Insights Daily Current Affairs, 01 January 2018

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 01 January 2018


 

Paper 1:

Topic: urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

 

Arunachal declared open defecation-free State

Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as the second State in the Northeast, after Sikkim, to be declared Open Defecation Free. Arunachal has 21 districts and the State attained the feat much before the national deadline of October 2, 2019.

 

Background:

Arunachal Pradesh has managed to do this before the deadline of October 2, 2019. The state government had cut short the national ODF target by one year and ten months ahead of the national target and set 31 December, 2017, as the final target to achieve ODF status in Arunachal Pradesh.

 

About SBM:

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to eliminate open defecation by 2019. The goal also includes conversion of insanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradicating of manual scavenging and Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM).

 

Significance of the mission:

Poor sanitation spreads infectious diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of children each year, and stunt the physical and cognitive development of those who survive. Announcing a goal of accelerating the reduction in open defecation was a great idea, articulating a worthy goal for serious public policy efforts.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2:

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

 

Telecom ombudsman

Context: A Parliamentary panel has expressed concern over delay in setting up of an ombudsman to deal with consumer grievances in the telecom sector despite the regulator TRAI recommending it twice.

 

Need for an ombudsman:

As per the current trends, on an average around 10 million complaints are lodged with the TSPs each quarter and currently complaints are characterised by high volumes, low-value and from users in diverse geographic locations. Therefore, arrangements like ombudsman are required to address to consumers in a speedy manner. This is also necessary keeping in view of the major changes that has taken place in the Indian telecom sector in the recent past.

 

What has been proposed?

A three-stage grievance redress mechanism for telecom sector is proposed that includes — resolution by telecom service providers (TSPs), resolution by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) — and determination by Telecom Ombudsman.

The ombudsman can be established under rules framed by the Centre, similar to the institution of the insurance ombudsman under the Redress of Public Grievances Rules, 1998 (RPG Rules). The government may, by notification, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act. Alternatively, the government can choose to create the ombudsman office through a legislation to be passed by Parliament.

 

Role of ombudsman:

According to the recommendations, the consumer should in the first instance approach the complaint centre of the TSP to seek a solution. It will be the duty of the TSP to look into the request and address the consumer’s concerns within the time frames stipulated by the Authority.

In case, the TSP fails to resolve the complaint in a manner that is satisfactory to the consumer; or does not provide a response; or fails to do so within the prescribed time lines laid down by TRAI, the customer will have the option to seek further redress through an independent mechanism. This would consist of a process of a resolution based on fact finding by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), followed by, if necessitated, determination by the telecom ombudsman.

 

Funding:

A portion of the existing, not in addition, licence fee, is recommended as the funding mechanism for Ombudsman. And in addition to this fixed fee, there will be a variable component payable by each telecom service provider (TSP) depending on the volume of complaints being filed against it and admitted before the ombudsman’s office.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

National Register of Citizens

Context: The much-awaited first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published with the names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore total applicants in Assam recognising them as legal citizens of India. The NRC is being compiled following a Supreme Court directive to identify illegal immigrants in Assam.

 

Background:

Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, first prepared in 1951. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the entire process, had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspect.

 

What’s the issue?

The NRC was last updated in Assam way back in 1951. Then, it had recorded 80 lakh citizens in the State. Since then, the process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been debated and become a contentious issue in the State’s politics.

A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985.

 

About NRC:

What is it? The National Register of Citizens (NRC) contains names of Indian citizens. The NRC was prepared in 1951, after the Census of 1951. It was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during that Census.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

OCI and PIO cards

 

Context: The Govt has stopped the scheme of free conversion of PIO cards to OCI. The scheme of converting the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to OCI cards free of cost comes to an end as a decision has been taken not to give any more extension beyond December 31. However, the change of PIO cards to OCI cards would continue on payment of fees.

 

Who are NRIs, PIO and OCI?

Non-Resident Indians (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) are the three major categories in which the people from India go and live abroad can be categorised.

While NRIs is essentially a term used for Indians that live in another country, PIOs and OCIs are people who want to stay connected and involved with India more closely.

 

Need for conversion:

Simultaneous existence of PIO and OCI cards led to confusion among People of Indian Origin residing abroad. Thus, merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella. It would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country. This is aimed at simplifying the visa-free entry for people of Indian origin into India.

The merger of the two cards could make PIO cardholders eligible for benefits already enjoyed by OCI cardholders. Merging of the two cards will also facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities in India.

 

Benefits of a PIO card:

  • A PIO card holder doesn’t need a visa to visit India. The holder also doesn’t require a student or employment visa to acquire employment or academic opportunities in India.
  • The holder is also exempted from registering at the foreigner regional registration office (FRRO) during the duration of stay in India.
  • The holder also enjoys parity with NRIs in concern to economic, financial and educational matters. These may include matters related to property transfer or acquisition, holding, disposal, investment, admission of children in educational institutions under general category quota for NRIs.
  • Separate immigration counters are provided at all International airports in India for PIO card holders.

 

Drawbacks of PIO card:

It does not provide voting rights to the holder. Prior permission is needed to undertake mountaineering expeditions or any such related research work in protected areas.

 

The benefits of OCI cards are substantial:

  • OCI is essentially a lifetime visa status offered by India to an Indian person who has given up his citizenship. OCI cards give lifetime multiple entry visa to India.
  • If one remains an OCI for 5 years, he/she can attain Indian citizenship and then live in India for a period of one year including short breaks.
  • Special immigration counters are provided at all international airports in India for OCI card holders.
  • An OCI cards holder can open special bank accounts in India just like NRIs and make investments. OCI holders can also buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights.
  • An OCI card allows to apply for a driver’s license, PAN card or open a bank account in India. They get same economic, financial and educational benefits like NRIs and can also adopt children.

 

Restrictions for OCI card holders:

An OCI card holder cannot vote, hold a government job or purchase agricultural or farm land. The person can also not run for public office or travel to restricted areas without permission.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: money-laundering and its prevention.

 

Cryptocurrencies are a Ponzi scheme, warns FinMin

The spurt in the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies seems to have rung an alarm bell, with the Finance Ministry expressing concern and likening them to Ponzi schemes.

The ministry has cautioned against investing in them. Noting the “phenomenal increase” in the price of virtual currencies (VCs), including Bitcoin, in India and globally, it said, “VCs don’t have any intrinsic value and are not backed by any kind of assets. The price of bitcoin and other VCs is entirely a matter of speculation resulting in spurt and volatility in their prices.”

 

Concerns:

Virtual currency (VC) transactions are encrypted and are likely being used for terror-funding, smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering. Besides, VCs are not reliable as they are stored in digital/electronic format, making them vulnerable to hacking and malware attack.

 

Background:

The government of India is yet to introduce regulations covering the digital currency market, but it already created an interdisciplinary committee to research and to develop a regulatory framework for the sector. The committee’s members included the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Meanwhile, the Indian Supreme Court has issued an appeal to the government in November to start the drafting of a regulatory framework to ‘control the flow of Bitcoin’ in the country.

Despite its latest warning, the finance ministry has not implemented a total ban on virtual currency trading and has not announced any measures that will curb the adoption and trading of digital currencies in India.

 

What are Ponzi Schemes?

A Ponzi can be any scheme in which the returns to promised to older investors are paid from the money collected from new investors, and not actual profits from the investments. Ponzi schemes were named after Charles Ponzi, a clerk in Boston who, almost a century ago, duped thousands of investors into speculating on phenomenal returns from the humble postage stamp.

Those running a Ponzi scheme reel in their first set of investors by introducing them to a great opportunity. They may even pay up the fanciful returns out of their personal funds. But once investors begin to bite, they build a house of cards, using money from the stream of new entrants, to pay the older patrons.

Even if profits are made from the investments, more often than not, the scheme operators siphon it off to private accounts. As long as new investors are willing to sign up, the Ponzi scheme works. But when the flow of fresh money dwindles, the house of cards collapses.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:

 

New night frog species:

Scientists have discovered a new frog species from Kozhikode’s Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary. The frog species, named Mewa Singh’s Night frog, belongs to a genus endemic to the Western Ghats. The frog has been named after wildlife scientist Mewa Singh, in honour of his contributions to behavioural ecology and primate studies.

About the frog: It belongs to genus Nyctibatrachus (commonly known as night frogs) endemic only to Western Ghats mountain range. The frog’s genetically closest relatives are the Athirappilly night frog (found south of the Palakkad Gap in Thrissur and Idukki) and the Kempholey night frog (found in the northern Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka).

Significance of this discovery: Frogs in the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs, are found only in the Western Ghats mountain range. The addition of the Mewa Singh’s night frog to this group brings the total number of night frogs to 36.

 

Two new Ginger species found in the northeast:

Scientists have discovered two new species of Ginger in easternmost districts, Ukhrul in Manipur and Tuensang in Nagaland, both bordering Myanmar.

About the new species: Hedychium chingmeianum, the species discovered in Tuensang district, is an epiphytic plant and grows on tall trees, while Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis was found growing in rock crevices, boulders and humus rich soil in the Shirui Hills, where the highest peak stands at an elevation of 2,938 metres. Both the plants are from the family of Zingiberaceae, to which the commonly found Ginger (Zingiber officinale) belongs.