Does Project Mausam have strategic connotations?

Project ‘Mausam’ is a multi-disciplinary project that rekindles long-lost ties across nations of the Indian Ocean ‘world’ and forges new avenues of cooperation and exchange. The project, launched by India in partnership with Indian oceran states is a significant step in recording and celebrating this important phase of world history from the African, Arab and Asian-world perspectives.

The project links historic coastal sites of countries in East Africa, along the Persian Gulf, UAE, Qatar,Iran, Myanmar, and Vietnam since the earlier Harappan civilization days – more than 5,000 years ago, to the present.

The Project tries to see how the monsoon winds helped maritime trade which, in turn, encouraged interaction between these Indian Ocean-connected countries. The winds also influenced local economies, scientific quests, modern statecraft, religion,politics and cultural identity.

The project will also record how religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity helped define the boundaries of this Indian Ocean ‘world’,creating networks of religious travel and pilgrimage through centuries.

This is said to be Indian counter-strategy to China’s Maritime Silk Road in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Project Mausam is essentially a Ministry of Culture project concerning the creation of cultural links with India’s maritime neighbours. Pursued in concert with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the project’s objective is two-fold: at the macro level to re-connect with the countries of the IOR with the aim of enhancing the understanding of cultural values and concerns; and, at a more localised level, to enable an understanding of national cultures in a regional maritime milieu.
The central themes that hold Project ‘Mausam’ together are those of cultural routes that not only linked different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral, but also connected the coastal centres to their hinterlands.

India’s intention to carry out the Mausam project was announced on June 20 at the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee at Doha, Qatar.

Project Mausam is a strategic project aimed at re-establishing India’s trade and shipping links with various Indian Ocean states.

India regards Indian Ocean as the key trade route as 90 per cent of its trade by volume and 90 per cent of its oil imports take place through sea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to three Indian Ocean countries, Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in March shows India is following throguh on Project mausam.

The Spice Route refers to revival of old links between 31 countries in Asia and Europe with India, particularly spice-rich Kerala .

women who Inspired judicial verdicts or parliamentary enactments

Nirbhaya case led to tougher provisions and penalties under the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013. The victim died of the brutal injuries inflicted on her. The case also led to amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act as one of the accused in the case was a juvenile. On 7 May 2015, the Lok Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, which seeks to allow children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults for heinous crimes. It is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

Bhanwari Devi case: Bhanwari Devi is an Indian dalit social-worker from Bhateri, Rajasthan, who was allegedly gang raped in 1992 by higher-caste men angered by her efforts to prevent a child marriage in their family. Her subsequent treatment by the police, and court acquittal of the accused, attracted widespread national and international media attention, and became a landmark episode in India’s women’s rights movement The apex court’s judgment in 1997, issued the Vishaka guidelines that put the onus on employers to provide a safe work environment for women.

Satya Rani Chadha case: Chadha launched the anti-dowry movement across India after her daughter died of burns in a dowry harassment case in 1979. Her agitation led to the government passing tighter laws against dowry deaths, shifting the burden of proof to the husband and his family, and making not just the husband but also his close relatives culpable.

Shah Bano case: On 23 April 1985, the Supreme Court granted maintenance to Shah Bano Begum, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five who had been divorced by her husband, under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Under pressure from the Islamic orthodoxy, the then Congress government, which had an absolute majority in Parliament, diluted this judgment by enacting The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986—entitling a divorced Muslim woman to maintenance only during the period of iddat, or a period of 90 days after divorce, according to Islamic Law.

Aruna Shanbaug case: Passive euthanasia granted by apex court conditionally in 2011 though the judgement has been suspended and the issue has been referred to a Constitution bench.

composition and functions of the GST Council under the 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill

The 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill related to changing the Constitution for the introduction of GST seeks to set up a GST Council. The relevant provisions are the following:

The President must constitute a Goods and Services Tax Council within sixty days of this Act coming into force. The GST Council aims to develop a harmonized national market of goods and services.

Composition of the GST Council: The GST Council is to consist of: (i) the Union Finance Minister (as Chairman), (ii) the Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance, and (iii) the Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other, nominated by each state government.

Functions of the GST Council: These include making recommendations on: (i) taxes, cesses, and surcharges levied by the centre, states and local bodies which may be subsumed in the GST; (ii) goods and services which may be subjected to or exempted from GST; (iii) model GST laws, principles of levy, apportionment of IGST and principles that govern the place of supply; (iv) the threshold limit of turnover below which goods and services may be exempted from GST; (v) rates including floor rates with bands of GST; (vi) special rates to raise additional resources during any natural calamity; (vii) special provision with respect to Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand; and (viii) any other matters.

