National issues- August

Indians spend 8 times more on private hospitals than on govt. ones

  • The National Health Accounts (NHA) Estimates data for the financial year 2013-14 was recently released. The data was released by the Health Ministry after almost a decade. The NHA monitors the flow of resources in the country’s health system and provides details of health finances

Highlights:

Private Vs. Public Hospitals:

  • Indians spent eight times more on private hospitals and twice as much on transporting patients compared to costs in government hospitals during financial year 2013-14.
  • Households spent Rs. 64,628 crore on private hospitals compared to just Rs. 8,193 crore on government hospitals.
  • A total of Rs. 18,149 crore was spent on patient transportation services, like use of an ambulance.
  • Considering all revenue sources, including government funding, expenditure on private hospitals — Rs. 88,552 crore — was double that on government hospitals — Rs. 41,797 crore.

Healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP:

  • India spent a total of Rs. 4.5 lakh crore on healthcare in 2013-14 at 4% of the GDP, of which Rs. 3.06 lakh crore came from households.
  • Public spending is abysmally low, constituting around 29% of the total health expenditure — 1% of GDP.
  • There has been a marginal improvement from 2004-05, when the share of government spending was just 22%.
  • Preventive care gets just 9.6% of the total money that flows in India’s healthcare system. The current expenditure on preventive care is estimated at Rs 40,627 crore. All the government-funded national health programmes such as the National Disease Control Programmes are covered under this category

Out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure:

  • Out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure is the money individuals pay on their own rather than being covered by insurance or health benefits.
  • Indians’ out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure on healthcare has been estimated to be around Rs. 2.9 lakh crore or 69% cent of total health expenditure (THE) in the country. This is alarmingly high and India stands among the highest in this metric worldwide.
  • The share of OOP as a percentage of Current Health Expenditure (CHE) has however, decreased from 69.4% in 2004-05 to 64.2% in 2013-14. The CHE comprises 93%, the rest 7% going to Capital Expenditure.
  • Half of all the household money that is spent on healthcare — around Rs. 1.5 lakh crore — goes to pharmacies. This includes chemists, community and independent pharmacies.

Dignity and Self-Respect: a new mantra for Swachh Bharat Mission

  • A government commissioned report by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on Swachh Bharat mission in urban areas has flagged how success of this flagship programme is dependent on ensuring effective intervention by government departments and particularly municipal bodies rather than authorities just placing the onus on people and communities.

Background:

  • Urban development ministry had engaged TISS for conducting consultative meetings with citizens groups for scaling up citizen engagement in this scheme to make it into a full-fledged `jan andolan’.

Details:

  • According to the report, inability of municipal bodies, ineffective cleanliness and poor processing of both solid and liquid waste has been the major road block in achieving visible improvement in cleanliness in urban areas.
  • The government is taking the cue from the TISS report and working toward bringing in “a paradigm shift” by encouraging “technocrat approach” to make the cleanliness mission a success.
  • The report also stressed on the need for total sanitation and focusing on making the urban poor move away from a “life of denial and indignity to one filled with opportunities and dignity.”
  • The TISS report favoured a long term association between the governments and specialists including ad agencies and behavioral scientists for clearly articulating the real value of sanitation.
  • The government is also considering recommendation of TISS that a “statutory National Council for Sanitation” should be set up for “robust governance and implementation with representation for civil society, academia, technocrats, policy makers, government officials and other stakeholders.” The Council can suggest required legal reforms to enhance functioning of the Mission besides promoting evidence based policy making.

9 new breeds of indigenous livestock registered

 

  • Nine new breeds of indigenous farm animals have been registered by the Karnal-based Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBAGR), taking the total number of indigenous breeds of livestock in the country to 160.

Details:

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Government-registers-nine-new-indigenous-breeds-of-livestock-and-poultry/articleshow/53843650.cms

  • Approval for the registration of the new breeds of livestock and poultry was recently given by the breed registration

    Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Government-registers-nine-new-indigenous-breeds-of-livestock-and-poultry/articleshow/53843650.cms

    committee of the ICAR.

  • The new germplasm of indigenous farm animals registered as breeds by the NBAGR includes one breed of cattle, two breeds each of goat and sheep, three breeds of pig, and one breed of chicken.
  • Among the newly registered breeds, the cattle is found to be more disease resistant than the other known indigenous breeds.
  • The newly identified and registered breeds include Badricow (Uttarakhand), Teressa goat (Nicobar Island), Kodi Adu goat (Tamil Nadu), Chevaadu sheep (Tamil Nadu), Kendrapada sheep (Odisha), Tenyi Vo pig (Nagaland), Nicobari pig (NicobarIsland), Doom pig (Assam) and Kaunayenchicken (Manipur).

Background:

  • Indigenous breeds of livestock and poultry are identified and registered as part of an exercise to conserve them, taking in view their area-specific suitability and heat\cold and disease resistance capabilities.
  • The ICAR had initiated the mechanism for ‘Registration of Animal Germplasm’ through the NBAGR. It had in 2008 constituted a Breed Registration Committee that takes a call on registration of newly found indigenous breeds based on scientifically produced evidence.
  • Registration of breeds is also aimed at creating a sense of ownership among local communities responsible for development of breeds.
  • The registration of various unique populations as breeds shall also help in inventorisation, improvement, conservation and sustainable utilisation of animal genetic resources of the country.

Sugamaya Pustakalaya:

  • It is an online library that makes accessible content available to print-disabled people. The library houses publications across diverse subjects and languages and multiple accessible formats. It has been created by Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with member organizations of Daisy Forum of India and powered by TCS Access. Books are available in Accessible formats for people with visual impairment and other print disabilities. Over 2 lakhs books in diverse languages. Integrating libraries across India and the Globe, including the largest international library, Bookshare are available.

Udaipur Declaration:

  • It was adopted during the recently held two-day meeting of Ministers of Disaster Management of BRICS countries in Udaipur. With this, it has been decided to set up a dedicated Joint Task Force for Disaster Risk Management for regular dialogue, exchange, mutual support and collaboration among BRICS Countries.

India figures in 10 wealthiest countries at No. 7

  • India has figured among the top 10 wealthiest countries in the world with a total individual wealth of $5,600 billion while the U.S. topped the chart.
  • According to a report by New World Wealth, India was ranked 7th ahead of Canada ($4,700 billion), Australia ($4,500 billion) and Italy ($4,400 billion), which came in at 8{+t}{+h}, 9{+t}{+h}and 10{+t}{+h}slots, respectively.
  • The U.S. is the wealthiest in the world in terms of total individual wealth held ($48,900 billion) while China stood second and Japan third, with total individual wealth of $17,400 billion and $15,100 billion, respectively. Others in the top 10 club include the United Kingdom (4{+t}{+h}) with a total individual wealth of $9,200 billion, followed by Germany (5{+t}{+h}, $9,100 billion) and France (6{+t}{+h}, $6,600 billion)

Digital Locker Authority soon to push paperless governance

  • The Centre will soon appoint an authority to administer and manage its Digital Locker initiative, one of the key projects under Digital India programme, as it looks to push paperless governance.
  • The Digital Locker Authority will be responsible for
    • granting licenses and
    • to authorise a private entity to offer these services.
    • prepare standards and guidelines – for data retention and migration, audit and security and privacy
    • ensuring compliance by service providers.
    • need to notify the fee or service charges a subscriber will have to pay for availing Digital Locker services from authorized service providers. Currently, the services are offered for free.
  • It has been proposed that Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) may take up the role of the Authority for regulation purposes, while Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) may be made responsible for drafting and maintenance of specifications and audits.
  • This was suggested in the first meeting of the Digital Locker Advisory Group held last month.
  • need to notify the fee or service charges a subscriber will have to pay for availing Digital Locker services from authorized service providers.

About DigiLocker:

  • It is
    • dedicated personal storage space,
    • linked to each resident’s Aadhaar number.
    • can be used to securely store e-documents
    • store Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) link of e-documents issued by various issuer departments.
  • The initiative was launched by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, under the Ministry of Communications and IT..https://digilocker.gov.in/
  • Here, the users can store their documents such as insurance, medical reports, PAN card, passport, marriage certificate, school certificate and other documents in the digital format
  • The e-Sign facility provided as part of DigiLocker system can be used to digitally sign e-documents
  • With this, the government is trying to create an electronic version of documents, which can be easily verified and stored in printable format.
  • At present, the digital locker gives 10MB of free space for individuals to store documents and links of government department or agency-issued e-documents. The government is also planning to subsequently increase the storage space to 1 GB.

Benefits:

  • It will minimize the use of physical documents and will provide authenticity of the e-documents.
  • It will provide secure access to Govt. issued documents.
  • It will also reduce administrative overhead of Govt. departments and agencies and make it easy for the residents to receive services.

Needed: Scientific flood management

  • India’s vulnerability to severe flooding during the monsoon is spectacularly demonstrated year after year, with the season invariably ending in significant loss of life and property.
  • One research study for the period 1978-2006 based on official data reports that there were 2,443 flood events that led to the death of nearly 45,000 people and caused economic losses of $16 billion. The same story is playing out this year too.
  • Residents of five States are currently struggling to cope with the effects of intense rainfall. Many of those lucky to have been rescued owe it to the National Disaster Response Force

Problems being caused

  • The collapse of systems in acute conditions is undoubtedly a reflection of the lack of robust regular services that could be upgraded for emergencies. This is particularly true of health facilities in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • What stands out in the annual cycle of floods is the generally tardy pace of preparation for rescue and relief.
  • Response systems naturally have limited efficacy in predominantly rural States such as Bihar.
  • Capacity-building to handle catastrophic weather events is poor, and serious attention is not given to setting up relief camps, creating crisis-proof health infrastructure and stockpiling dry rations and medicines.
  • There are cascading outcomes of infections and the absence of care for pregnant women. These challenges require to be met in emergency mode.

