Polity & Governance
- Amendment to the Delimitation Act, 2002 and the Representation of the People Act, 1950
- WHO issues $56 million plan to combat Zika virus
- Cabinet approves Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)
- SBI opens ‘Japan Desk’ in New Delhi
Environment & Ecology
- Environment Ministry launches ENVIS portal
- ‘Uncover’ Project of GSI
Polity & Governance
Amendment to the Delimitation Act, 2002 and the Representation of the People Act, 1950
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to amend section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
Once passed, the proposed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will enable the Election Commission to carry out limited delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal
Why this amendment?
- The exchange of 51 Bangladeshi and 111 Indian enclaves, held in July last year, is the main reason for this amendment.
This is in pursuance of the Constitution (One Hundredth Amendment) Act, 2015 and also allows for introduction of a Bill, namely, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament.
In a historic pact between India and Bangladesh, 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (Chhitmahals) in Indian Territory and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory were exchanged with effect from 31st July, 2015.
- The move altered the geography and demography of the district of Cooch Behar in West Bengal.
- With a view to carry out consequential geographic and demographic alterations vis-à-vis the electoral mosaic of the affected areas, the Election Commission requested to amend section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 to enable it to carry out limited delimitation of constituencies in the affected areas.
- Since the newly acquired area consequent upon the exchange of territory between India and Bangladesh has become the part of the Indian territory, it is required to make delimitation exercise within the limited constituency area before the ensuing State Assembly elections in West Bengal.
Accordingly, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has been proposed for enactment.
WHO issues $56 million plan to combat Zika virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for $56 million for its plan to combat the Zika virus, a disease that has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil and has spread to 39 countries.
- The funds sought would be used until June to fast-track vaccines, carry out diagnostics and research into how the mosquito-borne virus spreads, as well as virus control.
- The funds, including $25 million for the WHO and its regional office, would also be used to control the mosquito-borne virus that has spread to 39 countries, including 34 in the Americas.
- The WHO expects the funds to come from member states and other donors and said that in the meantime it has tapped a new emergency contingency fund for $2 million to finance its initial operations.
Cabinet approves Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)
The Union Cabinet has approved the Proposal for Notification of Commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of World Trade Organization (WTO).
- The decision is in consonance with India’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative.
About National Committee on Trade Facilitation:
- In order to facilitate both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the Agreement, the Union Cabinet has decided to constitute a National Committee on Trade Facilitation.
- NCTF will be set up under the Joint Chair of Secretary, Department of Revenue and Secretary, Department of Commerce.
About Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):
- In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”.
- In line with the decision adopted in Bali, WTO members adopted in November 2014 a Protocol of Amendment to insert the new Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement.
- To implement the agreement, two-thirds of the total members, or 107 countries, have to approve it. India was the 71st country to give nod to the agreement.
- The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.
- The TFA sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
According to the WTO, full implementation of TFA could increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion annually. The overall boost to world export growth has been estimated at 2.7 per cent per annum.
[Ref: PIB, BS]
SBI opens ‘Japan Desk’ in New Delhi
State Bank of India (SBI) has launched ‘Japan Desk’, a first-of-its-kind initiative to facilitate Japanese corporates looking to invest here with banking and advisory services.
- This SBI Japan Desk will serve as a one-point comprehensive and reliable information support source for both Japanese companies looking to invest here and Indian companies exploring outbound investments into Japan.
- The Japan Desk — to be based in New Delhi — will facilitate in the establishment of banking relationship with Japanese corporates and Japanese nationals, provide information on industries, sectors etc.
There are also requests from South Korea to have a dedicated help desk and SBI may look at setting up a desk for that country also.
Environment & Ecology
Environment Ministry launches ENVIS portal
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the Environment Information System (ENVIS) portal to reach out to the people on environmental issues and creating more awareness among them.
The Ministry has also distributed
- The award of the best State ENVIS centre to Forests, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Sikkim and
- The award for the best Thematic ENVIS Centre to Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
About ENVIS portal:
- Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Portal runs parallel with the Digital India Objective, which works on improving the digital literacy in the environment sector and deliver services digitally all over the country.
- Environmental Information System (ENVIS), a Central Sector Scheme of the Environment Ministry has been implemented since 1982.
- The purpose of the scheme is to integrate country-wide efforts in environmental information collection, collation, storage, retrieval and dissemination through ENVIS websites, which are dedicated to different interesting themes.
- The network presently consists of 69 Centres, of which 29 are hosted by the environment/forest department of State governments/UT Administrations and deal with “State of the environment and related issues”, while 40 Centres are being hosted by environment-related governmental and non-governmental organisations/institutes of professional excellence and have a thematic mandate.
- Major users of ENVIS include Central and State Governments, institutes and individual scientists, researchers, students and agencies carrying out environmental impact assessment of projects, as well as public.
- The challenge before ENVIS is to find out new ways to reach out to people and how to popularise science and sustainable practices.
‘Uncover’ Project of GSI
The Union government has recently launched ‘Uncover’ project of the Geological Survey of India.
- This state-of-the-art project to be implemented in two selected areas in the country is focused on probing for deep seated/ concealed mineral deposits.
- The programme is also one of the important action points of the draft National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP).
The main components of this initiative are:
- Characterizing India’s geological cover,
- Investigating lithospheric architecture,
- Resolving 4D geodynamic and metallogenic evolution, and
- Detecting and characterizing the distal footprints of ore deposits.