Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 July 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
E-commerce: RCEP nations talk details
Sixteen Asia Pacific nations, including India, are discussing in detail norms on e-commerce as part of negotiations on the proposed mega Free Trade Agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- Issues including digital certification, paperless trading, online consumer protection and customs duties in e-commerce have been identified for discussion.
- The discussions follow the setting up of a panel on e-commerce two years ago by RCEP countries in response to a Japanese proposal on easing foreign direct investment in the sector under which member countries would exchange best practices linked to online commerce.
Many RCEP nations including Australia, Japan and China, are pushing for inclusion of a host of elements for ‘Terms Of Reference’ for RCEP negotiations concerning e-commerce. This is with a view to have some binding commitments from the RCEP members on liberalising e-commerce and ensure that the final pact has a separate chapter on e-commerce.
India has been opposing binding norms on opening up the e-commerce sector at the level of RCEP as well as the global level (WTO) talks on grounds including that it (India) is yet to have a comprehensive national policy on the topic. It is also believed that such binding norms would harm development by diminishing policy space, some economists have warned. Also, experts fear RCEP talks could be used by developed countries to get an outcome at the WTO ministerial in Argentina later this year.
What you need to know about RCEP?
RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Supreme Court allows Centre to replace MCI oversight committee
The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to replace the oversight committee set up to supervise the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a fresh panel of five eminent doctors.
- It also gave the Centre liberty to replace any doctor in the list with another if he does not wish to be a part of the oversight committee.
The court had asked the Centre to constitute a panel which would replace the oversight committee set up last year by the apex court to oversee the MCI’s functioning till the government put in place an alternate mechanism. The committee, set up by the court on May 2 last year, was to function for a period of one year or till a suitable mechanism was brought in by the Centre to substitute it.
The MCI was established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933, as an elected body for maintaining the medical register and providing ethical oversight, with no specific role in medical education.
- The Amendment of 1956, however, mandated the MCI “to maintain uniform standards of medical education, both under graduate and postgraduate; recommend for recognition/de-recognition of medical qualifications of medical institutions of India or foreign countries; accord permanent registration/provisional registration of doctors with recognised medical qualifications; and ensure reciprocity with foreign countries in the matter of mutual recognition of medical qualifications.”
- The second amendment came in 1993, at a time when there was a new-found enthusiasm for private colleges. Under this amendment, the role of the MCI was reduced to an advisory body with the three critical functions of sanctioning medical colleges, approving the student intake, and approving any expansion of the intake capacity requiring prior approval of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Get real on Swachh
Despite the most stringent penal provisions in the law against manual scavenging, it continues in parts of India. The recent order of the Madras High Court asking the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to ensure the strict enforcement of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 points to the malaise.
Why manual scavenging still persists?
- Manual scavenging persists mainly because of the continued presence of insanitary latrines, of which there are about 2.6 million that require cleaning by hand.
- In spite of a legal obligation to do so, State governments are not keen to demolish and rebuild old facilities lacking sanitation, or conduct a full census of both the latrines and the people engaged in clearing such waste.
- Many communities still regard the inclusion of a sanitary toilet as ritual and physical pollution of the house, and even the less conservative are ready to accept only large, expensive and unscientific structures much bigger than those recommended by the WHO.
- More pernicious is the entrenched belief in the caste system, that assumes Dalits will readily perform the stigmatised task of emptying latrines. Clearly, the law on punishment exists only on paper.
- The Central government, which directly runs the self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of these workers, has also reduced funds from Rs. 448 crore in the 2014-15 budget to Rs. 5 crore this year. High allocation in the past has not meant substantial or effective utilisation.
What needs to be done?
- A determined approach to end the scourge requires a campaign against social prejudice that impedes solutions. Change now depends on the willingness of the courts to fix responsibility on State governments, and order an accurate survey of the practice especially in those States that claim to have no insanitary latrines or manual scavenging.
- Raising the confidence level among those engaged in manual cleaning is vital; even official data show their reluctance to take up self-employment.
- Empowerment holds the key to change, but that would depend on breaking caste barriers through education and economic uplift.
- Compensation sanctioned should be paid immediately; only a fraction of those with verified claims have received it.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013:
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, makes it clear that no person, local authority or any agency shall, from such date as the state government may notify, which shall not be later than one year from the date of commencement of this Act, engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.
The Act also says that any contract or agreement entered into before the commencement of the Act for engaging or employing a person for manual scavenging shall on the date of commencement of the Act be terminated and no compensation shall be payable therefor.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
DGCA braces for ICAO safety audit
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is bracing for a safety oversight audit by the U.N. body, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Previously, the ICAO had raised safety concerns about India’s aviation system.
- The measures include hiring flight operation inspectors, aligning its rules with ICAO norms, certifying flight examiners, among others.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
- ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.
- These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world.
- ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
World’s 1st Laser Weapon:
- The US has launched the world’s first laser weapon known as the Laser Weapons System (LaWS). The LaWS is currently deployed aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, in the Persian Gulf.
- Operationally, it works just like a laser pointer. There’s a chamber inside with special materials that release photons.
- The LaWS laser beam is completely silent and invisible. It’s also fast: The laser travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second, or about 300,000 kilometers per second), meaning it’s about 50,000 times the speed of an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile.
- In addition to being able to take down threats in the air, the LaWS can hit and disable objects in the water.
Gujarat retains top slot of states with most investment potential:
- Gujarat has retained the top position in the list of 21 states and UTs with most investment potential, according to a report by economic think-tank NCAER.
- The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI 2017) report ranks states on their competitiveness in business and their investment climate. The ranking of 20 states and one Union Territory of Delhi was based on six pillars — labour, infrastructure, economic climate, governance and political stability, perceptions and land — and 51 sub-indicators.
- Gujarat is followed by Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
- While Gujarat topped in economic climate and perceptions, Delhi ranked one in infrastructure. While Tamil Nadu topped the chart in labour issues, Madhya Pradesh ranked one in land pillar.