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GS-1


A looming threat  

A looming threat  

Context

All children diagnosed with TB must get paediatric fixed-dose combination drugs

What has happened?

About 5,500 of over 76,000 children tested in nine Indian cities, under a study conducted under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme,have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, 9% of them with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), highlighting the silent spread of the disease

The implication

  • Since the incidence of TB among children is a reflection of the prevalence of the disease in the community at large, the high prevalence of both drug-sensitive TB and drug-resistant TB in children from these nine cities is a grim reminder of the failure of the health-care system to diagnose the disease early enough in adults and start them on treatment
  • Very often, children who test positive for TB have been in close contact with adults with the disease in the same household. With up to a couple of months’ delay in diagnosing the disease being the norm, there is a continuing threat of TB spreading among household contacts and in the larger community

WHO guidelines

The RNTCP requires all household contacts, particularly children, of a newly diagnosed pulmonary TB patient to be tested and started on treatment if needed. Children below six years of age in the household of a newly diagnosed patient are required to be given the drug Isoniazid as a prophylactic even when they do not have the disease

Contact screening

A proactive approach to testing helps in early and correct diagnosis of all contacts and in cutting the transmission chain. Unfortunately, as several studies have shown, the RNTCP guidelines on contact screening are heeded mostly in the breach. The results from this limited study should now compel the government to take up contact screening more urgently

Fixed Dose Combination Drugs

  • In 2010, WHO had revised the dosage of certain TB drugs for children. Fixed-dose combination (FDC) drugs that take into account the revised dosages for children were finally made available in late 2015. The FDCs are meant for treating children with drug-susceptible TB and cannot be used to treat children who require second-line drugs or who have MDR-TB.
  • After more than a year’s delay, a few months ago India finally introduced FDCs in six States. The remaining States will be covered by the end of this year

Benefits of this treatment

Adherence to treatment will improve, and correct dosage for children weighing less than 25 kg will become easier when child-friendly FDCs become available throughout the country

Guaranteeing FDCs

Using the Xpert molecular diagnostic test to screen children with TB is a positive step and should be welcomed, but all the diagnosed children should be guaranteed paediatric FDCs

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Childhood foregone 

Childhood foregone 

Context

It is a shame that the goal to eradicate child labour by 2025 seems elusive

What is Child labour?

As per ILO,

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development

According to UNICEF,

a child is involved in child labour if he or she is between 5 and 11 years, does at least one hour of economic activity, or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week. And in case of children aged between 12 and 14, 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week is considered child labour

It refers to work that:

  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
  • interferes with their schooling by:
  • depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
  • obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
  • requires them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

The worst form of child labour

Whilst child labour takes many different forms, a priority is to eliminate without delay the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 182:

  1. all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict
  2. the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances
  3. the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties
  4. work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

Hazardous work

Labour that jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, is known as “hazardous work”

SDGs related to Child labour

8. Decent work and Economic Growth

  • 8.7 – Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms

16. Peace and Justice

  • 16.2 – End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children

Concentration of child labor

As per Global estimates of Child labor: and trends, 2012-2016,

  • Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including mining

International conventions

ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour, 1999

  • Convention No. 182 focuses the international spotlight on the urgency of action to eliminate as a priority, the worst forms of child labour without losing the long term goal of the effective elimination of all child labour

ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment and work

One of the most effective methods of ensuring that children do not start working too young is to set the age at which children can legally be employed or otherwise work. This conventions prescribes the age limits for admission to work

Ratification by India

It should be noted that India ratified both of the above conventions in 2017

Alliance 8.7

Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the 2030 Agenda, UN Member States, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as civil society organizations, are urged to eliminate child labour by 2025, and forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030. In order to contribute to this goal, the ILO launched Alliance 8.7, a global partnership designed to align the efforts of those working towards the achievement of SDG Target 8.7

Who is a child?

