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Current Affairs Analysis

2nd June 2016 Current Affairs Analysis

Draize test; National Company Law Tribunal; ‘Big Data’; 'Einstein ring'; India Post Payments Bank; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
June 02, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • National Company Law Tribunal constituted
  • Drug regulator wants to cull animal testing
  • TRAI seeks more power
  • mulls ‘outcome-linked’ incentive for NIIF chief
  • Only ill-gotten assets a crime, observes SC judge

Social Issues

  • Agri households earn about Rs 6,400 monthly, says NSSO study

Economy

  • India Post’s payments bank gets Cabinet nod
  • Sebi relaxes InvITs rules to draw business houses
  • Proposal to hire private sector talent in PSUs wins approval

International Relations

  • MoU between USA and India to enhance cooperation in wildlife conservation 
  • India-Qatar pact

Science & Technology

  • India’s NIIT to train 50,000 China students on ‘Big Data’
  • Rare ‘Einstein ring’ discovered 

 

Polity & Governance

National Company Law Tribunal constituted

The government has constituted the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and its appellate body, implementing most of the provisions of new Companies Act and helping implementation of the Bankruptcy Code.

  • With this, the Company Law Board (CLB), constituted under the old Act, stands dissolved.

Key facts:

  • Initially, NCLT will have 11 benches – two at New Delhi and one each at Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
  • According to the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013, NCLT will not only replace CLB, but also handle various cases of companies currently with the high courts, the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, and the Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction.
  • NCLT and Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) will be the adjudicating agencies for the recently-passed Bankruptcy Code.
  1. NCLT will resolve insolvency cases of companies and limited liability partnerships.
  2. DRT will handle cases of individual bankruptcy.

Background:

  • In May 2015, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had struck down several provisions of the Companies Act 2013, which provided for establishment of NCLT and its appellate forum.
  • However, it upheld the law providing for the tribunals and asked the government to set them up without further delay as litigation had stopped their establishment for years.
[Ref: BS]

 

Drug regulator wants to cull animal testing

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has asked pharmaceutical companies and laboratories to replace a ‘Draize test’, a controversial toxicity test of drugs on the eyes or skin of animals.

  • To deal with this sensitive issue, the regulator had formed a committee. The committee said as there was an international movement to replace tests on animals with alternatives.

What is called a Draize test?

In a Draize test, a researcher applies testing drugs on animals.

  • The procedure generally involves applying 0.5 millilitre or 0.5 g of a test substance to the eye or skin of a restrained, conscious animal. After a stipulated period, the effects of the drug are recorded.
  • The animals (generally rabbits) are observed for up to 14 days for signs of erythema or edema in skin tests, and redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, haemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness in eye tests. If the test renders irreversible damage to the eye or skin, the animals are euthanized.

Why it is controversial?

  • The tests are controversial as they are viewed as cruel as well as unscientific by critics because of the differences between rabbit and human eyes, and the subjective nature of the visual evaluations.

Way ahead:

  • The drug regulator has given two weeks to laboratories carrying out such tests – from the public sector, private sector and related organisation from the pharmaceutical industry – to send their responses.
  • A decision would be taken only after obtaining assessment of feasibility, validation and preparedness of Indian laboratories.
[Ref: BS]

 

TRAI seeks more power

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has approached the government seeking powers to impose penalty in order to ensure quality of service from telecom operators.

  • The TRAI also made public the results of a test drive conducted in Delhi, between May 3 and May 6, which showed that most operators do not meet the benchmark of less than two per cent call drops of their network.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court in its last judgement observed that TRAI does not have power to impose such (call drop) penalty on telecom operators.

Various steps taken by TRAI:

  • Amid increasing complaints of poor quality of telecom services by consumers, TRAI had mandated that telecom operators compensate consumers Re.1 for every dropped call with a cap of Rs.3 a day.
  • The regulator was looking at various options to ensure that telecom operators work to improve service quality, including reviewing call drop parameter which is set at two per cent.
  • The regulator rolled out a dedicated website for publishing result of test drive that it conducts. While results of Delhi are already up, those from 12 other cities will be put up soon.
  • In an attempt to make it easier for consumers to file a complaint against telemarketers, TRAI also unveiled ‘DND Services’ mobile application.
  • TRAI has developed a mobile App for easy registration of Unsolicited Commercial Complaints (UCC) to the service providers. With this App, the consumer can also check the status of his complaint.

Currently, consumers can log complain about messages and calls from telemarketers through toll free number 1909. TRAI will soon be coming out with the app for iOS too.

