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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.

GOOD SAMARITAN GUIDELINES

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued guidelines in pursuance of order of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to protect the Good Samaritans in case of road accidents.

Good Samaritan:

  • A Good Samaritan is a bystander, who voluntarily comes forward to administer immediate assistance or emergency care to a person injured in an accident, or crash, or emergency medical condition, or emergency situation.

Significance of Good Samaritan law:

  • In the last ten years, road crashes have killed over 13 lakh people in India. According to the Law Commission of India, 50% of these victims died of preventable injuries and could have been saved if they had received care on time.

How law came into force:

  • On March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The purpose of a Good Samaritan law is to provide legal protection to bystanders who come to the aid and rescue of victims of road crashes.

How Good Samaritan is protected:

  • A Good Samaritan will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury or death of the victim
  • Good Samaritan who informs police or emergency service regarding an injured person not to be compelled to reveal his personal details
  • Disciplinary action against public officials who coerce Good Samaritan to reveal his personal details
  • Good Samaritans not to be forced to bear the initial cost of treatment: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to issue guidelines that no public or private hospital can demand payment for registration and admissions costs from the Good Samaritans
  • Hospitals cannot refuse treatment to a victim: Lack of response by a doctor in an emergency situation to be considered as a “Professional Misconduct” and disciplinary action shall be taken against such a doctor
  • The Good Samaritan can choose to be an eyewitness and cannot be compelled
  • Eye witness to be examined in a single occasion
  • Video conferencing may be used for examination of a Good Samaritan

LIFESPAN OF SCHEDULED TRIBE PEOPLE

Why in News?

  • According to data from the National Census 2011 to estimate, by indirect methods, the life expectancy for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and non-ST population in India is 63.9 years, as against 67 years for general population.
  • The reasons for shorter lifespan include gaps in various health and nutritional indicators, education level, poverty level, between ST and non-STs, traditional life styles, remoteness of habitations & dispersed population.

Steps taken by Government:

  • Under National Health Mission (NHM), support is being provided to States for strengthening their healthcare system including for upgradation of existing and setting up new public health infrastructure based on requirements posed by the States/UTs.
  • All tribal districts whose composite health index is below the State average have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs) and receive more resources per capita under the NHM as compared to the rest of the districts in the State.
  • As per the budget announcement 2017-18, 1.5 lakh Health Sub Centres and Primary Health Centres are being transformed into Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs)
  • The Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) aim to provide an expanded range of services to include care for non – communicable diseases, palliative and rehabilitative care, Oral, Eye and ENT care, etc
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs supplements the efforts of Central line Ministries as well as State Governments for addressing needs of education, health and nutrition, skill development, livelihood etc. of tribals/ tribal areas by way of critical gaps filling.

WHY IS INDIA SETTING UP A MOBILE PHONE HANDSETS DATABASE?

    • Context: The National Telecom Policy of 2012 calls for the establishment of a National Mobile Property Registry to address the issue of “security, theft, and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets”.
  • Based on this, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under the Ministry of Communications initiated a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) for mobile service providers. The DoT issued a memorandum in July 2017 announcing the CEIR with a pilot project led by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited in Maharashtra. In January 2018, this project was handed over to the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDoT). Now, it is all set to roll out.

What is CEIR?

  • Based on a 2008 order from the DoT, every mobile network provider in India has an Equipment Identity Register (EIR), or a database of the phones connected to its network. These EIRs will now share information with a single central database, the CEIR.
  • In essence, it will be a repository of information on all mobile phones connected to networks across India.
  • There were over 1,026 million active wireless phone connections by the end of 2018, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
  • As per the DoT’s 2017 memorandum, the CEIR will have information on the device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (every phone or mobile broadband device has this unique 15 digit code that precisely identifies the device), model, version, and “other information”.
  • It will also know if the phone is blacklisted, and the reason why it has been blacklisted.
  • Phones are identified based on the IMEI number, which you can find under the battery in many mobiles or by dialling ‘*#06#’ on the device. Mobile phone manufacturers assign IMEI numbers to each device based on ranges allotted to them by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. Dual SIM phones will have two IMEI numbers.

What is the purpose of a CEIR?

  • Such centralised databases are meant to identify and block stolen or illegal mobile phones across networks.
  • Currently, when a customer reports a mobile phone as missing or stolen, mobile service providers have the ability to blacklist the phone’s IMEI in their EIRs and block it from accessing their network.
  • But if the SIM is changed to a new network, it can continue to be in use. With a CEIR, all network operators will be aware that the phone is blacklisted.
  • The CEIR will also access the GSMA’s database of IMEI numbers to check whether the phone is authentic.
  • There are cases of phones being in use with duplicate IMEI numbers, or with all zeroes instead of an authentic IMEI number.
  • Most importantly, as per the DoT’s 2017 memorandum, the CEIR will be able to block services to subscribers. This ability had rested with individual networks till now. The memorandum also mentions enabling “IMEI-based lawful interception”, which means allowing legal authorities to use CEIR data.

What are the issues with having a CEIR?

  • In its 2010 consultation paper on “issues relating to blocking of IMEI for lost/stolen mobile handsets,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) raises a key issue with the CEIR — who should maintain such a high-value database? Should it be the service provider, or a neutral third party?
  • In their responses to the consultation paper, many major service providers preferred having a third party, ranging from international bodies to TRAI itself as suggested by the BSNL.
  • The CDoT, which is reportedly readying to roll out the service, is an autonomous entity under the DoT.
  • Another major issue is cloning, or reprogramming stolen or unauthorised mobile phones to attach existing genuine IMEI numbers. Blocking cloned IMEI numbers could result in the authentic ones also being blocked.
  • While the actual numbers on phones in circulation with cloned or inauthentic IMEIs are hard to pin down, Parliament, in 2012, was informed of two cases of 18,000 phones using the same IMEI number. In 2015, the government banned the import of mobile phones with fake IMEI numbers. In 2017, the DoT framed the “prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017” that makes it punishable to tamper with the IMEI number of a device or knowingly use such a device. However, tools to reprogramme phones remain available online, and cases of such activities are reported frequently.
  • On this issue, the DoT memorandum of 2017 says the IMEI Cloning and Duplication Restriction (ICDR) software is to be integrated in the CEIR.

CALLS FOR SEPARATE LAW ON EVICTIONS OF URBAN POOR.

Stats

  • Government authorities, at both the central and state levels, demolished over 53,700 homes, thereby forcefully evicting more than 260,000 (2.6 lakh) people across urban and rural India, including the homeless

Major Findings:

  • Forced evictions occurred across urban and rural areas – in cities, towns, and villages.
  • They took place for a range of reasons and under various guises, including: ‘city beautification’ projects, mega events, and interventions aimed at creating ‘slum-free cities’; infrastructure and ostensible ‘development’ projects; forest and wildlife protection; and, disaster management efforts.
  • In most of the reported eviction cases, state authorities did not follow due process established by national and international standards.
  • In the majority of cases, the state has not provided resettlement; where provided, resettlement is largely inadequate. Forced evictions are thus contributing to a rise in homelessness.
  • All cases of forced eviction resulted in multiple, and often gross, human rights violations.
  • Through these acts of eviction and demolition of homes, central and state government authorities have violated national and international laws, policies, guidelines, and schemes.
  • Thousands of families across India are currently threatened with the risk of eviction and displacement.

City Beautification’ Projects:

  • Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) an NGO, finds that the highest percentage of reported evictions (99 of 213 cases) were carried out for ‘slum4 clearance’ drives and ‘city beautification’ projects. The notion of the state that ‘city beautification’ implies removing the poor from cities reflects an alarming prejudice and discrimination against the country’s most marginalized populations.
  • It also indicates the criminalisation of poverty.

Separate law:

  • The authorities in India, instead of seeking to evict a large number of the urban poor before implementing development projects, can adopt a new kind of social compact with the community concerned and real estate developers. Examples in Colombia and Argentina where local governments came together with private real estate developers and the respective communities for improving housing for slum dwellers. the urban poor were provided with better houses at the same place where they were living ear­lier while a portion of the land was released for re­development.
  • Resettlement policy
    • India did not have a resettlement policy,
    • Separate law on evictions on the lines of one in South Africa.

Recommendation:

  • Recognize and uphold the human right to adequate housing, which includes security of tenure and the right to freedom from forced evictions, of all residents of India.
  • Take immediate measures towards restitution of human rights of all affected persons by providing adequate resettlement, rehabilitation, and compensation; restoring homes, livelihoods, basic services, and education; and, enabling return to original sites of residence, where possible. Grant compensation to all affected persons, based on human rights assessments and criteria, for all losses—material and non-material—and damage incurred during the eviction/relocation process. Investigate incidents of forced eviction and take punitive action against those found guilty of violating the law and human rights.

Conclusion:

  • Unless concerted efforts are adopted by both the central and state governments to incorporate a strong human rights approach in the conceptualization and implementation of schemes, the targets of ‘housing for all’ will continue to remain mere rhetoric.
  • It is only through the respect, protection, and fulfilment of the human rights of the urban and rural poor to their lands and homes, that India’s housing crisis can be resolved.

GAGANYAAN NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL

Why in News?

  • A Gaganyaan National Advisory Council has been created with members from different institutions and industries.

Members:

  • Secretaries of Department of Space, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Defence Research and Development, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Principal Scientific Advisor to PM, Senior Officials from Armed Forces, Indian Coast Guard, Former Chairman of ISRO, Member of Space Commission, Former Director of Aeronautical Development Agency, Former Indian Astronaut, Directors of Premier Academic and Research Institutions and Heads of various Indian Industries.

Gaganyaan:

  • Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the basis of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
  • The spacecraft is being designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability.
  • In its maiden crewed mission, Indian Space Research Organisation’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board.
  • The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021.

