January – National

Contents

Union Government discussing with States to bring Water into Concurrent list

The Union Government is discussing the issue of bringing water into concurrent list of VII schedule of Constitution with States.  It was announced by Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti after inaugurating the Jal Manthan-III in New Delhi. The Ashok Chawla Committee also had recommended inter alia the shifting of water to the Concurrent List to provide uniform national framework to manage water in a better and efficient way.

Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC

The Supreme Court in its latest verdict has held that election candidates cannot seek votes on the grounds of the religion, caste, creed, community or language of voters. The ruling was given by a 4-3 majority of the seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur. It held that if the candidate is found violating the order will result into call for his disqualification.

Background

The apex court’s verdict came while it was hearing several petitions in the Hindutva case seeking interpretation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act. This provision says that if a candidate or his agent or any other person, with his consent, appeals for votes on religious or such grounds it would amount to a ‘corrupt practice’. Earlier in the Hindutva case, SC had held that canvassing votes in name of ‘Hindutva/Hinduism’ was not a corrupt electoral practice, as Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life in India.

What SC Verdict Says?

The state being secular in character will not identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. The relationship between man and God is an individual choice.

It implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country and state must at all times be secular in nature.

Election is a secular exercise, therefore this process should be followed and elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice to maintain this fabric.

The word ‘his’ only in Section 123 (3) of RPA means complete ban on any reference or appeal to religion, race, community, caste and language during elections. It also extended to social, linguistic and religious identity of voter also.

Significance

The ruling can potentially overturn the traditional rules of the game for electoral politics in India. Traditionally parties did not hesitate to employ religion, caste and ethnicity to woo voters. With this SC verdict, greater clarity will emerge once the Election Commission of India, implement this decision and spells out the electoral rules.

Swachh Bharat Survekshan 2017

The Union Ministry of Urban Development launched Swachh Survekshan 2017 to rank 500 cities/towns across the country on cleanliness with a population of 1 lakh and above. The survey will be conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI) under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in a bid to encourage competition to improve sanitation.

Key Facts
  • Swachh Survekshan 2017 will judge cities on the basis of data provided by Municipal bodies, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment and citizen feedbacks.
  • Data provided by Municipal bodies will carry 900 marks, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment will carry 500 marks and citizen feedbacks will carry 600 marks.
  • Areas of evaluations: Waste collection, sweeping and transportation (40% marks), Open defecation free (ODF) and toilets (30%), Municipal Solid Waste-processing and disposal (20%) and Information, education and behavior change and Capacity building-Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) e-learning portal(5% each).
  • The citizens can also give their feedback by either filling up a feedback form on the Swachh Survekshan website or by giving a missed call on 1969 to record their response.

Swachh Survekshan 2016 had ranked 73 cities across the country and Mysore was ranked on top followed by Chandigarh. One Lakh citizens had participated and gave their feedback.

IPR Enforcement Toolkit

The Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement Toolkit for Police. This toolkit will be provided to all state police departments across the nation to assist them in dealing with the cases relating to Trademarks and Copyrights infringements.

Key Facts
  • The toolkit has been jointly developed by the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • It will act as a ready reckoner for police officials across the country for dealing with crimes related Intellectual Property rights (IPR) infringement, specifically Trade Marks counterfeiting and Copyrights piracy.
  • In addition it will provide details of offences under various laws, checklists for registering a complaint and conducting search and seizures case of IP crimes.

About CIPAM

The CIPAM is nodal agency under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry. It is working to ensure effective implementation of the National IPR Policy 2016. It has undertaken several measures to strengthen the IP ecosystem in the country.

Explained: Dispute over party symbol in Samajwadi Party

After the recent the political feud and vertical split in Samajwadi Party, the both warring factions are claiming their stakes on the party symbol, the ‘cycle’. Following this, Election Commission of India (ECI) has served notices to both factions to provide supporting documents and evidence in their favour for claiming the party symbol.

What Is The Legal Procedure?

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the ECI to recognise political parties and allot symbols. The Paragraph 15 of the Order allows ECI to decide disputes among rival groups or factions of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.

What Paragraph 15 Of The 1968 Order Says?

This paragraph applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties. Under it, the ECI is the only authority to decide issues over claims of Party symbol in case of split. Even the Supreme Court in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI case (1971) had upheld its validity. However, in case of splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the ECI usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

What Was The First Case Decided Under Para 15?

The first case was in the split in the Indian National Congress in 1969 in two factions Congress (J) led by led by Indira Gandhi and old Congress (O) led by Syndicates. The “old” Congress retained the party symbol of a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke and the breakaway faction of Indira Gandhi was given the symbol of a cow with its calf.

What Considerations ECI Takes In To Account During Such Scenario?

The ECI primarily ascertains support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing. First the commission examines party’s organisational wing by taking into consideration of support of office-bearers and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants. If ECI fails to test the support strength to any faction based on support within the party organisation then it tests majority in legislative wing i.e. based on support of elected MPs and MLAs of party i.e. In case of the legislative wing, the ECI takes into consideration of majority of affidavits submitted by members for the support of group. Based on the majority support the symbol is allocated. So far, in almost all disputes decided by the EC, a clear majority of office bearers/party delegates, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.

What Happens When There Is No Certainty About The Majority Of Either Faction?

When the party is either vertically divided or it is no warring group has majority, then ECI may freeze the party symbol and allow the rival groups to register themselves with new names or add suffixes or prefixes to the party’s existing names. In case of immediate electoral purposes, ECI advise the rival groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols.

SC wants VVPAT in EVMs for fair elections

The Supreme Court has reiterated the necessity to implement the Vote Verifier Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in electronic voting machines (EVMs) to ensure 100% transparency in elections. This is the second time the Supreme Court has directed Election Commission (EC) for the implementation of VVPAT in EVMs. Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes. In response the EC had informed the apex court that the VVPAT can be introduced in a phased manner.

What Is VVPAT?

The VVPAT system is a new initiative of the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections. In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter. It is intended as an independent verification system for EVM designed to (i) allow voters to verify that their votes are casted correctly, (ii) detect possible election fraud or malfunction and (iii) Provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.

Draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2016

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released draft notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules), 2016. The objective of the Rules is to make dog breeders and their marketers accountable and to prevent infliction of any cruelty on dogs in this process.

What Is The Issue?

In recent times dog breeding and their marketing trade also mushroomed all around but with little or no accountability. This is for the first time Government has framed rules on the breeding, sale and purchase of dogs in the country. Earlier there were also no specific rules for mandatory registration of breeders and establishments and requirements to be met by such breeders. These rules have been framed in pursuance of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.

