Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves inclusion of the communities ‘Parivara and Talawara’ in the list of STs in Karnataka
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves Central Sector “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” for sericulture sector
- Cabinet approves North-East Industrial Development Scheme 2017
- Government launches Sand Mining Framework to check illegal extraction
Issues related to Health & Education
- Cabinet approves Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission
- Cabinet approves continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves closure of India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians
- Cabinet approves revision of DTAA between India and Qatar
- Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) celebrates its 18th Foundation Day
Science & Technology
- TCIL to set up US arm for Google project
Key Facts for Prelims
- 18 new missions in Africa by 2021
- 22nd March: World Water Day
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves inclusion of the communities ‘Parivara and Talawara’ in the list of STs in Karnataka
The Union Cabinet has given its in principle approval for inclusion of communities, namely ‘Parivara and Talawara’ as synonym of Nayaka at in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) of Karnataka.
- This approval fulfils long term demand of these communities for granting ST status in Karnataka.
- With this inclusion, persons belonging to these communities will be eligible to get ST certificate from Karnataka.
- They will also be eligible for all benefits meant for ST in state.
- Scheduled Tribes are notified under Article 342 of Constitution.
- Karnataka Government had recommended for inclusion of Parivara and Talawara communities as synonyms of ‘Nayaka’ in list STs of state.
- The first specification of STs in relation to particular State/Union territory is by notified Order of President, after consultation with concerned state government/UT.
- Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from and other modifications in list of STs can be made only through amending Act of Parliament.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves Central Sector “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” for sericulture sector
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for Central Sector Scheme “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” for the next three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
- The scheme will be implemented through Central Silk Board (CSB).
Highlights of the scheme:
- The scheme aims to achieve self-sufficiency in silk production by 2022. To achieve this, production of high grade silk in India will reach 20,650 MTs by 2022 from the current level of 11,326 MTs thereby reducing imports to Zero.
- The core objective of the scheme is to improve the productivity and quality of silk through R&D intervention.
- The focus of R&D intervention is to promote improved crossbreed silk and the import substitute Bivoltine silk so that Bivotine silk production in India enhances to such a level that raw silk imports become nil by 2022 thereby making India self-sufficient in silk.
- Use of silkworm by-products (pupa) for poultry feed, sericin for cosmetic applications and product diversification into non-woven fabrics, silk denim, silk knit etc. will be given thrust for added value realisation.
- Under Seed Sector, Seed Production Units will be equipped and strengthened to bring in quality standards in production network, besides increasing the production capacity to cater to the increased silk production target.
- All the beneficiaries under the scheme from silk farmers, seed producers and chawkirearers will be brought on a DBT mode with Aadhaar linkage. A Helpline will be set up for timely redressal of grievances and all outreach programmes.
- Brand Promotion of Indian silk will be encouraged through quality certification by Silk Mark not only in the domestic market but in the Export market as well.
Benefits of the scheme:
- The scheme will promote Women Empowerment and livelihood opportunities to SC/ST and other weaker sections of the society.
- The scheme will help to increase productive employment from 85 lakhs to 1 crore persons by 2020.
Cabinet approves North-East Industrial Development Scheme 2017
The Cabinet has approved the North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 with financial outlay of Rs 3,000 crores upto March, 2020.
- The newly introduced scheme shall promote industrialization in the States of the North Eastern Region and will boost employment and income generation.
Highlights of the scheme:
- Central Capital Investment Incentive for Access to Credit (CCIIAC):30% of the investment in Plant & Machinery with an upper limit of Rs.5 Crore on the incentive amount per unit.
- Central Interest Incentive (Cll):3% on working capital credit advanced by eligible Banks/ Financial institutions for first 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
- Central Comprehensive Insurance Incentive (CCII):Reimbursement of 100% insurance premium on insurance of building and Plant & Machinery for 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
- Goods and Service Tax (GST) Reimbursement:Reimbursement up to the extent of Central Govt. share of CGST and IGST for 5 Years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
- Income-Tax (IT) Reimbursement:Reimbursement of Centre’s share of income tax for first 5 years including the year of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
Additionally, transport and employment incentives are also provided under the scheme.
Purpose of NEIDS 2017
- Promote industrialization:It will promote industrialization in North Eastern Region (NER) states including Sikkim and will boost income generation and employment.
- Promote employment: For this, government is incentivizing primarily MSME Sector through this scheme. It is also providing specific incentive through scheme to generate employment.
- Benefits to industrial units: It will provide various incentives and benefits to all eligible industrial units. The overall cap for benefits under all components of incentives will be of Rs. 200 crores per unit.
