List of Contents
- IMD launches “Climate Data Service Portal” on World Meteorological Day
- CIC Annual Report on “RTI Applications”
- Rajya Sabha Clears “National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021”
- Finance Minister launched “Central Scrutiny Centre” and “IEPFA App”
- UN observes “International Day of Forests”
- Supreme Court Allows Sale of “Electoral Bonds”
What is the News?
India Meteorological Department(IMD) launches the Climate Data Service Portal on the occasion of World Meteorological Day.
About Climate Data Service Portal:
- Aim: Climate Data Service Portal serves as an integrated platform that aims to provide weather and climate services to the users.
- Developed by: India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune
Components of the Climate Data Service Portal:
The major components of the portal are listed below:
- Real-Time monitoring of weather observations recorded by IMD Observatories.
- Online access to meteorological data through Data Supply Portal.
- Free download facility for Gridded Temperature and Rainfall Data of India.
- Climatological Tables, Extremes and Normal.
- Information on Monsoon Rainfall and Cyclone frequencies among others.
About India Meteorological Department (IMD):
- India Meteorological Department (IMD) was established in 1875. It is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting, and seismology.
About World Meteorological Organization(WMO):
- World Meteorological Organization(WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is responsible for promoting international cooperation in atmospheric science, climatology, hydrology, and geophysics.
- WMO originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO). The idea of IMO is rooted in the Vienna International Meteorological Congress, 1873.
- WMO was then established by the ratification of the WMO convention in 1950. After that, the organization became a specialized agency of the United Nations(UN) in 1951.
- Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
About World Meteorological Day:
- World Meteorological Day is observed on March 23rd every year. It is observed to mark the establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- The theme for 2021: The Ocean, Our Climate, and Weather.
What is the News?
The Central Information Commission(CIC) released its annual report. The report provides the data on the number of RTI applications received and rejected by public authorities.
About CIC Annual Report:
- The CIC annual report provides the data on the number of RTI applications received and rejected by public authorities.
- It covers more than 2,000 public authorities across the Central government as well as the union territories.
What are the key findings of the report?
- RTI Applications: Public Authorities under the Central Government have received 13.74 lakh RTI applications in 2019-20. This is a nominal increase of 0.3% from 2018-19.
- RTI Applications Rejected: The Centre has only rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information(RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate.
- However, almost 40% of the RTI rejections did not include any valid reason. It is despite the fact that these applications were not qualifying under exemptions clauses in the RTI Act.
- The report shows a category of “others” used by government departments to discard applications.
- The CIC in the 2011-12 report suggested for “closer scrutiny and inspection” of “others” category as rejection ground. But no further action took place.
- RTI Rejections Ministry wise:
- The Home Ministry had the highest rate of RTI rejections. It rejected 20% of all RTIs received.
- The Agriculture Ministry’s rejection rate doubled from 2% in 2018-19 to 4% in 2019-20.
- The Finance Ministry also rejected more than 10,000 cases. It didn’t provide a valid reason under the Act.
Right to Information Act, 2005 and exemptions:
- RTI Act provides for timely disclosure of information by citizens from both central and State Public Authorities. It seeks to empower citizens and promote accountability and transparency.
- Under the Act, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning. This includes
- disclosure on their organization
- functions and structure
- powers and duties of its officers and employees and
- Financial information.
- Public Authorities: Public authority means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted under or by
- the Constitution;
- Any other law made by Parliament/State Legislature.
- Notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
- Body owned, controlled, or substantially financed;
- Non-Government organisations substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
- Exceptions: The RTI Act allows public authorities to reject RTI requests on a number of grounds.
- The information which would endanger life and safety to that which involves irrelevant personal information,
- Cabinet papers,
- foreign governments
- copyrights, or sovereignty
- security and intelligence matters among others.
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Rajya Sabha clears the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID) Bill, 2021.
About National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID) Bill,2021
- Aim: The Bill seeks to establish the NBFID as the principal development financial institution(DFIs) for infrastructure financing.
- DFIs are set up for providing long-term finance for segments involving risk beyond the acceptable limits of commercial banks and other ordinary financial institutions.
Structure of the NBFID:
- NBFID will be a corporate body with authorised share capital of Rs. 1 lakh crores.
- Initially, the central government will own 100% shares of the institution. This share may subsequently be reduced up to 26%.
- Financial Objective: To directly or indirectly lend, invest, or attract investments for infrastructure projects located entirely or partly in India.
- Developmental Objective: Includes facilitating the development of the market for bonds, loans, and derivatives for infrastructure financing.
NBFID will work toward financial as well as developmental objectives.
Financial Functions include:
- Extending loans and advances for infrastructure projects.
- Taking over or refinancing such existing loans.
- Attracting investment from private sector investors and institutional investors for infrastructure projects.
- Organising and facilitating foreign participation in infrastructure projects.
- Facilitating negotiations with various government authorities for dispute resolution in the field of infrastructure financing.
- Providing consultancy services in infrastructure financing.
Developmental functions include:
- Facilitating the development of the market for bonds, loans, and derivatives for infrastructure financing
Management of NBFID:
- NBFID will be governed by a Board of Directors. The Chairperson will be appointed by the central government in consultation with RBI.
Source of funds:
- NBFID may raise money in the form of loans or otherwise both in Indian rupees and foreign currencies. It may also raise finances by the issue and sale of various financial instruments including bonds and debentures.
- NBFID may also borrow money from: (i) central government, (ii) Reserve Bank of India (RBI), (iii) scheduled commercial banks, (iii) mutual funds, and (iv) multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Support from the central government:
- The central government will provide grants worth Rs 5,000 crore to NBFID by the end of the first financial year.
- The government will also provide a guarantee at a concessional rate of up to 0.1%. This facility will be available for borrowing from multilateral institutions, sovereign wealth funds, and other foreign funds.
