The Union Government on 13 April 2015 notified the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 and the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014. It was designed to replace the existing Collegium system of appointing judges of higher judiciary, viz., Supreme Court and High Courts.
The NJAC Bill and the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty First Amendment) Bill, 2014 were passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha on 13 August 2014 and Rajya Sabha on 14 August 2014 respectively. Subsequently these Bills were ratified by the required number of State legislatures before getting the President’s assent on 31 December 2014.
Union Government approved performance-linked payment for CIL officers
The Union Government on 14 October 2015 gave a green signal to payment of Performance Related Pay (PRP) to executives and non-unionised supervisors of Coal India Ltd (CIL) and its subsidiaries.
The recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries were approved by the Union Cabinet to regularise the 2007 Pay Revision implemented by CIL with effect from 1 January 2007 in the loss making subsidiaries.
The payment will be given out of the corpus created by pooling the profits of CIL subsidiary companies, duly setting off the losses of the loss making subsidiaries and stand-alone profits of CIL, excluding dividends received from its subsidiary companies.
However, it will be done with the condition that the corpus for payment of PRP should be treated as a yearly corpus with no provision for carrying it forward to subsequent years.
Union Cabinet approved RCE for Kaladan Multi Modal Project in Myanmar
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 October 2015 gave its approval for the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of 2904.04 crores rupees for the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar.
Since the project is of political and strategic significance, it was decided to execute it through India's grant assistance to Myanmar.
The project will provide an alternate access route to the North-Eastern region of India and contribute towards the region's economic development. Being a key connectivity project, it will promote economic, commercial and strategic links between India and Myanmar.
Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project
The Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project was jointly identified by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal mode of transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the North-Eastern part of India through Myanmar.
• It is expected that the project will contribute to the economic development of the North-Eastern States of India, by opening up the sea route for the products.
• It will provide a strategic link to the North-East and will help in reducing pressure on the Siliguri Corridor.
• It will serve the economic, commercial and strategic interests of India.
• It will contribute to the development of Myanmar, and its economic integration with India.
Union Cabinet approved Protocol on Double Taxation Avoidance with Israel and Vietnam
The Union Cabinet on 7 October 2015 approved the Protocol between India and Israel and between Indian and Vietnam for avoidance of double taxation and for prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital.
The Protocol with both the countries provides for internationally accepted standards for effective exchange of information on tax matters including bank information and information without domestic tax interest.
With this, the information received from Israel and Vietnam in respect of a resident of India can be shared with other law enforcement agencies with authorisation of the Competent Authority of both the countries and vice versa.
Besides, the Protocol with Israel also provides for Limitation of Benefits Article as an anti-abuse provision aimed at preventing misuse of the Convention. The provisions of this Article enable use of the provisions of domestic law and measures concerning tax avoidance or evasion in the event of misuse of the Convention.
The existing Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) between Indian and Israel was signed in 1996 and between India and Vietnam was signed in 1994.
Both the countries concurred with India to update Article 27 on the Exchange of Information in DTAC signed with India to meet internationally accepted standards and added a new Article on Assistance in the Collection of taxes.
Union Cabinet approved Framework for Cooperation in Blue Economy between India and Seychelles
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 7 October 2015 gave its ex-post facto approval to the protocol for cooperation in the field of blue economy.
India and Seychelles signed the protocol to this effect on 26 August 2015 during the visit of the President of Seychelles James Michel to India.
The protocol lays down the modalities and mechanism of cooperation between the two parties for ocean studies as well as scientific exploration and exploitation of sea based resources, for sustainable development and economic purposes.
How the Protocol will be beneficial for India?
• The cooperation will enhance India’s strategic cooperation in the field of blue economy; commercial benefits from export of human resources, expertise and technology and it will increase India’s access to ocean-based resources in cooperation with Seychelles.
• Cooperation with Seychelles in blue economy will provide new data on ocean-based resources and also provide for sharing of expertise and technology developed by Indian scientists and research institutes. It will also help domestic innovation in the field of ocean research and technology.
What is Blue Economy?
The Blue Economy is a developing world initiative pioneered by SIDS (Small Island Developing States) but relevant to all coastal states and countries with an interest in waters beyond national jurisdiction.
