Polity & Governance
- Draft of National River Ganga Bill, 2018 provides for constitution of GPC as armed forces
- Ministry of Labour Notifies Rules to Allow Employment of Women in Mines
- National Testing Agency launched Mobile App
Government Schemes & Policies
- Support to Indian athletes for Tokyo Olympics, 2020
- Pre-Departure Orientation Programme launched for potential migrant workers
- Centre may relax angel tax norms for start-ups, sets up panel
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) meet on Disaster Risk Management
- Fundraiser to secure 96 elephant corridors
Key Facts for Prelims
- Hoveizeh long-range cruise missile
- Alzheimer’s disease
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Polity & Governance
Draft of National River Ganga Bill, 2018 provides for constitution of GPC as armed forces
The Ganga Protection Corps is proposed to be empowered to arrest for offence under the Act.
- The Bill is prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.
Highlights of Bill:
- It proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long
- The Draft bill examine certain provisions conferring powers to the ‘National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga’ to arrange to carry out impact assessment of certain projects which affect the flow of water in Ganga.
- The bill declares that the Centre will take control of the management, regulation and development of Ganga as the river is of unique importance.
- It defines Ganga as India’s National River.
- An Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river; treating a slew of actions — from obstructing the flow to commercial fishing — as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh.
- The draft Bill envisages the Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force “constituted and maintained” by the Central government.
- Commercial fishing or aquaculture activities in the Ganga and any of its tributaries shall be punishable with imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2 lakh or both.
- “Unauthorised” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga, due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water, could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines up to Rs. 50 crores, or both.
- No person or municipal authority will establish to set up any industrial premises which may result in discharge of any sewage into the Ganga.
- The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted ecological flow” of the river. Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed.
- In July 2016, a committee was constituted under retired judge of the Allahabad High Court Justice Girdhar Malviya who had submitted a draft Bill last year named The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017.
- Consequently, a four-member committee was set up to examine that and the Ministry has circulated a Cabinet note which includes a revised version of that draft Bill.
Ministry of Labour Notifies Rules to Allow Employment of Women in Mines
In exercise of the power conferred under sub-section (1) of section 83 on the Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952), the Central Government hereby exempts the women employed in any mine above ground and in any mine below ground from the provisions of section 46 of the Mines Act, 1952, subject to the following conditions:
- In the case of women employed in any mine above ground, the owner of a mine may deploy women between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am in the mine above ground including opencast workings.
- In the case of women employed in any mine below ground, the owner of a mine may deploy women between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm in technical, supervisory and managerial work where continuous presence may not be required.
- The deployment of women shall be after obtaining the written consent of the concerned woman employee.
- The women so deployed shall be provided with adequate facilities and safeguards regarding occupational safety, security and health.
- The deployment of women shall be subject to the framing and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures on the basis of the guidelines issued in this regard by the Chief Inspector of Mines from time to time.
- The deployment of women shall be in a group of not less than three in a shift.
About Mines Act, 1952:
According to the Act, the term ‘mine’ means “any excavation where any operation for the purpose of searching for or obtaining minerals has been or is being carried on and includes all borings, bore holes, oil wells and accessory crude conditioning plants, shafts, opencast workings, conveyors or aerial ropeways, planes, machinery works, railways, tramways, slidings, workshops, power stations, etc. or any premises connected with mining operations and near or in the mining area”.
- The Mines Act, 1952 is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS).
- It contains provisions for measures relating to the health, safety and welfare of workers in the coal, metalliferous and oil mines.
- It prescribes the duties of the owner to manage mines and mining operation and the health and safety in mines.
- It also proposes the number of working hours in mines, the minimum wage rates, and other related matters.
- In India, the Mines Act was first enacted in the year 1901.
- The original Mines Act was replaced in 1923 and subsequently in 1952 the Parliament has enacted the present Mines Act which was last amended in 1983.
What is DGMS?
- Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) is the Indian Government regulatory agency for safety in mines and oil-fields.
- It conducts inspections and inquiries, issues competency tests for the purpose of appointment to various posts in the mines and organises seminars/conferences on various aspects of safety of workers.
- Its mission is to reduce the risk of occupational diseases and injury to persons employed in mines and to continually improve safety and health standards, practices and performance in the mining industry.
