National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 5th March 2019

Centre to incentivise work-from-home jobs

1

Topic: Economy

In News: The government is working on a scheme to push work-from-home jobs in the IT sector by offering financial incentives to both employees and employers.

More on the Topic:

  • The initiative is likely to be launched as phase II of the IT Ministry’s India BPO Promotion Scheme that incentivises firms to set up operations in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country. The scheme, launched in 2016, had an outlay of about Rs. 500 crore with an objective to create about 1.45 lakh jobs.

Significance:

  • There is abundant talent pool in the country, especially women, who are not able to join full-time office jobs. The scheme envisages incentives for both employers as well as employees.
  • Companies do not recruit people for work-from-home jobs on part-time basis, but on contract due to stringent labour laws, as for contract-based jobs, companies don’t need to provide PF and other job benefits.
  • Incentivizing work-from-home jobs through policy-level initiatives can help in creating jobs in the ITES domain while increasing the available talent pool for the sector. This will create employment opportunities in the IT/ITES industry, especially for women and differently-abled persons.

Policy highlights:

  • The ‘work-from-home’ policy may extend relaxation in labour laws similar to that given to start-ups under the Startup India programme.
  • In 2016, the government had announced exemption for start-ups from nine labour laws, including the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
  • Besides, it is proposed that employees be provided support for 50% of the cost of a laptop (Rs. 10,000 cap) or smartphone (up to Rs. 5,000), along with up to 350 per month for broadband.
  • The policy envisages salary-based incentives to incentivise employees to stick to work-from-home jobs and additional incentive would be given to women employees, differently-abled, SC/ST or those from aspirational (backward) districts.
  • To avail benefits under the work-from-home scheme, employees will need to have an Aadhaar-linked Universal Account Number.
  • For employers, among other things, the policy proposes to provide 50% of the actual expenditure on technical infrastructure required for enabling such jobs, with a cap of Rs. 10,000 per job.

Source:Hindu

Crop burning

2

Topic: Agriculture

In News: The burning of agricultural residue — a contributor to north India’s winter pollution — increases the risk of respiratory illnesses threefold for those who experience it. It may also be responsible for an annual $30 billion (approximately Rs. 2 trillion) loss in terms of days of work lost in States affected by crop burning, according to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

More on the Topic

  • Open-field burning of agricultural remains is a major source of air pollution in northern India.
  • While road dust and pollution from heavy vehicles are primarily responsible for the noxious pall that sets on Delhi and other urban centres, the burning of paddy stubble by farmers to clear their fields for the next crop is considered to be responsible for 20% of the smog.
  • Burning of Rice straw and wheat residue is not necessary for the farmers because of the availability of technology and its higher economic value as dry fodder.
  • Even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
  • The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
  • Experts say that with less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
  • It costs Rs 1,500-3,000 per acre for stubble management, depending on the equipment and method.

Way Forward:

  • There needs to be a proactive engagement to both persuade and reassure farmers.
  • The greater availability of machines and the zero-tolerance policy need to be seen as works in progress to derive lessons on how to refine the crop-clearing process in an ecologically sound manner.
  • Promoting indigenous research and science, incentivising pulses production, and rationalising pricing more broadly. Converting crises into opportunities is the hallmark of good public policy.

Model Mains Question: Converting crises into opportunities is the hallmark of good public policy. Comment

Source: The Hindu

India to tie-up with 4 nations to save rhinos

3

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.

More on the topic:

  • The five rhino range nations signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species at the recently held Second Asian Rhino Range Countries meeting.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
  • The declaration includes undertaking studies on health issues of the rhinos, their potential diseases and taking necessary steps; collaborating and strengthening wildlife forensics and strengthening of transboundary collaboration among India, Nepal and Bhutan for conservation of the Greater one-horned rhino.

Source: The Hindu

HIV remission achieved through stem cell transplantation

4

Topic: Health

In News:  In a significant development, a person with HIV infection has been reported to be experiencing remission for the last 18 months after antiretroviral therapy (ART) was stopped following stem-cell transplantation in London. Remission is when HIV RNA (ribonucleic acid) is undetectable in blood. ART is used for treating HIV.

