NATIONAL ISSUES JULY 2016

Parliamentary panel approves debt recovery law with changes

  • The Joint Parliamentary Committee has proposed amendments, ranging from definitions to several terms such as company, financial lease, and secured creditor, to the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill.
  • The Bill seeks to facilitate expeditious disposal of debt recovery applications. There are around 70,000 cases are pending in Debt Recovery Tribunals involving more than Rs 5 lakh crore.

Important proposals:

  • The committee proposed amendment to the net owned fund for a securitisation or reconstruction company.
  • The Committee suggested relaxation of restrictions on holding controlling interest in the capital of Asset Reconstruction Companies so as to have no restrictions on the composition of board of directors of ARCs.
  • The panel recommended that passing of an ex-parte order after the show cause notice of 30 days of the service of summons may be a violation of the principles of natural justice.

Background:

  • The Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is important legislation which seeks to amend the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 and the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 and make consequential amendments in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and the Depositories Act, 1996.
  • The legislation proposes to give RBI powers to regulate asset reconstruction companies, priortise secured creditors in repayment of debts and provide stamp duty exemption on loans assigned by banks and financial institutions to asset reconstruction firms.
  • The object of the amendments proposed in the Bill is to improve the ease of doing business and facilitate investment leading to higher economic growth and development.

U.P., Rajasthan lead in crimes on SCs

  • According to the latest data released recently by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan lead the country in the number of crimes registered against the Scheduled Castes.
  • U. P. with 20% of India’s Dalit population accounts for 17% of the crimes against them.
  • 52% to 65% of all crimes in Rajasthan have a Dalit as the victim. This despite the fact that the State’s SC (Dalit) population is just 17.8% of its total population.
  • Bihar, with 6,721 to 7,893 cases, accounts for 16-17% of the all-India crimes against Dalits with just 8% of the country’s SC population.
  • Gujarat’s numbers of crimes against Dalits had jumped to 6,655 in 2015 from 1,130 in 2014.

National Commission for Scheduled Castes:

  • A constitutional body
  • To promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests, special provisions were made in the Constitution.
  • In order to ensure that the safeguards provided to SCs and STs are properly implemented, the Constitution on its inception provided for appointment of a special office under Article 338 of the Constitution to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes and report to the President about the working of these safeguards.
  • Later, through the 89th Amendment of the Constitution, the erstwhile National Commission for SCs & STs was bifurcated into two different Commissions.

Composition:

  • The Commission consists of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and three other members.
  • They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
  • Their conditions of service and tenure of office are also determined by the president.
  • The commission presents an annual report to the president.

Functions of the commission:

  • To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes under this Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
  • To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Castes.
  • To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.
  • To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.
  • To make in such reports recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes.
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.

 

Irom Sharmila to end fast, contest elections in Manipur

  • Sixteen years after starting her hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Irom Chanu Sharmila has decided to end it on August 9 and contest the Manipur Assembly elections as an Independent candidate.
  • Irom Sharmila is the woman crusader who has been on a fast-unto-death since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Manipur. She was also recently acquitted in a case of attempted suicide registered in 2006.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act:

  • It is an Act empowering armed forces to deal effectively in ‘Disturbed Areas’.
  • Any area which is declared ‘Disturbed’ under the disturbed areas act enables armed forces to resort to the provisions of AFSPA. The choice of declaring any area as ‘disturbed’ vests both with state and central government.
  • After an area comes under the ambit of AFSPA, any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or another person of equivalent rank can use force for a variety of reasons while still being immune to the prosecution.
  • The act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (seven sisters).
  • In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
  • In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.

The government can declare AFSPA in the following conditions:

  • When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
  • When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.

High-level panel to recast UGC, AICTE

  • The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the high-level committee, headed by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, to prepare a road map for reforming the two regulatory bodies in the field of education — the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — as well as the board looking after Homeopathy and Ayurvedic education in the country.

National Medical Commission (NMC)

  • The committee has already proposed the scrapping of Medical Council of India (MCI) and replacing it with the National Medical Commission (NMC). The main objective behind this is to end the inspector raj in the medical field in the country.
  • NMC will become the main regulatory body and will take over all roles and responsibilities of the MCI.
  • NMC will have eminent doctors and experts from related fields to suggest the direction that should be given to medical education in the country so as to ensure that the quality of education is at par with global standards. It will also have members from other fields such as economics, law, etc in a bid to inculcate more professionalism in the body.
  • NMC will have around 19-20 members and their tenure will be about five years.
  • It will have a chairman as well as there will be four Boards — Under Graduate Medical Board, Post Graduate Medical Board, Accreditation and Assessment Board and a board for registration of medical colleges as well monitoring of the ethics in the profession.
  • These boards will be given autonomy and they will work on the fields for which they are formed.

So what if jallikattu is an age-old tradition- Supreme Court

  • While asserting that it disapproves arguments that the ‘Jallikattu’ should be allowed because it’s centuries old, the Supreme Court has set August 30 as the final hearing date to decide on the constitutionality of Jallikattu.

Background

  • The court’s strong response was after Tamil Nadu argued that Jallikattu – the mostly southern bull-racing sport – should be permitted as it showcases a cultural tradition that has been part of the custom and culture of people of the state for 5,000 years.
  • The Supreme Court already banned Jallikattu once, in May 2014. At the time it said bulls could not be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu or for bullock-cart races. However, in January, the Centre allowed the ‘sport’ in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
  • Days after the Centre allowed it, in January, the Supreme Court put Jallikattu on hold. It issued notices to the Centre and other states asking them to file their responses in four weeks, to petitions challenging the central government’s notification allowing Jallikattu and bullock-cart races.

Jallikattu:

  • Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. It is a Tamil tradition called ‘Yeru thazhuvuthal’ in Sangam literature(meaning, to embrace bulls), popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period.
  • Jallikattu is based on the concept of “flight or fight”. All castes participate in the event. The majority of jallikattu bulls belong to the pulikulam breed of cattle.

Indo-U.S. expedition discovers natural gas in Indian Ocean

  • A large natural gas discovery has been made in the Indian Ocean following a joint expedition by India and the U.S., opening up a new resource to meet energy needs.
  • India’s Oil Ministry and the U.S. Geological Survey made the discovery of large, highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate — an icy form of the fuel — in the Bay of Bengal. This is the first discovery of its kind in the Indian Ocean that has the potential to be producible.

Natural gas hydrates:

  • Natural gas hydrates are a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of natural gas and water
  • found in oceans, polar regions and in marine sediments on continental shelf margins.
  • Gas hydrates are considered as vast resources of natural gas and
  • By nature this gas is mostly methane. Methane gas hydrate is stable at the seafloor at water depths beneath about 500 meters.

Their occurrence:

  • The amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to greatly exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources. Gas hydrate resources in India are estimated at 1,894 trillion cubic meters and these deposits occur in Western, Eastern and Andaman offshore areas.

current affairs ias

  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gas hydrate deposits along ocean margins are estimated to exceed known petroleum reserves by about a factor of three.

Cabinet approves revised cost estimate for NATRIP project

  • Government has approved the revised cost estimate of Rs 3,727.30 crore for the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP).
  • This approval ensures completion of the projects under NATRIP which is an important initiative by the government for the establishment of the global test centres in India.

About NATRIP:

  • National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP), the largest and one of the most significant initiatives in Automotive sector so far,
  • It represents a unique joining of hands between the Government of India, a number of State Governments and Indian Automotive Industry
  • Aims to create a state of the art Testing, Validation and R&D infrastructure in the country.
  • This will address the R&D requirements of the automotive industry, full-fledged testing and homologation centres.
  • Also, the NATRIP project is required to adopt global best practices to ensure road safety, environmental protection etc in design, manufacture, testing and operation of motor vehicles in India since India is signatory to UN Regulation on Harmonisation of Vehicle Specifications under WP-29 of 1998.

Significance

  • The Project aims at creating core global competencies in Automotive sector in India and facilitate seamless integration of Indian Automotive industry with the world
  • positions the country prominently on the global automotive map.

Lok Sabha approves changes in Lokpal Act

  • Lok Sabha has approved an amendment to the Lokpal Act to allow extension to 50 lakh central government employees and NGOs receiving government funds in the deadline for filing asset declaration beyond July 31.

Details:

  • As per the rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as well as for his spouse and dependent children on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year.
  • Now the spouse and dependent children of government employees, ministers and MPs have been spared from declaring their assets.
  • Also, the deadline for filing asset declaration by public servants and certain NGOs has been extended beyond July 31. The NGOs that receive more than 1 crore of government grants and donations above 10 lakh from abroad fall under the ambit of Lokpal.
  • However, the senior management personnel of NGOs and public servants are still required to declare their assets.
  • The amendment pertains to Section 44 of the Lokpal Act which deals with declaration of assets and provision of making assets public.

Lok Sabha passes comprehensive Bill to check benami transactions

  • Seeking to check black money, Lok Sabha has passed a comprehensive Benami Transactions Amendment Bill, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assuring that genuine religious trusts will be kept out of the purview of the legislation.

Details:

  • The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill is aimed at curbing domestic black money.
  • The bill provides for a fine of up to 25% of the fair value of the asset and imprisonment of up to seven years, unlike an earlier lapsed version of the bill, which stipulated either a fine or imprisonment.
  • Under the bill, the term “property” will cover movable, immovable, tangible and intangible properties. In case of joint ownership of property, the tax payer will have to show financing sources.
  • The Bill also seeks to establish an Appellate Tribunal to hear appeals against any orders passed by the Adjudicating Authority. Appeals against orders of the Appellate Tribunal will lie to the high court.

Significance of the Bill:

  • The legislation is intended to effectively prohibit benami transactions and consequently prevent circumvention of law through unfair practices.
  • It empowers the Government to confiscate benami property by following due procedure. It therefore promotes equity across all citizens.
  • Also, those who declare their benami properties under income declaration scheme will get immunity under the Benami Act.

Surplus river basins face drop in rainfall: IIT study

A study carried out by a team of researchers from IIT Madras and IIT Bombay

FindingsIndia-Variability-of-Annual-Rainfall

  • decrease in spatial variability of mean monsoon rainfall over major river basins in India.
  • there is no statistically significant increase in monsoon rainfall over major water deficit river basins.
  • Major surplus basins such as Mahanadi, Godavari, Brahmani and West Flow River-I are witnessing significant decrease in rainfall
  • The decrease in water yield in recent periods in major surplus basins has been more than 10 per cent in the case of Mahanadi and West Flow River-I.
  • In the case of other surplus basins, the decrease has been within 10 per cent.
  • Ganga, which is a major water deficit basin, has seen significant increase in rainfall, while Yamuna, Krishna and Cauvery river basins exhibit a decrease.
  • There has been an increase in extreme rainfall events in India but this does not play a significant role in water availability as the surplus water gets wasted.

Challenges to interlinking

  • study has found that the amount of summer monsoon rainfall over Indian river basins does not support the paradigm “wet gets wetter and dry gets drier”.
  • The changes in rainfall pattern over major river basins in India raises concerns regarding the suitability and viability of interlinking major river water basins.
  • The water demand in a surplus basin first needs to be assessed and then met under decreasing water availability scenarios before transferring water to deficit basins.
  • Planning for inter-basin water transfer [in order to supply water from surplus to deficit river basins] necessitates an immediate reassessment with a systematic approach

Green light for Afforestation Fund Bill

  • The Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the contentious Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2016 that allows States to access nearly Rs. 42,000 crore and channel into afforestation projects.

Salient Features

  • The Bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.
  • These Funds will receive payments for:
  1. compensatory afforestation,
  2. net present value of forest (NPV), and
  3.  other project specific payments.
  • The National Fund will receive 10% of these funds, and the State Funds will receive the remaining 90%.
  • These Funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.
  • The Bill also establishes the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities to manage the National and State Funds.

Concerns

  • greater powers in the forest bureaucracy than to resident tribals- the possible violation of tribal rights under Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006
  • Even though both the Kanchan Chopra Committee and the IIFM Committee on Forest NPV (value of loss of forest ecosystem) clearly mention that communities must be compensated for the loss of forests, the CAF bill is totally silent about their rights and compensation.
  • gram panchayats not having the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown
  • doubts on whether it would lead to an ecologically-sustainable replenishing of forests. Official records show that 19.4 million hectares has been afforested by the forest department over the last decade but forest cover has barely increased,
  • A 2013 CAG report noted that state forest departments lack the planning and implementation capacity to carry out compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. With the share of funds transferred to states increasing from 10% to 90%, effective utilisation of these funds will depend on the capacity of state forest departments.

