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Centre compulsorily retires 12 senior I-T officers for corruption, extortion & misconduct

  1. The government has compulsorily retired 12 senior Indian Revenue Service (income tax) officers under Rule 56 (j) of Fundamental Rules. The decision has been taken in the backdrop of charges of corruption, extortion and professional misconduct against them.
  2. All Central government employees are governed by the ‘fundamental rules (FR)’ and the Central Civil Services (CCS) rules and compulsory retirement is a provision in both of them.
  3. In 2016, the government had compulsorily retired 33 officials of the Revenue Services under Rule 56 (j) of CCS (Pension) Rules.
  4. The Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 provides for periodical review of performance of government servants with a view to ascertain whether they should be retained in service or retired from service in the public interest

Explained: How higher education can be flexible

  1. With a view to a) revamp the higher education system in India, b) create world-class multidisciplinary higher education institutions across the country, and c) increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to at least 50% by 2035; the Draft National Education Policy (NEP) has put forward  arrange of recommendations.
  2. The draft policy has advocated breaking the “rigid boundaries of disciplines” in higher education and moving towards broad-based, flexible learning. To achieve this, it has recommended that institutions offering single streams (such as technical education) should be phased out, and all universities and colleges should aim to become multidisciplinary by 2030.
  3. The draft policy has mooted for reintroduction of the four-year undergraduate programme in Liberal Arts Science Education (LASE) with multiple exit options, and scrapping of the MPhil programme. It has also proposed establishing a small number of new liberal arts universities, modelled after Ivy League schools of USA, in the next five years.
  4. The NEP has recommended an increase in the number of off-shore campuses of Indian institutions. Further, it has proposed to permit the world’s top 200 institutions to set up branches in India, with a new law to regulate the latter’s entry and operation.
  5. The draft policy has recommended that a National Research Foundation (NRF) should be established. NRF will be mandated with creating a conducive ecosystem for research through funding and mentoring. The proposed NRF should be set up by an Act of Parliament as an autonomous institution and with an annual grant of Rs 20,000 crore.
  6. The draft has further proposed a common regulatory regime for the entire higher education sector. Further regulation, provision of education, funding, accreditation and standard setting should be separated, and not be performed by the same institution or institutional hierarchy.
  7. It has also proposed a setting up a National Education Technology Forum. This will be a group of education leaders and government officials who will discuss and advise on how to strengthen educational technology, and Centres of Excellence in Educational Technology in prominent institutions.
  8. The draft has also provided guidelines for teacher’s education. It has recommended that the four- year integrated BEd. should, by 2030, become the minimal degree qualification for school teachers. Further, all pre-service teacher education programmes will be offered only in multidisciplinary institutions.

Ryots sow seeds of defiance

  1. Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ body in Maharashtra, has organised a “civil disobedience” movement where they sowed unapproved Genetically Modified seeds of cotton and brinjal as mark of protest against the central government’s indecisiveness in approving the next generation of genetically modified (GM) cotton.
  2. The repeated outbreak of pink bollworm infestation on cotton crops despite farmers using BG-2, Monsanto’s second generational insecticidal technology for cotton has been blamed by the farmers’ body on Indian government’s ban on testing further enhanced version of the seed.
  3. Monsanto, which has a monopoly of Bt Cotton seeds in India, had in 2013 moved an application with the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee seeking approval for the third generation variety of the seed. However, in 2016, it withdrew its application owing to several regulatory issues.
  4. Genetically modified crops are plants in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The only GM crop permitted for cultivation in India by the Central Government is Bt cotton.
  5. Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is apex body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country.

Donate excess food, says Health Ministry

  1. At the first-ever World Food Safety Day (7th June) celebration organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Union Health Minister has advocated “zero food wastage” campaign in restaurants. He has suggested restaurants to donate excess food and turn wet waste into compost.
  2. Food wastage is a major concern in India where millions are subjected to poverty, hunger and malnutrition. The UN estimates that nearly 40% of the food produced in India is wasted or lost. Food wastage happens at every stage— from harvesting, transporting and processing to packaging and consuming.
  3. Union Health Minister has also acknowledged the Eat Right Movement’ of FSSAI. The movement was launched in 2018. It is built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’.
  4. The movement is a collaborative move with stakeholders—on both the demand and supply side—coming together. On the demand side, the movement focuses on empowering citizens to make right food choices.
  5. On the supply side, it has encouraged food industry to reformulate their products (voluntarily reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat in packaged food products), provide better nutritional information to consumers and make investments in healthy food.

