Union HRD Minister launches ‘Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC)’Program of MHRD’s Innovation Cell through video conferencing
Union HRD Minister Shri Prakash Javadekar through video conferencing launched the ‘Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC)programunder Innovation cellof MHRD in New Delhi today. Ministry of Human Resource Development has established an “Innovation cell” at AICTE with a purpose to systematically foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country.
Speaking on the occasion the Minister said that the it is a significant step in institutionalising innovation and developing a scientific temperament in the country. He informed that the purpose of formation of network of Institution’s Innovation Councils (IICs) is to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years.He also informed that more than 1000 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have already formed IICs in their campuses and enrolled for the IIC network managed by MHRD’s Innovation cell to promote innovation through multitudinous modes leading to an innovation promotion eco-system in their campuses.
The Union Minister said that Universities are the main research centers of developedcountries and because of their research they areat the top in global innovation ranking.Hesaid that now Indianuniversitiesare also settingup research centers through‘Institution’sInnovationCouncil(IIC)programand we are expecting good rank in global innovation ranking in next 2-3 years through this initiative.
The Minister said that the educational advancement in higher education can only be achieved by encouraging best practices in innovation and advance research and Innovation Cell has undertaken many initiatives in this direction such as implementing programs like Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievement (ARIIA), Smart India Hackathon (SIH)- 2019, etc. He also appreciated the efforts the officials of MHRD and AICTE to bring out this program which will contribute in the holistic development of education in the country.
Background: Karnataka government had promulgated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 on July 20 last year. The President gave his assent to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill making Kambala a legal rural sport in Karnataka. The Bill seeks to exempt kambala and bullock-cart racing from the ambit of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
About Kambala: What is it? Kambla in its traditional form is non-competitive with buffalo pairs made to race one after another in paddy fields, which is considered a thanksgiving to the Gods for protecting the animals from diseases.
Why it has become controversial? Over the years, it has however become an organised sport with animal rights activists claiming that the buffaloes run in the race due to fear of being beaten, which the organizers dismiss, saying no violence is involved and that several modifications had been made to ensure that it is an animal friendly event.
Highlights of the report: Literacy levels in rural households of India dip with seasonal migration: In India, 10.7 million children aged 6 to 14 lived in rural households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28% of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to 18% of the cohort overall.
About 80% of seasonal migrant children in seven cities lacked access to education near work sites, and 40% are likely to end up in work rather than education, experiencing abuse and exploitation.
Inter-State Migration: Inter-State migration rates have doubled between 2001 and 2011. An estimated 9 million migrated between States annually from 2011 to 2016. The report also warns of the negative impact on education for children who are left behind as their parents migrate.
The worst hit- Construction labors: The construction sector absorbs the majority of short-term migrants. A survey in Punjab state of 3,000 brick kiln workers in 2015-16 found that 60% were inter-State migrants. Between 65% and 80% of all children aged five to 14 living at the kilns worked there seven to nine hours per day. About 77% of kiln workers reported lack of access to early childhood or primary education for their children.
What has been done in this regard? India has taken steps to address the issue. The Right to Education Act in 2009 made it mandatory for local authorities to admit migrant children. National-level guidelines were issued, allowing for flexible admission of children, providing transport and volunteers to support with mobile education.
The policies were attempted to create seasonal hostels and aiming to improve coordination between sending and receiving districts and states. Some State governments have also taken steps for migrant children’s education.
Pending Issues: Most interventions are focused on keeping children in home communities instead of actively addressing the challenges faced by those who are already on the move.
There is growth of slums and informal settlements where schools are often scarce due to migration as a challenge. The report shows there is only one urban planner for every 1, 00,000 people in India, while there are 38 for every 1, 00,000 in the United Kingdom.
Eco-sensitive zones NGT has given two weeks time to the Ministry to look into the issue and to proceed in the matter for declaration of such areas as eco sensitive zones.
Background: The observations came while the green panel was hearing a plea that highlighted the increasing number of unnatural elephant deaths taking place in the state. The petition said, “Owing to the increased denudation and loss of their forest habitats, elephants have come increasingly into conflicts with humans and faced deliberate retaliatory killings and accidents at railway crossings, high tension power lines, power fences and trenches.”
What are Eco-sensitive zones? The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.
The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards
Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.
The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA). The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.
Criteria: The MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together. The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs. These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).
About ‘NSE goBID’: The app would allow investors to invest in treasury bills (T-Bills) of 91 days, 182 days and 364 days and various government bonds from one year to almost 40 years.
The retail investors would be able to make payment directly from their bank accounts using Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Internet banking. While investment could be done almost every week after a one-time registration, the app would be available to all investors registered with NSE’s trading members.
Significance: The launch assumes significance as government securities are among the safer investment options available to retail investors as such securities are credit risk free instruments while providing portfolio diversification with longer investment durations.
What you need to know about Treasury bills? T-bills are short term securities issued on behalf of the government by the RBI and are used in managing short term liquidity needs of the government. 91-day T-bills are auctioned every week on Wednesday and 182-day and 364-day T-bills are auctioned every alternate week on Wednesdays. Treasury bills are issued at a discount and are redeemed at par.
Key observations from the report: There has been a considerable year-on-year fall in the number of companies that viewed ‘corruption’ as a major barrier – from 34% in 2016 to 25% in 2017. It has halved since 2015, where it stood at 51%.
This decline shows a major improvement, indicating that the current government’s efforts to mitigate corruption appear to be delivering tangible and much-desired results.
Corruption is no longer considered a ‘top-three’ barrier compared to those not currently active in India.
What made such steadfast progress? The report noted that initiative such as Aadhaar, electronic submission of government documents, acceptance of electronic signatures, and the push to file taxes online. This all have reduced face-to-face interactions where corruption is most likely to take place.
The extent of digitalization, however, varies markedly across sectors, as does corruption, with those engaging in infrastructure projects still reporting significant issues relating to corruption.
Existing issues: Taxation issues and Price Points overtook ‘corruption’ as major barriers identified by 36% and 29% of respondents, respectively. The proportion of respondents identifying ‘taxation issues’ was 3% lower in 2018 than 2017.
The key issue for those outside India is increasingly market demand for their products and services relative to government and bureaucracy-related barriers.
Why kill off the kilogram? Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.
Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.
In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.
How wrong is Le Grand K? The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.
How does the new system work? Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.
So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).
Planck’s constant: There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.
But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.
By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.
Facts for Prelims: General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements and comprises of 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members.
Context: President Kovind has visited the My Son temple complex in Kwangnan province in Vietnam.
About My Son temple complex: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the My Son temple complex is among Vietnam’s most cherished cultural treasures.
AirSewa 2.0: The government has launched the upgraded version of AirSewa 2.0 web portal and mobile app.
Major improvements include features such as secure sign-up and log-in with social media, chatbot for travellers support, improved grievance management including social media grievances, real-time flight status and details flight schedule.
The upgrade and improved version of AirSewa operates through an interactive web portal as well as through a mobile app for both android and iOS platforms and will offer passengers a convenient and hassle-free air travel experience.
The web portal and application will help to capture air travellers’ feedback for policy interventions.
CSE gets 2018 Indira Gandhi Prize: Context: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi (India)-based independent research and advocacy think tank, has been named the recipient of the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for the year 2018.
About CSE: Established in 1980 under the leadership of late Anil Aggarwal and presently headed by Sunita Narain CSE has been working for the last four decades to incorporate environmental sustainability into development policies.
It has worked on extending awareness and education about environmental issues, on air and water pollution, waste water management and industrial pollution, food safety and energy, climate change and above all in influencing official policy and public actions for sustainable development.
About Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development: The award is accorded annually by the Trust to individuals or organisations in recognition of creative efforts toward promoting international peace, development and a new international economic order, ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity, and enlarging the scope of freedom.
Witness protection scheme
Witness protection scheme Background: In April this year, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments. The court had asked the Centre to finalise the scheme after getting response from the states and Union Territories.
In November last year, the court had asked the Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.
Objectives of the Witness Protection Scheme-2018: To enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigations without fear of intimidation or reprisal. To ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.
To promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance to criminal law enforcement agencies and the overall administration of Justice.
To give witnesses the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and Judicial Authorities with full assurance of safety. To identify a series of measures that may be adopted to safeguard witnesses and their family members from intimidation and threats against their lives, reputation and property.
Need for the scheme: Victims and witnesses of serious crimes are particularly at risk when the perpetrator is powerful, influential, or rich and the victims or witnesses belong to a socially or economically marginalised community. Girls and women who report sexual violence are often even more vulnerable and face extreme pressure or direct threats from the accused.
Also, witnesses need to have the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities. They need to be assured that they will receive support and protection from intimidation and the harm that criminal groups may seek to inflict upon them in attempts to discourage or punish them from co-operating. Hence, legislative measures to emphasise prohibition against tampering of witnesses have become the imminent and inevitable need of the day.
Key facts: This is the 7th edition of the International Tourism Mart, an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.
The event has been planned and scheduled to facilitate interaction between buyers, sellers, media, Government agencies and other stakeholders.
The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis. The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
Background: The North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products. The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, its festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination waiting to be explored.
Need and significance of the event: The ITM will see wide participation of International buyers and media delegates from countries around the world and from different regions of the country. They will be engaging in business-to-business meetings with sellers from the North Eastern Region. This will enable the tourism product suppliers from the region to reach out to international and domestic buyers, with the objective of promoting tourism to the region.
Australia’s arguments: Australia believes that its immigration policy already promotes safe, orderly and regular migration. Hence, adopting the pact would risk encouraging illegal entry to Australia and reverse the hard-won successes in combating the people-smuggling trade.
