09 May, 2020
51 Min Read
|GS-II||Dilution of labour laws- Factories(Amendment) Bill,2014|
|GS-III||FAME – NATIONAL ELECTRONIC MOBILITY MISSION||Economic Issues|
|Vehicle scrappage policy soon||Economic Issues|
|A decent exchange-Barter System in Fiji||Economic Issues|
|Lockdown air: less NO2, same PM2.5 and more urban ozone||Biodiversity & Environment|
|After pharma, pesticide industry eyes make in India opportunity||Economic Issues|
|PT Pointer||China’s experimental spaceship works normally in orbit|
|3 drug regimen in Phase 2 trial for COVID-19|
|NTPC to provide Hydrogen Fuel Cell based electric buses and cars in Leh and Delhi||Economic Issues|
Dilution of labour laws
At a time when everyone is awaiting an early end to the health and economic crisis caused by the global pandemic, the interests of labourers and workers are once again set to be sacrificed.
Under the Constitution of India, Labour is a subject in the Concurrent List where both the Central & State Governments are competent to enact legislation subject to certain matters being reserved for the Centre
States diluting labour laws
It is amoral and perverse on the part of some States to address this need by granting sweeping exemptions from legal provisions aimed at protecting labourers and employees in factories, industries and other establishments.
1. Madhya Pradesh has embarked on a plan to give a boost to business and industry by allowing units to be operated without many of the requirements of the Factories Act —
a. Working hours may extend to 12 hours, instead of eight, and
b. Weekly duty up to 72 hours.
The State has used Section 5 of the Act, which permits exemption from its provisions for three months, in the hope that the Centre would approve such suspension for at least a thousand days.
Section 5 : However, this exemption can be given only during a ‘public emergency’, defined in a limited way as a threat to security due to war or external aggression.
2. Uttar Pradesh has approved an ordinance suspending for three years all labour laws, save a few ones relating to the abolition of child and bonded labour, women employees, construction workers and payment of wages, besides compensation to workmen for accidents while on duty.
Reports suggest that several States are following their example in the name of boosting economic activity.
Changes in the manner in which labour laws operate in a State may require the Centre’s assent.
One hopes the Centre, which is pursuing a labour reform agenda through consolidated codes for wages, industrial relations and occupational safety, health and working conditions, would not readily agree to wholesale exemptions from legal safeguards and protections the law now affords to workers.
Section 5 of Factories Act,1948
Section 5 in The Factories Act, 1948. 5. Power to exempt the provisions of the Act during public emergency. For the purposes of this section “public emergency” means a grave emergency whereby the security of India or of any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external aggression or internal disturbance
Factories (Amendment) Bill,2014
The Factories Act is a legislation that deals with safety, health and welfare of workers. The present Factories Act is applicable on factories (with electricity connection) with 20 workers and factories, without electricity, with 10 workers.
The government had introduced Factories (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Lok Sabha in August 2014. However, it did not come up for discussion as it was referred to a standing committee which presented its report in December 2014.
Objective of amendments:
What are the amendments proposed?
Why Factories Act,1948 need to be amended?
FAME – NATIONAL ELECTRONIC MOBILITY MISSION
Part of: GS-III- Economy-Automobile (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Government of India notified FAME India Scheme [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India] for implementation with effect from 1st April 2015, with the objective to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing eco-system.
The FAME India Scheme is aimed at incentivising all vehicle segments i.e. 2 Wheeler, 3 Wheeler Auto, Passenger 4 Wheeler Vehicle, Light Commercial Vehicles and Buses. The scheme covers Hybrid & Electric technologies like Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles.
Analysis of focus areas
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
An HEV has a conventional internal combustion engine propulsion system plus an electric propulsion system consisting of a battery and a motor. This makes HEVs heavy and expensive. Therefore as per the current technology it can only be used in light commercial vehicle.
Steps Under FAME for technological development
Steps taken by Government
Electric and hybrid vehicle (xEVs) manufacturers will have to indigenise a significant portion of components to avail benefits under a revised set of rules of the phase 2 of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, or FAME 2 scheme. In a first, detailed localization draft guidelines have been issued by the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) putting out a list of key components for xEV manufacturers to localise with respective deadlines to avail the scheme across all approved vehicle categories.
Vehicle scrappage policy soon
Part of: GS-III- Economy automobile (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The vehicle scrappage policy is likely to be finalised soon to boost the automobile sector. The Minister of Road Transport and Highways also said that his ministry has fixed a target to build highways worth ?15 lakh crore in the next two years.
In May 2016, the government had floated a draft voluntary vehicle fleet modernisation programme (V-VMP) that proposed to take 28 million decade-old vehicles off the road. Mr. Gadkari said for highways, he has set a target of building ?15 lakh crore worth of roads in the next two years and added that the road construction pace has reached 30 km a day now. He also suggested exploring cheaper credits, including foreign capital for enhancing liquidity in the automobile manufacturing sector.
