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22 July Current Affairs

Revamp of Army Headquarters to get under way by month-end

In News:

The Army’s attempt at major restructuring will begin with the draft government sanction letter (GSL) for reorganisation of the Army Headquarters (AHQ) expected by the month-end.

Aim:

The aim is a holistic integration to enhance the operational and functional efficiency, optimise budget expenditure, facilitate force modernisation and address aspirations

Details:

The AHQ restructuring is the first of the four studies being undertaken as part of the transformation of the force.

The government has already given in-principle approval for the AHQ restructuring. The draft GSL should come by month-end.

Under the plan, the Master-General Ordnance will report to the Deputy Chief to bring all ammunition under one head.

The Army currently has two Deputy Chiefs,

  1. for information systems and training and the
  2. for planning and systems.

These functions are being brought under one authority to avoid overlapping.

In another major change at the AHQ, the Directorates of Military Operations, Military Intelligence and Operational Logistics will report to the Deputy Chief (Strategy). The Perspective Planning Directorate will also report to this Deputy Chief. The third Deputy Chief, Information Systems, will look after all technology and cyber-related issues.

Holistic integration:

The four studies ordered by Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat are

  1. restructuring of the AHQ;
  2. the Army restructuring which includes creation of Integrated Battle Groups;
  3. the cadre review of officers;
  4. and review of the terms and conditions of Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks.

New Posts:

A new post of Additional Director-General (ADG), Vigilance, is being created, and he will report to the Army chief.

Govt. to roll out big push for infrastructure

In News:

An Annual Global Investors Summit is to be organised later this year, with the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund anchoring the event, to invite investment in the infrastructure segment, where spending for the next five years is projected at Rs. 100 crore.

Details:

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund:

The government had set up the ₹40,000 crore NIIF in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable greenfield, brownfield and stalled infrastructure projects.

The Indian government is investing 49% and the rest of the corpus is to be raised from third-party investors such as sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds, endowments, etc.

NIIF’s mandate includes investing in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.

NIIF currently manages three funds each with its distinctive investment mandate. The funds are registered as Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

The three funds are:

Master Fund: The Master Fund is an infrastructure fund with the objective of primarily investing in operating assets in the core infrastructure sectors such as roads, ports, airports, power etc.

Fund of Funds: Fund of Funds anchor and/or invest in funds managed by fund managers who have good track records in infrastructure and associated sectors in India. Some of the sectors of focus include Green Infrastructure, Mid-Income & Affordable Housing, Infrastructure services and allied sectors.

Strategic Investment Fund: Strategic Investment Fund is registered as an Alternative Investment Fund II under SEBI in India.

National Defence Fund (NDF)

In News:

A major change has been brought about in the ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme’ under the National Defence Fund.

Key changes:

  • Scholarships increase from ₹2,000 to ₹2,500 a month for boys and from ₹2,250 to ₹3,000 a month for girls.
  • The ambit of the scheme was widened to cover the wards of State police officials martyred in terror or Naxal attacks.
  • new scholarships are given to 5,500 wards of armed forces personnel, 2,000 wards of paramilitary forces personnel and 150 wards of forces under the Railways Ministry every year.

About National Defence Fund (NDF):

The National Defence Fund (NDF) was set up in 1962 to take charge of the:

  • Voluntary donations in cash and kind received for promotion of the national
  • Defence effort, and to decide on their utilisation.
  • Currently the fund is being used for the welfare of the members of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and Railway Protection Force, and their dependents.
  • The fund is administered by an Executive Committee with the Prime Minister as the Chairperson and the Defence, Finance and Home Ministers as Members.
  • Under National Defence Fund major scheme of ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme (PMSS)’ is being implemented to encourage technical and post-graduate education for the widows and wards of the deceased/ex-service personnel.
  • Scholarships are available for education at technical institutions (medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, MBA, MCA and other equivalent technical professions with suitable AICTE/UGC approval).
  • The National Defence Fund accepts online voluntary contributions through the website.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

In News:

The Centre is set to initiate the Jal Shakti Abhiyan to ramp up rainwater harvesting and conservation efforts in 255 water-stressed districts, in line with the government’s promise to focus on water.

Key features:

  • The campaign would be coordinated by 255 central IAS officers of Joint or Additional Secretary-rank.
  • Coverage: The campaign would run from July 1 to September 15 in States receiving rainfall during the south-west monsoon, while States receiving rainfall in the retreating or north-east monsoon would be covered from October 1 to November 30. Overall, 313 blocks with critical groundwater levels would be covered, along with 1,186 blocks with over-exploited groundwater and 94 blocks with low groundwater availability.
  • Aim: to accelerate water harvesting, conservation and borewell recharge activities already being carried out under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme of the Rural Development Ministry, along with existing water body restoration and afforestation schemes being undertaken by the Jal Shakti and Environment Ministries.
  • Block and district-level water conservation plans would be drafted, and Kisan Vigyan Kendras would hold melas to promote better crop choices and more efficient water use for irrigation.

