Tackling workplace harassment UPSC | Livemint

Introduction –
Workplace sexual harassment is an important issue that deserves more than the intermittent attention it receives when high-profile cases are in the news. This is particularly true in India where legal protection for victims was lacking in statutory cover until a few years ago. Some progress has been made since then—but there is still a considerable distance to go.
Background –
India’s response to workplace sexual harassment rests on two pillars –

  • The first is guidelines issued by the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in 2012. These guidelines mandate that listed companies must file a Business Responsibility Report annually that lists details of the sexual harassment complaints the company has received.
  • The second is the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The Supreme Court-issued Vishaka Guidelines in 1997 that outlined procedural guidelines to be followed by establishments where a case of sexual harassment had occurred. The latter was finally put in place a decade and a half later with the Act, which drew heavily upon the Guidelines.

Reviewing the 2013 Act –
There is a sharp rise in the number of complaints (since 2013) which indicates that cases that would have been overlooked earlier are now being reported. That, in turn, shows that companies are making some progress when it comes to putting Act-mandated processes and frameworks in place.
Issues –

  • The Act mandates that employers must constitute a four-member internal complaints committee (ICC) in any branch or office that employs more than 10 people of any gender. The ICC must include a member of a non-governmental organization working for women’s causes—something that may not always be easy due to a paucity of such organizations and individuals.
  • The Act also lays the onus for sensitizing employees to sexual harassment issues, and creating awareness of redressal mechanisms, on employers. By all accounts, this has been observed more in the breach.
  • When it comes to implementation and accountability of SEBI guidelines, the preponderance of small and medium enterprises—not to mention the size of the informal sector—creates a conundrum. Women in domestic and informal sector have little recourse to institutionalized redressal mechanisms.

Solutions –

  • State governments should take on the responsibility of enforcing implementation.
  • The Act’s provision that complainants dissatisfied with the ICC’S recommendations can approach the courts is of little practical use in light of delays in judicial process and the harassment women continue to face at the hands of the police in filing such complaints.
  • The single best solution to harassment is greater gender diversity at the workplace—an area where India lags conspicuously. How this can best be achieved—improving pipelines is always preferable to hiring quotas—is an important debate.

Conclusion –
Tackling workplace sexual harassment is an ethical imperative; such harassment infringes on an individual’s right to freedom of profession and occupation and undercuts the ideals of a modern democracy. And it is an economic imperative; getting and retaining more women, who are disproportionately targets of harassment, in the workforce has the potential to be a major growth driver. The Act is a beginning—but currently, only that.

RTE and No Detention Policy | Livemint

Introduction –

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or the Right to Education Act (RTE and no detention) was supposed to drive India’s big leap in social development. Recently, the Government had decided to scrap one of its most controversial features, the no-detention policy (NDP.

No-detention Policy (NDP) –

The NDP was interpreted as a call for all students to be automatically promoted to the next class, without having to take any examinations until class VIII.

Analysing NDP –

The latest edition of the well-regarded “Annual Status of Education Report” (ASER), which measures overall learning levels, has found, yet again, that learning outcomes remain below par.

Less than 48% of children in class V can read a class Ii-level textbook; only 43.2% of class VIII students in rural India can do simple divisions; only one out of every four students in class V could read an English sentence.

The NDP has also been found to be faulty by the comptroller and auditor general as well as the Central Advisory Board of Education.

More than 20 states and union territories have asked for the policy to be either scrapped or modified.

Arguments in favour of NDP –

Supporters of the NDP argue that the policy—successfully deployed in countries known for their high-quality education systems, such as Finland and Japan—wasn’t properly implemented in India.

NDP cheerleaders also claim that the objective of the policy was to keep students in school and prevent dropouts—and in that, it has succeeded.

What went wrong with NDP?

The NDP was supposed to be part of the larger continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) effort which replaced the annual examination system. The CCE, however, was stillborn—at least in part because teachers were never really trained in how to implement the new methods of evaluation and interpreted the policy as one that required no assessment at all.

Criticism of RTE and No Detention –

The Act makes it compulsory for schools to reserve 25% of seats for poor students, mandates a high teacher-student ratio, enumerates expensive standards for school buildings and infrastructure, defines working days and teacher hours, etc., but doesn’t offer any benchmarks for learning outcomes or link teacher assessment to student performance.

Many schools have been shuttered since they could no longer afford the RTE requirements.

Enrolment rates were high and improving even before RTE and no detention, thanks to much older schemes such as the mid-day meal scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

Conclusion –

In other words, the RTE and no detention has resulted in shutting down those schools that students wanted to attend while giving preferential treatment to those that they didn’t care for. It has, on the whole, promoted an education system that focuses on just about everything else but education.

Test and Treat Policy for HIV patients | PIB

The Government has launched the ‘Test and Treat Policy for HIV patients’ in April 2017. As per this policy all people living with HIV (PLHIV) are to be treated with Antiretro Viral Therapy regardless of CD4 count, clinical stage, age or population. The National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and STI 2017-2024 has been approved in June 2017.
Details –

  • Accelerating HIV prevention in key population and ‘at risk group’.
  • Expanding quality assured HIV testing with universal access to comprehensive HIV care.
  • Elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
  • Addressing the critical enablers in HIV programming.
  • Restructuring the strategic information system to be efficient and patient-centric.

Facts and figures –

  • As per HIV estimation 2015, India is estimated to have 21 lakhs people infected with HIV and 15.2 lakhs PLHIV know their HIV status through the strategy of scaling up of HIV counselling & testing services in 23,019 health facilities.
  • A total of 536 Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) centres are providing ART treatment across the country.
  • The National Guidelines on HIV Counselling & Testing Services (revised in Dec 2016) include the HIV screening through trained ancillary health care provider in community based setting for priority population including High Risk Groups, TB suspect & patients, STI/RTI attendees, sexual partners/ spouses of PLHIV, prison inmates, pregnant women, adolescent age group etc.

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Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) | PIB

Introduction –
As per latest data, IMR has reduced by 58% in India during the period of 1990-2015 which is more than to Global decline of 49% during the same period. The full immunization coverage also improved from 43.5% in 2005 to 62.0% in 2015 and mortality due to Tuberculosis has reduced from 76 per 1,00,000 in 1990 to 32 per 1,00,000 in 2015.
Steps taken to combat IMR and increasing vaccine coverage under National Health Mission –

  • Promotion of Institutional deliveries through cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) which entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions to absolutely free ante-natal check-ups, delivery including Caesarean section, post-natal care and treatment of sick infants till one year of age.
  • Strengthening of delivery points for providing comprehensive and quality Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) Services.
  • Newborn Stabilization Units (NBSU) and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units for care of sick and small babies.
  • Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for first six months and appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices are promoted in convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) is being supported to provide vaccination to children against many life threatening diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Measles.
  • Name based tracking of mothers and children till two years of age (Mother and Child Tracking System) is done to ensure complete antenatal, intranatal, postnatal care and complete immunization as per schedule.
  • Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) for health screening, early detection of birth defects, diseases, deficiencies, development delays including disability and early intervention services has been Operationalized to provide comprehensive care to all the children in the age group of 0-18 years in the community.
  • Iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation is being done for the prevention of anaemia among the vulnerable age groups, home visits by ASHAs to promote exclusive breast feeding and promote use of ORS and Zinc for management of diarrhoea in children.
  • Capacity building of health care providers – Various trainings are being conducted under National Health Mission (NHM) to build and upgrade the skills of health care providers in basic and comprehensive obstetric care of mother during pregnancy, delivery and essential newborn care.
  • Low performing districts have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs) which entitles them to receive high per capita funding, relaxed norms, enhanced monitoring and focused supportive supervisions and encouragement to adopt innovative approaches to address their peculiar health challenges.

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Mission Parivar Vikas

Mission Parivar Vikas is a new family planning initiative launched on World Population Day.

Mission Parivar Vikas  | Details

  • Mission ParivarVikas will focus on 146 high fertility districts in 7 states with high TFR. Under this, specific targeted initiatives shall be taken for population stabilisation through better services delivery.
  • Mission ParivarVikas is a new initiative conceived by the Ministry with a strategic focus on improving access through provision of services, promotional schemes, commodity security, capacity building, enabling environment and intensive monitoring.
  • The Governmenthas enhanced the basket of contraceptive choices to meet the changing needs of people and have taken steps to ensure quality assured services and commodities are delivered to the last-mile consumers in both rural and urban areas.
  • Also launched was a new injectable in the public health system under the “Antara” program and a new software – Family Planning Logistics Management Information System (FP-LMIS) – designed to provide robust information on the demand and distribution of contraceptives to health facilities and ASHAs to strengthen supply chain management. 
  • The Health Minister also launched a new consumer friendly website on family planning and a 52-week radio show for couples to discuss issues related to marriage and family planning, which will be aired across the country.
  • The Health Minister further highlighted the life cycle approach of the Ministry and stated that a continuum of care approach has been adopted by the Ministry with the articulation of ‘Strategic approach to Reproductive Maternal, New-born, Child and Adolescent health (RMNCH+A), bringing focus on all the life stages.

Mission Parivar Vikas  | Conclusion

The population dynamics have a significant influence on sustainable development. The changes in population growth rates and age structures are closely linked to national and global developmental challenges and their solutions. The issue of population stabilization is so gigantic in its proportion that the government alone cannot address the issue and thus the collective involvement of NGOs, private sector and corporate sector shall play a pivotal role.

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Boost To Transform Domestic Nuclear Industry

In a significant decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power program, and give a push to country’s nuclear industry, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)The total installed capacity of the Plants will be 7000 MW. The 10 PHWR project will result in a significant augmentation of nuclear power generation capacity.

Focus – Cabinet approves construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)

Analysis

  • India has current installed nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW from 22 operational plants.
  • Another 6700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come on-stream by 2021-22 through projects presently under construction.
  • In a first of its kind project for India’s nuclear power sector, the ten new units will come up in the fleet mode as a fully home-grown initiative. It would be one of the flagship “Make in India” projects in this sector.

Significance

  • With likely manufacturing orders of close to 70,000 crores to the domestic industry, the project will help transform Indian nuclear industry by linking our goal of a strong nuclear power sector with our indigenous industrial capacities in high-end technologies.
  • This Project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximize cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution. It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step towards strengthening India’s credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse.
  • The ten reactors will be part of India’s latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet with state-of-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety.
  • The approval also marks a statement of strong belief in the capability of India’s scientific community to build our technological capacities. The design and development of this project is a testament to the rapid advances achieved by India’s nuclear scientific community and industry. It underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India’s record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly forty years is globally acclaimed.  
  • The Cabinet’s decision reflects the Government’s commitment to prioritize the use of clean power in India’s energy mix, as part of low-carbon growth strategy and to ensure long-term base load requirement for the nation’s industrialization.
  • It also supports India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change.

SOP on Rehabilitation of Children

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has developed a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for rehabilitation of children in conflict with law under the Juvenile Justice System.

About | SOP on Rehabilitation of Children

  • The said SOP aims to emphasise the cause of rehabilitation and social reintegration by providing for types of institutional care, after care services, foster care and sponsorship to such children.
  • The SOP is based on the principles of presumptive innocence and best interest of the child. 

Objectives |SOP on Rehabilitation of Children

  • The objective of the SOP is to reduce incarceration while protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
  • The SOP promotes rehabilitation that involves families and communities as a safer, more appropriate and effective approach than punitive measures.
  • The SOP has been designed to be a useful guide for stakeholders while dealing with children in conflict with law such as functionaries of child care institutions, Juvenile Justice Boards/ Children’s Courts, National and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, State/UT Governments and Police etc.

Stakeholders |SOP on Rehabilitation of Children 

  • The Ministry adopted a consultative process in developing the SOP by engaging with experts and advocates on issues of child rights and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • It was also placed on the website of the Ministry of WCD for seeking comments from various stakeholders.    

Significance |SOP on Rehabilitation of Children

The SOP will help to provide possibilities and opportunities to children in conflict with law to reintegrate in the society.

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Vijayawada International Airport | PIB Summary

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for the declaration of Vijayawada Airport as Vijayawada International Airport, as per the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.

Vijayawada International Airport | Significance

The proposal will add to improved connectivity to the State capital. It will provide wider choice of services at competitive costs to the air-travellers and give a boost to domestic/international tourism and socio-economic development of Andhra Pradesh by bringing in international passengers and cargo traffic.

Vijayawada International Airport | Background

  • Declaration of an airport as International Airport depends upon traffic potential and demand from airlines for operation of international flights.
  • Further, availability of Ground Lighting Facilities, Instrument Landing System for operation of aircrafts at night, adequate runway length to cater to medium capacity long-range aircraft or equivalent type of aircraft, availability of Customs, Immigration, Health and Animal & Plant Quarantine Services are also required for international operations.
  • The declaration of Vijayawada Airport as International has been taken up in accordance with the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 and keeping in view the passenger traffic growth, demands from airlines and Andhra Pradesh Government. Airports Authority of India has undertaken upgradation of requisite infrastructure and facilities for international operations.

Two New Circuits Added To Maharaja Express | PIB Summary

The Indian Railway PSU, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) has decided to start two new circuits of their flagship luxury train Maharaja Express, this year.

Maharaja Express | About the new circuits

  • These two new trips have been named as “Southern Sojournand “Southern Jewels” which will cover prominent destinations in West and South India.
  • The Southern Sojourn will cover Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Ernakulam, Kumarakom and Trivandrum. The Southern Jewels will cover Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa.
  • The Southern Sojourn – Monsoon Special shall start from Mumbai on 24th June 2017 & stop at Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Cochin, Alleppey before terminating at Trivandrum.
  • The Southern Jewels – Monsoon Special shall depart from Trivandrum on 1st July 2017 and terminate at Mumbai covering Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa. Each journey shall be of 8 Days/7 Nights duration.

Background of Maharaja Express

Maharajas’ Express commenced its operations in 2010, and since then the train has become the Leading Luxury Train of the World with comparisons to the Royal Scotsman and the Eastern and Oriental Express. The train is the recipient of the coveted Leading Luxury Train of the World Award for the last five years in a row since 2012.

Features of Maharaja Express

The 23 coach long Maharajas’ Express, with a capacity of 88 guests, is a cut above other luxury trains in each aspect – the cabin experience, on-board dining, the excursions and events organized for guests. The train has state of the art features with on-board water filtration plant, spacious cabin sizes with no bunk beds, two bars cum lounges, two restaurants and of course a well-trained on-board team to cater to global expectations.

“One IP- Two Dispensaries” And “Aadhaar Based Online Claim Submission” Schemes

Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya launched two schemes “One IP- Two Dispensaries” and “Aadhaar based Online Claim Submission” on the occasion of International Labour Day today.

One IP – Two Dispensaries scheme

  • ESIC has given an option to an Insured Person (IP) to choose two dispensaries, one for self and another for family through an employer. This will benefit all IPs, especially migrant workers who are working in other than home State, while their families are living in their native States.
  • Because of non-availability of option of second dispensary, the dependant members of family are often deprived of medical benefits. By introducing the concept of ‘One IP- Two Dispensaries’, IP as well as their family members would now be able to get treatment from either of the dispensaries and in case of emergency from any ESI Institution.
  • As of now, around 3 crores IPs are covered under ESIC and total number of beneficiaries i.e. IPsand their family members is over 12 crores.

Aadhar based Online Claim Submission Scheme

  • Under Aadhaar based Online Claim Submission scheme all EPF Members who have activated their UAN and seeded their KYC (Aadhaar) with EPFO will be able to apply for PF final settlement (form19), Pension withdrawal benefit (Form10-C) and PF part withdrawal (Form31) from the their UAN Interface directly.
  • The three forms collectively form more than 80% of EPFO’s claim workload.
  • Members can complete the whole process online and they neither need to interact with the employer nor with the EPFO field office to submit online claim.
  • They are not required to give any supporting document while preferring online PF part withdrawal case. Member’s applying online will be taken as his self-declaration for preferring the advance claim.

Other measures taken by Labour Ministry

  • Government has recognised the importance of labour and the contribution of workers and is dedicated to their welfare. It is ensuring job security, wage security and social security to them.
  • Government is trying to provide social security to the workers of unorganised sector also. The recently launched scheme ‘SPREE’ by ESIC the new accounts of 77 lakh individuals and 66 thousand establishments have been opened and EPFO has also added around 50 lakhs new accounts in its recently launch scheme. 34 million registrations have already been done on National Career Service (NCS) Portal.

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