November 2019
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Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Kerala’s plan for providing free Internet access to the poor is worthy of emulation by othersop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Internet as a right


Context

Kerala could have near-universal Internet access in a year’s time. 

The project

    • Last week, the state cabinet for the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project cleared the path for a Kerala-wide optical fiber network by December 2020.
    • It recognised that Internet access is a basic human right. No other Indian State has recognised Internet access in this manner till now. 
    • This is also in sync with the UN.
    • It aims to touch every household in Kerala by delivering free Internet access to over two million BPL families. It aims to charge affordable rates for other families. 
    • It is to be set up by the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. and the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd., 
    • It will connect 30,000 government offices and educational institutions. 
    • When complete, a State that already tops in human development indicators in the country, will be ready for a steep digital evolution.

Importance

    • Rights – The role of the Internet in enabling freedom of speech and reducing inequality is huge.
    • Progress – India has made huge leaps in providing Internet access to its people in recent years.
    • A good part of the growth till now can be attributed to cheap data plans, triggered by the advent of Reliance Jio. According to a recent study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and Nielsen, the country has 451 million active Internet users.

Gaps remain

    • Huge in number – Internet have-nots still exist in the millions.
    • Urban > Rural- Internet penetration is significantly higher in urban areas than it is in rural areas.
    • Gender gap – It is also significantly higher for men than it is for women. 
    • Regional gaps – The best-performing State, Delhi-NCR, has an Internet penetration of 69%. The second-best is Kerala, with just 54%. 
    • Tech companies – Global technology companies have in recent years eyed the huge population of Internet have-nots as an opportunity. Some, like Facebook, came up with an idea of free access to a list of chosen sites. 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that governments need to play an interventionist role in plugging this gap. Kerala could set a healthy example.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

State of Policing in IndiaPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India Justice Report 2019

Mains level : State of policing in India and desired reforms



  • The first edition of the India Justice Report — brought out by the Tata Trusts with various partners was recently released.
  • It highlighted some shortcomings about the state of Policing in India.

Policing in India

  • The report underscores the capacity deficit plaguing policing in the country.
  • According to the report, only 1 of the 22 states for which data were available, was able to fully utilise its police modernization fund.
  • Over the past five years, in just 14 of the 33 states and UTs for which data are available, police expenditure grew more than the state’s overall expenditure.
  • The tables refer only to the 18 large- and mid-sized states where 90% of India’s population lives. The map shows the three states that spent the least and the most respectively on police per person in 2015-16.
  • The report also found that on average there were more than 20% vacancies in the police.

Vacancies

  • Tables 1, 2 and 3 detail the worst performers among the major states when it comes to vacancies related to SCs, STs and OBCs respectively.
  • In 2009, the Government of India had adopted a target of 33% reservation for women in police. As of January 2017, women make up just 7% of police.
  • Table 4 details the number of years required by some states to achieve the 33%-mark at the current rate.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Centre gets responses to draft Social Security CodePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Social Security Code

Mains level : Salient features of the draft Social Security Code



  • The draft code on social security, which subsumes eight existing laws covering provident fund, maternity benefits and pension, is being further worked upon after a recent round of public consultations.

Draft Social Security Code

Here are the five key things in the draft code:

1) Insurance, PF, life cover for unorganized sector employees:

  • Bulk of India’s labour force is in informal sector and a move looks forward looking but most of key initiatives it suggest may be the decision of the states with little contribution from the centre.
  • There may be unorganized sector social security boards at the centre and state levels.
  • The draft code says the “Central Government shall formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matter relating to life and disability cover; health and maternity benefits; old age protection; and any other benefit as may be determined by the central government”.
  • While framing of schemes, the draft says the states may also formulate and notify suitable initiatives for unorganized workers, including schemes relating to provident fund, employment injury benefit, housing, educational scheme for their children, old age and funeral assistance.

