Recently, Qatar has brought about a change in its labour laws.
First reform: It has abolished the unjustified ‘kafala system’ (requirement for a “no objection certificate). Under this system, migrant workers needed to get NOC from their employers before changing jobs.
Now, workers will have to serve a one-month notice period if they have worked for less than two years and notice period of two months if they have worked longer
Second reform: It involves increasing the minimum wage by 25 per cent to $274 or 1000 Qatari riyals and an additional 300 QAR for food and 500 QAR for accommodation in case not provided by the company.
These reforms are now applicable to workers of all nationalities and in all sectors, including domestic workers.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) notes that Qatar is the first country in the region to dismantle the “kafala” sponsorship system that is common in the Gulf region.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urges for a review of criminal contempt laws in India
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has urged for a review of criminal contempt laws in India,
It has expressed its concerns over the Supreme Court’s decision to convict Advocate Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt.
For the ICJ, the conviction appears to be inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression and the role of lawyers.
It goes against the general protection of free speech and expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is also inconsistent with the freedom of expression law guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It goes against the principles enshrined under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Contempt of Court
Article 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution empowers the SC and High Courts respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
Article 142: It empowers the SC to punish for its contempt.
However, what is contempt of court per se has not been defined by the Indian Constitution.
The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, elaborately deals with the concept of contempt of court.
The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.
The SC had recently found Prashant Bhushan guilty of ‘scandalizing the court’ on a suo-motu consideration of his two tweets. It has fined him with Rs. 1.
Spot Robot developed
Recently, researchers from Boston Dynamics, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT – USA) have developed a robot, called ‘Spot’.
They have planned to use it for patients with Covid-19 symptoms.
The robot is controlled by a handheld device.
It can walk on four legs, climbs stairs and can traverse rough terrain with ease.
It is small enough to be used indoors.
It can measure skin temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate, and blood oxygen saturation in healthy patients, from 2 metres away.
It has four cameras — one infrared, three monochrome.
The infrared camera measures skin temperature on the face
When haemoglobin binds to oxygen and flows through blood vessels, it results in slight changes in colour.
These changes are measured with the help of the three monochrome cameras, which filter lights of three different wavelengths.
The robot can be deployed in areas where suspected cases of Covid-19 assemble.
The robot can also carry a tablet that allows doctors to ask patients about their symptoms without being in the same room.
Covid-19 Detection Using Mass Spectrometer developed
Researchers from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have developed a technique that uses mass spectrometry to detect novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
Mass Spectrometry (MS)
It is an analytical technique used for determining the elemental composition of samples, quantifying the mass of particles and molecules, and explaining their chemical structure.
MS is based on ionization and fragmentation of sample molecules in the gaseous phase.
The new technique based on mass spectrometry relies on detecting the presence of two peptides which are unique to SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The new method can directly detect the virus without amplifying the RNA for detection.
With the new technique, scientists have been able to detect novel coronavirus with 95% sensitivity and 100% specificity with respect to RT-PCR.
This is much better than the alternative rapid antigen kits.
Detection of the virus takes less than three minutes;
The method also allows for effective pooling of samples.
Different Types of Test for Detecting Covid-19: (1) RT-PCR Tests; (2) Rapid Antigen Detection Tests; (3) RTnPCR Tests; (4) Feluda Tests; (5) ELISA Antibody Tests; (6) SalivaDirect Test
UNSC Rejects to Designate Indians as Terrorists
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has rejected all Pakistan’s requests to list four Indians as designated terrorists under its 1267 Committee for Counterterrorism Sanctions.
UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee
This committee oversees the implementation of sanctions pursuant to UNSC resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015).
It was adopted unanimously on 15th October 1999.
It is one of the most important and active UN subsidiary bodies working on efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic State group.
It prepares a consolidated list of people associated with these organizations.
It discusses UN efforts to limit the movement of terrorists, especially those related to travel bans, the freezing of assets and arms embargoes for terrorism.
Capping of MEIS Scheme Benefits
The Central government has taken a decision to cap export incentives under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) at Rs. 2 crore per exporter on outbound shipments made during September-December, 2020.
The ceiling would be subject to a downward revision to ensure that the total claim doesn’t exceed the allocated Rs. 5,000 crore for the period.
The new Import Export Code (IEC) obtained on or after 1st September will be ineligible to submit any MEIS claim for exports.
The Indian government has announced a new WTO-compliant scheme called Remission of Duties or Taxes On Export Product (RoDTEP) which will replace MEIS starting 1st January 2021.
Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)
It was introduced in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20
Objective: To offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in exporting goods/products which are produced /manufactured in India including products produced/manufactured by MSME Sector
Remission of Duties or Taxes On Export Product (RoDTEP)
The new scheme is implemented from 1st January 2020.
It creates a fully automated route for Input Tax Credit (ITC) in the GST to help increase exports in India.
It will reimburse all the taxes/duties/levies being charged at the Central/State/Local level which are not currently refunded under any of the existing schemes but are incurred at the manufacturing and distribution process.
The Ministry of Finance has set up a committee under the chairmanship of former commerce and home secretary GK Pillai to finalise the rates under RoDTEP.
In the fight against the spread of Covid 19 pandemic, the Railways has designed a health assistant Robot Rakshak which can remotely communicate between doctor and patient.
It is able to measure health parameters such as temperature, pulse, oxygen percentage.
It can also provide medicines, food to the patients and make a two-way video communication between the doctor and the patient.
It can move in all directions at all levels with a range of remote operations up to 150 meters.
With a full charge battery, the Rakshak robot can work continuously for 6 hours and can carry up to 10 kg of weight in its tray. It is based on Wi-Fi and therefore does not require any mobile data.
It also operates with an Android mobile application.
Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020
Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020 to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The Bill will include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State,
Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official languages in Articles 343 to 351.
Question Hour and Zero Hour
Recently, the Central government has decided to suspend the Question Hour and curtail Zero Hour for Monsoon Session.
This has been done in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour.
During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
The questions can also be asked to the private members.
Kinds of Questions: There are three types of questions asked.
Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk) – This requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
Unstarred question – This requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
Short notice question – One that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.
Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation.
It is not mentioned in the parliamentary rules book.
Under this, MPs can raise matters without any prior notice.
The zero hour starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day (i.e. regular business of the House) is taken up.