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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 20 January 2020

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 20 January 2020

Table of Contents:

 

GS Paper 1:

1. Tougher law against sexual harassment at work.

 

GS Paper 2:

1. ASER 2019.

2. India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands: report.

3. India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Hyper Loop

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT).

2. About Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL).

3. ELECRAMA 2020.

4. Steppe eagle.

5. Submarine-launched ballistic missile, K-4.

 


GS Paper  : 1


 

Topics Covered: Women related issues.

Tougher law against sexual harassment at work

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview of the law, recommendations by GoM.

For Mains: Need for stringent law.

Context: The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, which was constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, has finalised its recommendations.

Background:

The GoM was constituted first in October 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media.

Present scenario:

The Women and Child Development Ministry had steered the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, which was applicable to government offices, the private sector, NGOs and the unorganised sector.

Need for stricter provisions:

  • The 2013 Act has entrusted the powers of a civil court to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)without specifying if the members need to have a legal background. This was a major lacuna given that the ICC formed an important grievance redressal mechanism under the framework of the act.
  • The 2013 act only imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on employers for non-compliance with respect to the constitution of the ICC. This proved to be insufficient in ensuring that the employers constituted the ICC in a time-bound manner.

What next?- Overview of Vishakha guidelines:

The proposed amendments would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based.

It made the employer responsible to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Definition of sexual harassment:

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 defines sexual harassment: It includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour”committed directly or by implication: Physical contact and advances, Sexually coloured remarks, Showing pornography, A demand or request for sexual favours, Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Sexual_Harassment

Key provisions of the act:

  1. This Act lays down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry and the action to be taken.
  2. It mandates that every employer constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
  3. It lays down the procedures and defines various aspects of sexual harassment.
  4. A woman can be of any age, whether employed or not, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”, that means the rights of all the women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, are protected under the Act.

 Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

ASER 2019

What to study?

For Prelims: Brief overview of stats.

For Mains: Concerns, challenges highlighted by the survey and ways and measures needed to address them.

Context: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 has been published by education non-profit Pratham.

What is ASER and why it matters?

This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.

ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India.

  • It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
  • Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey. This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.

Children_were_

How the survey was conducted?

  1. The survey was conducted in 26 districts across 24 states in India, covering a total of 1,514 villages, 30,425 households, and 36,930 children in the age group of 4-8 years.
  2. The sampled children’s enrolment status in pre-school or school was collected. Children did a variety of cognitive, early language, and early numeracy tasks; and activities to assess the children’s social and emotional development were also undertaken.
  3. All tasks were done one-on-one with children in their homes.

What is early years?

The latest edition focuses on early years.

It is defined globally as age 0-8, is known to be the most important stage of cognitive, motor, social and emotional development in the human life cycle.

Key findings:

  1. Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters.
  2. Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.
  3. Many Indian parents choose government schools for girls in the age group of 4 to 8 years while they favour private schools for boys.
  4. At least 25% of school children in the four-eight age group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills, making for a massive learning deficit at a very early stage.
  5. More than 90% of children in the 4-8 age group are enrolled in some type of educational institution. This proportion increases with age, from 91.3% of all 4-year-olds to 99.5% of all 8-year-olds in sampled districts.
  6. Children from less advantaged homes are disproportionately affected. Although almost half of all 4-year-olds and more than a quarter of all 5-year-olds are enrolled in anganwadis, these children have far lower levels of cognitive skill and foundational ability than their counterparts in private LKG/UKG classes.
  7. Overall, 41.7% of children in class I are of the RTE-mandated age.
  8. Children’s skills and abilities improve in each subsequent class. As per the report, “children’s ability to read standard I level text improves from 16.2% of children in standard I to 50.8% children in standard III. This means that half of all children in standard III are already at least two years behind where the curriculum expects them to be.”

Role of mothers:

Among the pre-primary section, children with mothers who completed eight or fewer years of schooling are more likely to be attending anganwadis or government pre-primary classes. Whereas their peers whose mothers studied beyond the elementary stage are more likely to be enrolled in private LKG/UKG classes.

