Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court seeks Centre’s reply on validity of special status to JK
- 6 states chosen Under NITI Aayog’s SATH initiative
- Commerce Ministry to wind up DGS&D this fiscal
- e-Shakti initiative of NABARD
Government Schemes & Policies
- Government Launches Swachh Survekshan Gramin 2017
- Google, NSDC Launch Android Skill Development Programme to Improve Mobile Developer Ecosystem
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Preparatory Meeting of the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’
Key Facts for Prelims
- Qatar announces visa-free entry for 80 countries including India
For IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Supreme Court seeks Centre’s reply on validity of special status to JK
The Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s response on a plea against a Delhi high court order which had rejected a petition challenging validity of Article 370 of the Constitution giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
- The court also questioned the Centre’s decision to delegate matters such as citizenship to the state government and the state’s decision to have a separate Constitution, when it had ratified its accession to India unconditionally.
- The court has issued the notice to the Centre and sought its reply within four weeks.
What’s the issue?
- In April, the Delhi High Court had rejected the plea challenging the validity of Article 370, saying nothing survives in it as the Supreme Court has already dismissed a petition on the issue.
- The petitioner in high court had claimed that the issue raised before the high court was different from the matter which was put before the apex court.
- The petitioner had contended that Article 370 was a temporary provision that had lapsed with the dissolution of the state’s Constituent Assembly in 1957.
- The petition had said the continuance of the temporary provision of Article 370 even after dissolution of the state’s Constituent Assembly and its Constitution which has never got the assent of the President of India or Parliament or the Government of India, “amounts to fraud on the basic structure of our Constitution”.
- The petition also claimed that as per the Indian and the J&K Constitutions, the state is an integral part of India. Therefore, the President could declare Article 370 in operative. It also questioned the validity of the J&K Constitution on the ground that it was yet to be ratified either by the President or Parliament.
What is Article 370?
- Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.
- Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.
- All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. For example, till 1965, J&K had a Sadr-e-Riyasat for governor and prime minister in place of chief minister.
History of Article 370:
- The provision was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- Sheikh Abdullah had argued that Article 370 should not be placed under temporary provisions of the Constitution. He wanted ‘iron clad autonomy’ for the state, which Centre didn’t comply with.
Provisions of Article 370:
- According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws.
- Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
- As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
- Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression.
- The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
6 states chosen Under NITI Aayog’s SATH initiative
The NITI Aayog has announced partnership with three states each to radically transform their Health and Education sectors under its Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital (SATH) initiative.
- The shortlisted states for transforming their health sector are Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka.
- Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha were selected for transforming their education sector.
- NITI Aayog had invited all states and Union Territories to participate in its SATH initiative to transform Health and Education sectors in order to give major push to competitive, cooperative federalism.
- Under this initiative, a Program Management Unit will now be available in the six chosen States for a period of 30 months to push for efficiency and efficacy in governance structures and service delivery.
Selection of States:
- These six states were chosen after a rigorous competitive process based on comprehensive metrics to determine potential for impact and likelihood of success.
- States had made presentations for each sector which was assessed by a committee comprising of senior members of NITI Aayog and Human Resources Development and Health ministries.
- The States had highlighted the initiatives undertaken by them and their willingness to accelerate improvement.
- On thorough technical evaluation, the chosen States have committed to time-bound, governance reforms in both sectors.
- It is expected that these three years of focussed attention and support from NITI Aayog will lead to a marked transformation and provide a model for other States to replicate and adapt.
- It will be three-way partnership between NITI, State Governments and knowledge partner for each of the sectors is part of the SATH initiative of NITI Aayog.
About SATH initiative:
Furthering the agenda for cooperative federalism, NITI Aayog has launched SATH, a program providing ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital’ with the State Governments.
- The vision of the program is to initiate transformation in the education and health sectors.
- SATH aims to identify and build three future ‘role model’ states for health systems.
- The program will be implemented by NITI Aayog along with McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium, who were selected through a competitive bidding process.
- Under it, NITI will work in close collaboration with state machinery to design a robust roadmap of intervention, develop governance structure, set up monitoring and tracking mechanisms and provide support on a range of institutional measures to achieve the end objectives.
About NITI Aayog:
- NITI Aayog is essentially an advisory body that seeks to provide critical directional and strategic inputs across spectrum of key elements of policy to the centre as well as states.
- It’s a think tank to the government which has no power to implement the government policies.
Commerce Ministry to wind up DGS&D this fiscal
The commerce ministry has started the process of shutting down over 100-year-old government procurement arm – Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D)- in this fiscal.
The central and state governments procure goods and services worth over Rs 5 lakh crore annually. Currently, over 20,000 sellers are registered on this portal for selling over 50,000 products.
- Since last year, the public procurement of goods and services is being managed by the ministry’s Government eMarketplace (GeM).
- GeM was launched by the commerce ministry to bring greater transparency and efficiency in public procurement.
- The GeM portal has eliminated human interface in vendor registration, order placement and payment processing to a great extent.
Before closing, the ministry has to decide upon the issues concerning manpower, land and office spaces of the directorate, which are present all over the country.
History of DGS&D:
- DGS&D has its origin in the India Stores Department, which was established in 1860 in London for purchase of imported stores.
- In 1922, India Stores Department was established in India to arrange purchases for Government Civil Departments and Military Purchases.
- In 1951, the set-up of Purchase and Inspection was reorganised and DGS&D was constituted, in its present form, to handle all government purchases centrally.
- A minor restructuring happened in 1974, when defence and railways were allowed to procure items meant for their exclusive use.
- The directorate has two professional service cadres — Indian Supply Service and Indian Inspection Service.
- Currently, the directorate has four regional offices including Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. It has 12 Purchase Directorates (Commodity-wise) at its headquarters here. Besides, there are 20 offices /sub centres and the staff strength is over 1,200.
e-Shakti initiative of NABARD
Why in news?
- The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), under its EShakti initiative, has so far digitised around 1.29 lakh self-help groups (SHGs) covering 14.86 lakh individuals in the country.
- Moreover, about 69,696 SHGs of the SHGs which have been digitised are credit linked as on 31st July, 2017. No SHG has been de-recognised on account of, or, after digitisation.
What is e-Shakti?
e-Shakti is a pilot project of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for digitisation of Self Help Groups (SHGs).
- It is an initiative of Micro Credit and Innovations Department of NABARD.
- It was initiated to address certain concerns like improving the quality of book keeping of SHGs and to enable banks to take informed credit decisions about the group through a Management Information System (MIS).
- The project covers 25 districts and 1,30,176 SHGs have been digitised as on 31st March, 2017.
Aims and Objectives:
The project aims at digitisation of all the SHG accounts to bring SHG members under the fold of Financial Inclusion thereby helping them access wider range of financial services together with increasing the bankers’ comfort in credit appraisal and linkage by way of:
- Integrating SHG members with the national Financial Inclusion agenda.
- Improving the quality of interface between SHG members and Banks for efficient and hassle free delivery of banking services by using the available technology.
- Facilitate convergence of delivery system with SHGs using Aadhaar linked identity.
- The need of digitisation of records of SHGs has been felt for quite some time due to patchy and delay in maintenance of books of accounts. Transparent and proper maintenance of records of SHGs will facilitate in nurturing and strengthening of SHGs.
- It is also felt that digital empowerment will help in bringing SHGs on a common web based e-platform by making book keeping easy for low literacy clients. This will help in promoting national agenda of Financial Inclusion and pave the way of credibility of SHG data which can later be used by Credit Bureaus to reduce the issues related to multiple financing by banks.
Benefits of the project:
- A comprehensive information base and robust MIS can be developed about poor community covered, which may facilitate suitable interventions and convergence of other programme for social and financial empowerment.
- It will help in identifying suitable interventions and support for proper nurturing and strengthening of SHGs.
- Ease of transfer of social benefits and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) through Aadhaar linked accounts and convergence with other Government benefits.
Challenges ahead for this pilot project:
- Sourcing of information from poor database and records;
- Large scale training and capacity building of SHGs, SHPIs and others involved in implementation of the programme;
- Capture of field level information from SHGs in a limited time and periodic upload of savings and credit details of SHGs;
- Cooperation from banks;
- GPRS connectivity;
- Initial funding of the pilot is being met by NABARD. There will be a huge fund requirement for scaling this pilot from the present level to 86 lakh SHGs across the country.
Government Schemes & Policies
Government Launches Swachh Survekshan Gramin 2017
In a first, a swachhta competition has been kickstarted in rural areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin (SMB-G) by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
- With an aim to improve sanitation coverage and solid liquid waste management (SLWM) and to push forward government’s Clean India Mission, all the 534 districts of India will be ranked under this Swachh Survekshan.
About Swachh Survekshan Survey:
In order to foster a healthy competition between cities for improving cleanliness standards, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) started the “Swachh Survekshan” survey, ranking of cities on cleanliness and other aspects of urban sanitation, in 2016 which ranked 73 cities across the country.
- On the same lines, MoUD has initiated “Swachh Survekshan” 2017 which will conduct a survey to rank 500 cities of India.
- The first round of the survey was carried out between May-June 2017 by the Quality Council of India (QCI) covering 4,626 villages and it was observed that the overall toilet coverage in these areas is 62.45%.
- The survey was carried out in 1.4 lakh households and the villages were scored out of 100 marked on parametres of ‘Performance (50%), Sustainability (25%) and Transparency (25%)’.
- Similarly, other 2 lakh odd villages will be surveyed and the districts will be ranked and awarded at the end of each quarter. The first ranking will be announced on October 2, 2017 for the quarter July-September 2017.
- A 15-day window was given to all the randomly selected villages and a team of 300 members from QCI were deployed to conduct the household survey.
- To accelerate the march towards an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India, the government also launched social media-friendly ‘Mobisodes’. These are short 90-second videos that aim to spread awareness and increase community participation in Swachh Bharat.
- Kerala and Haryana have topped the survey. Northeastern States of Sikkim, Manipur and Nagaland have performed well with 95% rural households covered by toilets. And so were the Himalayan States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand with over 90% toilet coverage of the rural houses.
About Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin):
- Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin seeks to eliminate open defecation in rural areas by 2019 through improving access to sanitation.
- It also seeks to generate awareness to motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, and encourage the use of appropriate technologies for sanitation.
- SBM-Gramin mainly focuses on ensuring the use of toilets, besides their construction.
- The States and their implementing agencies will be given incentives for meeting performance standards: reducing open defecation, sustaining their open defecation-free status and improving solid and liquid waste management in rural areas.
About Quality Council of India (QCI):
Quality Council of India (QCI) was set up in 1997 as an autonomous body.
- It was set up jointly by the Government of India and the Indian Industry represented by the three premier industry associations i.e.
- Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM),
- Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and
- Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
- It aims to establish and operate national accreditation structure and promote quality through National Quality Campaign.
- The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, is the nodal ministry for QCI.
- QCI is registered as a non-profit society with its own Memorandum of Association.
- QCI is governed by a Council of 38 members with equal representations of government, industry and consumers.
- Chairman of QCI is appointed by the Prime Minister on recommendation of the industry to the government.
Google, NSDC Launch Android Skill Development Programme to Improve Mobile Developer Ecosystem
The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Google India launched Android Skill Development programme to improve Mobile Developer Ecosystem.
- The programme is aimed at imparting mobile development training on the Android and Web platform and improving the quality of mobile app development ecosystem in India.
- NSDC is a public-private partnership enterprise under the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
Key features of the Android Skill Development programme:
- Under the initiative, NSDC will introduce a specific course to create applications for the mobile platform that can be used on smartphones and tablets running on the Android operating system.
- The 100-hour duration course will be designed and delivered by NSDC’s partner agencies, outside the formal education system.
- NSDC and Google India will also work together to focus on up-skilling Android trainers under the programme.
- The programme will accelerate mobile skill training and create opportunities for youth in the country.
- The programme will focus on achieving the target of the Union Government’s Skill India initiative.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Preparatory Meeting of the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’
The two-day Preparatory Meeting of the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ has begun in New Delhi.
- This marks the first phase of the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’, being organized by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
- The Government of India has entrusted the responsibility of organizing the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ to the NDRF.
- This Exercise will provide a platform to share the Best Practices on comprehensive aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), strengthening regional response and coordination for Disaster Management among the BIMSTEC nations.
- The main exercise will comprise of Table Top Exercise (TTX), Field Training Exercise (FTX) and After Action Review (AAR).
- Senior officers from MHA, MEA, NDMA, NDRF and National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), besides representatives from all seven BIMSTEC nations, – namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, are participating in the Preparatory Meeting.
Significance of this exercise:
The impact of natural disasters is increasing due to growing population and urbanization. Sharing of Best Practices in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) including Prevention, Mitigation and Resilience are critical to Disaster Management. Regional and International Cooperation in DRR is therefore critical to Disaster Management.
- The Disaster Management Exercise of BIMSTEC bloc will help in the augmentation of capacities, especially response capacity, besides promoting cooperation and coordination in DRR.
- India has been at the forefront of DRR efforts by hosting the South Asian Annual Disaster Management Exercise (SAADMEx) and the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR). India has also offered its expertise and capabilities in DRR such as the South Asia satellite, GSAT-9, and the Tsunami Early Warning Centre to other countries.
- The modalities and requirements of the First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ would be worked during the course of the two-day Preparatory Meeting.
Key Facts for Prelims
Qatar announces visa-free entry for 80 countries including India
- To counter economic isolation measures against it by three of its GCC neighbours and Egypt, Qatar government announced visa-free entry for the citizens of 80 countries including India.
- The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Seychelles, Australia and New Zealand, are among the others in the list.
- The visa waiver will be issued free of charge at the point of entry after a passport with a minimum validity of six months is presented along with an onward of return ticket.