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Daily Current affairs 3 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

National Health Authority gets Cabinet nod

The News

  • In a bid to ensure speedy and effective implementation of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, the Union Cabinet has approved the restructuring of National Health Agency as National Health Authority with more powers.

 

Background

Problem with current National Health Agency

  • In the Budget 2018-19, the government launched Ayushman Bharat, the world's largest health care scheme with two components namely Preventive healthcare and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  • Further the government constituted National Health Agency as the implementing agency for PMJAY.
  • However the "National Health Agency" with its multi-tier decision making structure was considered to be a major roadblock in speedy implementation of the scheme.
  • National Health Agency, a registered society under Ministry of Health had no functional autonomy with the Ministry having a major say in policy matters.
  • Also, all the funds released by the National Health Agency for the scheme were done through the Ministry of Health.

 

Proposed Changes: Restructured National Health Authority

  • The restructured National Health Authority shall have full authority and mandate to implement PM-JAY through an efficient, effective and transparent decision-making process.

Composition

  • The National Health Authority will have a governing board chaired by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.
  • The composition of the governing board comprises of Chairperson and 11 other members including
    • Chief Executive Officer with the rank of secretary to the GOI
    • Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog, ex-officio
    • Secretary, Department of Expenditure
    • Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare
    • Two domain experts to be appointed by the Government
    • Five Principal Secretaries (Health) of State Governments – one representing each of the five zones viz; North, South, East, West and North Eastern States on rotational basis.
  • The board will meet at least once in 3 months.
  • Eventually, the NHA will be given a statutory backing.

 

Functions

  • While currently Ministry has a major say in policy matters, the restructure NHA will be responsible for:
    • Operational guidelines
    • Fixing the ceiling of premium amounts
    • Developing mechanisms for strategic purchase of healthcare from the private sector
    • Building a health information technology platform,
    • Coordinating with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.

 

About PMJAY

  • Under Aayushman Bharat, the government launched the National Health Protection Scheme rechristened as Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana with health Insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.
  • The scheme targets over 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC)
  • There is no cap on family size and age.
  • All 29 states and UTs have signed MoUs with the Centre towards the implementation of the scheme. 
  • States to decide among 3 modes of implementation:
  1. Insurance Mode
  2. Trust Mode
  3. Mixed Mode
  • Benefits will be portable across the country.
  • No enrollment is required for beneficiaries.
  • The scheme is completely cashless meaning the beneficiary will not make any payment to obtain services at empanelled hospitals.
  • The NHA has so far distributed 41.45 lakh e-cards to the beneficiaries.
  • The scheme has completed 100 days with more than 6.95 lakh beneficiaries having availed services under PM-JAY through a network of 16,157 empaneled hospitals.

 

 

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Section : Social Issues

 

Trade Unions Act to be amended

The News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to amend the Trade Unions Act 1926.

 

Background

  • Unions are not recognised under the Trade Unions Act, originally enacted in 
  • The Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 provides for only registration of trade unions basis on which there are 12 central trade unions.
  • The office of the chief central labour commissioner conducts a verification drive of the membership, based on which the labour and employment ministry gives them the status of central trade unions.
  • However, there is no statutory provision for either the recognition of a trade union in industry, or the establishment or recognition of a union at the central and state level.
  • Hence, recognition of trade unions has been a long pending demand of trade unions.
  • Hence, the labour ministry has come up with the proposed amendments to the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926, which has been now approved by the union cabinet.

 

Highlights of the news

  • The Union Cabinet approved the amendment on to the Trade Unions Act, 1926 to facilitate recognition of trade unions at the Central and federal level.
  • It paved the way for the central government to recognize trade unions.
  • The amended legislation will be tabled in Parliament and once passed labour ministry will issue new rules and regulations prescribing the manner of recognition of these trade unions. 

 

Amendments proposed

  • The amendment provides for insertion of section 10A in the principal Act to power centre and state governments to recognize trade unions and federation of trade unions at central as well as state level. 
  • There are provisions empowering the Centre to frame rules for recognising unions and resolving disputes involving them. 

 

Significance of the move

  • Transparency: With the move of amendment of the trade unions act, the recognition of trade unions is set to get more transparent.
  • True representation: The proposed Bill is expected to ensure true representation of workers in the tripartite bodies and check the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the Government.
  • Accountability: Trade unions so recognised would be accountable in maintaining industrial harmony.
  • Reduce duplicacy: Recognition of Trade Unions at Central, State level would reduce duplicacy of such exercise by different departments.
  • Specific roles: Recognised trade unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level.
  • Dispute resolution and reduced litigation: The move will help the government have a say in cases such as those witnessed recently, where there were factions in the Congress-backed Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Trade Unions Co-Ordination Centre.

