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Current Events 24 January 2017



24 JANUARY 2017


Sr. No.





Budget before polls gets green light from SC



No State-specific schemes, says EC



CBI ordered to probe ‘abuse of office’ by its former chief



Extend Lodha reforms to all games: Sportspersons



‘Demarcate floodplains of Yamuna in Agra within 3 weeks’



MoEF challenges NGT’s jurisdiction



NHRC notice to AAI over delayed relief to Dalit families



Piece of history arrives in Hyderabad



SC for daily drug dosage regimen for TB patients



UAE signals a ‘Look East’ policy



Venkaiah for geo-tagging of govt. employees



Govt. delays judges’ appointments: CJI



N.K. Singh panel submits report on FRBM Act



Suryoday, Utkarsh enter banking fray



India rejects attempts by EU, Canada for global investment agreement



‘Use Aadhaar e-KYC to verify mobile users



What mackerel and a volcano can tell us about climate change



Now, a ‘vaccine’ to guard against spread of fake news



Budget before polls gets green light from SC

·        Noting that there is “nothing concrete” to back the notion that presentation of the annual budget can sway the minds of people during the Assembly polls, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking the postponement of the Union budget till the Assembly elections in five States.

·        The PIL has also sought a direction to strip the BJP of its ‘lotus’ party symbol on the grounds that it violated the model code of conduct by presenting the budget after the declaration of the dates for the upcoming Assembly elections.



No State-specific schemes, says EC

·        The Election Commission has asked the Centre to ensure that no schemes specific to the five election-bound States were announced in the Union Budget in the interest of fair polls.

·        The Commission cited a 2009 advisory to all the States and Union Territories on introduction of the Budget (2009-10) in which it had advised that in cases of poll-going States, a vote-on account should be taken.

·        The Election Commission said the government should maintain a level playing field and not announce any programme that would have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the ruling party(ies).



CBI ordered to probe ‘abuse of office’ by its former chief

·        The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under new chief Alok Verma, will, on the basis of a Supreme Court order, investigate and, probably prosecute, its former director for prima facie abusing his authority while in office.

·        A three-judge Bench asked CBI chief to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which he will personally head, to probe the role played by former CBI director Ranjit Sinha to “scuttle enquiries, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the CBI in coal block allocation and other important cases.”

·        The order came on the basis of revelations made by NGO Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan.

·        It had accessed the visitors’ log maintained at Mr. Sinha’s official residence when he headed the agency.

·        The log showed frequent and unofficial meetings held by Mr. Sinha at home with the accused in the multicrore coal scam cases in the absence of investigating officers.

·        The court had earlier appointed a former CBI special director, M.L. Sharma, to go through the entries in the log and conduct enquiries into other relevant documents to verify the allegations.

·        He reported back in March 2016 that an enquiry by a SIT was necessary.



Extend Lodha reforms to all games: Sportspersons

·        Sports administration in India has fallen into the hands of the “moneyed and powerful few.”

·        Games like kabaddi, hockey, wrestling — all sports which were once the forte of India — have been reduced to pale shadows of their former selves in the hands of administrators who run National Sports Federations in the country.

·         These are excerpts from an emotional plea from 28 leading sportspersons, Olympians and distinguished sports personalities to the Supreme Court, seeking the court’s intervention as it has done with the BCCI.

·        In an endorsement of the Justice R.M. Lodha Committees work to usher in transparency in the BCCI’s functioning, the sportspersons beseeched the court to incorporate the panel’s “salutary” reforms in the National Sports Development Code of India of 2011. 

·        A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar agreed with them.

·        Issuing notice, the court now wants a response from the Union of India, the Sports Authority of India and the Indian Olympic Association on why the Lodha reforms cannot be extended to National Sports Federations, other sporting bodies and their State entities.

·      The 28 signatories include Bishan Singh Bedi, Kirti Azad, Ashwini Nachappa, Jwala Gutta, Joaquin Carvalho and Ashok Kumar, the son of hockey legend Dhyan Chand.

