Polity & Governance
- Union Cabinet approves ordinance to pay salaries via cheques
- Uttar Pradesh sends first proposal for construction of houses for urban poor under PMAY (Urban)
- SC criticises poor implementation of SC/ST Act
- Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing
Environment & Ecology
- Too hot to handle — alarming rise in forest fires this year
Bilateral & International Relations
- Hong Kong revokes visa-free entry to Indians
Art & Culture
- 2016 Sahitya Akademi Award winners
Key Facts for Prelims
- TanSat satellite
- Coal Mitra
- 2016 SASTRA Ramanujan award
- National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)
Polity & Governance
Union Cabinet approves ordinance to pay salaries via cheques
The Union Cabinet approved the ordinance route to amend the Payment of Wages Act 1936, to allow business and industrial establishments to pay salaries through cheques or electronic route, in line with the government’s ambitious cashless campaign.
- The ordinance will need the President’s assent to become law as per article 123 of the Constitution.
- The present law (1936 Act) states that all payment of wages should be in cash. Under it has mandatory provision asking employers to obtain written permission of the worker to pay either by cheque or by crediting wages to his or her bank account.
Key changes proposed by the ordinance:
- The ordinance will allow industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000/ month, without taking their explicit consent as required under present Act.
- However, wage payment through the banking system will only be optional, until State governments or Union Government come up with a notification for specific industries since Labour is in the concurrent list.
Significance of the move:
- The payment of wages through cheque or DBT of employed persons has twin motives i.e. it will reduce complaints regarding non-payment or less payment of minimum wages and serve purpose of digital and less cash economy.
- The move is significant in view of the Union Government is promoting cashless transactions after its decision to scrap the old high value Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes.
- Earlier Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Lok Sabha during 2016 winter session but was not cleared owing to the impasse in Parliament.
Uttar Pradesh sends first proposal for construction of houses for urban poor under PMAY (Urban)
Uttar Pradesh has become the 29th State to send proposals for construction of affordable houses for urban poor to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation.
- The first such proposal for construction of 11,286 houses for urban poor in 34 towns of Uttar Pradesh was approved by the Ministry of HUPA recently.
- Total investment involved in construction of these houses is Rs.384 cr. The Ministry has approved central assistance of Rs. 160 cr in this regard.
About the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY):
- Union Government had launched Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in June 2015 in line with its ambitious Housing for All by 2022 Mission.
- Under this scheme government plans to build two crore houses for the poor in urban areas by year 2022, which coincides with 75 years of Independence.
- The scheme has four basic components viz. slum rehabilitation, affordable housing, credit linked interest subsidy and beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.
- Intended beneficiary will be poor people (BPL) and people living under EWS and LIG categories in urban establishments of the country.
- Under this scheme, the ownership of houses will be in the name of woman or jointly with husband.
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.
- The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:
- Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
- Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
- Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
- Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.
SC criticises poor implementation of SC/ST Act
Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the National Legal Services Authority to frame schemes for spreading legal awareness and free consultations to members of the SC/ST communities nationwide.
- The apex court criticised the government for its “indifferent attitude” towards the implementation of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
- The court has asked the authorities to discharge their duties to protect the SCs/STs to attain the constitutional goal of equality for all citizens.
- National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society. It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Its aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.
Functions of NALSA:
- NALSA identifies specific categories of marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for implementation of legal service programmes.
- It provides services of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal.
- It also organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- It works in close coordination with various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies.
Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing
The latest Global Wage Report 2016-17 published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveals income disparities rife in countries across the world.
Highlights of the report:
- Singapore has the lowest wage disparity, at 3%.
- Among major economies, only South Korea fared worse than India, with a gap of 37%.
- The share of women among wage earners was among the lowest in South Asia. Compared to a global average of 40%, and an Asia-Pacific average of 38%, in South Asia (whose dominant economy is India), only 20% of wage earners were women.
