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    FREE NOTES OF G.K. AND CURRENT AFFAIRS 23 DEC 2017



    Current Affairs 22nd December 2017

    The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017

    Context:

    The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 has been introduced by the government in the Parliament.

    Highlights of the Bill:

    The Bill proposes to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics on their own terms. The amendment paves the way to remove an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, which requires overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.

    What necessitated this move?

    Section 20A of the Act provides for registration and inclusion of overseas electors in the electoral rolls. The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provide for overseas electors to register themselves in the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies on the basis of self-attested copies of their passport and valid visa, and exercise their franchise in person on production of the original passport at the time of voting at the specified polling booth.

    Thus, the rules demand for the physical presence of overseas electors in their respective polling stations in India on the day of polling. This causes hardship to the overseas electors. This amendment proposes facilitating an external mode of voting, that is, voting by proxy, whereby such electors can exercise their franchise from their places of residence abroad.

    Significance of this move:

    If the Bill is passed, overseas voters can appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to certain conditions to be laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. This would considerably mitigate the difficulties presently faced by overseas electors in exercising their franchise.

    Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

    National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC)



    Context:

    The National Highways Authority of India has created a National Highways Investment Promotion Cell (NHIPC) for attracting domestic and foreign investment for highways projects.

    About NHIPC:

    The cell will focus on engaging with global institution investors, construction companies, developers and fund managers for building investor participation in road infrastructure projects.

    The NHIPC will be working in close co-ordination with various connected Ministries and Departments of Government of India, State Governments, Apex Business Chambers like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, and InvestIndia etc. NHIPC will also work in close co-ordination with Foreign Embassies and Missions in India and Indian Embassies and Missions situated in foreign countries.

    Background:

    The Government has set an ambitious target of construction of 35,000 km. of National Highways in the next five years involving an investment of Rs. 5,35,000/- crores under ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’. Given the scale of investment required, both foreign and domestic investment from public and private sector is pivotal.

    About NHAI:

    The National Highways Authority of India was constituted by an act of Parliament, the National Highways Authority of India Act,1988. It is responsible for the development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it and for matters connected or incidental thereto. The Authority was operationalised in Feb, 1995.

    Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

    National Service Scheme


    Context:

    The President Shri Ram Nath Kovind recently presented National Service Scheme Awards 2016-17.

    Objective of NSS Awards: The objective of NSS Awards is to recognize and reward outstanding contributions towards voluntary community service made by the Universities/ Senior Secondary (+2) Councils, NSS Units/ Programme Officers and NSS Volunteers, with a view to further promote NSS.

    About National Service Scheme (NSS):

    What is it?

    NSS is a Centrally Sector Scheme. The Scheme was launched in the year 1969 with the primary objective of developing the personality and character of the student youth through voluntary community service. The ideological orientation of the NSS is inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Very appropriately, the motto of NSS is “NOT ME, BUT YOU”.

    Programme Structure:

    NSS is being implemented in Senior Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities. The design of the NSS envisages that each educational institution covered under the Scheme has at least one NSS unit comprising of normally 100 student volunteers, led by a teacher designated as Programme Officer (PO). Each NSS unit adopts a village or slum for taking up its activities.

    Nature of Activities under NSS:

    Briefly, the NSS volunteers work on issues of social relevance, which keep evolving in response to the needs of the community, through regular and special camping activities. Such issues include

    (i) literacy and education,

    (ii) health, family welfare and nutrition,

    (iii)environment conservation,

    (iv)social service programmes,

    (v) programmes for empowerment of women,

    (vi)programmes connected with economic development activities,

    (vii) rescue and relief during calamities, etc.

    E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

    DARPAN Project

    Context:

    DARPAN – “Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for A New India” Project has been launched to improve the quality of service, add value to services and achieve “financial inclusion” of un-banked rural population.

    The goal of the IT modernization project is to provide a low power technology solution to each Branch Postmaster (BPM) which will enable each of approximately 1.29 Lakhs Branch Post Offices (BOs) to improve the level of services being offered to rural customers across all the states.

    Background:

    So far, 43,171 Branch Post Offices have migrated under the “DARPAN”project with the aim of financial inclusion to rural population and it is targeted to complete the project by March, 2018.

    Significance of the project:

    The Project shall increase the rural reach of the Department of Posts and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance, and Cash Certificates; improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article; increase revenue using retail post business; provide third party applications; and make disbursements for social security schemes such as MGNREGS.

    Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

    MEA launches SAMEEP


    Context:

    With an aim to bring foreign policy to the masses the External Affairs Ministry has come up with an initiative – SAMEEP – ‘Students and MEA Engagement Programme’.

    About SAMEEP:

    The main objective of SAMEEP is to take Indian foreign policy and its global engagements to students across the country.

