Polity & Governance
- Diksha Portal
Government Schemes & Policies
- NITI Aayog launches the National Nutrition Strategy
- Disability pension for defence forces to be on par with civilians
- No move to fix national minimum wage at Rs. 18,000/month: Govt
Bilateral & International Relations
- S. ends amnesty scheme for young immigrants
- India and China need to demarcate LAC
- Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas
Science & Technology
- CSIR’s artificial leaf creates fuel from sunlight, water
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Polity & Governance
The Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development (HRD) has launched Diksha Portal “diksha.gov.in” – National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers.
- Through this portal, all teachers across the nation will be equipped with advanced digital technology.
About DIKSHA Portal:
- DIKSHA Portal is an initiative of HRD ministry for providing a digital platform to teacher to make their lifestyle more digital.
- Diksha portal launched with a tagline “National Digital Infrastructures for Our Teacher Our Heroes”.
- Diksha portal will enable, accelerate and amplify solutions in realm of teacher education.
- It will aid teachers to learn and train themselves for which assessment resources will be available.
- It will help teachers to create training content, profile, in-class resources, assessment aids, news and announcement and connect with teacher community.
- The portal will record complete work and accomplishment of teachers in educational institutes from start to end point till their retirement.
- It will cover entire life cycle of teacher– from time they were enrolled as student teachers in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers.
Significance of the Portal:
- The portal will help teachers boost their teaching skills and create their own separate profile with their skills and knowledge.
- It will help in improving quality of education wit use of latest technologies in education sector.
- Not only the government, private institutes and NGO’s are also allowed to participate in the Diksha initiative.
Government Schemes & Policies
NITI Aayog launches the National Nutrition Strategy
NITI Aayog launched the National Nutrition Strategy aimed at Kuposhan Mukt Bharat.
- Under the strategy, the problem of malnutrition will be eradicated in a phased manner.
- The strategy intends at bringing nutrition to the center-stage of the National Development Agenda.
About the National Nutrition Strategy
- The national nutrition strategy calls for convergence between four proximate determinants of nutrition– uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods.
- It envisages Kuposhan Mukt Bharat – linked to Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat.
- The strategy lays down a roadmap for effective action, among both implementers and practitioners, in achieving our nutrition objectives.
- It enables states to make strategic choices, through decentralized planning and local innovation, with accountability for nutrition outcomes.
- It also gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as key determinant to address India’s nutritional needs to bring behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services.
Need for the strategy:
- In India, 20% of children under five years of age suffer from wasting due to acute under-nutrition.
- It pays an income penalty of 9 to 10% due to workforce that was stunted during their childhood.
- The NFHS-4 results shows decline in overall levels of under nutrition in both women and children.
- Currently, there is lack of real time measurement of nutritional determinants, which reduces capacity for targeted action among most vulnerable mothers and children.
Disability pension for defence forces to be on par with civilians
The Union government has accepted the recommendations of National Anomaly Committee (NAC) that parity with civilians for the grant of disability element to the defence forces under the 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC) should be maintained.
- With this, the Government has decided to continue with an earlier system of disbursing disability pension and not to go ahead with a new regime recommended by the 7th CPC.
Why this move?
- The move was undertaken after an increased request from the armed forces to revert back to the percentage-based regime for disability pension instead of the slab-based system conceived under the 7th CPC.
- The armed forces personnel had felt that the new slab-based system would result in a reduction in the amount of disability pension for existing as well as future retirees compared to percentage-based disability pension.
- The force personnel were also upset as civilian pensioners were to be paid pension according to the earlier percentage system.
- The Ministry of Defence had referred the matter to the NAC in order to decide methodology for calculation of disability element of the disability pension under the 7th CPC.
Complaint and Litigation Reduction Scheme (CLRS):
- The Ex-Servicemen Health Contributory Scheme (ECHS) has launched Complaint and Litigation Reduction Scheme (CLRS) for grievance redressal of veterans and their dependents.
- The scheme will assist the Defence Ministry to increase focus on the formulation of caring policy and implementation initiatives preserving time and resources of veterans who have served the nation in a selfless manner.
No move to fix national minimum wage at Rs. 18,000/month: Govt
The Centre cleared the air regarding the fixation of minimum wage as Rs. 18000 per month and clarified that government has not fixed or mentioned any amount as “national minimum wage” in the Code on Wages Bill 2017.
- It also denied any move to revise the formula of fixing wages by increasing the number of family members from three to six, as demanded by trade unions.
