Category: Governance

Nari Shakti at the Parade

Why in News? 

  • Watching women lead many of the contingents in the 74th Republic Day parade in New Delhi was encouraging. Their presence was heartening and something for future generations of girls to emulate. While much was made about the induction of women fighter pilots, we need to see how many more have been inducted since then.

Nari Shakti at the parade:

  • Nari shakti dominated the parade: Nari Shakti dominated the 74th Republic Day parade as women officers led the marching contingents of the armed forces, CRPF, Akash missile system and Army’s Daredevil team
  • First ever women armed police battalion: In a first, the marching contingent of the CRPF, which has the distinction of raising the first-ever women-armed police battalion in the world, had all women personnel this time.
  • BSF women on the borders: Also, for the first time, BSF women soldiers in colorful uniforms who have been deployed along the desert border with Pakistan joined the parade as part of the camel contingent.

Light on whether induction of women is mere tokenism?

  • Opening up of opportunities for women: Among the best developments of recent times is the opening of opportunities for girls and young women in Sainik schools and the National Defence Academy.
  • As more women on the field, less logistical issues: Once they don the uniform and there are many more women on the field, then the logistical issues will become less relevant.
  • Promotion for the rank of colonel: The recent news about women being considered in the promotion board for the rank of colonel and subsequently, to command units is tremendously empowering.
  • Military remains an excellent example: The military is an excellent place for women to work in and it is the military’s responsibility to not break that faith.

Women in commands: Significance

  • Leadership opportunity: Despite working at the grassroots level as junior officers, women officers hitherto did not get an opportunity to prove their leadership skills as they were not eligible to command a unit.
  • Gender parity: Most importantly, it grants women officer’s parity with their male counterparts.
  • Higher ranks: Earlier promotions were staff appointments which are more administrative in nature and not purely command appointments in which an officer commands troops on ground.
  • Benefits after permanent commission: With a longer career in the Army, women officers will be considered for promotions, including to the rank of Colonel and beyond.

How are women still discriminated?

  • Women are still not eligible in core combat arms such as Infantry, Mechanised Infantry and Armoured Corps. 
  • Indian Army is not open to women fighting wars at the borders as foot soldiers.
  • Much of this resistance stems from past instances of male soldiers being taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy.
  • However, the Army has recently decided to open the Corps of Artillery, a combat support arm, to women.

What more needs to be done?

  • Promoting gender equality at the Parade: It is a great idea to have women’s contingents, with the theme of Nari Shakti, at the parade. However, we must refrain from describing this as an opportunity that has been given to them.
  • Challenges in achieving gender equality in frontline forces: The slow and steady induction of women in ranks below the officer level in a paramilitary force like the Assam Rifles is a far cry from enabling women to be part of the frontline force, as part of the Kumaon Regiment, for example. The regiment’s war cry may be Kalika mata ki jai, but it stops there.

Way ahead:

  • The military, just like any other institution, is but a reflection of society and, like the other institutions, it is also subject to reform and change for the advancement of society as a whole.
  • We must push for this alongside cheering for Captain Shikha Sharma, the first woman in the Daredevil squad, who so effortlessly displayed her skills at the parade.

Conclusion:

  • Republic Day parade did well to celebrate Nari Shakti. But the day after R-Day, much more needs to be done on inclusion of women in the force.

Etikoppaka Toy Craft

Why in News?

  • An agriculturist-turned-craftsman, Mr. C.V. Raju was honored with the Padma Shri award for his contribution to the Etikoppaka toy craft.

 Etikoppaka toy craft:

  • Etikoppaka toys or Etikoppaka Bommalu are wooden toys made in the Etikoppaka region of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Etikoppaka toy-making art has a history of over 400-years.
  • Etikoppaka toys are made out of wood and are coloured with natural dyes obtained from seeds, lacquer, bark, roots and leaves.
  • The wood derived from “Ankudi Karra” tree (Wrightia Tinctoria) is used in this toy making craft.
  • According to historians, the toymakers in the past received patronage from the affluent landlords in the region to make such wooden toys for their children.
  • The Etikoppaka toys are famous for their attractive colours, soft finish and their link with the Indian heritage.
  • The Etikoppaka wooden toys have been accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2017.

How are they made?

  • The toys are made out of wood and are coloured with natural dyes derived from seeds, lacquer, bark, roots and leaves.
  • The wood used to make the toys is soft in nature and the art of toy making is also known as Turned wood Lacquer craft.
  • While making the Etikoppaka toys, lac, a colourless resinous secretion of numerous insects, is used.
  • The already prepared vegetable dyes are further mixed to the lac, during the process of oxidation.
  • After this process, the end product obtained is rich and colored lacquer.
  • The lac dye is used for decorating the Etikoppaka toys, which are exported all over the world.

Developing schools without barriers

Why in News? 

  • Children with disability/disabilities (CWD) require more care, particularly in terms of accessible spaces and guiding infrastructure. It was mentioned in a report by UNESCO (2019) that CWD comprises 1.7% of the total child population in India (Census 2011). 
  • CWD faces several issues like physical, institutional, socioeconomic, and communication barriers. Moreover, nearly 70% of five-year-olds with disabilities have never attended any educational institution. They also drop out of school while growing older.

Challenges for Children With Disabilities:

  • Some of the barriers that impede their participation in accessing opportunities are inaccessible facilities like school buses, drinking water facilities, canteens, and toilets; and inappropriate infrastructure like seating, flooring, etc. The child’s emotional development is further hampered by the attitudes and perceptions among  teachers, staff, parents, and communities.
  • Other challenges include a lack of teaching and learning practices that incorporates inclusive technologies and digital equipment like assistive devices to aid and assist children.
  • It was highlighted at a training programme, jointly held by UN-Habitat India and IIT Kharagpur, that there is a deficit of accessible infrastructure like ramps or tactile paths within schools. 

Existing Provisions and Government Initiatives:

  • The existing provisions for education are: Article 21A and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
  • The government also launched a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan adopting a “zero rejection policy” for children with special needs.
  • Furthermore, India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In this direction, Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) was introduced in 2015.  Indian government supported the principle of Leave No One Behind (LNOB), which is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 
  • The pilot training initiative was undertaken for enhancing accessibility and inclusion in two schools in Delhi through IIT Kharagpur and the Department of Social Welfare, Delhi government. Various interactive training sessions and simulation exercises have also been organized to encourage empathy-building.

Way Ahead:

  • It is suggested that adequate funding should be provided for accessible infrastructure.
  • Moreover,  parents, caregivers, teachers, school management authorities, and the local government departments should be involved and sensitized.
  • It should be noted that by establishing inclusive and accessible schools zero-rejection policy can be actualized. 
  • A multi-pronged participatory approach should be adopted to provide an enabling environment for the empowerment of CWD. This can include measures like:
  • Awareness and sensitization programmes.
  • Training the trainers by upskilling school faculty and special educators.
  • Provide access to modern teaching toolkits and materials.
  • Technical training for local government departments.
  • A co-learning platform for knowledge-sharing.
  • Moreover, five principles of equitability, usability and durability, affordability, cultural adaptability, and aesthetic appeal should be embedded beginning in the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages.

An India chapter for foreign universities

Why in News?

  • Various proponents of the internationalization of higher education for almost two decades have emphasized the need to ensure a conducive environment and an enabling framework for establishing foreign universities in India.
  • However, not much has been achieved in this direction due to regulatory concerns both in India and foreign higher educational institutions.

Highlights:

  • Establishing foreign universities in India would limit the outflow of $28-30 billion in foreign exchange.
  • The foreign outflow for education abroad in 2021-22 was not above $5.165 billion.
  • Students prefer foreign studies not only for degrees but also for experience, post-study work visas, income opportunities, and career prospects.

Associated Concerns:

  • Some of the major concerns are about encouraging excellence, preventing malpractices, safeguarding the interests of students, and protecting national interests.
  • There are also concerns about the cultural threat.
  • Many policy planners and regulators are wary of establishing a framework that attracts the best and deters the fly-by-night kinds of universities.
  • There are also issues about the potentially harmful effect of establishing offshore campuses with their accreditation, ranking, and reputation.
  • Notably, countries with such offshore campuses had to hard-sell the idea by leasing land at negligible cost, bearing the majority of the infrastructure cost and guaranteeing academic, administrative, and financial autonomy. It is difficult for India to afford such incentives.
  • Studying in foreign universities in India might not allow the students to navigate career opportunities and better income prospects in other countries.

Provisions in the National Education Policy:

  • The National Education Policy 2020 has suggested a “legislative framework” but it is being executed through a regulatory route by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The draft regulation is willing to dilute the standards by extending the scope to the top 500 top universities of the world. Moreover, it would be sufficient to be a “reputed educational institution” in their home country. The UGC would unbiasedly and thoroughly process the applications and identify the best institutions.
  • Contradictions in Regulation:
  • The draft regulation suggested that the quality of education should be on par with the quality of courses at their campus in the country of their origin. It further insists that it should not “offer any study programme that jeopardizes standards of higher education in India and the national interest ”.
  • On one hand it guarantees academic, administrative, and financial autonomy to foreign institutions while asserting that they should abide by the UGC and Indian government.
  • It further highlights that foreign institutions should not do anything “contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality”. It is argued that this might deter the best universities as they usually value academic autonomy.

Conclusion:

  • Despite several issues, India should have an enabling framework for the entry and operation of foreign higher educational institutions.

Employment days under MGNREGS

Why in News?

  • Employment days under MGNREGS at a five-year low

Highlights:

  • The average days of employment provided per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is at a five-year low in financial year 2022-23
  • The average days of employment provided per household is 42 days in this FY, while it was 50 days in 2021-22, 52 days in 2020-21, 48 days in 2019-20 and 51 days in 2018-19.
  • The demand for work under the programme has decreased this fiscal year compared to the two pandemic years, when a sizable population relied on MGNREGS to make up the income gap brought on by job loss.
  • However, a number of scholars and activists claim that the programme has been beset by structural issues that deter people from participating.

Various issues associated with the scheme:

  • Poor allocation of funds has led to suppression of work demand and delays in wage payments. 
  • These supply constraints have led to workers getting routinely discouraged from doing NREGA work.
  • The introduction of unnecessary technical complexities like an app for attendance at worksites has caused more hardships for workers.
  • Critics have also often complained that the cost of providing work has increased significantly since the scheme first started.
  • There have been concerns about the poorer States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar not being able to utilise the scheme optimally but economically better performing states like Kerala have been utilising the scheme efficiently for asset creation.
  • There are at least nine States and union territories which have utilised less than 70% of projected person days.
  • With low utilisation, financial outlay for the underperforming States is expected to further shrink in the upcoming financial year.
  • Person days under MGNREGS is defined as the total number of work days by a person registered under the scheme in a financial year. 
  • Other challenges such as fake job cards and fake beneficiaries, corruption, late uploading of muster rolls and a huge pendency in the payment of wages are interfering with MGNREGS implementation.

Drone carrying heroin shot near India-Pak border

Why in News?

  • In a joint operation by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Punjab Police, a drone carrying drugs was shot down near the India-Pakistan international border in Amritsar recently.

What is a Drone?

  • Drone is a layman terminology for Unmanned Aircraft (UA). There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft consists of remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components, as specified in the type design.
  • Besides combat use, drones are used for a range of purposes like package delivery, in agriculture (spraying pesticides etc), monitoring environmental changes, aerial photography, and during search and relief operations, among others.

Key changes brought in the Drone Rules, 2021:

  • Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system.
  • No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  • No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drone and for R&D organisations.
  • No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
  • Import of drones and drone components to be regulated by DGFT.
  • No security clearance required before any registration or licence issuance.
  • No requirement of certificate of airworthiness, unique identification number, prior permission and remote pilot licence for R&D entities.
  • Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg.  This will cover drone taxis also. Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness delegated to Quality Council of India and certification entities authorised by it.
  • Manufacturer may generate their drone’s unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.
  • Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to INR 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
  • Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
  • Drone promotion council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

Where all can drones be effectively utilised?

  • Ministry of Home Affairs: For surveillance, situational analysis, crime control, VVIP security, disaster management, etc.
  • Ministry of Defence: Drones for combat, communication in remote areas, counter-drone solutions, etc.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: Delivery of medicines, collection of samples from remote or epidemic/pandemic-affected areas.
  • The Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Power Ministries: For real-time surveillance of assets and transmission lines, theft prevention, visual inspection/maintenance, construction planning and management, etc. Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry: Anti-poaching actions, monitoring of forests and wildlife, pollution assessment, and evidence gathering.
  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: For high-quality videography of events and difficult-to-reach-places at a fraction of the cost and approvals required. This move would also facilitate low altitude shooting without noise, and prevent dust pollution and risk of accidents.
  • Other areas: To undertake disaster management, incidence response, inspection/maintenance works and project monitoring.

Significance:

  • Drones offer a tremendous benefits to almost every sector of the economy, including but not limited to, national defence, agriculture, law enforcement, and mapping, among others.

Need for stricter rules and regulations:

  • Recently, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.
  • Over the past two years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.
  • According to government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and in 2020, there were 77 such sightings.
  • With the rapid proliferation of drone technology and exponential growth of its global market in recent years, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.
  • Drones are becoming security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the technology.

Highlights of ASER 2022

Why in News?

  • Pratham’s Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2022 — the first full-fledged one after the pandemic has now been published.

 ASER Survey:

  • This is an annual survey (published by the education non-profit Pratham) that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India.
  • The survey is usually done once in two years.

How is the survey conducted?

  • ASER tools and procedures are designed by ASER Centre, the research and assessment arm of Pratham.
  • The survey itself is coordinated by ASER Centre and facilitated by the Pratham network. It is conducted by close to 30,000 volunteers from partner organizations in each district.
  • All kinds of institutions partner with ASER: colleges, universities, NGOs, youth groups, women’s organizations, self-help groups, and others.
  • The ASER model has been adapted for use in several countries around the world: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali, and Senegal.

Assessment parameters:

  • Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey.
  • This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
  • In each rural district, 30 villages are sampled. In each village, 20 randomly selected households are surveyed.
  • Information on schooling status is collected for all children living in sampled households who are in the age group 3-16.
  • Children in the age group 5-16 are tested in basic reading and basic arithmetic. The same test is administered to all children.
  • The highest level of reading tested corresponds to what is expected in std 2; in 2012 this test was administered in 16 regional languages.
  • In recent years, this has included household size, parental education, and some information on household assets.

Highlights of ASER 2022:

  • The ASER 2022 report, which surveyed 6.99 lakh children aged 3 to 16 across 616 rural districts, however, bears some good news. School-level enrolment continues to grow strong and fewer girls are now out of school.

(1) Enrolment

  • India has recorded a 95% enrolment for the last 15 years in the 6-14 age group.
  • Despite the pandemic forced school closure, the figure rose from 97.2% in 2018 to 98.4% in 2022.
  • Only 1.6% children are now not enrolled.
  • There is a clear increase in government school (6-14) enrolment across states — it rose from 65.6% in 2018 to 72.9% in 2022.
  • This is contrast to the trend in the 2006-14 period, which marked a steady decline in government school enrolment for the 6-14 age group.
  • From 10.3% of 11-14 year old girls not enrolled in schools in 2006, the proportion came down to 4.1% in 2018 and is at 2% in 2022. Save Uttar Pradesh, where it is at 4%, the number is lower across states.

(2) Learning Loss

  • The ASER 2022 report says that children’s basic reading ability has dropped to ‘pre2012 levels, reversing the slow improvement achieved in the intervening years’.
  • The decline is seen across gender and across both government and private schools and is more acute in lower grades.
  • Percentage of children in Class III in govt or private schools who can read at Class II level dropped from 27.3% in 2018 to 20.5% in 2022.
  • Class V students who can at least read a Class II level text fell from 50.5% in 2018 to 42.8% in 2022.
  • Nationally, 69.6% of Class VIII students can read at least basic text in 2022, falling from 73% in 2018.

(3) Arithmetic abilities

  • Students in Class III who are able to at least do subtraction dropped from 28.2% in 2018 to 25.9% in 2022.
  • For Class V, students who can do division has also fallen from 27.9% in 2018 to 25.6% in 2022.
  • Class VIII has done better with an improvement recorded — proportion of children who can do division has increased from 44.1% in 2018 to 44.7% in 2022.
  • ASER says that this increase is driven by improved outcomes among girls as well as among children enrolled in government schools, whereas boys and children enrolled in private schools show a decline over 2018 levels.

(4) Tuition dependency

  • Rural India has been reporting an uptick in Class I-VIII paid tuition classes and it has moved up from 26.4% in 2018 to 30.5% in 2022.
  • In UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand, the proportion of children taking paid private tuition increased by 8 percentage points.

(5) English proficiency

  • ASER recorded English abilities last in 2016 and the trend stays similar till date.
  • Children’s ability to read simple English sentences was at 24.7% in 2016 and is found at 24.5% in 2022.
  • Class VIII has shown some improvement from 45.3% in 2016 to 46.7% in 2022.
  • Children’s basic reading ability has dropped to pre-2012 levels, reversing the slow improvement achieved in the intervening years, while the basic maths skills have declined to 2018 levels nationally.

(6) Schools improvement

  • Average teacher attendance increased from 85.4% in 2018 to 87.1% in 2022, while average student attendance persists at 72% as before.
  • Textbooks had been distributed to all grades in 90.1% of primary schools and in 84.4% of upper primary schools.
  • Fraction of schools with useable girls’ toilets increased from 66.4% in 2018 to 68.4% in 2022.
  • There were 76% schools with drinking water facilities compared with 74.85% in 2018, but there are interstate variations.
  • In 2022, 68.9% schools had a playground, up slightly from 66.5% in 2018.

Way forward:

  • In the past 10 years, we’ve seen improvement, but it has been in small bits. So it means that we really need to shake up things.
  • It is a critical thing for improving the productivity of the country. Business as usual is not going to work.
  • Again, it’s not a new message, but it’s a message that needs to be reiterated.
  • There are Anganwadi everywhere and their enrollment has gone up. Integration between the Anganwadi system and the school system is urgently needed because the work starts there.

News marked false by PIB to be taken down

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed a draft rule – Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the amended version of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

About the News:

  • The proposed rule requires social media platforms to take down content that has been “fact-checked” by the Press Information Bureau’s (PIB) fact-check unit (or any other agency authorised by the Central Government) as false.

Background: 

  • The amended version of the IT Rules 2021 was enlarged to include the removal of fake news from online intermediaries.
  • The larger issue of fake news in India: 
  • Fake news is any piece of misleading maliciously false information circulating through print media, electronic media or social media.
  • ‘Yellow Journalism’ and ‘Tabloid Journalism’ are the terms used for fake news.

Motive:

  • To increase their viewership and TRP through eye-catching headlines and cooked-up news.
  • To spread propaganda/personal agenda/image building/defaming

Impact:

  • Negative impact on law and order of the state as well as the safety and security of the citizens. (31 mob lynchings due to fake news of being child abductors)
  • Breed communal hatred and disturbs the communal harmony in a society.
  • Affects the election outcomes via fabricated articles, audio, videos, and election campaigns. (Fake news accused of tampering U.S Presidential elections)

Laws to curb fake news:

  • Section 66 D of the IT Act 2008 regulates offences related to electronic communication.
  • The Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 (especially during Covid-19) regulate the circulation of fake news or rumours that can cause panic among citizens.
  • The Indian Penal Code of 1860 regulates fake news that causes riots and information that causes defamation.

Challenges in curbing fake news:

  • India has 451 million active monthly internet users and the role of the different social digital platforms is on the rise. Due to end-to-end encryption of messages, third parties will not have any access to these messages.
  • Hence, such fake news comes to the attention of the administration only if it is reported.
  • There is no dedicated fake news law.
  • The use of internet shutdowns to curb the spreading of fake news has been an effective way.

 Concerns related to Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the amended version of the IT Rules 2021:

  • Anything contradicted by the government might be used to justify-content takedowns.
  • The PIB’s fact-checking unit (established in 2019) verifies news about government ministries, departments, and schemes. But it rarely explains why information has been identified as false or misleading and, on some occasions, it tweeted incorrect information.

Way Forward:

  • A very strict fake news law is the need of the hour.
  • Linking Aadhar to social media accounts, as suggested by Attorney General could be helpful.
  • Being a digitally responsible citizen –
  • By just rechecking the information from some authentic sources
  • By applying common sense without getting biased
  • Some best practices:
  • Facebook has partnered with a fact-checking website to check the authenticity of messages circulating through it.
  • In 2018, Google news trained 8000 journalists in different Indian languages to spread awareness about Fake news and fact-checking.

Supreme Court to hear petitions for Criminalization of Marital Rape

Why in News? 

  • The Supreme Court is set to begin hearing a series of petitions seeking to criminalize marital rape from March 14.

What is Marital Rape?

  • Marital rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without her consent.
  • It is no different manifestation of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
  • It is often a chronic form of violence for the victim which takes place within abusive relations.

Status in India

  • Historically considered as right of the spouses, this is now widely classified as rape by many societies around the world.
  • In India, marital rape is not a criminal offense (as protected under IPC section 375).
  • India is one of fifty countries that have not yet outlawed marital rape.

Reasons for disapproval of this concept

  • The reluctance to define non-consensual sex between married couples as a crime and to prosecute has been attributed to:
  • Traditional views of marriage
  • Interpretations of religious doctrines
  • Ideas about male and female sexuality
  • Cultural expectations of subordination of a wife to her husband
  • It is widely held that a husband cannot be guilty of any sexual act committed by himself upon his lawful wife on account of their mutual matrimonial consent.

Why it must be a crime?

  • Associated physical violence: Rape by a spouse, partner or ex-partner is more often associated with physical violence and sexual mutilation.
  • Mental harassment: There is research showing that marital rape can be more emotionally and physically damaging than rape by a stranger.
  • Compulsive relationship: Marital rape may occur as part of an abusive relationship.
  • Revengeful nature: Furthermore, marital rape is rarely a one-time event, but a repeated if not frequent occurrence.
  • Obligation on women: In the case of marital rape the victim often has no choice but to continue living with their spouse.

Violation of fundamental rights

  • Marital rape is considered as a violation of FR guaranteed under Article 14 of the Indian constitution which guarantees the equal protection of laws to all persons.
  • By depriving married women of an effective penal remedy against forced sexual intercourse, it violates their right to privacy and bodily integrity, aspects of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.

Problems in prosecuting marital rape

  • Lack of awareness: A lack of public awareness, as well as reluctance or outright refusal of authorities to prosecute is common globally.
  • Gender norms: Additionally, gender norms that place wives in subservient positions to their husbands, make it more difficult for women to recognize such rape.
  • Acceptability of the concept: Another problem results from prevailing social norms that exist.

Present regulations in India

  • Indian Penal Code criminalizes rape in most cases, although marital rape is not illegal when the woman is over the age of 18.
  • However, until 2017, men married to those between 15 and 18 could not be convicted of rape.
  • Marital rape of an adult wife, who is unofficially or officially separated, is a criminal offence punishable by 2 to 7 year in prison; it is not dealt by normal rape laws which stipulate the possibility of a death sentence.
  • According to the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act (2005), other married women subject to such crime by their husband may demand for financial compensation.
  • They also have the right to continue to live in their marital household if they wish, or may approach shelter or aid homes.
  • However, marital rape is still not a criminal offense in this case and is only a misdemeanor.

Arguments against criminalization:

  • Subjective: It is very subjective and intricate to determine whether consent was acquired or not.
  • Prone to Misuse: If marital rape is criminalized without adequate safeguards it could be misused like the current dowry law by the dissatisfied wives to harass and torture their Husbands.
  • Burden on Judiciary: It will increase the burden of judiciary which otherwise may serve other more important causes.

Way forward:

  • Sanctioning marital rape is an acknowledgment of the woman’s right to self-determination (i.e., control) of all matters relating to her body.
  • In the absence of any concrete law, the judiciary always finds it difficult to decide the matter of domestic rape in the absence of solid evidence.
  • The main purpose of marriage is procreation, and sometimes divorce is sought on the ground of non-consummation of marriage.
  • Before giving a final interpretation, the judiciary must balance the rights and duties of both partners.

Why is Kerala opposing the new Electricity Rules?

Why in News?

  • The Kerala government has raised its objections over the provisions of the Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022.

Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022:

  • The Union Ministry of Power issued the gazette notification on the Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022 on 27th December 2022.
  • The Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022 aims to amend the Electricity Rules of 2005.
  • The key amendments in the Rules include:
  • Inclusion of surcharge payable by consumers seeking open access
  • Timely recovery of power purchase costs by the distribution licensee
  • Implementation of Uniform Renewable Energy Tariff for the central pool
  • Rule 14 required the state electricity regulatory commissions to specify a price adjustment formula for automatically passing on the costs through the consumer tariff on a monthly basis. 
  • According to the new Rules, the fuel and power purchase adjustment surcharges would be calculated and charged to the consumers, automatically, without the need for going through the regulatory approval process, on a monthly basis based on the formula specified by the state electricity regulatory commissions.

Kerala Government’s stand:

  • The Kerala Government has raised concerns over Rule 14 which allows distribution companies (Discoms) to automatically recover the expenses arising out of variations in fuel price and power purchase costs from the consumers, on a monthly basis.
  • According to the Kerala Government, the freedom extended to Discoms to automatically charge the costs through the electricity bill is detrimental to the interests of the consumer. 
  • The state government opines that the consumers would be subjected to unfair frequent price fluctuations.
  • Kerala Government has also said that the crucial role played by the State Electricity Commissions in fixing the surcharge would get diluted due to the implementation of the new Rules.

The role of a regulator:

  • Until the introduction of the new Rules, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) used to file pleas before the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission on a quarterly basis in order to collect the thermal fuel surcharge. 
  • As Kerala produces only about 30% of its electricity demand within the state, the power purchase expenditure particularly during the summer months would usually be high.
  • The Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission then used to decide on the KSEB’s pleas through public hearings. 
  • The Kerala government believes that diluting such a procedure would also dilute the existing prudent check and would make the general public bear the burden.

Path ahead:

  • The Electricity Minister of Kerala has said that his department will be seeking legal opinion in order to enforce the rules in such a way that the consumers are not burdened.
  • The Minister has instructed the Power Department to check if the potential tariff fluctuations caused due to the new rules can be balanced by reducing tariffs during the extended monsoon months in the state when power purchase levels are on the lower side due to higher power generation in the form of hydroelectricity.
  • The Minister further has recommended keeping the power purchase costs minimal in the remaining months to prevent burdening the consumers. 
  • However, experts feel that such safeguards would only work in cases where a State-run entity such as the KSEB is in power and believe that the real concern arises when private players take up electricity distribution.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana Scheme (PMGKAY)

Why in News?

  • The Central Government’s integrated food security scheme has been named as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), under which free foodgrains are being given to more than 80 crore poor people from January 1. 

What is PMGKAY?

  • The new scheme has been named as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY).
  • Keeping in view welfare of the beneficiaries and in order to maintain uniformity across the states, free food grains will be provided under the PMGKAY for the year 2023 to the poor beneficiaries as per the entitlement under the the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • Under the NFSA, the entitlement of food grains per person per month is 5 kg for priority households category, while 35 kg per family per month for Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) families.
  • Till December 2022, the NFSA beneficiaries were getting their food grains entitlement at a highly subsidised rate of 1, 2 and 3 per kg for coarse cereals, wheat and rice, respectively. Now, they will get it for free this year.
  • According to the ministry, necessary steps have already been taken for smooth implementation of the PMGKAY in the field. The ministry and state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) officials are regularly interacting with state government officers for smooth roll out of the new scheme.
  • The Central Government will spend more than 2 lakh crore in 2023 as food subsidy under the NFSA and other welfare schemes to remove the financial burden of the poor.

Were all poor people covered under the scheme?

  • The scheme only provided grain for those families who held ration cards. 
  • During the first lockdown, the plight of migrant workers who held cards registered in their home villages but were stranded without food or employment in the cities where they worked, came to the limelight. 
  • A number of other poor families did not possess ration cards at all for a variety of reasons, including the state quotas on the number of ration cards. 
  • In May and June 2020, the Centre allocated 8 lakh tonnes of foodgrain to be distributed by States under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme for stranded migrants and others without ration cards, although only 40% had been distributed even by August. The scheme was not revived during the second lockdown.
  • The 80 crore cap on NFSA beneficiaries and state ration card quotas are based on 2011 census data. 
  • Given the projected increase in population since then, economists have estimated that 10 crore eligible people are being excluded from the NFSA’s safety net. 
  • In its June 2021 judgement in a suo moto case on the plight of migrant workers, the Supreme Court directed that the Centre and State should continue providing foodgrains to migrants whether or not they had ration cards.

What are the arguments for and against extension of PMGKAY?

  • As the economy is also reviving and the OMSS [or open market sale scheme] is also exceptionally good, there is no proposal from the department for extension. 
  • It was previously noted that States are free to buy rice and wheat under OMSS, and distribute it to migrants and other vulnerable communities.
  • The Right to Food Campaign, pointing to the SC judgement and noting that the pandemic still exists, unemployment remains at record levels and there is widespread hunger among vulnerable communities. 
  • They argued that the government should not only extend PMGKAY for another six months, but also universalise the public distribution system itself, so that anyone in need would receive food support regardless of whether they possessed a ration card or not. 
  • They also suggested that pulses and cooking oils be added to the monthly entitlements, given the recent rise in prices of these commodities.

NCPCR draft guidelines for trying Minors as Adults

Why in News?

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has come up with draft guidelines on the preliminary assessment of whether certain minors are to be tried under law as adults in particular cases, under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Adults

  • The JJ Act, 2015 replaced the Indian juvenile delinquency law, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • It allows for juveniles in conflict with Law in the age group of 16–18, involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults.
  • The Act also sought to create a universally accessible adoption law for India.
  • It came into force from 15 January 2016.

Preliminary assessment as per the JJ Act

  • Assessment of the offender child: The Act directs that the Board shall consider the mental and physical capacity of the child for committing the alleged offence, the ability to understand the consequences of the offence, and the circumstances in which the offence was committed.
  • Psychological ‘trial’: It states that the Board can take the assistance of experienced psychologists or psychosocial workers or other experts. The Act also gives a disclaimer that the assessment is not a trial, but is only to assess the capacity of the child to commit and understand the consequences of the alleged offence.
  • Arriving at conclusion: After the assessment, the Board can pass an order saying there is a need to try the said child as an adult and transfer the case to a children’s court with the relevant jurisdiction.
  • Penalty: If tried as a minor, the child could be sent to a special home for a maximum of three years. If tried as an adult, the child can be sentenced to a jail term, except being sentenced to death or life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

Why has the NCPCR come up with draft guidelines now?

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a case related to the murder of a Class 2 student in Haryana, allegedly by a 16-year-old.
  • The task of preliminary assessment under the JJ Act is a ‘delicate task’, concluded SC.
  • It said that the consequences of the assessment on whether the child is to be tried as an adult or a minor are “serious in nature and have a lasting effect for the entire life of the child”.
  • It said that the assessment requires expertise and directed that appropriate and specific guidelines be put in place.
  • It had left it open to the Central government and the National and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights to consider issuing the guidelines.

Major draft guidelines by NCPCR

  • The draft relying on already existing provisions in the Act says that the preliminary assessment has to determine following aspects:
  • Physical capacity of the child: To determine the child’s ‘locomotor’ abilities and capacities, particularly with regard to gross motor functions such as walking, running, lifting, throwing…such abilities as would be required to engage in most antisocial activities.
  • Mental capacity: To determine the child’s ability to make social decisions and judgments. It also directs assessments pertaining to mental health disorders, substance abuse, and life skills deficits.
  • Circumstances in which the offence was allegedly committed: Psychosocial vulnerabilities of the child. This is to include life events, any trauma, abuse, and mental health problems, stating that the offence behaviour is a cumulative consequence of a lot of other circumstances.
  • Ability to understand the consequences of the alleged offence: To determine the child’s knowledge or understanding of the alleged offence’s social, interpersonal and legal consequences. These include what others will say or perceive him, how it might affect his personal relationships and the knowledge of relevant laws, respectively.
  • Building a rapport: It also states that the experts must be given an optimal opportunity to interact with the child to build a rapport. Experts can be from the field of child psychology and psychiatry. It also states they must undergo regular training.
  • Others: Other reports that the Board is to rely on include the Social Investigation Report, Social Background Report an Individual Care Plan, statements of witnesses and interaction with parents, guardians, school staff, peer groups and neighbours.

Way forward:

  • Government should amend JJ Act 2015.
  • Such an amendment would go a long way in providing the requisite balance between the rationales underlying the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system and realizing the objectives professed by both.

Malnutrition in the North-eastern states of India

Why in News?

  • Between the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015–16) and the fifth round (2019–2020), there has been a considerable increase in the number of malnourished children in India, and the progress made during the first half of the decade appears to have been undone. Malnutrition in the North-eastern states of India is worse than the country average.

What is malnutrition?

  • Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
  • For a child’s motor, sensory, cognitive, social, and emotional development, malnutrition has substantial long-term effects. It impedes productivity and academic progress.
  • The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions:
  • Undernutrition: Undernutrition 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).
  • overnutrition: The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer).

Did you know?

  • Stunting, or low height for age, is a recognized risk factor for children’s delayed development. 
  • According to a study, a 1% reduction in adult height as a result of childhood stunting is linked to a 1.4% reduction in economic productivity. 
  • Children who are stunted, earn 20% less as adults.

Malnutrition in North East India:

  • Upsurge in stunting: Four states in the Northeast Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura have seen an upsurge in stunting among children under the age of five. Stunting is highest in Meghalaya at 46.8 %, followed by Nagaland (32.7%), Tripura (32.3 %), and Mizoram (28.9%). In Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, the percentage of kids who are stunted, wasting, underweight, or overweight has increased
  • Levels of stunting decreased in Assam: The NFHS-5 shows Assam, Manipur and Sikkim have shown a drop in stunting levels. In Assam, stunting has decreased by almost one percentage point, although rates of overweight (2.3% to 4.9%), underweight (29.8% to 32.8%), and stunting (17% to 21.7%) have all increased, whereas that of wasting and underweight have decreased by more than 2% in each instance.
  • Sikkim performs better than other NE states: As the number of stunted, wasting, and underweight children has dropped, Sikkim has done considerably better than other NE states so has Manipur, with a decrease in wasting from 6.8% to 9.9% in under-five children.
  • Increase in no of overweight people in every NE state: Every state in the Northeast saw an increase in the number of overweight people, which amplifies the growing double burden of malnutrition in the states.

Appropriate foods and feeding practices show Higher immunity

  • Feeding practices adequate only in Meghalaya and Tripura:  The percentages of breastfeeding children receiving adequate complementary foods have improved only in Meghalaya and Tripura. Early initiation of breastfeeding is on the decline in six out of the eight northeastern states, with highest levels in Sikkim (33.5%) and Assam (15.3%).
  • Reduction in exclusive breastfeeding rates (EBF): Sikkim, Tripura, and Manipur all exhibit a notable reduction in exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rates. EBF in Sikkim is the lowest at 28.3 percent, far lower than the national average of 63.7 percent. Tripura demonstrated a gain of 39.5 percentage points in the practice of timely introduction of semi-solid food, whereas Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh showed a slight fall.
  • All NE states except Assam performed well on diet adequacy: Minimum Adequate Diet (or diet adequacy) is a combined indicator of feeding frequency and diet variety. From 8% to 29.8%, there is a significant range throughout the northeastern states. All states, with the exception of Assam, have performed better on this measure than the nation as a whole.
  • The situation with obesity is more complicated: Only Meghalaya and Nagaland have seen decreases, while the other six states have seen increases. It is heartening to see a declining trend in underweight women (BMI < 18.5) in all eight northeastern states.
  • Anaemia is increased: In six of the eight northeastern states, anaemia among women of reproductive age has increased, with Tripura worst at 67.2%, and Assam at 65.9%.

How malnutrition can be tackled in NE?

  • Finding out the causes: Stunting among children in the Northeast is caused by a number of factors, including poor maternal health, a lack of antenatal care, inadequate infrastructure and healthcare facilities, inadequate feeding and nutrition for women, and limited access to education, clean drinking water, and sanitary facilities.
  • For instance: Lack of toilets, drinking water and cooking fuels in the home environment have an impact on child malnutrition, according to a 2015 study on indigenous peoples in the Northeast.
  • Improving the maternal nutrition: Manipur, Mizoram, and Sikkim fare better than the national average in most measures. Newborns’ chances of being stunted are decreased by better maternal nutrition prior to conception, throughout pregnancy, and after delivery. According to data for Sikkim, Manipur, and Mizoram, the risk of stunting decreases as the number of underweight mothers decreases.
  • Upgrading the service availability: In the northeastern states, the use of supplementary food at the anganwadi centres (ANC) varies greatly, from about 35% in Arunachal Pradesh to 70% in Tripura. A low of 20.7% in Nagaland and a high of 79.4% in Manipur is the ANC coverage across the Northeast.
  • Improving the required intake of Iron and Folic acid: All states have lower percentages of iron and folic acid (IFA) intake than the national average of 26%, with the exception of Manipur where 30.3% of pregnant women completed the full 180-day course of IFA tablets. Nagaland has the lowest rate, at just 4.1%. Overall, the NE states show a wide variation in service availability and uptake.

The innovative programmes to enhance mother and child health:

  • Nutrition gardens: For example, the Assam government encouraged women in rural communities to develop “nutrition gardens” where they could grow vegetables.
  • My school my Farm: “Kan Sikul, Kan Huan (My School, My Farm)” programme in the most impoverished and disaster-prone area in Mizoram-Lawngtlai.
  • Lunchbox exchange: The “dibbi adaan pradaan (lunchbox exchange)” initiative in Hailakandi district of Assam for promoting better nutrition and variety in menu.

Conclusion:

  • Malnutrition in the Northeast has to be addressed holistically through the scaling up of direct nutrition interventions and the coupling of them with nutrition-sensitive measures to close the nutrition gap. In the long run, it could be beneficial to improve the monitoring and evaluation of current interventions by building on the POSHAN Abhiyaan and health projects.

Places of Worship Act

Why in News?

  • The provisions of the Places of Worship Act of 1991 have been challenged through several petitions in the Supreme Court and the Centre has asked for time to clarify its stand on the validity of the Act.

Places of Worship Act, 1991:

  • The Places of Worship Act is legislation introduced to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th of August, 1947. The Act was introduced under the leadership of the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao at a time when the Ram Temple movement was at its peak.
  • Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act bars the conversion of places of worship of any religious denomination.  Further, the individuals who violate the provisions of Section 3 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also be liable to a fine. According to Section 5, the Act shall not apply to the place of worship commonly known as Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh).
  • The Places of Worship Act has now been challenged in the court on the ground that it restricts the scope of judicial review, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution by imposing an arbitrary and irrational retrospective cutoff date and that it curtails the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

A step towards fighting corruption

Why in News?

  • Supreme Court’s judgment of December 2022 on the matter of corruption.

Highlights:

  • In the Neeraj Dutta v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) judgment (December 2022), the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court (SC) condemned corruption among public servants. It also lowered the amount of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.
  • The judgment was appreciated by many, who desire probity in public administration and demand deterrent penalties for criminal activities. 
  • The SC in several decisions of the past have given equally strong decisions, but still, the extent of corruption in public life stands undiminished.

Details on the ruling of the case:

  • The apex court has debunked the myth that absolute proof of guilt alone would be required to convict an offender. 
  • The court has further ruled that in case of prosecution witnesses turning hostile, a conviction would be ordered if all the circumstantial evidence marshalled by the prosecution and produced before the court points to the guilt of the accused. This step would help in ensuring integrity in public services, specifically in the ‘superior’ services like the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service.
  • There are two crucial aspects to getting rid of corruption in bureaucracy: 
  • The severity of the law and its efficient application
  • The strength of public opinion, which is required to carry forward the campaign for a clean public life
  • There is always a demand for strict penalties like the death sentence. It should be noted that deterrence also works only up to a point. Moreover, it is a disregarded fact that the stricter the penalties, the higher will be the quantum of proof required by the courts. This reality probably convinced the SC to lower the bar for the quantum of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.
  • The Court has also set the standard of ‘preponderance of probability’ in effect. It should be noted that it is usually not acceptable in criminal trials. The requirement of only conclusive proof (proof that does not leave an iota of doubt) has now been diluted. This implies that infirmities like the non-availability of the complainant (due to death or non-traceability) would not be absolutely rejected.
  • This will also apply to cases where prosecution witnesses turn hostile, either due to inducement or intimidation.

Concerns associated with corruption:

  • The nexus between offender and victim has become a part of the ethos. In several instances, general citizens themselves are willing to offer bribes to the public servant.
  • It is also argued that the misdeeds of public servants are partly attributable to political corruption. In many states, acute unemployment has also resulted in the involvement of the applicant, the public servant, and politicians in illegal rackets that demand bribes in return for job positions.
  • Moreover, in certain places, the fundamental rights of the citizens and services like construction and registration of property cannot be availed without bribing the administrative and political hierarchy.

Tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA)

Why in News?

  • With the increasing popularity of social media platforms, utilisation of education apps and shift to online classes, children these days have a much higher chance of being exposed to harmful content. Hence, the need to secure children’s welfare and safety online is more urgent than ever.

Online Child Sexual Abuse:

  • Definition: Online child sexual abuse and exploitation refers to activities such as the production and distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), live streaming sexual assault of minors, obtaining sexually explicit material, exhibitionism and meeting the abuser in-person.
  • Psychological harm to children: This poses serious harm to children who experience psychological stress such as anxiety, trauma, and depression.
  • Behavioural changes: It can also lead to behavioural changes like drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and lower motivation for academics.
  • Problems in adult life: It doesn’t end there, as the consequences of online sexual abuse in childhood are far-reaching and may well extend into adulthood bringing forth issues with intimacy and affecting interpersonal relationships.

Challenges in tackling online abuse:

  • Encryption and anonymity: The rapidly evolving digital landscape and advances in information technology have given rise to better encryption services and the dark net, which provide a safe cover of anonymity to offenders, allowing them to engage in child sexual abuse.
  • Pace of response is still slow: Needless to say, the danger and complexity of online abuse has escalated at an alarming rate and needs to be dealt with swiftly. Moreover, the ubiquitous nature of the internet and online interaction has made it so that almost all cases of child sexual abuse feature a virtual aspect. Therefore, a broad perspective and a systems-level approach should be considered when deciding on strategies to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA).
  • Limited capacity of police: Broadly speaking, the main administrative challenges when dealing with OCSEA are limited law enforcement capacities, gaps in legislative framework, and a lack of awareness and urgency around the issue.
  • Understaffing of workforce: The workforce in relevant social welfare organisations is understaffed. The need of the hour is close collaboration between non-traditional partners from the industry, government ministries dealing in technological communication, and law enforcement. Provisions should be in place to prevent future cases and safeguard the victims or survivors.

