Polity & Governance
- Government revives talks to revamp Factories Act
- Govt mulls sops to attract doctors to rural postings
- To push mineral hunt, Govt. to tweak 1967 data-sharing curbs
- BRICS bank okays first loan of $811 mn
- Chabahar Port Project Put On the Fast Track
Defence & Security Issues
- Army conducts battle exercise ‘SHATRUJEET’ in Rajasthan
Art & Culture
- Buddhist inscription found in Gadag district
Science & Technology
- ‘Param Kanchenjunga’ fastest supercomputer among NITs
Polity & Governance
Government revives talks to revamp Factories Act
The government is reviving talks on revamping the Factories Act of 1948 and has called a meeting of all state governments, central ministries, trade unions and industry representatives to discuss a new legislation.
Key points of the proposed Act:
Remove ‘inspector raj’:
- Apart from speeding up registration and compliance processes to help new entrepreneurs and start-ups, the proposed new Factories Act seeks to do away with the ‘inspector raj.’
Recruitment criteria for inspector:
- To increase the level of competency of the inspectors, the labour ministry has proposed that only those with a minimum B.Tech degree can become inspectors and they can enter factory premises after specific written directions of the Chief Inspector.
- However, existing inspectors with five years of experience or more, and a degree or diploma on industrial safety will continue to be eligible to inspect a factory.
- However, the inspection could take place without prior consent if there is a complaint from any worker or for carrying out investigation into a reported accident. This has been proposed to remove the arbitrariness in inspection.
Provisions for hazardous substance manufactures:
- All factories that manufactures or deals with “hazardous substance and processes and dangerous operations will be covered under this Act even if they employ a single worker.” The sectors that manufacture hazardous processes include coal, gas, iron and steel, petroleum, cement and leather.
- For setting up factories with hazardous activities, the site appraisal committee — a body with representatives from environment, meteorological, town planning departments — will have to convene a meeting within 15 days of receiving an application.
- The committee will have to compulsorily send its recommendations within the next 30 days to the state government, from 90 days at present.
- The proposed law will apply to all factories that employ at least 40 workers.
The Factories Act is a legislation that deals with safety, health and welfare of workers.
- The present Factories Act is applicable on factories (with electricity connection) with 20 workers and factories, without electricity, with 10 workers.
- The government had introduced Factories (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Lok Sabha in August 2014. However, it did not come up for discussion as it was referred to a standing committee which presented its report in December 2014.
Govt mulls sops to attract doctors to rural postings
A severe shortage of doctors in rural areas has forced the health ministry to come up with a new plan to attract doctors to rural postings.
- The proposed plan is to incentivise students and doctors, by making their access to postgraduate courses easier or by offering them better pay.
- The ministry has already deliberated on the plan and it has in principle approval from the health minister. However, a formal proposal with details of incentives has to be drawn up before it is taken to the next level in the government for approval.
- Back in 2013-14, the UPA government had tried to make one year of rural posting mandatory for MBBS graduates to seek admission in post-graduate courses. The move met with severe opposition from resident doctors and MBBS students, leading to strikes. Under pressure, Medical Council of India had kept the notification on hold.
Hence, the new government, instead of forcing a village posting on MBBS students or resident doctors, plans to work out lucrative incentive options.
Experts’ opinion on the proposed plan:
- According to some experts, easier PG admissions may attract many doctors as there are limited seats in specialised courses and securing admission is tough.
- Also, a rural stint will help doctors gain practical experience as the disease burden is increasing in non-urban settings.
- At present, there is just one doctor for around 1,700 people in India, whereas the WHO stipulates a minimum ratio of 1:1,000.
- Apart from shortage of doctors, unwillingness to work in rural areas is a major obstacle.
- Though government initiatives and participation from the private sector have improved availability of health facilities, workforce shortages continue to be a major cause for concern.
To push mineral hunt, Govt. to tweak 1967 data-sharing curbs
The government will modify the almost five-decade-old guidelines prohibiting sharing of geological data and facilitate quicker green clearances in a bid to boost mining in the country.
- In this regard, the Ministry of Defence has decided to alter the guidelines issued in 1967 that bar putting in public domain geological and geospatial data related to 40% of India’s landmass, in order to enable faster exploration of mineral riches.
Necessity of alteration in the guidelines:
- While the Geological Survey of India has a data sharing and accessibility policy, the ministry of defence had imposed a number of restrictions on the dissemination of maps, ground and aero geophysical data and data pertaining to restricted areas, in August 1967.
- About 40% of the country falls within the restricted area. An estimated 10% of territory with obvious geological potential also falls in such restricted areas.
- Availability of comprehensive data is critical for attracting the private sector into exploration. The lack of credible geological data had also dented investor interest so far.
- Though India has digitised a lot of its baseline geo-science data — including gravity contour maps, aeromagnetic, radiometric and geo-chemical mapping — it cannot be put in the public domain or shared without a defence ministry clearance for ‘restricted’ areas.
Significance of this move:
- This move is expected to boost mining in the country.
- This would speed up mining operations in areas where exploration had been done in the past by government agencies but the findings were not in the public domain and thus, out of reach for private mining firms.
BRICS bank okays first loan of $811 mn
The New Development Bank (NDB), formed by the BRICS group of emerging nations, has approved its first loans – $811 million for renewable energy projects in Brazil, China, India and South Africa.
- The decision to approve the first loans, which are to be handed out in tranches, was approved by the NDB at the board of governors on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC.
- The BRICS bank, with authorised capital of $100 billion, started work last year on funding initiatives for infrastructure projects in emerging markets and in its initial foray has lent $300 million to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to South Africa
About the New Development Bank:
The New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
- The bank is headquartered in Shanghai, China. The first regional office of the NDB will be opened in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its first President is Kundapur Vaman Kamath.
- The New Development Bank was agreed to by BRICS leaders at the 5th BRICS summit held in Durban, South Africa in 2013. The bank, with authorized capital of $100 billion, started work last year.
- Unlike the World Bank, which assigns votes based on capital share, in the New Development Bank each participant country will be assigned one vote, and none of the countries will have veto power.
- The New Development Bank will mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.
The establishment of the Bank will help India and other signatory countries to raise and avail resources for their infrastructure and sustainable development projects.[Ref: ToI, Wiki]
Chabahar Port Project Put On The Fast Track
India and Iran have agreed to move forward quickly on the crucial Chabahar port project during foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s ongoing trip to Iran.
How important the port is for India?
India believes the Chabahar port is critical to its interests and wants to develop it as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port which was built with Chinese assistance.
- The port will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia using a sea-land route.
- Chabahar Port lies outside the Persian Gulf in Iran and will help India in expanding its maritime commerce in the region.
- It also provides opportunities to Indian companies to penetrate and enhance their footprint in the region.
An MoU was signed between India and Iran in May 2015.
- As per the MoU, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I on a ten-year lease.
- Ownership of equipment will be transferred to Iranian side on completion of 10-year period or for an extended period, based on mutual agreement.
- The Iranian side had requested for provision of a credit of USD 150 million in accordance with the MoU.
- As per the MoU, operation of two berths will commence within a period of maximum 18 months after the signing of the Contract.
- The two berths will be operated by the India Ports Global Private Limited, a Company promoted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust – two major ports working under the Ministry of Shipping.
Location of Chabahar port:
Defence & Security Issues
Army conducts battle exercise ‘SHATRUJEET’ in Rajasthan
The Indian Army recently conducted a major Exercise called SHATRUJEET in deserts of Rajasthan, with about 30,000 soldiers in action
- Indian Army undertakes such exercises at regular intervals at different levels to ensure forces are provided real war like situations and are kept in high state of battle readiness.
- During the exercise, the capability to Strike deep in enemy territory in an integrated Air-Land battle environment was tested.
Art & Culture
Buddhist inscription found in Gadag district
A new inscription that sheds more light on the history of Buddhism in Karnataka has been discovered at Lakkundi village in Gadag district in Karnataka.
Significance of the finding:
It is for the first time that an inscription related to Buddhism has been found in Lakkundi, a place of antiquarian interest with nearly 50 temples, 101 stepped wells and a large number of inscriptions spread over the Chalukya, Kalachuri, Seuna and Hoysala periods.
About the inscription:
The inscription makes salutations to Lord Buddha, ‘dhamma’, ‘sangha’ and Tara Bhagavati.
- It also admires Hoysala ruler Veeraballala II and others.
- There are possibilities of the inscription speaking about donations to a Buddhist monastery located at Lakkundi.
- Besides, it was among a handful of inscriptions making specific reference to the Tara Bhagavaticult of the Vajrayana Buddhism which was in vogue here till 12th century.
- The period of this inscription could be assigned to the regime of Hoysala king Veeraballala II (1173–1220 CE).
- Discovery of this inscription establishes the existence and popularity of Buddhism in this part of the State. In all possibility, a Buddhist monastery existed in this village or in the vicinity.
Science & Technology
‘Param Kanchenjunga’ fastest supercomputer among NITs
The National Institute of Technology (NIT) Sikkim has recently established a supercomputer ‘Param Kanchenjunga’, which is said to be fastest among all 31 NITs.
- It is aimed to help in research and academics. Since NIT Sikkim has research areas like climate modelling etc., the supercomputer would aid in these fields as well.
- It is the fastest and most powerful among the NITs.
- The supercomputer was established jointly in a collaboration between Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C—DAC) and the Ministry of Communications and IT.