Scheme for Approval of Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies
The Quality Council of India (QCI) has recently come out with a scheme for approval of Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies (HRAA). This move is a part of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's (FSSAI) Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
➤ Scheme for Approval of Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies:
- It will scale up the hygiene rating by increasing the number of recognised HRAA in the country.
- The recognised HRAA will be responsible for verifying the compliance with food hygiene and safety procedures laid by FSSAI and get hygiene rating.
➤ Food Hygiene Rating Scheme:
- Initiated by the FSSAI, it is a certification system for food businesses supplying food directly to consumers, either on or off-premise.
- It aims to allow consumers to make informed choices/decisions pertaining to the food outlets where they eat by encouraging food businesses to improve their hygiene and safety standards.
- It is applicable for foodservice establishments (such as hotels, restaurants, cafeteria, dhabhas, etc), sweet shops, bakeries, meat retail stores, etc.
➤ Quality Council of India
- Set up in 1997, QCI is a pioneering experiment of India's Government in setting up organizations in partnership with the Indian industry.
- Indian industry is represented in QCI by three premier industry associations: Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and FICCI.
- Its mandate is to establish and operate the National Accreditation Structure (NAS) for conformity assessment bodies and provide accreditation in health, education, and quality promotion.
- It also promotes the adoption of quality standards relating to Quality Management Systems, Food Safety Management Systems and Product Certification and Inspection Bodies through the accreditation services provided by National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB).
North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of '6,700 crore for the North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP).
- This is a major step towards the North Eastern Region's economic development through strengthening of Intra - State Transmission and Distribution systems.
➤ North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project:
- The Scheme was initially approved in December 2014 as a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Power.
- Funded By:
- The assistance of the World Bank fund and by the Government of India through the Budget support of the Ministry of Power on 50:50 basis except for the capacity building component for '89 crore, which the Government of India will entirely fund.
- Implemented By:
- The scheme is being implemented through Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID) in association with six beneficiary North Eastern States namely, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura and is targeted to be commissioned by December 2021.
- POWERGRID is a 'Maharatna' Company operating under Ministry of Power, it is engaged in power transmission business with the responsibility for planning, implementation, operation and maintenance of Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS).
- After commissioning, the project will be owned and maintained by the respective North Eastern State Utilities.
- Government's commitment to the North Eastern Region's total economic development and strengthen the Intra-State Transmission & Distribution Infrastructure in the North East Region.
- Implementation of this scheme will create a reliable power grid and improve NER States' connectivity to the upcoming load centers, and thus extend the benefits of the grid connected power to all categories of consumers of beneficiaries in the NER.
- The scheme shall also increase the per capita power consumption of these States, and shall contribute to the total economic development of the NER.
- Hiring local manpower is generating a lot of employment for skilled and unskilled manpower of NER.
➤ Other Initiatives for North Eastern States:
- North-East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS):
- In order to promote employment in the North East States, the Government is incentivizing primarily the MSME Sector through this scheme.
- International Tourism Mart (ITM):
- It is organized annually with the objective of showcasing the largely untapped tourism potential of the North East region in the domestic and international markets.
- 10% of the Ministry of Tourism's plan allocation is marked for the NorthEast region.
- There are also plans to hold an NER Tourism Mart where tour operators from all over the country can meet and the regional tourism can be showcased.
- National Bamboo Mission: The Mission envisages promoting the bamboo sector's holistic growth by adopting the area-based, regionally differentiated strategy. It aims to increase the area under bamboo cultivation and marketing.
National Security Directive
Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Security has approved the setting up of a new National Security Directive on the telecommunication sector.
- Also, the Union Cabinet has approved the auction of 2,251.25 megahertz of spectrum with a reserve price of '3.92 lakh crore.
- The Centre asked all telecom operators to undertake an 'information security audit' of their networks.
- The objective was to specifically check for any 'backdoor' or 'trapdoor' vulnerabilities in the telecom networks, which can be exploited to extract information and pass on illegally to agencies around the world.
- A backdoor or a trap door is a bug installed in the telecom hardware that allows companies to listen in or collect data being shared on the network.
- Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE have been under global scrutiny for allegedly installing backdoor vulnerabilities and spying for the Chinese government and have been banned by several countries.
- Almost 30% of Bharti Airtel's network comprises Chinese telecom equipment and it is 40% for Vodafone Idea's network. State-run telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) too have equipment from Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE, in their 3G and older networks.
- All vendors including Huawei and ZTE were allowed to participate in 5G trials but their participation became difficult owing to developments like the Galwan Valley Standoff in Ladakh.
- The government barred BSNL and MTNL from using Chinese equipment for the roll-out of its 4G network.
- The Department of Telecommunications hinted that it would announce guidelines asking even private telcos to refrain from using Chinese equipment, however, no such guidelines have been issued till now.
➤ National Security Directive:
- It aims to classify telecom products and their sources under the 'trusted' and 'non-trusted' categories.
- It will make its decision based on the National Security Committee on Telecom's approval.
- It will be headed by the deputy National Security Advisor (NSA) and have members from other departments and ministries, independent experts, and two members from the industry.
- The National Cyber Security Coordinator is the designated authority and will devise the methodology to designate trusted products.
- From among the sources declared as trusted sources by the designated authority, those which meet the criteria of the Department of Telecom's preferential market access policy will be certified as India trusted sources.
- The policy provides opportunities to local manufacturers of equipment and handsets in the "sensitive" telecom sector to counter dumping of products by other countries.
- Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) must connect new devices that are designated trusted products.
- However, the directive will not ask TSPs to mandatorily replace the old and existing equipment and does not impact the ongoing annual maintenance contracts or upgrades to old equipment either.
- Apart from the directive, the government will release at regular intervals new guidelines for effective monitoring and effective control of the network security of the TSPs.
- The move could potentially make it more difficult for Chinese telecom equipment vendors to supply equipment to Indian telecom players.
- Mobile applications that either have Chinese origins or have central servers in China may also find re-entry in the market extremely difficult.
- Since June 2020, the Centre has banned over 200 Chinese apps, citing national security concerns.
➤ Telecom Spectrum Auction
- Spectrum in the frequency bands of 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz and 2,500MHz would be offered for 20 years.
- The auction would help boost spectrum availability with telecom operators enabling improvements in 4G services.
- By winning the right to use spectrum through the auction, incumbent telecom service providers will be able to augment their network capacity. In contrast, new players will be able to start services.
- Spectrum holding per operator in a service area in India is well below the international average so any further auctioning of spectrum is needed.
- Spectrum Auction:
- It is a transparent process of spectrum assignment to successful bidders.
- Sufficient spectrum availability increases the quality of telecom services for the consumers.
- It is relevant that the telecom sector today is a key infrastructure provider with strong linkages with economic growth, direct and indirect employment generation and expansion of Digital India.
No Replies to SC or HCs: Maharashtra
Recently, both Houses of the Maharashtra State Legislature have passed proposals stating that they will not take cognizance of or reply to any notice sent by the High Court (HC) or the Supreme Court (SC) in the Breach of Privilege Motion against a TV editor and anchor.
- A Breach of Privilege Motion was moved in the State Assembly against the TV anchor, accused of using "derogatory language" and "making baseless remarks" against the Chief Minister of the State and "frequently insulting" Ministers and MPs during TV debates.
- The anchor filed a petition challenging the Breach of Privilege Motion in the SC.
- The assistant secretary of the Assembly questioned this move and produced "confidential" communications from the Speaker and the House Privileges Committee.
- The SC then issued a contempt notice to the assistant secretary of the Assembly and also held that it might be "necessary in all probability to serve the Speaker" to know his version in matter.
➤ Privilege Motion
- It is concerned with the breach of parliamentary privileges by a minister.
- Breach of Privileges:
- Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can "effectively discharge their functions".
- When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under Parliament's law.
- A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
- Role of the Speaker/Chair:
- The Speaker/Chair is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
- The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/ Chair gives consent under relevant rules, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
- Rules Governing Privilege:
- Rule 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rule Book governs privilege.
- Rules say that a member may, with the Speaker or the Chairperson's consent, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or a committee thereof.
