Institutes of Eminence (IoEs)
Related Topic : Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors, Quality of Higher Education.
Why in News
The UGC announced names of another 14 institutions, out of the 24 recommended by the government’s Empowered Expert Committee (EEC), selected for Institutions of Eminence (IoE) status.
News in Detail
The IITs Madras and Kharagpur, Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, Amritha Vishwa Vidyapeetham and VIT are among the 20 institutions recommended for the grant of the Institute of Eminence status by the University Grants Commission on Friday.
However, the UGC denied the tag to five private universities — Azim Premji University, Ashoka University, KREA University, Indian Institute for Human Settlements and the Indian Institute of Public Health — on the grounds that they have not been placed in any global or national rankings.
Since their exclusion left a vacant slot on the list of private universities given the tag, the Satya Bharti Foundation — telecom major Airtel’s philanthropic arm — became the second greenfield institution to be given IoE status, after Jio Institute which is backed by the Reliance Foundation.
Anna University and Jadavpur University have been given the IoE tag on a conditional basis as they are state universities, and will be finalised only after the Tamil Nadu and West Bengal governments issue an official communication allocating their share of funds (up to 50%).
The other institutions which have been recommended for IoE status are BHU, Jamia Hamdard, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, OP Jindal University and Shiv Nadar University.
Since the government decided against increasing the list of IoEs from 20 to 30, the UGC had to define a special criterion to select institutions for the eminence tag.
The UGC then decided to select only those institutes which figure in international and national rankings. Those who do not feature in world rankings were kept out of the IoE list
The UGC has considered the reports of the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) appointed by Government under the Chairmanship of Shri N Gopalaswami recommending (15) Public institutions and (15) Private institutions for considering to give status of Institutions of Eminence.
Since the scheme has only provided for (10) Public and (10) Private Institutions, the UGC has examined the list of (15) Public and (15) Private Institutions using transparent and verifiable criteria.
The following were the principles used for identifying the (10) Public and (10) Private Institutions, from the list of (15) Public and (15) Private Institutions recommended by the EEC:
- Since the thrust of the scheme is to prepare institutions for the global rankings, no existing institution which has NOT figured in any of the global/national ranks shall be recommended for the IoE status.
- Only after exhausting the above criterion, if any slot remains vacant, consideration shall be given to ‘yet to be established (Greenfield)’ proposals.
About the scheme
University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued / notified enabling regulatory architecture in the form of UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines, 2017 and UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017 to enable 10 public and 10 private Institutions to emerge as World Class Teaching and Research Institutions.
These Institutions shall be called as ‘Institutions of Eminence (IoEs)’.
The aim of the scheme is to bring higher educational institutions selected as IoEs in top 500 of world ranking in the next 10 years and in top 100 eventually overtime.
The scheme has been launched with an objective to provide world class teaching and research facilities to Indian students within the country and enhance general level of education of the country.
To achieve top global rankings, these Institutions shall be provided with greater autonomy to admit foreign students to 30% of admitted students.
The institutions can also recruit foreign faculty up to 25% of faculty strength and offer online courses up to 20% of its programmes.
The institutions can enter into academic collaboration with other top 500 rankers in the world ranking Institutions without permission of UGC.
The institutions will be free to fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction.
They will have the flexibility to design course structure in terms of a number of credit hours and years to take a degree.
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Related Topic : Awards and Honours, Freedom of Press
Why in News
Indian journalist Ravish Kumar has been awarded the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless”.
News in Detail
He is among five individuals who were declared winners of the award.
The other winners of the award, which is ‘Asia’s premier prize and highest honour’, include Myanmar’s Ko Swe Win, a journalist; Thailand’s Angkhana Neelapajit, human rights activist; Philippines’ Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, musician; and South Korea’s Kim Jong-Ki, an activist working with violence and mental health issues in youth.
Ravish Kumar, who is NDTV India’s senior executive editor is one of India’s most influential TV journalists.
His “Prime Time” programme deals with real-life, under-reported problems of ordinary people.
In electing Ravish Kumar to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognised his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.
About Ramon Magsaysay Award
It was established in 1957 by trustees of New York City (NYC) based Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Philippine government.
The Award is Asia’s highest honour and is is often regarded as region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organisations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.
