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Finance Commission

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

Why in the news?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the proposed amendment to enable Fifteenth Finance Commission to address serious concerns regarding the allocation of adequate, secure and non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security of India and approved extension of the term of Fifteenth Finance Commission up to 30th November, 2019.
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission has been constituted by the President on 27th November, 2017 in pursuance of clause (1) of Article 280 of the Constitution and Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951. In keeping with this requirement, the Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV-FC) has been constituted for giving recommendations for the five years period commencing 1st April, 2020.
  • Under the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Commission, it is proposed to ensure an assured allocation of resources towards defence and internal security imperatives.
  • The amendment provides that Fifteenth Finance Commission shall also examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalized.

What is the Finance Commission?

The Finance Commission is a Constitutional Body constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.

It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:

  • the distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;
  • the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
  • the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;
  • any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.

The Commission determines its procedure and have such powers in the performance of their functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.

As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who:

  • are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court; or
  • have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government; or
  • have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration; or
  • have special knowledge of economics

 

India-US relations

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Why in the news?

The Union Cabinet has given ex-post facto approval to the Inter-Institutional Agreement between India and the USA in the areas of regenerative medicine and 3D bioprinting, new technologies, exchange of scientific ideas/information and technologies, and joint use of scientific infrastructure.

What will the benefits of this agreement be?

  • The joint research projects, training programmes, conferences, seminars etc. under this Agreement will be open to all qualified scientists and technologists, and will be supported on the basis of scientific merit and excellence.  
  • Scientific research and technology development in the areas of regenerative medicine and 3D bio-printing will have potential for generation of new Intellectual Property, processes, prototypes or products.
  • Both institutes (Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, and Wake Forest University Health Sciences on behalf of its Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), North Carolina, USA. )anticipate the general academic exchange contemplated under the Agreement will lead to the development of specific projects, each of which may have academic, clinical and commercial implications.

What are the salient features of the agreement?

The objective of the Agreement is to contribute towards the development of research and education of both the Institutions through academic collaboration. The general areas of common interest where collaboration and exchange of knowledge are intended for both include:

  • Exchange of faculty members and students for training, study and research especially in the areas on 3D Bioprinting;
  • Execution of joint research projects; and
  • Exchange of information and academic publications.

India-Pakistan relations

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Why in the news?

  • The International Court of Justice, in a 15:1 verdict, has granted consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and directed Pakistan to review and reconsider the conviction and sentence of Jadhav. Pakistan’s judge was the lone dissenter.
  • However, the International Court of Justice has rejected remedies sought by India, including annulment of military court decision convicting Kulbhushan Jadhav, his release and safe passage to India.
  • Kulbhushan Jadhav, 49, a retired Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.
  • One of the most wanted terrorists in India, the mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai attack and several cases of terror crime in the country and Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested in Pakistan by the counter terrorism unit on Wednesday and sent to judicial remand.
  • Hafiz Saeed, who has several cases pending against him was travelling to Gujranwala from Lahore to appear before an anti-terrorism court to seek pre-arrest bail, when he was taken into custody by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). A CTD official told media Hafiz Saeed had been presented in an anti-terrorism court and sent to prison.
  • President of the US has said that great pressure had been exerted to search for Hafiz Saeed on Pakistan by the US.

What is espionage?

It is the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company

 

M-sand

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Why in the news?

The Government of Rajasthan is considering formulating a policy on manufactured sand (M-sand) as a substitute of riverbed sand for construction.

What is M-sand?

  • Manufactured sand (M-Sand) is a substitute of river sand for concrete construction . Manufactured sand is produced from hard granite stone by crushing.
  • The crushed sand is of cubical shape with grounded edges, washed and graded to as a construction material. The size of manufactured sand (M-Sand) is less than 4.75mm.

What are the advantages of using M-sand?

  • It is well graded in the required proportion.
  • It does not contain organic and soluble compound that affects the setting time and properties of cement, thus the required strength of concrete can be maintained.
  • It does not have the presence of impurities such as clay, dust and silt coatings, increase water requirement as in the case of river sand which impair bond between cement paste and aggregate. Thus, increased quality and durability of concrete.
  • M-Sand is obtained from specific hard rock (granite) using the state-of-the-art International technology, thus the required property of sand is obtained.
  • M-Sand is cubical in shape and is manufactured using technology like High Carbon steel hit rock and then ROCK ON ROCK process which is synonymous to that of natural process undergoing in river sand information.
  • Usage of manufactured sand prevents dredging of river beds to get river sand which may lead to environmental disaster like groundwater depletion, water scarcity, threat to the safety of bridges, dams etc. to make M-Sands more eco-friendly than river sand.
  • The manufactured sand has required gradation of fines, physical properties such as shape, smooth surface textures and consistency which makes it the best sand suitable for construction. These physical properties of sand provides greater strength to the concrete by reducing segregation, bleeding, honeycombing, voids and capillary.
  • Size, shape, texture play an important role in workability of concrete. With more surface area of sand, the demand for cement and water increases to bond the sand with coarse aggregates. The control over these physical properties of manufacturing sand make the concrete require less amount of water and provide higher workable concrete. 
  • Construction defects during placement and post-concreting such as segregation, bleeding, honeycombing, voids and capillarity in concrete gets reduced by the use of M-Sand as it has optimum initial and final setting time as well as excellent fineness.

 

Cybersecurity

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

What are the steps that have been taken by the Government to prevent and mitigate cyber security incidents?

  • Establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical information infrastructure in the country.
  • All organizations providing digital services have been mandated to report cyber security incidents to CERT-In expeditiously.
  • Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for providing detection of malicious programmes and free tools to remove such programmes.
  • Issue of alerts and advisories regarding cyber threats and counter-measures by CERT-In.
  • Issue of guidelines for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) regarding their key roles and responsibilities for securing applications / infrastructure and compliance.
  • Provision for audit of the government websites and applications prior to their hosting, and thereafter at regular intervals.
  • Empanelment of security auditing organisations to support and audit implementation of Information Security Best Practices.
  • Formulation of Crisis Management Plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism.
  • Conducting cyber security mock drills and exercises regularly to enable assessment of cyber security posture and preparedness of organizations in Government and critical sectors.
  • Conducting regular training programmes for network / system administrators and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) of Government and critical sector organisations regarding securing the IT infrastructure and mitigating cyber attacks.
  • The Government has launched the online cybercrime reporting portal, www.cybercrime.gov.in to enable complainants to report complaints pertaining to Child Pornography/Child Sexual Abuse Material, rape/gang rape imageries or sexually explicit content. 
  • The Central Government has rolled out a scheme for establishment of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) to handle issues related to cybercrime in the country in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.

About the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)

MHA has rolled out a scheme ‘Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)’ for the period 2018-2020, to combat cyber crime in the country, in a coordinated and effective manner. The scheme has following seven components:

  • National Cybercrime Threat Analytics Unit.
  • National Cybercrime Reporting Portal
  • Platform for Joint Cybercrime Investigation Team
  • National Cybercrime Forensic Laboratory Ecosystem
  • National Cybercrime Training Centre.
  • Cybercrime Ecosystem Management Unit.
  • National Cyber Research and Innovation Centre.

The Central Government has launched Cybercrime Reporting Portal to enable citizens to report online content pertaining to Child Pornography (CP)/ Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) or sexually explicit content such as Rape/Gang Rape (CP/RGR).

Prelims Specific

  • The Dibang Project is located on river Dibang, in Lower Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh. The project shall generate 2880MW (12x240MW) power to produce 11223MU of energy in a 90% dependable year. This is the largest ever Hydro Electric Projects to be constructed in India. The dam is 278 metres high and will be the highest dam in India once completed. Dibang Multipurpose Project (Dibang MPP) is envisaged as a storage based hydro-electric project with flood moderation as the key objective. The construction of Dibang MPP shall prevent the sizeable downstream area from floods.
  • The Incredible India “Find the Incredible You” campaign released globally by the Ministry of Tourism during 2018-19 has been declared winner of the PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Gold Award 2019 in the “Marketing – Primary Government Destination” category. This year’s awards attracted 198 entries from 78 organisations and individuals worldwide.
  • Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared a Global health emergency by the WHO (for more on this read Enhancer-June 2019)