Background

  • The Compensatory Afforestation, Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has over the years accumulated a staggering Rs 41,000 crore as recompense for forest land having been diverted for non-forestry purposes.
  • The amount is calculated on the Net Present Value (NPV) of the diverted forest and the cost of afforestation; it ranges between Rs 5-11 lakh per hectare depending on the type and condition of a forest.
  • The fund of Rs.42,000 crore has been collected in lieu of forest land diverted under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for non-forest purposes such as industrial projects like mining.
  • Of the Rs.42,000 crore, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh  and Uttarakhand are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries.

Strategic Forces Command exempted from RTI ambit

  • The Strategic Forces Command, which forms part of the National Command Authority (NCA), has been added to the Second Schedule of the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, which exempts security and intelligence establishments from its purview.
  • Strategy Forces Command was being brought under sub-section (2) of Section 24 of the RTI

What is National Command Authority(NCA) ?

  • The NCA’s Executive Council, chaired by the National Security Adviser, gives inputs to the Political Council, which authorises a nuclear attack if need be.
  • The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister and advised by the Executive Council
  • This mechanism is meant to ensure that the nuclear weapons are under civilian control. A Command and Control (C2) mechanism prevents their accidental or unauthorised use
  • The NCA’s directives are executed by the Strategic Forces Command headed by a Commander-in-Chief of the rank of Air Marshal

What is Section 24 of RTI Act?

  • Section 24 says the Act is not applicable to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule.
  • The only exception is for information on allegations of corruption and human rights violations
  • Among the organisations included in the Second Schedule are the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Special Frontier Force, the Border Security Force, the National Security Guards and the Assam Rifles.

What is Section 8 of RTI Act?

  • Section 8 deals with exemption from disclosure of information
  • It says that there shall be no obligation to provide any citizen information, disclosure of which will affect
    • India’s sovereignty and integrity
    • the security
    • strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state
    • relations with foreign States or
    • will lead to incitement of an offence

Tea Board unveils accident cover for workers

  • The Tea Board of India has introduced an accident insurance scheme for workers in small tea gardens at an annual premium of Rs.14. Of this, tea farmers will have to pay only Rs. 3.50 annually.
  • The scheme provides compensation to small tea farmers between 18 and 70 years for a Rs.2 lakh-cover.
  • The share of small growers in total Indian tea production is rising. Of the total Indian tea production of 1,233 million kg in 2015-16, around 33.8% came from small tea gardens.
  • The scheme aims to help these small growers along with tea growers in the unorganized sector.

About Tea Board of India:

  • The Tea Board is set up under the Tea Act 1953. It has succeeded the Central Tea Board and the Indian Tea Licencing Committee which functioned respectively under the Central Tea Board Act, 1949 and the Indian Tea Control Act, 1938 which were repealed.
  • The Tea Board is functioning as a statutory body of the Central Government under the Ministry of Commerce.
  • The Board is constituted of 31 members (including Chairman) drawn from Members of Parliament, tea producers, tea traders, tea brokers, consumers, and representatives of Governments from the principal tea producing states, and trade unions .
  • The Board is reconstituted every three years.

Functions:

  • Assignment of certification numbers to exports of certain tea merchants. This certification is intended to ensure the teas’ origin, which in turn would reduce the amount of fraudulent labelling on rare teas.
  • endorsement of the diverse production and productivity of tea,
  • financial support of research organisations and
  • Monitoring of advances in tea packaging as it relates to health beneficial aspects.
  • Coordinates research institutes, the tea trade and government bodies, ensuring the technical support of the tea trade in the global industry.

Cabinet approves amendment in the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) amendment Bill

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for introducing amendments to the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in Parliament. The amendments aim to strengthen the Bill in terms of legal and administrative procedure so as to overcome the practical difficulties which may arise in the implementation of the provisions of the Bill when it becomes an Act.

What is benami property?-

  • The benami (without a name) property refers to property purchased by a person in the name of some other person. The person on whose name the property has been purchased is called the benamdar and the property so purchased is called the benami property. The person who finances the deal is the real owner.

Nod to Transgender Bill

  • The cabinet has approved the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgenders.

Details:

  • The bill will benefit a large number of transgender persons, mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalized section and bring them into the mainstream of society.
  • It will lead to greater inclusiveness and will make the transgender persons productive members of the society.
  • The bill will make all the stakeholders responsive and accountable for upholding the principles underlying the bill.
  • It will bring greater accountability on the part of the central government and state governments/Union Territories administrations for issues concerning transgender persons.

Sagarmala Development Company (SDC)

  • The cabinet has approved incorporation of the Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) with a share capital of Rs.1,000 crore.

Details:

  • With the formation of the SDC, the shipping ministry will now be able to provide equity support to the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and funding support to the residual projects under its ambitious Sagarmala Programme.
  • SDC will be under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping.
  • SDC will be incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013, with an initial Authorized Share Capital of Rs. 1,000 Crore and a Subscribed Share Capital of Rs. 90 Crore.

Functions

  • Identify port-led development projects
  • assist the project SPVs in
    • project development and structuring activities,
    • bidding out projects for private sector participation,
    • putting in place suitable risk management measures for strategic projects cutting across multiple States / Regions and
    • obtaining requisite approvals and clearances.
  • Since the Identified projects will be undertaken by multiple agencies, SDC will also work as the nodal agency for coordination and monitoring of all the currently identified projects as well as other projects emerging from the master plans or other sources.
  • SDC will undertake the preparation of the detailed master plans for the Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) identified as part of the NPP and provide a framework for ensuring the integrated development of Indian maritime sector.
  • Other important role assigned to SDC is to manage the coastal community development scheme and fund coastal community development projects identified under the Sagarmala Programme. The projects considered would be specific time-bound local interventions and innovative in nature.
  • SDC will be raising funds as debt/equity (as long term capital), as per the project requirements/ by leveraging .resources provided by the Government of India and from multi-lateral and bilateral funding agencies.
  • SDC will also aim to increase the scope of private sector participation in project development.

Background:

  • Sagarmala-  modernize India’s ports so that port-led development can be augmented – to contribute in India’s growth.
  • Why sagarmala-
    • Annual logistics savings – Rs.35,000 crore
    • boost India’s merchandise exports to $110 billion by 2025.
    • 10 million new jobs –  4 million of which will be direct employment.

New IT Ministry to have say over UIDAI and NIC

  • A mega role for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been carved out with say over all policy matters relating to information technology, electronics and the Internet, other than licensing of Internet Service Providers.
  • In this regard, the amendments made by President Pranab Mukherjee to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 pertaining to the Ministry of Electronics and Information and the Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences were recently notified by the cabinet secretariat.

Domain of the ministry:

  • Under the new rules, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will have complete jurisdiction
    • over the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and National Informatics Centre.
    • Two separate departments, Telecommunications and Posts,
    • All matters relating to cyber laws, administration of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000) and other IT-related laws
  • The Ministry would lead the
    • ‘Initiative on bridging the Digital Divide: Matters relating to Media Lab Asia’,
    • Promotion of Standardisation, Testing and Quality in IT and
    • standardisation of procedure for IT application and Tasks.
  • Entrusted with the task of promotion
    • promotion of the Internet, IT and IT-enabled services,
    • assistance to other departments in the promotion of e-Governance, e-Commerce, e-Medicine, e-Infrastructure and
    • promotion of IT education and IT-based education.
    • promotion and manufacturing of Semiconductor Devices in the country excluding all matters relating to Semiconductor Complex Limited (SCL), Mohali.
  • Besides, interaction in IT-related matters with international agencies such as Internet for Business Limited (IFB), Institute for Education in Information Society and International Code Council (ICC) would also be under its ambit.

Rural areas pose hurdle for small finance banks

  • With merely 8 months remaining to start operations, small finance banks are facing headwinds to open 25% of their total branches in unbanked areas as it will impact their profitability.
  • According to them, the cost of opening or converting the present microfinance institutions branches into full-fledged bank branches is higher. Therefore, one year will be very challenging from the profitability point of view for these institutions.
  • The other issue that is posing a hurdle is that compliance with the Basel norms. According to the guidelines for small finance banks, RBI had said as small finance banks are not expected to deal with sophisticated products, the capital adequacy ratio will be computed under Basel Committee’s standardised approaches.
  • Hence, in a recent meeting with the banking regulator, the small finance bank representatives have requested the regulator to give them three years to comply with the norms.

Background:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated that the small finance banks have to open at least 25% of their branches in unbanked rural areas within one year of their operations. Unbanked rural areas are the centres having a population less than 9,999 as per latest census.
  • In September 2015, RBI granted in-principle licences to 10 entities to start small finance banks. These entities will have to start operations within 18 months, else the licences will lapse. Out of the 10, nine entities were predominantly involved in microlending. Only one entity, out of 10 that received licences, has commenced operations – Jalandhar headquartered Capital Small Finance Bank, which was a local area bank earlier.

What are small finance banks?

  • The small finance bank will primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities

The guidelines they need to follow:

  • Promoter must contribute minimum 40% equity capital and should be brought down to 30% in 10 years.
  • Minimum paid-up capital would be Rs 100 cr.
  • Capital adequacy ratio should be 15% of risk weighted assets, Tier-I should be 7.5%.
  • Foreign shareholding capped at 74% of paid capital, FPIs cannot hold more than 24%.
  • Priority sector lending requirement of 75% of total adjusted net bank credit.
  • 50% of loans must be up to Rs 25 lakh.

Centre injects Rs.22,915 cr into 13 public sector banks

  • In a bid to boost credit growth in the economy, the Centre has announced a sum of Rs.22,915 crore for recapitalisation of 13 public sector banks. State Bank of India (SBI) will receive the largest allocation of Rs.7,575 crore. Indian Overseas Bank and Punjab National Bank are to get Rs.3,191 crore and Rs.2,816 crore respectively.
  • The infusions required in the current year were assessed from the CAGR of credit growth for the last five years and the banks’ projections of credit growth. The potential for growth of each these banks was also factored in.

Background:

  • In the Union Budget, the Centre had allocated a total of Rs.25,000 crore for the capitalisation of public sector banks in the current financial year 2016-17, in line with the infusion plans announced under the umbrella scheme “Indradhanush” introduced last year. The plan proposes infusions adding up to Rs.25,000 crore in 2015-16 as well as in 2016-17, followed by Rs.10,000 crore each in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

What is Mission Indradhanush?

  • Mission Indradhanush aimed to revamp the functioning of public sector banks so that PSBs can compete with the Private Sector Banks. The mission is a brainchild of PJ Nayak committee.
  • It is launched by Ministry of Finance under the Department of Financial Services. The mission is regarded as one of the big steps after the nationalisation of banks in 1970s.
  • The mission includes the seven key reforms of appointments, board of bureau, capitalisation, de-stressing, empowerment, framework of accountability and governance reforms.

Centre lets microbeads off the hook

  • Based on a petition requesting a ban on microbeads, also called microplastics, a National Green Tribunal Bench has asked the Ministries of Health, Environment and Water Resources file their response.

What the petition says?

  • The crux of petition is that these plastics are too small to be caught by sewage treatment and water filtration techniques and they pass unchecked into rivers and seas and contaminated them. They take centuries to degrade and worse, are sometimes eaten by fish and other aquatic animals and could even make their way into human diets. The United States has promulgated a ban, which will come into effect next July, on cosmetic products containing microbeads.

What are Microbeads?

  • Microbeads, small pellets of plastic, extensively used in personal care products such as shampoo, baby lotion and face cream and considered toxic to marine life, are being banned internationally, but key arms of the Indian government have side-stepped the issue either passing the buck or saying that no studies have been conducted to ascertain the harm posed to the environment or its potential toxicity.

Concerns:

  • Over 299 million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to oceans, costing approximately $13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems, says a June 2015 report by the United Nations Environmental Programme that investigated the possible harm by microbeads/microplastics.

