Polity & Governance
- The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) comes into force
- Maharashtra becomes First State to Use Automated Weather Stations (AWS) for Farmers
- SEBI finalizes norms for listing of green bonds
- Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs)
Art & Culture
- Basava Jayanthi 2017
Science & Technology
- ISRO to launch ‘South Asia’ satellite GSAT-09
- Scientists at IIT Create Low Cost Solar Cells using Jamun
- Indian Railways to Track Wagons and Coaches with RFID tags
Key Facts for Prelims
- Muktijodha Scholarship Scheme
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Polity & Governance
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) comes into force
The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016, the landmark realty law to protect home buyers from unscrupulous developers, has come into effect, nine years after it was conceived.
- The act was cleared by Parliament in March last year.
- Under the act, states had to notify the realty rules and set up Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) by April 30. Without notifying the rules, the law will not become operational.
- Already the act has been notified by 13 states and Union Territories including Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Delhi, Daman and Diu.
Background-Model Real Estate Regulations:
Ahead of the Act coming into force, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has formulated and circulated Model Real Estate Regulations for adoption by the Regulatory Authorities in the States/UTs.
- Under these Regulations, developers are required to display sanctioned plans and layout plans of at least 3 feet X 2 feet size at all marketing offices, other offices where properties are sold, all branch offices and head office of the promoters in addition to the site of project.
- Real Estate Regulatory Authorities may take decisions on all issues preferably through consensus failing which through voting with Chairman using Casting Vote in case of a tie.
- There shall be quorum for the meetings of the Regulatory Authorities and if a meeting is adjourned due to lack of such quorum, such meeting can take place without quorum.
- Members of Regulatory Authorities shall declare interest if any in the matters coming up for discussion and shall not participate there in.
Salient features of the Act:
- It regulates transactions between buyers and promoters of residential real estate projects, through establishment of a state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs).
- Residential real estate projects, with some exceptions, need to be registered with RERAs. Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them. Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs.
- On registration, the promoter must upload details of the project on the website of the RERA. These include the site and layout plan, and schedule for completion of the real estate project.
- 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project must be maintained in a separate bank account and must only be used for construction of that project. The state government can alter this amount to less than 70%.
- It fixes liability on the developers for structural defects for five years.
- Both, developers and buyers, are required to pay the same penal interest of SBI’s Marginal Cost of Lending Rate plus 2% in case of delays.
- The Act establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals. Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals.
- It prescribed imprisonment of up to three years for developers and up to one year in case of agents and buyers for violation of orders of Appellate Tribunals and Regulatory Authorities.
Significance of the act:
- The act will ensure transparency and accountability in the real estate sector.
- It will enhance the consumer confidence and will benefit the whole sector.
- It will help to attract more investments into the real estate sector and may also open gates for FDI.
- This act will aid in the effective implementation of projects such as Hosing for All by 2020 and Smart City.
Critical analysis of the act:
- One may question Parliament’s jurisdiction to make laws related to real estate as “land” is in the State List of the Constitution. However, it may be argued that the primary aim of this Bill is to regulate contracts and transfer of property, both of which are in the Concurrent List.
- Some states have enacted laws to regulate real estate projects. The Bill differs from these state laws on several grounds. It will override the provisions of these state laws in case of any inconsistencies.
- The Bill mandates that 70% of the amount collected from buyers of a project be used only for construction of that project. In certain cases, the cost of construction could be less than 70% and the cost of land more than 30% of the total amount collected. This implies that part of the funds collected could remain unutilized, necessitating some financing from other sources. This could raise the project cost.
- The Standing Committee examining the Bill has made several recommendations. These include: (a) the Bill should also regulate commercial real estate, (b) smaller projects should also be covered, and (c) all real estate agents must be required to register.
- The real estate sector has some other issues such as a lengthy process for project approvals, lack of clear land titles, and prevalence of black money. Some of these fall under the State List.
SEBI finalizes norms for listing of green bonds
Regulator SEBI has finalized norms for issuance and listing of green bonds, which will help in raising funds from capital markets for investment in the renewable energy space.
- The rules have been finalised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) after taking into account inputs from the finance and environment ministries, as also from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
What is Green Bond?
- There is no standard definition of green bonds as of now.
- A green bond is very similar to any other bond.
- The only difference is that the money raised by the issuer are earmarked towards financing `green’ projects, i.e. assets or business activities that are environment-friendly. Such projects could be in the areas of renewable energy, clean transportation and sustainable water management.
Who can issue Green Bonds?
- Green bonds are issued by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, corporations, government agencies and municipalities.
- Green bonds are open for investment by insurance companies, mutual fund companies, pension funds and the likes.
- According to SEBI guidelines, green bonds are not available for smaller investment as of now and hence we cannot invest as a retail investor directly.
Benefits of Green bonds
- Enhances an issuer’s reputation, as it helps in showcasing their commitment towards sustainable development.
