GS Paper I- Indian Heritage, Culture, History of the World and society.

Ramakrishna Math Institutions To Stay Out Of EPFO Coverage.

Background

  • Institutions under the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission will continue to remain outside the purview of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) even as the Central government took a decision two years back to extend social security benefits to workers in all such charitable and religious trusts.
  • The EPFO took a decision in May this year allowing institutions run by two trusts — Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission — to remain outside its purview, documents reviewed by The Hindu show.

17-3

 

Key Things To Look Out For-

  • The education institutions and hospitals run under Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have been exempted from the EPFO’s coverage since 1982.
  • However, the trusts started receiving notices for provident fund coverage of its workers from the EPFO’s regional offices after the Central government, in September 2015, decided to bring workers in all charitable and religious trusts, employing more than 20 workers, under the social security fold with effect from April 2015. So, all religious trusts and places — maths, temples, gurudwara, and churches — employing at least 20 workers were required to extend provident fund benefits to their staff.
  • The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission wrote a letter to Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya in January, 2017 pleading that the trust’s activities were spiritual, “namely service of God in man” and compliance notices from the EPFO for coverage of its workers were a hindrance to its “charitable activities.
  • The trusts based its argument on a Central government order issued over three decades back in 1982 which exempted them from the EPFO’s coverage under Section 19(A) of the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. The section of the law has, however, now been repealed. The Central government back then had exempted the trusts from extending providend fund benefits under the government’s law “as their dominant objective is spirituality.”
  • The EPFO sought a legal opinion to know whether or not orders passed by the Central government under the repealed section of the law would remain in force till date and if it supersedes the September 2015 circular which brought all the trusts and religious places under its fold. The EPFO’s legal adviser opined that all orders under the repealed section of the law would continue to remain in force and forwarded it to the Labour Ministry “for concurrence.”
  • Legal advisor (Labour and Employment) has opined that the legal opinion of EPFO that the order made by Central government under Section 19A continues to be in force appears to be sustainable.
  • The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have 132 centres in India and run several schools, colleges, clinics, dispensaries, etc across the country.

Sources- The Hindu.

 

GS Paper II-Governance, International Relations.

5th Meeting Of BRICS Education Ministers Held In Beijing, China On 5th July, 2017.

Background

  • Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education was held on 5th July, 2017 at Beijing, China. The Indian delegation was led by Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Human Resource Development, India. Delegation of all the five BRICS countries participated in the two-day deliberations.
  • Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar thanked China for hosting the meeting in Beijing. He said that the Education, being the universal good, empowers everybody. It will set the tone for the world of the future.

17-2

Highlights Of The Event-

  • The Program witnessed the creation of institutional mechanism in the form of BRICS Network University and BRICS Think Tank Council. BRICS Network University, where 12 universities from each of the 5 countries will engage with each other in education research and innovation, is another commendable initiative. Five areas of cooperation are prioritised which are Communication and IT, Economics, Climate Change, Water Resources and Pollution, and BRICS study.
  • Minister Javadekar highlighted some of the initiatives of the Govt. of India in education. He specifically spoke about the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) which provides a relative ranking of Indian institutions, India’s indigenous MOOCs platform, SWAYAM, which has already hosted over 480 courses online and, this year, plan to host 2000 courses and GIAN (Global Initiative for Academics Network) under which 600 professors from 62 countries have already conducted their courses in India.
  • There were deliberations on the Beijing Declaration on Education which was discussed thereafter in the Senior Officials’ Meetings held a day before on the 4th July 2017. Beijing Declaration identifies some specific activities to deepen the cooperation among the BRICS Member States, encompassing the entire spectrum of education from school and higher education to vocational and technical education.
  • Before the meeting of Education Ministers, an international conference of Vice-Chancellors of the Universities participating in the BRICS Network University (BRICS-NU), meeting of International Governing Board (IGB) of BRICS-NU and meetings of International Thematic Group (ITGs) of BRICS-NU were held in Zhengzhou, China on July 1-3, 2017. During the meeting, the participating countries signed the Regulation for the IGB and the statutes for the ITGs, thus completing the structure of the BRICS-NU.
  • At the conclusion of the BRICS Education Ministers’ meeting, a bilateral meeting was also held between the Minister of Human Resource Development, India and the Education Minister of China, Mr. Chen Baosheng when bilateral cooperation between India and China was discussed.

Sources- Press Information Bureau.

 

GS Paper III- Economic Development.

UDAY Covers 97% Of Discom Debt.

Background

  • About 97% of the total outstanding debt of all state power distribution companies (discoms) has been covered under the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), the government announced on 11th July, 2017.
  • So far, 86% of the restructurable debt has been revamped under the scheme.
  • As on September 30, 2015, the total debt of all state-owned discoms was ₹3.95 lakh crore, according to a statement by the Ministry of Power.
  • The 26 states and 1 UT which have joined the UDAY scheme account for total outstanding debt of ₹3.82 lakh crore. Hence, about 97% of the total outstanding debt of all State discoms has been covered under UDAY.
  • Scheme objectives– Ministry of Power, GoI launched Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) which was approved by Union Cabinet on 5th November, 2015.
  • The scheme envisages: 1, Financial Turnaround 2, Operational improvement 3, Reduction of cost of generation of power 4, Development of Renewable Energy 5, Energy efficiency & conservation.

MOU signed by the States/Discoms so far:

  • Comprehensive (16 states) : Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Tamil Nadu & Meghalaya
  • Only Operational (10 states, 1 UT): Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Karnataka, Puducherry, Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tripura & Mizoram.

Status of DISCOM debt and issuance of bond under UDAY

  • As on 30.09.2015 total debt of all State owned DISCOMs was Rs. 3.95 lakh Cr. The 26 states and 1 UT which have joined the UDAY scheme account for total outstanding debt of Rs. 3.82 lakh Cr. Hence, 97% of the total outstanding debt of all State DISCOMs has been covered under UDAY.
  • As per the scheme, total liability opted for restructuring by the States through issuance of Bonds was Rs. 2.69 lakh Cr, covering 15 states. So far, States have already issued Bonds of entire Rs. 2.09 lac crores and DISCOMs have issued Bonds worth Rs. 0.23 lac crores. Bonds worth Rs. 0.37 lakh Cr is yet to be issued by various DISCOMs.

AT&C loss –National average (all UDAY states) of AT&C loss has come down to 20.2% in FY17. Major beneficiary states are as follows:

17-1