Polity & Governance
- Kerala opposes TN move for check-dam
- NITI Aayog launches ‘Women Transforming India’ campaign
- Govt clears proposal to amend MMDR Act
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
- Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)
- Signing and Ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
- Memorandum of Understanding between India and IMF
Science & Technology
- Finally, a bacterium that degrades polluting plastics identified
Polity & Governance
Kerala opposes TN move for check-dam
Kerala has raised concerns over Tamil Nadu’s move to construct a check-dam across the Palar river located in the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project (PAP) basin.
- According to Kerala, the proposed check-dam would violate the inter-State water sharing accord between the two States over the PAP basin.
- As per the PAP accord, consent of both the States is mandatory for any construction activity in the basin.
The check-dam project has been in cold storage for long because of stringent opposition from Kerala.
NITI Aayog launches ‘Women Transforming India’ campaign
Celebrating women doers, leaders and change makers from across the country, NITI Aayog-Government of India’s premier think-tank – has launched the ‘Women Transforming India’ initiative on International Women’s Day, in partnership with the UN in India and MyGov.
- With this, NITI Aayog seeks to engage directly with women leaders from across urban and rural areas of India.
- Through the initiative, NITI Aayog is seeking for entries in the form of written essays/stories. These stories should reflect new ground broken by women in empowering themselves/others, or of challenging stereotypes.
- Winning entries will receive a certificate of appreciation from NITI Aayog and the UN in India. Winners may also have a chance to interact directly with policy makers in the Government of India, to enable affect positive policy action.
- This initiative is also a step forward in furthering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have Gender as a stand-alone goal. NITI Aayog has been entrusted with the responsibility to plan, monitor and coordinate SDG efforts across Central Ministries and State governments.
Govt clears proposal to amend MMDR Act
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act, 1957).
Why amendment is needed?
- The MMDR Act, 1957, as amended through the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015, restricted the scope of transferability of concessions granted through auction.
- It was restricting the mergers and acquisitions of companies and was impeding the ease of doing business for companies dependent on supply of mineral ore from captive leases.
Implications of amendment:
- The amendment will allow transfer of captive mining leases not granted through auction. Transfer of captive mining leases, granted otherwise than through auction, would allow mergers and acquisitions of companies.
- This will facilitate ease of doing business for companies to improve profitability and decrease costs of the companies’ dependent on supply of mineral ore from captive leases.
- The transfer provisions will also facilitate banks and financial institutions to liquidate stressed assets where a company or its captive mining lease is mortgaged.
- The amendment will benefit lessees desirous of transferring the captive leases not granted through auction.
- It will also benefit banks and financial institutions. It does not entail any recurring or non-recurring expenditure on the Government.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
About the scheme:
- The scheme aims at Providing Free LPG connections to Women from BPL Households.
- The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
- This Scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
- The Scheme provides a financial support of Rs.1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households.
- The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union Territories.
- Under the scheme, Rs.8000 crores has been earmarked for providing five crore LPG connections to BPL households.
Significance of this scheme:
This is the first time in the history of the country that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas would implement a welfare scheme benefitting crores of women belonging to the poorest households.
- Various surveys have indicated that the poor in the country have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households. But there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.
- According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children. According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
- Hence, providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.
[Ref: Hindu, PIB]
Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)
Having recognized the need for concerted policy measures to stimulate domestic production of oil and gas, the Government has enunciated a new policy regime for exploration licensing, the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).
Objectives of HELP:
- Enhance domestic oil and gas production
- Bring substantial investment
- Generate sizable employment
- Enhance transparency and
- Reduce administrative discretion
Four main elements of HELP:
- Uniform license for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbon.
- An open acreage policy.
- Easy to administer revenue sharing model.
- Marketing and pricing freedom for the crude oil and natural gas produced.
Key features of the Policy:
- There will be a uniform licensing system which will cover all hydrocarbons, i.e. oil, gas, coal bed methane etc. under a single license and policy framework.
- Contracts will be based on “biddable revenue sharing”. Bidders will be required to quote revenue share in their bids and this will be a key parameter for selecting the winning bid. They will quote a different share at two levels of revenue called “lower revenue point” and “higher revenue point”. Revenue share for intermediate points will be calculated by linear interpolation. The bidder giving the highest net present value of revenue share to the Government, as per transparent methodology, will get the maximum marks under this parameter.
- An Open Acreage Licensing Policy will be implemented whereby a bidder may apply to the Government seeking exploration of any block not already covered by exploration. The Government will examine the Expression of Interest and justification. If it is suitable for award, Govt. will call for competitive bids after obtaining necessary environmental and other clearances. This will enable a faster coverage of the available geographical area.
- A concessional royalty regime will be implemented for deep water and ultra-deep water areas. These areas shall not have any royalty for the first seven years, and thereafter shall have a concessional royalty of 5% (in deep water areas) and 2% (in ultra-deep water areas). In shallow water areas, the royalty rates shall be reduced from 10% to 7.5%.
- The contractor will have freedom for pricing and marketing of gas produced in the domestic market on arms length basis. To safeguard the Government revenue, the Government’s share of profit will be calculated based on the higher of prevailing international crude price or actual price.
Significance of the new policy:
- The new policy regime marks a generational shift and modernization of the oil and gas exploration policy.
- It is expected to stimulate new exploration activity for oil, gas and other hydrocarbons and eventually reduce import dependence.
- It is also expected to create substantial new job opportunities in the petroleum sector. The introduction of the concept of revenue sharing is a major step in the direction of “minimum government maximum governance”, as it will not be necessary for the Government to verify the costs incurred by the contractor.
- Marketing and pricing freedom will further simplify the process. These will remove the discretion in the hands of the Government, reduce disputes, avoid opportunities for corruption, reduce administrative delays and thus stimulate growth.
Signing and Ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of the Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has been designated as the Central Authority under Article 15 of the Convention.
Aim of the convention:
- The Convention aims to extend widest measures of assistance to each other through mutual cooperation for enhancing capability and effectiveness of the Member States in investigation and prosecution of crimes, including crimes related to terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber-crimes.
- This will also promote the establishment of regional arrangements for mutual assistance in criminal matters which will greatly contribute to more effective cooperation in the control of criminal activities.
- The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia.
- The BIMSTEC comprises of seven countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- The main objective of BIMSTEC is technological and economical cooperation among South Asian and South East Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
- The headquarters of BIMSTEC is in Dhaka.
[Ref: PIB, Wiki]
Memorandum of Understanding between India and IMF
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for entering into the MoU between India and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for setting up of South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center (SARTTAC) in India by the IMF.
- The cabinet has also authorised the Finance Minister to approve related decisions in respect of India’s contribution for setting up of the centre.
- The SARTTAC will be a collaborative venture between the IMF, the member countries that is Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka and development partners for supporting the capacity development needs of the members.
- Additional member countries could join SARTTAC at a later stage.
- SARTTAC will also selectively cater to the capacity building needs at the State level, especially in India.
- Also, capacity development will ensure innovative solutions to financial, fiscal and monetary issues with the use of information technology (IT) and innovative techniques.
Science & Technology
Finally, a bacterium that degrades polluting plastics identified
A bacterium species capable of breaking down plastic — polyethylene terephthalate (PET) — has been identified by a team of Japanese researchers.
How it works?
The bacterium uses two enzymes in sequence to break down the highly biodegradation-resistant polymer PET.
- First, the bacterium adheres to PET and produces an intermediate substance through hydrolysis.
- The second enzyme then works with water and acts on this intermediate substance to produce the two monomers — ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid — used for making PET through polymerisation.
However, the researchers are still not sure about the evolution of this bacterium.
Significance of these findings:
- Plastic — polyethylene terephthalate (PET)- has been littering the environment for the last 70 years and, in 2013, 56 million tonnes of PET were produced worldwide. This development would help protect the environment.