The GST Council may decide upon the modalities for the resolution of disputes arising out of its recommendations.
Compensation to states will be determined by Parliament for revenue losses arising out of the implementation of the GST, on the GST Council’s recommendations. This would be up to a five year period.

GST Council is to decide when GST would be levied on: (i) petroleum crude, (ii) high speed diesel, (iii) motor spirit (petrol), (iv) natural gas, and (v) aviation turbine fuel.

The Council is federal in composition as can be seen above. It is also federal in that compensation matters are left to it. Also, disputes settlement matters. Further, when petrol and related products will be brought into GST base will be decided by the Council.

Who are the Rohingyas?

Rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma. They are concentrated in western Rakhine state, which is adjacent to Bangladesh, but are not recognised by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group and are denied citizenship. Since Burma’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya have gradually been excluded and became persecuted.

Rohingya want equal rights in Myanmar. Myanmar’s government says they are not eligible for citizenship under the country’s military-drafted 1982 law, which defines full citizens as members of ethnic groups that had permanently settled in modern-day Myanmar prior to 1823.

In Myanmar, the Rohingya have limited access to education and medical care, cannot move around or practice their religion freely. So they try to flee abroad, most hoping to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia in search of jobs and security. To do that, they crowd small wooden boats nearly every day — an average of 900 people per day.

Thousands of Rohingya as well as Bangladeshis are now believed to be abandoned at sea close to the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. About 2,000 have landed on shore, but the three govts have turned away others. An estimated 6,000 are stranded at sea.

How does the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 strategise to reduce our trade deficit with China?

Presently, India has a USD $48 billion trade deficit with China. Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 projects that if the current situation persists, then India will have an unsustainable trade deficit of US$ 60 billion with China by 2016-17.

The FTP has laid down an approach to bridge this deficit. This will require focus on increasing market access through removal of non-tariff barriers on particularly agro commodities including bovine meat , oil meals and cake, tobacco, rice fruits and vegetables etc. and seek tariff concessions in specific products of interest to India; seeking market access for Indian IT services and encourage other service sectors like tourism, films and entertainment; attracting Chinese investment to boost India’s manufacturing capacity and finally, operationalizing the five year development programme for economic and trade cooperation that lays down the roadmap for deepening and balancing bilateral economic engagement.

Of these, increased investment is likely to be a game changer in reducing India’s trade deficit with China. It is evident that Chinese companies are changing their roles from global manufacturers to global investors. For the first time in 2014, China became a net exporter of capital, with outward investment exceeding the inward investment. According to a 2015 report by Ernst and Young, outbound investment flows from China have exceeded US$ 100 billion in 2014, making China the world’s third largest overseas investor.

However, so far Chinese investments in India have been very low. Even though investment flows during 2000-01 and 2010-11 were almost negligible, for the first time, during 2011-12 and 2012-13, FDI inflows worth US$ 224 million from China were reported. Although this is way below the potential levels of investment flows from China, it is an indication of the synergies that can be realized between the two countries.

Perhaps the most effective way for China to participate in India’s infrastructure development would be through the development of industrial corridors. Since India has a large hinterland, it is important to develop industrial corridors which connect ports to manufacturing hubs. These corridors are envisaged as industrial townships with efficient road and rail connectiv­ity for freight movement to and from ports and logistics hubs, and reliable power which would provide an environment that is conducive for setting up globally competitive busi­nesses.

The government of India has conceptualized some of the industrial corridors which include the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), the Chennai- Bangalore Industrial Corridor (CBIC) and the Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor (BMEC) among others. Japan has been the most active participant in this economic activity. For example, in DMIC, Japan is currently a main project stakeholder with a 26 percent share and has shown interest in collaborating for CBIC as well. The potential to develop these corridors remains largely untapped and China could be an active participant.

 

Seismic gap and decollement.

A seismic gap is a segment of an active fault known to produce significant earthquakes, that has not slipped in an unusually long time when compared with other segments along the same structure. Seismic gap hypothesis/theory states that, over long periods of time, the displacement on any segment must be equal to that experienced by all the other parts of the fault.Any large and longstanding gap is therefore considered to be the fault segment most likely to suffer future earthquakes.

One such is the central seismic gap, which runs northeast of Delhi along a region woven with unstable faults and including over 10 million people. Until April 25, observers had been concerned by the paucity of earthquakes in the gap: the longer there were no quakes, the more the pent up stresses, and the stronger a future quake will be. A research team’s conclusion describes an active thrust fault below Uttarakhand pregnant with enough tension to unleash a quake measuring at least 8 on the Richter scale. This, in a state already prone to crippling landslides and floods, and with 70% of its population (of about 10 million) residing in rural areas. They attribute the tremendous tension to a geometry of rock that has partially separated from a layer beneath and caused folds and deformations. The technical term for this geometry is a décollement:the landscape and erosion rate patterns suggest that the décollement beneath the state of Uttarakhand provides a sufficiently large and coherent fault segment capable of hosting a great earthquake.

