ART & CULTURE  

Medaram’s Sammakka-Sarakka/Saralamma Jatara

Medaram’s Sammakka-Sarakka/Saralamma Jatara

  • Sammakka-Sarakka Jatara is held by forest dwelling Koya tribe of Telangana and surrounding States.
  • It is the biggest Tribal festival in Asia which is attended by one crore people on an average.
  • The event is held bi-annually to honour the twin goddesses Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka.

  ECONOMY:  

MoU on Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR)

MoU on Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR)

  • Three Central Ministries have come together to drive a technology mission for Indian Railways.
  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR) was signed on Thursday by the Ministries of Railways, Human Resource Development (HRD), and Science and Technology.

Benefits :

  • It would be beneficial for both the national transporter and academic and research institutions.
  • The Indian Railways would get the world-class technologies and academic and research institutions would get involved in numerous applied research projects which would help them in reorienting research towards national objectives.
  • The agreement will “facilitate collaboration and cooperation” between the Ministries.
Credit Enhancement Fund

Credit Enhancement Fund

  • The Credit Enhancement Fund, announced by the Finance Minister in the last Budget, is expected to be operational by the end of this fiscal.
  • The India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL) anchored fund will help raise credit rating of bonds floated by infrastructure companies and facilitate investments from long-term investors.
  • Raising the credit rating of these companies would help easier access to institutional financing.
Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 (GES-2017)

Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 (GES-2017)

  • The summit organised annually since 2010, is the preeminent annual entrepreneurship gathering that convenes over one thousand emerging entrepreneurs, investors, and supporters from around the world.
  • GES 2017 marks the first GES held in South Asia.
  • The 8th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship summit (GES) was recently held in Hyderabad.
  • It was hosted by NITI Aayog in partnership with US government. The summit was attended by 1,500 entrepreneurs from 170 countries.
  • GES 2017 Theme: “Women First, Prosperity for All”.
Jal Marg Vikas Project

Jal Marg Vikas Project

Why in news?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for implementation of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1) at a cost of Rs 5369.18 crore with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank.
  • The Project is expected to be completed by March, 2023.

What is it?

  • The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga.
  • The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.

Benefits :

  • This alternative mode of transport will be environment friendly and cost effective.
  • The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.
  • It will lead to Socio-economic development of backward regions and promote balanced regional development.
  • Generate employment opportunities in services sector and in shiping industry.

  ENVIRONMENT:  

Annual census of Saltwater crocodiles in Bhitarkanika

Annual census of Saltwater crocodiles in Bhitarkanika

The forest department has imposed a seven-day ban on entry of visitors to the Bhitarkanika national park area starting January 3. This will ensure smooth and disturbance-free head count operation of saltwater crocodiles by preventing noise pollution.
Some facts:

Bhitarkanika National Park:

  • The Bhitarkanika National Park is located in the delta of rivers Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara in Odisha.
  • It is surrounded by the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary lies to the east, and separates swamp region cover with canopy of mangroves from the Bay of Bengal.
  • It hosts a large number of mangrove species, and is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
  • The park is home to the saltwater crocodile, white crocodile, Indian python, black ibis, wild pigs, rhesus monkeys, chitals, darters, cobra, water monitor lizard.

Saltwater Crocodile:

  • It is the largest of all living reptiles, as well as the largest riparian predator in the world.
  • It can live in marine environments, but usually resides in saline and brackish mangrove swamps, estuaries, deltas, lagoons, and lower stretches of rivers.
  • They have the broadest distribution of any modern crocodile, ranging from the eastern coast of India throughout most of Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
  • IUCN conservation status: Least Concern.
Oceans losing oxygen

Oceans losing oxygen

A latest study published in journal “Science” found that oxygen has been depleting in oceans and it could have adverse impact on marine life and humans.

The findings of study are:

  • In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold.
  • Low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950.
  • Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms up.

Effect on marine life and humans:

  • According to the study, the situation can cause serious damage to marine life, affect livelihoods of millions of people and trigger the release of dangerous greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide.
  • The danger due to low oxygen in oceans is manifold. As per the study, even small oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death.

To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles—address the causes, nutrient pollution and climate change.

NASA’s report on Ozone depletion

NASA’s report on Ozone depletion

According to report:

  • An international ban on chlorine-containing man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has resulted in about 20% less ozone depletion.
  • Chlorine from CFCs is decreasing atmosphere and less ozone depletion is occurring because of it.