·        The petition said recommendations of the Lodha panel, confirmed by the Supreme Court, like One State One Vote, uniformity of structure in State associations, limited tenures for office-bearers and compulsory cooling-off periods, a voice for players, etc., should be implemented in other sporting bodies also.



‘Demarcate floodplains of Yamuna in Agra within 3 weeks’

·        The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed a panel of scientists and officials from the National Institute of Hydrology, the Central Water Commission and other agencies to fix pillars and demarcate the Yamuna floodplains in Agra within three weeks.

·        “All the pillars will be physically examined and the committee will measure the area occupied by builders that fall within the floodplains,” said the Bench, headed by NGT chief Justice Swatanter Kumar.

·        The green panel’s direction came in the wake of objections raised by Agra residents, alleging that many buildings have been built on the floodplain.

·        The NGT had earlier hit out at the Uttar Pradesh government and Agra authorities for “improper” demarcation of Yamuna floodplains, saying that 85% of the buildings on the floodplains were liable to be demolished.




MoEF challenges NGTs jurisdiction

·        The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) told the National Green Tribunal that a petition challenging the notification published on December 9, 2016, exempting building and construction projects of all sizes from the process of environment impact assessment (EIA) and prior environmental clearance (EC), was not maintainable.

·        The Environment Ministry has challenged the jurisdiction of the NGT to take a decision on its recent notification exempting real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance.

·        Referring to a recent Bombay High Court judgment, the Ministry said the tribunal has no jurisdiction to test the validity of a subordinate legislation issued by it, in exercise of its powers enshrined under the Acts of the Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.



NHRC notice to AAI over delayed relief to Dalit families

·        Nine years after they were evicted from their village to make way for the expansion of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, over 50 Dalit families are yet to be rehabilitated, forcing the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to issue notices to the authorities concerned.

·        As per media reports, a total of 122 Dalit families of Nangal Dewat village in Delhi were removed from the area when Terminal-3 of the IGI Airport was being expanded. So far, 59 of these families have not been provided alternate accommodation by the authorities.

·        The Commission observed that the authorities were liable to provide alternate housing for those whose lands and residences had been acquired by the State.

·        The families had been put under financial stress, having to spend on rented accommodation.

National Human Rights Commission

·        The Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. 

·        It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).

·        The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as "rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants".


Piece of history arrives in Hyderabad

·        Great Theodolite, a 500-kg device, has a tryst with history.

·        Two centuries after it was used to carry out the mapping of present-day India and beyond, it has come to Hyderabad as an exhibit at a stall in the Survey of India for the Geospatial World Forum conference.

·        The device was part of an exhaustive survey undertaken by British surveyor William Lambton.

·        The survey began in 1802 and ended four decades later on the foothills of the Himalayas.

·        The device is part of the museum at the Survey of India headquarters in Dehradun.

Survey of India

·        The Survey of India is Indias central engineering agency in charge of mapping and surveying.

·        Set up in 1767 to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company, it is one of the oldest Engineering Departments of the Government of India.

·        The Survey of Indias distinguished history includes the handling of the mammoth Great Trigonometrical Survey under William Lambton and George Everest and the discovery of Mt. Everest.


SC for daily drug dosage regimen for TB patients

·        The Supreme Court gave the government nine months to replace the thrice-a-week dosage norm of tuberculosis drugs with a daily dosage regimen recently approved by the World Health Organisation to curb relapse of the deadly disease and deaths during treatment.

·        A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar directed the government to ensure that efforts are made so that the patients across the country are administered the new dosage regimen.

·        The doctor who petitioned said that the present TB protocol stipulated only an inadequate medicine regime to cut costs, adding that it promoted relapses and generated a lethal drug-resistant.



UAE signals a ‘Look East’ policy

·        The United Arab Emirates is likely to highlight its “Look East” policy with the participation of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi as Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in India, a prominent Gulf studies expert has said.

·        Also, participation of a marching contingent of UAE’s military in the celebrations would indicate its willingness to play a more active regional role.

·        The UAE has been carrying out military modernisation in recent years and, according to SIPRI, was one of the five biggest arms importers in the world between 2011 and 2015.

·        Alongside Qatar, the UAE has spread out to several conflict zones in the world in a show of Arab assertion.

