Insights Daily Current Events, 30 December 2015
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Apex court upholds curbs on serving liquor in Kerala
Upholding the controversial ‘Liquor-Free Kerala’ policy restricting the serving of liquor to five-star hotels in the State, the Supreme Court has ruled that the State governments be given a free hand to curtail or ban public consumption of alcohol to protect public health and nutrition.
Important observations made by the court:
- The consumption of tobacco as well as liquor is now undeniably deleterious to the health of humankind. Vulnerable persons, either because of age or proclivity towards intoxication or as a feature of peer pressure, more often than not succumb to this temptation.
- Banning public consumption of alcohol, therefore, in Court’s considered opinion, cannot but be seen as a positive step towards bringing down the consumption of alcohol, or as preparatory to prohibition.
Why, according to the apex court, exemption of five-star hotels did not violate Article 14?
According to the court, there was a “reasonable nexus” between the policy exempting five-star hotels and the State’s objective to rescue public health.
- Five-star hotels account for just .08% of alcohol consumption in the State and the prices/tariff of alcohol in five-star hotels is usually prohibitively high, which acts as a deterrent to individuals going in for binge or even casual drinking.
- Also, the patrons of five-star hotels are of a mature age and do not visit these hotels with the sole purpose of consuming alcohol.
- The court notes that the classification of hotels was not the State government’s doing but that of the Union Ministry of Tourism as per the criteria established for hospitality trade.
The judgment sets a nationwide judicial precedent for States such as Bihar, where liquor sales were recently banned by the Nitish Kumar government, and for the Union government to ban or restrict liquor sale, citing public health.
Kerala’s liquor policy:
The new liquor policy was envisaged to shut down bars attached to hotels below the five-star category as part of the new government’s plans to reduce availability of liquor. And according to the policy 10% of the retail liquor stores in the state would be closed every year till there is none left by 2023. This policy had led to the closure of over 400 bars and restricted liquor availability to nearly 20 five-star hotels.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure; Resource mobilization.
Foreign funds plan share in India’s infrastructure corpus
Aiming to increase investment flows into infrastructure projects, the government has set the proposed National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) rolling.
- In the first meeting of the governing council of NIIF, which was held recently, the broad road map for future activities of the fund were discussed.
- The fund was registered as a category II alternative investment fund with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) recently.
- The finance ministry has appointed India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd (IIFCL) as investment adviser to NIIF and IDBI Capital Market Services Ltd as an adviser to NIIF Trustee Ltd initially for six months and one year respectively.
Several sovereign funds and pension funds across the world have expressed their willingness to participate and cooperate in various manners with the NIIF.
- The Union Cabinet, in July 2015, had approved creation of National Infrastructure and Investment Fund (NIIF) as a trust that will have a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore.
- The Fund aims to attract investment from both domestic and international sources.
- The government’s contribution would be limited to 49% of the subscribed capital.
- The government will seek participation from strategic investors such as sovereign fund, quasi sovereign funds and multilateral or bilateral investors, which can help leverage this fund to many times.
- Cash-rich PSUs, pension funds, provident funds, National Small Saving Fund will be able to pick up stake in the fund.
- The decision to set up NIIF was announced by the union Finance minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech.
- The government has budgeted to contribute Rs.20,000 crore to the fund in the current fiscal year while another Rs.20,000 crore is expected to be raised through sovereign wealth funds.
The Governing Council of the Fund has decided to complete by January-end the selection process of the Chief Executive of the investment management company responsible for taking investment decisions of its corpus.
sources: the hindu, pib.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Goa invokes ESMA as lifeguards go on strike
The Goa State government has invoked provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), 1988 which prohibits strike in lifeguard, water safety and inland water body services coming under the State Department of Tourism. This is in response to an indefinite strike announced by the lifeguards and contractors.
- Over 600 lifeguards of the Drishti Lifesaving Pvt. Ltd. and contractors engaged by the State government for ensuring safety at beaches in Goa are demanding the regularisation of their services and immediate re-instatement of 17 sacked staff members. The strike now has been rendered illegal following the invoking of ESMA.
- The strike comes at a time when Goa is gearing up for the New Year celebrations with a large number of foreign and domestic tourists making a beeline for this famous tourist destination.
The Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) is an act of Parliament of India. It is a central law.
- It was established to ensure the delivery of certain services, which if obstructed would affect the normal life of the people. These include services like public transport (bus services), health services (doctors and hospitals).