Décollement (detachment) folds develop during folding, secondary to separation of a (more competent) layer from an underlying (less competent) layer as deformation proceeds.

Child labour in India

Child labour is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on part or full-time basis. The practice deprives children of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental development. Poverty, lack of good schools and growth of informal economy are considered as the important causes of child labour in India.

A 2009-2010 nationwide survey found child labour prevalence had reduced to 4.98 million children (or less than 2% of children in 5-14 age group). The 2011 national census of India found the total number of child labour, aged 5–14, to be at 4.35 million and the total child population to be 259.64 million in that age group. The child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time.

Indian law specifically defines 64 industries as hazardous and it is a criminal offence to employ children in such hazardous industries. Constitution of India prohibits child labour in hazardous industries (but not in non-hazardous industries) as a Fundamental Right under Article 24. International Labour Organisation estimates that agriculture at 60 percent is the largest employer of child labour in the world Outside of agriculture, child labour is observed in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy.

Companies including Gap, Primark, Monsanto, have been criticised for child labour in their products.

In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor and India figured among 74 countries where significant incidence of critical working conditions has been observed.

Article 24 of India’s constitution prohibits child labour. Additionally, various laws and the Indian Penal Code, such as the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) of Children Act-2000, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act-1986 provide a basis in law to identify, prosecute and stop child labour in India.

Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CARE India, Talaash Association Child Rights and You, Global march against child labour, RIDE India, Childline etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.

Pratham is India’s largest non-governmental organisation with the mission ‘every child in school and learning well. Founded in 1995, Pratham has aimed to reduce child labour and offer schooling to children irrespective of their gender, religion and social background. It has grown by introducing low cost education models that are sustainable and reproducible.

Child labour has also been a subject of public interest litigations in Indian courts.

More than 300,000 children are estimated to be working in the carpet industry, the majority of them in bondage.

The great majority of the carpet weavers’ bonded brothers and sisters are working in the agricultural sector, tending cattle and goats, picking tea leaves on vast plantations, and working fields of sugar cane and basic crops all across the country. Apart from agriculture, which accounts for 64 percent of all labor in India, bonded child laborers form a significant part of the work force in a multitude of domestic and export industries. These include, but are not limited to, the production of silk and silk saris, beedi (hand-rolled cigarettes), silver jewelry, synthetic gemstones, leather products (including footwear and sporting goods), handwoven wool carpets, and precious gemstones and diamonds. Services where bonded child labor is prevalent include prostitution, small restaurants, truck stops and tea shop services, and domestic servitude.

India has a federal form of government, and child labour is a matter on which both the central government and country governments can legislate, and have. The major national legislative developments include the following:

The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.
The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.

India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labour combined with development programs to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty. In 1988, this led to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) initiative. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India.
April 2015

In a controversial labour reform, the government plans to push through an amendment to the Child Labour Prohibition Act which will allow children below the age of 14 to work in select family enterprises if it doesn’t hamper their education.

A draft provision in the Child Labour Prohibition Act says the prohibition will not apply if children are helping the family in fields, forests and home-based work after school hours or during vacations, or while attending technical institutions. The new norm will also apply to the entertainment industry and sports except the circus, a proposal by the labour ministry says.

“While the provision will especially help poor families where children help in family subsistence, we have enough safeguards to ensure that these children are not forced by families to work in any industry.” As sdaid above, India has seen a sharp drop in the number of child labourers in the last decade, down to 4.3 million from 12.6 million, according to census data. Industries such as fireworks, matchboxes, footwear and carpet making are the biggest employer of children below the permitted age.

The original child labour law banned employment of children below 14 in only 18 hazardous industries, but the UPA government in 2012 proposed to extend the ban to all industries. It also introduced a new category of adolescents — 14 to 18 years — who were banned from hazardous industries, but allowed to work in other sectors.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill, 2012, introduced in the Rajya Sabha, recommended a complete ban on child labour until they finish elementary education, guaranteed under the Right to Education Act.

Need for labour law reforms

India’s labour laws are restrictive in nature and hurt investments in the manufacturing sector. The Industrial Disputes Act (1947) has rigid provisions such as compulsory and prior government approval in the case of layoffs, retrenchment and closure of industrial establishments employing more than 100 workers. This clause applies even when there is a good reason to shut shop, or worker productivity is seriously low.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act (1970) states that if the job content or nature of work of employees needs to be changed, 21 days’ notice must be given. The changes also require the consent of the employees.

