Polity & Governance
- Cattle trade ban rules were not placed before Parliament
- FCI let over 4 lakh tonne wheat rot away: CAG
- High Level Committee on Making India Hub of Arbitration Submits Report
Issues related to Health & Education
- New Bill to allow States to drop no-detention policy
- New Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) by the Name “BHARAT 22”
- India signs USD 329 million loan pact with AIIB for Gujarat road project
Science & Technology
- ISRO and CSIR-NPL sign MoU for time and frequency traceability services
- ISRO, NASA working towards realisation of NISAR Mission by 2021
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Polity & Governance
Cattle trade ban rules were not placed before Parliament
A response to an RTI which has challenged the cattle slaughter ban rules in the Supreme Court reveals that the rules were never laid before the Parliament, which the government should have done before implementing them.
What the rules say?
- Section 38A of the Prevention of Cruelty Act of 1960 — the parent Act under which the rules are made — mandates that any rule made by the Centre under it ought to be laid before each House of the Parliament “as soon as it is made”.
- The rules would be placed before the Parliament for a total 30 days.
- Any modification agreed upon by both Houses of the Parliament should be incorporated in the rules or else they would have no effect.
What’s the issue?
- The centre, on May 26th, notified the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017.
- The notification banned the sale of cattle in livestock market for slaughter and religious sacrifices. This had dismayed cattle traders, butchers and beef eaters.
- Farmers were also hit as they were also barred from selling non-milch and ageing cattle thus being deprived of their traditional incomes.
- Various states too opposed the notification saying that it would impact the livelihoods of many.
- The validity of the rules was challenged in various high courts and the SC. The Madurai bench of Madras HC had stayed the rules.
- The Centre has assured the court that it is re-considering the entire body of the livestock market rules. It has promised that the rules, in its existing form, meanwhile, would not be implemented.
FCI let over 4 lakh tonne wheat rot away: CAG
In an audit report on the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has said that more than 4.72 lakh tonnes of wheat valued at Rs700.30 crore got damaged in Punjab till March 2016 due to delay in implementation of the Private Entrepreneur Guarantee (PEG) scheme which was expected to increase the storage capacity of foodgrains in the state.
- The damaged wheat was declared as non-issuable for public distribution as it was stored in open areas.
- The auditor also found that the state-owned FCI sold wheat to bulk consumers at a rate below the cost under open market sale scheme during 2013-14, leading to non-recovery of Rs38.99 crore.
- The report pertains to implementation of the PEG schemes in Punjab and the way the FCI managed its debt, labour and incentive payments during 2011-16.
- The PEG scheme (2008) was launched to enhance covered storage capacities as the covered and plinth (CAP)/kacha storage is prone to damage and deterioration of stock and is not an optimum storage method.
High Level Committee on Making India Hub of Arbitration Submits Report
A High Level Committee, headed by Justice (Rtr.) BN Srikrishna, set up to review the Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism in India has submitted its report to the Union Law Ministry.
Important Recommendations made by the committee:
Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI):
- The committee has recommended for setting up APCI, an autonomous body having representatives from all stakeholders for grading arbitral institutions in India.
- The APCI may recognize professional institutes providing for accreditation of arbitrators.
- It may be also empowered to hold training workshops and interact with law firms and law schools to train advocates with interest in arbitration and with a goal to create a specialist arbitration bar comprising of advocates dedicated to the field.
Specialist Arbitration Bench:
- It also recommended for creation of a specialist Arbitration Bench to deal with such Commercial disputes, in the domain of the Courts.
- Changes in Arbitration and Conciliation Act:
- It has suggested in various changes inprovisions of the 2015 Amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act with a view to make arbitration speedier and more efficacious and incorporate international best practices.
National Litigation Policy (NLP):
- The Committee also has opinion that the NLP must promote arbitration in Government Contracts.
- The Union Government is committed for speedy resolution of commercial disputes and to make India an international hub of Arbitration. So, government has decided to look into the recommendations and amended laws according to need.
