24 , November 2017

Exclusive ‘Rural Livelihood’ scheme for Northeast

The unique scheme under the title “North East Rural Livelihood Project” is being supported by the World Bank and will primarily benefit the tribals and the lower socioeconomic groups, including women, in the North-Eastern Region (NER).

To begin with, four states, – Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, will be taken up for helping the tribal and even the non-tribal lower groups living in remote areas. The project is aimed at assisting over 10,000 Self Help Groups (SHGs) and benefit about three lakh poor households.

‘BrahMos increases strike range’

The successful test of the air-launched BrahMos cruise missile greatly enhances India’s strike range not just on the borders but across the Indian Ocean.China is increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean to safeguard its critical energy lanes.

If fired [BrahMos] from Andaman and Nicobar islands, the whole of Malacca Straits gets within striking range.With BrahMos now on Su-30MKIs even Gwadar gets compromised. It gives striking range.

The Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX-2017) was conducted under aegis of Andaman & Nicobar Command from 20 to 24 November 2017. The main objective of the five day exercise was to practice and validate procedures and drills of all Command forces aimed at defending strategic Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

State Bank of India (SBI), the largest commercial bank in India will soon launch country’s first integrated lifestyle and banking digital service platform named YONO (acronym for ‘You Only Need One’). YONO is first digital banking platform that will allow customers to meet their lifestyle needs across 14 categories including booking and renting cabs, entertainment, dining experience, travel and stay etc.

1.Centre Promulgates Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 to Encourage Bamboo Cultivation in Non-Forest Areas
Source: PIB

The Union Government, in a landmark initiative, has promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 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.

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.

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.   He also stated that bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.

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.

Some of 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

Trade benefits: The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes. Though India has 19% share of world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6%. At present, India imports timber and allied products, such as pulp, paper, furniture etc.  In 2015, India imported about 18.01 million cubic meters of timber and allied products worth Rs 43000 crores. The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production.

Development Area: 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”

2.Right for all to access the internet is ‘non-negotiable’: India at global cyberspace meet
Source: The Hindu

Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology said that given India’s focus on keeping internet open for localised ideas and concepts; the right for all to access the internet is “non-negotiable”.

His comments came after US Federal Communications Commission announced it would scrap the laws related to open internet access.

Sri Lanka supported net neutrality and upheld the importance of having a safe and secure digital system.

India’s View on Open Internet access:

  • Internet is supposed to be democratic.It is a big global platform, but must be linked the local ideas and concepts.
  • That is the very clear focus of India, and therefore the right of access is non-negotiable.
  • Also, the quest for an open and accessible internet often leads to vulnerability and threats of hacking and defacement of websites were just the “tip of an iceberg”.
  • Cyber attacks are a significant threat, especially in the democratic world.
  • There is a need to ensure that vulnerable sections of our society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals.
  • Alertness towards cyber-security concerns, should become a way of life
  • Also, digital technology has emerged as a great enable and it is helping to shape the future of business and economy.
  • On a macro-scale, it has contributed to emergence of a flat world, where a developing nation like India can compete on a level footing with developed nations.

Net Neutrality:

It is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

It signifies no “zero rating” or making some sites free over others. Also net neutrality does not allow speeding up of specific websites and telecom style licensing of Internet companies.

The Department of Telecom has formed a panel headed by A K Bhargava to examine economic impact of implementation of net-neutrality principle on the sector.

Global Conference On Cyberspace (GCCS):

  • GCCS is a prestigious international conference that aims at encouraging dialogue among stakeholders of cyberspace, which has been taking place since 2011.
  • Incepted in 2011 in London.
  • Fifth Edition of the GCCS is taking place in India and it is for the first time that India is hosting the conference.
  • The theme for the GCCS 2017 is ‘Cyber4All: An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace’.
  • The overall goals of GCCS 2017 are to promote the importance of inclusiveness and human rights in global cyber policy, to defend the status quo of an open, interoperable and unregimented cyberspace and to create political commitment for capacity building initiatives to address the digital divide and assist countries.

Unite to fight dark forces in digital space: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for sharing of information and coordination among nations to ensure that “digital space does not become a playground for the dark forces of terrorism and radicalisation”.

  • Speaking at the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS), attended by delegates from 131 countries, Mr. Modi pitched for creating “cyberwarriors” to keep the digital space safe.
  • Modi said: “Cyberwarriors who will remain on the alert against cyberattacks. We need to ensure that cyberprotection becomes an attractive and viable career option for the youth.”
  • Modi launched the Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) mobile app.