High-value transactions under scanner

  • The CBDT is looking into about nine lakh pieces of information of high-value transactions and planning to send preliminary notices to the suspected cases. Out of the total nine lakh pieces, one lakh cases valued over Rs 1 crore are under the department’s scanner.

About CBDT:

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963.
  • It is a part of the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • It provides essential inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes in India and is also responsible for administration of the direct tax laws through Income Tax Department.
  • It is also India’s official Financial Action Task Force unit.
  • The CBDT Chairman and Members of CBDT are selected from Indian Revenue Service (IRS) whose members constitute the top management of Income Tax Department.

SC stands by Lodha panel report to revamp cricket

  • The Supreme Court has upheld almost all the recommendations of the R.M. Lodha Committee to overhaul the cricket administration at the end of a long hearing spanning over two years during which BCCI and State associations fought tooth-and-nail to protect their turf. The apex court found no reason to interfere with the recommendations.
  • The apex court approved most of the recommendations and has given a time period of six months to BCCI to implement all the changes.
  • Major recommendations upheld by the SC:
  • Ministers and IAS officers are disqualified from being a member of the BCCI.
  • CAG nominee will be in BCCI and office bearers in BCCI should not be beyond the age of 70 years.
  • ‘One state, one vote’ concept has also been upheld. States like Maharashtra and Gujarat having more than one cricket association will have voting rights on rotational basis.
  • There should be a player’s association in the BCCI.
  • One person should hold one post in cricket administration to avoid any conflict of interest.
  • It is left to the Parliament to decide whether BCCI functioning can be brought under RTI as recommended by Lodha Panel.
  • Parliament will decide recommendation of Lodha panel for legalising betting in cricket.

Background:

  • The committee headed by justice (retd) RM Lodha was appointed by the apex court last year in the wake of a sport-fixing scandal in IPL, the biggest crisis to hit the cash-rich sports body in the country.
  • Ever since the sweeping reforms were proposed, BCCI have raised objections to several recommendations including: advertisements between overs during a match broadcast, ‘one state, one vote’, the presence of two members from IPL franchises on the league’s governing council, the formation of an apex council, and a cap on the tenure of the office bearers.

Kerala House adopts resolution against merger of SBT with SBI

  • A substantive motion moved by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, asking the Union government and the RBI to desist from merging the State Bank of Travancore (SBT) with the State Bank of India (SBI), was recently adopted by the Assembly.
  • SBT was formed way back in 1946 and was the succour of the Kerala government as a huge majority of its transactions was done through the bank.
  • The majority union of SBT has already expressed deep concern in the move by the State Bank of India for the acquisition of its five associate banks including SBT.

Why merger is being opposed?

  • It is feared that if the merger took place, the SBI could lose sight of its welfare-oriented lending policies and become corporatised.

Background:

  • The Union Cabinet, in June 2016, approved the merger of State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, and its associate banks. The merged entity will have an asset base of about Rs.37 lakh crore, with nearly 24,000 branches and about 58,700 ATMs across the country as of March 2016. Associate banks to be merged are- State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signs seven Unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs)

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into seven Unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with Indian taxpayers. Some of these agreements also have a “Rollback” provision in them.
  • The APAs signed pertain to various sectors of the economy like banking, Information Technology and Automotives. The international transactions covered in these agreements include software development Services, IT enabled Services (BPOs), Engineering Design Services and Administrative & Business Support Services.
  • With these signings, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT has reached 77. This includes 3 bilateral APAs and 74 Unilateral APAs. In the current financial year, a total of 13 Unilateral APAs have been entered into so far.

About APA:

  • The APA Scheme was introduced in the Income-tax Act in 2012 and the “Rollback” provisions were introduced in 2014.
  • The scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance.
  • Since its inception, the APA scheme has attracted tremendous interest and that has resulted in more than 700 applications having been filed in just four years.

What is an advance pricing agreement?

  • An APA, usually for multiple years, is signed between a taxpayer and the tax authority (CBDT) on an appropriate transfer pricing methodology for determining the price and ensuing taxes on intra-group overseas transactions.

Centre releases ₹100 cr for Atal Pension Yojana

  • The Centre has released nearly ₹100 crore as its share of contribution for members of the Atal Pension Yojana. The fund has been released through the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.
  • The scheme has over 30 lakh subscribers and the Finance Ministry estimates that about 5,000 new subscribers are added every day.

Atal Pension Yojna (APY):

  • Under the APY, subscribers would receive a fixed minimum pension of Rs. 1000 per month, Rs. 2000 per month, Rs. 3000 per month, Rs. 4000 per month, Rs. 5000 per month, at the age of 60 years, depending on their contributions, which itself would vary on the age of joining the APY.
  • The Central Government would also co-contribute 50% of the total contribution or Rs. 1000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of 5 years, that is, from 2015-16 to 2019-20, to those who join the NPS before 31st December, 2015 and who are not members of any statutory social security scheme and who are not Income Tax payers.
  • The minimum age of joining APY is 18 years and maximum age is 40 years. The benefit of fixed minimum pension would be guaranteed by the Government.

WHO report sounds alarm on ‘doctors’ in India

  • The report of a study titled ‘The Health Workforce in India’ was recently released. The study was conducted by the WHO. The data for each district in the country from the 2001 census were specially extracted for this study, which provided a comprehensive picture of health workers in each district.

Highlights:

  • Almost one-third (31%) of those who claimed to be allopathic doctors in 2001 were educated only up to the secondary school level and 57% did not have any medical qualification.
  • The situation was far worse in rural India, where just 8% of allopathic doctors had a medical qualification.
  • Female healthcare workers – 38% of the total – were found to be more educated and medically qualified than their male counterparts.
  • Ignoring those who don’t have a medical qualification, there are 36 doctors per lakh population in India. As for nurses and midwives, India had 61 workers per lakh population compared to 96 in China. The number reduced tenfold to 6 per lakh population, if only those with a medical qualification were considered.
  • There is substantial variation in the density of health workers across States and districts. For instance, Kerala had 38.4% of the country’s medically qualified nurses but constituted only 3.1% of the total population. Similarly, West Bengal had 30.6% of all homoeopathic doctors in the country but only 7.8% of the population. Better-off States seemed to afford more doctors plus nurses per capita.
  • District-wise, the inequalities were massive. The density of allopathic doctors with any level of education in the lowest 30 districts — half of which were in north-eastern States and the other in central States — was a little over 4 per lakh of the population whereas, in the highest 30 districts, it was 159 per lakh of population.
  • In the case of dentists, the situation was even worse. The national density of dentists was extremely low at 2.4 per lakh population, with 58 (of the total 593) districts having no dentists at all in 2001. In fact, 175 districts (30%) had no dentists with a medical qualification

India basks in glow of UNESCO honours

  • Besides Nalanda Mahavihara, two other sites from India have made it to the World Heritage List. Two other sites are- Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) and Chandigarh’s famed Capitol Complex. This was announced at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) currently under way at Istanbul in Turkey.
  • This is the first time that any country got three sites inscribed in the Word Heritage List at a single session of the committee meeting.
  • India now has 35 sites, including 27 cultural properties, seven natural sites and one mixed site, notified as World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO world heritage site:

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.

Selection criteria:

  • Until the end of 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is only one set of ten criteria. Nominated sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten criteria.
  • Represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance.
  • Exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design.
  • To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
  • Is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
  • Is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
  • Is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
  • Contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  • Is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  • Is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, and communities of plants and animals.
  • Contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Govt notifies norms for retrofitting electric kit in vehicles

  • To curb vehicular pollution, the government has notified rules for retrofitment of hybrid electric system, or electric kit, for vehicles. The rules – Central Motor Vehicles (Seventh Amendment) Rules, 2016 — were notified following amendment in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. This applies to the vehicles that meet emission norms and are run on either diesel or gasoline only.

Details:

  • The Retrofitment of hybrid electric system kit to vehicles having Gross Vehicle Weight not exceeding 3,500 kg shall be permitted if it conforms to Bharat Stage-II or subsequent emission norms, if it was not retrofitted earlier.
  • It mentions that the installation of type approved hybrid electric system kit shall be done only by an installer authorised by the manufacturer or supplier of such kits.
  • The notification also mentions that the conversion of vehicles for pure electric operation with fitment of electric kit shall be permitted if the vehicle was manufactured on or after January 1, 1990 and “it is not provided with permits for carrying dangerous or hazardous goods, as defined in CMV Rules, 1989.”
  • It also stipulated that the kit manufacturer or supplier shall obtain the type approval certificate from a specified test agency and such certificate will be valid for three years from the date of issue

Army yet to hack new terror tech

  • More than a year after a new technological solution used by terrorists began causing headache to the Army in Kashmir, no breakthrough has been made to crack it. An indigenous software patch for intercepting the new mode of communication has also failed.

Concern:

  • Terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan have been using smartphones paired with very high frequency (VHF) radio sets to communicate with one another, resulting in a drop in communication intercepts and adversely affecting military efforts to deal with them.

Background:

  • The concept of pairing mobile phones with radio handsets originated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012. This mode of sending mobile communications without using mobile towers is of great help for rescue operations during calamities, but is now among the key technology deployed by terrorists to avoid the security forces while crossing the Line of Control.
  • This technology is secure and active even in high peaks and forests especially near the Line of Control where conventional mobile and satellite phones can give away their location.
  • Terrorists also use other technologies such as self-destroying chats and end-to-end encryption to overcome interception.

Speaker facing the axe can’t disqualify MLAs, says SC

  • The Supreme Court recently ruled that a Speaker should refrain from deciding the disqualification of MLAs for defection under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution if he himself is facing the prospect of removal.
  • The ruling was a safeguard against a Speaker using the disqualification proceedings of legislators for his own political ends.

Observations made by the court:

  • A Speaker, under the threat of losing his position, may choose to disqualify the MLAs to alter the composition of the House in his favour. But, it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker to adjudicate upon disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule, while a notice of resolution for his own removal from the office of Speaker is pending.
  • If a Speaker truly enjoys the support of the House’s majority, there would be no difficulty whatsoever to demonstrate the confidence which the members of the State Legislature repose in him.
  • The office of Speaker, with which the Constitution vests the authority to deal with disqualification petitions against MLAs, must surely be a Speaker who enjoys the confidence of the Assembly.

Article 179:

  • This was ruled by the court while interpreting Article 179 of the Constitution in a judgment on the Arunachal Pradesh crisis recently. Article 179(c) provides that a Speaker (or Deputy Speaker) “may be removed from his office by a resolution of the Assembly passed by a majority of all the then members of the Assembly”.
  • The judgment points to the phrase “all the then members of the Assembly” to conclude that the composition of legislators should remain the very same while deciding whether a majority in the House wants the Speaker to continue or not.
  • The court held, “The words ‘all the then members’ demonstrate an expression of definiteness. Any change in the strength and composition of the Assembly, by disqualifying sitting MLAs, for the period during which the notice of resolution for the removal of the Speaker (or the Deputy Speaker) is pending, would conflict with the express mandate of Article 179(c), requiring all ‘the then members’ to determine the right of the Speaker to continue.”
  • Further, the court said MLAs so disqualified by the Speaker would be subsequently deprived of the opportunity to participate in the motion against the Speaker himself under Article 179(c)

TRI-NETRA – Terrain imaging for diesel dRivers Infra-red, Enhanced Optical & Radar Assisted system

  • Ministry of Railways, Railway Board has initiated a proposal to install TRI-NETRA systems on locomotives for enhancing the vision of Locomotive Pilots in inclement weather. TRI-NETRA stands for – Terrain imaging for diesel dRivers INfra-red, Enhanced opTical & Radar Assisted system.

How it operates?

  • TRI-NETRA system is made up of high-resolution optical video camera, high sensitivity infra-red video camera and additionally a radar-based terrain mapping system. These three components of the system act as three eyes (Tri-Netra) of the Locomotive Pilot.
  • TRI-NETRA is designed to “see” the terrain ahead of the running locomotive during inclement weather by combining the images captured by the three sub-systems and to create a composite video image which shall be displayed in front of the Loco Pilot on a computer monitor.