Proposed Rules
  • Mandatory for all dog breeders and dog breeding establishments to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB). Defines the breeding requirements and conditions for sale.
  • Defines the requirements such as health-related requirements, housing facilities, manner of housing dogs, conditions for sale, breeding, micro-chipping, vaccination etc. of dogs to be met by the breeders and establishments used for breeding. Allows SAWB inspector authorised to inspect the establishment.
  • Mandatory for dog breeders to maintain proper records of both female and male dogs, their breed, number of litters, micro-chip number, sale, purchase, death, rehabilitation etc.
  • Every dog breeder is required to submit yearly report to the SAWB regarding animals sold, bartered, traded, given away, exhibited during previous year or any other information asked for by the board.

Non-compliance of the proposed Rules by will lead dog breeders and dog breeding establishments will result in cancellation of the registration of the dog breeder.

 

Church courts cannot veto divorce law: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Canon law and decrees of divorce given by ecclesiastical tribunals or ‘Church Courts’ cannot veto the statutory law of divorce.

Ruling in this regard was given by SC Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on writ petition filed in 2013 seeking a judicial declaration that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals are valid and binding.

SC Ruling
  • Referring to SC 1996 judgment in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian, SC held that binding nature of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 governs divorce among Christians.
  • After Divorce Act, 1860 came into force, dissolution or annulment under Christian personal law cannot have any legal impact as statute has provided a different procedure and a different code for divorce.

Thus, SC order grants supremacy to parliamentary laws over personal laws of religious groups. It can be held that divorce decrees of religious institutions can’t override law enacted by the state.

1996 judgment: In Molly case (1996), SC had held that implication of the Canon law is confined to either theological or ecclesiastical and has no legal impact on the divorce of marriage between two persons professing Christian religion.

Government constitutes negotiation committee on Mahanadi and its Tributaries

The Union Ministry of Water Resources has constituted negotiations committee to assess availability and utilisation of waters of Mahanadi and its tributaries to resolve disputes over sharing of river waters among five states. These five states are Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

The committee will be chaired by member (water planning and projects) of the Central Water Commission (CWC). It will have 11 other members comprising representatives from the state governments.

Key Facts
  • The committee will also examine existing water sharing agreements on river Mahanadi and will consider claims of the 5 states regarding availability and utilisation of waters of these rivers.
  • It has been set up with reference to complaint of State of Odisha under section 3 of the ISRWD Act, 1956 regarding utilisation of waters of Mahandi Basin.
  • It will also have member representatives of Union Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, India Meteorological Department and CWC.

Government launches India Post Payments Bank

The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched operations of the India Post Payments Bank’s (IPPB) by rolling out pilot services in Raipur and Ranchi in Chhattisgarh. IPPB is the second payments bank to start operations after Airtel Payments Bank. It will offer an interest rate of 4.5% on deposits up to Rs. 25,000; 5% on deposits of Rs. 25,000 to 50,000 and 5.5% on Rs. 50,000 to 1,00,000. IPPB has been incorporated as a Public Sector Bank under the Department of Posts with 100% Central Government equity.

The Union Government has also appointed A P Singh as the interim Managing Director and CEO of India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), floated by the postal department.

99% of Indians over 18 now have Aadhaar cards: Government

Government has announced that over 99% of Indians aged 18 i.e. more than 111 crore residents have enrolled themselves for the unique identification number (Aadhaar cards). Now, 91.7% of the total population has been covered under Aadhaar cards. With this, government is set to accelerate the use of Aadhar numbers for its social welfare schemes for disbursing entitlements and subsidies as it will help check duplication and pilferage. The increase in enrolments will also boost government’s drive to make India a less-cash economy as it will encourage the use of AadhaarPay, a merchant version of Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AEPS). Aadhaar is a 12-digit number which acts as a proof of identity and address anywhere in the country. It is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Under it, biometric and demographic data of residents collected, stored in a centralised database.

First flight under UDAN scheme to take off in February 2017

The first flight under the government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh Ke Aam Naagrik) will to take off in February 2017. The scheme aims to boost regional air connectivity and provide various incentives to airlines. It was launched in October 2016 with an objective to provide connectivity to un-served and under-served regions through revival of existing air strips and airports. Under this scheme, Government will provide subsidy to airlines that operate flights between two regional airports. The scheme will give a major boost to tourism activities and employment generation in hinterland. At present there are 75 operational airport in the country and 43 new airports will be added after the implementation of UDAN scheme.

PMGKY not applicable for non-cash income

The Income Tax Department has clarified that income declaration scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), will be only applicable to cash or deposits in bank accounts and not for income in the form of jewellery, stock or immovable property. The scheme will also not apply to income stored in foreign accounts. PMGKY was launched to give people an opportunity to pay taxes with penalties and declare undisclosed income following the demonetisation of high value currency.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) allows people to deposit previously untaxed money in form of cash or bank deposits by paying 50% of the total amount (It includes 30% as tax and 10% as penalty on the undisclosed income, as well as 33% of the taxed amount as cess). Moreover, the declarant will also needs to deposit 25% of undisclosed income in a fixed deposit scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme, 2016. If the declarant refuses for using the government deposit scheme, then 85% of the amount will be deducted as taxes and penalties.

Government to roll out Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme

The Union Government will soon roll out Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) to boost export infrastructure by tying up with States. The export infrastructure scheme will help states to develop their own export strategy in alignment with the National Foreign Trade Policy. It will provide financial support and supplement the efforts of States to create export infrastructure. It will also enhance states co-operation with Central agencies to set up common facilities for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling. The Union Government also has decided launch Logistics Performance Index (LPI) to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics.

Bunkar Mitra Helpline

The Union Ministry of Textiles’ Bunkar Mitra Helpline for Handloom Weavers went live. It was launched by the Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani on the occasion of Good Governance Day (on December 25, 2016).

The helpline aims to provide a single point of contact to handloom weavers across the country for addressing their queries and seek guidance. This helpline can be accessed by dialing the toll free number 1800-208-9988.

Key Facts

The helpline seeks to overcome the problem of unavailability of single point of contact where weavers can seek solutions for their technical issues/problems.

Services available through this helpline include access to marketing linkages, assistance on technical issues and information about various schemes and procedure to avail benefits.

Weavers can seek experts’ advice from the field of textiles such as guidance for raw material supply, availing credit facility, quality control, access to marketing linkages and information about various schemes.

Initially the helpline will be provided in 7 languages viz., English, Hindi and 5 other regional languages Tamil, Telugu, Kannada Bengali and Assamese.

Currently 28 Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs) are functioning across the country to provide technical assistance to handloom weavers in improving their skills.

16th meeting of FSDC held in New Delhi

The 16th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was held in New Delhi. It was chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.  It was attended by heads of all financial sector regulators as its members. It reviewed the major issues and challenges facing the economy.

