India declared its INDCs in the run to COP-21 at Paris in December 2015. The third countrywide assessment of the status of tigers, co-predators and their prey, released in January, 2015 using the refined methodology as recommended by the Tiger Task Force.
The findings indicate a countrywide 30% increase in tiger numbers in 2014 with an estimated number of 2,226 (range 1945-2491), as compared to 2010 estimation  (range 1520-1909 tigers).
Launched on October 17, 2014 to monitor the quality of air in major urban centres across the country on a real-time basis. Waste Management rules notified
On March 24, 2018, the Government amended the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 vide Notification G.S.R. 234(E) dated March 16, 2018. The Rules have been amended to improve compliance and strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of biomedical waste. Similarly, the Government has also amended the E-Waste Management Rules 2016 vide notification G.S.R. 261(E), dated March 22, 2018.
On March 18, 2016, Government notified Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. Earlier, the draft rules, namely the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2015 were published by the Government of India on May 25, 2015. On March 23, 2016, the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 were notified.
For the first time, the Rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. The draft E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2015 had been notified for public consultation vide GSR No. 472 (E) dated 10 June 2015. New Bio-medical Waste Management Rules were notified on March 27, 2016. The rules mandated bar code system for proper control.
Construction & Demolition Waste Management Rules notified for the first time. Under the Rules, duties have been separately earmarked for waste generators, service providers and contractors, state government and local authorities, CPCB and SPCBs and duties of concerned Central ministries.
Revised Hazardous Waste Management Rules were notified on April 3, 2016 to ensure resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in an environment-friendly way. For the first time, rules made to distinguish between hazardous waste and other wastes.
Solid Waste Management Rules were notified on April 5, 2016 after 16 years. States have also agreed to implement the new Waste Management Rules notified by the Ministry in March-April 2016.
Air pollution has increasingly been becoming a serious concern, predominantly for health of the people. The impact of air pollution is not limited to health, but it gets extended to agriculture and general well-being of human, floral and faunal population.
The government has formulated National Clean Air Program (NCAP) as a long-term, time bound national level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner at total tentative cost of Rs. 637 Crore.
Overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality-monitoring network across the country.
City specific air pollution abatement action plan for 100 polluting cities of the country similar to one for Delhi, under the NCAP. Increasing number of monitoring stations, data dissemination, public participation on planning and implementation, setting up of Air Information Centre for data analysis, resource apportionment studies, setting up of national inventory are key components of NCAP.
Guidelines for Indoor Air Pollution and setting up of Rural Monitoring stations not address till date as some of the key components under NCAP Focus on intensive awareness, training and capacity building drive, with specific impetus on augmentation of manpower and infrastructure facilities of CPCB and SPCB under the capacity building component of NCAP.
Separate components with emphasis on three-tier mechanism for review of monitoring, assessment and inspection for effective implementation under NCAP. A credible, transparent, and accountable data collection and monitoring system that is available for timely, swift action to be ensured. Acknowledging the role of science, technology, engineering and innovation in addressing the environmental challenges with focus on India’s strive towards sustainable development Technologies with potential for air pollution mitigation will be supported under the NCAP.
Setting up of an effective multi-layered institutional framework for the successful implementation of targets towards air pollution abatement under the NCAP.
Since air pollution mitigation necessitates collaborative efforts, the success of NCAP is expected to be determined by stakeholder participation and contribution. Accordingly, there is a need for consultation with various stakeholders viz. state government, relevant ministries, institutes, academic institutions, industries etc before launching the same. On the basis of detailed stakeholder consultation, NCAP is now under finalization.
Initiative under the ENVIS scheme for skilling the youth in the country. 5 Lakh 60 thousand people to be imparted training between 2018-19 and 2020-21. The number of Courses to be offered during 2018-19 is 43. The number of Batches having completed the respective Courses till date (24.09.2018) is 26. The number of Trainees/ Master Trainers having successfully completed the Course (as on 24.09.2018) is 463.