 

Criticism of the move

  • Interference: Most trade unions vehemently opposed the proposed amendments, claiming that the government was trying to interfere in and cripple their functioning.
  • Dilution: They consider it as a dilution of the Trade Unions Act, pointing out that there were already established procedures in place to verify the Central and State unions.
  • More powers to government: It is alleged that the amendments are politically motivated, and would only give power to the government itself.
  • Autonomy: It is alleged that the amendments would give the government final authority in case of disputes within or between the unions, snatching the autonomy of the unions.
  • Ten Central trade unions have issued a joint general strike call on January 8 and 9.

 

Way forward

  • The government should consult the leaders of various trade unions and other stakeholders before making any amendment.
  • It should try to reduce their concerns and fears.
  • Participative legislation will always have a better acceptance and implementation.

 

About Trade Unions

  • A trade union is an organisation made up of members (a membership-based organisation) and its membership must be made up mainly of workers.
  • One of a trade union's main aims is to protect and advance the interests of its members in the workplace.
  • Most trade unions are independent of any employer.
  • However, trade unions try to develop close working relationships with employers.
  • This can sometimes take the form of a partnership agreement between the employer and the trade union which identifies their common interests and objectives.
  • Trade unions helps employees in the following ways:
    • Negotiate agreements with employers on pay and conditions
    • Discuss major changes to the workplace such as large scale redundancy
    • Discuss members' concerns with employers
    • Accompany members in disciplinary and grievance meetings
    • Provide members with legal and financial advice
    • Provide education facilities and certain consumer benefits such as discounted insurance, etc.

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Section : Economics

 

Cabinet clears high-level panel to safeguard Assamese identity

The News

  • Recently, Union Home Ministry announced that, it will set up a high-level committee to look into the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
  • The composition and terms of reference of the committee, which will also look at issues related to the Bodo community, will be announced later.

 

Assam Accord: A Backgrounder

  • Assam witnessed a range of law and order problems and political turbulence driven by the anti-foreigners movement, in the early 1980s.
  • The Assam Accord was signed between the Government of India, Assam government and All Assam Students Union (AASU) on August 15, 1985.
  • Accordingly, those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote while the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • As per the Assam Accord, any person who came to the state after the midnight of March 24, 1971, will be identified as a foreigner.
  • In addition to economic development, the Accord also had assured to safeguards the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

 

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord

  • Clause 6 of the Assam Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

 

Background

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • In Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the government plans to change the definition of illegal migrants. It seeks to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of religious minorities (non-Muslims).
  • But the bill has polarised regions in borders states like Assam as the locals fear a demographic change might be ushered due to immigration.
  • So the proposed Bill is seen to violate the Assam Accord by differentiating between migrants on the basis of religion.

Note- The move comes days before a joint parliamentary committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is expected to table its report in Parliament.

 

What will be the role of the committee?

  • The committee will hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in the Assam Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
  • It will also look at measures to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam, reservation in state government jobs, and other steps to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
  • The high-level panel will suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, and examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement the clause.
  • The committee will also look into issues of the Bodo people, especially the measures mentioned in the Memorandum of Settlement signed between the Government of India, Assam government and the Bodo Liberation Tigers Force in 2003.

 

Conclusion

  • The setting up of the committee will pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and will help fulfill longstanding expectations of Assamese people.

 

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

China building ‘advanced’ warships for Pakistan

The News

  • As per the state media report, China is building the first of four “most advanced” naval warships for Pakistan as part of a major bilateral arms deal to ensure among other things “balance of power” in the strategic Indian Ocean.

 

Key Features of the Warship

  • The under-construction ship is a version of the Chinese Navy’s most advanced guided missile frigate
  • It is equipped with modern detection and weapon systems, capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defence operations.
  • The ship’s class is Type 054AP, which means it is based on the Type 054A of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, the best frigate in service with the PLA Navy.
  • The ship has a fully loaded displacement of about 4,000 metric tonnes and is equipped with advanced radars and missiles.
  • The ship is the largest and most powerful combat vessel China has ever exported.
  • The ship will have vertical launch cells that can fire Chinese HQ-16 air-defence missiles and other kinds of missiles. Vertical launch cells will bring flexibility to the user in terms of weapons portfolio, thus giving it a stronger fighting capability.

