Current Affairs - 09 January 2018

1. Supreme Court sets aside order cancelling larger tobacco health warnings

The Supreme Court has put on hold Karnataka High Court’s order that quashed central government rules mandating larger health warnings on tobacco packages, in a setback for the country’s $11 billion tobacco industry. The court foregrounded the health of citizens over the concerns of the tobacco industry.
The court’s decision comes as a relief for health advocates and central health ministry who say bigger health warnings deter tobacco consumption. More than 900,000 people die each year in India due to tobacco-related illnesses, the government estimates.

Background
The Central government had, in 2014, amended the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules prescribing that 85% space on both sides of the tobacco packaging would be covered with the statutory warnings telling consumers that cigarette smoking and tobacco chewing were harmful to health. The Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendments Rules, 2014 were framed under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

The Karnataka High court had cited the following reasons for striking down the rules:
1.The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unilaterally framed the Rules without concurrence of the other departments concerned, and this was a violation of the Article 77 (Conduct of Business of Government of India) and the Transaction of Business (ToB) rules framed under it as the subject of tobacco control and legislation was not attached to one department or Ministry.
2. Also, the rules were notified even before the Parliamentary Committee on sub-ordinate legislations was examining them. Ministry of Commerce had also opposed 85% area for pictorial warning on the ground that it would not result in any benefit and wanted to restrict the pictorial warnings to 40% or 50%. And the Labour Ministry too had opposed pictorial warning for the reason that it would harm the beedi industry, on which several poor families are depending upon for their livelihood.
3.The rules are also contrary to Article 19(1)(g) [right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business] as they are “unreasonable” restrictions imposed “without application of mind or any basis.”
Source: The Hindu

2. BharatNet

Context
Government has achieved a significant milestone under the BharatNet by completing Phase-1 of the project by connecting over one lakh Gram Panchayats (GP) across the country with high speed optical fibre network as per the declared deadline of 31 Dec 2017. BharatNet network built under Phase 1 envisages delivery of high-speed broadband services in over 2.5 lakh villages benefitting more than 200 million rural Indians.
Usually around 80 different avian species migrate to Pulicat for breeding. They hunt in shallow waters of the lake and breed in Pulicat. Once the breeding season concludes, they fly away to their native land with their offspring in tow. The conducive atmosphere for this seasonal avian guests is being conserved at Nelapattu bird sanctuary.

About BharatNet project:
Bharat Net sought to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme. It proposes broadband connectivity to households under village panchayats and even to government institutions at district level. The project is being funded through the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Universal Service Obligation Fund
1. Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
2. The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for NOFN were made an exception to this process since BBNL was the sole party involved in the implementation having being specifically created for it.

Source: PIB

Tags : Current Affairs | 08 Jan '18 | 10 Jan '18