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2016 July - National Issues

The Lok Sabha has passed the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill seeks to set up six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Tirupati, Palakkad, Goa, Dharwad, Bhilai, and Jammu. It also seeks to bring the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad within the ambit of the Act. All these institutions will be declared as institutions of national importance.

A high-powered panel, constituted under NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya is likely to recommend winding up of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and replacing it with a new institution, comprising nominated members, to bring transparency and improve the quality of medical education in the country.

The Panagariya-led panel would recommend that MCI should be replaced with a 20-member National Medical Commission, which would comprise four boards. These boards would be for undergraduate medical courses, postgraduate medical courses, medical assessment and accreditation, and registration and ethics. Each member of the commission would have five-year tenure.

To make such a structure operational, the Medical Council of India Act would have to be amended, for which a Cabinet note would be floated by the ministry soon.

Parliament has passed the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill,2016 with Lok Sabha approving it. The bill seeks to prohibit the employment of children below 14 in all occupations and enterprises, except those run by his or her own family. It seeks to make child labour a cognizable offence attracting a jail term of up to three years and penalty upto fifty thousand rupees. Children below 14 will be allowed to work only in family enterprises that too after school hours. The Bill also defines children between 14 to 18 years as adolescents and bars their employment in any hazardous occupations.

According to the Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya : 
1. The purpose of the bill is to restrict employment of children below 14 years in factories and other establishments.
2. A provision of creating Rehabilitation Fund has also been made for the rehabilitation of children.
3. The new bill has been linked with the Right to Education Act .

The Lok Sabha on 27th July passed the Lokpal and Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill 2016 without discussion. The bill seeks to amend the section 44 of the existing Act, which provided for furnishing of details of assets and liabilities of public servants within 30 days of joining the government service.

As per the amendment, the period of 30 days has been removed and now the public servants will be bound to make declaration of their assets and liabilities in the form and manner as prescribed by government.

The Lok Sabha also passed the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015. The Bill seeks to amend the definition of benami transactions, establishes adjudicating authorities and also an Appellate Tribunal to deal with cases of benami transactions. It also specifies prosecution and penalty for entering into benami transactions.

According to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley :
1. The Benami Transactions Prohibition Act- 1988 and it will have 71 sections against 9 sections in the old Act.
2. The new legislation will apply to all the properties which were acquired in the form of benami transactions since 1988.
3. The purpose of the bill is to discourage the activity of acquiring the properties in the name of fictitious and other people.
4. The legislation has the provision of confiscating benami assets

Parliament passes CAMPA Bill. In a bid to preserve India's forest life, Rajya Sabha passes Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill. It will pave the way for unlocking Rs 41,000 crore earmarked for forest land, lying unspent for about four years. The efforts to preserve India's forest and jungle life will soon get a legislative boost as the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016 (CAMPA Bill) has got an approval from the Rajya Sabha.

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.The bill will work towards achieving this potential.

If any user agency wants to divert forest land for non-forest purposes, it has to deposit money for compensatory afforestation besides a few other charges. It is to manage this money, and to use it for the designated purposes, that CAMPA is proposed to be set up.

The states would, however, receive only 90% of their share; the other 10% would be held back to cover administrative expenses.

India will host a crucial global summit in November to eliminate the illicit trade of tobacco products in which delegates from 180 countries will take part.

India is hosting the 7th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC). The summit scheduled from November 7-12 at the Indian Exposition Mart in Noida will aim "to eliminate illicit trade of tobacco products."

UNESCO on 17th July listed Chandigarh and Sikkim's national park, Khangchendzonga among its World Heritage Sites. UNESCO approves all three nominations linked to India this session. India’s nomination in the ‘Mixed Category’ - Sikkim’s ‘khangchendzonga National Park’ and the beautiful Chandigarh's Capital Complex in the Transnational category recognising the work of Le Corbusier 's new architectural language received world's attention.

The khangchendzonga National park, located at the heart of the Himalayan range includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests. This decision was taken at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 40th session, currently ongoing at Istanbul, Turkey. Earlier, all 21 Member countries of UNESCO agreed and voted in favour of Nalanda University unanimously to be included on the World Heritage Map.

The first paperless e-court in the Hyderabad High Court got inaugurated on 17th July. The court, which will start functioning from 18th July, will use digitised case records thereby bringing down the human resource required to maintain these on paper. The e-court will provide an electronic case list (e-case list) before the presiding judge for him/her to make digital notings on a computer that has electronic case records.

The case records and notings would be synchronised in the database. Advocates, judges and all litigant parties can use the e-court facility to digitally file records. The Court Display Board will be automatically updated. Even SMS alerts will be automatically sent to advocates. Justice P. Naveen Rao, one of the members of Computer Committee of the High Court, will preside over the e-court. To make the e-court functional approximately 1,000 case files had to be digitised initially.

According to the World Health Organization study titled ‘The Health Workforce in India’, published in June 2016, the density of all doctors — allopathic, ayurvedic, homoeopathic and unani — at the national level was 80 doctors per lakh population compared to 130 in China.

Ignoring those who don’t have a medical qualification, the number for India fell to 36 doctors per lakh population. As for nurses and midwives, India had 61 workers per lakh population compared to 96 in China. The number reduced tenfold to 6 per lakh population, if only those with a medical qualification were considered.

The study found substantial variation in the density of health workers across States and districts. For instance, Kerala had 38.4 per cent of the country’s medically qualified nurses but constituted only 3.1 per cent of the total population. Similarly, West Bengal had 30.6 per cent of all homoeopathic doctors in the country but only 7.8% of the population. Better-off States seemed to afford more doctors plus nurses per capita, the study noted.

District-wise, the inequalities were massive. The density of allopathic doctors with any level of education in the lowest 30 districts — half of which were in north-eastern States and the other in central States — was a little over 9.4 per lakh of the population whereas, in the highest 30 districts, it was 159 per lakh of population, it said.

In the case of dentists, the situation was even worse. The national density of dentists was extremely low at 2.4 per lakh population, with 58 (of the total 593) districts having no dentists at all in 2001. In fact, 175 districts (30 per cent) had no dentists with a medical qualification.

The Supreme Court on 18th July accepted major recommendations of the Lodha Committee on reforms in BCCI including a bar on ministers and civil servants and those above 70 years of age from becoming its members.

However the apex court left it to the Parliament to decide whether it should come under RTI and if betting on the game should be legalised.

The apex court-appointed Lodha Committee had on January 4 recommended sweeping reforms and an administrative shake-up at the troubled BCCI.

World University Rankings for BRICS nations — Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa — released.

While India expanded its base in the rankings with 17.6 per cent of the 250 universities from the country, its highest ranked university, the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bengaluru, fell one place from last year's rankings. Apart from that, six of the top 10 Indian universities in the rankings also lost positions. Also, India has one fewer university in the top 20 when compared to the 2015 rankings.

A new Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been created by the Centre after bifurcating Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoC&IT) to exclusively deal with Aadhaar, promotion of internet and other related services.

According to the decision, there will be two ministries - Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Further, the Ministry of Communications will have two departments -Department of Telecommunications and Department of Posts. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), which used to be in the erstwhile MoC&IT, will be under the new Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

President Pranab Mukherjee has approved changes in Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. The matters related to promotion of internet, information technology enabled services, initiative on bridging the digital divide and National Informatics Centre (NIC), among others, will also be dealt by the new ministry. The UIDAI was in September last year shifted from NITI Aayog (formerly Planning Commission) to the administrative control of the MoC&IT.

The Lok Sabha has gone paperless as part of a green initiative aimed at saving reams of paper and making proceedings more efficient. The government also plans to stop publishing multiple copies of the reports tabled in the Lower House, it is reliably learnt. The transition to the digital version of the committee reports will happen in a gradual manner over a period of time.

The Rajya Sabha had already gone paperless since last year, 2015. In May this year, the Centre had announced that Central government ministries and departments will be rewarded for successful implementation of e-Office or ‘paperless office’ initiative.

The Union water resources ministry on 22nd July set up a Committee, headed by justice (retired) Giridhar Malaviya, to prepare a draft legislation on the country's national river within three months.

The Committee has been asked to prepre a Draft Act on Ganga ensuring wholesomeness of the River. The Act should have provisions to ensure cleanliness (Nirmalta) and uninterrupted e-flow (avirlta) of Ganga. The Committee may take into consideration any other issue which it may deem fit in the drafting of the Act. The law, if enacted, will help the Centre to properly implement the inter-state nature of works through a coordinated manner. It may also provide the existing National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) legal teeth to its task of Ganga cleaning in a much more effective way.

Radio News broadcast completes 89 years on 23rd July. The first ever news bulletin in the country went on the air from the Bombay Station on July 23, 1927 under a private company, the Indian Broadcasting Company. A month later on August 26, 1927 another bulletin in Bengali was started from the Calcutta Station.

Until 1935, two bulletins, one each in English and Hindustani were broadcast from Bombay and a bulletin in Bengali was broadcast from Calcutta.

The service was renamed All India Radio on June 8, 1936.

All India Radio, now under Prasar Bharati, has the distinction of being one of the major broadcasting organizations in the world. From 27 news bulletins in 1939-40, AIR News today puts out more than 654 bulletins daily in 91 languages and dialects, which includes 15 foreign languages, for its listeners in India and abroad.

Mr. Charles Barnes was the first news editor of this organisation. In 1936, talks on current topics were introduced for the first time. Radio Newsreel was started in 1955 both in English and Hindi. It was called Radio Newsreel and Samachar Darshan. The daily and weekly reviews of the proceedings in Parliament were introduced in February 1961.The bulk of AIR news comes from its Correspondents spread all over the country.

The government has reached out to the "dabbawalas" of Mumbai to spread the message of "swachhata" (sanitation). The urban development ministry has sought the help of the nearly 5,000 tiffin box suppliers to promote good sanitation practices and paste the messsages on lunch boxes.

Dabbawalas supply around 1.7-2 lakh tiffin boxes daily to office-goers in the country's financial capital. The government has named Mumbai's tiffin box suppliers as ambassadors of the Swachh Bharat initiative.

The Supreme Court on 13th July ordered the restoration of former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki's Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh. A five-judge constitution bench pronounced the verdict on a bunch of petitions dealing with discretionary powers of Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa to summon or advance the assembly session. It said, the Governor's direction on conducting assembly proceedings is unconstitutional.

Just before the court had reserved its verdict, rebel Congress leader Kalikho Pul was sworn-in as the ninth Chief Minister of the state. He got the support of 18 dissident Congress MLAs and two independents, with 11 BJP MLAs giving him outside support.

India was acknowledged as the first country in the world to become YAWS-free. According to the JP Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, that he had received an official citation from the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF for Elimination of Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNTE) and for being YAWS-free

YAWS is a kind of bacterial infection that affects skin, bones and joints, while tetanus, another bacterial infection, leads to muscle spasms that can be fatal. According to the official statement said, “India was validated for MNTE in April 2015, much ahead of the global target date of December 2015.” According to the WHO, 19 countries have still not reached the MNTE status.

A joint study by Unesco Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report has found that 47 million adolescents in India have not progressed to upper secondary school. As per the data, the country has the highest number of out-of-school adolescents in the world. Globally, about 263 million children and adolescents are out of school, which is equivalent to about a quarter of the population of Europe.

Sharing India specific data, the report also highlighted that 2.9 million children have not attended school at all, which is the third highest number of out-of-primary school children in a country after Nigeria and Pakistan.

Of all regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of exclusion. Over a fifth of children between the ages of six and 11 are out of school, followed by a third of adolescents aged 12 and 14. Almost 60% of adolescents aged between 15 and 17 years are not in school. A key obstacle to achieving the agreed target is persistent disparities in education participation linked to sex, location and wealth.

The archaeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) in Bihar has been included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List, which also featured three new sites from China, Iran and Micronesia. The inclusion of the four new sites was announced at the 40th session of The World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul in Turkey. Nalanda stands out as one of the most ancient universities in South Asia

With its entry into the coveted UNESCO list, Nalanda University has become the 26th 'cultural site' of India to get the prestigious status, a statement quoting Chaitnya Prasad, Principal Secretary to the art and culture department.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Shivraj cabinet on 15th July gave its nod to set up Happiness Department in the state. This department will work as knowledge resource centre on the subject of happiness. A state Happiness Institute will also be established under the Happiness Department. Madhya Pradesh is the first state of the country to set up such a Department. The new department will identify and define the parameters of happiness.

It will prepare guidelines for coordination between different departments for propagating happiness in the state. Initially, it will have a budget of three crore 60 lakh rupees. The state government has also decided to give Simhastha Jyoti medals to officers and employees who made security arrangements in Ujjain during the Simhastha.

The happiness department will identify and define the parameters of happiness and efficiency. It will prepare guidelines for coordination between different departments for propagating happiness in the state. It would also prescribe action plan and activities for experiencing happiness. The department will assess mind-set of state's people from time to time. It would compile and publish survey reports pertaining to status of happiness.

More than half of the total disabled population in India is now literate, new numbers released from Census 2011. The literacy rate among the disabled has increased from 49.3 per cent in 2001 to 54.5 per cent in 2011. However, this is significantly lower than the overall literacy level of India which stands at 74 per cent. Both rural and urban areas saw an increase of around four percentage points in literacy rate of the disabled.

Among the urban disabled, 68 per cent are literate while the number stands at 49 per cent for disabled in the rural areas. The difference between literacy rate of males and females is wider in rural areas — 72 per cent of disabled males and 61 per cent of disabled females in urban areas are literate, a difference of nine percentage points. But in rural areas, the difference stands at 20 percentage points, as 58 per cent of disabled males and only 38 per cent of disabled females are literate.

India’s first insurance policy covering public liability to an atomic power plant operator has been issued to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) but the reinstatement of insurance value post a claim will be decided later. The total premium came around Rs. 100 crore for a risk cover of Rs. 1,500 crore. The policy complies with all the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.

The Central government had announced in June 2015 the setting up of the Rs. 1,500-crore India Nuclear Insurance Pool to be managed by national reinsurer GIC Re. The insurance policy was issued by the country’s largest non-life insurer New India Assurance Company Ltd.

The National mineral exploration policy has been unveiled on 4th July to adopt comprehensive exploration of non fuel and non coal mineral resources. The new policy aims to bring together best of knowledge and experience, modern technology, trained manpower and financial resources on a collaborative platform.

Space technology would be used to check illegal mining by developing a mining surveillance system. Releasing the policy at National conclave on mines and minerals at Raipur in Chhattisgarh Union minister of steel and mines Narendra Singh Tomar said the objective is to set in motion a massive process for mineral exploration on the country that would give a major boost to the economy.

In a major expansion, nineteen new Ministers of State have been inducted in the Union Council of Ministers. Besides, Minister of State with independent charge, Prakash Javdekar was elevated to the Cabinet rank.

The Ministers of State are Faggan Singh Kulste, S S Ahluwalia, Ramesh Jigjinagi, Vijay Goel, Ramdas Athawale, Rajen Gohain, Anil Madhav Dave, Parshottam Rupala, M J Akbar, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor, Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey, Ajay Tamta, Smt. Krishna Raj, Mansukh Mandaviya, Anupriya Patel, C R Chaudhary, P P Chaudhary, Dr Subhash Bhamre.

Changes in Cabinet Ministers :

  • Smriti Irani: HRD to Textiles
  • Prakash Javadekar: HRD
  • Ravi Shankar Prasad: Get charge of Law, lost Telecom
  • Venkaiah Naidu: additional charge of Information and Broadcasting
  • Jayant Sinha: moved from Finance to Civil Aviation
  • Ananth Kumar: additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs
  • Sadananda Gowda: moved from Law to Statics

Union Cabinet has given an 'in-principle' approval for setting up a major port at Enayam in Tamil Nadu. According to the Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad a Special Purpose Vehicle will be formed for development of Port and it will act as a major gateway container port for cargo.

The cabinet has cleared National Apprentice Promotion Scheme with outlay of 10,000 crores rupees. The scheme has a target of 50 lakh apprentices by 2019-20. The union minister said that the Government's conscious focus on increasing employment and skill development are going on simultaneously. The names of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta high courts will now be changed to Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata High Courts.

According to the satellite imageries study of ISRO, it concluded that nearly 30 per cent per cent of the country’s total geographical area is undergoing degradation. The degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares during the period, as shown by comparative remote-sensing satellite imageries of the States for the periods 2003-05 and 2011-13. Desertification increased by 1.16 million hectares (m ha) and stood at 82.64 m ha during 2011-13.

There was high desertification and degradation in Delhi, Tripura, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram, while Odisha, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh showed some improvement. The ongoing study, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, was led by the Indian Space Research Organisation and involved 19 institutes. ISRO’s Space Applications Centre released the findings last month in the form of a ‘Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas’, combining GIS and remote sensing data.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on 2nd July requested the Centre to extend financial assistance of Rs. 5,000 crore for the Mission Kakatiya programmeThe ambitious programme is being implemented for restoration of minor irrigation tanks, ensuring water conservation and improving groundwater table.

Namami Gange programme for cleaning of river Ganga was launched from Haridwar. Simultaneous programmes were launched at many other places also for cleaning of Ganga and its tributaries from Gangotri to Howrah.

According to the Minister of Water Resources Uma Bharati, the cleaning up of Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar will be completed by 2018. Projects under Namami Gange involve modernization and redevelopment of Ghats and crematoriums, development of sewage infrastructure and treatment, afforestation, tree plantation, pilot drain project, interceptor drain project, trash skimmers and conservation of biodiversity.

Under Ganga Gram Yojana, 400 villages along the river will be developed as Ganga Gram in phase-I. Thirteen IITs have adopted five villages each for development as Ganga Grams.

Centre has constituted a cyber cell to check the online abuse and harassment of women and children on social media platforms. According to the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi her Ministry has taken the decision as it has got several complaints from women. She also clarified that the Ministry will not be policing the internet and it will only examine the complaints.

The move came in the wake of reported increase in abuse or harassment of women on social media. Recently, the Women and Child Development Ministry had advised women and children to send their complaints and since then it has been receiving a large number of complaints.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on 8th July launched a portal of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in New Delhi. The portal will provide information and advisory to the farmers and facilitate online monitoring of the KVK activities. Besides, weather and market related information, question and answer facility will also be available to the farmers. The portal will also provide agriculture related information of the districts to the farmers.

KVKs are the main center of knowledge and resource in the field of agriculture at the district level. The mandate of KVK is technology assessment and demonstration for its Application and capacity development. At present 645 Krishi Vigyan Kendras are operational in the country.

President Pranab Mukherjee on 2nd July inaugurated a smart model village pilot project at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Five villages of Haryana will be developed into the smart villages under the pilot project. These villages are Dhaula, Alipur, Harichandpur and Taj Nagar from Gurgaon district and Rojka Meo from Mewat district. 

According to President of India Mukherjee.. It is only the representatives of the villages who can transform this country. The progress and development can be achieved at the desirable speed only in partnership with these decision makers in the villages. Emphasized the need to empower women and youth.

Govt launches new initiative to skill workforce for jobs abroad. Ministries of external affairs and skill development & entrepreneurship have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 2nd July for implementing Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a skill development initiative.

PKVY will train and certify Indian workforce keen on overseas employment in select sector, in line with international standards. It will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its training partners, in consultation with the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the skill development ministry.

As part of the collaboration, potential emigrant workers can avail of work-related skill training under PKVY or any other similar government’s skill development programme, which would take place at transnational standards.



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