 

Significance for Pakistan:

  • Once constructed, the warship will be one of the largest and technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistani Navy.
  • It will strengthen the country’s capability to respond to future challenges, maintain peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.
  • It will also support the Pakistani Navy’s initiative of securing sea lanes for international shipping by patrolling distant waters.
  • The service of Type 054APs will double the combat power of the Pakistani Navy's surface fleet.

 

Significance for China:

  • China, which has already taken over Pakistan's strategic Gwadar port under the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), looks to assist the Pakistani navy to restore the balance of power in India's backyard.

 

Some key points:

  • China, an “all-weather ally” of Islamabad is the largest supplier of weapon system to Pakistan.
  • Both countries also jointly manufacturing the JF-Thunder, a single engine multi-role combat aircraft.
  • Pakistan, also became the first country to hook on to China's BeiDou Satellite Navigation System, a rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) which went global recently. The system was expected to be used for military applications.

Section : International Relation

 

Taiwan’s unification with China is inevitable, says Xi

The News

  • The Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China seeks the “peaceful unification” of Taiwan but it will not refrain from using force or military action if required.

 

 

Background

  • Relations between Taiwan and China have regained strain for the past two years since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, who has refused to acknowledge Beijing’s stance that the island (Taiwan) is part of “one China”.
  • China has cut direct talks with Taipei, stripped Taiwan of its diplomatic allies and flown bombers and dispatched navy vessels around the island in displays of force.
  • Also, two months ago Tsai’s party, which leans toward declaring formal independence lost in nationwide local elections.
  • Beijing cheered the results as a signal that Taiwanese voters rejected her anti-China stance.
  • On New Year’s Day, Taiwanese president addressed in a national speech that her loss at the local elections had nothing to do with Taiwanese voters’ willingness “to abandon their sovereignty”. She also accused China of interfering in Taiwanese politics.
  • The current speech of Chinese President is an answer to the New Year’s speech of Taiwanese president.

 

Highlights of the news

  • The Chinese President gave a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of a message sent to Taiwan in 1979, in which Beijing called for unification and an end to the military confrontation.
  • In his speech he addressed that China must and will be united, which is an inevitable requirement for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people in the new era.
  • In his speech he assured Taiwanese people that after peaceful reunification, Taiwan will have lasting peace and the people will enjoy good and prosperous lives, their welfare will be even better and their development space will be even greater.
  • To accommodate differences in Taiwan’s political system and civil society, China has proposed adopting the “one country, two systems” policy, which was implemented in Hong Kong after the British handed the city back to China in 1997.
  • He also assured that the private property, religious beliefs and legitimate rights and interests of Taiwanese people will be fully taken care of.
  • The address was also laced with threats of military force and warnings aimed at the Trump administration.

 

Criticism of Chinese move

  • The erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong:
    • It is alleged that China is gobbling up Hong Kong, not just politically but culturally and economically too.
    • It is trying to assimilate Hong Kong into wider mainland China in every way.
    • It sets a negative precedent for Taiwan.
  • Taiwanese wants Independence:
    • Last year tens of thousands of Taiwan independence campaigners took to the streets in the first large-scale protest calling for an outright independence vote.
  • China’s stand on Taiwan:
    • Beijing has adopted a multi-pronged approach to diminish Taiwan’s presence on the international stage.
    • It went for blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of official diplomatic allies, etc.
    • Hence, it cannot be trusted.
  • Pressure on Taiwan’s leaders:
    • Xi’s promise of semi-autonomy is a way to pressure Taiwan’s leader whoever that will be, to accept the One-China Principle.
  • National rejuvenation:
    • National rejuvenation, a Xi catchphrase for returning China to its former glory remains the biggest overall goal for the current Chinese leadership, and unifying Taiwan may be seen as part of that project’s road map.
    • Once the mainland starts to see the Taiwan issue as a stumbling block in the process, it will not hesitate to remove that block.
  • Empty promise but a message to USA:
    • Xi’s words may also be intended for the US, which has shown greater willingness to show support for Taipei by selling arms and dispatching U.S. warships to nearby waters.
    • Washington also remains Taipei’s most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

 

