Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves setting up of National Commission for Socially and Educationally backward classes
- NCST Approves Proposal for Five Additional Seats for Tribals in Sikkim Assembly
- Corporate funding norms for political parties eased
- Jobs impact of ‘Make In India’ under review
- ‘Help speed up resolution of commercial disputes’
Environment & Ecology
- Sea ice hits record winter low
Science & Technology
- Solar-powered skin for prosthetic limbs
Key Facts for Prelims
- 2017 Abel Prize
- World TB Day 2017
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves setting up of National Commission for Socially and Educationally backward classes
The Union Cabinet approved setting up of National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEBC) as a constitutional body.
- In this regard, constitutional amendment bill for amending Constitution mainly by insertion of Article 338B will be soon introduced in the Parliament.
Union Cabinet has approved:
- Creation of a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEBC) under new Article 338 B.
- Composition of the new NSEBC will include Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three other Members.
- Insertion of provision after Article 341 and 342 by inserting Article 342 A to provide for Parliament’s approval for every inclusion into and exclusion from the Central List of Other Backward Class (OBCs).
- Insertion of a new Clause (26C) under Article 366 of the Constitution to define Socially and Educationally Backward Classes;
- Repealing of National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 and Rules framed under it.
- Dissolution of the Commission constituted under the Act of 1993
There have been demands in Parliament for grant of constitutional status to the NCBC to enable it to hear the grievances of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the same manner like that of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (constituted under Article 338) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (constituted under Article 338A) hear complaint.[Ref: The Hindu]
NCST Approves Proposal for Five Additional Seats for Tribals in Sikkim Assembly
National Commission for Schedule Tribes (NCST) has approved the proposal for five additional seat for tribals in Sikkim assembly.
- Out of the proposed additional eight seats, five seats would be reserved for Limbu and Tamang tribes.
- At present, there are 32 members in Sikkim assembly and it would be increased to 40. Reserve seats for STs are increased from 12 to 17.
About National Commission for Schedule Tribes (NCST):
- NCST was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
- By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
- The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge.
- The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the ranks of a Secretary to the Government of India.
- NCST is empowered to investigate and monitor matters relating to safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. order.
- The Commission is also authorized to inquire into specific complaints relating to rights and safeguards of STs and to participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to socio-economic development of STs and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and States.
- The commission submits its report to the President annually on the working of safeguards and measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to welfare and socio-economic development of STs.
Corporate funding norms for political parties eased
The government has moved several amendments to the Finance Bill of 2017.
- In a significant change to electoral funding norms, corporate donations to political parties will no longer face any ceiling linked to firms’ profitability.
- Moreover, companies will no longer be obliged to inform their shareholders which party’s coffers they contribute to.
- The government has also included an amendment to the Companies Act of 2013 to do away with the 7.5% of net profits limit set on donations and the requirement for a company to disclose the name of political parties to which they donate.
- A clause has also been inserted in the Companies law to make it mandatory for all corporate donations to political parties to be made by a cheque, electronic means, a bank draft or any other instrument notified by the government.
- As of now, companies can only contribute up to 7.5% of their average net profits in the past three financial years to political parties.
- Moreover, they are required to disclose the amount of contributions made and the names of the political parties to which they were made, in their profit and loss accounts.
Jobs impact of ‘Make In India’ under review
The Centre is working on a ‘compliance report” of its flagship ‘Make In India’ (MII) initiative that attempts to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub as well as generate large-scale employment.
The objective of the exercise, among other things, is to find out whether the government departments and agencies implementing the MII programme are meeting the deadlines envisaged in the ‘MII Action Plan’ of December 2014.
Need for assessment:
- Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce wanted an assessment to be done on how the MII initiative has helped the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises.
- It recommended that dedicated steps should be taken to ensure that FDI promotes the MSME sector, and sought to know the factors behind the Foreign Portfolio Investments turning negative and its impact on the Indian industry.
- The panel also wanted to learn if the MII initiative has seized the opportunity of demographic dividend in the country.
- The MII initiative covers 25 focus sectors ranging from automobiles to wellness.
- At a national workshop held in December 2014 on these 25 sectors, an Action Plan was finalised with the help of Secretaries to the Indian Government as well as industry leaders.
- The ‘MII Action Plan’ had set short-term (one year) and medium-term (three years) targets “to boost investments in the 25 sectors” and to “raise the contribution of the manufacturing sector to 25% of the GDP by 2020.”
Potential of Manufacturing sector in India:
- As per the National Manufacturing Policy, “the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP has stagnated at 15%-16% since 1980 while the share of comparable economies in Asia is much higher at 25%-34%.”
- According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), “India’s manufacturing sector has the potential to touch $1 trillion by 2025.
