Polity & Governance
- New Draft National Policy for Women Promises
- Bonded labour rehab to be made Central sector scheme
- World’s largest rooftop solar power plant inaugurated in Punjab
- India eyes oil-for-drugs deal with Venezuela to recoup pharma cash
Defence & Security Issues
- India successfully test fires ‘nuclear capable’ Prithvi-II missile
Science & Technology
- Scientists genetically engineer world’s first Zika virus clone
- Hypersonic test flight promises to shrink world
Polity & Governance
New Draft National Policy for Women Promises
Union WCD Ministry released the draft National Policy for Women, 2016.
About the policy:
- The Policy is being revised after 15 years and is expected to guide Government action on Women’s issues over the next 15-20 years.
- The new draft policy is aimed at “re-scripting” women’s empowerment by following a “socially inclusive rights-based approach.”
- The policy is roughly based on the Pam Rajput Committee report set up by the MWCD in 2012 which submitted its recommendations last year, including a suggested national policy for women and an action plan to end violence against women.
Salient features of the policy:
- The policy aims to create sustainable socio-economic, political empowerment of women to claim their rights and entitlements, control over resources and formulation of strategic choices in realisation of the principles of gender equality and justice.
- The policy envisions a society in which, women attain their full potential and are able to participate as equal partners in all spheres of life.
- It also emphasises the role of an effective framework to enable the process of developing policies, programmes and practices which will ensure equal rights and opportunities for women.
- The broad objective of the policy is to create a conducive socio-cultural, economic and political environment to enable women enjoy de jure and de facto fundamental rights and realize their full potential.
- The policy defines following as the priority areas:
- Health including food security and nutrition.
- Governance and Decision Making.
- Violence Against Women.
- Enabling Environment.
- Environment and Climate Change.
- The policy also describes emerging issues such as making cyber spaces safe place for women, redistribution of gender roles, for reducing unpaid care work, review of personal and customary laws in accordance with the Constitutional provisions, Review of criminalization of marital rape within the framework women’s human rights etc. relevant in the developmental paradigms.
- The new policy has suggested dependent care and child care leave not for just working women, but working men too.
Bonded labour rehab to be made Central sector scheme
The Centre is revising the rehabilitation of bonded labour scheme, bringing it into the Central sector, and plans to raise financial assistance from 20,000 to 1 lakh.
- The scheme now will be a central sector scheme and the rehabilitation cost per labour under the scheme will be equally borne between the Centre and state. It was last revised in 1999.
- The scheme proposes to increase the Budget provision from 5 crore to about 47 crore per annum.
- Government has proposed a 15-fold increase in the rehabilitation cost of bonded labourers to up to Rs 3,00,000. At present, the government provides Rs 20,000 as financial assistance for rehabilitating a bonded labourer. There are about 1 million bonded labourers in the country, most of whom are dalit farmers.
- Under the revised scheme, male bonded labourer would get a financial assistance Rs 1 lakh, while a child or woman would of get Rs 2 lakh. This would go up to Rs 3 lakh in case of a differently-abled or physically challenged bonded labourer.
The government had launched a centrally-sponsored scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labourers in 1978.
- Under the scheme, an assistance of up to Rs 4,000 per bonded labour was provided initially. This was raised to Rs 6,250 in 1986 and to Rs 10,000 in 1995, before fixing it at Rs 20,000 in 1999.
- The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act also provided the constitution of a vigilance committee at district and sub-divisional level in each state and Union Territory for identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labour in the country.
Who is called bonded labour?
- Bonded labour, sometimes also referred as debt bondage or debt slavery, is a person’s pledge of their labour or services as security for the repayment a debt or other obligation.
- The services required for repaying the debt are generally undefined and so is the duration of work, which leads to huge exploitation of these labourers at the hands of their employers.
Efforts to abolish its practice:
- Debt bondage has been described by the United Nations as a form of “modern day slavery”.
- The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery(a UN treaty) seeks to abolish the practice. Most countries are parties to the Convention, but the practice is still prevalent in South Asia.
- Debt bondage in India was legally abolished in 1976 but remains prevalent.
World’s largest rooftop solar power plant inaugurated in Punjab
World’s largest single rooftop solar power plant of 11.5 Mw capacity was inaugurated in Beas near Amritsar in Punjab.
- In addition to single largest rooftop solar power plant, seven rooftop solar power plants of 8Mw capacity were also inaugurated in Beas Dera campus making this place the highest single campus generating solar power of 19.5 Mw at multiple rooftops in the country.
