IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 8th March 2019
Cabinet Okays ECHS facilities for veterans
Part of: GS Mains II – Social/Welfare issue;
- The Cabinet approved the grant of Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) facilities to Second World War veterans, Emergency Commissioned Officers, Short Service Commissioned Officers and premature retirees.
- This would benefit over 43,000 individuals who were so far not covered under the ECHS.
About ECHS facility:
- The facility allows them to get cashless medical treatment through a network of over 425 ECHS polyclinics, 2,500 empanelled private hospitals and all government hospitals throughout the country, subject to certain conditions.
- Also, as a special dispensation, war-widows will be exempt from one-time contribution to join the ECHS.
- Launched by the NDA government in April 2003, the facility provides quality medicare to 54 lakh ex-servicemen pensioners, their dependants and a few other categories.
Funding period extended to boost regional air connectivity
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Infrastructure; Government schemes and programmes
- The Union Cabinet gave its approval for extending the “time and scope” of financial support of ₹4,500 crore to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the revival of small airports for the regional connectivity scheme (RCS).
- The need to seek these extensions was felt because the duration of the RCS programme according to the scheme document is 10 years.
- The scheme was launched in March 2017 after the first set of RCS routes were awarded.
- The AAI has developed 38 unfrequented and less frequented airports since the launch of the scheme in March 2017.
- As many as 750 routes have been awarded for connecting 77 un-served airports, 21 under-served airports, ten waterdromes and 31 helipads.
Important Value Additions:
Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik)
- The Civil Aviation Ministry launched Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) in 2017.
- UDAN is an innovative scheme to develop the regional aviation market. It is a market-based mechanism in which airlines bid for seat subsidies.
- This first-of-its-kind scheme globally will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns.
About the Scheme:
- The UDAN scheme seeks to provide connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports.
- This first-of-its-kind scheme will ensure affordability, connectivity, growth and development.
- It aims to increase ticketing volume from 80 million to 300 million by 2022.
- Under it regional connectivity will be developed on market-based mechanism under which Airlines will bid for seat subsidies.
- It will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns.
- Under it, airlines will have complete freedom to enter into code sharing with larger airlines for connectivity and they will be exempted from various airport charges.
- Airlines will have exclusive rights for three years to fly on a particular regional route.
- On these routes for regional flights Airfares will be capped at 2500 rupees for an hour’s flight.
- Central and State governments and airport operators will provide a financial stimulus in the form of concessions to airlines
- The mechanism of Viability Gap Funding (VGF) will be provided to interested airlines to kick-off operations from such airports so that the passenger fares are kept affordable
- Government will provide subsidy to airlines for first three years of operations when they will have exclusive flying rights on the selected routes.
- Once the market in these routes gets jump started, it will operate on a commercial basis as per market forces of supply and demand.
Cane growers get a sweet deal
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Social/welfare issue; Farmer’s issue; Indian Economy and development
- In a bid to boost sugar mills’ ethanol-production capacity and help them pay off mounting arrears to cane farmers, the Union government has approved ₹3,355 crore in incentives.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved ₹2,790 crore for bank loan interest subvention to mills, and ₹565 crore for loan interest subvention to the molasses-based standalone distilleries.
- Banks will be able to extend soft loans worth ₹15,500 crore to mills and distilleries under the scheme.
- This is likely to benefit 268 mills and create an additional 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity, according to industry estimates.
- Record harvests and sugar recovery have caused a glut in sugar production and brought the prices down.
- Cash-starved mills owe farmers more than ₹22,000 crore in arrears for the current season, with almost half the sum owed to farmers in the politically significant parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Do you know?
- India is second largest producer of sugarcane after Brazil and Sugarcane accounts for 6.0 percent of the total value of agriculture output in India. Over the years production has continuously increased. However, sugarcane farmers still face many problems.
- Sugarcane farmers in India are facing a payments crisis running into thousands of crores.
- Emergence of alternative sweeteners replacing sugar and increasing health consciousness, slowdown in the pace of demand growth while continuous increase in overall production (crossed 30 million tonnes in recent years) has led to demand-supply mismatch.
- While sugarcane is procured at minimum prices declared by Government (Fair and Remunerative Price- Central Government, State Advised Price- State Government), market forces determine the price of sugar. Demand-Supply mismatch has caused fall in sugar prices which makes it difficult for Sugar Mills to clear payments of farmers.
Army to undergo major reforms
Part of: GS Mains III – Defence and Security related issues
- In a major move, Defence Minister approved the first batch of reforms in the Army
- Finalized after 12 independent studies, the reforms are intended to make the 1.3 million-strong force leaner and meaner
The reforms include –
- relocation of 229 officers from the Army headquarters
- creation of a new post of Deputy Chief for Military Operations and Strategic Planning
- setting up new wings for vigilance and human rights issues
- Restructuring the Army’s officer cadre
- Bringing down age of key commands
- Arresting rising revenue expenditure and “rightsizing” the force
Do you know?