3.More seats for Sikkim Assembly
Source: The Hindu

The Home Ministry has proposed an increase in the number of seats in the Sikkim Assembly from 32 to 40. The expansion will be the first since the State merged with India in 1975.

The seats are being increased to accommodate people from the Limboo and Tamang communities, notified as the Scheduled Tribes in Sikkim in January 2003.

Various provisions:

  • As per constitutional provisions, the total number of seats for STs should be in proportion to the population.
  • As per the Delimitation Act, 2002, the number of seats in an Assembly of any State can only be readjusted on the basis of the first census conducted after 2026.
  • The final order made by the Delimitation Commission could not have been challenged by any court but the special constitutional provision to Sikkim allows them to make the changes.

4.President signs bankruptcy ordinance
Source: The Hindu

Tightening its insolvency rules, the Government notified an Ordinance raising the bar for loan defaulters from bidding to buy back their assets when they are auctioned as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

President gave his assent to the Ordinance approved by the Union Cabinet to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) which is aimed at strengthening the stressed-asset resolution process.

The Ordinance:

  • The Ordinance spells out norms on who cannot be a resolution applicant for companies undergoing corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) under the IBC.
  • Those who have been banned from bidding for stressed assets include willful defaulters, un-discharged insolvent, persons convicted of an offence or disqualified as a director under the Company law, loan guarantor, persons banned from trading in securities market, and an account classified as NPA for more than one year and failing to pay overdue amount before submission of bids.
  • These changes have been made through insertion of a new Section 29 A in the IBC.
  • The government has not categorically banned existing promoters from bidding for their own companies undergoing resolution.
  • However, checks and balances have been built in to keep a high quality bar for companies that will be allowed to takeover companies under resolution.
  • Another significant change in the law is the government providing for a fine ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 crore for violating rules.
  • The amendments provide that the Committee of Creditors (CoC) ensure the viability and feasibility of the resolution plan before approving it.
  • The CoC may approve a resolution plan by a vote of not less than 75 per cent of the voting share of financial creditors.

Impact of the Ordinance:

  • These provisions will make the resolution process more transparent and much tougher at the same time.
  • These amendments will save the Government the blushes in a situation where promoters of existing corporate debtors seek massive haircuts in the guise of a resolution applicant in relation to a resolution plan.
  • There is clear logic that those persons who have caused the insolvency or losses to the banking system cannot be beneficiary of the very asset that they have rendered non-performing at a reduced cost.
  • The changes to the law also disallow sale of property to a person who is disqualified to be a resolution applicant.

Other Steps taken by the Government: The government had, last year, enacted the IBC and also empowered the RBI to direct banks to initiate insolvency proceedings against large loan defaulters.

5.Supreme Court strikes down PMLA section on stringent bail conditions
Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 45 (1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, which imposed stringent conditions on the grant of bail.

The court also ordered fresh trial in all cases in which bail was denied because of these conditions. The order came on a batch of petitions and appeals challenging a 2012 amendment to the Act.

The SC orders:

The bench ordered that all the matters before us in which bail has been denied because of the presence of the twin conditions contained in Section 45, will now go back to the respective courts which denied bail.

Section 45(1) imposed two conditions for grant of bail in offences punishable with a jail term of more than three years, those conditions are-

  • It requires that the public prosecutor must be given an opportunity to oppose any application for release on bail and in cases where the public prosecutor opposes the bail plea;
  • The court must be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was not guilty and was unlikely to commit an offence if granted bail.

According to the court Section 45 is a drastic provision which turns on its head the presumption of innocence which is fundamental to a person accused of any offence.

This section makes drastic inroads into the fundamental right of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

Similar Provisions in TADA Act:

On the contention that similar provisions in the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) were upheld by the court in the past, the bench said that it was necessary for the State to deal with terrorist activities which are a greater menace to modern society than any other.

Prevention of Money laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA):

  • It is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering.
  • PMLA and the Rules notified there under came into force with effect from July 1, 2005.
  • The Act and Rules notified there under impose obligation on banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries to verify identity of clients, maintain records and furnish information.

6.Particle accelerator for art revs up
Source: The Hindu

The world’s only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris. It will help experts analyse ancient and precious works.

  • The 37-metre AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials
  • It can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples
  • The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 km per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed

Objects being tested:

  • Among the first objects to be tested by the newly configured accelerator were Roman votive statues of the household gods
  • They were uncovered from the ancient forum of Bavay close to the border with Belgium

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