Polity & Governance
- Bihar brings in new law banning liquor consumption, will challenge HC order
- Transfer of Haj affairs to Minority Ministry
- Two-thirds of elderly financially dependent on others, says study
- India Post Payments Bank starts recruitment
- 65,250 cr. mopped up via new black money window
Environment & Ecology
- New species of pika found in Sikkim
- National Mission on Bioeconomy launched
- Rajasthan becomes first state to adopt LED street lights under all ULBs
- India to push for funds at climate talks
Key Facts for Prelims
- Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra
- India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement
- ‘5th International Buddhist Conclave’
- SPICe e-Form
- Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh first States to become Open Defecation Free in urban areas
Polity & Governance
Bihar brings in new law banning liquor consumption, will challenge HC order
Bihar government came out with a new and more stringent liquor-ban law- ‘Bihar prohibition and excise act, 2016’.
Key provisions of the law:
- This is a new and more stringent liquor-ban law with provisions such as arrest of all adults in the family if anyone consumes or stores alcohol.
- It aims to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol, including Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), continues in Bihar.
- Those flouting the ban face up to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and there is also a provision to confiscate the house or premises where liquor is stored or drunk.
- Though in a rare case, it also prescribes death penalty if people die after consuming hooch.
- Enforcement of the new law, calculated to impose prohibition in a holistic manner, would repeal the previous excise laws in the state.
- Recently, the Patna High Court on Friday quashed the government notification banning the consumption, storage and sale of all types of liquor in the state.
- The court held that the penal provisions were “unreasonable and draconian” and “cannot be justified in a civilised society”.
- Experts say the new law – which contains many of the provisions of the law that was scrapped – will immediately be challenged in court.
Transfer of Haj affairs to Minority Ministry
Following President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to amendments to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, the Centre has transferred the management of Haj Pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act, 1959, to the Minorities Affairs Ministry.
- The Ministry of External Affairs has dealt with the Haj pilgrimage and other aspects of the Act so far.
Under the amended business rules:
- The Ministry would however, continue to oversee other pilgrimages to places outside India under the Indian Pilgrimships Rules, 1933, and pilgrim parties from India to shrines in Pakistan and vice versa.
- The Haj Quota is fixed by the Centre and the State-wise quota of seats is distributed among the States and Union Territories on the basis of their Muslim populations.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) continues to be in charge of coordinating pilgrimages to shrines in Pakistan, Nepal and China and vice versa, travel for traders and pilgrims from India to the Tibet region of China.
Two-thirds of elderly financially dependent on others, says study
According to a survey, 65% of the elderly in India are dependent on others for their financial requirements and undergo financial crisis.
- The survey was recently conducted by Agewell Foundation on the state of elderly people in India.
- The nation-wide survey conducted involved a random sample of 15,000 people across India aged 60 or above.
Highlights of the survey:
The study found that
- Pension was the main source of income for 38% of the respondents.
- The net-worth value of 46.4% of the elderly has increased remarkably in their old age, primarily due to a sharp increase in real estate prices over the last two decades. With high net-worth value, older persons have higher purchasing power, but they hardly use their discretion while exercising such powers. Younger family members often manipulate their decisions.
- More than four-fifths of the respondents said that their major problems were related to healthcare issues, where financial status plays a key role.
- Senior citizens aged over 70 are marginalised and isolated to a large extent. Older persons in the category of 60-70 years are looked after well by their children, but with further advancement in their age, children find it difficult or they are unable to look after them because of their own growing age and ever-increasing responsibilities towards their own children.
- The financially well-off older people do not wish to be dependent on government facilities for healthcare needs, as they prefer private institutions for better services. Financially insecure old people expect social security, free health care and subsidies so that they can lead a comfortable and respectable life in old age.
- Older people with sound financial health look forward to risk-free investment schemes, so that they can earn good returns to meet financial needs in old age.
India Post Payments Bank starts recruitment
India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has started its recruitment drive with the release of the advertisement in this regard.
- IPPB plans to recruit about 3,500 professionals in the coming months.
