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Daily Current affairs 25 July 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

SL. NO.

TOPICS   

THE HINDU

PAGE NO.

1

Making Chennai a Water-Wise City

11

2

India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree                                                

22

3

India rises in global innovation ranking                                           

15

4

Large-Scale burning of grasslands detrimental to invertebrates

22

5

Having the last word on ‘Population Control’                                  

10

Contentious remedies for a clear, Structural malady            

11

Shifting Strategic concerns            `

10










 

Title

1. making Chennai a Water-Wise City (The Hindu, Page 11)     

Syllabus

Mains: GS Paper I – Urbanization      

Theme

Urbanization 

Highlights

 Context - Chennai is facing the worst water crisis this year. Various suggestions have been provided to solve improve the situation. However, the author highlights that all these suggestions have limitations and the need of the hour is a Paradigm Shift in the way water crisis is viewed. 

 

Issues - 

Source Augmentation - has been proposed as one of the solutions for solving the water crisis in Chennai. As a part of this the Krishna Water Supply Scheme or Telugu Ganga Project (1996) and the New Veeranam Project (2004) were implemented using two important inter-State rivers — the Krishna and the Cauvery.

 

However both depend upon southwest monsoon and also involve the issues of Inter state river water sharing. 

 

Tapping Stone quarries 

 

Another measure has been tapping the abandoned stone quarries located on the outskirts, from where water is drawn for public water supply after treatment.

 

Desalinisation plants have been installed - However these plants are expensive and pose environmental concerns. 

 

Deepening of tanks and lakes - The costs are high for removal and transportation of silt. 

 

 

Some of the measures given above have already been tried, however all these methods have failed with just one bad monsoon. 

 

Suggestions

 

 

Waste Water recycling 

 

  • The concept of waste-water recycling and re-use has not yet caught the imagination of either the authorities or the public in a big way. 

 
  • On an average, 85 litres of water goes waste for every 100 litres utilised.

 
  • Only 37.5% of sewage generated can be treated with the current installed capacity of sewage treatment plants. 

 
  • Such untreated sewage finds its way into rivers and canals and makes the water unusable. 

 
  • Thus waste water treatment provides an opportunity to solve the water crisis in urban areas. 

 
  • Also, one of the targets set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN member-countries in 2015, is to halve the proportion of untreated waste water.

 

 

Non consumptive use 

 

  • This points to the installation of sewage treatment plants at the point of generation. Such treated water can used for non-consumptive purposes like gardening and flushing toilets etc. 

  • Experiments have already been started by many IT companies and high rise apartments. 

 
  • Such methods have enormous potential in meeting the ever-increasing demand of water in the urban spaces. 

 
  • Further such steps should not only be debated once the water crisis starts. There is need for continuous focus on waste water reusage and recycling. 

 

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Title

2. India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree                                                (The Hindu, Page 22)   

Syllabus 

Prelims GS Paper I – Environment  

Theme

Biodiversity 

Highlights

What is the news?

  • The news highlight about Dracaena Cambodiana (Dragon Tree) which is also referred as a plant that yields dragon’s blood. This is for the first time a dragon tree species has been reported from India. 

About Dragon Tree    

  • The dragon’s blood is a bright red resin used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye. 

  • Researchers in Assam have discovered Dracaena cambodiana, a dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong. The team’s report has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 

  • Dracaena Cambodiana is native to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and the island of Hainan in China, where it grows at low elevations in forest on dry, sandy soils and on lime stone cliffs.  

Benefits 

  • Dracaena cambodiana is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree. It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China. 

  • Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc., have been extracted from various parts of the plant.   

Concerns

  • Recent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant. For this reason, the species is already listed in the inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of China.     

  • The habitat of the plant in Assam is severely fragmented due to open excavation of a stone quarry and there is continuing decrease in its area of occupancy and number of mature individuals.                


 

Title

3. India rises in global innovation ranking                                           (The Hindu Page 15)

Syllabus 

Mains: GS Paper III – Economy  

Prelims GS paper I – Economy 

Theme

Index 

Highlights

About WIPO

  • The WIPO is a United Nations (U.N) agency charged with protecting intellectual property (IP) through an international system that promotes and sustains creativity and innovation and helps develop international economies.

  • WIPO helps governments, businesses and society realize the benefits of IP by providing a policy forum to shape balanced international IP rules for a changing world. It provides global services to protect IP across borders and to resolve disputes.

  • WIPO publishes Global Innovation Index (GII) Report, which is an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation. 

