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Current Affairs 10 December 2020 for UPSC Exam


  1. Cabinet on wage subsidy scheme via EPFO
  2. U.S. designates countries of particular concern
  3. SC on Centre’s power to acquire land for Highway
  4. Indus Valley civilisation diet: Dominance of Meat
  5. Submarine optical fibre cable for Lakshadweep


Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • The Cabinet approved an expenditure of Rs. 22,810 crore to bear the cost of pensions of low-paid workers in the formal sector, hoping that it will spur job creation, albeit at the lower end of the salary threshold.
  • About 6 million white collar workers lost their jobs between May and August, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy has said.


  • The two-year scheme to subsidize wages through the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) is part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana announced recently by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
  • Under Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana, the government will provide the subsidy for two years for new employees hired between 1 October 2020 and 30 June 2021.
  • New employees have been classified as those who have a monthly income of less than Rs. 15,000 and have not been registered with EPFO earlier.
  • The Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana will also “incentivize creation of new employment opportunities during the COVID recovery phase”.
  • The move will aid formalization in the labour market and the ministry is trying hard to help both workers and enterprises through employment generation.
  • The scheme is also aimed at weaning back workers who left their jobs after the coronavirus outbreak.

Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation

  • EPFO is a Statutory Body, formed by the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
  • EPFO is under Union Ministry of Labour & Employment.
  • The EPFO has the dual role of being the enforcement agency to oversee the implementation of the EPF & MP Act and as a service provider for the covered beneficiaries throughout the country.
  • EPFO assists the Central Board in administering a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, a Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India.
  • It is also the nodal agency for implementing Bilateral Social Security Agreements with other countries on a reciprocal basis.
  • The schemes cover Indian workers as well as International workers (for countries with which bilateral agreements have been signed.
  • The EPFO’s apex decision making body is the Central Boad of Trustees (CBT).

The EPFO Vision 2030 envisages as follows

  1. Universal Social Security Coverage on mandatory basis by way of Provident Fund, Pension and Life Insurance for all workers of the country
  2. Online Services for all EPFO benefits with State-of-the-Art Technology
  3. Implementation of policies for a benefit structure with adequate support level of social security.

-Source: Livemint


Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The United States has designated Pakistan and China among eight other countries that are of particular concern for violation of religious freedom.


  • Designation of the CPC is the top tier recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) when it comes to violation of international religious freedom. It is followed by Special Watch List Countries for severe violations.
  • Pakistan and China along with Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were placed in the list for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.
  • The State Department placed the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
  • The U.S. also designated al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Taliban as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’
  • U.S. did not renew the prior ‘Entity of Particular Concern’ designations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organisations.
  • Sudan and Uzbekistan have been removed from the Special Watch List based on significant, concrete progress undertaken by their respective governments over the past year.
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) praised the State Department’s move to put 10 nations in the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs), including Nigeria for the first time, and four countries on the SWL for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
  • Notably, the State Department did not accept the USCIRF recommendation that India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam be also designated as CPCs.
  • Earlier, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF report) had downgraded India’s religious freedom to the lowest grade in the ‘Country of Particular Concern (CPC) category.

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

  • The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
  • USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.
  • USCIRF researches and monitors international religious freedom issues.
  • The Commission is authorized to travel on fact-finding missions to other countries and hold public hearings.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance and Polity

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Centre is “fully competent” to notify “any land (not necessarily an existing road/highway) for acquisition, to construct a highway to be a national highway”.
  • The Supreme Court hence upheld the notifications issued under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Act, 1956, for acquisition of land for construction of the eight-lane Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem national highway.
  • The highway is to be built as part of the Bharatmala Pariyojna–Phase-I project.

Views of the Supreme Court

  • The SC Bench said that “there is nothing in the Constitution which constricts the power of Parliament to make a law for declaring any stretch/section within the State not being a road or an existing highway, to be a national highway”.
  • However, the court also said that “provisions in the Constitution unambiguously indicate that the legislative as well as executive power regarding all matters concerning and connected with a highway to be designated as a national highway, vests in Parliament, and the laws to be made by it in that regard. For the same reason, the complete executive power also vests within the Union.”
  • According to the SC Bench, the Central Government “is free to construct/build a new national highway” keeping in mind the obligations it has to discharge under Part IV of the Constitution:
  1. For Securing a social order and promotion of welfare of the people in the concerned region,
  2. To provide them adequate means of livelihood,
  3. To Distribute material resources as best to subserve the common good,
  4. To Create new opportunities, so as to empower the people of that area including provisioning new economic opportunities in the area through which the national highway would pass and the country’s economy as a whole.

Bharatmala Pariyojana

  • Bharatmala Pariyojana is an umbrella program for the highways sector envisaged by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The objective is to optimise the efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions.
  • The effective interventions include the development of economic corridors, inter corridors and feeder routes, national corridor efficiency improvement, border and international connectivity roads, coastal and port connectivity roads and greenfield expressways.
  • To generate a large number of direct and indirect employment opportunities in the construction and infrastructure sector and also as part of the enhanced economic activity resulting from better road connectivity across the country.


  1. Improvement in the efficiency of existing corridors through the development of Multimodal Logistics Parks and elimination of chokepoint.
  2. Enhance focus on improving connectivity in North East and leveraging synergies with Inland Waterways.
  3. Emphasis on the use of scientific and technological planning for Project Preparation and Asset Monitoring.
  4. Satellite mapping of corridors to identify upgradation requirements.

-Source: Indian Express


Focus: GS-I History

Why in news?

A recent study finds that the diet of the people of Indus Valley civilisation had a dominance of meat, including extensive eating of beef.


  • The study looks at the food habit of the people of that era on the basis of lipid residue analysis found in pottery from Harappan sites in Haryana.
  • It finds dominance of animal products such as meat of pigs, cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat, as well as dairy products, used in ancient ceramic vessels from rural and urban settlements of Indus Valley civilisation in northwest India – in present-day Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • It says that at Harappa, 90% of the cattle were kept alive until they were three or three-and-a-half years, suggesting that females were used for dairying production, whereas male animals were used for traction.
  • There is also evidence of hares and birds being eaten, although little evidence of chicken being a part of the diet.
  • The study also talks of a diversity of plant products and regional variation in cropping practices. Both summer and winter-based cropping was practiced.
  • Evidence of barley, wheat, rice, different varieties of millets, a range of winter and summer pulses, oilseed and fruit and vegetables, including brinjal, cucumber, grapes, date palm were grown and consumed.

-Source: Indian Express


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Union Territory (UT) “Lakshadweep will be connected to submarine optical fibre cable” in the next 1,000 days.
  • Recently, we connected Andaman & Nicobar Islands with an undersea cable for a better internet.

Submarine communications cable

  • A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean and sea.
  • The first submarine communications cables laid beginning in the 1850s carried telegraphy traffic.
  • Currently 99% of the data traffic that is crossing oceans is carried by undersea cables.
  • The reliability of submarine cables is high, especially when (as noted above) multiple paths are available in the event of a cable break.
  • Also, the total carrying capacity of submarine cables is in the terabits per second, while satellites typically offer only 1,000 megabits per second and display higher latency.
  • However, a typical multi-terabit, transoceanic submarine cable system costs several hundred million dollars to construct.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024