Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves National Mineral Exploration Policy
- Cabinet considers Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016
- Cabinet approves Implementation of the recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission
- Teens drifting away into virtual worlds
- SC for wider debate on triple talaq
- India jumps 19 spots in logistic performance
- Cabinet approves MoU between UPSC and Royal Civil Service Commission, Bhutan
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Tanzania
Defence & Security Issues
- Anti-submarine torpedo Varunastra inducted in Navy
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves National Mineral Exploration Policy
The Union Cabinet has approved the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP).
- The policy will pave the way for auction of 100 prospective mineral blocks, boosting India’s mining potential.
Aim of the policy:
- The NMEP primarily aims at accelerating the exploration activity in the country through enhanced participation of the private sector.
Key features of the policy:
- Through the new policy, the government is expecting to attract private sector in exploration, besides involving state-run Geological Survey of India (GSI), Mineral Exploration Corporation (MECL) and other notified agencies.
- According to NMEP, selection of private explorer is proposed to be done through a transparent process of competitive bidding through e-auction. For this, reasonable mineral blocks for regional exploration will be identified by state governments for auctioning.
- Once the explorer submits the data after exploration, the state government will auction the mining lease for that block. The mining lease owner will then pay certain royalty to the state government.
- Government will launch a special initiative to probe deep-seated/concealed mineral deposits in the country. Characterizing India’s geological cover, investigating India’s lithospheric architecture, resolving 4D geodynamic and metallogenic evolution, and detecting and characterizing the distal footprints of ore deposits, would be the main components of this initiative.
- A National Aerogeophysical Mapping program will be launched to map the entire country with low altitude and close space flight to delineate the deep-seated and concealed mineral deposits.
- The NMEP states that an amount equivalent to certain percentage of this royalty should be paid to the private explorer by the mining lease owner.
- The revenue-sharing could be either in the form of a lumpsum or an annuity to be paid throughout the period of mining lease, with transferable rights.
- On the lines of UNCOVER project of Australia, the government intends to launch a special initiative to probe deep-seated/ concealed minerals deposits in the country in collaboration with National Geophysical Research Institute and the proposed NCMT and Geoscience Australia.
National Mineral Exploration Trust:
- To encourage mineral exploration in the country, the mines ministry has already notified the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET).
- The mining lease owners have started paying an amount — equivalent to 2% of the royalty paid to state governments — to this trust.
- Of India’s entire Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) area, identified by GSI, only 10% has been explored and mining is taking place in 1.5-2% of this area.
- The Ministry of Mines has, in the recent past, taken a series of measures for the growth of the mineral sector, including allowing 100% FDI. However, these initiatives have fetched only limited success.
- Further, over the years the dynamics of the mineral sector have undergone sea change thereby creating new demands and imperatives. There is a compelling need to provide an impetus to exploration activity in the country. This has prompted the Government to carry out a comprehensive review of its exploration policy and strategy.
- The amendments brought in to the MMDR Act in 2015 is a step in this direction. The most important feature of this amendment is that mining leases (ML) and prospecting license-cum-mining lease (PL-cum-ML) will be granted only through an auction process. This is expected to bring in transparency, expeditiousness and simplification in procedures in grant of mineral concessions.
- Against this background, the NMEP has been framed so as to provide a new set of objectives, sense of purpose and direction to exploration within the amended legal framework.
Cabinet considers Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016
The Union Cabinet has considered the Model Shops and Establishment (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016.
- The new model law would allow malls, cinema halls, restaurants, shops, banks and other such workplaces to be open around the clock for 365 days in a year.
Key features of the model law:
- The model law would enable women to work during the night in shops and establishments with mandatory cab services and other workplace facilities for them.
- Women to be permitted during night shift, if the provision of shelter, rest room, ladies toilet, adequate protection of their dignity and transportation etc. exists.
- The law covers all premises — barring factories — with work related to printing, banking, insurance; stocks and shares brokerage; theatres and “any other public amusement” which is currently not covered under the Factories Act 1948. All such units that employ 10 or more workers will come under this Act.
- The model bill has provision for five paid holidays for festivals besides national holidays. Also, “highly skilled workers” in the information technology sector or bio-technology are proposed to be exempted from daily working hours of nine hours and weekly working hours of 48 hours.
- The Model Bill would bring about uniformity in the legislative provisions, making it easier for all the States to adopt it and thereby ensuring uniform working conditions across the country and facilitate the ease of doing business and generate employment opportunities.
- With flexibility available to retailers to open their establishment 24×7, not only thousands of additional skill jobs will be added, but it will also make the retail markets across the country very vibrant giving customers flexibility and convenience to shop anytime.
- For the first time, workers’ right will be protected for those working in godowns, warehouses or workplace related to packaging activities.
- This will bring e-commerce companies under the labour law rulebooks.
- However, the implementation of the approved Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2016 will depend on States, as it only acts as an advisory to the State governments, which will have the option to adopt this or make changes to it according to their needs.