STUDY IN INDIA’ PROGRAMME

Why in news?

  • To facilitate Internationalization of Higher Education in India, a Programme viz. ‘Study in India’ is under implementation.

Objectives:

  • To make India a preferred education destination/hub for foreign students;
  • Improve the soft power of India with focus on the neighbouring countries
  • Use it as a tool in diplomacy;
  • To rapidly increase the inflow of inbound International Students in India through systematic brand-building,
  • Marketing, social media and digital marketing campaigns;
  • To increase India’s market share of global education exports;
  • Improvement in overall quality of higher education;
  • To reduce the export-import imbalance in the number of international students;
  • Growth in India’s global market share of International students;
  • Increase in global ranking of India etc.

Special Focus:

  • The programme focuses on attracting International students from select 30 plus countries across South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa.
  • The programme envisages participation of select reputed Indian institutes/universities by way of offering seats for the International students at affordable rates, along with fee waivers to meritorious foreign students ranging from 100% to 25%.
  • A centralised admission web-portal (https://studyinindia.gov.in) acts as a single window for the admission of foreign students. With the increase in number of foreign students, the global ranking of the Indian Higher Educational institutions will improve.
  • The domestic students shall be exposed to a more diverse peer group and also get greater International exposure culminating in enhanced interest of Indian students to study in the country.
  • This information was given by the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

MODEL TENANCY ACT

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has drafted a ‘Model Tenancy Act’, 2019 which envisages to balance the interest and rights of both the owner and tenant and to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises in disciplinedand efficient manner.

Model Tenancy Act:

  • Act will enable creation of adequate rental housing stock for various income segmentsof society including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, professionals, students etc. and increase access to quality rented accommodation, enable gradual formalization of rental housing market.
  • It will help overhaul the legal framework vis-à-vis rental housing across the country. It is also expected to give a fillip to private participation in rental housing for addressing the huge housing shortage across the country.
  • The Draft MTA will also promote growth of rental housing and investment in the sector and promote entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative mechanism of sharing of space.This MTA will be applicable prospectively and will not affect the existing tenancies.

Features of Draft Model Tenancy Act:

  • MTA stipulates a robust grievance redressal mechanism comprising of Rent Authority, Rent Court and Rent Tribunal.
  • It has been proposed to cap the security deposit equal to a maximum of two month’s rent in case of residential properties and, minimum of one month’s rent in case of non-residential property.
  • After coming into force of this Act, no person shall let or take on rent any premises except by an agreement in writing.
  • The Model Act provides for its applicability for the whole of the State i.e. urban as well as rural areas in the State.
  • Within two months of executing rental agreement both landowner and tenant are required to intimate to the Rent Authority about the agreement and within seven days a unique identification number will be issued by the Rent Authority to the both the parties.
  • A digital platform will be set up in the local vernacular language of the State for submitting tenancy agreement and other documents.
  • A copy of the draft Act has also been shared with the States/UTs for seeking their views/comments.
  • Once finalized the Model Act will be shared with the States/Union Territory (UTs) for adoption.

Significance:

  • As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
  • The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage the owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession.
  • One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.

CCTV IN CLASSROOMS- ANALYSIS

  • Context– Project to install CCTV cameras inside all classrooms in Delhi state schools.

Delhi Government Stand:

Empowering Parents

  •  In private schools, parents are empowered by their own education and economic leverage due to the fees they pay. Parental oversight has been the bedrock of effective school management. CCTV surveillance would bring empowerment to parents.

Parent Participation

  •  School Management Committees (SMCs), parent bodies mandated by the Right to Education Act. They have been empowered to monitor and supervise basic deliverables of schools, such as teacher attendance, healthy mid-day meals, clean washrooms, drinking water, etc. The CCTV in classrooms project is the next step towards increasing accountability of schools.

Accountability:

  •   By sharing feeds with parents, it is actually ensuring that the crores of public money invested into CCTVs are not wasted.
  •  Often, CCTVs fail to serve their purpose for lack of motivated monitoring.
  •  Outsourcing of the monitoring to an invested stakeholder like parents is actually a smart innovation.

Child Care:

  •  The CCTV feeds can aid parents to identify several problems their children may be facing, including bullying, corporal punishment, inadequate attention spans, teacher absenteeism and even student truancy. It will empower them to not just raise their children better but also to ask the right questions to their child’s school.

Issue of Privacy Breach

  •  Classrooms cannot be classified as private by any stretch of imagination.
  • feed being provided to parents is highly restricted.
  •  Only the feed for their own children will be provided to parents.
  •  The feed does not include audio, and can only be accessed live.

Deterrence for Crimes

  • If CCTVs can be deterrents to crime outside schools, they can be deterrents within too.

Argument Against CCTV Installation in Schools:

The Aim of Education Isn’t Just Disciplinary:

  • While a school is meant to teach discipline, it is also the space where students can make mistakes and subsequently learn from them.
  • Creating panopticons inside schools instils fear, not values.

Classrooms Aren’t Public Spaces Either:

  •  Classrooms cannot be classified as private.
  • However, schools are not as public as a footpath.
  • The expectation of relative privacy is what allows students the freedom to express themselves, make mistakes, and inculcate creativity and imagination.
  • The Delhi government cannot assume that constant surveillance of every activity will improve the learning environment.

Lack of digital infrastructure:

  • Internet penetration in urban India still stands at 64.84%, including multi-SIM usage. In cases where parents don’t have smartphones and internet access, what does the government intend to do?

Phone sharing:

  •  Shared access to a phone is a common habit, and the Delhi government has still not clarified, despite our repeated queries, how they intend to verify a parent’s identity on the DGS Live app.

Access to Videos:

  • Creating a massive repository of video footage of children is a phenomenally bad idea, and a violation of their privacy.
  • In the absence of any legislative and judicial oversight, it can be easily abused.

Conclusion:

  • There should be proper white paper published by Delhi Government regarding CCTV installation so that public understands the motives and undue activity can be restricted.

PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AGAINST SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT (POCSO)

  • Context– Cabinet has approved a new definition for child pornography in its amendments to the POCSO Act.

What is POCSO Act:

  • The POCSO Act provides for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
  • The Act lays down child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation, and speedy trial offences through designated Special Courts.
  • The Act defines “child” as any person below 18 years of age.

Stats of Child Abuse:

  • Child Abuse Report, Women and Child Development India, 2007
    • Half of the country’s children face some form of sexual abuse, with 21% having faced severe sexual abuse.
    • Boys account for around 53% and girls for 47% of all children reporting abuse.

Features of POCSO Act 2012

Aggravated Sexual Assault

  • The POCSO Act criminalises penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault. It makes a distinction between “sexual assault” and “aggravated sexual assault”.
  • Aggravated sexual assault” is under certain circumstances where the child victim is mentally ill or when the offence has been committed by a person in a position of trust or authority (e.g. family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor;)

Special Courts and Public Prosecutors

  • The POCSO Act requires that all trials be conducted in-camera, to ensure that a child’s identity is not revealed.
  • The Act requires State governments to set up Special Courts.
  • These Courts can determine the amount of compensation for the treatment and rehabilitation of the child.
  • Cases before the Court must be disposed within one year from the date they were reported.
  • State Governments are required to appoint Special Public Prosecutors (SPP) who will exclusively address POCSO cases.

Child-Friendly Courts

  • Avoiding exposure to the accused is a crucial component in protecting the best interests of the child, as this ensures that the child is not traumatised by facing the accused, as well as it ensures that the opportunity for the accused and his lawyers to intimidate the child is minimised.

Victim Compensation

  • In addition to the punishment, the POCSO Act requires Courts to prescribe a direct payment of compensation. This victim compensation may be used for medical treatment or rehabilitative purposes.

Recent Amendments to bill: / Child pornography

  • Watching, possessing or circulating animations or cartoons that depict a minor engaging in a sexually explicit conduct could land person in jail.
  • law will also apply to pornographic content where adults or young adults pretend to be children. Fine for possessing child porn to ₹5,000 from the earlier proposal of ₹1000.

Conclusion:

  • While the mandate of the legislation is truly radical in that it aims to protect children against sexual abuse, and provides for a victim sensitive criminal justice process, there are several snags in its implementation.
  • Serious open discussion on child abuse can and is taking place.
  • We need to use this momentum to make lasting systemic change; for our children, it is the least we can do.

INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION

Different initiatives undertaken by Govt. to improve quality of Education:

  • The Central Government has launched an Integrated Scheme for School Education – Samagra Shiksha, from 2018-19 which subsumes the erstwhile centrally sponsored schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
  • Under Samagra Shiksha, funds are given to all States and UTs for various interventions to improve the quality of education such as training of in-service teachers, headmasters and principals, remedial teaching for academically weaker students, provision of library grants to schools, ICT and digital initiatives, strengthening of teacher education institutions, Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan, Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat, etc.
  • In order to focus on quality education, the Central rules to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act have been amended to include reference on class-wise, subject-wise Learning Outcomes for all elementary classes. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a National Achievement Survey, under which learning outcomes of students were evaluated, through a District level sampling and gaps were identified.
  • Government of India has decided to participate in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) to be conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2021.
  • Approval has been given for conducting a Census based audit called Shagunotsav of all government and government aided schools in all States and UTs. Further, in 2019-20 approval has been given for conducting a School Based Assessment (SBA) of all elementary stage students, to evaluate learning outcomes.
  • MHRD has designed a 70 indicators-based matrix Performance Grading Index (PGI) to grade the States and UTs. To collect timely and accurate data, an Educational Management Information System called UDISE+ (UDISE plus) has been launched in 2018-19.
  • In 2019-20, approval has been given for setting up Youth and Eco Club in all Government Schools across the country. In order to experience and celebrate the rich cultural diversity of India and to encourage experimental learning, Rangotsav was organized in schools in 2018-19.

FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY ANALYSIS, INDIA, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019, a report by the MoSPI and The World Food Programme lists Maharashtra as one of the six States with high levels of stunting and underweight.
  • The State also has a prevalence of stunting and wasting.
  • Here’s a look at the highlights of the report and overall malnutrition in Maharashtra.

Malnutrition:

  • Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes under nutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight) inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non- communicable diseases.

Types of Malnutrition:

  • Moderate Acute malnutrition (MAM): Children aged between six months and 59 months who are between the -2 and -3 standard deviation for weight for height (wasting) score.
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM): Children aged between six months and 59 months and have a weight for height (wasting) score 3 standard deviations below the median, have a mid-upper-arm circumference less than 115 mm, or the presence of bilateral edema.
  • Severe Chronic Malnutrition (SCM): Calculated with the Z-score defined as a height-for- age index less than –3 standard deviations from the mean weight of a reference population of children of the same height and/or having edema.
  • Stunting: Calculation is based on height-for-age. It is is associated with an underdeveloped brain, poor learning capacity, and increased nutrition-related diseases.
  • Wasting: Calculated by weight-for-height. It is associated with decreased fat mass. Also known as wasting syndrome, it causes muscle and fat tissue to waste away.
  • Underweight: Calculated by the weight-for-age formula. It is a body weight considered to be too low to be healthy. It can reflect both stunting and wasting.

Food and Malnutrition in the Country:

  • Over the last 20 years, total food grain production in India increased from 198 million tonnes to 269 million tonnes.
  • Despite increase in food production, the rate of malnutrition in India remains very high.
  • In the food basket, it turns out that in both urban and rural areas, the share of expenditure on cereal and cereal substitutes has declined between 1972-73 and 2011-12, from 57% to 25% in rural areas and from 36% to 19% in urban areas.
  • The energy and protein intake from cereals has decreased in both rural and urban India, largely because of increased consumption of other food items such as milk and dairy products, oils and fat and relatively unhealthy food such as fast food, processed food, and sugary beverages.
  • The consumption of unhealthy energy and protein sources is much higher in urban areas.

Double Burden of Malnutrition:

  • For several decades India was dealing with only one form of malnutrition– undernutrition. In the last decade, the double burden which includes both over- and undernutrition, is becoming more prominent and poses a new challenge for India.
  • From 2005 to 2016, prevalence of low (< 18.5 kG/M2) body mass index (BMI) in Indian women decreased from 36% to 23% and from 34% to 20% among Indian men. During the same period, the prevalence of overweight/obesity (BMI > 30 kG/M2) increased from 13% to 21% among women and from 9% to 19% in men.
  • Children born to women with low BMI are more likely to be stunted, wasted, and underweight compared to children born to women with normal or high BMI.

States Performance:

  • The highest levels of stunting and underweight are found in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and
  • At the national level, among social groups, the prevalence of stunting is highest amongst children from the STs (43.6 percent), followed by SCs (42.5 percent) and OBCs (38.6 percent). The prevalence of stunting in children from ST in Rajasthan, Odisha and Meghalaya is high while stunting in children from both ST and SC is high in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
  • Prevalence of wasting is highest in Jharkhand (29.0%) and above the national average in eight more States (Haryana, Goa, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, MP, Karnataka and Gujarat) and three UTs (Puducherry, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli).
  • Prevalence of underweight is also highest in Jharkhand (47.8%) and is above the National average in seven more States (Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, UP, MP and Bihar) and one UT (Dadra and Nagar Haveli).

LABOUR LAWS IN INDIA

Context-

  • Central government for its move to subsume 44 existing labour laws into four codes dealing with wages, social security, industrial safety and welfare, and industrial relations.
  • The code on wages Bill, which seeks to replace existing laws related to workers’ remuneration.
  • Labour Union- These codes will do away with social security measures of the labour force in the country. It will give a free hand to industrial houses and big companies

Issues with Labour Law:

  • Labour laws involving safety at workplace, wages, social security and industrial relations.
  • Distorted the labour market.
  • Due to the complex and massive numbers of labour laws, industries prefer to hire contractual labourers not covered under these laws and without any social security or termination protection.
  • Another major problem of labour market in India is that there is a growing number of unskilled labourers in the country.
  • Current labour reforms are less focus on apprenticeship.
  • Labour market in India is suffering from surplus labour force.
  • lack of adequate information regarding jobs
  • child labour practices
  • lack of proper manpower planning etc.

Polity:

  • Article 246 Labour being in concurrent list, many states and even centre have enacted laws. So many laws lead to confusion about regulation giving rise to inspector raj.
  • Article 43A was inserted by 42nd amendment – directing state to take steps to ensure worker’s participation in management of industries.
  • Article 23 forbids forced labor, 24 forbids child labor (in factories, mines and other hazardous occupations) below age of 14 years.

Important laws related to Industrial relations are

Employee State Insurance Act:

  • ESI card is issued, insuring worker against any accident at work. There’s also ESI corporation.

Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous provisions Act –

  • Provident fund is one in which employee pays part of his wage ( 12 % in most cases) and equal contribution by employer. This is mandatory for establishment employing more than 20 people

Factories Act, 1948

Child Labor (prohibition and regulation) Act:

  • Prohibits Children below age of 14 to work in hazardous jobs. There are demands for complete ban on child employment

Industrial Disputes Act:

  • One important provision – Industries employing more than 100 people can not terminate employment before approval of government. There is strong demand from industry to revise this limit, to facilitate easy entry and exit.

Minimum Wages Act

Bonded Labor system (Abolition) Act:

  • System in which onetime payment was made by employer to supplier or leader of group and whole season’s or year’s services of labor was taken. Still rampant in some businesses like Brick Kilns

Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970:

  • Contract labor is indirectly employed by an establishment through a contractor or agency. So, their relation with principal organization becomes ambiguous. They are generally discriminated against direct employees in terms of wages, job security, status etc. This act attempts to abolish it in certain circumstances and to bring them at par with direct employees.

Apprentices Act, 1961:

Reforms needed in Labour Law:

  • There is an overlapping of labour laws which gives immense powers to official to harass the employer and leads to corruption.
  • Social safety net for workers in order to enable capacity building of workers.
    Disinvestment and FDI: PSE’s one of the main objectives was to provide employment even at cost of economy but this very policy was result of demise of PSEs. Same is true for FDI.

Conclusion:

  • The government needs to bring more investor-friendly labour laws at the national level and reforms such as deregulating labour laws.

SFURTI, ASPIRE & PRADHAN MANTRI MATSYA SAMPADA YOJANA

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Government aims to set up more Common Facility Centres (CFCs) under the ‘Scheme of Fund for Upgradation and Regeneration of Traditional Industries’ (SFURTI).
  • It will facilitate cluster-based development to make the traditional industries more productive, profitable and capable for generating sustained employment opportunities.
  • The focused sectors are Bamboo, Honey and Khadi clusters.
  • SFURTI envisions setting up of 100 new clusters during 2019-20 to enable 50,000 artisans to join the economic value chain.

SFURTI:

  • SFURTI is Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries.
  • Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Govt. of India has launched this scheme in the year 2005 with the view to promote Cluster development.
  • As per the revised guidelines, the following schemes are being merged into SFURTI:
  • The Scheme for Enhancing Productivity and Competitiveness of Khadi Industry and Artisans
  • The Scheme for Product Development, Design Intervention and Packaging (PRODIP)
  • The Scheme for Rural Industries Service Center (RISC) and
  • Other small interventions like Ready Warp Units, Ready to Wear Mission, etc.

Objectives of Scheme:

  • To organize the traditional industries and artisans into clusters to make them competitive and provide support for their long-term
    sustainability and economy of scale;
  • To provide sustained employment for traditional industry artisans and rural entrepreneurs;
  • To enhance marketability of products of such clusters by providing support for new products, design intervention and improved packaging and also the improvement of marketing infrastructure;
  • To equip traditional artisans of the associated clusters with the improved skills and capabilities through training and exposure visits;
  • To strengthen the cluster governance systems with the active participation of the stakeholders, so that they are able to gauge the emerging challenges and opportunities and respond to them in a coherent manner;
  • To build up innovated and traditional skills, improved technologies, advanced processes, market intelligence and new models of public – private partnerships, so as to gradually replicate similar models of cluster – based regenerated traditional industries
  • To make a paradigm shift from a supply driven selling model to a market driven model with the right branding, focus product mix and correct positioning and right pricing to make the offering holistic and optimal for each of the focus categories.
  • To tap the E-Commerce as a major marketing channel given the outreach and the growing market penetration of E-Commerce, the re is a need to devise a quick strategy to make its presence felt in the E – Retail space.

ASPIRE:

  • The Scheme for Promotion of Innovation, Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship’ (ASPIRE) has been consolidated for setting up of Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs).
  • The Scheme contemplates setting up 80 Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and 20 Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in 2019-20 to develop 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industry sectors.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) – Through the Scheme the Department of Fisheries will establish a robust fisheries management framework.
  • This will address critical gaps in strengthening the value chain, including infrastructure, modernization, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control.

CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (RESERVATION IN TEACHERS’ CADRE) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019 has been passed by both the houses of Parliament.
  • The Bill will now be sent for President’s assent.

Highlights:

  • The Bill replaces the “The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Ordinance, 2019”.
  • The new bill considers the University/College as one unit restoring earlier reservation system based on 200-point roster.
  • No longer will ‘Department/Subject’ be treated as one unit.
  • This Decision Will:
    • Allow up of more than 7000 existing vacancies in Central Educational Institutions and pave the way for filling up 3 lakh vacancies in the Government (Central and State) Educational institutions by direct recruitment in Teacher’s Cadre.
    • Ensure compliance of the Constitutional Provisions of Articles 14, 16 and 21.
    • Ensure full representation of the Scheduled Castes/ the Scheduled Tribes, the socially and Educationally Backward Classes and Economically Weaker Sections in direct recruitment in teachers’ cadres.
  • This decision is also expected to improve the teaching standards in the higher educational institutions by attracting all eligible talented candidates belonging SCs/STs/SEBCs/EWS.
  • It will also ensure providing of 10% reservation to EWS.

SURROGACY (REGULATION) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet has approved the introduction of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 that aims to prohibit commercial surrogacy in India.

Highlights:

  • The Bill proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories.
  • The purpose of the Bill is to ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy, and allow ethical surrogacy.
  • While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited, including sale and purchase of human embryos and gametes, ethical surrogacy for needy couples will be allowed on fulfilment of stipulated conditions.
  • It will also prevent exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.
  • There will not be any financial implications, except for the meetings of the National and State Surrogacy Boards and appropriate authorities, which will be met out of the administrative budgets of respective departments.

Concerns with Commercial Surrogacy:

  • Procreation is not just about furthering the family lineage, but also about succession, tradition and legality.
  • Having a child is about putting a biological system in place, not just caring for societal mores.
  • There is therefore a need to define the legality and ethicality of the practice.
  • Commercial surrogacy can lead to complaints of exploitation of women, especially those from the economically weaker section, because it would involve financial compensation, the adequacy of which can always be challenged.
  • Pregnancy remains a biological phenomenon, with its attendant complications, necessitating proper medical care, the grossness of which could be open to challenge in case something goes wrong.
  • Children born out of surrogacy can also face the problems of citizenship, abandonment and abuse, another aspect that needs to be taken care of.
  • There is also the problem of jurisdiction because not all countries permit it. Couples wanting a surrogacy arrangement may travel to a country that permits it.

TRADE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR EXPORT SCHEME (TIES)

Why in News?

  • The Department of Commerce, under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has approved financial assistance for three trade promotion centres under the TIES.

Highlights:

  • Establishment of Main Exhibition Building (Phase-II) at Trade cum Permanent Exhibition Centre at Imphal, Manipur by Manipur Industrial Development Corporation (MANIDCO).
  • Expansion of Chennai Trade Centre by Tamil Nadu Trade Promotion Organisation
  • Establishment of Trade Promotion Centre at Minto Hall, Bhopal by M.P. State Tourism Development Corporation

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):

  • Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry launched the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) in March, 2017.
  • After delinking of the Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities (ASIDE) Scheme in 2015, the State Governments had been consistently requesting the support of the Centre in creation of export infrastructure.
  • The scheme would provide assistance for setting up and up-gradation of infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, cold chains, trade promotion centres, dry ports, export warehousing and packaging, SEZs and ports/airports cargo terminuses.
  • The proposals of the implementing agencies for funding will be considered by an inter-ministerial Empowered Committee.

MINIMUM WAGE SYSTEM

Background

  • In India, labour is included in the concurrent list which implies that both the central government and state governments can make laws regarding this subject.
  • The Second National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended that existing labour laws should be classified into broader groups for easier compliance, such as
  • (i) industrial relations, (ii) Wages, (iii) Social Security, (iv) Safety, and (v) welfare and working conditions.
  • This would also allow for uniformity in the coverage of various labour laws that are in force.2
  • The Code on Wages replaces four existing laws:

1. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936

2. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948

3. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and

4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Who Determines Minimum Wages?

  • The Code provides that a National Minimum Wage may be set by the Central Government. States cannot set minimum wages lower than the national minimum wage.
  • The Central Government may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions of the country. Minimum wages must be revised by the central or state governments at an interval of Five Years.

Key Issues:

  • Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions.
  • 1. The rationale for a national minimum wage, and
  • 2. Whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages.
  • States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.
  • This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.

Gender Discrimination:

  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender.
  • While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.

Advisory boards:

  • The central government and state governments will constitute the Central Advisory Board
  • and State Advisory Boards respectively.
  • These boards will consist of:
  • 1. Employers,
  • 2. Employees in equal number as the employers, and
  • 3. Independent Persons (Not Exceeding One Third of the Total Members of the Board).
  • They will advise the central or state governments on issues such as setting and revision of minimum wages and increasing employment opportunities for women, among others.

Advantages of A National Minimum Wage:

  • National minimum wage is to ensure a uniform standard of living across the country.
  • The introduction of a national minimum wage may help reduce these differences and provide a basic standard of living for all employees across the country.

Disadvantages of A National Minimum Wage:

  • It may be argued that the ability of state governments to adjust minimum wage levels may be affected, if the central government sets a national minimum wage.
  • These adjustments may be required for variations, across the country, in costs of living such as prices of essential goods and housing.
  • The Code does not provide for consultation between the central and state governments while determining the national minimum wage.

SCHEME FOR TRANS-DISCIPLINARY RESEARCH FOR INDIA’S DEVELOPING ECONOMY (STRIDE)

Why in News?

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a new scheme – ‘Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India’s Developing Economy’ (STRIDE)

STRIDE:

  • STRIDE will provide support to research projects that are socially relevant, locally need-based, nationally important and globally significant.
  • STRIDE shall support research capacity building as well as basic, applied and transformational action research that can contribute to national priorities with focus on inclusive human development.
  • STRIDE shall support creation, development and integration of new ideas, concepts and practices for public good and strengthening civil society.
  • STRIDE scheme will strengthen research culture and innovation in colleges and Universities and help students and faculty to contribute towards India’s developing economy with help of collaborative research.

STRIDE Objectives:

  • To identify young talent, strengthen research culture, build capacity, promote innovation and support trans-disciplinary research for India’s developing economy and national development.
  • To fund multi institutional network high-impact research projects in humanities and human sciences.

STRIDE Components:

  • Component-1 will endeavour to identify the motivated young talents with research and innovation aptitude in universities and colleges. The Scheme will provide research capacity building in diverse disciplines by mentoring, nurturing and supporting young talents to
  • innovate pragmatic solutions for local, regional, national and global problems. This component is open to all disciplines for grant upto 1 crore.
  • Component-2 will be mainly to enhance problem solving skills with help of social innovation and action research to improve wellbeing of people and contribute for India’s developing economy. Collaborations between universities, government, voluntary organizations and industries is encouraged under this scheme. This component is open to all disciplines for grant upto 50 lakh – 1 crore.
  • Component-3 will fund high impact research projects in the identified thrust areas in humanities and human sciences through national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions. Grant available for this component is upto 1 crore for one HEI and upto 5 crores for multi institutional network.

Cabinet NOD to Better Pay Benefits for CAPF Officers

Context:

The Cabinet has approved the proposal to grant Organised Cadre Status to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) officers.

  •  The move comes after a Supreme Court order asked the government to extend the benefit already available to IPS, IAS, IRS and IFS officers — to CAPF officers

Significance:

  • This will make them eligible for several benefits, including Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU).
  • The move will benefit thousands of serving officers and many others who have retired since 2006 from the five primary CAPFs or paramilitary forces — CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP and SSB.
  • The officers will now get better deputation chances as they will be eligible to get empanelled under the central staffing scheme, get enhanced facilities of transportation, house rent allowance, travelling and dearness allowance.
  •  Besides the pay hike, the demand for NFFU also encapsulates a long-standing tussle between CAPF cadre officers and IPS officers who come on deputation to the forces.
  • Most top positions in these forces are occupied by IPS officers.

The Dentist (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Context:

The Dentist (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was recently passed in the monsoon session of the Parliament.

About the Bill:

  • The Bill amends the Dentists Act, 1948.
  • The Act regulates the profession of dentistry and constitutes:
    • The Dental Council of India,
    • State Dental Councils and
    • Joint State Dental Councils.
  •  A register of dentists is maintained under the Act in two parts, Part A and Part B.  Persons possessing recognised dental qualifications are registered in Part A and persons not possessing such qualifications are registered in Part B.
  • The persons in Part B are Indian citizens who have been practicing as dentists for at least five years prior to a registration date notified by the state government.

Composition of the Dental Councils:

  • Under the Act, composition of the Dental Council of India, State Dental Councils, and Joint State Dental Councils includes representation from dentists registered in Part B.
  • The Bill seeks to remove the mandatory requirement of the representation of dentists registered in Part B in these Councils.

NATIONAL COMMON MOBILITY CARD

Why in News?

  • National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) – One Nation, One Card for transport mobility is an initiative of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to enable seamless travel by different metros and other transport systems across the country besides retail shopping and purchases.

Highlights:

  • The Indigenous Automatic Fare Collection System based on One Nation One Card Model is the first of its kind in India.
  • These are bank issued cards on Debit/Credit/Prepaid card product platform.
  • The customer may use this single card for payments across all segments including metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, parking, smart city and retail.
  • The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders. The service area feature of this card supports operator specific applications e.g. monthly passes, season tickets etc.

Benefits of NCMC:

  • NCMC Ecosystem offers the value proposition for customers as they need not to carry multiple cards for different usage. Further, the super quick contactless transactions will improve the seamless experience.
  • For operators, NCMC ecosystem brings common standards for implementation without vendor lock-in.
  • This will also help in higher digital payments penetration, savings on closed loop card life cycle management cost and reduced operating cost. The rich data insights may be used by operators for business intelligence leading to efficient operation.
  • With NCMC Ecosystem, Banks will get an access to segments which are highly driven by cash but stickiness in nature. NCMC Ecosystem will further help government in digitization of low value payments and reduced cost for the entire ecosystem.

