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Daily Current affairs 27 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

SC to hear plea against changes to pension scheme

Why in News?

  • In Sep 2018, a writ petition was filed by the retirees and employees who are members of the Employees Pension Scheme, 1995, in the Supreme Court against the Centre and the Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO), which administers the pension scheme.
  • Now, the Supreme Court has posted for hearing next month.

 

Demands of the petitioners

  • The petitioners claim that a 2014 amendment and a 2017 circular exclude thousands from receiving their rightful benefits under EPS 95.
  • Therefore they demand the squashing of the 2014 amendment and 2017 circular.

 

Background

  • EPFO’s 2014 amendment raised the wage ceiling amount for the scheme to ₹15,000.
    • It amended the option for contribution on higher salary for existing employees, introducing a cut-off date of September 1, 2014.
    • It also reduced the pensionable salary considerably by averaging 60 months salary instead of 12 months to determine the last drawn salary amount.
  • According to the petition, effects of the amendment are:
    • To exclude all new employees who joined after September 2014 from joining the pension scheme altogether.
    • To exclude serving employees from benefiting from the option of contributing to the pension scheme on maximum salary.
    • To deny the benefit of opting for the scheme to retired employees if they missed the cut-off date.
  • The Supreme Court in October 2016 order struck down the cut-off date clause in the amendment.
  • In December 2016, the EPFO decided to comply with the order and allow members to get the benefit of pension on a higher salary.
  • However, in May 2017, EPFO issued a circular claiming that EPS 95 members from “exempt” companies were excluded from the benefits of the SC’s 2016 order.
  • As there are lots of confusion prevailing, as many 27 cases on various aspects of EPS 95 are pending in the Supreme Court.
  • The exempt companies are those companies which are exempt from maintaining a provident fund with EPFO, but not exempt from participation in the pension scheme.

 

About Employee Pension Scheme (EPS)

  • Employees Pension Scheme is a social security scheme for the employees of the organised sector. It was brought into force in 1995.
  • It is run by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which is a statutory body formed by the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 and is under the control of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
  • Employees covered under Employees Pension Scheme will receive pension on a permanent basis, the pension amounts will eventually pass on to the family members upon the death of the employee.
  • Features of the Scheme:
    • It is a guaranteed pension plan authorized and supported by the Government, wherein the stipulated amount will be remitted to the employee upon retirement, without any changes to the same.
    • Employees are automatically enrolled into the EPS Scheme only if they are members of the EPF scheme.
    • Every employee whose monthly salary combined with DA is Rs 15,000 or lesser, must enroll into this scheme.
    • A minimum pension of Rs. 1000 per month to the member/disabled/widow/widower/ parent/nominee pensioners and Rs. 250 per month for children pensioners and Rs. 750 per month to orphan pensioners is given.
    • A member, who is permanently and totally disabled during the employment, is also eligible for pension.
    • Pensions can be availed when the employee attains the age of 50.
  • Contributions to EPS:
    • An employee contributes 12% of his/her pay towards the EPF account.
    • A matching contribution is also made by the employer. 8.33% of the employee's pay is remitted by the employer to EPS.
    • The Central Government also contributes at the rate of 1.16 per cent of the pay of the members to the Employees' Pension Scheme.

 

 

 

 

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Section : Economics

 

What is the lowdown on zearalenone in cereals?

Why in News?

  • Scientists from Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow have detected samples of maize, oats, rice and wheat infested with fungal-toxin called zearalenonewhich severely disrupts the hormone-system in the body.

 

Key Highlights of the study

  • According to the study, a fungal toxin called zearalenone was found in 60% of the samples of maize, oats, rice and wheat bought from open market in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The harmful effects are predominantly observed in pigs and studies have confirmed its effect on humans is also surfacing.
  • According to estimates the average probable daily intake of zearalenone in India is 0.27 microgram per kilo of body weight through rice and 0.30 microgram per kilo body weight through wheat which is much higher than European Union’s daily tolerable intake limit of 0.25 mcg/kg.

