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Insights Daily Current Events, 29 June 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 29 June 2016


Paper 2 Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.


Parched Panchayati Raj Ministry on verge of closure


After facing a massive budget cut last year, from Rs. 7,000 crores to Rs. 96 crores, the future of the Panchayati Raj Ministry continues to look bleak. According to few experts, soon the Ministry will be closed down and turned into a department under the Ministry of Rural Development.

Present scenario:

With no funds in hands, the ministry is acting like an advisory body. The government had also recently shuttered two of its key programmes — the Backward Regions Grants Fund (BRGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA). Also, in view of the budget cuts, the Ministry recently realigned its mandate from financing panchayats to capacity-building and training.


Ministry of Panchayati Raj looks into all matters relating of Panchayati Raj and Panchayati Raj Institutions. It was created in May 2004.

  • With the passage of 73rd and 74th amendment act of the Constitution of India, in 1993 the division of powers and functions have been further trickled down to Local Self Governments (Panchayat at Village levels and Municipalities and Municipal Corporations in towns&large cities).
  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj is responsible for the work of advocacy for and monitoring of the implementation of Constitution 73rd Amendment Act the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996.
  • One major task of the Ministry will be to ensure that the State Governments/UT Administrations devolve funds, functions and functionaries on the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the spirit of the Constitutional provisions.
  • The Ministry of Panchayati Raj will also be responsible for formulation and implementation of an Action Plan for seeing PRIs to emerge as “Institutions of Local-Self Government” securing economic development and social justice in their respective areas.

Why its existence is necessary?

According to estimates, there are 58,000 gram panchayats across the country without permanent office facilities. This goes against the spirit of grass-root democracy. Hence, for the overall upliftment and development of Panchayati Raj institutions in the country the existence of ministry is necessary.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


New method can kill cancer cells in two hours, shows study


Researchers have developed a new, non-invasive method that can kill cancer cells in two hours.

About the new method:

The method involves injecting a chemical compound, nitrobenzaldehyde, into the tumour and allowing it to diffuse into the tissue. A beam of light is then aimed at the tissue, causing the cells to become very acidic inside and, essentially, commit suicide. With this method, within two hours, up to 95% of the targeted cancer cells are dead or are estimated to be dead.


  • This method may significantly help people with inoperable or hard-to-reach tumours as well as young children stricken with the deadly disease.
  • This will also help cancer patients with tumours in areas that have proven problematic for surgeons, such as the brain stem, aorta or spine.
  • It could also help people who have received the maximum amount of radiation treatment and can no longer cope with the scarring and pain that go along with it, or children who are at risk of developing mutations from radiation as they grow older.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: awareness in space.


Deep space rocket booster tested


NASA has performed its second and last test-fire of a rocket booster for the Space Launch System (SLS).

  • NASA has described the SLS as the “world’s most powerful rocket,” and said the test aims to see how the propellant performs at the colder end of its temperature range. This is seen as a powerful engine that may one day launch astronauts to Mars.
  • On its upcoming first flight, the SLS will launch the Orion spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the moon to demonstrate the integrated system performance of Orion and the SLS rocket prior to the first crewed flight.

About SLS:

NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, is a powerful, advanced launch vehicle for a new era of human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS will launch crews of up to four astronauts in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on missions to explore multiple, deep-space destinations.

Offering more payload mass, volume capability and energy to speed missions through space than any current launch vehicle, SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable and will open new possibilities for payloads, including robotic scientific missions to places like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.


App downloads expose most Indian users


According to a study by Norton, about one in two Indians have allowed app developers to access their contact directories and other data stored on their smartphones in exchange for free applications, exposing themselves to privacy risks in the process. The survey covered 1,005 Indian smartphone and tablet users aged 16 and above.

Highlights of the study:

  • The survey notes that one in three consumers in India accepts that many apps they use are likely to collect data about them, one in five would download any app that looked cool, regardless of its origin or reputation.
  • Close to 50% of Indians with smartphones and tablets have over 20 apps installed on them, according to the survey.
  • 36% would either always grant permissions or simply don’t know enough about the kind of permissions they may have granted and only eight per cent reject requests bearing in mind the risks involved.
  • 50% users grant permission to send promotional texts/emails, while close to 40% grant permission to access their camera, bookmarks and browser history.
  • About 68% of the users worry about the security threats of online shopping and 42% said they have in fact experienced a security problem, threat or nuisance as a result of using their devices for online shopping. However, only 26% of online shoppers believe that threats are increasing.
  • Security issues causing the most concern for Indian mobile users were virus/malware attacks (34%), threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details (21%) and leaking of personal information (19%).

Why be concerned about this?

Mobiles are digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness information, financial data and more. Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk and compromise their privacy.

Sources: the hindu.


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


NS Vishwanathan appointed as Deputy Governor of RBI


The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has appointed N S Vishwanathan as the Deputy Governor of RBI. Vishwanathan was executive director at RBI. He will succeed HR Khan as Deputy Governor of RBI.

About Deputy Governors of RBI:

The RBI has four deputy governors and typically two are from the outside, of which traditionally one is a commercial banker and the other an economist. The two others are promoted from within the central bank’s ranks. A central bank Deputy Governor can be appointed for a term with a maximum of five years or till the age of 62, whichever is earlier.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: money-laundering and its prevention.


