Government Schemes & Policies
- Social Security Code Bill introduced in Lok Sabha
- NBFCs, HFCs rated up to BBB+ come under partial credit guarantee scheme
Issues related to Health & Education
- Bharat Biotech’s typhoid vaccine offers 82% protection
- Cabinet authorises NHAI to set up InvIT to monetise highway projects
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Green activist opposes coastal highway connecting Odisha with West Bengal
Art & Culture
- Nation remembers Tamil writer, poet Subramania Bharathi on his birth anniversary
- World Heritage Week 2019 begins
Key Facts for Prelims
- Human Rights Day
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Government Schemes & Policies
Social Security Code Bill introduced in Lok Sabha
Labour minister introduced the Social Security Code Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha, paving way for universalisation of social security for 50 crore workers in the country.
The Code on Social Security, 2019 once in place will merge eight exiting labour laws including Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923; Employees‘ State Insurance Act, 1948, Employees‘ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 and Unorganized Workers‘ Social Security Act, 2008.
Highlights of the Social Security Code Bill
Social security fund
- The Bill proposes setting up a social security fund using corpus available under corporate social responsibility. This fund will provide welfare benefits such as pension, medical cover, and death and disablement benefits to all workers, including gig workers.
Reducing employee PF contribution
- The bill provides option of reducing provident fund contribution (currently at 12% of basic salary) and therefore increase workers take-home pay.
- The rationale for allowing lower employee PF contribution is that higher take-home pay may boost consumption. The Bill, however, retains employers’ PF contribution at 12%.
Gratuity for fixed-term contract workers
- Currently, workers are not entitled to gratuity before completing five years of continuous service, as prescribed in the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
- The bill says that fixed-term contract workers will be eligible for gratuity on a pro-rata basis.
- It proposes to offer gratuity to fixed term employees after one year of service on a pro-rata basis as against the current practice of five years.
- It will empower the central government to exempt select establishments from all or any of the provisions of the code and makes Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits under various social security schemes.
Insurance, PF, life cover for unorganized sector employees:
- Central Government shall formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matter relating to life and disability cover; health and maternity benefits; old age protection; and any other benefit as may be determined by the central government.
NBFCs, HFCs rated up to BBB+ come under partial credit guarantee scheme
The Union Cabinet approved a partial credit guarantee scheme for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and housing finance companies (HFCs).
- This will allow public sector banks (PSBs) to buy pooled assets from financially sound entities.
About the Scheme:
- The name of the scheme is ‘Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)’.
- The Scheme would enable the public sector banks (PSBs) to purchase pooled assets of financially sound Non-bank financial institution (NBFCs) amounting to Rs. one lakh crore.
- The Department of Economic Affairs will provide government guarantee of up to 10% of the fair value of assets purchased by a bank from a stressed NBFC or HFC.
- The scheme is capped at Rs 1 lakh crore and will be open for up to six months.
- The scheme would cover NBFCs/HFCs that may have slipped into SMA-0 category during the one-year period prior to August 1, 2018, and asset pools rated BBB+ or higher. SMA-0 accounts are the special mention accounts (SMA) against which the principal or interest or any other amount wholly or partially is overdue between 1-30 days.
- The scheme was announced to address temporary liquidity/cash flow mismatch issues of otherwise solvent NBFCs/HFCs without them having to resort to distress sale of their assets for meeting their commitments.
- It would provide liquidity to the NBFC Sector and enable them to continue to play their role in meeting the financing requirements of economy including MSME, retail and housing.
- Such a scheme was first announced in the Budget 2018-19, but only for NBFCs rated up to AA. However, AA-rated companies were anyway able to raise money from the market considering their healthy credit rating. Hence, the government’s guarantee was largely immaterial. The Cabinet therefore modified the scheme to include purchase of papers issued by NBFCs and HFCs rated up to BBB+.
What is Asset–liability mismatch?
- In finance, an asset–liability mismatch occurs when the financial terms of an institution’s assets and liabilities do not correspond.
Issues related to Health & Education
Bharat Biotech’s typhoid vaccine offers 82% protection
A typhoid vaccine (Typbar TCV) developed by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has shown 81.6% efficacy in preventing typhoid fever at 12 months in a Phase-III clinical tria carried out in Nepal in over 10,000 children who received the vaccine.
