Daily Current Affairs : 11th January 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Quarterly Employment Survey
  2. SPG Act
  3. Flying Cars
  4. Article 142
  5. Developing Country Status in WTO
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . Quarterly Employment Survey


Context : Union Minister for Labour & Employment, Shri Bhupender Yadav today released the report of second quarter of Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) part of All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey (AQEES).

About All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey (AQEES)

  • The AQEES has been taken up by the Labour Bureau to provide frequent (quarterly) updates about the employment and related variables of establishments, in both organised and unorganised segments of nine selected sectors.
  • These sectors altogether account for a majority of the total employment in the non-farm establishments. These nine selected sectors are Manufacturing, Construction, Trade, Transport, Education, Health, Accommodation and Restaurant, IT/ BPO and Financial Services.

About the Report

  • The report of “Quarterly Employment  Survey” is an important publication meant to give insights into the change of employment over the previous quarters and many other related parameters.
  • This will serve as a useful data for policy-makers, Central/ State Governments officials, researchers and other stakeholders.
  • The report of the first round/quarter (April-June, 2021) of QES was released in September, 2021.

Key Highlights of the Report

  • Of the total employment estimated in the selected nine sectors, Manufacturing accounted for nearly 39%, followed by Education with 22% and Health as well as IT/BPOs sectors both around 10%. Trade and Transport sectors engaged 5.3% and 4.6% of the total estimated workers respectively. It is pertinent  to  mention  that  percentage  for the IT/BPO sector in Quarter 1 was only 7.
  • Nearly 90% of the establishments have been estimated to work with less than 100 workers, though 30% of the IT/BPO establishments worked with at least 100 workers including about 12% engaging 500 workers or more. In the Health sector, 19% of the establishments had 100 or more workers. Also, in the case of transport sector, 14% of the total estimated establishments were operating with 100 or more workers. It may be mentioned that 91% of establishments were reported to have worked with less than 100 workers in the first round of QES and in the IT/BPO sector, the figures during the first QES stood at 21% and 14% respectively for the size classes of 100-499 employees and 500 or more employees.
  • The over-all percentage of female workers stood  at  32.1, higher than 29.3% reported during the first round of QES.
  • Regular workers constitute 87% of the estimated workforce in the nine selected sectors, with only 2% being casual workers. However, in the Construction sector, 20% of the workers were contractual and 6.4% were casual workers.
  • Most (98.3%) of the establishments were located outside households, though a highest 5.1 % of units in Accommodation and Restaurants sector were found to operate from within households.
  • 23.5% of all the establishments were registered under the Companies Act, this percentage was as high as 82.8% in IT / BPO, 51.2% in Construction, 42.8% in Manufacturing, 36.4% in Transport, 32.1% in Trade and 23.8% in financial services. One-fourth of the establishments were operating as registered societies, 53.9% were registered under the Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017 and 27.8% under Shops & commercial Establishments Act, 1958.
  • Looking at the educational qualifications of workers, it came out that 28.4% of those working in seven of the nine sectors (excluding Education and Health)were  matriculates/secondary or less educated, while another 37.0% were graduates or had higher qualifications. In fact, the latter percentage was as high as 91.6% in the IT/BPO sector and 59.8% in Financial Services. In the Health sector, as few as 18% of the non-Clinical workers were matriculates/secondary or less educated, the figure being 26.4% in the non-Teaching staff of the Education sector. More than 40% of the employees in these two sectors were at least graduates.
  • It is somewhat encouraging to note that 16.8% of the establishments provided formal skill development programmes, although mostly for their own employees. It transpired that an estimated 5.6% of the establishments were having vacancies in positions and the estimated number of total vacancies was 4.3 lakhs. About 65.8% of such vacancies were not due to retirement or resignation of the employees.

2 . SPG Act


Context : The Supreme Court on Monday said it would form a committee headed by a retired judge of the court to conduct a time-bound and independent inquiry into the circumstances that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy stuck for several minutes on a flyover in Punjab on January 5.

About the News

  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana indicated that ongoing inquiries by both Punjab and the Centre would have to stop for the time being.
  • The court said that its committee would submit a report within a specified time after examining the records of the security arrangements, already been seized by the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as per its orders on January 7.
  • The court also indicated that the Registrar General, along with the officers who helped him seize and protect the documents, who include the DGP, Chandigarh, and the IG, National Investigation Agency, would be part of the committee.
  • There would be another member in the committee. Punjab has suggested its Additional DGP (Security) as an alternative.

About SPG Act

  • In 1988, four years after the assassination of former PM Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards, the SPG Act was put forth for the constitution and regulation of a specialised armed force for maintaining the security of the PM of India alongside former PMs and their immediate families.
  • The Act, which can be viewed in full detail here laid down all the details extending from the tenure of service to the exact powers and duties of the elite security group.
  • More importantly, and more relevant to this case is Section 14 of the SPG Act which makes it the duty of every ministry and Department of the Central and various state governments to aid the group or any of its members in carrying out their official duties i.e., providing security to the PM, former PMs and their immediate families.
  • As also recognised by the Supreme Court itself, the language used in this particular section is broad enough to make it so that the SPG can requisition the aid of pretty much any and every civil or military authority in the pursuance of its given duties giving it total decision making power in a set of threatening circumstances.
  • They can issue orders, commandeer transport, sanitise an area and even hold suspects in custody.
  • From its inception in 1988, the bill has been amended several times (1991, 1994, 1999 and 2003) with the most consequential and recent change being in 2019 when the MHA sought to curtail the number of people who had previously been provided with SPG protection. The PM is still on the list.

3 . Flying Cars


Context : As climate change concerns take centre stage and the world tries out cleaner energy options, four companies commercialising urban aircraft have gone public, loading themselves with a war chest to go through the challenging certification process. Over 30 or so companies are running demonstration programmes across the globe

About Flying cars

  • Flying cars, technically known as vertical take-off and landing aircraft, can take off vertically from the top of a building, then shift to cruise like a conventional plane and then land vertically.
  • Sustainability for such an urban aircraft is closely linked to how much energy is consumed and
  • Two key breakthrough technologies, decades in the making, have enabled this.
    • The first is going electric —aviation has always had a weight problem in using battery-power for propulsion. Li-ion batteries have been steadily progressing at a rate of about 5% per year and finally, we are reaching an inflection point where compelling urban aircraft is possible.
    • By going electric, a second breakthrough propulsion concept is enabled —distributed electric propulsion. The approach is to spread the electric motors throughout the aircraft enabling improved performance in energy efficiency, noise levels and handling performance.

Is it a sustainable option?

  • Sustainability is closely linked to how much energy is consumed by the aircraft and where that energy comes from.
  • A well-designed urban aircraft can exploit cruising using fixed wings of the aircraft at a very low energy consumption —think gliders and how they consume no energy at all. An urban aircraft can cover the same 5 kilometres in as less as 0.6 kWh for small urban aircraft and a touch over 0.9 kWh for slightly larger ones.
  • The travel time for the urban aircraft can be about two to six times faster than the car, because there will not be as much traffic in the sky in the beginning.

Challenges

  • Critical to this is the life of the batteries that power the aircraft.
  • Degrading performance of Li-ion batteries in laptops, smartphones and electric cars will not help.
  • In an urban aircraft, there is one additional twist: unlike how consumers accept their videos streaming slower on older battery-powered phones, urban aircraft cannot take-off and land differently as their batteries age.
  • The need to take-off and land vertically imposes a high power requirement, which sets the safety-critical limit for the operation.

Way forward

  • Given the rapid rate of progress with batteries, it is only a matter of time before we enter the Jetsonian age, where we can skip traffic and travel across metropolitan cities in a matter of minutes for trips that take hours today.
  • Apart from the travel speed, the aircraft will fly at much lower emissions than the internal combustion engine cars today and on par or better than electric vehicles.

4 . Article 142


Context : The Supreme Court on Monday took into consideration the rising COVID-19 cases to bring back its suo motu direction extending the limitation or the time period within which litigants ought to file appeals in the top court.

Background

  • Last year, the court had invoked its extraordinary powers under Article 142 to extend the limitation period for filing appeals from courts or tribunals on account of the pandemic. The court had later on ended this arrangement, keeping in mind the improved situation and the fact that courts had started functioning.

About Article 142

  • Article 142 (1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
  • Article 142 (2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself.”
  • The provision that vests sweeping powers in the Supreme Court for the end of ensuring “complete justice” has been used generally in cases that involve human rights and environmental protection.

5 . Developing Country Status at WTO


Context : China’s status as a ‘developing country’ at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has become a contentious issue with a number of countries raising concerns over the upper middle-income nation deriving benefits reserved for developing countries under WTO norms. Moreover, concerns have been raised over the ‘least developed country’ (LDC) status, with Bangladesh potentially losing this tag after surpassing India in terms of GDP per capita

What are the benefits of ‘developing country’ tag?

  • Certain WTO agreements give developing countries special rights through ‘special and differential treatment’ (S&DT) provisions, which can grant developing countries longer timeframes to implement the agreements and even commitments to raise trading opportunities for such countries.
  • WTO pacts are often aimed at reduction in government support to certain industries over time and set more lenient target for developing nations and grant them more time to achieve these targets compared to developed ones.
  • The classification also allows other countries to offer preferential treatment.

How is a ‘developing country’ decided and why are some against China being classified as one?

  • The WTO has not defined ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries and therefore member countries are free to announce whether they are ‘developed’ or ‘developing’.
  • However, given the rise in China’s per capita income to become an upper middle-income country according to the World Bank and the country’s alleged use of unfair trade practices such as preferential treatment for state enterprises, data restrictions and inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights, a number of nations have called on China to either refrain from seeking benefits available to developing countries or forego its classification as a developing country altogether.
  • “One way for China to show leadership would be by refraining from claiming benefits that would correspond to a developing country in ongoing negotiations,” the European Union said in a statement on the latest review of China’s Trade Policy conducted in October 2021. The United States Trade Representative also released a similar statement.
  • Australia too had recommended that China relinquish “its access to special and differential treatment”. China’s per capita income was $10,435 in 2020 according to the World Bank while that of India was $1,928.

How has China responded? What would be the impact of China losing this status?

  • China has consistently maintained that it is the “world’s largest developing economy” but has recently indicated that it may be willing to forego many benefits of being a developing country.
  • Li Chenggang, China’s Ambassador to the WTO, has reportedly said that the country may forego all exemptions available to developing countries in negotiations aimed at cutting fishing subsidies to curb overfishing.

What are the benefits of LDC classification?

  • The WTO recognises LDCs relying on a classification by the UN based on a criteria that is reviewed every three years. LDCs are often exempted from certain provisions of WTO pacts.
  • Bangladesh, currently classified as an LDC, receives zero duty, zero quota access for almost all exports to the EU. It is, however, set to graduate from the LDC status in 2026 as its per capita GDP has risen sharply surpassing that of India in FY21

6 . Facts for Prelims


Disturbed area according to AFSPA

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
  • An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
  • The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area. A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette.
  • As per Section 3 , it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments.

Veer Bal Diwas

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the nation would observe December 26 as ‘Veer Baal Diwas
  • Veer Baal Diwas — a tribute to the bravery of children — is dedicated to the Chhote Sahibzaade, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, the two youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh, who were bricked alive on the orders of Wazir Khan, the Mughal faujdar of Sirhind, for refusing to renounce their faith and become Muslim.
  • Zorawar Singh was 9 years old at the time, and Fateh Singh only 7. Soon after they were walled up alive, their grandmother Mata Gujri (Guru Gobind Singh’s mother) died of shock.
  • Today, Gurdwara Sri Fatehgarh Sahib stands on the site where the two Sahibzaadas were executed on December 12, 1705, which translates to December 26 as per the current calendar.
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