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Prelims Booster

5th August – Prelims Booster

Social Security Code, 2019

The Parliamentary Committee on Labour has, in its latest report, recommended that the eligibility period for gratuity payable to an employee on termination of his employment should be reduced to one year from the present provision of five years. The Committee made this recommendation in its report on Social Security Code, which has been evolved subsuming nine Central Labour laws.

Other recommendations –

  • It has also recommended that this facility be extended to all kinds of employees, including contract labourers, seasonal workers, piece rate workers, fixed term employees and daily/monthly wage workers.
  • The committee has stressed that there should be a robust redressal mechanism in case an employer does not pay up the dues.
  • The panel has recommended that the Social Security Code should have provisions to hold the employer liable for payment of gratuity to the employees within a stipulated time frame.
  • The Committee also flagged the concern that the threshold limit of 20 or more employees for EPFO registration can be used by the employers to exclude themselves from EPFO coverage. The Committee recommended that possibilities be explored to make the EPF Act applicable to all the workers, including self-employed.
  • The panel has recommended that the social security code should empower the Central government to reduce the employee’s contribution to EPF in exceptional circumstances like disasters in terms of the Disaster Management Act, including pandemics, because this would enable the Government to provide relief to the affected persons in COVID-19 like pandemics.

About Code on Social Security, 2019 –

  • Social security refers to measures to ensure access to health care and provision of income security to workers.
  • The Code replaces nine laws related to social security, including the Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.
  • Under the Code, the central government may notify various social security schemes for the benefit of workers. These include an Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme, an Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS), and an Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) Scheme. These may provide for a provident fund, a pension fund, and an insurance scheme, respectively.  The government may also notify: (i) an Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme to provide sickness, maternity, and other benefits, (ii) gratuity to workers on completing five years of employment (or lesser than five years in certain cases such as death), (iii) maternity benefits to women employees, (iv) cess for welfare of building and construction workers, and (v) compensation to employees and their dependants in the case of occupational injury or disease.
  • In addition, the central or state government may notify specific schemes for gig workers, platform workers, and unorganised workers to provide various benefits, such as life and disability cover. Gig workers refer to workers outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship. Platform workers are workers who access other organisations or individuals using online platforms and earn money by providing them with specific services. Unorganised workers include home-based and self-employed workers.
  • The Code provides for the establishment of several bodies to administer the social security schemes.
  • The appropriate government may appoint Inspector-cum-facilitators to inspect establishments covered by the Code, and advise employers and employees on compliance with the Code.
  • The Code specifies penalties for various offences, such as: (i) the failure by an employer to pay contributions under the Code after deducting the employee’s share, punishable with imprisonment between one and three years, and fine of one lakh rupees, and (ii) falsification of reports, punishable with imprisonment of up to six months.

SpaceX Demo-2 Mission

Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth recently in their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to finish an unprecedented test flight by SpaceX company.

What is the mission?

  • The Demo-2 mission was part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and saw astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The craft lifted off from a Falcon 9 rocket, from Florida.
  • NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to facilitate the development of US human spaceflight systems since 2010, with the aim of developing reliable and cost-effective access to and from the ISS.

Objective of the mission –

  • The main objective of this program was to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
  • Secondly, by encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.

Time Capsule

Ahead of the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, claims and denials have emerged about plans by the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust to put in a time capsule, or ‘kaal patra’.

While Trust member Kameshwar Chaupal said the “capsule would carry a message about Ayodhya, Lord Ram and his birthplace and it will be preserved so as to last thousands of years”, the Trust’s general secretary Champat Rai has dismissed reports of a time capsule being installed on August 5.

What is a ‘time capsule’?

  • It is a container of any size or shape, which accommodates documents, photos and artefacts typical of the current era and is buried underground, for future generations to unearth.
  • The time capsule requires special engineering so that the contents don’t decay, even if pulled out after a century. Material such as aluminium and stainless steel are used for the encasing, and documents are often reproduced on acid-free paper.
  • While the term “time capsule” was coined in the 20th century, among the earliest examples of one dates back to 1777, found by historians inside the statue of Jesus Christ in a church in Spain during restoration work in December 2017.
  • The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), based in the US and formed in 1990, is now defunct but continues estimating the number of time capsules in the world. As per its database, there are “10,000-15,000 times capsules worldwide”.

Are there any time capsules in India?

  • There have been a number of prominent examples. One time capsule, outside the Red Fort and placed underground in 1972 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was dug out by the subsequent government.
  • Other time capsules are at a school in Mumbai, IIT-Kanpur, Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, and Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.
  • The Red Fort time capsule was supposed to be dug out after 1,000 years. These were huge, cylindrical shaped cases made of metal which could endure the test of time. Inside, there were written records, data and artefacts. In 1977, when the Janata Party came in to power, they dug out the time capsule. Controversy – The apprehension was that only those aspects of India’s history which are related to her or her family were being preserved in the time capsule. There was a lot of opposition to this inside Parliament and outside it too. She was accused of only preserving the contribution of her family in the Freedom Movement, in post-Independence India, and in nation building.

Geopolitics of TikTok

Since India’s announcement banning TikTok and other Chinese apps in June, there has been talk of similar actions by the US. US President Donald Trump is doing one better than India. Like Delhi, Washington too is citing national security concerns about the widespread use of Chinese apps.

What is the US planning to do?

Rather than simply ban TikTok, Washington is “persuading” ByteDance, the Chinese internet company that owns TikTok, to hand over its business to the US technology giant, Microsoft.

What does it say about the US-China relationship?

C Raja Mohan has observed the following out of this move –

  • The ‘deep state’ in Washington appears to have made up its mind on the urgency of coping with the Chinese digital threats.
  • The new American consensus appears to be in sync with India’s own recent turn towards decoupling from China and the plan to rearrange its digital engagement with the world within a framework of trusted political partnerships.
  • Although total digital decoupling between US and China might take a long time, if it happens at all, new rules are emerging to define terms of engagement. Many in Washington are now convinced that it was a terrible mistake for the US to have believed that global trade and technology flows after the Cold War were geopolitically neutral.

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