ART & CULTURE
- Parab-2017, the annual cultural festival of Odisha’sKoraput district has started in Koraput.
- The festival showcases the tribal art and culture with the participation of tribals in their traditional attire.
- They danced to the tune of the unique local music as the festival kicked off from the shrine of goddess Sankulai Devi of B Singhpur under Borigumma block.
- The objective of the festival is to protect as well as promote the regions rich cultural heritage.
ABOUT PARAB FESTIVAL
- Parab Tribal Festival is an annual festival organized in the Koraput district of Orissa.
- It was started in the year 1996 and also known as the festival of festivals
- It provides an opportunity to the locals as well as the tourists to catch glimpses of the rich cultural heritage of the various tribal communities inhabiting the amazing state of Orissa.
- Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple of Amritsar has been awarded as the most visited place of the world.
- Book of World Records, London awarded Harmandir Sahib as the Most Visited Place of the World.
- Harmandir Sahib’s construction was completed in 1604 and it is surrounded by a Sarovar which is fed by river Ravi.
- PresentlyGolden Temple runs one of the largest free kitchens in the world, which serves an average 1,00,000 people daily.
- It is an annual cultural festival organised by Manipur Tourism Department.
- This has been renamed in 2010 as the Sangai Festival to stage the uniqueness of the shy and gentle brow-antlered deer popularly known as the Sangai Deer.
- It is the state animal of Manipur.
- This festival is celebrated to promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination.
- It showcases the art and culture, handloom, handicrafts and fine arts, indigenous sports, music, eco & adventure sports and the scenic natural beauty of the land to the world.
- President Ram NathKovind has inaugurated the two-day North East Development Summit at Imphal, Manipur.
ABOUT NORTH EAST DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT :
- It is an effort to highlight and explore the potential of North East India in further establishing itself as a land hub of India’s Act East Policy.
- It is being organised by the Manipur government in association with India Foundation (a think tank).
- Aims: The summit aims at building confidence and altering the perception among the masses and investors.
FOCUS AREAS OF SUMMIT
- Trade and Investment
- Connectivity and Infrastructure Development
- Tourism Development in North-East India
- Skill Development, Capacity Building and Entrepreneurship
- The Supreme Court struck down a provision which can deny a person bail even if there is reasonable ground to believe that he or she did not commit the offence of money laundering.
- Noting that the history of bail practices traces back to the Magna Carta, the apex court declared Section 45(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002 violative of the fundamental rights to equality, life and personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.
- A Bench of Justices RohintonNariman and S.K. Kaul, in their judgment, passed a general direction to courts to take up thousands of cases of undertrials who have been languishing in prisons, unable to get bail, because they did not satisfy the twin conditions under Section 45(1) of the PMLA.
- Under Section 45(1), the accused is worthy of bail only if the prosecutor is allowed a chance to oppose it. Secondly, the court should reasonably believe that he is not guilty of the “predicate” offence for which he received the laundered money as proceeds of the crime.
- Predicate offences include a range of crimes from 26 different laws from waging war against the Government of India to offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the Indian Penal Code to Wildlife Protection Act, Prevention of Corruption Act, child labour law, etc.
- Standard & Poor Global Ratings retained its BBB- rating for India’s sovereign with a ‘stable’ outlook,
- S & P belayed expectations that it may take a cue from rival Moody’s Investor Services which upgraded the country’s credit rating last week for the first time in 13 years.
- Despite one-off factors like demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax denting growth for two quarters, S&P expects India’s economy to grow robustly from 2018-20 with robust foreign exchange reserves rising further.
- It also re-iterated its BBB- rating on India with a stable outlook indicating that the rating is unlikely to see a change in the near future.
- A BBB- rating denotes the lowest investment grade rating for bonds
REASON FOR NON-UPGRADATION
- India’s low per capita income.
- The sizable fiscal deficit.
- High general government debt
- The Union Cabinet approved India’s membership for EBRD, a move which will help it obtain funding in various areas including services and manufacturing.
- The membership will increase the scope of cooperation between India and the multilateral institution through co- financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, information technology and energy.
- “EBRD’s core operations pertain to private sector development in their countries of operation.
- The membership would help India leverage the technical assistance and sectoral knowledge of the bank for the benefit of development of private sector.
- The minimum initial investment towards the membership will be about 1 million euro (Rs 7.63 crore).
EBRD (EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT)
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution founded in 1991.
- As a multilateral developmental investment bank, the EBRD uses investment as a tool to build market economies.
- Headquartered in London, the EBRD is owned by 65 countries and two EU institutions.
- Despite its public-sector shareholders, it invests mainly in private enterprises, together with commercial partners.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- India scored a major diplomatic victory as its nominee to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), DalveerBhandari, was re-elected after the United Kingdom withdrew its candidate, Christopher Greenwood.
- The U.K. chose to withdraw after it became clear that it would not win the contest in the General Assembly (GA) and it did not have adequate support in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for its attempts to derail the voting process itself.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EVENT
- This is the first time in the 70-year history of the United Nations that the U.K. will not be on the ICJ, though being a Permanent member.
