The government has banned the construction of jetties,
ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by
the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority, according to a proposed ‘Ganga
The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga
(Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018, proposes to create a
management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long
Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’
The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the
“uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river. Currently, a host of dams in the
upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed, say
several activists and researchers, and persistent campaigns notably led by the
late G.D. Agrawalled to the government finally recognising the need for proposed
and existing hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum
flows all through the year.
The waterways project involves creating permanent and
movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-silting to ensure that
minimum river depths for the smooth movement of the vessels are maintained.
There are no mandatory pension benefits in the final
version of the Centre’s model construction workers’ welfare scheme despite
earlier suggestions that 20% of the construction cess fund be set aside for
The final version of the scheme, which was released last
week, simply notes that: “Considering that pension would constitute a permanent
liability which the States may not be able to sustain in the long term, the
State Welfare Boards may formulate pension schemes depending upon their
The model scheme was formulated in response to the Supreme
Court’s March 2018 order in a case filed by the National Campaign Committee for
Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCC-CL). The NCC-CL now plans to
file a review petition in the case which was closed on October 4, asking the
apex court to continue monitoring government actions on the issue.
RBI data shows increase in cash in circulation & ATM withdrawals
Thursday, November 8, marks the second anniversary of the
demonetisation exercise. It was on the same day in 2016 that Prime Minister
NarendraModi announced that ₹1,000 and ₹500 currency notes would no longer be
legal tender. These notes constituted over 86% of the currency in circulation,
One of the objectives of demonetisation was to move to a
‘less-cash’ society. However, two years down the line, it appears the objective
has not been achieved.
According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, currency in
circulation rose to ₹19.6 lakh crore as on October 26, 2018, a 9.5% growth from
two years ago. The currency in circulation was ₹17.9 lakh crore on November 4,
2016, the week before the note ban came into force.
With cash back in the system, ATM withdrawals have picked
up. According to RBI data, cash withdrawals from ATMs grew 8% to ₹2.75 lakh
crore in August 2018 from ₹2.54 lakh crore in October 2016. The October figure,
which will be released in December, could well be higher, as withdrawals
generally increase in the festival season. Cash withdrawals from ATMs fell
sharply during the demonetisation exercise, hitting ₹1.06 lakh crore in December
In tune with its rise as an internet giant, China is
roping in India as a niche digital partner, as part of Beijing’s drive to
cyber-connect with Eurasia its new frontier for trade and investments.
At a conference on defining common international standards
for two-dimensional (2D) barcodes the gateways for linking genuine buyers and
sellers, as well making digital payments by scanning QR codes Chinese officials
say that India is already on board in this global exercise.
Last November, Zheng Chao, Executive Director of the
Global Unified Two-Dimensional Code Registration Management Center (UTC), based
in Beijing, signed a “strategic cooperation” agreement on 2D coding with his
Indian counterpart. As a result UTC (India) was formed.
Analysts say that China appears more inclined to source
pharmaceuticals and agro-products from India, following an unabated trade war
with the United States.
The BRI envisions physical and digital connectivity in
Eurasia and Africa the basis for smart cities and industrial parks, through
heavy investments in infrastructure.
Several Asian member countries of the proposed
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have offered India a
significant concession on the extent to which it needs to open up its
markets, in a bid to encourage it to join the partnership quickly, according
to a diplomat from Singapore.
The RCEP is a proposed trade agreement between the 10
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and their six free
trade agreement partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New
Opening up its market to China has been India’s main
concern about joining RCEP, a sentiment echoed by the Commerce Ministry, NITI
Aayog, and then Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
India has achieved some success regarding some of its other concerns, such
as getting the other RCEP countries to liberalise their services markets and
allow for a more free movement of service sector professionals.
India and a few other countries want only a statement on
“substantial progress” to be made during the summit, and for negotiations to be
pushed into the second half of next year.
The ozone layer that shields life from cancer-causing
solar rays is recovering at a rate of one to three percent per decade,
reversing years of dangerous depletion caused by the release of harmful
chemicals, a U.N. study said on November 5.
The four-yearly review of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987
ban on man-made gases that damage the fragile high-altitude ozone layer, found
long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting
substances and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone.
“The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing
to occur every year. As a result of the Montreal Protocol much more severe ozone
depletion in the polar regions has been avoided,” the report said.
The U.N. had already hailed the success of the Protocol,
which banned or phased out ozone depleting chemicals, including
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once widely used in refrigerators and spray cans, but
the report said it was the first time that there were emerging indications that
the Antarctic ozone hole had diminished in size and depth since 2000.
In the Arctic, annual variations were much larger, making
it hard to confirm whether there had been a definite recovery in the layer since