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Current Affairs 03 December 2022

CONTENTS

  1. India and UNSC
  2. DigiYatra
  3. Baguette makes it to UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list
  4. Employees Pension Scheme (EPS)

India and UNSC


Context:

On 1st December, India assumed the monthly rotating presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the second time in its two-year tenure as an elected member of the Council in 2021-22.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Security Council
  2. Membership
  3. Functions and Powers of UNSC
  4. India’s Case for obtaining the UNSC Permanent Member Status:
  5. What is the benefit to India if made a permanent member of UNSC?

United Nations Security Council

  • The Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations.
  • The Permanent Residence of UNSC in the UN Headquarters New York City, USA.
  • Its primary responsibility is the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter- Hence, it is the only body of the UN with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • Resolutions of the Security Council are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget.
Membership
  • It has 15 Members (5 as Permanent Members and 10 as Non- Permanent Members), and each Member has one vote.
  • The Five permanent members are: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of the Permanent Members has Veto Power over every decision of UNSC.
  • The Ten non-permanent members are Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
  • As per the rules of procedure, a retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election and the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations.
  • The presidency of the Council rotates monthly, going alphabetically among member states.

Functions and Powers of UNSC

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

  • to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  • to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  • to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  • to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  • to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  • to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  • to take military action against an aggressor;
  • to recommend the admission of new Members;
  • to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
  • to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

India’s Case for obtaining the UNSC Permanent Member Status:

  • India joined the U.N. in 1945 (2 years before independence) and India has been an active participant in all initiatives undertaken by the UN like Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable development goals and various UN summits, including on climate change
  • In the past, India’s was offered to join the UNSC by both the superpowers, the US and the then Soviet Union in 1950 and in 1955 respectively, India denied the offer due to Cold war politics in that era.
  • Currently, there are more than 6,700 troops and police from India who have been deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, the fourth highest amongst troop-contributing countries (having almost twice the number of peacekeepers deployed on the ground by the Permanent 5 countries)
  • India has been elected for seven terms for a two-year non-permanent member seat till now.
  • India is the world’s fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and third largest by purchasing power parity and maintains the world’s second-largest active armed force (after China) and is a nuclear-weapon state.
  • India’s acquired status of a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) in May 1998 also makes India a natural claimant as a permanent member similar to the existing permanent members who are all Nuclear Weapon States.

Who Backs India for a Permanent Seat in UNSC and who Doesn’t?

  • India’s bid for permanent member of UNSC is now backed by four of the five permanent members, namely France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.
  • On 15 April 2011, China officially expressed its support for an increased Indian role at the United Nations, without explicitly endorsing India’s Security Council ambitions.
  • A few months later, China endorsed Indian candidacy as a permanent UNSC member provided that India revokes its support for Japanese candidacy.
  • As part of the G4 nations, India is supported by Brazil, Germany, and Japan for the permanent seat.

What is the benefit to India if made a permanent member of UNSC?

  • Permanent seat in the UNSC, would provide India with the much-needed leverage to expand its geo-political and geo-economic clout globally.
  • Inclusion of India into UNSC will help in transforming its status from being a responsible stakeholder and pave the way for playing its part as one of the global rule makers.
  • Indian presence at the Security Council would ensure Indian interests are not neglected amidst the decisions of great power politics.
  • India will gain strength to act as a counterweight to China as China is growing to be a more potent rival, an emerging hegemony in Asia and an ever-increasing strategic and security concern.
  • India will gain the ability stall any possible intervention by China, a permanent member which can take action at the behest of its ally Pakistan.

How does India’s Inclusion as permanent member help UNSC?

  • India in many ways is a sui generis (unique) country, the only example in history of a billion-plus people working together in a democratic framework, hence: A seat for India would make the body more representative and democratic. With India as a member, the Council would be a more legitimate and thus a more effective body.

-Source: The Hindu


DigiYatra


Context:

The government has introduced paperless entry at select airports to make air travel hassle-free. Under this initiative, airports will use a facial recognition software called ‘DigiYatra’ for entry.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is DigiYatra and how will it work?
  2. How can people avail the DigiYatra facility?

What is DigiYatra and how will it work?