Basics:
CFCs:

  • CFCs are long-lived chemical compounds (Ozone depleting substance) that eventually rise into the Stratosphere where they are broken apart by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that go on to destroy ozone molecules.
  • CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time.

Ozone Depletion:

  • Ozone depletion describes two related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline in the total amount of ozone in Earth’s stratosphere (the ozone layer), and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone around Earth’s Polar region.
  • The main cause of ozone depletion and the ozone hole is man-made chemicals, especially man-made halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants, and foam-blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), HCFCs, halons), referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
  • Ozone depletion and the ozone hole generated worldwide concern over increased cancer risks and other negative effects.
  • The ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths of ultraviolet light (UV light) from passing through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Green Crackers on the anvil

Green Crackers on the anvil

In a bid to fight air pollution, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been tasked to come up with a way to make crackers that are “environmentally friendly”.

Strategy:

The first phase will cover reduction of pollutants, while future strategies will cover removal of pollutants from the compositions
The key ingredients in several crackers are compound of Perchlorates and replacing them with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose could make them burn cleaner and produce less smoke.

Harmful effect of crackers:

Other than smoke-aggravating partially-burnt paper that sheaths the gunpowder in crackers, metals in fireworks such as strontium and barium are toxic to human and animal health. The burning process produces other harmful emissions such as polychlorinated hydrocarbons.

Mankidia tribes denied habitat rights

Mankidia tribes denied habitat rights

Mankidia, one of the 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) in Odisha, were denied habitat rights inside the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) under Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Forest department’s reasoning:

  • The State Forest Department has objected on grounds that tribals could be attacked by wild animals, especially tigers.
  • Habitat rights would also create barriers for free movement of tigers and other animals.

Basics:

Mankidia tribe
Mankidia is a marginalised group that critically depends on making rope with siali fibre that’s richly available in Similipal.

Definition of Habitat :

‘Habitat’ as defined under Section 2(h) of the FRA (Forest Rights Act) includes the area comprising the customary habitat and such other habitats in reserved forests and protected forests of primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities and other forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.

Simlipal national park :

  • It is located in Mayurbhanj district in Odisha.
  • Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of Semul (red silk cotton trees) that bloom here.
  • It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve.
  • It includes three protected areas — Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
Flamingo festival

Flamingo festival

The three-day annual Flamingo Festival is being held at Pulicat lake.

About the festival :

Flamingo Festival is held every year to promote tourism in Pulicat lake and Nellapattu Bird Sanctuary. Migratory birds from Siberia have been visiting this place for breeding and the colourful birds are a treat to the eye of bird watchers.

Basics:

Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary:

  • It is considered one of the biggest habitat for some hundreds of pelicans and other birds.
  • It is located about 20 km north of the Pulicat Lake on the Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu border.
  • Nelapattu has two major plant communities, swamp forests and southern dry evergreen scrub.

Pulicat lake:

  • It is the second largest brackish water lake or lagoon in India, after Chilika Lake.
  • It straddles the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states with over 96% of it in Andhra Pradesh situated on Coromandal coast.
  • The lake encompasses the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary.
  • The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lake from the Bay of Bengal and is home to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
  • The Buckingham Canal, a navigation channel, is part of the lagoon on its western side.

  FACTS IN NEWS:  

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

India’s biggest water carnival through ‘Jal Mahotsav’ is organised every year in Hanuwantiya Island in Madhya Pradesh. The third such ‘Jal Mahotsav’ concluded this year on January 2. Hanuwantiya island, located on the banks of the Indira Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh, plays host to India’s largest water carnival – Jal Mahotsav.

  INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS:  

Official language at UN

Official language at UN

Why in news?

  • India is pushing hard to include Hindi as one of the official languages at United Nations.
  • While oppositionMP's questioned this move asking the need to push for Hindi when it was not even the national language of India.

Condition for any language to become official language at UN

  • Two third of the 193 members of UN will have to vote for it.
  • These countries are required to share the financial cost incurred to do so.

Where is the problem?

  • Economically weaker countries shy away from sharing costs.
  • It will put our future PM and foreign ministers who may belong to southern state.
  • Already there is a system in place to get Hindi speeches translated at UN. So, why spend money to get it as official language at UN.

Further Tamil Language has better case in place of Hindi because:

  • Tamil language is one of the official languages of Sri Lanka and Singapore.
  • It is one of the recognized languages of India.
  • It is also recognized as minority language in South Africa, Malaysia and Mauritius.