Significance:

  • During fog, heavy rain and also during night, the locomotive pilots face serious challenges in looking out ahead to spot any obstruction on the track such as vehicles which get stuck while crossing the track or trees or boulders which have fallen across the track etc. Because of the heavy momentum of the running train, the train driver has to always adjust the speed of the train such that he or she can stop the train on visually seeing the obstruction. In fair weather and in daytime, this is not a problem since train driver has a clear view of the track ahead. But in poor visibility, he has to reduce the speed suitably so that the brakes can be applied in time to stop the train without hitting the obstructions.

Background:

  • The concept of TRI-NETRA was developed by Development Cell under the guidance of Member Mechanical, Railway Board while brainstorming on how to use the technology employed by fighter aircrafts to see through clouds and operate in pitch darkness and the technology used by naval ships in mapping the ocean floor and navigating in the night.

Census 2011 records rise in literacy among disabled

  • New numbers released from Census 2011 show that literacy among disabled has increased in the country.

Highlights:

  • More than half of the total disabled population in India are now literate. The literacy rate among the disabled has increased from 49.3% in 2001 to 54.5% in 2011. However, this is significantly lower than the overall literacy level of India which stands at 74%.
  • Both rural and urban areas saw an increase of around four percentage points in literacy rate of the disabled.
  • Among the urban disabled, 68% are literate while the number stands at 49% for disabled in the rural areas.
  • The difference between literacy rate of males and females is wider in rural areas — 72% of disabled males and 61% of disabled females in urban areas are literate, a difference of nine percentage points.
  • But in rural areas, the difference stands at 20 percentage points, as 58% of disabled males and only 38% of disabled females are literate.

India slips on business optimism index: survey

  • Business Optimism Index, part of Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) for April-June 2016, was recently released. The survey took note of 2,500 businesses across 36 economies.

Highlights:

  • India slipped to the third position, during April-June, after remaining on top globally for the two preceding quarters.
  • Companies in India were mainly concerned about the delays in key reforms like the goods and services tax, non-resolution of tax disputes and the banking sector’s performance.
  • India continues to top the chart on expectations of revenue increases.
  • Growth in employment expectations dropped to the second position during this period from top rank in the previous quarter.
  • The rank on optimism further slipped to fourth in terms of profitability expectations.
  • While the business confidence in India has weakened, there is a rise in optimism on the export front. However, red tape continued to hamper growth and ranked India as number two on the issue.
  • Research and development continue to be an area of concern.
  • On the global front, there is a rise in the proportion of businesses worldwide expecting increased revenue over the coming 12 months. However, growth in global export expectations continues to be slow, indicating that revenue is dependent on domestic consumer spending power.
  • Consumer spending is now under threat from increased political instability, recovering oil prices and reduced plans to offer pay increases.

UNESCO declares Nalanda Mahavihara World Heritage Site

  • UNESCO has declared Bihar’s much awaited ancient site – the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara – a World Heritage Site.
  • With the inclusion of Nalanda, this would be the second UNESCO Heritage Site in Bihar after Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.

Key facts:

  • Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.
  • The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.
  • It was a major Mahavihara or a large Buddhist monastery that also doubled up as an important centre of learning from the 5th to 1200 AD in the erstwhile kingdom of Magadh.
  • The construction of Nalanda university began in 5th century AD and flourished under the Gupta rulers. It came to an end in the 12th century when it was destroyed in 1193 AD by the invading Turkish army led by its commander Bakhtiar Khilji.

UNESCO world heritage site:

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • The List of recorded sites on the World Heritage now stands at 981 which include both cultural and natural wonders.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 50 site

Madhya Pradesh becomes first state to have ‘Happiness Department’

  • Madhya Pradesh has become the first state in the country to set up ‘Happiness Department’.

Key facts:

  • The department will work to ensure “happiness in the lives of common people” on the lines of Bhutan.
  • A panel of experts will be formed in the newly-constituted department which will give suggestions to ensure happiness in the lives of the people.
  • The department will identify and define parameters that make people happy, coordinate among various departments, recommend policy changes and formulate an action plan to “increase the level of happiness and satisfaction” among the state’s more than 7.25 crore population — all on a Rs 3.60 crore budget.
  • The department will have a president, a chief officer, a director (research), a director (coordination) and four research assistant among others. Experts working in the field could be nominated to the department.
  • The department will take feedback from people on the happiness parameters at regular intervals, publish survey reports and carry out research to improve the existing parameters.

Background:

  • Bhutan, the first country to come up with the concept of gross national happiness, has fixed standards of living, health, education, good governance and psychological happiness among the various parameters that make its citizens happy.
  • Some of the US states that follow Gross National Wellness have included emotional and psychological ability, physical health, work, income, economic progress and holidays among other parameters.
  • The parameters used by the United Nations include per capita GDP, health, community cooperation during bad times, and trust-inducing measures like corruption-free government and business, freedom to take decisions, and philanthropy.

WHR:

  • The World Happiness Report 2016 by the UN ranks India at 118th among 156 countries, behind Somalia (76), China (83), Pakistan (92), Iran (105), Palestinian Territories (108) and Bangladesh (110). Madhya Pradesh, which has made remarkable progress in agriculture in recent times, does not figure among the country’s developed states, and fares badly when it comes to social indices like maternal and infant mortality. It also has a very high rate of crimes against women.

Red Corridor to be redrawn by govt.

  • The government is set to reduce the number of Maoist-affected districts by about a fifth.
  • Approximately 20 of the 106 districts which have been described as being Maoist-affected and are part of the Red Corridor may soon no longer be part of the list.
  • This exercise, under way now for two years, is being done for the first time since 2006, when the Maoist-affected districts were identified and graded on the basis of their violence profile.
  • The names of the districts and the reasons for being considered to be taken off the list have been communicated to the States and a response is awaited. The names are not being revealed because of the sensitivities of the States which fear that once a district is taken off the list financial aid which is made available to the districts – to the tune of Rs. 30 crore annually for various developmental work – will dry up.
  • The 106 districts which span 10 States — Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — are described as those affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and constitute the ‘Red Corridor.’
  • Of these, 44 districts are said to be the worst-affected. India has a total of 683 districts.
  • The considerations on which the government has examined the districts with LWE features are:
    • their violence profile,
    • an assessment of the kind of logistical and other support provided to armed Maoist cadres by their sympathisers and “over ground workers”, and
    • the kind of positive changes brought about by development work that these districts have seen.

Govt. to assess Model Village Scheme running out of steam

  • The government is gearing up to assess the efficacy of one its pet programmes, the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) after initial enthusiasm among MPs has turned to apathy with less than 100 MPs adopting a second village under the programme.
  • SAGY
    • launched in October 2014,
    • by Prime Minister Modi who himself first adopted village Jayapur and later the village Nagepur in his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi.
    • Under the scheme MPs were to be responsible for developing the socio-economic and physical infrastructure of one Adarsh Gram, or model village, by 2016, two more by 2019, and one in each of the following five years.
    • A village development plan, crowd sourced among local population is to be prepared and implemented and handed to the State governments for implementation
  • A common complaint has been the fact that no separate funds have been made available for programmes undertaken under the SAGY.
  • A two-page analysis to assess the present status of villages compared with two years ago will be launched in coming August, followed by a detailed report in October. An “impact indicator” scale with 35 indicators has been prepared for the purpose.
  • The analysis report will show how MPs’ involvement and visits have speeded up development in their villages. For other MPs, it could be a reality check as well as encouragement to take the programme more seriously. In the first phase of the programme, 701 of the 795 MPs adopted a gram panchayat each. In the second phase, which started in April, only 88 MPs have made their selection so far

Masula Land Pooling Scheme notified in AP

  • The Andhra Pradesh government issued a notification, adopting Land Pooling Scheme (LPS) to gather land required for the proposed deep sea port and Machilipatnam Industrial Corridor.
  • According to these rules, the Machilipatnam Area Development Authority (MADA) will take up the land pooling exercise, guaranteeing a set of packages to the farmers and others who are willing to part with their land for the deep sea port and the industrial corridor.
  • The land procurement mechanism is purely voluntary and based on consensual process of land pooling as it was adopted for development of the Machilipatnam area for the deep sea water port and industrial corridor.
  • The government would provide pension of Rs.2,500 per month per family for 10 years to all landless families through Machilipatnam Region Urban Development Society Security Fund from the date of draft notification.
  • A skill development institute would be established and employment training provided for cultivating tenants and agriculture labourers.

Now, NGOs have to register with NITI Aayog for grants

  • Stepping up its scrutiny of NGOs, especially their financial dealings, the Centre has made the following mandatory for them to apply for grants from any ministry.
    • obtaining unique identification numbers
    • registering them on the NITI Aayog portal,
    • including the details of the Aadhaar and PAN numbers of all their trustees and office- bearers
  • All ministries have been directed to process the proposal for grants and releases to the NGOs only through the Aayog’s portal
  • It was also decided that a system should be developed to give unique entity numbers to charitable trusts and societies.
  • The decision was taken by the Aayog at its meeting
  • Significantly, a June 26 government notification said if an NGO receives government funding in excess of Rs 1 crore, those handling its day-to-day operations will be treated as public servants under the Lokpal and Lok Ayukta Act (2013).

Joint dedication of the Petrapole Integrated Check Post (ICP)

  • The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina recently jointly inaugurated the Petrapole Integrated Check Post through video-conferencing.

Details

  • The Petrapole ICP will provide better facilities for effective and efficient discharge of functions such as security, immigration, customs, quarantine, etc. while also providing support facilities for smooth cross-border movement of persons, goods and transport.
  • Petrapole ICP will be the second ICP on the India-Bangladesh border after the Agartala ICP at the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) land border. It will also be the biggest land port in South Asia.
  • It is expected that the capacity will double with the commissioning of the Petrapole ICP and the local business community will benefit immensely from reduced transaction time and costs.
  • The commissioning of the Petrapole ICP will also serve to foster greater economic integration and connectivity between India and Bangladesh.

Background:

  • Petrapole-Benapole is an important land border crossing for India-Bangladesh trade. More than 50% of the India-Bangladesh trade passes through Petrapole. Trade worth more than Rs. 15000 Crore takes place through the Petrapole ICP, which is more than all the other Indian Land Ports and Land Customs Stations put together. Approximately 15 lakh people and 150,000 trucks cross Petrapole-Benapole every year.

 

National Electoral Roll Purification 2016 launched

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has launched the National Electoral Roll Purification (NERP) programme across the country to correct errors in electoral rolls and enrolment of all eligible citizens, among other things.

Highlights:

  • NREP 2016 will ensure single electoral register entry for every eligible elector with unique Elector Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number, removal of all absent, shifted or dead electors’ entries and repeat entries.
  • Photo electoral rolls will be updated with good quality images of every elector confirming to ECI standards, and linking electors with ECI by obtaining their contact details.
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) would be used to standardise sections, polling station boundaries and locations.
  • Booth Level Officers (BLOs) will conduct door-to-door field verification of entries apart from collecting electors’ information on contact details, family members, including non-enrolled and persons who would become eligible on January 1, 2017. The collected details would be uploaded on the NERP portal for further processing and action by Electoral Registration Officers (EROs).
  • To provide easy access to citizens and electors for enhanced electoral rolls related services, voluntary collection of mobile number/e-mail ids and details of family members will be done under NERP 2016. The Commission has also ordered that such information, under no circumstances, should be put in public domain or shared with any authority.
  • Provision has been made to provide the information electronically on National Voters Service Portal (NVSP). Poor quality and black and white images are proposed to be replaced by the District Election Officers (DEOs) through deployment of sufficient number of digital cameras.
  • To ensure transparency and meaningful involvement and active participation of citizens of the area, the Commission has decided that the Electoral Registration Officers (ERO) would prepare part wise list of names proposed to be removed from the electoral roll on account of absence, shifted, dead and repeat entries to be displayed in the office for a period of at least seven days from the date of pasting of the list.

Will explore options to pellet guns: Govt

  • The government is planning to set up an expert committee to recommend non-lethal alternatives of crowd control after many members of Parliament expressed concern over the loss of lives and injuries in Jammu and Kashmir due to the use of pellet guns.
  • Pellet guns-They are a form of non-lethal crowd control methods used by police and military worldwide. The other popular methods are tear gas, water cannon, pepper spray, taser guns etc. Pellet guns are also popular in hunting and pest control.
  • Pellets guns are intended to injure individuals and cause pain. They are effective over short ranges up to 500 yards but when fired from close quarters can be lethal, particularly when sensitive parts like eyes are hit. Pellets can penetrate soft tissues.
  • Pellet guns are manufactured at the Ordinance Factory, Ishapore.
  • They are used by Jammu & Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). They were first introduced in August 2010. The CRPF has 600 such guns.

