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Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Logo, motto introduced for Lokpal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Lokpal and its functions



News

  • Lokpal Chairman Justice (retired) Pinaki Chandra Ghose launched the new logo and motto for the apex anti-corruption ombudsman.
  • The Lokpal became functional after the appointment of its Chairman and members in March 2019.

About the Logo

  • The logo was designed by Prashant Mishra, a resident of Prayagraj in UP in a competition.
  • The logo symbolizes how Lokpal protects and cares for the people of India by establishing justice as per law.
  • The logo figuratively symbolizes the essence of Lokpal with:
  1. the inclusion of shapes such as the ombudsman [Judges’ Bench]
  2. the people [three human figures],
  3. vigilance [an Ashoka Chakra forming an eye],
  4. the law [a shape of book] and the judicial [two tri-color hands placed below, forming a unique balance].

The motto

  • The Lokpal unanimously decided to take one portion of the above 1st sloka of ‘Ishabasoupanishad’.
  • It is read as under:-

मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम्”

The meaning of the above slogan/motto in Hindi is          मा गृधः= लोभ, मत करो, कस्यस्वित्=किसी के, धनम्=धन का i.e. किसी के धन का लोभ मत करो. The meaning in English is “Do not be greedy for anyone’s wealth.”


Back2Basics

Explained: How Lokpal will form, function

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Explained: The Bodoland dispute

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bodoland

Mains level : About the dispute



News

The central government has extended the ban on the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by five more years for its involvement in a series of violent anti-state activities.

The Bodoland

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.

What is the dispute?

  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

Who are the NDFB?

  • Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.
  • In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary.
  • The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.
  • In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan.
  • In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.
Coal and Mining Sector

Coalbed Methane

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coalbed Methane

Mains level : Coalbed Methane and its utility



News

India has the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, and CBM has been looked at as a clean alternative fuel with significant prospects.

Coalbed Methane (CBM)

  • CBM, like shale gas, is extracted from what are known as unconventional gas reservoirs — where gas is extracted directly from the rock that is the source of the gas (shale in case of shale gas and coal in case of CBM).
  • The methane is held underground within the coal and is extracted by drilling into the coal seam and removing the groundwater.
  • The resulting drop in pressure causes the methane to be released from the coal.

Uses of CBM

CBM can be used for power generation, as compressed natural gas (CNG) auto fuel, as feedstock for fertilisers, industrial uses such as in cement production, rolling mills, steel plants, and for methanol production.

Reserves in India

  • The country’s coal and CBM reserves are found in 12 states of India, with the Gondwana sediments of eastern India holding the bulk.
  • The Damodar Koel valley and Son valley are prospective areas for CBM development, with CBM projects existing in Raniganj coalfields, the Parbatpur block in Jharia coalfield and the East and West Bokaro coalfields.
  • The Son valley includes the Sonhat North and Sohagpur East and West blocks.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Imphal to Mandalay flight service

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the flight

Mains level : Infrastructure facilities in NE India


News

Myanmar’s private airlines Air KBZ kicked off a chartered flight service from Manipur’s state capital Imphal to Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay.

About the flight service

  • The service is a chartered flight service.
  • Once it is regularised, then pricing and ticketing will become standardised.
  • Imphal will become an important part of the international travel route.

What is the importance of this flight service?

  • Mandalay is an important economic centre of Myanmar and the flight service is said to be benefiting both traders and tourists.
  • The service is expected to transform the transportation network through Northeast India and boost the regional economy.

Other sources of connectivity to SE

  • This year, Assam rolled out flight services from Guwahati to Bangkok and Dhaka.
  • Guwahati is also connected to Paro in Bhutan.
  • Government plans to connect Guwahati to capitals of other ASEAN countries soon by air.
  • Manipur is already connected to Myanmar by road, as is Bangladesh to Meghalaya and Tripura.
  • India’s access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong port via Tripura is in the pipeline, so is the completion of the Agartala-Akhaura international railway project that will connect Bangladesh railway track with North-East Frontier Railways.
President’s Rule

PM’s power to revoke President’s Rule

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rule 12

Mains level : President’s Rule


News

To revoke President’s Rule, the government has used a special Section in the Union government’s Transaction of Business Rules, which allows for revocation of President’s Rule without Cabinet approval if the Prime Minister “deems it necessary”.

