The HINDU Notes – 20th April
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 20 April
🌐 Modi shows red light to beacons of VIP privilege
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to shake up India’s privileged VIP culture, most notably symbolised by flashing red beacon lights on top of vehicles, by scrapping a specific clause in Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 that allowed the Central and State governments to nominate dignitaries who could use such lights.
- Moreover, States are also being stripped of their power to specify persons whose vehicles can use blue flashing lights.
- Effective May 1, only emergency services vehicles such as ambulances, fire engine trucks, and police vehicles will be allowed to use blue lights.
- Red lights will not be permitted on any vehicle. Private vehicles will not be allowed to use either red or blue lights
- Central Motor Vehicles Rules of 1989: A specific clause in Rule 108 of the 1989 regulations, which empowers the Centre and the States to designate some dignitaries as entitled to red lights on top of their vehicles, is being abolished
- This is a central rule and the government is removing this rule from the rule book.
- Its abolition would mean that neither the Centre nor the States would have any dignitary that governments can nominate for the usage of red beacons
🌐 Conspiracy charge against Advani in Babri case revived
- The Supreme Court invoked the maxim — ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’ — on 19 April 2017 and exercised its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 to order a joint trial of the dual Babri Masjid demolition cases and revive criminal conspiracy charges against BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti, in connection with the demolition of the 16th century mosque on December 6, 1992.
- “This court has the power, nay, the duty to do complete justice in a case when found necessary. In the present case, crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution of India have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago,” a Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton F. Nariman observed in a 40-page judgment.
- The court transferred the Rae Bareli case, languishing in a magistrate court, to the CBI court in Lucknow for a joint trial.
- It ordered the Lucknow CBI judge to hold day-to-day trial and pronounce the judgment in two years. It forbade the transfer of the judge and also adjournments.
- Any grievances, the Bench said, should directly be addressed to the Supreme Court.
- Its directions have to be complied with in letter and in spirit, the court cautioned.
- The Rae Bareli case accuses the BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders of having given speeches which promoted enmity and threatened national integration.
- The Lucknow case, investigated by the CBI, is against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” and deals with the actual act of demolition and violence.
- With the clubbing of the cases and revival of the conspiracy charges, the accused political leaders would be tried under the composite charge sheet filed by the CBI on October 5, 1993.
- The Bench agreed with the CBI charge sheet’s finding in 1993 that both the criminal conspiracy by the political leaders and the actual demolition of the 16th century mosque by kar sevaks were part of the “same transaction” and warranted a joint trial.
- Under Section 216 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), a court has wide powers to alter or add any charge in any case at any time before judgment is pronounced.
- If convicted, the accused persons would face punishment of three to five years. This would mean that they would be barred from contesting elections for the six years following the completion of their sentence.
What’s in news?
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the country’s largest public health advocacy group.
Why FCRA removed?
- PHFI used foreign contributions to lobby parliamentarians, the media and the government on tobacco control issues, which “is prohibited under the FCRA.
- other alleged violations such as remittances to foreign countries from its FCRA account
- Failure to declare all its bank accounts to the government
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is a major donor of funds to the PHFI, having transferred ₹183 crore to it between 2010 and 2015.
The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010 :
Focus: It is a consolidating act whose scope is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality (free airplane tickets and hotel lodging during videsh-yaatra) by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Who can accept Foreign Contribution?
- Organizations working for definite cultural, social, economic, educational or religious programs.
- But first, they’ve to get permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs and
- Second, they have to maintain separate account book listing the donation received from foreigners and get it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submit it to Home Ministry every year.
Who cannot accept Foreign Contribution?
- Election candidate.
- MP and MLAs.
- Newspaper: Correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publishers of a registered Newspaper.
- Public Servants: Judge, government servant or employee of any Corporation or any other body controlled on owned by the Government.
- Days after the visit to Arunachal Pradesh by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, China has reinforced its claims on the State by naming six places in Arunachal Pradesh in standardised Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabets.
- Naming the places is a step to reaffirm China’s territorial sovereignty over South Tibet
- China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on its website that the State Council, China’s Cabinet, had issued the new regulations.
- The six places in South Tibet (the name ascribed by Beijing to Arunachal Pradesh ) were named Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri.
- Standardisation of names is a legitimate action by the Chinese government.
