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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 16 February 2019

Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 16 February 2019

Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
  2. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


LADIS – Least Available Depth Information System


What to study?

  • For Prelims: About LADIS and IWAI.
  • For Mains: Significance and potential of Inland waterways, challenges involved therein.


Context: Moving a step ahead towards ensuring optimum use of National Waterways, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has launched a new portal LADIS – Least Available Depth Information System.


LADIS and its significance:

Initially LAD information will be available for NW-1, NW-2, Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route and NW-3, along with the date of survey. The facility will be expanded to other NWs also.

LADIS will ensure that real-time data on least available depths is disseminated for ship/barge and cargo owners so that they can undertake transportation on NWs in a more planned way.

Details of LAD will be fed into the portal by respective surveyors and regional incharge deputed with IWAI survey vessels which constantly move on NWs.


  1. IWAI has designed LADIS to facilitate the day to day operations of inland vessels plying on National Waterways and to avoid any hindrance in service and operation.
  2. An assured depth of waterway is required for seamless movement of vessels. If real time information is made available regarding LADs in stretches of various NWs, it will help transporters by guiding them on the suitability of time of movement.
  3. It will enhance credibility and efficiency of information sharing to achieve seamless operations on National Waterways, besides pre-empting problems that may occur during movement of vessels.

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage.


Pahari Dam Modernization Project


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Location, benefits and significance of the project.


Context: Pahari Dam modernization project was recently inaugurated by the PM.


About the project:

Pahari Dam is a water storage dam situated on Dhasan River in Jhansi district.

The Dhasan River is a right bank tributary of the Betwa River. The river originates in Madhya Pradesh.



The project will benefit farmers by reducing the water leakage from the dam and make more water available for the farmers.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

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


Tagore award


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: The award, eligibility and key facts related.


Context: President Ram Nath Kovind would be presenting the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony to Rajkumar Singhajit Singh, Bangladesh cultural organisation Chhayanaut and Ram Sutar Vanji for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively.


About the Tagore award:

  1. The annual award was instituted by the Government of India during the commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
  2. The first Tagore Award was conferred on Pt. Ravi Shankar, the Indian Sitar Maestro in 2012 and second was conferred on Shri Zubin Mehta in 2013.
  3. The award carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a citation in a scroll, a plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft/ handloom item.
  4. The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or sex.
  5. Awardees are selected by a jury headed by the Prime Minister of India.

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Indigenization of technology.


Vande Bharat Express


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About the train, key facts related and significance of this development.


Context: Vande Bharat Express was recently flagged off by PM.


Vande Bharat Express:

  1. It is India’s first indigenously built engineless semi-high speed train. Earlier, it was known by the name Train 18.
  2. It runs between Delhi and Varanasi at a maximum speed of 160 kmph.
  3. It has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 20 months.
  4. The train is a 100% ‘Make in India’ project and is claimed to be built at half the cost of a similar train set that is imported.
  5. It is energy-efficient as its coaches will be fitted with LED lights. Coaches will have automatic doors and retractable footsteps.
  6. It will be inter-connected with fully sealed gangways along with a GPS-based Passenger Information System. It is provided with Bio toilets.


Mains Question: “The Future of Rail Opportunities for energy” report, released by the International Energy Agency, has painted a bright future for Indian railways. Discuss the report and the efforts made by the government in recent years to modernize Indian railways.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

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


Government liberalizes the e-Visa regime


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features of e- Visa regime, recent modifications and its implications.


Context: The e-tourist visa, introduced in September 2014 with 46 countries, has now been made applicable for 166 countries. Recently, government made series of amendments in the e-visa regime, liberalising it further and making it more tourist friendly.


Important modifications made are highlighted as under:

  1. Duration of stay in India of e-Tourist and e-Business Visas is maximum upto 1 Year with multiple entry subject to the stay stipulations.
  2. Also, the existing restriction of allowing foreigner for a maximum of three times has also been removed.


Changes in e-Tourist Visa:

  1. On e-Tourist Visa continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa except nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan.
  2. In case of nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days.
  3. In all cases no registration will be required.


Changes in e-Business Visa:

  1. Continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa.
  2. No registration will be required if the stay is for a period of less than 180 days.


Other changes:

  1. e-Visa is valid for entry through 2 (two) more designated Airports (Bhubaneswar and Port Blair) raising the total number of such airports to 28.
  2. Attending Destination wedding under normal e-Tourist visa or Tourist visa- No separate category of Destination Wedding Visa
  3. Foreign nationals who fall sick during their stay in India can now avail medical treatment without converting their visa into Medical Visa. This would take care of sudden medical emergencies.
  4. Visa-on-Arrival facility extended to the nationals of the Republic of Korea.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

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


Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key provisions in the Bill and its significance.


Context: The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was recently passed in Lok Sabha.

The bill aims to address various deficiencies in the management of the National Memorial and to ensure that the Trust is an apolitical entity.



Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 provided for the erection of a National Memorial in memory of those killed or wounded on April 13, 1919, in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.

The 1951 Act also provided for a Trust to manage the National Memorial. The Trust as per the 1951 Act included the Prime Minister, as Chairperson, (ii) the President of the Indian National Congress, (iii) the Minister in-charge of Culture, (iv) the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, (v) the Governor of Punjab, (vi) the Chief Minister of Punjab, and (vii) three eminent persons nominated by the central government.



  1. The 2018 amendment bill removes the President of the Indian National Congress as a Trustee.
  2. It clarifies that when there is no Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha will be the Trustee.
  3. The 1951 act provided that the three eminent persons nominated by the central government will have a term of five years and will be eligible for re-nomination. The 2018 bill added a clause to allow the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason.

Relevant articles from various News Papers:

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  2. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.


Why only bureaucrats on information panels, asks SC


What to study?

  • For Prelims: About CIC- key facts.
  • For Mains: Issues associated, association of govt employees with the institution, the need for reforms.


Context: Supreme Court has observed that the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions have been places of government employees and their retired counterparts.


What’s the issue?

  1. There’s “official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees in the process of appointment.
  2. In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
  3. This is against the fundamental principles of the Right to Information Act of 2005 which itself requires people from varied domains to man the Commissions.
  4. Besides, the entire RTI mechanism has been choked by rising pendency and growing number of vacancies of Information Commissioners.


What next?

RTI law was enacted to ensure accountability in governance. The Commissions are meant to be the law’s eyes and hands to provide information to ordinary people.

Therefore, the apex court has directed the government to look beyond bureaucrats and appoint professionals from “all walks of life,” including eminent persons with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism as Information Commissioners.


About Central Information Commission (CIC):

Established in 2005 by Central Government under provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act (2005).

It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.

Composition: The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.

Appointment: CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.


Sources: the hindu.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. India and its neighbourhood- relations.


MFN status


What to study?

  • For Prelims: What is MFN status?
  • For Mains: How does it affect the bilateral trade between the countries? How does withdrawal of this affect Pakistan?


Context: India has revoked the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan (bestowed in 1996) and warned of more measures in response to its support for terrorist groups targeting India.


What is Most Favoured Nation status?

Most Favoured Nation is a treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners.

The importance of MFN is shown in the fact that it is the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Under WTO rules, a member country cannot discriminate between its trade partners. If a special status is granted to a trade partner, it must be extended to all members of the WTO.


MFN at the same time allows some exemptions as well:

Right to engage in Free Trade Agreements: This means members can participate in regional trade agreements or free trade agreements where there is discrimination between member countries and non-member countries.

Members can give developing countries special and differential treatment like greater market access. This special concession are in different forms like reduced tariff rates from developing country imports, concessions that allows developing countries to give subsidies to their production sectors etc.

All these exceptions are subjected to strict conditions.


What are the pros of MFN?

MFN status is extremely gainful to developing countries. The clear upsides are access to a wider market for trade goods, reduced cost of export items owing to highly reduced tariffs and trade barriers. These essentially lead to more competitive trade.

MFN also cuts down bureaucratic hurdles and various kinds of tariffs are set at par for all imports. It then increases demands for the goods and giving a boost to the economy and export sector.

It also heals the negative impact caused to the economy due to trade protectionism. This irks the domestic industry.

A country that grants MFN on imports will have its imports provided by the most efficient supplier. This may not be the case if tariffs differ by country.

Granting MFN has domestic benefits: having one set of tariffs for all countries simplifies the rules and makes them more transparent. It also lessens the frustrating problem of having to establish rules of origin to determine which country’s part of the product (that may contain parts from all over the world) must be attributed to for customs purpose.

As MFN clause promotes non-discrimination among countries, they also tend to promote the objective of free trade in general.


What are the disadvantages of MFN?

The main disadvantage is that the country has to give the same treatment to all other trade partners who are members of the WTO. This translates into a price war and vulnerability of the domestic industry as a result. The country is not able to protect domestic industry from the cheaper imports and in this price war, some domestic players have to face heavy losses or growth restrictions.


What does revoking MFN mean?

Revoking it means India can levy whatever import tariffs it wants. India can now make it very expensive for Pakistan to export its goods or services to India.


Will this hurt Pakistan?

So far, India has only revoked the MFN status. It has not altered the import duties on Pakistan. However, if it does hike them, then this will likely have an impact on that country.


What is the State of MFN Status Between India and Pakistan?

India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, a year after the formation of WTO. But Pakistan hasn’t accorded MFN status to India till now.


Sources: the hindu.

Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Awareness in space.


NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Mars rover opportunity- objectives, achievements and significance.


Context: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that its Mars Mission, Opportunity has come to an end.

This marked the conclusion of the 15-year saga. The decision to end the mission was made after all the efforts to restore contact with the Opportunity Mars rover didn’t yield desired results.


