United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) recently appointed Indian-origin Anita Bhatia as Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships.
About UN Women:
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:
It is the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
It merges and builds on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system, which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment:
The main roles of UN Women are:
Source: The Hindu
IMD Competitiveness Rankings
The 2019 edition of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Business School World Competitiveness Rankings has been released.
About IMD World Competitiveness Rankings:
Started in 1989, the report ranks 63 economies on 235 indicators which are incorporated from each of these economies.
The indicators are used to evaluate country’s ability to foster an environment where enterprises can achieve desirable sustainable growth, generate employment and increase its citizen’s welfare.
IMD takes into account a wide range of statistics and hard data such as unemployment, GDP and government spending on health and education as well as soft data from an international business executive opinion survey on topics such as social cohesion, globalisation and corruption.
The economies are judged in four categories:
Performance of India:
India has moved up one place to rank 43rd (Previously: 44th position in 2018, 45th in 2017 and 41st in 2016.)
This improved rank is result of India’s robust economic growth, a large labour force and its huge market size.
Topped by Singapore. It has grabbed top position for the first time in nine years. In 2018 it stood at third rank.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) has held onto its second position same as last year.
The US slipped to the third place.
Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a global beacon with 11 out of 14 economies either improved or holded onto their ground.
Source: The Hindu
Population Research Centres (PRCs)
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) recently organized a two-day orientation workshop for Population Research Centres (PRCs) to highlight various features of Health Ministry’s flagship schemes and for their concurrent monitoring.
About Population Research Centres (PRCs):
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) established a network of Population Research Centres (PRCs) with the mandate to provide, inter alia, critical research based inputs related to the Health and Family Welfare Programs and Policies at the national and state levels.
Their main role is to undertake research projects relating to family planning, demographic research and biological studies & qualitative aspect of population control, with a view to gainfully utilize the feedback from these research studies for plan formulation, strategies and modifications of on- going schemes.
Functioning: Autonomous in their functioning, these PRCs are provided 100 per cent central assistance in the form of grant-in-aid on a year-to year basis.
Activities of PRCs are monitored by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through regular periodical progress reports and meeting, seminars etc. Besides, guidance is also provided by various institutions as well as committees both at State and national level constituted by the Ministry from time to time.
Administratively, these PRCs are under the control of their host University/Institutions where they are located.
However, as the PRCs are established as well as fully funded by the Ministry of health & family Welfare, they are governed by the guidelines issued by the Ministry from time to time.
Pension scheme for small retail traders and shopkeepers
The Union Cabinet has approved a monthly pension scheme for small retail traders and shopkeepers. The scheme that offers pension coverage to the trading community will cover 3 crore small retail traders and shop keepers.
Under the scheme all small shopkeepers, retail traders and self-employed persons are assured a minimum of Rs.3,000 monthly pension after attaining 60 years of age.
Eligibility: All small shopkeepers, self-employed persons and retail traders aged between 18-40 years and with Goods and Service Tax (GST) turnover below Rs.1.5 crore can enrol for pension scheme.
The scheme is based on self-declaration as no documents are required except bank account and Aadhaar Card.
The Central Government will make matching contribution (same amount as subscriber contribution) i.e. equal amount as subsidy into subscriber’s pension account every month.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended ‘complete’ ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes. The recommendation is based on currently available scientific evidence.
Addictive in nature: e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, that was highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients like flavoring agents and vaporisers. Availability of flavour variants and attractive designs are adding to allure of devices, and globally there was an increasing trend of e-cigarettes consumption among youth and adolescents.
Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes can open a gateway for new tobacco addiction among the masses as on the balance, these have a negative impact on public health.
Prolonged use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse impact on humans which includes DNA damage, respiratory/cardiovascular/ neurological Disorders, carcinogenic/cellular/molecular/immunological Toxicity and even have adverse effects on fetal development and pregnancy.
