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SOCIAL AUDITS OF MAJOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES

Why in News?

  • The Department of Rural Development decides to institutionalize social audits in major schemes.

Highlights:

  • The Department of Rural Development has decided to institutionalize social audits in major schemes of rural development, starting with the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G).
  • In this backdrop, a two-day ‘National Seminar on Social Audit of Rural Development Programmes’ is being organised in November 2019.
  • It is being jointly conducted by the Department of Rural Development and the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.
  • The objective of the seminar is to understand the current status of social audits and Social Audit Units (SAUs) and develop a plan for roll out of social audit in other programmes.
  • The Seminar will take stock of the current status of Social Audits and SAUs in terms of independency, funds, issues identified, actions taken, etc. and will provide a platform for SAUs to share their experiences of conducting social audit.
  • Models and best practices in social audit from across states in India and also from other countries will be showcased.
  • Participants will also develop an action plan for strengthening SAUs and roll out of social audit in other rural development programmes especially NSAP and PMAY-G.

Social audit for Schemes:

  • Social Audit is recognized by many, including the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), as a powerful tool to enforce transparency and accountability.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was the first Act to mandate Social Audits by the Gram Sabha of all the projects taken up in the Gram Panchayat.
  • In addition to MGNREGA, a few states have taken up social audit of other schemes as well.
  • Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) audits are done in Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
  • National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) audits are done in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Meghalaya Legislature has enacted ‘The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017’ which mandates social audit in 26 different schemes in Education, Health, Rural Development and other areas.
  • Eight States have taken up Social Audit of 11 different schemes including Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meals (MDM).

Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G):

  • This scheme functions under the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • The objective of the scheme is to help rural people below the poverty line (BPL) in constructing dwelling units and upgrading the existing unserviceable kutcha houses by providing assistance in the form of a full grant.
  • Rural housing programme, as an independent programme, started with the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) in January 1996. To address certain gaps in the IAY, the government restructured it into the PMAY-G with a commitment to provide “Housing for All’’ by the year 2022. Beneficiaries are chosen according to data taken from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011.

National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP):

  • NSAP was launched in 1995.
  • This was introduced in accordance with the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) which directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want within the limit of its economic capacity and development.
  • The NSAP aims at ensuring a minimum national standard for social assistance in addition to the benefits that states are currently providing or might provide in the future.
  • It is a social security and welfare programme to provide support to aged persons, widows, disabled persons and bereaved families on the death of the primary breadwinner, belonging to BPL households.

Currently, the NSAP comprises of Five Schemes:

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)
  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS)
  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS)
  • National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS)
  • Annapurna Scheme

MERGER OF ASSAM RIFLES AND ITBP

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed that the Assam Rifles should be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and serve under the operational control of the MHA.

About CAPF:

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to uniform nomenclature of security forces in India under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • They are the, Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Assam Rifles (AR), National Security Guard (NSG) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • At present, the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force, is under the administrative control of the MHA and under the operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence.

BSF:

  • The primary role of the Border Security Force is to guard the border of the India with Pakistan and Bangladesh; it is deployed both on the International Border (IB) between India and Pakistan and the Line of Control (LOC). The BSF also has active roles during times of war.

CRPF:

  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is India’s largest Central Armed Police Force and also considered to be World’s largest Paramilitary Force. It functions under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India. The CRPF’s primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and Counter Insurgency.

CISF:

  • One of the largest industrial security forces in the world, the Central Industrial Security Force provides security to various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and other critical infrastructure installations, major airports across the country and provides security during elections and other internal security duties and VVIP protection.

ITBP:

  • The Indo-Tibetan Border Police is deployed for guarding duties on the border with China from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh covering a total distance of 3488 km.

Assam Rifles:

  • The Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force of India. The unit can trace its lineage back to a paramilitary police force that was formed under the British in 1835 called Cachar Levy. Since 2002 it has been guarding the Indo–Myanmar barrier as per the government policy “one border one force”.

NSG:

  • The National Security Guard (NSG) is a counter terrorism unit under the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It was raised in 15th October1984, following Operation Blue Star, Akshardham Temple attack and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, “for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against Internal Disturbances”.

SSB:

  • The objective of the Sashastra Seema Bal (English: Armed Border Force) is to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Borders.

PRISON STATISTICS INDIA–2017 REPORT

Why in News?

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released the report “Prison Statistics India 2017” recently.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • Indian jails have an average occupancy rate of 115% of their capacity and continue to remain congested and overcrowded.
  • In 16 of the 28 States covered in the report, occupancy rate was higher than 100% with States and Union Territories such as Uttar Pradesh (165%), Chhattisgarh (157.2%), Delhi (151.2%) and Sikkim (140.7%) faring the worst.
  • While overall occupancy rates have come down from 140% in 2007 to 115% in 2017, only a few States have, in this period, gone about building more jails or increasing capacity in prisons in line with the changes in inmate population.
  • Tamil Nadu have reduced their prison occupancy rate (to 61.3%) by increasing the number of jails and their capacity and reducing arrests for actions unless there is a cognisable offence made out.
  • U.P. continue to have high occupancy rates because of increased inmate population despite a relative increase in prison capacity.
  • Rajasthan and Maharashtra have not managed to augment jail capacity to fit in the increased inmate population in the past decade.
  • It has to be noted that more than 68% of those incarcerated were undertrials, indicating that a majority were poor and were unable to execute bail bonds or provide sureties.

Reasons for Overcrowding in Jails:

  • Judicial Backlogs-Due to 1 crore cases (2016) pending in various courts of the country, jails across the country will remain overcrowded in the absence of any effective systemic intervention.
  • Inadequate Prison Capacity– Most Indian prisons were built in the colonial era, are in constant need of repair and part of them are uninhabitable for long periods.
  • Restricted access to legal Representatives-Many inmates are unaware of their rights and cannot afford legal aid, limited ability to communicate with lawyers from within the jail premises hampers their ability to defend themselves.
  • Problems in Acquiring Bail – For poor and marginalized it is also difficult to get bail which leaves them no option but to stay in jails and wait for courts final order.
  • Unnecessary Arrests: Over 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary and such arrests accounted for 3 per cent of jail expenditure.

Key Recommendations of the Law Commission:

  • There were a series of recommendations made by the Law Commission of India in its 268th report and key recommendations are as follows:
  • Highlighted the inconsistencies in the bail system as one of the key reasons for overcrowding in prisons.
  • Expediting the trial process for such prisoners is the most important endeavour, but short of this there are ways to decongest prisons by granting relief to undertrials.
  • The Commission recommended that those detained for offences that come with a punishment of up to seven years of imprisonment should be released on completing one-third of that period.
  • Those who charged with offences that attract a longer jail term, should be released after they complete half of that period.
  • For those who have spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone should be considered for remission.
  • It also recommended that the police should avoid needless arrests, while magistrates should refrain from mechanical remand orders.
  • Despite the Supreme Court and other institutions regularly raising the issue of prison reforms and decongestion in jails, it is evident that the measures taken have been piecemeal in most States.
  • Justice Amitava Roy committee is a ray of hope in the direction of prison reforms, but without political reforms in India’s criminal justice system are impossible.

About National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB):

  • NCRB, headquartered in New Delhi, was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It has been created by a government resolution based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task force (1985).
  • NCRB brings out the annual comprehensive statistics of crime across the country (‘Crime in India’ report).

15-POINT REFORM CHARTER FOR BETTER FUNCTIONING OF PARLIAMENT

Context:

  • Our Honourable Vice President has unveiled a 15-point reform charter, while expressing severe concern over the functioning of parliamentary institutions in the country and erosion of public trust in them.
  • The charter is expected to serve as a basis for a new political normal to enable effective functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • He also called for a new political consciousness urging all the stakeholders to review their mindset with regard to their roles and responsibilities.

The 15-point Charter Includes:

  • Parties need to ensure attendance of at least 50% of their legislators all through the proceedings of the Houses by adopting a roster system.
  • Review of anti-defection law.
  • Review of the whip system which is “stifling reasonable dissent even on non-consequential matters”.Set up special courts for time-bound adjudication of criminal complaints against legislators.Pre and post legislative impact assessment.
  • Address problem of rising number of legislators with criminal background.
  • Governments should be responsive to opposition and opposition to be responsible and constructive while resorting to available parliamentary instruments
  • Consensus on the proposal for simultaneous elections.
  • Steps should be taken for the effective functioning of the Parliamentary Committees.
  • The representation of women in legislatures needs to be raised.

Need behind such a charter:

  • The functioning of the parliament is heavily coming under criticism for various reasons and major issues behind them are as follows:
    • Political power continues to be a male dominated. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have not seen women MPs cross the 12% mark.
    • Political parties failing to display internal democracy.
    • The number of sittings the parliament undergoes is declining gradually.
    • Parliament occupied by persistent disruptions.
    • Rising questions on the quality of debates. In 2008, for instance, 16 Bills were passed with less than 20 minutes of debate.
    • Rising number of legislatures with criminal record.
    • Rising money and muscle power in elections.
    • Legislatures displaying high degree of absenteeism.
    • Faulty ‘First Pass the Post (FPTP) election system.
    • There are many instruments like anti-defection law, whip issued by the political parties that are acting as hindrances for free speech of MPs.

KHADI AND VILLAGE INDUSTRIES COMMISSION

Why in News?

  • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and the Goa State Government have joined hands with an aim to generate employment opportunities in Goa.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC):

  • KVIC is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament in 1956.
  • The body is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programs for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.

Objectives of KVIC:

  • The social objective of providing employment.
  • The economic objective of producing saleable articles.
  • The wider objective of creating self-reliance amongst the poor and building up of a strong rural community spirit.
  • Its functions also comprise building up of a reserve of raw materials and implements for supply to producers, creation of common service facilities for processing of raw materials as semi-finished goods and provisions of facilities for marketing of KVI products.
  • It also imparts training to artisans engaged in these industries.
  • It also engages in research of production techniques and equipment employed in the Khadi and Village Industries sector.
  • It also provides financial assistance to institutions and individuals for the development and operation of Khadi and village industries and guides them through the supply of designs, prototypes and other technical information.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and is headquartered in Mumbai.

Khadi:

  • Khadi, also called khaddar, is a hand-spun, hand-woven natural fibre cloth. It is woven from cotton. It may also include silk or wool. It originates from India and Bangladesh. It is associated with the freedom struggle and Mahatma Gandhi, who urged people to use Khadi and ditch foreign imported cloth.

PULSE POLIO PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • 25 years of Pulse Polio Programme to be celebrated in October 2019.

Pulse Polio Programme:

  • The Pulse Polio Campaign was first started in 1994 in Delhi after the success of the first large-scale supplementary immunization campaign with OPV (oral polio vaccine).
  • The campaign was inaugurated with the tagline ‘Do Boond Zindagi Ki’.
  • The campaign in Delhi reached nearly one million children up to the age of three years with two doses of OPV being administered on 02 October and 04 December through exclusive booth-based strategy.
  • This strategy was later adopted and implemented by the Government of India all over the country as Pulse Polio Campaigns.
  • India’s attainment of polio-free status in 2014 was coined by the World Health Organization as “one of the most significant achievements in public health,” and marked not just India but the entire South East Asia Region being declared polio-free.
  • The last case of polio in the country was in 2011.
  • The global initiative of eradicating polio was started by the WHO in 1988.
  • Around 17.4 crore children of less than five years across the country are given polio drops as part of the drive of the Government of India to sustain polio eradication from the country.
  • The Pulse Polio Initiative was started with an objective of achieving a hundred per cent coverage under Oral Polio Vaccine.
  • It aimed to immunize children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain a high level of morale among the public.

FSSAI MILK SURVEY: MILK SAMPLES FAIL TO MEET STANDARDS

Why in News?

  • Milk samples from Telangana, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, accounted for the highest number of cases of adulteration, according to a national milk sample safety quality survey released by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI).

Key Findings:

  • The study noted that processed milk, including that of major brands, failed to meet the prescribed quality norm in 37.7% of the total samples tested, and in the safety parameters too, 10.4% of the processed milk samples were non-compliant.
  • 4% of the total processed milk samples failed to comply with the FSSAI norm as contaminants like aflatoxin-M1, antibiotics and pesticides were found.
  • In case of raw milk, non-compliance was at an even higher rate of 47% of the total samples of 3,825.
  • In terms of quality, the survey found that 37.7% of the total sample of processed milk did not comply with quality parameters because the presence of contaminants such as fats, Maltodextrin and sugar were above permissible limits.
  • The FSSAI has now directed the organised dairy sector to strictly start complying with the quality norms by January 1, 2020.
  • The study shows that contamination was more a serious problem than adulteration.

Concern over Aflatoxin:

  • The problem of Aflatoxin-M1 is more dominant in processed milk than raw milk.
  • Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Kerala were top three States where Aflatoxin residue was found the most, noted the report.
  • In large doses, aflatoxins can be life threatening, usually damaging to liver.
  • Aflatoxin-M1 comes in the milk through feed and fodder that are currently not regulated in the country, and it is for the first time that such a detailed survey of the presence of this residue in milk has been done in India.
  • It has to be noted that India is the world’s largest producer of milk. The total estimated milk production in the country was 176.35 million tonnes during 2017-18.

About FSSAI:

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a nodal statutory agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health in India through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • FSSAI was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and operates under aegis of Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • FSSAI has been established to lay down science based standards for various food products in order ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.

TB CASES SEE DECREASE IN INDIA

Why in news?

  • World Health Organization (WHO) has released the 2019 edition of the Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report.

Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report:

  • The report provides a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the TB epidemic and progress in the response at global, regional and country levels for India.
  • It also features data on disease trends and the response to the epidemic in 202 countries and territories.
  • This includes trends in TB incidence and mortality, data on case detection and treatment results for TB, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), TB/HIV, TB prevention, universal health coverage as well as financing
  • The tuberculosis incidence rate in India has decreased by almost 50,000 patients over the past one year, according to the Report.
  • The treatment success rate has increased to 81% for new and relapse cases (drug-sensitive) in 2017, which was 69% in 2016.
  • In India, of the estimated 2.69 million TB cases emerging in 2018, 2.15 million were reported to the Government of India — leaving a gap of 5,40,000 patients who are going unreported.
  • The India TB-Report 2019 notes that India is closest ever to covering all TB cases through the online notification system (NIKSHAY).

Key challenges to restrict the spread of TB:

  • There is no initial categorization of patients. The Category of TB that a patient is suffering from is not checked in the beginning and the first-line treatment is given which is useless for MDR cases thereby worsening the situation.
  • TB treatment should be on a daily basis however alternate day treatment leaves the programme ineffective.
  • There is poor monitoring of the fact whether the patient is regularly taking the doses or not. This is often wrongly reported.
  • Actual number of cases reported in the National Register for TB is far less than the number of patients actually affected and hence the disease, being contagious, keeps on spreading.
  • Demand and supply gap of the drugs is quite wide. Specific drugs are rather expensive, especially for the rural masses. There is lack of research and research-related funding towards patient-specific drugs.
  • The TB Programme continues to face the challenge of under-reporting of cases from the private sector, which caters to a majority of cases.
  • There is a poor sense of awareness and responsibility on the patient’s part to complete the TB course.

 

NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU (NCRB)

Why in News?

  • The Minister of State for Home Affairs inaugurates the 20th All India Conference of Directors of Fingerprint Bureaus being organised by the NCRB.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB):

  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was established based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Task force (1985).

NCRB works under the Home Affairs Ministry.

  • The body monitors, coordinates and implements the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project.
  • The project connects 15000+ police stations and 6000 higher offices of police in the country.
  • In 2017, the NCRB launched the National Digital Police Portal, which allows search for a criminal/suspect on the CCTNS database apart from providing various services to citizens like filing of complaints online and seeking antecedent verification of tenants, domestic helps, drivers, etc.
  • The NCRB also maintains the National Database of Sexual Offenders (NDSO), which it shares with states/UTs regularly.
  • It has also been designated as the Central Nodal Agency to manage technical and operational functions of the ‘Online Cyber-Crime Reporting Portal’ through which any citizen can lodge a complaint or upload a video clip as an evidence of crime related to child pornography, rape/gang rape.
  • NCRB also deals with associated work of Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC) through this portal.
  • The National Crime Statistics data is published by the NCRB. These publications serve as principal reference point by policymakers, police, criminologists, researchers and media, both in India and abroad.
  • NCRB has also floated various IT-based Public Services like Vahan Samanvay (online matching for Stolen/Recovered vehicles) and Talash (matching of missing persons and dead bodies).
  • The Central Finger Print Bureau under NCRB is a national repository of all fingerprints in the country and has more than one million ten-digit fingerprints database of criminals both convicted and arrested and provides for search facility on Fingerprint Analysis and Criminal Tracing System (FACTS).

VAN DHAN INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of Tribal Affairs launched the “Van Dhan Internship Programme” organised by TRIFED under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Van Dhan Internship Programme:

  • 18 interns (to be called Minister’s interns) from some of the reputed Institutes of Rural Management/Management Institutions/Institutes of Social Work/Social Services of the country are participating in the “Van Dhan Internship Programme”.
  • These interns have been selected to go and work on Van Dhan programme in the field. These interns have an inclination towards involving in matters related to tribal livelihood.
  • After their selection through the walk-in-interview, these interns are undergoing a one-week training programme. The period of internship is 6 months (extendable developing upon the need of the organisation and mutual sustainability).
  • These interns will work with the team of TRIFED in various states and districts in tribal areas in development of tribal welfare and inclusive growth (a dissertation has to be submitted on the conclusion of the internship).
  • They will support the TRIFED activities on livelihood promotion, value addition of NTFTs, marketing and credit linkages.
  • They will develop tools and techniques on institutional development including mechanism for determination of a just price or producer price of Minor Forest Products.

TRIFED:

  • TRIFED stands for Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited.It was formed in 1987 is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GOI.
  • The ultimate objective of the cooperative is socio-economic development of tribal people in India by way of marketing and development of the tribal products on which the lives of tribals depend heavily on.

FOOD SAFETY MITRA (FSM) SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Union Health Minister launched the Food Safety Mitra (FSM) scheme for strengthening and scaling up the ‘Eat Right India’ movement.
  • He also launched the ‘Eat Right Jacket’ and ‘Eat Right Jhola’ on World Food Day 2019 (16th October).

Food Safety Mitra (FSM) scheme:

  • The ‘Food Safety Mitra (FSM)’ scheme will support small and medium scale food businesses to comply with food safety laws and facilitate licensing and registration, hygiene ratings and training.
  • Apart from strengthening food safety, this scheme would also create new employment opportunities for youth, particularly with food and nutrition background.
  • An FSM is an individual professional certified by FSSAI who assists in compliances related to FSS Act, Rules & Regulations with three avatars – Digital Mitra, Trainer Mitra and Hygiene Mitra depending upon their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • The FSMs would undergo training and certification by FSSAI to do their work and get paid by food businesses for their services.

‘Eat Right Jacket’ scheme:

  • These Jackets will be given to the FSSAI field staff to ensure transparent inspection.
  • They are embedded with RFID tags and QR codes. It is linked to software to capture entry of inspection staff into premise for monitoring.

‘Eat Right Jhola’ scheme:

  • The ‘Eat Right Jhola’ is a reusable, washable and bio-degradable bag.
  • These shall replace plastic bags for grocery shopping in various retail chains. Since on repeated use, bags are often contaminated with microorganisms and bacteria, proper and regular washing of cloth bags is essential to ensure safety and hygiene.
  • These cloth bags are being provided on a rental basis through a private textile rental service company.

‘Eat Right India’ Movement:

  • The campaign was launched in 2018.
  • The campaign is led by FSSAI.
  • It is a Pan-India cycle movement aimed to create consumer awareness about eating safe and nutritious food.
  • It aims to engage, excite and enable citizens to improve their health and wellbeing.
  • ‘Eat Right India’, is built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’.
  • It is a collective effort to make both the demand and supply-side interventions through the engagement of key stakeholders.

World Food Day:

  • It is celebrated on 16th October every year to mark the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on this day in 1945.
  • The day was established in 1979. It has been celebrated every year since 1981.
  • This day generates awareness internationally for those who suffer from hunger and to ensure the need for food security and nutritious diets for all. The day emphasises that food is a basic and fundamental human right.
  • Theme for 2019: “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger World”.

GUJARAT, TAMIL NADU TOP PERFORMERS UNDER PM-JAY HEALTH SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

About the News:

  • The above-mentioned states have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment worth nearly ₹7,901 crore availed under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the flagship health assurance scheme of the Government in just over a year.
  • The scheme crossed the 50-lakh treatment mark this week with secondary and tertiary level treatments carried out across 32 States and Union Territories.Half-a-crore hospital treatments have been provided and there are 9 hospital admissions every minute across India.

Tertiary care-occupies a Lion share:

  • More than 60% of the amount spent has been on tertiary care. Cardiology, Orthopaedics, Radiation Oncology, Cardio-thoracic and Vascular Surgery, and Urology have emerged as the top tertiary specialities.

About Ayushman Bharat:

  • Launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage.
  • The scheme has been meant to focus on reducing catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure, improving access to quality health care and meeting the unmet need of the population for hospitalisation care, and achieving the vision of Universal Health Coverage.
  • There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat:

1.Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY):

  • The National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. Under this 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
  • These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.

2.National Health Protection Scheme:

  • The second flagship programme under Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme.

‘ONE NATION ONE FASTAG’ SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari inaugurated the “One Nation One FASTag” scheme.
  • The plan aims to integrate the collection of toll digitally and ensure seamless mobility of vehicles across India.
  • The scheme will be implemented from December 1, 2019, and can be availed upon activation by new cars having Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on national and state highways throughout the country.

What is ‘FASTagʼ?

  • FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use RFID technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  • The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods. As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number. Sensors are placed on toll barriers, and the barriers open for vehicles having valid FASTags.
  • A FASTag is valid for five years and needs to be recharged only as per requirement.

‘One Nation One FASTagʼ Scheme:

  • Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were signed between state departments and other agencies for bringing in a unified electronic tolling solution across the country.
  • Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Indian Highways Management Company Limited, an arm of NHAI, to accept FASTags on their state highway tolls.
  • The existing FASTags under various jurisdictions of states and agencies would be enabled under this scheme, thus integrating the collection of toll digitally so that seamless services can be provided to consumers all over India.

Significance:

  • The move is significant given that the Centre has decided that from December 1, all national highway toll plazas will accept tolls only through FASTags.
  • At present, 60 lakh vehicles in India have FASTags. According to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), these devices will make passing through tolls considerably smoother since drivers will no longer have to carry cash or stop to make a transaction.

NATIONAL BLINDNESS AND VISUAL IMPAIRMENT SURVEY OF INDIA (2015-19)

Why in News?

  • National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey of India (2015-19) was released recently.

About the Survey:

  • The survey was conducted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Opthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, for Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It was conducted in 31 districts of 24 States across India.

Key Highlights of the Survey:

  • Cataract is the principal cause of blindness for people above 50years in India. Cataract is the cause for 66.2% cases of blindness,7% cases of severe visual impairment, and 70.2% cases ofmoderate visual impairment in the age group.
  • Blindness is more pronounced among illiterate (3.23%) thanliterates (0.43%) and more prevalent in the rural population (2.14%)than urban (1.80%).
  • Approximately 93% of cases of blindness and 96.2% visualimpairment cases in this age group were avoidable.
  • Barriers to accessing treatment includes no one to accompany [thepatient], seasonal preferences, and financial constraints.
    • Among men, the most important barriers are financialconstraints (31%) and local reasons (21.5%).
    • Among women, local reasons (23.1%) and financial constraints(21.2%) were the most important barriers.

HEALTH MINISTRY FINALISES 19 NMC PART-TIME MEMBERS

Why in News?

  • The Union Health Ministry on Monday finalised the names of 19 part-time members of the National Medical Commission (NMC) through a draw of lots in the presence of ministers, senior officials and the media.

About National Medical Commission Act,2019:

  • The National Medical Commission act seeks to improve the medical education system in the country by ensuring availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals, periodic assessment of medical institutions, adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals and an effective grievance redressal mechanism.
  • The National Medical Commission Act, 2019 received assent of the President on August 8 and was published in the official Gazette on the same day.

Key provisions of the Act:

  • The act proposes to set up a medical commission, both at the national and state level.
  • It also has a provision for setting up a Medical Advisory Council by the Centre. The council will act as a channel through which the states/Union Territories can convey their views and concerns to the NMC.
  • It also talks of conducting a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to under-graduate medical education in all medical institutions.
  • The act proposes to hold the National Exit Test for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the licence for the practice.
  • The test will also allow students to take admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this legislation.
  • The Bill says that the NMC will have the authority to grant a limited licence to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.

About National Medical Commission:

  • The NMC will replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) as the apex regulatory authority of medical education in the country. Four boards – dealing with undergraduate, postgraduate medical education, medical assessment and rating board and the ethics and medical registration board – will regulate the sector.
  • The NMC is a 33-Member Body with a chairperson, ten ex officio members, and twenty-two part-time members.
  • These members will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a committee.
  • The chairperson has to be a medical professional of outstanding ability, proven administrative capacity and integrity, possessing a postgraduate degree in any discipline of medical sciences from any University and having experience of not less than twenty years in the field of medical sciences, out of which at least ten years shall be as a leader in the area of medical education.
  • The ex officio members will include the presidents of the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education boards, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, and a director of one of the AIIMS, among others.
  • Part-time members, on the other hand, will include experts from the field of management, law, medical ethics, etc. and nominees of states and union territories.

SARAS AAJEEVIKA MELA

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of State for Rural Development inaugurated SARAS Aajeevika Mela.

Highlights:

  • SARAS Aajeevika Mela is an initiative by the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) and Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).
  • The objective of this initiative is to bring the rural women Self Help Groups (SHGs) formed with the support of DAY-NRLM, under one platform to showcase their skills, sell their products and help them build linkages with bulk buyers.
  • Through participation in SARAS Aajeevika Mela, these rural SHG women get vital national level exposure to understand the demand and taste of urban customers.
  • The Mela is organised by the marketing arm of the Ministry, Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART).
  • Workshops for the rural SHG women would be conducted during the Mela, which will help them to enhance their knowledge and sharpen their skills in bookkeeping and GST, product design, packaging, marketing/e-marketing, communication skills etc.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN SAMMAN NIDHI SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Recently Cabinet has approved for the relaxation of Aadhaar seeding for the beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan).

Background:

  • Under the PM-Kisan scheme funds are released on the basis of Aadhaar seeded database.
  • However, it has not been possible to get 100% Aadhaar seeding for release of funds as per the prescribed time schedule before release of instalments.
  • So, in order to avoid any fore coming issues, government has taken the above step in a Proactive Manner.

About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme:

  • With a view to provide income support to all land holding eligible farmer families, the Government has launched PM-KISAN. The scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income.
  • Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.

Why it is Needed?

  • Declining prices of agricultural commodities in the international market and fall in food inflation in India since 2017-18, relative to non-food sector, therefore reduced the returns from farming.
  • To increase the income of farmers as small and fragmented land holdings and their further divisions has contributed in declined income.
  • To provide structured income support for procuring inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, equipment, labour and other needs.
  • Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.

What is a small and Marginal Landholder Family?

  • It comprises of husband, wife and minor children up to 18 years of age, who collectively own cultivable land up to two hectares as per the land records of the concerned states.

Similar Programmes by States:

1. KALIA or “Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation” scheme of Odisha The aim of the scheme is to accelerate agricultural prosperity and reduce poverty in the State payments to encourage cultivation and associated activities. The scheme is being seen as a viable alternative to farm loan waivers.

2. Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh

  • This was sought to provide relief to farmers by providing the differential between MSPs and market prices.

3. Rythu Bandhu scheme (Telangana)

  • It is a welfare program to support farmer’s investment for two crops a year. The government is providing 58.33 lakh farmers, Rs.4000 per acre per season to support the farm investment, twice a year, for rabi and kharif seasons. This was the first direct farmer investment support scheme in India, where the cash is paid directly.

Benefits of the scheme to Farmers:

  • Immediate impact is on reducing hunger and rural poverty.
  • Income support can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.
  • Increased investment in agricultural inputs, including farm implements and livestock.
  • Help households to overcome credit constraints and manage risk. This can increase productive investment, increase access to markets and stimulate local economies.
  • Serve as an important complement to a broader rural development agenda, including a pro-poor growth strategy focusing on agriculture.

Challenges with Cash Transfers- Criticisms:

  • Absolving From Responsibilities: A targeted cash transfer scheme envisions the role of the state to only providing cash income to the poor. This kind of approach seeks to absolve the state of its responsibility in providing basic services such as health, education, nutrition and livelihood.
  • DBT not an alternative to Subsidies: Cash transfer scheme cannot be substituted for subsidies and other institutional support systems. In fact, such cash transfer schemes could be counter productive and may lead to more distress.
  • Not an alternative to Structural Reforms: Cash transfer is neither a substitute for the structural reforms needed in agriculture, nor does it adequately compensate the farmer for the risks and uncertainty of crop cultivation.
  • Absence of proper tenancy records: Such a scenario only benefits the absentee landlords.

JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS

Why in News?

  • Rattled by the high number of children dying due to acute encephalitis syndrome, the Union Health ministry has scaled up vaccination in Bihar and other surrounding states.

About Encephalitis disease:

  • Encephalitis means “Acute Inflammation of the Brain”. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) including Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a group of clinically similar neurologic manifestation caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemical/ toxins etc.

Types of Encephalitis:

  • Japanese encephalitis and viral encephalitis diseases, broadly classified as AES, are a poor man’s diseases and affect the families of paddy farmers.
    • Viral Encephalitis: Water borne disease (Viral encephalitis refers to a type of Encephalitis caused by a virus)
    • Japanese Encephalitis: Mosquito Bite
  • Both of the above make Acute encephalitis syndrome, or AES.
  • The outbreak of JE usually coincides with the monsoon and post monsoon period when the density of mosquitoes increases while encephalitis due to other viruses specially entero-viruses occurs throughout the year as it is a water borne disease.

Causal Agents:

  • Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals, toxins and non-infectious agents have also been reported over the past few decades.
  • Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India (ranging from 5%-35%). Nipah virus, Zika virus are also found as causative agents for AES.
  • In India, AES outbreaks in north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs. Unripe fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which cause vomiting if ingested in large quantities.

Who is Affected?

  • It predominantly affects population below 15 years. The disease most commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality.
  • JEV has its endemic zones running along the Gangetic plain including states of UP (east), Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, and parts of Tamil Nadu.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is characterized by an acute onset of fever and clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma. Apart from viral encephalitis, severe form of leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis can cause AES. Keeping in mind the wide range of causal agents and the rapid rate of neurological impairment due to pathogenesis, clinicians face the challenge of a small window period between diagnosis and treatment.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR OPENS FOR TOURISTS AFTER TWO-MONTH TRAVEL BAN

Why in News?

  • The travel ban imposed on tourists travelling to Jammu and Kashmir has been lifted with effect from October 10, 2019, almost two months after it was issued.
  • Jammu and Kashmir will now be opened for tourists like before.

Highlights:

  • The Union Government had issued a security advisory on August 2, asking tourists to leave the valley immediately due to intelligence inputs of terror threats.
  • The security advisory was issued just days before the government took the decision of revoking Article 370, withdrawing the special status of J&K.
  • The order also assured that the tourists wishing to visit the state will be provided with all the necessary assistance and support.
  • However, internet and telephone services continue to be suspended in the valley. The services were suspended and public movements were restricted hours before revoking Article 370.

Background:

  • The massive security restrictions imposed by the central government in August 2019, as a measure to prevent any untoward happening after the withdrawal of J&K’s special state status, largely impacted the state’s tourism sector, the mainstay of its economy.
  • While some of the restrictions have been relaxed now, the mobile and internet services remain largely blocked.
  • According to official figures, roughly 1.74 lakh tourists visited J&K in June and 1.52 lakh in July. However, since the restrictions were imposed in August, no tourist has been able to visit the valley for over two months.

MAHATMA GANDHI NATIONAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • To boost skill development at the district level, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) signed a contract with the IIM Bangalore for introducing a two-year fellowship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme.

MGNFP:

 

  • Designed under SANKALP the fellowship aims to address the challenge of non-availability of personnel for implementation of various programmes at national, state and district levels.
  • The MGNF programme has an in-built component of on-ground practical experience with the district administration.
  • It is launched on a pilot basis in 75 districts across Gujarat, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • Eligible fellows for the programme have to be in 21-30 years age-group, have a graduation degree from a recognized university and be citizens of India.
  • Proficiency in official language of state of fieldwork will be mandatory.Its unique design will allow the Fellows to take academic learning at IIM Bangalore and use it in the field under faculty mentorship with the goal of understanding challenges and barriers that district ecosystem faces in fostering growth and development.

Aim and Objectives:

 

  • MGNF seeks to create a cadre of young individuals and train them in a blended academic programme that provides both academic inputs and a component of field immersion at the district level.
  • Besides allowing for an immersive experience to fellows under the programme, MGNF will also be an attractive proposition for those who wish to eke a career in public policy.
  • Fellows in the two-year blended programme with academic module at IIM-B & district emersion program will train with district administration officials.
  • They are expected to enrich skilling programmes by bringing in fresh thinking to local planning, execution, community interaction and outcome management.
  • Fellows will receive a stipend of Rs. 50,000 in the first year and Rs. 60,000 in the second year.
  • On completion of their engagement, they will be awarded a Certificate in Public Policy and Management from IIM Bangalore.

SANKALP:

  • SANKALP stands for Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion.
  • Launched by the Government in January 2018, it is a World Bank loan assisted project that aims to strengthen institutional mechanisms for skill development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for youth across the country
  • Four key result areas have been identified under SANKALP viz:
    • 1. Institutional Strengthening;
    • 2. Quality Assurance
    • 3. Inclusion and
    • 4. Expanding Skills through PPPs.

COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL NUTRITION SURVEY

Why in News?

  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey released by the government recently has highlighted the glaring contrast existing in nutritional level between rural and urban areas.

About the Survey:

  • The MoHFW along with UNICEF has conducted a comprehensive survey to assess the nutritional status of more than 115,000 children and adolescents (aged 0-19 yr) in all States of India. The main objective of this survey is to report the micronutrient deficiencies, overnutrition and nutritional risk factors for non-communicable diseases among the above-mentioned age group in India.

Gist of the Report:

  • Malnutrition among children in urban India is characterised by relatively poor levels of breastfeeding, higher prevalence of iron and Vitamin D deficiency as well as obesity due to long commute by working mothers, prosperity and lifestyle patterns.
  • Rural parts of the country see higher percentage of children suffering from stunting, underweight and wasting and lower consumption of milk products.

Major Highlights of the Report:

1.Breastfeeding: The report shows that 83% of children between 12 and 15 months continued to be breastfed, a higher proportion of children in this age group residing in rural areas are breastfed (85%) compared to children in urban areas (76%).

  • Breastfeeding is inversely proportional to household wealth and other factors influencing this trend may include working mothers who have to travel long distances to reach their workplace.

2.Diversity in Food: It also noted that rural children receive meals more frequently in a day at 44% as compared to 37% of urban children. However, a higher proportion of children residing in urban areas are fed an adequately diverse diet as compared to those in rural areas.

3.Iron Deficiency: Children and adolescents residing in urban areas also have a higher (40.6%) prevalence of iron deficiency compared to their rural counterparts (29%).

4.Obesity: Children in urban areas are also overweight and obese as indicated by subscapular skinfold thickness (SSFT) for their age. While 14.5% of children in the age group of 5 to 9 years in cities had higher SSFT than 5.3% in rural areas, 10.4% of adolescents surveyed in urban areas in the age group of 10-19 had higher SSFT than 4.3% in rural areas.

5.Vitamin D Deficiency: Wealthier households in urban areas and sedentary lifestyle of children may also be responsible for higher deficiency of Vitamin D in urban areas (19%) as compared to rural areas (12%), though the study shows that 74% of children living in cities consume dairy products as compared to 58% in Rural Areas.

6.Zinc Deficiency: Rural children lag in intake of zinc which causes diarrhoea, growth retardation, loss of appetite and impaired immune function. Among children aged 1-4 years, zinc deficiency is more common in rural areas (20%) compared to urban areas (16%).

7.Stunting and Malnutrition: Rural areas also witness higher prevalence of stunting (37% in rural versus 27% in urban), underweight (36% in rural versus 26% in urban) and severe acute malnutrition.

Government Interventions with respect to Malnutrition:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission)
  • Anganwadi Services
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY),
  • Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG)
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)
  • National Health Mission (NHM)
  • Swachh-Bharat Mission
  • Public Distribution System (PDS)

AMENDMENTS IN ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) CHARGING GUIDELINES AND SPECIFICATIONS

Why in News?

  • To boost Electric Vehicles in India, the Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) Shri RK Singh has approved amendments in Electric Vehicle Charging Guidelines and Specifications.

Highlights:

  • The guidelines have been made more consumer-friendly.
  • In order to address a range of issues of electric vehicle owners, a phase-wise installation of an appropriate network of charging infrastructure throughout the country has been envisaged in the Guidelines ensuring that.
  • At least one charging station should be available in a grid of 3 km X 3 km in the cities, and
  • At least one charging station every 25 km on both sides of highways/roads.
  • Assuming that most of the charging of EVs would take place at homes or at offices where the decision of using Fast or Slow chargers would rest on the consumers, it has been clarified in the guidelines that private charging at residences/offices shall be permitted and DISCOMs may facilitate the same.
  • Setting up Public Charging Stations (PCS) shall be a de-licensed activity and any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations subject to the conditions as specified in the Guidelines.
  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been nominated as the Central Nodal Agency.
  • The domestic charging shall be akin to domestic consumption of electricity and shall be charged as such.However, in the case of PCS, it has been provided that tariffs for the supply of electricity to PCS shall be determined by the appropriate commission in accordance with the Tariff policy.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
  • It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • It coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.

TELANGANA: DRONE DELIVERY OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES

Why in News?

  • The Telangana government has adopted a framework to use drones for last-mile delivery of essential medical supplies such as blood and medical samples in an effort to increase the access to healthcare to communities across the state.

Details:

  • The framework has been co-designed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Apollo Hospitals Group Healthnet Global Limited.
  • In July, Telangana submitted a proposal for its drone policy to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
  • The state hopes to become ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) compliant, making commercial use of drones possible.
  • The project is a part of the WEF’s “Medicine from the Sky” initiative that aims to develop source materials for policymakers and health systems to analyse the challenges that come with drone delivery, and to compare this model with other competing delivery models.

What is a Drone?

  • A drone is an aircraft that operates without a pilot on board and is referred to as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
  • It has three subsets: Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft, and Model Aircraft.
  • An RPA can be further classified into five types on the basis of weight: nano, micro, small, medium and large.
  • RPAs are aircraft that are piloted from remote pilot stations.

Why Drones?

  • The core advantage of using drones: reduction of the time taken to transport material, and improving supply chain efficiency.
  • Example of Rwanda: drone-related pilot projects have been implemented on a national scale to deliver medical supplies without delay and at scheduled intervals.
  • Adopting this framework brings Telangana one step closer to rolling out a system that could save lives.
  • It outlines what challenges drones can solve, how to oversee operations and how to implement them.

Drone Regulations in India:

  • In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation acts as the regulatory body in the field of civil aviation, responsible for regulating air transport and ensuring compliance to civil aviation requirements, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
  • The DGCA’s drone policy requires all owners of RPAs, except drones in the smallest ‘nano’ category, to seek permission for flights, and comply with regulations including registration, and operating hours (only during the day) and areas (not above designated high security zones).
  • There is no blanket permission for flying BVLOS; the visual line of sight being 450 m with a minimum ground visibility of 5 km.
  • The food delivery platform Zomato has tried out a drone to deliver a payload of up to 5 kg to a distance of 5 km, flying at a maximum speed of 80 km/h; however, regulations do not yet allow the delivery of food by drones.
  • A change of regulations will be required before large-scale use of drones can be made possible for medical or other purposes.

YOUTH CO:LAB

Why in News?

  • In a latest initiative to recognize young people as critical drivers of sustainable development, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India launched Youth Co:Lab which aims at accelerating social entrepreneurship and innovation in young India.

About Youth Co:Lab:

  • Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, and operational in 25 countries across the Asia Pacific region, the Youth Co:Lab initiative aims to create an enabling ecosystem to promote youth leadership, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.
  • Through Youth Co:Lab, young entrepreneurs and innovators will get a chance to connect with governments, mentors, incubators and investors, who will help equip them with entrepreneurial skills.
  • The initiative will also convene a series of youth dialogues across several cities such as New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai to promote entrepreneurship across India.
  • AIM and UNDP, as part of UNSDF signed between NITI Aayog and UN India, are collaborating to spread awareness about different issues pertaining to youth, the future of work and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through Youth Co:Lab.
  • The first phase of Youth Co:Lab will focus on six SDGs:
    • SDG 5: Gender Equality
    • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production
    • SDG 13 : Climate Action

Significance of Youth Co:Lab:

  • Youth entrepreneurship has immense potential benefits and the most significant one is that it creates huge employment opportunities in the country.
  • With the world’s largest youth population, millions in the county are entering the workforce every year, it is critical for India to create a robust employment and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Targeted at supporting young people overcome challenges, UNDP and AIM, NITI Aayog will empower young people through innovative development ideas.
  • In this regard, Youth Co:Lab will convene social innovation challenges at the national and sub-national level, which will invite young people in the age group of 18-29 years and start-ups to showcase their proposed ideas and solutions to tackle some of the region’s biggest social challenges.

About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):

  • AIM including Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Its objective is to serve as a platform for the promotion of world-class innovation hubs, grand challenges, start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

VILLAGE SECRETARIAT PROGRAMME IN AP

Why in News?

  • The Andhra Pradesh government launched its Village Secretariat programme, under which 1.26 lakh new government employees will begin working.

Village Secretariat Programme:

  • Under the new system, the AP government, one Village Secretariat has been set up for every population of 2,000, with each one comprising close to a dozen village officials from various departments like police, revenue, etc.
  • The idea behind it is to ensure that its services reach people on the ground, and also to strengthen the existing Panchayat Raj system.
  • The cost of hiring about 1.26 lakh new employees is going to be roughly about ₹2,200 crore a year for the AP government.
  • Aside from this, the state has also hired another two lakh Village Volunteers, with each of them being paid ₹5,000 per month.
  • Their job will to assist people in availing government services (each volunteer to look after 50 households).

Shift from e-Governance:

  • The system is in complete contrast to the earlier trajectory of the state, which had been pushing for e-governance or online services instead under the former chief minister.
  • The previous government had launched the e-Pragati platform, bringing many of the state government’s services online, in partnership with EY Consultancy.
  • The e-Pragati programme enabled citizens to avail over 745 services from 34 departments and 336 autonomous organizations of the AP government online.
  • Prior to that in 2017, Real Time Government Service at the state secretariat at Amaravati was started. It was launched with the Real Time Governance Society as its functional arm, which directly reported to the then Chief Minister.

‘MO SARKAR’ INITIATIVE LAUNCHED

Why in News?

  • The Odisha government has launched a new governance initiative ‘Mo Sarkar’ on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Mo Sarkar:

  • “Mo Sarkar” literally translates to “My Government”.
  • Under the programme, feedback will be collected on government officers from public.
  • The ministers would dial common citizens to seek feedback on the kind of response they get during recent visits to police stations and district headquarters hospitals (DHH).
  • The state government will collect feedback on the behaviour and professionalism of government officers. The government employees will be incentivised or action will be taken against them, based on the feedbacks.
  • All of these government officers will then be graded on the basis of feedback received from people.
  • The ”Mo Sarkar” initiative is an important transformative move under the 5T programme introduced by Chief Minister of Odisha.
  • The 5Ts aim at achieving progress through Transparency, Teamwork, Technology, Time and Transformation.
  • This is the first such type of programme in the country.
  • Any government employee found guilty of misbehaviour or any other wrongdoing will face strict punishment.

CONVERTING USED COOKING OIL TO BIODIESEL

Why in News?

  • The Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas flagged off publicity vans in Delhi, to generate awareness about the initiative of converting used cooking oil to biodiesel.

Highlights:

  • Wide publicity is being given to the RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to make India more environmentally sustainable by the conversion of used cooking oil, which otherwise would be disposed of in drains, cause spillages/ environmental damage and pose health hazards.
  • More such initiatives are being planned in other cities of the country.
  • The publicity involves wide social media campaigns to spread awareness and educate people about the ill effects of used cooking oil and ways to dispose it off for converting it to biodiesel.
  • Oil Marketing Companies, under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, have floated Expression of Interest (EOI) across 100 cities of India for the supply of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO).
  • The EOI was floated on 10th August 2019 on the occasion of World Bio-fuel Day.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO), launched by FSSAI, provides an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of UCO to biodiesel.
  • Consumers can give their used cooking oil to authorised aggregators of used cooking oil who will in turn give it to the biodiesel manufactures for production of biodiesel which will be used for blending with diesel. The details of the RUCO oil aggregators are available at FSSAI’s official website.

Ill-effects of Consuming Used Cooking Oil:

  • During frying, several properties of cooking oil are altered. Total Polar Compounds (TPC) are formed on repeated frying.The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver diseases, etc.
  • Additionally, the disposal of UCO in drains causes ecological damage and is an environment concern.In order to safeguard consumer health, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25 percent beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used for cooking.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

  • It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GOI.
  • It is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi with regional offices and laboratories across the country.
  • It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

STATIONS’ CLEANLINESS SURVEY REPORT

Context:

  • Recently Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry has released the “Stations’ Cleanliness Survey Report” (Cleanliness assessment of Non-suburban and Suburban Stations 2019).

Background:

  • Railways have been conducting third party audit and cleanliness ranking of major railway stations annually since 2016. Earlier the survey covered 407 stations, but this year the survey was expanded to include 720 stations. The suburban stations were also brought under the ambit of the survey for the first time.

Basis for Ranking:

  • Criteria chosen for Ranking:
    1.Process Evaluation

    2.Direct Observation

    3.Citizen Feedback

  • Each of the above criteria carries 33.33% weightage and score is given based on this.
  • The total score is out of 1000 and based on the score, the stations under consideration are ranked.

Major Findings of the Report:

  • Top Three Railway Zones- North Western Railway followed by South East Central Railway and East Central Railway.
  • Top Three Cleanest Railways Stations – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Durgapura. (All 3 are from the western state of Rajasthan).
  • Top three suburban stations: Andheri, Virar and Naigaon railway stations.

Similar Efforts in this Regard:

  • Single use plastics has been banned completely by the Indian Railways across its premises recently.
  • Cleanliness programme is being conducted over 6500 stations across Indian Railways to showcase the efforts putting in by Indian Railways to keep trains, stations and railway premises clean.
  • Our present government’s commitment to develop India as a “Clean India, Healthy India and Prosperous India” is also in line with the above efforts.

PRAKASH PORTAL

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Power launched PRAKASH (Power Rail Koyla Availability through Supply Harmony)

About PRAKASH (Power Rail Koyla Availability through Supply Harmony) Portal:

  • The Portal aims at bringing better coordination for coal supplies among all stakeholders viz – Ministry of Power, Ministry of Coal, Coal India, Railways and power utilities.
  • The Portal is designed to help in mapping and monitoring entire coal supply chain for power plants, viz:
    • Coal Stock at supply end (mines),
    • coal quantities/ rakes planned,
    • coal quantity in transit and
    • coal availability at power generating station.

Benefits of Portal to the Stakeholders:

  • The portal makes available following information on a single platform:
    • Coal company will be able to track stocks and the coal requirement at power stations for effective production planning.
    • Indian Railways will plan to place the rakes as per actual coal available at siding and stock available at power stations.
    • Power stations can plan future schedule by knowing rakes in pipe line and expected time to Reach.
    • Stock at power generating station
    • Ministry of Power /Ministry of Coal/ Central Electricity Authority/ Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) can review overall availability of coal at thermal power plants in different regions.
  • PRAKASH Portal is developed by NTPC and sources data from different stakeholders such as Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) and coal companies. All reports are available in PDF/Excel format. However, to present information in a user friendly method, the Portal gives graphical representation of reports with details shown on the map of India.
  • Currently, the Portal will make available four reports as detailed below:
    • Daily Power Plant Status: This report gives Station data related to power generation, coal receipt, consumption and stock. Report can be generated utility wise, state wise and sector wise (default utility-wise).
    • Periodic Power Plant Status: Report gives Station data related to power generation, coal receipt, consumption and stock for selected period. Coal materialisation based on dispatch by coal company is available.
    • Plant Exception Report: This report gives materialisation and rakes in pipeline through Rail.
    • Coal Dispatch Report: Report gives coal subsidiary wise dispatch for particular period. It also gives source wise details of coal dispatch. Dispatch trend is also shown. Plant wise and siding wise details are available.

Present Mechanism:

  • Present mechanism to review coal supply situation consists of an inter-ministerial group which has officials from Ministries of Power, Coal, Railways, CEA, power utilities and coal companies.
  • This group holds weekly meetings to review coal supply situation as well as railway logistics.
  • It was observed that this mechanism faced several issues such as scattered information, correctness of data from different organizations, timely availability of data etc. This often led to difficulties in decision making
  • To address such situations, Ministry of Power asked CEA for establishment of a transparent mechanism to monitor the coal availability at loading site (CIL,SCCL), placement of rakes by Railways (CRIS) and availability of coal at power stations (NTPC / DVC /State utilities) and also directed NTPC to facilitate CEA for portal development.

AUDIO GUIDE FACILITY APP “AUDIO ODIGOS”

Why in News?

  • On the second day of nationwide “Paryatan Parv 2019” Ministry of Tourism launched the Audio Guide facility Audio Odigos for 12 sites of India(including Iconic Sites).

Audio Guide- Audio Odigos:

  • It is an app for the benefit of the tourists. Audio guide odigo offers Government of India verified content, with visuals & voice over support.
  • With Audio Odigos, tourists will now enjoy a more enriching experience and take back historical insights of the Indian culture and heritage.
  • The Audio Odigos app contains an inbuilt map of the site for a smooth navigation during the tour.Listeners will be offered various versions of history like Synopsis, Detailed History and Podcasts.The audio can be chosen in their preferred language & version of the history. Audio Odigos is now available for download on all Android and iOS supported mobile phones.Audio Guide facility Audio Odigos can be used in 12 sites that includes: Amer Fort, Rajasthan, Chandni Chowk, Red Fort, Purana Quila, Humayun’s tomb, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, Somnath and Dholavira, Gujarat, Khajuraho, Madhya pradesh, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu and  Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar.

‘Adopt a Heritage, Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan’ Scheme:

  • It is a scheme of Ministry of Tourism for development of Tourism Amenities. The project aims to develop synergy amongst all stakeholders and involves active participation of local communities / players to promote ‘responsible tourism’.
  • It is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Governments / UT Administrations. It aims at involving public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility for making our heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India.

SOVEREIGN GOLD BONDS SCHEME 2019 – 2020

Why in News?

  • The Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme:

  • The SGB will be issued in six tranches from October 2019 to March 2020
  • The Bonds will be sold through:
    • Scheduled Commercial banks (except Small Finance Banks and Payment Banks)
    • Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL)
    • Designated post offices
    • Recognised stock exchanges viz., National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange Limited
  • The main features of the SGB are:
    • It will be issued by Reserve Bank India on behalf of the Government of India.
    • The Bonds will be restricted for sale to resident individuals, Universities, Charitable Institutions, HUFs and Trusts
    • The tenor of the Bond will be for a period of 8 years with exit option after 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.
    • The minimum permissible investment will be 1 gram of gold.
    • The maximum limit of subscribed shall be 4 KG for individual and HUF each and 20 Kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March) notified by the Government from time to time.
    • In case of joint holding, the investment limit of 4 KG will be applied to the first applicant only.The investors will be compensated at a fixed rate of 2.50 % per annum payable semi-annually on the nominal value.
    • Bonds can be used as collateral for loans.

CONSUMER APP

Why in News?

  • In order to fast-track consumer grievance redressal process and provide an effective forum for consumers to give their valuable suggestions Union Minister of Consumer Affairs launched the ‘Consumer App’.

Consumer App:

  • The app aims to provide a one stop solution for consumer grievance redressal at the palm of every consumer across the nation via mobile phones.
  • The complaint status will be monitored on a daily basis by the ministry and on a weekly basis by the minister personally.
  • The registered consumer will be informed about their complaint via SMS/E-mail with a unique number which can be tracked by the consumer.
  • The knowledgebase available in the app is very useful feature that will help consumers get information pertaining to 42 Sectors including Consumer Durables, Electronic Products, e-commerce, Banking, Insurance, etc.

Grievance Redressal:

  • There will be time bound resolution of all grievances and those that are simple in nature will be resolved within 20 days.Those that elicit a feedback from companies or further enquiries will be resolved within 2 months/60 days.If after 60 days the grievance is not resolved, the consumer will be advised to proceed to consumer fora.
  • Also, now the consumer will be informed before closure of a complaint and if the consumer is not satisfied then the complaint will be referred further to the concerned department.

AYUSHMAN BHARAT PMJAY START-UP GRAND CHALLENGE

Why in News?

  • The Prime Minister will launch the Ayushman Bharat Start-Up Grand Challenge in New Delhi at Arogya Manthan function organized by the National Health Authority. This function marks the one-year anniversary of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).

Ayushman Bharat PMJAY Start-Up Grand Challenge:

  • The Ayushman Bharat PMJAY Start-Up Grand Challenge is a call to action for the Indian start-up community to generate cutting-edge solutions for supporting the National Health Authority towards more effective implementation of Ayushman Bharat PMJAY.
  • It is in partnership with Startup India.
  • It is showcased as a unique, first-of-its-kind opportunity for start-ups to be a critical participant and stakeholder in implementing AB-PMJAY. Under this initiative, Startups engaged in sectors such as medical devices, digital health, health communications, hospital services and hospital management, medical workforce training and capacity building, etc. are invited to solve a set of problem statements reflecting critical implementation challenges of AB-PMJAY.
  • The top 7 startups will be selected to work with the Ayushman Bharat scheme. Other benefits that winners will receive include cash prizes, piloting and testing opportunities, industry mentorship, procurement and funding support.

94TH MILITARY NURSING SERVICE RAISING DAY

Why in News?

  • The 94th Military Nursing Service Raising Day is being celebrated on 1st October 2019.

Highlights:

  • On this day, nursing officers will rededicate themselves to render high quality, selfless nursing care to their patients by reading the Florence Nightingale Pledge on the occasion.
  • The occasion is celebrated at the Army Hospital (Referral & Research), New Delhi.

Military Nursing Service (MNS):

  • The MNS is the only all-women corps in the Armed Forces in India. It is a part of the Armed Forces Medical Services.
  • It came into being on March 28, 1888, with the arrival of the first batch of 10 qualified British nurses in Bombay, to organize nursing in military hospitals in India.
  • In 1893 it was designated as the Indian Army Nursing Service (IANS) and in 1902 as Queen Alexandra Military Nursing Service (QAMNS).
  • In 1914 for the first time, nurses were enrolled in India and were attached to QAMNS.
  • On October 1, 1926, a permanent nursing service for Indian troops was formed and was designated as the Indian Military Nursing Service (IMNS).
  • On September 15, 1943, the IMNS officers became a part of the Indian Army and the members of the service became Commissioned Officers.
  • After independence, the government constituted the MNS and the IMNS was subsumed in the MNS in 1950.
  • The organization is headed at the Army Headquarters by the Additional Director General, MNS (ADGMNS) in the Rank of Major General and at command level by Brigadier MNS in the rank of Brigadier.

THE ‘RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN’ ON THE INTERNET

Context:

  • European Union’s highest court ruled that an online privacy rule known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law would not apply beyond the borders of EU member states.
  • The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of the search engine giant Google, which was contesting a French regulatory authority’s order to have web addresses removed from its global database.

What is the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ under European law?

  • The right to be forgotten empowers individuals to ask organisations to delete their personal data.
  • It is provided by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law passed by the 28-member bloc in 2018.
  • “personal data” means “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”)”, and “controller” means “the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body which… determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data”.

Significance of the Ruling:

  • The ruling comes as an important victory for Google, and lays down that the online privacy law cannot be used to regulate the internet in countries such as India, which are outside the European Union.

VOLUNTARY CODE OF ETHICS” BY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Why in News?

  • Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing State Assembly Elections.
  • IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, Share chat and TikTok had presented and observed this Code during the General Elections to 17thLok Sabha 2019.

Highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics”:

  • Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases reported by the ECI.
  • Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential  violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.

DIAL 112: INDIA’S NEW ALL-PURPOSE EMERGENCY NUMBER

Why in News?

  • Delhi became the fifth UT after Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to implement the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) since its inaugurat
  • In November 2018, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to roll out the ERSS, under which there is a single emergency response number across the country — 112.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS):

  • In India, the decision to launch the ERSS system was taken in the wake of the 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case.The MHA accepted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the backdrop of unfortunate incident of Nirbhaya in December 2012 and has approved a national project by name of ERSS.
  • ERSS was earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance, etc.

Why ‘112’?

  • A single emergency number under the ERSS makes it easier for people travelling across states/UTs, since they don’t have to remember the local emergency numbers of every place.The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in India.
  • This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.Existing emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire, 108 for health services, the women’s helplines 1091 and 181, the child helpline 1098, etc., will be gradually integrated under 112.A “112 India” app has been launched as well, through which users, after registering, can reach out to police, health, fire, and other services.
  • 112 is the common emergency number in several other countries as well, including most countries in Europe.

GOVT LAUNCHES NEW FRAMEWORK TO SUSTAIN INDIA’S ‘100% ODF STATUS’

Why in News?

  • The Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), launched a 10-year national rural sanitation strategy to sustain India’s 100 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.

About the Framework:

1. Sustaining the Success: The framework, to be in place from 2019 to 2029, will ensure that people sustain their usage of toilets.

2. A District-level training management unit (TMU) will be set up to provide oversight and support to gram panchayats (GPs) so that they ensure the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure. The GPs are also supposed to conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps.

3. Filling the Existing Gaps: While there are still houses that have been left behind under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and gaps which need to be addressed, the Centre has said India will be declared ODF on October 2, 2019, the target it had set itself five years ago.

  • The government acknowledges there might be some gaps but those are miniscule in number and the ministry will fix them under its ODF plus mission.

4. Solid Waste and Sludge management: It will also focus on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge in rural areas.

5. Updation of existing Toilets: A report was released on the occasion and outlined the steps that the government intends to take under the framework.

  • They include the retrofitting of single pit toilets to twin pits or making provisions to empty pits every five years, repair of defunct ones, and construction of soak pits for septic tanks wherever not already present.

6. Funding Strategy: While government funding is the primary source of financing in the sanitation sector, the strategy mentioned in the framework also suggests alternative self-financing by gradual leveraging of community resources in the form of tariffs for ODF plus activities.

  • It will follow the same 60:40 financing model as being followed till now in Swachh Bharat. It will be finalised after the cabinet’s approval.

7. Focus on Menstrual Hygiene Management: The framework also talks about state-specific strategies on menstrual hygiene management, including menstrual waste management, which may be supported under the ODF plus strategy.

8. Coercive Action: Any coercive action taken by anybody, including government or elected officials, or private individuals with respect to sanitation behaviour of any kind is ‘totally unacceptable’, the advisory said. This statement was issued in the wake of the murder of two children in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district over Open Defecation.

What is ODF PLUS Status:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s guidelines, prepared by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) defines ODF plus as an area where along with regular availability and usage of toilets, management of solid and liquid waste, cleanliness of water resources, maintenance of public and household toilets and awareness on personal hygiene are at their highest.
  • The Ministry, on several occasions has said that ODF plus is not just a label, but a sustained campaign to achieve all-round cleanliness in an area.

TOBACCO QUITLINE

Why in news?

  • Since its inception in September, 2018, the union government’s tobacco Quitline, for counselling in south Indian languages, has received more than 5 lakh calls.
  • The National Tobacco Cessation QuitLine is a dedicated toll-free number that helps tobacco users to receive free support and guidance to subdue their addiction.

Highlights:

  • The Union government’s tobacco Quitline is monitored by National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).
  • The helpline started by the Union Health Ministry in April 2018 is displayed on all tobacco products.
  • Subsequently, the south Indian regional languages cell, NIMHANS Tobacco Quitline was started on September 11, 2018.
  • Those who are unable to kick the habit only with the help of Quitline, are referred to the nearest Tobacco Cessation Clinic (TCC). Penetration in rural areas is the next plan.

mCessation programme:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in partnership with World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunications Union, had started an initiative for utilising mobile technology for tobacco cessation.
  • WHO-ITU’s ‘Be Healthy Be Mobile’ initiative, aims to reach out to tobacco users of all categories who want to quit tobacco use.
  • The Centre’s ‘mCessation’ Programme to quit tobacco is a text messaging programme for mobile phone users.
  • A person looking to quit tobacco can give a missed call to the toll-free number after which, they will be sent a series of messages over several months.
  • In a 2018 report published by the peer-reviewed online journal BMJ Innovations it was reported that the ‘mCessation’ programme in India had seen a 19% quit rate (estimated as not used any tobacco in the past 30 days).

‘TB HAREGA DESH JEETEGA’ CAMPAIGN

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare launched the ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign along with the National TB Prevalence Survey on 25th September. He also released the TB India Report (2019).

‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign:

  • The chief objective of the campaign is to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) from India.
  • The campaign has 3 pillars:
    • Clinical approach
    • Public health component
    • Active community participation
  • Supporting aspects of the campaign include patient support, private sector engagement, political and administrative commitment at all levels.
  • The government will make sure that TB patients receive free and high quality treatment and care at private and public hospitals.
  • The government has set the target year for eradicating TB from the country as 2025. The global target set by the UN is 2030.
  • It also aims to improve and expand the reach of TB care services across the country by 2022.
  • This includes preventive and promotive approaches, and proposes interventions such as engagement with private sector health care providers, inter-ministerial partnerships, corporate sector engagement, latent TB infection management, and community engagement.
  • The interventions will be accompanied by a comprehensive, mass media and communications campaign to generate awareness about the disease and the free treatment services available under the government programme.
  • Last year, the government has launched the Nikshay Poshan Yojana, a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme to provide nutritional support to TB patients. Since then, about 26 lakh patients have received the benefit directly into their bank accounts.

National TB Prevalence Survey:

  • This survey is crucial for achieving the goal of ending TB in India by 2025.
  • The survey will take 6 months and cover the whole country.
  • The data thus obtained will be used as a policy tool for further interventions.
  • According to TB India Report, 21.5 lakh cases of TB were reported in 2018.
  • In 2017, there were 18 lakh cases and 2018 saw a rise of 17% from the previous year.

NATIONAL SERVICE SCHEME (NSS)

Why in News?

  • The President of India presented the National Service Scheme Awards at New Delhi on 24th September.

National Service Scheme:

  • The National Service Scheme (NSS) is a Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
  • It gives opportunities to school students of classes XI and XII, and university/college students to take part in various government led community service activities and programmes.
  • The chief Objective of the NSS is to offer students and young people a first-hand experience in delivering service to the community.
  • It was started in the year 1969. Currently, there are 3.8 million student volunteers in this scheme. Motto of NSS: “Not Me But You”
  • All volunteers wear the NSS badge which is a symbol of pride and honour for them. The badge signifies that they are ready for service round the clock.
  • The benefits that students get from being a part of this scheme are:
    • They can get skills to become accomplished social leaders in the future
    • They get experience which will help them become efficient administrators
    • It will help them understand human nature better
    • It will also help them understand the rich cultural diversity of India
    • It will help them have national pride through a better knowledge of the country
    • NSS organises camps, parades, youth festivals, etc. as part of its activities.

NATIONAL CONCLAVE ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN MSME SECTOR

Why in News?

  • The National Conclave on Energy Efficiency in MSME sector was inaugurated by Union Ministers in Hyderabad.

Highlights:

  • The two-day Conclave was organized by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) with participation from MSME entrepreneurs, industry associations, technology and service providers, sectoral energy experts and senior officials from the Government.
  • The Ministers also released Energy Conservation Guidelines for MSMEs.
  • They also launched the Knowledge Management Portal “SIDHIEE” under the BEE’s MSME Programme.
  • The SIDHIEE portal will host useful information including fifty videos of multimedia tutorials for MSMEs for early adoption of energy-efficient technologies.
  • The Conclave is expected to be useful in creating a platform for pooling the knowledge and synergising the efforts of various stakeholders.
  • The participantsdiscussed various issues such as strategies to promote energy efficiency, technical and financial capabilities of MSMEs, capacity-building and awareness programmes.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
  • It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • It coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.

MULTIPURPOSE NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD (MPNIC)

Why in News?

  • Announcing that the 2021 census exercise would be carried out digitally, Union Home Minister Amit Shah suggested one card for all utilities in future.
  • The Home Minister’s suggestion resembles the so-called Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) that was first suggested in 2001.

Background:

  • The Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) was first suggested by a 2001 report on “Reforming the National Security System” by an empowered Group of Ministers (eGOM) during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
  • The eGOM report itself was a response to the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee, which was instituted in the wake of the Kargil conflict of 1999.
  • The eGOM recommended MPNIC in relation to the growing threat from illegal migration.
  • It said that all citizens should be given a Multi-Purpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design. This should be introduced initially in the border districts or maybe in a 20 Kms border belt and extended to the hinterland progressively.

Highlights of Home Minister’s Statement:

  • Home Minister has clarified that there is no specific scheme that is in the offing. But the government would want to link various databases if it intends to create a card that works as a single point of access to various accounts held by an individual.
  • He hinted at the possibility of linking the registration of birth and death with the country’s voter list, this way no one would have to apply for a voter card when they reach the voting age – it would happen on its own. Similarly, if someone dies, the voter list would be updated on its own.
  • Home Minister clarified that it was possible to get rid of excess processes and cards such as the Aadhaar card, the voter card, the identity card etc.
  • He further argued that if this Census was done properly and in the right format, it was possible that there could be just one single card in which all the other cards could reside. In other words, a single card that has your bank card, voter id card, Aadhaar card, and passport.