Automobile sector Analysis
This sector is hard hit by the liquidity crunch for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and a dip in consumer sentiment. Leading automobile manufacturers announced a sharp decline of up to 50 per cent in their domestic sales in recent months. Manufacturers are now going for cuts in production, and the industry that is one of the biggest job creators in the country is staring at a deep-rooted slowdown and job losses across its value chain.
Decline in Sales
Vehicle sales numbers in July, the worst in 19 years, have reaffirmed the downturn in the automobile sector. The drop is happening across all segments. If passenger vehicles sales witnessed a fall of 18.4 per cent in the quarter ended June 2019, the commercial vehicle segment witnessed a 16.6 per cent decline.
Decline in the sales of commercial vehicles and tractors
A sign of distress
A cause of concern
Causes for decline in sales
There are several reasons for the famed Indian automobile sector, fourth largest in the world, to experience this unprecedented slowdown.
What does this situation indicate?
A decent exchange
Karl Marx thought, about a century-and-a-half ago, that society moved from primitive communism, through various forms and structures of inequality, to communism proper. Economic systems moved forward, resolving their contradictions and creating new ones. Turns out he was, at best, only half right.
Back to the earlier Economic system amidst COVID-19
Mediums of exchange with fictional value — money, in all its forms and abstractions — are premised on a leap of faith.
People accept the “promise to pay the bearer” from a distant authority, and lives, communities, economies and civilisations are built on this trust.
But when the system isn’t enough, and the margins swell enough to flood the entire system, a different, more relatable form of exchange comes into place.
In Fiji, and many other Pacific Island nations, COVID-19 has forced a return to the barter system.
In epidemiological terms, the region has been relatively less affected by the pandemic: At the end of April, only six Pacific countries and territories between them have reported 260 cases and seven deaths.
Yet, over 10 per cent of Fiji’s population — 1,00,000 people — are active on a Facebook group called “Barter for a Better Fiji”. Similar groups have cropped up in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu.
The tourism sector in the region is devastated, and people are out of work.
Yet, in the absence of money, many are sustaining themselves through work, and the dignity of social exchanges that engenders.
What is a Barter System?
A barter system is an old method of exchange. Th is system has been used for centuries and long before money was invented. People exchanged services and goods for other services and goods in return. Today, bartering has made a comeback using techniques that are more sophisticated to aid in trading; for instance, the Internet. In ancient times, this system involved people in the same area, however today bartering is global. The value of bartering items can be negotiated with the other party. Bartering doesn't involve money which is one of the advantages. You can buy items by exchanging an item you have but no longer want or need. Generally, trading in this manner is done through Online auctions and swap markets.
How the barter system can work in 21st century?
Labour — whether you’re a carpenter, teacher or accountant — can be exchanged for meat, food and other commodities.
Professional photography lessons are being exchanged for food.
The idea behind this network of exchanges is simple: An economic crisis need not descend to a humanitarian one.
Thinking of what each member of society can offer, and negotiating the value of that good/service might not lead to a Utopian ideal of equality.
But as the world struggles to treat people with decency amid a pandemic, it is at least a more moral equilibrium.
Lockdown air: less NO2, same PM2.5 and more urban ozone
While traffic pollution has been falling, the lockdown may be leading to the generation of a dangerous pollutant, urban ozone, which can cause airway inflammation in humans.
The research is specific to the UK. It has been conducted by experts from The University of Manchester.
Levels of nitrogen oxides were found reduced in most locations in the UK during mid-March and April. The level of decline ranges from 20% to 80 %.
Levels of nitrogen oxides fall less in rural areas than urban areas; and they are higher in the morning than compared to later in the day.
There was no evidence of a decrease in PM2.5. These particle are produced by vehicles, they are also known to originate from domestic wood burning and chemical reactions involving emissions from industry and agriculture, so there has been no significant improvement in air quality in that regard.
The Manchester team speculated that photochemical production of ozone may become more important in urban areas during summertime in these low conditions of oxides of nitrogen.
As nitrogen oxides reduce, photochemical production may become more efficient and can lead to higher ozone concentrations in the summertime as higher temperatures increase emissions of biogenic hydrocarbon from natural sources such as trees.
These biogenic hydrocarbons significantly affect urban ozone levels.
While ozone is important for screening harmful solar UV radiation when present higher up in the atmosphere, it can be a dangerous at the Earth’s surface, and can react to destroy or alter many biological molecules.
After pharma, pesticide industry eyes make in India opportunity
The big opportunity the Indian industry has to undertake is manufacturing of active ingredients that are scheduled to lose patent protection in the next few years. While the focus has been on pharmaceuticals, the issue of “Chinese dependence” is coming to the fore, especially post Covid-19, also in pesticides.
India’s imports of crop protection chemicals – mainly the technical material or active ingredients that go into making end-use formulations – stood at Rs 9,266.84 crore in 2018-19, most of it coming from China (Rs 4,904.28 crore), US (Rs 1,050.69 crore) and Germany (Rs 614.53 crore). “Just as in pharma, the government should encourage backward integration by our industry to reduce excessive reliance on imports of technicals, particularly from China,” says experts The Rs 1,250-crore annual sales company – along with UPL, Gharda Chemicals, PI Industries, Meghmani Organics, Indofil Industries, Coromandel International and NACL Industries (formerly Nagarjuna Agrichem) – is among the few major domestic manufacturers of technical grade pesticides. These company manufactures technical-grade products that include herbicides (bispyribac-sodium, pretilachlor and atrazine), insecticides (lambda-cyhalothrin, bifenthrin and thiamethoxam) and fungicides (thiophanate methyl). (PT)
Significantly, India, in 2018-19, exported crop protection chemicals worth Rs 22,090.18 crore, a large part of it to Brazil (Rs 4,314.74 crore) and the US (Rs 4,238.63 crore). “
The one big opportunity the Indian industry has is to undertake manufacturing of active ingredients that are scheduled to lose patent protection in the next few years. These include chlorantraniliprole and cyantraniliprole (both blockbuster insecticides of DuPont sold to FMC Corporation of US in 2017, while marketed under ‘Coragen’ and ‘Benavia’ brands, with their patents expiring in 2022 and 2024, respectively), flubendiamide (insecticide molecule of Bayer CropScience sold under ‘Fame’ brand and just gone off-patent) and fluopyram (fungicide, also of Bayer and marketed as ‘Luna’, with patent expiry in 2024).
“The multinationals that have developed these active ingredients simply import them now. The government should speed up the process of granting registration for their manufacture by domestic companies once they have become generic chemicals,” Potential manufacturers are permitted to reverse-engineer proprietary crop protection products even during their period of patent protection. They can further carry out bio-efficacy and residue trials (in soil, water and plants under different agro-climatic conditions), apart from toxicology studies on their proposed generic version. All this data, including information of packaging/labeling and shelf-life, has to be submitted to the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee in the Union Agriculture Ministry.
“The problem today is that even after the data is submitted, the grant of registration takes inordinately long time. As a result, we cannot launch any product that has gone off-patent and make it immediately available to farmers at a more competitive rate. Since the registration process is so slow, it discourages domestic manufacturing and India ends up being a large-scale importer of technical material from China, the ultimate loser is the farmer.
China’s experimental spaceship works normally in orbit
China's new-generation spaceship launched earlier in the week is working normally in orbit after completing a series of planned operations
The experimental spaceship was launched without crew by China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan. So far, the new spaceship has unfolded its solar panels and positioned them towards the sun, deployed its relay antenna and established a relay communication link, as well as conducted autonomous orbit control four times
It is scheduled to touch down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. China initiated the manned space programme in 1992. In recent years, it has emerged as a major space power with manned space missions and landing a rover in the dark side of the moon. It is currently building a space station of its own expected to be ready by 2022.
Phase-2 trial with three drugs offers hope
A phase-2 trial involving participants with mild to moderate coronavirus (COVID-19) illness found no detectable virus within an average seven days of starting treatment with a three-drug regimen compared with 12 days in people in the control group.
Samples tested for the virus comprised nasopharyngeal swab, posterior oropharyngeal saliva, throat swab, and stool samples.
Clinical improvement was also significantly better in those who received the three-drug regimen. Complete alleviation of symptoms was achieved in four days in the intervention group and eight days in the control group. The average hospital stay was also significantly shorter (nine days) in participants who received the three-drug therapy than in the control group (14.5 days). The three-drug regimen was found to be safe.
The three drugs used are:
Lopinavir-ritonavir is used for treating HIV, ribavirin for treating chronic hepatitis C virus, and injectable interferon beta-1b is used by multiple sclerosis patients.
The researchers had earlier demonstrated that a combination of lopinavir–ritonavir and ribavirin significantly reduced mortality and respiratory failure in patients during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
And interferon beta-1b has previously been shown to reduce viral load and improve lung problems in animal studies of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infection.
NTPC to provide Hydrogen Fuel Cell based electric buses and cars in Leh and Delhi
National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) has invited Global Expression of Interest (EoI) to provide 10 Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and an equal number of Hydrogen Fuel Cell based electric cars in Leh and Delhi.
The EoI has been issued by NTPC's wholly owned subsidiary, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam LIMITED. The move to procure Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles is first of its kind project in the country, wherein a complete solution from green energy to the fuel cell vehicle will be developed.
The initiative, which has been undertaken with the support of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, will also harness renewable energy for generation of hydrogen and develop it's storage and dispensation facilities as part of pilot projects at Leh and Delhi. The move to launch hydrogen powered vehicles aims at decarbonizing mobility segment.
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