Research has found that youths using e-cigarettes (or other such devices) are more likely to use regular cigarettes in later period. The exposure to ENDS increases the likelihood to experiment with regular products and increase intention to indulge in cigarette smoking.
What are e-cigarettes?
An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking. It works by heating up a nicotine liquid, called “juice.”
Nicotine juice (or e-juice) comes in various flavors and nicotine levels. e-liquid is composed of five ingredients: vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.
Proponents of e-cigs argue that the practice is healthier than traditional cigarettes because users are only inhaling water vapor and nicotine.
Why its hard to regulate them?
As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.
Need for regulation: The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.
WHO report on e- cigarettes and effects:
As per the report, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (also known as e-cigarettes) emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The WHO report further says that although nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration.
Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.
The evidence is sufficient to warn children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age against ENDS use and nicotine.
The Centre has created a new Ministry called ‘Jal Shakti’.
It has been created by merger of Ministries of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation along with Drinking Water and Sanitation.
‘Nal se Jal’ scheme to provide piped drinking water to every household will be a component of government’s Jal Jivan Mission.
The ministry will roll out government’s ambitious plans to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024.
It will also address international and inter-states water disputes and the Namami Gange project which is the flagship initiative to clean the River Ganga, its tributaries and sub-tributaries.
National Defence Fund (NDF)
A major change has been brought about in the ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme’ under the National Defence Fund.
Scholarships increase from ₹2,000 to ₹2,500 a month for boys and from ₹2,250 to ₹3,000 a month for girls.
The ambit of the scheme was widened to cover the wards of State police officials martyred in terror or Naxal attacks.
new scholarships are given to 5,500 wards of armed forces personnel, 2,000 wards of paramilitary forces personnel and 150 wards of forces under the Railways Ministry every year.
About National Defence Fund (NDF):
The National Defence Fund (NDF) was set up in 1962 to take charge of the:
Voluntary donations in cash and kind received for promotion of the national
Defence effort, and to decide on their utilisation.
Currently the fund is being used for the welfare of the members of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and Railway Protection Force, and their dependents.
The fund is administered by an Executive Committee with the Prime Minister as the Chairperson and the Defence, Finance and Home Ministers as Members.
Under National Defence Fund major scheme of ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme (PMSS)’ is being implemented to encourage technical and post-graduate education for the widows and wards of the deceased/ex-service personnel.
Scholarships are available for education at technical institutions (medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, MBA, MCA and other equivalent technical professions with suitable AICTE/UGC approval).
The National Defence Fund accepts online voluntary contributions through the website.
PM – KISAN scheme
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved that the ambit of the Pradhan Mantri KisanSamman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) would be comprehensively extended.
The revised Scheme is expected to cover around 2 crore more farmers, increasing the coverage of PM-KISAN to around 14.5 crore beneficiaries.
With this decision, all land holding eligible farmer families (subject to the prevalent exclusion criteria) would avail of the benefits under this scheme.
About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:
Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.
The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.
For the purpose of the calculation of the benefit, the Centre has defined a small and marginal landholder family as the one comprising of husband, wife and minor children up to 18 years of age, who collectively own cultivable land up to two hectare as per the land records of the concerned states.
Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this. It would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season. It would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
Similar programmes by states:
Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh was sought to provide relief to farmers by providing the differential between MSPs and market prices.
The Rythu Bandhu schemeof the Telangana government provides ₹4,000 per acre for every season to all the farmers of the state. Similar initiatives have also be framed in Jharkhand and Odisha.
In December 2018, Odisha launched the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income augmentation (KALIA). KALIA is more complicated in design and implementation. It commits to give Rs 5,000 per SMF, twice a year, that is Rs 10,000 a year.
Benefits of direct cash transfers:
It has immediate impact on reducing hunger and rural poverty.
They can help households to overcome credit constraints and manage risk. This can increase productive investment, increase access to markets and stimulate local economies.
Income support can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.
It can increase investment in agricultural inputs, including farm implements and livestock.
It can serve as an important complement to a broader rural development agenda, including a pro-poor growth strategy focusing on agriculture.
Challenges with cash transfers- criticisms:
Landless labourers are not being covered under PM-KISAN.
Cash transfers are not greatly superior in terms of leakagescompared to other schemes of in-kind transfer such as the public distribution system (PDS).
A targeted cash transfer scheme envisions the role of the state to only providing cash income to the poor. This kind of approach seeks to absolve the state of its responsibility in providing basic services such as health, education, nutrition and livelihood.
Cash transfer scheme such as PM-KISAN cannot be substituted for subsidies and other institutional support systems such as the National Food Security Act-powered public distribution system. In fact, such cash transfer schemes could be counterproductive and may lead to more distress.
Cash transfers do not solve the following problems which are the reasons for the current agrarian crisis. The Agrarian crisis is not just of low incomes in agriculture. The genesis of the current crisis lies in the faulty and ad hoc export-import policy, lack of infrastructure and cartelisation and collusion in agricultural markets, which have prevented farmers from realizing the market prices for agricultural produce.
Cash transfer is neither a substitute for the structural reforms needed in agriculture, nor does it adequately compensate the farmer for the risks and uncertainty of crop cultivation.
In the absence of proper tenancy records, it will also benefit the absentee landlords.
It is no substitute for the lack of investment in agriculture, which has declined at 2.3% per annum in real terms.
Mexico’s Highest Civilian award
Former Indian President of India Pratibha Patil has been conferred the “Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca” (Order of the Aztec Eagle) – the highest civilian award of Mexico given to foreigner.
Ms Patil becomes only the second Indian head of state to get the award. Earlier, the late President S. Radhakrishna had been conferred this honour.
About the Award:
Mexico’s highest distinction for foreigners is in recognition of their outstanding services to the Mexican nation or humanity, significant contributions to strengthening the bilateral relations between Mexico and other countries, said an official spokesperson.
The royal eagle is Mexico’s national animal, sacred to the ancient Aztecs and it is present on the National Emblem of the Mexican flag.
Created by a decree in 1993 by the then President of Mexico, Abelardo L. Rodriguez, it is awarded to prominent heads of state or government, ambassadors after they have served in Mexico, important personalities who have made major contribution in various fields, service to the country or its people.
The award comes in five degrees – Collar, Sash of Special Category, Sash, Plaque, Venera and Insignia.
Previous Indian recipients in various categories include Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, renowned artist Satish Gujral, industrialist Raghupati Singhania, Consul-General of Mexico in Mumbai Rajju Shroff and others.
World’s southernmost city
Puerto Williams in Chile has become world’s southernmost city after its status upgraded from hamlet to city. It is the main settlement, port and naval base on Navarino Island in Chile.
It took over the title from Ushuaia in Argentina which was world’s southernmost city till recently.
Puerto Williams faces the Beagle Channel, which is a strait in Tierra del Fuego Archipelago (shared by Chile and Argentina) on South America’s extreme southern tip.
Hygiene rating made compulsory in Punjab
The Punjab government has decided to make it mandatory for all online food aggregators to ensure that food supplied by them should compulsorily have hygiene rating as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines.
Need: The online food order and door to door delivery mechanism of food supply has created a physical disconnect between consumers and the food maker. Therefore, the onus of ensuring quality of food and that conditions under which food is prepared are hygienic has shifted to the intermediate food delivery mechanism.
New species of wasp from Goa
Scientists have recently identified a new species of wasp from the genus Kudakrumia in Goa. The new Wasp species was collected in the Western Ghats forests from Cotigao Wildlife sanctuary.
The wasp is dubbed as Kudakrumia rangnekari. It has been named after Parag Rangnekar, a Goa-based researcher.
It belongs to genus Kudakrumia. The Kudakrumia is a genus of primitive wasps that is described and previously known only from Sri Lanka.
It is any insect of order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocritawhich means neither a bee nor an ant. Wasps are proficient at controlling pest populations and thus are deployed to protect crops.