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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 23 February 2018
Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Khajuraho dance festival begins
Context: The 44th edition of Khajuraho dance festival has begun at the UNESCO world heritage site. The Dance Festival is being organised by the culture department of the Madhya Pradesh government.
About Khajuraho Dance Festival:
- During the festival, dance performances are held in an open-air auditorium, usually in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to the Sun God and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
- It will showcase classical dances, including Kathak, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Mohiniattam to name a few.
About Khajuraho temples:
- Khajuraho Temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. These temples were built by the Chandella ruler between AD 900 and 1130.
- They are world-wide known for their erotic sculptures. The first recorded mention of the Khajuraho temples is in the accounts of Abu Rihan al Biruni in AD 1022 and the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta in AD 1335.
- The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.
- For Prelims: Khajuraho dance festival, temples, Chandella rulers, Al Biruni.
- For Mains: Khajuraho temple architecture.
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Context: The first sale of electoral bonds will start from March 1 for a period of 10 days at four main branches of State Bank of India in Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.
About Electoral bonds:
What is it?
An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India. The electoral bonds will not bear the name of the donor.
How do you use it?
The bonds will be issued in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and will be available at specified branches of State Bank of India. They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party’s verified account within 15 days.
Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.
Why Electoral Bonds are Necessary?
India is the largest democracy in the world. However, despite strengthening various institutions for the last seven decades, India has not been able to evolve a transparent political funding system. Elections and political parties are a fundamental feature of Parliamentary democracy. Elections cost money. The round the year functioning of the political parties involves a large expenditure. Parties run offices throughout the country. Staff salaries, travelling expenses, establishment cost are regular expenditures of political parties. There has not been a single year where election either for the Parliament or State Assemblies have not been held. Besides expenditure of individual candidates, political parties have to spend money on election campaigns, publicity, tours, travels and election related establishments. These expenditures run into hundreds of crores. Yet there has not been a transparent funding mechanism of the political system.
Issues the with conventional system of political funding:
The conventional system of political funding is to rely on donations. These donations, big or small, come from a range of sources from political workers, sympathisers, small business people and even large industrialists. The conventional practice of funding the political system was to take donations in cash and undertake these expenditures in cash. The sources are anonymous or pseudonymous. The quantum of money was never disclosed. The present system ensures unclean money coming from unidentifiable sources. It is a wholly non-transparent system.
- For Prelims: Electoral Bonds.
- For Mains: Electoral reforms, Bonds- need and challenges.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) for NER
Context: An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) has been set up for the North Eastern Region (NER). This was decided after a meeting between Secretaries of DoNER and AYUSH.
About the IMC on MAPs:
Aim: The IMC is to create synergy in various programmes of the Union Government to enable medicinal and aromatic plants sector become vibrant and develop the resources to its potential.
Composition: The IMC will comprise members from various Ministries, Departments and several organisations in the relevant fields. The Ministry of Development of North-East Region (MDoNER) will be the coordinator for the IMC of MAPs.
Functions: The Committee will review the existing mechanism or institutional arrangements for management and development of MAPs resources of NER. The IMC will identify gaps in the existing mechanism or institutional arrangements, suggest a policy intervention for optimally harnessing the MAPs resources of NER and accelerating the development of MAPs sector, suggest a Plan of Action for dovetailing of the schemes and programmes of concerned Ministries and Departments.
- For Prelims: IMC on MAPs.
- For Mains: Potential of NER.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
DoT’s plan to spur synergy among 7 PSUs
Context: The government has unveiled a ‘strategic plan’ to enable seven state-owned companies under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to work closely.
The action plan covers MTNL, BSNL, Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT), Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL), Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipments (TEC) and BharatNet (BBNL).
About the strategic plan:
- The strategic plan entails effective utilisation of human resources, optimum use of vacant space and promoting ‘Make in India’, among other things. Under the plan, the government has identified specific areas where teams will work on including manpower, settlement of legal issues and utilisation of vacant space.
