Polity & Governance
- SC regrets barriers for disabled in govt. service
- More women stressed than men, finds survey
- India slips to 75th place on money in Swiss banks; UK on top
- Government eases funding rules for startups
- Nuclear plants insured
- Automation to hit textile sector jobs
Environment & Ecology
- Ozone layer over Antarctic shows signs of healing
- NDRF trains one lakh people in one month for better reach
- Now, adopt a highway to increase green cover
- Remote Pacific nation threatened by rising seas
Defence & Security Issues
- Delhi hopes UN will push global terror convention
Art & Culture
- No losers in Udupi’s monsoon games
Polity & Governance
SC regrets barriers for disabled in govt. service
Quashing the central government’s earlier orders on restricting reservation for the differently-abled in promotion to Group A and Group B posts, the Supreme Court has ruled that three per cent reservation shall be provided to them in all posts and services under the Government of India.
- This is the first authoritative judgment that has explicitly directed the government to do away with the distinction and give benefits of reservation to the differently-abled, without any classification.
What’s the issue?
- The government had confined such reservation to Group C and Group D posts. In its memoranda issued in 1997 and 2005, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had also created a distinction between posts to be filled through direct recruitment and those through promotion, while stating that no reservation shall be provided in posts to be filled through promotion in Group A and Group B categories.
- Later in its ruling the SC bench declared the DoPT memoranda as “illegal and inconsistent” with the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Key observations made by the SC:
- The SC has directed that once a post is identified by the government as suitable for appointment of a disabled person, it should be reserved for them irrespective of the mode of recruitment adopted by the state for filling up the post.
- Once a post is identified, it means that a Person with Disability (PWD) is fully capable of discharging the functions associated with the identified post. Once found to be so capable, reservation under Section 33 (of the 1995 Act) to an extent of not less than three per cent must follow.
- The Supreme Court observed the basis for providing them preferential treatment is solely their physical disability and not factors banned by the Constitution like caste and religion.
- The Court has declared the DoPT memoranda as “illegal and inconsistent” with the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
- The apex court has said that the government must scrutinise the barriers to their entry by rigorous standards within the legal framework of the 1995 Act.
- The court has also directed the government to extend 3% reservation to PWD (persons with disability) in all identified posts in Group A and Group B, irrespective of the mode of filling up such posts.
More women stressed than men, finds survey
Findings of a health and wellbeing survey carried out by Cigna TTK Health Insurance shows that about 62% of employees display some physical symptoms of stress such as difficulty in falling asleep at night or emotive symptoms, such as not remembering when they are happy.
- The survey was conducted to check overall health and wellbeing of people, both men and women, aged over 25.
Key findings of the survey:
- People living in metropolitan cities and those working for more than 50 hours a week were found to be the most stressed.
- Employees in non-metro cities were found to be happier than those in metro cities.
India slips to 75th place on money in Swiss banks; UK on top
As per the latest annual update on Swiss banks, released by Switzerland’s central bank SNB (Swiss National Bank), India has slipped to 75th place in terms of money held by its citizens with banks in Switzerland, while the UK remains on top.
- India was placed at 61st place last year, while it used to among top-50 countries in terms of holdings in Swiss banks till 2007. The country was ranked highest at 37th place in the year 2004.
- In terms of individual countries, the UK accounted for the largest chunk followed by US. Countries in the top-ten included West Indies, Germany, Bahamas, France, Guernsey, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Panama.
- India was ranked 75th with CHF 1.2 billion (about Rs 8,392 crore), which is not even 0.1% of the total foreign money in Swiss banks.
- India was also lowest ranked among the BRICS nations — Russia was ranked 17th, China 28th, Brazil 37th and South Africa 60th. Pakistan was placed higher at 69th place.
Government eases funding rules for startups
A recent notification issued by the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) makes it easier for startups to access funds via the convertible note route.
- This notification is part of the all-round initiatives planned by the government to strengthen the startup ecosystem in India.
