Polity & Governance
- Cabinet clears special assistance for EAPs in Andhra Pradesh
- Cabinet approves Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public- Private Partnership) Bill
- Government unveils revised Building Code
- Cabinet approves Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas
- Twenty projects approved for swift implementation of Namami Gange Programme in Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and Delhi
- Launch of Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES)
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet apprised of MoUs for cooperation in Youth and Sports Matters with Indonesia and the Kyrgyz Republic
- Cabinet approves of MoU between India and Bangladesh on Aids to Navigation (AtoNs)
- India’s contribution to UN increases to Rs 244 crore
Key Facts for Prelims
- First police post in India to be linked with CCTNS
- MoU between LBSNAA and NIPAM for capacity building of public officials
- World Consumers Day
Polity & Governance
Cabinet clears special assistance for EAPs in Andhra Pradesh
The Union Cabinet on 15 March 2017 approved a special financial assistance for bifurcated Andhra Pradesh.
- This financial assistance will be provided by special dispensation in funding of Externally Aided Projects (EAPs).
- The financial assistance will be also provided for the irrigation component of Polavaram project.
- Under this Externally Aided Projects, Andhra Pradesh will be provided with a special assistance measure by the Union Government.
- The centre would make up for the additional central share the state might have received during 2015-16 to 2019-20. This will be done is the funding of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) would have been shared at the ratio of 90:10 between the Centre and the State.
- In addition to this, the special assistance will be provided by way of repayment of loan and interest for the Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) signed and disbursed during 2015-2016 to 2019-20 by the State.
- This support in repayment of the EAP loans will help Andhra Pradesh to put its finances on a firmer footing and promote economic growth.
About Polavarm project:
- Polavaram Projectis a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded national project status by the central government.
- This dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha States also.
Cabinet approves Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public- Private Partnership) Bill
The Union Cabinet approved introduction of the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Public Private Partnership (IIIT PPP) Bill, 2017.
- The proposed Bill grants statutory status to the fifteen Indian Institutes of Information Technology in Public Private Partnership and declares them as Institutions of National Importance.
- In addition, the Bill enables these institutions to grant degrees to their students in the academic courses conducted by them.
Key features of the bill:
- There is no financial implication with regard to the proposed IIIT PPP Bill, 2017.
- The Bill will declare the existing IIITs in Public Private Partnership as Institutions of National Importance with powers to award degrees.
- The Bill will entitle the institutions to use the nomenclature of Bachelor of Technology (BTech) or Master of Technology (MTech) or PhD degree as issued by a University or Institution of National Importance.
- The grant of a formal degree in Information Technology, Engineering or PhD will add a boost to the prospects of the graduating students in the job market.
- The grant of a formal degree will also enable the institutes to draw enough students required to develop a strong research base in the country in the field of information technology.
- Every institute shall be open to each and every student, irrespective of gender, caste, creed, disability, and domicile, ethnicity, social or economic background.
In 2010, the Union Cabinet had approved scheme of setting up of 20 new IIITs in Public Private Partnership (IIIT PPP). But it was not having provision empowering these institutes to grant degrees to its students.[Ref: Indian Express]
Government unveils revised Building Code
What is Building Code?
- The Building Code is used by local bodies for framing building bylaws. It is used by government departments in construction activity and also by private builders as well as professionals like planners, architect and engineers. It is also used for academic purpose.
Why it is in news?
- The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution unveiled the revised Building Code, making builders liable for the structure’s safety.
Key features of the code:
- The code has been prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
- It is voluntary in nature, but the states can incorporate them in their building bylaws.
- Under the code, planners, structure designers and supervisors were made responsible for the safety of the structure while geo-technical engineers and builders were not included.
- Now, builders are also made responsible safety of the construction. Builders have to give a certificate saying that the building has been constructed as per the planned design submitted to the local bodies.
- Apart from making builders liable, the revised code has made necessary changes keeping in view the requirement of modern buildings.