- The gender pay gap is smallest (8%) in the group of countries where the collective bargaining rate is at least 80%, and widest in countries with weak collective bargaining and no or very low minimum wages.
- India has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30%.
- In India, women formed 60% of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15% of the highest wage-earners. This means not only are women poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, the gender pay gap at the bottom is also very wide in India.
- In India, the top one per cent earned 33 times what the bottom 10% did. The top 10% also earned 43% of all wages. Since 2006, average wages rose by 60% in India, while they more than doubled in China.
What are the reasons for the wage gap?
- The report noted that typically, women’s educational choices produced occupational segregation. For instance, since the majority of those who studied nursing were women, “this profession is over-represented among women”.
- At the same time, care work is undervalued because it may be seen as a natural female attribute rather than a skill to be acquired. Thus, a higher representation of women in sectors where their work is undervalued results in a gender pay gap.
Measures to reduce excessive wage inequality:
- Minimum wages and collective bargaining play an important role in reducing excessive wage inequality.
- Other possible measures such as regulation or self-regulation of executive remuneration, promoting the productivity of sustainable enterprises and addressing the factors leading to wage inequality between groups of workers, including women and men.
Environment & Ecology
Too hot to handle — alarming rise in forest fires this year
According to report submitted by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, there is alarming rise in forest fires across India.
- The report primarily focuses on the prevention and containing of fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
- It says that the number of forest fires have touched 24,817 in 2016 from 15,937 fires in 2015. It shows alarming rise 55% in the past year.
- The committee was formed after a series of devastating forest fires earlier this year, including the prolonged one that charred 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
Key findings of the committee:
- The frequency of forest fires in India has risen by a drastic 55% in the past year. The number has touched 24,817 in 2016 from around 15,937 fires in 2015.
- The increase is seen even though 2015, considered a drought year, had seen a decline in frequency of forest fires of around 16%.
- The three central States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh contribute a third of the forest fires. Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016.
- Large number of posts of front line forest staff were lying vacant, while fire-fighting equipment is rudimentary in many cases.
Key recommendations made by the committee:
- National policy on managing forest fires must be framed.
- Replacing pine reserve forests areas with “broad-leaf” plants.
- Procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles.
- Advocating large-scale incentives and programmes (including under MNREGA) to collect pines for use as fuel, and other incineration.
Bilateral & International Relations
Hong Kong revokes visa-free entry to Indians
In a setback to India, the Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has withdrawn the visa-free facility for Indian travellers.
- Under the new rules, Indian travellers will have to complete a pre-arrival registration.
- Such pre-registration would not be necessary for those transiting through the Hong Kong airport without leaving the airport transit area.
- This decision was taken on the ground to prevent illegal immigration as number of Indian asylum seekers was on the rise. Over half a million Indians visit Hong Kong for business, trade and holidays.
Till now Hong Kong, which is now a Special Administrative Region of China, has permitted Indians to enter with valid passport for a period up to 14 days without a visa. However in recent times, it was found that Indian nationals were overstaying in Hong Kong by violating visa norms.
Hong Kong’s unilateral decision came a year after its government sent a delegation headed by the Assistant Director of Immigration from the Immigration Department and the Hong Kong Police in December 2015. It had expressed concerns about “illegal employment” and “human trafficking” involving Indians. According to them, many Indians taking up jobs even though Hong Kong does not allow visitors to work.
Hong Kong has become attractive destination for asylum seekers from the sub-continent as it offered facilities for food and stay free of cost until the asylum requests are processed.[Ref: The Hindu]
Art & Culture
2016 Sahitya Akademi Award winners
The Sahitya Academy has announced the names of 24 poets and authors who will be conferred the prestigious 2016 Sahitya Akademi Award.
- Swarajbir (Punjabi).
- Nrisinghaprasad Bhaduri (Bengali).
- Aziz Hajini (Kashmiri) and
- Nizam Siddiqui (Urdu).
