Insights Daily Current Affairs, 26 February 2018
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Highway liquor ban
Context: The Supreme Court has given the State governments the discretion to decide, on facts, whether areas covered by local self-governing bodies or areas proximate to municipal pockets should be exempted from the court’s nationwide prohibition on sale of liquor within 500 metres along the highways.
What is the ban all about?
In 2016, the Supreme Court passed an order banning the sale of alcohol along national and state highways, ordering the cancellation of liquor licences issued to shops by April 1, 2017.
The order states that no liquor stores should be even visible from highways, or located within a distance of 500 metres of the highways, or be directly accessible from a national or state highway. The order has been subsequently modified to exempt establishments within 220 metres of the highways for smaller towns and municipalities with a population of less than 20,000 people.
Significance of this ban:
The order reaffirms a policy decision of the union government that goes back more than 10 years. In 2004, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) unanimously agreed that licences for liquor shops should not to be given along the national highways, and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has “consistently” advised state governments not to issue fresh licences and remove liquor shops from national highways.
Why the ban?
- The order is aimed at tackling the rising menace of drunk driving as well as improving road safety conditions in India. The court cited “alarming” statistics showing drunk driving-related accidents and deaths, and said the order is in “overwhelming public interest.”
- Citing data from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Supreme Court noted that in 2015, intake of alcohol or drugs by drivers resulted in 16,298 road accidents (4.2% of total accidents) and 6,755 fatalities (6.4% of total accidents) where drivers were at fault.
- The court also said data showing low incidence of drunk driving often tends to be skewed and “under-reported” as a cause of accidents, as that can affect the claims of victims or their heirs to accident compensation.
The Supreme Court order banning establishments selling alcohol along all state and national highways is a classic case of good intentions missing the mark. The apex court directive is certainly well meant. It stems from the desire to curb drunken driving that kills thousands of people each year on our highways. But a blanket ban on all liquor outlets is a sweeping and radical measure, throwing out the baby with the bath water. While the move’s impact on drunken driving is likely to be marginal, the ban puts thousands of valid businesses employing lakhs of people at risk.
For Prelims and Mains: Need for liquor ban- implications and challenges.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Context: 338 Workers will be Conferred with Prime Minister Shram Awards. The awards are given in recognition of their distinguished performances, innovative abilities, outstanding contribution in the field of productivity and exhibition of exceptional courage and presence of mind.
About Shram Awards:
The Prime Minister’s Shram Awards were instituted in 1985 by the Government of India. This national award is conferred on workers for outstanding contributions that improve productivity, innovation, and indigenization, resulting in saving foreign exchange. The award is also given for long-term exceptional dedicated work.
The objective of the Prime Ministers Shram Awards is to recognize the outstanding contributions made by workmen as defined in the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 in organizations both in public and private sector and who have distinguished record of performance, devotion to duty of a high order, specific contribution in the field of productivity and proven innovative abilities among others.
There are four types of awards:
- Shram Ratna: Rs. Two lakhs and recognition of their contribution to their field (a Sanad).
- Shram Bhushan: RS. 100000 and a Sanad.
- Shram Vir / Shram Veerangana: RS. 60000 and a Sanad.
- Shram Devi / Shram Shree: RS. 40000 and a Sanad.
For Prelims: Shram awards.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers
Context: 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers is being held at Fiji. The Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers is a high-level meeting that brings together education Ministers from the 52 Commonwealth countries to discuss key issues on education.
Theme: The theme for 20CCEM is Sustainability and Resilience: Can Education Deliver? It includes three subthemes:
- Education for sustainable development: Education as a key enabler for sustainable development- skills development and transitioning youth to decent work.
- Building resilience through education: Climate change and the curriculum – displacement and migration due to climate change and the challenges faced by small and atoll islands (including the role of education, traditional knowledge and local culture in building climate resilience).
- Education governance & management: Strengthening the teaching profession and school management – issues of quality and equity; financing of education; societal barriers (including drug abuse and internet/social media); and advocacy for education strategies across the SDGs.
Key facts for Prelims:
- The Commonwealth education conference has been taking place every three years since 1959, when the first meeting was held in Oxford.
- It is the second largest meeting organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
- 2018 conference will be the first Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) since the global community adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
- The meeting will give education ministers the opportunity to agree on effective strategies to help individual countries achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – inclusive and quality education for all.
- Kenya has formally undertaken to host the 21st Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers in 2021. Bahamas hosted the 19th Conference.
- For Prelims: Commonwealth conference of education ministers, SDG 4, location of Fiji and 21st
- For Mains: Need for international cooperation in the field of education.
Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Context: Andaman & Nicobar Command will host the multinational mega event MILAN 2018.
Theme: ‘Friendship Across the Seas’.
What is it? MILAN is a congregation of littoral navies conducted biennially by Indian Navy at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
Aims: MILAN 2018 aims to showcase the rich heritage and pristine natural beauty of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the foreign visitors. Besides fostering co-operation through naval exercises and professional interactions, MILAN also provides an excellent opportunity to the participating navies to come together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding to nurture stronger ties.
- For Prelims: MILAN 2018, where it is held.
- For Mains: Significance of Indian Ocean Region.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
International Conference on Sustainable Biofuels
Context: A two- day International Conference on Sustainable Biofuels is jointly being organized by Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India on behalf of Mission Innovation and Biofuture Platform at New Delhi.
What is it? The Sustainable Biofuel is one of the Seven Mission Innovation Challenges and India Co-leads this along with other countries Brazil, Canada and China. The sustainable biofuel innovation challenge under MI aims to accelerate research, development and deployment of low cost, high GHG impacting advanced biofuels.
Participants: The event will bring together experts from Biofuels sector to take stock of current knowledge, share information and best practices, and build consensus on the actions most needed to move forward. Senior Government Officers, Technical Experts, Academicians, Researchers and Representatives from various Countries, Industry and Investors will participate in the event.
- Provide a platform to Government policy makers, investors, industry and research community to exchange experiences and challenges related to development and scaling up of advanced biofuels.
- Exchange best practices in developing projects, performance breakthroughs and in cost reduction.
- Understanding the concerns of private sector and that of investors, to speedup large scale production of sustainable biofuels.
What is Mission Innovation?
Mission Innovation (MI) is a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation. As part of the initiative, participating countries have committed to double Clean Energy Research and Development investments over five years.
What is Biofuture Platform?
The Biofuture Platform aims to be an action-oriented, country-led, multistakeholder mechanism for policy dialogue and collaboration among leading countries, organizations, academia and the private sector conscious of the need to accelerate development and scale up deployment of modern sustainable low carbon alternatives to fossil based solutions in transport, chemicals, plastics and other sectors.
Use of fossil fuels for transportation contributes significantly to global greenhouse gases (GHG) emission. The sustainable biofuels have ability to reduce the GHG emission load. Advanced or second-generation biofuels produced from non-food biomass materials and specially grown high yielding plants or algae, if managed sustainably can contribute to significantly reduce emissions. However, many of the advanced biofuels still remain in pre- or an early commercial stage of development and need innovations and breakthrough for low cost sustainable production.
- For Prelims: Sustainable biofuels, Mission Innovation and Biofuture platform.
- For Mains: Biofuels- significance, challenges and solutions.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
Context: The ₹11,500 crore fraud in the Punjab National Bank where fund transfer through an inter-bank messaging system was not reported to the core banking solution, followed by the cyberattack on the City Union Bank, has put the spotlight once again on SWIFT or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
What is SWIFT?
The SWIFT is a secure financial message carrier — in other words, it transports messages from one bank to its intended bank recipient. Its core role is to provide a secure transmission channel so that Bank A knows that its message to Bank B goes to Bank B and no one else. Bank B, in turn, knows that Bank A, and no one other than Bank A, sent, read or altered the message en route. Banks, of course, need to have checks in place before actually sending messages.
The SWIFT is a global member-owned cooperative that is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It was founded in 1973 by a group of 239 banks from 15 countries which formed a co-operative utility to develop a secure electronic messaging service and common standards to facilitate cross-border payments. It carries an average of approximately 26 million financial messages each day. In order to use its messaging services, customers need to connect to the SWIFT environment.
Significance of SWIFT:
Messages sent by SWIFT’s customers are authenticated using its specialised security and identification technology. Encryption is added as the messages leave the customer environment and enter the SWIFT Environment. Messages remain in the protected SWIFT environment, subject to all its confidentiality and integrity commitments, throughout the transmission process while they are transmitted to the operating centres (OPCs) where they are processed — until they are safely delivered to the receiver.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: indigenization of tech.
Context: Defence Research and Development Organisation has successfully completed the test flight of its Rustom 2 drone at the Aeronautical Test Range. Rustom 2 is part of the Rustom line of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that includes Rustom-I, Rustom-H and Rustom-C.
- Rustom 2 drone is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, developed on the lines of predator drones of the United States. The objective of this drone is to carry out surveillance for the armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours.
- The drone was developed for use by all three services of the Indian armed forces, primarily for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.
- The medium-altitude prototype can fly at over 22,000 ft and is a long-endurance (MALE) UAV that has an approximate flight time of 20 hours.
- It can fly at around 280 km/h and carry a variety of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT).
- Rustom 2 can fly missions on manual as well as autonomous modes. The onboard way-point navigation system allows the drone to conduct missions autonomously.
Significance of drones:
Modern warfare is heavily dependent on drones and India had deployed its imported drones effectively during the surgical strikes it carried out across the Line of Control in Pakistan in September 2016.
- For Prelims: Key features of Rustom 2.
- For Mains: Drones- uses and challenges.
Topic: money laundering.
Centre may enact law against fugitives
Context: The Union government may consider enacting the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to confiscate assets of those who flee the country and refuse to return after committing frauds in excess of Rs. 100 crore. A draft of the Bill, which is in consonance with similar legislation in several countries, has already been circulated.
Highlights of the draft Fugitive Economic Offenders bill:
- The bill flows from Finance Minister Arun Jaitleys 2017 -18 Budget speech promising legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such fugitives. It seeks to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by fleeing the country.
- The proposed law will be applicable in cases where the value of offences is over Rs 100 crore. The bill proposes to allow the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the premier technical snoop wing under the finance ministry, to file an application for the declaration of fugitive economic offender for confiscation of their assets.
- The courts under PMLA would be entrusted with the responsibility to try the case. Also, the bill has provision for appointment of an administrator to dispose off the property to pay off the creditors. Besides, the provisions of the proposed law will override provisions of other existing laws. The burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.
Need for a law in this regard:
There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings. The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences— first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law; third, it undermines the rule of law in India.
Who is a fugitive economic offender?
A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
What is it? It is a new plant species identified by scientists from the Botanical Survey of India from two protected National Parks in West Bengal.
- Named Drypetes kalamii, it is a small shrub found to be shorter version of its close relative Drypetes ellisii.
- Standing just 1 metre tall, the newly described plant is unisexual in nature, which means they have separate male and female plants.
- By following the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) rules, the scientists have provisionally assessed the plant to be “Critically Endangered”.
- The new species is found in wet, shaded areas of subtropical moist semi-evergreen forests, at a height ranging 50-100 metres.
- With pale yellow flowers in clusters and bright orange to red fruits, the plant is exclusive to the two national parks- Jaldapara and Buxa National Parks.