Current Affairs - State In News

Maharashtra Approves Reservation for Marathas

Maharashtra Cabinet approves 10% reservation for Marathas in education and government employment.

  • Bill to extend reservations to Marathas to be introduced on 20th Feb.
  • Maharashtra Backward Class Commission report highlights Marathas as socially and educationally backward.
  • Commission recommends specifying Marathas under Constitution's Articles 15(4), 15(5), and 16(4).
  • Report suggests exceeding 50% reservation cap due to "exceptional circumstances" and 84% Marathas not well-off.

Odisha Declares Gupteswar Forest as Fourth Biodiversity Heritage Site

The Odisha government has recently officially designated the Gupteswar forest in Koraput district as its fourth Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS).

Key Points

  • Location and Significance: The Gupteswar forest, situated adjacent to the Gupteswar Shiva temple within the Dhondrakhol reserve forest, is now recognized as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. It joins Mandasaru, Mahendragiri, and Gandhamardan as protected areas in Odisha.
  • Area and Features: Covering 350 hectares, the Gupteswar forest contains sacred groves revered by the local community and hosts a diverse range of flora and fauna.
  • Faunal Diversity: A comprehensive biodiversity survey conducted by the Odisha Biodiversity Board revealed the presence of 608 faunal species, including various mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, butterflies, moths, spiders, scorpions, and lower invertebrates.
  • Notable Species: The forest is home to significant fauna such as mugger crocodiles, kanger valley rock geckos, sacred grove bush frogs, and diverse avifauna like black bazas, Malabar trogons, and white-bellied woodpeckers.
  • Limestone Caves: The limestone caves in Gupteswar harbor eight bat species, contributing to the region's ecological diversity.
  • Floral Diversity: Rich in flora, the forest boasts 182 tree species, 76 shrub species, 177 herb species, 69 climber species, 14 orchid species, and various threatened medicinal plants.
  • Conservation Measures: The State government has directed the Odisha Biodiversity Board to formulate a comprehensive conservation and development plan for these sites, emphasizing local community involvement. An initial allocation of ₹35 lakh has been made for action plan preparation and community awareness initiatives.

Uttar Pradesh Set to Lead in Aviation Sector with 21 Airports

On 7th February, 2024, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister revealed that the state is poised to become the first in India to host 21 airports, underscoring the rapid expansion of aviation infrastructure across the region.

Key Points

  • Remarkable Growth Trajectory: Chief Minister highlighted the significant strides made by Uttar Pradesh in aviation infrastructure development during a session in the state assembly, emphasizing the ongoing expansion in land, water, and air sectors.
  • Transformational Progress: Union Minister of Civil Aviation previously noted the remarkable transformation of Uttar Pradesh's aviation landscape, citing a substantial increase from 6 airports in 2014 to 10 airports, including the recent inauguration of the Ayodhya airport.
  • Upcoming Airport Additions: By the following month, Uttar Pradesh is poised to add 5 more airports, with each in Azamgarh, Aligarh, Moradabad, Shravasti, and Chitrakoot. Additionally, Jewar International Airport is slated for completion by the end of 2024, further enhancing the state's aviation connectivity.
  • Budget Allocation for Noida International Airport: The Uttar Pradesh government allocated Rs 1,150 crore for the upcoming Noida International Airport in the state's Budget 2024-25. This significant investment underscores the commitment to developing state-of-the-art aviation infrastructure.
  • Development Phases: The Noida International Airport project will commence with the development of 230 acres, including 75 acres for commercial purposes and 155 acres for industrial use.
  • The airport aims to commence commercial operations by the end of the current year, facilitating enhanced connectivity and economic growth in the region.
  • Strategic Importance: Uttar Pradesh's ambitious aviation expansion initiatives reflect its strategic vision to bolster economic development, promote tourism, and strengthen connectivity both domestically and internationally, positioning the state as a key player in India's aviation sector growth.

Tamil Nadu Launches 'Smart Cards' for Startups

On 7Th February, 2024, Tamil Nadu's Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Minister introduced 'Smart Cards' for startups, offering a range of subsidized products and services tailored to support early-stage businesses.

