Polity & Governance
- Government can regulate Minority institutions
- Demanding Tulu to be included in eighth Schedule
Government Schemes & Policies
- Plea against DigiLocker rules
Issues related to Health & Education
- Second edition of Eat Right Mela
- Urban cooperative banks on radar of RBI
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India succeeds in breeding the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard
- Central assistance for flood relief
Art & Culture
- Zo festival
Science & Technology
- Farmers’ Innovation Fund
- Indian Data Relay Satellite System
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Polity & Governance
Government can regulate Minority institutions
The Supreme Court in a recent verdict upheld the constitutionality of West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008 that minority institutions cannot claim to have absolute right in deciding appointment of teachers and it can be regulated by the government.
- The court held that the state is well within its rights to introduce a regulatory regime in the “national interest” to provide minority educational institutions with well-qualified teachers in order for them to “achieve excellence in education.”
- The managements of minority institutions cannot ignore such a legal regime by saying that it is their fundamental right under Article 30 of the Constitution to establish and administer their educational institutions according to their choice.
What’s the issue?
- The West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008 held that there is no absolute and unqualified right of appointment for minority educational institutions.
- The Calcutta High Court in 2015 had declared that the above act ultra vires Article 30 of the Constitution upon hearing the petitions filed by managing committees of various madrasas.
- The recent ruling of Supreme Court has upheld the verdict given in West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008.
- The court favours some reasonable restrictions to strike a “balance” between the two objectives; one excellence in education and other to preserve the rights of minorities to run their educational institutions.
- As per MA Pai Foundation case, a regulation framed in the national interest must necessarily apply to all institutions regardless whether they are run by majority or minority as the essence of Article 30(1) is to ensure equal treatment between the majority and minority institutions.
- An objection can certainly be raised if an unfavourable treatment is meted out to an educational institution established and administered by minority but not on the cost of excellence in education.
Division of Education into two categories:
- The court broadly divides education into two categories – secular education and other education directly aimed at or dealing with preservation and protection of the heritage, culture, script and special characteristics of a religious or a linguistic minority.
- When it comes to the religious education, the court advocated “maximum latitude” to be given to the management to appoint teachers. The court reasons that only “teachers who believe in the religious ideology or in the special characteristics of the concerned minority would alone be able to imbibe in the students admitted in such educational institutions, what the minorities would like to preserve, profess and propagate.
- However, minority institutions where the curriculum was “purely secular”, the intent must be to impart education availing the best possible teachers.
Constitutional Provisions regarding Minority Educational Institutions (MEIs):
Article 30 of Indian Constitution:
Article 30 of the Indian constitution proclaims that:
(1) All minorities, whether or not they are based on religion or on language, they shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their own choice.
(2) The state shall not discriminate against any institution in granting aid to them on the bottom that it’s beneath the management of a minority, whether or not it’s supported faith or language.
- The essence of article 30 is that it is intended to ensure are not discriminated against or denied equal treatment.
Other Special rights enjoyed by religious minority institutions
- Under Article 15(5), MEIs are not considered for reservation
- Under Right to Education Act, MEI not required to provide admission to children in the age group of 6-14 years upto 25% of enrolment reserved for economically backward section of society
- In St Stephens vs Delhi University case, 1992, SC ruled that MEIs can have 50% seats reserved for minorities
- In TMA Pai & others vs State of Karnataka & others 2002 case, SC ruled that MEIs can have separate admission process which is fair, transparent and merit based. They can also separate fee structure but should not charge capitation fee.
Demanding Tulu to be included in eighth Schedule
There is an ongoing demand to include Tulu in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution.
What is Tulu?
- Tulu is a Dravidian language whose speakers are concentrated in two coastal districts; Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in Karnataka and the Kasaragod district of Kerala.
- Kasaragod district is called ‘Sapta bhasha Samgama Bhumi (the confluence of seven languages)’, and Tulu is among the seven.
- The various medieval inscriptions of Tulu from the 15th century are in the Tigalari alphabet script whereas in modern times the Tulu language is mostly written using the Kannada script.
Present status of Tulu:
- Robert Caldwell (1814-1891), in his book, ‘A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages’, called Tulu as “one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family”.
- The Census reports of 2011 reflects that there are 18,46,427 native speakers of Tulu in India which are larger in number than the speakers of Manipuri and Sanskrit, which have the Eighth Schedule status.
- The demand is that on the lines of Yuelu Proclamation, India should place all the deserving languages on equal footing to promote social inclusion and national solidarity.
