Insights Daily Current Affairs, 10 March 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in the Parliament
The Lok Sabha has passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill had already been passed by the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session.
The Bill seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to provide for the following:
- Maternity leave available to the working women to be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.
- Maternity leave for children beyond the first two will continue to be 12 weeks.
- Maternity leave of 12 weeks to be available to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to the “commissioning mothers”. The commissioning mother has been defined as biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo planted in any other woman.
- Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crèche facilities for working mothers and such mothers will be permitted to make four visits during working hours to look after and feed the child in the crèche.
- The employer may permit a woman to work from home if it is possible to do so.
- Every establishment will be required to make these benefits available to the women from the time of her appointment.
The amendments in the Bill were taken up following the request by the WCD Minister to the Hon’ble Labour Minister to bring about these changes so that a working woman gets time to exclusively breast-feed her child for 6 months after the birth. This period also enables the working mother to recuperate herself before she goes to back to work. In her communication to the Labour Ministry, the WCD Minister had also highlighted the concerns of commissioning and adopting mothers who also require maternity leave.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Ministry of Railways and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed Letters of Intent(LOI) on Environment Initiatives
Ministry of Railways signed a LETTER OF INTENT (LOI) with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to formalise the joint cooperation in the area of environmental conservation.
The focussed areas identified for joint activities would be to:
- Collaborate in Formulating Specific Roadmap for achieving 20% reduction in Water consumption at Railway establishments.
- Collaborate in the development of a Draft action plan for establishing waste management centres at major stations on Indian Railways.
- Collaborate in the development of a Draft action plan for Indian Railways on sustainable public procurement for green technology.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is an agency of United Nations and coordinates its environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972 and has its headquarters in the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya.
- UNEP has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies but talks on addressing global warming are overseen by the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
- UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.
- The World Meteorological Organization and UNEP established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UNEP is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.
- The International Cyanide Management Code, a program of best practice for the chemical’s use at gold mining operations, was developed under UNEP’s aegis.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India and Belgium sign Protocol amending the India-Belgium Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Protocol
India and Belgium have signed a Protocol amending the existing Agreement and Protocol between the two countries for Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income.
Significance of this move:
The Protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information. This in turn will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance between the two countries and will also enable mutual assistance in collection of taxes.
Fighting the menace of Black Money stashed in offshore accounts has been a key priority area for the Government. To further this goal, India has either signed or amended international agreements, declarations or conventions for the Avoidance of Double Taxation & Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and for the Exchange of Information with Switzerland, Mauritius, Cyprus, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Austria during the financial year 2016-17.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Funds to Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK)
Rural Electric Corporation (REC) Limited has contributed Rs. 25 crores towards SBK as part of REC’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- REC has also contributed Rs. 25 Crore towards this noble cause earlier in August 2016, thus making a total contribution of Rs. 50 Crore to the Kosh.
The SBK was set up to attract CSR funds from corporate sector and contribution from individual philanthropists to achieve the objective of Clean India (Swachh Bharat) through “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” by the year 2019, the 150th year of birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The SBK is to be used to achieve the objective of improving cleanliness levels in rural and urban areas, including in schools. The allocation from the SBK is being used to supplement departmental resources for such activities. All donations towards Swachh Bharat Kosh are eligible for deduction of 100% from the total Income Tax. The contributions to SBK can also be included by companies towards CSR under the Companies Act, 2013.
Rural Electric Corporation (REC) Limited is an enterprise of the Government of India under the Ministry of Power, mandated to provide financing for the power sector development across the value chain in the field of generation, transmission, distribution and above all, renewable energy development. REC is the coordinating agency for implementing flagship programs of the government in power sector that include Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana scheme, the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) programme and several other initiatives of the government to ensure “Power for All”.
Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Centre to Launch Pilot Project on Ornamental Fisheries with total outlay of Rs. 61.89 crore
Recognizing the potential and scope of ornamental fisheries, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, has envisaged a program to unlock the country’s ornamental fisheries sector through a special drive by launching a pilot scheme for the development of ornamental fisheries with a total outlay of Rs. 61.89 crore.
The major objectives of the pilot project are:
- To promote ornamental fish culture with cluster-based approach.
- To augment ornamental fisheries trade and export earnings.
- To create employment opportunities for the rural & periurban population.
- Use of modern technology and innovation to make ornamental fisheries a thriving activity.
- Implementation of the pilot-scale Ornamental Fisheries Project focuses mainly on creating an enabling environment for a sustainable and holistic development of Ornamental Fisheries for the socio-economic development of the people involved in this activity as well as for exports.
- The thrust areas have been identified for enhancing ornamental fisheries production through cluster-based farming and conservation of natural resources, both inland and marine, through habitat restoration and creating awareness amongst the stakeholders.
Implementation of the project:
The pilot project on ornamental fisheries shall be implemented by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) through the Fisheries Departments of States/UTs.
- For the purpose of implementation of the pilot project, a total of 8 potential States have been identified, viz., Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- All the activities under the pilot project are classified in to four major groups, viz., (a) activities related to production of ornamental fish, e.g. setting up of backyard rearing units, medium scale units, integrated breeding-cum-rearing units, etc., (b) activities related to aquarium fabrication, trade and marketing; (c) activities for promotion of ornamental fisheries sector, and (d) activities related to skill development and capacity building.
The broad funding patterns proposed under the pilot project on ornamental fisheries are in line with the funding patterns under CSS Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries. The financial resources required to meet the Central Govt. liability towards implementation of the proposed pilot project on development of ornamental fisheries shall also be mobilized through dovetailing of funds under other schemes implemented in the GoI, in a convergence mode, wherever feasible.
Ornamental fishery is a sub-sector of the fisheries sector dealing with breeding and rearing of coloured fish of both freshwater and marine water. Though ornamental fisheries does not directly contribute to the food and nutritional security, it generates livelihood and income for the rural and periurban population, especially women and unemployed youth as part-time activities. The ornamental fish industry in India is small but vibrant, with potential for tremendous growth. The low production cost and high returns within a short span of time and the ever growing demand, both in domestic and international markets, etc. are the major attractions. About 400 species of marine ornamental fishes and 375 freshwater ornamental varieties are available in various parts of our country.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Centre issues draft rules on e-wallet payments
In a bid to make transactions through e-wallets safer and strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism for consumers, government has released a set of guidelines for wallet firms.
The draft Information Technology (Security of Prepaid Payment Instruments) Rules 2017 which have been released for public consultation by the ministry of electronics and IT cover an entire spectrum such as protecting consumer information, especially financial data.
- It will also have to appoint a chief grievance officer, the contact details of whom will have to be prominently displayed on the website. The grievance officer will have to “act upon” any complaint within 36 hours and “close” it in a month’s time.
- The draft also mandate that companies have enough safeguards in place to avoid any hacking attacks and if there is one, it is to be swiftly reported to the government agencies.
- The guidelines say that the personal information of the customers will be treated under Section 72A of the Information Technology Act, and the financial data of the customer shall be deemed to be sensitive personal data under the “Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive.
- Every wallet has to ensure that end-to-end encryption is applied to safeguard the data exchanged and shall retain data relating to electronic payments only till necessary.
- The guideline also mandate that CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) shall notify the categories of incidents and breaches that are required to be reported to it mandatorily. CERT-In may require e-PPI issuers to notify customers of cyber security incidents or breaches if the incident or breach is likely to result in harm to the customers.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Commonwealth trade meet begins
An inaugural Commonwealth summit focused on stimulating trade within the group has begun in London. It is being attended by government trade representatives and business people.
The event involves a series of roundtable discussions between ministers from over 30 countries and chief executives, followed by a ministerial roundtable, which its organisers hope will kick start further action on strengthening cross-Commonwealth trade, ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in the U.K. next year.
The Commonwealth leadership is targeting an increase in intra-Commonwealth trade to $1 trillion by 2020, from $750 billion. Organisers of the trade summit are hopeful that a Commonwealth accord that recognises the benefits of trade within the block, and provides the framework for potential trade initiatives between groupings within it is achievable in the next couple of years.
The Commonwealth of Nations, at one time known as British Commonwealth, is an organisation of fifty three states that were principally below the colonial rule of British Government. They came into existence with the proclamation of sovereignty of the state from the colonial rule of British Empire and were later given self-governance.
- It proclaims that the Commonwealth nations are “free and equal.” The insignia of this Commonwealth Association is Queen Elizabeth II who is considered the Supreme of the Commonwealth nations.
- The member states of the commonwealth are not legally liable or bound to each other. They are rather united by language, history, culture, likeness of the democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
- Their values are listed down within the Commonwealth Charter and the hands of harmony towards the member states are extended by the Commonwealth Games held every four years.
- Former British mandates that did not become members of the Commonwealth are Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, British Palestine, Sudan, British Somaliland, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
India and the Commonwealth:
India is thought to be particularly well placed when it comes to taking a leading role in driving forward the Commonwealth growth, given that it along with the U.K. is one of the few Commonwealth nations that has established trade relations stretched across the globe, while many other Commonwealth members are regionally focused. In addition to providing opportunities to discuss trade with long-standing partners — including in Africa, where India has the established channel of the India-Africa Summit — Commonwealth summits provide an opportunity for India to converse with the smaller island states.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
No change in India’s stance on UNSC veto
India and other G4 countries have said that they are willing to consider temporarily suspending their veto rights when and if they are made permanent members of the UN Security Council.
- This change of heart is meant to hasten the process of making the G4 countries – India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – permanent members of the elite UN body sooner rather than later.
The G-4 have been seeking an expansion of the UNSC, where the five countries are permanent members reflecting the post World War II order in 1945. There are 15 members in the UNSC, five are permanent and 10 are elected for two-year terms.
Why UNSC reforms are required?
- Global politics has changed a lot – as regards its power, structure, rules, and norms since the formation of the UN. The world has witnessed a redistribution of power and emergence of new power centres, along with a transformation from the era of colonialism to that of post-colonial independent states. Existing membership and functioning of the UNSC reflects the realities of a bygone era.
- As a global institution to promote international peace and security, the UNSC is not responding to changes taking place in the world. The only change hitherto has been an increase in the number of non-permanent members in the UNSC from six to ten, that too as far back as 1965.
- Another criticism is that that the permanent panel in UNSC lacks representation from Africa and Latin America.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Minorities’ panel has no member
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM), formed to protect the interests of minority communities, is left with no member. The last member of the panel, Dadi E Mistri, a representative of the Parsi community, demitted office recently after completing his stipulated three-year term with the commission.
The government says the process of filling vacancies is on.
The NCM was set up under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis). Jain community was notified as a minority community in 2014.
- Besides NCM, 15 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam, which are home to sizeable minority populace, have set up commissions at their respective levels.
- Aggrieved persons belonging to the communities may approach the state minorities commissions concerned for redressal of their grievances or send their representations to the NCM after exhausting all avenues of remedies available.
- The functions of the state commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect the interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
NIO finds a new canyon system close to Kovvada coast
Scientists of CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Visakhapatnam are an ecstatic lot. They have found three new canyons forming a major canyon system in the depths of Bay of Bengal close to Kovvada in Srikakulam district.
Canyon systems are generally formed by flow of river water into the sea and they could be as old as the river system, which is close to 23 million years.
- The discovery of the new canyon system in the Bay of Bengal by the scientists of CSRI-NIO came five decades after another group of underwater canyons was found in the sixties.
- The new canyon systems were discovered between Viskhapatnam and a few kilometres north of Bheenumipatnam and they were named as Andhra after Andhra University, Mahadevan after Prof. Mahadeven, who is considered to be the father of Geology in India, and Krishna after the then Vice-Chancellor of AU Prof. V.S. Krishna.
- The new canyon system is very huge and probably formed by the river Kandivalasa. The depth of the canyon varies from about 90 metres from the starting point to about 2,500 metres at the deepest point, and it extends to about 50 to 70 km deep into the sea and the width varies from 50 metres to two km.
- As per the findings, the depth is more than the Grand Canyon, which is about 1,857 metres.
Significance of this discovery:
- Most of the canyons in the ocean system across the world act as channels for depositing sediments in the shelf region. The more the deposit, the more are the chances of finding hydro-carbons.
- The discovery of the canyon is not only a major breakthrough in underwater geological formations, but also gives us immense scope to study and explore new benthic ecosystem. The study of ecology and fauna and micro organisms will not only tell us about our past but also throw light on new science. The study of how organisms live and flourish at low oxygen level and high current system can lead us to understand human heart diseases better and help us develop new treatment system.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
INS Tillanchang commissioned at Karwar:
- INS Tillanchang, a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft (WJFAC) was recently commissioned into the Indian Navy.
- INS Tillanchang is the third ship of four follow-on WJFAC built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Kolkata. The first two ships of the class, IN ships Tarmugli and Tihayu were commissioned in 2016 and are based at Visakhapatnam.
- The ship has been indigenously designed and built and is an upgrade from the Chetlat class of Fast Attack Craft that the Indian Navy possesses.
- INS Tillanchang is about 50 m long and powered by three waterjet propulsion system, which give it speeds of over 35 knots. The ship is armed with a 30 mm main gun and a number of light, medium and heavy machine guns to undertake operations at sea.
- It is an ideal platform for a number of missions like Coastal and Off-shore Surveillance, EEZ Control, Law Enforcement as well as non-military missions such as Search and Rescue, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
- INS Tillanchang will be based at Karwar under the operational control of the Flag Officer Commanding, Karnataka Naval Area.
RV Sindhu Sankalp completes 100 expeditions:
- Research Vessel (RV) Sindhu Sankalp, the flagship research vessel of CSIR- National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), has completed 100 expeditions.
- The vessel, which was originally built as fishing training vessel ( FV Chisio Maru ) by the Japanese Government in 1989, was procured by NIO from Japan in 2008.
- The vessel sailed across Bay of Bengal, Andaman Seas and Arabian Sea and has provided invaluable data and samples to understand the ocean processes and mapping of sea floor and water column variables.
- Equipped with CTD system, multi-beam bathymetric system, echo-sounder and sub-bottom profiler, RV Sindhu Sankalp played a key role in conducting seabed geophysical and environmental surveys in KG Basin.