- Provides issuers access to specific set of global investors who invest only in green ventures.
- With an increasing focus of foreign investors towards green investments, it could also help in reducing the cost of capital.
- win-win situation for both the bond issuer and the investor, as they can contribute toward a sustainable future on one hand, and showcase themselves as a responsible organization/institution/individual on the other.
Why are green bonds important for India?
- Currently, India has 30 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity. Has an ambitious target of building 175 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity by 2022. This requires a massive $200 billion in funding.
- In India, available debt instruments have higher interest rates and unattractive terms, which raise the cost of renewable energy by 24-32% compared to the U.S. and Europe.
- Budget allocations have been insufficient.
- Most banks have included renewable energy in their larger power/infrastructure funding basket. However, priority has been given to coal power projects, very little funding left for renewable energy.
- Currently, options for raising funds and investing in the “renewable energy sector” in the public markets in India is very limited.
Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs)
What are 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.
- The objective of InvITs is to facilitate investment in the infrastructure sector.
An InvIT consists of four elements:
- Investment Manager and
- Project Manager
InvITs in India:
- SEBI notified the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014 on September 26, 2014, providing for registration and regulation of InvITs in India.
- InvITs can be established as a trust and registered with SEBI.
- InvITs are regulated by the securities market regulator in India- Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
How do InvITs work?
- Two types of InvITs have been allowed, one which is allowed to invest mainly in completed and revenue generating infrastructure projects and other which has the flexibility to invest in completed/under-construction projects.
- While the former has to undertake a public offer of its units, the latter has to opt for a private placement of its units. Both the structures are required to be listed.
Significance of InvITs:
- Infrastructure projects suffer from lack of availability of long-term capital and have depended on bank finance which typically has a short tenure.
- InvITs are designed to attract low-cost, long term capital and the underlying focus is to reduce the funding pressure on the banking system as well as generating fresh equity capital for infrastructure projects.
- InvITs allow developers of infrastructure assets to monetise their assets by pooling multiple projects under a single entity (trust structure).
Art & Culture
Basava Jayanthi 2017
Basavanna Jayanti, or Basava Jayanti, marks the birth anniversary of the 12th Century thinker, social reformer, saint and religious teacher.
- To mark the inauguration of Basava Jayanthi 2017, and Golden Jubilee Celebration of Basava Samithi, PM Modi dedicated the holy Vachanas of Basavanna, translated into 23 languages.
- Basavanna was a 12th-century philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka, India.
- He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas.
- He rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals.
- He introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the “hall of spiritual experience”), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
- As a leader, he developed and inspired a new devotional movement named Virashaivas, (or “ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva”). This movement shared its roots in the ongoing Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Shaiva Nayanars traditions, over the 7th- to 11th-century.
- Basava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship and rituals led by Brahmins, and replaced it with personalized direct worship of Shiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small linga.
- Basaveshwara is the first Kannadiga in whose honour a commemorative coin has been minted in recognition of his social reforms.
- In November 2015, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi inaugurated the statue of Basaveshwara along the bank of the river Thames at Lambeth in London.
Science & Technology
ISRO to launch ‘South Asia’ satellite GSAT-09
The “South Asia satellite” being built by India for use by countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region will be launched on May 5.
- The launch of the satellite, intended to serve the SAARC region, was announced by Modi during the SAARC summit at Nepal in November 2014.
Significance of this launch:
- The launch of the satellite will bring India closer to its neighbours Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.
- It would boost services such as telecommunication, direct-to-home, telemedicine, tele-education and other supporting systems in these countries.
- It is also expected to help support their water conservation initiatives, by providing data, forecasting weather and sending alerts on natural disasters.
- With this launch, South Asian countries can also save the investment they would have had to make on developing a communication satellite and launching it.
- It will go a long way in addressing the region`s economic and developmental priorities.
Who are the participants?
- Out of eight SAARC countries, Pakistan opted out from of this programme chose not to be a beneficiary. Following this, the Indian government changed the name of the vehicle to South Asian Satellite.
- Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are already on board of the mission.
- Afghanistan is in the process of inking the deal.
- GSAT-9 is a Geostationary Communication Satellite with the objective to provide various communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries.
- According to ISRO, GSLV-F09 mission is the eleventh flight of GSLV and its fourth consecutive flight with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS).
- The satellite weighs a massive 2,230-kg and it has 12 Ku-band transponders, which India’s neighbours can utilise to increase communications.
- The total cost of launching the satellite is estimated to be about ₹235 crore. The cost associated with the launch will be met by the Government of India
- The main structure of the satellite is cuboid in shape built around a central cylinder with a mission life of 12 years.
Maharashtra becomes First State to Use Automated Weather Stations (AWS) for Farmers
Maharashtra government inaugurated the state’s first automatic weather station at Dongargaon in Nagpur.