- China’s position on the eastern section of our boundary was consistent and clear.
- China was firmly against the Indian government’s indulgence of Dalai Lama activities in the disputed eastern section of the India-China boundary and also about his anti-China activities.
🌐 Tax evaders get govt. relief to declare assets
- The government has extended the deadline for tax evaders who wish to declare undisclosed income under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme to April 30, 2017 from the earlier deadline of March 31, as per a notification issued by the Central government on 19 April 2017.
- The scheme was launched in December 2016 to grant an opportunity for black money holders who deposited large, unaccounted money into banks following the demonetisation of high value notes.
Allegations against Government by civil society activists in Delhi:
- Illegal deletion of 1 crore job cards.
- Manipulations of the Management Information System- workers registered with MGNREGS are entitled to compensation for delay in payment of wages. But the government is tweaking the MIS so that the delays are either hidden or not captured
- Willful delays in payment of wages, wage suppression, and under-funding of the programme- The Central government’s MGNREGA wage rates continue to be below the State’s minimum wage rate for several States.
- Under allocation of funds- while the required budget for financial year 2017-18 was ₹79,898 crore, the government allocated only ₹48,000 crore, which is barely 53% of what is required to meet the States’ projection of demand for work under MGNREGA.
What does the Act say?
- According to the MGNREGA, no job card can be cancelled for reasons such as ‘unwilling to work’.
- Yet the records at gram panchayats show that the most frequently cited reason for deletion of job cards was ‘unwilling to work’.
🌐 Dialogue on BCIM corridor to resume next week
- Negotiations on the stalled Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor are set to resume next week in Kolkata.
- After a gap of over two years, the meeting of Joint Study Group (JSG) of academics and officials of the four countries on April 25-26 is expected to finalise the road map for the BCIM economic corridor, scholars at a seminar at Nanchong, southwest China revealed.
- The China West Normal University is hosting a conference of scholars from China, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka on the prospects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in South Asia.
- The last meeting of the BCIM was held Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh in December 2014.
- The BCIM economic corridor hopes to connect Kolkata with Kunming, capital of the Yunnan province.
- It envisages formation of a thriving economic belt, focusing on cross-border transport, energy and telecommunication networks.
- Starting from Kunming, the route passes through nodal points, such as Mandalay and Lashio in Myanmar.
- It heads towards Kolkata after passing through Manipur and Silchar, before crossing Bangladesh via Sylhet and Dhaka, with branches extending to the ports of Cox Bazar and Chittagong.
What’s in news?
- The Trump administration is launching an National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States
- Iran remained compliant with the 2015 deal, but there were concerns about its role as a state sponsor of terrorism.
- Under the deal, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
What is Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?
- The historic deal between Iran and six major powers – JCPOA restricts Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
- Iran denies ever having considered developing atomic weapons although nuclear experts have warned that any U.S. violation of the nuclear deal would allow Iran also to pull back from its commitments to curb nuclear development.
- Commitments include reducing the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds, capping its level of uranium enrichment well below the level needed for bomb-grade material, reducing its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000 kg to 300 kg for 15 years, and submitting to international inspections to verify its compliance.
Apprehensions about Iran:
The United States has long accused Iran of being the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, saying that Tehran supported conflicts in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and backed groups such as Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based ally.
🌐 State entities can seek loans overseas
- Large infrastructure projects being executed by State government entities will find it easier to tap international funds from bilateral financing agencies, with the Cabinet enabling them to directly access funding from such agencies on the basis of a central government guarantee while keeping such loans off States’ books.
- “If any State entity needs funding for its projects, it has to approach the State government and any such funding would be included under the State’s borrowing limits set by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM law).”
- “So based on some conditions, a section of State entities with revenue of Rs. 1,000 crore or more, who are working on infrastructure projects worth over Rs. 5,000 crore, have been permitted to directly take money from such funding agencies on the basis of a central government guarantee,” he said.
- An official statement said that the Cabinet had approved policy guidelines to allow financially sound State government entities to borrow directly from bilateral ODA (Official Development Assistance) partners for implementation of vital infrastructure projects.
- “All repayments of loans and interests to the funding agencies will be directly remitted by the concerned borrower. The concerned State Government will furnish guarantee for the Loan. The Government of India will provide counter guarantee for the loan,” according to the statement.