About China-Taiwan relations

  • 1949: Separation
    • Mao Zedong's communists take power in Beijing in October 1949 after defeating Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war.
    • The KMT flee to the island of Taiwan and form their own government in Taipei in December, cutting off contacts with mainland China.
  • In 1950: US ally
    • Taiwan becomes an ally of the United States, which is at war with Communist China in Korea.
  • 1971: Beijing gets UN nod
    • In October 1971, Beijing takes over China's seat at the United Nations, previously held by Taipei.
  • 1987-2016: Fragile reconciliation
    • In late 1987, Taiwan residents are for the first time permitted to visit China, allowing families to reunite and leading to a boom in trade.
    • In 1991, Taiwan lifts emergency rule, unilaterally ending a state of war with China.
    • The first direct talks between the two sides were held in Singapore in 1993.
    • But in 1995, Beijing suspends talks in protest at a visit by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the US.
    • In 2008, Taiwan and China resume high-level talks after the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou is elected president on a Beijing-friendly platform.
    • In 2010, they sign a sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.
    • In 2014, they hold the first government-to-government talks since separation.
  • 2016: Deterioration of bilateral relations
    • Since 2016, when the President Tsai Ing-wenwas elected, who refused to acknowledge Beijing’s stance that the island is part of “one China”, the relations between the two countries have again deteriorated.

 

India’s stand on China-Taiwan

  • India recognises only the People's Republic of China (in mainland China) and not the Republic of China's claims of being the legitimate government of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau - a conflict that emerged after the Chinese Civil War (1945–49).
  • India and Taiwan do not maintain official diplomatic relations. 
  • However, the unofficial bilateral relations between India and Taiwan have improved since the 1990s.
  • As a part of its "Look East" foreign policy, India has sought to cultivate extensive ties with Taiwan in trade and investment as well as developing co-operation in science & technology, environment issues and people-to-people exchanges. 
  • India's economic &commercial links as well as people-to-people contacts with Taiwan have expanded in recent years.

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Section : International Relation

 

Exotic trees eating up Western Ghat’s grasslands

The News

  • A new study has reiterated the problem of exotic invasive species in Shola Grasslands of Western Ghats with almost 40% of the native species in the montane grasslands having disappeared.

 

Background

  • About 50 years ago the Tamil Nadu Forest Department began planting exotic trees in the Shola-grasslands in order to meet the increasing demand for firewood, leather and wood pulp.
  • Shola grasslands are found in the higher elevations of the southern Western Ghats like the Nilgiris, Annamalai and the Palni Hills.
  • By 1988, over 11,000 hectares of grasslands had been converted to plantations.
  • Though the plantation activities stopped by mid 1990s the non-native trees continued to spread and invade the grasslands.
  • This invasion has been so successful that the former shola-grassland landscape in the Palni Hills has been completely replaced by a shola-exotic plantation landscape.

 

Which are the Exotic species planted?

  • There are three major exotic invasive species include Wattle (Acacia), Eucalytpus, and Pine.
  • While wattle was introduced for firewood and for tanning bark, eucalyptus and pine were introduced mainly to satisfy the demand for wood pulp.
  • Wattle is the most dominant invasive tree species.
  • Further eucalyptus trees absorb large quantities of water to support their fast growth rate, which is detrimental to water tables.

 

Key Findings

  • The new study confirms the effect of exotic non-invasive species replacing the Shola Grassland landscape.
  • While the exotic non-native trees have invaded grasslands, they have been unsuccessful in invading shola forest patches.
  • The researchers studied changes in shola-grasslands across Western Ghats between 1972 and 2017 using satellite imagery.
  • According to the study about 60% of the shola-grassland landscape has changed with almost 40% native high-elevation grasslands having disappeared.
  • Further 50% of the loss in shoal-grasslands is reported to have occurred in Nilgiri, Palani and Anamalai hill ranges.
  • Even though no plantations were established between 2003 and 2017, invasion by existing trees increased areas under exotic plantations by 27% in the Palanis and 17% in the Nilgiris.

 

Way Forward

  • In order to get rid of the exotic invasive trees is cut the invasive trees and the grasslands will return.
  • However since return of natural grassland ecosystem takes long, cutting down invasive species may not be enough. Things to be done are”
    • Prioritize the remaining grassland patches and maintaining them free of invasive trees 
    • Thinning of plantations.
    • Begin mass tree removal with a pilot phase.

 

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

Comments

ASHISH - 09 Feb 2019

NICE