Efforts by India in fighting OCSEA

  • Improved mechanism and new tools: India have made a significant effort to tackle the wave of rising OCSEA cases in recent years. Not only has it improved the mechanism for reporting online offences against children, but it has also developed new tools and software to control and remove the presence of CSAM on social media and other platforms.
  • Sensitise school and boosting capacity: Efforts have also been made to sensitise schools and boost the technological capacity of law enforcement agencies to further deal with the issue. Although this four-pronged model has shown some promising results, it is surpassed by the exponential rise in cases across the country.

What are steps that can be taken?

  • Evaluate and improve the governance systems: It is imperative to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of cross-sectoral governance mechanisms that are set up to systematise the national response to child sexual abuse material.
  • Fast tracking the cases: The huge backlog for cases of OCSEA in India must also be fast-tracked. As for prevention, institutionalising the collection of national-level data on CSAM can also assist in strengthening children’s online security. The recent Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology can provide an opportunity to meet this exigency.
  • Clear mandate and responsibility of stakeholders: There should be further development of clear mandates and creation of a logical framework of roles and duties of all relevant stakeholders within standard operating procedures for investigation. Continuous dialogue between the industry, government and other collaborators, with a distinct agenda and division of responsibilities is necessary.
  • Training of enforcement agency: Industry partners, in particular the IT industry, must be provided with suitable training and awareness of the magnitude of OCSEA, along with proper toolkits and guidance. Promoting a systematic and constant approach to training the judiciary and prosecution on CSAM can prove beneficial, if centred around child-sensitive protocols.
  • Reparation for victims: In the same vein, comprehensive remedies or reparations for victims are just as important and need to be handled by a specialised workforce.
  • Parental and community training: Basic online safety measures, parental support initiatives and community awareness training can be integrated into existing education programmes for violence prevention, and sensitising the most vulnerable audience. Existing systems must be evaluated by monitoring and documenting their overall effectiveness and accessibility, including assessment of relevant hotlines and portals (checking to see if they are linked to relevant referral systems), and analysing context-specific reasons for limitations.
  • Ethical media reporting: Dedicated effort must be made to aid ethical and informed media reporting on relevant cases.

Conclusion:

  • A collaborative effort of various institutions across the nation is required to build a safer cyberspace. The highest priority is assessment of current OCSEA response systems and reporting mechanisms, stricter implementation of prevention laws, and adequate resources to sustain these efforts. The end goal must be to ensure long-term safeguards for online platforms that allow secure navigation for minors and a disruption of the actions of offenders.

Avoid further delay in conducting the Census

Why in News?

  • It is announced that the freezing of administrative boundary for census would be done from 1 July 2023.

Highlights:

  • Census exercise in India is conducted once every ten years. It has been reported that the freezing of administrative boundaries that usually precedes the Census would be done with effect from July 1, 2023.
  • The freezing of administrative boundaries is essential because creating new districts and tehsils or reorganizing existing ones by the State governments might result in chaos and a likelihood of some regions being left out of the Census. 
  • It should be noted that the House-listing operation is a month-long exercise and was conventionally taken up by different States at different times. It was conventionally conducted between March and September of the year prior to the Census. 
  • However, there is no official statement about the Census. Moreover, there is no clarity on even the synchronization of house-listing operations with the freezing of boundaries and census enumeration.
  • In 2020, several states were about to begin the house listing process. But due to the pandemic, the house listing exercise and subsequently the census enumeration was postponed.

Background:

  • The Constitution of India describes the utilization of Census data for delimitation of constituencies and for determining the share of reservation for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs). However, the Constitution is silent on the periodicity of the census. 
  • Similarly, the Census Act, 1948, though provides the legal background for various activities of the Census, does not mention anything about periodicity. The act authorizes the central government to decide when to conduct a Census. 
  • Notably, in various countries like the U.S. and Japan, either the Constitution or the Census law mandates a Census with defined periodicity.

Impact of Delay of Census:

  • The Census provides the population count of every village and town in India. It also provides information about demographic characteristics, housing, and amenities.
  • Though population projection through surveys is quite reliable at the state and national levels, they are not feasible at lower geographic levels like districts and villages. Furthermore, surveys have some limitations and cannot be used to find all important information. For instance, the number of villages with literacy rates less than 70%, etc. 
  • The census data is also used to determine the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs at various levels of government bodies. A delay in the census would imply that 2011 census data will be used, even though there are rapid changes in the population composition of towns and panchayats.
  • Moreover, rural-urban distribution has also drastically changed with higher population growth in urban areas due to in-migration.
  • Additionally there is a large variation in the growth of urban areas as well. For instance, areas under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike grew by 49.3% during 2001-11 whereas the Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded a decline in population during the same period. The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the age distribution by causing more deaths in the adult and aged population in comparison to children. The census would also validate or reject the estimates of the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

Census and National Population Register:

  • There were controversies associated with the National Population Register(NPR) before the pandemic. The central government has proposed to update the data of NPR during the census.
  • Since the census is a single-shot exercise with no scope for a retake. It is advised to separate the two activities and dissociated the census from a politically sensitive issue.
  • Separation of two activities will help in timely completion of the exercise and would also maintain its reliability.
  • It should also be remembered that the first Census after 2026 would be used for the delimitation of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies and for the apportionment of parliamentary seats among the States. As there is a disparity in the growth rates among states, the then census would be held in a politically charged environment. Thus there is a  need to carefully conduct this census. 

Making India an Uplinking Hub

Why in News?

  • This article discusses various policy interventions towards making India an uplinking hub.

Highlights:

  • In November 2022, the Union Cabinet approved the policy guidelines for the uplinking and downlinking of television channels from India.
  • The consolidated policy guidelines are aimed at making India the hub of uplinking as they allow Indian teleports to uplink foreign channels. 
  • An uplink refers to the link from a ground station up to a satellite, a downlink is the link from a satellite down to one or more ground stations or receivers. 
  • In 2021, the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, were amended to include a statutory mechanism for the redressal of grievances and complaints of viewers relating to content broadcast by television channels in accordance with the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. 
  • The amended Rules bring in a strong institutional system for redressing grievances and make broadcasters and their self-regulating bodies accountable and responsible. 

Cable Television in India:

  • Television started in India in September 1959 and broadcasting was solely under the control of the state till the early 1990s.
  • Cable television arrived in India in the 1990s and used foreign satellites to transmit and broadcast. Cable television networks mushroomed haphazardly, and foreign television networks invaded our culture through their programmes. 
  • India’s first private television channel, Zee TV, was launched in October 1992 with the help of some Non-Resident Indians in Hong Kong who took an idle AsiaSat satellite transponder on lease for five years to uplink programmes. 
  • In the next few years, Business India Television; Asia Television Network and Jain TV also began operating and flew out tapes every day to Hong Kong, Singapore or Moscow for uplinking. 
  • Using the Russian satellite was cheaper than using the satellite in Hong Kong or Singapore. This made broadcasting an expensive and cumbersome affair in the 1990s.

Uplinking from India:

  • In order to regulate the industry and to make registration of cable operators mandatory, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 was brought in. 
  • Indian broadcasters were allowed to uplink from India through the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL).
  • But it was only in 2000 that the first licence to set up a teleport — an earth station facility from where TV signals can be uplinked to a geostationary satellite was granted.
  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), Government of India, notified the ‘Guidelines for Uplinking from India’ in July 2000 and private broadcasters got permission to set up their own earth stations and to uplink. 
  • The first licence was given to TV Today Network Limited in November 2000 which started the channel, Aaj Tak, on December 31, 2000. 
  • Aaj Tak became the first Indian private television channel to uplink signals from its own earth station. 
  • In 2001, five broadcasters set up their earth stations with the facility to uplink.
  • The MIB issued uplinking and downlinking policy guidelines in 2011 for private satellite TV channels and teleports.
  • In 2022,  the government amended the policy guidelines in light of the difficulties posed by the development of broadcasting technology, changes in market scenarios, and other operational developments in the broadcasting industry. 
  • The guidelines aim to create a conducive environment in line with the principle of ease of doing business on a sound regulatory framework and make India a teleport hub for other countries. 
  • Neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan can also use India as a hub for uplinking their television channels.
  • The Union government had approved USD 102 million in remittances to foreign satellite operators over the last two years for providing uplinking and downlinking services to television channels.
  • Uplinking using Indian satellites will greatly reduce these foreign remittances.

High-power Ladakh committee formed

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted a high-powered committee chaired by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai for the Union Territory of Ladakh. 

About the News:

  • The committee will discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance; ensure protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh; strategise inclusive development and discuss issues related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Councils of Leh and Kargil.

Background:

  • On August 5, 2019, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and bifurcated into two Union Territories (Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh).
  • However, the region’s intellectuals and the politicians have been repeatedly raising concern over the demography, land and unique culture of the Ladakh and are saying the statehood with legislature would be able to give them necessary safeguards. 
  • In September 2019, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule. 
  • The Commission took note of the fact that the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh is predominantly a tribal region in the country.
  • The total tribal population in the Ladakh region is more than 97 per cent.

What is the issue now?

  • There is a demand to amend the Ladakh Hill Development Council Act, passed in 1997. 
  • Ladakh needs safeguards for land, employment and cultural identity on the lines under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the central government, the Union Territory administration and the Lieutenant-Governor need to be defined.
  • It aims to safeguard the demography, environment and unique culture of Ladakh. 

About Sixth Schedule of the Constitution:

  • It provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states.
  • This special provision is provided under Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
  • It seeks to safeguard the rights of the tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC). 
  • ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.   

What are its Features?

  • Provisions have been made for the creation of the District Councils and regional councils for the exercise of certain legislative and judicial powers. However, their jurisdiction is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
  • They have powers to form courts to hear cases where both parties are members of Scheduled Tribes and the maximum sentence is less than 5 years in prison.
  • They also have powers to levy taxes, fees and tolls on buildings, land, animals, vehicles, boats, entry of goods into the area, roads, ferries, bridges, employment and income and general taxes for the maintenance of schools and roads.
  • The Acts of Parliament or the State Legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
  • The Governor is vested with powers regarding the councils. He/she, by public notification, may:
  • Include or exclude any new area.
  • Create a new autonomous district.
  • Define the boundaries of any autonomous district.
  • Increase or decrease the area of an existing autonomous district.
  • Alter the name of any autonomous district.

Benefits: 

  • It was incorporated to protect the rights of the minority tribals living within a larger state dominated by the majority.
  • It allows for greater political autonomy and decentralised governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast.

Issues: 

  • It undermines the social harmony, stability and economic development of the state and the region.

Way Forward:

  • There should be certain clear-cut parameters and safeguards to check the unfettered demands.
  • It is better to allow democratic concerns like development, decentralisation and governance rather than religion, caste, language or dialect to be the valid bases for conceding the demands.

Dispute between states in India

Why in News?

  • As the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka (over Belagavi, Karwar and Nipani in North Karnataka) is intensifying, the article highlights formal methods in the Constitution of India to resolve inter-state disputes.

Background:

  • Often, attempts are made to resolve inter-state disputes with the cooperation of both sides, with the Centre working as a facilitator or a neutral mediator.
  • This was followed by Parliament bringing a law to alter state boundaries, such as the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1968 and the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1979.

About the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute:

  • When state boundaries were redrawn on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganization Act of 1956, Belagavi became part of the erstwhile Mysore state.
  • Maharashtra claims that parts of Belagavi, where Marathi is the dominant language, should remain in Maharashtra. In 1966, the Centre set up the Mahajan Commission, to resolve the border dispute in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The Commission recommended that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. Maharashtra rejected the report and moved the SC in 2004.
  • The Union Home Minister met the Chief Ministers of both states and asked them to form a six-member team, comprising three ministers from each side, to address all boundary issues.
  • However, both states hardened their stance passing a unanimous resolution to support a legal battle to resolve the dispute.

Methods available to resolve inter-state disputes:

Judicial redressal:

  • Article 131: Supreme Court has the original jurisdiction in any dispute between –
  • The Government of India and one or more States; or
  • The Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
  • Two or more States,
  • If the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
  • Exemption: The said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, or engagement, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution.

About the Inter-state Council:

  • Inter-State and Zonal councils’ role in resolving inter-state disputes has been covered in a recent article which can be accessed through this link.

 Other inter-state disputes in India:

  • There are border disputes mostly arising out of claims and counter-claims over territories between Assam-Meghalaya; Assam-Nagaland; Assam-Mizoram; Assam-Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra-Karnataka.

Staying prepared

Why in News?

  • Surging COVID-19 cases in China.

Highlights:

  • China abandoned its Zero-COVID strategy abruptly after three years of strict enforcement. This led to a massive jump in the daily number of cases. It was estimated by media, hospitals, and crematoria that approximately 250 million people were infected in 20 days in December 2022.
  • It was observed that BF.7 appears to be the dominant variant in China. There is fear that the uncontrolled spread of the virus in China might cause newer variants with higher transmissibility. For example, the BF.7 sub-lineage with three additional immune escape mutations was already found in other variants infecting people arriving from China.
  • It is suggested by experts that these mutations may increase transmissibility further but will not increase disease severity. 
  • With the COVID cases rising in a few more countries, India has adopted proactive measures. 
  • Approximately 90% of the adult population in India was already fully vaccinated by July 2022. Moreover, around one-fourth of adults were also boosted, and a large share of the population was also naturally infected. This reduces the chances of India facing the risk of large-scale deaths from existing variants. 
  • As a large share of the population enjoys hybrid immunity (vaccination and natural infection), India should focus on the increase in hospitalizations, specifically ICU admissions instead of daily cases.

India’s response to rising cases:

  • The Health Ministry has rightly urged States to ramp up genome sequencing (instead of testing) so that new variants are tracked. It should be noted that a virus evolves by accumulating mutations. 
  • In order to minimize the risk of the spread of new variants, the government has introduced 2% random post-arrival sampling of international passengers and mandatory RT-PCR tests for arrivals from China and four other countries. 
  • The states are also advised to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen and conduct a drill in health facilities to ensure operational readiness. 
  • In terms of vaccines, India is self-sufficient with seven COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, apart from homologous boosters, a couple of vaccines have got approval as heterologous booster doses too. 
  • On the antiviral front, a Hyderabad-based company has received WHO’s prequalification for a generic version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral drug, Paxlovid.

CAG detects anomalies in Assam NRC updation

Why in News?

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has detected large-scale anomalies in the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

About Foreigners Tribunals in Assam:

  • The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
  • Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC), can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority i.e. Foreigners Tribunals (FT).
  • Assam has set up FTs, specifically to handle the cases of 19.06 lakh people left out of the updated NRC.
  • Under the provisions of Foreigners Act 1946 and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964, only Foreigners Tribunals are empowered to declare a person as a foreigner.
  • The Assam Police Border Organisation, a wing of the State police tasked with detecting foreigners, readies the cases for the tribunals to decide who is a foreigner and who is not.

What is NRC?

  • The NRC is the list of Indian citizens and was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951.
  • The process of NRC update was taken up in Assam as per a Supreme Court order in 2013.
  • In order to wean out cases of illegal migration from Bangladesh and other adjoining areas, NRC updation was carried out under The Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord.
  • The Assam government released the final draft of NRC on July 30, 2018. The list incorporates names of 2.89 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants. The names of 40.07 lakh people have been left out.

Why it was carried out?

  • Crisis of identity: Influx of immigrants has created a crisis of identity among the indigenous. Locals fear that their cultural survival will be affected, political control weakened and employment opportunities undermined because of immigrants.
  • Environmental degradation: Large areas of forest land were encroached upon by the immigrants for settlement and cultivation. The state experienced declining percent of land area under forest from 39% in 1951-52 to about 30% now.
  • Increase financial burden: Immigration has increased pressure on the part of state government, as the government has to increase the expenditure on education and health facilities to the immigrants.

Why is this worrisome?

  • The official presumption that people residing in Assam areas are foreigners has reduced several million of these highly impoverished, mostly rural, powerless and poorly lettered residents to a situation of helplessness and extreme poverty, destitution, hardship.
  • It has also caused them abiding anxiety and uncertainty about their futures. They are required to convince a variety of usually hostile officials that they are citizens, based on vintage documents which even urban, educated, middle-class citizens would find hard to muster.
  • Women are especially in danger of exclusion from the citizenship register. Typically, they have no birth certificates, are not sent to school, and are married before they become adults.
  • UN experts are warning continuously that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam could render millions of citizens stateless and create instability in India.

What can the left out do now?

  • According to the Centre’s standard operating procedures, a rejected person would have 120 days from the date of receiving the rejection slip to approach a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) for judging their citizenship status.

Way ahead:

  • A person’s citizenship is a basic human right. Declaring people foreigners in haste without judicially verifying their credentials can leave many human beings stateless.
  • The need of the hour is that Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data and political parties should refrain from colouring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may snowball in to communal violence.
  • There is a need for a robust mechanism of legal support for the four million who have to prove their citizenship to India with their limited means.

Virtual Digital Assets (VDA) and Terror Financing

Why in News?

  • No Money for Terror conference hosted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs concluded with a commitment from the 93 participating nations to end all financing of terror, including through the use of emerging digital technologies such as VDAs.

Concerns regarding virtual digital assets:

  • VDAs for illicit activities: The concerns around the misuse of VDAs for illicit activities require careful legislative responses and forward-looking regulatory guardrails.
  • Non reporting and non-transparency: On a fundamental level, these concerns stem from a lack of reporting and transparency norms, and an absence of international consensus on regulatory design.
  • Lack of reliable data: The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Deputy Director highlighted the difficulty in regulating VDAs, given the lack of reliable data on VDA transactions.
  • Unregulated transactions: This allows bad actors to engage in unchecked transactions and defraud investors, as evinced by one of the (erstwhile) largest VDA exchanges FTX.

India’s role in regulating the VDA:

  • Leveraging G20 Presidency: As one of the highest-ranked countries in terms of VDA adoption, and now with the G20 presidency, India has a critical role to play in shaping the global regulatory environment.
  • Empowering anti-money laundering authorities: In the short term, a viable approach for India is in taking the industry and the investor into confidence by allowing anti-money laundering (AML) authorities visibility over VDA transactions, and the power to impose controls upon them and prosecute in the event of any misuse.
  • India should adopt FATF guidelines: There are several international templates to this effect. The Financial Action Task Force Guidelines on Virtual Asset Transactions (FATF Guidelines) are a case in point, which have been adopted by various jurisdictions, including the EU, Japan and Singapore.

FATFs Guideline regarding VDA regulation:

  • Minimum anti-money laundering standards: The FATF prescribes minimum Anti-money laundering standards that countries should employ to prevent the likelihood of misuse, and the FATF Guidelines prescribe the same for VDA transactions.
  • Licensing and reporting of VDAs: The Guidelines are applicable to VDA service providers of member states like India. Key features of the FATF Guidelines include licence/registration requirements and extensive reporting and record-keeping obligations for VDA service providers.
  • Travel rule obligations: One such obligation is the Travel Rule, which requires service providers to record the originator and beneficiary’s account details, transaction amount, and purpose of transaction for all wire transfers.
  • Verifying identity above certain threshold: Customer due diligence obligations, which include verifying the customer and beneficiary’s identities should be conducted for all transactions exceeding $1,000.
  • Obligation on service provider: The FATF Guidelines also require VDA service providers to perform enhanced due diligence obligations (such as corroborating the customer’s identity with a national database or potentially tracing the customer’s IP address to ensure there are no links to illicit activities) when a transaction is with a higher-risk country.

What are India’s current laws to regulate VDA?

  • PMLA includes reporting obligation: India’s existing Anti-money laundering framework under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) already applies these regulatory tools over traditional financial institutions. Notably, the PMLA also includes reporting obligations for overseas transactions that fall under the ambit of “suspicious transactions” under the framework.
  • PMLA doesn’t apply to VDAs: Currently, the PMLA does not apply to the VDA industry.
  • Government can bring VDA under PMLA: The government has the power to notify any “designated business or profession” as a reporting entity under the PMLA and can issue a notification that classifies VDA service providers as a designated business.

Conclusion:

  • With the Digital Data Protection Bill and the Digital India Act already in the pipeline, Indians and digital businesses will soon have a coherent rights and responsibility framework to operate within. The time is ripe to extend regulatory oversight over the VDA industry so as to ensure that tech-innovation flourishes in a responsible, accountable manner.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana Scheme (PMGKAY)

Why in News?

  • Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje has recently said that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take a call on extending the PMGKAY scheme to provide free ration to the poor beyond December, stressing that the government has sufficient foodgrains stock. 

What is PMGKAY?

  • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme was part of the Centre’s initial COVID-19 relief package, back in March 2020 when the first lockdown was announced. 
  • It provides for 5 kg of rice or wheat per person per month to be distributed free of cost to the 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act. 
  • This is over and above the 5 kg already provided to ration card holders at a subsidised rate, thus ensuring a doubling of foodgrain availability to poor people at a time when the pandemic and lockdown was decimating livelihoods.
  • The scheme was initially meant to run from April to June 2020, but was then extended for another five months from July to November. 
  • In these first two phases, 320 lakh tonnes of grain were allotted and about 95% distributed to beneficiaries. 
  • Initially, one kg of pulses was also provided under the scheme, which was later restricted to chana dal only, and then discontinued in later phases. 
  • After the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, PMGKAY was rolled out for two months again, in May-June 2021, and was then further extended for another five months, from July to November. 
  • Another 278 lakh tonnes of grain were allotted for these two phases, and distribution is still ongoing.

Were all poor people covered under the scheme?

  • The scheme only provided grain for those families who held ration cards. 
  • During the first lockdown, the plight of migrant workers who held cards registered in their home villages but were stranded without food or employment in the cities where they worked, came to the limelight. 
  • A number of other poor families did not possess ration cards at all for a variety of reasons, including the state quotas on the number of ration cards. 
  • In May and June 2020, the Centre allocated 8 lakh tonnes of foodgrain to be distributed by States under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme for stranded migrants and others without ration cards, although only 40% had been distributed even by August. The scheme was not revived during the second lockdown.
  • The 80 crore cap on NFSA beneficiaries and state ration card quotas are based on 2011 census data. 
  • Given the projected increase in population since then, economists have estimated that 10 crore eligible people are being excluded from the NFSA’s safety net. 
  • In its June 2021 judgement in a suo moto case on the plight of migrant workers, the Supreme Court directed that the Centre and State should continue providing foodgrains to migrants whether or not they had ration cards.

What are the arguments for and against extension of PMGKAY?

  • As the economy is also reviving and the OMSS [or open market sale scheme] is also exceptionally good, there is no proposal from the department for extension. 
  • It was previously noted that States are free to buy rice and wheat under OMSS, and distribute it to migrants and other vulnerable communities.
  • The Right to Food Campaign, pointing to the SC judgement and noting that the pandemic still exists, unemployment remains at record levels and there is widespread hunger among vulnerable communities. 
  • They argued that the government should not only extend PMGKAY for another six months, but also universalise the public distribution system itself, so that anyone in need would receive food support regardless of whether they possessed a ration card or not. 
  • They also suggested that pulses and cooking oils be added to the monthly entitlements, given the recent rise in prices of these commodities.

No plan to revise age of consent, Centre tells RS

Why in News?

  • The government does not yet have a plan to revise the age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 despite appeals from the judiciary to lower it from the current 18 years to 16 years.

About the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act:

  • The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development led the introduction of the POCSO Act in 2012.
  • The Act was designed to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography offences, as well as to provide for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences.
  • The Act was amended in 2019 for enhancing the punishments for specific offences in order to deter abusers and ensure a dignified childhood.

Salient features:

  • A gender-neutral law: The POCSO Act establishes a gender-neutral tone for the legal framework available to child sexual abuse victims by defining a child as “any person” under the age of 18.
  • Not reporting abuse is an offence: Any person (except children) in charge of an institution who fails to report the commission of a sexual offence relating to a subordinate is liable to be punished.
  • No time limit for reporting abuse: A victim can report an offence at any time, even a number of years after the abuse has been committed.
  • Maintaining confidentiality of the victim’s identity: The Act prohibits disclosure of the victim’s identity in any form of media, except when permitted by the special courts established under the act.

New obligations under the POCSO Rules 2020:

  • Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact is required to conduct a periodic police verification and background check of every employee.
  • Such an institution must impart regular training to sensitise its employees on child safety and protection.
  • The institution has to adopt a child protection policy based on the principle of zero tolerance for violence against children.

POCSO Act’s performance in comparison to global standards:

  • A 2019 Economist Intelligence Unit report ranked India’s legal system for safeguarding children from sexual abuse and exploitation as the best of the countries surveyed.
  • On this metric, India outranked the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia.

Concerns:

  • Despite the existence of such comprehensive child sexual abuse law, the scale of such abuse is staggering.
  • According to a recent survey, one in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse in India.
  • Furthermore, in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrators are known to the victim, causing the victim to be hesitant to approach authorities for redress.
  • Incidents of child abuse have also risen exponentially since the Covid-19 pandemic, with the emergence of new forms of cybercrime.
  • The general level of awareness or knowledge on the part of minor girls and boys of the POCSO Act remains severely inadequate in the country.
  • Child marriage is common among certain tribal groups in the country, resulting in the criminalisation of 17-18 years old youths due to a lack of knowledge of the POCSO Act.

Way ahead: 

  • Recently, the Karnataka HC has directed the State Education Department to set up a mechanism for educating students, at least from Class IX onwards about the act and its provisions.

Personal freedom and the panel on Intercaste/Interfaith Marriages

Why in News?

  • Following a report in this newspaper, the Maharashtra government has decided to limit the mandate of the recently constituted Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee (state level) to gathering information on interfaith marriages.

Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee:

  • Work under Women and child development: The renamed Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee will be under the state Women and Child Development Ministry.
  • Will Track frauds: The committee besides providing support and rehabilitation, when necessary, ostensibly track fraud committed in the name of love jihad.
  • Development come after walker case: The development came after the Shraddha Walkar case came to light in November. Walkar, 26, was murdered by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawalla in May, 2022
  • Other states with anti-conversion legislation: With states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand already having brought in anti-conversion legislation.

What is love jihad?

  • “Love jihad” is a term often used by activists to allege a ploy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into religious conversion through marriage.

How the initiative will work?

  • Will collect and keep details of interfaith marriages and ensure communication: This initiative will provide a platform for the women in intercaste/interfaith marriages and their families to access counselling, and communicate or resolve issues.
  • Committee will hold regular meetings: The committee has been assigned to hold meetings with district officials, and review work on seven parameters, including, gathering information about interfaith or inter-caste marriages from stamp duty and registrar offices, and collect information on such registered or unregistered marriages, among others.

What are the concerns raised?

  • Control over the lives of individual citizens: Such vigilance remains yet another indication of the State’s disproportionately burgeoning and utterly unacceptable interest in, and demand for, control over the lives of individual citizens.
  • Denial of women’s own choice: It is not just violative of one’s rights of freedom and equality, it also reeks of misogyny in its steadfast denial of a woman’s choice of partner as her own free will and not an act of coercion.
  • Committee can be armed: There is the IPC for all genuine complaints so the committee could be weaponised.
  • It will limit the freedoms of men and women: In every aspect, monitoring of a citizen’s life for her own supposed benefit is a cautionary tale, a limitation of the freedoms of men and women, designed to deter them from leading fuller, freer lives.

Basics: Right to Marriage:

  • Comes under Right to life: The right to marry is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • As an integral part of Right to Life: Various courts across the country have also interpreted the right to marry as an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.
  • Stated under Human rights Charter: The right to marriage is also stated under Human Rights Charter within the meaning of the right to start a family.
  • Universal right: The right to marry is a universal right and it is available to everyone irrespective of their gender.
  • Forced marriage is illegal: A forced marriage is illegal in different personal laws on marriage in India, with the right to marry recognized under the Hindu laws as well as Muslim laws.

How is religious freedom protected under the Constitution?

  • Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
  • It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
  • However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.

Conclusion:

  • The marriage between politics and communalism is not a new phenomenon but to try to inhibit that idea of openness and possibility by casting communal aspersions on personal choice might be a travesty. There needs an innovative and inclusive approach to address the issues arise out of interfaith marriages.

United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent)

Why in News?

  • This article talks about the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

ULFA:

  • ULFA was formed in April 1979 as an offshoot of the Assam Agitation that sought to free the State from foreigners. 
  • The outfit split into the larger pro-talks group and the Paresh Baruah-headed anti-talks faction, which renamed itself the ULFA(I) in 2013.
  • It seeks to establish an independent sovereign nation state of Assam for the indigenous Assamese people through an armed struggle in the Assam conflict. 
  • The Government of India banned the organisation in 1990 citing it as a terrorist organisation, while the United States Department of State lists it under “other groups of concern.”

Online recruitment:

  • Outfit uses social media to recruit cadres.Sub-nationalist Assamese poems and similar content on social Media are used to convince youth  to take up armed revolution against the “Indian colonialists” represented by the armed forces. 
  • Several spotters of the extremist group are assigned to recruit fresh faces from villages in Assam.
  • In February 2022, the ULFA(I) refuted the “theories” that it undertakes recruitment drives through social media platforms and blamed the Assam police and the Army for creating fake Facebook accounts in the name of the outfit to discredit ULFA(I).
  • But in April 2022, Chief Minister of Assam insisted that the outfit had used Facebook, YouTube and other platforms to lure and induct at least 47 boys and girls into its ranks within a few days. 

Eroding Support Base:

  • Information gathered from surrendered extremists points to the outfit finding fewer takers than in the past. 
  • The Indian Army is pre-training teenagers to improve their chances of recruitment in the security forces.
  • The Indian Army is also organising vocational courses and coaching classes to prepare local youth from underprivileged families for admission to top colleges across the country. This outreach is also usually done through social media platforms.
  • Once they join the organisation, the outfit forbids the use of mobile phones. This meant that they had to cut ties with the very social media channels that had initially drawn them to the ULFA(I). This is making youth quit the outfit.
  • Improved connectivity including telecom and roads has ensured rapid development of the villages which further makes the recruitment difficult for the outfit.

Curbing individualism in Public Health

Why in News?

  • A failure to examine and interpret public health problems from a population perspective is leading to ineffective and unsustainable solutions as far as complex public health problems are concerned. There is a strong tendency in public health to prioritise individual-oriented interventions over societal oriented population-based approaches, also known as individualism in public health.

 What are the problems in public health approach?

  • Micronutrient supplementation at Individualistic level instead sustainable approach at public level: Problems such as undernutrition, for which individualist solutions such as micronutrient supplementation and food fortification have been proposed as solutions in lieu of sustainable approaches such as a strengthening of the Public Distribution System, supplementary nutrition programmes, and the health services.
  • Diagnosis and treatment than the solutions that modify health behaviours: Similar is the case with chronic disease control, wherein early diagnosis and treatment is the most popular solution, with little scope for solutions that can modify health behaviours (through organised community action). Recent evidences that show individualism is preferred over population-based approach
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY): A nationwide publicly-funded insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) falls under Ayushman Bharat. It is the largest health insurance scheme in the country covering hospitalisation expenses for a family for ₹5 lakh a year. The goal is to ensure ‘free’ curative care services for all kinds of hospitalisation services so that there is no financial burden to the beneficiary.
  • Approach needed: What is not talked about in the entire scheme is the need for hospitalisation services per year for any population.
  • Approach preferred: Instead, every individual is given an assurance that if there is a need for hospitalisation expenses, the scheme will cover the expenses, highlighting the risk/probability of every individual facing hospitalisation in a year.
  • Individualistic response: This is an individualistic response to the problem of hospitalisation expenditure faced by populations. This becomes obvious when one examines the data on annual hospitalisation across populations.
  • Vaccination for COVID-19 unlike other vaccinations: It was evident that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot prevent people from getting the disease but only reduce hospitalisation and deaths in the event of contracting COVID-19.
  • Approach needed: To effectively manage COVID-19, what was needed was to have primary, secondary, and tertiary health-care facilities to manage the above proportion of cases. This is what a population-based approach to epidemic would be focusing on.
  • Approach preferred: Instead, by focusing on a vaccination programme for the entire population, it is again an assurance and a promise to every individual that even if you get COVID-19, you will not need hospitalisation and not die. Even after the entire crisis, not much is talked about in terms of the grossly inadequate health-care infrastructure to ensure the necessary primary, secondary and tertiary care services for COVID-19 patients, in turn leading to many casualties.
  • Individualistic response: The entire focus has been on the success story that every individual is protected from hospitalisation and death achieved through vaccine coverage. Most of the deaths due to COVID-19 are a reflection of the failure to offer ventilator and ICU support services to the 1%-2% in desperate need of it. Curative care provisioning is never planned at an individual level as epidemiologically, every individual will not necessarily need curative care every time. The morbidity profile of a population across age groups is an important criterion used to plan the curative care needs of a population.

What the data on population hospitalization suggests?

  • Episode of hospitalization a year: Data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (75th round) show that on an average, only 3% of the total population in India had an episode of hospitalisation in a year (from 1% for Assam to 4% for Goa and 10% for Kerala the need also a function of availability). The proportion hovers around 3%-5% across most Indian States.
  • Population based healthcare planning is necessary: This is population-based health-care planning. Instead, giving an assurance to every individual without ensuring the necessary health-care services to the population is not really helping in a crisis.

Determinants of individualistic approach

  • Misconception in philosophy of public health: The dominance of biomedical knowledge and philosophy in the field of public health with a misconception that what is done at an individual level, when done at a population level, becomes public health. This is despite the contrasting philosophy and approaches of clinical medicine and public health and the evidence that support the latter and must be based on population characteristics and economic resources.
  • Visibility impact and mistake of judging a population’s characteristics: Health effects are more visible and appear convincing at the individual level, wherein improvements at the population level will be clear only after population-level analysis; this needs a certain level of expertise and orientation about society an important skill required for public health practitioners.
  • Market’s role and the effect of consumerism in public health practice: The beneficiaries for a programme become the maximum when 100% of the population is targeted. Instead of making efforts to supply evidence of the actual prevalence of public health problems, market forces would prefer to cast a wide net and cover 100% of beneficiaries. Propagating individualism has always been a characteristic feature of a consumerist society as every individual can then be a potential ‘customer’ in the face of risk and susceptibility.

Conclusion:

  • The need of the hour is population-level planning, which means, population as a single unit needs to be considered. All forms of individualistic approaches in public health need to be resisted to safeguard its original principles of practice, viz. population, prevention, and social justice.

Ni-kshay Mitras

Why in News?

  • Within three months of its launch, more than 52,000 Ni-kshay Mitras have registered.

Highlights:

  • With more focus on nutritional improvement among TB patients, the Union Health Ministry launched the Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana in 2018 as part of National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) which provides direct cash benefit transfer of ₹500 per month to TB patients on treatment.
  • Jan bhagidari (people’s participation) forms the core principle of the  Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan to provide additional support to TB patients.
  • Undernutrition and TB form a vicious cycle. Poor nutritional status predisposes an individual to get infected by the disease, or have a dormant disease manifest clinically. TB leads to depletion of nutrient reserves and aggravation of undernutrition.
  • Optimum nutritional support to TB patients improves weight gain, adherence to therapy, muscle strength, quality of life, robust recovery and reduced mortality. 

The Ni-kshay mitras:

  • Under this policy, Ni-kshay Mitras can adopt and care for TB patients.
  • Ni-kshay Mitras are volunteers who could be individuals, NGOs, co-operative societies, corporates, and even political parties.
  • They commit to help the TB patients through nutritional support, nutritional supplements, additional investigations and vocational support.
  • Helping a TB patient could avert ruinous downslide of a family due to wage loss. Humanitarian support from people could save the life of a TB patient.

Need for an effective Tourist Police

Why in News?

  • Crimes against tourists and other foreign nationals appear to be on the rise in India. Consider several recent cases, and the lessons they suggest.

 Some of the recent cases of crime against tourists:

  • A case of rape and murder in Kerala: A few days ago, a Kerala session court sentenced two men to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of a Latvian tourist in 2018.
  • A case of a rape of a girl child in Goa: A 12-year-old Russian girl was raped in a hotel in Goa on April 6 this year. The rapist was an employee of the hotel in which the girl was staying with her mother.
  • A case extortion in Gurugram: An Iraqi couple staying at a hotel in Gurugram for the treatment of the husband in the Medanta hospital was accosted by two miscreants posing as policemen on October 23. They accused the couple of carrying drugs and on the pretext of checking their wallets, fled with $15,000 the couple had saved for the treatment.
  • A case of sexual misconduct in Delhi: On September 2, a British woman lawyer lodged a complaint of sexual misconduct against a cab driver who was ferrying her from the airport to her hotel in South Delhi. The incident traumatized her to the extent that she left for the U.K. within two days of her arrival.

Status of Crimes against foreigners:

  • Drastic decline in cases of crimes against foreigners in Delhi: According to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Delhi recorded 27 cases of crime against foreigners last year, a drastic decline from 62 cases reported in 2020 and 123 in 2019.
  • Sharp reduction Rajasthan: Rajasthan has shown a sharp reduction in registration of crimes from 16 in 2019 to just 4 in 2020 and two cases last year, which could be attributed to the sharp decline in tourist arrivals due to COVID-19.
  • Though there is a decline in cases but the data is still shameful and to be studied: As many as 29 foreigners were murdered in the last three years. While 14 foreigners fell victim to rape last year, 16 were raped in 2020 and 12 in 2019. As many as 15 cases of assault to outraging modesty of foreign women were registered last year across the country, apart from 14 complaints of cheating. While 142 cases of theft were lodged by foreigners in 2019, it declined to 52 in 2020 and further dipped to 23 in 2021.
  • Women are more prone and most cases go unreported: Women are more prone to sexual attacks by criminals on the prowl in tourist destinations. For every crime committed against foreigners, there would be several others that go unreported for multifarious reasons, with one of them being the fear instilled in them by the threats of these criminals. In the South Delhi incident, the British national was reluctant to lodge a formal complaint out of fear

How do such cases of crimes against tourists tarnish our image?

  • Not only dents our image but also impacts on tourism: Crime against foreigners not only dents our image globally but could also adversely affect the inflow of foreign tourists, which is a vital source of income for our country.
  • It impacts Tourism sector which is one of the significant sources of FOREX: Tourism happens to be one of the biggest foreign exchange earners for India. Such cases may leave tourists moral down and they may lose sense of security.

What is Tourist police scheme and what steps can be taken to ensure security of the Tourists?

  • Booklet on the tourist police scheme and tourist police stations: The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) has brought out a booklet on the tourist police scheme detailing the mode of setting up of tourist police stations and control rooms, outposts, uniforms, recruitment, qualifications, training and logistics requirements for tourist police stations.
  • Identified tourist spots: As many as 25 popular tourist spots have been identified in the country where the tourist police necessarily need to be deployed to help foreigners. As an incentive, 30% deputation allowance has been recommended for the police personnel who joins the tourist police on deputation.
  • Identified Criminals in and around tourists’ spots need to be kept on constant surveillance: While the setting up of tourist police stations is a commendable step to provide safety to foreigners, much needs to be done to instil a sense of security in them even before they leave their countries for India. With theft being the most common crime committed against foreigners, all criminals in and around tourist spots need to be identified and kept under constant surveillance.
  • Fast track courts should be set immediately to try cases of crimes against tourists: Since foreigners come for short durations, the cases cannot be allowed to linger on in courts for long. Fast track courts should be set up immediately to try cases of crime against foreigners and the culprits punished speedily. It may be recalled that a rape convict, Bitihotra Mohanty, was tried for raping a German national in Alwar (Rajasthan) on March 21, 2006 and he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on April 12, that is, within 22 days.

A positive step by Ministry of Tourism:

  • For the effective implementation of Tourism police scheme: In order to provide a safe environment for tourists, the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), organised a conference in New Delhi on October 19, 2022. It was organised with a view to “sensitise the specific requirements of the tourists for effective implementation of Uniform Tourist Police Scheme at pan-India level”.
  • States that have tourist police: Though the concept of ‘tourist police’ has been in vogue for the past few years, it has not been given the kind of attention it deserves. The States that have tourist police are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala.
  • Delhi a neglected state is gearing up for tourist police wing: In view of the forthcoming G20 Summit, the Delhi police is gearing up its tourist police wing, which was hitherto in a neglected state and so are other States which will see a huge influx of foreigners.

Conclusion:

  • With optimistic predictions of about 13.34 million foreign tourists arriving by 2024, there is a pressing need to upgrade our security systems specially to provide a flawless security blanket cover to foreign tourists. Safety assumes utmost importance to draw tourists in hordes.

The debate around conjugal visits for prisoners

Why in News?

  • The State of Punjab has allowed conjugal visits for prison inmates in order to ensure the right to life and personal liberty of prisoners.

Conjugal Rights of Prisoners:

  • Conjugal rights broadly refer to the rights created by marriage i.e. the right of the husband or the wife to the company of their spouse.
  • With respect to prisons, conjugal visits refer to the concept of permitting prisoners to spend time privately with their spouses within the prison premises.
  • There have been several arguments about conjugal visits having positive impacts on prisoners in the form of psychological health benefits, preservation of marital ties and, the reduction in the rates of homosexuality and sexual aggression within prisons. 
  • Further, there are arguments that say that conjugal visits are a fundamental right of the spouses of the prisoners. 

Are Conjugal Rights of Prisoners recognised through Law?

  • Conventions, treaties and regulations such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, etc. have recognised prisoner rights internationally.
  • These treaties and conventions guarantee prisoners the right to life and inherent dignity. 
  • The right to maintain family relations including conjugal visits is also included in these treaties. 
  • The concept of a conjugal visit has been adopted by various countries such as the U.S., Canada, Germany, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
  • Further, most of the Laws and Rules related to prisons across India also acknowledge the importance of maintenance of continuity in family and social relations.

Supreme Court’s views on extending conjugal rights to prisoners:

  • In Sunil Batra v.s Delhi Administration case, 1979, the Supreme Court held that the visits by family and friends are solace in isolation to prisoners and only a dehumanised system can deprive prisoners of this humane opportunity.
  • In the Jasvir Singh v/s State of Punjab case where a couple convicted of murder and on death row had filed a petition to the court to enforce their right to procreate. 
  • The key contention before the court was to determine whether the right to conjugality and procreation is a part of the right to life. 
  • The High Court in the case had held that the right to conjugality is also available to prisoners under Article 21 which is subjected to reasonable restrictions. 
  • However, in Meharaj v/s State case, 2022, the Madras HC while hearing the argument on whether conjugal rights form part of the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), said that there should be differential standards in enforcement of Article 21 for law abiders and law violators. 
  • Further, the Court had said that even though conjugal visits could not be held as a fundamental right, the prisoner would still be eligible to avail leave for conjugal visits if there are extraordinary reasons such as infertility treatments.

