Current Affairs Analysis

31st March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

NRIs can now invest in specified govt. bonds; Benefits to farmers on crop loan repayments; Interest Subvention Scheme; Companies Fresh Start Scheme; IBBI amends CIRP Regulations; Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India; Students up to Class VIII to get promotion without exams; No detention policy; Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009; Appropriation Bill gets the nod in Odisha Assembly; Appropriation Bill; Fires ravage forests in Telangana; Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer; Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership Spacecraft; Kawal Tiger Reserve; State norms needed for Community forest resources
By IASToppers
March 31, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Appropriation Bill gets the nod in Odisha Assembly
  • State norms needed for Community forest resources

Government Schemes and policies

  • Benefits to farmers on crop loan repayments

Issues related to health and education

  • Students up to Class VIII to get promotion without exams

Economy

  • Companies Fresh Start Scheme
  • IBBI amends CIRP Regulations
  • NRIs can now invest in specified govt. bonds

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Fires ravage forests in Telangana

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Polity & Governance

Appropriation Bill gets the nod in Odisha Assembly

The Odisha Assembly passed the Odisha Appropriation Bill, 2020, allowing the State government to spend ₹1.55 lakh crore during the financial year 2020-21.

Appropriation Bill:

  • Appropriation Bill is a money bill that allows the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenses during the course of a financial year.

Key Features:

  • Under Article 114(3) of the Constitution, no amount can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund without the enactment of such a law by Parliament.
  • After the Demands for Grants are voted by the Lok Sabha, Parliament’s approval to the withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund of the amounts so voted and of the amount required to meet the expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund is sought through the Appropriation Bill.
  • The whole process beginning with the presentation of the Budget and ending with discussions and voting on the Demands for Grants requires a fairly long time.
  • The Lok Sabha is, therefore, empowered by the Constitution to make any grant in advance in respect of the estimated expenditure for a part of the financial year pending completion of procedure for the voting on the demands.
  • The purpose of the ‘Vote on Account’ is to keep the government functioning, pending voting of ‘final supply’.
  • The Vote on Account is obtained from Parliament through an Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill.

Procedure:

  • The Appropriation Bill is introduced in the lower house of Parliament by the government after discussions on Budget proposals and Voting on Demand for Grants.
  • The Appropriation Bill is first passed by the Lok Sabha and then sent to the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Rajya Sabha has the power to recommend any amendments in this Bill.
  • However the Lok Sabha can either accept or reject the recommendations made by the upper house of Parliament.
[Ref: Business Standard]

State norms needed for Community forest resources

As per a recent study by the Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), there must be created State-level guidelines for sustainable resource usage in areas where community forest resource (CFR) rights are given under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA).

Highlights of FRA:

  • Under FRA, a village can get its traditionally held forest land, legally recognised as CFR.
  • The FRA gives gram sabhas the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
  • Around 1 lakh hectares has already been recognised from over 3.4 crore hectares.
  • But there are no guidelines for gram sabhas to conserve and manage these areas so far.
  • The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India empowered the third tier of democratic government (gram panchayats/ gram sabhas) for local self-governance.
  • FRA and the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 further empowered gram sabhas.
  • The gram sabha was supreme instead of the forest department.
  • But this doesn’t mean that the provisions of the national forest policy or the various court orders regarding resource usage from forest will not apply to them.
  • It means that now they’ll have to manage these areas themselves.

Recommendations of the study:

  • The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) in February 2019. It recommends:
  • MoTA must issue broad guidelines and principles for implementation of CFRs, mentioning specific role of the state forest department, state tribal/social welfare department, revenue department and gram sabhas.
  • State governments should prepare state-specific guidelines on the basis of MoTA’s guidelines.
  • MoTa should focus on capacity-building of gram sabha members, assessment of the biomass stock and biodiversity conservation.
  • Focus on capacity building programmes to educate various stakeholder government departments about the acts/schemes/policies
  • The micro-plans prepared by gram sabha for their respective CFR should be a part of the working plans of forest division concerned, so that forest staff could facilitate the implementation of sustainable forest management.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Government Schemes and policies

Benefits to farmers on crop loan repayments

In the wake of lockdown due Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has extended the benefit of 2% Interest Subvention to Banks and 3% Prompt Repayment Incentive to all farmers up to 31st May, 2020 for all crop loans up to Rs.3 lakh given by banks which have become due or are becoming due between 1st March, 2020 and 31st May, 2020.

Rationale:

  • Due to restrictions imposed on movement of people, many farmers are not able to travel to bank branches for payment of their short term crop loan dues.
  • Due to restrictions on movement of people and difficulty in timely sale and receipt of payment of their produce, farmers may be facing difficulties in repayment of their short term crop loans falling due during this period.

What is the move?

