Polity & Governance
- Madras High Court bans ‘Sharia courts’ in Tamil Nadu
- TRAI moots third party aggregator model, 100 mb free for rural users
- Ultrasound devices to be mapped
- Govt revises North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy
Environment & Ecology
- More than 150 new species found in Greater Mekong region
Defence & Security Issues
- Govt mulls merging cyber tribunal with TDSAT
Art & Culture
- Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue unveiled
Key Facts for Prelims
- Saanjhi Saanjh
- India’s economy surpasses Britain
- Vasectomy fortnight
- Country’s first Indian Institute of Skills
Polity & Governance
Madras High Court bans ‘Sharia courts’ in Tamil Nadu
The Madras High Court banned unauthorised Sharia council courts functioning inside mosque premises in Tamil Nadu.
- The court delivered a verdict after hearing a petition from a husband who was allegedly forced to pronounce talaq by one such court in the city.
- The court made it clear that religious places and other places of worships are meant for religious purposes only.
- The court has also asked the Tamil Nadu government to keep close vigil on unauthorised Sharia courts, and ensure that they do not function.
- The state government was asked to file a report in this regard within four weeks.
The Supreme Court had refused to ban Sharia courts in 2014, saying the interpretations made by Islamic judges were not legally binding and they could pass verdicts only when individuals submit to them voluntarily.[Ref: Indian Express]
TRAI moots third party aggregator model, 100 mb free for rural users
The Telecom Authority of India has recommended a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data say 100 MB per month may be made available to rural subscribers for free.
- This move is to bridge the affordability gap for persons residing in rural areas and to support the government’s efforts towards a cashless economy by incentivising digital means.
- The cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- Under USOF, the government charges a cess, Universal Access Levy, from telecom licencees to fund setting up of telecom infrastructure in all uncovered rural and remote areas of the country.
Recommendations made by the TRAI:
- The scheme for free data must be telecom service provider agnostic, and must not involve any arrangement between the service provider and the aggregator/content provider.
- The free scheme should not be designed to circumvent the guidelines on “The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations,” which bans various forms of zero-rating models or schemes that provide free access to data services for subscribers of a particular Internet Service provider for accessing specific content.
- There is a need to introduce third party (aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation. The aggregators, who should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956, need to register with the Department of Telecom. The validity of this registration will be for five years.
- The registrant shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part.
- The free data scheme should be implemented for a definitive period with a clearly defined time limit for each subscriber — free benefit for a fixed number of months for each subscriber. After the expiry of 100 MB of data in a month on a mobile connection, the free data services should be suspended till the beginning of the following month.
Internet and broadband users in India:
Of the over 367 million Internet and broadband users in India, only 32.60% are in rural areas.[Ref: The Hindu]
Ultrasound devices to be mapped
In an attempt to identify unauthorised and unregistered diagnostic centres in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoFW) has decided that all ultrasound machines in States will be mapped.
- The mapping will be carried out by the authorities in States visiting every centre and recording details of the devices.
- The exercise has already been undertaken by some States while others are in process. The idea is to regulate all centres and thus monitor them thoroughly and minimise malpractices.
Why this is necessary?
- Unregulated machines and centres are misused for carrying out illegal sex determination tests. Since they are not registered, they don’t follow the rules of submitting Form F for every case, which is mandatory under the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. While registered centres are mandated to keep all records, the centres running illegally get away with breaking the rules. This is where couples looking for identifying the sex of their baby head to.
What is Form F?
- Form F is a document to be filled by radiologists carrying out ultrasound tests on any pregnant woman.
Significance of this move:
- While regularising the diagnostic facilities is the main aim, curbing sex determination tests and female foeticide is another important aspect of the move, which will help reduce the thousands of unregistered sonography centres that have mushroomed over the years.
Govt revises North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has revised North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIP), 2007.
- The revision of policy stipulates mandatory disbursal of subsidies payable to all industrial units in northeast through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mechanism by Chief Controller of Accounts (Industry).
Highlights of the revised policy:
- Industrial units which had commenced production on or after December 1, 2014 and on or before March 31, 2017 will be eligible for incentives as per the revised norms of subsidy.
- It will also include existing units which go in for substantial expansion and commence commercial production on or before March 2017.
- For this purpose, the industrial units need to get themselves registered on the e-payment portal by providing required bank details.
- The subsidy for the existing and new industrial units going for substantial expansion will be limited Rs 3 crore per industrial unit operating in services sector and Rs 5 crore per industrial unit operating in manufacturing sector.
- The limit for automatic approval of subsidy at the rate of 30% of the investment in plant and machinery will continue to be upto Rs 1.5 crore per unit.
- In case for grant of capital investment subsidy higher than Rs 1.5 crore and upto a maximum of Rs 5 crore will be approved by empowered committee chaired by Secretary, DIPP.
Environment & Ecology
More than 150 new species found in Greater Mekong region
According to a World Wide Fund for Nature report, scientists have discovered 163 new species in the Greater Mekong.
- The report details 163 new species discovered last year in the ecologically diverse tract of Southeast Asia known as the Greater Mekong region.
- These species were discovered in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
- Of the 163 species discovered, 126 were plants. There were also 14 reptile, 11 fish, nine amphibian and three mammal species.
- Between 1997 and 2015, 2,409 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region, a rate of about two new discoveries per week.
- The new species include lizard with dragon-like horns Acanthosaura phuketensis. It was discovered at the Thai tourist island of Phuket.
- New frog species Leptolalax isos which can fit on a fingertip was discovered in Cambodia and Vietnam.
