Today’s News Updates – 17.January 2018

Haj subsidy

The government has abolished the subsidy being given to Haj pilgrims every year. The government said it will use the subsidy funds to empower the minorities.

Background:

The policy to support Muslims in making the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, can be traced back to 1932, when the British enacted the Port Haj Committees Act. In the ensuing decades, the Act has undergone numerous changes. And in recent years it has called for significant criticism from various parties. In 2012, a Supreme Court order directed the Haj subsidy to be gradually phased out in the coming ten years. In 2017, a Central Haj Committee meeting decided to do away with the subsidy by the following year.

What is the Haj subsidy?

The Haj subsidy refers to discounted airfares given by the government-owned airlines, Air India. It also includes assistance to Muslim pilgrims for domestic travel to reach specially designed Haj departure airport terminals, lodging, medical care and meal. Originally, the subsidy was given on air fares of flights between Bombay and Jeddah. Later, additional flight legs were added to the subsidy list. Since 1984, all the traffic for Haj from India to Saudi Arabia has been shared between Air India and Saudi, both of which are the government funded carriers of their respective countries.

After the 2012 Supreme Court order to phase out the subsidy in the next ten years, the government had been steadily declining the amount of subsidy offered to Haj pilgrims each year.

What are the criticisms against the Haj subsidy?

The Haj subsidy has come under heavy criticism, particularly because of the monopoly formed by Air India in carrying out the pilgrimage. Allegedly, the government subsidies have resulted in major profits for Air India, benefiting the airlines far more than the pilgrims. According to several critics of the subsidy, if booked months in advance, it is possible to buy cheaper air tickets, thereby doing away with the need for subsidy. Some of the political parties have also called the subsidy as minority appeasement.

What are the other religious pilgrimages that are offered government subsidy in India?

The Haj is not the only religious pilgrimage being funded by the State. A number of other religious tours are supported by the government. For instance, the state and central governments spend considerable amounts on the pilgrim facilities at the four Kumbh melas in Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Allahabad. The Kailash Manasarovar yatra from North India to the mountains of Tibet is yet another pilgrimage which is organised by the government with arrangements being made for security and health facilities.

Source:https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/cpm-owaisi-slam-govt-for-end-to-haj-subsidy/articleshow/62546721.cms


Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has simplified ‘Make II’ procedure, which prescribes guidelines to be followed to develop and manufacture defence equipment through Indian Industry.

Changes introduced:

Since no government funding is involved in ‘Make II’ project, the DAC felt it necessary to simplify the procedure to make it industry friendly, with minimal government control. The salient aspects of the revised procedure will now allow Ministry of Defence to accept suo-motu proposals from the industry and also allows start-ups to develop equipment for Indian Armed Forces. The minimum qualification criteria to participate in ‘Make II’ projects has also been relaxed by removing conditions related to credit rating and reducing financial net worth criteria.

As per the earlier ‘Make II’ procedure, only two vendors were shortlisted to develop prototype equipment. Now, all vendors meeting the relaxed eligibility criteria will be allowed to participate in the prototype development process. The vendor will not be required to submit Detailed Project Report. After accord of approval of the ‘Make II’ project by the council, all clearances will be accorded at Service HQ (SHQ) level.

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

What is it? To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.

Objective: The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.

Functions: The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.


Tourette Syndrome

For patients with Tourette syndrome, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is associated with symptomatic improvement, according to a study. The procedure, called deep brain stimulation (DBS), improved tic severity by nearly half in 171 patients with uncontrolled Tourette symptoms at 31 hospitals in 10 countries.

With DBS, brain surgeons run thin electric leads to specific regions of the basal ganglia, a cluster of nerves in the brain related to motor control and behaviour. Doctors then apply electricity to the brain circuits they’ve most closely linked to Tourette, to try to control the patient’s tics. However, the procedure still needs more work. More than a third of patients experienced adverse events, most often slurred speech or a pins-and-needles sensation.

What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes people to make sudden repetitive movements or sounds which aren’t controlled (known as tics). For example, an individual with Tourette’s syndrome may blink rapidly, clear their throat, shrug, turn heads and make controllable hand movements or blurt out words they don’t intend to. Though these tics can be suppressed, it is often physically exhausting to do so. One, in hundred children suffers from Tourette’s, which is the same as the number of children with autism.

Causes: Though the exact cause of the Tourette’s syndrome is unknown, it is believed to be caused both by genetic and environmental factors. Studies suggest that it is inherited most of the time, though the mode of inheritance and the carrier gene is not yet identified. This syndrome has been linked to a dysfunction in an area in the brain, which could be basal ganglia, thalamus and frontal cortex, which controls the body movements. A disruption in the working of neurotransmitters is also believed to cause tics.

Symptoms: Tourette’s syndrome causes sudden repetitive movements called the tics. These can be so mild as to go unnoticed and can be severe enough to seek medical assistance as well. These tics can be of two types, motor tics and vocal tics. Motor tics concentrate on the sudden, involuntary muscle movement in the body. These include: Head jerking, Rapid blinking, Mouth, or face twitching, Shrugging and Arms jerking. Vocal tics concentrate on the involuntary vocal sounds made by an individual. For example: Throat clearing, Coughing, Repeating what someone else says, Swearing, Shouting and Sniffing.


Global Initiative on Academic Network (GIAN) Program

The First Global Initiative on Academic Network GIAN course on Sustainable Urban planning using remote sensing and Geographic Information System, GIS has been launched at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur’s outreach center in NOIDA.

Key facts:

This course is being conducted under the Global Initiative on Academic Network (GIAN) Program of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and actively supported by NITI Aayog and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
This course aims to give participants state-of-the-art remote sensing and GIS skills which will allow them to rise to the challenge of managing the rapidly changing urban environment of Indian cities.
Focus will be on issues such as water resource management, water pollution and strategic emplacements for water treatment facilities.

Significance of the course:

This course is expected to contribute significantly to build trained manpower for the Smart Cities Mission launched by the Government on 25th June 2015 with an objective to promote sustainable and inclusive cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.

About Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN):

Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education was launched in 2015. GIAN aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities.

GIAN is envisaged to achieve the following objectives:

To increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes.
Provide opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas.
To provide opportunity to our students to seek knowledge and experience from reputed International faculty.
To create avenue for possible collaborative research with the international faculty
To increase participation and presence of international students in the academic Institutes.
Opportunity for the students of different Institutes/Universities to interact and learn subjects in niche areas through collaborative learning process.
Provide opportunity for the technical persons from Indian Industry to improve understandings and update their knowledge in relevant areas.
Motivate the best international experts in the world to work on problems related to India.
Develop high quality course material in niche areas, both through video and print that can be used by a larger body of students and teachers.
To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.


Raisina Dialogue 2018

The 2018 edition of Raisina Dialogue is being held in New Delhi.

Theme: ‘Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions & Idioms’.

About the Raisina Dialogue:

This is an annual geo-political event, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF). It is designed to explore prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world. It is predicated on India’s vital role in the Indian Ocean Region and how India along with its partners can build a stable regional and world order.

Participants: The conference is a multistakeholder, cross-sectoral meeting involving policy and decision-makers, including but not limited to Foreign, Defence and Finance Ministers of different countries, high-level government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry, and members of the strategic community, media and academia.

Significance of the event: The Raisina Dialogue was born two years ago, in 2016, in the belief that the Asian century that the world was talking about was not about any exclusive geographical region. It was rather about the engagement of global actors with Asia and of Asia with the world. So this dialogue took birth as a platform, where the old and the new could work together, to discover their connections, their inter-dependence. It has today become a crucible for conversations and ideas that while located in India can be owned by the world.

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