Daily Current Affairs 15-11-2017

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answered Nov 15 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

On maternity benefits(GS 2,Government policies and interventions)

Context-The article discuss that government should take the financial responsibilty on maternity benefits

Introduction- The amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act which were introduced,the provision of 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and the mandatory crèche facility, are path-breaking.

The amendments seek to improve infant mortality rate (34 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rate (167 per 100,000 live births), but the challenge lies in their implementation.

Concerns- 1.The Labour Ministry placed the financial burden of implementing these measures squarely on the employers.

This legitimises these concerns over feasibility of implementation

Of new provisions over the act.

2. The measures introduced, particularly the crèche facility, are cost-intensive and may deter employers from hiring or retaining pregnant women.

3. No government has shown the will to change this status quo even though the state and society have much to gain from ensuring effective implementation of maternity benefits.

4. One of the key goals of any maternity benefit policy is to facilitate breastfeeding by working mothers.

 Health benefits that accrue to both the mother and her child by breastfeeding are more than matched by economic returns at family, enterprise and national levels.

-A 2017 report released by the Global Breastfeeding Collective, led by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, has termed breastfeeding the “best investment in global health” generating $35 in global return for every dollar invested. 

5. The report suggests that as things stand, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy, or 0.70% of its Gross National Income, due to a high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and Type II diabetes, directly attributable to inadequate breastfeeding.

Solutions offered-1.Maternity benefits should be provided either through compulsory social insurance or public funds.

2. The Standing Committee on Labour in 2007 had suggested that the government should create a corpus fund to partially sponsor the costs to be incurred by the employer to provide maternity benefits.

Way Forward- 1.It is time for the government to shoulder the financial responsibility of providing maternity benefits.

2. This could be implemented by enabling employers to seek reimbursement of the expenses incurred by them in this respect. 3.The government must find innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure that working women are not forced to discontinue breastfeeding.

4.A simple method is to express breast milk and store it to be given to their children while they are away.

5.The only provision that needs to be provided by employers to facilitate this would be a clean and private pumping room.

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answered Nov 15 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Eastern Promise(GS 2,International Relations:Bilateral Realtions,Multilateral Relations)

Context-India must balance diverse alliances as it strengthens its East Asia pivot.

Introduction-Prime Minister visit to the Philippines to attend the ASEAN-India summit, the East Asia Summit and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit has put India centre-stage in the Asian region.

The Asian Region is now referred as Indo Pacific.

-Ties with U.S. and Indo pacific was in accordance with the India`s Act east policy.

Meetings Held and outcome were-1. first meeting of the India-U.S.-Japan-Australia quadrilateral, a grouping first mooted in 2006 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

2. It ended with statements on cooperation for a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”, a direct signal that it will counter China’s actions in the South China Sea if necessary.

3. Meeting with U.S. President saw a similar emphasis on cooperating in the Indo-Pacific, a term now widely adopted by the U.S.

4. The ‘Quad’ doesn’t just pertain to maritime surveillance, it also aims at enhancing connectivity in accordance with “the rule of law” and “prudent financing” in the Indo-Pacific together, a reference to American plans to build an “alternative financing model” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

5. PM speech to ASEAN vowed to bring India’s economic and business ties with the region up to the level of their “exceptionally good political and people-to-people relations”. This sets the stage for closer engagement ahead of the 25th year Commemorative Summit.

The clarity in India’s purpose in East Asia at this juncture is important, but the next steps are equally vital.

Concerns are-1.Despite a government statement to the contrary, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Quad, also called a “coalition of democracies” of the Indo-Pacific, is a front aimed at countering China’s influence.

2. India’s ability to balance its interests will be tested as India is only member of quad, is also member of SCO, a security arrangement in which China and Russia also involved.

3.India has joined ASEAN plus six for talks on RCEP. Talks have often run into rough weather over India’s stand on visas and services access, while also holding out against free trade that could give China an unfair edge in goods trade.

India has to walk on tightrope to maintain its interest in the region.

