29, March 2017

1.Fodder Cultivation on Forest Land

Source: PIB

The National Forest Policy 1988 envisages taking afforestation programme with particular emphasis on fodder Development and in consonance with this, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is implementing centrally sponsored scheme National Afforestation Programme (NAP) for eco-restoration of degraded forests in the country through people’s participation.

Key facts

  • The scheme is implemented through the State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) at the state level, Forest Development Agency (FDA) at the forest division level and the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at the village level.
  • The scheme provides various models for eco-restoration, one of them being Pasture Development/Silvipasture, which aims for improvement of grasslands and enhancing the fodder availability.
  • During the last three years an amount of Rs.41.78 crores has been sanctioned for pasture development under NAP which includes 13,013 hectares of the new area under the specific model. Further, the National Mission for a Green India (GIM) is a recent initiative by the Ministry under the National Action Plan on Climate Change that aims at protecting and enhancing India’s forest cover to counter the perils of climate change.
  • The Mission supports the restoration of grasslands and pastures, Agro-forestry and Social Forestry.
  • However there is no specific suggestion for earmarking of area for growing grass and fodder under the above schemes.

2.Parliament Passes Mental Health Bill, 2016

Source: Indian Express

The Parliament has passed the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 that decriminalizes suicide attempt by mentally ill people and guarantees the right to better healthcare for people with mental illness.

It was first passed in Rajya Sabha in August 2016 and later in Lok Sabha in March 2017. Now it will go to president for assent.

Key Features of Bill Rights of persons with mental illness:

  • It gives every person right to access mental healthcare from services operated or funded by the government.
  • It also includes good quality, easy and affordable access to services.
  • It also provides right to equality of treatment, protect such persons from inhuman treatment, access to free legal services, medical records and right to complain in case of deficiencies in provisions.
  • Advance Directive: It empowers a mentally-ill person to have the right to make an advance directive that explains how they want to be treated for the requisite illness and nominate their representative.
  • Mental Health Establishments: Every mental health establishment must register with the respective Central or State Mental Health Authority.
  • For registration, the concerned establishment must fulfill different criteria as mentioned in the Bill.
  • Procedure and process: It also outlines the procedure and process for admission, treatment and subsequent discharge of mentally ill persons.
  • Community based treatment: It focuses on community based treatment and special provisions for women and health.
  • Mental Health Review Commission and Board: It will be quasi-judicial body responsible for reviewing procedure for making advance directives. It will advise the government on the protection of rights of mentally ill persons’.
  • It will constitute Mental Health Review Boards in states’ districts will help of state governments.
  • Decriminalising suicide: It effectively decriminalises suicide attempt under the section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) by mentally ill persons by making it non-punishable Prohibits electro-convulsive therapy: It will be not used for minors.
  • It will be allowed only with the use of anaesthesia.

Background

  • The Bill is the first mental health law framed as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is signatory. It requires the countries to align their laws with the Convention.
  • The Bill provides “rights-based” approach to mental illness by consolidating and safeguarding the rights of fundamental human rights of the patients. In India, around 6 to 7% of the population suffers from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1 to 2% suffers from acute mental disease.

3.Triple talaq not in SC purview’

Source: The Hindu

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) recently told the Supreme Court that the court had no jurisdiction to hear petition challenging the practices of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy.

  • The Board said the validity of Mohammedan Law, founded essentially on the Koran and sources based on it, could not be tested on the particular provisions of the Constitution.
  • It said, the petitions, filed by a plethora of Muslim women against the practices, were misconceived. The preamble of the Constitution clearly enshrines values of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship,” the AIMPLB argued in an affidavit filed before the court.

Background:

  • The government had earlier opposed the AIMPLB stand in court that triple talaq was intended to save the family from delayed justice in conventional courts and to avoid mud-slinging in public.
  • The Board had contended that concern and sympathy for women lay at the core of polygamy. That it was a better option for a “barren” wife to allow her husband to marry a second time than let him indulge in a “mistress”.
  • The Centre had countered that in a secular democracy, any practice which left women socially, financially or emotionally vulnerable or subject to the whims and caprice of men folk was incompatible with the letter and spirit of Articles 14 and 15.”

 Way ahead:

The Muslim body has called for judicial restraint as the issues in the petitions before the court fell within the legislative domain.

Triple talaq

‘Triple Talaq’ is a procedure of divorce under the Sharia Law which is a body of the Islamic law. Under this, a husband can divorce his wife by pronouncing ‘Talaq’ thrice.

Why Triple Talaq abolished?

  • In spite of protests by Muslim women and activists world-wide the procedure is still prevalent in most countries.
  • There are several instances where ‘triple talaq’ has enabled husbands to divorce their wives arbitrarily, devoid of any substantiation.
  • According to a study, 92% of Muslim women in India want oral triple talaq to go.
  • Oral talaq or ‘triple talaq’ delivered through new media platforms like Skype, text messages, email and WhatsApp have become an increasing cause of worry for the community.
  • The ‘triple talaq’ has been abolished in 21 countries including Pakistan, but is still prevalent in India.
  • The Centre reasons that these practices are against constitutional principles such as gender equality, secularism, international laws etc.
  • The government also argues that when these practices are banned in Islamic theocratic countries, the practices could have absolutely no base in religion and are only prevalent to permit the dominance of men over women.

4.Apex court reserves order on Lokpal appointment

Source: Indian Express

Unless the proposed amendment making Leader of the largest Opposition party as Leader of Opposition is passed by Parliament, the Lokpal cannot be appointed

The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking the appointment of a Lokpal in the country even as the Centre argued that the appointment was not possible without amending a law.

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 : The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 seeks to provide for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters.

The act extends to whole of India, including Jammu & Kashmir and is applicable to “public servants” within and outside India.

The act mandates for creation of Lokpal for Union and Lokayukta for states

Key facts:

  • Under Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha will be part of the Lokpal selection panel.
  • Citing this provision, the government has been harping on the argument that since there was no Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha, the selection process for Lokpal would have to wait until necessary amendments are brought about in the law to substitute Leader of Opposition with the leader of the single largest party in opposition.
  • “Unless the proposed amendment making Leader of the largest Opposition party as Leader of Opposition is passed by Parliament, the Lokpal cannot be appointed.

Lokpal Bill

  1. Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  2. A high-powered committee chaired by the PM will recommend selection of CBI director. The collegium will comprise PM, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India PM has been brought under purview of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.
  3. Appointment of director of prosecution to be based on recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission.
  4. Director of prosecution will also have a fixed tenure of two years like CBI chief.
  5. Transfer of CBI officers investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of watchdog.
  6. Bill lays down clear timelines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial. Provides for special courts Public servants will not present their view before preliminary enquiry if the case requires ‘element of surprise’ like raids and searches.
  7. CBI may appoint a panel of advocates with approval of Lokpal, CBI will not have to depend on govt advocates.

CVC

When and Why did the Government set up a body like CVC?

The Central Vigilance Commission was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.

What is the background of Central Vigilance Commission?

  • CVC is conceived to be the apex vigilance institution, free of control from any executive authority, monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government and advising various authorities in Central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
  • Consequent upon promulgation of an Ordinance by the President, the Central Vigilance Commission has been made a multi member Commission with “statutory status” with effect from 25th August,1998.

The Commission shall consist of:

A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;

Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members;

Functions and powers of the Central Vigilance Commission Under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003

  • Exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) insofar as it relates to the investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; or an offence under the Cr.PC for certain categories of public servants.

5.Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament right place for nuke disarmament talks: India

Source: Indian Express

India has said its decision to stay away from a UN conference on negotiations for a total ban on nuclear weapons “has not been easy” but it feels the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the “right place” for pursuing such agenda.

  • CD is the right place for pursuing nuclear disarmament in all its essential elements. It has the mandate, the membership and the rules for embarking on the path to nuclear disarmament.
  • Accordingly, India is not participating in the work of the conference on the prohibition of nuclear weapons that has started this week in New York.
  • India is not participating in the United Nations conference aimed at a total ban on nuclear weapons, as other major world powers US, China, United Kingdom and Russia also boycotted the talks.

More than 120 nations had in October last year voted on a UN General Assembly resolution to convene the conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. India had abstained from voting on that resolution.

UN Security Council permanent members the US, UK, China, Russia and France are not participating in the conference. In all, over 40 nations are protesting the UN talks.

6.GST rates will have no inflationary impact: FM

Source: The Hindu

All decisions on the GST would be taken by the GST Council, reflecting the federal structure, the Finance Minister

  • Introducing four bills to give effect to the GST, the legislations will have to be passed by the Parliament and one by each of the State Assemblies to turn India into one market with a single tax rate.
  • Allaying apprehension of spike in prices of goods and commodities after the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the tax rates will be kept at the current levels so as not to have any inflationary impact.

