05, January 2017

  1. Justice JS Khehar sworn in as Chief Justice of India

Source: Indian Express

Justice Khehar is the 44th Chief Justice of India and also the first Sikh to hold the office.

  • Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar was sworn in as the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • Khehar was administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. He succeeded Justice Tirath Singh Thakur.
  • Khehar is the 44th CJI and also the first Sikh to hold the apex office. He would have a tenure of little over seven months.

Justice Khehar was the author of the judgment by a five-judge constitution bench that held “unconstitutional” the Constitution’s 99th amendment paving way for the National Judicial Appointment Commission and the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014.

  1. Cabinet gives nod to signing of agri pact with Portugal, Kenya

Source: PIB and Indian Express

The two MoUs provide for setting up of a joint working group for developing a detailed co-operation programme and monitoring implementation of the bilateral pact.

    • The Cabinet gave its approval to two separate bilateral agreements that India will sign with Portugal and Kenya for co-operation in agriculture and allied sectors.
    • The proposed memorandum of understanding (MoU) was approved in the Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

  • The agreements will come into force on the date of their signing and will remain valid for five years.

 

  • The two MoUs provide for setting up of a joint working group for developing a detailed co-operation programme and monitoring implementation of the bilateral pact.

MoU between India with Portugal, Kenya separately:

  • The MoU to be signed with Portugal covers exchange of scientific and technical information, trade in plants and plant products, exchange of information in phytosanitary issues, training programmes, seminars and visits of experts and consultants.
  • The proposed agreement with Kenya will focus on agricultural research, animal husbandry and dairy, livestock and fisheries horticulture, natural resource management, post-harvest management and marketing.
  • The two countries will also work on soil and conservation, water management, irrigation farming system development, integrated watershed development machinery, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, among others.
  • The pact can automatically be renewed for a further five years unless either party notifies the other in writing, six months before the expiry of the validity, of the intention to terminate it, the statement added.

  1. Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Uruguay regarding Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved signing and ratifying an Agreement between India and Uruguay regarding Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.

Key facts:

  • The Agreement will help in the availability of relevant information for the prevention and investigation of Customs offences.
  • The Agreement is also expected to facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between the countries.
  • The draft Agreement takes care of Indian Customs’ concerns and requirements, particularly in the area of exchange of information on the correctness of the Customs value declared, the authenticity of certificates of origin of goods and the description of the goods traded between the two countries.

Background:

  • Uruguay is an important trading partner of India among members of the MERCOSUR, a trading block in Latin America.
  • India signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with the MERCOSUR which came into effect from 1st June, 2009. Trade between India and the Uruguay has been expanding gradually.
  • The Agreement would provide a legal framework for sharing of information and intelligence between the Customs authorities of the two countries and help in the proper application of Customs laws, prevention and investigation of Customs offences and the facilitation of legitimate trade.
  • The draft text of the proposed Agreement has been finalized with the concurrence of the two Customs Administrations.

MERCOSUR:

 

  • Mercosur is an economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

 

  • Created in 1991 as Argentina and Brazil sought to improve their diplomatic and economic relations, the bloc saw a fivefold increase in regional trade in the 1990s.
  • However, many experts say Mercosur has failed to live up to its ambitions, and trade within the group has fallen relative to its members’ total trade in the last twenty years.
  • Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname are associate members. As associate members, they are able to join free-trade agreements but do not receive the benefits of the customs union.
  • The purpose of Mercosur is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

the world’s fourth-largest trading bloc after the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Association of South East Asian.

  1. Govt to conduct safety audits for all 418 mines

Source: Indian Express

The Centre has also decided to draw a road map for the highest standard of mine safety, ensuring ‘zero accident’ in coal mining.

    • In the wake of the Jharkhand coal mine cave-in, which has so far claimed 18 lives, the government has decided to conduct safety audits for all the 418 mines in the country, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal .

 

  • The Centre has also decided to draw a road map for the highest standard of mine safety, ensuring ‘zero accident’ in coal mining.

 

Jharkhand mine collapse:

The Indian government has called for a nationwide safety survey for the country’s coal mines after the deaths of 17 miners in the Rajmahal Open Cast Expansion Project in Jharkhand.

Such audits are a standard political response to any major industrial or mining disaster.

India:

India’s statistics indicate coal mining has become safer over the past few decades.

  • Between 1990 and 2015, the average number of serious injuries per metric tonne of coal mined has fallen from 2.7 to 0.27. The average number of fatalities has also fallen from 0.69 to 0.07. But much of this is because of the greater mechanisation of mining which massively increases output per miner.
  • Government officials like to point out that India’s coal mining fatality figures are better than those of the US. But the numbers are not wholly comparable.
  • Most of India’s mining is of the reasonably safe open-cast variety while much of the mining in the US is deep underground and much more dangerous.
  • India’s safety record in underground mining is extremely poor. There are also questions about the validity of Indian numbers given the large number of illegal wildcat mines where accidents, let alone fatalities, never make it to the official statistics.

Recommendations from various department:

  • A number of bodies, ranging from the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) to various parliamentary panels, have recommended that coal sector look more closely at the international practices of other nations. China, for example, has registered some of the biggest gains in mine safety in recent times. Australia has the best safety record of any country.

The fundamental reason that Coal India and others baulk at such benchmarks, however, is that all this requires capital expenditure.

  • This, in turn, requires a genuine corporatisation and streamlining of these inefficient public sector units.
  • That sort of reform remains outside the pale, ensuring that both increases in capital expenditure and mining safety remain vestigial concerns.



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