Polity & Governance
- When is the oath taken by a Minister (in)valid?
- Chennai City to get an NCLAT Bench
Government Schemes & Policies
- Parliament Passes Bill To Ban E-Cigarettes
- NPS Traders Scheme
- Primitive Tribals in Hilly/Forest Areas
- Corporate Affairs Ministry Launches Independent Director’s Databank
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Blue Flag Certification for beaches
- UN chief warns of ‘point of no return’ on climate change
Bilateral & International Relations
- Sri Lanka-India bilateral ties revitalised: Sri Lankan President
Art & Culture
- Hornbill Festival 2019
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first maritime museum
- ‘Power of Siberia’
- Navy Gets its First Woman Pilot
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Polity & Governance
When is the oath taken by a Minister (in)valid?
On the first day of the Assembly session in Maharashtra, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis alleged that the oath-taking ceremony of the new government had violated the Constitution.
Constitutional provision regarding oath taking procedure by Chief Minister
- As per Article 164(3), Before a Minister enters upon his office, the Governor shall administer to him the oaths of office and of secrecy according to the forms set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule.
- The Third Schedule requires the taker of the oath to either swear in the name of God or to solemnly affirm to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution.
- As per some constitutional experts, under Article 164, the person taking the oath has to read it out exactly as it is, in the given format. If a person wanders from the text, it is the responsibility of the person administering the oath (Governor) to interrupt and ask the person being sworn in to read it out correctly.
What is the issue?
The former Maharashtra governor said that the oath process of current chief minister had violated the Constitution. As per him, the current chief minister invoked Chattrapati Shivaji in his oath process, which he alleged that it altered the oath itself.
Counter argument: If the person administering the oath approves the oath, then the oath process cannot be legally challenged.
Immediately on taking the oath, the person who has been sworn in, must sign a register. The register is attested by the Secretary to the Governor, which means it has been approved by the Governor. In Maharashtra, that approval was also formalised by a gazette notification on the appointment of the Chief Minister.[Ref: Indian Express, India Today]
Chennai City to get an NCLAT Bench
The Union government has decided to set up a bench of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in Chennai.
About National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT):
NCLAT was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT), with effect from 1st June, 2016.
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by NCLT(s) under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
Composition of NCLAT:
- The President of the Tribunal and the chairperson and Judicial Members of the Appellate Tribunal shall be appointed after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The Members of the Tribunal and the Technical Members of the Appellate Tribunal shall be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of:
[Ref: The Hindu]
Government Schemes & Policies
Parliament Passes Bill To Ban E-Cigarettes
Parliament has passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019.
Provisions of the bill:
- The Bill categorizes production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage, and advertisement of e-cigarettes and similar devices as cognizable offences.
- The bill stipulates that persons found in violation of the law for the first time will face a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both. For subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years and fine upto Rs 5 lakh.
- It further punishes storage of e-cigarettes with imprisonment up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 50,000, or both.
Once the Bill comes into force, the owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes will have to declare and deposit these stocks at the nearest office of an authorized officer.
What is an e-cigarette?
- E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that work by heating a liquid into an aerosol (suspension of fine solid particles/liquid droplets in air) that the user inhales and exhales.
- Electronic-cigarettes include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices.
- The main components of the liquid vaporized are nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerol, and flavourings.
- e-cigarettes have documented adverse effects on humans including DNA damage, carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders and adverse impact on fetal development and pregnancy.
Reason for ban
- Highly addictive nature of nicotine
- Safety concern of flavours in combination with nicotine
- Risk of use of other psychoactive substances through these devices
- Initiation of nicotine or psychoactive substances by non-smokers, especially adolescents and youth
- Dual use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes
- Scant scientific evidence for use of e-cigarettes as effective tobacco cessation aids;
- Threat to country’s tobacco control efforts;
- Hindrance in achieving the targets envisaged under Sustainable Development Goals, National Monitoring Framework for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and National Health Policy, 2017
Prohibition of Nicotine
- Nicotine is prohibited for use Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.
- Nicotine and Nicotine Sulphate are listed as hazardous chemicals in the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 made under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- Nicotine is also Listed as an insecticide in the Schedule of insecticides under the Insecticide Act 1968.
- However, The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 & Rules, 1945 permit the use of Nicotine up to 2 mg and 4 mg in gums, Iozenges and strips, which may be used as aids for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
Arguments against e-cigarettes
- E-cigarettes contained not only nicotine solution, which is highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients such as flavoring agents and vaporizers.
- While e-cigarettes typically have fewer chemicals than regular cigarettes, they may still contain heavy metals like lead which is poisonous.