Key facts:

  • The aim of the GST Council is to decide everything relating to the tax structure with consensus and this is for the first time that such an arrangement has been made, based on the principle of shared sovereignty of both the Centre and the State governments.
  • These are revolutionary bills which will benefit all. …States have pooled in their sovereignty into the GST Council, and Centre has done.
  • The bills are: The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017; The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017; The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017; and The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017.
  • Explaining the bills, the Central GST or CGST will give powers to the Centre to levy tax after levies of excise, service tax and additional customs duty is subsumed.
  • The Integrated GST or IGST will be a tax to be levied by the Centre on inter-State movement of goods and services.
  • The States will pass the State GST or SGST law that will allow them to levy sales tax after levies like VAT are subsumed.
  • Besides, GST compensation law allows for imposition of cess on certain luxury goods like tobacco, high-end cars and aerated drinks to create a corpus for compensating States for any loss of revenue in the first five years of GST roll out.
  • The fourth law introduced is on Union Territory GST or UTGST for UTs like Chandigarh and Daman and Diu which do not have Assemblies.

Cyclone Debbie makes landfall in Australia: The storm is lashing the Queensland coast with torrential rain, bringing about a significant flooding risk.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall across the coast of northeast Australia, packing strong winds with gusts.

7.India warns of WMD getting into hands of state patronised terrorists

Source: The Hindu

State patronage of international terrorists who can get hold of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) constitutes a real and present danger to international security, India has warned.

State patronage of non-state actors whose nihilism knows no international boundary or humanitarian taboo is putting the world at risk.

The threat of non-state actors accessing weapons of mass destruction is real and present.

Nuclear majors’ ‘double standards’

  • At the same time, without directly naming them individually or collectively, India warned of the perils posed by the established nuclear powers and accused them of creating a “false narrative of double standards.
  • The real danger to international security comes from extremely narrow views of security, lowering of the threshold for use of nuclear weapons.
  • While India and China have declared a ‘no first use’ policy — that they will not be the first to use nuclear weapons — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Pakistan have notably rejected such a policy keeping open their first-strike options.
  • In some of theses countries ,doctrines on nuclear weapons use are also undergoing changes.
  • Nuclear proliferation continues and new scenarios are being conjured for the use of nuclear weapons in a chilling throwback to the worst cliches of the Cold War.

Constantly moving goal posts’

  • The goal posts on the only instrument capable of bringing such production to an end in a non-discriminatory and internationally and effectively verifiable manner are sought to be constantly moved and linkages attempted with issues that have nothing to do with this forum.
  • Sketching out a global scenario of dangers from WMD, deadly weapons technologies were being trafficked, norms against use of chemical weapons flouted, biological arms were poised for a comeback with new technologies, and information and communication technologies weaponised, while drones and robotic weapons were adding to risks.

The comprehensive agenda could help meet these challenges by bringing “us together in sovereign equality and in full responsibility to craft legally-binding instruments for the promotion of international peace and security.

8.6 Crore Soil Health Cards Distributed

Source: PIB

The government recently informed the Lok Sabha that so far against the target of 14 crore cards distribution, 6 crore cards have been distributed and remaining cards are under printing.

Adequate funds have been released to all States, funds amounting to Rs 23.89 crore, Rs 96.44 crore and Rs 126.47 crore have been released during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively under the scheme.

The Soil Health Card Scheme:

  • It is a scheme to provide every farmer a Soil Health Card in a Mission mode. It is a scheme under which the Central Government provides assistance to State Governments for setting up Soil Testing Laboratories for issuing Soil Health Cards to farmers.

Implementation:

  • The scheme will be implemented in all states to promote soil testing services, issue of soil health cards and development of nutrient management practices.
  • Under the scheme, State Governments should adopt innovative practices like involvement of agricultural students, NGOs and private sector in soil testing, determining average soil health of villages, etc., to issue Soil Health Cards.
  • Under the scheme, the state governments are also required to prepare yearly action plan on the issue and the cost will be shared in the ratio of 75:25 between the Centre and states.

What are soil health cards?

  • A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management.
  • A Soil Health Card displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms. The indicators are typically based on farmers’ practical experience and knowledge of local natural resources.
  • The card lists soil health indicators that can be assessed without the aid of technical or laboratory equipment.
  • The card, which will carry crop-wise recommendation of fertilisers required for farm lands, will help farmers identify health of soil and judiciously use soil nutrients.



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