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.

Ajeevika Grameen Express Yojana UPSC | PIB

The Government of India has decided to launch a new sub-scheme named “Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana (AGEY)” as part of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM).

Significance –

The Self Help Groups under DAY-NRLM will operate road transport service in backward areas. This will help to provide safe, affordable and community monitored rural transport services to connect remote villages with key services and amenities (such as access to markets, education and health) for the overall economic development of backward rural areas.

This will also provide an additional avenue of livelihood for SHGs.

The Community Investment Fund (CIF) provided to Community Based Organization (CBOs) under DAY-NRLM will be utilized to support the SHG members in this new livelihoods initiative.

The beneficiary SHG member will be provided an interest free loan by the CBO from its Community Investment Fund up to Rs.6.50 lakh for purchase of the vehicle. Alternative, CBO will own the vehicle and lease it to an SHG member to operate the vehicle and pay lease rental to the CBO.

Details –

  • Ajeevika Grameen Express Yojana will be initially implemented in 250 Blocks in the country on pilot basis with each Block provided up to 6 vehicles to operate the transport services.
  • The Blocks will be selected by States from among the Blocks where NRLM is being implemented intensively and where mature CBOs are already functioning. Backwardness, lack of transportation links and sustainability of service would be the guiding factors in the selection of Blocks and routes.
  • The State Rural Livelihood Missions (SRLMs) will do a feasibility study and traffic survey in the selected blocks to identity the routes and the number and capacity of vehicles which can be operated on sustainable basis
  • The SRLMs will be co-ordinating with State Transport Department for issue of permit for the vehicle.
  • The SHG member shall run the vehicle on approved routes at pre-determined frequency as jointly agreed between the CBO and the SHG operator based on financial viability and the need for transport link.
  • All vehicles under the scheme shall have a defined colour code and carry Ajeevika Grameen Express Yojana branding to ensure their identity and avoid diversion to other routes.
  • The State Rural Livelihood Mission will arrange capacity building for their staff at State, District and Block levels for operating the Scheme.

Labour Reforms UPSC | PIB

The Ministry of Labour and Employment has taken a number of legislative initiatives in labour reforms laws during the last 3 years.

Such initiatives include –

Amendment to the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 by which   eligibility limit for payment of bonus enhanced from Rs 10,000/- to Rs. 21,000/- per month and the Calculation Ceiling from Rs. 3,500/- to Rs. 7,000/- or the minimum wages.

Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act, 2017 enabling payment of Wages to employees by Cash or Cheque or crediting it to their bank account.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 provides for complete ban on employment of children below 14 years in any occupation or process.

Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, increases the paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

The Employee Compensation (Amendment) Act, seeks to rationalize penalties and strengthen the rights of the workers under the Act.

Ministry has notified “Ease of Compliance to maintain Registers under various Labour Laws Rules, 2017” on 21st February 2017 which has in effect replaced the 56 Registers/Forms under 9 Central Labour Reforms Laws and Rules made there under in to 5 common Registers/Forms. This will save efforts, costs and lessen the compliance burden by various establishments.

A Model Shops and Establishments (RE&CS) Bill, 2016 has been circulated to all States/UTs for adoption with appropriate modification. The said Bill inter alia provides for freedom to operate an Establishment for 365 days in a year without any restriction on opening/closing time and enables employment of women during night shifts if adequate safety provisions exist.

A category i.e. Fixed Term Employment has been introduced under Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 to impart flexibility to an establishment to employ people in case of Apparel Manufacturing Sector to meet the fluctuating demands of the sector due to its seasonal nature.

Conclusion –

These legislative initiatives are expected to not only facilitate effective enforcement but also enhance wage security, job security, social security and safety, health and working conditions for workers.

Labour Reforms is an important topic, and the aspirants are advised to keep noting down the points that they find. A question from Labour Reforms can appear in Prelims as well as Mains.

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.

For More info keep visiting Raj Malhotra IAS Study Group

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.

For more information keep visiting Raj Malhotra IAS Academy Chandigarh

Regulating Online Pharmacy Business

A sub-committee had been constituted by the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) to examine issues relating to Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs. The Sub-Committee has submitted its report to the Drugs Consultative Committee.

The Sub-Committee has inter alia recommended

  • Creation of a National Portal to act as the nodal platform for transacting and monitoring Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs.
  • Necessity of evolving a mechanism to register e-pharmacies. 
  • Geographical restrictions for operation of e-pharmacies.
  • Existing licensees involved in retail sale of drugs could also register on the National Portal for carrying out online sale of drugs.
  • Requirement of registration with CDSCO under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. 
  • Certain categories of drugs viz. the Narcotic and Psychotropic drugs, tranquilizers, habit forming drugs and Schedule X drugs that are prone to being abused or misused be excluded from sale through e-pharmacies. 

Analysis

  • Online pharmacies laws in India are still in nascent stage and there are no dedicated online pharmacy laws in India. The Information Technology Act 2000 governs some of the legal issues pertaining to online dealings but it is silent on the aspect of online pharmacy. As a result, illegal online pharmacies have been increasing in India. If properly regulated, Online pharmacies in India could prove beneficial to various stakeholders.
  • The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, have guidelines on the sale of Schedule H and Schedule X drugs. These can be sold only on prescription and there are specific rules, including for labelling. As most of the online pharmacies in India are not complying with Indian laws and the laws of other jurisdictions, they have been facing regulatory sanctions.

Conclusion

The Government has issued a notice seeking public comments on regulation of sale of drugs including introduction of an electronic platform for regulation of sale of drugs in the country.

Defence Agreements With Russia

Details of Defence Agreements signed with Russia over the past five years is as under

  • Defence Agreements for training of Indian armed forces personnel in the military educational establishments of the Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation. (Date of signing 11.12.2014).
  • Agreement between the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation on cooperation in Aircraft flight safety. (Date of signing 21.01.2015).
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of Helicopter Engineering. (Date of signing 24.12.2015).
  • Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of India on supply of S-400 Triumph Air Defence Missile systems to the Republic of India. (Date of signing 15.10.2016).
  • Defence Agreements between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of India for construction of follow-on-ships of project 11356 in Russia and in India (Date of signing 15.10.2016).

India-Russia defence relations

India and Russia have several major joint military programmes including –

  • BrahMos cruise missile programme
  • 5th generation fighter jet programme
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme (230+ to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics)
  • Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft

Additionally, India has purchased/leased various military hardware from Russia 

  • S-400 Triumf 12.
  • Kamov Ka-226 200 to be made in India under the Make in India initiative.
  • T-90S Bhishma with over 1000 to be built in India.
  • Akula-II nuclear submarine (2 to be leased with an option to buy when the lease expires).
  • INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier programme.
  • Tu-22M3 bombers (4 ordered).
  • US$900 million upgrade of MiG-29.
  • Mil Mi-17 (80 ordered) more in Service.
  • Ilyushin Il-76 Candid (6 ordered to fit Israeli Phalcon radar).
  • The Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan is currently jointly operated by Indian Air Force and Tajikistan Air Force.

Defence Agreements | Conclusion

The Government makes all efforts to encourage greater manufacturing of defence equipment in India through the ‘Make in India’ framework, including through transfer of technology arrangements.  Several licensed production agreements have been implemented with Russian companies in India, such as for Sukhoi-30 aircraft, T-90 tanks, BMP-2 armoured personnel carriers etc. Divulging the texts of such Agreements will not be in the interest of national security.

Doklam Standoff – India China Border

Doklam StandoffDoklam Standoff near Bhutan between India and China is becoming a major concern, near the Chumbi Valley at the corner of India-China-Bhutan tri-junction. This month long border Doklam Standoff has become the longest ever between the two nations. This is also the first time when Indian troops have confronted the People’s Liberation Army of China on the soil of a third country i.e. Bhutan. There are two reasons for this standoff – India has a long standing commitment to Bhutan’s defence and serves as a virtual security guarantor to Bhutan through the 2007 friendship treaty. Secondly, the Doklam sector is critical to India as it brings China even closer to the Indian border in a vulnerable location towards the 27-kilometres long Siliguri Corridor or “Chicken’s neck” that connects the Northeastern states of India with the rest of India. China has repeatedly disputed Bhutan’s claims over Doklam. Beijing considers this plateau as vital to fortify the dagger-shaped Chumbi valley by piercing the tri-junction.

Doklam Standoff | History

Intrusions in Sikkim area may be new but there is a general pattern of such incursions are traced back to 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Ladakh and other places, the Chinese troops have been repeatedly working towards ingression in such areas. In 2009, the Chinese refused to give visas on Indian passports for several months for citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Commander-in-Chief of the then Northern Command.Three factors started emerging in 2008 which are converging now in 2017 – the first being Pakistan’s renewed animosity against India which was earlier demonstrated during the Mumbai attacks, the second was the street rage which was demonstrated within the Kashmir valley, and the last being China’s attempts to stymie India’s growth trajectory while it still can do it in the long term.

Actually, the border dispute in the region dates back to the 19th century when the states in the region were expanding in the areas which were loose in nature – North East Frontier Agency, North West Frontier Agency by the British Empire, and the Qing dynasty under the warlordswas expanding the Empire in Tibet and Sichuan. The 1890 treaty was signed between the British Empire and the Qing dynasty in China, 1914 Shimla Agreement between the British Empire, the Tibetans and the nationalist China are the two agreements being cited by China to stake legal claims over the region. The treaty of 1890 was signed but the delineation and demarcation did not happen subsequently, specifically in the Sikkim sector. In the 1914 Shimla Agreement, China was represented by Ivan Chen, LonchenShatra represented Tibet and McMahon represented the British-India Empire, yet this agreement is labelled as Imperialist in nature by the Chinese authorities. They have ignored the 1885 Treaty between France-controlled Vietnam and the Qing dynasty at the time. Therefore, selectively implementing treaties according to their own convenience is the issue at hand with China.

It is being said that one of the objectives of China is to test India’s resolve to defend its ally Bhutan in the case of a border dispute turning into a war. This current Doklam Standoff around the tri-junction of India-China-Bhutan border is an extension to the policy of encirclement being pursued by the Chinese around India. India has spent too much time on the ‘principles of Panchsheel in dealing with an aggressive state like China, the current standoff between the two neighbours at a strategic territory is a reflection of the change in this decades old approach by India towards China.

The May 2015 ‘White Paper on National Defence’ by China talks about Chinese armed forces protecting China’s interests abroad. In November 2014, President Xi Jinping addressed the fourth Foreign Affairs Work Conference and mentioned that the foreign ministry has to protect the interests of China abroad. Hence, the Foreign Ministry and the military is now showcasing a synchronised effort to secure their strategic interests at the Tibet region. China has adopted a strategy of legal, media and psychological warfare which was initiated in 2005. China is playing a psychological warfare through its state controlled media, cash-controlled global think tanks and tactical strategies by the PLA troops on the ground to aggravate India to enter into a war. It is using legal strategies to point out that India is entering a third-country i.e. Bhutan, forgetting for the moment that the Chinese entered the Korean war in the 1950s.

Doklam Standoff | Present

China can roughly mobilise about 28-30 divisions in all in the case of a conventional war which includes mobilisation of around 5 divisions in the Sikkim-Bhutan sector, 8 in the Arunachal sector, about 3 divisions in Barahoti (middle sector of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and roughly about 14 divisions in the Western sector. These divisions would be mobilised through the narrow passages because of the high Tibetan plateau region that makes it easier for the Chinese to push through such forts. Currently, China possesses around 62-63 division in the PLA, out of which they would have to muster around half of the strength towards India which is actually difficult for them, considering the volatile situation in China’s other long boundaries with other hostile nations. In the Sikkim-Bhutan sector, the Chinese face geographical issues because India is at the high ground over the hills, so the casualties can roughly be regarded as 33,000 on the other side. Hence, the Chinese would take a backseat in the conventional warfront. At the sub-conventional level, it is quite possible that the 158 monasteries that India has in the trans-Himalayan belt will come under stress due to the current standoff between India and China. Therefore, India needs to worry more about the sub-conventional warfare techniques of China, more than the conventional warfare strategies because it is untenable for China to go for it.

India is successfully holding to all the semantics played by China and the Government is responding to such semantics with appropriate responses at the most opportune times. As rightly pointed out by the India’s Defence Minister ArunJaitley,

“India is not the same as that of 1962.”

SASEC Road Connectivity Programme | PIB Summary

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for upgradation and widening of 65 kms of Imphal-Moreh Section of NH-39 in Manipur at a cost of Rs. 1630.29 crores.

SASEC  | Details

  • Manipur being a landlocked state with almost 90% of the area under difficult terrain presently has only road transport as a means of mass transport system within the state. Hence development of the road infrastructure is of paramount importance to improve connectivity and progress of the State and to ensure that the administrative set up reaches the isolated and remote habitats.
  • The project will improve connectivity between Imphal with the eastern part of the state. Based on the existing and projected traffic requirements the NH-39 will be widened to 4 lane between Lilong village and Wanginj village, while the stretch between Wanginj village to Khongkhang will be upgraded to 2 lane with paved shoulder.

SASEC  | Financing of the project

The project is being developed with ADB’s loan assistance under the South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Program which aims at upgradation of road infrastructure in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN) in order to improve the regional connectivity among BBIN nations.

SASEC  | Significance

  • The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce and tourism in the region will get a boost.
  • The workers of Manipur who specialize in creating bamboo and wood based handicraft items and uniquely designed hand woven textile items will get a new market among the Myanmar’s customers.
  • Small scale industries such as those making farm implements and tools, stationery, plastic extrusion items, carpentry units, could also develop markets beyond the border.
  • Besides socio-economic development the project will also lead to reduction in average travel time along the project road by nearly 40%.
  • In addition, the new features of road safety namely vehicular underpasses, crash barriers, road signs & markings, service roads for segregation of slow and high moving traffic, truck lay-by, bus-bays etc. will help in greatly reducing accidents.
  • Improved highway and lesser travel time will lead to savings in terms of fuel cost.

SASEC  | Background

For fulfilling India’s “Look East” Policy and to promote and enhance trade link with South East Asia, the Government of India has notified an Integrated Custom Post (ICP) at Moreh. The development of this project is essential in order to support the increased traffic volume due to coming up of ICP.

For more information keep visiting Raj Malhotra IAS Academy