Polity & Governance
- Union Home Minister chairs Southern Zonal Council meeting
- Centre okays Rs 266 crore for AMRUT work
- Dopt Issues Fresh Guidelines Regarding Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace
- Cabinet clears ordinance to punish holders of demonetised notes beyond March 31
- AIRIA ties up with Tripura University for imparting rubber technology programmes
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves International Solar Alliance (ISA)
Defence & Security Issues
- Cabinet approves Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas
Science & Technology
- Government launches IVRS platform to tackle call drops
Key Facts for Prelims
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Polity & Governance
Union Home Minister chairs Southern Zonal Council meeting
The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh chaired the 27th meeting of the Southern Zonal Council, held recently at Thiruvananthapuram.
What has been discussed?
The Council reviewed progress of implementation of various recommendations made in the last meeting relating to
- Issues of fishermen,
- Peninsular Region Industrial Development Corridor,
- Extension of High Speed Rail Corridor and
- Amendments to the New Road Transport & Road Safety Bill.
The Council also took up issues which relate to
- Uniformity in allocation of funds for scholarships in proportion of population of SC/ST for all courses,
- Revision of ceiling on profession tax by Government of India,
- Prevention of communicable diseases,
- Promotion of oilseeds and oil palm cultivation and
- Development of Puducherry Airport.
About the Zonal Councils:
Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India have been grouped into six zones to foster cooperation among them. They are:
- Northern Zonal Council
- North-Central Zonal Council
- North-Eastern Zonal Council
- Eastern Zonal Council
- Western Zonal Council
- Southern Zonal Council
- Five Zonal Councils were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
- The North Eastern States’ special problems are addressed by another statutory body – The North Eastern Council, created by the North Eastern Council Act, 1971.
- The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning, border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport etc.
- They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally.
- Being compact high level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective Zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.
Southern Zonal Council comprises the states and union territories of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana.[Ref: The Hindu]
Centre okays Rs 266 crore for AMRUT work
The Centre has approved Rs 266 crore for augmenting water supply and sewerage networks in Delhi under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) in 2016-17.
- The entire cost is being provided as central assistance to the Delhi government under AMRUT.
- Out of this, Rs 215 crore will be invested in improving water supply, and Rs 254 crore for augmenting sewerage networks and septage management.
- Another Rs 8 crore will be utilised for drainage networks and Rs 12 crore for developing open and green spaces.
- Delhi government is now required to submit AMRUT action plan for the remaining three years in one go for advance approval.
About AMRUT scheme:
The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2015 with the focus of the urban renewal projects is to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewerage networks and water supply for urban transformation.
- Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
- AMRUT is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
- The scheme is dependent with public private partnership model (PPP) model.
- AMRUT adopts a project approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, storm-water drains, transportation and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children.
- AMRUT will be implemented in 500 locations with a population of one lakh and above. It would cover some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few state capitals and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.
- Under this mission, 10% of the budget allocation will be given to states and union territories as incentive based on the achievement of reforms during the previous year.
- Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakhs.
- Under this mission, states get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring.
- States will only submit state annual action Plans to the centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. But, in a significant departure from JNNURM, the central government will not appraise individual projects.
Dopt Issues Fresh Guidelines Regarding Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace
Department of Personnel and Training has issued fresh guidelines regarding Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace.
In a review meeting on implementation of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, chaired by The Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, held in October, 2016, it was decided that DoPT would issue fresh instructions in this regard.
Guidelines issued by DoPT:
- Brief details of the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act including the number of cases received and disposed shall form a part of the Annual Report of all ministries/ departments and authorities there under.
- The enquiry of cases must be completed within 30 days and under any circumstances within 90 days from the date of the complaint.
- The ministries/ departments etc. have to keep a watch on the complainant so as to ensure that she is not victimized in any manner because of her having filed the complaint.
- The aggrieved woman has been given further option to send representation to the Secretary or head of the organization in case she feels that she is being victimized because of her complaint.
- The concerned authority will be required to dispose of this complaint within 15 days.
- All ministries/ departments etc. are now required to submit a monthly progress report to the Ministry of Women and Child Development so that the progress can be monitored.
About the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
Came into force on December 9, 2013, the Act seeks to cover all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized.
- Building on the Vishakha guidelines, the Act calls for the formation of an internal complaints committee and a local complaints committee at the district level.
Major Features of the act:
- The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
- The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
- While the “workplace” in the Vishaka Guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation.
- Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
- The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
- The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
- The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.
- Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
- Government can order an officer to inspect workplace and records related to sexual harassment in any organisation.
Cabinet clears ordinance to punish holders of demonetised notes beyond March 31
The Union Cabinet has approved the promulgation of an ordinance, titled ‘Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance’, extinguishing the Reserve Bank of India’s liability for cancelled`500 and `1,000 notes as the logical conclusion to the government’s demonetisation initiative.