Functions of DGMS:
- Periodic inspections of mines to keep vigil over the status of safety.
- Investigations into accidents, dangerous occurrence and complaints.
- Granting statutory permissions for specific mining operations and laying down precautionary measures while working.
- Developing safety legislation and standards.
- Undertaking safety promotional initiatives through safety campaigns, awareness programmes and workers’ participation in safety management.
National Testing Agency launched Mobile App
National Testing Agency (NTA) launches a mobile app through which students can practice or take mock tests for JEE Main 2019 and other competitive exams on their own computers or smart phone.
- NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) in order to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources.
- These test centres will make aspirants, especially those from rural areas, become more comfortable with computer-based tests (CBTs).
How can students benefit from the service of NTA?
- Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’.
- All the services provided to the students are free of cost.
All you need to know about NTA:
The National Testing Agency (NTA) is an exam-conducting agency in India. It conducts entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher educational institutions in India.
Functions of NTA:
- It is aimed to improve equity and quality in education by administering research based valid, reliable, efficient, transparent, fair and international level assessments.
- It is entrusted to assess competence of candidates for admissions and recruitment using best in every field, from test preparation, to test delivery and to test marking.
- The roots of the agency can be traced to the Programme of Action 1992, related to National Policy of Education 1986, which mentioned conducting national level common entrance tests to professional and non-professional programmes of study.
- Its actual start was in 2010 with a report submitted to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) by a committee consisting of some of the directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), which recommended that the national testing agency be “created by an Act of Parliament”.
- In 2013, the MHRD constituted a seven-member task force to “prepare a blue print for creating a special purpose vehicle to take the concept of National Testing Agency (NTA) forward”.
- In 2017, an announcement about NTA was made by the Finance Minister in the budget speech of 2017.
- On 7 July 2018, Union HRD Minister stated that the NTA will be holding the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main twice a year, and will also be holding the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), National Eligibility Test (NET), Common Management Admission Test (CMAT) and Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT).
- More than one lakh students have registered at the TPCs formed by NTA and more than one crore students have benefited from these ‘App & Web’ services.
Support to Indian athletes for Tokyo Olympics, 2020
Besides providing foreign exposures, Government is providing intensive coaching to Indian athletes of Tokyo Olympics, 2020 through national coaching camps.
- The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is implementing ‘Target Olympic Podium Scheme’ (TOPS) within overall ambit of ‘National Sports Development Fund’ (NSDF) for providing financial assistance to elite athletes for their customized training.
- The training programme of the athletes are overlooked by the designated Committee in Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), headed by Director General, Sports Authority of India (SAI).
- The foreign exposures / competitions are provided to athletes under the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations (NSFs).
- National coaching camps are organized by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
National Sports Development Fund:
- National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) was established by the central government to mobilising resources from the government and non-governmental sources for promotion of sports and games.
- It was established in 1998, under Charitable Endowments Act 1890.
- The funds available under NSDF are used for promotion of sports and achieving excellence at the national and international level.
- The day to day working of the Fund is managed by the Executive Committee. The Member Secretary of the Executive Committee is the custodian of all records of the Fund.
Objectives of NSDF:
- To administer and apply the moneys of the Fund for promotion of sports in general and specific sports disciplines and individual sports persons in particular for achieving excellence.
- To impart special training and coaching in relevant sports disciplines to sports persons, coaches and sports specialists.
- To construct and maintain infrastructure for promotion of sports and games.
- To supply sports equipment to organizations and individuals for promotion of sports and games.
- To identify problems and take up research and development studies for providing support to excellence in sports.
- To promote international cooperation – exchanges which may promote the development of sports.
- To provide low interest or interest free loans for projects and activities related to any of the aforesaid objects.
Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS):
- The ‘Target Olympic Podium Scheme’ is a flagship program of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports which is an attempt to provide assistance to India’s top athletes.
- Under the Scheme, the Department of Sports shall identify athletes who are potential medal winners in 2020 / 2024 Olympics.
- The idea of the Scheme is to keep an eye in the future and fund a Developmental Group of Athletes who are medal prospects for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles Games in 2028.
Evolution of TOPS:
- In order to realize India’s Olympic medal dream, at the 2016 (Rio) and 2020 (Tokyo) Olympics, TOPS is established in September 2014.