About Typbar TCV vaccine:
- Typbar-TCV is a typhoid conjugate vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited.
- It is the world’s first clinically proven Typhoid vaccine and is the only approved vaccine for children and infants less than 2 years of age.
- The Typbar TCV vaccine was recommended by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (WHO-SAGE) in December 2017.
- Extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid outbreaks have been found in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
- Typhoid is caused by a bacteria called Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi. The bacterium lives in the intestines and bloodstream of humans.
- No animals carry this disease, so transmission is always human to human.
- It is spread by the fecal-oral route through contaminated food and water and poor sanitation.
- Its symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea or constipation.
- Children and adolescents in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately impacted by typhoid, with those living in poor communities at greatest risk.
What typhoid vaccines are already available?
- Two typhoid vaccines are globally available: an oral, live attenuated Ty21a vaccine (use in children six years of age) and an injectable Vi capsular polysaccharide (ViCPS) vaccine (children two years of age and older).
Types of Thyroid vaccine (as recommended by WHO)
- An injectable typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) for children from 6 months of age and adults up to 45 years of age; Through conjugation, TCVs are able to stimulate parts of the immune system that the ViCPS vaccines cannot, thereby inducing a stronger, longer-lasting immunity among a broader age range.
- An injectable Vi capsular polysaccharide (ViCPS) vaccine for persons aged two years and above; and
- An oral live Ty21a vaccine in capsule formulation for those over six years of age.
What are the benefits of typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCV)?
- Compared to the currently available vaccines, TCVs have longer-lasting protection, require fewer doses, and are suitable for children younger than two years of age, allowing delivery through routine childhood immunization programs.
- Expanded use of TCVs through routine immunization has the potential to reduce the need for antibiotics, slow further emergence of drug-resistant typhoid strains, and save lives.
Cabinet authorises NHAI to set up InvIT to monetise highway projects
The Union Cabinet gave its approval to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to set up infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs) to monetize highway assets.
- This will enable NHAI to monetize completed national highways that have a toll collection track record of at least one year.
- The InvIT Trust (of NHAI) will be formed with an objective of investment primarily in infrastructure projects.
Impact of the decision
InvIT as an instrument provides greater flexibility to investors and is expected to create the following opportunities:
- Generation of specialized Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Concessionaires.
- Attract patient capital (for say 20-30 years) to the Indian highway market
- Retail domestic savings and corpus of special institutions (such as mutual funds, PFRDA, etc.) to be invested in infrastructure sector through InvIT.
What is Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT)?
- An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) is similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of small amounts of money from possible individual/institutional investors in infrastructure to earn a small portion of the income as return.
- Such a model is more attractive for investors as it provides greater flexibility and they don’t have to build an infrastructure project from scratch and is averse to construction risk.
- InvITs work like mutual funds or real estate investment trusts (REITs) in features.
- InvITs are regulated by the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014.
- An InvIT consists of four elements: 1) Trustee, 2) Sponsor(s), 3) Investment Manager and 4) Project Manager.
- In October 2017, Government of India launched Bharatmala Pariyojana, which is the flagship highway development programme of Government of India for development of 24,800 km of roads for a total investment of Rs. 5,35,000 crores.
- Given the magnitude of the Bharatmala program, NHAI would need adequate funds to complete the Project. Hence, a workable option is to monetize the operational National Highway assets to offer attractive schemes to private players to invest in construction of National Highways.
- The NHAI plans to raise more than ₹85,000 crore by fiscal year 2025 through the toll-operate-transfer (ToT) model and infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs).
What is Bharatmala Pariyojana?
- Bharatmala Pariyojana is an umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across India.
- It is a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India.
- The project is divided into seven distinct phases.
- Bharatmala project starts in Gujarat and Rajasthan, followed by Punjab and subsequently traversing the Himalayan belt through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and then to Mizoram.
- A total of around 24,800 kms are being considered in Phase I of Bharatmala along with 10,000 kms of balance road works under NHDP, taking the total to 34,800 km. It is to be implemented over a five years period of i.e. 2017-18 to 2021-22.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Green activist opposes coastal highway connecting Odisha with West Bengal
Green Nobel Prize winner Prafulla Samantara has opposed the 415-km-long coastal highway from Digha in West Bengal to Gopalpur in south Odisha proposed by the Central and State governments.