- According to Wikipedia, the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Centre, Las Vegas in the United States is next biggest solar photovoltaic power station in the world having 6.4 megawatts (Mw) capacity.
- The EPC contractors for the project were Tata Power Solar and Larsen and Toubro. Solar projects have been executed on BOO (built-operate-own) basis.
- This project would generate clean and green energy sufficient to power approximately 8,000 homes.
- This project would be a role model to encourage other states to replicate such large rooftops on the building/sheds.
Punjab & solar power:
- Punjab is generating 470 Mw of solar power and with projects of 500 Mw in the pipeline, the state would be able to generate solar power of close to 1,000 Mw by the end of FY 2016-17.
- Government of India has set a target of power generation of 40,000 Mw from different resources of renewable energy to be achieved by 2022. Punjab would achieve a target of 2552 MW of renewable energy generation by 2022.
India eyes oil-for-drugs deal with Venezuela to recoup pharma cash
India has proposed an oil-for-drugs barter plan with cash-strapped Venezuela to recoup millions of dollars in payments owed to some of India’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
- This payment mechanism would allow Venezuela to repay some of the amount owed with oil.
- The proposal would use the State Bank of India to mediate the transfer.
- Several Indian generics producers rely on Venezuela as they sought emerging market alternatives to slower-growing economies such as the United States. But the unravelling of Venezuela’s socialist economy amid a fall in oil prices has triggered triple-digit inflation and a full-blown political and financial crisis. Unable to pay its bills, the country is facing severe shortages of even basic supplies such as food, water and medicines.
- India, one of the world’s biggest oil importers along with the United States and China, had similarly elaborate barter deals with Iran, swapping rice and wheat for oil.
- The plan is now awaiting approval from the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India, which regulates such payments.
Defence & Security Issues
India successfully test fires ‘nuclear capable’ Prithvi-II missile
India has successfully test-fired its indigenously-developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile as part of a user trial by the army from a test range at Chandipur in Odisha.
- Such training launches clearly indicate India’s operational readiness to meet any eventuality and also establishes the reliability of this deterrent component of India’s Strategic arsenal.
Key features of the Prithvi-II:
- The Prithvi-II is a surface-to-surface missile, having a strike range of 350 km.
- It is capable of carrying 500 kg to 1,000 kg of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines.
- It uses advanced inertial guidance system with maneuvering trajectory to hit its target.
- Inducted into Indian armed forces in 2003, the nine-metre-tall, single-stage liquid-fueled Prithvi II is the first missile to be developed by DRDO under India’s prestigious IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program) and is now a proven technology.
- The last user trial of Prithvi-II was successfully conducted on 16 February 2016 from the same test range in Odisha.
Science & Technology
Scientists genetically engineer world’s first Zika virus clone
A team of researchers has, in a pioneering effort, genetically engineered a clone of the Zika virus strain.
Advantages of this clone:
- The Zika clone, together with mosquito infection models and the Zika mouse model, represent a major advance towards deciphering why the virus is tied to serious diseases.
- Cloning the virus can help in developing the counter-measures and exploring how or whether the Zika virus has evolved to spread more quickly and cause more severe diseases in people.
- The new clone is also a critical step in developing a vaccine and antiviral drug against Zika.
- A number of possible factors that may account for the current Zika virus epidemic can now be tested with the clone.
Hypersonic test flight promises to shrink world
A joint US-Australian military research team successfully tested a hypersonic technology in the Australian desert.
- The research team sent a scramjet attached to a rocket booster to an altitude of 172 miles (278km) at Mach 7.5 (seven times the speed of sound).
- The team was running a series of 10 trials of the hypersonic technology at the world’s largest land testing range located at Woomera in Australia and at Norway’s Andoya Rocket Range.
- Scientists involved in the programme — called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) — are developing an engine that can fly at Mach 7. HiFiRE is made up of a scramjet engine attached to a rocket booster.
What is Hypersonic technology and what are its benefits?
- Hypersonic flight involves travelling at more than 5 times the speed of sound (Mach 5).
- Hypersonic technology could revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space. For instance, it could cut travelling time from Sydney to London to as little as two hours for the 17,000-km flight.
- This will also be helpful as an alternative to a rocket for putting satellites into space.
What is a scramjet?
Scramjet is a supersonic combustion engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel, making it lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets.
- This is helpful for flying at hypersonic speed – Mach 5 and above.
- These engines have no moving parts. Instead of the rotating compressor and turbine in a jet engine, air is compressed and expanded by complex systems of shockwaves under the front of the aircraft, inside the inlet and under the fuselage at the rear.