26th General Conference on Weights & Measures in a historic decision unanimously redefine World’s standard definition of kilogram, Second&Metre

The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held during November 13-16 2018 at Palais des Congrés, Versailles, France. CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements. The 26th CGPM meeting was very special and historic as the members have voted for the redefinition of 130 years old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant(h). The new definitions will come into force on 20 May 2019.

Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.

Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.

In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology, and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.

How wrong is Le Grand K?

The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.

Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.

So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).

There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.

But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr. Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.

By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

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‘Corruption no longer among top 3 hurdles to doing business in India’

The perception among U.K. businesses that corruption is a major barrier in doing business in India has halved, according to the latest edition of the U.K. India Business Council’s Ease of Doing Business report compared with what it was in 2015.

There has been a considerable year-on-year fall in the number of companies that viewed ‘corruption’ as a major barrier – from 34% in 2016 to 25% in 2017. It has halved since 2015, where it stood at 51%.

This decline shows a major improvement, indicating that the current government’s efforts to mitigate corruption appear to be delivering tangible and much-desired results.

Corruption is no longer considered a ‘top-three’ barrier compared to those not currently active in India.

What made such steadfast progress?

The report noted that initiative such as Aadhaar, electronic submission of government documents, acceptance of electronic signatures, and the push to file taxes online. This all have reduced face-to-face interactions where corruption is most likely to take place.

The extent of digitalization, however, varies markedly across sectors, as does corruption, with those engaging in infrastructure projects still reporting significant issues relating to corruption.

Taxation issues and Price Points overtook ‘corruption’ as major barriers identified by 36% and 29% of respondents, respectively. The proportion of respondents identifying ‘taxation issues’ was 3% lower in 2018 than in 2017.

The key issue for those outside India is increasing market demand for their products and services relative to government and bureaucracy-related barriers.

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Govt to set up a National Institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab

The Centre will set up a first-of-its-kind institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab to promote brotherhood and diversity as part of the year-long activities to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, Union minister Mahesh Sharma said Monday.

The activities will begin from November 23 and go on for a year, the Union Culture minister said, adding the decision was taken at a meeting of the National Implementation Committee (NIC) headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh earlier this month.

The government will also develop Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is believed to have spent most of his life.

The area will be developed as a heritage city incorporating ‘Pind Babe Nanak Da’. A high powered telescope will be installed in Indian territory to view Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan where the first Sikh guru spent his last days, Sharma said.

The year-long event will also include religious activities like Kirtan, Katha, Prabhat pheri, langar and educational activities such as seminars, workshops, and lectures.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, which is the apex religious body of the Sikhs, will be the knowledge partner for the event, he said.

Chairs in the name of Guru Nanak will be set up in the UK and Canada.

An international seminar will also be organized in Delhi. Commemorative coin and postage stamps will be released by the Department of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Posts.

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NSE Launches Online Platform For Retail Investors To Buy Government Securities

The National Stock Exchange of India launched a mobile application and web-based platform for retail investors to buy government securities. The new app—NSE goBID—was launched by the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s Chairman Ajay Tyagi.

The app would allow investors to invest in treasury bills (T-Bills) of 91 days, 182 days and 364 days and various government bonds from one year to almost 40 years.

The retail investors would be able to make payment directly from their bank accounts using Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Internet banking.

While investment could be done almost every week after a one-time registration, the app would be available to all investors registered with NSE’s trading members.

The launch assumes significance as government securities are among the safer investment options available to retail investors as such securities are credit risk-free instruments while providing portfolio diversification with longer investment durations.

What do you need to know about Treasury bills?

T-bills are short-term securities issued on behalf of the government by the RBI and are used in managing short-term liquidity needs of the government.

91-day T-bills are auctioned every week on Wednesday and 182-day and 364-day T-bills are auctioned every alternate week on Wednesdays.

Treasury bills are issued at a discount and are redeemed at par.

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Centre for Science and Environment wins Indira Gandhi peace prize

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has won this year’s Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development, an award conferred by Indira Gandhi Trust each year on the late Prime Minister’s birth anniversary.

The international jury for the awards was headed by former President Pranab Mukherjee.

The CSE was established in 1980 under the leadership of the late Anil Agarwal and is presently headed by Sunita Narain.

It has over the years worked on various burning issues from air and water pollution, food safety, wastewater management, climate change and so on.

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Govt launches chatbot loaded AirSewa digital platform for air passengers

Chatbots will now help air travelers in addressing their grievances, as the government Monday launched an upgraded version of AirSewa digital platform.

Besides, passengers can have access to real-time flight status and schedule for both domestic and international flights, according to the Civil Aviation Ministry.

AirSewa 2.0, the upgraded version of the web portal and mobile app, provides chatbot support for a faster resolution and personalized traveler experience. Also, passengers can sign up using their Facebook and Google accounts.

Generally, chatbots are computer programmes that interact with people through audio or text messages.

The AirSewa portal and mobile app were launched in November 2016. Since the launch, AirSewa 1.0 has helped resolve a significant

Around 12,000 complaints have been dealt with through AirSewa, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said.

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Indo-US joint military exercise ‘Vajra Prahar’ commences in Jaipur

The 12-day long joint military exercise between India and the United States are known as ‘Vajra Prahar’ commenced in Jaipur on Monday.

