Polity & Governance
- Parties can’t use government fund, machinery to promote their poll symbol, orders EC
- SC blocks BCCI funds to State units
- SC stays commercial release of GM mustard
- Polygamy no longer progressive, SC told
- Maharashtra becomes 17th State to join UDAY
Environment & Ecology
- New termite species discovered in Kerala
- All Lighthouses to Be Solarized by December
Bilateral & International Relations
- BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement declared operational
Polity & Governance
Parties can’t use government fund, machinery to promote their poll symbol, orders EC
The Election Commission has ordered that no political party shall henceforth either use or allow the use of public funds or public place or government machinery for promoting itself or the symbol allotted to it.
Election Commission’s directives:
- ECI order bars political parties from using public space, public funds or government machinery for carrying out activities propagate party election symbols or advertise them.
- It has clarified that above directions violates the lawful direction of it within the meaning of paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order.
- The clause 16A of the Order confers power on ECI to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party fails to follow its lawful directions and instructions or to observe Model Code of Conduct.
Implications of these directives:
- Henceforth, no registered political party in the country shall either use or allow the use of any public place or public funds or government machinery for carrying out any activity that would amount to advertisement for the party or propagating party’s allotted election symbol.
- It will further augment ECI’s goal of conducting free and fair election and level playing field for all stakeholders.
- The ECI’s directive came on a direction of the Delhi High Court asking it to issue norms for restraining political parties from using public money to propagate their poll symbol.
- The EC direction comes in the light of a judgment passed by the Delhi High Court in the Common Cause Vs BSP case, in which the NGO had sought cancellation of the BSP’s poll symbol ‘elephant’. The high court had remanded the plea to EC for a decision.
- Delhi HC had mentioned that utilising public resources for promoting any political party or its election symbol is antithetical to the concept of free and fair election and the principle of level playing field for all stakeholders.
SC blocks BCCI funds to State units
The Supreme Court has barred 25 State cricket associations from using BCCI funds till they accept the Justice Lodha Committee’s reforms in “letter and spirit.”
- The state associations are yet to get the balance payment of their share from nearly Rs. 2,500 crore the BCCI received towards compensation on account of termination of the Champions League T20 tournament.
Now, what the state associations have to do?
- The court has directed that the pending Rs. 16.73 crore and any future funds would be released only after the State associations passed resolutions undertaking to comply with the reforms.
- This has to be followed by filing affidavits declaring their compliance before both the Lodha panel and the Supreme Court.
- Also, 13 State associations, which have already received Rs. 16.73 crore, can only use the money after passing resolutions to implement the Lodha Committee reforms.
The committee headed by justice (retd) RM Lodha was appointed by the apex court last year in the wake of a sport-fixing scandal in IPL, the biggest crisis to hit the cash-rich sports body in the country.
- Ever since the sweeping reforms were proposed, BCCI have raised objections to several recommendations including: advertisements between overs during a match broadcast, ‘one state, one vote’, the presence of two members from IPL franchises on the league’s governing council, the formation of an apex council, and a cap on the tenure of the office bearers.
- BCCI is also accused of cherry-picking directives made by the supreme court- appointed Lodha panel. The BCCI’s refusal to accept the reforms has worsened the stand-off with the apex court and threatened to disrupt India’s most popular sport.
SC stays commercial release of GM mustard
The Supreme Court has stayed the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop till October 17, 2016.
- It has asked the Central Government to seek public opinion before releasing the variety for cultivation purpose.
What petition says?
- The petition had alleged that sowing of the GM Mustard seeds will be undertaken without relevant tests and without entire bio-safety dossier for commercial launch GM mustard.
- It also had urged the SC to prohibit open field trials and the commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops, including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants.
About GM Mustard DMH-11:
- Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops sown between mid-October and late November. It a self-pollinating crop difficult to hybridise naturally as it cross-pollinate. It is largest edible oil yielding crop of India.
- DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11 is genetically modified variety of mustard developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. It was Government sponsored project.
- However, researchers at Delhi University have created hybridised mustard DMH-11 using “barnase / barstar” technology for genetic modification. It is Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crop.
- In February 2016, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GMEC) had allowed the commercial production of another GM crop viz. Mustard DMH-11.
Polygamy no longer progressive, SC told
The centre has informed the Supreme Court that it is opposed to the Muslim practice of triple talaq.
What has the centre said?
- The centre has described this practice of triple talaq as “misplaced in a secular country.”
- The centre says “gender equality and the dignity of women are not negotiable” and told judges that “even theocratic states have undergone reforms in this area of law” which reinforces that these practices cannot be considered an integral part of practice of Islam.
What’s the issue?
- The constitution allows Muslims, the biggest religious minority group in the country, to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code.
- The Supreme Court has been examining how much it can interfere in Muslim laws governing family-related issues as it hears a plea to end the practice which permits Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying talaq three times.
- The court had asked the government to weigh in on the debate as to whether intervening in the law would violate the Muslim community’s fundamental rights.
What activists demands?
- Women’s rights activists have long called for reform of the Muslim personal law which they say discriminates against women.
- What they want instead is a well-defined law that criminalises polygamy, unilateral divorce and child marriage.
Campaigners say the “triple talaq” practice is unconstitutional because it violates the right to equality.
- According to the top decision-making body for Muslims in India, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the court cannot interfere in the religious freedom of minorities and “rewrite personal laws in the name of social reform”.
Maharashtra becomes 17th State to join UDAY
Government of India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd. (MSEDCL) under the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY).
- Under UDAY, sixteen states/UT have already signed the MoU till date, Maharashtra being the seventeenth.
- The combined DISCOM debt, including Central PSU dues, that would be restructured in respect of these states is around 68% of the total outstanding DISCOM debt as on 30th September, 2015.
- Under UDAY, Maharashtra Government has committed to take over 75% of DISCOM’s non-capex debt of around Rs.6600 crores during the current year.
- Balance 25% of such debt remaining with the DISCOM would be converted into Bonds or repriced at cheaper rates. This would reduce the interest burden of the State/DISCOM by Rs.595 crores.
The Power Ministry had launched UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana) on November 20, 2015.
- The scheme is expected to help discoms save around Rs 1.8 lakh crore in the next three years. The cumulative debt of discoms is Rs 4.37 lakh crore.
- The UDAY scheme is aimed at bringing ailing power distribution companies (discoms) to a state of operational efficiency, with state governments taking over up to 75% of their respective discoms’ debt and issuing sovereign bonds to pay back the lenders.
- UDAY is an effort to make these DISCOMs financially and operationally healthy, to be able to supply adequate power at affordable rates, and enable the Governments to make efforts towards 100% Village electrification and 24X7 Power For All.
- It envisages to reduce interest burden, cost of power and AT&C losses. Consequently, DISCOM would become sustainable to supply adequate and reliable power enabling 24×7 power supply.
- UDAY has inbuilt incentives encouraging State Governments to voluntarily restructure their debts.
- UDAY also provides for measures that will reduce the cost of power generation, which would ultimately benefit consumers.
Environment & Ecology
All Lighthouses to Be Solarized by December
The Directorate General of Lighthouse & Lightships (DGLL), a subordinate organization under the Ministry of Shipping, is planning to achieve complete solarization of all the Lighthouses in India.
- Presently, DGLL is maintaining 193 Lighthouses which provide aids to marine navigation to the mariners transiting in coastal waters of India.
- Till date 176 Lighthouses have been fully solarized.
- The Directorate has planned to achieve complete solarization of all the Lighthouses by December 2016.
Why solarization of the Lighthouses is necessary?
- Most of these Lighthouses were operating on the conventional source of energy i.e. Electricity and Diesel Generators which consume fossil fuel and emit high amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) thus increasing greenhouse effect and causing air pollution.
- Generation of 1 Mega Watt Hour (MWh) power through fossil fuel leads to emission of approximately 900 Kg of Co2.
- In order to reduce CO2 emission, DGLL has decided to replace the source of energy utilized at lighthouses to renewable source and started harnessing solar energy to operate its lighthouses.
- With this complete solarization, approximately 1.5 MWh energy will be generated which will amount to approximately reducing 6000 Kg of greenhouse gases per day.
- On achieving complete solarization, all the Lighthouses under DGLL will be operating on Green Energy.
- This is a step in line with Government’s initiative to maximize the use of Green Energy for protection of environment besides making the Lighthouses operate on a reliable, resilient and renewable energy system and reduction of global warming emissions.
New termite species discovered in Kerala
A new termite species Glyptotermes Chiraharitae was discovered at Kakkayam in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala.
- It has been named ‘Chiraharitae’ after the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, where it was spotted.
- Termites are of three types —damp wood, dry wood and subterranean. Glyptotermes Chiraharitae species are of the damp wood category.
- They infest parts of woods with high moisture content, the decaying or rotting areas in particular. They are exclusively wood dwelling and do not require any contact with soil.
- The flying adults of this species are approximately 10 mm long, while the soldiers are around 9.5 mm long.
- Its relatives are known to attack mango, sal, Rhododendron, banyan trees, Artocarpus, silver oak, and jamun trees. Compared with other insect groups, termites are not a multifarious speciose.
- In India there 285 species of termites and among them 61 are documented from Kerala.
Bilateral & International Relations
BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement declared operational
The Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) of BRICS nations was declared operational.
- It was announced by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who had chaired the Governing Council meeting of the BRICS’ CRA in New York, United States.
What is BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement?
- The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) is a framework for the provision of support through liquidity and precautionary instruments in response to actual or potential short-term balance of payments pressures.
- It was established in 2015 by the BRICS countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
- The legal basis is formed by the Treaty for the Establishment of a BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, signed at Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
- It entered into force upon ratification by all BRICS states, announced at the 7th BRICS summit in 2015.
- The objective of this reserve is to provide protection against global liquidity pressures. This includes currency issues where members’ national currencies are being adversely affected by global financial pressures.
- The capital of $100 billion is distributed as follows:
- China ($41 billion),
- India ($18 billion),
- Brazil ($18 billion),
- Russia ($18 billion) and
- South Africa ($5 billion)
- The CRA is generally seen as a competitor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and along with the New Development Bank is viewed as an example of increasing South-South cooperation.
- Both CRA and NDB were announced as part of BRICS Fortaleza Declaration announced during 6th BRICS summit held in Fortaleza, Brazil in July 2014.