Polity & Governance
- Information utility under the IBC
- Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 brought into force
Issues related to Health & Education
- DNA barcodes reveal adulteration in traditional medicines
Bilateral & International Relations
- India acts against bottom trawling
- India starts on implementation of motor pact
Defence & Security Issues
- ITBP raises maiden mechanised column
Key Facts for Prelims
- Kalam Sandesh Vahini: Vision 2020
- Singer Krishna wins Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration
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Polity & Governance
Information utility under the IBC
National e-Governance Services Ltd (NeSL) became India’s first information utility (IU) for bankruptcy cases under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.
- NeSL is owned by State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation Ltd., among others.
- Recently, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) eased ownership norms for setting up such utilities.
What is an information utility?
- Information utility is an information network which would store financial data like borrowings, default and security interests among others of firms.
- The utility would specialise in procuring, maintaining and providing/supplying financial information to businesses, financial institutions, adjudicating authority, insolvency professionals and other relevant stake holders.
Why is it important? How useful is it?
- The objective behind information utilities is to provide high-quality, authenticated information about debts and defaults.
- Information utilities are expected to play a key role as they allow storage of financial information of registered users and expeditiously process and verify information received.
- Moreover, the database and records maintained by them would help lenders in taking informed decisions about credit transactions.
- It would also make debtors cautious as credit information is available with the utility.
- More importantly, information available with the utility can be used as evidence in bankruptcy cases before the National Company Law Tribunal.
What are the rules governing these utilities?
- Information utilities are governed by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code 2016 and IBBI (Information Utilities) Regulations 2017.
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) oversees aspects such as registration and cancellation of these entities, their shareholding and governance among others.
- Recently, IBBI eased norms for information utilities, allowing Indian firms listed on stock exchanges to hold 100% in such firms.
- It also allowed individuals to hold 51% in the utility for a period of three years.
How will the utilities help stakeholders in the insolvency process?
- It is mandatory for financial creditors to provide financial information to the information utility. When they initiate insolvency proceedings against the defaulting firm (known as corporate debtor), the utilities may help as they would act as a centralised platform for accessing data.
- Unlike financial creditors, it is optional for the operational creditor to provide financial information to the utility.
What are the key challenges for these utilities?
- While the onus is on financial creditors, operational creditors and corporate debtors to provide the required information, procuring authentic information might be a challenge due to the sensitivity involved.
- There may also, be resistance in sharing information.
- Since it is a digital database, there is the risk of exposure to data piracy and data theft.
Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 brought into force
A new Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 which was notified on 22nd March 2016, has been brought into force with effect from 12th October, 2017.
- Parliament had in March 2016 passed the law to replace the BIS Act of 1986.
Highlights of the act:
- The Act establishes the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
- There is provision to bring more services and products like jewellery under the mandatory standard regime.
- The new law will further help ease of doing business in the country.
- As per the new law, the government can bring under compulsory certification regime any goods and service which it considers necessary in the public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, safety of the environment, or prevention of unfair trade practices or national security.
- Enabling provisions have also been made for making hallmarks of the precious metal articles mandatory.
- The new Act also allows multiple type of simplified conformity assessment schemes, including self-declaration of conformity against a standard which will give simplified options (to manufacturers) to adhere to the standards and get certificate of conformity.
- There is also a provision that enables the Centre to appoint any authority/agency, in addition to the BIS, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity.
- There is provision for repair or recall, including product liability of the products bearing Standard Mark but not conforming to the relevant Indian Standard.
- The new Act will further help in ease of doing business in the country, give fillip to ‘Make in India’ campaign and ensure availability of quality products and services to the consumers.
Issues related to Health & Education
DNA barcodes reveal adulteration in traditional medicines
An exhaustive genetics-based study has revealed that traditional medicines in the large unorganised market contain spurious plant extracts and, sometimes, heavy metals, particularly lead, which pose serious risks to health.
