Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves Amending the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008
- Constitution bench to hear Delhi-Centre turf dispute
- Karnataka Cabinet clears Mekadatu project
- Govt unveils TAMRA portal for transparent mining clearance
- Cabinet approves acquisition of subsidiary banks of State Bank of India
- Cabinet’s nod to establishment of new Food Legumes Research Platform
Bilateral & International Relations
- India joins UN network to halve number of maternal, newborn deaths by 2030
Science & Technology
- Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves Amending the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008
The Union Cabinet has approved introduction of Bill in Parliament to extend the jurisdiction of the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 to Jammu & Kashmir.
- The Amendment will be pertained to statistics under Union (List-I) and Concurrent lists (List- III) in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution and Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954.
- The Amendment will strengthen data collection mechanism in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
- It will extend the jurisdiction of the parent Act to J&K in respect of matters not reserved for the State as per the 1954 Order.
- It also envisages appointment of nodal officer at Centre and in each State/UT to effectively coordinate data collection activities and provide consultation to government departments to avoid unnecessary duplication.
About the Collection of Statistics Act 2008:
- The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 was enacted by the Parliament to facilitate the collection of statistics on economics, social, demographic, scientific and environmental aspects etc.
Why we need an amendment?
The Act extends to the whole of India, except J&K. The J&K state legislature also had enacted the Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010, which is replica of the central legislation extending to whole state.
However, both central and state legislations are not applicable to statistical subjects falling in the Union List, as applicable to the J&K under the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 1954.
This has created a legislative vacuum. Besides, concurrent jurisdiction to be exercised by Centre in J&K also has not been provided in the Central legislation. So the amendment is intended to address this vacuum.[Ref: PIB]
Constitution bench to hear Delhi-Centre turf dispute
The Supreme Court has referred to a two-judge Constitution Bench a series of pleas filed by the Delhi government for laying down the law on whether the Lieutenant Governor (LG) can unilaterally administer the National Capital without being bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government.
What’s the issue?
- The court is hearing a series of pleas filed by AAP government challenging the verdict of the Delhi High Court which held that the CM or his ministers could not issue orders without LG’s approval and every decision must be routed through him.
- The HC had in August last year ruled that the LG was not bound by the “aid and advice” of the Delhi cabinet on any matter.
- However, the state government had contended that the HC verdict would subvert the democratic governance structure as the Constitution recognised Delhi as a state with an elected assembly.
A burning question:
A question that arises for consideration now is whether the appeals would have to be heard by an eleven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
This is because a nine-judge bench of the apex court had in 1996 in the NDMC versus State of Punjab case, recognised Delhi as a Union Territory for taxation purposes.
According to some experts, after receiving aid and advice from Delhi’s council of ministers under Article 239AA (4), the LG may or may not agree.
If he disagrees on “any matter”, he is bound to refer it to the President for a decision. Pending such a decision, the LG can, in case of an urgency, take immediate action.
Thus, the LG’s discretion is circumscribed by the President’s final decision.[Ref: The Hindu]
Karnataka Cabinet clears Mekadatu project
Karnataka State Cabinet has decided to implement the Rs. 5,912 crore Mekedatu multi-purpose (drinking and power) project that involves building a balancing reservoir across the Cauvery near Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district.
About the project:
Karnataka intends to build a reservoir across river Cauvery near Mekedatu in Kanakapura taluk.
- It was first proposed along with Shivanasamudra hydro power project at Shimsa in 2003 with an intention to use the water for a hydro power station and supply drinking water to Bengaluru city.
- The drinking water and hydroelectric project will have a balancing reservoir to store 66.50 tmcft of Cauvery water.
- The project is estimated to cost 5,912 crore and about 4,900 hectares of forest land will submerge if the project is implemented.
Controversy over the project:
- The contentious project has been opposed by Tamil Nadu on the grounds that it violates the Cauvery tribunal order. However, Karnataka has said that it aims to utilise excess water after releasing 192 tmcft to Tamil Nadu.
The State government would place the project before the Central Water Commission as well as the Supervisory Committee of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Environment and Forests for taking clearances.
A total of 4,996 hectares of forest lands would be submerged under water.[Ref: The Hindu]
Govt unveils TAMRA portal for transparent mining clearance
With an aim to double mining contribution to GDP, the Ministry of Mines has launched Transparency, Auction Monitoring and Resource Augmentation (TAMRA) Portal and Mobile Application.
- TAMRA portal was simultaneously launched across 12 mineral rich states as a part of the Ease of Doing Business in the Mining sector.
- TAMRA is a step to speed up mining activity in India and facilitate all the stakeholders to track the status of the statutory clearances associated with blocks for getting mines to reach till operationalisation for the same.
- It will be an interactive platform for all the stakeholders to compress the timeline for statutory and other clearances as it is expected to help minimise the gestation period for starting production.
- TAMRA covers block-, state- and mineral-wise information of the blocks to be auctioned, monitors various statutory clearances and also highlights the additional resources generated through e-auction.
- In case of delay in obtaining any clearances, TAMRA will send out triggers to the authority concerned so that the remedial steps can be taken immediately.
