Polity & Governance
- SC Commission to redefine ‘honour killing’
- Ministry overruled panel to allow contract hiring at FCI
Environment & Ecology
- Solar power tree launched to harness maximum energy using minimum land
- India Ranks 110th On Sustainable Development Index
- India, Mexico approve 14 joint projects in science & tech
Science & Technology
- A final goodbye to the VCR
- Facebook Internet drone ‘Aquila’ passes first full-scale test
Polity & Governance
SC Commission to redefine ‘honour killing’
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) is soon likely to substitute the term ‘honour killings’ with “so-called honour killings” to describe the killing of Dalits for marrying a person of another caste.
- Tamil Nadu questioned the use of the term honour killing, saying there was no honour in these killings.
- There were suggestions that these should be called barbaric killings, but many said all killings were barbaric killings.
- While an alternative term for such killings could not be agreed upon, “so-called” would soon be used before them to make the point that they were not honourable.
- Killing of couples marrying across castes and communities have been called honour killings in recent years.
- The Commission’s mandate is to look into caste atrocities involving Dalits (and, technically, Other Backward Classes, as per its constitutional mandate). The matter came up during a discussion at the NCSC’s review meeting with top officials of all States to take stock of atrocities against Dalits.
Ministry overruled panel to allow contract hiring at FCI
A workers’ union has moved the Delhi High Court against a Labour Ministry notification allowing the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to hire contract workers.
What’s the issue?
- FCI had moved an application in 2014 asking the Labour Ministry to de-notify the prohibition order, and allow it to hire contract workers in all its establishments without conditions and for an indefinite period.
- Before granting an exemption, the Labour Ministry had referred the matter to the Central Advisory Contract Labour Board (CACLB), constituted under the Contract Labour (Rehabilitation and Abolition) Act of 1970.
- The CACLB rejected the FCI’s application. It also stated that as per the law, FCI cannot be granted an exemption from a ban on hiring contract workers as there was no emergency situation establishment by the state-run company.
- The Labour Ministry had overruled its expert panel’s advice and decided to allow FCI to hire contract workers at all its units for an indefinite period.
- However, the law ministry objected to the ‘indefinite’ applicability of such an exception, so the labour ministry restricted the freedom to two years.
- Finally, the Labour Ministry’s July 6 notification allowing the hiring of contract workers by FCI for two years had been taken after the ministry overruled the recommendations of its own advisory board twice.
- The ministry issued the notification despite initial resistance from its own advisory panel. The FCI Workers’ Union challenged the government’s move.
- Till recently, a majority of FCI’s godowns, 226 depots and railheads, were prohibited from hiring contract labour due to various prohibition notifications issued by the government since 1985.
What the law says?
- As per the law, the government can grant an exemption from the Contract Labour Act of 1970 to an establishment only in case of an emergency and only for a fixed period of time.
Malpractices in FCI:
- Some of the department workers get a monthly income in lakhs due to high incentives offered by the FCI for loading or unloading more sacks.
- Expressing shock at such high-income levels, a Supreme Court had said that these were an example of the “malpractices” in FCI. The court had observed How can a labourer carrying sacks earn Rs. 4.5 lakh per month?
- As per the plan, FCI wants to engage only contract labour in place of a four-tier system: regular employees, direct pay system (those getting minimum wage), no work no pay (those who get paid only when there is work) and contract labour system in a bid to save about Rs. 2,000 crore a year.
About the Food Corporation of India:
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) was setup under the Food Corporation’s Act 1964, in order to fulfil following objectives of the Food Policy:
- Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
- Distribution of foodgrains throughout the country for public distribution system.
- Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of foodgrains to ensure National Food Security.
- Regulate market price to provide foodgrains to consumers at a reliable price.
In its 50 years of service to the nation, FCI has played a significant role in India’s success in transforming the crisis management oriented food security into a stable security system.
Organisational Structure of Food Corporation of India:
[Ref: Hindu, fci.gov.in]
Environment & Ecology
Solar power tree launched to harness maximum energy using minimum land
Seeking to harness solar power without getting into the hassle of acquiring big tract of land, the CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur has developed and designed a ‘Solar Power Tree’ which will help harness maximum solar energy by utilising minimum land.
- One of such ‘Trees’ is launched by the Union science and technology minister in New Delhi.
- The device has been functioning effectively at three places in West Bengal as a pilot project.
What is the Solar Power Tree?
- The Solar Power Tree harnesses solar energy for producing electricity with an innovative vertical arrangement of solar cells.
- It thus reduces the requirement of land as compared to conventional Solar Photovoltaic layout, on one hand, while keeping the land character intact on the other.
- Even the cultivable land can be utilized for solar energy harnessing along with farming at the same time.
- The innovation finds its viability both in rural and urban areas.
