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14 December Current Affairs

Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT)

In News:

Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has rejected TRAI’s order that had changed the definition of ‘significant market power’ (SMP) to identify predatory pricing, offering substantial relief to India’s older telcos.

Details:

The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) also set aside a rule in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) predatory pricing regulation that required top telcos to report all tariffs in the interests of transparency and non-discrimination.

About TDSAT:

In order to bring in functional clarity and strengthen the regulatory framework and the disputes settlement mechanism in the telecommunication sector, the TRAI Act of 1997 was amended in the year 2000 and TDSAT was set up to adjudicate disputes and dispose of appeals with a view to protect the interests of service providers and consumers of the telecom sector.

In January 2004, the Government included broadcasting and cable services also within the purview of TRAI Act. The jurisdiction of TDSAT stands extended to matters that lay before the Cyber Appellate Tribunal and also the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal.

Composition of TDSAT:

The Tribunal consists of a Chairperson and two Members appointed by the Central Government.

The Chairperson should be or should have been a Judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court.

A Member should have held the post of Secretary to the Government of India or any equivalent post in the Central Government or the State Government for a period of not less than two years or a person who is well versed in the field of technology, telecommunication, industry, commerce or administration.

Powers and Jurisdiction:

The Tribunal exercises jurisdiction over Telecom, Broadcasting, IT and Airport tariff matters under the TRAI Act, 1997 (as amended), the Information Technology Act, 2008 and the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.

The Tribunal exercises original as well as appellate jurisdiction in regard to Telecom, Broadcasting and Airport tariff matters. In regard to Cyber matters the Tribunal exercises only the appellate jurisdiction.

Source: The Hindu

Dam Safety Bill 2018

In News:

The government has introduced the Dam Safety Bill in the Lok Sabha, a legislation that aims to provide a robust legal and institutional framework under Central and state governments for the safety of dams, which will help states and Union territories adopt uniform procedures to ensure safety of reservoirs.

Details:

Though the subject does not fall under the purview of Parliament, the Centre has decided to introduce this bill mainly because dam safety is an issue of concern in the country. And there are no legal and institutional safeguards in this regard.

Highlights of Dam Safety Bill, 2018:

The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.

The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.

The Bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.

The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government.

Significance:

The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 will help all the States and Union Territories of India to adopt uniform dam safety procedures which shall ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits from such dams. This shall also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property.

It addresses all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, Emergency Action Plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, Instrumentation and Safety Manuals. It lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

Need:

Over the last fifty years, India has invested substantially in dams and related infrastructures, and ranks third after USA and China in the number of large dams. 5254 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 447 are under construction. In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams.

While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure for ensuring dam safety.

The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), Central Dam Safety Organization (CDSO) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) has been making constant endeavours in this direction, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.

This can be a matter of concern, especially since about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old. A badly maintained, unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment.

India has had 36 dam failures in the past.

Source: The Hindu

Partners’ Forum

In News:

The fourth Partners’ Forum was recently held in New Delhi. It was hosted by the Government of India, in association with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).

Details:

The previous chapters were held in Johannesburg, South Africa (2014), New Delhi, India (2010) and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2007). This is the second time India is hosting the Partners’ Forum.

What is Partners’ Forum?

Partners’ Forum is a global health partnership launched in September 2005 to accelerate efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, improve adolescent, child, newborn and maternal health.

An alliance: This partnership is an alliance of more than 1,000 plus members, across 10 constituencies in 92 countries: academic, research and teaching institutions; donors and foundations; health care professionals; multilateral agencies; non-governmental organizations; partner countries; global financing mechanisms and the private sector.

PMNCH’s mission is to support the global health community to work successfully towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the health related SDGs.

The programme of the Partners’ Forum will be framed around the objectives of the Global Strategy of Survive – Thrive – Transform.

Source: PIB

Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission

In News:

The Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is under implementation across the country (launched in 2016).

Details:

It is a unique programme, designed to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth.

Funding Support:

There is a funding support of up to 30% of the estimated investment for each Rurban cluster, given as Critical Gap Funding (CGF), while 70% of the funds is mobilized by the States through convergence with synergic State and Central programmes and private investment and institutional funding.

The CGF is now shared between the Centre and the State in a ratio of 60:40 for Plain area States and 90:10 for Himalayan and NE States.

Various Provisions:

Provision of basic amenities –

  • Provision of 24/7 Water Supply to all households,
  • Solid and Liquid Waste Management facilities at the household and cluster level

Provision of Inter and Intra village roads –

  • Adequate Street Lights and Public Transport facilities using green technologies

Provision of Economic Amenities –

Various thematic areas in the sectors of Agri Services and Processing, Tourism, and Skill development to promote Small and Medium Scale Enterprises

Background:

As per Census of India Statistics, the rural population in India stands at 833 million, constituting almost 68% of the total population.

The rural population has shown a growth of 12% during the 2001-2011 period and there has been an increase in the absolute number of villages during the same period.

Large parts of rural areas are not stand-alone settlements but part of a cluster of settlements, which are relatively proximate to each other. These clusters typically illustrate potential for growth, have economic drivers and derive location and competitive advantages.

