Polity & Governance
- Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) in Fin Min domain: Govt
- Assam NRC explained
Government Schemes & Policies
- Lok Sabha passes Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 29th July: International Tiger Day
Science & Technology
- Ministry of Earth Sciences plans Rs 8000 crore ‘Deep Ocean Mission’
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first Mobile Open Exchange zone to be at Noida
- July 30: World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
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Polity & Governance
Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) in Fin Min domain: Govt
Administrative work related to the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) has been transferred to the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Finance Ministry.
- So far, it was under the domain of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- Over the last one and a half decade, the Central Road Fund (CRF) was a major revenue for the government to finance ambitious road projects.
- The budget 2018 has amended the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, and has renamed the Central Road Fund as Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF).
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.
Why was CRF converted into CRIF?
- Main purpose of the amendment is to use the proceeds of the road cess under CRIF to finance other infrastructure projects including waterways, some portion of the railway infrastructure and even social infrastructure including education institutions, medical colleges etc.
- The amendment prescribes that road cess is first credited to the Consolidated Fund of India and later, after adjusting for the cost of tax collection, should go to the CRIF.
- As per the amendment, the share for each infrastructure areas and projects from the CRIF shall be finalised by a Committee, constituted by the Central government. The Committee will be headed by the Finance Minister.
Assam NRC explained
The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), published, includes only those able to prove they were in Assam before 1971.
What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
- The NRC was introduced to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and recognise the Indian citizens in Assam.
- It was first prepared in 1951 and Assam is the only state having this arrangement.
- Under NRC, immigrants who have documents proving that they entered Assam before 1971 will be considered Indian citizens and others have to show that they their ascendants have lived in Assam even before 1971.
Who is a D-voter?
- Short for ‘dubious’ or ‘doubtful, this is a category of voters disenfranchised by the government for alleged lack of proper citizenship documents.
- Some 2.48 lakh people got the D-voter tag during NRC process
Who is a declared foreigner?
- D-voters are tried by special tribunals under the Foreigners’ Act and if they fail to defend their citizenship claim they are marked as declared foreigners and sent to any of six detention camps, which are within jails for criminals, for deportation. There were 91,206 declared foreigners as on December 31, 2017.
Why is NRC being updated in Assam?
- Officially, the NRC process will address the issue of illegal migrants, specifically from Bangladesh. The National Register of Citizens was first published in 1951 to record citizens, their houses and holdings. Updating the NRC to root out foreigners was a demand during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985).
Why is March 24, 1971 the cut-off date?
- There have been several waves of migration to Assam from Bangladesh, but the biggest was in March 1971 when the Pakistan army crackdown forced many to flee to India. The Assam Accord of 1985 that ended the six-year anti-foreigners’ agitation decided upon the midnight of March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date.
Who is a citizen in Assam?
- The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported.
What happens to the excluded 40 lakh?
- They will have to file for claims and objections and submit relevant documents for re-verification. The NRC office will issue claim forms from August 7 to 30, and these applicants would have to submit the forms from August 30 to September 28.
- The documents will be verified and accepted or rejected for the final NRC to be published on an unspecified date.
- The cases of those left out of the final NRC will be heard in the Foreigners’ Tribunals, after which applicants can approach the High Court.
Government Schemes & Policies
Lok Sabha passes Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018
Lok Sabha has passed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to provide death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
- The Bill replaces ordinance promulgated by President in April 2018 and amends Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and Indian Evidence Act.
Key provisions of the Bill:
- It provides for stringent punishment of jail term of minimum 20 years or life imprisonment or death for rape of girl less than 12 years. It provides punishment with imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence in case of gang rape of girl below 12 years.
- It increases minimum punishment from 10 years to 20 years for crime of rape of girl under 16 years, which can be extended to imprisonment for rest of life. It increases minimum punishment for rape of women from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, which can be extended to life imprisonment.
- It provides for speedy investigation and trial, which must be completed in two months. It proposes 6 months’ time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases. It provides dedicated manpower for investigation of rape cases in time bound manner.
