Tree turmeric (Coscinium fenestratum)
Related Topics: Environment & Biodiversity, Wildlife Conservation
Why in News
Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has developed a germination technology to produce seedlings of maramanjal (tree turmeric), a medicinal plant.
Realising the medicinal and commercial potential of this endangered species, KAU has taken up conservation-oriented research work on the flowering, fruit setting, seed viability and dormancy of tree turmeric.
After extensive research works on seeding pattern as well as alternate propagation methods such as air layering, KAU scientists developed hormone treatment to synchronise the flowering pattern and to produce more viable seeds.
The survey by the Kerala Forest Research Institute, revealed that the plant was surviving in less than 10 habitats across the Kerala region of the ghats.
The survey was conducted for the National Medicinal Plant Board for restoring plants in its natural habitats.
Though distributed across the Indo-Malesian tropical rainforests, its habitat has shrunken to a few patches.
In Kerala, they are found at Meenchalali in Sholayar, Pezha in Parambikulam, Madambra-Kozhikuthu area in Vazhachal range, Kannadivechakunnu, Paripputhode in Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Ambayathode- Palchuram area in the Kottiyur reserve forests.
Habitat destruction and uprooting of plants had resulted in the depletion of number and size of the population.
Destructive harvesting and the dioecious nature (a species with distinct male and female individuals) had also hit seed production.
About Tree turmeric
It is called daruharidra in Sanskrit and daruhadi in Hindi. The root and stem of tree turmeric have excellent antibiotic and antiseptic properties.
It belongs to Menispermaceae family and is botanically known as Coscinium fenestratum. It is native to the natural evergreen forests of South India.
Highlands with relatively high humidity and shade are ideal for its growth.
Its root and stem are widely used in various Ayurvedic, Unani, Sidha as well as traditional medicinal preparations for the treatment of diabetes, skin diseases, jaundice, wounds and ulcers.
Its stem is used to treat snake bites. Berberin contained in the plant is the active ingredient that gives it the medicinal properties.
Rated as one of the largest trading medicinal plants from the tropical forests, almost 80 per cent of tree turmeric plants in South India have been lost.
About National Medicinal Plant Board
In order to promote medicinal plants sector, Government of India has set up National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) on 24th November 2000.
The board is working under the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homoeopathy), Government of India.
The primary mandate of NMPB is to develop an appropriate mechanism for coordination between various ministries/ departments/ organization and implementation of support policies/programs for overall (conservation, cultivation, trade and export) growth of medicinal plants sector both at the Central /State and International level.
Consumer Protection Bill, 2019
Related Topics: Consumer Grievance Redressal, INGRAM
Why in News
Rajya Sabha passed Consumer Protection Bill, 2019.
About the Bill
The Bill seeks to enhance the protection of consumers’ interests and timely settlement of their grievances. It will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Definition of Consumer
A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration.
It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose.
It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.
Rights of consumers
(i) Be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property
(ii) Be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services
(iii) Be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices;
(iv) Seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.
Central Consumer Protection Authority
The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.
The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.
Penalties for misleading advertisement
The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.
In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.
CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to one year.
For every subsequent offence, the period of prohibition may extend to three years.
However, there are certain exceptions when an endorser will not be held liable for such a penalty.
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) will be set up at the district, state, and national levels.
A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to unfair or restrictive trade practices, defective goods or services, overcharging or deceptive charging and the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety.
The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore.
The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore. Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.
Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC and appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC. Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.
Product liability means the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.
To claim compensation, a consumer has to prove any one of the conditions for defect or deficiency, as given in the Bill.
Critical Aspects of the Bill
Eventhough the Bill does provide for a regulator, there is no proper focus on the duties of the regulator.
The Bill does not address the fundamental problem of protracted and complicated litigation, the major criticism against consumer forums constituted under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
Instead, it provides an alternative to the consumer forums, in the form of mediation.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has launched this portal as an Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism (INGRAM) for bringing all Stakeholders such as Consumers, Central and State Government Agencies, Private Companies, Regulators, Ombudsmen and call centers etc. onto a single platform.
The portal will also help in creating awareness among consumers to protect their rights and inform them of their responsibilities.
Consumers can register their grievances online through this portal.
Dixon Plan of 1950
Related Topics: Post Independence Consolidation, International mediation on Kashmir
The idea of dividing Jammu and Kashmir into two or more parts has a chequered history, tracing its origin to the Dixon Plan of 1950.
About the Dixon Plan
Owen Dixon, an Australian jurist chosen by the United Nations to mediate between India and Pakistan on the J&K issue, in his report of September 1950, suggested a package, which did not find acceptance from India.
The Plan had assigned Ladakh to India and northern areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to Pakistan, besides splitting Jammu between the two.
It had proposed a plebiscite in the Kashmir valley.
The proposal for plebiscite in the Dixon plan strengthened India’s determination to shut the door to international mediation.
Other plans which proposed to divide J&K
B.R. Ambedkar,a year after quitting as Law Minister from the Jawaharlal Nehru Ministry, had suggested the formation of three zones: the area held by Pakistan, the Valley and Jammu-Ladakh.
He had also favoured a plebiscite only in the Valley.
Karan Singh, now a senior leader of the Congress and then J&K Governor, in an interview to a foreign newspaper in August 1966, had mooted the idea of separating Jammu from Kashmir and merging it with Himachal Pradesh, which was then a Union Territory.
In 1983, former President R.Venkataraman, who was Defence Minister in the Indira Gandhi Cabinet, floated the concept of trifurcating J&K – Ladakh as a Union Territory; Jammu as a State and the Valley as a “separate entity.”
National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)
Related Topics: Infrastructure development, Alternate Investment Fund (AIF)
Why in News
AustralianSuper, Australia’s largest superannuation fund, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Canada’s largest single-profession pension plan, will invest $1 billion each in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) of India’s Master Fund.
News in Detail
The agreements in this regard include commitments of $250 million each and co-investment rights of up to $750 million each in future opportunities alongside the Fund.
This is the third round of investments into the fund, making it the largest infrastructure fund in India with assets under management of over $1.8 billion and a co-investment pool of $2.5 billion.
AustralianSuper and Ontario Teachers’ will now join the Government of India, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Temasek, the HDFC Group, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance and Axis Bank as investors in the fund.
They will also become shareholders in National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Ltd, NIIF’s investment management company.
NIIF was set up in December 2015 to catalyse funding into the country’s infrastructure sector. It has been registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a Category II Alternate Investment Fund.
The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects.
The Indian government has 49 per cent stake in NIIF with the rest held by marquee foreign and domestic investors such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Temasek and HDFC Group.
With the Centre’s significant stake, NIIF is considered India’s quasi sovereign wealth fund.
NIIF’s role in infrastructure funding has acquired great significance in recent years, in the backdrop of most public-sector banks are struggling to cope with toxic assets and IL&FS, a key infrastructure refinancer until last year been ridden by the crisis.
NIIF is envisaged as a fund of funds with the ability to make direct investments as required. As a fund of fund it may invest in other SEBI registered funds.
NIIF Master Fund: It focuses mainly on core infrastructure and operating assets.
NIIF Fund of Funds: It invests in funds managed by third-party managers in the infrastructure and associated sectors.
NIIF Strategic Fund: It is a diversified investment strategy, including greenfield projects and debt platforms
About Alternative Investment Fund (AIF)
AIFs are defined under SEBI (Alternative Investment Fund) Regulations 2012.
AIF refers to any privately pooled investment fund, (whether from Indian or foreign sources), in the form of a trust or a company.
They covers investments which do not happen via the traditional modes of investment such as listed stocks, bonds, cash, property etc.
Under SEBI guidelines, AIFs are classified into three categories.
Category I get incentive from the government and include social venture funds, infrastructure funds, venture capital funds, SME funds etc.
Category II are not given any special incentives or concessions and can invest anywhere without raising debt. They can consider the latter route to meet daily requirements. Private equity funds, debt funds etc. are included in this category.
Category III operate to make short-term gains and come without any concessions. Hedge funds are included here.
NSE International Financial Service Centre (IFSC)-SGX Connect
Related Topics: Stock Exchanges in India, SEBI, GIFT City
Why in News
National Stock Exchange of India Ltd (NSE) and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) have received approval from SEBI to operate jointly in Gujarat International Finance Tec (GIFT) City, the international finance city under the proposed programme ‘connect’.
News in Detail
The proposed NSE International Financial Service Centre (IFSC)-SGX Connect aims to bring together the trading of Nifty products to Gujarat International Finance Tech-City (GIFT) and create a larger pool of liquidity, comprising international and home market participants.
SGX and NSE will continue to work with all key stakeholders to make the NSE IFSC-SGX Connect operational before the end of 2020, subject to members’ readiness and receiving all relevant approvals.
The fight between Nifty and SGX over trading had reached the courts some months ago. Nifty is India’s top traded derivative contract and it is widely traded on the SGX in the offshore market.
The NSE had moved to de-list SGX Nifty after a scare that India’s trading volumes were moving to offshore market.
On 18 January 2018, when SGX decided to launch single-stock Nifty derivatives, its Nifty-50 futures contracts had recorded daily turnover of at least $1 billion and open interest of $9 billion.
The exchange had planned to launch these contracts from 5 February 2018, causing concerns at NSE that such a move might shift India’s derivatives business to Singapore.
But both the exchanges have now arrived at a middle path to trade Nifty in GIFT City jointly.
Both exchanges are also working to discontinue related arbitration proceedings.
The new model, subject to certain approvals, is aimed at enabling members of SGX and NSE IFSC to trade in Nifty products at GIFT, while managing their exposures through their respective clearing corporations.
GIFT is promoted like an offshore market where there are no taxes on trading by foreign funds.
The National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. (NSE) is the leading stock exchange in India and the second largest in the world by nos. of trades in equity shares from January to June 2018, according to World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) report.
NSE launched electronic screen-based trading in 1994, derivatives trading (in the form of index futures) and internet trading in 2000, which were each the first of its kind in India.
NSE has a fully-integrated business model comprising our exchange listings, trading services, clearing and settlement services, indices, market data feeds, technology solutions and financial education offerings.
The flagship index, the NIFTY 50, represents about 63% of total market capitalization listed on the exchange.
About GIFT City
It is a Central Business District being built between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Its main purpose is to provide high quality physical infrastructure (electricity, water, gas, district cooling, roads, telecoms and broadband), so that finance and tech firms can relocate their operations in it.
It will have a SEZ, international education zone, integrated townships, an entertainment zone, hotels, a convention centre, and international techno park, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) units, shopping malls, stock exchanges etc.
The idea of this city was conceived during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit 2007.
Draft E- commerce Guidelines
Related Topics: E-commerce, Consumer Grievance Redressal
Why in News
Ministry of Consumer Affairs has released draft guidelines on e-commerce for consumer protection.
The rules are aimed at curbing the sale of counterfeit goods, streamlining returns and refunds, and delineating the liabilities of sellers and online marketplaces.
They are principles for e-commerce business for preventing fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers. E-commerce entity cannot directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services.
The companies should not adopt any unfair methods, falsely represent themselves as consumers, post reviews about goods and services in their name or exaggerate the quality of goods and services.
To ensure transparency in dealing, the companies are required to display terms of contract between them and the seller to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
They should also mention safety and health care information of the goods and service advertised for sale and give information on payment methods.
The companies are required to effect all payments towards accepted refund requests of the customers within a period of maximum of 14 days.
On sellers liabilities, the norms proposed sellers to display total as well as break up price for the goods or service including charges like delivery, postage and taxes.
They should also comply with mandatory display requirements as per Legal Metrology (amendment) rules 2017 for pre-packaged commodities.
They should also provide mandatory safety and health care warnings and shelf life that a consumer would get at any physical point of sale.
These companies are also proposed to be held responsible for any warranty/guarantee obligation of goods and services sold.
The draft guidelines laid down that every e-Commerce entity will publish on its website the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details as well as mechanism by which users can notify their complaints about products and services.
The Grievance Officer shall redress the complaints within one month from the date of receipt of complaint.
National Handloom Day
Related Topics: Revival of Traditional Industries, Micro and Small Industries, Swadeshi Movement
Why in News
The National Handloom Day is observed annually on 7th August to honour the handloom weavers in the country and also highlight India’s handloom industry.
About Handloom Day
National Handloom Day seeks to focus on the contribution of handloom to the socio economic development of the country and also increase the income of weavers.
The Union Government had declared 7th of August as the National Handloom Day in July 2015 with the objective of generating awareness about the importance of the handloom industry to the socio economic development of the country.
The first National Handloom Day was inaugurated on 7th August 2015 by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, at the centenary of Madras University in Chennai.
Why August 7?
August 7 was chosen as the National Handloom Day to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement which was launched on this day in 1905 in Calcutta Town Hall to protest against the partition of Bengal by the British Government.
The movement had aimed at reviving domestic products and production processes.
Promotion of Handlooms
Handloom Mark is the Government of India’s initiative to provide a collective identity to the handloom products in India.
It can be used not only for popularizing the hand woven products but can also serve as a guarantee for the buyer that the product being purchased is genuinely hand woven from India.
Sant Kabir Award
It is conferred by Government of India every year on outstanding weavers who have made valuable contribution in keeping alive the handloom heritage and also for dedication in building up linkages between the past, present and future through dissemination of knowledge on tradition.