Rule 12

  • Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961, allows the PM to depart from laid down norms at his discretion.
  • Titled “Departure from Rules”, Rule 12 says, the Prime Minister may, in case or classes of cases permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.
  • The Cabinet can subsequently give post-facto approval for any decision taken under Rule 12.

Under what circumstances is Rule 12 used?

  • Rule 12 is usually not used to arrive at major decisions by the government.
  • However, it has been used in matters such as the withdrawal of an office memorandum or signing of MoUs in the past.
  • The last big decision taken through the invocation of Rule 12 was re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on October 31.
  • The proclamations issued by the President that day, dividing various districts between the two Union Territories, were issued under Rule 12.
  • The Cabinet gave post-facto approval to the same on November 20.

So, what happened in the case of Maharashtra?

  • At 5.47 am on Saturday, the notification revoking President’s Rule was published in the government gazette.
  • This indicated that the notification was actually signed by the President at some point earlier than that time.
  • At 7.50 am, the new chief minister and deputy chief minister were sworn in.

Why it’s controversial?

  • The invocation of Rule 12 appears to indicate that even top leaders of the union cabinet were not aware of the impending move.
  • Many top ministers were, in fact, out of Delhi, and were not available for a Cabinet meeting.

Back2Basics

Explained: President’s Rule in Maharashtra

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Golden Rice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden rice, Fortified rice

Mains level : Malnutrition elimination strategies



News

Bangladesh is set to becoming the first country to approve plantation of Golden Rice variety to counter Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice

  • In the late 1990s, German scientists developed a genetically modified variety of rice called Golden Rice.
  • It is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
  • It differs from its parental strain by the addition of three beta-carotene biosynthesis genes.
  • The parental strain can naturally produce beta-carotene in its leaves, where it is involved in photosynthesis.

Why golden rice?

  • Golden Rice is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
  • It was claimed to be able to fight Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of blindness among children and can also lead to death due to infectious diseases such as measles.
  • Rice is naturally low in the pigment beta-carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. Golden rice contains this, which is the reason for its golden colour.
  • The claim has sometimes been contested over the years, with a 2016 study from Washington University in St Louis reporting that the variety may fall short of what it is supposed to achieve.

Why in Bangladesh?

  • Advocates of the variety stress how it can help countries where Vitamin A deficiencies leave millions at high risk.
  • In Bangladesh, over 21 per cent of the children have vitamin A deficiency.
  • The Golden Rice that is being reviewed in Bangladesh is developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
  • According to the institute, this rice variety will not be more expensive than the conventional variety.
Tribes in News

Jing kieng jri (Living root bridges)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jing kieng jri (Living root bridges)

Mains level : Future botanical architecture projects in urban areas



News

  • A new research investigates the living root bridges structures and proposes to integrate them in modern architecture around the world, and potentially help make cities more environment-friendly.

Living root bridges

  • The jing kieng jri or living root bridges — aerial bridges built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree — have been serving as connectors for generations in Meghalaya.
  • Spanning between 15 and 250 feet and built over centuries, the living roots bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers.

Making of a root bridge

  • A root bridge uses traditional tribal knowledge to train roots of the Indian rubber tree, found in abundance in the area, to grow laterally across a stream bed, resulting in a living bridge of roots.
  • These bridges can be redefined as ecosystems as the process begins with placing of young pliable aerial roots growing from Ficus elastica (India rubber) trees in hollowed out Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks.
  • These provide essential nutrition and protection from the weather, and also perform as aerial root guidance systems.
  • Over time, as the aerial roots increase in strength and thickness, the Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks are no longer required.

Why Ficus elastica ?

  • Ficus elastica is conducive to the growth of bridges because of its very nature.
  • There are three main properties: they are elastic, the roots easily combine and the plants grow in rough, rocky soils.

