04, January 2018

Jal Marg Vikas Project

Jal Marg Vikas Project for enhanced navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for implementation of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1) at a cost of Rs 5369.18 crore with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank.
  • The Project is expected to be completed by March, 2023.

Major Impact:

  • Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.
  • Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids.
  • Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.

Zojila tunnel project will be Asia’s longest 2-lane bi-directional pass

  • The decision has been taken that Srinagar, Kargil and Leh remain cut-off from the rest of the world due to heavy snowfall during winters (December to April).
  • The project will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours with providing all-weather connectivity to the region. Zojila Pass tunnel will be Asia’s longest 2-lane bi-directional pass.

Farm Truths: Here’s what makes us optimistic about Indian agriculture

There is a vested interest in projecting the country’s farm sector as crisis-prone and underestimating its inherent robustness.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/farm-truths-heres-what-makes-us-optimistic-about-indian-agriculture-5010661/

Model Concession Agreement

  • The amendments in the MCA envisage constitution of the Society for Affordable Redressal of Disputes – Ports (SAROD- PORTS) as a disputes resolution mechanism similar to the provision available in the highways sector.
  • The government approved a revised model concession pact for projects based on public private partnership (PPP) design at major ports to make the investment climate more investor friendly.

1.Cabinet gives approval to the Approach to be adopted by India at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO held in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given ex-post facto approval to the Note submitted by the Department of Commerce and approved the approach to be adopted by India at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December 2017.

  • The mandate exercised and approach adopted at the Conference was aimed at protecting India’s interests, priorities and concerns during the Ministerial Conference.

Background

  • In the run-up to the Conference, decisions were expected on a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes as per the Bali/Nairobi mandate and other agriculture issues.
  • Some WTO member countries were seeking outcomes on domestic regulations in services, disciplines on fisheries subsidies, E-commerce, Investment Facilitation and Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs).
  • However, ultimately, there was no outcome on public stockholding for food security purposes or on other agriculture issues due to an absence of consensus.

Bali Ministerial:

  • The Bali Ministerial Decision together with the General Council Decision of November 2014, which was reaffirmed at the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2015 protects India through availability of an interim mechanism on public stockholding for food security purposes, till a permanent solution is agreed and adopted by the WTO.
  • Thus, India’s foodgrain procurement programmes at Minimum Support Prices remain protected.

Concern:

  • Ministerial decisions taken during the Conference include a Work Programme on disciplines on Fisheries Subsidies with a view to arriving at a decision by the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the WTO, in 2019.
  • It was also decided to continue with the non-negotiating mandate of the existing Work Programme on E-Commerce, as proposed by India. As was done in previous Ministerial Conferences, an existing moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission was expanded for two years.
  • Another moratorium on TRIPS non-violation companies was maintained, which prevents ‘ever-greening’ of patents in the pharmaceuticals sector, thereby ensuring accessibility and affordability of generic medicines.
  • Ministerial decisions on new issues like Investment Facilitation, MSMEs, gender and trade, which lacked a mandate or consensus, were not taken forward.

Other country members:

  • As there were wide differences among members, with a few members not supporting acknowledgment and reiteration of key underlying principles guiding the WTO and varied agreed mandates, Ministers could not arrive at an agreed Ministerial Declaration.
  • India did not support the draft Ministerial Declaration as it excluded or failed to adequately cover important issues such as multilateralism, the Doha Development Agenda and special and differential treatment of developing countries.
  • However, wide support was expressed for the multilateral trading system and the commitment to move forward on various areas of work in the WTO.
  • It is also noteworthy that even in the absence of a Ministerial Declaration, the existing mandates and decisions ensure that work will go forward and Members will continue to work on issues such as the permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes, an agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism, agricultural subsidies and other issues.

2.Cabinet approves MoU between India and the USA for co-hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 (GES-2017) in India

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and the USA for co-hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 in India.

GES:

  • The GES-2017 provided excellent opportunity to entrepreneurs and investors to have meetings with global industry leaders, networking sessions, pitching competitions, strategic workshops and sector-specific programs for forging new collaborations.
  • The Summit provided a forum to enhance economic opportunities to young entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs and marginalized groups in the long run.

Background

  • A decision to host the Eighth Edition of the GES in 2017 in India was taken at the meeting between the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the then US President Barack Obama on 7th June, 2016 under the Joint Declaration.
  • The GES is a pre-eminent forum for emerging entrepreneurs.
  • The Summit provided opportunities for meeting with global industry leaders, networking of international entrepreneurs, innovators, investors.
  • The summit also provided forum for pitching competition, strategic workshops and sector-programmes to help in creating new collaborations amongst entrepreneurs and Investors.
  • The Summit provided for significantly increased economic opportunities for young entrepreneurs, especially, women entrepreneurs and start-ups.

3.Monsoon Mission

Source: PIB

Under the National Monsoon Mission initiative, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), NOIDA have embarked upon to build a state-of-the-art coupled ocean atmospheric model for

  • Improved prediction of monsoon rainfall on extended range to seasonal time scale (16 days to one season) and
  • Improved prediction of temperature, rainfall and extreme weather events on short to medium range time scale (up to 15 days) so that forecast skill gets quantitatively improved further for operational services of India Meteorological Department (IMD).