A contingent of the United States Pacific Commander arrived at Mahajan Field Firing Ranges on November 18 for undertaking Joint training with the Indian Special Forces.

The US contingent comprises of one officer and 10 other ranks from the Special Forces Group, informed Rajasthan Defence PRO Lt Col Sombhit Ghosh.

The United States Special Forces will carry out rigorous joint training in semi-desert and rural terrain to enhance the interoperability of the two armed forces and further the military to military co-operation.

The contingents will train on different aspects including hostage rescue, building intervention, desert survival, medical aid, and combat firing.

Lastly, the Special Forces will undertake a three-day outdoor exercise to validate their practices.

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Make elephant corridors eco-sensitive zones, says NGT

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to consider declaring all elephant corridors in the country as eco-sensitive zones.

NGT has given two weeks time to the Ministry to look into the issue and to proceed in the matter for the declaration of such areas as eco-sensitive zones.

The observations came while the green panel was hearing a plea that highlighted the increasing number of unnatural elephant deaths taking place in the state. The petition said, “Owing to the increased denudation and loss of their forest habitats, elephants have come increasingly into conflicts with humans and faced deliberate retaliatory killings and accidents at railway crossings, high tension power lines, power fences, and trenches.”

What are the Eco-sensitive zones?

The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.

The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards

Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.

The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA). The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.

Criteria:

The MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together. The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs. These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem-Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).

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India gets its first sewer cleaning machine

In order to reduce sewer deaths and put an end to the unsafe practice of manual scavenging, the Sulabh International introduced India’s first “sewer cleaning machine”.

The machine, Sulabh International founder Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak said, “will do away with 99 percent of manual scavenging” in the country, where at least one worker has died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks every five days since the beginning of 2017.

The machine, which costs Rs 43 lakh, was unveiled on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2018 by the mayors of all the three Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD), in the presence of Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari and Pathak.

To avert such tragedies, the Sulabh sewer cleaning machine is electro-hydraulically operated, with personal protective devices and a quick-view pipe inspection camera which extends up to 20 feet.

“The quick-view pipe view camera is designed to felicitate inspection of manholes, sewer, tunnels, tanks, mainline and other lateral pipeline facilities with an outstanding zoom function (industrial HD camera), scalable carbon fiber rods and a sunlight presentable controller,” he informed.

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Prime Minister launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19, 2018, launched the Ease of Doing Business grand challenge on resolving seven identified ease of doing business problems with the use of cutting-edge technologies.

Ease of Doing Business Ranking

The Doing Business Ranking is an annual assessment conducted by the World Bank that measures aspects of regulation affecting 10 areas of the life of a business, evaluating 190 countries on 10 specific indicators.

The scores are based on the measures implemented by the Government departments, however, they also reflect the experience of industrial users that are counted in the rankings.

The 10 indicators include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority interests, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

From a user’s perspective, ease of doing business signifies the ease of getting permission, license, registration or a service from a government agency. There are established processes within each government agency for issuing of such permissions or services.

Hence, the grand challenge seeks to invite innovative ideas from individuals, startups or other enterprises to implement artificial intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies for re-engineering related Government processes to eliminate physical interface, improve service delivery, enhance transparency and reduce cost and time.

Key Highlights

The EODB grand challenge is open to all young Indians, start-ups and private enterprises. The main purpose is to provide solutions to complex problems using current technology.

The platform for the grand challenge will be the Start-up India portal.

The date for closing of applications is January 1, 2019, and the final results will be declared on February 1, 2019.

The top 3 teams for each problem statement would be awarded cash prizes worth Rs 1 lakh, Rs 2 lakh, and Rs 3 lakh respectively.

The government would be working with all the winners for solution development and implementation.

Other Details

The Prime Minister at a programme organized at his residence on November 19 interacted with select CEOs from Indian & foreign companies.

The Prime Minister apprised CEOs of the efforts being made by the Union Government to ensure that India consistently improves its business environment.

The Prime Minister further reiterated his resolve to make India one of the easiest places to conduct business in the world.

He then congratulated all the government officials from the reforming Ministries and Departments as well as states and municipal corporations for their achievements in the last 4 years and exhorted them to work towards reforms with greater zeal and energy.

Hartwig Schafer, Vice President, South Asia of the World Bank Group, also addressed the gathering and appreciated the enormity of India’s achievement.

He also stressed that it gets tougher to improve ranks as a country moves higher up in the ranking and expressed his belief that India will continue to maintain the momentum it has gained over the last four years in its efforts in improving Ease of Doing Business.

Background

In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019) released on October 31, 2018, India recorded a jump of 23 positions from 100 in 2017 to 77 in 2018, among a total of 190 countries.

India also recorded the highest improvement in two years by any large country since 2011 in the Doing business assessment by improving its rank by 53 positions.

India improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score) on 7 out of the 10 indicators.

In the grant of construction permits, India’s rank improved from 181 in 2017 to 52 in 2018, an improvement of 129 ranks in a single year.

In Trading across Borders, India’s rank improved by 66 positions moving from 146 in 2017 to 80 in 2018.

The World Bank has recognized India as one of the top improvers for the year. This is the second consecutive year for which India has been recognized as one of the top improvers.

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