Evening digest: Take air quality issue seriously, tribunal tells Delhi govt

GN Bureau | December 2, 2015



With the national capital engulfed in smog, the National Green Tribunal today slammed Delhi government for not acting "seriously" to improve deteriorating air quality in the city and directed it to convene an urgent meeting on the issue.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed Secretary, Environment and Forest Department, Health Secretary, Chairman and member secretaryof Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to hold a meeting.

The green panel also directed the Delhi government to issue a notification within a week with regard to areas in the capital which are most polluted and enumerate steps needed to check air pollution in Delhi."What is the status of air pollution? All you can say is that there is no pollution.All stakeholders who are dealing with air pollution indicate that Delhi is highly polluting.

The level of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 and PM 10, both are more than prescribed limits. We cannot permit such state of affairs causing serious environmental pollution to prevail," the bench said.The Tribunal also directed the Central Pollution Control Board to seek information from various states and UTs on ambient air quality in their area and submit a report on the same to the bench.

Modi upset, leaves Lok Sabha amid uproar over VK Singh
Prime minister Narendra Modi looked upset today when the Lok Sabha witnessed uproar. Modi, who took initiatives like meeting Congress leaders to ensure smooth functioning of parliament, left the Lok Sabha on Wednesday as opposition members created a din demanding the sacking of minister VK Singh.After some 40 minutes of uproar, during which speaker Sumitra Mahajan's repeated requests to the protesting MPs to calm down fell on deaf ears, Modi left the house. The opposition MPs said they wanted minister of state for external affairs VK Singh out of the government for making "derogatory comments" against dalits. The trouble began soon after the house met for question hour as opposition members assembled near the speaker's chair shouting slogans against the minister. As the question hour got over amid the din, the speaker again requested the opposition to let the house function but the protesting MPs instead walked out.

NGOs got Rs 13,051 crore foreign funding in 2013-14
A total of Rs 13,051 crore foreign contribution was received by 17,616 non-governmental organsations (NGOs) in the country in 2013-14, Rajya Sabha was informed today. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said Rs 11,527 crore foreign funds were received by 20,497 NGOs in 2012-2013 and Rs 11,558 crore was received by 22,747 NGOs in 2011-2012. Rijiju said NGOs are required to seek registration or prior permission under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 to receive foreign contribution and they have file annual statements with the government.

Jaitley counters Kumar Selja's temple remark with visitor's book entry
Government today countered Congress member Selja's claim that she had faced discrimination at the Dwarkadheesh temple in Gujarat because of her caste, with finance minister Arun Jaitley citing the visitor's book in which she had lauded the "excellent" arrangements there. He read out the comments which said, "With Lord Krishna's blessings, had a very good darshan. The upkeep and maintenance of the premises is excellent. May the Lord bless all those who are fortunate enough to come here for his blessings."

The remarks with Selja's signature were written on February 22, 2013. The page also carries a stamp of the temple. Selja, while participating in a debate on the Constitution on Monday, had alleged that she had faced discrimination at the temple when she visited there as a union minister some years back as she was asked about her caste.

Cold wave tightens grip over Kashmir division, Kargil coldest
Cold wave tightened its grip in Kashmir as the minimum temperature dropped further across the division, with Kargil being the coldest place in Jammu and Kashmir as the mercury settled 10 degrees below freezing point in the region. Leh town registered minus 9.9 degree Celsius. Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, recorded the minimum temperature of minus 1.4 degree Celsius.  Pahalgam, recorded a low of minus 3.8 degree Celsius, while the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir registered the minimum of minus 2.0 degree Celsius.

BJP ahead in cities, Cong shines in rural areas in Gujarat civic polls
The Bharatiya Janata Party is ahead in five of the six municipal corporations, but the Congress is making huge inroads in rural areas of Gujarat as votes in local body elections are being counted on Wednesday.Updates at 5 pm show the Congress trending in 14 and the BJP in 13 district panchayats out of a total of 31 in the state. In taluka panchayats the Congress is ahead in 64 and the BJP in 76. The Congress was ahead in small towns as well, leading in 18 nagar palikas as against the BJP’s 12, in the first major elections in the state after Anandiben Patel took over from Narendra Modi as chief minister. The BJP was ahead in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar, while it was neck and neck with the Congress in Surat, which was the nerve centre of the recent Patidar reservation protests led by Hardik Patel.

AAP government clears 3 major education bills
Three bills, aimed at reining in private schools, doing away with screening process in nursery admissions and scrapping of no detention policy till class VIII besides bringing in overall systemic reforms in education sector, were on Wednesday passed by Delhi Assembly. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the proposed legislations will significantly help slash fees in private schools and if laid down norms are not followed, then violators will be slapped with hefty financial penalty and jail term.The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill (DSEAA) and the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill stipulate hefty fine and imprisonment for violators of various provisions. Ahead of the passage of the bills, two BJP MLAs staged a walk out. The AAP had issued a whip to all its MLAs to vote in favour of these bills.

FIIs offload $1.15 billion in Indian equities in November
Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold $1.15 billion in Indian equities in November, the most since August, on caution ahead of a likely increase in interest rates in the US.Weak domestic earnings and concerns over political dynamics following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) loss in the Bihar elections are also being seen as reasons for investors exiting some of their India holdings. The outflow reflects a changed view on Indian equities. According to a Bank of America Merrill-Lynch Fund Managers’ survey dated 17 November, global investors have gone back to being “neutral” on the Indian markets compared with the overweight position that they had held since October 2014.

Three-quarters of Asian adults financially illiterate: S&P
Almost three-quarters of Asia’s adult population don’t have a clear grasp of key monetary ideas including inflation and risk diversification, according to a study conducted by Standard and Poor’s.“There are correlations between financial literacy, financial access, and the strength of markets,” Courtney Geduldig, executive vice president of public affairs at McGraw Hill Financial, parent of S&P Ratings, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Addressing financial literacy is a key strategy in building stronger, more accessible and sustainable markets around the globe.” Financial inclusion is a challenge and an opportunity in Asia, with about 47% of adults in India—or 415 million people—lacking a bank account, S&P said. While the array of financial products available in Asia is growing rapidly, citing China where credit card ownership has almost doubled since 2011, people still struggle with simple concepts like interest, it said.

The survey also showed: 61% of Chinese adults don’t save for old age, 6 out of 10 Chinese adults don’t have formal savings and 73% of Indian men—and 80% of Indian women—are financially illiterate. Combined, only 24% of Indian adults are financially literate, the lowest score among the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations.

Employees can withdraw EPF money without employers’ permit
Employees will no longer need the approval of their employers to withdraw money from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) corpus. If details such as Aadhaar unique identity number and bank account number have been linked to the EPF universal account number (UAN) and their know-your-customer (KYC) verification has been done by the employer, then the employees can avail themselves of the benefit of this hassle-free initiative immediately, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) said on Tuesday.The state-run retirement fund manager also issued an order on Tuesday to all its field offices across India, instructing them to give effect to the order immediately. Currently, employees need the approval of their employers to withdraw their EPF corpus, leading to unwanted delays on occasion.

B-schools set to approach SC against HRD ministry
Around 300 business schools have failed to convince the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the human resources development (HRD) ministry to withdraw a 2010 notification mandating that admissions to these schools be done only on the basis of an AICTE-conducted entrance test. These schools now have no option but to approach the Supreme Court, which had previously stayed the notification and allowed admissions for the batches of 2011-13, 2012-14, 2013-15, 2014-16 and 2015-17 through several judgements.

The notification affects schools such as XLRI, Jamshedpur, and Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), Greater Noida, which offer the postgraduate diploma in management (PGDM) qualification and are seeking to retain their autonomy with regard to the admission process, curriculum and administration.

Government for scientific validation of AYUSH medicines
Government has set up Central Research Councils for promoting scientific validation of Ayurvedic, Unani and Homoeopathic medicines. Ministry of AYUSH has taken steps to facilitate clinical trials in AYUSH, like publication of good clinical practice (GCP) guidelines, issuing directive for registration of AYUSH clinical trials in Clinical Trials Registry of India and setting up of an expert committee to make recommendations for grant of approval to new clinical trial proposals. Also, Rule 158-B has been inserted in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 for seeking the proof of effectiveness and safety of certain categories of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani medicines as a licensing requirement.

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