05&06, March 2017

1.Western Ghats as eco-sensitive zones: All about the Centre-state tussle you need to know

Source: Indian Express

The states have 60 days to raise objections against the Centre’s fresh notification regarding ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats, before it becomes final.

The Centre and six states — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat — are trying to reach a compromise regarding demarcating ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats. The 1,600 kilometre mountain range runs parallel to the west coast and through these six states.

What are the Issues?

  • A draft notification regarding ecologically sensitive areas, issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), has been delayed for over a year due to on-going negotiations between the Centre and the states.
  • The notice earmarked 60,000 square kilometres, or 37 per cent of the Ghats, as ecologically sensitive.
  • However, it was protested by the states, especially Kerala, as ESAs restrict developmental activity. The Centre has since decided to accept recommendations from each state government.

What are ESAs?

  • An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region. According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
  • The definition offered by the MoEF: “An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.”
  • The Western Ghats were declared an ecological hotspot in 1988.
  • To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.

The Kasturirangan committee report

  • The MoEF notification is based on findings of a High-Level Working Group, also known as the Kasturirangan committee. The government-appointed committee had said that the natural landscape of the Ghats constitutes only 41 per cent, or which 90 percent or 60,000 square kilometres were identified as ecologically sensitive.
  • The committee suggested phasing out current mining projects within five years, or when mining leases were about to expire. It recommended that infrastructure and development projects be subject to environmental clearance, and that villages in ESA be involved in decision making regarding future projects.
  • The notification was deemed too environmentally friendly by stakeholder states.

Reactions to the report

  • As the Kasturirangam reports was contended by all states, the government’s new notification lists the 56,825 square kilometres as ecologically sensitive; 20,668 square kilometres in Karnataka, 17,340 sq kms in Maharashtra, 9,993 sq kms in Kerala, 6,914 sq kms in Tamil Nadu, 1,461 sq kms in Goa and 449 sq km in Gujarat.
  • READ Western Ghats: 57,000 sq km notified as ecologically sensitive
  • Kerala, the most vocal regarding the report, has approached the Centre to further reduce the ESA to 9,107 square kilometres—the Kasturirangam report had restricted it to 13,108 initially. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced in the state Assembly that his government has urged the Centre to reconsider the ESA.

What next?

  • The states have 60 days to voice concerns over the draft notification. If no changes need to be made, the notification will become final.
  • The Western Ghats was included as a ‘World Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2012. According to the organisation, the Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. It has been recognised as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.

2.GST Council clears final draft of C-GST, I-GST laws, July 1 rollout likely

Source: Indian Express

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meet, chaired by Union Finance Minister  cleared the final draft of C-GST and I-GST law .

  • The GST Council meeting headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley approved the final draft of Central GST (CGST) and Inter-State GST (IGST) laws. The approval of CGST and IGST laws is considered as significant step towards meeting the July 1, 2017 deadline for rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The SGST law will apply to all States and Union Territories with legislatures (Delhi and Puducherry), but will not apply to those Union Territories without a legislature,” the Union Finance Minister said. “Therefore, will need to bring out a Union Territories GST law for those Union Territories.

What is the Goods and Services Tax?

  • As the name suggests, it is a tax levied when a consumer buys a good or service. It is meant to be a single, comprehensive tax that will subsume all the other smaller indirect taxes on consumption like service tax, etc. This is how it is done in most developed countries.
  • “July 1 looks possible for rollout of GST; cap rate will be kept at a higher rate; applied rate will be 5, 12, 18, 28 per cent.”
  • Agriculturists will be exempted from registering under GST regime. Business entities with an annual turnover of up to 20 lakhs rupees will also not be required registration under the new tax regime.

