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Insights Daily Current Events, 21 June 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 21 June 2016


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Draft forest policy out, brace for green tax

 

The environment ministry has come out with a draft National Forest Policy (NFP). The policy is aimed at facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour among stakeholders. The draft policy has been prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM).

Highlights:

  • The policy proposes levy of a green tax and calls for safeguarding forest land by exercising strict restraint on diversion for non-forestry purposes like mining and industrial projects and practising responsible eco-tourism in forest areas to ensure safety of wildlife.
  • It aims to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover.
  • The new policy will replace the existing one that has been guiding the government to manage forests since 1988.
  • On generating resources to manage the forest cover, the draft policy said the budget of the forestry sector should be appropriately enhanced so that the objectives enshrined in this policy can be achieved. The policy will guide the forest management of the country for the next 25-30 years.
  • The policy also proposes to levy environmental cess, green tax, carbon tax etc. on certain products and services.
  • On the contentious issue of diversion of forests for mining and industrial projects, the draft policy said, “Forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure needs to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted.”
  • The draft policy also called for developing “sound eco-tourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities. “
  • The policy envisages that a national implementation framework be put in place within six months of the notification, to deliver on the commitments. It also urged states to formulate their forest policies and prepare an implementation framework.
  • The policy also emphasised on large-scale expansion of agro-forestry and farm forestry through incentives and operational support systems such as lowering input costs and enabling access to reasonably priced quality planting material.

Background:

Forests and trees constitute nearly one fourth of the geographic area of the country. Protection of this vast and valuable resource, improving and increasing the forest and tree cover requires adequate investment keeping in view the pressures on these forests, and the ecosystem services that they provide to the nation. Large tracts of forest area in the country have degraded due to immense biotic pressure and lack of adequate investment.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

New education policy draft clashes with RTE

 

Several recommendations in the draft National Education Policy, 2016 will require amendments to the Right to Education Act, 2009.

Details:

  • The draft National Education Policy insisting on “consolidation”, proposes merging “small, non-viable” schools. This subverts the RTE Act on neighbourhood schools being located “within a walking distance of one kilometre” for children attending Classes 1 to 5.
  • The draft emphasizes “school mapping” – as opposed to RTE’s “child-mapping” – but stresses that for children attending “non-viable” schools, transport must be provided.
  • The proposal to extend the 25% economically weaker section quota in private schools to minority institutions will also need an amendment. The committee notes that number of schools claiming religious or linguistic minority status has increased tremendously.
  • The RTE mandates a no-detention policy -banning grade-repetition -till Class VIII; the draft wants it limited to Class V. Its recommendations cover remedial classes “by school teachers or volunteers” and supplementary examinations.
  • The committee suggests amending the RTE to “provide, in addition to infrastructure, learning outcome norms that affect quality of education”, a longstanding private school demand.

Right to Education (RTE) Act:

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A, means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.

  • It is seen as the most historic development in universalisation of elementary education in the country. It implies that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years has Right to elementary education. They are entitled for free and compulsory education.

Salient features:

  • The RTE Act provides for the right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
  • It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
  • It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
  • It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
  • It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
  • It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
  • It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the main vehicle for implementation of the RTE Act. It is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. It is primarily funded from central budget and it covers the whole country.
  • Under SSA, special attention has been given to urban deprived children, children affected by periodic migration and children living in remote and scattered habitations. Attempts have also been made to reach out to children suffering from autism. It involves their identification, preparation of individualized Education Plan, teacher training on Autism and therapeutic support.

Sources: toi.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

It’s 100% FDI in most sectors, including defence

 

The government has announced a “radical liberalisation” of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regime by easing norms for a host of important sectors including defence, civil aviation and pharmaceuticals, opening them up for complete foreign ownership.

Details:

  • In defence, foreign investment beyond 49% (and upto 100%) has been permitted through the government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country. The condition of access to ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country has been done away with, as many foreign investors had complained about the ambiguity regarding that term.
  • FDI limit also has been made applicable to Manufacturing of Small Arms and Ammunitions covered under Arms Act, 1959.
  • 100% FDI has been permitted under government approval route for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India, bringing into effect the proposal made in the Budget 2016-17.
  • To promote the development of pharmaceutical sector, the government has permitted up to 74% FDI under automatic route in existing pharmaceutical ventures. The government approval route will continue beyond 74% FDI and upto 100% in such brown-field pharma.
  • 100% FDI has been permitted in India-based airlines. However, a foreign carrier can only own upto 49% stake in the venture, and the rest can come from a private investors including those based overseas. This is expected to bring in more funds into domestic airlines.
  • To boost airport development and modernisation, 100% FDI in existing airport projects has been allowed without government permission, from 74% permitted so far.
  • Entities undertaking single brand retail trading have been relaxed from local sourcing norms up to 3 years. Entities engaged in of single brand retail trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology have been relaxed from local sourcing norms up to 5 years.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

 

Vermin tag arbitrary, welfare board tells Supreme Court

 

The Supreme Court has asked animal rights organisations to make representations before the Centre regarding three notifications declaring nilgais, monkeys and wild boar as vermin, with the Animal Welfare Board of India terming the government’s step an arbitrary decision.

Background:

Animal Welfare Board had questioned the notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change declaring nilgais, monkeys and wild boar as vermin for one year in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has also termed this as an arbitrary decision.

About Animal Welfare Board of India:

The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country of India.

  • The Animal Welfare Board of India was established in 1960 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  • The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
  • It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations.
  • The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
  • The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

AYUSH set to get international treatment

 

The Ministry of External Affairs is planning to send out groups of AYUSH experts to help set up departments of AYUSH in the leading universities of the member countries of the U.N.

Background:

In line with the new scheme, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Indian missions abroad had reached out to foreign governments to host the AYUSH experts. The initiative found quick response from Iraq, Colombia and Reunion Island, which will soon be hosting AYUSH experts.

Details:

Apart from Iraq, Colombia and the Reunion Island, the first phase of the project will include twelve other countries. Each group of experts will have teachers, practitioners and demonstrators, who will train a first generation of teachers and students of AYUSH in these countries.

Ministry of AYUSH:

Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H) was created in March 1995 and re-named as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani , Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in November 2003 with a view to providing focused attention to development of Education and Research in Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani , Siddha and Homoeopathy systems. The Department has been elevated to an independent Ministry in September 2014.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

Use of potassium bromate as food additive banned

 

The government has banned the use of potassium bromate as a food additive following a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study that found its presence in bread caused cancer.

Background:

A recent study had found that 84% of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate. The two food additives are banned in many countries and are listed as “hazardous” to public health. According to the study, potassium bromate typically increases dough strength, leads to higher rising and gives uniform finish to baked products. Potassium iodate is a flour treatment agent.

What is Potassium Bromate and how it works?

It is added to wheat flour to strengthen the dough and to allow it to rise higher. It bleaches the dough and increases its elasticity by making tiny bubbles that help the bread rise.

  • However, the real problem arises when bromate flour isn’t baked for long enough or at a high enough temperature, or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place.

Health impacts:

  • The chemical is said to cause renal tubular tumours (adenomas and carcinomas) thyroid follicular tumours peritoneal mesotheliomas in laboratory animals.
  • Also, long-term carcinogenicity studies and in vivo and in vitro mutagenicity studies showed that potassium bromate was a “genotoxic carcinogen” or a chemical agent that damaged genetic information, causing mutations.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

  • Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is among the top 30 Asian universities in the 2016 Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings. This is the first time an Indian university has made it to the top 30, with IISc in 27th place. Eight Indian institutions are among the top 100 on the list and India has the most institutions overall among the top 200 South Asian universities list of THE. The other Indian universities in the top half of the ranking include the Indian Institutes of Technology in Bombay (43rd), Kharagpur (51st), Delhi (60th), Madras (62nd), Roorkee (65th), and Guwahati (joint 80th) and Jadavpur University in joint 84th place. Also, for the first time Singapore took the first two spots with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University in first and second place, respectively.

 

  • A Chinese supercomputer built using domestic chip technology has been declared the world’s fastest. The Sunway TaihuLight takes the top spot from previous record-holder Tianhe-2 (also located in China), and more than triples the latter’s speed. The new number one is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (otherwise known as petaflops) and is roughly five times more powerful than the speediest US system, which is now ranked third worldwide. The TaihuLight is comprised of some 41,000 chips, each with 260 processor cores. This makes for a total of 10.65 million cores, compared to the 560,000 cores in America’s top machine. In terms of memory, it’s relatively light on its feet, with just 1.3 petabytes used for the entire machine. It’s also unusually energy efficient, drawing just 15.3 megawatts of power — less than the 17.8 megawatts used by the 33-petaflop Tianhe-2. The previous fastest supercomputer, China’s Tianhe-2, was built using US-made Intel processors.

 

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