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Insights Daily Current Events, December 03, 2013


December 03, 2013


Panel wants minimum wage linked to MGNREGA levels

  • A committee set up by the Ministry of Rural Development to revise wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has come up with suggestions that would likely provide solutions to the long-standing issues relating to disparity in earnings under the scheme.
  • Currently, MGNREGA wages are lower than the minimum wages in several States, including in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
  • The committee was constituted to ‘suggest a proper index for revising the MGNREGA wage rates every year, by protecting the wages against inflation.’

Key Recommendations:

  • Any State which raises the minimum wages arbitrarily will have to bear the extra cost from its own resources. However, this increase will be taken into account once the base index is revised every five years. It would be better to link the wages to an established index rather than trying to create a new one.
  • The significant issue is to link the minimum wages in States to MGNREGA wages. This will even sort out the issues between the Centre and State governments
  • While the committee is yet to finalise whether to continue with Consumer Price Index (Agricultural Labourers(AL)) or pitch for Consumer Price Index (Rural (R)), or even CPI (Rural Labourers(RL)), it has recommended that the MGNREGA wages be made equivalent to minimum wages in States.
  • Currently, wages under the rural job scheme are indexed to the CPI (AL), which has a larger share of the food component and reflects food inflation. The other option before the committee is to index wages to CPI (R).
  • Both CPI (AL) and CPI (RL) are estimated by the Labour Ministry and the Labour Bureau, while CPI (R) is calculated by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).

For more information on CPI index refer our ‘INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS Magazine (October 2013))

Minimum Wages Act

  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is an Indian legislation enacted by the Parliament of India for statutory fixing of minimum wages to be paid to skilled and unskilled labours.
  • The Indian Constitution has defined a ‘living wage’ that is the level of income for a worker which will ensure a basic standard of living including good health, dignity, comfort, education and provide for any contingency.

To know more about this, refer the below link-

MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National rural employment guarantee act)

  • The MGNREGA is designed to provide job guarantee for at least 100 days in rural parts of the country. Through this scheme, all the adult members (at least 18 years of age) of the any family in rural part of the country are given non-skilled work. 
  • The Mahatma Gandhi Nationwide Non-urban Career Assurance Act (MGNREGA) is an Indian job guarantee program, presented by regulation on Aug 25, 2005. The program provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of occupation in every financial year to mature associates of any rural family willing to do public work-related inexperienced guide perform at the legal lowest salary of 120 Rs per day last year prices.

Courtesy –

Plan to give Juvenile Justice Boards more powers to try children draws flak

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s plan to empower the Juvenile Justice Boards to try under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) children involved in heinous crimes, such as murder and rape, has come under criticism.
  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said it was not taken into confidence before the plan was drafted. And according to Child rights organizations have the plan would lead to violating the right to life, liberty and equality of children.
  • At present, the Juvenile Justice Boards, which try children in conflict with law, can prescribe a maximum punishment of up to three years. But the draft of the proposal says children aged above 16 can be tried under the IPC if they are involved in heinous crimes. This can only be done by amending the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Significance of the proposal:

  • The proposal is significant, given that the juvenile involved in the December 16 gang rape in New Delhi got away with a light punishment, even after the victim declared him the most gruesome among all perpetrators.
  • According to the plan, the Juvenile Justice Boards will not hand down death and life sentences; nor will the age of the juvenile be reduced to 16 years as was planned earlier. The Juvenile Justice Boards will decide on what falls under the category of heinous crimes the gravity of the crime or repeated offences. This has been done in keeping with India’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights (UNCRC), which defines a child as anyone aged less than 18 years.
  • In July, 2013 the Supreme Court rejected petitions for lowering the age of juvenility from the existing 18 years. NCPCR’s argument is also on these lines that there should be no compromise on the age of a child as defined in the UNCRC, which India has ratified.
  • The Ministry too has retaliated that it has considered this clause and there was no move to lower the age of juveniles.
  • Earlier, the Verma Committee was constituted to recommend amendments to the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for those accused of sexual assault against women.
  • The Indian laws relating to children have evolved over several years and are the product of an extensive research and understanding of the issue, and therefore it is essential that any review of the child rights jurisprudence should take place only after an exhaustive deliberation on the pros and cons of the subject.

