[Op-ed snap] Welcome measure

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : labour reforms


CONTEXT

In a welcome move, the Union government has announced a significant reduction in the contribution by workers and employers towards the employees’ state insurance (ESI) scheme.

Background

From July 1, the overall contribution to ESI is slated to decline from 6.5 per cent to 4 per cent, with employers’ contribution falling from 4.75 per cent to 3.25 per cent, and that of employees from 1.75 per cent to 0.75 per cent.

Benefits

Lower Cost of hiring and formal jobs – This decision, which lowers the cost of hiring for employers, should be seen in conjunction with recent initiatives such as the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojna (PMRPY) that aim to boost the creation of formal jobs by lowering the costs associated with formalisation.

Medical Care and cash benefits –The ESI Act provides for medical care and cash benefits in case of contingencies to employees drawing a salary up to Rs 21,000 per month. It is one of the pillars of the social security architecture in the country.

Issues

1.Its current cost structure is prohibitive.

2.Contribution far exceeds the benefits –

  • A look at its accounts shows that the current levels of contribution far exceed the benefits disbursed by it — in fact, only around half of the contributions are paid out as benefits.
  • For instance, in 2016-17, while total contributions stood at Rs 16,852 crore (including interest income of Rs 3,069 crore), total expenditure incurred for medical benefits was only a fraction at Rs 6,409 crore.
  • This growing divergence between collections and disbursement has led to a substantial build up of its reserves.
  • At the end of March 2018, its corpus stood at Rs 73,303 crore, up Rs 13,920 crore from last year.
  • Between 2012 and 2017, it earned Rs 19,993 crore as interest income alone on this corpus.
  • But this rise in income hasn’t translated to greater benefits.

3.Standing committee on labour’s report –

  • As the standing committee on labour noted in a report last year, people continue to be deprived of the benefits of the ESI scheme “due to lack of coverage of ESIC scheme, poor functioning of hospitals, etc”.
  • This suggests that contributions can be substantially lowered, while maintaining benefits at current levels.

Way Forward

  • Prohibitive mandatory contributions such as the provident fund/employee state insurance tend to act as deterrents to formalisation.
  • As the experience of PMRPY has shown, lowering these costs tends to have a positive impact on formalisation.
  • In fact, much of the recent rise in the EPFO subscriber base is on account of PMRPY.
  • Lowering costs further, or offering employees the choice of who handles their contributions, could accelerate the process further.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] A home in space

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : ISRO is making giant leaps in space explorations. Space station may be the next.


CONTEXT

ISRO has declared its intention to build a permanent space station for itself, possibly in the next five to seven years. After the mission to moon and Mars and a proposed manned space flight before 2022, this is the next logical step for the agency.

ISRO’s aspirations

ISRO would be undertaking many prolonged space exploration projects and sending many astronauts into space, such that it would require a permanent station for itself.

History of Space mission

  • For four decades since its inception in the early 1960s, ISRO had, apart from building its capacities, focused primarily on harnessing space technologies for societal benefits.
  • Yash Pal, the first director of Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, once described India’s space mission as “almost a sociological programme” as much as a technological programme.
  • Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme, used to repeatedly make the point that India must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to “the real problems of man and society”.
  • Even as late as in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got all government departments to sit down with ISRO and identify the areas where space technology could help them achieve their objectives.

Proven Capacity of ISRO

  • In the next phase, beginning this century, ISRO established itself as a reliable and economical launcher of commercial satellites.
  • It demonstrated its capabilities to launch all kinds of satellites and delivered close to 300 payloads of foreign countries in space in the last 12 years.
  • This service is likely to continue since it generates the much-needed revenue to fund ISRO’s various missions.

New Mission into space explorations

  • However, ISRO is signalling that it is now ready to take a leap into space exploration. Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan are, in fact, heralding ISRO into this new phase.
  • There is a mission to the sun coming up next year, while another to Venus has also been announced.
  • More inter-planetary explorations, and possibly a human flight to the moon, are also in the pipeline.

The utility of space station

  • The space station is a facility India would need in the context of missions such as these and more.
  • NASA’s International Space Station, the only one functional right now, is slated to retire by 2025, or latest by 2028, and no replacement for it has been confirmed so far.
  • It is likely that future space stations would be commercial facilities, available to anyone for a fee. For an agency that is still to execute a successful human space flight, all this might seem a little premature.
  • And the proposed five to seven-year timeline to achieve it, surely, is ambitious. But ISRO is known to set ambitious targets, and achieve them as well.

Chaukhandi Stupa declared to be “of national importance”

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chaukhandi Stupa and its significance

Mains level : Ancient Buddhist architecture



News

  • An ancient Buddhist site in UP’s Sarnath known as Chaukhandi Stupa has been declared to be “of national importance” by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Chaukhandi Stupa

  • Chaukhandi Stupa was built to mark the place where Buddha met his first disciples Panchavargiya Bhikshus (Buddha’s five companions) who had previously deserted him at Rajgir, as he traveled from Bodhgaya to Sarnath.
  • The stupa got its name Chaukhandi’ because of its four armed plan.
  • It is a lofty mound of brick whose square edifice is surrounded by an octagonal tower.
  • The stupa is an ancient Buddhist site which evolved from burial mounds and served as a shrine for a relic of Buddha.

Construction

  • It appears to be in ruins and was originally constructed in 5th Century AD.
  • It also finds mention in account of Hiuen Tsang, celebrated Chinese traveler of 7th century AD.
  • The Chaukhandi Stupa is said to be originally a terraced temple during the Gupta period (4th to 6th century).
  • Govardhan, the son of Todarmal altered and modified the Chaukhandi Stupa to its present shape.
  • He built an octagonal tower to commemorate the visit of Humayun, the great Mughal ruler.

Architecture

  • The current structure of the stupa is a high earthen mound covered with brickwork, to which stands atop a terraced rectangular plinth and it is capped by an octagonal Mughal tower.
  • Some images of Buddha, such as the image of Buddha in Dharmachakra Pravartana Mudra and other statues found during excavations at this Stupa are believed to be rare artifacts and classic examples of art from Gupta period.

About ASI

  • The ASI is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture.
  • It is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
History- Important places, persons in news

ISRO plans to launch a space station

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Space Station

Mains level : Utility of space stations


News

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to launch its own space station.

The Indian Space Station

  • A space station is an artificial satellite placed in orbit and is used as a long-term base for manned operations in space.
  • The Indian space station would be stationed at an altitude of 400 kilometres from Earth.
  • The proposed Indian space station would be similar to the International Space Station (ISS) but smaller in size weighing about 20 tonnes and would take another 5 to 7 seven years to construct.
  • India would be the fourth country to launch a space station as the US and Russia has already launched their space stations and China is planning to launch its in 2020.

About the ISS

  • The International Space Station, which launched its first piece in 1998, is a large spacecraft which orbits around the Earth and is home to the astronauts.
  • The ISS is currently the only active space station in the earth’s orbit.
  • The first crew on the space station arrived on November 2, 2000.
  • The space station is home to minimum of six astronauts, with two bathrooms, a gymnasium, and a big bay window.
  • It is a joint project between five participating space agencies -NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kimberley Process, Conflict Diamond

Mains level : KPCS



News

  • The Intersessional meet of Kimberley Process (KP) will be hosted by India

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

  • The Kimberley Process is a joint initiative involving Government, international diamond industry and civil society to stem the flow of Conflict Diamonds.
  • Conflict Diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.
  • It is also described in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

Why need KPCS?

  • In 1998, certain rebel movements in Africa (Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia) were selling, among other things, illegally obtained diamonds.
  • These were known as Conflict Diamonds – to fund their wars against legitimate governments.
  • With a view to find ways to stop trade in Conflict Diamonds, world’s diamond industry, UN, Governments and leading NGOs came together and in November 2002 at Interlaken, Switzerland.
  • There the final draft of the Kimberley Process measures was ratified by more than fifty countries.
  • The KPCS came into effect from 1st January, 2003 and evolved into an effective mechanism for stopping the trade in Conflict Diamonds.
  • At present, KPCS has 55 members representing 82 countries including EU with 28 members.

India and the KPCS

  • India is one of the founder members of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
  • It is the Chair of Kimberley Process for the year 2019 with Russian Federation as Vice Chair.
  • India had earlier chaired KPCS in the year 2008.

Rough diamond trading under the KPCS

  • As per the Scheme, each shipment of rough diamonds being exported and imported by crossing an international border be transported in a tamper proof container and accompanied by a validated Kimberley Process Certificate.
  • The shipment can only be exported to a co-participant country in the KPCS.
  • No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds are permitted to enter a participant country.

Assist this newscard with:

[pib] Kimberley Process

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma telescope to create a 3D X-ray map of Universe

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SRG

Mains level : X Ray Telescope



News

  • A team of German-Russian scientists is all set to launch a space telescope, which will create a three-dimensional (3D) X-ray map of the universe and unveil unknown supermassive black holes, dark energy and stars.

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) Telescope

  • The telescope will be launched into space on a Russian-built Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in June 2019.
  • The four-year mission will survey the entire sky eight times and track the evolution of the universe and dark energy, a mysterious repulsive force that is accelerating its expansion.
  • Besides, it also aims to detect up to three million supermassive black holes — many of which are unknown — and X-rays from as many as 700,000 stars in the Milky Way.
  • The telescope is the first to be sensitive to high-energy ‘hard’ X-rays and map the entire sky.
  • The SRG will also find how dark matter — the main engine of galaxy formation — is spread in the universe.
  • X-ray sky surveys have also been conducted by previous missions, but they were not able to map the entire sky, the report said.

Two X-ray telescopes:

  • A German-built eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array)
  • A Russian-built ART-XC (Astronomical Roentgen Telescope — X-ray Concentrator)
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

E-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT)

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Foreigners Tribunal

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam


News

  • The Centre has approved setting up of e-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT) in Assam.

E-FT System

  • Aim: To maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data and to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • The proposed integrated e-FT IT system will be implemented across Assam for effective monitoring and resolution of cases registered with Foreigner Tribunal.
  • The main objective of the project is to maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data, to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • It will also help in the legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.
  • The new IT system will not only strengthen the Judiciary in the disposal of cases but also help Police organization in faster detection, prosecution and detention.
  • This will enhance the transparency of case disposal process.  It will also help in legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.
Citizenship and Related Issues