It carries Medallion bearing likeness of the late President Ramon Magsaysay, cash prize and a certificate.
In 2018, it was awarded to two Indians Bharat Vatwani and Sonam Wangchuk.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave was the first Indian to win this prestigious award.
Dam Safety Bill, 2019
Related Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors, Constitution & Law
Why in News
The Lok Sabha passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019
There are 5,745 reservoirs in the country of which 293 are more than 100 years old. The age of 25 per cent of dams is between 50 to 100 years and 80 per cent are over 25 years old.
40 dams have collapsed in India since Independence and worst such disaster occurred in Gujarat in 1979 leading to loss of thousands of lives of people.
The dam collapse always becomes an international issue and it would be a matter of national shame if it is found the collapse was on account of poor maintenance.
About the Bill
The Bill provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams across the country.
It also provides for an institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of such dams.
The provisions of the bill is proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres.
The bill envisages a two-tier structure at national as well state level to ensure safety of dams in the country.
The bill also seeks to resolve the inter-state issues concerning maintenance and safety of dams.
The bill envisages constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety headed by the Chairman, Central Water Commission.
The panel will formulate policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and analyse causes of major dam failures and suggest changes in dam safety practices.
The legislation also envisages setting up of a National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) to be headed by an officer not below the rank of an Additional Secretary, to be appointed by the central government.
The main task of the National Dam Safety Authority includes implementing the policies formulated by the National Committee on Dam Safety, resolving issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state, specifying regulations for inspection and investigation of dams.
The NDSA will also provide accreditation to agencies working on construction, design and alteration of dams.
The proposed legislation also envisages constituting a State Dam Safety Organisation whose functions will be to keep perpetual surveillance, inspection, monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams, keeping a database of all dams, and recommending safety measures to owners of dams.
The bill provides for two types of offences – obstructing a person in the discharge of his functions, and refusing to comply with directions issued under the proposed law.
As per the provisions of the bill, offenders will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine, or both. If the offence leads to loss of lives, the term of imprisonment may be extended up to two years.
Offences will be cognisable only when the complaint is made by the government, or any authority constituted under the bill.
First local body meeting in India to fight African Snails
Related Topic: Environment & Biodiversity, Invasive Species, Empowerment of local bodies
Why in News
The Tavanur grama panchayat in Malappuram district has become the first local body in the country to convene a grama sabha meeting on Thursday exclusively to tackle the giant African snail menace.
News in Detail
Tavanur panchayat, particularly Koorada ward, has been infested with giant African snails. There are thousands of them in fields, wells, ponds, on walls, gates and trees. Repeated attempts by the local people to drive them off had failed..
A snail researcher from Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI),who led a technical session at the grama sabha created awareness among the people that applying tobacco and copper sulphate mixture is good enough for this invasive snail species. But it has to be done continually for a long period. Otherwise, the snails will re-emerge.
The researcher also convinced the people of the importance of preventing the spread of the snails to neighbouring places.
African snail lays a thousand eggs at a time. So the increase in its population will be thousand times.
The giant African snail was found to be the carrier of a worm that could potentially cause eosinophilic meningitis in children.
Although giant African snails re-emerged in Kerala in 2005, they are now found in all districts except Idukki.
Fighting the Menace
The grama panchayat and the agricultural department have agreed to join hands with the people to fight the menace by continually spraying the non-toxic mixture.
Although there are a few other anti-snail chemicals, their toxicity is feared to affect human lives.
About African Snail
The Giant African Snail Achatina fulica is an exotic pest introduced from East Africa to India in 1847 itself.
This is the biggest land snail having a protective shell, measuring about 19 cm in length.
It is very active during monsoon, nocturnal in behaviour and damages crops like papaya, brinjal, beans, okra, cole crops, areca nut, rubber buds, coffee seedlings, orchids, etc.
This snail is a hermaphrodite and lays 50-200 yellowish eggs on soil surface.
Hatching takes place in about a week’s period and the young ones grow up to a year and reach sexual maturity.
The snail eats the leaves, stems, fruits and flowers of host plants causing severe damage to the young saplings especially in nurseries. It also contaminates leafy vegetables with its excrement.