All you need to know about GST Act

  1. Officially, the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill 2014 became the GST Constitutional (101st Amendment) Act’ 2016 when the president assented the provisions of bill on 8th Sept’ 2016.
  2. Goods and services tax (GST) which will subsumes various Central indirect taxes, including the Central Excise Duty, Countervailing Duty, Service Tax, etc. It also subsumes State value added tax (VAT), octroi and entry tax, luxury tax, etc.
  3. It inserts a new Article in the Constitution make legislation on the taxation of goods and services a concurrent power of the Centre and the States.
  4. It seeks to shift the restriction on States for taxing the sale or purchase of goods to the supply of goods or services.
  5. To establish a GST Council tasked with optimising tax collection for goods and services by the State and Centre. The Council will consist of the Union Finance Minister (as Chairman), the Union Minister of State in charge of revenue or Finance, and the Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other, nominated by each State government.
  6. The GST Council will be the body that decides which taxes levied by the Centre, States and local bodies will go into the GST; which goods and services will be subjected to GST; and the basis and the rates at which GST will be applied.
  7. Under, alcoholic liquor for human consumption is exempted from GST. Also, it will be up to the GST Council to decide when GST would be levied on various categories of fuel, including crude oil and petrol.
  8. The Centre will levy an additional one per cent tax on the supply of goods in the course of inter-State trade, which will go to the States for two years or till when the GST Council decides.
  9. Parliament can decide on compensating States for up to a five-year period if States incur losses by implementation of GST.

3.Government launches first ever across-the-river survey to figure out aquatic life

Source: PIB

The Union Government has launched the first ever across-the-river survey in River Ganga to determine the population of aquatic life, including that of the endangered Gangetic doplhin.

The survey will create a baseline scientific data for the government to take suitable measures to improve quality of the Ganga’s water.

Keyfacts

  • The first of its kind survey is being conducted by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) through Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under Namami Gange programme.
  • The first leg of the census was launched on March 1, 2017 from Narora in Uttar Pradesh to Bijnor (covering nearly 165 km distance) to establish the number of the Gangetic dolphin, national aquatic animal.
  • In next phase it will be launched in the Allahabad to Varanasi stretch (close to 250 km in length) in Uttar Pradesh.
  • It will find out stretches where dolphin is habitating, what are the conditions there and the level of threat the long-snouted species is facing in a particular belt, The study to figure out fish species composition in the in the 2525 km-long stretch of River Ganga also been started from Harshil in Uttarakhand.
  • Besides populace count, it will help know distribution pattern of aquatic life in river, extent of threat level faced by them and their habitat conditions.
  • It will also ascertain number of ghariyals and turtles.

This will be for the first time a comprehensive and scientific study will be conducted to determine the population of aquatic life in River Ganga. Earlier all the surveys carried out were conducted in bits and pieces or were rapid.

Ganga tributaries:

Major left-bank tributaries include Gomti (Gumti), Ghaghara (Gogra), Gandaki (Gandak), and Kosi (Kusi); major right-bank tributaries include Yamuna (Jumna), Son, Punpun and Damodar.

The hydrology of the Ganges River is very complicated, especially in the Ganges Delta region.

Authority:

The authority is conducting the survey through Wildlife Institute of India (WII),, under the Namami Gange programme.

A specialist in the area noted with concern the disappearing of Gangetic dolphins, one of the four freshwater dolphins in the world, from the river stretch in Narora to Kanpur due to pollution.

GANGA 

4.Law enforcement in the era of digitization

Source: The Hindu

One consequence of the recent demonetisation was a push towards the digitisation of the economy — a move that will create transparency in the financial system.

  • But this digital push must be accompanied by greater security of digital transactions to deal with the cybercrimes.
  • India’s enforcement mechanisms, laws and policies must be re-examined immediately to ensure that the theft of data or money is dealt with severely, swiftly and transparently.

Report:

  • A recent ASSOCHAM-PwC study found that cybercrime in India surged almost 300% between 2011 and 2014.
  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), the national agency tasked with maintaining cybersecurity, reported more than 50,000 security incidents in 2015.
  • With the push towards digital transactions, this number will only grow. As smartphones become the preferred mode of transactions, hacking, phishing and malware based attacks are serious concerns.
  • The logistical burden these incidents will place on law-enforcement the judiciary, will be enormous.
  • Dealing with cyber offences necessarily means upgrading the capabilities of law enforcement, either through new recruitment or by imparting technical training to existing personnel. But this prescription comes with its own problems, not least being the supply of qualified people.

What are the needs

  • Best option, according to experts, is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to combat cybercrime. Such a partnership will draw upon the skills in the private sector to train the police, while providing practical experience in dealing with cybercrimes to corporate employees.
  • Such models already exist and are fairly successful. One example is the National Cyber Forensic Training Alliance (NCFTA) in the U.S., a non-profit platform that tackles cybercrime through partnerships with subject matter experts in the public, private, and academic sectors.
  • In addition, it is also necessary to reshape our current cybercrime laws to address the likely surge in offences relating to digitisation.
  • Given the borderless nature of cybercrimes, state police agencies need to be able to pursue offenders without worrying about jurisdiction. To allow for this, a pan-India cyber-enforcement force must be considered.
  • Such a force can become a one-stop-shop for digital monetary fraud and will go a long way in assuaging the concerns of cyber-fraud victims. Such a force will also be able to identify trends and stop entities that prey on the gullibility of uninformed citizens transitioning to the digital economy.

5.Centre to contest tribunal order on military pay

Source: The Hindu

he Defence Ministry has decided as a matter of principle to challenge in the Supreme Court the ruling of the Armed Forces Tribunal to grant non-functional upgrade (NFU) for the armed forces.

While the government is not against the upgrade for the services, its challenge is on principle as a tribunal has no authority to take such a decision. It is “judicial overreach”.

Issues:

  • The tribunal granted the upgrade to the armed forces personnel in pay and allowances in response to a petition filed by over 160 officers. The upgrade has been one of the core anomalies raised by the services in the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, which are yet to be implemented for them.
  • The upgrade entitles all officers of a batch who are not promoted to draw the salary and grade pay that the senior-most officer of their batch would get after a certain period.
  • The Sixth Pay Commission had granted the upgrade to most Group ‘A’ officers but not the military. Since then, the armed forces had been demanding a one-time notional upgrade to ensure parity. However, the Seventh Pay Commission (SPC) gave a mixed verdict on it and the issue has since been referred to the Anomalies Committee.

Armed Forces Tribunal:

  • The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007, was passed by the Parliament and led to the formation of AFT with the power provided for the adjudication or trial by Armed Forces Tribunal of disputes and complaints with respect to commission, appointments, enrolments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the Army Act, 1950, The Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950.It can further provide for appeals arising out of orders, findings or sentences of courts- martial held under the said Acts and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The Tribunal transacts their proceedings as per the Armed Forces Tribunal ( Procedure) rules, 2008. All proceedings in the Tribunal will be in English. The Tribunal will normally follow the procedure as is practiced in the High Courts of India.

6.Tezu is now a vantage point

Source: The Hindu

The newly constructed Tezu airport will be the first civilian airport of Arunachal Pradesh. Tezu will smoothen transport to several high-altitude districts near the India-China border. Tezu is the nearest town to Walong, where a legendary battle between Indian and Chinese soldiers took place in October 1962.

Significance

The route to Tezu is critical from a strategic point of view as the Himalayan range, which became famous as ‘the hump’ during World War II, can be accessed only through the mountain roads that begin at Tezu.

Background

  • The ancient inhabitant of this land of valley and rivers are the Mishmi tribes. The Mishmi tribes have traditions and customs dating back to the times of Mahabharata. According to Hindu traditions, Lord Krishna’s first queen Rukmini was a Mishmi Damsel.
  • The major Mishmi God is Ringyajabmalu and the major Mishmi festival is known as Tamladu puja. It is celebrated each year on 15 February. People from all communities and all walks of life are invited to join in the celebrations.
  • The Holy Parshuram Kund is also nearby and thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all over India, and also from neighbouring countries, come to take a holy dip and wash away the sins of millions of births. This is accompanied with a fair at Tezu and takes place every year during the month of January.



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