29 August Current Affairs
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30 August Current Affairs

Project Navlekha

In News:

Google has unveiled Project Navlekha to make online content relevant for more Indian users especially in local languages.

About Project Navlekha:

Navlekha in Sanskrit means “a new way to write.”

Google is using its expertise in artificial intelligence for Project Navlekha, using which, it will quickly render any PDF with Indian language content into editable text, overcoming issues that usually occur when you try to copy text in Indian languages from a PDF.

The project aims to bring 135,000 local language publishers online by making web hosting smooth and simple.

It will allow local publishers who do not have websites to make their offline content fit for online publishing in less than a minute. It also comprises tool that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to allow publishers to simply scan documents or PDFs and create instant web pages on the platform.

The project will provide a handy online publishing tool for local language newspapers and content companies—90% of which do not have a website.

The registered publishers on Navlekha will also be provided with free web hosting, along with a branded domain for three years. They’ll also have AdSense support to begin monetising their content.

Under Navlekha project, Google will help these publishers to receive training and support and a branded page domain for the first three years.

Significance of the project:

At present, amount of online content in Indian languages is only 1% of what is available in English. India is important market for Google as it has second largest population of internet users in the world. Hence, with the new project the amount of resources available for Indians in local languages will increase.

Source: The Hindu

Marriage certificate must for official work in Meghalaya

In News:

The State government in matrilineal Meghalaya has made it mandatory for married people to produce marriage certificates for all official purposes.

Details:

The government has also decided to deny government jobs and benefits to men who have abandoned their families and are not providing for maintenance of their children. Some of these men live with other women.

What necessitated this?

The step has been taken in view of increasing cases of broken marriages and women being forced to fend for themselves and their children. The abandonment of families by men lead to a spike in school dropouts and juvenile crimes. Also, most marriages in the Khasi society are not registered, and this makes it difficult for abandoned women to fight for the maintenance of their children.

Significance of the move:

The government’s order cannot stop divorce, but marriage certificates will help abandoned women fight for the maintenance of their children after their husbands abandon them.

Source: The Hindu

Anti-lynching measures

In News:

A panel headed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, which deliberated on measures to check incidents of lynching, submitted its report to a Group of Ministers headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The proposal:

As per the suggestion made, media platforms — Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter — would be made accountable for not blocking such malicious posts/videos when brought to their notice and “FIR could be lodged against their country heads” for non-compliance of government orders and they could be prosecuted under law.

Background:

From May-June, more than 20 people were lynched based on fake posts or rumours floating on various social media platforms. Last month, the Home Ministry issued advisories to States and Union Territories following Supreme Court’s directives to check incidents of lynching.

The Centre asked them to appoint an officer in each district at the level of Superintendent of Police, set up a special task force to gather intelligence, and closely monitor social media contents to prevent mob attacks on suspicion of being child-lifters or cattle smugglers.

Need for coordination between the centre and states on this matter:

The Union Government is highly concerned about the incidents of mob violence in some parts of the country. Government has already condemned such incidents and made its stand clear in the Parliament that, as per the Constitutional scheme, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects.

State Governments are responsible for controlling crime, maintaining law and order, and protecting the life and property of the citizens. They are empowered to enact and enforce laws to curb crime in their jurisdiction.

Recent directions of the Supreme Court on the issue of mob violence:

Condemning mob lynching incidents across the country and the Supreme Court had urged the Parliament to enact a new law to deal with the crime. The court passed a slew of directions in this regard to deal with the mob lynching. Here are the directions:

There shall be a “separate offence” for lynching and the trial courts must ordinarily award maximum sentence upon conviction of the accused person to set a stern example in cases of mob violence.

The state governments will have to designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.

The state governments need to identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.

The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP about any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues.

Every police officer shall ensure to disperse the mob that has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.

Central and the state governments shall broadcast on radio, television and other media platforms about the serious consequences of mob lynching and mob violence.

Despite the measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR.

The State Governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme in the light of the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC within one month from the date of this judgment.

If a police officer or an officer of the district administration fails to fulfill his duty, it will be considered an act of deliberate negligence.

Need for an anti-lynching law:

At present there is no law that criminalises mob killings. The Indian Penal Code has provisions for unlawful assembly, rioting, and murder but nothing that takes cognisance of a group of people coming together to kill (a lynch mob).

Under Section 223 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), to prosecute together two or more people accused of the same offence committed in the course of the “same transaction”. But the provision falls far short of an adequate legal framework for prosecuting lynch mobs.

Source: The Hindu

Barriers to cashless economy

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India’s second annual report shows that since demonetisation cash transactions have increased.

Details:

Nearly two years after demonetization, about 99.3% of the notes sucked out of circulation has been returned. Besides, the value of bank notes in circulation has increased by 37.7% over the year, reaching Rs 18,037 lakh crore by the end of March 2018.

Outcomes of demonetization:

Over the last two years, at least three of major claims of demonetization have collapsed.

First, it was supposed to flush out black money and end corruption. The government predicted that Rs 3 lakh crore in currency would not return to the banks. This has proved to be false, as most of the cash has returned.

Second, demonetisation was to help detect fake currency, which apparently funded terror and distorted the economy. The government claimed that at any point of time, there was Rs 400 crore in fake currency notes floating in the economy. Nine months after demonetisation, it was claimed that Rs 11.23 crore in fake currency had been detected. Now, the Reserve Bank reports a huge jump in fake Rs 2,000 notes, which were introduced after demonetisation.

Third, demonetisation was to pave the way to a cashless economy and the gleaming new world of digital India. Two years later, the amount of cash with the public has reached a record high, the bank has claimed.

