Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 13th October 2021

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1.  Do not breathe easy on the silicosis prevention policy

UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Silicosis and mining safety, district mineral foundation trust | UPSC

SILICOSIS AND MINING SAFETY

  • It is a progressive lung disease caused by inhalation of silica over a long period of time. Silicosis is one of the most prevalent occupational health illnesses in the world.
  • Silicosis is more prevalent among miners who are exposed to dust containing crystallized silica which turns quarrying and mining villages into “widow villages”.
  • Silicosis is characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever and bluish skin.
  • Silicosis is an incurable condition with its potential to cause permanent physical disability.
  • It is also reported from the population with non-occupational exposure to silica dust from industrial as well as nonindustrial sources.
  • Exposure to large amounts of free silica may not be noticed because silica is odourless, non-irritant and does not cause any immediate health effects, but long-term exposure is associated with pneumoconiosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and other lung diseases.
  • Diagnosis is a challenge because it is difficult to even find out if a person has tuberculosis or silicosis.
  • In India, more than 10 million workers are at risk of silicosis and thus it is recognized as occupational diseases by the Factories Act and Employees Compensation Act, which mandates employers must pay compensation to workers who are afflicted.

Steps taken by Government to reduce and to prevent incidents of Silicosis:

  • Silicosis is a notified disease under the Mines Act (1952) and the Factories Act (1948).
  • Factory Act of India (1948) mandates a well-ventilated working environment, provisions for protection from dust, reduction of overcrowding and provision of basic occupational health care.
  • According to Section 12 of the now-effective Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code, 2020, silicosis cases diagnosed has to be notified by mine owners or reported by the examining doctors to the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS), Ministry of Labour and Employment.
    • The DGMS, the sole enforcement authority for health and safety in mines, can take action against mine owners only if it knows who they are, and in turn, whom they employ.
  • Rajasthan — with the top-most share of over 17% in value of mineral production in the country and a long history of civil society activism, was the first to notify silicosis as an ‘epidemic’ in 2015, under the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, 1957.
  • In 2019, it announced a formal Pneumoconiosis Policy, only next to Haryana.
  • A ‘silicosis portal’ was hosted by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment and a system of worker self-registration, diagnosis through district-level pneumoconiosis boards and compensation from the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) funds to which mine owners contribute, was put in place.

DISTRICT MINERAL FOUNDATION TRUST

 

  • As per the Mine and Minerals Development Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2015, in every district affected by mining-related operations, the state government shall, by notification, establish a trust as a non-profit body to be called the District Mineral Foundation.

 

  • Mining companies contribute 10-30% on the royalty amount that they pay to the government to DMF Trust in the district they are operating in.
  • The idea behind the contribution is that local mining-affected communities, mostly tribal and among the poorest in the country, also have the right to benefit from natural resources extracted from where they live.
  • Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) is a scheme by the Ministry of Mines for the welfare of people & affected areas by using the funds accrued under District Mineral Foundation (DMF).

Labour Code dilutions

  • Section 6 of the Code makes it mandatory for all employers to provide annual health checks free of cost “to such employees of such age or such class of employees of establishments or such class of establishments, as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government”.The draft Central rule 6 corresponding to Section 6 of the Code fixes an age floor of 45 years for workers in all establishments (including mines) to be eligible for these health checks.
  • Section 20 gives powers to the DGMS to conduct health and occupational surveys in mines.Section 20 places no obligation on the mine owner to provide any form of rehabilitation in terms of alternative employment in the mine, or payment of a disability allowance/lump sum compensation for a worker found medically unfit. These paragraphs in the earlier Mines Act linked to the Workmen’s Compensation Act (also subsumed), have been deleted.

 

Steps for prevention

One, the related State departments, in close dialogue with the DGMS, must urgently draw up detailed guidelines for district-wise health surveys. The State rules under the OSHWC Code must take care to ensure the health checks are provided to all workers in all establishments, irrespective of age. The State Advisory Board (Section 17 of the Code), along with technical committees, must be quickly constituted, with workers and their representatives having a say in them.

Two, local manufacturers must be incentivised to innovate and develop low-cost dust-suppressant and wet-drilling mechanisms that could either be subsidised or provided free of cost to the mine owners. Existing prototypes must be tested and scaled up.

Three, the DMFT funds are both underutilised and spent in an entirely ad hoc manner. A Centre for Science and Environment report shows Rajasthan had ₹3,514 crore under DMFTs in 2020 of which only approximately ₹750 crore was spent. Their haphazard allocation for non-mineworker-related expenditure must be replaced by a streamlined and accountable system for the direct benefit of mineworkers under clearly defined budget heads such as prevention (including innovation fund and subsidy for wet drilling equipment), disability compensation, solatium, administrative expenses and others.