- The first committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Shri. Anurag Thakur (MP) and comprised of eminent athletes – Pulella Gopichand, Rahul Dravid, Abhinav Bindra, and Manisha Malhotra.
Implications of TOPS scheme:
- TOPS sponsored P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik captured silver and bronze in Badminton and Wrestling respectively at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- In the 2016 Paralympic Games, the TOPS Athletes won 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.
- Out of the 70 athletes who won medals at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), 47 of them were supported under the TOP Scheme.
Mission Olympic Cell (MOC):
- The Mission Olympic Cell is created to assist the athletes who are selected under the TOP Scheme.
- The idea of the MOC is to debate, discuss and decide the processes and methods so that the athlete receives best assistance.
- The MOC conducts a meeting every week in order to evaluate the proposals of the athletes.
- The Committee sanctions budgets based on the athlete’s requirement and the Committee’s recommendation.
- The MOC is under the Sports Authority of India.
International engagement of SAI:
- SAI has signed agreements with foreign coaches. Foreign Coaches, engaged with SAI, are also to train 2 Indian coaches to upgrade their knowledge / technical skill.
- At present, 18 foreign coaches and 6 foreign support staff have been engaged with SAI.
Pre-Departure Orientation Programme launched for potential migrant workers
‘Pre-Departure Orientation Training’ (PDOT) programme has been launched to familiarize migrant workers with regard to language, culture and do’s and don’ts in the destination country.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in collaboration with Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) is conducting the PDOT programme under the ‘Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojna’ (PKVY).
- The National Skill Development Corporation (MSDE) is the implementing agency for this programme.
Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
- Prime Minister launched Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a skill development program targeted at Indian youth seeking overseas employment.
- It was launched after inauguration of 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention at Bengaluru, Karnataka in 2017.
- It is implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its training partners with consultation of Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Union Skill Development Ministry.
National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC)
- National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) is a not-for-profit public limited company incorporated on July 2008 under the Companies Act, 1956.
- NSDC was set up by the Ministry of Finance as Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
- It was launched on 15th July, 2015.
- Upgrade skills to international standards through significant industry involvement.
- Enhance private sector initiatives for skill development through appropriate Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models
- Play the role of a “market-maker” by bringing financing, particularly in sectors where market mechanisms are ineffective or missing.
- Prioritize initiatives that can have a multiplier or catalytic effect as opposed to one-off impact.
Initiative under NSDC:
- Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) – Enable a large number of Indian youth to take up industry-relevant skill training.
- Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra – Vocational skill Training Centres
- UDDAN – A Special Industry Initiative (SII) to address the needs of the educated unemployed in J&K.
- Takshshila – A National Portal for Trainers and Assessors, is an initiative under Skill Indian Mission for the management of trainers and assessors life-cycle.
- Kaushal Mart – An online skilling resource marketplace that aggregates skilling resources.
- International Skill Training – Government framed the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 to meet the challenge of skilling at scale with speed and quality.
- Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) – The program promotes international collaboration among the participating countries.
- Kaushal e-Pustakalaya (eBook Reader) – an Android App that gives readers and skill seekers an access to the skilling content.
- Rozgar Melas – An event where a number of employers and job seekers come together for the purpose of applying and interviewing for jobs.
- NSDC has also partnered with Amazon’s “Meri Saheli” initiative to improve the digital literacy of women.
- Together with Google India, it has launched a program to train people on mobile development, via a 100-hour course to be delivered though partner agencies.
- NSDC also signed a collaboration with the ‘Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs’ (IICA) to train people within CSR, corporate governance, business innovation and e-governance.
- Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa was the Chief Guest of the 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention at Bangalore.
Centre may relax angel tax norms for start-ups, sets up panel
The government has decided to set up a five-member working committee to look into the angel tax issue.
- Angel tax most commonly affects start-ups and the angel investors who back them.
What is Angel tax?
The ‘angel tax’ is a tax on the excess capital raised by an unlisted company through the issue of shares over and above the fair market value of those shares.
- This excess capital is treated as income and taxed accordingly.
- The tax was introduced in the 2012 Union Budget by then finance minister to arrest laundering of funds.
- It has come to be called angel tax since it largely impacts angel investments in startups.
- Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
- The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.
Why is Angel tax problematic?
- There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.
- In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) now renamed as the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.