- Current Scenario and State Assembly's Stand:
- The House Speaker initiated the Treasury benches' motion and cited Article 194 of the Constitution, which lays down the powers and privileges of the Houses of Legislatures, and Article 212, which pertains to courts not inquiring into proceedings of the legislature.
- The proposals held that replying to such notices could mean accepting that the judiciary can keep a check on the legislature and be inconsistent with the Constitution's Basic Structure.
- The proposals were passed unanimously, which stated that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker would not respond to any notice or summons issued by the SC.
- The Legislative Council also passed the proposal unanimously and stated that no cognizance will be taken of any notice or summons issued by the HC or SC.
- Politicians have noted that the notice was in exception to the language used in the letter and has not encroached in any way on the rights of the legislature to legislate. If the legislature passes such a motion, it will set a wrong precedent.
- Parliamentary Affairs Minister has held that the proposal was limited to upholding the Speaker's chair's esteem and ensuring that the presiding authority is safeguarded from judicial scrutiny in matters of legislation.
Human Development Index: UNDP
India ranked 131 among 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) for 2019, slipping two places from the previous year, according to the Human Development Report (HDR) 2020 released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
- The 2020 Report has introduced planetary pressures- adjusted Human Development Index, which adjusts the standard Human Development Index (HDI) by a country's per capita carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint.
- The other indices that form the part of the Report are:
- Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI),
- Gender Development Index (GDI),
- Gender Inequality Index (GII) and
- Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
➤ Human Development Index:
- About: HDI emphasizes that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.
- Based on three Basic Dimensions of Human Development:
- A long and healthy life,
- Access to knowledge, and
- A decent standard of living.
- Top Performers for 2019:
- Norway topped the index, followed by Ireland and Switzerland. Hong Kong and Iceland complete the top five.
- Performance of the Asian Region:
- Singapore was ranked 11, Saudi Arabia 40, and Malaysia was at 62 in the global index, representing the top bracket among the Asian countries with "very high human development".
- Sri Lanka (72), Thailand (79), China (85) and Indonesia and Philippines (both 107), and Vietnam (117), among others, were "high human development" countries.
- India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Kenya and Pakistan were ranked among countries with "medium human development" with ranks between 120 and 156.
- India's Performance:
- Overall Performance: HDI value for 2019 is 0.645, which puts the country in the medium human development category, positioning it at 131 out of 189 countries and territories.
- Between 1990 and 2019, India's HDI value increased from 0.429 to 0.645, an increase of 50.3%.
- Long and Healthy Life: Life expectancy for Indian's at birth was 69.7 years in 2019, slightly lower than the south Asian average of 69.9 years.
- Between 1990 and 2019, India's life expectancy at birth increased by 11.8 years.
- Access to Knowledge: The expected years of schooling in India was 12.2 years, compared with 11.2 years in Bangladesh and 8.3 years in Pakistan.
- Between 1990 and 2019, mean years of schooling increased by 3.5 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 4.5 years.
- A Decent Standard of Living: In terms of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, India at USD 6,681 fared better than some others in 2019, despite a fall over the previous year.
- India's GNI per capita increased by about 273.9% between 1990 and 2019.
➤ Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI):
- About: The PHDI adjusts the standard HDI by a country's level of carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint, each on a per capita basis. o Performance of the Countries:
- Norway, which tops the HDI, falls 15 places if this metric is used, leaving Ireland at the top of the table.
- The United States (HDI Rank -17) and Canada (HDI Rank -16) would fall 45 and 40 places respectively, reflecting their disproportionate impact on natural resources.
- The oil and gas-rich Gulf States also fell steeply. China would drop 16 places from its current ranking of 85.
- India's Performance:
- India would move up eight places in the ranking.
- Under the Paris Agreement, India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP from the 2005 level by 33-35% by 2030 and obtain 40% of electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources 2030.
- Solar capacity in India increased from 2.6 gigawatts in March 2014 to 30 gigawatts in July 2019, achieving its target of 20 gigawatts four years ahead of schedule.
- In 2019, India ranked fifth for installed solar capacity.
- The National Solar Mission aims to promote solar energy for power generation and other uses to make solar energy competitive with fossil fuel-based options.
➤ Other Indices
- Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index:
- The IHDI indicates percentage loss in HDI due to inequality.
- For India, IHDI value for 2019 is 0.537 (16.8% overall loss).
- Gender Development Index:
- GDI measures disparities on the HDI by gender.
- For India, GDI value for 2019 is 0.820 (World: 0.943).
- Gender Inequality Index:
- GII presents a composite measure of gender inequality using three dimensions:
- Reproductive health,
- Empowerment and
- The labour market.
- In GII, India is at 123rd rank. Last year, it was ranked 122nd out of 162 countries.
- Multidimensional Poverty Index:
- MPI captures the multiple deprivations that people in developing countries face in their health, education, and living standards.
- The most recent survey data publicly available for India's MPI estimation refer to 2015-2016. In India, 27.9% of the population (3,77,492 thousand people) are multidimensionally poor, while an additional 19.3% are classified under vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (2,60,596 thousand people).
➤ Major Challenges: While the devastating effects of Covid-19 have taken the world's attention, other layered crises, from climate change to rising inequalities, continue to take their toll. The challenges of planetary and societal imbalance are intertwined: they interact in a vicious circle, each making the other worse.
➤ Challenges Related to Children:
- Indigenous children in Cambodia, India and Thailand show more malnutrition-related issues such as stunting and wasting.
- In India, different responses in parent behaviour as well as some disinvestment in girls' health and education have led to higher malnutrition among girls than among boys as a consequence of shocks likely linked to climate change.
➤ Displacements in 2020: Disasters continued to trigger most new displacements in 2020. Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh and India, driving the largest single displacement event in the first half of the year, triggering 3.3 million pre-emptive evacuations.
- Expanding human development - more education of women and girls, more economic empowerment of women, more bargaining power of young girls in households, reduced poverty, etc.
- Evidence from Colombia to India indicates that land's financial security and ownership improve women's security and reduce the risk of gender- based violence, clearly indicating that owning land can empower women.
Recommendations on Reservation
Recently, an eight-member committee, appointed by the government for suggesting effective implementation of reservation in students admissions and faculty recruitment in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has come out with its recommendations.
➤ About the Committee:
- It was chaired by IIT Delhi's Director and had representatives of secretaries of the departments of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training, Persons with Disabilities, among others.
- Its report was submitted to the Ministry of Education in June 2020 and has been made available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
➤ Recommendations: Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance, IITs should be added to the list of "Institutions of Excellence" mentioned in the Schedule to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers' Cadre) Act, 2019 (CEI Act).
- Section 4 of the Act exempts "institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance" mentioned in the Schedule and "minority institutions" from providing reservation.
- Currently, many research institutes like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Brain Research Centre, Space Physics Laboratory, etc. are included under Section 4 of the act, but not the IITs.
➤ Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers' Cadre) Act, 2019
- It provides for the reservation of posts in appointments by direct recruitment of persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) and the Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs), to teachers' cadre in certain Central Educational Institutions established, maintained or aided by the Central Government, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
➤ The Act not to apply in certain cases:
- The institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance specified in the Schedule to this Act.
- A Minority Educational Institution.
- However, the Central Government may amend the Schedule from time to time by notification in the Official Gazette.
If granting full exemption from reservations was not possible, the committee recommended that the implementation of reservation policies for all categories, including Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), be restricted to Assistant Professor Grade I and Grade II and not for levels above.
- Vacancies not filled in a particular year due to non-availability, be de-reserved in the subsequent year.
- Conduct of special recruitment drives to attract candidates from reserved categories.
- To address diversity issues, the report argued that a "system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time" and not "specific quotas" be followed so that IITs can "compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching."
- The panel proposes a two-year Research Assistantship for students from reserved categories aspiring to join PhD programmes.
- It highlighted that the enrollment of reserved category students in the PhD programme is low and needs to be addressed, which is severely limiting the number of reserved category candidates available to be hired as faculty in the IIT system.