Now, private citizens can seek sanction to prosecute IAS officers

  • In a major move, the Centre has agreed to permit private persons seek sanction for prosecution of State and central IAS officers under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • The government will now entertain proposals/requests from private persons for sanction of public servants in compliance of a Supreme Court verdict of 2012. In this regard, the centre has intimated all states the procedures to be followed.

Supreme Court’s judgment:

  • The Supreme Court in its judgment in Dr. Subramanian Swamy versus Dr. Manmohan Singh case had observed that “there is no provision either in the(Prevention of Corruption Act),1988 Act or the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.PC) which bars a citizen from filing a complaint for prosecution of a public servant who is alleged to have committed an offence.”
  • The apex court had further observed that if the Competent Authority is satisfied that the material placed before it is sufficient for prosecution of the public servant, then it is required to grant sanction or refuse sanction if the evidence is not sufficient. In either case, the decision taken on the complaint made by a citizen is required to be communicated to him and if he feels aggrieved by such decision, then he can avail legal remedy.

Existing rules:

  • Under the existing rules, requests for sanction for prosecution of All India Services Officers (IAS/IPS/IFS etc) can be initiated by the investigative agencies only. A decision to grant or deny the permission can be made only by a “competent authority” designated by the Centre

No evading I-T net with advanced technology in place

  • The Income-Tax department has the technology to track high-value transactions
  • And as far as its Andhra Pradesh circle (which includes Telangana) is concerned, there are records of an estimated 10 lakh persons who had made transactions of over Rs. 1 crore without proffering a Permanent Account Number (PAN), who could get notices soon.
  • In what was termed a repeat of the 1997 offer of Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, the department urged people to avail what they considered a golden opportunity – the Income Declaration Scheme 2016 to set their books of accounts right, once and for all and with no questions asked.
  • All those who would declare their undisclosed income now would not be considered evaders in the strict sense of the term.
  • Apart from the basic 30 per cent tax bracket, those who now filed their returns were expected to pay 7.5 per cent more as penalty/surcharge and another 7.5 per cent towards the Krishi Kalyan Scheme
  • The scheme that was opened on June 1 would last till September 30

De-register 10-year-old diesel vehicles in Delhi – NGT order

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT)  ordered Road Transport Offices (RTO) in Delhi to de-register all diesel vehicles that are over 10 years old and directed it to share data of the vehicles that will be de-registered.
  • The police in turn are to take appropriate steps to implement the directions of the green court.
  • Directing immediate implementation of the order, the green court said the measures were being brought in to ensure that air quality improves as schemes run by the state government, including odd-even, weren’t enough.
  • On April 7, 2015, the NGT had ordered a ban on diesel vehicles over 10 years old. The order was challenged, but the NGT dismissed the appeal.
  • As per the report submitted by the expert committee, the ambient air quality in the Capital during the implementation of the odd-even scheme was found to be worse than when it was not in force.
  • The Delhi Government’s Transport Department had earlier maintained that it did not have the power to deregister diesel vehicles as, according to the Central Motor Vehicles Act, only the RTOs could do so.

SC stands by Lodha panel report to revamp cricket

  • The Supreme Court upheld almost all the recommendations of the R.M. Lodha Committee to overhaul the cricket administration
  • The apex court found no reason to interfere with the recommendations.

Major recommendations of the panel

  1. Bar on ministers and civil servants and those above 70 from becoming its members.
  2. Parliament to decide whether BCCI should come under the RTI and betting on the game should be legalised.
  3. A CAG nominee in the BCCI to oversee receipt and expenditure of funds.
  4. The Bench rejected the BCCI’s objection against recommendation of one-State-one-vote. It said that States like Maharashtra and Gujarat that have more than one cricket association will have voting rights on a rotational basis.
  5. It accepted the recommendation that there should be a players association in the BCCI and the funding of players’ association accepted while leaving it to the Board to decide the extent of funding.
  6. The Bench accepted the recommendation that one person should hold one post in cricket administration to avoid any conflict of interest and scrapping of all other administrative committees in the BCCI after the CAG nominee comes in.
  7. It left it to the Board to decide whether there is need for any change in the existing agreement relating to broadcasting rights and whether a franchise member should be in the Board to avoid any conflict of interest.
  8. The Bench requested the three-member panel headed by former CJI Lodha to oversee the transition of administrative structure in the BCCI which has to take place within six months.

Note: The committee headed by justice (retd) RM Lodha was appointed by the apex court last year in the wake of a sport-fixing scandal in IPL, the biggest crisis to hit the cash-rich sports body in the country.

Nalanda, Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) and Chandigarh’s famed Capitol Complex in UNESCO heritage sites list

  • The archaeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) in Bihar, Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) and Chandigarh’s famed Capitol Complex has been included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, which also featured new sites from China, Iran and Micronesia.
  • The inclusion of the new sites was announced at the 40th session of The World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul in Turkey.
  • This is the first time that any country got three sites inscribed in the Word Heritage List at a single session of the committee meeting.
  • India now has 35 sites, including 27 cultural properties, seven natural sites and one mixed site, notified as World Heritage Sites.

About Khangchendzonga National Park

  • The KNP is the first ‘mixed’ heritage site from India to make it to the list. A ‘mixed site’ exhibits qualities of both natural and cultural significance.khangchendzonga-national-map
  • The park qualified as a mixed site under the Operational Guidelines of WHC for its “exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.”
  • The park exhibits one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any protected area worldwide. It boasts of a unique diversity of lowlands, steep valleys and snow-clad mountains, including the world’s third highest peak, Mt. Khangchendzonga, besides numerous lakes and glaciers.
  • The KNP, which covers 25% of Sikkim, is home to a significant number of endemic, rare and threatened plant and animal species. A large number of bird and mammal species has also been recorded from here.
  • The park combines the religious and cultural practices of Buddhism as well as the ecological significance of the region, and stands out as an outstanding example of traditional knowledge and environmental preservation. It is also a unique example of coexistence and exchange between different religious traditions and people.

About Chandigarh’s Capitol complexcapitol-complex

  • It is spread over an area of around 100 acres and is a prime manifestation of Chandigarh’s architecture. It comprises three buildings, three monuments and lake, including Palace of Assembly or Legislative Assembly, Secretariat, High Court, Open Hand Monument, Geometric Hill and Tower of Shadows
  • The complex was designed by Le Corbusier in the 1950s when the city was constructed as a symbol of independent, modern India.

About Nalanda

  • Nalanda stands out as one of the most ancient universities in South Asia.Nalanda-University
  • Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE.
  • The site includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal.
  • The University engaged in the organised transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

UNESCO world heritage site:

UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.

  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.
  • UNESCO, with the help of 21 member World Heritage Committee and advisory bodies such as International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), within the framework of its Operational Guidelines, decides about the cultural and natural sites to be included on the World Heritage list. Such cultural and natural sites must display the necessary Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), fulfill one or more out of 10 prescribed criteria (as given below), maintain the condition of authenticity and integrity and should be in a good state of conservation.
  • At times, concerns are raised by the World Heritage Centre during inscription process those relate to the state of conservation or its management (including that of its buffer). State party addresses such concerns by giving necessary commitment to effectively manage the site and its buffer, thus safeguarding its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Selection criteria:

Until the end of 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is only one set of ten criteria. Nominated sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten criteria.

  • Represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance.
  • Exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design.
  • To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
  • Is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
  • Is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
  • Is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
  • Contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  • Is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  • Is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, and communities of plants and animals.
  • Contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Now India has 35 sites. In addition to the above 3 the 32 sites from India declared as World Heritage properties as follows.

CULTURAL SITES

(Under Protection of Archaeological Survey of India)

S.No Name of Site State
1. Ajanta Caves (1983) Maharashtra
2. Ellora Caves (1983) Maharashtra
3. Agra Fort (1983) Uttar Pradesh
4. Taj Mahal (1983) Uttar Pradesh
5. Sun Temple, Konarak (1984) Odisha
6. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984) Tamil Nadu
7. Churches and Convents of Goa (1986) Goa
8. Group of Temples, Khajuraho (1986) Madhya Pradesh
9. Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986) Karnataka
10. Group of Monuments, FatehpurSikri (1986) Uttar Pradesh
11. Group of Temples, Pattadakal (1987) Karnataka
12. Elephanta Caves ( 1987) Maharashtra
13. Great Living Chola temples at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram (1987 & 2004) Tamil Nadu
14. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989) Madhya Pradesh
15. Humayun’s  Tomb, Delhi (1993) Delhi
16. Qutb Minar Complex, Delhi (1993) Delhi
17. Prehistoric Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003) Madhya Pradesh
18. Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park (2004) Gujarat
19. Red Fort Complex, Delhi (2007) Delhi
20. Hill Forts of Rajasthan

(Chittaurgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer and Ranthambhore, Amber and Gagron Forts)      (2013)

(Amber and Gagron Forts are under protection of Rajasthan State Archaeology and Museums)

Rajasthan
21. Rani ki Vav (2014) Gujarat

Under Protection of Ministry of Railways

22. Mountain Railway of India ( Darjeeling,1999), Nilgiri (2005), Kalka-Shimla(2008) West Bengal,  Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh
23. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004) Maharashtra

Under Protection of Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee 

24. Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya (2002) Bihar

Under Protection of Rajasthan State Archaeology and Museums Department

25. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010) Rajasthan

NATURAL SITES 

Under Protection of Ministry of Environment & Forest 

26. Kaziranga National Park (1985) Assam
27. Manas Wild Life Sanctuary (1985) Assam
28. Keoladeo National Park (1985) Rajasthan
29. Sunderban National Park (1987) West Bengal
30. Nanda Devi  and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988, 2005) Uttarakhand
31. Western Ghats (2012) Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra,Tamil Nadu
32. Great Himalayan National Park (2014) Himachal Pradesh

 

Interest subvention

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Interest Subvention Scheme for farmers for the year 2016-17. The Government has earmarked a sum of Rs. 18,276 Crore for this purpose.
  • This will help farmers getting short term crop loan payable within one year up to Rs. 3 lakhs at only 4% per annum.
  • The Central Government will provide interest subvention of 5% per annum to all farmers for short term crop loan upto one year for loan upto Rs. 3 lakhs borrowed by them during the year 2016-17. Farmers will thus have to effectively pay only 4% as interest. In case farmers do not repay the short term crop loan in time they would be eligible for interest subvention of 2% as against 5% available above.
  • In order to give relief to small and marginal farmers who would have to borrow at 9% for the post harvest storage of their produce, the Central Government has approved an interest subvention of 2% i.e an effective interest rate of 7% for loans upto 6 months.
  • To provide relief to the farmers affected by Natural Calamities, the interest subvention of 2% will be provided to Banks for the first year on the restructured amount.
  • In case farmers do not repay the short term crop loan in time they would be eligible for interest subvention of 2% as against 5% available above.

National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme

  • The Centre has approved an outlay of Rs.10,000 crore towards a scheme to provide apprenticeship training to 50 lakh youth by 2020.
  • The approved National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme will provide financial incentives to employers to engage apprentices.
  • Under the scheme, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship will share 25% of the total stipend payable to an apprentice with employers.
  • The government will also fund 50% of the total expenditure incurred by the employer in providing basis training to apprentices.

Logistics Data Tagging of Containers

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Port has become the first port in the country to implement logistics data tagging of containers. The Port recently implemented the logistics data bank tagging of containers, first of its kind facility, which will help importers/exporters track their goods in transit through logistics data bank service.
  • An RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Tag) tag would be attached to each container which would be tracked through RIFD readers installed at different locations.
  • This would provide the ‘Visibility’ and ‘Transparency’ of the EXIM Container Movement by covering the entire movement through rail or road till the ICDs (Inland Container Depot) and CFSs (Container Freight Station).
  • This service will integrate the information available with various agencies across the supply chain to provide detailed real time information within a single window.
  • This would help in reducing the overall lead time of the container movement across the western corridor and lower the transaction costs incurred by shippers and consignees.

