Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes
The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes by 6 months i.e. up to 31.1.2021.
- Till date, sub-categorisation of OBCs as recommended by a few Commissions and implemented by some states has all used indicators of social backwardness as the criteria.
- The First Backward Class Commission report of 1955, also known as the Kalekar report, had proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs into backward and extremely backward communities.
- In the Mandal Commission report of 1979, a dissent note by member L R Naik proposed sub-categorisation in intermediate and depressed backward classes.
- In 2015, former National Commission for OBCs under Justice (Retd) Eswaraiah asked for sub-categorisation within OBCs into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward Classes (Group B) and Backward Classes (Group C).
- The present Commission was constituted under Article 340 of the Constitution with the approval of President on 2nd October, 2017. The Commission, headed by Justice (Retd.) Smt. G. Rohini commenced functioning on 11th October, 2017 and has since interacted with all the States/UTs which have subcategorised OBCs, and the State Backward Classes Commissions.
- The commission to examine sub-categorisation of OBCs is all set to recommend a fixed quota.
- It is possibly between 8 and 10 per cent of the 27 per cent OBC quota for about 1,900 of the 2,633 castes on the central list.
- This is the first government-mandated exercise to quantify the skewed flow of benefits among different OBC communities and suggest steps to correct the imbalance.
Need of sub-categorisation –
- Presently, half of these 1,900-odd castes have availed less than three per cent of reservation in jobs and education, and the rest availed zero benefits during the last five years.
- The central government had appointed the Commission under Justice (Retd) G Rohini in October, 2017.
- Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share.
- A/c to the Commission, the classification is based on relative benefits availed and not relative social backwardness, which involves parameters such as social status, traditional occupations, religion, etc.
- Using the quantum of benefits enjoyed by different communities to sub-categorise OBCs is a major departure from recommendations of several Commissions in the past.
National Commission for Backward Classes –
- 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provides constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
- It has the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
- Previously NCBC was a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
- The Commission consists of five members including a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other Members appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members is determined by President.
- Article 340 deals with the need to, inter alia, identify those “socially and educationally backward classes”, understand the conditions of their backwardness, and make recommendations to remove the difficulties they face. 102nd Constitution Amendment Act inserted new Articles 338 B and 342 A.
- The commission investigates and monitors all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the socially and educationally backward classes under the Constitution or under any other law to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
- It participates and advises on the socio-economic development of the socially and educationally backward classes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.
- It presents to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards. The President lays such reports before each House of Parliament.
The Union Cabinet has created Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) to provide private players to use Indian space infrastructure. This is part of reforms aimed at giving a boost to private sector participation in the entire range of space activities.
About IN-SPACe –
- Indian National Space, Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) will help private players through encouraging policies, through a regulatory environment that is friendly as well as guiding private players in space activities.
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will remain the basic body that decides what missions are to be undertaken but this new body will help fill the gaps.
- The IN-SPACe will also hand-hold, promote and guide the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.
- ’New Space India Limited (NSIL)’ would endeavour to reorient space activities from a ‘supply driven’ model to a ‘demand driven’ one, thereby ensuring optimum utilisation of the nation’s space assets.
About New Space India Limited –
- The establishment of NSIL was announced in Budget 2019.
- One of the mandates of NSIL is to mass-produce and manufacture the SSLV and the more powerful PSLV in partnership with the private sector in India through technology transfers.
- Its aim is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
- It differs from ISRO’s existing commercial arm Antrix Corporation – Antrix will handle ISRO’s commercial deals for satellites and launch vehicles with foreign customers. NSIL will deal with capacity building of local industry for space manufacturing.
How will it benefit the private sector?
- Permission to use the facilities of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will relieve companies of the burden of going overseas to test equipment, perform launches, and access geospatial data.
- Apart from access to facilities, access to the ISRO team would be invaluable for any start-up. The government has also said that the repository of geospatial data from ISRO satellites will be made available to private firms, although strict guidelines would be followed in releasing this data due to its sensitivity.
- The opening up of the sector will deepen those relationships and help to overcome manpower and budgetary constraints.
- Modern communications systems, as well as geospatially-dependent businesses, including agricultural and environmental management, and road alignment, depend on space activities. Space exploration has led to huge advances in health care, weather prediction, and material sciences. The opening up of the sector could lead to a burst of investment.
Benefits for India’s space sector –
- ISRO, which tenders out much of its equipment, will actively seek partnerships in projects across various areas.
- The demand for satellite launches is growing. ISRO has estimated it must launch 15,000 satellites in the next six-nine years. It doesn’t have the manpower to do this and would require massive budgetary increases to build that capacity even though the satellite business represents a $30-billion opportunity. The private sector could help meet shortfalls without placing extra burden on the exchequer.
- These reforms will allow ISRO to focus more on research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions and human spaceflight programme.
- There has also been relatively little investment in space exploration. As of 2019, cumulative funding for 120 start-ups was estimated at just $6-7 million. More investment in space will have huge positive externalities.
Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana
Union Cabinet has approved a scheme for interest subvention of 2% for a period of 12 months, to all Shishu loan accounts under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) to all eligible borrowers.
- This Scheme is for implementation of one of the measures relating to MSMEs, announced under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Under PMMY, loans for income generating activities up to Rs. 50,000 are termed as Shishu loans. PMMY loans are extended by Member Lending Institutions viz. Scheduled Commercial Banks, Non Banking Finance Companies and Micro Financial Institutions, registered with Mudra Ltd.
- The interest subvention would be payable for the months in which the accounts are not in NPA category including for the months that the account becomes a performing asset again, after turning NPA. The scheme will incentivise people who will make regular repayments of loans.
- The Scheme will be implemented through the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and will be in operation for 12 months.
About Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana –
- It is a scheme to extend collateral free loans by Banks, NBFCs and MFIs to Small/Micro business enterprises and individuals in the non-agricultural sector to enable their business activities and to generate self employment.
- For implementing the Scheme, government has set up a new institution named, Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA). It provides refinance to all banks and Last Mile Financiers seeking refinancing of small business loans given under PMMY.
- The scheme services whose credit needs are below Rs. 10 lakh.
- Loans can be availed under three categories –
- Shishu for loans up to Rs.50,000;
- Kishor for loans above Rs. 50,000 and up to Rs.5 lakh;
- Tarun for loans above Rs.5 lakh and up to Rs.10 lakh.
- Mudra debit cards are issued to borrowers. Using these, they can withdraw the loan from any ATM in India, as and when they need the money.
Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved setting up of Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) worth Rs. 15000 crore.
Government has been implementing several schemes for incentivising the investment made by dairy cooperative sector for development of dairy infrastructure. However, government realises that even MSMEs and Private companies also need to be promoted and incentivised for their involvement in processing and value addition infrastructure.
- AHIDF would facilitate much needed incentivisation of investments in establishment of such infrastructure for dairy and meat processing and value addition infrastructure and establishment of animal feed plant in the private sector.
- The eligible beneficiaries under the Scheme would be Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), MSMEs, Section 8 Companies, Private Companies and individual entrepreneur with minimum 10% margin money contribution by them. The balance 90% would be the loan component to be made available by scheduled banks.
- Government of India will provide 3% interest subvention to eligible beneficiaries.
- There will be 2 years moratorium period for principal loan amount and 6 years repayment period thereafter.
- Government of India would also set up Credit Guarantee Fund of Rs. 750 crore to be managed by NABARD. Credit guarantee would be provided to those sanctioned projects which are covered under MSME defined ceilings. Guarantee Coverage would be upto 25% of Credit facility of borrower.
- There is huge potential waiting to be unlocked in investment through private sector. The INR 15,000 cr. AHIDF and the interest subvention scheme for private investors will ensure availability of capital to meet upfront investment required for these projects and also help enhance overall returns/ pay back for investors.
- Such investments in processing and value addition infrastructure by eligible beneficiaries would also promote export of these processed and value added commodities.
- Since, almost 50-60% of final value of dairy output in India flows back to farmers, therefore, growth in this sector can have significant direct impact on farmer’s income.
- Size of dairy market and farmers’ realisation from milk sales is closely linked with development of organised off-take by cooperative and private dairies. Thus, investment incentivisation in AHIDF would not only leverage 7 times private investment but would also motivate farmers to invest more on inputs thereby driving higher productivity leading to increase in farmers income.
- The measures approved through AHIDF would also help in direct and indirect livelihood creation for 35 lakh people.
Annual TB Report 2020
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has recently released the annual TB Report 2020.
Achievements in the report –
- Around 24.04 Lakh TB patients have been notified in 2019. This amounts to a 14% increase in TB notification as compared to the year 2018.
- Achieving near-complete on-line notification of TB patients through the NIKSHAY system.
- Reduction in the number of missing cases to 2.9 lakh cases as against more than 10 lakhs in 2017.
- Private sector notifications increased by 35% with 6.78 lakh TB patients notified.
- Due to easy availability of molecular diagnostics, the proportion of children diagnosed with TB increased to 8% in 2019 compared to 6% in 2018.
- Provision of HIV testing for all notified TB patients increased from 67% in 2018 to 81% in 2019.
- Expansion of treatment services has resulted in a 12% improvement in the treatment success rate of notified patients. For 2019 it is 81% compared to 69% in 2018.
- More than 4.5 lakh DOT Centers provide treatment covering almost every village across the country.
- NIKSHAY also expanded the provision of four Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) schemes of the programme –
- Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY) to TB patients
- The incentive to Treatment Supporters
- Incentive to Private Providers and
- Transport incentive to TB patients in the notified tribal areas
Programme towards elimination of tuberculosis –
- The program aims to improve the coverage and quality of TB control interventions in nine states: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu.
- It will support the Government of India’s (GoI) National Strategic Plan to end TB in India by 2025. It will do so by helping improve and strengthen diagnostics and management of drug-resistant tuberculosis and increase the capacity of public institutions engaged in monitoring and treating TB in the country.
- The Program will provide financial incentives to private sector care providers for reporting cases of TB and ensuring that their patients complete the treatment regimen.
- It will also provide Direct Benefit Transfers to patients for acquiring the critical nutrition needed during treatment.
- The Program will even help the GoI strengthen the monitoring and implementation of Nikshay – a web-based TB case monitoring system introduced by the government.
About Nikshay Poshan Yojana –
- It is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for nutritional support to Tuberculosis (TB) patients rolled out in April 2018 by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme under National Health Mission (NHM). Financial norms of NHM in terms of cost sharing are applicable to the scheme.
- The scheme is not related to Poshan Mission which is an initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- This scheme is implemented across all States and UTs in India. All TB patients notified on or after 1st April 2018 including all existing TB patients under treatment are eligible to receive incentives. The patient must be registered\notified on the NIKSHAY portal.
- Financial incentive of Rs.500/- per month for each notified TB patient for duration during which the patient is on anti-TB treatment.
- As the scheme is registered under Direct Benefit Transfer, incentives can be distributed in cash (only via DBT preferably through Aadhaar enabled bank accounts) or in-kind. The States that have been distributing incentives in-kind are allowed to continue to do so, subject to the condition that the total value of the food basket being distributed must not be less than Rs. 500 per month.
Skills Build Reignite
The Skills Build Reignite tends to provide job seekers and entrepreneurs, with access to free online coursework and mentoring support designed to help them reinvent their careers and businesses.
- Job seekers, individual business owners, entrepreneurs and any individual with learning aspirations can now tap into host of industry relevant content on topics including Artificial intelligence, Cloud, Data analytics and security to reskill and upskill themselves, at no cost.
- Its special feature is the personalised coaching for entrepreneurs, seeking advice to help establish or restart their small businesses as they begin to focus on recovery to emerge out of the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Courses for small business owners include, for example, financial management, business strategy, digital strategy, legal support and more. Plus, IBM volunteers will serve as mentors to some of the 30,000 Skills Build users in 100 communities in at least five major regions worldwide to help reinvigorate local communities.
In November 2019, IBM India, in partnership with Directorate General of Training (DGT), Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, and its implementation partners, made the SkillsBuild online learning platform available to Indian students through Bharatskills of DGT. Digital classrooms on this platform are available to students and instructors from the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and technical education ecosystem in India.
Ocean Floor Mapping
Announcing a new milestone in the history of marine exploration, an international collaboration of researchers have said that it had finished mapping nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor.
The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which is coordinating efforts to complete the mapping of the entire ocean floor by 2030, said on World Hydrography Day (June 21) that it had added 1.45 crore square kilometres of new bathymetric data to its latest grid.
Why ocean floor mapping is important?
- The knowledge of bathymetry — the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor — is instrumental in understanding several natural phenomena, including ocean circulation, tides, and biological hotspots.
- It also provides key inputs for navigation, forecasting tsunamis, exploration for oil and gas projects, building offshore wind turbines, fishing resources, and for laying cables and pipelines.
- This data becomes highly valuable during disaster situations. According to experts, scientists in Japan were able to reconstruct the forces behind the destructive 2011 Tohoku earthquake.
- Importantly, the maps would also ensure a better understanding of climate change, since floor features including canyons and underwater volcanoes influence phenomena such as the vertical mixing of ocean water, and ocean currents — which act as conveyor belts of warm and cold water, thus influencing the weather and climate.
- A map of the entire global ocean floor would also help further achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
About Seabed Project 2030 –
- The global initiative is a collaboration between Japan’s non-profit Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
- GEBCO is the only intergovernmental organisation with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.
- The Project was launched at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, and coordinates and oversees the sourcing and compilation of bathymetric data from different parts of the world’s ocean through its five centres into the freely-available GEBCO Grid.
- In the past, satellites and planes carrying altimeter instruments have been able to provide large swathes of data about the ocean floor. The Seabed 2030 Project, however, aims to obtain higher quality information that has a minimum resolution of 100 m at all spots, using equipment such as deepwater hull-mounted sonar systems, and more advanced options such as Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). For this, the project aims to rope in governments, private companies, and international organisations to acquire data.
India is likely to enter into bilateral agreements with the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany to restart international air travel. The government is discussing a template known as “travel bubble”, which permits relatively unrestricted and riskfree travel between two countries positioned similarly vis-a-vis the spread of COVID-19.
What is a ‘travel bubble’?
- Creating a travel bubble involves reconnecting countries or states that have shown a good level of success in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic domestically.
- Such a bubble would allow the members of the group to rekindle trade ties with each other, and kickstart sectors such as travel and tourism.
- For example – In the Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania travel bubble, residents would be able to travel freely by rail, air, and sea without quarantine measures. All three are sparsely populated (Lithuania- 28 lakh, Latvia- 19.2 lakh, Estonia- 13.3 lakh people) and have been fairly successful at managing the outbreak.
- Recently, Australia and New Zealand reached an agreement to form a travel bubble between the two countries once it becomes safe to operate flights between them. Both have had success in suppressing the pandemic domestically. Once it opens, the trans-Tasman zone will allow travel without a quarantine period.