Needs to be done

  • An integrated approach to managing floods requires a sound understanding of the patterns that rivers such as the Ganga and its tributaries display during the monsoon.
  • Governmental understanding of the problem generally relies not so much on advanced techniques such as mapping based on satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems, but on ground-level surveys and anecdotal reporting.
    • In Bihar’s case, the shifting patterns and breaches of the Kosi have added to the complexity of the problem, which requires a deeper understanding of the areas most at risk — which is essential in creating a defensive infrastructure.
    • The Kosi itself poses a danger to vast parts of the State as its embankments are no match for the fury of floodwaters. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s demand that the Farakka Barrage itself be removed to allow the Ganga to flow freely comes in the wake of steady silting of the river and its tributaries, raising the risk of annual flooding.
  • These are not new problems and the quest for solutions such as dams, relief canals and barrages dates back more than a century along the Kosi’s course.
  • The impoverishing annual losses should lead to a more integrated view of the problem, drawing upon technologies to both mitigate flooding and provide rescue and relief.

Cash transactions above Rs.3 lakh may face ban

  • The government is considering a recommendation by the Special Investigation Team to ban all cash transactions of more than Rs.3 lakh
  • Other measures taken to curb black money are –
    • 1 per cent Tax Collected at Source on cash transactions,
    • PAN quoting mandatory
    • The government was in talks with Singapore to renegotiate the tax treaty between the two countries along the lines of the revised treaty between India and Mauritius.
    • proposal to advance the data of presenting the Budget to January. This would bring in more efficiency in budget-making as two-three months of the financial year will not be lost in the budget process as is currently happening due to the Budget being presented at the end of February.
    • The General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) would supersede all other international tax treaties India has entered into, except those with specific provisions that run counter to GAAR

Meet on marine diversity

  • The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is organising a dialogue workshop in Thiruvananthapuram involving scientists, researchers and representatives of the Mukkuva community to gain a deeper understanding about marine biodiversity in the southern coast of India.
  • The participants in the workshop are experts in indigenous and local knowledge and Mukkuva community members.

Nalanda varsity’s first convocation on Aug 27.

  • President Pranab Mukherjee will be the chief guest at the first convocation ceremony of Nalanda University, scheduled to be held on August 27 at Rajgir.
  • While conferring degrees to 12 students of the first batch and delivering the convocation address, President Mukherjee would also lay the foundation stone for the first phase of construction in the sprawling 455-acre campus located at the Rajgir foothills in Nalanda.
  • The university is currently running from a makeshift campus at the premises of a health care and research unit
  • The new campus will be “net zero one”, that is, it will not add to emissions of greenhouse gases for its energy requirements.
  • The Bihar government has also provided its state-of-the art Convention Centre at Rajgir for the academic needs of the University.
  • After much delay, the university commenced its academic session in September 2014, with 12 students for two courses offered by the School of Historical Studies and the School of Ecology and Environment Studies.
  • However, from this year, it has launched one more programme under the School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions, and the number of students will be nearly 100 from this year

U.N. confirms Dawood’s Pak. address

  • India’s consistent stand that Dawood Ibrahim is based in Pakistan has got a virtual endorsement from the U.N., which has confirmed six addresses of the underworld don in that country.
  • The listing of the UN Security Council’s ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee also includes information about Dawood’s various passports, including those issued in Pakistan.
  • On 22 August 2016, the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) enacted the amendments concerning Dawood on its ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, it said.

PMO open to single water panel

  • The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is receptive to the idea of forming the proposed National Water Commission (NWC) by merging the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
  • The NWC was the key recommendation of a report submitted last month by a committee headed by water expert Mihir Shah that was tasked with reorganising river water management in the country.
  • This comes ahead of a crucial meeting in the Ministry of Water Resources where the future of surface and groundwater management in the country will be deliberated on.
  • Since 1945 the CWC has been tasked with managing surface water and its associated structures such as dams and barrages. The CGWB, on the other hand, is largely concerned with the quality of groundwater.
  • The proposed NWC pushes for an integrated policy, greater cognisance of over-extraction of groundwater. It will also maintain environmental stability by ensuring States that share water do not draw from river basins more than what is ecologically tenable.
  • As of today, States must get a technical clearance from the CWC before they can go ahead with constructing dams and other reservoirs. Were an NWC to come into being, this power would devolve to the States and other research institutions, with the Central body becoming a research organisation and a repository of data on India’s river basins.
  • The Shah report was scathing in its assessment of the CWC’s competence to manage India’s future water needs. “CWC and CGWB suffer from a lack of professionals,” said the summary of the report. “Several States testified that huge delays in techno-economic appraisal by the CWC had become a matter of concern.”
  • However, the possibility of an integration hasn’t gone down well with the CWC.

Central Services cadre under review

  • The Centre has formed a task force for a comprehensive study of the cadre structure of all Group ‘A’ Central Services and sought its report within three months.
  • Coming close on the heels of the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, it is a surprise development.
  • The constitution of the task force is on the directive of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Besides the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service, which are common to the Centre and the States, there are 58 technical and specialised services. These include the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Audit and Accounts Service Office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, the P&T Accounts and Finance Service of the Union Communications and Information Technology Ministry and the Indian Postal Service.
  • Tthe terms of reference of the task force were to undertake a comprehensive study of the structures of Group ‘A’, recommend an ideal structure at the higher levels of the posts from Director-General to Additional Secretary, suggest ways of ideal recruitment and the way forward to “mitigate stagnation”.
  • It is a challenging task for the task force given the three-month deadline.
  • The key thing to be watched is whether it would address the contentious issue of parity between the IAS and other Central Service cadres. The disparity has been a source of disgruntlement among officers of several cadres.

NGT slaps Rs. 100 crore fine on shipping firm

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed a Panama-based shipping company and its two Qatar-based sister concerns to pay Rs. 100 cr as damages for causing an oil spill when a cargo vessel sank off Mumbai coast in 2011.
  • Fined for adversely affecting the marine ecology, the bench also ordered the Gujarat-based Adani Enterprises Ltd to pay Rs. 5 crore as environmental compensation for dumping in the seabed 60054 MT coal, being carried by the ship M V RAK , and polluting the marine environment.
  • It observed that documents in favour of the ship were issued in a biased manner and the vessel was “not seaworthy,” right from the inception of its voyage.
  • The green court passed the verdict on a petition filed by Samir Mehta, a Mumbai-based environmentalist, who had sought compensation for damages caused to the marine ecology due to the oil spill.
  • The ship, which was sailing from Indonesia to Dahej in Gujarat, sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011.

IITs get Council approval for more seats

  • The IIT Council approved in principle an increase in number of seats by 2020, subject to each IIT’s assessment of its preparedness.
  • The IITs have to take a call as per their needs. Classrooms cannot be overcrowded.  Relaxation of hostel stay rule will be permitted so as to facilitate it. The vision for 2020 is one-lakh seats, though it is up to the institutes to decide how to go about it,
  • The student-teacher ratio, which should be 10:1 is right now 15:1. New recruitments will, therefore, have to accompany the capacity expansion planned. As of now, the IITs admit 10,500 UG students, 8,000 PG students and 3,000 Ph.D students.

Other initiatives are planned to improve the IITs.

  • The government is planning to put in place an engineering aptitude test that students of classes 11 and 12 can take up to assess their ability to excel as engineers beforehand.
  • This apart, plans for global collaborations have also got the nod of the IIT Council.
  • A Prime Minister Research Fellowship would be started so that bright students do not suffer for lack of funds.
  • 92 projects have till now been accepted under the Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) – aimed at giving students of premier institutions like the IITs a more market-oriented mindset – at an expense of Rs. 282-crore.
  • Under the Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN), 260 foreign academics have already come and delivered lectures in classrooms. The lectures have also been recorded. Over 800 academics will come to India from abroad under this initiative, he added.

Should mayors be directly elected?

  • Each time an Indian city is hit by a major urban crisis, we hear exasperated queries about why our cities are so dysfunctional. While there are multiple reasons for India’s urban woes, one of the underlying problems is the absence of powerful and politically accountable leadership in the city. Our cities have a weak and fragmented institutional architecture in which multiple agencies with different bosses pull the strings of city administration. Understandably, the most touted urban governance reform is that of having a directly elected Mayor.
  • Recent reports indicate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on this reform and has asked the Urban Development Ministry to consider ways of introducing it.
  • Mayoral reform has now made its way into Parliament with Shashi Tharoor introducing a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution for strengthening local governments.
  • The bill
    • aims to establish strong leadership for cities by providing for a directly elected and empowered Mayor.
    • touches on other key urban governance reforms such as mandating the constitution of area sabhas and ward committees and
    • strengthening the devolution of functions to local governments.Mr. Tharoor’s bill seeks to alter this.
    • It mandates the direct election of the Mayor, fixes the Mayor’s term to be coterminous with that of the municipality, and
    • makes the Mayor the executive head of the municipality.

74th Constitution Amendment

  • The passage of the 74th Constitution Amendment in 1992 resulted in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) — Nagar Panchayats, Municipal Councils and Municipal Corporations — becoming a constitutionally recognised “institution of self-government”.
  • However, it did not prescribe the manner of election, tenure or powers of the Mayors/Chairpersons of ULBs.

Analysis

  • Head of the executive-
    • Vesting the executive powers of the municipality with the Mayor would be a very positive move. Most Indian cities still follow the Commissionerate system of municipal administration, a British legacy, in which the State government-appointed Commissioner is the executive head of the city while the Mayor has a largely ceremonial role. This is an anomaly. In a democracy, executive power should vest with a person or a body that is democratically accountable.
  • Direct election-
    • However, this does not necessitate the Mayor to be directly elected. Mayors do not enjoy similar powers not because they are not directly elected, but because State governments exercise enormous control over ULBs — politically, administratively and financially.
    • For responsive urban governance, we need a powerful political executive in the city with more autonomy, whether directly or indirectly elected. An empowered executive at the city can also be achieved through an indirectly elected “Mayor-in-Council” system in which, much like the cabinet system in Parliament, the Mayor has to maintain the support of the majority of the council.
    • There is little evidence to suggest that directly elected mayors are better. In fact, States like Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh which introduced directly elected Mayors reversed the decision due to the difficulties posed by such a system.
    • A fundamental issue with a directly elected Mayor is that instead of enabling efficiency, it might actually result in gridlock in administration, especially when the Mayor and the majority of elected members of the city council are from different political parties.
  • Notably, the bill gives the Mayor veto powers over some of the council’s resolutions and also lets the Mayor nominate members of the Mayor-in-Council and vest it with powers. Essentially, it centralises power in the hands of the Mayor and his nominees and creates a political executive which neither enjoys the support of the elected council nor needs its acquiescence for taking decisions.
  • Even if a directly elected mayoral system is a relatively good reform, should it be made mandatory for all municipalities under the Constitution?
    • Local government is still under List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Hence only the State is empowered to make laws on this subject. In such a federal system, constitutional provisions should only lay down the broad institutional framework for local governments.
    • But since States are often reluctant to devolve functions to local government, it makes sense to mandate such devolution in the Constitution.
    • However, the Constitution may not be the ideal instrument for prescribing the manner in which the head of a local government is elected.
    • More cities should perhaps institute a directly elected mayor. But making it the only way through which Mayors can be elected limits the options of cities and States.
    • An empowered political executive for the city can be achieved in multiple ways, including a directly elected mayor. When the U.K. sought to reform local governments, a directly elected mayor was only one of the three options given to the local governments.
  • India’s stagnating urban governance system needs major reform, but it shouldn’t be driven by using a sledgehammer. Creating an empowered and accountable political executive for cities is important, but a directly elected mayor should be a political option, not a constitutional decree.

