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October 17, 2017

Need to implement progressive laws: CIC

  • Chief Information Commissioner of India Rajiv Mathur on Monday called for immediate implementation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Lokpal Act and the Lokayukta Act, which would strengthen governance systems further.
  • “Although progressive legislation such as the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Lokpal Act and the Lokayukta Act have been enacted, the rules for these Acts have not been framed. As a result, neither the Union government nor States are executing these Acts,” Mr. Mathur said, addressing the valedictory session of the Fifth National Convention on Right To Information here.
  • The CIC paid tributes to RTI (Right to Information) activists who lost their lives in their crusade against attempts to suppress information.
  • “Bureaucracy cannot deny information in the pretext of the Official Secrets Act. They are accountable to the general public,” he observed.
  • Mr. Mathur said, “The Information Commission is trying to clear pendency on a war-footing. By February 2018, there will be no one-year-old case.”
  • Mr. Mathur announced that the Commission would analyse second appeals being filed by RTI applicants. “Based on the findings, we would identify the Ministry that is frequently denying information. “Subsequently, the same Ministry would be asked to disclose information suo moto,” he said.

NIIF gets first investor, Abu Dhabi fund brings in $1 bn

  • The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority on Monday became the first institutional investor in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund’s Master Fund, with an investment of $1 billion.
  • “Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) to mobilise long-term investment into National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), the first investment agreement between NIIF Master Fund and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) has been signed today,” the Ministry of Finance said in a release.
  • Six domestic institutional investors, including HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited, HDFC Asset Management Company Limited, Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited, ICICI Bank Limited, Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance Limited and Axis Bank Limited, will also join the NIIF Master Fund, the release added.

Leather exports may rise 10% by 2019, says Minister

  • Leather exports may register a 10% increase by 2019 from $5.66 billion last fiscal, according to Minister of State for Commerce and Industry C.R. Chaudhary.
  • Speaking to the media, he also said the Centre was taking steps to boost the labour-intensive sector. He, however, denied that cow-related agitations and regulations impacted the sector and added that weak demand in major markets such as European Union had affected the industry.
  • He said all Footwear Design and Development Institutes (FDDIs) would become ‘Institutes of National Importance’ (INI) from Monday. “To empower the youth and to help them march alongside the Prime Minister’s Skill Development Mission and Make in India initiative, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry proposed the FDDI INI Bill to Parliament. FDDI, after becoming an INI, now has the autonomy to design its courses as per the requirement of the industry, and award its own degree to the students,” an official statement said.
  • The approval of the FDDI Act by Parliament in July had brought to an end the controversy with regard to the institute.
  • The UGC, in September, 2014, raised questions against the MoU between FDDI and Mewar University for grant of degree to FDDI students registered for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 in the light of the AICTE’s non-recognition of its degree. In 2016, FDDI students protested demanding degrees instead of diplomas.

Boosting horticulture through remote sensing

  • Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Monday announced March 2018 as the deadline to complete the ambitious project of developing the horticulture sector using remote sensing technology and geo-informatics.
  • India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world and the biggest producer of fruits such as banana, mango, papaya and lemon among others. But the country still has some distance to cover in terms of exports as post-harvest wastage of produce in India is high.
  • In 2015, the Modi government started project CHAMAN — acronym for Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management using geo-informatics — to prepare a comprehensive horticultural plan. Using remote sensing technology to study soil conditions, land use, weather and cropping patter, the Centre has chosen 185 districts across the country where seven selected crops are being promoted.
  • Once complete, the findings of the project would be shared with all states to give to boost to cultivation of horticultural crops.
  • Different states have been divided into different groups to grow banana, mango, citrus fruits, potato, tomato, onion and chilli.
  • Under CHAMAN, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra have been identified as the major banana-growing states. Mango cultivation is being promoted in Andhra, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, while onion is the focus for Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

Observations confirm neutron star merger

  • The announcement of the neutron star merger, detected on August 17 by the LIGO-VIRGO collaboration of gravitational wave detectors, has been reinforced by the observation of short gamma ray (light waves) bursts almost simultaneously by other space and earth-based observatories.
  • The second part of the discovery — the observation of Gamma ray bursts by several telescopes — includes the observations by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) and AstroSat.
  • The sensitive CZTI instrument on AstroSat helped narrow down the location of the gamma-ray flashes. The HCT obtained optical images at locations of neutrinos detected by other telescopes at the same time as the burst, and showed that they were unrelated to the gravitational-wave trigger. The GMRT played a key role in understanding jet physics and refining models of radio emission from the remnant formed by the merging neutron stars.