About the IPPB:
- IPPB will be headquartered in New Delhi and plans to launch 650 branches across the country by the next year.
- These 650 branches will be linked to rural post offices. [India has 154,000 post offices, of which 139,000 are rural post offices]
- The total corpus of the payments bank is of Rs 800 crore, which will have Rs 400-crore equity and Rs 400-crore grant.
- Its services will be available across the country through these 650 payments bank branches, linked post offices and alternative channels, riding on modern technology including mobiles, ATMs and simple digital payments.
- The payments bank, which will be run by a Chief Executive Officer, would be professionally managed and there would be a representation from various other government departments including the Department of Posts, Department of Expenditure, etc.
At present, the core banking network of post offices is more than that of the country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI).[Ref: PIB]
Rs. 65,250 cr. mopped up via new black money window
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has received total disclosures of Rs. 65,250 crore under the Income Disclosure Scheme, 2016 in the form of cash and other assets.
- A four-month window was provided under the scheme for declaring undisclosed income or black money.
Income Declaration Scheme:
- The Income Declaration Scheme offered people with undisclosed income to declare it by paying a penal tax rate of 45% on such income.
- Assets specified in the declaration were exempted from Wealth tax.
- These declarations also enjoyed immunity from prosecution under the IT Act, Wealth Tax Act and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988.
Environment & Ecology
New species of pika found in Sikkim
Researchers at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru have recently identified a new species of Pika named Ochotona sikimaria high up in the Sikkim Himalayas.
Highlights of the Study:
- Researchers used genetic tools in order to understand the origin and evolution of the Pika species commonly found in the Sikkim Himalayas and worked with Pika droppings to obtain DNA samples.
- By comparing DNA sequences from these samples with those of commonly known Pika sequences from across the world, they concluded that there were clear differences. Their specific differences are not visible in physical observation. But they are genetically very different.
- This analysis confirmed the fact that the new species is indeed distinct and not merely a subspecies of the Moupin Pika, as was previously believed.
- Pikas are members of the rabbit family and live either high up in the mountains or in cold (temperate) places as they are highly cold-adapted.
- This feature of their biology makes them sensitive to habitat loss from increasing global temperature.
- The majority of Pika species described to date are of Asian origin.
- Pikas are particularly important because they are considered indicators of climate change based on studies in North America.
- Unlike other mammalian species inhabiting such harsh environments, Pikas do not hibernate.
- They are a keystone species and ecosystem engineers.
What is keystone species?
- Keystone species determine the ability of a large number of other species to survive in the ecosystem. When they become extinct, it has cascading effect on extinction of other species.
- Example of keystone species is bees as pollination of fruits and flowers is dependent on them.
National Mission on Bioeconomy launched
A National Mission on Bioeconomy was launched in Shillong, Meghalaya by the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
- The mission is unique to south-east Asia and India has become one of the few countries to tap bio-resources.
- The purpose of the mission is to boost rural economy by utilizing bio-resources.
- Besides, it can be optimally utilized can create a large number of jobs at village level.
- It also focuses on sustainable utilization of renewable biological resources for food, bio-energy and bio-based products through knowledge-based approaches.
- It has potential to generate new solutions for the planet’s major challenges in the field of energy, food, health, water, climate change and deliver social, economic and environmental benefits.
What is Bioeconomy?
- Bioeconomy is a new concept and few countries like US, Canada, European Union (EU) and Australia have started initiatives in this field.
India is the fast-growing bioeconomy at US 35 billion dollars in 2015, which can even rise to USD 100 billion in future.[Ref: Business Standard]
Rajasthan becomes first state to adopt LED street lights under all ULBs
Rajasthan has become the first state in India to adopt Central Government’s Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) in all its urban local bodies (ULB).
- Under this programme, around 5 lakh conventional street lights were replaced with LED street lights across the state.
- The project was funded by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of the Union Ministry of Power.
- Through implementation of this project, 152 million units of energy savings has been achieved so far have been and cost saving of Rs. 60 lakh daily to some municipalities.