·        This presence forms part of a wider GCC effort to exercise regional influence in the vacuum left by the Arab Spring and to counter similar efforts by Iran, which Abu Dhabi regards as a threat.

·        The partnership is a recognition of the unique role of India’s immigrant population in the UAE’s development story.

·        There has been continuous Indian presence in the UAE since at least the 18th century. Today, Indians make up 30% of the country’s population — the single largest expatriate community in the UAE.



Venkaiah for geo-tagging of govt. employees

·        Union Minister for Urban Development M. Venkaiah Naidu has the solution to discipline lazy and irregular government employees.

·        He felt the employees can be geo-tagged to know about their work timings and whereabouts during office hours.

·        Speaking at the launch of a three-day Geospatial World Forum, Hyderabad Mr. Naidu said he had already suggested to a few municipalities to explore the possibility of geo-tagging their staff.

·        The geospatial technology was important for good governance and to provide improved services.


Govt. delays judges’ appointments: CJI

·        Tripura High Court Chief Justice T. Vaiphei has a unique problem in his court, prompting him to write to the Supreme Court.

·        The High Court has only three judges. Though it has a sanctioned strength of four judges, one post has been lying vacant.

·        Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar raked up how delay in filling up judicial vacancies in High Courts have put justice delivery mechanism in a tight spot.

·        Justice Khehar pointed out to Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi that the collegium hardly takes time to recommend names for filling judicial vacancies, it is the government which delays the process.

·        At one point during the hearing, the Bench asked the government to consider passing a directive under Article 224A of the Constitution whereby a person who has held the office of a High Court judge can be asked by Chief Justice Vaiphei, with the consent of the President, to fill in at the Tripura court.


N.K. Singh panel submits report on FRBM Act

·        With a little more than a week before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the Budget, the N.K. Singh panel submitted its report on revising the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act to Mr. Jaitley.

·        The five-member committeeincluding Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel, former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director Rathin Roy — was constituted in May 2016 following Mr. Jaitley’s announcement, in Budget 2016-17, of the creation of a panel to review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act.




Suryoday, Utkarsh enter banking fray

·        Microlenders Suryoday and Utkarsh, which started small finance banks (SFBs) on 23rd January 2017, are offering interest rates of more than 6% in a bid to compete with commercial lenders for savings bank deposits.

·        Most commercial banks offer 4% on savings accounts, barring a few such as Kotak Mahindra Bank, YES Bank and IndusInd Bank. Suryoday, based in Navi Mumbai, will offer 6.25% for deposits of up to ?1 lakh and 7.25% for those between ?1 lakh and ?10 lakh.

·        For deposits more than ?10 lakh, it will pay 7%, R Baskar Babu, cofounder and chief executive officer of Suryoday Small Finance Bank, told.

·        Varanasi-based Utkarsh Small Finance Bank will offer 6% for savings bank deposits across the board, said chief financial officer Abhishek Kumar.



India rejects attempts by EU, Canada for global investment agreement

·        India, along with Brazil, Argentina and some other nations, has rejected an informal attempt by the European Union (EU) and Canada to work towards a global investment agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level that would incorporate a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

·        The ISDS mechanism has become contentious as it permits companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies and claim huge amounts as compensation citing losses they suffered due to reasons, including policy changes.

·        The EU and Canada have inked an investment pact that has incorporated the contentious ISDS.

·        At the meeting (of trade ministers of select countries held on the sidelines of the recently held World Economic Forum in Switzerland), they wanted the investment pact to be the template for a similar multilateral agreement.

·        Japan also opposed the idea on the grounds of the costs involved in international arbitration.

·        India summarily rejected such an idea. “Such provisions could be a part of bilateral agreements but they can’t be allowed in a multilateral agreement,” Ms.Sitharaman said.

·        She said at the recent trade ministers’ meeting held in Switzerland, India pushed for discussions on its proposal for a Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the WTO-level.

·        The pact, among other things, aims to facilitate easier movement of skilled workers and professionals across borders for short-term work.

·        “The TFS proposal was something which the WTO director-general himself welcomed.