Background: Australia’s harsh immigration policy detains asylum-seekers who try to reach the country by boat on remote Pacific islands. While the policy has led to a decline in people-smuggling, hundreds of people are now being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
About Global Compact on Migration: United Nations for first time has finalized Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to better manage international migration, address its challenges, strengthen migrant rights and contribute to sustainable development. The agreement will be formally adopted by world leaders in Morocco in December 2018.
Key facts: The compact is the first intergovernmental agreement to cover wide-ranging dimensions of international migration in holistic and comprehensive manner, agreed upon by all the UN member states minus the United States.
It sets out 23 objectives to deal issues ranging from factors that compel people to move, legal channels for migration, combating trafficking and smuggling, harnessing the economic benefits of migration and return of the migrants. It is not legally binding.
Need for a global compact: Over 250 million migrants worldwide account for 3% of the world’s entire population, but contribute 10% of the global gross domestic production (GDP). Migrants remittance is huge contributor to their home countries’ development.
Way ahead: The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) offers the international community the opportunity to improve workplace productivity and deliver decent work outcomes for migrant and national workers, as well as to shift current misperceptions of migration, by readjusting migration policies to effectively include all labour market aspects.
Facts for Prelims: The GCM is meant to be consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – in which Member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate orderly, safe and responsible migration.
About Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge: The objective of this challenge is to tap potential of young Indians, startups and other private enterprises to provide solutions to complex problems using current technology. It is in pursuance of Government’s resolve to make India one of the easiest places to conduct business in the world.
This challenge is aimed at attracting innovative ideas on artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, blockchain and other cutting edge technology to reform government processes. The platform for this grand challenge will be on Start Up India portal.
Ease of Doing business in India: In World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019), India has recorded jump of 23 positions against its rank of 100 in 2017 to be placed at 77th rank among 190 countries. India has improved its rank by 53 positions in the last two years and 65 positions in the last four years (2014-18).
World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index ranks 190 countries based on 10 parameters, including starting a business, construction permits, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, trade across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
The projects, recently awarded by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) would cover 65 Geographical Areas (GAs) under the ninth round of bidding.
Significance: Government of India has put thrust to promote the usage of environment friendly clean fuel i.e. natural gas as a fuel/feedstock across the country to move towards a gas based economy.
Accordingly, development of CGD networks has been focused to increase the availability of cleaner cooking fuel (i.e. PNG) and transportation fuel (i.e. CNG) to the citizens of the country. The expansion of CGD network will also benefit to industrial and commercial units by ensuring the uninterrupted supply of natural gas.
Why Natural Gas? Natural gas is a superior fuel as compared with coal and other liquid fuels being an environment friendly, safer and cheaper fuel. Natural Gas is supplied through pipelines just like one gets water from the tap. There is no need to store cylinders in the kitchen and thus saves space.
Natural Gas (as CNG) is cheaper by 60% as compared with petrol and 45 % w.r.t. Diesel. Similarly, Natural Gas (as PNG) is cheaper by 40 % as compared with market price LPG and price of PNG almost matches with that of subsidised LPG (based on prices in Delhi).
PNGRB: The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) was constituted under The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.
The Act provide for the establishment of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board to protect the interests of consumers and entities engaged in specified activities relating to petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and to promote competitive markets and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The board has also been mandated to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas excluding production of crude oil and natural gas so as and to ensure uninterrupted and adequate supply of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas in all parts of the country.
Context: Indian Army has picked Russia’s Igla-S missile system as choice for its multibillion dollar contract for man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).
About IGLA-S missile system: It is latest model of Russian MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense system) technology. It offers superior performance over earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India. It is designed for use against visible aerial targets at short range such as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), cruise missile, head-on or receding, in presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures.
As per requirements of Indian Army, it will have maximum range of 6km, altitude of 3km along with all-weather capability. Igla-S missile system will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.
Context: Scientists have discovered four new species of Indian horned frogs from Himalayan regions of Northeast India.
What are Horned frogs? Horned frogs get their name from fleshy horn-like projection on upper eyelids of some species
Key facts: They were discovered in the forests of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Scientists have named them as Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys himalayana), Garo white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys oreocrypta); Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys flavipunctata) and Giant Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys periosa).
These frogs vary in size — yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog measures about 5.7-7.5 cm and is smallest among four. Giant Himalayan horned frog measures about 7.1 to 11.2 cm, making it largest of 15 horned frog species found in Northeast India.
What is it? ‘Vajra Prahar’ is a Indo-US Special Forces joint training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US.
Why in News? The 2018 edition of this exercise has commenced at Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Bikaner in Rajasthan.
Aim and objectives of the exercise: The aim of the exercise is to promote military relations between the two countries by enhancing interoperability and mutual exchange of tactics between Special Forces. The objectives of the joint training is to share the best practices between the two armies and to develop joint strategies by sharing expertise of conducting operations in a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism environment, while capitalising on the rich repository of experiences of each other armies.