For the first time, India Meteorological Department used the Monsoon Mission dynamical model to prepare operational seasonal forecast of 2017 monsoon rainfall over India

IMD and ICAR

  • IMD in collaboration with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) provides district level agro meteorological advisories to farmers through 130 agromet field units. Currently, about 22 million farmers are receiving crop specific agro-meteorological advisories in vernacular languages.

These advisories are used for critical farm operations Viz.

  • Management of sowing (Delayed onset of rains);
  • Changing crop variety (Delay in rainfall);
  • Spraying Pesticides for disease control (occurrence of rainfall);
  • Managing Irrigation (Heavy rainfall Forecast).

4.Kerala’s New Year guest: A female humpback whale, all the way from Oman

Source: Indian Express

Though humpback whales, over the world, are known to migrate between polar and tropical regions, the ones found in the Arabian Sea, numbering around 100, don’t stray far, making them the most isolated whale population on earth.

  • Luban, a female humpback whale, began migrating eastwards in the Indian Ocean leaving her shoal far behind in the Gulf of Oman, it took scientists by surprise.
  • Proving past genetic studies wrong, Luban achieved a rare feat by making the first recorded trans-oceanic crossing by an Arabian humpback whale.

IUCN Categories:

  • With Luban’s journey, scientists are optimistic about finding more about the Arabian humpback species, which are listed as ‘endangered’ on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Massive whaling in the 60s had reduced their numbers to a great extent.

5.Police crackdown on couples: Is it illegal for young adults to sit in a public place?

Source: Indian Express

Article 19 (freedom of expression), Article 20 (protection in respect of conviction of offences) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) are the three provisions of the Constitution which come to rescue in case of an illegal arrest.

Is it illegal for young adults to sit in a public place?

  • Nowhere does the Constitution or any statute restrict two people sitting in a public place. In fact, the often-debated, Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) is the soul of the Constitution document.
  • The Indian Penal Code mentions obscenity under Section 294. Although the law states any “obscene act” in public places will be punished by three months imprisonment but a lack of definition of “obscene acts” exposes young adults to excessive harassment.
  • Restricting movement of individuals, police often make arrests and detain young adults for ‘not following’ the law. Under such circumstances, one should know what powers do police officers have to act against individuals.

What powers does a police officer have?

  • A police officer can interpose situations to prevent a cognizable offence and can make an arrest without warrant, only if no other form of preventing the offence is available. These powers of police officers are listed under Section 149 to Section 153 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • The law is sometimes misused by police officers due to the vague language used in statues. Section 165 of the Criminal Code states, “Whenever an officer in charge of a police station or a police officer making an investigation has reasonable grounds…”

What are the rights if an illegal arrest is made?

  • Article 21 of the Constitution says, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
  • Article 19 (freedom of expression), Article 20 (protection in respect of conviction of offences) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) are the three provisions of the Constitution which come to rescue in case of an illegal arrest.
  • In case of unlawful detention, the writ of “Habeas Corpus” comes to play. A writ is a written command or order given by a court directing to perform an act or to injunct an act. An individual can file a writ petition in either a high court (Article 226) or the Supreme Court (Article 32).
  • Out of the four writs provided in our Constitution, “Habeas Corpus” specifically speaks about illegal detention in jail. The Latin words ‘habeas corpus subi di cendum’ literally mean “to have the body”. In other words the writ petition when filed, specifically demands order of release.

6.Digital economy: Par panel for law on data privacy

Source: Indian Express

The report titled Transformation towards a Digital Economy, which was tabled in Parliament, also expressed concern over lack of trained professionals to deal with rising cyber challenges.

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, headed by senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, also suggested to create a coordinating authority, reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), to deal with issues related to information infrastructure.

Transformation Towards A Digital Economy

  • Transformation Towards A Digital Economy, which was tabled in Parliament, also expressed concern over lack of trained professionals to deal with rising cyber challenges.
  • The report said that India should have a sound consumer privacy and data protection law “lest we become a digital colony with global entities having virtual control over data`
  • It suggested that customer/user should be provided with an “empowered and responsive” common helpline (SOS) number, which he or she can approach whenever required.

Committee report recommendations:

  • The report further said as the cyber space expands and intensifies with implications for national security, monitoring/ surveillance and protecting the national information infrastructure needs to be included in the national agenda on priority basis.
  • The committee said the country “now urgently needs a data minimisation, data privacy and data residency law to ensure security of public and private data”
  • The committee also found it “rather disconcerting” that even as the country moves towards a digital economy, transactional hassles and grievances of users, including ATM frauds such as cloning, have also been increasing manifold`
  • The Committee, therefore recommended due consultations with domain experts and industry and creation of a duly empowered coordinating authority, with status at par with Space and Atomic Energy Departments with adequate budget, reporting directly to the PMO. It also stressed that government needs to substantially rationalise digital transaction costs and provide incentives, especially for the lower value of transactions.

7.What is an electoral bond and how do we get one?

