16, February 2017

1.Cabinet approves Amending the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved a proposal to introduce a Bill in Parliament to extend the jurisdiction of the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 to Jammu & Kashmir on statistics relevant to any matters under any of the entries specified in the List-I (Union List) and the List- III (Concurrent List) in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, as applicable to Jammu & Kashmir under the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954.

The Amendment will strengthen data collection mechanism in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Amendment will:

  • Provide for extending the jurisdiction of the Act to Jammu & Kashmir State in respect of matters not reserved for the State as per the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954;
  • Provide for appointing a nodal officer at the Centre and in each State/Union Territory to effectively coordinate data collection activities and provide consultation to Government Departments for avoiding unnecessary duplication, etc.

Background:

  • The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 was enacted to facilitate the collection of statistics on economics, demographic, social, scientific and environmental aspects etc.
  • The Act extends to the whole of India, except Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The Jammu & Kashmir State legislature enacted the Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010, which extends to the whole of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and is almost a replica of the central legislation.
  • The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 and the Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010 are not applicable to statistical subjects falling in the Union List, as applicable to the Jammu & Kashmir under the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 1954.
  • This has created a legislative vacuum. Moreover, the concurrent jurisdiction to be exercised by the Centre in Jammu & Kashmir has also not been provided for, in the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008. The amendment is intended to address this vacuum.

2.Kayakalp awards

Source: PIB

Kayakalp awards felicitate Public Health Facilities for maintaining high standards of sanitation and hygiene.

  • The Health Minister also informed that to complement and leverage the efforts and achievements made so far, MOHFW have launched a joint initiative with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation- Swachh Swasth Sarvatra.
  • Under this initiative Community Health Centres (CHCs) in Open Defecation Free (ODF) blocks will be supported to achieve Kayakalp certification and Gram Panchayat of Kayakalp Primary Health Centres (PHCs) will be prioritized to become ODF.
  • Improved sanitation practices of the community are expected to complement the high level of sanitation and hygiene in the health care facility, and consequently reduce the disease burden related to water borne diseases.

3.Cabinet approves acquisition of subsidiary banks of State Bank of India (Not by RBI)

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the merger of State Bank of India (SBI) with five of its associate/subsidiary banks.

  • These five subsidiary banks are State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.
  • The Union Cabinet also approved the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to repeal the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959 and the State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956.

Key Facts

  • The acquisition under Section 35 of the SBI Act, 1955 will result in the creation of a stronger merged entity.
  • It will minimize vulnerability faced by subsidiary banks to any geographic concentration risks.
  • It will improve operational efficiency and economies of scale resulting into in improved risk management and unified treasury operations.
  • Existing customers of associate banks will benefit from SBI’s global network.
  • The merger will lead to better management of high value credit exposures through focused monitoring and control over cash flows rather than separate monitoring by six different banks.
  • The merger will also result in recurring savings, estimated at more than Rs. 1,000 crore in first year, because of reduced cost of funds and enhanced operational efficiency.

Conclusion:

  • The acquisition of subsidiary banks of SBI is considered an important step towards strengthening the banking sector through consolidation of public sector banks (PSBs).
  • It is in pursuance of the Indradhanush action plan of the Central Government.
  • In 2015, SBI was ranked 52 in the world in terms of assets, however the merger will allow its entry un top 50. The merger does not include Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) and its proposal is still under consideration.

What are the Drawbacks?

  • The employees are worried that their promotion prospects may be hampered due to curtailment of seniority. Further, rationalisation of branches due to overlap may lead to their relocation.
  • Immediate negative impact would be from pension liability provisions (due to different employee benefit structures).
  • With this merger, it is expected that the management will bear critical challenges related to staff integration and rationalisation of branches.
  • The whole process has faced resistance from employee unions, who were fearful of losing their jobs.

4.Cabinet approves Establishment of Food Legumes Research Platform (FLRP) by International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA)

Source: PIB

FLRP at Amlaha, Sehore, Madhya Pradesh with Satellite Hubs in West Bengal and Rajasthan.

  • Authorizing the Department of Agricultural Research (DARE) on behalf of Government of India in all matters regarding establishment of the Platform.
  • Authorizing the Ministry of Agriculture to carry out technical modifications in the Supplementary Agreement signed between ICAR and ICARDA relating to establishment of FLRP, if required.

Food Legumes Research Platform:

The establishment of FLRP in India will enable India to harness the best of international science in meeting the emerging food security challenges.

  • India would be able to rapidly and effectively absorb the research output achieved in the country by FLRP. A major international R&D institution will make India an even bigger center for agricultural research in the world and this in turn, will attract further research & development investment in the country.

Key facts:

  • ICARDA has a good track record of innovation, as in climate resilient technologies including suitable food legume varieties for dry-land production systems.
  • ICARDA will carry out research through a multi-disciplinary team of scientists for enhancing productivity of crops range-land and livestock.
  • This platform will contribute significantly towards reducing poverty, improving food security, improving nutrition and health, and sustaining the natural resource base.

The research output would benefit farmers of all regions, whether big, small or marginal; and as technologies developed would be eligible for use by all farmers, the project is equitable and inclusive.