More On the Topic:

  • The person with HIV was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 2012. To treat the cancer, stem cells which give rise to blood cells were transplanted from a donor who had two mutant copies of a co-receptor for HIV infection. This exercise was carried out in London.
  • The co-receptor (CCR5) is used by the HIV virus to gain entry into host cells in humans. But a mutant does not allow the virus to enter the host cells and hence makes the person resistant to HIV infection.
  • This is the second instance when HIV remission has been achieved through transplantation of stem cells carrying two copies of the mutant co-receptor. The first case was in 2009; no viral rebound was then seen even 20 months after transplantation and discontinuation of ART therapy.
  • At present, achieving HIV remission through stem cell transplantation will be possible only in those cases where people with HIV also have some form of cancer.

Source:The Hindu

National Common Mobility Card

5

Topic: e-governance

In News: One Nation, One Card for transport mobility was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

More on the Topic:

  • The Indigenous Automatic Fare Collection System based on One Nation One Card Modele. National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) is the first of its kind in India
  • India’s First Indigenously Developed Payment system for transport consisting of NCMC Card, SWEEKAR (SwachalitKiraya: Automatic Fare Collection System) and SWAGAT (Swachalit Gate) is based on NCMC Standards.
  • These are bank issued Debit/Credit/Prepaid cards and the customer may use this single card for payments across all segments including metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, parking, smart city and retail.
  • The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders. The service area feature of this card supports operator specific applications e.g. monthly passes, season tickets etc.

Significance:

  • The customers need not carry multiple cards for different usage. Further, the super quick contactless transactions will improve the seamless experience.
  • This will also help in higher digital payments penetration, savings on closed loop card lifecycle management cost and reduced operating cost. The rich data insights may be used by operators for business intelligence leading to efficient operation.

Source:Hindu

AL NAGAH 2019

Topic: International Relations

In News: Exercise Al Nagah III, third in the series of bilateral joint exercise between India and Oman is scheduled to be held from 12 to 25 March 2019 at Jabel Al Akhdar Mountains in Oman.

More on the Topic:

  • The exercise will see both the armies exchanging expertise and experience in tactics, weapon handling and firing, with an aim to enhance interoperability in counter terrorist operations in semi urban mountainous terrain.
  • India-Oman bilateral security ties have continued to develop since the beginning of India-Oman Joint Military Cooperation meetings in 2006.
  • Exercise Al Nagah III follows the first two joint exercises that were held in Oman in January 2015 and India in March 2017 respectively.
  • Similar exercises are also in vogue between the navies and air forces of both the nations thus underscoring the growing bilateral military and strategic partnership between the two important nations of Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Source: The Hindu

Red sanders is now free of export restrictions

7

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has revised its export policy to permit the export of red sanders if it is obtained from cultivated land.

More on the Topic:

  • Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), known for its rich hue and therapeutic properties, is high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan, for use in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.
  • Though a farmer can grow the tree, he/she requires permits to fell and transport the wood, which was difficult to obtain.
  • Moreover, the price of this wood in the domestic market is less than half of what it is in the international market as the demand is low. At the same time, the farmer could not even export it earlier as the foreign trade policy prohibited it.
  • Estimates suggest that there are more than 3,000 farmers across India who were unable to sell their produce due to the earlier export policy.
  • Earlier, only seized logs from smugglers were being exported depending on state government rules. This is a great step taken by the DGFT which will benefit red sanders farmers.

About Red Sanders:

  • The tree is endemic to several districts in Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
  • But overexploitation prompted the Union government in the 1980s to recommend inclusion of red sanders in Appendix II of CITES, which says “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.
  • In 2010, when the CITES was planning to suspend trade of red sanders obtained from India, the government submitted a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) report saying it must be allowed to export from cultivated sources.
  • So in 2012, India got an export quota on red sanders from CITES, under which the country could export 310 tonnes of red sanders obtained from “artificially propagated” sources (grown on farms) and 11,806 tonnes of wood from seized sources.

Hindu

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