Key Highlights Of The Meeting

Indian Economy: India appears to be much better placed because of improvement in its macroeconomic fundamental despite fragile world economy. It reviewed the major issues and challenges facing the economy.

  • Banking:The status of NPAs of public sector banks and measures taken by the government and the RBI for tackling the stressed assets were reviewed. It also discussed about further action to be taken in this regard.
  • Financial inclusion/ financial literacy:Discussed about the various initiatives taken by the government and regulators for promoting financial inclusion/ literacy. It also discussed further measures for promoting the same.
  • Technology:Discussed issues pertaining to Fintech, digital innovations and cyber security. It also discussed on further steps to be taken.
  • Demonetisation: It will help in eliminating the shadow economy and tax evasion. It will have a positive impact on GDP and fiscal consolidation in the long run.

Besides, a brief report on the activities undertaken by the FSDC sub-committee chaired by RBI Governor Urjit Patel was placed before the FSDC meeting.

About Financial Stability And Development Council

The Central Government had established Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) in December 2010 with the Finance Minister as it Chairman. The idea to create it was first mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms in 2008.

It is a super regulatory body for regulating financial sector which is a vital for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in the economy. The FSDC envisages to strengthen and institutionalise mechanism of (i) maintaining financial stability, (ii) Financial sector development, (iii) inter-regulatory coordination along with monitoring macro-prudential regulation of economy.

Composition Of FSDC
  • Chairman: Union Finance Minister.
  • Members: Heads of the financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA), Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Union Finance Ministry), Secretary, Department of Financial Services, and Chief Economic Adviser.
  • FSDC can invite experts to its meeting if required.

Two Core Functions

  • Act as an apex level forum to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability.
  • Enhance inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development in the country.
  • Other functions
  • Focus on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
  • Monitor macro-prudential supervision of the economy.
  • Assess the functioning of the large financial conglomerates.

Government makes Aadhaar mandatory for MGNREGA work

The Union Government has made mandatory for workers in rural areas enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) to have an Aadhaar card. Those who have registered under the scheme will be required to give furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar card or undergo the enrolment process till March 31, 2017.

Key Facts
  • For this purpose, government has invoked Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
  • This section allows Government to ask an individual to undergo authentication or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar when the government gives subsidy, benefit or service from Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).
  • The rationale behind making Aadhaar cards mandatory for the MGNREGA is to prevent leakages of subsidies and ensure that the beneficiaries get their due.
  • It will ensure effective implementation of the Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme aimed at checking leakages of welfare funds.

Under DBT scheme, all cash benefits are transferred to beneficiary’s bank account. Union Government has asked its departments and State governments to widen scope of DBT to include all monetary transfers. The expenditure for the MGNREGS is met by Government from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a skill development program targeted at Indian youth seeking overseas employment to make India the Skill Capital of the World. It was launched after inauguration of 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention at India’s IT hub Bengaluru, Karnataka. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa was the Chief Guest of the event.

Key Facts
  • PKVY will provide training and certify Indians who are seeking overseas employment in selected sectors that have high demand in the global labour market in line with international standards.
  • It will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its training partners and in consultation with the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Union Skill Development Ministry.
  • It also aims at boosting the confidence of the Indian youth so that they don’t feel like strangers when they land in a country of their choice for vocation.

For this purpose, NSDC will leverage various MoUs it signed between 2011 and 2015 with different agencies of Germany, Canada, Australia, Singapore, UK, US, European Union, France, Iran and China.

India INX

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s first international exchange India INX at the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) of GIFT (Gujarat International Financial Tech) City Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India INX is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). It will enable Indian firms to compete on equal footing with offshore firms.

Key Facts

India INX will initially trade in equity derivatives, currency derivatives, commodity derivatives including index and Stocks. Subsequently, it will offer depository receipts and bonds once required infrastructure is ready.

It will work for 22 hours in a day working from sunrise to sunset i.e. starting when Japan exchanges begin and close when US markets end. It will have 250 trading members including commodity and overseas brokers.

India INX is one of the most advanced technology platforms with turnaround time of 4 seconds. It will facilitate international investors and NRIs to trade from anywhere in the world.

It will provide benefits in terms of waiver of security transaction tax, commodity transaction tax, dividend distribution tax, long term capital gain tax and income tax.

Unemployment in India to increase marginally in 2017-18: ILO

According to recently released World Employment and Social Outlook for 2017, the number of unemployed people in India is expected to rise by 1 lakh in 2017 and another 2 lakh in 2018.

The report was released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with projections based on econometric modelling carried out in November 2016.  The report has clubbed India in the category of emerging nations.

Key Highlights Of The Report

Number of jobless in India will increase from 17.7 million in 2016 to 18 million by 2018 even though the country’s unemployment rate is expected to go down from 3.5% to 3.4% in 2017. India performed slightly well in terms of job creation in 2016, as majority of the 13.4 million new employment were created.

  • Globally, the number of jobless people will increase by 3.4 million in 2017. The global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8% in 2017 as pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.
  • The increase in unemployment levels and rates in 2017 will be driven by deteriorating labour market conditions in emerging countries.
  • Vulnerable forms of employment, which include own account workers and contributing family workers are expected to stay above 42% of total employment.
  • About 1.4 billion people are likely to be engaged in such employment in 2017, with the number rising by 11 million per year. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia will be the most affected.
  • In developing countries, the number of workers earning less than $3.10 per day is even expected to increase by more than 5 million over the next two years.

Global uncertainty and the lack of decent jobs are, among some of the other factors, underpinning social unrest and migration in many parts of the world.

SEBI tightens merger norms

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened rules for mergers and amalgamations by Indian companies in a bid to safeguard the interests of the public shareholders.

The market regulator amended rules in an effort to make listing process more transparent and ensure wider public holding, prevent mergers of large unlisted firms with small ones.

The new rules will ensure that all classes of shareholders get an equitable treatment during mergers and acquisitions. It will also stop practice using route of merger to get an indirect listing for an unlisted company.

What New Rules Say?
  • Holding of public shareholders post the merger cannot be less than 25%. Similar threshold must be for institutional shareholders of the unlisted entity as well, post-merger.
  • Unlisted company can be merged with a listed company only if the latter is listed on a stock exchange having nationwide trading terminals.
  • e-voting will be mandatory in cases wherein the stake of public shareholders reduces by more than 5% in the merged entity.
  • In case of merger of an unlisted company with a listed company, the unlisted company will have to disclose all the material information in the form of an abridged prospectus, similar to initial public offering (IPO).
  • Companies must follow the pricing formula for stocks as per SEBI’s ICDR (issue of capital and disclosure requirements) norms during mergers.