- The move will give the finance ministry enough time to factor into the budget the amount of cash that hasn’t been returned to the system if required.
- The ordinance will come into force once it gets Presidential assent as per Article 123 of the Constitution.
- It will make possession of a large number of demonetised 1,000 and 500 rupee notes beyond threshold amount a penal offence.
- It amends Reserve Bank of India Act to provide legislative support for scrapping the demonetised banknotes that are not returned.
- It removes the liability of the government and the central bank on the demonetised high-denomination notes to prevent future litigations.
- It provides a limited window for depositing the cancelled notes at select RBI branches until March 31, 2017.
- The possession demonetised notes will attract a monetary fine of 10,000 rupees or five times the cash held, whichever is higher.
- The penalty for holding old high value currency in excess of 10 notes may include financial fines and no jail term.
- However, the old demonetised notes will be allowed only for the purpose of research and numismatics.
AIRIA ties up with Tripura University for imparting rubber technology programmes
The All Indian Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA) has joined hands with Tripura University for imparting programmes in rubber technology.
- AIRIA is the apex body of Rs 75000 crore rubber industry in India.
- The purpose of the collaboration is to facilitate rubber education, rubber skills training and research co-operation between the two organizations in rubber technology and polymer science.
- The collaboration will make available trained personnel at various levels to meet the demand for manpower and enhance the employability of students of TU by equipping them with industry/ business relevant skills.
- The MoU will also provide the university access to industrial environments for applied and problem based research activities.
- The agreement will also help existing work force in rubber in getting certified in the skills through RSDC making them readily employable.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves International Solar Alliance (ISA)
The Union Cabinet gave its approval to the proposal of Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) for ratification of International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement by India.
- The Agreement was opened for signature on the sidelines of 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP) meeting United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Marrakesh, Morocco.
- Till now, 25 nations have signed the Framework Agreement.
- World Bank and UNDP also have announced their partnership with the ISA.
About International Solar Alliance:
- ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November, 2015 by Modi and French President Francois Hollande.
- The alliance, headquartered in India, aims to bring together countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn which receive abundant sunshine for around 300 days a year.
- ISA aims to invite solar rich 121 countries located fully or partly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join the alliance.
- It will function from the Gurgaon, Haryana based National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE).
- Alliance seeks to share common platform to reduce the cost of finance and technology that is needed to deploy solar power widely.
- Alliance would pursue cooperation in training, building institutions, regulatory issues, common standards, and investment including joint ventures.
Defence & Security Issues
Cabinet approves Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism (LWE) Affected Areas to improve rural road connectivity in worst LWE affected districts critical from security and communication point of view.
- The project will be implemented under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) to provide all weather road connectivity in 44 worst affected LWE districts and adjoining districts.
- The Union Ministry of Rural Development will be the implementing Ministry as well as sponsoring Ministry of this project during implementation period four years from 2016-17 to 2019-20.
- The fund sharing pattern of LWE road project will be same as that of PMGSY i.e. in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and States for all States.
- However the ration will be 90:10 for eight North Eastern and three Himalayan States (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir & Uttarakhand).
About Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas:
- The project is envisaged in LWE States including the 35 worst affected LWE districts which account for 90% of total LWE violence in the country.
- The all-weather roads taken up under this scheme includes Other District Roads (ODRs), Village Roads (VRs) and upgradation of existing Major District Roads (MDRs) that are critical from security point of view.
- Besides, bridges up to a span of 100 meters which are critical from security angle will also be funded on these roads.
- The National Highways and the State Highways are excluded from this project.
- The roads to be constructed under this project have been identified by Union Ministry of Home Affairs in close consultation with the State Governments and the security agencies.
About the PMGSY:
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country.
- The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
Aim of the PMGSY:
The aim was to provide roads to all villages
- With a population of 1000 persons and above by 2003
- With a population of 500 persons and above by 2007
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 500 persons and above by 2003
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 250 persons and above by 2007.
Science & Technology
Government launches IVRS platform to tackle call drops
The Union Government has launched Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) system in a bid to tackle the call drop menace.
- The system was launched at multiple locations including Delhi and Mumbai to obtain direct feedback from subscribers on call quality on the issue of frequent call drops.
- It is now available in Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Goa and soon will be extended to the entire country.
How it works?
- Subscribers will receive an IVRS call from a short code 1955 and will be asked a few questions such as whether they are facing call drops in their area or not.
- Mobile users can also send a toll-free SMS to the short code, containing the location of city/town/village, where they might be facing the problem of frequent call drops.
- The feedback received will be shared with operators so they can take corrective steps in the problem areas and address the issue of call drops.
- Initially, it will be utilised obtaining feedback for call drops and subsequently it will be extended to capture consumer feedback in other areas as well.
Key Facts for Prelims
SUPERVIEW 1 01 02
- These are the two high-resolution remote sensing satellites launched successfully by China.
- Their launching aimed to get commercial images. They will provide commercial images at 0.5-meter resolution.