Daily Current Affairs IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 9th January 2019
CAG on Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP)
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Government schemes and policies; Governance issues; Irrigation programme
According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG),
- Tardy implementation of projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) between 2008-2017 led to an almost threefold jump in the cost of these projects to ₹1.20 lakh crore.
- From 2008-2017, of the 201 major and medium projects approved, only 62 were completed.
- Of the 11,291 minor irrigation schemes sanctioned, only 8,014 were completed.
- Only about 35% of India’s irrigation potential was utilised.
- Of the 118 major projects surveyed by the CAG, 105 suffered from a “time overrun” with some projects being delayed by more than 18 years.
- AIBP was initiated in 1996 as a Central scheme.
- The Scheme provides central assistance in the form of loan to State Government to complete those ongoing irrigation projects which were costing Rs.1000 crore.
- Objective of the scheme is to speed up the implementation of large irrigation projects (includes dams and canals, especially those which were beyond the resource capability of the States).
- Ministry: Union Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for framing policy guidelines for implementation.
- State Governments are associated with planning and implementing irrigation projects and schemes.
CAG audit on AIBP revealed that –
- There were lacunae in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the programme.
- Projects and schemes were included under AIBP in violation of the programme’s guidelines, resulting in irregular release of ₹3,718.71 crore.
- There were also deficiencies in the preparation and processing of Detailed Project Reports such as inadequate surveys, inaccurate assessment of water availability, Irrigation Potential and Command Area and the lack of activity-wise construction plans.
- There were “financial irregularities” such as diversion of funds, parking of funds, “fictitious and fraudulent expenditure”.
Raisina Dialogue 2019
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and the World; international Relations
- Raisina Dialogue 2019 is 4th edition multilateral dialogue organised by Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
- This dialogue is India’s flagship annual geopolitical and geo-strategic conference.
- The theme of the Dialogue is “A World Reorder: New Geometries; Fluid Partnerships; Uncertain Outcomes”.
- The discussions will seek to address issues arising from ongoing global transitions and changes to the world order, triggered by unique leaders, innovative partnerships and new technologies.
Nilekani Committee on digital payments
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Indian Economy; Cyber Security
- Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up a five-member committee headed by Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani.
- The Committee will suggest a strategy for deepening of digital payments in the country.
- The panel will review the existing status of digitisation of payments in the country, identify the current gaps in the ecosystem, and suggest ways to bridge them.
- The panel will also suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments and provide a roadmap for increasing customer confidence while accessing financial services through digital modes.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Science and Technology; Space Missions
- Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) discovered third new exoplanet.
- The new planet HD 21749b is outside our solar system and orbits a dwarf star 53 light years away.
- It has the longest orbital period of all the three discoveries made by TESS.
Do you know?
- The other two discoveries made by the TESS probe are Pi Mensae b and LHS 3844b.
- TESS aims to discover new exoplanets.
- An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system.
- TESS to monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits.
What will TESS do?
- According to NASA, TESS scientists expect the mission will catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.
- Of these, approximately 300 are expected to be Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice the size of Earth.
- TESS will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting our nearest and brightest stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies.
How does it plan to do this?
- Tess will look for dips in the visible light of stars, which requires that planets cross stars in our line of sight.
- Repetitive, periodic dips can reveal a planet or planets orbiting a star.
- Transit photometry, which looks at how much light an object puts out at any given time, can tell researchers a lot about a planet.
- IBM Patents: India second highest contributor
- Tech giant IBM said it had received 9,100 patents in 2018 across areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and cybersecurity, with India being the second highest contributor to the global record tally.
- In 2018, IBM employee inventors received a record number of 9,100 patents (with US 1st and India 2nd highest contributor)
- IBM inventors from India received over 800 patents.
- Person in news: Gita Gopinath
Why in news?
- Mysore-born Gita Gopinath has joined International Monetary Fund as its chief economist, becoming the first woman to occupy the top IMF post.
- Gita Gopinath believes the world is experiencing a retreat from globalisation, posing challenges to multilateral institutions.
TOPIC:General studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
- Social justice and Empowerment of vulnerable sections of the society.
- Constitution: Fundamental rights
10% quota for economically weaker sections
- Union Cabinet has cleared a Bill to be brought in Parliament, seeking to provide 10% reservation in government higher education institutions and government jobs to the economically backward among the ‘general category’.
- This refers to non-Dalits, non-Other Backward Classes and non-tribals — essentially, the upper castes or so-called ‘forwards’.