About Securities And Exchange Board Of India (SEBI)

  • SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India. It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992.
  • Purpose: Protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market.
  • SEBI has is responsive to needs of three groups, which constitute the market, issuers of securities, investors and market intermediaries.

It has three functions: quasi-legislative (drafts regulations in its legislative capacity), quasi-judicial (passes rulings and orders in its judicial capacity) and quasi-executive (conducts investigation and enforcement action in its executive function).

Richest 1% own 58% of total wealth in India: Oxfam Study

According to study conducted by rights group Oxfam, India’s richest 1% now hold a huge 58% of the country’s total wealth, indicating rise income inequality. It is higher than the global figure of about 50%.

It shows that 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth ($216 billion) as that of the bottom 70% population of the country. Globally, just 8 billionaires have the wealth as the poorest 50 % of the world population.

Key Findings of Study

  • The total global wealth in the year 2016 was $255.7 trillion of which about $6.5 trillion was held by billionaires, led by Bill Gates ($75 billion), Amancio Ortega ($67 billion) and Warren Buffett($60.8 billion).
  • Globally, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the world population.
  • Since 2015, richest 1 % owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $ 2.1 trillion to their heirs (a sum larger than GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people).
  • Over the last two decades, richest 10% of the populations in China, Laos, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15%.
  • Poorest Sections: The poorest half of world has less wealth than had been previously thought. The poorest 10% have seen their share of income fall by more than 15%.
  • Solution: It calls to build a human economy that benefits everyone not just the privileged few.
  • In India, there are 84 billionaires with a collective wealth of $248 billion led by Mukesh Ambani ($19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi ($16.7 billion) and Azim Premji ($15 billion).
  • Gender pay gap: India suffers from huge gender pay gap. It has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity (men earning more than women in similar jobs) and the gap exceeding 30%.
  • In India, women form 60% of the lowest paid wage labour but only 15% of the highest wage–earners. Thus, India women are poorly represented in top bracket of wage–earners and experience wide gender pay gap at the bottom.

Indian government must introduce inheritance tax and increase wealth tax as the proportion of this tax in total tax revenue is one of the lowest in India to end the extreme concentration of wealth and to end poverty.

India ranks 60th in Inclusive Development Index

India ranked 60th among the 79 developing countries in 2017 Inclusive Development Index (IDI) released in World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ‘Inclusive Growth and Development Report’.

The index is based on 12 performance indicators and countries are ranked on IDI scores based on a scale of 1-7. It has three pillars Growth and Development, Inclusion and Intergenerational Equity, and Sustainability in order to provide a more complete measure of economic development than GDP growth alone.

Key Highlights Of 2017 IDI
  • Top 10 developing economies in 2017 IDI: Lithuania (1st), Azerbaijan (2nd), Hungary (3rd), Poland (4th), Romania (5th), Uruguay (6th), Latvia (7th), Panama (8th), Costa Rica (9th) and Chile (10th).
  • Top 10 advance economies in 2017 IDI: Norway (1st), Luxembourg (2nd), Switzerland (3th), Iceland (4th) and Denmark (5th), (6th), Netherlands (7th), Australia (8th), New Zealand (9th) and Austria (10th).
  • BRIC’s countries: Russia (13th), China (30th) and Brazil (30th).
  • India’s neighbours: India’s many of the neighbouring nations are ahead in the rankings. China (15th), Nepal (27th), Bangladesh (36th) and Pakistan (52nd).
  • India, with a score of only 3.38, ranks low among 79 developing economies, despite its growth in GDP per capita is among the top 10 and labour productivity growth has been strong.
  • India scores well in terms of access to finance for business development and real economy investment.
  • Reasons for India’s lower rank: India’s debt-to-GDP ratio is high, that raises some questions about the sustainability of government spending.

India’s labour force participation rate is low, informal economy is large and many workers are vulnerable to employment situations with little room for social mobility.

India needs more progressive tax system to raise capital for expenditures in infrastructure, health care, basic services and education,

India ranks 92nd in 2017 Global Talent Index

India was ranked 92nd among 118 countries in the 2017 Global index of talent competitiveness (GTI) list. The index measures ability of countries to compete for talent i.e. how countries grow, attract and retain talent.

The index is produced by global business school INSEAD in partnership with Adecco Group and Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) of Singapore.

Key Highlights Of 2017 GTI
  • Top 10 Countries: Switzerland (1st), Singapore (2nd), United Kingdom (3rd), United States (4th), Sweden (5th), Australia (6th), Luxembourg (7th), Denmark (8th), Finland (9th) and Norway (10th).
  • BRICS Countries: India’s ranking is worst among the five BRICS countries. China (54th), Russia (56th), South Africa (67th) and Brazil (81st).
  • It noted that BRICS countries are not getting stronger and both China and India have slipped from their year-ago rankings.
  • India Related Facts: In this edition of the list, India slipped by 3 places compared to 89th rank in 2016 GTI.
  • India stood on a relatively solid in pool of global knowledge skills compared with other emerging markets. But in terms of retaining and attracting talent indices, India ranked lowly 104th and 114th, respectively.
  • Overall a major challenge for India is to attract talent from abroad, particularly in the context of large emigration rates of high-skilled people.
  • India has been able to create a stable pool of global knowledge skills, but still experiences a brain drain. India’s ranking will improve only if it improves in its regulatory (94th) and market (99th) landscapes.
  • GTI global ranking of cities:2017 edition of GTI also released the first-ever global ranking of cities on the basis of their reputation and growing footprint in attracting, growing, and retaining global talent.
  • Top 10 global cities in terms of talent competitiveness:Zurich, Helsinki, San Francisco, Gothenburg, Madrid, Paris, Los Angeles, Eindhoven and Dublin. Mumbai was only Indian city to make into this list.

Railway Ministry unveils Mission 41K to save energy worth Rs 41,000 crore

Union Railway Ministry has unveiled ‘Mission 41K’ to save Rs. 41,000 crore on the Indian Railways’ expenditure on energy consumption over the next 10 years.

The launch of this programme was announced at a Roundtable Discussion on Energy Initiatives of Indian Railways with external stakeholders headed by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Key Facts

 

  • This target of ‘Mission 41K will be achieved by taking a slew of measures which include moving 90% of traffic to electric traction over diesel from present 50% of the total rail traffic.
  • The railways will also procure more and more electricity at cheaper rates through open market instead of sourcing it through DISCOMs. Thereby it hopes to save as much as 25% on its energy expenses.
  • New technologies will be also explored to bring down electric consumption and change the energy mix of Indian Railways.
  • The Electrification Mission will help Indian Railways to reduce dependence on imported fuel, change energy mix, and rationalize the cost of energy for Railways.

