30 April, 2020 48 Min Read
|GS-II||Only 30 lakh found MGNREGA - Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act work||Rural development|
|MHA issued guidelines to allow inter-State movement of stranded migrant workers||Governance|
|Dams in China||International Relations|
|Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020||World Major reports|
|GS-III||India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)- Intellectual property (IP) rights||Economy|
|National Infrastructure Pipeline||Economy|
|International Financial Services Authority||Economy|
|PT Pickups||International Labour Organization (ILO)||International Organisations|
|Natural Product Based Alzheimer Inhibitor||Science and Technology|
GS-II : Rural development
Only 30 lakh found MGNREGA - Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act work
Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Although the Centre gave explicit instructions to reopen its flagship rural jobs scheme from April 20, only 30 lakh people were provided work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in April, about 17% of the usual, government data show.
In the light of government failure to provide sufficient work at a time when the loss of livelihoods due to the lockdown and returning migrant workers have increased the need for work in Indian villages, there is a rising demand for compensation wages to be paid to workers instead.
On April 4, activists of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, asking for full wages to be paid through the lockdown to the scheme’s 7.6 crore active job card-holders. On April 20, an intervention application was filed asking that as an interim measure, unemployment allowance be paid to all who were at work on March 24, when the lockdown was announced. Almost 1.6 crore workers found employment under the scheme in March.
What to do?
“MGNREGA families should be given at least ten days’ wages as free cash for the loss in the month of April,” said economist Reetika Khera, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. “The government asked the private sector to pay workers. Shouldn’t they lead by example?”
The scheme stipulates that if workers register for work, but are not provided employment, they are eligible to an unemployment allowance amounting to a quarter of their wages in the first month, half in the second, and full wages thereafter.
“An unemployment allowance is the very least that should be paid to these workers,”
The scheme was introduced as a social measure that guarantees “the right to work”. The key tenet of this social measure and labour law is that the local government will have to legally provide at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to enhance their quality of life.
The following are the eligibility criteria for receiving the benefits under MGNREGA scheme:
Key facts related to the scheme:
Role of Gram Sabha:
Roles of Gram Panchayat:
Responsibilities of State Government in MGNREGA:
MHA issued guidelines to allow inter-State movement of stranded migrant workers
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
More than a month after the countrywide lockdown owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued guidelines to allow inter-State movement of stranded migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims, students and others.
The guidelines issued by the MHA on April 19 asserted that there would be no inter-State movement of labourers. Following U.P., States like Punjab, Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra were coordinating inter-State movement of migrant workers. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had requested the Centre to change its guidelines and allow students and workers living outside to return home.
“All States and Union Territories [UTs] have been asked to designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending the stranded persons. The authorities shall also register the stranded persons within their States and UTs. In case, a group of stranded persons wish to move between one State to another State, the sending and receiving authorities may consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road,” the MHA guidelines said.
The moving person would be screened and those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed. “Buses shall be used for transport of groups of persons which will be sanitized and shall follow safe social distancing norms in seating.” The States falling on the transit route would allow the movement of such persons.
“On arrival at their destination, they would be assessed by the local health authorities, and kept in home quarantine, unless the assessment requires keeping a person in institutional quarantine. They would be kept under watch with periodic health check-ups. For this purpose, such persons may be encouraged to use Aarogya Setu app through which their health status can be monitored and tracked,” the MHA said.
The country was initially placed under lockdown on March 24 and it was extended till May 3. With all forms of public transport, including railways, suspended and State borders sealed, lakhs of migrant workers in urban areas started walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes. On March 28, the MHA asked the States to stop their movement and arrange relief camps.
Note: The first set of guidelines by the MHA were issued on March 24 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country in the wake of the pandemic.
Dams in China
Part of: GS-II- International relations (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, a US-funded study has highlighted the possible impact of China’s dams on the Mekong river (known as Lancang river in China) and countries downstream. The study was published by the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership in Bangkok and the Lower Mekong Initiative. The Lower Mekong Initiative is a US partnership with all the downstream countries of Mekong besides Myanmar. The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It has called the study groundless and highlighted the drought faced by Yunnan because Lancang only accounts for 13.5% of Mekong’s flows. China has maintained that the dams, it is building, are run of the river dams which store water for power generation.
According to Indian experts, the study is not conclusive because it only considers the water flowing into the lower basin at one station in Thailand. It did not consider other dams and water-use along the course of the river. The lower basin is not entirely dependent on flows from China, but also receives water from tributaries in all other countries it flows in, which the study did not account for.
India’s Other Concerns
India has been expressing concerns on Brahmaputra since 2015 when China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu. Currently, three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed.
For India, quantity of water is not an issue because these are run of the river dams and will not impact the Brahmaputra flow.
More importantly, Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
However, India is concerned about the Chinese activities affecting the quality of water, ecological balance and the flood management. India and China do not have a water sharing agreement. Both nations share hydrological data so it becomes important to share genuine data and have continuous dialogue on issues like warning of droughts, floods and high water discharges.
Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020
Part of: GS-II- World reports (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The ‘Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020’ revealed that conflict, violence and disasters led to 50.8 million internal displacement across the world at the end of 2019.
Data Related to India
Over 19,000 conflicts and violence also prompted the phenomenon. Political and electoral violence, especially in Tripura and West Bengal, led to the displacement of more than 7,600 people.
GS-III : Economy
India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)- Intellectual property (IP) rights
Part of: GS-III- CULTURE (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
While India made “meaningful progress” to enhance IP protection and enforcement in some areas, it did not resolve recent and long-standing challenges, and created new ones, the United States Trade Representative’s report said.
India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for lack of adequate intellectual property (IP) rights protection and enforcement, the USTR said in its Annual Special 301 Report, released.
“Despite India’s justifications of limiting IP protections as a way to promote access to technologies, India maintains extremely high customs duties directed to IP-intensive products such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) products, solar energy equipment, and capital goods,” it said.
Online IP enforcement in India has improved, the report said, but progress is undercut by factors including weak enforcement by courts and the police, lack of familiarity with investigative techniques and no centralised IP enforcement agency. The USTR also noted that India was ranked among the top five source economies for fake goods by the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in 2019.
Not good for online rights
The government’s 2019 draft Copyright Amendment Rules, if implemented, would have “severe” consequences for Internet-content rights holders, the report said, as the proposed rules broadened the scope of compulsory licensing from radio and television broadcasting to online broadcasting.
Trademark counterfeiting levels were “problematic”, the report said and there were “excessive delays” in obtaining trademarks due to a lack of examination quality. The U.S., the report noted, continues to urge India to join the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, a treaty that harmonises trademark registration.
Analyis- Priority watch list (Mains shot)
What is priority watch list?
“Priority Watch List” and “Watch List” countries are identified by the annual Special 301 Report. “Priority Watchlist countries” are judged by the USTR as having “serious intellectual property rights deficiencies” that require increased USTR attention. “Watch List” countries have been identified by the USTR as having “serious intellectual property rights deficiencies” but are not yet placed on the “Priority Watchlist”. The USTR can move countries from one list to the other, or remove them from the lists, throughout the year.
Why India is placed under this? (PT SHOT)
Lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its Intellectual Property (IP) framework on long-standing and new challenges, which has negatively affected American right holders over the past year. India remains one of the world’s most challenging major economies with respect to protection and enforcement of IP.
What needs to be done- demands by USTR?
To maintain the integrity and predictability of IP systems, governments should use compulsory licenses only in extremely limited circumstances and after making every effort to obtain authorisation from the patent owner on reasonable commercial terms and conditions.
Such licenses should not be used as a tool to implement industrial policy, including providing advantages to domestic companies, or as undue leverage in pricing negotiations between governments and right holders. It is also critical that foreign governments ensure transparency and due process in any actions related to compulsory licenses. India has yet to take steps to address long-standing patent issues that affect innovative industries.
Special 301 (PT SHOT)
The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that identifies trade barriers to United States companies and products due to the intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks, in other countries. By April 30 of each year, the USTR must identify countries which do not provide "adequate and effective" protection of intellectual property rights or "fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property rights".
The Special 301 Report is published pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 as amended by Section 1303 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. The Special 301 Report was first published in 1989.
Priority watch list countries: USA uses “carrot” policy to incentivize IPR reforms e.g. funding, training, capacity building, bilateral exchanges and conferences.
Priority foreign countries: “sticks” policy to force IPR reforms e.g. putting trade sanctions, approaching WTO dispute resolution.
The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has taken off India from the list of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible to claim benefits for preferential treatment with respect to Countervailing duties (CDs) investigations.
India- As a USTR’s Developed Country
Impact on India
National Infrastructure Pipeline
Part of: GS-III- Economy-Infrastructure (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, the task force headed by Atanu Chakraborty (economic affairs secretary) on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) submitted its final report to the Finance Minister.
National Infrastructure Pipeline
International Financial Services Centres
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The central government has established International Financial Services Centres Authority to regulate all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) with headquarters in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
Members: The International Financial Services Centres Authority will consist of nine members, appointed by the central government. They will include chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA); and two members from the Ministry of Finance. In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
Term: All members of the IFSC Authority will have a term of three years, subject to reappointment.
International Financial Services Centre:
The Union Cabinet has approved International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 which seeks to establish a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India.
International Financial Service Centre (IFSC)
Salient Features of the Authority
PT Pickups : International Organisations
International Labour Organization (ILO)
Established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations. League of Nations was disbanded in 1946 and powers and functions of ILO transferred to United Nations
Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.
The organization has played a key role:
It is the only tripartite U.N. agency. It brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
Natural Product Based Alzheimer Inhibitor
Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have modified the structure of Berberine into Ber-D to use as an Alzheimer's inhibitor.
Berberine is poorly soluble and toxic to cells. So scientists modified berberine to Ber-D, which is a soluble (aqueous), antioxidant. They found it to be a multifunctional inhibitor of multifaceted amyloid toxicity of Alzheimer’s disease.