- It provides no provision for anticipatory bail for person accused of rape or gang rape of girl under 16 years. It has also been provided that court has to give notice of 15 days to Public Prosecutor and representative of victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
- It has provision for maintaining national database and profile of sexual offenders by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This data will be regularly shared with States/UTs for monitoring, tracking and investigation including verification of antecedents by police.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
29th July: International Tiger Day
The International Tiger Day (also known as Global Tiger Day) is celebrated every year on 29 July to raise awareness for tiger conservation.
- The International Tiger Day was founded in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. The summit had issued St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation with an aim to double the big cat population by 2022.
- The tiger is the largest of the world’s big cats with its distinctive orange and black stripes and beautifully marked face.
- According to WWF, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, of them, India with more than 2500 tigers has the highest number.
- India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world.
Threats to tigers:
Poaching and illegal trade:
- Tigers face poaching for demand of every part of their body from whiskers to tail for traditional Chinese medicines. They fetch high prices in the illegal wildlife trades.
- Clearing of forests for various purposes for agriculture, timber, development activity etchas lead to loss of 93% of natural habitat of tigers.
- Its habitat has been fragmented, lowering chances of survival. It is also leading to conflict with humans, where both are competing for their own space.
- Rising sea level as result of climate change is wiping out Sundarbans, one of the last remaining habitats of majestic Royal Bengal tigers.
- Forests as carbon sinks are deemed to be a major mean of controlling climate change. Depletion of forests is responsible for reduction of tiger habitats.
- It was launched way back in 1973. It has grown to more than 50 reserves amounting to almost 2.2% of the country’s geographical area.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards.
Global Tiger Initiative Council (GTIC):
- At the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, leaders of 13 tiger range countries resolved to do more for the tiger and embarked on efforts to double its number in the wild, with a popular slogan ‘T X 2’.
- The Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) program of the World Bank, using its presence and convening ability, brought global partners together to strengthen the tiger agenda.
- Over the years, the initiative has institutionalised itself as a separate entity in the form of the Global Tiger Initiative Council (GTIC), with its two arms – the Global Tiger Forum and the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program.
Science & Technology
Ministry of Earth Sciences plans Rs 8000 crore ‘Deep Ocean Mission’
The Union Earth Sciences Ministry has unveiled a blueprint of the ‘Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)’.
- The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO about 35 years ago.
- For this mission, Centre has drawn up a five-year, Rs. 8,000 crore plan to explore deep recesses of the ocean.
Key features of the Mission:
- The focus of DOM is on deep-sea mining, ocean climate change advisory services, underwater vehicles and underwater robotics related technologies.
- Two key projects planned under it include desalination plant powered by tidal energy and submersible vehicle that can explore depths of at least 6,000 metres.
Significance of the Mission:
- The ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ plan will enable India to develop capabilities to exploit resources in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).
- India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometres and in the deep sea, lies “unexplored and unutilised.”
- India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN). These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
- It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
- It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
What are Polymetallic Nodules?
- Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
- They are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
Polymetallic Nodules contain:
- Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
- Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- Its headquarters are in Kingston, Jamaica.
- ISA governs non-living resources of the seabed lying in international waters.
- It was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.
- India actively contributes to the work of ISA. It was re-elected as a member of Council of ISA in 2016.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first Mobile Open Exchange zone to be at Noida
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of country’s first Mobile Open Exchange (MOX) zone in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
- UP government had signed MoU with World Trade Centre, Noida at UP Investors Summit to develop Tech Zone which will act as catalyst for growth of mobile and allied sectors in the state.
- MOX will be dedicated ecosystem for mobile industry, providing integrated platform to mobile manufacturers, research and development (R&D) and allied industries.
- It brings service providers, handset manufacturers, mobile content, application and service providers, retailers and distributors at one place which promotes indigenous R&D in hardware and start-ups in app development and other domains of the industry.
- This unique zone will play pivotal role in attracting investment and area will reap huge benefits from it.
July 30: World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
- World Day against Trafficking in Persons is observed every year on July 30 to raise awareness of the plight of human trafficking victims, and promote and protect their rights.
- The theme chosen by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for 2018 is: ‘responding to the trafficking of children and young people’.
- United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons by adopting resolution A/RES/68/192 in 2013.
- The resolution had declared that observance of day is necessary to raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for promotion and protection of their rights.