  • DigiYatra envisages that travellers pass through various checkpoints at the airport through paperless and contactless processing, using facial features to establish their identity, which would be linked to the boarding pass.
  • With this technology, the entry of passengers would be automatically processed based on the facial recognition system at all checkpoints – including entry into the airport, security check areas, aircraft boarding, etc.
  • In the first phase, the initiative will be launched at seven airports, starting with three — Delhi, Bengaluru, and Varanasi, followed by four airports namely Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, and Vijayawada by March 2023. Subsequently, the technology will be implemented across the country.
Implementation:
  • The project is being implemented by the DigiYatra Foundation — a joint-venture company whose shareholders are the Airports Authority of India (26% stake) and Bengaluru Airport, Delhi Airport, Hyderabad Airport, Mumbai Airport and Cochin International Airport.
  • These five shareholders equally hold the remaining 74% of the shares.

How can people avail the DigiYatra facility?

  • For availing the service, a passenger has to register their details on the DigiYatra app using Aadhaar-based validation and a self image capture.
  • In the next step, the boarding pass has to be scanned, and the credentials are shared with airport authorities.
  • At the airport e-gate, the passenger has to first scan the bar coded boarding pass and the facial recognition system installed at the e-gate will validate the passenger’s identity and travel document.
  • Once this process is done, the passenger can enter the airport through the e-gate.
  • The passenger will have to follow the normal procedure to clear security and board the aircraft.
  • Facial recognition technology is beneficial as it makes flying more convenient and reduces congestion at airports.
    • The facial recognition system at various airports across the globe, including Dubai, Singapore, Atlanta and Narita (Japan), have helped bring in efficiency.

-Source: Indian Express


Baguette Makes It To UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List


Context:

Recently, Baguette — the staple French bread — was inscribed into the UN’s list of intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a baguette?
  2. About UNESCO
  3. Tangible and Intangible Heritage
  4. What are India’s intangible cultural symbols on the UNESCO list?
  5. Who manages nominations to the UNESCO list in India?

What is a baguette?

  • The baguette is a long and thin loaf made of flour, water, salt and yeast, and is consumed as a staple in France.
  • Some believe that it was invented by August Zang, a baker and an entrepreneur from Vienna in 1839, who introduced the world to the taste of crusty bread with softer insides, using a steam oven.
  • It gained its official name in 1920.

About UNESCO

  • It was founded in 1945 to develop the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” as a means of building lasting peace. It is located in Paris, France.
  • Major Initiatives of UNESCO:
    • Man and Biosphere Programme
    • World Heritage Programme
    • Global Geopark Network
    • Network of Creative Cities
    • Atlas of World Languages in Danger

Tangible and Intangible Heritage

  • Cultural heritage in general consists of the products and processes of a culture that are preserved and passed on through the generations.
  • Some of that heritage takes the form of cultural property, formed by tangible artefacts such as buildings or works of art.
  • Many parts of culture, however are intangible, including song, music, dance, drama, skills, cuisine, crafts and festivals.
    • Hence, buildings, historic places, monuments, and artifacts are physical intellectual wealth – hence they are “Tangible”.
    • “Intangible” heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language.
  • An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage.

Definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

  • As the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage.
  • Intangible Cultural Heritage is manifested in the following domains:
    • Oral traditions and expressions, including language;
    • Performing arts;
    • Social practices, rituals and festive events;
    • Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
    • Traditional craftsmanship

Criteria for the selection

There are three criteria for an intangible cultural heritage to be inscribed in the United Nations list.

The entity must,

  • be recognized by communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals as part of their cultural heritage,
  • be transmitted from generation to generation and be constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history
  • provide them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

What are India’s intangible cultural symbols on the UNESCO list?

This year, India nominated Garba, a traditional dance form that originated in the state of Gujarat, for inscription on UNESCO’s ICH list.