France welcomes Modi’s proposal for global conference on terror

  1. France has welcomed Indian Prime Minister proposal for a global conference to tackle the threat of terrorism.France said that the fight against terror is at the heart of its priorities.
  2. France has also invited India to the upcoming G7 summit.France will chair the G7 summit in 2019 with the theme of combating inequality.
  3. The Group of 7(G7) is a group consisting of Canada,France,Germany, Italy,Japan,United Kingdom and the United States.The European Union is also represented within the G7.
  4. These countries are the seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund.The G7 is actually an informal grouping whose summits typically focus on large issues of global economy and governance.
  5. However,this is not the first time India will be present at G7 summit.India was also invited in the 2005 summit.Further,G-20 is seen as the more representative body when compared to G7 as emerging economies like India and China are not part of the G7.

SEBI mulls norms to reward whistle-blowers

  1. Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has released a discussion paper for informant mechanism related to insider trading wherein whistleblowers could get monetary reward of up to Rs 1 crore.
  2. Insider trading is defined in the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 to mean trading of securities while in possession of unpublished price sensitive information(UPSI).
  3. Insiders usually indulge in insider trading through a proxy to whom the relevant information is communicated.Direct evidence of such communication is seldom available,thus detection and prosecution of insider trading remains a challenge.
  4. SEBI has proposed that entities that come forward with insider trading information will have to disclose the source of information and give an undertaking that such information has not been sourced from any regulator.
  5. The SEBI has also proposed that if such information leads to a final order by SEBI with a minimum disgorgement of ₹5 crore then a monetary award of 10% of the money collected by SEBI subject to a cap of ₹1 crore can be given to the informant.
  6. Further,the reward will be paid from the Investor Protection and Education Fund (IPEF).SEBI has also planned to establish an Office of Informant Protection which will be independent of the investigation and inspection wings of the regulatory body.
  7. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator for the securities market in India.It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers in 1992 through the SEBI Act,1992.

First gene-edited babies at early death risk: study

  1. According to a recent study by scientists,the world’s first babies whose genes were altered by the Chinese scientists are more likely to die younger.
  2. In 2018,Chinese scientists had gene-edited the twin babies to knock out a gene called CCR5 in hopes that it would render the babies immune to HIV.
  3. However,scientists have searched for a repository of human subjects DNA to look for the same variants of the CCR5 that the Chinese scientists gave to the children.
  4. The scientists have found that the same genome that might grant greater immunity from HIV also makes people vulnerable to dangerous flus and West Nile virus.
  5. C-C chemokine receptor type 5 which is also known as CCR5 or CD195 is a protein on the surface of white blood cells that is involved in the immune system as it acts as a receptor for chemokines.
  6. Gene editing is the deliberate alteration of a selected DNA sequence in a living cell.It involves editing an organism’s DNA by altering, removing or adding nucleotides to the genome.

UAE Cabinet adopts “National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031”

  1. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has adopted the National Strategy for Well-being,2031.
  2. The Strategy aims to make the UAE a world leader in quality of life through a number of strategic objectives and initiatives.
  3. The Strategy is based on a national framework of three main levels which are (a)individuals (b)society and (c)country.
  4. The strategy aims to promote an integrated concept of well-being thus supporting the vision of the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071.
  5. The first National Well-being Observatory will also be established as part of the strategy in order to (a)support policy-making (b)monitor a number of indicators (c)submit regular reports (d)propose training programmes for government employees and (e)launching of the academy of well being for future generations.
  6. Further,this strategy has 14 components and nine strategic objectives which include enhancing people’s wellbeing by promoting healthy and active lifestyles,promoting good mental health and adopting positive thinking.

India, France to hold mega air exercise ‘Garuda’ in July

  1. The Indian and French air forces has decided to carry out a mega air exercise called as Garudabeginning July 1 in France.
  2. This air exercise will take place two months after Indian and French navies had carried out a naval warfare exercise called as Varuna in the Arabian Sea as well as in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
  3. This exercise will provide an opportunity for Sukhoi 30 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force(IAF) to engage in dogfights with France’s Rafale multirole aircraft in simulated scenarios.
  4. This will also allow IAF pilots to have a closer look at the Rafale jets being operated by the French Air Force.India had signed a deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets.The first Rafale jet is scheduled to be delivered in September,2019.
  5. India and France defence and security cooperation has been on an upswing in the last few years.In 2018,two countries had inked a strategic pact providing for the use of each others military facility including opening naval bases to warships.
  6. India and France have been also carrying out discussions on the possibility of launching a tri-services military exercise between the armed forces of the two nations.