2) Corporatization of EPFO and ESIC:

  • The pension, insurance and retirement saving bodies including EPFO and ESIC will be body corporate.
  • The world body corporate has been added in the draft and may bring in a departure from the current autonomous body status of such organization.
  • The draft also talks about appointment of chief executive officers (CEOs) in these organization indicating that the labour minister, labour secretary, the central PF commissioner and Director General of ESIC may not be by default the head of such organizations.
  • It means the EPFO may become a more structured national body with its entire Rs. 11 trillion corpus under the responsibility of a central government-appointed chairman.
  • Currently EPFO is headed by the labour minister chaired central board of trustees.
  • The Central Government shall also appoint a Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer to assist the Chief Executive Officer in the discharge of his duties draft code said.

3) Benefits for Gig workers:

  • Millions of gig workforce in India, often referred as lonely in the workplace, may soon get life and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits among others as the union government is formulating a labour code that propose such provisions.
  • As per the draft social security code, the Central Government may formulate and notify suitable social security schemes for gig workers and platform workers” and such schemes would encompass issues like “life and disability cover”, “health and maternity benefits, old age protection” and “any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government”.
  • Though the exact number of gig workers are unknown as they are still figuring out whether they are formal workers or informal workers or independent entrepreneurs, a 2017 study by consulting firm EY has said that nearly one out four gig workers in the world are from India.

4) Maternity Benefit:

  • The draft says subject to the other provisions of this Code, every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence.
  • That is to say, the period immediately proceeds the day of her delivery, and any period immediately following that day.
  • For the purposes of this sub-section, ―the average daily wage means the average of the woman’s wages payable to her for the days on which she has worked during the period of three calendar months immediately preceding the date from which she absents herself on account of maternity.
  • This will be subject to the minimum rate of wage fixed or revised under the Code on Wages, 2019.

5) Existing labour laws that the code will merge:

The Code on Social Security, 2019 once in place will merge eight exiting labour laws including Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923; Employees‘ State Insurance Act, 1948, Employees‘ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 and Unorganized Workers‘ Social Security Act, 2008.

History- Important places, persons in news

Suranga Bawadi on World Monument Watch listPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Karez System, Suranga Bawadi

Mains level : Not Much



Suranga Bawadi

  • Suranga Bawadi, an integral part of the ancient Karez system of supplying water through subterranean tunnels built during Adil Shahi era in Vijayapura, is now set to get funding for restoration.
  • A New York-based non-governmental organisation has included it in the World Monument Watch list for 2020 along with 24 other monuments from across the world.
  • With this, the Suranga Bawadi is expected to get funds for restoration within the next two years.
  • The NGO would also coordinate with the authorities concerned for restoration and create public awareness on its importance.

What is Karez System?

  • Karez is a method of irrigation in which groundwater is tapped by a tunnel.
  • After running for some distance the tunnel comes out in the open and the water is conducted to the command area.
  • According to historians, the Adil Shahis built the magnificent underground system to supply water to the city, which had a population of nearly 12 lakh then.
  • Though the Karez system was built in the 16th century by Ali Adil Shah–I, his successor, Ibrahim Adil Shah–II, brought in several changes by adding more structures to strengthen it.

About World Monuments Fund

  • The monument has been selected under the ‘Ancient Water System of the Deccan Plateau’ by World Monuments Fund [the NGO], which monitors restoration of ancient monuments across the globe.
  • It works in collaboration with the local stakeholders, including the district administration, the ASI, and local explorers of ancient monuments, in highlighting the need for the restoration of ancient monuments.

Back2Basics

World Monuments Watch

  • Every two years WMF publishes the World Monuments Watch (formerly the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites).
  • Since the first list was compiled in 1996, this program has drawn international attention to cultural heritage sites around the world threatened by neglect, vandalism, armed conflict, commercial development, natural disasters, and climate change.
  • Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF fosters community support for the protection of endangered sites, and attracts technical and financial support for the sites.
  • Navigate to the page for map simulated view of various sites in India https://www.wmf.org/watch .
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

RAAH: A one-stop source of data on mental health centres, professionalsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RAAH app

Mains level : Mental health and associated issues in India



  • NIMHANS has compiled a one-stop source online mental health care directory “RAAH”.

RAAH

  • The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) has come out with a NIMHANS RAAH app, a mobile application that can be downloaded on Android and iOS platforms.
  • It provides free information to the public on mental health care professionals and mental healthcare centres.
  • The directory can be accessed on http://raah.nimhans.ac.in

How does it work?

