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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 December 2017

Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 December 2017


Paper 2:


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


Indian Forest Act

Context: The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Forest Act to exempt felling and transportation of bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the state permit.



Last month, the government had come out with an ordinance to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in this regard. This bill would replace this ordinance. Prior to issuance of the ordinance, the definition of tree in the Act included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.


Highlights of the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017:

  • The bill seeks to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling/transit permit for its economic use. However, bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  • A major objective of the amendment is to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.


What necessitated this move?

Bamboo, though, taxonomically a grass, was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Before this amendment, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA, 1927). This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.


Significance of this move:

  • The amendment and the resultant change in classification of bamboo grown in non-forest areas will usher in much needed and far-reaching reforms in the bamboo sector. While on the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed and on the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.
  • The measure will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in North-East and Central India. The amendment will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation/ block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under agroforestry mission.
  • Some of the other benefits of amendment include enhancing supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based/ paper & pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units.
  • Besides promoting major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind, it will also help industries such as those dealing with food products (bamboo shoots), constructions and housing, bamboo charcoal etc.
  • The amendment will greatly aid the success of recently constituted National Bamboo Mission and is in also line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development.


Benefits of Bamboo:

In generating employment: Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes.  About 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.  One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment.  An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.

Ecological benefits: Bamboo has several ecological benefits such as soil-moisture conservation, landslide prevention and rehabilitation, conserving wildlife habitat, enhancing source of bio-mass, besides serving as a substitute for timber.


Way ahead:

As per the assessment of United Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the North-East Region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5000 crores in the next ten years. The amendment will therefore, help in harnessing this great potential and enhance the scope to increase the present level of market share and improve the economy of the entire country, particularly the North Eastern region.


Sources: pib.

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


Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Context: The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017, has been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bill will allow it to notify a higher period of maternity leave and raise gratuity limit for employees.


Highlights of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017:

According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, the amendment would allow the central government to notify the maternity leave period for “female employees as deemed to be in continuous service in place of existing twelve weeks”.

It has also been proposed to empower the central government to notify the ceiling proposed, instead of amending the said Act, so that the limit can be revised from time to time keeping in view the increase in wage and inflation, and future Pay Commissions.


The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972:

The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 applies to establishments employing 10 or more persons. The main purpose for enacting this Act is to provide social security to workmen after retirement, whether retirement is a result of the rules of superannuation, or physical disablement or impairment of vital part of the body. Therefore, the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 is an important social security legislation to wage earning population in industries, factories and establishments.


Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.


Plea in SC seeks OBC status for farmers

The Supreme Court has called for a response from the Centre, the Gujarat Government and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) on a PIL praying that ‘farmers’ be included in the category of Other Backward Classes (OBC) irrespective of their caste and religion.



A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the inclusion of farmers who do not fall in the creamy layer in OBC category to ensure uplift for such farmers as constitutional rights considering them as occupational group.


What has been sought?

Citing apex court precedents in Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India wherein it was categorically held that the benefit of reservation can be extended to OBCs, inter alia, based on quantifiable data, the petitioner sought the court to direct the government to “prepare the survey report as well as the review report about the development and progress for inclusion and exclusion of classes who are getting the benefit of reservation under the provisions of law, as well as the method adopted for identification of backward classes. It also called for laying down appropriate rules, guidelines for determination of the income limit which can be served as the basis for future exercise by the government.


Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.



Context: WORLD MIGRATION REPORT 2018 has been released. This World Migration Report 2018 is the ninth in the series. Since 2000, International Organization for Migration has been producing world migration reports to contribute to increased understanding of migration throughout the world.


Who are International migrants?

The definition of international migrants used in the report is broad, taking into account anyone living in a country other their own and includes refugees and economic migrants, both those immigrating officially and those who do so “irregularly”. The numbers are not a count of people by national origin or ethnicity and, therefore, do not include children of migrants born in the countries their parents went to.


Highlights of the Report:

  • Indian tops the world in the number of migrants sent abroad. About 16.59 million Indian live abroad. Mexico sent out 13 million migrants, the second highest number.
  • The United Arab Emirates has the largest number of Indian migrants, who number 3.31 million, up from 978,992 in 2000, followed by the US with 2.3 million, up from 1.04 million.
  • The number of migrant from other countries living in India is 5.2 million, a fall of 1.22 million from 2000.
  • In Europe, there are 1.3 million people from India. Britain has most of them. Canada now has 602,144 people from India, an increase from 319,138 in 2000. Australia showed a huge jump of more than four times, from 90,719 people from India in 2000 to 408,880 now.
  • Most of the international migration takes place among developing countries with 60% of the migrants from Asia going to other Asian countries. About $400 billion is sent to developing countries by migrants and the remittances are used to finance education, housing and other activities that promote development.


Way ahead:

In the current political climate, “migration has become a toxic” topic. As a result, migrating is a problem for those outside the “global elite” made up professionals who can move easily to other countries. Therefore, there is need for policies to take care of the migrants who do not fall in that category.


About the International Organization for Migration:

Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.

  • With 169 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.
  • IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
  • IOM activities that cut across these areas include the promotion of international migration law, policy debate and guidance, protection of migrants’ rights, migration health and the gender dimension of migration.


Sources: ET.


Paper 3:


Topic: Infrastructure.


BBIN motor pact

Context: Pending ratification from Bhutan, India plans to operationalise BBIN motor vehicle agreement (MVA) with Bangladesh and Nepal for seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles.



Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) had signed a framework MVA in June 2015 to enable movement of passenger and cargo vehicles across borders among the four countries. Bhutan has not yet ratified the pact for its entry to come into force. However, Bhutan has given its consent for the BBIN MVA to enter into force amongst the other 3 countries i.e. Bangladesh, India and Nepal, who have already ratified it.


About BBIN agreement:

The agreement encapsulates the spirit of economic integration emphasised in the SAARC Charter. The main objective of the agreement is to provide seamless people-to-people contact and enhance economic interaction by facilitating cross border movement of people and goods.

  • It would permit unhindered movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries. Cargo vehicles do not have to be changed at the border, a practice that has prevailed until now.
  • As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions. Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
  • The BBIN agreement will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.


Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


AP signs MoU with Google


Context: X, a division owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet and one that deals in experimental technologies, has signed a MoU with Andhra Pradesh government to setup developmental centre in Visakhapatnam and to create a high speed internet network that doesn’t require special cabling.


About the project:

No cables will be used. Instead of cables, the X internet network will use “Free Space Optical Communications, aka FSOC, technology”. This network will power internet in 13 districts through 2 thousand FSOC links. The X centre in Visakhapatnam will be its first development centre outside the US.


What is FSOC technology?

FSFC is an optical communication technology that uses light to wirelessly transmit data to telecommunication and internet applications. The technology remained outside the commercial applications for long owing to distance, speed, and efficiency related problems.


How FSOC technology works?

FSOC links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances, just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable. And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles. FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometres apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.



Less than 20% of people in Andhra Pradesh currently have access to broadband connectivity. The state government has committed to connecting 12 million households and thousands of government organizations and businesses by 2019 – an initiative called AP Fiber Grid.


About Google X:

Founded by Google in 2010 as Google X with an aim to work on finding solutions to the world’s large problems, this American semi-secret advanced technology lab facility became an independent Alphabet company and was renamed as X after Google was restructured into Alphabet in the year 2015. It has been working on several projects including driver-less car, product delivery through flying vehicles, Project Loon, Google glass among other technologies.


Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.




The Uttar Pradesh government has approved the draft of a bill to enact the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA) on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to combat land mafia, mining mafia and organised crime in the state. The Bill seeks to check to check organised and white-collar crime.


Highlights of the Bill:

  • Organised crime has been defined in detail in the (draft) bill. Kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing illicit liquor and its sale, acquiring contracts on the basis of muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, trade in wildlife, fake medicines, grabbing of government and private properties, and ‘rangdari’ (extortion) will come under the ambit of the new law.
  • Arrangements have also been made to check the misuse of the bill and that cases under it will be filed only on the recommendations of the committee of divisional commissioner and range deputy inspector general of police.
  • The permission of the zonal inspector general of police will be required before filing of charge sheet after thorough inquiry. It has also been proposed that properties amassed through organised crime would be taken over by the government with the permission of the court during the course of investigation to check criminal elements from taking advantage of it. The property will be confiscated by the state government after conviction.
  • Special courts will be constituted for hearing of cases lodged under the provisions of this bill and a “state-level organised crime control authority” has been proposed to monitor gangs involved in organised crime. The state level authority will be headed by the principal secretary for Home. This authority will either take cognisance on its own or on a complaint. It will probe the activities of organised gangs and will be entitled to examine any government file related to the case.
  • There is also a provision to form district level organised crime control authorities, which will be led by district magistrates. They can recommend cases to the state level authority after thorough probe.
  • The draft bill also proposes a tribunal led by a retired high court judge for appealing against it, and will have a principal secretary and an official of DGP rank as its members. Anyone can appeal against the decision of the authority in this tribunal. Those found involved in organised crime and having security will no longer be extended government protection and all white-collar criminals will be treated as such.


Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims:


Global conference on functional materials:

International conference on advanced functional materials is being held in Telangana. The conference aims to address the application aspect of the functional materials in areas of societal relevance, to discuss current scientific issues and to ignite scientific temper in young researchers.

Theme: ‘Applications of smart materials in the areas of nano-science and nano-technology, synthetic chemistry, sensors and computational materials science’.

Host: Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT) at Basar in Telangana is hosting the conference.


Goa sets up task force to fight drug menace:

Goa government has formed an Anti-Narcotics Task Force, comprising members of various law enforcement agencies, to draw a comprehensive action plan to combat trafficking of drugs.

Background: Goa being a global tourist destination, lakhs of tourists, international as well as domestic, visit the state every year and are the major target of drug peddlers/dealers.