While the right of workers to associate is important, the Trade Union Act (1926) provides for the creation of trade unions where even outsiders can be office-bearers. This hurts investor faith and restricts economic growth.

Rigid labour laws discourage firms from trying to introduce new technology, requiring some workers to be retrenched. This deters FDI because of the fear that it would not be possible to dismiss unproductive workers or to downsize during a downturn. Hence getting FDI into export-oriented labour-intensive sectors in India has not been fully achieved.

In contrast, China has succeeded in attracting FDI to export-oriented labour-intensive manufacturing, in part because of flexible labour laws such as the contract labour system implemented in 1995. Whereas in India, employers have taken to hiring workers on contract outside the institutional and legislative ambit, resulting in informalisation of the labour market. This hampers worker well-being.

It’s been well established that China’s flexible and business friendly labour laws have ensured continued investments in Chinese manufacturing, unlike in India where restrictive labour laws have been a cause of concern for investors. Though the Indian labour force has been much more disciplined and cooperative in the post-reforms period leading to a decrease in the number of strikes, lockouts, mandays lost and so on, the large number of labour rules and the process of enforcement by inspectors scares investors, at least on paper.

Large number of FTAs we have entered into require labour standards hat are global.

Success of Make in India and the need to skill millions require labour reforms.

More recently, a few scholars have completed a comparative study between states of India with different labour regulations. They compared states of India who have amended labour legislations to grant more flexibility to employers, to those states in India that have made their labour laws even more rigid and complicated to comply with. These studies find that states with flexible labour laws have grown significantly faster. Flexible labour states have been able to take advantage of the export opportunities, and the per capita household income has risen much faster in states with flexible labour laws. States with rigid labour laws have led local entrepreneurs to prefer casual workers or contract workers with finite employment time period; in essence, more rigid and inflexible labour law states see increased informal employment.[78][79]

The Economist finds India to have the most restrictive labour laws in any major economy of the world. India’s private sector, including its organised manufacturing sector, employs about 10 million Indians. Manufacturing firms need to obtain government permission to lay off workers from factories, and this permission is usually denied if they have more than 100 staff. This partly explains why most Indian firms are small: 87 percent of employment in India’s organised manufacturing sector is in firms with fewer than ten employees, compared with only 5 percent in China. Small Indian firms cannot reap economies of scale or exploit the latest technology, and so suffer from lower productivity than if they scaled up, employed more people and were much bigger companies. This cripples Indian firms ability to rapidly expand or adjust with changes in global economy, both during early opportunity phase and during economic change.

Between 2004/05 and 2011/12 data suggests that 5 million jobs were created in the organised sector. But this pales into insignificance if one considers the fact that 12 million jobs are needed for the country to employ the youth coming out of colleges every year. These laws have also pushed workers into the unorganised sector where their pay and rights were terribly compromised.

Changes being made

The changes to the Factories Act will improve safety of workers, doubles their overtime, relaxes norms for female workers like enabling them to do night shifts in select industries, and reducing to 90 days from 240 that employees need to work before becoming eligible for benefits such as leave without pay. It also proposes higher penalty on establishments that violate the Act. All these measures clearly enhance the welfare of workers.

The amendments to the Apprentices Act drop the provision that mandates imprisonment of directors of companies that do not implement the Act. Also, the changes proposed by the previous UPA government that stipulated that 50 per cent apprentices should be absorbed by the company have been dropped. At the same time, the apprentices scheme has been extended to 500 new trades/vocations.

These measures will help industry take in more apprentices without the fear of having to employ them even when they have no need. Getting apprentice training will help workers enter the organised sector.

Contract labour reforms

The Report of the Working Group on “Labour Laws and other Regulations” for the 12th Five Year Plan, also proposed that the 1970 Act should be amended. The amendment should ensure that in case of contract labour performing work similar to that performed by permanent workers, they should be entitled to the same wage rates, holidays, hours of work and social security provisions. Furthermore, whenever a contract worker is engaged through a contractor, the contract agreement between the employer and the contractor should clearly indicate the wages and other benefits to be paid by the contractor.

Recent labor reforms by GOI

As mentioned above, the central government amended the Apprentices Act, revamped the labour inspector regime, gave employers and employees unique numbers and is moving to online compliance.

Rajasthan way

With the finance minister encouraging States to bring in appropriate labour reforms, Rajasthan has gone the Chinese way. Henceforth, it will be easier for firms there to adopt hire and fire policies. The Rajasthan government’s labour reforms are manifold. For one, industrial establishments employing up to 300 workers are now allowed to retrench employees without seeking the prior permission of the Government.

In addition, the threshold of the number of employees required for the purpose of applicability of the Factories Act has been increased from 10 to 20 (in electricity-powered factories) and from 20 to 40 (in factories without power). This is expected to reduce bureaucratic delays.

