Insights Daily Current Events, 17 July 2015
SC seeks Centre’s reply on re-promulgation of land ordinance
The Supreme Court recently sought the Centre’s response after farmers’ bodies challenged the government’s re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance as “a mockery of the Constitution and running the country through ordinances.”
What the petition says?
- The petition alleges that re-promulgation is a “clever device and ruse” to subvert the legislative process.
- It contends that the “lack of political will or consensus or the fear of the executive of getting defeated on the floor of the House, is not a ground for exercise of power under Article 123.
- The petition wants the ordinance to be declared unconstitutional.
- The government recently re-promulgated the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015.
- The ordinance was first promulgated in December 2014, re-promulgated in April this year and again in May.
Important provisions in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015:
- Land shall be acquired up to 1 km on both sides of designated railway lines or roads for industrial corridor.
- Government shall undertake a survey of wasteland and arid land and maintain a record.
- A provision is included for providing employment to project affected families.
- Hearings to be held in districts where land acquisition takes place.
- Courts won’t need government nod to take cognizance of offence under CrPC.
- ‘Five year’ clause for completion of project on acquired land will be augmented and amended by the length of the project. No acquisition will be transferred to private persons.
- Under section 33 compulsory employment clause shall be inserted.
- Land acquired for Hospitals, Educational Institutions and other Social Projects will not come under definition of Industrial Corridor.
- Government to ensure before notification land acquired would be bare minimum required for a project.
- Infrastructure projects including projects under public private partnership where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the Government, appropriate governments are empowered to take steps for exemption from “Social Impact Assessment” and “Special Provisions for Safeguarding Food Security”. In addition acquisition for such projects is exempted from the “Consent” provisions of the Act as well.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Soil Health Card scheme takes off gingerly
A recent finding shows that only 34 lakh Soil Health Cards have been issued so far, against a target of 84 lakh cards.
- Some of the States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have not issued a single card to farmers against the targets set for them for 2015-16.
- This programme has been projected as a flagship programme by the government.
What is a Soil Health Card?
The Soil Health Card is a printed report that will be given to farmers once in three years for each of his/her land holding.
What it contains?
It will contain crucial information on macro nutrients in the soil, secondary nutrients, micro nutrients, and physical parameters. The card will be accompanied by an advisory on the corrective measures that a farmer should take to improved soil health and obtain a better yield.
Progress in other states:
- So far the Andhra Pradesh has taken the lead in disbursement of the Soil Health Cards to farmers.
- Tamil Nadu and Punjab exceeded targets for collection of soil samples during the kharif season. But Tamil Nadu has not even started distribution of cards.
- Till July 7, Andhra Pradesh had distributed 16.3 lakh cards followed by Uttar Pradesh that disbursed 47,378, Punjab (27,307), Chhattisgarh (22,570), Telangana (15,171) and Odisha (10,245).
- Kerala, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh among others have not even begun to collect soil samples for testing.
About Soil Health Card scheme:
It is a scheme to provide every farmer a Soil Health Card in a Mission mode. It is a scheme under which the Central Government provides assistance to State Governments for setting up Soil Testing Laboratories for issuing Soil Health Cards to farmers.
- The scheme will be implemented in all states to promote soil testing services, issue of soil health cards and development of nutrient management practices.
- State Governments have adopted innovative practices like involvement of agricultural students, NGOs and private sector in soil testing, determining average soil health of villages, etc., to issue Soil Health Cards.
- The state governments will prepare yearly action plan on the issue and the cost will be shared in the ratio of 75:25 between the Centre and states.
- The scheme assumes importance as the imbalanced application of fertilisers have caused deficiency of primary nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), secondary nutrients (such as sulphur), and micro-nutrients (boron, zinc, copper etc.) in most parts of country.
- Though a few states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have made progress in soil testing but no uniform norms are followed in the country for soil analysis and distribution of soil health cards. The central scheme aims to address this issue.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Bill to scrap 295 obsolete laws approved
The Union cabinet recently gave its approval for two bills.
- It gave its ex-post facto approval for Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill, 2015, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on May 13, 2015 for repealing 187 acts.
- The Cabinet also approved introduction of a new bill, namely, the Repealing and Amending (Fourth) Bill, 2015 in the Lok Sabha for the repeal of 295 Acts, identified for repeal by the concerned Ministries/Departments and the Legislative Department.
- As an ongoing process, the Repealing and Amending Bill is one of the periodical measures by which enactments which have ceased to be in force or have become obsolete or the retention whereof as separate Acts become unnecessary are repealed, or by which the formal defects detected in enactments are corrected.
Ban on tourist activities in Rohtang Pass to continue
The National Green Tribunal has declined to relax its recent order, banning all tourist activities in and around the Rohtang Pass overlooking the picturesque tourist resort Manali, to check environmental degradation.
- The NGT has issued a show-cause notice to the Himachal government, asking them about the steps initiated to prohibit commercial activities after its July 7 order.
- The Bench has also asked the government to come out with a rehabilitation policy for the people, mostly from the hospitality industry, going to be affected by the ban.
- The tribunal has also made it clear that from now on, only computerized permits would be issued for Rohtang Pass and journey beyond.
Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km (32 mi) from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh, India. Manali-Leh Highway, a part of NH 21, transverses Rohtang Pass.
National Green Tribunal (NGT):
The National Green Tribunal has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- It also ensures the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
- It is equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but is guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
- The sanctioned strength of the tribunal is currently 10 expert members and 10 judicial members although the act allows for up to 20 of each.
- The Chairman of the tribunal who is the administrative head of the tribunal also serves as a judicial member.
- Every bench of the tribunal must consist of at least one expert member and one judicial member. The Chairman of the tribunal is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
- The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts. Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
- The powers of tribunal related to an award are equivalent to Civil court and tribunal may transmit any order/award to civil court have local jurisdiction.
- The Act says that decision taken by majority of members shall be binding and every order of Tribunal shall be final. Any person aggrieved by an award, decision, or order of the Tribunal may appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days of commencement of award but Supreme Court can entertain appeal even after 90 days if appellant satisfied SC by giving sufficient reasons.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, NGT.
DoT’s Net neutrality panel offers a mixed bag
The government panel on Net neutrality recently submitted its report to the government. The six-member panel was chaired by A.K. Bhargava, Adviser, Technology, Department of Telecommunication. The panel recommends that the core principles of Net Neutrality must be adhered to.
Important recommendations made:
- It has recommended that apps offering domestic calling be brought under the regulatory framework prescribed for telecom operators, but those providing messaging and international calling services over the Internet be kept free from licensing requirements.
- It suggests that controversial plans such as Airtel Zero be allowed with prior clearance from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, but opposes platforms such as Internet.org of Facebook.
- Airtel Zero and Internet.org are similar as they offer customers a specific set of services or applications that are free to use without paying data charges. But on Internet.org, the committee says it is of the “firm opinion that content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value, even if it is for an ostensible public purpose”.
- The report says over-the-top applications, which use the Internet to deliver services, enhance consumer welfare and increase productivity. Therefore, such services should be actively encouraged and any impediments in expansion and growth of OTT application services (such as e-commerce, radio taxis and YouTube) should be removed.
- The report gains importance as, for the past few months, a raging debate has been on in the country on Net neutrality, which, basically, is the principle that service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally and not discriminate against, or charge differently, any website or service.
- Globally, the debate has been on for a long time, but in India, Airtel triggered it last December by announcing plans to start charging subscribers for VoIP services such as Skype and Viber, which allows making calls using the Internet. While cellphone users came out against the move, telecom operators called for a level-playing field to run a “viable” business and demanded that same rule apply for same services, even VoIP.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
- Neutrality proponents claim that telecom companies seek to impose a tiered service model in order to control the pipeline and thereby remove competition, create artificial scarcity, and oblige subscribers to buy their otherwise uncompetitive services. Many believe net neutrality to be primarily important as a preservation of current freedoms.
- There are no laws enforcing net neutrality in India. Although TRAI guidelines for the Unified Access Service license promote net neutrality, it does not enforce it. The Information Technology Act 2000 also does not prohibit companies from throttling their service in accordance with their business interests.
