Common Service Centres
- The network of Common Service Centres (CSC) is set to be expanded to 2.50 lakh gram panchayats soon.
- CSC acts as access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India.
- Common Services Centers (CSC) scheme is one of the mission mode projects under the Digital India Program.
- CSCs are the access points for delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, apart from host of B2C services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country.
- The regular CSC services are banking, health, education, financial services, and a host of other services.
- In addition, the CSC model has adopted six villages in the country in the pilot phase and they are called as Digital villages.
- DigiGaon or Digital Village is conceptualized as a connected village where citizens can avail various e-Services of the Central Government, state Governments and private players in rural and remote villages in the country.
- DigiGaons are projected to be change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods through community participation and collective action.
- The digital villages have been equipped with solar lighting facility in their community center, LED assembly unit, sanitary napkin unit (with active participation on Asha and Anganwadi workers) and Wi-Fi choupal (rural Wi-Fi infrastructure and a slew of suitable applications).
- Recently, the presence of Nipah virus was confirmed in Kerala.
- Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans.
- The natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.
- NiV was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998.
- NiV infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis.
- NiV is also capable of causing disease in pigs and other domestic animals.
- There is no vaccine for either humans or animals.
- The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.
Watch video on Nipah Virus below
- The Himalayan trillium is a common herb of the Himalayas.
- It is a natural source of steroidal saponins which are important components of steroidal drugs
- It could soon go locally extinct in many parts of its range in India due to its excessive harvest.
- It is found across India, Bhutan, Nepal and China.
- Increased demands over the last decade have made its illegal collection from the wild a rather lucrative business in India.
- Mature plants (which can live to 30 years or more) usually produce only one flower per year and vegetative reproduction through tubers occurs only in very old plants.
Kishanganga Hydropower Station
- Prime Minister of India inaugurated Kishanganga hydroelectric power plant in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The 330 megawatt Kishanganga hydropower station work was started in 2009.
- It is built on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum.
- It is one of the projects that India has fast-tracked in the volatile state amid frosty ties between the nuclear-armed countries.
- The Kishanganga project was delayed for several years as Pakistan dragged India to the International Court of Arbitration, which ruled in India’s favor in 2013.
- The prohect will provide 13% free power to Jammu and Kashmir including 1% for local area development fund amounting to around Rs133 crore per year.
- The historic order by Supreme court in this case in a way put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions.
- The verdict concluded that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute.
- The verdict also categorically ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day.
- Also the majority of the government will not be based upon the subjective opinion of the Governor, who is often referred to as the agent of the Central government.
- S.R. Bommai was the Chief Minister of the Janata Dal government in Karnataka between 1988 and 1989.
- His government was dismissed under Article 356 of the Constitution and President’s Rule was imposed.
- Bommai went to court against the Governor’s decision to recommend President’s Rule and as a result Supreme court issued the verdict to tackle the arbitrary use of power under article 356 of the constitution.
Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
Sadharan Brahmo Samaj (SBS), the party funded by Rabindranath Tagore’s father in the initial years, has entered into a legal battle with the West Bengal State government over its decision to dissolve the governing bodies of eight colleges in Kolkata run by the organisation.
The governing bodies of the eight colleges were dissolved following the decision of the State’s Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education Department to not to grant the SBS the status of a minority religion. The order argued that since SBS is not a “separate minority religion”, the related colleges administered by it should be treated as “non-minority Government-aided Colleges.”
About Sadharan Brahmo Samaj:
- The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj was formed in May 1878. Mr. Anandamohan Bose was appointed the first President Mr. Shib Chandra Deb the first Secretary and Mr. Umesh Chandra Dutta the Assistant Secretary. It was formed as a result of schisms in the Brahmo Samaj.
- Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore was actively involved with the organisation.
- The Samaj had faith in a Supreme Being and believed that existence after Death is natural to man. It regarded the relation between God and men to be direct and immediate. It did not believe in the infallibility of any man or any scripture.
Advance rulings (AAR)
The GST council has asked the Centre and states to expedite setting up of appellate authorities for aggrieved entities to appeal against orders of the authority for advance rulings (AAR).
With AARs in different states started giving rulings since March, it has become imperative for the Centre as well as states to set up the appellate authority for advance ruling (AAAR). So far only 12 states, including West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, have issued notifications for setting up AAARs. However, these have not become operational as the members have not yet been appointed.
- As per the state GST law, the appellate authority will have two members – the chief commissioner of central tax as designated by CBIC and the commissioner of state tax.
- The appellate authority has been mandated to pass order within 90 days of the filing of appeal.
- Under the GST (goods and services tax) law, an aggrieved party can file an appeal against the order of the authority for advance rulings within 30 days, which may be further extended by a month.
What is an Advance Ruling?
“Advance ruling” means a decision provided by the Authority or the Appellate Authority to an applicant on matters or on questions specified in sub-section (2) of section 97 or subsection (1) of section 100 of the CGST Act, 2017, in relation to the supply of goods or services or both being undertaken or proposed to be undertaken by the applicant.
The broad objectives for setting up a mechanism of Advance Ruling are:
- Provide certainty in tax liability in advance in relation to an activity proposed to be undertaken by the applicant.
- Attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
- Reduce litigation.
- Pronounce ruling expeditiously in a transparent and inexpensive manner.
‘Authority for advance ruling’ (AAR) and ‘Appellate authority for advance ruling’ (AAAR):
- The Authority for advance ruling constituted under the provisions of State Goods and Services Tax Act or Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Act shall be deemed to be the Authority for advance ruling in respect of that State or Union territory under the CGST Act, 2017 also.
- The Appellate Authority for Advance Ruling constituted under the provisions of a State Goods and Services Tax Act or a Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Act shall be deemed to be the Appellate Authority in respect of that State or Union territory under the CGST Act, 2017 also.
- Thus it can be seen that both the Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) & the Appellate Authority for Advance Ruling (AAAR) is constituted under the respective State/Union Territory Act and not the Central Act. This would mean that the ruling given by the AAR & AAAR will be applicable only within the jurisdiction of the concerned state or union territory. It is also for this reason that questions on determination of place of supply cannot be raised with the AAR or AAAR.
Before giving the ruling, AAR must hear the applicant or his authorised representative as well as the jurisdictional officers of CGST/SGST.
If there is a difference of opinion between the two members of AAR, they shall refer the point or points on which they differ to the AAAR for hearing the issue. If the members of AAAR are also unable to come to a common conclusion in regard to the point(s) referred to them by AAR, then it shall be deemed that no advance ruling can be given in respect of the question on which difference persists at the level of AAAR.
Pakistan’s top civil and military leaders have decided to give greater administrative and financial authority to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Where is Gilgit Baltistan located?
- It is located in the northern Pakistan. It borders China in the North, Afghanistan in the west, Tajikistan in the north west and Kashmir in the south east. Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan. It has a regional Assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
- Gilgit-Baltistan shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and India considers it as part of the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan sees it as a separate from PoK. The USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) also passes through this region.
- Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan.
India has termed as “entirely unacceptable” any possible attempt by Pakistan to declare the Gilgit-Baltistan region, bordering the disputed Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as the fifth province.
Permanent Residency Status scheme
Recent report by the government shows that even after two years after it was launched, the Permanent Residency Status (PRS) scheme providing a host of facilities for foreigners who invest at least ₹10 crore under the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) route has not found a single applicant.
Features of the PRS scheme:
- Under the Scheme, suitable provisions will be incorporated in the Visa Manual to provide for the grant of PRS to foreign investors.
- The PRS will be granted for a period of 10 years with multiple entry. This can be reviewed for another 10 years if the PRS holder has not come to adverse notice.
- PRS will serve as a multiple entry visa without any stay stipulation and PRS holders will be exempted from the registration requirements.
- PRS holders will be allowed to purchase one residential property for dwelling purpose.
- The spouse/ dependents of the PRS holder will be allowed to take up employment in private sector (in relaxation to salary stipulations for Employment Visa) and undertake studies in India.
The scheme will be applicable only to foreign investors fulfilling the prescribed eligibility conditions, his/her spouse and dependents. These include:
- The foreign investor will have to invest a minimum of Rs. 10 crores to be brought within 18 months or Rs.25 crores to be brought within 36 months.
- Further, the foreign investment should result in generating employment to at least 20 resident Indians every financial year.
ToneTag, a Bengaluru-based financial technology company, is set to introduce sound-based data transfer technology named Tonetag.
What is Tonetag technology?
ToneTag is a technology which is a communication protocol that will enable data transfer using sound waves. It is not hardware dependent and works with the devices that do not have a microphone or speaker.
Significance of the technology:
ToneTag sound-wave communication platform enables highly secure proximity payments, customer engagement services and on-the-go mobility solutions. The approach in this technology makes the entire process device agnostic and completely frictionless, making the user experience intuitive and highly adaptable.
Global action to protect bees
On the occasion of World Bee Day celebrated on May 20th, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the European Union have called for global action to protect pollinators, and bees in particular, which are crucial for ensuring food security.
World Bee Day:
To underline the importance of the issue, and following a Slovenian proposal, the UN has named May 20 as World Bee Day, as it marked the birthday of Anton Jansa (1734-1773), a Slovenian pioneer in modern beekeeping.
- Pollinators, such as bees, birds, bats, butterflies and beetles are responsible for most of the crops and food that we eat. However, the UN has warned that 40% of invertebrate pollinators—particularly bees and butterflies—risk global extinction.
- The absence of an appropriate habitat for bees could lead to a continuous decline in pollination. Mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change all pose problems for bee populations and, by extension, the quality of food we grow.
- Declining pollination also poses an immediate threat to nutrition. If this trend continues, nutritious crops such as fruits, nuts, and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.
Importance of Pollinators:
- Most of our staple food crops such as wheat, rice, sorghum, barley and maize do not require animals for their pollination. However, wild pollinators play a very important role in the production of other crops such as some pulses, sunflower seeds, cardamom, coffee, cashew nuts, oranges, mangoes and apples.
- Pollinators also provide a key ecosystem service vital to the maintenance of both wild and agricultural plant communities.
- Besides, the annual economic value of the crops pollinated by animals worldwide is estimated to be between $235 billion and $577 billion (in 2015).
- Declines in the health and population of pollinators pose what could be a significant threat to the integrity of biodiversity, to global food webs, and to human health. At least 80% of our world’s crop species require pollination to set seed.
Protection measures for farmers and governments:
Recommended practices for farmers to create a good habitat for bees to ensure pollination include:
- Leaving some areas under natural habitat.
- Creating hedgerows.
- Reducing or changing the usage of pesticides.
- Leaving nesting sites.
- Planting attractive crops around the field.
- On a policy level, a more diverse agriculture and less dependency on toxic chemicals to facilitate an increase in pollination, leading to improved food quality and a surge in food quantity are encouraged.
NHAI has said that the Banihal-Qazigund tunnel will be operational by next year.
About the tunnel:
- It is a 8.45 km road tunnel in the Pir Panjal range in Jammu and Kashmir connecting Banihal and Qazigund.
- It is a double tube tunnel consisting of two parallel tunnels – one for each direction of travel.
- It is 400 m lower than the existing Jawahar tunnel’s elevation, which would make it less prone to avalanches.
India to host World Environment Day 2018
India is the global host of 2018 World Environment Day which will take place on June 5, 2018.
Theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
Background: World Environment Day is a UN Environment-led global event, the single largest celebration of our environment each year, which takes place on June 5 and is celebrated by thousands of communities worldwide. Since it began in 1972, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated across the globe.
The Everest industry is suffering from a dangerous shortage of its most important resource: experienced Sherpa guides.
Who are Sherpas?
- Sherpas are the people living in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas who support climbing teams as porters, guides, rope-fixers, cooks and cleaners.
- Sherpas have been helping Everest climbers since the first British teams set their sights on the summit in the 1920s.
- Their unique physiology, adapted over thousands of years of living at high altitudes, has made them essential since. A recent British study found that Sherpas use oxygen more efficiently than lowlanders.
- Regions with significant Sherpa populations: Nepal, China (Tibet), Bhutan and India.