Daily Current Affairs: 22nd November 2019: The Hindu+PIB

The following compilation has been made keeping in mind the need of the UPSC IAS exam. Each and every topic which has been included in this compilation is taken from very authentic and relevant source including The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Standard, Press Information Bureau, etc. As per the evolving pattern of the UPSC IAS prelims and mains exam each and every topic has been handpicked keeping in mind the syllabus of the exam.

‘In-principle’ Approval for Strategic Disinvestment

Context: An ‘In-principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment in five public sector units (PSUs) has been accorded by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). What is Disinvestment? Disinvestment is the action of an organization or government selling or liquidating an asset or a subsidiary. Disinvestment also refers to capital expenditure reductions, which can facilitate the re-allocation of resources to more productive areas within an organization or government-funded project. Which Public Sector Units are involved in disinvestment now? Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL): Government has planned to sell its entire 53.29% stake in BPCL. However, BPCL’s 61.65% share in Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) will be retained and will be transferred to a public sector company operating in the oil and gas space. Shipping Corporation of India Ltd. (SCI): The government will sell its entire 63.75% stake in the SCI and will cede management control. Container Corporation of India Ltd. (CONCOR): Government will sell its 30.8% stake in the CONCOR and hand over management control. Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Limited (THDCIL): The government will sell its entire 74.23% stake in THDCIL to NTPC Ltd. and also cede control. North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO): The government will sell its entire 100% stake in the NEEPCO to NTPC Ltd. and also cede control. Background In the current financial year, the government proposes to raise Rs 1.05 lakh crore from disinvestment. In the current fiscal year, by the end of September, the government had only raised Rs 12,359 crore through disinvestment. Previously, it had exceeded asset-sale targets of Rs 1 lakh crore in FY18 and Rs 80,000 crore in FY19. As per the current market value, the government can raise about Rs 63,000 crore from selling its entire 53.3% stake in BPCL. Big international oil companies including Saudi Aramco are said to be keen on investing in BPCL, given the refiner’s strong presence in fuel retailing among other things.

Pharmaceuticals Purchase Policy (PPP)

Context: An approval for the extension/renewal of Pharmaceuticals Purchase Policy (PPP) has been given by the Union Cabinet with the same terms and conditions while adding one additional product namely, Alcoholic Hand Disinfectant (AHD) to the existing list of 103 medicines till the final closure/strategic disinvestment of the pharmaceutical PSUs. Background It was in October 2013, when the Pharmaceuticals Purchase Policy (PPP) was approved by the Cabinet for a period of 5 years in respect of 103 medicines manufactured by pharma CPSUs and their subsidiaries.   The policy is applicable to purchases by Central/ State Government departments and their Public Sector Undertakings etc.   The pricing of the products is done by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).   The procuring entity can purchase from Pharma CPSUs and their subsidiaries if they fulfill the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) norms as per Schedule ‘M’ of the Drugs & Cosmetic Rules.   However, the term of the policy expired in December 2018. Meanwhile, in December 2016, the Cabinet decided to close Indian Drugs and Pharmaceutical Limited (IDPL) & Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (RDPL) and strategically sell Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL) & Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Limited (BCPL), after meeting their liabilities from proceeds of sale of their surplus land to government agencies.  Subsequently, in July 2019, the Union Cabinet has modified its decision by permitting to sell surplus land as per revised Department of Public Enterprises guidelines dated 14th June 2018.   Separately, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) decided in July 2017 for disinvestment of 100% GOI equity in the fifth pharma CPSU, namely Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Limited (KAPL). What would be the impact of such a decision? The extension/renewal of the policy would help the pharma CPSUs in optimum utlilization of their existing facilities and will enable them to generate revenues to pay salaries to their employees and will also help them in keeping the costly, sophisticated machinery in running condition resulting in higher return at the time of disposal in case of CPSUs under closure and further aid in better valuation in case of CPSUs under disinvestment. About National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is a government regulatory agency which was formed on 29th August 1997 and controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India. The NPPA regularly publishes a list of medicines and their maximum ceiling prices. The latest Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) was released in 2013 which has a list of 384 drugs. It comes under the control of Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers with its headquarters in New Delhi. Its major functions includes: 

  • To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order in accordance with the powers that has been delegated to it.
  • To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority.
  • To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
  • To collect/ maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies etc, for bulk drugs and formulations.
  • To undertake and/ or sponsor relevant studies in respect of pricing of drugs/ pharmaceuticals.
  • To recruit/ appoint the officers and other staff members of the Authority, as per rules and procedures laid down by the Government.
  • To render advice to the Central Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.
  • To render assistance to the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to the drug pricing.

Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programme

Context: An approval has been given by the Union Cabinet to the proposal for adoption of Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programme by the Indian Patent Office (IPO) under the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks, India (CGPDTM) with patent offices of various other interest countries or regions.

PPH Programme

About the Programme The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Programme is basically a set of initiatives that will provide accelerated patent prosecution procedures by sharing information between some patent offices. The programme will initially commence between Japan Patent Office (JPO) and Indian Patent Office on pilot basis for a period of 3 years only. Under this Pilot programme, Indian Patent Office may receive patent applications in certain specified technical fields only, namely, Electrical, Electronics, Computer Science, Textiles, Automobiles and Metallurgy while JPO may receive applications in all fields of technology. Benefits from the PPH programme to the Indian IP Office would be:

  • Reduction in time to dispose patent applications.
  • Reduction in pendency of patent applications.
  • Improvement in quality of search and examination of patent applications.

There are chances of the extension of the ambit of the programme in future, as decided by the Commerce & Industry Minister. The patent offices will frame their own guidelines for implementation of the programme. About Indian Patent Office (IPO) This is a subordinate office of the Government of India and administers the Indian law of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. The Indian Patent Office is administered by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM).  The patent office is headquartered at Kolkata with branches in Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai, but the office of the CGPDTM is in Mumbai.  The office of the Patent Information System and National Institute for Intellectual Property Management is at Nagpur. The Controller General (CG), who supervises the administration of the Patents Act, the Designs Act, and the Trade Marks Act, also advises the Government on matters relating to these subjects.  O.P. Gupta is the current CG and took charge on 16 November 2015. Under the office of CGPDTM, a Geographical Indications Registry has been established in Chennai to administer the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Term of every patent in India is 20 years from the date of filing of patent application, irrespective of whether it is filed with provisional or complete specification. However, in case of applications filed under PCT the term of 20 years begins from the International filing date accorded under PCT. India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15 September 2003. GIs have been defined under Article 22(1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights(TRIPS) Agreement. In 2004-05, Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India and since then by July 2012, 178 more products had been added to the list. 

CHIT FUNDS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Context: The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been recently passed in the Lok Sabha.  Key Highlights of the Bill  The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 5, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Chit Funds Act, 1982 which regulates chit funds, and prohibits a fund from being created without the prior sanction of the state government. Under a chit fund, people agree to pay a certain amount from time to time into a fund.  Periodically, one of the subscribers is chosen by drawing a chit to receive the prize amount from the fund. Names for a chit fund The Act specifies various names which may be used to refer to a chit fund. These include chit, chit fund, and kuri.   The Bill additionally inserts ‘fraternity fund’ and ‘rotating savings and credit institution’ to this list. Substitution of terms The Act defines following terms in relation to chit funds.

  • ‘Chit Amount’ as the sum of subscriptions payable by all the subscribers of a chit; 
  • ‘Dividend’ as the share of the subscriber in the amount kept apart for running the chit;  
  • ‘Prize Amount’ as the difference between chit amount and the amount kept apart for running the chit.  

The Bill changes the names of these terms to‘gross chit amount’,‘share of discount’ and‘net chit amount’, respectively. Presence of subscribers through video-conferencing The Act specifies that a chit will be drawn in the presence of at least two subscribers.  The Bill seeks to allow these subscribers to join via video-conferencing. Foreman’s commission Under the Act, the ‘foreman’ is responsible for managing the chit fund. He is entitled to a maximum commission of 5% of the chit amount.   The Bill seeks to increase the commission to 7%. Further, the Bill allows the foreman a right to lien against the credit balance from subscribers. Aggregate amount of chits Under the Act, chits may be conducted by firms, associations or individuals. The Act specifies the maximum amount of chit funds which may be collected. These limits are :

  • 1 lakh rupees for chits conducted by individuals, and for every individual in a firm or association with less than four partners, and 
  • 6 lakh rupees for firms with four or more partners.  

The Bill increases these limits to 3 lakh rupees and 18 lakh rupees, respectively.   Application of the Act Currently, the Act does not apply to:

  • Any chit started before it was enacted, and
  • Any chit (or multiple chits being managed by the same foreman) where the amount is less than Rs 100

The Bill removes the limit of Rs 100, and allows the state governments to specify the base amount over which the provisions of the Act will apply.

Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India

Context: Data has been provided by the Ministry of Tourism on Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India in 2018 to Parliament.

Foreign Tourist Arrival in India, Indiathinkers

Key highlights: Bangladesh, the United States, and the United Kingdom were the top 3 countries from where foreign tourists arrived in India in 2018. Among individual states, Tamil Nadu saw the most visits by foreign tourists in 2018 — over 60 lakh in that year. Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh followed, with over 50 lakh and 37 lakh visits respectively. There is a consistent increase in overall foreign tourist arrivals as well as foreign exchange earnings over the years 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2017, arrivals from Bangladesh increased significantly to 21,56,557 from 12,80,409 in the previous year.

Himayat Mission

Context: The Jammu and Kashmir administration is working on effective implementation of Himayat Mission. Under this, 42 projects have been sanctioned for training and placement target of 68,134 youths. About the Himayat Mission Himayat is basically a placement linked skill training programme for unemployed youth of Jammu and Kashmir. This initiative of Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India is being implemented by the Himayat Mission Management Unit, J&K State Rural Livelihoods Mission (JKSRLM), Govt of J&K within the state.

Himayat Mission Indiathinkers

Himayat is under implementation in the State since 2011. The Programme was recommended by Dr. C. Rangarajan Committee report which was submitted to the Prime Minister in 2011. Under it, Youth are provided free skill training training for a duration of 3 to 12 months, in a range of skills for which there is good market demand.  At the end of the training, a job is assured to the youth are assured of a job and there is one year post-placement tracking to see how they are faring.  Recent Updates in Jammu and Kashmir

  • National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) was launched in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a pioneer scheme that was earlier launched across country by HRD Ministry on August 2019. This National Mission aims atimproving learning outcomes at Elementary levelthrough integrated Teacher Trainings.
  • A two-day regional conference on theme- ‘Replication of Good Governance Practices in Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh’ from 15-16 November 2019 in Jammu was organised by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) in collaboration with government of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. As of now DARPG has organized 31 Regional Conferences.
  • Dal Lake, J&K to be declared Eco-Sensitive Zone for the following reasons: 
    • The Encroachments and pollution has shrunk the lake from its original size of 22 square kilometers to about 10 square kilo meters (according to DCI-Dredging Corporation of India).
    • The capacity of the lake has shrunk to 40%.
    • The water quality has deteriorated due to untreated sewage water and solid waste flowing into the lake
    • Clogging in the lake has diminished circulation and has led to extensive growth of water hyacinth that has emerged as a health hazard
    • Night Soil discharge from 800 to 900 houseboats is polluting the water body
    • The depth of the lake has reduced in many places due to the absence of desilting.
  • The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Council (NEC) will set up new Bamboo Technology parks in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh Union Territories.
  • Girish Chandra Murmu sworn in as first Lieutenant Governor of J&K.
  • The 62-year-old State Legislative Council of Jammu and Kashmir has come to an end with State Administration issuing formal orders for its abolition with immediate effect. 
  • The 9.2-kilometer-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel to be renamed after Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
  • Union Cabinet has approved one-time payment of 5.5 lakh rupees as resettlement package for 5,300 displaced families which had come from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and initially settled outside Jammu and Kashmir but later relocated.
  • Union government has constituted a3-member committee chaired by Sanjay Mitra, to oversee the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)into two union territories and look intodistribution of assets and liabilitiesof J&K between two successor Union territories.
  • Indian Army has launched Mission Reach Out in Jammu to ensure basic essential services and necessities are available in region after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions and reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has announced setting up Pashmina testing centre in Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir to check the quality of pashmina collected. It will be set up in partnership with lab of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh. 

Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019

Context: An approval has been given to the proposal for enactment of Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 by the Union Cabinet along with the accession to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009.

Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019, Indiathinkers

Key Highlights of the Bill The Government of India has decided to enactRecycling of Ships Bill, 2019, to provide for the regulation of recycling of ships by setting certain international standards and laying down the statutory mechanism for enforcement of such standards. The proposed Billrestricts and prohibits the use or installation of hazardous materials, which applies irrespective of whether a ship is meant for recycling or not. Ships shall be recycled only in authorized ship recycling facilities. Ships shall be surveyed and certified on the inventory of hazardous material used in ships. However, the restriction or prohibition on use of hazardous material would not be applied to warships and non-commercial ships operated by Government. For new ships, such restriction or prohibition on use of hazardous material will be immediate, that is, from the date the legislation comes into force, while existing ships shall have a period of 5 years for compliance. It has also been decided to accede to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009. When the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) comes into force, its provisions will be implemented under the provisions of the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and rules and regulations framed there under. The Bill also provides that ships shall be recycled in accordance with a ship-specific recycling plan. Ships to be recycled in India shall be required to obtain a Ready for Recycling Certificate in accordance with the HKC. India is the leader in the global ship recycling industry, with a share of over 30% of the market. As per UNCTAD report on Review of Maritime Transport, 2018, India had demolished 6323 tonnes in 2017, of known ship scrapping across the world.  The ship-recycling industry is a labour-intensive sector, but it is susceptible to concerns on environmental safety.  About Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 Originally known as the Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, is a mulitateral convention adopted in 2009, which has not entered into force. Its major objective is to make the ship recycling industry safe for its workers and the environment. The convention was adopted in 2009 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is a specialist agency of the United Nations (U.N).  It will enter into force 2 years after “15 states, representing 40% of the world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, and on average 3% of recycling tonnage for the previous 10 years, have signed and ratified it.”

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