1Koodiyattam: a Sanskrit theatre of Kerala
2Mudiyett: a ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
3Vedic chantings: recitation of sacred Hindu texts
4Ramlila: the traditional performance of the Ramayana
5Ramman: a religious festival and ritual theatre of Garhwal, Uttarakhand
6Kalbelia: folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
7Chhau dance: a classical dance form of Odisha and West Bengal
8Ladakh Buddhist chantings: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in Ladakh
9Manipuri Sankirtana: a ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
10Thatheras Utensil Making: Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab   
11Yoga: ancient Indian physical, mental and spiritual practices originating in ancient India
12Kumbh Mela: mass Hindu pilgrimage held at Haridwar of Uttarakhand, Nashik of Maharashtra, Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh and Ujjain of Madhya Pradesh
13Nowruz: In India, Navroz (New Year) is celebrated by the Parsi community who are followers of the Zoroastrian religion. It is also celebrated by the ‘Bahai’ community and the Kashmiris who call it ‘ Navreh’.
14Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, is an annual Hindu festival that reveres and pays homage to the goddess Durga. It is an important festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism.

Who manages nominations to the UNESCO list in India?

  • Several autonomous bodies within the Ministry of Culture actively function towards promoting and preserving intangible cultural heritage within the country.
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi is the nodal organisation which looks after this function, and files nominations of intangible cultural entities from India, for evaluation by the international body.
  • The Ministry of Culture also launches regular schemes, in an attempt to preserve, protect and promote intangible cultural heritage in the country.
    • Among them, the “Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India” aims to “professionally” enhance “awareness and interest” in the safeguarding, promotion and propagation of ICH.

-Source: Indian Express


Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS)


Context:

With the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) yet to issue any guidelines after the Supreme Court’s judgment on higher pension last month, the All India EPF Staff Federation has written to the Central Provident Fund Commissioner (CPFC), seeking clarity on details including the formula to calculate pension, and the options available to subscribers who retired after September 2014.

 Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

 Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Employees Pension Scheme (EPS)
  2. EPS (Amendment) Scheme, 2014

About Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS):

  • It is a social security scheme that was launched in 1995. It offers pension on disablement, widow pension, and pension for nominees.
  • The scheme, provided by EPFO, makes provisions for pensions for the employees in the organized sector after the retirement at the age of 58 years.
Main features:
  • Employees who are members of EPF automatically become members of EPS.
  • Both employer and employee contribute 12% of employee’s monthly salary (basic wages plus dearness allowance) to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scheme.
  • EPF scheme is mandatory for employees who draw a basic wage of Rs. 15,000 per month.
  • Of the employer’s share of 12 %, 8.33 % is diverted towards the EPS.
  • Central Govt. also contributes 1.16% of employees’ monthly salary.
  • Maximum service for the calculation of service is 35 years.
  • No pensioner can receive more than one EPF Pension.

EPS (Amendment) Scheme, 2014:

  • The EPS amendment of 2014, had raised the pensionable salary cap to Rs 15,000 a month from Rs 6,500 a month, and allowed only existing members (as on September 1, 2014) along with their employers exercise the option to contribute 8.33% on their actual salaries (if it exceeded the cap) towards the pension fund. This was extendable by another six months at the discretion of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner.
  • It, however, excluded new members who earned above 15,000 and joined after September 2014 from the scheme completely.
  • The amendment, however, required such members to contribute an additional 1.16% of their salary exceeding ₹ 15,000 a month towards the pension fund.
SC’s Judgement
  • Under Article 142, the Supreme Court ruling gives EPFO members, who have availed of the EPS, another opportunity over the next four months to opt and contribute up to 8.33% of their actual salaries as against 8.33% of the pensionable salary capped at Rs 15,000 a month towards pension.
  • Under the pre-amendment scheme, the pensionable salary was computed as the average of the salary drawn during the 12 months prior to exit from membership of the Pension Fund. The amendments raised this to an average of 60 months prior to exit from the membership of the Pension Fund.
  • The court held the amendment requiring members to contribute an additional 1.16 % of their salary exceeding Rs 15,000 a month as ultra vires the provisions of the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

About Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)

Nodal: Ministry of Labour & Employment

  • It is a government organization that manages provident fund and pension accounts of member employees and implements the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
  • The Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 provides for the institution of provident funds for employees in factories and other establishments.
  • It is one of the World’s largest Social Security Organisations in terms of clientele and the volume of financial transactions undertaken.

-Source: The Hindu


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