Official languages of UN :

  • There are six official languages of the UN.
  • These are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
  • A delegate may speak in any official UN language.The speech is interpreted simultaneously into the other official languages of the UN.At times, a delegate may choose to make a statement using a non-official language.
  • Most UN documents are issued in all six official languages, requiring translation from the original document.
Most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan

Most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan

Why in news?

  • The government has denied any proposal to review the 'most favoured nation' (MFN) status to Pakistan.
  • India has accorded MFN status to all WTO members, including Pakistan, in accordance with the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

What does MFN status mean?

Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant someone a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) and you have to do the same for all other WTO members.

Indo-Myanmar agreement on land border crossing

Indo-Myanmar agreement on land border crossing

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved an agreement between India and Myanmar on land border crossing which would enhance economic interaction between people of the two countries.

Significance of the agreement:

  • The agreement will also facilitate movement of people on the basis of valid passports and visas which will enhance economic and social interaction between the two countries.
  • It is expected to provide connectivity and enhance interaction of the people from north-eastern states of India with those of Myanmar.
  • The agreement will also safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal communities residing along the border which are accustomed to free movement across the land border.

Background:

India shares a 1643-km long border with Myanmar in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Despite threats, the India-Myanmar border has the Free Movement Regime (FMR), which allows the tribes living along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visa restrictions.

US puts Pakistan on Special Watch List

US puts Pakistan on Special Watch List

What is Special Watch List?

  • The Special Watch List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to the level of the 'Countries of Particular Concern' (CPC).
  • The Special Watch List designation is being seen as a step below designating it as Country of Particular Concern, which would have automatically kicked in economic and political sanctions.
  • Special watch list is a new category created by the Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.
ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Context:

  • The annual ASEAN India PravasiBharatiya Divas is being celebrated at Singapore.
  • The conference was attended by top leaders and businessmen from Singapore and India, will discuss the contribution of the Indian diaspora community in Southeast Asia.

Theme:

"Ancient Route, New Journey: Diaspora in the Dynamic ASEAN-India Partnership.

Significance of the event:

  • The event coincides with the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN dialogue partnership, which will be marked by a summit on Jan. 25 in New Delhi.
  • ASEAN leaders have been invited by India to be chief guests at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26.

About Pravasi Bharatiya Divas:

  • PravasiBharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated every year on January 9 to mark the contribution of overseas Indian community in the development of India.
  • January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India's freedom struggle.
  • These conventions provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and Indian communities in India for mutually beneficial activities.
  • These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.

  POLITY & GOVERNANCE  

Electoral bonds for political donation

Electoral bonds for political donation

Government has announced the basic contours of the electoral bonds. Electoral bonds will allow donors to remain anonymous and pay political parties using banks as intermediaries.
This will ensure more transparent financing of political parties participating in elections.

Highlights of provisions :

  • Electoral bonds would be a bearer instrument in the nature of a promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument.
  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond. The bond will not carry the name of the payee.
  • Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore from any of the specified branches of the State Bank of India.
  • The purchaser will be allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfilment of all the extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account.
  • The bonds will have a life of 15 days (15 days time has been prescribed for the bonds to ensure that they do not become a parallel currency).
  • They can be used to make donations to registered political parties that have secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last election to the Lok Sabha or Assembly.
  • The bonds shall be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July, and October, with an additional 30 days to be specified by the Central government in the year of a general election.
  • The bond shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a designated bank account with the authorized bank.

Electoral bonds will ensure cleaner money coming from donors, cleaner money coming to political party and ensure significant transparency

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017

“The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017” was introduced in Lok Sabha during Monsoon Session 2017. The Bill is currently being examined by a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. It deals with insolvency and bankruptcy in financial sector companies, covering all financial service providers including banks, NBFCs, microfinance institutions and insurance companies.

Why in news?

The biggest problem of the bill is its controversial provisions of a “bail-in” clause which suggests that depositors’ money could be used by failing financial institutions to stay afloat. It has caused great anxiety about the safety of funds parked by millions of households in bank deposits. These fears are further amplified by the news and discussion on social media.

Bail-in clause:

  • A bail-in is rescuing a financial institution on the brink of failure by making its creditors and depositors take a loss on their holdings.
  • A bail-in is the opposite of a bail-out, which involves the rescue of a financial institution by external parties, typically governments using taxpayer’s money.