- In 2008, while attempting to trace the genetic history of Phyllanthus (Leaf flower), a team of researchers was surprised to see claims of the plant being used in abundance in herbal medicines, despite its relative rarity.
- Taking samples from 12 wholesale markets across south India (such as Bengaluru, Kollam, Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram), their DNA analysis showed that nearly 25% of samples were not Phyllanthus amarus (used to treat hepatitis), but a mixture of other species which did not contain the curative elements of phyllanthin and hypophyllanthin.
- Taking off from this, researchers focussed their attention on species adulteration and developed DNA barcodes — short genetic sequences, much like a supermarket barcode, which becomes an identifying mark — for 150 species commonly used in traditional medicine.
- Ashoka bark, which is used to cure many ailments including leucorrhea, uterine disorders, and as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial drug whose harvesting is highly regulated under forest laws was found to have an astounding 90% adulteration by seven other species, including papaya or drumstick bark in Tamil Nadu and Sal trees in Central India.
- Bark and roots, which are powdered before sale, are the most adulterated, while for fruits such as Garcinia indica [kokum], adulteration is rarer.
Widespread adulteration of other species:
- Seena used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, from constipation to arthritis — was adulterated between 8% to as much as 50%
- Sida species, used for analgesic or anti-bacterial properties, was 80% adulterated.
- Researchers have suggested a policy framework which includes setting up of laboratories that use DNA-based tools and a quality assurance certification for raw products in herbal markets.
- Unlike chemical drugs which are certified at the product stage, for traditional medicine, the certification needs to happen in markets where it is in raw form.
- A system of penalties for traders and manufacturers is needed.
- The concern is echoed by practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine too.
- Without systemic quality control, there will be a negative impact on the perception of Ayurveda.
- While the effects of the phenomenon on humans is yet to be assessed, what is becoming clear is that lead found in a few traditional medicines is causing harm.
- Second highest cause of lead poisoning among their patients, who complain of nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, headaches, was through the intake of traditional medicines. The majority of patients are, however, from the lead battery sector.
Bilateral & International Relations
India acts against bottom trawling
During the recently held meeting of the Joint Working Group, India informed Sri Lanka that it has taken measures to stop bottom trawling by its fishermen in the waters near the Sri Lankan coastline.
- The JWG mechanism commenced in 2016, to find a permanent solution to fishermen’s issues between the two countries.
- From the beginning, the JWG has been dealing with the twin problems of arrest of Indian fishermen and boats by Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s complaint against Indian fishermen for using “bottom trawling” which erodes aquatic resources in the Palk Bay area. Sri Lanka also updated India about the measures it has taken to stop illegal fishing.
- Earlier in July, 2017 Sri Lanka banned bottom trawling, increasing the chances of interception of more Indian bottom trawlers.
- Bottom trawling by Indian fishermen had emerged as a major issue because of the disruptive impact it left on the coastal communities of Sri Lanka.
Recent measures taken by the Government of India:
Recent initiatives taken by the Government of India to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay area include
- The launch of a programme on diversification of bottom trawlers into deep-sea fishing vessels for tuna long lining under the Blue Revolution Scheme.
- Construction of Mookaiyur and Poompuhar fishing harbours.
- Capacity-building programmes for fishermen of the Palk Bay area in deep sea tuna long lining.
- Besides, fresh registration for bottom trawlers in the Palk Bay area has been banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
- India also informed that schemes promoting seaweed farming and sea-cage farming have begun in the Palk Bay area to wean away fishermen from deep-sea trawling.
What is Bottom trawling?
- Bottom trawling is an industrial fishing method where a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path – from the targeted fish to the incidentally caught centuries-old corals.
- Bottom trawls are used in catching marine life that live on the seafloor, such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder.
- Bottom trawling is unselective and severely damaging to seafloor ecosystems.
