Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 15 February 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 15 February 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2 and 3:

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.
  2. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

National Minimum Wage

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Highlights of the recommendations and criteria used to determine the National Minimum Wage.
  • For Mains: National Minimum wage-need, significance, challenges and benefits.

Context: Expert Committee Submits its Report on Determining Methodology for Fixing National Minimum Wage.

Background:

There have been several developments since the norms for the fixation of the minimum wages were recommended by the 15th ILC in 1957 and subsequently strengthened by the judgement of the Supreme Court in the judgement of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. case in 1992.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment had constituted an expert committee in January 2017, under the Chairmanship Dr. Anoop Satpathy to review and recommend methodology for fixation of National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Criteria on which the minimum wage has been proposed:

  • Using the nutritional requirement norms as recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indian population, the report has recommended a balanced diet approach which is culturally palatable for fixation of national minimum wage.
  • Accordingly, it has proposed that food items amounting to the level of ± 10 per cent of 2,400 calories, along with proteins ≥ 50 gm and fats ≥ 30 gm per day per person to constitute a national level balanced food basket.
  • It also proposes minimum wage should include reasonable expenditure on ‘essential non-food items’, such as clothing, fuel and light, house rent, education, medical expenses, footwear and transport, which must be equal to the median class and expenditure on any ‘other non-food items’ be equivalent to the sixth fractile (25-30 per cent) of the household expenditure distribution as per the NSSO-CES 2011/12 survey data.

What’s the proposed National Minimum wage?

On the basis of the aforesaid approach, the report has recommended to fix the need based national minimum wage for India at INR 375 per day (or INR 9,750 per month) as of July 2018, irrespective of sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations for a family comprising of 3.6 consumption unit.

It has also recommended to introduce an additional house rent allowance (city compensatory allowance), averaging up to INR 55 per day i.e., INR 1,430 per month for urban workers over and above the NMW.

Regional variations:

Apart from proposing the level of a single national minimum wage at an all-India level, the report has also estimated and recommended different national minimum wages for different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities and as per socio-economic and labour market contexts.

For the purpose of estimating national minimum wages at regional levels it has grouped the states into five regions based on a composite index and have recommended region specific national minimum wages as follows:

Way ahead:

The committee has also recommended reviewing the consumption basket every five years, subject to the availability of NSSO-CES data, and – within the period of 5 years – revising and updating the basic minimum wage at least in line with the consumer price index (CPI) every six months, to reflect changes in the cost of living.

Mains Question: Do you think there should be a law to ensure minimum wages applicable to all employees across that country including sector-specific minimum wages for industrial workers? Substantiate.


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.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban

What to study?

  • For Prelims: PMAY- Urban- key features.
  • For Mains: Significance of the scheme, challenges ahead and measures needed to achieve the target.

Context: Government has launched a Mobile App to Allow Beneficiaries to Capture & Upload Photographs of Completed Houses under PMAY- U.

About PMAY- Urban:

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.

The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:

  1. Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
  2. Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
  3. Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
  4. Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.

Key facts:

  1. The beneficiaries are poor and people living under EWS and LIG categories in the country.
  2. The scheme is divided into three phases. In the first phase, a total of 100 cities will be covered from April 2015 to March 2017. In phase two, 200 cities will be covered from April 2017 to March 2019. In the third phase, the leftover cities will be covered from April 2019 to March 2022.
  3. The government is providing an interest subsidy of 6.5% on housing loans which can be availed by beneficiaries for 15 years from start of loan date.
  4. The government will grant Rs 1 lakh to all the beneficiaries of the scheme. In addition, Rs 1.5 lakh will be given to all eligible urban poor who want to construct their houses in urban areas or plan to go for renovation in their existing houses. One can also avail loans under this scheme to build toilets in existing houses.

Challenges ahead:

  • According to the findings by ratings agency Crisil, the central government has to mobilise Rs 1 lakh crore in the next three years for achieving its target of building 1 crore houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U).
  • This is going to be a tall task given the current fiscal arithmetic. The scheme also faces headwinds such as unavailability of land in prime areas, low participation of private developers on account of brand dilution, bidding mechanism, stringent cost and time schedules resulting in low yields, increasing construction costs due to absence of bulk sourcing of materials, and lack of new technology that impacts productivity, cost efficiency and quality.

Significance of the scheme:

  • PMAY-U does offer a huge opportunity for several sectors by setting off a virtuous cycle.
  • One crore houses would mean an opportunity for over Rs 2 lakh crore of home loans, and incremental consumption of 80-100 million tonne of cement and 10-15 million tonne of steel.
  • The construction opportunity is of about four billion square feet over the life of PMAY-U and all that would translate into 9-10 crore incremental jobs over the execution period.

Mains Question: Infrastructure development has witnessed significant impetus in India in the recent years. Discuss. 


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 Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: The scheme- features, significance, need and potential.

Context: The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has launched the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana (PM-SYM), a mega pension scheme for unorganised sector. The scheme was announced in the Interim Budget 2019.

About Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana:

PM-SYM is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme that will engage as many as 42 crore workers in the unorganised sector.

Eligibility:

  1. The unorganised sector workers, with income of less than Rs 15,000 per month and who belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years, will be eligible for the scheme.
  2. Those workers should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
  3. He or she should not be an income tax payer.

Benefits:

Minimum Assured Pension: Each subscriber under the scheme will receive minimum assured pension of Rs 3000 per month after attaining the age of 60 years.

In case of death during receipt of pension: If the subscriber dies during the receipt of pension, his or her spouse will be entitled to receive 50 percent of the pension as family pension. This family pension is applicable only to spouse.

In case of death before the age of 60 years: If a beneficiary has given regular contribution and dies before attaining the age of 60 years, his or her spouse will be entitled to continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or may even exit the scheme.

Contribution to the scheme:

Contribution by the Subscriber: The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining the scheme till the age of 60 years.

Medium of contribution: The subscriber can contribute to the PM-SYM through ‘auto-debit’ facility from his or her savings bank account or from his or her Jan- Dhan account.

Equal contribution by the Central Government: Under the PM-SYM, the prescribed age-specific contribution by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government will be made on a ‘50:50 basis’.


Relevant articles from various News Papers:

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation related issues.

Dolphin census

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Dolphins in India- types and IUCN status, highlights of the census, need for protection.

Context: Annual Dolphin census was recently carried out in Odisha by the state’s forest and environment department.

The census covered important aquatic ecosystems in the state including the Chilika lake, India’s largest brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts, the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and its nearby areas within the Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district, Balasore district and the mouth of the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district.

Important findings:

Population declined from 469 in 2018 to 259 this year. The reduction in the number of dolphins compared to last year could be due to the migration of species from the Chilika Lake and other water bodies to the deep sea.

Gahirmatha is the home of the state’s largest dolphin population, having 126 animals. More dolphins were found in Gahirmatha than Chilika due to its bigger areas. 

After Gahirmatha, Chilika had the next largest population at 113, followed by the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district, with 15 dolphins and finally, Balasore, with 5 individuals.

The dolphin species sighted during the state-wide census included the Irrawaddy, the Bottle Nose and the Humpback.

Key facts:

Dolphins have been included in Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and categorised as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

Sources: down to earth.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health.

WHO issues new international standard for music devices

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key guidelines and significance of these guidelines.

Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of musical devices.

The aim behind the move is to prevent young people from going deaf.

Among other things, the standard recommends:

Sound allowance” function: software that tracks the level and duration of the user’s exposure to sound as a percentage used of a reference exposure.

Personalised profile: an individualized listening profile, based on the user’s listening practices, which informs the user of how safely (or not) he or she has been listening and gives cues for action based on this information.

Volume limiting options: options to limit the volume, including automatic volume reduction and parental volume control.

General information: information and guidance to users on safe listening practices, both through personal audio devices and for other leisure activities.

The WHO has recommended that governments and manufacturers adopt the standard. It has also called on civil society organisations, particularly professional associations that promote hearing care, to play a role in advocating for the standard.

What necessitated this?

  1. Nearly 50% of people aged 12-35 years — or 1.1 billion young people — are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.
  2. Over five per cent of the world’s population — or 466 million people — has disabling hearing loss; impacting on their quality of life. The majority live in low- and middle-income countries.
  3. It is estimated that by 2050, over 900 million people — or 1 in every 10 people — will have disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss which is not addressed poses an annual global cost of $750 billion. Overall, it is suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures.

Sources: down to earth.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

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

Oxytocin ban

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Oxytocin related facts.
  • For Mains: Why was it banned? Concerns associated with the ban? What’s the way out?

Context: Indian Medical Association has said Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (KAPL) neither has the experience nor the capacity to handle Oxytocin production.

What’s the issue?

The Delhi high court had quashed the Centre’s December 14, 2018 notification, which had banned its sale by private manufacturers and retail chemists, saying the sale was allowed. Essentially, this meant that only KAPL could produce the drug as there is no other public sector enterprise doing so. However, Delhi high court quashed the amended order too. The central government moved Supreme Court against the Delhi high court order.

What’s the concern now?

KAPL has said bulk production of the drug would take three-four years. This would put lives of many pregnant women at risk as it would lead to acute shortages.

With the ban, the government did not adequately weigh in the danger of its order to the users of oxytocin, nor consider the deleterious effect of possible restricted supply if manufacture is confined to one unit on pregnant women and young mothers.

What can be done?

Strict control on illegal imports of the drug: Most of the veterinary use comes from illegal import of oxytocin from neighbouring countries. The misuse could be prevented through strict control in sale and end use of the drug especially prevention through clandestine channels.