Recent Clarification given by government

To allay fears of people Finance ministry has recently given clarification on FRDI bill which includes:

Regarding Bail-in clause:

  • Bail-in clause will be used only with the prior consent of depositors.
  • Bail-in clause would not be applied to public sector banks.
  • It would be a tool of last resort in the case of private sector banks.
  • Bail-in action will be subject to government and parliamentary oversight.
  • In the event of a “bail-in”, the Resolution Corporation will have to ensure that depositors get back at least as much money as they would have if the bank had been liquidated.
  • The insured deposit cannot be used in case of a bail-in.

Other Clarifications :

  • The FRDI Bill does not propose in any way to limit the scope of powers for the Government to extend financing and resolution support to banks, including Public Sector Banks. The Government’s implicit guarantee for Public Sector Banks remains unaffected.
  • The depositors will be given preferential treatment in the event of liquidation of a bank.
  • The claims of uninsured depositors in the case of liquidation of a bank will be higher than those of the unsecured creditors and government dues.
Larger warnings on cigarette packs

Larger warnings on cigarette packs

The Supreme Court stayed a Karnataka High Court order reducing the size of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products to 40% of the package space. The court foregrounded the health of citizens over the concerns of the tobacco industry. SC favoured a government regulation requiring packets of tobacco products to sport pictorial warnings covering 85% of their packaging space.

Background :

The Division Bench of the High Court had struck down the amendment to the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling Rules) 2008, as amended in 2014.

View of government :

  • In a country where illiteracy is rampant, the more prominent the warning, the better impact it would have on the minds of the people.
  • It is the obligation of the State to make the people aware as regards the injurious nature of these indulgences.
  • Apart from the victim of the habit, the family suffers. The whole society faces peril.

View of industry :

  • The use of such pictures on 85% packaging space is a violation of their fundamental right to do business under Article 19 (1) (g).
  • A parliamentary standing committee has already recommended pictorial warnings on 50% space and this should be adopted till March 31, 2018, when the issue would be re-examined.
Supreme Court modifies order on national anthem

Supreme Court modifies order on national anthem

The Supreme Court modified its November 30, 2016 interim order and made it optional for cinema halls to play the 52-second national anthem before every show. Now, it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings in cinemas.

Salient features of order:

  • Theatres can choose whether to play the national anthem or not.
  • If theatres play the national anthem, the anthem will have to stand up.
  • Exemption granted earlier to disabled persons will remain in force.

A 12 member inter-ministerial committee has been established to recommend further actions. So, further clarity on the issue will emerge after 6 months following a report from a committee.

All India Whip’s conference

All India Whip’s conference

  • The 18th All India Whips’ Conference was recently inaugurated at Udaipur, Rajasthan.
  • The conference provides a platform to Whips of various political parties – ruling as well as opposition at the Centre as well as the States to exchange their views and experiences and discuss the challenges facing them in discharge of their Parliamentary duties.
  • It is one of the functions assigned to the Ministry of Parliamentary affairs
  • The purpose of this conference is to strengthen the parliamentary democracy, its institutions and ultimately serve the people at large.

Basics :

Whip

  • A whip is an official of a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature.
  • Their main job is ensuring that their members in Parliament and legislature vote in line with the party’s official policy on important issues and make sure that the members turn out for important votes.
  • They have a central role in ‘Floor Management’ in both the Houses of .

  SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY  

SpaceX launches secretive ZUMA mission

SpaceX launches secretive ZUMA mission

  • SpaceX blasted off a secretive U.S. government payload known as Zuma.
  • Mission’s nature and the agency behind it still remains a mystery.
  • Falcon 9 rocket was used to launch the payload.

SpaceX :

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., doing business as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company.
  • It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars.
  • SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit
  • In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket.

SpaceX’s achievements include :

  • The first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008);
  • The first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010);
  • The first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012);
  • The first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015); and
  • The first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017)

Falcon 9 :

  • Falcon 9 is a family of two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicles, named for its use of nine first-stage engines, designed and manufactured by SpaceX.
  • Falcon 9 is going to be developed as a “fully reusable heavy lift launch vehicle”
Typbar TCV

Typbar TCV

What is it?

  • It is a Typhoid conjugate vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech Ltd (BBL).
  • Typbar TCV is reportedly the world’s first typhoid vaccine clinically proven for use on recipients who can be as young as six months.

Why in news?

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pre-qualified its typhoid conjugate vaccine.
  • The new vaccine was found to have given a longer immunity from typhoid than older vaccines and it required fewer doses for childhood immunisation.
  • The pre-qualification by WHO allows for the sale of the vaccines to UN agencies such as UNICEF and GAVI.

What is GAVI?

