06 , September 2017

Powerful Hurricane Irma hits first Caribbean islands

  • The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean, churning along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
  • The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda., the National Weather Service said. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down. Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighboring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

Irma: Atlantic’s most powerful hurricane ever makes landfall in Caribbean

Key Points

  • Hurricane Irma makes first landfall
  • Irma becomes one of strongest storms ever recorded in Atlantic

1.NITI Aayog calls renewed focus on Nutrition, launches the National Nutrition Strategy- “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”

Source: PIB

To address this and to bring nutrition to the centre-stage of the National Development Agenda, NITI Aayog has drafted the National Nutrition Strategy.

Formulated through an extensive consultative process, the Strategy lays down a roadmap for effective action, among both implementers and practitioners, in achieving our nutrition objectives.


  • With a benefit to cost ratio of 16:1 for 40 low and middle-income countries, there is a well recognized rationale, globally, for investing in Nutrition.
  • The recently published NFHS-4 results reflect some progress, with a decline in the overall levels of under nutrition in both women and children. However, the pace of decline is far below what numerous countries with similar growth trajectories to India have achieved. Moreover, India pays an income penalty of 9% to 10% due to a workforce that was stunted during their childhood.

National Nutrition Strategy:

  • The nutrition strategy envisages a framework wherein the four proximate determinants of nutrition – uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods – work together to accelerate decline of under nutrition in India.
  • Currently, there is also a lack of real time measurement of these determinants, which reduces our capacity for targeted action among the most vulnerable mothers and children.
  • Supply side challenges often overshadow the need to address behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services. This strategy, therefore, gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as a key determinant to address India’s nutritional needs.
  • The Nutrition Strategy framework envisages a Kuposhan Mukt Bharat – linked to Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat.
  • The aim isensure that States create customized State/ District Action Plans to address local needs and challenges. This is especially relevant in view of enhanced resources available with the States, to prioritise focused interventions with a greater role for panchayats and urban local bodies.

2. The Code on Wages Bill 2017

Source:  PIB

As part of labour law reforms, the Government has undertaken the exercise of rationalisation of the 38 Labour Acts by framing 4 labour codes viz Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Social Security and Code on occupational safety, health and working conditions.

  1. The Code on Wages Bill 2017 has been introduced in Lok Sabha on 10.08.2017 and it subsumes 4 existing Laws, viz. the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. After the enactment of the Code on Wages, all these four Acts will get repealed. The Codification of the Labour Laws will remove the multiplicity of definitions and authorities leading to ease of compliance without compromising wage security and social security to the workers.
  2. At present, the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and the Payment of Wages Act do not cover substantial number of workers, as the applicability of both these Acts is restricted to the Scheduled Employments / Establishments. However, the new Code on Wages will ensure minimum wages to one and all and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector of employment without any wage ceiling.
  3. A concept of statutory National Minimum Wage for different geographical areas has been introduced. It will ensure that no State Government fixes the minimum wage below the National Minimum Wages for that particular area as notified by the Central Government.
  4. The proposed payment of wages through cheque or digital/ electronic mode would not only promote digitization but also extend wage and social security to the worker. Provision of an Appellate Authority has been made between the Claim Authority and the Judicial Forum which will lead to speedy, cheaper and efficient redressal of grievances and settlement of claims
  5. Penalties for different types of violations under this Code have been rationalized with the amount of fines varying as per the gravity of violations and repeat of the offences. Provision of compounding of offences has been made for those which are not punishable by a penalty of imprisonment.
  6. Recently, some news reports have been published regarding the fixation of minimum wage as Rs. 18000/- per month by the Central Government. It is clarified that the Central Government has not fixed or mentioned any amount as “national minimum wage” in the Code on Wages Bill 2017. The apprehension that minimum wage of Rs. 18000/- per month has been fixed for all employees is, thus incorrect, false and baseless. The minimum wages will vary from place to place depending upon skill required, arduousness of the work assigned and geographical location.
  7. Further, the Code on Wages Bill 2017, in the clause 9 (3), clearly states that the Central Government, before fixing the national minimum wage, may obtain the advice of the Central Advisory Board, having representatives from employers and employees. Therefore the Code provide for a consultative mechanism before determining the national minimum wage.
  8. Some reports have also been appearing in the media regarding the revised methodology for calculation of minimum wages by enhancing the units from three to six. It was purely a demand raised by Trade Unions in the recent meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Minimum Wages. However it is clarified that such proposal is not part of the Code on Wages Bill.

3.”Implement 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Building Broader Partnerships for Development”- Intervention by Prime Minister at the BRICS Emerging Markets and Developing Countries Dialogue

Source: PIB

SDGs to our own development programmes and scheme, both at the federal and state level

  • Two years since the adoption of UN’s 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the imperative of collaborative action to achieve the goals is even stronger.
  • Recently, India completed its first voluntary national review of SDGs. The bedrock of our development agenda lies in the notion of “SabkaSaath,SabkaVikaas” – that is: Collective Effort, Inclusive Growth.
  • To cite just one example, our three-pronged approach of providing a bank account to the unbanked, providing a biometric identity to all, and using innovative mobile governance solutions, has enabled Direct Benefit Transfers to almost 360 million people for the first time.

Noble commitments for global transformation:

  1. Creating a Safer World: by organized and coordinated action on at least three issues: Counter Terrorism, Cyber Security and Disaster Management;
  2. Creating a Greener World: by taking concerted action on countering Climate Change, through initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance;
  3. Creating an Enabled World: by sharing and deploying suitable technologies to enhance efficiency, economy and effectiveness;
  4. Creating an Inclusive World: by economic mainstreaming of our people including in the banking and financial system;
  5. Creating a Digital World: by bridging the digital divide within and outside our economies;
  6. Creating a Skilled World: by giving future-ready skills to millions of our youth;
  7. Creating a Healthier World: by cooperating in research and development to eradicate diseases, and enabling affordable healthcare for all;
  8. Creating an Equitable World: by providing equality of opportunity to all, particularly through gender equality;
  9. Creating a Connected World: by enabling free flow of goods, persons and services; and,
  10. Creating a Harmonious World: by promoting ideologies, practices, and heritage that are centered on peaceful coexistence and living in harmony with nature.

Through these agenda points, and action on them, we will be contributing directly to the welfare of the Global Community in addition to welfare of our own people. And in this, India stands ready as a willing and committed partner to enhance cooperation and support each other’s national effort.

4.All you need to know about Assam floods
Source: The Hindu

Floods wreak havoc in Assam every year, and this year has been no different. This year, floods caused by three long and heavy spells of rain since March have claimed 157 lives so far.

  • Although the situation in the State has improved over the last week, the damage to life and property has been enormous. There are thousands of people who, having lost their homes, are still living in relief camps.

Here are some questions and explanations on why Assam faces this problem every year, and what could be done about it

Was the rainfall in Assam above normal this year?

No. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Assam’s rainfall this year has been in the normal zone.

Why does Assam get flooded every year?

  • Topography plays a major role. Because most of the rivers flow downstream in the State, they do so with so much force, especially during incessant rainfall, that breaches in embankments are all too common. There are also human-induced problems like destruction of wetlands, deforestation, and encroachments on river banks. Most cities and towns suffer due to poor planning.
  • Both Brahmaputra and Barak, along with their tributaries, were flowing above danger levels at some point during the monsoon season. Dhansiri, Jia Bharali and Kushiyara, a Barak tributary, continue to flow above danger level.
  • Rainfall in upstream also contributes to flooding, as the water flow increases downstream. China shares water flow information of the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers with India during monsoon as a part of bilateral ties. The hydrological data helps understanding water level downstream. However, this year India did not receive any information from China, said MEA

What does the State do to tackle this?

  • Rivers in Assam, including the Brahmaputra, are embanked in places. During the monsoon, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) and NGOs identify dry lands in upper regions and organise shelter for people living in low-lying areas. Those affected often take shelter in schools, which remain shut till the situation improves.
  • According to ASDMA, it has run 954 relief camps providing shelter to a total of 4,51,846 people this year.
  • However, many people have to help themselves during flood and find a safe place to live during the floods.

Do floods claim many lives every year?

  • In the past five years, only in 2013, no death was reported due to floods. It’s noteworthy that an organised system of flood-related data logging is fairly new in the State. Also, the State Disaster Management came into being only in 2010.

How many animals died?

  • 398 animals died in Kaziranga Natioanl Park this year. Following are the numbers of animal affected (not dead) and washed away.

Which are the most flood-affected areas?

  • Thirty-one of the 33 districts of the State were affected by the floods. In 26 districts, a total of about 61,923 people were evacuated to safety, according ASDMA. The only two districts not to see flooding were Karbi Anglong West and Dimaha Sao, both hilly regions.
  • As of September 4, a report of the ASDMA says that 44,618 people continue to be affected by floods in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Chirang, Morigaon, Nagaon, Jorhat, and Cachar districts.

How has agriculture been affected?

Over 3,90,000 hectares of agricultural lands, growing paddy and vegetables, were inundated by the floods.

What could be a long-term solution?

According to Himanshu Thakkar, an IIT graduate and water activist who is a coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, it is “not possible to flood-proof the whole of Assam.” However, here are a few measures that can be followed:

  • Rejuvenation of wetlands,
  • Reconstruction of embankments,
  • Decentralised weather forecast.

5.India and China need to demarcate LAC

Source: Economic Times

The Dokalam standoff and the subsequent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh has made it necessary for takeaways and ironing out of issues by the militaries on both sides, being the primary stakeholders in such matters.

What’s the issue?

  • The LAC, starting from northwest of the Karakoram pass and ending at Arunachal Pradesh, has not been demarcated and is virtually passed on by word of mouth. This has led to differing perceptions regarding the alignment, with China making territorial claims in at least eight areas.
  • These are those areas where regular incursions and face-offs take place. They include Asaphila, Longju, Namka Chu, Sumdorong Chu, and Yangste in Arunachal Pradesh, Barahoti in Uttarakhand, and Aksai China and Demchok in Ladakh.
  • Even areas along the banks of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, where a clash between Indian and Chinese troops took place on August 15, are under dispute. The LAC passes through the lake, but India and China do not agree on its exact location. The mountains sloping on the banks of the lake form finger-like structures.

 What needs to be done?

  • The Line of Actual Control (LAC) has to be properly demarcated and simultaneously confidence building measures (CBMs) have to be conducted, military experts said. More points of contact, including regular meetings and setting up of a hotline between the two militaries, have to be created to prevent future transgressions, incursions and face-offs.

6.‘Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas’

Source: The Hindu

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imported through ships costs about $7.50 per million British thermal unit.

‘Via Oman to Porbandar’

  • A 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran, avoiding Pakistani waters, has been proposed to port cheap gas. It is said that this pipeline can bring natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India at rates less than the price of LNG available in the spot market.

Key facts:

  • As per the proposal, the pipeline can first travel to Oman, and then onwards to Porbandar in the state of Gujarat.
  • The pipeline is planned to carry 31.5 million standard cubic meters gas per day and will be built in two years from the date of necessary approvals and a gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA) being signed.
  • The subsea pipeline is being seen as an alternative to the on-land, Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. New Delhi has not been participating in talks on the 1,036-km Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline since 2007 citing security and commercial concerns. But, it has never officially pulled out of the $7.6 billion project.

Benefits of the proposed pipeline:

  • Presently, liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imported through ships costs about $7.50 per million British thermal unit. However, natural gas imported through the proposed $4-billion line would cost $5-5.50 per million British thermal unit at the Indian coast, cheaper than the rate at which some of the domestic fields supply gas. Therefore, the cost of landed gas through an undersea pipeline will be at least $2 cheaper than importing LNG, saving about $1 billion annually.

 Iran- Pakistan- India (IPI) gas pipeline:

  • IPI pipeline was envisaged to transport natural gas from South Pars gas field of Iran to Pakistan and India with a carrying capacity of 60 million standard cubic meters per day, to be equally split between India and Pakistan. The total length of the pipeline up to Indian border (near Barmer) was about 2,135 km (1,100 kms within Iran and the rest within the territory of Pakistan). As per past estimates, investments required for this pipeline were in excess of $7 billion.

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