- Although it is a very powerful law, its execution rests entirely on the discretion of the State government. Each state in the union of India, hence has a separate state Essential Services Maintenance Act with slight variations from the central law in its provisions. This freedom is accorded by the central law itself.
sources: the hindu, wiki.
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.
Government pitches for global north-south corridor
In a bid to boost trade with former Soviet Union countries, Iran and Russia, the commerce ministry has pitched for popularisation of International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as an alternative route through Tehran that significantly reduces costs and travel time.
- The move comes at a time when the government has adopted a market diversification strategy to help Indian exporters reduce their dependence on traditional markets in the West where there is currently not much demand and instead gain more access in growing markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America not tapped as much previously.
- Even 15 years after the formalisation of the INSTC concept by India, Iran and Russia (in 2000), this alternative trade route has not taken off in a big way due to outstanding issues concerning logistics, banking connections, insurance cover as well as harmonisation of documentation and procedures for cargo.
About International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC):
- The International North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
- The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
- Russia, Iran and India signed the agreement for the INSTC project in 2002.
- Dry runs of the two routes in INSTC were conducted in 2014, the first was Mumbai to Baku (Azerbaijan) via Bandar Abbas (Iranian Port) and the second was Mumbai to Astrakhan (Russia) via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Bandar Anzali (Iran).
- Besides Iran, India and Russia, countries that are members of INSTC include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyztan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Turkey, Tajikistan, Oman, Syria and Bulgaria (observer status).
- Once the North-South Corridor becomes operational, India will have better connectivity with Russia, bringing down the freight rates.
sources: the hindu, wiki.
Paper 2 Topic: Role of civil services in a democracy.
Govt Changes Rules to Protect Civil Servants
According to the new rules notified by the DoPT, IAS officers working with the Centre can now be suspended only on the recommendation of the Central Review Committee and with the approval of the minister in charge of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
- Until now, the Centre could suspend an IAS officer and a Central Review Committee of bureaucrats would step into the picture only if the suspension was to be continued beyond a year.
- The new rules have kicked in after almost year-long deliberations with the states in the backdrop of suspensions of IAS officers including Ashok Khemka and Durga Shakti Nagpal.
- States will now have to inform the Centre within 48 hours of suspending any all-India services officer (IAS, PS and IFS) working for them. Copy of the suspension order and reasons for the suspension have to be communicated. Earlier, there was no time limit. Also, now the state cannot keep an officer suspended beyond 30 days if the Centre does not confirm the suspension or if disciplinary proceedings are not initiated. The earlier period was 45 days.
- The Central Review Committee will now have the secretary of the DoPT as chairperson and its members will be the DoPT’s establishment officer and the secretary of the ministry where the IAS officer is posted. Previously, the committee was headed by the secretary of the ministry concerned and it was optional to co-opt a DoPT officer.
- The new rules also stipulate that any appeals or memorials against disciplinary action taken by the state government or a central ministry against an all-India service officer must be forwarded to the Centre with the ministry or state’s comments within 30 days of receipt “or the Central government will take a decision on the advance copy of the appeal received by them.“
These rules are aimed at checking any arbitrary suspension by the governments. These All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Amendment Rules, 2015, replace the rules of 1969.
Topic: General awareness.
Gujarati writer Raghuveer Chaudhari given Jnanpith Award for 2015
Noted Gujarati writer Raghuveer Chaudhari has been conferred with India’s the highest literary honour, the Jnanpith Award for 2015.
- Chaudhari, whose most noted works include novels ‘Amruta’ and ‘Uparvas,’ has become the 56th writer and fourth Gujarati literary artist to receive the prestigious award.
- Gujaratis who have won the award before Chaudhari were poet Umashankar Joshi (1967), novelist Pannalal Patel (1985) and poet Rajendra Shah (2001).
- Chaudhari has received the Sahitya Akademi Award (1977) for his novel trilogy ‘Uparvas’. He received the Ranjitram Suvarna Chandrak in 1975 and the Munshi Award in 1997. He also received the Sauhard Samman from Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthaan for contribution to Hindi literature in 1990, Narmad Award in 2010, and the Uma-Snehrashmi Prize and Ranjitram Gold Medal for creative writing in 1975.
- The Jnanpith Award is one of the prestigious literary honours in the country. The award was instituted in 1961.
- Eligibility: Any Indian citizen who writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honour.
- Prior to 1982, the awards were given for a single work by a writer; since then, the award has been given for a lifetime contribution to Indian literature.
- Seven women writers have won the award so far.
sources: the hindu.