Power Grid to launch air patrolling of networks

  • Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) is planning to introduce air-patrolling to keep a watch on some of its installations, located in remote or difficult destinations. The move will eventually help reduce power theft, tripping and unplanned outages. This would also enhance system efficiency and power trippings.
  • The plan is to cover first the national capital region (NCR), followed by the West, the South and then the East.
  • The public sector PGCIL is India’s largest electric power transmission company, owning and operating over 90% of India’s inter-state transmission system. The 12th Five Year Plan aims to achieve a national power grid with inter-regional power transfer capacity of approximately 65,550 MW, which would primarily include PGCIL’s transmission system.


On Ministerial eve, India stands alone in Bali

  • India stands isolated at the Bali Ministerial (the three-day Ministerial would begin from 3rd December) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in its efforts to seek safeguards for subsidies poor countries give to their farmers for food security purposes.
  • Of the key G33 countries, China, an exports-led economy, has not lent vocal support to India’s position for a Bali package as its interests lie with the G20 proposal on trade facilitation. Pakistan has opposed India’s proposal for subsidies to poor farmers on the grounds that they distort trade in rice.
  • However, India has asserted that it exports only basmati for which MSP is not given to farmers. Some support for India has come only from Indonesia.
  • India has blamed the rich countries led by the U.S. for stalling the negotiations for a Bali package and also accused the rich countries of double standards on the issue of subsidies for farmers.
  • Even though the G33 has shown flexibility by agreeing to discuss an interim solution, there were efforts to make the solution redundant through elaborate procedural formalities in the name of safeguards against trade distortion and transparency.
  • The rich countries are pressing the G33 countries to agree to their preferred treaty for trade facilitation.
  • Negotiations are on though without much progress between the rich countries on the one hand and India-led G33 on the other. The negotiators haven’t so far settled, for the three main issues:
    • A new trade facilitation treaty;
    • Changes in agriculture rules relevant to food security;
    • Benefits for least developed countries.

China hopes for ‘conducive’ India-Japan ties

  • China has hoped for conducive India-Japan bilateral ties that would help in regional peace and stability, against the backdrop of rising tensions between China and Japan and a high-profile visit by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to India.
  • The ongoing week-long and rare visit to India by the Japanese royal couple has underlined the deepening ties between the two countries. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had stated that Japan’s relationship with India would not only boost economic ties and investment, but also expand the strategic relationship.
  • The Japan’s keenness to push ties with India comes amid renewed tensions with China over the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. In recent days, China’s move to set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes the disputed islands has further strained ties.
  • China had strongly defended its move on setting up an ADIZ, pointing out that several countries, such as the U.S and Japan, had established such areas beyond their territorial airspace to track aircraft. And according to China, Japanese ADIZ, established in the 1969 illegally included the Diaoyu islands, and China firmly opposes this.
  • ADIZ areas are not territorial claims, but defined zones in international airspace within which countries monitor aircraft heading towards their territorial airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from coastlines.
  • It is said that, China was willing to increase dialogue and communication to safeguard flights in overlapping areas of the two countries’ defence zones, but Japan has refused any dialogue, which has created frictions and has undermined regional stability.
  • Whereas, Japan on the other hand, has warned that China’s unilateral move to set up an ADIZ over disputed areas could trigger ‘unexpected incidents.’
  • China’s ADIZ announcement has also caused concern among several countries in the region, including Japan and South Korea, as the air defence zone stretches over strategically important areas in the East China Sea. Both countries, as well as the U.S., have made it clear that their air patrols will not follow Chinese demands of filing flight plans in advance.
  • Now, South Korea is contemplating on widening its air defence zone to include the Leodo reef, which is under South Korea’s control but falls within both the Japanese and newly set up Chinese air defence zones.
  • Taiwan too has opposed this move saying that it would also not comply with the rules.

Despite strains, India, Sri Lanka deepen naval ties

  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to a slew of naval cooperation measures to target pirates and terrorist groups operating in the Indian Ocean.
  • The meeting, as well as separate dialogues with Indian naval commanders, took place amidst tensions in diplomatic relations between the countries. The Indian PM had stayed away from a recent Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in Colombo, amidst criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
  • The meeting focused on pushing ahead military-to-military cooperation to secure both countries’ common security interests.
  • The two countries, along with the Maldives, had signed a security cooperation agreement in July, 2012 designed to make operations by the three navies seamless.
  • India’s military-to-military relationship with Sri Lanka has grown despite political tensions. The Sri Lankan navy has ordered two modern offshore patrol vessels from the public-sector Goa Shipyards. It already operates the 101-metre offshore patrol vessel Sayura, sold by India in 2000.
  • The training has continued despite protests from Tamil Nadu CM, who had expressed dismay over the Indian Navy’s offer of further training cooperation to Sri Lanka.

Deal with West not a zero-sum game, Iran reassures Saudi Arabia

  • Iran has reached out to Saudi Arabia by reassuring its regional rival that Iran’s restoration of harmony with the West in the aftermath of the recently signed Geneva accord would not pose any threat to the Arab nation.
  • Both the sides working together would promote peace and stability in the region.
  • This move follows the anticipation in Iran that a break in the 34-year cycle of hostility with the West that began after the 1979 Islamic Revolution may not be far away after the signing of the ice-breaking nuclear deal in Geneva.
  • However, Iran’s harmony with the West can be undermined if the wealthy Saudi royals continue to use their considerable influence in the region to hurt Iranian interests in countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, by playing the sectarian card and encouraging violence.
  • Iran has assured that the nuclear deal is in favour of the stability and security of the region. This assurance holds significance since prior to the Geneva accord, members of the Saudi establishment had made it clear that they stood opposed to the deal.


Government expects spectrum auction to meet target

  • The government is confident that spectrum auction in January, 2014 will be successful and meet the revenue target of Rs. 40,000 crore.
  • Significantly, post-2G scam, two auctions failed to attract companies and garner the projected revenues. For the January auction, the Dept. of Telecom has set a total revenue target of Rs. 40,874.5 crore, including auction amount, one-time spectrum charge and annual regular licence fee.
  • Telecom experts and mobile companies fear the higher spectrum price might hinder the government’s projected target.
  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended up to 60 % cut in the auction reserve price in the 900 MHz band in the Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata circles. And it had suggested a 37 % cut in the reserve price in the 1800 MHz band.
  • Later, the Telecom Commission had suggested hiking the reserve price of pan-India spectrum by 15 and 25 % higher in important circles over what the TRAI had suggested. The Empowered Group of Ministers has approved the price recommended by the Commission.


Indian scientists identify genes behind oral cancer

  • A team of Indian scientists has identified new genes and new biological pathways that are specific to driving oral cancer associated predominantly with smokeless tobacco consumption in India. Further detailed study on these discoveries might lead to finding better therapies for oral cancer.
  • The Indian group is part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), an initiative started in 2009, to understand the genomic basis of 50 different types of cancer with clinical and societal importance around the globe.
  • This is the first set of results to come out of the India Project, which has been noted as an important contribution to cancer genomics.
  • Oral cancer is the eighth most common cancer worldwide and is the leading cancer among males in India. Unlike in the West, where 65% of oral cancers are tongue cancer, in India, oral cancer predominantly (60%) is of the lining of the mouth, lower gum and other mucosal regions of the oral cavity, termed the Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the gingivo-buccal region (OSCC-GB). Tobacco chewing is a major cause of OSCC-GB, which accounts for over half of the oral cancers in India.
  • Cancer is known to be associated with changes in the DNA contained in the cells of the tumour tissues. However, these genetic changes triggered by lifestyle or other environmental factors such as exposure to tobacco, chemicals and radiation occur only in non-reproductive cells and are called somatic alterations.

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