Insights Daily Current Events, 19 February 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Ministry moots National Social Security Authority
The Labour Ministry has mooted the idea of forming a National Social Security Authority and a separate Social Security Department within the ministry.
- To provide social security to the entire population and prop up the government’s pro-worker credentials.
Who will be the chairperson of the authority?
The authority will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Members of the authority:
The authority may have all the ministers and secretaries of all ministries dealing with social security programmes along with state government officials as members.
Functions to be performed by the authority:
- Formulate the National Policy on Social Security.
- Co-ordinate the central and state level programmes.
- Ensure that the objectives of the policy are achieved within the time frame prescribed.
What will the proposed department do?
The proposed Social Security Department within the Labour Ministry will provide policy inputs and secretarial services to the body.
- The ministry has proposed a four-tier system to cover the entire population of the country, including both formal and informal sector workers, through a common Social Security Code.
- The current social security programmes and schemes will also be strengthened and universalised.
- The social assistance programmes for the first tier shall be based on tax revenue.
- The first tier would include the “destitute and people below the poverty line.”
- The second tier would have workers in the unorganised sector who may be covered under a subsidised scheme.
- The third tier would cover workers who can, with the help of employer, can make contribution to the schemes.
- The fourth tier would include people who “are comparatively affluent and can make their own provisions for meeting contingencies or risks as and when arise.”
sources: the hindu.
Topic: Social issues (Prelims)
Maharashtra gets first all-woman panchayat
Bubnal Gram Panchayat in Shirol Taluka in southern Maharashtra has become the first all-woman panchayat in the state. All members of the panchayat are women.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: conservation.
Belgium keen to join ‘Clean Ganga’ drive
Belgium is keen to take part in the “Clean Ganga” campaign and in this regard a Belgian mission with companies specialising in sanitation will shortly meet Indian government officials.
- Belgium has indicated that it has specific solutions which are unique in the world. A Belgian Research Institute, Vito has developed a technology not only to clean sewage water but also to produce out of it, electricity.
- India and Belgium trade is huge. A big part of this is taken up by diamonds. But, Belgium wants to diversify its trade with India from the diamonds business.
Namami Gange Programme:
The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015. It integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river in a comprehensive manner.
Focus of the programme:
Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
- The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.
- The program has a budget outlay of Rs. 20,000 crore for the next 5 years.
- Under this programme, the focus of the Government is to involve people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
- The programme also focuses on involving the States and grassroots level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Terrorism.
India ‘recognises’ the need for flexibility
Syed Akbaruddin, the Permanent Representative of India at the U.N, recently presented India’s position on the HIPPO (High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations) report to the UN.
- Presenting the report, he told the United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations that it recognises the need for “flexibility” on international anti-terror operations if they are backed by U.N. authorisation.
- HIPPO report is aimed at countering international terror groups.
- The HIPPO report has expanded the scope of counter-terror operations beyond the traditional U.N. peacekeeping operations by recommending that “ad hoc coalitions authorised by the U.N. Security Council” can undertake counter-terror operations with the intention of peacekeeping and peace-enforcement.
- The HIPPO report recommendations are expected to be implemented after “cost-benefit analysis” for India.
- India has also highlighted that peacekeeping under the U.N. needs to be strengthened in view of the expanding international networks of terrorism.
This has also opened up possibilities of India’s participation in foreign anti-terror operations to safeguard “Indian interests.”
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.
Ministers meet to finalise draft civil aviation policy
The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently held a meeting with six of his cabinet colleagues to discuss the final contours of the civil aviation policy.
- The meeting comes in the backdrop of the split in the airline industry over the issue of granting the right to local carriers to fly overseas.
Leading airlines are knocking on the doors of various government offices to raise concerns over a few proposals in the draft civil aviation policy, including the contentious 5/20 rule for flying abroad. Various contentious issues in the draft policy include the 5/20 rule, route dispersal guidelines, alleged effective control of Indian airlines by their foreign partners and the plan to auction bilateral air traffic rights.
Highlights of the draft Policy:
- The policy proposes to cap small town route fares at Rs. 2,500 per flying hour per ticket and imposes a 2% cess on all domestic trunk route tickets as well as international tickets.
- The revised policy has floated the concept of Scheduled Commuter Airlines (SCAs), which would have relaxed norms and those entities would not be liable to pay airport charges for operations under the RCS.
- The policy suggests a number of incentives for the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) sector, including service tax waiver, with an aim to develop India as an MRO hub in Asia.
- It has proposed that MRO, ground handling, cargo, and ATF infrastructure located together at an airport will also get infrastructure status with benefits under Section 80-IA of the Income tax Act, among others.
- The draft also proposes open skies policy for countries within 5,000 km with effect from April 1, 2020.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Cabinet approval for trade facilitation pact ratification
The Cabinet has approved a proposal for ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of World Trade Organization (WTO), aimed at easing customs rules for expediting global trade flow of goods.
- To facilitate domestic coordination and implementation of the TFA, the Cabinet has also cleared the proposal to set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) to be jointly chaired by the commerce and revenue secretaries.
- These developments are also in consonance with India’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative.
- The WTO member-countries in November 2014 adopted a “protocol of amendment” to incorporate the TFA on goods in the overall WTO Agreement.
- For the TFA to be operational, two-thirds (or 108) of the 162 WTO members will have to ratify it. However, only 69 countries have ratified it so far.
Implications of this move:
- Trade experts have said that ratifying the agreement so early could lead to India losing a bargaining chip to secure its interests. That includes finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes and a mechanism to safeguard poor farmers from sudden import surge of farm products.
- However, dismissing the criticism, the government says the agreement will benefit the country.
- The Trade Facilitation Agreement forms part of the Bali Package agreed by members at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali.
- The agreement contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures through effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
- It also contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
- It is being believed, especially by the proponents of the agreement that deal could add $1 trillion to global GDP and also can generate 21 million jobs by slashing red tape and streamlining customs.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: space.
NASA finds ‘super-Earth’ with an atmosphere it can analyse
Astronomers at NASA have announced that they have discovered a “super-Earth” exoplanet with an atmosphere, that, for the first time, they can analyse.
- The planet was discovered by the Hubble telescope.
- This super earth is about 40 light years away.
What are super-earths?
- Super-earths are simply rocky planets that are bigger than the Earth. They’re widely believed to be the most common type of rocky planet in the galaxy.
- The mass of super-earths is higher than Earth’s, but substantially below the mass of the Solar System’s ice giants Uranus and Neptune, which are 15 and 17 Earth masses respectively.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
Indian-origin engineer’s discovery may help speed up gadgets
A team at the University of Utah led by an Indian-origin engineer has discovered a new kind of 2D semi-conducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that consume a lot less power.
- It is a layer of 2D material only one atom thick, allowing electrical charges to move through it much faster than conventional 3D materials such as silicon.
- The semi-conductor is made of tin and oxygen or tin monoxide (SnO).
- This material could be used in transistors, the lifeblood of all electronic devices such as computer processors and graphics processors in desktop computers and mobile devices.
Why 2D is better than 3D?
- Transistors and other components used in electronic devices are currently made of 3D materials such as silicon and consist of multiple layers on a glass substrate.
- But the downside to 3D materials is that electrons bounce around inside the layers in all directions. The benefit of 2D materials is that the material is made of one layer the thickness of just one or two atoms. Consequently, the electrons can only move in one layer so it’s much faster.
- Now, the electrons also require much less power to run, a boon for mobile electronics that have to run on battery power.
- This could also be important for medical devices such as electronic implants that will run longer on a single battery charge.
- The newly discovered semi-conducting material could lead to computers and smartphones that are over 100 times faster than regular devices.
sources: the hindu.