SC for panel having Nilekani to suggest reforms for holding competitive exams

The Supreme Court favored setting up of a three-member high-powered committee comprising Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of tech giant Infosys, and renowned computer scientist Vijay P Bhatkar to suggest reforms for conducting of competitive examinations fairly by government bodies.

The top court said it would not vacate the stay on the declaration of result of SSC combined graduate level (CGL) and combined higher secondary level (CHSL) examinations held in 2017, in which lakhs of students had appeared.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and Deepak Gupta, which posted the matter for hearing on January 17, asked advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, to suggest a name besides Nilekani and Bhatkar for constituting the panel.

The bench said the three-member high powered committee would suggest reforms to the government bodies, which conduct competitive examinations like the SSC, as there are several cases of questions paper leaks. Bhushan said he would suggest a name by next week.

The court asked the counsel for Centre to seek instruction on the point of cancellation of examination saying it was difficult to identify the beneficiaries of leakage of question papers. The examination papers of the SSC CGL 2017 were allegedly leaked, leading to huge protests from job seekers for several days.

Amid the protests, the SSC had recommended a CBI probe into the allegations of the paper leak.

Counsel appearing for CBI, which is investigating the question paper leak case, said that FIR has been registered and people involved have been identified, therefore there was no need to cancel the 2017 examination.

To this, the bench which was not convinced with the contention of CBI said it was not possible either identify the beneficiaries of question paper leaks or who all are innocents.

It also refused to vacate its August 31 last year order staying declaration of results of the SSC examination.

On November 13, last year the apex court had asked the CBI to submit its final report regarding the probe into the alleged leak of papers of the 2017 Staff Selection Commission (SSC) examination.

The Centre had termed the allegations of the paper leak as “bald and in general” and opposed the contention for scrapping the entire examinations.

On August 31, the apex court had stayed the declaration of result of the SSC CGL and Combined Higher Secondary Level (CHSL) Examination held in 2017, in which lakhs of students had appeared, saying it seemed that the entire test and the system were “tainted”.

The SSC is a government body which conducts examinations to recruit staff at multiple levels in various ministries and departments.

Several lakh students appear in the SSC examination each year and enter government services in Group C and D Categories of jobs once they qualify.

The SSC Combined Graduate Level exam has a four-tier system, in which tier I and tier II are computer-based, while in tier III and IV, job applicants take up a descriptive paper and a computer proficiency test or skill test.

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Releases commemorative stamp on Maharaja Suheldev

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, visited Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh today. He released a commemorative postage stamp on Maharaja Suheldev. He also laid the Foundation Stone of a Medical College in Ghazipur.

The Prime Minister recalled Maharaja Suheldev, like a brave warrior, and a hero who inspires the people. He spoke of the martial and strategic prowess and administrative skills of Maharaja Suheldev. The Prime Minister said the Union Government is determined to preserve the legacy of all those who contributed to the cause of India’s defence and security, and to its social life.

The Prime Minister said that the Union Government and the State Government in Uttar Pradesh, are both sensitive to the concerns of the people. He said the mission is to ensure a life of dignity for everyone.

The Prime Minister said that the medical college for which the Foundation Stone has been laid will provide the region with modern healthcare amenities. He said this has been a long-standing demand of the people of this region, and it shall soon become a reality. He said this is one of many important hospitals that are being set up to improve healthcare facilities in the region. In this context, he also mentioned hospitals that are coming up in Gorakhpur and Varanasi.

The Prime Minister said that healthcare is receiving this magnitude of attention from the Union Government, for the first time since independence. He mentioned the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, and treatment being offered to patients. He said that in just 100 days, over 6 lakh people had benefited from the Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana.

The Prime Minister also mentioned the insurance schemes launched by the Union Government and said 20 crore people across the country have joined the Jeevan Jyoti or Suraksha Beema schemes.

The Prime Minister mentioned several projects in the region, which are associated with agriculture. These include the International Rice Research Institute in Varanasi, cargo centres in Varanasi and Ghazipur, fertilizer plant in Gorakhpur, and Bansagar irrigation project. He said such initiatives will benefit farmers and help improve their incomes.

The Prime Minister emphasized that steps taken only for immediate political gain, do not help solve the country’s problems. He said the Union Government has fixed MSP of 22 crops based on 1.5 times the cost. He mentioned various other initiatives taken for the agriculture sector.

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ECO Niwas Samhita 2018 – an Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings launched

Implementation of this Code expected to save 125 Billion Units of electricity per year by 2030, which is equivalent to 100 million ton of CO2 emission 26 industrial units get National Energy Conservation Awards for excellent performance in energy efficiency; 19 school children win National Painting Competition Prizes

Giving a further fillip to India’s energy conservation efforts, Ministry of Power has launched the ECO Niwas Samhita 2018, an Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings (ECBC-R). The code was launched on the occasion of National Energy ConservationDay 2018 in the presence of Chief Guest Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha and Shri R.K. Singh, Minister of State (IC) for Power and New &Renewable Energy here, today.

The code was launched on National Energy Conservation Day 2018.

The aim of ECO Niwas Samhita 2018:

To benefit the occupants and the environment by promoting energy efficiency in the design and construction of homes, apartments and townships.

About the Energy Conservation Building Code:

  • It is prepared after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, consisting of architects & experts including building material suppliers and developers.
  • The parameters listed have been developed based on a large number of parameters using climate and energy-related data.
  • The code is expected to assist a large number of architects and builders who are involved in the design and construction of new residential complexes.
  • It has the potential for energy savings to the tune of 125 Billion Units of electricity per year by 2030, equivalent to about 100 million ton of Co2 emission.

National Energy Conservation Awards:

  • Ministry of Power in association with Bureau of Energy Efficiency celebrates the National Energy Conservation Day on every 14th December.
  • On this day, 26 industrial units from various sectors were given awards for their excellent performance in energy efficiency.

About Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • A statutory body under Ministry of Power created in March 2002 under the provisions of the nation’s 2001 Energy Conservation Act.
  • To implement policy and programmes in energy efficiency and conservation.

The objective of BEE

  • To reduce energy intensity in our country by optimizing energy demand and
  • To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), responsible for global warming and climate change.
  • India has committed to the reduction of 33-35% GHG emission by 2030 as part of the document submitted to UNFCCC.
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Dr Jitendra Singh moots ‘Heli-Clinics’ for remote areas

Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh, who is also a renowned Diabetologist, has mooted “Heli-Clinics” / Helicopter Clinics for remote areas, which could particularly be of great help to provide specialized medical care to people living in inaccessible hilly terrains of the States like Jammu & Kashmir and Northeast.

In the last four years, which include the opening of Dialysis Centres in every district hospital, setting up of Wellness Centres and, the launch of “Ayushman Bharat”.

The Minister emphasized the need to incentivize medical practitioners to go to remote rural areas and to provide adequately satisfactory facilities for the government doctors to be able to serve in the rural areas.

What is Ayushman Bharat?

  • Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes – Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).
  • Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empaneled hospitals across the country.
  • Ayushman Bharat will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.
  • One of the core principles of Ayushman Bharat is to co-operative federalism and flexibility to states.
  • For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
  • States would need to have State Health Agency (SHA) to implement the scheme.
  • In partnership with NITI Aayog, a robust, modular, scalable and interoperable IT platform will be made operational which will entail a paperless, cashless transaction.
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SC bans sale of BS-IV vehicles from 2020

The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned the sale and registration of motor vehicles conforming to the emission standard Bharat Stage-IV in the entire country from April 1, 2020.

It said pollution has reached an “alarming and critical” level all over India

The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time lag of five years.

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm. As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.

Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars show that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.

With other developing countries such as China have already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.

First, there are questions about the ability of oil marketing companies to quickly upgrade fuel quality from BS-III and BS-IV standards to BS-VI, which is likely to cost upwards of Rs 40,000 crore.

Second, and more challenging, is the task of getting auto firms to make the leap. Automakers have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US.

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SC declares Aadhaar constitutionally valid with caveats; both BJP, Congress claim victory

**FILE** New Delhi: In this file photo dated January 22, 2016, Rajasthani women show their Aadhaar cards while standing in a queue to vote for Ajmer District Panchayat election. The Supreme Court today declared the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions. (PTI Photo)(PTI9_26_2018_000055B) *** Local Caption ***

The Supreme Court declared the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but ruled that the biometric identity card is not mandatory for bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions. Asserting that the Aadhaar Act does not violate an individual’s right to privacy, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra paved way for the use of Aadhaar for welfare schemes in a 4 to 1 ruling.

Where Aadhaar is not needed?

  • Children cannot be denied any benefit due to not having Aadhaar. Hence, Aadhaar is not needed for school admissions.
  • Compulsory linking of mobile phone numbers to Aadhaar.
  • Aadhaar is not needed for opening a bank account and banking services.
  • CBSE, NEET, UGC cannot make Aadhaar mandatory to appear in entrance examinations.
  • No private entity can avail Aadhaar data which includes telecom companies and mobile wallets.

Where Aadhaar is mandatory?

  • Linking of PAN with Aadhaar.
  • Mandatory for the filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number.
  • Aadhaar must for availing facilities of welfare schemes and government subsidies.

Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act struck down:

  • Section 57 was used by the government to compel private companies to demand Aadhaar verification for services.
  • The Court accepted the argument that no rationale exists for this power and declared it invalid.
  • Consequently, the Court has struck downlinking of Aadhaar with mobiles and bank accounts. It has further directed that the data collected shall be deleted within six months.

What was the contention against Aadhaar before the Supreme Court?

The main questions raised during the hearing on Aadhaar were:

  • Is the Aadhaar Act, 2016, constitutionally valid given that it was passed in Parliament as a Money Bill?
  • Why does every citizen need one identity proof — a unique identification number — to acquire government benefits? Can’t this be done using other documents, like ration card or passport?
  • Does Aadhaar take away our right to privacy — upheld as a fundamental right by a nine-judge Constitution bench of the court in August last year.
  • What happens if Aadhaar data becomes a tool for mass surveillance by the state, as the movement and activities of users can be tracked by collecting metadata?

What did the government argue in favor of Aadhaar?

  • During the hearing, the government argued that Aadhaar would help weed out ghost beneficiaries of welfare schemes. The government argued that is using Aadhaar as an enabler of various facets of the right to life of teeming millions of Indian residents including their right to food, the right to livelihood, the right to receive pensions and other social assistance benefits like scholarships etc. by the genuine beneficiaries.”

On August 24, 2017, a nine-judge Bench ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, a shot in the arm for the petitioners. However, the court had also ruled that “besides national security, the State may have justifiable reasons for the collection and storage of data. In a social welfare state, the government embarks upon programmes which provide benefits to impoverished and marginalized sections of society. There is a vital State interest in ensuring that scarce public resources are not dissipated by the diversion of resources to persons who do not qualify as recipients.”

Justice B N Srikrishna report:

The Justice B N Srikrishna panel was appointed to recommend a data protection framework to the government. It submitted its recommendations in July this year. The Srikrishna data protection report highlighted individuals’ constitutional rights over their data and said efforts need to be made to protect data at any cost. It recommended steps for protection of personal information, defining obligations of data processors as also rights of individuals, and mooting penalties for violation.

Stating that Aadhaar empowers the marginalized sections of society and gave them an identity, the SC asked the Central government to introduce a robust data protection law as soon as possible.

Aadhaar will undoubtedly be a game changer for the poor and the country as a whole. Every technology has some risks. A mature society must take measures to mitigate risks and not abandon the technology.

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Every year September to be celebrated as National Nutrition Month: WCD

Every year September would be celebrated as the National Nutrition Month to mark the country’s fight against malnutrition, the Ministry of Women and Child Development

The ministry would, in the month, organize programmes to spread awareness on the issues related to malnutrition like stunting, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight in children and focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers, according to an official statement.

The decision to celebrate September as the National Nutrition Month was taken during the second meeting of National Council on Indias Nutrition Challenges under the Poshan Abhiyaan yesterday.

Under the Poshan Abhiyan, it was also decided that through the use of technology, a targeted approach and convergence would be used to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, and anemia in children.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has developed a caller tune and ringtone to popularise and create a connect with the goal of ‘Sahi Poshan Desh Roshan’, the statement said.

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Mamata lifts income ceiling for Kanyashree scheme

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that there would not be any ceiling for a family’s annual earnings to be a beneficiary under the UN award-winning Kanyashree scheme.

The state government would also be coming up with a “Kanyashree University” for girls soon.

Kanyashree is a conditional cash transfer scheme aiming at improving the status and well being of the girl child by incentivizing schooling of teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 18. It received the United Nations Public Service Award last year.

Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried. This initiative led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, the increase in female education and female empowerment.”

The UN Public Service Awards are given by the world body to institutions from across the world for their innovation and excellence in providing public services.

It highlights the pivotal role of public services in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Awards aim at discovering innovations in governance; reward excellence in the public sector; motivate public servants to further promote innovation; enhance professionalism in the public service; raise the image of public service; enhance trust in government, and collect and disseminate successful practices for possible replication.

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Integrate to Innovate Programme for energy Startups

Invest India has joined hands with energy sector companies to offer a unique lab-to-market opportunity for Indian startups through the Integrate to Innovate Programme.

Integrate to Innovate is a 3-month corporate acceleration programme for energy startups housed at the corporate premises.

The application for the programme is hosted on Startup India Hub – an online platform bringing together all stakeholders of the Indian startup ecosystem. The programme provides an opportunity for collaboration and conversation around valuable energy transitions, offering startups an opportunity to bring their ideas to life with the guidance and support from corporates.

The selected startups will receive a cash prize grant of up to ₹ 5 Lakh per startup along with an opportunity to pilot their product with corporates. The corporates would offer them access to technology, technical and commercial mentorship and access to potential customers through the corporate network of partners.

Entries are invited from innovators across various stages of the energy life-cycle—generation, transmission and distribution, storage and consumption—in multiple sectors such as households, farm, industry, infrastructure, building, utility and transport. The winners will be assessed on select parameters such as the breakthrough nature of the innovation, business viability and scalability potential.

In these categories specific areas of interest for the Integrate to Innovate programme include:

Household

  • Home Automation
  • E-commerce marketplaces for smart home products and installer/support services
  • Rooftop solar & home energy storage

Transport

  • EV and EV infrastructure
  • Gas powered trucks

Farm

  • Waste to Value
  • Infrastructure

Renewables

  • Grid and micro-grids
  • Storage battery
  • Sensors, drones, data analytics, workforce mobility
  • Cybersecurity

Utility

  • Metering, Billing & Customer analytics
  • Demand response & distributed energy resource management systems
  • Transactive energy, blockchain based energy trading and energy marketplaces

Building

  • Energy efficiency and cooling
  • B2B e-markets
  • Automation efficiency
  • Predictive asset management (IoT and AI)
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Prosecution under Benami Act stuck

The prosecution of accused persons in almost 100confirmed cases instituted under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act has scuttled as the Special Courts meant for the purpose have not yet been set up across the country.

Assets worth more than ₹5,000 crore have been attached by the Income-Tax Department under the law.

The Act provides that the Central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the respective High Courts, will establish special courts through notification. Such courts are to be constituted to ensure that the trials are conducted “as expeditiously as possible”.

However, the required special courts have not been set up yet. Therefore, despite the fact that investigations in almost 100 cases have been completed by the I-T Department in different States, including confirmation of attachment of properties by the Adjudicating Authority, the prosecution of accused persons has not started.

The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, designed to curb black money and passed by parliament in August, came into effect on November 1, 2016. The new law amends the 1988 Benami Transactions Act.

Highlights of the Act:

The law provides for up to seven years’ imprisonment and fine for those indulging in such transactions.

The law prohibits recovery of the property held benami from benamdar by the real owner. As per the Act, properties held benami are liable for confiscation by the government, without payment of compensation.

An appellate mechanism has been provided under the act, in the form of an adjudicating authority and appellate tribunal. According to the government, the four authorities who will conduct inquiries or investigations are the Initiating Officer, Approving Authority, Administrator and Adjudicating Authority.

A benami transaction is one where a property is held by one person and the amount for it is paid by another person. Therefore, in a benami transaction, the name of the person who paid the money is not mentioned. Directly or indirectly, the benami transaction is done to benefit the one who pays.

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