News: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made a series of recommendations to the Centre to eradicate manual scavenging.
- Manual scavenging: It is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or handling human excreta. According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country and the existence of insanitary latrines is the main reason for manual scavenging.
Key Recommendations of NHRC:
- Broaden the definition of manual scavenging to cover other types of hazardous cleaning or enact a new law for it. A penal section may be put in law to prevent the discrimination and harassment faced by the children of manual scavengers and women manual scavengers.
- Rehabilitation process of manual scavengers may be linked to schemes under which they can immediately start earning like MNREGA and revisit to see how they and their families are doing;
- Compensation: The amount of compensation paid as one time cash assistance for rehabilitation of manual scavengers may be enhanced from Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 1 Lakh. Nodal authority/department that will bear the expense of such Compensation may also be clearly specified;
- Ensure to remove the role of middlemen by making provision like direct benefit transfer or by collaborating with NGOs;
- Strict Action against local authorities who employ people to work as manual scavengers; An App and a toll-free number for registration of complaints;
- The National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) to monitor the sewer deaths and data reflected in its report;
- Union Finance Ministry may designate particular Nationalized Bank for each State to take-up the responsibility of extending loans to the Manual Scavengers and their dependents’ up to Rs.10.00 lakhs to take up the business Activity;
- Either individual or group insurances must be provided to Manual Scavengers and the premium shall be paid by the concerned Local Bodies;
- National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) may provide financial assistance to manual scavengers to help start up working in the domain of sanitation and training to them.
Further Reading On Manual Scavenging: https://blog.forumias.com/swachhata-abhiyan-mobile-application/
News: Gangetic River Dolphin was beaten to death by a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh leading to the arrest of three people.
Source: Indian Express
- Gangetic River Dolphin: It is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
- Key Characteristics:
- The female Gangetic Dolphins are larger than males. They are generally blind and catch their prey in a unique manner. They emit an ultrasonic sound which reaches the prey.
- They are popularly known as ‘Susu’ which refers to the noise the dolphin is said to make when it breathes.
- They prefer deep waters in and around the confluence of rivers and can be an indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem as they can only live in freshwater.
- The Government of India has recognised them as National Aquatic Animal and is the official animal of the Indian city of Guwahati.
- It is also among the four freshwater dolphins in the world- the other three are: Baiji (likely extinct) found in Yangtze river in China, the Bhulan in Indus river of Pakistan and the Boto in Amazon river in Latin America.
- Population: While no exact count is available, various estimates suggest that the Gangetic dolphin population in India could be about 2,500-3,000.However, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had told Lok Sabha last year that there were about 1,272 dolphins in Uttar Pradesh and 962 in Assam.
- IUCN Status: Endangered
- CITES: Appendix I
- Threats: Direct killing, Habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing, Pollution, absence of a coordinated conservation plan, lack of awareness and continuing anthropogenic pressure are posing incessant threats to the existing Gangetic dolphin population.
- Government Initiatives:
- Wildlife Act Protection: After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government in 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection),Act 1972. This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
- Conservation Plan: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
- Project Dolphin: It was announced by Indian Prime Minister in August,2020.It is a ten year project that focuses on both river and marine Dolphins. It is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
News: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation(MoSPI) is organising the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of the Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) India Forum-2021.
- NCAVES India Forum: It is being organized by MoSPI in collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), European Union and UN Environment.
- Objectives: The objectives of the National Forum would be:
- To present India’s achievements in the domain of Natural Capital Accounting (NCA);
- To prioritize the emerging opportunities for NCA in India;
- To familiarize stakeholders with the work undertaken by the different international agencies in the area of NCA and
- To provide a platform to selected Research Institutions to present their research conducted in the valuation of ecosystem services.
What is NCAVES Project?
- The project has been launched by the United Nations Statistics Division, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the European Union.
- Aim: To assist the five participating partner countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, to advance the knowledge agenda on environmental-economic accounting, in particular ecosystem accounting.
- Funding and Duration: The project is funded by the European Union(EU) and will have a duration until the end of 2021.
