Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves the High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2016 for enabling changing the names of High Courts of Bombay and Madras
- SC sets deadline for blocking online sex selection ads
- Cabinet approves the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme
- Cabinet approves setting up a Major port at Enayam near Colachel in Tamil Nadu
- Interest subvention for providing short term crop loan to farmers
- RBI’s steps on FCNR get FSDC nod
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Mauritius in the field of Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Mozambique in the field of Drug demand reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Tanzania in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves the High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2016 for enabling changing the names of High Courts of Bombay and Madras
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to introduce ‘The High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2016’ in Parliament.
- The proposed bill will facilitate the changing of the names of ‘Bombay High Court as Mumbai High Court’ and ‘Madras High Court as Chennai High Court’
- The High Courts of Bombay and Madras were named after the cities in which they were located. Consequence to the change in the names of these cities, there has been demands for change in the names of these High Courts.
- At present, there is no Central Law under which the proposal for change of names of these High Courts can be addressed. This Legislation is to address this requirement.
- The Bill would pave the way in changing the names of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay as High Court of Judicature at Mumbai and High Court of Judicature at Madras as High Court of Judicature at Chennai.
- Since the names of these cities have been changed, it is appropriate and logical that the names of these High Courts also get changed. It will fulfil the wishes of the State Government and the people.
SC sets deadline for blocking online sex selection ads
The Supreme Court slammed search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for failing to keep out ads selling sex selection kits.
- The SC asked the Central government and the representatives of search engines to immediately come up with technical solutions to prevent such ads from popping up during routine searches.
Supreme Court’s observations:
- A bench of two judges, in their harsh observations accused these intermediaries of having no respect for Indian law which bans sex determination tests and kits facilitating it. Advertising them is also a penal offence.
- The court has pointed out that sex determination is an offence in India, as the country attempts to battle high female feticide rates. But it may not be so elsewhere.
- Slamming the companies, the court said their expressions of helplessness to block these advertisements “are not acceptable.”
- The Bench had also considered the government’s suggestion that the three search engines be asked to provide it with a list of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) and Internet Protocol addresses hosting these ads so that they can be blocked or filtered.
- The Internet companies objected, saying that the Internet was a “censor-free zone” and the government’s stand amounted to “pre-censorship and information blocking.”
- In January 2015, the apex court observed that “India is suffering so much because of its sex ratio,” and passed an interim order telling the three search engines to “forthwith” withdraw online advertisements on pre-natal sex determinat-ion facilities, clinics or centres. According to the court, these advertisements violated Section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
About PCPNDT Act, 1994:
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Main provisions in the act are:
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect:
- Genetic abnormalities
- Metabolic disorders
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Certain congenital malformations
- Sex linked disorders.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
Act amended in 2003:
Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
Implications of the amendment are
- Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
- Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
- Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
- Provision for more stringent punishments
- Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
- Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies
Cabinet approves the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme
The Union Cabinet has approved a National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme.
- The Scheme has an outlay of Rs. 10,000 crore with a target of 50 lakh apprentices to be trained by 2019-20.
- It is for the first time a scheme has been designed to offer financial incentives to employers to engage apprentices.
- In addition, it also supports basic training, which is an essential component of apprenticeship training.
- 50% of the total expenditure incurred on providing basic training would be supported by Government of India.
- The Scheme would be implemented by Director General of Training (DGT) under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
- It provides for incentivizing employers to engage apprentices. 25% of the total stipend payable to an apprentice would be shared with employers directly by Government of India.
Significance of the scheme:
- The Scheme will catalyze the entire apprenticeship ecosystem in the country and it will offer a win-win situation for all stakeholders. It is expected to become one of the most powerful skill-delivery vehicle in the country.
Apprenticeship Training is considered to be one of the most efficient ways to develop skilled manpower for the country. It provides for an industry led, practice oriented, effective and efficient mode of formal training.
- The National Policy of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015 launched by the Prime Minister focuses on apprenticeship as one of the key components for creating skilled manpower in India.
- The present scheme also aims to achieve the objective as stated in the National Policy, 2015.
- The policy proposes to work pro-actively with the industry including MSME to facilitate tenfold increase opportunities in the country by 2020-20.
Cabinet approves setting up a Major port at Enayam near Colachel in Tamil Nadu
The Union Cabinet has given its ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up a Major port at Enayam near Colachel in Tamil Nadu.
- A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will be formed for development of this Port with initial equity investment from the three Major Ports in Tamil Nadu i.e. V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust, Chennai Port Trust, and Kamarajar Port Limited.
Why India need an another major port?
- At present, there are only a few ports in India that have sufficient draft and can match global cargo handling efficiencies. Currently, all of India’s trans-shipment traffic gets handled in Colombo, Singapore and other international ports. Indian port industry loses out upto Rs 1,500 Crores of revenues each year.
- Establishing this Major port at Enayam will not only act as a major gateway container port for Indian cargo that is presently trans-shipped outside the country, but also become a trans-shipment hub for the global East-West trade route.
- Enayam will also reduce the logistics cost for exporters and importers in South India who currently depend on trans-shipment in Colombo or other ports thus incurring additional port handling charges.
Key facts about Indian ports:
- According to the Ministry of Shipping, around 95 per cent of India’s trading by volume and 70 per cent by value is done through maritime transport.
- It is serviced by 13 major ports (Enayam port will be the 13th major port), 200 notified minor and intermediate ports.
- The total 200 non-major ports are in the following States: Maharashtra (48); Gujarat (42); Tamil Nadu (15); Karnataka (10); Kerala (17); Andhra Pradesh (12); Odisha (13); Goa (5); West Bengal (1); Daman and Diu (2); Lakshadweep (10); Pondicherry (2); and Andaman & Nicobar (23).