The number of Trainees enrolled under the ongoing Courses is 780. The Green Skill Development Programme (GSDP) developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) under the ENVIS Scheme is a new initiative to skill youth in environment, forest and wildlife sectors and enabling them to be gainfully employed or self-employed.
It was launched in June, 2017 on a pilot basis at 10 locations, spread over 9 bio-geographic regions of the country, with a Basic Course and Advanced Course of 3 months’ duration each, to skill the youth as Biodiversity Conservationists and Para-taxonomists respectively. Under the pilot of GSDP, 94 Trainees successfully completed the basic course qualifying as skilled Biodiversity Conservationists and 152 students completed the Advance Course on Para-taxonomy. BSI and ZSI were the nodal centres for the pilot program.
With the success of the pilot, the scope of the program is being extended to an all India level covering other green skills, which include areas such as Pollution Monitoring (Air/ Water/ Noise/ Soil), ETP Operation, Waste Management, Forest Management, Water Budgeting & Auditing, Conservation of River Dolphins, Wildlife Management, Marine Taxonomy & Coastal Biodiversity, Mangroves Conservation, Bamboo Management & Livelihood Generation, etc.
All the courses are being forwarded to National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) for aligning with the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship. Consequently, a whole pool of skilled resources in the form of Nature/Eco-tourist Guides/ Biodiversity Conservationists/ Para taxonomists/ Pollution Monitors/ETP Operators/Waste Management Specialists/Marine Taxonomist/ Wildlife Management Specialists etc. would be available to be employed in associated sectors. In the first stage, a pool of Master Trainers is being created who would further train the youth across the country.
Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation, Shri D.V. Sadananda Gowda today addressed media on the four-year achievements of the Ministry. Shri Vijay Goel, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation was also present.
2. The last four years have been very significant years in terms of major policy decisions and adoption of new technology and systems for more efficient and effective data management and dissemination. The major initiatives undertaken during the last four years to further improve statistical system to meet data requirements in emerging socio-economic scenario of the country included the following:
i. The Government adopted the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in 2016 for promotinggood practices and professional ethics in production and dissemination of Official Statistics. In furtherance of these Principles, a National Policy on Official Statistics is being evolved.
ii. The Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Act, 2017 was enacted to extend the jurisdiction of Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 to the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
iii. Base year revision for estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Consumer Price Index Number (CPI) were carried out. Steps have been initiated for next revision of base years.
iv. Government has recently constituted a Committee for Sub-National Accounts under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ravindra H. Dholakia, ex-IIM, to upgrade existing norms and evolve new ones for computation of economic data at State and District levels for revision of the base year of GDP. The earlier such Committee was set up in the year 1972.
v. The Ministry notified General Guidelines on Quality Assurance for Official Statistics in April, 2018 for voluntary compliance by Government agencies for improving quality of statistical products as per the Generic National Quality Assurance Framework endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission.
vi. The Ministry has also notified General Guidelines on Socio-Economic Indices in April, 2018 to help the Government agencies in improving the quality of indices like the CPI, IIP and WPI.
vii. To address the demand for more frequent data on employment and unemployment, the Ministry launched Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) in April, 2017.
viii. Draft National Indicator Framework has been developed for monitoring progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
ix. As part of Digital India Initiative of the Government, the Minsitry introduced new digital technologies for data collection, compilation and dissemination. The Ministry has developed a web based micro data archive to enable users to access the data of socio-economic surveys and economic census.
x. The Ministry has participated in Smart India Hackathon 2018 organised at Hubli for promoting innovation in Official Statistics. The prototype solutions developed by teams of engineering students are being considered for refinements.
xi. The National Statistical System Training Academy (NSSTA) of the Ministry has imparted trainings on official statistics to more than 2700 personnel in 132 different courses.
xii. Through its scheme of Support for State Statistical Strengthening Program the Ministry has provided financial assistance of Rs. 276 crore to 14 States/UTs for improving their Statistical Systems and more States/UTs are joining the scheme.