It frequently climbs on papaya and banana plants and clings on the leaf surface thus interfering with cultural operations and affecting the aesthetic value of kitchen gardens and roof gardens too.
Article 35 A
Related Topic: Militancy in J&K, Constitution&Law
Why in News
J&K parties warned the Centre against any dilution in the constitutional status of J&K, and sought the government’s clarification on the current “hysteria” in Parliament.
What is article 35 A?
Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.
The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.
Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.
The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
So Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
INF Arms Treaty
Related Topic: International Agreements, Cold War
Why in News
U.S. announced Washington’s formal withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in a prepared statement at the ASEAN meet in Bangkok, after Russia pronounced the treaty to be “dead”.
The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”
Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement. On December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty.
The 29-country transatlantic NATO alliance rallied behind U.S., blaming Russia for the treaty’s demise and vowing to respond.
About INF Treaty
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.
The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification.
As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
Despite its name, the INF Treaty covers all types of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles — whether their payload is conventional or nuclear.
Moscow and Washington are prohibited from deploying these missiles anywhere in the world, not just in Europe. However, the treaty applies only to ground-launched systems.
Both sides are free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles within the 500-to-5,500-kilometer range.
Maharashtra, the first state to adopt a digital fingerprint and iris scanning system
Related Topic: Science&Technology, Digital India
Why in News
Maharashtra became first state in the country to adopt an Automated Multi-modal Biometric Identification System (AMBIS) i.e. digital fingerprint and iris scanning system to help police investigations.
This system will soon be replicated by police forces of other states in the country.
Composition of AMBIS
An AMBIS unit comprises a computer terminal, a camera, and iris, fingerprint, and palm scanners.
It also includes a portable system to dust off and capture fingerprints from crime scenes.
With the integration of the system with facial recognition from CCTV cameras, AMBIS enables the police to cross-reference and put faces to criminals whose fingerprints have been captured on paper over the decades, apart from solving fresh crimes.
AMBIS replaces the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which has been used by Indian law enforcement agencies to search finger and palm prints.
However, AFIS has limited utility, providing only one-to-one fingerprint matches as compared multimodal matches possible with AMBIS.
With facial recognition technology, the new system is also an upgrade on AFIS.
Implementation of AMBIS
Before the formal launch, the system was introduced at select police stations in Mumbai that have upgraded tech infrastructure such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS).
The older data was continuously worked upon to increase accuracy and resemble the high-quality prints now recorded using AMBIS.
So far, Mumbai Police have cracked 85 cases of theft and housebreaks dating back to 2014 after matching prints dusted from the scenes of crime with those digitised.
The system is expected to be of help in more serious offences as its accuracy improves and the database expands.
Maharashtra Chief Minister has announced the implementation of the project in all 94 police stations in Mumbai.
The next step will be to roll it out in the 1,160 police stations, 7 police ranges, 10 central jails, 12 police training centres, and 4 fingerprint bureaus in Maharashtra.
Norms for Appointing Directors on Board of Public Sector Banks
Related Topic: Fiscal discipline, Governance issues – Public sector bank
Why in News
RBI has tightened norms for appointing directors on board of Public sector banks
News in Detail
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated that the elected directors of public sector banks (PSBs) are to be appointed by the nomination and remuneration committee of the board of the respective banks.
The RBI has come out with guidelines on ‘fit and proper’ criteria of elected directors in PSBs and said all these banks were required to constitute a nomination and remuneration committee consisting of a minimum of three non-executive directors from the board, out of which not less than one-half will be independent directors and should include at least one member from the risk management committee of the board.
The non-executive chairperson of the bank may be appointed as a member of the committee but shall not chair such a committee.
An elected director can be appointed for three years and could be re-elected but cannot hold office for than six years.
The candidate should not be holding the position of a Member of Parliament or State Legislature or municipal corporation or municipality or other local bodies.
Candidates engaged in stock broking, or a member of any other board of a bank or financial institution, connected with hire purchase, financing, money lending, investment, leasing and other para banking activities cannot be considered for the appointment.
Candidate should not be acting as a partner of a chartered accountant’s firm which is currently engaged as a statutory central auditor of any nationalised bank or the State Bank of India.