Polity & Governance
- Union Ministry of DoNER announces exclusive ‘North Eastern Tourism Development Council’
- Road ministry to launch e-challan, m-parivahan apps
- Decide on Jio case in ‘reasonable time’: TDSAT to TRAI
- India better placed amidst fragile world economy: FSDC in its 16th meeting
Bilateral & International Relations
- H1-B visa reform Bill reintroduced in U.S. Congress
- US designates election infrastructure as ‘critical’
Key Facts for Prelims
- 44th New Delhi World Book Fair
- RBI to provide Nepal Rs. 1 billion in Rs. 100 notes
Polity & Governance
Union Ministry of DoNER announces exclusive ‘North Eastern Tourism Development Council’
The Union Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has announced the formation of exclusive “North-Eastern Tourism Development Council” (NETDC).
- Besides, it also released the 2017 Calendar of the North Eastern Council.
- NETDC will be on a public-private partnership (PPP) mode under the auspices of Union Ministry of DoNER.
- This is for the first time that the Government has decided to set up a separate tourism development agency, devoted to a particular region of the country.
- The North-East Council Calendar for 2017 carries the theme of “seasonal fruits” in different parts of the year.
Road ministry to launch e-challan, m-parivahan apps
The ministry of road transport and highways is set to launch two mobile apps—e-challan and m-parivahan—to provide a comprehensive digital solution for enforcement of traffic rules.
- The apps would be released by transport minister Nitin Gadkari during the 28th Road Safety Week from 9-15 January.
Key features of the apps:
- The e-challan app will help traffic police in enforcement of transport laws and is integrated with the Vahan and Sarathi applications.
- e-challan will help in improving transparency by connecting all stakeholders through a common system and ensuring data integrity.
- It will also help in easing operations and efficient monitoring through digitization of records and will enhance the visibility of offenders, leading to better traffic management.
- m-parivahan is a citizen-centric app that will facilitate access to various transport-related services.
- It will provide a virtual driving licence and registration certificates through back-end connection to the transport national register.
- In this application, if a vehicle number is entered into the app, it will give full details of the car and the owner, including his driving licence and registration certificate.
- This will help check the genuineness of a vehicle’s ownership and driver and help in passenger safety when hiring a driver or when buying a second-hand vehicle.
- However, the user has to be registered so that his credentials can be established. One of the ways of doing this would be through an Aadhaar-based one time password (OTP).
- The app will also facilitate “good Samaritans” through technology. They can report accidents by clicking pictures and reporting to traffic authorities in states and to road transport organizations, with the option of hiding their identity, if they so wish.
- They can also report traffic violations. States will be asked to provide linkages to the 108 service for better response.
Decide on Jio case in ‘reasonable time’: TDSAT to TRAI
Telecom tribunal Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has asked sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to decide on Reliance Jio’s free 4G service within “reasonable time”.
- A TDSAT bench heard arguments of both sides — Airtel and TRAI — and posted the matter on February 1 for the next hearing.
What’s the issue?
The TDSAT direction came while hearing a petition filed by Bharti Airtel, which has moved the tribunal against Trai’s decision allowing Reliance Jio to continue with its free promotional offer beyond the stipulated 90 days, alleging that the regulator acted as “a mute spectator” to violations.
Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) was established in 2000 through an amendment of the TRAI 1997 act.
- The primary objective of TDSAT’s establishment was to release TRAI from adjudicatory and dispute settlement functions in order to strengthen the regulatory framework.
- It was established to adjudicate disputes and dispose of appeals with a view to protect the interests of service providers and consumers of the telecom sector and to promote and ensure orderly growth of the telecom sector.
- Any dispute involving parties like licensor, licensee, service provider and consumers are resolved by TDSAT. Moreover, any direction, order or decision of TRAI can be challenged by appealing in TDSAT.
India better placed amidst fragile world economy: FSDC in its 16th meeting
The 16th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was held in New Delhi.
- It was attended by heads of all financial sector regulators as its members.
- It reviewed the major issues and challenges facing the economy.
- Besides, a brief report on the activities undertaken by the FSDC sub-committee chaired by RBI Governor Urjit Patel was placed before the FSDC meeting.
What has been discussed at the meeting?
- India appears to be much better placed because of improvement in its macroeconomic fundamental despite fragile world economy.
- The status of NPAs of public sector banks and measures taken by the government and the RBI for tackling the stressed assets were reviewed.
- It also discussed about the various initiatives taken by the government and regulators for promoting financial inclusion/ literacy.
- Discussed issues pertaining to Fintech, digital innovations and cyber security. It also discussed on further steps to be taken.
- Demonetisation will help in eliminating the shadow economy and tax evasion. It will have a positive impact on GDP and fiscal consolidation in the long run.
About Financial Stability and Development Council:
In December 2010, the Central Government had established Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) with the Finance Minister as it Chairman.
- The idea to create it was first mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms in 2008.
- It is a super regulatory body for regulating financial sector which is a vital for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in the economy.
- The FSDC envisages to strengthen and institutionalise mechanism of
- Maintaining financial stability,
- Financial sector development,
- Inter-regulatory coordination along with monitoring macro-prudential regulation of economy.
- It acts as an apex level forum to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability.
- It also enhances inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development in the country.
- It focuses on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
- It monitors macro-prudential supervision of the economy.
- It assesses the functioning of the large financial conglomerates.
- Union Finance Minister (Chairman).
- Heads of the financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e. RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA),
- Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Union Finance Ministry),
- Secretary, Department of Financial Services, and
- Chief Economic Adviser.
FSDC can invite experts to its meeting if required.[Ref: Indian Express]
Bilateral & International Relations
H1-B visa reform Bill reintroduced in U.S. Congress
A Bill backing key changes in the H1—B programme that allows skilled workers from countries like India to fill high—tech jobs in the US has been reintroduced in the US Congress.
Highlights of the bill:
- The new bill would require workers on the H-1B visa pay a minimum of $100,000, up from $60,000 currently.
- The Bill also removes the Master’s degree exemption to the cap on the number of visas available.
- The Bill prohibits companies from hiring H1-B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H1-B and L-1 visa holders.
- The Bill encourages companies to recruit American workers. This provision would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for short training periods and then send these workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans.
- It explicitly prohibits replacement of American workers by H1-B or L-1 visa holders.
- The Bill seeks to give the Department of Labour enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance as well as to penalise fraudulent or abusive conduct.
What is H-1B visa?
- The H1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa category for temporary workers given by the United States.
- For such a visa, an employer must offer a job and apply for your H1B visa petition with the US Immigration Department.
US designates election infrastructure as ‘critical’
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated U.S. election infrastructure as critical infrastructure.
- This move would better protect elections from increasingly sophisticated hacking.
Election infrastructure includes:
- Polling places,
- Centralized vote tabulations locations,
- Voter registration databases and
- Voting machines,
- Other systems used to manage the election process and report and display results.
- The designation places responsibilities on the US Homeland Security secretary to identify and prioritize those sectors, considering physical and cyber threats against them.
- The secretary is also required to conduct security checks and provide information about emerging and imminent threats.
- Such a change does not require presidential action, and only requires the secretary to first consult with the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.
- While the designation puts responsibilities on the Department of Homeland Security, it does not require entities that are determined “critical infrastructure” to participate. Much of the nation’s critical infrastructure is in the private sector.
- The designation allows for information to be withheld from the public when state, local and private partners meet to discuss election infrastructure security _ potentially injecting secrecy into an election process that’s traditionally and expressly a transparent process.
The designation follows the release of a U.S. intelligence report accusing the Russian government of hacking Democratic Party computers in an effort to help Republican Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.[Ref: Economic Times]
Key Facts for Prelims
44th New Delhi World Book Fair
- The 44th edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair began at Pragati Maidan in national capital.
- The theme for this edition of the event is ‘Manushi– Books Written on and by Women’.
- The nine-day event has been organised by National Book Trust (NBT), under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. While, India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) is the Co-organizer.
- Based on the theme, the fair will exhibit the rich tradition of women writings from ancient times till the present.
- The NBT which is celebrating 60 years of its foundation, will showcase its journey in promoting books and reading at a special exhibit called ‘This is no looking back’.
- The exhibit will display the varied activities that have been undertaken NBT in promoting books including organising book fairs.
RBI to provide Nepal Rs. 1 billion in Rs. 100 notes
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has agreed to provide ₹1 billion in ₹100 notes to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) to ease the acute shortage of ₹100 notes faced by Nepal.
- The NRB’s plan to import ₹100 notes was delayed due to the Indian government’s move to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes on November 8.
- As the RBI was under pressure to manage cash after demonetisation, it had told its Nepali counterpart that Nepal may have to wait till the situation normalised in India.
- But, the RBI recently wrote to the NRB that it will be able to provide ₹1 billion in ₹100 notes.