- The energy saving has resulted in reduction of 225 tonnes of CO2 per day.
About the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP):
- The Central Government’s Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) was launched in January 2015.
- Under the programme around 3.5 crore conventional street lights will be replaced with smart and energy efficient LED street lights by March 2019.
India to push for funds at climate talks
At the upcoming climate talks in Morocco in November, India is planning to stress most on trying to operationalise the $100 billion corpus — called the Green Climate Fund — committed by developed countries.
- Only a fraction of it has been pledged so far.
- India would push for developed countries to make good on their prior commitments on finance and technology. So far, India has received only $2 million of the $10 million committed this year.
Why India is stressing on the issue?
- India is stressing on the issue as these funds will help nations work on fulfilling their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) which aim to reduce carbon emissions through a host of solutions.
As part of its INDC plans, India had promised to bring down its emissions intensity, or emissions per unit of the GDP, by at least 33% by the year 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.
About the Green Climate Fund (GCF):
What is it?
- The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
Who will govern the Fund?
- The Fund is governed and supervised by a Board that will have full responsibility for funding decisions and that receives the guidance of the COP.
- The Fund is accountable to, and functions under the guidance of, the COP.
Why it was founded?
- It was founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
- It was also founded to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change.
How does it help?
- The Green Climate Fund will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows.
- It is intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020.
- The Fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of those developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
- The Fund will strive to maximize the impact of its funding for adaptation and mitigation, and seek a balance between the two, while promoting environmental, social, economic and development co-benefits and taking a gender-sensitive approach.
Key Facts for Prelims
Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.
- The Foundation Stone of the Kendra was laid by the then P.M. Dr. Manmohan Singh at 9th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in January, 2011.
- The centre will be dedicated for the welfare of the Indian Diaspora. The Kendra is expected to develop into a hub of activities for sustainable, symbiotic and mutually rewarding economic, social and cultural engagement between India and its Diaspora. Activities, seminars, events, workshops pertaining to the Indian Diaspora are expected to be organized in PBK.
- Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated in India on January 9 each year to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa in Bombay on 9 January 1915.
India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement
- India has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change on the 147th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
- With this, India became 62nd country to ratify the agreement. These 62 countries including India are responsible for almost 52% of Green House Gases (GHG) emissions.
- The Paris Agreement on climate change will enter into force one month after 55 countries that account for 55% of global GHG emissions ratify the agreement.
‘5th International Buddhist Conclave’
- With a view to showcasing and projecting the Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites of India, the Ministry of Tourism is organizing the “5th International Buddhist Conclave” in Varanasi-Sarnath in collaboration with the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- This year’s International Buddhist Conclave is very special as ASEAN as a Guest of Honour partner and a large participation is expected from ASEAN Countries which are also major source markets for India in general and the Buddhist Heritage sites in particular.
- The International Buddhist Conclave is also one of the initiatives being taken by India as its commitment as the land of origin of Buddhism and to improve the experience of pilgrims as well as tourists wishing to savor the essence of Buddhist heritage, at the Buddhist sites of the country.
- The Conclave will include presentations, panel discussion, business to business meetings between the international and domestic tour operators, an exhibition highlighting the Buddhist attractions in India, as well as visits to important Buddhist sites in and around Varanasi and Sarnath.
- Participants in the Buddhist Conclave will include international Buddhist opinion makers, tour operators and media, as well as State Governments and domestic tour operators promoting pilgrimages to the Buddhist sites in the country.
- On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanthi, the Corporate Affairs Ministry has launched a Simplified Proforma for Incorporating a Company Electronically (SPICe) e-form.
- The main objective of launching this e-format proforma SPICe is to provide speedy incorporation related services within stipulated timeframe, which are in line with international best practices.
- Existing INC-29 and INC-7 will be phased out and SPICe will be the sole, simplified and versatile form available for Incorporation of a company in India.
Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh first States to become Open Defecation Free in urban areas
Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have become the first States in the country with all cities and towns of these states declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) on October 2, marking two years of the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission.