17 May Current Affairs
May 17, 2019
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May 20, 2019
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18 May Current Affairs

No move for nationwide NRC exercise

In News:

The ruling BJP’s election promise to implement the National Register of Citizens across the country, if voted back to power for a second term, contradicts the Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court and Parliament.

Details:

Responding to a petition calling for implementing the NRC in Tripura, the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that it was not required as adequate laws existed to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

Last year, a petition was filed by the Tripura People’s Front and others in the SC to update the NRC in Tripura as is being done in Assam, to detect and deport “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh.

The petition asked the SC to direct the authorities to update the NRC by taking July 19, 1948 as the cutoff date.

Background:

“The exercise to update NRC 1951 is being conducted under the special provisions in respect of State of Assam under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship Rules, 2003. At present, there is no proposal to extend the NRC to States other than Assam,”.

National Register of Citizens (NRC):

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the list of Indian citizens of Assam. It was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951.

Source: The Hindu

Air quality monitoring station

In News:

Varanasi has only one air quality monitoring station despite being ranked as among the top 3 most polluted cities in the world three years ago

Details:

The Central Pollution Control Board’s 2015 dataset (made public in 2016) found Varanasi’s air quality to be among the most toxic in the country and that it had only one air quality monitor capable of measuring particulate matter 2.5 and particulate matter 10 levels.

Out of 227 days measured in 2015, the city had zero ‘good-air’ days and this was attributed to the heavy levels of industrial pollution.

‘Serious priority’:

“Varanasi is one of the most polluted cities on the planet.

In the last few years the government has done amazing work on the beautification of the city and solar, it’s time to make air pollution a serious priority.

Background:

Varanasi is one of the cities that is part of the National Clean Air Campaign, an initiative by the Union Environment Ministry to improve air quality in 100 cities by 20% at least by 2024. One of the commitments under this is to improve air quality monitoring.

A study by IIT Kanpur and the Shakti Foundation showed Varanasi suffered from poor air quality for 70% of the days between October and November 2018 with PM 2.5 levels crossing 170 micrograms per cubic metre against the national average of 60 and the WHO average of 25.

Let Me Breathe:

A portal that investigates how people cope with poor air quality, queried the city’s civic officials.

Source: The Hindu

Article 324

In News:

The Election Commission of India has passed an unprecedented order ending the campaign in West Bengal. It also removed the state’s Home Secretary, and a senior police officer.

Details:

The decisions were taken under Article 324 of the Constitution, in response to street violence in Kolkata between cadres of two political parties.

What Article 324 and RPA say on this?

Article 324 vests “in an Election Commission” the “superintendence, direction and control of elections”.

Parliament enacted The RP Act of 1950 and 1951 to define and enlarge the powers of the Commission.

The RP Amendment Act, 1988 (Act 1 of 1989) introduced Section 28A in the RP Act of 1951, which said that all officers deployed for the conduct of an election shall be deemed to be on deputation to the EC. This should be from the notification of the election to the declaration of the results, and such officers shall, during that period, be subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the EC.

Historical background:

Ambedkar introduced the Article 324 on June 15, 1949, saying the whole election machinery should be in the hands of a Central EC, which alone would be entitled to issue directives to returning officers, polling officers and others.

Need for and significance of Article 324:

Mohinder Singh Gill vs The CEC, New Delhi and Others (1977): The Court held that Article 324 “operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation and the words ‘superintendence, direction and control’ as well as ‘conduct of all elections’ are the broadest terms”. The Constitution has not defined these terms.

Article 324 is a plenary provision vesting the whole responsibility for national and State elections in the ECI and therefore, the necessary powers to discharge that function.

Comprehensive provision in Art. 324 is necessary to take care of surprise situations.

National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)

In News:

The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has said that it stands by its findings certifying mid-day meals without onion and garlic provided by the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) in Karnataka schools as compliant with nutritional norms laid down by the State government.

About Akshaya Patra:

Funded by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Akshaya Patra is a Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organisation that works with the government on mid-day meal schemes. It has a state-of-the-art kitchen in Vrindavan.

Today, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) Mid-Day Meal Programme serving wholesome food every school day to over 1.76 million children from 14,702 schools across 12 states in India.

What’s the issue?

In January, 2019, the Karnataka government had asked NIN to assess APF meals for nutritional compliance, food safety, taste and diversity of meals following objections by the Karnataka State Food Commission as well as activists that absence of onion and garlic from meals made the food unpalatable and resulted in children consuming less quantity of food.

