Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015

The Union Cabinet recently gave its approval to introduce a new Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015. The new Bill will provide legislative framework for following new provisions other than the provisions in the existing Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which is proposed to be repealed:

Important provisions in of the Bill:

  • It seeks to establish the Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
  • The Bureau will perform its functions through a Governing Council, which will consist of its President and other members.
  • It seeks to include goods, services and systems, besides articles and processes under the standardization regime;
  • It enables the Government to bring under the mandatory certification regime such article, process or service which it considers necessary from the point of view of health, safety, environment, prevention of deceptive practices, security etc. This will help consumers receive ISI certified products and will also help in prevention of import of sub-standard products;
  • It seeks to allow multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes including Self Declaration Of Conformity (SDOC) against any standard which will give multiple simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to standards and get a certificate of conformity, thus improving the “ease of doing business”;
  • It seeks to enable the Central Government to appoint any authority, in addition to the Bureau of Indian Standards, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity;
  • It also seeks to enable the Government to implement mandatory hallmarking of precious metal articles;
  • It seeks to repeal the BIS Act, 1986.

Benefits:

  • The proposed provisions in the new Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015 will empower the Central Government and the Bureau of Indian Standards to promote a culture of quality of products and services through mandatory/voluntary compliance with Indian standards through the process of ‘product certification’ and ‘Certificate of Conformity’ with a broad objective of consumer’s welfare.
  • It is also expected to improve enforcement of Indian standards.
  • The proposed provisions will also promote harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and services.

Sources: PIB.

Govt. plans 20 million houses for urban poor

The Union Cabinet recently approved the launch of the “Housing for All by 2022” programme for the rehabilitation of slum-dwellers and promotion of affordable housing for the urban poor. The target is to provide nearly 20 million houses over seven years.

The components of the scheme are as follows:

  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource;
  • Promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy;
  • Affordable housing in partnership with Public & Private sectors and
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.

Details of the scheme:

  • Central grant of Rs. one lakh per house, on an average, will be available under the slum rehabilitation programme. A State Government would have flexibility in deploying this slum rehabilitation grant to any slum rehabilitation project taken for development using land as a resource for providing houses to slum dwellers.
  • The scheme will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme except the credit linked subsidy component, which will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme.
  • The Mission also prescribes certain mandatory reforms for easing up the urban land market for housing, to make adequate urban land available for affordable housing. Houses constructed under the mission would be allotted in the name of the female head of the households or in the joint name of the male head of the household and his wife.
  • A Technology Sub-mission under the Mission would be set up to facilitate adoption of modern, innovative and green technologies and building material for faster and quality construction of houses. The Technology Sub-Mission will also facilitate preparation and adoption of layout designs and building plans suitable for various geo-climatic zones. It will also assist States/Cities in deploying disaster resistant and environment friendly technologies.
  • The Technology Sub-Mission will coordinate with various regulatory and administrative bodies for mainstreaming and up scaling deployment of modern construction technologies and material in place of conventional construction. The Technology Sub-Mission will also coordinate with other agencies working in green and energy efficient technologies, climate change etc.
  • In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the Mission will provide flexibility to States for choosing best options to meet the demand of housing in their states.
  • The process of project formulation and approval in accordance with Mission Guidelines would be left to the States, so that projects can be formulated, approved and implemented faster. The Mission will provide technical and financial support in accordance to the Guidelines to the States to meet the challenge of urban housing.
  • The Mission will compile best practices in terms of affordable housing policies of the States/UTs designs and technologies adopted by States and Cities with an objective to spread best practices across States and cities and foster cross learning.
  • The Mission will also develop a virtual platform to obtain suggestions and inputs on house design, materials, technologies and other elements of urban housing.

Sources: PIB.

World’s thinnest light bulb created

Researchers have created the world’s thinnest light bulb using graphene (an atomically thin and perfectly crystalline form of carbon) instead of tungsten as a filament.

  • Led by Young Duck Kim, a postdoctoral research scientist in James Hone’s group at Columbia University School of Engineering, a team of scientists from Columbia, Seoul National University, and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science have made it possible.

About the Bulb:

  • The bulb uses Graphene as a filament. When an electric current runs through the filament, it heats up enough to emit light.
  • This graphene light is low cost with a relatively simple structure.
  • The visible light from atomically thin graphene is so intense that it is visible even to the naked eye, without any additional magnification.
  • It can be used as ‘broadband’ light emitter and can be integrated into chips. This will pave the way towards the realisation of atomically thin, flexible and transparent displays and graphene-based on chip optical communications.

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon and is famous for being stronger than steel and more conductive than copper.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Bonus for lentils, higher MSP for paddy

To boost production of pulses during the kharif season, the Centre recently announced a bonus of Rs. 200 a quintal on the revised minimum support price for tur, moong and urad dal (lentils) for the marketing season of 2015-16.

  • The minimum support price for paddy was increased by Rs. 50 a quintal for the kharif marketing season of the financial year.

Minimum Support Price (MSP):

  • The Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme is a scheme of the Government of India (GOI) to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
  • Government fixes MSPs of various kharif and rabi crops every year on the recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP.
  • Under this Scheme the government declares the minimum support Prices of various agricultural produces and assures the farmers that their agricultural produce will be purchased at the MSP, thereby preventing its distress sale.
  • Procurement under MSP is undertaken by the designated Central and State Government agencies and Cooperatives.
  • MSP is in the nature of minimum price offered by the Government. Producers have the option to sell their produce to Government agencies or in the open market as is advantageous to them.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

Two panels to facilitate rollout

Union Finance Minister has approved the formation of two committees to facilitate the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from next April.

About the Committees:

  • A steering committee, chaired by the Additional Secretary, Department of Revenue, and the Member Secretary of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, will monitor the setting up of IT infrastructure for the GST network, the Central Board of Excise and Customs and other tax authorities. The committee will monitor the progress of consultations with stakeholders such as trade and industry and the training of officers.
  • The other committee, chaired by Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, will recommend possible tax rates under the GST that would be consistent with the present level of revenue collected by the Centre and the States. While making recommendations, the committee will take into account the expected levels of economic growth, the different levels of compliance, and the broadening of the tax base. The panel would assess the sector- and State-wise impact of the GST on the economy.

Issues that could potentially delay the rollout of GST include:

  • The States have been demanding that the Centre compensate them fully for any revenue loss due to the implementation of the GST for five years. But, the Centre has agreed to full compensation for three years, 75% compensation in the fourth year and 50% in the fifth year.
  • States are demanding that they should be allowed to levy an additional sales tax on tobacco and tobacco products.
  • Some States have favoured abolition of the entry tax, while others have demanded that purchase tax not be merged with the GST.

Sources: The Hindu.

Charles Correa

Noted Indian architect, Charles Correa recently passed away.

Charles Correa:

  • He was an architect, an urban planner, an activist and a theoretician.
  • He was chiefly responsible for the planning of township of Navi Mumbai in the 1970s, and in 1984 he established Mumbai’s Urban Design Research Institute, providing a forum for interaction between architects, urban designers and other professionals.
  • He was named “India’s greatest architect” the same year, when he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
  • His important works include the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in Ahmedabad and the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal. Other notable works: Gandhi Smarak in Ahmedabad, Kala Kendra (Goa), National Crafts Museum (New Delhi), Bharat Bhavan (Bhopal), and Jawahar Kala Kendra (Jaipur).
  • In 1990 he became the third recipient of the Gold Medal from the International Union of Architects, while his many other accolades include the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Japan’s Praemium Imperiale and the Padma Vibhushan – India’s second-highest civilian award.

Sources: The Hindu.

Colombo notifies 20th Amendment

Even as certain sections of political parties in Sri Lanka continue to have reservations over the latest version of the proposed 20th Amendment, the government has gone ahead with the notification of the draft legislation in the gazette.

  • As per the decision taken by the Cabinet, the overall size of Parliament will be 237, a rise of 12 compared to the existing legislature. Of this, 145 members will be elected directly, through the system of first past the post (FPTP).

Sri Lankan political system: Basics-

  • The government of Sri Lanka is a semi-presidential system determined by the Sri Lankan Constitution.
  • The President, directly elected for a six-year term, is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces.
  • The election occurs under the Sri Lankan form of the contingent vote.
  • Responsible to Parliament for the exercise of duties under the constitution and laws, the president may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of Parliament with the concurrence of the Supreme Court.
  • The President appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers responsible to Parliament.
  • The President’s deputy is the prime minister, who leads the ruling party in Parliament.
  • A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the President.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.