07, February 2017

1.Social Security for Workers in Informal Sector

Source: PIB

In order to provide social security benefits to the workers in the unorganised sector, the Government has enacted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. The 2008 Act stipulates formulation of suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matters relating to:

  1. Life and disability cover,
  2. Health and maternity benefits,
  3. Old age protection.

The social security schemes being implemented by various ministries/departments for unorganised workers listed in Schedule I are mentioned below:

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (Ministry of Rural Development);
  • National Family Benefit Scheme (Ministry of Rural Development);
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare);
  • Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme (Ministry of Textiles);
  • Handicraft Artisans’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme (Ministry of Textiles);
  • Pension to Master Craft Persons (Ministry of Textiles);
  • National Scheme for Welfare of Fishermen and Training and Extension (Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries);
  • Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (Department of Financial Services); and
  • Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare).

Further, Central Government has also launched the Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana for all citizens especially targeting unorganised workers to provide them comprehensive social security.

2.Rationalisation of Labour Laws

Source: PIB

Reforms in labour laws are an ongoing process to update legislative system to address the need of the hour and to make them more effective and contemporary to the emerging economic and industrial scenario.

Key facts:

The Second National Commission on Labour which submitted its Report in 2002 had recommended that the existing Labour Laws should be broadly grouped into four or five Labour Codes on functional basis.

Accordingly, the Ministry has taken steps for

  1. Drafting four Labour Codes on Wages;
  2. Industrial Relations;
  3. Social Security & Welfare and Safety and Working Conditions, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws.

These initiatives will reduce the complexity in compliance due to multiplicity of labour laws and facilitate setting up of enterprises and thus creating the environment for development of business and industry in the country and generating employment opportunities without diluting basic aspects of safety, security and health of workers.

Conventions of International Labour Organization (ILO)

  • Conventions of International Labour Organization (ILO), on ratification create legally binding obligation for ratifying country. Ratification of a convention is a voluntary process.
  • India ratifies a convention only when our national laws and practices are in full conformity with the Convention.  So far, India has ratified 45 Conventions and 1 Protocol.

Conventions and Recommendations:

  • International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) and setting out basic principles and rights at work.
  • They are either conventions, which are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states, or recommendations, which serve as non-binding guidelines.
  • In many cases, a convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries, while a related recommendation supplements the convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied. Recommendations can also be autonomous, i.e. not linked to any convention.

Ratifying countries commit themselves to applying the convention in national law and practice and reporting on its application at regular intervals.

Fundamental Conventions

The ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight conventions as “fundamental”, covering subjects that are considered as fundamental principles and rights at work which are also covered in the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work  (1998).

They are

  1. Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948
  2. Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949
  3. Forced Labour Convention, 1930
  4. Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957
  5. Minimum Age Convention, 1973
  6. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
  7. Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951
  8. Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958

Governance Conventions The ILO’s Governing Body has also designated another four conventions as “priority” instruments, thereby encouraging member states to ratify them because of their importance for the functioning of the international labour standards system.

The ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization underlined the significance from the viewpoint of governance of these Conventions.

The four governance Conventions are:

  • Labour Inspection Convention, 1947
  • Employment Policy Convention, 1964
  • Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969
  • Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976

3.Export of Cash Crops

Source: PIB

Government provides financial and technical assistance to the growers and other stakeholders to boost export of cash crops namely tea, coffee, rubber, spices, tobacco and cashew which includes, inter alia, participation in trade fairs, exhibitions, buyer-seller meets, brand promotion, public relation campaigns and incentives for export of value added products.

The Government has introduced unified export promotion scheme for merchandise exports including that of cash crops viz. Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS).

  • The scheme provides incentive in the form of duty credit scrip to the exporter to compensate for his loss on payment of duties.
  • The incentive is paid as percentage of the realized FOB value (in free foreign exchange) for notified goods going to notified markets.

4.CNS reviews Indian Navy’s Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (Tropex 2017)

Source: PIB

The ongoing Annual Theatre level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) 2017 which is presently underway

Key facts:

CNS mentioned that training during peacetime has to be at par with how we would Fight during war and emphasised on taking bold decisions with due cognisance to risks involved and ensuring safety of men and material.

