Category: Governance

The ambiguities in the nuclear liability law

Why in News?

  • The issues surrounding nuclear liability law in India continue to cause delays in the plan to build six nuclear power reactors in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur.

Background:

  • The French energy company Electricite de France (EDF) submitted its techno-commercial offer for the construction of six nuclear power reactors in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur in April 2021.
  • The proposed project at Jaitapur is estimated to be a 9,900-MW project and is regarded as the world’s biggest nuclear power generation site under consideration at present.
  • However, the discussions between Indian and French officials over issues like nuclear liability and the high cost of power per unit have still not resulted in any breakthrough.

Laws governing nuclear liability in India:

  • Civil nuclear liability laws play a crucial role in ensuring that timely compensation is extended to the victims of nuclear catastrophes or disasters.
  • These laws also set out who will be liable for those damages.
  • The international nuclear liability regime which was strengthened post the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986) consists of several treaties and an umbrella Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) was adopted in 1997.
  • Despite being adopted in 1997, CSC could only enter into force after it had been ratified by at least five states with a minimum of 400 GW (thermal) of installed nuclear capacity.
  • Japan became the fifth such state to ratify the convention in January 2015, and hence CSC came into force on 15 April 2015.
  • CSC aims to establish a minimum national compensation amount that can be further increased via public funds if in case the national amount is insufficient to compensate for the damage caused by a nuclear accident.
  • India signed CSC in October 2010 and ratified the convention in 2016.
  • In line with the international convention, India introduced the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) in 2010. Homeowners sell their properties to buyers. Both individuals and businesses can buy. They provide a quick and simple way to sell a house. Visit https://www.home-investors.net/alaska/.

Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA), 2010:

  • CLNDA was enacted with the aim to establish a speedy compensation mechanism for victims of a nuclear disaster.
  • The CLNDA provides for stringent and no-fault liability on the operator of the nuclear plant.
  • As per the legislation, nuclear plant operators can be held liable for damage regardless of any fault on their part.
  • The act mentions that the operator must pay ₹1,500 crores in case of damage caused by a nuclear accident and also mandates the operator to cover liability through insurance or any such financial security mechanisms.
  • If the damage caused by an incident exceeds ₹1,500 crores, the CLNDA expects the government to step in.
  • CLNDA has limited the government liability amount to the equivalent of 300 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) which is about ₹2,100 to ₹2,300 crores.

CLNDA on supplier liability:

  • Various legal frameworks on civil nuclear liability available globally, including the CSC are formulated based on the principle of exclusive liability of the operator of a nuclear installation and no other person.
  • During the incipient stage of the nuclear industry’s development, it was widely accepted by the industry as well as foreign governments that excessive liability claims against suppliers of nuclear equipment would make the business unviable and affect the growth of the nuclear energy industry.
  • Other key reasons for putting in place exclusive liabilities for the operator are to avoid legal complications by having separate liabilities and to simplify the insurance process by having only one entity in the chain.
  • Further, Section 10 of the annex of the CSC mentions two conditions under which a national law can provide the operator with the “right of recourse” i.e. operators can extract liability from the supplier. The two conditions are:
  • If the clause is expressly agreed upon in the contract.
  • If the nuclear accident is caused due to an act or omission done with intent to cause damage.
  • However, India in its CLNDA, introduced the concept of supplier liability over and above that of the operators for the first time.
  • The framers of the legislation, by acknowledging that such defective parts were partly responsible for disasters like the Bhopal gas tragedy, came up with a clause on supplier liability.
  • According to Section 17 (b) of the CLNDA, after paying their share of compensation for damages as per the provisions of the Act, the operator of the nuclear plant will have the “right of recourse” in case the nuclear accident has “resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier which includes the supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services”.

Issues surrounding supplier liability clause:

  • Foreign as well as domestic suppliers of nuclear equipment have expressed concerns over the supplier liability clause and have been cautious while signing nuclear deals with India.
  • The CLNDA has further limited or capped the liability for operators but exposes suppliers to unlimited amounts of liability.
  • Apart from the concerns over being subjected to unlimited liability, suppliers have also flagged the existing ambiguity over how much insurance to set aside in case of damage.
  • Suppliers of nuclear equipment have expressed concerns over Section 17(b) and Section 46 of CLNDA.
  • Section 46 of CLNDA states that nothing would prevent proceedings other than those which can be brought under the Act, to be brought against the operator.
  • According to industry experts, this clause offsets the key purpose of the legislation which is acting as a mechanism enforcing the channelling of liability to the operator to ensure prompt compensation for victims.
  • Furthermore, with a lack of a comprehensive definition of the types of “nuclear damage” by the Government, Section 46 allows civil liability claims to be initiated against the operator as well as the suppliers through other civil laws such as the Law of Tort.
  • The Law of Torts is a body of legislation that addresses and provides remedies for non-contractual acts of civil wrongdoings.

Government’s stand:

  • The Government has maintained that the existing Indian laws are in line with the CSC.
  • The Government has also said that the provision of Section 17(b) permits but does not mandate an operator to include such clauses in the contract or exercise the right to recourse.

Existing nuclear projects in India:

  • At present India has 22 nuclear reactors and over 12 more projects are being planned.
  • All the existing nuclear reactors in India are operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
  • The plans to develop the Jaitapur nuclear project have been delayed for over 10 years as the initial MoU was signed in 2009 with EDF’s predecessor Areva.
  • Other nuclear projects that have experienced roadblocks include the one proposed at Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Despite signing civil nuclear agreements with various countries such as the US, France and Japan, Kudankulam nuclear plant is the only plant built in collaboration with a foreign nation (Russia).

Governor’s Power over State Bills

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) have observed that bills sent to the governor for assent must be returned “as soon as possible” and not sit over them, causing Gubernatorial Procrastination and making state Legislative Assemblies wait indefinitely.

About the News:

  • The SC observed as a part of judicial order in a petition filed by the State of Telangana complaining that the Governor has kept pending several important Bills sent.

What are the Governor’s Powers over State Bills?

  • Article 200: Article 200 of the Indian Constitution outlines the process for a Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly of a State to be presented to the Governor for assent, who may either assent, withhold assent or reserve the Bill for consideration by the President.
  • The Governor may also return the Bill with a message requesting reconsideration by the House or Houses.
  • Article 201: It states that when a Bill is reserved for the consideration of the President, the President may assent to or withhold assent from the Bill.
  • The President may also direct the Governor to return the Bill to the House or Houses of the Legislature of the State for reconsideration.

Options Available with the Governor:

  • He may give assent, or he can send it back to the Assembly requesting it to reconsider some provisions of the Bill, or the Bill itself.
  • He may reserve the bill for the consideration of the president.
  • The reservation is obligatory where the bill passed by the state legislature endangers the position of the state high court.
  • However, the governor can also reserve the bill if it is of the following nature:
  • Against the provisions of the Constitution
  • Opposed to the DPSP
  • Against the larger interest of the country
  • Of grave national importance
  • Deals with compulsory acquisition of property under Article 31A of the Constitution.
  • Another option is to withhold the assent, but this is not normally done by any Governor because it would be an extremely unpopular action.

What is the SC’s Observation?

  • While referring to the first proviso to Article 200 of the Constitution, the SC mandated that Governors should not delay over Bills sent to them for assent after they had been passed by Legislative Assemblies.
  • They should be returned “as soon as possible” and not sit over them.
  • The expression “as soon as possible” in this article has significant constitutional intent and that constitutional authorities should keep this in mind.

What are Recent Instances of Gubernatorial Procrastination?

  • Also Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a resolution urging the President of India, among other things, to fix a timeline for assent to be given to Bills passed by the Assembly.
  • For instance, in the TN Governor forwarded the Bill for exemption from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) to the President after considerable delay.
  • In Kerala, the situation has become a bit curious with the Governor publicly announcing that he would not give assent to the Lokayukta Amendment Bill and the Kerala University Amendment Bill.

What are the Legal Arguments against Delaying Assent?

States’ Constitutional Obligation:

  • The Governor’s inaction on bills passed by the Assembly creates a situation where the state government is unable to function in accordance with the Constitution.
  • If the Governor continues to fail to act in accordance with the Constitution, the State government has a constitutional obligation to invoke Article 355 and notify the President, requesting that appropriate instructions be issued to the Governor to ensure that the process of government is conducted in accordance with the Constitution.

SC Ruling:

  • Under Article 361 of the Constitution, the Governor has complete immunity from court proceedings for any act done in the exercise of their powers.
  • This provision poses a unique situation when a government may need to challenge a Governor’s action of withholding assent to a Bill.
  • Hence, the Governor, while declaring that s/he withholds assent to a bill, will have to disclose the reason for such refusal; being a high constitutional authority, s/he cannot act in an arbitrary manner.
  • If the grounds for refusal disclose mala fide or extraneous considerations or ultra vires, the Governor’s action of refusal could be struck down as unconstitutional.
  • This point has been settled by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad and Ors. vs Union Of India and Anr.
  • The Court held: “the immunity granted by Article 361(1) does not, however, take away the power of the Court to examine the validity of the action including on the ground of malafides”.

Way Forward:

  • The framers of the Constitution did not anticipate Governors sitting on Bills indefinitely without taking any action under Article 200.
  • Gubernatorial Procrastination is a new phenomenon that requires a new solution within the framework of the Constitution.
  • Therefore, the Supreme Court should set a reasonable time frame for Governors to make a decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly in the interest of federalism in the country.

Malaria and Notifiable diseases in India

Why in News?

  • Malaria is all set to become a notifiable disease across India despite there being a decline in the number of cases.

Highlights:

  • At present, malaria is a notifiable disease in 33 States and UTs in India.
  • The latest move is in line with India’s vision to be malaria-free by 2027 and to eliminate the disease by 2030.
  • India was the only high-burden, high-impact country in the Southeast Asian region to experience a decline in malaria cases in 2020 as compared to 2019.
  • India experienced an 85.1% decrease in malaria cases and an 83.36% decrease in deaths during 2015-2022.

Malaria:

  • Malaria is a serious mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by various species of parasitic protozoan microorganisms called Plasmodium.
  • The malarial parasite was discovered by Dr Alphonse Laveran, a military doctor, in 1880.
  • Malaria is transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito.
  • The plasmodium parasites multiply and develop inside the liver cells and red blood cells of human beings.
  • Symptoms: Fever, chills, and headaches are considered mild symptoms, while fatigue, convulsions, and breathing difficulties are among the severe symptoms.
  • Effective Vector Control is a vital component for the elimination of malaria.
  • Insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying (IRS) are also effective to reduce the transmission of the disease.
  • April 25 of every year has been commemorated as World Malaria Daysince 2007.

Notifiable diseases in India

  • Notifiable diseases are those diseases that are required by law to be reported to government authorities.
  • This is in line with the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations, 1969 that mandate disease reporting to the organization to help its global surveillance and advisory role.
  • The collation of information helps the government authorities to monitor the disease and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
  • Declaring diseases as legally notifiable by doctors and health professionals facilitates timely interventions to control the spread of highly infectious diseases.
  • The responsibility of notifying such diseases and the implementation lies with the State government.
  • The government has declared several diseases as notifiable diseases including diseases like cholera, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles, yellow fever, dengue, etc.

Rule of Law

Why in News?

  • The recent incidents in Uttar Pradesh, spots out to understand the concept of ‘Rule of Law’.

Rule of Law:

  • Rule of law is a legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.
  • It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behavior, including behavior of government officials.
  • The doctrine of rule of law has its origin in England and is given by A.V. Dicey which has 3 fundamental principles:
  • Absence of arbitrary power, that is, no man is punished except for a breach of law.
  • Equality before the law: equal subjection of all citizens (rich or poor, high or low, official or non-official) to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts.
  • The primacy of the rights of individuals, that is, the constitution is the result of the rights of the individual as defined and enforced by courts of law, rather than the constitution being the source of the individual rights.

Article 300A:

  • It states that no person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law.
  • It protects an individual from interference by the State and dispossesses a person of the property unless it is in accordance with the procedure established by law.
  • Right to Property is no longer a fundamental right, rather it is a Constitutional Right and now exists in Article 300A.
  • Article 300A was inserted shortly after the Emergency Through the Constitution 44th Amendment Act of1978.
  • In T Plantation Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of Karnataka, 2011 the SC held that public purpose was a precondition for deprivation of a person of his property under Article 300A of the Constitution and the right to claim compensation was also inbuilt in that Article.
  • The right to property under Article 300A is a human right(former Supreme Court judge)

Development in India’s Northeast Region

Why in News?

  • The region comprising India’s eight north-eastern States is undergoing dramatic change.

Dramatic changes witnessed by the region:

  • It has overcome several (but not all) security challenges and is now heading toward economic development.
  • Political changes and the extensive web of linkages with neighbouring Bangladesh.
  • Japan has emerged as a significant development partner for both India (particularly in the NE region) and Bangladesh.

Opportunity:

  • Bringing the troika of Bangladesh, India and Japan closer for producing path-breaking changes in the northeast.

Vision:

  • The long-term vision is for Bangladesh and the northeast to become a hub and key industrial corridor of this region, serving a population of 220 million.

Efforts made to realise this vision:

  • The third India-Japan Intellectual Dialogue hosted by the Asian Confluence (ASCON), in Agartala, Tripura, assessed the evolving thinking of experts and policymakers.
  • The Matarbari Deep Sea Port (DSP) on the southeastern coast of Bangladesh is being constructed with Japanese assistance.
  • To be operational in 2027, the port will have to cater to the needs of Bangladesh and India’s northeast and one of the most important projects representing the troika.

The competitive advantage of the NE region:

  • Blessed with vast natural resources.
  • Its strategic location, sharing borders with Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, is an asset.
  • The population, with its good education, already excels in the services sector drawing potential investor attention.

What are the challenges?

  • Japan as a single investor in the northeast is unworkable.
  • Restrictions on the flow of investments from Bangladesh.
  • Little attention seems to be paid to the BIMSTEC. This must change to progress towards the vision of establishing the Bay of Bengal Community (BOBC).

Way Forward:

  • A joint focus on comprehensive connectivity and accelerating industrialisation in Bangladesh and the NE is accompanied by job opportunities.
  • The creation of regional industrial value chains in the sectors where the NE enjoys competitive advantage (agro-processing, man-made fibres, handicrafts, etc) will ensure that the new connectivity links will be fully utilised and productive.
  • Expanding policy convergence and taking people along.
  • The goal should be to connect a large part of South Asia with Southeast Asia.
  • Also, India can assist Bangladesh in becoming an integral part of the Act East Policy.

India’s fight against Tuberculosis

Why in News?

  • The One World TB Summit was organised in Varanasi by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Stop TB Partnership.

Highlights:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the One World TB Summit on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day (March 24)
  • PM Modi emphasised the need for innovation and new strategies to achieve the desired outcomes in global tuberculosis (TB) elimination response.
  • He highlighted India’s multi-pronged approach to tackling TB in the past nine years and also reiterated India’s future commitment to spearhead this effort.

Lesson:s from the COVID-19 response

  • One of the most significant lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to strengthen healthcare systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries like India.
  • A strong health system is critical for the effective management of infectious diseases such as TB.
  • By investing in healthcare infrastructure, increasing the availability of health workers, and improving access to medicines and diagnostic tools, India can improve its capacity to detect, diagnose, and treat TB cases.
  • In India, TB control programs can benefit from involving communities in awareness campaigns, contact tracing, and treatment adherence. This can help to reduce the stigma associated with TB and improve treatment outcomes.
  • According to the recent National TB Prevalence Survey, 64% of individuals with contagious TB in India did not seek medical attention, leading to a situation where nearly two cases go undetected for every TB case reported at the national level.
  • Telemedicine, remote consultations, and digital health platforms can help in the early detection of TB, improve treatment adherence, and provide real-time monitoring and reporting of TB cases.
  • Using effective data management to monitor the incidence and prevalence of TB, identify high-risk populations, and track treatment outcomes, India can develop targeted interventions and allocate resources more effectively.
  • India has a significant burden of drug-resistant TB, and research and development can help in developing new, more effective treatments and diagnostic tools.
  • The Mission COVID Suraksha programme to develop vaccines was a good example of a public-private partnership, with clear goals and outcomes.
  • The huge number of diagnostic tests developed and a variety of different vaccine platforms show that our manufacturing sector is robust and can scale rapidly.

Vaccine Trials:

  • The fight against TB requires the development of an effective vaccine, improved accessibility and affordability of testing and diagnosis, and the introduction of new therapeutic molecules.
  • The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine does not provide adequate protection for high-risk groups, highlighting the need for a new vaccine.
  • Point-of-Care Tests (POCTs) and handheld digital X-ray machines can provide rapid and affordable testing.
  • The introduction of new therapeutic molecules such as the 1HP regimen for latent TB infections, the four-month regimen (HPZM) for drug-susceptible TB, and the six-month regimen (BPaL/M) for drug-resistant TB can also play a crucial role.
  • While progress has been made, more efforts are needed to prioritise clinical trials for vaccine candidates, scale-up effective regimens, and repurpose existing drugs for TB treatment.

Way Forward: Appropriate policy frameworks

  • Strengthening the innovation ecosystem by creating regulatory and policy frameworks to facilitate the rollout of proven tools.
  • Collaboration is needed between policymakers, scientists, product developers, and clinical researchers across regions and potentially even between governments.
  • Harmonisation of standards and regulatory processes between countries can save critical time towards rollout by enabling mutual recognition of evidence-based standards and licences.
  • Creation of a strong platform that channelises investments in research to bring in a paradigm shift at every stage of the TB care cascade — prevention, testing, and treatment.
  • India has the opportunity, as the G-20 president, to create a global health architecture that ensures equitable access for all.
  • India can lead the way in eradicating TB as the leading infectious disease killer globally in the 21st century.
  • Collaborative development of transformational tools and approaches is necessary to address the needs of both developed and developing countries, especially those who are under-represented and disproportionately affected.

India’s fighter jet conundrum

Why in News?

  • A representative of the Indian Air Force (IAF) informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that the IAF at present has 31 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and the numbers are not expected to increase in the next 10 years.

Phase-outs and orders:

  • Various existing squadrons out of the 31 squadrons present also are expected to be phased out in the coming years, which include three Mig-21 squadrons (to be phased by 2025) and also the Jaguars, Mirage-2000s and MIG-29s (phase-out will be started by the end of the decade).
  • By the early 2040s, when most of the above-mentioned squadrons would be phased out, a few of the earlier batches of SU-30s will also start their phase-out exercise.
  • An agreement to procure 12 additional SU-30MKIs in order to replace the ones lost in accidents and a deal to procure 21 additional MIG-29s from Russia have been delayed due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • India has an ambitious plan for the acquisition of over 500 fighter jets which majorly consists of indigenously designed and manufactured aircraft.
  • However, these are still at various stages of development and their timely progress and delivery are crucial for IAF.
  • Further, the progress and timely delivery of 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) and 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-MK1A and LCA-MK2 will ensure that the IAF would have 35 to 36 squadrons by the middle of the next decade and arrest the fall in the number of squadrons on account of various phase-out exercises.

The status of IAF’s indigenous fighter ecosystem:

  • Highlighting the importance of indigenisation, the IAF has stated that if we keep procuring from the open market in the world, we will never become self-reliant and thus there exists a need to provide impetus to our domestic industry which requires support and the IAF is committed towards that.
  • The progress and deliveries of LCA, which was seen as a replacement for Mig-21s, have been witnessing a series of delays.
  • The LCA got its Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) in December 2013 whereas the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) was given only in February 2019.
  • In February 2020, the Defence Ministry finalised a ₹48,000 crore agreement with HAL for the procurement of 83 LCA-MK1A, 20 years after their first flight. According to HAL officials, these aircraft will be delivered starting in February 2024.
  • HAL has also set up a third LCA assembly line in order to increase the production rate.
  • Additionally, LCA-MK2 which is a larger aircraft with better capabilities also was ordered by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in September 2022 at a total cost of ₹9000 crores.
  • The LCA-MK2 is similar to the Mirage-2000 with respect to its capabilities and is expected to be ready for production by 2027.
  • Another key procurement programme is that of the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA), which is a reincarnation of the older Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
  • The Request for Information (RFI) was provided in 2007. However, the emergency procurement of 36 Rafale jets under a €7.87 billion deal with France, sidelined the procurement plans of MRFA.
  • The RFI for 114 MRFA was finally issued in April 2019 to global aircraft manufacturers but there has been no progress and the project is yet to receive the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN).
  • Further, the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is wasting the sanctions of the CSS.
  • The estimated project cost of the development of AMCA would be around ₹15,000 crores and would take 10 years for the development post sanction.
  • There are also discussions over the inclusion of the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers.
  • The TEDBF is expected to take its first flight by 2026 and be ready for production by 2031.

Nagaland’s Opposition to Women’s Reservation in ULB Polls

Why in News?

  • The recent controversy in Nagaland over the reservation of seats for women in urban local body (ULB) polls has sparked a heated debate among various stakeholders in the state.

About the News:

  • The issue centers around the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001, which mandated a 33% reservation for women in ULB polls, as per the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India.

74th Constitutional Amendment Act:

  • Urban local governments were constitutionalized through the 74th Amendment Act during the regime of P.V. Narsimha Rao’s government in 1992. It came into force on 1st June 1993.
  • It added Part IX -A and consists of provisions from Articles 243-P to 243-ZG.
  • In addition, the act also added the 12th Schedule to the Constitution. It contains 18 functional items of Municipalities.

Why is there Opposition to ULB Polls in Nagaland?

Reservation for Women Against the Customs:

  • Most of the traditional tribal and urban organizations oppose the 33% reservation of seats for women, arguing that it would violate the special provisions granted by Article 371A of the Constitution to Nagaland.
  • According to Article 371A, Parliament cannot make laws about the religious or social practices of the Nagas, their traditional laws, and how they solve legal problems, or who owns and uses the land unless the Nagaland Legislative Assembly agrees.
  • The apex tribal body of Nagaland, Naga Hoho argues that women have traditionally not been part of decision-making bodies.
  • Nagaland is the only state where ULB seats are not reserved for women.

Demand of Protestors:

  • The tribal bodies and civil society organizations threatened to boycott the polls until the Municipal Act of 2001 factoring in women’s reservation is “reviewed and rewritten in complete consonance of the voice of the Naga people” so that it does not infringe upon Article 371A.

Previous ULB Polls in Nagaland:

  • The first and only civic body election in Nagaland was held in 2004 without any reservation of seats for women.
  • In 2006, the State govt amended the Municipal Act 2001 to include 33% reservation for women, triggering widespread opposition that led to the indefinite postponement of the ULB polls in 2009.
  • Efforts to hold the elections in March 2012 also met with strong protests, and in September 2012, the State Assembly passed a resolution to exempt Nagaland from Article 243T of the Constitution related to the reservation for women.
  • This resolution was revoked in 2016, and elections to the civic bodies with 33% reservation were notified a month later, again leading to widespread mayhem.
  • The government declared the process to conduct elections null and void in February 2017.

What are Urban Local Bodies (ULB)?

  • Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are small local bodies that administer or govern a city or a town of a specified population.
  • ULBs are vested with a long list of functions delegated to them by the state governments broadly related to public health, welfare, regulatory functions, public safety, public infrastructure works, and development activities.

Structure of ULB:

  • The Urban Local Government consists of eight types of Urban local bodies.
  • Municipal Corporation: Municipal corporations are usually found in big cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc
  • Municipality: The smaller cities tend to have the provision of municipalities. The Municipalities are often called upon by other names such as the municipal council, municipal committee, municipal board, etc.
  • Notified Area Committee: Notified area committees are set up for the fast-developing towns and the towns lacking the basic amenities. All the members of the notified area committee are nominated by the state government.
  • Town Area Committee: The town area committee is found in small towns. It has minimal authority such as street lighting, drainage roads, and conservancy.
  • Cantonment Board: It is usually set up for a civilian population living in the cantonment area. It is created and run by the central government.
  • Township: Township is another form of urban government to provide basic facilities to the staff and workers living in the colonies established near the plant. It has no elected members and is merely an extension of the bureaucratic structure.
  • Port Trust: Port trusts are established in the port areas such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. It manages and takes care of the port. It also provides basic civic amenities to the people living in that area.
  • Special Purpose Agency: These agencies undertake the designated activities or specific functions belonging to the municipal corporations or municipalities.

The petitions around same sex marriage

Why in News?

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India will be hearing a series of petitions seeking recognition of same-sex marriage in India on the 18th of April 2023.

Various petitions:

  • The key argument of the petitioners is that the non-recognition of same-sex marriage amounts to discrimination that has affected the dignity and self-fulfilment of LGBTQIA+ couples.
  • As per the petitions filed, LGBTQ+ citizens form about 7% to 8% of the total population in India and various existing legal protections guaranteeing the rights of wages, gratuity, adoption, surrogacy, etc, were not available to LGBTQIA+ citizens.
  • Further, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has stated that same-sex couples would make equally good parents as heterosexual parents.
  • Petitions citing this statement say that by depriving legal status to homosexual marriages, the government is denying the legal security of dual parenthood and guardianship to the child.
  • Ever since 2000, when the Netherlands legalised same-sex marriages more than 34 countries have legalised same-sex marriages.
  • Currently, over 50 countries allow same-sex couples to legally adopt children.
  • According to a study conducted by the American Sociological Review, academic results of children raised by same-sex parents from birth was seen to be better than those children with heterosexual parents.

Government’s Stand:

  • According to the Union government the idea of same-sex marriage is merely an “urban elitist view” and the judicial creation of a “new social institution” like same-sex marriage cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
  • The government has held that same-sex marriages threaten the “holy union” of marriage between a biological man and woman in India and has said that it is Parliament and not the courts that have the powers to decide on same-sex marriages.
  • Furthermore, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), has argued that same-sex marriage violates the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
  • The Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 prohibits a single man from adopting a girl child.
  • The NCPCR also cited a study conducted by the Catholic University of America. According to this, children raised by same-sex couples experienced emotional problems two times more than children raised by heterogenous parents.

The stand of various religious bodies and NGOs:

  • As per Shri Sanatam Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha, legaslisation of same-sex marriages would be “catastrophic” and have an adverse effect on Indian culture and society.
  • The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind also has raised concerns over the legalisation of same-sex marriage and says that marriage between opposite sexes is a “basic feature” of marriage.
  • According to the Telangana Markazi Shia Ulema Council, children or individuals raised by same-sex couples would most likely suffer from depression, low academic achievement, unemployment, etc.
  • The Kanchan Foundation has said that deep-rooted stereotypes and mental and social barriers cannot be dismantled by a judicial ruling and opined that Indian society requires time to accept same-sex marriages.
  • As per the Call for Justice NGO, “marriage flows from natural law” and any changes to the centuries-old institution of marriage between opposite sexes must come from a popular will through the legislature only.

Extra Judicial Killing

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has expressed its views on Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) in India, after an Encounter in Uttar Pradesh, stating that the right to life as a Fundamental Right enshrined in the Constitution and EJKs are a violation of this right.

About the News:

  • The SC also said that in recent years, there have been several cases of encounters and extra-judicial killings in India, which have raised concerns about the misuse of power by the police.

What is Extra Judicial Killing?

  • Extra judicial killing refers to the killing of a person by the state or its agents, without any judicial or legal proceedings.
  • This means that the person is killed without a trial, due process, or any legal justification.
  • Extra judicial killing can take various forms, such as extrajudicial executions, summary executions, and enforced disappearances.
  • These acts are illegal and violate human rights and the rule of law.
  • They are often carried out by law enforcement agencies or security forces in the name of maintaining law and order or Combating Terrorism.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Constitution intends that India should be governed by the rule of law, according to which the Constitution is the supreme power and the legislative and the executive derive their authority from it.
  • The Constitution guarantees the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21, which is non-negotiable and applicable to everyone.
  • It is the responsibility of the police to follow the Constitution and protect the Right to Life of every individual, regardless of innocence or guilt.

Rights of Police:

  • The police can use force, including lethal force, in self-defense or to maintain peace and order.
  • Every person has the right to self-defense under Section-96 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section-46 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows the police to use force, including lethal force, to arrest someone accused of a serious crime.

Status of EJKs in India:

  • While India has seen a 15% decline in encounter killing cases registered in the six years between 2016-’17 and 2021-’22 – till March 2022 – the cases shot up by 69.5% in the last two years.
  • India has registered 813 cases of encounter killings in the last six years.
  • In the six years since April 2016, Chhattisgarh recorded the most extrajudicial killing cases at 259, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 110 and Assam with 79.

What are the Causes behind EJKs?

  • Public Support: Sometimes, people support such killings because they believe the court system won’t provide timely justice. This public support makes the police bolder, leading to an increase in such killings.
  • Political Support: Many political leaders believe that more encounters will serve as their achievement in maintaining law and order in the state.
  • Punitive Violence: Some police officials believe that using violence and torture is the only way to control crime and create a sense of fear among potential criminals.
  • Hero- Worshiping: Such Killings are often glorified by the public and media, portraying the police officers involved as heroes who are cleaning up society.
  • Amidst all this worship, the public and the media celebrating this unlawful violence forget that the police have no authority to perform such an act, and it is violative of the human rights of the accused.
  • Inefficiency of Police: The police may not have enough resources to conduct thorough investigations, leading to low conviction rates. Encounters are seen as an easy way for the police to create a positive image of maintaining law and order in the area.

What are the Guidelines Related to Encounters in India?

Supreme Court Guidelines:

  • In September 2014, the SC issued guidelines for investigating police encounters in cases of death, in the case of “People’s Union for Civil Liberties v State of Maharashtra”. The guidelines included the following,
  • Registration of a First Information Report (FIR) as mandatory, along with provisions for a magisterial inquiry.
  • Involving the next of kin of the deceased in the inquiry.
  • Keeping written records of intelligence inputs.
  • Investigation to be carried out by an independent agency, such as the CID, to ensure a fair and impartial investigation.
  • Information about the incident must be sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) or the State Human Rights Commission, although involvement of the NHRC is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about independent and impartial investigation.
  • These requirements/norms must be strictly observed in all cases of death and grievous injury in police encounters and should be treated as law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.

NHRC Guidelines:

  • In 1997, the NHRC provided guidelines for police to register information about encounter deaths, allow independent investigation by the State CID (Central Investigation Department), and grant compensation to the deceased’s dependents in case of police officers being convicted.
  • In 2010, these guidelines were amended to include registering an FIR, conducting a magisterial inquiry, and reporting all death cases to the NHRC within 48 hours by the Senior Superintendent of Police or Superintendent of Police. After three months, a second report must be sent with the postmortem report, inquest report, and enquiry findings.

Way Forward:

  • Encounter killings should be thoroughly investigated to maintain the credibility of the rule of law.
  • The state government has a responsibility to uphold the rule of law and ensure it is followed in every case across the country.
  • Police officials should be trained to handle unforeseen situations and protect those in police custody.
  • The increasing number of encounter killings is resulting in human rights violations, so it is important to educate police officers on the importance of human rights and prevent these unlawful killings.

A reminder about unfettered constitutional posts

Why in News?

  • The comments of the Supreme Court on the concept of independence of various constitutional bodies of India.
  • The Court in the ‘Sena versus Sena’ case expressed concerns about the increasing role of Governors in the political process.
  • Similarly, in an earlier case, the court divested the executive of its sole discretion in appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).

Need for independent institutions:

  • The Constituent Assembly recognized the need for independent institutions like the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Public Service Commission (PSC), etc to regulate sectors of national importance.
  • Democracy requires a system of checks and balances to restrict the arbitrary use of power by the government.
  • The constitutional bodies should function without fear or favour and in the larger interests of the nation.

Details about Different Types of Appointments:

  • The Constitution uses the phrase ‘shall be appointed by the President’ in the appointment of:
  • Prime Minister (Article 75), Attorney-General for India (Article 76)
  • Chairman and Members of the Finance Commission (Article 280)
  • Chairman and Members of the Public Service Commission (Article 316)
  • Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities (Article 350B)
  • It uses the phrase ‘subject to any law made in that behalf by Parliament’ for the appointment of:
  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC),
  • Election Commissioner (EC)
  • The words ‘shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal’ is used for the purpose of appointing:
  • Supreme Court and the High Court Judge (Articles 124 and 217)
  • CAG (Article 148)
  • Governor (Article 155), Chairman and members of the National Commissions for SCs, STs, and BCs (Article 338, 338A, and 338B).
  • In N. Gopalaswami and Ors vs The Union of India case, SC held that the President should act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, with the Prime Minister as the head.
  • It should be noted that various amendments were moved in the Constituent Assembly to make the position of CAG stronger so that he is not influenced by anyone.
  • Similarly, amendments were also made in the draft Constitution for the appointment of the Governor, and the clause ‘The Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal’ was added.
  • Notably, ‘by warrant under his hand and seal’ assigns special status to CAG, Judges, and Governors to distinguish them from other constitutional positions.

Way Ahead:

  • Constitutional authorities should be kept free from political and executive pressure.
  • A well-defined procedure and criteria should be established for the appointment of CAG.
  • A Committee comprising the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the CJI, and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee can be formed in this regard.
  • Shortlisted names can then be sent to the President for final selection.

Institutional Arbitration

Why in News?

  • Institutional arbitration in India refers to the use of specialised institutions to administer the arbitration process between two or more parties.
  • These institutions provide a framework for the conduct of arbitration proceedings and offer a range of services, including appointing arbitrators, managing the process, and enforcing awards.
  • India has acquired a reputation of being ‘arbitration-unfriendly’, for several reasons — lack of preference for institutional arbitration over ad hoc arbitration, frequent interference from the judiciary from the appointment of arbitrators to the enforcement of awards, and setting aside of arbitral awards on grounds of ‘public policy’.
  • India is ranked 163rd, in ‘Enforcing Contracts’ in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report. The report says it takes almost four years and 31% of the cost of the claim to enforce a contract in India.
  • The use of institutional arbitration in India has gained significant momentum in recent years due to various reasons, including the rise of foreign investment in India and the need for a more efficient and reliable dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Yet, India is not a preferred arbitration destination, even for disputes between Indian businesses.
  • Singapore has emerged as a global arbitration hub and is ranked first in terms of ‘Enforcing Contracts’. Indian companies are among its top users.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR):

  • Online dispute resolution (ODR) in India refers to the use of technology to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties.
  • The primary legislation governing Online Dispute Resolution in India is the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, also provides for the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including ODR, to resolve disputes.
  • The widespread adoption of online technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was led by the judiciary through online hearings, has provided India with an opportunity to capitalise on its technological strengths and become a leading player in online dispute resolution (ODR).
  • The Indian government has been actively promoting ODR as a means to increase access to justice, particularly for those who live in remote or rural areas.

Advantages of ODR:

  • The government has launched a number of initiatives to promote ODR in India. For example, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform to provide an online platform for the resolution of disputes.
  • It encompasses the integration of tools such as multi-channel communication, case management systems, automated case flows, digital signatures and stamping, and even the application of advanced technologies such as blockchain, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
  • The ODR platform provides a secure, easy-to-use platform for the resolution of disputes between parties. Parties can submit their dispute online and the platform facilitates the resolution of the dispute through mediation or arbitration.
  • It can reduce the burden on the courts, save time and costs, and provide effective resolutions.
  • The ODR platform is particularly useful for small disputes, such as those involving consumer complaints or disputes between small businesses.
  • It is also useful for disputes that involve parties who are located in different parts of the country.

Way Forward:

  • Overall, the use of ODR in India is still in its early stages, but it is expected to grow in popularity as more people become aware of its benefits.
  • Collaboration among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches is crucial to promote the widespread adoption of ODR in India.
  • Some institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, the National Payments Corporation of India, and the Open Network for Digital Commerce have already taken the lead by integrating ODR mechanisms into their initiatives.
  • However, it is necessary to extend these efforts to a broader audience to achieve mass adoption of ODR in India.
  • The government can collaborate with the private sector to develop and promote ODR platforms. Private companies can invest in the development of ODR technology and platforms, and the government can provide incentives and support to encourage such investment.
  • The use of ODR could be incentivised through legislative measures, such as establishing ODR as the default dispute resolution mechanism for specific categories of disputes that arise from online transactions.
  • Government must work on solving infrastructural challenges, curb the digital divide, and catalyse ODR’s growth by optimising existing setups such as Aadhaar kendras to also function as ODR kiosks.
  • On the lines of the Finance Minister allocating ₹7,000 crore for the third phase of the e-Courts project in the Union Budget 2023 , a dedicated fund must be set up for furthering ODR.
  • The use of ODR platforms should be accompanied by strong data protection measures to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of the parties involved.
  • The government should develop guidelines and regulations to ensure that ODR platforms are secure and comply with data protection laws.

India’s preventive detention laws

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court’s observation that preventive detention laws are a colonial legacy and confer arbitrary powers on the state is one more iteration of the perennial threat to personal liberty that such laws pose.

