22, September 2017

1.Indian Navy’s first Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari to be commissioned soon

Source: Indian Express

Kalvari, the first of the six Scorpene-class submarines, on Thursday was handed over to the Indian Navy by shipbuilder Mazgaon Dock limited, paving way for its commissioning soon.

  • The development marks a major milestone in Indian Navy’s submarine programme as the vessel is expected to bolster India’s maritime prowess.
  • History was written at MDL (Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd) with the delivery of the first Scorpene submarine, Kalvari, to the Indian Navy.

Key facts:

  • The submarines, designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai as part of Project-75 of the Indian Navy.
  • Kalvari is named after the dreaded Tiger Shark, a deadly deep sea predator of the Indian Ocean. The first Kalvari, commissioned on December 8, 1967, was also the first submarine of the Indian Navy. It was decommissioned on May 31, 1996, after nearly three decades of service.
  • The MDL statement said the delivery of the vessel also reaffirms the strides taken by the shipbuilder in the ‘Make In India’ programme.
  • The second of the Scorpenes, Khanderi, was launched in January this year, and is currently undergoing the rigorous phase of sea trials.
  • The third Scorpene, Karanj, is being readied for launch later this year.

2.Great Indian Bustards dwindles, state to conduct first landscape survey to identify its potential habitats

Source: Indian Express

Over the past few years, the population of GIBs has declined significantly due to the destruction of their habitat.

  • Rajasthan has the maximum number of GIBs and the bird is found in Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner districts.
  • Till about a decade ago, there were 20 Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) in Maharashtra, as per a survey conducted by the Pune Wildlife Division in three sanctuaries — Nannaj Division of Bustard Sanctuary in Solapur, Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary.

IUCN Status:

Found mostly in India and some regions of Pakistan, the GIB is considered a “critically endangered” bird in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Habitat:

  • The GIB feeds on insects, lizards, beetles and small snakes, and open grasslands with short grass plains is its essential habitat.
  • Currently, it is found in only six states in the country — Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
  • Over the past few years, the population of GIBs has declined significantly due to the destruction of their habitat.
  • Rajasthan has the maximum number of GIBs and the bird is found in Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner districts.
  • The GIB is a representative bird/keystone species of grasslands.
  • The existence of the grassland ecosystem depends on the survival of the GIB. Being an omnivorous bird, it feeds on seeds, insects, other invertebrates and smaller reptiles.
  • The GIB plays a role in the germination of seeds in grasslands, and it is also a friend to farmers as it keeps a check on insects that destroy standing crops.

3.50 nations ink UN nuclear ban treaty opposed by big powers

Source: The Hindu

Fifty countries recently signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world’s nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless.

Background:

  • In July 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans and makes it illegal to possess, use, produce, transfer, acquire, stockpile or deploy nuclear weapons.
  • This was the culmination of 10 years of preparation by many national and international organizations.
  • It was signed and approved by 122 of the 123 participant nations, representing two-thirds of the nations in the UN. Interestingly, none of the nuclear weapons nations participated.

About the treaty:

  • The treaty prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons.
  • Under its terms, non-nuclear nations agreed not to pursue nukes in exchange for a commitment by the five original nuclear powers the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee other states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.
  • This is the most significant multilateral development on nuclear arms control since the adoption of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. It has to be ratified by 50 countries to come into force.

 Why is it being opposed?

  • Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They said a purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns which continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security.

What supporters say?

  • Supporters of the treaty argue that new treaty will close a “legal gap” that exists regarding nuclear weapons, which are not expressly outlawed by the NPT even though their use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.
  • They argue that the CPNW initiative reinforces the NPT and the requirement in Article VI for nuclear disarmament and that it can reduce the salience nuclear weapons and help prompt more urgent action to reduce nuclear risk and promote disarmament.

4.Women’s Reservation Bill

Source: The Hindu

Government considering introducing Women’s Reservation Bill

  • The Women’s Reservation Bill was first conceived more than 20 years back on September 12, 1996. This bill pushed for a 33% reservation of all Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women.
  • The Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 9 March 2010. However, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
  • Total reservation: One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
  • Rotation: Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
  • Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.

What proponents say?

  • There are divergent views on the reservation policy. Proponents stress the necessity of affirmative action to improve the condition of women. Some recent studies on panchayats have shown the positive effect of reservation on empowerment of women and on allocation of resources.
  • To have more women in legislatures and the government is a big step towards empowering women in society. The experience of several village panchayats that have women as effective leaders bears testimony to this fact. Affirmative action of this kind is the best way to usher in social and gender justice.

What opponents say?

  • Opponents argue that it would perpetuate the unequal status of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit. They also contend that this policy diverts attention from the larger issues of electoral reform such as criminalisation of politics and inner party democracy.
  • Reservation of seats in Parliament restricts choice of voters to women candidates. Therefore, some experts have suggested alternate methods such as reservation in political parties and dual member constituencies.
  • Besides, it is argued that rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency.

5.Centre announces new PPP Policy to promote private investments in affordable housing

Source: PIB

Central Government has announced a new PPP Policy for Affordable Housing that allows extending central assistance of up to Rs.2.50 lakh per each house to be built by private builders even on private lands besides opening up immense potential for private investments in affordable housing projects on government lands in urban areas.

  • This policy seeks to assign risks among the government, developers and financial institutions, to those who can manage them the best besides leveraging under utilized and un-utilized private and public lands towards meeting the Housing for All target by 2022.

New Policy:

  • The policy gives eight PPP (Public Private Partnership) options for private sector to invest in affordable housing segment.
  • Eight PPP options, including six for promoting affordable housing with private investments using government lands have been evolved after extensive consultations with States, promoter bodies and other stakeholders.

Two models using private lands:

  • The two PPP models for private investments in affordable housing on private lands include extending central assistance of about Rs.2.50 lakh per each house as interest subsidy on bank loans as upfront payment under the Credit Linked Subsidy Component (CLSS) component of Pradhan Mantri Awas yojana (Urban).
  • Under the second option, central assistance of Rs.1.50 lakh per each house to be built on private lands would be provided, in case the beneficiaries do not intend to take bank loans.

The six models using government lands are:

  • DBT Model: Under this option, private builders can design, build and transfer houses built on government lands to public authorities. Government land is to be allocated based on the least cost of construction. Payments to builders will be made by the public authority based on progress of project as per agreed upon milestones and buyers will pay to the Government.
  • Mixed Development Cross –subsidized Housing: Government land to be allotted based on number of affordable houses to be built on the plot offered to private builders, cross subsidizing this segment from revenues from high end house building or commercial development.
  • Annuity Based Subsidized Housing: Builders will invest against deferred annuity payments by the Government. Land allocation to builders is based on unit cost of construction.
  • Annuity-cum-Capital Grant Based Affordable Housing: Besides annuity payments, builders could be paid a share of project cost as upfront payment.
  • Direct Relationship Ownership Housing: As against government mediated payments to builders and transfer of houses to beneficiaries in the above four models, under this option, promoters will directly deal with buyers and recover costs. Allocation of public land is based on unit cost of construction.
  • Direct Relationship Rental Housing: Recovery of the costs by builders is through rental incomes from the houses built on government lands.

Under these six Government land based PPP models, beneficiaries can avail central assistance of Rs.1.00 to Rs.2.50 lakh per house as provisioned under different components of PMAY(Urban). Beneficiaries will be identified as per the  norms of PMAY(Urban).



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