Key Points

  • Comprehensive Support for Startups: The Smart Card initiative, launched by Tamil Nadu Startup and Innovation Mission (StartupTN), provides startups with access to a diverse array of products and services at subsidized rates, aimed at facilitating their growth and development during the initial stages of business.
  • Collaborative Efforts: StartupTN has partnered with various organizations to offer essential resources and support across six categories, including legal and compliance, marketing/business consulting, finance and insurance, human resources, smart workspace, and software/IT services.
  • Implementation of Policy: The rollout of the Smart Card aligns with the objectives outlined in the Tamil Nadu Startup and Innovation Policy 2023, reflecting the government's commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in the state.
  • Support for Marginalized Communities: As part of the event, sanctioned equity investment totaling ₹9.05 crore to four startups led by entrepreneurs from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities under the Tamil Nadu SC/ST Startup Fund.
  • Launch of Open Innovation Portal: The minister also inaugurated the Open Innovation portal, which aims to bridge the gap between corporates/government agencies and innovators, startups, and researchers.
  • Through this platform, problem statements and challenges posted by corporates and government agencies can be addressed with innovative solutions from the startup ecosystem.
  • Empowering Entrepreneurs: These initiatives reflect the state government's commitment to supporting and empowering entrepreneurs across various sectors, fostering innovation, and driving economic growth through startup development and collaboration.

Maharashtra Introduces ‘Chief Minister Vayoshree Yojana’ for Senior Citizens

On 5th February, 2024, the Maharashtra Government announced the launch of the ‘Chief Minister Vayoshree Yojana,’ expected to benefit 15 lakh senior citizens with disabilities, offering financial assistance and various other initiatives.

Key Points

  • Financial Assistance for Senior Citizens: Under the ‘Chief Minister Vayoshree Yojana,’ senior citizens above 65 years suffering from physical or mental disabilities will receive Rs 3,000 after screening.
  • The scheme is set to cover 15 lakh beneficiaries across all districts, with an estimated cost of Rs 480 crore.

Centre Tells Supreme Court Kerala Faces Financial Strain

In a note recently presented to the Supreme Court, the Centre highlighted Kerala's precarious financial state, asserting that the state's debts have repercussions on the entire country's credit rating.

Key Points

  • Kerala's Financial Health: The Attorney General informed the Supreme Court that Kerala ranks among the "most financially unhealthy States," with its fiscal structure exhibiting numerous vulnerabilities.
  • Poor Financial Indicators: The Centre expressed concerns over Kerala's fiscal management, citing indicators that point to deficiencies in handling public finances and highlighting the need for improved financial governance.
  • Central Government Assistance: Despite significant financial aid provided by the central government, including funds exceeding the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission and a substantial GST compensation shortfall payment, Kerala continues to face financial strain.
  • Impact of State Debt: The Centre emphasized that irresponsible borrowing by states for unproductive expenditure could lead to a reduction in development funds, impoverishment of citizens, and loss of both state and national income.
  • Federal Structure Concerns: The note was in response to Kerala's lawsuit against the Centre, alleging violations of federal governance structures and detrimental impacts on the state's economy. Kerala urged the court to safeguard its financial autonomy.
  • Future Debt Projections: The Reserve Bank of India projected Kerala, along with Rajasthan and West Bengal, to exceed the debt-GSDP ratio of 35% by 2026-27, signaling a looming financial crisis if corrective actions aren't taken promptly.

Uttarakhand Cabinet Approves Uniform Civil Code Draft for Assembly Session

On 4th February, 2024, the Uttarakhand Cabinet gave its approval to the final draft of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), setting the stage for its presentation in the Assembly during a special four-day session starting on 5th February.

Key Points

  • Special Assembly Session: The Assembly session has been specially convened to pass the UCC legislation and formalize it as an Act. The Cabinet's approval was a prerequisite for its introduction in the Assembly.
  • Historic Implementation: If implemented, Uttarakhand will be the first state in the country post-Independence to adopt the UCC. Goa has had a UCC in place since the Portuguese rule.
  • Draft Details: The final draft, spanning 740 pages in four volumes, was submitted to Chief Minister Dhami by a five-member panel led by retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.
  • Committee's Work: The committee, formed in May 2022, took almost two years and four extensions to prepare the draft. It received over 2.33 lakh online suggestions and conducted 70 meetings with around 60,000 people.
  • Legal Framework: The UCC's implementation aims to establish a legal framework for uniform marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance laws, applicable to citizens of all faiths in the state.
  • Debates and Divisions: The UCC has sparked debates and divisions among political parties and religious organizations, reflecting the diverse opinions on the issue.