Moon mission to try landing on Sept. 7

In News:

The loss of a week due to the aborted launch of India’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, on July 15 has not hampered the mission’s targeted landing date on the moon’s South Pole with ISRO aiming to make up for the lost time by adjusting the module’s Earth and Moon-bound phases.

Details:

The space agency is still aiming to put the Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan) on the lunar surface on September 7, just one day behind the earlier schedule, to ensure that the duo get their planned full schedule of operating for nearly 14 Earth Days by tweaking the Chandrayaan-2’s timelines in space when it travels from one phase to another.

Chandrayaan-2 mission:

In September 2008, the Chandrayaan-2 mission was approved by the government for a cost of Rs 425 crore.

  • It is India’s second mission to the moon.
  • It aims to explore the Moon’s south polar region.
  • It will be launched onboard India’s most powerful launcher – GSLV MK-III.
  • The mission is an important step in India’s plans for planetary exploration, a program known as Planetary Science and Exploration (PLANEX).
  • There are three components of the mission, an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
  • The mission payloads include — Terrain Mapping Camera which will generate a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the entire moon, Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer which will test the elemental composition of the Moon’s surface Solar X-Ray Monitor which will provide solar X-ray spectrum inputs for CLASS.
  • The orbiter will be deployed at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the surface of the Moon. The lander will then separate from the orbiter, and execute a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, unlike the previous mission which crash landed near the lunar south pole.
  • The lander, rover and orbiter will perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface. The rover is named Pragyan.
  • The mission’s lander is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme.
  • If ISRO achieves the feat in its first attempt, it will make India only the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface. The erstwhile Soviet Union, the U.S. and China are the only countries to have achieved lunar landings.

Objectives of the mission:

The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

NITI Aayog health index suffers from skew

In News:

An analysis of the NITI Aayog’s “Healthy States, progressive India” report released on June 25 shows that the usage of estimated figures in place of reported numbers, to calculate certain health indicators, has adversely impacted the final index score of certain States while boosting that of others.

Details:

The report had used an estimated number of births and deliveries to calculate two key health outcome indicators —

  1. full immunisation coverag
  2. proportion of institutional deliveries

— which carried high weightage in the calculation of the final index score. The use of estimated numbers instead of the reported figures resulted in a skew.

The data for both the reported and estimated number of deliveries for 2015-16 is available in the Health Management Information System (HMIS), a statistical arm of the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

There is a difference in the number of institutional deliveries recorded in the NITI Aayog’s report based on the estimated number of deliveries, and what is recorded in the HMIS database based on reported number of deliveries for the year 2015-16.

In the case of bigger States, both the indicators — immunisation of children and institutional deliveries — carry a weight of 50 each. The weighted scores of all the 23 indicators are added to form the final index score.

About Health Index:

The Health Index 2019 released by NITI Aayog makes the important point that some States and Union Territories are doing better on health and well-being even with a lower economic output, while others are not improving upon high standards. Some are actually slipping in their performance.

Delhi takes major share in poll bonds

In News:

Electoral bonds worth Rs. 5,851.41 crore were bought by donors to fund political parties between March 2018 and May 2019, of which 80.6% were redeemed in New Delhi, where the headquarters of major parties are located.

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.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Facility

In News:

Union Minister of Science and Technology inaugurated the Next Generation Sequencing (NSG) facility at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad today. This NGS facility is the fourth such facility in the country.

About:

Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism’s DNA.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) allows parallel Genome sequencing, resulting in the generation of Giga bases of data in a short amount of time.

Benefits: This has reduced the cost per genome significantly, making genomic data more accessible to individual researchers. Decreasing costs are making genomics an attractive and integral part of any successful bioscience research project.

Application: The NSG would help prenatal genetic screening and counselling, thereby generating large scale genomic data critical for diagnosis and therapy. It would be of help, especially to patients suffering from rare genetic disorders.

Recent development: The recent NSG facility at the CCMB in Hyderabad can sequence 18,000 samples in 8 minutes. With this, the CCMB can now sequence up to 30 human genomes or 384 diagnostic samples in a day.

Colistin

In News:

  1. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an order prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements.

About:

Name: Colistin is also known as polymyxin E.

What is it? Colistin is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves lives in critical care units. It is effective against most Gram-negative bacilli.