Measures suggested:

  1. Focus on cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years can make a big difference to basic literacy and numeracy abilities.
  2. Children’s performance on tasks requiring cognitive skills is strongly related to their ability to do early language and numeracy tasks.
  3. This suggests that focussing on play-based activities that build memory, reasoning and problem-solving abilities is more productive than an early focus on content knowledge.
  4. Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and long-term schooling of a child.
  5. The entire age band from 4 to 8 needs to be seen as a continuum, and curriculum progression across grades and schooling stages designed accordingly. For an effective and implementable curriculum, the process of designing, planning, piloting, and finalizing needs to keep ground realities in mind.
  6. Expand and strengthen the existing network of anganwadi centres.

(Note: For a broader and simpler understanding, please go through the link: 

The Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands: report

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview of border areas, meaning of MFN status.

For Mains: Impact of trade shutdown and ways to address these issues.

Context: The Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF) has released a report highlighting the impact of trade shutdown between India and Pakistan on people across borders.

The report is called “Unilateral Decisions, Bilateral Losses”.

What has happened?

Following the Pulwama attacks, trade between India and Pakistan across the Wagah-Attari border and the Line of Control (LoC) Salamabad-Chakhan da Bagh routes was closed in 2019.

MFN (most favoured nation) status to Pakistan was also cancelled.

Pakistan has also imposed few counter- measures, including an airspace ban and suspension of trade relations.

Impacts of these decisions:

  1. The decisions on trade were meant to be a tough message for Pakistan and would impact Pakistan’s economy even more than India’s. Even though ties have been much worse in the past like after the Parliament attack, trade had never been touched.
  2. Now, at least 9,354 families, roughly 50,000 people, in Punjab and about 900 families in Kashmir have been directly impacted.
  3. Both countries have lost billions of dollars and hundreds of job days.
  4. These measures that led to a 200% duty increase on imports from Pakistan at Punjab saw even the relatively meagre bilateral trade of $2.56 billion in 2018-2019 dropping to $547.22 million (April-August 2019) – imports dropping from about $500 million to just $11.45 million.
  5. Similarly, the closure of LoC trading points in Jammu and Kashmir has put small trade, handicrafts sellers, truckers, labourers, and hotel owners near the LoC in Baramulla and Poonch out of business.

What next?

  1. Cross-LoC trade before the suspension order in April 2019 was about $95 million for the year. In the suspension order, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said trade would be resumed after “putting into place a stricter regulatory regime” in order to block misuse of the route for “weapons, narcotics and currency,” but nine months later, there are no signs of resumption of LoC trade.
  2. Therefore, the centre now has to take up this matter seriously and give equal attention on development of livelihoods of those affected. Besides, national security should not be compromised.
  3. The governments should also consider compensating them for the losses and finding alternative trading markets internally so that those affected are not put out of business permanently.

What is Most Favoured Nation status?

A treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners.

It is the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Under WTO rules, a member country cannot discriminate between its trade partners. If a special status is granted to a trade partner, it must be extended to all members of the WTO.

MFN at the same time allows some exemptions as well:

  • Right to engage in Free Trade Agreements: This means members can participate in regional trade agreements or free trade agreements where there is discrimination between member countries and non-member countries.
  • Members can give developing countries special and differential treatment like greater market access. This special concession are in different forms like reduced tariff rates from developing country imports, concessions that allows developing countries to give subsidies to their production sectors etc.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)

What to study?

For Prelims: BTIA- overview.

For Mains: Challenges and ways to address them.

Context: The European Union (EU) has expressed interest in exploring a bilateral investment protection agreement (BIPA) with India that would be delinked from the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) where ongoing negotiations are in a state of limbo.

Implications:

Carving out a separate investment protection agreement from the bilateral FTA — formally called the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) — which is currently under negotiations, will make it possible for the investment protection pact to be signed even if there is no progress on the BTIA.

About India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiations:

On 28th June 2007, India and the EU began negotiations on a broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) in Brussels, Belgium.

These negotiations are pursuant to the commitment made by political leaders at the 7th India-EU Summit held in Helsinki on 13th October 2006 to move towards negotiations for a broad-based trade and investment agreement on the basis of the report of India-EU High Level Technical Group.

Significance:

India and the EU expect to promote bilateral trade by removing barriers to trade in goods and services and investment across all sectors of the economy. Both parties believe that a comprehensive and ambitious agreement that is consistent with WTO rules and principles would open new markets and would expand opportunities for Indian and EU businesses.

The negotiations cover:

Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Trade Remedies, Rules of Origin, Customs and Trade Facilitation, Competition, Trade Defence, Government Procurement, Dispute Settlement, Intellectual Property Rights & Geographical Indications, Sustainable Development.

