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Assam Floods

Paper: General Studies 1

Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,

Why in the news?

  • India received satellite data on its flood-hit regions from eight nations and China was the first to provide it as part of a multilateral mechanism for sharing space-based information for countries affected by natural or man-made disasters, the government said Friday.
  • The first set of data on Assam came from the Chinese Gaofen-2 satellite on July 18. 

Why do floods recur in Assam?

Floods lead to loss in human lives and the economy takes a big hit. According to Central Water Commission data (1953-2016) on average 26 lakh people are affected every year in Assam; 47 lose lives, 10,961 cattle die, Rs 7 crore worth of houses destroyed and the total damage comes up to Rs 128 crore every year.

Natural causes:

  • Geology and Geomorphology of the region
  • Physiographic condition in the valley
  • Seismic activity
  • Excessive rainfall

Man-made causes:

  • Drainage congestion due to man-made embankments
  • Human encroachment of riverine areas

 

  • The narrow and elongated U-shaped Assam valley opens itself wider towards the Bay of Bengal for monsoon flow. The average width of the valley is 80-90 km while the average width of the river is 6-10 km. The natural course of the river flows from high elevation to a steep falling elevation once the river enters India.
  • Between Brahmaputra valley and the North East Hills, the average rainfall during monsoons varies between 2,480 mm to 6,350 mm, respectively. Due to excess rainfall, water gushes towards lower parts of Assam, eating away the relatively soft edges of land.
  • The physiology of the region is still young and the lesser Himalaya regions are still in the process of forming. The soft rocks, in the absence of green top cover, easily gives way to gushing waters.
  • The problem is further compounded by human settlements along the river and its various tributaries, thereby restricting the flow to follow its natural spread in times of flood.
  • The building of embankments along the Brahmaputra and its tributaries has only added to flooding waters breaking embankments.
  • Drainage congestion due to building of railway bridges, roads and culverts have restricted the natural flow of water, forcing it to back flow and break embankments in vulnerable areas.
  • Lack of countryside drainage through construction of sluices at critical points have also added to drainage congestion.

 

mCessation Programme

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Why in the news?

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on global tobacco epidemic, launched late on Friday, makes a special reference about India’s efforts in helping smokers quit.
  • The 2019 report is the seventh in a series that tracks the status of tobacco epidemic and interventions to combat it. Released on Friday in Brazil, the report states that India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products, with more than 200 million users of smokeless tobacco and 276 million consumers of tobacco overall.
  • The National Tobacco Control Programme and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support from the WHO and International Telecommunication Union’s ‘Be [email protected], Be mobile’ initiative, implemented the mCessation programme – an initiative using mobile technology for tobacco cessation.
  • The programme allows people who want to quit tobacco use to register by giving a missed call to a dedicated national number. The programme’s progress is monitored in real-time through an online dashboard that details the number of registrations.
  • Till date, the programme has over 2.1 million self-registered users, the WHO report states.

What is the impact of the Programme?

  • An evaluation conducted by the Health ministry found an average quitting rate of 7 per cent for both smokers and users of smokeless tobacco six months after enrollment, the report notes. When 12,000 participants in the programme were asked about their tobacco use, more than 19 percent said they had abstained over the previous 30 days, it states.
  • The government has recently released version-2 of the “mTobaccoCessation” platform, which can deliver content through SMS or interactive voice response in 12 languages.

Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Why in the news?

  • The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 25, 2019 by the Minister of Finance, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman. It amends the Companies Act, 2013. 

What are the major changes proposed?

  • Issuance of dematerialised shares:Under the Act, certain classes of public companies are required to issue shares in dematerialised form only.  The Bill states this may be prescribed for other classes of unlisted companies as well.  
  • Re-categorisation of certain Offences: The 2013 Act contains 81 compoundable offences punishable with fine or fine or imprisonment, or both. These offences are heard by courts. The Bill re-categorizes 16 of these offences as civil defaults, where adjudicating officers (appointed by the central government) may now levy penalties instead. These offences include: (i) issuance of shares at a discount, and (ii) failure to file annual return.  Further, the Bill amends the penalties for some other offences.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Under the Act, if companies which have to provide for CSR, do not fully spent the funds, they must disclose the reasons for non-spending in their annual report.  Under the Bill, any unspent annual CSR funds must be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act (e.g., PM Relief Fund) within six months of the financial year.
  • However, if the CSR funds are committed to certain ongoing projects, then the unspent funds will have to be transferred to an Unspent CSR Account within 30 days of the end of the financial year, and spent within three years. Any funds remaining unspent after three years will have to be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act.  Any violation may attract a fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000 and every defaulting officer may be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000, or both. 
  • Debarring auditors: Under the Act, the National Financial Reporting Authority debar a member or firm from practising as a Chartered Accountant for a period between six months to 10 years, for proven misconduct.  The Bill amends the punishment to provide for debarment from appointment as an auditor or internal auditor of a company, or performing a company’s valuation, for a period between six months to 10 years.
  • Commencement of business: The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it (i) files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid for the shares agreed to be taken by him, and (ii) files a verification of its registered address with the RoC within 30 days of incorporation.  If it fails to comply with these provisions and is found not to be carrying out business, its name of the company may be removed from the Register of Companies. 
  • Registration of charges: The Act requires companies to register charges (e.g., mortgages) on their property within 30 days of creation of charge, extendable upto 300 days with the permission of the RoC.  The Bill changes the deadline to 60 days (extendable by 60 days). 
  • Change in approving authority: Under the Act, change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company, has to be approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.  Similarly, any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company, has to be approved by the Tribunal. Under the Bill, these powers have been transferred to central government. 
  • Compounding: Under the Act, a regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to five lakh rupees.  The Bill increases this ceiling to Rs 25 lakh. 
  • Bar on holding office: Under the Act, the central government or certain shareholders can apply to the NCLT for relief against mismanagement of the affairs of the company.  The Bill states that in such a complaint, the government may also make a case against an officer of the company on the ground that he is not fit to hold office in the company, for reasons such as fraud or negligence.  If the NCLT passes an order against the officer, he will not be eligible to hold office in any company for five years. 
  • Beneficial ownership: If a person holds beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company, he is required to make a declaration of his interest.  The Bill requires every company to take steps to identify an individual who is a significant beneficial owner and require their compliance under the Act.