Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2019
- SPG Act amendment Bill gets Parliament nod
- Central drugs regulator asks states, UTs to stop online sale of medicines
Issues related to Health & Education
- Mumbai Central is India’s first ‘Eat Right Station’
- GST revenues not enough for States’ compensation: Centre
- Alcohol manufacturers asked NITI Aayog for reduction in duty of ENA
- Bharat Bond ETF gets cabinet nod
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- World Soil Day celebrated, highlights the soil’s importance on Earth
- Greenhouse gas emissions to set new record this year, but rate of growth shrinks
Bilateral & International Relations
- Fugitive Godman Nithyananda Establishes a ‘Hindu Nation’ Near Ecuador
Science & Technology
- IAF may get ‘No Escape’ Meteor missiles in May
Key Facts for Prelims
- Chief of the Air Staff Participates in Pacific Air Chiefs’ Symposium 2019
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2019
Union Cabinet approved a Bill to provide for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens for ensuring their basic needs, safety and security among others.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 make it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, by monthly allowance. It also provides mechanism for the protection of life and property of the older persons.
Highlights of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2019
- Definition of “children” and ‘parents’ has been expanded.
- Definition of ‘maintenance’ and ‘welfare’ has been expanded.
- Mode of submission of application for maintenance has been enlarged.
- Ceiling of Rs. 10,000 as maintenance amount has been
- Preference to dispose of applications of senior citizens, above 80 years of age, early has been included.
- Registration of Senior Citizens Care Homes/Homecare Service Agencies have been included.
- Minimum standards for senior citizen care homes has been included in the Bill.
- Appointment of Nodal Police Officers for Senior Citizens in every Police Station and District Level Special Police Unit for Senior Citizens has been included.
- India today has the second-largest population of senior citizens.
- The fast-paced and ever-changing life of today is continuously widening the gap between generations.
SPG Act amendment Bill gets Parliament nod
Parliament passed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, that will allow SPG cover to the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers for a period of five years after leaving office.
About the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019
The Bill amends the Special Protections Group Act, 1988. The Act provides for the constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG) to provide security to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers, and their immediate family members.
Highlights of amendment
Under the SPG Act, 1988
SPG provides security to the Prime Minister and to his immediate family members. It also provides security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for a period of one year from the date on which they cease to hold the office. Beyond this period, the SPG security is provided based on the level of threat as decided by the central government.
The Bill amends this provision to state that the SPG will provide security to the Prime Minister, and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. It will also provide security to any former Prime Ministers, and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him. This security will be provided for a period of 5 years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister.
Under the SPG Act, 1988
The Act provides that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members, unless the level of threat faced by the immediate family member warrants such security.
The Bill removes this condition to state that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members.
What is Special Protection Group?
- The Special Protection Group is an elite armed force that provides proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and his or her family members.
- It is a force of roughly 3,000 active personnel.
When SPG was formed?
- It was formed in 1985 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards in 1984.
- In 1985, the Birbal Nath Committee set up by the Home Ministry recommended raising a Special Protection Unit (SPU). SPU was then re-christened SPG.
- Earlier, Delhi police (before 1981) and Special Task Force (raised by the Intelligence Bureau in 1981) provided residence and proximate security to the PM. Till 1988, SPG functioned under executive orders. In 1988, Parliament passed the SPG Act.
- In 1989, the government withdrew SPG protection given to former prime minister. However, after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to offer protection to all former PMs and their families for at least 10 years.
- In 2003, the government again amended the SPG Act to bring the period of automatic protection down from 10 years to a period of 1 year and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the government.
Central drugs regulator asks states, UTs to stop online sale of medicines
Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has asked all states/UTs to prohibit sale of drugs by online pharmacies as per the Delhi High Court order.
- The Delhi High Court, while hearing a PIL in December 2018, had ordered the ban on sale of illegal or unlicensed online sale of medicines till the government drafts rules to regulate e-pharmacies.
- Currently, online pharmacies are operating in India without a drug licence as there are no rules framed for the sector.
Arguments of PIL on banning unlicensed online sale of medicines
- Online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and misuse of habit forming and addictive drugs.
- It also affects right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Ministry of Health, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
- Some of the drugs/medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substances and some can even cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria.
Highlights of the Draft Rules
- Mandatory registration of e-pharmacies
- Cannot sell drugs without valid prescriptions.
- Mandatorily required to have 24/7 call centres.
- E-pharmacies are required to maintain details of both patients and practitioners in order to avoid misuse.
- Psychotropic substances, habit-forming medicines like cough syrup and sleeping pills, schedule x drugs will not be sold online.