Significance of these reforms:
- These reforms can result in a paradigm shift from the current perception of delay in resolution of commercial disputes in India to it being viewed as an investor friendly destination.
- The suggested reforms will not only lessen the burden of the judiciary, but give a fillip to the development agenda of the Government and aid the financial strength of the country and serve the goal of welfare of the citizens.
- These reforms aim to make India an international hub of Arbitration and a Centre of robust ADR mechanism catering to international and domestic arbitration, at par with international standards available.
Issues related to Health & Education
New Bill to allow States to drop no-detention policy
The Ministry of Human Resource Development is looking to introduce a Bill to amend the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to enable States to do away with the no-detention policy if they wish.
- The Cabinet has cleared the introduction of the Bill.
What is no detention policy?
The no-detention policy was introduced as a part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) under the Right to Education Act (RTE) in 2010.
- Under this policy, students up to class 8 are automatically promoted to the next class without being held back even if they do not get a passing grade.
- The no-detention policy under the RTE Act was to ensure that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school until the completion of elementary education.
Criticism of the policy:
- The policy was path-breaking but, unfortunately, it ended up being completely opposite to its original objective. There have been plenty of arguments on both sides of this policy.
- The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools.
- The TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision, remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.
- A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.
- Twenty-five States had recently agreed with the idea of doing away with or tweaking the no-detention policy — wherein a child is not detained till Class 8 — to give a boost to levels of learning.
- The Centre has thus decided to allow States to take the call and to tweak the RTE Act to enable them to do so.
- The Bill is expected to permit States to introduce exams in Classes 5 and 8.
New Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) by the Name “BHARAT 22”
The Union Finance Ministry has launched second exchange-traded fund (ETF), named Bharat 22.
- It will help to speed up Government’s disinvestment programme budgeted to raise a record Rs 72,500 crore in the FY 2018.
About Bharat 22:
Bharat 22 comprise of 22 stocks including those of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), public sector banks (PSBs) and its holdings under the Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI).
- Bharat 22 is a well-diversified ETF spanning six sectors — basic materials, energy, finance, industrials, FMCG and utilities.
- The sector wise weightage in the Bharat 22 Index is basic materials (4.4%), energy (17.5%), finance (20.3%), FMCG (15.2%), industrials (22.6%), and utilities (20%).
- The banking segment includes stocks from State Bank of India (SBI), Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda (BoB), Indian Bank, Rural Electrification Corporation and Power Finance Corporation.
- The energy segment includes Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum (BP), and Coal India.
India signs USD 329 million loan pact with AIIB for Gujarat road project
India signed a loan agreement with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for financing of USD 329 million for Gujarat Rural Roads Project.
- The Loan and Project Agreements have been signed between the Government of India/ Government of Gujarat and the AIIB.
Who are the beneficiaries?
- The objective of the project is to improve the rural road connectivity and accessibility (by providing all weather road connectivity) to 1,060 villages in all the 33 districts in Gujarat state benefiting about 8 million people.
- The project will also benefit the service providers such as public transport operators, educational institutions, hospitals, local markets and traders.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an international financial institution that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.
- It has 57 member states.
- It was proposed as an initiative as well as hosted by the government of China.
- It was founded in October, 2014, and will have its headquarters in Beijing.
- Its goals are also to boost economic development in the region, create wealth, prove infrastructure, and promote regional cooperation and partnership.
- China is the largest shareholder with 26.06% voting shares. India is the second largest shareholder with 7.5% voting shares followed by Russia (5.93%) and Germany (4.5%).
- The value of AIIB’s authorized capital amounts to $100 billion, with almost $30 billion invested by China.
- The bank expects to lend $10 billion to $15 billion a year for the first five years of its operations, beginning in the second quarter of 2016.
Science & Technology
ISRO and CSIR-NPL sign MoU for time and frequency traceability services
The ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) and CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have signed MoU to make indigenous regional positioning system-NavIC independent from the US clock system.
- Until now, the satellites on NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) managed by the ISRO relied on the US GPS to ensure that the clocks aboard were working at the high-precision required in satellite-based communication.
