Polity & Governance
- NITI Aayog & Intel India Sign Statement of Intent to Kick-off Atal Tinkering Lab Initiative for Young Innovators
- Ministry of Railways dedicates Newly Developed Deen Dayalu Coach to the Nation
- Permission for visit to restricted areas
- Multiple life sentences can’t be directed to run consecutively, rules SC
- Income-tax department to launch Project Insight in May 2017
- Rural areas pose hurdle for small finance banks
- Centre injects Rs. 22,915 cr into 13 public sector banks
Environment & Ecology
- National Disaster Plan for Animals
Science & Technology
- Centre lets microbeads off the hook
Also in News
- Typhoon Nepartak
Polity & Governance
NITI Aayog & Intel India Sign Statement of Intent to Kick-off Atal Tinkering Lab Initiative for Young Innovators
NITI Aayog has introduced the Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) initiative as a part of its flagship programme the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).
- As part of a crucial effort to efficiently implement the initiative, NITI Aayog signed a Statement of Intent (SoI) with Intel India.
- Intel will co-lead the creation and management of ten ATLs as State Hubs.
- These laboratories intend to impact 250,000 youth with innovation skills & skills for the future across 500 communities & schools.
- Intel will support NITI Aayog in building capacities of mentors and developing linkages with Maker ecosystem for quality improvement of projects made by youth, facilitating ideation, design thinking and prototyping workshops through industry experts and co-lead an innovation festival which reaches out to 500,000 young innovators.
About the Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) initiative:
With a vision to ‘Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’, Atal Innovation Mission is establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools across India.
- The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.
Key Features of ATL:
- ATL is a work space where young minds can give shape to their ideas through hands on do-it-yourself mode; and learn innovation skills.
- Young children will get a chance to work with tools and equipment to understand the concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
- ATL would contain educational and learning ‘do it yourself’ kits and equipment on – science, electronics, robotics, open source microcontroller boards, sensors and 3D printers and computers. Other desirable facilities include meeting rooms and video conferencing facility.
- In order to foster inventiveness among students, ATL can conduct different activities ranging from regional and national level competitions, exhibitions, workshops on problem solving, designing and fabrication of products, lecture series etc. at periodic intervals.
- AIM will provide grant-in-aid that includes a one-time establishment cost of Rs. 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs. 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
- Schools (Grade VI – XII) managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society to set up ATL.
Ministry of Railways dedicates Newly Developed Deen Dayalu Coach to the Nation
Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu dedicated the newly developed Deen Dayalu Coach to the nation.
- The introduction of Deen Dayalu coaches was announced by Shri Suresh Prabhu in Rail Budget 2016-17.
- In the current year, around 700 number of Deen Dayalu coaches have been planned for manufacturing and putting them into service.
- Though the facilities have been enhanced, however, fares have been kept same.
Permission for visit to restricted areas
In a written reply to question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs has stated few facts regarding permission for visit to restricted areas in the country.
- Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 and the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, some areas have been declared as Protected and Restricted Areas for entry and stay of foreigners.
- However, with a view to promote tourism, some areas within the Protected/ Restricted Areas have been opened for tourism purpose, from time to time, which can be visited by foreign tourists, either in groups of two or more or as a couple in the case of husband and wife, or by individuals, after obtaining a special permit from the designated competent authority.
- Powers have been delegated to various authorities to issue such special permit. In the case of individuals visiting the Protected/ Restricted Areas, prior permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs is required for grant of special permit.
- The entire area of the States of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland is excluded from the Protected Area Regime and this relaxation is presently valid till December 2017.
- Review of Protected Area/ Restricted Area Permit regime is a continuous process in consultation with various stakeholders and no specific time line can be fixed for this purpose.
Multiple life sentences can’t be directed to run consecutively, rules SC
The Supreme Court said that an offender cannot be directed to undergo two life sentences consecutively as that would be “anomalous” and “irrational” and will disregard the fact that “humans like all other living beings have but one life to live”.
- The apex court, however, said that multiple sentences for imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other offences punishable with imprisonment for life but such sentences needs to be superimposed over each other so that any remission or commutation granted in one does not ipso facto result in remission of the sentence awarded to the prisoner for the other.
- This Court declared that it was difficult to lay down a straightjacket rule for the exercise of such discretion by the courts. Whether a sentence should run concurrently or consecutively would depend upon the nature of the offence and the facts and circumstances of the case.
Income-tax department to launch Project Insight in May 2017
Project Insight, the income-tax (I-T) department’s ambitious project to effectively utilize the vast amount of information at its disposal more effectively to track tax evaders, will roll out from May 2017.
- As a step in that direction, the tax department has signed a contract with L&T Infotech Ltd for its implementation.
- The project will be rolled out in three phases, with the first phase being implemented from May 2017.
- This integrated platform would play a key role in widening of tax base and data mining to track tax evaders.
- The new technical infrastructure will also be leveraged for implementation of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Inter Governmental Agreement (FATCA IGA) and Common Reporting Standard (CRS).
- This will help in catching tax evaders in a non-intrusive manner and without more intrusive methods like search and seizure.
- Project Insight, through implementation of reporting compliance management system, will ensure that third party reporting by entities like banks and other financial institutions is timely and accurate.
- It will also set up a streamlined data exchange mechanism for other government departments.
- The tax department will also a set up a new centralized processing centre for compliance management. It will handle preliminary verification, generation of bulk letters/notices and follow-up arising from information collated through Project Insight.
- The new CPC will not only promote voluntary compliance but also enable taxpayers to resolve simple compliance related issues in an online manner without visiting the Income tax office.
Rural areas pose hurdle for small finance banks
With merely 8 months remaining to start operations, small finance banks are facing headwinds to open 25 per cent of their total branches in unbanked areas as it will impact their profitability.
RBI’s regulative norms for small finance banks:
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated that the small finance banks have to open at least 25 per cent of their branches in unbanked rural areas within one year of their operations.
- The annual branch expansion plans of the small finance banks for the initial five years would need prior approval of RBI.
Definition of unbanked rural areas:
- As per latest census, unbanked rural areas are the centres having a population less than 9,999.
Concerns raised by the representatives of small finance bank:
- In a recent meeting with the banking regulator, the small finance bank representatives have requested the regulator to give them three years to comply with the norms.
- They argued that most of the small finance banks will be converted from microfinance institutions. MFI branches are much simpler than bank branches. The cost of opening or converting the present branches into full-fledged bank branches is higher.
- The time taken by branches in the unbanked areas to break even will be higher. So, to convert all the present MFI branches into bank branches in one year will be very challenging from the profitability point of view.
- The other issue that is posing a hurdle is that compliance with the Basel norms. According to the guidelines for small finance banks, RBI had said as small finance banks are not expected to deal with sophisticated products, the capital adequacy ratio will be computed under Basel Committee’s standardised approaches.
- In September 2015, RBI granted in-principle licences to 10 entities to start small finance banks. These entities will have to start operations within 18 months, else the licences will lapse. Out of the 10, nine entities were predominantly involved in microlending. Only one entity, out of 10 that received licences, has commenced operations – Jalandhar headquartered Capital Small Finance Bank, which was a local area bank earlier.
What are Small Finance Banks or Microfinance Banks?
- As the name suggests, these banks are mainly set-up to provide credit facility only to the small and marginal farmers, small, medium and micro enterprises and other unorganized sector entities.
- Along with lending money, these banks will provide all other basic banking operations of accepting deposits and distribution of mutual fund schemes, pension funds and insurance products.
- Even though small finance banks are restricted to limited area of operation, they are required to comply with the statutory laws of RBI including requirement of maintenance of Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) and Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) like any other scheduled commercial bank.
- Professionals with 10 years of experience in banking / finance / Micro Finance Institutions.
- The minimum paid-up equity capital requirement for small finance banks were fixed at Rs.100 crore of which not less than 40% should be of promoters.
- Further, these banks are also required to adhere to the FDI guidelines i.e. foreign investment in a small finance banks from all sources should not exceed 74% of the paid-up capital.
Loan Amount under Small Finance Banks:
Though small finance banks do not have any limitations on amount of finance but
- Maximum amount of loan and advances to single/group borrowers/issuers is restricted to 15% of capital funds.
- 75% of the total loans and advances issued by small finance banks in a year should be towards agriculture and small businesses.
- At least 50% of the total loans and advances of the small finance banks should be of Rs.25 lakhs or lesser.
Difference between Payment Banks and Small Finance Banks:
- The major difference between payment banks and small finance banks is their area of operation. Payment bank can only open savings account and current accounts but cannot lend money while small finance bank’s main aim is to lend money to farmers and small businesses.
- Usually, major earnings of the bank come from interest difference between deposits and lending but payment banks would run on different niche and their earnings would be from the charges levied on transactions. But in case of small finance banks, their source of earnings would be same as of any other scheduled commercial banks.
- Payment banks aims to provide banking through high-technology and low-cost operations while small finance banks may or may not be tech-savvy.
Centre injects Rs. 22,915 cr into 13 public sector banks
In a bid to boost credit growth in the economy, the Centre has announced a sum of Rs. 22,915 crore for recapitalisation of 13 public sector banks.
- State Bank of India (SBI) will receive the largest allocation followed by Indian Overseas Bank and Punjab National Bank.
- The infusions required in the current year were assessed from the CAGR of credit growth for the last five years and the banks’ projections of credit growth. The potential for growth of each these banks was also factored in.
- In the Union Budget, the Centre had allocated a total of Rs. 25,000 crore for the capitalisation of public sector banks in the current financial year 2016-17, in line with the infusion plans announced under the umbrella scheme “Indradhanush” introduced last year.
- The plan proposes infusions adding up to Rs. 25,000 crore in 2015-16 as well as in 2016-17, followed by Rs. 10,000 crore each in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Environment & Ecology
National Disaster Plan for Animals
Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has prepared and launched Disaster Management Plan (DMP) for protecting animals and preventing and mitigating loss of livestock resources during various disasters.
- DMP aims to supplement the efforts of States/UTs in managing disasters and lays down the broad guidelines for management of animal during disasters like drought, floods, cyclones, earthquakes and other man-made disasters etc. in the states/UTs.
DMP is divided into three parts:
- Pre-disaster preparedness includes detailed action plan relating to dissemination of early warning, identification of vulnerability amongst livestock, animal vaccination, feed and fodder supply and capacity building of different stake-holders in disaster management etc.
- Disaster response component includes strategy/action plan relating to effective and prompt response, rescue of livestock, feed & fodder supply, measures against epidemics and diseases and maintenance of Sanitation etc.
- Post disaster component include strategy for treatment of sick animals, disease surveillance, disposal of carcass, restoration and restocking of livestock population.
Science & Technology
Centre lets microbeads off the hook
Based on a petition requesting a ban on microbeads, also called microplastics, a National Green Tribunal Bench has asked the Ministries of Health, Environment and Water Resources file their response.
- The United States has promulgated a ban, which will come into effect next July, on cosmetic products containing microbeads.
Key points of the petition:
- The crux of petition is that these plastics are too small to be caught by sewage treatment and water filtration techniques and they pass unchecked into rivers and seas and contaminated them.
- They take centuries to degrade and worse, are sometimes eaten by fish and other aquatic animals and could even make their way into human diets.
What are ‘Microplastics’ or Microbeads?
- Microplastics are plastic pieces or fibres measuring less than five milimetres. The microplastics or microbeads found in personal care products are always smaller than one milimetre.
- According to recent United Nations reports, these are dangerous for the aquatic life and environment.
What are microplastics or microbeads made of?
- Microplastics or microbeads used in personal care products are mainly made of polyethylene (PE), but can be also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.
- They are widely used in cosmetics as exfoliating agents and in personal care products such as toothpaste, as well as in biomedical and health science research.
- In simple words, these microbeads are so small that a person can barely feel them.
- Their roundness and particle size create a ball-bearing effects in creams and lotions, resulting in a silky texture and spread ability.
Why is it used for?
- Microbeads have been used to replace natural exfoliating materials.
- Their usage becoming more rampant because of their microspheres in different colours add visual appeal to cosmetic products.
What is the danger for them?
- Microbeads- largely non-biodegradable- flow through sewer systems and end up in seas and oceans, where they contribute to the huge chunk of plastic soup in the environment.
- Microbeads are also likely to be transported to wastewater treatment plants. Due to their small size, substantial portion passes through filtration system and enters aquatic environment.
Need for ban:
- Due to the unregulated production and usage of plastics in microbeads in various cosmetic products available in the market and the excessive usage of such products by the end users is leading to water pollution across the globe.
- Besides, after being washed down the drain, microbeads flow through sewer systems around the world before making their way into rivers and canals and ultimately, straight into the seas and oceans, where they contribute to the huge chunk of plastic soup in the environment.
Also in News
China has sacked three officials for poorly coping with super typhoon Nepartak, which killed at least 83 people and caused economic losses of over 7.1 billion yuan ($1.06 billion) in east China’s Fujian province.
- Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength over warm waters and dissipating over land.