Punjab government’s stand:

  • The State guidelines have clarified that conjugal visits are considered a matter of privilege rather than a right. 
  • According to the guidelines notified, the average time for conjugal visits would be two hours which would be allowed once every two months. 
  • Further, the visiting spouse must have proof of marriage and medical certificates which show that the individual is free from HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease (STDs), COVID-19 or any other infectious disease. 
  • Additionally, such facilities will not be provided to high-risk prisoners such as terrorists, child abuse convicts, death row convicts, sexual offenders, death row convicts, prisoners who suffer from HIV, etc.

Delhi HC allows Woman to Terminate her 33-Week Pregnancy

Why in News?

  • The ‘ultimate decision’ in matters of abortion ought to recognise a woman’s choice to give birth and the possibility of dignified life of the unborn child, the Delhi High Court observed on December 6, while permitting a 26-year-old married woman to terminate her 33-week pregnancy.

What is India’s Abortion Law?

Historical Perspective:

  • Until the 1960s, abortion was illegal in India and a woman could face three years of imprisonment and/or a fine under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • It was in the mid-1960s that the government set up the Shantilal Shah Committee and asked the group, headed by Dr Shantilal Shah, to look into the matter of abortions and decide if India needed a law for the same.
  • Based on the report of the Shantilal Shah Committee, a medical termination bill was introduced in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and was passed by Parliament in August 1971.
  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 came into force on 1st of April 1972 and applied to all of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Also, Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, criminalises voluntarily “causing miscarriage” even when the miscarriage is with the pregnant woman’s consent, except when the miscarriage is caused to save the woman’s life.
  • This means that the woman herself, or anyone else including a medical practitioner, could be prosecuted for an abortion.

About the MTP Act:

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 act allowed pregnancy termination by a medical practitioner in two stages:
  • A single doctor’s opinion was necessary for abortions up to 12 weeks after conception.
  • For pregnancies between 12 to 20 weeks old, the opinion of two doctors was required to determine if the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health or if there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously “handicapped” before agreeing to terminate the woman’s pregnancy.

Recent Amendments:

  • In 2021, Parliament amended the law to allow for abortions based on the advice of one doctor for pregnancies up to 20 weeks.
  • The modified law needs the opinion of two doctors for pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • Further, for pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks, rules specified seven categories of women who would be eligible for seeking termination under section 3B of rules prescribed under the MTP Act,
  • Survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest,
  • Minors,
  • Change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce),
  • Women with physical disabilities (major disability as per criteria laid down under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
  • Mentally ill women including mental retardation,
  • The foetal malformation that has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped, and
  • Women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disasters or emergencies may be declared by the Government.

What are the Concerns?

  • Cases of Unsafe Abortions:
  • Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal mortality in India, and close to 8 women die from causes related to unsafe abortions each day, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s State of the World Population Report 2022.
  • The women outside marriages and in poor families are left with no choice but to use unsafe or illegal ways to abort unwanted pregnancies.
  • Shortage of Medical Expert in Rural India:
  • According to a 2018 study in the Lancet, 15.6 million abortions were accessed every year in India as of 2015.
  • The MTP Act requires abortion to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics.
  • However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s 2019-20 report on Rural Health Statistics indicates that there is a 70% shortage of obstetrician-gynaecologists in rural India.
  • Illicit Abortions leading to Maternal Mortality:
  • As the law does not permit abortion at will, it pushes women to access illicit abortions under unsafe conditions, thus result in maternal mortality.

Way Forward:

  • India’s legal framework on abortion is largely considered progressive, especially in comparison to many countries including the United States where abortion restrictions are severely restricted — both historically, and at present.
  • Further, there is a need for a serious rethink in public policy making, also accommodating all the stakeholders to focus on women and their reproductive rights, rather than drawing red lines those medical practitioners cannot cross while performing abortions.

Domestic Violence: Why Women choose to remain silent?

Why in News?

  • Just ahead of the International Day for Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women (November 25), the brutal murder and mutilation of a young woman by her partner has drawn attention to intimate partner violence, also recognized under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) as a kind of domestic violence.

Background

  • Due to prevalence of patriarchy women have been discriminated not only in India but in most parts of the world.
  • According to The United Nations, one out of every three women experience domestic violence. The same UN report suggests that the most dangerous place for women is their home.
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for the development and well-being of families, communities and nations.

Domestic Violence:

  • Domestic violence is any pattern of behavior that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. It encompasses all physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.

Domestic Violence can include the following

  • Physical Violence: Use of Physical force or hurting or trying to hurt a partner .it also includes denying medical care.
  • Sexual Violence: Forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent.
  • Psychological Violence: Psychological violence involves causing fear, threatening physical harm or forcing isolation from friends, family, school or work.
  • Economic Violence: Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources.
  • Emotional Violence: Undermining a person’s sense of self-worth through constant criticism; belittling one’s abilities; verbal abuse. 

Analysis of Domestic violence cases and protection of women in India

  • Punishable offence: Domestic violence is a punishable offence under Indian law. It is a violation of human rights.
  • According to NFHS-5: yet, National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) reveals that we live in a society where violence against women persists to such an extent that 32% of ever-married women aged 18-49 years have ever experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence committed by their husband, with more rural than urban women reporting experiences of domestic violence.
  • Protection of women from domestic violence Act 2005: Over 17 years ago the PWDVA, a progressive legislation, was passed, promising a joined-up approach, involving civil and criminal protections, to support and protect women from violence within the household, not just from husbands.
  • Unable to access the law: Despite the law existing on paper, women are still largely unable to access the law in practice. Its promise and provisions are unevenly implemented, unavailable and out of reach for most Indian women.
  • Very less percentage of women who seek help: The most disheartening reality is that despite almost a third of women being subject to domestic violence, the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) reports that only 14% of women who have experienced domestic violence have ever sought help; and this number is much lower in the rural areas.
  • Despite of multiple laws, most women choose not to seek help: In a country where domestic violence is a crime, where there are multiple laws explicitly designed to protect women against violence, most women survivors of domestic violence never seek help.

Domestic violence

  • An interesting first-hand case study on “why women choose to remain silent”?
  • Subject: Research in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu aims to better understand ‘help seeking’ and the everyday realities, obstacles, prejudices and fears that women experience around sharing and reporting experiences of violence.
  • Questions: Simple and well-meaning questions, “Why didn’t you leave earlier?” “Why didn’t you tell someone about the violence earlier?”

Thoughts and Response:

  • Women were hopeful that things would change, that they could change their husband’s behaviour, that he would listen to them.
  • Crucially women did not want to be a ‘burden’ on others, in particular their families. ‘My mother has a lot of worries, she has her own life so I didn’t want to add to her own worries, with mine.’
  • By naming the violence they experienced, women believed that they would become ‘a problem’ or a source of ‘tension’ for their families, in bringing them shame and dishonor, irrespective of the survivor’s level of education, caste, or class.
  • For migrant women, trans people or those with several sisters, or ill, older or deceased parents, it was felt even more acutely that the perpetrator’s violence was their individual responsibility to manage.

Findings of the case study on seeking help

  • Majority of parents asks to accommodate: The first group of women mainly turned to their parents who, in a majority of cases, insisted on their daughter preserving the family environment which they should do by ‘adjusting’ to, or accommodating their husband’s (and his family’s) needs better.
  • Minority cases where daughters’ welfare is prioritized: In a minority of cases, the daughter’s welfare was prioritized over the well-being of the ‘the family’ and steps were taken to help mediate or exit the relationship, and much more infrequently approach the police and lawyers.
  • Accepted as patriarchal norm mostly by women themselves: So ingrained are social norms about gender inequality that NFHS-5 data reports that women are more likely than men to justify a scenario in which it is acceptable for a husband to beat or hit his wife.
  • Sharing experience gives relief: For instance, one interviewee explained, ‘the way we are conditioned, it was hard to complain about any suffering’. Though survivors who did (finally) confide in relatives and friends about domestic violence described feeling a ‘sense of a relief’ and that a ‘burden had been lifted’, giving them new ‘hope’ that things might change.
  • Confession is powerful step, seek for help comes with mixed emotions: Whilst sharing experiences of violence was an incredibly powerful step for women, actually transforming their violent domestic experiences and accessing services and support provided by the state and non-state actors proved to be an arduous roller coaster of emotions, promises, uncertainty, fear and disappointment.
  • Financial dependence stops women form accessing legal justice: With few safe houses across India, the simple reality was that many women have nowhere else to go, and access to legal justice through the courts was a material possibility only for women with independent wealth and connections or those supported by specialist non-governmental organizations. So, for many survivors, transforming their situation depended on securing their economic self-sufficiency by pursuing new skills and livelihood opportunities.

Role of the police

  • Police were the part of problem than the solution: Women who reported experiences of violence to the police were cynical about the outcome. Though a small minority had positive experiences, for the majority of those we interviewed, the police were part of the problem rather than a solution to violence.
  • Police more likely to send women back to reconcile: Across the States, that the police were more likely to send women back to violent households to reconcile with the perpetrator or use violence against perpetrators as a deterrent instead of filing an official complaint or connecting women to protection officers and other service providers, as the PWDVA outlines they should.
  • Absence and under resourced Protection officers: Several States are yet to implement Protection officers. And where they are in post, they are under resourced, under-skilled and overworked, making their remit impossible.

Conclusion

  • Even whilst its legislature recognizes that domestic violence is a crime, and civil remedies exist through protection orders, managing the fallout of domestic violence is still being subcontracted to survivors and the family. That is the biggest crime being committed against women today. Women empowerment without social justice is a futile exercise, State must take appropriate social empowerment steps in this direction.

A reality check on Nutrition programs

Why in News?

  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022 has brought more unwelcome news for India, as far as its global ranking on a vital indicator of human development is concerned. India ranked 107 out of 121 countries. Malnutrition still haunts India

Global hunger Index (GHI):

  • The GHI is an important indicator of nutrition, particularly among children, as it looks at stunting, wasting and mortality among children, and at calorific deficiency across the population.
  • Findings according to the National family health survey findings (NFHS-5)
  • India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) from 2019-21 reported that in children below the age of five years, 35.5% were stunted, 19.3% showed wasting, and 32.1% were underweight.

Status of budgetary allocation for Government Schemes:

  • Gaps in the funding: Experts have suggested several approaches to address the problem of chronic malnutrition, many of which feature in the centrally-sponsored schemes that already exist. However, gaps remain in how they are funded and implemented, in what one might call the plumbing of these schemes.

Saksham Anganwadi:

  • The Government of India implements the Saksham Anganwadi and Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) 2.0 scheme (which now includes the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme),
  • It seeks to work with adolescent girls, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children below three.
  • However, the budget for this scheme for FY2022-23 was ₹20,263 crore, which is less than 1% more than the actual spent in FY2020-21 an increase of less than 1% over two years.

PM POSHAN:

  • PM POSHAN, or Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman, known previously as the Mid-Day Meal scheme (National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools).
  • The budget for FY2022-23 at ₹10,233.75 crore was 21% lower than the expenditure in FY2020-21.
  • It is clear that the budgets being allocated are nowhere near the scale of the funds that are required to improve nutrition in the country.
  • What are the hurdles for effective Implementation of such large-scale schemes.
  • Underfunded Nutrition Programme: An Accountability Initiative budget brief reports that per capita costs of the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (one of the largest components of this scheme) has not increased since 2017 and remains grossly underfunded, catering to only 41% of the funds required.
  • Vacant posts of Projects officers and insufficient manpower: The budget brief also mentions that over 50% Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) posts were vacant in Jharkhand, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, pointing to severe manpower constraints in successfully implementing the scheme of such importance.
  • Regular controversies over the food served under MDM: While PM POSHAN (or MDM) is widely recognized as a revolutionary scheme that improved access to education for children nationwide, it is often embroiled in controversies around what should be included in the mid-day meals that are provided at schools.
  • Irregular social audits: Social audits that are meant to allow community oversight of the quality of services provided in schools are not carried out routinely.
  • Volatile food prices effects: The effect of cash transfers is also limited in a context where food prices are volatile and inflation depletes the value of cash.
  • Social factors: Equally, there are social factors such as ‘son preference’, which sadly continues to be prevalent in India and can influence household-level decisions when responding to the nutrition needs of sons and daughters.

Suggestions for the effective delivery of the government schemes:

  • Tracing the reasons behind existing malnutrition: It is clear that malnutrition persists due to depressed economic conditions in large parts of the country, the poor state of agriculture in India, persistent levels of unsafe sanitation practices, etc. Political battles over malnutrition are not going to help; nor is continuing to think in silos.
  • Cash transfers where purchasing poverty is less: Cash transfers have a role to play here, especially in regions experiencing acute distress, where household purchasing power is very depressed. Cash transfers can also be used to incentivize behavioural change in terms of seeking greater institutional support.
  • Targeted supplementation: Food rations through PDS and special supplements for the target group of pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants and young children, are essential.
  • Community participation: Getting these schemes right requires greater involvement of local government and local community groups in the design and delivery of tailored nutrition interventions.
  • Comprehensive social education programs for girls: A comprehensive programme targeting adolescent girls is required if the inter-generational nature of malnutrition is to be tackled. There is a need of comprehensive social education programme.

Conclusion:

  • Malnutrition has been India’s scourge for several years now. A month-long POSHAN Utsav may be good optics, but is no substitute for painstaking everyday work. The need of the hour is to make addressing child malnutrition the top priority of the government machinery, and all year around.

Data surveillance and the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released the Digital Personal data Protection Bill, 2022, on November 18.

Background: Demand for the data surveillance reforms:

  • The journey towards a data protection legislation began in 2011 when the department of Personnel and Training initiated discussions on the Right to Privacy Bill, 2011.
  • As per an Office Memorandum dated September 29, 2011, the then attorney General, Goolam Vahanvati, opined that conditions under which the government can carry out “interception of communication” should be spelt out in the Bill.
  • The report of the group emphasized the need to examine the impact of the increased collection of citizen information by the government on the right to privacy. Since then, civil society organizations, lawyers and politicians have consistently demanded surveillance reform, highlighting how personal data can only be protected when the government’s power to conduct surveillance of citizens is meaningfully regulated.

Revoked version of Digital Personal data Protection Bill, 2022

  • Eases cross-border data flows but wide-ranging powers to state agencies: The reworked version of the data protection Bill, released three months after the Govt withdrew an earlier draft, eases cross-border data flows and increases penalties for breaches. But it gives the Centre wide-ranging powers and prescribes very few safeguards.
  • Delicate balance on privacy and restrictions: Officials at the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) have said the new draft strikes a delicate balance and factors in learning from global approaches, while staying aligned to the Supreme Court’s ruling on privacy as a fundamental right, but within reasonable restrictions.
  • Seven principles of the Bill: The explanatory note accompanying the Bill elaborates on the seven principles it seeks to promote, including transparency, purpose limitation, data minimization, and preventing the unauthorized collection of personal data.

The surveillance architecture In India:

  • Main components: The surveillance architecture in India comprises mainly of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885; Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000; and the procedural rules promulgated under them.
  • No clearly defined ground: No But this architecture does not meaningfully define the grounds under which, or the manner in which, surveillance may be conducted.
  • No safeguards: It also does not contain safeguards such as ex-ante or ex-post facto independent review of interception directions.
  • Lack of accountability: The concentration of power with the executive thus creates a lack of accountability and enables abuse. Evidence for this emerges not only from instances of political surveillance, but also from the slivers of transparency that accidentally emerge from telecom companies.
  • Excessive surveillance: For instance, submissions by Airtel to the Telecommunications Department, as part of the public consultation process for the Indian Telecommunication Bill, reveal that excessive data collection requests are already a reality. Airtel has asked the government to share the costs it incurs to comply with the increasing demands from law enforcement agencies to carry out surveillance.
  • Concerns over citizen data processing: Apart from outright surveillance, unfettered collection and processing of citizen data for other purposes, such as digital governance, raise concerns.

What are the concerns over the revoked version of the bill?

  • No proposals for surveillance reform: All iterations of the data protection legislation since the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, the draft Data Protection Bill, 2021 and the 2022 Bill have no proposals for surveillance reform.
  • Data processing without consent: Personal data can be processed even without the person’s consent. Blanket exemptions Like previous iterations, Clause 18(2) of the 2022 Bill allows the Union government to provide blanket exemptions for selected government agencies.
  • Permits exemption to private entities: However, this Bill is more egregious than previous iterations as it permits exemption to private sector entities that may include individual companies or a class of them, by assessing the volume and nature of personal data under Clause 18(3).
  • Exemptions without the purview of data protection: Under the new Bill in India, exempted state agencies and private entities will not be within the purview of the Data Protection Board, the body responsible for imposing penalties in case fiduciaries infringe privacy.

Data processing in other countries:

  • Comparative legal regimes, which, as per the explanatory note, were considered before proposing the Bill, do not contain comparable provisions.
  • Such blanket exemptions to state agencies, let alone private corporations, are absent in foreign legislations.
  • Exemptions on case by case and the rationale behind it: While the existing or proposed legislations in the European Union and in the U.S. permit security agencies to claim exemptions on a case-by-case basis, depending on why they are collecting personal data, they do not contain blanket exemption powers to an entire government entity.
  • Meaningful state surveillance: Other jurisdictions exercise meaningful oversight over state surveillance. For instance, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the U.K. is authorized to hear complaints against misuse of surveillance powers and can impose monetary penalties in case of a breach.

Conclusion:

  • The preamble to the 2022 Bill states that the purpose is to protect the personal data of individuals and to ensure that personal data is processed only for lawful purposes. However, blanket exemptions for state agencies alongside private entities raise untold concerns, which need to be addressed on a war footing.

A place for all refugees under India’s Welfare Umbrella

Why in News?

  • “16 Days of Activism” will be held from 25th November 2022.

Highlights: 

  • Annual “16 Days of Activism” against gender-based violence will be organized from 25th November 2022 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to 10th December 2022 (International Human Rights Day).
  • The global theme of 2022 is: “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.
  • It aims to ensure that gender and protection deficits are reversed. It is important to unite to end violence against women and girls and empower them. Moreover, men should also be supported to become agents of change. 
  • The world faces an overall increase in domestic violence, trafficking, child marriage, sexual exploitation, and abuse. 
  • Women face a disproportionate burden due to conflict situations like Russia-Ukraine War, a coup in Myanmar, and a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, as they are forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries. 

India’s Performance:

  • The women of India were awarded suffrage during India’s independence in 1947. 
  • India played a crucial role in ensuring gender-sensitive norms while drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, the language of ‘all men are created equal’ was changed to ‘all human beings are created equal ’.
  • India has also ratified key international conventions like the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
  • Indian Women have also overcome “the glass ceiling” in the armed forces and are now allowed to serve as commanders (since 2020). 
  • Moreover, India accounts for the largest number of women in the United Nations peacekeeping forces, thus implying the equal role that women can play in conflict-struck territories. 
  • The government at both central and state levels has launched various schemes/policies to support girls/women in both urban and rural areas. 
  • For example, the ‘Nari Shakti for New India’ campaign represents the aspirations of millions of women and even provides them the opportunity to lead.

Case of Refugee Women:

  • There are approximately 2,12,000 refugees in India. The government ensures that refugees can access protection services similar to Indian citizens.
  • Moreover, refugees registered directly by the Government like those from Sri Lanka are also entitled to Aadhaar cards and PAN cards for economic and financial inclusion. They can also access welfare schemes. However, refugees registered with the UNHCR can access protection and limited assistance services only and are thus inadvertently left behind.

Principles of Financial Consumer Protection

Why in News?

  • Earlier this year, the G20/OECD released a draft of the proposed revisions to their 2011 High-level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection. As India takes over G20 presidency in December, it must lead others by example and adopt the revised principles, especially since the global financial markets are headed for a stormy future.

What is Financial Consumer Protection (FCP)?

  • Financial consumer protection encompasses the laws, regulations, and institutional arrangements that safeguard consumers in the financial marketplace. It includes technical guidance, country reports, and tools for policymakers, regulators, development partners and other experts.

Background of Financial Consumer Protection

  • 10 thematic areas: The 2011 principles covered 10 thematic areas reflecting the market and consumer issues, including equitable and fair consumer treatment, disclosures and transparency, and financial education.
  • Two additional principles included: In October, the fourth finance ministers and central bank governors meeting endorsed these principles. In 2022, two additional principles were included access and inclusion and quality financial products.
  • Recommendation for intervention: The updated principles also recommend intervention by regulators in certain high-risk products, cultivating appropriate firm culture and using behavioral insights to better consumer outcomes.
  • These principles deal with three cross-cutting themes
  • Financial well-being,
  • Digitalization and
  • Sustainable finance.

Financial well-being under Financial Consumer Protection

  • Individual financial well-being: OECD’s working definition of “individual financial well-being” refers to being in control, feeling secure and having freedom about one’s own current and future finances.
  • Easy disclosure to consumers: An effective FCP regime must ensure adequate and easy to understand disclosures to consumers. However, an information dump for mere compliance defeats this purpose, especially in India where financial literacy is not pervasive.
  • Risk profiling by service provider: Regulators such as SEBI prescribe certain financial service providers to assess customer suitability and undertake risk profiling before providing services.
  • India does not recognize this theme: At present, India does not recognise this concept. Going forward, faced with challenges like financial illiteracy and economic hardship, it may be worth considering.

Digitization under FCP:

  • Increasing digital channels in financial domain: FCP must factor in the increasing number of digital channels consumers use to interact with financial products and services and the impact of greater use of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
  • Guideline on digital lending by RBI: In September, the RBI released guidelines on digital lending, mandating entities providing digital lending services to have a grievance redress officer, assess a borrower’s creditworthiness before extending credit, and allow a borrower to exit without penalty.
  • Poor grievance redressal: Additionally, there are concerns regarding redress of grievances against payment service providers in the UPI ecosystem. With the rising number of UPI transactions and the largely unregulated status of cryptocurrencies, FCP will continue to be relevant.

Sustainable finance under FCP:

  • Multi-dimensional approach: There is growing consumer demand for sustainable financial investments. Financial services providers are incorporating environmental, social and governance factors into their operations, products and services.
  • Transparency is must: FCP recommends improved transparency to help consumers make informed choices.
  • BRSR by SEBI: SEBI has transitioned from “business responsibility reporting” to “business responsibility and sustainability reporting” (BRSR) to promote responsible corporate governance vis-à-vis climate change.
  • Mandatory disclosure by BRSR: Eligible companies under BRSR must provide certain disclosures, including a sustainability performance report. This allows investors to make an informed decision. Similar disclosures must be introduced in other market segments.

Conclusion:

  • The RBI’s financial inclusion index shows that an increasing number of people are entering financial markets. FCP is central to ensuring that they continue to stay. The current regulatory landscape is sectoral and fragmented, resulting in regulatory arbitrage, as witnessed in the case of digital gold. Regulators must take a coordinated approach to protect consumers.

Is India a Diabetes capital of the world?

Why in News?

  • India is often referred to as the ‘Diabetes Capital of the World as it accounts for 17%percent of the total number of diabetes patients in the world. There are currently close to 80 million people with diabetes in India and this number is expected to increase to 135 million by 2045. World Diabetes day is observed on 14 November.

 What is Diabetes?

  • Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how our body turns food into energy.
  • Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body has high sugar levels for prolonged periods of time.
  • The lack of insulin causes a form of diabetes.
  • Type-I Diabetes: It is a medical condition that is caused due to insufficient production and secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1
  • Type-2 diabetes: With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2.

Type-2 diabetes in brief 

  • Long term Condition: It is long-term (chronic) condition which results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstreams and poor response of insulin. Eventually, high blood sugar levels can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems. Type 2 diabetes is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as a fuel. It is a defective response of Insulin
  • More common in adults: Type 2 is more common in older adults, but the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more cases of type 2 diabetes in younger people.
  • Slow signs and symptoms: Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly. Symptoms include, Increased thirst, Frequent urination, Increased hunger, Unintended weight loss, Fatigue, Blurred vision, Slow-healing sores, Frequent infections etc. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (but more and more in children, teens, and young adults).
  • Cure for Type-2: There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but losing weight, eating well and exercising can help you manage the disease. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar, you may also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.

What is insulin?

  • Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas.
  • Insulin regulates the movement of sugar into your cells.
  • Blood glucose levels tightly controlled by insulin.
  • When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level

The prevalence of diabetes in India:

  • People living with Diabetes in India: There are an estimated 77 million people with diabetes in India. Which means one in every 10 adults in India has diabetes. Half of those who have high blood sugar levels are unaware. Even among those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, only half of them have their blood sugar level under control.
  • Rapid increase in younger population: According ICMR report, the prevalence of diabetes in India has increased by 64 percent over the quarter-century. prevalence among the younger population has also increased above 10%.
  • Children impacting more: Worryingly, in India, a large number of children are also impacted by diabetes. Children are developing obesity and metabolic syndrome early because of the change in diets to more processed and fast foods.
  • Projected Estimation: About 98 million Indians could have diabetes by 2030, these projections come from the International Diabetes Federation and the Global Burden of Disease project.
  • Children impacting more: Worryingly, in India, a large number of children are also impacted by diabetes. Children are developing obesity and metabolic syndrome early because of the change in diets to more processed and fast foods.

Why Indians are more prone to diabetes?

  • Lifestyle changes: The current exponential rise of diabetes in India is mainly attributed to lifestyle changes. The rapid change in dietary patterns, physical inactivity, and increased body weight, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat, are some of the primary reasons for increased prevalence.
  • Ethnically more prone: Ethnically, Indians seem to be more prone to diabetes as compared to the Caucasians, although the precise mechanisms are not well known. we Indians have a greater degree of insulin resistance which means our cells do not respond to the hormone insulin. And when compared to Europeans, our blood insulin levels also tend to rise higher and more persistently when we eat carbohydrates.
  • Greater genetic predisposition: The epidemic increase in diabetes in India along with various studies on migrant and native Indians clearly indicate that Indians have an increased predilection to diabetes which could well be due to a greater genetic predisposition to diabetes in Indians.
  • Decrease in traditional diets: At the same time, the increased ‘westernization’, especially in the metros and the larger cities, has led to a drastic change in our dietary pattens. Indian diets have always been carbohydrate-heavy and now the reliance on refined sugars, processed food in the form of quick bites and fuss-free cooking and trans fatty acids are creating havoc.
  • Mechanization of day-to-day work: With the increasing availability of machines to do our work, there’s also a substantial drop in day-to-day activities.
  • Consumption of high calorie food and lack of physical activities: Obesity, especially central obesity and increased visceral fat due to physical inactivity, and consumption of a high-calorie/high-fat and high sugar diets, thus become major contributing factors.
  • Rapid urbanization: Currently, India is undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition with increased urbanization. The current urbanization rate is 35% compared to 15% in the 1950’s and this could have major implications on the present and future disease patterns in India with particular reference to diabetes and coronary artery disease.
  • Rural-urban migration: The rural migration to urban areas and associated stress plays a significant role in lifestyle change.

Ways to manage Increasing Diabetes in India

  • Aggressive Screening procedures: Indians need an upstream approach or prioritizing protection of the population as a whole, beginning with women and children. This can be done with aggressive screening procedures. “Anybody above 18, with a clear-cut risk like family history, weight issues and young women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) should be tested. All Indians above 30 should be screened.
  • Timely diagnosis and right management: Medical experts feel that timely detection and right management can go a long way in helping patients lead a normal life.
  • Diet discipline for children: For children, Doctors recommends a serious diet discipline. “Only healthy meals are the option that remains. Tutor the tastebuds of the young and stop their access to fast foods. There can be supportive policy measures making healthy fruits and vegetables accessible in a cost-effective manner to all instead of plain carbs. The mid-day meal or tiffin needs to be looked at thoughtfully and to make it healthy.
  • Promoting physical activities: “The overall decline in physical activity has had devastating impacts on our metabolism,” while agreeing with the 30-minute a day exercise and activity schedule, sounds a note of caution. The recent scientific evidence suggests even five minutes of walk after any meal provides some protection.
  • Adopting healthy Lifestyle: Though a chronic medical condition, Diabetes can be curbed at the initial level by introducing lifestyle changes. Experts suggests, reduce stress; sleep on time and for minimum of seven hours, maintaining ideal body weight, regular physical activity stop smoking, stopping/ minimum alcohol intake and get early treatment for any pre-existing or co-morbid health condition such as hypertension.
  • Regular check-ups: Regular visits to the doctor are important to assess sugar control and assessment/ prevention of complications related to the disease.

Conclusion:

  • With the country having the highest number of diabetic patients in the world, the sugar disease is posing an enormous health problem to our country today. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet on diabetes, an estimated 3.4 million deaths are caused due to high blood sugar in the world.

Vice-Chancellor Appointment, New Chapter in Centre-State Relations

Why in News?

  • Recent judgments of the Supreme Court of India on the appointment of vice chancellors (VC) in State universities in violation of the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) are significant in the context of higher education in a federal country such as India.

 What are the recent judgements of Supreme Court?

  • Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi vs The State of Gujarat (March 3, 2022): In the case, Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi vs The State of Gujarat (March 3, 2022), from Sardar Patel University, Gujarat, the Court (Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna) quashed the appointment of the incumbent Vice Chancellor on the ground that the search committee did not form a panel for the appointment of VC, and, therefore, was not in accordance with the UGC Regulations of 2018.
  • UGC regulations will prevail over state law: It was held that since the State law was repugnant to the UGC regulations, the latter would prevail and the appointment under the State law had become void ab initio.
  • Professor (Dr) Sreejith P.S vs Dr. Rajasree M.S. (October 21, 2022): In the second case, from Kerala, i.e., Professor (Dr) Sreejith P.S vs Dr. Rajasree M.S. (October 21, 2022), with the Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and M.M. Sundresh, the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, was challenged on the ground that the search committee recommended only one name, which is against the UGC Regulations.
  • Supreme court quashed the appointment of VCs: The Court quashed the appointment of the VC on the ground that the provision relating to the search committee in the University Act is repugnant to the UGC Regulations, and was therefore void.

Implications of the recent judgement:

  • Many VCs asked to resigned by Governor: Decision of the Supreme Court triggered unprecedented developments in Kerala with the State Governor, who is the Chancellor of all the universities in Kerala, asking as many as 11 VCs of other universities of the State to resign immediately on the ground that their appointments too had become void after the Supreme Court’s judgment.
  • Tussle between governor and state: No VC has resigned as per the direction of the Governor. This development has intensified an already raging battle between the state government and the Governor, which is likely to become fiercer with the Kerala High Court quashing the appointment of the VC of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies on November 14 on the ground that this appointment was in violation of the UGC Regulations.

What are the legal and constitutional issues with judgement?

  • UGC regulations vs state university Act: In both these cases, the issue framed by the Supreme Court is about whether the appointment of VCs should be made as per the UGC Regulations or the provisions of the State University Act.
  • Education in concurrent list, Centre and state can make a legislation: As education is a subject on the Concurrent list, this question needs to be addressed seriously. A VC is appointed by the Chancellor under the relevant University Act, but the Supreme Court has brought in Article 254 of the Constitution to rule that if provisions of the State law are repugnant to the provisions of the Union law, the State law will become void.
  • State law declared void over UGC violations: In the cases mentioned above, the top court found that the search committee recommended only one name for the appointment of VC which violates the UGC Regulations which require three to five names, and, therefore, the provision of the State law is void.
  • Subordinate regulations prevailed over state law: Thus, the Court’s conclusion is that if any provision in the State university law is repugnant to the UGC Regulations, the latter will prevail and the former will become void. So, on the one side we have an Act passed by a legislature and on the other we have regulations made by a subordinate body such as the UGC.

Opinion of experts

  • State laws are subordinate to the act of parliament: A careful reading of Article 254 would show that the repugnancy under this Article relates to a state law and a substantive law made by Parliament. It impliedly excludes rules, regulations, etc. Rules and regulations are made by subordinate authorities in this case the UGC whereas the substantive law is made by the superior authority, namely Parliament.
  • State laws are not subordinate to UGC regulations: The repugnancy can arise only between the provisions of the University Acts and the UGC Act, and not the regulations of the UGC.
  • UGC regulations are inferior to state assembly: The rules and regulations made by the subordinate authority, though laid in Parliament, do not go through the same process as a law. Normally these do not require the approval of Parliament. The rules and regulations have an inferior status as compared to an Act. The Constitution cannot be assumed to equate the Act with the rules.
  • Article 254 does not include regulations: The Constitution does not, in general terms, define the term law. The inclusive definition of law given in Article 13(2) is applicable only to that Article. It has no application to other Articles, which means the term law does not include the rules, regulations, etc. for the purpose of Article 254.
  • Violation of federal principle: The regulations made by a subordinate authority of the Union overriding a law made by a state legislature will amount to a violation of federal principles and a negation of the concurrent legislative power granted to the State by the Constitution.
  • UGC regulations are Not part of UGC act: The UGC Regulations on the appointment of VCs are outside the scope of the main provisions of the UGC Act as none of its provisions refers to the appointment of VCs.

Conclusion:

  • Issue of appointment of vice-chancellor has opened the new conflicting chapter between Centre-state relations. Supreme court’s decision has further added the confusion rather than clarity to the issue. Supreme court need to review the judgements for harmonious relations between Centre and states.

Permanent Commission for 11 Women Officers

Why in News?

  • SC has directed IAF and central government to consider granting Permanent Commission (PC) to 32 retired women officers

What is a Permanent Commission?

  • The Permanent Commission entitles an officer to serve in the Armed Force till he/she retires unlike Short Service Commission (SSC), which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.

Background of the issue:

  • The order came on after a SC verdict with nearly a 10-year-old appeal filed by the government against a 2010 decision of the Delhi High Court to grant SSC women officers permanent commission.
  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992. Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • According to government, isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and they would have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family. Women ran the risk of capture by enemy and being taken prisoner of war.

What is the Significance of the Court Order?

  • Article 14 and 15 states Right to Equality and the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them respectively.
  • The court found the remarks in the note not only constitutionally invalid but discriminatory, affecting the dignity of women officers.
  • It also declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.

Implications of the order:

  • The women officers can now occupy all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
  • If women officers had served only in staff, they would not have gone beyond the rank of Colonel. After implementation of the judgement, a woman can rise to the rank of Colonel and above based on merit, like their male counterparts.
  • At the rank of Colonel, an officer picks up a substantive command and would be delegated to carry out independent tasks.
  • A Colonel commands a battalion, which typically consists of 850 men. A woman officer who is successful in this position could technically rise to the highest ranks of the Army, though, women officers will not be inducted into the combat arms such as the infantry, artillery or armored corps.

Way Forward:

  • Presently, adjustments, both in thought and letter, are necessary to rebuild the structures of an equal society. These adjustments and amendments however, are not concessions being granted to a set of persons, but instead are the wrongs being remedied to obliterate years of suppression of opportunities which should have been granted to women.
  • It is not enough to proudly state that women officers are allowed to serve the nation in the Armed Forces, when the true picture of their service conditions tells a different story.
  • A superficial sense of equality is not in the true spirit of the Constitution and attempts to make equality only symbolic.

Role of Private Sector in Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission

Why in News?

  • On 27 September, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the rollout of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission with the aim of integrating the different and disparate digital health systems that exist into a National Digital Health Ecosystem.

What is Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM)?

  • The ABDM currently has five main components:
  • Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) number: A unique health identification number,
  • Healthcare Professionals Registry (HPR): A repository of healthcare professionals across both modern and traditional systems of medicine,
  • Health Facility Registry (HFR): A repository of both public and private health facilities, including hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and pharmacies,
  • Unified Health Interface (UHI): An open protocol for digital health services linking patients with healthcare providers,
  • ABHA Mobile App: An app allowing an individual to carry electronic health records.

Analyzing the future of India’s health care system:

  • Digitization push of Government: To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of universal health coverage, the Indian government has expended significant efforts to promote the digitization of the healthcare sector to make health accessible, affordable, and equitably distributed.
  • Citizens and doctors can access the health registry: The two registries would ostensibly create a database of India’s healthcare institutions and professionals that citizens would be able to access.
  • Digital health card: The ABHA number and the application allow citizens to securely identify themselves and carry their health records to any healthcare facility.
  • Targeted health care services: And lastly, the UHI would facilitate greater access to and delivery of healthcare services.
  • Huge data for research: All of this activity has and will generate a tremendous quantity of data, which will be crucial for research, innovation, and policymaking.

Importance of private sector in health sector

  • Mixed health care system: India has a mixed healthcare system, which means that it has both public and private healthcare providers. Without significant participation from the private healthcare providers, the ABDM’s ability to achieve its objectives will be limited.
  • 81% doctors are private: This is because private healthcare infrastructure accounts for nearly 62 per cent of all of India’s health infrastructure and the private sector also provides 81 per cent of the doctors in India.
  • Preference to private healthcare: Both rural and urban population in India seem to prefer seeking treatment from the private sector. Only 33 per cent of the rural and 26 per cent of the urban population depend on the public sector for healthcare.

Why Private health care are opting out of ABDM?

  • Voluntary participation in ABDM: The voluntary nature of participation in the ABDM has led to a significant portion of private healthcare providers opting to not participate in the universal programme nor integrate into the UHI.
  • High cost for digital records: Small healthcare providers like charitable hospitals, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies, or nursing homes are less inclined to participate because of the significant costs involved.
  • Requirement of manpower for digitization: The cost to these healthcare providers, who are most likely in various stages of digitisation, is the number of man hours required to digitise their health records and other data.
  • Financial cost of digitization: The actual financial cost of upgrading or altering their digital health systems to meet basic required standards to participate in the ABDM and the UHI.

Impact of non-participation by private players

  • A lack of participation from the private sector will negatively impact the objectives of the ABDM in major way:
  • Limited success for UHI: Considering the concentration of private healthcare providers in urban areas, a lack of their participation and integration would limit the UHI’s ability to bring previously inaccessible services to the rural population who would otherwise have to travel to access them.
  • Incomplete data and ineffective policy: The data generated by the ABDM and use of the UHI would be incomplete, which in turn would significantly limit the effectiveness of policy planning and programme delivery.

Conclusion:

  • It is unclear whether the government intends to achieve private sector participation through incentives or mandates. Without either approach, it seems that the ABDM will see little participation from smaller private healthcare providers, though how this will play out remains to be seen.

Regulating the Election funding system

Why in News?

  • Elections are to democracy what financial markets are to the economy. The absence of an omnibus law to regulate elections and political parties in India is a legislative gap waiting to be filled.

Significance of political parties in democracy:

  • A political party is an organized group of citizens who hold common views on governance and act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
  • Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition.
  • Political parties in India are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.

Current procedure of recognizing and regulating the political parties In India

  • Registration of political parties: The Representation of the People Act 1951 was amended in 1988 to add a new section IVA on “Registration of political parties” by which the Election Commission of India (ECI) exercises its mandate for superintendence, direction, and control of elections under Article 324 of the Constitution of India.
  • Recognition as national or state political party: Association of citizens can apply to the ECI to be registered by submitting its Memorandum of Association and swearing allegiance to the Constitution. It requires fulfilment of performance criteria, including a minimum share of the electoral votes cast in the last election and the number of seats won to become a recognized national or a state party.
  • A regulatory gap in Municipal political parties: Municipalities became the third level of government, three decades ago in 1992, through the 74th constitutional amendment. But a parallel recognition for political parties operating only at the municipal level is yet to be conceptualized.

Mechanism of Election funding:

  • Encouraging private corporates and individual investment: Indian government does not directly fund election campaigns of parties or independents. However, it has made political parties exempt from income tax, to encourage private corporate and individual investment in building political parties.
  • Limit on election campaign expenditure: The ECI set upper-end limits (January 2022) for election campaign expenditure in parliamentary seats at INR9.5 million and INR4 million in state legislature seats.
  • Electoral bonds to end large cash payments in election finance.

Scheme of electoral bonds:

  • A publicly owned commercial bank, with the largest network of branches is the only designated vendor. Bonds remain valid for 15 days within which they can be encased through the bank account of the selected political party.
  • The purchaser-donor enjoys tax credits on the purchased bonds as in any other donation to charities.
  • Association of democratic records: The idea was to facilitate large donors, preferring anonymity whilst donating funds for elections, with an alternative to cash payments.

What is the cause of concerns over the electoral bonds?

  • Anonymity of the electoral bonds: The anonymity afforded by the bonds is primarily versus citizens.
  • Bond vendor is a government owned bank: SBI is a government-owned bank, which can be persuaded by the government into sharing data informally regarding the bond purchases and encashments by political parties

What can be done to ensure the security of the donor?

  • Bond Digitization: Bonds should be digitized and the privacy of the transfer should be protected through encryption.
  • Authorized access: Redemption is through banking the audit trail of the donor and the recipient would exist for authorized access.
  • Enhancing transparency with ECI: Transparency should be enhanced whilst protecting anonymity by authorizing ECI to collect and publish de-personalized information.
  • Personal data should be accessed with the specific orders only: Access for security and criminal investigation agencies to the personal data should come via a specific order of the ECI allowing such privileged access.

What are the suggestions for better governance of the political parties?

  • Strict Supervision of political parties: Poor Intra-party governance is concentrated in the Registered Unrecognize Political Parties (RUPP). Most are in breach of their undertaking to fight an election within five years and remain active thereafter.
  • Strengthen the Regulatory compliance: The benefit of income tax exemption should only be available after registered parties demonstrate a five-year record of compliance with the regulations.
  • Enforce inner-party democracy and avoiding conflict of interest: Making party members occupying party positions, ineligible for holding executive positions in government. This is necessary to create a complete segregation of functions within the ruling party and the government
  • Empower ECI to regulate political parties: The misuse of the fiscal privileges afforded to political parties can be minimized through targeted regulatory tweaks, within the existing construct of private financing and the inner functioning of parties improved through targeted regulation.

Conclusion:

  • “Secrecy is a darkness where corruption gets nurtured”. Funding to the political parties need to be transparent. Transparent funding will pave the way for level playing field for all the political parties.

Kerala Government seeks Centre’s help to tackle fund crunch

Why in News?

  • Kerala has approached the Centre seeking urgent measures, including expansion of its borrowing limit, a special assistance of Rs. 3,224.61 crore for capital investment, and payment of arrears for tackling resource constraints faced by it.

Background:

  • He Reserve Bank of India in a report titled ‘State Finances: A Risk Analysis‘ said states’ fiscal positions deteriorated sharply in 2020 with a sharp decline in revenue, an increase in spending and a sharp rise in debt to GSDP ratios.
  • Based on the debt to GSDP ratio in 2020-21, the RBI found the debt burden in 10 states including Kerala quite high.
  • Kerala’s debt during the financial year 2021-22 was estimated to be at 37 per cent and is expected to be 2 per cent during the current financial year, data showed.

Kerala’s stand:

  • Finance minister of Kerala said, there were no “lapses in finance management.”
  • Centre had taken powers of the states to collect taxes: As part of GST, the central government has taken all powers to collect taxes from state governments and also decreased the states’ share. The state lost a minimum of 12,000 crores.

