19, December 2017

  1. Indian Forest Act

Source: PIB

The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Forest Act to exempt felling and transportation of bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the state permit.

Background:

The government had come out with an ordinance to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in this regard. This bill would replace this ordinance. Prior to issuance of the ordinance, the definition of tree in the Act included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.

Highlights of the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017:

  • The bill seeks to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling/transit permit for its economic use. However, bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  • A major objective of the amendment is to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
  • Bamboo, though, taxonomically a grass, was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Before this amendment, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA, 1927). This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.

Significance:

  • The amendment and the resultant change in classification of bamboo grown in non-forest areas will usher in much needed and far-reaching reforms in the bamboo sector. While on the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed and on the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.
  • The measure will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in North-East and Central India. The amendment 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 agroforestry mission.
  • Some of the other benefits of amendment include enhancing supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based/ paper & pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units.
  • Besides promoting major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind, it will also help industries such as those dealing with food products (bamboo shoots), constructions and housing, bamboo charcoal etc.
  • The amendment will greatly aid the success of recently constituted National Bamboo Mission and is in also line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development.

Benefits of Bamboo:

  • In generating employment: Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes. About 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.  One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment.  An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.
  • Bamboo has several ecological benefits such as soil-moisture conservation, landslide prevention and rehabilitation, conserving wildlife habitat, enhancing source of bio-mass, besides serving as a substitute for timber.

  1. UPCOCA bill

Source: The Hindu

The Uttar Pradesh government has approved the draft of a bill to enact the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA) on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to combat land mafia, mining mafia and organised crime in the state.

The Bill seeks to check to check organised and white-collar crime.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • Organised crime has been defined in detail in the (draft) bill. Kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing illicit liquor and its sale, acquiring contracts on the basis of muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, trade in wildlife, fake medicines, grabbing of government and private properties, and ‘rangdari’ (extortion) will come under the ambit of the new law.
  • Arrangements have also been made to check the misuse of the bill and that cases under it will be filed only on the recommendations of the committee of divisional commissioner and range deputy inspector general of police.
  • The permission of the zonal inspector general of police will be required before filing of charge sheet after thorough inquiry. It has also been proposed that properties amassed through organised crime would be taken over by the government with the permission of the court during the course of investigation to check criminal elements from taking advantage of it. The property will be confiscated by the state government after conviction.
  • Special courts will be constituted for hearing of cases lodged under the provisions of this bill and a “state-level organised crime control authority” has been proposed to monitor gangs involved in organised crime. The state level authority will be headed by the principal secretary for Home. This authority will either take cognisance on its own or on a complaint. It will probe the activities of organised gangs and will be entitled to examine any government file related to the case.
  • There is also a provision to form district level organised crime control authorities, which will be led by district magistrates. They can recommend cases to the state level authority after thorough probe.
  • The draft bill also proposes a tribunal led by a retired high court judge for appealing against it, and will have a principal secretary and an official of DGP rank as its members. Anyone can appeal against the decision of the authority in this tribunal. Those found involved in organised crime and having security will no longer be extended government protection and all white-collar criminals will be treated as such.

Way ahead:

  • As per the assessment of United Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the North-East Region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5000 crores in the next ten years. The amendment will therefore, help in harnessing this great potential and enhance the scope to increase the present level of market share and improve the economy of the entire country, particularly the North Eastern region.

  1. AP signs MoU with Google

Source: The Hindu

X, a division owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet and one that deals in experimental technologies, has signed a MoU with Andhra Pradesh government to setup developmental centre in Visakhapatnam and to create a high speed internet network that doesn’t require special cabling.

The project:

  • No cables will be used. Instead of cables, the X internet network will use “Free Space Optical Communications, aka FSOC, technology”. This network will power internet in 13 districts through 2 thousand FSOC links. The X centre in Visakhapatnam will be its first development centre outside the US.

FSOC technology

  • FSOC is an optical communication technology that uses light to wirelessly transmit data to telecommunication and internet applications.
  • The technology remained outside the commercial applications for long owing to distance, speed, and efficiency related problems.
  • FSOC links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances, just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable. And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles.
  • FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometres apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.

Background: Less than 20% of people in Andhra Pradesh currently have access to broadband connectivity. The state government has committed to connecting 12 million households and thousands of government organizations and businesses by 2019 – an initiative called AP Fiber Grid.

Google X:

  • Founded by Google in 2010 as Google X with an aim to work on finding solutions to the world’s large problems, this American semi-secret advanced technology lab facility became an independent Alphabet company and was renamed as X after Google was restructured into Alphabet in the year 2015. It has been working on several projects including driver-less car, product delivery through flying vehicles, Project Loon, Google glass among other technologies.

  1. Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Source: The Hindu

The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017, has been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bill will allow it to notify a higher period of maternity leave and raise gratuity limit for employees.

Highlights of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017:

  • According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, the amendment would allow the central government to notify the maternity leave period for “female employees as deemed to be in continuous service in place of existing twelve weeks”.
  • It has also been proposed to empower the central government to notify the ceiling proposed, instead of amending the said Act, so that the limit can be revised from time to time keeping in view the increase in wage and inflation, and future Pay Commissions.

The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972:

  • The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 applies to establishments employing 10 or more persons.
  • The main purpose for enacting this Act is to provide social security to workmen after retirement, whether retirement is a result of the rules of superannuation, or physical disablement or impairment of vital part of the body.
  • Therefore, the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 is an important social security legislation to wage earning population in industries, factories and establishments.



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