What’s the issue now?

Negotiations have been languishing since 2013 when the talks collapsed over certain demands from the EU such as greater market access for automobiles, wine and spirits, and further opening up of the financial services sector such as banking, insurance and e-commerce.

  • The EU wanted labour, environment and government procurement to be included in the talks.
  • India’s demand for easier work visa and study visa norms as well as data secure status, that would make it easier for European companies to outsource business to India, were also not received enthusiastically by the EU countries.

Sources: The Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics covered: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Hyperloop

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Hyperloop technology- features, significance and its use in India.

Context: The proposed Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop project, an ultra-modern transport system that will reduce the travelling time between the two cities to 25 minutes from 2.5-3 hours, may be scrapped by the state government.

The state has expressed reservations about the project that was still in its experimental stage, and had not been “implemented anywhere in the world”.

What is hyperloop transportation system?

It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft.

The hyperloop concept is a brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk.

How it operates?

  1. In hyperloop transportation, custom-designed capsules or pods are expected to zip smoothly through continuous steel tubes which are held at partial vacuum.
  2. The pod which sandwiches the passenger compartment between an air compressor upfront and a battery compartment in the rear is supported by air caster skis at the bottom.
  3. The skis float on a thin layer of air provided under high pressure, eliminating rolling resistance and allowing for movement of the pods at high speeds.
  4. These capsules are expected to be driverless with estimated speeds of 1,000 km/h. Linear induction motors that are placed along the tube control the speed of the pod. Electronically-assisted acceleration and braking determines the speed of the capsule.

The Problems Plaguing the Hyperloop:

  1. Constructing a tube hundreds of kilometers long would be an engineering marvel in of itself. However, introducing a tube hundreds of kilometers long that operates at a near perfect vacuum which can support the force of capsule weighing thousands of kilograms as it travels hundreds of kilometers an hour is nothing short of sci-fi fantasy.
  2. Small scale experiments reveal the fundamentals of the idea are sound. Although, in the real world, there are tens of thousands of kilograms of atmospheric pressure which threatens to crush any vacuum chamber.
  3. There is also the problem with thermal expansion which threatens to buckle any large structure without proper thermal expansion capabilities.
  4. The Hyperloop would also be stupendously expensive. There are many unavoidable problems facing the Hyperloop that threaten the structural integrity, and every human life on board. The problems can be addressed, but at a great cost.

Sources: The Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:


 

About CICT:

The Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT) is an autonomous Institute of higher research functioning under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India.

  • This is an Institute constituted specifically for carrying out higher research Classical Tamil at international levels not to be found elsewhere globally.
  • The CICT is engaged in several research activities aimed at establishing the ancientness and uniqueness of Tamil and of Classical Tamil in particular and in propagating its findings globally. 
  • The Institute is responsible for the Kural Peedam Award.

 

About Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL):

  • The DFCCIL is a corporation run by the Ministry of Railways (India) to undertake planning & development, mobilisation of financial resources and construction, maintenance and operation of the Dedicated Freight Corridors.
  • DFCC has been registered as a company under the Companies Act 1956 on 30 October 2006.

 

ELECRAMA 2020:

  • It is the flagship showcase of the Indian electrical industry and a platform to connect the world with the Indian industry in respect of technology, new trends and innovation for the future energy transition.
  • It is a platform for knowledge-sharing with a strong focus on electric vehicles, Internet of Things (IoT), storage solutions and renewable energy.
  • It is supported by the Ministry of Power, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India.

 

Steppe eagle:

Why in News? Sighted recently near Vijayawada.

Key facts:

  • IUCN status:
  • Scientific name: Aquila nipalensis.
  • Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae.
  • Habitat: It breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia. The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India.
  • Throughout its range it favours open dry habitats, such as desert, semi-desert, steppes, or savannah.
  • The Steppe Eagle appears on the flag of Kazakhstan. It is also the National bird (animal) of Egypt and appears on its flag.

 

Submarine-launched ballistic missile, K-4:

Context: Test- fires recently.

Key facts:

  • Range: 3,500 km.
  • The Circular Error Probability (CEP)of the K-4 is much more sophisticated than most countries which possess similar missiles. The CEP determines the accuracy of a missile. The lower the CEP, the more accurate the missile would be in targeting.