Current Affairs Analysis

25th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Tokyo Olympics postponed due to COVID-19; Invest India Business Immunity Platform; Invest India; Utilising funds for welfare of Construction workers; Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996; MPLADS funds may be utilised for COVID-19; Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme; ED officials to attend office on rotational basis; Directorate of Enforcement; Dr Ram Manohar Lohia;; International Olympic Committee; Minor Forest produce scheme for tribals rescue; Bank refuse NRI foreign currency deposits; Eco-Sensitive Zones; Hindu New year; Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951; Germany’s kurzarbeitgeld policy
By IASToppers
March 25, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Utilising funds for welfare of Construction workers
  • ED officials to attend office on rotational basis

Government Schemes and policies

  • Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme
  • Minor Forest produce scheme for tribals rescue

Economy

  • Invest India Business Immunity Platform
  • Bank refuse NRI foreign currency deposits

Persons in News

  • Dr Ram Manohar Lohia

Also in News

  • Tokyo Olympics postponed due to COVID-19

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones
  • Hindu New year
  • Criteria for demarcating ESAs
  • Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951
  • Germany’s kurzarbeitgeld policy

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Polity & Governance

Utilising Cess fund for Welfare of Construction Workers

Union Ministry of Labour has issued advisory to all States/UTs to use Cess fund for Welfare of Construction Workers.

What is the move?

  • In the backdrop of outbreak of COVID-19, numerous measures are being taken by the Government to give relief to workers.
  • To support unorganized construction workers who sustain their livelihood on daily wages, an advisory has been issued today by Union Minister of Labour and Employment to all Chief Ministers/ LGs of all the States/UTs.
  • In the advisory, under Section 60 of the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996 all State Governments/UTs have been advised  to transfer funds in the account of construction workers through DBT mode from the Cess fund collected by the Labour Welfare Boards under the  BOCW cess Act.
  • About Rs 52000 crore is available as cess fund and about 3.5 crore construction workers are registered with these Construction welfare Boards.

Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996:

  • The BOCW Act aims to provide for regulation of employment and conditions of service of the building and other construction workers as also their safety, health and welfare measures in every establishment which employs or employed ten or more workers.
  • The BOCW Act exempts for the construction of residential houses for own purpose constructed with a cost not exceeding Rs. 10 Lakh.
  • The Act has provision for constitution of safety committees in every establishment employing 500 or more workers with equal representation from workers and employers in addition to appointment of safety officers qualified in the field.
  • It also specifies the Penalties of fine and imprisonment for violation and contravention of the BOCW Act.
  • The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 is to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers with a view to augmenting the resources of the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Boards constituted under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
  • Under the Act 1% cess shall be collected from every employer where the cost of construction is more than Rs. 10 lakhs.
  • The proceeds of the cess so collected shall be paid by the local authority or the State Government collecting the cess to the Board after deducting the cost of collection of such cess not exceeding 1% of the amount collected.
  • The enforcement of the Act primarily lies with the State Governments/Union Territories.
[Ref: PIB, Lawyers club]

ED officials to attend office on rotational basis

The Enforcement Directorate has directed its officials to attend office on a rotation basis to avoid crowding in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Directorate of Enforcement (ED):

  • Directorate of Enforcement was set up at New Delhi in 1956 for enforcement of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), 1947.
  • FERA, 1947 was later replaced by Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973.
  • FERA was a Criminal Act, which provided for filing of prosecutions in a court of law, besides adjudication of violations by the Adjudicating Authorities.
  • FERA was repealed in 2000 and replaced with Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA).
  • Subsequently, the Directorate was also entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), which came into force in 2005.

Role:

  • At present, the Directorate of Enforcement enforces two laws viz., the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) apart from looking after the residual work initiated under FERA.
  • The Directorate initiates investigations under FEMA for contraventions relating to foreign exchange transactions on the basis of specific intelligence/information and takes appropriate action under FEMA.

Procedure:

  • Complaints are filed before the Adjudicating Authority under the Act.
  • In the event the charge is found substantiated upon adjudication by the competent Adjudicating Authority, penalty up to the maximum of three times of the amount involved in the said contravention can be imposed by the said Authority.
  • Adjudication Authority may also order confiscation of amounts involved in such contravention.
  • Under the PMLA, the Directorate can initiate investigations only after a Law Enforcement Agency books a case under one of the offences listed in the Schedule to the Act.
  • The Act also provides for initiating investigations for tracing and immobilizing tainted property arising out of transactions having cross border implications.
  • The offence of money laundering under PMLA is punishable with imprisonment of not less than three years which may extend to seven years and also with fine.
  • In case of violations pertaining to NDPS Act offences, the imprisonment may extend to 10 years.
  • Upon conviction under PMLA, the attached property is liable to be confiscated.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes and policies

MPLADS funds may be utilized for COVID-19

Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation issued a circular granting one-time dispensation for utilizing funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19.

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS):

  • The MPLADS is an on-going Central Sector Scheme which was launched in 1993-94.
  • The Scheme enables the Members of Parliament to recommend works for creation of durable community assets based on locally felt needs to be taken up in their constituencies in the area of national priorities namely drinking water, education, public health, sanitation, roads etc.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme.

Features:

  • The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 % of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 % for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies and Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions).
  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.

Implementation:

  • A Member of Parliament shall give his/ her choice of Nodal District in a prescribed format to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with copy to the State Government and to the District Magistrate of the chosen District.
  • The annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore shall be released, in two equal instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each, by Government of India directly to the District Authority of the Nodal District of the Member of Parliament concerned.
  • The District Authority shall identify the Implementing Agency capable of executing the eligible work qualitatively, timely and satisfactorily.
  • It shall be responsible for timely and effective implementation of such works.
  • All recommended eligible works should be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, after completing all formalities.
  • The District Authority shall, however, inform MPs regarding rejection, if any, within 45 days from the date of receipt of recommendations, with reasons thereof.
[Ref: PIB]

Minor forest produce scheme for tribals’ rescue

The Union government’s mechanism for marketing of minor forest produce (MFP) through minimum support price (MSP) and development of value chain for MFP’ scheme can offer respite to forest-dependent labourers in the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Minor forest produce scheme:

  • The scheme, launched by the Centre in August 2013, provides fair price for MFP collected by tribals through MSP.
  • At the time of the launch in 2013, the estimated outlay was Rs 967.28 crore from the central government; states had to pitch Rs 249.50 crore towards capital and revenue expenditure.

Coverage:

  • MFP comprises all non-timber forest produce of plant origin such as bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers, etc, according to the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Available Data:

  • Almost 60-70 per cent income of forest dwellers depends on collection and sale of MFP, according to the tribal affairs ministry.
  • Recent estimates by Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation indicated that the trade value was approximately Rs 20,000 crore for 55 economically important MFPs.
  • The scheme has been scaled up since its inception — between 2016-17 and 2018-19, Rs 60 crore was released for its implementation.
  • However, experts said the money was lying with the states unutilised.
  • In Odisha, total fund available with the state government was over Rs 90 crore till February 2018-end.
  • This included interest earned from the bank but the expenditure has been only Rs 3.71 crore, i.e., six per cent of the amount.

Significance:

  • State governments can use scheme to tribal labourers’ benefit.
  • The bonuses from the tendu patta sale, which are sitting with the state governments and are disbursed around August, can be given now.
  • This would ensure that people have money in their bank accounts.
  • The government can then ensure that food is available in the markets.
  • Most migrant labourers returned to their villages for plucking tendu in April-May.
  • However, most of them went back early due to COVID-19 outbreak.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Economy

Invest India Business Immunity Platform

Invest India, India’s national Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has launched the Invest India Business Immunity Platform.

Objective:

  • The platform is designed as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

About the platform:

  • The platform is hosted on the Invest India website.
  • This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp.
  • The Business Immunity Platform (BIP) is the active platform for business issue redressal, operating 24/7, with a team of dedicated sector experts and responding to queries at the earliest.
  • This platform also provides the ability to join the dots to find matching suppliers with required supplies and for innovators, startups and MSMEs to show case their solutions.
  • Invest India has also announced a partnership with SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) for responding and resolving queries for MSMEs.

 Need:

  • While COVID-19 continues to disrupt normal life, the impact of this crisis on businesses across the country is being continuously assessed.
  • The government, for its part, has issued timely guidelines for businesses.
  • Business owners have been trying to grasp what these guidelines mean for their businesses.
  • Realizing the uncertainty that the Corona crisis has caused among businesses, the platform was launched on 21st March, 2020.

Other features:

  • The platform also includes frequently asked questions on important aspects like locations of COVID-19 testing, special permissions and other location-specific information.
  • The portal also maps and highlights the response mechanism put in place by leading Indian companies such as sanitation of staff vehicles, placing orders in alternate markets, disabling biometric attendance systems, setting up of medical task force, requesting trainees to go home, business continuity plan, barring entry of visitors, suspension of air travel, usage of video-conferencing and tele-conferencing, developing online solutions and other unique initiatives.

Invest India:

  • Invest India is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India, set up as a non-profit venture under the aegis of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
  • It facilitates and empowers all investors under the ‘Make in India’ initiative to establish, operate and expand their businesses in India.
  • Invest India is created to attract and retain high quality investments into India
  • It provides sector-and state-specific inputs, and hand-holding support to investors through the entire investment cycle, from pre-investment, decision-making to after-care.
  • It also provides comprehensive facilitation to investors interested in India, including strategic business advisory, policy guidance, location assessment, issue redressal and expansion support.
[Ref: PIB, Invest India]

Banks refuse NRI foreign currency deposits

With the introduction of an increasing number of protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, major private sector banks are clamping down on retail offerings, including by stopping foreign currency deposits by NRIs over fears that transmission could occur via such notes.

What is NRI Deposits?

  • NRI deposits are foreign currency deposits made in an Indian bank by a non-resident Indian.
  • These deposits can be repatriated by the NRI on maturity along with the interest earned.
  • There are different kinds of schemes offered to NRIs like FCNR (B) or foreign currency non-resident (banks) and non-resident external (rupee accounts or NRE (RA).
  • The flows from such deposits predominantly come from the middle-east Asian countries, where working Indians typically use the money on return to the home country after retirement.

What are NRI remittances?

  • Remittances, on the other hand, are foreign currency funds sent by NRIs to their folks in India.
  • These funds are essentially in the name of relatives, mostly immediate family.
  • These are meant for their maintenance and upkeep and hence, cannot be repatriated.
  • Such funds come mainly from North America and Europe, besides the Gulf countries.

What is the difference between the two?

  • While NRI deposits can be repatriated on maturity or rolled over, they are essentially investments.
  • From the balance of payments -the country’s external sector balance sheet -perspective, NRI deposits are capital flows and hence, vulnerable to outflows.
  • They have been an important source of foreign exchange at times of crisis.
  • An additional incentive could result in additional flows, though temporarily.
  • Like in 2013, when the rupee had touched a new low, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) devised a special NRI deposits scheme which resulted in FCNR (B) deposits worth over $20 billion.
  • But remittances to relatives are a current account transfer and permanent in nature and hence, there is no risk of outflows, resulting in a more valuable source of foreign exchange.
  • But the quantum of such inflows may vary , depending on the conditions in the country where the NRI works.
[Ref: ET Markets, The Hindu]

Persons in News

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paid tributes to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia on his birth anniversary.

About Ram Manohar Lohia:

  • Ram Manohar Lohia, one of India’s greatest freedom fighters was born on March 23, 1910.
  • He dedicated his life to the welfare of India and its march towards total independence.
  • He not only protested against the British rulers, but also raised voice against social injustice, class and caste discrimination and gender bias.
  • Lohia involved the country’s youth in the freedom movement and guided them on the topics of literature, poetry, art and aesthetics to understand the country better.
  • He passed away on October 12, in the year 1967.

Facts about him:

1. He joined the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), the left wing of the Indian National Congress, when it was founded in 1934. Lohia worked as a member of the executive committee and also edited the weekly journal.

2. His vehement protests against enrollment of Indians in the Royal Army during World War II which landed him in jail in 1939 and again in 1940.

3. During Gandhi’s call of Quit India Movement, Lohia and his fellow CSP members, including Jayaprakash Narayan, put up resistance in stealth. For this, he was again jailed in 1944.

4. Lohia studied at Berlin University in Germany. During this time, he organised the Association of European Indians that would raise voice against British oppression in India.

5. He was jailed for writing an article ‘Satyagraha Now’ in Gandhi’s newspaper Harijan.

6. After Independence, Lohia founded an organisation called Hind Kisan Panchayat to help farmers with agricultural solutions.

7. He had also protested against the Portuguese government’s policy of restricted speech and movement of natives in Goa.

8. Lohia made Hindi the official language of India after Independence. He had said that the use of English was a hindrance to original thinking, progenitor of inferiority feelings and a gap between the educated and uneducated public. Let us unite to restore Hindi to its original glory.

9. Lohia is also famous for his remark against the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He wrote a pamphlet named ‘25000 rupees in a day’ where he had said that the amount of money spent on the Prime Minister for a single day is much more than the poor country could afford.

10. Janavani Divas is a tradition that is celebrated in Parliament. This day is devoted to hearing the pleas and problems of the citizens from across India. It was primarily Lohia’s idea.

[Ref: India Today]

Also in News

­­Tokyo Olympics postponed due to COVID-19

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe as announced by the International Olympic Committee.

International Olympic Committee:

  • The IOC is a not-for-profit independent international organisation.
  • It was created in 1894 before two years of the first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896.
  • The IOC is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement.

Constituents:

  • The three main constituents of the Olympic Movement are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Sports Federations (IFs) and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Functions of IOC:

  • IOC acts as a catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family, from the NOCs, the IFs, the athletes, Worldwide Olympic Partners, broadcast partners and United Nations (UN) agencies.
  • On this basis, it ensures the regular celebration of the Olympic Games and supports all affiliated member organisations of the Olympic Movement.

Key Fact

  • Japan cancelled the summer Games of 1940 that was due to be hosted in Tokyo. Japan’s military aggression in Asia forced the annulment of what became known as the “Missing Olympics” after the Games were switched to Helsinki before finally being scrapped because of World War II.
[Ref: Economic Times]

Key Facts for Prelims

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) gives power to the Central Government i.e. the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to take all measures that it feels are necessary for protecting and improving the quality of the environment and to prevent and control environmental pollution.
  • To meet this objective, the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.
  • The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA).
  • The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.
  • The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.

Hindu New Year

Chaitra Navratri, the nine-day long festival during which the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga is worshipped, has started from 25 March 2020. The day marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.

  • Hindu New Year is being welcomed in different parts of the country with traditional festivities and celebrations.
  • The Chaitra Sukladi, Ugadi, Gudi Padava, Navareh, Navroz and Chetti Chand are the same festivals in different names, marking the occasion.

States                                                                                  New year names

  • Andhra Pradesh and Telangana                       Ugadi
  • Karnataka                                                             Yugadi /Ugadi
  • Maharashtra                                                        Gudi Padwa
  • Sindhis                                                                   Cheti Chand
  • Marwari of Rajasthan                                         Thapna
  • Manipuris                                                              Sajibu Nongma Panba
  • Hindus of Kashmir                                                Navreh
  • Hindus of Bali and Indonesia                              Nyepi

Criteria for demarcating ESAs:

  • The MoEF has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together.
  • The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs.
  • These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).

Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951

  • Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 specifies that the Election Commission for reasons which it considers sufficient, may extend the time for the completion of any election by making necessary amendments in the notification issued by it under section 30 or sub-section (1) of section 39.

Germany’s kurzarbeitgeld policy

  • Germany’s kurzarbeitgeld policy provides for a short-time work allowance which partially compensates for lost earnings during uncertain economic situations.
  • The policy was rolled out during the 2008 economic crisis while its origins date back as far as the early 20th century, before and after World War I.

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