20, December 2016

1.Climate change may impact Hindu Kush-Himalaya water supply

Source: Indian Express

Shifts in rain and snow patterns due to climate change may affect about 1.5 billion people in Hindu Kush Himalayan region, according to a new report.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region hosts several of Asia’s great river systems, which provide water for drinking, irrigation and other uses for about 1.5 billion people.

Committee experts:

A committee of experts, including those from NASA, found that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use may have a greater impact.

  • The meltwater from glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region supplements several great river systems such as the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra.
  • Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.

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Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east.  (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan)

  • It is the source of ten large Asian river systems -– the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlungtsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan), – and provides water, ecosystem services, and the basis for livelihoods to a population of around 210.53 million people in the region.
  • The basins of these rivers provide water to 1.3 billion people, a fifth of the world’s population.

Hills and mountains, particularly the Hindu Kush Himalaya mountain system, have always constituted places where adaptation, mitigation, and resilience are hallmarks of the people and the landscape they inhabit. Since time immemorial, the people of the Himalaya have maintained a rich cultural identity, and have maintained food security and biogenetic diversity within the parameters of their own tradition.

2.In digital push, telecom regulator moots free data for rural users

Source: The Hindu

  • The Telecom Authority of India has recommended a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data say 100 MB per month may be made available to rural subscribers for free.
  • The cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
  • This move is to bridge the affordability gap for persons residing in rural areas and to support the government’s efforts towards a cashless economy by incentivising digital means.

Recommendations made by the TRAI:

  • The scheme for free data must be telecom service provider agnostic, and must not involve any arrangement between the service provider and the aggregator/content provider.
  • The free scheme should not be designed to circumvent the guidelines on “The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations,” which bans various forms of zero-rating models or schemes that provide free access to data services for subscribers of a particular Internet Service provider for accessing specific content.
  • There is a need to introduce third party (aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation. The aggregators, who should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956, need to register with the Department of Telecom. The validity of this registration will be for five years.

Of the over 367 million Internet and broadband users in India, only 32.60% are in rural areas.

  1. Country’s first Indian Institute of Skills

Source: PIB

  • Aimed at making India the Skill Capital of the World, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stone of the country’s first Indian Institute of Skills (IIS) at Kanpur recently.
  • The IIS was conceptualised by Modi during his visit to Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education.
  • The institute is being opened by the Skill Development Ministry in partnership with the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore.
  • The Ministry has decided to have six such institutes.

  1. Saanjhi Saanjh

Source: PIB

  • It is a National Newspaper dedicated to Senior Citizen. The first issue of this bilingual newspaper was recently released.
  • This Newspaper for Senior Citizen is edited by Ms. J.V Manisha Bajaj, Secretary, Harikrit, an NGO for elderly people.
  • This newspaper has got 8 pages which will be published from Delhi by Harikrit publishers.
  • This newspaper will carry important and useful news pertaining to elderly persons besides inspirational stories. It will serve as a bridge between old and new generations.

  1. Ultrasound devices to be mapped

Source: The Hindu

Health Ministry to check diagnostic centres in every State to end malpractices

  • In an attempt to identify unauthorised and unregistered diagnostic centres in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoFW) has decided that all ultrasound machines in States will be mapped.
  • The mapping will be carried out by the authorities in States visiting every centre and recording details of the devices.

Significance:

  • Ultrasound machines in the States will be mapped to identify unregistered/unauthorised facilities providing diagnostics.
  • While regularising the diagnostic facilities is the main aim, curbing sex determination tests and female foeticide is another important aspect of the move, which will help reduce the thousands of unregistered sonography Centre’s that have mushroomed over the years.

The idea is to regulate all centres and thus monitor them thoroughly and minimise malpractices.

Mapping will be carried out through a ground-level survey of all centres and ultrasound machines, said the official, adding that the first intimation to carry out the exercise had come from the Supreme Court in 2013

Why it is need to check?