CHILD LABOUR

Context:

  • Instances of child labour detected during inspections have reduced successively from 2014 to 2018, figures presented by the government in Lok Sabha show.
  • Child labour cases: trend shows decline, govt says will eradicate it

Constitution on Child Labour:

  • The Indian Constitution ensures the right of all children (6-14 years) to free and compulsory education and prohibits their employment in hazardous occupations; and promotes policies protecting children from exploitation

Laws Prohibiting Child Labour:

  • The Child Labour Act was amended in 2016 and the amendment provides for complete prohibition of work or employment of children below age 14 in any occupation and process and prohibition of adolescents in the age group 14-18 in hazardous occupations and processes.
  • The Amendment Act also provides for strict punishment of employers for violation of the Act and has made the offence cognisable.

National Child Labour Project (NCLP)

  • Under the scheme, children aged 9-14 are rescued/withdrawn from work and enrolled in NCLP Special Training Centres before being mainstreamed into the formal education system. Children aged 5-8 are directly linked to the formal education system through close coordination with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

What type of Works:

  • Engaged in manual work, in domestic work in family homes, in rural labour in the agricultural sector including cotton growing, at glass, match box and brass and lock-making factories, in embroidery, rag-picking, beedi rolling, in the carpet-making industry, in mining and stone quarrying, brick kilns and tea gardens amongst others.
  • Gender Specific Work girls performing more domestic and home-based work, boys are more often employed in wage labour.

Factors which lead to Child Labour:

  • It is a multi-dimensional problem that involves various reasons contributing to it in a variety of ways. continued poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of poor parents, population explosion-large family size, low family income, the tradition of making children learn the family skill, lack of political will and weak/tardy enforcement of laws, un-employment/under-employment, migration, absence of provision for universal compulsory primary education.

Employers Preference for Child Labour

  • The most important objective of the employer is to earn more profit on limited expenditure

National Legislations regarding Child Labour:

  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
  • National Policy on Child Labour (1987) which focuses upon rehabilitation of such children
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015
  • India has recently ratified two of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Conventions on Child labour i.e. o Minimum Age Convention 1993 o Worst forms of Child Labour Convention 1999.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
  • It amends the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
  • The major amendments include Extends this ban on employment of children under 14 across all sectors, o Prohibits the employment of adolescents aged 14-18 years in hazardous occupations and Introduces more stringent jail term and fines for offenders: a jail term of six months to two years and a fine upto Rs 50,000.
  • The Bill adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The Bill prohibits employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
  • It brings down the list of hazardous occupations from the earlier 83 to just three: mining, inflammable substances, and hazardous processes under the Factories Act, and the centre will decide which processes are hazardous.
  • The Act has a provision of creating Rehabilitation Fund has also been made for the rehabilitation of children.

ILO Convention upon Child Labour:

  • Recently India ratified the two fundamental ILO Conventions concerning the elimination of child labour,
  • India ratify ILO Convention No.138, which requires States party to set a minimum age under which no one shall be admitted to employment or work in any occupation, except for light work and artistic performances.
  • Convention No. 182. The latter calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour and trafficking; the use of children in armed conflict; the use of a child for prostitution, pornography and in illicit activities (such as drug trafficking); and hazardous work.

Conclusion:

  • The phenomenon of child labour is multi-dimensional complex problem and deep rooted in the socio-economic fabric of the society.
  • There are many factors responsible to this complex problem, so a comprehensive integrated approach is required to tackle and combat child labour.
  • This can be done only by bringing attitudinal change, and social awareness and rigorous campaign against the problem of child labour.
    Thus, it requires honest effort and strong commitment and support from all concerned.

NATIONAL POLICY ON SAFETY, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT AT WORKPLACE

Aim-

  • To establish a preventive safety and health culture in the country through elimination of the incidence of work related injuries, diseases, fatalities, disasters and to enhance the well-being of employees in all the sectors of economic activity in the country.

Steps taken Legislation:

  • Mines Act, 1952 has been enacted by Central Government to regulate the objectives of safety and health of workers in mines.
  • In respect of factories, a comprehensive legislation in the form of the Factories Act, 1948, for taking care of the occupational safety and health aspects of the workers employed in factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 has been enacted.

Recent tragedy:

  • Meghalaya mining accident.

Way Forward:

  • Reforms in labour laws are an ongoing process to update the legislative system to address the need of the hour so as to make them more effective, flexible and in sync with emerging economic and industrial scenario.
  • The Ministry has taken steps for drafting four labour codes on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security & Welfare, and Occupation Safety, Health and Working conditions respectively, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws.

THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR RESERVATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

  • Context: Jammu and Kashmir (Reservation) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by both the houses of the Parliament.

About the Bill:

  • The Bill amends the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004.
  • The Act provides for reservation in appointment and promotions in state government posts, and admission to professional institutions for certain reserved categories.
  • Professional institutions include government medical colleges, dental colleges, and polytechnics.
  • Extension of reservation: The Act provides for 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 amount 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.

NAGALAND TO SET UP A REGISTER OF INDIGENOUS INHABITANTS

  • Context: After Assam, Nagaland government has initiated a move to implement its own version of citizenship register for indigenous communities of the state.

What is Nagaland’s Initiative?

  • According to a notification issued by the Government of Nagaland has decided to set up a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) with the aim of preventing fake indigenous inhabitants’ certificates.
  • The RIIN will be the master list of all indigenous inhabitants of the state.
  • The RIIN list will be based on “an extensive survey”.
  • It will involve official records of indigenous residents from rural and (urban) wards and would be prepared under the supervision of the district administration.
  • All indigenous inhabitants of the state would be issued a barcoded and numbered Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate.
  • The process will be conducted across Nagaland and will be done as part of the online system of Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is already in force in Nagaland.

What is Inner Line Permit?

  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document required by Indian citizens residing outside certain “protected” states while entering them.
  • The ILP is issued by the Government of India and is obligatory for all those who reside outside the protected states.
  • With the ILP, the government aims to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.
  • ILP’s origin dates back to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade.
  • It prohibited “British subjects” or Indians from entering into these protected areas. After Independence, in 1950, the word “British subjects” was replaced by Citizens of India and the focus of the ban on free movement was explained as a bid to protect tribal cultures in North-eastern India.

TRIFED SIGNED AN AGREEMENT TO PARTNER WITH THE e-COMMERCE GIANT’S GLOBAL SELLING PROGRAMME

  • TRIFED, a PSU under Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India has been working with the main objective of promoting tribal art and craft for the benefit of tribal artisans of the country, under the scheme “Institutional Support for Development & Marketing of tribal products/produce” of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India.
  • Sale through e-commerce platforms: The various e-commerce platforms offers a huge potential for promotion and sale of tribal products. However, TRIFED is also expanding its operations through other e-commerce portals.
  • Benefits-The online market has no geographic borders

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED):

  • The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) came into existence in 1987. It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India.
  • TRIFED aims to improve the livelihood of the tribal communities by creating a sustainable market and create business opportunities for them based on their cultured knowledge and traditional skills whilst ensuring fair and equitable remuneration. It involves exploring marketing possibilities for marketing of tribal products on a sustainable basis, creating brand and providing other services.

Marketing of Tribal Products:

  • TRIFED has been marketing tribal products through its Retail Outlets located across country and also through exhibitions.
  • TRIFED has established a chain of 35 own showrooms and 8 consignment showrooms in association with State level Organisations promoting tribal handicrafts.

EDUCATION QUALITY UPGRADATION AND INCLUSION PROGRAMME (EQUIP)


Why in News?

  • In accordance with the decision of the Prime Minister for finalizing a five-year vision plan for each Ministry, the Department of Higher Education of HRD Ministry has finalized and released a five-year vision plan named Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP).

Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP):

  • The Expert Groups drawn from senior academicians, administrators and industrialists, have suggested more than 50 initiatives that would transform the higher education sector completely.
  • Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India
  • Upgrade the quality of education to global standards
  • Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities
  • Introduce governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses
  • Accreditation of all institutions as an assurance of quality
  • Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in the Top-3 countries in the world in matters of knowledge creation
  • Double the employability of the students passing out of higher education
  • Harness education technology for expanding the reach and improving pedagogy
  • Promote India as a global study destination
  • Achieve a Quantum Increase in Investment in Higher Education.

ONLY 20% OF NIRBHAYA FUND HAS BEEN USED BY STATES


Context:

  • The States and Union Territories have utilised less than 20% of the budget allocated to them under the Nirbhaya Fund for safety of women by the Central government between 2015 and 2018.

About Nirbhaya Fund:

  • It is a dedicated fund set up by Ministry of Finance, in 2013, for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security for women in the country.
  • It is a non-lapsable corpus fund.
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal Ministry to appraise schemes under Nirbhaya Fund and also to review and monitor the progress of sanctioned Schemes in conjunction with the line Ministries/Departments.
  • Central Victim Compensation Fund has been created under Nirbhaya, which is a corpus fund to support States/UTs for their Victim Compensation Scheme. This helps in ensuring adequate and timely support for women survivors of crime and violence.

Recent initiatives under Nirbhaya Fund:

One stop centres:

  • It is a sub-scheme under National Mission for Empowerment of Women being run by Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • It is aimed at supporting women affected by violence in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace.
  • Establishment of OSCs was one of the key components of Nirbhaya Fund. Every OSC is integrated with newly operational Women’s Helpline (181).

Safe city project:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved a Safe City project for Lucknow at a total cost of Rs.194.44 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund Scheme.
  • This approval i4s a part of MHA’s plans to implement Safe City projects in 8 selected cities, namely, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Lucknow under Nirbhaya Fund with the purpose of strengthening safety and security of women in public places.
  • The project is implemented with collaboration of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, respective municipal and police commissioners of the cities besides civil society organizations.

