News:Government has enforced various Sections of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019 by notifying it in Gazette.
Salient Features of the Amendment Act:
- Arbitration Council of India: It establishes an independent body called the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) for the promotion of arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.
- Mandate of ACI:ACI would be mandated to frame rules on (a)how institutions would be graded (b)norms to be followed and (c)monitoring of quality and performance.
- Composition of the ACI: The ACI will consist of a Chairperson who is either: (i) a Judge of the Supreme Court; or (ii) a Judge of a High Court; or (iii) Chief Justice of a High Court; or (iv) an eminent person with expert knowledge in conduct of arbitration.
- Relaxation of time limits: Under the original Act, arbitral tribunals are required to make their award within a period of 12 months for all arbitration proceedings.The amendment act remove this time restriction for international commercial arbitrations.
- Completion of written submissions:The written claim and the defence to the claim in an arbitration proceeding, should be completed within six months of the appointment of the arbitrators.
- Confidentiality of proceedings:It provides that the arbitrator, the arbitral institutions and the parties shall maintain confidentiality of information relating to arbitral proceedings.
About Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR):
- Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR) is the procedure for settling disputes without litigation.ADR is generally classified into-
- Arbitration – It is a procedure in which the dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision on the dispute that is binding on the parties.
- Conciliation – It is a non-binding procedure in which an impartial third party, the conciliator assists the parties to a dispute in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreed settlement of the dispute.
- Mediation – It is a procedure in which the parties discuss their disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person(s) who assists them in reaching a settlement.
News:A four-day international symposium on buckwheat will be held in Shillong, Meghalaya from 3rd to 6th September 2019.
About the International symposium on buckwheat:
- The international symposium on buckwheat is organised by North Eastern Hills University,Shillong.
- The theme of the conference is “diversifying food systems for health and nutritional security”.
- The Symposium will discuss issues related to intensifying the use of Buckwheat grains as a food crop so as to diversify the nutritional basket available to mankind.
- Buckwheat is a relatively low input crop that has relatively high yields even in marginal soil.Since it adds nutrients to the soil,it makes a good cover crop or rotational crop.
- Buckwheat suppresses weeds and attracts beneficial insects and pollinators with its abundant blossoms.It extracts soil phosphorus from soil better than most grain-type cover crops.
- Buckwheat thrives in cool, moist conditions but it is not a frosted tolerant.The flour of buckwheat can be used either as food or as medicine.
- As a medicine,buckwheat is used to (a)improve blood flow by strengthening veins and small blood vessels (b)to treat varicose veins and poor circulation in the legs and (c)to prevent hardening of the arteries.
News:Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan(NYKS) in collaboration with National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) will train Disaster Response Teams(DRTs) of NYKS Youth Volunteers for Disaster Risk Reduction(DRR).
Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan:
- Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan(NYKS) was set up in the year 1987-88 as an autonomous organization.It works under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- NYKS is the largest grassroots level youth organization.
- The objectives of NYKS are (a)to involve the rural youth in nation building activities (b)to develop such skills and values in them with which they become responsible and productive citizens of a modern,secular and technological nation.
About National Disaster Response Force(NDRF):
- The National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) is a specialised force constituted for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
- The apex body for Disaster Management in India is the National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA).The Chairman of the NDMA is the Prime Minister.
- The nodal ministry in the central government for management of natural disasters is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
News:Madhya Pradesh government’s Happiness department has planned to set up a TimeBank.
About Time Bank:
- A time bank is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency.
- With time banking,a person with one skill set can bank and trade hours of work for equal hours of work in another skill set instead of paying or being paid for services.
- The hours banked are always traded equally regardless of the services rendered.
- This equality is intended to foster ties in communities and by making all contributions valued equally,it will encourage equality in the communities themselves.
History of Time Bank:
- The idea of Timebank was conceived in 1827.But the concept gained popularity with the setting up of the first Time Bank in Japan in 1973.
- Later, the CEO of TimeBanks U.S.A popularized the idea of Time Dollars.
- Today,there are more than 500 such communities across 32 countries.
- Madhya Pradesh is the first state in the country that has created the Happiness Department in 2016.
- Further,Bhutan is the first country in the world to come up with the concept of Gross National Happiness(GNH).
- Bhutan has fixed standards of living, education,good governance, health and psychological happiness among the various parameters that make its citizens happy.
World Happiness Report 2019
- The World Happiness Report 2019 published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network has ranked India at 140th place in 2019 compared with the 133rd place in 2018.
News:The 68th Plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) was held in Guwahati,Assam.
About North Eastern Council:
- North Eastern Council(NEC) was constituted as a statutory advisory body under the NEC Act,1971.
- Members:The eight States of Northeast India are members of the council with their respective Chief Ministers and Governors representing them.
- Ministry:The council functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India.
- Chairman:Union Home Minister is ex-officio Chairman of the Council
- Vice Chairman:Minister of State (Independent Charge),Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region(DoNER).
- Mandate:The Council was initially set up as an advisory body but now sanctioned as a Regional planning body since 2002.
- The council while formulating a regional plan for North Eastern states shall give priority to the schemes and projects benefiting two or more states provided that in the case of Sikkim,the Council shall formulate specific projects and schemes for that State.