Prior sanction for investigation and prosecution:
- No investigation can be initiated against employees of the NBFID without the prior sanction of:
- the central government in case of the chairperson or other directors, and
- managing director in case of other employees.
- Courts will also require prior sanction for taking cognizance of offences in matters involving employees of NBFID.
- The Bill also provides for any person to set up a DFI by applying to RBI.
- RBI may grant a licence for DFI in consultation with the central government. RBI will also prescribe regulations for these DFIs.
Source: The Hindu
What is the news?
The Finance Minister has virtually launched the Central Scrutiny Centre(CSC). She also launched the mobile app for the Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority(IEPFA).
About Central Scrutiny Centre:
- Central Scrutiny Centre is an initiative of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. It aims to scrutinize the forms filled by companies under straight-through processes.
- Objective: The objective is to ensure that data quality is free from flaws.
- Features of the Central Scrutiny Centre:
CSC will primarily do the following things,
- It will Scrutinize the filings made by users under straight-through processes
- The CSC will identify data quality issues and irregularities.
- Further, It will communicate the data quality issues to the concerned Registrar of Companies. Then the corrective steps can be taken to restore the authenticity and correctness of data.
About the Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority(IEPFA) App:
- It is a mobile app. It aims to achieve the goal of financial literacy, spreading awareness and education among investors.
- The IEPFA App will have the facility of tracking the status and progress of the IEPF claim and refund process.
- The app will also provide a mechanism for investors and common citizens to report on suspected fraudulent schemes.
Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF):
- IEPF has been established under the Companies Act,1956 by the Companies (Amendment) Act,1999.
- Purpose: IEP Fund has been established for the promotion of investors awareness and protection of the interests of investors.
- If the amounts such as dividends, applications money, matured deposits, etc. remained unpaid or unclaimed for a period of 7 years, then they will be transferred to the IEPF.
- Credited to: The amounts credited to IEPF are maintained under the consolidated fund of India (Article 266 of the Constitution).
- Utilisation of Fund:
- The fund is utilized for promoting investor awareness and protection of investor interests.
- Based on the order of the court, the Fund can also be utilized for distribution of any disgorged amount among eligible applicants who suffered losses due to wrong actions by any person.
- IEPF has been set up under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs as a statutory body under the Companies Act 2013.
- Aim: It aims to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund.
- Chairperson: Secretary Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairperson of the authority.
Source: Business Today
What is the News?
The United Nations observes March 21 as the International Day of Forests.
About International Day of Forests:
- The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012.
- Aim: The day celebrates and raises awareness about the importance of all types of forests.
- Celebrated by: The day is celebrated by the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO). The celebrations are done in collaboration with governments, Collaborative Partnership on Forests(CPF), and other relevant organisations in the field.
- On this day, the UN encourages the countries to undertake local, national, and international activities for forests and trees. For example tree-planting campaigns.
- The theme for 2021: “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.
Forest cover in India
- Since Independence, one-fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests. This is significant as the population increased more than three times at the same time.
- According to the biennial State of Forest Report,2019, India’s forest cover increased by 3,976 Sq. km or 0.56% since 2017.
- In 2017, the tree and forest cover together made up 24.39%. At present, it is raised to 25.56% of India’s area.
- The top three states showing an increase in forest cover are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.
- However, the sharpest decline in forest cover was seen in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Mizoram.
About United Nations Forum on Forests:
- Established by: Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
- Objective: To promote the management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests. Further, It aims to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.
- Membership: The Forum has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies.
- Headquarters: New York, United States.
About Collaborative Partnership on Forests(CPF):
- It is an informal, voluntary arrangement among 15 international organizations and secretariats. These organizations run substantial programs on forests.
- Purpose: The mission of the CPF is to help enhance the contribution of all types of forests and trees outside forests. It aims to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds prior to the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
What was the case?
- A petition was filed by an NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR). The petition demanded a stay on the sale of the Electoral bonds scheduled between April 1 and 10.
- The petitioner alleged that there were serious apprehensions in the electoral bonds. Further, the ADR also mentioned that the sale of bonds before the elections would increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
What did the Supreme Court say?
- On Anonymity of Buyers: The scheme ensures that unidentified persons cannot purchase the bonds and give them to the political parties. Under Clause 7 of the scheme, buyers have to apply in the prescribed form either physically or online, disclosing their particulars.
- On Corporate Houses Can Finance Political Parties: The Companies Act requires registered companies to file financial statements with the Registrar of Companies. Hence, the purchase and encashment of the bonds through banking channels will reflect in their financial statements. Further, it is also available in the public domain.
- Bonds are not tradable: The court rejected the contention that bonds can be Repurchased with Black Money. It said that under clause 14 of the Scheme, the bonds are not tradable. Moreover, the first buyer will not stand to gain anything out of such a sale except losing white money.
- Apprehension of Foreign Influence on Elections: The court observed that the apprehension of Foreign Influence on Elections is misconceived as under Clause 3 of the Scheme. Under this, the Bonds may be purchased only by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
What were the arguments against the Electoral Bonds?
- The anonymity of Buyers: Neither the donor nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from.
- Before the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to disclose details of all their donors who donated more than Rs 20,000.
- Corporate Houses Can Finance Political Parties: Electoral bonds could be a channel for corporate bribes paid to political parties as a “quid pro quo” (favour or advantage granted in return for something).
- Bonds Bought with White Money can be Repurchased with Black Money: The first purchase of the Electoral Bonds may be through banking channels for a consideration paid in white money. But someone may repurchase the bonds from the first buyer by using Black Money.
- Foreign Influence on Elections: There is an apprehension that foreign corporate houses may buy the bonds and attempt to influence the electoral process in the country.
Source: The Hindu