17th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
(DOWNLOAD THE PDF AT THE END OF THIS PAGE)
‘A B Vajpayee’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for over nine weeks, passed away on Thursday
Major contributions of the late former PM to India’s growth
- GST was implemented in India on July 1, 2017. However, it was Vajpayee who had first mooted the idea of a common tax structure for goods and services across the country. In 2000, the Vajpayee-led government had set up a committee to design the backbone of the GST model
- The mission to provide free and compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years of age was driven by the former PM. The primary objective of the scheme, which commenced in 2000-01, was to reduce dropouts and increase the net enrolment ratio at primary level.
- The government, under the former PM Vajpayee, enacted the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act in 2003. The Act had set targets to reduce fiscal deficits and boost savings in the public sector.
- India boasts 984 million active wireless phone users (as of May 2018)and credit for the same should go to Vajpayee. In 1999, his government took a decision to end state monopolies for entities like Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and introduced a new Telecom Policy where a revenue-sharing regime was started.
- One of the flag-bearers of divestments in public sector undertakings, former PM Vajpayee had set up a separate department for disinvestment as early as 1999.
- During his second term, from 1998 to 1999, India conducted the second Pokhran nuclear tests (May 1998) and Vajpayee attended the Lahore summit (February 1999) where he travelled to Pakistan in a bus for establishing full-fledged diplomatic relations with the country.
‘Blind Box’ (GS3: Challenges to Internal security)
Issue: The Karnataka Police, who celebrated Independence Day on the theme ‘freedom from drugs,’ has set up the blind box to enable people to tip them off anonymously.
Motive behind this decision
Many residents who know about illegal activities in their vicinities, but are scared to inform the police, fearing their identity would be compromised. If people have to complain via phone or email, their names or numbers will be revealed. The blind box will not only help such people, but will also help the police crackdown on illegal activities
Note: Use such examples in your mains answer wherever necessary
‘Humboldt penguin’ (GS3: Conservation of Flora and Fauna)
Issue: The first Humboldt penguin to be born in India or ‘the freedom baby’, born on August 15 in Byculla zoo, Mumbai
About the Humboldt penguin
The Humboldt penguin is a South American penguin that breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. Its nearest relatives are the African penguin, the Magellanic penguin and the Galápagos penguin. The penguin is named after the cold water current it swims in, which itself is named after Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN
Humboldt penguins nest on islands and rocky coasts, burrowing holes in guano and sometimes using scrapes or caves. In South America the Humboldt penguin is found only along the Pacific coast, and the range of the Humboldt penguin overlaps that of the Magellanic penguin on the central Chilean coast. It is vagrant in Ecuador and Colombia
‘Mali Presidential elections’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, has won a second term after taking 67% of the vote
The election looks unlikely to bring stability, which is a key in the battle against Islamist extremism in the Sahel region and in efforts to curb illegal migration to Europe.
Mali, landlocked country of western Africa, mostly in the Saharan and Sahelian regions. Mali is largely flat and arid. The Niger River flows through its interior, functioning as the main trading and transport artery in the country. Sections of the river flood periodically, providing much-needed fertile agricultural soil along its banks as well as creating pasture for livestock.
Agriculture is the dominant economic sector in the country, with cotton production, cattle and camel herding, and fishing among the major activities.
The area that is now Mali was once part of the three great pre-colonial Sudanic empires: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. The fabled but now faded trading and learning centre of Timbuktu is situated in Mali on the upper Niger River.
Mali lies within the inter-tropical zone and has a hot, dry climate, with the sun near its zenith throughout most of the year. In general, there are two distinct seasons, dry and wet. The dry season, which lasts from November to June, is marked by low humidity and high temperatures and is influenced by the alize and harmattan winds. The alize blows from the northeast from November to January and causes a relatively cool spell, with temperatures averaging 77 °F (25 °C). From March to June the harmattan, a dry, hot wind that blows from the east out of the Sahara, sweeps the soil into dusty whirlwinds and is accompanied by daytime temperatures of about 104 to 113 °F (40 to 45 °C).
During the rainy season, from June to October, the monsoon wind blows from the southwest. Preceded by large black clouds, the heavy rainstorms often include gusty winds and much lightning and thunder. Temperatures are somewhat lower in August, when most of the rainfall occurs.
‘Unified Payment Interface (UPI) 2.0’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has upgraded the unified payments interface (UPI) with enhanced security features and overdraft facilities.
What are the features of UPI 2.0?
- In addition to current and savings accounts, customers can link their overdraft account to UPI
- UPI mandate could be used in a scenario where money is to be transferred later by providing commitment at present. UPI 2.0 mandates are created with one-time block functionality for transactions. Customers can pre-authorise a transaction and pay at a later date. It works seamlessly for merchants as well as for individual users. Mandates can be created and executed instantly. On the date of actual purchase, the amount will be deducted and received by the merchant/individual user.
- A new feature is designed for customers to check the invoice sent by merchant prior to making payment. It will help customers to view and verify the credentials and check whether it has come from the right merchant or not.
