Polity & Governance
- Union Cabinet approves raising Extra Budgetary Resources to augment infrastructure spending
- Cabinet approves enactment of Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill 2016
- CCEA approves Capital Grant to GAIL to develop Gas Infrastructure in Eastern part of the country
- Cabinet approves USOF support to BSNL for Rural Wire-line connections
- IWAI Signs Contract with DST
Environment & Ecology
- Wildlife panel clears first phase of Ken-Betwa project
- Cabinet approves the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016
Bilateral & International Relations
- Agreement between India and Samoa for exchange of information with respect to Taxes
Key Facts for Prelims
- Hindustan Diamond Company Private Limited
- Incredible India Tourism Investors Summit-2016
- 5th BIRAC Innovators Meet
Polity & Governance
Union Cabinet approves raising Extra Budgetary Resources to augment infrastructure spending
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for raising a total of Rs. 31,300 crore in the financial year 2016-17 and to service the principal and interest against the Extra Budgetary Resources (EBR) of Rs. 16,300 crore by Government of India to augment infrastructure spending.
- Out of the EBR of Rs. 31,300 crore, it is proposed to finance funds to be raised by Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), Power Finance Corporation (PFC), Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
- This implies that interest and principal in respect of the EBR of Rs. 16,300 crore will be financed by Union Government by making suitable budget provisions.
Objective of the move:
- The move is intended to supplement the efforts of the Government to improve infrastructure spending and to improve the revenue-capital mix of the expenditure for a more sustainable growth.
Infrastructure spending is one of the key parameters to judge the sustainability of growth in a country.
- The proportion of Capital expenditure to the total expenditure is the yardstick to measure this.
- In line with this approach, an announcement was made in the Budget Speech 2016-17 that in order to augment infrastructure spending further.
- For this, Government will permit mobilisation of additional finances to the extent of 31,300 crore by NHAI, PFC, REC, IREDA, NABARD and Inland Water Authority through raising of Bonds during 2016-17.
Cabinet approves enactment of Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill 2016
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to enact Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill 2016.
- The proposal to enact to this bill was forwarded by Union Ministry of Shipping to repeal five archaic admiralty statutes.
What is Admiralty jurisdiction?
- Admiralty jurisdiction is related to the powers of the High Courts in respect of claims associated with transport by sea and navigable waterways.
- The Bill consolidates the existing laws relating to admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, admiralty jurisdiction of courts, arrest of vessels and related issues.
- This legislative proposal will also fulfil a long-standing demand of the maritime legal fraternity.
- It also repeals five obsolete British statues on admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters. They are:
- Admiralty Court Act, 1840
- Admiralty Court Act, 1861,
- Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890,
- Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1891, and
- Provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865
Salient Features of Admirability Bill, 2016:
- Confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India, thus extending their upto territorial waters.
- The jurisdiction will be extendable by the Union Government notification upto exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or any other maritime zone or islands constituting part of India.
- It applies to every vessel irrespective of place of domicile or residence of owner. It does not apply to naval auxiliary, warships and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.
- Inland vessels and vessels under construction are excluded from its application. But it empowers Union Government to make it applicable to these vessels also by a notification.
- It lists the jurisdiction for adjudicating on a set of maritime claims. A vessel can be arrested in certain circumstances in order to ensure security against a maritime claim.
- India is a leading maritime nation and maritime transportation caters to about 95% of its merchandise trade volume.
- However, the admiralty jurisdiction of Indian courts under the present statutory framework flow from laws enacted in the British era.
- The repealing of five archaic admiralty statutes is in line with the Union Government’s commitment to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance.
CCEA approves Capital Grant to GAIL to develop Gas Infrastructure in Eastern part of the country
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the partial capital grant of 5176 crore rupees to GAIL (India) Limited for development of 2539 km long Jagdishpur-Haidia and Bokaro-Dhamra Gas Pipeline (JHBDPL) project.
- This grant is 40% of the total estimated capital cost of 12940 crore rupees.
About the JHBDPL project:
- JHBDPL project will connect Eastern part of the country with National Gas Grid.
- It will ensure the availability of clean and eco-friendly fuel i.e. Natural Gas to the industrial, commercial and transport sectors in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
- This Capital Grant will encourage the supply of eco-friendly fuel at affordable tariffs to industries and will encourage industrial development in these states.
Cabinet approves USOF support to BSNL for Rural Wire-line connections
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal to extend subsidy support of Rs. 1,250 crore to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), as compensation for deficit incurred by BSNL in operating the Rural Wire-line connections installed prior to 1st April, 2002.
- The Cabinet also approved that the above subsidy support would be the last and final payment and no further request from BSNL for financial/subsidy support from USOF on this count shall be considered.
- In order to make Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) eligible for subsidy funding on nomination basis from USOF, amendment will be required in Rule 526 of the Indian Telegraph Rules (ITRs), 1951.
- It stipulates that the criteria for selection of Universal Service Providers shall be made by bidding process from amongst eligible entities for implementation of USOF schemes. Corresponding Amendment in Rule 525 will also be required.
- USOF since its inception in 2002 has been providing subsidy for BSNL for the rural wire line connections installed prior to 1.4.2002. A total of Rs. 8,692 crore has been extended as USOF subsidy support till date, for the rural wire-line connections, installed by BSNL prior to 1.4.2002.
About Universal Service Obligation Fund:
USOF, established in 2002, provides effective subsidies to ensure telegraph services are provided to everyone across India, especially in the rural and remote areas.
- It is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
- Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
- The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for NOFN were made an exception to this process since BBNL was the sole party involved in the implementation having being specifically created for it.
IWAI Signs Contract with DST
With its objective of providing safe, environment friendly and economical mode of transportation through National Waterway-1 (NW-1), the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), Ministry of Shipping has signed a contract with M/s DST, Germany to design vessels, especially suited to navigate the 1620 km stretch of NW-1.
Government is developing NW-1 under the Jal Marg Vikas Project, with assistance from the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs. 4,200 crore.
- The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tons. Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch.
- The project includes development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals at Varanasi, Haldia, and Sahibganj, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking, construction of a new state of the art navigational lock at Farakka etc.
Environment & Ecology
Wildlife panel clears first phase of Ken-Betwa project
India’s first interstate river interlinking project was given a go-ahead by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).
- The Ken is the last tributary of the Yamuna before it joins the Ganga — 87% of it lies in Madhya Pradesh and 12% in Uttar Pradesh.
- The Betwa is an interstate river that rises in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh — 68% of it lies in that state before it flows towards Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh. This too is a tributary of the Yamuna.
About the proposed river linking project:
Under the proposed river linking project, the Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh, which flows into the Yamuna, will receive surplus water from the river Ken that originates in Uttar Pradesh and then runs south across Madhya Pradesh.
- The Davdhan dam is to be built on the Ken near its source.
- The project envisages construction of a dam across river Ken in Madhya Pradesh for various purposes like irrigation, hydropower generation and supply of drinking water.
- The reason why the Ken-Betwa link was the first to get off the ground is that it is the shortest.
- This would be the first time that a river project will be located within a tiger reserve.
- The Rs. 10,000-crore Ken-Betwa project will irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand region but in the process will also submerge about 10 per cent of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, feted as a model tiger-conservation reserve.
Cabinet approves the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016
The Union Cabinet has approved the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.
- The Order empowers National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to take action against polluting industries. So far, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had powers to take actions.
Highlights of order:
- Envisages creation of National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) as an Authority under Prime Minister as Chairperson.
- The new authority will be replacing the existing NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority).
- Declares NMCG as an Authority with powers to issue directions and also to exercise the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
- Delegates financial and administrative powers to NMCG to accelerate the process of project implementation for Ganga rejuvenation.
- It will have overall responsibility for superintendence of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of river Ganga Basin.
- Sets up an Empowered Task Force chaired by Union Minister of Water Resources along with other ministries, departments and State governments concerned in protection of Ganga.
- Lays down a new institutional structure for policy and implementation in fast track manner.
- The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) Phase-I was launched in 1985 and later GAP Phase-II was initiated in 1993 with the objective of improving the water quality of river Ganga and was later expanded to include some of its tributaries also.
- In May, 2015, the Government approved the Namami Gange programme as a comprehensive mechanism to take up initiatives for rejuvenation of river Ganga and its tributaries as a Central Sector Scheme with hundred per cent funding by the Union Government.
Bilateral & International Relations
Agreement between India and Samoa for exchange of information with respect to Taxes
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of Agreement between India and Samoa for the exchange of information with respect to Taxes.
- The Agreement will stimulate the flow of exchange of information between India and Samoa for tax purposes which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Salient features of the Agreement:
- The Agreement enables the competent authorities of India and Samoa to provide assistance through exchange of information that is foreseeably relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic laws of the two countries concerning taxes covered by this Agreement.
- The information received under the Agreement shall be treated as confidential and may be disclosed only to persons or authorities (including courts or administrative bodies) concerned with assessment, collection, enforcement, prosecution or determination of appeals in relation to taxes covered under the Agreement. Information may be disclosed to any other person or entity or authority or jurisdiction with the prior written consent of the information sending country.
- The Agreement also provides for Mutual Agreement Procedure “for resolving any difference or for agreeing on procedures under the Agreement.
- The Agreement shall enter into force on the date of notification of completion of the procedures required by the respective laws of the two countries for entry into force of the Agreement.
- The Central Government is authorized under section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for exchange of information for the prevention of evasion or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income-tax Act, 1961.
Key Facts for Prelims
Hindustan Diamond Company Private Limited
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for initiating the process of winding up of Hindustan Diamond Company Private Limited (HDCPL), a 50:50 joint venture of the Government of India and De Beers Centenary Mauritius Limited (DBCML).
The winding up of HDCPL will not affect supply of rough diamonds to Indian diamantaires as Indian diamond industry has grown in these years. Besides, the HDCPL had become inconsistent with changing times to facilitate the constant supply of rough diamonds and to make India an International Diamond Trading Hub.
Incredible India Tourism Investors Summit-2016
- “Incredible India Tourism Investment Summit (IITIS) 2016” has been organized by the Ministry of Tourism in New Delhi.
- IITIS is a platform for domestic and international investors to meet project owners from across Indian states and the private sector.
- It will host presentations of investible properties, session on why invest in India, Micro of Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) in tourism sector.
5th BIRAC Innovators Meet
- Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Undertaking under the aegis of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), is organizing its 5th Innovator’s Meet in New Delhi.
- BIRAC Innovator’s Meet is an industry-academia interface facilitating national and global partners, providing innovators access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes.
- This would help in bringing innovation excellence to Indian biotech firms, make them globally competitive and facilitate novel, high quality and cost-effective affordable technologies.
- Theme for the year 2016 is: ‘Biotech Innovation Ecosystem – Strategizing the Next Leap’.