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Friday, July 26, 2019


EB-5 Visa

The U.S. is all set to increase the investment amount under EB-5 Visa. The minimum amount required to be invested in the Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) in the U.S. will now go up to $9,00,000 (6.2 crore), an 80% hike from the existing $5,00,000 (3.5 crore).
§  United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers the EB-5 program, created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.
§  The new EB-5 fee structure, the first such move since the inception of the programme in 1990, will come into effect from November 21, 2019.
§  Several high networth professionals, students, entrepreneurs and families in India have been exploring EB-5 in the last three decades as it is the easiest channel to get a green card and permanent residency in the U.S.

Implication for India

§  With stricter norms on H1-B visa and now the hike in investment amount, immigration options have really reduced for Indian applicants.
§  However,considering most Indians opt for the EB-5 visa with an eye on better educational and career prospects for their children, the hike is unlikely to cause Indians to explore alternative options.
§  Rise of minimum investment amount in EB5 coupled with retrogression caused by over subscription of employment-based green cards such as EB2, EB3 and EB5 would dampen the spirit of not only Indians living in India but also Indians living in the United States on H1B visa.
§  EB-5 will still remain an option for the ultra HNIs (high networth individuals) because it remains the fastest way of getting a green card.

Context: The Centre’s pension scheme for small traders- Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan, Yojana 2019– has been notified and is being introduced on a trial basis.

Key features:
  1. Under the scheme all small shopkeepers, retail traders and self-employed persons are assured a minimum of Rs.3,000 monthly pension after attaining 60 years of age.
  2. Eligibility: All small shopkeepers, self-employed persons and retail traders aged between 18-40 years and with Goods and Service Tax (GST) turnover below Rs.1.5 crore can enrol for pension scheme.
  3. To be eligible, the applicants should not be covered under the National Pension Scheme, Employees’ State Insurance Scheme and the Employees’ Provident Fund or be an Income Tax assessee.
  4. The scheme is based on self-declarationas no documents are required except bank account and Aadhaar Card.
  5. The Central Government will make matching contribution(same amount as subscriber contribution) i.e. equal amount as subsidy into subscriber’s pension account every month.

  
Context: Lok Sabha passes the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019.

Key features of the Bill:
  1. The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  2. Who may commit terrorism: Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.  The Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.  
  3. Approval for seizure of property by NIA: If the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of properties that may be connected with terrorism.
  4. Investigation by NIA: Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.  The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  5. Insertion to schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.  The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).  The Bill adds another treaty to the list.  This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).     

Background:
The UAPA – an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004 — was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Eventually amendments were brought in under the successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.

Mains Question: Discuss how Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) impinges on the personal liberty of citizens of India.


Context: To implement the PRASAD scheme a Mission Directorate has been set up in the Ministry of Tourism. 

PRASAD Scheme:
  • Introduced in 2015, the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) is a government scheme that focuses on identifying and developing the pilgrim sites across the country to enrich the religious tourism experience.
  • It was launched by Union Ministry of Tourism.
  • It aims at integrated development of pilgrimage destinations in planned, prioritised and sustainable manner to provide complete religious tourism experience.

Objectives:
  1. Harness pilgrimage tourism for its direct and multiplier effect upon employment generation and economic development.
  2. Enhance tourist attractiveness in sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in the religious destinations.
  3. It also seeks to promote local art, culture, handicraft, cuisine, etc.

Funding:
Under it, Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments for promoting tourism at identified destinations. For components within public funding under this scheme, Central Government will provide 100% fund. For improved sustainability of project, it also seeks to involve Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well.


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About Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana or DDU-GKY:
The Vision of DDU-GKY is to “Transform rural poor youth into an economically independent and globally relevant workforce”.
It aims to target youth, in the age group of 15–35 years.
DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.

Objectives:
  • Enable Poor and Marginalized to Access Benefits.
  • Mandatory coverage of socially disadvantaged groups (SC/ST 50%; Minority 15%; Women 33%).
  • Shifting Emphasis from Training to Career Progression.
  • Post-placement support, migration support and alumni network.
  • Proactive Approach to Build Placement Partnerships.
  • Guaranteed Placement for at least 75% trained candidates.
  • Enhancing the Capacity of Implementation Partners
  • Nurturing new training service providers and developing their skills.
  • Greater emphasis on projects for poor rural youth in Jammu and Kashmir (HIMAYAT).