Finally, membership of 30 per cent of the total workforce needs to be recorded for a union to obtain recognition, up from 15 per cent, a move that will halt productivity losses out of politically motivated petty strikes.

The reality is that manufacturing has to grow to absorb millions of semi-skilled young Indians, a difficult task without rationalising labour reforms.

Regulation by labour laws

Industrial Disputes Act of 1948 and an additional 45 national laws along with another 200 state laws ( Labour being a Concurrent subject) control the relationships between the worker and the company. These laws mandate all aspects of employer-employee interaction.

Gender parity

Article 39(d) of the Constitution provides that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. In the Equal Remuneration Act 1976 implemented this principle in legislation.

Vulnerable groups

Bonded labour
Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, abolishes bonded labour, but estimates suggest that between 2 million and 5 million workers still remain in debt bondage in India.

Domestic workers in India

While several legislations such as the Unorganized Social Security Act, 2008, Sexual Harassment against Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Minimum Wages Schedules notified in various states refer to domestic workers, there remains an absence of comprehensive, uniformly applicable, national legislation that guarantees fair terms of employment and decent working conditions.

Also see Prime Minister Inaugurates Shramev Jayate, Ushers in A Slew of Labour Reforms

What is microzonation? Why is it necessary?

Many earthquakes in the past have left many lessons to be learned which are very essential to plan infrastructure and even to mitigate such calamities in future. The hazards associated with earthquakes arereferred to as seismic hazards. The practice of earthquake engineering involves the identification and mitigation of seismic hazards. Microzonation has generally been recognized as the most accepted tool in seismic hazard assessment and risk evaluation and it is defined as the zonation with respect to groundmotion characteristics taking into account source and site conditions. Makingimprovements on the conventional macrozonation maps and regional hazard maps, microzonation of ar egion generates detailed maps that predict the hazard at much smaller scales. Seismic microzonation is the generic name for subdividing a region into individual areas having different potentials hazardous earthquake effects, defining their specific seismic behavior for engineering design and land-use planning.

The basis of microzonation is to model the rupture mechanism at the source of anearthquake, evaluate the propagation of waves through the earth to the top of bed rock, determine the effect of local soil profile and thus develop a hazard map indicating the vulnerability of the area to potential seismic hazard. Seismic microzonation will also help in designing buried lifelines such as tunnels, water and sewage lines, gas and oil lines, and power and communication lines.

Seismic microzonation is defined as the process of subdividing a potential seismic or earthquake prone area into zones with respect to some geological and geophysical characteristics of the sites such as ground shaking,liquefaction susceptibility, landslide and rock fall hazard, earthquake-related flooding, so that seismic hazards at different locations within the area can correctly be identified. Microzonation provides the basis for site-specific risk analysis, which can assist in the mitigation of earthquake damage. In most general terms, seismic microzonation is the process of estimating the response of soil layers under earthquake excitations and thus the variation of earthquake characteristics on the ground surface.

Regional geology can have a large effect on the characteristics of ground motion. The site response of the ground motion may vary in different locations of the city according to the local geology. A seismic zonation map for a whole country may, therefore, be inadequate for detailed seismic hazard assessment of the cities. This necessitates the development of microzonation maps for big cities for detailed seismic hazard analysis. Microzonation maps can serve as a basis for evaluating site-specific risk analysis, which is essential for critical structures like nuclear power plants, subways, bridges, elevated highways, sky trains and dam sites. Seismic microzonation can be considered as the preliminary phase of earthquake risk mitigation studies. It requires multi-disciplinary contributions as well as comprehensive understanding of the effects of earthquake generated ground motions on man made structures. Many large cities around the world have put effort into developing microzonation maps for the better understanding of earthquake hazard within the cities

As part of the national level microzonation programme, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India has initiated microzonation of 63 cities in India . Some of them arefinished and some of them are ongoing. As an initial experiment, seismic hazard analysis and microzonation was taken up for Jabalpur city in Madhaya Pradesh. Further, for many other cities such as Sikkim, Mumbai, Delhi, North East India, Gauwhati, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Dehradun and Chennai anattempt has been made to carryout microzonation considering geomorphological features and detailed
geotechnical studies.

What is Islamic Finance? Is it an answer to the volatile global financial system?

Since the global financial crisis, policymakers have sought to address the fault lines that helped trigger one of the most devastating financial crises in a century, and to enable a more inclusive, stable financial system that promotes stability as well as economic development and growth.

Islamic finance offers several features that are consistent with these objectives. Islamic finance refers to financial services that conform with Islamic jurisprudence, or Shari’ah. Instead of trading in money and earning profit from the interest, Islamic banking trades in goods and services and earns profit from real economic transactions. It also has restraints on highly speculative transactions, and refrains from financing or participating in businesses and activities dealing in alcohol, gambling, tobacco, and pornography, as these are not permissible under Islam. All other activities remain very much as with any other banking and financial institution. It requires fair treatment; and institutes sanctity of contracts. And these principles hold the promise of supporting financial stability, since a key tenet of Islamic finance is that lenders should share in both the risks and rewards of the projects and loans they finance.

Islamic finance has an important potential to act as an engine of stability and inclusion. Since investors are required to bear losses that may arise on loans. there is therefore less leverage, and greater incentive to exercise strong risk management. These risk-sharing features also serve to help ensure the soundness of individual financial institutions and help discourage the types of lending booms and real estate bubbles that were the precursors of the global financial crisis.

The focus on asset-backed and risk-sharing financing also has the potential to improve access to finance by small- and medium-sized enterprises, and to support inclusive growth- by having more money for lending to stable businesses.. It is well-suited to financing large-scale infrastructure projects, whereby—similar to public-private partnerships—investors finance the construction of roads, bridges, and similar projects, and receive the returns on these investments. Finally, Islamic financial services also promise to improve financial inclusion for the large number of Muslims that are discouraged from using banks for religious reasons.

Many secular countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), France, and Singapore are promoting Islamic finance to improve financial inclusion of their domestic population and also to attract funds and investments from other countries. UK alone has more than 25 Islamic financial institutions including five full-fledged Islamic banks. In June 2014, it became the first non-Muslim country to issue a sovereign sukuk (Islamic bond). Other countries which followed suit were South Africa and Thailand. The latter already has a state-run Islamic Bank since 2002. At present, more than 75 countries offer Islamic banking products and the global market for these assets is around $2 trillion.

However, India recently saw the deferment of the launch of State Bank of India’s Shariah Equity Fund in December 2014.

what is Difference between Furlough and Parole?

Parole and furlough are parts of the penal and prison system for humanising prison administration but the two have different purposes. Furlough is a matter of right but parole is not. Furlough is to be granted to the prisoner periodically irrespective of any particular reason merely to enable him to retain family and social ties and avoid ill-effects of continuous prison life. The period of furlough is treated as remission of sentence, that is it is considered as a part of the prison term.

Release on furlough cannot be said to be an absolute right of the prisoner. In 2013, The Bombay High Court refused to grant furlough to a convicted kidnapper and rapist, saying such people should not claim to mingle with society.

The court noted that “prisoners, whose conviction is for such offences, which affect larger public interest and public good so also public peace, then, they cannot claim to mingle with the society as a matter of right”.

Maharashtra State Home Department’s rule specifies that those who have been convicted for offences of dacoity, terrorism, kidnapping, smuggling and foreigner prisoners would not be entitled to furlough as a matter of right.

Furlough is leave from prison that every convict is entitled to by way of right. A prisoner is entitled to be released on furlough for 14 days in a year. However, he may seek a 14-day extension by citing reasons for it. For this, the prisoner has to submit an application to the prison superintendent.

Prison being a subject of the state administration, furlough rules differ from state to state. According to the prison manual in Maharashtra, the sanctioning authority is the Deputy Inspector General (Prisons). Depending on the reasons cited by the prisoner, a sanctioning authority may or may not extend his furlough.

While furlough is almost a prisoner’s right, the prison authorities grant parole to a prisoner based completely on their discretion. It is usually granted in cases of an emergency like a death in the prisoner’s family or illness of a family member. Prisoners also seek parole for weddings or to attend to financial or land-related matters in the family. At a time, a prisoner can avail 30 days of parole. In a year, a prisoner can avail 90 days of parole. However, he cannot be released on parole for more than 30 days at a time.

*Manu Sharma who is undergoing a life term in the Jessica Lall murder case of 1999 got married in a low-key ceremony in Chandigarh last week.Manu Sharma was on “furlough” when he married.

Describe Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between two areas (or poles, hence a dipole) – a western pole in the Arabian Sea (western Indian Ocean) and an eastern pole in the eastern Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. The IOD affects the climate of Australia and other countries that surround the Indian Ocean Basin, and is a significant contributor to rainfall variability in this region.

The IOD involves an aperiodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures, between “positive”, “neutral” and “negative” phases. A positive phase sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean—which tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia. The negative phase of the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west.

The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent. ‘Positive IOD’ has been found to be beneficial for the monsoon. On the other hand, a ‘negative IOD,’ when temperatures at either end of the Indian Ocean swing in the opposite direction, hampers the monsoon.

