Polity & Governance
- NHAI launches new website and app to rate highways, track projects
- Venkaiah Naidu lays foundation stone for National Waterway-4 in Andhra Pradesh
- Inheritance tax on HNIs likely to be reintroduced
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Turtle Sanctuary to be set up in Allahabad
- Government constitutes a high level Committee for water management in northeast
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves the Extradition Treaty between India and Lithuania
Science & Technology
- 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for three for ‘capturing life in atomic detail’
Key Facts for Prelims
- Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations of ICSI
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Polity & Governance
NHAI launches new website and app to rate highways, track projects
In a move towards digitisation, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) launched a new multilingual website of the organisation.
- NHAI also launched a Project Monitoring Information System (PMIS) mobile app that will facilitate close, in-house monitoring of NHAI projects on a mobile phone.
- NHAI also planned to soon launch a public interface of the PMIS desktop and App versions so that the public can view the real-time status of any project across the highway network.
- To ensure timely delivery of its projects, NHAI is digitally monitoring them through the PMIS, which has been developed in-house along with The Boston Consulting Group.
About Project Monitoring Information System (PMIS):
- PMIS has a comprehensive database with over 180 data fields being tracked for each project, and a further 500 fields specifically for complex PPP projects, covering all key progress metrics such as design, contracting, construction, land acquisition, compensation disbursement, toll and traffic information and concession, contract information.
- An in-built algorithm automatically highlights focus projects with key pending issues so that focused interventions for these projects can be discussed during these reviews.
- The PMIS has enabled significant progress, with a 32 per cent increase in construction in 2016-17 over the previous year, and with over 60 per cent of the projects identified in 2016 with issues, now getting back on track.
Benefits of PMIS:
- Information about any projects can be seen from anywhere anytime.
- It helps in monitoring of the projects
- It helps timely executions of work
- It also helps in planning of the developments of the state.
- It reduced paper work
- Duplication of works avoided
- Cost reduced; sending of reports frequently by post or by phone is not needed.
- The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is an autonomous agency of the Government of India.
- It is responsible for management of a network of over 70,000 km of National Highways in India.
- It is a nodal agency of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- The NHAI was created through the promulgation of the National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988. In February 1995, the Authority was formally made an autonomous body.
- It is responsible for the development, maintenance, management and operation of National Highways.
Venkaiah Naidu lays foundation stone for National Waterway-4 in Andhra Pradesh
Vice president Venkaiah Naidu recently laid the foundation stone for the first phase of the 2,890-km National Waterway-4 (NW-4) at Amravati in Andhra Pradesh.
- The first phase involves development of a water channel from Muktyala to Vijayawada on Krishna river along with four floating terminals and three fixed terminals to handle cargo operations.
About National Waterway 4
- NW-4 in Andhra Pradesh has total length of 2890 km.
- It is proposed to be developed in three phases viz.
Phase-I: Muktyala to Vijayawada (Krishna River) (82 Km),
Phase-II: Vijayawada to Kakinada (Eluru canal & Kakinada canal) and Rajahmundry to Polavaram stretch of Godavari (233 Km) and
Phase-III: Commamur Canal, Buckingham canal and balance stretches of Krishna & Godavari Rivers (573km)
- In Phase I, three cargo terminals are proposed to be built at Muktyala, Ibrahimpatnam and Harishchandrapur.
- Besides, four Passenger Terminals will be built at Durga Ghat, Bhawani Island, Vedadari, and Amravati.
- The Phase I work is expected to be completed by June, 2019.
Significance of NW 4:
- The project will provide efficient logistics solution to boost economic growth of region.
- It will facilitate development of new capital city Amravati during its early development stage by transporting substantial construction material.
- It will also help in controlling traffic congestion and pollution. It will help in saving cost of transportation.
- Moreover, Ro-Ro services on the route will provide intra-city transportation of passengers and vehicles.
- It will improve connectivity to tourist and pilgrimage places in and around Vijayawada and Amaravati.
Inheritance tax on HNIs likely to be reintroduced
What is Inheritance tax?
- Inheritance tax, also popularly known as estate tax or estate duty, was a tax that was levied against a particular asset during the time of its inheritance.
- For example, the inheritance of ancestral land. Inheritance tax is no longer levied in India and was abolished during the time of the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1985.
Why in news?
The government is considering the levy of an inheritance tax on high net worth individuals, some of whom are already preparing to insulate themselves from such a liability by forming family trusts.
- The tax could range from 5% to 10% and would apply only to families with a certain net worth.
- The government has sought feedback, including recommendations, on the proposed re-introduction of inheritance tax, also known as estate duty.
Inheritance tax in India:
- Though its intentions were noble, the then finance minister, V.P. Singh was of the opinion that it had failed to bring about an equilibrium in society and reduce the wealth gap.
- During its stay, inheritance tax or estate duty was levied from the period between 1953 and 1985.
- There are certain countries that practice this form of taxation.
- Countries like USA, UK, Netherlands, Spain and Belgium all follow inheritance tax and China had gone to the extent of introducing rules for inheritance tax back in 2002 but was met with heavy opposition to the idea and were not able to implement it.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Turtle Sanctuary to be set up in Allahabad
A Turtle Sanctuary along with a River Biodiversity Park at Sangam, Allahabad has recently been approved under the Namami Gange Programme.
- The estimated cost of the Project is Rs 1.34 crore.
- The objective behind setting up this Turtle Sanctuary is to protect the rich aquatic biodiversity of River Ganga from escalating anthropogenic pressures.
The project includes:
- The development of River Biodiversity Park at the confluence (sangam) of River Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati,
- Establishment of a Turtle Rearing Centre (permanent nursery at Triveni Pushp and makeshift annual hatcheries) and
- Awareness about the importance of River Ganga and the need and importance of conservation of the riverine ecosystem.
About the project:
- This project will provide platform to make the visitors aware of their place in ecosystem, their roles and responsibilities, improve their understanding of the complexity of co-existence with environment.
- It will also help to generate awareness for reducing impact of human activities on critical natural resources.
- The task of dissipating knowledge about river Ganga will be taken up ardently in this project, which is 100% centrally funded.
Need for such Projects:
- The sustenance of more than 2000 aquatic species including threatened gharials, dolphins and turtles in river Ganga exemplifies rich biodiversity of River Ganga which is lifeline to over 40% of India’s population.
- Rivers Ganga and Yamuna at Allahabad are home to some of most endangered fauna like turtles (Batagur kachuga, Batagur dhongoka, Nilssonia gangetica, Chitra indica, Hardella thurjii etc.), Gangetic dolphin- National Aquatic Animal, Gharial and numerous migratory and resident birds.
Centre in Allahabad no longer a ‘sanctuary’
- The centre in Allahabad will, however, not be a ‘sanctuary’ in technical terms as notification of sanctuary has certain legal connotations and it may then restrict works on waterways.
- The Allahabad project will be in addition to a rescue and rehabilitation centre for turtles at Sarnath near Varanasi which the government had set up through Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under the NMCG’s biodiversity project.
Turtle sanctuary in Varanasi:
The turtle sanctuary in Varanasi was set up in 1989 under the Ganga Action Plan-I.
- Its fate, however, remains uncertain at present as there has been discussion within the Union environment ministry over demands of its de-notification.
- Though the Varanasi centre continues to be a ‘sanctuary’, there has been demand from certain quarters to de-notify it on the ground that the ongoing sand extraction on one side leads to increased pressure on the ‘ghats’ which may lead to their caving in.
- They argue that sand removal from the other side is not possible due to area being notified as ‘sanctuary’.
Government constitutes a high level Committee for water management in northeast
The Government has constituted a high-level committee for proper management of the water resources in the North Eastern Region (NER) under the Chairmanship of Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog.
- The Committee will submit its report, including Plan of Action, by June, 2018.
Composition of Committee:
- It will include secretaries from the ministries of DoNER, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, power, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), departments of border management and space and chief secretaries of all eight north eastern states.
- Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) will serve as the coordinating point.
- The Committee would facilitate optimising benefits of appropriate water management in the form of hydro-electric power, agriculture, bio-diversity conservation, reduced flood damage erosion, inland water transport, forestry, fishery and eco-tourism.
The terms of reference of the Committee include:
- Appraisal of existing mechanism/institutional arrangements for management of water resources of the North Eastern Region.
- Identification of gaps in the existing mechanism/institutional arrangements for optimal management of water resources of the NER.
- Suggest policy interventions required for optimally harnessing the water resources for accelerating development in the NER
- Spelling out of actionable measures required for optimizing the management of water resources in the North-East.
- Chalking out a Plan of Action for dovetailing of the schemes/programmes of concerned Union Ministries, their attached offices and autonomous bodies as well as the schemes of the respective North-Eastern State Governments.
- The Brahmaputra and Barak river systems which account for one-third of India’s run off, are highly prone to floods.
- Brahmaputra is one of the largest river systems in the world and causes considerable distress and costs on the region through frequent flooding and erosion.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves the Extradition Treaty between India and Lithuania
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the signing and ratification of the Extradition Treaty between India and Lithuania.
Merits of Indo-Lithuanian Extradition Treaty:
- The Treaty would provide a legal framework for seeking extradition of terrorists, economic offenders and other criminals from and to Lithuania.
- The Treaty would help in extradition of fugitive criminals including terrorists for criminal prosecutions from Lithuania who may have committed crimes against India.
- It will bring the criminals to justice, with a view to ensure peace and tranquility to public at large.
Location of Lithuania:
What is extradition?
- Extradition is the surrender of a criminal to one country by another.
- It also helps in maintaining the territoriality of the penal code which says that a country should not apply its criminal law to a person who committed an offence outside its territories except when the crime is related the countries national interest.
- The process is regulated by treaties between the two countries.
What are the internationally accepted conditions for extradition?
There is a general consensus about few conditions of extradition.
- The crime should fulfil the criterion of dual criminality, i.e. it is a punishable offence in both the countries. For instance, homosexuality might be a crime in country A while it is accepted in B. The country A cannot request B to extradite a person who is charged with a homosexuality related offence.
- Persons charged for political reasons are generally not extradited. Some countries refuse to extradite if the kind of expected punishment is abolished or is not administered in their own territories. For instance, Australia, Canada, Macao, Mexico, and most of the European nations refuse to extradite a criminal if the person in question might get capital punishment after his extradition.
What are the extradition laws of India?
- In India the Extradition Act, 1962 regulates the surrender of a person to another country or the request for arrest of a person in a foreign land.
- The act specifies that any conduct of a person in India or in a foreign state that is mentioned in the list of extradition offence and is punishable with minimum one year of imprisonment qualifies for extradition request.
- The process has to be initiated by the central government.
- In the case of countries with which India does not have such a treaty, the central government can by notified order treat any convention to which India and the foreign country is a party as the extradition treaty providing for extradition with respect to the offences specified in that convention.
- If the extradition request has come from two or more countries then the government has the rights to decide which of them is the fittest for the request.
- Since 2002 India has extradited 42 fugitive criminals who were handed over by the foreign countries to India.
- According to the CBI website, India has signed extradition treaties with 37 countries and extradition arrangements with eight other nations.
- The countries with whom New Delhi has such treaties include Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Russia, UK and the US.
- Italy, Fiji, Singapore, Sweden and Thailand are the nations having extradition arrangements with India.
In what conditions can the government deny extradition?
- If the government finds the case trivial and if it thinks that the surrendering of the person is not being made in good faith or in the interests of justice or for political reasons, it can deny the request.
- If the surrender according to the requesting countrys own law is barred by time then also the person cannot be extradited from India.
- If the government can also stop the process if it feels that the person will be charged with an offence not mentioned in the extradition treaty.
- The government can put the extradition on hold if it feels that the person will be charged for a lesser offence, which is disclosed by the requesting authorities so that they can have the possession of the person.
- Apart from this, if the person is serving a jail term or he/she is accused of an offence in Indian soil, which is different from the offence for which the person is wanted abroad, then also the extradition process can be stopped.
- Similarly, if a fugitive criminal has committed an offence which is punishable with death in India while the laws of foreign state do not provide death for the same offence then criminal will get life imprisonment in India also.
Science & Technology
2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for three for ‘capturing life in atomic detail’
The 2017 Nobel prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) Joachim Frank (Columbia University, New York) and Richard Henderson (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K.) “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”.
What is cryo-electron microscopy?
- The Cryo-electron microscopy is specific type of electron microscopy based on principle of forming three-dimensional (3D) image by collecting and combining thousands of projections of biomolecules.
- Using it, researchers can now freeze mid-movement of biomolecules and can visualise processes they have never seen.
What is cryo-EM used for?
- It helps to make it possible to see biomolecules in 3D after rapidly freezing them at -150°C (i.e. at cryogenic temperature), preserving their natural shape.
- It can reveal the structure of the molecules of life in exquisite detail.
- It is decisive for both basic understanding of chemistry and for development of pharmaceuticals.
- This method is so effective that even in recent times, it has been used to image the elusive Zika virus. During the recent outbreak in Brazil, a group of researchers generated a high-resolution 3D image of the virus structure within a few months. This provided a starting point for searching for possible sites that could be targeted by drugs to prevent the spread of the virus.
Key Facts for Prelims
Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations of ICSI
- Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations (50 years) of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) in New Delhi.
- ICSI is the only statutory professional body in India with objective of promoting, regulating and developing the profession of Company Secretaries in India.
- Originally it was set up as not-for-profit organisation in 1968, but later in 1980 the institute was converted into statutory professional body under an Act of Parliament – ‘The Company Secretaries Act 1980’.
- Its headquarters are located at New Delhi, four Regional Offices at New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and 69 Chapters across India.