- The code specifies fire and life safety norms for high rise buildings and a proper horizontal evacuation system in high-rise hospitals and public buildings.
- It also provides for universal accessibility for senior citizens and differently abled citizens besides encouraging use new building material and alternative smart technologies.
- The salient features of the revised code are norms for solar energy utilisation, inclusion of modern lighting technique including LED, updated provision on piped gas supply in houses and hospitals, solid waste management and rain water harvesting, besides high speed lifts for tall buildings.
- For ease of doing business, the revised code has a detailed provision for streamlining the approval process in respect of different agencies in the form of an integrated approval process through single window approach thereby avoiding separate clearances from various authorities.
Cabinet approves Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas.
Key features of the policy:
- The policy provides marketing and pricing freedom to the CBM Contractors to sell the CBM at Arm’s Length Price in the domestic market.
- The policy is expected to incentivize the CBM operation in the country to boost gas production and will generate economic activities.
- It will in turn be beneficial for creating more employment opportunities in CBM operations and related activities.
- Under it, contractor while discovering the market price has to ensure a fully transparent and competitive process for sale of CBM at the best possible price without any restrictive commercial practices.
- It allows contractors to sell the CBM to its any affiliate, in the case it cannot identify any buyer. However, royalty and other dues to the Government will be payable on the basis of Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell (PPAC) notified prices or selling prices, whichever is higher.
What is Coal Bed Methane?
- Coal Bed Methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.
- The term CBD refers to methane adsorbed into the solid matrix of the coal.
- It is an important source of energy in United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries.
- CBD is distinct from typical sandstone or other conventional gas reservoir, as the methane is stored within the coal by a process called adsorption.
- It contains very little heavier hydrocarbons such as propane or butane, and no natural-gas condensate.
- During the initial years of mining, CBM was vented out and wasted into the atmosphere as it was considered as serious safety hazard while conducting coal mining operations. However, later with advancement of technology it was possible to extract CBM, a precious energy resource and an unconventional form of natural gas.
Advantages of CBM as a fuel:
- It is environmentally safe and clean fuel which on combustion emits only carbon dioxide and water.
- It is not only considered as an efficient fuel but also reduces emission of greenhouse gas from coal mining.
- Its extraction prior to coal mining activities makes mining activities safer by degassing the coal seams.
Global CBM reserve:
Potential of CBM in India:
- Coalbed Methane (CBM), an unconventional source of natural gas is now considered as an alternative source for augmenting India’s energy resource.
- India has the fifth largest proven coal reserves in the world and thus holds significant prospects for exploration and exploitation of CBM.
- The prognosticated CBM resources in the country are about 92 TCF (2600 BCM) in 12 states of India.
- The Gondwana sediments of eastern India host the bulk of India’s coal reserves and all the current CBM producing blocks.
- The vast majority of the best prospective areas for CBM development are in eastern India, situated in Damodar Koel valley and Son valley.
- CBM projects exist in Raniganj South, Raniganj East and Raniganj North areas in the Raniganj coalfield, the Parbatpur block in Jharia coalfield and the East and west Bokaro coalfields.
In order to harness CBM potential in the country, the Government of India formulated CBM policy in 1997 wherein CBM being Natural Gas is explored and exploited under the provisions of OIL Fields (Regulation & Development) Act 1948 (ORD Act 1948) and Petroleum & Natural Gas Rules 1959 (P&NG Rules 1959) administered by Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MOP&NG).[Ref: PIB]
Twenty projects approved for swift implementation of Namami Gange Programme in Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and Delhi
The Executive Committee (EC) of National Mission for Clean Ganga approved 20 projects worth nearly Rs 1900 crore.
- Out of 20 projects, 13 are in Uttarakhand that includes creating new sewage treatment plants, upgrading existing STPs and laying of sewage networks in Haridwar at an estimated cost of around Rs 415 crore.
- The approved plan for Haridwar is aimed at treating sewage water generated by not only city’s 1.5 lakh local dwellers, but also by people who visit the place for various purposes.