Advantages of addition in Eighth Schedule:
- If included in the Eighth Schedule, Tulu would get recognition from the Sahitya Academy.
- Tulu books would be translated into other recognised Indian languages.
- Members of Parliament and MLAs could speak in Tulu in Parliament and State Assemblies, respectively.
- Candidates could write all-India competitive examinations like the Civil Services exam in Tulu.
- Special funds from central government aimed at conservation and development of a language.
- Yuelu Proclamation was framed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at Changsha, China, in 2018.
- It plays a central role in guiding the efforts of countries at Protection and Promotion of Linguistic Diversity of the World.
Constitutional provisions related to languages:
Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India
- The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages i.e. Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sindhi added by 21st Amendment Act, 1967.
- Konkani, Manipuri, Nepali added by 71st Amendment Act, 1992.
- Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Santali added by 92nd Amendment 2003.
- Article 29 of the Constitution provides that a section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture have the right to conserve the same.
- As per Articles 344(1) and 351 of the Indian Constitution, the eighth schedule includes the recognition of the following 22 languages.
Government Schemes & Policies
Plea against DigiLocker rules
The Delhi High Court sought response of the Centre on a petition against the rules regarding operation of DigiLocker on the grounds that it does not have a nomination facility.
- The plea argued that not allowing a user to nominate a successor or heir to operate the facility on her/his death was “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional”.
What is Digi Locker?
- DigiLocker is a flagship initiative of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) under ‘Digital India’ programme.
- It provides an account in cloud to every Indian citizen to access authentic documents/certificates such as driving license, vehicle registration, and academic marks list in digital format from the original issuers of these certificates.
- It is the government’s online document storage facility application and the issued documents in DigiLocker system are deemed to be at par with original physical documents.
- The beta version of the service was rolled out in February 2015.
Issues related to Health & Education
Second edition of Eat Right Mela
Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare inaugurated the second edition of the ‘Eat Right Mela’ in Delhi.
- On the sidelines, the Union Health Minister has launched NetSCoFAN, a network of research & academic institutions working in the area of food & nutrition.
- The Union Minister also launched ‘The PURPLE Book’ which is a handbook on diets for diseases.
Eat Right Mela:
- The Eat Right Mela is an initiative of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
- The aim is to engage and enable citizens to improve their health and well-being by making the right food choices and reducing diseases burden in the country.
- The Movement is an effort to bring together the flagship programmes of the government, like Poshan Abhiyan, Ayushman Bharat, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Anaemia-Mukt Bharat.
- The first Eat Right Mela was launched in New Delhi in December, 2018.
Eat Right Initiative:
- Eat Right Initiative is a multi-sectoral effort of government with primary focus on reducing the daily intake – of salt, sugar, fat and phasing-out trans-fats from diets and promoting healthier food options.
- It is built on two broad pillars of Eat Healthy and Eat Safe.
- On World Food Day 2019, Union Minister of Health launched Food Safety Mitra (FSM) scheme for strengthening and scaling up ‘Eat Right India’ movement. He also launched ‘Eat Right Jacket’ and ‘Eat Right Jhola’.
- To increase demand for healthier food,
- Set standards in schools, promote healthy eating habits,
- Have appropriate nutrition labelling and restriction on marketing to children through a suitable regulation,
- Have higher taxation for unhealthy food through differential GST rates,
- Ensure availability of healthier food options through appropriate menu labelling,
- Redesign choices available with increased availability and prominent display of healthier options,
- Encourage food processing industry to formulate their food products by reducing unhealthy ingredients.
- The movement is significant as there is a need to increase awareness on preventive health for all regarding increasing diseases burden like hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc.
- To address Obesity and Life style diseases which is apparently the result of excessive consumption of junk food, wrong choices of food, overeating and lack of exercise.
- It also aims to reduce increasing burden of non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and undernourishment resulting in infirmities such as wasting and stunting and widespread deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
What is NetSCoFAN?
- It would comprise of eight groups of institutions working in different areas viz. biological, chemical, nutrition & labelling, food of animal origin, food of plant origin, water & beverages, food testing, and safer & sustainable packaging.
- FSSAI has identified eight Nodal Institutions who would develop a ‘Ready Reckoner’ that will have inventory of all research work, experts and institutions and would carry out and facilitate research, survey and related activities.
- It would identify research gaps in respective areas and collect, collate and develop database on food safety issues for risk assessment activities.
- The need for identify research gaps in respective areas and collect, collate and develop database on food safety issues for risk assessment activities, will be addressed by NetSCoFAN.