International Centre for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

  • ICARDA is a non-profit agricultural research for development institute that aims to improve the livelihoods of the resource-poor across the world’s dry areas.
  • It was established in 1977. Its research activities include the development of new crop varieties, conservation agriculture, water harvesting, diversification of production systems, integrated crop/livestock production systems, and empower rural women.
  • ICARDA has a good track record of innovation, including in climate resilient technologies such as suitable food legume varieties for dry-land production systems.

5.Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining

Source: The Hindu

During monsoon 2017, weather scientists will fly airplanes loaded with silver iodide over clouds hovering above Solapur, Maharashtra

The ₹250-crore programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.

The most common chemicals used for cloud seeding include silver iodide, potassium iodide and dry ice (solid carbon dioxide). Liquid propane, which expands into a gas, has also been used. This can produce ice crystals at higher temperatures than silver iodide.

6.Weather officials to study possible emergence of El Nino

Source: The Hindu

Meteorologists are likely to review the threat to the Indian monsoon from a possible El Nino

  • El Nino refers to an anomalous heating up of the waters in the central-eastern regions of the equatorial Pacific and implies a consistent, average rise in temperature of 0.5 degree Celsius above normal. Historically that translates to the monsoon drying up over India six out of 10 years.
  • In the normal course of events, the Pacific waters ought to have been in the converse cool, La Nina mode and only begin a warming trend late after India’s summer monsoon period of June-September.

For one, predictions made from a climate model before March could dramatically differ from that in April or later because of the way oceans and atmosphere influence each other, phenomena that meteorologist call the Spring Barrier effect.

How it influences the sea around India and there could be local factors that may be stronger? However, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), doesn’t bode well for India. According to a report by the IMD.

Indian Ocean Dipole: The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Niño, is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.

What are El Niño and La Niña?

El Niño and La Niña are complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

El Niño

  • The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • Typical El Niño effects are likely to develop over North America during the upcoming winter season. Those include warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada, and over the western and northern United States. Wetter-than-average conditions are likely over portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida, while drier-than-average conditions can be expected in the Ohio Valley and the Pacific Northwest.
  • El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. The ENSO cycle is a scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific (approximately between the International Date Line and 120 degrees West).

La Niña

  • La Niña episodes represent periods of below-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Equatorial Pacific. Global climate La Niña impacts tend to be opposite those of El Niño impacts. In the tropics, ocean temperature variations in La Niña also tend to be opposite those of El Niño.
  • During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest.
  • La Niña is sometimes referred to as the cold phase of ENSO and El Niño as the warm phase of ENSO. These deviations from normal surface temperatures can have large-scale impacts not only on ocean processes, but also on global weather and climate.

  1. Trade unions oppose changes to Factories Act

Source: The Hindu

The central trade unions, have opposed the Centre’s proposed change to empower states to increase threshold limit for coverage of factories under the Factories Act, 1948.

Centre Proposal

  • The central trade unions strongly object to the amendment proposed to the definition of ‘factory’ giving powers to State Governments to increase the threshold limits of workers up to 20 and 40 in the case of establishments working with and without the aid of power respectively.
  • The Centre has proposed an enabling provision that lets State governments decide the threshold over which a unit will be considered a factory for the purpose of the law.

Issues:

  • The unions demanded covering all manufacturing firms under the Factories Act. The present Factories Act, 1948 applies to establishments with 10 or more workers, if the premise is using power and to establishments with 20 or more workers, without electricity connection
  • The unions also opposed another proposal allowing entrepreneurs to set up factory without getting a license.
  • It alleges that in the name of online registration, the process of self-certification coupled with deemed approval and the removal of licencing will result in freeing the employer of any regulatory control.
  • This will endanger the health and safety of workers and society at large.
  • The labour unions requested the government to circulate the draft Bill to amend the Factories Act, 1948.

Factories Act, 1948:

  • The Factories Act is a social legislation which has been enacted for occupational safety, health and welfare of workers at work places. This legislation is being enforced by technical officers i.e. Inspectors of Factories.
  • It applies to factories covered under the Factories Act, 1948. The industries in which ten (10) or more than ten workers are employed on any day of the preceding twelve months and are engaged in manufacturing process being carried out with the aid of power or twenty or more than twenty workers are employed in manufacturing process being carried out without the aid of power, are covered under the provisions of this Act.

The Centre has proposed an enabling provision that lets State governments decide the threshold over which a unit will be considered a factory for the purpose of the law. However,

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT ARE

1.Approval of Factory Building Plans before construction/extension, under the Delhi Factories Rules, 1950.

2.Grant of Licenses under the Delhi Factories Rules, 1950, and to take action against factories running without obtaining License.

3.Renewal of Licenses granted under the Delhi Factories Rules, 1950, by the Dy. Chief Inspectors of Factories.

4.Inspections of factories by District Inspectors of Factories, for investigation of complaints, serious/fatal accidents as well as sue Moto inspections to check compliance of provisions of this Act relating to

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Welfare facilities
  • Working hours
  • Employment of young persons
  • Annual Leave with wages etc



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