Mahila Police Volunteer:

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs has envisaged engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) in the States/UTs who will act as a link between police and community and help women in distress.
  • Haryana is the first state to adopt this initiative.
  • For implementing the initiative of Mahila Police Volunteer, fund will be released out of Nirbhaya Fund to the States.

Fortified Ration


Why in News?

  • Department of Food & Public Distribution has approved the “Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System”. Financial Assistance up to 90% in case of North-Eastern, Hilly and Island States and up to 75% in case of rest of the States has been extended.

Fortified Ration

  • Under the scheme, milled rice will be mixed with a premix containing vitamins and minerals post-harvest.
  • As per the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, iron, Vitamin B12, and Folic acid are the mandatory nutrients for the fortification of rice, the kernels of which are added into the regular rice kernels in 1 to 100 ratio.
  •   Iron and folic acid are the two main ingredients that will be added to the food grains.
  • Fortification norms will be in accordance with the specifications laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  • Further, Government of India has also advised all States/UTs especially those States/UTs that are distributing wheat flour through Public Distribution System (PDS), to distribute fortified wheat flour through PDS Fortified Edible oils is also supplied to certain states through PDS

THE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

  • It amends the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 and replaces an Ordinance that was promulgated on March 2, 2019. The Act provides for the establishment, development and management of Special Economic Zones for the promotion of exports.

About:

  • This policy intended to make SEZs an engine for economic growth supported by quality infrastructure complemented by an attractive fiscal package, both at the Centre and the State level, with the Minimum Possible Regulations.
  • It is expected that this will trigger a large flow of foreign and domestic investment in SEZs, in infrastructure and productive capacity, leading to generation of additional economic activity and creation of employment opportunities.

The Main Objectives of the SEZ Act are:

  • Generation of additional economic activity
  • Promotion of exports of goods and services
  • Promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources
  • Creation of employment opportunities
  • Development of infrastructure facilities

The SEZ Rules provide for:

  • Simplified procedures for development, operation, and maintenance of the Special Economic Zones and for setting up units and conducting business in SEZs;
  • Single window clearance for setting up of an SEZ;
  • Single window clearance for setting up a unit in a Special Economic Zone;
  • Single Window clearance on matters relating to Central as well as State Governments;
  • Simplified compliance procedures and documentation with an emphasis on self-certification.

FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY ANALYSIS REPORT

  •       Prepared by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation & The UN World Food Programme.
  •       31.4% of Indian children will be stunted by 2022
  •       Food grain yields have risen 33% over the last two decades, but are still only half of 2030 target yields
  •       The Indian farmer is producing more food grains than ever before, making the country Self­ Sufficient. The Consumer’s access to rice, wheat and other cereals has not increased at the same rate, due to population growth, inequality, food wastage and losses, and exports
  •       Average Per Capita Consumption of energy among the poorest 30% of the population is 1811 kilo calories, much lower than the norm of 2155 kilo calories per day.
  •       There are high rates of stunting among children in the poorest wealth quintile (51.4%), Scheduled Tribes (43.6%) and Scheduled Castes (42.5%), and children born to mothers with no education (51%).

HEALTHY STATES, PROGRESSIVE INDIA’-NITI Aayog

  •       Is a Report on Health published by NITI Aayog
  •       Report on Rank of States and UTs’ has ranked states in three categories — larger States, smaller States and UTs “to ensure comparison among similar entities”.
  •       The report ranks states and Union territories innovatively on their year-on-year incremental change in health outcomes, as well as, their overall performance.
  •       It ranks states and union territories on their year on year incremental change in health outcomes, as well as, their overall performance with respect to each other.
  •       Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Maharashtra ranked on top in terms of overall performance. Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand ranked top three States in terms of annual incremental performance.

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2019

Context:

  • The Committee for Draft National Education Policy (Chair: Dr. K. Kasturirangan) Report discussed in Parliament.
  • The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of:
  • Access
  • Equity
  • Quality
  • Affordability, and
  • Accountability faced by the current education

School Education:

Early Childhood Care and Education:

  • Curriculum that doesn’t meet the developmental needs of children,
  • Lack of qualified and trained teachers, and
  • Substandard pedagogy
  • Draft Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education. This will consist of:
  • Guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and
  • Educational framework for three to eight-year-old
  • The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act):

    • Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years.  The draft Policy recommends extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education.
    • This would extend the coverage of the Act to all children between the ages of three to 18 years.

    School Exam Reforms:

    • The Committee noted that the current board examinations:
      • Force students to concentrate only on a few subjects
      • Do not test learning in a formative manner, and
      • Cause stress among
    • To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
    • it recommends restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.

    Teacher Management:

    • The Committee noted that there has been a steep rise in teacher shortage, lack of professionally qualified teachers, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes.
    • The draft Policy recommends that teachers should be deployed with a particular school complex for at least five to seven years.
    • Teachers will not be allowed to participate in any non-teaching activities (such as cooking mid-day meals or participating in vaccination campaigns) during school hours that could affect their teaching capacities.
    • The Ministry of Human Resources and Development must be renamed as the Ministry of Education in order to bring focus back on education.

    Financing Education:

    • The Draft Policy reaffirmed the commitment of spending 6% of GDP as Public Investment in Education.

    NATIONAL ACCREDITATION BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION BODIES (NABCB)

    Why in News?

    • The National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB), India’s national accreditation body, secured international equivalence for its accreditation programme for personnel certification bodies in the annual meetings of the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation in Singapore today.

    Highlights:

    • NABCB has currently accredited one certification body for Personnel Certification and has 4 applicants.
    • This programme will help professionals to get certified based on their competence in any required field.
    • NABCB is already supporting Ministry of AYUSH and has accredited a certification body for certification for Yoga professionals. This would promote Yoga certification scheme internationally.

    Significance:

    • With the above recognition, NABCB hopes to facilitate export of Indian services and skills into the world market by attesting that persons are certified following international standards by the certifying bodies.
    • Personnel Certification would support many professionals in India, especially those who do not have formal education or certificate programme.
    • Any  person  carrying  ISO/IEC  17024  certificate  with  NABCB  logo  will  be  recognized internationally.
    • It can also be used by regulators for establishing confidence in certified personnel for different activities.
    • This signifies that the accreditation of personnel certification bodies by NABCB is now accepted as equivalent at international level

    NABCB:

    • NABCB, a constituent Board of the Quality Council of India provides accreditation to Certification and Inspection Bodies based on assessment of their competence as per the Board’s criteria and in accordance with International Standards and Guidelines.
    • NABCB is internationally recognized and represents the interests of the Indian industry at international forums through membership and active participation with the objective of becoming a signatory to international Multilateral / Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MLA / MRA).

    ISRO OPENS ITS LABORATORIES FOR INDIAN SCHOOL

    Context:

    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an agency which has the legacy of India’s ancient knowledge and modern technology. She opened its laboratories for Indian school students to undergo two-week training from this year. First Batch 108 students drawn from all states.Union Territories completed their exposure in its laboratories in Bengaluru, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram. The training module devised as part of its new Young Scientists Programme.

    Background:

    • Yuva Vigyanik Karyakram, YUVIKA.
    • ISRO’s YUVIKA is modeled around the Indian government’s vision ‘Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan’.The initiative is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to children to kindle their interest in the emerging areas of space activities. The two-week-long program would include invited talks, experience sharing by eminent scientists, facility and lab visits, exclusive sessions for discussions with experts, practical and feedback sessions.

    NEW POLICY TO PROTECT INDIAN LANGUAGES

    Context:

    • Rashtriya Siksha Ayog has been proposed to be set up under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister.
    • The member of draft New Education Policy Prof.M K Sridhar said that the new policy protects the Indian languages which are on the verge of extinction.
    • The new policy will put education on the pedestal of evaluation and performance and lay emphasis on teachers’ education.

    Background:

    • The United Nations declared the International Mother Language Day (February 21) the founders of the Indian Constitution gave top priority to teaching in mother tongues’, enabling the child to develop its full potential.
    • This concept is in total agreement with the 2017 theme of United Nations World Mother Language Day “to develop the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged in education, administrative systems, cultural expression and cyber space”.
    • In 1956 reorganisation of states in India was carried out with linguistic boundaries that had its own script. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then home minister played key role in formation and amalgamation of states based on linguistic attributes.

    BIMAL JALAN COMMITTEE ON THE QUANTUM OF RESERVES

    Constituted  on  26  December  2018,  to  decide  upon  the  appropriate  level  of  reserves  the regulator should hold. This committee has been appointed in the backdrop of a deadlock between the RBI and the Government. The government feels that RBI’s reserves exceeded its limits and that these could be used for productive purposes such as recapitalizing public sector banks.

    What are RBI Reserves?

    RBI holds reserves in currency and gold inorder to:

    • Absorb potential losses that it may incur while holding foreign
    • Shield the economy from monetary and financial
    • Carry monetary burden during unstable
    • Perform price and exchange
    • Perform its functions independently of the government
    • RBI holds 25.6 % of its assets as reserves while the global median is 16%. Under Section 47 of RBI Act, RBI transfers the excess funds to the Government after accounting for contingency reserves.

    ESSENTIAL SERVICES MAINTENANCE ACT (ESMA)

    Context:

    • Doctors Strike in West Bengal regarding assault on doctors by public. Esma is Central law.
    • ESMA enables the Government to ban strikes and demand conciliation or arbitration in certain “essential” industries.
    • Act also allows states to choose the essential services on which to enforce Esma.
    • Its implementation is entirely on discretion of State Government.

    Provisions of Act:

    • Esma gives police the right to arrest, without a warrant, anybody violating the Act’s provisions. “Any person who commences a strike…or otherwise takes part in… any such strike shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both,” the Act reads.
    • “Any person who instigates…a strike which is illegal under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

    Mains Perspective:

    • Provisions that need to be brought to assure that there is no disruption in vital services like Health. Reasons for recent attacks on doctors by public across the country and what are solution to avoid the same?

