Indian Forest and Tribal Service
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has initiated an inter-ministerial consultation note to rename the Indian Forest Service as Indian Forest and Tribal Service. The consultation note also contains the proposal to train the cadre to be more receptive towards tribal and forest dwellers.
The renaming is based on the recommendation made by the NCST which highlights the close ties between tribal, the forest and forest ecosystem. Merging forest and tribal welfare administrations will further the participation of ‘tribals’ in forest management. Renaming will also engender greater sensitivity on the forest department’s part towards the needs of ‘tribal’ communities.
About the Indian Forest Service:
During the year 1864 the then British India Government started the Imperial Forest Department and appointed Dr. Dietrich Brandis, a German Forest officer Inspector General of Forests in 1866.
Having recognized the need to have a premier forest service to manage the varied natural resources of the vast country and to organize the affairs of the Imperial Forest Department, Imperial Forest Service was constituted in 1867.
The subject of “Forestry” was transferred to the “Provincial List” by the Government of India Act, 1935 and subsequently recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service was discontinued.
The Indian Forest Service, one of the three All India Services, was constituted in the year 1966 under the All India Services Act, 1951 by the Government of India.
The main mandate of the service is the implementation of the National Forest Policy which envisages scientific management of forests and to exploit them on a sustained basis for primary timber products, among other things.
Source: The Hindu
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
Parliament’s committee on estimates has in its latest report called for re-formulation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), seeking transparency in its working and asking for more financial allocations to attract increasing participation from farmers. The committee has observed that there are fundamental flaws in the design of the scheme that renders it rather ineffective.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), the flagship programme launched with much fanfare in 2016, has run into rough weather. With both the area covered and the number of enrolled farmers declining, the country’s premium crop insurance scheme is certainly in need of an overhaul.
Challenges at present:
Insufficient reach and the issue of penetration.
Data constraints: With just around 45% of the claims made by farmers over the last three crop seasons data for the last rabi season is not available paid by the insurance companies.
Low payout of claims: The reason for the very low payout of claims is that only few state governments are paying their share of the premiums on time and till they do, the central government doesn’t pay its share either. Till they get the premium, insurance companies simply sit on the claims.
Gaps in assessment of crop loss: There is hardly any use of modern technology in assessing crop damages. There is lack of trained outsourced agencies, scope of corruption during implementation and the non-utilisation of technologies like smart phones and drones to improve reliability of such sampling
Less number of notified crops than can avail insurance, Inadequate and delayed claim payment.
High actuarial premium rates: Insurance companies charged high actuarial premium rates.
If states delay notifications, or payment of premiums, or crop cutting data, companies cannot pay compensation to the farmers in time.
Poor capacity to deliver: There has been no concerted effort by the state government and insurance companies to build awareness of farmers on PMFBY. Insurance companies have failed to set-up infrastructure for proper Implementation of PMFBY.
PMBY is not beneficial for farmers in vulnerable regions as factors like low indemnity levels, low threshold yields, low sum insured and default on loans make it a poor scheme to safeguard against extreme weather events.
In April, 2016, the government of India had launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) after rolling back the earlier insurance schemes viz. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), Weather-based Crop Insurance scheme and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).
Premium: It envisages a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops, and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.
The scheme is mandatory for farmers who have taken institutional loans from banks. It’s optional for farmers who have not taken institutional credit.
Source: The Hindu
DNA technology Bill
The Lok Sabha has passed the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 that allows regulated use of DNA technology to establish the identity of certain defined categories of persons, including offenders, suspects, and undertrials.
Need for the legislation and its significance:
The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world. Therefore, the new bill aims to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
Highlights of the Bill:
As per the Bill, national and regional DNA data banks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
Punishment: According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it, will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek the information on DNA profiles illegally.
Usage: As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples and records, will only be used for identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.
The bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.
Benefits of the Bill:
By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country.
There is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
DNA technology- significance and concerns:
DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals.
A hair sample, or even bloodstains from clothes, from a scene of crime, for example, can be matched with that of a suspect, and it can, in most cases, be conclusively established whether the DNA in the sample belongs to the suspected individual. As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.
But information from DNA samples can reveal not just how a person looks, or what their eye colour or skin colour is, but also more intrusive information like their allergies, or susceptibility to diseases. As a result, there is a greater risk of information from DNA analysis getting misused.
It is expected that the expanded use of DNA technology would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).
Source: The Hindu
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
NASA which launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) for searching exoplanets in April, 2018 has discovered a third small planet outside our solar system.
