Polity & Governance
- Govt. rolls back PF withdrawal norms
- Allowing unauthorised places of worship is “insult to god”: SC
- Most of rural India still opts for open defecation: NSS report
- Trading bloc to India: Cut tariffs or exit FTA talks
- India & Mauritius signed MoU to promote cooperation in the field of traditional system of medicine and Homoeopathy
Polity & Governance
Govt. rolls back PF withdrawal norms
The government has announced a complete and unconditional rollback of new PF norms that barred employees from withdrawing their provident fund corpus before retirement.
What’s the issue?
- Under the rules notified in February, employees were not allowed to withdraw their entire PF amount if they had quit or lost their present jobs, making it mandatory for them to wait till 58 years of age for a final settlement.
- Under the norms that now stand reversed, employees could withdraw their own share of PF savings along with the interest on them. The balance, comprising the employer’s contribution, was to be withheld by the EPFO till the employee attained 58 years of age.
- Previously, employees had been allowed to withdraw the total EPF amount before retirement for medical emergencies, to fund children’s marriage or while changing jobs.
Purview of EPF:
- EPF accounts are mandatory for firms hiring at least 20 employees and are funded by employees paying 12 per cent of their salary with a matching contribution from employers.
Allowing unauthorised places of worship is “insult to god”: SC
The Supreme Court has expressed anguish over inaction of authorities for allowing the existence of unauthorised places of worship on roads and pavements across the country, saying “it is an insult to God.”
- It has suggested that governments should act promptly and sternly to signal loud and clear that such encroachment on public spaces will no longer be tolerated.
Previous rulings of the SC on this matter:
- The court, in September, 2011, had said that it had undertaken the exercise primarily to ensure that “henceforth no public land, public park or public street is encroached for constructing religious structures”.
- All collectors and district magistrates in the country were directed to meticulously ensure that no further land is encroached in their respective districts. The district magistrates and collectors had to ensure that no commercial activity is carried out from unauthorised structures on public land.
- The district magistrates were also directed to send their reports every month to the chief secretary of the state regarding fresh encroachment and status of existing unauthorised structures. The chief secretaries, in turn, were to file affidavits before the court once in three months on regular basis.
However, none of the states had complied with its interim orders and were taking the matter lightly by seeking time to file even the court-mandated quarterly status reports.
Significance of the move:
- Individuals or groups occupying public spaces by setting up places of worship is a rampant problem everywhere in India. In this regard, it is most welcome that the Supreme Court is taking such a tough stance on this issue.
- The court has warned chief secretaries of states and Union territories of serious consequences if they did not comply with its orders directing removal of religious structures which came up on pavements and public land after September 2011.
Most of rural India still opts for open defecation: NSS report
According to recently released ‘Swachhta Status Report’ by the National Sample Survey (NSS) Office, more than half the rural population of the country still opts for open defecation.
Key points of the survey:
- As per the survey estimates 52.1 per cent of people in rural India choose open defecation in comparison to 7.5 per cent in urban India.
- Around 45.3 per cent rural households have access to a sanitary toilet, whereas in urban areas, the number stands at 88.8 per cent.
- The lowest percentage of households having sanitary toilets was in Jharkhand (18.8 per cent), Chhattisgarh (21.2 per cent) and Odisha (26.3 per cent).
- The States with the highest numbers included Sikkim (98.2 per cent), Kerala (97.6 per cent) and Mizoram (96.2 per cent).
- As per the NSS data, 13.1 per cent of the villages and 42 per cent urban wards have community toilets and they were not being used in 1.7 per cent villages and 1.6 per cent urban wards.
- About 22.6 per cent of the villages and 8.6 per cent urban wards had their community toilets not being cleaned.
- Even as 87.9 per cent of the urban households were found to have access to water for use in toilets, only 42.5 per cent rural households had this facility.
Since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) on October 2, 2014 there is an improvement of 8.12 percentage points in number of rural households having toilets, with 50.17% rural households covered as of February 2016.
About the survey:
- The report was concluded at the nation-wide rapid survey was conducted during May-June 2015, concurrently with the 72nd round of the NSS.
- The nation-wide rapid survey was aimed to track the government’s flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Reasons for open defecation:
- The main reason for open defecation is behaviour and mindset of the people who have continued the practice for centuries. Adequate availability of water for toilets is also a concern.
Trading bloc to India: Cut tariffs or exit FTA talks
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has asked India to either agree to eliminate tariffs on most products quickly or leave the talks on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
What’s the issue?
- RCEP members are upset over India’s protectionist stance, focusing only on the export of manpower and not on liberalising trade in goods and other services, as well as investment.
- They have issued this ultimatum being irked by what they perceive as New Delhi’s “obstructionist, defensive and half-hearted approach” that is “delaying” the conclusion of the talks.
- Some member countries want India to take a long-term approach and agree to eliminate duties in goods (barring in a few sensitive sectors in agriculture & industrial goods) on a higher threshold within a decade to help India leverage the opportunities arising out of the Global Value Chain.
The RCEP agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two are:
- The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and
- The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
- RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.
India & Mauritius signed MoU to promote cooperation in the field of traditional system of medicine and Homoeopathy
India has signed an MoU with Mauritius on cooperation in the field of traditional system of medicine and Homoeopathy.
- This MoU will promote cooperation in the field of traditional system of health and medicine between the two countries which already share these traditions due to our unique historical and cultural ties.
- It envisages exchange of experts, supply of traditional medicinal substances, joint research and development and recognition of the traditional systems of health and medicine in both countries.
- It also aims at promotion and popularization of the various Indian traditional systems which fall under AYUSH.