Daily Current Affairs for 23rd September 2020

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EPCA asks Punjab Haryana to act against stubble burning


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Managemen

Why in news?

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority wrote to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana stating that early burning of crop residue was taking place and urged them to address the issue “urgently”.

 ‘Matter of urgency’

  • The government has lost time because of COVID-19, but since the winter season is fast approaching, the issue has to be tackled with “urgency”.
  • Request was made to set up a control room in which directions can be issued and action taken, both for ensuring that the machineries are within the reach of the farmers as well as ensuring enforcement of the non-compliance that is reported from the field.
  • The effect of stubble burning will be less in Delhi for the next three days because of the wind direction.
  • Last year, about 9.8 million tonnes of the total estimated crop residue of 20 million tonnes were burnt in Punjab, according to official figures.
  • Similarly, in Haryana, of the total 7 million tonnes, 1.24 million tonnes of stubble were burnt. 


Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the IPC and under the Air and Pollution Control Act of 1981. However, government’s implementation lacks strength.

  • EPCA is Supreme Court mandated body tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • It was notified in 1998 by the Environment Ministry under Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • Its mandate is to protect and improve the quality of the environment and prevent and control environmental pollution in the NCR.
  • It is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in NCR that defines specific measures to tackle different levels of air pollution throughout the year.
  • It has 14 members including environment secretary of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT), chairperson of the New Delhi Municipal Council, transport commissioner of the NCT, the commissioners of various municipal corporations of Delhi and professors at IIT Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

What is Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)?

  • GRAP was notified in 2017 by the Centre and draws its authority from this notification.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
  • As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
  • GRAP has been successful in doing two things that had not been done before
    • creating a step-by-step plan for the entire Delhi-NCR region
    • getting on board several agencies: all pollution control boards, industrial area authorities, municipal corporations, regional officials of the India Meteorological Department, and others.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas).
  • At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.
  • It focuses on health effects one might experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
  • AQI is calculated for eight major air pollutants:
  • Ground-level ozone,
  • PM10,
  • 5,
  • Carbon monoxide,
  • Sulfur dioxide,
  • Nitrogen dioxide,
  • Ammonia
  • Lead

MGNREGA workers to get benefits on completion of 90 days


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

Workers engaged in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan will get the construction labourer cards on completion of 90 days of work in a year. The cards will enable them to get the benefits of various social security schemes.

Key details

  • The workers will now get the benefits such as accident insurance, free medical treatment and social security pension through the cards.

  • With about 54 lakh labourers engaged under MGNREGA in June this year, Rajasthan had occupied the first rank in the country in providing jobs to migrant workers returning to their native villages during the lockdown.
  • The department has preferred giving the individual beneficiary works, such as land improvement or ‘Apna Khet Apna Kaam’, construction of cattle sheds, goat sheds, poultry sheds and piggeries and the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojana tasks during the pandemic.
  • This approach would create livelihood assets that could bring the beneficiaries out of poverty permanently.

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA)

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a social security scheme that attempts to provide employment and livelihood to rural labourers in the country.
  • In an effort to make inclusive and overall development a reality, the NREGA was passed as a labour law and implemented across 200 districts in 2006.
  • By 2008, it came to cover the entire country.
  • The scheme was designed to provide any adult who registers for rural employment a minimum job guarantees of 100 days each financial year.
  • This includes non-skilled work, making it one-of-its-kind across the world.
  • It was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • The MGNREGA is an entitlement to work that every adult citizen holds.
  • In case such employment is not provided within 15 days of registration, the applicant becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.


The Standing Committee on rural Development highlighted several achievements of MGNREGA:

  • Large scale participation of women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) and other traditionally marginalised sections of society.
  • SCs/STs account for 51% of the total person-days generated and women account for 47% of the total person-days generated.
  • Ensuring livelihood for people in rural areas
  • Increasing the wage rate in rural areas and strengthening the rural economy through the creation of infrastructure assets.
  • Facilitating sustainable development, and
  • Strengthening PRIs by involving them in the planning and monitoring of the scheme.

Challenges in MGNREGA

  • Fabrication of job cards
  • Delay in payment of wages
  • Non-payment of unemployment allowances
  • Large number of incomplete works
  • Poor quality of assets created
  • Several instances of corruption in the implementation of MGNREGA

LokSabha clears 3 labour bills


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

The Lok Sabha cleared three labour Bills amalgamating laws on social security, occupational safety and industrial relations.

 Key details

  • The Industrial Relations Code, 2020; the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020; and the Code of Social Security, 2020, were passed by voice vote.
  • Among the 13 Acts subsumed under the Occupational Safety Code, 2020, is the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation and Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, which came under the spotlight during the COVID-19 lockdown when many migrant workers found themselves without any recourse to wages or services from employers.
  • The new Bill covers contract and directly hired inter-State workers.
  • In India, labour falls under the Concurrent List of the Constitution. Therefore, both Parliament and state legislatures can make laws regulating labour.

The Industrial Relations Code, 2020:

  • The Code provides for the recognition of trade unions; notice periods for strikes and lock-outs, standing orders, and resolution of industrial disputes.

  • It would subsume and replaces three labour laws:The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; the Trade Unions Act, 1926; and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  • The major provisions of the Industrial Relations Code Bill include the mandatory provision for companies with 300 or more workers to prepare and submit to the government standing orders regarding the conditions of service, including shift timings and termination of employment.
    • As of now, this applies to establishments with over 100 employees, under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  • The Industrial Relations Code aims to promote the ease of doing business and spur investment by encouraging labour flexibility.

The Social Security Code Bill:

  • The Bill replaces nine laws related to social security.
    • These include the Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.
  • One of the major proposals of the Social Security Code Bill is to bring unorganised sector, gig workers and platform workers under the ambit of social security schemes, including life and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits, provident fund and skill upgradation.

The Occupational Safety Code:

  • The Occupational Safety Code subsumes and replaces 13 labour laws relating to safety, health and working conditions.
    • These laws include: Factories Act, 1948; Mines Act, 1952; Dock Workers Act, 1986; Contract Labour Act, 1970; and Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which has been highlighted during the recent migrant workers crisis due to COVID-19.
  • These laws cover factories, mines, dock workers, building and construction workers, plantation labour, contract labour, inter-state migrant workers, working journalists, motor transport workers, sales promotion employees, and cine workers.
  • The code defines a migrant worker as someone who has come from his/her own state to seek employment in another state, and who earns up to Rs 18,000 per month.
  • The Code seeks to regulate health and safety conditions of workers in establishments with 10 or more workers, and in all mines and docks.
    • The Code creates special provisions for certain classes of establishments such as factories, mines, dock workers, and constructions workers. These include separate provisions on licenses, safety regulations, and duties of employers.

COVID-19 vaccines must have at least 50% efficacy


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

A potential COVID-19 vaccine ought to confer at least 50% protection and be able to either prevent infection or disease — but not necessarily both — according to draft guidelines issued by the Central Drugs and Standards Control Organisation, the apex regulator of drug and vaccine trials.

Key details

  • These guidelines are similar to standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as peer international regulatory organisations such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
  • The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Limited, which is also developing a vaccine candidate, Covaxin, based on an inactivated virus, reported that its tests on animals showed no presence of the virus.
  • In animal trials, all animals are deliberately infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the responses of the vaccinated and unvaccinated group are compared.

  • To ensure that a widely deployed COVID-19 vaccine is effective, the primary efficacy endpoint point estimate for a placebo-controlled efficacy trial should be at least 50
  • the pharma companies developing the vaccines must provide adequate data informing the potential risk of vaccine-associated Enhanced Respiratory Disease (ERD).

Other important facts

  • Worldwide, 145 vaccine candidates are at the pre-clinical evaluation stage and 35 are undergoing clinical trials.
  • In all, 30 candidates are being supported in India, of which three are at the advanced stages of phase-I, phase-II and phase-III trials, and four are at the pre-clinical trial advanced stages.
  • Serum Institute of India has started manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Codagenix Inc.
  • COVAXINTM, India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by Bharat Biotech is developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV). The vaccine received DCGI approval for Phase I & II Human Clinical Trials and the trials will commence across India from July, 2020.

TRAI recommends body to monitor net neutrality


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended the creation of a multi-stakeholder body (MSB) to ensure that Internet access providers adhere to the provisions of net neutrality.

Key details

  • The MSB, which could include telecom service providers, Internet service providers, content providers, researchers, academic and technical community, civil society organisations, and the government, should be set up as a non-profit entity.
  • The role of the MSB shall be to provide advice and support to DoT in the monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality principles
  • The MSB may also be required to investigate complaints regarding the violation of net neutrality.
  • TRAI also suggested that the MSB help DoT in maintenance of a repository of reasonable traffic management practices.


  • The government had accepted most of the recommendations of Trai, and on July 31, 2018, issued principle directives on net neutrality.
  • Further, DoT amended licence conditions for service providers and introduced relevant requirements to conform to the principles of net neutrality.
  • Trai in its recommendations had said the telcos should define their Traffic management practices (TMPs)
  • The DoT asked Trai to define the role and composition of a multi-stakeholder body that will monitor net neutrality rules.
  • Trai had earlier barred platforms like Facebook’s Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites, to check ‘gate-keeping’ in cyberspace.

Benefit of this MSB

  • The MSB will comprise telcos, internet service providers, content providers, academia, technical community, civil society, consumers and government.
  • The body will investigate complaints regarding the violation of net neutrality as well as submit reports to DoT.
  • It will also recommend technical standards on matters on best practices to be adopted for Traffic management practices(TMPs).

What is Net neutrality

  • Network neutrality, most commonly called net neutrality, is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication.
  • Without net neutrality, ISPs may prioritize certain types of traffic, meter others, or potentially block traffic from specific services, while charging consumers for various tiers of service.
  • The discrimination of content includes practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
  • The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.


  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a statutory body set up by the Government of India under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • It is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India.
  • It consists of a Chairperson and not more than two full-time members and not more than two part-time members.
  • The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.

Rajya Sabha MPs suspended: What rules are followed to suspend an MP from the House?


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • Eight opposition members from Congress, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress and AAP were suspended for their unparliamentary behaviour in the upper House on Sunday, during the passage of two agri-Bills.

Key Details:

  • The government moved a motion seeking the suspension of Rajya Sabha MPs.
  • The motion was passed by a voice vote.
  • After the motion was adopted, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu asked the MPs to leave the House.

Reason for suspending an MP:

  • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Presiding Officer of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly.
  • The suspension of the eight members comes a day after the Upper House witnessed massive unruly scenes by protesting Opposition members during the passage of two farm Bills.
  • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker/Chairman is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House.

What are the Rules under which the Presiding Officer acts?

  • Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business says: “The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”
  • To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker make take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A.

Rule 374 says:

(1) The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.

(2) If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such Member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

(3) A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

Rule 374A

  • Rule 374A was incorporated in the Rule Book on December 5, 2001.
  • The intention was to skirt around the necessity of moving and adopting a motion for suspension.

According to Rule 374A:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a Member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such Member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

“(2) On the Speaker announcing the suspension under this rule, the Member shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

Are the same rules applicable in Rajya Sabha?

  • It’s largely similar, with one important difference.
  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member.
  • The House may, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
  • The Chairman may “name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.
  • On Sept 21, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu named all the eight Opposition MPs.

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