Insights Daily Current Affairs, 28 December 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Antlers could end up in medicines
Kerala State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) has recommended the use of antlers of spotted deer and sambar in Ayurveda medicines. A proposal in this regard is pending with the National Board for Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- Antlers are the extensions of the skull of the deer. All the three deer varieties found in Kerala, including spotted deer, sambar, and barking deer, shed their antlers annually.
- Suitable amendments have to be made to the Wildlife Protection Act for using the antlers for medicinal purposes.
- The proposal, which was originally mooted a few years ago, was to collect the antlers annually shed by the ungulates after the breeding season.
In the long run, experts believe, the recommendation on antlers would lead to hunting of animals.
What the law says?
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has included antler in the definition of wildlife trophy. A wildlife trophy is defined as the “whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal”.
- Section 39 of the Act also states that “no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise or destroy or damage such property.”
- Wildlife and wildlife trophies are considered as owned by the government. The Act also prescribes imprisonment up to three years and fine of RS. 25,000 for offences involving wildlife trophies.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Status of tribal development remains poor: Ministry report
According to the latest annual report of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the tribal population In India lags behind other social groups on various social parameters, such as child mortality, infant mortality, number of anaemic women.
Highlights of the report:
- Tribal population, with a vast majority engaged in agricultural labour, has the largest number of anaemic women.
- The community also registered the highest child mortality and infant mortality rates, when compared to other social groups.
- While educational achievements on the whole has improved, the gross enrolment ratio among tribal students in the primary school level has declined from 113.2 in 2013-14 to 109.4 in 2015-16. Besides, the dropout rate among tribal students has been at an alarming level.
- While the overall poverty rates among the tribal population have fallen compared to previous years, they remain relatively poorer when weighed against other social groups.
- Health infrastructure has also been found wanting in tribal areas. At an all-India level, there is a shortfall of 6,796 Sub Centres, 1267 Primary Health Centres and 309 Community Health Centres in tribal areas as on March 31, 2015.
- Gap in rehabilitation of tribal community members displaced by various development projects is also high. Out of an estimated 85 lakh persons displaced due to development projects and natural calamities, only 21 lakh were shown to have been rehabilitated so far.
- In 2014, the Central government initiated the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana for the holistic development and welfare of tribal population on a pilot basis. However, budgetary provisions made under the scheme is minuscule and barely sufficient to meet the purpose of the Scheme given that it intends to cover 27 States across the country.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Nepal rejects India’s ‘open sky’ offer
Nepal has rejected India’s ‘open sky’ offer to allow unlimited flights between the two countries at a recently held meeting. Nepal said it was not yet ready for the agreement.
- However, India and Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a joint technical committee to examine Nepal’s request for developing new air routes and air entry points at Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. The committee will shortly meet to examine the feasibility of the proposed routes.
Nepal has long been pushing for new airspaces to ease congestion on the existing routes and to save time and cost for air passengers.
What is open sky agreement?
Under the National Civil Aviation Policy, approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this year, India intends to enter into ‘open-sky’ agreements with SAARC countries and with those beyond the 5,000-km radius from Delhi.
- Countries sign air services agreements (ASAs) through bilateral negotiations to decide the number of flights airlines can fly. Under the ‘open-sky’ agreement, there is no restriction on flights or seats.
- Among SAARC countries, India doesn’t have any ‘open sky’ agreement with Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan. It allows unlimited flights from Bangladesh and Maldives at 18 domestic airports, from Sri Lanka at 23 airports, and from Bhutan at all its airports.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Panel moots ‘handling’ levy on cash payments
The Committee on Digital Payments recently submitted its report to the finance ministry.
Important recommendations made by the committee:
- Union Budget 2017-18 should allow merchants as well as government departments to levy a handling charge for cash payments above a certain limit. The cash handling charge so collected should be exclusively used to fund new infrastructure for acceptance of digital payments (like PoS devices).
- Mandatory threshold for quoting PAN card numbers for cash transactions from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 2,00,000 should be reduced. Aadhaar should be used as an alternate for KYC for people who don’t have a PAN.
- To create parity between cash and digital payments, eKYC requirements in digital payments should be in consonance with KYC norms for transacting in cash. Transactions which are permitted in cash without KYC should also be permitted on prepaid wallets without KYC.
- Tax payments by debit cards and e-wallets should be allowed, against the current option of net banking only. CBDT and CBEC should develop an e-commerce based model where their web portals generate the tax challans and accept payments from all electronic modes.
- A recommendation has also been made to make Aadhaar numbers compulsory in Income Tax returns, although the committee has stressed such an amendment must only be made after seeking the Attorney General’s opinion. Income tax payers already have PAN cards.
- The panel also recommended that when government acts as a merchant, it should bear the cost of electronic payments and not pass them on to consumers. Digital payments for low value transactions, such as parking charges, toll charges or health services at government hospitals and health centres, also need to be promoted.
- Pushing for adoption of digital payments for all government transactions, it has also proposed that utility bills and payments to government above a certain threshold be made only in digital mode. Also, convenience or service charge levied by utility service providers, petrol pumps, railways, airlines on electronic payments should be withdrawn.
- Customs and excise duties on import of equipment which form a part of retail payment system infrastructure must be cut in the Budget. The list includes micro ATMs used by business correspondents; fingerprint readers and biometric readers either as spare parts or as integrated electronic data capture machines and point- of-sale (PoS) terminals.
Need for digital payments:
India is a cash heavy economy, with almost 78% of all consumer payments being effected in cash. This imposes an estimated cost of Rs. 21,000 crore, without factoring in other effects of cash reliance, such as counterfeit currency and black money. Therefore, transitioning to digital payments will bring about a significant reduction in costs incurred on account of inefficiencies associated with cash and other paper based payments.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
N-plant: Villagers ‘settle’ for package:
- A majority of people residing in Kovvada and surrounding areas are said to have agreed to accept the package proposed to be finalised soon by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the State government, and part with their lands for the establishment of India’s biggest atomic power plant that would attract Rs.1 lakh-crore worth investments.
- Officials had recently conducted a crucial meeting with Kovvada villagers to win their consent for the Social Impact Survey, which was mandatory to obtain permission from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- Kovvada Atomic Power Project is a proposed 6,600 MW nuclear power station in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India.
Bihar government announces 50 % reservation in judicial services:
- The Bihar Cabinet has declared 50% reservation in all judicial services for aspirants belonging to the Extremely Backward Classes, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Aspirants belonging to EBCs will get 21% reservation, OBCs will have 12% reservations, Scheduled Castes will have 16% reservation and Scheduled Tribes will be provided 1% reservation in all judicial services of the State.
- Also, there will be 35% ‘horizontal reservation’ for women and 1 per% reservation for disabled persons.
- The reservation will be in both Superior Judicial Services and Subordinate Judicial Services.
Supercluster of galaxies near Milky Way found:
- An international team of astronomers has found one of the universe’s biggest superclusters of galaxies near the Milky Way- the Vela supercluster.
- It had previously gone undetected as it was hidden by stars and dust in the Milky Way.
- This is one of the biggest concentrations of galaxies in the universe – possibly the biggest in the neighbourhood of our galaxy, but that will need to be confirmed by further study.
- The gravity of the Vela supercluster may explain the difference between the measured motion of the Milky Way through space and the motion predicted from the distribution of previously mapped galaxies.
Char Dham Highway Project:
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently laid the foundation stone for the 900km Char Dham highway project in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The project’s main objective is to develop around 900 km of national highways.
- The Char Dham highway project involves building tunnels, viaducts, bridges and bypasses in the entire state, along with way-side amenities that will include helipad for emergency evacuation and parking facilities, among others.
- The Char Dham Highway will cost the exchequer Rs. 12,000 crore and the all-weather road will improve connectivity between Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.