- Chahatrapal (Dogri),
- Shyan Darihare (Maithili),
- Moirangthem Rajen (Manipuri),
- Asaram Lomate (Marathi),
- Paramita Satpathy (Odia),
- Bulaki Sharma (Rajasthani)
- Vannadhasan (Tamil).
- Jnan Pujari (Assamese),
- Anju (Bodo),
- Kamal Vora (Gujarati),
- Prabha Varma (Malayalam),
- Sitanath Acharya (Sanskrit),
- Gobinda Chandra Majhi (Santhali),
- Nand Javeri (Sindhi) and
- Papineni Sivasankar (Telugu).
About the award:
- Sahitya Akademi Award is conferred annually on writers of outstanding works in one of the twenty-four major Indian languages (22 Scheduled Languages+ English and Rajasthani).
- The award consists of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of 1 Lakh rupees.
Key Facts for Prelims
- China successfully launched TanSat, a global carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring satellite to understand the effects of climate change.
- It was launched on board of Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gobi Desert. It was the 243rd mission of the Long March series rockets.
- With this, China became third country after Japan and United States to have its own satellite to monitor greenhouse gases (GHGs).
- The satellite will help understanding of climate change and provide China’s policy makers with independent emissions data in first-hand and share it with researchers worldwide. It will give China a louder voice on climate change, carbon reduction negotiation and bigger say on carbon trading.
- Union government recently launched a Web portal, called ‘Coal Mitra’ for flexibility in Utilization of Domestic Coal.
- It has been designed to bring about flexibility in Utilization of Domestic Coal by transferring the reserves to more cost efficient State/Centre owned or Private sector generating stations, leading to lower generation costs and ultimately lesser cost of electricity for the consumers.
- The web portal would be used by the State/Central Gencos to display information about normative fixed and variable charges of electricity for the previous month as well as margin available for additional generation so as to enable the utilities identify stations for transfer of coal.
- It would host data on Operational and Financial parameters of each coal based station; Quantity and source of supply coal to the power plant; and Distance of Power plant form the Coal mine.
2016 SASTRA Ramanujan award
- The 2016 SASTRA-Ramanujan award for mathematics was presented to Maksym Radziwill of McGill University, Canada.
- The joint winner is Kaisa Matomaki of University of Turku, Finland.
- This year the prize has been jointly given to Kaisa Matomaki and Maksym Radziwill for their ‘revolutionary’ collaborative work on short intervals in number theory.
- In number theory, understanding behaviour in short intervals is very important and also it is very difficult to prove this result.
- Professor Kaisa Matomaki is the second woman to receive the prize since it was instituted in 2005.
- The SASTRA Ramanujan Prize was established in 2005 and is awarded annually for outstanding contributions by young mathematicians to areas influenced by Indian mathematical genius Srinavasa Ramanujan.
- The age limit for the prize has been set at 32 because Ramanujan achieved so much in his brief life of 32 years.
National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi recently launched National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) at Kanpur.
- It is for the first time Govt. of India has come forward to incentivize the employers to participate pro-actively in apprenticeship training.
- The Scheme has an outlay of 10,000 crore rupees with a target of 50 Lakh apprentices to be trained by 2019-20.
- The Scheme will be implemented by Director General of Training (DGT) under the aegis of Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
- Under it, Central Government for the first time will provide financial incentives to the employers to engage apprentices.
- Central Government will also directly share 25% of the total stipend (maximum of 1,500 rupees per month per apprentice) payable to an apprentice with employers.
- In addition, it will support basic training which is considered an essential component of apprenticeship training.
- The Central Government will bear the 50% of the total expenditure incurred on providing basic training to an apprentice.
- All transactions including registration by employers, apprentices, registration of contract and payment to employers will be made in online mode.
- Brand Ambassadors will be appointed for states and for local industrial clusters to act as facilitators and promoters to promote apprenticeship training.