National

BIS to set standards for the services sector too

Why in News?

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has kicked off the process to set new standards to measure quality of services offered to consumers across different sectors, including telecom, aviation, e-commerce and healthcare.

The BIS, which sets the quality regulations for various products from gold to bottled water, called a meeting of industry bodies to “persuade them to be part of the process and give their inputs.

Service sector is one of the key sectors of the Indian economy with a huge potential to grow into one of the largest markets of the world.

Standards can play a major facilitative role in this regard. It is important that the standardisation needs and priorities of the sector are determined.

The BIS said that the initial focus will be the 12 champion services sectors identified by the government. These include IT, tourism and hospitality, transport and logistics, accounting and finance services, legal services, communication services and construction.

The standards body also talked about the benchmarks to deal with consumer complaints or after sales service in an effort to ensure quality in the services sector.

The BIS will set up a separate ‘divisional council’ for services in a month’s time. Under this, different technical committees will be set up — one for each service.

The committees will have various stakeholders such as government officials, experts and industry representatives.

Keywords – Bureau of Indian Standards, service sector.

 

 

Ecology and Environment

Compensatory Afforestation Fund

Why in News?

Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has, in a letter, raised serious objections to the rules governing the administration of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund.

He has described them as a “blatant breach of assurances” given to Parliament. Here is a look at the key issues involved

What is the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF)?

The CAF is a nationally constituted authority that presides over a corpus of ₹66,000 crore.

This is money paid by developers who have razed forest land for their construction projects, and the idea is that such land destroyed needs to be made good by regenerating forest elsewhere on non-forest land.

The amount to be paid depends on the economic value of the goods and services that the razed forest would have provided. These include timber, bamboo, firewood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal.

Industrialists pay this money and this is eventually transferred to the States concerned to carry out afforestation.

Until now, a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority was in charge of the funds. However a new Act, the CAF Act 2016, now, establishes an independent authority to execute the fund.

However, it was not until August that the rules governing the management of the fund were finalised. And this has stoked controversy.

What was the controversy?

During the passage of the bill, the government has assured the House that all objections raised, such as

·       The provisions of the Bill vesting greater powers in the forest bureaucracy than on resident tribal people;

·       The possible violation of tribal rights, and gram panchayats not having the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown

·       Doubts on whether it would lead to an ecologically sustainable replenishing of forests, and whether tribal people would be persecuted by officialdom under the garb of regenerating forests — would be addressed within the Rules of the Bill.

Once the Rules became public, Mr. Ramesh said they were a “breach” of promises made. In a letter to Union Environment Minister this month, he pointed out several concerns.

What are these concerns?

The CAF Rules “undermined” several aspects of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA).

In the current form, they significantly reduced the authority of the gram sabhas in having a say in their local compensatory afforestation projects and reduced them to the role of “consultants”.

Much power instead was vested with the State-level forest bureaucracy.

The gram sabhas were put on the same footing as panchayats; consequently there would be great control exerted by the State authorities in the disbursal of the fund.

The provisions laid out in the rules limit compliance with the FRA only to those areas where rights holders have been formally recognised.

What does the government say?

The government has said there was ample time for objections — after the rules were framed — to be recorded.

There was no undermining of the FRA and the heads of the bodies, who had the authority to decide on CAF projects, were all members of the community.

Keywords – compenasatory afforestation fund, the CAF Act 2016, concerns and objections.

1.     Consider the following statements

a)     The objective of the to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.

b)    The recently passed Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 establishes a permanent institutional framework to manage such funds

c)     The bill provides to establish such institutional framework only at the Centre and not in States.

Which of the above statements are correct? Choose the correct code.

A)   Only a

B)   Both a and b

C)   Both a and c

D)   All the above

Explanation - The CAF is a nationally constituted authority that presides over a corpus of ₹66,000 crore.

This is money paid by developers who have razed forest land for their construction projects, and the idea is that such land destroyed needs to be made good by regenerating forest elsewhere on non-forest land.

The amount to be paid depends on the economic value of the goods and services that the razed forest would have provided. These include timber, bamboo, firewood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal.

Industrialists pay this money and this is eventually transferred to the States concerned to carry out afforestation.

Until now, a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority was in charge of the funds. However a new Act, the CAF Act 2016, now, establishes an independent authority to execute the fund.

The Bill provides for establishment of a permanent institutional framework at the Central at each State and Union territory to ensure utilization of these funds in an expeditious and transparent manner.

2. Consider the following statements about the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

a) BIS is a statutory organization

b) It works under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public distribution

Which of the above statements are correct? Choose the correct code.

A)   Only a

B)   Only b

C)   Both a and b

D)   Neither a nor b

Explanation - The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.

It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23rd December 1986.

The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI).

 

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