Polity & Governance
- Press in India Report
- Cabinet approves National Medical Commission Bill, 2017
- Cabinet approves creation of one circle office of Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves continuation of National AYUSH Mission till March 2020
- Cabinet approves continuation of NLCPR scheme for North East till March 2020
- Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme
Issues related to Health & Education
- Karnataka HC strikes down rule on stringent tobacco pack warnings
- NHAI mulls incentives for officials to push Bharatmala scheme
- Modi inaugurates Tuirial power project in Mizoram
- Leather, footwear industry gets Rs2,600 crore package
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves establishment of International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography
Key Facts for Prelims
- NGT bans plastic items in towns located along banks of Ganga
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Polity & Governance
Press in India Report
“Press in India 2016-17” is an annual publication of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI).
Highlights of the “Press in India 2016-17”:
- Uttar Pradesh (UP) topped the list of largest number of registered publications followed by Maharashtra.
- The largest number of publications registered in any Indian language is Hindi followed by English.
About the ‘Press in India’ report:
- ‘Press in India’ was an important document to map the progress of the Indian newspaper industry in the last one year.
- The publication presents an indicative picture of facts and trends in the Indian Print Media.
- The report is of keen interest to print media, media analysts and research scholars.
About Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI):
- The Office of the Registrar of Newspapers for India, more popularly known as RNI came into being on 1st July, 1956, on the recommendation of the First Press Commission in 1953 and by amending the Press and Registration of Books Act (PRB) 1867.
- The PRB Act contains the duties and functions of the RNI.
- On account of some more responsibilities entrusted upon RNI during all these years, the office is performing both statutory as well as some non-statutory functions.
- RNI is mandated under Section 19 (G) of the PRB Act, 1867 to submit an Annual Report to the Government every year on or before 31st December.
Cabinet approves National Medical Commission Bill, 2017
The Union Cabinet has cleared the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017.
- The bill does away with the Medical Council of India (MCI) and replaces it with a regulator that will do away with “heavy handed regulatory control” (red tape) over medical institutions.
- It will also bring in a national licentiate examination.
Highlights of the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017:
National Medical Council (NMC):
- The bill replaces existing apex medical education regulator Medical Council of India (MCI) with National Medical Council (NMC), a new body to ensure transparency.
- It empowers NMC to lay down policies for maintaining high quality and high standards in medical education and make necessary regulations in this behalf and ensure coordination among Autonomous Boards.
Four autonomous boards:
- The bill provides for the constitution of four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting undergraduate and postgraduate education, assessment and accreditation of medical institutions and registration of practitioners under the National Medical Commission.
Composition of the commission:
- The commission will have 25-members including Chairman and Member Secretary. It will have 12 ex-officio members and 11-part-time members of which five will be doctors elected to the commission.
- The selected members will be picked by a search committee headed by Cabinet Secretary.
- The bill proposes a common entrance exam and national licentiate examination which every candidate, who completes five years of MMBS course need to clear to become medical practitioner or get entry into post-graduation studies.
- This examination will also bring those students who do medical education from abroad at par with those who graduate from Indian institutions.
- Recognised medical institutions don’t need the regulator’s permission to add more seats or start PG course. This mechanism to reduce the discretionary powers of the regulator.
Powers of the regulator:
- Earlier, medical colleges required the MCI’s approval for establishment, recognition, renewal of the yearly permission or recognition of degrees, and even increase the number of students they admitted. Under the new bill, the powers of the regulator are reduced to establishment and recognition. This means less red tape, but also less scrutiny of medical colleges.
Significance of the bill:
- The bill aims to move towards outcome-based regulation of medical education rather than process oriented.
- It will ensure proper separation of functions within regulator by having autonomous boards, create accountable and transparent procedures for maintaining standards in Medical Education.
Medical Council of India (MCI) is a statutory body for establishing uniform and high standards of medical education in India.
- The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. This was further modified in 1964, 1993 and 2001.
The objectives of the Council are as follows:
- Maintenance of uniform standards of medical education, both undergraduate and postgraduate.
- Recommendation for recognition/de-recognition of medical qualifications of medical institutions of India or foreign countries.
- Permanent registration/provisional registration of doctors with recognized medical qualifications.
- Reciprocity with foreign countries in the matter of mutual recognition of medical qualifications.
Cabinet approves creation of one circle office of Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety
The Union Cabinet approved the creation one circle office of Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety.
- The Office will be provided all supporting officers and staffs for its functions as envisaged in the “Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002”, in the Commission of Railway Safety (CMRS) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Significance of creation of these posts:
- Creation of these posts will ensure focused attention on the passenger safety and metro rail operation related issues, in respect of existing, as well as upcoming various metro rail projects.
Implementation strategy and targets:
- The post of Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety shall be filled from the cadre of Indian Railway Engineering Services (IRSE, IRSEE, IRSSE, RSME) & IRTS by the Ministry of Civil Aviation through nomination from willing officers from Ministry of Railways in consultation with UPSC, initially according to Recruitment Rules for Commissioner of Railway Safety in the Commission of Railway Safety.
- The process to fill up the posts shall be initiated within two months.
About the Commission of Railway Safety:
The Commission of Railway Safety works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Govt. of India).
- It deals with the matters pertaining to safety of rail travel and train operation and is charged with certain statutory functions laid down in the Railway Act’1989.
- Functions performed by the organization are inspectorial, investigatory and advisory in nature.
- The Commission functions according to certain rules framed under the railways Act and executive instructions issued from time to time.
- The most important duty of the Commission is to ensure that any new railway line to be opened for passenger traffic should conform to the standard and specifications prescribed by the Ministry of Railways and the new line is safe in all respects for carrying the passenger traffic.
- This is also applicable to other works such as gauge conversion, doubling of lines and electrification of existing lines etc.
- The Commission also conducts statutory inquiries into serious train accidents and makes recommendations for improving safety on the railways in India.
About Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety (CMRS):
- The CMRS will be administratively under the control of Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety under Ministry of Civil Aviation.
- With a view to accord priority to passenger safety and also to ensure uniformity in safety certification, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs while enacting the “Metro railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002”, has assigned similar functions to Commissioner of Metro Railway safety (CMRS) in respect of Metro Railways.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves continuation of National AYUSH Mission till March 2020
The Union Cabinet approved the continuation of centrally sponsored scheme of National Ayush Mission (NAM) till March 31, 2020, with an outlay of Rs 2,400 crore over the period.
About National AYUSH Mission (NAM):
Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has launched National AYUSH Mission (NAM) during 12th Plan (in September 2014) for implementing through States/UTs.
- Now, The NAM is being implemented by Ministry of AYUSH.
Aim of NAM:
- The NAM aims to address the gaps in health services through supporting the efforts of State/UT Governments for providing AYUSH health services/education in the country, particularly in vulnerable and far-flung areas.
Objective of NAM:
- To provide cost effective AYUSH Services, with a universal access through upgrading AYUSH Hospitals and Dispensaries, co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and District Hospitals (DHs).
- To strengthen institutional capacity at the state level through upgrading AYUSH educational institutions, State Govt. ASU&H Pharmacies, Drug Testing Laboratories and ASU & H enforcement mechanism.
- Support cultivation of medicinal plants by adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) so as to provide sustained supply of quality raw-materials and support certification mechanism for quality standards, Good Agricultural/Collection/Storage Practices.
- Support setting up of clusters through convergence of cultivation, warehousing, value addition and marketing and development of infrastructure for entrepreneurs.
- Under the mission, special focus is given to the specific needs of such areas and for allocation of higher resources in their Annual Plans.
Expected outcomes of the Mission:
- Better access to AYUSH healthcare services through an increased number of healthcare facilities offering AYUSH services and better availability of medicines and trained manpower.
- Improvement in AYUSH education through a well-equipped enhanced number of AYUSH Educational institutions.
- Improved availability of quality AYUSH drugs by increased number of quality pharmacies and Drug Testing Laboratories coupled with a stringent enforcement mechanism.
- Increased awareness and acceptance of the Yoga & Naturopathy as promotive and preventive health-care systems.
- To meet the increasing domestic demand for herbal raw-materials and also to promote export.
- The National AYUSH Mission intends to build on India’s unmatched heritage represented by its ancient systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Sidhha, Unani & Homeopathy (ASU&H) which are a treasure house of knowledge for preventive and promotive healthcare.
- The positive features of the Indian systems of medicine namely their diversity and flexibility; accessibility; affordability, a broad acceptance by a large section of the general public; comparatively lesser cost and growing economic value, have great potential to make them providers of healthcare that the large sections of our people need.
Cabinet approves continuation of NLCPR scheme for North East till March 2020
The Union Cabinet approved new Central Sector Scheme of North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS) from 2017-18.
- It will be 100% funded by Central Government to fill up gaps in creation of infrastructure in specified sectors in North east till March, 2020.
Features of NESIDS:
The scheme will broadly cover creation of infrastructure under following sectors:
- Physical infrastructure relating to water supply, power, connectivity and specially the projects promoting tourism.
- Infrastructure of social sectors of education and health.
Benefits of NESIDS:
- The assets to be created under NESIDS will not only strengthen education and health care facilities in northeast region but will also encourage tourism thereby employment opportunities for local youth.
- The scheme will act as catalyst in overall development of north east region in the years to come.
Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme
The Union Cabinet also approved continuation of existing Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) scheme till March, 2020 with funding pattern of 90:10.
- It will have outlay of Rs.5300.00 crore and will enable completion of ongoing projects.
