22nd December 2020

India-Vietnam Summit

Recently, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated the India-Vietnam virtual summit with his Vietnamese counterpart.

Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People

  • The ‘Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’ document was adopted to guide the future development of the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
  • Both leaders also welcomed the signing of a Plan of Action for period 2021-2023 to implement the Joint Vision.

Enhancing bilateral cooperation in all areas of engagement

  • Both leaders agreed to support each other’s national development priorities and work together towards the shared objective of a peaceful, stable, secure, free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.

Strengthen cooperation against common global challenges

  • They agreed to maintain active cooperation for ensuring access to vaccines against the pandemic.
  • The leaders decided that India and Vietnam would coordinate closely at multilateral forums, including at the UN Security Council, where they will serve concurrently in 2021.

Geopolitical Management

  • The Prime Ministers agreed to explore new and practical collaborations in the maritime domain.
    • It is based on convergence between India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region.

Development and capacity building partnership

  • The Prime Minister reaffirmed India’s commitment to its development and capacity building partnership with Vietnam, through initiatives such as Quick Impact Projects, ITEC and e-ITEC initiatives, PhD fellowships, digital connectivity and heritage conservation efforts.

Defence Partnership

  • Both Prime Ministers appreciated the successful implementation of the US$ 100 million Defence Line of Credit extended by Government of India to Vietnam.
  • The summit welcomed the completion of seven Development Projects with Indian ‘Grant-in-Aid’ Assistance for the benefit of local community in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province.

Cultural Partnership

  • The Prime Minister expressed special satisfaction about the restoration and conservation work of the My Son temple complex in Vietnam carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

 

Year End Review 2020-Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

Recently, the Year End Review 2020 of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution was published which provided major highlights of the Department of Consumer Affairs during the year 2020.

Key Highlights

Consumer Protection

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which has replaced the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 were notified in July 2020.
  • The relevant Rules and Regulations, including the E-Commerce Rules, which specify the duties and obligations of sellers and e-commerce entities, were also notified.
  • In pursuance of Rule 8 of the Consumer Protection (Consumer disputes Redressal Commission) Rules, 2020, an online portal ‘eDaakhil’ was launched for electronic filing of consumer cases in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

COVID-19 related initiatives

Under the Essential Commodities Act

  • Masks (2 ply & 3 ply surgical marks, N95 marks) and Hand sanitizers were added in the list of Essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act to ensure their availability and stop hoarding / short supply.
  • The ceiling prices of masks (2 ply & 3 ply), Melt blown non-woven fabric and hand sanitizers were fixed to ensure their easy availability.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

  • It is a special package which included provision of one kg per family of NFSA beneficiaries, of pulses like moong, tur, chana and urad was approved for 3 months from April to June to ensure adequate availability of protein to the poor.
  • The PMGKAY package was extended beyond the initial period of 3 months until the end of November, 2020.

Atma Nirbhar Bharat package

  • Under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package, a provision was made for supply of 2 kg of whole chana from Government buffer stocks per migrant worker family who were not covered under the National Food Security Act.

Ease of Doing Business

  • An online system of registration and renewal of jewelers and online system of recognition and renewal of recognition of Assaying and Hallmarking centres was launched.
  • The BIS gave temporary relaxations in the provisions of BIS Regulations, Schemes and Guidelines including providing special benefits of approximately 54.38 crores for the licensees of BIS from MSME manufacturing sector.

Price Stabilization Fund (PSF)

  • Under PSF, building buffer stock of pulses up to 20 lakh MT was approved for effective market intervention and about 8.5 Lakh farmers were benefitted through purchase of pulses at MSP for the buffer.
  • The pulses from buffer were utilised for Public Distribution System, Mid-day Meal scheme and Integrated Child Development Scheme.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

  • BIS has actively progressed towards automating all its activities through development and implementation of software applications/online portals under the e-BIS project.
    • The e-BIS has been envisaged encompassing all activities of BIS and with advanced features like data analytics, artificial intelligence, better MIS for effective monitoring, user-friendly interfaces, etc.
  • A Standards Portal has been developed for digitization of the Standards formulation process.

National Test House

  • The National Test House which works in the field of testing, evaluation and quality control of various engineering materials and finished products created high technology test facilities in its regional offices.
  • It has also procured new instruments such as Power Quality Analyzer, Cement Autoclave, Thermal Endurance Chamber, DC High Voltage Insulation Tester etc.

 

Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules 2020

Recently, the Union Ministry of Power has promulgated rules laying down the rights of power consumers in the country through Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020.

Need for Electricity Rights of Consumers

  • The Rules emanate from the conviction that the power systems exist to serve the consumers and the consumers have rights to get the reliable services and quality electricity.
  • The Distribution Companies across the country are monopolies and the consumer has no alternative.
    • Therefore it was necessary that the consumers’ rights be laid down in Rules and a system for enforcement of these rights be put in place.
  • The implementation of these Rules shall ensure that new electricity connections, refunds and other services are given in a time bound manner.
  • The Rules will benefit about 30 crores existing and the prospective consumers in the country.
  • The States and DISCOMs are being advised to provide wide publicity to these highly consumer friendly Rules of the Government while stressing upon the need for awareness of all consumers especially in rural areas/villages.

Key Highlights of Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020

  • The rules would provide for rights of consumers and obligations of distribution licensees, release of new connection and modification in existing connection, metering arrangement, billing and payment.
  • An automatic compensation mechanism will be put in place which will include no supply to a consumer beyond a particular duration and certain number of interruptions in supply, which will be specified by the regulatory commission.
  • The distribution licensee shall supply 24×7 power to all consumers.
  • The rules stated it is the duty of every distribution licensee to supply electricity on request made by an owner or occupier of any premises in line with the provisions of the Act.
  • The new connection has to be given within a maximum time period of seven days in metro cities, 15 days in other municipal areas, and 30 days in rural areas.
  • The rules stated that the state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs) can specify stricter timelines and service quality parameters, but cannot relax these rights to consumers.
  • The rules recognise consumer as a prosumer as well, where prosumers will maintain consumer status and have the same rights as a general consumer.
  • The rules allow net metering for loads up to 10 kilowatt (kW) and for gross metering for loads above 10 kW.
  • Electricity is a concurrent subject and the Centre has the power to make rules that have to be enforced by all.

 

SEHAT-Health Insurance Scheme

Recently, the Government of India has decided to launch the SEHAT-Health Insurance Scheme on December 26.

  • It is a Health Insurance Scheme for the entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It aims to cover the remaining One crore population which was not covered under Ayushman Bharat Scheme.
    • Under Ayushman Bharat PM Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), eligible beneficiaries were covered under Health Cover of Rs 5 Lakh.
    • Under PMJAY scheme, 30 lakh people are being covered in J&K.
  • With the launch of ‘SEHAT’ Scheme, J&K will be among the first in the country to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

 

Status of Leopard in India 2018 Report

Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has released the ‘Status of Leopard in India 2018’ Report.

  • The ministry remarked that monitoring of the tiger in India has clearly shown its umbrella role in the ecosystem, which has shed light on other charismatic species like the Leopard.

Key Highlights

  • India now has 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate of 7910 conducted 2014 i.e. more than 60% increase in population has been recorded.
  • The States of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra recorded the highest leopard estimates at 3421, 1783 and 1690 respectively.
  • India’s world record tiger survey also estimated the population of leopards and the tiger range was found home to 12,852 leopards.
  • The leopard was estimated across forested habitats in tiger range areas of the country but other leopard occupied areas such as non-forested habitat, higher elevations in the Himalayas, arid landscapes and majority of North East landscape were not sampled.

Geographical distribution of Leopards in India

Leopards in North India are distributed from Trans-Himalayas to Gangetic plains

  • The current leopards’ assessment was limited to an altitude of 2,600 m in this landscape, where leopard signs were distributed across the forested areas of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar.

Central India and Eastern Ghats

  • The leopard population for Rajasthan is reported only for the tiger occupied Protected Areas i.e. the Mukundara, Ranthambore and Sariska Landscapes.
  • Leopard population in central India can be distinguished into four large contiguous patches:
    • The Central block extends across entire Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Northern Telangana.
    • The Southern block covering Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Nagarjunsagar –Srisailam Tiger Reserve, and extending into Sri Venkateshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • The Western block comprises of Western Ghats of Maharashtra (Sahyadri hills) and areas of adjoining Deccan.
    • The Northern block comprises of Sariska, Ranthambore, Mukundhara tiger reserves and northern Madhya Pradesh.

Western Ghats

  • Leopard presence were recorded in the forested areas of Western Ghats, Nilgiris, and sporadically recorded across much of the dry forests of Central Karnataka.

North East Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains

  • Leopards are distributed widely in the North Eastern landscape from high altitude of Eastern Himalayas to the forests adjacent to tea gardens in the flood plains.