ALL INDIA SURVEY ON HIGHER EDUCATION: 2018-19

Context:

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has recently published the 2018-19 edition of the AISHE Report 2019, which has thrown up some startling findings and revelations about the higher education sector in the country.

About AISHE Report:

  • AISHE is a Pan India, annual web-based survey which covers all the Higher Educational Institutions in the country conducted by Ministry of Human Resource Development in order to give an overview and understand about the latest developments in the field of higher education.
  • Various parameters on which the data is collected are teachers, student enrolment, programs, examination results, education finance, infrastructure etc.

Key Findings of the Report:

1. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): GER is statistical measure for determining number of students enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and research-level studies within country and expressed as a percentage of population.

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is 3% which is a marginal increase from 25.8% in 2017-18, which is calculated for 18-23 years of age group.

2. Gender parity among teachers: The total number of teachers are 14,16,299, out of which about 57.8% are male teachers and 42.2% are female teachers. At All-India level there are merely 73 female teachers per 100 male teachers.

3. Gender parity among students: It may be seen that ratio of male is higher than female in almost every level, except M.Phil., Post Graduate and Certificate.

Student enrolment at Under Graduate level has 51% male and 49% female. Diploma has a skewed distribution with 66.8% males and 33.2% females. Ph.D. level has 56.18% male and 43.82% female.

4. Narrowing Gender Gap: Total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 37.4 million and among them female constitute of 48.6% of the total enrolment. It was a slight improvement from earlier 47.6% in 2017-18.

5. Number of Higher Educational institutes: The number of universities has grown to 993 in 2018-2019 from 903 in 2017-18 and there is a 3.3% increase in the number of colleges in the country.

6. Preference to Higher studies: Of the total student enrolment in higher studies, about 79.8% of the students belongs to Undergraduate level programme, while only 0.5% of students of the total enrolment enrols for a Ph.D. programme.

7. Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR): PTR in Universities and Colleges is 29 and PTR for Universities and its Constituent Units is 18.

Other key Facts:

1. Share of female students is lowest in Institutions of National Importance followed by State Private Open Universities, Deemed Universities-Government.

2. Uttar Pradesh comes at number one with the highest student enrolment followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

3. In Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, there are now more females in the age group of 18-23 enrolling for higher education than male students.

State of Higher Education in India

  • India’s Higher Education sector is one of the largest in the world. However, it still lags behind other countries such as USA, China, Thailand etc.
  • This has been aptly proved by the absence of India’s top Universities in the world ranking list annually.

Some of the Key Challenges Faced by the Sector are as:

  • Dominance of private sector that has caused skewed regional and sectoral growth.
  • Lack of focus on Skill Development: Education system has been plagued with outdated syllabus, rot learning, lack of employability and lack of focus on skill development.
  • Overregulation: Higher Education System is regulated by many bodies that causes overlap of power and confusion. This has drastically reduced the autonomy of Universities.
  • Lack of resources and required funds and largely linear model with very little focus on specialization.
  • More emphasis only on few specialised branches such as social sciences and absence of due importance on diversified fields.

Government Interventions:

  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) scheme has been sanctioned to improve the development of infrastructure in premier education institutions.
  • Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh: Non lapsable funds for secondary and higher education sectors respectively.
  • New Delhi Declaration on Education: It reiterates India’s commitment to achieve SDG 4 and improve quality of education.

PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SYSTEM (PGS)

Why in News?

  • Chairperson of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said on the sidelines of a function of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Coordinating Committee for Asia (CCASIA) in Panaji that she expects the Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) to incentivise more farmers to grow organic food.

About Participatory Guarantee System (PGS):

  • PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards. The certification is in the form of a documented logo or a statement.
  • pgsindia-ncof.gov.in is web based platform to simplify the process of certifying organic products in accordance with the standards laid down for organic products for export purpose. Thus it seeks to curb third party certification.
  • Implemented: by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under the aegis of Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Guiding Principles of PGS:

  • PGS India system is based on participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust. In addition it gives PGS movement a National recognition and institutional structure.

Participation:

  • Participation is an essential and dynamic part of PGS. Participation embodies the principle of collective responsibility for ensuring the organic integrity of the PGS. This collective responsibility is reflected through:
    • Shared ownership of the PGS
    • Stakeholder engagement in the development and operation process
    • Understanding of how the system works and
    • Direct communication between producers and consumers and other stakeholders

Shared Vision:

  • Collective responsibility for implementation and decision making is driven by common shared vision. All the key stakeholders (producers, facilitating agencies, NGOs, social organizations, State Governments and state agencies) support the guiding principles and goals, PGS is striving to achieve and this is achieved initially through their participation and support in the design and then by joining it. This may include commitment in writing through signing an application and pledge that includes the vision.

Transparency:

  • Transparency is created by having all stakeholders, including producers and consumers, aware of exactly how the guarantee system works to include the standards, the organic guarantee process (norms) with clearly defined and documented systems and how decisions are made.

Trust:

  • The integrity base upon which PGS-India programme is built, is rooted in the idea that producers can be trusted and that the organic guarantee system can be an expression and verification of this trust. The foundation of this trust is built from the idea that the key stakeholders collectively develop their shared vision and then collectively continue to shape and reinforce their vision through the PGS. The idea of ‘trust’ assumes that the individual producer has a commitment to protecting nature and consumers’ health through organic production.

Horizontality:

  • PGS India is intended to be non-hierarchical at group level. This will reflect in the overall democratic structure and through the collective responsibility of the PGS group with sharing and rotating responsibility, by engaging producers directly in the peer review of each other’s farms; and by transparency in decision making process.

National Networking:

  • PGS India while keeping the spirit of PGS intact aims to give the entire movement an institutional structure. This is achieved by networking the groups under common umbrella through various facilitating agencies, Regional Councils and Zonal Councils.
  • National Centre of Organic Farming shall be the custodian of data, define policies and guidelines and undertake surveillance through field monitoring and product testing for residues. Regional councils and facilitating agencies facilitate the groups in capacity building, training, knowledge/ technology dissemination and data uploading on the PGS website.

Advantages:

Among the advantages of PGS over third-party certification, identified by the government document, are:

  • Procedures are simple, documents are basic, and farmers understand the local language used.
  • All members live close to each other and are known to each other. As practising organic farmers themselves, they understand the processes well.
  • Because peer appraisers live in the same village, they have better access to surveillance; peer appraisal instead of third-party inspections also reduces costs
  • Mutual recognition and support between regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
  • Unlike the grower group certification system, PGS offers every farmer individual certificates, and the farmer is free to market his own produce independent of the group.

Limitations:

  • PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of contiguous villages, and is applicable only to farm activities such as crop production, processing, and livestock rearing, and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”.
  • Individual farmers or group of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS. They either have to opt for third party certification or join the existing PGS local group.
  • PGS ensures traceability until the product is in the custody of the PGS group, which makes PGS ideal for local direct sales and direct trade between producers and consumers.

CORPS OF ARMY AIR DEFENCE

Why in News?

  • The sixth reunion of the Corps of Army Air Defence was celebrated on 20 and 21 September 2019 at Army AD College, Gopalpur.

Corps of Army Air Defence:

  • The Corps of Army Air Defence (AAD) is an active corps of the Indian Army that is mandated with protecting Indian air space from enemy aircraft and missiles, particularly below 5000 feet, where it is highly impossible for Air Force planes to intercept the threat.
  • AAD is tasked with India’s air defence against foreign threats.
  • The Corps was first raised in 1939 when it participated in the Second World War.
  • However, the Corps became an autonomous corps only recently in 1994, when the Corps of Air Defence Artillery was bifurcated from the Army’s artillery regiment.
  • A training school called the Army Air Defence College (AADC) was set up to provide training to its personnel, at Gopalpur, Odisha.
  • The motto of the corps is: ‘Aakashe Shatrun Jahi’ (Sanskrit for ‘Defeat the enemy in the sky’).
  • Apart from the Second World War, it has seen action in the wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971; in the 1962 war with China and in the Kargil War in 1999.
  • The Corps is headed by the Director General of Corps of Army Air Defence, who is generally a 3-star general.

MOCHI SWABHIMAAN INITIATIVE

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, GOI awarded Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Certificates to more than one thousand workers from the leather sector in Chennai. He also launched the Mochi Swabhimaan Initiative.

RPL Certificates:

  • RPL certificates are given under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) of Skill India to the unorganised semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
  • These certificates can help them get assessed and certified on their current competencies as per NSQF levels (National Skills Qualifications Framework).
  • RPL also shows them a path to bridge their current knowledge and skill levels to reach a competency level or go for higher skills for professional growth.
  • The RPL scheme envisions to impart skill-based training to one crore people between 2016 and 2020.
  • The certificates can give workers the chance to go for higher education in their respective fields.It will also give them different options in upgrading and upskilling.
  • RPL certificates certify skills acquired informally and drive young people to venture into aspirational job roles.
  • The industry will also be benefitted because formalizing the skills of employees will give a clear picture of the available skill sets, skill gaps and the need for upgradation to achieve desired quality and productivity benchmarks.

Mochi Swabhimaan Initiative:

  • It is a nationwide activity in which the Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC) will extend support to the cobbler community who provide leather-based services, with CSR funds and bring respect to their skills by giving them a better working environment in the form of kiosks/umbrellas.

Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC):

  • It is a non-profit organisation dedicated to meeting the demand for skilled workforce in the leather industry in India.
  • The LSSC was set up in 2012 as one of the key sector skill councils approved by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
  • The LSSC caters to the training and employment needs of various subsectors in the leather industry such as finished leather, footwear, garments, leather goods, accessories, saddlery and harness sectors.
  • It also has a partnership with the Council of Leather Exports (CLE).

DRAFT RULES TO REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA

Why in News?

  • The Centre has informed the Madras High Court that deliberations on the Draft Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment)] Rules, 2018, has been completed.

Highlights:

  • The Government had sought to make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to trace originator of unlawful information.
  • It had also sought to make it mandatory to remove such content within 24 hours after being notified.
  • Initially, Advocate Antony Clement Rubin had approached the Court to obtain an order for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts.
  • However, the HC made it clear that it was not in favour of such a plea.
  • Instead, the HC expanded the scope of the case & suo motu impleaded Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp as parties to the case.
  • This ensured that they could be made to cooperate with the local police in cracking cybercrimes by sharing necessary information
  • The guidelines mandate social media companies to cooperate with the police in cracking cybercrimes.
  • The Bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan, told senior counsel, representing WhatsApp, that the social media giants were bound to obey local laws of the country in which they operate & share requisite information with the police.
  • It said, the companies could not take umbrage under the right to privacy.

PRADHAN MANTRI MATRU VANDANA YOJANA

Why in News?

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), a flagship scheme of the Government for pregnant women and lactating mothers has achieved a significant milestone by crossing one crore beneficiaries.

PMMVY:

  • PMMVY is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme under which cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.
  • Implementation of the scheme started with effect from 01.01.2017.
  • Under the ‘Scheme’, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) receive a cash benefit of Rs. 5,000 in three instalments on fulfilling the respective conditionality.
  • They include early registration of pregnancy, ante-natal check-up and registration of the birth of the child and completion of first cycle of vaccination for the first living child of the family.
  • The eligible beneficiaries also receive cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6,000.

Performance by states:

  • Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Rajasthan are the top five States/UT in the country in implementation of PMMVY.
  • Odisha and Telangana are yet to start implementation of the scheme.

GOVERNMENT TO PEG MGNREGA WAGES TO INFLATION IN BID TO HIKE INCOMES

Why in News?

  • The Centre has planned to inject more money into the UPA’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme by linking wages under the Act to an updated inflation index, which will be revised annually to counter slump in rural demand and a slowdown in the rural economy.

What is MGNREGA?

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a social security scheme that attempts to provide employment and livelihood to rural labourers in the country.
  • The scheme was designed to provide any adult who registers for rural employment a minimum job guarantee of 100 days each financial year.
  • This includes non-skilled work, making it one-of-its-kind across the world. It was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • The MGNREGA is an entitlement to work that every adult citizen holds. In case such employment is not provided within 15 days of registration, the applicant becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.

Current Wages:

  • The national average wage of an MGNREGA worker is ₹178.44 per day, less than half of the ₹375 per day minimum wage recommended by a Labour Ministry panel earlier this year.Now the govt plans to link the daily wages to the inflation rate (CPI-AL), so that the rural labourers can benefit in real time.

Benefits:

  • This effort of government to hike the wages is a part of a stimulus package initiated in order to counter the ongoing economic slowdown.
  • If transferring expenditure [via MGNREGA] is done, rural wages could increase and that could percolate down into more purchasing power in the hands of the consumer. This is in turn expected to boost the rural economy.

About Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • It measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer.
  • It measures changes over time in the level of retail prices of selected goods and services on which consumers of a defined group spend their incomes.

Four types of CPI are as follows:

Compiled by
1CPI for Industrial Workers (IW).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
2CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
3CPI for Rural Labourer (RL).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
4CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined).Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

POSHAN ABHIYAAN OR NATIONAL NUTRITION MISSION (NNM)

Context:

  • A study by Lancet has shown that India is unlikely to meet “Poshan Abhiyaan” scheme

About Poshan Abhiyaan:

  • Poshan Abhiyaan is Government of India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It was launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2018.
  • This initiative is aimed at sensitising public on healthy eating, addressing twin issues of malnutrition and undernutrition and obesity in some sections and also intensifying existing nationwide campaign for ‘malnutrition-free India‘
  • Targets:
    • Poshan Abhiyaan, the world’s largest nutrition programme, expected to benefit 10 crore people and launched in 2018 by government.
    • Aims to reduce stunting, underweight, and low birth weight, each by 2% per year; and anaemia among young children, adolescents and women each by 3% per year until 2022. A special target for stunting is set at 25% by 2022.

Global Burden of Disease Study:

  • Poshan Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission (NNM) for reduction in prevalence of stunting, underweight, low birth weight and anaemia in women and children by 2022 if there is no progress achieved in improving the rate of decline observed between 1990 and 2017.
  • The study points out that India will miss its target for
    • Stunting Levels of 25% by 9.6%;
    • Underweight Target of 22.7% by 4.8%;
    • Desired Low Birth level of 11.4% by 8.9%;
    • Anaemia Level Among Women of 39.4% by 13.8%; and
    • Anaemia Level Among Children of 44.7% by 11.7%,

About the Report:

  • The report is a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

For implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan the four-point strategy/pillars of the Mission are:

  • Inter-sectoral convergence for better service delivery
  • Use of technology (ICT) for real time growth monitoring and tracking of women and     children
  • Intensified health and nutrition services for the first 1000 days
  • Jan Andolan.

Monitoring:

  • As a part of its mandate, NITI Aayog is required to submit implementation status reports of POSHAN Abhiyaan every six months to the PMO.

Background:

What is Malnutrition?

  • Malnutrition indicates that children are either too short for their age or too thin.
  • Childrenwhose height is below the average for their age are considered to be stunted.
  • Similarly, children whose weight is below the average for their age are considered thin for their height or wasted.
  • Together, the stunted and wasted children are considered to be underweight – indicating a lack of proper nutritional intake and inadequate care post childbirth.

Malnutrition in India:

  • India’s performance on key malnutrition indicators is poor according to national and international studies.
  • According to UNICEF, India was at the 10th spot among countries with the highest number of underweight children, and at the 17th spot for the highest number of stunted children in the world.
  • Malnutrition affects chances of survival for children, increases their susceptibility to illness, reduces their ability to learn, and makes them less productive in later life.
  • It is estimated that malnutrition is a contributing factor in about one-third of all deaths of children under the age of 5.

National Nutrition Strategy:

  • Various government initiatives have been launched over the years which seek to improve the nutrition status in the country.
  • These include the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the National Health Mission, the Janani Suraksha Yojana, the Matritva Sahyog Yojana, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, and the National Food Security Mission, among others.  However, concerns regarding malnutrition have persisted despite improvements over the years.  It is in this context that the National Nutrition Strategy has been released.

State-wide data on malnutrition presented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

  • Malnutrition was the predominant risk factor for death in children younger than five in every state of India in 2017, accounting for 68.2 per cent of the total under-5 deaths, translating into 706,000 deaths (due to malnutrition).
  • It was also the leading risk factor of loss of health among all age groups.
  • These findings also raise concern about a host of policies in India which have been in practice since 1990 to tackle malnutrition, the key ones being Integrated Child Development Scheme launched in 1975, the National Nutrition Policy 1993, the Mid Day Meal Scheme for school children 1995, and the National Food Security Act 2013, as the prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight remains high.

DRAFT CODE ON SOCIAL SECURITY, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Centre has proposed a new draft Code on Social Security that amalgamates eight laws that makes way for establishing funds for PF and pension as well as covering workers of the gig economy in social security schemes.
  • The draft code, which was published by the Labour and Employment Ministry this week, will be up for public comments till October 25.

Background:

  • The draft proposal comes in the wake of California approving a law for wage benefit and protection for gig workers, including those working in taxi aggregating companies such as Uber and Lyft, which is a popular tax aggregator in the US.
  • The development comes as the size of the number of workers in the gig economy is ballooning in the country where nearly one out of four gig workers in the world are in India.

Highlights of the Code:

  • The code has recognised ‘gig workers’ and ‘platform workers’, it is for the first time that the two terms are being used in the country’s labour laws.
  • As per the draft Bill, these workers will be entitled to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits and old-age protection.
  • However, the workers will not be entitled to EPF and ESIS benefits; they will also not be entitled to gratuity benefits.
  • The code also says no employer can knowingly employ a woman six weeks after a delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which is among the laws being subsumed by the code, had placed the six-week restriction for women after delivery or miscarriage, not mentioning medical termination.
  • Defines a gig worker: as a “person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship”.
  • Defines a platform worker: as someone who is part of an organisation which “uses an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment”.

Concerns:

  • It might bring challenges for policy implementation and growth of gig players such as taxi aggregators, food apps, and workforce supplier platforms.
  • The cost incurred on company will go up which in turn pass on the cost to gig workers, reducing their take home income.

Conclusion:

  • The government has in the Code on Social Security Bill 2019 proposed to extend certain social security benefits to so-called gig workers—those who work for various aggregators mostly on contract.
  • This is an important step towards ensuring that such workers, who typically don’t get the benefits of regular employees, are also provided with some minimum social security benefits.
  • For businesses, though, this would mean higher costs, which could discourage them from hiring freely. Perhaps a middle path is needed so that workers aren’t denied some essential benefits while the impositions don’t impede future hiring.

TWO OUT OF THREE CHILD DEATHS DUE TO MALNUTRITION

Why in News?

  • A report regarding Under five mortality rate was recently published by India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative in The Lancet Child & Adolescent journal.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • The report says the overall under-five death rate and the death rate due to malnutrition has decreased substantially from 1990 to 2017.But malnutrition is still the leading risk factor for death in children under five years.
  • Two-thirds of the 1.04 million deaths in children under five years in India are still attributable to malnutrition.
  • The report states that the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rate attributable to malnutrition in children varies 7-fold among the States and is highest in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Nagaland and Tripura.
  • The report also states that low birth weight needs particular policy attention in India as it is the biggest contributor to child death among all malnutrition indications and its rate of decline is among the lowest.
  • Another important revelation is that overweight among a subset of children is becoming a significant public health problem as it is increasing rapidly across all States.

About India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative:

  • The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative is a joint initiative of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with experts and stakeholders associated with over 100 Indian institutions, involving many leading health scientists and policy makers from India.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF OCEAN TECHNOLOGY (NIOT)

Why in News?

  • Officials from the Ministry of Earth Sciences apprised the Vice-president of the status of the National Institute of Ocean Technology’s research facility at Thupilipallam village in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

Highlights:

  • The foundation stone for the research facility at Thupilipallam was laid in 2016 but the project has seen delays due to legal hurdles.

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT):

  • NIOT is an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, established in 1993.
  • It has its main office at Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • The chief objective of the institute is to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve the various engineering problems associated with the harvesting of non-living and living resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is about two-thirds of the land area of India.
  • The institute engages in developing technologies for sustainable utilization of ocean resources.
  • It also engages in providing solutions to organisations working in the field.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ):

  • The EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the UNCLOS in 1982, over which a country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
  • It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from a country’s coast.
  • The term EEZ does not include the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. It also does not include the territorial sea.
  • The difference between territorial sea and the EEZ is that the former confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the latter is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal nation’s rights below the surface of the sea.
  • The surface waters are international waters.

NATIONAL RECRUITMENT AGENCY (NRA)

Why in News?

  • The Finance Ministry has approved a proposal to streamline recruitment of some posts in the government along with various equivalent recruitment in public sector banks.
  • A new National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will be set up to conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for all these competitive examinations, in which an estimated 2.5 crore candidates appear annually.

National Recruitment Agency (NRA):

  • The proposed NRA will conduct preliminary examinations for all these recruitment, which are at present conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
  • As per the proposal, the NRA will subsequently forward the list of qualifying candidates to the respective recruiting agencies to conduct the mains examinations.
  • The SSC and IBPS, it is learnt, will not be disbanded for now and will conduct the mains examinations as usual.
  • The basic idea behind this proposal is to shortlist qualifying candidates through a Common Eligibility Test before sending them for the mains examination.

Need for a New Agency:

  • The proposal for a new agency is meant to streamline recruitment process on subordinate-rank posts in the government.
  • The proposed NRA is expected to reduce the burden of SSC and the IBPS, among others, from holding preliminary recruitment exams, which is an extensive exercise.
  • Once up and running, NRA will work as a preliminary single-window agency to shortlist qualifying candidates from bulk of applicants and forward the list to SSC, IBPS, etc, to hold the mains.
  • According to an estimate, more than 2.5 crore candidates sit for these prelims, most of them conducted by SSC.
  • Recruitment conducted at present through the SSC and proposed to go to the new agency include the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination to enter government departments.

Clerical level:

  • Similarly in line with CGL, recruitment tests for clerical-level recruitment in public sector banks are proposed to go to the NRA.
  • The proposed agency, however, will not be in charge of recruitment of Probationary Officers (PO) in banks.

NGOS “SUBSTANTIALLY” FUNDED BY CENTRE COMES UNDER RTI ACT- SUPREME COURT

Why in News?

  • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) receiving substantial financing from the government are bound to give information to the public under the RTI Act, the Supreme Court held recently.

Background:

  • The bench was dealing with an issue on whether NGOs substantially financed by the government fall within the ambit of “public authority” under provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • Several schools and colleges and associations running educational institution have moved the top court claiming that NGOs are not covered under the RTI Act.

Highlights of The Judgement:

  • The Supreme Court laid down that NGOs which receive considerable finances from the government or are essentially dependent on the government fall under the category of “public authority” defined in Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.
  • This means that they have to disclose vital information, ranging from finances to hierarchy to decisions to functioning, to citizens who apply under RTI.
  • An NGO may also include societies which are neither owned or controlled by the government, but if they are significantly funded by the government, directly or indirectly, they come under the RTI Act.
  • The court defined “substantial” as a “large portion.”
  • It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%. Substantial financing can be both direct or indirect.

THE PUBLIC PREMISES (EVICTION OF UNAUTHORISED OCCUPANTS) AMENDMENT ACT, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 which was passed by the Parliament during the last Budget Session has come into effect.

Background:

  • The aim of the Bill is to facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of occupants of government accommodation on expiry of their terms and conditions.
  • The Government provides residential accommodation to its employees, Members of Parliament and other dignitaries while they are in service or till the term of their office on licence basis.
  • As per the existing allotment rules, after the expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence, the occupants of such residential accommodations become unauthorised for staying in such accommodation and should vacate the same.

Issue:

  • However, it is often seen that the unauthorised occupants do not vacate the government accommodation on expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence as per the rules and uses dilatory tactics to withhold the accommodation.
  • In order to check this delay, it is proposed to insert a new sub-section (3A) in section 7 of the Act to the effect that if the person challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in any court, he has to pay the damages for every month for the residential accommodation held by him.
  • Under the existing provisions, the eviction proceedings of unauthorised occupants from “public premises” take around five to seven weeks’ time.

Key Highlights of the Bill:

  • Residential Accommodation:
    • The Bill defines ‘residential accommodation occupation’ as the occupation of public premises by a person on the grant of a license for such occupation.
    • The license must be given for a fixed tenure, or for the period the person holds office.
    • Further, the occupation must be allowed under the rules made by the central, state or union territory government, or a statutory authority (such as Parliament Secretariat, or a central government company, or premises belonging to a State Government).
  • Notice for Eviction:
    • The Bill adds a provision laying down the procedure for eviction from residential accommodation.
    • It requires an estate officer (an officer of the central government) to issue a written notice to a person if he is in unauthorised occupation of a residential accommodation.
    • The notice will require the person to show cause of why an eviction order should not be made against him, within three working days.
    • The written notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the accommodation, in a prescribed manner.
  • Order of Eviction:
    • After considering the cause shown, and making any other inquiries, the estate officer will make an order for eviction.
    • If the person fails to comply with the order, the estate officer may evict such person from the residential accommodation, and take possession of it.
    • For this purpose, the estate officer may also use such force as necessary.
  • Payment of Damages:
    • If the person in unauthorised occupation of the residential accommodation challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in court, he will be required to pay damages for every month of such occupation.

TAMIL NADU ELECTRIC VEHICLE POLICY, 2019

Why in News?

  • In an attempt to give a boost to the manufacture and use of electric vehicles in the State, Chief Minister released the Tamil Nadu Electric Vehicle Policy, 2019, which provided for various concessions to manufacturers and users of e-vehicles.

Key features of the Policy:

  • The policy called for 100% road tax exemption till December 30, 2022, besides a waiver of registration charges for electric two-wheelers. These sops are expected to push up sales of electric vehicles.
  • The policy stated that the registration fees would be waived as per Government of India’s notification while road tax exemption would be enhanced from 50% to 100% till December 2022.

Special Package:

  • The manufacture of electric vehicles, their components, particularly EV batteries, and manufacture of charging infrastructure would be provided a special package of incentives.
  • Special packages were announced for units engaged in e-vehicle manufacture that made investments over ₹50 crore and employed at least 50 persons.
  • Full reimbursement would be provided for SGST paid on the sale of EVs manufactured, sold and registered for use in the State till 2030.In the case of intermediate products where SGST reimbursement was not applicable, a capital subsidy of 15% would be given on eligible investments over 10 years.As for transport vehicles such as taxis and tourist cars, permit fees would be waived for electric transport vehicles till December 2022 and they would be granted 100% road tax exemption for the same period.
  • The capital subsidy for e-vehicle manufacturers would be payable on eligible investments made in the State till December 2025. The cost of land shall not exceed 20% of the total eligible investments reckoned for the purpose of capital subsidy.
  • The State government has attempted to put southern districts also on the investment map. The new electric policy offers to provide investors a 50 per cent subsidy on the land cost if the investment is made to obtain land from government agencies in southern districts, while in other districts it is just 15 per cent.

Separate plates:

  • In order to distinguish electric vehicles from others, registration number shall be exhibited in yellow colour on a green background for transport vehicles and in white on a green background for all other EVs.

ODISHA GOVT. TO LINK PROMOTION OF POLICEMEN TO PUBLIC FEEDBACK

Why in News?

  • The Odisha government has decided to evaluate performance and incentives of police personnel on the basis of public feedback in their localities in addition to the existing parameters.

Details:

  • In a briefing session with top police officers Odisha CM explained the concept of the government’s 5T vision.
  • 5Ts-Transparency, Tech, Teamwork, Time lead to Transformation. Under 5T (vision), Mo Sarkar (meaning My Government) is a component.
  • Police stations across the state will be required to register on the Mo Sarkar portal. After filing a complaint at a police station, an SMS will be sent to the complainant. The Chief Minister and his officials will make direct calls to the public for feedback on their experience at a police station.
  • Based on public feedback and efficiency in service delivery, performing police stations and personnel shall be identified and recognised with faster promotion and other incentives.

INFLIGHT AND MARITIME TELECOM CONNECTIVITY IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • Union Ministry for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology has launched the maritime communication services.

Providing Maritime Connectivity:

  • Nelco India’s leading VSAT solutions provider is the first Indian company that will now provide quality broadband services to the maritime sector.
  • Nelco through global partnerships, infrastructure including transponder capacity on satellite of ISRO and a comprehensive service portfolio
  • It will help Energy, Cargo and Cruise vessels by enhancing operational efficiency, improving crew welfare and enabling customer services.Maritime Connectivity will enable high-end support to those in sea by providing access to Voice, Data and Video services while traveling on sailing vessels, cruise liners, ships in India, using satellite technology.

Making it possible through IFMC license:

  • In December 2018, the Govt. announced the licenses for In-flight and Maritime Communications (IFMC) that allows voice and internet services while flying over the Indian skies and sailing in Indian waters.
  • The IFMC licence has not only enabled connectivity for on-board users on ships but also brings operational efficiencies for shipping companies which were less evolved until now.
  • The IFMC license is a key initiative of the Telecom Ministry, a move to liberalise satellite communication services in India.
  • It permits both international and Indian aircrafts and vessels.

FMC Rules:

  • In a major policy decision, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications had notified the Flight and Maritime Connectivity (FMC) Rules, 2018 on 14th December, 2018.
  • It permits voice and data service provisioning in flights and ships.
  • The intent is to open the airspace and territorial waters for telecommunication services for general public which was not possible earlier due to lack of enabling rules.
  • Rules envisage creation of satellite gateway within India for providing telecom services in aircraft and ships through Indian licensed service providers.
  • Further, Indian satellite bandwidth has to be utilised. If a foreign satellite is used, it has to be approved by ISRO.
  • Only the authorized IFMC service provider, can provide wireless voice or data or both type of services on ships within Indian territorial waters and on aircraft within or above India or Indian territorial waters.

GLARING SECURITY LAPSES AT EMINENT SCHOOLS ACROSS INDIA, REVEALS CISF AUDIT

Why in News?

  • Following the murder of seven-year-old Pradyumna Thakur at a school in Gurgaon in 2017, the paramilitary force had written to various schools offering consultancy services through a security audit. Nearly two dozen schools agreed to the proposal and CISF conducted the audit at nine.

Key Lapses Revealed:

  • Some of the most prestigious schools in the country do not provide secure spaces to their students, safety audits conducted by the CISF have revealed.
    • Inadequate number of CCTV cameras.
    • Lack of background verification of security guards.
    • Non-installation of CCTV cameras at proper locations.
    • Poor quality of cameras that are not able to recognize individuals and vehicles.
    • Lack of fire safety measures in some schools like a non-functional fire hydrant and insufficient fire-fighting gadgets.
    • The absence of security gadgets and insufficient lighting.

Consequences:

  • The absence of these measures shows that unauthorized entry of individuals and vehicles, smuggling of objectionable items is a big possibility in the schools, making students susceptible to threats.

Way Ahead:

  • CISF has given some key recommendations and few of them are:
    • The cameras should cover entry and exit gate corridors, lobbies and parameters of the building which was missing in most schools.
    • Schools have been asked to procure X-ray Baggage Machines in their canteens to ensure that snacks and other food materials make way to the canteen only after proper inspection.
    • CISF has recommended schools to put in place an electronic key management system that will maintain a record of rooms being used.
    • Proper installation of fire safety measures like a proper functional fire hydrant and sufficient Fire-Fighting Gadgets.

CENTRAL EQUIPMENT IDENTITY REGISTER (CEIR)

Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR):

  • International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is supposed to be a unique identity of a mobile phone device.
  • IMEI number being programmable, some miscreants do reprogram the IMEI number, which results in cloning of IMEI causing multiple phone devices with same IMEI number.
  • As on date, there are many cases of cloned/duplicated IMEI handsets in the network.
  • If such IMEI is blocked, a large number of mobile phones will get blocked being handsets with same IMEI causing inconvenience to many genuine customers.
  • Thus, there is a need to eliminate duplicate/fake IMEI mobile phones from the network.
  • Accordingly, a project called Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) system has been undertaken by the DoT for addressing security, theft and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets.

Objectives:

  • Blocking of lost/stolen mobile phones across mobile networks thus discouraging theft of mobile phones.
  • Facilitate in tracing of such reported lost/stolen mobile phones.
  • Prevention of mobile devices with duplicate and fake IMEIs in the network.
  • Curtail the use of counterfeit mobile devices.
  • Reduced health risks to the users with the control of use of counterfeit mobile phones
  • Improved QoS and reduced call drops with reduction in use of counterfeit mobile devices.

JALDOOT’ EXHIBITION FLAGGED OFF

Why in News?

  • ‘Jaldoot’ a travelling exhibition arranged by Regional Outreach Bureau, Pune under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was flagged off.

Highlights:

  • To tackle the water crisis looming the country, the Government of India launched the JALSHAKTI ABHIYAN, a water conservation campaign focusing on 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts across the country.
  • The Regional Outreach Bureau, (ROB), an office under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, takes care of various outreach activities and development communication needs of the Central Government.
  • ROB in association with MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) is launching the Jaldoot campaign.
  • The ROB has redesigned the bus, to create the Jaldoot: Travelling Exhibition on Jalshakti Abhiyan.