What is Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR)?
- NLCPR was created in 1997–98 (operationalized in 1998–99) is the accrual of the unspent balance of the mandatory 10% budgetary allocation of the Ministries/Departments.
Objective of NLCPR:
- Its broad objective is to ensure speedy development of infrastructure in the North Eastern Region and Sikkim by increasing flow of budgetary financing for specific viable infrastructure projects and schemes in the region.
- The Ministry for Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) allocates funds from NLCPR to various Northeast states for infrastructure projects. The ministry allocates funds under two schemes viz. NLCPR (State) and NLCPR-Central for which annual budgetary allocations are provided in normal budgetary process.
- Both physical and social infrastructure sectors such as Irrigation and Flood Control, Power, Roads and Bridges, Education, Health, Water Supply and Sanitation – are considered for providing support under the Central Pool, with projects in physical infrastructure sector receiving priority.
- Funds from the Central Pool can be released for State sector as well as Central sector projects/schemes.
- However, the funds available under the Central Pool are not meant to supplement the normal Plan programmes either of the State Governments or Union Ministries/ Departments/ Agencies.
Issues related to Health & Education
Karnataka HC strikes down rule on stringent tobacco pack warnings
Karnataka High Court has declared as unconstitutional the federal rules – Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014.
- The rules mandated stringent graphic health warnings on tobacco products, lawyers involved in the case said, in a decision seen as a major victory for the tobacco industry and a setback for health advocates.
- The Supreme Court had last year ordered enforcement of the government’s 2014 federal rules that required 85 percent of a tobacco pack’s surface to be covered in health warnings, up from 20% earlier, despite protests by the tobacco industry.
Reasons cited by Karnataka High Court:
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unilaterally framed the Rules without concurrence of the other departments concerned, and this was a violation of the Article 77 (Conduct of Business of Government of India) and the Transaction of Business (ToB) rules framed under it as the subject of tobacco control and legislation was not attached to one department or Ministry.
- The rules were notified even before the Parliamentary Committee on sub-ordinate legislations was examining them.
- Ministry of Commerce had also opposed 85% area for pictorial warning on the ground that it would not result in any benefit and wanted to restrict the pictorial warnings to 40% or 50%.
- The Labour Ministry too had opposed pictorial warning for the reason that it would harm the beedi industry, on which several poor families are depending upon for their livelihood.
- The rules are also contrary to Article 19(1)(g) [right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business] as they are “unreasonable” restrictions imposed “without application of mind or any basis.”
Tobacco related key facts:
- The World Health Organization estimates tobacco-related diseases cost India about $16 billion annually.
- A government survey earlier this year found that 62% of cigarette smokers thought of quitting because of warning labels on the packets.
- India’s tobacco packaging rules were among the world’s most stringent and aimed at reducing tobacco consumption which kills more than 900,000 people a year.
NHAI mulls incentives for officials to push Bharatmala scheme
To expedite implementation of the ambitious Bharatmala project, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to start an incentive scheme for its officials.
- The scheme will reward hardworking, meritorious officials and will act as a catalyst to motivate other officials to work more efficiently.
- Under this scheme, cash incentives and other rewards such as Certificates, Trophy, Appreciation letters, etc., would be given to the NHAI officials to complete the assigned task in a time bound manner.
Objective of this incentive:
- The highway construction scheme not only envisages completing the projects earlier than the scheduled time, but also aims at savings on account of cost overruns due to time delays.
What is Bharatmala Project?
Bharatmala Project is an ambitious road development initiative under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- Bharatmala Project is the second largest highways construction project in the country since NHDP, under which almost 50,000 km or highway roads were targeted across the country.
- It has been envisaged as an umbrella program that will subsume unfinished projects of National Highways Development Project (NHDP).
- The project is aimed at speeding up cargo movement and the development of multimodal logistics hubs and parks on the periphery of major commercial centres.
- The total length in phase 1 comes to around 34,800 km.
The BharatMala project will include:
- Economic corridors (9,000 km),
- Inter-corridor and feeder route (6,000 km),
- National corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km),
- Border roads and international connectivity (2,000 km),
- Coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km) and
- Greenfield expressways (800 km).
- Further, the remaining road projects of 10,000 km under the National Highways Development Project will form a part of the programme.
Modi inaugurates Tuirial power project in Mizoram
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formally dedicated the 60 MW Tuirial Hydro Electric Power Project (HEPP) to the nation.
About Tuirial HEPP:
Tuirial HEPP is the biggest power project located in the State of Mizoram.
- It will feed the entire energy to be generated to the home State, which will facilitate all-round development of the State and achieving Government of India’s ambitious and flagship Mission ‘24×7 Affordable Clean Power for All’.
- Tuirial HEPP has been constructed as a central sector project and implemented by North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), under the administrative control of the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
Significance of Tuirial HEPP:
Mizoram’s current demand of electricity is only 87 MW and this is being met by State’s mini power projects and availability of its share of power from central sector projects.
- With the additional 60 MW of electricity from the project, the State of Mizoram will now be the third power-surplus State in North East India after Sikkim and Tripura.
- Apart from attaining self-sufficiency in electric power, the project will fetch other spin-off benefits to the State of Mizoram like employment generation, navigation, water supply, pisciculture and wild life conservation, tourism etc.
Leather, footwear industry gets Rs2,600 crore package
The Union Cabinet has approved a Rs 2,600 crore special package for employment generation in the leather and footwear sector.
- The package involves implementation of Central Sector Scheme ‘Indian Footwear, Leather & Accessories Development Programme’, with an expenditure of Rs2,600 crore during 2017-18 to 2019-20.
Significance of the scheme:
- The Special Package has the potential to generate 3.24 lakhs new jobs in 3 years and assist in formalization of 2 lakh jobs as cumulative impact in Footwear, Leather & Accessories Sector.
- The scheme would lead to development of infrastructure for the leather sector, address environment concerns specific to the leather sector, facilitate additional investments, employment generation and increase in production.
- Enhanced Tax incentive would attract large scale investments in the sector and reform in labour law in view of seasonal nature of the sector will support economies of scale.
The Indian Footwear, Leather & Accessories Development Programme has the following sub- schemes:
- Human Resource Development (HRD) sub-scheme.
- Integrated Development of Leather Sector (IDLS) sub-scheme.
- Establishment of Institutional Facilities sub-scheme.
- Mega Leather, Footwear and Accessories Cluster (MLFAC) sub-scheme.
- Leather Technology, Innovation and Environmental Issues sub-scheme.
- Promotion of Indian Brands in Leather, Footwear and Accessories Sector sub-scheme.
- Additional Employment Incentive for Leather, Footwear and Accessories Sector sub-scheme.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves establishment of International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography
The Union Cabinet has approved the establishment of International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography, as a Category-2 Centre (C2C) of UNESCO, in Hyderabad.
Purpose of Agreement:
- The purpose of this Agreement is to establish a training centre towards development of capacity for the countries on the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR), African countries bordering the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, small island countries under the framework of UNESCO.
What is Category-2 Centre (C2C) of UNESCO?
UNESCO has designated International and Regional Institutes and Centres as Category 2 under the auspices of UNESCO.
- Though not legally part of the Organization, these Institutes and Centres are associated with UNESCO through formal arrangements approved by the General Conference.
- They are selected upon proposal by Member State(s), based on the strength of their specialization in one of UNESCO’s fields of competence.
- Through capacity-building knowledge sharing and research, they provide a valuable and unique contribution to the implementation of UNESCO’s strategic programme objectives for the benefits of Member States.
List of Category 2 Institutes and Centres:
List of Category 2 Institutes and Centres according to Sectors and Central Services, as approved by UNESCO’s General Conference:
- Natural Sciences
- Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
- Social and Human Sciences
- Communication and Information
- Bureau of Strategic Planning
What is operational oceanography?
- The operational oceanography is an activity of conducting systematic oceanographic studies towards providing information services to various sectors viz. fisherman, disaster management, shipping, ports, coastal states, navy, coast guard, environment, offshore industries for conducting their day-to- day operations.
Significance of establishment of C2C:
- The Centre will provide assistance in areas of capacity building and training, knowledge sharing and exchange of information, and hence could represent a valuable resource for UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanography Commission (IOC) by enhancing the impact and visibility of UNESCO’s action.
- The establishment of UNESCO Category-2 Centre will provide an opportunity for India to emerge as a leading country in the Indian Ocean.
- This will also help India to forge cooperation and improve engagement among the counties of the Indian Ocean, including South Asian and African states bordering the Indian Ocean.
- The establishment of the centre would respond to the worldwide increasing need to build technical and management capacity to address marine and coastal sustainability issues and prepare the region for and react efficiently to marine natural hazards.
- The Centre could contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal-14 (SDG 14) related to building marine scientific research capacity in geographical area of the Centre responsibility which will also fulfil the commitments to support Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries.
- The establishment of C2C is also expected to increase ancillary development leading to employment generation in India.
Key Facts for Prelims
NGT bans plastic items in towns located along banks of Ganga
- The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed complete blanket ban on use, sale, purchase and storage of plastic items such as carry bags, plates and spoons in towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh till upper areas of Uttarkashi along the Ganga River in Uttarakhand.
- The move was taken to tackle and prevent pollution of the Ganga.
- The NGT also imposed Rs 5,000 fine on those violating order and also held that action will be taken against erring officials too.
- It passed the direction after noting that despite its earlier order, plastic was being used in these areas causing pollution to the hoy river.