The new planet is named HD 21749b. The newly discovered planet orbits a bright and nearby star which is about 53 light years away in the constellation Reticulum. HD 21749b appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by Tess. The surface of the new planet is hotter than 100 degrees Celsius.
About TESS mission:
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA mission that will look for planets orbiting the brightest stars in Earth’s sky. It was led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with seed funding from Google.
Mission: The mission will monitor at least 200,000 stars for signs of exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized rocky worlds to huge gas giant planets. TESS, however, will focus on stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler examined. This will help astronomers better understand the structure of solar systems outside of our Earth, and provide insights into how our own solar system formed.
Orbit: TESS will occupy a never-before-used orbit high above Earth. The elliptical orbit, called P/2, is exactly half of the moon’s orbital period; this means that TESS will orbit Earth every 13.7 days. Its closest point to Earth (67,000 miles or 108,000 kilometers) is about triple the distance of geosynchronous orbit, where most communications satellites operate.
It will use transit method to detect exoplanets. It watches distant stars for small dips in brightness, which can indicate that planet has passed in front of them. Repeated dips will indicate planet passing in front of its star. This data has to be validated by repeated observations and verified by scientists.
Significance of the mission:
TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.
NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super-Earth” sized – no larger than twice as big as our home planet.
Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. Scientists have said they hope TESS will ultimately help catalog at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study in what has become one of astronomy’s newest fields of exploration.
Source: The Hindu
Transport Subsidy Scheme
To facilitate the process of industrialization in hilly, remote and inaccessible areas, transport incentive is provided to the states of:
North Eastern Region (including Sikkim) under North Eastern Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) – 2017
Jammu & Kashmir under Industrial Development Scheme – 2017
Lakshadweep and A&N Islands under Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Island Development Scheme – 2018
Industrial Units can avail Incentives:
Under the above mentioned schemes, all eligible industrial units can avail incentive on transportation of only finished goods through Railways or the Railway Public Sector Undertakings, Inland Waterways or scheduled airline (shipping for Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands also) for five years from the date of commencement of commercial production/operation.
Freight Subsidy Scheme (FSS):
The FSS (2013) replaced the Transport Subsidy Scheme, 1971.
It was in operation in all 8 North Eastern States, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, J&K, Darjeeling District of West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep islands.
The FSS has been discontinued since 22.11.2016. But, the industrial units under these schemes during their currency are eligible for the benefits of the scheme.
While the inland transport incentive is available for certain landlocked states, there is no proposal to provide the same to the state of Chhattisgarh.
About Transport Subsidy Scheme –
Government of India had introduced Transport Subsidy Scheme (TSS) on 23.7.1971 to develop industrialization in the remote, hilly and inaccessible areas.
The objective is to develop industrialization in the remote, hilly and inaccessible areas in 8 North Eastern Region.
DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) is the implementing agency of TSS/FSS.
Monitoring and Review Mechanism:
In order to check any misuse, Directorates of Industries in each beneficiary State/UT are required to:
Green Technology in PMGSY
In order to encourage locally available materials and use of green technologies for construction of road under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), guidelines were issued by the Ministry.
The State Governments are required to propose minimum 15% of total length of annual proposals under new technologies like Cement stabilization, Lime stabilization, Cold mix, Waste plastics, Cell filled concrete, Paneled cement concrete pavement, Fly ash etc.
The Ministry of Rural Development specifications have also been relaxed in respect of grading of materials for Granular Sub Base layer in order to encourage the usage of locally available/naturally occurring material/marginal materials.
Andhra Pradesh Government had submitted proposal for converting 37 roads of 163.49 KM sanctioned under Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas with conventional method of construction to New Technology.
There is no other proposal of the State on New Technology pending with the Government at present.
The Ministry has so far sanctioned 35,922 KM length of roads using New Technologies and 22,983.96 KM have been completed.
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) encourages the use of ‘Green Technologies’ and non-conventional materials like waste plastic, cold mix, geo-textiles, fly-ash, iron and copper slag etc in rural roads.
Objective of PMGSY:
The primary objective of PMGSY is to provide connectivity by way of all-weather roads. The programme also has an Upgradation component with a target to upgrade existing rural roads in order to ensure full farm to market connectivity.
With a view to bringing transparency and responsiveness in governance, plug leakages and to quickly address the citizen grievances; PMGSY has been encouraging use of information technology, mobile technology and space technology.