Who qualifies for the proposed quota?
- The quota is targeted at economically weaker sections among the upper castes.
- General category individuals, all members of whose family together earn less than Rs 8 lakh per annum, and who have less than five acres of agricultural land, will qualify.
- Individuals whose families own or possess more agricultural land, or a residential flat of area 1,000 sq ft or larger, or a residential plot of area 100 yards or more in notified municipalities and 200 yards or more in areas other than notified municipalities, will not qualify.
Article 340 of the Constitution
- Article 340 mandated that the government identify “classes” which were “socially and educationally backward”, and implement measures “to remove such difficulties [so] as to improve their condition”.
- Also Article 340 (1) provided for Appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
Kaka Saheb Kalelkar Committee
- The first Backward Classes Commission was appointed under Article 340(1) in 1953 under the Chairmanship of Kaka Saheb Kalelkar.
- The Commission was set up to determine criteria to identify people as socially and educationally Backward Classes, and to recommend steps to ameliorate their condition.
- In its report, the Commission interpreted the term “socially and educationally backward classes as relating primarily to social hierarchy based on caste”.
B P Mandal Committee
- Second Backward Classes Commission was appointed in 1978 under B P Mandal to review the state of the Backward Classes.
- This report recommended 27.5% reservations in government jobs for OBCs, stirring a hornet’s nest in North Indian politics, with ramifications that continue to be felt today.
What would it take for the quota to become reality?
- The quota prescribed for education extends even to private sector institutions. To implement this, it will need a Constitution Amendment to specifically include economic deprivation as a criterion for affirmative action.
- This is because under Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution, affirmative action is allowed to correct for social and educational backwardness.
- The 124th Constitution Amendment Bill will have to be ratified in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by at least two thirds of members present and voting, and by the legislatures of not less than half the states.
- Article 15(4) empowers the State to “make any provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 16(4) provides “for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens, which in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State”.
- The term “backward class of citizens” has been generally understood to include the SCs, STs, and Socially and Educationally Backward Castes (SEdBCs).
Indira Sawhney case
- A nine-judge bench had struck down a provision that earmarked 10% for the economically backward on the ground that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis to determine backwardness.
- Any attempt to amend the Constitution to extend what is limited to the “socially and educationally backward” to those economically weak is problematic.
In violation of equality norm
- At present, the affirmative action is restricted to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs)—cumulatively adding up to 50%. The additional reservation will mean upping the reservation quota to 60%.
- When quotas are increased by State governments that exceeding the 50% limit, offends the equality norm.
- In Nagaraj (2006), a Constitution Bench ruled that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
- It said the 50% ceiling, among other things, was a constitutional requirement without which the structure of equality of opportunity would collapse.
- There has been a string of judgments against reservations that breach the 50% limit.
Do you know?
- Reservations have been traditionally provided to undo historical injustice and social exclusion suffered over a period of time.
- The original idea of reservation for SCs and STs was premised on correcting deprivation forced upon them by centuries of prejudice.
- Therefore, the present move (of providing 10% quota) can dilute the original idea of affirmative action.
Questions raised by critics –
- Can financial incapacity warrant special treatment?
- Can reservations be extended to those with social and educational capital solely on the basis of what they earn?
- Whether electoral behaviour continues to be defined in this country around religious and caste denominations?
Connecting the dots:
- Write a brief note on SC judgment in Indira Sawhney and Nagraj Case. What are your views on recent move of 10% reservation in government higher education institutions and government jobs to the economically backward among the ‘general category’?
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements about Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
- It finds exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.
- It looks for dips in the visible light of stars, to determine the size of the exoplanet.
- It is developed by European Space Agency (ESA).
Select the correct statements
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
Q.2) Consider the following statements about NASA’s ‘TESS’:
- It is an all-sky survey mission that will discover thousands of exoplanets around nearby bright stars.
- TESS detected its first confirmed exoplanet, a super-Earth named HIP 116454b in 2014.
Select the correct statements
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.3) Consider the following about Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP):
- The Scheme provides central assistance in the form of loan to State Government to speed up the implementation of large irrigation projects.
- Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is responsible for framing policy guidelines for implementation.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.4) Consider the following statements with reference to Raisina Dialogue
- It is a bilateral conference between think tanks of India and Israel.
- It is held every year in New Delhi.
- The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
- 1 and 2
- 1 and 3
- 2 and 3
- 1,2 and 3
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