Indian and French Navies conduct Varuna
The first part of the Indo-French joint naval exercise, Varuna 19.1 will be conducted off the Goa coast.
About the exercise:
The bilateral naval exercise initiated in 1983 form a vital part of the Indo-French strategic partnership.
Having grown in scope and complexity over the years, this exercise exemplifies the strong relations between the two nations, in line with the Joint Strategic Vision of India-French Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.
The exercise aims at developing interoperability between the two navies and fostering mutual cooperation by learning from each other’s best practices to conduct joint operations.
The exercise underscores the shared interests and commitment of both nations in promoting maritime security.
Electoral Bond Scheme
The government has curtailed the time period for sale of electoral bonds by the SBI in the current month to only 5 days from May 6, instead of 10 days as was announced earlier.
State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 29 Authorized Branches (as per list enclosed) in the month of May 2019.
About Electoral bonds:
Electoral bonds will allow donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.
Key features: Although called a bond, the banking instrument resembling promissory notes will not carry any interest. The electoral bond, which will be a bearer instrument, will not carry the name of the payee and can be bought for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.
Eligibility: As per provisions of the Scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India, or entities incorporated or established in India. A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. Only the registered Political Parties which have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
Need: The electoral bonds are aimed at rooting out the current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to the generation of black money in the economy.
How will the Bonds help?
The previous system of cash donations from anonymous sources is wholly non-transparent. The donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed.
According to government the system of Bonds will encourage political donations of clean money from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc. After purchasing the bonds, these entities can hand them to political parties of their choice, which must redeem them within the prescribed time.
Some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.
ICAT – A World Class Automotive Testing Centre
International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) Manesar is a division of NATRIP Implementation Society (NATIS) under the Department of Heavy Industries, India.
It provides services for testing, validation, design and homologation of all categories of vehicles.
It assists the automotive industry in adopting cutting edge technologies in vehicle evaluation and component development to ensure reliability, durability and compliance to the current and future regulations.
National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP):
The Project aims at creating core global competencies in Automotive sector in India and facilitate seamless integration of Indian Automotive industry with the world as also to position the country prominently on the global automotive map.
Russia “Sovereign internet” bill
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a “sovereign internet” bill.
The measures include creating technology to monitor internet routing and to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, ostensibly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.
The bill created a system that gives the authorities the capacity to block access to parts of the Internet in Russia.
Under the new law Russian Internet access providers will also need to ensure that their networks have the technical means for “centralised traffic control” to counter potential threats.
The government defended the legislation as a defensive move in case the United States would cut Russia off from the global Internet. Also, Russia must ensure its networks security after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American cybersecurity strategy in 2018 which accused Russia of carrying out cyber-attacks with impunity.
The bill is being publicly denounced by all rights groups in country. Why?
Because the move includes measures such as to create technology to monitor internet routing, to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, allegedly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down. It is being alleged that these laws clampdown on media and internet freedoms.
It is also being criticized as a vaguely worded bill which gives new censorship powers to government and is aimed at restricting information and communication online.
It will allow greater surveillance by Russian intelligence agencies, and increase ability of state authorities to control information.
In recent years Russian authorities have blocked online sites and content linked to the opposition, as well as internet services which fail to cooperate with them, including the Dailymotion video platform, the Linkedin online social networking site and the encrypted messaging app Telegram.
Source: The Hindu
Masood Azhar is now a UN global terrorist
The United Nations Security Council has designated JeM Chief, Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after China lifted its technical hold on his listing under the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee. The JeM itself was sanctioned by the 1267 Committee in 2001.
The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, UK and the US on February 27.
Reasons for listing:
The Sanctions Committee of the UN Nations Security Council was established under Resolution 1267 in 1999, which imposed limited sanctions on the Taliban. Over time, the sanctions regime has evolved to include a lot of measures against designated individuals and entities.
The sanctions committee also oversees the implementation of the sanctions measures and reports annually to the Security Council on the implementation of these measures.
What happens when the committee designates someone as a global terrorist?
Asset freeze: All member states of the United Nations are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.
Travel ban: All member states are required to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories by designated individuals.
Arms embargo: All member states are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, spare parts, and technical advice, assistance, or training related to military activities, to designated individuals and entities.
Implications for Pakistan:
Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist will force Pakistan to act against him and individuals and entities associated with him. This will effectively mean total immobilisation of Azhar and shutdown of his organisation and its institutions such as terror camps and madrasas.
Source: the Hindu
Stucco Sculpture and Ikshvaku dynasty
Indian archaeologists recently unearthed a rare life-sized stucco sculpture from a Buddhist site at Phanigiri in Suryapet, Telangana.
It is the biggest stucco sculpture found so far in India. It is about 1.73 metres in height and 35 cm in width.
It represents a Bhodhisattva in Jathaka Chakra.
It was created nearly 1,700 years ago by craftsmen at Phanigiri at peak of Ikshavaku dynasty.
Who is Bhodhisattva?
A bodhisattva is a Buddhist deity who has attained the highest level of enlightenment, but who delays their entry into Paradise in order to help the earthbound. The bodhisattva, known in Sanskrit as Avalokiteśvara, takes both male and female form and is associated with the qualities of mercy and compassion
The Ikshvaku dynasty:
As per Puranic literature, it was founded by king Ikshvaku. It is also known as Sūryavaṁśa (the Solar dynasty).
Important Personalities belonging to this dynasty includes: Lord Rama, Twenty-two out of twenty-four Jain Tirthankara, and according to Buddhist texts, Prince Siddhartha also belonged to this dynasty.
Source: The Hindu
Mawmluh cave and Therriaghat
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) North Eastern Region (NER) has installed two geological display boards at two important geological sites in Meghalaya- Mawmluh cave and Therriaghat, Sobhar in East Khasi Hill District.
These geological display boards with geo-scientific information will help in creating awareness among visiting tourists, students and general public. They will help preserve site and also help future generation will be aware of such geological developments.
Mawmluh Cave: The stalagmite in Mawmluh cave has been tagged as Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP). It makes it first formally ratified marker of a geological time period in India. The Meghalayan Age period began about 4200 years ago experienced an abrupt mega-drought and cooling around the world.
It marks Cretaceous (K)-Palaeogene (Pg) mass extinction event.
The Um-Sohryngkew (Wahrew) river section at Therriaghat is known for having the most complete records of Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary transition in India. There is also a high level of iridium metal from the boundary which marks catastrophic event when a giant meteorite hit earth.
A massive decline in the population of Kashmir’s iconic wildlife species, the Hangul (Cervus hanglu hanglu), also known as the Kashmir stag, continues to be a big concern.
It is the state animal of Jammu & Kashmir.
It is restricted to the Dachigam National Park some 15 km north-west of Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.
It is placed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978.
The Hangul was once widely distributed in the mountains of Kashmir and parts of Chamba district in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.
The IUCN’s Red List has classified it as Critically Endangered and is similarly listed under the Species Recovery Programme of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) of the MoEFCC.