  
Context: The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha.
The bill will amalgamate the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Key highlights:
  1. Coverage: The Code will apply to all employees. The central government will make wage-related decisions for employments such as railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for all other employments.
  2. Wages include salary, allowance, or any other component expressed in monetary terms. This does not include bonus payable to employees or any travelling allowance, among others.
  3. Floor wage:According to the Code, the central government will fix a floor wage, taking into account living standards of workers.  Further, it may set different floor wages for different geographical areas.  Before fixing the floor wage, the central government may obtain the advice of the Central Advisory Board and may consult with state governments.   
  4. The minimum wages decided by the central or state governments must be higher than the floor wage. In case the existing minimum wages fixed by the central or state governments are higher than the floor wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.
  5. Fixing the minimum wage: The Code prohibits employers from paying wages less than the minimum wages.  Minimum wages will be notified by the central or state governments.  This will be based on time, or number of pieces produced.  The minimum wages will be revised and reviewed by the central or state governments at an interval of not more than five years.  While fixing minimum wages, the central or state governments may take into account factors such as: (i) skill of workers, and (ii) difficulty of work. 
  6. Overtime: The central or state government may fix the number of hours that constitute a normal working day.  In case employees work in excess of a normal working day, they will be entitled to overtime wage, which must be at least twice the normal rate of wages.   
  7. Payment of wages:Wages will be paid in (i) coins, (ii) currency notes, (iii) by cheque, (iv) by crediting to the bank account, or (v) through electronic mode.  The wage period will be fixed by the employer as either: (i) daily, (ii) weekly, (iii) fortnightly, or (iv) monthly.
  8. Deductions: Under the Code, an employee’s wages may be deducted on certain grounds including: (i) fines, (ii) absence from duty, (iii) accommodation given by the employer, or (iv) recovery of advances given to the employee, among others.  These deductions should not exceed 50% of the employee’s total wage.
  9. Determination of bonus:All employees whose wages do not exceed a specific monthly amount, notified by the central or state government, will be entitled to an annual bonus.  The bonus will be at least: (i) 8.33% of his wages, or (ii) Rs 100, whichever is higher.  In addition, the employer will distribute a part of the gross profits amongst the employees.  This will be distributed in proportion to the annual wages of an employee.  An employee can receive a maximum bonus of 20% of his annual wages.
  10. Gender discrimination: The Code prohibits gender discrimination in matters related to wages and recruitment of employees for the same work or work of similar nature.  Work of similar nature is defined as work for which the skill, effort, experience, and responsibility required are the same.  
  11. Advisory boards: The central and state governments will constitute advisory boards.  The Central Advisory Board will consist of: (i) employers, (ii) employees (in equal number as employers), (iii) independent persons, and (iv) five representatives of state governments.  State Advisory Boards will consist of employers, employees, and independent persons.  Further, one-third of the total members on both the central and state Boards will be women.  The Boards will advise the respective governments on various issues including: (i) fixation of minimum wages, and (ii) increasing employment opportunities for women.
  
Significance:
This is expected to effectively reduce the number of minimum wage rates across the country to 300 from about 2,500 minimum wage rates at present.

Key Issues and Analysis:
  1. Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions.  In this context, two questions arise: (i) the rationale for a national minimum wage, and (ii) whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages. 
  2. States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.  This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.
  3. The time period for revising minimum wages will be set at five years. Currently, state governments have flexibility in revising minimum wages, as long as it is not more than five years.  It is unclear why this flexibility has been removed, and five years has been set for revision
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender. While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.

Need for a national minimum wage:
One argument for a national minimum wage is to ensure a uniform standard of living across the country.  At present, there are differences in minimum wages across states and regions.  Such differences are attributed to the fact that both the central and state governments set, revise and enforce minimum wages for the employments covered by them. The introduction of a national minimum wage may help reduce these differences and provide a basic standard of living for all employees across the country


Context: Under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), a total of 5440 dedicated retail outlets selling affordable generic medicines are functional in the country as on 15.07.2019.

About PMBJP:
‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. Of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra (PMBJK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.
Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SCHEME:
  • Ensure access to quality medicines.
  • Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.
  • Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with only high price.
  • A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies and other Institutions.
  • Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment cost and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.

What is a generic medicine?
There is no definition of generic or branded medicines under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945made thereunder. However, generic medicines are generally those which contain same amount of same active ingredient(s) in same dosage form and are intended to be administered by the same route of administration as that of branded medicine.
The price of an unbranded generic version of a medicine is generally lower than the price of a corresponding branded medicine because in case of generic version, the pharmaceutical company does not have to spend money on promotion of its brand.

How are they regulated in India?
Drugs manufactured in the country, irrespective of whether they are generic or branded, are required to comply with the same standards as prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder for their quality.



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