Jalshakti Abhiyan:

  • The Jalshakti Abhiyan focus on five key aspects:
    • Water Conservation and Rain Water Harvesting
    • Renovation of Traditional and other Water Bodies
    • Reuse of Water and Recharging of structures
    • Watershed Development
    • Intensive Afforestation

SCIENTIFIC SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (SSR) POLICY

Why in News?

  • India is going to be possibly the First country in the world to implement a Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to encourage science and technology (S&T) institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society. A draft of the new policy has been made available by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on its website for public comments.

Background:

  • This draft policy builds upon traditions of earlier policies (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013) while proposing more pragmatic provisions to make institutions and individual scientists socially responsible.

Highlights:

  • The policy aims to harness latent potential of the scientific community for Strengthening linkages between science and society, and for making S&T ecosystem vibrant.
  • It is aimed at developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.
  • Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
  • It also recognises the need to provide incentives for outreach activities with necessary budgetary support.
  • It has also been proposed to give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
  • No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.
  • The draft defines SSR as “the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity”.
  • A central agency will be established at DST to implement the SSR. Other ministries would also be encouraged to make their own plans to implement SSR as per their mandate.
  • For implementation of the policy, a national portal will be developed up to capture societal needs requiring scientific interventions and as a platform for implementers and for reporting SSR activities.

Conclusion:

  • When most research is being done by using taxpayers’ money, the scientific establishment has an ethical obligation of “giving back” to the society.
  • SSR is not only about scientific impact upon society but also about the social impact upon science. SSR would therefore strengthen the knowledge ecosystem and bring efficiencies in harnessing science for the benefit of society.

DISTRICT MINERAL FOUNDATION

Context:

  • Amendments to District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust Rules, 2015, by Chhattisgarh government

Background:

  • Chhattisgarh, which has more than Rs 4,200 crore in DMF Trust, became the first state in July 2019, to amend DMF rules.

What is District Mineral Foundation?

  • District Mineral Foundation (DMF) is a trust set up as a non-profit body, in those districts affected by the mining works, to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations. It is funded through the contributions from miners.
  • Setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining related operations was mandated through the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, (MMDRA) 2015

What Changes will it make?

  • The new rule mandates the inclusion of 10 Gram Sabha members directly from mining-affected areas in the DMF Governing Council (GC).
  • In Scheduled Areas, at least 50 per cent of the Gram Sabha members must be from Scheduled Tribes (ST).
  • It will also strengthen women’s voices in the GC by mandating that from each Gram Sabha, there will be one male and one female member in the GC.
  • The amendments create a huge scope for mining districts in the state to improve the lives and livelihoods of those affected by mining,”
  • The DMF had been envisaged to build ‘social capital’, thus it must not be wasted on just building physical infrastructure, for which there are other funds.
  • A 20 per cent cap has been put on the use of DMF funds for big physical infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, railways, industrial parks etc.
  • The rules mandate spending of at least 50 per cent of the funds on directly-affected areas to ensure worst-hit areas and people are prioritised.
  • This is in addition to 60 per cent to be used on high-priority issues such as drinking water, livelihoods, healthcare, women and child development, education, etc.
    • This will not only stop misuse of the funds on big projects such as roads, bridges, industrial parks etc, but will also create more scope to improve investment on soft resources.
  • To improve DMF’s efficiency in operations and fund use, the amendments have also asked districts to identify mining-affected people and delineate mining-affected areas.
  • To ensure better public accountability, a two-step social audit process has been mandated. Provisions have also been introduced for five-year plan, which can be subjected to a third-party review if the secretary of the mines department considers it to be necessary.

Government Intervention:

Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY):

  • This programme meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related operations. The most productive mining areas in the country are largely areas inhabited by scheduled tribes. They also are mainly located in the areas covered by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The PMKKKY is, therefore, very sharply focused on safeguarding the health, environment and economic conditions of the tribals and providing them with opportunities to benefit from the vast mineral resources that are extracted from the areas where they live.
  • The overall objective of PMKKKY scheme include:
    1. To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas, and these projects/ programs will be complementing the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government;
    2. To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts;
    3. And to ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.

 

CENTRAL ADVERSE LIST

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has removed from its blacklist — or the Central Adverse List as it is officially known — names of 312 Sikh foreign nationals involved in anti-India activities and only two persons figure in the list now.

What is Central Adverse List?

  • It is a list by Ministry of Home Affairs and has names of those individuals who are suspected to have links with terrorist outfits or have violated visa norms in their previous visit to India.
  • The list also includes the names of those persons who have indulged in criminal activities or have been accused of sexual crimes against children in their respective countries. It has more than 35,000 names on it.

Purpose of Maintaining Such List:

  • This list is constantly used by all Indian Missions and Consulates to stop the individuals named in it from entering India.This is done by not granting visa to such persons. It is a step taken by the Indian government to maintain internal security.
  • The list is also used to keep serious offenders outside India as somebody may commit a crime in his native nation and then apply for an Indian visa to escape prosecution.

Maintenance of Adverse List:

  • The list is maintained by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs with inputs from all the state governments. Various intelligence agencies constantly review this list and add new names to it. Central intelligence agencies as well as the state-level intelligence contributes to the information determining the inclusion of a person in this list.
  • Since law and order is a state subject, the state police are also utilised for intelligence gathering in order to update the list.

CENTRE TO BRING ORDINANCE TO BAN E-CIGARETTES IN COUNTRY

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet is likely to approve an ordinance prohibiting the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes in the country.

Highlights:

  • The law would make production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence.
  • As per the draft bill, the offence will be punishable with jail up to one year or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh or both for first-time offenders, and jail of up to three years and fine up to 5 lakh for repeat offenders.
  • Storage of e-cigarettes shall also be punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine up to 50,000 or both.
  • Experts from various fields have welcomed the move and urged the government to pass the ordinance in the larger interest of public health.
  • E-Cigarettes are banned in about 30 countries.
  • While anti-tobacco health experts are calling it a move in the right direction, the tobacco industry and its allies state that if enforced, this would be a draconian law hitting at the livelihood of many.

What are e-cigarettes?

  • An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking.
  • It works by heating up a nicotine liquid.
  • Nicotine juice comes in various flavors and nicotine levels.
  • e-liquid is composed of five ingredients: vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.
  • Electronic cigarettes, do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise a solution the user then inhales.

Concerns:

  • India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.
  • ENDS contain nicotine solution which is highly addictive.
  • The flavouring agents and vaporizers used in e-cigarettes are also harmful for health.
  • Use of e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans like DNA damage, carcinogenesis, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity.
  • It can cause respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.
  • They are also known to have adverse effects on pregnancy and foetal development.
  • Lack of knowledge about negative effects of nicotine and easy accessibility of these products make the youth prone to addiction.

ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD FOR TV PROGRAMMES FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED

Why in News?

  • In order to enhance the accessibility of television programmes for the hearing impaired, Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting announced the implementation of Accessibility Standard for TV Programmes for persons with hearing impairment.

Highlights:

  • The Accessibility will be enhanced through the provision of captioning and Indian Sign Language.
  • All news channels are advised to carry a news bulletin with sign language interpretation at least once per day and all TV channels and service providers will run at least one programme per week with subtitles / captioning.
  • Live news, live and deferred live content/events such as sports, live music shows, award shows, live reality shows, live debates, scripted/ unscripted reality shows, etc. and advertisements/ teleshopping content have however been exempted.
  • The channels could either make their own programme with sign language interpretation, or, if they wished, carry a bulletin prepared by DD News free of cost.
  • This will be implemented from 16th September, 2019. The overall implementation of the Standards will be done in a phase wise manner in the next five years. The policy will be reviewed after two years.

TRIBAL AREA STATUS FOR LADAKH

Context:

  • THE NATIONAL Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has sent a formal recommendation to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to declare Ladakh a “tribal area” in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

What is Tribal Area:

  • The Constitution of India makes special provisions for the administration of the tribal dominated areas in four states viz. Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • As per article 244 and 6th Schedule, these areas are called “Tribal Areas“, which are technically different from the Scheduled Areas under fifth schedule.

Why Such Move?

  • According to the NCST, this will help“democratic devolution of powers, preserve and promote distinct culture of the region, protect agrarian rights including rights on land and enhance transfer of funds for speedy development of the region.
  • There is also same demand from tribal population of Ladakh area.
  • Within J&K’s budget, Ladakh usually got the short shrift. Fund transfer was usually delayed — by which time, the construction season was over. Devolution of tribal development funds (TDPs) was based primarily on population, and didn’t take into consideration area and geographical spread, relative inaccessibility, relative backwardness, and the presence and demography of nomadic tribes. As a result, development of this region has been generally neglected.

Strategic Location of Ladakh:

  • The passes of Ladakh connect Central Asia, South Asia and China, and the region is cut off from the rest of India for six months during winter.
  • The tribes here have limited means of livelihood, poor roads, impossible telecom and internet connectivity, undeveloped markets for their produce and low employment opportunities.
  • The proximity of the India-Pakistan-China border, and the ubiquitous presence of Indian Army and paramilitary forces, underlines not only Ladakh’s strategic sensitivity, but also its people’s vulnerability.
  • Tribes
  1. Tribes constitute 90% of the population of Ladakh — made up of the districts of Leh and Kargil. Gujjars, Bakarwals, Bots, Changpas, Baltis and Purigpas have played an important role in various wars that have been fought, and have been displaced and disturbed by border tensions.
  • Agriculture
  1. Ladakh’s terrain is essentially inhospitable to agriculture and has been badly neglected by government agencies. In the apricot cluster of Kargil — which accounts for about half of J&K’s total apricot plantation —the crop has been annually afflicted by the codling moth for a decade. No solution for this blight has been sought yet.
  2. Kargil’s famous apples were quarantined by Kashmiri lobbies from going beyond Kargil, and the produce was forced to be locally consumed. If some of the nomadic tribes in Ladakh are trained and funded to grow their livestock on a commercial scale, it could prevent a net outflow of as much as Rs 800 crore from going out of the region to other states.

Way Forward:

  • The erstwhile state of J&K was indifferent to the needs of the tribes of Ladakh. Tribal affairs officers should be established in Leh and Kargil, as there are in other states. In fact, there is need for a separate tribal development budget head to facilitate their development.
  • With Ladakh as a Union territory, humane laws such as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the vigilance of national watchdogs, like the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), can be duly applicable to safeguard the welfare of the tribes of this region.

Difference Between 5th Schedule and 6th Schedule Areas:

  • While both the areas under 5th schedule and 6th schedule have dominance of the tribal people, constitution calls them with different names viz. Scheduled Area under 5th schedule while Tribal areas under 6th schedule.
  • While executive powers of the union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in 5th schedule; the 6th schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state.
  • While 5th schedule envisages creation of Tribal Advisory Council, 6th schedule provides for District Councils and Regional Councils with certain legislative and judicial powers.

Legislative Powers of the Sixth Schedule Councils:

  • The district councils and regional councils have powers to make laws on certain matters of local importance but all such laws require the assent of the governor. The subjects on which these councils can make laws include: Roads, bridges, ferries etc. modes of transport Animal husbandry, veterinary training & practice Primary and Secondary Education
  • Agriculture including farm research and education Fisheries
  • Social security and social insurance employment and unemployment Flood control
  • Entertainment including Cinemas and Theatres Public health, sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries Minor irrigation. Trade and commerce in certain products such as food, cattle fodder, raw cotton, raw jute etc. Libraries, museums, monuments etc. Alienation of land.

Judicial Powers of the Sixth Schedule Council:

  • The laws made by the state legislature on any subject that comes within the jurisdiction of the council, would not extend within the jurisdiction of the autonomous council unless the council so directs by public notification. The President in regard to a Central Act and the Governor in regard to a State Act may direct that the Central Act or State Act shall not apply to an autonomous district or shall apply with such modifications as may be specified.
  • The Councils have also been endowed with wide civil and criminal judicial powers, for example establishing village courts etc.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes:

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amendingArticle 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely-

(i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and

(ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

Functions of the Commission:

  • To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.
  • To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;
  • To participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
  • To submit report to the President annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs;
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify;

NATIONAL ANIMAL DISEASE CONTROL PROGRAM

Context:

  • In a key initiative aimed at doubling farmers income, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be launching the National Animal Disease Control Programme for eradicating Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis in livestock.

Funding:

  • The project, which will cost ₹12,652 crores for a period of five years till 2024, will be funded entirely by the government.The programme, to be launched in Mathura, aims to control the livestock diseases by 2025 and eradicate these by 2030.

Aim:

  • The programme aims at vaccinating over 500 million livestock including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs against the FMD. The programme also aims at vaccinating 36 million female bovine calves annually in its fight against the brucellosis disease.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Control Programme:

  • It envisages 100% vaccination coverage of cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats and pigs at six-months interval in the entire country. Further, animals would be identified using unique animal identification ear tags. The programme also includes de-worming of the targeted population of livestock twice a year.

Brucellosis Control Programme:

  • It envisages 100% vaccination coverage of female cattle and buffalo calves (4-8 months of age) once in a life time.

Stats:

  • In India, livestock contributes over 4% to the country’s total GDP. As per estimates of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the value of output from livestock and fisheries is estimated to be close to Rs 5 lakh crore.

Livestock in India:

  • India has the privilege of having the largest population of livestock in the world.
  • India’s milk production is highest in the world.
  • And yet, the sector has been neglected for years.

Issue with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and brucellosis.

  • It is actually the presence of FMD in India that has stopped us from realising the true potential of this sector.
  • Trade barriers are put using this as an excuse, while totally putting aside the fact the OIE (The World Organisation for Animal Health) has endorsed our FMD vaccination programme.
  • While Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have reported no outbreak of FMD in the last few years, states like UP, Maharashtra and Punjab need extra focus as major trade emanates from there.

What is Foot and mouth disease (FMD):

  • Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
  • Intensively reared animals are more susceptible to the disease than traditional breeds. The disease is rarely fatal in adult animals, but there is often high mortality in young animals due to myocarditis or, when the dam is infected by the disease, lack of milk.

Importance of Livestock to Indian Farmer:

  • In India, 75% of the poor control the country’s livestock, which in turn becomes a major source of their income.
  • The direct losses to a farmer due to these diseases comes from a loss in milk production and reduction in the working ability of the animals.
  • Export issue
    1. The bigger economic losses, however, are the non-acceptance of our milk and milk products, meat and its products in certain parts of the world, making the value realisation of our agri exports not at par with countries like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and so on. Hence, it’s important that we as a nation give top priority for the control, prevention and eradication of this disease.
  • Income:
  1. Livestock is a source of subsidiary income for many families in India especially the resource poor who maintain few heads of animals.
  2. Cows and buffaloes if in milk will provide regular income to the livestock farmers through sale of milk.
  3. Animals like sheep and goat serve as sources of income during emergencies to meet exigencies like marriages, treatment of sick persons, children education, repair of houses etc.
  4. The animals also serve as moving banks and assets which provide economic security to the owners.
  • Employment:
  1. A large number of people in India being less literate and unskilled depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods.
  2. But agriculture being seasonal in nature could provide employment for a maximum of 180 days in a year.
  3. The land less and less land people depend upon livestock for utilizing their labour during lean agricultural season.
  • Food:
  1. The livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs are an important source of animal protein to the members of the livestock owners.
  2. The per capita availability of milk is around 355 g / day; eggs is 69 / annum;
  • Social security:
  1. The animals offer social security to the owners in terms of their status in the society.
  2. The families especially the landless which own animals are better placed than those who do not. Gifting of animals during marriages is a very common phenomenon in different parts of the country.
  3. Rearing of animals is a part of the Indian culture. Animals are used for various socio religious functions.
  4. Cows for house warming ceremonies; rams, bucks and chicken for sacrifice during festive seasons; Bulls and Cows are worshipped during various religious functions. Many owners develop attachment to their animals.
  • Draft:
  1. The bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. The farmers especially the marginal and small depend upon bullocks for ploughing, carting and transport of both inputs and outputs.
  • Dung:
  1. In rural areas dung is used for several purposes which include fuel (dung cakes), fertilizer (farm yard manure), and plastering material (poor man’s cement).

KISAN MAN DHAN YOJANA

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana in September 2019.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated 400 Ekalvya Model Residential Schools to provide quality upper primary, secondary, and senior secondary level education to ST Students in Tribal dominated areas.

Scheme Highlights:

  • The Scheme shall secure the lives of 5 Crore Small and Marginal Farmers by providing a minimum pension of Rs 3000 per month, to those who attain 60 years of age.
  • All the small and marginal farmers who are currently between the ages of 18 to 40 years can apply for the scheme.
  • Farmer’s monthly contribution can be made from the instalments of PM-KISAN or through CSCs.

Ekalvya Model Residential Schools:

  • Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS) is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (ST, Scheduled Tribes) across India.
  • It is one the flagship intervention of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and was introduced in the year 1997-98 to ensure tribal students get access to quality education in the remote tribal areas.
  • EMRSs are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India.

INDIA POST PAYMENTS BANK (IPPB) ANNOUNCES ROLLOUT OF NEW SERVICES

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & IT and Law & Justice announced the rollout of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) Services by India Post Payments Bank (IPPB).

India Post Payments Bank:

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India. IPPB was launched in 2018.
  • The bank has been set up with the vision to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man in India.
  • The fundamental mandate of India Post Payments Bank is to remove barriers for the unbanked & underbanked and reach the last mile leveraging the Postal network in India.
  • IPPB’s reach and its operating model is built on the key pillars of India Stack – enabling Paperless, Cashless and Presence-less banking in a simple and secure manner at the customers’ doorstep, through a CBS-integrated smartphone and biometric device.

Significance of the AePS:

  • IPPB’s unparalleled network complimented with robust interoperable technology platform set up by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is poised to take banking to each & every household across the remotest parts of the country.
  • With AePS services any common person with a bank account linked to Aadhaar can perform basic banking services such as cash withdrawals and balance enquiry irrespective of the bank they hold their account with.
  • To avail these services, a customer with an Aadhaar linked account can simply authenticate his/her identity with fingerprint scan & Aadhaar authentication to complete a transaction.
  • AePS services are bank-agnostic and are driven by an inexpensive infrastructure enabling low cost delivery of doorstep banking services to every section of the society without discrimination, thus bringing forth the dawn of a ‘Truly Inclusive Financial System’.

ONE NATION ONE RATION CARD

Why in News:

  • The government is showcasing the rollout of the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme as one of the biggest achievements of its first 100 days in power. The launch of the nationwide food security net is scheduled for June 2020.

About the Current Scheme:

  • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), each beneficiary is eligible for five kg of subsidised grains per month at the rate of ₹3/kg for rice, ₹2/kg for wheat and ₹1/kg of coarse cereals.

Issues with the Current Scheme:

  • It has been a location-linked benefit, leaving crores of migrant workers and families out of the food safety net.
  • Each household’s ration card is linked to a specific fair price shop and can only be used to buy rations in that particular shop.

Proposed Scheme:

  • The proposed scheme envisages a scenario where in a ration card holder can buy subsidised grain at any fair price shop in the country.

Benefits of the Proposed Scheme:

  • According to Census 2011, there are more than 45 crore internal migrants in India, of whom more than half have not completed primary education, while 80% have not completed secondary education.
  • Lower levels of education are linked to lower income, which would make a large percentage of these migrants eligible for NFSA benefits.
  • Registering for ration cards at their new location is an arduous process, especially if some members of the household still remain in their original home.
  • Apart from this, there are short-term migrants, often working in cities, but not moving there permanently.
  • Women who change locations after marriage also find it difficult to start accessing ration benefits using a new household’s card.
  • To curb corruption and improve access and service quality by removing monopolies.

UJJWALA YOJANA ACHIEVES TARGET

Why in News?

  • The PM addressed a state-level Mahila Saksham Melava or Empowered Women’s Meet of Self Help Groups, organized by Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (UMED), in Aurangabad
  • Marking the ahead-of-date achievement of 8 crore LPG connections under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the PM distributed LPG connections to five beneficiaries.
  • The PM said that Jal Jeevan Mission has been launched in order to free women from the trouble of having to toil hard to fetch water.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

  • The PMUY is a scheme to provide LPG (liquid petroleum gas) to households below the poverty line. This is to have universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. The chief aim of this scheme to protect the health of the women and children in homes where unclean cooking fuels are used.
  • About 10 crore households in the country use firewood, dung cakes, coal, etc. as their cooking fuel.
  • The smoke emanating from such stoves are alarming and they cause severe health problems for the people living in such houses, especially the women who use them to cook food.
  • As per WHO, about 5 lakh fatalities in India occur because of unclean cooking fuel.
  • They cause severe respiratory diseases and problems as well.
  • Additionally, there is also the hassle of collecting firewood from mostly unsafe places.
  • To avoid these problems, the government came up with this scheme.
  • It was inaugurated in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1st May, 2016.
  • This will go a long way in making women more empowered.

PMUY Features:

  • Under this scheme, 5 crore connections are to be provided to the people needing them.
  • BPL families will be offered a support of Rs.1600 per connection. This is for the cylinder, booklet, pressure regulator, safety hose, etc. and will be borne by the government itself.
  • Apart from these, the scheme also provides interest-free loans to buy stove and refill by oil marketing companies.
  • The connections would be given in the name of women of the households.
  • An initial outlay of Rs.8000 crore was sanctioned for the implementation of the scheme.
  • The authorities would identify BPL families based on the Socio Economic Caste Census data.
  • The scheme is also expected to create employment to the tune of about a lakh. It will also boost the ‘Make in India’ programme for manufacturers of gas cylinders, stoves, gas hose and regulators. Only domestic manufacturers are engaged in this.
  • It is also a business opportunity to the tune of a minimum of Rs.10000 crore.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • Major objective of Jal Jeevan Mission is to provide piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural and urban households by 2024.
  • It also aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.
  • According to the data published in various reports, about half of the country’s households don’t have access to piped water supply.
  • It is an urgent requirement of water conservation in the country because of the decreasing amount of groundwater level.
  • Therefore, Jal Jeevan Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply management of water at the local level.

Benefits of Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • Household pipeline water supply
  • Clean and drinkable water
  • Recharge of ground water level
  • Better local infrastructure
  • Less water-borne diseases
  • Less water wastage

INDIA DECLARED AVIAN INFLUENZA FREE

Context-

  • OIE-World Organisation for Animal Health declared the country free of the virus, the Centre’s Animal Husbandry Department informed the states in a letter.

Background:

  • In the last two years, outbreaks of the disease had been reported from several places, including Budhibara, Patharaganja, Malud, Brahmandeo, Kanheipur, Epinga and Nandala in Odisha, Goraho, Mubarakchak and Babura in Bihar and Fazil Khuthari in Jharkhand.
  • The status will last only till another outbreak is reported.
  • India was last declared free of the disease in 2017.

What is Avian Influenza?

  • Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses.
  • These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
  • Avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans.
  • However, sporadic human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred. The links below offer more information about avian influenza.

Brief Scenario on Outbreaks of Avian Influenza in India.

  • The trend of infection of Avian Influenza has changed. Initially, in India, the disease was being reported mainly in backyard poultry in vicinity of migratory birds/ water bodies particularly in North-Eastern States and West Bengal.
  • The main species affected used to be chicken.
  • The ducks used to be reservoir of the virus, harbouring the infection without showing the clinical signs/ disease.
  • However, the trend of occurrence of AI changed since 2011, gradually and most of the occurrences were reported from the poultry farms of central government such as DADF, ICAR and State Governments.

Possible reasons for occurrence of Avian Influenza:

  • A number of factors contribute to make India vulnerable to primary incursion of Avian Influenza into the country.
  • These include high density of poultry population;
    • Mixed Rearing of chicken and ducks;
    • Three flyways of migratory birds passing through the country;
    • Illegal Movement of poultry and poultry products from infected areas into the country;
    • Presence of large number of water-bodies visited by migratory / wild birds;
    • Inadequate bio-security in backyard rearing;
    • Inadequate sanitation of wholesale and retail poultry markets;
    • Endemic Situation of Avian Influenza in the neighbouring countries and
    • Porous Nature of the Border.

What is H5N1?

  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”).
  • Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
  • When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.

How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?

  • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
  • The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
  • There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.

Why is there so much concern about H5N1 influenza?

  • H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
  • If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.

Why might the H5N1 influenza Virus Change?

  • Influenza viruses constantly undergo genetic changes.
  • It would be a cause for concern, should the H5N1 virus become more easily transmissible among humans.

What are the Symptoms of H5N1 Avian Influenza in Humans?

  • The symptoms of H5N1 infection may include fever (often high fever, > 38°C) and malaise, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Other early symptoms may include abdominal pain, chest pain and diarrhoea.
  • The infection may progress quickly to severe respiratory illness (for example, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and neurologic changes (altered mental status or seizures).

Is a vaccine available to prevent human infection with H5N1avian Influenza?

  • Candidate vaccines to prevent H5N1 infection have been developed, but they are not ready for widespread use.

What is the WHO response to H5N1 Influenza?

  • WHO is working with countries to help them detect and manage cases of H5N1 infection in humans when they occur.
  • WHO collaborates with global health partners and agencies, including the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to control and prevent the spread of animal diseases.
  • WHO’s global laboratory system, the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), identifies and monitors strains of circulating influenza viruses, and provides advice to countries on their risk to human health and available treatment or Control Measures.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

  • The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide.
  • It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2018 has a total of 182 Member Countries.
  • The OIE maintains permanent relations with nearly 75 other international and regional organisations and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent.

ELIMINATION OF MEASLES AND RUBELLA BY 2023

Context:

  • Member Countries of WHO South-East Asia Region resolved to eliminate measles and rubella by 2023, to prevent deaths and disabilities caused by these highly infectious childhood killers’ diseases.

Background:

  • The new target to eliminate both the diseases will leverage the existing momentum and strong political commitment which is being demonstrated through unprecedented efforts, progress and successes.
  • A resolution to eliminate the two diseases was adopted at the Seventy Second Session of WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia here in New Delhi.
  • Measles elimination and rubella control has been a regional flagship priority since 2014.
  • The Member countries adopted a “Strategic Plan for Measles and Rubella Elimination 2020-2024” that lays down the road map and focus areas to achieve the elimination targets in the Region.

Countries that Eliminated Measles and Rubella:

  • Five countries have eliminated measles – Bhutan, DPR Korea, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.
  • Six countries have controlled rubella – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

What will be done Eliminate Measles and Rubella?

  • To achieve the new targets, the Member countries resolved to strengthen immunization systems for increasing and sustaining high level of population immunity against measles and rubella at both national and sub-national levels.
  • The resolution calls for ensuring a highly sensitive laboratory supported case-based surveillance system – better evidence for appropriate planning and response. It also emphasizes on preparedness for outbreak response activities for measles and rubella.
  • All countries pledged to mobilize political, societal and financial support to ensure interruption of transmission of indigenous measles and rubella virus by 2023.

Current Status:

  • There has been a 23% decline in mortality due to measles in the 2014-17 period. Nearly 366 million children have been reached through mass vaccination campaigns with measles-rubella (MR) containing vaccines in the Region since January 2017.
  • Children in all 11 Member countries have access to 2 doses of measles containing vaccine (MCV) and ten countries have access to rubella-containing vaccine.
  • India ranks 4th among 194 countries in measles cases, according to WHO data.
  • The latest Global Measles and Rubella Update, which lists provisional data received in June and covering the period between May 2018 and April 2019, says India reported 47,056 measles cases and 1,263 rubella cases during these 12 months.

Measles:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral disease.
  • It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.

Vaccine:

  • Measles can be prevented with MMR vaccine. The vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
  • Teens and adults should also be up to date on their MMR vaccination.

Rubella:

  • Rubella is a contagious, generally mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.
  • Rubella is the leading vaccine-preventable cause of birth defects. Rubella infection in pregnant women may cause fatal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome.
  • There is no specific treatment for rubella but the disease is preventable by vaccination.

Vaccine:

  • The rubella vaccine is a live attenuated strain, and a single dose gives more than 95% long-lasting immunity, which is similar to that induced by natural infection.
  • The rubella vaccine is a live attenuated strain, and a single dose gives more than 95% long-lasting immunity, which is similar to that induced by natural infection.

Indian Government Initiatives:

Measles-Rubella (MR) Vaccination Campaign:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner across the nation. The campaign aims to cover approximately 41 crore children.
  • The vaccination campaign is being held to protect children against measles and rubella which are highly contagious viral diseases. While measles kills nearly 49,000 children in the country every year, rubella causes irreversible birth defects.
  • There is no treatment for measles and rubella, but both diseases can be prevented by vaccination.
  • By vaccinating all children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years, India aims to eliminate both measles and rubella.

Benefits:

  • Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and in combination with rubella vaccine, it will control rubella and prevent CRS.

How Sri Lanka Eliminated Measles:

  • Sri Lanka’s success follows its persistent efforts to ensure maximum coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccines being provided in the childhood immunisation programme.
  • The vaccination coverage in the country has been consistently high – over 95% with both the first and second doses provided to children under the routine immunisation programme. nAdditionally, mass vaccination campaigns with a measles-rubella vaccine have been held periodically to plug immunisation gaps, the last one in 2014.
  • The country has a strong surveillance system and all vaccine-preventable diseases are an integral part of the communicable disease surveillance system.
  • Measles is a notifiable disease in the country.

INSTITUTIONS OF EMINENCE (IOE) SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has awarded the status of Institute of Eminence to the IIT-Madras, the IIT-Kharagpur, Delhi University, Benares Hindu University and the University of Hyderabad.

Scheme & Objective:

  • Institutions of Eminence scheme has been launched in order to implement the commitment of the Government to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them become world-class teaching and research institutions.
    • To provide for higher education leading to excellence and innovations in such branches of knowledge as may be deemed fit at post-graduate, graduate and research degree levels and award degrees, diplomas and other academic distinction
    • To engage in areas of specialization to make distinctive contributions to the objectives of the university education system wherein the academic engagement is clearly distinguishable from programmes of an ordinary nature.
    • To develop the capacity of the students and the researchers to compete in the global tertiary education marketplace through the acquisition and creation of advanced knowledge in those areas
    • To provide for high-quality teaching and research and for the advancement of knowledge and its dissemination through various research programmes undertaken in-house by substantial number of full-time faculty and research scholars in diverse disciplines
    • To pay special attention to teaching and research in unique and emerging areas of knowledge, including interdisciplinary areas, which are regarded as important for strategic needs of the country but are not being pursued by conventional or existing institutions so far, and award degrees, diplomas and other academic distinctions.
    • To aim to be rated internationally for its teaching and research as a top hundred Institution in the world over time.

‘EAT RIGHT INDIA’ CAMPAIGN

Why in News?

  • Government of India launches ‘Eat Right India’ to tackle lifestyle diseases.

Need for Such Campaign:

  • India is passing through an epidemiological shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases, and the burden of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity is rising rapidly.
  • The new “food systems approach” judiciously combines the regulatory and capacity building measures with consumer empowerment initiatives

About Eat Right India:

  • Eat Right India’, built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’, aims to engage, excite and enable citizens to improve their health and well-being.
  • Led by FSSAI, it is a collective effort to make both the demand and supply-side interventions through the engagement of key stakeholders.
  • It is a part of the vision of the Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, that the month of September is being celebrated all across the country as “Poshan Maah” (Nutrition Month) to sensitize the public towards healthy eating, address the twin issues of malnutrition/undernutrition and problem of obesity in some sections of the population, and also intensifying the campaign towards a ‘Malnutrition Free India.
  • This movement is aligned with the Government’s flagship public health programmes such as POSHAN Abhiyaan, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and Swachh Bharat Mission to lead us to the New India, which our Prime Minister wishes to deliver to all citizens by 2022.

Aim:

  • To improve public health in India and combat negative nutritional trends to fight lifestyle diseases.

Features:

  • The strength of the ‘The Eat Right Movement’ lies in its holistic and collaborative approach, with stakeholders on both the demand and supply-side joining to make a difference through some clearly identified steps.
  • On the demand side, the Eat Right Movement focuses on empowering citizens to make the right food choices.
  • On the supply side, it nudges food businesses to reformulate their products, provide better nutritional information to consumers and make investments in healthy food as responsible food businesses.
  • Social and behavioural change: Eat Right India movement is a crucial trigger for the much needed social and behavioural change.

The Eat Right Movement’ brings together three ongoing initiatives of FSSAI:

  1. Safe and Nutritious Food Initiative, focused on social and behavioural change around food safety and nutrition at home, school, workplace and on-the-go;
  2. The Eat Healthy Campaign focused on reduction of high fat, sugar and salt foods in the diet; and
  3. Food Fortification, focused on promoting five staple foods-wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt that are added with key vitamins and minerals to improve their nutritional content.