Significance of MoU
- The MoU will help the NAVIC to get formally synchronized with the Indian Standard Time (IST) which is being maintained by the Delhi-based NPL – the timekeeper of India.
- It will also help in making NAVIC to get fully operational in the market for commercial purposes as time synchronisation is essential for all kinds of services such as financial transactions, digital archiving, stock handling, time stamping, national security or prevention of cyber-crimes etc.
- NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), also known as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), is similar to the GPS (Global Positioning System) of US, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of Europe as well as China’s Beidou.
- Starting in July 2013, ISRO had launched all the seven navigation satellites of the IRNSS by April 2016. Each satellite has a life span of 10 years.
- IRNSS is said to be the “Indian GPS” that will give accurate real-time positioning and timing services over India and the region around it extending to 1,500km. Thus, NAVIC’s reach is regional.
- Applications of IRNSS include terrestrial, aerial and marine Navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers, and visual and voice navigation for drivers.
About the National Physical Laboratory (NPL):
The NPL is part of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CISR).
- It is the measurement standards laboratory of India.
- It maintains standards of SI units in India and calibrates the national standards of weights and measures.
- It is only agency in India authorised to maintain Indian Standard Time (IST) and hosts most accurate clocks in the country with accuracy of ±20 nanoseconds through the Primary Time Scale (PTS), an ensemble of five caesium clocks and one hydrogen maser.
About ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC):
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), over the years, established a comprehensive network of ground stations to provide Telemetry,Tracking and Command (TTC) support to Satellite and Launch vehicle missions.
- These facilities are grouped under ISRO Telemetry, Tracking & Command Network (ISTRAC) with its headquarters at Bengaluru, India.
- Towards, these objectives, ISTRAC has established a network of ground stations at Bengaluru, Lucknow, Mauritius, Sriharikota, Port Blair, Thiruvananthapuram, Brunei, Biak (Indonesia) and the Deep Space Network Stations.
The major objectives of ISTRAC are:
- Estimation of the preliminary orbits of satellites injected into space,
- Carrying out mission operations for all operational remote sensing and scientific satellites in normal phase,
- Operation and maintenance of the ground segment for Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) and
- Development of radars and associated systems for meteorological applications and launch vehicle tracking.
- To provide space operations support for Deep Space Missions of ISRO
- To provide active support for Search & Rescue, Disaster Management and support space based services like telemedicine, Village Resource Centre (VRC) and tele-education.
ISRO, NASA working towards realisation of NISAR Mission by 2021
ISRO and NASA are jointly working on the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission to co-develop and launch a dual frequency (L&S band) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite by 2021.
- The satellite will be the world’s most expensive earth-imaging satellite till date, costing around $1.5 billion.
- It aims to study global environmental change and natural disasters.
- ISRO and NASA have a framework agreement for cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes signed in 2008.
- Under this framework agreement, ISRO and NASA have executed an implementing arrangement for cooperation in NISAR mission, which is valid until 2034 and provides scope for joint activities on science & applications of NISAR data after the launch.
About the NISAR mission:
- NISAR is a dual frequency (L & S Band) Radar Imaging Satellite.
- It will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequency.
- It is planned to be used for remote sensing to observe and understand natural processes of the Earth.
- The satellite is planned to be launched into a Sun-synchronous dawn to dusk orbit and ISRO will also be responsible for the in-orbit operations.
- It is designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.
Usage of the L and S band microwave data:
The L and S band microwave data obtained from this satellite will be useful for variety of applications, which include
- Natural resources mapping & monitoring;
- Estimating agricultural biomass over full duration of crop cycle;
- Assessing soil moisture;
- Monitoring of floods and oil slicks;
- Coastal erosion, coastline changes and variation of winds in coastal waters;
- Assessment of mangroves; surface deformation studies and others.
Significance of the mission:
- The mission will establish a general pathway for future joint missions between ISRO and NASA for Mars exploration. It will also further strengthen the Indo-US ties.