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5 July Current Affairs

Delhi Vs Centre: SC observations

In News:

The Supreme Court recently held that the Lt Governor of Delhi has no independent power to take decisions and is bound by the elected government’s advice.

Details:

The ruling also lays down for the first time clear guidelines for the LG’s conduct, and delineates the powers of the two branches of the executive in Delhi, which does not have the status of a full state yet elects its own MLAs and government.

Background:

The judgment came on appeals filed by the NCT government against an August 4, 2016, verdict of the Delhi High Court, which had declared that the L-G has “complete control of all matters regarding the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the L-G.”

Supreme Court’s observations:

Role of LG:

The L-G is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. In case of difference of opinion, the L-G should straightaway refer the dispute to the President for a final decision.

The Lieutenant-Governor should act as a “facilitator” for good governance in the national capital and not as an “obstructionist”.

The Lieutenant-Governor’s authority, saying he cannot exercise his discretion in “each and every matter” of daily governance. His discretionary powers are in fact limited to only matters in the State List — public order, police and land — over which the legislative power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly stand excluded under Article 239AA.

The NCT government need only to inform the L-G of its “well-deliberated” decisions. The government need not obtain his “concurrence” on every issue of day-to-day governance.

The elected government could make policies on laws enacted by its own Assembly. The executive power of the NCT government was co-extensive with its legislative powers.

Why Delhi cannot be a full- fledged state?

The Supreme Court followed the 1987 Balakrishnan report to conclude that Delhi is not a State. Balakrishnan report had envisaged that Delhi could not have a situation in which the national capital had “two governments run by different political parties. Such conflicts may, at times, prejudice the national interest.”

Delhi as the national capital belongs to the nation as a whole. if Delhi becomes a full-fledged State, there would be a constitutional division of sovereign, legislative and executive powers between the Union and the State of Delhi. Parliament would have limited legislative access and that too only in special and emergency situations. The Union would be unable to discharge its “special responsibilities in relation to the national capital as well as to the nation itself”.

Way ahead:

L-G’s role is not that of a Constitutional figurehead, though the ultimate responsibility for good administration of Delhi is vested in the President acting through the Administrator. However, the Administrator has to take a somewhat more active part in the administration than the Governor of a State.

Hence, differences of opinion would arise between the L-G and the elected government. The report had recommended that the “best way” of doing this is to let the L-G refer such differences of opinion to the President for a final decision.

Source: The Hindu

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

In News:

The cabinet has approved the proposal for expanding the scope of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) by enhancing its capital base to Rs. 10,000 crore and tasking it to mobilise Rs. 1,00,000 crore for Revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022.

Significance:

This would enable addressing the needs of all educational institutions with differing financial capacity in an inclusive manner.

This would enable HEFA to leverage additional resources from the market to supplement equity, to be deployed to fund the requirements of institutions.

What is RISE scheme all about?

Under RISE, all centrally-funded institutes (CFIs), including central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs and IISERs, can borrow from a Rs 1,00,000 crore corpus over the next four years to expand and build new infrastructure. The initiative aims to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions.

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be suitably structured for funding this initiative. The manner in which investment in institutions is provided is likely to be the same as is practised in HEFA, but there may be different windows for different institutions.

About HEFA:

The Union Cabinet had approved HEFA in September 2016 as a Special Purpose Vehicle with a public sector bank (Canara Bank). It would be jointly funded by the promoter/bank and the MHRD with an authorised capital of ₹2,000 crore. The government equity would be ₹1,000 crore.

Functions: HEFA will leverage the equity to raise up to ₹20,000 crore for the funding of world-class infrastructure at the IITs, IIMs, the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and such other institutions. The agency will also mobilise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds from public sector units (PSUs) and corporates. These would be released as grants to eligible institutions for promoting research and innovation.

Significance of HEFA: Funding from HEFA is expected to boost infrastructure, especially state-of-the-art laboratories, in key institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs).

Source: PIB

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018

In News:

Cabinet approves DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018.