Interest subvention for providing short term crop loan to farmers
The Union Cabinet has approved the Interest Subvention Scheme for farmers for the year 2016-17.
- This will help farmers getting short term crop loan payable within one year up to Rs. 3 lakhs at only 4% per annum.
- The Central Government will give approximately Rs 18,276 crores as interest subvention for 2016-17.
Salient features of the scheme:
- The Central Government will provide interest subvention of 5 per cent per annum to all farmers for short term crop loan upto one year for loan upto Rs. 3 lakhs borrowed by them during the year 2016-17. Farmers will thus have to effectively pay only 4% as interest. In case farmers do not repay the short term crop loan in time they would be eligible for interest subvention of 2% as against 5% available above.
- In order to give relief to small and marginal farmers who would have to borrow at 9% for the post-harvest storage of their produce, the Central Government has approved an interest subvention of 2% i.e an effective interest rate of 7% for loans upto 6 months.
- To provide relief to the farmers affected by Natural Calamities, the interest subvention of 2% will be provided to Banks for the first year on the restructured amount.
- In case farmers do not repay the short term crop loan in time they would be eligible for interest subvention of 2% as against 5% available above.
RBI’s steps on FCNR get FSDC nod
The Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) recently said that the Reserve Bank of India has taken the right steps to address the issue of concessional swaps against Foreign Currency Non-Resident (FCNR) deposits.
- RBI had said that the swaps and the forwards will take care of the dollar requirement and should be neutral for the reserves. However, banks should witness deposit base depletion and some rupee liquidity will be strained.
- RBI had also said that it would take “all necessary measures to even out the resultant rupee liquidity gaps through use of appropriate instruments”.
- Assuring the market that the swaps are adequately covered by RBI’s forward purchases, the central bank, however, had also cautioned that the foreign exchange reserve could see some dip in the interim as the swaps and forwards are not timed perfectly.
- According to RBI data, banks had raised about $34 billion through FCNR (B) deposits in 2013, most of which are due this year. FCNR (B) deposits mature mostly in three years.
- In 2013 the rupee was at an all-time low of 68.85 against the dollar and the central bank had asked commercial banks to raise the foreign currency deposits to shore up reserves.
- The RBI estimates that the immediate effect of the maturity of these deposits would be an outflow of about $20 billion.
What are FCNR Fixed Deposits?
An FCNR account is a term deposit account that can be maintained by NRIs and PIOs in foreign currency. Thus, FCNRs are not savings accounts but fixed deposit accounts.
What foreign currencies can one maintain in FCNR accounts?
- Prior to 2011, FCNR deposits were allowed to be maintained in six currencies:
- US dollar,
- Pound Sterling (GBP),
- Japanese Yen,
- Australian dollar and
- Canadian dollar.
- However, in October 2011, the RBI decided that authorised dealer banks in India may be permitted to accept FCNR deposits in any permitted currency.
- ‘Permitted currency’ for this purpose would mean a foreign currency which is freely convertible and popularly include Danish Krone, Swiss Frank and Swedish Krona among others.
Benefits of FCNR:
- FCNR Fixed Deposits earn higher returns on your foreign currency than local deposits. Also, we can avoid any foreign currency exchange risk, ensuring the highest and guaranteed returns on your earnings.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Mauritius in the field of Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation
The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Mauritius.
- Under the MoU, a Joint Committee on Cooperation on Rural Development will be established which will meet alternatively in both countries on mutually agreed dates.
- Both countries have agreed to coordinate and facilitate appropriate technical cooperation, including the access to Indian expertise institutions that can assist in fulfilling the objectives of this MoU, exchange of relevant information and documents in the sphere of rural development.
Significance of the MoU:
- The MoU will help to establish a framework for cooperation between the National Development Unit, Prime Minister’s Office of the Republic of Mauritius and the Ministry of Rural Development of the Republic of India in the sphere of rural development.
- The MoU will encourage cooperation in the field of rural development and capacity building on the basis of equality and mutual benefit between both countries.
- An institutional arrangement for bilateral cooperation between India and Mauritius in the field of rural development and poverty alleviation was under consideration for some time.
- Both countries have a large segment of their population living in rural areas and are pre-dominantly dependent on agriculture and its allied activities for their livelihoods.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Mozambique in the field of Drug demand reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Mozambique on Drug demand reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals and related matters.
- The MoU is aimed to enhance mutual cooperation between the two countries in combating illicit trafficking in Narcotic drugs, Psychotropic substances and their precursors through exchange of information, expertise and capacity building.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Tanzania in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy
The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Tanzania in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy.
- The MoU will provide structured frame work for the cooperation between the two countries for the promotion and propagation of Indian Traditional Systems of Medicine & Homeopathy in Tanzania.
- The MoU has not any additional financial implications as the financial resources necessary to conduct research, training courses, conferences / meetings will be met from the existing allocated budget and existing plan schemes of Ministry of AYUSH.
- India is blessed with well-developed systems of traditional medicine including medicinal plants, which hold tremendous potential in the global health scenario.
- Traditional Medicine is an important element of life of Tanzanian people and Traditional medicines are used as first aid or stop-gap measure before the patient is referred to modern health facilities.
- The Ministry of AYUSH as a part of its mandate to propagate Indian systems of Medicine globally had signed MoUs with several other countries which include China, Malaysia, Hungary, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc.
- Tanzania is an important East African country with historical ties with India and with substantial population of around 70 thousand Indian diasporas.
- Tanzania and India have traditionally enjoyed close, friendly and co-operative relations.
- In recent years, the relationship of the two countries has been marked by close contacts at the highest political level including cooperation in the field of Health and medicine.