- Each E pharmacy has to appoint pharmacists with customer care.
- The premises from where the e-pharmacy business is conducted will be inspected, every two years, by a team of officers authorised by the Central Licensing Authority.
- Have to deliver the drugs in the specific time that will be told to the patient during the time of purchase.
- Cannot advertise any drug on television/internet/print or any other media for any purpose.
- Indian retail pharmacy is estimated to be worth $18 billion, and is expected to reach a size of $50 billion by 2025.
- E-pharmacies currently constitute around 3 % of the Indian pharmaceutical market and are growing rapidly.
Issues related to Health & Education
Mumbai Central is India’s first ‘Eat Right Station’
The Mumbai Central Terminus of the Western Railway has been certified as India’s first “Eat Right Station” with a 4-Star rating awarded by the FSSAI. This achievement has been achieved by spreading awareness on food safety and hygiene in food items, availability of healthy food, retail/ serving point and food safety.
About ‘Eat Right Station’ campaign
- Indian Railways launched the ‘Eat Right Station’ campaign to provide healthy food to the passengers, which is a part of the ‘Eat Right India’ campaign launched by FSSAI in 2018.
- Volunteers of the campaign will tell people how they can keep themselves healthy by using less salt, fat and sugar.
- Restaurants and hotels will have to mandatorily display their hygiene ratings on their restaurant doors.
- A food supervisor must also be appointed to check the safety of the food.
What is Eat Right India Movement?
- It is an initiative of FSSAI, aimed at enabling citizens to improve their health and well-being.
- The two foundations of the Eat Right India movement are Eat Healthy and Eat Safe.
It aims to cater stakeholders on both the demand and supply-side.
- Demand side focus: Behavioural and social change of the consumers, thereby leading them to make the right food choice.
- Supply side focus: Nudges food businesses to reformulate their products, provide better nutritional information to consumers.
- There is an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases in India.
GST revenues not enough for States’ compensation: Centre
The Centre has written to all the States voicing concern that due to the lower Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, the compensation cess might not be enough to pay for losses arising out of the tax system.
- It comes at a time when several States, including Rajasthan, Kerala, Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal, have urged the Centre to transfer pending compensation payments as they have not received the dues for several months.
What is GST?
- GST is an Indirect Tax which has replaced many Indirect Taxes in India.
- The Goods and Service Tax Act was passed in the Parliament on 29th March 2017. The Act came into effect on 1st July 2017; Goods & Services Tax Law in India is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that is levied on every value addition.
- In simple words, Goods and Service Tax (GST) is an indirect tax levied on the supply of goods and services. This law has replaced many indirect tax laws that previously existed in India.
- GST is one indirect tax for the entire country.
What is GST Compensation Cess?
- GST cess is imposed to compensate for the State’s loss of revenue due to the implementation of GST.
- GST is charged at the time of supply and depends on the destination of consumption. For instance, if a good is manufactured in state A but consumed in state B, then the revenue generated through GST collection is credited to the state of consumption (state B) and not to the state of production (state A).
- Due to the consumption-based nature of GST, manufacturing states like Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka etc. feared a revenue loss. Thus, GST Compensation Cess was introduced by the government to compensate for the possible revenue losses suffered by manufacturing states.
- This compensation cess is levied only for the first 5 years of GST regime: from 2017 to 2022.
About GST Council
- The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is governed by the GST Council. GST Council is constituted by the President.
- Article 279 (1) of the amended Indian Constitution states that the GST Council has to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of the Article 279A.
GST Council consists of the following members:
- Union Finance Minister as Chairperson
- Union Minister of State, in charge of Revenue of Finance
- Minister in charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State government, as members.
Mandate of GST Council:
- The predominant responsibility of the GST Council is to ensure to have one uniform tax rate for goods and services across India.
- Article 279A (4) specifies that the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on the important issues related to GST, such as, the goods and services will be subject or exempted from the Goods and Services Tax.
Alcohol manufacturers asked NITI Aayog for reduction in duty of ENA
Anticipating shortage of domestic supplies, alcohol manufacturers have sought a reduction in duty to make it cost-effective for them to import Extra Neutral Alcohol from global markets.
- The alcohol manufacturers have cited the reason as diversion of ethanol for bio-fuel blending by oil marketing companies, and recent floods in Maharashtra and Karnataka that have adversely affected sugarcane crop in the region.
What is Extra Neutral alcohol (ENA)?
- Extra Neutral alcohol (ENA) is a colourless food-grade alcohol without any impurities.
- It has neutral smell and taste, and typically contains 96% alcohol by volume (ABV).