Basics about borrowing of states:

Constitutional provisions:

  • Article 293 in The Constitution deals with the Borrowing by States.
  • It says: The executive power of a State extends to borrowing within the territory of India upon the security of the Consolidated Fund of the State within such limits, and to the giving of guarantees within such limits, if any, as may be so fixed.

Why states need Centre’s permission while borrowing?

  • Article 293(3) of the Constitution requires states to obtain the Centre’s consent in order to borrow in case the state is indebted to the Centre over a previous loan.
  • In practice, the Centre has been exercising this power in accordance with the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
  • Every single state is currently indebted to the Centre and thus, all of them require the Centre’s consent in order to borrow.

Need for such restrictions:

  • One possible purpose behind conferring this power upon the Centre was to protect its interests in the capacity of a creditor.
  • A broader purpose of ensuring macroeconomic stability is also discernible, since state indebtedness negatively affects the fiscal health of the nation as a whole.

Improving the Quality of Policing? Centre-State Need to Work Together

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) convened a conference in late October in the capital, which saw the participation of the union home minister, a few States Home Ministers and police chiefs. The Delhi conference was a very important occasion aimed at improving the quality of policing in the country through an exchange of ideas.

Sardar Patel’s vision of Police

  • Training and Professionalism: He placed great value on professional policing, one reason why he insisted on an elitist and well-trained corps such as the Indian Police Service (IPS) which worked alongside the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
  • Didn’t abandon the civil services: He was under immense pressure from various quarters, to disband both the Indian Civil Service and IPS, but as a distinguished and astute visionary, he was steadfast in his belief.
  • Nationally accepted standards: Subsequent events proved him right. Despite all their faults, the two all-India services have been a cementing force and have greatly contributed to establishing nationally accepted standards of governance, especially in the area of law and order.

What is the Present status of Policing in India?

  • A case study of Tamil Nadu: The way the Tamil Nadu police have handled the case of a blast in Coimbatore that happened recently, and a possible terror-related plot, also fits in this scene and is relevant to the state of law and order in the State and elsewhere.
  • Delay in serious cases: There is a section of influential public opinion which has accused the Tamil Nadu government of having been slothful and delayed handing over investigation of the incident to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). This has been rebutted by the State Director General of Police (DGP) who said that his force could not abruptly abandon the investigation and had to do the preliminary investigation to facilitate an NIA take-over.
  • Shifting the responsibility: The exchange of barbs by the two sides has been an unfortunate and avoidable development and the truth lies in between. Rather than getting into a slanging match, what is more important is an examination of the standard operating procedures in place, the identification of lacunae and the initiation of corrective measures.
  • West Bengal case: Conflict between the Ministry of Home affairs and State over utilizing talent in the IPS and the sharing of resources available in the States.

What is the better approach for governance of Police?

  • Collaborative approach: It is a no-brainer that, New Delhi is the senior partner in what is definitely a collaborative relationship. But there have been actions over the decades that have inflicted many deep wounds on public order.
  • Forge a strong camaraderie: These have been situations that have demanded large numbers of well-trained policemen. The Centre has always chipped in with support from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). There have also been other outfits such as the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) which have also worked in tandem with the State Police. Therefore, it makes sense that the MHA and State Police stop squabbling but explore how best to forge a strong camaraderie.
  • State must cooperate with centre: We are also witness to frequent spats between States and the Centre over the use or alleged misuse of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Here again both parties have to share the blame. But the basic point that has been ignored is that crime and bureaucratic corruption have inter-State ramifications and only a national agency can bring in a much-needed and wide perspective.
  • CBI is inevitable for corruption at state level: Insensitive action by a few States to withdraw consent to the CBI to function in a state smack of politics and vindictiveness, which diminishes the fight against public servant graft.

How union government can improve the Policing?

  • Training and technology: ‘Police’ are a state subject under the distribution of powers laid down in the Constitution of India. But that does not mean the Union government has no say in the matter. Training and technology are two areas where the Centre does greatly contribute to sharpening police ability to combat terrorism and other major public disturbances.
  • The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy: in Hyderabad is a world-class institution that has resources and the professional excellence which are generously available to State police forces.
  • Strong political leadership: Petty squabbling reduces the exchange of ideas and goes to attenuating the police response to difficult situations that require police assistance. This is why we need a political leadership that does not get bogged down in petty differences but promotes a free exchange of talent and resources between New Delhi and the States.

Conclusion:

  • With exponential rise if technology nature of crimes has significantly changed. We must impart a modern training with professionalism to our Police. Police subject need to delink from Centre-state politics.

MGNREGA LABOURERS WAGE HIKE

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has approved a double-digit hike in the wages of manual labourers under Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The workers will get a wage hike from Rs. 13 to Rs. 34.

Highlights:

  • The average per day wage rate for unskilled work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will rise 11 per cent from ₹182 to ₹202 for the fiscal year 2020-21.
  • For 2019-20, the average wage rate was almost unchanged, with a rise of just 1.6 per cent.
  • Although the MGNREGA wage notified for 2020-21 is substantially higher, it continues to be 40-50 per cent lower than the minimum wages paid to unskilled agricultural workers.
  • The minimum wages are revised twice a year by the chief labour commissioner, when the variable dearness allowance is adjusted to changes in the consumer price index.”
  • The prevailing rates for unskilled agricultural workers are between ₹347-383 per day, depending on the region of employment.

CPI-linked Changes:

  • The MGNREGA wage revision is linked to the changes in the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Workers (CPI-AL).
  • A committee set up by the government had recommended using CPI-Rural (CPI-R) instead of the existing CPI-AL for revising MGNREGA wages every year.
  • There is a big variation in the wages paid to MGNREGA workers across States.

MGNREGA:

  • MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is the largest work guarantee programme in the world.
  • It was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.
  • It aims at addressing causes of chronic poverty through the ‘works’ (projects) that are undertaken, and thus ensuring sustainable development.

Funding:

  • Funding is shared between the centre and the states.
  • There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour), material and administrative costs.
  • The central government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labour, 75% of the cost of semiskilled and skilled labour, 75% of the cost of materials and 6% of the administrative costs.

NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEMS RESOURCE CENTRE (NHSRC)

Why in News?

  • The National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC) has been designated as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Priority Medical Devices and Health Technology Policy.

Highlights:

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) formally announced the re-designation of the NHSRC as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Priority Medical Devices and Health Technology Policy.
  • Previously, NHSRC as a collaborating centre has supported WHO in formulating technical specifications for medical devices such as oxygen concentrators and resuscitation devices and continues to support evaluation of innovations for WHO’s compendium on innovative devices.This year in collaboration with WHO’s country’s office, NHSRC developed a guidance document for the Ministry’s free diagnostics initiative to further strengthen the agenda of Universal access to affordable diagnostics.
  • NHSRC also works with WHO on development of technical specification of Blood pressure measuring devices, In vitro diagnostics and devices for cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC):

  • Established in 2006, the NHSRC’s mandate is to assist in policy and strategy development in the provision and mobilization of technical assistance to the states and in capacity building for the Ministry of Health.
  • It was set up under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Government of India to serve as an apex body for technical assistance.
  • The goal of this institution is to improve health outcomes by facilitating governance reform, health systems innovations and improved information sharing among all stakeholders at the national, state, district and sub-district levels through specific capacity development and convergence models.

AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • In a major move aimed at making Aadhaar making people friendly, the Union Cabinet has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the earlier ordinance.
  • The Ordinance amongst other things envisaged strengthening of the Aadhaar Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Justice B.N.Srikrishna Committee.

Details of the Amendment Bill:

  • The salient features of the amendments are as follows—
  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder;
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number or its alternative virtual identity.
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years;
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority.
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002; Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities; Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication; Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund; Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, and appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act.

Impact:

  • The decision would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhar.No individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

AAI SIGNS ‘TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AGREEMENT

GS 2 : Governance

Why in News?

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has signed a ‘Technical Assistance Agreement’ with aerospace major Boeing.

Highlights:

  • The agreement aims to develop an air traffic management roadmap which will improve airspace utilization and help maintain efficient aircraft operations.
  • The AAI will use guidance in the modernization of the Indian National Airspace System (NAS).
  • The roadmap is expected to be developed within 18 months and it will be undertaken with a grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
  • In this project, Boeing will also work closely with Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and other airspace stakeholders like the US-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP).

SWACHH BHARAT MISSION IMPACT ON GROUNDWATER

Why in News?

  • Swachhata has affected all aspects of the environment – be it groundwater, surface water, soil or air – as well as health and well-being of the communities in ODF regions as per the report published by UNICEF

Environmental Impact study by UNICEF:

  • Under the “Environmental impact of the SBM on Water, Soil, and Food” by UNICEF, groundwater samples were collected and studied from ODF and non-ODF villages of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal
  • The study found that, in terms of faecal contamination, non-ODF villages were, on average:
  • 25 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated (12.7 times more from contaminants traceable to humans alone)
  • 13 times more likely to have their soil contaminated
  • 48 times more likely to have food contaminated and 2.68 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated.
  • The study findings indicated that these substantial reductions may potentially be attributed to the improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices.

IEC footprint study by Gates Foundation:

  • IES stands for Information, Education and Communication
  • The “Assessment of the reach and value of IEC activities under SBM (Grameen)” was conducted by Dalberg, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • It estimated the scale of IEC activities within the Mission and assessed associated monetary and in-kind costs, and outputs such as reach.

The study found that:

  • SBM mobilized a spend equivalent worth INR 22,000 to 26,000 crores in monetary and non-monetary IEC Activities
  • Of this spend equivalent, cash expenditure on IEC activities spent by the Government, private sector, and the development community was estimated to be between INR 3,500 – 4,000
  • An average person living in rural India was exposed to between 2,500 – 3,300 SBM related messages over the last five years

JAN SHIKSHAN SANSTHANS

Why in News?

  •  Fee for SC/ST candidates, who join vocational training under Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS), has been waived off.
  •  These decisions aim to further strengthen the skill ecosystem benefiting those in the underprivileged sections of society.

Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS):

  •  The scheme of JSS was initially launched in 1967 as Shramik Vidyapeeth, a polyvalent or multi-faceted adult education institution.
  •  Formerly under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, JSS was transferred to the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2018.
  •  It was aimed at improving the vocational skills and quality of life of the industrial workers and their family members as well as those persons who had been migrating from rural to urban settings.
  •  Now it has challenging mandate of providing vocational skills to non-literate, neo-literates as well as school drop-outs by identifying skills that have a market in the region of their establishment.

Scope of work of JSS includes:

  •  Develop/Source appropriate curriculum and training modules covering vocational elements general awareness and life enrichment components.

ICMR CALLS FOR COMPLETE BAN ON E-CIGARETTES

GS 2 : Governance – Health & Education

Why in News?

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), based on currently available scientific evidence.
  • Last year, the Centre had issued an advisory recommending a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes in India.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS):

  • ENDS of which electronic cigarettes are the most common prototype, are devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporize a solution the user then inhales.
  • The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavoring agents.
  • ENDS solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.

Why such ban?

  • Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans, which include DNA damage; carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders; and adverse impact on fetal development and pregnancy.
  • ICMR noted that e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, which was highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients such as flavoring agents and vaporizers.

ENDS cannot help quit smoking:

  • The ICMR paper has rejected the argument that e-cigarettes could help smokers quit tobacco consumption.
  • While such benefits have not been firmly established, there is also evidence that there is risk of people continuing to use both them as well as tobacco products.
  • In addition, these devices could encourage non-smokers to get addicted to tobacco.
  • Various flavors and attractive designs are adding to the allure of the devices, and there was an increasing trend of using e-cigarettes among youth and adolescents in many countries.
  • They increase the likelihood to experiment with regular products and increase the intention to indulge in cigarette smoking.

GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES NEW ‘JAL SHAKTI’ MINISTRY

GS 2 : Governance -Ministries & Departments Of The Government

Why in News?

Fulfilling its poll promise, the government has launched a new unified ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry that is aimed at providing clean drinking water as well as fight India’s water woes.

Jal Shakti Ministry:

  • The new ministry has been formed by merging the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • All water related works will be merged under one ministry.
  • The new ministry will encompass issues ranging from providing clean drinking water, international and inter-states water disputes, to the Namami Gange project aimed at cleaning Gang and its tributaries, and sub tributaries.

Why such move?

  • All water projects are complementary to each other. It’s good to have one ministry to have an integrated data management system.
  • In two separate ministries, there was no integration and one will not know where the gap is.
  • The need of the hour is the creation of water availability data from various resources on both quality and quantity at one platform

WHO OFFICIALLY DECLARES EXCESSIVE GAMING A DISORDER

Why in News?

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared excessive mobile, video gaming as a disorder. Several mental and physical illness issues come up due to excessive gaming.

Highlights:

  • “Gaming disorder” alongside “gambling disorder” has officially placed in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) list of “disorders due to addictive behaviours”.
  • Games like PUBG, Loot Boxes and Blue Whale have a darker side that health professionals can no longer ignore.
  • The International Classification of Diseases – ICD is a foundation for recognition of health issues and trends globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health problems.
  • It is used by medical experts around the globe to detect conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.

Gaming disorder:

  • As per the WHO, Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a model of gaming trend characterized by impaired control over gaming, rising priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
  • Gaming disorder is “characterized by a pattern of persistent and recurring gaming behaviour” where a player begins to give priority to gaming over other daily activities and interest to a point where it begins to affect their relationships, work and education.
  • It has caused doctors in India to sit up and take note.

Why included in ICD-11?

  • A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.
  • The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.

NATIONAL SC-ST HUB

Why in News?

• The National Small Industries Corporation Limited (NSIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) for the year 2019-20.

Highlights:

• Under the scheme of National SC-ST Hub being implemented by NSIC on behalf of the Ministry of MSME.

• To provide assistance to SC/ST entrepreneurs through different interventions and various outreach activities with the overall objectives to increase their participation in public procurement.

National SC-ST Hub:

• The National SC/ST Hub has been set up to provide professional support to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Entrepreneurs to fulfil the obligations under the Central Government Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises Order 2012, adopt applicable business practices and leverage the Stand-Up India initiative.

• The Hub would be implemented by the Ministry of MSME through National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), a public-sector undertaking under the administrative control of this Ministry of MSME.

INTERNATIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF DISEASES (ICD)

Why in news?

  • The World Health Organization has for the first time recognised “burn-out” in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers.

Highlights:

  • It could help put to rest decades of debate among experts over how to define burnout, and whether it should be considered a medical condition.
  • WHO defines burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic
    workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
  • The syndrome is characterised by three dimensions:
  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to
    one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

ICD:

  • The ICD is the global health information standard for mortality and morbidity statistics.
  • WHO was entrusted with the ICD at its creation in 1948.
  • ICD is increasingly used in clinical care and research to define diseases and study disease patterns, as well as manage health care, monitor outcomes and allocate resources.
  • More than 100 countries use the system to report mortality data, a primary indicator of health status. This system helps to monitor death and disease rates worldwide and measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
  • About 70% of the world’s health expenditures (USD $ 3.5 billion) are allocated using ICD for reimbursement and resource allocation.

EQUIP PROJECT

Why in News?

  • Equip stands for Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion
  • The Ministry of HRD plans to launch this ambitious ₹5 lakh crore action plan to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the next five years.

Highlights:

  • The Centre would mobilise money from the marketplace through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  • The joint venture between the HRD Ministry and Canara Bank, set up in 2017, has been tasked with raising ₹1 lakh crore to finance infrastructure improvements in higher education by 2022.

Objectives of the project:

  • The committees have drafted strategy to improve access to higher education, especially for underserved communities:
    • improve the gross enrolment ratio;
    • improve teaching and learning processes;
  • build educational infrastructure.
  • improve the quality of research and innovation;
  • use technology and online learning tools; and

work on accreditation systems, governance structures and financing.

A news NEP:

  • This is being described as the implementation plan for the National Education Policy — a 2014 poll promise from the
  • The last NEP was released in 1986, with a revision in

GROUND WATER ASSESSMENT

GS 2: Governance

Why in news?

The Union Water Ministry is finalising an updated estimate on the state of groundwater reserves in the country.

Highlights:

  • The groundwater assessment was last done in 2013. It is undertaken by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)
  • It is a survey that samples a sliver of blocks in each State and counts how many blocks have critically low levels of water and how many are well-stocked.

Key Findings of Previous Year Reports:

  • In 2013, the CGWB assessed 6,584 units across the country and found 4,520 to be “safe,” 681 to be “semi-critical” 253 to be “critical” and 1,034 to be “overexploited.” About 96 blocks were “saline”.
  • The overall contribution of rainfall to the country’s annual ground water resource is 68%.
  • The share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures taken together is 32%.
  • The national per capita annual availability of water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metres in 2011 — a reduction of 15%.

Concerns:

  • India’s groundwater has been depleting at a worrying rate since 1995
  • In 1995, only 3% of districts had overexploited their groundwater reserves whereas by 2011, that had increased to 15%.

INSURANCE REGULATORY AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Irdai proposes to increase third-party insurance premium for cars, two-wheelers

Highlights:

  • Irdai has proposed to increase the Motor TP premium rates for cars below 1000 cc to ₹2,120 from the existing ₹1,850
  • Irdai has proposed a discount of 15%, on Motor TP premium rates for electric private cars and electric two-wheelers

Third Party Insurance:

  • In case of an accident, there are major chances of injuries and damage. Third-party car insurance covers the damage caused to other people involved in the accident.

IRDAI:

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and reinsurance industries in India
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India
  • The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad
  • IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.

NATIONAL E-VIDHAN APPLICATION (NEVA) PROJECT

GS 2: Governance

Why in news?

Kerala Legislative Assembly recently announced an initiative to digitize all its records and proceedings under its ambitious project called E-Vidhan.

e-Vidhan:

  • It is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) comes under the Digital India Programme.
  • Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) is the ‘Nodal Ministry’ for its implementation in all the 31 States/UTs with Legislatures.
  • The funding for e-Vidhan is provided by the MoPA and technical support by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY).
  • The funding of NeVA is through Central Sponsored Schemee. 60:40; and 90:10 for North East & hilly States and 100% for UTs.
  • To bring all the legislatures of the country together, in one platform thereby creating a massive data depository without having the complexity of multiple applications.

Features:

  • Paperless Assembly or e-Assembly is a concept involving of electronic means to facilitate the work of Assembly.
  • It enables automation of entire law-making process, tracking of decisions and documents, sharing of information.
  • Through the cloud technology (Meghraj), data deployed can be accessed anywhere at any time.
  • Himachal Pradesh is already the first Digital Legislature of the country.

PROJECT ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ FOR APAR IMPLEMENTED

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Project ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) in SPARROW (Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window) for Group ‘B’ and ‘C’ Officers of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) implemented.

Highlights:

  • Online writing of APARs in SPARROW for IRS (C&CE) Officers has already been implemented w.e.f. 2016-17.
  • As part of CBIC’s constant endeavor for better HR management, online writing of APARs in SPARROW has now been launched for Group B & C officers of CBIC.
  • SPARROW-CBIC is one of its kind in terms of Scale/ number of employees covered as far as Central Government Departments are concerned.
  • It brings a complete change in APAR management of such large number of Group ‘B’ & ‘C’ Officers/ Staff of CBIC, which would, in turn, lead to better HR Management.
  • This Project leverages modern technology for enhancing the overall efficiency and morale of the huge workforce working in Central GST and Customs formations of CBIC.
  • The Project is an important milestone in the journey towards digitisation and paper less working.

COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has started a probe against Google for alleged anti-competitive practices with respect to its popular Android platform for mobile phones, an official said on Friday.

Need of Competition Commission of India:

  • Competition is the best means of ensuring that the ‘Common Man’ or ‘Aam Aadmi’ has access to the broadest range of goods and services at the most competitive prices. With increased competition, producers will have maximum incentive to innovate and specialize.
  • This would result in reduced costs and wider choice to consumers. A fair competition in market is essential to achieve this objective.
  • Goal is to create and sustain fair competition in the economy that will provide a ‘level playing field’ to the producers and make the markets work for the welfare of the consumers.

The Competition Act:

  • The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
  • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.

Competition Commission of India:

  • The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has been established by the Central Government
  • CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
  • It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

PROJECT SASHAKT

Why in News?

  • Public Sector Banks (PSBs) may now use provisions of Project Sashakt to deal with economically unviable projects where lenders could still initiate corporate insolvency proceedings if there is no other mode of resolution within 180 Days

Highlights:

  • Under the aegis of Project Sashakt, 35 banks have signed an inter-creditor agreement (ICA), which provides the framework to resolve assets through a bank-led resolution approach (BLRA).
  • Under the agreement, if the lead bank is unable to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, the assets will then move to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) Process

Background:

  • The Supreme Court, in its judgement held the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions issued on the treatment of defaults as ‘ultra vires,’ or not valid in respect to the existing legal framework
  • In its ‘Resolution of Stressed Assets–Revised Framework’, the RBI had called on lenders to identify assets “immediately on default,” beginning with loans on which any amount was due from one to 30 Days

What is Project Sashakt?

  • Project Sashakt was proposed by a panel led by PNB chairman Sunil
  • Bad loans of up to ₹ 50 crore will be managed at the bank level, with a deadline of 90
  • For bad loans of ₹ 50-500 crore, banks will enter an inter-creditor agreement, authorizing the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, or refer the asset to
  • For loans above ₹ 500 crore, the panel recom•mended an independent asset management company (AMC), supported by institutional funding through the alternative investment fund (AIF).
  • The idea is to help consolidate stressed

WHATSAPP UNVEILS ‘CHECKPOINT TIPLINE’

Why in News?

  • WhatsApp unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’, where people can check the authenticity of information received as the messaging giant looks to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the

Highlights:

  • Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp.

How does it works?

  • Users in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).
  • Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification
  • centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in a message shared is verified or not. The response will indicate if the information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available. The verification centre, in turn, will be able to review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text. Apart from English, it will cover four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.

Significance:

  • PROTO will also look at working with organisations at the grassroots level to submit misinformation circulating across different regions in India during the election Period
  • The initiative   will   help   create    global   benchmarks    for    those   wishing   to    tackle misinformation in their own Mrkets

DRAFT RULES FOR POULTRY FARMING:

Why in News?

  • Recently draft rules have been laid under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg-laying Hens) Rules, 2019, after High court issued a directive regarding cruelty in poultry

Draft rules for better poultry farming practices:

  • Poultry farms in the country have to have a minimum space of not less than 550 sq
  • They cannot put more than 6-8 birds in a
  • Antibiotics has to be used only for therapeutic purposes and that, too, under supervision by a
  • The policy also bars feeding hens with the remains of dead chicks, thereby preventing diseases to the hens and also benefiting healthy commercial egg production in the
  • Regular inspection of poultry farms by authorised personnel, who should follow proper bio-security
  • No inspector will visit more than one farm within a period of 72 hours for bio-security concerns to prevent the spread of

GUJARAT SALT FOR DE-ICING

Why in news?

  • For the past three years, the salt export from Gujarat has significantly shot up with the major chunk being used in de-icing the roads in the countries reeling under heavy snowfall.

Highlights:

  • Gujarat accounts for 90% of the salt exported from
  • The salt made in Gujarat is routed through China to the European and American countries and Russia due to lesser logistics
  • China also exports its inferior quality salt for de-icing in Polar
  • Generally, the salt export for de-icing starts from the month of September. During this period, the salt export touches around 7-8 lakh tonnes per month from the average four lakh tonnes.

What is De-icing?

  • De-icing is the process of removing snow or ice from the surface of the roads, mostly done by using sodium chloride or other
  • Salt or sodium chloride is preferred as it is
  • This is done to prevent fatal accidents caused by slippery roads in sub-zero

NAMING OF CYCLONES

Why in News?

  • The newest cyclone to emerge out of the Bay of Bengal has been named Before that, there were cyclones Hudhud in 2014, Ockhi in 2017 and Titli and Gaja in 2018
  • Each Tropical Cyclone basin in the world has its own rotating list of
  • For cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the naming system was agreed by eight member countries of a group called WMO/ESCAP and took effect in 2004

Naming a Cyclone:

  • There are five tropical cyclone regional bodies, i.e. ESCAP/WMO Typhoon Committee, WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones, RA-I Tropical Cyclone Committee, RA-IV Hurricane Committee, and RA-V Tropical Cyclone
  • In general, tropical cyclones are named according to the rules at a regional
  • The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones at its twenty-seventh Session held in 2000 in Muscat, Oman agreed in principal to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal

Naming a Cyclone:

  • Bengal and Arabian Sea.After long deliberations among the member countries, the naming of the tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean commenced from September 2004
  • Eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated in the panel and came up with a list of 64 Names
  • If public wants to suggest the name of a cyclone to be included in the list, the proposed name must meet some fundamental criteria, the RSMC website
  • The name should be short and readily understood when Broadcast
  • Further, the names must not be culturally sensitive and should not convey any unintended and potentially inflammatory

How naming takes place?

  • These countries submitted eight names each, which are arranged in an 8×8 table
  • The first cyclone after the list was adopted was given the name in the first row of the first column — Onil, proposed by Bangladesh.
  • Subsequent cyclones are being named sequentially, column-wise, with each cyclone given the name immediately below that of the previous Cyclone
  • Once the bottom of the column is reached, the sequence moves to the top of the next column.
  • So far, the first seven columns have been exhausted, and Fani (again proposed by Bangladesh) is the top name in the last column.
  • The next cyclone will be named Vayu. The lists will wind up with Cyclone Amphan, whenever it comes.

When the lists end?

  • After the 64 names are exhausted, the eight countries will propose fresh lists of names
  • The lists for storms in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins are, however,
  • Exception are, however, made in certain cases — if a storm causes excessive death and destruction, its name is considered for retirement and is not repeated; it is replaced with another name.

Why name cyclones?

  • It is generally agreed that appending names to cyclones makes it easier for the media to report on these cyclones, heightens interest in warnings, and increases community preparedness.
  • Names are presumed to be easier to remember than numbers and technical
  • The practice of naming a storm/tropical cyclone would help identify each individual tropical
  • The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for people to easily understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and
  • It does not confuse the public when there is more than one tropical cyclone in the same area.
  • Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community
  • It’s easier and less confusing to say “Cyclone Titli” than remember the storm’s number or its longitude and latitude.

ICMR LAUNCHES ‘MERA INDIA’ TO ELIMINATE MALARIA BY 2030

Why in News?

  •  The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched the MERA India – a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control – in order to prioritise, plan and scale up research to eliminate the disease from India by 2030.

Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India:

  •  The MERA India does not intend to duplicate international efforts rather complement this on a national scale while contributing to the broader global agenda.
  •  The alliance will facilitate trans-institutional coordination and collaboration around a shared research agenda which responds not only to programmatic challenges and addresses gaps in available tools, but also proactively contributes to targeted research.
  •  It aims to harness and reinforce research in coordinated and combinatorial ways in order to achieve a tangible impact on malaria elimination.
  •  The National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program (NVBDCP) of India has developed a comprehensive framework to achieve the overarching vision of “Malaria free India by 2030”.

Background:

  •  Over the past two decades, India has made impressive progress in malaria control.
  •  The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent, 2.03 million cases in 2000 to 0.39 million in 2018, and malaria deaths by over 90 per cent, 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018.
  •  This success has provided a strong foundation for the commitment from the leadership of the government of India to eliminate malaria from India by 2030.

SEMINAR ON ‘USE OF TECHNICAL TEXTILES IN WATER RESOURCES WORKS’ HELD

Why in News?

  •  One day Technical Seminar was organized by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on “Use of Technical Textiles in Water Resources Works”.

Technical Textiles:

  •  A technical textile is a textile product manufactured for non-aesthetic purposes, where function is the primary criterion.
  •  Technical textiles include
  •  Textiles for automotive applications, medical textiles (e.g., implants)
  •  Geotextiles (reinforcement of embankments)
  •  Agro-textiles (textiles for crop protection)
  •  And protective clothing (e.g., heat and radiation protection for fire fighter clothing molten metal protection for welders, stab protection and bulletproof vests, and spacesuits).

Significance of technical textile:

  •  Technical Textiles are being used globally for last several decades.
  •  These materials have provided innovative engineering solutions for several applications in civil and geotechnical engineering, for infrastructure water resources projects.
  •  Even while Technical Textiles have been extensively used in developed as well as many developing countries, India has yet to capitalise the technical, economic and environmental benefits on large scale.
  •  Various parts of India are subjected to floods and environmental degradation.
  •  In some of the terrains, the flood management and control can rely on Technical Textiles tubes, containers and bags.
  •  Technical Textiles have been found to perform better than concrete as water protection
  • component because of permeability, flexibility and ease of underwater placement.

WHO GUIDELINES ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY FOR CHILDREN UNDER 5 YEARS OF AGE

Why in News?

  •  The WHO issued guidelines as part of a campaign to tackle the global obesity crisis and ensure that young children grow up fit and well, particularly since development in the first five years of life contributes to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.

Recommendations:

  •  Infants (less than 1 year) should:
  •  Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  •  Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times

E-WAY BILL SYSTEM

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Recently, the Finance Ministry has introduced changes in the e-way bill system.

Highlights:

  • The new enhanced system would come with auto-calculation of distance between the source and destination, based on the PIN codes.
  • The user would be allowed to enter the actual distance as per the movement of goods, which will be limited to 10 per cent more than the auto calculated distance displayed.
  • The government has decided not to permit generation of multiple e-way bills based on one invoice. It means if the e-way bill is generated once with a particular invoice number, then none of the parties — consignor, consignee or transporter – can generate another e-way bill with the same invoice number.
  • The enhanced feature would permit extension of validity of the e-way bill when the goods are in transit/movement.
  • The e-way bill portal would also generate a report for users on the list of e-way bills about to expire. This would help the user to analyse the data and ensure that the goods reach the destination within the valid time period.
  • These enhanced features would add value to both, businesses and tax officers as the mixed bag aims at propelling ease of doing business together with acting as a deterrent for tax evaders.
  • Touted as an anti-evasion tool, the electronic way or e-way bill was rolled out on April 1, 2018, for moving goods worth over Rs 50,000 from one state to another.
  • The same for intra or within the state movement was rolled out in a phased manner from April 15.

PAYROLL REPORTING IN INDIA – A FORMAL EMPLOYMENT PERSPECTIVE GS

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

  • The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the press note on Employment Outlook of the country
  • This is done using information on the number of subscribers who have subscribed under three major schemes, namely, the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme, the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme and the National Pension Scheme (NPS).

Employees Provident Fund (EPF):

  • (EPF) is a mandatory savings scheme under the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
  • It is managed under the aegis of Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO). It covers every establishment in which 20 or more persons are employed (and certain other establishments which may be notified by the Central Government even if they employ less than 20 persons each), subject to certain conditions and exemptions as provided for in the Act. The pay ceiling is Rs.15000/- per month. Persons drawing pay above Rs. 15,000 are exempted or can be enrolled with some permission or on voluntary basis.
  • The number of members subscribing to this scheme gives an idea of the level of employment in the formal sector.
  • The data on subscribers-new members, exited members and those subscribers that re-started their subscription is sourced from EPFO.

Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme:

  • The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 is applicable to non-seasonal, manufacturing establishments employing 10 or more workers. For health and medical institutions, the threshold limit is 20 or more workers.
  • ESI Scheme for India is an integrated social security scheme tailored to provide socio-economic protection to the workers in the organized sector and their dependents, in contingencies, such as Sickness, Maternity and Death or Disablement due to an employment injury or occupational hazard.
  • The wage ceiling is Rs.21000/- per month. Subscribers are termed as Insured Persons (IP) and a new IP number can also arise due to change in employment. Employees may cease to pay contribution due to wage exceeding the statutory ceiling of Rs.21000/- per month or owing to resignation, death, retirement or dismissal.
  • Data is sourced from Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the information may have an element of duplication with EPF data and is thus not additive.

NATIONAL PANCHAYATI RAJ DAY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

The National Panchayati Raj Day is celebrated every year in India on 24th April.

Highlights:

  • The Constitution of India recognizes Panchayats as ‘Institutions of self-government’.
  • This day marks the passing of Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from 24 April 1993.
  • The Amendment Act permits states to take steps to organize village panchayats and provide them with necessary powers and authority necessary to facilitate them to function as units of self-government.

National Panchayati Raj Day:

  • The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010.
  • The enactment of the 73rd Amendment Act had led a defining moment in the history of India which helped in the decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
  • In turn, it had led to the institutionalization of Panchayati Raj (PR) through the village, Intermediate and District level Panchayats.

Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992:

  • The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force with effect from 24th April, 1993.
  • It has vested constitutional status on Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • It marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
  • The 73rd Amendment 1992 added a new Part IX to the constitution titled The Panchayats covering provisions from Article 243 to 243(O).
  • A new Eleventh Schedule covering 29 subjects within the functions of the Panchayats.
  • It implemented article 40 of DPSP which says that State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE DIGITAL LIBRARY (TKDL)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

  • CSIR jointly with Department of AYUSH (now Ministry) developed the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).

TKDL:

  • A globally recognized proprietary database on Indian systems of medicine for preventing bio-piracy and misappropriation of our traditional knowledge.
  • The objective of the library is to protect the ancient and traditional knowledge of the country by documenting it electronically and classifying it as per international patent classification systems.
  • To facilitate the non-patent database serves to foster modern research based on traditional knowledge, as it simplifies access to this vast knowledge of remedies or practices.

INVESTOR EDUCATION AND PROTECTION FUND (IEPF) AUTHORITY RECOVERS RS 1514 CR OF DEPOSITORS’ MONEY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

In a major success, the IEPF Authority has been able to enforce The Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Limited to transfer deposits worth about Rs 1514 Cr to IEPF.

Highlights:

  • This depositor’s money was pending with The Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Limited for the last 15 years.
  • This amount was taken by the company by issuing about 1.49 Cr Deposit Certificates and include more than 1 Cr individual investors.
  • The data submitted by the company reveals that 50.77 percent of the total amount was taken in the form of deposit certificates of the value of Rs. 2000 or less. Number wise such certificates form 85.32 percent of the total number of certificates issued.
  • The majority of these investors are common citizens belonging to the lower and middle-income group including daily wage earners, etc.
  • Geographically, the investors involved belong to 30 states and Union territories of the Country. Majority of the investors belong to the state of West Bengal.
  • The Authority has also acted against companies that have transferred the unpaid dividend amount to IEPF but have failed to transfer shares in accordance with section 124(6) of the Act.
  • In some other cases, the companies are showing unclaimed and unpaid amounts in their Balance Sheets but have not transferred such amounts to IEPF even after seven years. Based on the above, the authority has issued more than 4000 notices to the companies under section 206(4) of the Act for calling information.

IEPF Authority:

  • IEPF Authority has been set up under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India as a statutory body under Companies Act 2013 to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund with the objective of promoting Investor’s Education, Awareness and Protection.
  • The Authority takes various initiatives to fulfil its objectives through Investor Awareness Programmes and various other mediums like Print, Electronic, Social Media, and Community Radio etc.
  • The size of IEPF Fund has almost doubled within one year with an accumulated corpus of about Rs 4138 Cr. The companies have also transferred about 65.02 Cr valuing Rs 21,232.15 Cr.
  • Secretary Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairperson of the Authority. Joint Secretary Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Authority.

CONTROLLER GENERAL OF DEFENCE ACCOUNTS (CGDA)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Shri Rajendra Kumar Nayak took over as the 52nd Controller General of Defence Accounts. He is from the Indian Defence Accounts Service.

Defence Accounts Department (DAD):

  • Defence Accounts Department, with the Controller General of Defence Accounts at its head, functions under the administrative control of the Financial Adviser (Defence Services).
  • The duties of the Defence Accounts Department are broadly audit, payment and accounting of all charges pertaining to the Armed Forces, including bills for supplies and services rendered and for construction/repair works, pay and allowances miscellaneous charges, pensions, etc.
  • The Department is also responsible for the audit of cash and stores account kept by the various units and formations (including arsenals, workshops and storage depots) in the three services and maintenance of pay accounts of Army Officers and combatants of Army.
  • They also maintain Accounts relating to works services and audit the construction and other accounts relating to works project maintained by Military Engineer Services.
  • In addition to the duties mentioned above, the Controller of Defence Accounts function as Local Financial Advisers to the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of Commands, Area Commanders, etc.
  • The Defence Accounts Department comes under the Ministry of Defence with the Controller General of Defence Accounts as the Head of the Department.
  • The organization of the Defence Accounts Department corresponds broadly to the organization of the three Services. In addition, it also caters for the Ordnance Factories.

Namami Gange Gets Global Recognition at World Summit

Why in News?

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

Highlights:

  • The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.
  • The awards recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people, according to NMCG, which is under the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • An integrated mission for Ganga rejuvenation, the Namami Gange programme has a comprehensive multi-sector intervention with multi-stakeholder involvement and adopts a basin-based approach.

Global Water Summit:

  • Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.
  • The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

Namami Gange Programme:

  • Namami Gange Programme is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions.
  • Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

NMCG:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation.
  • Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

Namami Gange Gets Global Recognition at World Summit

Why in News?

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

Highlights:

  • The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.
  • The awards recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people, according to NMCG, which is under the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • An integrated mission for Ganga rejuvenation, the Namami Gange programme has a comprehensive multi-sector intervention with multi-stakeholder involvement and adopts a basin-based approach.

Global Water Summit:

  • Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.
  • The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

Namami Gange Programme:

  • Namami Gange Programme is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions.
  • Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

NMCG:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation.
  • Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

SMALL FINANCE BANKS

Why in News?

  •  Data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show that the small finance banks, in total, saw their deposits grow 31.6% in the third quarter (ended December) of this financial year, compared with the second quarter.

Small Finance Banks(SFBs):

  •  The small finance bank will primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and undeserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.

Functions of SFBs:

  •  Accept small deposits and disburse loans.
  •  Distribute mutual funds, insurance products and other simple third-party financial products.
  •  Lend 75% of their total adjusted net bank credit to priority sector.
  •  Maximum loan size would be 10% of capital funds to single borrower, 15% to a group.
  •  Minimum 50% of loans should be up to 25 lakhs.
  • How are they different from other commercial banks?
  •  They Cannot open branches with prior RBI approval for first five years.
  •  Cannot lend to big corporates and groups.
  •  Other financial activities of the promoter must not mingle with the bank.
  •  They cannot set up subsidiaries to undertake non-banking financial services activities.
  •  Cannot be a business correspondent of any bank.

DATA USERS’ CONFERENCE DELIBERATES ON STRATEGY AND QUESTIONNAIRE FOR CENSUS 2021

Why in News?

  •  For the first time in the 140 years long Census exercise in India, data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app.

Highlights:

  •  The data users conference is the first formal interaction of the census organization with various stakeholders. The two-day conference is expected to have intensive deliberations on the proposed Strategy and the draft Questionnaire for the 2021 Census.
  •  The results of deliberations will form the basis for finalizing the questions and the methodology for the census.
  •  enumerators would be encouraged to use their own mobile phone for which they would be paid appropriate remuneration or else there is also option to collect and record the data through paper schedules which will eventually be submitted electronically by them.
  • 33 lakh enumerators would be mobilized for data collection for which notification has already been issued.
  •  The reference date is 1st October 2020 for Jammu & Kashmir and snowbound areas of Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand while for the rest of the country the reference date is 1st March 2021.
  •  Census is not just an exercise of headcount but also provides invaluable socio-economic data which forms a credible basis for informed policy formulation and allocation of resources. The changing demographics and socio-economic parameters reflected by the census helps in the reformulation of the country’s plans for the economic development and welfare schemes for its people.
  •  Besides, census data caters to the Constitutional requirement of delimitation of constituencies and reservation of seats for SCs & STs, Union Home Secretary said.

PRADHAN MANTRI FASAL BIMA YOJA

Why in News?

  • The new Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme. It incorporates the best features of all previous schemes and at the same time, all previous shortcomings / weaknesses have been removed. The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as the Modified NAIS

Objectives:

  • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases
  • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming
  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural Practise
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture Sector

Highlights of the scheme:

    • There will be a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5%. The premium rates to be paid by farmers are very low and balance premium will be paid by the Government to provide full insured amount to the farmers against crop loss on account of natural calamities.
  • There is no upper limit on Government subsidy. Even if balance premium is 90%, it will be borne by the Government
  • Earlier, there was a provision of capping the premium rate which resulted in low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done to limit Government outgo on the premium subsidy. This capping has now been removed and farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction
  • The use of technology will be encouraged to a great extent. Smartphones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting Experiments
  • PMFBY is a replacement scheme of NAIS / MNAIS, there will be exemption from Service Tax liability of all the services involved in the implementation of the scheme. It is estimated that the new scheme will ensure about 75-80 per cent of subsidy for the farmers in insurance Premium

Farmers to be covered:

  • All farmers growing notified crops in a notified area during the season who have insurable interest in the crop are Eligible
  • Compulsory coverage: The enrolment under the scheme, subject to possession of insurable interest on the cultivation of the notified crop in the notified area, shall be compulsory for following categories of farmers:
  • Farmers in the notified area who possess a Crop Loan account/KCC account (called as Loanee Farmers) to whom credit limit is sanctioned/renewed for the notified crop during the crop season. and Such other farmers whom the Government may decide to include from time to
  • Voluntary coverage: Voluntary coverage may be obtained by all farmers not covered above, including Crop KCC/Crop Loan Account holders whose credit limit is not renewed.

Unit of Insurance:

  • The Scheme shall be implemented on an ‘Area Approach basis’ i.e., Defined Areas for each notified crop for widespread calamities with the assumption that all the insured farmers, in a Unit of Insurance, to be defined as “Notified Area‟ for a crop, face similar risk exposures, incur to a large extent, identical cost of production per hectare, earn comparable farm income per hectare, and experience similar extent of crop loss due to the operation of an insured peril, in the notified area

NIRF & ARIIA RANKINGS 2019

Why in News?

  • The President of India has announced the results for National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)-2019 and Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)-2019. These were the fourth edition of NIRF Rankings and first edition of ARIIA ranking.

Highlights:

  • Indian Institute of Madras (IIT Madras) has topped the list in ‘overall category’.
  • 7 IITs are among the first ten position holders whereas JNU, Delhi has secured the seventh rank. IISc Bengaluru has topped ‘University category’. Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has retained its third position in the top 10 universities in the country for the third consecutive

NIRF:

  • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched by the Minister of Human Resource Development on 29th September
  • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the
  • The parameters broadly cover
    • Teaching, Learning and Resources,
    • Research and Professional Practices,
    • Graduation Outcomes,
    • Outreach and Inclusivity and
    • Perception

ARIIA Rankings 2019:

  • IIT Madras has topped the ‘Public funded Institutions Category’.
  • Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu has topped the ‘Private Institutions Category’.