- The statement comes as a big relief to employers who have been “apprehensive” about the move, saying it would affect their competitiveness.
- However, it deals a blow to trade unions, who have been demanding higher minimum wages and a revised unit-based formula for fixing wages from three members of a family to six, including dependent parents.
What’s the issue?
- The Minimum Wages Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last month. Some news reports have been published regarding the fixation of minimum wage as Rs 18,000 per month by the central government.
Highlights of the Code on Wages Bill, 2017:
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.
National minimum wage:
- The code ensures minimum wages to one and all and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector of employment without any wage ceiling.
- It introduces concept of statutory National Minimum Wage for different geographical areas.
- It will ensure that no state government fixes minimum wage below the National Minimum Wages for that particular area as notified by Union Government.
- It specifies that central or state governments will revise or review minimum wage every five years.
- The central and state governments will constitute their respective advisory boards to advise respective governments on aspects of fixing minimum wages and increasing employment opportunities for women.
- These boards will have representation from employees, employers, and independent persons. Further, one-third of total members will be women.
Payment of Wages:
- The code proposes payment of wages through cheque or digital/electronic mode along with conventional cash payments.
- It mentions deduction of employee’s wages on certain grounds by not exceeding 50% of employee’s total wage.
- The central or state governments will fix the number of hours that will constitute a working day.
- Further, they will provide for a day of rest for employees every week.
- An employee will receive overtime for working beyond these working hours on any day. This amount will be at least twice the normal wage of the employee.
Redressal of grievances and settlement of claims:
- It proposes appellate authority between Claim Authority and Judicial Forum for speedy, cheaper and efficient redressal of grievances and settlement of claims
- The Code specifies penalties for offences committed by an employer. Such penalties vary depending on nature of offence have been rationalized with the amount of fines varying as per gravity of violations.
- Moreover, it specifies that compounding of offences is not punishable by penalty of imprisonment.
Bilateral & International Relations
U.S. ends amnesty scheme for young immigrants
US President Donald Trump discontinued an Obama-era immigration reform measure that protected from deportation people who had entered the U.S. illegally as children.
- The programme was known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
- DACA is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June 2012.
- DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
- Those applying are vetted for any criminal history or threat to national security and must be students or have completed school or military service.
- If they pass vetting, action to deport them is deferred for two years, with a chance to renew, and they become eligible for basics like a driving license, college enrollment or a work permit.
- The programme gives beneficiaries renewable two-year work permits and Social Security numbers and more opportunity for higher education.
Who are the ‘Dreamers’?
- Those protected under DACA are known as “Dreamers” and nearly 800,000 have been granted approval.
Implications of the move:
- With the announcement of the ending of the DACA program, those who took advantage of the DACA program will be arrested and eventually be deported.
- Those who are just in the process of filing their DACA applications for the first time, will no longer be able to do so. This will affect those who just became eligible to apply for DACA and those who took time or postponed the filing of their DACA applications despite the fact that they were eligible.
Should India worry?
Since 2012, the DACA has helped 8,00,000 young adults to pursue education and career opportunities in America. About 1% of the beneficiaries (8,000 persons) of have been of Indian origin.
- The decision to not save the DACA programme will affect many Indians in America.
- The undocumented population of Indians is quickly growing in the United States, according to government estimates.
- Undocumented Indian youth who have DACA status are now in a position where they don’t know if they can keep their jobs or if they have to live in fear of immigration officials coming to their door.
- Although the program was formally rescinded, but implementation was delayed by six months to give Congress time to come up with a solution for the population that was previously eligible for DACA.
India and China need to demarcate LAC
The Dokalam standoff and the subsequent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh has made it necessary for takeaways and ironing out of issues by the militaries on both sides, being the primary stakeholders in such matters.
What’s the issue?
- The LAC, starting from northwest of the Karakoram pass and ending at Arunachal Pradesh, has not been demarcated and is virtually passed on by word of mouth. This has led to differing perceptions regarding the alignment, with China making territorial claims in at least eight areas.
- These are those areas where regular incursions and face-offs take place. They include Asaphila, Longju, Namka Chu, Sumdorong Chu, and Yangste in Arunachal Pradesh, Barahoti in Uttarakhand, and Aksai China and Demchok in Ladakh.
- Even areas along the banks of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, where a clash between Indian and Chinese troops took place on August 15, are under dispute. The LAC passes through the lake, but India and China do not agree on its exact location. The mountains sloping on the banks of the lake form finger-like structures.