- However, it should be noted that the relaxation is available only to startups that meet the government prescribed norms (as defined by the department of industrial policy and promotion, or DIPP).
Highlights of the notification:
- Funds received by a startup amounting to Rs 25 lakh or more by way of a convertible note, in a single tranche from a person, will not be treated as a `deposit’.
- The convertible note is to be either converted into equity or repaid within a period of five years.
What is the definition of ‘Startups’?
- Startups are defined by a DIPP notification, to mean “an entity, incorporated or registered in India not prior to five years, with annual turnover not exceeding Rs 25 crore in any preceding financial year”.
- Second, such an entity is required to be engaged in “development, deployment or commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property”.
Nuclear plants insured
India’s first insurance policy covering public liability to an atomic power plant operator has been issued to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
- However, the reinstat-ement of insurance value post a claim will be decided later.
- The insurance policy was issued by the country’s largest non-life insurer New India Assurance Company Ltd.
- NPCIL recently got the insurance policy covering all our atomic power plants. The total premium came around Rs. 100 crore for a risk cover of Rs. 1,500 crore.
- The policy complies with all the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLND).
- The policy would cover the liability towards public as a consequence of any nuclear accident in the plants covered under the policy and also the right of recourse of NPCIL against equipment suppliers.
- The insurance coverage will be for all the NPCIL’s plants— like a floater cover.
- The Central government had announced in June 2015 the setting up of the Rs. 1,500-crore India Nuclear Insurance Pool to be managed by national reinsurer GIC Re.
About the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL):
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is a government-owned corporation of India (wholly owned by the Central Government) and is responsible for the generation of nuclear power for electricity.
- NPCIL is administered by the Department of Atomic Energy, Govt. of India (DAE).
- NPCIL was created in September 1987 under the Companies Act 1956.
- It was set up with the objective of undertaking the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the atomic power stations for generation of electricity in pursuance of the schemes and programmes of the Government of India under the provision of the Atomic Energy Act 1962.
- All nuclear power plants operated by the company are certified for ISO-14001 (Environment Management System).
- NPCIL was the sole body responsible for constructing and operating India’s commercial nuclear power plants till setting up of BHAVINI (Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam) in October 2003.
Automation to hit textile sector jobs
According to a latest study, as textile and apparel industry is moving towards automation, the industry is unlikely to create more jobs along with the growth in the industry.
- Textile and apparel industry is likely to create only 29 lakh jobs compared to the government’s target of one crore new jobs, even as the sector’s market size is expected to grow by 40 per cent to $142 billion in the next five years, says a report.
- According to the report, the technological advancement leading to increased efficiency may reduce job opportunities. The spinning, autoconers and auto-splicers divisions have replaced a job of 20 workers by 2 workers.
- The inter-fiber shift moving from relatively labour intensive spun yarn to synthetic filament segment also leading to lower job creation.
- As per a World Bank report, 69 per cent of the jobs in India are at a higher risk of being replaced by automation.
- The report also pointed out that because of absence of FTAs with the EU, Australia and Canada, almost 55 lakh jobs are lost to added exports that would have been generated if the FTAs were signed.
Steps taken by the government:
- The government recently approved a Rs. 6,000 crore package for textiles and apparel sector with an aim to create one crore new jobs in three years and attract investments of $11 billion.
- According to the study, both Central and state governments need to actively promote hub and spoke model in the sector to increase supply of suitable jobs to rural women and youth. [The ‘hub & spoke’ model is a non-migratory models of manufacturing being popularised in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar.]
Environment & Ecology
Ozone layer over Antarctic shows signs of healing
Atmospheric scientists have seen signs of the mending of the ozone hole above the Antarctic.
- This healing is a direct result of the curb on the release of chlorofluorocarbons following from the Montreal protocol of 1987.
- The team of scientists has found that the ozone hole has shrunk by more than four million square kilometres since 2000. This is the year when ozone depletion was at its peak.
What is ozone hole?
