Topic 1: Star Campaigners
Context: ECI issues advisory to all Star Campaigners, recognized National & State Political Parties in view of plummeting level of campaign discourse in the ongoing GE to Karnataka Legislative Assembly
Who is a star campaigner?
- There is no law that defines who is a star campaigner.
- There is no law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner.
- A star campaigner is a celebrity vote seeker in an election for a party.
- It is a status that political parties contesting an election give to certain big names who the parties feel have more vote-fetching ability in the polls than others.
- This person can be a politician or even a film star.
- They are nominated by the concerned political parties specifying their constituencies and duration of the status.
How many star campaigners can be there?
- The Election Commission has issued guidelines the Model Code of Conduct regulating poll campaign.
- A ‘recognised’ party can nominate a maximum of 40 star campaigners.
- An unrecognised political party can nominate a maximum of 20 star campaigners.
Need for star campaigner
- The Election Commission keeps a tab on expenditure incurred by individual candidates during campaign.
- Expenditure incurred on electioneering by the star campaigner is not added to a candidate’s poll expenditure giving him/her more leeway.
- According to the Representation of People’s Act, these expenses will be borne by the political parties.
Terms and conditions
- For an individual candidate to get a relief from campaign expenditure, the star campaigner has to limit oneself to general campaigning for the party.
- If she/he shares stage with a candidate, the entire campaign cost except expenditure incurred on travelling will be added to the candidate’s election expenses.
- This applies even if the star campaigner seeks vote for the candidate taking his or her name.
- If more than one candidates share the stage with the star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on the rally will be shared equally by the contestants.
- If the candidates are not present but their posters or photographs have been displayed in their constituencies where a star campaigner holds a poll rally, the entire expense will be added to the election expenses of the contestants.
Prime Minister as the star campaigner
- The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on security will be borne by the government and will not be added to the election expenses of the party or the individual candidate.
- However, if another campaigner travels with the prime minister or a former minister, the individual candidate will have to bear 50 per cent of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.
Topic 2: Vivad se Vishwas scheme
Context: Government launches Vivad se Vishwas scheme for relief to MSMEs for COVID-19 period, as announced in the Union Budget 2023-24
- Under the scheme, Ministries have been asked to refund performance security, bid security and liquidated damages forfeited/ deducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Certain relief has also been provided to MSMEs debarred for default in execution of contracts during the COVID-19 period.
- In case any firm has been debarred only due to default in execution of such contracts, such debarment shall also be revoked.
- However, in case a firm has been ignored for placement of any contract due to debarment in the interim period, no claim shall be entertained.
- No interest shall be paid on such refunded amount.
- Additional benefits to eligible MSMEs, affected during the COVID-19 period:
- 95% of the performance security forfeited shall be refunded.
- 95% of the Bid security shall be refunded.
- 95% of the Liquidated Damages (LD) deducted shall be refunded.
- 95% of the Risk Purchase amount realized shall be refunded.
- Registered as a Medium, Small or Micro Enterprise as per relevant scheme of Ministry of MSME on the date of claim by supplier/ contractor.
- MSME could be registered for any category of Goods and Services.
What is Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme?
- The Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme is a direct tax scheme.
- Under this scheme, an individual taxpayer can claim full waiver on interest and penalty on the full and final settlement of the disputed tax amount.
- Settling disputes between taxpayers and the income tax department.
- Minimize tax-related litigation.
- Generate revenues for the Government
- Assist taxpayers for ending any tax disputes
- Facilitate immunity from prosecution
- Provide waiver from payment of interest and penalty
- If the disputed tax amount is greater than Rs. 5 Crores
- Cases initiated by the department under Income-tax Act, 1961 or under Indian Penal Code
- Involving undisclosed foreign income and assets
- Cases completed on the basis of information received from foreign jurisdiction
- Cases where person is notified under Special Courts (Trial of Offences Relating to Transactions in Securities) Act, 1992 or Detained under Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974
- Cases covered under:
- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,
- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,
- Prevention of Corruption Act,
- Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act,
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act,
- Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act
Topic 3: Mission Karmayogi
Context: A Union Minister said that “Mission Karmayogi”, launched by Prime Minister had institutionalised the process of capacity building, particularly for the benefit of civil servants
About the mission:
- It was launched in 2020.
- Mission Karmayogi is a National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCP).
- The programme aims at building a future-ready civil service with the right attitude, skills and knowledge, aligned to the vision of New India.
- Competency framework:
- This will be achieved through a Competency Framework for Civil Services that will be totally indigenous to India.
The Governance Structure:
- Human Resource Council:
- It will be governed by the Prime Minister’s Human Resource Council, which will also include State Chief Ministers, Union Cabinet Ministers, and experts.
- The council will approve and review civil services capacity building programmes.
- Cabinet Secretary Coordination Unit:
- It will comprise of select secretaries and cadre controlling authority.
- Capacity Building Commission (CBC):
- It will include experts in related fields and global professionals.
- This commission will prepare and monitor annual capacity building plans and audit human resources available in the government.
- Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV):
- This wholly-owned SPV will govern the iGOT-Karamayogi platform.
- The SPV will create and operationalize the content, marketplace and mange key business services of the iGOT platform.
- Monitoring and Evaluation Framework:
- An Appropriate monitoring and evaluation framework will also be put in place for performance evaluation of all users of the iGOT platform so as to generate dashboard view of Key Performance Indicators.
- The capacity building will be delivered through iGOT Karmayogi Digital Platform, with content drawn from global best practices.
- The platform will act as a launch-pad for the NPCSCB.
- Shift from Rules to Roles:
- The programme will support a transition from “rules-based to roles-based” Human Resource Management (HRM).
- iGOT Karmayogi is an online learning platform being developed as an integral part of the Digital India stack for capacity building of all government employees.
- It will provide ‘anytime-anywhere-any device’ learning to train around 2.0 crores users.
- iGOT Karmayogi platform presently hosts more than 300 courses under various broad themes.
Topic 4: Gig workers
Context: The recent strike by Zomato-owned Blinkit delivery agents has once again brought to the forefront issues plaguing the gig economy in the country.
Who is a ‘gig worker’?
- Gig workers refer to workers outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship.
- There are two groups of gig workers:
- Platform workers:
- When gig workers use online algorithmic matching platforms or apps to connect with customers, they are called platform workers.
- Non-platform workers:
- Those who work outside of these platforms are non-platform workers, including construction workers and non-technology-based temporary workers.
- Platform workers:
Are gig workers employees or contract workers?
- Whether gig workers should be categorised as ‘employees’ or as ‘independent contractors’ has been a heated debate.
- In India, employees are entitled to a host of benefits under statutes such as:
- the Minimum Wages Act, 1948,
- Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPFA), and
- the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
- Contract labourers are governed under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and are also entitled to benefits such as provident funds.
- Gig workers display characteristics of both employees and independent contractors and thus do not squarely fit into any rigid categorisation.
- As a result, gig workers have limited recognition under current employment laws and thus fall outside the ambit of statutory benefits.
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced the Code on Social Security, 2020 which brings gig workers within the ambit of labour laws for the first time.
- A ‘gig worker’ is defined by the Code as a person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship.
- The Code defines platform work as a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to provide specific services in exchange for payment.
- The Code distinguishes between gig workers and employees.
- Employees have benefits such as gratuity, employee compensation, insurance, provident fund, and maternity benefits.
- The Code stipulates that Central and State governments must frame suitable social security schemes for gig workers on matters relating to health and maternity benefits, provident funds and accident benefits among others.
- The Code also mandates the compulsory registration of all gig workers and platform workers to avail of the benefits under these schemes.
- Exclusion from other codes:
- Out of the four new labour codes proposed, gig work finds reference only in the Code on Social Security.
- As a result, gig workers remain excluded from vital benefits and protections offered by other Codes such as minimum wage, occupational safety etc.
- Cannot form Unions:
- They also cannot create legally recognised unions.
- No grievance redressal mechanism:
- They remain excluded from accessing the specialised redressal mechanism under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, denying them an effective remedy for grievances against their employers.
- No collective bargaining:
- Considering the non-traditional nature of their work, gig workers also do not have the right to collective bargaining.
- The government should establish clear regulations and policies for the gig economy to ensure the safety of gig workers and hold companies accountable.
- The government should invest in education and training programmes to improve the skills of gig workers and increase their income-earning potential.
- For gig work to provide a sustainable means of employment, ensuring stronger social security in partnership between the state and private sector and creating a bigger market for high-skill work can be important channels.
Topic 5: The Golden Globe Race
Context: A former Commander in the Indian Navy has attained another record of completing a solo circumnavigation at the Golden Globe Race (GGR), 2022.
What is GGR?
- The Golden Globe Race is a non-stop, solo, unassisted yacht race around-the-world which was held for the first time in 1968-69.
- The second edition of the race was held 50 years later, in 2018.
- The contestants would use boats designed to prescribed premodern specifications and would not be allowed to use any modern navigational gear.
- They would have to rely entirely on sextants and paper charts.
- Anything that wasn’t available in 1968 would not be allowed.
- Satellite phones would be available for extremely restricted use, up to four short messages a day.
- Use of the GPS chart plotter carried in a sealed box (for emergency) would lead to disqualification from the race.
