• Current Affairs, 23 April 2020

    PRE-RETIREMENT JUDGMENTS AND POST-RETIREMENT JOBS

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN POLITY | TOPIC: JUDICIARY IN INDIA: ITS STRUCTURE, ORGANIZATION & FUNCTIONING, JUDGES OF SC & HIGH COURTS, JUDGMENTS AND RELATED ISSUES

    • Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi takes oath as Rajya Sabha MP during the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on Thursday, March 19, 2020.
    • The Constitution has been conceived to provide a pride of place to the judiciary. Constitutional appointees to the Supreme Court have been guaranteed several rights in order to secure their independence. Chapter 4 of Part V of the Constitution deals with the Supreme Court, and Chapter 5 of Part VI deals with the High Courts. The salaries of judges and their age of retirement are all guaranteed in order to secure their independence. They cannot be easily removed except by way of impeachment under Articles 124(4) and 217(1)(b). They have the power to review legislation and strike it down. They can also question the acts of the executive. All this makes it clear that the framers of the Constitution envisaged an unambitious judiciary for which the only guiding values were the provisions of the Constitution.
    • It was thought that on retirement from high constitutional office, a judge would lead a retired life. Nobody ever expected them to accept plum posts. But the clear demarcation between the judiciary and executive got blurred as many judges over the years began to accept posts offered by the government. A few years ago, a former Chief Justice of India (CJI) was made a Governor by the ruling BJP government. Now, we have the case of a former CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, being nominatedby the President to the Rajya Sabha and taking oath as Member of Parliament. During his tenure as CJI, Justice Gogoi presided over important cases such as Ayodhya and Rafale where all the decisions went in favour of the government. This gave rise to the impression that his nomination was a reward for these ‘favours’. Thus his appointment — and that too within a few months of his retirement — not only raised eyebrows but came in for severe condemnation from varied quarters.
    • Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi defends Rajya Sabha nomination
    • People are fast losing confidence in the so-called independent judiciary. In 2013, former Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who was also a senior Advocate, ironically said on the floor of Rajya Sabha: “I think, we are going a bit too far now, in every legislation, in creating post-retirement avenues for Judges. Almost everyone, barring a few notable, honourable men, who are an exception, wants a job after retirement. If we (Parliament) don’t create it, they themselves create it. The desire of a post-retirement job influences pre-retirement judgments. It is a threat to the independence of the Judiciary and once it influences pre-retirement judgments, it adversely impacts on the functioning of our Judiciary.” It is in this context that the appointment of Mr. Gogoi has to be perceived.
    • An interview that Justice Gogoi gave after assuming office as member of the Rajya Sabha made the situation worse. When asked whether his nomination was a quid-pro-quo for his having delivered judgments in favour of the Central government, his answer, that he was not the only judge but there were other judges too, was damaging. His view that membership of the Rajya Sabha was not a job but a service, and that once the President nominated him the call of duty required him to accept it, only created the impression that the judiciary is pliant. A bare reading of Article 80(3) of the Constitution only envisages the President to nominate “persons having special knowledge… in literature, science, art and social service” as members to the Rajya Sabha. It is difficult to imagine that the Constitution-makers had in mind a retired CJI when framing this provision.
    • Competitive impropriety: On Ranjan Gogoi’s Rajya Sabha nomination
    • Therefore, appointments of persons who have held constitutional office will undermine the very constitutional values of impartiality in the dispensation of justice. It will also go against the clear demarcation of separation of powers. It is true that there are no rules which stood in Justice Gogoi’s way of being appointed to the Rajya Sabha. But such matters cannot be left to the individual vagaries of judges. If post-retirement appointments are going to undermine confidence in the judiciary and in constitutional democracy, it is time to have a law in place either by way of a constitutional amendment or a parliamentary enactment barring such appointments. This is the only way to secure the confidence of the people and prevent post-retirement appointments. Judges can be compensated by being given their last drawn salary as pension. Also, the age of retirement for judges can be increased by a year or two. This will undo the damage caused by post-retirement jobs. It is important to remember that judges are constitutional servants, not government servants.