But even this planning will be incomplete without bringing worker-employer identification on record. A systematic identification ultimately lies in the hands of the authorities and their will to enforce the law in this regard and a rising among the workers for their rights.

 

2.  Boost tourism through disruption

UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper III – Economy
Sub Theme: Tourism and inclusive growth, drivers and challenges of tourism | UPSC

Present Scenario of Indian Tourism 

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, India ranked 7th amongst 185 countries in term of travel and tourism sector’s total contribution to GDP in 2017. Tourism industry in the year 2017 contributed 9.4% of the GDP and generated 8% of the total employment in the country, thus making it a one of the largest industries in service sector.

 

How Tourism can contribute to Inclusive Growth?

  • Potential to grow at a high rate and ensure consequential development of the infrastructure at the tourist destinations.
  • Travel and tourism sector is estimated to create 78 jobs per million rupees of investment compared to 45 jobs in the manufacturing sector for similar investment.
  • Provides employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers.
  • Tourism provides more benefits for women employment.
  • Potential to stimulate other economic factors through its forward and backward linkages with a host of sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, transport, hospitality, education, health, banking, etc

 

Growth Drivers for Tourism in India

Rise in Income and Changing Demographics: Rising affordability and increased affinity for leisure travel are driving domestic tourism in India. A number of niche offerings such as medical tourism and eco-tourism are expected to create more demand.

Diversity in Tourist places:  India offers a unique geographical diversity from snow-clad mountains, huge coastline, desert, lush green national parks, rainforests as well as a number of attractive beaches along the India’s vast

coastline.

Attractive Opportunities: India has a diverse portfolio of niche tourism products – cruises, adventure, medical, wellness, sports, MICE, eco-tourism, film, rural and religious tourism.

Policy Support: The government of India has announced a national policy on tourism in 2002 and thereafter offered various initiatives and incentives for development of tourism in India.

 

Government initiatives to boost Tourism: Swadesh Darshan Scheme, Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD), Adopt a Heritage Project, Incredible India 2.0 Campaign etc.

 

Constraints in Tourism Sector

  • Entry/Exit of Tourists: Despite the introduction of an e-visa facility, visitors find the process of applying for a visa still cumbersome. Further, awareness about the e-visa facility remains low.
  • Infrastructure and connectivity: Deficiencies in infrastructure and inadequate connectivity hamper tourist visits to some heritage sites.
  • Tourism segments or circuits: India has various tourist destinations but few circuits or segments such as the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).
  • Promotion and marketing: Although it has been increasing, online marketing/branding remains limited and campaigns are not coordinated.
  • Skills: The number of adequately trained individuals for the tourism and hospitality sector is a key challenge to giving visitors a world-class experience.

3.  Government announces plastic waste recycling targets

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment | Mains – GS Paper III – Environment
Sub Theme: Plastic waste management rules | UPSC

Context:

The Environment Ministry has issued draft rules regarding the plastic waster generated in India.

Rules: 

  • Mandate producers of plastic packaging material to collect all of their produce by 2024 and ensure that a minimum percentage of it be recycled as well as used in subsequent supply.

 

  • It has also specified a system whereby makers and users of plastic packaging could collect certificates — called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates — and trade in them.

 

  • Multi-layered multi-material plastics would be eligible to be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, waste to oil and cement kilns.

 

  • Producers of plastic would be obliged to declare to the government, via a centralised website, how much plastic they produce annually. Companies would have to collect at least 35% of the target in 2021-22, 70% by 2022-23 and 100% by 2024.

 

  • If entities cannot fulfil their obligations, they would on a “case by case basis” be permitted to buy certificates making up for their shortfall from organisations that have used recycled content in excess of their obligation.

 

  • Only those methods would be practised for disposal which are framed by the Central pollution control board.

 

  • Classification of Plastics:
  1. Rigid plastic
  2. Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carry bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches.
  3. Multi-layered plastic packaging, which has at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.

 

Plastic waste management rules (2016) amended in 2021 also includes:

 

  • The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the identified single-use plastic will be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
  • The ban will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic.
  • For banning other plastic commodities in the future, other than those that have been listed in this notification, the government has given industry ten years from the date of notification for compliance.
  • The permitted thickness of the plastic bags, currently 50 microns, will be increased to 75 microns from 30th September, 2021, and to 120 microns from the 31st December, 2022.
  • Plastic bags with higher thickness are more easily handled as waste and have higher recyclability.
  • Legal Framework for Banning Plastic: Currently, the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country.
  • Implementing Agency: The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
  • Compostable Plastics:
  1. Instead of using plastic made from petrochemicals and fossil fuels, compostable plastics are derived from renewable materials like corn, potato, and tapioca starches, cellulose, soy protein, and lactic acid.
  2. These are non-toxic and decompose back into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass when composted.
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