17 February, 2020

17 Min Read

Remote Voting System

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new technology: its working and significance

News: The Election Commission of India has collaborated with IIT Madras to work on a new technology for two-way remote voting in controlled environment using blockchain technology.

What is it about?

  • The model of an Aadhaar-linked electronic voting system that would enable electors to cast their votes from any part of the country — irrespective of where they are registered to vote — or even abroad.

  • It will allow electors to vote from far away cities without going to the designated polling station of their respective constituencies. For example the system would allow a Delhi-registered elector who happens to be in Hyderabad to cast his or her vote in elections in the Capital electronically.

  • The voters will have to reach a designated venue during a pre-decided period of time to be able to use this facility.

  • It does not mean voting from home, which is “anytime-anywhere-any device” and would require some more time and technological advancement.

  • The “two-way block chain remote voting” process would involve voter identification and authorisation using a multi-layered IT enabled system working on the EC’s e-Governance award winning Electoral Registration Officer Network (ERO Net) using biometrics and web cameras.

  • With the proposed linking of the Aadhaar biometrics with voter IDs at an “advanced stage”, the two-way electronic voting system would be possible only when the linking is complete.

How will the new system work?

  • After a voter’s identity is established by the system, a block chain enabled personalised e-ballot paper (Smart Contract) will be generated.

  • When the vote is cast (Smart Contract executed), the ballot would be securely encrypted and a block chain hashtag (#) will be generated. This hashtag notification would be sent to various stakeholders, in this case—the candidates and political parties.

  • The encrypted remote votes so cast would once again be validated at the pre-counting stage to ensure that they have neither been decrypted, nor tampered with or replaced.

  • The project is at present in the research and development stage with an aim to develop a prototype.

What next?

If the project is given the go-ahead by the ECI, changes to the election laws would be required for which the Law Ministry would be approached.

Efforts made to increase voter turnout

  • There have been demands from various parties that the Election Commission should ensure that migrant workers who miss out on voting as they cannot afford going home during elections to exercise their franchise should be allowed to vote for their constituency from the city they are working in.

  • A Bill to allow proxy voting for overseas Indians had lapsed following the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.

  • The Law Ministry had also recently tweaked election rules to allow One Way Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS), enabling service voters consisting of personnel belonging to the armed forces, central paramilitary forces and central government officers deployed at Indian missions abroad, to get their postal ballots electronically. They have to fill up the ballot papers and post them back.

  • The ECI had used a one-way electronic system for service electors for the first time in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The postal ballots were transmitted electronically to the service electors, which led to an increased turnout or 60.14%.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II : International Relations Others
5th India Russia military industry conference

Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the event: MoUs signed and their significance; about India-Russia ties

News: In a step forward towards addressing the issue of regular spares and support for Russian military equipment with the armed forces, 14 MoUs were signed between Indian and Russian companies for setting up joint ventures covering a range of equipment from modern T-90 tanks to legacy Pechora air defence systems.

About the event

The MoUs were signed during the 5th India Russia military industry conference held during the Defexpo 2020 in Lucknow.


Lack of timely spares and support has been a constant issue faced by the military a major part of which consists of Russian defence hardware. Several such support agreements are in the pipeline and expected to be concluded soon.

About the MoUs signed

  • They come under the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on joint manufacturing of spares in India signed last September for mutual cooperation in manufacturing of spares, components, aggregates and other material related to Russian or Soviet-origin arms and defence equipment.

  • The first ‘Request for Proposal’ for manufacturing of parts in India under the provision of IGA was also handed over by the Navy to the identified Indian industry.

  • One MoU was signed between the Spetz-Radio Corporation of Russia and the Ananth Technologies based in Hyderabad for the “development, production and manufacture of small spacecraft for remote sensing”.

  • One important MoU was signed between the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and the Almaz Antey of Russia for exploring the feasibility of establishing a joint venture in India for the production of various sub systems of “air defence missile systems like Tunguska, Kavadrat, the OSA-AKA, Pechora air defence system as well as the Shilka self-propelled air defence gun system”. The MoU also covered refurbishment and life extension of the missiles. Most of these air defence systems are now in the process of being phased out and replaced with new ones.

Way forward

India has taken a number of steps to expedite the collaboration with Russian companies. India has called for expeditious implementation from the Russian side as well which has some procedural issues to sort out. There are also agreements on emerging technologies — Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain and robotics based on Russian technologies under the proposed Indo-Russian Joint Venture ICT Center of Excellence.

Arms imports by India

  • Arms imports by India increased by 24% between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017.
  • India is followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, China, Australia, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan and Indonesia.
  • The largest arms suppliers to India from 2013-2017 were Russia (62%), US (15%) and Israel (11%).

Source: The Hindu

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National Health Mission (NHM)

Syllabus subtopic: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the NHM: aim and significance; about neonatal deaths in India and its causes

News: Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest percentage of newborn deaths of 11.5% against the total admissions to government-run sick newborn care units (SNCUs) in the past three years across the country, a rate ominously spiralling since 2017, according to the National Health Mission (NHM). The country’s average is 7%.