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answered Nov 15 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Labelling versus outcomes: on Swachh Bharat Mission(GS 2,Government Policies and Interventions,Social Justice)

Context-Studies on the Swachh Bharat Mission don’t confirm the government’s claims

Introduction- The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) completed its third year.

 Over ₹60,000 crore has been spent on the programme, but despite its scope and importance, there is very little objective evidence about its performance.

SBM-Rural- The primary priority of the SBM-rural was to ensure an ‘Open Defecation Free’ India by 2018.

-To achieve these measures, government imposed a swachh Bharat Cess to raise funds and set out on a vigorous campaign.

-It set ambitious targets for every ‘administrative village’ for constructing toilets within specific deadlines to ensure 100% latrine access.

What data suggests-

  1. Numbers that have been widely cited by the government are from its own administrative data and the Swachh Survekshan Gramin 2017, conducted by the Quality Council of India (QCI), a body set up jointly by the Government of India and industry.
  2. Both the sources, i.e. QCI’s survey and the SBM website, portray a similar picture.
  3. Between May and June 2017, Swachh Survekshan claimed 62.45% India-wide latrine coverage, which was similar to the SBM’s figure of 63.73%.
  4. Moreover, the QCI survey also claimed that 91.29% of those with access to a toilet use it.

Problem with Official Data-1. Inaccurate estimate of latrine use is not the only problem the SBM faces; a variety of implementation challenges exist as well.

2. Declared ODF would not depend on anyone using the constructed latrines.

Moreover,The criterion would include decrepit and unused structures constructed under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan,

3.SBM counts these as functional latrines, as the baseline data in 2012 did. In fact, pictures of such defunct latrines can be seen on the SBM website categorised as “uploaded”, “approved” and “counted”.

4.  In a report called “Quality and Sustainability of Toilets” (WaterAid, 2017),In the eight States where the study was conducted, less than a quarter of households said that it was their own initiative to build the toilet.

So it is not people`s movement as suggested by the Government.

5.False ODF claims- The two “ODF verified villages” in Uttar Pradesh had 37% and 74%, respectively, of households without a toilet in their house. An “ODF verified” village in Rajasthan had a toilet coverage of just 16%.

6.  The study found coercive measures having been used to promote the SBM.Name shaming and harassment of people by officials burdened with targets were flagged in many places.

Conclusion-1. we do not have credible, representative country-wide estimates of latrine use in India. On one hand, government data and the Swachh Survekshan show the programme to be achieving what it is meant to achieve.

 But, independent, rapid studies by sanitation researchers and anecdotal stories present a less rosy picture.

2.The programe seems to be running on a check mark-based approach, and between all this, widespread open defecation in India continues to kill babies, and stunts those who survive.

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answered Nov 15 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Solar Alliance to set up 1000 GW of solar energy by 2030(GS 3,Conservation,environment,Pollution)

-Three years ago, India had surprised many by announcing that it would develop 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy by the year 2022, scaling up its then-existing target by almost five times.

-The International Solar Alliance, a new intergovernmental body set up India’s behest at the Paris climate change conference in 2015, has set its eyes on installing 1000 GW of solar energy by the year 2030.

International Solar alliance-1.The International Solar Alliance (ISA) has just been ratified by enough number of countries to make it operational. It will become operational by December 6 this year.

2.The ISA has a set for itself a target of installing 1000 GW of solar electricity in its member countries by the year 2030.

3.This will be one of the biggest global efforts to shift away from fossil fuels and move towards cleaner sources of energy.

New Target for ISA- 1.ISA has talked about the 1000-GW objective.

2.ISA was aiming to install 1000 GW of solar energy and would require an investment of about 1200 billion euros to do so.

3. France is a key partner in the ISA which is open for membership to 121 countries lying in the tropical regions. So far, 44 countries have signed on to the alliance while 16 of them have also ratified it.

Other Agreements discussed -1.countries reached an agreement on discussions over efforts to make agriculture resilient to climate change while attempting to reduce non-CO2 emissions from agriculture.

2. There was a similar agreement on the issue of loss and damages, one of the main items under discussions here, though many of the demands of the developing countries, especially small island nations, were not accommodated.