Traffic Index 2018: How Mumbai congestion was measured at world high

  1. According to Traffic Index 2018,Mumbai has been ranked as the most traffic-congested city in the world for the second consecutive year.
  2. Traffic Index 2018 is published by TomTom,an Amsterdam based company that offers traffic solutions by using location technology to collect traffic information.The index ranks 403 cities across 56 countries, including 13 new cities.
  3. This study defines congestion in terms of the additional time taken to reach a destination as opposed to when the road would have been clear of traffic.
  4. Further,this study ranks Delhi at fourth place while Bogota(Colombia) is ranked second and Lima (Peru) is ranked at third place.
  5. The study says that Mumbai’s 2018 congestion level of 65% which means that the extra travel time is 65% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions.For Delhi,by the same yardstick,the extra travel time is 58% more.
  6. The study also says that nearly 75% of the cities which were part of the 2018 index had increased or stable congestion levels between 2017 and 2018 with only 90 cities showing measurable decreases.

New status for NPP: what conditions did it meet?

  1. Recently, National People’s Party (NPP) has been recognised as a national party. It is the 8th party to get national party recognition-after- Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI, CPI (M) and Trinamool Congress. NPP is the first political party from north-east to get national party status.
  2. The Election Commission lists political parties as a) “national party”, b) “state party” or c) “registered (unrecognised) party”. The conditions for being listed as a national or a state party are specified under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  3. For recognition as a national party, a political party has fulfil any of the following conditions- a) a 6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or b) 2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or c) recognition as a state party in at least four states
  4. For recognition as a state party, a political party has to fulfil any of the following conditions: a) At General Elections or Legislative Assembly elections, the party has won 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the State (subject to a minimum of 3 seats) or b) At a Lok Sabha General Elections, the party has won 1 Lok sabha seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seat allotted for the State, or c) At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly , the party has polled minimum of 6% of votes in a State  and in addition it has won 1 Lok Sabha or 2 Legislative Assembly seats or d) At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled 8% of votes in a State.
  5. The recognition as a national or state party gives the right to certain privileges like allocation of the party symbols, provision of time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations and access to electoral rolls.
  6. National and state political parties are also entitled to nominate “Star Campaigners” during General Elections. A recognized National or State party can have a maximum of 40 “Star campaigners” and a registered un-recognised party can nominate a maximum of 20 ‘Star Campaigners”.
  7. A national or state party loses its status if it fails to fulfil any of the conditions for two successive Assembly and two successive Lok Sabha elections.

We have the right to disallow extradition of Zakir Naik: Malaysia

  1. Malaysian Prime Minister has said that Malaysia has the right not to extradite Dr Zakir Naik if he is not going to be accorded justice.
  2. India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) had earlier charged Zakir Naik with laundering INR193 crore in illicit funds. ED I now preparing to secure a non-bailable warrant against Naik.
  3. If the warrant is issued, ED would send petition to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) for a red notice to member countries, including Malaysia. Further, it would approach Malaysian authorities to extradite Naik to India under the two countries’ extradition treaty.
  4. The INTERPOL is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation. An Interpol red notice is a request to locate and provisionally arrest someone pending extradition. It is issued at the request of a member country of INTERPOL or an international tribunal based on a valid national arrest warrant.
  5. Extradition is the formal process of one state surrendering an individual to another state for prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in the requesting country’s jurisdiction.
  6. In India, the extradition of a fugitive (accused or convicted) is governed by the Extradition Act, 1962. The extradition of a fugitive depends upon the treaties/conventions/arrangements entered into by India with other countries. India and Malaysia had signed an extradition treaty in 2010

Why lakhs are protesting on the streets in Hong Kong

  1. Hong Kong has been erupted by protests as thousands of people are protesting against the changes made in the extradition bill.
  2. The changes made in the extradition bill would allow suspects accused of crimes such as murder and rape to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.
  3. The law will also allow Hong Kong to hand over to China individuals accused of crimes in Taiwan and Macau.Taiwan has a tense relationship with China.Further,Macau like Hong Kong is a Chinese special administrative region with significant autonomy.
  4. The government has said that the proposed amendments would plug loopholes that allow the city to be used by criminals.It has assured that courts in Hong Kong would make the final decision on extradition and individuals accused of political and religious offences would not be extradited.
  5. However,critics of the bill have said that the chief executive who is not elected but chosen by an election committee accountable to China would have the authority to decide any request on extradition.
  6. Hong Kong’s courts would have the opportunity to review any decision but they would not be allowed to inquire into the quality of justice the accused would receive or whether they were guilty of the alleged offence.
  7. Further,Hong Kong currently has bilateral extradition treaties with 20 countries including the UK, the US and Singapore.However,the amendments put forward by the government are being framed as a way to enable the sending of suspected offenders to China with which the Hong Kong has no formal extradition agreement on a case-by-case or one-off basis.
  8. Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 until it was returned to China in 1997.Central to the handover was the agreement of the Basic Law,a mini constitution that gives Hong Kong broad autonomy and sets out certain rights.
  9. Under the “one country, two systems” principle,Hong Kong has kept its judicial independence, its own legislature, its economic system and the Hong Kong dollar.Beijing retains control of foreign and defence affairs, and visas or permits are required for travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Sashakt panel hails RBI circular making ICA mandatory

  1. The Chairman of the Sashakt Committee has said the new RBI direction making the Intercreditor Agreement (ICA) framework mandatory is a move in the right direction for resolution of non-performing assets (NPAs or bad loans).
  2. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has issued a revised prudential framework for resolution of stressed assets.The revised circular was issued after Supreme Court had declared the RBI’s February 12 circular on the resolution of stressed loans as unconstitutional.
  3. The revised framework makes it mandatory for banks to enter into an ICA during the review of the borrower account within 30 days from the date of first default to any lender.
  4. The new framework also lays down some parameters to be included in the ICA which includes majority decision-making by lenders holding 75% of the total outstanding by value and 60% by number as well as protection of the rights dissenting lenders.
  5. Project Sashakt was proposed by a panel led by PNB chairman Sunil Mehta.The panel recommended that bad loans of up to ₹ 50 crore will be managed at the bank level with a deadline of 90 days.
  6. For bad loans of ₹ 50-500 crore,banks will enter an intercreditor agreement authorizing the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days or refer the asset to National Company Law Tribunal(NCLT).
  7. Further,for loans above ₹ 500 crore,the panel recom­mended an independent asset management company (AMC) supported by institutional funding through the alternative investment fund (AIF)

Reserve Bank relaxes the norms for no-frills accounts

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has relaxed the norms for the Basic Savings Bank Deposit(BSBD) accounts or popularly known as no-frills accounts.
  2. The BSBD account was designed as a savings account that will offer certain minimum facilities,free of charge to the holders.Such accounts are primarily aimed at enhancing financial inclusion among the economically weaker sections.
  3. RBI has allowed banks to provide cheque books and other facilities like minimum four withdrawals to basic account holders.However,the banks cannot ask the BSBD account holders to maintain any minimum balance in return of such facilities.
  4. There is no need for a minimum balance even at the time of opening the account and a customer is provided with an ATM-cum-debit card without any fees.Deposit and withdrawal services are free of cost.Also,the bank cannot levy charges for non-operation or activation of an inoperative account.
  5. Moreover,holders of BSBD accounts will not be eligible for opening any other savings bank deposit accounts.RBI said if a customer has any other existing savings bank deposit account in that bank, the customer will be required to close it within 30 days from the date of opening a BSBD account.

With eye on improving quality of macro-economic aggregates, MoSPI to set up ‘National Data Warehouse’

  1. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has proposed to set up a ‘National Data Warehouse’.
  2. The  national-level data warehouse works as a central repository of all the statistical data collected various ministries,UTs and state governments.This integrated data allows policy makers and researchers to access data sets,its history and extract it across different groups.
  3. The warehouse will take the help of technology and use big data analytical tools to improve the quality of macro-economic aggregates.
  4. MoSPI has also said that legislative framework will be established under which the National Statistical Commission(NSC) may function with independence and give holistic guidance for improving the national statistical system.
  5. Recently,the government has also decided to merge the National Sample Survey Office(NSSO) with the Central Statistics Office(CSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
  6. The objective of restructuring is to streamline and strengthen the present nodal functions of the ministry and to bring in more synergy by integrating its administrative functions within the ministry.
  7. The National Statistical Commission (NSC) of India is an autonomous body which formed in July 2005.The objective of its commission is to reduce the problems faced by statistical agencies in the country in relation to collection of data.

PM Modi to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin at SCO

  1. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) summit is scheduled to be held on June 13-14 in Bishkek,Kyrgyzstan.
  2. During the summit,Indian Prime Minister is expected to meet Chinese President and Russian President.Uzbekistan President is also scheduled to hold a bilateral discussion with Indian PM.
  3. The issues that would be part of the discussion at the summit includes (a)terrorism (b)Afghanistan (c)regional security (d)multilateral dialogue and (e)global scenario.
  4. Further,India and China will meet after the successful informal summit in 2018 at Wuhan which was widely regarded as a milestone in the bilateral ties.
  5. The Wuhan summit was largely credited to have turned around the bilateral relations which was affected by the Doklam standoff triggered by Chinese troops attempts to build a road close to Indian border in an area also claimed by Bhutan in 2017.
  6. After the Wuhan summit,both the countries had stepped up efforts to improve relations on different spheres including the military-to-military ties.
  7. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,also known as the Shanghai Pact,is a Eurasian political,economic,and military organisation.It was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan,Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  8. Apart from Uzbekistan,the other five countries have been a part of the Shanghai 5 since 1996.The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001.India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in 2017.