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Western Zonal Council

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

Why in the news?

Union Minister for Home Affairs chaired the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Panaji (Goa). The Council among others focused on the following issues:

  1. Action on the Master Plan submitted by Maharashtra Government for utilization of surplus Salt Pan Land for rehabilitation of slum dwellers was discussed at length.  State Government will send a detailed proposal in two months suggesting broad contours of a transparent financial model for involvement of slum dwellers (and utilization of remaining land as per high FSI in keeping with provisions of a scheme to be formulated as per Slum Rehabilitation Act) on a competitive basis for rehabilitation of slum dwellers & transfer of land/monetization for Government of India.
  2. Coverage of all villages which have hitherto remained without any banking facilities within 5 km radial distance by a Bank/India Post Payments Service. This data derived from GIS platform of NIC will be further corroborated by the States using road distance on the ground. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) should also be done through IPPBs also everywhere as these are covered by Core Banking Solution. 
  3. Enhancement of DBT Portal to include scheme/village-wise details by collecting real time information from respective portals of beneficiary-oriented schemes to give village level DBT fund transfer & benefits.
  4. Innovative solution of encrypted QR Code on Aadhaar card for verifying antecedents of marine fishermen. States to get the print-outs taken or cards made within a month at Government initiative, so that everyone has Aadhaar card with latest QR Code and foreign national don’t enter Indian territory unauthorizedly through fishing boats.
  5. Detailed monitoring mechanism to ensure that investigation and trial of sexual offences/rape against girls below 12 years of age are completed within two months (POCSO Act and Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018] each. Chief Secretary must personally monitor periodically adherence to legal provisions of completing investigation & trial within two months.

 

What is a Zonal Council?

It is a statutory body set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. The present composition of each of these Zonal Councils is as under:

  • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
  • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
  • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal;
  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli;
  • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972. The State of Sikkim has also been included in the North Eastern Council vide North Eastern Council (Amendment) Act, 2002 notified on 23rd December 2002.

What is the role of the Zonal councils?

The Zonal Councils provide an excellent forum where irritants between Centre and States and amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations. Being advisory bodies, there is full scope for free and frank exchange of views in their meetings. Though there are a large number of other fora like the National Development Council, Inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conferences and other periodical high level conferences held under the auspices of the Union Government, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character. They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under :

  • Bringing out national integration;
  • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

What is the structure of the Zonal councils?

  • Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

 

South-South and Triangular Cooperation

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India 

Why in the news?

An international dialogue on South-South and Triangular Cooperation was held in New Delhi.

What is South-South Cooperation?

  • South-South cooperation is a broad framework of collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains. Involving two or more developing countries, it can take place on a bilateral, regional, intraregional or interregional basis. 
  • Developing countries share knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to meet their development goals through concerted efforts. Recent developments in South-South cooperation have taken the form of increased volume of South-South trade, South-South flows of foreign direct investment, movements towards regional integration, technology transfers, sharing of solutions and experts, and other forms of exchanges.

What is Triangular Cooperation?

Triangular cooperation is collaboration in which traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training, management and technological systems as well as other forms of support.

Sabka Vishwas-Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019. 

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: mobilization of resources

Why in the news?

  • In the Union Budget 2019-20, the Hon’ble Finance Minister announced the Sabka Vishwas-Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019. The Scheme has now been notified and will be operationalized from 1st September 2019. 
  • The Scheme would continue till 31st December 2019. Government expects the Scheme to be availed by a large number of taxpayers for closing their pending disputes relating to legacy Service Tax and Central Excise cases that are now subsumed under GST so they can focus on GST.

About the Scheme:

  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty. 
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Taxthat are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums. 
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequences under the law. 
  • The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine, penalty, In all these cases, there would be no other liability of interest, fine or penalty. There is also a complete amnesty from prosecution.

 

Ocean Energy

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Why in the news?

  • In a decision that would give boost to the ocean energy in India, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) has approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy.
  • Accordingly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified to all the stakeholders that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion etc. shall be considered as Renewable Energy and shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).

What is Ocean Energy?

Although currently under-utilised, Ocean energy is mostly exploited by just a few technologies: Wave, Tidal, Current Energy and Ocean Thermal Energy. 

Tidal Energy  

The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon. The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy. Similar to traditional hydropower generated from dams, tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide. The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariff.  To capture sufficient power from the tidal energy potential, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide. The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where potential exists.

 Wave Energy  

Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor. Many different techniques for converting wave energy to electric power have been studied. Wave conversion devices that float on the surface have joints hinged together that bend with the waves. This kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and create electric power. Stationary wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves swelling up and down. This bobbing motion drives a turbine when critical pressure is reached. Other stationary platforms capture water from waves on their platforms. This water is allowed to runoff through narrow pipes that flow through a typical hydraulic turbine.

 Current Energy  

Marine current is ocean water moving in one direction. Tides also create currents that flow in two directions. Kinetic energy can be captured from the ocean currents and other tidal currents with submerged turbines that are very similar in appearance to miniature wind turbines. Similar to wind turbines, the movement of the marine current moves the rotor blades to generate electric power. 

  Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)  

Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, uses ocean temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 meters, to extract energy. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy. Research focuses on two types of OTEC technologies to extract thermal energy and convert it to electric power: closed cycle and open cycle. In the closed cycle method, a working fluid, such as ammonia, is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine. The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapor back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger. In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.

Potential

  • Total identified potential of Tidal Energy is about 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.
  • The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW – these are preliminary estimates. This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.
  • OTEC has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India subject to suitable technological evolution.

 

Prelims Specific

  • San-Sadhan Hackathon is an initiative to ease lives of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) by making toilets smarter, more accessible, and easier to use. In this hackathon, the government is looking for smart, scalable and innovative solutions for economical toilets for individual and community use in rural and urban contexts. The initiative is being organized jointly by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 91springboard.