Other Measures:

  • Government has prescribed a limit for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) at 25% in cooking oil to avoid the harmful effects of reused cooking oil.
  • Standards for five fortified staples -wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt to reduce large-scale deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have been notified, in addition to standards for health supplements, nutraceuticals, prebiotics and probiotics products.
  • To facilitate informed consumer choices Regulations on Advertising and Claims and mandatory menu labelling has been notified.
  • In addition, labelling provisions have been made for appropriate use of sweeteners for children and pregnant women.
  • To reach the target of Trans-fat Free India by 2022, regulations to reduce trans-fat to less than 2% in all oils, fats and food products are in place.
  • Robust material in the form of a Pink Book, Yellow Book, DART Book, informative videos, are in place, and can be accessed through a video library on FSSAI’s website.
  • First ever state-of-the-art National Food Laboratory of Delhi, NCR and to strengthen the Eat Right Movement a network of food testing laboratories is being establish.

WHO on Eat Right India:

  • The Eat Right campaign is a true example of multi-sectoral collaborative approach that WHO has been advocating for to address non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, malnutrition.

About FSSAI:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • FSSAI has been created for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Establishment of the Authority
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.

ELECTORS VERIFICATION PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission of India has launched a 15-day-long Electors Verification Programme where voters can verify their data with the poll body.
  • The campaign that was kick-started on 01 September allows the voter to let the poll body know whether the data about him or her is correct

Electors Verification Programme:

  • The main aim of the programme is to improve the health of Electoral rolls and to provide better electoral services to citizens and increase the level of Communication between voters and the Commission.
  • The program has been launched at all Levels starting from the State/UT Headquarters by 32 CEOs, District level by about 700 DEOs and at around 1 million Polling Stations by BLOs/EROs and will continue from September 1, 2019 to October 15, 2019.
  • The voters can log on to NVSP portal (nvsp.in) or Voter Helpline App or Common Service Centres or any nearby voter facilitation centre to avail the following facilities.
  • Verification and corrections of the existing details
  • Authentication of entry by furnishing scanned/DigiLocker copy of one of the following documents:(i) Indian Passport (ii) Driving License (iii) Aadhaar Card (iv) Ration Card (v) identity card for Government/Semi Government Officials (vi) Bank Passbooks (vii) Farmer’s Identity Card (viii) PAN Card (ix) Smart Card issued by RGI (x) Latest bill for water/electricity/telephone/gas connection.
  • Furnishing details of family members and verifying their entries too
  • Updating details of family members already enrolled as voters but permanently shifted or expired
  • Furnishing details of eligible un-enrolled family members (born on or before 01.01.2001) and prospective electors born between (02.01.2002 till 01.01.2003) who are residing with the elector.
  • Furnishing GIS Coordinates of House (through Mobile App) to avail better electoral Services. Feedback regarding existing Polling Stations and suggestions on alternate PS, if any.

DESIGNATING TERRORIST UNDER UAPA

Context:

  • Maulana Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Dawood Ibrahim, who are on India’s most-wanted list, became the first individuals to be declared terrorists invoking the new Amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Passed by Parliament recently.

Designation of Terrorist:

  • Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Azhar figures as the first name in list in Fourth Schedule of UAPA followed by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Saeed, LeT chief commander Lakhvi and underworld don Dawood.
  • All of them have already been designated global terrorists by the United Nations earlier for their involvement in terrorist acts and have red corner notices issued against them by the Interpol.

UAPA new Amendment Provision:

  • According to the amendment, individuals could also be declared as terrorists. Earlier, only groups or organisations could be declared as terrorists.
  • The notification was issued based on clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which empowers the Central government to notify the name of an individual in the fourth schedule to the Act, if it believes that the individual is involved in terrorism.
  • The new Amendment seek “to introduce fourth schedule to add or remove the name of individual terrorists.
  • This will allow the Central government to designate individual terrorist and bring in embargo on arms/assets seizures.
  • The individual however can appeal against the inclusion of his/her name and seek a hearing before the review committee, constituted by the Central government under UAPA.

United Nations:

  • Azhar has been designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on May 1 this year.
  • Dawood is also designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 and listed in Al-Qaeda sanction list on November 3, 2003.

Issues already with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA):

  • It casts such a wide net of offences that it makes all kinds of legitimate, constitutionally protected activity an offence: the police can choose who they want to prosecute, when and for what reason.
  • It allows for persons to be held in custody for six months before they get to know the case against them.
  • Bail is so stringent as to be almost unavailable, this is an affront to the ‘dignity’ and the ‘presumption of innocence’ that our Constitution entitles all of us to.
  • It reverses the presumption of innocence and presumes guilt, a guarantee of wrongful imprisonment and false convictions.

WHO IS A PROFESSOR EMERITUS?

Context:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has recently asked some of its Professors Emeriti, including historian Romila Thapar, for CVs to “review their position”.

The Title:

  • ‘Emeritus’ (female equivalent ‘Emerita’, although the usage is often gender-neutral) is a Latin word that literally means a veteran soldier. Worldwide, ‘Professor Emeritus/Emerita’ is the title bestowed upon an eminent retired academic in recognition of their work and distinguished service.
  • Across the world, institutions of excellence such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Oxford University, etc. have long lists of Professors Emeriti, who are considered to add to the prestige of the university.

UGC Scheme:

  • In India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has a ‘Scheme of Emeritus Fellowship’ in order “to provide an opportunity to the superannuated teachers who have been actively engaged in research and teaching programmes in the preceding years to undertake research, without any restriction of position or pay scales”.
  • According to the UGC’s website, eligibility for the fellowship “will be based on the quality of research and published work contributed by the teacher in his/her service career. The awardee (superannuated) can work under this scheme with a well-defined time-bound action plan up to the age of 70 years or up to two years (non-extendable) of the award whichever is earlier.”
  • “No extension under the scheme is admissible and hence the proposal should be well defined with a time-bound action plan so that it is completed within the prescribed tenure,” the UGC site says.

MOU BETWEEN TB DIVISION OF THE HEALTH MINISTRY AND WADHWANI INSTITUTE FOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Why in News?

  • The Central TB Division of the Health Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence to explore the application of cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology in its fight against TB.

Highlights:

  • Wadhwani AI would be supporting National TB programme become AI-ready which would include, developing, piloting, and deploying AI-based solutions.
  • It would support the programme in vulnerability and hot-spot mapping, modelling novel methods of screening and diagnostics and enabling decision support for care-givers apart from supporting the RNTCP in adoption of other AI technologies.
  • The Revised National TB Control Programme has been at the forefront of adoption of newer technologies in healthcare.India is committed to ending TB by 2025, five years ahead of the Global Sustainable Development targets.

TB:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.
  • TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

What are Latent TB and active TB?

  • Latent TB: In this condition, you have a TB infection, but the bacteria remain in your body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB, also called inactive TB or TB infection, isn’t contagious. It can turn into active TB, so treatment is important for the person with latent TB and to help control the spread of TB. About one-third of the world’s population has latent TB.
  • Active TB: This condition makes you sick and, in most cases, can spread to others. It can occur in the first few weeks after infection with the TB bacteria, or it might occur years later.

PORTAL FOR AFFORDABLE CREDIT AND INTEREST SUBVENTION ACCESS (PAISA)

Why in News?

  • Deendayan Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), a flagship mission under the MoHUA has been conferred the prestigious SKOCH Governance Gold Award for its PAiSA portal.

PAiSA Portal:

  • PAiSA stands for Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access.
  • Launched in November 2018, PAiSA is a centralized IT platform which simplifies and streamlines release of interest subvention under the DAY-NULM.
  • It has been designed and developed through the Allahabad Bank.

What it offers?

  • It offers end to end online solution for processing, payment, monitoring and tracking of interest subvention claims from banks on a monthly basis.
  • Claims for subvention are uploaded by banks through their CBS (Core Banking Solution) in respect of the beneficiaries of the Self Employment Programme, which are verified and approved by the ULB and State concerned.
  • The approved claim amount gets credited directly to the beneficiary’s loan account through DBT mode.
  • SMS is also sent to the beneficiary’s mobile number intimating the credit of subvention amount.

SKOCH Award:

  • SKOCH Award, instituted in 2003, is the highest civilian honour in the country conferred by an independent organisation.
  • It recognizes people, projects and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.
  • SKOCH Award covers the best of efforts in the area of digital, financial and social inclusion.

BIOMETRIC SEAFARER IDENTITY DOCUMENT (BSID)

Why in News?

  • India has become the first country in the world to issue Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID), capturing the facial bio-metric data of seafarers.

BSID:

  • In India the BSID project has been taken up in collaboration with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Mumbai.
  • The Government notified the Merchant Shipping (Seafarers Bio-metric Identification Document) Rules in 2016.
  • Every Indian seafarer who possesses a valid Continuous Discharge Certificate issued by the Govt. of India will be eligible for issue of a BSID.
  • Nine data collection centers have been setup at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Noida, Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Vizag & Kandla for issue of BSID.

Working of BSID:

  • It introduces modern security features. It will have a biometric chip embedded in it.
  • The security of the BSID card is ensured at various levels and through different methods.
  • At the time of data capturing the live face is cross matched through passport photo using a face matching software.
  • The card has two optical security features- Micro prints/micro texts and Unique Guilloche pattern.
  • A software has been developed for capturing the facial biometrics and its authentication through the public key infrastructure.
  • A record of each SID issued will be maintained in a national database and its related information will be internationally accessible.

Significance:

  • The BSID is a marked improvement over the two finger or iris based bio-metric data, with modern security features.
  • It will make the identification of the SID holder more reliable and efficient, while protecting their dignity and privacy.
  • It will give a fool proof identification to our seafarers which will facilitate their movement, provide ease of getting jobs and help in identifying them from any location in the world.
  • The new card is in confirmation of the Convention No. 185 of the International Labour Organisation on BSID. (India ratified the Convention in October 2015.

SHAGUN-INTEGRATED ONLINE JUNCTION FOR SCHOOL EDUCATION

Why in News?

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry launched one of the world’s largest Integrated Online Junction for – School Education ‘Shagun’.

Shagun:

  • School Education Shagun (URL: htpp://shagun.govt.in/) is an over-arching initiative to improve school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Government of India and all States and Union Territories.
  • The word Shagun is coined from two different words- ‘Shala’ meaning Schools and ‘Gunvatta’ meaning Quality and this online junction of different websites and portals into a single platform will enhance the accessibility of information relating to schools and will ensure a holistic approach to transform the education sector.
  • The portal seeks to provide a very robust feedback mechanism which will increase public participation and will ensure accountability and transparency.
  • The portal seeks to connect approximately 92 lakh teachers and 26 crore students.

Integrated National School Education Treasury:

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister has also announced the setting up of the Integrated National School Education Treasury (INSET).
  • It will envisage a fully integrated, accessible and seamless information network for all parameters relating to the students, teachers, and schools in the country.
  • The main focus will be on the following areas:
  • Reinforcing and cleaning the data of the Integrated Online Junction through feedback from Stakeholders
  • Ensuring full inter-operability among the websites, portals and applications which are already hosted in the junction
  • Creating high quality e-contents, including quizzes and puzzles to enhance learning and also for teachers in aiding classroom transactions
  • Using artificial intelligence and deep machine learning in a variety of ways to enhance the quality of school education including for designing evidence based inventions.

E-CIGARETTE BAN & THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT

Why in News?

  • One of the three 100-day goals the health ministry has set for itself, The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019 is being sent to a Group of Ministers as directed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

What Are E-cigarettes?

  • An e-cigarette, short for electronic cigarette, is a battery-operated device.
  • One of a large variety of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), an e-cigarette emits vaporised nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions.
  • The user inhales it looking for a sensation similar to inhaling tobacco smoke, but without the smoke.
  • The pros and cons of e-cigarettes are hotly debated, with the industry refuting scientific evidence about the product being harmful, and users urging the government to legalise it. India’s market for e-cigarettes, while nascent today, is projected to grow annually at more than 25 per cent in the next five years.

The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019:

  • The draft ordinance was necessitated by the fact that an earlier order by the Centre asking the states to crack down against e-cigarettes could not stand judicial scrutiny.
  • However, a recent order, in which the High Court threw out a petition asking for protection from an ordinance against e-cigarettes, has emboldened the Health Ministry, which now seeks legal backing for a ban (rather than just an advisory) in the form of an ordinance.
  • The ordinance makes any violation of its provisions punishable by imprisonment of one to three years, and a fine of Rs 1-5 lakh.
  • Some states, including Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Mizoram, have already banned use and sale of e-cigarettes, vape and e-hookah.
  • Under the Constitution, health is a state subject, so any move to ban manufacture and sale of a product on health grounds needs to come from the state government.
  • In February, the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation had written to all state drug controllers, saying they should not allow sale, online sale, manufacture, distribution, trade, import or advertisement of ENDS.
  • The Delhi High Court stayed the Centre’s circular banning sale and manufacture of ENDS like e-cigarettes and e-hookah with nicotine flavour, saying as the products were not a “drug”.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s Scientific Position:

  • The use of ENDS or e-cigarettes adversely affects almost all the human body systems with impact across the life course, from the womb to tomb.
  • The cartridges used in ENDS or e-cigarettes are filled with liquid nicotine, flavouring agents and other chemicals.
  • A typical cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes and can act as a potential source for nicotine addiction.
  • Studies on these nicotine solvents had shown a varied degree of release of potential carcinogens, depending on the battery output voltage.
  • The liquid-vaporizing solutions also contain toxic chemicals and metals that have been demonstrated to be responsible for several adverse health effects, including cancers and diseases of the heart, lungs and brain.

Conclusion:

  • The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.

NOC ONLINE APPLICATION PROCESSING SYSTEM (NOAPS)

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Culture & Tourism has launched an integrated No Objection Certificate (NOC) online Application Processing System (NOPAS) for National Monuments Authority (NMA) for 517 local bodies of six states.

Highlights:

  • The online system automates the process of granting No-Objection Certificate (NOC) for construction-related work in the prohibited and regulated areas of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments.
  • NMA considers grant of permissions to applicants for construction-related activity in the prohibited and regulated area.
  • National Monuments Authority (NMA) under the Ministry of Culture, has been set up as per provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010.
  • The applicant needs to fill up a single form which is being sent to the concerned agencies by the Urban Local Body, from whom No Objection Certificate (NOC) is required.
  • The Portal has integration with the Smart ‘Smarac’ Mobile App of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), through which the applicant traverses his plot and the geo-coordinates of his plot along with the images get uploaded into the NIC portal along with the proximity and the approval status.
  • NOAPS was launched by the NMA in September 2015 but was limited to only five urban local bodies in Delhi and one civic body in Mumbai. Now, the facility has been expanded to six more states: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jharkhand and Telangana.

HOW THE FORCES PROTECT VIPS IN INDIA?

  • Context: The Government recently downgraded the security cover of former PM Manmohan Singh, from Special Protection Group (SPG) to Z plus of the CRPF. The security cover of several other VIPs too has been downgraded.

How Does the Government Decide the Level of Protection an Individual Needs?

  • The Home Ministry takes the decision based on inputs from intelligence agencies, which include the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing.
  • They largely give a subjective measure of threat to life or injury to a person from terrorists or any other group, based on information from their sources.
  • Certain individuals, by dint of their position in government, are automatically entitled to security cover. These include the Prime Minister and his immediate family.
  • The Home Minister and officials such as the National Security Adviser too generally get security cover on the basis of their position.
  • Since none of the intelligence agencies in India is accountable to any statutory body, barring the internal oversight of the Home and External Affairs Ministries, VIP security is sometimes seen as open to manipulation.
  • A number of protectees, it has been alleged, are under security cover for political reasons and not necessarily due to any real threat.

What Are the Various Protection Levels?

  • There are largely six types of security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus and SPG.
  • While SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs about facing a threat.
  • There are various kinds of cover within these levels. These include security of residence, mobile security, office security and inter-state security. Different VIPs are given different kinds of cover depending on threat perception.
  • For example, if the Chhattisgarh CM is assessed to be facing a threat from Maoists only in his state, the Centre may choose to give him residence and mobile security only in his state, and appropriate security by the concerned state police when he travels out. Similarly, some may have a threat only when they travel, so they are given an escort force.
  • Then, different forces may be engaged for residence and mobile security. Many protectees get residence security from state police and mobile security from a Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).

Genesis of SPG:

  • In March 1985, following the recommendations of a committee set up by the Home Ministry, a special unit was created for this purpose under the Cabinet Secretariat. This unit, initially called the Special Protection Unit, was renamed as Special Protection Group in April 1985.
  • Subsequently, the Parliament passed The Special Protection Group (SPG) Act, which was notified in June 1988 “to provide for the constitution and regulation of an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and for matters connected therewith”.
  • The SPG Act defined “proximate security” as “protection provided from close quarters, during journey by road, rail, aircraft, watercraft or on foot or any other means of transport” and to “include the places of functions, engagements, residence or halt”.
  • Coverage: SPG protection was extended, apart from the Prime Minister, to “former Prime Ministers of India and members of their immediate families” through an amendment in the Act in the aftermath of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

KERALA, TAMIL NADU AND HIMACHAL TOP INDIA’S CHILD WELL-BEING INDEX

Why in News?

  • Child well-being index, a tool designed to measure and tracks children’s well-being comprehensively has been released.

Highlights:

  • The report released by the non-government organisation World Vision India and research institute IFMR LEAD.
  • The report is an attempt to look at how India fairs on child well-being using a composite child well-being index.
  • The India child well-being index is a crucial report that can be mined both by the Government and civil organisations to achieve the goal of child well-being and we will use this report effectively.
  • This report provides insights on health, nutrition, education, sanitation and child protection.
  • The dimensions of the index include healthy individual development, positive relationships and protective contexts.
  • Focusing on the three key dimensions, 24 indicators were selected to develop the computation of the child well-being index.
  • The report highlights the multi-dimensional approach towards measuring child well-being — going beyond mere income poverty.

Significance of the Report:

  • The report is important considering that 40 per cent of the country’s population is made of children between the ages of 1 and 18.
  • The report, calls for States to look at their respective scores on the dimensions of child well-being, and to prepare for priority areas of intervention with specific plans of action.
  • It also hopes to trigger policy level changes, seek better budgetary allocations and initiate discussions with all stakeholders, which can help in enhancing the quality of life of all children in the country.
  • One of the primary objectives of this index is to garner attention to the under-researched theme of child well-being in India, and inspire further academic and policy conversations on related issues.

Performance of the states:

  • Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Puducherry topped the charts in the child well-being index.
  • Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh featured at the bottom.
  • Among the Union Territories, Puducherry led the way and Dadra and Nagar Haveli featured at the other end.
  • Kerala bagged the top spot due to its exceptional performance in health, nutrition and education facilities.
  • Kerala also performed better in addressing malnutrition and ensuring child survival and access to a healthy environment in terms of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.

MOBILE APPLICATION- “JANAUSHADHI SUGAM” LAUNCHED

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers launched a mobile application “Janaushadhi Sugam”.

Highlights:

  • The minister announced that “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” will now be available at only One Rupee per pad.
  • Janaushadhi Sugam app will enable people to search for Janaushadhi generic medicines and the stores at the tip of their fingers.
  • About 28 million girls are reported to be leaving education because of lack of availability of good quality Sanitary Napkin” pads at a reasonable cost.
  • The Government of India launched “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” at Rs 2.50 per pad on the eve of the World Environment Day
  • Jan Aushadhi Suvidha comes with a special additive, which makes it biodegradable when it comes in contact with oxygen after being discarded.
  • This is an important step in ensuring the health security for the section of Indian women who still use unhygienic aids during menstrual period due to non-affordability of sanitary pads available in the market.
  • This will ensure ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’ for the underprivileged women of the country. This step was taken by the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
  • “Janaushadhi Sugam” app would have user-friendly options like- to locate nearby stores, direction guidance for the location through Google Map.
  • The app will also enable to search Janaushadhi generic medicines, analyse product comparison of Generic vs Branded medicine in form of MRP & overall Savings, etc.

ENHANCED OUTREACH ON HIV/AIDS PREVENTION

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for enhanced HIV/AIDS outreach.

Highlights:

  • The MoU signing took place between the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment (DoSJE).
  • The objective is to reduce the incidence of social stigma and discrimination against victims of drug abuse and Children and People Living with HIV/AIDS.
  • The MoU will help in developing specific strategies and action plans for HIV and AIDS prevention and mechanisms for drug addiction treatment and extending social protection schemes to the vulnerable populations.

India’s current situation of HIV/AIDS:

  • The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies.
  • NACO has played a very big role in significantly reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country and that too faster than the global rates.
  • More than 80% decline in estimated new infections from the peak of epidemic in 1995.
  • Estimated AIDS-related deaths declined by 71% since its peak in 2005.
  • As per the UNAIDS 2018 report, the global average for the decline in new infections and AIDS-related deaths from peak has been 47% and 51% respectively.

Antiretroviral Therapy:

  • With neither a vaccine nor a cure in sight, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is the only option available for people living with HIV-AIDS.
  • HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus, and the combination of drugs used to treat it is called Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
  • According to the World Health Organization, standard ART consists of a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.
  • Significant reductions have been seen in rates of death and suffering by the use of potent ART regimen, particularly in the early stages of the disease.

India’s Role in the Global Fight against AIDS:

  • There are 2 million new AIDS infections every year, and about 66% of the world population currently on antiretroviral therapy consumes drugs manufactured in India.
  • Globally, the ART market is valued at .48 billion (in 2018) and is expected to reach .83 billion by 2025.
  • Thus, Indian pharmaceutical companies, with their ability to manufacture high-quality, affordable medicines are very important in the global battle against AIDS.

SABKA VISHWAS – LEGACY DISPUTE RESOLUTION SCHEME

Why in News?

  • In the Union Budget 2019-20, the Hon’ble Finance Minister announced the Sabka Vishwas-Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019.

Scheme:

  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums.
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law.
  • The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine and penalty.
  • As the objective of the Scheme is to free as large a segment of the taxpayers from the legacy taxes as possible, the relief given thereunder is substantial.
  • The Scheme is specially tailored to free a large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the tax administration.
  • Government urges the taxpayers and all concerned to avail the SabkaVishwas – Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019 and make a new beginning.

RICE FORTIFICATION

Why in News?

  • The NITI Aayog seeks creation of roadmap by Department of Food and Public Distribution for taking the Rice Fortification Pilot Scheme Pan India to tackle the menace of Malnutrition.

Rice Fortification:

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Rice fortification is the practice of increasing the content of essential micronutrients in rice and to improve the nutritional quality of the rice.
  • Fortified rice contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.

Benefits of Fortification:

  • If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittent supplements.
  • Fortified foods are also better at lowering the risk of the multiple deficiencies that can result from seasonal deficits in the food supply or a poor-quality diet.
  • Fortification can be an excellent way of increasing the content of vitamins in breast milk and thus reducing the need for supplementation in postpartum women and infants.
  • Fortification of widely distributed and widely consumed foods has the potential to improve the nutritional status of a large proportion of the population, both poor and wealthy.
  • Fortification is often more cost-effective than other strategies, especially if the technology already exists and if an appropriate food distribution system is in place.

Food fortification in India:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
  • These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
  • The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.

PRICE STABILISATION FUND (PSF)

Why in News?

  • Onions for retailing by Safal is being made available at present from the government stock built under Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF). It was decided that retail price of onion at Safal would not be allowed to exceed Rs 23.90/- per kg

Price Stabilisation Fund:

  • Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) refers to any fund constituted for the purpose of containing extreme volatility in prices of selected commodities.
  • The amount in the fund is generally utilised for activities aimed at bringing down/up the high/low prices say for instance, procurement of such products and distribution of the same as and when required, so that prices remain in a range.
  • Accordingly, the Government of India in 2015, approved the creation of a Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) with a corpus of Rs.500 crores as a Central Sector Scheme, to support market interventions for price control of perishable Agri-horticultural commodities during 2014-15 to 2016-17.
  • Initially the fund was proposed to be used for market interventions for onion and potato only and pulses were added subsequently.

Procurement of Commodities:

  • Procurement of these commodities will be undertaken directly from farmers or farmers’ organizations at farm gate/mandi and made available at a more reasonable price to the consumers. Losses incurred, if any, in the operations will be shared between the Centre and the States.
  • PSF Scheme provides for advancing interest free loan to State Governments/Union Territories (UTs) and Central agencies to support their working capital and other expenses they might incur on procurement and distribution interventions for such commodities.
  • Hence, the actual utilisation of the fund depends on the willingness of the state governments / union territories to avail of such loans for these purposes. Further, the actual detection of the period when support is required and the deployment of price support measures are left to the states.
  • For this purpose, the States will have to set up a ‘revolving fund’ (a fund which is constantly replenished and not limited by the fiscal year considerations) to which Centre and State will contribute equally (50:50).
  • The ratio of Centre-State contribution to the State level corpus in respect of North-East States will, however, be 75:25. Central Agencies will set up their revolving fund entirely with the advance from the Centre.

Management of Price Stabilization Fund:

  • The Price Stabilization Fund will be managed centrally by a Price Stabilization Fund Management Committee (PSFMC) which will approve all proposals from State Governments and Central Agencies.
  • The PSF will be maintained as a Central Corpus Fund by Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), a society promoted by Ministry of Agriculture for linking agriculture to private businesses and investments and technology. SFAC will act as Fund Manager.
  • Funds from this Central Corpus will be released in two streams, one to the State Governments/UTs as a onetime advance to each State/UT based on its first proposal and the other to the Central Agencies.
  • The one time advance to the States/UTs based on their first proposal along with matching funds from the State/UT will form a State/UT level revolving fund, which can then be used by them for all future market interventions to control prices of onions and potatoes based on approvals by State Level Committee set up explicitly for this purpose.
  • The Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) was set up under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Famers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture. The PSF scheme was transferred from DAC&FW to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DOCA) w.e.f. 1st April, 2016.

WORLDSKILLS KAZAN 2019

Why in News?

  • The world’s biggest international vocational skills competition, WorldSkills Kazan 2019 got underway with a grand ceremony at Kazan, Russia.

Highlights:

  • Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship inaugurated the India Pavilion at the competition. Team India was familiarised with Russian culture during the One School-One Country program; also aims at encouraging children to join skill programs.
  • ‘Future Skills’ category introduced at the Competition to focus on digital economy.

One School One Country:

  • Before the opening ceremony, the competing teams came together to present their national cultures under the One School-One Country initiative.
  • The initiative aims to promote cultural exchange between the participating countries and to raise the profile of skills and different career pathways.
  • Participants visited a Russian School, where they interacted with Russian school students and also participated in cultural programs.

New Initiatives:

  • An international conference, WorldSkills Conference 2019, will also be held alongside the skills competitions, for government representatives, experts and thought-leaders to interact on an array of topics on future of skills to maximize economic and social impact.
  • Two new initiatives — WorldSkills Juniors and ‘Future Skills — are also being introduced in this edition. WorldSkills Junior aims at inspiring schoolchildren aged 14-16 years to join vocational and skill training and participate alongside the national teams.
  • The focus of ‘Future Skills’ is to lay emphasis on relevant fields of activity in the era of high-tech production and digital economy.

RAJASTHAN FREE MEDICINE SCHEME

Context:

Rajasthan has fared at the top in 16 State-chart detailing implementations of the free medicine scheme, being run under the National Health Mission.

About National Health Mission (NHM):

The National Health Mission (NHM) encompasses its two Sub-Missions, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the newly launched National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).

The main programmatic components include Health System Strengthening in rural and urban areas – Reproductive – Maternal- Neonatal- Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A), and Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases.

The NHM envisages achievement of universal access to equitable, affordable & quality health care services that are accountable and responsive to people’s needs.

About Rajasthan Free Medicine Scheme:

Mukhyamantri Nishulk Dava Yojana (MNDY), the Chief Minister’s Free Medicine Scheme, this Scheme provides quality, generic drugs at no expense to all and helps to ease the significant out of pocket expenditures on health care that the current national health system demands.

Background:

In Rajasthan, on average before MNDY, 89.4 percent of household expenditures on health care was spent on medicine.

According to the World Health Organization in 2010, 65 percent of patients were unable to access the essential medicines they needed to recover from an illness.

In an evaluation of the Free Medicine Scheme, the World Health Organization and Public Health Foundation of India reported that the combined outpatient and inpatient care visits rose from 3.5 million in July 2010 to 7.8 million in July 2013, more than doubling the access and reach of health care.

Administration in Scheme:

To implement the scheme, Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation Limited (RMSCL) was incorporated on May 4, 2011, as a Public Limited Company, and obtained its Certificate of Commencement of Business on June 13, 2011.

RMSCL was established as a centralised procurement agency for procuring generic medicines, surgical equipment, sutures and medical equipment for the department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education department, among others.

About 1,400 pharmacists were recruited for the new system. In 2013, computer operators were added for the management of and entries into the e-Aushadhi software.

E-Aushadhi is the digital system designed to track the supplies. Since its successful implementation in Rajasthan, the application has been replicated by many other states in the country.

Features of Scheme:

  • The scheme consists of two components — free medicine and free tests.
  • The Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation (RMSC) was created and given the responsibility for centralized purchasing, quality control and providing medicines to all health facilities in the state.
  • Generic medicines and this centralized system of procurement allowed the efficient distribution of quality drugs.
  • RMSC procures the items in generic names by finalizing the rates and supplies through an open tender process.
  • All medicines and surgical needles are procured based on the need and consumption pattern of the items by the state medical institutions.
  • The procurement orders are placed four months out with two months stock likely to be in transit and under quarantine, so stocking is a year-round affair.
  • One of the most challenging aspects of this is to be able to predict the needs of the health facilities for any given year. To contend with this, ten percent of the budget is allocated for decentralized purchasing of medicines as needed.
  • The strength of the scheme is that it is working not just in the major cities but also in the parts of Rajasthan that are remote and had few health care facilities.

How Many Have Benefitted from The Scheme So Far?

  • The number of free medicine beneficiaries stood at 52.4 crore.
  • A lot of patients revisit the dispensaries, hence the high number of beneficiaries.
  • Some also manage to get a second course of prescribed medicines on the same day, for example, those staying far from the hospital or the dispensary.

Issue with Generic Drugs Under Scheme:

  • Doctors’ opposition to the Free Medicine Scheme centered around their suspicions about the quality of ‘cheap’ drugs and their skepticism about the inclusion of the necessary or most used and effective drugs, as well as the loss of personal income.
  • This was addressed this by making doctors part of the decision-making process for the Essential Drug List and Standard Drug Protocol, forming an advisory committee for the purchase and updating of the Essential Medicines List, which lists all the medicines available under the Scheme.
  • Sensitization program to appeal to physicians’ emotional side, showing how the program would alleviate the suffering of people.
  • Doctors are now trained to understand that all versions of the branded medication, post its patent period, have the same active ingredients. The quality of the drugs was a critical component, for the patients and for the doctors, to ensure buy-in to the whole Scheme. To maintain the quality of the medicines, a random sample of products is taken from each batch and then sent to one of six empanelled and impartial labs throughout the country.

Other Scheme Related to Medicine:

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana Kendra (PMBJP)

Objectives of the scheme:

  • Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.

Implementation Agency:

  • BPPI (Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India), under the administrative control of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals& Fertilizers, Government of India will be the implementation agency for the PMBJP.

Key Features:
State Governments or any organization / reputed NGOs / Trusts / Private hospitals / Charitable institutions / Doctors / Unemployed pharmacist/ individual entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for new Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.

The applicants shall have to employ one B Pharma / D Pharma degree holder as Pharmacist in their proposed store. Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras can be located within Government hospital premises as well as Private hospital premises or anywhere outside.

Financial support to applicants: An amount of Rs.2.5 lakhs shall be extended to NGOs/agencies/individuals establishing Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras in Government hospital premises where space is provided free of cost by Government to operating agency: Rs. 1 lakh reimbursement of furniture and fixtures Rs. 1 lakh by way of free medicines in the beginning Rs. 0.50 lakh as reimbursement for computer and peripherals, internet, etc.

OCEAN ENERGY AS RENEWABLE ENERGY

Why in News?

  • In a decision that would give a boost to the ocean energy in India, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Shri RK Singh approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy.

Significance of Ocean Energy:

  • Oceans cover 70 per cent of the earth’s surface and represent an enormous amount of energy in the form of wave, tidal, marine current and thermal gradient.
  • A variety of different technologies are currently under development throughout the world to harness this energy in all its forms.
  • Deployment is currently limited but the sector has the potential to grow, fuelling economic growth, reduction of carbon footprint and creating jobs not only along the coasts but also inland along its supply chains.
  • India has a long coastline with the estuaries and gulfs. MNRE looks over the horizon at development of new technology and considers the various options available to support its deployment.
  • The objective of the technology programme is to accelerate and enhance support for the resource assessment and deployment of ocean energy in the country and to harness it for power generation and to overcome the barriers.
  • The potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.
  • The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.
  • Although currently under-utilised, Ocean energy is mostly exploited by just a few technologies: Wave, Tidal, Current Energy and Ocean Thermal Energy.

Tidal Energy:

  • The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon. The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy.
  • Similar to traditional hydropower generated from dams, tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide.
  • The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where the potential exists.