“Child” as defined by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a person who has not completed the age of fourteen years

Laws in India

  • The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.
  • The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Mining being one of the most dangerous occuptions, which in the past has led to many major accidents taking life of children is completely banned for them.
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008

Changes introduced in 2016

  • The name of the CL Act has been changed to ‘Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986’. A complete prohibition has been imposed on employment of child labour (i.e. a person below the age of 14 years) in any establishment whether hazardous or not
  • New category added: The Act adds a new category as adolescents(those under 18 years). Children are those under 14
  • Penalty for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation: The punishment for those employers, employing children for the first time, the fine has been increased from 20000 to 50000 Rs and 6months to 2 years imprisonment. For repeat offenders the offence is cognizable (i.e. arrest can be made without warrant) and proposes a punishment of 1-3 year
  • Setting up of a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund to be set up under the Act for rehabilitation of children and adolescent employed
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage. This act provides punishment to those who act in contravention to the previous acts by employing children to work.
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children

Constitutional provisions

  • Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 in factories, mines, and other hazardous employment
  • Article 21A and Article 45 promise to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14
  • Article 39(e) directs the state to ensure that health of workers be protected and children not to be exploited

Data

  • According to Global Slavery Index, India has the 4th largest estimated prevalence of modern slavery in proportion to its population. 1.4% of India’s population live in condition of modern slavery including sex work, domestic work, child labour, manual labour or even forced marriages

News:

What has happened?

Author mentions that at the Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, Buenos Aires, held from 14-16 Nov 2017, it was stated that the deadline to eradicate child labor by 2025 would be missed

Lack of progress

Following points indicate a lack of progress to eliminate child labour,

  • A slowdown in the reduction of child labour, just one percentage point, during the four years until 2016
  • Almost no progress with respect to the rescue of children under 12 years in the four years since 2012
  • The decline in child labour among girls was only half the proportion of that of boys during this period

Reason for lack of progress

Author mentions that the foremost reason for the lack of progress is the absence of national legislation to give effect to global conventions on the employment of children in hazardous industries, as well as on the minimum age of work. Other reasons include,

  • Lack of effective labour inspections in the informal economy
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GS-2


A Nation’s Conscience 

A Nation’s Conscience 

Context

It’s the Constitution that has checked Hindutva forces to a great extent

November 26: Constitution Day

  • On November 26, 1949, the Draft Constitution was placed before the Constituent Assembly. The assembly adopted the Constitution and India became a democratic republic in 1950.

Constitution: Much more than a document

  • The Constitution is much more than the country’s fundamental laws of governance. It affirms the values of a pluralistic and diverse society and is wedded to the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity as well as to secularism, gender justice and social, political and economic justice for all. It has been, appropriately, described as a social document.
  • Multiple religions, faiths & cultures: The consolidation of India as a nation and its resilience owe a lot to the way the Constitution has worked for more than six decades. It created the conditions for the empowerment of the deprived and disinherited sections of society.

Threat to the constitution

The Constitution has often faced challenges from the forces which opposed its progressive architecture of rights. In 1999 and 2002, the then NDA government talked about reviewing the Constitution. The proposal had the potential of overturning the Constitution’s core ideals. K. R. Narayanan, the then president, took a firm stand against the review of the Constitution. “Let us examine if the Constitution has failed us or we have failed the Constitution,” he said. This forced the government of the day alter its stand to review the Constitution. It appointed a commission to review the working of the Constitution.

Freedom to express

  • Accommodation and understanding — not division and confrontation — lay at the heart of the methods used to frame the Constitution. In using coercive and compulsive nationalism, the government has lost sight of this spirit
  • Cow vigilantism, the lynching of Muslims in many parts of India in the name of cow protection and the barbaric attack on Dalits by the Hindutva groups go against the Constitution.
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What’s involved in courting the OBCs, one quota at a time 

What’s involved in courting the OBCs, one quota at a time 

Context

Giving the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) Constitutional status and new powers involves far more detail than meets the eye

What do observers have to say?

