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INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS: 15 OCTOBER 2014

Standards Compliance for Consumer Products to be Monitored Strictly

The Government is working with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to introduce the regime of strict quality standards for consumer products and services. BIS Act will be amended soon with this propose.

Why is it required?

  • Indian products should meet international quality standards in all respects. Compliance to standards by industry will pave way for the success of recently launched ‘Make in India’ initiative by the Government.
  • The adoption of standards facilitates in providing a level playing field to all enterprises, helps them to overcome the technical gaps to reach global markets and to improve quality of life for all.
  • Govt. regulations are intended to provide fairness to all players to play by the same set of rules.
  • Standards provide practical tools for tackling many of today’s global challenges from managing global resources.

BIS is playing a committed role at National and International level by developing standards in tune with world trade and at the same time keeping in mind the requirements of our society for standardization.

About BIS:

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India. It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23 December 1986.

The organization was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI), set up under the Resolution of the then Department of Industries and Supplies. The ISI was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

BIS is a founder member of International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). It represents India in ISO, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the World Standards Service Network (WSSN).

Functions:

One of the major functions of the Bureau is the formulation, recognition and promotion of the Indian Standards covering important segments of economy, which help the industry in upgrading the quality of their products and services.

Product Certifications are to be obtained voluntarily. For some of the products like Milk powder, Drinking Water, LPG Cylinders, Thermometers etc., certification is mandatory as these products are concerned with health and safety.

All foreign manufacturers of products who intend to export to India are required to obtain a BIS product certification license. Towards this, BIS launched its Product Certification Scheme for overseas manufacturers in the year 1999. Under the provisions of this scheme, foreign manufacturers can seek certification from BIS for marking their product(s) with BIS Standard Mark. If or otherwise, the foreign manufacturer has not signed an MoU with BIS, it has to set up a liaison office in India with the permission of Reserve Bank of India. Otherwise, an authorized representative or agent needs to be appointed by the foreign firm.

Sources: PIB, Wiki, http://www.bis.org.in/.

skill development of urban poor

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) has convened a Conference of about one hundred leading employers for assessing their skilled manpower requirements so as to undertake necessary skill development programmes for urban poor under ‘Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY).’

Under DAY, the Ministry of HUPA intends to undertake skill development of five lakh urban poor per year based on identified market needs. An expenditure of up to Rs.15,000/-per person is admissible under the ‘Employment through Skills Training & Placement (EST&P)’ component of DAY. First phase of DAY in urban areas is to be implemented till 2016-17.

The meeting with leading employers, particularly, in manpower intensive sectors will help in identifying the different kinds of skills required by the different sectors, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Thereafter, Ministry of HUPA, in association with the states would plan for training and skill development programmes across the country.

For effective and time bound execution of quality training programmes, the Ministry of HUPA has signed a Memorandum of Undertaking (MoU) with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). As per the MoU, NSDC will assist in training of urban poor as per market needs. NSDC will also help in identification of beneficiaries besides certification of training programmes through 31 Sector Skill Councils (SSCs). SSCs are industry led bodies that define the Occupation Standards and curriculum for different training programmes.

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – DAY:

It is an overarching scheme for uplift of urban and rural poor through enhancement of livelihood opportunities through skill development and other means.

If India is to emerge as the manufacturing base to meet global needs, the only certain way is to empower every youth of the country with the necessary skills. Skill development has multiple outcomes including enhancing employment opportunities, stimulating economic growth and promoting self-worth of beneficiaries.

Under the urban component of DAY, focus will be on:

  • Imparting skills with an expenditure of Rs.15,000 – Rs.18,000 on each urban poor;
  • Promotion of self-employment through setting up individual micro-enterprises and group enterprises with interest subsidy for individual projects costing Rs.2.00 lakhs and Rs.10.00 lakhs for group enterprises. Subsidized interest rate will be 7%;
  • Training urban poor to meet the huge demand from urban citizens by imparting market oriented skills through City Livelihood Centres. Each Centre would be given a capital grant of Rs.10.00 lakhs.
  • Enabling urban poor form Self-Help Groups for meeting financial and social needs with a support of Rs.10,000/- per each group who would in turn would be helped with bank linkages;
  • Development of vendor markets besides promotion of skills of vendors; and
  • Construction of permanent shelters for urban homeless and provision of other essential services.

Sources: PIB.

Malnourishment declined sharply among children in India: survey

New provisional data from a survey conducted by the government and UNICEF shows that India’s proportion of children underweight fell from 45.1 per cent in 2005-06 to 30.1 per cent in 2013-14.

This makes the decline in one indicator of child undernourishment the sharpest in the 25 years.

Since 2005-06, there has been no new data on child and adult weights and heights, key in determining malnutrition, because of a delay in the National Family Health Survey, India’s official source of health data.

Ending what has been referred to as a “data drought,” these provisional numbers have significantly altered India’s position in global health indices. India’s ‘hunger’ status no longer ranks as “alarming” in the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index, but has instead been reclassified as “serious.”

In the last decade, India has improved its health status faster than other South Asian countries, the new data indicates, as opposed to the widespread belief that countries such as Bangladesh had done a better job on reducing malnutrition than India despite India’s faster economic growth.

IFPRI credits the government’s push to extend nutrition schemes like the Integrated Child Development Services along with better monitoring by a Supreme Court-appointed committee, improve access to health under the National Rural Health Mission, provide access to work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and strengthen the implementation of the Public Delivery System for subsidised grain.

India still has the highest number of underweight children under five in the world and 70% of children are anaemic. The proportion of undernourished people in the overall population has fallen from 21.5 per cent in 2004-06 to 17 per cent in 2011-13, according to IFPRI estimates. Moreover, State-wise differences are not yet known.

According to the survey, globally, two billion people are suffering from “hidden hunger”, a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diet.


Sources: The Hindu.

 

U.S. wins WTO case against India

In a setback, India lost a case filed by the U.S. in the WTO against restrictions it imposed on poultry imports from America.

Giving its ruling, the World Trade Organisation’s dispute panel said restrictions imposed by India on imports of poultry from America were “inconsistent” with international norms.

In March 2012, the U.S. dragged India to the WTO against India’s ban on imports of certain American farm products, including poultry meat and eggs. India had banned imports of various agricultural products from the U.S. in 2007, as a precautionary measure to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza in the country.

The ruling said that India’s Avian Influenza (AI) measures are inconsistent with several articles of the SPS [sanitary and phyto-sanitary) Agreement because they are not based on the relevant international standard.

SPS Agreement:

The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, also known as the SPS Agreement, is an international treaty of the World Trade Organization. It was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and entered into force with the establishment of the WTO at the beginning of 1995.

Under the SPS agreement, the WTO sets constraints on member-states’ policies relating to food safety (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection and labelling) as well as animal and plant health (phytosanitation) with respect to imported pests and diseases.

There are 3 standards organizations who set standards that WTO members should base their SPS methodologies on. They are the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Secreatariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

The SPS agreement is closely linked to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which was signed in the same year and has similar goals.

The SPS agreement gives the WTO the power to override a country’s use of the precautionary principle – a principle which allows them to act on the side of caution if there is no scientific certainty about potential threats to human health and the environment. Under SPS rules, the burden of proof is on countries to demonstrate scientifically that something is dangerous before it can be regulated.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://www.wto.org/.

 

New Bill for total ban on child labour

The proposed amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment (CLPRA) Bill will for the first time ban employment of children below 14 years in any occupation, bringing the law in consistency with the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. The Bill prohibits employment of adolescents aged 14-18 years in hazardous occupations.

The Bill will regulate conditions of work for adolescents, and of children working in audio-visual entertainment industry. In 1996, the Supreme Court had prescribed a penalty of Rs. 20,000 from employers and Rs. 5,000 from State government for every child worker rescued. This will now be introduced in law and indexed to price rise.

The 1986 law prohibits employing children only in certain occupations such as mines, work in hazardous process and with inflammable substances or explosives.

Minors working in middle class homes as domestic workers and those employed at hotels, dhabas were included as a category of child labourers only after an amendment in 2006.

The Standing Committee on Labour and Employment under D.S. Chauhan had in its report on CLPRA Bill, in December 2013, recommended that the Bill give details for regulation for prescribing the conditions of work for adolescents — criteria for wages, hours of work, settlement of disputes. This was incorporated. It had suggested that adolescents should have completed Class VIII before being allowed to join an occupation. It suggested the explicit exception in the Bill granted to children helping their family after school hours be deleted. Both suggestions were not accepted.

Despite the amendment, different Acts continue to define “child” differently. While the RTE Act 2009 and CLPRA 2012 define a child as 14-year-old, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 considers this to be 18 years.

Other provisions in the Bill:

  • The Bill enhances the punishment for employing any child in an occupation. It also includes penalty for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation.
  • The government may confer powers on a District Magistrate to ensure that the provisions of the law are properly carried out.
  • The Bill empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
  • The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Bill.
  • The penalty for employing an adolescent in hazardous occupation is imprisonment between 6 months and two years or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 or both.

 

Sources: The Hindu, prsindia.org.

India bans import of animal-tested cosmetics

Coming just a few months after implementation of a national ban on cruel cosmetics testing in India’s labs, the import ban now makes India the first cruelty-free cosmetics zone in South Asia and an example for other nations to follow.

The ban comes in the form of Rule 135-B that states, ” No cosmetic that has been tested on animals after the commencement of Drugs and Cosmetics (Fifth Amendment) Rules, 2014 shall be imported into the country.”

This is a huge achievement that could not have been possible without the compassion of government, consumers and industry. If this vision is applied to other areas of product testing, this can be a defining moment in the modernisation of India’s safety science, with potentially hundreds of thousands more animals spared of pain and suffering.

After intensive efforts by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has made this announcement that will save millions of animals from being blinded, poisoned and killed in cruel and useless tests for products sold to India’s billion plus population.

India’s dual test and import ban mirrors that of the European Union and is the latest victory in a string of achievements for the BeCrueltyFree campaign globally. Earlier this year BeCrueltyFree campaigners in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Taiwan and the United States have all celebrated the introduction of bills proposing national cosmetic animal test bans. Efforts by BeCrueltyFree China also resulted in China removing mandatory animal testing for many domestically-produced cosmetics.

Be Cruelty-Free India is part of the largest campaign in the world to end cosmetics animal testing. Globally there are Be Cruelty-Free campaigns in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan and the U.S.where the campaign is led by The Humane Society of the United States.

Sources: The Hindu, TOI.

J&K policewoman wins U.N. peacekeeper award

An inspector with the Jammu and Kashmir Police has bagged the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award 2014 instituted by the U.N. for her “exceptional achievements” while serving with the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.

It is a competitive award given to an outstanding female police peacekeeper serving in a U.N. peace operation.

Shakti Devi, 38, currently deployed in the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), was also cited for her efforts towards helping victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The award is instituted by the U.N. Police Division.

The U.N. communication said Ms. Devi has contributed to the improvement of the status of female police and has effectively helped the police of Afghanistan move towards achieving their goals of fully adopting democratic principles of policing.

Sources: The Hindu.

U.K. Commons votes in favour of Palestinian state

In a political development that will have enormous symbolic importance for the cause of Palestine, the British House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel.

Although it is the government and not the House of Commons that recognises states, the voting result at 274 to 12 will strengthen the moral case for Palestine internationally while simultaneously isolating Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestine.

The United Kingdom had not recognised the state of Palestine, and was one of the 41 countries that abstained from voting at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 when a majority voted to upgrade the status of Palestine to that of a ‘non-member observer state.’ Its current policy on Palestine “reserves the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

Sources: The Hindu.

New procuring model for e-governance apps from start-ups

The Kerala State government is mulling over the scope of introducing the Swiss challenge model for procuring e-governance application software from startups under its new Entrepreneurship and Innovation policy.

Swiss challenge is a public procurement model usually adopted by an agency or government whereby the bid for a product or service is published inviting third parties to match or exceed it.

As per the proposal, once a startup comes up with an e-governance application along with its cost, the government would invoke the Swiss challenge mode.

Under the new proposal if no other bidder comes forward, then the bid would go to the startup concerned. Even if a third party offers a bid, even then the startup would be given the opportunity to match it and win the bid. It’s a new thinking and would be a great encouragement to the young startups.

The new policy, the draft of which was completed last week, is also expected to give a fillip to m-governance initiative, as it would open up the possibility of government procuring mobile phone applications developed by young startups.

Swiss challenge system:

Swiss Challenge System is a bidding process to help private sector initiative in core sector projects. It’s an offer made by the original proponent to the government ensuring his process to be best (in terms of effectiveness including both the factors cost and time) by his initiative as a result of his own innovative approach or on the demand of the government to perform certain task.

The Swiss challenge system, like the bonus system, further allows third parties to make better offers (challenges) for a project during a designated period with simple objective to discourage frivolous project, or to avoid exaggerated project development costs. Then accordingly, the original proponent gets the right to counter-match any superior offers given by the third party.

The system basically works on two different patterns, it is up to the government to decide as to which one they want to adopt. The two main ways are as follows:

  • The government can either purchase the intellectual property rights for a project concept from the proponent or then award the project through a competitive bidding process in which no bidder has a predefined advantage.
  • The government can offer the original proponent an advantage in a competitive bidding process. In this case the government should create rewards that satisfy the original proponent while still allowing a truly competitive process.

 

There are various attributes, which the government takes into account while dealing with the Swiss challenge system it includes:

  • Offering cost reimbursement: Advantage of offering cost reimbursement maintains private sector interest during the development phase of an infrastructure project, helps to ensure that the source of ideas is not limited to large investors with deep pockets, and encourages proponents to allocate the resources needed to ensure that projects are professionally developed.
  • Setting time limits: Government often sets time limits on the approval and bidding phases. Time constraints on counterproposals give an obvious competitive advantage to the original project proponent.

However it has been observed that in both bonus and Swiss challenge systems it is not easy to find the right balance between incentives to propose beneficial projects and incentives for third parties to submit counter proposals.

The questions relating to legal validity of using the Swiss challenge system when a counterproposal contains different specifications than the original proposal was always being raised.

Finally system provides companies with considerable incentives to propose new ideas. If they are able to propose a sufficiently innovative idea there is likelihood that the company gets the contract. The system allows a competitive platform for every one and at the same time, it protects the government from making expensive mistakes if the idea is not specific to the originating company and other companies are able to provide the services at a lower price.

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p style=”text-align: right”>Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.