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Electoral Reforms In India

MCC to kick in right after premature dissolution of Assembly: ECDOMRPrelims Only


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Model Code of Conduct

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

MCC in Telangana

  1. The Election Commission has issued an order on the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct from the date a state dissolves its Assembly and seeks early elections in Telangana.
  2. Telangana CM K.C. Rao has recommended dissolution of the House to avoid possible clubbing of the Assembly elections in the state with Lok Sabha elections.

In context of SR Bommai Case

  1. The EC issued the order keeping the Supreme Court’s observation in S R Bommai Vs Union of India (1994) case.
  2. It said neither the caretaker state government nor the central government shall announce any new schemes and projects in respect of the state or undertake any of the activities prohibited under the Part-VII of the MCC.
  3. The EC said in case of premature dissolution of legislative assembly, the provisions of Part-VII (Party in Power) of the MCC shall come into operation with immediate effect in the state concerned.
  4. The MCC shall continue to be in force till the completion of the election to constitute the new legislative assembly.

Back2Basics

Model Code of Conduct

  1. The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections.
  2. It is mainly regulated with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
  3. These 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 in its letter and spirit.
  4. MCC comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission for the need of ensuring free and fair elections.

Highlights of the Codes

  1. Government bodies are not to participate in any recruitment process during the electoral process.
  2. The contesting candidates and their campaigners must respect the home life of their rivals and should not disturb them by holding road shows or demonstrations in front of their houses. The code tells the candidates to keep it.
  3. The election campaign rallies and road shows must not hinder the road traffic.
  4. Candidates are asked to refrain from distributing liquor to voters. It is a widely known fact in India that during election campaigning, liquor may be distributed to the voters.
  5. The election code in force hinders the government or ruling party leaders from launching new welfare programmes like construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc. or any ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
  6. The code instructs that public spaces like meeting grounds, helipads, government guest houses and bungalows should be equally shared among the contesting candidates. These public spaces should not be monopolized by a few candidates.
  7. On polling day, all party candidates should cooperate with the poll-duty officials at the voting booths for an orderly voting process.
  8. Candidates should not display their election symbols near and around the poll booths on the polling day. No one should enter the booths without a valid pass from the Election Commission.
  9. There will be poll observers to whom any complaints can be reported or submitted.
  10. The ruling party should not use its seat of power for the campaign purposes.
  11. The ruling party ministers should not make any ad-hoc appointment of officials, which may influence the voters in favour of the party in power.
  12. Before using loud speakers during their poll campaigning, candidates and political parties must obtain permission or license from the local authorities.
  13. The candidates should inform the local police for conducting election rallies to enable the police authorities to make required security arrangements.

For further reading on MCC, navigate to this page:

Model Code of Conduct: Evolution, Enforcement, Effects, Legal Status

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Centre to hike grant for SDRFDOMR


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SDRF- Funding and its mandate

Mains level:  Disaster management in India


News

90% of allocation to be paid by Centre

  1. The Centre has increased its contribution in the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) from 75% to 90% with effect from April 1, announced the Union Home Ministry.
  2. Kerala, which has recently faced the worst floods, will be a major beneficiary of the Centre’s decision.
  3. Henceforth all States will be required to contribute 10% to the SDRF.

About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

  1. The SDRF constituted under Section 48 (1) (a) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
  2. The Central Government earlier contributed 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
  3. The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  4. SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
  5. Disaster (s) covered under SDRF: Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
  6. Local Disaster:A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context.
  7. These are such which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Ministerial panel to study need for disaster levy in GSTDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much.

Mains level: Policy measures to mitigate disaster incurred losses.


News

Context

  1. The Union Government set up a ministerial panel to study the legality of imposing a “disaster levy” to raise funds for states struck by natural calamities, such as the recent floods in Kerala.
  2. Following the floods, Kerala had suggested a 10% cess on the state component of the GST.