[Ref: Hindu]

 

Govt. mulls ‘outcome-linked’ incentive for NIIF chief

 The government is considering an ‘outcome-linked’ payment package as part of incentives for the recruitment of a chief executive of India’s first sovereign wealth fund, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

  • However, negotiations on the incentive payment, which will be paid for every $10 billion the fund succeeds in raising, are still on.
  • The government is expected to announce the appointment of the executive soon.

About National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF):

Proposed in Union Budget 2015, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has been set up in last month of 2015.

  • The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, NIIF would solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.
  • The Fund aims to attract investment from both domestic and international sources.
  • The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, NIIF would solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.
  • The government’s contribution would be limited to 49% of the subscribed capital.
  • The government has budgeted to contribute Rs. 20,000 crores to the fund in the current fiscal year while another Rs. 20,000 crores are expected to be raised through sovereign wealth funds.
  • The government will seek participation from strategic investors such as sovereign fund, quasi sovereign funds and multilateral or bilateral investors, which can help leverage this fund to many times.
  • Cash-rich PSUs, pension funds, provident funds, National Small Saving Fund will be able to pick up stake in the fund.
  • Sovereign funds and pension funds from a number of countries, including the U.K., UAE, Russia and Singapore, have already expressed interest in investing in NIIF.
  • India and the UAE signed a pact to mobilise up to $75 billion long-term investment.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Only ill-gotten assets a crime, observes SC judge

The Supreme Court has observed while hearing the wealth case that acquisition of assets per se is not a crime unless proved that the source of funds is illegal.

Court’s remarks:

Disproportionate assets is not a crime. It is only a crime if it is proved that the source of the money is illegal. Otherwise it is only an inference.

[Ref: Hindu]

 

Social Issues

Agri households earn about Rs 6,400 monthly, says NSSO study

A report from the ministry of statistics and programme implementation says income from cultivation and allied agricultural activities accounted for 60 per cent of their total income.

  • The report was based on the National Sample Survey Office’s Situation Assessment Survey of agricultural households, conducted during January-December 2013.

Noticeable points of the report:

According to the report,

  • Agricultural households earned on average Rs 6,426 monthly during agricultural year July 2012 to June 2013.
  • The average monthly consumption expenditure of these households is estimated to be Rs 6,223.  
  • About 52 per cent of the households had loan dues. Of which, 60 per cent were taken from formal sources of finance, while roughly a fourth were from agricultural or professional money lenders.
  • By comparison, expenditure on productive assets for use in the non-farm sector accounted for only seven per cent of the total monthly expenditure.
  • Income from allied activities such as livestock accounted for a sizable share.

IASToppers-02nd May 2016

[Ref: BS]

 

Economy

India Post’s payments bank gets Cabinet nod

The Cabinet approved a proposal to set up an India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) as a public limited company under the Department of Posts with 100 % government equity.

Features of the IPPB:

  • In India, 650 branches of the postal payments bank would be established, which 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.
  • IPPB will obtain banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by March 2017 and by September 2017, all 650 branches of the postal payments bank would become operational.
  • 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: Hindu]

 

Sebi relaxes InvITs rules to draw business houses

To help the newly-introduced Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) gain further traction, markets watchdog SEBI proposed easing of norms for these instruments, including by reducing the mandatory sponsor holding to 10 per cent, from the current 25 per cent.

Reasons for this move:

  • Since its introduction in 2014, InvITs have failed to get desired attention so far and only four applications have been received till now for setting up these Trusts. Out of these, two applications have already been approved by Sebi.
  • Now, SEBI has decided to revamp InvITs regulations after receiving recommendations from the industry.

What is InvITs?

  • An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) is like a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of small amounts of money from possible individual/institutional investors in infrastructure to earn a small portion of the income as return.
  • SEBI notified the Sebi (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014 on September 26, 2014, providing for registration and regulation of InvITs in India.
  • The objective of InvITs is to facilitate investment in the infrastructure sector. 
  • InvITS are like mutual funds in structure. InvITs can be established as a trust and registered with Sebi. An InvIT consists of four elements:
  1. Trustee,
  2. Sponsor(s),
  3. Investment Manager and
  4. Project Manager. 
  • InvITs work like mutual funds or real estate investment trusts (REITs) in features.
  • InvITs can be treated as the modified version of REITs designed to suit the specific circumstances of the infrastructure sector. 
[Ref: BS, ET]

 

Proposal to hire private sector talent in PSUs wins approval

The Cabinet has given an ‘ex-post facto’ approval for amending public sector recruitment rules to allow the selection of candidates from the private sector and state public sector enterprises.