- This is the first time that one of the five permanent members of the UNSC lost out to an ordinary member in a race.
- This is also the first time that one sitting member of the ICJ lost to another sitting member.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE:
- The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations (UN).
- Seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
- Established in 1945 by the UN Charter, the court began work in 1946 as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice.
- The court settles legal disputes submitted to it by states and provides advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international branches, agencies, and the UN General Assembly.
- The ICJ is composed of fifteen judges elected for nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council from a list of people nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
- The election process is set out in Articles 4–19 of the ICJ statute. Elections are staggered, with five judges elected every three years to ensure continuity within the court. Should a judge die in office, the practice has generally been to elect a judge in a special election to complete the term.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- At the upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest decision-making body, India will not agree to severe restrictions on its right to give price subsidies to farmers through the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to procure grains from them for food security purposes.
- The WTO’s Ministerial Conference is slated to take place at Buenos Aires in Argentina next month.
- Currently, an interim mechanism called the ‘Peace Clause’ is in place, per which WTO members had agreed not to challenge developing nations at the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism if they breached the cap of the product-specific domestic support (which is 10% of the value of production).
WHAT IS THE PEACE CLAUSE?
- The ‘Peace Clause’ is available to developing nations, including India, till a permanent solution is found to public stockholding for food security purposes.
- India’s Effort would be: To ensure that at least the ‘Peace Clause’ is made the permanent solution, and will not accept any ‘terribly stringent or onerous’ conditions.
- Difficulty involved: the ‘Peace Clause’ is learnt to be difficult to invoke even in its current form because prior to using it, the country concerned will have to first admit that it ‘is breaching’ or ‘is about to breach’ the ceiling entitlement to give product-specific domestic support.
- Challenges ahead: The ‘Peace Clause’ can be used only for public stockholding programmes that have been in existence on the date at which it was agreed upon at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, and not for new programmes on public stockholding for food security purposes.
- The prospects of an agreement on a permanent solution are not that bright due to three roadblocks.
- The U.S. has not been engaging actively on the matter till recently, and if the U.S. does not give its nod, it will be difficult to arrive at a decision.
- The European Union has tried to link the permanent solution with outcomes including stringent disciplines on domestic support given by developing nations.
- Most WTO members are of the opinion that there should be a commitment on prohibition of exports from public stockholding saying such exports would be trade-distorting.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Elevating their diplomatic relations China and Djibouti have agreed to form a “strategic partnership”.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NEW CHINESE BASE?
- China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations. Lemonneir is United States’ only permanent base in Africa. With this, United States and China will become neighbours in the region.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE BASE AT DJIBOUTI:
- The base is aimed at ensuring China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia.
- The base will also conduct overseas tasks, including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.
- Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa.
- It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast.
- The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- In a first, the World Health Organisation has formulated clinical guidelines on responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused.
GUIDELINES ARE FOR
- General practitioners, gynaecologists, paediatricians, nurses and others — who may directly receive a victim of sexual abuse or may identify sexual abuse during the course of diagnosis and treatment.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GUIDELINES?
- WHO’s first of kind gender sensitive guidelines provide first line support to child or adolescent in response to the disclosure of sexual abuse.
- It offers HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and adherence support to those who have been raped and who present within 72 hours.
- It offers emergency contraception to girl child who has been raped and who present within 120 hours (5 days).
- It takes into consideration STI (sexually transmitted infections) presumptive treatment or prophylaxis in settings where laboratory testing is not feasible.
- It also takes in considerations cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with trauma focus for those have PTSD symptoms and diagnosis.
- It also offers Hepatitis B and HPV vaccination.
- It also calls upon health care providers about informing obligation on victims and their non-offending caregivers to report abuse and limits of confidentiality before interviewing them.
WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE GUIDELINES?
- Guidelines promote best interests of children first by ensuring confidentiality and privacy, respecting their autonomy and wishes and addressing needs with vulnerabilities such as LGBT adolescents.
- Guidelines will assist WHO member states to ensure health and well-being of children and adolescents.
- It will also strengthen implementation of Global Plan of Action on strengthening health systems in response to violence against women and girls and against children that was endorsed by World Health Assembly in 2016.
ABOUT WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
- It was established in April 1948. Its headquarters at Geneva.
- The WHO is specialized agency of United Nations that acts as coordinating authority on international public health.
- It is a successor of Health Organization, which was an agency of the League of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
- The presence of guidelines and following them is extremely essential. But, there is more than just guidelines required in the country. These should be followed with ground training of all first line respondents. However, guidelines and training is not the end of the issue. The victims and their families face the worse in terms of investigation and its outcome. It is not adequate to pass on the burden on the healthcare sector. The government needs to adopt a policy that will streamline all the other aspects as well.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a memorandum of understanding on the return of Rohingya people who fled the Rakhine state in the wake of a military crackdown.
- At least 600,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar to the neighbouring Bangladesh since the army started an operation in August following an attack by Rohingya militants.