Centre seeks to calm black money fears


The government has sought to assure industry that it would not harass those who came forward with their undeclared income.

  • In this regard, finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently held a meeting with industry leaders and chambers of commerce regarding the Income Declaration Scheme where he sought to assuage these concerns.
  • He said the compliance window is open for people with undisclosed income to legitimise it by paying 45% tax between June 1 to September 30 and any declaration made under this law (the Income Declaration Scheme 2016) is protected and won’t be shared with any other authority.


The Income Declaration Scheme was announced by the Finance Minister in his most recent Budget speech.

About the scheme:

The Income Declaration Scheme offers people with undisclosed income to declare it by paying a penal tax rate of 45% on such income.

An amendment in this regard was also recently moved in the Finance Bill, 2016. The Finance Bill has imported Section 138 of the Income Tax Act into the declaration scheme’s ambit. Bringing in Section 138 to the Scheme brings in objectivity on confidentiality of income tax information and the limitations thereof.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.


Ministries can approve up to Rs. 500 cr. of non-Plan spending


According to the latest decision of the government, Ministers can now approve non- plan expenditure proposals of up to Rs 500 crore as against the earlier limit of Rs 150 crore.


  • As per the new directives, competent authority to approve scheme/project between Rs 75 crore and Rs 500 crore will be the minister-in-charge of the ministry or department. Earlier, the minister had powers to approve proposals up to Rs 150 crore.
  • Proposals up to Rs 75 crore can be approved by the secretary of the administrative ministry/department.
  • In case of non-plan schemes entailing expenditure between Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore, the competent authority is the minister-in charge and minister of finance.
  • Expenditure beyond Rs 1,000 crore require clearance of the Cabinet or Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
  • For faster clearance, the government has also raised the financial limit of projects that can be approved by officials.
  • The government has also changed its rules to enable quick processing of any rise in project costs. A 20% increase in the cost of a project can now be assessed by financial advisers of ministries and approved by an officer. But if the absolute cost escalation is higher than Rs.75 crore, the minister will need to clear it.
  • Also, a Committee on Non-Plan Expenditure, which cleared all proposals worth over Rs. 75 crore, will now have the power to assess proposals worth Rs. 300 crore and more.
  • Non-plan expenditure constitutes the biggest portion of the government’s spending. A major part of non-plan expenditure is about interest payments, pensions, statutory transfers to states and Union Territories.
  • Non-Plan Expenditure committee with three members will be constituted in this regard. It will have Expenditure Secretary as chairman. The other members are — CEO of NITI Aayog and Secretary of the Department concerned.

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.


CSIR lab to certify coal used in power plants


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has signed an annual Rs. 250-crore deal with several state-run coal and thermal power companies to certify the quality of the coal being supplied and used in their facilities. The certification will help power plants use coal appropriate to the machinery and technology available in the plant and contribute to efficient use and, in the long run, reduce emissions.

  • The Dhanbad-based CSIR-Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CSIR-CIMFR), Dhanbad, a constituent laboratory of CSIR, will be doing the certification and it expects to analyse about 300 million tonnes of coal samples per year. While the grading of a coal would be voluntary and organisations affiliated to the Coal Ministry would have already checked the quality of coal, the CSIR’s grading would be finer and more reliable.


There have been disputes between power companies and coal suppliers over the quality of coal. Last week several power distribution companies in Delhi reportedly filed a petition with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission accusing the NTPC of supplying poor quality coal and overcharging. The NTPC had responded that the coal was supplied by Coal India Ltd. and only a ‘third party’ could impartially decide on the quality of coal. India’s coal is known to be of high ash content and of a lower quality, compared with that of several countries, that has forced many private companies to import coal.

About CSIR:

CSIR, constituted in 1942 by a resolution of the then Central Legislative assembly, is an autonomous body registered under the Registration of Societies Act XXI of 1860.

  • Known for its cutting-edge R&D knowledgebase in diverse S&T areas, CSIR is a contemporary R&D organization, having pan-India presence, with a dynamic network of 38 national laboratories, 39 outreach centers, 3 Innovation Complexes and 5 units.
  • CSIR covers a wide spectrum of science and technology – from radio and space physics, oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology.
  • It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts, which include environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors. Further, CSIR’s role in S&T human resource development is noteworthy.

Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims:


  • According to an independent study conducted by Bhasha Research Centre, close to 800 languages and dialects exist across India and nearly 300 languages have gone extinct in the country since the time of independence. Census of India surveys found close to 1,600 languages in use in 1961, 108 in 1971 and 122 in 2011. Those spoken by less than 10,000 people were excluded after 1961. The UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation has been counting too, and found there are 197 endangered languages in India, with 42 classified as Critically Endangered. Included in the list is Nihali, traced to the pre-Aryan and pre-Munda period.


  • New Census data released by the government shows that the median age at the time of marriage has increased across categories of people and genders, a trend that experts say will continue due to the socio-economic changes taking place in the country. The data, released by the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, show that the median age for men increased to 23.5 at the time of the 2011 Census, from 22.6 as per the 2001 figures. These numbers were 19.2 years and 18.2 years for women in the respective years. The median age for marginal workers increased from 21.8 to 22.5 for men and from 17.6 to 18.7 for women. The reason for the upswing is the increasingly mobile and migratory nature of work in the country. Higher levels of school enrolment may also be the reason for this change.