    How it works?

    Under this programme, all the ministry officers – under-secretary and above – will be asked to go to their hometowns, particularly their alma maters. They will be expected to interact with the students about the way the MEA works, basic elements of its policies, how diplomacy is conducted, and generally give students an idea of what a career in the MEA would look like.

    § The officials will be provided a basic standardised presentation by the ministry, but will be free to add their own improvisations and experiences.

    § The agenda of the programme is not only to make students interested and aware of India’s place in the world and its global ambitions, but also to drive interest in diplomacy as a career option.

    Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

    India-Swiss deal inked on data sharing


    Context:

    In a move aimed at combating black money stashed abroad, India has signed an agreement with Switzerland that would allow automatic sharing of tax- related information from January 1 next year.

    Present scenario:

    So far, India had to ask Switzerland for specific bits of information by proving that a valid inquiry was on against the account holder. The Swiss could delay or deny the information altogether.

    Background:

    A joint declaration for the implementation of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) was signed last month between the two sides here and it provided that both countries would start collecting data in accordance with the global standards in 2018 and exchange it from 2019 onwards. The AEOI conforms to a norm set by global economic body the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for tax transparency.

    While Switzerland has conformed to the global standards on automatic exchange of information with the signing of the declaration, India, on its part, has promised to safeguard the confidentiality of the data.

    Significance of this move:

    Confidentiality and data protection requirements are to be strictly followed under the automatic information exchange framework. This process ensures the signatory always maintains control over its exchange partners and the treatment of the data exchanged, as per OECD. The automatic exchange of information will also discourage Indians from stashing black money in Swiss banks. Indian deposits in Swiss banks have been falling already.

    What necessitated this move?

    Switzerland, which has always been at the centre of the debate on black money allegedly stashed by Indians abroad, used to be known for very strong secrecy walls till a few years ago around its banking practices. A huge global pressure has resulted in Switzerland relenting on the tough secrecy clauses its local laws gave to the banks.

    Way ahead:

    Though the deal will do little by way of bringing back black money from Swiss accounts, it will have a deterrent effect. The black money hoarders will be under pressure with one big safe haven gone off their list.

    Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

    India inks pact to restore normalcy in Rakhine

    Context:

    India will provide Myanmar with $25 million for development projects including prefabricated houses in troubled Rakhine state to enable the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled the area. A memorandum of understanding to support development of Rakhine and help create jobs was recently signed.

    § This support is intended to help the Government of Myanmar achieve its objective of restoration of normalcy in Rakhine State and enable the return of displaced persons.

    § Under this MoU, Government of India proposes to take up, among others, a project to build prefabricated housing in Rakhine State so as to meet the immediate needs of returning people. Besides housing, the proposals include building schools, healthcare facilities and building bridges and roads.

    Background:

    More than 600,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh after attacks by insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing. The international community demands the Rohingya be allowed to go home in safety, and Bangladesh and Myanmar have begun talks on repatriation, but huge doubts remain about the Rohingya ever being able to return in peace to rebuild homes and till fields.

    India, which is concerned about the influx of the refugees into its territory, has stressed economic development of the Rakhine region as a way to help lower tensions.

    Assistance to Myanmar:

    India has been trying to promote economic cooperation with Myanmar to try to push back against China’s expansive involvement in infrastructure development across south Asia. Beijing has also stepped into the Rohingya crisis and proposed a three-phase plan including a ceasefire, bilateral talks and then tackling poverty long-term.

    Way ahead:

    India’s task will depend on how the Myanmar government facilitates the development work. Indian officials have drawn up a detailed plan in the past couple of months. Indian policymakers felt they had to move fast after it became apparent that the Rohingya crisis was pushing the West into its default mode of condemnation and sanctions against Myanmar which India believes to be counter-productive.

    Facts for Prelims:

    ICGS Sujay:

    Context: Indian Coast Guard Ship – Sujay – the sixth in the series of six 105m Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) was recently commissioned.

    About ICGS Sujay: Sujay means ‘great victory’. The 105 meter OPV has been designed and built by Goa Shipyard Limited. It is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment and sensors and machinery. The ship is based at Paradip, Odisha under the operational and administrative control of the Commander Coast Guard Region (North-East).

    Important Points

    · Sahitya Akademi Awards 2017 announced on - 21st December 2017

    · Cabinet approves new Consumer Protection Bill on - 20th December 2017

    · Union Government launches Project Darpan on - 21st December 2017

    · UN General Assembly rejects US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on - 21st December 2017

    DETAILS

    Sahitya Akademi Awards 2017 announced on - 21st December 2017

    India's national academy Sahitya Akademi on 21st December 2017 declared its yearly awards, recognising the literary works of 24 writers in 24 various Indian languages. 7 novels, 5 poetries, 5 short stories, 5 literary criticism, and 1 play and 1 essay grab the Sahitya Akademi Awards 2017.

