National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 6th February 2019

100% use of VVPAT for Lok Sabha polls: EC

1

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: The Election Commission informed the Madras High Court that it had made it clear way back in 2017 that there shall be 100% use of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system during the Lok Sabha election this year to gain voter confidence.

More on the topic:

  • The submission was made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition seeking 100% use of the VVPAT during every election.
  • The judges dismissed the petition after recording the submissions of the EC that it had already decided to use VVPAT in all booths in accordance with a 2013 Supreme Court directive.

About VV Pat Machine:

  • The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters.
  • It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines.
  • It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.

How do VVPAT machines work?

  • When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT.
  • The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate.
  • It allows the voter to verify his/her choice. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.
  • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.
  • VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip dropped in a box but the voter cannot take it home.

Advantages in VVPATs:

  • Enables to verify vote: Instant feedback to voter that vote polled has been allocated to the intended candidate
  • Enables authorities to count the votes manually if there is a dispute in the electronically polled votes
  • Operates under a Direct Recording Election system (DRE) which detects fraud and existent malfunctions
  • Will ensure greater transparency in voting process
  • Gives both the voters and political parties an assurance

Model Mains Question: Transparency in every aspect of elections is a fundamental necessity. Comment.

Source: The Hindu

Liquidity crisis hit disinvestment

2

Topic: Economy

In News: According to Department of Investment and Public Asset Management Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, the liquidity crisis in the third quarter of the year had a detrimental impact on what would have otherwise been a very productive period for disinvestment.

About Strategic Disinvestment:

  • In strategic disinvestment the government sells major portion of its stake to a strategic buyer and also gives over the management control.
  • Under it, the strategic Partner, may hold less percentage of shares than the government but the control of management will be with him.
  • For example, in a PSU, where the government holding 51%, and out of this, sale of 25% to the strategic partner while the government holding 26% share also is a case of strategic sale. Here, the remaining shares (49%) will be dispersed among the public.
  • The Finance Ministry has empowered the NITI Ayog to advise the government on the strategic disinvestment of the CPSEs.
  • The procedure for strategic sale will be prepared by Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).

What’s ‘liquidity crisis’ in Economics:

  • This refers to a situation where an individual, a business or a government is unable to gather enough cash to meet its payment obligations to lenders.
  • A liquidity crisis is different from a solvency crisis where the total value of an entity’s assets is less than the value of its overall liabilities.
  • A business facing a liquidity crisis may be unable to meet its liabilities in a timely manner, but the value of its assets may still be much greater than that of its liabilities.
  • In some cases, the inability to meet its immediate obligations can force a business to sell its assets at low prices to raise immediate cash. Such a fire sale of assets can end up threatening its solvency.

Source: The Hindu

Home Ministry is trying to ‘destroy’ NRC process: SC

3

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: The Supreme Court lashed out at the Centre after Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal urged the court to allow the NRC work to be kept in abeyance during the Lok Sabha election, observing that the Ministry of Home Affairs had been attempting to undermine “the Assam NRC process from the very beginning.

More on the Topic:

  • Since the 1950s, there is a lot of controversy regarding citizenship and migration issues in Assam. Original inhabitants of Assam fear that the migrants from Bangladesh would compete with them for land, jobs and consequently hamper Assam’s culture.
  • In the late 1970s, a massive drive was spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union, popularly known as the Assam Agitation calling for the detection, deletion and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. The whole state was then brought to a standstill as it witnessed frequent strikes, boycotting elections, political instability etc.
  • In 1985, in order to put an end to such agitations, Assam accord was signed between Rajiv Gandhi and leader of Assam movement led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the ‘All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad’ (AAGSP).
  • Consequently, it paved the way for the formation of government in Assam and brought about stability.

The demands put forth by them regarding migration issues were:

  • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
  • Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Anyone who entered the state without documents after March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner and were to be deported.
  • However, for a very long time, the provisions in the Assam accord were not implemented.
  • In 2005, another agreement was signed between the Centre, the Assam government and the AASU and decision was taken to update the NRC on the basis of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to 1971.
  • A 2-year deadline was fixed to complete the exercise. As a result, a pilot project was launched in some districts but it soon erupted violent agitations by groups opposed to such exercise and the NRC update was halted.
  • In 2009 Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding identification of Bangladeshi foreigners in the State and deletion of their names from the voters’ list.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court finally ordered to complete the exercise by December 31, 2017, leading to the present updation of NRC in Assam.

 Source: The Hindu

Govt. subsidy spend on the rise

Topic: Economy

In News: Rising LPG prices and higher subscribers have resulted in the government’s subsidy expenditure over the last two years reversing a declining trend established in the previous six years, an analysis of Budget documents by The Hindu shows.