- ENA is derived from various sources such as sugar cane molasses, grains, etc. Like ethanol, ENA is a byproduct of the sugar industry, and is formed from molasses that are a residue of sugarcane processing.
- In India, almost 90% of ENA is used for potable alcohol, which accounts for an annual production capacity of nearly 2.7 Billion Litres.
- In the production of alcoholic beverages and aperitifs.
- Essential ingredient in the manufacturing of several cosmetics and personal care products such as perfume, toiletries etc.
- In the production of some lacquers, paints and ink for the printing industry
- In pharmaceutical products in products such as antiseptics, drug, syrups, medicated sprays, etc.
Bharat Bond ETF gets cabinet nod
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the creation of Indi’s first exchange traded Bharat Bond Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), a move aimed at deepening the corporate bond market and reducing the cost of borrowing in India.
About Bharat Bond Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)
- Bharat Bond ETF is India’s first corporate bond exchange traded fund.
- It is a basket of bond issued by Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs), Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), Central Public Financial Institutions (CPFIs) or bonds of any other government organisation.
- It has fixed maturity of 3 and 10 years and will trade on the stock exchanges.
- It will provide retail investors easy and low-cost access to bond markets, with smaller amount as low as ₹1,000.
- It will be created by an intendent index provider – National Stock Exchange.
- Will deepen the corporate bond market and reduce the cost of borrowing in India.
- Allow the investor to earn a monthly interest rate more than that of a fixed deposit.
- Provide tax efficiency as compared to normal bonds, as interest from the bonds are taxed depending on the investor’s tax slab.
- Provide safety, liquidity and predictable tax-efficient returns.
- Increase the participation of retail investors who are currently not participating in bond markets.
- Expand the investor base of CPSEs through retail and High-net-worth individual’s (HNI) participation which can increase demand for their bonds.
What is Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)?
- An ETF is a fund that comprises a group of stocksthat are listed on an exchange and can be simply traded like any other listed security.
- ETFs price changes daily as they are traded throughout the day.
- They are similar to mutual fundsin certain manner but are more liquid as they can be sold quickly on stock exchanges like shares.
- Usually, ETFs are passive funds where the fund manager doesn’t select stocks on one’s behalf. Instead, the ETF simply copies an index and reflect its performance.
- Typically, an ETF mirrors a particular index, which means the group of stocks in the ETF would be similar to those in the index that it is benchmarked to. For instance, an ETF mirroring the Sensex would have the same 30 stocks that the Sensex has.
- In other words, if one buys an ETF mirroring the Nifty, he is indirectly buying all the stocks that are there in the Nifty without going through the trouble of buying each stock individually.
Benefits of investing through ETFs:
- It is a safer mode of disinvestmentas it shields investors against stock market volatility.
- ETFs offer anytime liquidity through the exchanges.
- Lower fund management fee o than that of a normal mutual fund scheme.
- They are cost efficientas they don’t use services of star fund managers.
- It allows investors to avoid the risk of poor security selection by the fund manager, while offering a diversified investment portfolio.
- The stocks in the indices are carefully selected by index providersand are rebalanced periodically.
Difference between an ETF and an Index Fund
- Index fund is just like any other mutual fund where the net asset value (NAV) of the fund is based on the closing price of the underlying securities. In ETF, the NAV is continuously linked to the current market price of the underlying stocks, which also makes it possible to buy or sell the ETF throughout the day just like an ordinary stock.
- ETF needs a demat account to buy or sell whereas an index fund can be bought directly from an asset management company without having a demat account.
- In 2018-19, the Centre launched Bharat-22 ETF and CPSE (central public sector enterprises) ETF comprising stake sale in a basket of 22 and 11 government companies, respectively.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
World Soil Day celebrated, highlights the soil’s importance on Earth
Every year, December 15 is celebrated as the World Soil Day. The day highlights the soil’s importance on Earth. For the year 2019, the theme for World Soil Day is “Stop soil erosion, Save our future”.
About World Soil Day
- World Soil Day (WSD) is held annually on 5 December to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.
- WSD was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002.
- Under the leadership of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform.
- The date of 5 December was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of King of Thailand who officially sanctioned the first WSD in 2002.
What has India done to prevent soil pollution?
- The Union Government had launched nationwide the soil health card scheme which provides information to the farmers on the fertility status of their soil and enables them to apply soil health card based recommended dosages of fertilizers.
- The impact of erosion on crop production has been estimated at a 4% reduction in global crop yields per year due to erosion.
- In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets that commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.
- There are many examples of successful implementation of soil erosion control measures. The widespread adoption of reduced tillage and no-till practices has significantly reduced wind and water erosion in many drier regions, but significant impediments exist to its adoption in more humid regions.