Meri Sadak – A mobile application “Meri Sadak” was launched to enable citizens to register complaints regarding the quality and pace of construction of PMGSY roads.
The Ministry of Labour & Employment is implementing the National Career Service (NCS) Project to provide a variety of employment related services like job matching, career counseling, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, etc.
Highlights of NCS Project:
It includes establishment of Model Career Centers by the State Government/Institutions of repute to provide variety of employment related services using technology.
The NCS project has also been enhanced to interlink the Employment Exchanges with NCS portal and organizing job fairs.
Employment Exchanges/Model Career Centers – functions under the administrative control of the State Governments/Institutions and they are organizing job fairs locally for the benefit of the job seekers from time to time.
A National ICT based portal is developed primarily to connect the opportunities with the aspirations of youth. The portal facilitates registration of job seekers, job providers, skill providers, career counselors, etc.
National Bamboo Mission
The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was approved in April, 2018 for implementation till the end of 14th Finance Commission i.e. 2019-2020.
Aim of the Mission:
It aims to inter-alia supplement farm income of farmers with focus on the development of complete value chain of bamboo sector linking growers with industry.
The scheme is being implemented in non-forest Government land, farmers field in States where it has social, commercial and economical advantage, including the bamboo rich States of North Eastern region and Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
88 Bamboo Treatment Units, 464 Product Development/Processing Units, 135 Infrastructure Projects for Promotion and Development of Bamboo Markets, and an area of 15740 ha for plantation has been approved.
Financial Assistance to North Eastern States is provided in the ratio of 90:10 between Central & State Government.
A number of consultations have been held with State Governments and Industry to invigorate the bamboo sector in the region.
About National Bamboo Mission –
The Mission envisages promoting holistic growth of bamboo sector by adopting area-based, regionally differentiated strategy and to increase the area under bamboo cultivation and marketing.
Coverage of 1,05,000 ha area under bamboo in two years by ensuring adequate stocks of selected genetically superior quality planting material.
Promotion and diversification of bamboo products through establishment of micro, small, medium & large processing units and development of value chain in bamboo.
Setting up and strengthening of bamboo mandi/bazaars/rural haats, including promoting online trade.
Enhanced cooperation within the country related to research, technology, product development, machinery, trade information and knowledge sharing platform particularly for NE States to give a boost to the low key bamboo based industry in the country.
The NBM will be a sub-scheme of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) under the umbrella scheme Krishonnati Yojana.
60:40 between Centre and State Govt. for all States (excepting NE & Hilly states),
90:10 for the NE & Hilly States, and
100% for Union Territories/R&D Institutes/Bamboo Technology Support Groups (BTSGs) and National Level Agencies.
National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA)
The National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
It is to ensure the reduction in rate of tax or the benefit of input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
NAA has taken the following steps for customers get the full benefit of tax cuts:
Holding regular meetings with the Zonal Screening Committees and the Chief Commissioners of Central Tax to stress upon consumer awareness programs.
Launching a helpline to resolve the queries of citizens regarding registration of complaints against profiteering.
Receiving complaints through email and NAA portal.
Working with consumer welfare organizations to facilitate outreach activities.
A number of complaints regarding companies not passing on the full benefits of tax cuts to consumers have been received by the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA).
Vision and Mission of NAA –
The National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) is the institutional mechanism under GST law to check the unfair profit-making activities by the trading community.
The Authority’s core function is to ensure that the benefits of the reduction is GST rates on goods and services made by GST Council and proportional change in the Input tax credit passed on to the ultimate consumers and recipient respectively by way of reduction in the prices by the suppliers.
This institutional framework comprises the NAA, a Standing Committee, Screening Committees in every State and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).
Nilekani Panel to strengthen the Digital Payments Ecosystem
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a high-level committee under Nandan Nilekani to suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments in the country.
RBI has provided the following terms of reference for the committee:
First female chief economist of IMF
Gita Gopinath has joined International Monetary Fund as its chief economist. She is the first woman to occupy the post of chief economist of IMF. She is the 11th chief economist of the IMF.
Role of Chief Economist:
The Chief Economist is also the Director of the Fund’s Research Department and is responsible for providing independent advice to the Fund on its policy issues, integrating ideas of the research in the design of policies, conveying these ideas to the policymakers inside and outside the fund and managing all research done at IMF.
The Chief Economist is part of the senior leadership team of the IMF and directly advises the Managing Director.
The Chief Economist also leads about a hundred PhD economists in the Research Department.