- All the projects will be completely funded by the Union Government, including the expenditure on operation and maintenance of these projects.
About National Mission for Clean Ganga:
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
- It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986. NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).
- It now works under the control of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
- Its aim is to clean Ganga and its tributaries in a comprehensive manner.
- NMCG has a two tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee. Both of them are headed by Director General, NMCG. Executive Committee has been authorized to accord approval for all projects up to Rs.1000 crore.
- Similar to structure at national level, State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) acts as implementing arm of State Ganga Committees.
- The Director General (DG) of NMCG is a Additional Secretary in Government of India.
- For effective implementation of the projects under the overall supervision of NMCG, the State Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) are, also headed by senior officers of the concerned States.
Launch of Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES)
The Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry has launched Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme for developing export linked infrastructure in states with a view to promoting outbound shipments.
- The scheme replaces a centrally sponsored scheme — Assistance to States for creating Infrastructure for the Development and growth of Exports (ASIDE).
About Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):
- The main objective of the scheme is to enhance export competitiveness by bridging the gap in export infrastructure, which has not been addressed by any other scheme.
- Under this scheme, all central and state agencies including Commodities Boards, SEZ authorities, Export Promotion Councils and Apex Trade Bodies recognised under the EXIM policy of Government of India will be eligible for financial support.
- The funding would be in form of grant-in-aid and in normal cases it would not be more than the equity being funded by the implementing agency or 50% of the total equity in the project.
- However, in cases of projects located in the North Eastern states or Himalayan states including Jammu & Kashmir, the grant will go up to 80% of the total equity.
- Five per cent of the grant approved would be used for appraisal, review and monitoring.
- The scheme would be implemented from 1 April 2017 with a total budgetary allocation of Rs 600 crore for three years and an annual outlay of Rs 200 crore.
- The cost of projects under TIES would be equally shared by the Centre and the states.
- An empowered committee will be set up to periodically review the progress of the approved projects in the scheme. The committee will also take the required steps to ensure that the objectives of the scheme are achieved.
- Some of the biggest cost incurred by the exporters is on account of the absence of proper dedicated infrastructure, whether it is testing or handling facilities or cold storages at ports.
- TIES, which would focus on projects like checkpoints, first and last mile connectivity, border haats and integrated check posts, would help in ensuring smoother movement in export cargo and better quality standards and certification.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet apprised of MoUs for cooperation in Youth and Sports Matters with Indonesia and the Kyrgyz Republic
The Union Cabinet was apprised of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) that were signed with Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan.
- The MoUs envisage organizing youth exchange programmes with Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan and cooperation in other youth and sports related matters.
Significance of this MoUs:
- International youth exchange programmes promote exchange of ideas, values and culture amongst youth and help in developing international perspective among the youth.
- Further, these programmes promote peace and understanding and strengthen friendly relations between countries.
- The benefits arising from bilateral exchange programmes in the field of youth and sports would be equally available to all youth irrespective of their caste, religion and gender.
- The programmes under the MoUs will also help the Indian youth in expanding their knowledge and expertise.
- Officially known as the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country.
- Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east.
- Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
- The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as “the Switzerland of Central Asia”, as a result).
- Issyk-Kul Lake, or Ysyk-Köl in Kyrgyz, in the north-eastern Tian Shan is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca.
- The highest peaks are in the Kakshaal-Too range, forming the Chinese border.
- Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with an economy dominated by minerals extraction, agriculture, and reliance on remittances from citizens working abroad.
Cabinet approves of MoU between India and Bangladesh on Aids to Navigation (AtoNs)
The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Aids to Navigation (AtoNs) between India and Bangladesh.
What is AtoNs?
- Aids to Navigation (AtoNs) typically refers to physical elements including lighthouses, buoys and beacons.
- The term is most commonly used to refer to nautical or aviation travel.
- It is any sort of marker which aids the traveller in navigation.
The MoU envisages cooperation between Bangladesh and India:
- To extend advice on lighthouses and beacons.
