GS 2

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

  1. 1. Relaxation on curbs on H-1B, job-based visas

The issue in news

Mr. Biden – the U.S president-elect is expected to reverse the move of the outgoing Trump administration to revoke work permits to the spouses of H-1B visas, which had adversely impacted a large number of Indian families in the U.S.

 

Main points

  • The policy document issued by the Biden campaign said that Indian-Americans know first-hand the strength and resilience that immigrants bring to the U.S. – as a largely immigrant community, but in some cases with American roots reaching back generations.
  • It said that he would work towards passing legislative immigration reform with a priority on keeping families together by providing a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants (this includes more than 500,000 from India).
  • It also said that he would increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions and exempt from any cap recent graduates of Ph.D. programmes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

 

Few important US Visas

H-1B Visa

  • The H-1B category is an expedient and lawful method to bring foreign-born professionals temporarily to the United States, and therefore one of the most widely sought after visa classifications for employment in the United States.
  • The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States; it allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.
  • H-4 visa is a work permit issued to the spouses of H1-B visa holders under a special order by the previous Obama administration.
  • H-4 visa allows work permits for spouses who otherwise could not be employed without waiting for their spouses to receive permanent resident status, a process that can take a decade or longer.

H-2B Visa

  • The H-2B visa nonimmigrant program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come temporarily to the United States and perform temporary nonagricultural services or labor on a one-time, seasonal, peakload or intermittent basis.

L-1 Visa

  • The L-1 visa facilitates the temporary transfer of foreign worker in the managerial, executive or specialized knowledge category to the U.S. to continue employment with an office of the same employer, its parent branch, subsidiary or affiliate.
  • L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that allows L-2 visa for the spouse and minor unmarried children under 21 years of age. L-1 visa holder is known as intra-company transferee.
  • Even though L-1 visa was initially made for large multinational companies to transfer their employees to the U.S., it provides small or start-up companies abroad to expand their business and services to the U.S.

 

 

GS 3

Category: ECONOMY

  1. Note ban curbed black money: PM

The issue in news

On the fourth anniversary of demonetisation, Prime Minister said that the move helped in reducing black money, increase tax compliance and formalisation of the economy.

“Demonetisation has helped reduce black money, increase tax compliance and formalisation and given a boost to transparency. These outcomes have been greatly beneficial towards national progress,” the PM said.

 

Background:

  • On November 8, 2016, the PM had announced the government’s decision to ban all currency notes of 500 and 1,000 from midnight.

 

  • Pros of Demonetization
    • The menace of black money can be controlled to some extent
    • Terror financing, using black money for illegal activities, etc will all take a hit
    • The counterfeit currencies which have an impact on the real economy will be rooted out
    • The mobilization of deposits in the banks will increase, which may lead to increased credit flow and lowering of lending rates
    • The black money adds to the inconspicuous demand and hence the inflation to some extent will be under control
    • The government is also aiming to raise its revenue collection (eg- by taxing exorbitant IT rates over certain deposits, the tax collection in other forms will also increase, etc)
    • Real estate is one of the major sources of black money generation. With this move, it is expected that the property market rates may bottom out or moderate
    • It’s a major step by the government towards forming a cashless economy
    • The honest workers will be rewarded under such a scenario
    • The elections are usually associated with black money generation and circulation, with this scheme the funding of elections through nefarious ways will be hit
    • It is expected that with this move the Fiscal Deficit of the government may come down
  • Cons of Demonetization
    • For one all the black money is not stored in the form of cash only and secondly, the measure takes care of the result but not the cause-black money is generated mainly because of corruption and tax evasion. This measure controls the usage of black money but cannot control the causes
    • Sudden and huge demand for the new currencies
    • Panic amongst the common man (already we have seen the case wherein people have looted fair price shop in MP, Cash Carrying companies seeking higher insurance, etc). already the panic has led to people hoarding currencies which have further reduced the liquidity in the market
    • The small trade/shopkeepers are facing difficulties
    • Black marketing of the new notes/currencies is on the rise
    • The establishments such as banks, hospitals, etc are under a lot of stress
    • Another area that is a cause of worry is the likely drop in the rural demand as the cash usage will become restricted. Apart from this, the experts are also expecting an impact on the SME sector, agricultural production (the economy was expected to perform well as there was an expectation of a good rabi crop after two bad monsoons but a prominent economist, Pronab Sen has said that demonetization is akin to third bad monsoon year as it will have an impact on agricultural production, but the more dangerous situation is this having a spillover effect on to fertilizer, tractor sectors)

 

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

  1. No relief for Delhi from ‘severe’ air quality

The issue in news

Air quality in New Delhi remained in the ‘severe’ category for the fourth consecutive day.

Issues:

  • Farm fires continue to burn in neighbouring states, contributing to 29% of the total air pollution in the National Capital Region.
  • System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) said the situation was unlikely to improve unless there was a drastic reduction in stubble fire counts.

 

What is SAFAR?

SAFAR stands for System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research. It is a country-wide initiative with an objective to provide location-specific information about the air quality on a real-time basis. It is currently operationalized in metros Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

  • It is targeted at the public at large to spread awareness about the harmful effects of air pollution and bad air quality, and also its environmental ill-effects.
  • SAFAR not only monitors air quality, but also forecasts the quality of air.
  • The system was developed indigenously by the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.
  • It is implemented by the IITM and the India Meteorological Department (IMD), but comes under the Earth Sciences Ministry.
    • The IMD (started implementing after one year of operation of SAFAR) operates and maintains the system. It collects data and sends it to the IITM for processing.
    • The supercomputer housed at the IITM processes and disseminates the data in the form of simplified and colour-coded information.
  • The project evolved from the requirement to evaluate the air quality during the Commonwealth Games (CWG), New Delhi, in 2010. 
    • The target beneficiaries were sportspersons (especially athletes, who breathe in ten times more air) for whom air quality information is helpful in determining the effect it has on their physical prowess.
  • Before SAFAR, there was no way of knowing the air quality 2 – 3 days ahead in the metro cities.
  • Apart from providing information on billboards about air quality, SAFAR also offers information on the weather conditions, ultraviolet radiation, and emissions in the cities.
  • Not only the general public, hospitals and other research agencies can also use the data provided by SAFAR on digital display boards and its web portal for their own use and research, for instance, to research on the rise of the number of bronchitis cases in an area.
  • The World Meteorological Organization has recognized SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high-quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.

Data provided by SAFAR

  1. Air quality forecast (1 to 3 days in advance)
  2. Location-specific UV index information
  3. Weather forecast (1 to 3 days in advance)
  4. Emission scenario

Know more about the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the linked article.

The SAFAR process is illustrated in the following image:

SAFAR Impact

SAFAR is proving to have a positive impact on the lives of people in the cities in which it is now implemented. 

  • Availability of information relevant to improving public health: The processed information which is converted into a user-friendly format is made available to the public in three forms: Digital display boards across the city; Web portal; IVRS
    • This information is helpful to monitor the impact of poor air quality on one’s health.
    • One of the biggest achievements of SAFAR has been the identification of wind-blown dust (suspended dust) as the major source of particle pollution in Delhi. 
  • Timely information about extreme weather conditions: This helps disaster response authorities to mitigate the adverse effects of severe weather conditions.
  • Input for studies on environmental issues and health risks: The information available from SAFAR is used not only by the public, but also by researchers for studies on the environment and related issues. Hospitals have been using this data to complement their own research.
  • Improvement in crop yields: SAFAR has been used to evaluate the impact of ozone, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide on vegetation and this has helped in crop yield improvement.
  • Issuing health advisories: Information from SAFAR has been utilised to issue health advisories warning the public about the increased levels of particulate matter and other air pollutants.
  • Steps for a better environment: Initiatives such as Bharat I and II compliance measures, the transition to CNG, shifting industries to outskirts of cities, etc. are based on information that is sourced from a variety of sources, one of them being SAFAR.

Challenges and Way Forward

  • Although starting with Delhi and then Pune, SAFAR has now been operationalised in other metropolitan cities also, there is a need to study the possibilities of taking it to rural regions of the country. There is also the question of the sustainability of the model in other parts of India. Nevertheless, the SAFAR system is an innovation that has proven its efficacy in public health as well as in disaster management and mitigation strategies.

 

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