- There is potential for the sector to account for 25-30% of the country’s GDP and create up to 90 million domestic jobs by 2025.”
Manufacturing growth in the country has to become robust. However, the manufacturing sector has grown only by an average of 1.6% in the last five years till 2015-16. Appropriate measures should be taken to revive the growth.[Ref: The Hindu]
‘Help speed up resolution of commercial disputes’
The Central government has urged the Supreme Court to provide the necessary leadership for expeditious and effective resolution of commercial disputes in Delhi and Mumbai lower courts, through e-filing and e-service of summons and adherence to time lines.
What needs to be done?
- The Supreme Court could provide the necessary leadership for the proper implementation of the existing provisions of the Civil Procedure Code relating to the grant of adjournments, adherence to time lines and electronic filing and electronic service of summons in city courts of Delhi (11) and Mumbai (60) immediately.
- Doing so will go a long way in providing timely and effective enforcement of contracts and this will undoubtedly ensure a marked improvement in our ranking.
- The government has accorded high priority to improving the ease of doing business and making India a favourable investment destination for the domestic as well as global investors.
- Efficient and effective delivery of justice play a key role.
Environment & Ecology
Sea ice hits record winter low
According to US and European scientists, the extent of sea ice at both poles has hit new record lows for this time of the year.
- The disappearing sea ice comes as the Earth marks three consecutive years of record-breaking heat and temperature rise, raising fresh concerns about the accelerating pace of global warming.
- The ice floating in the Arctic Ocean grows and shrinks on a seasonal cycle every year, reaching its largest size in March and smallest at the end of the summer melt in September.
- But this year’s Arctic maximum spanned 14.42 million sq.km i.e. 95,829 sq.km below the previous record low in 2015. This year’s ice cover is 12,19,884 sq.km smaller compared to average sea ice extent for 1981-2010.
- The Arctic sea ice maximum has dropped by an average of 2.8% per decade since 1979. There was a lot of open ocean water and very slow ice growth because the water had a lot of accumulated.
- The ice in the Antarctic also follows a seasonal cycle but its maximum comes in September and its minimum around February (summer in Southern Hemisphere).
- In the Antarctic, this year’s annual sea ice was 21,10,840 sq.km, about 1,83,889 sq.km below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred in 1997.
- For the past two years, Antarctica saw record high sea ice extents and decades of moderate sea ice growth.
Science & Technology
Solar-powered skin for prosthetic limbs
Researchers including Indian origin from University of Glasgow have developed new prototype prosthetic limbs having solar-powered skin.
- The solar-powered skin will give amputees with prosthetic limbs a better sense capabilities of touch, temperature and texture compared to battery powered prosthetics.
- The new technology involves installing a thin layer of pure carbon around a prosthetic arm, hand or leg. This allows light to pass through it and be easily used as solar energy.
- The sun can provide up to 15 times more energy than is usually needed to power a prosthetic limb. This extra and renewable energy can be used to power sensors.
- These sensors can increase sense and feeling in a limb, so much so that the prosthetic can feel pressure, temperature and texture like natural skin.
- The technology also has potential to increase the functionality of robots, allowing them to have a better understanding of what they touch.
Key Facts for Prelims
2017 Abel Prize
- French mathematician Yves Meyer has won the prestigious 2017 Abel Prize for his pivotal role in the development of the mathematical theory of wavelets (small waves or ripples).
- His theory is used for applications ranging from image compression to the detection of gravitational waves from the merging of black holes.
- It also allowed scientists to create unique wavelet transforms suited to specific signals.
- Wavelets are widely used in signal processing, including in compressing certain formats of JPEG images. They are like their more famous cousins Fourier transforms. They are particularly useful when the goal is to discard some extraneous information (such as low-frequency noise from the universe) while keeping the important signal.
- It is awarded annually by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to one or more outstanding mathematicians.
- It is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. The award was established by the Government of Norway in 2001.
- It is described as the mathematician’s Nobel Prize and is one of the world’s top prizes in mathematics.
- It carries monetary award of 6 million Norwegian kroner (NOK) (around 600,000 Euros).
- Indian American mathematician R. Srinivasa Varadhan was bestowed with this award in 2007 for his fundamental contributions to probability theory and for creating a unified theory of large deviation.
World TB Day 2017
- The World Tuberculosis Day (WTD) is observed every year on March 24 to raise public awareness about the global epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease.
- WTD is observed to commemorate discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacillus (bacteria) causing TB on 24th March, 1882 by German microbiologist Dr Robert Koch.
- It is one of eight official global public health campaigns observed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- 2017 Theme (Campaign): “Unite to End TB”. This year it is second year of a two year “United to End TB” Campaign.
- WHO has placed special focus on uniting efforts to “Leave no one behind” including actions to address stigma, discrimination, marginalization and overcome barriers to access care.