Polity & Governance
- Centre owes Rs. 80,000 crore to States, says CAG report
- ‘HCs have just a few minutes to hear each case’
- Tea industry reiterates need for special GST rate
Environment & Ecology
- Smart Ganga City Scheme launched in Ten Cities
Science & Technology
- ‘DuoSkin’- a new ‘smart’ tattoo
- IIT Madras develops optical system to detect and monitor algal bloom
Key Facts for Prelims
- Port Majuro
- Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman
- Colour revolution
- Nehru Trophy Boat Race
- Amrita Bazar Patrika
- Governance Coordinator
- Woman revolutionary Sunitibala Sengupta
- ONGC Start-up Fund
Polity & Governance
Centre owes Rs. 80,000 crore to States, says CAG report
According to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report recently tabled in Parliament, the Centre owes the States over Rs. 80,000 crore from its net proceeds of the period between 1996 and 2015.
- The revelation has the potential to significantly impact the finances of most States, because most of them could end up getting a few thousand crores each.
What is net proceeds?
According to Article 279 of the Constitution, the “net proceeds” means the proceeds or amounts, received from of the any tax or duty after subtracting the cost of collection.[Ref: The Hindu]
‘HCs have just a few minutes to hear each case’
“State of The Indian Judiciary” report was released recently by the Bangalore-based research organisation DAKSH under the “Rule of Law Project”.
- The “Rule of Law Project” aims to investigate the problem of pendency of cases.
- As of April 1, 2016, DAKSH had data for more than 40 lakh cases in its database covering 21 high courts and 475 district courts.
Key findings of the report:
- The average hearing time for listed cases on a particular day in an Indian high court could be as little as two minutes. The time taken per hearing has been computed based on the working hours of judges and number of cases “listed” on a particular day.
- The report also notes that time spent on a case, the frequency/infrequency of hearings, and change in judicial personnel not only impact understanding of pendency, but also adversely affects the concept of fair hearing, which is a fundamental promise that the judiciary makes to the litigants.
- About 50% cases listed are adjourned. For instance, if 80 cases are listed, some 40 are adjourned, 35 don’t reach and just five are heard.
- The report highlights problems faced by litigants, including the accused in criminal cases. It says 31% of individuals accused of bailable offences claimed that they continue to be in jail as they cannot afford bail or guarantors to stand surety. It also shows that less than 3% of litigants used legal aid, despite being eligible to take the benefit of government-appointed lawyers.
- The number of days between two hearings also varies across high courts. For instance, the most frequent hearings are held in the Calcutta High Court, with 16 days between hearings. They are most far apart in the Delhi High Court with 80 days between two hearings.
- The Allahabad High Court has the highest average pendency among all Indian high courts, with a case pending for an average of a little more than three years and nine months, whereas the High Court of Sikkim has the lowest average pendency of 10 months.
Significance of the report:
- This finding is key to judicial reform as it is an indicator of the stress faced by judges on a daily basis.
Suggestions given by the report:
- The report suggests that putting a cap on the number of hearings will allow reduction in judicial workload and may improve efficiency and also reduce the number of times litigants have to visit courts.
Tea industry reiterates need for special GST rate
The tea industry has reiterated its plea to maintain a special concessional rate under the proposed GST regime.
Why they demand a special concessional rate?
The Indian Tea Association has argued that
- Tea is a labour-intensive sector, whose major operations were agricultural in nature, the scope of availing input tax-credit was limited.
- Tea, being a product of mass-consumption, should be kept under a special rate under the GST regime, and it should be at par with the current rate of 5.5 to 6 per cent.
- In the current tax regime, the tea industry received various concessions and benefits from the Central and the State governments by way of excise duty exemption and lower VAT rates. However, the proposed new regime of GST does not provide any certainty on the continuity of these benefits
- Tea is a plantation crop, it should be exempted from GST which has many exclusions, like petroleum, land components of real estate and interest component in the financial sector.
Environment & Ecology
Smart Ganga City Scheme launched in Ten Cities
The Centre has launched Smart Ganga City Scheme in ten important cities located along Ganga to set up Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and improve drainage network there on hybrid annuity mode on public private partnership basis.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has chosen these cities in the first phase for infrastructure development for sewage treatment. This will be on hybrid annuity mode based on PPP model.
About Namami Gange Programme:
‘Namami Gange’ Programme, is a flagship programme of Government of India with a renewed impetus to decrease river pollution and conserve the revered river ‘Ganga’.
- The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015.
- In this connection, the Indian Government solicited support from various countries to rejuvenate the Ganga.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
- Under this programme, the focus of the Government is to involve people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
- The programme also focuses on involving the States and grassroots level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation.
Science & Technology
‘DuoSkin’- a new ‘smart’ tattoo
Researchers have created a temporary metallic tattoo that can be used to control your computer, smartphone and other connected devices.
- These tattoos enable anyone to create interfaces directly on their skin.
- Each tattoo can include a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, a thermochromatic layer or light emitting diode (LED) lights.
How it works?
Tattoos that act as an input device can convert skin into a track pad, letting users connect to a computer or smartphone and control apps by swiping on the tattoo itself. The output devices are able to actually display information.
- One tattoo can change colour based on your body temperature.
- Another can be paired with an app developed by researchers called “Couple Harmony” and lets partners visualise each other’s current mood.
- The third class includes a near field communication (NFC)-enabled version of the tattoos that can be used as a wireless communication device, enabling you to communicate information such as “skin status” or movie tickets, by tapping a smartphone onto the tattoo.
IIT Madras develops optical system to detect and monitor algal bloom
An integrated optical-detection system capable of detecting and monitoring algal (or phytoplankton) blooms both spatially and temporally in coastal and open ocean waters has been developed by a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.
- Very soon, the Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is currently in the process of making the system operational and will begin using the optical system for detecting and monitoring algal blooms in ocean waters surrounding India.
About the system:
- The optical system provides an array of optical parameters and spatial information regarding algal bloom density (chlorophyll) and their causative algal species that are commonly seen in coastal and oceanic waters around India, particularly in the Arabian Sea.
- Though the optical-detection system was tested only to detect blooms from near surface waters, it is capable of detecting and classifying blooms present under water.
Significance of the system:
- Phytoplankton are the base of the aquatic food web, providing food and shelter for different organisms including fish. Along with other parameters, phytoplankton biomass (algal blooms) tends to behave as potential zones of fish aggregation. So identifying such algal blooms in real time using satellite data will greatly benefit the fishing community to zero in on fertile fishing locations.
- A few field-based techniques are available for studying algal blooms. But those techniques are limited in time and space besides being labour intensive, time-consuming and expensive, and hence they cannot be used for monitoring large water bodies.
- Conventional techniques fail when it comes to monitoring subsurface algal blooms.
ISRO’s Oceansat-2 satellite launched in 2009 can cover larger areas and provide global ocean colour observations.
Challenges against this new technique:
The average accuracy of this optical system which was developed in 2015 is over 85 per cent.
- The uncertainty in accurately identifying the blooms was primarily due to lack of distinctive water colour, and absence of unique spectral features (in the backscattering coefficients caused by cases of less photosynthetic organisms), fluorescence and chlorophyll signatures associated with the bloom species.
What is an algal bloom?
- An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in freshwater or marine water systems.
- They are recognized by the discoloration in the water from their pigments.
Key Facts for Prelims
In a demonstration of India’s commitment to peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and Indian Navy’s increasing footprint and operational reach, Indian Naval Ship Satpura has arrived at Port Majuro, Marshall Islands on a two-day visit, for an operational turn around as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean.
The ship is enroute to India after participation in Exercise RIMPAC-16, which is the largest multilateral naval exercise in the world, conducted biennially by the US Navy off the Hawaiian Coast.
Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman
President Pranab Mukherjee awarded Certificates of Honor and the Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman to Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Pali/Prakrit scholars.
The distinction is conferred once a year on Independence Day in recognition of the substantial contribution in the fields of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Pali/Prakrit.
Colour revolution is a term that was widely used by worldwide media to describe various related movements that developed in several societies in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans during the early 2000s.
Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance, also called civil resistance. Such methods as demonstrations, strikes and interventions have been intended protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy; and they have also created strong pressure for change.
These movements generally adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative non-violent resistance.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
‘Karichal Chundan’, the snake boat, won the 64th edition of the prestigious Nehru Trophy held at the Punnamda Lake, Keral.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a popular Vallam Kali (boat race) held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha, Kerala.
The most popular event of the race is the competition of Chundan Vallams (snake boats). Hence the race is also known as Snake Boat Race.
The Nehru Trophy Valam kali is conducted on the second saturday of August every year and is a famous tourist attraction.
Amrita Bazar Patrika
Amrita Bazar Patrika, one of the oldest newspapers in India, was launched in Bengali in 1868.
It was started by Sisir Ghosh and Moti Lal Ghosh. They started Amrita Bazar Patrika as a weekly first. It was first edited by Moti Lal Ghosh, who did not have formal University Degree. It had built its readership as a rival to Bengalee which was being looked after by Surendera Nath Banerjee.
It was an English daily newspaper published from Kolkata and other locations such as Cuttack, Ranchi and Allahabad.
Amrita Bazar Patrika, which used to be a nationalist newspaper during the British rule, discontinued its publication from 1986. Recently it was announced that the newspaper would be relaunched.
In a first-of-its-kind decision, the Haryana government announced the creation of a new post, that of a Chief Governance Coordinator of Gurgaon (CGCG) to oversee the affairs of the district administration. Retired IPS officer S.N. Vashisth has been appointed the CGC.
Woman revolutionary Sunitibala Sengupta
No history book mentions Sunitibala Sengupta alias Ma (mother), alias Mashimaa (aunt), arrested in January 1934 after police found dynamite in her custody.
Sunitibala is one of around 900 women recorded in file of the IB, titled ‘Recruitment of Females for the Formation of Women Branch of the Revolutions’, who were under direct scanner of the British intelligence.
ONGC Start-up Fund
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) unveiled a Rs.100 crore start-up fund to foster, nurture and incubate new ideas related to the oil and gas sector.
The initiative, christened as ‘ONGC Start-up’, is in line with the Government of India’s initiative ‘Start-up India’.
After Punjab National Bank and United Bank of India, more banks are likely to soon start a facility wherein an account holder can verify his/her income tax return on the e-filing site even without having a net banking account.
An electronic verification code (EVC) can be generated by pre-validating the bank account on the e-filing portal of the Income Tax Department.