- The plan aims at promoting greater operational synergy among the PSUs, including pooling in of resources and effective utilisation of human resources as well as land and buildings.
- Some units have excess manpower whereas others face a shortage. Under the plan, the Centre intended to train and redeploy manpower. Also, telecom PSUs will refrain from going to court against one another and, instead, first approach DoT for resolution of disputes.
- The strategic roadmap will also cover other areas such as standards and certification, and preparing to tap opportunities in areas like 5G and Internet of Things. These PSUs will also look at pooling in resources to address new business opportunities in Digital India, Smart City and Internet of things, and develop mechanism for sharing of revenues and expenses.
For Mains: Sick PSUs, their revamp.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
Corruption perception index 2017
Context: The annual corruption index of Transparency International for the year 2017 has been released. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
Performance of India:
- India has been ranked 81st. While it maintained its score at 40 on a 100-point scale where anything below 30 is considered seriously corrupt, its ranking changed from 79th last year partly because Vanuatu, one of the countries added to the rankings this year, was rated higher and partly because others improved.
- The index also characterised India as “among the worst regional offenders” in the Asia Pacific region on grounds of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies being threatened or even murdered. In this, it was clubbed with the Philippines and Maldives.
Performance of various countries:
- New Zealand and Denmark were ranked as the cleanest countries in the 2017 list as in 2016, with scores of 89 and 88, respectively.
- Syria, South Sudan and Somalia were ranked as the most corrupt countries with scores of 14, 12 and 9, respectively.
- Pakistan with a score of 32 and China with 41 are perceived to be more corrupt than India. Russia is more corrupt than all three counties with a score of 29. South Africa is at 71st, having dropped seven places from 2016.
- Countries with the poorest protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tended to have the lowest ranks on the index.
- For Prelims: Performance of various countries in the corruption perception index.
- For Mains: Need for transparency, efforts by government.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Super critical carbon di oxide Brayton test loop facility
Context: Indian scientists have developed a super critical carbon di oxide Brayton test loop facility that would help generate clean energy from future power plants including solar thermal. This next generation technology loop was developed indigenously by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The facility is part of the Indo-US consortium — Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States (SERIIUS).
What is super critical carbon dioxide?
The term “supercritical” describes the state of carbon dioxide above its critical temperature of 31°C and critical pressure of 73 atmospheres making it twice as dense as steam.
About the technology:
- This is India’s first test-bed for next generation, efficient, compact, waterless super critical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle test loop for power generation. The technology is perhaps the first test loop coupled with solar heat source in the world.
- This test loop is designed to generate the necessary data for future development of scaled up S-CO2 power plants, which would require overcoming several technological challenges –developing critical components such as the turbine, compressor and heat exchangers that can work at the desired pressure and temperature ranges and using materials that can withstand these conditions.
Significance of this technology:
The efficiency of energy conversion could be significantly increased by as much as 50% or more if S-CO2 is operated in a closed loop Brayton cycle. Besides increasing power generation and making the process more efficient, there are other advantages of using this new technology. Smaller turbines and power blocks can make the power plant cheaper, while higher efficiency would significantly reduce CO2 emissions for fossil fuel based plants. Moreover, if the power plant used solar or nuclear heat source, it would mean higher capacity at lower operating costs.
This early stage research could potentially be useful for meeting the energy needs of the country. The new generation high efficiency power plants with closed cycle CO2 as the working fluid have the potential to replace steam based nuclear and thermal power plants, thus reducing the carbon foot print significantly.
This breakthrough research could potentially be game changer for meeting the energy needs of the country in terms of higher efficiency and capacity at lower operating costs and size. This effort has already been identified as a possible national initiative for the next generation of solar thermal power plants. This gives India an opportunity to become a world leader in this technology, and fulfil a major objective of the National Solar Mission which emphasizes indigenous manufacturing.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: basics of cyber security.