Background:

On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, comprising 86% of the total value of the currency in circulation at that time, would no longer be recognised as legal tender.

What is a cashless economy?

It is a situation in which the flow of cash within an economy is non-existent and all transactions have to be through electronic channels such as direct debit, credit and debit cards, electronic clearing, payment systems such as Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), National Electronic Funds Transfer and Real Time Gross Settlement.

Benefits of a cashless economy:

Usage of cashless mechanisms would ensure that loopholes in public systems get plugged, and the intended beneficiaries are able to avail the benefits due to them. It also leads to increased efficiency in welfare programmes as money is wired directly into the accounts of recipients.

Efficiency gains can also be seen as transaction costs across the economy come down. It also provides an on-ramp to financial inclusion and enables e-commerce growth.

Reducing use of cash would also strangulate the grey economy, prevent money laundering and even increase tax compliance, which will ultimately benefit the customers at large.

Benefits for individuals:

  • No need for queues outside ATMs.
  • No cashout during long holidays.
  • No waiting for a deposited cheque to be credited.
  • No risk of carrying currency notes in the wallet.

What perpetuates use of cash in India?

  • A high propensity to save in and use cash.
  • Cash intensive supply chains require many merchants to transact in cash.
  • A large shadow and remittance based economy is also to be blamed for the situation.
  • Gender imbalance in use of digital payments has further aggravated the problem. This is due to insufficient focus on financial literacy.
  • Also, costs of point-of-sale terminals and operating costs are still high in India.

Source: The Hindu

O-SMART scheme

In News:

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for the umbrella scheme “Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART)”, for implementation during the period from 2017-18 to 2019-20 at an overall cost of Rs.1623 crore.

Highlights of the scheme:

The scheme encompasses a total of 16 sub-projects addressing ocean development activities such as Services, Technology, Resources, Observations and Science.

The services rendered under the O-SMART will provide economic benefits to a number of user communities in the coastal and ocean sectors, namely, fisheries, offshore industry, coastal states, Defence, Shipping, Ports etc.

Significance and benefits of the scheme:

Currently, five lakhs fishermen community are receiving the related information daily through mobile which includes allocation of fish potential and local weather conditions in the coastal waters. The scheme will help in reducing the search time for fishermen resulting savings in the fuel cost.

Implementation of O-SMART will help in addressing issues relating to Sustainable Development Goal-14, which aims to conserve use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development. This scheme (O-SMART) also provide necessary scientific and technological background required for implementation of various aspects of Blue Economy.

The ocean advisory services and technologies being rendered and developed under the scheme play a pivotal role in the development activities over dozen sectors, working in the marine environment including the coastal states of India, contributing significantly to the GDP.

The State of Art Early Warning Systems established under the O-SMART Scheme will help in effectively dealing with ocean disasters like Tsunami, storm surges. The technologies being developed under this Scheme will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas around India.

Significance of the Blue Economy:

As the resources on land are not adequate enough to meet the future demands, India is also embarking on blue economy for effective and efficient use of the vast ocean resources in a sustainable way, which would require a great deal of information on ocean science, development of technology and providing services.

Further, the coastal research and marine biodiversity activities are important to be continued also in the context of achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Source: PIB

Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC)

In News:

Union Government has constituted a new 21-member advisory panel on science, technology and innovation called Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). It will replace earlier Scientific Advisory Committee to Prime Minister and to Cabinet.

Details:

Composition: It will be headed by Principal Scientific Advisor to the government of India. It has nine members, including Chairperson. Apart from nine members, it will also have twelve special invitees — eleven ex officio secretaries 10 central ministries, related to science, technology, energy and education, are special invitees to the panel.

Roles and functions:

  • Advise PM on science, technology, as well as innovation.
  • Coordinate implementation of PMs scientific vision.
  • Aid in formulation and timely implementation of major science and technology missions and evolve interdisciplinary technology development programmes.
  • Advise government on developing ‘Clusters of Excellence’ in science including city-based R&D clusters.
  • Bring together all science and technology partners from academia and institutes to industries near such centres or cities.

Source: The Hindu

Air Services Agreement

  • Air services agreements are signed bilaterally to improve seamless air connectivity between two sovereign nations.
  • Union cabinet has recently approved the revised air services agreement between India and Morocco.
  • Under the agreement, both countries designate one of more airlines.
  • These designated airlines of either country
  1. Have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion end sale of air services.
  2. Can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and third country.
  3. Can operate any number of services to/from the six points specified in the Route Schedule to the agreement.

O-SMART

  • Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART) is an umbrella scheme for the development of ocean activities.
  • It encompasses a total of 16 sub-projects addressing ocean development activities by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Its implementation period is from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  • It aimed at stepping up ocean research and setting up early warning weather systems.
  • The important deliverables under the scheme are,
  1. Strengthening of ocean observations, modelling, ocean services for fishermen,
  2. Setting up marine coastal observatories for tracking marine pollution in 2018,
  3. Setting up Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant (OTEC) in Kavaratti in Lakshadweep.
  4. Setting up of the state-of-the-art Early Warning Systems to deal with ocean disasters like tsunami, storm surges.
  • The technologies developed under this Scheme will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas.

Exercise KAKADU

  • It is a multilateral regional maritime engagement exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy and supported by the Royal Australian Air Force.
  • It is held biennially in Darwin and the Northern Australian Exercise Areas (NAXA).
  • The 14th edition of the exercise is going to be held in Darwin this year.
  • It would see participation from 25 different countries.
  • Exercise derives its name from Kakadu National Park, which is a protected area in the northern territory of Australia.
  • Indian ship Sahyadri is going to participate in this exercise.

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