India Current Affairs 2017

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Uttarakhand HC recognise Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as living entity

The Uttarakhand High Court has recognized the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as so-called living entities. It is for the first time any court in India has recognized a non-human as a living entity.

The two rivers are sacred for the Hindus, sustain millions of people in the country but have seen years of damage at the hands of humans.

The HC Division Bench comprising Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma gave a landmark judgment while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by one Mohammad Salim in 2014.

Uttarakhand HC verdict
  • Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams are declared as legal persons [or] living persons in order to protect the recognition and the faith of society.
  • They will have the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve them.
  • State government failed to fulfil its responsibility regarding the rivers. Central government must constitute Ganga Management Board to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining these rivers.
  • The Director, Namami Gange project and the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand have been charged to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers and their tributaries.

legal entities

What does it means?

In India, animals, for instance, are not considered living entities by law. Only humans are. But recognizing these rivers as a living entity, grants them new legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India. Thus, they have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed and destroyed. They also can be parties to disputes as their rights can be used to protect the interests of the rivers. It also means that if someone pollutes these rivers, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.

Interesting Facts
  • Earlier in March 2017, New Zealand Parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as ‘legal person’, making it first river to get this status.
  • Ecuador was first country to recognize Rights of Nature in its Constitution adopted in September 2008. The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter: Rights for Nature.

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Union Cabinet approves four GST Bills

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the four Goods and Services Tax (GST) related bills. These Bills were earlier approved by the GST Council after clause by clause, discussion over 12 meetings in past 6 months.

The passage of these four GST related bills will pave the way for the biggest reform in the area of Indirect Taxes in the history of the country.

These four Bills are
  • The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (CGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy and collection of tax on intra-state supply of goods or services for both by the Union Government.
  • The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (IGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy and collection of tax on inter-state supply of goods or services or both by the Union Government.
  • The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 (UTGST Bill): It makes provisions for levy on collection of tax on intra-UT supply of goods and services in the UTs without legislature.
  • It is akin to States Goods and Services Tax (SGST) that will enacted by state legislatures for levy and collection of tax by the States/UTs on intra-state supply of goods or services or both.
  • The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to the States) Bill 2017 (The Compensation Bill): It provides for compensation to states for loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the GST for a period of five years as per section 18 of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016.
Background

The Union Government is trying for early introduction of GST, one of the biggest taxation reforms in the country as early as possible. GST Council headed by Union Finance Minister earlier had set 1 July 2017 as the date of commencement of GST. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2017-18 Budget Speech had mentioned that country-wide outreach efforts will be made to explain the provisions of GST to Trade and Industry.

About GST

  • GST regime will amalgamate large number of Central and State indirect taxes into a single tax. It will mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market.
  • It will help in the realization of the objective of “One Nation, One Tax” and improve the Ease of Doing Business in the country.
  • It will also indirectly benefit people of the country by reducing the tax burden especially on the daily consumer items.
  • The GST will bring in more transparency and efficiency by minimizing of human interface in the tax administration in the country.
  • It is also likely to lead to a reduction in tax evasion as a result of the computerization of the taxation process. It will in turn lead to increase in revenue collection for the Centre and the States.

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India’s first sign language dictionary to come up soon: Government

The Union Government will soon launch country’s first-of-its-kind Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary which aims to bring uniformity in sign languages used by hearing and speech impaired people.

It is being developed in both print and video format by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC).  It will give an uniform language to 50 lakh hearing and 20 lakh speech impaired people in the country.

Key Facts
  • ISL dictionary will contain graphic representations of popular signs used by the hearing impaired and also their regional variations. It will also have legal, technical and medical terms
  • It will help bridge the communication gap by promoting the use of sign language for hearing impaired students at schools and colleges.
  • It will also enable government officials, teachers, community leaders, professionals and the public at large to learn and use sign language.
  • It will enable the public utility organisations like hospitals, banks, courts, airports, and others to utilise the services of interpreters.
  • So far, it has compiled 6,032 Hindi and English words and their corresponding graphic representation of the signs which are used in daily life.

About Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC)

ISLRTC is an autonomous organization under the aegis of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It was established under Society Registration Act, 1860. Its main objectives are to develop manpower for teaching and conducting research in Indian Sign Language (ISL), promote use of ISL as an educational mode in collaboration with universities, national and international bodies.

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