- Proponents of the principle of net neutrality hold that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally or in other words, service providers such as Airtel should allow access to all content without favouring any particular product or website.
Telecom/service provider’s argument:
The telecom/ISPs argue that they have made huge investments in broadband capacity, and, therefore, they should be allowed to charge for the services, which generate lot of traffic. Preventing the service providers from charging for over-the-top services (OTT) services would mean that they would reduce their investments in building networks.
The net neutrality debate becomes even more relevant in case of India where the penetration of smart phones is increasing and efforts are on to bring more people to the Internet, through the digital India campaign.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.
12th National Awards for Excellence in Cost Management 2014
A PSU of Ministry of Railways, namely, RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. has added yet another jewel in its crown by bagging the 12th National Awards for Excellence in Cost management 2014.
- This award is organized by The Institute of Cost Accounts of India.
- RailTel has won the award in the category of Public- Service Sector (Medium).
National Awards for Excellence in Cost management is an initiative to promote practice of Cost management and recognizing outstanding contributions of Finance fraternity
About RailTel :
RailTel Corporation a “Mini Ratna (Category-I)” PSU is one of the largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns & cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India’s population.
- RailTel is in the forefront in providing nationwide Broadband Telecom & Multimedia Network in all parts of the country in addition to modernization of Train operations and administration network systems for Indian Railways.
- With its Pan India high capacity network, RailTel is working towards creating a knowledge society at various fronts and has been selected for implementation of various mission-mode Govt. of India projects in the telecom field.
Approval for Phase II of eCourts Mission Mode Project
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister recently gave its approval for the second phase of eCourts Mission Mode Project at an estimated cost of Rs.1670 crore.
- It envisages enhanced ICT enablement of courts through universal computerisation, use of cloud computing, digitization of case records and enhanced availability of e-services through e-filing, e-payment gateways and mobile applications etc.
- The eCourts project of the Government is aimed at providing necessary hardware and software applications to enable courts to deliver e-services to citizens, and to enable the judiciary to better monitor and manage the functioning of courts.
- In Phase I of the project more than 13000 District and Subordinate courts have been computerised and case information linked to the respective District court websites.
- These courts are now providing online eServices such as cause lists, case status and judgments, to litigants and public through the eCourts portal.
- Litigants and lawyers are also provided services through Judicial Service Centre at the court complexes. More than 24 crore transactions have already been recorded regarding online access of court information.
- The Phase II of the eCourts project would also help in the automation of workflow management in courts thereby contributing to better court and case management.
- Touch screen based Kiosks and Video Conferencing facility will be installed at all Court Complexes and corresponding jails.
- Hand held process service devices will be provided to process servers to ensure transparent and time bound delivery of court notices and summons. Also, the use of solar energy has been proposed at 5 percent of the court complexes on a pilot basis.
In line with the Digital India Programme of the Government of India which emphasises on Citizen centric services, this project would also focus on Digital Infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen providing Governance and Services on demand eventually making the citizens digitally empowered.
India and World Bank Pact
The Financing Agreement for World Bank (IDA) assistance of US$ 250 million for Andhra Pradesh Disaster Recovery Project was signed between Government of India and the World Bank recently.
- The objective of the project is to restore, improve and enhance resilience of public services, environmental facilities, and livelihoods in targeted Communities of Andhra Pradesh, and increase the capacity of the State to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible crisis or emergency.
Details of the Project:
The project, through its different components, will provide both direct and indirect benefits to the State of Andhra Pradesh. Direct beneficiaries include populations of the coastal areas affected, specifically the four heavily impacted districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari with a total approximate population of 13.3 million residents.
The project will have seven components:
- Resilient electrical network
- Restoration of connectivity and shelter infrastructure
- Restoration and protection of beach front
- Restoration of environmental services and facilities and livelihood support
- Capacity building and technical support for disaster risk management
- Project implementation support
- Contingency Emergency Response
Government of Andhra Pradesh is the implementing agency.
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