3. The small island countries, also some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, have been asking for a loss and damage mechanism through which they can seek financial help to compensate for the destruction caused by climate change-induced extreme weather events.

Discussion On Pre-2020 Action-1.Pre-2020 actions’ refer mainly to the obligations of the developed countries under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that has still three years to run.

2. There was a fresh proposal to resolve the deadlock over the issue of ‘pre-2020 actions’ as well, and though

-it still did not address the developing countries’ key demands of inclusion of ‘pre-2020 actions’ in the official agenda of negotiations

-and setting up of a timeline for the developed countries to ratify the Doha amendments of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

BASIC countries-1. India, China, Brazil and South Africa — together known as the BASIC group of countries — held a meeting

2.In a joint statement released, the four countries noted that developing countries, including they themselves, had made much more efforts in tackling climate change than they were expected to. While urging the developed countries to do more, they said that their own (BASIC countries’) actions represented far more ambitious efforts compared to their respective responsibilities and capabilities.

3.The BASIC group also expressed its deepest concern over attempts by the developed countries to exclude some developing nations from accessing climate finance by applying a new income criteria.

4. There have been suggestions that middle-income developing countries should not be eligible for accessing funds from Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF), two existing financial institutions for climate finance. The BASIC countries said such criteria were not compatible with the existing agreements and were tantamount to renegotiating the Paris Agreement.

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answered Nov 15 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Manual scavenging law to be amended to hike compensation for deaths

Amendment in the Law-1. The Union government is set to amend the rules of the legislation that outlaws manual scavenging so as to make it mandatory for contractors as well as private individuals, who engage workers for manual handling of human excreta, to pay Rs 10 lakh each to families of those who die while cleaning sewers or septic tanks.

2.This would be in addition to the Rs 10 lakh that state governments have to pay in all such cases.

3. Moreover, following severe under-reporting of the extent of the caste-based practice by states, the Centre is set to undertake a nationwide survey by a third-party to account for the numbers.

4.States have accounted for merely 13,000-odd manual scavengers — with 80 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and most others maintaining that they have none at all.

-States have accounted for merely 13,000-odd manual scavengers — with 80 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and most others maintaining that they have none at all.

Difference between Manual scavenging law 1993 and 2013 act and proposed amendment-

1.The act which was amended  in 2013 has amended ‘The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act’ recognised more hazardous forms of the practice including the work of sewer and septic tank cleaners, whose deaths were entirely unaccounted for until then.

2.In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered that state governments have to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each to families of all deceased workers since 1993.

3.The ministry has now proposed to amend rules under the Act so that contractors and private persons, who are responsible for hiring the victims, will also have to pay an equal amount to their families.

4. Only seven states have reported paying compensation for deaths in the last 25 years. Members concede that even these states — Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu — have identified only around 270 cases of deaths and paid compensation in just a fraction of identified cases, with many paying only half of the amount due to each victim’s family.

5. Conservative estimates by the organisation Safai Karmachari Andolan put the body count at 1,560 since 1993.

6. According to the Act, a survey of those engaged in all forms of manual scavenging was to be completed within two months.

7.However, even four years since the Act came into force, several states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi have reported the numbers as zero.

8.The ministry has pointed out that until there is complete mechanisation of handling septage, states cannot pretend that manual scavengers do not exist.

9.The ministry will involve a third-party surveyor to determine the number of workers manually cleaning dry latrines, open drains, pits, railway tracks, septic tanks and sewers.

10.The survey, covering 15 major states, will be completed within six months.

Data Available- The only data available now is the Socio Economic Caste Census, which excludes sewer and septic tank cleaners as well as those employed in cities.

 The SECC data shows that in villages alone, 1.82 lakh households have at least one member cleaning dry latrines.

-It was proposed the survey would be undertaken through the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC).

-However, the agency would still be dependent on those very states that have until now denied the existence of this practice.

-Also, the NSKFDC has no mandate to demand data from the Railways, which is one of the largest employers of manual scavengers but refuses to acknowledge a single case.

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