- The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years.
- They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to basic services.
- Repatriation at this point seems hasty and reckless as the conditions which led to the refugees fleeing have not yet been addressed. What will be their legal status upon return? Will there be concerted efforts to broker reconciliation between them and their Buddhist Rakhineneighbours? Will they be granted freedom of movement and access to livelihoods and government services like the rest of the residents in Myanmar? Will they be able to work legally and obtain support to rebuild their lives? Crucially, will there be UN oversight of this whole process?
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Pakistan should ensure that Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, is arrested and charged for his crimes, the U.S. said a day after he was released from house arrest.
- Saeed is a designated global terrorist and the U.S. has declared a bounty of $10 million on his head.
ACT AGAINST LET
- The U.S. has repeatedly asked Pakistan to act against the LeT.
- In May 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a specially designated global terrorist under Executive Order 13224.
- Saeed was also individually designated by the UN under UNSCR 1267 in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people, including six American citizens, were killed.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of the 15thFinance Commission.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FINANCE COMMISSION?
- It is a body set up under Article 280 of the Constitution.
- Its primary job is to recommend measures and methods on how revenues need to be distributed between the Centre and states.
COMPOSITION OF FINANCE COMMISSION:
- The Constitution provides that Finance Commission shall consist of a Chairman and four other members to be appointed by President. The Chairman or members are eligible for reappointment.
- The Constitution authorizes Parliament to make provisions related to qualifications, conditions of service of members or powers of Finance Commission. So Parliament enacted Finance Commission Act in 1951 to determine provisions related to qualifications or disqualifications, conditions of service or miscellaneous powers to perform functions provided under constitution.
- Qualifications: The Chairman shall have vast experience in Public affairs and other four members shall be selected among persons who a) have qualifications as par with a judge of HC, b) has special knowledge of Finance and Accounts of govt, c) have vast experience in financial matters and d) have special knowledge of economics.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Brahmos supersonic cruise missile has been successfully test fired for the first time from the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI combat jet against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal.
ABOUT BRAHMOS MISSILE:
- BrahMos is a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India and NPOM of Russia.
- The Brahmos cruise missiles have an effective strike range of around 290-300 km.
- Weighing 2.5 ton, BrahMos ALCM is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on India’s Su-30 fighter aircraft. It has been modified by HAL to carry weapons.
- It is a world-class weapon with multi-platform, multi-mission role and is capable of being launched from land, sea and air.
- The name Brahmos has been taken from two rivers – Brahmaputra and Moskva.
- The heavyweight missile, integrated with the long-range fighter, is seen as a force multiplier for the IAF.
- The land and warship versions have already been inducted by the armed forces.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- India has sent a proposal to United Nations for declaring the year 2018 as ‘International Year of Millets’.
RATIONALE BEHIND THE MOVE
- Popularizing millets would benefit future generations of farmers as well as consumers.
- Promotion of production and consumption of millets through conscious efforts at global level is likely to contribute substantially in the fight against targeted hunger and mitigate the effect of climate change in long run.
WHAT ARE MILLETS?
- Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cerealcrops or grains for fodder and human food.
- Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in India, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger), with 97% of millet production in developing countries.
- The crop is favored due to its productivity and short growing season under dry, high-temperature conditions.
- Millets include sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
BENEFITS OF MILLETS
- An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet.
- Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
- The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
- Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture.
- Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
- Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
- The proposal, if agreed, will raise awareness about millets among consumers, policy makers, industry and R&D sector.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Union government is set to reintroduce theNCBC Bill in the LokSabha in the forthcoming Winter Session. Following the impasse over the Bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) in the last session of Parliament.
WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND?
- The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 to bring NCBC, set up in 1993, on a par with National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commisson for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), was passed by the LokSabha.
- But, in RajyaSabha, a crucial amendment to Clause III was moved. The amendment expanded the three-member commission to five so as to give representation to a woman and a person from minority community and mandated that all five members should necessarily be from Other Backward Classes (OBC).
- Another amendment sought to protect the federal structure by giving states a significant role in making recommendations to the list.
- In the end, the government decided to put the Bill to vote after dropping Clause III. With separate versions of the Bill being passed in the two Houses, it will now have to be passed once again in LokSabha.
THE CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT BILL IS FOR
- Constitution of a Commission under Article 338B for socially and educationally backward classes by name of National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Insertion of Clause (26C) under Article 366 with modified definition viz. “socially and educationally backward classes” means such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purpose, this Constitution.
- Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the duties of the NCBC will include:
- Investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented,
- Inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights,
- Advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.
- The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
IMPORTANCE OF THIS MOVE
- The NCBC currently plays a recommendatory role to the government on inclusion or exclusion of a community in the Central list of OBC. The proposed legislation will allow the NCBC to look at grievance redressal and safeguarding the interest of OBCs, powers that until now vested with the SC Commission.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Supreme Court struck down a provision which can deny a person bail even if there is reasonable ground to believe that he or she did not commit the offence of money laundering.
- Noting that the history of bail practices traces back to the Magna Carta, the apex court declared Section 45(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002violates of the fundamental rights to equality, life and personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.
- Imposes two conditions for grant of bail in offences punishable with a jail term of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule to the Act. It requires that the public prosecutor must be given an opportunity to oppose any application for release on bail and in cases where the public prosecutor opposes the bail plea; the court must be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was not guilty and was unlikely to commit an offence if granted bail.
WHAT IS PMLA 2002
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering.The Act and Rules notified impose obligation on banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries to verify identity of clients, maintain records and furnish information.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has capped the prices of 51 essential formulations, including those used for the treatment of cancer, pain, heart conditions and skin problems. The prices have been slashed in the range of 6 to 53 per cent.
- Drugs, whose ceiling prices have been capped, include colon or rectal cancer treatment drug oxaliplatin (injection 100mg), Japanese encephalitis vaccine and measles rubbela vaccine.
- On the other hand, ceiling prices of drugs, including anaestheticsevoflurane, Phytomenadione (Vitamin K1) and tuberculosis prevention medicine BCG vaccine have been revised.
- The calculation for essential drugs is based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 per cent.
- Set up in 1997, NPPA has been entrusted with the task of fixation/revision of prices of pharma products, enforcement of provisions of DPCO and monitoring of prices of controlled and decontrolled drugs
- NPPA fixes the ceiling price of essential medicines of Schedule I under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013. In respect of medicines that are not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10 per cent annually.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh chaired the recently held 12th meeting of the Standing Committee of Inter-State Council (ISC). Recommendations of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations were discussed during the meeting.
ABOUT PUNCHHI COMMISSION
- The Punchhi Commission was set up under the chairmanship of Justice (Retd.) Madan Mohan Punchhi, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India in 2005.
- The Punchhi Commission submitted its report in 2010.
- Punchhi Commission was instituted to look into the new issues of Centre-state relations keeping in view the changes that have taken place in the polity and economy.
ABOUT THE INTER-STATE COUNCIL
- The Council is a recommendatory body.
- It investigates and discusses subjects, in which some or all of the states or the union government have a common interest.
- Article 263 of the Constitution of India provides for the establishment of an Inter-State Council.
- It considers recommendations for the better coordination of policy and action, and also matters of general interest to the states.
- The inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and union government. It can be established ‘at any time’ if it appears to the President that the public interests would be served by the establishment of such a council.
COMPOSITION OF THE COUNCIL
- Prime Minister is the chairman.
- Chief Ministers of all states are members.
- Chief Ministers of union territories and administrators of UTs are members.
- Six union ministers of cabinet rank in the union council of ministers nominated by the prime minister are also members.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- A private member’s resolution on job reservations for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes in the private sector is listed for discussion in the winter session of Parliament.
- The resolution, tabled in the last Parliament session by CPI RajyaSabha member D. Raja, could not come up for discussion.
WHAT IS A PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL
- A private member’s bill is introduced by an individual member of the legislature, as opposed to a party. He/She may belong to the party in power or the Opposition.
HIGHLIGHT PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL
- A member who wants to introduce a bill has to give prior notice of one month, with a copy of the Statement of Objects and Reasons, unless the speaker permits a shorter notice. If the bill accompanies the President’s recommendation, if necessary, the period of notice is calculated from the date of receipt of the recommendation in LokSabha Secretariat.
- Once the bill is drafted, it is circulated among members of the LokSabha two days before its introduction. When the bill is tabled in the house, by convention, the motion is not opposed. There have been exceptions, however. A member cannot introduce more than four bills during a session. And while a bill is pending, a similar bill cannot be admitted.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The Supreme Court recently said it will not compel the Centre to ratify the U.N. Convention against Torture or command it to frame a standalone anti-torture legislation. The court said so while disposing a PIL seeking to put in place a statutory framework to curb torture and custodial violence.
- The government is considering an anti-torture law.
- The Law Commission has recommended the Centre to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and frame a standalone anti-torture law, making the state responsible for any injury inflicted by its agents on citizens.
- Though India signed the convention in 1997, it is yet to ratify it. Efforts to bring in a standalone law have failed.
- The National Human Rights Commission has been urging the government to recognise torture as a separate crime and codify the punishment in a separate penal law.
ABOUT THE UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE
- Convention defines torture as a criminal offence. The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
- Torture violates fundamental right to life and dignity(Article 21) as well as Human rights.Considering it a matter of both national and international importance, the government should consider promulgating a standalone, comprehensive law to define and punish torture as an instrument of “human degradation” by state authorities. Such a law is in the national interest.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Lakhs of migratory birds have made their way to the Chilika Lake. Major bird congregations have been spotted in the wetlands of the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside Chilika and Mangalajodi, a major village on the banks of the lake.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
- Migratory birds fly across continents from Caspian Sea, Baikal Lake and remote parts of Russia, Mongolia and Siberia.
ABOUT CHILIKA LAGOON
- It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
- The Chilika Lake, is spread across over 1000 sq. km.
- It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent.
- It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle.
- On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India.
- Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.
- The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- The draft of the country’s first Space Law, unveiled, it stipulates licences for all space-related players and activities. The draft also sets out penalties of ¹ 1 crore and above and jail terms for violations.
- The proposed bill, also seeks to keep the government out of any liability arising out of harm that these commercial activities may cause — to people, environment, other countries or outer space.
- The draft Bill defines objects, people and geography that will come under the future law.
- The Centre will keep a registry of all space objects.
ABOUT THE BODY
- All persons or entities engaged in space will now need a licence.
- The government will form a new authorised body for the purpose of issuing license.
- So far, the national space agency Indian Space Research Organisation’s major works have related to satellites, launchers and applications.
- These were governed by the Satellite Communication Policy, 2000; the Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011; and international treaty obligations on outer space activities as mandated by the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space or UNCOPUOS.
RATIONALE BEHIND THE LAW
- Commercial opportunities in space activities and services, nationally and internationally, demand a higher order of participation by private sector agencies. This situation demands a necessary legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
- Increasing applications of Space-based solutions have meant an increased participation of private sector industry and startups.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- After 90 years, the bamboo has legally ceased to be a tree with the government,amending the Indian Forest Act and axing the bamboo — taxonomically a grass — from a list of plants that also included palms, skumps, brush-wood and canes.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MOVE
- This will now create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.
- In doing so, the government hoped to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve the “twin objectives” of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
- It will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation/block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under the agro-forestry mission.
- Bamboo grown in the forest areas would continue to be governed by the provisions of the Indian Forest Act.
- For several years now, the classification of the bamboo — with its multifarious uses as an edible item, furniture and construction — as a tree meant that it couldn’t be easily ferried across State borders. It also required permits from village councils and couldn’t be cultivated in non-forest areas.
- In 2015, it imported about 18.01 million cubic metres of timber and allied products worth Rs.43,000crore.
- The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes.
- Country has 19% share of the world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6%.
- At present, it imports timber and allied products, such as pulp, paper, and furniture.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Sometime in 2019 or 2020 India will send ISRO’s solar mission Aditya-L1 to a vantage point in space, known as the L1 Lagrange point, to do imaging and study of the sun. This launch will happen in the early part of the next solar cycle – an occurrence in which sunspots form on the face of the sun, growing in size and number and eventually diminishing, all over a period of eleven years.
WHAT IS L1?
- The so-called L1 point is 1.5 million kilometres away. Here, due to the delicate balance of gravitational forces, the satellite will require very little energy to maintain its orbit.
- Also it will not be eclipsed from the sun.
- The 1,500-kg class satellite will be programmed to orbit this point and image the sun’s magnetic field from space for the very first time in the world.
INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS IN THIS DIRECTION
- Few other space agencies have successfully placed their satellites at this location.
- Among the few, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a NASA-ESA collaboration involving America and Europe, and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) are at L1 exclusively to study the sun and space weather, respectively.
ABOUT ADITYA- L1 MISSION
- It is India’s first solar mission. It will study the sun’s outer most layers, the corona and the chromospheres and collect data about coronal mass ejection, which will also yield information for space weather prediction.
- Significance of the mission: The data from Aditya mission will be immensely helpful in discriminating between different models for the origin of solar storms and also for constraining how the storms evolve and what path they take through the interplanetary space from the Sun to the Earth.
- Position of the satellite: In order to get the best science from the sun, continuous viewing of the sun is preferred without any occultation/ eclipses and hence, Aditya- L1 satellite will be placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the sun-earth system.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Scientists have developed the world’s first artificial intelligence politician that can answer a person’s queries regarding local issues such as policies around housing, education and immigration.
- The virtual politician, called SAM, was created by Nick Gerritsen, a 49-year-old entrepreneur in New Zealand.
- The AI politician is constantly learning to respond to people through Facebook Messenger as well as a survey on its homepage.
WHAT IS THE NEWS?
- Researchers have converted a natural bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring.The research was done at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in the U.S.
- Such bacteria, swallowed by a patient, might be able to record the changes they experience through the whole digestive tract, yielding an unprecedented view of previously inaccessible phenomena.
- Other applications could include environmental sensing and basic studies in ecology and microbiology, where bacteria could monitor otherwise invisible changes without disrupting their surroundings, according to the study published in the journal Science.
HOW WAS IT CREATED?
- Researchers created the microscopic data recorder by taking advantage of CRISPR-Cas, an immune system in many species of bacteria. CRISPR-Cas copies snippets of DNA from invading viruses so that subsequent generations of bacteria can repel these pathogens more effectively.
- As a result, the CRISPR locus of the bacterial genome accumulates a chronological record of the bacterial viruses that it and its ancestors have survived. When those same viruses try to infect again, the CRISPR-Cas system can recognise and eliminate them.
WHAT IS CRISPR?
- CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
- CRISPR technology was adapted from the natural defense mechanisms of bacteria and archaea (the domain of single-celled microorganisms). These organisms use CRISPR-derived RNA and various Cas proteins, including Cas9, to foil attacks by viruses and other foreign bodies. They do so primarily by chopping up and destroying the DNA of a foreign invader. When these components are transferred into other, more complex, organisms, it allows for the manipulation of genes, or “editing.”
- President of India gave his assent to an ordinance amending the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
- It seeks to streamline the stressed-assets resolution process and effectively bar wilful defaulters from bidding for companies being put up for sale under the IBC.
- After the IBC was brought in, banks initiated insolvency resolution against many companies, including 12 large NPA cases (with a combined debt of around Rs 2.5 lakh crore) by referring these to the National Company Law Tribunal benches.
- In some cases at NCLT, such as that of Essar Steel Ltd, the promoters have also presented resolution plans. So concerns have been raised on existing promoters wresting back control of companies under resolution at cheap valuation.
- The government is keen to ensure that promoters of defaulting firms are prevented from bidding for businesses that they ran to the ground in the first place.
- It amends Section 29A of the Code to prevent certain persons from regaining control of the defaulting company through the backdoor as a resolution applicant. These person include:
- Wilful defaulters
- Disqualified directors
- Those who have indulged in siphoning funds from a company, or convicted of fraud.
- Promoters whose account is classified as non-performing assets (NPA) beyond a prescribed duration.
- The ordinance also proposes to disallow sale of property to a person who is disqualified to be a resolution applicant.
ADDITIONAL SAFEGUARDS BEFORE APPROVING THE RESOLUTION PLAN
- Recently, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) amended its Regulations to ensure due diligence prior to approval of a ‘Resolution Plan’.
- As part of it, the antecedents, credit worthiness and credibility of a Resolution Applicant, including promoters, are to be taken into account by the Committee of Creditors (CoC).
- Now Section 30(4) amended through the ordinance also specifies that the Committee of Creditors ensure the viability and feasibility of the resolution plan before approving it.
- Concerns have been expressed that amendments will disrupt nearly all pending insolvency proceedings as the eligibility of all bidders will have to be ascertained before examining their bids.
- There is also the concern that if the classification of a debtor as a wilful defaulter is challenged in court, it could complicate the insolvency resolution process.
- There is possibility that the promoters will challenge the amendment in the courts, arguing that it is retrospective in nature and unfair to those whose accounts turned sour owing to extraneous factors.
- The government has notified post-GST rates for textiles and apparels.
- The new rates have been announced for Remission of State Levies (RoSL) scheme on exports of ready-made garments and made-ups, in a bid to support the outward shipments.
- In October this year, the exports of ready made garments dipped by about 40 per cent.
- The notification of post-GST RoSL rates is in pursuance of the decision of the government to boost labour intensive textiles and apparel sector.
SCHEME FOR REMISSION OF STATE LEVIES (ROSL)
- It is the scheme under which garment exporters get refunds from the Centre against all the levies they pay at the states’ level.
- They will apply for ready-made garments and made-ups including cotton garments, man-made fibre, silk and woollen garments, apparel of blends.
- In 2017-18, the government has budgeted Rs 1,555 crore for this scheme.
- The government has doubled the rates for incentives under the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) to 4 per cent for readymade garments and made-ups.
MERCHANDISE EXPORTS FROM INDIA SCHEME (MEIS)
- This scheme was introduced in 2015 by the Government of India through the Foreign Trade Policy of 2015-20.
- It seeks to promote export of notified goods manufactured/ produced in India.
- It is implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- It provides duty benefits at 2 per cent, 3 per cent and 5 per cent depending upon the product and the country.
- Under this scheme, the duty credit scrips are freely transferable and usable for payment of custom duty, excise duty and service tax.
- Incentives under this scheme are available to units located in SEZs also.
- As per Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC), increase in MEIS rates will help in the fulfilment of orders for the Christmas festival as it will help in unblocking the blocked capital.
- With the incremental demand projected to come from the railways, defence and infrastructure sectors, Indian foundry industry is looking at doubling its capacity in a few years.
WHAT IS FOUNDRY
- It is a factory that produces metal castings.
- Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into liquid, then pouring the metal in a mould and finally removing the mould material or casting after the metal has solidified after it cools.
- The foundry industry provides metal castings to various engineering sectors such as auto, auto components, railways and aerospace.
INDIAN FOUNDRY INDUSTRY
- With 11% market share, India is second (first is China) in terms of global trade in foundry.
- Global foundry industry is about 100 million tonnes.
- India is at number three in terms of global revenue (it is worth $18 billion).
- India accounts for only 3% of the exports market as much of the castings is for domestic use.
- India exports castings mainly to Europe and the U.S
POTENTIAL OF THE INDUSTRY
- The foundry industry has great potential provided that there are enabling policies and increased domestic demand by the key sectors.
- Size: The industry has the potential to be doubled in size with the increased domestic demand.
- Jobs Creation: The industry employs about 2.5 million people. There is a scope of employing additional 2.5 million people if the industry grows at a rapid rate in the next 3-4 years.
- Contribution to GDP: It will significantly contribute to GDP.
- Foreign earnings: Export market share of India can rise from 2-3% to about 6-7% leading to enhanced foreign exchange earnings.
CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN FOUNDRY INDUSTRY :
- Due to demonetisation and GST, the industry could not grow as it was expected.
- The effect of demonetisation was temporary but GST created challenges.
- Very small and medium units are affected by filing of pre-returns.
- Exporters are facing big impact and challenges on the refund of the duty on exports.
DEMANDS OF THE INDIAN FOUNDRY INDUSTRY
- Funds: The industry has demanded technology upgradation funds from the Centre to compete in the global market.
- Exemptions: It has requested the Centre to exempt Export House status holders from withholding tax deduction on payments made to non-residents.
- Duty free import: It has sought duty-free import of key raw materials .
- Increased subsidy: The industry has also asked the government to increase the upper cap and subsidy for credit-linked capital for MSMEs for investment in new technology.
- Revision of Caps: The industry has sought revision of caps for definition of MSMEs.
- From Rs. 25 lakh to Rs. 50 lakh for micro
- From Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 10 crore for small
- From Rs. 10 crore to Rs. 30 crore for medium enterprises.
INSTITUTE OF INDIAN FOUNDRYMEN (IIF)
- It was set up in 1950.
- Its headquarters are at Kolkata.
- It is a member of the World Foundrymen Organisation (WFO) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Objectives of IIF
- To promote education, research, training and development to Indian foundrymen.
- To serve as a nodal point of reference between the customers and suppliers of the Indian foundry industry on a global scale.
- Income Tax Department has allowed the mutual agreement procedures (MAPs) and advance pricing agreements (APAs) with all countries.
- Previously, Indian revenue department would not enter into bilateral APAs or MAPs with those countries who did not contain a ‘corresponding adjustment’ clause in a tax treaty.
- In other words, any transfer pricing disputes would be settled through domestic litigation instead of bilateral arbitration.
- Due to this clause, India’s major trade partners like France, Germany, Italy, Singapore and South Korea did not get the benefit of bilateral APAs or MAPs.
- With the notification from IT department, it is clear that India has now agreed to entertain such APAs and MAPs, regardless of whether the corresponding adjustment clause is in the agreement or not.
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes has decided to accept transfer Pricing MAP and bilateral APA applications regardless of the presence or absence of the relevant equivalent article in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements.
- Government of India has shown the seriousness in examining and resolving the concerns raised by the multi-national enterprises.
- It will reinforce governments’ focus on improving India’s ranking on ease of doing business index.
- This new step is in line with the commonly accepted practices abroad.
- For example, the OECD in its guidelines has said that if there is no corresponding adjustment provision, countries are competent to address these issues bilaterally through the general provisions of the MAPs.
ABOUT ADVANCE PRICING AGREEMENT (APA)
- It is an agreement between the taxpayer and the tax authority on the pricing of future inter-company transactions.
- The taxpayer and tax authority mutually agree on the transfer pricing methodology to be applied and its application for a certain future period of time for covered transactions.
- It is an effective tool used in several countries with established transfer pricing regimes to avoid potential disputes in a cooperative manner.
- It is meant to settle potential disputes in advance.
- Certainty with respect to outcome of covered transactions during the APA term
- Low annual reporting cost
- Reduction in risk /cost associated with audits and appeals over the APA term
- Imparts flexibility in developing practical approaches for complex transfer pricing issues
MUTUAL AGREEMENT PROCEDURE (MAP) :
- They lay out the procedure to settle a dispute once it has happened.
- It is an alternative available to taxpayers for resolving disputes giving rise to double taxation whether juridical or economic in nature.
- The agreement for avoidance of double taxation between the countries would give authorisation for assistance of Competent Authorities in the respective jurisdiction under MAP
- The main benefit of pursuing MAP is elimination of double taxation (either juridical or economic).
- It is very rare that a case under MAP is not resolved.
- The MAP resolution, once accepted, eliminates the need for protracted litigation.
- Recently, the Finance Ministry has constituted a task force to review the country’s 56-year old Income Tax law of 1961 and suggest a new law to replace it.
ABOUT TASK FORCE
- The task force is led by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Member ArbindModi.
- Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian will be a permanent special invitee in the task force that also includes academics, private sector tax experts and a retired Indian Revenue Service officer.
- The task force has been given six months to submit its report to the Centre.
ISSUES WITH EXISTING DIRECT TAX LAW
- It is extremely complicated,
- It has ambiguities that create an excess of litigation,
- It offers scope for administrative discretion that is often the fount of corruption,
- It imposes high costs of compliance that especially hurt those with lower incomes,
- It has many exemptions that hurt allocative efficiency by distorting the decisions of participants in the economy
BENEFITS OF A CLEAN DIRECT TAX CODE
It will help achieve three key goals
- It will help make the Indian economy more competitive through tax stability, minimal exemptions and the focus on allocative efficiency.
- It could alter the Indian social contract by increasing the number of people paying income taxes
- Higher direct tax collections could lower the tax burden on the poor by creating fiscal space for a reduction in GST rates.
- The government constituted 15th Finance Commission (FC) that will recommend distribution of taxes between the Centre and the states.
- It will be chaired by NK Singh.
- The government had allocated Rs10 crore in the 2017-18 budget to the 15th Finance Commission.
- The recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission will be implemented in the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025.
14TH FINANCE COMMISSION :
- The recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, chaired by former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Y.V. Reddy, are valid from 2015 to 2020.
- The 14th Finance Commission is considered to have fundamentally reset the centre-state fiscal relationship by raising the untied share of states in net central taxes to 42% from 32%.
ABOUT FINANCE COMMISSION :
- The Finance Commission was established by the President of India in 1951 under Article 280 of the Indian Constitution.
- It was formed to define the financial relations between the central government of India and the individual state governments.
- The Commission will work on “the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India under Article 275 of the Constitution for purposes other than those specified in the provisions to clause (1) of that article.
- The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1951 additionally defines the terms of qualification, appointment and disqualification, the term, eligibility and powers of the Finance Commission.
- As per the Constitution, the Commission is appointed every five years and consists of a chairman and four other members.
- The Commission will also suggest measures to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities.
- From April, companies and organisations that have registered for clinical trials in India will have to disclose the outcomes of their tests within a year of completing them.
- Currently, all trials in India have to be mandatorily registered on the ICMR run Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI).
- But it is only recently that the ICMR realised that it has no information on trial outcomes.
- Of the trials registered with the CTRI (as on June 30, 2017), 3,318 are prospective and 5,604 are retrospective registrations (which means details of these trials were uploaded after the companies conducting them had begun recruiting patients).
NEGATIVE TRIAL RESULTS NOT RELEASED:
- A lot of times when the results are negative, especially for trials that are funded by pharmaceutical companies, the data is never made public.
- It is only the positive results that are made public or published in peer reviewed journals.
- There is no data on what percentage of Indian trials get published but internationally only 50-60% trials make it to the pages of peer reviewed journals.
ICMR NOW MADE MANDATORY TO RELEASE ALL RESULTS:
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has now decided to make it mandatory for all clinical trials to report results back to them, regardless of whether they are published in peer reviewed journals or not.
- So investigators will have to within a year of completion of a trial come back and inform the registry about the outcome.
- The CTRI, which does not have the mandate to take action against errant investigators, will instead blacklist those that do not comply.
ABOUT INDIAN COUNCIL OF MEDICAL RESEARCH (ICMR)
- It is an apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research and is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world.
- Its headquarters are at New Delhi.
- It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The Governing Body of the Council is presided over by the Union Health Minister.
- It seeks to address the growing demands of scientific advances in biomedical research on the one hand, and to the need of finding practical solutions to the health problems of the country, on the other.
- The central government has begun the process of formulating a comprehensive safe city plan for women in eight metropolitan cities:- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
- The process of formulating the safe cities was started in the Steering Committee meeting, constituted by the Home Ministry under the chairmanship of Union Home Secretary.
- The meeting was attended by Municipal Commissioners, Police Commissioners, senior state government officials and civil society representatives.
- During the meeting, a comprehensive review was done on the progress made and steps taken by the police and civil administration of these eight metropolitan cities regarding women’s safety.
Some of these are:-
- Himmat App
- All Women Patrol Van
- Shishtacharprogramme (by Delhi Police)
- Hawkeye Mobile App and Bharosaprogramme (by Hyderabad police)
- Suraksha App (by Bengaluru police)
- Power Angels (by Uttar Pradesh Police)
STEPS TAKEN BY OTHER METRO CITIES
- Mobile counselling vans for hearing the grievances of women.
- Lighting in the suburban railway station areas
- Dedicated helpline for women
- Setting up of shelter homes for women
- Making provisions for street lighting
PLAN OF ACTION TO BE PREPARED BY EACH CITY
- In the meeting, it was decided that police and municipal corporations of these eight cities would frame a plan of action.
- The plan will be forwarded by the respective state-level committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the state.
- The plan of action has to be submitted by these cities within a month and it will be assessed by the Steering Committee.
- The Supreme Court (SC) has sought the Central government’s response on a petition filed by a Parsi women against the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936.
- A Parsiwomen has challenged the jury system followed under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 in the SC as it violates her fundamental right to life and dignity.
- Involvement of the local populace in an intensely private dispute is a gross violation of fundamental right to privacy.
- Though the Parliament has enacted the Family Courts Act in 1984, the Parsi community is compelled to take their matrimonial disputes to the special courts.
- The recent verdict of SC on striking down triple talaq as being violative of Muslim women’s right to life and dignity was also quoted.
PARSI MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE ACT, 1936
- It is a pre-Independence period act that allows local Parsi community to act as a jury in granting the divorce to estranged couple.
- Special courts namely Parsi Chief Matrimonial Courts and the Parsi District Matrimonial Courts are established under the Act.
- The Act does not allow a woman even the freedom to file her divorce case in the Parsi matrimonial court in her neighbourhood.