Polity & Governance
- Amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
- MPs petition PM for hike in MPLAD Fund
- Centre issues new norms for clearing public-funded schemes
- Cabinet nod for changes to FDI regulations in NBFCs
- Govt approves Rs 1,554 crore to develop technology for power plants
- Kudankulam unit dedicated to nation
Environment & Ecology
- PETA moves NGT for ban on manja
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves Agreement between the India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and South Africa for cooperation in the field of Tourism
Key Points for Prelims
- K M Hanumantharayappa assumes charge as Silk Board chairman
- Comprehensive Mobility Plans
- Asia Bazaar
- Greater Flamingos
Polity & Governance
Amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 by introducing the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament.
- The maternity benefit Act 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a ‘maternity benefit’ – i.e. full paid absence from work – to take care for her child.
- The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.
The amendments to Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 are as follows:
- Increase Maternity Benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children and 12 weeks for more than two children.
- 12 weeks Maternity Benefit to a ‘Commissioning mother’ and ‘Adopting mother’.
- Facilitate ‘Work from home’.
- Mandatory provision of Crèche in respect of establishment having 50 or more employees.
Why Cabinet has given approval to amendments?
- Maternal care to the Child during early childhood – crucial for growth and development of the child.
- The 44th, 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference recommended enhancement of Maternity Benefits to 24 weeks.
- Ministry of Women & Child Development proposed to enhance Maternity Benefit to 8 months.
- In Tripartite consultations, all stake holders, in general supported the amendment proposal.
Significance of these amendments:
- The amendments will help 1.8 million (approx.) women workforce in organised sector.
- They also help women devote time to take care of their babies and enable an increase in the women’s labour force participation (WLFPR) rate in India.
- The Bill would vault India to the third position in terms of the number of weeks allowed for maternity leave, behind Norway (44) and Canada (50).
Labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India:
According to a 2015 research paper by the government policy think tank NITI Aayog,
- The labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India is around 40%, but for females, it is only 22.5%.
- The gap in male-female labour force participation is such that the LFPR for rural women above 15 years is only 35.8%, while for rural males it is more than double at 81.3%.
MPs petition PM for hike in MPLAD Fund
A delegation of MPs petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an increase in the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Fund, but came away with no firm assurance and a homily on thrift.
About the MPLAD Scheme:
Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was introduced in December 1993.
- The objective is to enable the Members of Parliament (MP) to suggest and get executed developmental works of capital nature based on locally felt needs with emphasis on creation of durable assets.
- The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is the administrative ministry for the scheme at the Centre. (Previously by the Ministry of Rural Development).
- At the level of States, each State and Union Territory designates one nodal department for effective implementation of the scheme and co-ordination with the Ministry at the Centre.
- The head of the district, where the MP recommends works, is responsible for implementation at the ground level.
- The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
- Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.
- The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable. the liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
- The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
- The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected.
- Nominated members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the country.
Centre issues new norms for clearing public-funded schemes
The Finance Ministry has issued new norms for the appraisal and approval of public-funded schemes as well as to improve the delivery of goods and services to citizens.
- With the announcement in the Union Budget 2016-17 of doing away with Plan Non-Plan distinction at the end of Twelfth Five Year Plan, it is imperative that a plan non-plan neutral appraisal and approval system is put into place.
Reasons for these new norms:
- It was found that over the years Ministries/Departments had started operating small and multiple schemes, which spread resources too thinly to realise any meaningful outcomes.
As per the new norms:
- One of the guidelines is that no new scheme or sub-scheme can be initiated without the prior “in-principle” approval of the Department of Expenditure.
- This will not apply to the announcements made in the Budget Speech for any given year.
- The new policy also empowers ministers to approve expenditure proposals of up to Rs 500 crore, up from the previous limit of Rs 150 crore.
- The notification has suggested that administrative Ministries/Departments should continuously endeavour to merge, restructure or drop existing schemes and sub-schemes that have become redundant or ineffective with the passage of time.
Cabinet nod for changes to FDI regulations in NBFCs
The Cabinet has approved a proposal to amend rules for foreign investment in non-banking finance companies (NBFCs).
Present regulations on NBFCs:
- The present regulations on NBFCs stipulates that FDI would be allowed on automatic route for only 18 specified NBFC activities after fulfilling prescribed minimum capitalisation norms mentioned therein.
What are the new norms?
- Foreign investment in ‘other financial services’ that are not regulated by any regulators or by a government agency can be made via the approval route.
- Minimum capitalisation norms as mandated under FDI policy have been eliminated as most of the regulators have already fixed minimum capitalisation norms.
What is a Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC)?
Non-bank financial companies (NBFCs) are financial institutions that provide banking services without meeting the legal definition of a bank, i.e. one that does not hold a banking license.
- A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956.
- These institutions typically are restricted from taking deposits from the public depending on the jurisdiction.
- Nonetheless, operations of these institutions are often still covered under a country’s banking regulations.
Limitations to the functions of the NBFCs:
- Typically, NBFCs are restricted from taking deposits from the public depending on the jurisdiction. Nonetheless, operations of these institutions are often still covered under a country’s banking regulations.
- NBFC cannot accept demand deposits.
- NBFCs do not form part of the payment and settlement system and cannot issue cheques drawn on itself.
- Deposit insurance facility of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available to depositors of NBFCs, unlike in case of banks.
[Ref: The Hindu, RBI]
Govt approves Rs 1,554 crore to develop technology for power plants
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a proposal of R&D project for development of Advanced Ultra Super Critical (AUSC) Technology for thermal power projects with an estimated cost of Rs 1,554 crore.