Tasks of the Panel

  1. The group of ministers will look into several issues, including the possibility of a pan-India levy or state-specific tax, and whether the tax will be levied on all items or sin and luxury goods.
  2. The panel will also decide on the scale of disaster, which would require funds in addition to what is provided under the national disaster relief fund (NDRF).
  3. The committee will have representation from north-eastern states, coastal states and hill states, which are prone to natural calamities.
  4. The Constitution amendment brought in to facilitate GST’s rollout has a provision that in the event of a natural calamity, a special rate can be imposed with the permission of the GST Council.

Questioning the viability

  1. Some experts, however, did not favour changes in the GST architecture to raise resources for dealing with natural calamities.
  2. The introduction of any cess either at the national level or at the state level should be avoided so as it would make the entire GST process, including the invoicing and return filings, much more complex for all businesses.
Railway Reforms

Railways to roll out smart coachesDOMRPrelims Only


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about the Smart Trains, Make in India initiatives.

Mains level: Modernization of Railways


News

Make in India “Smart Trains”

  1. The Indian Railways are set to launch their ‘Make in India’ smart coaches with new features like black box and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered CCTVs, matching international standards.
  2. Named ‘Smart Trains’, the coaches have been equipped with sensors that can detect defects on bearings, wheels, and the railway track, giving constant inputs to those in the control room to avoid accidents, carry out maintenance, and to improve efficiency of operations.

Black Box for these trains

  1. The black box is being introduced for the first time by Indian Railways, has a powerful multi-dimensional communication interface.
  2. It will provide information on passengers and coach condition on real-time basis.
  3. The black box will act as a coach control unit with communication interfaces for passenger announcements, GPS-based announcement triggers.
  4. It will also handle emergency intercom for commuters, digital destination boards, train reservation display modules, and CCTVs with remote monitoring.

Better Monitoring and Maintenance

  1. For wheel, coach and track monitoring, Railways have come up with Internet of Things-based system.
  2. The vibrating-energy-based sensors will monitor the wheels, bearing and hard spots on the track, and will provide data through GPS/GPRS to the remote server for diagnosis and remedial measures.
  3. The Passenger Information and Coach Computing Unit (PICCU), an industrial grade computer, will monitor the coach maintenance and passenger interface.
  4. Commuters will also be able to communicate with Railways officials.

CCTV recording

  1. AI-powered CCTVs will help those in the control room to keep a tab on untoward incidents and on the behaviour of on-board staff.
  2. Six cameras installed in the coach will provide live recording.
  3. The footage can be accessed from the control room, which will be advantageous for law enforcers.
  4. An emergency talk-back system will enable communication between passengers and the guard during a crisis. A Wi-Fi hotspot information system is another innovative feature.

Other details

  1. Smart coaches are also laden with water-level indicator technology to know whether the water in the coach is sufficient and when it needs to be filled.
  2. An SMS will be sent to the next watering station when the water level falls below half the coach capacity.
  3. In the version 2.0 of these coaches, the Railways are planning to introduce a host of new features.
  4. They will include video analytics with face detection feature; unusual occurrence feature; fire-and-smoke detection unit; and an energy-metering module to measure the energy consumption of the coach.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Cabinet approves 100% govt stake in GST NetworkDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSTN

Mains level: ICT management of GST in India.


News

100% govt. stake in GSTN

  1. The Union Cabinet approved increasing the government’s ownership in the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) to 100% from the existing 49%.
  2. The Union Cabinet also approved acquisition of the entire 51% equity held by the non-government institutions in GSTN equally by the Centre and the State governments.

About GSTN

  1. Currently, the Centre and states together hold 49 per cent stake in the GST Network, the company that provides IT backbone to the new indirect tax regime.
  2. The remaining 51 per cent is held by five private financial institutions — HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, NSE Strategic Investment Co and LIC Housing Finance Ltd.
  3. The proposal to convert GSTN into 100 per cent government-owned company was earlier approved by the GST Council.
  4. The GSTN was incorporated as a private limited company on March 28, 2013 under the UPA Government.
  5. It is a Section 8 company under the new Companies Act and hence is a not-for-profit entity.
Electoral Reforms In India

Enact strong laws to cleanse Politics: Supreme CourtDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NN Vohra Committee, Read B2B

Mains level: Measures to decriminalize politics in India.


News

Cleansing Politics

  1. The Supreme Court has directed political parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their candidates.
  2. The court countered the government’s submissions that under the Representation of the People Act, only convicted lawmakers can be disqualified and not accused ones.

Onus on Parliament

  1. The court directed Parliament to frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes and refuse ticket to offenders in all elections.
  2. The Bench however made it clear that it cannot legislate for Parliament by introducing disqualification to ban candidates facing trial for heinous crimes from contesting elections.

Full disclosures

  1. The court directed that candidates should disclose their criminal past to the EC in “block letters.”
  2. Candidates should make a full disclosure of the criminal cases pending against them to the political parties under whose banner they intend to contest the polls.
  3. The parties, in turn, should put up the complete details of their candidates on their websites for public consumption.
  4. Further, both the candidate and the political party should declare the criminal antecedents of the former in widely-circulated newspapers.
  5. Finally, both the candidate and the political party should give “wide publicity” to the criminal record of the former by airing it on TV channels, not once, but thrice after the filing of nomination papers.

Why such move?

  1. It ensures that ordinary voters can have an “informed choice” about who he or she has to vote for in a country which already feels agonised when money and muscle power become the supreme power.
  2. The best available people, as is expected by the democratic system, should not have criminal antecedents and the voters have a right to know about their antecedents, assets and other aspect.

Criminals Nexus- Running a Parallel Govt.

  1. The court referred to how the N.N. Vohra Committee, which was set up following a public outcry after the 1993 Mumbai blasts after its study of the problem of criminalization of politics and their nexus with officials.
  2. The committee had concluded that agencies, including the CBI, IB, RAW, had unanimously expressed their opinion that the criminal network was virtually running a parallel government.

Need for new Law

  1. The ECI has its hands tied, helplessly watching as criminalization of politics at the entry level is on the rise.
  2. A person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty and nothing prevents an accused, who won an election on public mandate, from becoming a lawmaker.
  3. The court said the danger of false cases foisted on candidates can be addressed by the parliament in the new law.

Way Forward

  1. Criminalization of politics and corruption, especially at the entry level of elections, has become a national and economic terror.
  2. The directions to political parties to go public about the criminal cases against their candidates are a step to foster and nurture an informed citizenry.
  3. Disclosure of antecedents makes the election a fair one and the exercise of the right of voting by the electorate also gets sanctified.
  4. It is to protect the culture and purity in politics.

Back2Basics

Bane of Criminal Politics in India

  1. The Law Commission of India, in its 244th report, succinctly put it that instead of politicians having suspected links to criminal networks, as was the case earlier, it was persons with extensive criminal backgrounds who began entering politics.
  2. The Law Commission said that in the 10 years since 2004, 18% of the candidates contesting either national or State elections had criminal cases against them (11,063 out of 62,847).
  3. The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms, as early as in 1990, highlighted the crippling effect of money and muscle power in elections.
Electoral Reforms In India

Publishing poll candidate’s propaganda is paid news: Election CommissionDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Legal Provisions for disqualification mentioned in newscard.

Mains level: Paid-news debate in India.


News

Paid News vs. Free Speech

  1. Repeated publication of propaganda lauding the achievements of a candidate in an election is nothing but “paid news”, the Election Commission of India has told the apex Court.
  2. Politicians cannot say that it is part of their fundamental right to free speech to spew out “motivated propaganda”.
  3. The EC has asked the court to declare whether it amounts to “paid news” if widely circulated daily newspapers cover statements issued by, and in the name of, a candidate.
  4. Such news are not only laudatory of his or her record and achievements but also are a direct appeal to voters by the candidate.

Unequal advantage

  1. If such motivated propaganda is allowed in the name of free speech during the election period, candidates with a strong network of connections will exploit their sphere of influence in society.
  2. This will have the unequal advantage of encashing such silent services.
  3. The commission has moved the court in appeal against a decision of the Delhi High Court to set aside the disqualification of a MP in Madhya Pradesh.
  4. ECI’s National Level Committee on Paid News found that five newspapers, with a wide circulation, had published 42 news items that were biased and one-sided and aimed at furthering the prospects of the leader.
  5. Some of the reports were advertisements in favour of him. The committee concluded that the items fitted the definition of “paid news”.

Way Forward

  1. The conduct of the eager supporters, whose extensive coverage, as in this case, being dubbed as freedom of expression cannot be termed news.
  2. This is so because ‘news’ is expected to be unbiased and characterized by dispassionate coverage and proportionate space to other contenders.
  3. If the court shut its eye to this case, “the assertion of freedom of speech would become a stock pretence or plea by the service provider and the beneficiary candidate”.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] MHA signs MoU with ISRO to set up an Integrated Control Room for Emergency ResponseDOMRPIBPrelims Only


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ICR-ER

Mains level: All ISRO missions are vitally important. 


News

Context

  • The MHA and ISRO signed a MoU for setting up of an state-of-the-art Integrated Control Room for Emergency Response (ICR-ER) in Ministry of Home Affairs.

Integrated Control Room for Emergency Response (ICR-ER)

  1. ISRO will render its technical expertise for setting up of proposed ICR-ER whereas the project will be executed under overall supervision of MHA.
  2. The ICR-ER will cater to the requirement of Disaster Management as well as Internal Security.
  3. ICR-ER will address the requirement of receipt of information on near real-time basis, strategic level monitoring, situation awareness, command and control.
  4. This will improve preparedness and response in the diverse internal security situation and disaster related emergencies.
  5. Resultantly, it will increase the operational effectiveness and will be helpful in rendering timely response and assistance during various emergency situations.

[pib] Medical Cyclotron Facility Cyclone-30, KolkataDOMRPIBPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cyclone-30 and various Isotopes to be produced by it.

Mains level: Use of indigenous technology for the treatment of Cancer.


News

Context

  1. Cyclone-30 equipment used for generating radio-isotopes became operational at a VECC, Kolkata, a Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) unit.
  2. Cyclone-30 commissioning re-emphasises the capability of Indian scientists and engineers to deliver at the highest level of science and technology.

Cyclone-30

  1. Cyclotrons are used to produce radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use for cancer care.
  2. Radiations from these isotopes are used to destroy cancer cells.
  3. Cyclone-30, the biggest cyclotron in India for medical application became operational this month when 30 MeV beam reached the Faraday Cup for the first time last week.

Isotopes to be produced

  1. Subsequently, beam from this facility was used to produce 18F (Fluorine-18 isotope) for the preparation of [18 FlFluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a radio-pharmaceutical.
  2. Presently it produces liquid target (for FDG production) and solid targets (production of Germanium-68, Palladium-103 and other isotopes).
  3. Later on installation of Iodine isotope [1-123] production target, material study target and Accelerator Driven System target will also be taken up.

Importance of the project

  1. This facility will provide for affordable radio isotopes and related radiopharmaceuticals for the entire country especially, for Eastern India.
  2. It will also have export potential for Germanium-68/Gallium-68 generator for in-situ production of Gallium-68 and Palladium-103 isotopes, used for breast cancer diagnosis and prostate cancer treatment, respectively.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO launches two U.K. satellitesDOMRPrelims Only


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the launch

Mains level: All ISRO missions are vitally important. 


News

2 UK satellites launched by Antrix Corp.

  1. ISROs PSLV-C42 lifted off for the launch of two satellites from the United Kingdom – NovaSAR and S1-4 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
  2. The PSLV-C-42 is the lightest version of the PSLV flying in its core-alone version without the six strap-on motors.
  3. The two satellites, owned by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) were placed in a circular orbit around the poles, 583 km from Earth.
  4. The commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation earned more than ₹220 crore on this launch.

About the satellites

  1. The NovaSAR is a technology demonstration mission designed to test the capabilities of a new low cost S-band SAR platform.
  2. It will be used for ship detection and maritime monitoring and also flood monitoring, besides agricultural and forestry applications.
  3. The S1-4 will be used for environment monitoring, urban management, and tackling disasters.

Gearing up for Chandrayan-2

  1. Chandrayaan-2 is planned for a window from January 3 to February 16, 2019.
  2. It can be scheduled to launch anytime during that window.
  3. “Right now with the status of the rocket, the GSLV Mk-3 M1, and the present status of the satellite, we are not expecting any more delay.
  4. The other launches include the GSAT series that will provide bandwidth speeds of up to 100 Gbps per second, as part of the government’s Digital India efforts.
  5. The Cartosat and Risat satellites will also be launched within the next six months.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

NACO releases HIV Estimations 2017 reportDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the report.

Mains level: Preventing discrimination against HIV/AIDS positive persons.


News

Missing the Target

  1. India’s long battle against AIDS is not likely to end any time soon, if the latest figure released by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is any indication.
  2. The data revealed that, as of 2017, there were still around 21.40 lakh people living with HIV in India, with the prevalence among adults stood at 0.22 per cent.

Particulars of the Report

  1. There were around 87,000 new HIV infections and over 69,000 AIDS-related deaths (ARDs) in 2017.
  2. Around 22,675 mothers needed Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  3. The report has noted that the rate of decline in annual new HIV infections has been relatively slower in recent years.
  4. In 2015, India had reported 86,000 new HIV infections.
  5. Of these, children (<15 years) accounted for 12 per cent (10,400) while the remaining (75,000) were adults (15+ years).

Importance of the Report

  1. The impact of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) has been significant, with more than an 80 per cent decline in estimated new infections from the epidemic’s peak in 1995.
  2. The objective of HIV estimations is to provide updated information on the status of the HIV epidemic in India at the national and State/Union Territory level.
  3. Estimations of adult HIV prevalence, annual new infections (HIV incidence), AIDS-related mortality, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) needs are produced as outcomes of HIV estimations.
  4. The modeled estimates are needed because there is no direct reliable way of measuring these core indicators, which are used to track the epidemic and monitor and evaluate the response in countries around the world.

Back2Basics

HIV estimation in India

  1. The HIV Estimations 2017 is the 14th round in the series of HIV-estimations under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP).
  2. NACO undertakes HIV estimations biennially in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Medical Statistics (NIMS).
  3. The first round of HIV estimation in India was done in 1998.
NPA Crisis

Small loans could turn bad: RajanDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PMMY

Mains level: Problem of NPAs 


News

Context

  1. Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has cautioned that the next crisis in India’s banking sector could come from loans given to the unorganised micro and small businesses, called MUDRA loans, and credit extended through the Kisan credit card.
  2. MUDRA loans are offered under the Prime Minister Mudra Yojana launched in 2015 by the NDA government.
  3. A total of Rs. 6.37 lakh crore has been disbursed under the scheme by public and private sector banks, regional rural banks and micro-finance institutions till date, as per data from the MUDRA website.

Other Suggestions

  1. In a note on NPAs, Rajan said the government should refrain from setting ambitious credit targets or from waiving loans.
  2. Both MUDRA loans as well as the Kisan Credit Card, while popular, have to be examined more closely for potential credit risk.
  3. He also flagged the Credit Guarantee Scheme for MSMEs, run by the SIDBI calling it “a growing contingent liability” that needs to be examined with urgency.
  4. A large number of bad loans originated in the period 2006-2008 when economic growth was strong the banks are more prone to make mistakes.

Back2Basics

Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana

  1. PMMY is a flagship scheme of Government of India to enable a small enterprise come into the formal financial system and get affordable credit to run his/ her business.
  2. Any Indian Citizen who has a business plan for a non-farm sector income generating activity
  3. Credit need: Less than Rs 10 lakh
  4. Under the aegis of PMMY, MUDRA has already created the following products / schemes.
  • Shishu : covering loans upto 50,000/-
  • Kishor : covering loans above 50,000/- and upto 5 lakh
  • Tarun : covering loans above 5 lakh and upto 10 lakh
  1. There is no subsidy for the loan given under PMMY. However, if the loan proposal is linked some Government scheme, wherein the Government is providing capital subsidy, it will be eligible under PMMY also.

MUDRA Bank and its role in the MUDRA Yojana

  1. MUDRA Bank = Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank
  2. The Rs 20,000 crore MUDRA Bank aims to provide refinancing to small and medium enterprises, particularly those from SC & ST
  3. The idea is to refinance micro-finance institutions through Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana
  4. This bank would be responsible for regulating and refinancing all MFIs which are in the business of lending to MSME

[pib] Model International Center for Transformative AI (ICTAI)DOMRPIBPrelims Only


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Center for Transformative Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI)

Mains level: Building AI ecosystem in India


News

Private Collaboration for AI Projects

  1. NITI Aayog, Intel, and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) has the collaboration to set up a Model International Center for Transformative Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI) towards developing and deploying AI-led application-based research projects.
  2. This initiative is part of NITI Aayog’s ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’ Discussion Paper that focuses on establishing ICTAI in the country through private sector collaboration.

International Center for Transformative Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI)

  1. Based in Bengaluru, the Model ICTAI aims to conduct advanced research to incubate AI-led solutions in three important areas – healthcare, agriculture and smart mobility – by bringing together the expertise of Intel and TIFR.
  2. It aims to experiment, discover and establish best practices in the domains of ICTAI governance, fundamental research, physical infrastructure, compute and service infrastructure needs, and talent acquisition.
  3. The model ICTAI is chartered to develop AI foundational frameworks, tools and assets, including curated datasets and unique AI algorithms.
  4. The intent is to develop standards and support policy development related to information technology such as data-storage, information security, privacy, and ethics for data capture and use.

Other focus areas

  1. Another key area of its focus will be collaboration with industry leaders, startups, and AI services and product companies to productize technologies and IP that are developed at the model ICTAI.
  2. And finally, the goal is to support skilling and talent development for world-class AI talent.
  3. The learning and best practices developed through this model ICTAI will be used by NITI Aayog to set up the future ICTAIs across country.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Animals in Wrong RoleDOMRPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Various Permissions

Mains level: Protection of Animals rights


News

Concern on use of animal s for entertainment purposes

  1. Union WCD Minister has concerned the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
  2. The Minister listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers.

Preventing Cruelty to Animals

  1. It was alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected.
  2. It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals.
  3. The letter cites an instance of approval given for a scene showing animal sacrifice, which is against the Supreme Court’s orders.

Depiction of Animals

  1. While tigers, monkeys, lions, bears, panthers (including leopards) are banned from being exhibited under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the government body has allowed their use on several occasions.
  2. All Indian snakes and birds except the crow are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and any certification for performance or exhibition is only possible after permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the relevant State.

Back2Basics

Animal Welfare Board of India

  1. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana state, is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  2. It was previously based at Chennai
  3. It was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  4. Well-known humanitarian Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
NPA Crisis

Limit for filing cases in Debt Recovery Tribunal doubledDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DRT

Mains level:  Resolving NPAs


News

Reducing Pendency in DRTs

  1. The central government has raised the pecuniary limit from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for filing application for recovery of debts in the Debts Recovery Tribunals by such banks and financial institutions.
  2. The move is aimed at helping reduce pendency of cases in the 39 DRTs in the country.
  3. As a result, no bank or financial institution or a consortium of banks or financial institutions can approach the DRTs if the amount due is less than Rs 20 lakh.

NPAs on decline

  1. According to RBI data on global operations (as on March 2018), an aggregate amount of Rs 3,98,671 crore was written off by banks over the last four financial years.
  2. Over the same period, their NPAs declined by Rs 2, 57,980 crore due to recoveries.

Mechanisms empowering Debt Recovery

  1. Banks and financial institutions recovery of dues takes place on an ongoing basis through legal mechanisms, which inter alia includes-
  • Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act
  • Recovery of Debts to Banks and Financial Institution (DRT) Act and Lok Adalats.
  1. The borrowers of such loans continue to be liable for repayment even when the loans have been removed from the balance sheet of the bank(s) concerned.
  2. To make the tribunals more effective and to facilitate disposal of debt recovery cases, the government has made several amendments in different laws, including the SARFAESI Act.

Back2Basics

Debts Recovery Tribunals

  1. Debt Recovery Tribunals were established to facilitate the debt recovery involving banks and other financial institutions with their customers.
  2. DRTs were set up after the passing of Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDBBFI), 1993.
  3. The Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) enforces provisions of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions (RDDBFI) Act, 1993 and also Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interests (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.
  4. Appeals against orders passed by DRTs lie before Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT).
  5. Section 3 of the RDDBFI Act empowers the Central government to establish DRTs.
  6. A DRT is presided over by a presiding officer who is appointed by the central govt. and who shall be qualified to be a District Judge; with tenure of 5 years or the age of 62, whichever is earlier.
  7. No court in the country other than the SC and the HCs and that too, only under articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution have jurisdiction over this matter.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India, France to collaborate on Gaganyaan missionDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima Mission, CADMOS, MEDES.

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space.


News

Learning from French Experience

  1. CNES, the French space agency, is to share the experience it has acquired from the first French human spaceflights to Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima Mission for Gaganyaan in the field of crew transport.
  2. ISRO and CNES will be combining their expertise in fields of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, life support, radiation protection, space debris protection and personal hygiene systems.
  3. Engineering teams have already begun discussions and it is envisioned that infrastructure such as CADMOS centre for development of microgravity applications and space operations.
  4. The MEDES space clinic will be used for training of future Indian astronauts, as well as exchange of specialist personnel.
  5. ISRO plans to conduct experiments on microgravity through its astronauts.

Other areas of cooperation

  1. French-Indian space cooperation spans in areas of climate monitoring, with a fleet of joint satellites devoted to research and operational applications, innovation, through a joint technical group tasked with inventing the launch vehicles of the future.
  2. The two also have plans to work on Mars, Venus and asteroids.
Medical Education Governance in India

IMA moots ethics code overhaulDOMRPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 4: Ethics | Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Reforms required in health sector


News

Ethical Studies for Doctors

  1. Can an individual doctor advertise, have a website to promote her practice to compete with aggressively marketed corporate hospitals?
  2. Should the donation of cadaver organs be made mandatory for all?
  3. Is it important for medical students to study ethics throughout the duration of the MBBS course?
  4. Marking a bold departure from the existing code of ethics that covers the medical profession, the IMA is in the process of redefining the code in order to ensure a much more contemporary outlook.

Redefining the Code of Medical Ethics

  1. The current code of medical ethics by the Medical Council of India dates back to 2002.
  2. Much has changed in the medical field since then and many relevant topics do not find a mention in the present code.
  3. IMA would be releasing a handbook on the redefined code of medical ethics.
  4. The handbook would comprise 24 topics that either need to be reviewed or find no mention in the current code.
  5. The code would subsequently be submitted to all the relevant Central Ministries – health, medical education, law and justice and the MCI – for consideration.

(A) For Advertisement

  1. The current MCI norms do not allow doctors to publicise their practice through any type of advertising.
  2. Big private hospitals are constantly promoting their set ups through advertisements in all mediums.
  3. Hence it is essential for individual doctors, especially those who have just begun practice, survive such competition.
  4. The IMA believes that any publicity material should be ethical and approved after scrutiny by the respective State medical councils.

(B) For Doctor-assisted Suicide

  1. Presently doctors cannot give consent for deciding on pulling the plug.
  2. This decision can only be taken by relatives.

(C) For ARTs

  1. Ethical issues around Assisted Reproductive Technology and surrogacy also find a mention in the handbook.
  2. The IMA states that doctors should ethically ensure that surrogates and egg donors are not exploited.

(D) For Organ Donation and Transplants

  1. The IMA also recommends that cadaver organ donations (from brain dead people) must be made compulsory for all unless an individual specifically states that he or she does not want to become an organ donor.
  2. Cadaver organ donations are currently carried out in India only when an individual has explicitly expressed a wish to donate or with the consent of immediate relatives in cases of brain death, creating a shortage of cadaver organs for transplants.
  3. India carries out a high number of living donor transplants as compared to cadaver organ donations.
  4. Presently we have a long waiting list of patients for organ transplants.
Electoral Reforms In India

Google to help EC track online political adsDOMRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ECI mechanisms to monitor election expenditure.

Mains level: Bringing transparency in the process of election campaigning and expenditure.


News

Eye on Online Ads

  1. Google will soon be helping the Election Commission (EC) keep tabs on online political advertising.
  2. It will develop a mechanism that will not only ensure pre-certification of political advertisements but also enable it to share with the authority, details about the expenditure incurred on its platforms.
  3. A committee has been set up to explore possible modifications in Section 126 (election silence) and other provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in view of the expansion and diversity of media platforms.

Keeping an eye on Election Expenditures

  1. Google will keep track of political advertisements and ensure that they are pre-certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committees.
  2. This would entail Google asking prospective clients, whenever an order is placed, whether they have been pre-certified.
  3. Google has also assured that it would set up a mechanism for sharing information on the cost of the political advertisements.
  4. The ECI is the nodal body for pre-certification of advertisements of a political nature, released by either an individual or an organisation.
  5. This would be of use to Returning Officers when it comes to calculating the election expenditure of individual candidates.

Present Mechanism

  1. The ECI asks the candidates to declare their official social media accounts.
  2. As soon as someone is declared a candidate for any election, all the money spent by the person for campaigning gets added as election expenditure.

Facebook tools

  1. The EC’s committee has agreed with Facebook to develop tools for removing any content related to election matters during the 48-hour period when the ‘prohibition protocol’ is in place.
  2. It is working on ways to check fake news and share details of expenditure on poll-related advertisements.
  3. During the Karnataka Assembly polls, Facebook tied up with the Indian fact-checking agency, Boom Live, which confirmed over 50 cases of fake news.
Banking Sector Reforms

Reserve Bank tightens Ombudsman SchemeDOMRPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Need for Banking Ombudsman 


News

Strengthening Grievance Redressal Mechanism

  1. The RBI has tightened the banking ombudsman scheme with the objective to strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism for customers.
  2. It has asked all commercial banks having 10 or more banking outlets to have an independent internal ombudsman (IO) to review customer complaints that are either partly or fully rejected by the banks.
  3. The IO shall examine customer complaints which are in the nature of deficiency in service on the part of the bank, that are partly or wholly rejected by the bank.
  4. The instructions are not applicable for Regional Rural Banks sponsored by commercial banks.
  5. As banks should internally escalate complaints that are not fully redressed to their respective IOs before conveying the final decision to the complainant, customers need not approach the IO directly.

Fixed term

  1. According to bankers, the Internal Ombudsman Scheme of 2018 mandates banks to grant a fixed term of three to five years, which cannot be renewed, to the IO.
  2. The IO can be removed only with prior approval from RBI.
  3. The remuneration would have to be decided by the customer sub-committee of the board and not by any individual.
  4. RBI has said that the Ombudsman Scheme of 2018 covers appointment/tenure, roles and responsibilities, procedural guidelines and oversight mechanism for the IO.
  5. The implementation of IO Scheme 2018 will be monitored by the bank’s internal audit mechanism apart from regulatory oversight by RBI.

Back2Basics

Banking Ombudsman Scheme

  1. Banking Ombudsman Scheme is a mechanism created by the RBI to address the complaints raised by bank customers.
  2. It is run by the RBI directly to ensure customer protection in the banking industry.
  3. The scheme was introduced under Section 35 A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by RBI with effect from 1995. The present Ombudsman scheme was introduced in 2006.
  4. The Banking Ombudsman is a senior official appointed by the Reserve Bank of India.
  5. He has the responsibility to redress customer complaints against deficiency in certain banking services.
  6. All Scheduled Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Scheduled Primary Co-operative Banks are covered under the Scheme.
  7. The Banking Ombudsman can receive and consider any complaint relating to a number of deficiencies related to banking operations including internet banking.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Green Tribunal steps in to conserve Western GhatsDOMRPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kasthurirangan Committee Report, Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats

Mains level: Conservation of Western Ghats


News

NGT curbs States activities  

  1. The six Western Ghats States have been restrained by the NGT from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
  2. NGT directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
  3. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) was led by Madhav Gadgil.

Re-promulgating the earlier Order

  1. The NGT Bench noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.
  2. It was on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation that the Bench issued the order.
  3. The Principal Bench of the panel permitted the MoEFCC to re-publish the draft notification on Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26.
  4. It has ordered that the matter may be finalised within six months.