Punjab Agriculture Department on 13 May 2015 launched a pan-state programme to monitor the soil health of every farm in the state by issuing them personalised Soil Health Cards (SHCs). With this, Punjab became the first state in India to issue Soil Health Cards to farmers. In this regard, every district of state was assigned a mobile soil testing lab. These labs will take soil sample from every farm and will issue digitalised soil health details.
As per Punjab Government, it is mandatory for Soil Testing Labs to check soil health quarterly. Each health card holder will be issued a written advisory on usage of fertilisers and seeds adaptability. The constant monitoring of health profile of various farms in the state is imperative keeping in view over exploitation of soil after the advent of green revolution in the state. It is necessary to maintain the health structure of soil and educating the farmers to use right quantity of fertilisers to prevent soil becoming arid.
Rajya Sabha on 13 May 2015 passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014 by voice vote. With this, the bill stands passed by the two houses of Parliament as Lok Sabha passed the bill earlier on 17 December 2014. The bill seeks to amend the Companies Act, 2013 that came into effect on 1 April 2015. Some sixteen amendments pertaining to winding up of companies, board resolutions, bail provisions and utilisation of unclaimed dividends have been incorporated into the Companies Act and are designed to address some issues raised by stakeholders.
Further, the amendments are also aimed at simplifying bail provisions. For instance, except in various issues of serious frauds, normal Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provisions would apply. To maintain the confidentiality of the board resolutions, the relevant amendment now prohibits public inspection of board resolutions filed in the registry. The paid-up capital criteria have been scrapped while threshold limits for various transactions for getting shareholders’ nod has now been stipulated.
Moreover, one of the amendments approves prescribing specific punishment for deposits accepted, a condition that was left out in the Companies Act inadvertently. Another amendment exempts corporates from the need to get shareholders’ nod in the case of related party transactions valued lower than 100 crore rupees or 10 percent of net worth. Earlier corporate were required to get shareholders’ permission for party transactions valued more than 10 crore rupees. Also, amendments to Companies Act exempts related party transactions between holding companies and wholly owned subsidiaries from the requirement of approval of non-related shareholders.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was on 13 May 2015 introduced in Lok Sabha after Union Cabinet gave its approval to amend the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988. The Bill seeks to amend the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 by adding additional provisions that provides for stringent measures against violators in order to curb and check the generation of black money in the country.
It adds provisions for attachment and confiscation of benami properties and imposes fine with imprisonment. It has provision for prosecution and aims to act as a major avenue for blocking benami property, which leads to generation and holding of black money especially in real estate.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was earlier enacted in 1988, but the rules under that Act could not be formulated due to inherent infirmities in it. Following this, in 2011 the government introduced a Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill in Parliament. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for examination, which submitted its report in June 2012. However, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha.
Eminent historian Peter Gay passed away on 12 May 2015 at Manhattan in New York City, USA. He was 91. He is one of the major American historians of European thought and known for his groundbreaking books on Enlightenment, the Victorian middle classes, Sigmund Freud, Weimar culture and the cultural situation of Jews in Germany.
The German-born historian-writer worked as the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at the prestigious Yale University and was a former director of the New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers between 1997 and 2003. His major works include Voltaire’s Politics: The Poet as Realist (1959), The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966), The Bridge of Criticism: Dialogues on the Enlightenment (1970), Reading Freud: Explorations and Entertainments (1990) and Mozart (1999) among others.
For his works, he received numerous awards and honours including National Book Award (1966), the A.H. Heineken Prize (1990) and American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction (2004).
The World Economic Forum (WEF) on 13 May 2015 released the Human Capital Report 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. The WEF prepared the report in collaboration with Mercer, an American global human resource and related financial services consulting firm.
The report elaborates the status of different countries across the world on the Human Capital Index and provides key inputs for policy makers to augment capacities of human capital in 124 countries it has surveyed.
The Human Capital Index was developed using two horizontal themes–Learning and Employment running across five vertical age group pillars viz., Under 15, 15–24, 25–54, 55–64, and 65 and Over covering 46 indicators.
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 13 May 2015 gave its nod for implementation of Namami Gange programme (NGP). The programme will be operational under the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
Vatican recognised Palestine as a state in the Holy See-Palestine Joint Statement released on 13 May 2015. The Joint Statement titled Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine was released after the Plenary Session held in Vatican on a Comprehensive Agreement following on the Basic Agreement signed on 15 February 2000. The Basic Agreement of 2000 deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.
The Plenary Session was chaired by Mgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and by Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine.
Although the Vatican had been officially referring to Palestine as a state following the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land in 2014 but the joint statement is the first legal document to be negotiated between the two. Also, the document changes its diplomatic recognition from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to the state of Palestine. The official relation between the Holy See and PLO was established on 26 October 1994.
The recognition by Vatican came as Israel government published its official guidelines, which promised to advance the peace process and make an effort to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians but did not use the term Palestinian state.
The Vatican has functionally dealt with Palestine as State since the 2012 United Nations vote wherein Palestine was given a non-member, observer-state status. 135 member-nations of UN recognized Palestine as a State. In October 2014, Sweden recognised Palestine and in recent months the British, French, Spanish and Irish Parliaments have passed resolutions urging their governments to follow the suit.
The present move by the Vatican is a welcome development and will help Palestine in its international effort to get the recognition as a State. This is not only politically significant but also morally significant because the Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians.
Further, the endorsement of statehood by the Vatican counters images of Palestinians as terrorists and is recognition of the Palestinian character that has a clear message for coexistence and peace. However, the move has been criticized by Israel and the US by terming it as disappointing. According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the recognition would “not advance the peace process” and “distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations.”
Indian-Origin Harbhajan Kaur Dheer on 12 May 2015 became the first Asian woman to be elected as mayor in the United Kingdom (UK). The 62-year-old councilor of the Labour Party assumed the charge as the Mayor of Ealing Council in London in which she was the Deputy Mayor before assuming the present position.
She was a mental health professional and is a rights activist advocating for rights of children and elderly. She is a Punjabi by origin and migrated to Britain in 1975 for pursuing higher education. Incidentally, her husband Ranjit Dheer is a former mayor of Ealing Council. Ealing Council serves the residents and businesses of London’s third largest borough, which is located in the heart of west London.
Maharashtra Government has banned digging of borewells beyond 200 feet with a view to check the steep decline of groundwater-level across the state. State government’s decision comes in wake of increase the digging of new borewells by farmers and private players due to water scarcity during the summers. Those who found guilty will face a fine ranging from 10,000 rupees to 25,000 rupees or even imprisonment upto six months in case of repeated offences.
Besides this, state government has made attempt to save water in ponds and rivers in order to bring the drought-like situation in the state under control. This decision was taken as part of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ ambitious water conservation project- Jalayukta Shivar Yojana which aims to make 5,000 villages in state drought-free in one year. The rampant and uncontrolled digging of borewells in various parts of state had led to depletion of ground-water level.
In Marathawada region and Buldhana & Amravati disitrcts of Vidarbha region are worst hit due to depletion of ground-water level. In these districts borewells have been dug almost upto to 1000 feet underground in search of ground water with no success.
Eminent Bengali writer Suchitra Bhattacharya passed away on 12 May 2015 following a cardiac arrest in Kolkata, West Bengal.
She was one of the most popular and powerful novelists of contemporary Bengali literature. Her writings dwelt on contemporary social issues mainly affecting the urban middle class and also highlighted the pains and sufferings of women in contemporary society.
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