Spiritual circuit in Kerala
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated a project for the development of spiritual circuit comprising three important pilgrimage centres of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Aranmula and Sabarimala in Kerala.
The Sree Padmanabaswamy Temple is one of the 108 divyadesams of Lord Vishnu.
The project is being implemented under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the tourism ministry.
About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
The Tourism Ministry had launched ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme with an objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.
Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding.
It leverages the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.
Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).
A National Steering Committee (NSC) will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.
A Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.
PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.
Source: The Hindu
Womaniya on GeM
It is an initiative launched by the Government eMarketplace (GeM) to enable women entrepreneurs and self-help groups to sell different products at the platform.
Key features of the initiative:
The initiative – Womaniya on GeM – seeks to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.
The initiative would enable women entrepreneurs and women self-help groups to sell handicrafts and handloom, jute and coir products, home décor and office furnishings, directly to various government ministries, departments and institutions.
Significance and the need for such initiatives:
Nearly 80% women-owned establishments in India are self-financed and more than 60 percent of 8 million units are owned and led by women entrepreneurs from socially-challenged sections.
Since women tend to invest up to 90% of their earnings back in their families to provide better nutrition, health care and education to their children, their economic empowerment is essential for poverty alleviation which would be made possible through Womaniya initiative.
Womaniya on GeM will address goals and objectives under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
It is an online marketplace to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
The platform offers online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all central government departments and state governments, public sector units and affiliated bodies.
It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement of goods and services and eliminate corruption.
Government e Marketplace is a 100% government owned company setup under the aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs.
Image generated by GPL Ghostscript (device=pnmraw)
Source: The Hindu
New quota and basic structure
President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the bill providing 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to the economically weaker sections in the general category.
The legislation will be known as the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 and it shall come into force on such date as the Centre notifies.
The 10% reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50% reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60%.
124th Constitutional Amendment- This amended two fundamental rights:
It provides reservation for:
The major hurdle for the implementation of the recent Act is the legal scrutiny.
The Supreme Court has ruled multiple times against exceeding its 1992 formula of a maximum of 50% reservation (Indira Sawhney v. Union of India).
However, there are states like Tamil Nadu that go beyond this limit and the Supreme Court has upheld the state’s policy many a time. Presently, the state has a ‘69 per cent quota system’.
What is the basic structure?
The idea of basic structure was originally suggested by Justice M Hidayatullah & Justice J R Mudholkar in Sajjan Singh (1965). It has been borrowed from Germany.
In Kesavananda Bharati (1973), the Supreme Court held that Parliament can amend the Constitution but does not have power to destroy it — no amendment can change its “basic structure”. The court said that under Article 368, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would amend.
However, the court did not define what basic structure is, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being part of basic structure. Since then, the court has been adding new features to the concept of basic structure. In subsequent years, courts extended the doctrine even to ordinary legislation and executive actions.
Does it violate fundamental rights?
From the Poona Pact (1932) between M K Gandhi and Dr B R Ambedkar to the Constituent Assembly debates, reservation was talked about in the context of social backwardness of classes.
The 124th Amendment makes a departure by extending reservation to the economically disadvantaged. Article 15(4), inserted by the First Amendment in 1951, enables the state to make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes.
Article 16(4) permits reservation for any backward class if it is not adequately represented in services under the state.
Thus, reservation is not a right but, if granted, it will not be considered a violation of the right to equality.
Article 46 and the upper caste:
Article 46, which is a non-justiciable Directive Principle, says that the state shall promote educational and economic interests of “weaker sections”, in particular SCs and STs, and protect them from “social injustices” and “all forms of exploitation”.
While the 124th Amendment mentions Article 46 in its statement and objects, it seems the government overlooked the fact that upper castes neither face social injustice nor are subjected to any form of exploitation.
Moreover, the Constitution makes provisions for commissions to look into matters relating to implementation of constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Castes (Article 338), Scheduled Tribes (338A) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (339), but has not created any commission for the economically backward classes.