Significance of the Solar Power Tree:
- The Solar Power Tree innovatively addresses the challenge of increasing demand for Green Energy by gainfully utilizing scarce land resources in the country. For example, in order to produce 1 MW of solar power it requires about 3.5 acres of land in the conventional layout of solar panels.
Salient Features of the Solar Power Tree:
- It takes only 4 square feet of land for a 5 KW Solar Power tree, whereas in a conventional layout, it requires 400 square feet of land.
- By holding the photovoltaic panels at a higher height, on an average it gets more sunrays for one hour in a day. As a result, it is possible to harness 10-15% more power in comparison to a conventional layout on ground.
- It has a battery back-up of 2 hours on full load, hence giving light even after sunset.
- It is facilitated with water sprinkler at the top for self-cleaning of panels, that increases the efficiency of the solar panels.
- The estimated cost of the device is around Rs. 5 Lakh for a 5 KW specification.
As a future prospect, the Solar Power Tree would be developed in a rotatable module, which would have a motorized mechanism to align itself with the movement of the Sun during the day. Hence, it would be possible to harness 10-15% more power over and above the current capacity.[Ref: PIB, ToI]
India Ranks 110th On Sustainable Development Index
According to a new index, ‘Sustainable Development Goal Index’, India has ranked a low 110 out of 149 nations assessed on where they stand with regard to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
About the Index:
- The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung launched a new Sustainable Development Goal Index and Dashboard to provide a report card for tracking Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) progress and ensuring accountability.
- The index collected available data for 149 countries to assess where each country stands in 2016 with regard to achieving the SDGs.
- It ranks countries based on their performance across the 17 global goals, a set of ambitious objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, underpinned by good governance.
The index shows that:
- All countries face major challenges in achieving these ambitious goals.
- The countries which are closest to fulfilling the goals are not the biggest economies but comparably small, developed countries.
- Sweden tops the chart and is followed by Denmark and Norway on the top three performing countries.
- Germany (6) and the UK (10) are the only G7 countries to be found among the top ten performers.
- Russia and China rank 47th and 76th respectively.
- India ranks 110th on the list followed by Lesotho on 113th position, Pakistan (115), Myanmar (117), Bangladesh (118) and Afghanistan (139).
- Poor and developing countries understandably score lowest on the SDG Index as they often have comparably little resources at their disposal.
- The Central African Republic and Liberia are at the bottom of the Index and still have the longest way to go in achieving the SDGs.
What are the sustainable development goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015.
- The MDGs, adopted in 2000, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation.
- The new SDGs, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.
All 17 Sustainable Development Goals are connected to UNDP’s Strategic Plan focus areas:
[Ref: BS, UN]
India, Mexico approve 14 joint projects in science & tech
India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT) have approved 14 joint projects in four focus areas of cooperation – water, seismology, solar energy and biotechnology.
- This was decided at the 6th meeting of the Indo-Mexican Committee on Science and Technology.
Scientific cooperation between Mexico and India:
- Scientific cooperation between Mexico and India has been mainly implemented through joint research projects.
- These projects have produced over 120 visits from researchers in both countries, several academic publications as well as three joint workshops.
- During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Mexico City last month, cooperation on science and technology was highlighted as one of the priority areas.
- Modi and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto agreed to launch concrete proposals in science and technology for the benefit of their people.
Science & Technology
A final goodbye to the VCR
The last-known company still manufacturing the videocassette recorders (VCRs), the Funai Corporation of Japan, said that it would stop making VCRs at the end of this month, mainly because of “difficulty acquiring parts.”
The VideoCassette Recorder (VCR) is a device that can record television programs or the images from a video camera on magnetic tape.
- It can also play pre-recorded tapes.
- A VCR converts the separate audio and video portions of a television or video camera signal to magnetic flux variations to magnetize the tape.
- The video recording heads move in a direction almost perpendicular to the tape movement, resulting in tracks that run diagonally across the tape width and increasing tape capacity.
- A camcorder combines a video camera and VCR in a single handheld machine.
VCR: Last 50 years
- The first prototype for the videocassette recorder was created in 1956 by the Ampex Company.
- The first commercially successful VCR, which used a Betamax format, was introduced in 1975.
- The introduction of the DVD (1996) and the recordable DVD led to a steady shift away from the VCR, and by 2003 rentals of DVDs surpassed VHS tapes.
- The VCR marks one of the most important events in the history of TV because, for the first time, it gave people control of what they could watch on their TV sets. Prior to the VCR, there was no such thing as a video store.
Facebook Internet drone ‘Aquila’ passes first full-scale test
Facebook announced that it had completed its first successful test of its solar-powered Aquila drone, being develop to deliver internet service to remote areas of the world.
- Facebook had conducted previous test flights using a one-fifth scale version of Aquila for several months, but this was the first time using the full-scale aircraft, which has a wingspan greater than that of a 737 passenger jet.
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that one of his goals is helping to connect everyone in the world online, and the Aquila program developed by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is a key part of that effort.