·        The TFS has never been a bargaining chip for India and it will never be one,” Ms.Sitharaman said when asked if India will dilute its position on the proposed investment pact if the developed world agreed to Indias demands for a TFS pact.

·        Meanwhile, the EU has indicated to India that it wants to first conclude talks on a new Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with India and then restart negotiations on the proposed bilateral free trade agreement.

·        A year ago, India had asked all nations, with which it has BITs, to re-negotiate those agreements on the basis of the new draft text of BIT.



Use Aadhaar e-KYC to verify mobile users

·        The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended the use of Aadhaar-based e- KYC for verification of existing mobile subscribers.

·        “Aadhaar linked e-KYC service provides a robust mechanism to verify the identity of a person electronically and instantaneously from the source itself, based on the biometrics of a person.

·        “DoT may work with TSPs (telecom service providers) to evolve a framework to verify the existing mobile subscribers through Aadhaar based e-KYC services in a phased manner and within a defined time frame.

·        However, this process should be optional to the service providers as well as mobile subscribers,” the regulator said.

·        It added that as e-KYC verification could not be made mandatory, “a scheme could be formulated to encourage the existing subscribers” to undergo the e- KYC process.

·        The existing paper-based KYC is not robust enough and the possibility of significant number of working SIMs, which may have been acquired on fake/ forged identity, cannot be fully ruled out.

·        The owner of such fake identity would not even be aware that SIMs are working in his/her name,” Trai reasoned.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

·         The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India.

·         Telecom Regulatory Authority of India was established on 20 February 1997 by an Act of Parliament to regulate telecom services and tariffs in India. Earlier regulation of telecom services and tariffs was overseen by the Central Government.

·         TRAIs mission is to create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in India to enable the country to have a leading role in the emerging global information society.

·         One of its main objectives is to provide a fair and transparent environment that promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition in the market.

·        TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, Direct To Home (DTH) services and mobile number portability.


What mackerel and a volcano can tell us about climate change

·        What could an Indonesian volcanic eruption, a 200-year-old climate disaster and a surge in the consumption of mackerel tell us about today’s era of global warming? Quite a bit, researchers say.

·        A group of scientists and academics with the University of Massachusetts and other institutions made that assessment while conducting research about a long-ago calamity in New England that was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora half a world away in Indonesia in 1815.

·        The Tambora eruption was one of the most powerful in recorded history, and was followed by a short time of climate change specifically, global cooling and severe weather.

·        The year that followed the eruption, 1816, is often described as the “Year Without a Summer”.

·        A cooled climate led to deaths of livestock and changed fish patterns in New England, leaving many people dependent on mackerel, an edible fish that was less affected than many animals.

·        The researchers assert that that bit of history gives clues about what food security could be like in the modern era of climate change.

·        The study states there is a parallel between the need for immediate adaptation after Tambora and the challenges in coping with the climate driven devastation caused by storms, floods and droughts today.


Now, a ‘vaccine’ to guard against spread of fake news

·        Scientists have developed a novel psychological “vaccine” to immunise the public against the damaging “virus” of fake news and misinformation on websites and social media.

·        In medicine, vaccinating against a virus involves exposing the body to a weakened version of the threat, enough to build a tolerance.

·        Researchers, including those from the University of Cambridge, U.K., believe that a similar logic can be applied “inoculate” the public against misinformation, including the damaging influence of fake news websites propagating myths about climate change.

·        A new study published in the journal Global Challenges compared reactions to a well-known climate change fact with that of a popular misinformation campaign.

·        When presented consecutively, the false material completely cancelled out the accurate statement in peoples minds — opinions ended up back where they started.

·        Researchers then added a small dose of misinformation to delivery of the climate change fact, by briefly introducing people to distortion tactics used by certain groups.

·        This “inoculation” helped shift and hold opinions closer to the truth — despite the follow-up exposure to fake news.

·        The study found the inoculation technique shifted the climate change opinions of people with various political beliefs.

·        It is one of the first on ‘inoculation theory’ to try and replicate a ‘real world’ scenario of conflicting information on a highly politicised subject, researchers said.


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