Cabinet approves Implementation of the recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission
The Union Cabinet has approved the implementation of the recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) on pay and pensionary benefits.
- It will come into effect from 1st January 2016.
- The present system of Pay Bands and Grade Pay has been dispensed with and a new Pay Matrix as recommended by the Commission has been approved.
- The status of the employee, hitherto determined by grade pay, will now be determined by the level in the Pay Matrix.
- Separate Pay Matrices have been drawn up for Civilians, Defence Personnel and for Military Nursing Service. The principle and rationale behind these matrices are the same.
Index of Rationalisation:
- Index of Rationalisation has been approved for arriving at minimum pay in each Level of the Pay Matrix depending upon the increasing role, responsibility and accountability at each step in the hierarchy.
- The minimum pay has been increased from Rs. 7000 to 18000 p.m.
- Starting salary of a newly recruited employee at lowest level will now be Rs. 18000 whereas for a freshly recruited Class I officer, it will be Rs.
- This reflects a compression ratio of 1:3.12 signifying that pay of a Class I officer on direct recruitment will be three times the pay of an entrant at lowest level.
- Rate of increment has been retained at 3 %. This will benefit the employees in future on account of higher basic pay as the annual increments that they earn in future will be 2.57 times than at present.
House Building Advance:
- The Cabinet also approved the recommendation of the Commission to enhance the ceiling of House Building Advance from Rs. 50 lakh to 25 lakh.
Interest free advances:
- In order to ensure that no hardship is caused to employees, four interest free advances namely Advances for Medical Treatment, TA on tour/transfer, TA for family of deceased employees and LTC have been retained. All other interest free advances have been abolished.
Monthly contribution towards CGEGIS:
- The Cabinet also decided not to accept the steep hike in monthly contribution towards Central Government Employees Group Insurance Scheme (CGEGIS) recommended by the Commission.
- The existing rates of monthly contribution will continue.
Pension and related benefits:
- The general recommendations of the Commission on pension and related benefits have been approved by the Cabinet.
- Both the options recommended by the Commission as regards pension revision have been accepted subject to feasibility of their implementation.
- The Commission examined a total of 196 existing Allowances and, by way of rationalization, recommended abolition of 51 Allowances and subsuming of 37 Allowances.
- The Cabinet decided to constitute a Committee headed by Finance Secretary for further examination of the recommendations of 7th CPC on Allowances. Till a final decision, all existing Allowances will continue to be paid at the existing rates.
- The Cabinet also decided to constitute two separate Committees (i) to suggest measures for streamlining the implementation of National Pension System (NPS) and (ii) to look into anomalies likely to arise out of implementation of the Commission’s Report.
- The recommendations will benefit over 1 crore employees. This includes over 47 lakh central government employees and 53 lakh pensioners, of which 14 lakh employees and 18 lakh pensioners are from the defence forces.
Comparison with previous CPCs:
- In the past, the employees had to wait for 19 months for the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations at the time of 5th CPC, and for 32 months at the time of implementation of 6th CPC. However, this time, 7th CPC recommendations are being implemented within 6 months from the due date.
- The Cabinet has also decided that arrears of pay and pensionary benefits will be paid during the current financial year (2016-17) itself, unlike in the past when parts of arrears were paid in the next financial year.
- As estimated by the 7th CPC, the additional financial impact on account of implementation of all its recommendations in 2016-17 will be Rs. 1,02,100 crore.
- There will be an additional implication of Rs. 12,133 crore on account of payments of arrears of pay and pension for two months of 2015-16.
About Pay Commission:
- Pay Commission is set up intermittently by Government of India, and gives its recommendations regarding changes in salary structure of its employees.
- Since India’s Independence, seven pay commissions have been set up on a regular basis to review and make recommendations on the work and pay structure of all civil and military divisions of the Government of India.
- Headquartered in Delhi, the Commission is given 18 months from date of its constitution to make its recommendations.
Teens drifting away into virtual worlds
A survey, studied technology use patterns among teenagers and their relationship with psychological variables, has found that this technology binging is likely to interfere with the adolescent’s academics, participation in sports, socialising and even time spent with family and friends.
- The survey is conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS).
Key points of the survey:
- Nearly 73.5 per cent of 200 adolescents interviewed for the survey reported dysfunction of one kind or the other. They had attention problems, which led to a decline in academic function.
- Addiction to technology hindered day-to-day activities. However, dysfunction in activities was seen not only among those who were addicted to technology but also teens using technology regularly.
- The study showed a majority of those using technology had difficulty in meeting friends. However, only 61 per cent found it difficult to spend time with their relatives and family.
- Adolescents in the 16-17 age group reported more difficulties than the ones in the 13 to 15 age bracket.
- Some of the symptoms of addiction include decline in academics, sleep disturbances, waking up in the middle of the night and withdrawal from family and friends.
- More boys (80 per cent) played digital games compared to girls (29 per cent). However, there was no significant difference between the sexes in psychiatric distress, mobile phone and television usage or social behaviour.
- Finally, only a small percentage of those addicted were ready for a lifestyle change.
SC for wider debate on triple talaq
The Supreme Court said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.
- Last year, the SC, suo motu, began to examine the effect of ‘triple talaq’ on Muslim women’s rights. Since then, Shayara Banu, a victim of the practice, as well as many Muslim women’s organisations have jumped into the fray to assail its validity. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has defended ‘triple talaq’ and said the SC has no jurisdiction to decide its validity.
- In July 2014, the SC had ruled that fatwas issues by muftis had no legal sanction and no one could be forced to abide by them. However, it had refused to enter the domain of examining the constitutional validity of Muslim personal law provisions.
What is the ‘triple talaq’?
- In the talaq or divorce, the husband pronounces the phrase “I divorce you” (in Arabic, talaq) to his wife. A man may divorce his wife three times, taking her back after the first two (reconciling).
- After the third talaq they can’t get back together until she marries someone else. Some do a “triple ṭalāq”, in which the man says in one sitting “I divorce you” three times.
- Many Islamic scholars believe there is a waiting period involved between the three talaqs, pointing to ‘Quran 65:1’ and various hadiths. However, the practice of “triple ṭalāq” at one sitting has been “legally recognized historically and has been particularly practiced in Saudi Arabia.”
India jumps 19 spots in logistic performance
Improvement in services for exporters has pushed India 19 places higher in the World Bank group’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI).
- Among 160 countries, India stood at 35, based on six criteria that impact export shipment.
- Progress in India reflects balanced improvements in policies that facilitate connectivity (in Customs, for example) and improve hard trade-and transport-related infrastructure.
- The LPI has been prepared by the bank’s trade and competitiveness group every two years since 2007.
- Germany topped the list while Syria is at bottom.
- Though China outshines India at 27, it stands higher in order compared to several upper-middle income countries and BRICS members.
- The report, in fact, said India “overperformed” its income group.
- The parameters include efficiency of customs and border management clearance, quality of trade and transport infrastructure, ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, competence and quality of logistics services, ability to track and trace consignments and frequency with which shipments reach consignees within scheduled or expected delivery times.
Cabinet approves MoU between UPSC and Royal Civil Service Commission, Bhutan
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), Bhutan.
- The MoU will strengthen the existing relationship between RCSC and UPSC. It will facilitate sharing of experience and expertise of both the parties in the area of recruitment.
Areas of cooperation:
The areas of cooperation include the following:
- Sharing of experience and expertise in Civil Service matters such as recruitment and selection, exchange of resource persons and development of professional skills of the officers and staff of the parties through attachment and training programs.
- Sharing of expertise on use of Information Technology (IT) in examination processes, Computer Based Recruitment Tests and Examinations, sharing of experience in Single Window System for expeditious scrutiny and speedy disposal of cases, building merit based staffing system, etc.
- Sharing of experience on the modalities adopted on audit of processes and procedures followed by various Government agencies in recruitment for posts under the delegated powers.
- Digitization of records, storage and display of historical records.
- In the past, UPSC had signed MOU with Public Service Commission of Canada and Bhutan.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Tanzania
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Tanzania for bilateral cooperation in water resources management and development.
- The areas of enhanced cooperation include techniques in water harvesting, surface and groundwater management and development and aquifer recharge.
- Collaboration and sharing of expertise on the areas mutually agreed will benefit the country in techniques in water harvesting, water conservation, surface and groundwater management and development, and aquifer recharge.
- The Government shall encourage the exchange of experts, organization of training programs, study tours and other such activities including demonstrative pilot studies, in order to build capacities.
- The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has been envisaging bilateral cooperation with other countries in water resources development and management. These are mainly through sharing of policy and technical expertise, conducting of training courses, workshops, scientific and technical symposia, exchange of experts and study tours.
Defence & Security Issues
Anti-submarine torpedo Varunastra inducted in Navy
Indigenously-built heavyweight anti-submarine torpedo ‘Varunastra’ has been successfully inducted in the navy.
- With this, India joined a select group of eight countries having the capability to design and develop heavyweight torpedoes.
Key facts about ‘Varunastra’:
- Having almost 95% indigenous content, Varunastra is capable of targeting quiet and stealthy submarines, both in deep and littoral waters in intense counter-measure environment.
- It has been developed by Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), a premier laboratory of DRDO.
- Varunastra has been designed with latest technologies such as high-speed and long endurance propulsion, software driven intelligence, conformal array acoustic homing with wide look angle and advanced digital signal processing.
- It is also having advanced autonomous guidance algorithms with low drift navigational aids, insensitive warhead which can operate in various combat scenarios.
- It has a GPS-based locating aid, a unique feature in contemporary torpedoes in the world.
- The weapon has completed all environmental qualification tests like shock, vibration, temperature cycling, marine environmental tests.
- ‘Varunastra’ was extensively tested at sea in association with Indian Navy for evaluating the weapon capabilities as per Naval Staff qualitative requirements.