 

 

 

About Zearalenone

  • Zearalenone is a mycotoxin (fungal toxin) produced by certain soil fungi and is known to infest cereals such as wheat, maize and barley.
  • It accumulates in the gluten fractions of cereals during pre-harvest and post-harvest activities. 
  • It attacks crops during the growth period, but can also infest when cereals are stored without being dried fully.
  • Zearalenone is stable at temperatures up to 150°C and thus remains intact even after cooking.
  • Zearalenone contamination in cereals is primarily reported in temperate climates as it favours cool climates.

Harmful effects of Zearalenone contamination

  • The contamination effects in human are not documented clearly. However, according to certain studies, the potent effects of Zearalenone are:
    • It behaves like oestrogen (the female sex hormone) and can cause endocrine disturbances in humans.
    • Zearalenone exposure might result in early puberty for females and hyperestrogenism, (the female sex hormone) which results in inflamed vaginas, infertility etc.
    • Higher levels of zearalenone in blood are also linked to breast cancer and prostate tumours.

 

Steps that should be taken:

  • India neither has data on zearalenone levels in the cereals consumed nor has set regulatory limits set in place for zearalenone levels in cereals.
  • European Union, China, Japan and South Korea have set permissible limits for the toxin in various foods.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified certain other mycotoxins- aflatoxin as a Group 1 carcinogen which means that there is enough evidence for its carcinogenicity. But in case of zearalenone, the toxicity effects are not known clearly. So, the IARC classifies it as a Group 3 carcinogen, which means evidence is not sufficient for an evaluation yet.
  • India being at the risk of zearalenone exposure, the regulatory authority, FSSAI should immediately set safety limits for zearalenone levels in cereals.

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Section : Science & Tech

 

US intensifies anti-Maduro push while Russia supports Venezuelan ally at UN

The News

  • The United States of America called a United Nation Security Council’s (UNSC) meeting to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

 

About Venezuelan crisis

  • There is political standoff going on between the President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and his opponent Juan Guaido, who has declared himself as the acting president.
  • This otherwise oil-rich Latin American country is embattled and facing an unprecedented economic crisis marked by, very high inflation, depreciating currency, severe food and medicine shortages, along with blackouts, rising unemployment and Soaring crimes, etc.
  • The timeline and events of the Venezuelan crisis is pictured below-

 

 

 

Highlights of the news

  • In the meeting, called by the US over Venezuelan crisis, the world reflected deep divisions over the issue.
  • Even the division was reflected in the initial procedural vote on whether the UNSC should even discuss the crisis in Venezuela, as it is not on its official agenda.
  • In the initial procedural vote, US just received the minimum nine “yes” votes to carry on the discussion.
  • Six western nations, France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Poland along with Kuwait, Peru and the Dominican Republic voted in favour of discussing the issue.
  • China and South Africa and Russia voted against discussing the issue and Indonesia and Ivory Coast abstained from voting.
  • On the issue of battle between the President and acting president of Venezuela, The United States urged all nations to support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
  • However, Russia supported the current President Nicolas Maduro as a legitimate government.
  • France, Britain, Spain and Germany supported the US in recognizing Guaido unless Venezuela
  • Amid the deep division over the Venezuelan issue, the UNSC failed to take any concluding decision for action on the Venezuelan crisis.

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Section : International Relation

 

The Sarus crane takes flight with people’s help

The News

  • According to the U.P. State Forest and Wildlife department, the population of the Sarus crane has jumped 5.2% from 2017 to 2018.

 

About Sarus Crane

  • It is world’s tallest flying omnivorous bird, which is over 5 feet on average.
  • It is State bird of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Sarus Crane is non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia.
  • It is India’s only resident breeding crane.
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status: Vulnerable
  • Habitat:
    • Natural wetlands with low water depth, marshy and fallow areas and agricultural fields.
    • The agricultural fields and wetlands of eastern Uttar Pradesh are home to largest number of Sarus Crane in India.
    • It is mainly found on the lowlands along the Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh and in larger wetlands of Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Assam.
  • The bird is a social creature, found mostly in pairs or small groups of three or four. They are known to mate for life with a single partner.
  • They play a vital role in ecological balance by controlling the population of harmful insects and have significant cultural importance.