- The ozone hole is a region of depleted layers of ozone above the Antarctic region, whose creation is linked to increased cases of skin cancer.
What are the factors responsible for the depletion of ozone?
- Depletion of ozone is due to many factors, the most dominant of which is the release of chlorine from CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which destroys the ozone. CFCs are released by products such as hairsprays, old refrigerators etc.
- Typically, depletion of ozone becomes significant in September and peaks in October.
Ozone recovery process:
According to the researchers, there are three stages in the ozone recovery process:
(a) reduced rate of decline
(b) levelling off of the depletion and last
(c) ozone increase linked to reduction of the levels of CFCs.
About the Montreal Protocol:
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.
- The original Montreal Protocol was agreed on 16 September 1987 and entered into force on 1 January 1989. So far, 197 countries have signed the Protocol.
- The Montreal Protocol includes a unique adjustment provision that enables the Parties to the Protocol to respond quickly to new scientific information and agree to accelerate the reductions required on chemicals already covered by the Protocol. These adjustments are then automatically applicable to all countries that ratified the Protocol.
- Montreal Protocol stipulates that the production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere-chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform-are to be phased out by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform).
- These compounds significantly deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the planet from damaging UV-B radiation.
- The treaty now calls for complete phase out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030.
NDRF trains one lakh people in one month for better reach
To ensure resilience and better preparedness against disasters, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has trained over a lakh people across the country in one month on the do’s and don’ts during man-made or natural emergencies.
- This was achieved as part of a special initiative of Community Awareness Programme when instructors and trainers of the NDRF reached 482 villages, towns and cities to sensitise people about disasters that occur specifically in those areas and also in general.
- In the month-long Community Awareness Programme, a total of 1,07,112 people in 22 States were trained in basic understanding of disaster management and combat by the NDRF in 482 sessions. The force also trained school students.
Objectives of the exercise:
- The aim of this first-of-its kind exercise was to sensitise the vulnerable sections to disasters and bring about a sense of community capacity building. It is believed that if a community was well prepared to combat such issues, the loss of life and property could be brought down significantly.
About the NDRF:
- 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.
Now, adopt a highway to increase green cover
Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping has launched the initial plantation drive on 1,500 km of National Highways at a cost of about Rs 300 crore under the National Green Highways Mission.
- The Highways Ministry also launched two schemes – ‘Adopt a Green Highway’ scheme on the lines of ‘Adopt a Highway’ in the United States and another called “Kisan Harit Rajmarg Yojna“.
- The government, in September 2015, flagged off its Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification and Maintenance) Policy 2015.
Key features of the policy:
- The policy aims to help the environment, help local communities, and generate employment by planting trees along all the highways in the country.
- Under this policy, every year 1% of the total cost of highway projects will go to the Green Highways Fund. That works out to around Rs. 1,000 crore every year.
- The policy’s objectives include developing a framework for the plantation of trees along highways, reducing the impact of air pollution and dust, providing shade on glaring hot roads during summer, reducing the impact of noise pollution and soil erosion, preventing the glare from the headlights of oncoming vehicles, and generating employment.
- The Policy envisages a strict system of auditing whereby money will be released by the government to the empanelled agencies only if they have achieved a survival rate of 90% the previous year.
- The implementation and progress of plantation will be monitored via images by Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO and audit will involve modern information technology tools.
- According to the policy, contracts for greening will be given to NGOS, agencies, private companies and government organisations with proven track record in the past in the field. Those selected will be responsible for the survival and health of trees and will be strictly monitored by a body appointed by the ministry.
- As per estimate, plantation and their maintenance for five years costs around Rs 12 lakh per km. The target for the first year is to cover 6,000 km of highways.
Significance of the drive:
- The greening project has a huge potential to generate jobs and can prove to be a game-changer for agriculture and rural economy. The greening highway scheme will generate one lakh jobs. Greening 1 km can generate employment for 10 persons.
- The community will gain in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development.