  • Global Competitiveness Report: World Economic Forum

  • India Innovation Index : NITI Aayog

India's GII ranking:

  • India improved its ranking consistently in the recent years, from 88 in 2015 to 57 in 2018 to 52 in 2019.

  • India is now the most innovative economy in the Central and South Asian region.

  • India will continue its efforts to breach the top 50 in the GII soon, with the ultimate aim of reaching the top 10.

Factors that helped India improve its ranking:

  • Strong information and communication technology services exports,

  • Scientific publications

  • Investment by its top three companies in research and development

  • Quality of some of its educational institutions, including some IITs and IIMs

  • The proportion of science and engineering graduates on offer globally

  • State of cluster development, especially the performance of Bengaluru, New Delhi and Mumbai

Major areas where India needs to improve include:

  • Proportion of women with advanced degrees in the workforce.

  • Overall quality of education

  • Access and use of information and communication technologies

  • Student to teacher ratio in secondary level education

 

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Title

4. Large-Scale burning of grasslands detrimental to invertebrates (The Hindu Page 22)      

Syllabus 

Prelims GS Paper I – Environment 

Theme

National Parks 

Highlights

Large-Scale burning of grasslands detrimental to invertebrate 

 

In news- A recent study on “prescribed burning” of large tracts of grassland for the conservation of threatened ungulates in the Eravikulam National Park (ENP), a biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats, reveals that such burning is detrimental to endemic invertebrates, including grasshoppers. According to experts It is suspected that prescribed burning in the park for the past many decades is a major cause for the decline of grasshoppers.

  • Traditionally, the grasslands of the park are managed by prescribed “cold” burning (cold season burning) with the help of the local tribal community.

 

Role of grasshoppers 

  • Grasshoppers are sensitive to grasslands management and an indicator of grasslands quality, health and restoration success.

  • The endemic and wingless creatures are sensitive to environmental change and exhibit a high extinction risk. 

  • There are 130 species of grasshoppers reported in Kerala, of which 54 species were found in PKMTR (Parambikulam Tiger Reserve) and 18 species were found in the ENP (Eravikulam National Park).

 

Eravikulam National Park

  • It is located in the High Ranges (Kannan Devan Hills) of the Southern Western Ghats in the Idukki District, Kerala.

  • Consists mostly of high-altitude Grasslands that are interspersed with Sholas

  • The park is of undulating terrain and the highest peak is Anamudi (2695 m).  

  • The high plateau and the hills rising above it are primarily covered by Grasslands. Shrub Lands are seen along the base of the cliffs. Shola Forests are located in the valleys and folds.

  • Turner’s valley, which splits the park roughly in half from northwest to southeast is the deepest.

  • The park holds the largest viable population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) and is a famous habitat of Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianam), which blooms once in 12 years. 

  • Apart from Tahr, the park is an abode of other little-known fauna such as Nilgiri Marten (endemic), Ruddy Mongoose, Small Clawed Otter, Dusky Striped Squirrel etc.

  • The Anamudi peak area is also habitat of a unique Frog Raorchestes resplendens.

  • The park in continuity with the neighboring Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Anamudi Shola National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, Kurinjimala Sanctuary and Anamalai Tiger Reserve forms the largest conservation landscape in the Western Ghats.

  • The Muthuvans are the local, indigenous people. The park plays a significant role in sustaining them and their culture

 

Following forest types are recognized inside the park:

  • Shola Forests (Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest)

  • Grasslands (Southern Montane Wet Temperate Grassland)

  • Transition Forests (Southern Sub Tropical Broad-Leaved Hill Forest)

  • Evergreen Forests (Southern West Coast Evergreen Forest)

  • Shrub Lands

  • Deciduous Forests (Southern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests)

 

Shola Forests

  • The hill forests are locally known as ‘Sholas’, the Tamil term for forest. The Shola Forests in the upper plateau are dense and floristically rich with many endemic and rare species. The trees in the Sholas form a continuous canopy usually not exceeding 10-15m. There is no marked differentiation into canopy layers. 



 

Title

5. Having the last word on ‘Population Control’                                  (The Hindu Pgno 10 )

Syllabus 

Mains GS paper I – Population and associated Issues  

Theme

Population Control measures 

Highlights

Context : On July 11, World Population Day, a Union Minister expressed alarm, in a Tweet, over what he called the “population explosion” in the country, wanting all political parties to enact population control laws and annulling the voting rights of those having more than two children. This has started a debate on population Control measures in India. In this context author has analysed various steps taken by the government in the past and has provided some suggestions for the same. 

 

Highlights 

 
  • Economic Survey highlights that there will be sharp decline in population in India in the next two decades. 23 Southern states have fertility below replacement level (2.1 children per Woman)

  • Some States will start transitioning to an ageing society as part of a well-studied process of “demographic transition” which sees nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.

  • State control on the number of children is dangerous. It leads to class and religious conflicts, it deepens prejudices and increases discrimination against poor. 

  • Further Such a control is against personal liberty and bodily autonomy provided under article 21 of the Indian Constitution. 

  • Family health, child survival and the number of children a woman has are closely tied to the levels of health and education of the parents, and in particular the woman; so the poorer the couple, the more the children they tend to have. 

  • This is a relation that has little to do with religion and everything to do with opportunities, choices and services that are available to the people. 

  • The poor tend to have more children because child survival is low, son preference remains high, children lend a helping hand in economic activity for poorer households and so support the economic as well as emotional needs of the family.

  • NFHS 4 highlighted that poor and less educated women tend to have more number of children as compared to their rich and educated counterparts.

  • Finally it needs to be understood that population is not a problem but a resource. Population as a resource has been termed as ‘Demographic Dividend’. 

 

Evolution of India’s Population Policy 

 
  • The Bohare Committee Report 1946, is a Milestone in the evolution of Family Planning policy in Independent India. 

  • In 1952, India was the first country in the world to launch a National Programme

  • In 1976 during emergency government announced National population Policy.

  • It emphasised on use of monetary compensation, massive drive for compulsory sterilization.

  • The speeding up of the compulsory sterilization programme was carried out more through coercive measures than the provision of incentives.

  • Since the administrative staff had to work on the target oriented approach, the situation led to widespread misuse of power to round up people for mass vasectomy camps.

  • The Janata Government which came to power in March 1977, showed utter lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the population problem. The Family Planning Programme was renamed as the Family Welfare Programme. It proposed only voluntary methods to solve the population problem and the need to integrate family planning services with those for health, maternity, child care and nutrition.

  • The National Health Policy 1983 stated that replacement levels of total fertility rate (TFR) should be achieved by 2000.

  • The Karunakaran report (Report of the National Development Council (NDC) Committee on Population) endorsed by NDC in 1993 proposed the formulation of a National Population Policy to take “ a long term holistic view of development, population growth and environment protection” and to suggest policies and guidelines for formulation of programmes” and a monitoring mechanism with short, medium and long term perspectives and goals”.

  • Later the National Population Policy, 2000 (NPP 2000) affirms the commitment of government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services, and continuation of the target free approach in administering family planning services. 

  • It is based upon the need to simultaneously address issues of child survival, maternal health, and contraception, while increasing outreach and coverage of a comprehensive package of reproductive and child health services by government, industry and the voluntary non-government sector, working in partnership.

  • The long-term objective is to achieve a stable population by 2070, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

  • Further the present government in its last term had reiterated in the Parliament that family Planning programme in India is target free and voluntary in nature and it is the prerogative of the clients to choose a family planning method best suited to them as per their reproductive right. 

 
  • Another minister articulated the “lifecycle framework” which looks to the health and nutrition needs of mother and child not merely during pregnancy and child birth but “right from the time of conception till the child grows carrying on till the adolescent stage and further

 

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Title

6. Contentious remedies for a clear, Structural malady            (The Hindu Pgno 11 )

Syllabus 

Mains GS paper II – Education   

Theme

Medical Education 

Highlights

Context : The draft New Education Policy (NEP) speaks about equity, inclusiveness and sustainable development at many points, starting from the preamble. However, it is by no means clear that its recommendations will fulfil these objectives, especially in the field of medical education. 

 

Issues with the reforms suggested by the NEP 2019

 
  • Fees in medical colleges, both public and private, will be left to be decided by the institutions themselves. However, it has left it to the medical institutes to fix the fees themselves. Further the NMC Bill 2019 states that the Commission will fix fees for only 50%of the seats, rest the institutions will fix 

  • Though the policy talks about multiple entry and exit options, the author feel the National exit Exams for MBBS course which will act as a entrance exam for post graduate courses is neither fair nor flexible. 

  • It is unclear if students will be allowed to appear for multiple ecams if they do not score well the first time round. Further since medical colleges in India are not of similar standards it does not provide an equal level playing field as students from better colleges will have better chances at succeeding in this examination. 