  • Unregulated machines and centres are misused for carrying out illegal sex determination tests. Since they are not registered, they don’t follow the rules of submitting Form F for every case, which is mandatory under the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
  • Form F is a document to be filled by radiologists carrying out ultrasound tests on any pregnant woman. While registered centres are mandated to keep all records, the centres running illegally get away with breaking the rules.
  • This is where couples looking for identifying the sex of their baby head to.

  1. Centre plans dedicated fund for infra finance

Source: The Hindu

The government has decided to set up a dedicated fund of Rs.10,000 crore to provide credit enhancement for commercially viable infrastructure projects.

  • The fund — through ‘unconditional and irrevocable partial credit guarantee’ — will help enhance the credit rating of bonds issued by infrastructure firms so that they, in turn, can attract long-term investments especially from global insurance, pension and sovereign wealth funds.

Wayahead:

Prior to the setting up of the dedicated fund, the Reserve Bank of India is expected to bring out a comprehensive regulatory framework for credit enhancement to infrastructure projects and Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFC) keen on the business.

The central bank’s norms for credit enhancement products will include capital requirement and bad loans or asset classification.

Keyfacts:

  • The dedicated fund will be in the form of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and will be categorised an NBFC-Infrastructure Finance Company.
  • The SPV will issue an array of credit enhancement products that will initially cover post-Commercial Operations Date (COD) projects (where construction is over and commercial operations have begun, with the project generating cash flows), and subsequently even the pre-COD projects (where the construction process is on).
  • Its promoters are likely to include Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation of India, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Power Finance Corporation, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL).
  • The government is keen on roping in international financial institutions such as Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, New Development Bank (formerly BRICS Development Bank), International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), and talks are on in this regard.
  • Also, other Indian public sector insurance companies, large state-owned banks and the National Investment & Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) are expected to contribute to the fund that will have an authorised capital of Rs.10,000 crore.
  • The initial minimum paid-up capital will be Rs.500 crore, which will be quickly scaled up with regular capital infusion to Rs.10,000 crore.
  • The public sector insurers, leading state-owned banks and multilateral lending agencies are being made part of the large fund as it needs deep-pocketed promoters with an understanding of the risks involved in investing in the infrastructure sector — where projects have huge capital needs, but with long-gestation periods and returns coming in slowly.

Besides, a majority of the around 1,500 infrastructure projects in the country in various stages of development are rated at BBB-level, and the dedicated fund can help enhance this rating and help them raise more funds, especially from overseas investors who invest only in higher-rated (AA) projects.

  1. Govt mulls merging cyber tribunal with TDSAT

Source: The Hindu and Indiatoday

New Delhi, As part of plans to merge some of the tribunals into larger entities to avoid identical functions, the government is looking to converge the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) and TDSA

  • That CyAT is proposed to be merged with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
  • CyAT adjudicates matter related to Information Technology and is seen carrying much significance at a time when the government is pushing for digital payments.

CyAT

  • Cyber Appellate Tribunal has been established under the Information Technology Act under the aegis of Controller of Certifying Authorities (C.C.A.).
  • As per the IT Act, any person aggrieved by an order made by the Controller of Certifying Authorities, or by an adjudicating officer under this Act may prefer an appeal before the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.
  • This Tribunal is headed by a Chairperson who is appointed by the Central Government by notification as provided under Section 49 of the IT Act 2000.
  • It was conceived to adjudicate cyber crimes and disputes such as hacking, sending of offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, cheating by personation, violation of privacy, domain name disputes and other cyber fraud cases.
  • The tribunal has been vested with the same powers as a civil court, the cases requiring punishment instead of financial penalty are transferred to the magistrate concerned.
  • CyAT, however, has been headless since July 2011

Background:

Seeking to cut red tape, an inter—ministerial group of secretaries had “unanimously” agreed to reduce the number of tribunals from 36 to 18 as the government feels that most of these bodies are performing “identical functions”.

  • A Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had some years ago suggested bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Law Ministry.
  • The Department of Legal Affairs had also recently written to all Union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.
  • There are 36 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.


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