Hence, making a case for concerted policy directives for such clusters; these clusters once developed can then be classified as ‘Rurban’.

Mission’s Objective:

The objective of the National Rurban Mission (NRuM) is to stimulate local economic development, enhance basic services, and create well planned Rurban clusters.

Source: PIB

National Mission on Government e-Market (GeM) portal

In News:

The National Mission on GeM (NMG) was launched on 5th September 2018 to accelerate the adoption and use of Procurement by Major Central Ministries, States and UTs and their agencies (including CPSUs/PSUs, Local Bodies) on the GeM platform.

Objectives of the NMG:

Promote inclusiveness by catapulting various categories of sellers and service providers

Highlight and communicate ‘value add’ by way of transparency and efficiency in public procurement, including corruption free governance.

Achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction, in line with the Digital India objectives.

Increase overall efficiency leading to significant cost saving on government expenditure in Procurement.

Maximizing ease in availability of all types of products and services bought by Government buyers.

Background:

GeM is a short form of one stop Government e-Market Place hosted by Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D) where common user goods and services can be procured.

GeM has recorded about $1.5 billion worth of transactions since it was launch 18 months ago.

Source: PIB

Guidelines for ground water extraction

In News:

The Central Ground Water Authority of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on December 12, 2018 notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction. The revised guidelines, which will be effective from June 1, 2019, aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country.

Details:

The guidelines were revised in the wake of the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction.

The revised guidelines provide for the:

  • Encouraged use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries.
  • Provision of action against polluting industries.
  • Mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders, with or without telemetry depending upon quantum of extraction.
  • Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical area and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units.
  • Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries.
  • Measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.

Exemptions under the revised guidelines:

The revised guidelines exempt the requirement of NOC for agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment.

Other exemptions have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defence and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.

Water Conservation Fee:

One of the important features of the revised guidelines is the introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF), the fee charged on extraction of ground water.

The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction.

Implications of Water Conservation Fee:

The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as may limit large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas.

Background:

In India, extracted groundwater is mainly used for irrigation and accounts for about 228 BCM (billion cubic metre) — or about 90% of the annual groundwater extraction. The rest, 25 BCM, is drawn for drinking, domestic and industrial uses.

India is the largest user of groundwater in the world, and accounts for about 25% of the global water extraction.

Source: The Hindu

Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)

In News:

Astronomers have obtained stunning, high-resolution images of 20 nearby protoplanetary disks, depicting the birth of planets, using Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Details:

The observations are part of a major ALMA initiative known as the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project, or DSHARP campaign.

Significance of these observations:

According to the researchers, the most compelling interpretation of these observations is that large planets, likely similar in size and composition to Neptune or Saturn, form quickly, much faster than current theory would allow.

It may also help explain how smaller rocky planets manage to survive in the chaos of young systems.

About ALMA telescope:

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

ALMA is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.

ALMA allows scientists to unravel longstanding and important astronomical mysteries, in search of our Cosmic Origins.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s ICESat-2

In News:

NASA’s ICESat-2 — launched less than three months ago — has mapped melting ice sheets in Antarctica and the resulting sea level rise across the globe, which could help improve climate forecasts.

Details:

The satellite is measuring the height of sea ice to within an inch, tracing the terrain of previously unmapped Antarctic valleys, surveying remote ice sheets, and peering through forest canopies and shallow coastal waters.

With each pass of the ICESat-2 satellite, the mission is adding to datasets tracking Earth’s rapidly changing ice. Researchers are ready to use the information to study sea level rise resulting from melting ice sheets and glaciers, and to improve sea ice and climate forecasts.

Background:

As the name suggests, ICESat-2 is a follow-on project. The original spacecraft flew in the 2000s and pioneered the laser measurement of the height of polar glaciers and sea-ice from space. But the mission was plagued by technical problems that limited its observations to just a couple of months in every year.

About ICESat- 2 mission:

ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second.

ICESat-2’s Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.

Why is this mission important?

Antarctica and Greenland lose billions of tonnes of ice every year – the result largely of warm water being able to melt land glaciers where they meet the ocean. This wastage is slowly but surely pushing up sea-levels worldwide.

Source: The Hindu

Noney Bridge

  • The bridge is going to be constructed by the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) across the river Ijai in the state of Manipur.
  • It is set to get the World’s tallest railway bridge and it is expected to be over 142 meters tall.
  • It will connect Manipur with the rest of the Country.
  • It will be twice the height of Qutub Minar which is the tallest minaret made up of brick in the world.
  • Mala-Rijeka viaduct bridge (139 meters) in Europe currently holds the tallest railway bridge record.

Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE)

  • RISE report is published by World Bank.
  • It rates 133 countries on electricity access, renewable energy, energy efficiency and access to clean cooking.
  • It is to provide useful data to policymakers and help the private sector make informed decisions about investing in energy projects.
  • It charts global progress on sustainable energy policies.
  • The 2018 report finds that the world has seen a huge uptake in sustainable energy policies.

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