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PM to launch highway project
PM Modi will launch the Rs. 10,200-crore Setu Bharatam project that aims to make all national highways free of railway crossings by 2019.
The Union Road, Transport and Highways Ministry plans to develop road overbridges and underpasses at unmanned railway crossings.
Under the project, 208 road overbridges and underpasses would be built in the first phase and the tender for 65 bridges was already out.
What will be the benefit of the project? – Level crossings are one of the major bottlenecks for congestion, leading to inefficiency in the highway network and fatal accidents.
Source: The Hindu, Economic Times
Pre-enrollment test for lawyers
The Supreme court agreed for a detailed hearing on March 4 on a plea challenging the legality of the All India Bar Examination introduced in 2010.
In a bid to question the utility of the pre-enrollment test the Supreme court asked whether the legal profession could afford â€œhalf-bakedâ€ lawyers.
The court, however, expressed reservations on the Bar Councilâ€™s rule that a person should clear the AIBE within two years of his/her enrolment, saying this affected oneâ€™s right to practise a profession.
The question is also the legality of the Bar Council of India holding the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) without statutory backing.
The need for standardisation – The Bar council formed under the Advocates Act 1961 is a self regulating organization(SRO). As per suggestions of 2nd ARC Committee every professional body should conduct tests for entry and continuous updation of skills.
The Law Commission, in its 184th Report submitted to the Government in 2002, had recommended that an apprenticeship of six months followed by a test should be made mandatory for registration at the Bar. In this connection, it had quoted the report of the â€œAhmedi Commission on Legal Educationâ€ submitted in 1999. The National Knowledge Commission recommended that entry into a profession should be based on an examination conducted by the respective Professional Regulatory Body at the national level.
Source: ARC Report Social Capital, The Hindu
Budget Cuts for ICDS, Mid Day Meal Schemes
The budget this year does not bode well for schemes like Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal Scheme(MDM).
The government has reduced fund available to child health interventions, with a massive cut – from Rs. 15,483.77 crore last year to Rs. 14,000 crore in the latest budget. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has seen a 7 per cent reduction in fund. The percentage share of the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme in the total Union Budget allocation has gone down from 0.74 per cent in 2014-15 (BE) to 0.49 per cent in 2016-17 (BE). The allocation for the MDM scheme for 2016-17 stands at Rs. 9,700 crore (2016-17 BE).
What is the ICDS scheme? – Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is an Indian government welfare programme which provides food, preschool education, and primary healthcare to children under 6 years of age and their mothers. These services are provided from Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers. In addition to fighting malnutrition and ill health, the programme is also intended to combat gender inequality by providing girls the same resources as boys.
What is the Mid Day Meal Scheme? – The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternative innovative education centres.
The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Source: The Hindu, Wikipedia
India-USA solar panel dispute
In a major ruling recently the WTO panel found that the domestic content requirement imposed under Indiaâ€™s national solar programme is inconsistent with its treaty obligations under the global trading regime.
India had a buy-local provision for large solar projects which are entitled to subsidy and assured government procurement if the equipment is manufactured locally.
Filed by the US in 2013, the case was brought to remove any disadvantage to imported solar equipment in India. The WTO has a history of supporting anti-climate and anti-environment rulings, with Canada recently losing a similar case on renewable energy and incentives for local firms in Ontario.
The National Solar Mission (NSM) is the flagship component of India’s climate action plan, as well as essential for the country’s future energy security. An ambitious target to scale up solar electricity production from 5GW currently to 100GW by 2022 requires access to affordable equipment. It is widely agreed, including by countries filing anti-climate cases in the WTO, that a domestic clean energy industry would find it difficult to stay afloat unless policy and economic incentives are provided.
What is the buy local provision? – To incentivise the production of solar energy within the country, the government under the programme agrees to enter into long-term power purchase agreements with solar power producers, effectively â€œguaranteeingâ€ the sale of the energy produced and the price that such a solar power producer could obtain. Thereafter, it would sell such energy through distribution utilities to the ultimate consumer. However, a solar power producer, to be eligible to participate under the programme, is required compulsorily to use certain domestically sourced inputs, namely solar cells and modules for certain types of solar projects. In other words, unless a solar power producer satisfies this domestic content requirement, the government will not â€˜guaranteeâ€™ the purchase of the energy produced.
In response to the WTO case, India has offered to alter National Solar Missionâ€™s “buy-local” provisions by restricting it to solar equipment for its own use, such as railways and defence, and not for reselling the electricity. This offer plays on WTO’s GATT Article III exception wherein the government can favour domestic products in procurement policies if the procurement is “not with a view to commercial resale”.
Close on the heels of the Canada’s case, this alteration is a worrying precedent since many of the world’s public energy utilities procure electricity rather than electricity-generating equipment.
What is the importance of buy local provisions? – “Buy-local” provisions are essential to generate political and popular support for the economic transition as they create jobs, promote health and make the process cost-effective, encouraging trade unions and vote banks to extend their cooperation. These provisions also support urgent action when international climate negotiations have been dragging along for over two decades.
Source: The Hindu, Huffington Post India
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