  • Created in 2000, Gavi is an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance, bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.
  • Gavi brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.
NASA allset to launch GOLD and ICON missions to explore nearest space

NASA allset to launch GOLD and ICON missions to explore nearest space

  • The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will be launched aboard a commercial communications satellite in January 2018.
  • And the designed spacecraft Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will be launched later this year.

What are they?

  • GOLD and ICON will team up to explore the ionosphere, a boundary area between Earth and the space where particles have been cooked into a sea of electrically-charged electrons and ions by the Sun’s radiation.
  • These layers of near-Earth space are increasingly becoming a part of human domain as it is home to radio signals used to guide airplanes, ships and Global Positioning System satellites.
  • The two missions are complementary. ICON in low-Earth orbit, at 350 miles (560 km) above Earth, flies through and just above the ionosphere, like a close-up camera.
  • GOLD runs in geostationary orbit over the Western Hemisphere, 22,000 miles (about 35,398 km) above the planet’s surface. It will build up a full-disk view of the ionosphere and the upper atmosphere beneath it every half hour.

Objective:

  • To measure how upper atmosphere changes in response to hurricanes and geomagnetic storms.
  • GOLD will also explore how the upper atmosphere reacts to geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances of Earth’s magnetic field set off by solar activity.
Pratyush

Pratyush

  • Pratyush is an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops.
  • It is India’s fastest supercomputer yet.
  • The machines will be installed at two government institutes: 4.0 petaflops HPC facility at IITM, Pune; and 2.8 petaflops facility at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast.

Applications of Pratyush:

  • The Pratyush HPC will improve weather forecasts and extended range forecasts.
  • It will also predict cyclones and tsunami accurately, with more lead time.
  • It will also help those dependent on agriculture, hydrology and power sectors.

  SECURITY  

Women to be inducted to Territorial Army

Women to be inducted to Territorial Army

  • The Delhi High Court cleared the path for induction of women in the Territorial Army.
  • HC observed that any provision that bars them from joining the Force was against the Fundamental Rights provided under the Constitution.
  • Women are eligible for recruitment and appointment to the Territorial Army under Section 6 of the Indian Territorial Army Act, 1948.
  • It said the government has not given any rationale to justify its action of enforcing a bar against recruitment of women in the force.
  • The court noted that more and more countries have moved away from positions of total prohibition to permitting recruitment of women even in combat roles in the armed forces.
  • It listed around 22 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, which permit recruitment of women even in combat roles.

Territorial Army :

  • Territorial Army is an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency.
  • It is also known as the second line of defence after the regular Army.

    What is Territorial Army

  • The role of the Territorial Army is to relieve the regular Army from static duties and assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities
  • It also helps in maintenance of essential services in situations where life is affected or the security of the country is threatened.

  SOCIAL ISSUES  

Supreme court notice to government on law for working women

Supreme court notice to government on law for working women

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a petition questioning the lack of implementation of the various provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013. An NGO has brought to light the sheer lack of initiative on the part of government authorities to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the law.

Background :

The 2013 statute had replaced the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the historic Vishaka case judgment. The Supreme Court verdict in 1997 was inspired by international conventions and the spirit of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution

Weak enforcement :

  • The petition pointed out that the government at the State level has not even bothered to appoint district officers or local committees under the 2013 Act.
  • There are no appointments of nodal officers or internal complaints committees in certain offices.
  • There has been no move to ensure the reporting and collection of annual compliance reports from workplaces.
Supreme Court’s direction on providing public facilities for the disabled

Supreme Court’s direction on providing public facilities for the disabled

There have been a law for two decades to enable the full participation of persons with disability in society, but successive governments have done little to realise those guarantees. In this background the Supreme Court has directed Central and State governments to provide full access to public facilities, such as buildings and transport, within stipulated deadlines.

The court has issued a series of orders:

  1. All government buildings should be made accessible by June 2019.
  2. Half of all government buildings in the capital cities should meet accessibility norms by December this year.
  3. The Railways should present a report in three months from December 15 on implementing station facilities.
  4. 10% of government public transport must be fully accessible by March 2018.
  5. Advisory boards should be formed by the States and Union Territories in three months.
  • Some suggestions:It is eminently feasible, to aggregate the travel requirements of disabled people with the help of information technology and smartphones, and provide affordable shared transport using accessible vehicles.
  • The Railways should embark on an urgent programme to retrofit all stations and try simple solutions such as portable step ladders to help board and exit trains, since level boarding is not possible in most places

Cost is not the barrier. What is in short supply is the political will to change the design of public facilities and stick to professional codes.

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