- The number of officers being moved out was 20% of the number of officers in the Army headquarters in the national capital, and they would be deployed in forward locations along the borders with China and Pakistan.
- The post of Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, Strategy, is being created to deal with military operations, intelligence, strategic planning and operational logistics.
India, Russia sign deal on nuclear submarine
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and the world; International Relations; Defence/Security ties
- India sealed a $3-billion deal with Russia for leasing a nuclear-powered attack submarine for the Indian Navy for a period of 10 years.
- The two countries signed an inter-governmental agreement capping months of negotiations on price and other aspects of the deal.
Do you know?
- Under the pact, Russia will have to deliver the Akula class submarine, to be known as Chakra III, to the Indian Navy by 2025.
- It will be the third Russian submarine to be leased to the Navy.
New hydroelectric policy and ‘renewable energy’ status to large hydro projects
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Ecology; Renewable energy
- The Union Cabinet approved a new hydroelectric policy aimed at boosting the sector, including according large hydro projects the status of renewable energy projects.
- According to the new policy, large hydro projects will also be designated as renewable energy projects. So far, only smaller projects of less than 25 MW in capacity were categorised as renewable energy.
- With the removal of this distinction, large hydro projects will be included as a separate category under the non-solar renewable purchase obligation policy.
- Under this policy, power purchasers will have to source a portion of electricity from large hydro projects.
- The new policy had increased the debt repayment period for hydro projects to 18 years from the current 12 years with the provision to introduce an escalating tariff of 2%.
Teachers entitled to gratuity, rules SC
- In a rare move, the Supreme Court altered its judgment and said teachers were entitled to claim gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act.
- The court had earlier held that teacher is not an ’employee’ under the Payment of Gratuity Act,1972.
Person in news: Soumya Swaminathan
Why in news?
- Soumya Swaminathan is WHO chief scientist
- She will head the division created to strengthen the organisation’s core scientific work and ensure the quality and consistency of its norms and standards.
- First Indian to hold the post.
General Studies 1
- Role of women and women’s organization, women related issues, Social empowerment
General studies 2:
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Combating Sexual harassment at the workplace
March 8 – International Women’s Day
Important to achieve women empowerment and gender equality
Key issues which needs top priority –
- Sexual harassment at the workplace
- Obstacles to women’s participation at all levels of the workforce, including political representation
Sexual harassment at the workplace
- Much remains to be done in this area
- Year 2017-18 witnessed explosion of the #MeToo movement across social media
- Countless cases of unreported sexual harassment and assault were uncovered
- It led to the resignations or firing of dozens of prominent men, mostly politicians, actors and journalists.
- It also prompted a range of public and private organisations to examine the internal institutional cultures surrounding sexual harassment, gender parity, and gender equity. (including the UN)
UN strategies to deal with sexual harassment
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been a staunch supporter of women’s rights and had stated for the need for “benchmarks and time frames to achieve gender parity across the system, well before the target year of 2030”.
- In September 2017, the UN released a System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity to transform the UN’s representation of women at senior levels. (Today the UN’s Senior Management Group compromises of 23 women out of 44 top employees.)
- In response to the MeToo movement, the UN recently conducted a system-wide survey to gauge the prevalence of sexual harassment among its more than 200,000 global staff.
UN Survey pointed out that –
- Only 17% of UN staff responded and one in three UN women workers reported being sexually harassed in the past two years.
- The inter-governmental UN is affected by prevalent national cultures and UN has to find a way through contending blocs of countries that support or oppose women’s rights’ goals.
- Tracking performance on the Sustainable Development Goals will provide useful pointers for policymakers and advocates going forward.
Bringing the issue of gender inside the organisation, to reform its practices, will enable the UN to stand as an example of the rights it advocates.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- It lays down that every office in the country must have an internal complaints committee to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
- However, with thousands of offices across the country, and barely any employee trained to handle sexual harassment, the Act suffers from certain infirmities.
- Indian political parties are proposing for broader structures, such as district or regional complaints committees, to play the role of office ones. (on the lines of UN Secretariat’s single window structure for such complaints)
- However, UN Secretariat’s single window structure does not apply across the organisation, UN agencies, including the multi-institute UN University that aims to achieve gender parity at the director level by end 2019.
In India, despite a large jump in complaints recorded, convictions have not shown a proportionate rise, largely due to poor police work.
Therefore, clearly both UN and India need further research. Gender reforms begin at home, not only in the family but also in the workplace.
Connecting the dots:
- The #metoo campaign is a reflection moral decline of Indian society. Comment.
- The Verma committee report noted that an internal complaints committee as laid down under the then proposed law would be “counter-productive” as dealing with such complaints in-house could discourage women from filing complaints. Do you agree? In your opinion what measures are needed to make Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act effective?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
The imperial cabinet and an acquiescent court
In the last six months, the Supreme Court has frequently found itself in the headlines.
It handed down many landmark judgments on fundamental rights:
- Decriminalising same-sex relations and adultery
- Opening up Sabarimala to women of all ages, and
- Upheld Aadhaar (though partially)
However, some of its judgments related to Rafale and Central Bureau of Investigation were subjected to intense scrutiny, and continue to be debated.
The below article deals with – balance of power between the different organs of the state, the federal character of the Republic, and fundamental questions of democratic accountability.
We know that Constitutionalism puts limitation on the authority to check against totalitarianism tendencies by following ways:
- Fundamental rights to enjoy rights and freedom and the Independent judiciary to enforce it against the state;
- By dividing and distributing political power between state organs in order to avoid concentration of authority, and
- To ensure that these different organs act as checks and balances upon each other.
However, recent majority judgment in the Aadhaar case, which, allowed the Act to stand as a money bill (after taking out a provision allowing private party use), may undermine the Rajya Sabha’s role in the democratic process and increase the concentration of power in the hand of executive, because in future, governments wanting to bypass Rajya Sabha scrutiny on a range of important issues can simply insert a provision specifying that money for a project is to come from the Consolidated Fund.
Importance of Rajya Sabha:
- Bicameralism, in our parliamentary democracy, requires that a bill must be scrutinised and passed by both Houses of Parliament before it becomes law. The Lok Sabha represents the voice of the democratic majority.
- The Rajya Sabha represents the interests of the States, as well as perspectives free of immediate, electoral interests. The basic idea is that law-making is a balanced and deliberative process, not an exercise in pure majoritarianism.
- The crucial purpose of the Rajya Sabha is to act as a check and a balance upon the Lok Sabha, by scrutinising bills in a more deliberative and reflective manner, and raising concerns that may have been glossed over or evaded in the Lower House.
- The role of the Rajya Sabha becomes even more important when we consider a unique Indian innovation: anti-defection, which effectively undermine the intra-party democracy as individual MPs could no longer vote according to their conscience, and had to follow the diktats of the cabinet.
- With the Lower House no longer able to check the government, the only remaining legislative forum that can then do so is the Rajya Sabha.
How Passing of Aadhar Bill undermine Bicameralism Structure?
- Aadhar act is passed as a money bill and money bill takes the Rajya Sabha out of the equation, it only needs Lok Sabha approval.
- And in combination with the anti-defection law, this places absolute power in the hands of the executive, and skews the democratic process.
- Hence, its use must be restricted to the most limited of circumstances as enshrined in Constitution (Article 110) mandated that money bills be narrowly limited to those that fell exclusively within the categories set out in Article 110.
- The Aadhaar Act, which established a biometric database and set up an authority (the UIDAI) to administer it, raises question mark to passing it as a “money bill” simply because the funds for the Authority came from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- The verdict on Aadhar case, may motivate the governments, which does not enjoy majority in the upper house to bypass Rajya Sabha scrutiny on a range of important issues by simply inserting a provision specifying that money for a project is to come from the Consolidated Fund.
- In 1973, the American historian Arthur M. Schlesinger coined the term “Imperial Presidency”, to characterise the increasing concentration of power in the office of the President, at the cost of other democratic institutions (such as the U.S. Congress and the Senate).
- Over the last few decades, many scholars have noticed this drift towards the increased powers of the political executive, across liberal democracies.
- The Supreme Court’s decisions on Articles 110 (money bills) have concentrated greater power in the hands of the executive. By expanding the scope of what counts as money bills, the court has set the cabinet down the road of transforming itself into a Roman-style imperator.
Connecting the dots:
- The doctrine of separation of powers is imperative for the smooth functioning of a vibrant democracy. Substantiate.
- Separation of powers is not a possibility in Indian governance. Comment.
- The doctrines of ‘separation of power’ and ‘checks and balances’ enshrined in the Indian Constitution are dotted by contradictions. Do you agree? Substantiate by taking suitable examples.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Which of the following statements are correct regarding Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme?
- EBP is cheaper than petrol as alcohol is cheaper.
- Ethanol burns more cleanly and completely as compared to petrol.
- Calorific value of Ethanol is higher than Petrol
Select the code from following:
- 1 and 2
- 2 only
- 2 and 3
- All of the above
Q.2) In India, Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) is used for:
Q.3) Consider the following statements:
- Molasses is a by-product of sugar production process.
- Bagasse obtained in the sugar mills is used as a fuel in the boilers to generate steam for the sugar factories.
- Sugar can only be produced from sugarcane as the raw material.
Which of these statements are correct?
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
Q.4) Which of the following is the only state to sign an MoU with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India for Regional Connectivity Scheme to develop 10 districts?
Q.5) Consider the following statements about ‘INS Chakra’
- It is an Arihant class submarine
- It is a nuclear-powered submarine which was taken by India on lease from Russia
Select the correct statements
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Probing the press
Being global: on World Bank presidency
The UN test
The Lab-newsroom disconnect
After empowerment, freedom and dignity
Making the world a meaningful place
This country does not need thought control