2nd March, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018’
(GS2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
Issue: In a bid to deter loan defaulters from fleeing the country, the Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the introduction of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, in Parliament which would allow the government to seize all domestic assets of a person deemed to be a fugitive economic offender.
Highlights of the proposed bill
1.There will be a list of scheduled offences along with the Bill.
2.If the person commits an offence on the list, and a competent court has issued an arrest warrant, and the person leaves the country to avoid this, the court can deem him a fugitive economic offender.
3.The government would be able to seize all their domestic assets, not just those that were the proceeds of the crime.
4.The Bill also has a provision for the seizure of their foreign assets, but this would require the cooperation of the relevant country
5.The government in a release said that if at any point of time in the course of the proceedings prior to the declaration of the person as a fugitive economic offender, he returns to India and submits to the appropriate court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.
6.The government also decided to set up a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) to frame rules governing the conduct of chartered accountants and auditors. The NFRA will have jurisdiction over listed companies and “large unlisted” companies, while the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India will continue to oversee the remaining companies. The government will frame the rules that will define the threshold for companies to be supervised by the NFRA, which will have a chairman and a total of 15 members
7.This bill will apply to cases where the proceeds is above 100 crore
‘Google Earth’s Voyager project’
(GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: Google Earth Voyager’s pilot project rolled out in 15 schools across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
This feature was developed after India Literacy Project, a non-governmental organisation, approached Google Earth to build interactive content for the Social Sciences component of their Multi-Dimensional Learning Space project that aims to make children explore experiment, discover and learn in a variety of ways.
Though this project is in its earlier stages, the experience so far has been encouraging to all the participants. Such projects should be encouraged to be adopted in all schools
(GS2: Government policies and interventions and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
Issue: Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha on Thursday boycotted a meeting of the committee that will select an anti-corruption ombudsman, or Lokpal, in protest against being asked to attend as a “special invitee”.
The selection committee is supposed to have the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, the opposition leader and an eminent jurist. Though Kharge leads the Lok Sabha’s largest opposition party, he is not the designated leader of the opposition since his party falls short of the minimum number required to claim that post.
The idea of creating an anti corruption ombudsman, in the form of a Lokpal, was first conceptualized in 1968 in the fourth Lok Sabha.
The Bill as passed by Parliament creates a Lokpal at the centre which shall consist of a chairperson and up to eight members. Half of these members should have higher judicial experience and the other half should have experience in public administration, finance, insurance and banking laws, anti corruption and vigilance. It also provides that half the members of Lokpal shall be from amongst scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes, minority communities and women. The chairman and members of Lokpal shall be appointed by a selection committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a sitting supreme court judge as nominated by the CJI and an eminent jurist to be nominated by the President based on the recommendations of the other members of the selection committee. The Bill specifies that the office of Lokpal shall investigate and prosecute cases of corruption. The jurisdiction of Lokpal extends to the Prime Minister, Ministers, current and former Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies, government employees and employees of companies funded or controlled by the central or state government. Lokpal shall also have jurisdiction over institutions receiving foreign donations in excess of ten lakh rupees per year or such higher limit as specified. The Bill excludes, any allegation of corruption against a Member of Parliament in respect of anything said or a vote given in Parliament, from the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
It specifies a time limit of 60 days for completion of inquiry and 6 months for completion of investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation. This period of 6 months can be extended by the Lokpal on a written request from CBI. Lokpal is also required to hear the explanation of the public servant before ordering an investigation. This however would not interfere with any search and seizure required to be undertaken by any agency. The bill also specifies that any inquiry against the Prime Minister has to be held in-camera and approved by two third of the full bench of the Lokpal. The Bill gives Lokpal the power of superintendence over CBI with respect to cases referred by it to CBI. It also specifies that CBI officers investigating cases referred by the Lokpal can only be transferred with the approval of the Lokpal. It proposes establishment of a Directorate of prosecution within CBI to be headed by Director who is an officer not below the rank of joint secretary for conduction prosecution of cases under the Lokpal Bill. The director of prosecution shall be appointed by the government on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission. The CBI with the consent of Lokpal is empowered to appoint a panel of advocates, other than government advocates for conducting cases referred by Lokpal. The central government is entrusted with the responsibility of making funds available to CBI for conducting investigation into Lokpal referred matters. All expenses of Lokpal shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India.
The legislation provides an imprisonment of up to seven years for public servants on grounds of corruption. Criminal misconduct and habitually abetting corruption has a higher penalty and would result in imprisonment up to ten years. Making false and frivolous complaints to Lokpal would result in a fine of up to one lakh rupees and imprisonment of up to one year. In addition a person who is convicted for having made a false complaint shall be liable to compensate the public servant against whom the false complaint was made. However complaints made in good faith, that is with due care, caution and a sense of responsibility will be excluded from penalty.
Note: The Select Committee of Parliament had put its seal of approval on the amending bill, yet the government has failed to introduce and pass it. This amendment bill has several provisions which differ from the earlier passed version of the Lokpal Bill
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Karnataka achieved one more milestone in the solar sector with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday inaugurating the first phase of the Pavagada solar park, which is set to become the world’s largest when it attains its full potential of 2,000 MW.
About solar project:
The first phase of the park has 600 MW while another 1,400 MW will be added by December 2018. It is located in Thirumani of Tumakuru district and has been christened ‘Shakti Sthala’.
Ultra Mega Solar Power projects
Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects, also known as Ultra Mega Solar Parks, are a series of solar power projects planned by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of the Union Government of India. Each power project has a minimum capacity of 500 MW.
In December 2014, the Government of India introduced a scheme to establish at least 25 solar parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects, adding over 20 GW of installed solar power capacity. The Central Government provides financial support for the construction of these solar projects. In February 2017, the Union Cabinet increased the total number of planned solar parks to 50 with a total capacity of 40 GW. By April 2017, 34 solar parks were under construction across 21 states.
Pavagada solar park is one among the many planned Ultra Mega Solar Park in India
National solar mission
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, also known as the National Solar Mission, is an initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote solar power. The mission is one of the several initiatives that are part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The program was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a target of 20GW by 2022 which was later increased to 100 GW by the Narendra Modi government in the 2015 Union budget of India. India increased its solar power generation capacity by nearly 5 times
‘Global Status Report 2017: Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction centre’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The ‘Global Status Report 2017: Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector,’ published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has listed the ‘Energy Management Centre’ (EMC) campus, Kerala as in deployment of key technologies for energy-efficiency in buildings.
Design of EMC building
The EMC campus uses daylighting controls, CFC-free heating, ventilation and cooling systems, along with a halogen-free fire-fighting system. Solar reflectance index coating, combined with high-albedo painting and turbo-vents for passive cooling, has been used, and tropical rainforest trees help create cool surroundings. Only certified green construction materials, recycled wood boards, low-emitting paints and adhesives, and green-plus certified carpets have been used.
About the report
It is released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It recognizes the innovative green efficiency techniques employed worldwide in construction sector
The other five projects recognised by the UNEP include the Sierra Crest development in Fontana, California, the Association of Nubian Vaults in Sub-Saharan Africa, a construction and demolition waste recycling project in Paris, the Palm Tree eco-development project in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the Higashi-Matsushima Smart eco-town in northern Japan.
‘National Biodiversity Authority’
(GS3: Environmental Degradation)
Issue: Expressing concern over the increase in the import of ornamental fishes to the country, which is posing a threat to India’s native fish populations, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has urged the government to come up with quarantine facilities at major seaports and airports.
The huge market for ornamental Invasive Alien Species (IAS) fishes is turning out to be major threat to India’s aquatic biodiversity.
Several studies have disclosed the occurrence of exotic ornamental fish in many inland aquatic systems, including biodiversity-sensitive areas such as the Western Ghats.
Under the Centre for Biodiversity and Policy and Law (CEBPOL), the NBA is trying to bring out a national list of IAS. So far, no attempt has been made by any scientific organisation to have a national IAS list across different categories like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, inland fisheries, marine organisms, insects and microbes
CEBPOL is a bilateral collaboration between the Indian and Norwegian governments, and focuses on biodiversity policies and laws.
What is an Ornamental Fish?
Ornamental fishes usually mean attractive colorful fishes of various characteristics, which are kept as pets in confined space of an aquarium or a garden pool for fun and fancy. Ornamental fishes are usually kept in glass aquarium and hence popularly known as ‘’Aquarium Fishes’’. These living jewels need not always have bright colors; as sometimes their peculiar characteristics such as body color, morphology, mode of taking food etc. may also add to their attractiveness.
What is an invasive alien species?
An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.
About National Biodiversity Authority
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established by the Central Government in 2003 to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002). The NBA is a Statutory Body and it performs facilitative, regulatory and advisory functions for the Government of India on issues of conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.
The Biological Diversity Act (2002) mandates implementation of the provisions of the Act through decentralized system with the NBA focusing on advising the Central Government on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resources; and advising the State Governments in the selection of areas of biodiversity importance to be notified under Sub-Section (1) of Section 37 as heritage sites and measures for the management of such heritage sites. The NBA considers requests by granting approval or otherwise for undertaking any activity referred to in Sections 3,4 and 6 of the Act.
The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) focus on advising the State Governments, subject to any guidelines issued by the Central Government, on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resources;
The SSBs also regulate, by granting of approvals or otherwise upon requests for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio-utilization of any biological resource by the Indians. The local level Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) are responsible for promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity including preservation of habitats, conservation of land races, folk varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals and microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity.
The NBA with its headquarters in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India delivers its mandate through a structure that comprises of the Authority, Secretariat, SBBs, BMCs and Expert Committees.
‘Universe’s First Star’
Issue: For the first time, astronomers have glimpsed that dawn of the universe 13.6 billion years ago when the earliest stars were turning on the light in the cosmic darkness. They may have detected mysterious dark matter at work also.
The glimpse consisted of a faint radio signal from deep space, picked up by an antenna that is slightly bigger than a refrigerator and costs less than $5 million but in certain ways can go back much farther in time and distance than the celebrated, multibillion-dollar Hubble Space Telescope.
If verified, that would be the first confirmation of its kind of dark matter, which is a substantial part of the universe that scientists have been searching for over decades.
Mode of detection
The early universe was dark and cold, filled with just hydrogen and helium. Once stars formed, they emitted ultraviolet light into the dark areas between them. That ultraviolet light changes the energy signature of hydrogen atoms. This change in wavelength was picked up by the antenna
Astronomers looked at a specific wavelength. If there were stars and ultraviolet light, they would see one signature. If there were no stars, they would see another. They saw a clear but faint signal showing there were stars
Dark matter is a hypothetical type of matter distinct from ordinary matter such as protons, neutrons, electrons, and neutrinos.
Dark matter has never been directly observed; however, its existence would explain a number of otherwise puzzling astronomical observations. The name refers to the fact that it does not emit or interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, and is thus invisible to the entire electromagnetic spectrum
Although dark matter has not been directly observed, its existence and properties are inferred from unexplained mass in gravitational lensing calculations, which affects the motions of baryonic matter and light.. It influences the universe’s large-scale structure, the formation of galaxies, and affects the cosmic microwave background.
The standard model of cosmology indicates that the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy
‘World’s fastest Growing major economy’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India has regained its title as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, after figures confirmed it grew more than 7 per cent on an annualized basis in the three months to December, overtaking China after a year of lagging behind.
Data released on Wednesday show the Indian economy grew at an annual rate of 7.2 per cent in the final quarter of last year, continuing its bounce back from a sharp slowdown in the middle of 2017. The Chinese economy grew 6.8 per cent on an annualized basis in the same period.
Issue: There has been a growing discourse among the policy makers concerning to the effects of AI on human life. Various thoughts have been expressed on this matter, this thoughts range from a complete and thorough use of AI to better human life to complete outright rejection of the AI. Others though, have felt AI should be used but with proper restraints and tangible restraints to prevent use of AI which is against human interest
Some of the arguments for considering AI as a danger to humanity are:
1.An AI machine is an autonomous entity and from what we have seen of such machines, they are like other human beings in terms of their capacities for decision and action. Such autonomous machines cannot be trusted with human life
2.AI technology can only magnify the intelligence of human beings but not other qualities of the human beings. Some of which are far more important than mere intelligence, such as: Sympathy, care, affection
3.The use of AI at this point of time is only restricted to certain fields, the fruits of this technology will be denied for the huge masses of our population
Some of the arguments for considering AI as not a danger to humanity are:
1.We know from history that we have always embraced technology eventually, to make our life better, easier. AI can better our lives to a greater degree
2.AI is a natural step or phase in the evolution of humankind. With every passing day, we’re witnessing the rise of AI in health and medicine. It was recently reported that we can predict heart diseases with machine learning, and that self-healing electronic skin lets amputees sense temperature on prosthetic limbs. Health care and medicine become affordable and accessible with AI taking centre stage in telemedicine and quick diagnosis. Water and energy networks become accessible and widely usable when AI can mediate the use of different sources.
3.AI is in a nascent stage and is being shaped by innovators across the world. AI will not be one thing; there will be many kinds of AI and many kinds of species augmented by AI.
4.Inclusive AI will mean that more of society will be able to enjoy its benefits and participate in shaping the future.
Some of the argument for use of AI but with certain conditions is:
1.Apart from computational power, AI requires copious amounts of data to learn. This data can either be generated by the machine itself — imagine a machine being instructed in the basic rules of chess and what constitutes “success”, and then playing millions of games against itself and using that as the basic data for improving itself — or it has to be provided data. If the data being provided have not been cleaned (whether in terms of accuracy or bias), then the resultant learning will also exhibit the flaws in the data.
2.Our ability to arrive at ethical norms regarding uses of AI and our ability to regulate them in an intelligent and beneficial manner have not nearly kept pace, and are not likely to. That is why we need AI researchers to actively involve ethicists in their work
3.Additionally, regulators across the world need to be working closely with these academics and citizens’ groups to put brakes on both the harmful uses and effects of AI. Some parts of this will involve laws regulating data which fuel AI, some will involve empowering consumers and citizens vis-a-vis corporations and governments which are using AI, and some other parts will involve bans on certain kinds of uses of AI.