Special Category Status for states
The Central government has filed a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing its inability to give Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh and said all commitments under the A.P. Reorganisation Act (APRA), 2014 had been addressed.
When the state was divided, Andhra not only lost a capital but also an important industry hub, which was in and around Hyderabad. The contribution of agriculture to state GDP is higher for Andhra than its neighbouring states.
In fact, today it is arguably the highest in South. This is also a reflection of a lower level of industrialization and along with it a lower per capita income and again, the lowest in South.
Much of this is because of Hyderabad, which political analysts argue has gone on to make Telangana, a city-centric state, with the city still an important growth engine and revenue source for Telangana. Today, the per capita income for Telangana is at par with states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, and many see this as largely on account of Hyderabad.
What is Special Category Status?
There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others. The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.
Some prominent guidelines for getting SCS status:
What kind of assistance do SCS States receive?
The SCS States used to receive block grants based on the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, which effectively allowed for nearly 30 per cent of the Total Central Assistance to be transferred to SCS States as late as 2009-10.
Following the constitution of the NITI Aayog (after the dissolution of the Planning Commission) and the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC), Central plan assistance to SCS States has been subsumed in an increased devolution of the divisible pool to all States (from 32% in the 13th FC recommendations to 42%) and do not any longer appear in plan expenditure.
The FFC also recommended variables such as “forest cover” to be included in devolution, with a weightage of 7.5 in the criteria and which could benefit north-eastern States that were previously given SCS assistance. Besides, assistance to Centrally Sponsored Schemes for SCS States was given with 90% Central share and 10% State share.
When was the first Special Category status bestowed?
The NDC first accorded SCS in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland. Over the years, eight more states were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and, finally, in 2010, Uttarakhand. Until 2014-15, SCS meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.
Considering special status to any new State will result in demands from other States and dilute the benefits further. It is also not economically beneficial for States to seek special status as the benefits under the current dispensation are minimal. States facing special problems will be better off seeking a special package.
Source: The Hindu
The Law Commission of India has submitted a report to the government recommending “cashless” gambling in sports as a means to increase revenue and deal a blow to unlawful gambling.
Since it is impossible to stop illegal gambling, the only viable option left is to “regulate” gambling in sports.
It will increase revenue and deal a blow to unlawful gambling. The money generated can be used for public welfare activities.
A country as poor as India should not allow ‘legalised gambling’. Such a move would leave the poor poorer and only vested interests want legalisation of gambling.
Socio-economic and cultural circumstances of the country are not pragmatic to accept legalised gambling activities as it is still treated as a social stigma.
It may also prompt future generations to take unethical paths.
Law commission recommendations:
Source: The Hindu
ICAT releases First BS-VI engine certificate
ICAT has completed the first BS-VI certification for a heavy-duty engine model for M/s Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle Limited.
About BS norms:
The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time-lag of five years.
Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:
The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm. As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.
Why is it important to upgrade these norms?
Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.
Facts for Prelims:
The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is a division of NATRiP implementation society (NATIS), under the administrative control of the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Government of India.
ICAT is the first of new world-class centers established under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP) with the main objective of carrying out Research & Development besides extending homologation facilities in the field of Automotive Engineering.
Source: The Hindu
Parker Solar Probe
NASA puts finishing touches to 430,000mph Parker Solar Probe that will launch next month to help predict devastating solar storms.
About the Parker solar probe:
NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds. Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.
Journey: In order to unlock the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft will fly through the sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.
Goals: The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:
Why do we study the sun and the solar wind?
The sun is the only star we can study up close. By studying this star we live with, we learn more about stars throughout the universe.
The sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth. The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed.
The sun also affects Earth in less familiar ways. It is the source of the solar wind; a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past Earth at speeds of more than 500 km per second (a million miles per hour).
Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.
Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics. The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.
The solar wind also fills up much of the solar system, dominating the space environment far past Earth. As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.
Source: The Hindu
ISRO conducts pad abort test
ISRO recently conducted the first ‘pad abort’ test critical for a future human space mission. The Pad Abort Test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.
PAT (pad abort test) is the first in a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology of a manned mission in the future.
What is Crew Escape System?
It is an emergency escape measure to quickly pull the astronaut cabin along with crew out to a safe distance from launch vehicle during a launch abort.
Source: The Hindu
4 species added to recovery programme by Wildlife Board
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species into the center’s recovery Programme for critically endangered species. This decision will lead to targeted conservation of these species whose population is on the decline.
The species are Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale and Red Panda.
Terrapins have been exploited for illegal trade across borders, especially for its meat and carapace. Clouded leopard and Red Panda are facing habitat loss and poaching threat for their meat, medicine and pelts.
While the Northern River Terrapin is largely found in West Bengal, the clouded leopard is found in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Assam while the Red Panda is largely found in Sikkim, western Arunachal Pradesh, North Bengal and parts of Meghalaya.
Arabian Sea Humpback Whale is facing threats from accidental entanglement in fishing gears, ship strikes and seismic explorations. Humpback whales migrate towards India’s west coast from Oman and there have been several instances of these gargantuan species getting beached on Maharashtra’s long coastline.
Species recovery programme:
The species recovery programme of the Union Environment Ministry is implemented under Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats — a centrally sponsored umbrella scheme for management and conservation of parks, wildlife habitats and conservation.
Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
Facts for Prelims:
Species already included in the recovery programme: Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.
India is a party to the International Whaling commission that is committed to the protection of whales and its habitats in Indian waters.
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) is a statutory Board constituted in September 2003 under Section 5 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The NBWL is chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
Source: The Hindu
It is a power bill waiver scheme and subsidised power scheme for labourers and poor families launched by the Madhya Pradesh Government.
Under the scheme, the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families would be provided electricity at a cost of 200 rupees per month. The objective of this scheme to make sure that all the households have power facility in the state.
It is the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years. It is located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. It is famous for a 19th century outburst that briefly made it the second-brightest star in the sky.
It is accelerating particles to high energies, some of which may reach the earth as cosmic rays.
Gaming University In Andhra Pradesh
UNESCO has entered into an agreement with Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) to establish a ‘Gaming Digital Learning Hub’ in Vishakhapatnam.
The Design University for Gaming will help UNSECO to develop edutech gaming in state, with the target of providing 50,000 jobs in 10 years.
Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) Scheme
Crew Escape System