More on the Topic:

  • The data show that the government’s total expenditure on subsidies is expected to make up 83% of its total expenditure overall in 2019-20, according to the Budget estimate for the year, up from the 9.65% in the revised estimate for 2018-19.
  • This increase might not seem significant by itself, but it becomes noteworthy when viewed against the backdrop of a consistent annual fall from 18.2% in 2012-13 to 8.15% in 2017-18.
  • A deeper dive into the data shows that the reason for this reversal is the sharp rise in food and petroleum subsidies over the last two budgets of 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • While the increase in the food subsidy allocation is a reflection of the increase in the Minimum Support Prices hiked across the board, the reason behind the increase in the petroleum subsidy has to do in particular with the government’s focus on LPG as a source of cleaner cooking fuel.
  • The reason for the increase in the petroleum subsidy is because of an increased allocation for the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme for LPG.
  • The government has two major schemes in the LPG sector. PAHAL scheme, the first, involves direct cash transfers to LPG consumers for 12 numbers of 14.2 kg cylinders per year.
  • The second scheme, the Ujjwala Yojana, seeks to give free LPG connections to poor households. In terms of consumption, data with the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell show that LPG consumption has grown in tandem with the launch of the PAHAL scheme.
  • While LPG consumption grew 6% and 4.4% in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively, the growth averaged 9.4% in the years since the scheme was launched in 2013.
  • Budget provisions have grown in consonance with this growth rate.
  • If the trend of rising subsidy prices continues into the future, then it could certainly be a matter of concern when it comes to the government’s fiscal consolidation plans.

Source:The Hindu

GSAT-31 launched successfully

5

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: India’s latest communication satellite, GSAT-31 was successfully launched from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

More on the Topic:

  • After a 42-min flight, GSAT-31 separated from the Ariane 5 upper stage in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 250 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 35,850 km, inclined at an angle of 3.0 degree to the equator.
  • With a lift-off mass of 2536 kg, GSAT-31 will augment the Ku-band transponder capacity in Geostationary Orbit. The satellite will provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites. GSAT-31 derives its heritage from ISRO’s earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series.
  • In the days ahead, scientists will undertake phase-wise orbit-raising manoeuvres to place the satellite in Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) using its on-board propulsion system.
  • During the final stages of its orbit raising operations, the antenna reflector of GSAT-31 will be deployed. Following this, the satellite will be put in its final orbital configuration. The satellite will be operational after the successful completion of all in-orbit tests.
  • GSAT-31 has a unique configuration of providing flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage. The satellite will provide communication services to Indian mainland and islands.

Applications:

  • GSAT-31 will provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications. The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.

Source:PIB

Steps Taken by Government for Conservation and Promotion of Medicinal Plants

Topic: Government Initiatives

In News: As per information of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), an organization under Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change estimated more than 8,000 species of medicinal plants are found in India.

More on the Topic:

  • The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Ministry of AYUSH is presently implementing following schemes to encourage farming / cultivation, conservation, processing and promotion of medicinal plants throughout the country:
  • Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM). Under ‘Medicinal Plants’ component of the NAM scheme the large scale farming / cultivation of medicinal plants is being supported.  As per the scheme guidelines, the support is provided for:
  • Cultivation of prioritized medicinal plants on farmer’s land.
  • Establishment of nurseries for supply of quality planting material.
  • Post-harvest management.
  • Primary processing, marketing infrastructure etc.
  • For cultivation, the support is provided as subsidy to farmers @ 30%, 50% and 75% based on cost of cultivation.
  • Central Sector Scheme on “Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants”.  Under the scheme, the project based support is provided for following activities:
  • In-situ conservation through development of Medicinal Plants Conservation and Development Areas (MPCDAs).
  • In-situ/Ex-situ resource augmentation.
  • Ex-situ conservation through establishment of herbal gardens.
  • Livelihood linkages with Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) / Panchayats / Van Panchayats / Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) / Self Help Groups (SHGs).
  • IEC activities like Training / workshops / Seminars/ Conferences etc.
  • Research & Development.
  • Promotion of marketing and trade of medicinal plants produce.

Voluntary Certification Scheme for Medicinal Plants Produce (VCSMPP):

  • The scheme is aimed to encourage Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Field Collection Practices (GFCPs) in medicinal plants and enhance quality and safety of their produce.

Source: The Hindu

Asian Infrastructure Finance Report 2019

7

Topic: Important Reports

In News: In AIIB’s Asian Infrastructure Finance 2019 report, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank expects the cost of infrastructure financing in India to increase over the next one year.

More on the Topic:

  • The bank sees slowing global economy, higher borrowing costs and geopolitical tensions leading to greater uncertainty among investors.
  • India’s infrastructure transaction activity, after reaching $72.7 billion in 2014, dropped to $48.9 billion in 2015 and to $40.4 billion in 2016.
  • While in 2017, it bounced back to $81.3 billion due to surge in transaction in oil and gas segment, other sectors continued to see decline.
  • Infrastructure financing scenario in India has been dominated by public spending, while significant breakthrough in the mobilization of private capital for infrastructure is yet to be seen.

Source: The Hindu

 

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