After three decades, the 16th Lok Sabha witnessed a government with a single party majority. The majority was expected to enable smooth functioning of Parliament and passage of legislation. In the last five years, the government was able to pass 133 bills. Key bills piloted by the finance and social justice ministries were approved by Parliament.
These included bills like GST, insolvency and bankruptcy code, Aadhaar, increase in maternity benefit for women, reservation for the economically weaker section and constitutional status for the OBC Commission. However, it was not smooth sailing for the government’s legislative agenda. The opposition either successfully blocked or delayed many government bills.
Marque government legislations like land acquisition amendment, triple talaq, and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill were blocked and will now lapse at the end of this Lok Sabha. This was because of governments’ lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
Opposition parties forced referral of some bills to select committees of the Upper House before agreeing to pass them. But a number of bills were fast-tracked through Parliament without referring them to a parliamentary committee.
In this Lok Sabha, 70 per cent of the bills did not go through the scrutiny of parliamentary committees.
On important issues like GST, the government had to build consensus before Parliament approval could be secured. But this spirit of building consensus was missing on many issues over the last five years. This reflected in parliamentary proceedings getting adjourned and on occasions, the highest law-making body was reduced to a formality.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-KISAN) being launched for augmenting the income of farmers by providing income support to small and marginal farmer families
Vulnerable landholding farmers having cultivable land upto 2 hectares to be provided direct income support of Rs. 6000 per year
To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government is launching the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN). Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year. This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each. This programme will be funded by Government of India. Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this. It will entail an annual expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crore. PM-KISAN would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season. PM-KISAN would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
A small and marginal landholder farmer family for the purpose of the calculation of the benefit is defined as “a family comprising of husband, wife and minor children (upto 18 years of age) who collectively own cultivable land upto 2 hectare as per land records of the concerned State/UT”.
The existing land-ownership system in the concerned States/UTs will be used for identification of beneficiaries. Those whose names appear in land records as on 01.02,2019 are eligible for benefit. If a Landholder Farmer Family (LFF) has land parcels spread across different village/revenue records, then land will be pooled for determining the benefit. Accordingly, it is of utmost importance that the land records are clear and updated and the State/UT Governments are requested to complete updation of and records for the purpose expeditiously. All States/UTs shall endeavor to complete the identification of beneficiaries and facilitate quick distribution of the benefit to farmers.
The benefit shall be transferred by Government of India to the bank account of the beneficiaries through State Notional Account. For transfer of benefit, District-wise beneficiaries lists shall be certified and uploaded by the States/UTs on the PM-KISAN Portal of Govt. of India and the funds will be electronically transferred to the beneficiary’s bank account by Gol through State Notional Account on a pattern similar to MNREGS. The funds pertaining to income support benefit shall be released from Gol periodically based on receipt of fund transfer order through the concerned State/UT Govt. with the eligible beneficiaries’ details. States shall also notify District Level Grievance Redressal Committees for redressing all grievances related to implementation of the scheme.
Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Shri Sanjay Agarwal has requested State/UT Govts to immediately initiate the work of identification of beneficiaries and uploading the relevant data for release of funds by Govt. of India in the bank accounts of eligible farmer families. He has requested the Chief Secretaries to personally monitor the progress of implementation and do periodic reviews at their level for effective implementation.
What is it? The Shisht Bharat campaign, launched by a NGO, aims to strengthen the moral character of Indian citizens by sensitizing them about values of morality, civic sense, politeness, decorum and dignity.
Launched initially in Delhi NCR, the campaign brings together policy-makers, media personalities, parents, RWAs, Delhi traffic police, NGOs, corporate houses and multinationals together for the promotion of the cause.
The revolutionary campaign will execute under three pillars: Educate the masses by engaging with schoolchildren, parents, youth, media persons, ordinary citizens and advocacy with policy makers.
Reach out to community members by engaging with RWAs, market clusters, clubs, associations and other relevant stakeholders. Inspire action through novel and encouraging methods like social media, competitions and awards, among others.
The Atmospheric Water Generator is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
How it works? BEL’s Atmospheric Water Generator employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it. It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
The AWG comes with a Mineralisation Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable. The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.
Significance and benefits: The Atmospheric Water Generator can be used to provide drinking water in community centres and public places like health care centres, schools, colleges, offices, railway stations, bus stands, airports, sea ports, off-shore oil rigs, military establishments, remote field areas and remote establishments and residential complexes.
The revamped certification process is driven through a new portal called HOPE – Healthcare Organizations’ Platform for Entry-Level-Certification.
About HOPE Portal: It is an online platform for smooth and secure registration which provides a self-explanatory questionnaire to be filled by the HCO/SHCOs. It ensures quality at nascent stages by enrolling a wide range of hospitals across the country including Healthcare Organizations (HCOs). HOPE also enables them to comply with quality protocols, improve patient safety and the overall healthcare facility of the organization.
The government’s decision will not impact Pakistan’s share of water under the Indus Water Treaty between the two nations.