- To extend advice on Vessel Traffic Service and chain of Automatic Identification System (AIS).
- To impart training as per International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) training module to AtoN Managers and Technicians for Bangladesh.
The MoU will enable both the countries to collaborate in the following areas:
- To provide advice on AtoNs.
- Provide academic interaction by imparting training to AtoN personnel.
- Provide necessary cooperation in organizing workshops/conferences for enhancement of skills in AtoN field.
Significance of this MoU:
- The MoU will help in greater cooperation in capacity building in the field of AtoN training in the South Asian region.
- This will give a boost to imparting training on the management of marine aids to navigation based on IALA Model Course E-141/1 and accordingly facilitate the delivery of a professional training course as per the IALA guidelines.
- IALA is the international body coordinating and harmonizing the use of all Aids to Navigation. India represented through DGLL, is a member of IALA Council. As a step towards regional cooperation, India and Bangladesh have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on AtoN.
- As per the MoU, the DGLL on behalf of Ministry of Shipping, Government of India shall advise its counterpart Department of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping, Bangladesh on AtoNs including Vessel Traffic Service, Chain of Automatic Identification System.
- In order to train AtoN personnel of Bangladesh, DGLL shall organize training as per IALA training module to AtoN Managers and Technicians, organize Workshops/Conferences. This will help in capacity building of Bangladesh AtoN Personnel.
Indo- Bangladesh relations:
- India and Bangladesh are two important developing nations in the South Asian region. Both countries maintain a long tradition of friendly and cordial relations which has been manifested in the several bilateral visits of dignitaries from both sides during recent years.
India’s contribution to UN increases to Rs 244 crore
India’s contribution to the United Nations rose 55% to Rs 244 crore in 2015-16 compared with the previous fiscal.
- In the last financial year, the government has also made voluntary contributions to the tune of Rs 22 crore to international organisations, including UN agencies.
UN Peacekeeping budget:
- Each UN member is required to contribute to the organisation’s Regular and Peacekeeping budgets. These obligatory contributions are calculated based on a member’s relative ‘capacity to pay’.
- For Peacekeeping budget, since all permanent members of the Security Council bear special responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security, they must contribute additional amounts.
What is ‘capacity to pay’?
- The term ‘capacity to pay’ is defined through a scale of assessment that takes into account the member country’s Gross National Income relative to the Global Gross National Income, adjusted further for the level of its national external debt and low per capita income.
[Ref: Economic Times]
Key Facts for Prelims
First police post in India to be linked with CCTNS
- Sanjauli police station in Himachal Pradesh has become the first police post in the country to be linked with Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), a nationwide online tracking system.
- The system will facilitate people in lodging online/offline complaints, police verification of job applicants, tenants, character verification and migrant labourer registration.
- Once the police posts are linked under the CCTNS system, its daily Roznamcha/diary can be viewed online by supervisory officer of the police department, thus making it easy to supervise the staff, said a senior police officer of the department.
MoU between LBSNAA and NIPAM for capacity building of public officials
- The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie and Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management (NIPAM), Namibia in the field of capacity building of public officials of Namibia and other training activities for the benefit of both the institutes.
- The MOU will help the Academy to disseminate some of its experience in running a training institution for higher civil services in the country to NIPAM.
- It will also help the two sides to engage in collaborative activities in the sphere of public administration and capacity building.
World Consumers Rights Day
- The World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is celebrated every year on March 15 to pay solidarity with the international consumer movement and give more attention to promote basic rights of consumers.
- It provides an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
- 2017 Theme: ‘Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust’. In 2016, WCRD was observed with the theme “Antibiotics off the menu”.
- The first WCRD was observed on 15 March 1983 and has since become an important occasion for mobilizing citizen action.
- Consumers International (CI), which was founded in 1960 organises WCRD. It is the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers and has over 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world.
- Every year a theme is chosen for this day, and this year it is ‘Building a digital world consumers can trust’.
- In India, 24th December is observed as National Consumer Day. On this day in 1986, Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the President.