- The afforestation is expected to help in sequestering approximately 12 lakh mt carbon annually.
About the ‘Adopt a Green Highway’ initiative:
- Under the ‘Adopt a Green Highway’ initiative, corporates, PSUs and NGOs can take up NH stretches for plantation and their maintenance for five years as in the US where similar entities maintain highway stretches.
About the Kisan Harit Rajmarg Yojna:
- Under the Kisan Harit Rajmarg Yojna, NHAI will provide technical and financial assistance to farmers for plantation of trees in portions of their farmland along highway stretches.
Remote Pacific nation threatened by rising seas
Climate change is threatening the livelihood of the people of tiny Kiribati, and even the island nation’s existence. The government is making plans for the island’s demise.
- For years, scientists have been predicting that much of Kiribati may become uninhabitable within decades because of an onslaught of environmental problems linked to climate change.
- While world powers have summit meetings to negotiate treaties on how to reduce and mitigate carbon emissions, residents of tiny Kiribati, a former British colony with 1,10,000 people, are debating how to respond before it is too late.
- The World Bank said in a 2013 report, Pacific island nations are among the world’s most physically and economically vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events like floods, earthquakes and tropical cyclones.
Where is Kiribati?
- Kiribati is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. The nation comprises 33 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island; Banaba.
- Much of Kiribati lies no higher than 6 feet above sea level.
- Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979.
- Kiribati is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.
Defence & Security Issues
Delhi hopes UN will push global terror convention
India has revived its two decade old proposal for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN General Assembly in September this year, given the recent spate of terror attacks across the globe.
What is India’s CCIT proposal?
- The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) was originally proposed by India in 1996.
- The proposed CCIT is a legal framework which would make it binding for all countries to deny funds and safe haven to terror groups.
- India has been able to complete a draft of the CCIT. Its key objectives include:
- To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law,
- To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps regardless of their stated objectives,
- To prosecute all terrorists under special laws, and
- To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.
Why has the CCIT been opposed?
- Currently, the negotiations of the Comprehensive Terrorism Convention are deadlocked because of differences over the definition of terrorism.
- India’s proposed CCIT counters the opposition from the three main blocs that have raised objections: the U.S., the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the Latin American countries.
- The most powerful objector, the U.S. has been worried about the application of the CCIT to its own military forces especially with regard to interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Latin American countries that had concerns about human rights laws have also been accommodated by the changes to the draft.
- The Organisation of Islamic Countries have been worried about the impact of the CCIT on countries like Pakistan and Palestine.
However, against the differences over the definition of terrorism, India agreed to insert the word “peoples” when speaking of rights, in order to “acknowledge the right of self-determination”.
- The committee that will hear India’s case for the CCIT, in meetings due to start in early September, will be chaired by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon, who was elected to the “Sixth Committee” that deals with legal issues as well as “measures to eliminate international terrorism”.
- However senior diplomats warned that while having a friendly nation that cooperates closely with India on the committee is helpful, it could equally cause roadblocks, as many Arab countries that opposed Mr. Dannon’s election may also “abstain or oppose” from voting on the CCIT.
- Indian officials too warn against too much optimism on having the CCIT passed, given the sluggish pace of United Nations reforms like the Security Council membership that India has made little headway on.
Art & Culture
No losers in Udupi’s monsoon games
In Karnataka’s Tulu heartland, the monsoon sets the stage for the stress buster every year – games played in the slushy paddy fields, followed by a meal rich in local cuisine.
About Kesard Onji Dina:
Kesard Onji Dina (A day in the slush) is a traditional sports event organised in the empty paddy fields, attracting people from far and wide.
- The annual event was organized by the Udupi Zilla Panchayat and Youth Affairs Department among others.
- The enthusiastic participants – men, women and children of different age groups – thoroughly enjoy the day getting muddy in the slushy fields and trying their skills in various games.
- Children and adults participate in various competitions such as running race, tug-of-war, breaking the pot, volleyball and so on.