- Two Reasons why there are significant impediments in adoption of erosion control measures. First: Many of the impacts of erosion occur off-site, and there is no direct benefit for the soil user to implement control measures that minimize these off-site impacts. Second: The long time period required for many erosion control measures to have a clear beneficial effect limits their adoption.
Greenhouse gas emissions to set new record this year, but rate of growth shrinks
As per Global Carbon Project report, by end of 2019, emissions from industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels will pump an estimated 36.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Highlights of Report
- India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.
- The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use.
- The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third.
- China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.
- Emissions in the S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total.
- Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
- Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues.
About Global Carbon Project
- The Global Carbon Project (GCP), established in 2001, is an organisation that seeks to quantify global greenhouse gas emissions and their causes.
- The Project is a research Project of ‘Future Earth’ and a research partner of the ‘World Climate Research Programme’.
- The Global Carbon Project was established between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and Diversitas.
- A key contribution of the GCP is the annual publication of the Global Carbon Budget, and Carbon Atlas.
Bilateral & International Relations
Fugitive Godman Nithyananda Establishes a ‘Hindu Nation’ Near Ecuador
Fugitive self-styled godman Nithyananda has reportedly founded his own independent nation called ‘Kailaasa’ near Ecuador. The new country will provide a safe haven to all the world’s practicing/ aspiring Hindus where they can express their spirituality and culture without interference. It has its own a flag, passport, and has universal free healthcare, free education, free food, and revival of temple based lifestyle.
- Kailaasa movement was founded in the US by members of the Hindu Adi Shaivite minority community.
How does a territory become a new country?
- The likelihood of a territory becoming a nation mainly depends on how many countries and international organisations it manages to convince to recognise it as a country. The biggest sanction of nationhood is the United Nations recognising a territory as a country.
Who can declare itself a country?
There is no law barring regions from declaring independence.
- In Jharkhand in 2017-18, as part of the Pathalgadi movement, stone plaques had come up outside villages, declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority.
- Somaliland in Somalia has been calling itself a country since 1991, but no one else recognises it.
- Kosovo in Serbia declared independence in 2008, and only a few other countries recognise it.
What criteria does a territory have to meet in order to become a nation?
The Montevideo Convention on Statehood of 1933 sets out four criteria for Statehood. The criteria of the convention are:
The country should possess the following qualifications:
- A permanent population,
- A defined territory,
- A government
- Capacity to enter into relations with other States
Other conditions such as if a majority has clearly expressed the desire to break away from the parent country, and if the minority communities’ rights will be safeguarded is also consider.
Self-determination versus territorial integrity
- In June 1945, the right of “self-determination” was included in the UN charter. This means that a population has the right to decide how and by whom it wants to be governed.
- However, as per another widely accepted international rule, countries should respect each other’s territorial integrity. This is conflicting. While a population has the right to break off from the parent country, quick recognition of their claim would mean other nations are agreeing to the creation of new nation.
Why UN recognition matters?
- UN recognition means a new country has access to the World Bank, the IMF, etc. Its currency is recognised, which allows it to trade.
- Often, UN member states recognise a country. However, UN as a body, often do not recognize it. This puts a country in the grey area with respect to protection against parent country’s aggression, and international trade.
Science & Technology
IAF may get ‘No Escape’ Meteor missiles in May
France is considering a request for early delivery of Meteor air-to-air missiles that will give India the firepower to take on US supplied AMRAAMs used by the Pakistan Air Force to target its fighter jets the day after the Balakot airstrikes.
- The Indian Air Force is also set to get an opportunity to engage its new Rafale jets with pilots of the French Air Force in 2020 when a batch of Rafale fighters and A 400 M military transport aircraft head to India for a joint exercise.
About Meteor Missile
- Meteor is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) developed by MBDA (a European manufacturer of missiles).
- It is considered to be the best in its class and can take out the American origin AMRAAM missile being used by Pakistan.
- It has Operational range of 150 km, with 60 km of No Escape Zone (no fighter jet can be missed within 60km of this missile).
Key Facts for Prelims
Chief of the Air Staff Participates in Pacific Air Chiefs’ Symposium 2019
Air Chief Marshal and Chief of the Air Staff is participating in the Pacific Air Chiefs’ Symposium 2019 (PACS 2019) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
About PACS 2019
- The theme of PACS 2019 is ‘A Collaborative Approach to Regional Security’.
- The conference will bring together Air Chiefs from across the Indo-Pacific region who will provide perspectives on common challenges faced while focusing on relevant topics like ‘Regional Security’, ‘Domain Awareness’, ‘Multi-Domain Awareness’, ‘Interoperability’ and ‘HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief).