Insights Daily Current Affairs, 06 September 2017
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
National Nutrition Strategy
With a renewed focus on nutrition, NITI Aayog has launched the National Nutrition Strategy.
Need for the National Nutrition Strategy:
The recently published NFHS-4 results reflect some progress, with a decline in the overall levels of under nutrition in both women and children. However, the pace of decline is far below what numerous countries with similar growth trajectories to India have achieved. Moreover, India pays an income penalty of 9% to 10% due to a workforce that was stunted during their childhood. To address this and to bring nutrition to the centre-stage of the National Development Agenda, NITI Aayog has drafted the National Nutrition Strategy. Besides, with a benefit to cost ratio of 16:1 for 40 low and middle-income countries, there is a well recognized rationale, globally, for investing in Nutrition.
Highlights of the strategy:
Formulated through an extensive consultative process, the Strategy lays down a roadmap for effective action, among both implementers and practitioners, in achieving our nutrition objectives.
The nutrition strategy envisages a framework wherein the four proximate determinants of nutrition – uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods – work togetherto accelerate decline of under nutrition in India. Currently, there is also a lack of real time measurement of these determinants, which reduces our capacity for targeted action among the most vulnerable mothers and children.
Focus on behavioural change: Supply side challenges often overshadow the need to address behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services. This strategy, therefore, gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as a key determinant to address India’s nutritional needs.
Decentralized efforts: The Nutrition Strategy framework envisages a Kuposhan Mukt Bharat – linked to Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat. The aim is to ensure that States create customized State/ District Action Plans to address local needs and challenges. This is especially relevant in view of enhanced resources available with the States, to prioritise focussed interventions with a greater role for panchayats and urban local bodies. The strategy enables states to make strategic choices, through decentralized planning and local innovation, with accountability for nutrition outcomes.
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.
No move to fix national minimum wage at Rs. 18,000/month: Govt
Seeking to clear the air, the labour ministry has clarified that the Centre has not fixed Rs 18,000 as national minimum monthly wage under the Code on Wages Bill. It also denied any move to revise the formula of fixing wages by increasing the number of family members from three to six, as demanded by trade unions.
- The statement comes as a big relief to employers who have been “apprehensive” about the move, saying it would affect their competitiveness, but deals a blow to trade unions, who have been demanding higher minimum wages and a revised unit-based formula for fixing wages from three members of a family to six, including dependent parents.
The Minimum Wages Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last month. Some news reports have been published regarding the fixation of minimum wage as Rs 18,000 per month by the central government.
The Code on Wages, 2017:
It seeks to consolidate laws relating to wages by replacing: (i) the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, (ii) the Minimum Wages Act, 1949, (iii) the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and (iv) the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
- The Code will apply to establishments where any industry, trade, business, manufacturing or occupation is carried out. This will also include government establishments.
- The central government will make wage-related decisions for its authorities, and establishments related to railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for any other establishments.
- Wages include salary, allowance, or any other component expressed in monetary terms. This will not include bonus payable to employees or any travelling allowance, among others.
National minimum wage: The central government may notify a national minimum wage for the country. It may fix different national minimum wage for different states or geographical areas. The minimum wages decided by the central or state governments will not be lower than the national minimum wage. The central or state governments will not reduce the minimum wages fixed by them, if these wages are higher than the national minimum wage.
Fixing the minimum wage: The Code requires employers to pay at least the minimum wages to employees. These wages will be notified by the central or state governments. This will be based on time, or number of pieces produced, among others. The Code specifies that the central or state governments will review or revise the minimum wage every five years.
Working hours: The central or state governments will fix the number of hours that will constitute a working day. Further, they will provide for a day of rest for employees every week. An employee will receive overtime for working beyond these working hours on any day. This amount will be at least twice the normal wage of the employee.
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.
The government has launched Diksha Portal “diksha.gov.in” – National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers. Through this portal, all teachers across the nation will be equipped with advanced digital technology.
- DIKSHA Portal is an initiative of HRD ministry for providing a digital platform to teacher to make their lifestyle more digital.
- Diksha portal launched with a tagline “National Digital Infrastructures for Our Teacher Our Teacher”.
- The portal will consist the whole teacher’s life cycle – from the time they were enrolled as student teachers in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers.
- Teacher can learn and train themselves for which assessment resources will be available. The complete work and accomplishment of teachers in Teacher’s educational institutes will be recorded from start to end point till their retirement.
Teacher can use the portal for creating the following:
- Teacher training content.
- Teacher profile.
- In-class resources.
- Assessment aids.
- News and announcement.
- Teacher community.
Benefits of this portal:
- It will help teachers boost their teaching skills and create their own profile with their skills and knowledge.
- Diksha portal will help in improving the quality of education with the use of latest technologies in the domain of sector. Not only the government, private institutes and NGO’s are also allowed to participate in the Diksha initiative.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
India to flag worry on pace of services talks at RCEP
At the forthcoming ministerial-level meeting on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia-Pacific nations, India has decided to raise concerns regarding the ‘slow’ pace of negotiations on services trade liberalisation as opposed to ‘higher priority’ being accorded to commitments to open up goods trade in the region.
India is upset that other RCEP nations seem to be focused more on “extracting as much (binding commitments) as possible on eliminating tariffs to open up goods trade”, instead of sticking to the RCEP ‘Guiding Principles and Objectives’ which state that the “negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other areas will be conducted in parallel to ensure a comprehensive and balanced outcome.”
What you need to know about RCEP?
RCEP is 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.
India has decided to talk tough and state that any more discussions on opening up goods trade will be only after ensuring that negotiations on services trade liberalisation “catch up” with talks on goods trade. India is keen that in return for agreeing to open up goods trade (where most RCEP nations have an advantage), other member nations must commit to substantial liberalisation of services trade – including on easing norms on movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas
A 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran, avoiding Pakistani waters, has been proposed to port cheap gas. It is said that this pipeline can bring natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India at rates less than the price of LNG available in the spot market.
- As per the proposal, the pipeline can first travel to Oman, and then onwards to Porbandar in the state of Gujarat.
- The pipeline is planned to carry 31.5 million standard cubic meters gas per day and will be built in two years from the date of necessary approvals and a gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA) being signed.
- The subsea pipeline is being seen as an alternative to the on-land, Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. New Delhi has not been participating in talks on the 1,036-km Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline since 2007 citing security and commercial concerns. But, it has never officially pulled out of the $7.6 billion project.
Benefits of the proposed pipeline:
Presently, liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imported through ships costs about $7.50 per million British thermal unit. However, natural gas imported through the proposed $4-billion line would cost $5-5.50 per million British thermal unit at the Indian coast, cheaper than the rate at which some of the domestic fields supply gas. Therefore, the cost of landed gas through an undersea pipeline will be at least $2 cheaper than importing LNG, saving about $1 billion annually.
About Iran- Pakistan- India (IPI) gas pipeline:
IPI pipeline was envisaged to transport natural gas from South Pars gas field of Iran to Pakistan and India with a carrying capacity of 60 million standard cubic meters per day, to be equally split between India and Pakistan. The total length of the pipeline up to Indian border (near Barmer) was about 2,135 km (1,100 kms within Iran and the rest within the territory of Pakistan). As per past estimates, investments required for this pipeline were in excess of $7 billion.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
India and China need to demarcate LAC
The Dokalam standoff and the subsequent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh has made it necessary for takeaways and ironing out of issues by the militaries on both sides, being the primary stakeholders in such matters.
What’s the issue?
The LAC, starting from northwest of the Karakoram pass and ending at Arunachal Pradesh, has not been demarcated and is virtually passed on by word of mouth. This has led to differing perceptions regarding the alignment, with China making territorial claims in at least eight areas.
- These are those areas where regular incursions and face-offs take place. They include Asaphila, Longju, Namka Chu, Sumdorong Chu, and Yangste in Arunachal Pradesh, Barahoti in Uttarakhand, and Aksai China and Demchok in Ladakh.
- Even areas along the banks of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, where a clash between Indian and Chinese troops took place on August 15, are under dispute. The LAC passes through the lake, but India and China do not agree on its exact location. The mountains sloping on the banks of the lake form finger-like structures.
What needs to be done?
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) has to be properly demarcated and simultaneously confidence building measures (CBMs) have to be conducted, military experts said. More points of contact, including regular meetings and setting up of a hotline between the two militaries, have to be created to prevent future transgressions, incursions and face-offs.