Polity & Governance
- Privacy is a fundamental but wholly qualified right: Centre
- Cabinet clears minimum wage code bill
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds Scheme
- A policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India
- Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Geneva adopts three Codex standards for spices
Bilateral & International Relations
- India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Science & Technology
- Scientists to chase solar eclipse using NASA’s research jets
Key Facts for Prelims
- Glow-in-the-dark shark discovered in the Pacific
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Polity & Governance
Privacy is a fundamental but wholly qualified right: Centre
The Centre told the Supreme Court that “there is a fundamental right to privacy, but it is a wholly qualified right”.
- The apex court was hearing the Aadhaar card privacy issue.
Absolute Right vs. Wholly Qualified Right:
- A wholly qualified right is one where government interference is allowed in special circumstances, and only when necessary in a democratic society as opposed to an absolute right, which cannot be limited in any way. An absolute right cannot be reduced or amended.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, who was arguing for the government, argued that
- Privacy as a fundamental right was deliberately avoided from Article 21. Privacy, as a fundamental right, could have been mentioned in 21, but has been omitted. Right to life “transcends” right to privacy.
- Citizens could not agitate against Aadhaar, saying it was a violation of their right to privacy. And as far as Aadhaar was concerned, privacy was not a fundamental and absolute right. The state could subject privacy to reasonable restrictions in order to preserve the right to life of the masses.
- An elite few could not claim that their bodily integrity would be violated by a scheme which served to bring home basic human rights and social justice to millions of poor households across the country.
- Since the right to privacy consists of diverse aspects and is a sub-species of the right to liberty, every aspect of sub-species will not qualify as a fundamental right.
- Different species of privacy exist, and all of them cannot be elevated to the status of fundamental rights.
Cabinet clears minimum wage code bill
The much-anticipated Wage Code Bill which makes it mandatory for all industries to pay a minimum category of wages across all sectors to employees has been cleared by the cabinet.
- The wage code primarily aims at reducing the disparity in minimum wages across the states.
- The proposed legislation is expected to benefit over 4 crore employees across the country.
Highlights of the bill:
- The Labour Code on Wages Bill consolidates the four wage-related statutes:
- Minimum Wages Act, 1948,
- Payment of Bonus Act, 1965,
- Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
- The bill will be applicable across all classes of workers who are at present employed in scheduled industries or establishments by law and across all sectors.
- The bill seeks to empower the Centre to set a minimum wage across all sectors in the country and states will have to maintain that. However, states will be able to provide for higher minimum wage in their jurisdiction than fixed by the central government since labour is in the concurrent list.
- The wage code will empower the Centre to notify a ‘national minimum wage’ (below which no state can fix their minimum wages) and this will be revised every two years (five years if the dearness allowance becomes part of the minimum wages).
- The new minimum wage norms would be applicable for all workers irrespective of their pay. At present, the minimum wages fixed by the Centre and states are applicable to workers getting up to Rs 18,000 pay monthly. This would ensure a universal minimum wage for all industries and workers, including those getting monthly pay higher than Rs 18,000.
- Industrial strikes will now include casual concerted leave by 50 percent of more workers, while the provision for prior notice of strike would be extended to “all activities similar to existing public utility services”.
- All classes of workers would be able to avail the benefits of the minimum wage as long as they are employed in a scheduled industry or an establishment of law.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds Scheme
The Union Cabinet has given approval for revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGB) Scheme with a view to achieve its intended objectives.
Need for the revision:
- In view of less than expected response of the investors to the scheme, and considering its bearing on CAD and consequently on overall macro-economic health of the country, it was felt necessary to make changes in this scheme to make it a success.
Two sets of changes have been made in the scheme:
- Specific changes:
- Specific changes have been made in the attributes of the scheme to make it more attractive, mobilise finances as per the target and reduce the economic strains caused by imports of gold and reduce the Current Account Deficit (CAD).
- Ministry of Finance (the issuer) has been given flexibility to design and introduce variants of SGBs with different interest rates and risk protection that will offer investment alternatives to different category of investors.
- Finance Ministry has been delegated this power to amend (or add new features) of the Scheme to reduce the time lag between finalizing the attributes of a particular tranche and its notification.
- Such flexibility will help to address the elements of competition with new products of investment and deal with very dynamic or volatile market, macro-economic and other conditions.
About the Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme:
- The SGB Scheme was notified by the Government of India on November 05, 2015 after due approval of the Cabinet.
- The main objective of the scheme was to develop a financial asset as an alternative to purchasing metal gold.
- The target was to shift part of the estimated 300 tons of physical bars and coins purchased every year for Investment into ‘demat’ gold bonds.
- The target mobilisation under the scheme at Rs. 15,000 crore in 2015-16 and at Rs.10,000 crore in 2016-17. The amount so far credited in Government account is Rs. 4,769 crore.
A policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India
The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has recently released a policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India.
- Now, People living with Thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other variant haemoglobins can look forward to better screening and treatment.
Highlights of the policy:
- The policy aims at creating treatment protocol benchmarks, to improve the quality of life of patients.
- It is also a guide on prevention and control, which includes antenatal and prenatal testing to reduce the incidence of live haemoglobin disorder births (currently pegged at 10,000-15,000 live births a year).
- Using public health awareness programmes and education, it highlights various haemoglobinopathies.
- The guidelines include the creation of a national registry to plan future patient services. The registry will also collect useful data, such as the location of patients to identify areas of high concentration, ethnicity or other characteristics, age distribution, records of deaths and their cause.
- The guidelines provide for screening of pregnant women during antenatal check-up, pre-marital counselling at college level and one-time screening for variant anaemia in children.
- The policy is supported by the National Health Mission, Blood Cell and the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram.
About the thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia:
- They are caused by errors in the genes responsible for the production of hemoglobin, a substance composed of a protein (globin) plus an iron molecule (heme) that is responsible for carrying oxygen within the red blood cell.
- These disorders can cause fatigue, jaundice, and episodes of pain ranging from mild to very severe.
- They are inherited, and usually both parents must pass on an abnormal gene in order for a child to have the disease. When this happens, the resulting diseases are serious and, at times, fatal.
- Thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia are the most frequently encountered ‘rare blood disorders’ in the country and impose a significant economic burden on families.
Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Geneva adopts three Codex standards for spices
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has adopted three Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme.
- It is for first time pepper, cumin and thyme, spices will have such universal standards.
- These standards were adopted at 40th session of CAC held in Geneva.
- The adoption of Codex standards paves the way for universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries.
- It also set reference points and benchmarks for member-nations to align their national standards for spices with Codex.
- With the approval of the Central government, the Spices Board India (SBI) had submitted a proposal to CAC for harmonizing the standards for spices and culinary herbs. SBI is the flagship organization of the Commerce Ministry for export and promotion of spices from the country.
- The adoption of Codex standards for the three spices will help evolve a common standardisation process for their global trade and availability.
- It will bring harmony to the global spice trade and ensure availability of high quality, clean and safe spices to the world.
- It is also considered as major recognition of India’s efforts to benchmark global spices trade.
What is Codex Alimentarius?
The Codex Alimentarius (Food Code) is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).
- It is a collection of internationally adopted food standards presented in a uniform manner. These food standards aim at protecting consumer’s health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.
- It includes standards for all the principal foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw for distribution to the consumer.
- It also includes standardised provisions in respect of food additives, contaminants, pesticides residues, labelling and presentation, methods of analysis and sampling.
About the Codex Alimentarius Commission:
- The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an intergovernmental body with over 180 members, within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Programme.
- It was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the purpose of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.
- Its mandate is to prepare an international codex alimentations, based on principles outlined by itself.
- The Commission also promotes coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Bilateral & International Relations
India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, Government of India has been appointed as India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, Philippines.
About the Asian Development Bank (ADB):
The ADB is a regional development bank which aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
- It was established on 19 December 1966.
- It is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.
- ADB now has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
- The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly known as the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) and non-regional developed countries.
- The ADB has been modelled closely on the World Bank. It has similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.
- The ADB offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans. The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.
- The highest policy-making body of the bank is the Board of Governors, composed of one representative from each member state.
- The Board of Governors, in turn, elect among themselves the twelve members of the Board of Directors and their deputies.
- Eight of the twelve members come from regional (Asia-Pacific) members while the others come from non-regional members.
- The Board of Governors also elect the bank’s president, who is the chairperson of the Board of Directors and manages ADB. Traditionally, and because Japan is one of the largest shareholders of the bank, the president has always been Japanese.
- The Alternate Board of Governors are nominated by Board of Governors of ADB’s 67 to represent them at the Annual Meeting that meets formally once year to be held in a member country.
Funding of ABD:
- ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
- ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
- Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%. The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.
Science & Technology
Scientists to chase solar eclipse using NASA’s research jets
For the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists are planning to observe the solar corona using stabilised telescopes aboard two of the space agency’s research aircraft.
- The purpose of the chase is to capture the clearest ever images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
- These planes will be equipped with telescopes to observe the outermost layer of sun’s atmosphere, corona, which isn’t visible in partial eclipses.
- On August 21, 2017, the United States will experience a total solar eclipse – the first time since 1918 – in which the moon will come directly between the sun and earth.
- It will last for about an hour and 40 minutes and NASA has plans to fund a number of projects during this unique period of time.
Why scientists chose total solar eclipse?
- The total solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study the Sun, particularly its atmosphere. As the Moon completely covers the Sun and perfectly blocks its light during an eclipse, the typically faint corona is easily seen against the dark sky.
Why scientists are interested in studying the Corona?
- The corona is heated to millions of degrees, yet the lower atmospheric layers like the photosphere – the visible surface of the Sun – are only heated to a few thousand degrees. Scientists are not sure how this inversion happens.
- One theory proposes micro explosions, termed nanoflares – too small and frequent to detect individually, but with a large collective effect – might release heat into the corona.
- No one has yet directly seen nanoflares, but the high- resolution and high-speed images to be taken from the WB-57F jets might reveal their effects on the corona.
About the corona:
- The corona is the outermost layer of the Sun, starting at about 1300 miles (2100 km) above the solar surface (the photosphere).
- The temperature in the corona is 500,000 K (900,000 degrees F, 500,000 degrees C) or more, up to a few million K.
- The corona cannot be seen with the naked eye except during a total solar eclipse, or with the use of a coronagraph.
- The corona does not have an upper limit.
- Corona is where giant solar eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass eruptions take place.
Significance of the project:
- This project will offer an opportunity to NASA to not only develop a better understanding of this region but also to take high definition pictures.
- Additionally, NASA hopes that the eclipse will also allow them to observe Mercury more closely and take thermal pictures to learn about varying temperature on its surface.
Key Facts for Prelims
Glow-in-the-dark shark discovered in the Pacific
- Scientists have discovered a glow-in-the-dark shark species that has an unusually large nose, weighs a little less than a kilo and measures less than a foot.
- The new species is a member of the lanternshark family, and has been named Etmopterus lailae
- It lives 1,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
- Like other lanternsharks, the Etmopterus lailae is bio-luminescent and the flanks on the bottom of its belly glow in the dark.
- Some of the other distinctive characteristics include its flank markings that go forward and backward on their bellies and a naked patch without scales on the underside of its snout.
- This species is very understudied because of its size and the fact that it lives in very deep water.