Equality in India has been held to be the very essence of democracy and rule of law. While equality permits reasonable classifications, these are to be based on intelligible differentia, should have rational objects to achieve and should not be fanciful and arbitrary.
In this case, the court has to examine the equality code of the Constitution and whether the state has considered and valued the circumstances justifying it, to make reservation. This would require that the state’s decision is rational and non-arbitrary. The state has to show quantifiable data to satisfy the court as to inadequacy of representation of economically backward classes.
Source: Indian Express
Citizenship Bill and Chakma and Hajong communities
Locals in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are protesting against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 because it would serve as a legal basis for legitimising the claims of Chakma and Hajong refugees as the indigenous people of State.
The Citizenship Bill seeks to grant citizenship to six minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians — without valid documents from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of stay in India. Locals are concerned as this bill seeks to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees.
Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the erstwhile East Pakistan. They left their homeland when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.
The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, also allegedly faced religious persecution and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). The Centre moved the majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh.
Their numbers have gone up from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh. At present, they don’t have citizenship and land rights but are provided basic amenities by the state government.
Source: The Hindu
Global Housing Technology Challenge
Government has launched the Global Housing Technology Challenge. The challenge is undertaken under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).
Key features of the Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) are:
GHTC aims to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meet the target of constructing 1.2 crore houses by 2022.
GHTC focuses on identifying and mainstreaming proven demonstrable technologies for lighthouse projects and spotting potential future technologies for incubation and acceleration support through ASHA (Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators) — India.
To enable adoption of construction techniques for housing that are affordable and takes minimum time as less as three months instead of the conventional three years for construction.
Bring a paradigm shift in technology transition using large-scale construction under the PMAY-U as an opportunity to get the best available construction technologies across the globe.
About Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U):
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission is being implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme components:
Why is it important?
Today, while developers in India’s metropolitan cities are sitting on lakhs of unsold residences costing upwards of ₹50 lakh, the country is estimated to have a shortage of nearly 20 million housing units needed by the rural and urban poor, at far lower price points of ₹5-15 lakh.
The PMAY aims to address this shortfall. With the increase in subsidised loan amount to ₹12 lakh, the scheme is expected to cover a higher proportion of the urban poor. The PMAY will hopefully incentivise India’s construction and realty sector to reduce its traditional obsession with affluent home buyers in the cities.
Source: The Hindu
Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS)
An infant in Delhi is suffering from a rare disease.
CCHS is a disorder of the nervous system in which the cue to breathe is lost when the patient goes to sleep. This results in a lack of oxygen and a build-up of carbon dioxide in the body, which can sometimes turn fatal. There are less than 1,000 known cases all over the world.
Though the name describes the disorder as congenital, some forms of the disease may also be present in adults. In fact, adult onset is far more common than congenital presentation; there have been many adult cases reported in medical journals over the years.
The disease is also known as Ondine’s Curse. Ondine, a nymph in French mythology, had cursed her unfaithful husband that he would forget to breathe the moment he fell asleep.
The mutation of a gene called PHOX2B, which is crucial for the maturation of nerve cells in the body, can cause CCHS.
It can also be genetically acquired, which is when it is congenital. However, sudden mutation is more common than a transmission of the mutated gene from parent to child.
Treatment typically includes mechanical ventilation or use of a diaphragm pacemaker. People who have been diagnosed as newborns and adequately ventilated throughout childhood may reach the age of 20 to 30 years, and can live independently.
Source: The Hindu
Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation or KALIA Scheme
KALIA scheme, launched by Odisha state government, has completed its first phase of registration.
Key features of Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation or KALIA Scheme:
Involves payments to encourage cultivation and associated activities.
Primary targets are small farmers, cultivators and landless agricultural labourers.
All farmers will be provided Rs 10,000 per family as assistance for cultivation.
Each family will get Rs 5,000 separately in the kharif and rabi seasons, for five cropping seasons between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
Targets 10 lakh landless households, and specifically SC and ST families. They will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 for activities like goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and fishery.