    The awards will be distributed upon the winners during a ceremony on 12th February 2018.


    Awardees

    · English: Mamang Dai was given in English language for his novel The Black Hill.

    · Hindi: Ramesh Kuntal Megh secured the award in Hindi for his literary criticism work Vishw Mithak Sarit Sagar.

    · Sanskrit: Niranjan Mishra was presented for his Sanskrit novel Gangaputravadanam

    · Malayalam: KP Ramanunni secured Daivathinte Pusthakam in Malayalam

    · Punjabi: Nachhattar was granted for his Punjabi novel Slow Down.

    · Poets: Udaya Narayana Singh -Maithili, Shrikant Deshmukh -Marathi, Bhujanga Tudu -Santali, Inqulab -Tamil and Devipriya -Telugu. However, Tamilian poet Inqulab’s family declined to accept the award for his collections of poems titled - Kaandhal Naatkal.

    · Short Stories: Shiv Mehta -Dogri, Autar Krishen Rahbar -Kashmiri, Gajanan Jog -Konkani, Gayatri Saraf -Odia and Baig Ehsas -Urdu.

    · For Literary Criticism: Ramesh Kuntal Megh -Hindi, TP Ashoka -Kannada, Urmi Ghanshyam Desai -Gujarati, Bina Hangkhim -Nepali and Neeraj Daiya Rajasthani.

    · Essay: Jagdish Lachhani -Sindhi was given award for his essays.

    · Play: Rajen Toijamba -Manipuri awarded for his play.

    · The award prize contains a casket and an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl, and a cheque worth Rs 1 lakh.

    · Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize 2017

    · The academy declared the names of the 24 winners of the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize 2017.

    · The reward carries a cash reward of Rs 50000.

    Sahitya Akademi'sFestival of Letters;

    · The academy also declared the subject for Sahitya Akademi's next edition of Festival of Letters's70 years of Indian Independence.

    · A national symposium will also be held on ‘70 Years of Indian Independence – Literary Portraits.

    Cabinet approves new Consumer Protection Bill on - 20th December 2017

    The Union Cabinet on 20th December 2017 passed a new Consumer Protection Bill that looks forward to establish an authority to protect consumer's rights and has planning for penalty and jail terms in case of adulteration and misleading advertisements by companies.

    According to the new bill, the celebrities countersigning misleading advertisements will also be responsible for a fine and restriction up to 3 years.

    Did you know?

    In the month of August 2015, the Centre had initiated the Consumer Protection Bill in the Lok Sabha to repeal the 30-year- old Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

    · The latest bill has been initiated by the consumer affairs ministry to replace the 2015 bill, as there were many alterations to the bill.

    · A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also deposited its recommendations on the similar in April last 2016.

    · Provisions of the Bill

    · The latest bill looks forward to enlarge the scope of the present law and make it more effective and purposeful.

    · It also looks forward to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority to safeguard consumer rights.

    · It has planning for post-litigation stage mediation as an alternate dispute resolution process.

    · It also provides for product liability activity.

    ·

    · The Penalty

    · In case of the 1st offence, the penalty would be a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and a 1-year restriction on any endorsement.

    · For the 2nd offence, the penalty would be a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh and a 3-year- restriction on endorsements.

    · For producers and companies, the fine would be up to Rs 10 lakh and up to 2 years of jail term for the 1st offence.

    · For any following offence, the producers and organizations would have to pay a fine of Rs 50 lakh and get a jail term of five years.

    · The bill also provides fine up to life term jail sentence in case of adulteration.

    Union Government launches Project Darpan on - 21st December 2017

    Union Minister Communications Manoj Sinha on 21st December 2017 inaugurated Project DARPAN – “Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for A New India” to upgrade the quality of service and add value to facilities for rural customers.

    The project has an estimate of 1400 crore rupees and expects to provide a low power technology answers to each Branch Postmaster. This will facilitate all 1.29 Lakhs Branch Post Offices to upgrade the level of services being recommended to rural customers across all the states.

    Presently, 43171 Branch Post Offices have moved under the “DARPAN” project with the objective of financial inclusion to rural population.


    More on Project Darpan-

    · Project Darpan focuses to achieve financial inclusion of un-banked rural population.

    · The Project will expand the rural reach of the Department of Posts and enable BOs to expand traffic of all financial remittances, Cash Certificates, savings accounts and Rural Postal Life Insurance.

    · It will upgrade mail operations processes by permitting for automated booking and delivery of accountable article.

    · It will grow revenue using retail post business, provide 3rd party applications and make payments for social security schemes such as MGNREGS.