Leopards

  • Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the most widely distributed and adaptable member of the family Felidae.
  • The Leopards range covers the entire sub Saharan and North Africa, the Middle East and Asia Minor, South and Southeast Asia, and extended to the Amur Valley in the Russian Far East.
  • It occurs in almost every kind of habitat, from the rainforests of the tropics to desert and temperate regions.
  • The Indian subspecies, Panthera pardus fusca, is found in all forested habitats in the country, absent only in the arid deserts and above the timber line in the Himalayas.
  • It is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • It is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 in India.

 

Law to keep a check on Private Hospitals

Recently, the standing committee on Home Affairs has submitted a report which called for a comprehensive public health Act with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals.

Need for Law on Private Hospitals

  • The panel highlighted that there had been several reported instances of beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals being sold at exorbitant rates.
  • The committee strongly recommends a comprehensive public health Act, preferably at the national level with suitable legal provisions to support the government in keeping checks and controls over private hospitals.
  • The committee observed that in the initial phase of the pandemic, medical insurance was not extended to patients with COVID-19 infection.
  • There is need to have regulatory oversight on all hospitals working in the country to prevent refusal to accept insurance claims.
  • The report highlighted that measures should be taken to avoid social stigma and fear of isolation and quarantine, by making people aware and treating them with respect and empathy.

Suggestions for Law on Private Hospitals

  • The panel suggested that the act should keep a check on black marketing of medicines and product standardisation.
  • It suggested that the government should be proactive by holding awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective repurposed medicines to prevent people from panicking and spending huge amounts of money on expensive drugs.
  • The committee strongly recommends that the target should be to make COVID-19 treatment cashless for all people that are having insurance coverage.
  • The committee recommends that a separate wing may be formed in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) that will specialize in handling /managing pandemics like COVID-19 in future.
    • It may take a leading role in building a partnership of government with the public sector, corporates, NGOs and other stakeholders.

 

Spectrum Auction

Recently, the Union Cabinet has cleared the much-awaited auction of radio spectrum in various bands for commercial mobile services.

  • The total reserve price of spectrum put on auction in 2016 was about $90 billion while the realised value was just about one-tenth of that, with none of the 700 MHz spectrum band being sold.
  • The India IT Minister said that telecoms providers mandated to use new devices designated as trusted products and a national security panel on telecoms will be constituted.

Key Highlights of Spectrum Auction

  • The auction will use the well-proven methodology of Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA) Auction that will be the seventh of its type and is being held four years after the last one.
  • The government is planning to auction spectrum in the sub GHz bands of 700, 800 and 900 MHz along with mid-band frequencies in bands of 1800, 2100, 2300, and 2500 MHz across the 22 Licensed Service Areas (LSAs) of the country.
  • The total spectrum to be auctioned is about 2,251 MHz, compared to about 2,355 MHz put on the block in 2016.

Factors responsible for success of Spectrum Auction

  • Reserve Price: The research on a cross-country spectrum database shows that the reserve price significantly and positively correlated to the winning bid price.
    • The higher reserve price also inhibits bidders from bidding for more spectrum blocks, resulting in lower amounts of spectrum sold.
  • Willingness to pay: The willingness to pay by the telcos depends on their position vis-à-vis Over the Top (OTT) providers who are providing substitute goods such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and capturing a greater mind share of customers.
    • The erosion of the position of telcos vis-à-vis OTTs in the context of their relationship in the overall digital value network of devices, connectivity and apps, could result in a lower willingness to pay.
  • Allocation of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi: By off-loading mobile data, Wi-Fi supplements the carrier network and reduces the demand for mobile network capacity.
    • Wi-Fi 6 that operates in the 2.4/5 GHz unlicensed band requires additional unlicensed spectrum allocation to provide Gigabit speeds.
    • The more the unlicensed spectrum allocation, the lower will be the demand for licensed spectrum.
  • Visibility of spectrum: While there is an indication by the government that the spectrum for 5G auction, namely 3.4-3.6 GHz, will be held in late 2021, the amount of spectrum that will be made available is not clear.

Steps for successful implementation of Spectrum Auction

  • A re-visit of reserve prices and lower it further, especially that of 700 MHz which is the “golden band” for covering the hinterlands of the country.
  • The releasing of more unlicensed spectrum in 2.4/5/60 GHz for proliferating Wi-Fi as a suitable complement to carrier network will augment the deployments of the Public Wi-Fi project.
  • The government should provide visibility of future auctions, especially the quantum of spectrum that can be put on the block in 3.3/3.6/26/28 GHz.
  • The government should release guidelines on how OTT firms will be regulated and what will be regulated so that the telcos and OTTs can join hands to provide superior services for the benefit of the consumers.
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