xiii. During the last four years, NSSO has conducted all India surveys on diverse topics of relevance such as Land & livestock holdings, Housing conditions, unorganised Enterprises, Domestic Tourism, education, and health.
xiv. The results of 6thEconomic Census were released in 2016 to provide a list frame of all enterprises and establishments engaged in various economic activities, and data on nature of activities and employment size.
xv. Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) is an autonomous body under the Ministry. The R.C. Bose Centre for Cryptology and Security was set up in the Indian Statistical Institute for conducting research in the field of cryptology and security and organize training courses in the subject area. The ISI has also established Sampling and Official Statistical Unit (SOSU) at Kolkata for undertaking research in the theoretical, applied statistics and economics. Financial support was provided to ISI for development of infrastructure of Tezpur (Assam) Centre.
xvi. Government has taken various steps to strengthen statistical systems in North-Eastern Region.Funding of Rs. 46.76 crore was provided to North-Eastern States of Sikkim, Mizoram and Manipur States for strengthening of their statistical systems and for improved data flow. Financial Assistance of Rs. 14.80 crore has been provided to the Directorates of Economics & Statistics of NE States to carry out various surveys of NSSO and strengthen and extend the reach of surveys in North-Eastern region.The process of opening of two new Regional Offices of NSSO at Aizwal (Mizoram) and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) and upgrading two Sub Regional Offices at Agartala (Tripura) and Imphal (Manipur) in North-East has been initiated.
xvii. Consistent to the federal spirit, the Ministry has been conducting annual conferences of Central and State statistical organizations in which common statistical issues are discussed and shorted out.
xviii. India has been actively participating at various international statistical forums. India hosted the 8th Meeting of Heads of National Statistics Offices of BRICS nations in 2016 at Jaipur, and the 8th Meeting of Heads of SAARC Statistical organizations in 2016 at Delhi. India has also participated in the International Comparison Programme (ICP) of United Nations Statistical Commission over the years.
xix. Government has declared 29th June, the birth anniversary of Late Prof. P. C. Mahalanobis, as Statistics Day. A theme is announced on each Statistics Day for focusing attention by statistical agencies for a year. The 12thStatistics Day was celebrated on 29th June, 2018, which was the 125th birth anniversary of Late Prof. Mahalanobis. The theme “Quality Assurance in Official Statistics” was announced on this day. A commemorative coin of Rs 125 and circulation coin of Rs 5 denomination were released by Hon’ble Vice President of India.
xx. A number of amendments have been made in the Guidelines for Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) during the last four years to cater to the welfare requirements of the general public, including convergence with flagship schemes of the Government. A new Integrated MPLADS portal has been developed for use of all the stakeholders. It provides a single point of reference for all stakeholders including Hon’ble MPs, District authorities and general public at large, thus brining transparency and accountability in execution of works carried out under the Scheme. All MPLAD fund releases are being made only through this website. An informative dashboard has been developed for the MPLADS which provides information at various levels and time lines.
xxi. The Ministry is responsible for monitoring of Central Sector Infrastructure Projects costing Rs. 150 crore or more. As on 01.03.2018, a total of such 1304 projects are being monitored through Online Computerised Monitoring System (OCMS). During last four years, the number of projects under monitoring has increased from 710 to 1304. The monitoring has resulted in reduction of cost overrun with respect to original cost from 19.4% in March, 2014 to 13.4% in February, 2018 and reduction in the time overrun with respect to original schedule from about 30% in 2014 to 20% in 2018.
What’s the issue? The legend has it that the temple deity Ayyappa followed celibacy all through his life. Therefore, women devotees of menstruating age are considered “impure” by supporters of the ban and are prohibited from entering the temple, on the pretext that they would disturb the celibacy of the deity.
Views of the court: On one side we pray to goddesses; on the other, women of a certain age are considered ‘impure’. This dualistic approach is nothing but patriarchy practised in religion. Exclusion on grounds of biological and physiological features like menstruation was therefore unconstitutional as it is violative of the right to equality and dignity of women.
Hence, Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act of 1965, which mandates the prohibition in Sabarimala temple, ultra vires the Constitution. The Rule violated the fundamental right of a Hindu woman to offer worship at a place of her choice. Right to worship is equally available to men and women.
Dissenting views: Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench, dissented from the majority opinion. She held that the determination of what constituted an essential practice in a religion should not be decided by judges on the basis of their personal viewpoints. She held that essentiality of a religious practice or custom had to be decided within the religion. It was a matter of personal faith. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages.
Harmonization of fundamental rights with religion included providing freedom for diverse sects to practise their customs and beliefs. Therefore, the Judge held that there were strong, plausible reasons to show that Ayyappa devotees had attributes of a religious denomination. They have distinct names, properties. Besides, the Sabarimala temple was not funded out of the Consolidated Fund.
Significance of the verdict: The Supreme Court’s ruling establishes the legal principle that individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in matters of religion. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and that the prohibition on women is not an essential part of Hindu religion.
Beyond the legality of the practice, the court has also sought to grapple with the stigmatisation of women devotees based on a medieval view of menstruation as symbolising impurity and pollution. The decision reaffirms the Constitution’s transformative character and derives strength from the centrality it accords to fundamental rights.
Way ahead: Devotion cannot be subjected to the stereotypes of gender. Stigma built around traditional notions of impurity has no place in the constitutional order, and exclusion based on the notion of impurity is a form of untouchability. Any rule based on segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is indefensible and unconstitutional.
EC has also held that after dissolution caretaker government as well as the central government is barred from announcing new schemes in particular state from date of dissolution of legislative assembly till new House is elected.
Model Code of Conduct(MCC): What is MCC? These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
Aim: To ensure free and fair elections. When it comes into force? So far, the Model Code of Conduct came into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
Status: The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
Evolution: The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
What it contains? The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.
The search committee will start functioning soon.It will recommend names for Lokpal chairperson and members. It can also consider names other than those recommended by the search committee.
Highlights of the Lokpal Act of 2013: The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level. The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members. The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending. The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act. The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.
Powers: The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman. As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing. Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.
It is aimed to encourage all local guides in India to rate and review public toilets on Google Maps. This campaign will allow all citizens to locate public toilets in their cities on Google Maps, Search and the Assistant and also provide feedback on the same.
Local Guidesare people who share reviews, photos, and knowledge on Google Maps to help people explore the world.
Significance: The joint campaign to be run throughout October and November 2018 is an effort to increase the awareness and ease of locating public toilets across India. 500+ cities in India with more than 30,000 toilets with the name of “SBM Toilet” are currently live on Google Maps.
One of the objectives of the SBM- U is to provide sanitation coverage through public toilet facilities across cities in India for achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. There is now a need to ensure that the ODF status is sustained through continuous usage and proper maintenance of public toilets. The ‘Public toilets near me’ feature will benefit citizens, particularly women and senior citizens, who often find it difficult to find access to clean toilets in the public space.
The feedback provide by local guides through the Loo Review campaign will press upon the Urban Local Bodies to take proactive steps to improve public toilet facilities across the country.
UNSDF 2018-2022 outlines development cooperation strategy between Union Government and United Nations Country Team in India in support of achievement of India’s key national development priorities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It was framed following highly participative process, in consultation with government entities, civil society representatives, academia, and private sector.
Focus areas under it include poverty and urbanization, health, water, and sanitation, education, climate change, nutrition and food security, clean energy, and disaster resilience; skilling, entrepreneurship, job creation, gender equality and youth development.
UNSDF also includes set of UN flagship programs that are aligned with major government schemes. These flagship programs will be scalable innovative, multi-sectoral solutions to some of most pressing development challenges that India faces and also serve as catalysts for increased investment of development finance.
UNSDF programmes range from affordable housing for poor to increasing access to clean energy in rural off-grid areas, protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases, providing quality education for all children and skilling for young people, especially young girls and ending stunting to improving child sex ratio.
Support: Across these outcome areas, UN will support Union Government in south-south cooperation in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The total planned budget outlay for implementation of UNSDF is approximately Rs. 11000 crore, of which 47% is planned to be mobilized through course of implementation from multiple sources, including private sector and government.
Targets: The programmatic work outlined in UNSDF targets seven low-income states viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and UP along with North-East region and aspirational districts identified by the NITI Aayog. It will work on improving lives of most marginalized, poor, and vulnerable communities and people in the country, especially women and girls.
The partners will pilot a real drug supply chain using blockchain decentralized ledger and IoT software. By piloting a real drug supply chain using blockchain and IoT software, they can support governments and healthcare experts to quickly detect fake drugs. These will aide authorities to enforce penalties on wrong-doers with easy, proof-based data.
How it works? Oracle’s blockchain software permanently registers a drug’s record in the manufacturer’s drug supply chain (serial number, labelling, scanning), leaving no scope for record tampering.
At every point of hand change, it records the drug’s movement — from manufacturer to logistics, from stockist to hospital, or from pharmacy to consumer. In case of a fake drug, the software will detect irregularity and notify the concerned nodal point.
Background: The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the third largest in the world in volume, accounting for 10% of the world’s production. However, a recent report by World Health Organisation estimates 20% of all drugs sold in India are fake. Also, as the largest producer of generic drugs in the world, India is reported to be the source of 35% of all counterfeit drugs sold worldwide.
What are Blockchains? Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset. Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions. The present blockchain ecosystem is like the early Internet, a permissionless innovation environment in which email, the World Wide Web, Napster, Skype, and Uber were built.
About the initiative: The initiative is aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.
Compressed Bio-Gas plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs. CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.
The entrepreneurs would be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants, including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide, etc., to enhance returns on investment.
It is planned to roll out 5,000 Compressed Bio-Gas plants across India in a phased manner, with 250 plants by the year 2020, 1,000 plants by 2022 and 5,000 plants by 2025. These plants are expected to produce 15 million tonnes of CBG per annum, which is about 40% of current CNG consumption of 44 million tonnes per annum in the country. At an investment of approx. Rs. 1.7 lakh crore, this initiative is expected to generate direct employment for 75,000 people and produce 50 million tonnes of bio-manure for crops.
There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:
Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution. Additional revenue source for farmers. Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment. Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals. Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil. Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations.
Significance: This move has the potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, as well as to provide an additional revenue source to farmers.
The initiative holds great promise for efficient municipal solid waste management and in tackling the problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions. Use of CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil imports.
Background: Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc. After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95%.
What is CBG? Compressed Bio-Gas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel. Given the abundance of biomass in the country, Compressed Bio-Gas has the potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.
Compressed Bio-Gas can be produced from various bio-mass/waste sources, including agricultural residue, municipal solid waste, sugarcane press mud, distillery spent wash, cattle dung and sewage treatment plant waste. The other waste streams, i.e, rotten potatoes from cold storages, rotten vegetables, dairy plants, chicken/poultry litter, food waste, horticulture waste, forestry residues and treated organic waste from industrial effluent treatment plants (ETPs) can be used to generate biogas.
Way ahead: The potential for Compressed Bio-Gas production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum. Going forward, Compressed Bio-Gas networks can be integrated with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets. Besides retailing from OMC fuel stations, Compressed Bio-Gas can at a later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of a cleaner and more affordable fuel.
What is it? To showcase the courage, valour and sacrifice of Armed Forces during Surgical Strikes conducted in 2016, ‘Parakram Parv’ is being observed from 28-30 September 2018.
Indian Army conducted surgical strikes in 2016 which had strategic ramifications and were aimed to dissuade inimical adversary from adopting the path of violence and to ensure an environment of peace for the Nation.