- The sailing would be along a stipulated route, rounding the three great capes:
- the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa,
- Cape Leeuwin in Australia and
- Cape Horn in Chile.
- The sailing would be along a stipulated route, rounding the three great capes:
Topic 6: India’s 1st undersea tunnels
Context: India’s first undersea twin tunnels in south Mumbai are close to completion.
- The tunnels start near Girgaon, extend north under the Arabian Sea, Girgaon Chowpatty and Malabar Hill, and end at Breach Candy’s Priyadarshini Park.
- It is 2.07-km long which are are a part of the Mumbai Coastal Road Project (MCRP) being built by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
- The 10.58-km MCRP links Marine Drive to the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and is just one part of the Coastal Road project.
- The tunnels run 17-20 m below sea level.
- A nearly 1-km stretch lies under the sea.
- Resembling the shape of the Queen’s Necklace (the famous C-shaped Marine Drive promenade) the tunnel entry and exit points will have fiberglass facades.
- Another highlight of the project is the use of the largest ever tunnel boring machine (TBM) in the history of India.
- Named Mavala, the TBM weighs more than 1,700 tonnes and is nearly 12 m tall.
- It is manufactured by a Chinese company.
Topic 6: Rohingya Crisis
Context: Bangladesh seeks India’s help over Rohingya
- Bangladesh urged India to take more effective steps in persuading Myanmar to take back the Rohingya who were forced to take refuge in Bangladesh to evade persecution.
Who are the Rohingya?
- The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group.
- They have lived for centuries in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
- The Rohingya are not recognized as an official ethnic group and have been denied citizenship since 1982, making them the world’s largest stateless population.
Where are the Rohingya seeking refuge?
- Bangladesh, Thailand India, Indonesia, Nepal and other countries across the region.
A genocide trial
- In 2020, the International Criminal Court’s initial ruling ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to protect the Rohingya from being persecuted and killed.
- The body approved a full investigation into the case of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
- Although Myanmar itself is not a member of the court, the ICC ruled it had jurisdiction in the case because Bangladesh, where victims fled to, is a member.
- In 2019 Bangladesh announced it would no longer accept Rohingya fleeing Myanmar.
- While an agreement for the return of refugees was reached in early 2018, none returned.
Topic 7: De-dollarisation
Context: While countries have tried to dethrone the dollar as the global reserve currency for many decades now for various reasons, of late such attempts have picked up pace in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What is De-dollarisation?
- De-dollarisation refers to the replacement of the U.S. dollar by other currencies as the global reserve currency.
- A reserve currency refers to any currency that is widely used in cross-border transactions and is commonly held as reserves by central banks.
- China and Russia are among the nations that have supported de-dollarisation.
- Iran and Russia will jointly issue a new cryptocurrency backed by gold, to serve as a payment method in foreign trade.
Need for de-dollarisation:
- The U.S. imposed several sanctions that restricted the use of the U.S. dollar to purchase oil and other goods from Russia.
- This has been seen by many countries as an attempt to weaponise the dollar.
- Since international transactions carried out in the U.S. dollar are cleared by American banks, this gives the U.S. government significant power to oversee and control these transactions.
- Currently, the Chinese yuan is seen as the primary alternative to the U.S. dollar owing to China’s rising economic power.
Advantage of a reserve currency advantage
- A reserve corruncy is the foreign currencyheld by central banks (in India’s case, RBI) to:
- facilitate international transactions,
- stabilise exchange rates and
- bolster financial confidence
- Other currencies such as the British pound and the French franc have served as international reserve currencies in the past.
- It is the currencies of economic superpowers that have usually ended up being used as the global reserve currency.
- Critics of the U.S. dollar believe that the global reserve currency status gives the dollar unfair privileges over other countries, thus justifying de-dollarisation attempts by many countries.
- It should be noted that when a country’s fiat currency enjoys reserve currency status, it gives the country the power to purchase goods and other assets from the rest of the world by simply creating fresh currency out of thin air.
- However, such irresponsible expansion of the money supply can cause the debasement of the currency and eventually threaten its status as a reserve currency.
Why dollar is so popular?
- The U.S. dollar is widely used in international transactions because people actually prefer to use the American currency over others for various economic reasons.
- A recent attempt by India and Russia to carry out trade between the two countries in Indian rupees rather than in U.S. dollars has hit a roadblock because the value of India’s imports from Russia far outweighs its exports.
- This left Russia with excess rupees in hand which it was unwilling to spend on Indian goods or assets, and led to Russian demands for the settlement of bilateral trade in U.S. dollars.
- The high level of trust that global investors have in the U.S. financial markets, perhaps owing to the ‘rule of law’ in the U.S., is considered to be a major reason why investors prefer to invest in U.S. assets.