Government launches Sand Mining Framework to check illegal extraction
The Union Ministry of Mines has launched Sand Mining Framework to help states deal with the sand mining issues, including demand supply deficit and illegal extraction.
- It was launched at the third National Conclave on Mines & Minerals held in New Delhi.
Objectives of framework:
- The main objective of framework is to assist states in arriving at best possible options before them.
- It also seeks to addresses issues of state objectives, demand-supply assessment and measures to sand availability, allocation model, transportation and monitoring mechanism.
- Besides, it also includes suggestions for faster clearances and approvals and using its interventions in complete process chain of sand mining.
- It also lays emphasis on alternatives of sand i.e. manufactured sand, import of sand etc.
Need for such framework:
- Sand is an important component for housing, infrastructure projects and construction activities.
- There have been various issues across the country in mining activities related to sand like non availability of sand, environmental degradation, high sand prices, illegalities in sand mining etc.
- The natural endowment of sand across many states is unable to meet the demand and is coupled with unease of extraction issues, pricing and illegalities in mining.
So there was need of uniform framework to help states to frame their policies, taking into consideration their objectives, endowments and state deployment of resources.[Ref: Economic Times, Business Standard]
Issues related to Health & Education
Cabinet approves Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission
The Union Cabinet has approved launch of Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM).
- The scheme will integrate two on-going centrally sponsored schemes viz. Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).
Key Features of AB-NHPM:
- AB-NHPM aims to target over 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) database.
- It will cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year, taking care of almost all secondary care and tertiary care procedures. There will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme.
- It includes pre and post-hospitalisation expenses.
- It will cover all pre-existing conditions from beginning of the policy.
- It will also pay defined transport allowance per hospitalization to the beneficiary.
- The scheme allows the beneficiary to take cashless benefits from any public or private empanelled hospitals across the country.
- The payment for treatment will be done on package rate which will be defined by Government in advance basis. The package rates will include all the costs associated with treatment.
- To ensure that funds reach SHA on time, transfer of funds from Central Government through AB-NHPMA to State Health Agencies may be done through an escrow account directly.
- The scheme will work in partnership with NITI Aayog to operationalise a robust, modular and interoperable IT platform which will involve a paperless and cashless transaction.
- For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) will be set up at apex level. It will be chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
- It is entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on basis of deprivation criteria in SECC database.
- Different categories of families covered under scheme are Families having only one room with kucha walls and kucha roof, families having no adult member between age 16 to 59, female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59, disabled member and no able bodied adult member in family, SC/ST households, landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour.
- It will also automatically include families in rural areas having any one of the following- households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups or legally released bonded labour.
- For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories will be entitled under scheme.
- States/UTs will have also flexibility to modify these rates within limited bandwidth. For beneficiaries, it will be cashless and paper less transaction.
- States will be required to form State Health Agency (SHA) to implement scheme and at district level also, a structure for implementation of the scheme will be set up
Role of state governments:
- They will be allowed to expand the scheme both horizontally and vertically. They will be free to choose modalities for implementation.
- They can implement through insurance company or directly through Trust/ Society or a mixed model.
Cabinet approves continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) from April 2017 to March 2020.
What is RUSA?
- Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
What are the objectives of RUSA?
The salient objectives of RUSA are to;
- Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
- Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
- Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
- Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
- Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
- Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
- Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in unserved & underserved areas.
- Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons.
Funding process of the RUSA:
- The central funding (in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, 90:10 for special category states and 100% for union territories) would be norm based and outcome dependent.
- The funding would flow from the central ministry through the state governments/union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions.
- The funding to states would be made on the basis of critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which would describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education.
Achievements of RUSA:
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves closure of India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for closure of India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI) to enhance synergies in channelizing Diaspora’s contributions to Government of India’s various flagship programmes.
About IDF- OI:
IDF-OI was set up by Government of India with the approval of Cabinet in 2008 as an autonomous not-for-profit Trust, to facilitate Overseas Indian philanthropy into social and development projects in India.
- Later, promotion of Government of India’s Flagship programmes – National Mission for Clean Ganga and Swachh Bharat Mission; and Social and Development projects identified by State Governments – was added to the mandate of IDF-OI.
- IDF-OI receives a Grant-in-Aid from the Government of India for meeting its operational expenses and administrative costs for its activities and outreach. Therefore, IDF-OI does not deduct any operational or administrative charges from the contributions it receives from Overseas Indians.
- The Trust is exempt from provisions of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 of the Ministry of Home Affairs which enables IDF-OI to receive foreign contributions.
- IDF-OI is chaired by External Affairs Minister.
Need for this move:
- As the Foundation received only Rs. 36.80 Lakhs between December 2008 and March 2015 as donation from overseas Indian community, a comprehensive review of IDF-OI was undertaken in 2015.
- Although, between April 2015 and March 2018, the Trust received Rs.10.16 crore, most of the contribution received were for either projects related to National Mission for Clean Ganga or Swachh Bharat Mission, which are separately administered by their respective Administrative Agencies.
Therefore, in order to enhance synergies, improve efficiencies and avoid duplication of work, it was decided that the Trust would be closed.[Ref: PIB]
Cabinet approves revision of DTAA between India and Qatar
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for revision existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Qatar.
- The purpose of revision is for avoidance of double taxation and for prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
- The existing DTAA between India and Qatar was signed in April 1999 and came into force in January, 2000. The
What is Treaty Shopping?
- Under Treaty Shopping, a resident of third country invests by taking advantage of fiscal treaty between India and another contracting state. This has greatly contributed in encouraging FDI in country but has been medium of tax evasion.
- The roots of Treaty shopping are in inconsistencies among international tax regimes.
- If there is dissimilarity of tax systems, it can lead to distortion of investment flows.
- It can be controlled by introduction of limitation of benefit clause (LOB) and other clauses which limit benefits to residents of two countries only.
Location of Qatar:
- Qatar is a sovereign country located in Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf.
- An arm of the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island country of Bahrain.
Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) celebrates its 18th Foundation Day
The Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) is celebrating its 18th Foundation Day.
The Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) was established in 2000 under an agreement between the Governments of India and United States of America.
- It is an autonomous and not-for-profit society.
- It has a mandate to promote, catalyze and seed bilateral collaboration in science, technology, engineering and biomedical research through substantive interaction amongst government, academia and industry.
- IUSSTF has the ability, agility and flexibility to engage and involve industry, private R&D labs; and non governmental entities in its evolving activity manifold.
- This operational uniqueness allows the IUSSTF to receive grants and contributions from independent sources both in India and USA, besides the assured core funding from the two governments.
- IUSSTF currently implements a portfolio of “four” broad program verticals – Scientific Networks, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Research and Development and Visitation Programs.
Science & Technology
TCIL to set up US arm for Google project
The Cabinet has approved setting up of a US subsidiary of the state-run telecom consultancy company TCIL for providing techno-commercial and logistic support for three Google projects for America.
About Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd.(TCIL):
- TCIL is a leading IS/ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 certified Govt. of India Undertaking incorporated in 1978 under the Administrative control of Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, Govt. of India.
- It is a Miniratna company.
- It was set up to give consultations in fields of Telecommunications to developing countries around the world.
- TCIL has been undertaking various projects in all fields of telecommunications and information technology and also continuously deploying new technologies in the field of Telecom Software, Switching and Transmission Systems, Cellular Services, Rural Telecommunications, Optical Fiber based Backbone Transmission Systems etc.
- TCIL has diversified its operation and has been executing turnkey projects of Power Transmission, Rural Roads and Civil Construction.
- TCIL is one of the few companies, which have been roped in to execute “Google Fiber”, Google’s “Fiber-tothe-Premises Project” in the US for providing high capacity broadband internet and cable television to all the cities.
What is Google Fiber?
- Google Fiber is part of the Access division of Alphabet Inc.
- It provides fiber-to-the-premises service in the United States, providing broadband Internet and IPTV to a small and slowly increasing number of locations.
- Google Fiber offers five options, depending on location: a free Internet option, a 100 Mbit/s option, a 1 Gbit/s Internet option, and an option including television service (in addition to the 1 Gbit/s Internet) and an option for home phone.
- The service was first introduced to the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Key Facts for Prelims
18 new missions in Africa by 2021
- The Union Cabinet has approved opening of 18 new Indian Missions in Africa over four year period from 2018-2021.
- The decision will enhance India’s diplomatic outreach and increase its footprints in resource-rich African continent. It will allow India to engage with Indian diaspora in African countries.
- It will further enhance cooperation to implement commitments of India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III).
22nd March: World Water Day
- World Water Day is being observed globally today (22nd March).
- The theme of this year is ‘Nature for Water’ and exploring nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water challenges that we are currently facing.
- The campaign which is being run by UN is being called ‘The answer is in nature’ and the motto is to raise awareness on how we nations together can save water by following nature based solutions.
- The United Nations organisation sets a theme each year.
- World Water Day is part of a global mission to get safer water for all. It’s a day for people to learn, get involved and take action.
- The WWD was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.
- Later, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as World Water Day in 1993 following a resolution taken in Rio, Brazil in 1992. This is the 25th year, and it’s organised by UN Water in collaboration with governments and partners.
- The goals of World Water Day are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, a program which targets bringing safe drinking water and clean sanitation to everyone around the world.