    THE VILLAGE IS STILL RELEVANT

    Relevant for: Indian Polity | Topic: Devolution of Powers & Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges therein – Panchayats & Municipalities

    • The upheaval caused by the novel coronavirusshould inspire a review of past choices and policies. Some of these policies had gained so much acceptance that one felt there was no point left in questioning them. Public health and education are two areas in which India took a decisive turn in the 1990s. When several States decided to stop giving permanent appointment letters to doctors and teachers in the mid-1990s, they were guided by an ideological shift at the national level towards allowing health and education to be opened up for private enterprise. This was viewed as a major policy reform, a necessary part of the bigger package of economic reforms. They were presented as a package, offering little choice for specific areas.
    • The new buzz was public-private partnership. It covered everything from roads to schools. The form it took made it amply clear that the state would take a back seat after issuing a set of rules for private operators while the state’s own infrastructure will shrink. Soon enough, cost-effective measures became the priority in both health and education. Chronic shortage of functionaries became the norm while young persons learned to wait for years for vacancies to be announced. Working on short-term contracts, with little security or dignity, became common.
    • Full coverage | Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants
    • As we begin to imagine the post-coronavirus scenario, a key question to contemplate is whether we should revisit the policies put in place during the 1990s. Some will doubtless argue that the clock cannot be put back, and that we should not waver from the path we had chosen, no matter what hardships people have to endure. Certain policies were specific to domains such as health and education. Others were more like frameworks within which policies for specific areas emerged and evolved. One such framework had to do with villages.
    • For a long time, a view had been gathering support that villages were no more viable as sites of public investment. A generalised logic had surfaced to justify and thereby encourage emigration from rural areas to cities. According to this logic, providing basic amenities such as running water, electricity and jobs to rural people becomes easier if they move to a city. This kind of thinking had considerable academic support. Modernisation was a dominant paradigm of social theory that saw nothing wrong in the growth of vast slums in mega-cities and depletion of working-age people in villages. Some social scientists did not mind declaring that the village as we had known it in Indian history was on its way to extinction. They argued that agriculture, the main resource of livelihood in the countryside, was no longer profitable enough to attract the young. And handicrafts too were destined to die, they said, as craftsmen and women cannot survive without state support. Only pockets of support survived the powerful wave of market-oriented economic reforms.
    • All such arguments and the data they were based on provided a comfortable rationale for policies that encouraged emigration of a vast section of the rural population to cities. It was something ‘natural’ that happens in the course of economic development in countries like ours. Students were taught that shrinking of rural livelihoods was a universal phenomenon and it was, therefore, inevitable in India.
    • Coronavirus| Opeds and editorials
    • Acceptance of historical destiny implied that we could simply sit back and let history take its familiar course. The only thing the welfare state might do was to mitigate the misery of the masses. As they faced the decimation of the rural people’s economy, safety nets could be thrown at them to provide subsistence-level provision of food, literacy and disease control. Special measures were designed to select the ‘best’ among rural children and make them competitive enough to survive in the urban world that was treated as mainstream.
    • This general framework justified discriminatory funding in every sphere, including health and education. No serious public investment could be made in villages. Even as medical education and teacher training became increasingly privatised, the availability of qualified doctors and teachers willing to work in villages dwindled. Ideologically-inspired pursuit of economic reforms swept State after State, leaving little room for dissent or longer term thinking. A veneer of welfarism was maintained. It allowed the expansion of essential facilities of a rudimentary kind in villages. They served as sites for special schemes for the poor and provided minimalist provisions. The goal was to keep the poor alive and occupied. Privately-run facilities burgeoned, creating an ethos that boosted commercial goals in health care and schooling. Stuck between state minimalism and commercial entrepreneurship, villages lost what capacity they had for regenerating their economy or intellectual resources.
    • No words can compete with recent pictures that cast a delayed doubt on this policy scenario. These are pictures of urban workers marching with their families to their native villages hundreds of miles away. There is more than one way of interpreting these pictures. On one hand they encapsulate desperation and apprehension. On the other, these same pictures reveal a story that generations of policy makers and scholars have been reluctant to acknowledge. The photographs captured by the media show men, women and children walking on highways designed to provide high-speed connectivity to cities. In the absence of trains and bus, these families decided to embark on foot. With no prospect of work and income, they felt vulnerable in their shanty towns. They wanted to go home. In the city where they had lived for years, they were part of the informal economy which offers no protection against exigencies. The new urban architecture denies them visibility too. That is perhaps why no one thought about them till they emerged on the wide highways.
    • Coronavirus| No one is asking what is happening in small-town and rural India, says former Health Secretary
    • The novel coronavirus has demonstrated how unsustainable this socio-economic arrangement was, apart from being ethically indefensible. It was characterised by sharp and growing regional disparities. No matter how hard we will try to rebuild the world as it was before the virus struck it, its unsustainability will not go away. It is rooted in the structural imbalance between the urban and the rural on one hand and the predominance of a skewed vision of economic growth on the other. In this vision, the village has no future other than becoming a pale copy of the urban and eventually dissolving into it.
    • Once upon a time, there were debates over the nature of India’s rural society — on whether it was intrinsically good or bad. These debates are no longer relevant. The village is, however, still relevant, at least for the vast number of urban workers. Similarly, while the problem of defining a village in an academic sense has ceased to matter, its existential reality has asserted itself, and we need to recognise this assertion. If we do, we might agree to notice a problem in policies that do not acknowledge the right of villages to flourish as human habitations with their own distinctive future. They deserve to have new sites and forms of livelihood. They also deserve systems of health and education that are not designed as feeders to distant centres. Initiatives in this direction will make both cities and villages more sustainable and capable of coping with the kind of crisis we are currently facing.

     

    JNTBGRI TO PLAY KEY ROLE IN SEQUENCING OF INDIAN SPECIES

    Relevant for: Science & Technology | Topic: Biotechnology, Genetics & Health related developments

    Back to basics: The digital repository of genome sequences will help in biodiversity conservation.

    The Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here is gearing up to play a key role in a nationwide project to decode the genetic information of all known species of plants and animals in the country.

    How you can bring the sparrows back

    The Institute has been selected as one of the Biological Knowledge and Resource Centres of the Indian Initiative on Earth BioGenome Sequencing (IIEBS). It will join hands with other premier research institutes to utilise cutting edge technologies for genome sequencing. The Union Department of Biotechnology has allotted ₹143.89 lakh for JNTBGRI to take up the project.

    The whole genome sequencing of 1,000 species of plants and animals will be taken up in the initial phase of IIEBS to be completed over a period of five years at an estimated cost of ₹440 crore. The National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi is the coordinating centre for the nationwide project involving a total of 24 institutes.

    JNTBGRI Director R. Prakashkumar said the project was part of the Earth BioGenome Project, an international initiative to catalogue life on the planet. “This will eventually lead to the generation of the genetic blueprint of all living forms,” he said.

    Described as a “moonshot for Biology”, EBP aims to sequence the genetic codes of all of earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity over a period of 10 years. The digital repository of genome sequences is expected to provide the critical infrastructure for better understanding of ecosystems and conservation of biodiversity as well as the development of new treatments for infectious and inherited diseases, agricultural products, biomaterials and biological fuels.

    Dr. Prakashkumar said India’s participation in the EBP would provide a boost for the field of genomics and bioinformatics within the country. “The project will enable collection and preservation of endangered and economically important species. The decoded genetic information will also be a useful tool to prevent biopiracy,” he said.

    With over 5,000 plant species in its field gene bank and conservatories, JNTBGRI has a major role in conserving the endemic flora of the Western Ghats.