- Implementation of Project in India: In India, the NCAVES project is being implemented by the MoSPI in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC).
Significance of NCAVES Project for India:
- EnviStats India: The participation in the project has helped MOSPI commence the compilation of the Environment Accounts as per the UN-SEEA framework and release environmental accounts in its publication “EnviStats India” on an annual basis since 2018.
- India-EVL Tool: The project has also helped India develop the India-EVL Tool which is essentially a look-up tool giving a snapshot of the values of various ecosystem services in the different States of the country based on about 80 studies conducted across the country.
- An additional benefit of this tool is that it provides a critical view on the literature that is available and the applicability of estimates spatially across India according to bio-geographical areas.
News: Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has announced operational guidelines for the Payments Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) scheme.
- Objectives of the Fund:
- To increase the number of acceptance devices multi-fold in the country.
- To benefit the acquiring banks / non-banks and merchants by lowering overall acceptance infrastructure cost.
- To increase payments acceptance infrastructure by adding 30 lakh touch points – 10 lakhs physical and 20 lakh digital payment acceptance devices every year.
- Purpose: The fund will be used to subsidize banks and non-banks for deploying payment infrastructure which will be contingent upon specific targets being achieved.
- Accountability: Acquirers of the subsidy shall submit quarterly reports on the achievement of targets to the RBI.
- The primary focus shall be to create payment acceptance infrastructure in Tier-3 to Tier-6 centres.
- North Eastern states of the country shall be given special focus.
- The fund will also focus on those merchants who are yet to be terminalised(merchants who do not have any payment acceptance device).
- Merchants engaged in services such as transport and hospitality, government payments, public distribution system(PDS) shops, healthcare may be included especially in targeted geographies.
- Duration of Fund: The fund will be operational for three years effective from 1st January, 2021 and may be extended for two more years.
- Funding::It has a corpus of Rs. 345 crore with Rs. 250 crore contributed by the RBI and Rs. 95 crore by the major authorised card networks in the country. The authorised card networks shall contribute in all Rs. 100 crore. Besides the initial corpus, PIDF shall also receive annual contributions from card networks and card issuing banks.
- Advisory Council: An Advisory Council (AC) under the chairmanship of RBI deputy governor BP Kanungo has been constituted for managing the PIDF. The council will devise a transparent mechanism for allocation of targets to acquiring banks and non-banks in different segments and locations.
- Monitoring: Implementation of targets under PIDF shall be monitored by RBI’s Regional Office Mumbai with assistance from card networks, the Indian Banks’ Association, and the Payments Council of India.
News: Union Minister for Consumer Affairs has attended the 74th foundation day celebration of the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS).
Initiative launched during the event:
- Toy Testing facilities: Government has recently brought “Toys” under mandatory BIS certification. Hence, the test facilities will act as an enabler for about 5000 industrial units including micro & small ones for implementing the standards.
Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS):
- BIS: It came into existence in 1986 under BIS Act,1986 and was established as the National Standard Body of India under the BIS Act 2016.
- The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) set up under the Department of Industries and Supplies and was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
- Mandate: BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways: providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and control over proliferation of varieties through standardization, certification and testing.
- Governing Council: The Bureau is a Body Corporate consisting of 25 members representing both Central and State governments, Members of Parliament, industry, scientific and research institutions, consumer organizations and professional bodies with Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution as its President.
- Headquarters: New Delhi
- Collaboration with international standards bodies: BIS is a founder member of International Organisation for Standardization(ISO). It represents India in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the World Standards Service Network (WSSN).
News: After bird flu (avian influenza) was confirmed in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, high alert has been sounded in several states which have been reporting deaths of birds, including crows and migratory species.
- Bird flu or avian influenza: It is the name used to describe a viral infection that is reported mostly in birds but has the potential to affect humans and other animals.
- Common Strain: The most common strain of the virus that causes severe respiratory disease in birds is H5N1; various other strains like H7, H8 too, cause infection.