 

Conservation Issues:

  • Habitat loss and degradation due to draining the wetland and conversion of land for agriculture.
  • Electrocution (death or serious injury caused by electric shock) due to power transmission lines in agricultural areas
  • Poisoning due to ingestion of pesticides from agricultural fields.
  • Hunting of adults
  • Collection of eggs and chicks for trade, food, medicinal purposes and to help limit damage to crops and to help limit damage to crops.
  • Change in the cropping pattern from paddy to sugarcane.

 

News Summary:

  • Owing to the successful conservation efforts, the population of Sarus Crane has constantly been increasing in Uttar Pradesh from 2013 onwards.
  • One of the important conservation effort to conserve the population of Sarus Crane is the Sarus Crane Conservation Project, running across 10 districts of eastern UP since 2013.

 

About Sarus Crane Conservation Project

  • The Project has been running across 10 districts of Purvanchal by Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Tata Trusts and the U.P. Forest Department.
  • It sought to involve local communities (called Sarus Mitra or Friends of the Sarus), in monitoring and protecting Sarus Crane and the wetlands that sustain it.
  • It also assists the U.P. state in developing projects to enhance Sarus crane conservation initiatives.

 

 

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

Patients urge adoption of rights charter

The News

  • In a step towards protection of patient rights in India, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, is urging the government to implement the 1st ever ‘Charter of Patients’ Rights’ of India developed by National Human Rights Commission.

 

Background

Need For Charter of Patient Rights in India

  • In August 2018, the Ministry of health and family welfare released the draft version of India’s first ‘Charter of Patients’ Rights’ developed by NHRC. 
  • Patient rights are protected worldwide in accordance with the fundamental dignity and equality of all human beings guaranteed by Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • There are a number of laws regulating patient rights in the country, there is no single consolidated charter to protect patient rights in India.
  • As health is a state subject there is a need for consolidated document on patients’ rights to bring in uniformity across all states.

 

Laws governing patient rights in India

  • Currently there are several laws and regulations in India relating to protection of patient rights namely:
  • Article 21 of the Constitution
  • Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002
  • The Consumer Protection Act 1986
  • Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940
  • Clinical Establishment Act 2010

 

Charter of Patient Rights

  • The draft Charter of Patient Rights developed by NHRC declares 17 basic rights of patients.
  • It is a document containing guidelines for the Union government and the State governments to formulate concrete mechanisms for protection of patients’ rights.
  • It is also expected to provide for operational mechanisms to make the rights enforceable by law.

 

Important rights covered under Charter of Patient Rights

 

 

Right to information

  • Every patient has a right to information about the nature, cause of illness, details of diagnosis etc.
  • The patient also has the right to know the identity and professional status of the health care providers and doctor treating them.

Right to Emergency Medical Care

  • As per the Supreme Court, all hospitals (government and private) are duty-bound to provide basic emergency medical care to injured persons without demanding payment or advance irrespective of the patient’s paying capacity.

Right to informed consent

  • Every patient has a right that informed consent must be sought prior to any potentially hazardous treatment such as invasive investigation, surgery or chemotherapy.

Right to confidentiality

  • All patients have a right to privacy, and it is the duty of the doctors to hold information about their health condition in strict confidentiality.

Right to second opinion

  • All patients have the right to seek second opinion from an appropriate clinician of patients’ choice.

Right to nondiscrimination

  • Every patient has the right to receive treatment without any discrimination based on his or her illnesses or conditions, including HIV status or other health condition, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, linguistic or geographical /social origins.

 

Mechanism for enforcement of Charter Patient Rights

  • The Charter of Patients’ Rights including the aforesaid rights shall adopted by the Centre and States stipulating that all types of clinical establishments  display the Charter prominently within their premises.
  • The cilincal establishments shall train the staff and consultants regarding the Charter.
  • The Charter applies to all types of clinical establishments owned, controlled or managed by:
    • Government or a department of the Government
    • A trust, whether public or private
    • A corporation (including a society) registered under a Central, Provincial or State Act
    • A privately owned enterprise
    • A local authority
  • NHRC has also recommended grievance redressal mechanism under Clinical Establishment Act 2010.

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Section : Social Issues

 

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