  • Although admissions of neonates (under 28 days) in the State have dropped from April 2017 to December 2019 — remaining lower than West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — the percentage of deaths at 12.2% surpassed Bihar’s last year.

  • Meanwhile, West Bengal, where 34,344 neonatal deaths occurred in the period, the most in the country, the declining percentage of deaths from 9.2% in 2017 to 8.9% in 2019 coincided with a slump in admissions.

  • Madhya Pradesh has also recorded an abysmal sex ratio in admissions — of 663 (number of girls admitted against 1,000 boys) in the three years against the country average of 733, though its sex ratio was 931 as per the 2011 census.

Factors responsible for the spike in the percentage of deaths

  1. Staff crunch
  2. low community referrals,
  3. absence of a special neonatal transport service to health centres
  4. reliance on units in cities as last resort and
  5. the non-availability of enough units to cater to increasing institutional deliveries

Neonatal deaths in India

  • According to the Sample Registration System, neonatal deaths in India mainly occur owing to:
  1. premature births and low birth weight (35.9%),
  2. pneumonia (16.9%),
  3. birth asphyxia and birth trauma (9.9%),
  4. other non-communicable diseases (7.9%),
  5. diarrhoea (6.7%),
  6. congenital anomalies(4.6%) and
  7. infections (4.2%).

  • Under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, each country, including India, has aimed to bring down neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1,000 live births. In 2018, it stood at 23 for India.

About National Health Mission

The National Health Mission (NHM) was designed with the aim of providing accessible, affordable, effective and reliable healthcare facilities in the rural and urban areas of the country, especially to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population.

NHM envisages a bottom-up, decentralized and community owned approach to public health planning.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Economic Issues Banking
Bank Frauds in India

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the frauds in Indian banks: causes and link to slow growth

Context: Banking frauds have been rising. During the first six months of this fiscal, frauds of Rs.1 lakh and above, as reported by commercial banks, touched Rs.1.13 trillion. This, after frauds worth Rs.41,167 crore had been reported in 2017-18.

By how much have bank frauds risen?

  • As the above chart shows, total bank frauds reported in 2015-16 stood at Rs.18,699 crore. In a matter of four years, they have jumped more than six-fold. By the time we get around to the end of this fiscal, the amount involved in frauds would be Rs.1 trillion higher than in 2015-16.

  • An important distinction needs to be made here. As the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Master Circular on frauds points out, “It has been observed that frauds are, at times, detected in banks long after their perpetration." What this basically means is that frauds reported during the current fiscal didn’t necessarily happen during this year.

Why has there been a jump in bank frauds?

There is no straight answer to this. But as John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in The Great Crash, 1929: “At any given time there exists an inventory of undisclosed embezzlement. This inventory—it should perhaps be called the bezzle—amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. In good times, people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful... (so) the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed." As per this theory, bank frauds have been building up over the years and there has been an explosion in their recognition this year.

What’s the link between frauds and slow growth?

Growth during the first half of FY20 fell to 4.8%. According to Galbraith, the rate of discovery of what he calls bezzle rises in a depression. While India’s economy is nowhere near a depression, it is in the middle of a slowdown. This is why fraud recognition has increased. A rapid build-up in fraud recognition doesn’t mean the system has turned more corrupt this year.

Why has there been a build-up in frauds?

The frauds being recognized now were committed earlier. Why was there a jump in frauds at all? As Urjit Patel, RBI governor from September 2016-December 2018, said in a speech in March 2018: “Indeed, RBI data on banking frauds suggests that only a handful of cases over the past five years have had closure, and cases of substantive economic significance remain open. As a result, the overall enforcement mechanism… is not perceived to be a major deterrent to frauds relative to economic gains from fraud."

What does this tell us about bank frauds?

The RBI top brass has openly talked about big businessmen siphoning off money from different projects. This was money they had borrowed from banks to finance the projects. Such incidents haven’t been properly investigated over the years and have led to these people defaulting on loans after siphoning off the money. This has only incentivized fraudsters to become bolder. Only proper investigations leading to convictions can stop this practice.

Source: Livemint

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GISAT-1 satellite to be launched

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.
  • Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.

Prelims and Mains focus: about GISAT-1: its orbit and significance; about Gaganyaan; ISRO

News: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to launch GISAT-1, a new earth observation (EO) satellite, in the first week of March 2020.

About the satellite

  • GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite — will be the first of two planned Indian EO spacecraft to be placed in a geostationary orbit of around 36,000 km. It will apparently be in a fixed spot looking over the Indian continent at all times.

  • All Indian EOs have been placed so far in a 600-odd-km orbits and circle the earth pole to pole. GISAT-1 will be launched from Sriharikota satellite launch centre.