  • The CNS witnessed a host of exercises viz. Gunnery shoots, Surface to Air missile engagements, Brahmos firing and operations of the combined Fleet in a complex multi threat environment including sub surface and air threats.
  • The high-point of the exercise was Large Force Engagement (LFE) by the Fleet units against threat simulated by air element from Indian Air Force comprising AWACS, SU 30s, Jaguars and IL 78 (AAR).
  • These threats emanated from different directions and were neutralised by using Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capabilities of MiG 29Ks, the integral air arm of the Indian Navy, operating from INS Vikramaditya in coordination with other Fleet units. All these exercises validated the combat effectiveness of IN platforms.
  • TROPEX 2017 is a month long exercise/ war drill, encompassing all dimensions of maritime warfare and is witnessing participation of over 60 ships, 05 submarines and more than 70 naval aircraft.
  • It also includes participation of a large number of assets from the Indian Air Force, such as Su-30 and Jaguar fighters, AWACS, C 130J Hercules and in-flight refuelling aircraft, Infantry amphibious elements from Indian Army and ships/ aircraft from the Indian Coast Guard.

The area of operations for TROPEX 2017 exercise spans across the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea and North Central Indian Ocean and serves as an opportunity to validate the Indian Navy’s Concepts of Operation.

TROPEX 17 assumes special significance in the backdrop of the current security scenario, being aimed at testing combat readiness of the combined fleets of the Indian Navy, and the assets of the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard. It will also strengthen inter-operability and joint operations in a complex environment.

 

5.Steps taken to Prevent Coal Mine Accidents

Source: PIB

The provisions of Mines Act, 1952, Subordinate Rules and Regulations made thereunder are being administered for ensuring the safety in coal mines by Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS).

Steps have been taken by the Government:

  1. Safety audit of all the coalmines has been taken up.
  2. Strengthening of Internal Safety Organisations (ISO) in coalmines/coal companies.
  3. To promote and propagate safety awareness in mines, National Safety Awards (Mines), National Conference on Safety in Mines is organized by DGMS.
  4. Workers participation and sensitization in matters of safety are ensured through training in safety and by initiatives like celebration of safety week and safety campaigns, etc.
  5. Safety training programmes are organized for Managers and Supervisors for improving safety standards in mines.
  6. CIL has taken up a training programme with “Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (SIMTARS)”, Govt of Queensland, Australia for training of trainers
  7. DGMS facilitates introduction of Risk Assessment Techniques aimed at elimination of risks and to ensure safety of workmen.
  8. DGMS facilitates introduction of standard operating procedures to avoid unsafe practices in mines.
  9. A special safety awareness campaign has been launched to increase awareness of mine workers with the motto: ‘Safety is My Responsibility”
  10. Risk based inspection system through Shram Suvidha Portal has been implemented for coal mines.
  11. Adoption of online safety monitoring systems,  establishment of geo-technical cells, installation of gas chromatographs for monitoring and analysing underground mine gases, installation of proximity warning devices to avoid collision of heavy earth moving machinery, environmental tele-monitoring systems in all degree-III gassy mines, slope monitoring systems for overburden benches and OB dumps etc. are some of the other important steps taken by coal companies for improving safety of miners and mining operations in the coal mines.

6.BIMSTEC Meet

Source: PIB

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

The regional group acts as a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.

Objectives:

1.The objective of building such an alliance was to harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation in different areas of common interests by utilizing regional resources and geographical advantages.

  • Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization.
  • Starting with six sectors—including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries—for sectoral cooperation in the late 1997, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors—including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change—in 2008.

2.BIMSTEC was created with objectives to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the sectors of trade, investment and industry, technology, human recourse development, tourism, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure and transportation.

  • Through joint endeavours and active collaboration, provide mutual assistance in the form of training and research facilities, on matters of common interest in the economic, social, technical and scientific fields.

Key facts:

Leaders of BIMSTEC Countries were the special invitees at the Goa BRICS Summit, held in October, 2016, under its customary Outreach Initiative.  Prior to the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, the BIMSTEC Leaders met in a Retreat format.

