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24 August Current Affairs

Article 35A

In News:

Article 35A of the Constitution is now being vigorously contested with its constitutional validity being challenged before the Supreme Court. It has managed to create widespread legal and political controversy, despite it not even finding a mention in the regular sequential text of the Constitution.

Abouut Article 35A:

Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.

The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

How did it come about?

Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.

The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

So Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

Need for review:

The ‘classification’ created by Article 35A has to be tested on the principle of equality as it treats non-permanent residents of J&K as ‘second-class’ citizens. Such persons are not eligible for employment under the State government and are also debarred from contesting elections. Meritorious students are denied scholarships and they cannot even seek redress in any court of law.

The major sufferers are women who marry outside J&K. Though they retain their Permanent Resident Certificate, their children cannot be permanent residents. This restricts their basic right of inheritance. Further, the issues of refugees who migrated to J&K during Partition are still not treated as ‘State subjects’ under the J&K Constitution.

Way ahead:

This matter requires the active participation of all stakeholders. It is necessary to give confidence to the residents of J&K that any alteration in status quo will not take away their rights but will boost J&K’s prosperity as it will open doors for more investment, resulting in new opportunities. Article 35A, which was incorporated about six decades ago, now requires a relook, especially given that J&K is now a well-established democratic State.

Source: The Hindu

Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month)

In News:

The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India had recently organized an orientation workshop for various stakeholders participating in the Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month) being celebrated in the month of September.

Details:

The Workshop focused on sensitizing the line Ministries, States/UTs and District level functionaries and partners on various aspects of Rashtriya Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month) being celebrated during the month of September across the Country as part of Jan Andolan under POSHAN Abhiyaan.

About Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month):

  • The primary objective of the celebration of Poshan Maah is to take the messages of POSHAN to the grass root level.
  • The programme- an initiative of WCD Ministry and NITI Aayog is supported by 18 line Ministries/Departments/Government Organizations.
  • It seeks to synergise all efforts by leveraging technology and intends to take nutrition awareness to the level of Jan Andolan or People’s Movement.
  • The programme focuses on 8 themes – Antenatal Care, Optimal Breastfeeding (Early & Exclusive), Complementary Feeding, Anemia, Growth Monitoring, Girls-education, diet, right age of Marriage, Hygiene & Sanitation, Food Fortification.

About POSHAN Abhiyan:

POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched on 8th March, 2018.

Objectives: The programme through use of technology, a targeted approach and convergence strives to reduce the level of Stunting, Under-nutrition, Anemia and Low Birth Weight in Children, as also, focus on Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers, thus holistically addressing malnutrition.

Aims: POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters over the next few years.

Coverage: To ensure a holistic approach, all 36 States/UTs and 718 districts will be covered in a phased manner by the year 2020.

Source: PIB

National Logistics Portal

In News:

A National Logistics Portal is being developed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to ensure ease of trading in the international and domestic markets. The portal will link all the stakeholders of EXIM, domestic trade and movement and all trade activities on a single platform.

Significance:

The portal will be implemented in phases and will fulfil the commitment of the Government of India to enhance trade competitiveness, create jobs, boost India’s performance in global rankings and pave the way for India to become a logistics hub.

India’s logistics sector:

India’s logistics sector is highly defragmented and the aim is to reduce the logistics cost from the present 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022. India’s logistics sector is very complex with more than 20 government agencies, 40 partnering government agencies (PGAs), 37 export promotion councils, 500 certifications, 10000 commodities, 160 billion market size.

It also involves 12 million employment base, 200 shipping agencies, 36 logistic services, 129 ICDs, 168 CFSs, 50 IT ecosystems and banks & insurance agencies. Further, 81 authorities and 500 certificates are required for EXIM.

Significance of the sector:

As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, the Indian logistics sector provides livelihood to more than 22 million people and improving the sector will facilitate 10 % decrease in indirect logistics cost leading to the growth of 5 to 8% in exports.

Further, the Survey estimates that the worth of Indian logistics market would be around USD 215 billion in next two years compared to about USD 160 billion currently.

Background:

In 2018-19 budget speech, Union Finance Minister had announced that Department of Commerce will create portal which will be single window online market place for trade and will connect business, create opportunities and bring together various ministries, departments and private sector.

Source: PIB

CJI Launches Applications to Facilitate Litigants and Lawyers

In News:

Three new applications have been launched for the benefit of the litigants and lawyers.

Details:

These applications are: e-Filing, e-Pay, and National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP).

e-Filing application:

The application is meant for online registration of lawyers and litigants. Through the application, one can file cases from any part of India to any court on registration.

