Bills and Acts Current Affairs

Union Cabinet approves Major Port Trust Authorities Bill, 2016 to give autonomy to 12 major ports

The Union Cabinet has approved the draft Major Port Authorities Bill, 2016 to replace the existing Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.

The bill aims to empower 12 major ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision-making.

Salient features of the bill
  • The Bill is more compact in comparison to Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. It has reduced number of sections to 65 from 134 by eliminating obsolete and overlapping Sections of previous Act.
  • Board of Port Authority: It has been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff.
  • However, these powers have exception in case of national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default.
  • Empowers the Board to make its own Master Plan in respect of area within port limits and construct within port limits Pipelines, Communication towers, Telephones, electricity supply or transmission equipment.
  • It is empowered to lease land for Port related use for upto 40 years and for any purpose other than purposes specified in section 22. The approval above 20 years leasing will also require approval of the Central Government.
  • Size of the Board of Port Authority: It has been reduced from 17-19 to 11 members. The compact board with professional independent members will strengthen decision-making and strategic planning.
  • Representatives of the Board: It will include representatives of respective state governments, Defence Ministry, Railways Ministry and Department of Revenue along with a member representing employees of Major Ports Authority.
  • Rates of other port services and assets: The Board of the Port Authority has been allowed to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
  • Role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP): It has been redefined. It has been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariff based on market conditions.
  • Independent Review Board: It has been proposed to carry out the “residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for major ports. It will look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires. It will also review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures” to revive such projects. 
Significance of the Bill
  • Promotes expansion of port infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce. Bring transparency in operations of Major Ports.
  • Decentralize decision making and infuse professionalism in governance of major ports.
  • Impart faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability.
  • Reorients governance model in central Ports to landlord port model in line with the successful global practice.

 Note: 12 major ports are Kandla (Gujarat), Mumbai (Maharashtra), JNPT (Maharashtra), Marmugao (Goa), New Managlore (Karnataka), Cochin (Kerala), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ennore (Tamil Nadu),  V.O. Chidambarnar (Tamil Nadu), Visakhapatnam (Adhra Pradesh), Paradip (Odisha) and Kolkata (including Haldia, West Bengal).

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Rajya Sabha passes Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016

Rajya Sabha has passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016. The bill repeals Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

The bill comprehensively covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities under it. It complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India became a signatory in 2007.

Salient features of the bill
  • Definition of disability: It has defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept to include 21 conditions as disable. Expands the list of disabilities from seven to 21.
  • It also defines Persons with benchmark disabilities as those with at least 40% of any of the above specified disabilities.
  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid Attack Victims have been included.
  • Rights of persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities (PwDs) shall have the right to equality. They shall not be discriminated against on grounds of their disability.
  • Rights include protection from inhuman treatment and equal protection and safety in situations of risk, humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters and armed conflict.
  • All existing public buildings shall be made accessible for disabled persons.
  • Education and skill development: It provides for the access to inclusive education, self-employment and vocational training to disabled persons.
  • At least 5% seats in all government institutions of higher education and those getting aid from the government are required to reserve seats for persons with benchmark disabilities. Earlier it was only 3%.
  • Employment: The Union and State governments will ensure that at least 4% of the vacancies in identified establishments are filled by persons or class of persons with at least 40% of any of the disabilities.
  • The reservation must be computed on the basis of total number of vacancies in the strength of a cadre. Government can exempt any establishment from this provision of reservation.
  • Legal Capacity: Disabled persons have the equal right to own and inherit movable and immovable property, as well as control their financial affairs in par with others.
  • Guardianship: The district court may order guardianship to the disable person if found a mentally ill person and not capable of taking care of himself or of taking legally binding decisions.
  • District level committees: It will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  • Central and state advisory boards on Disability: They will be constituted Central and State governments respectively.
  • They will advise governments on policies and programmes on disability. The will aslo review the activities of organisations dealing with disabled persons.
  • National and State Fund: It will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for PwDs and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of PwDs will be subsumed with the National Fund.
  • Punishment: It provides for imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, along with a fine ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh, for discriminating against differently abled persons.

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