Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health
Government Schemes & Policies
- The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha
- Generic Medicines Stores
- Lok Sabha passes anti-terror bill amid Opposition concerns over misuse
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health
The Union Cabinet has approved to dissolve National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH)and merge with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
- The merger of NIMH with NIOH will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in term of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money.
ABOUT NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MINERS’ HEALTH (NIMH)
- NIMH was set up by Government of India in 1990 and registered as a Society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960.
- The registered office of NIMH is located at Karnataka and the Central Laboratory in Nagpur.
- The Institute conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral based industry with special reference to metalliferous sector.
ABOUT NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH
- National Institute of Occupational Health is a premier public health institute, which was established in 1966 as Occupational Health Research Institute (OHRI) was later renamed as National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH).
- It has two region centers at Bangalore & Kolkata.
- The Institute functions as a WHO Collaborative and Reference Centre for Occupational Health.
- To promote intensive research to evaluate environmental stresses/factors at the workplace.
- To promote the highest quality of occupational health through fundamental and applied research.
- To develop control technologies and health programmes through basic and fundamental research and to generate human resources in the field.
- The need for research in Occupational Health in India was first appreciated by Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA), the forerunner of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
- IRFA set up an Industrial Health Advisory Committee (IHAC) under the chairmanship of Col. Bozman in 1945.
- As per the recommendations of this Committee, in 1947, an Industrial Health Research Unit was created at the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Calcutta.
- In 1956, the IHAC recommended to the Government of India that priority should be given for the establishment of an Institute of Occupational Health Research during the Second Five Year Plan.
- As a result, the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad was established.
Government Schemes & Policies
The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha
The Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment introduced The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CODE ON WAGES 2019:
- The Code on Wages, 2019 seeks to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments where any industry, trade, business, or manufacture is carried out.
- The Code replaces the following four laws: (i) the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, (ii) the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, (iii) the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and (iv) the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
- The Code will apply to all employees. The central government will make wage-related decisions for employments such as railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for all other employments.
- The central government will fix a floor wage, taking into account living standards of workers. Further, it may set different floor wages for different geographical areas.
Fixing the minimum wage:
- The Code prohibits employers from paying wages less than the minimum wages. Minimum wages will be notified by the central or state governments.
- The minimum wages will be reviewed at an interval of not more than five years. While fixing minimum wages, the central or state governments may take into account factors such as: (i) skill of workers, and (ii) difficulty of work.
- The central or state government may fix the number of hours that constitute a normal working day.
- In case employees work in excess of a normal working day, they will be entitled to overtime wage which must be at least twice the normal rate of wages.
- Under the Code, an employee’s wages may be deducted on certain grounds including fines, absence from duty etc. which should not exceed 50% of the employee’s total wage.
Determination of bonus:
- All employees whose wages do not exceed a specific monthly amount will be entitled to an annual bonus.
- The bonus will be at least: (i) 8.33% of his wages, or (ii) Rs 100, whichever is higher.
- The Code prohibits gender discrimination in matters related to wages and recruitment of employees for the same work or work of similar nature.
- The central and state governments will constitute advisory boards. One-third of the total members on both the Boards will be women.
- The Boards will advise the respective governments on various issues including: (i) fixation of minimum wages, and (ii) increasing employment opportunities for women.
- The Code specifies penalties for offences committed by an employer, such as (i) paying less than the due wages, or (ii) for contravening any provision of the Code, with the maximum penalty being imprisonment for three months along with a fine of up to one lakh rupees.
- In India, labour is included in the concurrent list which implies that both the central government and state governments can make laws regarding this subject.
- Currently, there are over 40 state and central laws regulating various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions in factories, and wage and bonus payments.
- The Second National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended that existing labour laws should be classified into broader groups for easier compliance, such as (i) industrial relations, (ii) wages, (iii) social security, (iv) safety, and (v) welfare and working conditions. This would also allow for uniformity in the coverage of various labour laws that are in force.
- In this context, the Code on Wages, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha in 2017 which seeks to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments where any industry, trade, business or manufacturing is carried on.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CODE ON WAGE 2019:
- It universalizes the provisions of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
- It simplifies the definition of wages.
- It seeks to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage to 100 per cent of the workforce.
- At present, many States have multiple minimum wages. The Code fixes the minimum wages by doing away with ‘type of employment’ as a criterion. Rather, the minimum wage will be fixed primarily based on geography and skills.
KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS:
- Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions. In this context, two questions arise: (i) the rationale for a national minimum wage, and (ii) whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages.
- States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages. This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.
- The time period for revising minimum wages will be set at five years. Currently, state governments have flexibility in revising minimum wages, as long as it is not more than five years. It is unclear why this flexibility has been removed, and five years has been set for revision.
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender. While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.
- It de-links the process of fixing the minimum wage from a scientific calorie-based formula and allows the Centre to ‘arbitrarily’ fix the wage.
- Without the complain of ‘appropriate authority’ as described in bill, no court can take cognisance of any offence under the proposed legislation. The government ignored suggestions of the Standing Committee with regard to strengthening this enforcement mechanism.
- The use of the term ‘Facilitator’ instead of ‘Inspector’ in the Code restricts the inspection which is the lifeline of enforcement. The word ‘Facilitator’ should be substituted by ‘Inspector’. However, the bill used the term ‘Inspector-cum-facilitator’.
- The Code lacked consistency in its use of both ‘worker’ and ‘employee’ terms and underlined that since minimum wage is a matter of right for every working person, a common definition of the employee/worker needs to be given in the Code. However, in the Bill retained the definition as it is.
Generic Medicines Stores
Under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), more than 5000 dedicated retail outlets selling affordable generic medicines are functional in India.
PRADHAN MANTRI BHARTIYA JANAUSHADHI PARIYOJANA (PMBJP)
- It was launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals in November 2008 under the name Jan Aushadi Campaign.
- Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementation agency for PMBJP.
- Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.
- Create awareness among the public regarding generic medicines.
- Create demand for generic medicines through medical practitioners.
- Provide all the commonly used generic medicines covering all the therapeutic groups.
- Provide all the related health care products too under the scheme.
KEY FEATURES OF PRADHAN MANTRI BHARTIYA JANAUSHADHI KENDRAS:
- State Governments or any organization / reputed NGOs / Trusts / Private hospitals / Charitable institutions / Doctors / Unemployed pharmacist/ individual entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.
- Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras can be located within Government hospital premises as well as Private hospital premises or anywhere outside.
- In addition to medicines and surgical items supplied by BPPI, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras is allowed to sell allied medical products commonly sold in chemist shops.
- An amount of Rs. 2.5 lakhs are extended to entities establishing Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras in Government hospital premises where space is provided free of cost by Government to operating agency.
WHAT ARE GENERIC MEDICINES?
- Medicines are usually available under two names: a generic name and a brand name.
- Generic medicines are unbranded medicines which are equally safe as that of branded medicines in terms of their therapeutic value. However, there is no definition of generic or branded medicines under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder.
- In other words, they are drugs which have the same chemical composition as branded drugs are and sold under their chemical name. For example, Paracetamol, a painkiller, is the generic name for branded drugs like Crocin and Calpol.
- The prices of generic medicines are much cheaper than their branded equivalent.
HOW ARE THEY REGULATED IN INDIA?
- Drugs manufactured in the country, irrespective of whether they are generic or branded, are required to comply with the same standards as prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder for their quality.
TREND OF BRANDED GENERIC DRUGS:
- In the USA, when a new drug is launched only the company that holds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) patent are legally allowed to sell the drug, thus giving them market monopoly.
- In India, however, there were no patent laws till 2005 which meant that anyone could replicate any drug in India without legal ramifications. This led to the trend of branded generic drugs which has 99.5% of the country’s generic drug share.
WHAT IS ‘BRANDED GENERICS’?
- In 2005, there was only process patents and product patents. Under process patent, pharmaceutical companies can produce a drug molecule by a different process and market it as a brand of their choice hence there are several brands of the same drug molecule available in the market.
- They are not brands in true sense, as they are not marketed by the innovator. Hence they are called ‘branded generics’.
WHY AREN’T GENERIC DRUGS MORE POPULAR?
- Distinct lack of awareness about them.
- Since they are cheap, people who can afford branded drugs don’t buy them believing them to be of inferior quality.
- Most of the private doctors never hand out generic drugs because there are no incentives involved from pharma companies.
Lok Sabha passes anti-terror bill amid Opposition concerns over misuse
The Lok Sabha passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, in a move that gives a big push to India’s internal security machinery.
- The objective of the proposed amendments is to facilitate speedy investigation and prosecution of terror offences and designating an individual as terrorist in line with the international practices.
KEY AMENDMENTS OF UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) AMENDMENT BILL 2019:
- The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
- The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
Who may commit terrorism:
- Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.
- The act has no provision to designate individual terrorist. Therefore, when a terrorist organization is banned, its members form a new organization.
- The Bill empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
Approval for seizure of property by National Investigation Agency (NIA):
- Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police (DGP) to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.
- However, many times terror accused own properties in different states. In such cases, seeking approval of DGPs of different states becomes very difficult and the delay caused by the same may enable the accused to transfer properties.
- The amendment empowers Director General of NIA to forfeit a property which represents proceeds of terrorism in relation to an investigation being conducted by NIA.
Investigation by NIA:
- Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
- Due to the shortages of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSPs) facing by NIA, the Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
Insertion to schedule of treaties:
- The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).
- The Bill adds another treaty of International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).
- The law can be misused by governments in future as there is no processes in place under which misuse cannot happen.
- The critics asked that if these amendments can stop the terrorist attacks like Pulwama or Pathankot attacks.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was passed in 1967 under the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
- UAPA is the purified version of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) that was repealed in 2004.
- Eventually amendments were brought in under the successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.