In the 2016-17 Budget, Indian Railways already had set a target of generating 1000 MW of solar power and 200 MW of wind energy. During 2014-2015 period, Indian Railways had consumed over 18.25 billion units of electrical energy for its traction and non-traction application for which it paid a total of Rs 12,635 crore. In the same period, for diesel traction it spent Rs 18,586 crore.

AAI receives 45 initial bids under Regional Connectivity Scheme

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has received 45 initial bids from 11 parties to fly routes under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) launched by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The initial bid proposals covers more than 200 routes and as many as 65 airports, 52 of them not served by any airline and 13 under-served airports. Now, Government has invited counter-bids against these initial proposals.

After that, these routes will be awarded to bidders who quote the lowest Viability Gap Funding (VGF) requirement against the routes under the RCS.

About Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)
  • The RCS aims to boost air travel in Tier II and Tier III cities by capping fares at Rs 2,500 per one hour flight. The AAI is the implementing authority of the scheme.
  • Its objective is to make flying affordable for the masses, to promote tourism, increase employment and promote balanced regional growth.
  • As per the scheme, the Union Government will subsidise the losses incurred by airlines flying out of dormant airports to allow airlines to charge Rs. 2,500 for an hour’s flight to passengers.
  • About 80% of the subsidy will be collected by charging a levy of up to Rs. 8,500 on each departing flight of domestic airlines and the rest 20% will come from the respective state governments.

Government launches ShaGun portal to monitor Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

The Union Government launched a dedicated web portal ShaGun (http://ssashagun.nic.in) for monitoring the progress of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The portal was developed by World Bank in collaboration with Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. Its name has been derived from the words Shala (means schools) and Gun (i.e. Gunvatta meaning Quality).

Key Facts
  • ShaGun portal was developed with a twin track approach to monitor schools under the SSA and also the quality of education imparted by them.
  • It will capture and showcase innovations and progress in Elementary Education sector of India by continuous monitoring SSA.
  • ShaGun will help in monitoring progress in implementation of SSA by assessing the performance of states/UTs on key parameters that will help Government to plan and deliver quality education to all.
  • It will collect and report data to enable the government and administrators to track the efficiency with which SSA funds are being utilised and the results are been delivered.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA): It is a centrally sponsored flagship scheme for providing universal access to education to children in the age group of six to fourteen years of age.

In addition, Toolkit for Master Trainers in Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs (CWSN) was also unveiled. The toolkit is part of the series of 5 training modules that will provide the teachers with practical information on the effective inclusion of CWSN. It will help in building pedagogical practices that will address the needs of all children with special needs.

Union Cabinet approves to augment CGTMSE for supporting MSEs

The Union Cabinet has approved package for augmentation of the Corpus of Credit Guarantee Trust Fund for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) for supporting Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs).

With this, the corpus of the Trust has been increased from Rs. 2,500 crore to Rs. 7,500 crore and it will be fully funded by the Union Government.

Cabinet’s Proposal Also Entails To
  • Increase coverage of the loans covered under the credit guarantee scheme from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 2 crore;
  • Increase coverage of the credit guarantee scheme for loans extended to MSEs by NBFCs also. This will enable the Trust to enhance the quantum.

Benefits Of These Measures

  • Lower the level of leverage
  • Improve sustainability of the Fund.
  • Improve financial management.
  • Limit the unfunded contingent liabilities.
  • Enable the CGTMSE to enhance the quantum of credit guarantee to larger number of MSEs.

Comment

Augmentation of the corpus of the fund will facilitate larger flow of credit to MSEs. This in turn, will lead to increase output and employment and thereby promote equity and inclusiveness. Start-ups will also be encouraged to set up enterprises based on innovation and new ideas as the scheme provides credit without collateral and third-party guarantee.

CCEA approves listing of five general insurance PSUs at the stock exchanges

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its ‘in principle’ approval for listing the five Public Sector General Insurance Companies (2016-17) owned General Insurance Companies in the stock exchanges.

They are New India Assurance Company Ltd, United India Insurance Company Ltd, Oriental Insurance Company Ltd, National Insurance Company Ltd and General Insurance Corporation of India.

The shareholding of these PSGICs will be divested from 100% to 75% in one or more tranches over a period of time as per Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) rules and regulations.

Significance Of Listing Of PSGICs
  • Bring transparency and equity in the companies functioning as listing on the stock exchange necessitates compliance requirements of SEBI.
  • Improve corporate governance and risk management practices leading to improved efficiency. It will lead to greater focus on growth and earnings.
  • Open the way for the companies to raise resources from the capital market to meet their fund requirements to expand their businesses, instead of being dependent on the Government for capital infusion.
  • Divestment in these companies will help government in raising resources and portion of the funds can be used by the company for expansion.

Background

The Union Finance Minister in his 2016-17 Budget speech had announced that public shareholding in Government-owned companies is a means of ensuring higher levels of transparency and accountability. In order to promote this objective, the general insurance companies owned by the Government will be listed on the stock exchanges.

Union Cabinet approves amendment in Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for amendment in the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) for electronics manufacturing.

These modifications will further incentivize investments in electronic sector and move towards Union Government’s goal of ‘Net Zero imports’ in electronics by 2020. 

Key Amendment
  • The applications will be received under M-SIPS scheme till December 2018 or till such time that an incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, whichever is earlier.
  • In case the incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, a review will be held to decide further financial commitments.
  • For new approvals, the incentive under the scheme will be available from the date of approval of a project and not from the date of receipt of application.
  • The incentives will be available for investments made within 5 years from the date of approval of the project. Unit receiving incentive will provide undertaking to remain in commercial production for at least 3 years.
  • The Appraisal Committee chaired by Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT will recommend approval of project.

Significance Of Amendment In M-SIPS

  • Expedite investments into the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector in India.
  • Create employment opportunities and reduce dependence on imports.

About Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS)

  • The Union Cabinet in 2012 approved the M-SIPS to provide a special incentive package to promote large scale manufacturing in the ESDM sector to boost domestic electronic product manufacturing in the country.
  • The scheme provides subsidy for capital expenditure 20% for investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and 25% in non-SEZs.
  • It also provides reimbursement of countervailing duty/excise for capital equipment for non-SEZ units and also reimbursement of duties and central taxes for some of the projects with high capital investments.

Cabinet approves the exclusion of States from National Small Savings Fund

The Union Cabinet has excluded States and Union Territories except Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi (UT) and Madhya Pradesh from National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) investments with effect from 1 April 2016

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved one-time loan of Rs. 45000 crore from NSSF to Food Corporation of India (FCI) to meet its food subsidy requirements.

Key Facts

  • Arunachal Pradesh will be given loans to the tune of 100% of NSSF collections within its territory, while Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi (UT) will be provided with 50% of collections.
  • Through the budget line of Department of Food and Public Distribution, the servicing of interest and principal of debt will be extended to Food Corporation of India (FCI).
  • The repayment obligation of the FCI in respect of NSSF Loans will be treated as the first charge on the food subsidy released to the FCI.
  • In addition, FCI will be required to reduce the amount of its current Cash Credit Limit with the banking consortium to the extent of the NSSF loan amount.
  • An legally binding agreement will be signed between Department of Food, FCI and NSSF on the modalities for repayment of interest rate and the restructuring of FCI debt will be made possible within 2-5 years.
  • In the future, NSSF will invest on items whose expenditure is ultimately borne by Union Government and Union budget will meet requirement of the repayment of the principal and interest of that amount.
Background

The 14th Finance Commission (FFC) had recommended that the State Governments should be excluded from the investment operations of the NSSF. The main reason given was that NSSF loans come at an extra cost to the State Governments compared to the market rates which are considerably lower. Following this, Union Cabinet in February 2015 held that this recommendation will be examined in due course in consultation with various stake holders. Later, all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh expressed their desire to be excluded from NSSF investments.

About National Small Savings Fund (NSSF)

NSSF was set up on 1 April, 1999 with an objective to account all the monetary transactions under small savings schemes of the Union Government under one umbrella. It was set up in the Public Account of India.

The net accretions under the small savings schemes are invested in the special securities of various States/ Union Territories (with legislature)/Central Governments.

States not only can borrow from this account but have the obligation to borrow. The minimum obligation of States to borrow from the NSSF has been brought down from 100% to 80% of net collections from 2007.

AYUSH Ministry, ASCI ink MoU to co-regulate advertisements in AYUSH sector

The Union Ministry of AYUSH and Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have signed a Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to co-regulate malpractices in the advertisement of AYUSH sector.

ASCI will comprehensively monitor these advertisements across print and electronic media with respect to AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) drugs, treatments and related services.

Key Facts
  • The Ministry of AYUSH has given ASCI a self-monitoring mandate to identify potentially misleading advertisement in the AYUSH sector and process complaints through its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC).
  • The Ministry will also redirect complaints against misleading advertisements they receive, to the ASCI, which will be reviewed using ASCI’s code and guidelines.
  • The MoU also requires ASCI to report to the Ministry of AYUSH, all advertisements in potential violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules thereunder.
Background

There is unbridled marketing of Ayush drugs across media platforms, including print and television channels. At present, there is no mechanism in place to penalise companies and individuals selling AYUSH products on the basis of false and unsubstantiated claims. The co-regulation between Ministry of AYUSH and ASCI will ensure that consumers have access to safe and effective medicines.

About Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)
  • ASCI is aself-regulatory voluntary non-governmental organization (NGO)of the advertising industry in India. It aims to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence in advertising.
  • It was established in 1985 by by three main constituents of advertising industry viz advertisers, advertising agencies and media. Its headquarters are in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

India Innovation Index to measure performance of Indian states

The World Economic Forum (WEF), NITI Aayog, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Cornell University will work to develop an India Innovation Index to provide impetus to states to drive innovative spirit.

Based on the WIPO’s GII (Global Innovation Index), the India Innovation Index will be tailored to better reflect of India’s ground reality and include metrics well suited to the Indian context for innovation.

Key Facts
  • The India Innovation Index will measure and rank the innovation performance of all states in India with the aim of moving India towards an innovation-driven economy.
  • It will be based on key pillars of innovation and sub-indices that together will assist in tailoring policies for innovation that inturn will promote inclusive growth.
  • The pillars of index include thecapacity of human capital and research, strength of institutions, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others.
  • Each partnering organization will nominate a working group member to work on the index. The first ranking of Indian states will released at the India Economic Summit to be held in October 2017.
  • This index will encourage states to compete with each other and, in turn, lead to better policies for inclusive growth.
  • It will create a transparent benchmark of innovation for Indian states and spur competition among states. It will also ensure progress towards innovation at the local level in India.

Himachal Pradesh overtakes Kerala in learning outcomes: ASER

According to Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, students of Himachal Pradesh stand ahead of Kerala and all other states in terms of learning outcomes. 

The 2016 ASER was the largest annual household survey of the children in India in the field of education. It focused on status of schooling and basic learning.

Key Facts
  • The report found that enrolment rate of students in the age group 6 to 14 in Himachal Pradesh was 99.8%. It secured first rank in achieving learning outcomes in basic reading and mathematics across the country.
  • In language category, outcome of government schools in Himachal Pradesh was 65.3% as compared to the national level of 41.6%.
  • In mathematics, outcome of Himachal Pradesh was 47.4% as compared to the national level of 21.1%. It was found that government schools the state performed better than private schools in mathematics.
  • In learning of English language, Himachal Pradesh ranked fifth in the country with 44% outcome compared to 15.3% achievement at national level.

Draft steel policy anticipates Rs. 10 lakh crore investments

The Steel Ministry has released new draft National Steel Policy of 2017, envisaging to double India’s domestic steel production capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2030-31.

The draft policy anticipates a requirement of Rs. 10 lakh crore of fresh investments to meet production goal and expects creation of at least 11 lakh new jobs in the process.

Key Features Of Policy
  • Two alternatives vision:(i) Create a globally competitive steel industry that promotes inter-sectoral growth (ii) Create a self-sufficient steel industry that is technologically advanced, globally competitive and promotes inclusive growth.
  • Focuses on:Impediments like high input costs, import dependency, availability of raw materials and financial stress plaguing the sector. Couple of factors such as the demand and production of sponge iron are still under discussion.
  • Gas-based steel plants:Proposes gas-based steel plants and technologies such as electric furnaces to bring down use of coking coal in blast furnaces in order to cut down reliance on expensive imports of coking coal.
  • Public sector firms in the steel sector:They should aim for economies of scale. The will be encouraged to divest their non-core assets through mergers and restructuring.
  • Greenfield steel plants along India’s coastline:These plants will be set up under the aegis of Sagarmala project to tap cheap imported raw materials such as coking coal and export the output in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Cluster-based approach:It will be pursued, especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to ensure easy availability of raw materials, optimum land use and economies of scale.

N K Singh panel submits report on changes in FRBM Act

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Committee has submitted its 4 volume report on changes in FRBM Act, 2013 to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The 5 member committee was headed by N.K. Singh, former Revenue and Expenditure Secretary and former MP. Its member included RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose, and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director Rathin Roy.

Key Facts
  • The committee was constituted in May 2016 following Finance Minister Budget 2016-17 announcement. It was assigned task to review the working of the FRBM Act over last 12 years to suggest the way forward.
  • It was also tasked to examine the need and feasibility of having a ‘fiscal deficit range’ as the target in place of the existing fixed numbers (percentage of GDP) as fiscal deficit target.
  • The committee has kept in view the broad objective of fiscal consolidation and prudence and has suggested changes required in the context of the uncertainty and volatility in the global economy.
  • Thefirst volumeof the report addresses the issue of the fiscal roadmap, fiscal policy, international experience and recommendations therein.
  • Thesecond volumerefers to international experience especially from a lot of international organisations particularly OECD, the World Bank, ILO.
  • Thethird volumedeals with Centre-State issues. The fourth volume deals with views of domain experts both from national and international appropriate for fiscal policy

Cabinet clears interest waiver for farm loans

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for an interest waiver of farmers accessing short-term crop loans from cooperative banks for the two months of November and December, 2016

The decision also provides for interest subvention to National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) on additional refinance provided by NABARD to Cooperative Banks.

Key Facts
  • This decision will ensure availability of resources with Cooperative Banks to help farmers to get easy access to crop loans from Cooperative Banks to overcome difficulties due demonisationduring Rabi operations.
  • Additional resources are to be provided to Cooperative Banks through NABARD for refinance to the Cooperative Banks on account of interest waiver of two months for November and December, 2016.
  • A sum of Rs. 15, 000 crore already has been allocated to NABARD during 2016-17 to implement the Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS) has already been utilised.
NABARD To Make Short-Term Borrowings

The Union Cabinet also approved NABARD to make short-term borrowings for approximate Rs.20,000 crore at prevailing market rate of interest for on-lending to Cooperative Banks at 4.5% rate of interest. Additional capital of Rs. 2,000 crore will be be provided to NABARD for this purpose through the Union Budget.

Cabinet approves New Scheme for promotion of Rural Housing

The Union Cabinet has approved a new scheme for promotion of Rural Housing in the country. It will enable people in rural areas to construct new houses or add to their existing pucca houses to improve dwelling units.

Under it, Government will provide interest subsidy to every rural household who is not covered under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (Grameen)-PMAY(G).

Features Of Scheme
  • It will be implemented by National Housing Bank (NHB). Under the scheme, the beneficiary will be provided interest subsidy for loan amount upto Rs. 2 Lakhs for taking loan.
  • Government will provide net present value of interest subsidy of 3% to NHB upfront which will, in turn, pass it to the Primary Lending Institutions (Scheduled Commercial Banks, NBFCs etc.).
  • Government will also take necessary steps for proper convergence of the scheme with PMAY-G including technical support to beneficiary through existing arrangements.
  • It will improve housing stock in the rural areas, as well as create employment opportunities in rural housing sector.

Union Cabinet approves Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2017

The Union Cabinet has approved the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill, 2017, under which the IIMs will be declared as Institutions of National Importance.

It will also enable IIMs to grant degrees rather than diplomas to their students. At present IIMs are not authorised to award degrees as they registered as societies. Hence, they are awarding Post Graduate Diploma and Fellow Programme in Management.

Salient Features Of The Bill
  • Allow IIMs to grant degrees to their students.
  • Grant complete autonomy to IIMs, combined with adequate accountability. Coordination Forum of IIMs as an advisory body will be established.
  • Board of an IIM will drive the management of the institution. It will select Chairperson and Director of IIM.
  • Board will have greater participation of experts and alumni. It will also include women and members from Scheduled Castes/Tribes.
  • Periodic review of the performance of IIM will be conducted by independent agencies and their results will be placed in public domain.
  • The Annual Report of the IIMs will be placed in the Parliament and CAG (Comptroller and auditor general of India) will audit their accounts.
Background

Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) are the country’s premier institutions imparting best quality education in management and are recognized as world-class management Institutions and Centres of Excellence. All IIMs are separate autonomous bodies registered under the Societies Act and are not authorized to award degrees. These awards are treated as equivalent to MBAs and Ph.D, respectively, but their equivalence is not universally acceptable, especially for the Fellow Programme.

Union Cabinet approves ratification of the Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol on containing the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs).

The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 2012 and is set to expire in 2020. So far, 75 countries have ratified the Second Commitment Period.

Significance
  • This decision is considered as token measure to put pressure on developed countries to deliver on climate change commitments.
  • It further underlines India’s leadership in the comity of countries committed to global cause of environmental protection and climate justice.
  • India’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will encourage other developing countries also to undertake this exercise.
  • It will attract some investments in implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under this commitment period in accordance with Sustainable Development priorities.
About Kyoto Protocol
  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 to fight global warming by reducing GHGs emission and came into effect in 2005. The 1st commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008-2012.
  • The 2nd commitment period for the period 2013- 2020 was adopted in 2012 by the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The protocol is based on principle ofEquity and Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR).
  • It places obligations on developed nations to undertake mitigation targets to reduce emissions by 5.2% of 1990 levels during 2008-2012 period) and provide financial resources and technology to developing nations.
  • Developing countries like India have no mandatory mitigation obligations or targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Union Government releases National Action Plan for Children, 2016

The Union Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) has released National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016  on the occasion of National Girl Child Day (24th January).

It was released by Union Minister of Women & Child Development Meneka Sanjay Gandhi in New Delhi. The NPAC has been developed by the Ministry of WCD.

Features Of NPAC, 2016
  • The Action Plan has four key priority areas. They aresurvival, health and nutritioneducation and developmentparticipation and protection.
  • It defines objectives, sub-objectives, strategies, action points and indicators for measuring progress under the four key priority areas. It also identifies key stakeholders for the implementation of different strategies.
  • It puts focus on new and emerging concerns for children such as children affected by natural and man-made disasters, climate change and online child abuse etc.
  • Its strategies and action points largely draw upon the existing programmes and schemes of various Ministries and Departments.
  • It takes into account the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides a roadmap towards achieving them though co-ordination and convergence with different stakeholders.
Background

The National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016   was prepared as per the mandate of the National Policy for Children (2013). The policy provides for formation of a National Co-ordination and Action Group (NCAG) under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for coordinating and implementation of the plan and monitor the progress with other Ministries concerned as its members.

Union Cabinet approves Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for launching of Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017 (VPBY 2017).  The scheme will be launched as part of Government’s commitment for financial inclusion and social security.

The scheme will be implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) during the current financial year i.e. FY 2016-17. It will be open for subscription for a period of one year from the date of launch.

Features Of Scheme
  • The purpose of the scheme is to provide social security during old age and protect elderly persons aged 60 years and above against future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions.
  • It will provide an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum for ten years, with an option to opt for pension on a monthly, quarterly, half yearly and annual basis.
  • The Union Government will bear the differential return i.e., the difference between the return generated by LIC and the assured return of 8% per annum as subsidy on an annual basis.