- Citing the example of the almost Rs. 18,000 crore Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link project, where JICA is expected to lend more than Rs. 15,100 crore, Mr. Jaitley said Maharashtra’s development expenditure would go down to that extent as its quota for borrowing under the FRBM targets would be used up.
- “State Budgets also have pressure to spend on welfare schemes. If international funding is coming in, if that gets included in the FRBM calculations, then infrastructure projects will suffer,” Mr. Jaitley said, adding that projects like the Mumbai Trans- Harbour Link would now become possible.
- While the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has been allowed to borrow directly from JICA for the trans harbour project, other state entities meeting the revenue and investment criteria could also utilise this financing route.
What’s in news?
- According to a new study, skin mucus secreted by a colourful, tennis ball-sized frog species (Hydrophylax bahuvistara) found in Kerala can be used to develop an anti-viral drug that can treat various strains of flu.
- Frog mucus is loaded with molecules that kill bacteria and viruses – a potential source for new anti-microbial drugs.
- The mucus secretion contained a peptide, or chain of amino acids, that appears to fight off the H1 strain of flu virus.
- Out of the 32 frog defence peptides (mucus molecules) against an influenza strain and only four of them had flu-busting abilities.
When the researchers exposed isolated human red blood cells in a dish to the flu-buster peptides, three out of the four proved toxic.
However, the fourth seemed harmless to human cells but lethal to a wide range of flu viruses. The researchers named the newly identified peptide “urumin” after the urumi, a sword with a flexible blade that snaps and bends like a whip. Electron microscope images of the virus after exposure to urumin reveal a virus that has been completely dismantled.
Urumin is not toxic to mammals, but “appears to only disrupt the integrity of flu virus”.
More research is needed to determine if urumin could become a preventive treatment against the flu in humans, and to see if other frog-derived peptides could protect against viruses like dengue and Zika.
🌐 Scientists in U.S. develop first detailed global Internet atlas
- Scientists have developed the first global Internet Atlas, including a detailed map of the Internet’s physical structure in India, an advance that could help guard the infrastucture from terrorism or extreme weather events.
- Despite the Internet-dependent nature of our world, a thorough understanding of the Internet’s physical makeup has only recently emerged through Internet Atlas developed by researchers from University of Wisconsin- Madison in the U.S. and their collaborators.
- While average users rarely think of these elements, things like submarine cables — buried below the ocean floor — run between continents to enable communication.
- Data centres in buildings all over the world are packed with servers storing many types of data.
- Traffic exchange occurs between different service providers at internet exchange points.
- Mapping the physical Internet helps stakeholders boost performance and guard against a number of threats, from terrorism to extreme weather events like hurricanes.
What’s in news?
- Scientists have developed the first global Internet Atlas – including a detailed map of theinternet’s physical structure in India – an advance that could help guard the infrastucture from terrorism or extreme weather events.
- Developed by researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US and their collaborators.
- There are over 1,200 maps worldwide including India. All the data are connected using web search.
- The project has helped direct attention to the problem of shared risk.
Physical infrastructure is commonly shared by multiple networking entities, so damage to any particular piece of infrastructure can impact more than one entity.
Many service providers in order to save deployment costs signs leasing agreement with other service providers. This infrastructure sharing leads to a problem called ‘shared risk’: physical conduits shared by many service providers are at an inherently risky situation since damage to those conduits will affect many several providers.
- Data centres in buildings all over the world are packed with servers storing many types of data. Traffic exchange occurs between different service providers at internet exchange points.
What’s in news?
- The Olympic Council of Asia says it will introduce e-sports to the official programme of the Asian Games at Hangzhou, China.
- It will also be a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia.
- Video gaming will be featured as a full sport at the 2022 Asian Games, with competitors in electronic sports set to receive medals for their digital prowess.
Why such a move?
- The OCA said the decision is a reflection of the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.
- The Asian Games are billed as the world’s second largest multi-sport event after the Olympics.
The Asian Games:
- The Asian Games, also known as Asiad, is a Pancontinental multi-sport event held every four years among athletes from all over Asia.
- The Games were regulated by the Asian Games Federation (AGF) from the first Games in New Delhi, India, until the 1978 Games.
- Since the 1982 Games they have been organized by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), after the breakup of the Asian Games Federation.
- The Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and are described as the second largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Game