Observers point out the move seems aimed at strengthening a voter base among the OBCs while, at the same time, undermining the regional parties that have large followings in the dominant OBC communities.

Impact of the new legislation

The proposed legislation will empower the NCBC, which presently has a mere recommendatory role when it comes to the inclusion or exclusion of a community in the Central list of OBCs

  • Powers at par with civil court to NCBC: The Bill gives the NCBC powers on par with the civil court to issue summons, examine all matters regarding the welfare and development of OBCs and investigate complaints pertaining to the non-implementation of reservations in jobs and educational institutions
  • Parliament will be the final authority: The Bill also gives Parliament the final authority to make changes to the OBC list — this means that Parliament now gets to decide on the issues pertaining to the Jats, Marathas, Patels, Kapus and the many other communities that have been agitating for inclusion in the OBC list.

Two important developments

  • Change of the ceiling: In August 2017, the union cabinet approved a proposal to revise the income definition of the ‘creamy layer’ within OBCs, increasing this from those earning Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh per annum
  • Commission to examine sub-categorisation: Also, in August 2017, the cabinet approved the setting up of a Commission to examine the sub-categorisation of 5,000-odd castes in the central OBC list
  • It has been given the task of sub-categorising all the castes in the central OBC list to ensure a “more equitable distribution” of opportunities in central government jobs and educational institutions
  • It will also have to come up with a scientific methodology for carrying out the classification exercise

Present situation

States where sub-categorisation exists: At present, a total of eleven states and/or union territories have a sub-categorisation of OBCs for their state services, including Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Jammu

Exceptions:However, larger states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, where more advanced OBCs such as Yadavs and Kurmis, corner most of the benefits and political clout involved, do not have assured sub-quotas for the extremely backward classes

NCBC’s methodology

NCBC had asked for a sub-categorisation previously with aforementioned methodology,

  • Sub-categoriseOBC category into Extremely Backward Classes (Group ‘A’), More Backward Classes (Group ‘B’) and Backward Classes (Group ‘C’)
    1. The ‘EBC’ in Group A was to comprise of aboriginal tribes, denotified tribes or vimuktajatis, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes
    2. Group B was to consist of vocational groups such as blacksmiths, brass smiths, various kind of weavers, carpenters, etc
    3. Group C was to include those OBC persons hailing from agricultural or business communities
  • This methodology was based on the categorisation in Andhra Pradesh, which was referred to by the Supreme Court in the State of Andhra Pradesh And Others vs U.S.V. Balram (1972) and IndraSawhney And Others vs Union Of India (1993) cases
  • Examples
    1. Puducherry has classified its 76 OBC communities into five categories, two of which are Backward Class Muslims and Backward Tribes
    2. Of its 33% reservation for OBCs, Bihar has kept three percent for OBC women
    3. Tamil Nadu, which has the highest reservation for OBCs at 50%, has 3.5% for Backward Class Muslims and 20% for the most backward classes and denotified communities
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Views sought on data protection law 

Views sought on data protection law 

Context

The government has released a white paper looking into the scope of a data protection law, and opened

up for public discussion till December 31, issues pertaining to its ambit, what constitutes personal data,

what is sensitive data, and the international applicability of such a law

BN Krishna Committee

  • The B.N. Srikrishna committee, set up under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in the white paper recommended that the law be applicable to all processing of personal data that takes place within India or by an entity that has a presence in India
  • Personal data: According to the committee, personal data “ought to include any kind of information including opinions or assessments irrespective of their accuracy.”

Mandate of the committee

  • The government led ten-member committee will “identify key data protection issues in India and recommend methods of addressing them
  • It will further make specific suggestions for consideration of the Central Government on principles to be considered for data protection in India and suggest a draft data protection bill

Sweeping jurisdiction: Within India & abroad

the paper noted that it may be necessary to make the law applicable to all kinds of processing that the government may have a “legitimate interest in regulating” even though it may not be entirely based in India or may be carried out by non-Indian entities that do not have a presence in India

Committee against it

The committee set limits on this extended jurisdiction, though, saying that the law should not be so wide as to constitute an unnecessary interference with the jurisdiction of other countries or have the effect of making it a general law of the Internet

Why, a separate data protection law when IT Act already exists?