Portfolio management of cases of litigants and lawyers is provided on the portal and one can get updates from time to time about filed cases, cases under objection or rejected cases.

Significance:

The e-Filing application will facilitate efficient administration of Judicial System by easing pressure on filing counters and will speed up work flow processing. Data entry will be more accurate which will help to take data driven decisions in court administration.

It will start building digital repositories which will auto generate paper books and can be quickly transmitted to Higher Courts which will reduce delays. It will also help reduce touch point of litigants will also result in more productivity of staff members and will help send documents for service to other locations or mail addresses which will be relatively easy.

e-Pay application:

It is a unified portal wherein facility to pay online court fees is provided. The platform is user friendly which can be used with very little self help. At present, the facility will be made operational in two states – Maharashtra and Haryana.

Significance:

The OTP authentication provides secure way to financial transactions and one can get instant acknowledgement through SMS and print receipt. The application is beneficial for the judicial administration since verification of court fees becomes more easy, secure and transparent and accurate figures of court fees collected can be generated for any court, district or State.

National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP):

It is launched as part of the eCourts Project. It is a transparent and secure system for transmission of process from one location to another and will address delays in process. It offers facility to send electronic processes directly to registered mail of the addressee by secured mechanism; enables uploading of documents associated with process; and facilities like tracking GPS, obtaining photograph and on screen signature.

Significance:

NSTEP will lead to secured auto generation of processes with unique QR Code through CIS, publishing processes on portal and transmission of processes to other court complexes. The service will empower litigants with real time information relating to status of service of process and will entail litigants to take immediate follow up action which will reduce delays.

About the e- courts project:

The eCourts Mission Mode Project (Phase I 2010-15; Phase II 2015-19) is a national eGovernance project for ICT enablement of district and subordinate courts of the country.

Implementation: It is being implemented by the Government of India with a total outlay of 1670 crores (Phase II).

The major objectives of the Project are to make whole judicial system ICT enabled by putting in place adequate and modern hardware and connectivity; automation of workflow management in all courts; electronic movement of records from taluka/trial to appeal courts; installation of video conferencing (VC) facility and recording of witness through Video Conferencing.

Specific targets set under the Project include: computerization of all the courts (around 20400) and DLSA and TLSC; WAN and cloud connectivity in 3500 court complexes; full Installation and use of Video Conferencing facility at 3000 Court Complexes and 1150 prisons; charting out key identified citizen services like electronic filing, daily orders, delivery of decrees, online case status in all the district courts etc.

Source: The Hindu

Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region

In News:

NITI Aayog has launched 5 Thematic Reports on Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region. The reports from the five working groups discuss the significance, the challenges, the ongoing actions and a future roadmap.

Background:

Recognizing the uniqueness of the Himalayas and the challenges for sustainable development, NITI Aayog had set up 5 Working Groups (WGs) in June 2017 to prepare a roadmap for actions in 5 thematic areas.

The themes include: 

  • Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security.
  • Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region.
  • Transformative Approach to Shifting Cultivation.
  • Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship Landscape in Himalayas.
  • Data/Information for Informed Decision Making.

Highlights of the report:

Immediate Challenges:

Nearly 30% of springs crucial to water security of people are drying and 50% have reported reduced discharge.

Himalayan Tourism growing annually at 6.8% has created huge challenge related to solid waste, water, traffic, loss of bio-cultural diversity etc.

Important recommendations made:

  • Spring Mapping and Revival, using 8 steps protocol be taken up across Himalayan States in phased manner.
  • Apply carrying capacity concept to all major tourist destinations; implement and monitor tourism sector Standards and apply performance based incentives for States faring well on the standards.
  • Assessment of nature & extent of Shifting Cultivation area, improved policy coherence, strengthened tenurial security & improved access to related programs/schemes are other key recommendations to transform shifting cultivation.
  • Strengthening of skill & entrepreneurship will require focus on identified priority sectors where mountains have advantage, investment in trainers, assessors and training centers in industry partnership.
  • Having a Central Data Management Agency for Himalayas to provide data with high fidelity scenario while addressing data sharing, access, authenticity and comparability issues will go a long way in addressing data related issues.

The call for actions include:

  • Setting up of a Himalayan Authority for coordinated and holistic development of entire Himalayan region.
  • Launching of “Himalaya Calling”: An Awareness to Action Campaign as people’s movement.
  • Setting up of Mission on Spring Water Management in Himalayas, National Mission/Program on Transforming Shifting Cultivation in North Eastern States, demand driven network of skill and entrepreneurship development Centers in Himalayan States among others.

Other reforms needed?

With the projected arrival of tourists in IHR States to more than double by 2025, urgent actions will be needed to address critical issues of waste management and water crisis in addition to other environmental and social issues.

In the north eastern States, thousands of the households continue to practice slash and burn (shifting cultivation) that need to be addressed in view of ecological, food and nutritional security.

Predominantly unskilled workforce remains a challenge for the mountains as well that need high priority to address migration of youths. Also challenges related to data availability, data authenticity, compatibility, data quality, validation, user charges for Himalayan States need addressal for informed decision making at different levels of governance.

Source: PIB

World Bank launches world-first blockchain bond

In News:

World Bank has launched world-first blockchain bond. Australia’s Commonwealth Bank (CommBank) is the sole arranger of the issuance by the World Bank.

Details:

The prototype deal, dubbed a “Bondi” bond – standing for Blockchain Operated New Debt Instrument as well as a reference to Australia’s most famous beach – is being viewed as an initial step in moving bond sales away from manual processes towards faster and cheaper automation.

Significance:

This issue of World Bank bond will be the first time that capital is raised from public investors through a legally valid bond issuance that uses blockchain from start to finish.

Background:

The World Bank, whose bonds carry an AAA rating, regularly uses its borrowing power to help develop new bond markets as well as pioneering new means for selling and trading the securities. It issues between $50 billion and $60 billion a year of bonds to back economic progress in developing countries.

Australia is a popular test site for market developments because of its well-established financial infrastructure and the familiarity of international investors with the Australian dollar, which is one of the most-traded currencies in the world.

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 this 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.

Source: The Hindu

ICESat-2 satellite

In News:

NASA will shortly launch the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission to measure — in unprecedented detail — changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice to understand what is causing ice sheets to melt fast.

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.

The satellite mission has four science objectives:

  • Measure melting ice sheets and investigate how this effects sea level rise.
  • Measure and investigate changes in the mass of ice sheets and glaciers.
  • Estimate and study sea ice thickness.
  • Measure the height of vegetation in forests and other ecosystems worldwide.

How it works?

ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light. With so many photons returning from multiple beams, ICESat-2 will get a much more detailed view of the ice surface than its predecessor. As it circles Earth from pole to pole, ICESat-2 will measure ice heights along the same path in the polar regions four times a year, providing seasonal and annual monitoring of ice elevation changes. Beyond the poles, ICESat-2 will also measure the height of ocean and land surfaces, including forests.

Significance of the mission:

ICESat-2 will improve upon NASA’s 15-year record of monitoring the change in polar ice heights. It started in 2003 with the first ICESat mission and continued in 2009 with NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne research campaign that kept track of the accelerating rate of change.

The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 will advance the knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise.

Source: The Hindu

National Logistics Portal

  • The portal is being developed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is a digital platform to bring all stakeholders in the logistics sector on board to cut down transaction cost and time for businesses.
  • It will act as a single window online market place for trade.
  • Stakeholders like traders, manufacturers, logistics service providers, infrastructure providers, financial services, government departments and groups and associations will all be on one platform.
  • There are four main components of the portal – logistics e-market place, logistics certification platform, integrated regulatory platform and  banking and financial services platform.
  • The portal is developed to achieve the government’s target of reducing the logistics cost from the present 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022.

International Buddhist Conclave 2018

  • The 6th International Buddhist conclave was recently inaugurated in New Delhi by the President.
  • The conclave aims to showcase the Buddhist heritage in India and boost tourism in the country.
  • Delegates from 29 countries are participating in the conclave.
  • It has been organised by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with State Governments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The conclave is going to be held in New Delhi, Ajanta (Maharashtra).
  • Site visits to Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya (Bihar) and Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh) will also be conducted.
  • The earlier conclaves were held biennially in Bodhgaya &
  1. New Delhi in 2004
  2. Nalanda in 2010
  3. Varanasi in 2012 and 2014
  4. Sarnath and Varanasi in 2016.

5G Panel

  • A steering committee headed by Paulraj was formed by the government last year to make fifth-generation (5G) telecommunication services successful in India.
  • Its mandate is to formulate a road map for 5G services in India.
  • The committee has revealed that the advent of next-generation wireless services may unleash USD 1 trillion economic opportunity for the country.
  • Under the spectrum policy, the committee has suggested that India’s spectrum allocation for public wireless services should be enhanced significantly.
  • It has also asked for setting up a Standing Committee with five-year term to advise on building spectrum technology infrastructure.
  • While the US is likely to deploy 5G services later this year, or in the first quarter of 2019, the India rollout may begin by 2020.

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