Current Affairs, 11 October 2018
G.S Paper 2:
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Competition Commission of India
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: CCI- features, composition, functions and significance, Key features of the Competition Act.
Context: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has amended the Combination Regulations. This amendment inter alia provide certainty & transparency and expedites faster disposal of combination cases before CCI.
The provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 (“Act”) relating to the regulation of combinations as well as the Combination Regulations have been in force with effect from 1st June 2011.
- A key change brought about by the present amendments is that the parties to combinations can now submit remedies voluntarily in response to the notice issued under Section 29(1) of the Act. If such remedies are considered sufficient to address the perceived competition harm, the combination can be approved. This amendment is expected to expedite disposal of such combination cases.
- In another significant amendment, where the notice is found to exhibit significant information gaps, parties to combinations are allowed to withdraw the notice and refile the same. With this amendment, the parties could address the deficiencies without facing an invalidation by CCI. Further, fee already paid in respect of such notice shall be adjusted against the fee payable in respect of new notice, if the refiling is done within a period of 3 months.
- Apart from these, certain consequential and other clarificatory changes have also been made in the Combination Regulations.
About Competition Commission Of India:
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) was established under the Competition Act, 2002 for the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Act, and was duly constituted in March 2009. Chairman and members are appointed by the central government.
The following are the objectives of the Commission:
- To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition.
- To promote and sustain competition in markets.
- To protect the interests of consumers.
- To ensure freedom of trade.
Functions of the commission:
- It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
- The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
The Competition Act:
The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET)
What to study?
- For Prelims: All about NSDA, NCVT and NCVET.
- For Mains: Significance and the need for merger to fill the Skills gap in the country.
Context: The Union Cabinet has approved the merger of the existing regulatory institutions in the skills space – National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) and the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) into the National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET).
NCVET will regulate the functioning of entities engaged in vocational education and training, both long-term and short-term and establish minimum standards for the functioning of such entities. The primary functions of NCVET will include:
- Recognition and regulation of awarding bodies, assessment bodies and skill related information providers.
- Approval of qualifications developed by awarding bodies and Sector Skill Councils (SSCs).
- Indirect regulation of vocational training institutes through awarding bodies and assessment agencies.
- Research and information dissemination.
- Grievance redressal.
The Council would be headed by a Chairperson and will have Executive and Non-Executive Members.
- This institutional reform will lead to improvement in quality and market relevance of skill development programs lending credibility to vocational education and training encouraging greater private investment and employer participation in the skills space.
- This in turn will help achieve the twin objectives of enhancing aspirational value of vocational education and of increasing skilled manpower furthering the Prime Minister’s agenda of making India the skill capital of the world.
- Being a regulator of India’s skill ecosystem, NCVET will have a positive impact on each individual who is a part of vocational education and training in the country. The idea of skill-based education will be seen in a more inspirational manner which would further encourage students to apply for skill-based educational courses.
- This is also expected to facilitate the ease of doing business by providing a steady supply of skilled workforce to the industry and services.
A need was felt for an overarching regulatory authority which could tend to all aspects of short-term and long-term skill-based training. In view of this, NCVET is envisaged as an institution which will perform the regulatory functions so far vested in NCVT and NSDA. Regulatory functions currently being carried out by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) will also be housed in the NCVET.
Facts for Prelims:
The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. It coordinates and harmonizes the skill development efforts of the Indian government and the private sector to achieve the skilling targets of the 12th Plan document and beyond.
The NSDA’s role is also to anchor the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and facilitate the setting up of professional certifying bodies in addition to the existing ones.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
International Court of Arbitration
What to study?
- For Prelims: About ICC- its functions, role and composition.
- For Mains: Alternative Dispute Resolution- Need, significance and challenges.
Context: The NITI Aayog and ICC International Court of Arbitration had recently organised a Workshop on Best Practices in International Arbitration in New Delhi.
- The workshop is part of on-going efforts to institutionalize and streamline dispute resolution to make India a hub for doing business. It encourages and highlights the need for understanding and implementing arbitration across the spectrum of commercial contracts.
Efforts by Government of India in this regard- Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018:
The Lok Sabha has passed the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018. It will amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The Act contains provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration, and defines the law for conducting conciliation proceedings.
What is Arbitration?
- Arbitration is a settlement of dispute between two parties to a contract by a neutral third party i.e. the arbitrator without resorting to court action. The process can be tailored to suit parties’ particular needs.
- Arbitrators can be chosen for their expertise. It is confidential and can be speedier and cheaper than court. There are limited grounds of appeal. Arbitral awards are binding and enforceable through courts.
Moving towards a New India in 2022, ensuring legal reform is a key and critical priority. Complementing ‘Make in India’ vision with ‘Resolve in India’, strong alternate dispute resolution mechanisms are important levers in encouraging the Ease of Doing Business and Ease of Living in India.
Facts for Prelims:
The International Court of Arbitration is a branch of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and one of the world’s leading institutions for providing international arbitration services. The International Court of Arbitration is known for resolving international commercial and business disputes, administering more than half of all arbitration disputes worldwide. The ICC seat is located in Paris.
The International Chamber of Commerce is an international business organization with hundreds of thousands of member companies in over 130 countries spanning virtually every sector of private enterprise.
Topic: Infrastructure- waterways.
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about IWAI, about Majuli Island and need for its protection.
Context: Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will be starting a new Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) facility in collaboration with the Government of Assam to provide the much-needed connectivity for Majuli Island.
This Ro-Ro facility will cut down the circuitous road route of 423 KMs that trucks take from Neamati to Majuli Island via Tezpur Road Bridge, by limiting the distance to only 12.7 KM with the use of river route.
About Majuli Island:
- Majuli is the first island district of the country. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north. Majuli is the nerve centre of neo-Vaishnavite.
- Majuli Island was also declared the largest river island in the world, toppling Marajo in Brazil, by Guinness World Records in 2016.
Know about IWAI:
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
‘Minimum river flows’ for the Ganga
What to study?
- For Prelims: Specified limits and the in- charge authority.
- For Mains: Ganga river conservation- efforts, concerns, challenges and interventions.
Context: In a first, the National Mission for Clean Ganga has mandated the minimum quantity of water — or ecological flow — that various stretches of the Ganga must necessarily have all through the year.
The new norms would require hydropower projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance. Power projects that don’t meet these norms as yet would be given three years to comply and “mini and micro projects” would be exempt from these requirements.
- The upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
- For the main stem of the Ganga — from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao, Uttar Pradesh — the notification specifies minimum flow at various barrages: Bhimgoda (Haridwar) must ensure a minimum of 36 cubic metres per second (cumecs) between October-May, and 57 cumecs in the monsoon; and the barrages at Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur must maintain a minimum of 24 cumecs in the non-monsoon months of October-May, and 48 cumecs during the monsoon months of June-September.
The Central Water Commission would be the designated authority to collect relevant data and submit flow monitoring-cum-compliance reports on a quarterly basis to the NMCG, according to the notification.
The notification is issued in the backdrop of ongoing ‘fast unto death’ by environmentalist and former IIT Kanpur faculty member GD Agarwal at Haridwar on issue of Ganga conservation. The 87-year-old Agrawal has been observing hunger strike since June 22 for pollution free and uninterrupted flow in the Ganga.
Facts for Prelims:
About CWC: Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
Functions: The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development. It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
National Environment Survey (NES)
What to study?
For Prelims: All about NES, its need and significance.
Context: India’s first ever National Environment Survey (NES) will be launched in January, 2019 to map environment data of 55 districts across 24 states and 3 Union Territories.
What it does? The NES will rank all districts on their environmental performance and document their best green practices based on various environmental parameters.
How? The first NES will be carried out by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) through Environmental Information System (ENVIS) and its hubs and resource partners across the country. It will be done through grid-based approach, using grids measuring 9×9 km to collect comprehensive data on various environmental parameters.
The parameters include air, water, soil quality; solid, hazardous and e-waste; emission inventory; forest & wildlife; flora & fauna; wetlands, lakes, rivers and other water bodies. It will also assess carbon sequestration potential of all the districts across the country.
The green data from this survey will provide important tool in hands of policy-makers for decision making at all levels – district, state and national. The survey will fully map and create emission inventory, provide valuation of ecosystem services and collate research in the field of environment. Initially the survey will be focusing on 55 districts and later will be scaled up to all districts in the country. The skilled manpower required for the survey will be provided from persons skilled and trained under MoEFCC’s Green Skill Development Programme.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Citizenship status of Gorkhas living in Assam
What to study?
- For Prelims: All about NRC and Geographical location of Assam.
- For Mains: Issues associated with NRC and Gorkhas.
Context: Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a clarification to the Government of Assam on the citizenship status of members of the Gorkha Community living in the State as per the Foreigners Act, 1946.
What’s the issue?
Recently, some cases of members of Gorkha community living in Assam were referred to the Foreigners Tribunals. Following this, a representation from the All Assam Gorkha Students’ had approached the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh to solve the issue.
Directions by the Centre:
In a communication to the Government of Assam, MHA has listed various provisions to obviate the difficulties faced by Gorkhas in the matter of Indian citizenship. These include:
- The members of the Gorkha community who were Indian citizens at the time of commencement of the Constitution, or those who are Indian citizens by birth, or those who have acquired Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization in accordance with the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 are not “foreigners” in terms of section 2 (a) of The Foreigners Act,1946 as well as The Registration of Foreigners Act,1939, therefore, such cases will not be referred to the Foreigners Tribunals.
- Any member of the Gorkha community holding Nepalese nationality and who has arrived in India by land or air over the Nepal border even without a passport or visa and staying in India for any length of time shall not be treated as an illegal migrant if he/she is in possession of any of the identity documents namely the Nepalese Passport, Nepalese Citizenship Certificate, voter Identification card issued by the Election Commission of Nepal, limited validity photo-identity certificate issued by Nepalese Mission in India when deemed necessary and for children between age group of 10-18 years, photo ID issued by the principal of the school, if accompanied by parents having valid travel documents.
- No such document is required for children below the age group of 10 years, the communication added citing provisions of India-Nepal Treaty signed in 1950.
Exempt from Foreigner Tribunals:
- The cases of members of Gorkha community falling within the parameters shall not be referred to the Foreigner Tribunals for opinion as to whether the person is a “foreigner” within the meaning of The Foreigners Act, 1946.
- Only those individuals, who have come from specified territories i.e. territories included in Bangladesh immediately before commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985, to the State of Assam, and are not Indian citizens, can be referred to the Foreigners tribunals.
What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
The NRC was introduced to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and recognise the Indian citizens in Assam. It was first prepared in 1951 and Assam is the only state having this arrangement.
Facts for Prelims:
Wing Loong II:
What is it? It is a high-end reconnaissance, strike and multi-role endurance unmanned aerial system, capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons. It is designed for both reconnaissance and strike missions.
Why in News? China has agreed to sell 48 Wing Loong II high-end armed drones to Pakistan.
Editorial: Power politics at play
The Central government has proposed a set of changes to the Electricity Act 2003. In the revised proposal, the Ministry of Power has included ample provisions for renewable energy generation and distribution.
The amendments seek to enable a market transformation in electricity. The link between political power and electrical power is widely known; promises around electricity access, price and quality are important political currency.
The Electricity (Amendment) Act 2018:
- Direct Benefit Transfer of Subsidy: Breaking the cycle of subsidy and losses incurred by the DISCOMS, the Act has introduced DBT in electricity as well.
The Act says: If the State Government or Central Government desires the grant of any subsidy to any consumer or class of consumers, such subsidy shall be directly transferred to the beneficiary by direct benefit transfer into the bank account of the beneficiary.” The same will apply if subsidy is given through any government scheme as well.
- Separation of content & carriage: The long-pending demand to separate the infrastructure builder for power distribution to consumers and the licensee to supply has been introduced in the Act.
This would entail more than one electricity supplier in an area and consumer will have options to choose their preferred electricity supplier.
Allied to it is introduction of time of the day tariff power rate as per the energy source, season, time and demand.
- Honourable mention to renewable energy: Since 2013, the renewable capacity in the country has grown more than 80 per cent currently standing at 70,000 MW.
The draft Act has introduced Renewable Purchase Obligation and also defined penalty for defaulting on it.
The Act also aims to introduce one member from the ministry of new & renewable energy in the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, in place of a representative of department of consumer affairs.
- Getting smarter: The Electricity Act for the first time has mentioned Smart Meter and Prepaid Meters and regulations related to the same, making it mandatory to install smart meter. This would help proper accounting of power consumption and wastage.
- 24*7 Power supply is an obligation: The draft amendments propose that 24X7 power supply is an obligation and the state electricity regulatory commission can penalise the power distribution company (DISCOMS), if it fails to do so.
The Commission can suspend or revoke the license of the DISCOMS as well, which has been mandated for the first time.
- Violation of PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) to be penalised: The Act said that, “Violation of PPA will lead to penalties which may be as determined by the Appropriate Commission which may be fines which may extend to Rupees One crore per day, and, in case of licensees may also extend to suspension and cancellation of licence.”
This comes as a major relief for power generators which lately have been facing brunt of states cancelling PPA citing high cost or lack of funds.
- Competition and choice are the Need of the hour in proposed Amendment:
Bringing in competition and choice in supply for the final consumer has long been an aim of electricity reformand remains central to these amendments.
The idea is that while a single public utility will run the wires through which electricity flows, multiple supply licensees (both public and private) will be allowed to compete for consumers.
The intent is that the discipline of competing for customers will lead to improved supply and lower bills.
- Subsidy Collective Responsibility of States and The Centre:
Till now, it is only the responsibility of each State. The Centre, in future may have access to enhanced tax revenues, because it stands to gain from additional tax revenue from profitable new wires companies and private suppliers.
The Centre could become a new fulcrum of redistribution from wealthy areas in wealthy States, to the needy customers that are concentrated in a few States.
- More Power to The Centre:
Fiscal strategy of allowing redistribution across States provides greater control. It limits the States’ and regional political parties’ capability to make electoral use of electricity pricing.
The politics of power prices will shift from sub-national to national electoral politics. It proposes a re-formulation of the selection committee for State regulators, from a majority of State representatives to a majority of Central representatives.
More oversight on capacity addition, through the requirement of detailed project report to the Central Electricity Authority.
The States are poor in several aspects, but, these proposals tantamount to shifting the responsibility to the Centre instead of reforming the States.
India’s electricity sector remains beset with problems. Yet, the amendments leave quite unclear what happens to those left behind by distribution reforms and by efforts to help out generators.
But the amendments risk placing the cost of disruption on the backs of the poorest, and shifts the potential for ameliorative measures to the hands of the Centre, rather than the States.
In the proposal it is also mentioned that the central government will, after consultation with the state governments, prepare and notify a national policy for harnessing solar power and other forms of renewable energy to ensure electricity to un-electrified rural households and permitting standalone systems.
The Ministry of Power (MoP) has come up with an ambitious plan to deliver 24×7 power for all by 2019 by creating an efficient, resilient and financially sustainable power sector.
This objective, along with clean energy access have become the centre of all plans around economic development and environment.
Disruptive change in Indian electricity may be needed, even inevitable.