  • The NMC Bill makes the NCM very centralised with lot of powers.


About National medical Commission Bill 2019

 
  • Aims to replace the Medical council of India with National Medical commission to oversee medical education in India.

  • Will make the national Medical exams standards uniform for entire country

  • All institutes will use NEET as an entrance exam

  • Willa administer national exit examination 

 

Composition of National Medical Commission 

  • The NMC will be 29-member body which would comprise of 20 members selected through nomination, and nine through election.

  • It will have the following boards:

    • Undergraduate Medical Education Board

    • Postgraduate Medical Education Board

  • Medical Assessment and Rating Board

  • Ethics and Medical Registration Board.

  • The UG and PG boards will set standards of medical education, while the Rating Board will facilitate the process of granting permissions to new medical colleges, and rank them.

 

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Title

7. Shifting Strategic concerns            (The Hindu Pgno 10 )

Syllabus 

Mains GS paper II – International relations  

Theme

Foreign Policy 

Highlights

According to the author Both India and Pakistan believe that the international perception is positive towards them and therefore they have an advantage over the other country.

Why is it so?

 

  • Pakistan has strong relations with China and knows that the U.S. relies upon Pakistan for ensuring its successful withdrawal from Pakistan and U.S. also ensures balanced support to Pakistan so that it does falter completely in Chinese camp. 

  • Since Pakistan believes it has a strong support of U.S. and China, it assumes it has better international perception than India.
     

  • India has built strong relations with U.S. especially on containment of China. 

  • Similarly, China ensures a balanced support to India so that it receives Indian support on major international issues like AIIB, climate change talks, etc, access to Indian market, and also that India does not completely falter into U.S. camp. 

  • In addition to India strengthened soft power in international politics, India has stronger international perception than Pakistan.
     


Actual Scenario 
Both the U.S. and China have overlapping interests in regional stability in South Asian and avoidance of a major conflict between India and Pakistan.
Both U.S. and China are trying to balance India & Pakistan and take sides based on their national interest rather than because of positive international perception.
According to the author, India’s hand is not as strong as we sometimes believe it to be and therefore should also remain clear that neither country would be willing to help India in India's interest to:
Reorder the domestic scene with decreased hold of military in Pakistan to suit peaceful talks with India
Return of Kashmir as integral part of India

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019

 

What to study?

For prelims: Key features of the bill.

For mains: Need for amendments, concerns associated and other associations issues.

 

Context: Lok Sabha passes the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019.

 

Key features of the Bill:

  1. The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  2. Who may commit terrorism: Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.  The Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.  
  3. Approval for seizure of property by NIA: If the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of properties that may be connected with terrorism.
  4. Investigation by NIA: Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.  The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  5. Insertion to schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.  The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).  The Bill adds another treaty to the list.  This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).     

 

Background:

The UAPA – an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004 — was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Eventually amendments were brought in under the successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.

 

Mains Question: Discuss how Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) impinges on the personal liberty of citizens of India.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

PRASAD scheme

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key Objectives and significance of the scheme.

 

Context: To implement the PRASAD scheme a Mission Directorate has been set up in the Ministry of Tourism. 

 

PRASAD Scheme:

  • Introduced in 2015, the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) is a government scheme that focuses on identifying and developing the pilgrim sites across the country to enrich the religious tourism experience.
  • It was launched by Union Ministry of Tourism.
  • It aims at integrated development of pilgrimage destinations in planned, prioritised and sustainable manner to provide complete religious tourism experience.

 

Objectives:

  1. Harness pilgrimage tourism for its direct and multiplier effect upon employment generation and economic development.
  2. Enhance tourist attractiveness in sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in the religious destinations.
  3. It also seeks to promote local art, culture, handicraft, cuisine, etc.

 

Funding:

Under it, Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments for promoting tourism at identified destinations. For components within public funding under this scheme, Central Government will provide 100% fund. For improved sustainability of project, it also seeks to involve Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well.

 


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. 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.

 

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana or DDU-GKY

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the scheme.

 

About Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana or DDU-GKY:

The Vision of DDU-GKY is to “Transform rural poor youth into an economically independent and globally relevant workforce”.

It aims to target youth, in the age group of 15–35 years.

DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.