     

    ORDINANCE TO PROTECT HEALTH WORKERS

    RELATED FOR:- GOVERNANCE /TOPICS:- HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    • The President has given his assent to an ordinance passed to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

    Important Points

    • Wider Inclusion:The amendments intend to protect the health workers from harassment by the public. The amendments will also apply to harassment by landlords and neighbours.
    • Cognizable and Non-bailable:Violence against medical staff has been made a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
    • Compensation:Provision for compensation for injury to healthcare personnel or for damage or loss to property.
    • If damage was done to vehicles or clinics of healthcare workers, a compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property would be charged from the accused.
    • Timely Investigation:In cases of attacks on healthcare workers, the investigation will be completed within 30 days and the final decision arrived within one year.
    • Umbrella Protection: The ordinance will protect the whole healthcare fraternity, including doctors, nurses and ASHA workers from violence during epidemics.
    • Punishment :The punishment for such attacks will be 3 months to 5 years and the fine ₹50,000 to ₹2 lakh.
    • In severe cases, where there are grievous injuries, the punishment will be 6 months to 7 years and the fine ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh.

    Cognisable Offences

    • In cognisable offences, an officer can take cognizance of and arrest a suspect without seeking a court’s warrant to do so, if she has “reason to believe” that the person has committed the offence and is satisfied that the arrest is necessary on certain enumerated bases.
    • According to the 177th Law Commission Report, cognisable offences are those that require an immediate arrest.
    • Within 24 hours of the arrest, the officer must have detention ratified by a judicial magistrate.
    • Cognizable offences are generally heinous or serious in nature such as murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, dowry death etc.
    • The first information report (FIR) is registered only in cognizable crimes.

    Non-Cognizable Offences

    • In case of a non-cognizable offence, the police cannot arrest the accused without a warrant as well as cannot start an investigation without the permission of the court.
    • The crimes of forgery, cheating, defamation, public nuisance, etc., fall in the category of non-cognizable crimes.

    Background

    • Need:Healthcare workers are being portrayed as potential spreaders of Covid-19 pandemic. Public venting of angst against healthcare service personnel leading to harassment assault and damage to property is being highlighted daily. Therefore, the medical community has been demanding protection.
    • Unique Challenge:The Covid-19 outbreak has posed a unique situation where harassment of the healthcare workforce and others working to contain the spread of the disease has been taking place at all fronts, in various places, including in cremation grounds.
    • Deficiency in State laws:
    • Several States had enacted special laws to offer protection to doctors and other medical personnel in the past. However, these existing State laws do not have such a wide ambit.
    • They generally do not cover harassment at home and workplaceand are focussed more on physical violence.
    • The penal provisionscontained in these laws are not stringent enough to deter mischief-mongering.

    Ordinance

    • Ordinance is a decree or law promulgated by a state or national government without the consent of the legislature.
    • Article 123 of the Constitution of India grants the President certain law-making powers to promulgate ordinances when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session.
    • Similar powers are given to the Governor of a state to issue ordinances under Article 213 of the Constitution.
    • There are three limitations with regard to the ordinance making power of the executive. They are:
    • The President can only promulgate an ordinance when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session.
    • The President cannot promulgate an ordinance unless he is satisfied that there are circumstances that require taking ‘immediate action’.
    • Ordinances must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate. They will also cease to operate in case resolutions disapproving the ordinance are passed by both the Houses.

    Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

    • The Epidemic Diseases Act initially was passed in February 1897 in the wake of the outbreak of the bubonic plague in India (particularly in the Bombay presidency).
    • The Act aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
    • It empowers the state and central government to take special measures and prescribe regulations that are to be observed by the public to contain the spread of disease.
    • It also makes disobedience of any regulation or order made under this Act a punishable offence.
    • It provides for the protection of persons or officials acting under this Act as no suit or other legal proceeding can be initiated against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act.

    RESERVATION REVIEW: SC

    RELATED FOR:- SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS:-  JUDICIAL REVIEW, JUDGEMENTS & CASES, ROLE OF GOVERNOR ,JUDICIARY, ISSUES RELATED TO SCS & STS, ISSUES RELATING TO DEVELOPMENT

    • Recently, the Supreme Court of Indiahas ruled the January 2000 order of the Governor of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh which provided 100% reservation to Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates in posts of school teachers in Scheduled Areas, unconstitutional.
    • It also highlighted that within the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and STs, reservation benefits are not reaching the truly deserving.

    important Points

    • The apex court said that 100% reservation is not permissibleunder the Constitution as the outer limit is 50% as specified in Indra Sawhney case, 1992.
    • A 100% reservation would become discriminatory and impermissible.The citizens have equal rights and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is not contemplated by the Constitution.
    • It alsodeprives SCs and OBCs of their due representation.
    • The opportunity of public employmentcannot be denied unjustly to the incumbents and it is not the prerogative of few.
    • Equality of opportunityand pursuit of choice under Article 51­A cannot be deprived of unjustly and arbitrarily.
    • It is arbitrary and violativeof provisions of Articles 14 (equality before law), 15(1) (discrimination against citizens) and 16 (equal opportunity) of the Constitution.
    • It also impinges upon the right of open categorybecause only STs will fill all the vacant posts leaving SCs and OBCs far behind.
    • Open Category:It means for all castes. The 50% unreserved seats are not entitled to the General category. They can be filled by reserved categories as well in case all seats are not occupied by the general
    • The SC hasallowed the request not to quash the appointments already made under the 2000 order. However, it has warned Andhra Pradesh and Telangana against making such provisions in the future.
    • In case they do so, exceeding the limit of reservation, the appointments which have not been quashed now, will also be considered null and void.

    Background

    • The Andhra Pradesh governmentcame out with a similar order in 1986 which was quashed by the State Administrative Tribunal and an appeal before the Supreme Court was dismissed in 1998.
    • However, in 2000,the State issued an order providing for 100% reservation to STs candidates on teacher posts in Schedules areas.
    • The State’s High Court upheldthe order but its decision was later on challenged in the Supreme court leading to this order.

    On Reservation

    • Failure of trickle down approach:The SC highlighted the struggles of people from the OBCs, SCs and STs who could not benefit from the trickle down approach of the reservation.
    • By now, there are affluent and socially and economically advanced classes within the reserved communitieswho do not permit benefits to trickle down to the ones who actually need them.
    • Revision of reservation:The apex court suggested the government to revise the lists of those entitled to reservation, from time to time.
    • Suggestion:It can be done without disturbing the percentage of reservation so that the benefits trickle down to the needy and are not hindered by those who have been obtaining benefits for the last 70 years or after their inclusion in the list.

    Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India, 1992

    • The Supreme Court while upholding the 27% quota for backward classes, struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes.
    • SC in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of India’s population.
    • The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not extend to promotions.
    • The Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 provided for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category.
    • The Act amended the Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
    • This 10% economic reservation is over and above the 50% reservation cap.
    • However, it should be noted that a constitution bench of the SC has reserved orders whether a bunch of writ petitions challenging the economic reservation law should be referred to a Constitution Bench or not.
    • That is why the court had refused to pass any interim order to stay or hamper the implementation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019.

     

    IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON REMITTANCE: WB

    RELATED FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS: – MOBILIZATION OF RESOURCES, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    Recently, the World Bank released a report on the impact of Covid-19 on migration and remittances.

    Important Points

    • According to the report, India’s remittancesare projected to fall by about 23% in 2020.
    • Globally remittancesare projected to decline by about 20% in 2020.
    • The projectedfall is largely due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers due to the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • The migrant workers are vulnerable to loss of employment and wages during an economic crisis in a host country.
    • The sharp decline in crude priceswill also hurt remittances from oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
    • This will lead toloss of income for expatriate Indians working in the Gulf and elsewhere across the world.

    Remittance

    • A remittance ismoney sent to another party, usually one in another country.
    • The sender is typically an immigrant and the recipient a relative back home.
    • Remittances represent one of the largest sources of income for people in low-income and developing nations.It often exceeds the amount of direct investment and official development assistance.
    • Remittanceshelp families afford food, healthcare, and basic needs.
    • India is the world’s biggest recipient of remittances.Remittances bolsters India’s foreign exchange reserves and helps fund its current account deficit.