  • During the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, Leaders appreciated India’s initiative and the opportunity to interact between the two groupings of emerging economies and developing countries, which together represent half the world’s population.
  • They highlighted the potential for cooperation in areas such as counter terrorism, trade, energy, investment and capital flows, environment, technology, infrastructure and human development as well as funding by the BRICS New Development Bank for BIMSTEC projects.
  • Established: 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration. Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh met on the side-lines of the BRICS-BIMSTEC OUTREACH held in October last year.  Both leaders reviewed the bilateral relations from all aspects.

India’s links with Bangladesh are civilizational, historical, cultural, social and economic. India shares very cordial and friendly relations with Bangladesh which is not targeted at any third country.

The fourth edition of BIMSTEC Summit-2017 will be held in Nepal. It was announced in the 17th session of BIMSTEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) held in Kathmandu, capital Nepal.

7.Implement WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial decisions: India

Source: The Hindu

World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevêdo the need to ensure that processes on outstanding issues — including on food security — of the WTO’s Doha Round negotiations are completed before the December 2017 Ministerial Conference (MC) in Argentina.

Key facts:

  • India was very clear on its stand that ‘new issues’ including e-commerce and investment cannot be brought into the formal agenda of the WTO-level negotiations on liberalisation of global trade without consensus among all the WTO members.
  • The MC, which is the WTO’s highest decision-making body, usually happens every two years.
  • After the December 2015 MC in Nairobi, the government had said:
  • In view of the reluctance of developed countries to agree to continue the Doha Development Agenda post-Nairobi, India negotiated and secured a re-affirmative Ministerial Decision on public stockholding for food security purposes honouring both the Bali Ministerial and (WTO) General Council Decisions.
  • The decision commits (WTO) members to engage constructively in finding a permanent solution to this issue [of public stockholding for food security purposes].

The Doha Round

  • The Doha Round is the latest round of trade negotiations among the WTO membership.
  • Its aim is to achieve major reform of the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules.
  • The work programme covers about 20 areas of trade. The Round is also known semi-officially as the Doha Development Agenda as a fundamental objective is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries.
  • The Round was officially launched at the WTO’s Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. The Doha Ministerial Declaration provided the mandate for the negotiations, including on agriculture, services and an intellectual property topic, which began earlier.
  • In Doha, ministers also approved a decision on how to address the problems developing countries face in implementing the current WTO agreements.

8.181 Irrawaddy dolphins counted in Odisha census

Source: The Hindu

According to new census carried out by the Odisha State Forest and Environment department in 2016, as many as 181 Irrawaddy dolphins have been sighted in the state.

  • This marks a significant drop from 2015 survey which had recorded 450 dolphins. The 2016 dolphin census in Odisha reported Humpback dolphins (34), bottlenose dolphins (31) and five pantropical spotted dolphins.

Key facts:

  • The Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon of the country recorded a marginal drop in the population of Irrawaddy dolphins from 144 in 2015 to 134 in 2016.
  • About 55 dolphins were sighted this year in Bhitarakanika, compared to 58 spotted in 2015.
  • In the Bhadrak Wildlife Sanctuary jurisdiction, only five Irrawady dolphins were sighted.
  • Endangered Irrawaddies are found in three places, humpback and bottlenose dolphins are not distributed uniformly in the State.
  • According to state Forest department, sighting of dolphins depended on the weather condition of the day the census was carried out. Migration of dolphins also continuously takes place in waters close to the coast.

Irrawady Dolphin:

  • Irrawaddy Dolphin is not a true river dolphin, but an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish water near coasts, river mouths and in estuaries in South and Southeast Asia.
  • It is slaty blue to slaty gray throughout, with the underparts slightly paler.
  • It is identified by a bulging forehead, a short beak.
  • It has established subpopulations in freshwater rivers, including the Ganges and the Mekong, as well as the Irrawaddy River from which it takes its name.
  • Its habitat range extends from the Bay of Bengal to New Guinea and the Philippines. They do not appear to venture off shore.
  • Protection Status: IUNC has classified it as Vulnerable in Red Data list. Threats: fishing nets, developmental projects like construction of dams, tourism and diseases.

