9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 27, 2019

Explained: Lok Sabha has passed amendments to The Companies Act. Here’s what they are

  1. Lok Sabha has passed The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019.The Bill seeks to amend The Companies Act, 2013.
  2. Under the 2013 Act, there were 81 compoundable offences that carry punishments of a fine and/or prison terms. These offences were heard by courts. 
  3. The Bill makes 16 of these offences civil defaults where government appointed adjudicating officers may levy penalties. Some of these offences are the issuance of shares at a discount and the failure to file annual returns.
  4. Currently, companies that are required to budget for Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) must disclose in their annual reports the reasons why they were unable to fully spend these funds. 
  5. However, the bill now says that any unspent annual CSR funds must be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act (for example, the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund) within six months of the financial year.
  6. Under the Act, the National Financial Reporting Authority can debar a member or firm from practising as a Chartered Accountant for six months to 10 years in case of proven misconduct. 
  7. The Bill amends this punishment to provide for debarment from appointment as an auditor or internal auditor of a company or performing a company’s valuation for the same period.
  8. Under the Act, change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company has to be approved by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).Under the Bill, these powers have been transferred to the central government.

Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana

  1. Union Minister of Textiles has informed Lok Sabha about the Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana (AHVY).
  2. The Government had launched the Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana (AHVY) in the year 2001-2002.
  3. The objective of the scheme is to mobilize the artisans into Self Help Groups and training the groups on various aspects of forming and running the community business enterprises for self-sustainability of artisans.
  4. The Government has identified and adopted 90 clusters across the country which will also cover aspirational districts, women clusters, weaker section and export potential clusters. The objective is to transform these clusters in a time period of 3 years by ensuring self-sustainment of the Self Help Groups and artisans of these clusters.
  5. Government has also taken initiative to organize campaign to educate cluster artisans about the scope of Producer Company and its importance for long term sustainable business development for the cluster.
  6. In addition to the above, the Government has organized Hastkala Sahyog Shivirs at more than 300 places all over the country for providing Aadhaar linked Pahchan card, marketing facilities, facilitating to artisans through Mudra loan and enrolment of artisans under different schemes.

Ministry of mines organises a workshop on Effective utilization of Red Mud

  1. Ministry of Mines has organised a workshop called ‘Waste To Wealth’ on effective utilization of ‘Red Mud’.
  2. The workshop was organised in association with Jawaharlal Nehru Aluminium Research Development and Design Centre (JNARDDC).
  3. Red Mud is a solid waste generated during the aluminium production process.This is an environmental concern due to the presence of impurities such as caustic soda and others minerals.
  4. The global generation of red mud is more than 150 million tonnes and there exists a global inventory of more than three billion tonnes.Red mud generation in India is around 9 million tonnes per year.
  5. The workshop discussed on the present status regarding the generation of Red Mud and its safe disposal and utilization. The deliberations were also held on efforts for effective utilisation of red mud with necessary government support.

Private Bill on compulsory voting divides House

  1. A Member of Parliament (MP) has introduced a private member bill in the Lok Sabha called Compulsory Voting Bill, 2019.
  2. Compulsory voting can be defined as a legal obligation to attend the polls at election time and perform whatever duties are required there of electors. Voters are legally bound to vote in elections. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he may be subject to punitive measures such as fines.
  3. The constitution has adopted the system of universal adult suffrage to secure political justice. In India, the right to vote is provided by the Constitution and the RPA, 1951 subject to certain disqualifications.
  4. Article 326 of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote to every citizen above the age of 18.
  5. Section 62 of the RPA, 1951 states that every person who is in the electoral roll of that constituency will be entitled to vote. This is a non-discriminatory, voluntary system of voting.
  6. In March 2015, the Law Commission in its report on electoral reforms had also opposed the idea of compulsory voting saying it was not practical to implement it.
  7. Further, 11 countries around the world make it mandatory for citizens to vote. Australia mandates compulsory voting at the national level. The penalty for violation includes an explanation for not voting and a fine. 
  8. Several countries in South America including Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia also have a provision for compulsory voting. If one does not vote, access to state benefit and social security is restricted.
  9. Other democracies like the UK, USA, Germany, Italy and France have a system of voluntary voting. Usually, they have a high voter turnout.

Preventive steps taken to check Marine Pollution

  1. Minister of State for Shipping (I/C) and Chemical & Fertilizers has informed Lok Sabha about the various preventive steps taken by the Government of India to check marine pollution.
  2. The Minister informed that India is a signatory to MARPOL (International Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution). 
  3. In addition, the Prevention of Marine Pollution is also dealt with by Merchant Shipping Rules, 2009 framed under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
  4. The Minister has also informed that periodic surveys of Indian flag vessels are carried out in order to ensure compliance to the above rules.
  5. In 2019, steering committee with stakeholders from all the concerned Ministers and Departments has been constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to tackle the issues of marine plastic littering.
  6. MARPOL is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. The Convention was adopted in 1973 at IMO. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977.

Private member’s bill urges state poll funding

  1. A Member of Parliament (MP) has moved a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Representation of the People Act.
  2. The amendment seeks to make two key proposals which are (a)the current per candidate expenditure limit of ₹70 lakh should be lifted and (b)there should be state funding to ensure a cleaner polity which is a public good.
  3. He argued that the that instead of imposing a limit on expenditure, transparency should be brought in so that candidates are allowed to legitimately raise funds.
  4. Further, he has asserted that the only way to cleanse the system was to ensure state funding. He proposed a National Election Fund under which each political party could be allotted funds according to their recent electoral performance. 
  5. A Member of Parliament (MP) who is not a Minister in the Union Cabinet is called a Private Member. Bills introduced by such members are called Private Member’s Bills (PMB).A PMB can be introduced in either the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
  6. Bills introduced by ministers are called Government Bills. Unlike a Government Bill, a PMB is not discussed by the Council of Ministers internally.

New anti-terror clause will be used sparingly; Azhar, Saeed to be first targets: official

  1. Government officials have said that the proposed amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) will be used sparingly. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019 has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
  2. The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities and individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India.
  3. Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it (a) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (b) prepares for terrorism (c) promotes terrorism or (d) is otherwise involved in terrorism. The bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  4. However, the government is yet to define the rules that will govern the UAPA bill, 2019. But the officials have said the process will be non-judicial. It will be decided by officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the burden of proof will be on the government.
  5. The first step would be the proposal that has to come from the intelligence agencies. The information provided by one agency will be corroborated with another, it has to be credible. MHA will examine the proposal and once it is convinced after going through all the records, it will be cleared by the Home Minister and then notified.
  6. Once the individual has been designated as a terrorist, he or she could file an appeal before the MHA, either in person or through registered post. 
  7. Once the appeal has been filed, MHA will have to decide the case in 45 days. The individual will then have an option to appeal before an independent three-member review committee comprising sitting or retired High Court judges. The committee will be appointed by MHA.

IBBI amends norms for insolvency resolution process for corporate persons

  1. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has made several changes to regulations around insolvency resolution process for corporates as well as the liquidation process.
  2. The amendments require completion of liquidation process within one year of its commencement notwithstanding the pendency of applications for avoidance transactions.
  3. The amendments also specifies a maximum time of 90 days from the order of liquidation for completion of compromise, if any proposed by the stakeholders under section 230 of the Companies Act,2013.This will ensure that liquidation process is closed at the earliest.
  4. The amendments also require the financial creditors who are financial institutions to contribute towards the liquidation cost where the corporate debtor does not have adequate liquid resources to complete liquidation.
  5. However, such contribution along with interest at bank rate thereon shall form part of liquidation cost which is paid in priority.
  6. The amendments provide for constitution of a Stakeholders’ Consultation Committee having representation from secured financial creditors, employees, government, shareholder among others to advise the liquidator on matters relating to sale. However, the advice of this committee is not binding on the liquidator.
  7. The amendments also specify the process for withdrawal of applications before constitution of committee of creditors (CoC) and after issue of invitation for expression of interest.

China launches first private rocket capable of carrying satellites

  1. Chinese startup company iSpace has successfully launched the first commercial rocket of China into the Earth’s orbit.
  2. The successful launch of  Hyperbola-1 was lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre with several satellites and payloads into a predetermined orbit.
  3. Hyperbola-1 has also carried the CAS-7B CubeSat. It is an amateur radio mission which is developed by the Beijing Institute of Technology.
  4. CubeSat aremicro satellite which are generally in the size of a shoebox. They help the company or organization to monitor various things like weather patterns, crops, and disaster sites. 
  5. They are cheaper to build and easier to deploy than traditional satellites and their launch has become a lucrative market which is currently being dominated by the Indian space programme.

