Polity & Governance
- ‘Cooling-off time’ for Christian divorces may be cut
- Gujarat govt accords minority status to Jains
- Govt. starts UBIN drive for budding entrepreneurs
- Bird flu: Alert sounded across Karnataka
- India may solve Venezuelan defaults
Environment & Ecology
- Fossils of first plant-eating marine reptile found
Defence & Security Issues
- Army chief orders rightsizing study
Science & Technology
- Nagaland’s SMS-based Vehicle Monitoring Service bags award
- Bundi to get minute digital mapping, first in the country
- Second Exomars in 2020
Polity & Governance
‘Cooling-off time’ for Christian divorces may be cut
The Law Ministry is proposing to amend the Divorce Act, 1869 to reduce by half — from two years to one — the waiting period for Christians who have already decided to divorce.
- The Centre’s move is triggered by the Supreme Court’s comments that this condition, called judicial separation, “makes no sense” today.
- The present law mandates Christian couples to live separately for two years before they can apply for dissolution of marriage.
Significance of this amendments:
- This proposed amendment would end the disparity between the Christian divorce law and other personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and even the Special Marriage Act, all of which mandate only a year’s judicial separation.
The apex court, in two separate orders on July 13 and October 12 last year, had urged the Centre to take a decision and amend the law.
- The court had asked the Ministry of Law and Justice not only to file its reply but also take a decision on whether or not Sub-Section (1) of Section 10A [the legal provision which mandates a two-year pause before filing for dissolution of marriage] of the Divorce Act, 1869 is to be amended.
- The court’s intervention again began in March 2015 when a petition contended that the two-year mandatory waiting period for Christians amounted to “hostile discrimination”. The petition argued that this was plain “oppression to the members of the Christian community intending to seek divorce by mutual consent.”
Gujarat govt accords minority status to Jains
Gujarat Government has issued a government resolution (GR) giving minority status to the Jain community.
- The move comes nearly two years after the then UPA government granted minority status to Jains in June 2014 at the national level.
- This move is aimed at benefitting the poor among the Jain community.
Benefits to Jains under given status:
- Jain institutions will now get special status like the one given to Christian and Muslim institutions.
- Religious education on Jainism can now be taught in Jain institutes which will also be free from government interference.
Govt. starts UBIN drive for budding entrepreneurs
The Union Government has started the process for issuance of Unique Business Identification Number (UBIN) to enable budding entrepreneurs set up their business without any delays.
- The drive has been launched by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) under the aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- The move is aimed at doing away with the need for separate registration with authorities ranging from the registrar of companies to the direct and indirect tax wings, the labour department and for export and import.
- The UBIN would be automatically linked to Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) portal after it is issued to the intended beneficiary.
- It will be subsequently sent to the CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) which would nomenclature it as PAN for UBIN.
Currently, entities first need to get a Company Identification Number (CIN) from registrar of companies, followed by PAN from the income tax department and labour identification number.
Significance of the move:
- The move is seen as a major step towards boosting ease of doing business and the start-up India initiative of the government.
Bird flu: Alert sounded across Karnataka
An alert has been sounded across Karnataka, after the outbreak of bird flu in a privately-owned poultry farm in Bidar district of Karnataka.
- Poultry farm owners have been instructed to take precautionary measures to prevent infection of chicken with H5N1 virus.
- In the case of viral infection, scientists have advised farm owners not to sell or move any of the birds/eggs and material out of farm.
- They have been instructed to adopt adequate bio-security measures.
Poultry in Karnataka:
- Karnataka has around 7,000 poultry farms, which are both layers and broilers varieties.
- The farms have stock of more than five crore birds. The state’s daily egg production is about 1.2 crore.
About Bird flu or avian influenza:
- Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral infection spread from bird to bird often causing no apparent signs of illness.
- AI viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease. Some of these AI viruses have also been reported to cross the species barrier and cause disease or subclinical infections in humans and other mammals.
Effects on Humans:
- Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; however some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
- The majority of human cases of A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.
- Initial symptoms include high fever, usually with a temperature higher than 38°C, and other influenza-like symptoms (cough or sore throat). Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain, and bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some patients.
- Evidence suggests that some antiviral drugs, notably oseltamivir, can reduce the duration of viral replication and improve prospects of survival.
- In cases of severe infection with the A(H5N1) or A(H7N9) virus, clinicians may consider increasing the recommended daily dose or/and the duration of treatment.
- Controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.
Suggested actions to reduce the outbreak:
- The entire infected poultry population and its eggs, feed, litter and other infected material should be stamped out within a radius of one km.
- Restrictions on the movement of poultry should be imposed and the affected area will be cleaned up and disinfected.
- Regular surveillance should be maintained, especially in vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds.
India may solve Venezuelan defaults
The Commerce Ministry has proposed a mechanism to address the issue of non-payment of dues by Venezuelan importers to Indian exporters.
- The ministry has written to the Venezuelan government to resolve the issue of payment defaults. However, Venezuela has not given its approval to the proposed payment mechanism.
- Talks on the issue will soon be held with the RBI.
About proposed payment mechanism:
- Under the proposed payment mechanism when Indian importers pay for oil and other imports from Venezuela, a certain portion of the payment will be held by an Indian public sector bank in Venezuela.
- Then through a vostro account that money will be kept in the Indian branch of that public sector bank and will later be converted to Indian rupees. (‘Vostro’ is an Italian term meaning ‘yours’, and vostro account refers to holding ‘your’ money or Venezuela’s money in this case.)
- When India’s exports to Venezuela, the Venezuelan buyer (importer) will certify that they have received the goods and instruct the concerned Venezuelan bank to release the payment to the concerned Indian exporters. This instruction will be passed on to the Indian public sector bank in Venezuela and then to Indian branch. Finally, Indian branch will release the payment to Indian exporters by debiting from the vostro account.
- Venezuela, an economy that relies on oil exports, has been severely hit by a drastic fall in oil prices. This has in turn resulted in the value of the Venezuelan currency plunging to record lows and a high demand for dollars.
India-Venezuela bilateral trade:
- India’s goods exports to Venezuela in 2014-15 were $258 million. Owing to the crisis in Venezuela, India’s exports in FY16 (April-February) have touched only $125.5 million. The trade balance is still hugely in Venezuela’s favour.
Environment & Ecology
Fossils of first plant-eating marine reptile found
Scientists have discovered a bizarre fossil—a crocodile-sized sea-dwelling reptile that lived 242 million years ago in what today is southern China.
- Its head was poorly preserved, but it seemed to have a flamingo-like beak.
- It is also thought to be the earliest known example of a plant-eating marine reptile.
- The reptile’s name, Atopodentatus unicus, hints at its muddled past — it is Latin for “unique strangely toothed.”
Defence & Security Issues
Army chief orders rightsizing study
In an attempt to make the world’s third largest standing Army a leaner and meaner fighting force, the Chief of the Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh, has ordered a high-level study to determine and recommend measures to improve its tooth-to-tail ratio.
- The study will be undertaken by a committee headed by an Army Commander. The report is expected by August-end, after which recommendations will be considered for implementation.
What is tooth-to-tail ratio?
- The tooth-to-tail ratio, referred to as T3R in the Army, is the ratio of fighting arms, which wage the actual battle such as infantry and armoured wings, to support services, such as logistics, signals and ordnance.
What areas will be studied?
- The study will comprehensively look at all arms and services, including logistics organisation and establishment to achieve right-sizing. Operational logistics will be reviewed, along with the philosophy and concepts to arrive at an optimal substance model both in peace and war.
- The other objective of the study is to achieve savings in manpower and cutting down on the burgeoning revenue expenditure to free up resources for military modernisation.
- The study will also look at the impact of equipment modernisation and automation levels improved communication and critical infrastructure development to review stock levels, inventory management models and logistics chain which add to the “tail”.
Science & Technology
Nagaland’s SMS-based Vehicle Monitoring Service bags award
Nagaland Police SMS based Vehicle Monitoring System (NPSVMS) has bagged the National Award for Smart Policing instituted by Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
- The award for the Best Practice in the category of Road Safety and Traffic Management was presented to Nagaland Police.
About the system:
- The SMS-based Vehicle Monitoring System was launched in April last year.
- It has resulted in substantial reduction in theft of four-wheelers across the state while more than 100 vehicles have been recovered so far using the application.
- It provides an easy platform for policemen and citizens to report vehicle theft and alert the various field formations of police across the state by sending a SMS.
Bundi to get minute digital mapping, first in the country
Bundi in Rajasthan will be the first in India to get digital mapping.
- Bundi will get digital mapping with comprehensive database of its demographical and geographical information, including small lanes, streets, trees, drains, electric poles and houses, besides monuments with detailed information.
- The digital mapping will keep the illegal constructions in the check.
- The database created under this project can be accessed by anyone where dimension of the house or any other construction can be easily checked.
Second Exomars in 2020
According to the European Space Agency, the second Exomars mission will be launched in 2020.
- Exomars is the mars mission launched jointly by the Roscosmos State Corporation (Russia) and the European Space Agency (Europe).
- Like the first mission, the second Exomars mission will also be launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan with the help of a Proton rocket. It involves a Russian-led surface platform and a European-led rover.
Importance of Exomars:
- The successful implementation of both missions will allow Europe and Russia to jointly explore and validate cutting-edge technology for Mars entry.
- It will also help in descent and landing, control of surface assets and to develop more systems that can be used in other missions to explore the solar system.
- On March 14, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency had launched the Exomars 2016 mission which is due to reach Mars in October this year.