- The mines ministry will also receive triggers generated by TAMRA, which will facilitate expediting clearances in case the timelines set against each of the statutory clearances are not met.
Cabinet approves acquisition of subsidiary banks of State Bank of India
The Union Cabinet has approved the merger of State Bank of India (SBI) with five of its associate/subsidiary banks.
Five subsidiary banks:
These five subsidiary banks are
- State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur,
- State Bank of Hyderabad,
- State Bank of Mysore,
- State Bank of Patiala and
- State Bank of Travancore.
The Union Cabinet also approved the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to repeal the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959 and the State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956.
- The merger proposal was announced in May 2016 and was scheduled for March 2017.
- The acquisition of subsidiary banks of State Bank is an important step towards strengthening the banking sector through consolidation of public sector banks.
- It is in pursuance of the Indradhanush action plan of the Government and it is expected to strengthen the banking sector and improve its efficiency and profitability.
- In 2015, SBI was ranked 52 in the world in terms of assets, however the merger will allow its entry un top 50.
- The merger does not include Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) and its proposal is still under consideration.
Advantages of the merger:
- The acquisition under Section 35 of the SBI Act, 1955 will result in the creation of a stronger merged entity. It will minimize vulnerability faced by subsidiary banks to any geographic concentration risks.
- It will improve operational efficiency and economies of scale resulting into in improved risk management and unified treasury operations. Existing customers of associate banks will benefit from SBI’s global network.
- It will lead to better management of high value credit exposures through focused monitoring and control over cash flows rather than separate monitoring by six different banks.
- It will also result in recurring savings, estimated at more than Rs. 1,000 crore in first year, because of reduced cost of funds and enhanced operational efficiency.
Cabinet’s nod to establishment of new Food Legumes Research Platform
The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of Food Legumes Research Platform (FLRP) at Amlaha in Madhya Pradesh.
- The FLRP will be established by International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) for meeting the emerging food security challenges.
- The research platform will be established with satellite hubs in West Bengal (for pulses) and Rajasthan (for natural resource management).
- Under it, ICARDA will carry out research through a multi-disciplinary team of scientists for enhancing productivity of crops range-land and livestock.
- Cabinet approval confers FLRP an international status as contemplated in Clause 3 of the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947.
- It authorizes the Department of Agricultural Research (DARE) on behalf of Union Government in all matters regarding establishment of the Platform.
Significance of the platform:
- The FLRP will enable India to harness the best of international science in meeting the emerging food security challenges.
- It will help India to rapidly and effectively absorb research output in the agriculture.
- It will be a major international research & development (R&D) institution that will make India even bigger centre for agricultural research in the world. This in turn will attract further R&D investment in the country.
- The research output through this centre will benefit farmers (big, small or marginal) of all regions and technologies developed will be available for all farmers in equitable and inclusive manner.
- This platform will contribute significantly towards reducing poverty, improving food security, improving nutrition and health, and sustaining the natural resource base.
- International Centre for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is a non-profit agricultural research for development institute that aims to improve the livelihoods of the resource-poor across the world’s dry areas. It was established in 1977.
- Its research activities include the development of new crop varieties, conservation agriculture, water harvesting, diversification of production systems, integrated crop/livestock production systems, and empower rural women.
- ICARDA has a good track record of innovation, including in climate resilient technologies such as suitable food legume varieties for dry-land production systems.
Bilateral & International Relations
India joins UN network to halve number of maternal, newborn deaths by 2030
India has joined Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, a global health network focused on improving the quality of care for new mothers and babies.
About the network:
- The network is supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners.
- India is among nine countries that will be part of the network.
- Other countries are Bangladesh, A Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
- Under this network, countries will work to improve the quality of health care facilities to mothers and babies. They will strengthen national efforts to end preventable deaths of pregnant women and newborns by 2030.
- Under it, counties will accelerate and sustain the implementation of quality-of-care improvement packages for mothers, newborns and children.
- They will also strengthen capacity and motivation of health professional to plan and manage quality improvement, improve data collection and increase access to medicines, equipment, clean water and supplies.
- According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the period around childbirth is the most critical for saving mothers and newborns, and preventing stillbirths.
- Every year, around 303 000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth worldwide, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn.
- Most of these deaths can be prevented with quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.
Science & Technology
Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining
During monsoon 2017, weather scientists will fly airplanes loaded with silver iodide over clouds hovering above Solapur, Maharashtra and begin a three-year investigation into an old question: does cloud seeding produce sufficient rain?
- The ₹250-crore programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.
- The move is part of a larger experiment of the Earth Sciences Ministry to understand how clouds and aerosols interact and influence climate.
Maharashtra has frequently toyed with the idea of cloud seeding because of the frequency of droughts over the Vidarbha region. Seeding involves spraying chemicals into clouds.
The State Cabinet had approved a plan to seed clouds for 113 hours with a rainfall level of 1,381mm, at ₹28 crore. However above-normal rains pushed the plan to the back-burner.
China used the technique during the 2008 Olympics to veer rain away from the inaugural venue and now has a full-fledged department that blasts rockets into clouds to induce rain and control pollution.
What will be done?
For their experiment, scientists will fly two aircraft and spray dry ice and silver iodide on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.[Ref: The Hindu]