1st November 2020

NCR Air Quality Ordinance, 2020

With the President signing the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 recently, a statutory authority to track and combat air pollution in and around the National Capital Region has come into existence.


The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan and will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.

What has been changed by the ordinance?

  • The one body with powers similar to the new Commission’s was the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • It was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court, which has been looking at cases of air pollution as part of the judgment in M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988).
  • The EPCA was not supported by a legal framework in the form of a law. It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states. It had no state representatives, just two permanent members. The Commission, on the other hand, will have representation from the state.

Role of the Commission

  • The ordinance makes it clear that state as well as central bodies will not have jurisdiction over matters related to air pollution.
  • The ordinance says the Commission will look at coordination between states, planning and execution of policy and interventions, operations of industry, inspections, research into the causes of pollution etc. Experts say the ordinance means that the power to issue fines may also lie with the new Commission.
  • Officials in the Delhi Environment Department said the Commission will, in a way, erase the relevance of state pollution control bodies since they do not have the powers to make any autonomous decisions anymore.
  • In case the directions issued by a state and the Commission clash, the decision of the Commission will be implemented.
  • As per the Ordinance, only NGT, and not civil courts, is authorised to hear cases where the commission is involved.


Corals in Mumbai

Recently, the Mumbai civic body received the green signal from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Nagpur, for translocating the corals off the coast of Mumbai for the Rs 12,700-crore Mumbai Coastal Road Project.

  • Corals exhibit characteristics of plants, but are marine animals that are related to jellyfish and anemones.
  • Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calcite, which forms the structure of coral reefs.
  • Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the seafloor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones. The polyp calcites connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism.
  • As colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years, they join with other colonies, and become reefs.
  • There are soft corals as well, which are non-reef-building, and resemble bushes, grasses, trees.

The Mumbai coast hosts a tiny population of corals. The corals found across rocky patches along the Mumbai coastline are mostly fast-growing and non-reef building corals. Small coral colonies have been documented off Marine Drive, Geeta Nagar in Colaba, Haji Ali, and Worli.

How are corals translocated?

  • In a three-year-long project in Sindhudurg, corals were cultivated — fragments of corals were taken and attached to concrete frames with the help of nylon threads — and then left on ocean beds at a depth suitable for their growth.
  • In a project at the Andaman islands, ReefWatch Marine Conservation has transplanted coral fragments on to nine artificial structures, totalling a 20-square-metre area. The project has been on since 2017.

Significance of coral reefs

  • Coral reefs are like underwater cities that support marine life. According to the UN Environment programme, they provide at least half a billion people around the world with food security and livelihoods.
  • Coral reefs also act as ‘wave breaks’ between the sea and the coastline and minimise the impact of sea erosion. In India, they are protected in the same way as the tiger or elephant, under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.

Threat to coral reefs

  • Climate change remains one of the biggest threats to corals.
  • Around the world, this threat has been visible in the “bleaching” of corals — is a process during which corals, under stress from warm weather, expel the algae that give corals their brilliant colours and live in their tissues and produce their food.
  • The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the largest collections of coral reefs on the planet, has suffered six mass bleaching events due to warmer than normal ocean temperatures: in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016, 2017, and now 2020.
  • Experts have documented bleaching of the corals along Mumbai’s coastline as well.


Euthanasia or ‘Assisted Dying’ Act

As per preliminary referendum results, a majority of voters in New Zealand have voted in favour of the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

What is the ‘End of Life Choice Act’ 2019?

  • The act is meant to give certain terminally ill people the option of requesting medical assistance to end their lives and to establish a lawful process for assisting eligible persons who are able to exercise that option.
  • The opponents of the Act maintain that it lacks oversight and safeguards and have pointed out issues with the eligibility criteria such as the age limit of 18 years and the “arbitrary” nature of the 6-month prognosis.

What is assisted dying?

  • As per the Act, assisted dying means when a person’s doctor or nurse gives them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death or when a person takes the medication themselves.
  • Therefore, the act interprets assisted dying as referring to both euthanasia and assisted suicide. While the former refers to the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to end their suffering, the latter refers to assisting a person to kill themselves.
  • In some countries such as in the UK, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. In the UK, while euthanasia is regarded as manslaughter or murder, assisted suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, trying to kill yourself is not an illegal act in the country.
  • As per New Zealand’s act, the provisions of the law are limited to terminally ill people and are subject to the fulfilment of various criteria.

Eligibility criteria for assisted dying 

In order to be eligible for assisted dying, the individual must be 18 years or older, be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand, suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life in less than six months, have a significant and ongoing decline in physical capability, experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and they should be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying. The individual should meet all of the criteria to be eligible. A person is not eligible for assisted dying if they are suffering from a mental disorder or a mental illness.


Fiscal Deficit continued to soar

Fiscal Deficit has continued to soar in September to reach Rs 9.1 lakh crore, or almost 115% of the budget target of Rs 7.96 lakh crore for 2020-21, as per the CAG.

What is ‘Fiscal Deficit’?

  • Fiscal Deficit is the difference between the total income of the government (total taxes and non-debt capital receipts) and its total expenditure.
  • A fiscal deficit situation occurs when the government’s expenditure exceeds its income. This difference is calculated both in absolute terms and also as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
  • A recurring high fiscal deficit means that the government has been spending beyond its means.
  • The government describes fiscal deficit of India as “the excess of total disbursements from the Consolidated Fund of India, excluding repayment of the debt, over total receipts into the Fund (excluding the debt receipts) during a financial year”.

Income and Expenditure of Government 

  1. Revenue receipts of the government – Corporation Tax, Income Tax, Custom Duties, Union Excise Duties, GST and taxes of Union territories. Note – GST or Goods and Services Tax which is collected by the Centre includes CGST (Central Goods and Services Tax), IGST (Integrated Goods and Services Tax) & GST Compensation Cess.
  2. Non-tax revenues – Interest Receipts, Dividends and Profits, External Grants, Other non-tax revenues, Receipts of union territories.
  3. Expenditure of Government – Revenue Expenditure, Capital Expenditure, Interest Payments, Grants-in-aid for creation of capital assets.

Capital Receipts 

  • All non-revenue receipts of a government are known as capital receipts. Such receipts are for investment purposes and supposed to be spent on plan-development by a government.
  • The capital receipts in India include the following –
  1. Loan Recovery – The money the government had lent out in the past in India (states, UTs, PSUs, etc.) and abroad their capital comes back to the government when the borrowers repay them as capital receipts.
  2. Borrowings by the Government –  This includes all long-term loans raised by the government inside the country (i.e., internal borrowings) and outside the country (i.e., external borrowings).
  3. Other receipts by the Government – This includes many long-term capital accruals to the government through the Provident Fund (PF), Postal Deposits, various small saving schemes (SSSs) and the government bonds sold to the public (as Indira Vikas Patra, Kisan Vikas Patra, Market Stabilisation Bond, etc.).

Capital Expenditure

It includes so many heads in India –

  • Loan disbursals by the Government – The loans forwarded by the government might be internal (i.e., to the states, UTs, PSUs, FIs, etc.) or external (i.e., to foreign countries, foreign banks, purchase of foreign bonds, loans to IMF and WB, etc.).
  • Loan repayments by the Government – Again loan payments might be internal as well as external. This consists of only the capital part of the loan repayment.
  • Plan expenditure of the Government – This consists of all the expenditures incurred by the government to finance the planned development of India as well as the central government financial supports to the states for their plan requirements.
  • Capital Expenditures on Defence by the Government – This consists of all kinds of capital expenses to maintain the defence forces, the equipment purchased for them as well as the modernisation expenditures.
  • General Services – These also need huge capital expenditure by the government—the railways, postal department, water supply, education, rural extension, etc.
  • Other liabilities of the Government – Basically, this includes all the repayment liabilities of the government on the items of the Other Receipts.

How is Fiscal Deficit calculated?

  • Fiscal Deficit = Total expenditure of the government (capital and revenue expenditure) – Total income of the government (Revenue receipts + recovery of loans + other receipts)
  • If the total expenditure of the government exceeds its total revenue and non-revenue receipts in a financial year, then that gap is the fiscal deficit for the financial year.
  • The fiscal deficit is usually mentioned as a percentage of GDP. For example, if the gap between the Centre’s expenditure and total income is Rs 5 lakh crore and the country’s GDP is Rs 200 lakh crore, the fiscal deficit is 2.5% of the GDP.

What causes fiscal deficit?

  • Sometimes, the governments spend on handouts and other assistance to the weak and vulnerable sections of the society such as the farmers and the poor.
  • A high fiscal deficit can also be good for the economy if the money spent goes into the creation of productive assets like highways, roads, ports and airports that boost economic growth and result in job creation.
  • The government meets fiscal deficit by borrowing money. In a way, the total borrowing requirements of the government in a financial year is equal to the fiscal deficit in that year.


Projects launched by the Prime Minister @ Kevadia

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated various projects under Integrated Development of Kevadia in Gujarat.

Projects launched

  • Arogya Van & Arogya Kutir – Arogya Van has 5 lakh plants of 380 different species spread over an area of 17 acre. Arogya Kutir has a traditional treatment facility named Santhigiri wellness centre which will provide healthcare based on Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga and Panchakarma.
  • Ekta Mall – The Mall displays a diverse range of handicrafts and traditional items from all over India symbolising unity in diversity and is spread over 35000 sq ft. The mall consists of 20 Emporia each representing a specific state in India and is built in just 110 days.
  • Children Nutrition Park and Mirror Maze – It is the world’s first ever technology driven nutrition park for children and is spread over an area of 35000 sq ft. A Nutri Train runs across the park to various exciting theme based stations namely ‘Phalshaka Griham’, ‘Payonagari’, ‘Annapoorna’, ‘Poshan Puran’, and ‘Swastha Bharatam’. It will raise nutritional awareness through various edutainment activities like Mirror Maze, 5D Virtual reality theatre and Augmented reality games.
  • Ekta Cruise Service – Through the Ekta Cruise Service one can experience the viewing of Statue of Unity through the Ferry Boat Service from Shrestha Bharat Bhavan to Statue of Unity by covering a distance of 6 km. The 40 min ride can be covered by a boat which can ferry 200 passengers at a time. New Gora Bridge is built especially for the operation of the ferry service. Boating Channel is constructed to provide boating services to tourists visiting the Statue of Unity.
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