Cabinet Committees are formed
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
The Union government released the composition of eight Cabinet Committees, including two new ones — one on Investment, the other on Employment and Skill Development.
Transaction of Business
- The executive works under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961. These Rules emerge out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.” The Rules mandate the minister-in-charge of a department (ministry) to dispose of “all business allotted to a department under” him or her.
- However, “when the subject of a case concerns more than one department”, no decision can be taken “until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet”.
- The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.
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- Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters. A policy paralysis had hit the UPA-II government because it had passed on numerous issues to Groups of Ministers.
- Of the eight panels constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, the most vital is the Cabinet Committee on Appointments.
- This panel makes appointments to posts of the three service chiefs, Director General of Military Operations, chiefs of all Air and Army Commands, Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Director General of Ordnance Factories, Director General of Defence Estates, Controller General of Defence Accounts, Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Solicitor-General, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Chairman and Members of the Railway Board, Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings and Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government. This Committee decides on all important empanelments and shift of officers serving on Central deputation.
- The Cabinet Committee on Accommodation determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation.
- It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organisations as also the rent to be charged from them. It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament. It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects “for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy”, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities.
- It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deal with industrial licensing policies and review rural development and the Public Distribution System.
- The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament. It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.
- The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs addresses problems related to Centre-state relations. It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.
- The Cabinet Committee on Security deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications. It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security. It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure more than Rs 1,000 crore. It considers issues related to the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Research and Development, Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for procurement of security-related equipment.
The new panels
- The Cabinet Committee on Investment will “identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis”, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing. It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors. It will also monitor the progress of such projects.
- The Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development is supposed to provide “direction to all policies, programmes, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce for effectively meeting the emerging requirements of the rapidly growing economy and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”. It is required to enhance workforce participation, foster employment growth and identification, and work towards removal of gaps between requirement and availability of skills in various sectors. The panel will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and to periodically review the progress in this regard.
- The addition of the two committees is indicative of the new focus areas for the government. The goal of both is new jobs.
Draft NEP proposes formal education from age of three
Topic: GS–II: Education, Human Resources
All Indian children could soon enter the formal education system at the age of three, with the draft National Education Policy projecting an expansion of the Right to Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.
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- The draft policy also wants early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as part of the school system, rather than the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the age group of 3-6.
- This could result in an upheaval in the anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) for more than four decades.
- An inter-ministerial task force will work out a roadmap for the transition by the end of 2019, says the draft policy.
- The HRD Ministry is in the early stages of assessing the implications. Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the plan to provide breakfast to children).
· Anganwadi is a type of rural child care centre in India. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
· A typical Anganwadi centre provides basic health care in a village. It is a part of the Indian public health care system. Basic health care activities include contraceptive counseling and supply, nutrition education and supplementation, as well as pre-school activities.The centres may be used as depots for oral rehydration salts, basic medicines and contraceptives.
· These centres provide supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services of which the last three are provided in convergence with public health systems.
All States, Union Territories can now set up Foreigners Tribunals
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
With Assam’s National Register of Citizens as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.
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- The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not. Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.
- The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not. In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail. Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.
|What is the NRC?
· The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the list of Indian citizens of Assam. It was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951. For a person’s name to be included in the updated NRC list of 2018, he/ she will have to furnish:
How did NRC verification begin in Assam?
· The process of NRC update was taken up in Assam as per a Supreme Court order in 2013. In order to wean out cases of illegal migration from Bangladesh and other adjoining areas, NRC updation was carried out under The Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord.
How is verification carried out?
· The updating process started in May 2015 and ended on 31 August 2015. A total of 3.29 crore people applied through 68.31 lakh applications. The process of verification involved house-to-house field verification, determination of authenticity of documents, family tree investigations in order to rule out bogus claims of parenthood and linkages and separate hearings for married women.
Internet may alter brain functions, says study
Topic: GS–II: Social Justice/Health
The Internet can alter specific brain regions and affect our attention capacity, memory processes and social interaction, a study has found.
- The research, published in the journal World Psychiatry, showed that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in specific areas of cognition.
- Researchers, including those from Oxford University in the U.K. and Harvard University in the U.S., investigated hypotheses on how the Internet may alter cognitive processes.
- The limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet divides attention, which, in turn, may decrease the capacity to concentrate on a single task.
- Given we now have most of the world’s factual information literally at our fingertips, this appears to have the potential to begin changing the ways in which we store, and even value, facts and knowledge in society.
Sukhois to be tipped with BrahMos ahead of deadline
Topic: GS -III: Security
Weeks after the Balakot air strikes, the government decided to fast-track arming over 40 Sukhoi fighter jets with the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, a closely guarded strategic project aimed at bolstering the combat capability of the Indian Air Force.
- Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and BrahMos Aerospace Ltd. were told to complete the work much before the December 2020 deadline. In 2016, the government decided to fit the air-launched variant of BrahMos in over 40 Sukhoi jets.
- A review on ways to strengthen the Air Force against the backdrop of the Balakot air strikes and Pakistani retaliation concluded that the early integration of BrahMos with the Sukhois should be a priority, they said.
- It was felt that the planned induction of Rafale aircraft equipped with the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, procurement of the S-400 air-defence missile system and integration of BrahMos with the Sukhois would provide India a significant advantage over the Pakistani Air Force.
- Once the weapon is integrated with the combat fleet, the IAF’s capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target in sea or land is expected to go up manifold. The missile, coupled with the superlative performance of the Sukhoi aircraft, will give the IAF a strategic reach and allow it to dominate the ocean and land battlefields, an IAF assessment says.
· It is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land.
· It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.
· It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace.
· It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology. The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
· The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0,which is being upgraded to Mach 5.0.
· The land-launched and ship-launched versions are already in service, with the air and submarine-launched versions currently in the testing phase.
Aviation sector faces heat over warming
Topic: GS-III: Environment
Under pressure from frequent flyers alarmed over climate change, the airline industry says it is “hellbent” on reducing emissions but the technology needed to drastically reduce its carbon footprint is still out of reach.
- In recent months, climate activists have stepped up efforts to convince travellers to boycott air travel, with Swedish schoolgirl and campaigner Greta Thunberg spearheading the trains-over-planes movement and making “flygskam”, or flight shame, a buzzword in the Scandinavian country.
- The industry has been under fire over its carbon emissions, which at 285 g of CO2 emitted per km travelled by a passenger far exceed all other modes of transport. Road transportation follows at 158 and rail travel is at 14, according to European Environment Agency figures.
- The International Civil Aviation Organization estimates that air transport is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions — roughly equivalent to the overall emissions of Germany, according to consulting firm Sia Partners.
- But aircraft also emit particles such as nitrogen oxides, which can trap heat at high altitude, meaning the industry is responsible for 5% of warming, according to the Climate Action Network.
- The industry has committed to improving fuel efficiency by 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020 and stabilising its CO2 emissions in preparation for a 50% reduction by 2050 compared to 2005.
- Companies are banking on a new generation of less polluting planes with updated engines, aerodynamic modifications and fittings that weigh less.
‘Nirbhaya squad’ to curb crime against women
Topic: GS -III: Security
The Police have set up a ‘Nirbhaya squad’ to prevent incidents of harassment of women.
State Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan launched the newly formed 10-member squad, comprising both men and women security personnel.
- The squad has been named after the 23-year-old woman who came to be known as Nirbhaya after she was gang-raped in New Delhi in 2012.
- The squad members will maintain a strict vigil in crowded areas of the city, like bus stands, railway stations and malls, to ensure safety and security of women, the police said. Citizens, specially women, can also complain to the police on their toll free number (1091) about any incident of harassment or molestation.
ISRO gears up for Chandrayaan-2 mission
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
Chandrayaan-2, the country’s first moon lander and rover mission, is a month away from launch.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation has marked mid-July for the take-off and kept the launch window open from July 9 to 16.
- After putting the spacecraft through manoeuvres at the earth end, a journey of over a month and a few more orbital manoeuvres as it approaches the moon, ISRO has set September 6 as the date to soft-land its landing craft at the lunar South Pole – a region where no agency has got to so far.
- ISRO recently listed at least six complexities of soft landing a mission on the Moon – something that pioneers Russia and the U.S. could not achieve easily back in the mid-1960s.
- Soft landing, it says, is the most challenging part of the mission.
- The lander is named Vikram (meaning valour, after the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai). It will release a small robotic rover, named Pragyan (wisdom), to move around, feel and understand the lunar surface.
- Vikram must gently descend on a harsh rugged lunar surface, without getting damaged. It must also avoid landing in a shadowy patch. It needs sunlight for generating its power.
- Meanwhile, the mother ship or the orbiter that carries Vikram and Pragyan will go around the moon at a distance of about 100 km, taking pictures and gathering surface information and sending them back to earth.
- The moon’s constantly sunny side gets light for 14 Earth days or one lunar day. The lander and the rover are expected to work for just that duration.
- The mission carries 14 payloads or instruments to observe and gauge the lunar scene – both from a distance and on its surface. One of them is a tiny NASA reflectometer to mark the spot for future missions and assess the distance from the earth.
- Weighing about 3,500 kg, Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on the heavy-lift GSLV-Mk III
- The mission has missed many dates and its lander elements have been revamped as recently as in 2018. The tests related to the lander were conducted at the Challakere multi-agency campus where ISRO, DRDO, BARC and the IISc facilities are located.
SIAM, CII call for practical road map for electric vehicles
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
The government’s policy to switch to electric vehicles should be driven by practicality, rather than unrealistic expectations which may disrupt the automotive industry that is already reeling under stress, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said on Sunday.
- Another industry body — the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), came out in support of the auto sector, stating that there is a need for wider consultations with stakeholders before the target and the time line for electric vehicles are set.
- The reactions come amid reports that the government plans to ban sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) three-wheelers by 2023 as well as of less than 150 cc two-wheelers by 2025.
- SIAM pointed out that the automotive industry is currently facing multiple challenges, including leapfrogging to BS VI emission norms and complying with new safety norms “in the shortest time-frame ever attempted in the world. This is engaging the attention of the industry and is involving investments of the order of ₹70,000-80,000 crore.”
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