- Quitting of tobacco due to the usage of e-cigarettes have not been firmly established.
- There is evidence that there is risk of people continuing to use both them as well as tobacco products. In fact, dual users are at greater risk of heart attacks.
- Various flavors and attractive designs are adding to the allure the users. There is an increasing trend for the use of e-cigarettes among youth and adolescents in many countries which is harmful to their health.
- These devices could encourage non-smokers to get addicted to tobacco.
- Studies have found that youths using e-cigarettes and other such devices are more likely to use regular cigarettes later.
- Even though warnings on many ENDS products clearly indicate that they cannot provide alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes are often falsely promoted as alternative to smoking.
- The Tobacco industry claims that the sale of ENDS products does not violate any regulations despite the fact that the companies are in clear violation of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which prohibits the sale of any product that appeals to minors.
- E-cigarettes have caused fires and explosions resulting in injuries, loss of lives and property. Further, their accidental ingestion by children has also caused some deaths.
Argument in favour of e-cigarettes
- E- cigarettes produce far fewer carcinogens than traditional cigarettes. Since e-cigarettes use vapor technology, they expose users to fewer carcinogens.
- In multiple studies and surveys, e-cigarettes have been shown to potentially help smokers to reduce their habit or to quit altogether.
- The second-hand effects (unintentional inhalation of vapor by a person from another person using e-cigarettes) are far less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Though second-hand vapor exists, the levels of smoke and second-hand effects of vaping are magnitudes lower than traditional smoking.
- They are more socially acceptable and do not smell. E-cigarettes provide the same experience and sensation for smokers but can be used in far more places.
- They are a cheaper alternative to smoking. While this has not been extensively researched, studies in the U.K. and the U.S. show that vaping habits can be up to 40 percent less expensive than cigarette smoking habits.
- ENDS and vaping products are sold across about 70 countries around the world and there are clear laws that regulate ENDS.
- The Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court in their orders of March 2019 and July 2019 respectively have held that ENDS are not drugs and therefore cannot be banned under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and hence no proceedings can be initiated against the manufacturers, sellers and importers of ENDS.
NPS Traders Scheme
Recently, in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, an information was given about the National Pension Scheme for Traders and Self Employed Persons (NPS Traders Scheme).
About National Pension Scheme for Traders and Self Employed Persons
- It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme for entry age of 18 to 40 years with a provision for minimum assured pension of Rs 3,000 monthly on attaining the age of 60 years.
- The Central Government shall give 50 % share of the monthly contribution and remaining 50% contribution shall be made by the beneficiary.
- The enrolment under the scheme is free of cost for the beneficiaries.
- The enrolment is based upon self-certification.
- For self-employed shop owners, retail owners and other vyaparis
- Entry Age between 18 to 40 years
- Annual turnover should not exceed Rs 1.5 crore
Should not be
- Covered under any National Pension Scheme
- An income tax payer
- Enroled under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Yojana/Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maandhan Yojana
- An estimated 3 crore Vyaparis in the country are expected to be benefitted under the pension scheme.
Primitive Tribals in Hilly/Forest Areas
The Union Minister of Tribal Affairs recently informed about the funds released under the PVTGs scheme, to the Parliament.
Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs):
- Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
- In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 18 states and one Union Territory (A&N Islands) in the country (2011 census).
- Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).
- The Ministry of Tribal Affairs implements the Scheme of “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)” exclusively for them.
- Under the scheme, Conservation-cum-Development (CCD)/Annual Plans are to be prepared by each State/UT for their PVTGs based on their need assessment, which are then appraised and approved by the Project Appraisal Committee of the Ministry.
- Priority is also assigned to PVTGs under the schemes of Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Tribal Sub-Scheme (TSS), Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution, Grants-in-aid to Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare of Schedule Tribes and Strengthening of Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts.
How PVTGs are identified?
- PVTGs are identified by Union Government according to procedure in which state governments or UT governments submit proposals to Union Ministry of Tribal Welfare for identification of PVTGs.
- After ensuring the criteria is fulfilled, the Tribal Ministry selects those groups as PVTGs.
Criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:
- A pre-agriculture level of technology.
- A stagnant or declining population.
- Extremely low literacy.
- A subsistence level of economy.
Corporate Affairs Ministry Launches Independent Director’s Databank
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, with the objective of strengthening the institution of Independent Directors under the Companies Act, launched the Independent Director’s Databank in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
About Independent Director’s Databank
- The Databank portal was developed by the Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs (IICA).
- Every individual whose name is included in the data bank have to pass (minimum 60% of marks) an online proficiency self-assessment test conducted by IICA within a period of one year from the date of inclusion of his name in the data bank, failing which, his name will be removed from the databank. This will curb promoters placing their own ineligible candidates and family members on the listed companies’ boards.
- Develop a databank of Independent directors as well as the professionals aspiring to become independent directors.
- Build capacities of Individuals by delivering eLearning courses on topics related to corporate governance, regulatory framework, financial prudence etc.
- Provide a platform to individuals to help them acquire knowledge, develop new skills, assess their understanding, and apply best practices.
- Create an eco-system of individuals looking for opportunities and corporate requiring to appoint independent directors.
Who is an independent director?
- An Independent Director is a director on a board of directors representing minority shareholders and who does not have a pecuniary relationship with the company or related persons, except for sitting fees.
- Their role is to take a stand unambiguously and independently to have a check and balance on the exuberance of majority shareholders that may expose the company to unwarranted risks.
- The Companies Act, 2013 has mandated all listed public companies to have at least one-third of the total Directors to be independent.
- Independent directors role came into sharp attack following the crisis at the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services and in many credit rating agencies who liberally granted and downgraded the companies as per their wish and got away with it. Their reckless grading created much of the IL&FS crisis.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Blue Flag Certification for beaches
The MoEFCC has embarked upon a programme for ‘Blue Flag’ Certification for select beaches in the country.
- 13 pilot beaches have been identified for the certification.
Identified beaches in India:
- These include Ghoghala Beach (Diu), Shivrajpur beach (Gujarat), Bhogave (Maharashtra), Padubidri and Kasarkod (Karnagaka), Kappad beach (Kerala) etc.
- Chandrabhaga beach of Odisha’s Konark coast was the first to complete the tag certification process will be the first in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification.
About the Blue Flag programme:
- The Blue Flag Programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).
- It started in France in 1985 and now has been implemented worldwide.
- Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
- Spain has the highest blue flag certifieed beaches followed by Greece and France.
Blue Flag certification criteria:
- There are nearly 33 criteria that must be met to qualify for a Blue Flag certification, such as the water meeting certain quality standards, having waste disposal facilities, being disabled- friendly, have first aid equipment, and no access to pets in the main areas of the beach.
- Some criteria are voluntary and some compulsory.
UN chief warns of ‘point of no return’ on climate change
UN Secretary-General said that the world’s efforts to stop climate change have been utterly inadequate” so far and there is a danger global warming could pass the point of no return.
- Carbon trading, sometimes called emissions trading, is a market-based tool to limit Greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon market trades emissions under cap-and-trade schemes or with credits that pay for GHG reductions.
- Surplus credits (collected by overshooting the emission reduction target) can be sold in the global market. One credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emission reduced.
- The carbon trading takes place on two stock exchanges, the Chicago Climate Exchange and the European Climate Exchange. This trading can also take place in the open market.
- The world’s biggest carbon trading system is the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The ETS is mandatory across EU.
- Cap-and-trade schemes are the most popular way to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions. The scheme’s governing body begins by setting a cap on allowable emissions. It then distributes or auctions off emissions allowances that total the cap.
- Member firms that do not have enough allowances to cover their emissions must either make reductions or buy another firm’s spare credits. Members with extra allowances can sell them or bank them for future use.
Bilateral & International Relations
Sri Lanka-India bilateral ties revitalised: Sri Lankan President
Sri Lanka’s newly-elected President said that his recent visit to India, his first foreign trip, has revitalised the historical ties between the two countries, vowing that Sri Lanka will maintain a warm beneficial relationship in all aspects with India.
India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations
- India offered a $400 million credit line to Sri Lanka for development of its infrastructure and economy.
- India also announced another $50 million credit line to help improve security in Sri Lanka following Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people. India already is providing counter-insurgency training to Sri Lankan police officers.
Civil War of Sri Lanka
- In July 1983, there was an intermittent insurgency against the Sri Lankan government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), which fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of Sri Lanka.
- In 2009, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers bringing the civil war to an end.
Reason for protest
- The British granted Sri Lanka (earlier known as Ceylon) independence in 1948. Sri Lanka’s main ethnic populations are the Sinhalese (82 %), Tamil (9.4 %), and Sri Lanka Moor (7.9%).
- After independence, Sinhalese majority immediately began to pass laws that discriminated against Tamils, particularly the Indian Tamils brought to the island by the British. They made Sinhalese the official language, driving Tamils out of the civil service. The Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948 effectively barred Indian Tamils from holding citizenship.
- After decades of increasing ethnic tension, the war began as a low-level insurgency in July 1983.
First Eelam War (1983-87)
- The First Eelam War was fought by Tamil Tigers with the aim of creating a separate Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka called Eelam.
- In 1987, India’s Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, directly intervene in the Sri Lankan Civil War by sending peacekeepers. However, in 1990, Sri Lankan President forced India to recall its peacekeepers. Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a LTTE member for intervening in Eelam war.
Second Elam war (1990-95)
- In 1990, Tamil Tigers seized Sinhalese police officers in the Eastern Province to weaken government control there.
- As a result, the government cut off all shipments of medicine and food to the Tamil stronghold on the Jaffna peninsula. The Tigers responded with massacres of hundreds of Sinhalese and Muslim villagers.
Third Eelam War (1995 – 2002)
- Tamil Tigers signed a peace agreement. However, it was destroyed when Tamil Tigers blew the naval ships.
- In 1995, the Jaffna Peninsula was under government control for the first time. The Tamil Tigers responded to the loss of Jaffna by launching an assault on the town of Mullaitivu.
- In Colombo, Tiger suicide bombers struck repeatedly in the late 1990s.
- Tamil Tigers declared a unilateral ceasefire in December 2000. However, in 2001, the Tigers rescinded the ceasefire.
- Throughout 2002 and 2003, the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers negotiated various ceasefires and signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
- However, in 2003, the Tigers declared themselves in full control of the north and east regions of the country, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency.
- After 2006 failed peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Sri Lanka launched a massive offensive in eastern and northern parts to crush the Tamil Tigers. In 2009, Sri Lankan government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers.
Art & Culture
Hornbill Festival 2019
20th edition of the Hornbill Festival began at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, Nagaland.
About Hornbill Festival:
- Hornbill Festival is celebrated in Nagaland every year in the first week of December.
- It is one of the biggest indigenous festivals of the country. It is also called as the ‘Festival of Festivals’.
- The festival is a tribute to Hornbill, the most admired and revered bird for the Nagas for its qualities of alertness and grandeur. The majestic bird is closely identified with the social and cultural life of the Nagas as reflected in tribal folklore, dances and songs.
- It is organized by the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments. It is also supported by the Union Government.
- Hornbill Festival was established on 1st December 1963 and was inaugurated by the then President Dr. S Radhakrishnan. Over the years festival has become a unique platform for tourists to witness cultural diversity not only of Nagas and other seven sister states of northeastern region.
- It exposes both the culture and tradition of tribal peoples, and reinforces Nagaland’s identity as a unique state in India’s federal union.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first maritime museum
- National Maritime Heritage Museum will be established at Lothal, a Harappan site on the Saurashtra coast in Gujarat.
- The museum will also be an independent research centre of underwater archaeology for reconstruction of maritime history, archaeology of boat building and materials traded.
- It will have on display salvaged material from shipwreck sites in the Indian Ocean waters.
- Underwater archaeology is a specialized branch of archaeology that involves recovering submerged remains such as ports, shipwrecks and studying proxy records of maritime activity from archaeological excavations as well as archival and historical records.
- According to the UNESCO, there are an estimated three million undiscovered shipwrecks lying on the ocean floor. Between 1824 and 1962, over 12,000 sailing ships and war vessels were lost at sea. Many of them got wrecked in Indian coastal waters.
‘Power of Siberia’
China and Russia remotely inaugurated the “Power of Siberia” gas pipeline. The 30-year project is anchored by a $400 billion gas deal.
About Power of Siberia gas pipeline:
- It is 3000 km-long first cross-border gas pipeline between Russia and China.
- The gas pipeline traverses three Russian constituent entities, namely the Irkutsk and Amur Regions and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
- Under the contract, Russia will deliver 1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas to China over the next 30 years.
- Currently, the Power of Siberia supplies gas from the Chayandinskoye field to domestic consumers in Russia’s Far East and to China. In 2022, It will start to receive gas from one Kovyktinskoye. It is then piped to Blagoveshchensk — the last town on the Russian side of the border. From there, it is tunneled under the Amur River, before entering in China.
- Yakutsk (Russia) is the coldest city in the world.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Navy Gets its First Woman Pilot
A batch of three trainee officers of the 7th Dornier Conversion Course (DOCC) including a lady officer qualified as Dornier pilots and were awarded the coveted golden “Wings” at a ceremony held at INS Garuda.
About Dornier Do 228 aircraft
- The Dornier Do 228 was manufactured by Dornier GmbH until 1998. In 1983, Hindustan Aeronautics bought a production licence.
- It a highly versatile multi-purpose light transport aircraft that has been developed specifically to meet the requirements of utility and commuter transport, third level services and air-taxi operations, coast guard duties and maritime surveillance.
About the Award of the Wings
- The award of the ‘Wings’ is given after one year of flying training at the Air Force Academy (AFA), Dundigal and Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 550, INS Garuda in Kochi.