Urban cooperative banks on radar of RBI
In lines with the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework that is imposed on commercial banks, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to impose restrictions on urban cooperative banks (UCBs) for deterioration of financial position.
Supervisory Action Framework (SAF):
- UCBs will face restrictions for worsening of three parameters:
- When net non-performing assets (NPA) exceed 6% of net advances,
- when they incur losses for two consecutive financial years or have accumulated losses on their balance sheets, and
- if capital adequacy ratio (CAR) falls below 9%.
- For breach of such risk thresholds, UCBs will be asked to submit a board-approved action plan to correct the situation like reducing net NPAs below 6%, for restoring the profitability and wiping out the accumulated losses, and increasing capital adequacy ratio to 9% or above within 12 months.
- The board of the UCB will be asked to review the progress under the action plan on quarterly/monthly basis and submit the post-review progress report to the RBI.
Actions by RBI:
- The RBI may also seek a board-approved proposal for merging the UCB with another bank or converting itself into a credit society like Small financial bank if CAR falls below 9%
- It can impose restrictions on declaration or payment of dividend or donation without prior approval if any one of the risk thresholds is breached.
- Curbs include restricting fresh loans and advances carrying risk-weights more than 100% on incurring capital expenditure beyond a specified limit and on expansion of the balance sheet.
- A show-cause notice for cancellation of banking licence under Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 may be considered when continued normal functioning of the UCB is no longer considered to be in the interest of its depositors/public.
Transition to Small Financial banks (SFB):
- In September 2018, RBI had come out with the scheme for voluntary transition of primary UCBs into small finance banks.
- Transition of the co-operative banks into SFBs would mean losing the status of a universal bank.
- Under the scheme, the promoters are required to be Indian residents with 10 years of experience in banking and finance.
- Promoter or promoter groups should conform to the definition of the SEBI (Issue of Capital & Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009 and RBI guidelines.
- Any bank with a minimum net worth of ₹50 crore and capital to risk (weighted) assets ratio of 9% and above are eligible to apply for voluntary transition to SFB.
- The SFBs will have to maintain a minimum net worth of ₹100 crore from the date of commencement of business.
- The SFBs are also required to maintain minimum capital adequacy ratio of 15% of its risk weighted assets (RWA) on a continuous basis and increase the minimum paid-up voting equity capital to ₹200 crore within five years of the date of commencement of business.
- SFBs are required to extend 75% of their loans to sectors eligible for classification as priority sector lending (PSL), comprising loans to agriculture, micro, small and medium enterprises, education, housing, and others.
- Additionally, 50% of the SFB loan portfolio should constitute loans and advances up to ₹25 lakh.
Co-operative Banks Vs. Commercial Banks:
Commercial banks are joint-stock banks.
Co-operatives banks are co-operative organisations.
Governed by the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.
Governed by the Co-operative Societies Act of 1904.
Subject to Direct control of RBI.
Subject to the rules laid down by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.
Offer a variety of banking services.
Lesser scope in offering services.
Large scale operations i.e. countrywide operations.
Small scale operations i.e. regional operations.
They are public sector banks and private sector banks.
They are private sector banks.
No influence of the account holders on the lending policies.
As members can be shareholders, they have influence on the lending policy of these banks.
Provide short-term finance to industry, trade and commerce, including sectors like exports etc.
Usually cater to the credit needs of agriculturists.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India succeeds in breeding the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard
India has reportedly succeeded in the breeding of the bird species Great Indian bustard through a state-sponsored conservation program.
About the Great Indian Bustard:
The Great Indian Bustard or Indian bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan.
- In India, the bird is found in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
- A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds.
- The species is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangeredon the IUCN Red List.
- It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
Project Great Indian Bustard
The state of Rajasthan initiated “Project Great Indian Bustard”, on World Environment Day 2013, identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.
- The species recovery plan also calls for ex situ conservation measures. However, it has so far failed in its objectives.
Central assistance for flood relief
Centre releases Rs 5908 cr for flood relief to 7 states from the National Disaster Relief Fund.
- The states are- Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tripura, Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
About National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF):
After the devastating Tsunami that hit India in 2004, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was enacted as the central Act to deal with the management of disasters. This act formulated three tier Disaster Management structure in India at National, States and District levels.
- National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) was renamed as National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) with the enactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005.
- NDRF is defined in Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
- NDRF is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
- NDRF amount can be spent only towards meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation. NDRF is located in the “Public Accounts” of Government of India under “Reserve Funds not bearing interest”.
- NDRF is financed through the levy of a cess on certain items, chargeable to excise and customs duty, and approved annually through the Finance Bill. Currently, a National Calamity Contingency Duty (NCCD) is levied to finance the NDRF and additional budgetary support is provided as and when necessary.
- A provision also exists in the DM Act to encourage any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF.
- Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.
- For projects exclusively for the purpose of mitigation, i.e., measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact or effect of a disaster or threatening disaster situation, a separate fund called National Disaster Mitigation Fund is constituted.
Art & Culture
The Mizoram government will organise Zo Kutpui (festival) in at least 10 states across India and countries such as US, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- The first edition of the festival will start on January 9 in Vanghmun in Tripura and will be held over for three days.
- The festival will then move to other states which have significant Mizo population.
- The event will witness various cultural programmes by different Mizo tribes, besides performance by various artistes belonging to Zo ethnic tribes of Mizoram and the Northeast.
- The festival is an attempt for “unification” of different Mizo tribes, and recently for the cause, bus services from state capital Aizawl to Kanhmun in Tripura, Churachandpur in Manipur, Shillong in Meghalaya and Tahan in Myanmar have flagged off to connect people of the Mizo community.
Major Tribes in Mizoram: Mizo, Chakma, Dimasa, Khasi, Kuki, Lakher, Pawai, Raba, Synteng.[Ref: Business Standard]
Science & Technology
Farmers’ Innovation Fund
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is planning to set up a Farmers’ Innovation Fund to scientifically validate, scale up and propagate the innovations of progressive farmers.
About the fund:
- The fund is intended to link farmers and farming with science and to ensure that their farm practices are science-based.
- The innovations of farmers are being documented by the Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and the Farmers’ Innovation Fund would encourage farmers to continue their innovations
- As part of efforts to encourage use of technology in farm sector, a linkage had been created between 105 start ups with farmers.
- The ICAR had also developed 45 different organic farming models suitable for different agro-climatic regions and had validated 51 integrated farming systems to help increase farm income.
- Recently, first edition of Farmers Congress was conducted in the 107th edition of Indian Science Congress to foster interactions of farmers with each other and with the scientists from across the country.
Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK):
- A Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is an agricultural extension centre in India.
- Usually associated with a local agricultural university, the centres serve as the ultimate link between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and farmers, and aim to apply agricultural research in a practical, localized setting.
- KVK, is an integral part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), aims at assessment of location specific technology modules in agriculture and allied enterprises, through technology assessment, refinement and demonstrations.
Indian Data Relay Satellite System
India plans to start its own era of space-to-space tracking and communication of its space assets this year by putting up a new satellite series called the Indian Data Relay Satellite System.
What is IDRSS?
- IDRSS is a set of satellites that will track, send and receive information from Indian satellites.
- The IDRSS is planned to track and be constantly in touch with Indian satellites, in particular those in low-earth orbits (LEO) which have limited coverage of earth and be useful in monitoring launches.
- The first beneficiary would be the prospective crew members of the Gaganyaan mission of 2022 who can be fully and continuously in touch with mission control throughout their travel, which will enable ISRO to take action in any urgency.
- In the coming years, it will be vital to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with its futuristic advanced LEO missions such as space docking, space station, as well as distant expeditions to moon, Mars and Venus.
- The first of them will be launched by the end of 2020 and will precede the pre-Gaganyaan experimental unmanned space flight which will have a humanoid dummy.
- A second one will follow in 2021. The two will offer near total tracking, sending and receiving of information from the crew 24/7.
- The IDRSS satellites of the 2,000 kg class would be launched on the Geostationary launch Vehicle (GSLV) launcher to the geostationary orbits (GEO) situated at the height of 36,000 km.
Existing Relay systems:
- Space majors such as the U.S. and Russia started their relay satellite systems in the late 1970s-80s and have around 10 satellites each. They use them to monitor their respective space stations Mir and the International Space Station, and trips to these space stations, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope.
- The U.S. is putting up its third-generation advanced fleet of TDRS (Tracking & Data Relay Satellites), Russia has its Satellite Data Relay Network and Europe is building its own European Data Relay System. China is into its second generation Tianlian II series.
Geostationary orbits (GEO):
- A geostationary orbits (GEO) is situated at the height of 36,000 km.
- An object in GEO has an orbital period equal to the Earth’s rotational period i.e. 24 hrs. approximately, so to the ground observers the satellite appears motionless, in a fixed position in the sky.
- A satellite in GEO covers a third of the Earth below and three geostationary satellites can provide total coverage of the earth.