A) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
PRAGATI – Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PIB)
- Context: Prime Minister chaired the PRAGATI meeting recently. It marked Prime Minister’s thirty-third interaction through PRAGATI – the ICT based multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation, involving Central and State governments.
- The platform was launched in March 2015.
- The platform is aimed at:
- addressing common man’s grievances
- monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
- The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies:
- Digital data management
- Geo-spatial technology.
- It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
- It has three objectives:
- Grievance Redressal
- Programme Implementation
- Project Monitoring
Key features of the PRAGATI application are as follows:
- It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States).
- Prime Minister will hold a monthly programme (on Fourth Wednesday at 3.30 PM-to be known as PRAGATI Day) where he will interact with the Government of India Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries through Video-conferencing enabled by data and geo-informatics visuals.
- The system has been designed in-house by the PMO team with the help of National Informatics Center (NIC).
Nyaya Bandhu Mobile Application (PIB)
- Committed to fulfil its mandate of “Free Legal Aid and Access to Justice” as enunciated under Article 39A of the Constitution of India, Department of Justice launched the iOS version of the Nyaya Bandhu Application and its onboarding on UMANG platform (MeiTY), on Samvidhan Divas 26thNov, 2020.
- The UMANG platform would also enable to make pan India easy accessibility of this mobile-based legal service to approx 2.5 Cr registered users.
- Nyaya Bandhu mobile application was launched by Union Ministry for Law and Justice in February 2019 to ensure empowerment of common man by popularizing technology to a level that it becomes an instrument of change.
- To address the challenge of lack of effective legal representation and assistance to the needy and disadvantaged population by the advocates, Department of Justice envisages the need to create a database of such advocates, who have agreed to volunteer their time and services as Pro Bono Advocates.
- Launched in 2017, the Department of Justice has come up with India’s first endeavour to institutionalize a framework for pro bono dispensation in the legal arena.
- To connect the registered litigants/applicants with the registered Pro Bono Advocates, Department of Justice is leveraging technology to remove any geographical barrier in availing access to justice and has partnered with CSC e-Governance Services and developed Nyaya Bandhu, a tele-law mobile application, on Android platform.
- The mobile application is integrated with a dashboard to confirm and register the pre-registered cases, to enable online interface between the beneficiary and the panel lawyer through video conferencing and telephone facility.
- Constitution Day or Samvidhan Divas is celebrated every year on 26th November to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India.
- In taking forward the novel ideas, principles and values enunciated in this Fundamental Law of the Land (Indian Constitution), in 2019, Department of Justice was nominated as the Nodal Coordinating department and the forerunner for the execution of pan Indian awareness programme on Citizens’ Duties including Fundamental Duties as enshrined under the Indian Constitution.
Garima Greh: A Shelter Home for Transgender Persons
- To improve the conditions of transgender persons, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has identified 10 cities to set up the 13 Shelter Homes on pilot basis.
Indian Labour Conference (ILC) (TH)
- Context: An editorial.
- The Indian Labour Conference (ILC) is the apex level tripartite consultative committee in the Ministry of Labour & Employment to advise the Government on the issues concerning the working class of the country.
- All the 12 Central Trade Union Organisations, Central Organisations of employers, all State Governments and Union Territories and Central Ministries/ Departments concerned with the agenda items, are the members of the ILC.
- Only Trade Union Organisations, which have, a membership of more than five lakhs spread over four States and four industries are given representation in the ILC (as per composition attached).
- Parity in a number of representatives is maintained between the Employers’ and Workers’ Groups by the allocation of an equal number of seats to each Group.
- The first meeting of the Indian Labour Conference (then called Tripartite National Labour Conference) was held in 1942 and so far a total of 46 sessions have been held.
B) Economic Developments: India and World
- NIIF Infrastructure Debt Financing Platform (PIB)
- Context: The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the proposal for equity infusion by Government of Rs 6000 crores in NIIF Debt Platform sponsored by National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
- This was one of the twelve key measures made by Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, as part of Government of India’s stimulus to the economy, under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat 3.0 on 12thNovember, 2020.
- In India, infrastructure projects are executed through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
- Typically, the SPVs on a standalone basis would find it challenging to get investment-grade rating, even after the completion of construction.
- Long term bond investors including Pension and Insurance Funds seek lowers margins than banks, but prefer to invest in debt of AAA / AA rated entities, to meet their own risk management guidelines.
- The NIIF Strategic Opportunities Fundhas set up a Debt Platform comprising an NBFC Infra Debt Fund and an NBFC Infra Finance Company.
- It is expected that well-capitalized, well-funded and well-governed NIIF debt Platform can play a major role in infrastructure financing and development of Bond Market in India by acting as a AAA/AA-rated intermediary between the bond markets and infrastructure projects and companies.
- The Debt platform will raise debt from the Bond market and serve as a trusted intermediary.
- As per the National Infrastructure Platform (NIP), investment in the infrastructure sector is targeted at Rs.111 lakh crore over the next 5 years across various sub-sectors, creating a substantial need for debt financing.
- This would require at least Rs 60 to 70 lakh crores in debt financing.
- This current environment requires well-capitalized specialized infrastructure-focused financial institutions, such as the ones being developed by National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), which can focus on lending across the project life cycle with a strong capital base and expertise-driven approach.
- NIIF Infrastructure Debt Financing Platform is expected to contribute nearly Rs 1 lakh crores in debt to the infrastructure sector over the next 5 years.
- This will act as a catalyst in attracting more investments into the infrastructure sector as envisaged in National Infrastructure Pipeline.
Kerala and West Bengal accept the Centre’s borrowing option to meet GST shortfall (PIB)
- Context: Kerala and West Bengal have communicated their acceptance of Option-1 to meet the revenue shortfall arising out of GST implementation.
- The number of States who have chosen this option has gone up to 25.
- All the 3 Union Territories with Legislative Assembly (i.e. Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Puducherry) have also decided in favour of Option-1.
- Before Rajasthan joined in, 23 states and 3 union territories (UTs) had opted for the borrowing plan proposed by the Centre to meet the Rs 1.83 lakh crore shortfall in Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection of states.
- Under the borrowing plan (Option-1), the Centre would borrow from market on behalf of the States Rs 1.10 lakh crore to meet revenue shortfall on account of GST implementation.
- The remaining Rs 73,000 crore shortfall is estimated to be the revenue impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- States which choose Option-1 are getting the amount of shortfall arising out of GST implementation through a special borrowing window put in place by the Government of India.
- Under the terms of Option-1, besides getting the facility of a special window for borrowings to meet the shortfall arising out of GST implementation, states are also entitled to get unconditional permission to borrow the final instalment of 0.50 per cent of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) out of the 2 per cent additional borrowings permitted by the Government of India, under ‘Aatmnirbhar Abhiyaan’ on May 17, 2020.
- This is over and above the special window of Rs 1.1 lakh crore.
- The second option given by the Centre was for the states to borrow the entire Rs 1.83 lakh crore collection shortfall.
- However, states like Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand are yet to opt for the borrowing plan proposed by the Centre, saying the Centre should borrow the entire Rs 1.83 lakh crore shortfall.
C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
7.What is Doppler Radar? (PIB)
- Context: Cyclone “NIVAR” developed in the southwest Bay of Bengal is very likely to move northwestwards and cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts as a very severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph
- The Cyclone is being monitored by Doppler Weather Radar at Chennai, Karaikal and Sriharikota
What is Doppler Radar?
- The Doppler radar used in weather forecasting measures the direction and speed, or velocity, of objects such as drops of precipitation.
- This is called the Doppler Effect and is used to determine whether the movement in the atmosphere is horizontally toward or away from the radar, which aides in weather forecasting.
- Besides in radars, this effect is also used in medical imaging and in astronomy.
UAV procurement (TH)
- The Indian Navy has inducted two MQ-9B Sea Guardian unarmed drones procured from the U.S. on lease.
- The recently released Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 has introduced an option for leasing military platforms.
- A tri-service proposal to procure ten Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) for each Service from the U.S., including armed drones, has been in the pipeline for some time but has been delayed due to budgetary considerations.
- The Guardian, which is the maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), has a maximum endurance of 40 hours and a maximum flying altitude of 40,000 feet.
Tuberculosis (TB) and India’s strategy to end it (PIB)
- Context: Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare chaired a meeting with the various developmental partners working in the field of TB care and management in India.
What is TB? How does it spread? How is it treated?
- Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the
- TB commonly presents as a disease of the lungs. However, the infection can spread via blood from the lungs to all organs in the body.
- This means that you can develop tuberculosis in the pleura (the covering of the lungs), in the bones, the urinary tract and sexual organs, the intestines and even in the skin.
- Lymph nodes in the lung root and on the throat can also get infected.
- Tuberculous meningitis is sometimes seen in newly infected children. This form of the disease is a life-threatening condition.
- Non-lung TB is an important cause of skin, bowel and gynaecological problems.
- Non-Lung TB: Infected milk or dairy products can cause the mycobacterium to set up infections in the gastrointestinal tract and also affect the reproductive systems in men and women.
- Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.
- TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
- A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.
- About one-third of the world’s population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with disease and cannot transmit the disease.
Tb Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign
- It has been launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The new TB campaign aims to improve and expand the reach of TB care services across the country, by 2022.
- “TB Harega, Desh Jeetega” campaign targets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target related to TB by 2025, five years ahead of the global target of 2030.
End TB Strategy
- The End TB Strategy aims to end the global TB epidemic, with targets to reduce TB deaths by 95% and to cut new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035, and to ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses due to TB.
- It is being implemented by the World Health Organisation.
- India is committed to ending TB by 2025, five years ahead of the Global Sustainable Development targets.
- The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ending the TB epidemic by 2030 under Goal 3.
Nikshay Poshan Yojana
- In April 2018, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW) launched the Nikshay Poshan Yojana, a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme to provide nutritional support to TB patients.
- Under the scheme, TB patients have been receiving Rs. 500 per month for the entire duration of treatment.
- State/UTs have been given different payment options as per their convenience for either making payment directly through Public Financial Management System (PFMS) or through the Nikshay PFMS interface.
- The flexibility of providing the benefit through an existing bank account of a blood relative has also been given.
- State have also been advised to facilitate opening of zero balance accounts for TB patients, if necessary, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Indian Postal Bank.
Joint Effort for Elimination of TB
- The Government of India has also partnered with the Global Fund to launch JEET (Joint Effort for Elimination of TB), a private sector engagement program operating in 45 cities across the country.
- Microsoft has developed a programme called 99DOTS to help TB patients to complete their course of medicines.
- It can be utilized either as a supplement to existing DOTS programs, or to enable remote observation of doses administered by patients or their family members.
- Treating drug-resistant tuberculosis — multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) — got a shot in the arm on August 14 when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug
- Pretomanid is only the third new anti-TB drug approved for use by FDA in more than 40 years to treat TB bacteria.
- The drug was developed and tested in clinical trials by New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance.
- In 2019, TB Alliance became the first not-for-profit organization to develop and register an antibiotic.
- It has also provided data to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for consideration of inclusion in treatment guidelines for highly drug-resistant TB.
What makes the new drug so promising?
- The duration of treatment for drug-resistant TB can be drastically cut from 18-24 months to just six-nine months when pretomanid drug is used along with two already approved drugs — bedaquiline and linezolid.
- The all-oral, three-drug regimen can also vastly improve the treatment success rate to nearly 91% and potentially decrease the number of deaths due to better adherence to treatment.
Which category of drug-resistant TB patients will benefit from this new drug?
- Pretomanid drug along with bedaquiline and linezolid is meant for treating adults with XDR-TB.
- In the case of MDR-TB, the three-drug regimen containing pretomanid can be used only in those patients who cannot tolerate the MDR-TB treatment or do not respond to standard MDR-TB treatment regimen.
- The three-drug regimen is meant only for treating pulmonary TB and should not be used for treating extra-pulmonary TB, drug-sensitive or latent TB.
When are bacteria said to be “resistant”?
- Bacteria are said to be “resistant” to the antimicrobial product if they survive concentrations that would kill most bacteria of the same species.
- Totally drug resistant TB (sometimes referred to as XXDR TB or extremely drug-resistant TB), is TB which is resistant to all the first and second-line TB drugs. This makes it almost but not totally impossible to treat.
World Tuberculosis Day
- The World Tuberculosis Day is being observed on 24th March, 2020 to commemorate the anniversary of Dr. Robert Koch’s discovery of the Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in 1882.
- Government of India has committed to eliminating prevalence of TB by 2025, with commensurate resources to rapidly reduce TB incidence prevalence and mortality in India.
- The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is implementing the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025).
Is there a relationship between tuberculosis and tobacco use?
- Smokers are twice as likely to develop active TB and die from it than non-smokers, and smoking also makes TB treatment less effective.
- And it’s not just smokers who suffer. We know that secondhand smoke has been linked to TB relapse and also impacts the outcome of TB treatment.
Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report 2019
- The tuberculosis incidence rate in India has decreased by almost 50,000 patients over the past one year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)-2019 edition of the Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report, released in 2019.
- The number of patients being tested for rifampicin resistance has increased in 2018.
- And the treatment success rate has increased to 81% for new and relapse cases (drug sensitive) in 2017, which was 69% in 2016.
- According to experts, TB remains the top infectious killer in the world claiming over 4,000 lives a day. This report presents progress towards targets set at the first-ever United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on TB in 2018, that brought together heads of state, as well as the targets of the WHO End TB Strategy and Sustainable Development Goals.
Covering all cases
- Meanwhile, the India TB-Report 2019 notes that India is closest ever to covering all TB cases through the online notification system (NIKSHAY).
D) International Relations
10.Why young people are protesting against the government in Thailand, again? (IE)
- Context: In a string of protests staged across Thailand this week, thousands of students revived the country’s youth-led pro-democracy movement — led by the student coalition group Free Youth — amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Why are young people protesting against the Thai government?
- First, they called for the resignation of Thai Army-backed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the dissolution of the parliament;
- Second, they demanded the rewriting of the constitution and reform of the untouchable monarchy; and
- Third, they urged authorities to stop intimidating activists for exercising their freedom of expression.
- Many denounced the country’s leadership for failing to reverse the economic damage caused by the pandemic.
- Many young people protesting today claim they are frustrated by the lack of pro-people reforms and years of economic stagnation.
- The countries’ stringent lèse majesté laws, which make defaming or insulting the king an illegal offence, have also shrunk the space for dissent considerably.
Symbol of Thailand’s Protests
- Since protests started in Thailand in July this year, seeking the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and demanding reform of the Thai monarchy, the movement has seen protesters adopt different mascots to get their message across; everything from singing the Thai version of one of the 1980s musical Les Misérables’ principal songs “Do You Hear the People Sing?” to dinosaur costumes to displaying the three-finger salute.
- The latest addition to this compendium is the use of large yellow inflatable pool ducks (which were earlier appeared in several protests across the globe in different contexts).
Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Peace and Friendship (TH)
- Context: Bhutan announced that it had established diplomatic relations with Germany, increasing the restricted number of capitals that Thimphu has formal ties with to 53 states and the EU.
- This is the kingdom’s first diplomatic foray in seven years.
- Since 1949, when Bhutan first signed a friendship agreement with India, which kept the two countries closely engaged on all foreign policy issues, Bhutan has been historically cautious about establishing ties with other countries.
- The Treaty provides for perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce and equal justice to each other’s citizens.
- Equal Justice: It means that you and all other citizens are considered equal and are protected by the rule of law.
- Under the previous treaty 1949, India was to “guide” Bhutan on foreign and defence policies.
- In 2007 the treaty was re-negotiated, and provisions were included to encourage Bhutan’s sovereignty, abolishing the need to take India’s guidance on foreign policy.
- The updated treaty, besides providing close cooperation on national issues, provides for stronger cooperation in cultural and economic fields.
E) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
12.Essential Services Maintenance Act (TH)
- Context: The Uttar Pradesh government extended the Essential Services Maintenance Act in the State, banning strikes in all departments and corporations under it for a period of another six months.
- ESMA gives police right to arrest without a warrant anybody violating the Act’s provisions.
- It has been invoked after taking permission from Governor
Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968
- The Act includes a long list of essential services and it prohibits the key employees in these services from striking.
- Also, they cannot cite bandhs or a curfew as an excuse not to report to work.
- The Act allows both Union and States to choose the essential services on which to enforce ESMA.
- ESMA gives police the right to arrest, without a warrant, anybody violating the Act’s provisions.
- ESMA has inherent power to override other laws.
- Each notification for application of ESMA shall be in force for six months only, but the Central Government may, by a like Order, extend it for any period not exceeding six months if it is satisfied that in the public interest it is necessary or expedient so to do.
What are the essential services?
- Essential services are those which are necessary for the maintenance of normal life in the country.
- Any service with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws or the government feels that its discontinuation would affect the maintenance of supplies and services necessary for sustaining life is considered an essential service.
Which services fall under this category?
- Services related to public conservancy, sanitation, water supply, hospitals or related with the defence of the country are considered essential.
- Any establishment dealing with production, supply or distribution of petroleum, coal, power, steel and fertilizers also falls under the essential services category.
- Apart from this, any service in connection with banking can be subject to ESMA.
- Communication and transport services and any government undertaking related to the purchase and distribution of food grains are also subject to this act. The employees can’t even refuse to work overtime if their work is considered necessary for the maintenance of any of the essential services.
Is it illegal for these employees to go on strike?
- A strike per se is not illegal, but the government is empowered to prohibit it if it feels that the strike is gravely disturbing public life. For that, the government has to issue a general or special order to end the strike. Any strike becomes illegal after the passing of this order.
What actions can be taken against the employees?
- Persons who commence the strike, as well as those who instigate it, are liable to disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
- As the strike becomes illegal after ESMA is invoked, legal action can also be taken against these employees.
- There is a penalty for illegal strikes and also for persons giving financial aid to illegal strikes.
- Any police officer is empowered to arrest the striking persons without a warrant.
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