  • With this satellite, which has high-resolution cameras, scientists can keep a constant watch on India’s borders, monitor any changes in the geographical condition of the country, etc.

Source: The Hindu

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Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS)

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the proposal of notifying as a tiger reserve: arguements for and against; about NTCA

News: The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), though home to more than half the number of tigers present in Kerala, may not be notified as a tiger reserve as the proposal lacks public support.


The ‘Status of Tigers in India’ report released in 2019 had estimated the tiger population of Wayanad as between 75 and 80 individuals. Periyar Tiger Reserve, the first one in Kerala, has an estimated population of 30 to 35 big cats, whereas Parambikulam, the second reserve, has a population of 20 to 25 tigers.

Proposal rejected

  • The attempts of the Kerala Forest Department to push forward the proposal for notifying the sanctuary as the third tiger reserve in the State came a cropper at the recently held State Wildlife Advisory Board. Citing the public resistance against the earlier attempts, the board rejected the proposal.

  • Piloting the Wayanad proposal, the department officials pointed out that more than half of the tiger population in the State was found in Wayanad. There were five tiger reserves in the neighbouring States that share boundaries with Wayanad.

Arguements put foward in favour of the proposal

The arguments of the officials that the notification would ensure financial aid from the Centre and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), better conservation and management of the tiger population and help generate more employment opportunities failed to impress the State authorities.

Arguement against the proposal

  • Kerala Chief Minister, who chaired the meeting, flagged the issue of human-wildlife conflicts in the district. Referring to the public protests that were staged in Wayanad earlier against the proposal, the CM expressed concern over the possible impact of the proposal. Any such proposal should be implemented only after holding wide public consultations.

  • Cattle lifting by the ailing tigers and their straying into human habitations had often triggered widespread public protests in the district. The department had to backtrack from its earlier attempts to notify the reserve following stiff public resistance.

  • There were speculations that the notification would bring in stringent restrictions on development activities in the district, though the department tried to counter the campaign.

Support from NTCA

  • Each year, the NTCA supports the tiger reserves by funding the proposals put forward through its Annual Plan of Operations. The authority also supports the reserves for implementing the tiger conservation plan.

  • While Periyar Tiger Reserve gets an annual support of around Rs. 9 crore, the Parambikulam TR gets around Rs.6 crore from the authority.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Miscellaneous
Kashi Mahakal Express

Syllabus subtopic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the train: route, significance etc; about jyotirlingas

News: PM Modi flagged off the latest religion-themed train, the Kashi Mahakal Express in Varanasi, the PM’s constituency.

Details of the train

  • The Lord Shiva-themed train connects, for the first time, places related to three jyotirlingas—Omkareshwar near Indore, Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain, and Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi.

  • The commercial run of the thrice-a-week train will start from February 20. Railway PSU Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be running this as the third “corporate” train after two Tejas Express trains.

  • With a side-upper berth converted into a permanent puja place or “templecomplete with pictures of Lord Shiva, incense sticks, flowers et al, waiters dressed in traditional UP-style attire and a vegetarian menu, the train leaves virtually no stone unturned to play to the theme.

  • The train will cover 1131 km between Varanasi and Indore via Lucknow and a distance of 1102 km between Varanasi and Indore via Prayagraj (Allahabad) in approximately 19 hours. The route of the train will be via Sultanpur – Lucknow/Prayagraj – Kanpur – Jhansi – Bina – Sant Hiradnagar – Ujjain – Indore and back.

  • Railways says that there has been demands from devotees for a train like this. The overnight train, which is a collection of 15 upgraded 3-AC Humsafar type coaches, is also IRCTC’s first overnight, long-distance train to run on a regular basis.

  • Apart from selling tickets to the train, IRCTC has also worked out packages that involve taking pilgrims on all-inclusive tours of Kashi Dharshan, Ayodhya, Prayag visit, trips to the jyotirlingas (temples) including hotel stays and the like. There will be packages for cities and religious sites covered by the train such as Kashi, Omkareshwar, Mahakaleshwar, Bhopal, Sanchi, Ujjain, Bhimbetka, Ayodhya and Prayag. The packages, designed into various durations, cost between Rs 4950 and Rs 12450 per person.

  • The train’s fare is Rs 1951 between Varanasi and Indore. After 70 per cent of the seats are booked, there will be an increase of 10 per cent for the next 20 per cent of the tickets and a further increase of 10 per cent for the last 10 per cent of the tickets in the dynamic fare scheme. Each ticket comes with a Rs 10 lakh life insurance cover free of cost and every coach is fitted with six CCTV cameras for security along with two guards.

  • Like its other two Tejas trains, this train will also not entertain any of the concessions on fare offered by Indian Railways.

Another religion-themed train to be launched

This Lord Shiva-themed train will be followed by a Ramayan-themed train to be launched next month from across India in a big way, marking Indian Railways’ major push in the religious tourism segment. The Ramayan Express will touch places related to the mythology of Ram, including Ayodhya.

Source: Indian Express

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