Polity & Governance
- Nod to convert FTII into Digital Media University
- Collegium reiterates objections to draft memo
- Supreme Court warns judges against judicial overreach
- Mega toilet complex built in Pandharpur
- New tax standard deferred by one year
- Government forms panel to study the feasibility of adopting new financial year
Environment & Ecology
- ‘Almost 30 per cent of our land undergoing degradation’
- Key conclusions from UK’s Iraq war inquiry
Art & Culture
- PM greets the people on Kutchi New Year
Science & Technology
- India ranks 91 in Networked Readiness Index 2016
Persons in News
- PM pays tributes to Babu Jagjivan Ram on his death anniversary
Polity & Governance
Nod to convert FTII into Digital Media University
The governing council of the Film and Television Institute of India cleared a list of proposals suggested by the FTII’s academic council.
- The proposed vision document of the academic council includes conversion of the institute into a Digital Media University, as well as changes in the syllabus structure, additional courses to be offered, and disciplinary solutions.
- The Digital Media University envisages setting up of nine different “schools” under the aegis of FTII, which will offer 22 courses. The institute currently offers 11 courses— seven on filmmaking and four on television production.
- The governing council also passed some statutes regarding disciplinary issues at the meet.
- The proposed changes resemble recommendations of a draft report prepared by Hewitt Associates and submitted in November 2010, that led to protests by students and alumni and forced the administration to scrap the draft report.
About the FTII:
The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India and aided by the Central Government of India.
- It is situated on the premises of the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company in Pune.
- Since its inception in 1960, FTII has become India’s premier film and television institute, with its alumni becoming technicians, actors and directors in the film and television industry.
- FTII is a member of the International Liaison Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television (CILECT), an organisation of the world’s leading schools of film and television.
- The FTII is registered under Societies’ Registration Act of 1860.
- The Society is headed by a President, who also functions as the Chairman of the Governing Council, the Academic Council and the Standing Finance Committee.
- The Governing Council is constituted by election from among the members of the Society. The Governing Council is the apex body of the FTII and is responsible for making all major policy decisions of the Institute.
Collegium reiterates objections to draft memo
The Supreme Court collegium has reiterated its rejection of several crucial clauses in the government’s draft Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges.
- The collegium is standing firm by its objections despite government’s efforts to smoothen ruffled feathers between the highest judiciary and the government over judicial appointments.
Why the SC has rejected the government proposed MoP?
- The main objectionable point was a provision in the government’s draft MoP under which the Executive could reject the recommendations of the Collegium citing national security considerations.
- The apex court has stated that the government’s move to have the final word on the issue would undermine judicial independence and thereby affect the basic feature of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has said that there is an urgent need to have better regulatory mechanism for the legal profession while upholding the punishment of an advocate who threatened a sitting judge.
What does the government want?
- The government wants a panel of retired judges to vet the applications of judicial candidates before they are forwarded to the collegium for its recommendations.
- Besides, the government wants the authority to reject a judicial candidate citing national security reasons despite the collegium’s recommendations.
- Finally, the government wants the Attorney-General of India and Advocates General of States to have a role in the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges, respectively.
- Presently, the government is bound to comply if the Supreme Court collegium chooses to override its disapproval of a person recommended for judicial appointment. If the government returns the candidate’s file to the collegium, and the latter reiterates its recommendation, the government has no choice but to comply.
In December 2015, a Constitution Bench, after restoring the collegium system, had directed the Centre to frame a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
- The Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts has “always been prepared” by the Executive in consultation with the President and the Chief Justice of India in consonance with the judgments of the Second Judges and Third Judges cases which ushered in and fine-tuned the collegium system.
Mega toilet complex built in Pandharpur
With an aim to cater to the needs of millions of devotees at Pandharpur pilgrimage town, Maharashtra, an NGO (Sulabh International) has built 1,417 toilets in eight complexes there, in less than three years, claiming, it is the world’s largest such facility.
- These mega structures are situated in the vicinity of the temple town which witnesses congregation of lakhs of devotees.
- Four buildings were operational for the last one year and now four more such structures are going to be operational ahead of the ‘Ashadhi Yatra’.
- Each building consists of 282 toilet and bath compartments and provides facility of lockers as well as changing rooms for devotees, the release said.
- The project was financed and supported by Maharashtra government.
- With the opening of all eight three-storey mega toilet buildings today, over 1.5 lakh persons can use toilets daily. A provision has also been made to facilitate bathing of several hundred persons simultaneously.
Supreme Court warns judges against judicial overreach
Cautioning the judiciary against judicial activism, the Supreme Court recently said judges must remain within the limits of the law and not peddle individual perceptions and notions of justice.
- The judgment provides a sharp mix of caution and rebuke to judges who cross the fine line between judicial functions and judicial activism.
Key suggestions given by the SC:
- The apex court said if a judge considered himself or herself a “candle of hope” and took decisions under the influence of such a notion, it might do more harm than good to the society.
- The supreme court has suggested that a judge may be one who would like to sing the song of liberty and glorify the same abandoning passivity, but his solemn pledge has to remain embedded to Constitution and the laws.
- The court has added that application of the said principle in all circumstances is not correct because it may have the potential to affect society.
- While using the power a judge has to bear in mind that ‘discipline’ and ‘restriction’ are the two basic golden virtues within which a judge functions.
- The verdict was passed on a petition by the Gujarat government challenging an August 2012 order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court that said the State’s refusal to prematurely release a TADA convict, Lal Singh, was “illegal.” The High Court also ordered the State to release him on parole for three months.
New tax standard deferred by one year
In a move set to provide respite to India Inc., the government has deferred implementation of the Income Computation and Disclosure Standards (ICDS) by one year.
- ICDS will now be applicable from the current fiscal year as against 2015-16 notified earlier.
- Further, the tax department will also clarify on sticking points raised by industry over its implementation.
- The postponement is in line with recommendations of the R.V. Easwar Committee that had proposed giving Indian companies more time to move to the ICDS regime.
- Income Computation and Disclosure Standards (ICDS) is a framework that lays down the way taxable income of corporate assessees is computed.
- ICDS were developed with a view to minimising tax related disputes by bringing greater consistency in the application of accounting principles governing the computation of income.
- These standards were developed using the old Indian General Audit and Accounting Practices (GAAP).
Main Features of ICDS:
- In case of conflict between the provisions of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and ICDS, then the provisions of the Income-Tax Act would prevail.
- No need to maintain separate books of accounts for ICDS. It only for income computation.
Concerns about ICDS:
- Implementation of the ICDS had raised concerns from industry, especially because of multiple prevalent accounting standards.
- This was also flagged by the Easwar committee, set up by the government last year to simplify the Income-tax (I-T) Act.
- The Easwar committee had observed that under ICDS, multiple accounting methods, one for the books of accounts and another for tax purposes, is required which creates confusion, interpretation issues, multiplicity of records and additional compliance burden which may outweigh the gains to be obtained by the application of ICDS.
- Moreover, many of the provisions of ICDS are capable of generating a legal debate about which there is no clarity at present.
- As per the existing guidelines, in case of conflict between the provisions of the I-T Act and ICDS, the latter will prevail. There is no clarity on what will happen in case there is a court judgement that is in conflict with the ICDS provisions.
- The implementation of ICDS for companies from this year adds to the uncertainty as firms will need to follow one accounting standard to compute the profit and loss account and one for books of accounts to compute taxable income.
Government forms panel to study the feasibility of adopting new financial year
The Finance Ministry set up a committee under former chief economic adviser Shankar Acharya to examine the desirability and feasibility of having a new fiscal year.
- The committee has been asked to submit its report by 31 December.
- Currently, India follows the April-March fiscal year and all macroeconomic and company data, including the government’s budget, are compiled and prepared for the same period.
- Most countries follow a January-December fiscal year.
- A committee of secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary had earlier this year recommended changing the fiscal year to January-December.
Mandate of the committee:
- The committee will examine the merits and demerits of various dates for the start of the fiscal year, including the existing dates.
- The committee will also examine the suitability of the fiscal year from the point of view of correct estimation of receipts and expenditure of central and state governments; effect on agricultural crop periods; impact on businesses, taxation systems and procedures, statistics and data collection; the convenience of legislatures for transacting budget work; and other relevant matters.
Points in favour of changing the fiscal year to January-December:
- According to an expert, except for agriculture, a change in dates for the fiscal year will not alter information flow for other factors cited by the finance ministry.
- While a July-June financial year in sync with the agriculture calendar will take care of the seasonality in agriculture, it will not be comparable with the rest of the world.
- A better option will be to switch to a January-December financial year, which will make it comparable with other countries.
- After India switched to gross domestic product (GDP) at market prices from GDP at factor cost to calculate its national income, it made its macroeconomic data internationally comparable. However, multilateral institutions still have to make separate calculations for India’s fiscal year as it is among the few countries not following a January-December fiscal year.
Environment & Ecology
‘Almost 30 per cent of our land undergoing degradation’
According to a study, nearly 30% per cent of the country’s total geographical area is undergoing degradation.
- The study analysed satellite imageries of the country over an eight-year period.
Key points of the study:
- As shown by comparative remote-sensing satellite imageries of the States for the periods 2003-05 and 2011-13, the degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares during the period.
- There was high desertification and degradation in Delhi, Tripura, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram, while Odisha, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh showed some improvement.
- Just nine States together account for nearly 24% of desertification; the other States have less than one per cent of this land. The culprit States in that order are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
- Southern State Kerala figures among northern and northeastern States where less than 10% land is degraded. With it are relatively greener States of Assam, Mizoram, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The bad news is that 3.6 million ha of productive land are getting lost, while on the positive side, some land has been reclaimed and the intensity of degradation has been slowed down in a few other areas.
- The main culprit is water erosion (26%) followed by degrading vegetation (rising slightly nearly nine per cent) and land or soil erosion due to wind.
About the study:
- The ongoing study, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, was led by the Indian Space Research Organisation and involved 19 institutes.
- ISRO’s Space Applications Centre released the findings last month in the form of a ‘Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas’, combining GIS and remote sensing data. The SAC had undertaken a similar study in 2007.
India and UNCCD:
- India has committed itself to the U.N. Convention on Combating Desertification that it would fully stop land degradation by 2030.
- The Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas, adding 68 vulnerable districts, would form part of the country’s action plan to arrest the phenomenon and also be a status report to the U.N. body.
About the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification:
- The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.
- The Convention, the only convention stemming from a direct recommendation of the Rio Conference’s Agenda 21, was adopted in Paris, France in 1994 and entered into force in 1996.
- It is the only internationally legally binding framework set up to address the problem of desertification.
- The Convention is based on the principles of participation, partnership and decentralization—the backbone of Good Governance and Sustainable Development.
- It has 195 parties, making it near universal in reach. In 2013, Canada became the first country to withdraw from the convention.
- To help publicise the Convention, 2006 was declared “International Year of Deserts and Desertification”.
The definition of desertification implies it is degradation that cannot be reversed in a lifetime (around 60 years).[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
Key conclusions from UK’s Iraq war inquiry
United Kingdom’s recently released Iraq War Inquiry report heavily criticised intelligence, military and political leadership under then prime minister Tony Blair in the run-up to the 2003 invasion and during the conflict.
- The 2.6 million word report was released by retired civil servant John Chilcot.
Key conclusions of the report:
- The UK chose to join the invasion before peaceful options had been exhausted.
- The decision to invade was made in unsatisfactory circumstances.
- Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, however, there was no imminent threat from Saddam.
- Blair promised George Bush: ’I will be with you, whatever’.
- George Bush largely ignored UK advice on postwar planning.
- Britain’s intelligence agencies produced ‘flawed information’.
- The UK military were ill-equipped for the task.
- UK-US relations would not have been harmed if UK stayed out of war.
- Blair ignored warnings on what would happen in Iraq after invasion.
- The UK had no influence on Iraq’s postwar US-run administration.
- The UK did not achieve its objectives in Iraq.
- The government did not try hard enough to keep a tally of Iraqi civilian casualties.
Art & Culture
PM greets the people on Kutchi New Year
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has greeted the people on the occasion of Kutchi New Year.
About Kutchi New Year:
The Kutchi people celebrate Ashadhi Beej a Kutchi New Year.
- Ashadhi Bij is 2nd day of Shukla paksha of Aashaadha month, of Hindu calendar.
- As for people of Kutch Region, this day is associated with beginning of rains in Kutch Region. Because Kutch region is largely a desert area.
- Hindu calendar month of Aashaadh usually begins on 22 June and ending on 22 July.
Science & Technology
India ranks 91 in Networked Readiness Index 2016
India was placed at 91st position in the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) 2016.
- The Index was released by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) as the part of the WEF’s Global Information Technology Report 2016.
- The Index measures countries’ success in creating the necessary conditions for a transition to a digitised economy and society.
Highlights of the Index:
- Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands and the US are leading the world when it comes to generating economic impact from investments in information and technology.
- Singapore leads the Index followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway and the United States.
- The top five in the Asian region in terms of overall ICT readiness remain Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand, China and Sri Lanka.
- India (91st) was ranked the lowest among the BRICS countries- Russia (41st), China (59th), South Africa (65th) and Brazil (72nd).
- India’s position on the list has come down for the fourth consecutive year in a row in 2016 from 89th in 2015, 83rd in 2014 and 68th in 2013.
- In different parameters of Index, India has scored better in terms of political and regulatory environment (78th position).
- It ranked very high (8th) place in terms of affordability.
- It scored worse in terms of business and innovation environment (110th).
- In terms of infrastructure, it scored worse place at 114th position.
Persons in News
PM pays tributes to Babu Jagjivan Ram on his death anniversary
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has paid tributes to Babu Jagjivan Ram on his death anniversary.
About Babu Jagjivan Ram:
Jagjivan Ram (1908–1986), known popularly as Babuji, was an Indian independence activist and politician from Bihar. He was a leader of the Dalit community.
- He was instrumental in foundation of the All-India Depressed Classes League, an organisation dedicated to attaining equality for untouchables, in 1935.
- He was elected to Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1937, after which he organised the rural labour movement.
- In 1946, he became the youngest minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim government, the first cabinet of India as a Labour Minister and also a member of Constituent Assembly of India, where he ensured that social justice was enshrined in the Constitution.
- He went on to serve as a minister with various portfolios for more than forty years as a member of the Indian National Congress (INC).
- Most importantly, he was the Defence Minister of India during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.
- His contribution to the Green Revolution in India and modernising Indian agriculture, during his two tenures as Union Agriculture Minister are still remembered, especial during 1974 drought when he was asked to hold the additional portfolio to tide over the food crisis.
- He later served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India (1977–79), then in 1980, he formed Congress (J).