It conceptualises oceans as “Development Spaces” where spatial planning integrates conservation, sustainable use, oil and mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting, sustainable energy production and marine transport.
The Blue Economy breaks the mould of the business as usual “brown” development model where the oceans have been perceived as a means of free resource extraction and waste dumping; with costs externalised from economic calculations.
Rather, the concept incorporates ocean values and services into economic modelling and decision-making processes.
Union Cabinet approved setting up of three AllMS under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 7 October 2015 approved the setting up of three new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AllMS) under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna (PMSSY).
These three new AIIMS will come up at Nagpur in Maharashtra, at Manglagiri in Andhra Pradesh and at Kalyani in West Bengal.
All the three AIIMS will cost 4949 crore rupees to the exchequer with AIIMS at Manglagiri costing 1618 crore rupees, at Nagpur costing 1577 crore rupees and at Kalyani costing 1754 crore rupees respectively.
These AIIMS will be established as institutes of national importance for providing quality medical education, nursing education and also to provide tertiary healthcare facilities to the people of these locations.
Further, the proposed institution will have a hospital with capacity of 960 beds. In addition, these will also have an AYUSH block, nursing college, hostel and residential facilities among others.
Setting up of these AIIMS will address regional imbalances in availability of affordable and reliable tertiary health care services in these regions.
It will augment the facilities of quality medical education and would also address the shortfall of health care professionals in these regions.
The large populations of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (Vidarbha) and West Bengal along with adjoining States and region will be beneficiary of this project.
The setting up of AIIMS at Mangalagiri fulfils the promise made under the Andhra Pradesh re-organization Act 2014 that provides for establishment of one AIIMS type institute in the successor State of Andhra Pradesh.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna (PMSSY) launched in 2006, so far six AIIMS have been made functional. Also construction of AIIMS, Rae Barely is under progress.
The AIIMS which have become functional are at Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Rishikesh (Utaranchal).
Union Cabinet approved Productivity Linked Bonus for railway employees
The Union Cabinet on 7 October 2015 approved the payments of Productivity-Linked Bonus (PLB) equivalent to 78 days’ wages for the financial year 2014-2015 to about 12.58 lakh non-gazetted railway employees excluding RPF/RPSF personnel.
It is estimated that the total payment of 78 days' PLB to railway employees will be around 1030.02 crore rupees.
The wage calculation ceiling prescribed for payment of PLB to the eligible non-gazetted railway employees is 3500 rupees per month. The maximum amount payable per eligible railway employee is 8975 rupees for 78 days. This is in disparity to the productivity-linked bonus equivalent to a month’s wage paid to other central government employees and even public sector units such as NTPC.
Between 2010-2011 and 2013-2014, railway officials had also received the same bonus amount, equivalent to 78 days’ pay, with a wage ceiling of 3500 rupees.
Department of Biotechnology tied-up with Prakash Lab to distribute Foldscope to students
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) on 5 October 2015 tied-up with US firm Prakash Lab to provide the Prakash Lab’s low cost paper folding-microscope, the Foldscope to students in India. Foldscope will be used as an educational tool to understand physics, chemistry, biology and instrumentation.
The Foldscope was developed by Dr Manu Prakash, an Indian-origin Assistant Professor at Stanford University.
In this regard, the Letter of Intent was exchanged between DBT and the Prakash Lab in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Silicon Valley in USA in September 2015. Prakash Lab is a research group at Stanford University working in the field of engineering and physical biology.
Highlights of the Tie-up
• Prakash Lab will source Foldscope to DBT and its constituents.
• The DBT will ensure that the Foldscope is provided to students of the Star College scheme in each identified college.
• Workshops and training programmes will be run by Prakash Lab in collaboration with Indian institutions. The nascent Local Foldscope community based in India will also be involved in training.
• After this initial pilot program, the collaboration with Prakash Lab will be expanded to setting up of joint research for explorations of other low cost instrumentation in colleges as deemed mutually appropriate.
• The Foldscope is torchlight in the hands of human curiosity that allows each and every one to explore the planet at the microscopic level, just as the telescope allows us to explore the stars.
• Foldscope is provided as a kit where the student starts by first building the actual unit from the kit and explores curiosity driven questions surrounding the microscopic world in physics, chemistry and biology.
• The users of Foldscope also build an online community and share insights, projects, questions and scientific discoveries with the community at Foldscope online platform.
Central Government launched KISAN Project and Hailstorm App for crop damage
The Union Government on 5 October 2015 unveiled KISAN Project [C(K)rop Insurance using Space technology And geoiNformatics] of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
The project will use satellite and drone-based imaging and other geospatial technology to get timely and precise data on crop yields.
The pilot study will be carried out in one district each of Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra during Kharif season of 2015 and two districts each of these states during Rabi season of 2015-2016.
The programme will be jointly implemented by Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC), an attached Office of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & FW, ISRO Centres (Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad & National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad), India Meteorological Department, CCAFS, State Agriculture Departments and State Remote Sensing Centres.
In addition, the government also launched an Android-based app, developed by ISRO, for collection of data of hailstorm to access large-scale damage to standing crops. The data collected by the app will greatly help the Union Agriculture Ministry in making quick assessment of damage to crops because of hailstorm.
Second phase of Mission Indradhanush launched in 352 districts
The Union Government on 5 October 2015 launched second phase of the immunisation programme, Mission Indradhanush, focusing on 352 districts.
The second phase of the programme aims at achieving more than 90 per cent full immunization in the country by 2020. The mission targets to cover all children below 2 years of age and pregnant women with full immunization against seven vaccine preventable diseases.
The second phase will watch over 352 districts including 279 mid priority districts, 33 from the North East states and 40 districts from phase one where large number of missed out children were detected.
The second phase will last for a week starting from 7 October 2015. It will be followed by weeklong intensified immunization drives for three consecutive months, starting from 7 November 2015 and 7 December 2015 and 7 January 2016.
First phase of Mission Indradhanush
The Union Government launched Mission Indradhanush on 25 December 2014 to immunize all children against seven vaccine preventable diseases namely diphtheria, whooping cough (Pertussis), tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B by 2020.
The first round of the first phase started from 7 April 2015 which focused on 201 districts in 28 states. It was followed by three rounds of more than a week in the months of April 2015, May 2015, June 2015 and July 2015, starting from 7th of each month.
During the four rounds of Mission Indradhanush, 9.4 lakh sessions were held, during which about 2 crore vaccines were administered to the children and pregnant women.
Social justice and empowerment minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot on 24 September 2015 launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) that focuses on building accessible government buildings for persons with disabilities (PwDs).
The campaign was initiated by the government to increase the accessibility of the physical environment in the country. In addition, the campaign focuses on enhancing the accessibility and usability of Public Transport, and information & communication.
• The department has planned to make public buildings in 50 cities of the country including four cities of Maharashtra namely Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur accessible to PwDs.
• The states will pick at least 50-100 public buildings that will be made accessible to PwDs via retrofitting of ramps, lifts, toilets and signage.
• Motorized tricycles costing about 45000 rupees each for which the centre will give 30000 rupees subsidy each will be provided to people with 70-90% disability.
Union Government launched National Institutional Ranking Framework along with its Web portal
Union Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Zubin Irani on 29 September 2015 launched the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) document for educational institutions along with its web portal.
The portal and the framework will enable parents, students, teachers, educational institutions and other stakeholders to rank institutions on the basis of a set of objective parameters and a transparent process.
The Framework will be effective from April 2016.
Highlights of National Institutional Ranking Framework
• The NIRF follows an Indian approach which considers India-centric parameters like diversity and inclusiveness apart from excellence in teaching learning and research.
• It will facilitate a level playing field in ranking for institutions which have been working in languages other than English and excelled relatively in the recent past.
• The framework is designed such that institutions belonging to different sectoral fields such as Engineering, Management etc. will be compared separately in their own respective peer groups.
• The institutions will be ranked on five parameters, viz., (1) teaching learning and resources; (2) research, consulting and collaborative performance; (3) graduation outcomes; (4) outreach and inclusivity and (5) perception.
• The methodology of ranking is open to all Indian institutions that wish to be part of the system, but is not mandatory; it is also aimed at empowering the institutions to compete for international ranking systems like QS and Times.
