1. ECONOMIST RAJIV KUMAR IS NEW VICE – CHAIRMAN OF NITI AAYOG
- Economist Dr Rajiv Kumar was on Saturday named as the new vice-chairman of NITI Aayog, five days after the incumbent Arvind Panagariya announced that he would quit to return to academics.
- Kumar, who holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a PhD from Lucknow University, is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
- Earlier, he was Secretary General of the FICCI and had also served as Director and Chief Executive of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
- NITI Aayog or the National Institution for Transforming India, is a Government of India policy think-tank established by the government to replace the Planning Commission which followed the top-down model.
- The stated aim for NITI Aayog’s creation is to foster involvement and participation in the economic policy-making process by the State Governments of India.
- The emphasis is on bottom-up approach and make the country to move towards cooperative federalism.
- The Union Government of India announced the formation of NITI Aayog on 1 January 2015, and the first meeting was held on 8 February 2015.
MEMBERS OF NITI AAYOG
- The NITI Aayog comprises the following:
- The Prime Minister as the Chairperson.
- A Governing Council composed of Chief Ministers of all the States and Union territories with Legislatures and lieutenant governor of Andaman and Nicobar.
- Regional Councils composed of Chief Ministers of States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories in the region to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region.
- Full-time organizational framework composed of a Vice-Chairperson, three full-time members, two part-time members (from leading universities, research organizations and other relevant institutions in an ex-officio capacity), four ex-officio members of the Union Council of Ministers, a Chief Executive Officer (with the rank of Secretary to the Government of India) who looks after administration, and a secretariat.
- Experts and specialists in various fields.
2. INDIA HOPEFUL OF MAKING CHABAHAR PORT OPERATIONAL BY 2018
- The government is hopeful that the strategic Chabahar Port will be operational by 2018, Union minister Nitin Gadkari has said.
- Government is keen on expediting development of the Chabahar port, located in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast that can be easily accessed from India’s west coast, bypassing Pakistan.
- For greater trade and investment flow with Iran and neighbouring countries, the Cabinet last year cleared proposals for development of Chabahar port including a US$ 150 million credit from Exim Bank.
- As per the MoU signed between the two nations in May last year, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of US$ 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of US$ 22.95 million on a 10-year lease.
- Ownership of equipment will be transferred to Iranian side on completion of 10 years or for an extended period, based on mutual agreement.
3. MERCOSUR SUSPENDS VENEZUELA
- South American trade bloc Mercosur suspended Venezuela indefinitely on Saturday, adding to international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to dismantle a newly created legislative superbody and restore democracy.
- Foreign ministers of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil announced the decision in Sao Paulo, urging Maduro to release prisoners and immediately start a political transition.
- Mercosur has no provision for expulsion. It had suspended Venezuela temporarily in December for not complying with the bloc’s regulations, and toughened its stance following the controversial election of a constituent assembly on Sunday and the arrest of several opposition leaders.
- Countries around the world have condemned the vote, calling it a bid to extend Maduro’s rule indefinitely.
- Although Venezuela sits on the world’s largest-known oil reserves, millions are suffering from food shortages and soaring inflation. Months of anti-government unrest have killed more than 120 people.
- It is a sub-regional bloc in South America.
- Its full members- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
- Venezuela is a full member but has been suspended since December 1, 2016.
- Its associate countries- Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname.
- Observer countries- New Zealand and Mexico.
- Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.
- It is now a full customs union and a trading bloc.
- Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations are customs unions that are components of a continuing process of South American integration connected to the Union of South American Nations (USAN).
4. EVM’s ARE TAMPER PROOF AND CREDIBLE , EC TELLS SC
- The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court that electronic voting machines (EVMs) were credible, reliable and tamper-proof.
- In a fresh affidavit submitted to the court, the commission said EVMswith voter verifiable paper audit trails will be available by September next year, subject to production exigencies.
- The commission dismissed allegations by various political parties that EVMs used in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections were tampered with.
- The EC urged political parties to stop challenging the credibility of EVMs every time they lose an election, saying it erodes the faith of voters in the process.
- The commission said it technologically and administratively impossible to interfere with the functioning of an EVM.
- “An EVM used by the commission is a standalone, non-networked, one-time programmable machine, which is neither computer-controlled, nor connected to the internet or any network and hence, cannot be ‘hacked,’” it said.
WHAT IS EVM ?
- EVM or Electronic Voting Machines are used to cast vote without revealing your identity.
- It is used in Indian General and State Elections. It has replaced paper ballots in local, state and general (parliamentary) elections in India.
HOW DOES THE MACHINE WORK ?
- EVM has two parts, it consists of a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’, connected by a 5-metre cable.
- The control unit is with the Election Commission-appointed polling officer; the balloting unit is in the voting compartment into which the voter enters to cast the vote in secret by pressing the button against the name and symbol of the candidate of her choice.
- The control unit is the EVM’s ‘brain’ — the balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it.
- The EVM runs on a 6 volt single alkaline battery fitted in the control unit, and can even be used in areas that have no electricity.
PRODUCTION AND DESIGN
- There are only two Indian PSUs that manufacture EVM machines. Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) being the first and Electronics Corporation of Indian Limited (ECIL) the other.
- The secret source code is only accessible to a few engineers. Engineers who are in the factory have no clue about the constituency wise deployment of the machine.
EVM MODELS EXPLAINED
- M 1: EVMs manufactured during 1989-2006 falls under this category. These were last used in 2014 General Elections. No M1 machines were used in the recent 2017 elections. About 1.4 lacks EVMs have been destroyed so far.M2: These were manufactured during 2006-2012. Real time clock and dynamic feature have been added to this device.M3 : These were manufactured since 2013. It has a tamper proof feature which was not there earlier. The machine stops functioning if accessed without authorisation.
HOW LONG CAN EVM BE USED ?
- EVMs have a life of 15 years that is why all units manufactured during 2001 have been discarded now.
- Chips that have the code needs to be crushed in the presence of an officer of EC. Even CU, BU display units are removed from the plastic holding and is crushed.
WHEN WERE EVM’s FIRST USED ?
- The use of EVM started back in 1982 Kerala Assembly elections.
- Prior to this only ballot papers and ballot boxes were allowed.