Why the NASA lost the contact with Opportunity?

A historic global dust storm reached the location of the Opportunity rover on Mars. The storm darkened the skies and cut off of the rover’s solar power. All the efforts of NASA to restore the rover did not yield positive results.

Things worsened with the onset of the winter at the location of the Opportunity rover. The reduced sunlight and colder temperatures during winter made it unlikely for the recovery of the Opportunity rover.


About the Mission:

Opportunity was the second of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers to land on Mars in January 2004.

It landed 90 days after its twin rover Spirit landed. Spirit landed at Gusev Crater and Opportunity landed on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum.

  • NASA expected 90-day lifetimes for the rovers. Both Opportunity and Spirit far exceeded their expected lifetime.
  • Spirit’s mission ended in May 2011 after travelling eight kilometres and Opportunity had logged 45 kilometres before losing contact in June 2018.


Sources: toi.

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Infrastructure- energy.
  2. Development and indigenization of technology.


First District Cooling System of India to come up in Amaravati:


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: District Cooling System- how it works? Significance and benefits.


Context: India’s First District cooling system will come up in Amravati, capital of the Andhra Pradesh.


What is District cooling system?

  • District cooling systems produce chilled water, steam or hot water at a central plant and then pipe that energy out (either underground or over rooftops) to buildings for air conditioning, space heating and water heating. As a result, these buildings don’t require their own chillers, air conditioners, boilers or furnaces.
  • They are considered to be highly efficient to address each of the challenges like high Capital and operating costs, reliability, flexibility and environmental sustainability while meeting their comfort and process cooling and heating needs.
  • District cooling uses only 50% of primary energy consumption for cooling urban building n compared to other cooling systems. This also reduces carbon emissions.


Sources: the hindu.

Summaries of Important Editorials from various News Papers:


SC verdict over Tussle between Delhi and Centre:

Context: A Supreme Court Bench has given a split opinion on whether the Delhi government has control over the administration’s services and decided to refer the question to a larger Bench.

Two judges- While Justice Bhushan held that the Delhi government has no power over services, observing that Entry 41 of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution — dealing with ‘State Public Services’ — was outside the purview of the Delhi Assembly, Justice Sikri, the lead judge on the Bench, took the middle path.


What the Court said?

The three areas over which the Delhi government will enjoy powers:

  1. Appointment of special public prosecutors or law officers.
  2. Fixing land revenue rate.
  3. Power to appoint or deal with electricity commission or board.


Powers given to the Centre:

  1. Delhi Anti- Corruption Branch cannot probe central government employees.
  2. Centre has the power to appoint enquiry commission.


What has been referred to the larger bench?

  1. Control over service matters involving transfers and posting of officers.


What does the constitution say on this?

It is administered under Article 239 AA. Article 239 AA was incorporated in the Constitution in 1992. It creates a “special” constitutional set up for Delhi.

  • It has provisions for popularly elected assembly, a council of ministers responsible to the assembly and a certain demarcation of responsibilities between the LG and the council of ministers.
  • As per Article 239 AA (3) (a), the Delhi assembly can legislate on all those matters listed in the State List and Concurrent List as are applicable to union territories. The public order, police and land are reserved for the LG.
  • This special set up worked well mainly because the same party held office at the Centre as well as in Delhi for much of the time. Things changed when different government ruled the city and the centre.


Brief history:

  1. In 1911, Delhi became capital of India, headed by a Commissioner and then known as “Chief Commissioner’s Province.”
  2. In key legislations of that era, in 1919 and 1935, Delhi was seen as a centrally-administered territory.
  3. In 1950 Delhi became a Part C state but in 1951 this category was abolished. All C-states got their own Legislative Assembly.
  4. Delhi did not have powers over public order, police, public utility authorities, lands and buildings and over offences and court jurisdictions related to these subjects.
  5. In 1956 the States Reorganisation Act was passed along with the 7th Amendment to the Constitution. Now Delhi became a Union Territory. This means, it was headed by an Administrator appointed by the President.
  6. In 1966 the Delhi Administration Act came into the picture, giving Delhi a Metropolitan Council with 56 elected and 5 nominated members.
  7. In 1987 the Balakrishan Committee held that Delhi has a “special status” within the Constitutional scheme.


If there are differences:

Generally, the administrator is merely a figurehead. But Article 239 says that the President, through the administrator, was ultimately responsible for good administration. Hence, Balakrishan Committee notes that the Administrator in Delhi’s scheme of things had a “somewhat more active part” while the President would have the final say. This was the scheme provided for in 1951, 1963 and also in 1978.


Scenario after 1991:

In 1991 the 69th Amendment introduced Articles 239AA and 239AB in the Constitution. This is also what was disputed in court: If Delhi has a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers does that imply a Westminster-style government since the 69th Amendment? If the LG holds sway here, does that go against the basic structure of the Constitution?