Wave Energy:

  • Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor. Many different techniques for converting wave energy to electric power have been studied.
  • Wave conversion devices that float on the surface have joints hinged together that bend with the waves. This kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and creates electric power.
  • Stationary wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves swelling up and down. This bobbing motion drives a turbine when critical pressure is reached.

Current Energy:

  • Marine current is ocean water moving in one direction. This ocean current is known as the Gulf Stream.
  • Tides also create currents that flow in two directions. Kinetic energy can be captured from the Gulf Stream and other tidal currents with submerged turbines that are very similar in appearance to miniature wind turbines.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC):

  • Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, uses ocean temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 meters, to extract energy. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy.
  • Research focuses on two types of OTEC technologies to extract thermal energy and convert it to electric power: closed cycle and open cycle.
  • In the closed cycle method, a working fluid, such as ammonia, is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine.
  • The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapour back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger.
  • In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.

COMPULSORY RURAL SERVICE FOR DOCTORS

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has held that the state governments can exercise their power to execute a compulsory service bond upon the doctors taking admission to post-graduate and super-speciality courses in government medical colleges, which would neither violate any fundamental rights of the candidates, nor would be a restraint on their professional activity.

Highlights:

  • The Association of Medical Super Speciality Aspirants and Residents and others had challenged the state government’s regulations that imposed a condition of compulsory service for a minimum fixed period with the state.
  • Doctors complained that such a condition violated the right of an individual to carry on his profession, amounted to ‘forced labour’ in violation of their constitutional right and would impede the progress of their careers.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that doctors across the country are bound by the compulsory bonds executed by them at the time of their admission in post-graduate and super-speciality medical courses.
  • The SC noted that the huge infrastructure has to be developed and maintained for running medical colleges with post-graduate and super-speciality courses, the amount of fees charged from students is meagre in comparison to private medical colleges.
  • Compulsory Bonds binds doctors with conditions to serve in their respective states for a certain fixed period, in rural areas.
  • The doctors’ original mark-sheets, certificates and other documents are also usually retained by the state authorities after the completion of speciality courses.
  • Compulsory service is in the larger public interest and beneficial for deprived sections of society, the top court ruled in favour of the policy of various state governments to have compulsory bonds to be executed by the doctors before their admissions to PG and super speciality courses.
  • The appellants contended that their rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India have been violated.

NATIONAL MARITIME DOMAIN AWARENESS (NMDA) PROJECT

Why in News?

  • Post 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India established National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) grid built around the National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network and the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) which obtains information from over 50 coastal radar stations including those located on island territories.In the NMDA project, the NC3I network will function as the communication backbone and the IMAC will be the NMDA Centre.

IMAC:

  • Set up to provide coastal security and to avert tragic incidents like the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, the IMAC is the nodal centre of the National Command Control Communications and Intelligence Network (NC3I Network), and is a joint initiative of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Bharat Electronics Ltd to improve coastal surveillance.
  • The IMAC collates, fuses and disseminates intelligence and information about ‘unusual or suspicious movements and activities at sea’.
  • The IMAC also receives vital operational data about ‘white shipping’ (merchant shipping including fishing vessels over 300 tons) from a number of sources such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT), a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism for position of ships. This information is further supplemented by shore based electro-optical systems and high definition radars

National Command Control Communications and Intelligence Network:

  • The NC3I network links 51 Naval and Coast Guard stations, located along the coast and on island territories.
  • The network provides these stations coastal surveillance information obtained from various sensors such as the coastal radar chain of the Indian Coast Guard and automatic tracking systems as well as electro-optical cameras.
  • The network rides on dedicated terrestrial data circuits, as well as, satellite communication, which helps the stations in remote locations to be networked.
  • The IMAC is the centre where data from various sensors and databases is aggregated, correlated and then disseminated to various stations for enhanced awareness.

ONE NATION, ONE RATION CARD SCHEME: A BOON FOR POOR MIGRANTS

  • Context: Government has launched the pilot project for the inter-state portability of ration cards between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and between Maharashtra and Gujarat, as part of its ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme.

What is A Ration Card?

  • A ration card is issued to the head of the family, depending on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.
  • It is used by households to get essential food grains at subsidised prices from designated ration shops (also called fair price shops) under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • Over the years, different types of ration cards were issued depending on the level of deprivation. Later, in 2013, when the National Food Security Bill was passed, different ration cards were compressed to just two — priority and Antyodaya (for the poorest).
  • The responsibility of identifying eligible families and issuing ration cards to them rests with the state/UT government.

What is a Ration Shop?

  • Ration shops can be privately owned or owned by cooperative societies or by the government. Ownership licenses are issued by the concerned state government.
  • Presently, commodities including wheat, sugar, rice and kerosene are being allocated as part of the TPDS. State governments have the discretion to provide additional commodities.

What is the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ Scheme?

  • Since Ration Cards are issued by State Governments, this implied that beneficiaries could procure food grains only from the designated ration shops within the concerned state.
  • If a beneficiary were to shift to another state, he/she would need to apply for a new ration card in the second state. There were other complications.
  • For instance, after marriage, a woman needed to get her name removed from the ration card issued to her parents, and get it added to the ration card issued to her husband’s family.
  • The ONORC scheme attempts to address this gap in TPDS delivery. Essentially, the scheme has been launched keeping in mind the internal migration of our country, since people keep moving to different states in search of better job opportunities and higher standards of living.
  • As per Census 2011, 4.1 crore people were inter-state migrants and 1.4 crore people migrated (inter and intra-state) for employment.
  • With the ONORC scheme being implemented in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the beneficiary can buy food grains from ration shops located in either of the states.
  • The same is the case with Maharashtra and Gujarat. The government hopes to implement the scheme across India by June 1, 2020.

LINKING OF AADHAAR INFORMATION TO SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

  • Context: Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea by Facebook to transfer to the apex court four petitions filed in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh seeking the “linking of Aadhaar information to social media accounts”.

What is The Issue?

  • It all began with a petition by Antony Clement Rubin in Madras High Court last year, seeking the court’s direction to the Central government to make it mandatory for social media users to link their Aadhaar number with email IDs.
  • Social media profiles of users need to be linked with Aadhaar numbers to check circulation of fake, defamatory and pornographic content as also anti-national and terror material; the Supreme Court was informed.
  • The suggestion was made by the Tamil Nadu government which is facing resistance from Facebook Inc on the ground that sharing of 12-digit Aadhaar number, the Biometric Unique Identity, would violate the privacy policy of users.

State Government’s View:

  • The linking of social media profiles of the users with the Aadhaar was needed to check fake news, defamatory articles, pornographic materials, anti-national and terror contents in the online media.”

What Happens If User Profiles on Social Media Platforms Are Linked with Their Aadhaar Number?

  • The linking of user profiles on social media with Aadhaar would make every message and post by the user traceable.
  • Though the move will serve as a deterrent to social media instigators and perpetrators of defamatory and fake posts, it would also violate the privacy of the users, keeping a record of each message along with the registered mobile number or email account. This would mean the end of private communications.
  • The privacy experts fear that the linking would allow India’s nationalist government to force social media platforms to become surveillance tools.

Facebook’s View:

  • Facebook Inc said that it cannot share the Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on its instant messaging Whatsapp was end-to-end encrypted and even they do not have access to it.
  • Facebook has contended that there are four petitions including — two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh High Courts — and they contained almost similar prayers.
  • Facebook plea to transfer all this petition to Supreme Court
  • Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea by Facebook to transfer to the apex court four petitions filed in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh seeking the “linking of Aadhaar information to social media accounts”.

Issues Involved:

  • The question is if linking social media to Aadhaar is breach of privacy.
  • Question is whether Aadhaar can be shared with a private entity or not.
  • Ordinance has been promulgated, which says that Aadhaar can be shared with a private entity, if there was a larger public interest involved.

Supreme Court Privacy Judgement:

  • Supreme court Observation on Social media
    • Companies such as Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, etc. probably have more data on users than the governments of their countries.
    • The privacy of citizens needs protection from these non-state players, too.

DEFENCE PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE

Why in news?

  • Raksha Mantri ShriRajnath Singh has approved setting up of a Committee under the Chairmanship of Director General (Acquisition) to review the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 and Defence Procurement Manual (DPM) 2009. The Committee will revise and align the procedures with the aim of ensuring seamless flow from asset acquisition to life cycle support.

The Committee:

  • The DPP 2016 and DPM 2009 have been due for revision. Aligning the procedures will ensure seamless flow from asset acquisition to life cycle support and strengthen the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government.
  • Apart from DG (Acq) 11 other members, not below the rank of Joint Secretary/Major General equivalent, are part of this high-level committee.

Terms of reference of the Committee:

  • Revise the procedures as given in DPP 2016 and DPM 2009, so as to remove procedural bottlenecks and hasten defence acquisition.
  • Align and standardise the provisions in the DPP 2016 and DPM 2009, wherever applicable, to optimise life cycle support for equipment.
  • Simplify policy and procedures to facilitate greater participation of Indian Industry and develop robust Defence Industrial base.
  • Wherever applicable, examine and incorporate new concepts, such as life cycle costing, life cycle support, performance based logistics, ICT, lease contracting, codification & standardisation.
  • Include provisions to promote Indian start-ups and research & development.
  • Any other aspect which will contribute towards refining the acquisition process and support the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

DRAFT NATIONAL RESOURCE EFFICIENCY POLICY

Why in News?

  • Natural resources form the backbone of any economic development. India, as one of the fastest growing economies with GDP at 2.6 trillion USD, has increased its material consumption to six times.
  • Enhancing resource efficiency and promoting the use of secondary raw materials has emerged as a strategy for ensuring that the potential trade-off between growth, resource constraints and environmental well-being can be minimized.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy

Policy Highlights:

  • The Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP) envisions a future with environmentally sustainable and equitable economic growth, resource security, healthy environment (air, water and land), and restored ecosystems with rich ecology and biodiversity.
  • The Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy is guided by the principles of
  • Reduction in primary resource consumption to ‘sustainable’ levels, in keeping with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and staying within the planetary boundaries,
  • Creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches
  • Waste minimization
  • Material security, and creation of employment opportunities and business models beneficial to the cause of environment protection and restoration.

INDIA’S DOCTRINE OF NUCLEAR NO FIRST USE

Context: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, after visiting the nuclear test site in Pokhran that “The future of India’s ‘No First Use’ policy on nuclear weapons depends on the “circumstances”,

What is No First Use doctrine, and how did it come into being?

    • A commitment to not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict has long been India’s stated policy.
    • India declareda “no-first-use” policy under which it won’t be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with its neighbors, but will retaliate should deterrence fail. Unlike Pakistan, India’s other neighbor and rival China also has a declared no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons.
    • India’s Nuclear Doctrine

    a) Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent

    b) Posture of ‘No First Use’, nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian Territory or on Indian forces anywhere

    c) Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage

    d) Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states

    e) In the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons

Background

  • On January 4, 2003, when Vajpayee was India’s Prime Minister, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met to review the progress in operationalizing the country’s nuclear doctrine.
  • An official release issued that day summarized the decisions that were being put in the public domain.
  • Among the major points in the doctrine was “a posture of No First Use”, which was described as follows:
    • “Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.

Contents of Doctrine

  • Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  • India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  • India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.
  • India’s doctrine does not mention any country, but it is no secret that the Indian nuclear arsenal is to counter threats from China and Pakistan.

Advantages of Doctrine

  • Since there is no first use alert requirement, the chances of reacting to a false alarm are nullified thus effectively quashing the chances of unnecessary chaos.
  • A ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons policy suits India’s interest. Shifting to a first-use policy would mark a shift from deterrence towards nuclear war fighting
  • These weapons are enormously destructive and should not be used.  Since there is no first use alert requirement, the chances of reacting to a false alarm are nullified  A first use would result in international dishonour and weigh heavily on a country with a first use posture.
  • NFU doctrine is cheaper to implement; for India, which has many economic targets to achieve, this is a very important factor.
  • NFU policy is just right for India as it ensures security for the nation and does not detract it from its march towards better prosperity for its people.
  • India’s NFU policy which has kept the nuclear arsenal in both India and Pakistan in a de-mated posture, which means that the nuclear warheads are not mated with the delivery systems.
  • A NFU doctrine is cheaper to implement. For India, which has many economic targets to achieve, this is a very important factor.

China

  • China has maintained a ‘no first use’ policy since 1964 when it went nuclear, and the Chinese leadership has always considered nuclear weapons as political weapons.

Pakistan

  • Pakistan has adopted a first-use policy to ensure full-spectrum deterrence
  • Pakistan knows that it cannot afford to use any nuclear weapons in a war, including its tactical nuclear weapons, as India would respond with massive nuclear retaliation as per its doctrine

E-COURT

Why in news?

  • The High Court of Punjab and Haryana to launch its first virtual court (e-Court) at Faridabad.

Highlights:

  • The e-Court would deal with traffic challan cases from across the State.
  • The project will be launched under the guidance of e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India.
  • Virtual courts will remove the need for the litigant to be present in the court and facilitate adjudication of the case online through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

E-committee:

  • E-committee is a body constituted by the Government of India in pursuance of a proposal received from the supreme court of India for assistance in formulating a National policy on computerization of Indian Judiciary and advise on technological communication and management related changes.
  • The E-Committee was set up in 2004 to provide a guide map for the use of I-T and administrative reforms in the judiciary.

e-Courts Project:

  • The e-Courts project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005”submitted by e-Committee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
  • The e-Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice,Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country.
  • The following are the functions of e-Courts Project:
    • To provide efficient & time-bound citizen-centric services delivery as detailed in e-Court Project Litigant’s Charter.
    • To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
    • To automate the processes to provide transparency in the accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
    • To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively & quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost-effective, predictable, reliable and transparent.

MOD CLARIFIES THERE IS NO PROPOSAL TO PRIVATISE OFB

Why in News?

  • Rumours being spread that Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)is being privatised has resulted in its employees calling for a 30 days’ strike.

Highlights:

  • Committee of senior officials of Ministry of Defenceled by Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production alongwith Chairman of OFB, explained to the employee organisations that there is no proposal to privatise OFB.
  • The proposal under consideration of Government is to make it into Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), which is 100 per cent Government owned.
  • It was also stated that corporatisation of OFB will bring OFB at par with other DPSUs of Ministry of Defence.  This is in the interest of OFB as it will provide operational freedom and flexibility to OFB which it presently lacks.

Ordnance Factory Board:

  • Ordnance Factory Board(OFB) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories is a defense contractor owned by the Indian government.
  • OFB comprises forty-one ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllerates of safety which are spread all across the country.
  • OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation run by the Government of India.
  • It is often called the “Fourth Arm of Defence” and the “Force Behind the Armed Forces” of India.
  • OFB is the 37th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India.

CHIEF JUSTICE ADVOCATES MORE AUTONOMY TO CBI

Why in News?

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has recommended a comprehensive legislation to make the Central Bureau of Investigation functional as an efficient and impartial investigative agency.

Highlights:

  • The Chief Justice said that time and again, the Supreme Court had utilised its constitutional authority to ensure that the CBI functioned without any fear or favour, and in the best public interest. As a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary investigative agency, it had for the most part of its existence enjoyed tremendous public trust.
  • He opined that the CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General.
  • And that the legal mandate of the CBI must be strengthened by having a comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence and oversight.Advocating administrative and financial autonomy for the CBI, he said, “To address an increasing incidence of inter-State crimes, an argument could be made for including ‘public order’ in concurrent list, for the limited purposes of investigating such crimes,”.However, given that the superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the possibility of it being used as a political instrument remains ever present, he said.

Issues:

  • Chief Justice Gogoi lists legal ambiguity, weak human resource, lack of adequate investment, accountability, and political and administrative interference as key concerns.
  • In the context of political and administrative interference, he said that in the Vineet Narain v. Union of India case, the Suprme Court had expressed concern over the state of affairs and laid down explicit guidelines for protecting the integrity of the force.
  • Under the DSPE Act, the CBI requires consent of the State concerned for investigation. Given vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy, such consent is often either denied or delayed, severely compromising the investigation. Additionally, a patch work of legislations governing the functioning of the CBI adversely affects inter-institutional coordination, both horizontally and vertically.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • The agency has been known to investigate several economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases.
  • Its job is to ensure a fair and an impartial probe.

COMPETITION LAW REVIEW COMMITTEE

Why in News?

  • Shri Injeti Srinivas, Secretary (Corporate Affairs) presented the Report of the Competition Law Review Committee

Highlights:

  • The Government constituted a Competition Law Review Committee on 1st October, 2018 to review the existing Competition law framework and make recommendations to further strengthen the framework to inter alia meet new economy challenges.
  • The Committee was chaired by Shri Injeti Srinivas

Recommendations:

  • Introduction of a ‘Green Channel’ for combination notifications to enable fast-paced regulatory approvals for vast majority of mergers and acquisitions that may have no major concerns regarding appreciable adverse effects on competition. The aim is to move towards disclosure based regime with strict consequences for not providing accurate or complete information.
  • Combinations arising out of the insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will also be eligible for “Green Channel” approvals.
  • Introducing a dedicated bench in NCLAT for hearing appeals under the Competition Act.
  • Introduction of express provisions to identify ‘hub and spoke’ agreements as well as agreements that do not fit within typical horizontal or vertical anti-competitive structures to cover agreements related to business structures and models synonymous with new age markets.Additional enforcement mechanism of ‘Settlement & Commitments” in the interests of speedier resolution of cases of anti-competitive conduct.
  • Enabling provisions to prescribe necessary thresholds, inter alia, deal-value threshold for merger notifications.
  • CCI to issue guidelines on imposition of penalty to ensure more transparency and faster decision making which will encourage compliance by businesses.
  • Strengthening the governance structure of CCI with the introduction of a Governing Board to oversee advocacy and quasi-legislative functions, leaving adjudicatory functions to the Whole-time Members.Merging DG’s Office with CCI as an ‘Investigation Division’ as it aids CCI in discharging an inquisitorial rather than adversarial mandate. However, functional autonomy must be protected.
  • Opening of CCI offices at regional level to carry out non-adjudicatory functions such as research, advocacy etc. and interaction with State Governments and State regulators.

DOCUMENT IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (DIN)

Why in News?

  • Every communication to be issued by the Income-Tax Department will now have a Document Identification Number (DIN). This intends to insure proper audit trail of such communication.

Document Identification Number:

  • The CBDT has now laid down parameters specifying the manner in which any communication issued by any income-tax authority relating to assessment, appeals, orders, statutory or otherwise, exemptions, enquiry, investigation, verification of information, penalty, prosecution, rectification and approval to the assessee will be dealt with.
  • All such communication issued on or after the 1st of October, 2019 shall carry a computer-generated Document Identification Number (DIN) duly quoted in the body of such communication.
  • Any communication which is not in conformity with the prescribed guidelines shall be treated as invalid and shall be deemed to have never been issued”.
  • CBDT also specifies exceptional circumstances where communication may be issued manually, only after recording reasons in writing & with prior written approval of Chief Commissioner/Director General of Income-Tax concerned,” the Income Tax Department tweeted on its official Twitter handle.
  • The exceptional circumstances include situations where there are technical difficulties in generating/allotting/quoting the DIN or issuing the communication electronically or the PAN of the assessee is not available or is lying with a non-jurisdictional Assessing Officer due to delay in PAN migration.

CERTIFICATION OF SEEDS TO BE MADE MANDATORY TO STEP UP FARM OUTPUT

  • Context: The Centre is planning to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966.

Background:

  • More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.
  • The existing legislation that was enacted over half a century ago and therefore there is a need for revival.

Proposed Changes in The New Bill:

  • The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…” The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds.
  • The new law will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance. Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000.

Significance:

  • New changes could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%.
  • It will also bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation.

STATE-RUN OMCS TO BUY BIODIESEL MADE FROM USED COOKING OIL

  • Context: Central Government has launched a ‘Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)’sticker and a phone app to enable the collection of used cooking oil. Restaurants and hotels interested in supplying used cooking oil can affix the sticker to show availability.

About RUCO:

  • The RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative have been launched by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil (UCO) to bio-diesel.
  • Under RUCO, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection.
  • FSSAI wants businesses using more than 100 litres of oil for frying, to maintain a stock register and ensure that UCO is handed over to only registered collecting agencies.
  • FSSAI is also working in partnership with Biodiesel Association of India and the food industry to ensure effective compliance of used cooking oil regulations.
  • FSSAI has additionally launched a micro-site to monitor the progress of the collection and conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel.

Background:

  • The consumption of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) poses adverse health effects.
  • During frying, several properties of oil are altered, Total Polar Compounds (TPC) are formed on repeated frying.
  • The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver diseases.
  • Therefore, it is essential to monitor the quality of vegetable oils during frying.
  • In order to safeguard consumer health, FSSAI has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25 percent beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used.
  • All Food Business Operators (FBOs) are required to monitor the quality of oil during frying by complying with the said regulations.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) is an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of UCO to biodiesel.

What are Total Polar Compounds (TPC)?

  • TPC is formed due to repeated frying and usage of edible oil which changes its physiochemical and nutrition properties making it unfit for human consumption.
  • TPCs above the set level cause hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease etc.
  • Cooking oil may have saturated fatty acids (palm oil) or unsaturated fatty acids (soyabean).
  • The saturated fatty acids such as in palm oil are more stable that the unsaturated fatty acids which decompose easily at high temperature forming polar compounds.
  • Thus, it makes oils with saturated fatty acids fit for frying. However, oils with unsaturated fatty acids are healthier provided they are used just once for frying.

MOTOR VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT 2019

Why in News?

  • President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Highlights:

  • The Act aims to make Indian roads safer, reduce corruption and use technology to overhaul the country’s transportation system.
  • Towards safety, the law has proposed stiffer penalties for traffic rule violations such as over-speeding, dangerous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and other offences such as not wearing a helmet or driving without licence.
  • The penalty for drunk driving has been increased by five times to ₹2,000. Speeding will now attract a fine or ₹5,000 instead of₹500 earlier. Noting giving way to emergency vehicles such as ambulances will attract a ₹10,000 fine.
  • The new law also allows the Centre to ask manufacturers to recall vehicles in case of defects that cause harm to the environment.
  • The Centre, in consultation with the states, can frame a national transportation policy to transform the rural and public road transportation system and improve last-mile connectivity.
  • The process for testing and certification for automobiles is proposed to be regulated more effectively. The testing agencies issuing automobile approvals have been brought under the ambit of the Act.
  • The driving training process has been strengthened enabling faster issuance of transport licenses.
  • This will help in reducing the shortage of commercial drivers in the country.
  • To bring harmony of the registration and licensing process, it is proposed to create National Register for Driving Licence and National Register for Vehicle registration through “Vahan” & “Sarathi” platforms. This will facilitate uniformity of the process across the country.
  • The Act proposes offences committed by Juveniles. The Guardian / owner shall be deemed to be guilty in cases of offences by Juveniles and Juvenile to be tried under JJ Act. Registration of Motor Vehicle to be cancelled
  • Improving delivery of services to the stakeholders using e-Governance is one of the major focuses of this Act. This includes enabling online learning licenses, increasing validity period for driving licenses, doing away with the requirements of educational qualifications  for transport licenses are some of the features.

ZERO DEFECT AND ZERO EFFECT SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government has launched a scheme namely “Financial Support to MSMEs in ZED Certification Scheme”.

Highlights:

  • The objective of the scheme for promotion of Zero Defect and Zero Effect (ZED) manufacturing amongst micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
  • The ZED Assessment for their certification so as to:
    • Develop an Ecosystem for Zero Defect Manufacturing in MSMEs.
    • Promote adaptation of Quality tools/systems and Energy Efficient manufacturing.
    • Enable MSMEs for manufacturing of quality products.
    • Encourage MSMEs to constantly upgrade their quality standards in products and processes.
    • Drive manufacturing with adoption of Zero-Defect production processes and without impacting the environment.
    • Support ‘Make in India’ campaign.
    • Develop professionals in the area of ZED manufacturing and certification.
    • There are 50 parameters for ZED rating and additional 25 parameters for ZED Defence rating under ZED Maturity Assessment Model.
  • The MSMEs are provided financial assistance for the activities to be carried out for ZED certification i.e., Assessment / Rating, Additional rating for Defence angle, Gap Analysis, Handholding, Consultancy for improving the rating of MSMEs by Consultants and Re-Assessment / Re-Rating.
  • Quality Council of India (QCI) has been appointed as the National Monitoring & Implementing Unit (NMIU) for implementation of ZED.

HIRING APP FOR FARMERS

Why in News?

  • The agricultural Ministry app will create an invaluable database for policy-makers, who can track the use and cost of equipment.

Highlights:

  • The custom hiring centres (CHC) app is already open for registrations by the farmers, societies and entrepreneurs who run these centres. So far, almost 26,800 CHCs have registered to offer more than one lakh pieces of equipment for hire.
  • Once the app is officially launched, farmers who wish to hire equipment can register using their names, addresses and mobile numbers, and then punch in their requirements.
  • The system would also help to track the usage of new technology that the government wants to promote, such as the Happy Seeder that aims to prevent stubble burning that causes air pollution, or solar dryers that can help farmers process and preserve their produce.
  • Farmers save precious groundwater and increase productivity by 10 to 15%.

Customer Hiring Centres:

  • Customer Hiring Centres (CHCs) are basically a unit comprising a set of farm machinery, implements and equipment meant for hiring by farmers.
  • Marginal farmers (Farmers whose land holdings are less than two hectares of land), by virtue of their economic condition are unable to own farm machinery on their own or through institutional credit.
  • Ideally, the CHCs should be located within a radius of 5 to 7 kms of land holdings. This will reduce the transport cost and time of transport of agricultural machinery.

SABKI YOJANA SABKA VIKAS

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has decided to launch the People’s Plan Campaign, also known as “Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas”from September 2019.

Highlights:

  • It aims to draw up Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) in the country and place them on a website where anyone can see the status of the various government’s flagship schemes.
  • Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) will include 48 indicators covering various aspects such as health and sanitation, education etc.
  • After each GP is scored out of 100 — with 30 marks for infrastructure, 30 marks for human development, and 40 marks for economic activity— the GPs will be ranked.
  • The data on the 48 indicators would come from Census 2011 (for physical infrastructure), Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (for Household-level deprivation data), and fresh survey starting in September 2019 that will be carried out by local facilitators.
  • The score for each GP will reflect the local needs and priorities.
  • The entire ranking exercise is meant to identify the gaps at the GP level, make an assessment of where it stands, and accordingly plan the interventions.

Gram Panchayat Development Plans:

  • Gram Panchayats have been mandated for the preparation of GPDP for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
  • The GPDP planning process will be comprehensive and participatory by involving full convergence with the schemes of all related Central Ministries / Line Departments.
  • The People’s Plan Campaign initiated under “Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas” is an intensive and structured exercise for planning at Gram Sabha through convergence between Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and concerned departments of the State.

MUKHYA MANTRI KRISHI ASHIRWAD YOJNA

Why in News?

  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for introducing structural reforms in the agricultural sector along with financial assistance schemes like Direct Benefit Transfer to make agriculture profitable and sustainable.
  • He inaugurated the Mukhya Mantri Krishi Ashirwad Yojna of the Jharkhand Government.

Highlights:

  • Under the scheme, all the small and marginal farmers of the state, who have arable land up to a maximum of 5 acres, will be given a grant-in-aid at the rate of Rs. 5000 / – per acre per year, which will also reduce their dependence on loans.
  • This amount would be given in two instalments through Direct Benefit Transfer to the beneficiary’s bank account.
  • This is in addition to PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana under which each small & marginal farmer’s family having combined landholding/ ownership of up to two hectares is paid Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer would eliminate middlemen and ensure that every penny of the financial assistance given by the government reaches the beneficiaries.
  • Government of India has taken a firm resolve to double the income of farmers by 2022.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN MAAN-DHAN YOJANA (PM-KMY)

Context: The PM-KMY was launched by Agriculture Minister which entitles eligible farmers for monthly pension of ₹3,000 per month on attaining the age of 60.

About PM-KMY:

  • Aim: Welfare of small and marginal farmers across the country.

Key Highlights of the Scheme:

  • It is a voluntary and contributory scheme for farmers and the entry age is between 18 to 40 years.
  • Eligible farmers will be provided with a monthly pension of Rs. 3000/- per month on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • The farmers will have to make a monthly contribution of Rs.55 to Rs.200, depending on their age of entry, in the Pension Fund till they reach the retirement date i.e. the age of 60 years.
  • The Central Government will also make an equal contribution of the same amount in the pension fund.
  • The spouse is also eligible to get a separate pension of Rs.3000/- upon making separate contributions to the Fund.
  • The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) shall be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.
  • In case of death of the farmer before retirement date, the spouse may continue in the scheme by paying the remaining contributions till the remaining age of the deceased farmer.
  • If the spouse does not wish to continue, the total contribution made by the farmer along with interest will be paid to the spouse.
  • If there is no spouse, then total contribution along with interest will be paid to the nominee.
  • If the farmer dies after the retirement date, the spouse will receive 50% of the pension as Family Pension.
  • After the death of both the farmer and the spouse, the accumulated corpus shall be credited back to the Pension Fund.
  • The beneficiaries may opt voluntarily to exit the Scheme after a minimum period of 5 years of regular contributions.
  • On exit, their entire contribution shall be returned by LIC with an interest equivalent to prevailing saving bank rates.
  • The farmers, who are also beneficiaries of PM-Kisan Scheme, will have the option to allow their contribution debited from the benefit of that Scheme directly.
  • In case of default in making regular contributions, the beneficiaries are allowed to regularize the contributions by paying the outstanding dues along with prescribed interest.
  • The initial enrollment to the Scheme is being done through the Common Service Centres in various states.
  • Later on, alternative facility of enrollment through the PM-Kisan State Nodal Officers or by any other means or online enrollment will also be made available.
  • The enrollment is free of cost. The Common Service Centres will charge Rs.30/- per enrolment which will be borne by the Government.
  • There will be appropriate grievance redressal mechanism of LIC, banks and the Government. An Empowered Committee of Secretaries has also been constituted for monitoring, review and amendments of the Scheme.

THE PUBLIC PREMISES (EVICTION OF UNAUTHORISED OCCUPANTS) AMENDMENT BILL, 2019

  • Context: The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by both the houses of the Parliament. The Bill amends the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971. The Act provides for the eviction of unauthorised occupants from public premises in certain cases.

Background:

  • The aim of the Bill is to facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of occupants of government accommodation on expiry of their terms and conditions.
  • The Government provides residential accommodation to its employees, Members of Parliament and other dignitaries while they are in service or till the term of their office on licence basis.
  • As per the existing allotment rules, after the expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence, the occupants of such residential accommodations become unauthorised for staying in such accommodation and should vacate the same.

Issue:

  • However, it is often seen that the unauthorised occupants do not vacate the government accommodation on expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence as per the rules and uses dilatory tactics to withhold the accommodation.
  • In order to check this delay, it is proposed to insert a new sub-section (3A) in section 7 of the Act to the effect that if the person challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in any court, he has to pay the damages for every month for the residential accommodation held by him.
  • Under the existing provisions, the eviction proceedings of unauthorised occupants from “public premises” take around five to seven weeks’ time.

Key Highlights of the Bill:

Residential Accommodation:

  • The Bill defines ‘residential accommodation occupation’ as the occupation of public premises by a person on the grant of a license for such occupation.
  • The license must be given for a fixed tenure, or for the period the person holds office.
  • Further, the occupation must be allowed under the rules made by the central, state or union territory government, or a statutory authority (such as Parliament Secretariat, or a central government company, or premises belonging to a state government).

 Notice for Eviction:

  • The Bill adds a provision laying down the procedure for eviction from residential accommodation.
  • It requires an estate officer (an officer of the central government) to issue a written notice to a person if he is in unauthorised occupation of a residential accommodation.
  • The notice will require the person to show cause of why an eviction order should not be made against him, within three working days.
  • The written notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the accommodation, in a prescribed manner.

 Order of Eviction:

  • After considering the cause shown, and making any other inquiries, the estate officer will make an order for eviction.
  • If the person fails to comply with the order, the estate officer may evict such person from the residential accommodation, and take possession of it.
  • For this purpose, the estate officer may also use such force as necessary.

 Payment of Damages:

  • If the person in unauthorised occupation of the residential accommodation challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in court, he will be required to pay damages for every month of such occupation.

NHRC NATIONAL LEVEL REVIEW MEETING ON MENTAL HEALTH

Why in News?

  • A day-long NHRC National Level Review Meeting on Mental Health concluded at India International centre, New Delhi, highlighting several issues to bridge the gap between the legislation and its implementation.
  • It was necessary to evaluate the ground realities post-implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.:

  • This ensures every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government.
  • The act assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line, even if they do not possess a BPL card.
  • Every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity and there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.
  • A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.
  • A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code.
  • The government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

BIOMETRIC TOKEN SYSTEM

Why in News?

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new Biometric Token System (BTS) that seeks to streamline the process of boarding unreserved coaches.

Biometric Token System (BTS):

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new system by which passengers travelling in the general coach, where seats are not reserved, are given a token roughly three hours before the train’s departure.
  • These tokens are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and carry a serial number on them, which governs the order in which passengers will board the train.
  • Passengers with valid tickets are required to place their fingers on a scanner, and are issued a token with a serial number against their biometric data.
  • Passengers must queue up and enter the compartment in the order of their serial numbers.
  • The tokens are issued three hours before a train’s departure. The use of biometrics cuts out the touts, and helps genuine passengers.

Why such move?

  • Boarding ‘general’ compartments — in which seating is not reserved — especially in long-distance trains leaving major cities, has always been an ordeal for passengers.
  • The massive mismatch between the numbers of travellers and the available seats drives people to queue up on platforms up to 10 hours in advance.
  • Chaos at the time of boarding has led to stampedes and even deaths in the past.
  • Gangs of touts ‘reserve’ seats for a price, and those who can’t pay suffer.

Significance:

  • The use of biometrics (fingerprint) rules out touts and ensures only bonafide travellers receive a token.
  • The data (captured in the machines) will be used to analyse the pattern of crowds and the patronage of trains.
  • In case of a mishap, officials will have details of the passengers, and with the help of this (biometric information) they can prevent black marketing of unreserved tickets.

FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (FSSAI)

Context:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued an advisory asking all States and Union Territories to discourage the practice of packing of toys/ gifts with food products for infants and small children as there are chances of contamination and risk of accidental ingestion.

What is Issue:

  • It has become a common practice for manufacturers to attract sales by adding small toys/gifts inside food packets.
  • Several brands of chips and even chocolates come along with small toys/ gifts inside the packet. Some brands of chips packets even have tattoo stickers inside.

Concern:

  • Considering the safety of public at large, there is a need to discourage food businesses from providing any toy or gift item inside the food packages, especially in case of food which is likely to be ingested directly by an infant or a small child.
  • Also, it is desirable that the colour, texture and nature of toy or gift item should not at all resemble the food product inside food package.
  • As per Section 3(1) zz (xi) of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 “unsafe food” means an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health by virtue of its being misbranded or sub­standard or food containing extraneous matter.

About FSSAI:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards , 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Establishment of the Authority:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.

Highlights of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006

  • Various Central Acts like:
    • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1954
    • Fruit Products Order , 1955,
    • Meat Food Products Order,1973,
    • Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947,
    • Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation)Order 1988,
    • Solvent Extracted Oil,
    • De- Oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967,
    • Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992 etc will be repealed after commencement of FSS Act, 2006.
  • The Act also aims to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi- departmental control to a single line of command.

Functions:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition.
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.
  • Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
  • Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.

Highlights of Food Safety and Standards Rule, 2011.

  • The Rules provides for: The Food Safety Appellate Tribunal and the Registrar of the Appellate Tribunal, for adjudication of food safety cases.
  • It covers Licensing and Registration, Packaging and Labelling of Food Businesses, Food Product Standards and Food Additives
  • It prohibits and restricts on sales or approval for Non-Specified Food and Food Ingredients, such ingredients may cause harm to human health.
  • It provides for Food Safety and Standards on Organic Food and regulates Food Advertising.

Recent Cases:

Nestle India Limited Maggi Case:

  • The maggi noodles were reported with excess lead unfit for human consumption and FSSAI prescribed for ban.

Cadbury India:

  • It was reported that worms was found in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. The FSSAI declared packaging was not proper or airtight and made it mandatory to change the packaging.

SURROGACY REGULATION BILL, 2019

Context:

  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, was passed by the Lok Sabha.

Provisions of bill:

Regulation of surrogacy:

  • The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy.
  • What is Altruistic Surrogacy ?
    • Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.
    • Commercial surrogacy includes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.

Purposes for which Surrogacy is permitted:

Surrogacy is permitted when it is:

  1. For intending couples who suffer from proven infertility;
  2. Altruistic
  3. Not for commercial purposes
  4. Not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation; and
  5. For any condition or disease specified through regulations.

Eligibility criteria for Intending Couple:

  • The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.
  • A certificate of essentiality will be issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
    • A certificate of proven infertility of one or both members of the intending couple from a District Medical Board;
    • An order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a Magistrate’s court; and
    • Insurance coverage for a period of 16 months covering postpartum delivery complications for the surrogate.
  • The certificate of eligibility to the intending couple is issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
    • The couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years;
    • Between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband);
    • They do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate); this would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness; and
    • Other conditions that may be specified by regulations.

Eligibility criteria for surrogate mother:

  • To obtain a certificate of eligibility from the appropriate authority, the surrogate mother has to be:
    • A close relative of the intending couple;
    • A married woman having a child of her own;
    • 25 to 35 years old;
    • A surrogate only once in her lifetime; and
    • Possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy.
  • Further, the surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy.

Appropriate Authority:

  • The central and state governments shall appoint one or more appropriate authorities within 90 days of the Bill becoming an Act.
  • The functions of the appropriate authority include;
    • Granting, suspending or cancelling registration of surrogacy clinics;
    • Enforcing standards for surrogacy clinics;
    • Investigating and taking action against breach of the provisions of the Bill;
    • Recommending modifications to the rules and regulations.

Registration of Surrogacy Clinics:

  • Surrogacy clinics cannot undertake surrogacy related procedures unless they are registered by the appropriate authority.
  • Clinics must apply for registration within a period of 60 days from the date of appointment of the appropriate authority.

National and State Surrogacy Boards:

  • The Central and the State Governments shall constitute the National Surrogacy Board (NSB) and the State Surrogacy Boards (SSB), respectively.
  • Functions of the NSB include,
  1. Advising the central government on policy matters relating to surrogacy;
  2. Laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics; and
  3. Supervising the functioning of SSBs.

Parentage and abortion of Surrogate Child:

  • A child born out of a surrogacy procedure will be deemed to be the biological child of the intending couple. An abortion of the surrogate child requires the written consent of the surrogate mother and the authorisation of the appropriate authority.
  • This authorisation must be compliant with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Further, the surrogate mother will have an option to withdraw from surrogacy before the embryo is implanted in her womb.

Offences and Penalties:

  • The offences under the Bill include:
    1. Undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy;
    2. Exploiting the surrogate mother;
    3. Abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child; and
    4. Selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy.
  • The penalty for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to 10 lakh rupees. The Bill specifies a range of offences and penalties for other contraventions of the provisions of the Bill.

Critical Analysis:

Altruistic Mother:

  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, once again denies women agency over their own bodies.The bill seeks to outlaw commercial surrogacy, and allows only “altruistic” surrogacy for “needy” couples with proven conditions of infertility.
  • Women are once again being asked to use their bodies for the greater good without getting paid for it. Sperm donors will continue to get paid.
  • Men in general are masters of their bodies. But women’s bodies need to be regulated, policed and legislated into dependence.

Surrogacy in Indian Scenario:

  • There is clear evidence of malpractice surrounding commercial surrogacy in India. Middle men take most of the money, and women are robbed of the income that they deserve. It is also alleged that surrogates are not allowed to choose whether to become surrogates – they are forced into the business by their greedy families.

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER (NPR)

Why in News?

  • The government has decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR) by September 2020 to lay the foundation for rolling out a citizens’ register across the country.

Highlights:

  • NPR is different from both the decennial census and the NRC.
  • It will be in pursuance of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. The decision exempts the state of Assam from NPR-2020.
  • For the purpose of the NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.
  • The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • It will be the next round of recording biometric and family tree details of Indian citizens.
  • The exercise was conducted earlier in two phases in 2010 and 2015.
  • Earlier, the roll out of NPR had slowed down due to overlapping with that of Aadhaar.

SANKALP SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship has reviewed the World Bank loan assisted “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) programme.

Highlights:

  • All 36 States/ UTs across country have submitted their consent for participation in SANKALP.
  • In addition to these State grants of Rs 10 lakh each also released to 117 aspirational districts under Aspirational Skilling Abhiyaan.

SANKALP Scheme:

  • SANKALP is an outcome-oriented centrally sponsored programme of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with a special focus on decentralized planning and quality improvement.
  • The project is implemented with the support of World Bank monetarily in line with the objectives of National Skills Development Mission (NSDM).
  • It focuses on the overall skilling ecosystem covering both Central & State agencies.
  • Under SANKALP four key result areas have been identified viz:
  • Institutional Strengthening (at National, State & District level)
  • Quality Assurance Quality Assurance of skill development programs
  • Inclusion of marginalized population in skill development and
  • Expanding Skills through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

TechEx 2019

Why in News?

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister, inaugurated theTechEx – technology exhibition at IIT Delhi

TechEx:

  • TechEx was organized to demonstrate products and prototypes developed under the two flagship schemes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) namely IMPacting Research, INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) and UchhatarAvishkar Yojana (UAY).
  • TechEx is a unique effort, which offers an excellent platform to the researchers to showcase their work and inspire them to do their best in their respective domains.
  • some prominent among the exhibits were non-invasive and low-cost rapid TB diagnostics, artificial pancreas for closed loop blood glucose control of type-I diabetic patients, affordable cancer diagnosis/treatment, electric vehicle charger, etc.

IMPRINT Scheme:

  • MPRINT scheme was launched in November, 2015 with a view to providing solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges by translating knowledge into viable technology (products or processes) in 10 selected technology domains.
  • The domains are namely health care, energy, sustainable habitat, nano-technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, Information and Communication Technology, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.

Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY):

  • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) was announced in 2015 with a view to promoting innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.
  • UAY projects are funded jointly by MHRD, participating Ministries and the Industry
  • The scheme focusses on a viable industry-academic collaboration where industry shares a part of the cost of research.

GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT INDIA’S IT INDUSTRY

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, held a meeting with senior managers of IT companies in New Delhi

IT Industry Challenges:

  • India’s IT industry contributed 7.7% to the country’s GDP in FY 2017 and is expected to contribute 10% of India’s GDP by 2025.
  • The United States account for 2/3rds of India’s IT services exports.
  • India is the largest exporter of IT services in the world and exports dominate the Indian IT industry and constitutes about 79% of the total revenue of the industry.
  • India’s IT service sector is now gearing up to be the digital partner of intelligent automation like smart algorithms, bots and AI tools, which are fast becoming a part of every industry and an increasingly digital world.

    Challenges and support:

  • The representatives of the companies informed that although the Chinese IT services market is the third largest in the world India’s investments and business have not been able to grow in China.
  • This is due to various non-tariff barriers and challenges faced by Indian companies to set up their entity in China. Market access issues that create hurdles for Indian companies to open their business in China was also discussed.
  • Government of India will give all support for the global growth of India’s flagship industry and will make all efforts to facilitate the IT service industry and for that it is ready to engage with China and also Japan and Korea
  • Commerce and Industry Minister urged India’s IT services companies to explore other markets and not be inhibited in operating in countries that are non-English speaking.

J &K RESERVATION (SECOND AMENDMENT) BILL

Why in News?

  • Cabinet has approved J&K Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill to provide 10 percent reservation to the poor in higher education and government jobs.

Highlights:

  • The bill will pave the way for the extension of 10 percent reservation for the poor in educational institutes and government offices of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The 10 percent reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) will be in addition to the existing reservations in the state.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court had earlier refused to order a stay on the government’s decision to grant 10 percent quota to economically weaker sections in jobs and admissions. The court had, however, agreed to examine the validity of the law and issued a notice to the Centre on the pleas.
  • The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the reservation bill on January 8 and 9 respectively and it was later signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Extension of Reservation:

  • The Act provides for the reservation in appointment and promotions in certain state government posts to persons belonging to socially and educationally backward classes.
  • It defines socially and educationally backward classes to include persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
  • The Bill amends this to include those persons living in areas adjoining the International Border, within the ambit of this reservation.
  • Further, the Act states that any person who has been appointed on the basis of residence in an area adjoining the Line of Control must serve in such areas for at least seven years.
  • The Bill extends this condition to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border as well.

Exclusion from Reservation:

  • The Act states that any person whose annual income exceeds three lakh rupees or other amounts as notified by the state government, would not be included within socially and educationally backward classes.
  • However, this exclusion does not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
  • The Bill states that in addition, this exclusion will not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border also.

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2019

About

  • The New Education Policy drafted by a committee headed by Dr.K.Kasturirangan.
  • The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of:

    1. Access

    2. Equity

    3. Quality

    4. Affordability

    5. Accountability faced by the current education system.

  • The draft Policy provides for reforms at all levels of education from school to higher education.
  • It seeks to increase the focus on early childhood care, reform the current exam system, strengthen teacher training, and restructure the education regulatory framework.

Key Features

Current Situation

  • Early childhood education is delivered through anganwadis and private-preschools.
  • There has been less focus on the educational aspects of early childhood.

Suggestion by Committee

  • The draft Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education.
  • This will consist of:

    1. Guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and

    2. Educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.

  • This would be implemented by improving and expanding the anganwadi system and co-locating anganwadis with primary schools.

RTE Act,2009:

  • The draft Policy recommends to include early childhood education and secondary school education in the ambit of RTE Act so that all children between the ages of 3 to 18 are covered under the Act.
  • It also recommends no detention of children till class 8.

Curriculum Framework:

  • This would consist of a 5-3-3-4 design comprising:

    1. Five years of foundational stage (three years of pre-primary school and classes one and two),

    2. Three years of preparatory stage (classes three to five),

    3. Three years of middle stage (classes six to eight), and

    4. Four years of secondary stage (classes nine to 12).

  • Curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content. This would make space for holistic, discussion and analysis-based learning.

School Exam Reforms:

Current situation of board examinations:

    1. Force students to concentrate only on a few subjects,

    2. Do not test learning in a formative manner, and

    3. Cause stress among students.

Draft policy suggests-

  • To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
  • Restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.
  • These board examinations will be on a range of subjects.
  • The students can choose their subjects, and the semester when they want to take these board exams.
  • The in-school final examinations may be replaced by these board examinations.

School Infrastructure:

Current Situation

  • Establishing primary schools in every habitation across the country has helped increase access to education.
  • However, it has led to the development of very small schools (having low number of students).
  • The small size of schools makes it operationally complex to deploy teachers and critical physical resources.

Recommendation

  • Multiple public schools should be brought together to form a school complex.
  • A complex will consist of one secondary school (classes nine to twelve) and all the public schools in its neighborhood that offer education from pre-primary till class eight.

Regulation of Schools:

  • The Policy recommends independent State School Regulatory Authority for each state that will prescribe uniform standards for public and private schools across the state.

Higher Education:

  • The Policy aims to increase Gross Enrollment Ratio to 50% by 2035 from the current level of about 25.8%.

Regulatory Structure:

  • Instead of multiple regulators the Policy recommends National Higher Education Regulatory Authority which would include professional and vocational education so that the role of professional councils such as AICTE and Bar Council Of India would be limited to setting standards of professional practice.
  • Establishing National Research Foundation: as an autonomous body to fund, mentor and build capacity for quality research in India.

Vocational Education:

  • Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 years receives vocational education in India.
  • The Policy recommends integrating vocational educational programs in all educational institutions in a phased manner over 10 years.
  • National Committee for the integration of Vocational Education will be set up to achieve the intended goals in vocational education in India.

3 Language Formula:

  • Flexibility given to states to select subjects.
  • The state governments should implement a modern Indian language preferably southern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English in Hindi speaking states and of regional language, English and another language preferably Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states.

Challenges:

  • In the case of early childhood care and education, the focus is more on physical resources and less focus is provided to psychosocial stimulation for development.
  • There is no government system to take care of babies of poor families or of mothers who go to work for daily wages. The experimental project of Fulwari or community-managed crèches in Chhattisgarh is one answer to this gap.
  • There needs to be a discussion on whether literacy and numeracy skills should be developed during the time of foundational learning.
  • In the draft Policy, there is no mention of how the State regulatory body will regulate the government institutions.
  • Increasing the limit on the higher side of education i.e.., up to 18 is not consistent with the limits across the world. Also, it is a very expensive proposition.
  • There is not enough capacity in the country to provide for teacher’s education. Also, there is more focus given to B.Ed. and M.Ed. has been given less importance under the policy.
  • There are fewer consensuses on the integration of foundational learning with schooling. In Europe, compulsory education begins at the age of 6. In countries like Denmark and Finland, compulsory education begins at the age of 7.

CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2019

Context:

  • The Lok Sabha unanimously passed the Consumer Protection Bill 2019, which seeks to wholly replace the Consumer Protection Act 1986.

About:

  • The Bill with 109 clauses seeks to establish a National Level Regulator -Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to deal with consumer complaints on a proactive measure.
  • The present law does not have a regulator.
  • The Bill contains key provisions dealing with class actions, product liability, misleading advertisements, liability for celebrity endorsements etc.
  • The Bill also addresses new age developments like e-commerce, direct selling, tele-marketing etc.

Highlights of The Bill:

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA):

  • CCPA is a national level regulator dealing with matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers.
  • CCPA deals with the rights of consumers as a class.
  • It will have an investigation wing headed by a Director General and has powers of search and seizure.
  • It has power to order recall of goods which are dangerous, hazardous or unsafe and to direct discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to the interests of consumers.
  • It also has the power to impose penalties on manufacturers and celebrity endorsers for misleading advertisements.

Misleading Advertisements:

  • The Bill contains provisions to deal with misleading advertisements.
  • Misleading advertisements can attract penalty up to rupees ten lakhs from the CCPA under Clause 21.
  • It is also an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to fifty lakh rupees as per Clause 89.

Liability of Celebrity Endorsers:

  • The endorser can be levied with penalty up to rupees ten lakhs by the CCPA for false and misleading advertisements, under Clause 21.
  • However, the endorser will not be liable if he has exercised due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement regarding the product or service being endorsed by him.

Product Liability:

  • A product liability action may be brought by a complainant against a product manufacturer or a product service provider or a product seller, as the case may be, for any harm caused to him on account of a defective product.

Expanded Definition Of ‘Deficiency’:

  • The Bill expands the definition of ‘deficiency’ in Clause 2(11) to include:
    • 1. Any act of negligence or omission or commission by such person which causes loss or injury to the consumer; and

      2. Deliberate withholding of relevant information by such person to the consumer.

Enhanced Pecuniary Jurisdiction:

  • The limits of pecuniary jurisdiction has been expanded in the following manner:
    • District Forum: Rs. One Crore from Rs. Twenty Lakhs
    • State Commission: Rs. Ten Crores from Rs. One Crore
    • National Commission: Above Rs. Ten Crores from Rs. One Crores.

Offences:

  • Misleading advertisements are made punishable.
  • The Bill also addresses the menace of adulteration, by making manufacture, sale, storage of products mixed with adulterants punishable offences.

CIVIL LIST OF IAS OFFICERS

Why in News?

  • The Union Government has launched the e-Civil List-2019 of the IAS Officers.

IAS Civil List:

  • The IAS Civil list contains vital information in respect of officers in respect of their batch, cadre, present posting, pay scale, qualification and superannuation with their overall cadre strength with search features.
  • The Civil list has been linked with the ER sheets. The List has been designed through DoPT, which gives multiple search options to the users.
  • The Department of Personnel and Training is the cadre controlling authority of IAS officers and the Civil List is prepared with the help of inputs received from the States Cadres.
  • The e-IAS Civil list is available on the website of the Ministry

Significance:

  • The civil list is in line with citizen-centricity in working as it provides the information related to IAS officers in public domain which is accessible to the users from anywhere.
  • It will facilitate the Information Commissions as the information demanded by RTI activists about the officers is already in public domain that too with multiple search options.
  • DoPT being the HR wing of the government, it will also facilitate in research and comparative data analysis based on many parameters such as age, sex. educational qualifications etc
  • It will also assist in the human resource management of the Government to ensure that the services of these officers are utilized to the best of their abilities.

NATIONAL MEDICAL COMMISSION

  • Context- Doctors and medical students under the Indian Medical Association (IMA) held a protest march

Why National Medical Commission Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and provide for a medical education system which ensures:
    • 1. Availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals,

      2. Adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals,

      3. Periodic assessment of medical institutions, and

      4. An effective grievance redressal mechanism.

  • IMC had failed to keep pace with time and various bottlenecks had crept into the system with serious detrimental effects on medical education and, by implication, on delivery of quality health services.

Highlights of the Bill:

Constitution of the National Medical Commission:

  • The Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC).
  • Establish State Medical Councils at the state level.
  • The NMC will consist of 25 members, appointed by the central government.
  • Members of the NMC will include:
  • 1. The Chairperson (must be a medical practitioner),

    2. Presidents of the Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate Medical Education Boards,

    3. The Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services,

    4. The Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, and

    5. Five members (part-time) to be elected by the registered medical practitioners from amongst themselves from states and union territories for a period of two years.

Functions of the National Medical Commission:

  • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals
  • Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure,
  • Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of the regulations made under the Bill,
  • Framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50% of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.

Autonomous Boards:

  • The Bill sets up autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC.
  • Each autonomous board will consist of a President and four members, appointed by the central government.
  • These boards are: The Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB):
  • These Boards will be responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively.
  • The Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB): MARB will have the power to levy monetary penalties on medical institutions which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and PGMEB.

Community Health Providers (CHP):

  • NMC may grant a limited license to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.
  • These mid-level practitioners may prescribe specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare.
  • In any other cases, these practitioners may only prescribe medicines under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner.

Entrance Examinations:

  • There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate super-speciality medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill.The NMC will specify the manner of conducting common counselling for admission in all such medical institutions.

National Exit Test:

  • The Bill proposes a common final year undergraduate examination called the National Exit Test for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice. This test will also serve as the basis for admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this Bill.

Concerns:

  • Indian Medical Association (IMA) – the apex body representing the medical fraternity in India.The first concern is over the CHPs being allowed to practice modern medicine. The Bill does not define who they are or what qualifications they hold and yet they are to be given licenses to the extent of one-third of the total number of licensed medical practitioners in India.
  • The IMA’s second major objection is to the proposed National Exit Test (NEXT) for giving both licenses for practice (to those who have already cleared the MBBS exam) as well as for admission to post-graduate “broad-speciality courses”.
  • The bill takes away the voting right of every doctor in India to elect their medical council.

ATAL INNOVATION MISSION

Why in News?

  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
  • The Mission has been set up under NITI Aayog

Functions of AIM:

  • Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs
  • Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated :
  • Atal Tinkering Labs
  • Atal Incubation Centers
  • Scale-up support to Established Incubators

Atal Tinkering Labs:

  • The objective of establishing AIM is to create scientific temper and cultivate the spirit of curiosity and innovation among young minds.
  • In Schools, AIM facilitates to set up network of Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL).
  • The vision of Atal Tinkering Lab initiative is to ‘Cultivate 1 Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’. The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds and inculcate skills such as design mind-set, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing, rapid calculations, measurements etc.

ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS

Why in News?

  • The motto of ‘Accessible Elections’ was one among the many initiatives of Election Commission to make the world’s largest democratic exercise inclusive and participative for all.
  • During this election special focus was given to ensure the participation of Persons with Disabilities.

Facilitation for Persons with Disabilities:

  • The electors with disabilities and senior citizens were mapped polling station wise to provide them targeted and need-based assistance on the day of poll.
  • During the election, all the polling stations were equipped with enough supply of wheelchairs and it was ensured that all polling stations had sturdy ramps for the convenience of PwD electors.
  • All the polling stations in Lok Sabha Election 2019 had a sign language expert, signage and transport facility.
  • To facilitate PwDs during the enrollment process door to door registration drives were carried out, a special mobile application was also developed by the Commission for easy registration.
  • This election was witness to many firsts in the domain of accessibility of all; EVMs used in the elections were embossed with Braille signage for the visually impaired voters’ assistance.
  • Other documents like voters’ slip, voter guide had braille signage too. Accessibility Observers were introduced, who ensured all the polling stations are accessible to the PwDs.

DEATHS DUE TO MALNUTRITION

Context:

  • The recently published National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare highlights the State-wise prevalence of malnutrition in women and children.

Key Highlights of the report:

  • As per the NFHS-4 report
    • 52.1% – children under 5 years age are underweight
    • 49.3% – children under 5 years age are stunted (not attaining age-appropriate height)
    • 31.3% – children under 5 years age are wasted (not attaining age- appropriate weight)
  • More than half (53.9%) of our girls within 15-19 years have low body mass index (BMI);
  • Only one in every five mothers (21%) has full ante-natal care;
  • One in every two pregnant women (50.3%) within the age-group of 15-49 is anaemic.
  • Only one-third (30%) of the mothers consume iron and folic supplement during pregnancy.
  • The overall child mortality rate as per NFHS- 4 is 9.4 which is declined from 18.4 as per previous NFHS- 3.
  • Malnutrition is not a direct cause of death among children under five years of age.
  • However, it can increase morbidity and mortality by reducing resistance to infections.

What is Malnutrition?

  • Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
  • The term malnutrition covers 2 broad groups of conditions. One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).
  • The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).

About National Family Health Survey (NFHS):

  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India, designated IIPS as the nodal agency, responsible for providing coordination and technical guidance for the NFHS.
  • NFHS was funded by the United States Agency for International
  • Development (USAID) with supplementary support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

About POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  • For monitoring the level of malnutrition among the children (0-6 years of age), POSHAN Abhiyaan has been launched under which near real time monitoring is done through ICDS-CAS Mobile based Software Application.
  • The ICDS-CAS Application enables the identification of malnutrition children based on auto-plotting of Growth Charts.
  • The drill-down dashboard available at National, State, District, Block level contributes towards identifying and addressing the problem of nutrition.

WHO REPORT ON THE GLOBAL TOBACCO EPIDEMIC

Context:

  • The seventh WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic analyses national efforts to implement the most effective measures from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that are proven to reduce demand for tobacco.
  • Report makes special reference about India’s efforts in helping smokers quit.

MPOWER

  • Measures, like the “MPOWER” interventions, have been shown to save lives and reduce costs from averted healthcare expenditure.
  • The MPOWER report was launched in 2007 to promote government action on six tobacco control strategies in-line with the WHO FCTC to:
  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies.
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke.
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use.
  • Warn people about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

Indian Context

National Tobacco control programme

  • The key activities undertaken under the National Tobacco Control Programme include:
  • National Level Public awareness campaigns
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Research.
  • Advocacy and inter-sectoral linkages
  • Training and capacity building of multiple stakeholders.
  • Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act (COTPA, 2003)
  • School Awareness Programmes
  • Setting up and expansion of cessation services.
  • Recently India made mandatory with increase in size of pictorial warning of tobacco causing cancer

Significance of graphic warning on tobacco packs

  • Over half the world’s population – or 3.9 billion people living in 91 countries – benefit from large graphic health warnings, and India is among countries with the highest level of achievement, the WHO report notes.
  • While there has been no India-specific evaluation, studies from several countries that introduced similar strong labels have shown that this policy has been most effective in reducing tobacco use among the youth, and also in motivating users to quit.

NATIONAL INDICATOR FRAMEWORK

Why in news?

  • A national consultation workshop was organized with the Central Ministries / Departments and State Governments to discuss the proposed indicators. The Ministries / Departments were also requested to examine the suggested possible national indicators and add / delete / modify / suggest national indicators for the SDG targets concerned. Furthermore, a public consultation was also made.
  • Based on the suggestions received in the national consultation process from concerned Ministries/Departments and other stakeholders, National Indicator Framework (NIF) consisting of 306 statistical indicators has been prepared by MoSPI.
  • NIF will be the backbone of monitoring of SDGs at the national level and will give appropriate direction to the policy makers and the implementers of various schemes and programmes.

Features of National Indicator Framework:

  • Largest ever Monitoring Framework in the country. National Indicator Framework consists of 306 statistical indicators. This is the largest monitoring framework in the country and will be dependent on a statistical system for flow of information.
  • It has been developed after extensive consultations with NITI Aayog, Central Ministries, State Governments and other stakeholders.
  • The framework consists of nationally defined indicators responding to national priorities and needs.
  • National acceptability was an important criterion used in deciding the indicators.
  • The indicators directly respond to the goals and targets.
  • Attempt made to cover all components of the targets.
  • Data sources and periodicity included.
  • Data disaggregation to be decided by the respective Ministries.
  • Scope of improving the Framework by adding/deleting indicators with improvement in Statistical System.
  • High Level Steering Committee (HLSC) to periodically review and refinement of National Indicator Framework for monitoring SDGs.

COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The legislation is aimed at tightening the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compliance.

Significance of The Bill:

  • The amendment will tighten the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compliance and would reduce the load of cases before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • It would ensure a greater accountability, better enforcement of the corporate governance norms and compliance management in corporate sector.
  • With the amendments, procedural and technical defaults would be decriminalised while compliance would be incentivised.

Highlights of The Bill:

Re-categorisation of certain Offences:

  • The 2013 Act contains 81 compoundable offences punishable with fine or fine or imprisonment, or both. These offences are heard by courts.
  • The Bill re-categorizes 16 of these offences as civil defaults, where adjudicating officers (appointed by the central government) may now levy penalties instead.
  • These offences include:
  • (i) issuance of shares at a discount, and (ii) failure to file annual return. Further, the Bill amends the penalties for some other offences.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):

  • Under the Act, if companies which have to provide for CSR, do not fully spent the funds, they must disclose the reasons for non-spending in their annual report.
  • Under the Bill, any unspent annual CSR funds must be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act (e.g., PM Relief Fund) within six months of the financial year.
  • However, if the CSR funds are committed to certain ongoing projects, then the unspent funds will have to be transferred to an Unspent CSR Account within 30 days of the end of the financial year, and spent within three years.
  • Any funds remaining unspent after three years will have to be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act.
  • Any violation may attract a fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000 and every defaulting officer may be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000, or both.

Debarring auditors:

  • Under the Act, the National Financial Reporting Authority debar a member or firm from practising as a Chartered Accountant for a period between six months to 10 years, for proven misconduct.
  • The Bill amends the punishment to provide for debarment from appointment as an auditor or internal auditor of a company, or performing a company’s valuation, for a period between six months to 10 years.

Commencement of business:

  • The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it (i) files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid for the shares agreed to be taken by him, and (ii) files a verification of its registered address with the RoC within 30 days of incorporation.
  • If it fails to comply with these provisions and is found not to be carrying out business, its name of the company may be removed from the Register of Companies.

Registration of charges:

  • The Act requires companies to register charges (e.g., mortgages) on their property within 30 days of creation of charge, extendable upto 300 days with the permission of the RoC.
  • The Bill changes the deadline to 60 days (extendable by 60 days).

Change in approving authority:

  • Under the Act, change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company, has to be approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • Similarly, any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company, has to be approved by the Tribunal. Under the Bill, these powers have been transferred to central government.

Compounding:

  • Under the Act, a regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to five lakh rupees. The Bill increases this ceiling to Rs 25 lakh.

Bar on holding office:

  • Under the Act, the central government or certain shareholders can apply to the NCLT for relief against mismanagement of the affairs of the company.
  • The Bill states that in such a complaint, the government may also make a case against an officer of the company on the ground that he is not fit to hold office in the company, for reasons such as fraud or negligence.
  • If the NCLT passes an order against the officer, he will not be eligible to hold office in any company for five years.

Beneficial Ownership:

  • If a person holds beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company, he is required to make a declaration of his interest.
  • The Bill requires every company to take steps to identify an individual who is a significant beneficial owner and require their compliance under the Act.

CODE ON OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar introduced The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha today to amend the laws regulating the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions of the persons employed in an establishment.

Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019:

  • With the ultimate aim of extending the safety and healthy working conditions to all workforce of the country, the Code enhances the ambit of provisions of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from existing about 9 major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees.
  • The proposed Code enhances the coverage of workers manifold as it would be applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more workers, where any industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on, including, IT establishments or establishments of service sector.
  • Further the varying threshold of applicability has been made uniform at 10 workers for all establishments except mines and dock where the Code would be applicable even with 1 worker. In order to ensure wider coverage, the definitions of Working Journalists and Cine worker have also been modified to include workers employed in electronic media and all forms of audio-visual production.
  • Similarly, the definition of inter-state migrant worker has also been proposed to be modified to include those migrant workers who are being employed directly by the employer from other States without contractor or agent. This proposal would enhance the coverage of the safety, health and working conditions provisions manifold as compared to the present scenario.

Other Features:

  • The Code provides basic broad legislative framework with enabling provisions for framing rules, regulations, standards, and bye-laws as per the requirements of different sectors which has Resulted in reduction of 622 sections to 134 sections in the Code. This would result in simple legislation with flexibility in changing the provisions in tune with emerging technologies and makes the legislation dynamic.
  • The Bill proposes one registration for an establishment instead of multiple registrations. Presently 6 labour acts out of 13 provide for separate registration of the establishment. This will create a centralized data base and promote ease of doing business. At present, separate registration is required to be obtained under 6 Acts.
  • Employer to provide free of cost annual health checks-up for employees above prescribed age for prescribed tests and for prescribed establishments. Increases productivity as it would be possible to detect diseases. Coverage of employees above a certain age for health check-up would promote inclusion.
  • First time statutory provision to issue appointment letter to every employee of the establishment with the minimum information prescribed by the appropriate government. The provision of appointment letter will result in formalization of employment and prevent exploitation of the worker.
  • The multiple committees under five labour Acts have been substituted by one National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. The National Board is of tripartite nature and has representation from trade unions, employer associations, and State governments. This will result in reduction in multiplicity of bodies/committees in various Acts and simplified and coordinated policy-making.
  • Enabling provision for constituting a bi-partite Safety Committee in any class of establishment by appropriate government. It will promote safe and healthy working conditions in an establishment. The participatory nature of the committee will encourage implementation of decisions taken by the management.
  • A part of the penalty for contravention of provisions relating to duties of employer leading to death or serious bodily injury to any person may be given to the victim or the legal heirs of the victim by the Court. The part of penalty would help in rehabilitation of injured worker or would provide financial support to the family of deceased.
  • Presently, different applicability thresholds exists for welfare provisions like crèche, canteen, first aid, welfare officer etc in different Acts. The proposed Code has envisaged uniform threshold for welfare provisions for all establishment as far as practicably feasible.
  • Women permitted to work beyond 7 PM and before 6 AM subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments. However, only after taking their consent for night work. This will promote gender equality and is in tune with demands from the various forums including international organizations as it leads to protective discrimination.
    Further, the condition of taking consent/ willingness of the women employee for night work would avoid any kind of misuse of the provision.
  • The provision of one license and one return in place of multiple licenses and returns in existing 13 labour laws subsumed in this Code to save time, resources and efforts of establishments.

IMPLEMENTATION OF POSHAN ABHIYAAN

Why in News?

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan has been set up by Government of India in 2017 for a three-year time frame.

Objectives:

  • Reduce the level of stunting in children (0-6 years) under-nutrition (underweight prevalence) in children (0-6 years) and Low Birth Weight at 2% per annum
  • Reduce anaemia among young children (6-59 months), women and adolescent girls at 3% per annum across the country.

Abhiyaan:

  • The Abhiyaan ensures convergence with various programmes, organising Community Based Events; incentivizing States/UTs for achieving goals.
  • Community Mobilization and Awareness Advocacy leading to Jan Andolan – to educate the people on nutritional aspects. Incremental Learning Approach (ILA); strengthening Field Functionaries.
  • Under the Abhiyan, all districts of the 36 States/UTs, including Tamil Nadu, have been covered for implementation in a phased manner.

NORTH EASTERN REGION VISION 2020

Why in News?

  • North Eastern Region Vision 2020 document provides an overarching framework for the development of the North Eastern Region.
  • The main objective is to bring the north eastern region at par with other developed regions under which different Ministries, including the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region have undertaken various initiatives.

Reasons for resource flow:

  • Mandatory earmarking of at least 10% of GBS of Central Ministries/Departments for North Eastern Region (NER).
  • Creation of Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).
  • There has been a sharp rise in provisional expenditure (subject to final vetting by Ministry of Finance) by Central Ministries in NER by 83%.

Major initiatives:

  • Strengthening infrastructure and connectivity is a major thrust area identified by the Vision document. Several connectivity initiatives have been undertaken in the recent past.
  • In the last five years under the schemes of Ministry of DoNER funds were released for road projects, bridges, ISBT, airports, railway in North Eastern Region.
  • Moreover, Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN) has been launched to provide connectivity to unserved and underserved Airports within the country.
  • Also, to promote regional connectivity, airfare has been made affordable through Viability Gap Funding (VGF). The North East has been kept as a priority area under RCS-UDAN.
  • In respect of Rail Connectivity, during the last four years the entire North East Region has been converted to the Broad Gauge (BG) network.

Other major initiatives taken:

  • Promotion of MSMEs in North Eastern Region and Sikkim
  • Comprehensive Telecom Development Project (CTDP) for the North-Eastern Region
  • Comprehensive Scheme for strengthening of Transmission and Distribution Systems (CSST&DS).
  • North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP)
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region scheme
  • North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS).
  • National Sports University at Imphal, Agartala-Akhaura Rail-Link to connect the existing Agartala station in Tripura to Akhaura Station of Bangladesh Railways
  • Development of Brahmaputra and 19 new waterways including Barak.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

Why in News?

  • It is mentioned that as per Rule 8 of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, no Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, own or conduct or participate in the editing or management of, any public media.

Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules provides:

  • Which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government
  • which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any State
  • which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any foreign State

Exceptions:

  • Bonafide expression of views by office-bearers of a trade union or association of Government servants for the purpose of safeguarding the conditions of service of such Government servants or for securing an improvement thereof.
  • Views expressed by a Government servant in his official capacity or in the due performance of the duties assigned to him.

UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES PREVENTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Lok Sabha has passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, in a move that gives a big push to India’s internal security machinery.
  • The move comes after amendment to the NIA Bill.

UAPA:

  • The UAPA is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004.
  • It was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act” was added to the list of offences.

Why Amendment?

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, and individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India.

Highlights:

  • The proposed amendments to the existing Act redefine “Who may commit terrorism “, establishing that under the Act, the Centre may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
  • The Bill also additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  • The Bill also paves the way for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to seize property as part of investigations into terror cases.
  • At the same time, while the existing Act provides for investigation of cases to be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The proposed amendment additionally empowers the officers of the NIA to investigate cases — of the rank of Inspector or above.
  • Further, the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005) has also been added in the Second Schedule through this Amendment.

Need for Amendments:

  • It is often accused that UAPA Act assigns absolute power to the central government to declare someone as terrorist.
  • Terrorism is not just fostered by the gun. Terrorism is also the spread of hate and radicalism.
  • If the bill is passed, a person can be declared a terrorist when they take part in terror activities, or provide funds, or harbour a terror theory and then spread it among youth.

CODE ON WAGES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith.

Code on Wages Bill 2019:

  • The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 subsumes relevant provisions of The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Payment of Wages Act, 1936, The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. After the enactment of the Code on Wages, all these four Acts will get repealed.

The Salient features of the Code:

  • The Code on Wage universalizes the provisions of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
  • At present, the provisions of both Minimum Wages Act and Payment of Wages Act apply on workers below a particular wage ceiling working in Scheduled Employments only.
  • This would ensure “Right to Sustenance” for every worker and intends to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage from existing about 40% to 100% workforce.
  • This would ensure that every worker gets minimum wage which will also be accompanied by increase in the purchasing power of the worker thereby giving fillip to growth in the economy.
  • Introduction of statutory Floor Wage to be computed based on minimum living conditions, will extend qualitative living conditions across the country to about 50 crore workers.
  • It is envisaged that the states to notify payment of wages to the workers through digital mode.
  • There are 12 definitions of wages in the different Labour Laws leading to litigation besides difficulty in its implementation.
  • The definition has been simplified and is expected to reduce litigation and will entail at lesser cost of compliance for an employer.
  • An establishment will also be benefited as the number of registers, returns, forms etc., not only can be electronically filed and maintained, but it is envisaged that through rules, not more than one template will be prescribed.
  • At present, many of the states have multiple minimum wages. Through Code on Wages, the methodology to fix the minimum wages has been simplified and rationalised by doing away with type of employment as one of the criteria for fixation of minimum wage.
  • The minimum wage fixation would primarily base on geography and skills. It will substantially reduce the number of minimum wages in the country from existing more than 2000 rates of minimum wages.
  • Many changes have been introduced in the inspection regimes including web based randomised computerised inspection scheme, jurisdiction-free inspections, calling of information electronically for inspection, composition of fines etc.
  • All these changes will be conducive for enforcement of labour laws with transparency and accountability.
  • There were instances that due to smaller limitation period, the claims of the workers could not be raised.
  • To protect the interest of the workers, the limitation period has been raised to 3 years and made uniform for filing claims for minimum wages, bonus, equal remuneration etc., as against existing varying period between 6 months to 2 years.
  • It can be said that a historical step for ensuring statutory protection for minimum wage and timely payment of wage to 50 crore workers in the country has been taken through the Code on Wages besides promoting ease of living and ease of doing business.

NEW SPACE INDIA LIMITED

Why in News?

  • The Union Government has set up New Space India Limited (NSIL), a wholly-owned Government of India undertaking/ Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS)

Significance:

  • To commercially exploit the research and development work of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Centres and constituent units of DOS.
  • The emergence of NSIL would spur the growth of Indian industries in the space sector and enable Indian industries to scale up manufacturing and production base.

Roles and functions:

  • Small Satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein NSIL will obtain license from DOS/ISRO and sub-license it to Industries
  • Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector
  • Productionisation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry
  • Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and application
  • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS
  • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad
  • any other subject which Government of India deems fit.

BENGALURU GOES LIVE WITH FACIAL BIOMETRICS-BASED AIR TRAVEL

Why in News?

  • The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) rolled out a biometric-based self-boarding facility.

Highlights:

  • The passengers had the option of boarding a flight without producing travel documents at each touch point.
  • To avail this facility, a passenger has to enrol their ID, biometric data and flight details before entering the terminal.
  • The passenger will be authenticated and verified at every touch point by biometric technology.

Paperless Biometric System:

  • The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of the KIA, is expected to deploy the paperless biometric system at over 350 passenger touch points in Terminal 1 with the final phase of the project.
  • In the final stage, this technology will be integrated with the Digi Yatra Central Platform that is currently being architecture by the central government’s Digi Yatra Foundation.

User Data Privacy:

  • The BIAL maintains that biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist the boarding process, and not for recognition.
  • The process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of safety.
  • Passenger data will be deleted within a few hours of completion of air travel.
  • Vision Box, the company that developed and installed One – ID biometric platform technology, is compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which adopts privacy by design principles.

MERGER OF NIMH WITH ICMR-NIOH

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet approved to dissolve National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH), an autonomous Institute under Ministry of Mines (MoM) and merge/amalgamate with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH).

Significance:

  • The merger/amalgamation of NIMH with NIOH will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in term of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money.

Highlights:

  • NIMH was set up by Government of India in 1990
  • The Institute conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral-based industry and endeavours for safe mines and healthy miners through R&D.
  • The focus areas of NIOH include a vast array of areas related to occupational health which also includes, occupational medicine and occupational hygiene.
  • Expenditure Management Commission recommended, inter-alia, that- “Organisations with similar objectives can be considered for merger to encourage synergy in operations and reduction in cost”.

What Is Occupational Health?

  • Occupational health deals with all aspects of health and safety in the workplace and has a strong focus on primary prevention of hazards.
  • The health of the workers has several determinants, including risk factors at the workplace leading to cancers, accidents, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory diseases, hearing loss, circulatory diseases, stress related disorders and communicable diseases and others

ANDHRA PRADESH EMPLOYMENT OF LOCAL CANDIDATES IN INDUSTRIES/FACTORIES ACT, 2019

  • Context- The Andhra Pradesh Government on Tuesday reserved 75% jobs in private industrial units and factories for residents of the state.

Highlights of The Act:

  • The new rules will apply to joint ventures as well as projects under public-private partnerships.
  • The law applies to existing units as well as industrial units which will be set up in the state in the future.
  • The new law says that if residents with the necessary skills are not available, the companies will have to train them in cooperation with the state government.
  • Only the industries listed in the first schedule of the Factories Act – mostly producing hazardous goods like petroleum, pharmaceuticals, coal, fertilisers and cement – have been excluded from the ambit of the Act.
  • Companies will have to comply with the new Act within three years of beginning of its operations. They will also have to file quarterly reports about local appointments with a nodal agency.

8 MORE ROUTES START OPERATIONS UNDER UDAN

Why in News?

  • Giving further fillip to Regional Connectivity, 8 more routes became functional Under Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik- UDAN of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Highlights:

  • With the addition of these 8 new routes, total UDAN routes Operational as on date have increased to 194 routes. The scheme seeks to boost regional air connectivity and provides various incentives to airlines. The routes are Mysore – Hyderabad, Mysore – Goa, Mysore – Cochin and Kolkata – Shillong.

UDAN Scheme:

  • UDAN is a regional connectivity scheme. The full form of UDAN is ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik’. The scheme aims to develop smaller regional airports to allow common citizens easier access to aviation services. The following are the stated objectives of the regional connectivity scheme: Operalisation and development of 425 underserved or unserved airports in the country. Boost inclusive economic development by providing faster connectivity
  • Development of air transport infrastructure in remote areas aiding job growth.

PANEL FAVOURS CRYPTOCURRENCY BAN IN INDIA

  • Context: The committee headed by finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg has proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″

Highlights of The Committee Recommendations:

  • Proposed banning of private cryptocurrencies in India by enacting a law and imposing fines and penalties for carrying on activities related to cryptocurrencies.
  • Proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″, which has been placed in the public domain.
  • The committee has, taken a lenient view on the government launching an official digital currency, asking it to keep an open mind on the matter
    It suggested the use of distributed-ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain in India, by banks and other financial firms for processes such as loan-issuance tracking, collateral management, fraud detection and claims management in insurance and reconciliation systems in the securities market.

The committee identifies the potential use cases for blockchain technology in areas such as:

  • Payments systems including cross-border and small value payments;
    Data identity management or know-your-customer requirements by various financial entities.
  • Insurance
  • Collateral and ownership (including land) registries
  • Loan issuance and tracking
  • e-stamping
  • Trade financing
  • Post-trade reporting
  • Securities and commodities and
  • Internal systems of financial service providers.
  • The advantages of using DLT are mainly seen in terms of reducing administration and transaction costs, obviating duplication and improving accuracy of data, improving the speed and efficiency of transactions and detecting fraud.

UGC SCHEME OF ‘PARAMARSH’

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Human Resource Development launched ‘Paramarsh’ – a University Grants Commission (UGC) scheme for Mentoring NAAC Accreditation Aspirant Institutions to promote Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

‘Paramarsh’:

  • This “Paramarsh” scheme will target 1000 Higher Education Institutions for mentoring with a specific focus on quality as enumerated in the UGC “Quality Mandate”.
  • Mentor-Mentee relationship will not only benefit both the institutions but also provide quality education to the 3.6 crore students who are enrolling to Indian Higher Education system at present.

Significance of the scheme:

  • The Scheme will be a paradigm shift in the concept of mentoring of institution by another well performing institution to upgrade their academic performance and enable them to get accredited by focusing in the area of curricular aspects, teaching-learning & evaluation, etc.
  • The scheme is expected to have a major impact in addressing a national challenge of improving the quality of Higher Education in India.
  • The scheme will lead to enhancement of overall quality of the Mentee Institutions and enhance its profile as a result of improved quality of research, teaching and learning methodologies.
  • Mentee Institution will also have increased exposure and speedier adaptation to best practices.
  • “Paramarsh” scheme will also facilitate sharing of knowledge, information and opportunities for research collaboration and faculty development in Mentee Institutions.

SCHEMES FOR INDIGENOUS EMPLOYMENT IN NER

  • The North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Limited (NEHHDC):
  • The North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Limited (NEHHDC), a Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER),
  • Provides marketing linkage to the artisans and weavers of the North Eastern Region (NER) by conducting exhibitions and craft bazaars in various parts of the country which in turn generates indirect employment for the artisans and weavers.

NERCORMP:

  • The North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP), a livelihood project under the Ministry of DoNER, has facilitated in establishing community-based micro-credit organizations and non-farm enterprises in its project areas.
  • It provides employment to Self Help Groups (SHGs) in 10 districts of 4 States of NER namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya for enterprise development.

North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP):

  • A World Bank aided project, being implemented by Ministry of DoNER, provides skill development training, vocational training to unemployed youths & Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in 11 districts of four North East States namely Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

MoUs FOR ENHANCED COOPERATION TO END TB BY 2025

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today exchanged MoUs with the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Railways to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination and efforts towards Tuberculosis-free India by 2025.

Highlights:

  • Although entirely preventable and curable, Tuberculosis is a major obstacle to India’s human and economic development.
  • India, in near future, is predicted to have world’s largest working population and a disease like TB which mostly affects adults in their most productive years, poses a great risk to the country’s economic growth potential.
  • Apart from being a public health problem, TB is also associated with poor socio-economic development, marginalization and exploitation.
  • The actions required to tackle the socio-economic and structural determinants of TB lie beyond the purview of the health sector alone, calling for a harmonized multisectoral response.

ARANI SILK SAREE

Context:

  • Information about Arani Silk Saree was given by the Union Minister of Textiles in a written reply to the Lok Sabha

About:

  • Arani Silk Saree produced on handloom is of high quality and in good demand.
  • Arani Sari is a traditional sari made in Arani, Tamil Nadu

Handloom Marketing Assistance (HMA) scheme:

  • For providing marketing facility to all the handloom products including Arani Silk, Government of India is implementing Handloom Marketing Assistance (HMA) scheme,
  • It is a component of National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP), all across India. The scheme provides marketing platform to the handloom weavers/organisations to sell their products directly to the consumers.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to National Level Handloom Organisations and nominated handloom agencies of the State Governments to organize the marketing events like National Handloom Expos (NHEs), Special Handloom Expos (SHEs) and District Level Events (DLEs).

Other Programmes;

  • Central Silk Board through Silk Mark Organisation of India is organising “Silk Mark Expo” in various towns and cities including Chennai near Arani.
  • Silk Mark Expos provide excellent platform to promote silk products of different silk clusters of India including Arani cluster.
  • under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, Arani Master Weavers have created and registered a non-profit company “Arani Handloom Silk Park” and a MoU have been signed with the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2015.

Schemes related to Textile:

  • Scheme For Integrated Textile Park (SITP)

Objective

  • To provide financial assistance to a group of entrepreneurs to establish state-of-the-art
  • infrastructure facilities in a cluster for setting up their textile units, conforming to international environmental and social standards and thereby mobilize private investment in the textile sector and generate fresh employment opportunities

Features:

  • The Scheme targets industrial clusters and locations with high growth potential, which require strategic interventions for developing world-class infrastructure support.
  • An ITP under the scheme should preferably have 25 integrated units with components like Land (registered under the name of SPV), common infrastructure (compound, road, drainage, electricty, etc), buildings for common facilities (creche, canteen, laboratories, etc), and factory buildings for production purposes.
  • The total project cost shall be funded through a mix of Equity/Grant – from the Ministry of Textiles, State Government, State Industrial Development Corporation, Industry, Project Management Consultant and Loan – from Banks/ Financial Institutions.
  • The Government support under the Scheme by way of Grant or Equity will be limited to 40% (90% for first two projects in N.E states and J&K) of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs. 40 crore.
  • The combined equity stake of GOI/State Government/State Industrial Development Corporation, if any, should not exceed 49%.
  • The release of GoI assistance to the SPV shall be done in 3 (three) installments in the ratio of 30:40:30 depending upon fulfillment of terms and conditions.
  • Each project will normally be completed in 3 years from the date of release of the first installment of government grant. (Delays can lead to cancellation of project and imposition of penalty).
  • The ITPs can also get benefits from Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS), SAMARTH, etc.

Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry:
Objective:

  • To improve the productivity and quality of silk through R&D intervention.
  • To promote improved cross-breed silk and the import substitute
  • Bivoltine silk so that Bivoltine silk production in India enhances to such a level that raw silk imports become nil by 2022 thereby making India self-sufficient in silk.
  • To increase productive employment from 85 lakhs to 1 crore persons by 2020.

Powertex India Scheme:

  • To provide financial assistance to economically weaker low-end powerloom units for their modernisation and Infrastructure development.
  • To improve quality and productivity of the fabrics being produced and enable them to face the competition in domestic and international markets.
  • To boost development cluster-based
  • Organize Buyer-Seller Meets and Reverse Buyer-Seller Meets to promote market for powerloom product.
  • To avoid middle man/local supplier brokerage charge on sales of yarn.
  • To give thrust to renewable energy (solar).

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS):

  • To promote Ease of doing Business in the country and to achieve the vision of general employment and promoting exports through Make in India and Zero Effect and Zero Defect in manufacturing.
  • To facilitate augmentation of investment, productivity, quality, employment, exports along with import substitution in textile industry and to indirectly promote investment in the textile machinery manufacturing.

Scheme for Capacity Building In Textile Sector (SAMARTH):

  • To provide demand driven, placement oriented NSQF (National Skills Qualification Framework) Compliant skilling programme to incentivize organized textile and related sectors excluding Spinning and Weaving.
  • To promote skilling and skill up-gradation in the traditional sectors of Handlooms, Handicrafts, Sericulture and Jute
  • To provide Sustainable livelihood to all sections of the society across the country via wage or self-employment.

RESTRUCTURED NATIONAL BAMBOO MISSION

Why in News?

  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) has been launched in 2018-19 to focus on the development of complete value chain of bamboo sector and link growers with markets.

Objectives of the Mission:

  • To increase the area under bamboo plantation in non-forest Government and private lands to supplement farm income and contribute towards resilience to climate change as well as availability of quality raw material for industries.
  • To improve post-harvest management through establishment of innovative primary processing units near the source of production, primary treatment and seasoning plants, preservation technologies and market infrastructure.
  • To promote product development keeping in view market demand, by assisting R&D, entrepreneurship & business models at micro, small and medium levels and feed bigger industry.
  • To rejuvenate the under developed bamboo industry in India.
  • To promote skill development, capacity building, awareness generation for development of bamboo sector from production to market demand.
  • To re-align efforts so as to reduce dependency on import of bamboo and bamboo products by way of improved productivity and suitability of domestic raw material for industry, so as to enhance income of the primary producers.

EXPORT PROMOTION SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government of India has launched a scheme namely, Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) with the objective to assist Central and State Government Agencies for creation of appropriate infrastructure for growth of exports from the States.

Highlights:

  • The Scheme provides financial assistance in the form of grant-in-aid to Central/State Government-owned agencies for setting up or for up-gradation of export infrastructure as per the guidelines of the Scheme.
  • The scheme can be availed by the States through their Implementing Agencies, for infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, etc.
  • The Government of India strives to ensure a continuous dialogue with the State Governments and Union Territories on measures for promoting exports.
  • Also for providing an international trade enabling environment in the States, and to create a framework for making the States active partners in boosting exports from India.
  • Under the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP), DGFT operates various Export promotion schemes such as Advance Authorization, Duty Free Import Authorization, Export Promotion of Capital Goods, Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) and Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS).
  • To give effect to these schemes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has issued various exemption notifications.

Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS):

  • MEIS was introduced in the FTP from 01.04.2015, providing rewards for exporters of specified goods.
  • The objective of the MEIS is to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in exporting goods/products which are produced/manufactured in India.
  • The scheme incentivizes exporters in terms of Duty Credit Scrips at the rate of 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 % of FOB Value of exports realized.
  • These scrips are transferable and can be used to pay certain Central Duties/taxes including Customs Duties.

Agriculture Export Policy:

  • The Agriculture Export Policy was launched in 2018 to harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income
  • This comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aims to increase agricultural exports by integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.

ATAL BIMIT VYAKTI KALYAN YOJANA

Why in News?

  • The Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Corporation has launched a scheme named ‘Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana’ (ABVKY).

Highlights:

  • In the scheme in case the Insured Person (IP) is rendered unemployed, provides relief to the extent of 25% of the average per day earning during the previous four contribution periods, to be paid up to maximum 90 days of unemployment once in lifetime.

Conditions and other Features:

  • The Insured Person should have been rendered unemployed during the period the relief is claimed.
  • The Insured Person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years.
  • The Insured Person should have contributed not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods.
  • The contribution in respect of him should have been paid or payable by the employer.
  • The contingency of the unemployment should not have been as a result of any punishment for misconduct or superannuation or voluntary retirement.
  • Aadhar and Bank Account of the Insured Person should be linked with insured person data base.
  • In case the IP is working for more than one employers and is covered under the ESI scheme he will be considered unemployed only in case he is rendered unemployed with all employers. As specified in Section 65 of the ESI Act, an IP shall not be entitled to any other cash compensation and the Relief under ABVKY simultaneously for the same period. However, periodical payments of Permanent Disability Benefit (PDB) under ESI Act and Regulations shall continue.
  • As specified under Section 61 of the ESI Act, an IP who is in receipt of Relief under ABVKY shall not be entitled to receive any similar benefit admissible under the provisions of any other enactment.
  • The IP will be eligible for Medical benefit as provided under the Act for the period he is availing this relief.
  • The claim for Relief under ABVKY may be submitted by the claimant any time after rendering unemployed, but not later than one year from the date of unemployment to the appropriate Branch Office in form of affidavit in prescribed Form. No prospective claim i.e. claim for relief under ABVKY for any future period will be allowed.
  • The IP will submit his claim online through the ESIC Portal.

CANNABIS LEGALIZING ISSUE

Context:

  • Litigation has claimed before the Delhi High Court in its pursuit to bring an end to various existing laws in India that prohibit and criminalise its use.

Background:

  • The earliest known reports regarding the use of cannabis in India come from the Atharva-Veda, written around 2000-1400 BCE.
  • Cannabis has been consumed in different ways—smoking (ganja), chewing (bhaang), drinking (tea), etc.
  • Its plant has been used for manufacturing clothes, shoes, ropes and paper. In ancient India, it was used for treating or alleviating symptoms of several diseases.

Classification:

  • The International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders designate cannabis as an addictive substance, with recognised dependence disorders.

NDPS Act:

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, prohibited cultivation or production of cannabis plant by anybody, while reserving these rights with central and state governments if they wish to do so, by creating rules later.

Cannabis legalization issue at global level:

  • There is a global wave of legalisation of cannabis, based on its medicinal properties and commercial utilities.
  • Buoyed by success in the West (Uruguay, some US states, Canada), cannabis supporters are pushing for legalisation in India.
  • In the US, the use of marijuana (a more addictive derivative) for medicinal purposes is legal in a number of states, whereas its use for recreational purpose has also been legalised in some states.
  • Canada has legalised its use for recreational as well as medicinal purposes.
  • Europe recognises the use of marijuana for recreational purposes as a crime, but its use for medical purposes is permitted in many countries.

Medicinal Use:

  • There is no good evidence that cannabis is beneficial when used in diseases such as Crohn’s disease, sleep disorder, glaucoma, etc.
  • Similarly, there is no data to support its use in oncology practice outside of clinical experiments—cannabis derivatives are known to have immunosuppressive that can promote cancer.
  • In summary, its medicinal benefits aren’t as strong as presented by the proponents of legalisation—safer and effective alternatives are available in the market.

Why did US and Canada legalize it?

  • With an increasing number of youth (though a minority) supporting legalisation, most policymakers don’t see it a battle worth fighting, even though justified.
  • In the US, public opinion was built on decades of misinformation, racial discrimination, police excesses, degree of punishment, incarceration in jail, craving for liberty, etc.
  • Also, policymakers seem to be excited about another source of revenue.

Does legalisation help:

  • Colorado legalised marijuana around five years ago.
  • Expert committeee noted there is substantial evidence that its use may lead to cancer, cardiovascular illness, lung diseases, road accidents, impaired adolescent health, serious drug interaction and reproductive health disorders.
  • It reported robust evidence that legalisation may increase unintentional use by children at home. It noted the foetus born to mothers who use marijuana may be seriously harmed.
  • Post-legalisation, new types of crimes emerged, such as illegal cultivation, sale, production.

Legalization of Cannabis in Indian Context:

  • India has a history of misuse of even prescription drugs that are otherwise beneficial.
  • Weak opiates (derivatives of opium) are one of the easily available alternatives to cannabis for medical conditions.
  • Codeine-based cough syrups are effective for controlling severe cough, but after reports of rampant misuse.
  • In Indian context, when prescription drugs are grossly misused, how can we ensure disciplined used of cannabis? It is obvious that arguments of medicinal or industrial use are simply smokescreens to fool policymakers and swing public support.

Will legalisation worsen our overburdened healthcare system?

  • India is struggling to control the three addictive substances of tobacco, alcohol and areca nut.
  • As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 270 million Indians use tobacco and it kills around 1.35 million Indians every year.
  • Nearly 30% of India’s adult population is using alcohol, leading to 3.3 million deaths. Legalisation of cannabis is not only going to worsen these alarming statistics, but also serve as a gateway for one of these carcinogens.

Conclusion:

  • The younger generation is living in an era of personal liberty, rising affluence, more prone to addiction and struggling with personal relationships.
  • Introduction of yet another psychoactive drug will wreak havoc on a population still struggling with tobacco, alcohol and pan masala.
  • It is unlikely to solve the drug menace in Punjab, Rajasthan and other states.
  • Cannabis prohibition is being portrayed as paternalistic nanny-state policy by party hoppers.
  • However, promotion of addiction and sufferings among millions is a heavy price to pay for protection of individual freedom of a handful.
  • We cannot allow our next generation get trapped into a vortex of poor performance, indiscipline, addiction, psychosis, isolation, insecurity and bleak future.

MOTOR VEHICLES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Minister for Road Transport and Highways has been in the news as he pushes the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Parliament.
  • The amendments proposed by the government to the existing Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 essentially focus on improving road safety.

Key elements of the Proposed Amendment:

Minimum Compensation:

  • The Bill proposes to increase the minimum compensation for hit and run cases.
  • In particular, in case of death, such compensation would vary from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 Lakh. In the case of grievous injury, it would vary from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000.
  • Beyond road safety, the Bill also increases penalties for several offences such as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Cashless treatment of victims:

  • The Bill also enables the Central government to develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during the “golden hour” (first 60 minutes following the injury during which doctors have the best chance of saving a life).

Accident Fund:

  • The government’s insurance scheme is likely to be funded through a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that the central government is expected to constitute to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.
  • This fund will be available for the treatment of the injured.

Defining Good Samaritan:

  • The Bill also defines a good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.
  • However, to be seen as one, such assistance must have been given in good faith, voluntarily, and without the expectation of any reward.
  • If these conditions are met, such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in assisting the victim.

National Road Safety Board:

  • The Bill also proposes a National Road Safety Board which will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  • The Bill also enables the central government to order a recall of motor vehicles if it is found that they are defective and can cause harm to other road users or the environment.
  • In case of such a recall, the manufacturers would either have to replace the faulty vehicle or pay full compensation to the customer.

Regulating Digital Intermediaries:

  • The Bill also attempts to plug a policy gap that has been introduced by the emergence of shared economy concepts and technology.
  • As such, it defines taxi aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes.
  • These aggregators will be issued licenses by state, but they must also comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

BROADBAND READINESS INDEX

Why in News?

  • Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) for Indian States and Union Territories (UT).

Highlights:

  • The National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) 2018 acknowledged the need for building a robust digital communications infrastructure leveraging existing assets of the broadcasting and power sectors including collaborative models involving state, local bodies and the private sector.
  • Accordingly, the policy recommended that a BRI for States and UTs be developed to attract investments and address Right of Way (RoW) challenges across India.

Broadband Readiness Index:

  • The BRI consists of two parts. Part I will focus on infrastructure development based on the measurement of nine parameters. Part II consists of demand side parameters which will be captured through primary surveys.
  •  It will include indicators such as percentage of households using computers/ laptops with internet connection, percentage of households with fixed broadband connection, internet users as a percentage of the population, smart phones density, percentage of households with at least one digitally literate member, etc.
  •  The primary survey will be conducted annually until 2022.

Details of the index:

  • Index will appraise the condition of the underlying digital infrastructure and related factors at the State/UT level.
  • Such an exercise will provide useful insights into strategic choices made by States for investment allocations in ICT programmes.
  • In the spirit of competitive federalism, the index will encourage states to cross learn and jointly participate in achieving the overall objective of digital inclusion and development in India.
  • The framework will not only evaluate a state’s relative development but will also allow for better understanding of a state’s strengths and weaknesses that can feed into evidence-based policy making.
  • The methodology developed as a part of this research will be adapted and used on an annual basis for systematic evaluation of state-performance on metrics set out as the goals for 2022 under the new policy.
  • As a result, ranking and understanding State/UT performance over time will be an important part of the exercise.
  • The development of BRI will be a collaborative exercise with stakeholders including State governments and industry associations like the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
  • This will be a first of its kind exercise that will comprehensively measure the development of telecom infrastructure at the sub national level.

NATIONAL DIGITAL HEALTH BLUEPRINT (NDHB)

  • Prepared by a committee constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  • Aims to create an implementation framework for the National Health Stack (NHS) proposed by NITI Aayog.

What is National Health Stack (NHS)

  • The National Health Stack (NHS) envisages a centralized health record for all citizens of the country in order to streamline the health information and facilitate effective management of the same.

Objectives of NDHB

  • Establishing and managing the core digital health data and the infrastructure required for its seamless exchange;
  • Promoting the adoption of open standards by all the actors in the National Digital Health Eco- system, for developing several digital health systems that span across the sector from wellness to disease management;
  • Creating a system of Personal Health Records, based on international standards, and easily accessible to the citizens and to the service providers, based on citizen-consent;
  • Following the best principles of cooperative federalism while working with the States and Union Territories for the realization of the Vision;
    Promoting Health Data Analytics and Medical Research;
  • Enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of Governance at all levels;
  • Ensuring Quality of Healthcare.
  • Leveraging the Information Systems already existing in the health sector.

NDHB Principle

  • The key principles of the Blueprint include, from the domain perspective, Universal Health Coverage, Inclusiveness, Security and Privacy by Design, Education and Empowerment of the citizens, and from the technology perspective, Building Blocks, Interoperability, a set of Registries as Single Sources of Truth, Open Standards, Open APIs and above all, a minimalistic approach.