Polity & Governance
- Karnataka govt invokes ESMA against garbage contractors
Government Schemes & Policies
- The lowdown on the petrol pricing policy
- Govt launches Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat to boost PMUY
Issues related to Health & Education
- ‘Bharat ke Kaushalzaade’
- Japan to fund mass rapid transit systems in Gujarat, Haryana
- All you need to know about Graded Surveillance Measure
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Multi-Agency Exercise ‘Pralay Sahayam’
Science & Technology
- Asteroid-bound NASA spacecraft Osiris-Rex swings by Earth
Key Facts for Prelims
- C N R Rao chosen for 2017 Von Hippel Award
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Polity & Governance
Karnataka govt invokes ESMA against garbage contractors
The Karnataka government has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act against garbage contractors and sanitation workers employed under them following complaints that they were not discharging their duties.
- The law has been invoked for a year to ensure that waste is removed from the city.
What’s the issue?
- The garbage problem has turned worse in Bengaluru recently as the contractors have allegedly stopped removing the waste, causing a huge pileup that has left many important places stinking and brought the city civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike in the line of fire.
About ESMA Act:
The Essential Services Maintenance (ESMA) is an act of Parliament of India which was established to ensure the delivery of certain services, which if obstructed would affect the normal life of the people.
- This include services like public transport (bus services), health services (doctors and hospitals).
- The ESMA is a central law, that is, a law made by the Parliament of India; but the discretion on the execution of it mostly lies with the State governments.
- Each state in the union of India hence has a separate state Essential Services Maintenance Act with slight variations from the central law in its provisions. This freedom is accorded by the central law itself.
- Although it is a very powerful law, its execution rests entirely on the discretion of the State government.
- The law has seen little use in India, with many strikes by public transport providers or staff, doctors or Government employees, being continued for weeks without ESMA being invoked by the Union Government or the State Government.
- There have been instances of citizens approaching courts for implementation of ESMA, and the executive being forced by court orders to declare ESMA over a strike and the strikes being called off overnight.
Government Schemes & Policies
The lowdown on the petrol pricing policy
Amid protests against the recent spike in petrol and diesel prices, the government has ruled out the possibility of an end to the recently introduced policy of revising fuel prices daily.
About the new policy:
- Since June 16 this year, petrol and diesel prices across the country have been revised on a daily basis, against the previous policy of revising prices every fortnight.
- By opting for daily pricing, India has joined advanced countries like the United States and others which follow the practice.
How did it come about?
- The daily pricing policy is in line with the government’s efforts over the years to deregulate the pricing of essential fuels.
- The prices of petrol and diesel were first deregulated in 2010 and 2014 respectively, bringing in the practice of fortnightly revision of prices.
Proponents of the new policy:
- The new daily pricing policy, the government argues, will now allow oil marketing companies to price their products even better, that is, in accordance with their fluctuating input costs.
- The oil companies need not wait a fortnight to change prices, and it is believed that this would allow them to quickly pass on the benefit of lower crude oil prices to retail customers.
- Also, daily price revisions will reduce the risk of huge revisions in prices, which is more common under the fortnightly pricing policy.
Opponents of the new policy:
- The daily pricing policy has been blamed in recent weeks for the sharp increase in petrol and diesel prices.
- Fuel prices fell in the initial days after the implementation of the new policy, but have seen a sharp acceleration ever since. The price of petrol in metro cities like Delhi and Kolkata, for instance, has risen by more than ₹5 since the introduction of daily pricing. The government has blamed supply constraints due to floods in the United States for the present rise in prices.
- A wider criticism, however, is that domestic fuel prices have also failed to match the drastic fall in international crude oil prices over the last few years. The surprising divergence in the cost of crude oil and domestic fuel prices has caused a lot of anger.
Who is the main culprit?
- Taxes are the main culprit stopping petrol and diesel prices from reflecting the fall in international crude oil prices.
- About half the retail price paid by consumers for petrol and diesel goes towards paying the excise duty and the value added tax imposed on them.
- These taxes increase the price at which oil companies can profitably sell essential fuels to consumers, thus restricting supply and keeping prices high.
- One option is to reduce VAT on petroleum products. But, for this, states have to forgo their share of the Centre’s revenue from fuel taxes. 42% of the Central tax receipts from petrol go to the States.
- Another option is to bring petrol and diesel under the GST to lower the tax burden. This will help bring down their prices, but only when it is combined with better competition in the oil sector.
Otherwise, lower taxes will merely improve the profits of oil companies without any of the benefits, whether it is lower crude oil prices or any other fall in input costs, being passed on to consumers.
- What is being missed is the fact that fuel prices are determined by market forces, not costs. So lower crude oil prices need not necessarily lead to lower fuel prices.
- Costs only determine the profits of oil companies, whose operating margins have naturally improved since deregulation.
Govt launches Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat to boost PMUY
The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas launched country-wide Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat scheme to distribute LPG connections among rural areas where conventional fuel is used for domestic purposes.
- It is backup scheme to existing Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
About LPG Panchayat scheme:
The LPG Panchayat scheme aims at spreading awareness among LPG users about how to properly use clean fuel and its useful benefits.
- It will provide platform to trigger discussion through sharing of personal experiences on benefits of use of clean fuel compared to traditional fuels like cowdung, charcoal or wood.
- It also aims to connect with beneficiaries of Ujjwala Yojana to resolve issues and wrong traditional beliefs among people through officials of oil PSUs, NGOs, Asha workers and social workers.
- Under it, one lakh LPG Panchayats will be activated across country to deal with issue of safe use of LPG as well as discuss its various benefits on environment, health and how it empowers women.
- LPG Panchayat will serve as an interactive platform between those who received LPG cylinders under PMUY.
- One panchayat will have around 100 LPG customers of nearby areas.
- The panchayats discuss issues such as safe practices, quality of service provided by distributors and availability of refill cylinders.
About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aims to provide five crore LPG connections to women in Below Poverty Line (BPL) households over the next three financial years, at a cost of Rs. 8,000 crore.
- The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
- The scheme will be partially funded from the savings accruing to the government from LPG users who gave up their subsidy as part of the Give It Up programme.
- The new users who receive LPG connections under the scheme will not have to pay the security deposit, while the Rs. 1,600 administrative costs, cost of pressure regulator booklet and safety hose will be borne by the government.
- The households will be selected using the socio-economic and caste census data. Consumers will have the option to purchase gas stove and refills on EMI.
Issues related to Health & Education
‘Bharat ke Kaushalzaade’
On the eve of Antyodaya Diwas 2017, Rural Skills Division, Ministry of Rural Development has organized an event ‘Bharat ke Kaushalzaade’.
The event aims to celebrate and honour beneficiaries from both of MoRD’s flagship skill development programmes i.e.
- Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) and
- Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETI).
The event also witnessed the mobilization platform launch, branded ‘Kaushal Panjee’ (Skill Register).
- Kaushal Panjee aims to be citizen centric end-to-end solution to aid mobilization of candidates for RSETIs and DDU-GKY.
- It facilitates mobilization of candidates through Self Help Group members, Gram Panchayat Functionaries, Block Officials, CSCs and directly by the candidate.
- RSETIs and DDU-GKY Partners can access the Kaushal Panjee to connect with the mobilized rural youth.
- Kaushal Panjee is connected to the Social Economic Caste Census (SECC 2011) which will help the States plan and target their mobilizations based on the socio-economic profile of households in their State.
About DDU GKY:
The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) announced the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) Antyodaya Diwas, on 25th September 2014.
- DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.
- DDU-GKY is uniquely focused on rural youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families.
- As a part of the Skill India campaign, it plays an instrumental role in supporting the social and economic programs of the government like the Make In India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-Up India, Stand-Up India campaigns.
About Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs):
RSETIs are non- profit institutions established with the support of State Government and Central Governments.
- They are dedicated institutions designed as to ensure necessary skill training and skill up gradation of the rural BPL youth to mitigate the unemployment problem.
- One RSETI is established in every district in the country.
- Concerned bank is the lead bank in the district takes responsibility for creating and managing it.
- Government of India will provide one – time grant assistance, upto a maximum of Rs. 1 crore for meeting the expenditure on construction of building and other infrastructure.
- After successful completion of the training, they will be provided with credit linkage assistance by the banks to start their own entrepreneurial ventures.
- At least 70% of the trainees should be from the rural BPL category certified by the DRDA.
Recognition of RSETI trainees:
- Certificates issued by an RSETI will be recognised by all banks for purposes of extending credit to the trainees.
- It means that RSETI trained rural youths will be free to access any scheduled bank for loan/credit.
- Credit needs of trainees will be appraised by RSETIs and the sense will be conveyed to the bank branches.
- The trainees could avail bank loans under SGSY or any other government sponsored programmes.
Japan to fund mass rapid transit systems in Gujarat, Haryana
Funds from a Japanese government loan will soon be utilised for the first time in the $100 billion, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project.
- So far, the mega-project was being developed only with the Indian government’s financial assistance.
- A soft loan (with concessional conditions) to the tune of $4.5 billion to be extended by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will shortly be utilised to develop two Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS) — one each in Gujarat and Haryana — that will be part of the DMIC.
- Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is a mega infra-structure project of USD 90 billion with the financial & technical aids from Japan, covering an overall length of 1483 KMs between the political capital and the business capital of India, i.e. Delhi and Mumbai.
- The project aims to develop an environmentally sustainable, long lasting and technological advanced infrastructure utilizing cutting age Japanese technologies and to create world class manufacturing and investment destinations in this region.
- The corridor would pass through the six States – U.P, NCR of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- It’s end terminals would be at Dadri in the National Capital Region of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai.
- Distribution of length of the corridor indicates that Rajasthan (39) and Gujarat (38%) together constitute 77% of the total length of the alignment of freight corridor.
All you need to know about Graded Surveillance Measure
More than 900 companies are being monitored under the Graded Surveillance Measure, designed by market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
What is the Graded Surveillance Measure?
- Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Exchanges in order to enhance market integrity and safeguard interest of investors, have introduced Graded Surveillance Measures(GSM) wherein certain identified securities shall be subjected to enhanced monitoring and surveillance actions
The main objective of these measures is to:
- alert and advice investors to be extra cautious while dealing in these securities and
- advice market participants to carry out necessary due diligence while dealing in these securities.
Why did SEBI bring in the measure?
- The underlying principle behind the graded surveillance framework is to alert and protect investors trading in a security, which is seeing abnormal price movements.
- SEBI may put shares of companies under the measure for suspected price rigging or under the ambit of ‘shell companies’.
- The measure would provide a heads up to market participants that they need to be extra cautious and diligent while dealing in such securities put under surveillance.
How the Graded Surveillance Measure works?
Once a firm is identified for surveillance it goes through six stages with corresponding surveillance actions and the restrictions on trading in those securities gets higher progressively.
- In the first stage.the securities are put in the trade-to-trade segment (meaning no speculative trading is allowed and delivery of shares and payment of consideration amount are mandatory). A maximum of 5% movement in share price is allowed.
- In the second stage, in addition to the trade-to-trade segment, the buyer of the security has to put 100% of trade value as additional surveillance deposit. The deposit would be retained by the exchanges for a period of five months and refunded in a phased manner.
- In the third stage, trading is permitted only once a week ie every Monday, apart from the buyer putting 100% of the trade value as additional surveillance deposit.
- In the fourth stage, trading would be allowed once a week and the surveillance deposit increases to 200% of the trade value.
- In the fifth stage, trading would be permitted only once a month (first Monday of the month) with additional deposit of 200%.
- In the sixth and final stage, there are maximum restrictions. Trading is permitted only once a month at this stage, with no upward movement allowed in price. Also, the additional surveillance deposit would be 200%.
Will securities remain permanently in the Graded Surveillance list?
- There would a quarterly review of securities. Based on criteria, the securities would be moved from a higher stage to a lower stage in a sequential manner.
How would these measures affect small investors?
- The challenge for the small investors is that these announcements are often made at very short notice and implemented from the next day itself thus giving those who have already entered the stock less than adequate time to exit it.
- There is also potentially another risk. For example, even if time is given, the stock might crash next day on the news, triggering the lower price circuit and leaving no exit opportunity.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Multi-Agency Exercise ‘Pralay Sahayam’
A multi-agency exercise was recently conducted on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake as the final event of ‘Pralay Sahayam’ in Hyderabad.
- The two-day exercise was jointly organised by Telangana state government in association with all central and state agencies National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and Armed Forces.
- The exercise aimed to create public awareness about man-made and natural climate change and urban disasters including flooding.
- The exercise brought out the role and function of the State Emergency Operations in coordinating conduct of the joint operations.
- The exercise emphasized the significance of early warning systems of agencies like Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
- The exercise culminated with a static display which demonstrated the efficient and functional layout of a relief and rehabilitation camp for the displaced persons.
- The Disaster Management (DM) Act has made the statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
Role and mandate of NDRF:
- Specialized response during disasters
- Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations
- Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills
- Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills
- Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards)
- Community Capacity Building Programme
- Public Awareness Campaign
What are the features which make NDRF a Unique Force?
- The only dedicated disaster response force of the world.
- The only agency with comprehensive response capabilities having multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone nature.
- Experienced paramilitary personnel specially trained and equipped for disaster response.
- Capabilities for undertaking disaster response, prevention, mitigation and capacity building.
Locations of NDRF BNs:
- These NDRF battalions are located at ten different locations in the country based on the vulnerability profile of country and to cut down the response time for their deployment at disaster site.
Science & Technology
Asteroid-bound NASA spacecraft Osiris-Rex swings by Earth
NASA’s asteroid-chasing spacecraft Osiris-Rex swung by Earth on its way to a space rock.
- Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex passed within 17,237 kilometres of the home planet above Antarctica.
- It used Earth’s gravity as a slingshot to put it on a path toward the asteroid Bennu.
About the OSIRIS-REx Mission:
- The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS REx) is a planned NASA asteroid study and sample return mission.
Aim of the mission:
- The mission is to study asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid (formerly designated 1999 RQ36) and in 2023 to return to Earth a sample for detailed analysis.
Significance of the mission:
- Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life.
Key Facts for Prelims
C N R Rao chosen for 2017 Von Hippel Award
- Eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna Professor C.N.R Rao, has become the first Asian to be chosen for the prestigious Von Hippel Award for his immense contribution in materials research.
- Rao is chosen for the prestigious award for his immense contribution in materials research.
- The award citation noted Rao’s immense work on novel functional materials, including nanomaterials (having particles of nanoscale dimensions), graphene (the strongest and thinnest material) and 2D materials, superconductivity, and colossal magnetoresistance (change in electrical resistance of a material in a magnetic field).
- The award is the US-based Materials Research Society’s (MRS) highest honour.