 

Objectives:

  • Enable Poor and Marginalized to Access Benefits.
  • Mandatory coverage of socially disadvantaged groups (SC/ST 50%; Minority 15%; Women 33%).
  • Shifting Emphasis from Training to Career Progression.
  • Post-placement support, migration support and alumni network.
  • Proactive Approach to Build Placement Partnerships.
  • Guaranteed Placement for at least 75% trained candidates.
  • Enhancing the Capacity of Implementation Partners
  • Nurturing new training service providers and developing their skills.
  • Greater emphasis on projects for poor rural youth in Jammu and Kashmir (HIMAYAT).

GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

  1. Schemes for the vulnerable sections of the society.

 

New Code on Wages

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features of the new code, need, significance, need for uniform wage across the country.

 

Context: The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha.

The bill will amalgamate the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

 

Key highlights:

  1. Coverage: The Code will apply to all employees. The central government will make wage-related decisions for employments such as railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for all other employments.
  2. Wages include salary, allowance, or any other component expressed in monetary terms. This does not include bonus payable to employees or any travelling allowance, among others.
  3. Floor wage:According to the Code, the central government will fix a floor wage, taking into account living standards of workers.  Further, it may set different floor wages for different geographical areas.  Before fixing the floor wage, the central government may obtain the advice of the Central Advisory Board and may consult with state governments.   
  4. The minimum wages decided by the central or state governments must be higher than the floor wage. In case the existing minimum wages fixed by the central or state governments are higher than the floor wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.
  5. Fixing the minimum wage: The Code prohibits employers from paying wages less than the minimum wages.  Minimum wages will be notified by the central or state governments.  This will be based on time, or number of pieces produced.  The minimum wages will be revised and reviewed by the central or state governments at an interval of not more than five years.  While fixing minimum wages, the central or state governments may take into account factors such as: (i) skill of workers, and (ii) difficulty of work. 
  6. Overtime: The central or state government may fix the number of hours that constitute a normal working day.  In case employees work in excess of a normal working day, they will be entitled to overtime wage, which must be at least twice the normal rate of wages.   
  7. Payment of wages:Wages will be paid in (i) coins, (ii) currency notes, (iii) by cheque, (iv) by crediting to the bank account, or (v) through electronic mode.  The wage period will be fixed by the employer as either: (i) daily, (ii) weekly, (iii) fortnightly, or (iv) monthly.
  8. Deductions: Under the Code, an employee’s wages may be deducted on certain grounds including: (i) fines, (ii) absence from duty, (iii) accommodation given by the employer, or (iv) recovery of advances given to the employee, among others.  These deductions should not exceed 50% of the employee’s total wage.
  9. Determination of bonus:All employees whose wages do not exceed a specific monthly amount, notified by the central or state government, will be entitled to an annual bonus.  The bonus will be at least: (i) 8.33% of his wages, or (ii) Rs 100, whichever is higher.  In addition, the employer will distribute a part of the gross profits amongst the employees.  This will be distributed in proportion to the annual wages of an employee.  An employee can receive a maximum bonus of 20% of his annual wages.
  10. Gender discrimination: The Code prohibits gender discrimination in matters related to wages and recruitment of employees for the same work or work of similar nature.  Work of similar nature is defined as work for which the skill, effort, experience, and responsibility required are the same.  
  11. Advisory boards: The central and state governments will constitute advisory boards.  The Central Advisory Board will consist of: (i) employers, (ii) employees (in equal number as employers), (iii) independent persons, and (iv) five representatives of state governments.  State Advisory Boards will consist of employers, employees, and independent persons.  Further, one-third of the total members on both the central and state Boards will be women.  The Boards will advise the respective governments on various issues including: (i) fixation of minimum wages, and (ii) increasing employment opportunities for women.

  

Significance:

This is expected to effectively reduce the number of minimum wage rates across the country to 300 from about 2,500 minimum wage rates at present.

 

Key Issues and Analysis:

  1. Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions.  In this context, two questions arise: (i) the rationale for a national minimum wage, and (ii) whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages. 
  2. States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.  This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.
  3. The time period for revising minimum wages will be set at five years. Currently, state governments have flexibility in revising minimum wages, as long as it is not more than five years.  It is unclear why this flexibility has been removed, and five years has been set for revision
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender. While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.

 

Need for a national minimum wage:

One argument for a national minimum wage is to ensure a uniform standard of living across the country.  At present, there are differences in minimum wages across states and regions.  Such differences are attributed to the fact that both the central and state governments set, revise and enforce minimum wages for the employments covered by them. The introduction of a national minimum wage may help reduce these differences and provide a basic standard of living for all employees across the country


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

 

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of PMBJP and Janaushadhi Suvidha.

For Mains: Health facilities for the underprivileged- need and efforts by the government, generic medicines and their increasing popularity worldwide.

 

Context: Under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), a total of 5440 dedicated retail outlets selling affordable generic medicines are functional in the country as on 15.07.2019.

 

About PMBJP:

‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. Of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra (PMBJK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.

Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.

 

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SCHEME:

  • Ensure access to quality medicines.
  • Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.
  • Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with only high price.
  • A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies and other Institutions.
  • Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment cost and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.

 

What is a generic medicine?

There is no definition of generic or branded medicines under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945made thereunder. However, generic medicines are generally those which contain same amount of same active ingredient(s) in same dosage form and are intended to be administered by the same route of administration as that of branded medicine.

The price of an unbranded generic version of a medicine is generally lower than the price of a corresponding branded medicine because in case of generic version, the pharmaceutical company does not have to spend money on promotion of its brand.

 

How are they regulated in India?

Drugs manufactured in the country, irrespective of whether they are generic or branded, are required to comply with the same standards as prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder for their quality.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

What are sovereign bonds, and what are their risks and rewards?

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Sovereign bonds- uses, need, significance and challenges?

 

Context: The government has announced its plans to raise a portion of its gross borrowing from overseas markets. With the help of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the government will finalise the plans for the overseas issue of sovereign bonds by September.

 

What exactly are sovereign bonds?

A bond is like an IOU. The issuer of a bond promises to pay back a fixed amount of money every year until the expiry of the term, at which point the issuer returns the principal amount to the buyer. When a government issues such a bond it is called a sovereign bond.

 

Why is India borrowing in external markets in external currency?

  1. Indian government’s domestic borrowing is crowding out private investment and preventing the interest rates from falling even when inflation has cooled off and the RBI is cutting policy rates.
  2. If the government was to borrow some of its loans from outside India, there will be investable money left for private companies to borrow; not to mention that interest rates could start coming down.
  3. A sovereign bond issue will provide a yield curve — a benchmark — for Indian corporates who wish to raise loans in foreign markets. This will help Indian businesses that have increasingly looked towards foreign economies to borrow money.
  4. Globally, and especially in the advanced economies where the government is likely to go to borrow, the interest rates are low and, thanks to the easy monetary policies of foreign central banks, there are a lot of surplus funds waiting for a product that pays more.
  5. In an ideal scenario, it could be win-win for all: Indian government raises loans at interest rates much cheaper than domestic interest rates, while foreign investors get a much higher return than is available in their own markets.

 

What is the controversial part?

  • The current controversy relates to India’s sovereign bonds that will be floated in foreign countries and will be denominated in foreign currencies.
  • This would differentiate these proposed bonds from either government securities (or G-secs, wherein the Indian government raises loans within India and in Indian rupee) or Masala bonds (wherein Indian entities — not the government — raise money overseas in rupee terms).
  • The difference between issuing a bond denominated in rupees and issuing it in a foreign currency (say US dollar) is the incidence of exchange rate risk.
  • If the loan is in terms of dollars, and the rupee weakens against the dollar during the bond’s tenure, the government would have to return more rupees to pay back the same amount of dollars. If, however, the initial loan is denominated in rupee terms, then the negative fallout would be on the foreign investor.

 

Why are so many cautioning against this move?

  1. The volatility in India’s exchange rate is far more than the volatility in the yields of India’s G-secs (the yields are the interest rate that the government pays when it borrows domestically). This means that although the government would be borrowing at “cheaper” rates than domestically, the eventual rates (after incorporating the possible weakening of rupee against the dollar) might make the deal costlier.
  2. Borrowing outside would not necessarily reduce the number of government bonds the domestic market will have to absorb. That’s because if fresh foreign currency comes into the economy, the RBI would have to “neutralise” it by sucking the exact amount out of the money supply. This, in turn, will require selling more bonds. If the RBI doesn’t do it then the excess money supply will create inflation and push up the interest rates, thus disincentivising private investments.
  3. Based on the unpleasant experience of other emerging economies, many argue that a small initial borrowing is the thin end of the wedge. It is quite likely that the government will be tempted to dip into the foreign markets for more loans every time it runs out of money. At some point, especially if India does not take care of its fiscal health, the foreign investors will pull the plug on fresh investments, creating dire consequences for India.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 1:

Topics covered:

  1. Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

 

How lightning strikes?

 

What is lightning, and how does it strike?

It is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.

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