A critical trade, dairy production, has deliberately been kept out because keeping a cow is more expensive, while milk production needs to have a collection route or agency that processes and refines this low shelf-life product.
It will assist the elderly, sick and differently-abled population who are unable to take up cultivation, by providing Rs 10,000 per household per year.
The scheme includes a life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh and additional personal accident coverage of the same amount for 57 lakh households. Crop loans up to Rs 50,000 are interest-free.
This is also going to be an area-specific scheme in the sense that an input support for a particular trade, say mushroom cultivation, will be provided if it is prevalent throughout that locality so that there is aggregation of produce.
How different will KALIA be from a loan waiver?
Unlike a loan waiver, (through which) banks appease a few farmers, KALIA’s main targets are rural activities as a whole. It will support farming on a small scale, sharecropping, fishing, animal herding, which are not covered under bank loans, but are caught in debt traps set up by local moneylenders. Also, a farm loan waiver will reduce credit available to farmers in the long term, while income support can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.”
Source: Indian Express
Half done: on the ban on plastic
India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:
So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products. Puducherry will implement a ban from March 1.
India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
All such efforts have yielded positive results: Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg.
Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
Collect-back system: The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 are clear that producers, importers and brand owners must adopt a collect-back system for the plastic they introduce into the environment. However, not much has been done to take the process forward.
Extended Producer Responsibility clause: Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
What is needed?
Governments must start charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently, which will lead to recovery and recycling.
State and local governments should upgrade their waste management systems, which is necessary to even measure the true scale of packaging waste.
Role of local bodies: Local bodies should consult manufacturers or importers to assess the problem. Cities and towns need competent municipal systems to achieve this.
Background- The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 aim to:
Increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 micron for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste,
Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also:
The indiscriminate disposal of plastic has become a major threat to the environment. An eco-friendly product, which is a complete substitute of the plastic in all uses, has not been found till date. In the absence of a suitable alternative, it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve plastic waste management systems.
Source: The Hindu
NMCG Officials and Partners Come Together to Contribute to Clean Ganga Fund
The officials and partners of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) came together on one platform, to make personal donations to the Clean Ganga Fund on a voluntary basis.
About Clean Ganga Fund –
“Clean Ganga Fund (CGF)” is set up with voluntary contributions from residents of the country and Non-Resident Indian (NRIs) / Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and others.
The Fund will have the objective of contributing to the national effort of cleaning of the river Ganga.
Domestic donors to the Fund shall be eligible for tax benefits as applicable in the case of the Swachh Bharat Kosh.
The Fund would be managed by a Trust to be headed by Finance Minister.
The secretariat of the Trust will be set up in Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation under the Mission Director, Clean Ganga.
Features of CGF:
CGF will explore the possibility of setting up daughter funds in other jurisdictions/countries of high donor interest such as USA, UK, Singapore, UAE, etc. to enable tax benefits to donors in their respective jurisdictions.
CGF will identify and fund specific projects which could be pilot projects, R&D projects, innovative projects or other focused projects.
CGF will be subject to such audit as required by law as well as audit by any agency determined by Government.
The following broad activities will be financed from the Fund:
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) –
It was registered as a society on 12thAugust 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986.
NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).
The Act envisages five-tier structure at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga as below:
National Ganga Council under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.
Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
State Ganga Committees, and
District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.
It is India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise. IMBEX 2018-19, is being held in Haryana. It is the second edition of the IMBEX.
Main Objective of IMBEX 2018-19:
Train the Myanmar delegation for participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations under the UN flag.
The traffic police authorities of Pune are planning to introduce a robot named ‘Roadeo’ which would move around city roads, functioning as a quasi-traffic policeman and cautioning commuters about traffic rules and offences.
It is a first of its kind initiative in the entire country. If this pilot project turns out to be successful it would go a long way in easing the traffic management burden and reducing the workload of overburdened policemen.
Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has given its approval for the Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project of Telangana.
About the Project: The Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project aims to divert Godavari river water to irrigate 2.72 lakh hectares in three districts of Telangana.