  • Mental health professionals and organisations can register and update their information in the directory live for no cost.
  • The online directory and mobile app allows people to search for information about professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, special educators and occupational therapists working with government, NGOs, clinics, hospitals, and rehabilitation centres.

Key features

  • The main features of the directory are that people can filter the information according to their search requirements.
  • A user will get two kinds of views in the directory — map and list view — where they can get all the information about the organisation and professionals such as timings, fees details, available services, and years of experience.

About NIMHANS

  • The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences is a premier medical institution located in Bengaluru, India.
  • NIMHANS is the apex centre for mental health and neuroscience education in the country, the institute operates autonomously under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

National Water Policy (NWP)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Water Policy

Mains level : Highlights of the Policy


  • The Union Water Resources Ministry has finalised a committee to draft a new National Water Policy (NWP).

National Water Policy

  • National Water Policy is formulated by the Ministry of Water Resources of the Government of India to govern the planning and development of water resources and their optimum utilization.
  • The first National Water Policy was adopted in September 1987. It was reviewed and updated in 2002 and later in 2012.
  • Among the major policy innovations in the 2012 policy was the concept of an Integrated Water Resources Management approach that took the “river basin/ sub-basin” as a unit for planning, development and management of water resources.
  • A National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency is also on the cards.

About the committee

  • It will be chaired by Mihir Shah, who is a former Planning Commission member and a water expert.
  • The committee has 10 principal members, including Shashi Shekhar, a former secretary of Water Resources, and A.B. Pandya, former chairman of the Central Ground Water Board.
  • The committee is expected to produce a report within six months.

Focus on minimum levels

  • It also proposed that a portion of river flows ought to be kept aside to meet ecological needs.
  • Such an approach led to the government, in 2018, requiring minimum water levels to be maintained in the Ganga all through the year and hydropower projects, therefore, to refrain from hoarding water beyond a point.
  • That policy also stressed for a minimum quantity of potable water for essential health and hygiene to all its citizens to be made available within easy reach of households.
  • Inter-basin transfers are not merely for increasing production but also for meeting basic human need and achieving equity and social justice.
  • Inter-basin transfers of water should be considered on the basis of merits of each case after evaluating the environmental, economic and social impacts of such transfers.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Exercise Tiger TriumphPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ex. Tiger Triumph

Mains level : India-US defence cooperation



  • The first-ever tri-services India-U.S.A. amphibious exercise titled ‘Tiger Triumph’ is scheduled to be conducted in this week.

Ex. Tiger Triumph

  • The exercise will be conducted off Visakhapatnam and Kakinada coasts.
  • This exercise will include events and field training that simulate moving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief force from ship to shore.
  • It is aimed at building the capacity of both the Indian and U.S. participants and improving their ability to operate together.
  • Around 1,200 Indian soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and 500 U.S. Marines, sailors and airmen will participate in the nine-day exercise which envisages the U.S. and Indian forces establishing professional relationships.
  • The exercise focuses on counter-terrorism operations.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[op-ed snap] Treat the diseaseop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Paedophilia

Mains level : Child sexual abuse - the disease behind it


Context

In matters of sexual crime and criminals, where there is a social revulsion towards the perpetrators, the law is blunt and the public discourse is vitiated by a collective desire for revenge. 

Paedophilia

  • Paedophilia has been classified by the WHO as a disease. 
  • There are few mental health professionals in India equipped to deal with it. 
  • Over 300 people suspected of having paedophilic tendencies have reached out to a network of psychologists and psychiatrists based in Mumbai and Pune, seeking help.
  • There are severe legal consequences for those who sexually assault and target children under the POCSO Act. 
  • But doctors in Mumbai attempt to treat paedophilia through counseling and antidepressants. 
  • This is especially for those who are “at the lower threshold of the disease” and have not been booked under the Act. 
  • According to Klaus Beier, director of the Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, at least 1% of the male population suffers from paedophilia. 
  • Given India’s population, it cannot be left unaddressed and untreated.

Welcome move

  • The initiative to treat people who want to deal with their paedophilic tendencies is welcome.
  • Often, the fear of the stigma that comes with articulating such feelings leads to horrifying consequences. 
  • A section of mental health professionals are taking a series of steps — from anonymous helplines to expanding the number of doctors capable of managing the disorder.

Conclusion

  • Any society cannot leave the well-being of its children outside the ambit of the law. Once acts of sexual violence are committed, they must be prosecuted.
  • It is also important to deal with those who seek treatment with compassion and sympathy.
  • It is important to treat the disease, not merely punish the diseased.

 

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] The future of workop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : New economic trends - Employment


Context

Karnataka government will work towards framing guidelines for workers of digital platforms like Uber, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy and UrbanClap. The aim is to ensure all relevant labour benefits for those working in the ‘gig economy’. 

Labour guidelines

    • Karnataka government is following the tone set by the Centre, which proposed a new draft code on social security. 
    • Moves to bring digital labour platforms within the purview of new or existing employment and labour regulations have been missing. 
    • The Karnataka government’s move to add benefits can provide a degree of public welfare assistance to a significant and growing workforce in India.

Role of government

    • The government has the responsibility of ensuring social stability while not creating hurdles for the businesses. 
    • A question remains open — whether Uber drivers are full-time employees of Uber or freelancers.
    • The Ministry’s bid to provide insurance and job security can emerge with direct acknowledgement of the role played by platforms in the city job market.
    • It cannot be achieved by curbing asset-light models or by regulating labour.

Platforms – Employment

    • Platforms provide work to the growing demographic of youth in the country.
    • The manufacturing sector in India is unable to provide employment opportunities to the youth. 
    • There is a mismatch between education and jobs skills in the market. 
    • Governments have also been unable to create viable public work schemes in urban areas for those continuously migrating into cities and towns. 
    • Private tech has been able to do this and the government is aware of its potential.

Role of platforms

    • MoUs signed between platform companies and various State and Central Ministries over the years show that governments have actively invited companies to create work, entrepreneurial opportunities and skill development. 
    • For example, Uber partnered with Ayushman Bharat to facilitate free healthcare for drivers and delivery partners. UrbanClap partnered with the National Urban Livelihoods Mission to generate jobs with minimum assured monthly wages for the urban poor. 
    • In cases of informal jobs where it was difficult to identify workers for whom protection was to be given, platforms became vehicles.

Public Utilities

    • The ecosystem of public policy, platform work, and the government together can suggest an urban ‘Jobs for All’, a financialised employment guarantee scheme. 
    • The work created by these companies could easily be regulated as public goods because it creates mobility and facilitates the movement of goods. 
    • An increasing number of these jobs has been created through incentivised demand using cashback, coupons, low fares, and even free services rather than through natural demand. 
    • Platforms have created public utilities that may not have been needed before via low-skilled and poor quality work, but it is work that brings in some earnings.
    • They have given urban workers a financialised, self-driven, optional economic safety net of ‘having a job, having a gig’.

What it means for the state of employment

    • The ability of labour regulation to push companies to deliver full formal employment in a financialised world of work seems poor. 
    • Platform companies rely on city markets for their workers to populate the platform and to turn a profit just as much as governments look to platforms to generate work opportunities. 
    • The Karnataka Social Welfare Department signed an MoU with Uber last year to create work opportunities for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe youth.

Conclusion

It could herald a time where platforms can be asked to perform more public functions like implementing a minimum wage.

Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan

Mains level : Not Much



  • The Environment Ministry is undertaking a mass cleanliness-cum-awareness drive in 50 identified beaches under the “Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan”.

Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan

  • The identified beaches are in 10 coastal States/ UTs namely Gujarat, Daman & Diu, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. The beaches have been identified after the consultation with the States/UTs.
  • Environment Education Division of the Ministry and Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM) under the aegis of this Ministry will be responsible for the overall coordination for the drive in 50 beaches.
  • The cleaning drives in all beaches are being undertaken, involving school/college students of Eco-clubs, district administration, institutions, volunteers, local communities and other stakeholders.
  • State Nodal Agencies for the Eco-clubs will be facilitating the week-long intensive cleanliness drive in all 10 States/UTs.

Working

  • For beach cleaning activities which will be a duration of two hours on daily basis, a minimum of one Kilometre stretch of the beach shall be identified.
  • Beach sand cleaning machines shall also be deployed at about identified 15 beaches.
  • Thereafter collected waste will be processed as per extant Waste Management Rules, 2016.