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.

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.

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.

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.

It has provisions that 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.

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.

Way ahead:

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

Common Services Centers (CSCs)

In News:

CSC SPV, a Special Purpose Vehicle under the Ministry of Electronics & IT, has entered into agreement with HDFC Bank to enable its three lakh Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) managing the Common Services centres operate as Banking Correspondents of HDFC Bank.

Details:

Under the agreement, VLEs of CSC will work as Banking Correspondent of HDFC Bank and support the Government initiative to promote financial inclusion and make banking services more accessible in rural areas.

Significance:

This agreement is expected to be a game changer as it would significantly contribute to Government’s objectives of enabling Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of various schemes.

Women, senior citizens and persons with disability will especially get benefitted through this initiative.

This will facilitate withdrawal and deposit of government entitlements such as payments under MGNREGA as well as various social welfare schemes like widow pension, handicapped and old age pension, etc.

What are CSCs?

Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme. They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.

CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:

  • Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
  • Governance and services on demand.
  • Digital empowerment of citizens.

Significance of CSCs:

CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods. They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.

Key facts:

The CSC project, which forms a strategic component of the National eGovernance Plan was approved by the Government in May 2006, as part of its commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme to introduce e-governance on a massive scale.

It is also one of the approved projects under the Integrated Mission Mode Projects of the National eGovernance Plan.

Source: PIB

Minimum Support Prices (MSPs)

In News:

Giving a major boost for the farmers’ income, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for all kharif crops for 2018-19 Season.

Details:

In theory, an MSP is the minimum price set by the Government at which farmers can expect to sell their produce for the season. When market prices fall below the announced MSPs, procurement agencies step in to procure the crop and ‘support’ the prices.

Who announces?

The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs announces MSP for various crops at the beginning of each sowing season based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). The CACP takes into account demand and supply, the cost of production and price trends in the market among other things when fixing MSPs.

Why is it important?

Price volatility makes life difficult for farmers. Though prices of agri commodities may soar while in short supply, during years of bumper production, prices of the very same commodities plummet. MSPs ensure that farmers get a minimum price for their produce in adverse markets. MSPs have also been used as a tool by the Government to incentivise farmers to grow crops that are in short supply.

Way ahead:

Trends in MSP impact the availability of key food crops and food inflation. MSP is also good tool to ensure that farmers produce what is most lucrative for them, given consumer demand.

However, in recent years, there have been large-scale imports of pulses and oil seeds into India with high costs adding to Consumer Price inflation. Unless the Centre increases State procurement of these crops, the bias towards rice, wheat and sugarcane (where minimum prices are fixed by States) may continue. Pulses are a cheap source of protein for the masses.

Source: The Hindu

Recapitalization of RRBs

In News:

Cabinet approves extension of Scheme of Recapitalization of Regional Rural Banks upto 2019-20.

Impact:

This will enable the RRBs to maintain the minimum prescribed Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 9%. A strong capital structure and minimum required level of CRAR will ensure financial stability of RRBs which will enable them to play a greater role in financial inclusion and meeting the credit requirements of rural areas.

About RRBs:

RRBs are jointly owned by Government of India, the concerned State Government and Sponsor Banks with the issued capital shared in the proportion of 50%, 15% and 35% respectively.

RRBs were set up with the objective to provide credit and other facilities, especially to the small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans and small entrepreneurs in rural areas for development of agriculture, trade, commerce, industry and other productive activities.

Facts for Prelims:

A Regional Rural Banks Ordinance was promulgated in September 1975, which was replaced by the Regional Rural Banks Act 1976.

Source: The Hindu

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties

In News:

Cabinet approves accession to WIPO Copyright Treaty, 1996 and WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty, 1996. The treaties extend coverage of copyright to the internet and digital environment.

Meeting the demand of the copyright industries, the treaties will help India:

  • To enable creative right-holders enjoy the fruit of their labour, through international copyright system that can be used to secure a return on the investment made in producing and distributing creative works;
  • To facilitate international protection of domestic rights holder by providing them level-playing field in other countries as India already extends protection to foreign works through the International Copyright order and these treaties will enable Indian right holders to get reciprocal protection abroad;
  • To instil confidence and distribute creative works in digital environment with return on investment; and
  • To spur business growth and contribute to the development of a vibrant creative economy and cultural landscape.

WIPO Copyright Treaty:

It came in force on March 6, 2002 and has been adopted by 96 contracting parties till date and is A Special agreement under Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works). It has provisions to extend the protection of copyrights contained therein to the digital environment. Further it recognises the rights specific to digital environment, of making work available, to address “on-demand” and other interactive modes of access.

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty:

It came in force on May 20, 2002 and has 96 contracting parties as its members. WPPT deals with rights of two kinds of beneficiaries, particularly in digital environment – (i) Performers (actors, singers, musicians etc.) (ii) Producers of Phonograms (Sound recordings). The treaty empowers right owners in theit negotiations with new digital platforms and distributors. It recognizes moral rights of the performers for the first time & provides exclusive economic rights to them.

Both the treaties provide framework for creators and right owners to use technical tools to protect their works and safeguard information about their use i.e. Protection of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and Rights Management Information (RMI).

About WIPO:

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 17 specialized agencies of the United Nations.

It was created in 1967 “to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.”

It has currently 188 member states, administers 26 international treaties, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Non-members are the states of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and Timor-Leste. Palestine has observer status.

India is a member of WIPO and party to several treaties administered by WIPO.

Source: The Hindu

Agartala Airport renamed

In News:

Cabinet approves renaming of Agartala Airport, Tripura as Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Kishore Airport, Agartala.

Background:

Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Kishore, who ascended the throne of the erstwhile Tripura Princely State in 1923, was an enlightened and benevolent ruler. Agartala Airport was constructed in 1942 on the land donated by Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Kishore.

Source: PIB

‘Khan Prahari’

In News:

It is a Mobile Application ‘Khan Prahari’ developed by CMPDI, Ranchi a Subsidiary of CIL and Bhaskarcharya Institute of Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG).

Details:

Khan Prahari is a tool for reporting any activity taking place related to illegal coal mining like rat hole mining, pilferage etc. One can upload geo-tagged photographs of the incident along with textual information directly to the system.

Source: PIB

Regional Rural Banks (RRB)

  • RRBs were set up with the objective to provide credit to the small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans and small entrepreneurs in rural areas for development of productive activities.
  • RRBs are jointly owned by Government of India, the concerned State Government and Sponsor Banks with the issued capital in the ratio of 50:15:35 respectively.
  • Union cabinet has recently approved the extension of the scheme of recapitalization of RRBs for the next 3 years upto 2019-20.
  • This will enable the RRBs to maintain the minimum prescribed Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 9 per cent.
  • The scheme of Recapitalization of RRBs started in FY 2010-11 and was extended twice in the year 2012-13 and 2015-16.

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis

  • The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) was constituted in 1994 as a statutory body by “National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993”.
  • But with the lapse of the act in 2004, the commission is acting as a Non-Statutory body of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Its tenure is extended from time to time through government resolutions.
  • The latest resolution in 2016 extended its tenure to 2019.
  • With the enactment of “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013”, the mandate and scope of the commission has also been enlarged.
  • The commission will monitor the implementation of the act and take suo-moto notice of matter relating to non-implementation of the Act.
  • The commission will also advice central and state government for effective implementation.
  • Union Cabinet has recently approved the creation of one post each of Vice-Chairperson and Member in the commission to fulfil desired objectives of welfare and development of Safai Karamcharis.

Khan Prahari

  • It is a mobile application is launched by Ministry of Coal for tracking illegal mining.
  • It is a tool for reporting any activity taking place related to illegal coal mining like rat hole mining, pilferage etc.
  • Citizens can upload geo-tagged photographs of the incident along with textual information directly to the system.

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