What needs to be done?
- The Line of Actual Control (LAC) has to be properly demarcated and simultaneously confidence building measures (CBMs) have to be conducted, military experts said.
- More points of contact, including regular meetings and setting up of a hotline between the two militaries, have to be created to prevent future transgressions, incursions and face-offs.
Line of Actual Control (LAC):
- The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a demarcation line that separates Indian-held lands from Chinese-controlled territory.
- The demarcation existed as the informal cease-fire line between India and China after the 1962 conflict until 1993, when its existence was officially accepted as the ‘Line of Actual Control’ in a bilateral agreement.
- The term “LAC” gained legal recognition in Sino-Indian agreements signed in 1993 and 1996.
- The 1996 agreement states, “No activities of either side shall overstep the line of actual control.”
- The entire Sino-Indian border (including the western LAC, the small undisputed section in the centre, and the MacMahon Line in the east) is 4,056 km long.
- The Sino-Indian border traverses five Indian states: Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas
A 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran, avoiding Pakistani waters, has been proposed to port cheap gas.
- It is said that this pipeline can bring natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India at rates less than the price of LNG available in the spot market.
- The subsea pipeline is being seen as an alternative to the on-land, Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.
- India has not been participating in talks on the 1,036-km Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline since 2007 citing security and commercial concerns. But, it has never officially pulled out of the $7.6 billion project.
About the proposed pipeline:
- As per the proposal, the pipeline can first travel to Oman, and then onwards to Porbandar in the state of Gujarat.
- The pipeline is planned to carry 31.5 million standard cubic meters gas per day.
- It will be built in two years from the date of necessary approvals and a gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA) being signed.
Benefits of the proposed pipeline:
- Presently, liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imported through ships costs about $7.50 per million British thermal unit. However, natural gas imported through the proposed $4-billion line would cost $5-5.50 per million British thermal unit at the Indian coast, cheaper than the rate at which some of the domestic fields supply gas. Therefore, the cost of landed gas through an undersea pipeline will be at least $2 cheaper than importing LNG, saving about $1 billion annually.
About Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline:
IPI pipeline was envisaged to transport natural gas from South Pars gas field of Iran to Pakistan and India with a carrying capacity of 60 million standard cubic meters per day, to be equally split between India and Pakistan.
- The total length of 2700 km project would run 1100 km in Iran and 1000 km to Pakistan and in case of agreement with India it will continue 600 km in Indian Territory.
- Because of Iran is the most geographically convenient supplier of gas to both countries; Iran is offering to cover 60% of the construction costs of the pipeline.
- As per past estimates, investments required for this pipeline were in excess of $7 billion.
- This project is expected to greatly benefit India and Pakistan, which do not have sufficient natural gas to meet their rapidly increasing domestic demand for energy.
Science & Technology
CSIR’s artificial leaf creates fuel from sunlight, water
Scientists from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory have developed an artificial leaf that absorbs sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel from water.
- The ultra-thin wireless device mimics plant leaves to produce energy using water and sunlight.
About the device:
- The device consists of semiconductors stacked in a manner to simulate the natural leaf system.
- To improve the light-absorbing efficiency of the artificial leaf, researchers used gold nanoparticles, titanium dioxide and quantum dots.
- The device of an area of 23 square centimetres could produce 6 litres of hydrogen fuel per hour.
- When exposed to sunlight for 25 hours, the device retained its efficiency.
- The cell does not need any external voltage and performs better than existing solar cells.
How this artificial leaf works?
- When visible light strikes the semiconductors, electrons move in one direction, producing electric current.
- The current almost instantaneously splits water into hydrogen – which researchers believe is one of the cleanest forms of fuel as its main byproduct is water.
Significance of this discovery:
- The artificial leaf may provide clean energy for powering eco-friendly cars in the future.
- At present, hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming and in this process emits a large amount of carbon di-oxide (CO2) – a green house gas that promotes global warming. In view of pressing energy and environmental issues, it was important to produce hydrogen from natural resources such as sunlight and water.
- The preparation method reported is simple and practicable and hence there is a very good possibility of scaling it up.
- Hydrogen generation from renewable resources will be the ultimate solution to our energy and environment problems.
- Hydrogen burning gives energy and water as a side product, underscoring its importance and relevance to the present day world.
- Though India basked in sunlight, not enough had been done to translate it into energy. This line of research is very relevant to our country. India is blessed with plenty of sunlight through the year that is not exploited significantly to produce energy or hydrogen.