- The net indiscriminately catches every life and object it encounters. Thus, many creatures end up mistakenly caught and thrown overboard dead or dying, including endangered fish and even vulnerable deep-sea corals which can live for several hundred years.
[Ref: The Hindu]
India starts on implementation of motor pact
India has embarked on the implementation of the BBIN motor pact with Bangladesh and Nepal.
About the BBIN agreement:
- The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) was signed at the BBIN transport ministers meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, on 15 June 2015.
- It is aimed to facilitate cross border movement of both passengers and cargo vehicles.
- Protocols to implement the agreement are being negotiated by the four countries for passengers and cargo vehicles separately.
- The four South Asian nations had already signed the BBIN Agreement in June 2016. Despite ratifications by three partner countries, Bhutan’s Upper House has not yet ratified the deal, citing environmental as well as livelihood concerns.
- India proposed a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
- Due to objections from Pakistan, an agreement could not be reached. India instead pursued a similar motor vehicle agreement with the BBIN. The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on 15 June 2015.
Defence & Security Issues
ITBP raises maiden mechanised column
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is raising and deploying a mechanised column of power vehicles and machines to quickly mobilise troops along the India-China border during Chinese military transgressions.
- For quick deployment of troops along the India-China border in case of Doklam-like standoffs
- While the Army has the mechanised infantry, it was essential to have a mechanised column in the ITBP as it secures the border in peacetime and will bear the first onslaught in case of a war or a conflict.
- Till now, only the Border Security Force that guards the India-Pakistan border had an artillery unit and some mechanised components to aid it.
Steps towards modernization:
- The Union Home Ministry recently approved deployment of snow scooters at all high-altitude border outposts of the mountain-warfare trained force along the 3,488-km-long frontier it guards.
- The force has also been given sanctions to upgrade its firepower by modernising the support weapons like 81mm mortars.
- The mechanised column of the force will comprise over 250 sports utility vehicles (SUVs), all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snow scooters, excavators and a few other medium-lift four-wheeled vehicles.
- Sanctions have already been accorded to procure modern machines and vehicles for the force.
- The defence ministry had recently decided to significantly enhance infrastructure along this border including around the areas of dispute with the Chinese forces.
- The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is one of the five Central Armed Police Forces of India.
- The force was raised in 1962 in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression.
- The ITBP is trained in Civil Medical Camp, disaster management, and nuclear, biological and chemical disasters.
- ITBP personnel have been deployed abroad in UN peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Western Sahara, Sudan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Key Facts for Prelims
Kalam Sandesh Vahini: Vision 2020
- Mobile exhibition displaying life and message of departed former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam ‘Kalam Sandesh Vahini: Vision 2020’, marked its entry in the national capital.
- It is a part of 86th birth anniversary celebrations of the former president, A P J Abdul Kalam who was also known as the ‘Missile Man of India’.
- The bus travelled through 16 states, spreading the message about Kalam’s vision.
- State of the art mobile exhibition Kalam Sandesh Vahini (KSV) is a collective initiative taken by House of Kalam and Chinmaya University.
- The Vahini was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Dr Kalam’s hometown Rameshwaram in July, 2017.
Singer Krishna wins Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration
- Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna has won the 30th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration for 2015-16.
- The award consists of a citation and a cash prize of ₹10 lakh.
- He also won the Ramon Magsaysay award for bringing “social inclusiveness in culture” in 2016.
- He was also part of a movement to help the Tamil-dominated and war-ravaged northern province of Sri Lanka rebuild its classical music traditions.
- The Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration was instituted in 1985 by the Congress in its centenary year.
- The award is conferred on October 31 for promoting national integration, understanding and fellowship among different communities and cultures of India.
- The earlier recipients include spiritual leader Swami Ranganathananda, freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali, the Bharat Scouts and Guides, bureaucrat P.N. Haksar, singer M.S. Subbulakshmi, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi (posthumously) and former presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Shankar Dayal Sharma (posthumously).