was deficient in quality.
  • Out of 80 missiles received up to November 2014, 20 were test fired during April-November 2014. Six of these missiles i.e., 30 % failed the test.
  • Preliminary failure analysis report revealed that the missiles fell short of the target, had lower than the required velocity, and also there was malfunctioning of critical units like Servo Control Unit and Connector.
  • Two missiles had failed to take off because the booster nozzle had failed. These deficiencies posed an operational risk during hostilities.


7.‘Regulators shouldn’t restrain innovation’
Source: The Hindu

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant opinion: India’s financial sector regulators should stop hindering ideas in the financial technology sector and instead opt for a regulatory sandbox approach to nurture innovative financial technology applications.

What is a regulatory sandbox?

  • A regulatory sandbox is an experimental oversight mechanism for innovative products and services that do not fall into an existing regulatory regime or cut across traditional regulators’ domains.
  • For example when you make payment transfers or remittances, assess your personal finance or insurance needs, compare financial products that you are considering buying or to track the performance of your investments.
  • Such innovations are permitted to operate for a limited period of time at a limited scale to understand its efficacy and implications, so that the best alternatives for regulation can be evolved based on concerns that emerge.
  • The (sandbox) option can be a great way to unlock innovations for mass public adoption, because a regulatory sandbox balances the twin objectives of nurturing financial innovation and safeguarding consumer interests.

Practice elsewhere

  • Globally, regulatory sandboxes have been introduced in the U.K., Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and UAE. Each country has a certain “target group” for which sandboxing is done.
  • All these countries have so far created a sandboxed environment to support financial institutions (FIs) and fintech firms

Allowing the start-ups

  • There are over 600 start-ups in the country in the financial technology (fintech) space
  • Letting them operate in a ‘live, but controlled environment with some regulations relaxed, will provide a solid evidence base’ on their strengths and weaknesses.
  • More than 30 of those start-ups are focused on the peer-to-peer lending space alone and their market potential is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020.
  • Several start-ups are working in areas such as virtual currencies like Bitcoins, Blockchain-based settlements and so on.
  • The total fintech market in India is estimated to be worth $8 billion and is expected to grow to about $14 billion by 2020. India is ranked amongst the top ten FinTech markets globally


8.Cinema & censorship
Source: The Hindu

Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by a person claiming to be the daughter of the late Sanjay Gandhi to set aside the certificate granted to Indu Sarkar, a film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar

  • Supreme Court observation: freedom of expression cannot be curtailed without a valid reason.
  • Film is nothing but artistic expression within the parameters of law and that there is no warrant or justification to curtail it.

Courts prefer to protect the right to free expression rather than entertain excuses such as maintenance of law and order and public tranquility, or someone’s sense of hurt or the fear of someone being portrayed in a bad light.

CBFC and its censorship role

  • Recent experience suggests that the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) does not always see itself as a certifying authority, but rather plays the censor quite merrily. In the case of Udta Punjab last year, it was seeking to be the guardian of Punjab’s honour against the depiction of the high prevalence of drug addiction in the State.
  • The Bombay High Court had to remind the CBFC that certification, and not censorship is its primary role and that its power to order changes and cuts must be exercised in accordance with constitutional principles.
  • More recently, the CBFC sought to play the moral censor with regard to Lipstick Under My Burkha, a film it thought was too “lady-oriented” to be given a certificate, presumably because it depicts their fantasies.
  • The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal had to intervene to secure the release of the film, with an ‘A’ certificate.
  • These instances demonstrate that challenges to freedom come from both within the systemic framework and outside.


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