Source: The Hindu

The scheme, announced during the 2017 Budget, aims to account the donations made to all major political parties.

What is it?

  • An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest.
  • It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.

How do you use it?

  • The bonds will be issued in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and will be available at specified branches of the State Bank of India. They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party’s verified account within 15 days.

What are the other conditions?

  • Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.
  • The bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October as specified by the Central Government.
  • An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of Lok Sabha elections.
  • As explained by Mr. Jaitley, the electoral bonds will not bear the name of the donor.
  • In essence, the donor and the party details will be available with the bank, but the political party might not be aware of who the donor is.
  • The intention is to ensure that all the donations made to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets without exposing the donor details to the public

Will it be tax deductible?

  • During the Budget presentation in February 2017, the Finance Minister had proposed that the maximum amount of cash donation that a political party can receive be capped at ₹2,000 and that parties be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode, in addition to electoral bonds.
  • In a press conference that followed, he had added that donations would be tax deductible. “A donor will get a deduction and the recipient, or the political party, will get tax exemption, provided returns are filed by the political party,” .

8.FRDI Bill: clearing the air on the bail-in clause

Source: The Hindu

Deposits up to ₹1 lakh are insured

  • The government issued another clarification on the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill in a bid to clear the air about the many misgivings about the proposed Bill’s most notorious clause: the bail-in.

What does the Bill seek to do?

  • It is meant to consolidate all the various regulatory laws covering India’s financial institutions.
  • It also seeks to create a Resolution Corporation (RC) that will be in charge of winding down, reviving, or resolving in any other way an ailing financial company. As such, the Bill is to work in tandem with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
  • To do this, one of the tools the RC will be empowered with is a bail-in, in which a bank’s liabilities can be cancelled or modified to shore up its finances. This clause created a lot of alarm as many felt it would put depositors’ money in banks at risk.

Are deposits at risk?

  • The government said that under the current Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, deposits up to ₹1 lakh are insured. Under the FRDI Bill, the RC will be empowered to increase this limit to whatever it chooses. So, at least that much will be protected.
  • Further, the government said that under the FRDI Bill, the claims of uninsured depositors (that is, beyond ₹1 lakh) would be given precedence over the claims of unsecured creditors and government dues. This is currently not the case.

But what about the bail-in?

  • The government has finally clarified that the bail-in clause will not be used for public sector banks (PSBs). It also reiterated its implicit guarantee of PSB solvency. In other words, it said that it “stands ready” to bail-out the PSBs if needed, removing the need for a bail-in.
  • Equally important, the statement said that the cancellation of the liability of a depositor beyond the insured amount cannot take place without his or her prior consent. So, the bail-in clause can only be used in private banks, and that too only if the customers allow it.

Is that all protecting depositors?

  • The use of the bail-in clause by the RC will be subject to government scrutiny and parliamentary oversight. In the event of a bail-in, the RC will have to ensure that depositors get back at least as much money as they would have if the bank had been liquidated.

9.What are asteroids and how are they grouped?

Source: The Hindu

Any of the near-Earth asteroids can become potentially hazardous ones if their distance from the Earth is below 7.5 million km.

On January 3, at around 6 a.m. IST, an asteroid darted past Earth. It travelled at a distance of 1.8 million km and was placed under the ‘Potentially Hazardous Asteroids’ category.

What are asteroids?

  • Asteroids are rocky bodies in space, and they mostly originate between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This region is also known as the asteroid belt.

The following are also called as asteroids, though NASA prefers to call these “minor planets”

  1. Trojans: these are rocky bodies that have the same orbit as a planet. There are Jupiter, Mars and Neptune trojans. In 2011, Nature published the discovery of the first Earth trojan, 2010 TK7.
  2. Centaurs: these are rocky bodies between Jupiter and Neptune.
  3. Trans-Neptunian objects: those ones beyond Neptune’s orbit.

What are asteroids composed of?

They could be composed of anything from clay and silicate rocks to metals. In fact, NASA classifies asteroids based on their composition. Here is the classification:

  1. C-type (chondrite): such asteroids are made up of clay and silicate rocks
  2. S-types (stony): these are composed of silicate materials and nickel-iron
  3. M-types: such asteroids have a metallic composition

Why was today’s asteroid classified as ‘Potentially Hazardous’?

  • Any object that has its orbit near that of Earth is called as near-Earth asteroid.

The Near-Earth asteroids are further classified as:

  1. Atiras: these are objects whose orbits are smaller than the Earth’s orbit, and they are within the Earth’s orbit as well.
  2. Atens and Apollos: these are Earth-crossers (they cross the Earth’s orbit) with orbits near the Earth’s orbit.
  3. Amors: these are asteroids with orbits outside the Earth’s but inside that of Mars’.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids: Any of the near-Earth asteroids can become potentially hazardous ones if their distance from the Earth is below 0.5 astronomical units or 7.5 million km. 1 astronomical unit is equal to 150 million km-the distance between Earth and the sun.

“There are thousands of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. There is no need to panic as there is only an extremely small chance that they can be influenced by the Earth’s gravitation and we don’t see any collision with earth taking place anywhere in the near-future.



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