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Current Affairs – 16 November 2021

20% of Unorganised Workers Registered

Indian Express

GS 1: Social Issues

Context:

  • Of the over 7.7 crore registrations (with the daily average of registrations around 12 lakhs over the last week) so far on the e-Shram portal — the country’s first centralised database of unorganised workers seeded with Aadhaar —Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar lead in terms of closing in on their respective targets for registration.

About:

  • With nearly a fifth of the targeted 38.37 crore unorganised workers now registered on the database, Odisha leads with an 87% coverage of its target, followed by West Bengal (65%), Chhattisgarh (33%), Jharkhand (31%) and Bihar (25%).
  • This trend is being inferred as an indication of the distress seen among unorganised and migrant workers originating from these states in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown last year.
  • In absolute terms, states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh have a higher target for registrations.
  • But the registrations in these states are still to pick up pace, with the target achievement rate in these states at 10% or below.
  • State-wise registrations (irrespective of the targets) show the highest number of registrations have taken place in:
    1. West Bengal (1.88 crore),
    2. Uttar Pradesh (1.42 crore),
    3. Odisha (1.15 crore),
    4. Bihar (89.17 lakh) and
    5. Jharkhand (36.34 lakh).
  • Occupation-wise:
    1. Agriculture (53.8%) and construction (12.2%) sectors have shown the highest registrations
    2. Domestic and household workers (8.7%) and apparel workers (6.2%).

Efforts by Government:

  • The registrations on the e-Shram portal have come after a series of earlier attempts over the years to register or issue identification numbers for unorganised workers.
  • A proposal to issue an Unorganized Workers’ Identification Number (UWIN) and allotment of an Aadhaar-seeded Identification number without issuing any smart card was approved by the Central government in 2017 with an estimated cost of Rs 402.7 crore for implementation during 2017-18 and 2018-19.
  • In June 2018, the Ministry of Labour and Employment had issued tender inviting bids for creation of a national platform of unorganized workers and allotment of an Aadhaar seeded identification number.
  • The Labour and Employment Ministry had in December last year sought help from other ministries to build a new database for migrant workers and others in the unorganised sector, which it had hoped to operationalise by June this year.
  • It had then tasked the National Informatics Centre with the design and building of the portal.
  • On June 29, however, after the delay in completion of the portal, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Centre and said that “the apathy and lackadaisical attitude by the Ministry of Labour and Employment” was “unpardonable” and had set a July 31 deadline for the launch of a national portal for migrant/informal workers.
  • The e-Shram portal was formally launched on August 26.

e-Shram Portal:

  • It will provide insight for the first time into an Aadhaar-seeded database for unorganised sector workers.

  • Till date, such a database is available mainly only for organised workers through the registered workers under the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation.
  • After registering on the e-Shram portal, the unorganised workers will have a Universal Account Number on the e-Shram card that will be valid across the country. This could be used to link with various social security schemes.
    • For instance, the government has already announced linking accidental insurance with registration on the e-Shram portal.
    • If a registered worker meets with an accident, he/she will be eligible for Rs 2 lakh on death or permanent disability and Rs 1 lakh on partial disability.
  • The labour ministry is also undertaking work on linking this database with the Unnati portal, which is proposed to be a labour matching platform for workers to find employment.

 

Indian Student Strength in US Fell Sharply

Indian Express

GS 2: International Relations

Context:

  • According to the Open Doors Report 2021, the number of Indian students pursuing higher education in the US fell by 13.2% in the academic year 2020-21, the highest drop in percentage points in more than a decade.
  • The Open Doors report is released by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education.

About:

  • The total number of Indians studying in America fell from 1.93 lakh in 2019-20 to 1.67 lakh in the last academic year.
  • However, Indians continue to make up the second-largest cohort (18.3%) of international students in the US, after China (34.7%).
  • Of the total Indian students, the majority (34.8%) chose Math and Computer Science, followed by Engineering (33.5%) and Business and Management (11.7%) in 2020-21.
  • The academic year 2020-21 is the second consecutive year that saw a drop in the absolute number of Indians going to the US for higher education.
  • In 2019-20, the number decreased from 2.02 lakh to 1.93 lakh. Before that, at least since 2014-15, the Indian student strength had been on the rise, albeit at a slower growth rate.
  • The decrease in the number of international students is not limited only to those coming from India. In fact, overall, the US witnessed a 15% reduction in its global student population.

 

Kartarpur Corridor

The Hindu

GS 2: India and its neighbourhood

Context:

  • The government is considering reopening the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara corridor to Pakistan this week to allow Sikh pilgrims to cross over, more than 20 months after it was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

About:

  • The corridor is being built to connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
  • This milestone was achieved after India and Pakistan signed an agreement in 2018 for Indian Sikhs to easily visit their holy pilgrim site.
  • A list of shrines and holy places have been determined under the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, as per which Indian and Pakistani citizens can visit the respective countries and their holy sites.
  • The agreement is valid for a period of five years and either of the two countries can terminate it giving a notice period of a month.

Significance of this corridor:

  • The corridor is one of the rare new initiatives between India and Pakistan initiatives amidst ties that have been in a downward spiral in 2019 after the Pulwama attack, Balakot strikes and the decision to amend Article 370 on Jammu and Kashmir, which led to the recall of diplomats on both sides and cancellation of all trade relations.
  • The project is also unique as visa-free “Human corridors” of this sort are normally used for emergency situations: refugees fleeing violence or humanitarian disasters, not for pilgrimages.
  • This corridor can be considered as a road to peace between the two neighboring countries.
  • Pilgrims who had to cover longer distances and get all the documents and visa to visit the Gurdwara could simply apply online and visit their holy place.
  • The ideology of Guru Nanak Dev to preach universal love and lead a path of harmony was addressed.

 

Centre to disburse ₹95,082 cr to States

The Hindu

GS 3: Fiscal policy

Mobilisation of resources

Context:

  • The Centre will remit ₹95,082 crore to States next week, double the funds due to them from the shareable pool of taxes this month in a bid to enable them to deploy more money on capital spending.

About:

  • States were also nudged to smoothen land acquisition procedures and create land banks for investors as land is one of the major bottlenecks for investment projects.
  • Moreover, with the Centre taking up monetisation of public assets, States were asked to consider doing the same.

Provisions:

  • Indian Constitution has made elaborate provisions, relating to the distribution of taxes as well as non-tax revenues and the power of borrowing, supplemented by provisions for grants-in-aid by the Union to the States.
  • Article 268 to 293 under Part XII deals with the provisions of financial relations between Centre and States.
  • Beyond sharing the country’s financial resources, the Centre also provides grants-in-aid to the states. The grants are of two types – Statutory Grants and Discretionary Grants.
  • Statutory Grants (Article 275) are given by the Parliament out of the Consolidated Fund of India to such States which are in need of assistance. Different States may be granted different sums.
  • Discretionary Grants (Article 282) empowers both the Centre and the states to make any grants for any public purpose, even if it is not within their respective legislative competence.
    • Under this provision, the Centre makes grants to the states. These grants are known as discretionary grants, the reason being that the Centre is under no obligation to give these grants and the matter lies within its discretion.
    • These grants have a two-fold purpose: to help the state financially to fulfil plan targets; and to give some leverage to the Centre to influence and coordinate state action to effectuate the national plan.