    World Bank

    • The Bretton Woods Conference held in 1944, created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
    • The IBRD later became the World Bank.
    • The World Bank Group is a unique global partnership of five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.
    • It has 189 member countries.
    • Few important reports released by the World Bank are:
    • Ease of Doing Business,
    • Human Capital Index and
    • World Development Report
    • The five development institutions of the World Bank are.
    • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD): provides loans, credits, and grants.
    • International Development Association (IDA): provides low- or no-interest loans to low-income countries.
    • International Finance Corporation (IFC): provides investment, advice, and asset management to companies and governments.
    • Multilateral Guarantee Agency (MIGA): insures lenders and investors against political risk such as war.
    • International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID): settles investment-disputes between investors and countries.

     

    CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN MAHARASHTRA

    RELATED FOR: – INDIAN POLITY/ TOPICS:- STATE LEGISLATURE

    • A constitutional crisis has occurred in Maharashtra that threatens the position of incumbent Chief Minister.

     Important Points

    • The current Chief Minister took the oath of his office on November 28, 2019 without being a member of either the State legislature or council.
    • Article 164(4)of the Constitution allows a person to become a Minister without being a member of either House of State legislature for the period of six months from the date of oath.
    • Therefore in this case, the last date to become a member of either House is May 24, 2020.
    • Election postponed:However, the Election Commission has postponed all elections due to the coronavirus outbreak.
    • Governor’s quota:The state cabinet on April 9, 2020 recommended that the present Chief Minister be nominated to the Legislative Council from the Governor’s quota.
    • Article 171of the Constitution mandates the Governor to nominate members to the Legislative Council who have special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art, cooperative movement and social service.
    • However, the Governor has not taken any decision yet,which has created trouble for Uddhav Thackeray’s CM post.
    • Other legal issue:The other legal issue is related to Uddhav Thackeray’s nomination to the Legislative Council on the vacant seats.
    • According to Section 151A of Representation of the People Act 1951,nomination to the post cannot be done if the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year.
    • Currently, there are two vacancies in Council whose terms will end on June 6, 2020. Therefore, the term of these two vacancies is less than one year.
    • Bypoll:The time limit for a bypoll to fill vacancies is six months from the date of occurrence of vacancy. Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply if —
    • The remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year; or
    • TheElection Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the by-election within the said period.

    CENTRE CUTS NON-UREA FERTILISER SUBSIDY

    RELATED FOR: – AGRICULTURE/ TOPICS: – DIRECT & INDIRECT FARM SUBSIDIES

    • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs(CCEA) has cut the subsidy for non-urea fertilizers.
    • That is about 3% lower than the estimated expenditure on the nutrient based subsidies in 2019-20.

    Important Points

    Reduced Prices:

    • Nitrogen (N) based fertilizers-Reduced to ₹18.78 per kg from ₹18.90 per kg.
    • Phosphorus (P) based fertilizers-Reduced to ₹14.88 per kg from ₹15.21 per kg.
    • Potash (K) based fertilizers– Reduced to ₹10.11 per kg from ₹11.12 per kg.
    • Sulphur (S) based fertilisers-Reduced to ₹2.37 per kg from ₹3.56 per kg.
    • The CCEA has also approved the inclusion of ammonium phosphate [(NH₄)₃PO₄](a complex fertiliser) under the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) scheme.

    Nutrient Based Subsidy Scheme

    • It is beingimplemented from April 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.
    • Under NBS, a fixed amount of subsidy decided on an annual basis,is provided on each grade of subsidized Phosphatic & Potassic (P&K) fertilizers, except for Urea, based on the nutrient content present in them.
    • It is largely for secondary nutrientslike N, P, K and S which are very important for crop growth and development..
    • It aims toensure the availability of fertilizers to farmers at an affordable price, as the retail prices of such non-urea fertilisers are decontrolled and set by manufacturers.

    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs

    • Chaired by the Prime Minister,CCEA lays down the priorities for public sector investment and considers specific proposals for investment of not less than specific levels as revised from time to time.
    • It has a mandate to review economic trendson a continuous basis, as well as the problems and prospects, with a view to evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy framework for the country.
    • It also directs and coordinates all policies and activities in the economic fieldincluding foreign investment that require policy decisions at the highest level.

    Apart from CCEA, there are seven other cabinet committees:

    • Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
    • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.
    • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Security.
    • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth.
    • Cabinet Committee on Employment & Skill Development.

     

    WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX 2020: REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERS

    RELATED FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS:- IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    • Indiahas dropped to two places on the World Press Freedom Index, 2020 to be ranked 142nd out of 180 countries.

    Important  Points

    • Norway is ranked firstin the Index for the fourth year running.
    • South Asiain general features poorly on the index, with Pakistan dropping three places to 145, and Bangladesh dropping one place to
    • China at 177thposition is just three places above North Korea, which is at 180th.
    • Impact of Covid-19 on Journalism:The coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.
    • India’s Performance Analysis
    • Reasons Behind Decline in India’s Performance:
    • Pressure on the media to accept the nationalist government’s Hindu line.
    • The“coordinated hate campaigns” waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers. The campaigns are particularly severe when the targets are women.
    • Improved Security of Journalists:With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.
    • Press Freedom Violations:There have been constant press freedom violations that include police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and attacks instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.

    World Press Freedom Index

    • It has been published every year since 2002 by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.
    • Based in Paris, RSF is an independent NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).
    • OIF is a 54 french speaking nations collective.
    • The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.
    • The parameters include pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

     

    ESIC FUNDS

    RELATED FOR:- SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS :- GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, WELFARE SCHEMES

    • The Union Labour Secretary has ruled out appropriating funds of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)for payment of wages to workers or to employers to meet their salary bill during the Covid-19
    • The labour secretary has also said that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has given its report on the Code on Industrial Relations and it would soon submit a report on the Code on Social Security.
    • The Ministry of Labour & Employmenthas been working on to simplify, amalgamate & rationalize the provisions of the existing Central labour laws into 4 Labour Codes.
    • The four labour codes – on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security and Occupational Safety, and Health and Working Conditions- intend to provide workers with wage security, social security, safety, health and grievance redress mechanisms.

    Important Points

    • Employees’ state Insurance Corporation of India is a multidimensional social systemwhich provides socio-economic protection to the worker population and immediate dependent or family covered under the ESI scheme.
    • The Employees’ State Insurance Scheme (ESI)is an integrated measure of social Insurance embodied in the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.
    • ESI is designed to accomplish the task of protecting employees against the impact of incidences of sickness, maternity, disablement and death due to employment injury and to provide medical care to insured persons and their families.

    Coverage of the Scheme :

    • The ESI Scheme applies to factories and other establishment’s Road Transport, Hotels, Restaurants, Cinemas, Newspaper, Shops, and Educational/Medical Institutions wherein 10 or more persons are employed.
    • However, in some States the threshold limit for coverage of establishments is still 20.
    • Employees of the aforesaid categories of factories and establishments, drawing wages upto Rs. 15,000/- a month,are entitled to social security cover under the ESI Act.
    • However, ESI Corporation has also decided to enhance the wage ceiling for coverage of employees under the ESI Actfrom Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 21,000/-.
    • ESI Corporation has extended the benefits of the ESI Scheme to the workers deployed on the construction siteslocated in the implemented areas under ESI Scheme from 1st August, 2015.
    • The ESI Scheme is implemented district wise.
    • It is now notified in 526 Districts in 34 States and Union Territories.

    Contributions to the Scheme :

    • The ESI Scheme is financed by contributions from employers and employees.
    • In June, 2020 the government had reduced the rate of contributionunder the ESI Act from 6.5% to 4% (employers’ contribution reduced from 4.75% to 3.25% and employees’ contribution reduced from 1.75% to 0.75%).
    • Employees, earning less than Rs. 137/- a day as daily wages, areexempted from payment of their share of contribution.

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