News:Indian Army is planning to raise Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) along the borders with Pakistan and China that will help it carry out swift strikes in case of war.
About Integrated Battle groups:
- IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.
- Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.
- They need to be light so they will be low on logistics and they will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hrs based on the location.
- The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive.While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes,
- On the other hand, the defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.The composition of the IBGs would also depend on this.
How is it different from existing formations?
- IBGS ensure better integration and self-sufficiency as compared to the existing formations, allowing it to strike harder and quicker across the border.
- A brigade during hostilities has to wait to be augmented by different types of units which increases the time to mobilise.
News:The United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) has urged India to end the lockdown in Kashmir and restore basic communications services.
- The United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) is a United Nations body.It was was established in 2006.
- Its mission is to promote and protect human rights around the globe as well as investigate alleged human rights violations.
- The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.
- The UNHRC has 47 members elected on a regional group basis from 5 groups.
- The members are elected for a period of three years with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
- The members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.
News:Indian Prime Minister and Nepal Prime Minister will inaugurate the Motihari Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline.
About the pipeline:
- The Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline project was first proposed in 1996. However,the project finally started during Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Nepal in 2014.
- The project is a 69-kilometre long petroleum pipeline which connects Motihari (Bihar) to Amelkhgunj (Nepal).
- The project has been constructed by India.This is the first transnational petroleum pipeline from India and and first South Asian oil pipeline corridor.
- The pipeline will drastically reduce the cost of transporting fuel to landlocked Nepal from India.
- The Amlekhgunj fuel depot will have the capacity to store up to 16,000 kilolitres of petroleum products.
- The project will also ensure smooth,cost-effective and environmentally friendly supply of petroleum products to Nepal and will also help in tackling the oil storage problem in Nepal.
News:The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued guidelines to States for identifying accident ‘black spots’ on national highways and rectifying them.
About Black spots:
- A black spot is defined as a stretch not more than 500m in length where five accidents have taken place or where ten fatalities have happened in the last three years.
- Black spots account for 90% of road accidents in the country.
- Hence,the measures chalked out by the government to curb accidents in such spots assumes significance.
Statistics on Road accidents:
- According to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways data,road accidents in India has killed around 1.5 lakh people every year between 2015 and 2017.
- This works out to a daily average of 400 or more deaths in each of the three years.
- Further,World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Status report on Road Safety has also stated that road accidents are the leading cause of death among people in the 5-29 age-group worldwide.
- According to the report,India might be losing 2,99,000 people each year due to road accidents.
News:The Union cabinet is likely to approve an ordinance prohibiting the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes are also known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).
- They are battery powered devices that work by heating a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales and exhales.
- The e-cigarette liquid typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and other chemicals.
Concerns on E-Cigarettes:
- E-cigarettes contain nicotine which may lead to new tobacco addiction.
- E-cigarettes causes respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders and adverse impact on foetal development and pregnancy.
- According to WHO report,nicotine itself is not a carcinogen.But it may function as a tumour promoter and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease as well as of neuro-degeneration.
Regulations on E-Cigarettes:
- As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco,they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA).
- The COTPA act mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.
News:Indian Prime Minister has addressed the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD).
Key highlights of PM’s speech:
- Prime Minister announced that between 2019 and 2030,India will raise target of restoring land with degraded status from 21 million hectares to 26 million by 2030.
- PM has also announced India’s proposal to set up a global technical support institute for the member countries of the UNCCD for their capacity building and support regarding the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Program.
- He also acknowledged the importance of the role of water.He called upon UNCCD to conceive a “Global Water Action Agenda” which is central to the Land Degradation Neutrality strategy.
- Further,the PM also said that in order to develop a scientific approach and facilitate induction of technology to land degradation issues,India has decided to set up a centre for excellence in India at the Indian Council for Forest Research and Education(ICFRE).
About Land Degradation Neutrality(LDN)
- It is defined as a state where the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems
- Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3 envisions to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030.
- There are three global indicators for LDN: 1) Land cover (land cover change); 2) Land productivity (net primary productivity); 3) Carbon stocks (soil organic carbon,)
- India’s target for LDN is 30 million hectares by 2030.
Land Degradation and Desertification
- Land degradation is any reduction or loss in the biological or economic productive capacity of the land resource base
- Desertification is the process of ecological degradation by which economically productive land becomes less productive.In some cases it may lead to the development of a desert-like landscape.
- The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.It was established in 1994.It has 197 parties.
- UNCCD seeks to work towards maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity and mitigating the effects of drought.
- India for the first time is hosting the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
About Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education(ICFRE):
- The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) is an autonomous organisation or governmental agency under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
- The council is headquartered at Dehradun,Uttarakhand.
- The functions of ICFRE are (a)to conduct forestry research (b)transfer the technologies developed to the states of India and other user agencies and (c)to impart forestry education.
News:India and Asian Development Bank(ADB) has signed $200 million loan agreement for upgrading rural roads in 34 districts of Maharashtra to improve road safety.
About Asian Development Bank(ADB):
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966.
- ADB is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
- It assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
- ADB has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
- Japan and US holds the largest proportion of shares in ADB followed by China, India and Australia. ADB is also an official United Nations Observer.