Development of Port-Rail Connectivity Projects approved under Sagarmala Programme

  • The Ministry of Railways will be taking up 21 port-rail connectivity projects, at an estimated cost of more than Rs.20,000 Crores, as identified under the port-connectivity enhancement objective of Sagarmala, the flagship programme of the Ministry of Shipping.
  • These projects are aimed at strengthening the rail evacuation network and the last mile connectivity to the ports. In addition, another six projects are being considered by the Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL).
  • The Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL), which has been incorporated by the Ministry of Shipping, would take up the projects after prioritizing them. IPRCL has already awarded 3 port connectivity projects for Vishakhapatnam and Chennai ports for quick evacuation of cargo, and another 19 projects are in the pipeline.

Sagarmala Initiative:

  • The Sagarmala project seeks to develop a string of ports around India’s coast. The objective of this initiative is to promote “Port-led development” along India’s 7500 km long coastline.
  • It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and promotion of the optimum modal split, enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services.
  • The Union Ministry of Shipping has been appointed as the nodal ministry for this initiative.

Insurance Policy for Nuclear plants

  • India’s first insurance policy covering public liability to an atomic power plant operator has been issued to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
  • The insurance policy was issued by the country’s largest non-life insurer New India Assurance Company Ltd.
  • NPCIL got the insurance policy covering all its atomic power plants. The total premium came around Rs. 100 crore for a risk cover of Rs. 1,500 crore.
  • The policy complies with all the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.
  • The policy would cover the liability towards public as a consequence of any nuclear accident in the plants covered under the policy and also the right of recourse of NPCIL against equipment suppliers.

Flying Daggers 45

  • Two indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircrafts were recently inducted into the IAF squadron, known as the ‘Flying Daggers 45’
  • The aircraft is equipped to handle air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, bombs and rockets.01tejas1
  • It is considered to be the lightest multi-role supersonic aircraft of its class.
  • HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) are the key state-run defence companies that are behind the design and development of this Light Combat Aircraft
  • The combat aircraft uses fourth generation technologies and has intentionally been made longitudinally unstable to enhance manoeuvrability.
  • The Tejas has a ‘glass cockpit’ which displays ‘real-time’ information to the pilot.
  • The multi-role radar on Tejas – which was developed as Indian–Israeli venture – is meant to facilitate all weather use of a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry.

Defence Communication Network (DCN)

  • The DCN is a strategic, exclusive, secure and state-of-the-art communication network.
  • Implementation of DCN is a proof of strength of the Indian industry and has reaffirmed the emphasis of the Government on Make in India, program.
  • The DCN is a major step towards ensuring Network Centricity across the three Services, Integrated Defence Staff and Strategic Forces Command.
  • The network provides converged voice, data and video services to the three Services based on secured system with adequate redundancy.

Prashikshak

  • ‘Prashikshak’, the teacher education portal for District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) was recently launched by the government
  • It is a unique IT Initiative taken up under DIET.
  • Prashikshak is a unique IT initiative, a first of its kind in the country, which will contain a comprehensive database of all DIETs in the country with all relevant performance indicators.
  • It will help benchmark DIETs to enable aspiring teachers to make informed choices about their future.
  • At the same time, it will give the opportunity to Central and State Governments to do real time monitoring of the institutions.
  • Prashikshak was established through joint collaboration between Ministry of Human Resource Development and Central Square Foundation.

Madhya Pradesh becomes first state to have ‘Happiness Department’

  • The department will work to ensure “happiness in the lives of common people” on the lines of Bhutan.
  • A panel of experts will be formed in the newly-constituted department which will give suggestions to ensure happiness in the lives of the people.
  • The department will identify and define parameters that make people happy, coordinate among various departments, recommend policy changes and formulate an action plan to “increase the level of happiness and satisfaction” among the state’s more than 7.25 crore population — all on a Rs 3.60 crore budget.
  • The department will take feedback from people on the happiness parameters at regular intervals, publish survey reports and carry out research to improve the existing parameters.

Income Declaration Scheme extended to September 2017

  • The Centre has announced an extension of a deadline under the Income Declaration Scheme, aimed at bringing undeclared income and assets into the tax net to, September 30, 2017.
  • The Income Declaration Scheme offers people with undisclosed income to declare it by paying a penal tax rate of 45% on such income. An amendment in this regard was also recently moved in the Finance Bill, 2016. The Finance Bill has imported Section 138 of the Income Tax Act into the declaration scheme’s ambit. Bringing in Section 138 to the Scheme brings in objectivity on confidentiality of income tax information and the limitations thereof.

SEBI notifies stricter transfer norms for Participatory Notes

  • To allay concerns over misuse of controversy-ridden P-Notes, regulator Sebi has notified new norms restricting transfer of these offshore instruments only to entities authorised for their use and that too after prior consent from the issuer foreign investor.
  • As per the new notification, a foreign portfolio investor will have to ensure that any transfer of offshore derivative instruments issued by or on behalf of it, is made subject to two specific conditions — such ODIs are transferred to persons fulfilling Sebi norms for subscription and a prior consent of the FPI is obtained for such transfer, except when the persons to whom the ODIs are to be transferred to are pre-approved by the FPI.
  • As per the Sebi regulations, no FPI can issue, subscribe to or otherwise deal in ODIs, directly or indirectly, unless they satisfy certain strict conditions. As per these conditions, the ODIs can be issued only to persons who are regulated by an appropriate foreign regulatory authority and they can be issued only after compliance to the prescribed ‘know your client’ norms.
  • Also, only the top-two categories of FPIs, including sovereign funds, central banks and multi-lateral institutions, and certain broad-based funds including insurers and pension notes, can issue or deal in ODIs.
  • The Category III FPIs, which mostly include hedge funds and individual investors, cannot issue, subscribe to or otherwise deal in ODIs, directly or indirectly.
  • All these conditions would now also apply for transfer of the ODIs.

Asylum seekers can own property

  • The Union Cabinet has approved proposals for extending several benefits to “persecuted” minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in India on long-term visas.
  • The beneficiaries can buy property for self-occupation or use in self-employment. They are allowed free movement within the State of their stay, and can get their long-term visa papers transferred from one State to another.
  • The government has permitted them to apply for long-term visas from the place of their current residence, even if they have moved to the present place without seeking permission.
  • The Collector or District Magistrate would be empowered to authorise an officer not below the rank of Sub-divisional Magistrate for administering the oath of allegiance to the applicant.

India Post to sell collectible stamps

  • The Department of Post is planning to set up an independent company for its philately business with an aim to boost revenues from the sale of collectible stamps. The proposal would soon be sent to the Cabinet.
  • India Post Philately Company is proposed as a public limited company, fully owned by the government, with an authorised capital of Rs. 100 crore.
  • The proposed company will be a service-based one, which will not only sell its products to existing customers —collectors and philatelists — but will also try to attract new ones. It will focus on promotion of philately, mainly among the younger generation.
  • As per the proposal, the new firm will have a corporate office and four zonal offices. The board of directors will have seven officials. While the Secretary, Department of Posts, will be the non-executive chairman, India Post officials of the rank of Joint Secretary will be appointed as chairman and managing director on deputation. The board will have three persons from the department and four outsiders.

Kuji Mendha sheep gets ‘rare and singular species‘ tag

  • ‘kuji mendha‘, a threatened breed of sheep found only in coastal Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts of Odisha has been conferred ‘rare and singular species‘ tag by the central government. The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) has accorded the genetic recognition. With NBAGR conferring it genetically rare status, conserving these domesticated species would receive a boost.
  • Kuji Mendha sheep are fast breeders giving multiple birth. Sheep in other parts of Odisha are not known for giving multiple birth. This characteristic makes them distinctive from other species
  • The rare genetic traits lead to the multiple birth syndrome in them. These animals are dwarf in built with the body covered with coarse hair. The average adult sheep weighs 18-20 kg.
  • Kendrapada sheep are primarily used for production of mutton. The other product of economic importance is their skin. They are well adapted to high ambient temperature, high humidity and heavy rains.

Roots of Khasis

  • Pre-historic megaliths and tools discovered in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district indicate that the Khasi tribe had made the State their home since around 1200 BCE.
  • Excavations carried out near Lummawbuh village in the northern slopes of Sohpetbneng (Heaven’s Naval) peak near the NH-40 revelaed these facts.
  • Archealogists have found megalithic structures, and iron implements that date back to the prehistoric period in the ridge spreading over 1.5 k.m.

Indian Captain Radhika Menon Is First Woman To Get Bravery At Sea Award

  • Captain Radhika Menon, first woman captain of the Indian Merchant Navy will receive IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.
  • The 2016 International Maritime Organisation Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will be given to Captain Radhika Menon for her role in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in tumultuous seas in the Bay of Bengal in June last year.
  • The annual Award was established by IMO to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.

Rajesh Kumar Chaturvedi appointed CBSE Chairman

  • The government appointed a 1987- batch IAS officer Rajesh Kumar Chaturvedi Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for a five-year term.
  • The post had been lying vacant from December 2014
  • The central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) was reconstituted in 1st July 1962. The head office of the Board is situated at New Delhi. It is an autonomous body fully controlled by the Government of India. Today the Board has 5119 schools affiliated to it, which include 784 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 1381 Government schools, 2486 independent schools, 355 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya and 13 Adhoc schools.
  • In order to execute its functions effectively, and maintain the educational standards, the Board has decentralized its administration. As a result, Regional Offices have been set up in different part of the country to be more responsive to the affiliated schools. It has regional offices in Ajmer, Chennai, Allahabad, Guwahati, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Objectives of CBSE:

The Central Board of Secondary Education was set up to achieve certain interlinked objectives.These are as follows:

  1. To prescribe conditions of examinations and conduct public examinations at the end of class X and XII.
  2. To grant qualifying certificates to successful candidates of the affiliated schools.
  3. To fulfil the educational requirements of those students whose parents were employed in transferable jobs.
  4. To prescribe and update the courses of instructions for examinations.
  5. To affiliate institutions for the purpose of examination and raise the academic standards of the country.

DGCA rules on refund of ticket charges and for differently abled person

  • Domestic airlines will be allowed to keep fuel charge component of a cancelled ticket and the Centre has mandated them to refund all the other statutory taxes and dues paid by passengers.
  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in its final rules published on July 12, has fixed a cap on cancellation fee. As per the earlier proposal the cancellation charges included the base fare alone. Now, with the final rule, airlines will not have to refund the fuel charges of a cancelled ticket to the passenger. The rules will take effect on August 1.

Implication of the decision

  • The move will give airlines some room to charge up to Rs.400-Rs.500 extra for a cancelled ticket. However, the cancellation charges will still be considerably reduced from the present fee levied by both airlines and travel agents.
  • The airlines will have to indicate in an unambiguous manner the amount of refund of money admissible on cancellation of a ticket. The airlines shall not levy any additional charge to process the refund.
  • The rules also put onus on airlines to process refund of cancelled ticket purchased from travel agents who are their “appointed representatives.” Airlines have to ensure that passengers get the refund within 30 working days. The move might trigger a legal recourse as the airlines had strongly opposed it.

Measures for Disabled persons:

  • In a separate set of rules, the DGCA has also enlisted a slew of measures to be taken by airlines for passengers with disability or reduced mobility
  • It shall be the responsibility of the persons with disability or reduced mobility to notify their needs at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure so that the airline makes necessary arrangements.
  • The airlines will have to provide “all assistive devices” free of cost to differently -abled passengers.
  • “To ensure safety of aircraft operations,” the maximum number of differently-abled passengers permitted to travel in a single flight should not be more than the number of cabin crew “except when such passengers are accompanied by trained escorts.”
  • Airports will have to reserve parking spaces close to the terminal building for persons with disability or reduced mobility and provide ramps at least at the main entrance or exit gates.

Ashok Patnaik is NATGRID chief

The NDA government appointed a serving Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer Ashok Patnaik as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), one of the most ambitious intelligence projects

About NATGRID

The NATGRID is a centralised agency which stores sensitive personal information on citizens from almost two dozen agencies to be made available for counter-terror investigations.

SC quashes Arunachal Governor order, Tuki takes charge as CM

  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that status quo ante as on December 15, 2015, should be restored in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • This means that Nabam Tuki will return as Chief Minister and Kalikho Pul, the dissident who formed the government with the help of the BJP after a brief spell of President’s Rule, and even proved his majority in a floor test in February, will have to go.