- A new feature is designed for customers to check the authenticity of merchants while scanning QR or quick response code. It notifies the user with information to ascertain whether the merchant is a verified UPI merchant or not
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India, is an initiative of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, for creating a robust Payment & Settlement Infrastructure in India.
Considering the utility nature of the objects of NPCI, it has been incorporated as a “Not for Profit” Company under the provisions of Section 25 of Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013), with an intention to provide infrastructure to the entire Banking system in India for physical as well as electronic payment and settlement systems. The Company is focused on bringing innovations in the retail payment systems through the use of technology for achieving greater efficiency in operations and widening the reach of payment systems.
The ten core promoter banks are State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citibank N. A. and HSBC. In 2016 the shareholding was broad-based to 56 member banks to include more banks representing all sectors.
NPCI, during its journey in the last seven years, has made a significant impact on the retail payment systems in the country. Dedicated to the nation by former President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, endorsed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and later made the card of choice for the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, RuPay is now a known name. With Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), India has become the leading country in the world in real time payments in retail sector. Needless to mention, National Financial Switch (NFS) and Cheque Truncation System (CTS) continue to be the flagship products of NPCI. Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has been termed as the revolutionary product in payment system and Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) has also been launched in pilot mode. The other products include RuPay Credit Card, National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) and National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC). With these products the aim is to transform India into a ‘less-cash’ society by touching every Indian with one or other payment services.
‘Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the India wing of the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. This is a key step to establishing the one-of-its-kind astronomical observatory.
About the project
The project involves constructing a network of L-shaped arms, each four kilometres long, which can detect even the faintest ripples from cosmic explosions millions of light years away.
The discovery of gravitational waves earned three U.S. scientists the Nobel for physics in 2017. The scientists were closely involved with LIGO. Hosting such a detector in India, scientists have said, will improve the odds of detecting more such phenomena.
The project, piloted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST), reportedly costs ₹1,200 crore and is expected to be ready by 2025.
‘Parsi new year’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: The Parsi New Year, also called Nowruz is the day of repentance for members of Parsi community. This day is celebrated with great fervor and while preparing for the celebrations Parsis clean their homes in a bid to start afresh in all aspects of life. They regret the mistakes which they had committed the previous year and visit Fire temples.
History of Parsi community in India
The Parsi community had migrated to India and follow Zoroastrianism, which was founded by Prophet Zarathustra in ancient Iran 3,500 years ago. Zoroastrians migrated to India to escape persecution following the Muslim conquest of Persia as Iran was then known. Parsi means Persian in Gujarati and marks the first day of the year for them.
Zoroastrians in India celebrate this day as Jamshed-i-Nouroz, which is named after the Persian king Jamshed who started the Parsi calendar.
‘Digital Screens’ (GS2: E-Governance)
Issue: In the wake of Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision for creating digital museums at stations using QR code, Ministry of Railway has made “digital screens” operational at 22 stations on this Independence Day
About this initiative
It an innovative low cost solution to spread awareness among public about the opulent heritage of Indian Railways. Being initiated on a pilot basis, the project aims at showcasing the legacy of Indian Railways through one to two minute-long movie clips on digital LED screens at the entrance gate of railway stations and also at different comfort areas. The short films will showcase heritage buildings, locomotives and much more to make people aware of the rich heritage of Indian Railways.
‘Tirupathi temple’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: A six-day Vedic ritual, held once in 12 years, concluded today at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at nearby Tirumala.
About the ritual
Around 40 high priests took part in the “Astabandhana Balalaya Maha Samprokshanam, during which they plugged minor cracks and holes inside the sanctum sanctorum of the 2000-year old shrine using a herbal paste harder than concrete mix, amid chanting of hymns
This fete is usually being observed seeking the welfare of the entire humanity
About Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirumala
Venkateswara Temple is a landmark Vaishnavite temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntham and Lord here is referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam
Tirumala Hills are part of Seshachalam Hills range. The hills are 853 metres (2,799 ft) above sea level. The Hills comprises seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Adisesha. The temple lies on the seventh peak -Venkatadri, on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a holy water tank. Hence the temple is also referred to as “Temple of Seven Hills”.
The Temple is constructed in Dravidian architecture and is believed to be constructed over a period of time starting from 300 AD. The Garbagriha (Sanctum Sanctorum) is called AnandaNilayam. The presiding deity, Venkateswara, is in standing posture and faces east in Garbha griha. The temple follows Vaikhanasa Agama tradition of worship
The first recorded endowment was made by Pallava queen Samavai in the year 966 CE. She donated many jewels and two parcels of land(one 10 acres and other 13 acres) and ordered to use the revenues generated from that land to be used for the celebration of major festivals in the temple. The Pallava dynasty(9th century), the Chola dynasty(10th century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th and 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Lord Venkateswara. The temple gained most of its current wealth and size under the Vijayanagara Empire, with the donation of diamonds and gold. In 1517, Vijayanagara Emperor Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels enabling the Ananda Nilayam (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, leaders from states such as the Kingdom of Mysore and the Gadwal Samsthanam worshiped as pilgrims and gave ornaments and valuables to the temple. Maratha general Raghoji I Bhonsle visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple