Today’s News Updates – 1.January 2018

India and Pakistan exchange list of nuclear sites for 27th consecutive year

India and Pakistan have exchanged list of their nuclear installations and facilities with each other under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack gainst Nuclear installations. This is the 27th consecutive exchange of such list between two countries after first list was exchanged on 1 January 1992.
Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations 
It is a bilateral agreement signed between India and Pakistan that bars them from carrying out any surprise attack (or to assist foreign power to attack) on each other’s nuclear installations and facilities. It was signed on 31st December 1988 and entered into force on 27 January 1991. It was signed by then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Pakistani counterpart Benazir Bhutto. Under it, both countries inform each other about their nuclear installations and facilities that need to be covered under the Agreement on 1 January every year.

GAIL commissions India’s second largest rooftop solar plant in UP

State-owned gas utility GAIL India Ltd has commissioned India’s second largest rooftop solar power plant in Uttar Pradesh. It is 5.76 MWp (Mega Watt Watt peak) solar plant installed at GAIL’s petrochemical complex at Pata in UP. The plant has over roofs of warehouses covers a total area of 65,000 square meters.
Largest rooftop solar plant in India
India’s largest rooftop solar plant was commissioned in December 2015 by Tata Power Solar in Amritsar, Punjab. It is 12 MWp solar rooftop project, which produces more than 150 lakh units of power annually. It offsets over 19,000 tonne of carbon emission every year.
Gas (India) Limited (GAIL) 
GAIL is the largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company in India. It is headquartered in New Delhi. It has following business segments: natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas transmission, liquid hydrocarbon, city gas distribution, petrochemical, exploration and production, GAILTEL and electricity generation.

NASA to launch Parker Solar Probe to explore sun’s outer atmosphere

NASA is going to launch Parker Solar Probe in 2018 to explore the sun’s outer atmosphere. It will be launched onboard of Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle. It will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. Primary goals of mission: Trace how energy and heat move through solar corona. Explore what accelerates solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
Parker Solar Probe mission
It is NASA’s planned robotic spacecraft to probe outer corona of Sun. It has been designed and built by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is named after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. This is first time NASA spacecraft named after living person.
Scientific goals

  1. Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
  2. Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar winds.
  3. Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
  4. Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particale formation.


Arunachal declared open defecation-free State

Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as the second State in the Northeast, after Sikkim, to be declared Open Defecation Free. Arunachal has 21 districts and the State attained the feat much before the national deadline of October 2, 2019.
Arunachal Pradesh has managed to do this before the deadline of October 2, 2019. The state government had cut short the national ODF target by one year and ten months ahead of the national target and set 31 December, 2017, as the final target to achieve ODF status in Arunachal Pradesh.
About SBM:
Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to eliminate open defecation by 2019. The goal also includes conversion of insanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradicating of manual scavenging and Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM).

Significance of the mission:

Poor sanitation spreads infectious diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of children each year, and stunt the physical and cognitive development of those who survive. Announcing a goal of accelerating the reduction in open defecation was a great idea, articulating a worthy goal for serious public policy efforts.


Telecom ombudsman

A Parliamentary panel has expressed concern over delay in setting up of an ombudsman to deal with consumer grievances in the telecom sector despite the regulator TRAI recommending it twice.
Need for an ombudsman:
As per the current trends, on an average around 10 million complaints are lodged with the TSPs each quarter and currently complaints are characterised by high volumes, low-value and from users in diverse geographic locations. Therefore, arrangements like ombudsman are required to address to consumers in a speedy manner. This is also necessary keeping in view of the major changes that has taken place in the Indian telecom sector in the recent past.
What has been proposed?
A three-stage grievance redress mechanism for telecom sector is proposed that includes — resolution by telecom service providers (TSPs), resolution by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) — and determination by Telecom Ombudsman.
The ombudsman can be established under rules framed by the Centre, similar to the institution of the insurance ombudsman under the Redress of Public Grievances Rules, 1998 (RPG Rules). The government may, by notification, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act. Alternatively, the government can choose to create the ombudsman office through a legislation to be passed by Parliament.
Role of ombudsman:
According to the recommendations, the consumer should in the first instance approach the complaint centre of the TSP to seek a solution. It will be the duty of the TSP to look into the request and address the consumer’s concerns within the time frames stipulated by the Authority.
In case, the TSP fails to resolve the complaint in a manner that is satisfactory to the consumer; or does not provide a response; or fails to do so within the prescribed time lines laid down by TRAI, the customer will have the option to seek further redress through an independent mechanism. This would consist of a process of a resolution based on fact finding by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), followed by, if necessitated, determination by the telecom ombudsman.
A portion of the existing, not in addition, licence fee, is recommended as the funding mechanism for Ombudsman. And in addition to this fixed fee, there will be a variable component payable by each telecom service provider (TSP) depending on the volume of complaints being filed against it and admitted before the ombudsman’s office.


National Register of Citizens

The much-awaited first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published with the names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore total applicants in Assam recognising them as legal citizens of India. The NRC is being compiled following a Supreme Court directive to identify illegal immigrants in Assam.

Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, first prepared in 1951. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the entire process, had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspect.
What’s the issue?

The NRC was last updated in Assam way back in 1951. Then, it had recorded 80 lakh citizens in the State. Since then, the process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been debated and become a contentious issue in the State’s politics.

A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985.

About NRC:

What is it? The National Register of Citizens (NRC) contains names of Indian citizens. The NRC was prepared in 1951, after the Census of 1951. It was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during that Census.

OCI and PIO cards

The Govt has stopped the scheme of free conversion of PIO cards to OCI. The scheme of converting the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to OCI cards free of cost comes to an end as a decision has been taken not to give any more extension beyond December 31. However, the change of PIO cards to OCI cards would continue on payment of fees.

Who are NRIs, PIO and OCI?

Non-Resident Indians (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) are the three major categories in which the people from India go and live abroad can be categorised.
While NRIs is essentially a term used for Indians that live in another country, PIOs and OCIs are people who want to stay connected and involved with India more closely.
Need for conversion:
Simultaneous existence of PIO and OCI cards led to confusion among People of Indian Origin residing abroad. Thus, merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella. It would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country. This is aimed at simplifying the visa-free entry for people of Indian origin into India.

The merger of the two cards could make PIO cardholders eligible for benefits already enjoyed by OCI cardholders. Merging of the two cards will also facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities in India.
Benefits of a PIO card:

A PIO card holder doesn’t need a visa to visit India. The holder also doesn’t require a student or employment visa to acquire employment or academic opportunities in India.
The holder is also exempted from registering at the foreigner regional registration office (FRRO) during the duration of stay in India.
The holder also enjoys parity with NRIs in concern to economic, financial and educational matters. These may include matters related to property transfer or acquisition, holding, disposal, investment, admission of children in educational institutions under general category quota for NRIs.
Separate immigration counters are provided at all International airports in India for PIO card holders.
Drawbacks of PIO card:

It does not provide voting rights to the holder. Prior permission is needed to undertake mountaineering expeditions or any such related research work in protected areas.

The benefits of OCI cards are substantial:

OCI is essentially a lifetime visa status offered by India to an Indian person who has given up his citizenship. OCI cards give lifetime multiple entry visa to India.
If one remains an OCI for 5 years, he/she can attain Indian citizenship and then live in India for a period of one year including short breaks.
Special immigration counters are provided at all international airports in India for OCI card holders.
An OCI cards holder can open special bank accounts in India just like NRIs and make investments. OCI holders can also buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights.
An OCI card allows to apply for a driver’s license, PAN card or open a bank account in India. They get same economic, financial and educational benefits like NRIs and can also adopt children.

Restrictions for OCI card holders:
An OCI card holder cannot vote, hold a government job or purchase agricultural or farm land. The person can also not run for public office or travel to restricted areas without permission.

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