Observation previously made by the Apex Court:

  • The State should not arbitrarily resort to “preventive detention” to deal with all and sundry “law and order” problems, which could be dealt with by the ordinary laws of the country.
  • Whenever an order under a preventive detention law is challenged, one of the questions the court must ask in deciding its legality is: was the ordinary law of the land sufficient to deal with the situation? If the answer is in the affirmative, the detention order will be illegal.
  • The court said two drunks fighting on a road was a law and order problem, and not ‘public disorder’. The solution here was not preventive detention.

About National Security Act:

  • It is a stringent law that allows preventive detention for months, if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order.
  • The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention. The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.
  • It was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.
  • As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:
  • Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
  • Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
  • preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.

Duration:

  • Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
  • No such order shall remain in force for more than 12 days unless approved by the State Government.
  • A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.
  • The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

History of preventive detention in India:

  • Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era when the Bengal Regulation III of 1818 was enacted to empower the government to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.
  • A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.

Constitution of Advisory Boards:

  • The Central Government and each State Government shall, whenever necessary, constitute one or more Advisory Boards for the purposes of this Act.
  • Every such Board shall consist of three persons who are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as, Judges of a High Court, and such persons shall be appointed by the appropriate Government.
  • The appropriate Government shall appoint one of the members of the Advisory Board who is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court to be its Chairman, and in the case of a Union territory, the appointment to the Advisory Board of any person who is a Judge of the High Court of a State shall be with the previous approval of the State Government concerned.

Reference to Advisory Boards:

  • As provided in this Act, in every case where a detention order has been made under this Act, the appropriate Government shall, within 3 weeks from the date of detention of a person under the order, place before the Advisory Board constituted by it, the grounds on which the order has been made and the representation if any made by the person affected by the order and in case where the order has been made by an officer.

Concerns associated with NSA and how is it different from normal arrests?

  • In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights.
  • These include the right to be informed of the reason for the arrest.
  • Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) mandates that the person arrested has to be informed of the grounds of arrest, and the right to bail.
  • Sections 56 and 76 of the Cr.PC also provide that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest.
  • Additionally, Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
  • But none of these rights are available to a person detained under the NSA.
  • A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
  • Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
  • The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

T.N. Governor grants assent to Bill banning online gambling

Why in News?

  • Tamil Nadu Governor R.N Ravi has granted his assent to the Bill seeking to ban online gambling and regulate online gaming.

Veto over State Bills:

  • The governor is empowered to reserve certain types of bills passed by the state legislature for the consideration of the President.
  • Then, the Governor will not have any further role in the enactment of the bill.
  • The President can withhold his assent to such bills not only in the first instance but also in the second instance.
  • Thus, the President enjoys absolute veto (and not suspensive veto) over state bills.
  • Further, the President can exercise pocket veto in respect of state legislation also.

Can a state Negate Central Laws?

  • Article 254(2) refers to a scenario where a law made by a state legislature concerning any matter that falls in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law, with respect to that matter.
  • In such a case, the law made by the state legislature will prevail, provided it is reserved for the consideration of the President of India and receives his assent.

How can states use this provision?

  • This provision gives flexibility to a state legislature to make a law different from what is applicable in that state due to a parliamentary law already in operation there.
  • This flexibility is only available on matters that are in the concurrent list to Schedule 7 of the Constitution.
  • Under that list both the Parliament and the state legislatures could legislate — subject to the rule that the parliamentary law will prevail over a state law.

What all is covered under concurrent list?

  • The concurrent list provides a rich set of topics for the states to take a lead in reform.
  • It covers areas such as criminal law and procedure, marriage, divorce and adoption, bankruptcy and insolvency, social security, education (including technical and medical education) and electricity. Agriculture’ has been placed as Entry 14 in the State List along with several ancillary matters outlookindia, while some agriculture-related items have been included in the Union List and the Concurrent List.

Will this provision help the states?

  • Though states could come out with their own Bills to some extent to override the statutes of passed by the Parliament, none of those Bills would be effective unless the President accords his consent to such Bills.

What happens if President does not give consent?

  • According to legal experts, it’s the sole prerogative of the President whether to sign the state Bills or not.
  • It’s a rare circumstance, wherein a state Bill is accepted by the President without the Centre on board.
  • In case, the Centre is opposing the Bill, then the President, who works on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, can refuse to give his consent.

Can states approach the Supreme Court challenging the central law?

  • States can approach the Supreme Court under Article 131 — invoking the court’s “original jurisdiction” — that allows a state to file a suit in the Supreme Court in case of any dispute that it may have with the central government.
  • Article 131 could be used to examine the constitutionality of a statute.

Representation in India’s police forces

Why in News?

  • The India Justice Report 2022, released by Tata Trusts ranks police forces of States based on various indicators such as the number of vacancies against the sanctioned strength of personnel, and representation of women and SC/ST communities.
  • The report is based on overall data of 4 pillars of justice delivery namely Police, Judiciary, Prisons, and Legal Aid.
  • The report’s findings are crucial for governments, civil society and the business community as it provides them with objective data which allows for participatory dialogues between governments and active citizens of disparate ideologies for reforms through consensus building.

Highlights of the report:

  • It ranks police forces of States based on various indicators such as vacancies as against the sanctioned strength of personnel, representation of women and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities.
  • Overall, the Telangana police have bagged the top rank among States with populations over 10 million, while West Bengal has been ranked last.
  • Over the past decade, the total sanctioned strength of police across the country increased from 22.84 to 26.89 lakh (18 per cent) while actual police numbers grew from 17.23 lakh to 20.94 lakhs ( 22 per cent).
  • The per capita spend on police grew from Rs. 445 to Rs. 1,151.

State of police vacancies:

  • The report notes that the gap between the sanctioned and actual strength in police forces, at a national level, remains “worryingly large”.
  • As per the report’s findings, between January 2020 and January 2022, the overall vacancies in police rose from 20.3% of the sanctioned strength to 22.1%.
  • In the case of police constables, as of January 2022, while West Bengal was the worst performer among large and mid-size States with vacancies amounting to 44.1% of the sanctioned strength, Kerala was at the top with constable vacancies making up 4.6% of the sanctioned strength.
  • As for police officers (in civil and District Armed Reserve police), Bihar has the highest percentage of vacancies at 53.8% as against the sanctioned strength.
  • Teeth-to-tail ratio is considered an important determinant for the proper composition of a police force. It is the ratio between the strength of officers and the constabulary.
  • The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms recommends a teeth-to-tail ratio of 1:4.
  • Several States have brought down their sanctioned strength, which resulted in reduced vacancy levels.
  • For instance, between 2020 and 2022, Kerala reduced the sanctioned strength of civil police by 239 personnel, resulting in a reduction of vacancies while the workload increased.
  • As of January 2022, there was one police person available (with civil and district armed police taken together) to serve 831 people nationwide.

Quotas for SC/ST communities:

  • As of January 2022, Scheduled Castes make up 15.99 percent of the total working police strength (against 16 per cent share in population), Scheduled Tribes 11.77 per cent, Other Backward Classes 30.79 per cent and women 11.75 per cent.
  • Karnataka is the only State to meet its SC, ST, and Other backward classes quotas, with no other State/UT managing to meet all three of their reservation targets.
  • Among large and mid-sized States, Gujarat, at 131%, performed the best in terms of the percentage of actual SC police officers to its reservation quota, while Uttar Pradesh came in last, with just 43% SC officers against its quota.
  • As for the constabulary workforce, Karnataka had 116% of SC constables against its quota, while Haryana had the lowest at 63%.
  • As for small States, Goa and Sikkim were the best performers for the percentage of SC officers and constables, respectively.
  • In terms of fulfilling reservations for STs, Karnataka, at 176%, was the best performer on the police officer level, going beyond its reserved ratio.
  • For ST constables, Bihar fulfilled its quota by 278%, while Punjab came in last amid large and medium States at 0.01%.

Representation of Women:

  • Most States have their own specific quotas for women in the police force. For instance, six UTs and nine States have a target of 33% reservation for women.
  • Targets range from Bihar’s 35% to 10% in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.
  • Five States/UTs, including Kerala and Mizoram, have no reservations.
  • No State which had the 33% criteria, managed to meet it.
  • However, among large and medium States, Andhra Pradesh which reserves 33% of overall police posts for women, performed the best with a 21.8% share of women in police.
  • Jharkhand was the worst performer with its share of women in police being just 6.2%.
  • In small States, Himachal Pradesh was at the top with 14% of police personnel being women, while Tripura came in last with just 5.3%.
  • Among Union Territories, Ladakh had 28.3% women in police, while Jammu and Kashmir had just 3.3%.

The IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023

Why in News?

  • The MeitY notified amendments to the IT Rules 2021 related to online gaming.

What are the Amendments?

  • Fixing responsibilities of intermediaries
  • It is obligatory on the part of intermediaries – To make a reasonable effort to not host/publish/share any online game that
  • Can harm the user harm
  • Has not been verified by an online gaming self-regulatory body.
  • To ensure that no advertisement of a non-permissible online game is hosted on its platform.
  • In relation to online games involving real money, their responsibilities include
  • The displaying of a mark of verification by the self-regulatory body;
  • Informing their users of the policy for withdrawal or refund of the deposit, etc;
  • Obtaining the KYC details of the users; and
  • Not giving credit or enabling financing by third parties to the users.
  • To not publish, share or host fake, false or misleading information (will be identified by the notified Fact Check Unit of the Central Govt) in respect of any business of the Central Government.
  • Setting Role of Government: May notify multiple self-regulatory bodies, which shall be representative of the online gaming industry but function at arm’s length from their members.
  • Role/authority of the self-regulatory body: To inquire and satisfy itself that the online game does not involve betting/gambling on any outcome.
  • To ensure that the online game complies with the rules/requirements under the law, including measures to safeguard through parental controls, etc.
  • Applicability of rules: The obligations become applicable once a sufficient number of self-regulatory bodies have been designated so that the online gaming industry has adequate time to comply.

Proposal on the fact-checking unit:

  • Earlier the Ministry had proposed that news identified as “fake” by the fact-checking unit of the PIB will not be allowed on online intermediaries.
  • However, the final draft has removed the reference to PIB.
  • The social media platforms have sent a proposal to the Centre to create a network of fact-checkers – Misinformation Combat Alliance – who will verify dubious content posted on their platforms.
  • The alliance will act as a “certification body” that will verify who a “trusted” fact-checker is.

What are the aim of these amendments?

  • To enforce greater due diligence by online gaming and social media intermediaries.
  • To protect the safety and trust of the Digital Nagriks and provide every opportunity possible to create startups and innovate.
  • Enable the Indian online gaming ecosystem to expand and grow and become an important catalyst to India’s One trillion-dollar Digital economy goal by 2025-26.

Way Forward:

  • A very strict fake news law is the need of the hour.
  • Linking Aadhar to social media accounts, as suggested by Attorney General could be helpful.
  • Being a digitally responsible citizen –
  • By just rechecking the information from some authentic sources
  • By applying common sense without getting biased
  • Some best practices:
  • Facebook has partnered with a fact-checking website to check the authenticity of messages circulating through it.
  • In 2018, Google news trained 8000 journalists in different Indian languages to spread awareness about Fake news and fact-checking.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Prevalence in India and Way Ahead

Why in News?

  • In India, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a widely debated issue due to a lack of systematic estimates. Most estimates have been derived from studies based on school children, revealing that over one crore Indians may be on the autism spectrum. However, there are notable cultural differences in diagnosing autism between countries, which highlights the need to assess the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders specifically in the Indian context.

What is Autism?

  • Spectrum disorder: Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behaviour. It is called a spectrum disorder because the symptoms and severity can vary widely between individuals.
  • Common symptoms: Some common symptoms of autism include difficulty with social interactions, such as maintaining eye contact or understanding nonverbal cues, delayed speech and language development, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.
  • Cause: Autism is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but the exact cause is not yet fully understood.
  • Cure: There is currently no cure for autism, but early interventions and therapies can help individuals with autism lead fulfilling and independent lives.

Prevalence of Autism in India

  • Lack of systematic estimates: Autism is a global issue and affects individuals of all cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, there is a lack of systematic estimates of autism prevalence in India.
  • Methos failed: Researchers have attempted to estimate prevalence through government hospitals, but this method failed due to the absence of central medical registries.
  • Conservative estimates: As a result, prevalence was estimated through school-based assessments. According to conservative estimates, well over one crore Indians are on the autism spectrum. This highlights the need for further research and attention to address the prevalence of ASD in India.

Cultural Differences and Diagnosis of Autism:

  • Notable cultural differences exist in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. In the US and UK, the majority of children with autism spectrum diagnosis are verbal, with average or higher IQ, and attending mainstream schools.
  • However, in India, a significant majority of children with a clinical diagnosis of autism also have intellectual disability and limited verbal ability.
  • This difference is driven by sociological factors, such as access to appropriate clinical expertise, provisions for inclusion in mainstream schools, and availability of medical insurance coverage.

Challenges in Assessing Autism

  • Assessment tools: Assessment of autism spectrum disorder is primarily behavioral, and most widely used autism assessment tools are not available in Indian languages.
  • Indigenous autism assessment tools challenges: There has been a rise in the development of indigenous autism assessment tools. Despite the development of these tools, it can be challenging to compare across different assessment measures.

Demand and Supply in India

  • Shortage of mental health professionals: Most autism assessment tools need to be administered by specialist mental health professionals. However, there is a significant shortage of mental health professionals in India, with less than 10,000 psychiatrists, a majority of whom are concentrated in big cities.
  • Delay is costly: Delay in interventions can be costly for neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism.
  • Demand and supply gap need to be met: This gap between demand and supply cannot be met directly by specialists alone, and parallel efforts to widen the reach of diagnostic and intervention services through involving non-specialists is required. Emerging evidence suggests the feasibility of involving non-specialists in autism identification and intervention through digital technology and training programs.

Way ahead: Need for an All-India Program

  • National program on autism: The need of the hour is to develop a national program on autism in India that links researchers, clinicians, service providers to the end-users in the autism community.
  • Essential components: This program needs to have three essential components that are joined up: assessment, intervention, and awareness.
  • Assessment: Research is needed to develop appropriate assessments and design efficient implementation pathways.
  • Intervention: Clinical and support service workforce needs to be expanded by training non-specialists such that a stepped-care model can be rolled out effectively across the nation.
  • Awareness: Large-scale initiatives need to be launched to build public awareness that can reduce the stigma associated with autism and related conditions.

Conclusion:

  • There are challenges in diagnosing and assessing autism in India which highlights the need for a comprehensive and coordinated effort to address them. By expanding the clinical and support service workforce, training non-specialists, and developing appropriate assessments and interventions, India can improve outcomes for those on the autism spectrum and reduce the stigma associated with the condition. This national program needs to be informed by consultation with different stakeholders, with a primary focus on end-users within the Indian autism community.

 

No idols, no arms: the Pattanam mystery

Why in News?

  • Pattanam is a village in central Kerala. It is said to be the only multicultural archaeological site on the southwestern coast of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Pattanam is a part of Muziris which is called the ‘first emporium’ of the Indian Ocean.
  • The Greco-Roman classical age came into direct contact with an ancient South Indian civilization in Muziris.

Excavations in Pattanam:

  • The excavations in the region have unearthed less than 1% of the site.
  • More than 45 lakh sherds (or ceramic fragments) have been unearthed from the region. These comprise around 1.4 lakh items belonging to regions of the Mediterranean, the River Nile, the Red Sea, the eastern and western Indian Oceans, and the South China Sea.
  • The seal of a sphinx was also found, which belongs to the ancient Greek city of Thebes.
  • Based on technological, metallurgical, literary, and artistic advances, it is found that there were rigorous cultural and commercial exchanges in Pattanam.
  • It is thus inferred that Pattanam was a thriving urban centre that existed from the 5th century B.C. till the 5th century A.D. Moreover, a peak phase was experienced from 100 B.C. to A.D. 300.
  • Notably, there is no evidence of the existence of institutionalized religion in ancient Pattanam. Moreover, there are no findings of the graded inequality of the caste system that has described contemporary Kerala and most of India.
  • It should be noted that Pattanam lacks sophisticated weaponry. This is in stark contrast to other contemporary sites like Berenike in Egypt and Khor Rori in Oman.
  • The fragmentary skeleton remains at graves highlight the “secondary” nature of burial. The dead were first cremated and then osseous remains were ceremoniously buried.
  • Furthermore, people of different backgrounds were buried in the same way. Thus suggesting the prevalence of a secular ethos.
  • The genotype and ancestry analyses of samples show the link to South Asian, West Asian, and Mediterranean lineages.
  • No artefact indicates any religious customs.
  • Material evidence highlights that the society lived in harmony with nature, much like the several indigenous societies.
  • However, much of the site remains to be unearthed.

UAPA Tribunal Upholds Centre’s Decision to Ban PFI

Why in News?

  • Recently, five months after its constitution, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal upheld the Centre’s decision to ban Popular fronts of India and its affiliates.

What is the Background of the Issue?

  • In September 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a gazette notification declared the PFI an “unlawful association” along with “its associates or affiliates or fronts.
  • The notification issued by the MHA imposed a ban on the PFI and its associate organizations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and Campus Front of India, for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

About UAPA:

  • UAPA passed in 1967 aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.
  • Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged. It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.
  • Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.
  • The 2004 amendment, added “terrorist act” to the list of offences to ban organisations for terrorist activities, under which 34 outfits were banned.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory.
  • In August 2019, Parliament cleared the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 to designate individuals as terrorists if the individual commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
  • The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
  • The Act also empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.

What is the UAPA Tribunal?

  • The UAPA provides for a tribunal to be constituted by the government for its bans to have long-term legal sanctity.
  • It is headed by a retired or sitting judge of a High Court.
  • On receiving notification from the Centre, the Tribunal calls upon the concerned association to show cause, within 30 days from the date of the service of such Centre’s notice, that why it should not be declared unlawful.
  • After hearing arguments from both sides, the Tribunal can hold an inquiry to decide within 6 months whether there is sufficient evidence to declare an association unlawful association.
  • Under the UAPA, the Centre’s notification cannot have an effect until the tribunal confirms the declaration in its order.

Relevant Supreme Court judgements:

  • Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar: Section 124A has been challenged in various courts in specific cases.
  • The validity of the provision itself was upheld by a Constitution Bench in 1962, in Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar.
  • That judgment went into the issue of whether the law on sedition is consistent with the fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) which guarantees each citizen’s freedom of speech and expression.
  • The Supreme Court laid down that every citizen has a right to say or write about the government, by way of criticism or comment, as long as it does not “incite people to violence” against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.
  • The Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab (1995) case: In this case, the Supreme Court had clarified that merely shouting slogans, in this case Khalistan Zindabad, does not amount to sedition.

Evidently, the sedition law is being both misunderstood and misused to muzzle dissent.

Criticisms of UAPA:

  • The law is often misused and abused. It could be used against political opponents and civil society activists who speak against the government and brand them as “terrorists.”
  • The 2019 amendment gives unfettered powers to investigating agencies.
  • The law is against the federal structure; given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.

What needs to be done?

  • Anti-terror laws should not be used as tool to silence the critics of government.
  • A committee may be set up to examine and supervise the process of designatingindividuals as terrorists and investigation of cases with objectivity and fairness.
  • Arbitrariness under the law should be checked through judicial review.

Understanding the street dogs-human conflict

Why in News?

  • Rising dog-bite cases in India and associated concerns.

Highlights:

  • Humans have coexisted with dogs for almost 25000 years. They were domesticated and considered loyal, friendly, and intelligent.
  • However, there is a growing intolerance towards various creatures like cats, cows, birds and dogs.

Dog-human conflict and associated concerns:

  • It is argued by the author that the Resident Welfare Associations instigate violence against dogs living near resident societies. For instance,
  • It was reported by a resident themselves that the child that was bitten to death in Hyderabad would constantly beat and tease animals. The child’s father was informed by the locals.
  • For more details on the case, read here: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis. Mar 8th, 2023
  • Residents who feed stray dogs are also targeted.
  • It should be noted that dogs become aggressive only when they perceive a threat. They want to protect themselves and their litters from attack if they are hungry, unwell, forcibly relocated, or have witnessed neglect and abuse.
  • Earlier, dogs were routinely killed to reduce their population. However, it did not work then and any such efforts in today’s scenario will meet a similar fate.
  • Moreover, if there is a vacuum, the space will be occupied by other species like rats, cockroaches, mongooses, etc. For example,
  • The London Plague (in 1665) was a consequence of the killing of 250000 dogs and cats. The incident caused the mice population to increase and nearly 70% of the human population was wiped out by the ‘Black Death Pandemic’.
  • Similarly, Surat city of India had a plague after removing dogs.

Challenges in controlling the dog population:

  • Lack of budget
  • Inadequate infrastructure
  • Prevalence of corrupt and inefficient practices
  • Lack of transparency
  • Fascination with foreign breeds of pets
  • Existence of illegal pet shops and breeders

Measures adopted by the Government:

  • The Union government prohibited the import of pedigree dogs into India in 2016.
  • Further, it notified Rules for regulating dog breeders in 2018.
  • As per the recommendation of the Law Commission, the Pet Shop Rules were notified in 2018 to regulate the trade of pedigree dogs.
  • The Delhi High Court in Dr. Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal recognized the importance of people who look after the native breed of dogs.
  • The new ABC rules (2023) have protected community dog caregivers from harassment.

Way Ahead:

  • The multiplication of dogs should be checked.
  • The World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health recommended the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules (ABC Rules) in 2001.
  • The rules can bring a sustained decline in the population of dogs, rabies infection, and aggression in dogs.
  • These rules should be efficiently implemented by the local authorities to scientifically manage the dog population.
  • The Union government has issued a new set of ABC rules that address the loopholes in the existing law.
  • Instead of the removal of dogs, citizens should demand that municipal bodies formulate and implement the ABC programme in accordance with the new ABC Rules (2023).
  • The adoption of Indian dogs should be encouraged. Notably, native dogs have better immune systems than foreign breeds and thus they should be adopted as pets.
  • Reports of dog attacks should be verified on the basis of proof.

What is Bilkis Bano Case?

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has indicated it will primarily focus on the question of Gujarat’s jurisdiction to prematurely release 11 men sentenced to life for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 riots.

Central idea:

  • The Bilkis Bano case is a landmark case of gangrape and mass murder that occurred during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India.
  • Bilkis Bano, then a 21-year-old pregnant woman, was raped and her family members were murdered during the riots that followed the Godhra train burning incident.
  • The case was initially left unnoticed, but after persistent efforts by Bano and her supporters, the case was reopened and the perpetrators were brought to justice.

Initial investigation and cover-up

  • No proper investigation: Despite the gravity of the crime, the initial investigation was not conducted properly.
  • Evidence tampered: The medical examination of Bano was conducted after several days, by which time crucial evidence had been lost.
  • No FIR registered: The police refused to file a First Information Report (FIR) initially, and when they did, they left out crucial details of the incident.

Reopening of the case:

  • Bano and her supporters continued to fight for justice, and in 2004, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the order of the Supreme Court.
  • The CBI conducted a thorough investigation and filed a charge sheet against 19 accused persons, including police officers and doctors who had tried to cover up the crime.
  • In 2008, the trial began in a Mumbai court.

Conviction and sentencing

  • In 2017, after a long legal battle, a Mumbai court convicted 11 accused persons, including one police officer, for gang rape and murders.
  • The police officer, who was the main accused, was sentenced to life imprisonment, while the others were given seven years’ imprisonment.
  • The court also acquitted seven other accused persons due to lack of evidence.

Key issue: Release of convicts

  • In February 2021, the Bombay High Court acquitted five of the convicted persons, citing lack of evidence.
  • The court also upheld the life imprisonment of the police officer and reduced the sentence of the other convicts to three years.
  • The convicts were released from prison after serving their sentence.

What are the laws on remissions?

  • Prisoners are often granted remission of sentences and released on important occasions such as birth and death anniversaries of prominent leaders.
  • The President and the Governors have the power to pardon, suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution.
  • Under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the state governments also have the power to remit sentences as prisons are a state subject.
  • However, the powers of remission of the state government are restricted by Section 433A of the CrPC.
  • It mandates a person serving a life imprisonment sentence for an offence where death is a punishment or where a death sentence has been commuted, cannot be released until they have served at least 14 years in prison.

Critical reception of the judgement

  • Justice vindicated: Bano and her family members expressed disappointment with the decision of the court to acquit some of the convicts, and they plan to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.
  • Communal angle to the release: Bano has been a symbol of courage and determination for survivors of sexual violence in India, and her case has highlighted the need for justice and accountability for crimes committed during communal riots.

Significance of the case:

  • The Bilkis Bano case is significant as it highlights the issue of communal violence in India and the failure of the authorities to provide justice to the victims.
  • The case also underscores the need for the protection of the rights of women and minorities in India.
  • The long legal battle fought by Bano and her supporters shows that justice is possible, but it requires persistence, courage and the support of civil society.

The cost of insurance-based funding

Why in News?

  • The Tamil Nadu model of public health is renowned for its success in providing quality health services at an affordable cost especially to the rural people. Tamil Nadu is the only state with a distinctive public health cadre in the district level and also the first state to enact a Public Health Act in 1939.
  • The Tamil Nadu public health model has ensured equity in the delivery of health care, led to big improvements in maternal and infant mortality and universal immunisation coverage, and led to a low total fertility rate compared to the all-India average.
  • This has been mainly due to changes in funding for healthcare in the last decade. The funding mix varies from grants from the National Health Mission to the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS).

Benefits of funding through insurance companies:

  • The indirect funding through the insurance companies has ushered in massive changes in the functioning of the public health sector.
  • The central gain is the decentralisation of medical and healthcare administration.
  • Powers have been substantially transferred to the heads of the department to purchase drugs which have cut red tape.
  • Decentralisation has empowered individual departments to prioritise their needs and hasten decisions in patient care in accordance with evidence-based medical advancement.

Issues:

  • Due to decentralisation, every department in the medical college has become an individual establishment. These departments compete with one another to maximise profit and minimise losses.
  • As a consequence, patients and their illnesses are seen through the lens of indemnity in secondary and tertiary healthcare systems.
  • This could lead to the denial of claims, the imposition of high deductibles and copays, and other restrictions that can limit access to care.
  • Negotiations with insurance companies have become cumbersome exercises for the public sector hospitals. Administrative delays by insurance companies have shifted the focus of hospitals from patient care, teaching and research to claiming money from companies.
  • Contractual appointments of doctors and staff in district health societies have resulted in trust deficit and which leads to a compromise in the quality of service.
  • Young doctors under contractual appointments are not even eligible for reservation benefits in post-graduate medical education under the Tamil Nadu government in-service doctor’s reservation scheme.
  • Mere profit-loss calculation and treatment of public health as a health industry will lead to an erosion of compassion among health professionals.
  • In Tamil Nadu, between 2012 and 2021, ₹7,783 crore was allotted in the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS) to insurance companies.
  • Of this, only ₹2,895 crore has been claimed by government hospitals and the rest by private hospitals. This disproportionate ‘diversion’ of funds will further shrink funding to public hospitals.

Way Forward:

  • A tax-funded model of Universal Health Care would ensure that healthcare services are available to all citizens without discrimination.
  • It would also ensure that the burden of healthcare financing is shared by the government and the citizens, with the government taking the responsibility for providing healthcare services to all citizens.
  • Such a model would also prioritise primary healthcare services, which are essential for promoting good health and preventing diseases. Additionally, a tax-funded model would ensure transparency and accountability in healthcare delivery.

Internet Shutdowns

Why in News?

  • Suspension of mobile internet by the Punjab government.

Highlights:

  • Earlier this month, the Punjab government suspended mobile Internet and SMS services in the State for more than four days in the interest of public safety, to prevent incitement to violence and to prevent disturbance of peace and public order.
  • The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which keeps a count of Internet stoppages State-wise, has recorded eight such shutdowns in Punjab.
  • Between 2012 and March 2023, the southern States recorded only six such shutdowns in this period. There was no instance of an Internet shutdown in Kerala.
  • Elsewhere, except Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim, all the other States recorded at least one such instance, with Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh recording the highest number.
  • According to Access Now, a non-profit that defends digital rights, 60% of all the Internet shutdowns recorded between 2016 and 2022 worldwide took place in India.
  • Over the past five years, India has recorded the highest number of shutdowns.
  • Notably, such shutdowns are never or almost never implemented in most parts of Europe, North and South America and Oceania, while they are rampant in Africa and Asia.

Data collection on Internet shutdowns:

  • The Union government does not collate data on Internet shutdowns imposed by the State governments.
  • Collection of centralised data was “strongly recommended” by the Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology, in 2021.
  • The Committee wanted the reasons, duration, decision of the competent authority and of the review committees to be noted for every Internet shutdown, and for the information to be made public.

Cost of Internet shutdowns:

  • A report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2022 noted the significant impact of the shutdown on education and healthcare. Students are unable to access online classes and resources, while doctors and medical professionals are unable to access vital medical information and communicate with patients.
  • A 2018 paper published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations estimated that India lost around $3 billion between 2012 and 2017 due to shutdowns.
  • Internet shutdowns have a severe impact on businesses, particularly in sectors such as e-commerce, information technology, and media.
  • Shutdowns disrupt supply chains, leading to delays in delivery of goods and services. Small and medium-sized enterprises also face significant losses as they heavily rely on online platforms for sales and marketing.

Supreme Court on banned outfits

Why in News?

  • A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on March 24, 2023, clarified that mere membership of an unlawful outfit is an offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
  • With this judgement, the Supreme Court has set aside a series of its own judgments which had concluded that “mere membership” — unlike “active membership” — of an unlawful association or organisation did not make a person criminal or a terrorist.
  • The court was examining three of its judgments delivered in 2011 — State of Kerala vs Raneef; Arup Bhuyan vs Union of India; and Indra Das vs State of Assam.
  • On February 3, 2011, the court acquitted suspected ULFA member Arup Bhuyan, who was held guilty by a TADA court on the basis of his alleged confessional statement, and said mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal. Similar views were taken by the court in the two other verdicts.
  • The Union government and Assam had appealed against the ruling in the Arup Bhuyan case, following which a two-judge bench referred the matter to a larger bench in 2014.

Supreme Court judgement:

  • The Supreme Court clarified that a person who “is or continues to be” even a “mere member” of a banned organisation is liable to be found criminally liable under the UAPA for acting against the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • The judgement referred to Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA which deals with membership in an unlawful association.
  • The provision says that “where an association is declared unlawful by a notification issued under Section 3 which has become effective under sub-section (3) of that section, —(a) a person, who — (i) is and continues to be a member of such association shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine”.
  • Under Section 3 of the UAPA, the Union government must openly notify the public when an organisation or association has been declared unlawful. The court reasoned that this logically implies that every member of the organisation would be aware of the ban.
  • But a person choosing to continue as a member despite knowing about the ban is acting against the sovereignty of the nation, the court noted.
  • The court also clarified that persons who had left the organisation and were not members at the time it was declared unlawful, cannot be held liable under Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA.

Reasonable restrictions of Fundamental Rights:

  • The court referred to Article 19(4), which mandated that the citizens’ right to form unions or associations was subject to the power of the state to make laws to impose “reasonable restrictions” in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality.
  • The Bench also disagreed with the previous benches relying on certain decisions of the US Supreme Court and pointed out that there are differences in the laws of the two countries.
  • Unlike the US, the right to freedom of speech in India is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions, and the Constitution permits Parliament to frame the laws taking into consideration the public order and/or the sovereignty of India.

India’s push for semiconductors

Why in News?

  • As part of its efforts to encourage the electronics supply chain to India, the Union Government has disbursed close to ₹1,645 crores through performance-linked incentives (PLI) for electronics manufacturers.

Why are countries prioritising semiconductor manufacturing?

  • Semiconductor fabrication units or fabs are manufacturing plants that help turn raw materials such as silicon into integrated circuits which are a part of almost all electronic hardware.
  • Semiconductor fabrication units or fabs are highly capital-intensive undertakings and require billions of dollars in the case of large facilities.
  • Fabs also require a highly reliable and high-quality supply of water, electricity, and insulation from the elements and a high degree of precision, cost and capital are required to make the sophisticated circuits.
  • Countries across the world have now realised strategic value associated with the segments of the value chain for fabs.
  • As per a report by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), in 2022 China surpassed Taiwan in terms of share of global sales from fabs.
  • The U.S. enacted the CHIPS Act in August 2022, which extends about $280 billion in subsidies and investments to encourage manufacturers to set up fabs and make semiconductors in the U.S.
  • The government’s Invest India agency says that electronics manufacturing as a whole sector would be worth $300 billion by FY 25–26.
  • Further, facilities for assembling finished products have been steadily increasing in number in India.
  • However, the number of fabs for making chipsets and displays, which are essential parts of the manufacturing process for electronic devices in the country, is a cause of concern.
  • According to the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, the first semiconductor manufacturing fab will be announced in the coming future.

Opportunities for India

  • The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has said that India must rely on its strengths in the electronics manufacturing value chain.
  • A significant portion of semiconductor manufacturing involves design and intellectual labour. India is said to have an advantage as a large share of semiconductor design engineers working across the world are either Indians or of Indian origin.
  • Further, top chipmaking firms like Intel and NVIDIA have already established large facilities in India and have provided the required exposure to Indian talent.
  • Experts feel that China is losing control over such an advantage on account of sanctions and an ageing population.

Way forward

  • Setting up display and semiconductor fabs is looked at as one of the strategic and economic goals of India and both the Union as well as the State governments are looking for opportunities to connect with popular brands such as Apple.
  • The government is also looking to develop various parts of the ecosystem that promise sustainable growth and fiscal feasibility.
  • As per the SIA, rather than setting up “foundry companies”, which turn silicon into semiconductors, countries like India must focus on encouraging companies that specialise in Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT).
  • Foundry companies require huge capital investment with entry costs alone being close to billions of dollars.
  • The OSAT set-ups are involved in the less capital-intensive processes of chipmaking which include assembling the components and undertaking testing.
  • OSAT set-ups hence are less expensive and generate better margins.
  • Furthermore, like-minded countries must specialise in different aspects of semiconductor manufacturing and come together for distribution which can help solve the geopolitical problem of Chinese dominance.

SC commutes death penalty of Tamil Nadu man

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has recently commuted the death penalty of a Tamil Nadu man for the kidnap and murder of a seven-year-old boy, the sole “male child” of his parents, who were unable to pay ₹5 lakh ransom for the child’s release.

Constitutional Provision to Grant Pardon: Article 72

  • Article 72 of the Constitution empowers the President to grant pardons to persons who have been tried and convicted of any offence in all cases where the:
  • Punishment or sentence for an offence against a Union Law,
  • Punishment or sentence is by a court-martial (military court), and
  • Punishment is a Death sentence.

Pardoning Power of President:

  • Article 72 empowers the President the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence. The meaning of these terms is as follows:
  • Pardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments, and disqualifications.
  • Commutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment with a lighter form of punishment.

For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment.

  • Remission: It implies reducing the period of the sentence without changing its character.

For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for five years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.

  • Respite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
  • Reprieve: It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period.

Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.

Procedure Followed for Granting Pardon:

  • The process starts with filing a mercy petition with the President under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Such a petition is then sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration which is then consulted with the concerned State Government.
  • After the consultation, recommendations are made by the Home Minister and the petition is sent back to the President.

Purpose of Granting Pardon:

  • Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction.
  • The object of conferring this power on the President is two-fold:
  • To keep the door open for correcting any judicial errors in the operation of law;
  • To afford relief from a sentence, which the President regards as unduly harsh.

Judicial Stand on Pardoning Powers:

  • In Maru Ram v Union of India case (1980), the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India held that the power under Article 72 is to be exercised on the advice of the Central Government and not by the President on his own at his discretion. And that the advice of the Government is binding on him.
  • The Supreme Court in Epuru Sudhakar v Ors. case (2006) to rule out any case of arbitrariness or executive mala fide upheld that the granting of clemency by the President or Governor can be challenged in court on various grounds such as, the order has been passed without application of mind, or the order is mala fide, or the relevant material has been kept out of consideration.

Difference Between Pardoning Powers of President And Governor:

  • The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161 which differs in the following two ways:
  • The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
  • The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is the sentence of death but the pardoning power of the Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

30th Anniversary of the 73rd and 74th Amendments

Why in News?

  • The year 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the 73rd and 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. But still India’s local government requires many technical, administrative and financial fixes.

What are the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments?

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act:

  • Panchayati Raj Institution was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.
  • This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O.
  • In addition, the act has also added a new 11th Schedule to the Constitution and contains 29 functional items of the panchayats.

74th Constitutional Amendment Act:

  • Urban local governments were constitutionalized through the 74th Amendment Act during the regime of P.V. Narsimha Rao’s government in 1992. It came into force on 1st June 1993.
  • It added Part IX -A and consists of provisions from Articles 243-P to 243-ZG.
  • In addition, the act also added the 12th Schedule to the Constitution. It contains 18 functional items of Municipalities.