About National Institute of Nutrition (NIN):

It is an Indian Public health, Nutrition and Translational research center located in Hyderabad.

The institute is one of the oldest research centers in India, and the largest center, under the Indian Council of Medical Research.

It was founded by Sir Robert McCarrison in the year 1918 as ‘Beri-Beri’ Enquiry Unit in a single room laboratory at the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.

Within a short span of seven years, this unit blossomed into a “Deficiency Disease Enquiry” and later in 1928, emerged as full-fledged “Nutrition Research Laboratories” (NRL) with Dr. McCarrison as its first Director.

It was later shifted to Hyderabad in 1958. In 1969, it was renamed as National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

Mandate of NIN:

Periodic Assessment of Nutrient intakes, Health and Nutrition status of the population for optimal health, and assist the Government and regulatory bodies in policy making

Establishment of Dietary Reference Intake values, Recommended Dietary allowances, Dietary guidelines for Indian population; and assessment of Nutrient Composition of Foods

Identify various nutrition deficiency disorders prevalent among different segments of the population

Conduct operational research for planning and implementation of National Nutrition Programmes in the country

Conduct surveys and study the risk factors of NCDs through multidisciplinary research

Conduct innovative basic science Research on nutrient interactions, requirements, responses etc

Identify and study food and environmental safety challenges for providing scientific input for policy and regulation

Development of human resource in nutrition and also provide evidence-based nutrition knowledge to the community

Source: The Hindu

Green cards

In News:

U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a proposal that will include significant changes to the way green cards are allocated.

Key changes:

The new proposal will increase skills-based green cards to 57%.

Points will be awarded to applicants based on their education, work experience, age (more points for younger workers), English language ability etc.

New immigrants will have to show that they can financially support themselves and will need to pass a civics exam.

There would be a new “Build America” visa – details of which were not provided.

People given Green Cards on humanitarian and diversity grounds will now only constitute 10% of all Green Card recipients.

Implications:

The plan outlined dramatically reduces the number of family-based green cards and moves towards a points-based (“merit-based”) system that will reward, among other factors, education, skills and English language proficiency.

It will increase the number of green cards that are given through the skills route versus the family-based route.

Rationale behind:

The plan is sought to boost border security and tighten asylum procedures.

Currently about 12% of those receiving green cards entered the U.S. based on skill-based visas (such as the H1B), while some 66% are family-based green cards.

How will it impact India?

The proposals, if they eventually turn into law, are likely to have a significant impact on Indians who interact with the U.S. immigration system. A large majority (over 70%) of H1B visas, for skilled workers, went to Indians in fiscal year 2018. Many of these are eventually converted to green cards.

Such a move is likely to benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian professionals on H-1B visa whose current Green Card wait, on an average, is more than a decade.

However, it is far from clear that a shift towards a points-based system will make the prospects of Indian skilled migrants wanting to settle in the U.S. easier, as bringing family members over, especially elderly parents, may get more complicated.

Source: The Hindu

Masala bonds

In News:

Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board issued Masala Bonds to raise funds from the overseas market.

Details:

Masala Bonds are rupee-denominated bonds i.e the funds would be raised from overseas market in Indian rupees.

Eligibility: Any corporate, body corporate and Indian bank is eligible to issue Rupee denominated bonds overseas.

Limitations:

RBI mandates that the money raised through such bonds cannot be used for real estate activities other than for development of integrated township or affordable housing projects.

It also can’t be used for investing in capital markets, purchase of land and on-lending to other entities for such activities as stated above.

Where can these bonds be issued and who can subscribe?

The Rupee denominated bonds can only be issued in a country and subscribed by a resident of such country that is a member of financial action task force and whose securities market regulator is a member of International Organisation of Securities Commission. While residents of such countries can subscribe to the bonds, it can also be subscribed by multilateral and regional financial institutions where India is a member country.

What is the minimum maturity of such bonds?

According to RBI, the minimum maturity period for Masala Bonds raised up to Rupee equivalent of USD 50 million in a financial year should be 3 years and for bonds raised above USD 50 million equivalent in INR per financial year should be 5 years. The conversion for such bonds will happen at the market rate on the date of settlement of transactions undertaken for issue and servicing of the bonds, including its redemption.

Sources: the Hindu

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