  • To address this problem being faced by farmers, extension of Interest Subvention (IS) and Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI) benefit up to 31st May, 2020 on the short term crop loans up to Rs.3 lakh which are due up to 31st May, 2020, shall help the farmers to repay such loans up to the extended period at 4% p.a. interest without attracting any penalty.
  • Government is providing concessional crop loans to farmers through banks with 2% p.a. interest subvention to banks and 3% additional benefit on timely repayment to farmers thus providing loans up to Rs.3 lakh at 4% p.a. interest on timely repayment.

Interest Subvention Scheme:

  • The interest subvention scheme for farmers aims at providing short term credit to farmers at subsidised interest rate.
  • The policy came into force with effect from Kharif 2006-07.
  • The scheme is being implemented for the year 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • The interest subvention will be given to Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Private Sector Banks, Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) on use of own funds and to NABARD for refinance to RRBs and Cooperative Banks.
  • The Interest Subvention Scheme is being implemented by NABARD and RBI.

Interest subvention for short term crop loans:

  • The Central Government provides to all farmers for short term crop loan up to one year for loan up to Rs. 3 lakhs borrowed by them.
  • The farmers can avail concessional crop loans of up to Rs.3 lakh at 7 per cent rate of interest.
  • It also provides for an additional subvention of 3 per cent for prompt repayment within a period of one year from the date of advance.
  • In case farmers do not repay the short term crop loan in time they would be eligible for interest subvention of 2%.
  • Interest Subvention would be available only on credit requirement for cultivation of crops and post-harvest loan components under ST limit of KCC.
  • Limit towards household / consumption requirement / maintenance expenses of farm assets, term loan etc. will be outside the purview of the Interest Subvention Scheme.
[Ref: PIB, NABARD]

Issues related to health and education

Students up to Class VIII to get promotion without exams

Amid outbreak of COVID-19, the Delhi Education Minister announced that according to the ‘no detention policy’ under the Right To Education Act, all students in Delhi from Nursery to Class VIII will be promoted to the next class irrespective of whether they have been assessed or not.

No detention policy:

  • According to Section 16 of the RTE act, ‘No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education’.
  • No detention policy, implemented in 2010 as a part of Continuous and comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), for children up to Class VIII mandates automatic passing of every student irrespective of qualifying for promotion to the next class.
  • The CCE is a western concept which focuses on evaluating a child through year and not just on basis of performance in one or two term exams.
  • However, after few years, the policy seemed to have backfired as defining minimum learning levels among children became challenge and careless attitude of both students and teachers interpreted it as zero assessment.

Main Features of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009:

  • Free and compulsory education to all children of India in the 6 to 14 age group.
  • No child shall be held back, expelled or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
  • If a child above 6 years of age has not been admitted in any school or could not complete his or her elementary education, then he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.
  • 25% reservation for economically disadvantaged communities in admission to Class I in all private schools is to be done.
  • School teachers will need adequate professional degree within five years or else will lose job.
  • School infrastructure (where there is a problem) need to be improved in every 3 years, else recognition will be cancelled.
  • Financial burden will be shared between the state and the central government.

Right to Detention scrapped:

  • The Parliament passed an amendment to section 16 of RTE Act in January 2019, scrapping no-detention policy in class 5 and 8 and empowering the states to hold back students if they fail ‘re-exam’ in order to improve learning outcomes.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

Companies Fresh Start Scheme

The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) has come up with the ‘Companies Fresh Start Scheme 2020’ to enable companies make good of any filing-related defaults, irrespective of duration of default, and make a fresh start as a fully compliant entity.

Rationale:

  • The Fresh Start scheme and modified LLP Settlement Scheme reduce compliance burden during the unprecedented public health situation caused by Covid-19.

Key Features:

  • To provide a similar facility to Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), the MCA has also revised the ‘LLP Settlement Scheme, 2020’, which is popular at present.
  • The USP of both the schemes is a one-time waiver of additional filing fees for delayed filings by the companies or LLPs with the Registrar of Companies during the currency of the Schemes, i.e. during the period starting from April 1 and ending on September 30.
  • The Schemes, apart from giving longer timelines for corporates to comply with various filing requirements under the Companies Act 2013 and LLP Act, 2008, significantly reduce the related financial burden on them, especially for those with long standing defaults, thereby giving them an opportunity to make a “fresh start”.
  • Both the Schemes also contain provision for giving immunity from penal proceedings, including against imposition of penalties for late submissions and also provide additional time for filing appeals before the concerned Regional Directors against imposition of penalties, if already imposed.
  • However, the immunity is only against delayed filings in MCA 21 and not against any substantive violation of law.
[Ref: PIB]

IBBI amends CIRP Regulations

To address the difficulty faced by the lockdown due to COVID-19, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) amended the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) regulations to provide relief in the corporate insolvency resolution process.

What is the move?

  • The IBBI amended the CIRP regulations to provide that the period of lockdown imposed by the central government in the wake of COVID-19.
  • The outbreak shall not be counted for the purposes of the time-line for any activity that could not be completed due to the lockdown, in relation to a corporate insolvency resolution process.
  • This would, however, be subject to the overall time-limit provided in the code.
  • The IBBI amended the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) Regulations, 2016 (CIRP Regulations) on March 29.

Rationale:

  • During the period of lockdown, it is difficult for the insolvency professionals to continue to conduct the process, for members of the committee of creditors to attend the meetings, and for prospective resolution applicants to prepare and submit resolution plans.
  • Therefore, it may be difficult to complete various activities during a corporate insolvency resolution process within the timelines specified in the CIRP Regulations.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India:

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) was established on October 1, 2016 in accordance with the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
  • It has been set up by the code to regulate professionals, information utilities (IUs) and agencies engaged in the resolution of insolvencies of companies.
  • It is a unique regulator as it regulates a profession as well as transactions.
  • It functions under Ministry of Commerce.

Members:

  • It has a chairman and 10 members.
  • One Chairperson.
  • Three members from Central Government officers not below the rank of Joint Secretary or equivalent.
  • One nominated member from the RBI.
  • Five members nominated by the Central Government; of these, three shall be whole-time members.
  • More than half of the directors of its board shall be independent directors.

Functions:

  • It provides a market-determined and time bound mechanism for orderly resolution of insolvency and orderly exit, wherever required.
  • It writes and enforces rules for transactions, namely, corporate insolvency resolution, corporate liquidation, individual insolvency resolution and individual bankruptcy under the Code.
  • It seeks to consolidate and amend laws relating to reorganisation as well as insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner.
  • IBBI act as a regulator for overseeing insolvency proceedings and entities such as Insolvency Professionals (IP), Insolvency Professional Agencies (IPA) and Information Utilities (IU) in India.
  • IBC covers Individuals, Companies, Partnership firms and Limited Liability Partnerships and handles cases under it using tribunals’ namely National company law tribunal (NCLT) and Debt recovery tribunal (DRT).
[Ref: Business Standard]

NRIs can now invest in specified govt. bonds

The Reserve Bank of India has introduced a separate channel, namely ‘Fully Accessible Route’ (FAR), to enable non-residents to invest in specified government bonds with effect from April 1, 2020.

What is the move?

  • Eligible investors can invest in specified government securities without being subject to any investment ceilings.
  • This scheme shall operate along with the two existing routes, viz., the Medium Term Framework (MTF) and the Voluntary Retention Route (VRR).
  • This will substantially ease access of non-residents to Indian government securities markets and facilitate inclusion in global bond indices.
  • This would facilitate inflow of stable foreign investment in government bonds.
  • The move follows the Union Budget announcement that certain specified categories of government bonds would be opened fully for non-resident investors without any restrictions.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Fires ravage forests in Telangana

The forests of Telangana have witnessed whopping 3,996 forest fires in the last seven days only, as per the alerts put out by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) and the Suomi-National Polar Orbiting Partnership Spacecraft-Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite part of the alert system.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS):

  • MODIS is a payload imaging sensor that was launched into Earth orbit by NASA in 1999.
  • It is a key instrument on-board the Earth Observing System (EOS) Terra and Aqua platforms, designed to monitor the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land surface with a set of visible, NIR, MIR, and thermal channels.
  • MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions.

Significance of MODIS:

  • Measures the properties of clouds such as the distribution and size of cloud droplets.
  • Measures the properties of aerosols—tiny liquid or solid particles in the atmosphere.
  • It is particularly sensitive to fires; they can distinguish flaming from smoldering burns and provide better estimates of the amounts of aerosols and gases fires released into the atmosphere.
  • MODIS helps scientists determine the amount of water vapour in a column of the atmosphere which are crucial in understanding Earth’s climate system.
  • It sees changes in the Pacific phytoplankton populations that may signal the onset of the El Niño/La Niña well ahead of their arrival.

Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership Spacecraft:

  • It is a weather satellite operated by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched in 2011.

Imaging systems:

  • Microwave radiometers which will help create global moisture and temperature models.
  • Cross-track Infrared Sounder, a Michelson interferometer to monitor moisture and pressure.
  • Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite, a group of imaging spectrometers to measure ozone levels, especially near the poles.
  • Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to collect infrared and visible light data to observe weather, climate, oceans, nightlight, wildfires, movement of ice, and changes in vegetation and landforms
  • Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, a radiometer to detect thermal radiation, including reflected solar radiation and thermal radiation emitted by the Earth

Kawal Tiger Reserve:

  • Kawal Tiger Reserve is located at the old Adilabad district in Telangana state of India.
  • Government of India declared Kawal wildlife sanctuary as Tiger Reserve in 2012.
  • The reserve is the oldest sanctuary in the northern Telangana region of the state.
  • It is well known for its abundant flora and fauna.
  • This sanctuary is catchment for the rivers Godavari and Kadam, which flow towards the south of the sanctuary.
[Ref: The Hindu]
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