Cyber security incidents
Context: Over 53, 000 cyber security incidents like phishing, website intrusions and defacements, virus and ransomware attacks were observed in the country during 2017, as per CERT- In data. The types of cyber security incidents included phishing, scanning/probing, website intrusions and defacements, virus/malicious code, ransomware and denial of service attacks etc.
What has the government done to prevent such attacks?
The government has taken a number of legal, technical and administrative measures to prevent incidents of cyber crime.
These include enactment of the IT Act, 2000 that has adequate provisions for dealing with prevalent cyber crimes and establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical infrastructure in the country. Besides, cyber crime cells have been set up in all states and union territories for reporting and investigation of cyber crime cases.
National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is an organisation created under Sec 70A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It is designated as the National Nodal Agency in respect of Critical Information Infrastructure Protection.
NCIIPC has broadly identified the following as ‘Critical Sectors’:
- Power & Energy.
- Banking, Financial Services & Insurance.
- Strategic & Public Enterprises.
What is critical information infrastructure?
The Information Technology Act, 2000 defines Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) as “those computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which, shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety”.
- For Prelims: NCIIPC.
- For Mains: security agencies, Cyber security- Challenges and solutions.
Topic: basics of money laundering.
Pakistan added to FATF grey-list
Context: Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has added Pakistan’s name to the grey-list of terror-financing watch list. This was decided in a recently held meeting in Paris. Pakistan was previously on the list for three years until 2015.
Implications of this move:
- Pakistani analysts say being put on the FATF watchlist could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy, making it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the country.
- It would be counterproductive to put Pakistan on the watch list as it would hurt its capability to fight terrorism. Also, being put back on the grey list would heighten Pakistan’s risk profile and some financial institutions would be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and counterparties.
- Being placed on the FATF watchlist carries no direct legal implications, but brings extra scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions that can chill trade and investment and increase transaction costs.
What is it?
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
What it does?
The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally. In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
- For Prelims: FATF.
- For Mains: Terrorist funding- prevention and issues.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: Nuclear-capable medium range surface to surface missile Prithvi-II was successfully test-fired recently off the Odisha coast.
- Prithvi-II, which has a strike range of 350 km, is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kg of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines.
- Prithvi is India’s first indigenously-built ballistic missile. It is one of the five missiles being developed under the country’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
YH Malegam committee:
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of Y H Malegam.
What for? To look into the entire gamut of issues relating to classification of bad loans, rising incidents of frauds and effectiveness of audits.
All-Women Railway Station In Jaipur’s Gandhinagar A First For Rajasthan:
Context: Gandhi Nagar railway station in Jaipur has now become India’s first and only major railway station run fully by women – from ticket checker to station manager. It is the country’s first all Women non suburban railway Station.
RBS hires ‘digital human’ Cora on probation:
Context: NatWest, a bank in UK, has developed a new “digital human” prototype called Cora to have conversations with customers and help them out with banking queries.
About Cora: The digital teller answers simple questions on getting a mortgage or what to do if a customer loses their card. The AI-driven personality can answer more than 200 banking queries.
UP Cabinet approves ‘one district, one product’ scheme:
Context: The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved ‘one district, one product’ scheme to promote products indigenous to every district.
Details: ODOP is aimed at giving a major push to traditional industries synonymous with the respective districts of the state. Under this, one product indigenous to every district would be showcased at the three-day UP Diwas event. This will boost economic development of the state, and also help in generation of five lakh new jobs annually.
Background: ODOP is basically a Japanese business development concept, which gained prominence in 1979. It is aimed at promoting a competitive and staple product from a specific area to push sales and improve the standard of living of the local population. Over time, it has been replicated in other Asian countries as well.
National Integration Tours:
Context: As part of the Indian Army’s ongoing outreach programme to foster the spirit of National Integration across the entire swathe of the country, a tour for students from Manipur is being organised.
About: National Integration Tours are educational and motivational tours for youth of North Eastern States and J&K, with an aim to provide an insight into the rich heritage of the country as well as various developmental and industry initiatives that are underway. This initiative will expose them to various career options and enable them to interact with renowned personalities.