Q1.The recent 2017 amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 (Amendment) is a step forward in the right direction towards increasing gender diversity at the workplace. Comment.
In 2012, which is the most recent data available, only 27% of Indian women worked compared to 55% in OECD countries and 63% in East Asia. This deficit shaves off an estimated 2.5% from the country’s gross domestic product every year. The amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, which were introduced this year, in particular the provision of 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and the mandatory crèche facility, are path-breaking.
Four major changes have been made to the law relating to maternity benefits and which will prove to be the game changers in labour force participation are
Firstly, it extends the period of maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of which not more than eight weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery. This exceeds the International Labour Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks and is a positive development.
Secondly, women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months or a “commissioning mother” will be entitled to maternity benefit for 12 weeks from the date on which the child is handed over to her.
Thirdly, it gives discretion to employers to allow women to work from home after the period of maternity benefit on mutually agreeable conditions. This would apply if the nature of work assigned to the woman permits her to work from home
Fourthly, it requires establishments having 50 or more employees to have a crèche facility, either separately or along with common facilities. Further, employers should allow the woman to visit the crèche four times a day, which “shall also include the interval for rest allowed to her.”
The Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her. Such communication must be in writing and electronically.
In order to ensure that the mandatory nature of the Amendment is not self defeating in the purpose of increasing gender diversity, thereby risking decline in hiring of women workforce, the government may have to put on its thinking cap on how to distribute/reduce the financial burden on the employer. It could do this perhaps giving tax benefits to companies to implement and incentivize this much needed boost to women empowerment at work and in society and address other important milestones to be covered such as introduction of paternity leave which is a crucial piece missing from this progressive legislation.
Q2. Why is militant Buddhism on the rise in few Asian countries? Examine the justifications given by votaries of violence in Buddhism. Also comment on India’s response to militant Buddhism in its neighbourhood.
Millitant Buddhism refers to acts of violence and aggression committed by Buddhists with religious, political, socio-cultural motivations as well as self-inflicted violence during ascetics or for religious purposes.
It’s not just in Myanmar that this militant Buddhism is on the rise: it’s also surfacing in the other two leading Theravādin countries: Sri Lanka and Thailand. In all three countries, Buddhists make up the vast majority of the population: 70% in Sri Lanka, 88% in Myanmar, and 93% in Thailand.
Reasons for it’s rise :-
The conviction that Buddhism is under threat psychologically instigate the monks to adopt the path of violence in self defence.
The notion that a non-Buddhist minority is the vanguard of an imminent invasion is very strongindeed which provokes the monks to adopt violent path.
There is an absence of strong checks and balance system, political empowerment of minority and the issue is being politically appeased in order to create chaos.
The social insecurity and instability is also another reason for the rise of militant Budhhism trend.
The rising threats due to other religion like Muslim jihad for example many monks were killed by Muslims in south Thailand. In past Bamiyan Buddha image and Nalanda University was badly devastated by Islamic forces.
Justification given :-
Militant monks usually start their argumentation by pointing out that even the Buddha himself showed some understanding for the wars conducted by his benefactor King Pasenadi instead of condemning them.
Burmese monks are preaching violence instead of peace, and “firm action” instead of meditation. They justify killing in defence of their own religion hence they are justifying persecution of Rohingyas
Indian response :-
India is the birthplace of Buddhism which is in itself a very peaceful religion hence India will not support such activities. India will always oppose killings, devastation of people under the garb of religion in danger.
Q3. Shale is OPEC’s nemesis. Discuss. Also examine how does increase in shale output in North America benefit India.
Shale oil is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale rock fragments by pyrolysis, hydrogenation, or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing impurities such as sulfur and nitrogen. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil.
Shale is OPEC’s nemesis :-
In the past, North American producers of shale brought a multi-year bull market in oil to an abrupt end.
Since then, OPEC has struggled to maintain control over oil prices except for brief spells.
The American shale industry has been let free to increase production in response to higher prices, thus imposing a cap on the price of oil.
There are no signs yet of a structural change in the oil market to suggest that it could be any different this time.
Shale producers have continued to pump more oil into the market as crude prices have crossed the $50 mark.
How India will get benefitted with increased production of shale :-
India has derived huge benefits from lower oil prices since 2014, with the government’s fiscal management and inflation-targeting being rendered a lot easier.
India, which is the fourth largest consumer of oil, is a big beneficiary of falling oil prices. The reduced prices will not only lower the import bill but also help save foreign exchange. As per rough estimates, a $10 fall in crude could reduce the current account deficit by approximately 0.5% of GDP and the fiscal deficit by around 0.1% of GDP.
The world supply of oil increased and US which was importing 9-10 million barrels per day (mbpd) now no longer does so because of its own shale oil production. Supply has also increased with countries such as Iraq producing more oil. Demand has, however, slowed down from Asia and Europe.
The oil price fall has created huge volatility in world markets including India, which is not insulated from the contagion effects of this development. However, the silver lining for India is that when the dust settles down, the capital earmarked for emerging markets and BRICs economies, is likely to flow into India given its relative attraction compared to a weakening Brazil on falling iron-ore prices or a collapsing Russia reeling under this oil price fall.
Q4. What do you understand by for compensatory afforestation? Comment on the recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on compensatory afforestation.
Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees (forestation) in an area where there was no previous tree cover. Compensatory afforestation is the afforestation carried out in order to compensate the damage or loss caused due to industrial or other developmental activities.
Guidelines on compensatory afforestation :-
These guidelines specifies criteria for suitability and identification of land bank for compensatory afforestation.
It noted that in many cases a substantial portion of the land identified for compensatory afforestation already contain vegetation of varying density. Creation of compensatory afforestation will not fully compensate the loss of trees as there will not be enough space for the requisite number of plants to be planted.
Instead of outrightly rejecting such lands, the Ministry has suggested that at least 1,000 plants per hectare (ha) should be planted on the identified non-forest lands.
The guidelines, almost in the same breath, also provide relaxation to the criteria by stating that in case planting 1,000 plants per ha is not possible on non-forest land; the balance number of plantations can be done on degraded forests.
The guidelines have also directed the constitution of state-level committees under the chairmanship of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to expedite the creation of land bank for compensatory afforestation.
Critical analysis :-
The guidelines have tried to address the mounting challenge of land scarcity for compensatory afforestation. However, they have fallen short of clarifying the minimum threshold for undertaking plantations on non-forest land. Nevertheless, various forest ecosystems in India have different natural tree densities. Putting a general criterion of 1,000 plants per ha (or difference between 1,000 and existing tree stock) raises more questions.
The emphasis on specifying a time period for maintenance of plantations which is 10 years is a welcome move. It would have been better if the guidelines had also specified a certain percentage of compensatory afforestation funds to be set aside exclusively for this purpose.
The land identified for compensatory afforestation is required to be notified as Reserved Forests under the Indian Forest Act of 1927. While the forest department’s jurisdiction would extend over new lands through this process, tribal dispossession of lands in the name of compensatory afforestation could increase.
The absence of community representation in the committees to be constituted for the identification of the land bank is also a matter of concern.