- Earlier, start-ups whose aggregate amount of paid-up share capital and share premium after the proposed issue of share does not exceed ₹10 crore are eligible for exemption from the tax. The government is planning to raise this limit to ₹25 crore.
- It is also planning to amend the definition of a start-up to include companies that have been in operation for up to 10 years rather than the previous limit of seven years.
Is Scrapping Angel Tax possible?
- The angel tax could not be scrapped as money laundering is a major problem. There is a network of 200 shell companies and they have been under control since 2012, so it cannot be scrapped.
- However, concessions are under consideration with the size of the start-up, the duration of its operation, and the income of the angel investor.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) meet on Disaster Risk Management
The Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) organised a two-day meeting of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Cluster Group on Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in New Delhi.
- The event was attended by 8 IORA Member States.
- Participants included senior diplomats, experts, special invitees, high ranking officials of the navy, coast guard, NDRF, NDMA and IORA Secretariat officials.
Highlights of the IORA Meet:
- The IORA meet focused on development of a draft Work Plan for DRM in IORA.
- It deliberated on the need for establishing a DRM Core Group to take forward the agreed objectives under the Work Plan.
- Discussions were held on various topics including strengthening of regional cooperation, building international collaborations, research and information exchange, capacity building and capability enhancement, sharing of best practices, data and early warning technologies.
The draft Work Plan is to be circulated among all IORA Member States for additional inputs, to pool into the finalization of the document.
What is IORA?
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
- It is aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region through its 22 Member States and 9 Dialogue Partners.
- It is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
- It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
- The Indian Ocean Rim Association was established on 7 March 1997.
- The vision for IORA originated during a visit by late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to India in 1995.
- It underpinned the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in March 1995, and the creation of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (then known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation) two years later, in March 1997.
- The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.
About National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):
- National Disaster Management Authority, abbreviated as NDMA, is an agency of the Ministry of Home Affairs whose primary purpose is to coordinate response to natural or man-made disasters and for capacity-building in disaster resiliency and crisis response.
Roles and Responsibilities of NDMA:
- Lay down policies on disaster management.
- Coordinate the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plans for disaster management.
- Recommend provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation.
- Provide support to other countries affected by major disasters as may be determined by the Central Government.
- Take measures for the prevention of disaster, or the mitigation, or preparedness and capacity building for dealing with threatening disaster situations or disasters as it may consider necessary.
- Lay down broad policies and guidelines for the functioning of the National Institute of Disaster Management.
- The Government of India (GOI), in recognition of the importance of Disaster Management as a national priority, set up a High-Powered Committee (HPC) in August 1999 and a National Committee after the Gujarat earthquake, for making recommendations on the preparation of Disaster Management plans and suggesting effective mitigation mechanisms.
- On 23 December 2005, the GOI enacted the Disaster Management Act, which envisaged the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers, to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.
- The year 2017 is a landmark for IORA, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Association as a proactive inter-governmental organisation with an ever growing importance within the Indian Ocean region.
Fundraiser to secure 96 elephant corridors
The Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
- A recent survey found seven elephant corridors in the country impaired.
- NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust in India (WTI) in the alliance.
- The joint venture is aiming at raising £20 million (₹187.16 crore) to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors both old and new in the next ten years.
- Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another.
- It is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures.
- There are 88 identified elephant corridors in India.
Need for protection of elephant corridors:
- The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
- Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.
- Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.
- Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
- Government of India Ministry of Environment and Forests launched Project Elephant in 1992 to provide financial and technical support of wildlife management for free ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants.
- For India’s National Heritage Animal – the Asian elephant Gaj Yatra was planned.
- Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) done it together in partnership.
- It will move through 12 elephant range States.
- The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.
- The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species.
Key Facts for Prelims
Hoveizeh long-range cruise missile
- Iran’s Hoveizeh long-range ground-launched cruise missile was formally unveiled during the Eghtedar 40 defence exhibition in Tehran on 2 February.
- Hoveizeh is a development of the Soumar cruise missile that was unveiled in March 2015.
Features of the missile:
- Range of over 1,350 k
- Can fly at a low altitude
- Has high precision and accuracy
- Is capable of heavily destroying ground targets
Recent study has found that sleeplessness may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
About Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time.
- As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues and gradually bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia but not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes.