Union Agriculture Minister has launched the Krishi Megh (National Agricultural Research and Education System – Cloud Infrastructure and Services).
What is Krishi Megh?
- To protect the precious data of the government”s premier research body ICAR, Agriculture Ministry has launched a data recovery centre ”Krishi Megh” set up in Hyderabad.
- Currently, the main data centre of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is at the Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI) in the national capital.
- The data recovery centre has been set up at National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM), Hyderabad.
- Krishi Megh has been set up under the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), funded by both the government and World Bank.
Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting
Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has released the ‘Report of the Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR)’.
What is ‘Business Responsibility Reporting’?
- As a first step towards mainstreaming the concept of business responsibility, the ‘Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility’ were issued in 2009. These guidelines were subsequently revised as ‘National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business, 2011 (NVGS)’.
- The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) through its ‘Listing Regulations’ in 2012 mandated the top 100 listed entities by market capitalisation to file Business Responsibility Reports (BRRs) from an environmental, social and governance perspective.
- These BRRs enabled business to demonstrate the adoption of the NVG principles and the attendant core elements with the intent of engaging businesses more meaningfully with their stakeholders going beyond regulatory financial compliance.
- This was extended to top 500 companies in FY 2015-16 and further extended to top 1000 companies in December, 2019.
- Taking into account the national and international developments in the arena of business and human rights since 2011, the NVGs have been updated and released as NGRBC (National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct) in March 2019 to reveal alignments with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement on Climate change etc.
- In furtherance to updation and formulation of the NGRBCs, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had constituted a ‘Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting’ to develop new BRR formats for listed and unlisted companies.
- The Committee comprised of representatives from MCA, SEBI, three professional institutes, and two eminent professionals who had worked on developing the NGRBCs.
- In its Report, the Committee recommended a new reporting framework called as the ‘Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR)’ to better reflect the intent and scope of reporting on non-financial parameters.
- The Committee recommended two formats for disclosures: one ‘comprehensive format’ and the second a ‘Lite version’.
- The Committee further recommended that the implementation of the reporting requirements should be done in a gradual and phased manner.
- The Committee also recommended that the BRSR be integrated with the MCA21 portal. As a long-term measure, the Committee envisions that the information captured through BRSR filings be used to develop a Business Responsibility-Sustainability Index for companies.
What is ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’?
- The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” in general can be referred to as corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.
- In India, the concept of CSR is governed by clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- India is the first country in the world to mandate CSR spending along with a framework to identify potential CSR activities.
- The CSR provisions within the Act is applicable to companies with an annual turnover of 1,000 crore and more, or a net worth of Rs. 500 crore and more, or a net profit of Rs. 5 crore and more.
- The Act requires companies to setup a CSR committee which shall recommend a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy to the Board of Directors and also monitor the same from time to time.
- The Act encourages companies to spend 2% of their average net profit in the previous three years on CSR activities.
Clause 6 of Assam Accord
In February, a government-appointed committee had submitted its recommendations for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, a key provision that has been contentious for decades. Since then, the government has not made the report public.
What is ‘Assam Accord’?
- The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
- The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
- Some of the key demands were – All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote. Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
- A parallel package for the economic development of Assam, including a second oil refinery, a paper mill and an institute of technology, was also worked out.
- The central government also promised to provide ‘legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage’ of the Assamese people. This is the Clause 6 of Assam Accord.
What is Clause 6?
- Part of the Assam Accord that came at the culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh, Clause 6 reads: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
- For recognition as citizens, the Accord sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff. The immigrants up to the cutoff date would get all rights as Indian citizens. Therefore, Clause 6 was inserted to safeguard the socio-political rights and culture of the “indigenous people of Assam”.
Why it is in news?
- Several committees have been set up over the years to make recommendations on implementation of Clause 6. None of them made headway on the provision’s contentious issues, however, until the latest one that was set up by the Home Ministry in 2019.
- Following widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in December and January, the government gave an urgent push to Clause 6 to pacify the Assamese community.
- Headed by retired High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma and including members of the legal fraternity, retired civil servants, scholars, journalists and AASU office-bearers, the committee was asked to fast-track its report.
- It submitted its report in February but the government did not make its contents public. Nilay Dutta and three AASU members independently made the contents public recently.
Recommendations of the Committee –
- Its brief was to define the “Assamese people” and suggest measures for the safeguard of their rights. The definition of “Assamese people” has been a subject of discussion for decades. The committee has proposed that the following be considered Assamese people for the purpose of Clause 6 –
- All citizens of India who are part of –
- Assamese community, residing in the Territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
- Any indigenous tribal community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
- Any other indigenous community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
- All other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; and
- Descendants of the above categories.
- During the Assam agitation, the demand was for detection and deportation of migrants who had illegally entered Assam after 1951.
- The Assam Accord, however, set the cutoff at March 24, 1971. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated based on this cutoff.
- Clause 6 is meant to give the Assamese people certain safeguards, which would not be available to migrants between 1951 and 1971.
- If the recommendation is accepted, those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens under the Assam Accord and NRC, but they would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.
Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano erupted recently, sending a column of ash and smoke more than 16,000 feet into the air. The volcano became active in 2010, erupting after nearly 400 years of inactivity.
Ring of Fire –
Indonesia is home to many active volcanoes, due to its position on the “Ring of Fire”, or the Circum-Pacific Belt, which is an area along the Pacific Ocean characterised by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The Ring of Fire is home to about 75 per cent of the world’s volcanoes and about 90 per cent of its earthquakes.
Why do volcanoes erupt?
- A volcano can be active, dormant or extinct. An eruption takes place when magma (a thick flowing substance), formed when the earth’s mantle melts, rises to the surface. Because magma is lighter than solid rock, it is able to rise through vents and fissures on the surface of the earth. After it has erupted, it is called lava.
- Not all volcanic eruptions are explosive, since explosivity depends on the composition of the magma.
- When the magma is runny and thin, gases can easily escape it, in which case, the magma will flow out towards the surface.
- On the other hand, if the magma is thick and dense, gases cannot escape it, which builds up pressure inside until the gases escape in a violent explosion.
Nearly nine months into the Covid-19 outbreak, Russia became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine, dubbed “Sputnik V” (a reference to the world’s first satellite), for civilian use.
How does the vaccine work?
Russia’s vaccine is based on the DNA of a SARS-CoV-2 type adenovirus, a common cold virus.
- The vaccine uses the weakened virus to deliver small parts of a pathogen and stimulate an immune response.
- Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Moscow’s Gamaleya National Research Centre, maintained that the coronavirus particles in the vaccine cannot harm the body as they cannot multiply.
- So far, Russia has only made public the results of phase-I of the clinical trials, which they claimed were successful and produced the desired immune response. Phase I human trials started on June 17 among 76 volunteers, with most being recruited from the military.
- According to the news report, the phase-II trials were started on July 13. On August 3, Russian media reported that Gamaleya Institute had completed clinical trials. The reports, however, did not specify whether all the three stages of clinical trials were over, or only stage-II was completed. Phase II trials usually take a few months to be completed.
- Interestingly, Russia had earlier indicated that Phase III human trials, where a candidate vaccine is tested on tens of thousands of people for its effectiveness in real-life situations, will be completed after the shot received regulatory approval.
- What has raised the hackles of experts is the fact that human trials for the vaccine, which takes several years in normal circumstances, have been completed in less than two months.
Response from Russia –
Russia has claimed that fast-track delivery of vaccine was made possible due to the fact that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate closely resembled a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) disease, caused by another coronavirus, that had already been tested extensively.
National Infrastructure Pipeline
Union Finance Minister has launched the online dashboard for National Infrastructure Pipeline, which will be hosted by the India Investment Grid (IIG).
What is ‘National Infrastructure Pipeline’ (NIP)?
- NIP is a first-of-its-kind, whole-of-government exercise to provide world-class infrastructure across the country, and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
- NIP will enable a forward outlook on infrastructure projects which will create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, thereby making growth more inclusive.
- It aims to improve project preparation, attract investments (both domestic and foreign) into infrastructure, and will be crucial for target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by FY 2025.
- The NIP has been made on a best effort basis by aggregating the information provided by various stakeholders including line ministries, departments, state governments and private sector across infrastructure sub-sectors identified in the Harmonised Master List of Infrastructure.
- To draw up the NIP, a bottom-up approach was adopted wherein all projects (Greenfield or Brownfield, Under Implementation or under conceptualisation) costing greater than Rs 100 crore per project were sought to be captured.
- The Centre (39%) and States (40%) are expected to have almost equal share in implementing the NIP in India, followed by the private sector (21%).
Task Force on NIP –
- The Final Report of NIP Task Force (chaired by Atanu Chakraborty) projected total infrastructure investment of Rs 111 lakh crore during the period FY 2020-25.
- Sectors such as energy (24%), roads (18%), urban (17%) and railways (12%) amount to around 71% of the projected infrastructure investments in India.
- Out of the total expected capital expenditure of Rs. 111 lakh crore, projects worth Rs 44 lakh crore (40% of NIP) are under implementation, projects worth Rs 33 lakh crore (30%) are at conceptual stage and projects worth Rs 22 lakh crore (20%) are under development Information regarding project stage are unavailable for projects worth Rs 11 lakh crore (10%).