Polity & Governance
- K. Singh is 15th Finance Commission chief
- Bill on quota in private sector in RS
- SC disposes of PIL seeking law against torture, custodial violence
Government Schemes & Policies
- Program to train Elected Women Representatives of PRIs
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- working on new ‘gas standards’
- First edition of INSPIRE 2017
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Russia sign comprehensive counter terror pact
- Shaktikanta Das appointed as India’s G20 Sherpa
Defence & Security Issues
Key Facts for Prelims
- Place in News: Mount Agung/Gunung Agung
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Polity & Governance
N.K. Singh is 15th Finance Commission chief
The Centre announced that the Fifteenth Finance Commission would be headed by former Secretary to the government of India N.K. Singh.
- The panel is tasked with looking into tax collections and how they are to be divided between the Centre and the States, the principles that should govern the grants in aid to the States and to review the levels of fiscal deficit, among other issues.
- The 15th Finance Commission will make recommendations for the five years commencing 1 April 2020 till 31 March 2025.
The panel will include
- Shaktikanta Das, former Economic Affairs Secretary
- Anoop Singh, adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
- Dr Ashok Lahiri, Chairman of Bandhan Bank (Part time members)
- Dr Ramesh Chand, NITI Aayog Member (Part time members)
- Arvind Mehta shall be the Secretary to the Commission
[Ref: The Hindu]
Bill on quota in private sector in RS
A private member’s resolution on job reservations for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes in the private sector is listed for discussion in the winter session of Parliament.
- The resolution, tabled in the last Parliament session by CPI Rajya Sabha member D. Raja, could not come up for discussion.
What is Private member’s bill?
- Members of Parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as Private member’s bills.
- Private members may belong to the party in power or the Opposition.
Procedure for introduction of Private member’s bill
- A member who wants to introduce a bill has to give prior notice of one month, with a copy of an Statement of Objects and Reasons, unless the speaker permits a shorter notice.
- If the bill accompanies the President’s recommendation, if necessary, the period of notice is calculated from the date of receipt of the recommendation in Lok Sabha Secretariat.
- Once the bill is drafted, it is circulated among members of the Lok Sabha two days before its introduction.
- When the bill is tabled in the house, by convention, the motion is not opposed. However, there have been exceptions.
- A member cannot introduce more than four bills during a session. And while a bill is pending, a similar bill cannot be admitted.
Important points about Private member’s bill:
- It is introduced by any member of Parliament other than a minister.
- It reflects the stand of opposition party on public matter.
- It has lesser chance to be approved by the Parliament.
- Its rejection by the House has no implication on the parliamentary confidence in the government or its resignation.
- Its introduction in the House requires one month’s notice.
- Its drafting is the responsibility of the member concerned.
Only 14 private members’ bills passed since Independence.[Ref: The Hindu]
SC disposes of PIL seeking law against torture, custodial violence
The Supreme Court disposed of a PIL seeking to put in place a statutory framework to curb torture and custodial violence as it said that it can’t direct the government to make an anti-torture law or ratify the UN convention against Torture.
- The petitioner had cited the Constitution’s Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty), Article 51 (Promotion of international peace and security), Article 253 (Legislation for giving effect to international agreements) to back his plea for direction to the Centre to put in place a statutory regime to curb torture sand custodial violence.
- The petitioner has argued that the government should consider promulgating a standalone, comprehensive law to define and punish torture as an instrument of “human degradation” by state authorities considering it a matter of both Article 21 (fundamental right to life and dignity) and of international reputation. Such a law is in the national interest.
About United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT):
- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
- The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
India and UN Convention against torture:
- India has signed the UN Convention against torture way back in 1997. But, it has still not ratified it. The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
- The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.
- The Indian government is considering an anti-torture law. The Law Commission has recommended that the Centre ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and frame a standalone anti-torture law, making the state responsible for any injury inflicted by its agents on citizens.
- Though India signed the convention in 1997, it is yet to ratify it. Efforts to bring in a standalone law have failed. The National Human Rights Commission has been urging the government to recognise torture as a separate crime and codify the punishment in a separate penal law.
- A bill was also proposed in this regard. But, no action has been taken on the Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 even six years after it was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2010 and recommended by a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha of which he had been Chairman.
Government Schemes & Policies
Program to train Elected Women Representatives of PRIs
The Union government has launched an intensive training program for Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Master Trainers, in New Delhi.
- It is capacity building program organized by National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) of WCD Ministry.
- It aims to train approximately twenty thousand EWRs covering nearly 50 EWRs from each district by March 2018.
Need of such training program:
Not many women sarpanches and EWRs in the country come forward to take up their responsibilities and mostly allow their husbands to take the lead. So, they remain ‘sarpanchanis’ in name only.