Developed by a team of experts in education and heads of institutions, the portal and the framework is presently available for engineering and management institutions.
The framework for engineering and management institutes will be extended to other disciplines like architecture, pharmacy and humanities and for universities as well.
Methodologies, parameters and process for ranking universities along with architecture and planning institutions under the NIRF would be made available online within November 2015.
The framework was drafted by a core committee that included National Board of Accreditation Chairman Surendra Prasad, IIT-Kharagpur director P.P. Chakraborty, IIT-Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi, besides the Higher Education Secretary and HRD Ministry officials.
Union Ministry of Tourism launched new initiatives on World Tourism Day
The Union Ministry of Tourism on 27 September 2015 launched several new initiatives to augment tourism related infrastructure and manpower in the country.
The initiatives were launched in New Delhi to mark the World Tourism Day.
• It has been formed to tap the potential and advantages that India has in the field of medical and wellness tourism.
• It will be chaired by the Union Tourism Minister.
• Besides the chairman, it will have members representing the related Government Departments, Tourism & Hospitality sector and experts in the Medical, Wellness and Yoga.
• It will be established with an initial corpus of 2 crore rupees.
• Along with regular medical facilities, the AYUSH facilities will be promoted by the board.
Tourism Vision Document 2030
• It goes into the challenges for the sector and details the way towards Vision 2030. It has been commissioned by the Experience India Society and prepared by KPMG.
• Ashok Institute of Hospitality & Tourism Management (AIH & TM) – Centre of Excellence:
• It will supply trained manpower to the Hospitality Industry and tourism industry.
• It is part of the HRD division of India Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.,(ITDC) a PSU under Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.
• It provides the students with a world class contemporary education to have an edge over others in the field.
• The courses offered will be a blend of the rich heritage and culture of India and hospitality management education system.
• It will be operated from Hotel Samrat in New Delhi.
Grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajong Refugees within 3 months: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 17 September 2015 directed the Union and Arunachal Pradesh Governments to grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajong refugees within three months. The two refugees migrated to India from Bangladesh in 1964-69 and settled in the state.
The direction issued by of Justice AR Dave and AK Goel said that the two groups have a right to be granted citizenship subject to the procedure being followed and they cannot be discriminated in any manner.
It said that the two groups who were allowed to be rehabilitated under the decision of the Union Government could not be discriminated against in any manner pending formal conferment of rights of citizenship.
It directed the governments at two levels to take all necessary steps to protect them as they are facing hostility from the local population. It also asked the governments to ensure compliance of directions in judicial decisions for protection of their life and liberty against any kind of discrimination.
The verdict was passed on a petition filed by Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas (CCRC), who in its petition alleged that they were still being treated as foreigners despite living for more than 50 years in the state. The plea also said that they are being deprived from the benefits of various social welfare schemes including Public Distribution System.
What is Chakma-Hajong refugee Issue?
Chakma-Hajong refugees came to India after being displayed from the area which became part of East Pakistan (now in Bangladesh) on construction of Kaptai hydro-electric dam in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The then Indian Government allowed them to rehabilitate themselves in the country after they sought refuge to India.
In 1964, the Union Government temporarily resettled some 35000 Chakmas in the former North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), in the areas that comprise the present day Lohit, Changlang and Papumpare districts of the State.
However, with the upgradation of NEFA into a full-fledged state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1987, the presence of Chakma-Hajong communities in the State is perceived by the locals as a potential threat to their indigenous tribal culture and traditions by the host tribal communities. The perceived threat has seen several campaigns like 'Quit Arunachal Pradesh' notice to the Chakma-Hajong settlers.
Viewing the potential threat by this group, the successive governments of the state started pressing for their deportation. On the other hand, the Chakma-Hajong communities have intensified their struggle for citizenship rights since the early 1990s and accused the State Government of human rights violations.
Union Government released National Health Profile 2015
The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda on 22 September 2015 released the National Health Profile (NHP) 2015 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI). The E-book (digital version) of NHP was also released for the first time. This is the 11th edition of NHP.
The National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
NHP 2015 for the first time also incorporates the health data from ESIC and Railways.
The NHP 2015 indicates that significant progress has been made in the country for various health outcomes, which is an encouraging signal.