- A Consortium of three Government Entities have proposed a R&D project for development of AUSC Technology for Thermal Power Plants of future, envisaging reduced coal consumption as well as Carbon Di-Oxide (CO2) emission.
- They are:
- Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL),
- Indira Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research (IGCAR) and
- National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)
Significance of the AUSC technology:
- AUSC technology will enable Indian industries to design, manufacture and commission higher efficiency coal-fired power plants with indigenously developed technology.
- This will be the first time large power plant equipment will be manufactured without any technological collaboration or licensing agreement with foreign companies.
- Use of this technology in all future large coal-fired power plants will ensure energy security for the country for a longer period as well as greener environment.
- Power generation from coal-fired power plants contributes to about 38% of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere.
- AUSC technology will help in 20% reduction in CO2 emission at source combined with 20% saving in coal consumption compared to sub-critical plants.
AUSC technology is still in research stage in all countries working on it.[Ref: PIB, BS]
Kudankulam unit dedicated to nation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated the first unit of the ambitious Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu to the nation.
- It has India’s single largest nuclear generation unit with capacity of 1000 megawatt (MW).
- It is built under India-Russian Nuclear agreement of 1988.
- The Unit I of the KKNPP is already in service since December 2014 and was connected to the southern grid in October 2013.
- The Unit II (1000 MW capactity) of the KKNPP had achieved criticality in July 2016 will begin power production by end of August 2016.
- It was signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet leader Mikahil Gorbachev in November 1988.
Environment & Ecology
PETA moves NGT for ban on manja
Highlighting the dangers associated with manja while flying kites, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has moved the National Green Tribunal seeking an immediate nationwide ban on it.
Why PETA demands ban on manja?
According to the petition filed by PETA,
- Manja poses grave threat to humans and animals as every year as a number of deaths are caused due to the deadly string.
- Also, it causes grid failure when it comes in contact with live overhead electric wires.
- To increase the chance to cut as many kites as possible, the strings are deliberately made sharper with churned glass, metal and other materials. These strings not only cut through other kite strings, but are also sharp enough to cut through the skin of animals and human beings, thereby severely injuring and even killing them.
- PETA claimed that minor children are engaged by small cottage industries for the manufacture of ‘manja’ which causes respiratory problems in them as they inhale harmful substances which are extremely detrimental to their health.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president.
- A non-profit corporation with 300 employees, it claims that it has 3 million members and supporters and is the largest animal rights group in the world.
- Its slogan is “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”
- PETA India, based in Mumbai, was launched in January 2000.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves Agreement between the India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of an Agreement between India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation.
- Signing of the new Agreement between India and Croatia would be a step in continuity as the existing Agreement expired in November, 2009.
India and Croatia had earlier signed an Agreement on trade and economic cooperation in September, 1994 with an aim to promote and develop bilateral trade and economic relations.
Location of Croatia:
Croatia is a sovereign state at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean.
- Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands.
- Croatia is a member of the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and South Africa for cooperation in the field of Tourism
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa for cooperation in the field of Tourism.
The main objectives of the MoU are:
- To expand bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector;
- To exchange information and data related to tourism;
- To encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders, including hotels and tour operators.
- To establish exchange programmes for cooperation in Human Resource Development;
- Investing in the tourism and hospitality sector;
- To encourage visits of Tour Operators/Media/ Opinion Makers and tourists from both countries for promotion of two-way tourism;
- To exchange experiences in the areas of promotion, education, marketing, destination development and management;
- To participate in travel fairs/exhibitions in each other’s country; and
- To promote safe, honourable and sustainable tourism.
- India and South Africa share and enjoy warm and friendly bilateral relations. South Africa is an emerging tourism source markets for India.
- India received approximately 51922 tourists from South Africa in 2015.
- India has extended the Electronic Tourist Visa (eTV) facility for the South African Nationals which elicited good response from travel trade of both.
Key Points for Prelims
K M Hanumantharayappa assumes charge as Silk Board chairman
K M Hanumantharayappa, sericulturist and a weaver, has assumed charge as a new Chairman of the Central Silk Board for a period of three years.
- He becomes the 25th Chairman of the board.
- CSB is a statutory body established under the Central Silk Board Act, 1948.
- It functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Textile.
- It is a national organization for overall development of silk sector in India.
Comprehensive Mobility Plans
25 cities from 8 States have prepared Comprehensive Mobility Plans (CMP) with central assistance.
What are CMPs?
- Comprehensive Mobility Plans are based on origin and destination flow of traffic, identifying major traffic corridors and feeder corridors, land use etc. which in turn would assist in proper urban planning.
- CMPs are subsequently made part of City Master Plans.
- Ministry of Urban Development assists up to 80% of cost of preparation of CMPs.
The 4th Asia Bazaar is the annual exhibition conducted to promote Asian craftsmen, going to organized in Delhi, India. Here, craftsmen from South Asian countries will display their crafts.
The Asia Bazaar aims to celebrate the rich cultural diversity and vibrancy of South Asian arts, crafts and textiles. The exhibition will have centuries old cultural and craft techniques of craftspeople from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The uniqueness of this bazaar is bringing the craftsmen of Afghanistan for the first time.
The Greater Flamingos have not made a single appearance at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary for the past few years.
Okhla Bird Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary at the Okhla barrage over Yamuna River. It is situated at a point where river Yamuna enters in the state of Uttar Pradesh leaving the territory of Delhi.
The Greater Flamingos can be found in West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, South-West and South Asia. During monsoon and spring, they migrate to wetlands in Rajasthan, Delhi-NCR and Uttar Pradesh. According to the IUCN Red List, Greater Flamingos is Least Concern.