Champai Soren Sworn in as Jharkhand CM

On 2nd February, 2024, Champai Soren, a JMM leader, took oath as the twelfth Chief Minister of Jharkhand, succeeding Hemant Soren, who was remanded to five days in Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody in connection with an alleged land scam.

Key Points

  • Champai Soren's Pledge: After the oath, Champai Soren pledged to continue Hemant Soren's work in strengthening tribal rights. He expressed commitment to addressing issues in health, education, agriculture, and law and order while keeping public interest in mind.
  • Special Assembly Session: Champai Soren chaired his first Cabinet meeting, deciding to convene a special two-day session of the Jharkhand Assembly starting February 5.
  • ED Remand for Hemant Soren: Former CM Hemant Soren, arrested in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam, was granted five days of ED custody by a special court. The Supreme Court refused to intervene, directing him to approach the High Court.

Operational Framework for 'Ungalai Thedi, Ungal Ooril' Scheme Unveiled

Recently, the Tamil Nadu government has introduced comprehensive guidelines for the implementation of the 'Ungalai Thedi, Ungal Ooril' scheme, aimed at enhancing service delivery and accelerating scheme implementation.

Key Points

  • Monthly Review by Officials: Collectors and senior district-level officials will dedicate 24 hours on the fourth Wednesday of every month for the scheme.
  • Inspection of Public Facilities: Officials will inspect primary health centers, ration shops, cooperative societies, schools, and government offices during the forenoon.
  • Teams will be formed to cover multiple locations within the taluk efficiently.
  • Feedback and Review Meeting: A review meeting is scheduled between 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to discuss observations and feedback from the visit.
  • From 4.30 p.m. to 6 p.m., officials will engage with the public, receiving representations and addressing concerns.
  • Pre-Visit Public Interaction: A week prior to the taluk visit, officials from various departments will be deployed to all firkas to collect public representations.
  • Evening Inspection of Facilities: From 6 p.m., officials will inspect facilities managed by the Social Welfare Department, bus stands, public toilets, and other essential services.
  • Morning Review of Civic Amenities: The next morning, officials will review basic civic amenities by inspecting different villages.
  • Uniform Coverage across Districts: Collectors are instructed to create an annual calendar to ensure uniform coverage of all taluks in the districts.

Odisha Government Launches “LABHA Yojana”

On 29th January, 2024, Odisha's Cabinet, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, announced the initiation of the 'LABHA Yojana,' a state-funded MSP scheme for minor forest produce (MFP), with potential far-reaching effects on the tribal population.

Key Points

  • Empowering Tribals: The LABHA Yojana aims to determine the MSP for MFP annually, ensuring that primary collectors, primarily tribals, can sell their produce at the fixed MSP.
  • The scheme integrates with Mission Shakti's Women SHGs to enhance the participation of tribal women.
  • Financial Allocation: The State government has allocated an initial Rs 100 crore for the LABHA Yojana, with SHGs or other agencies receiving a 2% commission.
  • The amount will be transferred as Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to the beneficiary's account, targeting the inclusion of over 30,000 tribal beneficiaries.
  • Procurement Automation: The procurement automation system, aligned with the 'Vision 5T' framework, utilizes technology to ensure transparency.
  • It captures MFP collection details, primary collector information, and procurement points, enhancing efficiency and benefits for tribal communities.
  • Further Initiatives: To prevent distress sales to middlemen, the LABHA Yojana eliminates intermediaries. The TDCCOL will adopt e-tendering for additional sales and explore value addition and processing units.
  • Tamarind Processing Plant: The government will invest Rs 25 crore in a tamarind processing plant in Rayagada, utilizing tamarind procured through the LABHA Yojana for value addition, benefiting tribal communities.
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