Background

  • In Arunachal Pradesh, events took an unseemly turn last December when the Governor, J.P. Rajkhowa, intervened in an apparently partisan manner by advancing a session of the State Assembly by nearly a month and asking the House to take up a motion to remove the Speaker as the first item on the agenda. This led to a shutdown of the legislature at the behest of the Chief Minister and the Speaker, and the dissidents holding a parallel session at a makeshift venue, where the Speaker was ‘removed’ and a ‘no-confidence’ motion against the government adopted. The subsequent imposition of President’s Rule and the installation of the Pul regime raised questions about the propriety of the BJP-led Central government’s approach to Congress-ruled States.

What is special about the judgement?

  • This judgment is unprecedented in that it is the first time the apex court used its powers of judicial review to restore a government when its successor government is still in place.
  • Though there are several judicial precedents, led by the nine-judge Bench in the historic S.R. Bommai judgment, which condemned the arbitrary use of Article 356 invoking President’s rule, none have gone so far as to restore a government ousted by emergency.
  • The Constitution Bench was exclusively looking into the question of constitutionality of the Governor’s discretionary powers to override the authority of Speaker Nabam Rebia and advance the Assembly session without the aid and advice of the Tuki Cabinet.
  • The court said that a Governor is not an elected representative, but only an executive nominee whose powers flow from the advice of the Cabinet. His tenure depends on the pleasure of the President. Using discretionary powers to summon or dissolve Assembly sessions without the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet is unconstitutional.
  • “The Governor is not an ombudsman for the Legislature nor the Speaker’s mentor. The Governor cannot require the Speaker to discharge his functions in the manner he considers constitutionally appropriate,” Justice Khehar wrote.

Ending impunity under AFSPA

  • Supreme Court ruled that the armed forces cannot escape investigation for excesses in the course of the discharge of their duty even in “disturbed areas” , even though in such notified areas, security personnel enjoy statutory protection for their use of “special powers”.
  • While hearing petitions demanding an inquiry into 1,528 deaths in counter-insurgency operations and related incidents in Manipur, the court has said the provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the purported immunity it offers to the use of force “even to the extent of causing death” are not invincible
  • The court has sought tabulated details on 62 specific cases in which there is some evidence that the deaths involved were not genuine operational casualties but extrajudicial killings or fake encounters.
  • In most cases, not even a first information report has been registered, and in some, the cases are against the victims. The court has acknowledged that additional powers have been given to the armed forces to deal with terrorism effectively. However, it also made clear that this cannot be an excuse for extrajudicial killings — whenever such allegations surface, they have to be investigated, regardless of whether the person concerned is a dreaded criminal, terrorist or insurgent.

Zakir Naik’s UK-registered Foundation under scanner

  • Zakir Naik, who has come under the scanner after the Dhaka terror attacks, the government is probing the financial records for massive contributions that the preacher’s organisations received in the past few years.
  • The Birmingham-based Foundation was set up on January 11, 2007, for the purpose of religious and other charitable activities. It has its email and website registered on “peacetv.tv” domain.
  • According to investigations, Dr. Naik is a trustee of the UK-registered Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI) that has received over £7 million in donations between 2009 and 2014.
  • Government sources said IRFI primarily funds Peace TV that broadcasts Dr. Naik’s public speeches. The television network is banned in the U.K., the U.S., Canada and China. In 2010, the U.K. government had banned Dr. Naik; he is also not allowed to enter Canada and Malaysia.
  • Following allegations that one of the terrorists involved in the recent Dhaka terror attack and killing of 20 hostages was inspired by the speeches of radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, the Indian government has also initiated a probe into the foreign funding of his non-government organisations.
  • A study of the returns filed by the two NGOs with the MHA under the mandatory FCRA regulations revealed that they received about Rs.10 crore in the past decade. The funds came mostly from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Enayam:a new port in Tamil Naidu

  • Union Cabinet’s decision to approve the construction of a new port on Tamil Nadu’s west coast at Enayam near Colachel.
  • Envisaged as a gateway container trans-shipment hub for cargo moving to and from India and along one of the world’s major shipping lanes connecting the Suez Canal to east Asia, Enayam is being projected as a competitor to Colombo.
  • Chosen for its natural water depth of about 20 m, and proximity to the east-west international shipping lane, the proposed port will be located about 40 km south of Vizhinjam in Kerala, where the Adani Group is developing a trans-shipment container terminal.
  • Enayam will be designed to berth the latest and largest Triple-E class container vessels, however, does indicate that the Ministry’s planners have a strategic vision and are counting on a future rebound in world trade.

Kerala’s fat tax

  • Kerala announced a 14.5 per cent “fat tax” on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and tacos sold through branded outlets in sync with the World Health Organization’s advocacy of using fiscal tools to promote healthy eating.
  • “The ‘fat tax’ may not stop children from eating junk food altogether. But there will definitely be a drop in consumption because many parents will put their foot down when it comes to spending more. Also, fat tax will create awareness about health consequences of consuming unhealthy food.
  • Like a cigarette tax and an alcohol tax, a fat tax would dissuade children from eating a lot of energy dense foods.

Madras High Court ruled in favour of Perumal Murugan

  • The Madras High Court ruled in favour of Perumal Murugan, author of novel Madhorubhagan, granting him relief from all the controversies that affected the work of fiction that compelled him to announce that he would withdraw his entire body of work from publication and never write again.
  • The court directed the State government to circulate a series of guidelines framed by the court to handle such situations among the State police and to form an expert committee to handle such issues.

Background

Perumal Murugan was forced to agree to a written “unconditional apology” at a ‘peace committee’ meeting organised by local officials in the face of orchestrated protests to demand a ban on his novel Mathorubhagan (One Part Woman) and his prosecution.

Union Cabinet Expansion and Reshuffle

  • The council of ministers now has 77 members, the largest in years. Ex- Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is considered most significant benficiary after being elevated to full Cabinet rank and given HRD ministry.Smriti Irani has been shifted to Textiles from HRD ministry.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has shed Information and Broadcasting (I&B) portfolio and Venkaiah Naidu has been given additional charge of I&B.
  • Besides Mr. Javadekar, 19 new Ministers (17 new faces and two old hands) took oath as Ministers of State. The previous strength of the government was 63 (after Gopinath Munde died and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP Maharashta chief Rao Saheb Danve quit). Five Ministers of State tendered their resignation on Tuesday, leaving 58 Ministers in the earlier batch.

BSE unveils online system for Sovereign gold bond

  • BSE has unveiled an online bidding platform for sovereign gold bonds and begun conducting mock bidding sessions on the system. BSE has received Reserve Bank’s approval to start an online bidding platform for sovereign gold bond (SGB) scheme. So far, three tranches of the bonds have been issued amounting to about Rs.1,322 crore.

About Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme

  • Under the scheme, gold bonds are issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams for a term of 5-7 years with a rate of interest to be calculated on the value of the metal at the time of investment. The scheme has an annual cap of 500 grams per person.
  • The bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited and designated post offices.
  • As per the scheme, the gold bonds will be sold only to resident Indian entities including individuals, Hindu undivided families, trusts, universities, and charitable institutions.
  • The bond tenure will be eight years with exit option beginning the fifth year onwards. They will also be tradable in the bourses.
  • Bonds can also be used as collateral for loans.

‘Flat fee optimal for spectrum use’

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has drilled holes in a formula government uses to calculate annual spectrum charges payable by mobile phone operators and suggested using value generated by use of the airwaves to be included in the basis for computing levies.
  • It has said that formula in practice may have a significant impact on the revenue payable to the government. TRAI has also identified complications in adopting flat spectrum rate recommended it earlier.

TRAI’s proposal:

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has suggested adding another element — the final bid value for a spectrum band won in an auction — to the weighted-average formula proposed by the telecom department (DoT), saying the change would reflect potential revenue from the airwaves that had been acquired, and thus was a better way of calculating SUC. If the proposal is accepted, telcos will need to pay more to the government.

Background:

  • The Cabinet last month approved spectrum auction rules except spectrum usage charges (SUC) recommended by the inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission. The Cabinet asked telecom ministry to seek Trai’s view on SUC before it approves the rule.
  • Currently, telcos are charged different rates based on the complicated weighted-average formula, which takes into account non-auctioned or auctioned spectrum, quantum of airwaves bought, and the specific SUC applicable to the auction from which airwaves were bought. The 4G spectrum bought in 2010 is kept out of this formula and is charged at a flat 1% of annual revenue.
  • The DoT’s latest formula includes the 2010 4G airwaves for calculating SUC. In 2013, Trai had proposed a flat 3% SUC across all bands of spectrum— auctioned or not—which could be gradually brought down to 1%, as it was difficult to distinguish revenue accruing from different bands of airwaves.
  • All operators that currently pay SUC as per weighted-average formula had been in favour of flat SUC of 3%, citing problem with revenue segregation, especially with 4G services being offered using different airwaves. This, they felt, could lead to revenue arbitrage.
  • Currently, telecom operators pay in the range of 3% to 8% of their adjusted gross revenue as SUC for spectrum bands expect 2300 MHz, for which the charge is 1 per cent of AGR. This arbitrage may be exploited by operators as it is not possible for the government to segregate revenue accrued from different bands of spectrum.

Increasing visibility of Indian women in science

  • Women in science continue to be underrepresented in public imagination, and to put right this anomaly, science outreach initiative IndiaBioscience, based out of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, is organising ‘Wikipedia edit-a-thon’ on July 16 at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc.).
  • The goal is to create and complete Wikipedia profiles on Indian women in science.
  • In an edit-a-thon, participants are trained to edit Wikipedia articles, generally centred around a theme.
  • Currently, around 40 women scientists from India have Wikipedia pages, but many of the articles are incomplete or lack supporting credentials. Under Wikipedia guidelines, the notability of the person has to be established for an entry to be approved.

Khasis lived in Meghalaya since 1200 BCE, says study

  • Pre-historic megaliths and tools discovered in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district indicate that the Khasi tribe had made the State their home since around 1200 BCE. A megalith is a large stone that forms part of a prehistoric monument.
  • Archaeologist Marco Mitri and a team of academicians from the North Eastern Hills University excavated the archaeological site near Lummawbuh village in the northern slopes of Sohpetbneng (Heaven’s Naval) peak near the NH-40.
  • They found megalithic structures, and iron implements that date back to the prehistoric period in the ridge spreading over 1.5 k.m. The excavation at Lummawbuh is the first one of a Neolithic site in Meghalaya.
  • Radiocarbon dating confirmed that these were dated back to 12{+t}{+h}century BCE
  • The megalithic structures are used in the traditional mortuary practices that were followed by the tribes till a few decades ago. These Neolithic structures were first discovered in 2004. It took at least a decade to confirm the existence of a settlement in the area till about 200 years ago
  • The British Archaeological Reports had in 2009 published Mr. Mitri’s work — ‘Outline of Neolithic Culture of Khasi and Jaintia Hills’.
  • The archaeologist had also edited a book titled Cultural–Historical Interaction and the Tribes of North East India , which was published in 2010.

Panel to look into feasibility of new fiscal year

  • The Centre said it has set up a committee, headed by former CEA Shankar Acharya, to examine the “desirability and feasibility” of having a new financial year, replacing the existing April—March period.
  • The committee, which will submit its report by December, will examine merits and demerits of various dates for commencement of a financial year, including the existing dates (April—March)
  • The committee will have to provide reasoning for the suitability of the financial year from the point of view of correct estimation of receipts and expenditure of central and state governments.
  • It also has to state its effect on the different agricultural crop periods and the relationship of financial year to the working season.
  • Besides, the committee will also have to analyse its impact on businesses, taxation systems and procedures, statistics and data collection and
  • its impact on the convenience of the legislatures for transacting budget work.
  • The committee will also have to provide the government with the studies made in the past on the desirability of change in financial year

Yeldi Softcom gets RBI licence for digital wallet

  • Yeldi Softcom, a payment services company, has received licence from the Reserve Bank of India to operate a semi-closed digital wallet to carry out cashless transactions.
  • A semi-closed wallet is a digital payment instrument accepted by a pre-defined set of merchants contracted specifically by the issuer (Yeldi). A semi-closed wallet does not allow users to withdraw or redeem cash

SC sets deadline for blocking online sex selection ads

  • In January 2015, the apex court observed that “India is suffering so much because of its sex ratio,” and passed an interim order telling the three search enginesGoogle, Yahoo and Microsoft to “forthwith” withdraw online advertisements on pre-natal sex determinat-ion facilities, clinics or centres. These advertisements violated Section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
  • The Supreme Court slammed the companies for the failure of the companies and the government to comply with the order.
  • The Bench asked the government to set up a meeting between its technical experts and the Internet companies within 10 days to devise ways to block and control these advertisements.
  • The Bench had also considered the government’s suggestion that the three search engines be asked to provide it with a list of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) and Internet Protocol addresses hosting these ads so that they can be blocked or filtered.
  • But, the Internet companies objected, saying that the Internet was a “censor-free zone” and the government’s stand amounted to “pre-censorship and information blocking.”

PCPNDT Act:

  • The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991. Sex Ratio in India currently stands at 944 females available for every 1000 males.
  • The main purpose of enacting the act is to
    • ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and
    • prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
  • Offences under this act include
    • conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units,
    • sex selection on a man or woman,
    • conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act,
    • sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.

Main provisions in the act are:

  • The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
  • It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
  • No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
  • No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
  • Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
  • The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.

Amendment in 2003

  • Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act)
  • to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
  • The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
  • The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted.

HC guidelines to deal with freedom of expression issues

  • The Madras High Court has laid down certain guidelines to deal with issues regarding Article !9(1)
  1. The freedom of expression of authors and artists should be fully protected.
  2. The presumption is bound to be in favour of free speech and expression as envisaged, unless a court of law finds it otherwise as falling within the domain of a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. This presumption must be kept in mind if there are complaints against publications, art, drama, film, song, poem, cartoons or any other creative expressions.
  3. It is the State’s responsibility to maintain law and order, and that it should not permit any compulsion on artists concerned to withdraw from their stand.
  4. The government should constitute an expert body to deal with situations arising from such conflicts of views within a period of three months. Such expert body shall consist of qualified persons in the branch of creative literature and art so that an independent opinion is forthcoming, keeping in mind the law evolved by the judiciary.
  5. In such matters of art and culture, the issue could not be left to the police authorities or the local administration alone, especially when there was a spurt in such conflicts
  6. The State should ensure proper police protection when such authors and artistes came under attack from a section of society, besides conducting regular programmes for sensitising officials over matters dealing with such conflicts of artistic and literary appreciation.
  7. The guidelines enumerated should be adhered to and circulated by the State government for the benefit of the police and State authorities

Govt. to celebrate Guru Gobind Singh’s 350th anniversary

  • The government will celebrate 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh across the country and has earmarked Rs. 100 crore for the events.
  • Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh Guru, was born on December 22, 1666.
  • The AAP government in Delhi recently named the Barapullah bridge after Baba Banda Singh.

Nuclear plants insured

  • India’s first insurance policy covering public liability to an atomic power plant operator has been issued to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) 
  • The total premium came around Rs. 100 crore for a risk cover of Rs. 1,500 crore
  • The policy complies with all the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act
  • The Central government had announced in June 2015 the setting up of the Rs. 1,500-crore India Nuclear Insurance Pool to be managed by national reinsurer GIC Re.
  • The insurance policy was issued by the country’s largest non-life insurer New India Assurance Company Ltd.
  • The policy would cover the liability towards public as a consequence of any nuclear accident in the plants covered under the policy and also the right of recourse of NPCIL against equipment suppliers. The insurance coverage will be for all the NPCIL’s plants.

Govt. pushes for divestment, list on July 5

  • An inter-ministerial meeting of secretaries will shortlist loss-making and sick government companies to be considered for closure and strategic disinvestment from a list the NITI Aayog submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Office last month.
  • The meeting will recommend strategic disinvestment only in non-contentious government com panies; Air-India, which is now reporting operating profits, and BSNL, among the top three loss-making public sector units, will not be considered.
  • The plan is to start with the low-hanging fruit, where least resistance is expected from the Opposition and the employees, and gradually build momentum. BSNL would have been a prime candidate but with 2.5 lakh employees it cannot be the test case
  • Candidates are likely to be picked from among the state-owned companies in the cement, salt, textiles, paper and antibiotics sectors, since there was no reason for government presence in these businesses.

Background

  • Earlier, the NITI Aayog submitted two lists to the Prime Minister’s Office: One for PSUs that can be considered for strategic disinvestment and another of recommendations on each of the sick and loss-making government-owned companies.
  • The list of 15 PSUs was recommended by  Aayog  for strategic disinvestment on priority
  • It is now being examined by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management in the Finance Ministry.
  • In the list of sick and loss-making government-owned companies
    • there are about 74 such companies.
    • Of these, for about 25 companies in which revival plans were attempted but had failed, it has suggested closure, after which their assets, especially land holdings, could be disposed off and employees offered voluntary retirement.
  • An inter-ministerial meeting of secretaries will shortlist loss-making and sick PSUs for closure and strategic disinvestment from the NITI Aayog’s lists.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had in February directed the Aayog to identify PSUs that the Department could take up for strategic disinvestment and also suggest norms for doing so. Those that could be taken up for closure include ITI Ltd, IDPL and Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd, which incidentally, has considerable land holdings.

Centre reduces prices of key fertilizers

  • The government has decided to reduce prices of key fertilizers such as Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), Muriate of Potash (MOP) and Nitrogen Phosphate and Potash composition (NPK)
  • DAP, MOP and NPK fertiliser prices have never come down in last 15 years and it was increasing.

Start-ups: 571 entrepreneurs queue up for tax benefits

  • Startup India is an initiative of the DIPP. As many as 571 budding entrepreneurs have filed applications with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) for recognition as innovative startups to avail tax breaks and other benefits.
  • Out of these, only 12 are eligible Startup India benefits and tax exemption. Remaining applicants will receive hand holding support from Startup India Hub
  • In January, a slew of incentives were unveiled to boost start-up businesses, offering them a tax holiday and inspector raj-free regime for three years, capital gains tax exemption and Rs.10,000 crore corpus to fund them. India has the third-largest number of start-ups globally.
  • To boost financing, a 20 per cent tax on capital gains made on investments by entrepreneurs after selling own assets as well as government-recognised venture capitalists is also exempted.

Politics stretches list of Smart Cities from 100 to 109

  • Urban Development Ministry is slowly yielding to political compulsions by allowing more cities to participate in the upcoming Smart City Mission competition.
  • As per the Urban Development Policy, only 100 cities are listed to be developed as Smart Cities in the next five years. The ministry, however, has now allowed nine more capitals, including Patna, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru, Amaravati, Itanagar and Gangtok, to participate in the next round of the competition. It has also allowed the governments of Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh to nominate two cities each — Jammu and Srinagar, and Rae Bareli and Meerut respectively — in contravention of the rules. T

Tap potential of youth, PM tells States

  • Prime Minister has asked all States to put in place a 14-point charter to tap the potential of youth to the optimal level and increase their participation in national schemes.
  • He has directed all departments, youth organisations, magistrates and governments to mobilise youths by designing an ‘inspiring/ patriotic youth anthem in sync with the 21st Century’ and recording ‘100 sentences commonly used in youth conversations’ to be disseminated in a booklet or electronic form. All of this just to ensure that the youth participate in large numbers in a national event designed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs on January 12 every year.
  • At a meeting it was decided that youth must be cultivated for greater participation in cleaning of schools/colleges/public places and statues, for making villages open defecation-free, creating national awareness on water conservation and construction of farm ponds, recharge wells. The youth must also be tapped for planting of saplings, for ‘actively supporting’ Indradhanush immunisation programme, and popularising the game of football.
  • States have also been asked to ‘leverage’ youth organisations such as NYKS, NSS, Scouts and Guides, Indian Red Cross Society, Eco Clubs, etc, to carry out the implementation of the charter.
  • States had been asked to create their own youth portals to make available information that is of interest to the younger generation. Departments and the governments have been asked to proactively engage with the youth on social network.

India’s air defence system achieves a hat-trick

  • India successfully test fired the new Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) developed jointly with Israel from a defence base off Odisha coast in a third consecutive trial of the air defence system.
  • The missile with a strike range of 70 km was launched at 1020 hours from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur
  • The objective of today’s mission was for maximum range and high manoeuvring target. The missile guided by armoured seeker system hit the last minute manoeuvring target. With this, MRSAM system has proved the air defence capability for three different boundary envelopes of the target

Ministry seeks law panel’s opinion on uniform civil code

  • The Union Law Ministry has asked the Law Commission to examine in detail all issues pertaining to the Uniform Civil Code and submit a report to the government

Context

  • The brave fight put up by Muslim women against the practice of triple talaq has once again brought into focus the lack of a uniform civil code in India.
  • India needs a uniform civil code for two principal reasons.
    • First, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices. This was a key issue debated during the writing of the Constitution, with passionate arguments on both sides. The Indian Constitution was eventually stuck with a compromise solution, a directive principle that says: “The state shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
    • There is a second reason why a uniform civil code is needed: gender justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example. It is important to note that B.R. Ambedkar fought hard for the passage of the Hindu Code Bill because he saw it as an opportunity to empower women. The great Muslim social reformer Hamid Dalwai also made the rights of women a central part of his campaign for a uniform civil code.
  • The move towards a common civil code cannot be a hasty one. There is the obvious political challenge on assuaging the fears of the Muslim community. The government will have to work hard to build trust, but more importantly, make common cause with social reformers rather than religious conservatives
  • One strategic option is to follow the path taken after the fiery debates over the reform of Hindu civil law in the 1950s. Rather than an omnibus approach, the government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a uniform civil code in stages.
  • The civil law in Goa—derived from the Portuguese Civil Procedure Code of 1939—could be a useful starting point for a national debate. The coastal state continued with its practice of treating all communities alike even after its entry into the Indian Union.
  • The underlying principle should be that constitutional law will override religious law in a secular republic. Many practices governed by religious tradition are at odds with the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.

Welfare money for workers unused’

  • The Supreme Court criticised the government for failing to implement welfare schemes meant for construction workers after squeezing thousands of crores in building cess from hapless property buyers.
  • The Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act of 1996 provides for levy of cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers. The amount collected is deposited with the Building and Other Constructions Workers Welfare Boards. The Act requires the State governments to to constitute welfare boards to provide succour to workers, including aid for their children’s education, help in case of accidents, pensions, loans and group insurance.
  • The Bench directed the Secretary of the National Legal Services Authority to hold discussions with the Secretary of the Union Labour Ministry, independently gather information on the shortfalls in the implementation of the Act and submit a report in six weeks.

Skill banks to train workers for global market

  • Prime Minister’s plan to make India “the human resource capital” of the world will first take off in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the government is setting up 50 global skill banks this year to train potential immigrant workers in 110 job roles as per international standards.
  • These banks, or training centres, will impart skills across sectors such as medicine and healthcare, hospitality, IT, construction, automobile and retail trade — where job opportunities exist or are likely to arise across different countries. Before they emigrate, youth trained in these skill banks would also be made familiar with the respective local culture and language of the country they obtain a job in as well as its work ethic.
  • The training standards for 82 job roles are matched to the U.K. standards that are accepted by 80 countries, and matched another 28 skill sets to the Australian standards recognised in south-east Asia and the Asia-Pacific
  • Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were selected first due to their high population and for having the record for the maximum migration for overseas employment. If the same people are trained and certified, they would get a better salary and working conditions abroad,
  • The strategy for this initiative, including the skill sets to focus on, was devised on the basis of an international study, commissioned to map the skills in demand or likely to be required across countries in the coming years.
  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is likely to sign a pact with the External Affairs Ministry to co-operate on the initiative to realise the Prime Minister’s vision. By the end of this month, about 20 global skill banks are expected to be up and running, with another 30 becoming operational by the end of the 2016-17 period.
  • Immigration to the Gulf region has traditionally been high and it will continue to be an important destination for job-seekers.
  • There are also opportunities to be tapped in south-east Asia, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Canada. In the long run, ageing countries like Japan would need a lot of geriatric care-givers and Indian nurses are globally recognised for their skills
  • Reputed manpower placement agencies have also been roped in.