    Hints;

    • Poor Doctor patient ratio,
    • Infrastructural bottle necks of health sector. Accessibility of quality health care for poor.
    • Right to strike for people in essential service such as health sector?

    CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2022

    Why in News:

    • Article highlight the challenges in implementation of NITI Aayog agenda 2022 and suggests some measures.

    Background:/Important Analysis Agriculture:

    • The document suggests converting farmers into “agripreneurs” by expanding the e- National Agriculture Markets and replacing the existing Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act.
    • A model Bill proposed in 2017 has not made much headway possibly because it extinguishes middlemen and commission agents.
      The state bureaucracy’s uninspiring performance in replacing water-intensive crops, containing wasteful irrigation practices and the alarming depletion of groundwater does not bode well for effecting radical change.

    Sanitation:

    • Agenda 2022 gives primacy to gargantuan problems such as landfills, plastic waste and sustainable revenue generation from municipal waste.It seeks to subsume these neglected areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • But unless the municipal commissioners compel waste segregation and deter non- compliance with fines and penalties available under the solid waste, plastic and water pollution rules, cleanliness cannot come.
    • Municipal commissioners and district magistrates rarely act. Unless municipal offences are fined heavily on-the-spot like traffic violations, the goals cannot be realised.

    Power:

    • Agenda 2022 seeks to rationalise power tariff to promote the use of renewable energy.
    • But without privatising the DISCOMs, good intentions will not change the ethos underlying distribution. To reap the benefits of renewable energy fully, only privatising the DISCOMs can rationalise power purchase and tariff.
    • No chief minister is however willing to privatise power distribution and bureaucracy by itself cannot usher in privatisation. Delhi remains the solitary exception.

    Employment:

    • The codification of labour laws and expanding apprenticeships will boost employment but unless industry has the flexibility to make a transition from micro-to-small to medium-to- large manufacturing, apprentices will have few places to learn on the job.
    • The flexibility to reduce the workforce within the law must be ensured and the backlash met firmly. This will present the biggest challenge for bureaucracy.

    Procurement:

    • Modernising public procurement systems to international competitive bidding (ICB) standards is another important reform.
    • Unless there is willingness to outsource this to professional bodies, ICB will stay on paper. The move will meet with stiff resistance from state politicians,contractors and lobbies. No bureaucracy can pursue this proposal without solid political backing.

    Governance:

    • India’s first deputy Prime Minister, Vallabhai Patel, wanted IAS officers to be men of integrity and capable of “brashness” possibly meaning bold, audacious and self-assertive. But today brashness is unacceptable to bosses within the political executive and the bureaucracy.
    • IAS remains indispensable primarily because the officers provide an interface with the political executive and handle complex federal issues, Centre-State relations and municipal and panchayat governance functions.
    • They coordinate and interact meaningfully through a nationwide network which remains matchless. No chief minister can run his government without them.

    Suggestions:

    • First, subdivide the 41 identified goals into those which require the approval of Parliament or state legislatures. Set up empowered councils headed by a central minister with state ministers as members to reach consensus within six months on the lines of the VAT and GST councils. The central and state bureaucracies function best under this edifice.
    • Second, in areas which fall in the state domain, create one working model of each of the following in a single State, city or district to emulate.
    • Establishing a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority in a million-plus cities.
    • Establishing public health cadres, introducing user charges for garbage collection and toilet maintenance.
    • Using treated wastewater for non-potable purposes.
    • Third If Agenda 2022 is to become a reality both at the Centre and in the states, there should be sizeable induction of professionals but only by following rigorous and transparent processes for selection.

    ALL STATES, UNION TERRITORIES CAN NOW SET UP FOREIGNERS TRIBUNALS

    Why in News:

    • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.

    Background: / More in News:

    • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
    • Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.    The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said:
    • “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.”
    • The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying
    • illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
    • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail.
    • Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

    NRC and Foreigners Tribunals:

    • According to the Assam Accord, individuals who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, are illegal immigrants.
    • There are two parallel processes to establish citizenship:
    • National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is under preparation, and    Foreigners Tribunals operating under the Foreigners Act,
    • As per directions of the Supreme Court, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.
    • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
    • The final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam, will be published by July 31, 2019.
    • The tribunals will be required after the publication of the final NRC
    • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals, if a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal.
    • Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
    • The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not. MHA sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of the publication of the final NRC by July 31.
      Recently, The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring
      a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude a name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

    DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY PROPOSES FORMAL EDUCATION FROM AGE OF THREE

    Why in News:

    • Three years of preschool and four-year undergraduate honours courses are among features of a draft National Education Policy that the Narendra Modi government received on the first day of its second innings.

    Background: / What is the new education policy for?

    • The extant National Policy on Education, 1986 modified in 1992 required changes to meet the contemporary and futuristic needs of India’s large youth population.
    • A New Education Policy is designed to meet the changing dynamics of the requirements in terms of quality education, innovation and research.
    • The policy aims at making India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.
    • It also focusses on eliminating the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and industry.
    • The Draft Policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

    What are the Key Changes Proposed?

    • Ministry – The committee has proposed to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education (MoE).
    • Curriculum – In school education, a major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure was proposed.
    • The policy calls for an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education.
    • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children was proposed.
    • It consists of –
    • Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2
    • Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5
    • Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8
    • Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12
    • The policy also seeks to reduce content load in school education curriculum.
    • There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra- curricular areas.
    • All subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc will be part of the curricular.
    • Thus, schools will be re-organized into school complexes.
    • The policy promotes active pedagogy to focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21st century skills.
    • RTE Act – The committee recommends Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18 (currently, 6-14).
    • Teacher education – The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education.
    • It calls for shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions.
    • It proposes moving all teacher preparation/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.
      The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.
    • Higher education – A restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions was proposed –
    • Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching
    • Type 2: Focused on high quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research
    • Type 3: High quality teaching focused on undergraduate education
    • This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.
    • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs such as BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc of 3- or 4-years duration and having multiple exit and entry options.
    • Institution – A new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog is proposed.
    • This is to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions.
    • The body will also coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
    • The National Research Foundation, an apex body, is proposed for creating a strong research culture.
    • It will help build research capacity across higher education.
    • The four functions of Standard Setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation will be separated and conducted by independent bodies.
    • National Higher Education Regulatory Authority will be the only regulator for all higher education including professional education.
    • The policy proposes to create an accreditation eco-system led by a revamped NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).
    • Professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education was proposed.
    • UGC is to be transformed to Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC).
    • The private and public institutions will be treated on par, and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity.
    • Besides the above, the committee also recommended several new policy initiatives for – promoting internationalization of higher education
      strengthening quality open and distance learning technology integration at all levels of education facilitating adult and lifelong learning
      enhancing participation of under-represented groups
    • eliminating gender, social category and regional gaps in education outcomes
    • Language – Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new National Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit were proposed.
    • Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) has been recommended.
    • The policy called for the proper implementation of the three-language formula (dating back to 1968) in schools across the country.
    • Accordingly, students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English. In non-Hindi-speaking states, students will have to learn Hindi along with the regional language and English.
    • The controversial three language provision was, however, dropped after protests against it in many states. The draft was revised by the committee making the changes in this regard.

    TAMIL NADU HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM PROGRAM

    Why in News:

    • The Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) and the World Bank have signed a $287 Million Loan Agreement for the Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program.

    More in News:

    • Tamil Nadu ranks third among all Indian States in the NITI Aayog Health Index which is reflected in vastly improved health outcomes. The State’s maternal mortality rate has declined from 90 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 62 deaths in 2015-16.
    • Infant mortality has declined from 30 deaths per 1000 live births to 20 in the same period.
    • A key contribution to these achievements has been the establishment of emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care Centres and the 108-ambulance service with previous support from the World Bank.
    • These have ensured that no mother has to travel more than 30 minutes to access emergency obstetric and neonatal care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Background:

    • Despite these impressive gains, certain challenges in health care remain, including quality of care and variations in reproductive and child health among districts. Tamil Nadu is also dealing with a growing burden of NCDs as they account for nearly 69 percent of deaths in the State.
    • The Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program will support the State Government to:
    • Develop clinical protocols and guidelines
    • Achieve national accreditation for primary, secondary, and tertiary-level health facilities in the public sector
    • Strengthen physicians, nurses and paramedics through continuous medical education
    • Strengthen the feedback loop between citizens and the state by making quality and other data accessible to the public
    • The Program supports interventions to strengthen institutional and state capacity to achieve results.
    • Good practices and innovations from Tamil Nadu are being scaled-up while others from around the world are being introduced through the program to improve management of the State’s Public Health Sector, increase transparency, and strengthen accountability.
    • The Program will promote population-based screening, treatment and follow-up for NCDs, and improve monitoring and evaluation.
    • Patients will be equipped with knowledge and skills to self-manage their conditions.
    • Lab services and health provider capacity will also be strengthened to address mental health.
    • To tackle road injuries, the program will improve in-hospital care, strengthen protocols, strengthen the 24×7 trauma care services and establish a trauma registry.
    • Another key aim of this Program is to reduce the equity gaps in reproductive and child health.
    • Special focus will be given to nine priority districts, which constitute the bottom quintile of the RCH indicators in the State and have a relatively large proportion of tribal populations.

    Way Ahead:

    • This Program focuses on results instead of inputs through a Program-for-Results (PforR)lending instrument. This will provide a much greater focus on outputs and outcomes through better alignment of expenditures and incentives with results. The use of the PforR instrument is a first for the health sector and will offer lessons for other States.