Government launches Rubber Soil Information System

The Union Government has launched Rubber Soil Information System (RubSIS), an online system for recommending appropriate mix of fertilizers to plantations of rubber growers depending upon their soil nature.

It was launched for Kottayam (Kerela), the largest rubber growing district of India which will be extended to the entire traditional rubber growing region i.e. the states of Kerela and Tamilnadu. 

Key Facts
  • RubSIS has developed by Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board in collaboration with three other agencies.
  • They are Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala, National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning, ICAR and National Remote Sensing Center, ISRO
  • RubSIS brings soil data to the fingerprints of rubber growers and recommends the optimum mix and quantities of chemical fertilizers required for the rubber plantation.
  • It is a cost effective tool for sustainable and scientific management of rubber growing soils. Its adoption will prevent indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and soil degradation.
  • It will also lead to reduction in the cost of production of rubber, increase in productivity and reduction in environmental pollution.

India, France sign pact on maritime information sharing in Indian Ocean Region

India and France have signed White Shipping agreement to enable information sharing on maritime traffic and maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The agreement was signed in New Delhi after both countries held their second dialogue on maritime cooperation for the IOR.

Key Facts
  • The agreement will enable navies of India and France to coordinate their roles in stabilising Indo-Pacific region.
  • It will enhance Indo-French maritime security cooperation in the region. It will be implemented over the next few months.
Background

India and France firmed up cooperation on sharing of radars in the Indian Ocean during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in 2015. India is setting up a grid of coastal surveillance radars in the IOR that will enable it to monitor increasing Chinese presence in the area, France has shown interest in sharing data from surveillance systems on its Indian Ocean territories in the region that includes Mayotte, besides military bases in UAE and Djibouti.  Both countries in the last couple of years are coordinating their naval movements and surveillance in the IOR. France retains interests and assets with territories like Reunion Islands in the IOR.

RBI prohibits investments in non-cooperative countries and territories

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has prohibited Indian entities from making direct investments in any entity located in Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCT) as identified by Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The prohibition is for aligning instructions under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) with the objectives of the FATF. At present, there is no restriction on an Indian entity with regard to the countries where it can undertake Overseas Direct Investment (ODI).

The NCCT initiatives principal objective is to reduce the vulnerability of the financial system to money laundering by ensuring that all financial centres adopt and implement measures for the detection, prevention and punishment of money laundering according to internationally recognised standards.

About Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

 

  • FATF is an inter‐governmental policy making body established in 1989 with ministerial mandate to establish international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures forcombating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to integrity of international financial system.
  • Initially it was only dealing with developing policies to combat money laundering. But in 2001 its purpose was expanded to act against terrorism financing.
  • Currently, it comprises two regional organisations and 35 member jurisdictions, including India, UK, US, China and the European Commission.

GAAR will be effective from April 1, 2017

The Union Finance Ministry has announced that the General Anti Avoidance Rule (GAAR) will be effective from the 1 April, 2017.

In this regard Income Tax (IT) department has issued a slew of clarifications on implementation of GAAR, seeking to address concerns of foreign investors over implementation of the anti-evasion measure.

GAAR seeks to prevent companies from routing transactions through other countries to avoid taxes. The rules are framed mainly to minimize and check avoidance of tax. India will be the 17th nation in the world to have laws that aim to close tax loopholes.  At present, GAAR is in force in nations like Australia, Singapore, China and the UK.

Issued Clarifications
  • GAAR seeks to give the IT department powers to scrutinize transactions structured in such a way as to deliberately avoid paying tax in India.
  • It will not be invoked in cases where investments are routed through tax treaties that have a sufficient limitation of benefit (LOB) clause to address tax avoidance.
  • It should be noted that LOB clause in tax treaties generally requires investors to meet certain spending and employment criteria to avail the benefits of the treaty.
  • All transactions or arrangements approved by courts and quasi-judicial authorities like the authority for advance ruling and that specifically address the issue of tax avoidance will not be subject to the GAAR test.
  • GAAR will not be applicable on compulsorily convertible instruments, bonus issuances or split/consolidation of holdings in respect of investments made prior to 1 April 2017 in the hands of the same investor.
  • In order to prevent misuse of GAAR provisions by the IT department, adequate safeguards also have been put in place based on which GAAR will be invoked.
  • The proposal to apply GAAR first will be vetted by an officer at the level of the principal commissioner or commissioner of income tax and at the second stage by an approving panel headed by a high court judge.
  • GAAR will not apply on foreign portfolio investor if its jurisdiction is based on non-tax commercial considerations and the main purpose is not to obtain tax benefits.
    • Government launches Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign

The Union Government has launched nationwide “Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign (SLAC)” on the occasion of Anti-Leprosy Day (observed on the last Sunday of January).

The day is observed every year on January 30 in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi who attained martyrdom on this day in 1948, to remember his selfless efforts and care for the people affected with Leprosy.

Need For Campaign
  • Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae and it usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves. The mode of transmission of leprosy is still not known.
  • According to WHO, the diseased had affected 2,12,000 people globally in 2015. India alone reported 1,27,326 new cases, accounting for 60% of new  cases globally.
  • India is among the 22 countries considered as having a “high burden for leprosy” along with high transmission. The other high-burden countries were Brazil and Indonesia.
Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign
  • The thrust of SLACcampaign is to promote community participation in diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in its early stages and to spread awareness about the disease to help in early diagnosis and treatment.
  • It seeks to promote decentralised community-based demand-driven approach from present centralised top-down delivery-driven approach to fight the disease.
  • It also seeks to empower local communities to take over the responsibility of sensitising people to not stigmatise and discriminate against those affected.

Finance Ministry to aid Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh for rail safety

The Union Finance Ministry has agreed to contribute partially to a new dedicated railway safety fund named as ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ in the upcoming Union Budget 2017-18.

The proposed safety fund will be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system and safety work at level crossing, among other things.

Key Facts

 

  • The Finance Ministry is likely to grant a fresh infusion of only Rs. 5,000 crore in the upcoming financial year out of the initial proposed corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore.
  • About Rs. 10,000 crore will be earmarked from the Central Road Fund (CRF) that is collected by levying a cess on diesel and petrol at present for safety-related work.
  • Railways may now be asked to fund the remaining Rs. 5,000 crore for the initial corpus from its own resources.
  • For this Indian Railway’s may either have to bring back a cess on rail tickets to finance its share of Rail Safety Fund or look to fund it from non-budgetary resources.
Background

The Railway Ministry had requested the Union Finance Ministry to create ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’, a ‘non-lapsable’ safety fund of Rs. 20,000 crore over five years. Its request was based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee headed by Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman Atomic Energy Commission.  The Committee, in its report submitted in 2012, had projected an investment requirement of Rs. 1 lakh crore on safety over five years.