Architectural scope

  • Researchers from Germany investigated 77 bridges over three expeditions in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya during 2015, 2016 and 2017.
  • The study suggests that the bridges can be considered a reference point for future botanical architecture projects in urban contexts.
  • The traditional techniques of the Khasi people can promote the further development of modern architecture.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Osmosis, TDS

Mains level : Drinking water crisis in India



News

  • The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with a NGT order and asked the Association of RO manufacturers to approach the Centre with its grievances.
  • The NGT had passed an order prohibiting the use of RO purifiers when Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in water are below 500 mg per litre.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

  • TDS is made up of inorganic salts as well as small amounts of organic matter.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, TDS levels below 300 mg per litre are considered excellent, while 900 mg per litre is said to be poor and above 1,200 mg is unacceptable.
  • The top court directed the government to regulate the use of purifiers and also passed directions to sensitise the public about the ill-effects of demineralised water.
  • During the hearing, the counsel representing the Association referred to a recent BIS report on standards of water and said it points to the presence of heavy metals in Delhi’s groundwater.

Explained: Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis

  • Osmosis is a phenomenon where pure water flows from a dilute solution through a semi permeable membrane to a higher concentrated solution.
  • Semi permeable means that the membrane will allow small molecules and ions to pass through it but acts as a barrier to larger molecules or dissolved substances.
  • As water passes through the membrane to the salt solution, the level of liquid in the saltwater compartment will rise until enough pressure, caused by the difference in levels between the two compartments, is generated to stop the osmosis.
  • This pressure, equivalent to a force that the osmosis seems to exert in trying to equalize concentrations on both sides of the membrane, is called osmotic pressure.
  • If pressure greater than the osmotic pressure is applied to the high concentration the direction of water flow through the membrane can be reversed.
  • This is called reverse osmosis Note that this reversed flow produces pure water from the salt solution, since the membrane is not permeable to salt.
Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Excavations at Karim Shahi region, Kutch

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various facts associated with IVC, Dark Age

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

A recent study has revealed that a large river once flew across the Great Rann of Kachchh and the sand hills of Thar Desert.

Karim Shahi region

  • The items collected from the Karim Shahi region revealed that humans occupied that region from Early Iron Age to the Early Historic (3,100 – 2,300 years) period.
  • This period was considered to be archaeologically silent and was often marked as ‘Dark Age’ as there was no evidence of settlements.

Possible migrants from IVC

  • The Bronze age Indus Valley civilization started declining around 4,000 years and finally collapsed at 3,300 years before present.
  • After that they might have learned iron smelting which needed better skills yet no large scale organised cities have been found during the Iron Age.
  • At another site called Vigakot, the team also found evidence of Historic to Medieval (about 1,500 – 900 years old) settlement.
  • The geological explorations has found artefacts like pitchers, jewellery, jars, figurines.
  • Using modern luminescence and radiocarbon methods, the team tried to date them, which revealed that these items were the earliest to be found in the presently arid Rann of Kutch and the Thar Desert.

Who were these people?

  • The Karim Shahi region was found to be very close to sea-level and based on the artefacts collected it has been pointed out that this region could have been a local trade center.
  • The people are believed to have traded jewellery and pottery.
  • Also, Chinese and Persian pottery were found at the Vigakot site indicating that it was a hub for a long-distance trade both through sea and land from China through India to West Asia.

But how did settlements continue in presently arid landscape?

  • Monsoon was declining from about 7,000 years ago and this climate change was already causing an exodus.
  • Harappan people already adopted water conservation techniques in their own ways. But the migration perhaps continued beyond, from Early Iron Age till medieval time.
  • Sedimentological observation revealed that below these settlements, there was evidence of riverine system.
  • Carbon isotopes and pollens in these sediments revealed that there was gradual increase in grasslands and plant communities that thrive in arid environments.
  • Data suggested that aridification continued and people inhabited wherever some rainfall or river system existed. And all these happened probably due to natural monsoon decrease.
Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Quid pro quo

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quid pro quo

Mains level : Impeachment of US President


News

As the dramatic proceedings to impeach Trump unfold in the United States Congress, one expression that has been heard over and over again is “quid pro quo”.

Quid pro quo

  • Quid pro quo, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “something given or received for something else”.
  • In the 1500s in England, it was often used in the sense of apothecaries substituting one medicine for the other, by accident or design.
  • It has also been part of trade lexicon as a term for the barter system.
  • Quid pro quo, like many Latin phrases, made its way into legal terminology, where it is now used to imply a mutually beneficial deal between two parties.
  • In political contexts, like the one involving Trump currently, it is often seen as an essential requirement to suggest or establish corruption, wrongdoing, or impropriety.

New political map of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Survey of India

Mains level : Political boudaries of India



News

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued an advisory to all private satellite television channels to only use the latest political map released by Survey of India.

About Survey of India

  • The Survey of India is India’s central engineering agency in charge of mapping and surveying.
  • First modern scientific survey of India” was undertaken by W. Mather in 1793–96 on instructions of Superintendent of Salem and Baramahal (TN), Col. Alexander Read.
  • Set up in 1767 to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company, it is one of the oldest Engineering Departments of the GoI.
  • Its members are from Survey of India Service cadre of Civil Services of India and Army Officers from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.
  • It is headed by the Surveyor General of India. At present, Survey of India is headed by Lt Gen Girish Kumar, VSM.

Responsibilities

  • Advisor to Govt: Survey of India acts as adviser to the Government of India on all cartography of India related matters, such as geodesy, mapping and map reproduction.
  • Geo names: It is responsible for the naming convention and spellings of names of geographical features of India.
  • Certification and publication: Scrutiny and certification of external boundaries of India and Coastline on maps published by the other agencies including private publishers.
  • Surveys: geodetic datum, geodetic control network, topographical control, geophysical surveys, cadastral surveying, geologic maps, aeronautical charts within India, such as for forests, army cantonments, large scale cities, guide maps, developmental or conservation projects, etc.
  • National borders: Demarcation of the borders and external boundaries of India as well as advice on the demarcation of inter-state boundaries.

What’s new in the recent map?

  • On the creation of two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh on October 31, the new political map of the country has been released on November 2.
  • The new map was released by the central government on November 2 with Ladakh consisting of two districts — Kargil and Leh, while the rest is the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019

Mains level : Significance of the Bill



News

The Union Cabinet has approved The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019.

The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019

  • It proposes to amalgamate
  1. The Trade Unions Act, 1926,
  2. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and
  3. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • This is the third Code in the government’s proposed codification of central labour laws into four Codes.

Importance of the Bill

  • The most important aspect of the Bill is that it presents the legal framework for ushering in the concept of ‘fixed-term employment’ through contract workers on a pan-India basis.
  • Currently, companies hire contract workers through contractors.
  • With the introduction of fixed-term employment, they will be able to hire workers directly under a fixed-term contract, with the flexibility to tweak the length of the contract based on the seasonality of industry.
  • These workers will be treated on a par with regular workers during the tenure of the contract.
  • The move to include it in a central law will help in wider reach, and states are expected to follow similar applicability.

Changes in the Bill

  • The threshold required for government permission for retrenchment has been kept unchanged at 100 employees, as against the proposal for 300 employees in an earlier draft of the Bill, which was opposed by trade unions.
  • Instead, the government has now provided flexibility for changing the threshold through notification.
  • The rigidity of labour laws about laying off labour has often been cited by industry as the main reason limiting scalability and employment generation.
  • At present, any company having 100 workers or more has to seek government approval for retrenchment.
  • The provision of fixed-term employment, which helps in the flow of social security benefits to all workers along with making it easier for companies to hire and fire, in The Industrial Relations Code Bill.

Fixed Term Employment Workman

  • Earlier the government had included the category of ‘Fixed Term Employment Workman’ for all sectors in the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  • This was only applicable to ‘central sphere’ establishments, and the states did not follow suit.
  • Finance Minister saif that workers under a fixed-term contract would be taken up depending upon the seasonality of the industry, but would be treated on a par with regular workers.

Criticisms of the bill

  • The unclear provision regarding retrenchment would lead to uncertainty, and discretionary behaviour during implementation by the central or state government.
  • The moment the law will provide flexibility for the applicability, it leaves the matter to the discretion to the appropriate government (states or Centre). Then the clause can be misused.
  • Any discretion in law leads to uncertainty, lack of clarity, discriminatory implementation, and provides scope for unnecessary usage.
  • The government should be clear whether to increase the threshold or retain the threshold and face the consequences.
  • Also, fixed-term employment needs to be introduced with adequate safeguards, otherwise it runs the risk of encouraging conversion of permanent employment into fixed-term employment.
Intellectual Property Rights in India

Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Performing Right Society

Mains level : Civil socities and their functioning in India


News

  • The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police has registered an FIR against a film producer others for alleged criminal breach of trust and failure of payment.
  • The FIR was registered on a complaint by the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS). This is the first criminal case initiated by the IPRS after it was re-registered as a copyright society in 2017.

Indian Performing Right Society

  • The IPRS is a representative body of artists, including music owners, composers, lyricists, and publishers of music.
  • It collects royalties due to the artists if their work is used anywhere from a wedding to a New Year function or on radio or TV — in other words, wherever music is played.
  • The body was set up in 1969, and re-registered as a copyright society in 2017, following which it started functioning actively.
  • The IPRS has its offices in Mumbai, and lyricist Javed Akhtar is its chairman.

Functioning

  • A 2012 amendment in The Copyright Act, 1957 laid down that artists would get 50% of royalties every time their work was used, even if the copyright remained with the production house or the music brand.
  • It meant that every time a song was played in, say, a large party in a hotel or by a radio station, or streamed or even used as a mobile phone ringtone, 50% of the royalty would go to the production house or music company.
  • The other 50% would be split between the lyricist and composer of the song.
  • The IPRS is responsible for collecting the 50% royalty that is due to artists involved in “literary work accompanied to music” — meaning lyricists, music composers, and publishers of music.
  • While even individual artists can theoretically approach the users of their work directly, it is likely to be a difficult and long drawn-out process.
  • As members of IPRS, they have better infrastructure at their disposal to press their claim and collect the money due to them.

How does the process of licensing with the IPRS work?

  • The IPRS has a database of around 10 million songs, including Indian and international numbers, for which it collects royalty.
  • If cases of big events, the IPRS generally approach the organizers beforehand to inform them about the licensing required to play the songs of artists who are registered with them.
  • Most online streaming platforms are registered with IPRS, and licensed to use the artists’ songs.
  • After being re-registered as a copyright society in 2017 under the amended Copyright Act, the IPRS sent letters to all media platforms, asking them to ensure that artists are paid 50% of the royalty as per the Act.
History- Important places, persons in news

Lutyens’ Delhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lutyen's Delhi

Mains level : British architecture in India



News

The Central government has kick-started its ambitious plan of redeveloping the three-km-long Central Vista and Parliament.

Lutyens’ Delhi

  • Lutyens’ Delhi is an area in New Delhi, India, named after the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944), who was responsible for much of the architectural design and building during 1920s and 1940s.
  • This also includes the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ).
  • Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of Delhi, designed 4 bungalows in the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate, (Viceroy House Estate); now, these bungalows lie on the Mother Teresa Crescent (then Willingdon Crescent).
  • Sir Herbert Baker, who also designed with the Secretariat Buildings (North and South Block), designed bungalows on the then King George’s Avenue (south of the Secretariats) for high-ranking officials.
  • Other members of the team of architects were Robert Tor Russell, who built Connaught Place, the Eastern and Western Courts on Janpath, Teen Murti House, etc.
  • It is on the 2002 World Monuments Watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites made by World Monuments Fund, a heritage organization based in New York.

Why redevelop the area?

  • The British built Parliament House and the North and South Blocks, which contain the offices of the Ministries of Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs, between 1911 and 1931.
  • Post-1947, the government of independent India added office buildings such as Shastri Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan and Nirman Bhavan.
  • While the British-built buildings are not earthquake-proof, the buildings that came up after 1947 are prone to fires.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Explained: Why is it necessary to fix a minimum wage?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Code on Wages, 2019

Mains level : Minimum Wages


News

The Ministry of Labour and Employment on November 1 published the draft rules for implementing the provisions and sought comments from stakeholders until Dec 1.

The Code on Wages, 2019

  • The code seeks to regulate wages and bonuses for all workers employed by any industry, trade, business or manufacturer.
  • The Code replaces four laws — the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  • Following the consultation, the Centre will notify the rules that will create the mechanisms to fix a floor wage that would then undergird the minimum wages for different categories of workers — unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled — that the States and Central government would have to set and enforce.

Why need minimum wages?

  • Minimum wages are accepted globally to be a vital means to both combating poverty and, equally crucially, ensuring the vibrancy of any economy.
  • In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, the purchasing power worldwide got eroded.
  • Thus the regular adjustment of wages, in consultation with the social partners is a means of reducing inequality, increasing demand and contributing to economic stability.

Why is the Code significant?

  • The Code acknowledges that the aim in setting the floor wage is to ensure “minimum living standards” for workers and the draft rules incorporate criteria declared in a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in 1992.
  • These include:
  1. Net calorific needs for a working class family (defined as the earning worker, spouse and two children or the equivalent of three adult consumption units) set at 2,700 calories per day per consumption unit,
  2. Annual clothing requirements at 66 metres per family,
  3. House rent expenses assumed at 10% of food and clothing expenditure, as well as expenses on children’s education, medical needs, recreation and contingencies.
  • The rules, similarly, cover almost the entire gamut of wage-related norms including the number of hours of work that would constitute a normal working day time interval for revision of dearness allowance, night shifts and overtime and criteria for making deductions.
  • A separate chapter of the draft rules also deals with the payment of bonus while another lays down the guidelines for the formation of the Central Advisory Board as well as its functioning.

How will it impact the economy?

  • A lot will depend on the final floor wage or wages (there could be different floor wages for different geographical areas) that the Centre will choose.
  • The Labour Ministry had in February this year recommended that a “need based national minimum wage for India” ought to be fixed at ₹375 per day (₹9,750 per month).
  • Additionally, the committee had mooted payment of a city compensatory allowance averaging up to ₹55 per day for urban workers.
  • Earlier, in 2015, the Seventh Central Pay Commission had recommended setting the minimum pay for government employees at ₹18,000 per month.
  • Such a statutory national minimum wage would have multiple impacts including helping lift wage levels and reducing wage inequality, thus furthering inclusive growth, according to the survey.
  • For India to reap the much-touted ‘demographic dividend’, robust wage expansion would ultimately be essential to help buoy consumption-led economic growth.

Way forward

  • Trade unions have voiced their reservations with multiple aspects of the Code and plan to submit detailed feedback.
  • The points of contention include the nine-hour working day definition, a lack of clarity in the rules on scope for upgradation of workers’ skill category and the lack of representation for trade unions in the wage fixation committee.
  • The ultimate success of the Code will be determined by the extent to which the minimum wage set is both fair and actually implemented so as to benefit the millions of workers in the unorganised sectors of the economy.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Eco-anxiety

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eco-anxiety

Mains level : Environmentalism: Prospects and Challenges



Context

This newscard is inspired by an article published in The Hindu.

Eco-anxiety

  • Eco-anxiety is anxiety about ecological disasters and threats to the natural environment such as pollution and climate change.
  • Variations to the definition exist such as the broader description explaining it as the “worry or agitation caused by concerns about the present and future state of the environment.”
  • It is the helplessness that makes us see ourselves as just one insignificant entity on the planet, unable to reverse the crisis.
  • It is also the sense that no matter how hard we work, nothing will ever be enough.
  • We know the deteriorating climate is affecting our health or our child’s but you do not know how you can stop it.

A new global epidemic

  • Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who started the school strike for climate, warned to be extremely concerned about the matter: “…I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.
  • When she was younger, she fell into a depression and she has claimed that this was because of her worries about climate change.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Avian Botulism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avian Botulism

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India



News

On November 10, visitors at Sambhar Lake, India’s largest inland saltwater lake located about 80 km southwest of Jaipur, spotted a very large number of dead birds.

Why and how did these birds die?

  • Nearly 10 days into the tragedy, the government is yet to determine the cause of the deaths.
  • The investigation so far points to Avian Botulism — a paralytic, frequently fatal disease caused by the ingestion of toxins — as a possible cause.
  • This has not, however, been officially confirmed.
  • After studying bird samples and on the basis of history, epidemiological observations, classical clinical symptoms and post-mortem findings, the most probable diagnosis is avian botulism.
  • The clinical signs exhibited by affected birds included dullness, depression, anorexia, flaccid paralysis in legs and wings, and neck touching the ground.
  • The birds were unable to walk, swim, or take flight. There was no rise of body temperature, no nasal discharge, no respiratory distress or any other sign.

Other possible reasons

  • After a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court took cognizance of the bird deaths, the Rajasthan government listed four likely reasons.
  1. Viral infection
  2. Toxicity, as new area has been filled up after almost 20 years, and there could be higher concentration of salts along the edges
  3. Bacteriological infection
  4. Higher temperature and high water levels due to good monsoon might have led to an increase in intra-species and inter-species competition for resources.
  • The weaker individuals, exhausted from the long journey, perhaps were unable to compete, and may have succumbed to stress emanating from the shortage of food, susceptibility to disease/pollutants/toxins and other habitat-related factors in the wintering grounds.
  • In such an eventuality, it is expected that with fall of temperature and lowering of water levels, the incidence of such mortality will go down.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Space Internet

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Starlink network

Mains level : Concept of Space internet



News

The SpaceX, the world’s leading private company in space technology, last week fired a spray of 60 satellites into orbit. Following last week’s launch, the company has now deployed 122 satellites in orbit with a target of 12000 in all.

Space Internet

  • SpaceX announced the satellite Internet constellation in January 2015, and launched two test satellites in February 2018.
  • The Starlink network, as the project is called, is one of several ongoing efforts to start beaming data signals from space, and also the most ambitious.
  • This launch is the first operational batch of what is intended to eventually evolve into a constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites.
  • They are aimed at providing low-cost and reliable space-based Internet services to the world.

Why Space internet services?

  • This is mainly to ensure that reliable and uninterrupted Internet services is ensured across the world
  • Currently, about 4 billion people, more than half the world’s population, do not have access to reliable Internet networks.
  • And that is because the traditional ways to deliver the Internet — fibre-optic cables or wireless networks — cannot take it everywhere on Earth.
  • In many remote areas, or places with difficult terrain, it is not feasible or viable to set up cables or mobile towers.
  • Signals from satellites in space can overcome this obstacle easily.

Orbital Details

  • Space-based Internet systems have, in fact, been in use for several years now — but only for a small number of users.
  • Also, most of the existing systems use satellites in geostationary orbit.
  • This orbit is located at a height of 35,786 km over the Earth’s surface, directly above the Equator.
  • Satellites in this orbit move at speeds of about 11,000 km per hour, and complete one revolution of the Earth in the same time that the earth rotates once on its axis.
  • To the observer on the ground, therefore, a satellite in geostationary orbit appears stationary.
  • Owing to their lower height, their signals cover a relatively small area. As a result, many more satellites are needed in order to reach signals to every part of the planet.
  • Additionally, satellites in these orbits travel at more than double the speed of satellites in geostationary orbit — about 27,000 km per hour — to balance the effects of gravity.

So how will placing satellites in lower orbits help?

  • One big advantage of beaming signals from geostationary orbit is that the satellite can cover a very large part of the Earth.
  • Signals from one satellite can cover roughly a third of the planet — and three to four satellites would be enough to cover the entire Earth.
  • Also, because they appear to be stationary, it is easier to link to them.
  • But satellites in geostationary orbit also have a major disadvantage. The Internet is all about transmission of data in (nearly) real time.
  • However, there is a time lag — called latency — between a user seeking data, and the server sending that data.
  • And because data transfers cannot happen faster than the speed of light (in reality, they take place at significantly lower speeds), the longer the distance that needs to be covered the greater is the time lag, or latency.

Limitations

  • Three issues have been flagged — increased space debris, increased risk of collisions, and the concern of astronomers that these constellations of space Internet satellites will make it difficult to observe other space objects, and to detect their signals.
  • To put things in perspective, there are fewer than 2,000 operational satellites at present, and fewer than 9,000 satellites have been launched into space since the beginning of the Space Age in 1957.
  • Most of the operational satellites are located in the lower orbits.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) this year had to perform, for the first time ever, a “collision avoidance manoeuvre” to protect one of its live satellites from colliding with a “mega constellation”.
Citizenship and Related Issues

Back in debate: The Citizenship Amendment Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship in India

Mains level : Demographic changes due to illegal migration in India


News

The government intends to introduce The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament’s ongoing Winter Session.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
  • In other words, the Bill intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  • The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, a person who is born in India, or has Indian parentage, or has resided in India over a specified period of time, is eligible for Indian citizenship.

Illegal migrants

  • Illegal migrants cannot become Indian citizens in accordance with the present laws.
  • Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
  • Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.

Non-Muslim migrants aren’t illegal!

  • However, in 2015 and 2016, the government exempted specified groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts.
  • They were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • This meant that these particular categories of illegal migrants would not be deported or jailed for being in India without valid documents.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Parliament to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955, so that these people could be made eligible for citizenship of India.

What happened with the Bill?

  • The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.
  • With the 16th Lok Sabha nearing the end of its term, the government was racing against time to introduce it in Rajya Sabha.
  • However, massive protests against the Bill in the Northeast acted to restrain the government, and Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on February 13, 2019, without the Bill being tabled.
  • According to Parliamentary procedures, all Bills that have been passed by Lok Sabha but not by Rajya Sabha lapse when the term of Lok Sabha ends.

What is the controversy around the Bill?

  • The fundamental criticism of the Bill has been that it specifically targets Muslims.
  • Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • The government, however, maintains that the Bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.
  • In the NE states, the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties, including fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Outreach of the Maternity schemes in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMMVY

Mains level : Maternity benefits in India



News

The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) scheme has been able to reach less than a third of the eligible beneficiaries reveals RTI Act.

About PMMVY

  • The PMMVY is targeted only at women delivering their first child.
  • A cash amount of ₹6,000 is transferred to the bank account of the beneficiary in three instalments upon meeting certain conditions.
  • These include early registration of pregnancy, having at least one ante-natal check-up and registration of childbirth.

Outreach of PMMVY

  • PMMVY is a vital programme to support lactating mothers and pregnant women by compensating them for loss of wages during their pregnancy
  • Almost 61% of beneficiaries registered under the between April 2018 and July 2019 (38.3 lakh out of the total 62.8 lakh enrolled) received the full amount of ₹6,000 promised under the scheme, according to an RTI reply.
  • However, the researchers assert that since the scheme failed to reach at least 49% of all mothers who would have delivered their first child (an estimated total of 123 lakh for 2017), the scheme was able to benefit only 31% of its intended beneficiaries.

Why such low outreach?

  • Several factors impeded proper implementation of the programme that aims to fight malnutrition among children.
  • These include an application form of about 23 pages, a slew of documents such as mother-child protection card, Aadhaar card, husband’s Aadhaar card and bank passbook aside from linking their bank accounts with Aadhaar.
  • The requirement to produce the husband’s Aadhaar card results in excluding women who may be living with men they are not married to, single mothers and those who may be staying at their natal home.
  • Women must also have the address of their marital home on their Aadhaar card, which often results in newlyweds being either left out or forced to go from door-to-door when pregnant and needing rest and care.