Insights Daily Current Events, 29 February 2016

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Insights Daily Current Events, 29 February 2016

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Paper 1 Topic: art and culture.

Muziris project offers the best of heritage tourism: President

The first phase of the Muziris Heritage Project was recently inaugurated by the President in Kerala.

Key facts:

What is it?

Started six years ago by the Kerala government, the project aims to highlight the historical and cultural significance of Muziris — which dates from at least 1st century BC — with a view to boost tourism. This is the largest conservation project in India and first green project of Kerala.

What is Muziris:

  • It is a seaport which is mentioned in the 1st century travelogues, ancient Sangam texts and Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder’s encyclopaedic work, Natural History.
  • Muziris was the doorway for cultures, religions and races into India. It was frequented by large ships of ocean traders from across the world, including Arabs, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese.

What does this project offer?

  • The project aims to offer the best of heritage tourism to global travellers. Under the project, the state government will be developing a number of Islands which were created as a result of spice trade and ancient ports in the state. It showcases the history and culture of an ancient seaport and urban centre on the Malabar coast.
  • The Muziris project would open up to Indian and foreign tourists a new destination, bringing economic benefits to the people of the region as well as knowledge and enjoyment for the visitors.
  • The project includes development works of Chennamangalam palaces, Cheraman Parambu, Synagogue and waterfront at North Paravur. It also envisages conservation of archaeological monuments within 125 sq km spread across Thrissur and Ernakulam districts.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

ED begins probe into finances of ‘Freedom 251’

Enforcement Directorate has started a probe into the finances of Ringing Bells, makers of the world’s cheapest smartphone Freedom 251, as questions continue to be raised on the feasibility of offering a handset at Rs 251.

  • ED is looking into financial details and bank accounts of the company and its promoters.
  • The Noida-based phone-makers have also come under the scanner of the IT Department which is looking into its financial structure and has obtained documents, including those from the Registrar of Companies (RoC), in this regard.
  • Industry members have also complained against the company to the Telecom Ministry to dig deeper into the issue.
  • The Ministry has sought a clarification from Ringing Bells for marketing its ‘Freedom 251’ mobile phone without a BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certification and also asked Uttar Pradesh government to check the firm’s credentials.

The company said it has received around 6 crore registrations for the phone.

Enforcement Directorate:

Enforcement Directorate, established in the year 1956, is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.

  • It functions under the overall aegis of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

It enforces the following laws:

  1. Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (FEMA) – A civil law having quasi judicial powers, for investigating suspected contraventions of the Exchange Control laws and regulations with powers to impose penalties on those adjudged guilty.
  2. Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) – A Criminal Law, with the officers empowered to conduct investigations to trace assets derived out of the proceeds of crime, and to provisionally attach/ confiscate the same, to arrest and prosecute the offenders found to be involved in Money Laundering.

Other important functions include:

  • To collect, develop and disseminate intelligence relating to violations of FEMA, 1999, the intelligence inputs are received from various sources such as Central and State Intelligence agencies, complaints etc.
  • To investigate suspected violations of the provisions of the FEMA, 1999 relating to activities such as “hawala” foreign exchange racketeering, non-realization of export proceeds, non-repatriation of foreign exchange and other forms of violations under FEMA, 1999.
  • To adjudicate cases of violations of the erstwhile FERA, 1973 and FEMA, 1999.
  • To realize penalties imposed on conclusion of adjudication proceedings.
  • To process and recommend cases for preventive detention under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA).

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Look beyond ultra-easy policy for growth: G20

A recently released communique from the Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bankers flagged a series of risks to world growth, including volatile capital flows, a sharp fall in commodity prices and the potential shock of a British exit from the EU.

  • This was released during the recently concluded two- day conference in Shanghai.
  • G20 countries have also declared that they need to look beyond ultra-low interest rates and printing money to shake the global economy out of its torpor, while renewing their focus on structural reform to spark activity.
  • G20 has also asked its members to refrain from targeting exchange rates for competitive purposes, including through devaluations.

Present state of the global economy:

  • The global recovery continues, but it remains uneven and falls short of G20’s ambition for strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
  • Faltering growth and market turbulence have exacerbated policy frictions between major economies in recent months.
  • Concerns have also been expressed over escalating geopolitical tensions and Europe’s refugee crisis.

Hence, the G20 ministers have agreed to use all policy tools – monetary, fiscal and structural – individually and collectively to reach the group’s economic goals.

G20:

The Group of Twenty is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. The members include 19 individual countries and the European Union (EU).

  • The G20 started in 1999 as a meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.
  • Collectively, the G-20 economies account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade, and two-thirds of the world population.
  • The G20 is supported by international organisations, including the Financial Stability Board, the International Labour Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Notable points:

  • The G20 operates as a forum and not as an organisation. Therefore, it does not have any permanent secretariat or management and administrative structure.
  • One of the G20 countries is selected to hold the Chair in rotation, also known as ‘G20 presidency’. The presidency establishes a temporary secretariat for the duration it holds the Chair. The secretariat coordinates all work and organises G20 meetings.
  • The immediate past, present and next Chair constitute a ‘troika’ and ensure continuity in the G20 work. In the current year (2015), the presidency is held by Turkey. The Chair was handed over to it by Australia. Turkey will hand over the Chair for the next year (2016) to China. After China, Germany will hold it in 2017.
  • For selecting presidency, a system has been in place since 2010, when South Korea held the Chair. Under it, 19 countries have been categorised into five regional groupings of a maximum of four nations each.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States.

Centre drafts Bill to decriminalise beggary

The government has drafted a Bill that seeks to decriminalise beggary and offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment.

Key facts:

  • The Bill is titled ‘The persons in destitution (protection, care and rehabilitation) Bill 2015’.
  • It offers a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment.
  • In the Bill, ‘destitution’ refers to a state of poverty or abandonment, arising from economic or social deprivation and ‘persons in destitution’ include the homeless, beggars, people with physical and mental disabilities, the old and infirm.
  • The draft looks at the issue as a social menace.

Key provisions in the Bill:

  • The Bill calls for State governments to constitute Outreach and Mobilisation Units in districts and conduct surveys for the purpose of mapping areas and identifying persons in destitution, create awareness among them about the Act and provide them assistance in procuring documents required to avail the benefits of any such scheme or legislation.
  • There is also provision to establish rehabilitation centres for the care, protection and vocational or skill development training for such people and these centre will be adequately staffed and supported by qualified persons such as doctors, social workers, counselors and vocational training instructors.
  • The Bill also focuses on establishing separate rehabilitation centres for women and differently-abled destitute and suggests that the existing shelters running for the destitute and homeless to be upgraded in such a manner that it provides comprehensive services for their rehabilitation.
  • Persons in destitution, apart from training, medical support and shelter also require emotional and psychological support for which the state government will constitute counselling units attached to each rehabilitation centre which will counsel them and assist them in opting for vocational training and engage in sustainable activities as a measure of rehabilitation and their reintegration with the mainstream society.
  • The state government will constitute a Monitoring and Advisory Board to monitor and coordinate implementation of the schemes and advise the government on matters related to care, protection, welfare and rehabilitation of destitutes.
  • The draft bill states that the District Welfare Officer, Department of Social Welfare or the concerned Department handling the issues of destitutes and beggary in the states shall be responsible for the supervision, monitoring and coordination of the implementation of this Act in the districts and Director, Social Welfare, shall be responsible for that at the state level.

Official figures show that there are 4,13,670 beggars —2.2 lakh males and 1.91 lakh females.

What the present law says?

Begging is currently a crime under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959. Under the Act, a person found begging can be sent to a shelter home or even jail without trial.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: disaster management.

Ensure minimum standards of relief to disaster victims

The National Disaster Management Authority, in its recent letter to the Chief Secretaries of all States, has called for immediate action to frame a road map to provide ‘Minimum Standards of Relief’ mandated under Section 12 of the NDMA in disaster-hit areas.

  • It is eleven years after the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) became law in 2005, havoc and humanitarian crisis caused by natural disasters like the recent Chennai floods have opened the eyes of the Centre.
  • Yet, much is to be done in States across the country to ensure that disaster victims access even minimum standards of relief.

Background:

  • NDMA has found that there has been a lack of concerted effort by the States to comply with Section 12 to provide essential services such as shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation at relief camps for disaster victims.

SC’s observations:

The Supreme Court of India too, in this regard, has ordered the Chief Secretaries to complete the framing of guidelines while remarking that providing minimum standards of relief under the NDMA is a fundamental duty of the State.

About NDMA:

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is an agency of the Ministry of Home Affairs whose primary purpose is to coordinate response to natural or man-made disasters and for capacity-building in disaster resiliency and crisis response.

  • NDMA was established through the Disaster Management Act enacted by the Government of India in December 2005.
  • The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairperson of NDMA.
  • The agency is responsible for framing policies, laying down guidelines and best-practices and coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a holistic and distributed approach to disaster management.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: money laundering.

Scrutinise FDI from Singapore, Mauritius

A report, which was tabled in the parliament recently, has asked for a close scrutiny of foreign direct investments from Singapore and Mauritius as both the nations accounted for about 60% of the $30 billion worth of FDI in India during the first three quarters of the current fiscal year.

How much do they constitute?

According to government data, of the $29.5 billion FDI into India during April-December 2015 in 2015-16, around $11 billion was from Singapore, while $6.1 billion was from Mauritius. Also, of the $278 billion worth FDI India received during April 2000-December 2015, a whopping $93.6 billion (or 34% of the total) was from Mauritius, while $43.2 billion (16% of the total) was from Singapore. These two countries together accounted for half of the total FDI inflows into India during the15-year period.

Main concerns?

Some reports in the recent past have indicated that funds from these countries are diversions from other sources to avail tax benefits under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) that India has with these two countries.

  • It is believed that most of the FDI coming into India through Mauritius, Singapore and Cyprus are actually from the U.S. or from India-related investors.
  • The Mauritius route is used for availing tax benefits and for ensuring anonymity. FDI from Mauritius is however sector-agnostic unlike FDI from countries like Japan, Germany and France, which are mostly in manufacturing-related sectors.
  • The Singapore route is used mostly by Indian entities with a regional office there.

Things to be considered:

  • A recent note on FDI prepared by the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID) said though successive governments have put FDI at the centre-stage of India’s development priorities for over two decades, detailed and systematic analysis of the nature of FDI inflows and its likely implications, including the differing developmental impacts, have not been made so far.
  • Analysis of critical operational aspects of FDI companies is often based on small sets of easily available companies ignoring the fact that a majority of FDI companies are unlisted and are registered as private limited companies, according to the institute.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Vinod Rai appointed Chairman of Banks Board Bureau

Former CAG Vinod Rai has been appointed as the first Chairman of the Banks Board Bureau.

About the Bureau:

The centre had recently given its approval to setup the Bank Board Bureau.

  • The bureau was announced last August as part of the seven-point Indradhanush plan to revamp these banks.
  • It is an autonomous body.
  • The bureau will have three ex-officio members and three expert members, in addition to the Chairman.

What it does?

  • The Bureau is mandated to play a critical role in reforming the troubled public sector banks by recommending appointments to leadership positions and boards in those banks and advise them on ways to raise funds and how to go ahead with mergers and acquisitions.
  • It will constantly engage with the boards of all 22 public sector banks to formulate appropriate strategies for their growth and development.
  • They will also constantly engage with the Board of Directors of all the public sector banks to formulate appropriate strategies for their growth and development.
  • The bureau will search and select heads of public sector banks and help them develop differentiated strategies of capital raising plans to innovative financial methods and instruments.
  • It would also be responsible for selection of non-executive chairman and non-official directors on the boards.
  • Besides, the body will also steer strategy discussion on consolidation based on the requirement.

The bureau has been set up at a time when public sector banks are grappling with a huge problem of bad loans with their collective gross NPAs (Non Performing Assets) approaching Rs. 4 lakh crore level. There are 22 state-owned banks in India including SBI, IDBI Bank and Bhartiya Mahila Bank.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 1 Topic: Social empowerment.

Kerala launches India’s first Gender Equality convergence Centre

The Government of Kerala has launched India’s first Gender Equality convergence center at Kozhikode.

Key facts:

  • The center, also called as ‘Gender Park‘, is India’s first gender equality convergence center.
  • The park is an initiative of the Social Justice Department of the Kerala government to bring together the state, academia and civil society on a common platform to address the gender issues.
  • The Centre will create an environment to share global knowledge and experiences in reducing gender inequalities.
  • A dedicated Gender Institute at the park would focus on learning research and capacity development as part of supporting efforts of the central and state governments in ensuring an inclusive society.
  • It would cover issues pertaining to all three genders in accordance with the 2015 gender and transgender policies of the state government.
  • It also aims at defining critical issues, generating and garnering knowledge for developing data necessary for responsive policies that are personalized to specific socio-economic context of the Sub continent and other developing nations.

One of the first initiatives launched by the Gender Park was the ‘She Taxi’, aimed at solely empowering Women of the society. Another initiative, ‘G-Taxi’ programme aims to ensure non-discriminatory treatment in society to the transgender community. With its success, Gender taxi will be launched this year with the aim of providing better means of livelihood and security.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

Congress to move privilege motion against Smriti Irani

Why? The privilege motion is being moved against the minister over her remarks in Parliament on the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderbad Central University.

What is Privilege Motion?

A motion moved by a member if he feels that a Minister has committed a breach of privilege of the House or of any one or more of its members by withholding the facts of a case or by giving a distorted version of facts etc.

 

National Science Day 2016

National Science Day was celebrated on February 28th, 2016.

This year’s theme: “Scientific Issues for Development of the Nation”.

About National Science Day:

National Science Day (NSD) is celebrated every year on 28th February to mark the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’, for which a Nobel Prize winning research paper submitted by Sir C.V. Raman was accepted on that day.

What is Raman Effect?

Raman Effect is a phenomenon in spectroscopy discovered by the eminent physicist C.V. Raman. Raman Effect, change in the wavelength of light that occurs when a light beam is deflected by molecules. When a beam of light traverses a dust-free, transparent sample of a chemical compound, a small fraction of the light emerges in directions other than that of the incident (incoming) beam. Most of this scattered light is of unchanged wavelength. A small part, however, has wavelengths different from that of the incident light; its presence is a result of the Raman Effect.