    SOUTH ASIA IS TOP PRIORITY: JAISHANKAR

    Why in News:

    • Building connectivity in the South Asian region and coordinating economic issues will be top priorities of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said S. Jaishankar.

    Background: / More in News

    • Jaishankar is on a two-day tour to Thimphu on June 7-8 to meet with the King of Bhutan, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, and Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji
    • Speaking at the event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ananta Centre and Smadja and Smadja, S Jaishankar highlighted three trends being witnessed in the world which include
    • Globalisation under stress especially in terms of market access and mobility of labour, Growth of nationalism and
    • Global rebalancing.

    On South Asia:

    BIMSTEC

    • Mr Jaishankar indicated that the government had chosen to invite leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) rather than leaders of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), because there was a higher likelihood of making progress with BIMSTEC, as it doesn’t include Pakistan.

    Regional Connectivity:

    • He highlighted the importance of regional connectivity. South Asia is among the least inter-connected regions in the world, but efforts are being made to make the region more integrated.
    • Mr Jaishankar  emphasised the need for more regional  exchanges,  saying India needed to “incentivise cooperation in the neighbourhood” by being “generous” to smaller neighbours.

    On Economy:

    • Jaishankar also spoke on the need for more coordination between the MEA and economic ministries.
    • The comments reflect the economic challenges the government faces immediately, given the United States decision to withdraw India’s ‘GSP’ preferential trade status, and the emerging costs of replacing Iranian oil after sanctions.
    • He also said that a large part of India’s economy has been externalised and there is a need for India’s foreign policy and the diplomatic machinery to help Indian companies gain better access to overseas markets.

    HOME MINISTRY WARNS NGOS

    Why in News:

    • The Home Ministry has warned of taking penal action against NGOs which change office bearers without taking its approval.

    Background: / More in News

    • In a notification, the home ministry said incidents have come to light that some NGOs, having registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), have changed their office bearers without its approval and without updating this data on a real-time  basis through the online application meant for a change of these details.
    • All  NGOs  and  associations  registered  under  the  Foreign  Contribution  Regulation  Act (FCRA), 2010, which makes them eligible to receive foreign funds and donations, have to submit  an  online  application  for  addition,  deletion  and  change  of  details  about  office- bearers and key functionaries within one month.
    • The ministry told the NGOs to submit applications for addition/ deletion/change of details about office bearers/ key functionaries by July 7, failing which penal action will be initiated against them. Since 2014, the central government has started scrutiny of the activities of NGOs  leading  to  the  cancellation  of  their  FCRA  registration,  which  allows  them  to  get foreign funding.
    • There was a total of 23,176 FCRA registered NGOs in 2016-17, which has now come down to around 12,000.

    Regulation of NGO under FCRA:

    • The Home Ministry monitors foreign funds donated to NGOs and organisations through the FCRA. The FCRA was brought into force to regulate the flow of foreign funds to voluntary organisations with the objective of preventing any possible diversion of such funds to anti-national activities.
    • However, there are many NGOs which are registered under FEMA and continue to disburse foreign funds to various associations. NGOs under FEMA is regulated by the Finance Ministry, there are many occasions when the Home Ministry failed to monitor the flow of funds effectively.
    • International donors such as the Ford Foundation, the U.K.’s Department for International Development  and  Canada’s  International  Development  Research  Centre  are  registered under FEMA but not the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010.
    • Funds flowing to NGOs can be used for an anti-national activity such as economic security. Hence regulation of NGO receiving fund is necessary.
    • NGO is used by vested interest to halt the developmental project in India as reported by the Intelligence Bureau. This was witnessed in kudankulam protest.
    • Earlier, the Home Ministry wants the Finance Ministry to surrender its to monitor non- governmental organisations (NGOs) under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for effective and better monitoring.

    DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY MOOTS ALL-INDIA ENTRANCE TESTS FOR UG COURSES

    Why in News:

    • Admission to undergraduate  courses  in  all  government-funded  universities  and  colleges will soon be through all-India entrance tests, if the draft National Education Policy is approved.

    Background: / More in News

    • Private institutes will also be strongly encouraged to make use of the common admission tests, which will be available from 2020. Both aptitude and subject knowledge-based tests will be offered.
    • According to draft policy,
    • This  seems  to  indicate  that the  NTA  assessment  will  replace  Class  12  marks  as  the criteria for admission to these government funded institutions.
    • The NTA tests will aim to assess essential concepts, knowledge, and higher order skills from the national common curriculum as per the NCF in each subject, for the purpose of aiding colleges and universities in their admissions decisions.
    • This  will  help  to  eliminate  the  intensity,  stressfulness,  and  wasted  time  of  the  Grade  12 examination season faced by students every year as well as by so many higher educational institutions and employers
    • The system seems to have some similarities to the SAT, a standardised aptitude test widely used for admissions to colleges and universities in the United States. The SAT, however, is used as a criterion alongside school grades.
    • In India, the common entrance test has largely been the domain of aspirants to professional or post-graduate courses, but that is already changing.
    • The new National Testing Agency (NTA) has already conducted premier professional entrance tests — JEE, NEET, and CMAT — this year.
    • NTA  will  also  conduct  admission  tests  for  applicants  to  more  than  170  Delhi  University (DU) courses, including 12 undergraduate programmes.

    National Testing Agency:

    • National Testing Agency (NTA) is an Indian government agency that has been approved by the  Union  Council  of  Ministers  and  established  in  November  2017  to  conduct  entrance examinations for higher educational institutions
    • It also helps individual colleges and universities in the field of testing and to provide training and advisory services to the institutions in India. It provides quality testing services to the academic institutions in India.
    • It undertakes the reforms and training of school boards as well as other bodies where the testing standards should be comparable with the entrance examinations.

    NITI AAYOG RECONSTITUTED

    Why in News:

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday approved the reconstitution of the NITI Aayog.

    Background: / NITI AAYOG:

    • Planning Commission was replaced by a new institution – NITI AAYYOG on January 1,
      2015 with emphasis on ‘Bottom –Up’ approach to envisage the vision
    • of Maximum Governance, Minimum Government, echoing the spirit of ‘Cooperative Federalism’.

    Administrative Skeltal:

    • Chairperson: Prime Minister
    • Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by Prime-Minister
    • Governing Council: Chief Ministers of all states and Lt. Governors of Union Territories.
    • Regional Council: To address specific regional issues, Comprising Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors Chaired by Prime Minister or his nominee.
    • Adhoc Membership: 2 members in ex-officio capacity from leading Research institutions on rotational basis.
    • Ex-Officio membership: Maximum four from Union council of ministers to be nominated by Prime minister. Chief Executive Officer: Appointed by Prime-minister for a fixed tenure, in rank of Secretary to Government of India.
    • Special Invitees: Experts, Specialists with domain knowledge nominated by Prime- minister.

    NITI Aayog Hubs:

    • Team India Hub acts as interface between States and Centre.
    • Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds the think-tank acumen of NITI Aayog.
    • The Aayog planned to come out with three documents — 3-year action agenda, 7-year medium-term strategy paper and 15-year vision document.

    Importance:

    • The 65-year-old Planning Commission had become a redundant organization. It was relevant in a command economy structure, but not any longer.
    • India is a diversified country and its states are in various phases of economic development along with their own strengths and weaknesses.
    • In this context, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning is obsolete. It cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy.

    Objectives:

    • To foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation. To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.
    • To ensure, on areas that are specifically referred to it, that the interests of national security are incorporated in economic strategy and policy.
      To pay special attention to the sections of our society that may be at risk of not benefitting adequately from economic progress. To provide advice and encourage partnerships between key stakeholders and national and international like-minded Think Tanks, as well as educational and policy research institutions.
    • To create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.
    • To offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda.
    • To maintain a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, be a repository of research on good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development as well as help their dissemination to stake-holders.

    Challenges:

    • To prove its mettle in policy formulation, the NITI Aayog needs to prioritize from the long list of 13 objectives with clear understanding of the difference in policy, planning and strategy.
    • To build the trust, faith and confidence more than the planning commission, NITI Aayog needs freedom of various kinds with budgetary provisions not in terms of plan and non- plan expenditures but revenue and capital expenditure as the higher rate of increase in capital expenditure can remove infrastructural deficits at all levels of operation in the economy.

    CABINET COMMITTEES

    Why in News:

    • To address the twin problems of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment, the government has constituted two Cabinet committees to be chaired by Prime Minister.

    Background: / Transaction of Business:

    • The executive works under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961.
    • These Rules emerge out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which states:
    • “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the
      Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
    • The Rules mandate the minister-in-charge of a department (ministry) to dispose of “all
      business allotted to a department under” him or her.
    • However, “when the subject of a case concerns more than one department”, no decision can be taken “until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet”.
    • The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.
    • Many a time, when an activity/agenda of the Government acquires prominence or requires special thrust, a Cabinet Committee may be set up for focused attention.
    • Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters.
    • A policy paralysis had hit the UPA-II government because it had passed on numerous issues to Groups of Ministers.

    Key Committees:

    • Appointments: This Committee decides on all important empanelment and shift of officers serving on Central deputation. This panel makes appointments to posts of
    • The three service chiefs,
    • Director General of Military Operations, Chiefs of all Air and Army Commands,
    • Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister,
    • Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Director General of Ordnance Factories,
    • Director General of Defence Estates, Controller General of Defence Accounts,
    • Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Solicitor-General, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Chairman and Members of the Railway Board,
    • Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings and
    • Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government.

    Accommodation:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Accommodation determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation. It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organisations as also the rent to be charged from them. It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament. It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.

    Economic Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects “for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy”, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities.
    • It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deal with industrial licensing policies and review rural development and the Public Distribution System.

    Parliamentary Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament.
    • It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

    Political Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs addresses problems related to Centre-state relations. It also examines economic and political issues that requi