Issues with it: 

In recent years, medical professionals have been alarmed by the number of patients who have exhibited resistance to the drug.

Late last year, researchers from Apollo Cancer Hospital, Chennai claimed that samples of raw food lifted from across Chennai had tested positive for colistin-resistant bacteria.

Recent ban:

The recent order by Health Ministry directed manufacturers of colistin and its formulations (since it is also used to treat humans) to affix a label on the container reading thus: Not to be used in food producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements: on the package, insert and promotional literature.

Activists across the country are rejoicing as the move as a “massive victory” for the movement against anti-microbial resistance.

According to experts, the recent step would ensure that colistin does not enter the food people eat, and thereby, people don’t develop resistance to the antibiotic.

Governors

In News:

In a major reshuffle, President Ram Nath Kovind transferred two Governors and made four new appointments across six States.

About:

The President of India made the following appointments/ changes –

  • Anandiben Patel, Governor of Madhya Pradesh is transferred and appointed as Governor of Uttar Pradesh
  • Lal Ji Tandon, Governor of Bihar is transferred and appointed as Governor of Madhya Pradesh
  • Jagdeep Dhankhar as Governor of West Bengal
  • Ramesh Bais as Governor of Tripura
  • Phagu Chauhan as Governor of Bihar
  • Ravi as Governor of Nagaland

The reshuffle and choice of Governors is politically significant as they are among the first recommendations from the Home Ministry after BJP president Amit Shah took charge.

Though appointed by the President, the Home Ministry is the nodal Ministry for the selection of Governors.

Governors: Fact Sheet

  • Governor is the head of the executive of the state.
  • He/she is appointed by President of India.

Qualifications and conditions for appointment:

  • Should be a citizen of India.
  • Should have completed 35 years of age.
  • Should not hold any office of profit under the union govt. or state govt. or any local Authority or any other public authority.
  • Should not be a member of either house of parliament or a house of the state legislature.

Tenure:

  • Governor holds office for a term of 5 years from the date on which he assumes office. This term of 5 years is subject to the pleasure of president.
  • He/she can resign anytime by addressing a resignation letter to the president.

Oath: The oath of office to the governor is administered by the chief justice of concerned HC and in his absence by the senior-most judge of the HC available.

By 7th Constitution Amendment Act of 1956, same person can be appointed as governor of 2 or more states.

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS)

In News:

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) recorded 60.14% turnout during the recently concluded Lok Sabha Election 2019.

About:

Implementing agency: Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) is a Flagship IT Program of Election Commission of India (ECI).

What is it? Through this system the service voters cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot, from anywhere outside their constituency, thus reducing the chances of losing the voting opportunity.

Who are service voters: Persons working in Central Forces under Arms Act and Government officials deployed in Embassies outside the country are classified as Service Voters and are provisioned for online enrolment.

Features: ETPBS is a fully secured system, having two security layers. Secrecy of voting is maintained through the use of OTP and PIN and no duplication of casted ETPB is possible due to the unique QR Code in the portal https://www. etpbs.in.

Significance: With the motto of “no voter to be left behind”, ETPBS has ensured all eligible service electors with their constitutional power to vote while performing their duty for the nation. Service Voter turnout in 2014 was only 4%.

Use in the Lok Sabha Election 2019:

For the first time enabled through the dedicated portal https://www.servicevoter.eci.nic.in  online registration, the service voters were sent postal ballots electronically one way to save processing time, resources and avoid human errors.

A total of 18,02,646 postal ballots were dispatched electronically using ETPBS of Election Commission of India. In return 10,84,266 e-postal ballots were received indicating 60.14% turnout.

Project Sampark

In News:

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated Ujh and Basantar Bridges in Jammu & Kashmir.

About:

The One kilometre long Ujh bridge is located in Kathua district of Jammu & Kashmir. The 617 Metre long Basantar bridge is located in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir.

Both these bridges have been constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under 69 RCC/13 BRTF of Project Sampark.

These bridges will provide smooth connectivity and are vital for the Army for deployment on border areas.

Project Sampark?

The project was raised by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in 1975 with its HQ at Jammu.

It has an area of responsibility from Pir Panjal Range in the north to Pathankot in the south and from Poonch in the west to Dalhousie in the east, covering approximately 2200 km of road network.

What are Blockchains

Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset.

Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions. The present blockchain ecosystem is like the early Internet, a permissionless innovation environment in which email, the World Wide Web, Napster, Skype, and Uber were built.

How it operates?

The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless. It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.

A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.

Benefits of blockchain technology:

  • As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
  • All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
  • Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
  • It allows decentralization of the technology.

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