Current Affairs - January 2017

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Bombay Natural History Society launches climate change programme in Central Himalayas

The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has launched climate change programme to conduct study to assess the status, distribution and conservation of Pheasants and Finches in Central Himalayas.

It is long-term monitoring project funded by Oracle and facilitated by CAF-India. It will focus on their conservation in the context of climate change with the help of community participation.

Background
  • The Himalayas hold a rich natural heritage with diverse flora and fauna enhancing the beauty of the region.
  • Indian subcontinent is home to nearly 62 species of finches and 50 species of pheasants, with several species listed in ‘Globally Threatened’ category by IUCN. Both these groups are spread across the Himalayas.
  • Shrinking habitats combined with several biotic factors, along with poaching and trapping pressures in many areas have pushed several of them to near extinction.
  • Besides, climate change is influencing vertical and horizontal distribution of these groups. Those species adapting with it will be able survive, but those species sensitive to temperature rise will suffer.
Climate change programme 
  • It will help in making an inventory of pheasants and finches, documentation of local specific conservation issues, and designing local as well as species specific conservation action plan with the community participation.
  • The conservation action plan of these sites will be the first step towards the protection of the ecosystem which benefits both biodiversity as well as the people in the system.
  • It also aims to assess the socio-economic activities of local communities and involve them in conservation efforts and sensitize the local forest department staff.

About Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS)

BNHS is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research. It was founded on 15 September 1883 and headquartered at Hornbill House, Mumbai. It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Department of Science and Technology has designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’.

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Finance Ministry to aid Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh for rail safety

The Union Finance Ministry has agreed to contribute partially to a new dedicated railway safety fund named as ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ in the upcoming Union Budget 2017-18.

The proposed safety fund will be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system and safety work at level crossing, among other things.

Key Facts
  • The Finance Ministry is likely to grant a fresh infusion of only Rs. 5,000 crore in the upcoming financial year out of the initial proposed corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore.
  • About Rs. 10,000 crore will be earmarked from the Central Road Fund (CRF) that is collected by levying a cess on diesel and petrol at present for safety-related work.
  • Railways may now be asked to fund the remaining Rs. 5,000 crore for the initial corpus from its own resources.
  • For this Indian Railway’s may either have to bring back a cess on rail tickets to finance its share of Rail Safety Fund or look to fund it from non-budgetary resources. 
Background

The Railway Ministry had requested the Union Finance Ministry to create ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’, a ‘non-lapsable’ safety fund of Rs. 20,000 crore over five years. Its request was based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee headed by Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman Atomic Energy Commission.  The Committee, in its report submitted in 2012, had projected an investment requirement of Rs. 1 lakh crore on safety over five years.

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IT Ministry urges tax incentives for PC manufacturers too

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in its key recommendations for Union Budget 2017-18, has suggested differential excise duty regime and tax exemptions to be expanded to personal computers and servers.

Ministry’s suggestions were as per the Phased Manufacturing Roadmap, it had worked out in consultation with the NITI Aayog.

Recommendations for Budget
  • Retain differential excise duty regime and tax exemptions granted for the manufacture of mobile handsets and tablets, under the impending GST regime, to boost domestic manufacturing of electronic products.
  • The current differential duty makes imports of mobile handsets more expensive compared with making them locally, encouraging smartphone players to set up manufacturing units in India.
  • Specified capital goods for the manufacture of electronic goods be exempted from basic customs duty and countervailing duties to increase the competitiveness of the Indian electronics Industry.
  • Specified key raw materials and inputs for the boosting manufacture of LCD and LED panels should be permitted at 0% customs duty.
  • Extension of income tax benefit for research and development (R&D) to software products and the chip design industry. The proposal is expected to boost the generation of intellectual property in the country.

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