Currency policing should be done by IMF not US:RBI governor Shaktikanta Das

  1. The Reserve Bank of India governor has said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should not allow the U.S to bilaterally label countries as currency manipulators.
  2. He questioned the US bi-annual report calling out emerging markets for currency manipulation. He said that such labelling should not be a bilateral prerogative when multilateral institutions like the IMF exist.
  3. The governor also questioned the IMF role in currency surveillance stating it chose to ignore the times when a currency comes under pressure but was intolerant of countries resisting currency appreciation.
  4. India was first included in the US watch list in 2017 after the RBI bought $52 billion worth of foreign exchange representing 1.8% of the country’s GDP to boost its forex reserves. 
  5. However, the US treasury department had said that there was a notable decline in 2018 in the scale and frequency of foreign exchange purchases by India and removed India from the monitoring list.

Stable rupee, lower oil prices push forex reserves to all-time high

  1. According to the government data, India’s foreign exchange reserves has reached an all-time high of $430.37 billion till July 19, 2019.
  2. This surge in the foreign currency reserves was aided by the recently conducted currency swaps worth $10 billion by the Reserve Bank of India.
  3. Further, the inflows have also come on the back of a stable rupee and relatively lower crude oil prices.
  4. Foreign exchange reserves are assets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies. These reserves are used to back liabilities and influence monetary policy.
  5. These assets serve many purposes but are most significantly held to ensure that a central government agency has backup funds if their national currency rapidly devalues or becomes altogether insolvent.
  6. The Foreign exchange reserves of India consists of four categories which are (a) Foreign Currency Assets (b) Gold (c) Special Drawing Rights(SDRs) and (d) Reserve Tranche Position.

IT Min meets industry on govt-led ‘cloud economic zone’ plan

  1. Recently, the government has consulted with the industry representatives to understand the potential need for government-led ‘cloud economic zones’.
  2. Cloud economic zone are the geographical areas identified for the creation of data storage centres.
  3. However, Some industry representatives have expressed security concerns with placing sensitive data in restricted economic zones as this will allow for single attacks to threaten the high-risk areas.
  4. In April 2018, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had asked payment firms to ensure their data are stored exclusively on local server in India. Further, the draft e-commerce policy has also recommended strict data localisation.
  5. Indian government is also under increasing pressure from the US government and foreign industry players not to restrict data storage.
  6. At the G20 summit in Osaka, Indian Prime Minister did not sign onto a declaration of data free flow with trust proposed by Japan and heavily championed by the US. India has also refused to join negotiations about e-commerce at the World Trade Organization.

NBFCs with big realty loans must rebalance books: RBI

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) to bring down their lending to the real estate sector.
  2. In the finance sector, the National Housing Bank has also been keeping a watch on lending to real estate sector by finance companies. Banks too have scaled down their lending to this segment.
  3. Despite facing a credit crunch, some NBFCs are still seeking to raise funds to on-lend to real estate projects which were stuck for want of additional funding. 
  4. These projects will now have to look for other lenders as the RBI does not want this risk to be passed onto banks’ balance sheets. The fear is that the troubled projects could multiply the problem for the financial sector as banks and HFCs are already exposed to them through under-construction home loans.
  5. Meanwhile, industry association FICCI has said in a report that they have observed a significant decline in bank credit to NBFCs which was considered to be the key channel for funding requirement. This can be attributed to factors such as rise in non-performing assets, coupled with increasing losses in the real estate industry.

Delhi’s first ‘virtual court’ lets people pay traffic challans online

  1. The Delhi High Court Chief Justice inaugurated a Virtual Court for online payment of traffic chalan. It is first such virtual court project in Delhi.
  2. The virtual court project will tackle the issue of voluminous pendency in courts and help people in getting their traffic challans disposed of while sitting at home.
  3. The Virtual Court will cater to the traffic challans generated by the Delhi Traffic Police via the e-chalan application. All traffic challans except those where the vehicle is impounded can be disposed of by making an online payment at the portal.
  4. The virtual court will be presided over by a Metropolitan Magistrate, whose jurisdiction can extend to the entire state. The court is expected to function 24*7.

Substandard teacher training colleges to be shut down

  1. The National Council for Teacher Education has begun the process of removing substandard teacher training colleges. This comes in the backdrop of the recommendations made by the Draft National Education Policy, 2019.
  2. The Draft National education Policy had recommended removal of corrupt or substandard ones through mandatory accreditation of all TEIs (Teacher Education Institutions) as multidisciplinary HEIs (Higher Education Institutions). It recommended that teacher education should gradually be moved into multidisciplinary colleges and universities.
  3. The draft had recommended that the existing B.Ed. programme should be replaced by a four-year integrated B.Ed. programme that combines high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training.
  4. National Council for Teacher Education is a statutory body formed under the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993. It acts as an advisory body for the Central and State Governments on all matters pertaining to teacher education. It is under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Krishonnati Yojana

  1. Green Revolution – Krishonnati Yojana is a scheme of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  2. It is an Umbrella Scheme comprising both Central Sector as well as Centrally Sponsored Schemes/Missions in agriculture sector.
  3. The umbrella scheme comprises of 12 schemes/ missions. These schemes seek to develop the agriculture and allied sector in a holistic and scientific manner to increase the income of farmers by enhancing production, productivity and better returns on produce.
  4. The schemes that are part of the Krishonnati Yojana are: a) Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, b) National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm, c) National Food Security Mission, d) National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, e) Sub-Mission on Agriculture Extension, f) Sub-Mission on Seeds & Planting Material, g) Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation, h) Sub-Mission on Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine, i) Integrated Scheme on Agricultural Census, Economics and Statistics, j) Integrated Scheme on Agricultural Cooperation, k) Integrated Scheme on Agricultural Marketing, and l) National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture.

Spreading influence: On Realm naval base and Kra Canal

  1. Recently, there have been reports that China and Cambodia have signed a secret agreement that allows China exclusive use of the Realm naval base on the Gulf of Thailand. However, both China and Cambodia have denied such speculations.
  2. According to reports, China will use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years after that.
  3. China would be able to station military personnel, store weapons and berth warships at the facility.
  4. Realm Naval base will be China’s first dedicated naval staging facility in South East Asia.
  5. China has had also signed an agreement with Thailand to build Kra canal across the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand. The Kra canal would connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea.
  6. Kra Canal will offer an alternative route to China by surpassing the overcrowded Strait of Malacca.

Telling Numbers: State-by-state — supply of piped water in villages

  1. According to the data provided by the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Gujarat has the highest penetration of piped water supply under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP).
  2. Himachal Pradesh and Haryana perform the best after Gujarat.
  3. West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar perform the worst when it comes to piped water supply in rural areas.
  4. Among smaller states, Sikkim has the highest coverage of rural households with piped water supply.
  5. Jal Shakti ministry has recently announced Jal Jeevan Mission. It seeks to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections (HarGharJal) to all rural households by 2024
  6. The Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level. It seeks to implement source sustainability measures recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, rain water harvesting.

India on the move: What data from Census 2011 show on migrations?

  1. According to the recently released Census 2011 migration data, there over 45.58 crore Indians were found to be migrants as against 31.45 crore during 2001 Census.
  2. According to the Census, when a person is enumerated in Census at a different place than his/her place of birth, she/he is considered a ‘migrant’
  3. The Census has also reported that Marriage and employment were the major reasons for migration.
  4. UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and MP had the highest ‘outmigration’. Maharashtra, Delhi and Gujarat had the largest ‘in-migration’.
  5. Among larger states, Bihar had the lowest number of people migrating into the state.
  6. Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had more in-migration than out-migration. While, UP, Bihar and Rajasthan had negative net migration i.e. more people left the state than coming in.

Explained: Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana petition in Delhi High Court

  1. Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking directions to the Centre to elevate Vande Mataram to a status equivalent to that of Jana Gana Mana. Jana Gana Mana, composed by Rabindranath Tagore in 1911 is India’s national anthem.
  2. The petitioner in Delhi High Court had argued that Vande Mataram had played a crucial role in the National Movement, and should be accorded the same status as the National Anthem.
  3. Vande Mataram was written in 1870 by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in Bengali. The song became known publicly after Bankim Chandra published his novel Anandamath in 1882.

Iran tests medium-range missile

  1. Iran has test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile Shahab-3. The missile was launched from Iran’s south-eastern coastline along the Gulf of Oman and landed in northern Iran, east of Tehran.
  2. Missile launches are not forbidden under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal). This was one the main reason cited by USA while moving out of the deal.
  3. In 2015, Iran had agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. The deal is known as JCPOA.
  4. Though missile launches not prohibited under JCPOA, UN Security Council Resolution 2231 called upon Iran to refrain from activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
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