Insights Daily Current Events, 06 February 2016

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Insights Daily Current Events, 06 February 2016

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Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Appellate Board order

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has ordered issue of the ‘Geographical Indication’ tag for basmati rice grown in the Indo-Gangetic Plains on the foothills of the Himalayas.

  • This means north Indian Basmati rice-producing states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir will get the GI tag.
  • The board observed, “Basmati rice has been one of the fastest growing export items from India in recent years and in view of the paramount national interest, it is imperative to protect Basmati rice as a geographical indication. “
  • The order comes seven years after APEDA initiated steps to protect and get GI recognition for Basmati cultivated in the IGP. This will preserve the unique identity of the aromatic rice in the international markets.

Background:

Originally, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the statutory authority functioning under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had applied for registration of GI basmati rice in its favour in May 2010. But various other organisations and associations in several States, including Madhya Pradesh, opposed it, seeking to be granted the GI tag for the produce from their area.

  • And in December 2013, the GI Registry had asked APEDA to include all areas where basmati is cultivated and submit an amended application including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. APEDA appealed against that order as diluting the GI application will be against the interest of Basmati growers in traditional areas.
  • A host of rice exporters, NGOs and growers associations from Madhya Pradesh who opposed APEDA’s stand appealed to IPAB.
  • Even a Basmati Growers Association from Pakistan opposed addition of new areas such as Madhya Pradesh.
  • However, the IPAB has upheld APEDA’s appeal and ordered the GI Registry to give GI recognition within four weeks based on the application filed by APEDA.
  • IPAB has also said that the claim of Basmati farmers and exporters for including Madhya Pradesh can be considered afresh by the GI Registry and a decision be taken within six months.
  • But, it dismissed the Pakistan Basmati Growers Association’s objections to including Madhya Pradesh.

Basmati:

  • Basmati is special long grain aromatic rice grown in a particular geographical region of the Indian sub-continent. Historically, Basmati was a product of undivided India with a recorded history of over 200 years.
  • In 2014-15, India exported 37 lakh MT of Basmati Rice to the world worth Rs. 27,597.87 crore and is the world’s leading exporter of the rice, according to APEDA.
  • India exports a major quantity of basmati rice to Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Kuwait.

GI tag:

What is it?

GI status is an indication that identifies goods as produced from a particular area, which has special quality or reputation attributable to its geographical origin.

GI registration confers:

  • Legal protection to the products.
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a GI by others.
  • Helps consumers get quality products of desired traits.
  • Promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods by enhancing demand in national and international markets.

GI registration is essential to get protection in other countries.

Examples:

Nearly 200 unique goods have been registered as GIs in India. Some of the examples of GI are Mysore Silk, Mysore Agarbathi, Kancheepuram Silk, Orissa Ikat, Channapatna Toys & Dolls, and Coimbatore Wet Grinder. Products sold with the GI tag get premium pricing also.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

SC revisits anti-defection law

The Supreme Court has started hearing arguments on the anti-defection law, which disqualifies MPs for crossing the floor.

Background:

  • The issue cropped up after Amar Singh and Jaya Prada, who were members of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, respectively, moved the court on their expulsion from the Samajwadi Party on February 2, 2010, anticipating ouster from Parliament.
  • As per the interpretation of the anti-defection law by the Supreme Court in 1996 in Vishwanathan case, a member elected, or nominated, by a political party continues to be under its control even after expulsion.
  • However, the expelled members felt that this impinged upon their fundamental rights, including their rights to equality.
  • They had contended that they have landed in a piquant situation as expelled members and apprehended disqualification under the anti-defection law if they chose to defy party’s whip on any issue in Parliament.
  • The two leaders had then sought interim stay on any possible action against them in case they decided to vote in favour of Women’s Reservation Bill to which the SP was fiercely opposed to. And the apex court in November 2010, had directed that no action shall be taken against Amar Singh and Jaya Prada under anti-defection law in the event of their defying a party whip.
  • Now, the apex court has felt that the judgement in the Vishwanathan case was not clear on certain aspects of the anti-defection law and hence, it has decided to have a fresh look. 
  • The expelled members consider that the apex court’s interpretation of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution impinged upon fundamental rights of the expelled members, including their rights to equality, free speech and expression and life under articles 14, 19 and 21 respectively.

Way ahead:

The apex court has heard preliminary arguments and has posted the case for February 12.

The anti-defection law:

The 10th Schedule to the Constitution, popularly referred to as the ‘Anti-Defection Law,’ was inserted by the 52nd Amendment in 1985.

  • The grounds for disqualification are mentioned under Articles 102 (2) and 191 (2).

A Member of Parliament or state legislature is deemed to have defected:

  • When the elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
  • If he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party or anyone authorised to do so, without obtaining prior permission.
  • Independent members would be disqualified if they joined a political party.
  • Nominated members who were not members of a party could choose to join a party within six months; after that period, they were treated as a party member or independent member.

Exceptions under the Law:

  • Any person elected as speaker or chairman could resign from his party, and rejoin the party if he demitted that post.
  • A party could be merged into another if at least two-thirds of its party legislators voted for the merger.

The law initially permitted splitting of parties, but that has now been outlawed.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

No nod for GM mustard now

The government has assured that the commercial release of the genetically modified mustard will not be approved without due process. In this regard, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has put on hold any decision on it for now.

  • The government has also promised the agitating activists that before taking any decision they will be consulted.
  • The GEAC, the apex body to accord approval for large-scale use and commercial release of genetically modified organisms in India, discussed safety issues of GM mustard’s application, but refrained from taking a final decision.
  • However, the government has said that it could not stop research as it might have long-term implications on food security issues.