- It also includes eye-catching Parafimbrios lao, a snake with rainbow-like scale colours around its head. It was found in the limestone karsts region of northern Laos.
- A new newt species Tylototriton anguliceps with dazzling red and black markings was also discovered.
About Greater Mekong region:
The Greater Mekong region is an international region of the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia.
- The Greater Mekong region includes parts of southwestern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and
- The region is a magnet for the world’s conservation because of the incredible diversity of species.
- The region has a diverse geographic landscape including massifs, plateaus, and limestone karsts, lowlands, deltas, fertile floodplains, forests and grasslands.
- Though the area is ecologically diverse, wildlife in the area is threatened by dam and road building and the illegal trade of rare and endangered species.
- Some of the traded commodities are used as collector’s items and others in traditional medicine.
Construction is well underway on the Don Sahong Dam in Laos, a project that could have disastrous effects on the last Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins and the millions of people depending on the river’s fisheries.
In Thailand, the proposed Mae Wong dam, presented as a solution to water management issues in Nakhon Sawan province, has the potential to irreparably damage one of country’s most important forest and wetland ecosystems, which also happens to be a critically important tiger habitat.[Ref: TOI]
Defence & Security Issues
Govt mulls merging cyber tribunal with TDSAT
The government is looking to converge the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
- The plan is aimed to merge some of the tribunals into larger entities to avoid identical functions.
- A Cabinet note to this effect will be moved shortly.
Significance of this move:
With growing number of internet users and government move to push for digital payments, it is extremely important to have an efficient cyber dispute settlement mechanism. This move is aimed at making the dispute settlement mechanism more efficient.
- Cyber Appellate Tribunal has been established under the Information Technology Act under the aegis of Controller of Certifying Authorities (C.C.A.).
- As per the IT Act, any person aggrieved by an order made by the Controller of Certifying Authorities, or by an adjudicating officer under this Act may prefer an appeal before the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.
- This Tribunal is headed by a Chairperson who is appointed by the Central Government by notification as provided under Section 49 of the IT Act 2000.
- It was conceived to adjudicate cyber crimes and disputes such as hacking, sending of offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, cheating by personation, violation of privacy, domain name disputes and other cyber fraud cases.
- The tribunal has been vested with the same powers as a civil court, the cases requiring punishment instead of financial penalty are transferred to the magistrate concerned.
- CyAT, however, has been headless since July 2011.
There are 36 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.
Seeking to cut red tape, an inter—ministerial group of secretaries had “unanimously” agreed to reduce the number of tribunals from 36 to 18 as the government feels that most of these bodies are performing “identical functions”.
A Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had some years ago suggested bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Law Ministry.
The Department of Legal Affairs had also recently written to all Union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.[Ref: The Hindu]
Art & Culture
Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue unveiled
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat inaugurated Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue at Haridwar.
Who is Thiruvalluvar?
- Thiruvalluvar is renowned Tamil poet and philosopher-saint believed to have lived between 3rd Century BC and 1st Century BC. This estimate is based on linguistic analysis of his writings, as there is no historical evidence for when and where he lived.
- The Tamil poet Mamulanar of Sangam period has mentioned that Thiruvalluvar was the greatest Tamil scholar.
- He is the author of the book ‘Tirukkural (also known as the Kural), a work on ethics.
- It is one of the most revered ancient literally work in Tamil Language.
- Tirukkural is a classic Tamil sangam literature consisting of 1330 couplets or Kurals. The book is also called as the fifth Veda or ‘Bible of the Tamil Land’.
His other statues:
- Thiruvalluvar’s statute is also at Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu), at southern tip of Indian Peninsula.
- There is also his statue outside the School of Oriental and African studies in Russell Square, London (United Kingdom).
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is a National Newspaper dedicated to Senior Citizen.
- The first issue of this bilingual newspaper was recently released.
- This Newspaper for Senior Citizen is edited by Ms. J.V Manisha Bajaj, Secretary, Harikrit, an NGO for elderly people.
- This newspaper will carry important and useful news pertaining to elderly persons besides inspirational stories. It will serve as a bridge between old and new generations.
India’s economy surpasses Britain
- For the first time in 150 years, Indian Economy has surpassed economy of its erstwhile colonial master United Kingdom in terms of size.
- This is possible because of the Britain’s recent Brexit-related problems vis a vis India’s rapid economic growth.
- Interestingly, economic think-tank Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) had, in December 2011, forecasted that India would become the “fifth largest by 2020” but India has crossed this significant milestone much sooner.
- The government observed ‘Vasectomy Fortnight’ between November 21 and December 4 with the hope to create awareness about male sterilisation and, more importantly, to facilitate district administrations reach sterilisation targets through campaigns.
- At the end of the programme, it was concluded that men were unwilling to share the burden of birth control compared to women. This is besides the fact that sterilisation is simpler in men than women — recovery time and surgical risk are smaller, complications are rare and deaths rarer.
- It should be noted here that of the 40 lakh sterilisation procedures done in 2014-15, vasectomies accounted for minuscule 1.9%.
- Experts maintain that the gap between vasectomy targets and achievements remain unchanged over the years even as country’s fertility and birth rates continue to fall, driven mainly by female sterilisation.
Country’s first Indian Institute of Skills
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stone of the country’s first Indian Institute of Skills (IIS) in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh to make India the Skill Capital of the World.
- The IIS was conceptualised by Modi during his visit to Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education.
- The institute is being opened by the Skill Development Ministry in partnership with the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore.
- The Ministry has decided to have six such institutes.
- PM Modi also inaugurated the Kaushal Pradarshini (Skill Exhibition) for the youth of Uttar Pradesh to portray major skill development initiatives of the Union Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry.