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September 21, 2017

Gallows for hooch deaths mooted

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has recommended capital punishment for those found guilty of causing deaths due to consumption of illicit liquor.
  • The BJP-ruled State Cabinet approved changes to the existing laws to incorporate the extreme punishment in cases of hooch deaths.
  • After Delhi and Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh will become the third state where bootleggers may be sent to the gallows if consumption of spurious liquor leads to loss of life.
  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken cognisance of hooch deaths in Etah and Farrukhabad districts last year and issued notices to the State chief secretary and the director general of police.
  • The NHRC intervened after over 30 people lost their lives in hooch tragedies in the districts.

Bound by Paris deal, says India

  • India on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to the landmark Paris climate change agreement, saying it was willing to “work above and beyond” the pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during a UN ‘Leadership Summit on Environment Pact’, said India had been at the forefront of the debate on environment and development.
  • India, which is the world’s third largest carbon polluter, reached a pact, along with more than 190 nations, in December 2015 with an aim to prevent an increase in the global average temperature and keep it well below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The deal, which replaced the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, was ratified last October.

GM mustard in for a long wait

  • Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has indicated that a decision on releasing genetically modified (GM) mustard commercially was unlikely any time soon.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s regulator for genetically modified seeds, had on May 12 this year cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in fields. Though it was cleared by scientists, the Environment Minister’s approval is required.
  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Renuka Chowdhary of the Congress, last month said that there was a paucity of studies on the impact of GM crops on human health. Should the Minister’s consent be obtained, GM mustard would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in India. It could pave the way for several other GM food crops in the country. Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11), the transgenic mustard in question, has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University under a government-funded project.

Call to wipe out modern slavery

  • On the same day that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released new global estimates of modern slavery, a group of over 40 activists and academics from different parts of the world have released a 25-point signed statement urging India to ensure a more effective implementation of labour law protections to eliminate modern slavery and forced labour in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • “A multi-pronged strategy that responds to the needs of all affected constituencies, including bonded labourers, contract workers, domestic workers, intra- and inter-state as well as international migrant workers, and sex workers is necessary in order to achieve SDG 8.7,” the statement said.
  • Observing that “the current targets and indicators proposed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation as of March 8, 2017 for the realisation of SDG 8.7 are wholly inadequate,” the statement noted that “a more robust labour governance system in the form of increased inspections and better resources for the labour inspectorate is essential for the realisation of SDG 8.7.
  • The SDG 8.7 calls for “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

Collective bargaining

  • The most effective and durable way to prevent all forms of extreme exploitation lies in the self-organisation of workers and in their efforts at collective bargaining, especially through trade unions and workers’ collectives,” the statement said
  • Expressing concerns over the proposed anti-trafficking law, the academics pointed out that “the problem of trafficking can only be addressed through a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy that strengthens the implementation of labour protections such as those guaranteed by the Constitution”.
  • Among the signatories to the statement were activists from organisations such as Aid et Action, The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Open Democracy, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and National Network of Sex Workers.

Behaviour change needed to stop open defecation: Experts

  • Sanitation experts here on Wednesday laid emphasis on bringing about a sustained behaviour change in the local communities to achieve the target of making the villages, towns and districts Open Defecation Free (ODF) in Rajasthan. The harmful impacts of open defecation on people’s health and children’s nutrition should be brought to their notice, they said.
  • UNICEF-Rajasthan chief Isabelle Bardem said that against the access of 27.3% households to sanitary toilets in 2012 in the State, 87% households had sanitary toilets built in their premises till this month. “Stopping open defecation will restore women’s dignity and protect them against harassment and sexual offences,” she said.

Will complete Chahbahar port fast, says Gadkari

  • Indicating a firm commitment, India on Wednesday declared that it would intensify work on the Iranian port of Chahbahar where it was developing facilities as part of regional connectivity plans.
  • “Chahbahar is a good opportunity for the Indian market. Top five companies of India have good presence in Iran and they are having a dialogue with their Iranian counterparts. Iranian investors are also going to benefit immensely. Our governments and investors have already started discussion to take advantage of the project. My priority is to complete the work at Chahbahar at the earliest,” Mr. Gadkari said.

A ‘Boat Lab’ to study Brahmaputra

  • The Department of Biotechnology will commission a two-tiered barge that will roughly be the size of two large conference rooms and host scientists and a full-fledged lab that will allow those on board to collect samples from various stretches of the river, perform tests on water quality and biodiversity of the wider ecosystem. The proposed vessel, now only known as the Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4), would also be linked to smaller boats and research labs, said Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan at a press conference.
  • Specifying that this wouldn’t be just a show boat, officials said there would also be ‘mobile labs’ that would run along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra to feed in data to the B4.
  • He added that a boat of this nature would be one of its kind in the world though there were a few precedents in China and mobile laboratories that studied the Amazon river.

‘Chunk of GST claims ineligible for refunds’

  • A “large part” of the Rs. 65,000 crore of transitional credit claims received by the government under the Goods and Services Tax regime are ineligible for refunds, a senior Finance Ministry official told The Hindu , adding that the investigation of all such claims is under way.
  • Firms can claim transitional credits for inputs bought and taxes paid before GST rollout. The official pointed out that even where claims were accepted, refunds would be done in a staggered manner over months, and not as a single lump sum.
  • Tax experts say that the reason behind so many ineligible claims being submitted was the constantly changing rules and deadlines relating to the form for the availing of transitional credit — the TRAN-1 form —and that the audits being conducted so far were causing undue panic among businesses since the deadline to revise the filings is still more than a month away.

ONGC discovers oil in Arabian sea

  • State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) has made a significant oil discovery to the west of its prime Mumbai High fields in the Arabian sea, a senior official said on Wednesday.
  • The discovery in the well WO-24-3 is estimated to hold an in-place reserve of about 20 million tonnes, he said. Mumbai High, India’s biggest oil field, currently produces 205,000 barrels of oil per day (just over 10 million tonnes per annum) and the new find would add to that production in less than two years time.

‘Peer-to-peer lending platforms are NBFCs’

  • Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) platforms will be treated as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and thus regulated by the RBI, the central bank said.
  • P2P lending is a form of crowd-funding used to raise loans which are paid back with interest. It can be defined as the use of an online platform that matches lenders with borrowers in order to provide unsecured loans.
  • “The Reserve Bank of India…specifies a non-banking institution that carries on ‘the business of a peer to peer lending platform’ to be an NBFC,” the RBI said in a notification.
  • As per the RBI, the business of a P2P lending platform is defined as the service of loan facilitation, via online medium or otherwise, to “the participants who have entered into an arrangement with that platform to lend on it or to avail of loan facilitation services provided by it.”