11 & 12 December 2016

1.Incentivizing Digital Payments

Source: PIB

Government of India has initiated numerous steps to combat the scourge of Corruption and Black Money in the last two and a half years.

Demonetization of 500 and 1000 Rs. notes is an important milestone in this endeavour.

  • These large denomination currencies have resulted in a number of ill effects upon the economy.
  • To increase overall transparency in the economy, it is important that set into motion long term schemes to encourage digital payments so that tax evasion can be minimized.

In order to realize this vision, we need to encourage electronic payments and nudge the society to move from digital to digi-dhan.

  • Digital  payment transactions since November 8th  However, it is necessary to ensure that electronic payments are adopted by all sections of the society.
  • In view of the above, NITI Aayog has requested National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) to conceptualize and  launch a new scheme to incentivize digital payments.
  • It would be useful to reiterate that NPCI is a not for profit company which is charged with a responsibility of guiding India towards being a cashless society.

The highlights of the proposed incentives scheme:

  1. All consumers and merchants using digital payments shall be eligible
  2. While designing the scheme the focus will be on poor, lower middle class and small businesses.
  3. All modes of digital payments- viz. USSD, AEPS, UPI and RuPay Cards- will be eligible.
  4. For merchants, transactions made on the POS machines installed at their locations would be considered.
  5. The detailed guideline of the scheme shall be unveiled soon. However, it would be ensured that all those who have used digital payment systems after November 8th shall be eligible to participate in the scheme.
  6. The scheme would also provide for recognition of State Governments, their Undertakings, Districts and Urban & Rural Local Bodies who innovate for promoting electronic payment in their respective jurisdictions.

2.Japan Launches Magnetic Tether To Clean Up Space Junk

Source: The Hindu

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center that carried a magnetic tether designed to move vast amounts of space junk from the Earth’s orbit.


  • The automated cargo ship – called Stork or Kounotori in Japanese – which is carrying the junk collector is bound for the International Space Station and blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center in the North Pacific.
  • The tether, made of aluminium strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit.
  • The innovative device was made with the help of a fishing net company.
  • Researchers say the lubricated, electro-dynamic tether will generate enough energy to change an object’s orbit, pushing it towards the atmosphere where it will burn up.
  • The experiment is part of an international initiative designed to make space safer for astronauts by getting rid of space junk.

There is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit, including discarded equipment from old satellites, tools and bits of rocket.

Many of these objects are moving at high velocity around the Earth at speeds of up to 28,000km/h (17,500mph) and could cause catastrophic accidents and damage to the world’s orbital telecommunications network.

  1. Parliamentary panel says SC showing a ‘zeal for primacy’

Source: The Hindu

As the Supreme Court and the Centre differ over the delay in appointment of judges in the High Courts, lawmakers have for the first time joined the fray.

A  Parliamentary Standing Committee report accusing the Supreme Court of distorting the original constitutional mandate and showing an “unnecessary zeal” for primacy in judicial appointments.

  • The report, tabled in both Houses of Parliament, concludes that the judiciary’s zeal for primacy over the government had led to the “present unfortunate situation”.
  • Nearly 43 per cent of the approved strength of judges in High Courts is vacant. The draft Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments has been in limbo for almost a year.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance, Law and Justice, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, has directly contradicted the Supreme Court’s judgment on the National Judicial Appointments Committee (NJAC) law, which upheld the concept of judicial primacy.

Key facts:

  • It recommends that the original constitutional position on judicial appointments be brought back. It also notes that the appointment of High Court judges is “essentially” an executive function and a shared responsibility of the government and the judiciary.
  • The committee also asked the government to reverse the distortion created in the original mandate of the Constitution arising from the judgments of the apex court in the Second Judges Case and subsequent cases.
  • The committee said the Constitution’s makers believed that only an equal involvement of multiple constitutional authorities in judicial appointments would mould an independent judiciary. On this, the committee quotes Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who said that “after all, the Chief Justice is a man with all the failings, all the sentiments and all the prejudices which we as common people have”.
  • It refers to how the Supreme Court itself, in the NJAC judgment, had concluded that the Collegium system lacked transparency.
  • The report has also hinted that the NJAC judgment was not heard by a sufficient quorum of judges. It recommended that the Supreme Court ought to set up a Bench of a minimum 11 judges while deciding the validity of a constitutional amendment.

4.Cancel illegal salt pans in Sambhar Lake: NGT

Source: The Hindu

  • The central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in the Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.
  • NGT has also directed the State government to not to make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas or in the ‘no construction zone’ identified for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010.
  • It has further asked the authority to examine the sensitive issue in light of observations and recommendations made by the two expert committees in the year 2010. The bench gave six months’ time to implement the recommendations which should not be later than the 2017 monsoon.

It has been alleged that in and around the Sambhar Lake, commercial and other activities detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland were being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts of 1986 and 2010. Salt manufacturers in the region are also accused of digging unauthorised borewells around the lake and exploiting the groundwater.

The Sambhar Salt Lake: The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland salt lake. The lake encircles historical Sambhar Lake Town located 96 km south west of the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. It is the source of most of Rajasthan’s salt production. It produces 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year, which equates to around 9% of India’s salt production.

Sambhar has been designated as a Ramsar site. The wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia.

  1. Kolkata-Mizoram trade route to open via Myanmar

Source: The Hindu

  • A deep water port built in Myanmar’s Sittwe on the Bay of Bengal by India is ready to be commissioned. An inauguration ceremony for this strategically important facility will be held soon.
  • Construction of the sea port is the first phase of an integrated $500-million project being funded by a long-term interest-free loan provided by India.

Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State (which has been in the news for the plight of Rohingya Muslims) in south-western Myanmar. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India.

Significance for India:

  • India has for years sought transit access through Bangladesh to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States.
  • At present, the only route to this region from the rest of India is a rather circuitous one through a narrow strip of Indian territory nicknamed the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh.
  • The new route through Sittwe would significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond.

  1. World’s longest and deepest rail tunnel opens in Switzerland
  • The famed 57km Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) has been opened for passengers.
  • The 57-kilometre (35-mile) Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is longest tunnel now. It runs from Erstfeld in the central canton of Uri, to Bodio in the southern Ticino canton.
  • With its opening, the GBT has surpassed Japan’s 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world’s longest train tunnel. The 50.5-kilometre Channel Tunnel that links England and France has been bumped into third place.

  1. President of India Launches ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign

Source: PIB

  • ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign was recently launched by President Pranab Mukherjee.
  • It was organized by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
  • The ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign aims to mobilise 100 million youth and children for 100 million underprivileged children across the world, to end child labour, child slavery, violence against children and promote the right of every child to be safe, free, and educated, over the next 5 years.

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