  • The nod is for the selection of candidates from state public sector enterprises and the private sector as “non-internal candidates for a period of five years for appointment in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).
  • The Cabinet also approved the decision that the chairperson and members of the public enterprises selection board (PESB) should hold office for a period of three years from the assumption of charge or until they turn 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.

Implications:

Under the revised rules,

  • Those who do well in the private sector will get better returns there than in the public sector while the public sector offers greater job security.
  • The good talent at the top of the private sector will not migrate.
  • Those not in the top rungs may see an advantage in PSUs.
  • The move is expected to bring in greater efficiency.

Concerns:

  • There must be careful selection so that those who have not been able to make it in the private sector don’t opt for a government job just because of higher job security.
  • The selection process must be shielded from politics which is something difficult to do in India.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

International Relations

MoU between USA and India to enhance cooperation in wildlife conservation 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between United States of America and India to enhance cooperation in the field of wildlife conservation and combating wildlife trafficking.

Key facts:

  • With the approval, India will benefit from the expertise of the US Institutions in the field of wildlife conservation and management of wildlife areas and in combating illegal trade of wildlife and their derivatives. 
  • The MoU seeks cooperation between the two countries in the following areas: 
  • Wildlife Forensics and Conservation Genetics: Useful in species conservation efforts and better scientific evidence collection in wild life crimes leading to better enforcement. 
  • Natural World Heritage Conservation: Facilitating the institutional capacity of the existing UNESCO Category -2 – centre at Wildlife Institute of India. 
  • Nature Interpretation and Conservation Awareness: Use of information technology in strengthening interface of forest managers with the people for sensitising people, especially the youth and children in understanding complex issues of conservation of biological diversity. 

Background: 

  • India and the United States of America are endowed with rich biodiversity and natural heritage and have established a network of Protected Areas in their respective territories.
[Ref: PIB]

 

India-Qatar pact

The Cabinet approved the signing of three memoranda of understanding (MoU) between India and Qatar for cooperation in skill development and ‘recognition of qualifications.’

  • It will strengthen ties in the field of tourism, and provide cooperation and mutual assistance in matters related to customs.
[Ref: PIB] 

 

Science & Technology

India’s NIIT to train 50,000 China students on ‘Big Data’

The National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT) located in new industrial park in southwest China is gearing up to train 50,000 Chinese students over the next five years on Big Data.

  • The training contract was signed on the sidelines of China’s ‘Big Data’ conference and exhibition at Guiyang recently.
  • An agreement was also sealed with the provincial government to establish a Big Data Talent Research Centre in Guiyang “to enhance innovation and research”.

What is Big Data?

 Big data is a term that describes a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large it is difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques.

  • The term big data, especially when used by vendors, may refer to the technology (which includes tools and processes) that an organization requires handling the large amounts of data and storage facilities.
  • In most enterprise scenarios, the volume of data is too big or it moves too fast or it exceeds current processing capacity. Despite these problems, big data has the potential to help companies improve operations and make faster, more intelligent decisions.
  • Banking and retail have been early adopters of Big Data-based strategies. Increasingly, other industries are utilizing Big Data like that from sensors embedded in their products to determine how they are actually used in the real world.
  • In healthcare, clinical data can be reviewed treatment decisions based on big data algorithms that work on aggregate individual data sets to detect nuances in subpopulations that are so rare that they are not readily apparent in small samples.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]

 

Rare ‘Einstein ring’ discovered 

Scientists have discovered one of the most symmetrical Einstein rings – a rare astronomical phenomenon – created by a galaxy located 10,000 million light years away that is hidden behind a more massive galaxy.

Rare-Einstein-Ring-Discovered

Key facts:

  • Einstein rings, predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, are quite rare but scientifically interesting.
  • The discovery is named the “The Canarias Einstein ring”.
  • An Einstein ring is a distorted image of a very distant galaxy.
  • The distortion is produced by the bending of the light rays from the source due to a massive galaxy, termed “the lens”, lying between it and the observer.
  • When the two galaxies are exactly aligned, the image of the more distant galaxy is converted into an almost perfect circle which surrounds the lens galaxy.
  • Studying these phenomena gives us especially relevant information about the composition of the source galaxy, and also about the structure of the gravitational field and of the dark matter in the lens galaxy.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

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