ARIIA:

  • It is an initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of
  • To systematically rank all the major higher educational institutions and universities in India on indicators related to “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development” amongst students and
  • Major Indicators are:
    • Budget & Funding Support
    • Infrastructure & Facilities
    • Awareness, Promotions & support for Idea Generation &Innovation.
    • Promotion & Support for Entrepreneurship Development
    • Innovative Learning Methods & Courses
    • Intellectual Property Generation, Technology Transfer & Commercialization
    • Innovation in Governance of the Institution
    • ARIIA focuses on quality of innovation and Tries to Measure the real impact Created by These Innovations Nationally and Internationally

SC DIRECTS ECI TO INCREASE RANDOM CHECKING OF VVPAT SLIPS

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The Supreme Court on April 8, 2019 directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase the random checking of VVPAT slips from 1 EVM to 5 EVMs in each assembly of a parliamentary constituency in Lok Sabha Elections 2019.

Highlights:

  • The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that the objective behind the move is to ensure a higher degree of accuracy and conduct free and fair elections.
  • However, the bench did not agree to the request of petitioners to match the VVPAT slips of 50 percent EVMs as it would require huge manpower and is not feasible due to infrastructural difficulties.
  • The Apex Court gave this direction after hearing a petition filed by leaders of 21 Opposition political parties led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.
  • The petitioners were demanding counting and cross verification of the VVPAT slips in at least 50 percent randomly chosen polling stations within each Assembly Constituency.
  • The petitioners also challenged the decision of the Election Commission to verify VVPAT of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency.
  • In a response to this matter, the Election Commission filed counter-affidavit citing logistical difficulties in carrying out 50 percent verification of VVPAT. The commission said that the verification would delay the announcement of results by at least 6 days

VVPAT:

  • The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) is a paper slip generated by the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) every time a voter casts his vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made. The VVPAT slip is kept in a sealed cover.
  • VVPAT slip counting takes place in the VVPAT counting booths under the close monitoring of the returning officer and direct oversight of the observer.

GLOBAL INITIATIVE OF ACADEMIC NETWORKS (GIAN)

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi, had launched a programme under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education. It aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs.

GIAN program:

  • Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education was launched in 2015. It is a program of Ministry of Human Resource and Development.
  • It aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities.

Objectives of GIAN:

  • To increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes.
  • Provide opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas. To provide opportunity to our students to seek knowledge and experience from reputed International faculty. To create avenue for possible collaborative research with the international faculty. Develop high quality course material in niche areas, both through video and print that can be used by a larger body of students and teachers. To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.

NATIONAL SEMINAR ON GREENERY AND LANDSCAPING

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

CPWD organizes National Seminar on “Greenery and Landscaping

Highlights:

  • Green Urban Areas play an important role in the social and natural sustainability and improve quality of life.
  • Greenery and Dense plantation have a major impact on the conservation of energy, and reduce the energy requirement of the building.
  • In order to maintain sustainable environment, pollution free clean air, it is essential to take up the plantation work.
  • Cost of land has increased manifold and high-rise buildings are coming up, people are getting hardly any area for the greenery. Keeping in view the same, plantation, greenery and other environment friendly applications should be planned around the building by way of dwarf trees, small shrubs, ground covers, hanging baskets, creepers, etc.
  • There is need to adopt wood alternative in building construction. Use of alternate materials like Bamboo needs to be encouraged.
  • Orientation and proper training should be imparted to the persons engaged in landscaping and Horticulture, for implementation of the new technologies in this field to save the labour and cost of the project in long run.
  • Emphasis should be given for conserving and transplanting indigenous and grown up trees. Herbal and medicinal plants need to be encouraged. Herbal plants are useful for keeping the life healthy. Application of Organic Manure needs to be adopted for healthy and nutritious food.
  • Water conserving irrigation method like drip irrigation, Sprinkler irrigation and pop up system needs to be adopted. Plants and greenery help in reducing adverse effects of climate change. Therefore, every individual should adopt minimum one tree.
  • Green initiative needs to be taken up on a mission mode by every nation, every city, every society and every individual so that future generations may lead happy and healthy life.

SOLIDARITY HUMAN CHAIN

GS 2: Governance | Health & Education

Why in News?

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with World Health Organization (WHO) formed a Solidarity Human Chain as part of the World Health Day celebrations.

Solidarity Human Chain:

  • It aims to reaffirm their commitment to bridging gaps and working collaboratively towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day.
  • This year’s World Health Day will focus on equity and solidarity.
  • From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the WHO. Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change.

NITI AAYOG & RMI RELEASE TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF FAME II SCHEME

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a report on opportunities for the automobile sector and government under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles II (FAME II) scheme.

Highlights:

  • The technical report titled ‘India’s Electric Mobility Transformation: Progress to Date and Future Opportunities’ quantifies the direct oil and carbon savings that the vehicles incentivized under FAME II will deliver.
  • RMI is an Indian and global nonprofit organisation focused on driving the efficient and restorative use of resources. The report also quantifies the catalytic effect that FAME II and other measures could have on the overall Electric Vehicle(EV) market.
  • According to the analysis, if FAME II and other measures – in public and private space – are successful, India could realize EV sales penetration of 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial cars, 40% of buses and 80% of two and three-wheelers by 2030.
  • The FAME II scheme, which was notified by the Union Cabinet in February 2019, aims to further accelerate the government of India’s commitment to a clean mobility future, sees the electrification of transportation as a primary focus area.
  • FAME-II intends to catalyze the market for faster adoption of EVs to ensure durable economic growth and global competitiveness for India’s automotive industry.

Analysis of the report:

  • Effects of FAME II will go beyond the vehicles that are eligible under the FAME II
  • There are considerable energy and CO2 savings associated with the two, three, and four- wheeled vehicles and buses covered by FAME II over their lifetime, as well as the potential savings associated with greater adoption levels by 2030
  • The electric buses covered under FAME II will account for 3.8 billion vehicle kilometres travelled (e-vkt) over their lifetime.
  • In order to capture the potential opportunity in 2030, batteries must remain a key focal point as they will continue to be the key cost driver of EVs.
  • Vehicles eligible under FAME II scheme can cumulatively save 5.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent over their lifetime worth Rs 17.2 thousand crores.
  • EVs sold through 2030 could cumulatively save 474 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) worth INR 15 lakh crore and generate net CO2 savings of 846 million tonnes over their operational lifetime.

Way forward:

  • India needs the auto industry’s active participation to ease electric mobility transition. The auto and battery industries could collaborate to enhance customer awareness, promote domestic manufacturing, promote new business models, conduct R&D for EVs and components, consider new business models to promote EVs
  • The government should focus on a phased manufacturing plan to promote EVs, provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for phased manufacturing of EVs and batteries. Different government departments can consider a bouquet of potential policies, such as congestion pricing, ZEV credits, low emission/exclusion zones, parking policies, etc. to drive adoption of EVs. India’s electric vehicle market is poised for growth with a blend of policies, such as FAME II, and the automotive industry’s willingness to provide new mobility solutions to the citizens of the country. Such a transformation will create enormous economic, social and environmental benefits for the citizens of India.

PROJECT SASHAKT

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

Public Sector Banks (PSBs) may now use provisions of Project Sashakt to deal with economically unviable projects where lenders could still initiate corporate insolvency proceedings if there is no other mode of resolution within 180 days.

Highlights:

  • Under the aegis of Project Sashakt, 35 banks have signed an inter-creditor agreement (ICA), which provides the framework to resolve assets through a bank-led resolution approach (BLRA).
  • Under the agreement, if the lead bank is unable to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, the assets will then move to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) process.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court, in its judgement held the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions issued on the treatment of defaults as ‘ultra vires,’ or not valid in respect to the existing legal framework.
  • In its ‘Resolution of Stressed Assets–Revised Framework’, the RBI had called on lenders to identify assets “immediately on default,” beginning with loans on which any amount was due from one to 30 days.

What is Project Sashakt?

  • Project Sashakt was proposed by a panel led by PNB chairman Sunil Mehta.
  • Bad loans of up to ₹ 50 crore will be managed at the bank level, with a deadline of 90 days.
  • For bad loans of ₹ 50-500 crore, banks will enter an inter-creditor agreement, authorizing the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, or refer the asset to NCLT.
  • For loans above ₹ 500 crore, the panel recom•mended an independent asset management company (AMC), supported by institutional funding through the alternative investment fund (AIF).
  • The idea is to help consolidate stressed assets.

Govt modifies Solar Park Scheme

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development

Why in News?

The government has modified the existing scheme for development of solar parks and ultra mega solar parks in a bid to ease constraints related to availability of land and evacuation infrastructure.

The new guidelines-Mode-7:

  • A new mode is being introduced for development of renewable energy parks (solar/wind/hybrid/other RE parks) through Solar Energy Corporation of India(SECI).
  • SECI will make both government and private land available for successful bidders for setting up projects with the assistance of state government.
  • The state government would be paid a facilitation charge of Rs 0.02 per unit of power being generated in these parks.
  • No fund from Central Financial Assistance (CFA) would be used for the procurement of land.
  • SECI would act as a Solar Power Park Developer (SPPD) and will get the external power evacuation infrastructure of the parks developed by the External Transmission Development Agency such as transmission utilities.
  • SECI would also set up a Payment Security Mechanism to make setting up of renewable projects in such parks more attractive.

Solar Park scheme:

  • Ministry of New and renewable Energy (MNRE) has drawn a scheme to set up number of solar parks across various states in the country.
  • The Scheme proposes to provide financial support by Government of India to establish solar parks.
  • The scheme aim to facilitate creation of infrastructure necessary for setting up new solar power projects in terms of allocation of land, transmission and evacuation lines, access roads, availability of water and others, in a focused manner.
  • The implementation agency would be Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on behalf of Government of India (GOI).
  • The Solar Park is a concentrated zone of development of solar power generation projects
  • The parks will be characterized by well-developed proper infra-structure where the risk & gestation period of the projects will be minimized.
  • At the state level, the solar park will enable the states to bring in significant investment from project developers in Solar Power sector, to meet its Solar Purchase Obligation (SPO) mandates and provide employment opportunities to local population.
  • The state will also be able to reduce its carbon footprint by avoiding emissions equivalent to the solar park’s generated capacity.

NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU (NCRB)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will celebrate its 34th Inception Day on March 11, 2019.

NCRB:

  • Formed in 1986, based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task force (1985). NCRB is mandated to empower the Indian Police with Information Technology and is responsible for collecting, maintaining and analysing the crime data of the country. It facilitates Investigating Officers with updated IT tools and information in Investigation of Crimes.
  • NCRB is the Nodal Agency for authentic source of data on crime, accidents, suicides, and prisons for policy matters and research.
  • Bureau is also apex nodal agency for all Finger Print related matters including accreditation of Finger Print Experts in the country.
  • Bureau is implementing & monitoring agency for implementation of Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan of Government of India.
  • The project aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in the country.

Objectives of NCRB:

  • Create and maintain secure sharable National Databases on crimes and criminals for law enforcement agencies and promote their use for public service delivery
  • Collect and process crime statistics at the national level and create clearing house of information on crime and criminals both at National and International levels
  • Lead and coordinate development of IT applications and create an enabling IT environment for Police organizations
  • National repository of fingerprints of all criminals.
  • To evaluate, modernize and Promote automation in State Crime Records Bureaux and State Finger Print Bureaux. Training and capacity building in Police Forces in Information Technology and Finger Print Science.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS):

Crime and Criminal Information System (CCIS) was implemented at district level during the period 1995-2004. Common Integrated Police Application (CIPA) was implemented at police station level during the period 2004-2009 in three phases. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) is approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 19.06.2009.

Objectives:

  • Creating State and Central levels databases on crime and criminals
  • Enable easy sharing of real-time information/ intelligence across police stations, districts and States.
  • Improved investigation and crime prevention.
  • Improved service delivery to the public/ stakeholders through Citizen Portals
  • Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS):
  • ICJS has been mandated for integrating CCTNS, Police with e-Courts, eprisons, Forensics, Finger Print Bureaux and Prosecution, which are the key components of the Criminal Justice System. Implementation of ICJS will ensure quick data transfer among different pillars of criminal justice system.
  • ICJS is monitored by a committee chaired by Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur of Supreme Court of India. ICJS data exchange matrix between different pillars of criminal justice system has been finalized & coordinated by NCRB.
  • NCRB has also prepared a report on connectivity for all pillars.

BM- GRAMEEN CONFIRMS OVER 96% USAGE OF TOILETS

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19 was conducted by an Independent Verification Agency under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G).

Key findings of NARSS 2018-19:

  • 1% of households were found to have access to toilets during the survey period (the corresponding figure as per the SBMG MIS in November 2018 was 96%)
  • 5% of the people who had access to toilets used them.
  • 7% of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF were confirmed to be ODF. The remaining villages also had sanitation coverage of about 93%.
  • The survey used the PPS (Probability Proportion to Size) sampling methodology, which yields results within a confidence interval of 95%.
  • Data was collected using the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) platform.
  • The survey also covered schools, anganwadis and public/community toilets in these villages.

Success of SBM-G:

  • Since its launch in October 2014, the SBM, the world’s largest sanitation program, has changed the behaviour of hundreds of millions of people with respect to toilet access and usage.
  • 500 million people have stopped defecating in the open since the SBM began, down from 550 million at the beginning of the programme to less than 50 million today
  • Over 9 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Mission.
  • Over 5.5 lakh villages and 615 districts have been declared ODF, along with 30 ODF States and Union Territories.

PRADHAN MANTRI SHRAM YOGI MAAN-DHAN YOJANA

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The central govt. of India has introduced the new pension scheme i.e. Pradhan Mantra Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) for Labour/ Worker in Unorganised Sector. This pension scheme is announced by Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in this Interim Budget 2019-20.

Features of Pradhan Mantra Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) scheme:

  • The scheme is for informal sector or unorganised sector workers.
  • Subscribers to the scheme are assured of a monthly pension of Rs. 3000 per month after they reach 60 years age. The subscribers have to pay a monthly amount of Rs. 100 if the subscriber joins at age 29 and Rs. 55 if the subscriber joins the scheme at 18.
  • The same amount will be matched by the government.
  • The scheme is eligible for persons aged between 18 and 40 and are earning Rs. 15000 are less per month. The scheme is estimated to benefit 10 Crore workers from informal sector.
  • The government has allocated an initial fund of Rs. 500 crore for the scheme.

Unorganised Sector:

  • The unorganized sector in the country constitutes unincorporated entities having less than 10 workers and is owned by individuals or households.
  • The sector also includes people working independently in non-formal work which needs minimal skills. The sector contributes over 50% to the Indian GDP.

Significance of the scheme:

  • It is estimated that over 42 corer workers in India are working in the informal sector.
  • As per the India Labour Market Update of 2016, 82% of the Indian workforce is in unorganised sector.
  • The workers of the sector include street vendors, rag pickers, porters, beedi workers, rickshaw pullers, agricultural labourers etc. The nature of their job and the income they receive are not stable. Often due to non-availability of any laws to protect their interest they are subjected to violation by the employers. These uncertain earnings puts pressure on them financially and need some kind of monetary protection to lead a life with means after their productive years.
  • It is why social security schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) become necessary where the government is contributing in the premium amount.

THE INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICE

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme, launched in 1975 to tackle under-nutrition, offers nutrition and health services across the continuum of care in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. It was made universal in 2006.

Objectives:

  • To provide food and primary healthcare to children under six as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It also provides pre-school education.

ICDS assessment:

  • Health insurance coverage jumped to 24.3 per cent from 3.7 percent.
  • Illiteracy among mothers fell to 27 per cent from 46.3 per cent.
  • The receipt of supplementary food by mother-child pairs increased to 37.9 per cent from 9.6 per cent. Use of health check-ups increased by 23.5 percentage points
  • Health and nutrition education rose 17.9 percentage points.
  • Children receiving supplementary food monthly went up to 27.6 per cent from 19.1 per cent.

Challenges:

  • The programme hasn’t benefited all social groups equally.
  • Improvements among lower-income groups —traditionally at a disadvantage — were relatively lower than higher-income groups. Lower utilisation and lower expansion of the scheme. The exclusion of the potential beneficiaries.

Construction Technology India-2019 Expo-Cum-Conference

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for continuation of implementation of the following Tertiary healthcare programmes for non-communicable diseases and E-Health upto 2020.

Objectives:

Objective of the umbrella program of tertiary healthcare is to provide support for creation of tertiary care health facilities in the areas of cancer diagnosis & treatment, care for the elderly, trauma and burn injuries, drug dependence, mental health and blindness & visual impairment. It also aims at digitisation of health sector.
• Strengthening of Tertiary Care Cancer facilities Scheme
• National Program for Health Care of the Elderly
• National Program for Prevention & Management of Trauma and Burn Injuries
• National Program for Tobacco Control and Drug Addiction Treatment
• National Mental Health Program
• National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment
• Program for Strengthening of e-Health and Telemedicine Services

Impact:

• The focus under these Programs is:-
• to create required infrastructure at tertiary level for these Programs,
• creation of Centre of Excellences which shall serve as Institutes to set standards and undertake research in these fields besides
• To help in creation of trained manpower in these Programs for the country.

Benefits:

Under these programmes, Tertiary care treatment will be further strengthened to meet the ever-increasing patient load.

Employment Generation:

The Programs are aimed at strengthening of tertiary level healthcare facilities for treatment through capacity building in terms of both infrastructure and human resources. There would be considerable direct and indirect employment generation both for technical and non-technical professionals in the country.

PROMULGATION OF AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2019

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Union Cabinet chaired has approved the promulgation of an Ordinance to make amendments to the Aadhaar Act 2016, Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2005 & Indian Telegraph Act 1885. The amendments proposed are the same as those contained in the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha.

Impact:

  • The amendments would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.
  • Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number of undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

Salient Features:

    The salient features of the amendments are as follows—

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder;
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual;
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years;
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; and the authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government;
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities;
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication;
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund;
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court in its judgement in September. 2018 held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid.
  • However, it read down/struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.
  • Consequently, it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N. Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution.
  • Towards this, the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha. However, before the same could be considered and passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die.

NATIONAL MINERAL POLICY, 2019

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved National Mineral Policy 2019.

Benefits:

The New National Mineral Policy will ensure more effective regulation. It will lead to sustainable mining sector development in future while addressing the issues of project affected persons especially those residing in tribal areas.

Objective:

The aim of National Mineral Policy 2019 is to have a more effective, meaningful and implementable policy that brings in further transparency, better regulation and enforcement, balanced social and economic growth as well as sustainable mining practices.

Importance of new policy:

  • National Mineral Policy, 2019 include the focus on make in India initiative and Gender sensitivity in terms of the vision.
  • In so far as the regulation in Minerals is concerned, E-Governance, IT enabled systems, awareness and Information campaigns have been incorporated.
  • Regarding the role of state in mineral development online public portal with provision for generating triggers at higher level in the event of delay of clearances has been put in place.
  • NMP 2019 aims to attract private investment through incentives while the efforts would be made to maintain a database of mineral resources and tenements undermining tenement systems. The new policy focusses on use coastal waterways and inland shipping for evacuation and transportation of minerals and encourages dedicated mineral corridors to facilitate the transportation of minerals.
  • The utilization of the district mineral fund for equitable development of project affected persons and areas.
  • NMP 2019 proposes a long-term export-import policy for the mineral sector to provide stability and as an incentive for investing in large scale commercial mining activity.
  • The 2019 Policy also introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity that deals with the well-being not only of the present generation but also of the generations to come and also proposes to constitute an inter-ministerial body to institutionalize the mechanism for ensuring sustainable development in mining.

Background:

National Mineral Policy 2019 replaces the extant National Mineral Policy 2008 (“NMP 2008”) which was announced in year 2008.

PRADHAN MANTRI JL-VAN YOJANA

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran AnukoolFasal Awashesh Nivaran) Yojana” for providing financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects using lignocellulosic biomass and another renewable feedstock.

Scheme Highlights:

  • Under this Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 demonstration scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol Projects will be provided a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases:
  • Phase-I (2018-19 to 2022-23): wherein six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.
  • Phase-II (2020-21to2023-24): wherein remaining six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.
  • The scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.

Significance:

  • Meeting Government of India vision of reducing import dependence by way of substituting fossil fuels with Biofuels.
  • Achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets through progressive blending/ substitution of fossil fuels.
  • Addressing environment concerns caused due to burning of biomass/ crop residues & improve health of citizens. Improving farmer income by providing them remunerative income for their otherwise waste agriculture residues.
  • Creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain. Contributing to Swacch Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of non-food biofuel feedstocks such as waste biomass and urban waste.
  • Indigenizing of Second-Generation Biomass to Ethanol technologies.
  • The ethanol produced by the scheme beneficiaries will be mandatorily supplied to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to further enhance the blending percentage under EBP Programme.
  • Centre for High Technology (CHT), a technical body under the aegis of MoP&NG, will be the implementation Agency for the scheme.

Background:

  • Government of India launched Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme in 2003 for undertaking blending of ethanol in Petrol to address environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning, provide remuneration to farmers, subsidize crude imports and achieve forex savings.
  • Presently, EBP is being run in 21 States and 4 UTs of the country. Under EBP programme, OMCs are to blend upto 10% of ethanol in Petrol.
  • The present policy allows procurement of ethanol produced from molasses and non-food feedstock like celluloses and lignocelluloses material including petrochemical route.

FAME INDIA PHASE II

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

  • The Union cabinet chaired has approved the proposal for implementation of scheme titled ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II)’ for promotion of Electric Mobility in the country.
  • This scheme is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India1 which was launched on 1st April 2015.

Highlights:

  • Emphasis is on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport.
  • Demand Incentives on operational expenditure mode! for electric buses will be delivered through State/city transport corporation (STUs).
  • In 3W and 4W segment incentives will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes.
  • In the e-2Ws segment, the focus will be on the private vehicles.
  • Through the scheme, it is planned to support 10 Lakhs e-2W, 5 Lakhs e-3W, 55000 4Ws and 7000 Buses.
  • To encourage advance technologies, the benefits of incentives, will be extended to only those vehicles which are fitted with advance battery like a Lithium Ion battery and other new technology batteries.
  • The scheme proposes for establishment of charging infrastructure, whereby about 2700 charging stations will be established in metros, other million plus cities, smart cities and cities of Hilly states across the country so that there will be availability of at least one charging station in a grid of 3 km x 3 km.
  • Establishment of Charging stations are also proposed on major highways connecting major city clusters.
  • On such highways, charging stations will be established on both sides of the road at an interval of about 25 km each.

Impact:

• The main objective of the scheme is to encourage Faster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and also by way of establishing a necessary charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles. The scheme will help in addressing the issue of environmental pollution and fuel security

SATAT SCHEME

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

SATAT is an initiative aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.

Highlights:

  • SATAT was launched with a four-pronged agenda of-
  • Utilising more than 62 million metric tonnes of waste generated every year in India
  • Cutting down import dependence,
  • Supplementing job creation in the country and
  • Reducing vehicular emissions and pollution from burning of agricultural / organic waste.
  • Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc. After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 90%.
  • Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. CBG can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive.

Significance of CBG:

  • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
  • Additional revenue source for farmers
  • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
  • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
  • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations

Shreyas program

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Human Resources Development has launched the Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS) for providing industry apprenticeship opportunities to the general graduates exiting in April 2019 through the National Apprenticeship Promotional Scheme (NAPS).

Significance of the programme:

  • To make our degree students more skilled, capable, employable
  • It is aligned to the needs of our economy so that they contribute to country’s progress and
    also obtain gainful employment. To fill the gap between education and industry/service sectors on a sustainable basis.

SHREYAS scheme:

  • The program aims to enhance the employability of Indian youth by providing ‘on the job work exposure’ and earning of stipend.
  • The programme basket comprising the initiatives of three Central Ministries, namely
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development,
  • Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and
  • The Ministry of Labour & Employment viz the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), the National Career Service (NCS) and introduction of BA/BSc/BCom (Professional) courses in the higher educational institutions.
  • It is a programme conceived for students in degree courses, primarily non-technical, with a view to introduce employable skills into their learning, promote apprenticeship as integral to education and also amalgamate employment facilitating efforts of the Government into the education system. To clear pathways towards employment opportunities are available to students during and after their graduation.

SHREYAS portal:

  • The portal aims to provide internships to students pursuing general courses, connect recruiters and graduates.
  • Portal will enable educational institutions and industry to log in and provide their respective demand and supply of apprenticeship.
  • The matching of students with apprenticeship avenues will take place as per pre-specified eligibility criteria.
  • The website, shreyas.ac.in, is operational and is already inviting applications from students from non-technical courses such as BA, BSc. BCom et al. Students and alumni can register themselves at the portal which will connect them with apprenticeship programmes and recruiters.

Yuva Sahakar Scheme

Why in News?

  • National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) launched ‘Yuva Sahakar’scheme.

Highlights:

  • To attract youth to cooperative business ventures.
  • It has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme.
  • It would provide more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
  • The funding for the project will be up to 80 percent of the project cost for these special categories against 70 percent for others.
  • The scheme envisages 2 percent less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.
  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.
  • It would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
  • The scheme is expected to meet the needs of youth.

NCDC:

  • The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.
  • It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.
  • It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.
  • Being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, it has also
    initiated Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.

Labour Bureau Files Mudra Job Report

Why in News?

  • The Labour Bureau has completed its survey on employment generated by the MUDRA loan scheme, giving the Centre a potential data tool to combat other reports showing a dismal scenario on jobs.

Highlights:

  • Before stepping down as vice chairman of Niti Aayog in August 2017, Arvind Panagariya, had submitted a report on the recommendations of a task force he had chaired on improving jobs data. One recommendation was to analyse the extent of employment and self-employment generated by MUDRA loans. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.
  • According to reports, a leaked copy of the NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment
    hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.

  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists, however, have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs. “Every new loan certainly doesn’t imply creation of a new job,” ICRIER fellow Radhicka Kapoor, wrote in a working paper titled ‘Waiting for Jobs’.

MUDRA Scheme:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana was introduced in April 2015 as an effort to extend affordable credit to micro and small enterprises.
  • Loans up to Rs. 10 lakh are extended to these non-corporate, non-farm enterprises by the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) through last-mile financial institutions. So far, 15.56 crore loans worth a total of Rs. 7.23 lakh crore have been disbursed. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.

NSSO survey:

  • The NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs.

Chartering Under Revised Guidelines – Ships Built In India To Get Priority

Why in News?

  • The government has revised guidelines for chartering of ships by providing the right-of- first-refusal to ships built within the country, a move to Ships built in India to get priority in chartering under revised guidelines and to promote the Make in India initiative and incentivise shipbuilding activity.
  • Earlier, the right of first refusal was reserved for Indian flag vessels as per relevantprovisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958.

Highlights:

  • Now when a tendering process is undertaken to charter a vessel, a bidder offering a ship built in India will be given the first priority to match L1 quote.
  • It is exected that the initiative will increase the demand for such vessels, providing then with additional market access and business support.
  • The review is also in line with the need to give a long term strategic boost to the domestic shipbuilding industry.
  • The shipping ministry has also laid down eligibility conditions and rules for exercise of the RoFR.
  • One of the rules says: “The RoFR would be exercised only in case the vessel being offered for charter by the lowest bidder has been built outside India.”
  • The government has taken several steps to promote shipbuilding in India, especially by providing long-term subsidy under the Shipbuilding Financial Assistance Policy (2016- 2026).
  • Budgetary provision of $30 crore was earmarked in 2018-19 for providing financial assistance to all Indian shipyards, excluding Defence Shipyards.
  • An amount of $11.89 crore has already been disbursed to three shipyards.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)

Why in News?

  • For the overall empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangajan), a “Regional Conference on Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS”) is being organized by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India at Kolkata.

Highlights:

  • It will cover 13 States of Eastern & North Eastern region namely West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim & Tripura.
  • The stakeholders i.e. the NGOs receiving grant under DDRS, State Government Officers & District level officers will be participating.
  • The objectives of the Conference are to disseminate the provisions of the revised scheme and to sensitize various stakeholders about it.
  • This conference also provides a unique opportunity for interactions amongst all stakeholders.
  • The conference would ensure exchange of cross-sectoral views on the aspects of the efficacy of the scheme as well as the scope of improvements in it.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme:

Objective:

  • To create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
  • To encourage voluntary action for ensuring effective implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Approach:

  • The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation. With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.

Ayushman Bharat Will Not Cover Cataract Ops, Dialysis And Normal Deliveries

Why in News?

  • The National Health Authority (NHA) is planning to remove procedures covered under existing national programmes from the list of packages approved for reimbursement under PMJAY (Ayushman Bharat).
  • Certain procedures like cataract surgeries, dialysis and normal deliveries will not be covered by the flagship health scheme.

Avoiding Duplication:

  • Procedures or diseases for which there is already an existing national programme, do not need to be covered under AB packages.
  • Diseases for which there are existing national programmes and for which treatment is reimbursed under PMJAY for specified rates include tuberculosis, chronic kidney disease (dialysis), leprosy, malaria, HIV-AIDS and mental health disorders.
  • For many diseases like malaria, where surgeries are not established protocol for treatment, PMJAY approves a daily hospitalization cost of Rs 2,000.

1.Cataract

  • Cataract surgeries have topped the list of claims submitted under PMJAY.
  • In the first three months of PMJAY until Nov 2018 — 6,900 claims had been submitted for cataract surgeries.
  • However, they are done for free under the National Blindness Control Programme (NBCP).

2.Normal Delivery

  • The NHA is planning to leave out normal deliveries from the ambit of PMJAY.
  • There are a host of national programmes for mother and child health, high-risk deliveries will continue to be covered.

3.Dialysis

  • The Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme was rolled out in 2016 under which dialysis is already provided free of cost.

Bringing Implants under AB-NHPM

  • The NHA is also in talks with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to negotiate special rates for implants or other devices that are used under PMJAY to further bring down costs.

National e-Governance Awards, 2019

Why in News?

  • With a view to recognize and promote Excellence in the implementation of e-Governance initiatives, the Government of India presents National Awards on e-Governance.

Highlights:

  • The Awards will be given in 6 categories to recognize achievements in the area of e- Governance.
  • This initiative also seeks to disseminate knowledge on effective methods of designing and
    implementing sustainable e-Governance initiatives, to encourage innovations in successful e-Governance solutions and to exchange experiences in solving problems, mitigating risks, resolving issues and planning for success.
  • The National e-Governance Award recognizes some of the best Government to Government (G to G), Government to Citizen (G to C), Government to Business (G to B) initiatives taken by government departments. It also recognizes initiatives in Start ups, Academic Research Institutions as well as initiatives in adopting emerging technologies.
  • The six categories under which Awards will be presented are as follows:-
  • Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering for Digital Transformation.
  • Excellence in providing Citizen-Centric Delivery.
  • Excellence in District level Initiative in e-Governance (i) North-East States + Hilly States (ii) UTs (including Delhi) (iii) Other States.
  • Outstanding research on Citizen Centric Services by Academic/Research Institutions.
  • Innovative Use of ICT in e-Governance solutions by Start ups [Start up as defined by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Government of India]
  • Excellence in Adopting Emerging Technologies.

4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the ‘4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit’.

Highlights:

  • The global intergovernmental meeting on digital health is being hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP)
  • The Ministerial Conclave discussed the implication of digital health interventions to health services accessibility, quality and affordability and explores ways of leveraging digital health technologies to strengthen the healthcare delivery systems globally.
  • The Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP) is an international collaboration of governments, government agencies and multinational organisations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their citizens through the best use of evidence- based digital technologies.

Health information platform:

  • Platform which Health Ministry is in the process of establishing for interoperability amongst various health IT systems and a pan-India exchange of Electronic Health Records of citizens ensuring privacy, security, and confidentiality of data.
  • The same is to be supplemented by a pan-Indian network of disease surveillance, tele- medicine and tele-radiology and tele-education.

SECOND APEX CONFERENCE OF CEOS OF SMART CITIES MISSION

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is organizing an Apex Conference on Smart Cities Project. The conference will deliberate on various initiatives in regard to Smart Cities Mission.

Details of the Conference:

  • Discussion will be held on subjects like Ease of Living—How Smart Cities Mission is making an impact on ease of living for citizens; Connected Communities—How Smart Cities Mission is creating Connected Communities; Urban Resilience and Sustainability— How Smart Cities Mission is making Indian cities resilient and sustainable; Smart Governance—How Smart Cities Mission is creating a Smart Governance ecosystem in Indian cities etc.
  • Over 130 experts from several countries will participate in the conference. The Conference is expected to chart out a roadmap for implementing Smart Cities mission.

National War Memorial

Why in News?

  • The Prime Minister dedicates the National War Memorial to the nation in a solemn ceremonial function.

National War Memorial:

  • The National War Memorial, near India Gate in New Delhi, is a fitting tribute to our soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation, post-independence.
  • The National War Memorial also commemorates the soldiers who participated and made the supreme sacrifice in Peace Keeping Missions, and Counter Insurgency Operations.
  • The layout of the National War Memorial comprises four concentric circles, namely, the ‘Amar Chakra’ or Circle of Immortality, the ‘Veerta Chakra’ or Circle of Bravery, the ‘Tyag Chakra’ or Circle of Sacrifice, and the ‘Rakshak Chakra’ or Circle of Protection.
  • The National War Memorial complex includes a central obelisk, an eternal flame, and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.

112 Helpline Under The ERSS Launched In 16 States And UTS

Why in News?

  • The 112 helpline which was earlier launched in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland was launched in 16 states and UTs by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS).

Highlights:

  • The 16 states and Union Territories where the helpline was launched were Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,
  • Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Andaman, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Jammu & Kashmir.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS):

  • The Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) integrates police (100), fire (101) and women (1090) helpline numbers into a single 112 helpline number and the process is on to integrate the health emergency number (108) soon.
  • To access the ERSS, a person can dial 112 on a phone.
  • The person can also press the power button of a smartphone three times quickly to send a panic call to the Emergency Response Centre or long press the ‘5’ or ‘9’ key to activate the panic call from the normal phone.
  • The ERSS can also be accessed through ‘112’ India mobile app, which is available free on Google Play Store and Apple Store or log onto the ERSS website for the respective state and send an emergency email or SOS alert to State Emergency Response Centre.

Eco Circuit

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Tourism will be inaugurating the project ‘Development of Eco Circuit:Pathanamthitta – Gavi – Vagamon – Thekkady’ in Kerala under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.

Highlights:

  • Major works carried out under the project includes Eco Adventure Tourism Park at Vagamon, Cultural Centre at Kadamanitta, Eco Log Huts at Peerumedu, Idukki, Approach Roads, Walking trails, Rain Shelters at Pine Valley Forest, Thekkady, Kumily, Moozhiyar Dam, Penstock and Kakki Dam.

Eco Circuit project:

  • Eco Circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme- Integrated development of theme- based tourist circuits in the country. The Eco tourism circuit aims at creating a positive interface between tourists and nature. For the global and domestic tourists to appreciate the diverse eco-tourism products in India, the circuit aims to create nature and environment friendly destinations.

List of 15 themes:

  • Buddhist, Coastal, Desert, Eco, Heritage, Himalayan, Krishna, North East, Ramayana, Rural, Spiritual, Sufi, Tirthankar, Tribal, Wildlife.

Pmay (U) Mobile Application

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched PMAY (U) Mobile App.

Highlights:

  • The App will allow beneficiaries to capture and upload high resolution photographs of completed houses along with their families.
  • It will also allow uploading of selfies of beneficiaries with their house and a 30 – 60 seconds video clip where beneficiaries share their stories of owning a house under PMAY (U). A one-minute film showcasing the impact of PMAY(U) in the lives of beneficiaries was also released.
  • The film narrates, how PMAY (U) is contributing in transforming the lives of all Indians starting from Kashmir to Kerala and empowering them from different walks of life.
  • It has encapsulated the journeys and emotions of families belonging to different regions of the country who feel connected with a common feeling i.e. the pride of owning their dream house through PMAY (U).

PMAY (U):

  • The PMAY (U) mission was launched on 25th June 2015
  • It aims to provide houses to every eligible urban household in India by the year 2022.
  • The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:
  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource
  • Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.

Fixing National Minimum Wage

Why in News?

  • Expert Committee Submits its Report on Determining Methodology for Fixing National Minimum Wage.

Highlights:

  • There have been several developments since the norms for the fixation of the minimum wages were recommended by the 15th ILC in 1957 and subsequently strengthened by the judgement of the Supreme Court in the judgement of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. case in 1992. The Ministry of Labour and Employment had constituted an expert committee on January 2017, under the Chairmanship Dr. Anoop Satpathy, Fellow, V. V.Giri National Labour Institute (VVGNLI) to review and recommend methodology for fixation of National Minimum Wage (NMW).
  • The Expert Committee had the mandate to examine and review the norms and methodology for fixation of national minimum wage; and determine the base level National minimum wage/wages through an evidence-based approach.

About the report:

  • The report using scientific approach has updated the methodological framework of
    fixation of minimum wages based on the overall guidelines of the ILC 1957 and the Supreme Court Judgment of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. in 1992.
  • The report has undertaken a rigorous and meticulous analysis and has generated a large amount of evidence relating to changes in the demographic structure, consumption pattern and nutritional intakes, the composition of food baskets and the relative importance of non-food consumption items to address the realities in the Indian context by using official data made available by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

Recommended Nutritional intake:

  • Using the nutritional requirement norms as recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indian population, the report has recommended a balanced diet approach which is culturally palatable for fixation of national minimum wage.
  • Accordingly, it has proposed that food items amounting to the level of ± 10 per cent of 2,400 calories, along with proteins ≥ 50 gm and fats ≥ 30 gm per day per person to constitute a national level balanced food basket.

Committee recommendations:

  • On the basis of the aforesaid approach, the report has recommended to fix the need based national minimum wage for India at INR 375 per day (or INR 9,750 per month) as of July 2018, irrespective of sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations for a family comprising of 3.6 consumption unit.
  • It has also recommended to introduce an additional house rent allowance (city compensatory allowance), averaging up to INR 55 per day i.e., INR 1,430 per month for urban workers over and above the NMW.
  • Apart from proposing the level of a single national minimum wage at an all-India level,
    the report has also estimated and recommended different national minimum wages for different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities and as per socio- economic and labour market contexts.
  • For the purpose of estimating national minimum wages at regional levels it has grouped the states into five regions based on a composite index.

Labour Bureau Files Mudra Job Report

Why in News?

  • The Labour Bureau has completed its survey on employment generated by the MUDRA loan scheme, giving the Centre a potential data tool to combat other reports showing a dismal scenario on jobs.

Highlights:

  • Before stepping down as vice chairman of Niti Aayog in August 2017, Arvind Panagariya, had submitted a report on the recommendations of a task force he had chaired on improving jobs data. One recommendation was to analyse the extent of employment and self-employment generated by MUDRA loans. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.
  • According to reports, a leaked copy of the NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment
    hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists, however, have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs. “Every new loan certainly doesn’t imply creation of a new job,” ICRIER fellow Radhicka Kapoor, wrote in a working paper titled ‘Waiting for Jobs’.

MUDRA Scheme:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana was introduced in April 2015 as an effort to extend affordable credit to micro and small enterprises.
  • Loans up to Rs. 10 lakh are extended to these non-corporate, non-farm enterprises by the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) through last-mile financial institutions. So far, 15.56 crore loans worth a total of Rs. 7.23 lakh crore have been disbursed. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.

NSSO survey:

  • The NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs.

Pm-Kisan Scheme

Why in News?

  • PM to launch PM-KISAN scheme from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM KISAN):

  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) was announced in the interim Budget 2019-20.
  • Under the Scheme, Rs 6,000 will be given per year to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding/ownership of upto 2 hectares.
  • The amount will be given in three installments of Rs.2000 each.
  • The amount will be transferred directly to the bank account of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer. DBT will ensure transparency in the entire process and will save time for the farmers.
  • PM KISAN is a Central Sector scheme with 100% funding from Government of India. The Scheme becomes effective from 1.12.2018 for transfer of benefit to eligible beneficiaries.
  • State Government and UT Administration will identify the farmer families which are eligible for support as per scheme guidelines.

Objectives of the scheme:

  • The Scheme was introduced to augment the income of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs). It is estimated to benefit more than 12 crore small and marginal farmers.
  • The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • This would also protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

Operation Digital Board

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of HRD launched Operation Digital Board to leverage technology in order to boost quality education in the country.

Operation Digital Board:

  • It is a revolutionary step which will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and popularize flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.
  • The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.
  • The process will begin from the coming session of 2019 itself.

Implementation:

1.In Higher Education Institutions (HEIs):

  • UGC will be the implementing agency for ODB in HEIs.
  • UGC will put in place a Portal for all the public funded HEIs to log-in and opt for the scheme giving details of this facility.
  • This can be implemented as a Central scheme under a loan from HEFA.

2.In Schools:

  • Digital / SMART board will be provided in all Government and Government – aided schools having Secondary and Sr. Secondary classes.
  • Nearly 1.5 lakh Secondary / Sr. Secondary schools will be covered under the scheme in collaboration with the State and UTs

Significance:

  • ODB aims at converting a class room into a digital class room.
  • It will make available e-resources at any time and at any place to students.
  • It will also help in provisioning of personalized adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, AI & Data Analytics.

Other technological initiatives:

  • The MHRD has launched of e-Pathshala, DIKSHA, NROER, NPTEL, E-PGpathshala SWAYAM and SWAYAM-Prabha DTH Channels etc.
  • These have provided adequate content of high quality which can be taken to every classroom.
    These pedagogical interventions have raised the standards of teaching, irrespective of the location of the Schools and Colleges.

Hope Portal

Why in News?

  • National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations (NABH) has revamped Entry-Level Certification Process of hospitals to make it simpler, digital, faster and user-friendly.

Highlights:

  • HCOs and small HCOs that want to avail benefits associated with IRDAI and Ayushman
    Bharat. NABH accreditation provides assurance of quality and care in hospitals at par with international benchmarks. NABH has designed an exhaustive healthcare standard for hospitals and healthcare providers that have been accredited as per global standards.
  • The revamped certification process is driven through a new portal called HOPE –Healthcare Organizations’ Platform for Entry-Level-Certification.
  • It is an online platform for smooth and secure registration which provides a self- explanatory questionnaire to be filled by the HCO/SHCOs.
  • It ensures quality at nascent stages by enrolling a wide range of hospitals across the country including Healthcare Organizations (HCOs).
  • HOPE also enables them to comply with quality protocols, improve patient safety and the overall healthcare facility of the organization.

NABH:

  • NABH, a constituent body of QCI, has been working to ensure reliability, efficiency and global accreditation in Indian healthcare sector.
  • It uses contemporary methodologies and tools, standards of patient safety and infection control.

QCI:

  • Established in 1997 Quality Council of India (QCI) is an autonomous organization under the DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is the Quality Apex and National Accreditation Body for accreditation and quality promotion in the country.
  • The Council was established to provide a credible, reliable mechanism for third party assessment of products, services and processes which is accepted and recognized globally.

Development And Welfare Board For De-Notified, Nomadic And Semi-Nomadic Communities

Why in News?

  • Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities.
  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for constitution of Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Communities (DNCs).

Highlights:

  • These communities once branded as criminals under the colonial Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, the communities were ‘denotified’ in 1952.
  • They continue to face stigma till this day.
  • To this end, the condition of the denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic communities merits special attention.
  • The communities which have not been categorised as SC/ST/OBC do not get access to any welfare schemes.
  • The earlier commissions — Renke and Idate — had tried to identify and list these communities but their major recommendations have not been implemented till date.

Welfare Board for DNTs:

  • The Government has decided to set up a Development and Welfare Board under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • While most DNTs are spread across the SC, ST and OBC categories, some DNTs are not covered in any of these.
  • These communities are hard to reach, less visible, and therefore frequently left out.
  • It has, therefore, approved the setting up of a Committee under the Chairpersonship of Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog.
  • It will complete the process of identification of the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi- Nomadic Communities (DNCs) that have not yet been formally classified.

National Commission for DNTs:

  • The Government in July 2014 had constituted National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) for a period of three years to prepare a State-wise list of castes belonging to DNTs.
  • The Commission recommended for the setting of up a Permanent Commission for these communities.
  • Since most of the DNTs are covered in SC, ST or OBC, constitution of a Permanent Commission will not be very effective in implementing development programmes.
  • Rather it will look at grievance redressal and will therefore be in conflict with mandate of existing commissions for SCs, STs and OBCs.

2nd Edition of ISL Dictionary

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment launched the “2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary” brought out by ‘Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC)’ under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), M/o Social Justice & Empowerment.

Highlights:

  • The second edition, dictionary includes total 6000 words under the categories of academic, legal, medical, technical and everyday terms. The ISL Dictionary is also available on ISLRTC’s YouTube channel. It has been made with the involvement of the hearing- impaired community, by giving due consideration to their suggestions and understanding. The videos contain the sign, the English term for the sign and pictures where relevant. A word list is also given with the English and Hindi equivalents of the signs. The dictionary is intended to serve as a resource for ISL teachers, ISL learners, teachers of the hearing impaired, interpreters, parents of hearing-impaired children, researchers, etc. Hearing impaired persons will benefit from this dictionary since they can look up information about a particular sign and its English/Hindi equivalents.

e-Aushadhi Portal

Why in News?

  • Ministry of State (IC) for AYUSH, launched the e-AUSHADHI portal, for online licensing of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs and related matters at New Delhi.

Significance:

  • e-AUSHADHI portal is intended for increased transparency, improved information management facility, improved data usability and increased accountability.
  • Timelines will be fixed for processing of application through this portal with SMS and e-
    mail status updates at each step of the process.
  • It will provide real-time information of the licensed manufactures and their products, cancelled and spurious drugs, contact details of the concerned authority for specific grievances.

Constitutional And Legislative Measures To Protect And Safeguard Land Rights Of Sts

Why in News?

  • The Scheduled Tribes (STs) have been the most marginalized, isolated and deprived population.
  • To protect and safeguarding the land rights and other rights of Scheduled Tribes, following constitutional and legislative measure have been put in place:

Forest Rights:

  • The Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.

Fair Compensation:

  • Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 safeguards against displacement of Scheduled Tribes.
  • Special provisions have been made for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under Sections 41 and 42 of the Act, which protect their interests. The RFCTLARR Act, 2013 also lays down procedure and manner of rehabilitation and resettlement.

PESA Act:

  • The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 , provides that the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas. The actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the State Level.

Fifth Schedule:

  • Constitutional provisions under Schedule – V provide for safeguards against displacement of tribal population because of land acquisitions etc. The Governor of the State, having scheduled Areas, is empowered to prohibit or restrict transfer of land from tribals and regulate the allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribes in such cases. Land being a State subject, various provisions of rehabilitation and resettlement as per the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 are implemented by the concerned State Governments.

Legal Services:

  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides for legal services to members of Scheduled Tribes.

Prevention of Atrocities Act:

  • The SCs and the STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989” has been introduced to prevent
    the commission of offences of atrocities.
  • It aims to provide for the trial of such offences and for the relief of rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Wrongfully dispossessing members of SCs and STs from their land or premises or interfering with the enjoyment of their rights, including forest rights, over any land or premises or water or irrigation facilities or destroying the crops or taking away the produce there from amount to atrocities and are offence.

Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Up-gradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS)

Why in News?

  • Cabinet approves continuation of Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Up- gradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS) beyond 12th Plan for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20

Highlights:

  • The scheme aims at improving the competitiveness of MSMEs by integrating various ongoing schematic interventions.
  • Scheme aims at improving the competitiveness of MSMEs by integrating various ongoing schematic interventions.
  • Hand holding for zero defect zero effect manufacturing (ZED).
  • Increasing productivity through waste reduction (Lean)
  • Design intervention (Design)
  • Cloud computing (Digital MSMEs)
  • Facilitation of intellectual property (IPR)
  • Nurturing new ideas (Incubation)
  • Special provisions have been made in this scheme to promote entrepreneurship for SC/STs, women
  • The scheme through Zero Defect & Zero Effect, component will promote reduction in emission level of greenhouse gases and and improve the competitiveness through reduction in defect / wastage during the manufacturing process of the products.
  • It will also promote the innovation, digital empowerment of MSMEs, design interventions and support the protection of intellectual property of MSMEs.

Benefits:

  • The scheme will facilitate technology up-gradation to MSEs.
  • Improvement in Quality of products by MSMEs,
  • Enhancement in productivity,
  • Reduction in waste and
  • It shall promote a culture of continuous improvement.

Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan Scheme

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 19, 2019 approved the launch of ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan’ with the objective of providing financial and water security to farmers.
  • The Central Government will provide a total financial support of Rs 34,422 crore for the scheme.

Significance:

  • The Scheme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions. All three components of the Scheme will save about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.
  • The Component-B of the Scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
  • The scheme will have direct employment potential. Besides increasing self-employment, it will generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.

Components of scheme:

  • The Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan scheme consists of three components:
  • Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralised Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants.
  • Component-B: Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • Component-C: Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • With all these three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022. The Component-A and Component-C will be implemented on pilot mode. The Component-A aims for 1000 MW capacity, while, Component-C aims for the one lakh grid connected agriculture pumps. On the other hand, the Component-B will be implemented in full-fledged manner.

Component-A

  • Under Component A, Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers, cooperatives, panchayats or farmer producer organisations (FPO) on their lands.
  • The power generated will be purchased by the DISCOMs in tariffs determined by respective State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERC). The scheme will open a continuous source of income to the rural land owners.
  • The DISCOMs will be provided with the Performance Based Incentives of Rs. 0.40 per unit for five years.

Component-B

  • Under Component B, individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Under the scheme, the Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in Horsepower (HP) is allowed.

Component C

  • Under Component C, individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme. The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and the excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM. This will help to create an avenue for extra income to the farmers.

Funding of Component-B and Component-C

  • For both Component-B and Component-C, central financial assistance (CFA) of 30 percent of the benchmark cost or the tender cost, whichever is lower, will be provided.
  • The State Government will give a subsidy of 30 percent; and the remaining 40 percent will be provided by the farmer. Bank finance may be made available for meeting 30 percent of the cost. The remaining 10 percent will be provided by the farmer.
  • Higher CFA of 50 percent will be provided for North Eastern States, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

SATH-E Project

Why in News?

  • Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) Project implemented by NITI Aayog.

The SATH-E:

  • An initiative in based on formal agreements with the States and will be funded through a cost-sharing mechanism between NITI Aayog and the participating states.
  • The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership (PFEL) were chosen as knowledge partners for the project facilitating review, data collection and implementation.

  • It aims to transform elementary and secondary school education.
  • SATH-E roadmap refers to a time-bound, goal-driven exercise that will reach its logical culmination by the end of the academic year 2020.
  • It envisages the entire governmental school education system responsive, aspirational and transformational for every child
  • SATH-E aims to create role model States for education and mainstream ‘islands of excellence’ across the country to facilitate qualitative and quantitative transformation of learning outcomes. Marrying technology with need-based, data-driven assessment and a ‘giving it what it takes’ approach – be it innovation, incubation, external third party funding and Public- Private- Philanthropic Partnership (PPPP) experimentation – SATH-E puts the States in the driver’s seat to transform education at scale.

National Policy For Domestic Workers (DRAFT)

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has not enacted any separate law to protect the interest of domestic workers. However, the Ministry of Labour & Employment is considering formulating a National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage.

Highlights:

  • The salient features of the proposed draft National Policy on Domestic Workers are as under:
  • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations.
  • Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits.
  • Right to form their own associations/unions.
  • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
  • Right to enhance their skills
  • Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation.
  • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
  • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies
  • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.

Background:

  • The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 has been enacted for providing social security to all unorganized workers including domestic workers.
  • The Act provides the formulation of social security schemes viz life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits & old age protection.
  • The State Governments are mandated under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 to formulate suitable welfare schemes for the unorganized sector workers including domestic workers relating to provident fund, employment injury benefits housing, education schemes for children, skill up gradation of workers, financial assistance & old age homes.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Why in News?

  • The union government has introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Cinematograph Act and impose strict penalty to combat the menace of film piracy.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019:

  • The Bill seeks to amend provisions of Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to tackle film piracy by including penal provisions for unauthorized camcording and duplication of films. It aims to check piracy, particularly the release of pirated versions of films on the internet that causes huge losses to the film industry and the exchequer.
  • The bill proposes to make film piracy offences punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fines that may extend to 10 lakh or both. The proposed amendment states that any person, who without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, uses any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film, or attempts to do so, or abet the making or transmission of such a copy, will be liable for such a punishment.

Expected Outcomes:

  • The film industry has been demanding for a long time that the government consider amendments to the law preventing camcording and piracy.
  • The proposed amendments would increase industry revenues, boost job creation, fulfil important objectives of India’s National Intellectual Property policy.
  • It will give relief against piracy and infringing content online.

2nd Edition Of Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan Launched

Why in News

  • The Government of Gujarat has launched the second edition of the water conservation scheme- Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.

Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan:

  • The scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state before monsoon to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
  • The scheme involves cleaning and desilting of riverfronts. It also involves sprucing up of irrigation canals. The state government has increased its financial contribution for the scheme to 60 per cent, which meant private groups getting involved would have to give only the remaining 40 per cent.

About the first edition:

  • During the first edition against its anticipated target of 16,616 works of deepening of ponds and lakes across the state, 18,220 works were accomplished.
  • The first edition witnessed an increase in the water storage capacity of more than 11,000 lakh cubic feet rainwater through different sources like ponds, reservoirs, check dams, bori bandh and other.
  • The desilting had also generated a huge amount of loose/soil or clay which can be used by farmers to increase.

National Policy On Electronics 2019

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet on February 19, 2019 approved the National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019), proposed by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
    (MeitY).
  • The 2019 Policy on Electronics proposes to propel the growth of Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) industry in the country. It replaces the National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012).

Objective:

  • The Policy aims to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

National Policy on Electronics 2019:

  • Create eco-system for globally competitive ESDM sector by promoting domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM
  • Provide incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components.
  • Provide special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.
  • Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units
  • Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics such as 5G, loT/ Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Drones, Robotics, Additive Manufacturing, Photonics, Nano-based devices, etc
  • Provide incentives and support for significantly enhancing availability of skilled manpower
  • Special thrust on Fabless Chip Design Industry, Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive Electronics Industry and Power Electronics for Mobility and Strategic Electronics Industry
  • Create Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) to promote the development and acquisition of IPs in ESDM sector. Promote trusted electronics value chain initiatives to improve national cyber security profile. The Policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of ESDM sector in the country.

Targets and Significance:

  • The scheme targets to promote domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-
    chain of ESDM for economic development to achieve a turnover of USD 400 billion by 2025.
  • This will include targeted production of 1.0 billion (100 crore) mobile handsets by 2025 valued at USD 190 billion, including 600 million (60 crore) mobile handsets valued at USD 110 billion for export.
  • The NPE 2019 will lead to formulation of several schemes, initiatives, and projects in consultation with the concerned Ministries and Departments for the development of ESDM sector in the country.
  • It will enable flow of investment and technology, leading to higher value addition in the domestically manufactured electronic products, increased electronics hardware manufacturing in the country and their export.

Govt Issues Guidelines To Set Up Ev Charging Stations

Why in News?

  • In line with the 2030 deadline of 25 percent of vehicles in India to be all-electric, the government has issued new guidelines for strengthening the country EV infrastructure.

Highlights:

  • The MoHUA has made amendments to the Model Building Byelaws (MBBL) 2016 and Urban Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines 2014, making provisions for establishing EV charging infrastructure.
  • The guidelines will act as a guiding document to the state governments and UTs to incorporate the norms and standards of such vehicles in their respective building byelaws.

Charging Stations:

  • It has issued a set of guidelines to set up charging stations for electric vehicles across the country, outlining ways to build such fuelling points every 25 km.
  • For long range and heavy-duty electric vehicles, there should be at least one station on each side of the highway every 100 kilometers. The government has also advocated for charging points in residential areas. It also stated a public charging station should be on both sides of the highways or roads on every 25 km.

Reconstitution Of Indian Council Of Historical Research (ICHR)

Why in News?

  • The Government has reconstituted the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), New Delhi for a period of three years till 2022.
  • Indian Council of Historical Research:

    • The ICHR is an autonomous body of the HRD Ministry, which had been established by an Administrative Order of the then Ministry of Education.
    • The body has provided financial assistance to the historians and direction to the research scholars in their multifarious topics of historical research through established historians and scholars of the country.
    • ICHR disburses funds for carrying out research to Indian as well as foreign scholars on their applications for fellowships, grants, and symposia.

    Objectives:

    • The objectives of the ICHR, as enunciated in the initial pamphlet published by the Department of Education, Government of India in 1972 are as under:
    • to bring historians together and provide a forum for exchange of views between them;
    • to give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history;
    • to promote, accelerate and coordinate research in history with special emphasis on areas which have not received adequate attention so far;
    • to promote and coordinated a balanced distribution of research effort over different areas; and to elicit support and recognition for historical research from all concerned and ensure the necessary dissemination and use of results.

    Cultural Heritage Youth Leadership Programme (CHYLP)

    Why in news?

    • Information was given by Minister of State (independent charge) for Culture, in reply to an Unstarred Question in the Lok Sabha.

    CHYLP Programme:

    • The scheme for Cultural Heritage Youth Leadership Programme (CHYLP) envisaged enriching awareness of Indian culture and heritage amongst the youth in order to promote, understand and develop fondness for India’s rich cultural heritage, with a view to develop appropriate leadership qualities amongst youth.
    • The focus of the programme was to be on less privileged children residing in backward areas by interacting with them in vernacular languages for their better understanding.
    • Intermittently programme was given to Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), an autonomous organization working under the purview of Ministry of Culture.
    • CCRT organized workshops for the scheme. However, to accelerate the process, Museum Division of this Ministry arranged visits of children of unprivileged section of society to museums so that these children may get an opportunity to gain the knowledge relating to the Indian History and Culture and Science.

    National Conference On Unani Medicine

    Why in news?

    • Two-day Conference on Unani Medicine for Public Health inaugurated. Organized by the Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) as a part of 3rd Unani Day celebration here in New Delhi.
    • To pay tribute to Hakim Ajmal Khan, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as Unani Day on 11th February every year
    • Theme: ‘Unani Medicine for Public Health’

    Unani Medicine:

    • Ibn-e- Sina popularly known as Avicenna, one of the greatest scholars of Unani Tibb (medicine), has defined Unani Medicine as “It is the science in which we learn various states of body in health and when not in health and the means by which health is likely to be lost and when lost, is likely to be restored”.
    • Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine is a form of traditional medicine practiced in Middle- East and South-Asian countries. It refers to a tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine, which is based on the teachings of Greek physician Hippocrates and Roman physician Galen and developed into an elaborate medical system in middle age era by Arabian and Persian physicians, such as Rhazes (al-Razi), Avicenna (Ibn-e- Sina), Al-Zahrawi, and Ibn Nafis.
    • It originated in Greece almost 2500 years back, which is herbo- animo- mineral in origin (Approximately 90% herbal, 4-5% animal and 5-6 % mineral).
    • It is not only the original science of medicine but also a rich store house of principles and philosophies of medicine which can be of immense value to the medicine in particular and science in general.

    Govt. Grants Divisional Status To Ladakh

    Why in News?

    • Jammu and Kashmir Governor has granted Ladakh a divisional status, thus creating three administrative units of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in the State.

    The Ladakh Division:

    • The J&K government has approved the creation of a separate administrative and revenue division for Ladakh.
    • It will comprise Leh and Kargil districts, with headquarters at Leh.
    • Earlier, Ladakh was a part of the Kashmir division.
    • Ladakh will now get its own Divisional Commissioner and Inspector General of Police.
    • Ladakh’s Kargil and Leh districts already have separate hill development councils for local administrative powers.
    • The move leaves the Kashmir valley geographically the smallest division at 15,948 sq. km, Jammu division at 26,293 sq. km and Ladakh, the biggest division, at 86,909 sq. km.
    • The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it eligible for establishing a separate division.
    • During the winter months, the entire Ladakh region remains cut-off from the rest of the country for almost six months.
    • A section in Leh also has been demanding Union Territory status.

    National Survey On Extent And Pattern Of Substance Use In India

    Why in News?

    • An addiction plague has steadily swallowed India a/c to a study conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
    • The study, named “National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India” is a
      first of its kind as it gives pan-India and state-level data.

    National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India:

    • The survey report, which was submitted to the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on noted that 5.7 crore people in the country suffered from alcohol related problems.
    • The survey spanned all the 36 states and UTs of India and citizens between the ages of 10 to 75 responded to the questions set in the study regarding substance abuse.
    • The intoxicant categories that were studied are as follows: alcohol, cannabis (bhang and
      ganja/charas), opioids (opium, heroin and pharmaceutical opioids),cocaine
      amphetamine type stimulants (ATS), sedatives, inhalants and hallucinogens.

    Magnitude of Substance use in India:

    1.Alcohol:

    • Of the 16-crore people who consumed alcohol across the country, prevalence of alcohol consumption was 17 times higher among men than among women.
    • More than four lakh children and 1.8 million adults needed help for inhalant abuse and dependence.
    • The male to female ratio of alcohol users in India is 17:1 and most men consume either
      ‘desi’ liquor (30 per cent) or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (30 per cent).
    • A total of 5.2 per cent of the population indulge in harmful alcohol use, means that every third drinker in the country is in dire need of medical help in curing his/her addiction.

    2.Cannabis (Bhang, Ganja & Charas):

    • According to the survey, over 3.1 crore Indians (2.8%) reported to have used any cannabis product in last one year. Although, the usage of Bhang use is more common than Ganja or Charas but in case of addiction, the number of dependent users is higher for addicts of Ganja and Charas. Cannabis consumption is higher than the national average in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
    • In Punjab and Sikkim, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders is considerably higher (more than thrice) than the national average.

    3.Heroin, Opium & others:

    • At the national level, Heroin is most commonly used substance followed by pharmaceutical opioids, followed by opium (Afeem). However, in case of harmful dependence, more people are dependent on Heroin than other similar drugs like Afeem.Of the total 60 lakh users of Heroin and Afeem, majority of them are from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

    4.Sedatives and inhalants:

    • Less than 1% or nearly 1.18 crore people use sedatives, non-medical or non-prescription use. However, what is more worrying that its prevalence is high among children and adolescents. At national level, there are 4.6 lakh children that need help against the harmful or dependence over inhalants.
    • This problem of addiction of children is more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.
    • Cocaine (0.10%) Amphetamine Type Stimulants (0.18%) and Hallucinogens (0.12%) are the categories with lowest prevalence of current use in the country.

    5.Addicts who inject drugs:

    • According to the survey, there are 8.5 lakh people in the country who inject drugs (PWID).
    • Users of opium-based drugs report high incidence of injecting drugs (heroin 46% and pharmaceutical opioids 46%), a large number of these drug users report risky injecting practices.
    • This risky practice more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland.

    Abolition Of Income-Tax Ombudsman And Indirect Tax Ombudsman

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet chaired by PM has approved the proposal for Abolition of Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman and Indirect Tax Ombudsman.

    Highlights:

    • It is an Independent body comprises of former tax officials or Indian Revenue Service Officials formed by the Government, empowered to address and settle tax payer’s grievances.
    • The Ombudsman is governed by, and has to comply with the Income Tax Ombudsman Guidelines, 2006.
    • At present, the Government has set-up Tax Ombudsman at 12 cities namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Pune, Kochi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Bhopal. The Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman was created in the year 2003 to deal with grievances of public related to settlement of complaints relating to Income Tax. However, the Institution of Ombudsman failed to achieve its objectives.
    • It was observed that institution of new complaints has in turn fallen to single digits.
    • Also, tax payers started preferring alternate methods of grievance redressal like CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System), Aaykar Seva Kendras etc.

    Mera Aspataal Application

    Why in News?

    • The Mera Aspataal Initiative was launched precisely to find a mechanism to gauze patient reaction to the services offered in the hospital and help improve the services by taking corrective measures.

    Highlights:

    • The ranking of Hospitals in the Mera Aspataal Application for the facilities is done on the basis of Patient Satisfaction Score (PSS).
    • The PSS is calculated as weighted average of number of satisfied and dissatisfied patients based on the feedback collected in a particular facility.
    • The ranking keeps changing every month based on the feedback received from the patients. National Institute Ranking Framework of Ministry of Human Resource Development, AIIMS, Delhi has been ranked as number one institute.
    • As per performance analysis report of Mera Aspataal for period Sept-2016 to Jan-2019, 24 per cent of patients were dissatisfied with the services offered at the public health facilities. Major Reasons for dissatisfaction were staff behavior, cost of treatment & cleanliness issues and other reasons like, long waiting time, overcrowding, inadequate information, lack of amenities, etc.
    • The patients’ feedback including, areas requiring improvement are shared with the respective State Govts. and Central Govt. hospitals for ensuring remedial follow-up actions.

    Management Of Ground Water

    Why in News?

    • CGWB has been entrusted with the responsibilities of developing & disseminating
      technologies, monitoring national policies for the scientific and sustainable development
      and management of India’s ground water resources.

    Highlights:

    • It periodically takes up various studies which include ground water management studies, exploratory drilling programmes, monitoring ground water level and water quality through a network of ground water observation wells etc.
    • The result collected is shared with the concerned States for taking up suitable ground water specific interventions.

    National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM):

    • The NAQUIM is an initiative of the Ministry of Water Resources for mapping and managing the entire aquifer systems in the country.
    • It maintains the Hydrological Map of India.
    • It was initiated as a part of the Ground Water Management and Regulation scheme to delineate and characterize the aquifers to develop plans for ground water management.

    Objectives:

    • It aims:
    • to identify and map aquifers at the micro level,
    • to quantify the available groundwater resources, and
    • to propose plans appropriate to the scale of demand and aquifer characteristics, and institutional arrangements for participatory management
    • The AQUIM project is implemented in six selected areas in different hydrogeological environs of the country as shown below:

    National Conference Of Micro Missions Of National Police Mission

    Why in News?

    • The conference will discuss the issues of Skills and Competence at the grass-root level, Attitudinal Changes in Police, Gender Sensitization, harnessing technology and Community Policing.

    National Police Mission:

    • The National Police Mission (NPM) was announced in the year 2005 to transform the Police Forces in the country into effective instruments for maintenance of internal security and challenges of the next century, by equipping them with the necessary material, intellectual and organisational resources and to create a “New Vision” for the Indian police.
    • The objective of this Mission is to prepare the police forces for emerging challenges, to bring about specialization in areas like counter terrorism, counter insurgency, cyber and economic crimes, strengthen the metropolitan and rural policing, to bring in attitudinal changes in police by transforming the ‘force psychology’ into ‘service psychology, harness technology in aid of policing and to adopt community policing and ensure effective delivery of services to the citizens.

    Famous projects of the National Police Mission (NPM):

    • NPM has developed 35 projects; some important among them are
    • Transparent Recruitment Process
    • Police- Community Policing
    • Student Police Cadet Programme (this project aims to develop a well-disciplined socially committed young generation of youth through submission to law, practised as a way of life by creating an action force comprising both girl and boy cadets who stay ever ready for rendering their services to the Nation
    • B-Trac (Technology-driven Traffic Management System)
    • Dial 100 – Integrated Emergency Response System,
    • Cyberdome
    • Pre-litigation Counseling Forum
    • Review and Implementation of Rules and Processes for the Internal Management of Prisons and Prisoners.

    INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRES AUTHORITY BILL, 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India through International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.
    • The first IFSC in India has been set up at GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

    Highlights:

    • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centers by Indian corporate entities.
    • They offer business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centers in the world like London and Singapore.
    • Currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
    • It requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations
      governing financial activities in IFSCs.
    • The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
    • It provides world class regulatory environment to financial market participants.

    Significance:

    • The establishment of a unified financial regulator for IFSCs will result in providing world- class regulatory environment to market participants from an ease of doing business perspective.
    • This will provide a stimulus for further development of IFSCs in India and enable bringing back of financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres to India.
    • This would also generate significant employment in the IFSCs in particular as well as financial sector in India as a whole.

    Features of IFSC Authority Bill, 2019:

    • The Authority shall consist of a Chairperson, one Member each to be nominated by the RBI, the Securities Exchange Board of India SEBI, the IRDAI and the PFRDA.
    • Two members are to be dominated by the Central Government and two other whole-time or full-time or part-time members.
    • The Authority shall regulate all such financial services, financial products and FIs in an IFSC which has already been permitted by the Financial Sector Regulators for IFSCs.
    • The Authority shall also regulate such other financial products, financial services or FIs as may be notified by the Central Government from time to time.
    • It may also recommend to the Central Government such other financial products, financial services and financial institutions which may be permitted in the IFSCs
    • All powers exercisable by the respective financial sector regulatory (viz. RBI, SEBI, IRDAI,and PFRDA etc.) under the respective Acts shall be solely exercised by the Authority in the IFSCs.
    • This is so far as the regulation of financial products, financial services and FIs that are permitted in the IFSC are concerned.
    • The Central Govt. may, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, make to the Authority grants of such sums of money as the Central Government may think fit for being utilized for the purposes of the Authority.
    • The transactions of financial services in the IFSCs shall be done in the foreign.

    Jan Dhan Darshak App

    Why in news?

    • Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance and National Informatics Centre (NIC) has jointly developed a mobile app called Jan Dhan Darshak as a part of financial inclusion (FI) initiative.

    Jan Dhan Darshak App:

    • As the name suggests, this app will act as a guide for the common people in locating a financial service touch point at a given location in the country.
    • will be in a unique position to provide a citizen centric platform for locating financial service touch points across all providers such as banks, post office, CSC, etc.
    • These services could be availed as per the needs and convenience of the common people.

    Salient features of this App:

    • Find nearby Financial touch points, based on current location (Branches/ATM/Post offices)
    • Search by place name
    • Search by place name also available with Voice Interface
    • Phone number of bank branches available in app, with the facility of call button for integrated dialing
    • Users’ feedback will go directly to the concerned bank for carrying out the necessary updation in data on financial touch points.

    Significance of the App:

    • Financial inclusion
    • Digital literacy
    • Reach out to end beneficiaries
    • Transparency in financial transactions
    • Bridging rural urban divide

    Draft National River Ganga Bill, 2018

    Why in News?

    • Draft of “The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill 2018” provides for the constitution of Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force of the union.

    Highlights of the bill:

    • The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
    • Proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500- kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’
    • It lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the uninterrupted, ecological flow of the river.
    • The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorised” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.
    • The Ganga Protection Corps is proposed to be empowered to arrest or caused to be arrested for offence under the Act, and to take the person to the nearest police station. The Court would take cognizance of the offence on the basis of the complaint filed by the officers who are authorized under the proposed Act.
    • The draft Act contemplates certain provisions conferring powers to the “National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga” [National Ganga Council] to arrange to carry out or caused to be carried out impact assessment of certain projects and activities which affect or are likely to affect the flow of water in river Ganga, such as building barrages, deforestation on hill slopes, hydroelectric projects etc.

    National Ganga Council:

    • The National Ganga Council will be overall responsible for the superintendence, direction, development and control of River Ganga and the entire River Basin (including financial and administrative matters) for the protection, prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in River Ganga and its rejuvenation to its natural and pristine condition and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water in the River Ganga and for matters connected therewith.

    National Virtual Library Of India

    Why in News?

    • National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) is a major project set up by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, under the National Mission on Libraries (NML).

    Highlights:

    • The objective of National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) is to facilitate creation of a comprehensive database on digital resources of India on information about India in an open access environment.
    • The main goal of this project is to create, collect, encode, and collate various digital artifacts related to Indian culture, in the form of a portal, and to allow relevant information access through web-based search.
    • This project is an important part of the larger vision of putting information of the entire Indian cultural heritage in the digital web world.

    Vision of NVLI:

    • Allowing easy access to digital information present in the form of books, texts, videos, audios, and similar artifacts in multiple languages
    • Collecting, combining, and standardizing all available digital assets in an easily searchable
      form.
    • Educating people to use the NVLI portal and enabling them to contribute by submitting digital artifacts
    • Ensuring preservation of digital content for the future generation

    Salient features of NVLI are:

    • Federated searching through multilingual user interfaces
    • Virtual learning environment
    • E-Governance platform facilitating data analytics
    • Multilingual searching and retrieval on ontology/thesaurus based
    • The project of creation of National Virtual Library of India had been entrusted to IIT Bombay (in collaboration with C-DAC, Pune and IGNOU, Delhi). The Ministry of Culture

    National Testing Agency Launched Mobile App

    Why in News?

    • National Testing Agency launched Mobile App through which students can practice mock tests.

    Highlights:

    • Through the app students can practice or take mock tests on their own computers or smart phones.
    • NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to acquaint the aspirants, especially those from rural areas with Computer Based Tests (CBTs) to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources.
    • Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’ for visiting the TPCs.
    • The services are provided to the students free of cost.

    NTA:

    • The National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts entrance examinations for admission in higher educational institutions in the country.
    • It will be society registered under Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • Its main purpose is to bring reforms in the education system
    • Establishment of NTA will free CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from conducting various exams and enable them to focus on their core areas and work on improving the quality of education
    • Initially, the CBSE staff will be deployed in this department and but later on the specialised people will be hired in the NTA.

    Digitalisation Of Schools Across The Country

    Why in News?

    • The Central Government has launched an Integrated Scheme for school education- Samagra Shiksha, which subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education, from the year 2018-19.
    • Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) component envisages covering all Government and Government Aided schools from classes VI to XII, subject to the availability of budgetary provision, progress of approved interventions and receipt of proposals from the States/UTs.
    • Various initiatives for providing education through digital means:

      • ICT in Education Curriculum for School System – ICT curriculum for teachers and students has been developed by NCERT.
      • e-pathshala – e-pathshala has been developed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) for showcasing and disseminating all educational e- resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials.
      • National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) – The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) is an initiative to bring together all digital and digitisable resources across all stages of school education and teacher education.
      • SWAYAM:- The ‘Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM)is an integrated platform for online courses, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and covering school (9th to 12th) to Post Graduate Level. It offers online courses for students, teachers and teacher educators. It may be accessed on swayam.gov.in.
      • SWAYAM PRABHA:-A programme for utilization of satellite communication technologies for transmission of educational e-contents through 32 National Channels i.e.SWAYAM PRABHA DTH-TV has been launched.
      • CBSE initiatives:- SARANSH is a tool for comprehensive self-review and analysis for CBSE affiliated schools and parents. It enables them to analyse students’ performance in order to take remedial measures. SARANSH brings schools, teachers and parents closer, so that they can monitor the progress of students and help them improve their performance. It helps schools to compare their performance vis-à-vis all CBSE schools at various levels and also helps parents to compare their ward’s performance within school State, Region and National level. It is currently available for Standards IX – XII.
      • KVS initiatives:- ICT Skills are imparted in all the Kendriya Vidyalayas to the students of classes III to XII. Through e-Classrooms, Digital Language Labs and Computer labs further, a pilot project e-Prajna has been started for providing tablets pre-loaded with e- content in Maths and Science.
    • Operation Digital Board:- An initiative has been taken by Government of India to provide interactive digital boards to nearly 15 lakh classrooms across the country for 9th standard to post graduate level, where they can receive lectures from best teachers/professors and access quality e-content, in order to enhance overall learning process and experience of the students.

    Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana

    Why in News?

    • Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana social security scheme announced in the budget.

    Scheme Highlights:

    • It is a scheme for the unorganised sector workers with monthly income upto Rs 15,000. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated for the Scheme.
    • It shall provide an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 years on a monthly contribution of a small affordable amount during their working age.
    • An unorganised sector worker joining pension yojana at the age of 29 years will have to contribute only Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years. A worker joining the pension.yojana at 18 years, will have to contribute as little as Rs 55 per month only.
    • The Government will deposit equal matching share in the pension account of the worker every month. It is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will avail the benefit is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sectorwill avail the benefit within next five years making it one of the largest pension schemes of the world.

    Kisan Credit Card/Crop Loans Processing And Service Charges Waiver

    Why in news?

  • To provide direct benefit to farmers and ease the pressure on them, the Indian Banking Association today issued advisory guidelines requesting banks to waive off the processing, documentation, inspection, ledger folio charges and all other service charges for Kisan Credit Card /crop loans up to 3 Lakhs.
  • Highlights:

    • In India, Land Holding pattern is dominated by Small and Marginal farmers (SMF) category Roughly 85 per cent of the total operational holding I the country (about 43 percent of the gross cropped area) are in the SMF category.
    • There are around 21.6 crore small and marginal farmers (or 4.3 crore families). Providing timely and affordable credit to this resource constrained group is the key to attaining inclusive growth.
    • The small and Marginal farmers are the most affected during times of floods, droughts, and other natural calamities.
    • As per parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture the losses due to climate change account for overall GDP loss of 1.5% of agriculture economy.
    • The instability in income of the farmers due to various types of risks involved in production, low bargaining power, etc., add more distress to the already affected farmers.

    Kisan credit card:

    • Scheme aims at providing adequate and timely credit support from the banking system under a single window with flexible and simplified procedure to the farmers to meet the short term credit requirements for cultivation of crops, investment credit requirements for agriculture and allied activities and other needs.

    30th National Road Safety Week

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is all set to launch the 30th National Road Safety Week, with a host of initiatives planned for generating awareness and sensitizing people about safe road usage.

    Highlights:

    • Theme for this year campaign: Sadak Suraksha – Jeevan Raksha
    • Minister of Road Transport and Highways will flag off a motor car rally to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • The rally will travel through places historically associated with Gandhiji, both in India, as well as in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and will pass through Sabarmati, Porbandar, Dandi, Yerwada, Sewagram, Jabalpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, ChauriChaura, Champaran, Shantiniketan and Kolkata in India before travelling to Dhaka in Bangladesh. It will conclude at Yangon in Myanmar.
    • During the event MoRTH also launch the dashboard for Road Accident Data of India and its states.
    • The Society of Indian Automobile Industry will also declare 2019 as the Year of Road Safety on the occasion, to underline its commitment and support for promoting safety on Indian roads.
    • Amar Chitra Katha will release a set of comic books on road safety that it has published. This is aimed at creating awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to.
    • In addition to the above, Retro Reflective Stickers on Sadak Suraksha Jeevan Raksha will be launched on the occasion.

    National Testing Agency Launched Mobile App

    Why in News?

    • National Testing Agency launched Mobile App through which students can practice mock tests.

    Highlights:

    • Through the app students can practice or take mock tests on their own computers or smartphones.
    • NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to acquaint the aspirants, especially those from rural areas with Computer Based Tests (CBTs) to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources.
    • Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’ for visiting the TPCs.
    • The services are provided to the students free of cost.

    NTA:

    • The National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts entrance examinations for admission in higher educational institutions in the country.
    • It will be society registered under Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • Its main purpose is to bring reforms in the education system
    • Establishment of NTA will free CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from conducting various exams and enable them to focus on their core areas and work on improving the quality of education
    • Initially, the CBSE staff will be deployed in this department and but later on the specialised people will be hired in the NTA.

    Centre relaxes environmental clearance for sugar mills

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified a special provision that relaxes norms for getting prior environmental clearance (EC) to sugar manufacturing and distillery projects.

    Highlights:

    • The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 makes it mandatory to get an EC for all new projects, their expansion and modernisation as well as change in product mix.
    • The EC has to be acquired before beginning construction work or preparation of land by the project management, except for securing the land.
    • The latest notification allows all sugar manufacturing and distillery expansion projects to be treated as B2 category under the EIA notification 2006.
    • The new provision applies to all expansion projects of sugar manufacturing or distilleries, having environmental clearances for their present industrial operations and intend to produce ethanol for blending with petrol under the Ethanol Blended with Petrol (EBP) programme.

    EBP programme:

    • Ethanol Blended with Petrol (EBP) programme was launched by the government in 2003 to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.
    • This intervention also seeks to reduce import dependency for energy requirements, and give boost to the agriculture sector.

    The Environment Impact Assessment:

    • It is the assessment of the environmental consequences (positive and negative) of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action.
    • The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project.
    • The EIA notification has three categories; A, B1 and B2.
    • The projects under category A require EC from MoEF&CC.
    • Category B1 projects get the EC from the state/union territory Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
    • Category B2 get EC from the SEIAA, the requirements for getting clearance for such projects is easier than category A or B1 projects.

    India n students to participate in PISA 2021

    Why in News?

    • The HRD Ministry has signed a pact with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the participation of students from Central government schools in PISA-2021.
    • With the signing of the pact, Indian students aged 15 will be able to take the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, which is conducted every three years.

    PISA 2021:

    • It will be a competency-based test, which evaluates the learning level of 15YO students in reading, mathematics and science.
    • The outcomes of the test will be used to do more teacher training programmes and curricular reforms.
    • The questions in the test will be contextualized according to the Indian setting to help students understand them better.
    • Schools run by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and schools in the UTs of Chandigarh will participate.
    • The CBSE and NCERT will be part of the process and activities leading to the actual test.

    Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Signs an MoU with National Council of Applied Economic Research

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Government of India and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to use new data technologies, knowledge generation and knowledge sharing, and capacity building in the field of Official Statistics.

    Significance:

    • The MoU would lead to strengthening and better monitoring of data quality and timeliness of various statistical products and services generated by the Ministry including, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Economic Census, Price Statistics, Index of Industrial Production (IIP), and Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), etc.

    Highlights of the MoU:

    • Business Process Review (“BPR”) of the existing official statistics system and development of an information and communication technology (“ICT”) plan for mainstreaming data integration across various domains and agencies.
    • Using technology for survey instruments and processing of data for large scale surveys and data analytics.
    • Creation of a national data warehouse to integrate administrative statistical datasets available up to the local Government level.
    • Leveraging administrative data to improve the quality and coverage of core statistics with technical support and collaboration with data producers.
    • Setting up common standards and protocols for data collection, its quality, meta-data and use across line ministries and sub-national entities.
    • Development of new ICT based framework for measurement of social and economic indicators in the emerging knowledge-based economy.
    • Capacity building for statistical activities including big data analytics, technical reporting, etc.

    ICAR launches National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP)

    Why in News?

    • The ICAR has recently launched Rs 1100 crore ambitious National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) to attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country.

    Highligts:

    • This project will be funded by the World Bank and the Indian Government on a 50:50 basis.
    • The objective of the NAHEP for India is to support participating agricultural universities and ICAR in providing more relevant and higher quality education to Agricultural University students.
    • In addition, a four year degree in Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Forestry has been declared a professional degree.
    • In order to promote the participation of students in agricultural business, Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) scheme is being run.
    • Under this, practical experience of agriculture and entrepreneurship is provided to undergraduate students.

    Yuva Swabhiman Yojana

    Why in news?

    • The Madhya Pradesh government has announced the launch of a scheme to ensure temporary employment to the youths from the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the urban areas.

    Yuva Swabhiman Yojana:

    • The Scheme would guarantee 100 days of employment every year to the EWS youths.
    • During their employment, youths would be given skills training of their choice, so that they can take benefits of the available job opportunities.
    • While those in rural areas get employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the urban poor youth are left out.
    • This scheme will effectively cover them.

    Highest Civilian honour – Bharat Ratna 2019

    Why in News?

    • The President, Ram Nath Kovind conferred the 2019 Bharat Ratna Award, country’s highest civilian honour, on former president and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee.

    Highlights – awardees:

    • The award was also conferred on RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh and singer Bhupen Hazarika, both posthumously.
    • Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who was the 13th President of India and served from 2012 until 2017, had served under Indira Gandhi. He was also the Finance Minister under the premiership of Manmohan Singh.
    • Nanaji Deshmukh, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 94, was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1977 to 1979 representing the Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh. He also served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005. His contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in villages.
    • Bhupen Hazarika, who died in 2011, was the legendary singer-composer from Assam. As put by PM Narendra Modi, “songs and music of Bhupen Hazarika are admired by people across generations. From them radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood.”

    Bharat Ratna Award:

    • Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India that was instituted on January 2, 1954 by the order of Rajendra Prasad, the former President of India.
    • Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence, but constitution prohibits using the award name as title.
    • The award is conferred in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or gender.
    • The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the union government expanded the criteria to include any field of human endeavour in 2011.
    • Recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year.
    • Recipients receive a certificate signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion and award does not contain any monetary grant.
    • The award can also be bestowed posthumously, as per the provision inserted in January 1966.
    • The former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first individual to be honoured posthumously in 1966.
    • The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna were C Rajagopalachari, scientist C V Raman and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1954.

    Quality of medical education Ranking

    Why in news?

    • The Union health ministry plans to grade and rank government-run medical colleges to improve the quality of medical education.

    Highlights:

    • Proposed mandatory grading of all government medical colleges and for private institutions grading will be done at a later stage. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), which grades IIMs in a similar manner, had started ranking medical colleges on its own in 2018. Ranking of medical colleges will be done on the basis of choices of students during counselling.

    Significance:

    • With good ranking and grades, the medical colleges will compete for best facilities.
    • Improve the quality of medical education.
    • The move will help in establishing the reputation of medical colleges on an international level.

    NIRF parameters:

    • Teaching, learning and resources, research and professional practices, graduation outcomes, outreach and inclusivity, and perception.
    • The significant sub-parameters are student strength, including doctoral students, faculty-student ratio, total budget and its utilization, research and professional practice,
    • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and patents filed, published, granted and licensed, percentage of women, economically and socially challenged students, and facilities for physically challenged students.

    eCourts Services through Common Service Centres

    Why in News?

    • To provide efficient and time-bound access to the Courts services to litigant public, who are on the other side of the digital divide and don’t have access to internet, the Department of Justice has decided to deliver eCourts services to them through around 2 lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs).

    Highlights:

    • The rural reach of the CSC’s is extensive, envisaging a minimum of one CSC in each Gram Panchayat, thus enabling eCourts services to reach all corners of the country.
    • The collaboration between Department of Justice and Common Service Centers would thus mean that litigants can access easily, and readily case status information available on eCourts database from any CSC.
    • To ensure affordability, Department of Justice has decided not to charge any fee from the customers for eCourts related services delivered through CSC’s.

    Significance of eCourts:

    • The Government of India had initiated second phase of the eCourts project as one of the National e-Governance projects.
    • Computerizing district and subordinate courts of the country through installation of case information software, hardware and local area network in courts.
    • They are also being connected on Wide Area Network through a dedicated network offering bandwidth upto 100 Mbps.
    • eCourts services have now been successfully rolled out through SMS, email, web, mobile app etc. benefiting millions of litigants and advocates.

    Common Service Centres:

    • Common Services Centre (CSC) programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), Government of India.
    • CSCs are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
    • They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods.

    National Girl Child Day

    Why in news?

    • The Women & Child Development Ministry will celebrate National Girl Child Day (NGCD) on 24th January, 2019. The programme will also observe anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme.

    Theme:

    • The theme of this NGCD is “Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow” and celebrating with objectives of generating awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and create a positive environment around valuing the girl child.

    Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP):

    • BBBP Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% financial assistance for District level component and the fund are directly released to the DC/DM’s account for smooth operation of the Scheme.
    • BBBP is a comprehensive programme to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum.
    • The Child Sex Ratio (CSR), defined as number of girls per 1000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years.
    • The specific objectives of the scheme include preventing gender biased sex selective elimination; ensuring survival and protection of the girl child and ensuring education and participation of the girl child.

    International day of the girl child: October 11:

    • It is an international observance day declared by the United Nations; it is also called the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl.
    • The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender.
    • This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage.

    ECI reaffirms Non – Tamperability of EVMs

    Why in News?

    • In wake of rumours about EVMs tampering and manipulating, ECI rules out all such possibilities.

    EVMs:

    • The ECI-EVMs are stand-alone machines designed to connect only amongst ECI-EVM units (Ballot Unit, Control Unit and VVPAT) through cables that remain in full public view. There is no mechanism in them to communicate with any device through wireless communication on any Radio Frequency. All their versions are regularly and rigorously tested against low to high wireless frequencies. These tests include and go beyond the standard tests specified for electronic equipment’s
    • They are regularly tested for proper functioning under all kind of operating conditions.
    • They are also regularly tested for code authentication and verification.

    VVPAT:

    • In the context alleging about the two side printing of VVPAT paper which allegedly retains lower tampered print while the front side print as verified by the voter, getting erased.
    • VVPATs use thermal printers which can print only on one side of thermal paper.
    • The print is fully visible through the viewing window.
    • The paper rolls used in VVPATs have only one-sided thermal coating and hence can be printed only on one side.
    • The VVPAT paper print lasts atleast for five years.

    EVMs and VVPATs Non-Tamperable:

    • Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, are the sole manufacturers of EVMs and now also VVPATs.
    • They also reaffirmed that all the TEC prescribed Standard Operating Procedures are scrupulously adhered to and observed.
    • It is however reiterated that while ECI-EVMs might malfunction sometimes like any other machine due to component failures and stop working, but even such a malfunctioning ECI-EVM would not record any vote incorrectly.
    • It is reaffirmed that ECI-EVMs are not tamperable.

    India ranks 80th on Global Talent Competitive Index 2019

    Why in News?

    • Global Talent Competitive Index (GTCI) for 2019 was recently released.

    India’s Progress:

    • At 80th rank, India moves up one position on the Global Talent Competitive Index (GTCI) 2019, according to a report.
    • According to the report, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to attract and retain talent. There is a need to address its poor level of Internal Openness in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerances towards minorities and immigrants. China emerged as the best performer among the BRICS countries, with an overall position of 45th.
    • However, India performed better than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing talent and access to growth opportunities.

    Global Performance:

    • Switzerland followed by Singapore, the US, Norway and Denmark were in the top five on the list.
    • In the top ten of talent competitiveness ranking, only two non-European countries can be seen: Singapore and the USA.
    • This underlines that Europe remains a talent powerhouse, but also that countries with great universities and a strong education sector are best at attracting talents.

    GTCI:

    • Launched for the first time in 2013, the GTCI is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.
    • It is released by INSEAD business school in partnership with Tata Communications and Adecco Group.
    • The report measures levels of Global Talent Competitiveness by looking at 68 variables such as ease of ease of hiring, gender earnings gap, and prevalence of training in firms.

    Creation of the National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT)

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved the creation of National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT).

    Highlights:

    • Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal is the forum of second appeal in GST laws and the first common forum of dispute resolution between Centre and States.
    • The appeals against the orders in first appeals issued by the Appellate Authorities under the Central and State GST Acts lie before the GST Appellate Tribunal, which is common under the Central as well as State GST Acts.
    • GSTAT shall be presided over by the President and shall consist of one Technical Member (Centre) and one Technical Member (State) and the appellate Tribunal shall be situated at New Delhi.
    • Being a common forum, GST Appellate Tribunal will ensure that there is uniformity in redressal of disputes arising under GST, and therefore, in implementation of GST across the country.

    Bharat Parv 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with other central Ministries is organizing the 4th edition of ‘Bharat Parv’ event showcasing the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat at Red Fort as a part of Republic Day 2019 Celebrations.

    Objective:

    • The prime objective of organizing the event is to generate a patriotic mood promote the rich cultural diversity of the country and to ensure wider participation of the general public.

    Highlights:

    • The Bharat Parv event includes display of Republic Day Parade Tableaux, Performances by Armed Forces Bands, Cultural Performances from different regions of country, Multi-Cuisine Food Court, Craft Mela and Photo Exhibition by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). It will also include cultural performances choreographed in Folk and Tribal Dances and Music arranged through North Zonal Cultural Centre as well as performances by cultural troupes from different States and Union Territories. The Food Court will have stalls set up by States/UTs.
    • Moreover, National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) will showcase street food from different regions as well as by Institutes of Hotel Management and ITDC.
    • There will also be Theme State Pavilions where each State will showcase their strengths along with tourism products.

    World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019

    Why in News?

    • Union Ministry for AYUSH will inaugurate the 2nd World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019 on the ‘Regulation of Homeopathic Medical Products; Advancing global collaboration’.

    Highlights:

    • The organizers of the forum are the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, under the Ministry of AYUSH.
    • International drug regulators dealing with homeopathic/traditional medicines from various countries are expected to participate. The regulation of homeopathic medicinal products is highly variable worldwide, ranging at a national level from highly advanced to none whatsoever. There is a tension between different regulatory needs: on the one hand there is a need for standardization, harmonization and reducing complexity;
    • On the other hand there is need for a pluralistic regulatory system, which respects the specific characteristics of homeopathy as a holistic, patient-centred medical system.
    • The forum will explore and illustrate the potential benefits and pitfalls of bi-lateral/multilateral collaboration and advance global cooperation on a synergistic basis.

    Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas – 2019

    Why in news?

    • The stage is all set for the beginning of 15th edition of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas at Varanasi.
    • The theme for PBD 2019 is “Role of Indian Diaspora in building New India”.

    Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas:

    • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated once in every two years to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots. During the Convention, selected overseas Indians are also honored with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.

    Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award:

    • The Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award PSBA is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indian. It will be conferred by the President of India to selected NRIs, PIOs, organisation or institution established and run by the NRIs who have made significant contribution to various fields both in India and abroad.

    National Museum of Indian Cinema

    Why in news?

    • Hon’ble PM Modi has inaugurated the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) in Mumbai.

    National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC):

    • The state-of-the-art Museum aims to take its visitors through an absorbing journey of over a century of Indian cinema in a story telling mode with the help of visuals, graphics, artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia expositions.
    • The creation of the Museum has been guided by the Museum Advisory Committee headed by Shri Shyam Benegal.
    • The Museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century historic palace Gulshan Mahal – in the Films Division campus in Mumbai.

    New Museum Building has four Exhibition Halls which encapsulate:

    • Gandhi & Cinema: It not only depicts the movies made on the life Mahatma Gandhi but also showcases the deep impact his life had on cinema.
    • Children’s Film Studio: it gives visitors, particularly children, an opportunity to explore the science, technology and art behind filmmaking.
    • Technology, creativity & Indian cinema: it showcases the creative use of technology by Indian film makers over the years to produce cinematographic impact on the silver screen.
    • Cinema across India: it showcases the charismatic kaleidoscopic presence of the vibrant cinematographic culture across India.

    Gulshan Mahal:

    • It is an ASI Grade-II Heritage Structure which has been restored as part of the NMIC project.
    • The displays present here showcase the journey of over a hundred years of Indian cinema.
    • It is divided into 9 sections viz. The Origin of Cinema, Cinema comes to India, Indian Silent Film, Advent of Sound, The Studio Era, The impact of World War II, Creative Resonance, New Wave and Beyond and Regional Cinema.

    Significance of Indian Cinema:

    • The Indian Cinema has a big role in enhancing India’s soft power, its credibility and building the Brand India across the world.
    • Through Cinema important social issues such as sanitation, women empowerment, sports etc are now reaching to people. Cinema plays an important role in nation Building and strengthens the feeling of Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat. The film Industry has a huge potential of contributing in the growth of Tourism in the country.
    • Government is working to provide facility of ‘Ease of Filming’ by putting in place a Single Window Clearance system, for Film Shooting approvals in different parts of the country.
    • It is also working on amending Cinematograph Act 1952 to check the problem of Film Piracy.

    Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA)

    Why in News?

    • Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) is a support scheme of Odisha whose primary targets are small farmers, cultivators and landless agricultural labourers.
    • The scheme involves payments to encourage cultivation and associated activities.

    Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA):

    • Odisha would spend Rs 10,180 crore over three years until 2020-21 in providing financial assistance to cultivators and landless agricultural labourers benefitting 92% of the cultivators in the state and including every category from big farmers to landless cultivators.
    • The government would provide Rs 10,000 per family as assistance for cultivation, Rs 5,000 each in the Kharif and Rabi seasons, for five cropping seasons between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
    • The financial assistance under the scheme is not linked to the quantum of land owned.
    • The scheme also targets landless households, specifically SC and ST families as they will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 for activities like goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and fishery.
    • The Scheme also provides a life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh and additional personal accident coverage of the same amount for 57 lakh households.
    • The Scheme also proposes interest-free crop loans up to Rs 50,000.
    • The scheme is proposed as an alternative to the demand of farm loan waiver.
    • The scheme strives to target rural activities as a whole by supporting farming on a small scale, sharecropping, fishing and animal herding which doesn’t get covered under loan waiver schemes.

    Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana

    Why in News?

    • The Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY), the flagship scheme of the Union Government for employment generation, crossed the milestone of one crore beneficiaries on January 14, 2019.

    Highlights:

    • The scheme was announced on August 07, 2016 and is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO).
    • Under the scheme, Government is paying full employers’ contribution of 12 percent towards Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ Pension Scheme both for a period of 3 years.
    • The new employees who are registered with the EPFO on or after April 1, 2016, with salary up to Rs. 15,000 per month are covered under the scheme.
    • During 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 (up to January 15, 2019), 33,031, 30,27,612, and 69,49,436 beneficiaries respectively, have been enrolled with EPFO under the PMRPY.
    • The numbers of establishments who have been benefitted during the implementation of the scheme are 1.24 lakh.

    Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY):

    • The Scheme has been designed to incentivise employers for generation of new employment, where the Union Government pays the full employer’s contribution towards EPF and EPS with effect from April 1, 2018. Earlier the benefit was applicable for employer’s contribution towards EPS only.
    • PMRPY has a dual benefit – on the one hand, the employer is incentivised for increasing the employee base in the establishment through payment of EPF contribution of 12 percent of wage, which otherwise would have been borne by the employer, and on the other hand, a large number of workers find jobs in such establishments.
    • A direct benefit of the scheme is that these workers have access to social security benefit through Provident Fund, Pension and Death Linked Insurance.
    • The terminal date for registration of beneficiaries through an establishment under the PMRPY is March 31, 2019. The entire system of availing of the scheme is online and AADHAR based with no human interface in the implementation of the scheme.

    National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018 – 2023)

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted a five-year action plan for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country, dumping a long-pending draft policy on the matter.

    National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023):

    • It aims to employ a multi-pronged strategy — involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families — to address the issue.
    • The objective is to create awareness and educate people about the ill-effects of drugs abuse on the individual, family, workplace and the society at large in order to integrate them back into the society.
    • The ministry has planned several measures for controlling sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by cyber cell, under the national action plan.
    • It includes holding awareness generation programmes at schools, colleges, universities, workplaces and for police functionaries, paramilitary forces, law enforcement agencies, judicial officers and Bar council, among others. Plans are also afoot for awareness generation through social, print, digital and online media, and engagement of celebrities, besides strengthening the national toll-free helpline for drug prevention. It also calls for persuading principals, directors, vice chancellors of educational institutions to ensure that no drugs are sold within/nearby the campus. It also includes identification of vulnerable areas based on survey, skill development, vocational training and livelihood support of ex-drug addicts through National Backward Classes Finance and other Development Corporations and continuous research on drug use pattern.

    Other Initiatives:

    • The ministry, in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) under the AIIMS, is also conducting a national survey on the extent and pattern of substance abuse.
    • A steering committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry, and with representatives from the Ministries of Health, HRD, WCD, MHA, Skill development and Entrepreneurship, among others.
    • The committee will hold quarterly meetings to monitor effective implementation of the NAPDDR.
    • As a part of the plan, module for re-treatment, ongoing treatment and post-treatment of addicts of different categories and age groups will be developed and database on substance use will be maintained.

    Womaniya on Government e Marketplace’ initiative National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018 – 2023)

    Why in news?

    • The Union Government on January 14, 2019 launched the ‘Womaniya on Government e Marketplace (GeM)’, an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) to sell handicrafts, handloom, accessories, and other products directly to Government departments and institutions.
    • The Womaniya on GeM initiative aims to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.

    Highlights:

    • India has approximately 500 million Internet users and nearly 54 percent of them are more than 25 years of age with higher discretionary income and likely to transact more online. Women constitute 33 percent or 143 million Internet users and control 44 percent of household spending in India.
    • Nearly 80 percent women-owned establishments in India are self-financed and more than 60 percent of 8 million units are owned and led by women entrepreneurs from socially-challenged sections.
    • Since women tend to invest up to 90 percent of their earnings back in their families to provide better nutrition, health care and education to their children, their economic empowerment is essential for poverty alleviation which would be made possible through Womaniya initiative.
    • Womaniya on GeM will spur hyper-local economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs and address goals and objectives under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
    • Products like handicrafts and handloom, accessories, jute and coir products, home decor and office furnishings are categorised for ease-in-procurement.
    • The initiative aligns with Government’s initiatives for MSMEs, especially to reserve 3 percent in government procurement from women entrepreneurs.

    Government e Marketplace:

    • Government e Marketplace is a 100 percent government owned company setup under the aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs.
    • GeM was setup in 2016 and has 731,431 product categories, with 180,862 registered sellers and 32,114 government buyers.
    • Since inception, GeM has processed 1,171,761 orders worth Rs 16,976 crores in gross merchandise value. The platform offers online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all central government departments and state governments, public sector units and affiliated bodies.
    • It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement of goods and services and eliminate corruption.

    Performance Grading Index (PGI)

    Why in News?

    • The PGI is for the purpose of grading States and UTs on their performance across 70 indicators on school education.

    Highlights:

    • The Index will grade States and UTS thus allowing for more than one State/UT to occupy the same grade, and therefore all States and UTS to ultimately reach the highest level.
    • The PGI has been conceptualised as a tool to encourage States and UTS to adopt certain practices like online recruitment and transfer of Teachers, electronic attendance of Students & Teachers etc., The PGI has seventy (70) indicators divided into two categories viz Outcomes and Governance processes. The first category is divided into four domains viz. Learning outcomes, Access outcomes, Infrastructure and Facilities and Equity outcomes; The second category is about Governance processes which covers attendance, teacher adequacy, administrative adequacy, training, accountability and transparency.
    • The total weightage under PGI is thousand points. Each indicator has been given either twenty or ten points.

    National Youth Parliament Festival 2019

    Why in News?

    • Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports launched the National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 at New Delhi, thereby beginning the celebration of the National Youth Day 2019.
    • National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 is organised on the theme of “Be The Voice of New India” and “Find solutions and contribute to policy”.

    Highlights:

    • Youth in the age bracket of 18-25 years are invited to participate in the District Youth Parliaments. This is done in order to hear the voice of youth in this age bracket who are allowed to vote but cannot contest in elections.
    • The National Youth Parliament Festival will also encourage the youth to engage with public issues, understand the common man’s point of view, form their opinion and express these in an articulate manner.
    • Relevant and effective voices on the vision of New India would be captured and documented to make these available to policy makers and implementers to take it forward.
    • The National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 will be conducted at three levels:
      • District Youth Parliament (DYP) at the district level.
      • State Youth Parliament (SYP) at the State Level.
      • National Youth Parliament (NYP) at the National Level
    • The best three speakers at the National Youth Parliament will be awarded Rs. 2 Lakhs, Rs. 1.50 Lakhs and Rs. 1 Lakh respectively by the Prime Minister.

    Web Wonder Women Campaign

    Why in News?

    • The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on January 9, 2018 launched an online campaign, ‘Web – Wonder Women’ also known as ‘#www’.
    • The Campaign aims to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change through the social media itself.

    Highlights:

    • Through the ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’, the Ministry and the Campaign’s Partners aim to recognise the strength of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive campaigns to steer a change in society.
    • The Campaign will recognise and acknowledge the efforts of these meritorious Women.
    • The Campaign invites Entries through nominations from across the world as per the laid out criteria. Nominations will be open till January 31, 2019.
    • Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination.
    • The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialised panel of judges.
    • Nominations have been invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, and fashion among others.

    Recombinant ELISA Kits

    Why in News?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers released recombinant Enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA) kits: one for Glanders and other for Equine Infectious Anaemia.
    • Both these diseases are notifiable diseases in India and require special diagnosis for control and eradication in the country.

    ELISA KIT:

    • National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE) has been able to develop a recombinant Hcp1 antigen ELISA as an alternate to complement-fixation test (CFT). The ELISA has been duly validated in India and the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) Reference Laboratory, Germany.

    Glanders Disease:

    • Glanders is a fatal infectious and notifiable disease of equines including horses, donkeys and mules. The disease is caused by a bacterium known as Burkholderia mallei and has zoonotic potential. The organism is also considered as potential bio-weapon and categorized under ‘Tier 1 Select Agent’.

    Equine Infectious Anaemia(EIA):

    • Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) is a chronic, debilitating and persistent infectious disease of equines caused by a retrovirus. It is an OIE (Office International des Epizooties) notifiable disease. NRCE has also developed recombinant p26 protein-based ELISA as an alternative to Coggin’s test. This technology will provide sustainable and homogeneous source of antigen and harmonized protocol to ensure regular surveillance of EIA.

    First Swadesh Darshan Project in Meghalaya

    Why in news?

    • The Chief Minister of Meghalaya, inaugurated the project “Development of North East Circuit: Umiam (Lake View) – U Lum Sohpetbneng- Mawdiangdiang – Orchid Lake Resort” implemented under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

    Darshan Project:

    • The project “Development of North East Circuit: Umiam (Lake View) – U Lum Sohpetbneng- Mawdiangdiang – Orchid Lake Resort” was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism.
    • Under this project the Ministry of tourism has developed facilities like Traditional Healing Centre, Tribal Rejuvenation Centre, Tourist Information Centre, Multipurpose Hall, Log Huts, Cafeteria, Sound and Light show, Souvenir Shops, Water Sports Zone, Zip Line, Canopy Walk, Trekking Routes, Cycling Track, Last Mile Connectivity, Caravan Parking, Public Toilets, and Solid Waste Management.

    Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

    • It is one of the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritised manner.
    • Under this scheme the Government is focussing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering the economic growth.

     

    The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Bill has been formulated recognizing the need for regulation of the use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology, for establishing the identity of missing persons, victims, offenders, under trials and unknown deceased persons.
    • The Bill will add value in empowering the criminal justice delivery system by enabling the application of DNA evidence, which is considered the gold standard in crime investigations.

    Purpose of the bill:

    • The purpose of this Bill is to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
    • The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
    • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in this country, there is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable, and furthermore that the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

    Components of the bill:

    • Establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board;
    • Accreditation of DNA laboratories undertaking DNA testing, analysing, etc.;
    • Establishment of the National and Regional DNA Data Banks, as envisaged in the Bill, will assist in forensic investigations.
    • This will aid in scientific up-gradation and streamlining of the DNA testing activities in the country with appropriate inputs from the DNA Regulatory Board which would be set up for the purpose.
    • This will aid in scientific up-gradation and streamlining of the DNA testing activities in the country with appropriate inputs from the DNA Regulatory Board which would be set up for the purpose.

    Law in place in other countries:

    New national policy for domestic workers

    Why in News?

    • According to National Sample Survey (NSSO Statistics-2011-2012, 68th round) it is estimated 39 lakh people are employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
    • The Ministry of Labour & Employment is considering formulating a National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage.

    Draft policy for domestic workers:

    • In a bid to give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions, labour ministry is drafting the national policy.
    • As per the National Sample Survey, there are an estimated 39 lakhs people employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
      • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations
      • Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits
      • Right to form their own associations/unions
      • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
      • Right to enhance their skills
      • Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation
      • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
      • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies
      • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic worker

    Menstrual Hygie ne for Adolescent Girls Scheme

    Why in news?

    • To address the need of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls residing primarily in rural areas, Government of India is supporting the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme.

    Menstrual Hygiene Scheme:

    • Under the scheme, funds are provided to States/UTs through National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins packs.
    • It would thus make its provision to rural adolescent girls at subsidized rates as per proposals received from the States and UTs in their Programme Implementation Plans.

    Objectives:

    • Increasing awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
    • Improving access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins by adolescent girls in rural areas
    • Ensuring safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner
    • Provision of funds to ASHAs to hold monthly meeting with adolescents to discuss issues related to menstrual hygiene.

    Other initiatives:

    • A range of IEC material has been developed around Menstrual hygiene Scheme, using a 360 degree approach to create awareness among adolescent girls about safe & hygienic menstrual health practices.
    • It includes audio, video and reading materials for adolescent girls and job-aids for ASHAs and other field level functionaries for communicating with adolescent girls.
    • ASHAs across the country are trained and play a significant role in promotion of use and distribution of the sanitary napkins.
    • Department of Health Research, under the Ministry of Health, is involved in assessment of all newer, alternative, environment friendly menstrual hygiene products to look into their safety and acceptability features.

    Science Communicators Meet

    Why in news?

    • As a part of the on-going Indian Science Congress, 2019, Science Communicators’ Meet was inaugurated by the Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad at Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar.

    India’s achievements:

    • India’s ranking in global innovation index has jumped from 81st in 2015 to 60th in 2017 and 57th in 2018.
    • India is now at the 6th position in scientific publications and 10th in patent filing.
    • Digital payments have surged to 8 folds in the last five years to 2070 crores. There has been 2048% growth in Aadhar Enabled Payment System transactions while transactions in UPI grew 1500 times in the last 24 months.

    Aim of the Science Communicators’ Meet:

    • The aim of the Science Communicators’ Meet is to cultivate and build up a more closely knit science communication community in the country responsible for disseminating science information to all stakeholders. The specific objective of the meet is to bring different science communicators together to discuss the development and optimum utilization of existing & new media and arenas in order to strengthen the dialogue between the research community and the society. The Communicators’ meet will provide opportunities for practitioners of science communication to discuss communication strategies receive critical feedback and spread the scientific way of thinking among people and make science accessible to them.

    Women Science Congress:

    • Minister of Textiles & Industry Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani inaugurated the Women’s Science Congress as a part of the on-going Indian Science Congress,2019 with the focal theme
    • “Future India: Science and Technology. The Women’s Science Congress has been organised to showcase the contribution of women in Science, Technology and the Society.

    Year End Review of Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – Nationa l Rural Livelihoods Mission

    Why in news?

    • Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) seeks to reach out to 8-9 crore rural poor households and organize one woman member from each household into affinity-based women SHGs and federations at village level and at higher levels.

    Progress:

    • During 2018-19: 588 additional blocks have been covered under “Intensive” implementation strategy of DAY-NRLM bringing the cumulative total to 5054 blocks.
    • During the year 2018-19so far, over 73 lakh households have been mobilized into 6.75 lakh SHGs. The SHG-Bank Linkage programme has seen tremendous growth year on year under DAY-NRLM. During this financial year, about 17.57 lakh SHGs have accessed credit of Rs. 27911 crore up to October, 2018.

    Non-Farm Livelihoods:

    • Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana (AGEY) is a programme to provide safe, affordable and community monitored transport services to rural areas. The vehicles are owned and operated by members of Self-Help Group (SHG) networks and operate in regions which are not served by regular transport services. 624 routes are currently served by AGEY across the country.
    • Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP), the sub-scheme under DAY-NRLM develops an eco-system for supporting small businesses in rural areas. The eco-system has components for providing business support services, mentorship, seed capital, training & capacity building on business and technical aspects and marketing support.

    Farm Livelihoods:

    • This year, DAY-NRLM has taken up promotion of organic farming with women SHG members across the country. Under organic farming initiative, a total of 1646 number of organic village clusters have been identified by 28 States/UTs.
    • Ensuring Food & Nutritional Security is one of the stated objectives of all farm livelihoods interventions and in order to make sure that this objective is met, agri-nutri gardens at Mahila Kisan household level are being promoted.
    • As linking small and marginal producers with the market is a critical gap, value chain development through the promotion of producer collectives is a critical component of the implementation strategy under Farm Livelihoods. In the year 2018-19, three Mahila Milk Producer Companies (MMPCs) have been operationalized in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

    CIC gets four Informa tion Commissioners

    Why in news?

    • The government has appointed four new Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission.

    Central Information Commission:

    • The Central Information Commission has been constituted with effect from 12-10-2005 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities.

    Powers and Functions:

    • The Commission has certain powers and functions mentioned in sections 18, 19, 20 and 25 of the RTI Act, 2005. Adjudication in second appeal for giving information
    • Direction for record keeping. Suo motu disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on inability to file RTI, etc. Imposition of penalties and Monitoring and Reporting including preparation of an Annual Report
    • The decisions of the Commission are final and binding.

    Composition:

    • The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
    • CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

    Centre to introduce Commercial Space Activities Bill

    Why in News?

    • The Centre is likely to introduce a Bill to commercialise space activities in the budget session this year.

    Space Activities Bill 2017:

    • It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
    • The Bill aims to facilitate the overall growth of space activities in India with higher order participation of public, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.
    • The Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
    • As few start-ups in India have shown interest in space activities there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
    • It will help the Centre establish a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body to authorize and license space activities.

    Provisions of the Bill:

    • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
    • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
    • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
    • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
    • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
    • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity. It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
    • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

    Issues with the Bill:

    • The Bill does not address space-based activities separately.
    • Instead, it tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go.
    • In fact, the very definition of “space activity” could throw up complications.
    • The definition puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
    • The Bill could also affect navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.

    Cabinet approves high level committee to implement Clause 6 of Assam Accord

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a High Level Committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

     

    Highlights:

    • Clause 6 of the Assam Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
    • The Committee shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The Committee will hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
    • The Committee will also assess the requirement of measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam, quantum of reservation in employment under Government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people
    • The Composition and Terms of Reference of the Committee will be issued separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is expected that the setting up of the Committee will pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and will help fulfil longstanding expectations of the Assamese people.
    • The Cabinet also approved the establishment of a Bodo Musuem-cum-language and cultural study center, modernization of existing All India Radio Station and Doordarshan Kendra at Kokrajhar and naming a Superfast Train passing through BTAD as ARONAI Express. Relevant Ministries will take the required actions to implement these decisions.
    • The Bodos are an ethnic and linguistic community centered on the Udalguri and Kokrajhar of Assam. They are largest of the 18 ethnic sub-groups within the Bodo -Kachari group.

    Assam Accord:

    • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
    • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
    • Some of the key demands were – All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
    • Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship. A parallel package for the economic development of Assam, including a second oil refinery, a paper mill and an institute of technology, was also worked out.
    • The central government also promised to provide ‘legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage’ of the Assamese people.
    • Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented, which has kept some of the issues festering.

    Section 6A of Citizenship Act, 1955 and Assam Accord:

    • The section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 contains the provisions with respect to citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord (1985).
    • This section was introduced through an amendment made in 1985, in the Citizenship Act, 1955.
    • The section 6A of the act says that all those who came to Assam on or after 1 January, 1966, but before 25th March, 1971 from the specified territory (it includes all territories of Bangladesh at the time of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985), and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section-18 for citizenship. Therefore, this act fixes March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.

    ISRO launches Samwad with Students on New Year Day

    Why in News?

    • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched a new platform called ‘Samwad with Students’ on January 1, 2018 in Bengaluru, as part of its enhanced outreach programme.
    • Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India in activities concerning space science to capture their scientific temperament. The new conversation mission aims to inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.

    Significance:

    • The ISRO Chairman used the platform to explain to the students the importance of the Indian space programme and its benefits to the society at large.
    • He wanted them to take up science and mathematics with absolute seriousness which would enable them to take up challenging careers.

    Highlights:

    • He explained that space missions are very complex in nature and totally different from terrestrial systems, as they have to work in extreme environments more often.
    • Upon asked how the students could contribute to ISRO’s missions, Dr. Sivan told the students that when they complete their studies with a focus on fundamentals of science, then they could get back to ISRO and help solve problems.
    • On the sidelines, the students and teachers also interacted with ISRO scientists and engineers.

    Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana

    Why in news?

    • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

    Objectives:

    • Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive s so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child.
    • The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW& LM).

    Benefits under PMMVY:

    • Cash incentive of Rs 5000 in three instalments i.e. first instalment of Rs 1000/ – on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) / approved Health facility as may be identified by the respective administering State / UT, second instalment of Rs 2000/ – after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC) and third instalment of Rs 2000/ – after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis – B, or its equivalent/ substitute.
    • The eligible beneficiaries would receive the incentive given under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for Institutional delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6000 / – .

    Target beneficiaries:

    • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, excluding PW&LM who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
    • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for first child in family
    • The date and stage of pregnancy for a beneficiary would be counted with respect to her LMP date as mentioned in the MCP card.

    Case of Miscarriage/Still Birth :

    • A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once.
    • In case of miscarriage/still birth, the beneficiary would be eligible to claim the remaining instalment(s) in event of any future pregnancy.
    • Thus, after receiving the 1st instalment, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage, she would only be eligible for receiving 2nd and 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionality’s of the scheme. Similarly, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage or still birth after receiving 1st and 2nd instalments, she would only be eligible for receiving 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionality’s of the scheme.
    • Case of Infant Mortality:A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once. That is, in case of infant mortality, she will not be eligible for claiming benefits under the scheme, if she has already received all the instalments of the maternity benefit under PMMVY earlier.
    • Pregnant and Lactating AWWs/ AWHs/ ASHA may also avail the benefits under the PMMVY subject to fulfilment of scheme conditionality’s.

    Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins initiative

    Why in news?

    • The Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins initiative has been launched by three oil marketing companies – IOCL, BPCL and HPCL.

    Highlights:

    • The mission, which forms part of the CSR initiative of OMCs in Odisha, is aimed to educate women on female hygiene and health, improve accessibility to low cost eco-friendly sanitary pads and boost rural employment and economy.
    • The three companies will set up 100 manufacturing units at the Common Service Centres (CSC) covering 93 Blocks across 30 districts of Odisha at an estimated cost of ₹2.94 crore.
    • At least 10 Ujjwala beneficiary women will get employment at each CSC. Each facility will have a capacity to produce 1,200-2,000 pads per day and will have a sterilisation room to ensure that the napkins are sterilised before they are packed for use by rural women.
    • The CSCs are also being provided with raw material, enough to make 45,000-50,000 pads. These napkins will be priced at ₹40 per pack, each containing eight pads.
    • The Ujjwala pads will be made of virgin wood pulp sheet, non-woven white sheet and a gel sheet which are all biodegradable in nature and will leave minimal carbon footprint.

    “One District, One Product” Scheme

    Why in News?

    • The Government of Uttar Pradesh has initiated “One District, One Product” Scheme to encourage indigenous and specialized products and crafts of the state.
    • The scheme aims to capitalize the rich heritage of the Uttar Pradesh by reviving them through modernization and publicisation to enhance the reach of these products.

    Highlights:

    • Uttar Pradesh is a vast state with vast diversity in all facets of life. The diversity of products and crafts in UP is breath-taking.
    • The vast diversity encompasses the ancient and nutritious Kala namak rice, the rare and intriguing wheat-stalk craft, world-famous chikankari and zari-zardozi work on clothes, the intricate and stunning horn and bone work that uses the remains of dead animals rather than live ones, a nature-friendly replacement for ivory.
    • Many of these rich traditions are facing the existential threat.
    • The One District, One Product aims to revive these traditional heritages by reviving them through modernization and publicisation.

    Objectives of the scheme:

    • Preservation and development of local crafts / skills and promotion of the art.
    • Increase in the incomes and local employment (resulting in decline in migration for employment).
    • Improvement in product quality and skill development.
    • Transforming the products in an artistic way (through packaging, branding)
    • To connect the production with tourism (Live demo and sales outlet – gifts and souvenir)
    • To resolve the issues of economic difference and regional imbalance
    • To take the concept of ODOP to national and international level after successful implementation at State level.

    PM inaugurates Rice Research Institute

    Why in news?

    • The International Rice Research Institute South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC) in Varanasi was dedicated to the nation by PM.

    IRRI SARC:

    • With an aim to double farmers’ income the 6th IRRI SARC campus will serve as a hub for rice research and training in South Asia and SAARC region.
    • The major aim of IRRI is to improve livelihood and nutrition, abolishing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition among those countries which depend on rice-based agri-food systems.
    • This new Centre is expected to improve crop production, seed quality and the nutritional value of rice.
    • It will also work with national partners to enhance farmers’ knowledge and income and deliver advanced research, teaching and services in the connection.
    • It will also teach scientists and agriculture leaders about the latest technologies and innovations for sustainable farming; and laboratories for digital crop monitoring and assessment, and demonstration fields where variety testing is conducted.
    • IRRI SARC facilities will include the Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA), a suite of modern laboratories where rice grains are assessed for: quality and nutritional value and sensory evaluations for grain taste, texture, and aroma are conducted; on-site facilities.
    • This centre will catalyze South-South collaboration, strengthen the research expertise and capacity of rice-growing countries in the region, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

    International Rice Research Institute:

    • The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines.
    • IRRI is known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s which preempted the famine in Asia.
    • The Institute, established in 1960 aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.
    • It advances its mission through collaborative research, partnerships, and the strengthening of the national agricultural research and extension systems of the countries IRRI works in.
    • It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research center in Asia.
    • IRRI’s semi-dwarf varieties, including the famous IR8 saved India from famine in the 1960s.

    Railways to grant fare concession to transgender senior citizens

    Why in news?

    • The Indian Railways announced on December 27, 2018 that it has decided to grant 40-per-cent concession in passenger fares to transgender senior citizens.
    • The concession will be applicable to those of the third gender, who are aged 60 years or above. It will be available from January 1, 2019.

    Highlights:

    • The Indian Railways offers concessions on ticket prices to 53 different categories, ranging from 10-100 per cent.
    • The railways grants 40 per cent concession in fares to men aged 60 years or above and 50 per cent concession in fares to women aged 58 years or above.
    • The students going to their hometown or educational tours can avail a concession of 50 per cent in fares for the second and sleeper class, while students belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community can avail a concession of 75 per cent.
    • Similarly, government school students in rural areas are eligible to get a concession of 75 per cent in second class for a study tour or an entrance examination once a year.
    • Those appearing for UPSC and Central Staff Selection Commission can also avail a concession of 50 per cent on the fares.
    • Industrial labours and farmers, who wish to visit agricultural exhibitions, can also avail a 25-per-cent concession on second-class and sleeper-class tickets.
    • In addition, foreign students studying in India are also eligible for a 50-per-cent concession in the second and sleeper class.
    • Apart from these, senior citizens, who book their railway tickets online, now have the option to choose between 100-per-cent concession, 50-per-cent concession and no concession.
    • Though a column for transgender (T) was introduced in the reservation form, the concession was not admissible to them.

    National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018

    Why in News?

    • The Cabinet today approved the draft National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2018, which seeks to replace the existing regulator Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM) with a new body to ensure transparency.

    Highlights:

    • The draft bill provides for the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting overall education of Ayurveda, under Board of Ayurveda and Unani, Siddha &Sowarigpa under Board of Unaini, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
    • There are two common Boards namely, Board of assessment and rating to assess and grant permission to educational institutions of Indian systems of Medicine and Board of ethics and registration of practitioners of Indian systems of medicine to maintain National Register and ethical issues relating to practice under the National Commission for Indian Medicine.
    • It also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam, which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses. Further, a teacher’s eligibility test has been proposed in the Bill to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.
    • The draft bill is aimed at bringing reforms in the medical education of Indian medicine sector in lines with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for Allopathy system of medicine.
    • The proposed regulatory structure will enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public. The NCIM will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.

    North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS)

    Why in News?

    • North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 covers eligible industrial units in the manufacturing and service sectors Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim to promote industrialization and boost employment and income generation.

    Significance Of NEIDS:

    • Promote industrialization: It will promote industrialization in North Eastern Region (NER) states including Sikkim and will boost income generation and will boost income generation and employment.
    • Promote employment: For this, government is incentivizing primarily MSME Sector through this scheme. It is also providing specific incentive through scheme to generate employment.
    • Benefits to industrial units: It will provide various incentives and benefits to all eligible industrial units. The overall cap for benefits under all components of incentives will be of Rs. 200 crores per unit.

    Central Capital Investment Incentive:

    • Central Capital Investment Incentive for Access to Credit (CCIIAC):30% of investment in Plant and Machinery with upper limit of Rs.5 Crore on the incentive amount per unit.
    • Central Interest Incentive (Cll): 3% on working capital credit advanced by eligible Banks and Financial institutions for first 5 years from date of commencement of commercial production.
    • Central Comprehensive Insurance Incentive (CCII): Reimbursement of 100% insurance premium on insurance of building and Plant & Machinery for 5 years from date of commencement of commercial production.
    • Goods and Service Tax (GST) Reimbursement: Reimbursement upto the extent of central government share of CGST and IGST for 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
    • Income-Tax (IT) Reimbursement: Reimbursement of centre’s share of income tax for first 5 years including year of commencement of commercial production by unit.
    • Employment Incentive (EI): The Government will pay 3.67% of employer’s contribution to Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in addition to its bearing 8.33% Employee Pension Scheme (EPS).
    • Transport Incentive (TI): Indian Railways will provide 20% of cost of transportation including subsidy currently provided for movement of finished goods by rail. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will provide 20% of cost of transportation for finished goods for movement through inland waterways. Airport nearest to place of production will provide 33% of cost of transportation of air freight on perishable goods (defined by IATA) to any airport within country.

    DIPP Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge Awards Presented

    Why in news?

    • As part of the Swachhta Pakhwada held from, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) organized a Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge. Four areas of sanitation, waste management, water and wastewater management and air management were selected for the grand challenge.

    Objective of the award:

    • This was organized to reward innovative solutions by DIPP recognized Start-ups in the country.
    • Unique solutions were received from start-ups who had also filed for intellectual property rights.

    Swachhata Pakhwada:

    • It was started in April 2016 with the objective of bringing a fortnight of intense focus on the issues and practices of Swachhata by engaging GOI Ministries/Departments in their jurisdictions.
    • An annual calendar is pre-circulated among the Ministries to help them plan for the Pakhwada activities.
    • They are monitored closely using online monitoring system of Swachhata Samiksha where action plans, images, videos related to Swachhata activities are uploaded and shared.
    • After the observation, Ministries/Departments announce their achievements through a press conference and other communication tools.
    • For the Pakhwada fortnight, observing ministries are considered as Swachhata Ministries and are expected to bring qualitative Swachhata improvements in their jurisdictions.

    NITI Aayog releases Second Delta Ranking under the Aspirational Districts Programme

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog will release the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP)

    Delta Ranking:

    • The ranking will measure the incremental progress made by districts.
    • The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through key performance indicators.
    • The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
    • The rankings, for the first time, will also factor in inputs from household survey conducted by NITI Aayog’s knowledge partners, namely, TATA Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
    • The first Delta ranking for the Aspirational Districts was released in June 2018.

    Best performing Districts:

    • Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu has shown the most improvement overall, followed by Nuapada district in Odisha, Siddarthnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Aurangabad and Koraput in Odisha.
    • These districts have championed the development narrative in fundamental parameters of social progress.
    • Nagaland’s Kiphire district, Jharkhand’s Giridih, Chatra in Jharkhand, Hailakandi in Assam, and Pakur in Jharkhand have shown least improvement.

    Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP):

    • The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is an essential retreat from India’s previous development strategies in its ownership, scope, and scale based on “One-size-fits-all” approach
    • 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following:
    • o deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census,
      o key health and education performance indicators and the state of basic infrastructure.

    • A minimum of one district was chosen from every State.
    • The areas under the programme that have been targeted for transformation are education, health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure and skills.
    • There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme.
    • Its aim is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently.

    Year End Review-2018: Ministry of Tourism

    Why in news?

    • Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) launched “Adopt a Heritage Project” to provide world class tourist facilities at the various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments and other tourist sites
    • The project plans to entrust heritage sites/monuments and other tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of various tourist amenities

    Bharat Parv:

    • The prime objective of organizing the event is to generate a patriotic mood, promote the rich cultural diversity of the country, to ensure wider participation of the general public and to popularize the concept of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’, ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ and ‘Tourism for All’

    India Toursim Mart 2018:

    • The First edition of the India Tourism Mart 2018 was organized by the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and State Governments/Union Territory Administrations.
    • India Tourism Mart provided a platform to different tourism stakeholders for interacting and conducting business with foreign buyers.

    Incredible India Mobile app:

    • The Incredible India Mobile App showcases India as a holistic destination, revolving around major experiences, such as spirituality, heritage, adventure, culture, yoga, wellness and more.
    • The mobile app has been designed keeping in mind the preferences of the modern traveler and follows the trends and technologies of international standards. The app has been equipped with features to assist the traveller in each phase of their journey to India.

    Year End Review 2018 Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare

    Why in News?

    • The Government has set a target of doubling of farmers’ income by the year 2022. The Government has constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee to examine issues relating to doubling of farmers’ income and recommend a strategy to achieve doubling of farmers’ income in real terms by the year 2022.

    Seven sources of income growth:

    • The committee has identified seven sources of income growth-
    • o Improvement in crop and livestock productivity.
      o Resource use efficiency.
      o Increase in the cropping intensity.
      o Diversification towards high value crops.
      o Improvement in real prices received by farmers.
      o Shift from farm to non-farm occupations.
      o Savings in the cost of production.

    Initiatives Taken:

    • Launch of eNAM initiative to provide farmers an electronic online trading platform.
    • Implementation of flagship scheme of distribution of Soil Health Cards to farmers so that the use of fertilizers can be optimized.
    • “Per drop more crop” initiative under which drip/sprinkler irrigation is being encouraged for optimal utilization of water.
    • Encouraging contract farming through the State Governments by promulgating of Model Contract Farming Act.
    • 22,000 Gramin Haats are to be upgraded to work as centers of aggregation and for direct purchase of agricultural commodities from the farmers.
    • “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)” under which organic farming is being promoted. North East is being developed as organic hub.
    • Under “Har Medh Par Ped”, agro forestry is being promoted for supplementing farm income, increase risk management and climate resilient agriculture as an important component of Integrated Farming Systems.
    • A revised farmer friendly “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)” have been launched. The scheme covers various types of risks from pre-sowing to post harvest and the farmers have to pay very nominal premium.
    • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was amended to exclude bamboo from the definition of ‘trees’. Henceforth bamboo grown outside forest area will not be regulated under the provisions of felling and transit rules. As a corollary the restructured National Bamboo Mission was launched for development of the value chain of bamboo as a measure to strengthen rural economy by linking the producer (farmer) to markets (industry).
    • Launch of PM-Asha scheme which will ensure MSP to farmers for oilseeds, pulses and copra.
    • Foreseeing high potential in fisheries sector, a Blue Revolution with multi dimensional activities mainly focusing on fisheries production, both inland and marine is being implemented.
    • The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), one of the eight Missions under the PM’s National Action Plan on Climate Change is anchored in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
    • Rashtriya Gokul Mission has been implemented to enhance milk production and productivity of bovines and to make milk production more remunerative to the farmers.
    • National Livestock Mission has been implemented to increase productivity and genetic improvement of livestock.
    • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is notified by the Government for certain crops. Giving a major boost for the farmers income, the Government has approved the increase in the MSPs for all Kharif & Rabi crops for 2018-19 season at a level of at least 150 percent of the cost of production.

    Mahila Kisan Diwas:

    • Mahila Kisan Diwas was organised and the focus of the event was to learn and address issues and constraints related to women farmers in Agriculture; Animal Husbandry, Dairying, Fisheries and other off-farm activities and their access to institutional credit and micro-financing and building agri-enterprises.

    National Food Security Mission:

    • NFSM programme is being implemented in 638 districts of 29 states of the country for increasing the production and productivity of food grain crops (rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals & nutri-cereals) through area expansion and productivity enhancement, restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level and enhancing farm level economy to restore confidence amongst the farmers.

    RKVY-RAFTAAR:

    • The governemnet recently approved Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to be continued as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) for the next three years, i.e, 2017-18 to 2019-2020. RKVY Raftaar has the objective of making farming a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmers’ effort, risk mitigation and promoting agribusiness entrepreneurship. RKVY-RAFTAAR funds would be provided to the States as 60:40 grants between Centre and States while 90:10 for North Eastern and Himalayan States through various means.

    Micro Irrigation Fund:

    • In order to achieve the objective of enhancing water use efficiency in agriculture sector and bring about desired growth, Finance Minister announced in the Union Budget for 2017-18 setting up of a dedicated fund in NABARD titled “Micro Irrigation Fund”.
    • The main objective of the fund is to facilitate the States in mobilizing the resources for expanding coverage of Micro Irrigation by taking up special and innovative projects and also for incentivizing micro irrigation beyond the provisions available under Per Drop More Crop (PDMC) component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) to encourage farmers to install micro irrigation systems.

    Krishi Unnati Mela:

    • A National level 3rd Krishi Unnati Mela was organized and the objective of the mela was to create widespread awareness about the latest agricultural technological developments and receive feedback from the agricultural community, which helps in designing and shaping the Institute’s future research strategy.

    Soil Health Card Scheme:

    • Soil Health Card Scheme is under implementation in the country since February 2015 to provide Soil Health Card to all farmers in the country. Soil Health Card will provide information to farmers on soil nutrient status of their soil and recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrient to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility. Soil Health card will be issued every 2 years for all land holdings in the country.

    Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER):

    • Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has launched a Central Sector Scheme entitled “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” for implementation in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
    • The scheme aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification and creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.

    Aadhaar not mandatory for admission in schools

    Why in news?

    • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asserted that schools cannot make Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identifier a pre-condition for student admission.
    • UIDAI warned that doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.

    Highlights:

    • UIDAI cleared that asking for Aadhaar cards for admissions is not as per the provisions of law and doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.
    • However, there have been reports of certain schools insisting on Aadhaar as one of the documents required for student admission.
    • The Aadhaar issuing body said that it is aware of such reports and has asked all the schools to ensure that no child is denied admission for not having the identification card.
    • UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that in fact, schools should admit children without Aadhaar and ensure that children are given Aadhaar once they are in schools by arranging special camps for them.
    • UIDAI cleared that despite this, should certain schools continue to insist on Aadhar then, it would clearly be seen as a case of contempt of court.
    • The word of caution from UIDAI comes at a time when admissions to the nursery and entry-level classes have just begun in over 1,500 private schools in Delhi.

    Islands of Andaman to be renamed after Netaji Bose

    Why in news?

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will rename three islands of Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on December 30, 2018. These three islands are – Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island.

    Highlights:

    • These islands will be renamed during PM Modi’s visit to Port Blair to mark the 75th Anniversary of hoisting of the National Flag at Port Blair by freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose.
    • Renaming the Ross Island as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep,Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.
    • Bose had hoisted the flag at Port Blair on December 30, 1943, as he believed that Port Blair was the first territory to be freed from British rule.
    • This was done after the Japenese captured that area during the time of the Second World War.

    EC prohibits tobacco use in polling booths during Lok Sabha elections

    Why in News?

    • The Election Commission of India (ECI), for the first time, has banned all kinds of tobacco in polling booths during the general elections in 2019. The move is aimed at effectively implementing tobacco control laws across the nation.
    • The Commission has asked all states and UTs to issue instructions to all the district electoral officers-cum-district magistrates to ensure prohibition of not just smoking but also the use of chewable tobacco in all polling booths in the country.

    Highlights:

    • All the polling booths in country to be declared tobacco free and not just smoke free so use of bidi, cigarette, gutkha, scented/ flavoured chewable tobacco are prohibited in all polling booth.
    • As per the guidelines, each polling booth will have a banner put up.
    • The presiding officer of each polling booth will be nominated as nodal officer for ensuring tobacco-free status at their booths.
    • All district tobacco control cells will supervise and monitor this campaign to sensitise people on ill effects of tobacco.
    • The move comes after Delhi government’s Health Department approached the Commission seeking declaration of all polling stations as tobacco-free zones rather than just declaring them as smoke-free as it used to be in previous elections.
    • It is stated that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and pre-mature death and major threat to the present and future health of any population.

    Governing council to boost shipments

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has proposed to establish a governing council to ensure efficient delivery of all export-related interventions, as a part of its action plan to boost shipments from micro, small and medium enterprises.

    Highlights:

    • Under MSMEs’ action plan, the National Resource Centre for MSME Exporters will engage with various international agencies including UN organisations to promote procurement from Indian MSMEs and further enhance their capabilities.
    • The ministry has recommended a detailed analysis of various trade agreements, including FTAs and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, to identify areas of concern for MSMEs in the strategic action plan titled ‘Unlocking the Potential of MSME Exports’.
    • It said a study will be conducted of special economic zones and export promotion zones in the country to reassess their role and objectives as these are an essential constituent of Foreign Trade Policy and it is important to harness their potential.
    • Further, a tech-enabled online portal shall be developed featuring country-wise list of global products and services in demand and information on how to enter specific foreign markets. It will also have details on loans and credit offered by various financial institutions.
    • A formal platform may also be created by the ministry to ensure that it is involved in all bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations which have an impact on the enterprises.
    • A guide or handbook shall also be developed to help the export community to understand the processes involved in the export business and access the potential markets.
    • The guide will comprise practical information which will be useful for exporters.

    Press freedom under attack around the world in 2018: Death Watch Data

    Why in news?

    • Press freedom faced a slew of attacks around the world in 2018, as political leaders unwilling to accept scrutiny increasingly jail, prosecute or undermine the credibility of critical journalists.

    Death Watch Data:

    • The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) is organisation of editors, journalists and media executives in its Death Watch’ said as many as 78 journalists were killed in 2018
    • IPI has been compiling annual data on the killings of journalists since 1997 as part of its press freedom and safety of journalist programmes.
    • The Death Watch data for 2018 show that as many as 28 reporters and journalists were killed in targeted attacks during the year, while 11 died covering armed conflict.
    • There is a growing movement, including in countries once seen as guarantors of fundamental rights, aimed at destroying the press as an institution of democracy.
    • This atmosphere of intolerance toward independent journalism is putting the lives and freedom of journalists at risk and threatening the public’s right to know.

    Global Trends:

    • 2018 witnessed an overall decline in the state of press freedom worldwide amid a trend of increased harassment and intimidation of journalists and attacks on independent media.
    • Mexico and Afghanistan were the deadliest countries for journalists were overall, with 13 deaths each.
    • Investigations in a large number of cases are slow and tardy, due in many cases to a lack of political will to bring the killers and perpetrators to justice.

    10 Central agencies to snoop on any computer

    Why in News?

    • The Union government has notified 10 Central Agencies, giving them the power to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in “any” computer system in India. The Cyber and Information Security Division under the Home ministry issued this notification.

    Highlights:

    • The 10 agencies authorised by the central government are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu & Kashmir, the North-East and Assam) and the Delhi Police.
    • As per the government, the notification fulfills the requirement under Rule 4 of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Description of Information) Rules, 2009, under which the government has to list the number of agencies permitted for the interception, monitoring, and decryption of any data.
    • The Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary law in India to handle cybercrime and to deal with electronic commerce.
    • Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 includes provides for the interception and monitoring along with decryption for cyber-crime investigations. The Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, has been notified by the government under Section 69.
    • This notification by the government has caused quite an uproar in the Indian Parliament. The opposition has termed the recent order as unconstitutional and an attack on the Fundamental Rights of the citizens.

    NITI Aayog Releases SDG India Index, 2018

    Why in news?

    • The NITI Aayog has released the Baseline Report of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which comprehensively documents the progress made by India’s States and UTs towards implementing the 2030 SDG targets.

    SDG India Index:

    • The Index was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Global Green Growth Institute and United Nations in India and was launched by NITI Aayog.
    • NITI Aayog has the twin mandate to oversee the implementation of SDGs in the country, and also promote Competitive and Cooperative Federalism among States and UTs.
    • The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between these mandates, aligning the SDGs with the PM’s clarion call of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
    • It embodies the five Ps of the global SDG movement – people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace.

    Significance:

    • The SDG India Index tracks progress of all States and UTs on 62 Priority Indicators selected by NITI Aayog, which in turn is guided by MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework comprising 306 indicators.,
    • The Index spans 13 out of 17 SDGs.
    • Progress on SDGs 12, 13 & 14 could not be measured as relevant State/UT level data were not available and SDG 17 was left out as it focuses on international partnerships.
    • A composite score was computed between the range of 0-100 for each State and UT based on their aggregate performance towards achieving 13 SDGs
    • If a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies that it has achieved the 2030 national targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the distance to target achieved.

    Performance of states:

    • Top Performing states are Himachal Pradesh, Kerala & Chandigarh with SDG India Index Score Range 42-69 & 57-68 respectively.
    • Himachal Pradesh ranks high on providing clean water & sanitation, in reducing inequalities & preserving mountain ecosystem.
    • Kerala’s top rank is attributed to its superior performance in providing good health, reducing hunger, achieving gender equality & providing quality education.
    • Chandigarh leads because of its exemplary performance in providing clean water & sanitation, affordable & clean energy, generating decent work & economic growth, & providing quality education.

    Integrated Government Online Training Programme (iGOT)

    Why in News?

    • The iGOT (Integrated Government Online Training Programme) developed by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, was launched.

    Significance:

    • The National Training Policy-2012 mandates that all civil servants will be provided with training to equip them with the competencies for their current or future jobs.
    • The current structure of training for Government servants including domestic and foreign training is mostly available to very small section of the government servants.
    • The outreach of the existing training setup is very limited in view of the large workforce employed in various States/UT Governments.

    IGOT Programme:

    • To provide a broad training eco-system creating synergies across various premier training institutes of the country and to cater the training needs which can encompass all the officials in the entire hierarchy of Central and State Governments.
    • The IGOT will augment the existing training mechanism with online module-based training coupled with certification on flexitime basis.
    • The training will be focussed and targeted to the requirement of the officials
    • The e-Learning mode provides unparalleled opportunities for training to a large number of civil servants scattered all over the country.
    • The latest technologies make available vast resources of learning material and online courses, providing the individuals enormous choices and flexibility in learning.
    • It will provide a single point of access to the repository of training resources.
    • The training courses under this programme will be accessible through DoPT’s web portal.
    • The initiative aims at “Competent Civil Services for Good Governance”

    RTI Portal on Judgments/Orders of various courts

    Why in News?

    • The RTI Portal on Judgments/Orders of Supreme Court, High Courts and CIC has been developed by the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM), New Delhi.

    Highlights:

    • This Portal will provide a learning environment for all stakeholders under which a repository on the landmark cases on the RTI will be available in one place.
    • The Portal also makes available the gist of the replies given by Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs), First Appellate Authorities as well as the Supreme Court.
    • It will be helpful in learning the latest trends of implementation of RTI Act as the judgments/orders given by Central Information Commission, High Courts and Supreme Court are always a crucial source to track the developments on this subject.

    ICAT Certification

    Why in News?

    • International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) launched the Certification with high security features in order to prevent use of forged certificates in New Delhi.

    ICAT Certification:

    • This is a first of its kind initiative taken by any automotive certification agency in India for enhancing the security of the Central Motor Vehicles Rule certificates.
    • These certificates include Type Approval Certificates (TAC) and Conformity of Production (COP) Certificates for vehicles, engines and components.
    • The new ICAT certificate format consists of nine new and unique security features incorporated in the certificate.
    • The most important security feature is the paper itself on which the certificate is to be printed as it is a special paper which is made especially according to ICAT’s specific requirements.
    • The certificates will be printed using special printers which have been imported by ICAT for this very purpose.
    • With the new high security features it will become difficult to forge or counterfeit the ICAT certificate.
    • While some of the security features are generic in nature, the other features are specific for each certificate i.e. the contents or the information covered through these features will be specific for that particular certificate.
    • Some of the features are visible only through ultraviolet light.
    • The unique features in the certificate are as listed below:
    • oHigh security paper
    • oPrinting using the ultraviolet ink
    • oTroymark
    • oMicroprint
    • oPantograph
    • oReverse Pantograph
    • oSecure code
    • oPrint code
    • oDigitally printed stamp and seal of ICAT

    ICAT:

    • International Centre for Automotive Technology is located at Manesar in Gurugram district of Haryana state of India.
    • ICAT is the premier certification agency authorized by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers situated within India and abroad.,
    • In addition to the certification services, ICAT is providing extensive testing services for product development and validation.

    Acceptance of vehicle documents, driving licence in electronic format

    Why in News?

    • The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry asked states to facilitate acceptance of driving licence and other documents such as vehicle registration certificates in electronic format by enforcement agencies.
    • The Ministry, while issuing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to states, said that the vehicle owners can also show their documents including driving licence, RCs and insurance certificates through mobile apps like Digilocker and mParivahan app.

    Significance:

    • The decision is likely to benefit both the enforcement agencies as they need not physically handle any document, their office need not maintain any inventory or record and the citizens as they will escape harassment to collect document after the payment of compounding fees as the challan when disposed would automatically update the record in the Database.
    • The fast, transparent and more accountable system will also ensure real-time availability of offence status to the transport and traffic enforcement officers and the citizens.

    Highlights:

    • The vehicle owners have been permitted to present their important documents such as the certificate of registration, insurance, fitness and permit, driving licence, the certificate for pollution under check and any other relevant documents in electronic format.
    • With this, the vehicle owners may now, not be required to carry the documents in hard formats.
    • People can produce the documents or other information either through the Digilocker app or the mParivahan app.
    • They can download the Driving Licence or the Registration Certificate through these apps and store on their mobile devices.
    • They can also show particulars relating to the Driving Licence or the RC through the mParivahan app on mobile through internet connectivity.
    • The decision would enable the enforcement agencies like traffic and transport departments to simultaneously access the details from the eChallan app, which has data for online verification of vehicle and its licence status.
    • The off-line verification of mParivahan QR Code is also available on the platform. The enforcement agencies can use regular android mobile apps for the purpose.
    • The enforcement agencies can also carry out complete challenging operation including tagging of the Driving Licence or the Certificate of Registration for impounding or suspension.
    • The Transport ministry has urged the states that the standard operating procedure may be adopted for ensuring compliance with the provisions of rule 139 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. The notification to amend the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 to this effect was issued last month.

    Bhasha Sangam Programme

    Why in news?

    • The Department of School Education & Literacy has initiated Bhasha Sangam Programme to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian Languages.

    Bhasha Sangam Programme:

    • The Bhasha Sangam is an initiative under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ which aims to make the students aware about the unique cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of our country.
    • In order to celebrate the unique characteristic of our country, Bhasha Sangam provides an opportunity to schools and educational institution to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian Languages.
    • The objective is to familiarize every child with simple dialogues in all the 22 languages under Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India.
    • They will be taking up one language on each working day, to enhance linguistic tolerance and promote national integration.
    • The initiative has been widely received and accepted by States and UTs in very positive manner and schools are introducing five simple and commonly used sentences as per the convenience of students.

    Lingual provisions:

    • Section 29(2)(F) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 states that “medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue”.
    • The National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005 emphasises the importance of imparting primary education in the mother tongue of the child.
    • Since education is in the Concurrent List, States have the liberty to decide the medium of instruction in schools.

    Three Language Formula:

    • The NCF also states that the ‘Three Language Formula’ is an attempt to address the challenges and opportunities of the linguistic situation in India.
    • As per the ‘Three Language Formula’ the first language to be studied, must be the mother tongue or the regional language.
    • In the case of Hindi speaking States, children learn a language not spoken in their area.
    • Sanskrit may also be studied as a modern Indian language in addition to these languages.

    Eklavya Model Residential Schools

    Why in News?

    • In the context of establishing quality residential schools for the promotion of education, Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) for ST students are set up in States/UTs with provisioning of funds through “Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution”.

    Highlights:

    • EMRS is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (Scheduled Tribes, ST) across India.
    • The establishing of EMRSs is based on demand of the concerned States/UTs with availability of land as an essential attribute.
    • As per the budget 2018-19, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons will have an Eklavya Model Residential School by 2022.

    Objectives of EMRS:

    • Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.
    • Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met,
    • Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
    • Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.

    Expansion of beneficiaries list under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

    Why in News?

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has cleared the proposal to release deposit free LPG connections to poor families, who have not been considered earlier under PMUY on account of their names not been covered in Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC).
    • Poor families who could not get LPG connection under PMUY are now eligible to get a connection subject to fulfilling the eligibility norms and furnishing required documents, they include:
    • oSC/STs households
    • oBeneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin),
    • oBeneficiaries of Antyodaya Anna Yojana(AAY),
    • oForest dwellers,
    • oMost Backward Classes (MBC),
    • oTea & Ex-Tea Garden Tribes,
    • oPeople residing in Islands / river islands

    Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

    • PMUY is a welfare scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to provide LPG connections to families below the poverty line, guided by the strong commitment to bring about changes in the life of poor women and also protect their health.
    • Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is used to identify the beneficiaries (adult woman of a BPL family) and is given a deposit free LPG connection with a financial assistance of Rs.1600 per connection by the centre.
    • This scheme will help prevent pollution and facilitate the healthy atmosphere in the families of poor people.

    AIIMS to be set up under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY)

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of two new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Madurai, Tamil Nadu and Bibinagar, Telangana.
    • The AIIMS will be set up under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

    Facilities:

    • Each new AIIMS will add 100 UG (MBBS) seats and 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) seats.
    • Each new AIIMS will have 15-20 Super Specialty Departments.
    • Each new AIIMS will add around 750 hospital beds.

    Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY):

    • The Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) was announced in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.

    NITI Aayog organizes the Third Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards

    Why in news?

    • The NITI Aayog organized the Third Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards 2018 on December 17, 2018.
    • An online portal for women entrepreneurs was also launched on this occasion.
    • The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu presided over as the chief guest of the event where he launched the WEP Portal 2.0 and conferred WTI Awards 2018.

    Highlights:

    • The Women Transforming India Awards were instituted to recognize and celebrate stories of exemplary women from across India. The theme of this year’s award is “Women and Entrepreneurship.”
    • As many as fifteen candidates have been selected through an extensive six-month-long process for this award.
    • More than 2300 nominations were received for WTI Awards 2018, and through a highly objective and transparent screening process, a total of 15 candidates have been selected for the award.
    • On this occasion, the Women Entrepreneurship Platform-an online portal has also been launched by the NITI Aayog. This online portal will help to realize the dreams of Women Entrepreneurs across India.
    • The Women Entrepreneurship Platform seeks to transform the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country and shall be a one-stop resource center for future and budding women entrepreneurs.
    • It seeks to act as a medium for various stakeholders in the economy to come together and offer integrated services such as Incubation Support, Mentorship, Funding avenues, Compliance, Marketing Assistance, etc.

    Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP):

    • On November 28-30, 2017, NITI Aayog, Government of India in partnership with the Government of the United States of America hosted the 8th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad, India with the overarching theme of ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’. To take the idea forward, CEO, NITI Aayog announced setting up of Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) to promote and support established as well as aspiring women entrepreneurs in India.
    • WEP is the first of its kind unified access platform which enables meeting of several stakeholders in the entrepreneurial space on a single platform, work in collaboration with various partner organizations to provide a wide range of support services to women entrepreneurs under various service verticals of WEP.
    • WEP partners such as Google, CRISIL, SIDBI, NIC, NASSCOM, UN India Business Forum, WEE Foundation, SEWA bank, MannDeshi Foundation, Shopclues,etc. to WEP registered women entrepreneurs under verticals such as Financial Assistance and Funding Support, Entrepreneurship Skilling, Incubation and Acceleration, Compliance Assistance, Marketing Assistance and a dedicated vertical for Social Entrepreneurship.

    IMPRESS Scheme

    Why in News?

    • IMPRESS” scheme has been launched to promote Social Science Research in the country by ministry of human resource development.

    IMPRESS Scheme:

    • Under the Scheme, 1500 research projects will be awarded for 2 years to support the social science research in the higher educational institutions and to enable research to guide policy making.
    • Research in social science is essential for progress of the society and the research carried out under IMPRESS scheme will be used to understand and solve problems facing the society.
    • Indian Council of Social Science and Research (ICSSR) will be the project implementing agency.
    • The broad objectives of the scheme are:
    • To identify and fund research proposals in social sciences with maximum impact on the governance and society.
    • To focus research on (11) broad thematic areas such as : State and Democracy, Urban transformation, Media, Culture and Society, Employment, Skills and Rural transformation , Governance, Innovation and Public Policy, Growth, Macro-trade and Economic Policy, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Environment, Science and Education, Social Media and Technology, Politics, Law and Economics. The sub- theme areas will be decided on the basis of Expert Groups’ advice before notifying the scheme and calling for applications.
    • To ensure selection of projects through a transparent, competitive process on online mode
    • To provide opportunity for social science researchers in any institution in the country, including all Universities (Central and State), private institutions with 12(B) status conferred by UGC.
    • ICSSR funded/ recognized research institutes will also be eligible to submit research proposals on the given themes and sub-themes.

    PM inaugurated 175 Km of sewerage network in Prayagraj

    Why in news?

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16, 2018 inaugurated various projects worth Rs 199.65 crore under Namami Gange Programme in Prayagraj, including 175 KM of sewerage network.

    Sewerage network:

    • The projects will prevent 7.8 crore litres of sewage from flowing untreated into Ganga River every day. Now, this untreated sewage water will be carried every day to existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) at Salori, Kodra & Ponghat for treatment.
    • Prime Minister Modi also laid the foundation stone for two projects in the Trans Ganga/Yamuna area under ‘One City-One Operator Scheme’ with sanctioned cost of Rs 767.59 crore.
    • The project is based on Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode that includes Operations and Maintenance of the entire sewerage infrastructure for 15 years.
    • These projects include Intersection and diversion (I&D) of sewage network, 7 sewage pumping stations and 3 STPs of total capacity 72 million litres per day (MLD).
    • These 3 STPs of 72 MLD capacity will be – Naini (42 MLD), Phaphamau (14 MLD) and Jhusi (16 MLD).
    • With these projects, there will be comprehensive sewerage coverage of Prayagraj, including areas on the other side of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
    • The sanctioned projects will also involve rehabilitation and operations and maintenance of existing sewage treatment infrastructure at the cost of Rs 904 crores.
    • Rehabilitation projects include six existing STPs with a total capacity of 254 MLD located at Naini, Numayadahi, Rajapur, Kodra, Ponghat and Salori and operations and maintenance of 10 existing sewage pumping stations.

    India Post ventures into new arena of e-market place

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of State for Communications (Independent Charge), launched the e-Commerce Portal of the Department of Posts (DoP).

    Highlights:

    • It will provide an e-Market place to sellers especially to rural artisans/self-help groups/ women entrepreneurs/State and Central PSUs/Autonomous Bodies etc. to sell their products to buyers across the Country.
    • The small and local sellers (who were left) will now, by leveraging the vast physical and IT network of DoP, be able to maximize their reach and retailing power.
    • The buyers can access the products of their choice displayed by sellers on the portal and place online orders by making digital payments.

    Other Initiatives:

    Post Office Core Banking Solution (CBS):

    • It also launched the internet banking facility for Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) customers which are under Core Banking Solution (CBS).
    • Now, around 17 Crore POSB accounts will be intra-operable and customers can also transfer funds online to RD and PPF accounts of Post Offices.
    • This facility will help customers to do their transactions without physically visiting post offices.

    Deen Dayal SPARSH:

    • The Department of Posts had launched a scholarship program for school children called Deen Dayal SPARSH (i.e., Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude & Research in Stamps as a Hobby).
    • To bring philately to the mainstream of the education system and incentivizing it, in 2017.

    India Post:

    • India Post is a Central Postal System of Government of India that was founded on 1st April 1854.
    • It works under the Ministry of Communications of the Government of India.
    • The postal system of India is one of the widely distributed networks in the world.
    • India is divided into 23 postal circles headed by Chief Postmaster.
    • Indian Post is providing its services in Philately, Army Postal Service, Electronic Indian Postal Order, Postal Life Insurance, Postal Savings, Banking, Data collection, e-commerce and Railways.

    Analytical report of the National Health Profile-2018 released

    Why in news?

    • The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare has released an Analytical Report of the National Health Profile-2018 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI).

    Analytical Report of National Health Profile – 2018:

    • The report indicates that significant progress has been made in the country for various health outcomes, which is an encouraging sign.
    • The Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
    • CBHI has been publishing National Health Profile every year since 2005 and this is the 12th.

    National Health Resource Repository (NHRR):

    • The Union Health Ministry June 2018, has launched the first ever registry in the country registry of authentic, standardised and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare.
    • To create a reliable, unified registry of country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas.
    • The ISRO is the project technology partner for providing data security.
    • Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, more than 20 lakh healthcare establishments such as hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census, which will capture data on more than 1,400 variables.
    • The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has looped in key stakeholders, including leading associations, allied ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.
    • NHRR will be the ultimate platform for comprehensive information of both, Private and Public healthcare establishments including Railways, ESIC, Defense and Petroleum healthcare establishments.

    Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission

    Why in News?

    • The Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is under implementation across the country (launched in 2016).
    • It is a unique programme, designed to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth.

    Objective:

    • It aims to spur social, economic and infrastructure development in rural areas by developing a cluster of 300 Smart Villages over the next years across the country.

    Key features:

    • National Rurban Mission(NRM) NRM through development of rurban growth clusters aims at catalyzing overall regional growth for simultaneously benefiting the rural as well as urban areas of the country.
    • Envisages institutional arrangements both at the State and Centre in order to ensure smooth implementation of the Mission.
    • The State Governments would identify the clusters which have latent potential for growth in accordance with the Framework for Implementation prepared by the Union Ministry of Rural Development.
    • States government will prepare Integrated Cluster Action Plans for Rurban Clusters. It will be comprehensive plan documents detailing out the strategy for the cluster development.
    • The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with different population and follow administrative convergence units of Gram Panchayats.
    • Population Constrains: Coastal and plain areas must have population of about 25000 to 50000. Hilly, desert or tribal areas must have 5000 to 15000.
    • There will be a separate approach for selection of clusters in Tribal and Non-Tribal Districts.

    Funding Support:

    • There is a funding support of up to 30% of the estimated investment for each Rurban cluster, given as Critical Gap Funding (CGF), while 70% of the funds is mobilized by the States through convergence with synergic State and Central programmes and private investment and institutional funding.
    • The CGF is now shared between the Centre and the State in a ratio of 60:40 for Plain area States and 90:10 for Himalayan and NE States.

    India, ADB sign USD 60 Million loan agreement to reduce floods in Assam

    Why in news?

    • India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on December 13, 2018 signed a USD 60 million loan agreement to reduce floods and the riverbank erosion in Assam.
    • This Tranche 2 loan is part of the USD 120 million multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) of the ADB for the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program. The program was approved by the ADB Board in October 2010.

    Objective:

    • The loan agreement aims to continue financing riverbank protection works, renovation of flood embankments, and community-based flood risk management activities in critically flood-prone areas along the Brahmaputra River in Assam.

    Highlights:

    • The loan will have a 20-year term, including a grace period of 5 years.
    • It includes an Annual Interest Rate determined in accordance with ADB’s lending facility based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and a commitment charge of 0.15 percent per year.
    • It will fund a combination of structural and nonstructural measures in the three subproject areas of Palasbari-Gumi, Kaziranga, and Dibrugarh along the Brahmaputra River.
    • It includes 20 km of riverbank protection works and upgrading of 13 km of flood embankments.
    • The non-structural measures will cover community involvement and community-based flood risk management activities through establishing and training disaster management committees.
    • It will continue to support the institutional capacity development of the autonomous bodies, namely, Flood and River Erosion Management Agency of Assam (FREMAA), and Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), as the executing and implementing agencies for this Project.

    Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program:

    • The Program is aimed at increasing the reliability and effectiveness of flood and riverbank erosion risk management systems in flood-prone areas of Assam.
    • It aims to strengthen the disaster preparedness of the communities, and developing institutional capacity and knowledge base for flood forecasting.

    Online portal “ENSURE” To Connect with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare launched a portal ENSURE – National Livestock Mission-EDEG to connect the subsidy payment under livestock sector to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
    • The online portal “ENSURE” (https://ensure.nabard.org) has been developed by NABARD and operated under the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries.

    Entrepreneurship Development and Employment Generation (EDEG):

    • Under the Mission’s component EDEG, subsidy payment for activities related to poultry, small ruminants, pigs etc., through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) goes directly to the beneficiary’s account.
    • To make it better, simpler and transparent, the NABARD has developed an online portal “ENSURE” which makes the information related to beneficiary and processing of application readily available.

    Significance of the portal:

    • The flow of information/funds will be quicker and more accountable.
    • The burden of extra interest due to delay in the disbursal of the subsidy would now be reduced.
    • Accessing the portal will be on real-time basis and list of beneficiaries can be easily prepared.

    Online Assurances Monitoring System

    Why in News?

    • The union govt. has inaugurated the Online Assurances Monitoring System (OAMS), developed by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA).

    Online Assurances Monitoring System (OAMS):

    • Different Ministers, while giving replies to questions or making statements in Parliament, given assurances on the floor of the House.
    • This system has made the information regarding assurances given on the floor of the Houses of Parliament paperless and available in digital format.
    • The MPA takes such assurances from the proceedings of the House, based on the guidelines for this purpose, and sends the extract of those assurances to the concerned Ministries for their fulfilment.
    • Information regarding OAMS, including data and figures, will available on the web portal oams.nic.in.

    Significance:

    • With OAMS, all assurances being taken out by the Ministry through e-Office would be reflected on this system and various Ministries/Departments.
    • This would encompass various actions related to Parliamentary Assurances including sending implementation reports, request for dropping, request for extension and decision thereon.
    • Hereafter, physical communication would not be accepted.

    Need for online monitoring of Assurances:

    • A number of problems arise in the process of fulfilment of assurances due to human factors and non-compliance of guidelines, making the process less transparent.
    • Hence, the need arose for an online assurances monitoring system to track the exact status of pending assurances and expedite their fulfilment.
    • Since 2007, a total of 26,830 assurances given by the Ministers on the floor of the Houses were culled out by the MPA.
    • Out of these 21,439 assurances have been fulfilled and 1,903 have been dropped, leaving a total of 3,488 assurances still pending for compliance.

    Khelo India Youth Games

    Why in news?

    • After the first edition of the Khelo India School Games 2017, the second edition, the games has become an initiative of the Central Government, has expanded in its scope, and will allow participants to compete in two categories (under 17 and under 21).
    • Talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels by the High-Powered Committee will be provided annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.
    • Khelo India School Games are a part of the Khelo India programme.
    • It consists of 16 disciplines which includes Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Shooting, Swimming, Volleyball, Weightlifting, and Wrestling.

    Khelo India programme:

    • The Khelo India programme has been introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports in India and establish India as a great sporting nation.
    • It will be a Central Sector Scheme (Scheme implemented by the Central Government machinery and 100% funding by the union government).
    • It is a Pan India Sports Scholarship scheme covering the 1000 most deserving and talented athletes across the sports discipline, every year.
    • It is an unprecedented scheme, a first-ever plan to be implemented for creating a long-term development pathway for athletes.
    • To enable the sportsman to pursue both studies and sports, the program aims at identifying and promoting 20 Universities in the country as centres of sporting distinction.
    • To ensure maximum entries for organized sports competitions, the programme encourages the school and colleges to organize programmes of high standards.
    • Forming an active population with a healthy lifestyle is also the focus of this programme.
    • The aim is to impact the whole of sports ecosystem inclusive of sports economy, competition structure, talent identification, coaching and infrastructure.
    • The programme plans to engage youth living in deprived and disturbed areas into sporting activities so that they will be mainstreamed into the process of nation-building and weaned away from disruptive activities.

    FAME-India Scheme

    Why in News?

    • To promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure sustainable growth of the same, Department of Heavy Industry is implementing FAME-India Scheme Phase – I [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India] from 1st April 2015.
    • The scheme was initially up to 31st April 2017, has been extended up to 31st March 2019 or till Notification of FAME-II, whichever is earlier.

    FAME India:

    • FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.
    • Vehicles in most segments – two wheelers, three wheelers, electric and hybrid cars and electric buses obtained the subsidy benefit of the scheme.
    • FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

    Objectives:

    • Provide fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric technologies vehicles in the country.
    • Incentivise all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses.

    FAME-India Scheme Phase – II:

    • The scheme proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport and
    • It seeks to encourage adoption of EVs by way of market creation and demand aggregation.
    • 100% FDI by automatic route is permitted in the automobile sector.
    • Further, the sector is deregulated, both private sector and public sector are free to carry out investment in the automobile sector, including for manufacturing of Electric Vehicles and E-Buses.

    Water Conservation Fee (WCF)

    Why in news?

    • In order to comply with various directions of the Hon’ble NGT and to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction, the Central Ground Water Authority, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction.
    • The revised guidelines aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country.

    Ground water extraction in India:

    • It is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, accounting for nearly 228 BCM (Billion Cubic Meter), which amounts to 90% of the annual ground water extraction.
    • The remaining 10% of extraction (25 BCM) is for drinking & domestic as well as industrial uses.
    • Industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5% of the annual ground water extraction in the country.
    • India is the largest user of ground water in the world, extracting ground water to the tune of 253 bcm per year, which is about 25% of the global ground water extraction.

    Water Conservation Fee (WCF):

    • The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction and is designed to progressively increase from safe to over-exploited areas and from low to high water consuming industries as well as with increasing quantum of ground water extraction.
    • The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as act as a deterrent to large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas.
    • The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.

    Revised guidelines:

    • They are encouraged to use recycled and treated sewage water by industries, provision of action against polluting industries, mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders.
    • Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units.
    • Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.

    Exemptions:

    • As per the revised guidelines, exemption from requirement of NOC has been given to
    • o Agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water,
      o Individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and
      o Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment or during mobilization in forward locations

    • Other exemptions (with certain requirements) have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defense and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.

    Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA):

    • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country.
    • CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.

    ‘MedWatch’ Mobile Health App

    Why in news?

    • On the occasion of 86th anniversary, the Indian Air Force has launched an innovative mobile health App named ‘MedWatch’ in keeping with the PM’s vision of Digital India, Ayushman Bharat and Mission Indradhanush.

    MedWatch:

    • The app is conceived by the doctors of IAF and developed in house by Directorate of Information Technology (DIT) with zero financial outlay.
    • It will provide correct, Scientific and authentic health information to air warriors and all citizens of India.
    • The app is available on www.apps.mgov.gov.in and comprises of host of features like information on basic First Aid, Health topics and Nutritional Facts.
    • It includes reminders for timely Medical Review, Vaccination and utility tools like Health Record Card, BMI calculator, helpline numbers and web links.

    1st International Conference on Sustainable Water Management

    Why in news?

    • The first International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ began on December 10, 2018 at Indian School of Business (ISB) in Mohali, Punjab.
    • The conference is being organised by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) under the aegis of the National Hydrology Project of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
    • The theme of the international conference is ‘Sustainable Water Management’.

    Objective:

    • To foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, the scientific and academic communities, so as to promote sustainable policies for water management.
    • To create awareness of water-related problems, motivate commitment at the highest level for their solution and thus promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.

    Highlights:

    • The conference is expected to witness participation from a number of experts and delegates from reputed organisations from both within India and other countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Spain, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.
    • The experts will deliver their experience and expertise in the use of state of art technology to the stakeholders for sustainable development of water resources.
    • The participation in the conference is by invitation and more than 400 delegates have been registered.
    • Overall, around 20 companies and organisations will be putting up stalls in the exhibition to showcase their activities in the area of sustainable water resources management.
    • The conference is the first in the series of conferences being organised in India under the aegis of the ongoing National Hydrology Project.
    • The hydrology project is being implemented by the Bhakra Beas Management Board with financial assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources.

    National Hydrology Project:

    • It is a World Bank Board sponsored project to strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess water situation in their regions in India.
    • The project aims to scale up the successes achieved under Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II to cover the entire country including the states of Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.
    • Apart from benefitting the states in further upgrading and completing their water monitoring networks, the project aims to help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs.
    • The project includes setting up of national flood forecasting systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins.
    • It will have the potential to help communities to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.

    World Bank assisted project SMART launched in Maharashtra

    Why in news?

    • Maharashtra Government has launched World Bank assisted- State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to transform rural Maharashtra.

    Highlights:

    • This project aims to revamp agricultural value chains, with special focus on marginal farmers across 1,0000 villages.
    • This initiative is in line with Union Government’s step towards doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
    • The launch of the project was followed by signing of 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between big corporates and farmers producer groups.

    State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project:

    • The objective of this project is to create and support value chains in post-harvest segments of agriculture, facilitate agribusiness investment, stimulate SMEs within the value chain.
    • It will also support resilient agriculture production systems, expand access to new and organised markets for producers and enhance private sector participation in the agribusiness.
    • The project will be implemented in 10,000 villages of total 40,913 villages in states with objective to achieve sustainable farming within the next three years.
    • It will cover almost one-fourth of Maharashtra.
    • Its focus is on villages which are reeling under worst agriculture crisis compounded by lack of infrastructure and assures value chains to channelise farm produce.
    • The project will be implemented in 10,000 villages comprising 10,000 gram panchayats which were shortlisted by state government based on multiple parameters of socio-economic backwardness in terms of development and growth.

    Significance of the project:

    • The project is a giant step towards transformation of rural economy and empowerment of farmers and also sustainable agriculture through public-private partnership (PPP) model.
    • It seeks to sure higher production of crops and create robust market mechanism to enable farmers to reap higher remunerations for the yield.
    • It unites agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them a common platform.

    Ministry of New and Renewable Energy conferred Skoch Award for National Significance.

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been conferred the Skoch Award for National Significance.

    Highlights:

    • The award has been conferred considering its purpose and critical role played in installing about 73 GW renewable energy capacity in the country.
    • With 21 per cent of total installed capacity, within the year renewable energy grossed one billion units of electricity in the country.
    • Today, India ranks 4 in the world in wind energy capacity and 5th in solar & total renewable energy capacity installed in the world.
    • India has played a critical role in setting up of international solar alliance. Further, India moved a resolution during the first meeting for making it a global initiative.

    Skoch Group:

    • Skoch Group is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth.
    • According to their website they have instituted India’s highest independent civilian honours in the field of governance, finance, technology, economics and social sector.

    SKOCH Award:

    • It celebrates excellence of governance delivery by domain departments.
    • This includes having sufficient familiarity, capacity and knowledge about the functionality of their systems, processes and outcomes.

    Cabinet approves Agriculture Export Policy 2018

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the Agriculture Export Policy in line with the government’s commitment to double farmer’s income by 2022.
    • The Cabinet has also approved the proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Commerce as the nodal Department with representation from various line
    • Ministries/Departments and Agencies and representatives of concerned State Governments, to oversee the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy.

    Highlights:

    • The Government has come out with a policy to double farmers’ income by 2022. Exports of agricultural products would play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.
    • In order to provide an impetus to agricultural exports, the Government has come out with a comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aimed at doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.
    • The Agriculture Export Policy has the following vision: “Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.”

    Objectives of the Agriculture Export Policy:

    • To double agricultural exports from present ~US$ 30+ Billion to ~US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime.
    • To diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables.
    • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports.
    • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
    • To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest.
    • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.

    PRASAD Scheme: Centre includes Gangotri, Yamunotri in Uttarakhand

    Why in news?

    • Union Government has included Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttrarakhand, Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and Parasnath in Jharkhand under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) to develop pilgrimage and heritage destinations in the country. With the new additions, the number of sites under PRASAD has now reached to 41 in 25 states.

    PRASAD Scheme:

    • It was launched in 2014-15 by Union Ministry of Tourism.
    • It aims at the integrated development of pilgrimage destinations in planned, prioritised and sustainable manner to provide a complete religious tourism experience.
    • It focuses on the development and beautification of the identified pilgrimage destinations.

    Objectives of PRASAD Scheme: