Polity & Governance
- The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016
- The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha
- Rajnath Singh chairs meeting of Island Development Agency
- Supreme Court to rethink on a few Lodha ‘reforms’
- Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha
Issues related to Health & Education
- FSSAI bans stapler pins in tea bags from January 2018
- 223 anti-dumping probes initiated by India since January 2012
Science & Technology
- Human antibodies produced in lab for first time
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s first wind farm
- Aarambh app for Road maintenance
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Polity & Governance
The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016
Parliament has passed The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016.
What are Admiralty laws?
- Admiralty laws deal with cases of accidents in navigable waters or involve contracts related to commerce on such waters.
- The Bill seeks to upgrade existing laws related to civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction of courts, maritime claims, arrest and detention of ships.
- It repeals laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.
Key Features of the Bill:
- The bill confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India, thus extending their upto territorial waters.
- It empowers central government to extend the jurisdiction of these High Courts. Under the earlier laws enacted during the colonial era, the admiralty was only by the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
- The bill now extends the provisions of admiralty jurisdiction 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.
- It empowers High Courts to exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of conditions such as disputes regarding ownership of a vessel, mortgage on a vessel, construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel, disputes between co-owners of a vessel regarding employment or earnings of the vessel, disputes arising out of the sale of a vessel, and environmental damage caused by the vessel, etc.
- 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.
The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced in the Lok Sabha the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which empowers the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to resolve stressed assets clogging the banking system.
What will the new Bill do?
- The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2017 will amend The Banking Regulation Act 1949, giving the government power to authorise the Reserve Bank of India to issue directions to banks in order to initiate insolvency resolution in case of a default.
- Under the provisions of the Bill, the government can also authorise the RBI to issue directions to banks with regard to resolution of stressed assets and allow it to name one or more committees to provide them with advice in order to do so.
- Before the Bill was introduced in Parliament, the NPA ordinance amended The Banking Regulation Act 1949 in the same way. Ordinances, however, have to be approved by Parliament within six weeks of session following the introduction.
- Apart from empowering the RBI in the above-mentioned ways, the Bill will also give RBI the authority to refer NPA cases to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board.
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code provides for a time-bound resolution of defaults and stressed assets, either by restructuring a loan or liquidating the borrower’s assets.
- The RBI in June identified 12 defaulters all over the country, who accounted for 25 percent of all bad loans in the banking system and is currently focusing on resolving their cases.
Need for the introduction of this Bill:
Stressed assets in the banking system have reached unacceptably high levels and hence, urgent measures were required for their speedy resolution.
- Therefore, the government considered it necessary to make provisions in the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 for authorizing the Reserve Bank of India to issue directions to any banking company or banking companies to effectively use the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 for timely resolution of stressed assets.
Rajnath Singh chairs meeting of Island Development Agency
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the first meeting of the newly constituted Island Development Agency (IDA).
- At the meeting, he presented the vision for developing India’s maritime economy while preserving the natural eco-system and addressing the security concerns.
- The IDA was set up on June 1 this year following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting for the development of islands.
- The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister.
- Members of the IDA include cabinet secretary, home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).
What has been discussed?
- The Concept Development Plans and Detailed Master Plans are being prepared for identified islands with principles of sustainability, people’s participation, eco-system preservation and determination of carrying capacity as the guiding principles. Such an exercise is being taken up for the first time in the country.
- During the meeting, the progress being made for the formulation of integrated master plans and other matters concerning the islands development were reviewed.
- It was also decided that Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and administrator of Lakshadweep Islands will be included as members of IDA.
- After detailed consultations with key stakeholders, 10 islands namely Smith, Ross, Aves, Long and Little Andaman in Andaman & Nicobar and Minicoy, Bangaram, Suheli, Cherium and Tinnakara in Lakshadweep have been identified for holistic development in the first phase.
With this meeting, the efforts for holistic development of Islands of India received a major boost.[Ref: Business Standard]
Supreme Court to rethink on a few Lodha ‘reforms’
The Supreme Court is all set to revisit, if not modify, some key recommendations Justice R.M. Lodha Committee to usher in transparency in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the cricket administration.
- The Court has said that it would hear the BCCI, the State cricket associations and member bodies on issues such as “memberships, number of votes” in an effort to make the running of “cricket, the gentleman’s game” come as close to perfect as possible.
- Meanwhile, the court has exhorted the BCCI and its members to implement the Lodha reforms as regards all issues other than the ones flagged for further debate in court.
- Following allegations of corruption, match fixing and betting scandals in cricket in the country, the Supreme Court of India appointed a three-panel member led by Justice R M Lodha in January 2015 to look into the functioning of BCCI and suggest reforms.
- The Lodha Committee, in January 2016, released its list of reforms which had some major contentious points. The reforms were contested by several BCCI post holders.
What are the contentious proposals?
- The possibility of one state, one vote became the biggest point of debate among several others; restriction on ministers and civil servants and those above 70 from becoming its members and cooling off period were some other major contentions.
What are the initial basic recommendations made by the Lodha Panel?
These are the things suggested by the board:
- BCCI office bearer can work not more than two continuous terms
- President of the BCCI cannot hold his post for more than two years
- BCCI personnel cannot be a government minister
- Proposition of one vote per state and no proxy voting
- Separate governing body for BCCI and IPL
- Legalisation of betting
What were the recommendations accepted by the BCCI?
- The induction of the representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General as the member of the Apex Council and the IPL Governing Council.
- The formation of the Apex Council – to replace the working committee, according to the Lodha report – with certain modifications. The Lodha report had recommended that only the BCCI president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer be part of the Apex Council but it is understood that the board was in favour of all the members of the working committee remaining a part of the Apex Council.