- Origin: The virus was first reported in geese in China in 1996.Since then, outbreaks have been reported periodically across the world. India reported the presence of the virus in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in 2006.
- Human Transmission: The H5N1 virus can jump species and infect humans from the infected bird. The first case of H5N1 infection in humans was reported in Hong Kong in 1997 when a poultry farm worker caught the infection from infected birds.
- Human-Human Transmission: The high mortality rate in humans almost 60% is the main cause of concern about the spread of bird flu. However, in its present form, human-to-human infection is not known — human infections have been reported only among people who have handled infected birds or carcasses.
- Current Situation in India: Currently, samples from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala have tested positive for the A (H5N8) strain of the virus, while samples from Himachal Pradesh have shown the presence of A (H5N1).Most infections have been reported either in wild birds, crows or migratory birds.
- Is India’s Population Vulnerable to Bird Flu? Experts have said that the chances of the H5N1 virus infecting humans is comparatively low in India as compared to South East Asian countries mainly because both meat and eggs in India are eaten well-cooked which sees them being exposed to over 100 degrees Celsius. Thus the chances of humans contracting the virus from eating chicken and eggs is extremely rare.
Key Features of the Policy:
- End-to-End Encrypted: The messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted which means nobody can see your messages or share it with anyone.
- Information Sharing with Third Party Services: When users rely on third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.
- Hardware Information: WhatsApp collects information from devices such as battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP) among others.
- Deleting the Account: If someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, then that user’s information will remain stored with the platform.
- Data Storage: WhatsApp mentions that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers including those in the United States to store user data. It also states that the data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based.
- Location: Even if a user does not use their location-relation features, Whatsapp collects IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country).
- Businesses interacting with users: WhatsApp says that any businesses that users interact with may provide the platform with information as well. The content shared with a business on WhatsApp will be visible to several people in that business.
- Payment Services: WhatsApp says that if anyone uses their payments services they will process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.
News: The United States(US) administration has amended its H-1B visa regime to give priority to higher wages and skills instead of the prevailing lottery system for selection of candidates looking to work in the country.
What is an H1B Visa?
- It is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. They are generally approved for three years after which holders often change employers and continue working for other companies based in the US.
- Issuance of H1B visas: Every year, the US administration issues 85,000 H-1B work permits. Of these, 65,000 are for people with specialty occupations while the rest are reserved for foreign workers who have earned a Master’s or a higher university degree in the US.
- Share of Indians in H1B Visa: Since the number of applications from Indian companies as well as individuals is much higher than any other nationality, a lion’s share of these work visas is cornered by Indians.
- For example, as of April 1, 2020, the US had received about 2.5 lakh H-1B work visa applications and Indians had applied for 1.84 lakh or 67% of these visas.
What are the New Rules?
- According to the amended rules, US Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) will first select registrations where the proffered wage equals or exceeds the prevailing level in that area of employment.
- Until now, the selection of H-1B work visas was done by a randomised lottery system, which did not take into account factors such as wage, experience or any other requirements and demands.
- Impact of New Rules: It could impact US tech companies looking to hire from the pool of H-1B visa workers as they are skilled and available for lower salaries. Indian companies are also likely to be hit and may have to shell out more salary for on-site workers.
News: The Supreme Court has expressed serious concern about the absence of security for forest officials in the country against poachers.
- Background: A petition was filed in the apex court challenging the prosecution launched against few forest officers in Rajasthan. The petitioner submitted that the FIRs against the forest officials were a ‘counter-action’ for their action taken against poachers.
Key Observations made by the Supreme Court:
- The central government should provide weapons and bulletproof vests and vehicles to the officials as India accounted for 30% of fatalities among forest rangers in the world(highest in the world).
- Centre should consider involving premier organisations such as the CBI to help the forest staff. There should even be a separate wing or wildlife division in the Enforcement Directorate with clean officials to track and investigate crimes of the poachers and the proceeds of their crime.
- The court noted that states such as Assam and Maharashtra have deployed armed guards to protect forest officers and no one dares come near them.