- Prafulla Samantarai receive Green Nobel Prize in 2017 after he became spokesperson for the Dangaria Kandha indigenous people, in their protest against plans for bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hill range.
- In April 2015, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister had announced the ₹7,500-crore project of constructing coastal highway from Digha in West Bengal to Gopalpur in south Odisha.
- The porposed project will jeopardise fragile coastal environment of the Odisha coast and affect major biodiversities like Chilika lake and Bhitarkanika.
- It will also destroy the natural mangrove forests and lead to increased threat of sea erosion.
What is Green Nobel?
- The Green Nobel, also known as the Goldman Environmental Prize, is the prize awarded to six environmental activists every year, one from each of the world’s six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.
- The award recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.
- The award is given by the Goldman Environmental Foundation.
- The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them.
- The winners are announced on Earth Day which is observed on 22nd April every year.
Previous recipients of the award:
- Ramesh Agrawal (2014): Protested coal mining in Chhattisgarh.
- Rashida Bee & Champa Devi Shukla (2004): Union Carbide gas leak (Bhopal) related environmental justice.
- MC Mehta (1996): Industrial pollution fouling the Ganges and eroding the Taj Mahal.
- Medha Patkar (1992): Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Art & Culture
Nation remembers Tamil writer, poet Subramania Bharathi on his birth anniversary
Prime Minister of India said that ‘Mahakavi Bharathiar’ is a symbol of patriotism, social reform, poetic genius and indomitable spirit of freedom and fearlessness.
About Subramaniya Bharathiyar
- Subramaniya Bharathiyar was a poet, freedom fighter and social reformer from Tamil Nadu.
- He was known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar.
- His songs on nationalism and freedom of India helped to rally the masses to support the Indian Independence Movement in Tamil Nadu. He is considered as a National poet due to his number of poems of the patriotic flavour.
- He wrote “Kannan Pattu” “Nilavum Vanminum Katrum” “Panchali Sabatam” and “Kuyil Pattu”.
- He published the sensational “Sudesa Geethangal” in 1908.
- In order to proclaim its revolutionary ardour, he had the weekly printed in red paper. “India” was the first paper in Tamil Nadu to publish political cartoons. He also published and edited a few other journals like “Vijaya”.
- He used to attend the Annual sessions of Indian National Congress and discuss national issues with extremist Indian National Leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal and V.V.S. Iyer. His participation and activities in Benaras Session (1905) and Surat Session (1907) of the Indian National Congress impressed many national leaders about his patriotic fervour.
- He was also against caste system. He declared that there were only two castes-men and women.
[Ref: PIB, Newsonair]
World Heritage Week 2019 begins
The World Heritage Week 2019 starts from November 19 and will end of November 25.
About World Heritage Week
- World Heritage Week is observed every year by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- The objective of the week is to make people aware of the rich heritage and strive for its preservation.
- There are 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. It includes 30 cultural sites, 7 natural sites and 1 mixed site which is Khangchendzonga National Park.
- India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world.
About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):
- ASI was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham- the first Director-General of ASI.
- ASI is the premier organization for the archaeological research, scientific analysis, excavation of archaeological sites, conservation and preservation of protected monuments.
- It is an attached office under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Culture.
Key Facts for Prelims
Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December.
- The theme for 2019 is “Youth Standing up for Human Rights”.
- The campaign, #StandUp4HumanRights has also been launched by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to encourage, galvanise, and showcase how youth all over the world stand up for rights.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 in Paris, France.
- The Declaration consists of 30 articles affirming an individual’s rights which, although not legally binding, have been elaborated in international treaties, regional human rights instruments and other laws.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or the UN Human Rights Office is a department of United Nations that works to promote the human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
- It provides assistance in the form of technical expertise and capacity-development.
- It is headquarter at Geneva, Switzerland.
It has three substantive divisions:
Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division (TESPRDD), which develops policy and provides guidance on thematic human rights issues.
Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division (CTMD), which provides technical support to the HRC and the Council’s UPR mechanism, and supports the human rights treaty bodies.
Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD), which is responsible for overseeing and implementing the Office’s work in the field.[Ref: The Hindu]