Even though the Information Technology Act contains certain provisions about data protection and handling, experts are of the opinion that India needs a fresh data protection law with the increased digitisation led by Aadhaar, the Goods and Service Tax and the push towards a digital economy

  • IT Act may also be inadequate to deal with the current requirements since it was drafted almost 17 years ago in 2000 and was amended last in 2008.
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Naga talks still on, panel told 

Naga talks still on, panel told 

Context

No deadline can be set for conclusion of peace deal, says interlocutor

News

Naga interlocutor, RN Ravi, was asked to appear before the parliamentary panel to explain the status of the Naga peace deal

Interlocutor’s position

He told parliamentarians that

  • The “Government of India wanted to take all the Naga groups on board.”
  • The NSCN-IM had been insisting that since it was the “legitimate Naga group”, negotiations should take place only with it but that was not the stand of the Government of India.

Background: Framework agreement

  • On August 3, 2015, Mr. Ravi had signed a “framework agreement” on behalf of the Union government with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) group to end the decades-old Naga insurgency
  • Nagalim Plan: The NSCN-IM has been fighting for ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, to unite 1.2 million Nagas.

Position of other states wrt Nagalim

Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, all BJP-ruled States that have Naga populations have refused to part with even an inch of land to make the peace deal a success

Indian Express : NSCN (IM)’s Greater Nagalim Map

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Cant force govt. to frame a  law:SC 

Cant force govt. to frame a  law:SC 

Context

The Supreme Court has  said it respected the government’s “political compulsions” and would not compel it to ratify the UN Convention against Torture, or command it to frame a standalone anti-torture legislation

What has happened?

Former Union Law Minister had filed a petition urging SC to order government to pass a standalone anti-torture law

What did SC say?

  • “How can we compel the government to make a law? Can we ask the government to ratify a treaty by way of a mandamus,” Chief Justice Misra asked Mr. Kumar
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Bench, said the government “has to take a political decision on whether or not it should ratify the treaty”.

Law commission’s view

  • The Law Commission has recommended that the Centre ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and frame a standalone anti-torture law, making the state responsible for any injury inflicted by its agents on citizens
  • The commission has said the state should not claim immunity for the actions of its officers or agents
  • Prevention of Torture Bill: In its 273rd report handed over to the Law Ministry, the commission has proposed the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017, which gives a wide definition to torture, not limited to physical pain but also including “inflicting injury, either intentionally or involuntarily, or even an attempt to cause such an injury, which will include physical, mental or psychological in nature”

Government’s view

Union Government said that it is considering an anti-torture law

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

  • It is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nationsthat aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishmentaround the world.
  • The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured
  • The text of the Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1984and, following ratification by the 20th state party,it came into force on 26 June 1987.[1] 26 June is now recognized as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, in honor of the Convention

Has India signed or ratified it?

Though India signed the convention in 1997, it is yet to ratify it

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N.K. Singh is 15th finance panel chief

N.K. Singh is 15th finance panel chief

Context

The Centre has announced that the Fifteenth Finance Commission would be headed by former Secretary to the government of India N.K. Singh

Other members

  • The panel, which is to make its recommendations for the five years beginning April 1, 2020, will include
  • Shaktikanta Das, former Economic Affairs Secretary
  • Anoop Singh, adjunct professor at Georgetown University

Part time members of the Commission

  • Dr. Ashok Lahiri, Chairman (non-executive, part time), Bandhan Bank
  • Dr. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog shall be the

Panel’s mandate

  • The panel is tasked with the following,
  • Looking into tax collections and how they are to be divided between the Centre and the States,
  • The principles that should govern the grants in aid to the States
  • To review the levels of fiscal deficit, among other issues

What are grants in aid?

Apart from distribution of taxes between centre and states, the constitution provides for mainly two types of grants-in-aid viz. statutory grants and discretionary grants:

Statutory Grants

Article 275 makes provisions for statutory grants to needy states (not every state)

  • Charged on CFI: These are charged on Consolidated Fund of India
  • Such grants also include specific grants for promoting the welfare of the scheduled tribes in a state or for raising the level of administration of the scheduled areas in a state including the State of Assam
  • Recommended by FC: The bases of these grants are recommendations of finance commission.

Discretionary Grants

  • Under article 282, both centre and states are able to make any grants for public purpose even if they are not within their legislative competence
  • Discretionary, not mandatory: Since such grants are discretionary, there are no obligations to make such grants
  • During the planning commission era, these discretionary grants were in fact bigger than statutory grants and that is why planning commission had assumed very important role
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Sink your differences 

Sink your differences 

Context

A touch of pragmatism is what the judiciary and the executive need at this juncture

What has happened?

  • Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has raised following issues,
  • The Supreme Court’s 2015 verdict striking down the law creating the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) reveals the judiciary’s distrust in the Prime Minister and the Law Minister
  • Whether an audit is needed to determine what has been lost or gained since the collegium system was created in 1993

Author’s view

Author mentions that raising of such issues though relevant, should have not been made in public that too in the presence of the Chief Justice of India and his fraternity

CJI’s view

Chief Justice Dipak Misraseemed forced into responding that the judiciary places the same trust that the Constituent Assembly had in the Prime Minister, and that the judiciary indeed recognised and respected the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. There was really no need for such a public affirmation of first principles in a democracy.

Relevant questions

  • Author states that following questions should not be ignored,
  • whether there is real separation of powers
  • Whether public interest litigation has become an avenue for the judges to give policy directives, and
  • whether the country needs a better system than the present one in which judges appoint judges should be brushed aside

Flawed collegium system

The present collegium system is flawed and lacks transparency, and there is a clear need to have a better and more credible process in making judicial appointments

What can be done?

  • It is best if both sides take a sensible view of the situation and sink their differences on the new procedure, even if it involves giving up a point or two that they are clinging to.
  • For a start, they could both disclose the exact points on which the two sides differ so that independent experts will also have a chance to contribute to the debate.
  • If it is the right to veto a recommendation that the government wants on some limited grounds, the Collegium must not be averse to considering it.
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A good augury 

A good augury 

Context

Nepal’s elections

Importance

This is the first election under the constitution promulgated in September 2015

Political instability

Inconclusive elections in the past have been a reason for the political instability that has plagued Nepal since it embarked on the process to become a democratic republic

Beyond political stability

Political stability alone may not ensure the country’s smooth transition to a parliamentary democracy. The transition is a process and all the stakeholders will need to make it inclusive and ensure transparency and accountability at every stage

Truth and reconciliation committee: A Farce?

An important component of the peace agreement signed by the Maoists and the government was the promise of redress to victims of the decade-long civil war. Accordingly, a truth and reconciliation committee was set up to deal with human rights violations during the period and 61,000 cases were filed before it. However, not one case was investigated as the Maoists insisted on a general amnesty and refused to cooperate with probes into rights violations. A democratic framework that compromises on the delivery of justice to citizens is unlikely to win the trust of the people

Concerns for India

The hostility the left alliance has displayed towards India during the election should worry New Delhi.

Pro-China Agenda

The alliance must also reflect on whether it is in Nepal’s interest to push a visibly pro-China agenda, considering the historical relations between India and Nepal.

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GS-3


Cleaning up oil spills 

Cleaning up oil spills 

What has happened?

A chemical compound (Meisenheimer complex) synthesised through a simple, single-step process of mixing two chemicals at room temperature has been found to be highly effective in removing fluoride and metal ions such as lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, and iron from drinking water.

USP of the compound

  • The compound repels water by nature
  • The compound has negative and positive charged parts and this helps it absorb metal ion pollutants and fluoride from water
  • One gram of the compound was able to remove a large amount of lead (817 mg) and mercury (830 mg) from water and nearly half its weight of copper (451 mg) and iron (511 mg),

Testing successful

  • Sponge became water-repelling: A polystyrene sponge that absorbs water became a water-repelling material when coated with the compound and was able to absorb a wide variety of oils and organic solvents from water
  • Efficiency against metal ions: To test the compound’s capacity to remove metal ions below the World Health Organisation’s limit, the researchers used the compound to treat water containing five ppm of copper, mercury, cadmium and iron. After 10 minutes of treatment, the concentration levels of the metals dropped to below 2 parts per billion (ppb), which is far below the WHO limit for these metals
  • Efficiency against fluoride: In the case of fluoride, water with a high concentration of fluoride (10 ppm) was treated with the compound. After 10 minutes of treatment, the fluoride concentration dropped to 10 ppb.
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Govt.working on new gas ‘standards’ 

Govt.working on new gas ‘standards’ 

Context

The government is looking to prepare a unified testing methodology to ensure that all agencies that map air pollution use accurate instruments

What has happened?

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is in the process of setting up ‘gas standards’, or reference samples of,

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrous Oxide (NO2)
  • Particulates –Pb (lead), –As (Arsenic) and –Ni (Nickel)

Current situation

Currently, the National Ambient Air Quality standards specify the upper limits for pollutants and, based on this, the Air Quality Index — that grades air quality in cities from ‘Good’ to ‘Severe’ — is prepared for several Indian cities.

Problem

The measurement devices are not calibrated properly and errors creep in

Talks with CPCB

There would be talks with environment-monitoring agencies like the the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to see if these can become reference standards for use by all private and public agencies that measure pollution levels

What is Ambient Air Quality?

Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors

NAAQS

  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide
  • The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified on 18thNovember 2009 by the Central Pollution Control Board. It contains a list of 12 pollutants,
    • Sulphur dioxide (S02)
    • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
    • Particulate matter having micron (PM10)
    • Particulate matter having size less than 2.5 micron (PM2.5)
    • Ozone
    • Lead
    • Carbon monoxide (CO)
    • Arsenic
    • Nickel
    • Benzene
    • Ammonia
    • Benzopyrene

Background

Prior to the November 2009 standards, India had set Air Quality standards on 11 April 1994, and this was later revised on 14 October 1998. The 2009 standards further lowered the maximum permissible limits for pollutants and made the standards uniform across the nation. Earlier, less stringent standards were prescribed for industrial zones as compared to residential areas

National Air Quality Index (NAQI)

A new National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in October 2014 to disseminate information on air quality in an easily understandable form for the general public. It was launched under Swachh Bharat.

  • The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely,
    1. PM10
    2. PM2.5
    3. NO2
    4. SO2
    5. CO
    6. O3
    7. NH3
    8. Pb

, for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed. It may be noted that ambient air quality standards are specified separately in India for around 12 pollutants including the 8 that constitute the Air Quality Index

  • AQI has six categories of air quality. These are: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe

Who monitors the ambient air quality in India?

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) monitors the ambient air quality at 680 monitoring stations located in 300 cities/towns covering 29 states and 6 union territories across the country under National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP)

Objectives of NAMP

The objectives of the NAMP are,

  • To determine status and trends of ambient air quality
  • To ascertain whether the prescribed ambient air quality standards are violated
  • To Identify Non-attainment Cities
  • To obtain the knowledge and understanding necessary for developing preventive and corrective measures and to understand the natural cleansing process undergoing in the environment through pollution dilution, dispersion, wind based movement, dry deposition, precipitation and chemical transformation of pollutants generated

What the pollutants measured under NAMP

Under N.A.M.P., four air pollutants have been identified for monitoring at all locations,

  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Oxides of Nitrogen as NO2
  • Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM)
  • Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM / PM10)

How has ambient air quality monitoring evolved in India?

Ambient Air Quality Monitoring- a chronology

1984

  • National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring (NAAQM) started by CPCB . Renamed as National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). Only 7 stations at Agra and Anpara.
  • Only 3 pollutants were monitored

1985- 28 stations

2012- 544 covering 224 cities in 26 states and 5 Union Territories as

1994- National Ambient Air Quality Standards on April 11, 1994

2009

  • Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) [NAAQS Notification dated 18th November, 2009]
  • Specified Standards for 12 pollutants
  • Instead of land-use classification , keeping in view health impact of air pollution the category of area affected was revised to include – 1. Industrial areas/residential areas and Ecologically sensitive areas
  • Real-time monitoring also started from 2009 onwards.

2015

  • Ambient air quality index was released
  • CPCB has recently expanded monitoring through continuous monitoring instruments that are capable of generating data on the real time basis for most of the pollutants like PM2.5, O3, CO etc regularly.
  • CPCB has also started releasing daily health advisory based on real-time monitoring. On this basis CPCB is issuing the Air quality index for a few cities on a daily basis.
  • The AQI is decided on ambient concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts which are commonly called health break points.
  • The pollution parameters whose concentration is measured in ambient air include particulate matter that are of size 2.5 microns (PM 2.5), PM 10, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, ammonia and lead.
  • The pollution parameter is measured over a period of 24 hours and the data is revealed by the CPCB the following day. This is used to give health advisory for the masses.
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India eases bilateral transfer pricing norms 

India eases bilateral transfer pricing norms 

Context

Income Tax Department’s announcement geared towards improving Ease of Doing Business

What has been done?

Income tax department has issued a clarification saying that it would allow mutual agreement procedures (MAPs) and advance pricing agreements (APAs) with all countries, abandoning a stance that disallowed such agreements with major trade partners like France, Germany, Italy, Singapore and South Korea

Earlier stance

  • India’s earlier stance meant that if treaties with a particular country did not contain a ‘corresponding adjustment’ clause, then the Indian revenue department would not enter into bilateral advance pricing agreements or mutual agreement procedures with those countries
  • In other words, any transfer pricing disputes would be settled through domestic litigation instead of bilateral arbitration

What are MAPs and APAs?

APAs are meant to settle potential disputes in advance, while MAPs lay out the procedure to settle a dispute once it has happened

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PF in equities: How investors can now track their money 

PF in equities: How investors can now track their money 

Context

The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) decides ways to account for and disburse investments in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

How much of EPFO’s money is invested into ETFs?

While the Fund invested five per cent of the annual incremental corpus in equities in 2015-16, it raised this to 10% last fiscal. The investment limit has now been raised to 15% by the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) in its 218th meeting held on May 27, 2017. Accordingly, the estimated investment in ETF for the current financial year is approximately Rs. 22,500 crore.

How does the new policy work?

  • Under the proposed mechanism, when a subscriber decides to withdraw her PF accumulations, while the investment in debt instruments would be paid back with the accumulated interest, on the remaining 15% invested in equities, the payment will be calculated by multiplying the number of accumulated units with the prevailing market price of the ETFs.
  • As an example, of, say, an accumulated corpus of Rs 1,000, if Rs 150 is the equity component and the price of a single unit at the time of exit is Rs 10, the subscriber will get 15 units in her account. At the time of exit, the subscriber would have an option to defer the withdrawal of the equity investment for up to three years if she thinks that can fetch her better returns in the coming years
  • Option for cash & Equity: So, when a subscriber wants to withdraw her savings from PF, she can opt for cash or equity
  • Subscribers would also have the option to withdraw the non-equity component and keep the ETF units in their account even after retirement or in the case of early withdrawal
  • If a subscriber wishes to withdraw both equity and cash components, she would have to mention this in the withdrawal application. Whenever the subscribers take an advance or settle their PF accounts, the ETF units would be liquidated by the EPFO
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