What is the Status of Democratic Decentralisation in India?

Positive Aspects:

  • Empowerment of Local Communities: Democratic decentralisation has given more power to local communities to participate in decision-making processes and to implement development projects according to their specific needs and priorities.
  • This has led to greater participation of citizens in governance and decision-making processes.
  • Accountability and Transparency: Decentralisation has also led to greater accountability and transparency in governance.
  • Local governments are more directly accountable to citizens, and decision-making processes are more transparent and open to public scrutiny.
  • Promotion of Diversity and Inclusivity: Democratic decentralisation has allowed for greater representation of marginalised communities in decision-making processes.
  • This has led to more inclusive policies that address the needs and interests of all citizens, regardless of their social, economic, or cultural background.

Challenges Related to Decentralisation in India:

  • Uneven Distribution of Power and Resources: Decentralisation has been implemented unevenly across different states and regions of India, leading to disparities in the distribution of power and resources.
  • Some states and regions have been more successful in implementing decentralisation than others, which has led to uneven development outcomes.
  • Ceremonial Status to Mayor: The 2nd Administrative Reform Commission noted the Mayor in the Urban Local Government in most states enjoys primarily a ceremonial status.
  • In most cases, the Municipal Commissioner, appointed by the State Government has all the powers and the elected Mayor ends up performing the role of the subordinate.
  • Infrastructural Loopholes: Many Gram Panchayats (GPs) lack a building of their own and share spaces with schools, anganwadi, and other entities.
  • While some have their own building, they lack basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water, and electricity.
  • Although Panchayats have internet connections, they are not always functional. Panchayat officials have to visit Block Development offices for any data entry purposes, which delays the work.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening Local Government Institutions: The institutional framework for local governance in India needs to be strengthened by providing them with more autonomy, resources and powers.
  • This can be done by revising laws, regulations and procedures that constrain the functioning of local governments
  • Capacity Building: Local government officials and elected representatives need to be trained and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively carry out their roles and responsibilities.
  • This can be achieved through training programs, exchange visits and mentoring.
  • Community Participation: The success of democratic decentralisation depends on active participation of citizens in decision-making and implementation of local development plans.
  • Community participation can be enhanced through awareness campaigns, public meetings and consultations.

Adopt a Heritage project and Monument Mitras: The Scrutiny

Why in News?

  • Businesses that enter agreements with ASI to adopt sites are going to be known as Monument Mitras. The tenfold increase in the number of sites being brought under the ambit of the controversial ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme of 2017 raises concerns. Unless the ‘revamped’ scheme is suspended, the nation’s precious pluralistic heritage stands at the threshold of obliteration.

Adopt a Heritage project:

  • Initiative of Ministry of Tourism: The ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme was launched by the Indian government in September 2017 under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Objective: The main objective of the scheme is to provide world class tourist facilities at the various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments and other tourist sites to make them tourist friendly, enhance their tourist potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner across the country.
  • Primary focus: The project primarily focuses on providing basic amenities that include cleanliness, public convenience, drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signage etc. and advanced amenities like TFC, Souvenir shop, Cafeteria etc.
  • Monument Mitra: The public, private sector companies and individuals will develop tourist amenities at heritage sites. They would become ‘Monument Mitra’ and adopt the sites essentially under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity.

What are the concerns?

  • Current plan side-lines the ASI mandate: The current plan also side-lines the mandate of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and abandons The Sarnath Initiative, guidelines devised by the ASI, the Getty Trust, U.S., the British Museum, and National Culture Fund to safe keep excavated objects and present them to visitors in an engaging manner.
  • Undermine local communities and their relationships with historical sites: Guided tours led by employees of large businesses who have received permission to adopt a monument may endanger livelihoods of those who have lived near the site and made a living by regaling visitors with stories of its colourful past.
  • Excessive wear and tear: The potential of big businesses to underwrite a monument’s illumination is also troubling. Night tourism will also pull electricity away from rural homesteads and hospitals.
  • It may alter historical character of monuments which are not under ASI: There are some monuments selected for the scheme that are not protected by the ASI and are in States without Archaeology Directorates. One fears that businesses that sign agreements with the Union Ministry of Culture to adopt these monuments will be able to alter their historical character without much opposition.

What might Corporate India instead do to look after the nation’s-built heritage?

  • Businesses can help citizens understand why monuments matter: This can be done by earmarking CSR funds for grants for researching, writing, and publishing high quality textbooks, and developing imaginative and effective ways of teaching history.
  • For instance: Corporates might also follow the lead taken by Sudha Murthy and N.R. Narayana Murthy in giving gifts to organizations such as the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune to continue their missions of writing history by rationally coordinating the textual record and the archaeological evidence.
  • Skillful conservation: Industrial houses can support the meaningful conservation of heritage buildings by looking within. Their CSR funds can be used to purchase new equipment that release fewer noxious gases that darken and corrode marble buildings and discharge fewer effluents into rivers, thus making these water bodies less likely to serve as breeding grounds of microbes that gather on the walls of ancient buildings erected on riverbanks and cause their decay.
  • For instance: In the past, Tata Sons, ONGC, and other companies have regularly contributed funds to organisations training individuals in much needed restoration skills and creating jobs for them.
  • Collaborative efforts: The private sector’s resources and expertise may also help the ASI and State Archaeology Directorates to secure monuments from dams, mining projects, defacement, and looting.

Climate change: Significant threat to India’s historical monuments

  • Sanchi Stupa: The 3rd-century BC Buddhist monument in Madhya Pradesh is facing a threat from increasing rainfall and humidity. The stone is deteriorating due to the changes in weather patterns, leading to the loss of carvings and sculptures.
  • Mahabalipuram Monuments: The 7th-century rock-cut monuments in Tamil Nadu are facing a threat from sea-level rise and erosion. The monuments, which are located close to the shore, are being battered by the waves, leading to the loss of sculptures and carvings.
  • Sun Temple, Konark: The 13th-century temple, made of Khondalite stone, is facing a threat from rising temperatures and humidity. The stone is expanding and contracting due to the changes in temperature, leading to cracks and erosion.
  • Hampi Monuments: The 14th-century monuments in Karnataka are facing a threat from heavy rainfall and flooding. The monuments, which are made of granite, are being eroded by the rainwater, leading to the loss of carvings and sculptures.
  • Rajasthan’s Shekhawati’s murals: Shekhawati is known for its beautifully painted havelis with intricate frescoes and murals. Greater fluctuations in temperature are peeling away Shekhawati’s murals.
  • Ladakh’s stucco houses: Higher rainfall is leading Ladakh’s stucco houses to crumble. The traditional way of building houses in Ladakh is under threat due to climate change, which is affecting the durability of the structures.
  • Taj Mahal: The monument built in the 17th century, is facing a threat from rising pollution and changing weather patterns. The white marble is turning yellow due to air pollution.
  • Sea forts in Maharashtra: Rising sea levels are leading to water percolation into forts along Maharashtra’s coast. Salination is eating into their foundations.

Conclusion:

  • Currently, India’s progress in diverse fields is being projected at G-20 events across the nation. By embracing forward-thinking principles of historical preservation, businesses, government agencies, and civil society groups can showcase India’s genuine progress in this arena. Maybe their efforts will inspire more citizens to participate in the pressing task of safeguarding India’s pluralistic heritage.

Section 126 of Representation of the People Act of 1951

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission (EC) has asked social media platform Twitter to take down a video post on Meghalaya’s Deputy Chief Minister as its content was found to be in violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act of 1951.
  • Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act
  • Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act (RP Act), 1951, inter-alia, prohibits election campaign activities through public meetings, processions, etc.
  • Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951 deals with the prohibition of public meetings during a period of 48 hours ending with an hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll.

According to Section 126 (1):

  • Section 126(1)(a): No person shall hold, attend, or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election.
  • Section 126(1)(b): No person shall display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar means.
  • Section 126(1)(c): No person shall propagate any election matter to the public in any polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in that polling area.
  • Section 126 (2) of the RP Act provides the provisions for punishment with imprisonment up to two years or a fine, or with both for individuals who violate the provisions of Section 126 (1) of the RP Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency in OTT regulation

Why in News?

  • The Union government enacted the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 in February 2021.
  • The Rules largely cover OTT platforms and social media. They provide for a grievance redressal mechanism and a code of ethics.
  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) was given the task of regulating content on OTT and online platforms under this rule.

Global Approach:

  • The European Union has implemented regulations such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) which requires OTT services to follow certain rules such as requiring the inclusion of European content in their libraries and allowing parental controls.
  • China has imposed strict regulations on OTT services, including requiring foreign OTT services to partner with local companies, and subjecting them to content censorship and other regulations.In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority is the common regulator for different media. Aside from instituting a statutory framework and promoting industry self-regulation, its approach to media regulation emphasizes on promoting media literacy through public education.
  • India’s approach on OTT regulation can be termed as ‘co-regulation’ model where there is ‘self-regulation’ at the industry level and final ‘oversight mechanism’ at the Ministry level.

Issues with media literacy:

  • General public lacks awareness about 2021 OTT rules due to its complexities.
  • The rules contain vague and broad definitions of terms such as “offensive content”, “good taste and decency”, and “harmful”. This can lead to confusion and arbitrary enforcement, with platforms potentially over-censoring content to avoid penalties.
  • The Rules mandate the display of contact details relating to grievance redressal mechanisms and grievance officers on OTT websites/interface. However, compliance is very low. In many cases, either the complaint redressal information is not published or published in a manner that makes it difficult for a user to notice easily. In some cases, the details are not included as part of the OTT app interface.
  • There is also a lack of transparency in the appointment of the oversight mechanism, which has been criticized for potentially having a chilling effect on free speech.

Way Forward: Towards Transparency

  • The Ministry shall ensure uniformity in the way OTT publishers display key information relating to their obligations, timelines for complaint redressal, contact details of grievance officers for greater media literacy among the general public.
  • The OTT industry associations could be mandated to run periodic campaigns in print and electronic media about the grievance redressal mechanism.
  • The interpretation of age rating (UA 13+, for example) and the content descriptors (‘violence’, for instance) could be in the respective languages of the video (apart from English) and for a mandatory minimum duration.
  • The Rules could also provide for clear guidelines to ensure that a film’s rating is prominent and legible in advertisements and promos of OTT content in print and electronic media.
  • A periodic audit of the compliance by each OTT platform may be undertaken by an independent body.
  • OTT providers and self-regulatory bodies can upload the details of grievances and redressal decisions on a dedicated website, which will be visible for the public and government authorities.
  • This approach will aid in enhancing transparency.
  • Financial penalties on erring entities may also be provided in the rules.

Digital Personal Data Protection Bill: Need A Pre-legislative

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has drafted a Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill. A data protection law must safeguard and balance peoples’ right to privacy and their right to information, which are fundamental rights flowing from the Constitution. Unfortunately, this Bill fails on both counts.

Why do we need data protection?

  • Increasing internet use: India currently has over 750 million Internet users, with the number only expected to increase in the future.
  • Data breaches: At the same time, India has among the highest data breaches in the world. Without a data protection law in place, the data of millions of Indians continue to be at risk of being exploited, sold, and misused without their consent.
  • Individual privacy: Data monetization may happen at cost of individual privacy. The most sought-after datasets are those that contain sensitive personal data of individuals, ex. medical history, and financial data.
  • Lack of writ proceedings against corporate action: Unlike state action, corporate action or misconduct is not subject to writ proceedings in India. This is because fundamental rights are, by and large, not enforceable against private non-state entities. This leaves individuals with limited remedies against private.

DPDP Bill, 2022 is based on seven principles

  • According to an explanatory note for the bill, it is based on seven principles-
  • Lawful use: The first is that “usage of personal data by organisations must be done in a manner that is lawful, fair to the individuals concerned and transparent to individuals.”
  • Purposeful dissemination: The second principle states that personal data must only be used for the purposes for which it was collected.
  • Data minimisation: Bare minimum and only necessary data should be collected to fulfill a purpose.
  • Data accuracy: At the point of collection. There should not be any duplication.
  • Duration of storage: The fifth principle talks of how personal data that is collected cannot be “stored perpetually by default,” and storage should be limited to a fixed duration.
  • Authorized collection and processing: There should be reasonable safeguards to ensure there is “no unauthorised collection or processing of personal data.”
  • Accountability of users: The person who decides the purpose and means of the processing of personal data should be accountable for such processing.

Why the Bill must be put through a process of rigorous pre-legislative consultation?

  • Dilutes the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act: The Bill seeks to dilute the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which has empowered citizens to access information and hold governments accountable. It is behind the cloak of secrecy that the rights of individuals are most frequently abrogated, and corruption thrives.
  • Fails to safeguard right to privacy: Proposed Bill creates wide discretionary powers for the Central government and thus fails to safeguard people’s right to privacy.
  • For instance: Under Section 18, it empowers the Central government to exempt any government, or even private sector entities, from the provisions of the Bill by merely issuing a notification.
  • The Bill does not ensure autonomy of the Data Protection Board: Given that the government is the biggest data repository, it was imperative that the oversight body set up under the law be adequately independent to act on violations of the law by government entities. The Bill does not ensure autonomy of the Data Protection Board, the institution responsible for enforcement of provisions of the law.
  • Government direct control over the Data Protection Board: The Central government is empowered to determine the strength and composition of the Board and the process of selection and removal of its chairperson and other members.
  • Serious apprehensions of its misuse by the executive: The Central government is also empowered to assign the Board any functions under the provisions of this Act or under any other law.
  • Going digital by design fails to those who do not have meaningful access: The Bill stipulates that the Data Protection Board shall be ‘digital by design’, including receipt and disposal of complaints. As per the latest National Family Health Survey, only 33% of women in India have ever used the Internet. The DPDP Bill, therefore, effectively fails millions of people who do not have meaningful access to the Internet.

Conclusion:

  • The government has been given the power to exempt not only government agencies but any entity that is collecting user data, from having to comply with the provisions of this bill when it is signed into law.

 

Special Category Status to States

Why in News?

  • Central government will not consider demands for “special category status” for any state.

About the News:

  • States such as Odisha (vulnerability to natural disasters), Andhra Pradesh and Bihar (backwardness) have been pushing for “special category status” for some years now.
  • The 14th Finance commission has clearly said no special status can be given.

What is Special Category Status (SCS)?

  • There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others.
  • The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.
  • First SCS was accorded in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland.
  • Over the years, eight more states were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and, finally, in 2010, Uttarakhand.
  • Until 2014-15, SCS meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.

What are the differences between Special Status and Special Category Status?

  • The constitution provides special status through an Act that has to be passed by 2/3rds majority in both the houses of Parliament whereas the special category status is granted by the National Development Council, which is an administrative body of the government.
  • For example, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also special category status as per Article 371.
  • But now Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature. Now, both Special Status and Special Category status doesn’t apply to J&K anymore.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is holding consultations with the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh to grant them “special category status” on the lines of Article 371 of the Constitution.

What are the criteria for Special Category Status?

  • Hilly and difficult terrain
  • Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
  • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
  • Economic and infrastructural backwardness
  • Non-viable nature of state

Who grants Special Category status to states?

  • The decision to grant special category status lies with the National Development Council, composed of the prime minister, union ministers, chief ministers and members of the planning commission, who guide and review the work of the commission.
  • Special category status for plan assistance has been granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states that are characterized by a number of features necessitating special consideration.

What are the Benefits confer to the states with special category status?

  • The central government bears 90 percent of the state expenditure on all centrally-sponsored schemes and external aid while rest 10 percent is given as loan to state at zero percent rate of interest. Usually, the ratio for general category States is 70% loan and 30% grant.
  • Preferential treatment in getting central funds.
  • Concession on excise duty to attract industries to the state.
  • 30 percent of the Centre’s gross budget also goes to special category states.
  • These states can avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
  • States with special category status are exempted from customs duty, corporate tax, income tax and other taxes to attract investment.
  • Special category states have the facility that if they have unspent money in a financial year; it does not lapse and gets carry forward for the next financial year.

What are the concerns?

  • Considering special status to any new State will result in demands from other States and dilute the benefits further.
  • It is also not economically beneficial for States to seek special status as the benefits under the current dispensation are minimal.
  • Therefore, States facing special problems will be better off seeking a special package.

 

 

 

Shaping a more disabled-friendly digital ecosystem

Why in News?

  • As per the World Health Organization, 16% of the global population is disabled.
  • However, 2.21% of the disabled population in India estimated in Census 2021 appears to be a gross underestimation.
  • Technology has great potential to level the playing field for the disabled. However, it can also reinforce barriers, if not designed as per their needs.
  • It was found in 2020 that India has 750 million Internet/smartphone users.
  • If the 16% figure is applied, it implies that there are roughly 12 crore internet/smartphone users with disabilities.

Assessment of the situation through a study:

  • For an evidence-based assessment of the situation of technology and its accessibility for the disabled section, a report was prepared.
  • In the study, ten widely used apps across five sectors were studied. These apps are Zomato, Swiggy, PayTM, PhonePe, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, WhatsApp, and Telegram.
  • Moreover, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were used to evaluate the app.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is a set of globally recognized parameters to determine disabled-friendly attributes of an app or website.
  • It was found that 4 apps were ranked “low” in accessibility and 5 apps were ranked “medium”.The results highlight the immediate need to work on creating a disabled-friendly infrastructure both physical and digital.
  • The aim of launching this report and rating index is to start discussions on digital accessibility, product design, and the development process.
  • In the second phase of this report, the research group would collaborate with service providers and help them design practices and processes for improving app accessibility and educate the stakeholders about people with disabilities.
  • It will further help in changing attitudes around disability, specifically within the business community, as they will move away from a charity-based approach to a rights-based and investment outlook.

Use of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) can further help in automating the accessibility testing process.
  • It can also help in analyzing the feedback from users with disabilities at a scale to provide insights to developers and manufacturers.

Ladakh, a fragile region, needs autonomy

Why in News?

  • Ladakh residents demanding special constitutional status.

Highlights:

  • The residents of Ladakh would gather in Delhi (on 15th February 2023), as they agitate for a special constitutional status for Ladakh.
  • A special constitutional status for the region would allow its residents to decide on a development approach that protects the fragile ecological and cultural heritage of Ladakh.

Recent developments in this direction:

  • Sonam Wangchuk, a renowned educationist and inventor, began a fast in the open in sub-zero temperatures on 26 January 2023.
  • On 31st January 2023, a large demonstration was held in lay with over 20000 people. Almost a fortnight before this demonstration, the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (the two most powerful political and cultural organizations) rejected a committee established to examine the status issue.
  • Moreover, student groups and civil society groups have ramped up their demand for constitutional safeguards.

Background details about Ladakh:

  • Ladakh was an independent kingdom for almost 1000 years. It was later integrated into Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  • It has a cold desert ecosystem that harbours rare mammals such as the wild yak and the snow leopard apart from diverse flora. The economy and society of the region are mainly dependent on high-altitude pastoralism, agriculture, and trade.

Associated concerns:

  • The people of Ladakh always demanded the region’s status as a Union Territory (UT). However, after it was granted in 2019, it was soon realized that the real need for a relatively free and autonomous region with substantial local employment opportunities was a distant dream.
  • The Union Government in 2019 announced that Ladakh would be granted a special constitutional status. Even the Sixth Schedule status was promised to the region.
  • Due to the fragile ecosystem, the region cannot bear heavy human activity. Additionally, it is already reeling under the pressure of heavy infrastructure development, intense armed forces presence, and excessive tourism. For instance,
  • There is an increasing commercial interest in tourism, mining, hydropower, and other natural resources in the region.
  • Big corporations are raising their investments.
  • A new airport is being constructed and roadways into the unexploited Zanskar region are also being ramped up.
  • A large mega-solar power project is also proposed in the ecologically fragile region of Changthang.Such developments have increased the risks of landslides, erosion, wildlife disturbance, etc.
  • According to a study by Kalpvriksh in 2019, it was found that despite having an Autonomous Hill Development Council (AHDC) since 1995, the decision-making is mainly dominated by Srinagar and Delhi.

Way Ahead:

  • Ladakh and Delhi should work together. For instance, a Hill Council decision for organic agriculture in Ladakh can be supported by the centre by asking the armed forces to purchase locally grown and made items.
  • Communities should be supported in their collective rights over grasslands through the Forest Rights Act. Tourism in the region should consider ecological sensitivity and should be majorly run by the community.
  • Initiatives like livelihoods sensitive to Ladakh’s ecology, decentralized solar energy, and sustaining the food and agricultural heritage of the region should be supported.

Highest number of custodial deaths reported in Gujarat in the last 5 years

Why in News?

  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the highest number of custodial deaths has been reported in Gujarat (80) In the last five years.

What is Custodial Death?

  • When an alleged accused has been prosecuted or killed before receiving the orders of such prosecution from the court of law is known as custodial violence/death.
  • It violates the fundamental rights of a citizen under Article 14 (Right to Equality), 21 (Right to Life), and 22 (Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases) of the Indian Constitution.

Data Related to Violence in Custody:

  • According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, between 2001 and 2018, only 26 policemen were convicted of custodial violence despite 1,727 such deaths being recorded in India.
  • Only 4.3% of the 70 deaths in 2018 were attributed to injuries during custody due to physical assault by police.
  • Except in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, no policeman was convicted for such deaths across the country.
  • Apart from custodial deaths, more than 2,000 human rights violation cases were also recorded against the police between 2000 and 2018. And only 344 policemen were convicted in those cases.

Reasons for Low Conviction:

  • Most of custodial deaths were attributed to reasons other than custodial torture, which included suicide and death in hospitals during treatment.

Reasons Behind Custodial Violence:

  • Absence of Strong Legislation: India does not have an anti-torture legislation and is yet to criminalise custodial violence, while action against culpable officials remains illusory.
  • Institutional Challenges: The entire prison system is inherently opaque giving less room to transparency.
  • Excessive Force: The use of excessive force including torture to target marginalised communities and control people participating in movements or propagating ideologies which the state perceives as opposed to its stature.
  • Not Adhering to International Standard: Although India has signed the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1997 its ratification still remains.
  • While Signing only indicates the country’s intention to meet the obligations set out in the treaty, Ratification, on the other hand, entails bringing in laws and mechanisms to fulfil the commitments.

Constitutional and Legal Provisions:

  • Protection from torture is a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian constitution.The right to counsel is also a fundamental right under Article 22(1) of the India constitution.
  • Section 41 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was amended in 2009 to include safeguards under 41A, 41B, 41C and 41D, so that arrests and detentions for interrogation have reasonable grounds and documented procedures, arrests are made transparent to family, friends and public, and there is protection through legal representation.

Way Forward:

  • India should ratify the UN Convention Against Torture: It will mandate a systematic review of colonial rules, methods, practices and arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.
  • Police Reforms: Guidelines should also be formulated on educating and training officials involved in the cases involving deprivation of liberty because torture cannot be effectively prevented till the senior police wisely anticipate the gravity of such issues and clear reorientation is devised from present practices.
  • Access to Prison: Unrestricted and regular access to independent and qualified persons to places of detention for inspection should also be allowed. CCTV cameras should be installed in police stations including in the interrogation rooms.
  • Surprise inspections by Non-Official Visitors (NOVs) should also be made mandatory which would act as a preventive measures against custodial torture which has also been suggested by Supreme Court in its landmark judgment in the DK Basu Case in 2015.
  • Implementation of Law Commission of India’s 273rd Report: The report recommends that those accused of committing custodial torture – be it policemen, military and paramilitary personnel – should be criminally prosecuted instead of facing mere administrative action establishing an effective deterrent.

Not a pipe dream

Why in News?

  • Increased budget outlay for Jal Jeevan Mission.

Highlights:

  • The aim of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is to provide functional piped water to every rural household by 2024.
  • A fully functional tap water connection means a household gets at least 55 litres of potable water per capita per day throughout the year.
  • The Budget 2023-24 has allotted approximately ₹69684 crores for the scheme. It is a 27% increase as compared to the revised estimates of 2022 (₹54808 crores).
  • However, it is argued that out of the targeted 19.3 crore rural households, only 3.2 crores had piped water in August 2019.
  • And the JJM dashboard on the official website of the Ministry of Jal Shakti shows that around 11 crore households (57% of the targeted beneficiaries) have access to tap water (as on February 2023).
  • With just 12 months remaining, it would be difficult to ensure that the remaining 47% is also covered.

The state-wise details of the scheme:

  • The states which have reported 100% coverage of eligible households with piped water are Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, and Telangana.
  • Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have coverage of nearly 97%.
  • Apart from the above, only 10 more states have reached 60% coverage.
  • Large and populous states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have reported only 30% coverage. Madhya Pradesh has covered around 47% of the targeted beneficiaries.

Associated Concerns:

  • It is suggested that despite having a tap connection, village households depend on their local groundwater resources because of the inadequate quality of supplied tap water.
  • According to a sample survey of nearly 3 lakh eligible households (commissioned by the Ministry of Water Resources) only three-fourths reported that water was provided seven days a week.
  • It was also found that on average water was supplied for only three hours a day.
  • More than 90% of institutions (Anganwadis and schools) reported access to tap water. However, many of them complained about the high levels of chlorine apart from bacterial contamination.
  • It is also found that the current statistics are based on self-reporting and not certified by a third party.
  • Some states like Bihar have highlighted that most of their connections were provided through state funds instead of JJM.

Way Ahead:

  • Instead of aiming for a numerical target, the government should focus on ensuring the quality and consistency of tap water adoption in rural areas.
  • Moreover, the Centre should also help states with the lowest adoption and largest population, instead of focusing on states that are close to the finishing line.

Assam Accord

Why in News? 

  • A Constitution Bench on Tuesday listed for January 10, 2023 a series of long-pending petitions challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 which allows citizenship to illegal immigrants, mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh, who entered Assam before March 1971.

What is the Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955?

  • The section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 contains the provisions with respect to citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord (1985). 
  • This section was introduced through an amendment made in 1985, in the Citizenship Act, 1955. The section 6A of the act says that all those who came to Assam on or after 1 January, 1966, but before 25th March, 1971 from the specified territory (it includes all territories of Bangladesh at the time of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985), and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section-18 for citizenship. 
  • Therefore, this act fixes March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.

What is Assam Accord?

  • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
  • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
  • As per the Accord, those Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 will be barred from voting for ten years. The Accord also mentions that the international borders will be sealed and all persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 are to be deported.
  • Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented, which has kept some of the issues festering.

Assam-Meghalaya Border Dispute

Why in News?

  • Recent killing of 6 personnel in Assam police firing while catching timber smugglers from Meghalaya has flared up the Assam-Meghalaya boundary dispute.

What’s the dispute?

  • The boundary dispute between Assam and Meghalaya has lingered for 50 years. However, the effort to resolve it gained pace in recent times.
  • Assam and Meghalaya share an 885-km-long border. Meghalaya was carved out of Assam under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, a law that it challenged, leading to disputes.
  • As of now, there are 12 points of dispute along their borders. These include the areas of Upper Tarabari, Gazang reserve forest, Hahim, Langpih, Borduar, Boklapara, Nongwah, Matamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah Block I and Block II, Khanduli and Retacherra.
  • Out of the 12, border disputes along six sectors have been partially resolved last year (2021).

About Langpih:

  • A major point of contention between Assam and Meghalaya is the district of Langpih in West Garo Hills bordering the Kamrup district of Assam.
  • Langpih was part of the Kamrup district during the British colonial period but post-Independence, it became part of the Garo Hills and Meghalaya.
  • Assam considers it to be part of the Mikir Hills in Assam. Meghalaya has questioned Blocks I and II of the Mikir Hills -now Karbi Anglong region – being part of Assam. Meghalaya says these were parts of erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills districts.

Assam and border issues:

  • The states of the Northeast were largely carved out of Assam, which has border disputes with several states. Assam’s border disputes with Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are pending in the Supreme Court.

Impact of Pandemic on Vulnerable Section: SC, ST and OBC

Why in News?

  • SC/ST and OBC have been impacted disproportionately by the pandemic as various social indicators shows vulnerabilities of this communities.

Impact of pandemic on education:

  • On the one hand, with policies mandating the promotion of students, promotion rates at the secondary school level rose significantly and repetition rates nosedived during the pandemic years (2020-21 and 2021-22).
  • On the other, the inability to attend physical school and the lack of access to digital education caused a massive drop in learning levels after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Impact on education of SC, ST and OBC:

  • Increasing promotion rate: Notably, the promotion rate among Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students increased sharply after the outbreak. The promotion rate among Other Backward Classes (OBC) students continued to rise unabated.
  • Repetition rate declining: The repetition rates too drastically came down in the pandemic years with some 1% students repeating their class across all communities. Notably, the gap in the repetition rate between SC/ST students and general category students declined greatly after the outbreak.
  • Declining learning outcomes: While the promotion rate surged and the repetition rate declined, the marks scored by school students in National Achievement Survey (NAS) exams dropped significantly across classes and in most subjects.
  • Disproportionate impact: There is a disproportionately greater impact on SC and ST students as their learning outcomes reduced the most while their promotion rates saw the highest degree of rise among all the communities.

Impact on livelihood of vulnerable sections of the society

  • High job loss probability: The researchers found that compared to workers from upper castes, the probability of job loss was three times higher for those who are SC and two times higher for OBC workers.
  • Comparatively higher unemployment: In December 2019, 39% of upper caste workers were employed and by April 2020, the percentage had dropped to 32%. The fall was more pronounced for SC workers, 44% of whom were employed in December 2019, but only 24% were employed in April 2020. For OBCs and STs the fall was from 40% to 26% and 48% to 33%, respectively.
  • Poor education poor Opportunities: According to researchers, the upper castes are endowed with higher human capital, i.e. educational achievement, and are in jobs less vulnerable to pandemic disruption. What is surprising is that the impact on scheduled caste is three times worse. Not only has the pandemic exposed the pre-existing inequities but has amplified them.

How women are affected due to the pandemic?

  • Effect on mental health: Women in low-caste women may be at a greater risk for worse mental health outcomes and higher perceived loneliness relative to high-caste women.
  • Social exclusion and job losses: Prior research has found that low-caste women have been found to experience greater social exclusion greater job loss and greater barriers to healthcare and thus may experience both worse mental health and higher loneliness.
  • Rising loneliness: Women in SC/ST and OBC groups will experience worse mental health, and higher perceived loneliness relative to women in the general caste group. We expect that this difference will be robust even when accounting for sociodemographic factors.
  • Victims of systemic disadvantage: Women in general and women of weaker sections in particular, are victims of multiple systemic disadvantages, which exacerbated during the pandemic. Rural women, especially the female wage workers, endured greater socio-economic difficulties as their livelihood opportunities were abruptly halted by the lockdown.
  • Visible gendered impact of pandemic: There is nothing natural in the gendered impact of pandemic, but the social norms and behaviour put them at greater risks due to unequal gender preference that is inbuilt in the social structure and culture.

Conclusion:

  • Pandemic have disproportionately affected the Indian society. Whether it is access to healthcare or vaccination SC, ST and OBC had a disadvantage. Lot of studies and research have assessed the caste specific impact of coronavirus and projected the dismal state of vulnerable groups. Government must look all these data while drafting the future policies for vulnerable communities.

SC Enforces a Landmark Ruling on Death Penalty

Why in News?

  • More than four decades after a landmark ruling on death sentence cases, a bench in the Supreme Court has made psychological evaluation of the condemned prisoner mandatory.

What has the Court said?

  • Taking a cue from the Bachan Singh verdict, justice Lalit, in a series of death sentences cases, has recently held that “complete assistance” to the court in such matters would necessitate the production of not just the evidence in the case but also the latest state of the mental health of the prisoner.
  • It has also sought a report on the inmate’s conduct at the time of examining whether the gallows remains the only Fitting Punishment.

Supreme Court’s verdict in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980):

  • This verdict established the doctrine of “rarest of rare” crime in Handing down Capital punishment while mandating a comparative analysis of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in connection to the accused.
  • The judgment laid down that a court must scrutinise both the crime as well as the criminal, and then decide whether death penalty is the only suitable Punishment in the facts of the case.
  • Emphasis is to be also laid on the aggravating and mitigating factors which are dependent upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

Machi Singh vs State of Punjab (1983):

  • In this case, the Supreme Court elucidated the doctrine of “rarest of rare” and set down some Guiding principles in the Death Sentences cases.
  • The Aggravating circumstances included the manner in which the crime was committed, motive for Committing the crime, severity of the crime, and the Victim of the crime.
  • The Mitigating Circumstances consisted of the possibility of reformation and rehabilitation of an accused, his mental health and his antecedents.

What has the Court said on Prolonging Death Sentences and Review Petitions?

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that unexplained delay in execution was a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen, could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.
  • It held that prolonging execution of death sentence has a “dehumanising effect” on condemned prisoners who have to face the agony of waiting for years under the shadow of death during the pendency of their mercy plea. An inordinate delay would certainly have an agonising effects on their body and mind.
  • In the same year, a Constitution bench also held that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a three-judge bench in open court. Such cases were earlier being considered by two-judge benches in the judges’ chamber without any oral arguments.

Challenges Ahead:

  • The enormity of the task before the Supreme Court is captured by the fact that trial courts in India have already sentenced more than 50 people to death in 2022 and often in Violation of Procedural and Substantive Laws.
  • It is not going to be easy for the Supreme Court to bring about a balance of fairness and consistency in death penalty sentencing across courts in India but the fact that the court has chosen to address it head-on is certainly noteworthy and worthy of our appreciation.

Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs (SEED)

Why in News?

  • The Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the Scheme for Economic Empowerment of De-notified, Nomadic, and Semi Nomadic Communities (SEED).

Who are the DNTs?

  • The term ‘De-notified Tribes’ stands for all those communities which were once notified under the Criminal Tribes Acts, enforced by the British Raj between l87l and I947.
  • These Acts were repealed after Independence in l952, and these communities were “De-Notified”.
  • The DNTs (of whom most are the medieval period Banjaras) are the most neglected, marginalized, and economically and socially deprived communities.
  • Most of them have been living a life of destitution for generations and still continue to do so with an uncertain and gloomy future.

SEED Scheme:

  • Under the scheme, the government seeks to provide free coaching to students for civil Services Examinations, competitive exams for admission to professional courses; health Insurance; livelihood support and housing.
  • It has been formulated for families having income from all sources of Rs.2.50 lakh or less per Annum and not availing any such benefits from similar Scheme of Centre Government or the State Government.
  • The Scheme will be implemented through a portal, developed by the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • Post verification, the funds will be transferred directly to the beneficiaries in their account.
  • The other implementing agencies are Ministry of Rural Development, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and National Health Authority (NHA).

Components of the scheme:

  • The Scheme will have following four components:

Free Coaching:

  • A component of free Coaching for DNT Students has been envisioned for the educational Empowerment of these Communities.
  • The objective of this component is to enable them to appear in competitive examinations/ admission to professional courses like medicine, engineering, MBA, etc for obtaining an appropriate job in Public/Private Sector.
  • The selection of the candidates for each course will be based on system generated merit list through the portal.
  • Approximately, 6250 students will be provided free coaching under this component in five years. The total funds spend in the five years will be Rs.50 crore.

Health Insurance:

  • Members of these communities are likely to have little or no access to medical facilities and other benefits available under the mainstream health policies.
  • The primary objective of the scheme is to provide financial assistance to National Health Authority (NHA) in association with State Health Agencies (SHAs).
  • These agencies will provide a health insurance cover of Rs.5 lakhs per family per year for families as per norms of “Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

Livelihood Initiatives:

  • The decline of traditional occupations of DNT/NT/SNT communities has exacerbated their Poverty.
  • A focus to support Livelihood Generation for these communities is required.
  • The Primary Objective of the scheme is to provide Financial Assistance to National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
  • It would enhance productivity growth in key livelihood sectors for Employment Generation through Investments in Institutional Support, technical assistance.

Financial Support for Housing:

  • Considering the shortage of houses for DNTs, it has been proposed to earmark a separate outlay for PMAY to support specific importance in providing houses only for DNTs living in rural areas.
  • It is for those who have not taken benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana as SC, ST, OBC and are living below poverty line.
  • The admissible support is Rs 1.20 lakhs in plains and 1.30 lakhs in hilly areas (per unit assistance).

Why need such a Scheme?

  • DNTs escaped the attention of our developmental framework and thus are deprived of the support unlike Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Historically, these communities never had access to private land or homeownership.
  • These tribes used forests and grazing lands for their livelihood and residential use and had “strong ecological connections.
  • Many of them are dependent upon various types of natural resources and carve out intricate ecological niches for their survival.
  • The changes in ecology and environment seriously affect their Livelihood Options.

No, Policy is not Too Important to Leave to the Experts

Why in News?

  • Given the fact that political input in economic policy making is becoming dominant as regional and state-level issues assume overriding significance, it’s perhaps time to consider sheltering economics from politics and vice versa.

Continuity in Policy:

  • The sudden withdrawal of farm laws last year and the repeal of the land acquisition ordinance in 2015 are two examples of policy backsliding in an otherwise decent record of Policy Continuity since 1991.
  • The overall trajectory of tariffs has been downward and average tariffs are now below 10 per cent compared to over 400 per cent before 1991.
  • As a favoured rule, domestic policy priorities should not be held hostage to external pressures, but they can and ought to be used to push through difficult and desirable domestic reform.

Challenges in Achieving High Growth:

  • Challenges in Reforms: Relying on chance events to drive reform might work in rare circumstances, but not when the aspiration is to become a $10 trillion economy by 2030.
  • Realising this target or even coming close to it will require sustained growth of over 15 per cent per annum in nominal GDP — that’s no mean task.
  • The Golden Period of India’s growth fetched an 8.1 per cent increase in real GDP between 2004 and 2009.
  • Even during this period, the growth story was cut short by the global financial crisis and devilled Intermittently by Institutional Weaknesses.
  • Failure of Institutions: The coal scam and the 2G scam are examples of the inability of institutions to keep pace with rapid growth.
  • As Growth occurs, institutions also require sophistication, knowledge, and some (not complete) protection from political interference.

Need for Fiscal Council for Budget-Making Process

  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in 2016, replaced RBI’s internal decision-making driven by the central bank governor to include three external experts to strengthen and bring transparency into monetary policy decisions.
  • This can be extended to other important government functions, such as the budgetary process
  • Successive finance commissions and the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee have recommended the creation of a fiscal council that, like the MPC, will bring transparency in the budget-making process.
  • The idea is simple, moderate the influence of the political agenda and powerful interest groups that could, and often do, capture the process.

Suggestions on Policy Making

  • It is art and science: Policy making is nothing if not art that invokes science when expedient.
  • Domain experts should be an integral part of the formulation process.
  • Implementation, of course, can be left to the executive.
  • When the TRAI was first set up, it had a healthy combination of domain experts and public policy professionals, resembling a specialised regulatory agency that reflected a serious intent to Strengthen Capacity.
  • Importance of domain experts: Instead of going down the chosen path, TRAI has reversed Gear and today resembles a government department.
  • In fact, this is the same affliction with almost all regulatory and policy institutions that are now a feature of India’s increasingly market based economy.
  • As more sectors (for example, the Gati Shakti initiative) engage the private sector, lessons from the last quarter-century should not be wasted — domain expertise is conspicuous by its absence in regulatory and policy institutions.

Way Forward:

  • Create cadre of professionals: Commissions tend to be made up of retired civil servants or retired judges.This is worrying and, therefore, it is vital to create a cadre of professionals with technical expertise for the complex tasks of managing the policy processes.
  • Distancing politics from policy: The net needs to be cast wider so that politics and policy are distanced, not completely but certainly more than it is today.

The Importance of Caste Data

Why in News?

  • Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the All-India Quota seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test and reiterated that reservations for backward classes were not an exception but an extension of the principle of equality under Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

Multiple Dimensions of Reservation:

  • The judgment highlighted how open competitive exams give the illusion of providing equal opportunity in ignorance of the widespread inequalities in educational facilities, the freedom to pursue such education, and societal prejudices.
  • Psychological and social effects: The Court pointed out how such disparities are not limited to the issue of access to good Education or Financial constraints alone, but also to the Psychological and social effects of inherited cultural capital (communication skills, books, accent, academic accomplishments, social networks, etc.), which ensures the unconscious Training of upper-caste children for high-grade performance.
  • The Constituent Assembly held a similar philosophy while introducing constitutional provisions which enable the government to make special provisions for the uplift of the “lower castes”.

Importance of Justifiable Data:

  • The Politicisation of Issue: Political parties often promise reservation for communities on being brought to power without any credible data collection exercises to justify the decision.
  • It can be said that the faith of our citizens cannot be restored until credible exercises of data collection are undertaken regarding caste.
  • Lack of data on OBC: Even though data concerning the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been included in the Census, there is no similar data on OBCs.
  • Proper assessment: In the Indra Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that the States must conclude the “backwardness” of a particular class of people only after proper assessment and objective evaluation.
  • It held that such a conclusion must be subject to periodic review by a permanent body of experts.
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993, provides under Section 11 that the Central government may every 10 years revise lists with a view to exclude those classes which have ceased to be backward and include new backward classes.
  • This exercise has not been done to date.
  • Impartial data and subsequent research might save the bona fide attempts of the uplift of the most backward classes from the shadow of caste and class politics and be informative to people on both sides of the spectrum – for and against reservation.
  • Calls for caste data in Census: Last year, many calls were made for the inclusion of caste data (including that of the OBCs) in the 2021 Census, and the matter reached the Supreme Court.
  • However, the government took the stand that the 2011 SECC was “flawed” and is “not usable”.

Anti-Lynching Bills Passed by Four States Hanging fire

Why in News?

  • Bills passed against mob lynching in the past four years by at least three States ruled by BJP Rivals and one Governed by the party itself have not been implemented with the Union Government taking a view that Lynching is not defined as a crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

About Mob Lynching:

  • The Manipur Law defined mob lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting such act/acts thereof, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or any other related grounds.”
  • In 2018, the Supreme Court had also issued guidelines to curb lynching.
  • The West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019 provides for three years to life imprisonment to those injuring a person and capital punishment or rigorous life imprisonment for those causing death.
  • Manipur was the first state to pass a law against Lynching. Recently, Jharkhand and previously Rajasthan have also passed an anti-lynching bill.

What was the Supreme Court’s Guidelines on Preventing Mob Lynching?

  • The state governments shall designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
  • The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
  • The Nodal Officers shall bring to the notice of the Director General of Police (DGP) any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence-related issues.
  • It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, which, in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.
  • The Central and the state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
  • Curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence. Register FIR under relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate such messages.
  • State governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme.
  • Ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victims.
  • If a police officer or an officer of the district administration fails to do his/her duty, the same will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence for which an appropriate action must be taken against him/her.

Way Forward:

  • Lynching has become a social menace all across India; therefore the centre should come with the law to deal with it. The law should incorporate the following provisions:
  • It should be applicable to all hate crimes, not just lynching (for example honour killing), regardless of the numbers of persons who participate.
  • Since the essence of what distinguishes these kinds of crimes is not the numbers of attackers but the motivation of hate behind the crimes, therefore, the law should provision dealing with solitary hate crimes.
  • The law needs to prescribe a much more expansive framework of mandatory gender-Sensitive Reparation.
  • The law should Incorporate penal action against doctors who stand accused of dereliction of duty, for the delay in attending to victims of lynching.
  • Under the Compensation scheme for the victims, the amount should be recovered from the perpetrators of the Crime.

MHA Recommends Ban on 54 Chinese Apps Citing Security Concerns

Why in News?

  • The Centre recently banned over 50 new Chinese mobile applications, including Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Tencent Xriver, Nice Video baidu and Viva Video Editor, due to concerns related to privacy and National Security.

About the News:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued interim directions for blocking 54 apps, adding that these applications were allegedly collecting sensitive user data, which were being misused and transmitted to servers located outside India.
  • The list of banned mobile apps include Beauty Camera: Sweet Selfie HD, Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera, Garena Free Fire – Illuminate, Astracraft, FancyU pro, MoonChat, Barcode Scanner – QR Code Scan, and Lica Cam.
  • The government had last year banned over 200 Chinese mobile applications, including popular ones such as TikTok, Shareit, Mi Video Call, Club Factory and Cam Scanner, citing threat to national security and sovereignty
  • The announcement had come amid border tensions between India and China in Ladakh.
  • The move came in the backdrop of India’s ongoing stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh with China. The stand-off has been going on since April 2020.
  • India shares a 3,400 km-long LAC with China from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

Why ban Imposed?

  • The Ministry said it was invoking its power under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
  • In view of the emergent nature of threats, the government has decided to block these apps as they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and Public Order.

What does the Section 69A says?

  • Section 69A of the Information Technology Act Empowers Central Government to:
  • Issue directions to block the content on online platforms in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any Cognizable Offence.
  • Intermediaries Failing to comply with the direction issued could be punished with Imprisonment for a Term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to Fine.

India bans import of drones

Why in News?

  • The Government has banned the import of Drones with immediate effect, except for Research and Development, Defence and Security Purposes.

Highlights:

  • The move aims to promote made in India drones.
  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has notified the Indian Trade Classification (Harmonised System), 2022 in this regard.
  • Exceptions are provided for R&D, defence and security, importing drones for these purposes which will require “due clearances”.
  • However, import of drone Components will not Require Any Approvals.

Boost to Drones Industry in India:

  • Last year, the Ministry notified liberalised drone rules that abolished a slew of approvals with the aim to Encourage R&D and creating India as a drone hub.
  • The Government also approved a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and their components with an allocation of ₹120 crore for three financial years.
  • Last month, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has sent a note on use of drones across various sectors to different ministries at the centre.

Where all can Drones be Effectively Utilised?

  • Ministry of Home Affairs: For surveillance, situational analysis, crime control, VVIP security, disaster management, etc.
  • Ministry of Defence: Drones for combat, communication in remote areas, counter-drone solutions, etc.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: Delivery of medicines, collection of samples from remote or Epidemic/Pandemic-affected areas.
  • The Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Power Ministries: For real-time surveillance of assets and transmission lines, theft prevention, visual inspection/maintenance, construction planning and management, etc. Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry: Anti-poaching actions, monitoring of forests and wildlife, pollution assessment, and evidence gathering.
  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: For high-quality videography of events and difficult-to-reach-places at a fraction of the cost and approvals required. This move would also facilitate low altitude shooting without noise, and prevent dust pollution and risk of accidents.
  • Other areas: To undertake disaster management, incidence response, inspection/maintenance works and project monitoring.

Significance:

  • Drones offer a tremendous benefits to almost every sector of the economy, including but not limited to, national defence, agriculture, law enforcement, and mapping, among others.

Drone Management in India:

  • The Union government had on September 15 approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components with an allocation of Rs 120 crore spread over three financial years.
  • The ministry had on August 25 notified the Drone Rules, 2021 that eased the regulation of drone operations in India by reducing the number of forms that need to be filled to operate them from 25 to five and decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to four.

Need for Stricter Rules and Regulations:

  • In 2021, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.
  • Over the past two years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.
  • According to government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and in 2020, there were 77 such sightings.
  • With the rapid proliferation of Drone Technology and exponential growth of its global market in recent years, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.
  • Drones are becoming security threats Particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the Technology.

Imposition of Death Penalty

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has made the following Suggestions on the applicability and imposition of death Penalty in its recent Judgment.

What has the Supreme Court said?

  • Trial judges should not be swayed in favour of death penalty merely because of the dreadful nature of the crime and its harmful impact on the society. They should equally consider the mitigating factors in favour of life imprisonment.
  • The judgment referred to the evolution of the principles of penology. Though capital punishment serves as a deterrent and a “response to the society’s call for appropriate punishment in appropriate cases”, the principles of penology have “evolved to balance the other obligations of the society, i.e., of preserving the human life, be it of accused, unless termination thereof is inevitable and is to serve the other societal causes and collective conscience of society”.

How should the Courts decide on Capital Punishment Impositions?

  • In the case of Bachan Singh (1980), the Supreme Court formulated a sentencing framework to be followed for imposing death penalty.
  • It required the weighing of aggravating and mitigating circumstances relating to both the circumstances of the offence and the offender, to decide whether a person should be sentenced to death or given life imprisonment.
  • According to the Bachan Singh judgment, for a case to be eligible for the death sentence, the aggravating circumstances must outweigh the mitigating circumstances.

What is Collective Conscience?

  • Collective consciousness (sometimes collective conscience or conscious) is a fundamental sociological concept that refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a Social Group or Society.

Evolution of Collective Conscience:

  • ‘Collective conscience of society’ as a ground to justify death penalty was first used by the Supreme Court in the 1983 judgment of Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab. In that case, the court held that when “collective conscience of society is shocked, it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty”.
  • It was, however, most famously used by the top court in its 2005 judgment in the Parliament attack case in which it awarded capital punishment to convict, Afzal Guru.
  • Collective conscience found its most recent endorsement in the 2017 judgment of the Supreme Court in the December 2012 Delhi gang rape case of Mukesh v. State of NCT of Delhi.

Concerns:

  • Can the courts allow any kind of public outcry, sense of conscience, sentiment or feeling to even remotely influence their decisions, especially when it is a case of the death sentence? This is even more relevant in the times that we live in, when television and social media bombard us, creating and determining opinion.

Need of the Hour:

  • Our Constitution is based on the principle of Justice for the most marginalised, disfranchised, oppressed, unknown, unseen and Ignored. This spirit demands that law cannot rely on or be influenced by any Delusionary sense or mood of the people. We need in judges a liberal energy and the ability to be Creative Human Beings.

Recommendations by Law Commission:

  • The Law Commission in 2015, headed by Justice A P Shah proposed to abolish capital punishments. However, the commission had made the proposal only to non-terrorism cases.
  • According to the commission, India is one among few countries that still carry out executions. The other countries that practice executions include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China. By the end of 2014, 98 countries had abolished death penalty.

Haryana’s Anti Conversion Bill

Why in News?

  • After several other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, the Government in Haryana is set to enact legislation to prevent unlawful Religious Conversions.

About the News:

  • The Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022 will be tabled in the Assembly’s budget session next month.
  • It is likely to be passed, considering the BJP-JJP coalition has a comfortable majority in the 90-member House.

Why is the Government Bringing this Bill?

  • According to the government and officials, many incidents of alleged “love jihad” have been reported in Haryana over the past few months, especially in the southern parts of the state.
  • “Love jihad” is an expression used to refer the alleged attempts by Muslim men to force Hindu women to change their faith, frequently through allurement, promise of Marriage or Coercion.
  • The Government has told Parliament that “the term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the Extant Laws”, and the anti-conversion legislation in the states do not use the expression. But it is still used freely in Political Conversations and Speeches.

What is the progress on the Proposed Law so far, and What Happens Now?

  • As a first step, a draft of the proposed Bill was approved by the Haryana Cabinet recently. The Bill will be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha when it meets in the Budget Session that commences on March 2.
  • Once the Bill is passed and receives the assent of the Governor, it will be notified in the gazette and will become law.

What does the draft Bill Cleared by the Cabinet propose?

  • The draft Bill seeks to “Prohibit Religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for Marriage by making it an Offence”.

What are the Objectives?

  • The statement of Objectives and reasons in the Draft Bill says: “The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize; for the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be Converted. Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and Individual.
  • The draft Bill also suggests that incidents of so-called “love jihad” are increasing. It says in recent past several instances came to the notice that with an agenda to increase strength of their own religion by getting people from other religions converted, people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
  • The draft Bill proposes “greater punishment for such conversion in respect of the Minor, Women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”.

How will it be Established that a Conversion is Unlawful under the Proposed law?

  • According to the draft Bill, the burden of proof — as to whether a conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or by any fraudulent means, or by marriage, or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion — shall be on the accused.
  • Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion not effected through any of the unlawful means mentioned above. The designated authority shall make an inquiry in all such cases.
  • The proposed Bill will also have a provision for declaring null and void any marriage that is found to have been solemnised by concealment of religion.

What do Critics Say?

  • Such laws have come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.
  • They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
  • Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of religion of one’s choice Including not following any religion, are also Guaranteed.

Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:

  • The Apex Court of India in its several judgments has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
  • The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.
  • Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).

Need of the Hour:

  • There is a need for uniformity: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can frame a model law like Model law on contract Farming etc.
  • States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will.
  • The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for Conversion by minority Community Institutions.
  • People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or Allurement, etc.

Agatha Sangma Demands Repeal of AFSPA

Why in News?

  • National People’s Party (NPP) MP Agatha Sangma demanded repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the Lok Sabha recently, citing the example of the incident in Mon, in Nagaland, where 14 people died due to firing by the Army on a vehicle Carrying Miners.

About the News:

  • Speaking during the Motion of Thanks to the President for his address to both Houses of Parliament, Ms. Sangma repeated the demand she had raised during the Winter Session of Parliament last year.

What is the Issue?

  • MHA said the area comprising the whole of Nagaland is in such a “disturbed and dangerous condition” that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.
  • But, Nagaland is continuously criticising the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.

What does the AFSPA Mean?

  • In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

Powers given to Armed Forces:

  • They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search Premises without a warrant; and ban the Possession of firearms.
  • Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the Circumstances that led to the Arrest.

What is a “Disturbed Area” and who has the power to declare it?

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.

Has there been Any Review of the Act?

  • On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.
  • The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations: (a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; (b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and (c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
  • The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.

Governor returns NEET Bill to Assembly

Why in News?

  • Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi has returned to the Assembly Speaker a Bill seeking to dispense with NEET-based admissions for undergraduate medical degree courses.

About the News:

  • The Bill adopted by the Assembly in September sought to admit students to UG medical degree programmes on the basis of Plus Two scores.
  • After a detailed study of the Bill that sought an exemption for the State from NEET and the report of the high-level committee constituted by the State government in this regard, the Governor was of the opinion that the Bill is against interests of the students specially the rural and Economically poor students of the State.
  • Hence, the Governor has returned the Bill to the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, giving detailed reasons, for its re-consideration by the House.

Veto Over State Bills:

  • The governor is empowered to reserve certain types of bills passed by the state legislature for the consideration of the President. Then, the Governor will not have any further role in the enactment of the bill.
  • The President can withhold his assent to such bills not only in the first instance but also in the second instance.
  • Thus, the President Enjoys absolute veto (and not suspensive veto) over state bills.
  • Further, the President can Exercise Pocket veto in respect of state Legislation also.

What was TN Government’s Argument?

  • The Bill, moved by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, contended that admission to medical courses was traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution, and the State was “competent to regulate” the same for the underprivileged social groups.
  • NEET festers inequality as it favours the rich and the more privileged class of society, who are able to afford special coaching apart from pursuing Class XII. It virtually barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education.
  • It also argued that NEET was against the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution.
  • After the UG course, students from the affluent class do not serve in rural areas, and often pursue postgraduate courses abroad, adding that the number of serving doctors in the State was declining.
  • The standard of medical education is maintained during the UG course by following the syllabus and curriculum prescribed by the National Medical Commission and through exams conducted by the university before awarding the degree.
  • Students who are not able to pass the university exams are not awarded degrees. Therefore, it is not during the admission stage that the standard of medical education is maintained.
  • The Bill said its aim was to ensure social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from discrimination and bring them into the mainstream of medical and dental education and, in turn, ensure robust public healthcare across Tamil Nadu, particularly in the rural areas.

What did A.K. Rajan Committee Reported?

  • The government’s decision followed a report from a high-level committee, headed by the retired High Court judge, Justice A.K. Rajan, which said NEET had “clearly undermined” the diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affluent segment of society, while thwarting the dream of the underprivileged social groups to pursue medical education.
  • The panel concluded that if NEET continued for a few more years, the healthcare system of Tamil Nadu would be “very badly affected, and there may not be enough doctors” to be posted at Primary Health Centres or Government hospitals, and the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the Medical Courses.
  • It was in favour of immediate steps to eliminate NEET from being used in admission to medical programmes “at all levels”.
  • It further contended that NEET was not a fair or equitable method of admission, since it ‘favoured’ the rich and elite sections of society. The most affected groups were the students of Tamil medium; students having a rural background; those from government schools; those whose parental income was less than ₹5 lakh per annum; and socially disadvantaged groups like the Most Backward Classes (MBCs), the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Based on the report, the State government decided that admission to undergraduate courses in medicine, dentistry, Indian medicine and homoeopathy in the State shall be made only based on the marks obtained in the qualifying examination (Plus-Two).

Can a state Negate Central Laws?

  • Article 254(2) refers to a scenario where a law made by a state legislature concerning any matter that falls in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law, with respect to that matter.
  • In such a case, the law made by the state legislature will prevail, provided it is reserved for the consideration of the President of India and Receives his assent.

How can States use this Provision?

  • This provision gives flexibility to a state legislature to make a law different from what is applicable in that state due to a Parliamentary law already in operation there.
  • This flexibility is only available on matters that are in the concurrent list to Schedule 7 of the Constitution. Under that list both the Parliament and the state legislatures could legislate — subject to the rule that the parliamentary law will prevail over a state law.

What all is covered under concurrent list?

  • The concurrent list provides a rich set of topics for the states to take a lead in reform. It covers areas such as criminal law and procedure, marriage, divorce and adoption, bankruptcy and insolvency, social security, education (including technical and medical education) and electricity.
  • Agriculture’ has been placed as Entry 14 in the State List along with several ancillary matters, while some agriculture-related items have been included in the Union List and the Concurrent List.

Will this Provision help the States?

  • Though states could come out with their own Bills to some extent to override the statutes of passed by the Parliament, none of those Bills would be effective unless the President accords his consent to such Bills.

What Happens if President does not give consent?

  • According to legal experts, it’s the sole prerogative of the President whether to sign the state Bills or not. It’s a rare circumstance, wherein a state Bill is accepted by the President without the Centre on board.
  • In case, the Centre is opposing the Bill, then the President, who works on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, can refuse to give his consent.

Can states approach the Supreme Court Challenging the Central Law?

  • States can approach the Supreme Court under Article 131 — invoking the court’s “original jurisdiction” — that allows a state to file a suit in the Supreme Court in case of any dispute that it may have with the central government.
  • Article 131 could be used to Examine the Constitutionality of a statute.

Fortified Rice supply in Govt. Schools raised

Why in News?

  • According to the Economic Survey released recently, the Centre has distributed 3.38 lakh Metric Tonnes of Fortified Rice till December 2021 through anganwadis and mid-day meals at Government Schools.

About the News:

  • In 2019, the government approved a Centrally sponsored pilot scheme for fortification of rice for a period of three years beginning 2019-2020.
  • The scheme is being implemented in 15 districts across as many States.
  • Last year, during his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that by 2024 rice made available under every government programme will be fortified to fight malnutrition.
  • The Economic Survey states that the government ramped up distribution of fortified rice last year across anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (now rechristened Saksham anganwadi and Poshan 2.0) as well as mid-day meal scheme implemented at schools (renamed as PM Poshan).
  • The Government has started distributing fortified rice under the Integrated Child Development Scheme and PM Poshan schemes across the country during 2021-22 in an effort to scale up the distribution of fortified rice in the country to fight malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among pregnant women, lactating mothers, children etc.
  • According to FSSAI, rice will be fortified with iron, folic acid, Vitamin B-1,B-2,B-3, B-6 and B-12, zinc, Vitamin A.

Need for Rice Fortification:

  • The country has high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
  • According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • India ranks 94 out of 107 countries and is in the ‘serious hunger’ category on the Global Hunger Index (GHI).
  • Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children poses major Obstacles in their Development.

What is Food Fortification?

  • Food fortification is defined as the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value.
  • It is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to Health”.

Fortified Rice:

  • According to the Food Ministry, fortification of rice is a cost-effective and complementary strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets.
  • According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice will contain iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram) and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
  • In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.

What are the benefits of Fortification?

  • Since the nutrients are added to staple foods that are widely consumed, this is an excellent method to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.
  • Fortification is a safe method of improving nutrition among people. The addition of micronutrients to food does not pose a health risk to people.
  • It does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people.
  • It does not alter the characteristics of the food—the taste, the feel, the look.
  • It can be implemented quickly as well as show results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
  • This method is cost-effective especially if advantage is taken of the existing technology and Delivery Platforms.

Food Fortification

Why in News?

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI’s) Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) has reported that over 70% of India’s population consumes less than half the daily recommended dietary allowance of Micronutrients.

About the News:

  • These deficiencies are prevalent not only in women and children from rural areas but also affect population groups in urban India.

Key to Addressing Nutrition Gap:

  • With a section of the populace having limited access to nutritious food, fortification is key in addressing the nutrition gap.
  • In a bid to directly address anaemia and micronutrient deficiency in the country, the Centre recently approved a pilot scheme on “Fortification of Rice & its Distribution under Public Distribution System”.
  • The government’s food fortification initiative is already taking shape with several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, starting the distribution of fortified rice under the pilot programme.
  • Fortifying staple foods and condiments with key micronutrients is an effective way of addressing deficiencies.
  • Timely adoption of food fortification in social and Nutrition Security Programmes as a part of the fortification initiative will play a crucial role in Addressing undernutrition in India.

Need for Rice fortification:

  • The country has high levels of Malnutrition among women and Children.
  • According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • India ranks 94 out of 107 countries and is in the ‘serious hunger’ category on the Global Hunger Index (GHI).
  • Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children poses major obstacles in their development.

What is Food Fortification?

  • Food fortification is defined as the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value.
  • It is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to Health”.

Fortified Rice:

  • According to the Food Ministry, fortification of rice is a cost-effective and complementary strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets.
  • According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice will contain iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram) and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
  • In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.

What are the Benefits of Fortification?

  • Since the nutrients are added to staple foods that are widely consumed, this is an excellent method to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.
  • Fortification is a safe method of improving nutrition among people. The addition of micronutrients to food does not pose a health risk to people.
  • It does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people.
  • It does not alter the characteristics of the food—the taste, the feel, the look.
  • It can be implemented quickly as well as show results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
  • This method is cost-effective especially if advantage is taken of the existing technology and Delivery Platforms.

Government Response Awaited on law on inter-faith Marriages

Why in News?

  • The law that governs inter-faith marriages in the country, the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, is being challenged for endangering the lives of young couples who seek refuge under it.

About the News:

  • More than a year after a writ petition was moved before the Supreme Court, seeking striking down of several of its provisions, the government is yet to submit its response.
  • The petition has sought to quash section 6 and 7 of SMA, which mandates publication of the public notice, on the ground that it is unreasonable and arbitrary.
  • The petitioner argues that the 30-day period offers an opportunity to kin of the couple to Discourage an inter-caste or Inter-Religion Marriage.

What are Interfaith Marriages?

  • The matrimonial relationship developed between two individuals having different religious faiths. Although marrying into a different religion is a matter of choice of an adult, there are certain issues Regarding the same.

Issues with Interfaith Marriages:

  • Interfaith marriages are believed to be a forced conversion of one of the spouses (mostly women).
  • As per the Muslim Personal law, in order to get married to a non-Muslim, conversion of religion is the only way.
  • Hindu religion allows only monogamy and those who want to marry second time take another course.
  • There is no provision regarding caste determination of children born out of such marriages.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is not compatible with backwardness of the society.
  • There is debate over the validity of Article 226 in context of annulling the interfaith marriage by High Court.

About the Special Marriage Act:

  • The Special Marriage Act is a special law enacted to provide for a unique form of marriage by registration wherein the parties to the marriage do not have to renounce their religion.
  • This Act includes Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists marriages.
  • This act applies to all Indian states, except Jammu & Kashmir.
  • This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.

Requirements for the Special Marriage:

  • The Fundamental Requirement under this Act for a valid marriage is the consent of both parties to the Marriage.
  • If both parties to the marriage are willing to marry each other, that’s enough; caste, religion, race, etc. is not a Restriction.

Conditions for Marriage:

  • The bridegroom must be at least 21, and at the time of the marriage, the bride must be at least 18 years of age. This is the minimum age limit respectively for a boy/girl to marry.
  • At the time of their Marriage, both parties must be monogamous; i.e., they must be unmarried and at that time should not have any living spouse.
  • In order to be able to decide for themselves, the parties should be mentally fit, i.e., they must be sane at the time of Marriage.

Challenges with Contemplating Laws for Interfaith Marriage:

  • Contemplating laws to regulate matrimonial relationships between two consenting adults would not be just against the constitutional guarantees but would offend the very notion of individuality and basic freedoms.
  • Interference of the law in an individual’s choice of marriage violates the existing constitutional rights such as the Right to equality, Right to Freedom & Personal Liberty, Freedom of Religion and Right to Life.
  • Article 21: It declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This right is available to both Citizens and Non-Citizens.
  • Article 25 of the Indian constitution provides the freedom to practice any religion of one’s choice and Personal Laws of the religions have specified various laws relating to marriage for the followers of that religion. Hence, in India inter-faith marriages are allowed as the constitution allows one to convert to a different religion from what one was born with and further the personal laws of the religion have provisions.

Way Forward:

  • In order to avoid inclusion of any further laws, there should be acceptance of the special marriage act, 1954 at the mental and social level.
  • The rights should not be exploited; conversion of religion for marriage only is not at all wise.
  • The marriage of two adults is a complete matter of their own choice, neither a law is to impose any decision, nor any individual. The Freedom of decision of his/ her marriage shall lie with the person only. The Need is to Accept the fact.

FCRA Nod for MoC Restored

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently restored the FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), the Catholic religious congregation set up by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa.

About the News:

  • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration is mandatory to receive foreign donations.
  • The move comes just days after the Ministry issued a statement that the FCRA registration of the MoC was not renewed as “some adverse inputs were noticed”.
  • The registration was renewed, making MoC eligible to receive and utilise foreign funds in its bank accounts even as the U.K Parliament debated the issue, seeking to know if the British government had raised the issue of blocking of overseas funds of the MoC and other NGOs with India.

Background:

  • The registration of thousands of NGOs was up for renewal in 2020-21. The Ministry had declined to renew the FCRA registration of 179 NGOs, while 5,789 associations did not apply for a renewal before the December 31 deadline.
  • After the exercise, the number of active FCRA-registered NGOs is down from 22,762 to 16,907.

How FCRA Regulates NGO funding?

  • FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country.
  • The Act, first enacted in 1976 was amended in the year 2010 and then 2020.
  • Section 5 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 gives the Union government “Unchecked and Unbridled Powers” to declare an organisation as being one of political nature and deny it access to funds from sources abroad.
  • FCRA is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Applicability:

  • The provisions of the Act apply to the territory of India, to citizens of India who may be outside India and to companies or their branches outside India that are registered or Incorporated in India.
  • The entities covered by the Act include an individual, a Hindu undivided family, an Association, or a Registered Company

Prior Reference Category under the Act:

  • It implies that to donate to such an NGO, a foreign donor has to take prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Latest 2020 Amendments and Criticisms Associated:

  • The amendments mandated that registered NGOs open a designated account in the main branch of the State Bank of India in the Capital in which the foreign contributions to their various causes would exclusively land.
  • The petitioners have argued that this measure would be cumbersome for NGOs operating in rural India and far away from the Capital.

What is a Foreign Contribution Under FCRA?

  • “Foreign contribution” under FCRA covers any “donation, delivery or transfer made by any foreign source of any article” as long as it is not given as a gift for personal use, or if its market value in India at the time it was made is “not more than such sum as may be specified from time to time by the Central government”.

Exceptions:

  • Any currency, or security can fall under the ambit of the Act though it excludes any money received “by way of fee or towards cost in lieu of goods or services rendered by such person in the ordinary course of his business, trade or commerce whether within India or outside India”.
  • Neither are donations made by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) considered to be “foreign contribution” although a donation from a person of Indian origin who has assumed foreign nationality is treated as as “foreign contribution”.

Who Cannot Receive Foreign Contribution?

  • A host of entities are barred from receiving foreign funds, including election candidates, those connected with a registered newspaper, judges, government servants or employees of any entity controlled or owned by the Government and Members of any Legislature. Political parties and their office bearers, too, are Prohibited from receiving Foreign Funds.

Use Drones more Effectively, says Civil Aviation Ministry

Why in News?

  • In a nationwide programme to take the third eye to the sky, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has called for more effective utilisation of drone applications and urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance, situational Analysis, Crime Control, VVIP security, Disaster Management, etc.

What is a Drone?

  • Drone is a layman terminology for Unmanned Aircraft (UA). There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft consists of remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components, as specified in the type design.
  • Besides combat use, drones are used for a range of purposes like package delivery, in agriculture (spraying pesticides etc), Monitoring Environmental changes, aerial Photography, and during search and relief Operations, among others.

Key Changes brought in the Drone Rules, 2021:

  • Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system.
  • No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  • No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drone and for R&D organisations.
  • No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
  • Import of drones and drone components to be regulated by DGFT.
  • No security clearance required before any registration or Licence Issuance.
  • No requirement of certificate of Airworthiness, Unique Identification Number, Prior Permission and remote pilot licence for R&D entities.
  • Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
  • Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness delegated to Quality Council of India and Certification entities Authorised by it.
  • Manufacturer may Generate their drone’s unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.
  • Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to INR 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
  • Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
  • Drone promotion council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

Need for Stricter Rules and Regulations:

  • Recently, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.
  • Over the past two Years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to Smuggle Arms, Ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.
  • According to Government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and in 2020, there were 77 such sightings.
  • With the rapid Proliferation of drone technology and exponential growth of its global market in recent years, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.
  • Drones are becoming Security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the Technology.

Constitutional Validity of Dam Safety Act challenged in HC

Why in News?

  • Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Lok Sabha member S. Ramalingam, representing Mayiladuthurai constituency in Tamil Nadu, has moved the Madras High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Dam Safety Act, 2021 on the grounds that it goes against federalism and is beyond the legislative competence of the Centre.

About the News:

  • The litigant claimed that the Act usurped the power of the State governments and placed the operation of specified dams under the control of the Centre.
  • He contended that certain terms, including the word ‘dam’ in the Act, had been deliberately defined vaguely to give unbridled power to the Centre to treat any dam as a ‘specified dam’. He also feared that if those definitions were followed, almost all dams in the country would fall under the purview of the Act.
  • Referring to Entries 17, 18 and 35 of List II (State list) of the seventh schedule of the Constitution, the petitioner contended that dams would squarely fall within the legislative domain of State Governments.
  • The power of the Centre under Entry 56 of List I (Union list) was only with respect to inter-State rivers or river valleys and nothing more, he asserted.
  • Entry 56 cannot be stretched to include dams and embankments exclusively within the control of the States. Parliament cannot make a declaration in relation to a subject matter of List II entries when such power is conspicuously absent in List I subjects. Power over the subject ‘interstate river and river valley’ cannot be confused with the control over dams.
  • Claiming that the State governments would be in a better position than the Centre to take a call on dam safety, the legislator told the court that the Act under challenge, if not nullified, would have an adverse impact on agriculture, fisheries, hydro power generation, provision of drinking water to the people and so on.

About Dam Safety Act, 2021:

  • The Act provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams to prevent disasters, and institutional mechanisms to ensure safety.
  • It applies to over 5,000 dams across the country, many of which are currently in poor conditions.
  • It has been met with significant opposition, particularly from several states that claim the Act oversteps the Centre’s mandate.

What is its Constitutional Validity?

  • According to Entry 17 of State List, the states are eligible to make laws on irrigation, water supply, canals, embankments, drainage, water power and water storage.
  • According to Entry 56 of the Union List, the Parliament is allowed to make laws on regulation of river valleys and inter state rivers.
  • Article 252 allows the Parliament to make laws on subjects in State list if two or more states pass resolution requiring a law. In this issue, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have passed resolution asking for a law on dam safety.

Which dams are Covered?

  • All dams in India with a height above 15 metres come under the purview of the Act.
  • Dams between 10 to 15 metres of height are also covered but only if they meet certain other specifications in terms of design and structural conditions.

National Committee on Dam Safety:

  • The Act provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) which is to be chaired by the Central Water Commissioner (CWC).
  • The other members of the NCDS will be nominated by the Centre and will include up to 10 representatives of the Centre, 7 state government representatives, and 3 experts on dam safety.
  • The NCDS is to formulate policies for dam safety and to prevent dam failures.
  • In the event of a dam failure, the NCDS will analyse why the failure occurred, and suggest changes in dam safety practices to ensure there aren’t any Repetitions.

National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA):

  • The Act provides for the formation of a NDSA which will be responsible for implementing the policies of the NCDS, and will resolve issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (or SDSOs) and dam owners.
  • The NDSA will also specify regulations for the inspection of dams and will provide accreditation to the various agencies working on the structure of dams and their Alteration.

State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs)

  • The Act will also result in the establishment of SDSOs, and State Committees on Dam Safety (SCDSs).
  • The jurisdiction of the SDSOs will extend to all dams in that specific state.
  • SDSOs will be in charge of scrutinizing dams under their jurisdiction and maintaining a database of the same.
  • The SCDS will review the work of the SDSO, and will also have to assess the impact of dam-related projects on upstream and downstream states.
  • The NDSA will, in some cases, possess this jurisdiction, for example, if a dam owned by one state is situated in another or crosses multiple states, or if a dam is owned by a central public sector undertaking.
  • The Act gives the Central government the power to amend the functions of any of the above bodies through a notification, whenever it is deemed necessary to do so.

How does Act change the Functioning of Dams?

  • If the Act is made into a law, then dam owners will have to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.
  • The dam safety unit will be required to inspect the dam before and after the monsoon session, and also during and after natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
  • The Act requires dam owners to prepare EMERGENCY action plans. Risk-assessment studies will also have to be undertaken by owners, regularly.
  • At specified, regular intervals, and in the event of either a modification to the dam’s structure or a natural event that may impact the structure, dam owners will have to produce a comprehensive safety evaluation by experts.

Missionaries of Charity denied FCRA nod

Why in News?

  • The Union Home Ministry (MHA) said recently that it has refused to renew the FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), a Catholic religious congregation set up by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, as “some adverse inputs were noticed.”

About the News:

  • The NGO registered in Kolkata has more than 250 bank accounts across the country to utilise the foreign funds.
  • Some of the biggest donors are Missionaries of Charity in the U.S.A and United Kingdom that contributed over ₹15 crore to MoC, India, for “primary health care, education assistance, treatment of leprosy patients” among others.
  • MHA said in a statement that the renewal was refused for not meeting the eligibility conditions and no request / revision application has been received from Missionaries of Charity (MoC) for review of this refusal of renewal.

About Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010:

  • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act which is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
  • Under the Act, organisations are required to register themselves every five years.

About Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO):

  • Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.
  • NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.
  • NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots.
  • In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act, 1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
  • India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world; a study commissioned by the government put the number of NGOs in 2009 at 33 lakh.
  • That was one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres.
  • Ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Human Resource Department, etc provides funding to a handful of NGOs.
  • NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
  • Without this, no NGO can receive cash or anything of value higher than Rs 25,000.

Controversies Related to FCRA:

  • The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India. It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • The FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. The right to free speech is affected in two ways:
  • By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government.
  • NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival.
  • FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest. This chilling effect on free speech can lead to self-censorship.
  • Similar to this on unclear guidelines on public interest, in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015), the Supreme Court (SC) struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The SC held that the Act could be used in a manner that has a chilling effect on free speech.
  • Besides, given that the right to freedom of association is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), a violation of this right also constitutes a human rights violation.
  • In April 2016, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA, 2010.
  • It stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” as invoked under the FCRA failed the test of “legitimate restrictions”.
  • The terms were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.
  • In this context, though it is necessary to regulate corrupt NGOs, there needs to be clarity on terms like Public Interest.

Kerala Tops NITI Aayog’s Health Index

Why in News?

  • For the fourth year in a row, Kerala has topped a ranking of States on health indicators; Uttar Pradesh has come in at the bottom.

About the Health Index:

  • In 2017 the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the World Bank initiated an annual Health Index for tracking Overall Performance and Incremental Performance across all states and Union Territories (UTs).
  • In the current round of Health Index, three new indicators were added. These are Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), proportion of pregnant women received 4 or more ANCs and level of registration of deaths.
  • The Health Index is a weighted Composite Index based on select indicators in three domains: (a) Health Outcomes; (b) Governance and Information; and (c) Key Inputs and Processes.
  • The indicators have been selected based on their importance and availability of reliable data at least annually from existing data sources.
  • The Health Index covers some of the SDG Targets and tracer indicators related to Goal 3 on Good Health and Well Being.

Key Findings of Health Index 2021:

  • Nearly half the states and UTs did not reach the half way mark in the Composite Overall Index Score, and despite good performance, even the top ranking states and UTs could benefit from further improvements.
  • The Health Index Score for the Reference Year (2019-20) revealed wide disparities in Overall Performance across the Larger States.
  • Despite Good Performance, even the best performing states have significant room for improvement as the highest observed Overall Index Score was 82.20 for Kerala which is some distance from the frontier (maximum potential score is 100).
  • There is large inter-state variation in Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR), Under-five Mortality Rate (U5MR),
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), the four key Health Outcome indicators.

State Specific Findings of Health Index 2021:

  • Among the Larger States, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana emerged among the best three performers in terms of Overall Performance.
  • Uttar Pradesh with the lowest Overall Reference Year (2019-20) Index Score ranked at the bottom (Rank 19) in Overall Performance, however, it ranked at the top in terms of Incremental Performance by registering the highest incremental change from the Base Year (2018-19) to Reference Year (2019-20).
  • On the other hand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu were top two performers in terms of Overall Performance with the highest Reference Year (2019-20) Index Scores but ranked twelfth and eight respectively in terms of Incremental Performance.
  • Telangana performed well both in terms Overall Performance as well as Incremental Performance and secured the third position in both instances.
  • For the fourth consecutive round Kerala emerged as the best performer in terms of Overall Performance.
  • Among the Smaller States, Mizoram emerged as the best performer in Overall Performance as well as Incremental Performance
  • Among UTs, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir ranked among the bottom UTs in terms of Overall Performance but emerged as the leading performer in terms Incremental Performance.
  • The report found that 14 out of 19 larger states, four out of eight smaller states, and five out of seven Union Territories showed an improvement in the health index score between 2019 and 2010 as compared to the base year.
  • Kerala had the lowest neonatal mortality rate of five per 1,000 live births, while Madhya Pradesh had the highest rate at 35 per 1,000 live births.
  • The state also had the lowest under-Five mortality rate and the highest number of sex ratio at birth (measured as numbers of Female children born per 1,000 male children).
  • Himachal Pradesh showed the most Improvement in terms of neonatal mortality and under-five mortality. Punjab was ranked as the most improved state in terms of sex ratio at birth.

What are the Concerns?

  • All Larger States had shortage of required Specialists at the district hospitals.
  • In majority of the states, the LaQshya certification of DHs for Labour Room and Maternity OT was below 20 percent level.
  • According to the available data, half the states registered a decline in state government Health Expenditure to total state expenditure from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

Way Forward:

  • The Health Index is a useful tool to measure and compare the Overall Performance and Incremental Performance across states and UTs over time and nudging the states and UTs to shift the focus from inputs and outputs to outcomes.
  • The Health Index has strengthened the culture of use of data at the state/UT level to monitor performance and is contributing to the agenda of improving availability, quality and timeliness of data.

Any Citizen of India can buy Non-Agricultural land in J&K, says centre

Why in News?

  • The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory governments, at the first ever ‘J&K Real Estate Conference’ held in Jammu recently, have decided to throw open local real estate for “second homes and summer homes” to all the citizens of the country, in a Major Push to attract investments from real estate bigwigs.

About the News:

  • In October 2020, the Ministry issued a notification and amended the Land Revenue Act, paving the way for anyone from other parts of the country to buy land in J&K, including agricultural land.
  • There are 12 States, including Himachal Pradesh, which have provisions to regulate ownership and transfer of land under Article 371 of the Constitution. Earlier, only permanent residents – as defined by the Assembly — were eligible to buy immovable property.
  • Under the newly introduced Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, the term ‘being permanent resident of the State’ as a criterion has been ‘omitted’, paving the way for Investors outside Jammu and Kashmir to invest in the Union Territory.
  • As a result, any citizen of India can buy non-agriculture land in Jammu and Kashmir.

Does the Laws are Applicable for Ladakh too?

  • This law is only applicable for the UT of Jammu & Kashmir and not for Ladakh.

What does the Law Says?

  • Under the ‘transfer of land for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or education’, the government may now allow transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialized education in J&K”.
  • According to amendments made to “The Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. “No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist”.
  • The Restriction on Conversion of Agricultural Land and Process for Permission of Non-Agriculture clause, however, puts conditions on the use of agricultural land. “No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector”.
  • Under a new provision, an Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.
  • The introduction of the UT of J&K Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has resulted in the repeal of at least 11 land laws in vogue in J&K earlier, including the J&K Big Landed Estates Abolition Act that had resulted in famous ‘Land to tiller’ rights.

Panel to look into AFSPA withdrawal from Nagaland

Why in News?

  • Days after a botched ambush by an elite armed forces unit killed 13 civilians at Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, a decision has been taken to constitute a committee to study the possibility of withdrawing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the State.

About the News:

  • The committee will be headed by the Additional Secretary (Northeast) in the Ministry of Home Affairs and will include Nagaland’s Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police.
  • The other members will be Inspector General of Assam Rifles (North) and a representative of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
  • The committee would submit its report within 45 days. The withdrawal of the “disturbed area” notification and the AFSPA from Nagaland will be based on the recommendations of the committee.

What is the Issue?

  • MHA said the area comprising the whole of Nagaland is in such a “disturbed and dangerous condition” that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.
  • But, Nagaland CM criticised the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.

What does the AFSPA mean?

  • In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

Powers given to Armed Forces:

  • They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • If Reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

What is a “Disturbed Area” and who has the power to Declare it?

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, Language or Regional Groups or castes or Communities.
  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.

Has there been Any Review of the Act?

  • On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.
  • The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations: (a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; (b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and (c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
  • The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.

Special Category Status to States

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary has asserted that the Central Government has Extended a Special Package in lieu of the Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh.

What is Special Category Status (SCS)?

  • There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others.
  • The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.
  • First SCS was accorded in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland.
  • Over the years, eight more states were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and, finally, in 2010, Uttarakhand.
  • Until 2014-15, SCS meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.

What are the Differences between Special Status and Special Category Status?

  • The constitution provides special status through an Act that has to be passed by 2/3rds majority in both the houses of Parliament whereas the special category status is granted by the National Development Council, which is an administrative body of the government.
  • For example, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also special category status as per Article 371.
  • But now Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature. Now, both Special Status and Special Category status doesn’t apply to J&K anymore.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is holding consultations with the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh to grant them “special category status” on the lines of Article 371 of the Constitution.

What are the Criteria for Special Category Status?

  • Hilly and difficult terrain
  • Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
  • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
  • Economic and infrastructural backwardness
  • Non-viable nature of state

Who Grants Special Category Status to States?

  • The decision to grant special category status lies with the National Development Council, composed of the prime minister, union ministers, chief ministers and members of the planning commission, who guide and review the work of the commission.
  • Special category status for plan assistance has been granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states that are characterized by a number of features Necessitating Special Consideration.

What are the Benefits confer to the States with Special Category Status?

  • The Central Government bears 90 percent of the state expenditure on all centrally-Sponsored schemes and external aid while rest 10 percent is given as loan to state at zero Percent rate of interest. Usually, the ratio for general category States is 70% loan and 30% Grant.
  • Preferential treatment in getting Central Funds.
  • Concession on excise duty to attract Industries to the state.
  • 30 percent of the Centre’s gross budget also goes to special category states.
  • These states can avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
  • States with special category status are exempted from customs duty, corporate tax, income tax and other taxes to attract investment.
  • Special category states have the facility that if they have unspent money in a financial year; it does not lapse and gets carry forward for the next financial year.

What are the Concerns?

  • Considering special status to any new State will result in demands from other States and dilute the benefits further.
  • It is also not economically beneficial for States to seek special status as the benefits under the current dispensation are minimal.
  • Therefore, States facing special problems will be better off seeking a special package.

Raising Legal Age of Marriage for Women

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet has decided to raise the legal age of Marriage for women from 18 to 21.

About the News:

  • This decision is based on the recommendation of a panel led by Jaya Jaitly.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech last year proposed a panel on the “age of a girl entering motherhood” to lower maternal mortality rates and improve nutrition levels.
  • But when the decision to appoint a task force was announced, its terms of reference included examining “the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood” with health and Nutritional Status of Mothers and Infants.

What are the Important Recommendations?

  • The age of Marriage should be increased to 21 years.
  • The Government should look into increasing access to schools and colleges for girls, including their transportation to these institutes from far-flung areas.
  • Skill and Business training has also been recommended, as has Sex Education in schools.
  • These deliveries must come first, as, unless they are implemented and women are Empowered, the law will not be as effective.

What is the Rationale behind the proposal?

  • The committee has said the recommendation is not based on the rationale of population control (India’s total fertility rate is already declining) but more with women’s Empowerment and Gender Parity.
  • The committee has said access to education and livelihood must be enhanced Simultaneously for the law to be effective.

Criticism:

  • Women’s rights activists have opposed the suggestion and have cited evidence to show that such a move may be used to incarcerate young adults marrying without parents’ consent.
  • Also, this move would lead to criminalisation of a large number of marriages that will take place once the law comes into effect.

What the law says?

  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively.
  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

Why is the law being Relooked at?

  • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women.
  • Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
  • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
  • Also, according to a study, children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years).

FCRA Licence of 3 Minority NGOs Revoked

Why in News?

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled the FCRA registration of a Vadodara-based NGO that was accused by the Gujarat police of illegally converting members of the Hindu community, funding the anti-CAA protests and for criminal activities to strengthen Islam.

About the News:

  • The registration of two other Christian NGOs — the New Hope Foundation, based in Tamil Nadu, and Holy Spirit Ministries from Karnataka were also cancelled.
  • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of AFMI Charitable Trust was cancelled by the MHA for violating the provisions of the Act.
  • FCRA is mandatory for associations and non-government organisations (NGOs) to receive foreign funds.
  • Recently, MHA had put 10 Australian, American and European donors on its watchlist, following which the Reserve Bank of India wrote to all banks that any funds sent by the foreign donors should be brought to the notice of the Ministry and not cleared without its permission.

About Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010:

  • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act which is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
  • Under the Act, organisations are required to register themselves every five years.

About Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO):

  • Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit Business Organisation.
  • NGOs are Groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.
  • NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots.
  • In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act, 1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
  • India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world; a study commissioned by the government put the number of NGOs in 2009 at 33 lakh.
  • That was one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres.
  • Ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Human Resource Department, etc provides funding to a handful of NGOs.
  • NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
  • Without this, no NGO can receive cash or anything of value higher than Rs 25,000.

Controversies Related to FCRA:

  • The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India. It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • The FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. The right to free speech is affected in two ways:
  • By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government.
  • NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival.
  • FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest. This chilling effect on free speech can lead to self-censorship.
  • Similar to this on unclear guidelines on public interest, in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015), the Supreme Court (SC) struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The SC held that the Act could be used in a manner that has a chilling effect on free speech.
  • Besides, given that the right to freedom of association is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), a violation of this right also constitutes a human rights violation.
  • In April 2016, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA, 2010.
  • It stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” as invoked under the FCRA failed the test of “legitimate restrictions”.
  • The terms were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.
  • In this context, though it is necessary to regulate corrupt NGOs, there needs to be clarity on terms like Public Interest.

SC Dismisses Maharashtra plea for SECC-2011 raw data

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has recently said the law negated a caste census and “the Constitution believes in population and not in caste or religion” even as the Centre insisted that data collated during a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) in 2011 was “fraught with mistakes and unusable” for any purpose whatsoever.

What is the Issue?

  • The court’s oral observations came moments before it dismissed a writ petition filed by Maharashtra to direct the Centre to part with the raw data collected in the SECC-2011.
  • The State stated it wanted to use the data for implementing reservation to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in its local body polls.
  • The Centre, clarified to the court that the SECC was not a “census” undertaken under the Census Act of 1948 by the office of the Registrar General of India. It was an “executive act”, independent of the census exercise, and done on the orders of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The SECC was organised not as an OBC survey but to get the caste status of all in the country in order to improve the delivery of targeted benefits.
  • An affidavit filed by the Social Justice Ministry in the Supreme Court in September maintained that a caste census of the Backward Classes was “administratively difficult and cumbersome”.
  • Maharashtra said the State had a right to know about the data collected in the SECC, regardless of whether the census was done on the basis of an executive fiat or under the Census Act.

What were the court’s observations?

  • The court observed that it cannot issue a mandamus to produce the raw data if the SECC was inaccurate and had no “force of law”.
  • The affidavit emphatically states that the data which is collated is not accurate and is unusable for any purpose whatsoever.
  • If that is the stand taken by the Centre, we fail to understand as to how mandamus can be issued to the respondents to permit State of Maharashtra to use the data for any purpose. Such a direction, if issued, would lead to more confusion and uncertainty which cannot be countenanced.
  • While rejecting Maharashtra’s plea, the court clarified that the State could pursue other remedies permissible in law.
  • It noted that merely because Maharashtra was obliged to comply with the “triple test” requirement before enforcing the reservation for OBCs in the local bodies did not mean that the Centre could be ordered to share information which it itself had classified unusable.
  • Maharashtra could not be allowed to employ wrong data in the SECC for reservation in its local body elections.

What is a Census?

  • The origin of the Census in India goes back to the colonial exercise of 1881.
  • Census has evolved and been used by the government, policymakers, academics, and others to capture the Indian population, access resources, map social change, delimitation exercise, etc.
  • However, as early as the 1940s, W.W.M. Yeatts, Census Commissioner for India for the 1941 Census, had pointed out that “the census is a large, immensely powerful, but blunt Instrument unsuited for Specialized Inquiry.”

What is SECC 2011?

  • The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 was a major exercise to obtain data about the socio-economic status of various communities.
  • It had two components: a survey of the rural and urban households and ranking of these households based on pre-set parameters, and a caste census.
  • However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.
  • SECC 2011 was conducted by three separate authorities but under the overall coordination of Department of Rural Development in the Government of India.
  • Census in Rural Area has been conducted by the Department of Rural Development (DoRD).
  • Census in Urban areas is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).
  • Caste Census is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs: Registrar General of India (RGI) and Census Commissioner of India.

Difference between Census & SECC:

  • The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
  • Since the Census falls under the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered confidential, whereas all the personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government Departments to grant and/or restrict benefits to households.

How have caste details been collected so far?

  • While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators. The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.
  • So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.

What kind of caste data is published in the Census?

  • Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.

Pros of Caste Census:

  • The Precise Number of the population of each caste would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure Equitable Representation of all of them.

Concerns Associated:

  • There is a possibility that it will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas.
  • It has been alleged that the mere act of labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to Perpetuate the System.

Outsiders bought 7 plots in J&K, says Home Ministry

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Rajya Sabha recently that “seven plots of land” have been purchased by persons from outside the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

About the News:

  • In October 2020, the Ministry issued a notification and amended the Land Revenue Act, paving the way for anyone from other parts of the country to buy land in J&K, including Agricultural Land.
  • There are 12 States, including Himachal Pradesh, which have provisions to regulate ownership and transfer of land under Article 371 of the Constitution. Earlier, only permanent residents – as defined by the Assembly — were eligible to buy Immovable Property.

Does the Laws are Applicable for Ladakh too?

  • This law is only applicable for the UT of Jammu & Kashmir and not for Ladakh.

What does the Law Says?

  • Under the ‘transfer of land for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or education’, the government may now allow transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialized education in J&K”.
  • According to amendments made to “The Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. “No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist”.
  • The Restriction on Conversion of Agricultural Land and Process for Permission of Non-Agriculture clause, however, puts conditions on the use of agricultural land. “No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector”.
  • Under a new provision, an Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of the Armed Forces.

 

FUGITIVE ECONOMIC OFFENDERS AND THEIR EXTRADITION

Why in News?

  • The UK High Court rejected a plea of Fugitive Economic Offender Vijay Mallya to move the Supreme Court against the dismissal of his appeal challenging the lower court’s approval of his Extradition to India in the IDBI Bank fraud case.

Who is a Fugitive Economic Offender?

  • A person can be named an offender under this law if there is an arrest warrant against him or her for committing any offence listed in the schedule of the act and for involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs. 100 crore or more and has fled from India to escape Legal Action.
  • Major criteria that have to be satisfied are:

1. The Person has left the country to avoid facing prosecution.

2. He refuses to return to India to face prosecution.

About Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018:

  • The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 seeks to confiscate properties of economic offenders who have left the country to avoid facing criminal prosecution.
  • Offences involving amounts of Rs. 100 crore or more fall under the purview of this law.
  • Some of the offences listed in the schedule of the bill are-counterfeiting government stamps or currency, cheque dishonour for insufficiency of funds, money laundering, transactions defrauding creditors etc.

What are its Proceedings as per the Act?

  • To declare a person an FEO, an application will be filed in a Special Court (designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.
  • The Special Court will require the person to appear at a specified place at least six weeks from issue of notice.  Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears.
  • Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender.
  • Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender resulting from the proceeds of crime. Confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad including benami property.
  • Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim.
  • All cases under the proposed law will be tried under the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act and the administrator will sell the fugitive’s properties to pay off the lenders.
  • The proposed law will have an overriding effect over all other pieces of legislation.

What is Extradition?

  • It is the formal process of one state surrendering an individual to another state for prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in the requesting country’s jurisdiction.
  • This is generally enabled through a bilateral or multilateral treaty.
  • The legal basis for extradition with countries with which India does not have an Extradition treaty is provided by Section 3 (4) of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.

About Indian Extradition Act, 1962:

  • In India, the extradition of a fugitive criminal is governed under the Indian Extradition Act, 1962. This is for both extraditing of persons to India and from India to foreign countries. The basis of the extradition could be a treaty between India and another country. India has extradition treaties with 39 countries currently.
  • Example, underworld don Abu Salem was extradited from Portugal to India to face charges. He, along with his wife, was extradited on the conditions that they would not be given the death penalty in India. This was so because European law prevents extradition to a country where capital punishment is in practice.

What is the Extradition Procedure in India?

  • Information about the fugitive criminals wanted in foreign countries is received from the country or through Interpol.
  • The Interpol wing of the CBI then passes the information to the Concerned police departments.
  • The information is also passed on to the Immigration Authorities.
  • Then, action can be taken under the 1962 Act.

Way Forward:

  • Extradition is as much a Political Process as it is a Judicial one.
  • The expeditious processing of extradition requests and the commitment to prepare for and defend the case before Courts depends on bilateral relations and the opportune use of diplomacy and negotiations to push for the process by the requested country.
  • India needs to take steps to dispel concerns regarding poor Prison Conditions and potential human rights violations of the requested Person.
  • India could consider signing international instruments, such as the UN Convention against Torture (1984) to establish India’s zero tolerance towards torture and custodial violence.
  • For addressing investigational delays, it is imperative to improve the capacity and organizational efficiencies of law enforcement agencies so that they may conduct speedy investigation in these cases.
  • To ensure that India’s extradition requests are in compliance with treaty conditions and documentary requirements, India must put in Place Suitable Organizational Mechanisms to familiarize itself with laws and regulations of Treaty states.
  • India could adopt the good practices of the US’ Office of International Affairs (OIA), Washington’s primary body to handle extradition requests, and employ lawyers and station Trained Liaison officers in countries with which the country has extradition Relations.

GUIDE TO DETECT FAKE NEWS

Why in News?

  • The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), a think-tank under the Union Home Ministry has published guidelines to aid law enforcement agencies to identify fake News and Videos.

About BPRD:

  • The Government of India established the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), under the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1970s.
  • It replaced Police Research and Advisory Council (1966), with the primary objective of modernization of police force.
  • In 1995 Government of India decided to entrust issues relating to Correctional Administration Work to the BPR&D.
  • Thereby BPR&D has to ensure the implementation of prison reforms as well.
  • The Government of India further decided to create National Police Mission under the administrative control of BPR&D to transform the police forces in the country.
  • The primary objective of modernization of police force are:
    • To take direct and active interest in the issues
    • To promote a speedy and systematic study of the police problems,
    • To apply science and technology in the methods and techniques used by police.

Why these Guidelines were Necessary?

  • Digital news has led to Increased incidence of Fake News or Yellow Journalism.
  • Fake news is published with the intent to damage an agency, entity or a Person and gain financially or politically and it often uses Sensationalist, Dishonest or Outright Fabricated headlines to increase readership.
  • In the wake of the pandemic, fake news and videos have spread panic, increased hatred and communal violence. Miscreants have used fake URLs to mislead people who wanted to donate to PM-CARES Fund.

What are the Guidelines Given?

Spotting Fake News:

  • The guideline mentions several indicative signs that officials must look for to identify possible fake news.
  • The officers should read beyond “outrageous” headlines designed to attract clicks and read the whole article.
  • A possible case of fake news could be when headlines, visuals or captions do not support the content or when genuine contents or sources are impersonated with false or made-up sources.
  • A search on the author of the article would also enable insights into the veracity of the news.
  • The investigating officer must stay alert to clues such as language since such websites and links usually have Spelling Mistakes.

Cross-Checking:

  • The officials should refer to trusted news sources to verify whether the story is being reported elsewhere.
  • When a story is reported in multiple places, it is more likely to be true.
  • The manual also gives an indicative list of websites that could be accessed for fact-checking.
  • The guidelines ask police and other investigating agencies to use open domain tools for collecting more information on fake videos.
  • BPRD has cautioned that the Investigating officer may consider the case sensitivity before resorting to these tools since there is the risk of data leakage that may influence or mislead an Investigation.

INTER-STATE MIGRANT WORKMEN ACT, 1979

Why in News?

  • The unprecedented distress and misery faced by migrant workers due to the current lockdown has drawn attention to a beneficial legislation dedicated to their welfare.

 Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979:

  • Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 seeks to regulate the employment of inter-State migrants and their conditions of service.

Applicability:

  • It is applicable to every establishment that employs five or more migrant workmen from other States; or if it had employed five or more such workmen on any day in the preceding 12 months.
  • It is also applicable to contractors who employed a similar number of inter-State workmen.
  • The Act would apply regardless of whether the five or more workmen were in addition to others employed in the establishment or by the contractors.
  • It envisages a system of registration of such establishments.

Provisions:

  • The principal employer is prohibited from employing inter-State workmen without a certificate of registration from the relevant authority.
  • The law also lays down that every contractor who recruits workmen from one State for deployment in another State should obtain a licence to do so.
  • The wage rates, holidays, hours of work and other conditions of service of an inter-State migrant  workmen shall be the same as those extended to other workmen in the same establishment, if the nature of their work is similar.
  • In other cases, it would be as prescribed by the Appropriate Government.
  • In no case, shall the wages be lower than what is prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act.

Beneficial Provisions for Inter-State Migrants:

  • The provision for registration of establishments employing inter-State workers creates a system of accountability.
  • It acts as the first layer of formalising the utilisation of their labour.
  • It helps the government keep track of the number of workers employed and provides a legal basis for regulating their conditions of service.
  • As part of the licensing process, contractors are bound by certain conditions.
  • These include committing them to providing terms and conditions of the agreement or any other arrangement on the basis of which they recruit workers.
  • These terms include the remuneration payable, hours of work, fixation of wages and other essential amenities in respect of the inter-State migrant workmen.

DATA RELATED TO BIRTH RATE AND DEATH RATE

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Registrar General of India released data related to birth rate, death rate and infant mortality rate in its Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin for 2018.

Highlights of the Report:

Birth Rate:

  • India’s birth rate has Declined drastically over the last four decades from 36.9 in 1971 to 20.0 in 2018.
  • The rates are Calculated per one Thousand of the Population.
  • The rural-urban differential has also narrowed. However, the birth rate has continued to be higher in Rural Areas compared to Urban Areas.
  • Birth rate is a crude measure of fertility of a population and a crucial determinant of Population Growth.
  • Bihar (26.2) continues to remain at the top of list in birth rate while Andaman and Nicobar (11.2) is at the Bottom.

Death Rate:

  • The death rate of India has witnessed a significant decline over the last four decades from 14.9 in 1971 to 6.2 in 2018.
  • The rates are calculated per one thousand of the population.
  • In the last decade, death rate at an all-India level has declined from 7.3 to 6.2.
  • The decline has been steeper in rural areas.
  • Chhattisgarh has the highest death rate at 8 and Delhi, an almost entirely urban state, has a lowest death rate of 3.3.
  • Mortality is one of the basic components of population change. The data related to it is essential for demographic studies and Public Health Administration.

Infant Mortality Rate:

  • Infant mortality is the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births.
  • IMR has decreased to 32 about one-fourth as compared to 1971 (129).
  • The IMR at an all-India level has declined from 50 to 32 in the last decade.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the highest IMR of 48 and Nagaland has the lowest IMR of 4.

Sample Registration System (SRS):

  • The SRS is a demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.
  • It was initiated on a pilot basis by the Registrar General of India in a few states in 1964-65, it became fully operational during 1969-70.
  • The field investigation consists of continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part time enumerators, generally anganwadi workers & teachers, and an independent survey every six months by SRS supervisors. The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched.

Registrar General of India:

  • Registrar General of India was founded in 1961 by the Government of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It arranges, conducts and analyses the results of the demographic surveys of India including Census of India and Linguistic Survey of India.
  • The position of Registrar is usually held by a civil servant holding the rank of Joint Secretary.

MODIFICATIONS IN PMRF SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development has announced amendments in the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Scheme.

Highlights:

  • After the amendments, for the students from any recognised institute/ university (other than IISc/ IITs/NITs/IISERs/IIEST/CF IIITs), the requirement of GATE Score is reduced to 650 from 750 apart from minimum CGPA of 8 or equivalent.
  • There will be two channels of entries, one direct entry and lateral entry.
  • In lateral entry, the students, who are pursuing PhD in PMRF granting institutions (completed 12 months or 24 months as per certain requirements) can also apply to become fellow under the scheme as per new guidelines.
  • The NITs, which appear in top 25 institutions as per NIRF Ranking can also become PMRF Granting institution.
  • The Minister hoped that the modifications would enable more students to avail of the Benefit under the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Scheme.

Research and Innovation Division:

  • To boost research a dedicated Division is being created in the ministry with the name of “Research and Innovation Division”.
  • This division will be headed by a director who will be coordinating research work of various institutions coming under MHRD.

Prime Minister’s Research Fellows Scheme:

  • The PMRF Scheme has been designed for improving the quality of research in various higher educational institutions in the country.
  • With attractive fellowships, the scheme seeks to attract the best talent into research thereby Realizing the Vision of Development Through Innovation.
  • The Scheme was announced in the Budget 2018-19.
  • The Institutes which can offer PMRF include all the IITs, all the IISERs, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and some of the top Central Universities/NITs that offer science and/or technology degrees.
  • The metrics of the candidates are judged (but not restricted to) by a strong research proposal, publications record and grades & publication in reputed journals/conferences.

EPIDEMIC DISEASE ACT, 1897

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Union Government Directed States and Union Territories to invoke the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 to Fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

Background Info:

  • The Epidemic Diseases Bill was introduced in 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague.
  • Need: Since the existing laws were insufficient to deal with various matters such as “overcrowded houses, neglected latrines and huts, accumulations of filth, insanitary cowsheds and stables, and the disposal of house refuse.
  • Special Powers: The Bill had called for special powers for governments of Indian provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers of trains and sea routes.

About Epidemic Disease Act, 1897:

  • Objective:
    • The Epidemic Diseases Act aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
    • Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
  • Powers to Central Government:
    • Section 2A of the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic.
    • Health is a State subject, but by invoking Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, advisories and directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be enforceable.
    • It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
  • Penalty for Disobedience:
    • This act provides for penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant).
  • Legal Protection to Implementing Officers:
    • Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.

    Enforcement of the Act in the Recent Past:

    • The Epidemics Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as Swine Flu, Dengue.
    • For Example in 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.

    Recent Changes in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897:

    • Recently, the Cabinet amended the Act through an ordinance stating that commission or abetment of acts of violence against Healthcare Service Personnel shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
    • In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years and a fine of Rs1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

ISSUE OF RENT CONTROL DURING COVID-19

Why in News?

  • With the social and economic impacts of the current pandemic and associated lockdown, there is a clarion call made to landlords by tenants to ‘forgive’ rent for a month or two.

Highlights:

  • Government, civil society, academia, and migrants themselves are already urging landlords to stop evictions as it would exacerbate the pandemic.
  • Governments are Currently ‘Ordering’ or Requesting Landlords to excuse rent and stop Evictions on the Basis of the Disaster Management (DM) Act of 2005.

Problems related to India’s Rent Arrangements:

  • Informality in the Rental Housing Market:
    • The vast majority of rent arrangements in India are informal and unrecorded.
    • Due to this it is uncertain how many people are giving out their houses on rent, for how much, how long, or under what terms and conditions.

Loopholes in Existing Legislations:

  • Typical rent control laws have historically favoured tenants, considering the landlords as petty capitalists exploiting poor, vulnerable tenants.
  • Consumption data for poor households in urban areas indicate a uniform lack of savings or access to social and economic safety nets for both landlords and tenants.
  • That means many times landlords themselves, by and large, cannot afford a no-rent month.
  • Disaster Management(DM) Act of 2005 does not have any provisions for demanding continuation of rental housing arrangements.
  • There is no legal obligation for landlords to excuse rent or not evict tenants in the current pandemic.

Way Ahead:

  • Removing Hurdles in Existing Laws:
    • The focus has to shift away from the DM Act to rent control acts that actually aim to regulate rental housing.
    • Here some medium to long-term thinking on rent control laws in States, as well as the Central government’s Model Tenancy Act, 2019, could be utilised.

Need of Specific Provisions During Emergencies in Rent Law:

  • Model Tenancy Act, Need a Force Majeure clause for Emergencies such as the Pandemic.
  • In such times there is a strong case for passing an order to prevent evictions.
  • When passed under a rent law, for registered tenancies, it will carry a far Stronger Legal sanction than under a Disaster Law.

Formalisation of the Field:

  • There is a need for making rent Act applicable across more and more tenancies. This means that all tenancies, including those informal in nature, must get registered under the Act.

Help in Collection of Tenancy Related Data:

  • By formalisation we will know who actually the landlords and tenants are, and where these Houses are.
  • The advantage of having registered tenancies would then be evident because the government would be able to channel funds directly into the accounts of landlords and Tenants.
  • Proposed MTA emphasises on the registration of rent agreements through to-be established rent authorities in every State.
  • All States need to pursue it. Tamil Nadu has already launched such an authority that manages a portal for simplified registration.

Mobilisation of Housing, Welfare and Disaster Funds:

  • We still need to consider that landlords may not be able to afford a rent-free month they need the rent for their own survival.
  • These kinds of funds can make up for this loss of Rent. These types of funds could also be crowd-sourced, acquired from corporate social interests, and grants from international and national donor organisations.

‘LOST AT HOME’ REPORT BY UNICEF

Why in News?

  • More than Five Million People were internally displaced in India due to Natural Disasters, Conflict and Violence in 2019, constituting the highest number of new Internal Displacements in the World.

The ‘Lost at Home’ Report:

  • The report is published by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • It says that almost 33 million new displacements were recorded in 2019 — around 25 million were due to natural disasters and 8.5 million as a consequence of conflict and violence. Of these, there were 12 million new displacements involving children, including around 3.8 million of them caused by conflict and violence, and 8.2 million due to disasters linked mostly to weather-related events.
  • The report said that natural disasters resulted in more new displacements than conflict and violence.
  • Almost 10 million new displacements in 2019 were recorded in East Asia and the Pacific (39 %) — and almost the same number in South Asia (9.5 million).
  • The report looks at the risks internally displaced children face —child labour, child marriage, trafficking among them — and the actions urgently needed to protect them.

Displacement in India:

  • India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and China all suffered from natural disasters leading to displacement in the millions, which accounted for 69% of global disaster-induced displacements.
  • These were overwhelmingly caused by extreme conditions created by dangerous storms and floods.
  • In India, the total number of new internal displacements in 2019 stood at 5,037,000 – including 5,018,000 due to natural disasters and 19,000 because of conflict and violence.

Global Scenario:

  • India is followed by the Philippines, Bangladesh and China.
  • The Philippines accounted for 4.27 million new internal displacements due to natural disasters, conflict and violence, Bangladesh 4.08 million and China 4.03 million.
  • The largest number of internally displaced children due to conflict is found in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Internally displaced persons are concentrated in two regions — the Middle East and North Africa and West and Central Africa. The MENA region recorded over 12 million IDPs as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2019. Almost all of them lived in just three countries — Syria, Yemen, and Iraq — and around 5 million were children.

What Makes the Situation Worse?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is only making a critical situation worse.
  • Camps or Informal Settlements are often overcrowded and lack Adequate hygiene and health services.
  • Physical Distancing is Often not Possible, Creating Conditions that are Highly conducive to the spread of the disease, the report said.

LABOUR INTENSIVE PROGRAMMES TO RESTORE THE RURAL ECONOMY

Why in News?

  • The Jharkhand government has recently launched three labour intensive programmes to restore the rural economy.
  • The schemes have been launched seeing the possibility of a steep rise in the rate of unemployment in villages due to the arrival of large-scale stranded migrant workers from Other States.

Highlights:

  • The three schemes have been devised in convergence with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).
  • The schemes are— Birsa Harit Gram Yojana (BHGY), Neelambar Pitambar JAL Sammridhi Yojana (NPJSY) and Veer Sahid Poto Ho Khel Vikas Scheme (VSPHKVS) — to create wage employment for workers in rural areas.

Birsa Harit Gram Yojana:

  • The BHGY is envisaged at bringing over two lakh acres of unused government fallow land under the afforestation programme.
  • About five lakh families will be provided 100 fruit-bearing plants.
  • The initial plantation, maintenance, land work and afforestation will be taken up through MGNREGA.
  • Each family is estimated to receive an annual income of ₹50,000 from fruit harvest after three years while the ownership of land will remain with the government.

Neelambar Pitambar JAL Sammridhi Yojana:

  • As per NPJSY, the government aims at creating agro-water storage units by arresting rainwater and runaway groundwater.
  • Nearly 5 lakh acre of cultivable land can be irrigated through the initiative.
  • An estimated 10 crore person days will be generated through the scheme in the next 4-5 Years.

Veer Sahid Poto Ho Khel Vikas Scheme:

  • Under VSPHKVS, as many as 5,000 sports grounds will be developed across the State.
  • The government hopes to generate one crore person days through the scheme in the current financial year.

Concern:

  • According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CIME) data, the State is reeling under severe joblessness with unemployment rate pegged at 47.1% — double that of the national average (23.5%).
  • The arrival of an estimated 5 lakh to 6 lakh migrant workers is likely to worsen the situation.

MPLADS

Why in News?

  • All Opposition parties have been unanimous in their criticism of the government’s recent move to suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years, approved by the Cabinet.
  • To use these funds to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country.

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme:

  • The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is an ongoing Central Sector Scheme which was launched in 1993-94.
  • The Scheme enables the Members of Parliament to recommend works for creation of durable community assets based on locally felt needs to be taken up in their constituencies in the area of national priorities namely drinking water, education, public health, sanitation, roads etc.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme.

Features:

  • The MPLADS is a Plan Scheme fully funded by the Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 percent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the Scheme Guidelines.
  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies and Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions). Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
  • All works to meet locally felt infrastructure and development needs, with an emphasis on creation of durable assets in the constituency are permissible under MPLADS as prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Expenditure on specified items of non-durable nature are also permitted as listed in the Guidelines.

Implementation:

  • A Member of Parliament shall give his/ her choice of Nodal District in a prescribed format to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with copy to the State Government and to the District Magistrate of the chosen District.
  • The annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore shall be released, in two equal instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each, by Government of India directly to the District Authority of the Nodal District of the Member of Parliament concerned.
  • Each MP shall recommend eligible work on the MP’s letter head duly signed by the MP to the district authority.
  • The District Authority shall identify the Implementing Agency capable of executing the eligible work qualitatively, timely and satisfactorily. It shall be responsible for timely and effective implementation of such works.
  • All recommended eligible works should be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, after completing all formalities.
  • The District Authority shall, however, inform MPs regarding rejection, if any, within 45 days from the date of receipt of recommendations, with reasons thereof.
  • MPLAD Scheme can be converged in individual/stand-alone projects of other Central and State Government schemes provided such works of Central/State Governments Schemes are eligible under MPLADS.
  • Funds from Local Bodies can similarly also be pooled with MPLADS works. Wherever such pooling is done, funds from other scheme sources should be used first and the MPLADS funds should be released later, so that MPLADS fund results in Completion of the Project.
  • One MP – One Idea: Based on the innovative ideas received from the local people regarding developmental projects, a ‘One MP – One Idea’ Competition may be held in each Lok Sabha constituency annually to select the three best innovations for cash awards and certificate of appreciation for the next five best innovations.

FINAL DRAFT OF NEW EDUCATION POLICY

Why in News?

  • The final draft of the New Education Policy (NEP) is said to be silent on student participation in decision-making bodies, committees, and institutional processes of a university or college.

Highlights:

  • The final policy draft limits giving students plenty of opportunities to be involved in sports, culture/arts clubs, activity clubs, community service projects.
  • It speaks of creating a “systematised arrangement” to support “students from rural backgrounds, including increasing hostel facilities as needed”.
  • The provision on setting up “systems and mechanisms” to enable student participation in the institutional processes of higher education institutions is missing from the document shared by the HRD Ministry.

Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE):

  • The final policy document has dropped a proposal to set up a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) as suggested by the Kasturirangan Committee.
  • The RSA was to be headed by the Prime Minister and was intended to replace the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE).
  • Following objections from the state governments to this proposal the proposal has been scrapped altogether.
  • The policy circulated among ministries instead speaks of strengthening CABE and giving it a greater mandate.
  • The final draft of the NEP has also dropped the recommendation on setting up a “permanent Indian Education Service (IES) cadre comprising a specialist cadre of the Bureaucracy”.

 

 

ONE NATION – ONE RATION CARD SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Five more States Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Daman and Diu have been integrated with the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme recently.

About the Scheme:

  • Since Ration Cards are issued by State Governments, this implied that beneficiaries could procure food grains only from the designated ration shops within the concerned state.
  • If a beneficiary were to shift to another state, he/she would need to apply for a new ration card in the second state. There were other complications.
  • For instance, after marriage, a woman needed to get her name removed from the ration card issued to her parents, and get it added to the ration card issued to her husband’s family.
  • The ONORC scheme attempts to address this gap in TPDS delivery. Essentially, the scheme has been launched keeping in mind the internal migration of our country, since people keep moving to different states in search of better job opportunities and higher standards of living.
  • As per Census 2011, 4.1 crore people were inter-state migrants and 1.4 crore people migrated (inter and intra-state) for employment.
  • With the ONORC scheme being implemented, the beneficiary can buy food grains from ration shops located in any of the states.
  • Currently, about 60 crore beneficiaries from 17 states and UTs can benefit from the ration card portability and they can purchase the subsidised food grains using the existing ration cards. The government hopes to implement the scheme across India by June 1, 2020.

Standard Format of ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’:

  • A Standard format for ration card has been prepared after taking into account the format used by Different States.
  • For national portability, the state governments have been asked to issue the ration card in bi-lingual format, wherein besides the local language, the other language could be Hindi or English.
  • The states have also been told to have a 10-digit standard ration card number, wherein first two digits will be state code and the Next Two Digits will be running ration card numbers.
  • Besides this, a set of another two digits will be appended with ration card number to create unique member IDs for each member of the Household in a Ration Card.

Challenges Ahead:

  • Prone to Corruption: Every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.
  • The Scheme will Increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them.
  • Tamil Nadu has Opposed the Proposal of the Centre, saying it would result in undesirable consequences and is against federalism.

OPPOSITION RISES TO PERMANENT BRU SETTLEMENT IN TRIPURA

Why in News?

  • In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, two community-specific groups have renewed their opposition to the permanent settlement of Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura.
  • The two groups namely, Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (mostly representing Bengali people displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan post-partition in 1947) and the Mizo Convention have submitted a memorandum protesting against the proposed settlement of the displaced Brus in Tripura.

Background Info:

  • Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
  • In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state. In 1997, following ethnic clashes, nearly 37,000 Brus fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura.
  • Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation, while 32,000 still live in six relief camps in North Tripura.
  • In 2018, community leaders from the Bru camps signed an agreement with the Centre and the two state governments, providing for repatriation in Mizoram.
  • But most camp residents rejected the terms of the agreement. The camp residents say that the agreement doesn’t guarantee their safety in Mizoram.
  • The Centre, the governments of Mizoram and Tripura and leaders of Bru organisations signed a quadripartite agreement in January (2020) to let the remaining 35,000 refugees who have stayed back to be resettled in Tripura.
  • The rehabilitation package offered included financial assistance of ₹4 lakh and land for constructing a house for Each family.

 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups:

  • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. In India, tribal population makes up for 8.6% of the total population.
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups. In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.
  • PVTGs have some basic characteristics – they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.
  • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha.

INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRES AUTHORITY

Why in News?

  • Recently, the central government has established International Financial Services Centres Authority to regulate all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) with headquarters in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).

About International Financial Services Centre (IFSC):

  • It enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Financial Institutions (such as banks, insurance companies, etc.) to India.
  • It offers a business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centres in the world like London and Singapore.
  • It intended to provide Indian corporates with easier access to global financial markets, and to complement and promote further development of financial markets in India.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

About International Financial Services Centres Authority:

  • They will regulate financial products such as securities, deposits or contracts of insurance, financial services, and financial institutions which have been previously approved by any appropriate regulator such as Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) etc., in an IFSC.
  • They will also regulate any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions in an IFSC, which may be notified by the Central Government.
  • They may also recommend to the central government any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions, which may be permitted in an IFSC.

Composition of Members:

  • It consists of nine members, appointed by the central government.
  • It includes chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA); and two members from the Ministry of Finance. In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
  • The term of all members of the IFSC Authority will be three years, subject to Reappointment.

Advantage of IFSC:

  • The banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC which are regulated by multiple regulators – the RBI, SEBI, and IRDAI will be unified under the IFSC authority.
  • Both national and international institutions dealing with international financial services would utilise the IFSC platform for inbound and outbound investments with improved ease of doing business, thereby making GIFT IFSC a Global Financial Hub.

“TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE” REPORT: SIPRI

Why in News?

  • ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2019’ was recently released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
  • According to the report, the global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019 with India and China emerging among the top three Spenders.

Global Scenario:

  • Global military spending was 2.2% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with an increase of 3.6% from 2018. The increase of 3.6% was the largest annual growth in spending since 2010.
  • Top five largest spenders accounted for 62% of the global expenditure.
  • The top most countries spending on military are as USA>China>India>Russia>Saudi Arabia.
  • India was at the 4th position in 2018 with Saudi Arabia at the 3rd.

India Specific Data:

  • India’s defence expenditure is growing in absolute terms but defence expenditure has been going down as a percentage of its GDP, due to the increasing trend in the growth of GDP.
  • In 2019, the expenditure was 2.4% of India’s GDP which was lower than that of 2.7% in 2010.
  • Total Defence Allocation, including Defence Pension, accounted for 15.48% of the total Central Government expenditure for the year 2019-20.
  • It was 6.8% more than that of 2018 and has grown by 37% over the decade of 2010–19. If compared to 1990, it has gone up by 259%.
  • Total defence budget accounts for 15.49% of the total central government expenditure for the year 2020-21. It shows a growth of 9.37% over Budget Estimates 2019-20.
  • India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased Military Spending.

About SIPRI:

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)  hink tank is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established in 1966 at Stockholm (Sweden).
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public

ASSAM’S BTAD MAY FACE GOVERNOR’S RULE

Why in News?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic may earn Governor’s rule for the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in Assam.

About BTAD:

  • BTAD includes four districts of western and northern Assam which comprises of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri.
  • The State’s Governor is the constitutional head of the BTAD that falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and is administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
  • The BTAD and other areas mentioned under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution were also exempted from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 which was passed recently.
  • Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) would include the villages which are dominated by Bodos but are outside BTAD presently. Villages with non-Bodo population would be excluded from it.
  • Bodos living in the hills are conferred a Scheduled Hill Tribe status.
  • Bodo language with Devanagari script is the associate official language for the entire Assam.

Who are these Bodos?

  • Bodos are the single largest community among the notified Scheduled Tribes in Assam. Bodos are a part of Bodo-Kachari and constitute about 5-6% of Assam’s population.
  • The first organised demand for a Bodo state came in 1967-68.
  • The Assam Accord of 1985, gave rise to Bodo aspirations and in 1987, ABSU revived the Bodo statehood demand.
  • Bodo Security Force which arose in 1986 as an armed group renamed itself NDFB, and later split into factions.
  • The first Bodo accord was signed with the ABSU in 1993. It led to the creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) with some limited political powers.
  • In 2003, the second Bodo Accord was signed by the extremist group Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF), the Centre and the state. This led to the creation of BTC, which is an autonomous body under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

What is the Issue Now?

  • Elections were scheduled to be held for the BTC on April 4 but were deferred indefinitely in view of the pandemic. The council’s current term expires on April 27.
  • One of the delegation argued that the pandemic and its aftermath would make it impossible to hold the elections in the near future. So they asked for the Governor’s rule in BTAD.
  • The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which has been ruling BTC since its creation in 2003 on the other hand, wants the term extended by six months or elections held soon.
  • The election can be conducted as BTAD does not have a single COVID-19 case, but it is also risky to conduct elections for the BTC which may put many lives in danger.
  • If the election is not conduced, then the Governor’s rule would be imposed until the election is conducted.

SCALING UP WORKS UNDER MGNREGS, PMAY-G, PMGSY, NRLM

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Union Minister for Rural Development held a Video Conference with Rural Development Ministers and concerned officers of States and Union Territories.

Highlights:

  • The meeting was held for scaling up of works under
    • Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),
    • Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G),
    • Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and  National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in the light of the relaxation granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Non-Containment Areas amid the COVID outbreak.

MGNREGA:

  • The Ministry has released the fund to liquidate all outstanding dues of previous years towards wages and materials.
  • The Minister assured the States and UTs that adequate financial resources are available for Rural Development Programmes.
  • There is the need for the States and UTs to proactively start Rural Development Schemes relating to employment generation, infrastructure creation and strengthening of rural livelihoods while taking all necessary COVID-19 related precautions.
  • Under MGNREGS, the focus should be on water conservation, water recharge and irrigation work in convergence with the Schemes of the Ministry of Jal Shakti and Department of Land resources.

MGNREGA – Ministry of Rural Development:

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005.
  • The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Government of India is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments.
  • This act was introduced with an aim of improving the purchasing power of the rural people, primarily semi or unskilled work to people living below poverty line in rural India. It attempts to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in the country. Roughly one-third of the stipulated work force must be women.
  • Adult members of rural households submit their name, age and address with photo to the Gram Panchayat.
  • The Gram Panchayat registers households after making enquiry and issues a job card.
  • The job card contains the details of the adult member enrolled and his/her photo. Registered person can submit an application for work in writing (for at least fourteen days of continuous work) either to Panchayat or to Programme Officer.
  • The Panchayat/Programme officer will accept the valid application and issue dated receipt of application, letter providing work will be sent to the applicant and also displayed at Panchayat office.
  • The employment will be provided within a radius of 5 km: if it is above 5 km extra wage will be paid.
  • Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.
  • Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.
  • Receipt of wages within Fifteen Days of Work Done.

PMAY (G):

  • Under this scheme priority would be to complete those housing units where instalments have been given to the beneficiaries.

PMAY(G) – Ministry of Rural Development:

  • Housing is one of the basic requirements for human survival.
  • In pursuance to the goal of Housing for all by 2022, the rural housing scheme Indira Awas Yojana has been revamped to Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin and approved during March 2016. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided for construction of pucca houses to all houseless and households living in dilapidated houses.
  • It is proposed that one crore households would be provided assistance for construction of pucca houses under the project during the period from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
  • The scheme would be implemented in rural areas throughout India except Delhi and Chandigarh. The cost of houses would be shared between Centre and States.
  • Funding Pattern:
      • Under PMAY, the cost of unit assistance is to be shared between Central and State Governments in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and hilly states.
      • The unit assistance given to beneficiaries under the programme is Rs 1,20,000 in plain areas and to Rs 1,30,000 in hilly states/difficult areas /Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for Selected Tribal and Backward Districts.
    • The unit size is 25 sq.m including a dedicated area for hygienic cooking.
    • The beneficiary is entitled to 90 days of unskilled labour from MGNREGA.
    • The beneficiary would be facilitated to avail loan of up to Rs.70,000/- for construction of the house which is optional.
    • Funds will be transferred electronically directly to the account of the beneficiary.
    • Target Group
      • Identification of beneficiaries eligible for assistance and their prioritisation to be done using information from Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) ensuring total transparency and objectivity.
      • The list will be presented to Gram Sabha to identify beneficiaries who have been assisted before or who have become ineligible due to other reasons.

    PMGSY:

    • Under PMGSY, the focus should be on quick award of tenders in sanctioned road projects and starting pending road projects.
    • The contractors, suppliers, workers etc should be galvanised to quick start the works.

    PMGSY – Ministry of Rural Development:

    • Phase I:
      • Phase I was launched in December, 2000 as a sponsored scheme with an objective to provide single all-weather road connectivity to eligible unconnected habitation of designated population size.
      • 500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East, hill, tribal and desert areas,
      • 00 – 249 population in LWE districts as per Census, 2001 for overall socio-economic development of the areas.
      • Also, upgradation (to prescribed standards) of the existing roads in those Districts where all the eligible Habitations of the designated population size have been provided all-weather road connectivity was to be taken up.
      • However, Upgradation is not central to the Programme. In Upgradation works, priority was to be given to Through Routes of the Rural Core Network, which carry more traffic.
    • Phase II:
      • The Phase II of PMGSY was approved during May, 2013.
      • While the ongoing PMGSY – I continued, under PMGSY phase II, the roads already built for village connectivity was to be upgraded to enhance rural infrastructure.
      • For the 12thFive Year Plan period a target of 50,000 Km length under PMGSY-II.
      • Funding:

      1. 75:25 – Centre-state ratio for the upgradation work.

      2.90:10 – For hill states, desert areas, Schedule V areas and Naxal-affected districts.

  • Phase III:
    • Phase III was approved by the Cabinet during July 2019.
    • It involves consolidation of Through Routes and Major Rural Links connecting habitations to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), Higher Secondary Schools and Hospitals.
    • Under the PMGSY-III Scheme, it is proposed to consolidate 1,25,000 Km road length in the States. The duration of the scheme is 2019-20 to 2024-25.
    • The funds would be shared in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.
  • NRLM:
    • The Ministry appreciated the fact that women SHGs under NRLM are making protective face covers, sanitizers, soaps and are running community kitchens in large numbers.

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – Ministry of Rural Development:

  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India in 2011 as a restructured version of Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY).
  • In 2015, the program was renamed Deendayal Antayodaya Yojana (DAY-NRLM).
  • Mission:To reduce poverty by enabling the poor households to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities, resulting in appreciable improvement in their livelihoods on a sustainable basis, through building strong grassroots institutions of the poor
  • NRLM has set out with an agenda to cover 7 Crore rural poor households, across 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats and 6 lakh villages in the country through self-managed Self Help Groups (SHGs) and federated institutions and support them for livelihoods collectives in a period of 8-10 years.
  • In addition, the poor would be facilitated to achieve increased access to their rights, entitlements and public services, diversified risk and better social indicators of empowerment.
  • NRLM believes in harnessing the innate capabilities of the poor and complements them with capacities (information, knowledge, skills, tools, finance and collectivization) to participate in the growing economy of the country.

Key Features:

  • Universal Social Mobilisation – At least one-woman member from each identified rural poor household, is to be brought under the Self Help Group (SHG) network in a time bound manner with special emphasis particularly on vulnerable communities.
  • Participatory Identification of Poor (PIP) – All households identified as poor through the PIP process are the NRLM Target Group and are eligible for all the benefits under the programme. The NRLM Target Group (NTG) derived through the PIP is de-linked from the BPL.
  • Community Funds as Resources in Perpetuity – NRLM provides Revolving Fund (RF) and Community Investment Fund (CIF) as resources in perpetuity to the institutions of the poor, to strengthen their institutional and financial management capacity and build their track record to attract mainstream Bank Finance.
  • Financial Inclusion – NRLM works on both demand and supply sides of financial inclusion.
  • On the demand side, it promotes financial literacy among the poor and provides catalytic capital to the SHGs and their federations.
  • On the supply side, the Mission coordinates with the financial sector and encourages use of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) based financial technologies, business correspondents and community facilitators like ‘Bank Mitras’.
  • Livelihoods – NRLM focuses on stabilizing and promoting existing livelihood portfolio of the poor through its three pillars –
  • Vulnerability reduction and Livelihoods enhancement through deepening/enhancing and expanding existing livelihoods options;
  • Employment – building skills for the job market outside; and
  • Enterprises – nurturing self-employed and entrepreneurs (for micro-enterprises).
  • Convergence and partnerships
    • Convergence:NRLM places a high emphasis on convergence with other programmes of the MoRD and other Central Ministries.
  • Partnerships with NGOs and other CSOs.
    • Linkages with PRIs: In view of the eminent roles of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), it is necessary to consciously structure and facilitate a mutually beneficial working relationship between Panchayats and institutions of the poor, particularly at the level of Village Panchayats.

An opportunity:

  • The Minister emphasised that although the challenge posed by the spread of the COVID- 19 epidemic is very serious, this challenge must be perceived as an opportunity by all States/UTs to
  • Develop and strengthen rural infrastructure,
  • Create employment opportunities in rural areas and
  • Facilitate diversification of rural livelihoods.
  • To win the fight against coronavirus, proactive States/UTs with the active support of the Union Government, ensuring rural development schemes are implemented in an effective and efficient manner is the need of the hour.

CONVERSION OF SURPLUS RICE TO ETHANOL

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Central government has allowed the conversion of surplus rice to ethanol.

Key Points:

  • Ethanol produced from the excess rice will be used for utilisation in making alcohol-based hand sanitizers and blending in petrol. Ethanol is one of the most variable alternatives amongst biofuels.
  • The National Biofuel Coordination Committee(NBCC) took the decision which will lead to utilisation of part of a huge stockpile of 30.57 million tonnes (MT) of rice which is almost 128% more than the buffer stock and strategic requirement norms.
  • At present, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has huge rice stock from previous years excluding the unmilled paddy lying with millers on behalf of FCI.
  • Using surplus rice for ethanol will address the concern of about 750 million litres of grain-based distillery capacities lying idle, due to the lack of feedstock.
  • The National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 allows conversion of surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol when there is a projected oversupply of food grains.

Criticism on Government’s Move:

  • This move has been criticised on the grounds that how can the government waste food stock for fuel when the considerable number of the population doesn’t have food and is suffering from malnutrition.
  • In recent past, the government decided to give 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses free of cost to 800 million people, under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • However, many poor people are unable to get the benefit out of it, due to loopholes in the PDS network. For example, a large chunk of ration card holders may not be eligible for the free grains, as they are not covered under the NFSA.
  • The NFSA, based on the 2011 census, had not factored in the population increase in over nine years, leaving a huge number of people out of its ambit.

About National Policy on Biofuels, 2018:

  • It expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.
  • It categorises biofuels in various categories to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • Basic Biofuels or First Generation (1G):Bioalcohols, Biodiesel, etc.
  • Second Generation (2G) or Advanced Biofuels:Ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, etc.
  • Third Generation (3G):
  • Fourth Generation (4G):Fuel from genetically engineered crops.
  • It expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of sugarcane juice, sugar containing materials like sugar beet, sweet sorghum, starch containing materials like corn, cassava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, rotten potatoes which are unfit for human consumption.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS CODE BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Parliamentary Committee on Labour submitted its report on the Industrial Relations Code, 2019.

About the News:

  • The Committee in its report said that in case of natural calamities, payment of wages to the workers until the re-establishment of the industry may be unjustifiable.
  • The idea behind the recommendations is that the industry should not be forced when the situation is beyond their control.
  • The law has to be reasonable, in such cases it is for the government to step in and extend a helping hand for the industries.
  • According to the Committee COVID-19 would be counted as natural calamity.
  • The Industrial Code makes it incumbent upon the employer to pay 50% wages to the workers/employees who are laid off due to shortage of power, coal, raw material etc. for 45 days.
  • The Industrial Relations Code, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha and referred to the Standing Committee on Labour in December, 2019.
  • With the on-going lockdown, the draft report was circulated to the members via email on April 15 and later the final adopted report was accepted by the Speaker.

About Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019:

  • The Industrial Relations Code, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha. It seeks to replace three labour laws:
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
  • The Trade Unions Act, 1926
  • The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.

Key Features of the Bill:

  • Trade Unions:
  • Under the Code, seven or more members of a trade union can apply to register it.
  • Trade unions that have a membership of at least 10% of the workers or 100 workers, whichever is less, will be registered.
  • Further, the central or State Government may recognise a trade union or a federation of trade unions as Central or State Trade Unions respectively.
  • Negotiating Unions:
  • The Code provides for a negotiation union in an industrial establishment for negotiating with the employer.
  • If there is only one trade union in an industrial establishment, then the employer is required to recognise such trade union as the sole negotiating union of the workers.
  • In case of multiple trade unions, the trade union with the support of at least 75% of workers will be recognised as the negotiating union by the government.

Lay-off and Retrenchment:

  • The Code defines lay-off as the inability of an employer, due to shortage of coal, power, or breakdown of machinery, from giving employment to a worker. It also provides for employers to terminate the services of a worker, i.e., retrenchment.
  • Employers of industrial establishments with at least 100 workers are required to take prior permission of the central or state government before lay-off, retrenchment or closure of an Establishment.

The central or state government can modify this threshold number of workers by notification. Any person who contravenes this provision is punishable with a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 10 lakh.

Resolution of Industrial Disputes:

  • The central or state governments may appoint conciliation officers to mediate and promote settlement of industrial disputes.
  • These officers will investigate the dispute and hold conciliation proceedings to arrive at a fair and amicable settlement of the dispute.
  • If no settlement is arrived at, then any party to the dispute can make an application to an Industrial Tribunal set up under the Code.

THE EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2020

Why in News?

  • The Central government has promulgated an Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to make attacks on doctors and healthcare workers a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

What is the Issue?

  • Members of the Medical community, even as they continue to perform relentlessly round the clock and save human lives, have unfortunately become the most vulnerable victims as they have been perceived by some as carriers of the virus.
  • This has led to cases of their stigmatization and sometimes worse, acts of unwarranted violence and harassment.
  • Such a situation tends to hamper the medical community from performing their duties to their optimum best and maintaining their morale, which is a critical need in this hour of national health crisis.
  • While healthcare service personnel are duty bound to serve without discrimination, the cooperation and support from society is a fundamental need for them to perform their duties with confidence.
  • But few violent incidents against the medical community have triggered the Indian Medical Association to step back from treating the patients affected by the pandemic.
  • In a response the Cabinet has intervened and brought the ‘The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020’ to protect the medical community.

About the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897:

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act was introduced by the British to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then state of Bombay.
  • This law aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases. Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
  • Section 2Aof the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic. It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
    • Since health is a State subject, by invoking Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, advisories and directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be enforceable.
  • Section 3 provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
  • Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
  • The Epidemics Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as Swine Flu, Dengue.
  • For Example in 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.

What are the Changes Made?

  • Whoever commits or abets the commitment of violence against health care worker, shall be punished with imprisonment ranging from 3 months to 5 years, and penalty ranging from Rs 50,000 to 2 lakh.
  • In case of a very serious attack, the imprisonment may be for a minimum period of 6 months and maximum of 7 years, with penalty ranging from Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakh.
  • As per the Ordinance, investigation into the incidents of attacks on doctors and healthcare workers has to be conducted by a senior inspector and be completed within 30 days.
  • Court proceedings related to these cases shall also be conducted in a time-bound manner, and have to be decided within a year.
  • The Ordinance also provides that the court shall presume that such person has committed such offence, unless the contrary is proved.
  • The Ordinance states that in case of damage to vehicles or clinics of doctors or healthcare workers, the perpetrators would have to pay double the market cost of the damaged asset as compensation.
  • Upon failure to pay the compensation awarded, such amount shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.

What are the Possible Impacts?

  • The current Ordinance is intended to ensure that during any situation akin to the current pandemic, there is zero tolerance to any form of violence against healthcare service personnel and damage to property.
  • Some incidents of violence have taken place which has demoralized the medical fraternity. It is felt that separate and most stringent provisions for emergent times are needed to act as effective deterrents to any such incidents of violence.

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, 2020

Why in News?

  • India has dropped two places on a global press freedom index to be ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the annual World Press Freedom Report.

Highlights:

  • The report said that with no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018.
  • However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.

World Press Freedom Index:

  • The Press Freedom Index is an Annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders.
  • It is based upon the organization’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records.
  • It intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.
  • The report is partly based on a questionnaire which asks questions about pluralism media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure.

Global Scenario:

  • Norway is ranked first in the Index for the fourth year running.
  • India ranked better than its neighbours Pakistan (145) and Bangladesh (151), but worse than Sri Lanka (127) and Nepal (112)
  • China at 177thposition is just three places above North Korea, which is at 180th.

Various Threats to Press Freedom:

  • Across the world, press freedom is under pressure from aggressive authoritarian regimes.
  • The media is also facing a technological crisis, due to a lack of democratic guarantees and a democratic crisis following polarization and repressive policies, the report reads.
  • In addition comes a crisis of trust following growing suspicion and even hatred of the media, and an economic crisis and impoverishing of quality journalism.
  • Among other issues, the report has listed coordinated social media hate campaigns against journalists reporting on issues that “annoy right-wing followers”, criminal prosecutions to gag journalists critical of authorities and police violence against journalists.

SWOT ANALYSIS OF IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON EDUCATION

Why in News?

  • With the pandemic forcing everyone to seriously consider e-learning tools and resources, now is a good time to assess its strengths and opportunities, and adapt to the new normal.

Highlights:

  • SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used to help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a situation.

Strengths:

  • For the first time many teachers, parents and students have thought about the purpose of education and asked some useful question such as: Will ‘education’ be defined in a different way, in the future? Is there a need to learn differently? Should students’ knowledge and skills be assessed? Will online education be successful in India? How important is home learning? etc.

Weaknesses:

  • Lack of innovative thinking, inadequate infrastructure, untrained teachers, unequal accessibility, exam-centric assessment, and lack of learner autonomy.
  • Recently, the Delhi government announced that it would conduct online classes for class XII students, but school teachers say that it is impractical since most students do not have access to the Required Facilities.
  • Teachers working in government-aided and government schools in cities and towns and private schools in rural areas also do not have such facilities.
  • They may neither have the awareness of online tools such as Google Classroom available for such purposes, nor have the expertise to use them.

Opportunities:

  • The three main opportunities that we have are: i) our students who belong to Gen Z, ii) numerous web resources, and iii) enthusiastic teachers.
  • Gen Z learners (born between 1997 and 2010) are born in the digital era and are familiar with computers, multimedia content and Internet-based activities from an early age. Now is the right time to move classes to a different platform, introduce e-learning and develop learner autonomy.
  • The COVID-19 lockdown has enabled teachers to become creative. They can now create e-material such as YouTube videos and PPTs and share the links with their students and engage them during the lockdown period.

Threats:

  • India is far behind some developing countries where digital education is getting increased attention. In countries where e-learning is popular, students have access to various online resources such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
  • India needs to take the threat of many developed and developing countries leading the way in online education seriously and promote it earnestly.

CRISIS OF BLOOD SHORTAGE AMID LOCKDOWN

Why in News?

  • Due to Covid-19 lockdown hospitals across India are facing acute shortage of blood and have started contacting Individual Blood Donors to meet the Demand.

Key Points:

  • The Indian Red Cross Society Blood Bank has noted that there is a drop in blood collection.
  • The crisis is such that there is a shortage of the most commonly seen B-positive blood group.
  • Hospitals are calling listed donors and those with rare blood groups to come in and donate.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation, blood requirement of 1% of a country’s population be used as an estimate of its blood needs. By this measure, India was short of 1.9 million units of blood as per data presented.

Who are the Worst Hit?

  • Patients requiring dialysis, having blood disorders, and pregnant women are the worst hit due to blood shortage.
  • Thalassemia patients need repeated blood transfusions to survive. Many thalassemics take blood for their transfusions from the Indian Red Cross Society Blood Bank, whose camps are being cancelled.

Why there is a Shortage?

  • Due to lockdown blood banks collection camps are cancelled.
  • Donors are hesitant to travel to hospitals to donate blood amid strict lockdown.
  • Transportation is also an major issue since it has been almost closed due to lockdown.
  • Non-issual  of donor passes by some hospitals adds to the woe.

Interventions taken by the Government:

  • The Health Ministry has asked hospitals to start working on ensuring sufficient stock of blood for transfusion by promoting voluntary blood donors and utilising various services like mobile blood collection vans with the help of the Indian Red Cross Society.
  • It has asked the Indian Red Cross Society to send mobile blood collection vans to the premises of regular blood donors to facilitate them for blood donation.

About Indian Red Cross Society:

  • The Indian Red Cross is a voluntary humanitarian organization providing relief in times of disasters/emergencies and promotes health & care of the vulnerable people and communities.
  • Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) was established in 1920 under the Indian Red Cross Society Act.
  • The President of India is the President and the Union Health Minister is the Chairman of the Society.
  • The Mission of the Indian Red Cross is to inspire, encourage and initiate at all times all forms of humanitarian activities so that human suffering can be minimized and even prevented and thus contribute to creating more congenial climate for peace.

DRAFT ELECTRICITY ACT (AMENDMENT) BILL 2020

Why in News?

  • For further development of the power sector, the Ministry of Power has issued a draft proposal for amendment of Electricity Act, 2003 in the form of draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for comments or suggestions from Stakeholders.

Highlights:

  • Supply of Quality Power at Affordable Prices is essential for sustained Growth of the Economy of the Country.
  • Suggestions have been invited from stakeholders within twenty one days.

Major amendments proposed in the Electricity Act are as follows:

    • Viability of Electricity Distribution companies (Discoms):
      • Cost reflective Tariff:To eliminate the tendency of some Commissions to provide for regulatory assets, it is being provided that the Commissions shall determine tariffs that are reflective of cost so as to enable Discoms to recover their costs.
      • Direct Benefit Transfer:It is proposed that tariff be determined by Commissions without taking into account the subsidy, which will be given directly by the government to the consumers.
    • Sanctity of Contracts:
      • Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority:A Central Enforcement Authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court is proposed to be set-up with powers of the Civil Court to enforce performance of contracts related to purchase or sale or transmission of power between a generating, distribution or transmission companies.
      • Establishment of adequate Payment Security Mechanism for scheduling of electricity:It is proposed to empower Load Dispatch Centres to oversee the establishment of adequate payment security mechanism before scheduling dispatch of electricity, as per contracts.
    • Strengthening the Regulatory Regime:
      • Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL):It is proposed to increase the strength of APTEL to seven apart from the Chairperson so that multiple benches can be set-up to facilitate quick disposal of cases. It is also proposed to further empower the APTEL to enforce its decisions.
      • Doing away with Multiple Selection Committees:It is proposed to have one Selection Committee for selection of Chairpersons and Members of the Central and State Commissions and uniform qualifications for appointments of Chairperson and Members of Central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.
      • Penalties:In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission, section 142 and section 146 of the Electricity Act are proposed to be amended to provide for higher penalties.
    • Renewable and Hydro Energy:
      • National Renewable Energy Policy: It is proposed to provide for a policy document
      • for the development and promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy.
      • It is also proposed that a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from hydro sources of energy is to be specified by the Commissions.
      • Penalties:It is being further proposed to levy penalties for non-fulfilment of obligation to buy electricity from renewable and/or hydro sources of energy.
    • Miscellaneous:
      • Cross border trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.
      • Franchisees and Distribution sub licensees: Many States Distribution Companies have been assigning the task of distribution of electricity in a particular area or city to Franchisees / Sub-Distribution Licensees. However, there was a lack of clarity regarding the legal provisions related to this. It is proposed to provide that the
      • Distribution Companies, if they so desire, may engage Franchisees or Sub Distribution Licensees to distribute electricity on its behalf in a particular area within its area of supply, however, it will be the DISCOM which shall be the licensee, and therefore, ultimately responsible for ensuring quality distribution of electricity in its area of supply.

RENTAL WAIVERS TO STPI UNITS

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has recently decided to provide rental waiver to small Information Technology (IT) units operating out of the Software Technology Parks of India.

Highlights of the Decision:

  • This decision was taken in order to provide a major boost to the IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS) sector amid Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Most of the IT units are either MSMEs (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises) or startups. So, this initiative will provide benefit to nearly 200 IT-ITeS MSMEs, operating from the 60 STPI centres.
  • This effort is also in the larger interest of around 3,000 IT-ITeS employees who are directly supported by MSME and startup units.

About Software Technology Parks of India:

  • Software Technology Parks of India was set up in 1991 as an autonomous society under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • STPI’s main objective has been the promotion of software exports from the country. STPI has played a key developmental role in the promotion of software exports with a special focus on SMEs and startup units.
  • STPI has been implementing the Software Technology Park (STP) scheme and the Electronics Hardware Technology Park (EHTP) scheme for the promotion of IT/ITES industry.
  • STP Scheme is a unique scheme, designed to promote the software industry and growth of startups and SMEs without any locational constraints. A company can set up an STP unit anywhere in India.
  • The EHTP Scheme is a 100% Export Oriented Scheme for undertaking manufacturing of electronic hardware equipment and other items in India.

COVID-19 CAN HELP DEAL WITH THE SILENT TUBERCULOSIS CRISIS

Why in News?

  • According to a WHO Information Note — ‘Tuberculosis and COVID-19’, there is a need to maintain TB services during effective response to COVID-19.
  • It is important that the progress made in TB prevention and care is not reversed by the COVID19 pandemic

Highlights:

  • It said that TB patients who have lung damage or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may suffer from more severe illness if they are infected with COVID-19.
  • Doctors claim that people suffering from TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted.

Significance for India:

  • India accounts for 27 per cent of the world’s total TB patients and is among the top 8 countries with the highest number of TB cases.
  • In 2018, as many as 4.4 lakh people died of TB in India which is 29 per cent of the total 1.5 million deaths due to TB in the world.
  • Out of total 7 million cases reported in 2018 across the world, India had 2.69 million cases, while, according to data available, it missed out on tracking down 5.40 lakh cases.
  • There is a stronger case for concurrent testing for both conditions in individuals even if the clinical picture is a typical.
  • The pandemic can help trace 5.4 lakh missed out T.B patients as fear of Coronavirus will induce them for testing as symptoms for TB – fever, cough and difficulty in breathing — are almost similar to coronavirus.
  • The current situation will also help identify people with latent TB – who have the disease but no symptoms.
  • According to WHO, there are 25 percent of patients with latent TB.

Tuberculosis (TB):

  • TB remains the world’s Deadliest Infectious Killer.
  • Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
  • Caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB is an infectious disease.
  • In most cases, TB affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites (non pulmonary TB).
  • Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is a state of persistent immune response to stimulationby Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens without evidence of clinically manifested active
  • Someone has latent TB if they are infected with the TB bacteria but do not have signs of active TB disease and do not feel ill.
  • It is a contagion disease, which spreads when the people who are sick with pulmonary TB expel bacteria into the air, for example by coughing.
  • Rapid molecular test, Sputum smear microscopy, Culture-based methods are some of the diagnostic tests for TB.
  • Without treatment, the mortality rate from TB is high.

Initiatives for TB in India:

  • There is Free Treatment of TB in India.
  • India aims to eliminate TB by 2025 under its National Strategic Plan, while the UN aims to eliminate TB by 2030.
  • It is driven by the DETECT-TREAT-PREVENT-BUILD Approach.
  • The focus is on early diagnosis of all the TB patients,prompt treatment with the right drugs and regimens along with suitable patient support systems including financial and nutritional support.
  • This is supplemented by prevention strategies including active case finding, contact tracing and LTBI management in high risk populations, and airborne infection control.
  • Mass BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccination to prevent TB.
  • Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched in 1993, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death.
  • A Rs 12,000 cr.allocation of fund over the next 3 years to fight TB.
  • A Public campaign: TB Harega Desh Jeetega.

ROLE OF CIVIL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS IN THE PANDEMIC

Why in News?

  • More than 50,000 Civil Defence volunteers are working at the grassroots level in various roles and capacities to assist the local administration in implementing the measures to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is their Role in the Current Pandemic?

  • The Civil Defence personnel are supplementing the local administration in conducting surveillance of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. They have been working as rapid response teams.
  • They have been deployed in all the States and most Union Territories, barring Ladakh, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry.
  • Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Assam have taken the lead in using their services.
  • The volunteers have been deployed under the command of District Magistrates to assist the local administration in implementing the COVID-19 guidelines and policies effectively.

How they can be Employed and what is the Provisions Regarding This?

  • Civil Defence operates under the Civil Defence Act and associated rules and regulations. The Act was amended in 2009 and a notification was issued in 2010 to include disaster management as an additional role.
  • Civil Defence is primarily organised on voluntary basis except for a small nucleus of paid staff and establishment which is augmented during emergencies.

Administration:

  • Although it is a Central law, Section 4 of the Civil Defence Act empowers State governments to raise corps at the local administration level as per their Requirement.
  • The District Magistrate, District Collector or Deputy Commissioner is designated as Controller of the Civil Defence.

Eligibility for becoming a Civil Defence Volunteer:

  • A person who Intends to Apply for appointment to a Civil Defence Corps must fulfil the Following Conditions;
  • He/she shall be a citizen of India, or a subject of Sikkim or of Bhutan or of Nepal.
  • He/she shall have completed the age of 18 years provided that this age limit may be relaxed at the discretion of the competent authority up to a maximum of 3 years for any branch or category of the Corps.
  • He/she shall have passed at least the primary standard, that is to say, the fourth class, and this condition may be relaxed by the Controller at this discretion.
  • Both men and women shall be Eligible for Appointment to the Corps.

PPE FOR SANITATION WORKERS

Why in News?

  • The National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) has issued advisory to municipalities, panchayats urging them to ensure that all sanitation workers are provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to safeguard them from the current Pandemic.

Highlights of the Advisory:

  • There should be mandatory orientation for sanitation workers on Covid-19, social distancing norms and precautionary measures.
  • All local bodies were asked to put in place a standard operating procedure for the safety of sanitation staff.
  • The local bodies were asked to provide equipment, including masks, gloves, gumboots and jackets, as well as soaps and hand sanitisers for helping Maintain Hygiene.

About National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC):

  • NSKFDC is a wholly owned Government of India Undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • It is an apex Corporation for the all round socio-economic up-liftment of the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers and their dependents throughout India, through various loan and non-loan based schemes.
  • It was set up in 1997 as a “Not for Profit” Company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013).
  • NSKFDC is also playing a vital role in elimination of manual scavenging – the worst surviving symbol of untouchability.

ROBUST DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE ENABLING PROMPT TRANSFER OF CASH PAYMENT

Why in News?

  • A digital pipeline has been laid to provide the necessary backbone for DBT flows, adoption of social security/pension schemes, etc. under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package.

Highlights:

  • A digital pipeline has been established through linking of Jan-Dhan accounts as well as other accounts with the account holders’ mobile numbers and Aadhaar[Jan DhanAadhaar-Mobile (JAM)]. Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched in August, 2014 with an aim to provide bank accounts to unbanked persons.
  • Out of around 126 crore operative current accounts saving accounts (CASA), more than 38 crores have been opened under PMJDY.

Purpose of Creating Digital Infrastructure:

  • Enablement of interoperable, speedy and Accurate Transactions:
  • The bank accounts are enabled to carry out both cash and digital transactions at bank branches, Business Correspondent (BC) points, merchant locations and on the internet.
  • Using biometric ID, highly cost-effective payments solutions like AePS/ Bhim Aadhaar Pay have been created both for banking services and for retail payments.

The Digital Payment Ecosystem includes the Following Modes:

  • Aadhar enabled Payment System (AePS): helps in cash withdrawal by using Aadhaar authentication at branch/BC locations.
  • Bhim Aadhaar Pay:enables payment to merchants using Aadhaar authentication
  • RuPay debit cards:As on 31st  March 2020, a total of 60.4crore RuPay cards have been issued including 29 crore issued in PMJDY accounts. These cards could be used at ATMs for cash withdrawal and at Points of Sale (PoS) & e-commerce for digital payments.
  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI):Immediate real time payment system which helps in both person to person (P2P) and Person to Merchant (P2M) transactions.
  • Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS):helps in payment of utility bills through internet & BC locations both by using cash & digital modes.
  • According to the Union Finance Ministry, using the digital payment infrastructure mentioned above, more than 30 crore poor people have received financial assistance of Rs. 28,256 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, in order to protect them from the impact of the lockdown due to COVID 19.

 

 

CM FUND CONTRIBUTIONS TO NOT QUALIFY AS CSR SPEND

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Commerce has clarified that the contributions to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund or the State relief fund will not qualify as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure, while any donation to the PM CARES Fund will.

Highlights:

  • Ministry of Commerce also said that Ex-gratia payments made to temporary, casual and daily wage workers by companies will be considered as CSR expenditure under the companies law, provided that such payments are over and above disbursement of wages.
  • Under the Companies Act, 2013, certain classes of profitable entities are required to spend at least 2 % of their three-year average annual net profit towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013:

  • The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund’ or ‘State Relief Fund for COVID-19’ is not included in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, and therefore any contribution to such funds shall not qualify as admissible CSR expenditure.
  • Schedule VII shows activities which may be included by companies in their Corporate

Social Responsibility Policies Activities Relating to:

  • Eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition, and sanitation and making available safe drinking water.
  • Promoting education, including special education and employment enhancing vocation skills especially among children, women, elderly and the differently abled and livelihood enhancement projects.
  • Promoting gender equality, empowering women; setting up old age homes, day care centres and such other facilities for senior citizens.
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability, protection of flora and fauna, animal welfare, agroforestry, conservation of natural resources and maintaining quality of soil, air and water [including contribution to the Clean Ganga Fund]
  • Historical importance and works of art; setting up public libraries; promotion and development of traditional art and Handicrafts;
  • Measures for the benefit of armed forces veterans, war widows and their dependents;
  • Training to promote rural sports, nationally recognised sports, Paralympic sports and Olympic sports
  • Contribution to the prime minister’s national relief fund or any other fund set up by the central govt. for socio economic development and relief and welfare of the schedule caste, tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women;
  • Contribution to incubators funded by Central/state Government or any agency or PSU, and contributions to public funded Universities, Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), National Laboratories and Autonomous Bodies engaged in conducting research in science, technology, engineering and medicine aimed at promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
    • Rural development projects;
    • Slum area development;
  • Disaster management, including relief, rehabilitation and Reconstruction Activities.

ROLE OF ARMED FORCES IN CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK BATTLE

Context:

  • Army has moved in to take over the COVID-19 quarantine facility at Narela in Delhi. This has brought into focus the role of army in such situations, procedure to be followed and provisions in this Regard.

What is the Procedure for Calling the Armed Forces to Help the Civil Administration?

  • The procedure for requisitioning armed forces is governed under ‘Aid to Civil Authorities’ under the guidelines laid in Instructions on Aid to the Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces, 1970, Regulations for the Army and Manual of Indian Military Law.
  • Civil administration requests the Local Military Authority for assistance, for the maintenance of law and order, maintenance of essential services, disaster relief and other types of assistance.
  • Armed forces can be asked to provide troops and equipment for a flag march, rescue and relief, evacuation, and immediate aid.

Key Facts:

  • Providing aid to civil authorities, as and when called upon to do so, is a secondary task for the armed forces. It cannot replace the primary role of ensuring external security and operational preparedness.
  • The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by the cabinet secretary, is the final authority to decide on the number of armed forces personnel that can be deployed to aid civil authority.

What are the tasks expected to be performed in checking the spread of COVID-19?

    • Maintenance of law and order.
    • Crowd control and curfew in sensitive areas.
    • Evacuation of civilians from affected areas.
    • Provision of essential supply of electricity and water.
    • Restoration of essential services.
    • Emergency feeding and shelter.
    • Prevention of panic, prevention of theft and loot.
    • Guarding quarantine locations and detention centres.
    • Surveillance through drones aerial platforms.

Who pays for the Costs Incurred by the ARMED forces in These Roles?

  • The civil administration pays the cost of assistance provided by the Armed Forces.
  • It is recovered in accordance with the instructions contained in Appendix ‘H’ to the Pamphlet ‘Instructions on Aid to Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces 1970’.

PCPNDT ACT

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has clarified that it has not suspended the PC&PNDT Act, which prohibits sex selection before or after conception.

What’s the Issue?

  • In view of the ongoing lockdown, due of COVID19 pandemic, the Health Ministry has issued a Notification dated April 4, 2020 to defer/suspend certain provisions under the PC&PNDT Rules 1996.
  • These Rules pertain to applying for renewal of registration if falling due in this period, submission of reports by diagnostics centres by 5th day of the following month and submission of quarterly progress report (QPR) by the States/UTs.
    • But, a section of the media is speculating that the PC&PNDT (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)) Act 1994 has been suspended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

About PCPNDT Act:

  • The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
  • The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
  • Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.

Amendments Made:

  • The act was amended in 2003 to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
  • The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
  • The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board to be constituted.

What are the Main Provisions in the Act?

  • The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
  • It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
  • No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
  • No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
  • Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
  • The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.

PROBLEMS IN VILLAGES AMID COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Why in News?

  • With the influx of thousands of migrant labourers into their villages, the houses in villages, which are often one or two-room dwellings with an average seven family members to accommodate, are some of the worst places where one can hope to contain the deadly disease.

Highlights:

  • Along with the absence of running water within households, the possibility of common points in village arenas becoming hotspots for this deadly contagion becomes manifold.Only a few States have been able to involve gram panchayats very effectively in this  For example, community kitchens are run by local bodies in Kerala, where home delivery of cooked food is spiking as the situation demands.

Suggestions for Gram Panchayats:

  • Panchayats can work exactly in three areas:
  • Awareness generation,
  • Setting up isolation conditions, and
  • Streamlining social security measures announced by the Central and State Governments.
  • A model needs to be established, with concrete standard operating procedures and best practices that can be replicated throughout rural India.
  • Organisations such as Professional Assistance For Development Action (PRADAN) have been trying to influence gram panchayats in many States to coordinate with the administration to use the resources of panchayats. This should be done more.
  • Even with the harvesting of wheat almost over in States such as Madhya Pradesh; people are still out in the fields, but once they are done with their work it is the panchayat that can do the work effectively to confine people within their homes with adequate awareness generation.
  • Community policing with the active engagement of panchayats, by collaborating with women’s collectives, is a potential area where a people-led movement can be kick-started in a short time span.
  • Despite the financial packages being rolled out to avert panic about basic food requirements, many will be left out as documentation is core to availing these social-service provisioning schemes. Without gram panchayats, it is not possible to deploy any system to adequately take prompt actions to include the excluded.

SMART CITY MISSIONS INTEGRATED DATA DASHBOARD

Why in News?

  • Smart Cities of Pune, Surat, Bengaluru and Tumakuru are using the integrated data dashboards, to provide up-to-date information about the status of coronavirus in different administrative zones of their cities.

Integrated data dashboard:

  • A data dashboard is an information management tool that visually tracks, analyzes and displays key performance indicators (KPI), metrics and key data points to monitor the health of a business, department or specific process.

Features:

  • Spatial Mapping of the affected areas is made available to citizens using geo-spatial information systems.
  • Using heat-mapping technologies and predictive analytics, the city administration will develop a containment plan and the containment zones get reflected on the dashboard.
  • The Smart City’s integrated dashboard also monitors the quarantine facilities and tracks the health of suspected patients and their contacts placed under home quarantine.
  • Regular updates to the citizens: In addition to providing the overall statistics on tested, confirmed, active, recovered and death cases, the dashboard provides the trends and patterns on the spread of COVID-19 within city, in terms of cumulative cases (each day), number of new confirmed cases reported (date wise), age-wise distribution of cases, zonewise distribution and gender-wise distribution.
  • ‘War room’ to use technology to conduct surveillance on people within 8-km radius of a confirmed patient, so as to contain the spread of the virus.
  • The Integrated Command and Control Centers are implementing initiatives such as
  • CCTV Surveillance of Public Places
  • GPS Tracking of Healthcare workers
  • Virtual Training to Doctors & Healthcare professionals
  • Real-time tracking of Ambulances & Disinfection Services
  • Medical Services through Video Conferencing and Tele-Counselling and TeleMedicine.

INDIAN MIGRANTS ACROSS INDIA

Why in News?

  • The exodus of migrant workers from the cities following the announcement of the 21-day lockdown threw the spotlight on the vast number of Indians who live outside their home states.

Highlights:

  • As per the 2011 census, the total number of internal migrants in India is 45.36 crore or 37% of the country’s population.
  • This includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state, while the recent exodus is largely due to the movement of inter-state migrants.
  • The annual net flows amount to about 1 per cent of the working age population.
  • As per Census 2011, the size of the workforce was 48.2 crore people.
  • This figure is estimated to have exceeded 50 crore in 2016 — the Economic Survey pegged the size of the migrant workforce at roughly 20 per cent or over 10 crore in 2016.

Estimates for 2020:

  • While there is no official data for the inter-state migrants in the country, estimates for 2020
  • have been made by Professor Amitabh Kundu of Research and information System for Developing countries.
  • His estimates, which are based on the 2011 Census, NSSO surveys and economic survey,
  • show that there is a total of about 65 million inter-state migrants, and 33 per cent of these migrants are workers.
  • By conservative estimates, 30 per cent of them are casual workers and another 30 per cent work on regular basis but in the informal sector.
  • Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for the origin of 25 per cent and 14 per cent of the total inter-state migrants, followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, at 6 per cent and 5 percent.

Migration in Cities:

  • Delhi has a migration rate of 43%, of whom 88% are from other states and 63% are from rural areas. Mumbai has a migration rate of 55%, with 46% migrants from other states and 52% from rural areas.
  • Surat has a migration rate of 65%, with 50% migrants from other states and 76% from rural areas.

District Wise Migration Data:

  • District-wise migration data in the Economic Survey for 2016-17 show that the highest influx of migrants within the country is seen in city-districts such as Gurugram, Delhi and Mumbai along with Gautam Buddh Nagar (Uttar Pradesh); Indore, Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh); Bangalore (Karnataka); Thiruvallur, Chennai, Kancheepuram, Erode, Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu).

EMPOWERED GROUP (NUMBER 6)

Why in News?

  • Empowered Group (number 6) constituted to address the issues pertaining to identification of problems, effective solutions and formulation of plans.

International Organisations:

  • The six detailed meetings with UN Resident Coordinator for India, and country heads of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, ILO, UN Women, UN-Habitat, FAO, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank.
  • Outcome: Providing technical support in monitoring and surveillance systems, strengthening health and nutritional services, capacity building, financial resources and critical equipment support, etc.
  • The UN in India has built a Joint Programme Response Plan and submitted it to NITI Aayog, defining their clear activities and deliverables in different sectors and States, where they are partnering with Union Ministries and State Governments.

Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners:

  • Detailed deliberations with 40 plus prominent CSOs and NGOs working in different parts of the country and with different communities.
  • Several challenges and issues raised by these CSOs were addressed to facilitate their working in the field during this crisis.
  • CEO NITI Aayog has written to NGOs/ CSOs registered on the Darpan portal of NITI Aayog, appealing them to assist the government in identifying hotspots and deputing volunteers and care givers to deliver services to the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, transgender persons, and other vulnerable groups;
  • to create awareness about prevention, social distancing, isolation, and combating stigma;
  • to provide shelter to homeless, daily wage workers, and urban poor families;
  • set up community kitchens for migrants.
  • Industry Associations – CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM and Representatives from Industry
  • The committee has opened up cross-sectoral dialogue within the private sector and startups to engender collaboration among them to produce health equipment and PPEs.

Stakeholders:

  • International Organisations:The UN agencies, World Bank, Asian Development Bank
  • NGOs: Civil Society Organisations and development partners
  • Private Sector:Industry associations – CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM
  • The Empowered Committee is chaired by Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog.

NATIONAL SECURITY ACT, 1980

Why in News?

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has said that six persons associated with the Tablighi Jamaat who has been accused of misbehaving with women staff at the district hospital in Ghaziabad will be charged under the National Security Act (NSA).

About National Security Act, 1980:

  • It allows preventive detention for months, if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order.
  • The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention.
  • The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.
  • It was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.
  • As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:
    • Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
    • Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
    • preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.

What the Constitution Says?

  • Article 22 (3) (b)of the Constitution allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
  • Article 22(4) states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless: An Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
  • The 44thAmendment Act of 1978 has reduced the period of detention without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board from three to two months. However, this provision has not yet been brought into force, hence, the original period of three months still continues.

Duration:

  • Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
  • A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.
  • Appeal:The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

Criticisms:

  • The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police. As per a Law Commission report from 2001, more than 14 lakh people (14, 57,779) were held under preventive laws in India.

How is it Draconian?

  • Typically, if a person is arrested, then he/she enjoy certain rights bestowed by the Indian Constitution. The person has to be informed of the reason for the arrest. Under Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the person arrested has to be informed.
  • However, in the case of the NSA, the person can be held up to ten days without being informed of the reason.
  • Sections 56 and 76 of the same penal code guarantee the detained person to be produced before a court within 24 hours. Apart from this, Article 22(1) of the Constitution allows the detainee to seek legal advice from a legal practitioner. However, under the NSA, none of these above mentioned basic rights is permitted to the suspect.

CENTRE PLANS CLASSES IN DISTANCE MODE

Why in News?

  • Since many schools have been shut since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even before the countrywide lockdown, the Centre is planning to start the next academic year virtually.

Key Points:

  • This means that the new academic calendar will begin as usual in April for classes 9 to 12, though the last academic year may have been somewhat truncated, with examinations postponed in some cases including the CBSE exams for classes 10 and 12.
    • Recently, it has been decided that the CBSE will conduct exams only for the main subjects: required for promotion or may be crucial for admission in higher educational institutions.
  • The Centre plans to restart classes in the distance mode, with teaching via dedicated TV and radio channels in English and Hindi.
    • There is an existing program, Swayam Prabha, which is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting high-quality educational programmes on 24X7 basis using the GSAT-15 satellite.
    • National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has been asked to create a structured programme for schools class-wise. This is being done along with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) using their syllabus.
    • The material will be ready for use by schools following the NIOS or the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus.

What about the State Boards?

  • Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA)mobile app has been offered to States as a platform to provide content in Local Languages.
  • If States are willing to produce the content in local languages, the Centre can give them 2-3 hours on the channel.
    • Diksha Portal was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2017 for providing a digital platform to teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community.
    • It is built considering the whole teacher’s life cycle – from the time student teachers enroll in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers.
    • States, government bodies and even private organisations, can integrate DIKSHA into their respective teacher initiatives based on their goals, needs and capabilities.
    • It also provides access to NCERT textbooks and lessons, following the regular school curriculum.

About National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS):

  • NIOS, formerly known as National Open School (NOS) was established in November, 1989 as an autonomous organisation in pursuance of National Policy on Education 1986 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • NIOS provides a number of Vocational, Life Enrichment and community oriented courses besides General and Academic Courses at Secondary and Senior Secondary level.
  • It also offers Elementary level Courses through its Open Basic Education Programmes (OBE).
  • Government of India has vested NIOS with the authority to examine and certify learners registered with it upto pre degree level courses whether Academic, Technical or Vocational.

CENTRE DEFINES J&K DOMICILE RULES

Why in News?

  • Centre redefines Jammu and Kashmir domicile rules opening up various categories of jobs in the region to people from across the country.
  • The order has been defined under J&K Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act.

What is Domicile?

  • In law, domicile is the status or attribution of being a lawful permanent resident in a Particular Jurisdiction.

As per the Changes, who is now Deemed to have Domicile?

  • Anyone “who has resided for a period of fifteen years in the UT of J&K”.
  • Or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in class 10th/12th examination in an educational institution located in the UT of J&K.
  • Or those registered as migrants and their children.
  • Or the children of those central government officials, All India service officials, Officials of Public sector undertaking, autonomous body of central government, public sector banks, officials of statuary bodies officials of central universities and recognized research institutes of central government who have served in J&K for a period of ten years.
  • Or children of residents of J&K who reside outside the Union Territory in connection with employment or business or for other professional or vocational reasons, but whose parents fulfil any of the conditions provided in the latest gazette notification will also be entitled to domicile status.

What else the Order Says?

  • The Order says that the domiciles will be eligible for the purposes of appointment to any post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level 4.
  • The Level 4 post comprises positions such as gardeners, barbers, office peons and watermen, and the highest rank in the category is that of a Junior Assistant.

Who can Issue Domicile Certificates?

  • The orders also empower tahsildars to issue domicile certificates.
  • The government has been empowered to notify any other officer as the competent authority to issue the certificate.

Implications:

  • The order now formally allows people from outside J&K to apply for jobs in the UT.
  • While Level IV jobs have been reserved for people with domicile status – as per their definition in the order – other non-gazetted and gazetted jobs have been opened for people from across the country, including people domiciled in J&K.

 

 

 

MEDICAL DEVICES NOTIFIED AS DRUGS FROM 1ST APRIL

Why in News?

  • The government’s regulation to classify all Medical Devices as Drugs for the prime  purpose of quality control and price monitoring.

Highlights:

  • The government is regulating 24 class of medical devices which have been notified as drugs under Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • Of the above, 4 medical devices viz. (i) Cardiac Stents (ii) Drug Eluting Stents (iii)
  • Condoms and (iv) Intra Uterine Device (Cu-T) are scheduled medical devices for which ceiling prices have been fixed.
  • The remaining non-scheduled medical devices which are notified as drugs, NPPA is currently monitoring Maximum Retail Prices.
  • Thus, with effect from 1st April, 2020, all Medical Devices shall be regulated by the Government as Drugs for quality control and price monitoring.
  • Therefore, the Maximum Retail Prices of all the Medical Devices would be monitored by the Government to ensure that no manufacturer/importer increases the MRP of a drug more than ten percent of MRP during preceding twelve months.
  • Further, with the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the manufacturer/importer will also be liable to deposit the overcharged amount along with interest thereon from the date of increase in price in addition to penalty.

Background:

  • Need for the Changes in Rules:
    • The need for change in rules came in following media reports which brought to the fore the faulty hip implants marketed by pharma major Johnson & Johnson.
  • Present State of Regulation:
    • Drugs fall under Concurrent List, in this regard, GOI enacted Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940
    • Further, some of the Medical devices were classified as drugs in 1982.
    • Presently, only 23 categories of medical devices have been classified as drugs under Medical Devices Rules, 2017.
    • Of these, only a few including cardiac stents, drug eluting cardiac stents, condoms, intrauterine devices, have been brought under price control.
  • Existing Penal Provisions:
    • There are various penal provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 for various kinds of offences.
    • For manufacturing or sale of substandard items: punishable with imprisonment of at least 10 years, which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB):

  • It is the highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in the country.
  • It is constituted as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • It is part of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

CDSCO:

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India.
  • Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, CDSCO is responsible for
    • Approval of New Drugs
    • Conduct of Clinical Trials
    • Laying down the standards for Drugs
    • Control over the quality of imported Drugs in the country and
    • Coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations by providing expert advice with a view to bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of theDrugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • CDSCO along with state regulators, is jointly responsible for grant of licenses of certain specialized categories of critical Drugs such as blood and blood products, Vaccine and Sera.

Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules 1945:

  • It regulates the import, manufacture and distribution of medicines in the country.
  • It Also ensures that drugs and cosmetics sold in India are safe, effective and conform to state quality standards.
  • Entrusts various responsibilities to central & state regulators for regulation of drugs & Cosmetics.
  • The related Rules,1945 contains provisions for classification of drugs under different schedules and prescribes guidelines for the storage, sale, display and prescription of each schedule.

NORMS RELAXED UNDER MPLAD SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Union government has recently given few exemptions under the MPLADS scheme, owing to the recent COVID-19 Pandemic.

About the Exemptions:

  • The government has provided for “one-time exemption in furnishing of utilization certificate” for release of the first instalment, and exemption from furnishing of audit certificate for release of the second instalment.
  • The exemption is for the Members of Parliament (MPs) who have decided to contribute for COVID-19. This exemption is applicable only for the financial year 2020-21.
  • The latest announcement comes after allowing a one-time dispensation under the Scheme to allow MPs to recommend funds for purchase of medical testing and screening equipment for government hospitals and dispensaries in the wake of COVID-19.

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme:

  • This scheme was announced in 1993 and initially came under the control of the Ministry of Rural Development. Later, in October 1994, it was transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Objective:

  • To enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs to be taken up in their Constituencies.
  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their constituencies and elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State they are elected from.
  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
  • To create durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc.

Funding and Implementation:

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is ₹5 crore. MPs receive Rs 5 crore in two instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each. Funds under MPLADS are non-lapsable.
  • Under the MPLADS rules, an MP can donate a maximum of Rs 1 crore to a trust or a public fund.

DRDO TO DEVELOP ‘MULTI-PATIENT VENTILATORS’ FOR CRITICAL COVID-19 PATIENTS

Why in News?

  • The Health Ministry has asked the public sector unit to make about 10,000 ventilators. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a PSU under the Ministry of Defence, is expected to supply about 30,000 ventilators by June 2020.
  • The initiative to invite corporates to make multi-patient ventilators is also being tried out by the United States, which currently has the maximum COVID-19 patients in the world

Highlights:

  • The multi-patient ventilators will help support several patients through a single unit. The DRDO is developing the advanced ventilators to meet the demand in case the coronavirus outbreak goes out of control.
  • The DRDO aims to produce around 5000 ventilators in the first months and 10,000 subsequently.
  • Each of the critical care ventilators is expected to cost around Rs four lakh.
  • The organisation has found some local alternatives to the supply of critical components.
  • Around nine companies have been identified for design transfer and to produce the components of the ventilator. Anand Mahindra has been selected for the fabrication of components.
  • As per reports, the government has reached out to five automobile companies- Honda Cars India, Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai Motor India, Mahindra and Mahindra and Tata Motors to explore the possibility of making ventilators at their plants.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation is also developing personal protection equipment including five-layered N-99 face masks for the healthcare personnel of the country.
  • The DRDO has offered the technology to the industry to produce the face masks on a large scale. The DRDO has also produced surgical face masks and distributed them to the Delhi Police.
  • The DRDO is also producing sanitizing vans in large numbers to supply to major cities and towns to sanitize people who enter the van.

Ventilators in India:

  • India has a total of about 40,000 ventilators at present including about 8,500 in public hospitals.
  • Kerala, which has the highest number of positive coronavirus cases has around 5000 ventilators, Mumbai has about 1,000, Tamil Nadu has around 1,500 and Madhya Pradesh has about 1,800 ventilator units.
    • The number of ventilators in some of the eastern states is less than 10.

CANTONMENT BOARDS GEAR UP TO COVID-19 CHALLENGE

Why in News?

  • Sixty-two Cantonment Boards spread over 19 States/Union Territories, across the country, with a population of approx. 21 lakh (including military and civil) have geared up to the challenge posed by Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Highlights:

  • Instructions have been issued to all the Cantonment Boards to identify beds in hospitals/health centres and guest houses for any eventuality.
  • Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of the Cantonment Boards are in constant touch with civilian authorities in their respective areas and providing required assistance whenever needed.
  • All the advisories issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are being strictly adhered to by all the Cantonment Boards.
  • All the Cantonment offices buildings, residential areas, school premises, libraries, parks and markets are being sanitised regularly.
  • Task forces have been set up consisting of office staff to ensure supply of essential commodities, food items, etc, especially for poor people residing in Cantonment areas.

Cantonment Board:

  • A cantonment board is a civic administration body in India under control of the Ministry of Defence.
  • The overall municipal administration of the Cantonment areas comes under Cantonment Boards which are democratic bodies.
  • The Cantonment areas were and are primarily meant to accommodate the military population and their installations.
  • Cantonments are different from the Military Stations in that the Military Stations are purely meant for the use and accommodation of the armed forces and these are established under an executive order whereas the Cantonments are areas which comprise of both military and civil population.

Members:

  • The board comprises elected members besides ex-officio and nominated members as per the Cantonments Act, 2006.
  • The term of office of a member of a board is five years. A cantonment board consists of eight elected members, three nominated military members, three ex-officio members (station commander, garrison engineer and senior executive medical officer), and one representative of the district magistrate.

Categories:

  • Cantonments are divided into Four Categories, Namely:
    • Category I – population exceeds Fifty Thousand.
    • Category II – population exceeds ten thousand, but does not exceed Fifty Thousand.
    • Category III – population exceeds two thousand five hundred, but does not exceed Ten thousand.
    • Category IV – population does not exceed two thousand five hundred

“OPERATION NAMASTE” OF INDIAN ARMY

Why in News?

  • The Indian Army has launched its anti-COVID-19 campaign code-named as “Operation Namaste” in order to help the government in its fight against the pandemic.

Steps taken under “Operation Namaste”:

  • Soldiers are advised to follow the lockdown, wherever they do not have any operational role, and stay fit. They are assured that their families will be well taken care of.
  • Leave extension of those on leave as well as curtailment of leave to bare minimum have been imposed.

Setting up of Quarantine and Hospital Facilities:

  • Segregation facilities have been set up to observe troops already back from leave from various states.
  • So far six quarantine facilities have been established where people evacuated from coronavirus-affected countries have been accommodated.
  • 28 Armed Forces hospitals have been earmarked as COVID hospitals.
  • These hospitals will include armed forces patients as well as civilian patients transferred from state health authorities.
  • Five hospitals from the Army, Navy and the Air Force are conducting coronavirus tests using the RT-PCR methodology and more hospitals will be equipped soon with the resources.

Contributions by Other Forces:

  • Indian Navy also contributed by delivering 60,000 face masks ordered by Indian Medical Association, Goa which were stuck in Delhi due to the lockdown. Ilyushin 38 SD (Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircrafts) departed for New Delhi and returned on the same day with the masks.
  • Recently, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also came forward to help by developing ventilators and providing other Medical Equipment.

MPLADS FUNDS MAY BE UTILIZED FOR COVID-19

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation issued a circular granting one-time dispensation for utilizing funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19.

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS):

  • The MPLADS is an on-going Central Sector Scheme which was launched in 1993-94.
  • The Scheme enables the Members of Parliament to recommend works for creation of durable community assets based on locally felt needs to be taken up in their constituencies in the area of national priorities namely drinking water, education, public health, sanitation, roads etc.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme.

Features

  • The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 % of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 % for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies and Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions).
  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere

Implementation

  • A Member of Parliament shall give his/ her choice of Nodal District in a prescribed format to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with copy to the State Government and to the District Magistrate of the chosen District.
  • The annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore shall be released, in two equal instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each, by Government of India directly to the District Authority of the Nodal District of the Member of Parliament concerned.
  • The District Authority shall identify the Implementing Agency capable of executing the eligible work qualitatively, timely and satisfactorily.
  • It shall be responsible for timely and effective implementation of such works.
  • All recommended eligible works should be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, after completing all formalities.
  • The District Authority shall, however, inform MPs regarding rejection, if any, within 45days from the date of receipt of recommendations, with reasons thereof.

DIGITAL INITIATIVES TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS

Why in News?

  • Recently Indian government has initiated few digital initiatives in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. This is how technology comes as a saviour in the critical times.

Few Initiatives taken by the Government:

Platform to host Webinars:

  • The Government has developed a platform which will host webinars by All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) doctors for healthcare workers across the country.
  • A webinar platform has been developed in tandem with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The webinars are for the frontline health workers (nurses, paramedics, ASHA- Accredited Social Health Activist workers, Anganwadi workers), who are more prone to COVID-19.
  • The webinars would be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp..
  • The state governments would also be involved so as to make the content available in regional languages.

‘Corona Kavach’

  • The Government has also developed a contact path tracing app that will trace the paths of COVID-19 positive patients, serving as a warning to possible contacts.
  • The app would store location data and would enter the credentials of the person if he/she tests positive. This information would be sent to the cloud.
  • A signal would come to the app which would convert it from green to red.
  • The server would then find out people who were in close proximity with the infected person in the last 14 days.
  • Their apps would turn yellow and they would get an alert that they should quarantine themselves.

Other Initiatives of the Government:

  • Chat Boxes on Facebook and WhatsApp have been set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for providing information about COVID-19.
  • A portal to map the requirements of hospitals, and cross-referencing them with those who have offered to help with equipment is also being set up by the government.

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN: A LONG ROAD

Context:

  • While the nations around the globe are fighting against the deadly virus, India’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak has been unique. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March, 2020, announced a 21-day nationwide shutdown in an effort to break the chain of transmission.
  • As the nation of 1.3 billion people shut down, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said India’s COVID fight could make or break the global war. The real test for India is in curbing community transmission which has just begun.

India’s Lockdown Experiment:

  • The lockdown has been enforced in a bid to flatten the curve of transmission of the novel coronavirus.
  • However, the enforcement has also left millions of people unprepared for the severe disruption.
  • As a public health measure, the full national lockdown is welcomed by the medical community as a necessary measure to cut the transmission chain of the virus.
  • With the fresh arrival of travellers from abroad has already been stopped, the three weeks is long enough to allow for symptomatic cases of COVID-19 disease to emerge.
  • This time period should give the government sufficient time to plan a treatment response.
  • However, the government failed to anticipate the complex issues involved in confining over a billion people to their homes.

The Essence of the Lockdown:

  • The lack of planning on the lockdown resulted in other problems like crowding, with people rushing out to buy essential supplies and medicines.
  • There were also instances of mindless police violence against workers performing routine jobs.
  • The hardest hit are the millions of daily wage earners, the self-employed and small businesses, and the rural landless poor.
  • Vulnerable segments of the workforce face the immediate prospect of a lack of income as well as hunger.
  • The shutdown has brought the approximately ₹200-lakh crore national economy close to a shuddering standstill.
  • The virtual curfew could have been made far less stressful through prior discussion with the States, and unambiguous communication to the public.

Necessities for a Successful Lockdown:

  • For the lockdown to serve its purpose, it should lead to wider testing of all suspected cases. For which, there should be substantial investments in public health infrastructure targeted at COVID-19 treatment.
  • If the prolonged lockdown is to be executed without too much trauma for the general public, there has to be a war room approach – reliable access to food, water, medicines and emergency assistance must be provided.
  • There is also a deplorable trend of social discrimination against health workers handling COVID-19 cases, which must be sternly dealt with.
  • If movement is to be restricted, essentials must be delivered virtually at the doorstep.
  • Allowing delivery of medicines by pharmacies is important and essential personnel must be given passes that protect them from police harassment and ensure movement of goods.
  • Though some States have announced cash relief and free rations, the challenge is to ensure effective implementation.
  • The Centre shall consider abandoning its fiscal deficit goals at this moment of a worldwide healthcare and economic crisis.
  • The governments can use the Jan-Dhan accounts, BPL ration cards and the data available with various social welfare schemes including PM-KISAN and MGNREGA to ensure the reach of any financial aid to the population.

Life after the Lockdown:

  • While the Finance Minister has announced a slew of measures to tackle the unprecedented economic crisis, it also demands a set of mitigation and subsequent stimulus measures of an exceptional scale.
  • Provisions for free services to all financial aid recipients; loan repayment holidays and a wage bill subsidy to all MSME businesses that retain their workforce at pre-crisis levels can help rebuild the economy.
  • Once the lockdown is lifted, a huge public infrastructure creation backed spending push can generate jobs and restart economic activity.
  • The government must do well to use the crisis as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address both the economy’s and the public’s well-being. The lives and livelihoods lost to the pandemic should not be in vain.

ECONOMIC RELIEF MEASURES TO TACKLE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Why in News?

  • Finance Ministry has announced several measures aimed at alleviating the growing economic stress in the country in the wake of the disruption caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Highlights:

  • Contrary to expectations, the Ministry did not announce any fiscal sops, and limited itself to providing extensions for a range of regulatory requirements.
  • The regulatory relief applies to taxation, both direct and indirect, as well as everyday working norms for a variety of economic magnates such as exporters and importers, small and medium-sized firms, and individuals as well.
  • The most important change relates to the regulatory forbearance for firms that are likely to face bankruptcies.
  • Under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), bankruptcy proceedings can be started against a firm that defaults on an amount of Rs 1 lakh or more, this threshold has now been raised to Rs 1 crore.
  • This will immediately help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which are expected to be among the worst hit due to the ongoing economic slowdown. By raising the threshold, the government has provided immediate reprieve to all such firms.
  • The ministry also noted that if the situation demands, that is, if the economic distress continues or intensifies, the government would consider suspending Sections 7, 9, and 10 of the IBC for a full six months after April end.
  • The government has increased the deadline for filing income-tax returns for 2018-19 has been relaxed and the penal interest rate has been reduced. On Goods and Services Tax compliance, too, there has been a similar relief.
  • The Aadhaar and PAN linkage too has been pushed to June-end. Government has also extended the deadline for dispute resolution schemes on the direct tax (Vivaad se Vishwas Scheme) and indirect taxes (Sabka Vishwas Scheme) till 30th
  • It has also provided relief to importers whose shipments are delayed or those who need extended quarantining facilities.
  • In the fisheries sector, Sanitary Import Permits, which were to expire by April 15 have been extended for 3 more months. However, these measures target only the organised sector of the economy.
  • About 90% of employment in India is in the informal or unorganised sector. Economic
  • slowdown affects that sector the most, and is likely to result in massive unemployment and deprivation. None of these measures is targeted towards that demographic.

AIRCRAFT AMENDMENT BILL, 2020

Why in News:

  • The Lok Sabha has recently passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934.

Highlights

  • It will provide statutory status to regulatory institutions like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
  • It regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircrafts and licensing of aerodromes.
  • The statutory status to these regulatory institutions would improve India’s aviation safety ranking as suggested by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • It proposes to increase the fine amount for violations of rules from ₹10 lakhs to ₹1 crore for aviation industry players.
  • It may cancel the licences, certificates or approvals granted to a person under the Act if the person contravenes any provision of the Act.
  • It exempted aircrafts belonging to the naval, military, or air forces of the Union. It expands this exemption to include aircrafts belonging to any other armed forces other than these three.
    • DGCA will carry out oversight and regulatory functions with respect to matters under the Bill.
    • BCAS carries out regulatory oversight functions related to civil aviation security.
    • AAIB carries out investigations related to aircraft accidents and incidents.

About Challenges of the Bill:

  • The civil aviation sector had been deregulated with little role for the government to set air fare.
  • There has been a drop in demand and airline companies are under stress due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The aviation sector faces the shortage of Air-Traffic Controllers (ATCs). The cases of “near miss” in the skies have increased.
  • Air India is having huge losses (₹26 crores daily) due to its disinvestment and it is likely to get worse in the wake of the pandemic.

Way Ahead:

  • Airfares need to remain affordable and airlines also need to remain viable.
  • The strength of ATCs needs to be increased to avoid any possibility of mid-air collisions. India has 3,500 ATCs and 250 more will be hired next year.
  • A near miss is when two aircraft come so close that their safety is compromised. The safe distance between two planes flying in opposite directions is 40 seconds depending on their speed. Similarly, the vertical distance of 1,000 feet is Considered Safe.

LARGE-SCALE ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • In a bid to boost large-scale electronics manufacturing in India, the Union Cabinet approved three schemes, including a production-linked incentive scheme, with a total outlay of almost ₹48,000 crore.
  • The National Policy of Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019) replaces the National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012).

Highlights:

  • The schemes are expected to attract new investments worth at least ₹50,000 crore in thesector, while generating more than five lakh direct and 15 lakh indirect jobs.

PLI for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing:

  • The Production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing aims to attract large investments in mobile phone manufacturing and specified electronic components, including assembly, testing, marking and packaging (ATMP) units.
  • It has at a budgetary outlay of Rs. 40,995 crore for five years.
  • The scheme will offer an incentive of 4-6% on incremental sales of goods manufactured in
    • India and is expected to create a total of 8 lakh jobs.

Scheme for Promotion of manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS):

  • SPECS will provide financial incentive of 25% of capital expenditure for the manufacturing of goods that constitute the supply chain of an electronic product.
  • The scheme will help offset the disability for domestic manufacturing of electronic components and semiconductors in order to strengthen the electronic manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
  • The total cost of the scheme is Rs.3,285 crore.

Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC) 2.0:

  • It aims at creating quality infrastructure with a minimum area of 200 acres along with industry-specific facilities such as common facility centres, ready-built factory sheds/ plug-and-play facilities.
  • The scheme will provide financial assistance upto 50% of the project cost subject to ceiling of Rs.70 crore per 100 acres of land and For Common Facility Centre (CFC), financial assistance of 75% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs.75 crore will be provided.
  • It has outlay of Rs. 3,762 crore over a period of 8 years.

Salient Features of National Policy on Electronics 2019 NPE 2019:

  • Create eco-system for globally competitive Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector
  • Provide incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components.
  • Provide special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and
    • entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.
  • Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units.
  • Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics, including grass root level innovations and early stage Start-ups in emerging technology.
  • Provide incentives and support for significantly enhancing availability of skilled manpower, including re-skilling.
  • Special thrust on Fabless Chip Design Industry, Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive Electronics Industry and Power Electronics for Mobility and Strategic Electronics Industry.
  • Create Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) to promote the development and acquisition of IPs in ESDM sector.
  • Promote trusted electronics value chain initiatives to improve national cyber security profile.

COVID-19 AND WORK FROM HOME IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The rising wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in India has forced the corporate world in the country to opt for ‘work from home’ widely.
  • Currently, the work from home is the only viable option to continue and sustain economic activities in the country to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Legal Framework in India:

  • India’s labour laws and proposed Labour Codes do not recognise work from home as a viable work arrangement.
  • An organisation is also required to maintain statutory records under various acts such as Shops and Establishment Act, Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Wages Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Factories Act, and Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act.
  • These laws regulate hours of work, payment of wages, leaves, holidays, terms of service and other conditions of work of persons employed.
  • However, the above provisions assume that an employee has a fixed geography of work and does not account for an employee working from a remote location.

Current Scenario:

  • Most organisations in India do not have well documented policies and guidelines to support extended work from home arrangements.
  • Also most of the managerial staff is not trained and equipped to manage remote teams.

Complexities in regulating “Work from Home” Workforce:

  • Labour – a Subject on the Concurrent List:
    • Under the Constitution of India, Labour is a subject in the Concurrent List where both the Central & State Governments are competent to enact legislation subject to certain matters being reserved for the Centre.
    • At the same time, States have also implemented labour laws with different applicability criteria, registration and documentation requirements.
    • Thus, if an employee works remotely and is based in a different state, the applicable labour laws will change leading to different compliance obligations.
  • Minimum Wages Act:
    • The Minimum Wages Act 1948 is an Act of Parliament concerning Indian labour law that sets the minimum wages that must be paid to skilled and unskilled labourers.
    • The different states have different minimum wages based on schedule, skill level and zone. As an example, just the state of Karnataka has over 800 different minimum wages.
    • In the event of employees working remotely from different states, the complexity of wage computation will increase sharply.
    • Minimum wage requirements for different states will have to be satisfied to stay compliant.
  • Professional Tax:
    • Professional tax is a tax on all kinds of professions, trades, and employment and levied based on the income of such profession, trade and employment.
    • Professional Tax implementation varies between states in applicability, computation and filing requirements.
  • Labour Welfare Fund:
    • Labour Welfare Fund is a statutory contribution managed by individual state authorities.
    • In case an employee telecommutes from a different state, there are implications leading to additional registration and filings leading to higher complexity and cost of managing compliance.
  • Overtime Wage Calculations:
    • An employer has to compute the wage of an employee based on the days and hours of work and maintain statutory registers as evidence.
    • Overtime work hours have different slabs and statutory payment requirements.
    • In a remote work arrangement, organisations will need to manage these records such that they are admissible by the Labour Department.

Way Forward:

  • The world economies have become increasingly connected and interdependent. Greater flexibility, adaptability and resilience will be key to the next-generation workforce.
  • The implementation of technology advancements in office productivity tools, collaboration tools, digital documents, flexible workflows, cheaper broadband connectivity will continue to make work from home easier.
  • The proposed labour codes in India are expected to acknowledge gig, informal and unorganised labour in addition to work from home as a legal option.
  • The government is also expected to make a regulatory framework to enable teleworking.
  • Organisations should understand the implications of work from home during the ongoing crisis and ensure that they inadvertently do not miss critical compliances.

SETTING UP OF NATIONAL TECHNICAL TEXTILE MISSION

Why in News?

  • The government has approved the proposal for creation of National Technical Textiles Mission for a period of 4 years with an outlay of Rs.1480 crores.

Highlights:

  • Objective:To position India as a global leader in technical textiles and increase the use of technical textiles in the domestic market.
  • Implementation :For 4 years from 2020-21 to 2023-24

Components of the National Technical Textiles Mission:

  • Component-l (Research, Innovation and Development):
    • Will focus on research and development at both, fiber level and application-based in geo, agro, medical, sports and mobile textiles and development of bio- degradable technical textiles.
    • Research activities will also focus on development of indigenous machinery and process equipment.
    • Will have an outlay of ₹1,000 crores.
  • Component-II (Promotion and Market Development):
    • Will be for promotion and development of market for technical textiles.
    • Will aim at average growth rate of 15-20% per annum taking the level of domestic market size to 40-50 Billion USD by the year 2024.
  • Component–III (Export Promotion):
    • Will focus on export promotion so that technical textile exports from the country reach from the ₹14,000 crore now to ₹20,000 crores by 2021-2022.
    • Ensure 10% average growth every year till the Mission ends.
    • An export promotion council for technical textiles will be set up.
  • Component-IV (Education, Training, Skill Development):✓ Will promote Technical Education at higher engineering and technology levels related to technical textiles and its application areas.

Significance of the Mission:

  • The Mission will focus on usage of technical textiles in various flagship missions, including in strategic sectors.
  • The use of technical textiles in agriculture, aquaculture, dairy, poultry, etc. Jal Jivan Mission; Swachch Bharat Mission; Ayushman Bharat will bring an overall improvement in cost economy, water and soil conservation, better agricultural productivity and higher income to farmers per acre of land holding in addition to promotion of manufacturing and exports activities in India.
  • The use of geo-textiles in highways, railways and ports will result in robust infrastructure, reduced maintenance cost and higher life cycle of the infrastructure assets.
  • Promotion of innovation amongst young engineers will be taken up by the Mission; along with creation of incubation centres and promotion of ‘start-up’ and Ventures’.
  • The research output will be reposited with a ‘Trust’ with the Government for easy and assessable proliferation of the knowledge.A sub-component of the research will focus on development of bio degradable technical textiles materials, particularly for agro-textiles, geo-textiles and medical textiles. It will also develop suitable equipment for environmentally sustainable disposal of used technical textiles, with emphasis on safe disposal of medical and hygiene wastes. There is another important sub-component in the research activity aiming at development of indigenous machineries and process equipment for technical textiles, in order to promote ‘Make in India’ and enable competitiveness of the industry by way of reducedcapital costs.

REVIVAL OF KHADI AND VILLAGE INDUSTRIES

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), through Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), has been implementing Khadi Reform and Development Programme (KRDP) scheme for revival and increase the production of Khadi throughout the country.

Khadi Reform and Development Programme (KRDP):

  • It is a comprehensive reform programme approved by Government of India, being implemented with the assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB). ¨ KRDP aims to revitalize the Khadi and Village Industries through Policy and Institutional Reforms

Specific Objectives are:

  • Repositioning Khadi and aligning it to market demand and trends.
  • Enhancing artisan welfare and empowerment.
  • Undertaking extensive capacity building of Khadi Institutions (KIs).
  • Strengthening Institutional Mechanisms.
  • Implementation of MIS at Khadi Institution level and e-Governance at KVIC.
  • Strategic development of traditional village industries.

Financial Assistance:

  • A total of 22 Khadi Institutions were given assistance under KRDP with a financial outlay of Rs.1484.93 lakhs for refurbishment of Khadi programme in the State of Bihar. ¨ Ministry of MSME provides financial assistance in the form of grant and subsidy to KVIC for promotion and development of Khadi Programme.
  • Ministry has approved Khadi Vikas Yojana for the development of Khadi programme during the year 2019-20, under which assistance is provided under following components:
  • Modified Market Development Assistance (MMDA):KVIC provides Market Development Assistance to the registered Khadi Institutions and 40% of total MMDA to the Khadi a[[rtisans engaged in production activity.
  • Interest Subsidy Eligibility Certificate (ISEC) Scheme: KVIC provides interest subsidy on the working capital loan availed by Khadi Institutions for undertaking production andsales activities under Khadi programme. Under the scheme interest @ 4% per annum is to be paid by the Khadi Institution and balance i.e. actual lending rate minus 4% is to be paid by the Government as interest subsidy.
  • Workshed Scheme for Khadi Artisans: Khadi artisans are provided Worksheds for better work atmosphere and storing the materials, under which financial assistance up to Rs. 60000/- is provided per workshed.
  • For revival of sick Khadi Institutions, assistance upto Rs. 9.90 lakh is provided to weak and problematic Khadi Institutions to bring them back to normalcy. For the renovation and modernization of sales outlets run by KVIC, Khadi Institutions and KVIBs financial assistance are being provided under ‘Assistance for Marketing Infrastructure’ scheme.

Rozgar Yukt Gaon (RYG):

  • A new component under Khadi Vikas Yojana has been introduced with objective of introducing enterprise led model replacing subsidy-led model and create an additional 12,500 direct employment opportunities in 50 villages, which are deprived of opportunities and sustainable livelihood support systems, in addition to spinning out secondary and ancillary opportunities of employment in a wider sense. ¨ This will generate nearly 18,265 employment opportunities in which 12,500 will be direct and 5,765 will be indirect.

Khadi Mark:

  • To ensure genuineness of Khadi, “Khadi Mark” regulation has been notified by Government of India.
  • As of now, 2326 number of Khadi Institutions are working under Khadi Programme, out of which 85 KIs are working in Bihar State.

SCHOOL HEALTH PROGRAMME OF THE AYUSHMAN BHARAT

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) informed the Rajya Sabha about the implementation of School Health Programme (SHP).

About the School Health Programme:

  • The School Health Programme (SHP) under Ayushman Bharat was launched in the year 2018. It is a joint collaborative programme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

An integrated Target:

  • The initiative targets both Education and Health and intends to facilitate an integrated approach to health programming and more effective learning at the school level.

Major Objectives of the Scheme:

  • Awareness about age appropriate information about health and nutrition to the children in schools.
  • Detection and treating diseases early in children and adolescents including identification of malnourished and Anemic children.
  • Usage of safe drinking water in schools.
  • Promotion of safe menstrual hygiene practices by girls.

Role of Teachers and Education:

  • Under the programme teachers act as “Health and Wellness Ambassadors” and disseminate various key information by organising culturally sensitive activity based sessions for one hour per week for 24 weeks in a year to promote joyful learning.
  • Further, the students act as Health and Wellness Messengers in the society.
  • Every Tuesday is dedicated as Health and Wellness Day in the schools.

Integration with Other Government Initiatives:

  • The initiative is also linked with other government initiatives such as Fit India movement, Eat Right campaign, Poshan Abhiyaan for an all-round and holistic development model of health for the school children.
  • Additionally, the government is implementing a few schemes on the similar lines namely, Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Program and Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Programme.

1. Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Program intends to ensure holistic development of the adolescent population.

2. Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Programme is aimed at early identification and intervention of diseases in children from their birth to 18 years of age.

Linkage with SDGs:

  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) along with National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have also developed curriculum framework and training material for training of nodal teachers, in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG- 3).
  • SDG 3 aspires to ensure health and well-being for all.

SUPREME COURT DISMISSES PLEAS AGAINST POST-BASED RESERVATION IN KARNATAKA

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has rejected a bunch of pleas seeking exclusion of creamy layer or better-off individuals among Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities at the entry-level when it comes to the reservation in promotions.

What is the Issue?

  • The applications were filed in the BK Pavitra case in which the top court had, in 2019, upheld the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservations (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act.
  • The Supreme Court in its 2019 judgment had held that the Act was a valid exercise of power by the government under Article 16 (4A) which empowers the state to provide reservations to SC/STs in matters of promotion.

What did the Karnataka Law Say?

  • The Act enacted by the Karnataka government provides, among other things, for consequential seniority to persons belonging to SC and ST categories promoted under the reservation policy of Karnataka.
  • Consequential seniority enables reserved category candidates to retain their seniority for subsequent promotions.
  • That is, if an SC/ST candidate is promoted ahead of a general category candidate by reason of reservation in promotion, then the promoted SC/ST candidate will retain that seniority for subsequent promotions and will thus be considered senior to general category candidate who was promoted later.

Why this is Significant?

  • This Supreme Court order is significant because it underlines “a ‘meritorious’ candidateis not merely one who is ‘talented ‘or ‘successful’ but also one whose appointment fulfils the constitutional goals of uplifting members of the SCs and STs and ensuring a diverse and representative administration”.

What is the Creamy Layer Concept?

  • The ‘means-test and creamy layer’ first finds expression in the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Indra Sawhney versus Union of India, delivered by a nine-judge Bench on November 16, 1992.
  • ‘Creamy layer’ are “some members of a backward class who are highly advanced socially as well as economically and educationally.

Constitutional basis for special measures under Article 335:

  • Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.

Why it is Needed?

  • Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity.
  • The proviso contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.

NEW DEFINITIONS FOR MSMES

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for MSMEs informed the Rajya Sabha that the government would come out with a new definition of MSMEs.

What are MSMEs?

  • Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act, 2006 which was notified on October 2, 2006, deals with the definition of MSMEs. The MSMED Act, 2006 defines the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises based on
    • the investment in plant and machinery for those engaged in manufacturing or production, processing or preservation of goods and
    • the investment in equipment for enterprises engaged in providing or rendering of services
  • But in February 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the amendment to MSMED Act, 2006 for classifying MSMEs from current investment in plant and machinery criteria to annual turnover criteria. Accordingly,
    • Micro Enterprise: Annual turnover does not exceed Rs. 5 Crore
    • Small Enterprise:Annual turnover between Rs. 5 crore – Rs. 75 crore.
    • Medium Enterprise:Annual turnover between Rs. 75 crore – Rs. 250 crore.

What is the Proposal?

  • Government has accepted 39 suggestions by the K. Sinha committee on MSMEs appointed by the Reserve Bank of India, including the setting up a “fund of funds” for the sector.
  • The MSME sector currently contributed 24% of the GDP growth and 48% of exports, with an annual turnover of ₹1 lakh crore this year. A target of ₹5 lakh crore in five years had been set.
  • Among the hurdles before the sector were the pending payments by governments and public sector undertakings, which were ₹5 lakh crore to ₹6 lakh crore. These dues needed to be cleared in order to boost the sector.

What are their Impacts?

  • It would increase compatibility with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system.
  • It may lead to further improvement in India’s ease of doing business scenario.
  • It may allow a single definition for purposes related to taxation, investment, etc.

DRAFT DEFENCE PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE (DPP), 2020

Why in News?

  • Defence Minister recently released Draft Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), 2020 which will come into effect from April 1, 2020.

What is Defence Procurement Procedure 2020?

  • The Defence Procurement Procedure mainly contains processes that need to be followed to streamline and simplify defence procurement procedures and ultimately achieve the objective of self-reliance in meeting all the security needs of the Indian Armed Forces by promoting indigenous design, development and manufacture of Defence weapon systems and, platforms in a time-bound manner without any delays.
  • The draft of DPP 2020 has been prepared by a Review Committee headed by Director General (Acquisition) based on the recommendations of all stakeholders, including private industry.
  • In order to accrue advantage of domain specialisation of various subject matter experts, eight sub-committees headed by Lt Gen/equivalent officers were constituted to assist the review committee.
  • The first DPP was promulgated in 2002 and has since been revised a number of times to provide impetus to the growing domestic industry and achieve enhanced self-reliance in defence manufacturing.

What are the Major Changes Proposed?

  • Indigenous Content Ratio hiked
    • In view of the experience gained by the domestic industry, the Draft proposes increasing the Indigenous Content (IC) stipulated in various categories of procurement by about 10% to support the ‘Make in India’
    • A simple and realistic methodology has been incorporated for verification of indigenous content for the first time.
  • Use of raw materials, special alloys and software incentivised as use of indigenous raw material is a very important aspect of ‘Make in India’ and Indian Companies are world leaders in software.
  • Assurance of procurement on a single vendor basis from Aero Engine manufacturing unit and chips from FAB manufacturing units established in the country.
  • New Category Buy (Global – Manufacture in India) has been introduced with minimum 50% indigenous content on cost basis of total contract value. Only the minimum necessary will be bought from abroad while the balance quantities will be manufactured in India. This would be in preference to the ‘Buy Global’category as manufacturing will happen in India and jobs will be created in the country.
  • Leasing introduced as a new category
    • Leasing has been introduced as a new category for acquisition in addition to existing ‘Buy’ & ‘Make’ categoriesto substitute huge initial capital outlays with periodical rental payments.
    • Leasing is permitted under two categories i.e., Lease (Indian) where Lessor is an Indian entity and is the owner of the assets and Lease (Global) where Lessor is a Global entity.
    • This will be useful for military equipment not used in actual warfare like transport fleets, trainers, simulators, etc.
  • A new Chapter is introduced for procurement of software and systems related projects as in such projects, obsolescence is very fast due to rapid changes in technology and flexibility in the procurement process is required to keep up with the technology.
  • A new Chapter is introduced for Post Contract Management to facilitate and provide clear guidelines for issues arising during the contract period as typically Defence contracts last for a long period.
  • Timelines for procurement reduced by reducing the process for accord of Acceptance of Necessity which would be single stage of projects less than Rs.500 crore and in case of repeat orders. Trial methodology and Quality Assurance Plan to be part of RFP.
  • Field Evaluation Trials to be conducted by specialised trial wings and the objective of trials will be to nurture competition rather than elimination for minor deficiencies.
  • A comprehensive Chapter introduced for ‘Make’ to cover procurement from manufacturers in India including start-ups and innovators and from research projects of DRDO.
  • Product support
    • The scope and options for Product Support have been widened to include contemporary concepts in vogue, namely Performance Based Logistics (PBL), Life Cycle Support Contract (LCSC), Comprehensive Maintenance Contract (CMC), etc. to optimise life cycle support for equipment. The capital acquisition contract would normally also include support for five years beyond the warranty period.
  • Modified offset guidelines proposed to give emphasis on export of products rather than components. Higher multipliers proposed for procurement from MSMEs and units established in Defence Industrial Corridors. Higher multipliers proposed for Transfer of Technology to private Companies / DPSUs / OFB and DRDO.

FORMULATION OF SCHEME FOR REHABILITATION OF BEGGARS

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed to restructure and formulate a scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Beggars

Highlights:

  • It will be a comprehensive scheme for persons engaged in the act of begging.
  • The scheme will cover identification, rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development with the support of State Governments, Local Urban Bodies and Voluntary Organizations.
  • The scheme will be implemented in the selected cities having large concentration of Beggar community during the financial year 2020-2021.
  • The government is working in a mission mode with complete commitment to‘Har Ek Kaam, Desh Ke Naam’.

Implementation:

  • Pilot project of this scheme will be initiated during Financial Year 2019-20 subject to submission of city specific Action Plan by the State Governments.
  • 100% Assistance under the Scheme shall be provided to the States/UTs for its implementation.
  • During the year 2019-20, this Ministry has released an amount of Rs. One Crore to National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) and Rs. 70.00 Lakh to National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) for skill development programmes for beggars.

Induction:

  • The Corporation has so far conducted skill development training programme for 400 members of beggar’s community in Warehouse Packer, Hand-rolled Agarbatti making, Hand Embroiderer and other self-employment skill development training programmes.

National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation:

  • NBCFDC was incorporated 13th January 1992 as a non-profit company under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India to improve and develop the economic activities for the members of Backward Classes who are living below double the poverty line.
  • The Corporation can assist loan for their self-employment ventures in the sectors like agriculture, transport and service etc.
  • NBCFDC also provides Micro Financing through SCAs/ Self Help Groups (SHGs).
  • The Corporation can assist a wide range of income generating activities to assist the poorer section of these classes in skill development and self-employment ventures.

CONTACT TRACING

Why in News?

  • Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to Prevent Transmission.

ICMR Guidelines:

  • As per Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines, which are also directions that have sound public health sense behind them, people who may have been exposed to the virus are to be followed for 28 days from the date of the probable last exposure/arrival from affected countries.
  • Any person who has had contact with the index patient under investigation/treatment for suspected, probable or confirmed case of SARS-COV-2, should be monitored for the appearance of symptoms.

Who is a Contact?

  • Anyone who provided care for the suspect or confirmed case, including a health care worker (including those involved in cleaning, waste management, laboratory technicians, doctors) or family member, or anyone who had close physical contact; anyone who stayed at the same place (lived with, or visited) while the index patient was symptomatic.
  • If symptoms appear within the first 28 days following the contact, the individual should be considered a ‘probable’ case and reported through the Integrated Diseases Surveillance Programme network to the National Centre for Disease Control.

Tracing Contacts:

  • As soon as the single event (confirmed SARS-CoV-2) is detected, contact tracing must be aggressively implemented, and preferably to be completed within 48 hours.
  • The contact tracing shall preferably be done by visiting the local residence of the contact(s) by a member of the health services team.
  • On meeting the ‘contact person’, the visiting health worker should explain the purpose of contact tracing and collect data in a prescribed format.
  • It is important to identify the social networks of the first patient and travel history during the 28 days after the onset of illness.
  • Contacts should be traced and monitored for at least 28 days after the last exposure to the case patient for evidence of COVID-19 symptoms to emerge.

Symptomatic Contacts:

  • Persons who have fever and cough and a history of contact with a confirmed case within the last 28 days should be referred for isolation for strict infection control.
  • Samples must be collected and sent to the designated laboratory for testing, and appropriate medical management must begin.
  • If contacts show symptoms, they may be isolated at a health care facility or at home until the results come in.
  • Once confirmed as positive for SARS-CoV-2, they must be shifted to a proper health facility.

ODF+ and ODF++

Context:

  • Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development has tabled its report on the performance of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) in Lok Sabha.

About ODF+, ODF++

  • It is launched in 2018 to further scale up and sustain the work undertaken by the cities after achieving the ODF status under Phase I of the Swachh Bharat Mission — Urban (SBM-Urban).
  • Cities that had been certified ODF at least once, on the basis of the ODF protocols, are eligible to declare themselves as SBM-ODF+ & SBM-ODF++.
  • Its aim is to properly maintenance of toilet facilities and safe collection, conveyance, treatment/disposal of all faecal sludge and sewage.
    • ODF+ focuses on toilets with water, maintenance and hygiene
    • ODF++ focuses on toilets with sludge and septage management.

Highlights:

  • Despite the fact that work on three protocols under the next phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban-2) — ODF+, ODF++ and Water Plus — is to be completed by 2024, the ground situation was not matching with the assigned timeline. The progress has been slow.
  • Less than 30 per cent of the cities have been certified as ODF+ so far. Out of 4,320 cities declared ODF, as low as 1,276 cities have been certified as ODF+.
  • The number of ODF++ cities — 411 — means that less than 10 per cent cities are certified as ODF++ so far.
  • According to Phase 1 of the Swachh Bharat Mission (U), 99 per cent of the cities became ODF, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) had claimed in 2019.

About Water plus:

  • It aims to sustain toilets by treating and reuse of water, which is launched in 2019.
  • It contributes to the government’s focus on water conversation and reuse under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan and is in alignment with United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal No 6 on clean water and sanitation.

 

USING CALL DATA IS TO IMPROVE QUALITY AND NOT FOR SURVEILLANCE

Why in News?

  • Bulk call data records (CDR) being sought by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), was only being collected to analyse and improve the quality of telecom services and not for any form of surveillance, says Government.

What is the Issue?

  • Some local units of the DoT “continue to seek voluminous CDR details from the licensees on regular basis in contravention” of the standard operating procedure for providing CDRs to law enforcement agencies.
  • In a reply, the DoT said that given the numerous complaints about quality of service on the country’s telecommunications networks including call drops, echo, cross connections, incomplete or poor caller experience, the DoT had developed a software tool to analyse big data and accurately ascertain call drops in any area.
  • For this purpose, data on calls made from mobiles in any tower coverage area is analysed to ascertain calls terminated within 30 seconds and made again.
  • The government stressed that this data was anonymous and did not contain the names of either the maker or receiver of calls.
  • It is alleged that there is infringement of privacy of an individual which is the violation of the Fundamental Right under Article 21.
    • The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

Is there any Legal Backup for such provision?

  • The Government is empowered under Rule 419 of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, to access such anonymous data for improving network quality.
  • Any authorisation of such access to call drop data can be approved only by very senior officers.
  • Further, it has been decided to seek such data only for short time period i.e. three to six hours normally covering the peak load of traffic on the network for any cell tower.

What are the Concerns Regarding Surveillance?

  • Surveillance is done as per due process of law; that any interception, monitoring, decryption of computer resource is done only by authorised agencies and with approval of competent authority; to prevent unauthorised use of these powers by any agency, individual or intermediary so that the right to privacy of citizen is not violated.

Who are Empowered for Surveillance?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in December 2018, issued an order authorising ten security and intelligence agencies of the country to access any information stored in any computer for the purpose of monitoring, decrypting and interception.
  • The 10 agencies include Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence;, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only), and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

Why Surveillance Needed?

  • Surveillance is necessary in the modern world where modern tools of information communication, including encryption are used. Surveillance is done only in the defence of India, to maintain public order, etc.
  • There are grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cross border terrorism, cybercrime, drug cartels”, and these cannot be ignored or under-stated. There is a need for “speedy collection of actionable intelligence” to counter threat to national interests

How it is against the judgement of Supreme Court’s right to privacy?

  • SC in Puttuswamy judgment had asked the government to always carefully and sensitively balance individual privacy and the legitimate concerns of the state.
  • Government has clarified that existing processes will be followed and every case of interception would continue to require permission from the home secretary and review by a panel headed by the cabinet secretary. However, even these processes do not have adequate safeguards against misuse.
  • An individual may not even know if her electronic communications are being intercepted or monitored. If such surveillance comes within the person’s knowledge, due to the obligation to maintain confidentiality and provisions in the Official Secrets Act, the person would not be able to know the reasons for such surveillance. This can make surveillance provisions prone to misuse.

RASHTRIYA KISHORE SWASTHYA KARYAKRAM

Why in News?

  • Promoting health and prevention of disease and risk factors is an important aspect of the Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram under the National Health Mission.

Highlights:

  • Various platforms being used to promote health and well-being of adolescents through Social and Behaviour Change Communication are as follows:
  1. 1.Quarterly Adolescent Health Day
  2. 2.Peer Educator Programme in the community and schools
  • Besides this, Health promotion messages are also propagated through mass media and mid- media in the form of TV and radio spots, posters, leaflets and other interpersonal communication material.
  • Social Media platforms are used for creating awareness on various schemes of the Ministry including those for the adolescents.
  • Out of a total sanctioned strength of 2040 Adolescent Health Counsellors, there are 1671 Adolescent Health Counsellors in place across the country.

Initiatives:

  • Public health being a State subject, all the administrative and personnel matters, including the recruitment of counsellors in public health facilities lie with the respective State Governments.
  • The shortage of health human resource in public health facilities varies from State to State depending upon their policies and context.
  • However, under National Health Mission (NHM), financial and technical supports are provided to the State/UTs to strengthen their healthcare systems including support for recruitment of health human resource based on the requirements posed by them in their Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs) within their overall resource envelope.

Components:

  • Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram has the following components:
  • The Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics are established across various levels of public health institutions in all the States.
  • Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) Programme is being implemented for school going adolescent boys and girls and out of school adolescent girls across the country.
  • The Peer Educator Programme is being implemented in select 200 districts, based on Composite Health Index and identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs).
  • Under the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, funds are provided to the States/UTs for procurement of sanitary napkins for Adolescent Girls (aged 10-19 years) as per proposals received from them in their Annual Programme Implementation Plans.
  • Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) focuses on reaching out all adolescents include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ).

EKLAVYA MODEL SCHOOLS

Why in News?

  • The scheme of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (ST, Scheduled Tribes) across India and was introduced in the year 1997-98.

Objectives:

  • To provide quality middle and high-level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas in order to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional educational courses and get jobs in government and public and private sectors.
  • Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS.
  • Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.
  • Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.

Implementation:

  • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Tribal affairs.
  • Provisions:
    • EMRSs are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India.
    • As per budget announcement 2018-19, every block having 50% or more ST population and at least 20,000 ST persons is to have an EMRS by the year 2022.
    • The government gives one time ₹30 lakh grant for establishing the school, thereafter up to ₹30 lakhs per school annually. Additional cost is borne by state governments.
    • A total number of 438 EMRSs have so far been sanctioned by the Ministry, out of which 285 are functional.
    • As per existing guidelines, the total number of EMRSs being set up upto the year 2022 is 740.
  • Structure:
    • Admission to these schools will be through selection/competition with suitable provision for preference to children belonging to Primitive Tribal Groups, first generation students, etc.
    • Sufficient land would be given by the State Government for the school, play grounds, hostels, residential quarters, etc., free of cost.
    • The number of seats for boys and girls will be equal.

  • In these schools, education will be entirely free.
  • Every class can have maximum 60 students preferably in 2 sections of 30 students each and the total sanctioned strength of the school will be 480 students.
  • At the Higher Secondary level (class XI & XII), there will be three sections per class for the three streams in Science, Commerce & Humanities.

20-YEAR WINDOW FOR TELCOS TO CLEAR DUES

Why in News?

  • The Central government has urged the Supreme Court to give the telecom companies a 20-year window to pay the remaining amount of Adjusted Gross Revenue.

Highlights:

  • In a long standing case related to the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) between Government and the Telecom companies, the 16 major telecom service providers were asked by the SC to pay a total due amounting 1,69,048.65 crores to the Government.
  • The payment received till March 6, 2020, from these companies was ₹25,901.56 crores and dues to the tune of ₹1,43,271.74 crore remain outstanding.
  • All the licensees are allowed to pay the unpaid or remaining amount of past dues in annual instalments over 20 years (or less if they so opt), duly protecting the net present value of the said dues using a discount rate of 8% (based on one-year marginal cost of lending rate of SBI which is currently 7.75%).
  • The “formula” has been devised to soften the blow of the October 24, 2019 judgment directing the companies pay the AGR in three months.

Rationale:

  • The move takes into consideration the larger interest, economic consequences on the nation and with a view to ensure that the Supreme Court order is complied with in letter and spirit.
  • The vital issues related to the financial health and viability of the telecom sector and need for maintaining competition and level playing field in the interest of consumers were considered.
  • The closure of one or more Telecom Service providers would adversely impact the digital connectivity of the country driving e-governance projects in commerce, banking and health.
  • It would also dent the spread of digitization in Rural India.

CENTRAL SANSKRIT UNIVERSITIES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Recently, a Bill to grant the status of Central universities to three deemed Sanskrit universities were passed by the Rajya Sabha.

About the bill:

  • The Bill is intended to convert India’s three deemed-to-be Sanskrit universities into Central Sanskrit Universities.
    • Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi.
    • Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
    • Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati.
  • What the universities will do?
    • The proposed central universities will:
    • disseminate and advance knowledge for the promotion of Sanskrit,
    • make special provisions for integrated courses in humanities, social sciences, and science, and
    • train manpower for the overall development and preservation of Sanskrit and allied subjects.
  • Powers and functions:
  • These include:

    • prescribing courses of study and conducting training programmes,
    • granting degrees, diplomas, and certificates,
    • providing facilities through a distance education system,
    • conferring autonomous status on a college or an institution,
    • providing instructions for education in Sanskrit and allied subjects.
  • Some of the authorities that the universities will have:
    • A court, which will review the policies of the university and suggest measures for its development.
    • An Executive Council, which will be the principal executive body.
    • The 15-member council will include the Vice-Chancellor appointed by the Centre, who will be the chairperson.
    • The council will, among