River sharing between India and Pakistan: The sharing of water of the six rivers– Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej– between India and Pakistan is governed by a treaty the two countries signed in 1960. The deal was brokered by the World Bank after nine years of negotiation.
Under the treaty, India has control over water flowing in the eastern rivers– Beas, Ravi and Sutlej. Pakistan has control over the western rivers– Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
As per the treaty, the water commissioners of Pakistan and India are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects’ sites and critical river head works. Both the sides share details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the treaty.
The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers.
Of the total 168 million acre-feet, India’s share of water from the three allotted rivers is 33 million acre-feet, which constitutes nearly 20 per cent. India uses nearly 93-94 per cent of its share under the Indus Waters Treaty. The rest of the water remains unutilised and goes to Pakistan.
Projects proposed to utilize the unutilised water: After the Uri attack in 2016, India has fast-tracked water projects to arrest the unutilised water. The three projects include the Shahpur-Kandi dam project, a second Sutlej-Beas link in Punjab and the UJH Dam project in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan’s water woes: An IMF study said that Pakistan is the third most affected country in the world in terms of acute water shortage. Closing the taps is likely to send a strong message that Pakistan cannot continue to perpetrate terrorism from its soil with impunity.
Why it may not be feasible to stop water- flow altogether? So far the treaty has survived wars and phases of frosty ties between India and Pakistan. India’s any move affecting the treaty would be closely watched by the international community. India cannot abrogate the treaty on a short notice. It takes years to divert the flow of a river. The government of India will have to prepare a long-term strategy if it intends to threaten Pakistan by diverting or stopping the water.
Challenges and concerns: The IWT has survived various wars and other hostilities between the two countries, and as such it is largely considered a success. Today, however, the treaty is increasingly faced with challenges it wasn’t designed to deal with.
For instance, India recently fast-tracked approval for several major dams along the Chenab, a 900km-long tributary of the Indus that was originally allotted to Pakistan under the IWT. This follows several other contentious dams already being built on shared rivers including Kishanganga, on the Jhelum River, which was also allotted to Pakistan.
Under the IWT, India does indeed have a right to “limited hydropower generation” upstream on the western tributaries allotted to Pakistan, including the Chenab and the Jhelum. However, many in Pakistan worry that even though these proposed dams may individually abide by the technical letter of the treaty, their effects will add up downstream.
Because the treaty does not provide a definitive solution, the two countries have frequently sought time-consuming and expensive international arbitration. From time to time, Pakistan has raised concerns and asked for intervention on the storage capacity of Indian dams planned on shared rivers allotted to Pakistan under the IWT.
Basin countries have also not been forthcoming in sharing data and announcing planned hydropower projects ahead of time.
The resolution seeks to pay a befitting tribute to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre martyrs during the centenary year of the massacre.
About the incident: April 13, 1919, marked a turning point in the Indian freedom struggle. It was Baisakhi that day, a harvest festival popular in Punjab and parts of north India. Local residents in Amritsar decided to hold a meeting that day to discuss and protest against the confinement of Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, two leaders fighting for Independence, and implementation of the Rowlatt Act, which armed the British government with powers to detain any person without trial.
The crowd had a mix of men, women and children. They all gathered in a park called the Jallianwala Bagh, walled on all sides but for a few small gates, against the orders of the British. The protest was a peaceful one, and the gathering included pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple who were merely passing through the park, and some who had not come to protest.
While the meeting was on, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, who had crept up to the scene wanting to teach the public assembled a lesson, ordered 90 soldiers he had brought with him to the venue to open fire on the crowd. Many tried in vain to scale the walls to escape. Many jumped into the well located inside the park.
Outcomes: Considered the ‘The Butcher of Amritsar’ in the aftermath of the massacre, General Dyer was removed from command and exiled to Britain.
Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, as a sign of condemnation, renounced their British Knighthood and Kaiser-i-Hind medal respectively. In 1922, the infamous Rowlett Act that allowed internment of suspects without trial was repealed by the British.
Concerns highlighted by the report: Underfunded: The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.
Concerns over INDC targets: The panel also raises concerns about the targets set by GIM on India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests. The mission document does not mention from where will this land be arranged.
The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the GIM missed its targets by 34%. Instead of the targeted 67,956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.
The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions. Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions.
About Green India Mission: GIM is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the starting of the 12th five-year plan in 2012. But, owing to financial delays the mission was finally launched in 2015.
The objective of the mission is to increase green cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha, improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces (NTFPs). It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about 3 million households.
The court has directed the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India to submit a satellite-image based report on the encroachments removed.
What’s the issue and what were the reasons for evacuation? About 11,72,931 (1.17 million) land ownership claims made by scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act have been rejected on various grounds, including absence of proof that the land was in their possession for at least three generations.
The law provides for giving land rights to those living on forest land for at least three generations before December 31, 2005.
Criticisms: The Forest Rights Law itself has been criticised by both wildlife activists and those fighting for the rights of tribespeople and forest-dwellers, albeit for different reasons. The former believe giving people rights to live in forests will eventually harm the forests themselves and also wildlife.
The latter believe that the implementation of the law is far from perfect and that deficiencies in this have resulted in many valid claims being rejected by the states. The latter also allege that the government didn’t exactly put up an effective defence in the case, which was brought by wildlife NGOs and activists.
About Forest Rights Act (FRA): The act was passed in December 2006. It deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources. The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
Rights under the Act: Title rights – Ownership to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family, meaning that no new lands are granted.
Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc. Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection. Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.
Eligibility: Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.
Process of recognition of rights: The Act provides that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognised.
This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level.
The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals.
Context: “Waste to Wonder” Park was recently inaugurated in South Delhi. The park sets an example of creation of ‘Wealth from waste’.
Drone Olympics Competition: Context: First ever ‘Drone Olympics’ competition for UAV’s was held recently at Air Force Station, Bengaluru alongside the Aero India exhibition(Theme – ‘The Runway to a Billion Opportunities’)
It was organized by Ministry of Defence. Aim: to encourage the UAV industry to connect with potential buyers and business partners in the country and also provide an opportunity to the Armed Forces to assess the capabilities of UAVs.
Significance of drones: The role of drones is ever-increasing in the defence sectors, making them the ideal platform for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare and strike missions.
Context: Climate change induced by human beings has claimed its first victim in ‘Class Mammalia’ of the ‘Animal Kingdom’: the Bramble Cay melomys — a ‘little brown rat’ found in Australia.
The government of Australia’s Queensland province reported the species to be extinct in June 2016. It was placed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
Context: With help from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the existence of Hippocamp- a tiny moon in orbit around Neptune.
With a diameter of only 20 miles, the newly characterized moon — named after a mythical half-horse, half-fish sea creature — is the smallest moon yet discovered in orbit around the outermost planet.
The discovery of Hippocamp brings to 14 the number of moons discovered in orbit around Neptune. There are seven inner moons, including Hippocamp, along with six outer moons and Neptune’s largest moon, Triton.
Women Livelihood Bond: Context: The World Bank, the Small Industries Development Bank (Sidbi) and the UN Women, along with 10 wealth management firms and leading corporates has announced the launch of Women Livelihood Bond- a new social impact bond to offer credit to rural women entrepreneurs.
The bonds, which will have a tenure of five years, will be launched by SIDBI with the support of World Bank and UN Women.
The proposed bond will enable individual women entrepreneurs in sectors like food processing, agriculture, services and small units to borrow around Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh at an annual interest rate of around 13-14 per cent or less.
SIDBI will act as the financial intermediary and channel funds raised to women entrepreneurs through participating financial intermediaries like banks, NBFCs or microfinance institutions.
Context: The President of India recently unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha in Chennai.
About Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha: Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha was established in the year 1918 by Mahatma Gandhi with the sole aim of propagating Hindi in southern states. The first Pracharak was Devadoss Gandhi son of Mahatma Gandhi.
Context: The Centre recently eased the norms under which investments in start-ups will be taxed by the government.
Recent changes: Investments up to ₹25 crore in companies that are less than 10 years old and with a total turnover of less than ₹100 crore will be exempted from the new angel tax.
Investments made by listed companies with a net worth of at least ₹100 crore or a total turnover of at least ₹250 crore will be fully exempt from the tax; so will investments made by non-resident Indians.
What necessitated this? Problems with the old ones: In 2012, the angel tax was introduced and was justified as an emergency measure to prevent the laundering of illegal wealth by means of investments in the shares of unlisted private companies at extraordinary valuations. But the adverse effect that it has had on investor confidence has forced the government to ease the stringent rules.
Benefits of new rules: The easing of the outdated angel tax rules will definitely make life easier for start-ups, which are in desperate need for capital to fund their growth and other business requirements.
Since the new rules are set to be applied retrospectively, many young companies that have received notices from the Income Tax Department in the last few years will be relieved by the latest tweak in the rules.
There are, however, a few other issues with the new rules that could still cause unnecessary headaches to young start-ups: Companies wishing to make use of the latest exemption, for instance, will first need to be registered with the government as start-ups.
To be classified as one, a company needs to attest to conditions such as that it has not invested in any land unrelated to the business, vehicles worth over ₹10 lakh, or jewellery.
These requirements, while probably aimed to prevent money- laundering, can lead to considerable bureaucratic delays and rent-seeking.
Also, the new rules for the angel tax can cause the same old problem of arbitrary tax demands for companies that do not fall under the defined category of start-ups.
The taxes to be paid are still supposed to be calculated by the authorities based on how much the sale price of a company’s unlisted share exceeds its fair market value. It is impossible to know the market value, let alone the fair market value, of shares that are not openly traded in the marketplace.
So tax authorities with ulterior motives will still possess enough leeway to harass start-ups with unreasonable tax demands.