How will it be helpful?
- It is one of the unique project in the country, which will measure wind direction, wind speed, air temperature, relative humidity and record amount of rainfall.
- The gathered information will be shared among the farmers by making them available on Mahavedh portal (Maharashtra agriculture weather information network) as well as on the Skymet mobile application.
- Farmers of the state can make use of this information for sowing in a much better and planned way, according to the weather conditions.
- These weather stations are significant because the IMD forecast is limited to only four zones and is not made available at the taluka level. However, AWS will provide forecast up to the taluka level.
- Digital kiosks will also be set-up in every Gram Panchayat to give out weather related information and expert advice on crop patterns to be followed by the farmers.
- The AWS sensors will be able to record important farming parameters such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall, solar radiation, leaf wetness, soil moisture, atmospheric pressure and evapotranspiration.
- The state government intends to use the AWS data for better preparation for location-specific agriculture advisories, better disaster management, designing crop insurance schemes and for establishing a weather database bank.
Scientists at IIT Create Low Cost Solar Cells using Jamun
Scientists at IIT Roorkee have used the juicy, delectable Indian summer fruit Jamun to create inexpensive and more efficient solar cells.
About the research:
- Researchers used naturally occurring pigment found in jamun as an inexpensive photosensitiser for Dye Sensitised Solar Cells (DSSCs) or Gratzel cells.
- Gratzel cells are thin film solar cells composed of a porous layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2) coated photoanode, a layer of dye molecules that absorbs sunlight, an electrolyte for regenerating the dye, and a cathode.
- These components form a sandwich-like structure with the dye molecule or photosensitizer playing a pivotal role through its ability to absorb visible light.
- Researchers extracted dyes from jamun using ethanol. The mixture was then centrifuged and decanted. The extracted coloured pigment called anthocyanin was used as a sensitiser.
Significance of the research:
- Natural pigments are way economical in comparison to regular Ruthenium-based pigments to create solar cells.
- The increasing pressure on fossil fuels and concern of global warming has inspired continuous search for alternate energy.
- The research will also be helpful to deliver on the country’s pledge to build up a 40% share of non-fossil fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.
Indian Railways to Track Wagons and Coaches with RFID tags
The Indian Railways will use radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) for tracking of wagons, coaches and locomotives to ensure effective and transparent functioning.
- There are about 2.25 lakh wagons, 50,000 coaches and 9,000 locomotives in the railways. Railways have sanctioned Rs 57 crore for the first phase of rollout of the system.
- The tag designed by the Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) is estimated to cost Rs 1000 per tag.
- At the time of wagon condemnation, RFID tags have to be removed and can be reused as they have a life of 25 years.
- Henceforth it would be a standard practice for all new wagons coming out of manufacturing units to be equipped with RFID tags.
- RFID devices will be used for freight maintenance management, locomotive management and coach maintenance management so as to ensure more effective and transparent functioning.
- Railways had implemented the RFID system on the Vishakhapatnam-Talcher-Paradeep section as a pilot project.
Significance of the move:
- Using RFID devices, it will be easier for the railways to know the exact position of each moving wagon, locomotives and coaches. Currently, such data is maintained manually, which leaves scope for errors.
- With the introduction of RFID, the issue of shortage of wagons, locomotives and coaches is expected to be addressed in a more transparent and expeditious manner.
What is RFID tagging?
- RFID tagging is an ID system that uses small radio frequency identification devices for identification and tracking purposes.
- Radio-frequency identification(RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.
- An RFID tagging system includes the tag itself, a read/write device, and a host system application for data collection, processing, and transmission. An RFID tag (sometimes called an RFID transponder) consists of a chip, some memory and an antenna.
- RFID tags that contain their own power source are known as active tags. Those without a power source are known as passive tags. A passive tag is briefly activated by the radio frequency (RF) scan of the reader.
Key Facts for Prelims
Muktijodha Scholarship Scheme
- The scheme was initiated by India in 2006 for descendants of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 against Pakistan.
- The scheme was in news as India will give Rs 35 crore to children of freedom fighters in Bangladesh in the next five years under the new ‘Muktijodha scholarship’ scheme.
- Under the scholarship programme, the students who fall in line of freedom fighters get selected on merit basis to pursue undergraduate studies.
- Scholarship will be awarded for pursuing undergraduate programme at a recognized institute in Bangladesh.
- The aim of the scholarship is to help descendants of Muktijoddhas, who are pursuing Second to Fourth year of Undergraduate studies in Bangladesh.
- Under the scheme, students at higher secondary level will get a one-time grant of Tk 20,000 (Rs 15,370) and students at the undergraduate level will get a grant of Tk 50,000 (Rs 38,430).
- In addition, all freedom fighters will be eligible for multiple entries on Indian visa for a period of five years. Also, every year 100 of them will be entitled to free medical treatment in Indian hospitals.