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1. Special Category Status (SCS)

1.1. More about the news

  • The demand is claimed on the basis of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act which provides that “the Central Government may make appropriate grants and also ensure that adequate benefits and incentives in the form of special development package are given to the backward areas of that State”

  • While Centre agreed to provide the monetary equivalent of SCS but has refused granting the status on the basis that 14th Finance Commission doesn’t provide for such treatment to Andhra Pradesh.

What is SCS?

  • The Constitution does not include any provision for categorisation of any State as a SCS. But, recognising that some regions in the country were historically disadvantaged in contrast to others, Central plan assistance to SCS States has been granted in the past by the erstwhile Planning Commission body, National Development Council (NDC).

  • The concept of a special category state was first introduced in 1969 by the 5th Finance Commission based on the Gadgil formula. The formula was modified various times to suit the contemporary needs.

  • In 1991 the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula was adopted that was in use till the 14th finance commission.

  • The rationale for special status was that certain states, because of inherent features, have a low resource base and cannot mobilize resources for development.

Way Forward

  • Since Planning Commission ended there has been a drastic cut in the allocation to SCS and the difference between funds allotted to SCS and other States have been sizeably reduced and the status has remained more of symbol of Political mileage.

  • With recent increase in tax devolution to 42% and decrease in normal central assistance to states, the benefits under SCS have reduced. But there is still a need of evolving more equitable methods of fund devolution.

  • The recommendations by Raghuram Rajan committee (2013) for the introduction of the "least developed states' category (based on the10 equally weighted indicators for monthly per capita consumption expenditure, education, health, household amenities, poverty rate, female literacy, percentage of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe population, urbanisation rate, financial inclusion and physical connectivity) and abolition of "SCS" may be introduced for better understanding the development needs of individual states.

2. Transformation Of Aspirational Districts

What is an Integration Action Plan?

  • An Integrated Action Plan (IAP) is a policy instrument that can be used to respond in a concrete way to a policy challenge. Each IAP is unique, in terms of local context, theme and coverage. There is no set template.

  • Under IAP, launched in 2010 for LWE districts, additional central assistance with focus on creation of public infrastructure and services is granted to districts with an annual outlay of Rs 30 crore.


  • The issue of a widespread disparity in development indicators among various regions of the country has been dealt with by the policy makers for a long time.

  • However, the earlier programmes/schemes were infested by certain loopholes, including lack of convergence, absence of centralised monitoring mechanism, only a fraction of sanctioned amount reaching the districts, lack of availability of real time data, lack of people’s participation and above all the ‘one size fits all’ approach.

2.1. About the Programme

  • Transformation of Aspirational Districts programme aims to quickly and effectively transform the chosen 115 districts, with at least one from 28 states (excluding Goa).

  • The broad contours of the programme are Additional Information

  • Out of 115 districts, 30 were identified by the NITI Aayog and another 50 districts by Central Ministries and remaining 35 identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs as Left-Wing Extremist districts.

  • The KPIs are a combination of inputs, outputs, and outcomes across the five specified sectors.

  • Associated Recent Developments 

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has tied with the Common Service Centres (CSC) in these Aspirational Districts to implement a plan to promote micro enterprises in 115 aspirational districts across the country to contribute in their development.

Common Service Centre

  • It is an information and communication technology (ICT) access point created under the National e-Governance Project. The project plan includes the creation of a network of over 100,000 CSCs throughout the country.

  • Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level 'Prabhari' Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a mass Movement. It will be based on the real time data and driven by Mass Movement.

  • With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts; while NITI Aayog will anchor this programme.

  • One of the main elements of the strategy is to identify selected Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), monitor the progress made in these indicators and carry out annual ranking on the incremental progress made. The KPIs chosen are to be district specific.

  • For this purpose, 5 sectors have been identified- Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture and Water Resources, Basic Infrastructure and Financial Inclusion and Skill Formation.

  • The programme includes appointment of Central and State Government Officers at the level of Additional/Joint Secretary as the “Prabhari” and Nodal Officers. These officers are to act as a bridge between centre, state and district.

  • A district level team would prepare a baseline report of the current status of different indicators and based on the resources available, would also prepare year-wise targets.

  • The central representatives would be visiting the district at least once in two months and prepare a report for NITI Aayog, which after analysing it would place the findings for consideration to the Empowered Committee of secretaries.

3. Arunachal’s 2-Tier Panchayati Raj

States/UTs with 2-Tier government

  • Goa, Manipur, Sikkim, D& N Haveli, daman & Diu and Lakshadweep do not have intermediate Panchayat as only 2 Tier system was in place.


  • According to the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, states are required to constitute Panchayats at three tiers, i.e., Village, Intermediate and District except the States having a population of less than 20 lakhs, which may not constitute a Panchayat at Intermediate level.

  • Arunachal Pradesh has a population of 13.84 lakh which, thus, makes it eligible for having 2-tier government.

  • Moreover, it was claimed that plans and policies get delayed at the Anchal Samiti level. Thus, the move is meant to standardize the use of financial resources given the already small resource base.

  • Further, planning and execution of schemes would be faster in a two-tier panchayati raj system, as there would be direct connection between Gram Panchayats and Zilla Parishads, the village and district levels of the panchayati raj system.

4. North Eastern Council (Nec) Schemes

4.1. More on news

  • The Schemes under NEC – Special Development Project will be changed to be a Central Sector Scheme with 100% grant (from current 90:10 between centre and state).

  • For other projects funded by NEC – both Revenue and Capital – as 100% Central funding basis, to continue with existing pattern.

  • Extension of 100% centrally funded North Eastern Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS).

  • The Scheme namely Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources-Central [NLCPR (Central)] is also transferred to NEC for implementation.

  • NEC schemes as per Expenditure Finance Committee(EFC) are co-terminus with the 14th Finance Commission. So, all NEC schemes have to be completed by March 2020.

  • Priority sectors have been identified such as bamboo; piggery; regional tourism; higher education, tertiary healthcare & special intervention in backward areas; livelihood project; Science & Technology Interventions in NER; Survey & Investigation and NER Promotion.

  • The total funds available to NEC are proposed to be bifurcated in two components.

  • State component (60%)- would be utilised for the projects in each State as per their share on normative allocation basis.

  • Central component (40%)- the projects having regional character, requiring Inter-Ministerial intervention are to be taken up.

4.2. North Eastern Council (NEC)

  • It is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the North Eastern Region which consists of the eight States of the region, with their respective Chief Ministers and Governors representing them.

  • It is a statutory body established in 1972 via the North Eastern Council Act, 1971 for three key objectives viz. balanced development of the North Eastern Region; effecting better inter-state coordination; and maintaining security and public order in the region.

  • In the 2002 amendment of the Act the role of the NEC has been upgraded from advisory body to that of regional planning body.

  • It operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER).

4.3. Benefits

  • It is expected to boost the development projects in North-East thus accruing socio-economic benefits to the people.

  • It will ensure optimization of resources and avoid duplication through convergence of efforts of various Ministries/Departments.

5. Arbitration And Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018


  • The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, was amended by the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015 in order to make arbitration process user friendly, cost effective and ensure speedy disposal and neutrality of arbitrators.

  • However, to give a boost to institutional arbitration vis-a-vis ad hoc arbitration and to remove some practical difficulties in applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015, a High Level Committee (HLC) under the Chairmanship of Justice B.N. Srikrishna, was constituted by the Government.

  • The proposed amendments are as per the recommendations of the High Level Committee.

5.1. Salient features of the Bill

Potential Benefits

  • Facilitates institutional arbitration by establishing an independent body to lay down standards, make arbitration process more party friendly, cost effective and ensure timely disposal of arbitration cases.

  • Catalyze making India a centre of robust Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.

  • Protect India’s foreign exchange reserves as Indian companies lose significant amount of foreign Exchange on arbitration that usually happen in foreign countries like Singapore.

  • Improve the ease of doing business and thus help in attracting foreign as well as domestic investments.

  • Facilitate speedy appointment of arbitrators through designated arbitral institutions by the Supreme Court or the High Court. Parties may directly approach arbitral institutions designated by the Supreme Court for International Commercial arbitration and in other cases the concerned High Courts.

  • It provides for creation of an independent body namely the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) which will grade arbitral institution and accredit arbitrators by laying down norms and take all such steps as may be necessary to promote the process, maintain an electronic depository of all arbitral awards, etc.

  • The ACI shall be a body corporate whose Chairperson should have been a Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice or Judge of any High Court or any eminent person. Further, the other Members would include an eminent academician etc. besides other Government nominees.

6. Annual Survey Of India’s City-Systems (Asics), 2017

6.1. About ASICS

  • It is an annual study which evaluates the City-Systems which comprises of mainly four interrelated aspects- urban planning and design, urban capacities and resources, transparency, accountability & participation, and empowered and legitimate political representation.

  • The result indicates the health of the governance system and its ability to deliver good quality of life and aims to push towards transformative reforms in city governance.

6.2. Findings of Report

  • Pune (score 5.1) topped the survey while Bengaluru (3) was ranked the lowest in the list.

  • Comparatively, global benchmarks of Johannesburg, London and New York have scored 7.6, 8.8 and 8.8 respectively whereas Indian cities have barely touched 5.1 (being highest).

6.3. Problems Highlighted by the Report

  • A meagre increase in the score of few cities in last 3 years is attributed to several flagship urban missions such as Smart City Mission, Swachh Bharat, AMRUT and Housing for All.

  • There is a lack of local democracy, with only two of the 23 cities putting in place ward committees and area sabhas at least on paper.

  • Most cities are neither financially well-off nor adequately staffed at the urban body level.

  • Only 9 of the 23 cities had a citizen’s charter. Even in the cities where such a charter exists, there is no mention of service levels, or timelines for service delivery, or mechanisms for obtaining relief when service levels are not met.

  • An ombudsman, specifically for resolving citizen’s issues, is also missing in all but three Indian cities—Bhubaneswar, Ranchi and Thiruvananthapuram.

  • 19 of the 23 cities don’t release even basic data about their functioning in usable formats.

  • Most Indian cities use town and country planning acts which were drafted decades before the economy was liberalized and the lack of a modern, contemporary urban planning framework may be costing India 3% of its GDP every year.


7.1. Related Information

  • e-Kranti: National e-Governance Plan 2.0- It is one of the pillars of Digital India Programme, to ensure delivery of all government services electronically to citizens.

  • There are 44 Mission Mode Projects under e-Kranti programme.

What is e-office?

  • It is a project which intends to make transition of government functions from manual to digital ones.

  • It is a core mission mode project (MMP) under the e-Kranti: National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) 2.0. • The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG) is the nodal department for implementation of e-office project.

  • National Informatics Centre (NIC) is the technical partner in this project.

8. The Payment Of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Key Facts

  • It was enacted to provide for a scheme for the payment of gratuity to employees engaged in factories, mines, oilfields, plantations, ports, railway companies, shops or other establishments who have rendered a minimum five years of continuous service with the establishment employing ten or more persons.

  • Gratuity is given the force of law by the Payment of Gratuity Act 1972, which is further administered and enforced by the Central Government and the designated establishments under its control.

  • The Act provides for gratuity of Rs 10 lakh to workers with five or more years of continuous service.

8.1. Major Provisions of the Bill

  • It increases the ceiling of tax-free gratuity amount to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh bringing organized sector workers at par with Central Government employees.

  • It empowers the Central government to

  • notify the gratuity ceiling without amending the law.

  • notify the period of maternity leave eligible for qualifying as continuous service by removing the reference to 12 weeks in the 1972 Gratuity Act.


9.1. About Prasar Bharati

  • It is a statutory autonomous public broadcasting agency which was set up in 1997 under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990.

  • It comprises Doordarshan Television Network and All India Radio, which were earlier part of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Related Information

  • The PB Act states that the President of India will appoint the Board members, decided by a selection committee, which is headed by the Vice President of India and includes the Chairman of the Press Council of India and a nominee of the President.

  • Other important Pitroda Panel recommendations (2014)

  • The committee has recommended on issues such as governance, funding, content, technology, social media and global outreach.

  • It suggested re-organising the Prasar Bharati board to make it a professionally managed body while setting up a regulator to ensure accountability.

  • Develop a funding mechanism for Prasar Bharati that addresses the need for autonomy with financial accountability.

  • Expansion of satellite and digital cable TV operations to meet the obligations of public service broadcasting.

  • The Ministry does not have a direct role in appointment of the chairman and whole-time members of the Board.

  • The PBB also disagreed with the ministry’s suggestion for immediate termination of the services of the entire contractual staff which by now may be almost three-quarters of the total.

  • A manpower audit of the PB, as suggested by various committees, including the Sam Pitroda committee (2014), will soon be conducted to identify overstaffed sections.

Way forward

  • The organization currently faces various challenges in terms of financial autonomy, recruitment of staff, competition from private sector and interference by the government.

  • Therefore, there is a need for it to be adequately empowered and enabled with independent professionals and financial self-reliance to unleash its creative forces, its ethos, culture and aspirations in order to become a genuine public broadcaster rather than remaining a government broadcaster.

  • Prasar Bharati Act of 1990 has conferred autonomy upon the corporation and iterated that its board alone will have the final say in matters pertaining to running it.

  • Hence there is a need to implement the PB act along with the Pitroda committee recommendations in this regard.

March Indian Polity and Constitution

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