Background:

  • The GM variant, called DMH11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11), is said to deliver 25-30% higher mustard-seed yields compared to the best “check” varieties currently being grown in the country.
  • The hybrid went through Biosafety Research Level-1 (BRL-1) tests in 2011-12 and 2012-13, in Rajasthan, under the coordination of the National Research Centre for Rapeseed-Mustard at Bharatpur, and BRL-2 tests at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in Delhi and the Punjab Agricultural University in the 2014-15 season.
  • The institute sought a final approval from the GEAC in December for “environmental release” of the crop. But even before the application process was initiated, anti-GM NGOs and activists cutting across ideological lines began protests, in a recreation of the agitation against Bt brinjal, also a GM crop, in 2010.
  • In 2010, Bt brinjal had got the final approval from the GEAC but the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh put an indefinite moratorium on that decision which still holds. In the case of Mustard DMH11, the GEAC put off its decision by at least a few months.

Way ahead:

  • The government has now indicated that the introduction of GM crops would happen only if other avenues of increasing production were not available.
  • The GEAC has prepared a time-bound “roadmap” for taking a final decision on DMH11 mustard that involves holding public consultations as well. If the roadmap is followed, the hybrid would be back to the GEAC for approval by the end of May.

However, the activists are of the opinion that in a state where mustard consumption is high, the use of the hybrid crop can give rise to quality issues and have adverse health effects.

What is a GM crop?

A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

  • For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.
  • The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.

Potential benefits of GM plants:

  • Higher crop yields.
  • Reduced farm costs.
  • Increased farm profit.
  • Improvement in health and the environment.

Potential risks:

  • The danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other antinutrition factors in foods.
  • The likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives.
  • The potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops.
  • The risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms.

sources: the hindu, isaaa.


 

Paper 1 Topic: art and culture.

Heritage development projects for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana approved

Ministry of Urban Development has approved projects worth over Rs.12 cr for improving tourist infrastructure in heritage places of Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh and Warangal in Telangana.

  • The approval in this regard was given by an inter-Ministerial HRIDAY National Empowered Committee.
  • Funds sanctioned will be used for developmental works at 1000 Pillar Temple and Kazipet Durgah and rejuvenation of pond at Padmakshi Temple in Warangal city and other monuments in Amaravati.

Amaravati and Warangal are among the 12 cities included in the Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) for improving the social, cultural and economic ecosystems by augmenting necessary infrastructure with the objective of conserving the rich cultural heritage and enabling better facilities for tourists and pilgrims.

About HRIDAY:

The National Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) aims to preserve and rejuvenate the rich cultural heritage of the country.

Details:

  • It is a Rs. 500-crore project for reviving the heritage of 12 cities including Varanasi, Mathura, Gaya, Dwarka and Puri.
  • It seeks to promote an integrated, inclusive and sustainable development of heritage sites, focusing not just on maintenance of monuments but on advancement of the entire ecosystem including its citizens, tourists and local businesses.
  • With 32 UNESCO recognized natural and cultural heritage sites, ranking second in Asia and fifth in the world, the tourism potential of the country is still to be fully harnessed and this scheme will help in this regard.
  • Central government will meet the entire expenditure under the scheme. But, the states and local urban bodies are requested to supplement their resources for rapid development of heritage cities.
  • The project will work through a partnership of Government, Academic Institutions and local community combining affordable technologies.
  • The 12 cities selected for the scheme are Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Badami, Dwarka, Gaya, Warangal, Puri, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Varanasi and Velankanni.

sources: pib.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States.

PMKVY completes 10 lakh enrolments under Skill India, 70% have completed their skill trainings since its launch

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal VikasYojana (PMKVY), the flagship of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has completed 10 lakh enrolments under the scheme.

Key facts:

  • The scheme has been implemented by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through a network of 1012 training partners affiliated to the scheme.
  • Till today, the scheme has seen 10,28,671 enrolments under 382 active job roles out of which 70% have already completed their trainings.
  • The scheme has been implemented across all 29 states and 6 union territories of the country, and covered 596 districts and 531 constituencies.
  • The states which reflect maximum enrolments under PMKVY are Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh while the sectors which saw maximum enrolments are Logistics (135615), Agriculture (90489), Electronics (82903), Beauty and Wellness (72316), Retail (65901) and Automotive (61846).

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY):

This is the flagship scheme for skill training of youth to be implemented by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The scheme will cover 24 lakh persons.

  • Skill training would be done based on the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) and industry led standards.
  • Under the scheme, a monetary reward is given to trainees on assessment and certification by third party assessment bodies. The average monetary reward would be around Rs.8000 per trainee.
  • The scheme would be implemented through NSDC training partners. Currently NSDC has 187 training partners that have over 2300 centres. In addition, Central / State Government affiliated training providers would also be used for training under the scheme.
  • Focus under the PMKVY would be on improved curricula, better pedagogy and better trained instructors. Training would include soft skills, personal grooming, behavioral change for cleanliness, good work ethics. Sector Skill Councils and the State Governments would closely monitor skill training that will happen under PMKVY.
  • Skill Development Management System (SDMS) would be put in place to verify and record details of all training centres a certain quality of training locations and courses.
  • Biometric system and video recording of the training process would be put in place where feasible.
  • A robust grievance redressal system would be put in place to address grievances relating to implementation of the scheme. An online citizen portal would be put in place to disseminate information about the scheme.

sources: pib.