    · The project is decided to be completed by March 2018.

    IT modernization project of Department of Posts

    · As part of IT modernization project, the Department of Posts has carried out business process reengineering across various functional sectors.

    · As an achievement, Department of Posts has confirmed 991 ATMs across the nation and the common people were directly rewarded with the broad network of Department of Posts especially in rural areas.

    · Till date, 11285217 transactions have been done on the DOP’s ATMs out of which 7024214 transactions have been carried out by the non-DOP users.

    UN General Assembly rejects US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on - 21st December 2017

    The UN General Assembly resolution, announcing US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as ‘null and void’, was approved with an overwhelming majority on 21st December 2017.

    The resolution moved by Turkey and Yemen was approved despite US President Donald Trump’s threats to cut funding to US help recipients who voted in favor. Overall, 128 countries including India voted in favor of the resolution, 9 voted against and 35 abstained from voting.

    The symbolic vote by the UN General Assembly is not, however, legally binding.


    The UN General Assembly resolution

    · The draft resolution disapproving the US move was passed to the General Assembly after it was vetoed by the USA at the Security Council on 18th December, although all other 14 council members voted in favor.

    · The resolution highlighting on the fact that Jerusalem is a final status matter that requires being settledresolved through negotiations.

    · It demands that all States comply with Security Council resolutions regarding Jerusalem, and not recognize any actions opposing to those resolutions.

    · The resolution was drafted following Trump’s declaration of shifting the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the old city as the capital of Israel.

    US’s reaction

    · Trump declares during a cabinet meeting on 10th December, “Let them vote against us, we don't care. But this is not like it used to be where they could also vote against you and then you pay them 100s of millions of dollars.

    · Strongly favoring Trump's decision, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley notified that the US may strip funding of those nations that voted in favor of the UN resolution.

    · She stated that no vote in the UN will make any difference on the US resolution to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which will go ahead because it is the correct thing to do.

    Save Digital India: US puts up walls, India should do the same

    The United States. After doubling visa fees, a new US law will penalise companies employing over 15% of workforce on H1-B visas. Minimum salaries for H1-B visa holders will escalate to $90,000 per annum, such companies cannot move H1-B employees to another client or displace existing employees. There is little doubt that these are discriminatory and onerous provisions for Indian companies.

    A symbiotic relationship for India and US is being vilified. India must respond not just with lobbying, but with other instruments as well. India can take a leaf out of China’s playbook and leverage its strengths in IT. China has blocked US conglomerates like Google and Facebook and Chinese companies and their services like Baidu, WeChat, Weibo and Alibaba have benefited immensely. Stalling US conglomerates would give the Indian tech industry a fillip and help local tech firms scale up, producing hundreds of thousands of jobs at home.

    Today, Google and Facebook dominate India’s digital advertising industry, cornering nearly 75% of the market. Google’s move to block “intrusive” ads is an example of how it dictates terms to Indian content producers. Rather than become a digital colony of American tech companies, the focus must be on enabling Indian startups to compete with global giants. Foreign investment doesn’t solely flow through Amazon, Alibaba or Facebook’s seemingly magnanimous Free Basics. A competitive startup environment will draw India’s talented techies, who helped build Silicon Valley but are now being spurned. Startup India and Digital India mustn’t remain populist slogans: they can propel Indian IT’s next wave of growth. A strategic vision and dialogue involving central and state politicians, bureaucrats, businesses, technologists and academia must be set in motion.

    ONE LINERS

    • The high court of this state has ordered to cut o electricity, water supplies to the unregistered commercial establishments - Himachal Pradesh

    • The 20th Special Representatives level talks are underway between India and this nation – China

    • This Indian female cricketer has been selected for both ICC Women's ODI Cricket Team of the Year and ICC Women's T20 International Cricket Team of the Year - Ekta Bisht

    • This state’s assembly has passed a stringent bill, UPCOC, which is aimed at curbing organised crime and terror in the state - Uttar Pradesh

    • The Union Cabinet on 20 December 2017 approved this new bill that seeks to establish an authority to safeguard consumers' rights - Consumer Protection Bill

    • The Union government has imposed a 30 % import duty on these food grains - Chana, Masoor

    • Person appointed as Ociating Chief of National Green Tribunal - Justice UD Salvi

    • This city will host Commonwealth Games in 2022 - Birmingham

    • Exercise conducted by Indian Army's Southern Command in Rajasthan - Hamesha Vijayee

    • This state decided to beautify and upgrade the 187-year-old Babughat - West Bengal

    • This Indian city was ranked 7th in most expensive oce locations list as per JLL India Report 2017 - Delhi

    • Union Government recently gave environmental clearance for Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme in – Telangana

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