- Putting in place various committees as recommended by the Lodha Committee, including the special committee for the differently abled and the women’s committee.
- The formation of the Players Association.
- Voting rights for the Associate members as per the ICC guidelines.
- Puducherry (Pondicherry) to be granted associate membership in the BCCI.
What are the key recommendations that the BCCI did not accept?
- The Lodha committee recommended to not let serving civil servants and government ministers to be on the board. The BCCI did not accept this during its SGM on October 1.
- The committee directed that the maximum age for anybody to be on the board has to be below 70 years of age, which is applicable to state associations as well. This was a big controversy as it included the likes of Sharad Pawar, Mumbai Cricket Association president and also N Srinivasan, head of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. The board did not accept this recommendation by Lodha Panel as well.
Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha
The government has introduced in the Lok Sabha the Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 providing for allocation of about Rs 2,000 crore from Central Road Fund (CRF) for developing national waterways (NWs).
- The bill seeks to amend the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, to allocate 2.5% of the proceeds of CRF for development and maintenance of NWs and a reduction in the share provided for development of National Highways.
- Parliament had last year enacted National Waterways (NWs) Act, 2016, for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and 106 new NWs across the country.
- The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs 25,000 crore would be required for development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23.
About Central Road Fund:
- The Central Road Fund was established by the government as per the Central road fund act 2000 to fund the development and maintenance of National Highways, State Highways and Rural roads.
- In order to mobilise the fund, the Central Road Fund Act 2000 proposed to levy and collect by way of cess, a duty of excise and duty of customs on petrol and high speed diesel oil.
- The fund is utilised for the development and maintenance of National highways, State roads, Rural roads and for provision of road overbridges/under bridges and other safety features at unmanned Railway Crossings.
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India.
- Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
- Its main function is to build the necessary required infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration and regulation.
Issues related to Health & Education
FSSAI bans stapler pins in tea bags from January 2018
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned the use of stapler pins in tea bags.
- The decision is effective from 1 January 2018.
- The FSSAI has deemed the use of stapler pins in tea bag a serious health hazard.
- In its order, FSSAI has stated that the use of stapler pins in tea bags poses potential hazard to consumers since any loose staple pin consumed inadvertently with tea may cause a serious health hazard.
Implication of the move:
- The move is expected to affect the fast growing packaged tea business in the country.
- At present, there are two types of tea bags available in the market like stapled tea bags and knotted tea bags. Majority of tea bags being sold in the market use staple pins.
About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an agency of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
- The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.
- The FSSAI is led by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government.
- The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.
- The agency also has 8 regional offices, 4 referral laboratories and 72 local laboratories located throughout India.
223 anti-dumping probes initiated by India since January 2012
Between January 2012 and July 14, 2017, India has initiated as many as 223 anti-dumping investigations against various countries, including China and Indonesia.
- During the period, maximum number of cases were against China.
- Product categories on which the levy was imposed include chemicals, fibre boards, glass & glassware, pharmaceuticals and steel.
What is Anti-dumping duty?
An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value.
- Countries initiate anti-dumping probes to determine if the domestic industry has been hurt by a surge in below-cost imports. To counter it they impose duties under the multi-lateral WTO regime.
- Anti-dumping steps are taken to ensure fair trade and provide a level-playing field to the domestic industry.
- They are not a measure to restrict imports or cause an unjustified increase in cost of products.
- The use of anti-dumping measure as an instrument of fair competition is permitted by the WTO.
Science & Technology
Human antibodies produced in lab for first time
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory.
- The technique could speed the production of antibodies to treat a wide range of diseases and facilitate the development of new vaccines.
- Antibodies are produced by the body’s B cells to fight off infections by bacteria, viruses, and other invasive pathogens.
- When an individual B cell recognizes a specific pathogen-derived “antigen” molecule, it can proliferate and develop into plasma cells that secrete large amounts of antibody capable of binding to the antigen and fending off the infection.
How they developed?
- To develop revolutionary technique, researchers had replicated the process of natural production of antibodies from B cells isolated from patient blood samples in the laboratory to produce specific antibodies.
Significance of the research:
- Researchers successfully demonstrated their approach using various bacterial and viral antigens, including the tetanus toxoid and proteins from several strains of influenza A. In each case, they were able to produce specific, high-affinity antibodies in just a few days.
- In some of the anti-influenza antibodies generated by the technique were able to neutralise multiple strains of the virus.
- They were able to generate anti-HIV antibodies from B cells isolated from HIV-free patients. This approach may help researchers to rapidly generate therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of infectious diseases and other conditions such as cancer.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s first wind farm
- The world’s first full—scale floating wind farm is being built off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea.
- The wind farm, known as Hywind is a trial project which aims to bring power to 20,000 homes.
- The floating wind farm technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters that are too deep for the existing bottom—standing turbines particularly installed in shallow waters.
- The turbines in the floating wind farm can operate in water up to a kilometre deep. The power output is also larger than power generation from current stationary turbines.
Aarambh app for Road maintenance
- The Union Ministry of Rural Development has launched a mobile app- Aarambh- for road maintenance.
- It was launched for performance based maintenance contracting and community contracting for maintenance of rural roads.
- This Mobile Phone App aims at use of GIS based mapping for making road inventories, condition surveys, and producing cost estimates and other relevant data for preparation and monitoring of annual road maintenance plans.
- Its usage would greatly enhance the service delivery of the state level institutions in planning and implementing performance based rural roads maintenance contracts.