About Oxytocin:

  1. Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
  2. Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
  3. It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
  4. The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.

Reasons behind the ban are:

  1. Misuse in diary industry: Oxytocin is a naturally-occurring hormone that causes uterine contractions during labour and helps new mothers lactate. However, the drug is misused in the dairy industry where livestock is injected with Oxytocin to make them release milk at a time convenient to farmers.
  2. Oxytocin is also used to increase the size of vegetables such as pumpkins, watermelons, eggplants, gourds, and cucumbers.

Sources: down to earth.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Wasted effort: half of India’s waste-to-energy plants defunct

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Waste- to- energy- India’s potential, challenges present and measures to address these challenges.

Context: An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment has revealed that nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity.

Key findings:

  1. Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have since shut down. Apart from Delhi, these include plants at Kanpur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Vijayawada and Karimnagar.
  2. The key reasons for closure are the plants’ inability to handle mixed solid waste and the high cost of electricity generated by them that renders it unattractive to power companies.
  3. This track record, however, has not stopped the government from betting big on WTE. The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together.
  4. It also proposes setting up a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India, which would construct incineration plants through PPP models. Currently, there are 40-odd WTE plants at various stages of construction.

Reasons for the inefficiency:

The fundamental reason (for the inefficiency of these plants) is the quality and composition of waste. MSW (municipal solid waste) in India has low calorific value and high moisture content. As most wastes sent to the WTE plants are unsegregated, they also have high inert content. These wastes are just not suitable for burning in these plants. To burn them, additional fuel is required which makes these plants expensive to run.

Why Waste to Energy?

Most wastes that are generated find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water and air pollution. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste to energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal.

  • The environmental benefits of waste to energy, as an alternative to disposing of waste in landfills, are clear and compelling. Waste to energy generates clean, reliable energy from a renewable fuel source, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions.
  • These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce pollution of water and air, thereby offering a number of social and economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified.

Some of the strategic and financial benefits from waste-to-energy business are:

Profitability – If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. When government incentives are factored in, the attractiveness of the business increases further.

Government Incentives – The government of India already provides significant incentives for waste to energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. With concerns on climate change, waste management and sanitation on the increase, the government incentives for this sector is only set to increase in future.

Related Opportunities – Success in municipal solid waste management could lead to opportunities in other waste such as sewage waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology/route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate (a fertilizer) or bio-oil can be obtained. These co-product opportunities will enable the enterprise to expand into these related products, demand for which are increasing all the time.

Emerging Opportunities – With distributed waste management and waste to energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste to energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant international expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially expansion into other Asian countries.

The growth of this sector has been affected on account of the following limitations/ constraints:

  1. Waste-to-Energy is still a new concept in the country;
  2. Most of the proven and commercial technologies in respect of urban wastes are required to be imported;
  3. The costs of the projects especially based on bio-methanation technology are high as critical equipment for a project is required to be imported.
  4. In view of low level of compliance of MSW Rules 2000 by the Municipal Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies, segregated municipal solid waste is generally not available at the plant site, which may lead to non-availability of waste-to-energy plants.
  5. Lack of financial resources with Municipal Corporations/Urban Local Bodies.
  6. Lack of conducive policy guidelines from State Governments in respect of allotment of land, supply of garbage and power purchase / evacuation facilities.

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: As per a medium term proposal of Niti Ayog, the only viable solution to dealing with the massive waste problem in India is to incinerate the waste of go from waste to energy. Do you agree with such a view? Discuss


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

World Sustainable Development Summit

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: WSDS- key facts and significance of the summit, about TERI.

Context: The World Sustainable Development Summit 2019 is being held in New Delhi. It is organized by The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI.

World Sustainable Development Summit:

  1. The World Sustainable Development Summit is the annual flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
  2. World Sustainable Development Summit is the sole Summit on global issues taking place in the developing world.
  3. It provides a platform for global leaders and practitioners to discuss and deliberate over climatic issues of universal importance.
  4. It strives to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of the global community by assembling the world’s most enlightened leaders and thinkers on a single platform.
  5. It is continuing the legacy of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) which was initiated in 2001 with the aim of making ‘sustainable development’ a globally shared goal.

The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI:

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development of India and the Global South. TERI was established in 1974 as an information centre on energy issues. However, over the following decades, it made a mark as a research institute, whose policy and technology solutions transformed people’s lives and the environment.

Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims:

Selenium:

Context: Scientists have found that nanoparticles of selenium, an essential micronutrient, can be used as an antibacterial agent. Scientists found that selenium nanoparticles, owing to their unique structure and properties, may be more effective than antibiotics as they have a larger surface area and therefore can be more in contact with the external environment.

Key facts:

Selenium is found naturally in wheat, eggs, cheese, nuts and sea food. It is an antioxidant and immunity booster.

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