- Therefore, the Capacity building of Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) is critical to empower women to participate effectively in the governance processes.
- This will help them assume the leadership roles expected of them and guide their villages towards a more prosperous future.
Significance of this move:
This is an historic step since for the first time ever an initiative of this scale has been taken up to train EWRs who will go out and administer the villages professionally.
Training two lakh women sarpanches across the country will help bring following important changes:
- It will help to create model villages.
- It will help prepare women as political leaders of the future.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Govt. working on new ‘gas standards’
The Union government is looking to prepare a unified testing methodology to ensure that all agencies that map air pollution use accurate instruments.
- The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is in the process of setting up ‘gas standards’.
What are ‘gas standards’?
- ‘Gas standards’ are standards for several pollutants or reference samples of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrous Oxide (NO2) and Particulate –Pb (lead), –As (Arsenic) and –Ni (Nickel).
- Currently, the National Ambient Air Quality standards specify the upper limits for pollutants and, based on this, the Air Quality Index — that grades air quality in cities from ‘Good’ to ‘Severe’ — is prepared for several Indian cities.
Why need ‘Gas standards’?
- There has been noticed that several times measurement devices, presently in use, are not calibrated and errors creep in.
- Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prescribed guidelines for the maximum permissible levels of 12 gases and pollutants, depending on residential, rural or industrial locations.
- Standards for PM2.5 were laid out in 2009, though CPCB is now mooting a proposal to revise these standards.
- The NPL has also developed a custom air sampler that claims to measure PM2.5 levels far more accurately than existing devices.
First edition of INSPIRE 2017
The 1st edition of International Symposium to Promote Innovation & Research in Energy Efficiency (INSPIRE), 2017 was held in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
- The five-day symposium was organized by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) in partnership with World Bank and Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE).
What is INSPIRE 2017?
- INSPIRE 2017 is international conference that aimed to bring together various stakeholders such as policy makers, innovators, financiers, influencers to showcase best practices in sector.
Objective of INSPIRE 2017:
- Its objective was to provide common platform for energy efficiency community to discuss energy efficiency policies, emerging technologies, market transformation strategies, delivery and business-model driven transformations.
- It also intended to create platform for deliberations and sharing of best practices around energy efficiency policy solutions, high-impact research, innovative financing and implementation that are driving large scale market transformations in India and across the globe.
- Several global organizations like Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Energy Agency (IEA), International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), Clean Energy Ministerial, Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency participated in it.
Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL):
- EESL was set up under Ministry of Power (India) to facilitate implementation of energy efficiency projects.
- EESL is a joint venture of NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and POWERGRID.
- EESL is an energy service company (ESCO) that seeks to unlock the energy efficiency market in India, estimated to be at US$12 billion. This can potentially result in energy savings of up to 20 per cent of current consumption, by way of innovative business and implementation models.
- EESL is the implementing agency of the UJALA scheme meant for ensuring widespread distribution of energy efficient appliances across the country.
Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE):
- AEEE is an industry led, membership-based not-for-profit organization drives energy efficiency markets and policies in India.
- Launched in 2008, it engages in capacity building, market development, policy advisory and industry advocacy initiatives.
- AEEE is the only organisation in India which works on creating awareness about energy efficiency as a resource.
- AEEE mainstreams EE solutions; promotes well-functioning EE markets; and enables Indian industries to meet accelerated energy needs while hedging against energy risks.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Russia sign comprehensive counter terror pact
India and Russia have signed comprehensive anti-terror pact agreement for enhancing bilateral cooperation in tackling all forms of terrorism and countering threat posed by narcotics.
Both nations signed:
Updated and more comprehensive agreement on Cooperation on Security:
- The agreement provides a comprehensive approach for cooperation in security related issues, including Information Technology (IT) Crimes, Counterfeiting currency, Illicit Trafficking in Human Beings, Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Economic Crimes, Crimes related to Intellectual Property (IPs), Cultural Property amongst others.
- The agreement will replace earlier agreement signed in October 1993 in order to consolidate benefits accrued in the field of security and jointly fight new and evolving risks and threats.
Joint Action Plan for countering threat posed by narcotics:
- It aims at countering threat posed by narcotics and agreement will provide legal framework for bilateral cooperation in this field.
- It will be for the period of 2018-20.
India and Narcotic Drugs regulations:
- The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is based on the Directive Principles, contained in Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, which direct the State to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health.
- The government’s policy on the subject which flows from this constitutional provision is also guided by the international conventions on the subject.
- India is a signatory to the single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Conventions on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
About Narcotics Control Bureau:
The Narcotics Control Bureau is the apex coordinating agency.