National electricity plan by September

  • A national electricity plan, which provides a road map for the power sector for the next five years, will be ready by next month
  • Its prepared by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA)
  • The national electricity plan, drafted once every five years
    • would indicate the requirements and
    • the likely scenario for the next five years in terms of power transmission, distribution and generation.
    • It would also include requirement of manpower and funds.
    • The plan would provide a break-up of the projected growth in different forms of power such as thermal, hydel, nuclear, solar and wind energy.
  • An “electrical power survey,” which would forecast the power requirements of different States for the next five years, was also being prepared to help provide crucial inputs to the national electricity plan.

Flash-charging electric bus

  • India might follow Geneva’s example of operating eco-friendly electric buses with flash-charging facility.
  • These buses can be charged automatically within 15 seconds when it arrives at a bus-stop,
  • ABB India Ltd has joined hands with TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Systeme Alimentation) to provide the flash charging facility.
  • The charging is done through a structure on the bus-top which automatically connects to the power point on the roof of the bus stop.

Centre notifies Good Samaritan SOPs

  • In a move that could go a long way in encouraging witnesses to report accidents to the police, the Centre issued a notification ensuring that the affidavit of “Good Samaritan”, a person who voluntarily declares himself to be an eyewitness, shall be treated by the investigating officer as a final statement.
  • The notification is in response to Supreme Court directions in an October 2014 case of SaveLIFE Foundation asking the Centre to issue directions to save Good Samaritans until Parliament frames a law.
  • The court had directed the government to frame Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the examination of a Good Samaritan. In March, the court approved the guidelines and the SOPs issued by the government with certain modifications.
  • The crux of the guidelines is that no bystander rushing to the rescue of an accident victim should be subject to civil or criminal liability and/or be forced to be a witness.
  • Any disclosure of personal information or offer to be a witness, in the event of the Good Samaritan also being an eyewitness to an accident, ought to be voluntary.
  • Further, the examination of such a volunteer as a witness shall be done only on a single occasion and without harassment or intimidation.
  • The notification said the SOPs as laid down by the court under Article 32 (right to constitutional remedies), read with Article 142, is binding on the Union Territories and the States.

EC to now review national, State status of political parties every 10 years

 

Election Commission (EC) has amended rules, whereby it will now review the national and state party status of political parties every ten years instead of the present five.

  • Recognition as a national or a State party ensures that the election symbol is not used by any other political entity in polls across India.

Details:

  • The commission has amended paragraph 6C of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 to affect the change. It was last amended in 2011.
  • This change in rules will ensure that ruling parties do not lose their status due to anti-incumbency factor after every election.
  • However, the criteria of being recognised as a national and state party will remain unchanged.

To obtain a national status, political parties have to fulfil any of the three conditions:

  • Winning 2% seats or 11 seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three different states in the latest general election.
  • Recognition as a state party in at least four states.
  • Polling 6% of the total valid votes in at least four states, in addition to winning four Lok Sabha seats.

A political party shall be treated as a recognised political party in a State, if and only if the political party fulfills any of the following conditions:

  • At General Elections or Legislative Assembly elections, the party has won 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the State (subject to a minimum of 3 seats).
  • At a Lok Sabha General Elections, the party has won 1 Lok sabha seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seat allotted for the State.
  • At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly , the party has polled minimum of 6% of votes in a State and in addition it has won 1 Lok Sabha or 2 Legislative Assembly seats.
  • At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled 8% of votes in a State.

Benefits:

  • If a party is recognised as a State Party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the State in which it is so recognised, and if a party is recognised as a `National Party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India.
  • Recognised `State’ and `National’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination and are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost at the time of revision of rolls and their candidates get one copy of electoral roll free of cost during General Elections.
  • They also get broadcast/telecast facilities over Akashvani/Doordarshan during general elections.
  • Political parties are entitled to nominate “Star Campaigners” during General Elections. A recognized National or State party can have a maximum of 40 “Star campaigners” and a registered un-recognised party can nominate a maximum of 20 ‘Star Campaigners”.
  • The travel expenses of star campaigners are not to be accounted for in the election expense accounts of candidates of their party.
  • National Sports Awards 2016 announced

The Union Government has announced the National Sports Awards for the year 2016. National Sports Awards are given every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports.

Awardees:

  • Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: P.V. Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and Jitu Rai.

Rajiv-Gandhi-Khel-Ratna-Award

  • Dronacharya Award: Bishweshwar Nandi, Nagapuri Ramesh, Sagar Mal Dhayal, Raj Kumar Sharma, S. Pradeep Kumar and Mahabir Singh.
  • Arjuna and Dhyanchand awards have also been announced for various sportspersons.

Background:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: The scheme was launched in the year 1991-92 with the objective of honouring sports persons to enhance their general status and to give them greater dignity and place of honour in society. Under this scheme, an amount of Rs. 5 lakhs is given as award for the most spectacular and outstanding performance in the field of sports by an individual sportsperson or a team.

DRONACHARYA AWARDS: The Dronacharya Award, instituted in 1985, honours eminent Coaches who have successfully trained sportspersons or teams and enabled them to achieve outstanding results in international competitions.

ARJUNA AWARDS: The Arjuna Awards were instituted in 1961. To be eligible for the Award, a sportsperson should have had not only good performance consistently for the previous three years at the international level with excellence for the year for which the Award is recommended, but also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.

Dhyan Chand Award is India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports and games. The award is named after the legendary Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand.

Shipping Ministry seeks 5% of Central Road Fund for development of Waterways

  • The Shipping Ministry has mooted a proposal to utilize part of the fuel cess collected for building national highways for expansion of National Waterways as well.
  • Central Road Fund is a non-lapsable fund created under the Central Road Fund Act 2000 out of a cess imposed on petrol and high-speed diesel. The funds are meant to be used to develop and maintain national highways, state roads and railway over and under bridges.
  • The move to seek a pie in the CRF follows government’s ambitious plan to tap India’s vast network of rivers and canals stretching 14,500 kms for moving goods.
  • It is far more cheaper to transport goods by water as compared to road or rail. Currently cargo movement along the five existing national waterways is paltry 3% of all cargo movement in India. The plan is  to raise the share of waterways in overall cargo movements to 15%
  • Earlier last week, a cargo vessel was flagged off carrying 200 Maruti cars from Varanasi to Kolkata as part of a pilot run. The Government has commissioned the Jal Marg Vikas project with the technical and financial support of the World Bank to augment capacity of River Ganga from Varanasi to Haldia. The Rs 4,200 crore project, when completed in six years, will facilitate movement of up to 2000 tonne vessels.
  • Under the National Waterways Act 2016, 111 inland waterways have been declared as National Waterways. Out of these, following are presently operational.
    • Allahabad-Haldia Ganga Waterway (NW1),
    • Brahmaputra (NW2),
    • West Coast Canal in Kerala (NW3),
    • Mandovi river in Goa (NW 68),
    • Sundarbans Waterway in West Bengal (NW97) and
    • Zurari River (NW 111)
  • Six more waterways are likely to be commissioned during this financial year.

What’s needed for success of Make in India?

 The success of ‘Make in India’ program shall rest on several pillars, namely;

  1. Ease of Doing Business
    • under which India aims to achieve a rank of 50 in the World Bank Doing Business Indicators.
    • Simplified, time-bound and online processes are being instituted across ministries and state governments for this.
    • The emphasis of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is on improvement, simplification and rationalization of existing rules and introduction of IT to make governance more effective and efficient.
  2. Infrastructure and industrial corridors with world-class facilities and connectivity-
    • Five Industrial Corridor projects have been identified, planned and launched across the country to provide an impetus to industrialization and planned urbanization.
    • In each of these corridors manufacturing is the key economic driver and these projects are seen as critical in raising the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP from the current levels of 15% to 25% by 2022.
    • The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, coming up in alignment with the Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor, has developed blueprints for eight National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ).
    • More such zones are coming up in corridors such as Chennai-Bengaluru, Chennai-Vishakhapatnam, and Bengaluru-Mumbai.
  3. Foreign Direct Investment-
    • We need to facilitate entry of overseas investors.
    • We must ensure that adequate infrastructural facilities are available and transforming policies into actions becomes easier.
  4. Intellectual Property Rights-
    • India’s intellectual property rights regime is now of global standards, and the country counts among the largest reservoirs of R&D talent.  The IPR has embarked on a journey for delivering services to the public, leading to the creation of a highly transparent, enabled, efficient and Intellectual Property ecosystem in India that provides legal certainty to the industry.
    • The World Intellectual Property Organization recognized the Indian Patent Office as an International Searching Authority and an International Preliminary Examining Authority. With this India has joined an elite group of 17 countries.
  5. Start-up India-
    • the innovative Startup India, Standup India campaign would help to catalyze technology and entrepreneurship linkages.
    • India is the world’s third largest startup hub with over 3100 startups after USA and UK.
    • Further, India has entered into free trade agreements with several countries and regions which facilitate its participation in global supply chains.
    • The India-ASEAN FTA has recently been upgraded from goods to services and investments

Recording each vote

  • In the recently concluded session of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed 14 Bills each. However, only in the case of one of these Bills — the Constitution Amendment Bill that enables the Goods and Services Tax — do we know how each MP voted. All other Bills were voted by voice vote.
  • Voice vote means that when the Speaker put the Bill to vote, MPs supporting it said “Aye”, those opposing it said “No”, and the Speaker judged that the chorus saying “Aye” had more people. Therefore, not only do we not know how each MP voted, we don’t even know who was present in the House.
    • This session was not a special case. In general, very few Bills see a recorded vote (also called “division”).
    • Only Constitution Amendments do, as they require the support of a majority of the membership of the House and two-thirds majority of those present and voting; therefore, everyone’s vote is recorded and counted.
    • In the five years of the last Lok Sabha, only 19 Bills of the total 179 passed witnessed a division.
    • The 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009) was even worse, with votes recorded in eight of the 248 Bills that were passed.

Why is this important?

  • Accountability
    • In a parliamentary democracy, the government is accountable for its actions to Parliament. In turn, MPs are accountable for their actions to citizens. This means that citizens need to have information on the activity of their elected representatives, including how they voted on each Bill or issue.
    • In the absence of such information, citizens cannot ask their representatives to justify the way they voted on any issue.
    • (Witness the election debates in the U.S. and how each Senator contesting for re-election (or another office such as President or Governor) is questioned in televised debates to see the effectiveness of a system where the electorate has such information.)
  • Anti Defection law-
    • The anti-defection law compounds the issue. Every MP is required to vote according to the party whip, failing which they could lose their seat in Parliament. Therefore, one could argue that recording the vote of each MP is a mere formality as the votes are a foregone conclusion.
    • This line of reasoning is a slippery slope. We can extend the argument to say that any debate in Parliament is irrelevant as the final vote is pre-determined by each party’s leadership.
    • Further, one could argue that Parliament is superfluous — and a small committee consisting of one representative of each party could take all decisions, with their votes weighted by the party membership in the House.
    • This would question the very structure of representative democracy.
    • We follow a constituency system, that is, each MP of Lok Sabha is elected by the citizens residing in a geographical constituency. The MP has several roles such as
      • making laws,
      • holding the government to account for its actions, and
      • sanctioning government taxes and expenditure.
      • MPs have to act in a manner that they believe is in national interest (or the interest of the people they represent).
  • The anti-defection law turns this logic on its head and requires the MP to just follow the party diktat. The lack of recorded voting disables citizens from questioning the actions of the MP on any issue. This combination strikes at the very root of how a representative democracy is expected to work.
  • For example, consider the vote related to the bifurcation of the State of Andhra Pradesh. This was an extremely contentious issue, which divided the MPs from that State depending on which region they represented. However, one can assume that all the Congress MPs voted for the bifurcation, including those from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, despite having obstructed Parliament for several days in protest against the bifurcation. We don’t know this for sure, as the vote was not recorded.
  • What we do know is that just 203 MPs were present in the Lok Sabha during the final vote on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, which strengthened anti-rape laws following the gang rape in Delhi in December 2012; we know this as someone demanded a division for a proposed amendment to the Bill and the vote was recorded. Therefore, we even know which MPs were absent during this vote.

Is a change possible?

  • How difficult is it to change the system to ensure that all votes are recorded?
    • The rules of procedure require a voice vote on every bill and any other voting motion. If any member challenges the Speaker’s decision, a division must be called. Therefore, if there is a group of MPs that wants to see this change, it can just ask for division at the final stage of voting on every Bill.
    • An alternative will be to amend the Rules.
  • The infrastructure in our Parliament is geared for easy implementation of recorded voting.
  • There could be a significant positive change if all votes are recorded.
    • The need to explain their positions to the electorate will lead to more careful examination and consideration of various issues before MPs vote on them.
    • They will also have a greater stake in intra-party discussions on issues if their votes are determined by the party whip.
  • If the anti-defection law is revoked, democratic deliberation will be further strengthened. If the government proposes any new law, it will have to convince a majority of MPs instead of just a few party leaders. This will necessitate arguments using evidence and reason as backroom negotiations would be far more difficult with a large number of MPs.

In sum, these two changes can improve the quality of deliberations in Parliament. While changing the anti-defection law will require the Constitution to be amended, ensuring recorded voting just needs a few MPs to ask for a division every time there is a vote. One hopes that a coalition of MPs across party lines can take up this reform.

Panel to finalise SOP for organ transplants in Maharashtra

  • The Maharashtra government issued a government resolution (GR) setting up a 16-member committee headed by State Health Minister Deepak Sawant to finalise a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for organ transplants under the Human Organs Transplant Act, 1994.
  • The decision was taken at a meeting between Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Dr. Sawant, in the wake of the kidney transplant racket unearthed at Dr. LH Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai.
  • The committee will have the Minister of State for Public Health and Family Welfare as a special invitee.

NGT orders steps against hospitals violating rules

  • The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) Southern Bench  has directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to initiate immediate action, including launching of prosecution against 21 hospitals, after the board found that these hospitals have “committed gross violations” of Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.

Biomedical waste

  • Biomedical waste comprises
    • human & animal anatomical waste,
    • treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and
    • other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research.
  • This waste is generated during diagnosis, treatment or immunisation in hospitals, nursing homes, pathological laboratories, blood bank, etc.
  • Total bio-medical waste generation in the country is 484 TPD from 1,68,869 healthcare facilities (HCF), out of which 447 TPD is treated.
  • Scientific disposal of Biomedical Waste through segregation, collection and treatment in an environmentally sound manner minimises the adverse impact on health workers and on the environment. The hospitals are required to put in place the mechanisms for effective disposal either directly or through common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facilities.
  • The hospitals servicing 1000 patients or more per month are required to obtain authorisation and segregate biomedical waste in to 10 categories, pack five colour backs for disposal as per Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.
  • There are 198 common bio-medical waste treatment facilities (CBMWF) in operation and 28 are under construction. 21,870 HCFs have their own treatment facilities and 1,31,837 HCFs are using the CBMWFs.
  • The quantum of waste generated in India is estimated to be 1-2 kg per bed per day in a hospital and 600 gm per day per bed in a clinic. 85% of the hospital waste is non-hazardous, 15% is infectious/hazardous. Mixing of hazardous results in to contamination and makes the entire waste hazardous. Hence there is necessity to segregate and treat.
  • Improper disposal increases risk of infection; encourages recycling of prohibited disposables and disposed drugs; and develops resistant microorganisms.
  • The new bio-medical waste management rules has hence been notified to efficiently manage the generated biowaste in the country.

The new BMW Management Rules, 2016

  • These rules apply to all persons who generate, collect, receive, store, transport, treat, dispose, or handle bio-medical waste in any form
  • Bio-medical waste classified in to 4 categories based on treatment options.

    Untreated human anatomical waste, animal anatomical waste, soiled waste and, biotechnology waste shall not be stored beyond a period of fortyeight hours:

    In case for any reason it becomes necessary to store such waste beyond such a period, the occupier shall take appropriate measures to ensure that the waste does not adversely affect human health and the environment and inform the SPCB along with the reasons.

  • Every occupier of an institution generating bio -medical waste which includes a hospital, nursing home, clinic, dispensary,veterinary institution, animal house, pathological laboratory,blood bank to take all steps to ensure that such waste is handled without any adverse effect to human health and the environment.

  • Health care facilities (HCF) shall make a provision within the premises for
    • a safe, ventilated and secured location for storage of segregated biomedical waste
    • pre-treat the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site in the manner as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or National AIDs Control Organisation (NACO) guidelines and then send to the common bio-medical waste treatment facility for final disposal.
    • phase out use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags within two years from the date of notification of these rules
    • provide training to all its health care workers and others involved in handling of bio medical waste at the time of induction and thereafter at least once every year
    • immunise all its health care workers and others involved in handling of bio-medical waste for protection against diseases including Hepatitis B and Tetanus that are likely to be transmitted by handling of bio-medical waste,
    • establish a Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste to be sent out of the premises
    • report major accidents including accidents caused by fire hazards, blasts during handling of bio-medical waste and the remedial action taken to SPCB
    • existing incinerators shall achieve the standards for retention time in secondary chamber and Dioxin and Furans within two years from the date of this notification
  • Common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility
    • The department dealing the allocation of land shall be responsible for providing suitable site for setting up of common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facility in the State Government
    • Common facility shall ensure timely collection of bio-medical waste from the HCFs, assist the HCFs in conduct of training
    • No occupier shall establish on -site treatment and disposal facility, if a service of `common bio-medical waste treatment facility is available at a distance of seventy -five kilometer.

       

    • In cases where service of the common bio-medical waste treatment facility is not available, the Occupiers shall set up requisite bio medical waste treatment equipment like incinerator, autoclave or microwave,shredder prior to commencement of its operation, as per the authorisation given by the prescribed authority.

  • Monitoring-
    • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change shall review the implementation of the rules in the country once in a year through the State Health Secretaries and CPCB.SPCBs
    • State Government shall constitute District Level Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of District Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner or Additional District Magistrate to monitor the compliance of the provisions of these rules in the health care facilities.
    • The District Level Monitoring Committee shall submit its report once in six months to the State Advisory Committee, State Pollution Control Board for taking further necessary action.

National Convention of Pradhans of Ganga bank villages

  • The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, in association with the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation and Department of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports,  organized a National Convention of Gram Pradhans in Alaahabad
  • The objective of the National Convention was to rally Gram Pradhans of 1651 villages in 52 districts and 5 States situated along the banks of the river Ganga, to work together and make their villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) to meet the goals of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) as well as the Namami Gange programme.

To know more about swachch bharat mission click here Swachh Bharat Mission- All you need to know

New Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

  • Dr. Urjit R Patel has been appointed as the New Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a period of three years with effect from 4th September, 2016. The 52-year-old macro-economist was appointed deputy governor in 2013. Since then, he has been a key player in the RBI’s war on inflation.
  • He will replace the present RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan. Dr Patel is presently the Deputy Governor of RBI and is holding this assignment since 2013.
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) announced the appointment. For the first time, a systematic approach and an objective mechanism have been put in place
  • In the first step, the Financial Sector Regulatory Appointments Search Committee (FSRASC) headed by the Cabinet Secretary P. K. Sinha made a shortlist for the consideration of the ACC. It undertook an extensive exercise to suggest a panel of names to the ACC
  • Thereafter, the ACC comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, settled for Dr. Patel from a list of five names received from the FSRASC.

Additional facilities extended to persons residing in India on Long-Term Visa (LTV)

  • The Central Government has extended certain facilities in last two years to persons from Minority community of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians  staying on Long Term Visa  (LTV) in India,  such as affidavit in place of renunciation certificate, LTV for five years instead of two years, facilities for education and employment, etc.
  • In order to provide them fair opportunities for a more comfortable living and hassle-free movement and pursuit of economic activities within the territory of India, Government has decided to extend the following additional facilities to this class of LTV holders:
  1. Permission to open bank account
  2. Permission for purchase of property for self occupation and suitable accommodation for carrying out self–employment.
  3. Permission to take self employment.
  4. Issuance of driving licence, PAN card and Aadhar number.
  5. Allowing free movement within the State /UT where they are staying.
  6. Transfer of LTV papers from one State to other.
  7. Reduction of penalty amount to Rs.100, Rs.200 and Rs.500 instead of existing amount of $30, $130, $230 on non–extension of short term Visa /LTV.
  8. Permission to apply for LTV from the place of present residence when the applicants have changed place without permission.

Time for a National Water Commission

  • The CWC (set up in 1945) and CGWB (set up in 1971) were created to create irrigation capacity to ensure food self-sufficiency.
  • Today the challenge is different.
  • Groundwater is the main source of water in India. This means we cannot go on endlessly drilling for groundwater through tubewells, which is what CGWB has promoted thus far. This has actually aggravated India’s groundwater crisis, as water tables fall and water quality declines, with arsenic, fluoride and even uranium entering our drinking water.

Mihir Shah committee recommendations

  • Need to take a multidisciplinary view of water. We require professionals from disciplines other than just engineering and hydrogeology.
  • Two, we need to adopt the participatory approach to water management that has been successfully tried all over the world, as also in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Need to view groundwater and surface water in an integrated, holistic manner.
  • CWC and CGWB cannot continue to work in their current independent, isolated fashion. The one issue that really highlights the need to unify CWC and CGWB is the drying up of India’s peninsular rivers, the single most important cause of which is over-extraction of groundwater.
  • If river rejuvenation is the key national mandate of the Ministry of Water Resources, then this cannot happen without hydrologists and hydrogeologists working together, along with social scientists, agronomists and other stakeholders.
  • Need to focus on river basins which must form the fundamental units for management of water. We have carefully studied the regional presence (or absence) of the CWC and CGWB and proposed a way forward whereby the NWC is present in all major river basins of India.
  • All existing functions and personnel of the CWC find their appropriate place in the eight divisions of the NWC, which include Irrigation Reform, River Rejuvenation, Participatory Groundwater Management, Urban and Industrial Water, Water Security (including droughts, floods and climate change) and Water Quality.
  • Also suggested that appraisal must become a demand-based exercise, done through a partnership between the Central and State governments, as also institutions of national repute.
  • The NWC will be a knowledge institution providing solutions to water problems faced by State governments, farmers and other stakeholders, on demand, in a truly user-friendly manner.
  • The report contains a summary of all the scholarly work available on interlinking of rivers (ILR). This work demolishes the engineering myth that water must not be allowed to flow “wastefully” into the sea. Scientists fear that the humongous ILR project could even endanger the integrity of India’s monsoon cycle, which depends crucially on fresh river water flowing into the sea.
  • However,the report is not centrally concerned with this question and is not really into the pro- versus anti-big dam debate. It is much more concerned with the challenge of ensuring that the water stored in dams, present or future, actually reaches the farmers. This is low-hanging fruit that can give us an increase of millions of hectares of irrigated area at much less than the cost of the ILR and in much less time, avoiding all inter-State conflicts, land acquisition problems, as also corruption that has become a big issue in irrigation projects over the years.

Centre funding 16 yoga research projects

  • The Department of Science and Technology has funded a wide range of research institutions to study the efficacy of yoga and whether it has a role in alleviating stroke, type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. SATYAM, an acronym for Science and Technology of Yoga and Medicine, has been conceived to develop good science around yoga and has nothing to do with religious beliefs
  • After it advertised for research proposals last August, the department got over 700 which it shortlisted to 16 for the first year.
  • The bulk of the studies are about measuring brain activity using electro-encephalography and functional magnetic resonance imagingwhen the brain is involved in a variety of cognitive tasks.
  • There’ve been studies that suggest Pranayam [a yoga breathing exercise] can influence attention and arousal [the state of being alert]
  • Researchers funded under SATYAM belong toAIIMS, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru; Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram (SCTIMST); Centre for Academic Research, Bengaluru; Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi; Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore and SKN Medical College and General Hospital, Pune.
  • India needed to catch up with the West where several groups were studying various aspects of yoga and meditation and its relationship to the brain.

SATYAM

  • The programme called SATYAM-“Science and Technology of Yoga and Meditation” was launched in 2015 to strengthen research in the areas of yoga and meditation.
  • An objective of SATYAM is to harness knowledge obtained in academic institutions and other related agencies for finding Science & Technology -led solutions that would enable us to cope with stress and strain associated with fast changing social, economic, environmental and professional circumstances.
  • Cutting-edge research under SATYAM will seek to identify various issues and challenges related to human well-being and address them.
  • The programme will encourage research in two major thematic areas:
    • investigations on the effect of Yoga and meditation on physical and mental health, and
    • investigations on the effect of Yoga & meditation on the body, brain and mind in terms of basic processes occurring therein.
  • Given the ever increasing prevalence of physical and mental health problems, the holistic approach of Yoga and meditation is believed to have the potential to find beneficial treatment that is relatively safer and more cost-effective.

‘Access to Justice’ project

  • The “Access to Justice” project is being implemented in the eight North-Eastern States, and Jammu and Kashmir, at a total cost of Rs. 30 crore for five years (2012-17).
  • The objectives of the project are to address the legal needs of the marginalised and vulnerable sections of society, particularly women, children, and Scheduled Castes and tribal communities, who do not have the requisite means to ensure that their rights are guaranteed
  • It also aims at supporting justice delivery systems in improving their capacities in order to serve the people, in empowering ordinary people to demand improved services, and to access their rights and entitlements
  • Also encouraging innovative activities to enhance legal awareness of vulnerable populations, and their ability to seek redress.

India ranks 39th in Asia Pacific on fixed broadband

  • India ranks a low 39th in terms of fixed broadband adoption among Asia Pacific countries, with just 1.3 per cent of its citizens subscribing to such a service in 2015, according to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
  • India ranks lower than countries such as Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in ESCAP countries in 2015, according to the report ‘State of ICT in Asia and the Pacific 2016: Uncovering the Widening Broadband Divide’ 
  • Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Macao, Australia and Singapore topped the list of 53 countries covered in the report.
  • According to the latest ITU data for 2015, more than half of the global fixed broadband subscriptions are from Asia and the Pacific (52.3 per cent).
  • This is followed by Europe (21.9 per cent) and North America (14.1 per cent).
  • The report pointed out that this was a dramatic increase from 2005 when subscriptions in the ESCAP region merely constituted 38.1% of the global total fixed broadband subscriptions, followed by Europe (28.6 per cent) and North America (26.5 per cent).
  • However, the subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the ESCAP region is behind Latin America and the Caribbean, and far lower than Europe and North America. Fixed broadband penetration in Asia and the Pacific is even below the world’s average of 11.2 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2015

Latest MoP draft awaits green light from judges

  • The latest draft of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) gives an insight into the NDA government’s vision for future judicial appointments as a “transparent and broad-based” exercise, involving not just a handful of senior collegium judges but all their fellow judges, the Chief Ministers and top law officers of the Centre and the States.
  • The draft is currently with Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and awaiting the judges’ approval.

What does the draft MoP say

  • All Supreme Court and High Court judges will be able to recommend names to their respective collegiums.
  • Chief Ministers should also have the right to recommend names to the respective High Court collegiums.
  • Similarly, the Attorney General should be allowed to recommend the names of judges to the Supreme Court at the Centre and Advocate-General of States to their respective State High Courts.
  • Highcourt committees
    • The draft also details a mechanism for an elaborate vetting process of names recommended for High Court judgeship through appraisal committees to be set up in High Courts.
    • These appraisal committees are to be made up of sitting or retired judges, jurists and academicians.
    • The appointments to these appraisal committees would be made by the Chief Justice of the High Court.
    • These High Court committees would screen the names of the candidates, their backgrounds, the number of cases they have argued as lawyers, etc, before forwarding them to the High Court collegium.
    • Once the High Court collegium clears certain names, they would be sent to a similar appraisal committee at the Supreme Court. This apex-level committee would again sift through the names before they are finally referred to the SC collegium.
  • The government reasons that the two-fold vetting process – one by the respective High Court appraisal committee and then by the Supreme Court committee – would ensure transparency in judicial appointments.
  • The government has further asked the judiciary to fix an age for High Court judgeship and make it “non-flexible.”
  • It also wants the mechanism for redressing complaints against judges to remain within the judiciary.
  • The past months have seen a stalemate with the judiciary raising objections against the earlier government drafts of the MoP.

Background

  • On October 16, 2015, a Constitution Bench led by Justice J.S. Khehar had revived the collegium after declaring the government’s NJAC law unconstitutional. The Bench then went on to invite public opinion on ways to improve the opaque collegium system of judicial appointments. After receiving over 11,500 views from the public, the Bench had summarised them and tasked the government to draft a new MoP on December 16, 2015.

Analysis

  • The Centre believes its draft MoP adheres to the framework laid down by the Supreme Court.
  • It seeks to “widen the zone of consideration” to reduce arbitrariness as well as nullify perceptions of favouritism in making judicial appointments and transfers.
  • Greater transparency is sought to be introduced through a process of vetting by screening committees at the high court and Supreme Court levels.
  • It envisages a permanent secretariat for the collegium to gather and scrutinise data relating to prospective appointees,
  • lays down a judicial mechanism for redress of complaints against judges.
  • Reports suggest that the judges are uneasy about the screening process and have grave reservations about the executive claiming a right to veto specific recommendations on the grounds of national security or public interest.
  • Consensus on what is a contested constitutional space is not easy.

But there is a compelling need for the two branches of government to forge one quickly. An impression should not gain ground that one side wants to dilute judicial primacy in appointments or that the other is delaying the infusion of transparency.

SC asks for norms to inform family of critically ill patients

  • The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a plea seeking guidelines for private hospitals to provide families regular health bulletins and information about the treatment of patients in intensive care or coronary care units (ICU/CCU).
  • A Bench led by Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit sought this information from the Centre, the states and the Medical Council of India (MCI) following a petition by a man who lost his daughter-in-law due to alleged negligence on the part of the doctors treating her at a private hospital in West Bengal.

Rs.11,000 cr. for removal of ‘black spots’ on NHs

  • An amount of Rs.11,000 crore will be allocated for the removal of black spots (danger/accident zones) on national highways in the country by incorporating changes in the road design
  • Concern –
    • 1.5 lakh people are dying on Indian roads every year
    • 40 per cent of the deaths are occurring on national highways
    • NHs  constitute mere 96,000 km of the 52 lakh km of total roads
    • 70 to 80 per cent of the road accidents are due to road engineering defects
    • 786 black spots were identified on the National Highways
  • Funds would be allocated under Pradhan Manthri Surakshit Sadak Yojana-  for their removal by making necessary design changes.
  • To establish an accident fund to repay the loans taken from banks to provide various road safety initiatives.

Global Innovation Index report 2016

  • India has improved its innovation ranking in GII to reach 66th position from its last year’s rank of 81st
  • This improvement in the rank for India comes after 5 years of continuous drop in its ranking.
  • Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Finland and Singapore lead the 2016 rankings in the Global Innovation Index
  • The report was released jointly by Cornell University, INSEAD, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) AT Kearney and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

New panel to examine the country’s innovation landscape

  • The Commerce and Industry Ministry has decided to set up a committee to examine the country’s innovation landscape and recommend new government interventions and specific domains where the Centre should refrain from meddling in the innovation process altogether.
  • The intention is to tap the global innovation index findings meaningfully and ensure the government’s moves are consistent with what innovators need to progress.
  • Knowledge excellence
  • “When you look at venture capital funding as a proportion of GDP, India is doing far better than even China though their GDP base is larger,” Mr. Datta said.
  • “India’s innovation brand is associated with frugal innovation or what we call Jugaad , which is good, but that’s not how we should be positioned globally. We should focus on being known for knowledge excellence,” he said.
  • Niti Aayog Principal Advisor Ratan Watal said that innovation and technology were significant components of the 15-year country vision plan now being prepared by the Centre.

Supreme Court directs CPCB to receive one per cent Environment protection charge

  • Supreme Court has directed all manufacturers/dealers of Delhi-NCR, selling diesel cars with engine capacity of 2000 cc and above, to pay 1% Environment Protection Charge
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been directed by Hon’ble Supreme Court to open a separate account for this purpose in a Scheduled Public Sector bank.

Star Rating of Major Mineral Mines

  • The Ministry through Indian Bureau of Mines has developed a template for Scheme of Star Rating of Mines.
  • Objective – is to bring all mines to a minimum standard of Star Rating in the shortest possible time frame to adopt sustainable practices.
  • A two layered system providing self-evaluation templates to be filled in by the mine operator followed by validation through Indian Bureau of Mines.
  • Based on the performance of the mining leases, a one to five star rating would be given to the mines. The Star Rating will be done initially for mines of major minerals. The positive impact of getting higher Star Rating will drive miners to quickly adopt sustainable mining practices.
  • Initially Star Rating on Pilot basis was done manually and 19 mines were awarded with 4 &5 Stars at the first National Conclave on Mines & Minerals held at Raipur, 4-5 July, 2016. The Star Rating is being considered to be included as statutory provision in the MCDR for time-bound achieving of minimum 4star.
  • A web enabled online system for evaluation of measures has been developed with the help of National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG), Hyderabad.
  • has given a deadline for Star Rating of all mines by 31st of December, 2016.

The star rating will be based on the following parameters:

  • Scientific and systematic mining to mitigate environmental impact.
  • Addressing social impacts of resettlement and rehabilitation of mining affected people.
  • Local community engagements and welfare programmes for socio-economic development of local community.
  • Progressive and final mine closure to ensure for restoration of mined out land in better conditions then original.
  • Adoption of international standards for mining operations and reporting.

The main advantages of the Star Rating of Mines will be:

  • Comprehensive mitigation of environmental impacts on land, air and water by mining activities.
  • Collation of various technical, environmental and social data of the mining sector at one platform by IBM, which would be utilised to enable better management and monitoring of the compliance of various conditions laid down by statutory authorities for mining.
  • In addressing cumulative impacts in mining areas through coordinated and collective action in the long run by helping in formulation of Comprehensive Regional Plans’- a robust Environment &Social Management framework.
  • Availability of the information on mining as well as the conservation activities in public domain to enable greater transparency to enable effective participation of stakeholder and speedy resolution of conflicts.
  • Reduced delays in obtaining various clearances (environmental, forest, mining plan, etc.) for mines. Self-certification to be allowed for the approvals for scheme of mining.
  • The progressive and final mine closures will be monitored to ensure that the lessee leaves the area after proper management of any adverse impact over the mined area.
  • Encourage adoption of highest standards and sharing and good practices.

Background

  • There has been concerns on the adverse impact of mining on ecology, environment such as pollution of water, air and land affecting adversely the local communities as well as displacements of people. There is an urgent need to balance mining activities vis a vis protection of environment.
  • The Ministry of Mines, Govt. of India is already focusing on Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) for Indian Mining Sector as a guiding principle for Indian mining industry encompassing inclusive growth, without adversely affecting the social, economic and environmental well-being, at present and also in future generation.
  • The Ministry of Mines has developed a credible system of evaluation of mining footprints and the first Pilot rollout of SDF was launched in the Sukinda Chromite mine of M/s. Tata Steel in Odisha on 07.01.2016.

Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme

  • All freedom fighters and spouses and dependent parents/eligible daughter pensioners of deceased freedom fighters draw pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980
  • So far, total 1,71,605 freedom fighters and their eligible dependents have been sanctioned pension under the scheme. At present 37,981 freedom fighters and their eligible dependent pensioners are covered under the scheme.  Of these, 11,690 are freedom fighters themselves, 24,792 are spouses(widows/widowers) and 1,499 are daughter pensioners.
  • In 1969, Government of India introduced the ‘Ex-Andaman Political Prisoners Pension Scheme’ to honour the freedom fighters who had been incarcerated in the Cellular Jail at Port Blair.
  • In 1972, to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of our Independence, a regular scheme for grant of freedom fighters’ pension was introduced.  Thereafter, with effect from 01.08.1980, a liberalized scheme, namely the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme’ is being implemented.
  • Besides the freedom fighters, spouses (widows/widowers), unmarried and unemployed daughters (upto maximum three at any point of time) and parents of deceased freedom fighters are eligible for pension under the scheme.

India Post Payments Bank Incorporated

  • The India Post Payments Bank Limited has received the Certificate of Incorporation from the Registrar of Companies, Ministry of Corporate Affairs under the Companies Act 2013.
  • This would be the first PSU under the Department of Posts.
  • With the incorporation, the Board of the India Post Payments Bank Limited is likely to be constituted soon.
  • The incorporation of the IPPB Ltd is a significant step forward as this also paves the way for the bank to begin hiring of banking professionals to set up the bank and begin its operations in 2017.
  • The Department of Posts is expected to complete the roll out of its branches all over the country by September 2017. This could be the fastest roll out for a bank anywhere in the world.
  • The aspiration for the India Post Payments Bank is to become the most accessible bank in the world riding on state of the art banking and payments technology.
  • Coupled with the physical presence across 1.55 lakh post offices and the reach of “The Dakiya”, the India Post Payments Bank aims to become a powerful and effective vehicle of real financial inclusion in the country.
  • It is poised to create a national payments architecture riding on a modern payments platform and ubiquitous information and communication technologies that can be accessed by all users and service providers like never before.

Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill

  • The Parliament has passed the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill after it was unanimously approved by Rajya Sabha.
  • The comprehensive amendment bill seeks to amend and strengthen Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988 in terms of legal and administrative procedure to curb domestic black money.

Key Features of Bill – The Bill seeks to

  1.  Amend the definition of benami transactions to widen the scope for legal action
  2. Specify penalties for entering into benami transactions and
  3. establish adjudicating authorities and Appellate Tribunal to deal with benami transactions.

Details

Definition

  • The Act defines a benami transaction as a transaction where a property is held by or transferred to a person, but has been provided for or paid by another person.  The Bill defines benamidar as the person in whose name the benami property is held or transferred, and a beneficial owner as the person for whose benefit the property is being held by the benamidar
  • It adds other transactions which qualify as benami, such as property transactions where:
    • the owner is not aware or denies knowledge of the ownership of the property,
    • transaction is made in a fictitious name
    • person providing the consideration for the property is not traceable.
  • The Bill also specifies certain cases will be exempt from the definition of a benami transaction. These include cases when a property is held by:
    • a member of a Hindu undivided family, and is being held for his or another family member’s benefit, and has been provided for or paid off from sources of income of that family;
    • a person in a fiduciary capacity;
    • a person in the name of his spouse or child, and the property has been paid for from the person’s income; and
  • The Bill defines benamidar as the person in whose name the benami property is held or transferred, and a beneficial owner as the person for whose benefit the property is being held by the benamidar

Authorities

  • Under the existing Act, an Authority to acquire benami properties was to be established by the Rules.
  • The Bill seeks to establish four authorities to conduct inquiries or investigations regarding benami transactions:
  • (i) Initiating Officer, (ii) Approving Authority, (iii) Administrator and (iv) Adjudicating Authority.
    • If an Initiating Officer believes that a person is a benamidar, he may issue a notice to that person.
    • The Initiating Officer may hold the property for 90 days from the date of issue of the notice, subject to permission from the Approving Authority. At the end of the notice period, the Initiating Officer may pass an order to continue the holding of the property.
    • If an order is passed to continue holding the property, the Initiating Officer will refer the case to the Adjudicating Authority. The Adjudicating Authority will examine all documents and evidence relating to the matter and then pass an order on whether or not to hold the property as benami.
    • Based on an order to confiscate the benami property, the Administrator will receive and manage the property in a manner and subject to conditions as prescribed.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.
    • The Bill also adds provisions to establish an Appellate Tribunal in order to hear appeals against any orders passed by the Adjudicating Authority.
  • Appeals against orders of the Appellate Tribunal will lie to the high court. Certain sessions courts would be designated as Special Courts for trying any offences which are punishable under the Bill.

Penalty

  • Under the Act, the penalty for entering into benami transactions is imprisonment up to three years, or a fine, or both. The Bill seeks to change this penalty to rigorous imprisonment of one year up to seven years, and a fine which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of the benami property
  • The Bill specifies the penalty for providing false information. The punishment includes rigorous imprisonment ranging from 6 months up to 5 years, and a fine which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of the benami property.
  • It empowers the Union Government to confiscate benami property by following due procedure. Therefore it promotes equity across all citizens.
  • The Bill provides immunity under the Benami Act to those who declare their benami properties under income declaration scheme.

In recent years the Union Government has taken various measures to curb the black money and the proposed legislation is one of them. It has been framed to tackle the menace black money by creating fear of law. However, the law does not cover benami property which is outside the country under it as it will be deemed as black money.

What does the amended benami transactions Bill mean for the real estate industry, especially the residential markets?

  • As with the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 and the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, it too is aimed at increasing transparency and professionalism in the industry.
  • The practice of including the correct name in property transactions will bring transparency in the residential market. With increased transparency, title risks would be minimised and buyer confidence in residential property transactions will get a boost.
  • Lender confidence- Lender confidence (whether private equity or bank) will also receive a fillip. Today when titles are not clear, the lending institutions often conduct their own ‘title search’ for properties before approving the loans.
  • Land transactions- There are a large number of benami dealings in land transactions. Data on such transactions is difficult to come by, and the amendment is expected to have an impact here. It is well-known that land transactions in India take an average of 1 to 2 years to complete. Clear ownership titles will hopefully see the light of day with the new amendments. These will help developers to quickly conclude joint venture transactions, which would open up land parcels for residential development. Exits by participating funds in these projects will also become quicker.

Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • In a move to expedite the process of resolving the debt issues burdening the creditors including banks and financial institutions, Loksabha passed the  Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Background

  • Currently the SARFAESI Act allows secured creditors to take possession over a collateral, against which a loan had been provided, upon a default in repayment.  This process is undertaken with the assistance of the District Magistrate, and does not require the intervention of courts or tribunals.
  • The Act creates a central registry to maintain records of transactions related to secured assets but it is restricted to banks and financial institutions.
  • The changes are aimed at a faster and more transparent system to tackle the bad debts in the banking system by fast-tracking the recovery process for banks and other financial institutions.
  • Flaws in the existing recovery process have contributed to the problems of bad loans. Listed Indian banks were burdened by Rs.4.37 trillion of bad loans in the quarter ended December, up from Rs.2.92 trillion a year ago.
  • The government is hoping that these amendments, along with the bankruptcy code, will provide a time-bound framework to deal with stressed assets and loan recovery.

What does the bill say

  • This Bill seeks to further amend four legislations –
    • the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaesi) Act, 2002,
    • the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993,
    • the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and
    • the Depositories Act, 1996
  • Amendment to SARFAESI act-
    • The Bill provides that this recovery process will have to be completed within 30 days by the District Magistrate. In addition, the Bill empowers the District Magistrate to assist banks in taking over the management of a company, in case the company is unable to repay loans.  This will be done in case the banks convert their outstanding debt into equity shares, and consequently hold a stake of 51% or more in the company.
    • The Bill creates a central database to integrate records of property registered under various registration systems with the central registry.  This includes integration of registrations made under Companies Act, 2013, Registration Act, 1908 and Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. This will give existing and potential creditors, a better picture of assets
    • The Bill provides that secured creditors will not be able to take possession over the collateral unless it is registered with the central registry.  Further, these creditors, after registration of security interest, will have priority over others in repayment of dues.
  • ARCs
    • The Act empowered the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to examine the statements and any information of Asset Reconstruction Companies related to their business.
    • The Bill further empowers the RBI to carry out audit and inspection of these companies.
    • The RBI may penalise a company if the company fails to comply with any directions issued by it.
    • The Bill provides that stamp duty will not be charged on transactions undertaken for transfer of financial assets in favour of asset reconstruction companies.  Financial assets include loans and collaterals.
  • It also seeks to enable non-institutional buyers besides qualified institutional buyers for investment in security receipts.
  • Amendments to the RDDBFI Act:
    • The RDDBFI Act established Debt Recovery Tribunals and Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals.
    • The Act provides that banks and financial institutions will be required to file cases in tribunals having jurisdiction over the defendant’s area of residence or business.  The Bill allows banks to file cases in tribunals having jurisdiction over the area of bank branch where the debt is pending.
    • The Bill provides that certain procedures under the Act will be undertaken in electronic form.  These include presentation of claims by parties and summons issued by tribunals under the Act.
    • The Bill provides further details of procedures that the tribunals will follow in case of debt recovery proceedings.  This includes the requirement of applicants to specify the assets of the borrower, which have been collateralised.
    • The Bill also prescribes time limits for the completion of some of these procedures.

Significance

  • As promised in the Union Budget 2016-17 proposed amendment to the Sarfaesi Act will enable the sponsor of an ARC to hold up to 100 per cent stake in the Asset Reconstruction Company and permit non-institutional investors to invest in Securitisation Receipts.
  • It will also lead to strengthening Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) and computerised processing of cases to expedite resolution of stressed assets.
  • It will help banks that are facing over ₹8 lakh crore of stressed assets recover bad loans faster.
  • Measures such as priority to secured creditors in repayment of debts and more powers to DRTs will help in faster disposal of cases.
  • Together with the new bankruptcy law, which Parliament approved earlier this week, the government is putting in place critical building blocks to provide an enabling infrastructure to deal with burgeoning bad debt at banks

It is a commendable effort but it will all boil down to implementation.

CAMPA bill

  • 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: (i) compensatory afforestation, (ii) net present value of forest (NPV), and (iii) 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.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • 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.
  • Procuring land for compensatory afforestation is difficult as land is a limited resource, and is required for multiple purposes, such as agriculture, industry, etc. This is compounded by unclear land titles, and difficulties in complying with procedures for land use.
  • A High Level Committee on Environment Laws observed that quality of forest cover has declined between 1951 and 2014, with poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations being one of the reasons behind the decline.
  • The Bill delegates the determination of NPV (value of loss of forest ecosystem) to an expert committee constituted by the central government. As NPV constitutes about half of the total funds collected, its computation methodology would be important.

Panel suggests corporate bond index, easier norms for FPIs

  • With an aim to develop corporate bond market in India, an expert panel has come out with its report
  • The panel, comprising nominees from Reserve Bank, Finance Ministry, markets watchdog SEBI as also insurance and pension regulators IRDAI and PFRDA,
  • The ‘Report of the Working Group on Development of Corporate Bond Market in India’ has been submitted to RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan in his capacity as Chairman of the FSDC (Financial Stability and Development Council) Sub Committee, which comprises members from various regulators .
  • The group was constituted in September 2015 under chairmanship of the then RBI Deputy Governor H.R. Khan and has now submitted its report after taking into account various structural issues impinging on the development of a deep corporate bond market in India.

Recommendations

  • a corporate bond index on the lines of Sensex or Nifty,
  • tightening of norms for credit rating agencies by mandating them to strictly adhere to timely public disclosure of defaults
  • Large corporates with borrowings from the banking system above a cut-off level may be required to tap the market for a portion of their working capital and term loan needs. Necessary guidelines may be issued by RBI taking into account market conditions by September 2016.
  • It has recommended amendments in FEMA regulations to allow investments by FPIs (Foreign Portfolio Investors) in unlisted debt securities and pass through securities issued by securitisations.
  • In a rare case of suggesting specific timelines for its various suggestions, the Working Group has sought necessary notification with regard to allowing FPI investments in these segments by August-end 2016.
  • It also wanted amendments in both FEMA notification and SEBI guidelines to facilitate direct trading in corporate bonds by FPIs in the OTC segment and on an electronic platform of a recognised stock exchange.
  • Banks may be encouraged to submit loan overdue information to credit information companies (CICs) on a weekly basis to start with.
  • RBI may consider whether CRAs (credit rating agencies) may be allowed access to Central Repository of Information on Large Credits database based on legal feasibility and other relevant factors.
  • Among its various recommendations, it said the issuers coming out with frequent debt issues with the same tenor during a quarter may club them under the same umbrella ISIN (a unique code to identify a specific securities issue) to increase the float in the market.
  • The group has recommended that SEBI and stock exchanges operationalise market making in corporate bonds.
  • Some of the preliminary recommendations of the Working Group were earlier made to the government and they were included in the Union Budget 2016-17

Bond market in India

  • Corporate bond issuance in India is dominated by private placements as bonds account for more than 95 per cent of the total issuance of corporate debt.
  • Besides, a majority of the issuances are concentrated in the 2-5 year tenor, while the investor base is limited as the investment mandates of large investors such as insurers, pension funds and provident funds provide limited space for going down the credit curve as the investments are made in fiduciary capacity to protect the interests of subscribers.
  • The panel observed there is a total lack of liquidity in credit risk protection instruments like Credit Default Swaps (CDS), while stamp duties on corporate bonds across various states have not been standardised.
  • The tax regime for financial instruments remains one of the key drivers of investor interest, while there are inherent structural incentives for borrowers to prefer bank financing, such as cash credit system and absence of any disincentive for enjoying unutilised working capital limits.
  • As the corporate debt market cannot be looked as totally detached from the sovereign bond market, this market may get a fillip as the interest rates come down with the inflation and fiscal consolidation targets being achieved
  • Many large non-financial corporates who should normally be the preferred issuers of bonds are leveraged and hence cannot access either loan from banks or bond financing through market mechanism.

Najma appointed Manipur Governor

  • Former Union Minister Najma Heptullah was appointed Governor of Manipur  as President of India announced new gubernatorial appointments for three States and a Union Territory.
  • Former Rajya Sabha MP V.P Singh Badnore was appointed Punjab Governor.
  • Banwarilal Purohit, a three-time former member of Lok Sabha from Nagpur and Managing Editor of Central India’s daily The Hitavada , will be the Governor of Assam
  • The Delhi-based BJP leader and former MLA Prof. Jagdish Mukhi was made Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Adopt a Green Highway Program

  • National Green Highways Mission (NGHM) under NHAI has collaborated with Power Finance Corporation Ltd. (PFC) for plantations work on NH 7 in Nagpur region (Borkhedi – Wadner, & Khatara – Kelapur) covering 87 km stretch. Power Finance Corporation Ltd. has provided financial assistance of Rs. 13 crore for plantation and five year maintenance under their CSR funds.
  • This marks the first collaboration with the National Green Highways Mission – NHAI under their ‘Adopt a Green Highways’ Program.
  • Adopt a Green Highway Program is an initiative by NGHM to engage Corporates, Public Sector Units, Governmental organizations, institutions and individuals under CSR and Public Private Partnership for developing green corridor along NHs.

National Green Highways Mission:

  • NGHM was launched under the Green Highways Policy, 2015 to provide a holistic vision of developing eco-friendly and green National Highways.
  • The mission aims to
    • provide a green canopy along 100,000 km of highways and
    • create jobs for 1 million youth.
  • The government has made it mandatory to set aside 1% of the total project cost of any national highway contract to a Green Fund for plantation.
  • Main motto of this mission is to help the environment, help local communities, and generate employment by planting trees along all the highways in the country.

GM mustard trials: CIC asks govt to reveal bio-safety data

  • The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the environment ministry to reveal safety data regarding trials of genetically modified (GM) mustard without further delay.
  • CIC has noted that any attempt to postpone or delay the disclosure will block the public discussion on the controversial issue.
  • The CIC has also directed the ministry to put in the public domain bio-safety data pertaining to all other GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the pipeline.

Background:

  • CIC, in April, had pulled up the environment ministry over its lack of transparency on trials of GM crops and had directed it to make public all information, including bio-safety data, related to the field trials of the GM mustard crop before 30 April. However, instead of furnishing information, the authority requested for two more months. Further, it sought another extension, this time for 90 days.
  • The CIC said that it finds no sufficient reason to extend the time for another 90 days to give information which the MoEFCC was supposed to disclose on its own under proactive disclosure provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • The GM mustard in question—DMH-11—has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of Delhi University. If it gets the green light from the environment ministry’s GEAC, it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India. Right now, only GM cotton is allowed. GEAC is the environment ministry’s regulator for GMOs and transgenic products.

Centre may ease regulatory norms for Exim Bank, ECGC

  • The Commerce Ministry is considering measures to strengthen state-owned export promotion firms — Exim Bank and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC). The ministry is also planning to free them from strict regulatory norms to help boost exports.

Measures being considered include:

  • More financial support from the government to augment companies’ capital.
  • Allowing them to retain the dividend amount instead of the current practice of paying it to the government.
  • Freeing them from the stringent regulatory norms — removing Exim Bank from the supervision of banking regulator RBI and the ECGC from insurance regulator IRDAI’s ambit.
  • Increasing leverage ratio of EXIM bank, a mix of owners’ equity and debt to finance the company’s operations, from a low level of around 11 times the bank’s Net-Owned Funds (NOF) to at least 15 times its NOF initially and then more at a later stage.
  • Such reforms are necessary to ensure a major turnaround in the country’s merchandise exports, which contracted 6.84% year-on-year to $21.69 billion in July.

EXIM bank:

  • Export–Import Bank of India was established in 1982 under the Export-Import Bank of India Act 1981.
  • Since its inception, Exim Bank of India has been both a catalyst and a key player in the promotion of cross border trade and investment.
  • Over the period, it has evolved into an institution that plays a major role in partnering Indian industries, particularly the Small and Medium Enterprises, in their globalisation efforts, through a wide range of products and services offered at all stages of the business cycle, starting from import of technology and export product development to export production, export marketing, pre-shipment and post-shipment and overseas investment.

ECGC:

  • The ECGC Limited is a company wholly owned by the Government of India. It provides export credit insurance support to Indian exporters and is controlled by the Ministry of Commerce. Government of India had initially set up Export Risks Insurance Corporation (ERIC) in July 1957. It was transformed into Export Credit and Guarantee Corporation Limited (ECGC) in 1964 and to Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India in 1983
  • Provides a range of credit risk insurance covers to exporters against loss in export of goods and services as well.
  • Offers guarantees to banks and financial institutions to enable exporters to obtain better facilities from them.
  • Provides Overseas Investment Insurance to Indian companies investing in joint ventures abroad in the form of equity or loan and advances.

“State of The Indian Judiciary” report

  • “State of The Indian Judiciary” report was released recently by the Bangalore-based research organisation DAKSH under the “Rule of Law Project”.
  • The project aims to investigate the problem of pendency of cases. As of April 1, 2016, DAKSH had data for more than 40 lakh cases in its database covering 21 high courts and 475 district courts.

Highlights of the report:

  • The average hearing time for listed cases on a particular day in an Indian high court is as little as two minutes. The time taken per hearing has been computed based on the working hours of judges and number of cases “listed” on a particular day.
  • About 50% cases listed are adjourned. For instance, if 80 cases are listed, some 40 are adjourned, 35 don’t reach and just five are heard.
  • The report highlights problems faced by litigants, including the accused in criminal cases. It says 31% of individuals accused of bailable offences claimed that they continue to be in jail as they cannot afford bail or guarantors to stand surety. It also shows that less than 3% of litigants used legal aid, despite being eligible to take the benefit of government-appointed lawyers.
  • The report also notes that time spent on a case, the frequency/infrequency of hearings, and change in judicial personnel not only impact understanding of pendency, but also adversely affects the concept of fair hearing, which is a fundamental promise that the judiciary makes to the litigants.

Situation in different states:

  • In the Patna High Court, a hearing lasts for around two minutes on an average, as judges hear around 150 cases every day. In Tripura High Court the average time per hearing is 15 minutes with judges hearing around 20 cases a day.
  • The number of days between two hearings also varies across high courts. For instance, the most frequent hearings are held in the Calcutta High Court, with 16 days between hearings. They are most far apart in the Delhi High Court with 80 days between two hearings.
  • The research also found that around 82% of cases in high courts have been pending for 10 to 15 years. The Allahabad High Court has the highest average pendency among all Indian high courts, with a case pending for an average of a little more than three years and nine months, whereas the High Court of Sikkim has the lowest average pendency of 10 months.

Way ahead:

  • This finding is key to judicial reform, as it is an indicator of the stress faced by judges on a daily basis. The report suggests that putting a cap on the number of hearings will allow reduction in judicial workload and may improve efficiency and also reduce the number of times litigants have to visit courts.

Smart Ganga City programme:

  • The Union Government has launched the first phase of Smart Ganga City programme in 10 cities located along River Ganga.
  • Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mathura, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Patna, Sahibganj and Barrackpore are the cities/town where the programme will be implemented in the first phase.
  • Under this programme, Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and improve drainage network will be set up on hybrid annuity mode on public private partnership basis

Central Agricultural University (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • Parliament has passed the Central Agricultural University (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Key facts:

  • The bill seeks to amend the Central Agricultural University Act, 1992, that was enacted for the establishment and incorporation of a university for the north-eastern region in order to promote development and research in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • The bill includes Nagaland under the jurisdiction of Imphal Central Agriculture University (CAU). The amendment will help Nagaland to reap the benefit of the Imphal Central Agriculture University, established for the entire north eastern region.
  • After inclusion of Nagaland under jurisdiction of the CAU, the College of Veterinary Sciences in Nagaland would produce the much-needed professional manpower in the fields of animal husbandry, which will facilitate socio-economic growth in the region.
  • The new college would help familiarise the farmers with new techniques, thereby contributing to the production and productivity of domestic animals in the State of Nagaland.

CAG uncovers roads to nowhere

  • According to the performance audit report of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) by CAG, tabled in Parliament recently, a total of 372 works under the rural road connectivity scheme were abandoned/proposed to be abandoned mid-way in 11 States, due to non-availability of land or land disputes. Of these, Rajasthan accounts for the highest – 213 abandoned works – followed by Odisha with 107 works.

Highlights of the report:

  • In 26 States, 4,496 works were delayed from one month to 129 months. Among these, Bihar accounted for the highest number of delays at 1,243, due to paucity of funds and non-availability of material, followed by 572 in Odisha, 378 in Rajasthan due to land dispute, heavy rain, as well as paucity of funds, and 367 works in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The report also found a few discrepancies, such as unconnected habitations that were shown as connected, non-inclusion of eligible habitations, etc, in 19 States.
  • In seven States – Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and West Bengal – 73 road works were executed and shown as completed.
  • To reduce systemic deficiencies and closer monitoring of the scheme, the CAG report urged the nodal Rural Development Ministry to create a Geographical Information System data base of rural roads information system for each State, and fix responsibility and accountability of agencies and individuals.

About PMGSY:

  • PMGSY was launched on 25th December 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country. The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.

The objective was to give roads to villages:

  • With a inhabitants of 1000 persons & more by year 2003
  • Having populace of 500 & more by 2007
  • Mount states, ethnic & desert region villages having a population of 500 & more by the year 2003, &
  • Mount states, ethnic & desert region villages having population of 250 & more by 2007.

Diamond Quadrilateral:

  • Six corridors on Diamond Quadrilateral connecting metropolitan cities and growth centers of the country (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai & Kolkata) have been identified for feasibility studies for high speed rail connectivity viz: (i) Delhi-Mumbai, (ii) Mumbai-Chennai, (iii) Chennai-Kolkata, (iv) Kolkata-Delhi and both diagonals i.e. (v) Delhi-Chennai and (vi) Mumbai-Kolkata routes. Feasibility studies are being undertaken through Government to Government cooperation, with China and Spain respectively.diamond