An IOD can counter or worsen an El Nino’s impact on the monsoon, according to recent research. A positive IOD had facilitated normal or excess rainfall over India in 1983, 1994 and 1997 despite an El Nino in those years. But during years such as 1992, a negative IOD and El Nino had cooperatively produced deficit rainfall.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”MLK Jr

Acceptance of injustice in any form (sexism, for example) makes people think unjust behaviour is acceptable, meaning it will be easier for other forms to happen (racism, for example). Thus, it can manifest into many different spheres.

Also, the action of one person doing something unjust can persuade others to similarly act unjust, as they do not want to miss out on the potential quick benefits offered to them through his misbehaviour.

The importance of diversity is paramount in the multicultural world we live in, and injustice in any facet of society will prove detrimental to our development and well-being as a whole. Injustice to one culture means potential injustice to all cultures including section of the majority culture.

If any of us can be singled out and turned servile, then all of us are at risk. The only chance we have is if the law protects every one of us equally, protecting some a little more is acceptable if they are vulnerable.

If there is an injustice, something that is unfair, to someone, even if they are not close to you, it allows the possibility of another injustice and then another until the justice that you enjoy, that you take to be a right of yours, may not be there for you as it has been denied these other people. so it is very important that you support justice for everyone, everywhere, to prevent the loss of justice for yourself.

Just because someone is of a different religion, or comes from a different section of town, or has a different family background, or has a different history, or has a different education, or a different sexual preference, or has a different ethnic background, or is of a different sex, or has different physical defects, or different height challenges, or different mental capabilities, or are of different ages, you would be unwise to tolerate injustice toward them for any of those reasons, because you then may find yourself in a group that injustice is practiced against. So even if you may not see eye to eye with someone, you still need to believe in the need for them to have their liberties protected.

Too often people believe in rights and justice only for themselves. For instance, ‘freedom of speech’ to many people means only freedom for themselves and whoever agrees with them. Even today there are people who believe freedom of religion only means freedom for -their- religion.

Before the Civil Rights era in the USA, many people fought for justice only for the middle class, for white people. They didn’t care how blacks were treated in the South, or how disadvantaged people were treated just about everywhere. King was reminding us that justice is not justice until it applies to everyone.

And though we’ve made considerable progress in 68 years in India years, we still have one kind of justice for people who are well off and another kind for everyone else. One kind for one sex and another for the other. One for one caste and another for others.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King Jr

Bibek Debroy committee recommendations on revamping railways.

The railways operate more than 12,000 trains, carrying some 23 million passengers daily.This vast public enterprise is virtually a state within a state. It runs schools, hospitals, police forces and building companies and employs a total of 1.3 million people, making it the seventh biggest employer in the world. It is in need of modernization.

The high-level railway restructuring committee, chaired by noted economist Bibek Debroy, has recommended drastic reforms in the cash-strapped Indian Railways by suggesting to allow privatisation of railways to run passenger as well as freight trains, producing coaches, wagons and locomotives and switching over to commercial accounting of railway functions.Following are the main recommendations in its interim report.

1. Streamline recruitment & HR processes: “There is a multiplicity of different channels through which people enter the railway services. The committee recommended unifying and streamlining the process. At present there are eight organized Group ‘A’ services in Indian Railways. Deployment to these services is by direct recruitment from UPSC (Civil Service and the Engineering examinations) and also by promotion of Group ‘B’ officers of the department. There is also a small but significant element of recruitment of Mechanical Engineers through the Special Class Railway Apprentices examination, followed by training. The eight services can be broadly categorized in two bigger groupings viz. technical and non-technical services.

IR should consolidate and merge the existing eight organized Group ‘A’ services into two services i.e. the Indian Railway Technical Service (IRTechS) comprising the existing five technical services (IRSE, IRSSE, IRSEE, IRSME and IRSS) and the Indian Railway Logistics Service (IRLogS), comprising the three non-technical services (IRAS, IRPS and IRTS).

2. Focus on non-core areas: Many tasks carried out by the Indian Railways are not at the core of the prime business of rail transportation. These activities include running hospitals and schools, catering, real estate development, including housing, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, manufacturing locomotives, coaches, wagons and their parts, etc.To this list must be added the Railway Protection Force and Railway Protection Special Force, which carry out functions which should normally be performed by State Police forces, or conveniently outsourced. To maintain and run these diverse sets of peripheral activities, Indian Railways has created a monolith organizational structure. There is a strong case for revisiting these activities.Indian Railways should focus on core activities to efficiently compete with the private sector. It will distance itself from non-core activities, such as running a police force, schools, hospitals and production and construction units.

Immediate integration of the existing Railway schools into the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathana set-up. Needs of the children of Railway employees could be met through subsidizing their education in alternative schools, including private schools.

3. Indian Railway Manufacturing Company: Wagons are already produced by the private sector. Coaches and locomotives could follow. Unless they are freed from constraints, the existing production units will be unable to face this competition.

All the production units, all the production workshops whether it is coaches or locomotives must be under Indian railway manufacturing company. This is an institutional reform, not privaisation.

The Committee proposes that all these existing production units should be placed under a government SPV known as the Indian Railway Manufacturing Company (IRMC). IRMC remains a government SPV, at least initially, under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways.

4. Encouraging private entry: Private entry into running both freight and passenger trains in competition with Indian railways should be allowed and private participation in various Railway infrastructure services and non-core activities like production and construction, should be encouraged by the Ministry of Railways.

“The reason private players find it unviable to operate is because they do not have access to the tracks. They do not have access to tracks because Indian Railways gives preference to the Indian Railway trains. Therefore, Debroy committee recommended having a separate track holding company, which remains public, from that part of Railways which runs trains. This track holding company will be neutral between Indian Railways and the private players.

5. RRAI, an independent regulator: Shift regulatory responsibility from the government to an independent regulator as the private sector will only come in if there is fair and open access to infrastructure. The independent regulator shall ensure fair and open access and set access charges; establish tariffs; and adjudicate disputes between competitors. This will make fair and open access a reality and open up both freight and passenger trains, in competition with IR.The report recommends setting up a Railway Regulatory Authority of India (RRAI) statutorily, with an independent budget, so that it is truly independent of the Ministry of Railways.

The RRAI will have the powers and objectives of economic regulation, including, wherever necessary, tariff regulation; safety regulation; fair access regulation, including access to railway infrastructure for private operators; service standard regulation; licensing and enhancing competition; and setting technical standards. It should possess quasijudicial powers, with appointment and removal of Members distanced from the Ministry of Railways.

The Railway Board should continue only as an entity for the Indian Railways (PSU).

6. Social costs & JVs to bear them: Constructing new suburban lines should be undertaken as joint ventures with state governments. There are too many Zones and Divisions and thus a rationalization exercise is required. Suburban railways should ideally be hived off to State governments, via the joint venture route. Until this is done, the cost of low suburban fares, if these fares are not increased, must be borne by State governments on a 50/50 basis, with MOUs signed with State governments for this purpose.

While competition makes efficient service delivery better and helps railways raise resources for reinvestment for modernization, criticism is that social commitments may take a hit; and privatization that hurts workers may be under contemplation.PM Modi ruled out privatization.

What is Living Wage? Differentiate it from minimum wage.

Art.43(DPSP) promises a living wage. In public policy, a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their needs that are considered to be basic. This is not necessarily the same as subsistence, which refers to a biological minimum, though the two terms overlap a lot. These needs include shelter (housing) and others such as clothing and nutrition. This wage generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford the basics for quality of life, food, utilities, transport, health care, and minimal recreation. However, in many cases education, saving for retirement, and less commonly legal fees and insurance, or taking care of a sick or elderly family member are not included. It also does not allow for debt repayment of any kind.

The living wage differs from the minimum wage in that the latter is set by law and can fail to meet the requirements to have a basic quality of life. Minimum Wages Act 1948 is an Act of Parliament concerning Indian labour law that sets the minimum wages that must be paid to skilled and unskilled workers. States have their own laws. These wages are periodically revised.

Employee, employer, and the community win with a living wage. Employees would be more willing to work, helping the employer reduce worker turnover, and it would help the community when the citizens have enough to have a decent life.

A related concept is that of a family wage – one sufficient to not only support oneself, but also to raise a family.

What is PM2.5 and what are its sources?

Particulate matter, or PM, is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small that individually they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

Many manmade and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes.Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are referred to as “fine” particles and are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs.

Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion activities (motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning, etc.) and certain industrial processes. Particles with diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers are referred to as “coarse.” Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations, and dust from paved or unpaved roads. Other particles may be formed in the air from the chemical change of gases. They are indirectly formed when gases from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor. These can result from fuel combustion in motor vehicles, at power plants, and in other industrial processes.

One group at high risk is active children because they often spend a lot of time playing outdoors and their bodies are still developing. In addition, oftentimes the elderly population are at risk. People of all ages who are active outdoors are at increased risk because, during physical activity, PM2.5 penetrates deeper into the parts of the lungs that are more vulnerable to injury.

Government should take into account existing emission reduction programs (e.g. national emission standards for cars and trucks; and the pollution rules to reduce powerplant emissions; or local efforts such as diesel engine retrofit programs), plus any new programs or regulations that can be implemented within the state or local area.

Making people aware of the levels of pollution through color coded AQI announced by PM.Modi is the beginning of the onslaught on the problem.