- The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 which came into effect from the 14th November, 1985 made an express provision for constituting a Central Authority for the purpose of exercising the powers and functions of the Central Government under the Act.
- In presence of this provision, the Government of India constituted the Narcotics Control Bureau on the 17th of March, 1986.
- The Director General of NCB is an officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) or the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).
- The Narcotics Control Bureau is also represented on the Economic Intelligence Council.
- NCB is affiliated to Home Ministry, which was made responsible for administering The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
Functions of Narcotics Control Bureau:
The Bureau, subject to the supervision and control of the Central Government, is to exercise the powers and functions of the Central Government for taking measures with respect to:
- Co-ordination of actions by various offices, State Governments and other authorities under the N.D.P.S. Act, Customs Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and any other law for the time being in force in connection with the enforcement provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985.
- Implementation of the obligation in respect of counter measures against illicit traffic under the various international conventions and protocols that are in force at present or which may be ratified or acceded to by India in future.
- Assistance to concerned authorities in foreign countries and concerned international organisations to facilitate coordination and universal action for prevention and suppression of illicit traffic in these drugs and substances.
- Coordination of actions taken by the other concerned Ministries, Departments and Organizations in respect of matters relating to drug abuse.
Shaktikanta Das appointed as India’s G20 Sherpa
Shaktikanta Das, Former Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, has been appointed as India’s G 20 Sherpa till December 31, 2018 for the Development Track of the G20.
Who is a Sherpa?
- Sherpa is personal representative of leader of member country at international Summit meeting such as G8, G20 or Nuclear Security Summit.
- The term is derived from the Nepalese Sherpa people, who serve as guides for mountaineers in the Himalayas.
Who appoints a Sherpa?
- They are mostly career diplomats or senior government officials appointed by leaders of their countries.
What Sherpa does?
- The Sherpa is mainly engaged in planning, implementation and negotiation tasks through Summit.
- They coordinate agenda, seek consensus at highest political levels and participate in series of pre-Summit consultations to help negotiate their leaders’ positions.
Sherpas at G20 summit:
There are two tracks in G 20- Finance Track and Development Track.
- Finance Track is managed by the Secretary (Economic Affairs) as India’s Deputy to G 20 and the Development Track is coordinated by the Sherpa.
- The Department of Economic Affairs will provide necessary support to the Sherpa.
- Former NITI Aayog vice-chairman had recommended to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appoint full-time Sherpa for G20 talks as India’s role is expanding in global arena.
- Panagariya was India’s Sherpa for G20 talks in September 2015.
- As per earlier norms, deputy chairman of erstwhile Planning Commission used to be Sherpa for G20 talks.
Defence & Security Issues
The 2017 edition of International Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise (IMMSAREX) was recently held in Bangladesh under the aegis of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
- This is the first ever operational exercise held under the aegis of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Bangladesh.
- The ships and aircraft of the members and observers of the IONS including China, India and Pakistan will participate in the exercise.
- The Exercise comprised drills related to fire-fighting, sea accidents and rescue, as well as deep sea searches for missing ships, searches for missing aircraft, and other emergency rescue operations.
About Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS):
The IONS is a regional forum of Indian Ocean littoral states launched by India in February 2008.
- Members to IONS include 35 littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) – navies of the IONS which have been geographically grouped into the following four sub-regions:
South Asian Littorals: India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles and Sri Lanka
West Asian Littorals: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen
East African Littorals: Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eriteria, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania
South East Asian and Australian Littorals: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.
Observer Countries: China, Japan etc.
Key facts about IONS:
- IONS seeks to provide a regional forum through which the Chiefs-of-Navy (or equivalent maritime agency) of all the littoral states of the IOR periodically meet to constructively engage each other through the creation and promotion of regionally relevant mechanisms, events, and activities.
- IONS Chairmanship is rotated sequentially through each of the four sub-regions. This is to ensure that challenges of each region receive due emphasis.
- The IONS Chair was held by India from 2008 to 2010, UAE from 2010 to 2012 and South Africa from 2012 to 2014.
- Under the IONS charter of business adopted in 2014, the forum has working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Information Security and Interoperability (IS&I) and maritime security (anti-piracy).
Key Facts for Prelims
Place in News: Mount Agung/Gunung Agung
- Mount Agung or Gunung Agung is a volcano in Bali, Indonesia, southeast of Mt Batur volcano, also in Bali.
- Gunung Agung stratovolcano is the highest point on Bali.
- Gunung Agung is an active volcano, with a large and deep crater that occasionally emits smoke and ash.
- It was in news as Indonesian and regional authorities have heightened flight warnings around Bali’s Mount Agung as the volcano’s eruptions sent a plume of volcanic ash and steam more than 6,000 metres into the skies above the island.