9.India’s military  modernized- Budget

Source: Indian Express

The annual budget was presented on February 1 and the allocation for the Defence Ministry offers some instructive insights about how India plans to nurture its military — that is, the three armed forces: the army, navy and air force.

Till the mid-1980s, defence pensions were counted as part of the defence budget.

Key facts:

The total allocation for the financial year (FY) 2017-18 is a reasonable Rs 3,59,854 crore ($53 billion) and the increase over the last three years has been steady.

In FY 2015-16, the total defence allocation was Rs 2,94,320 crores and while this increase of Rs 65,534 crore is seemingly large — almost 23 per cent over a three-year period — the larger fiscal context provides some anomalous insights.

Early stage: Till the mid-1980s, defence pensions were counted as part of the defence budget.

  • Then, to avoid adverse international scrutiny of burgeoning defence expenditure, pensions were taken out and only re-included in the budget last year.
  • As stated by the Supreme Court, pensions are deferred wages, and technically this means that these are payments paid for active military service rendered in the past.
  • Since there is no way to estimate the future pension budget of 14.7 lakh armed forces personnel currently in service, including it in the defence budget is a pragmatic way of accounting for the expenditure.

Current scenario:  

1.The total defence budget for Financial Year 17-18 is thus Rs 3,59,854 crore.

  • Pensions apart, the salary bill for the armed forces this year would be around Rs 1,06,922.79 crore, taking up a bulk of the defence budget.
  • This only partially accounts for the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, as allowances are yet to be fixed as per the new scale. If the five core demands of the military chiefs on the anomalies of the Pay Commission are conceded by the government, the salary bill will shoot up further.
  1. Going by past evidence, the government may not make additional provisions for salaries but only transfer money from the amount for capital acquisitions in the defence budget for this purpose.
  2. In FY17-18, Rs 86,488.01 crore has been earmarked for capital expenditure of the defence services; and Rs 1,82,534.42 crore is for revenue expenditure.
  • Revenue expenditure is for operating expenses of the Defence Ministry while the bulk of the capital expenditure is for procurement of military equipment to modernise the armed forces.
  • As a finance secretary explained to the parliamentary standing committee on defence, the Finance Ministry is not really concerned with this division of expenditure. It only allocates the total money and leaves the revenue and capital allocations to the discretion of the ministry.

Issues:

  • Over the years, governments have taken to making budgetary announcements with high allocation for capital acquisition to ward off any criticism about forsaking defence modernisation.
  • By the time revised estimates are prepared, a portion of that allocation is transferred towards revenue expenses or returned to the government. Take the example of the current FY 2016-17.
  • In the 2016 budget, Rs 78,586.68 crore was allocated for capital expenditure at the budgetary stage, which came down to Rs 71,700 crore at the revised estimates stage.
  • This means that the ministry did not use Rs 6,886 crore for defence modernisation, and the amount was transferred to revenue expenditure to meet the increased salary bill. This is not a one-off thing. In the past decade, Rs 51,515 crore has been similarly returned from the budget for capital acquisitions.
  • Even if the full capital allocation of Rs 86,488.01 crore is somehow kept intact, it doesn’t mean that the whole amount is available for buying new defence equipment.

it is a big if, no money is returned from capital to revenue expenditure.

  • In simple terms, a total defence budget of Rs 3.6 lakh crore — which is 2.14 per cent of India’s GDP — leaves the ministry with only Rs 5,000 crore for new defence deals.
  • If these defence deals are assumed to have an upfront payment of 10 per cent, the total cost of equipment that can be bought in the coming financial year is Rs 50,000 crore.
  • To put that into perspective, one single deal for 36 Rafale fighters signed last year was alone worth Rs 59,000 crore. Any expectations of greater defence modernisation in the coming year would thus be futile.

Way ahead:

  • The bureaucracy and the armed forces take a lot of flak for stalled defence procurements, but the real constraint is finding resources.
  • In a slowing economy with multiple competing demands, it is always a challenge for the government to find additional resources for defence.
  • The only other option is to rebalance and restructure the armed forces. Unfortunately, neither looks likely in the near future.

 



Leave a Reply