Category: Governance

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 other functions, create teaching and academic posts and their appointment, and manage the revenue and property of the university.
    • An Academic and Activity Council, which will supervise academic policies.
    • A Board of Studies, which will approve the subjects for research and recommend measures to improve standards of teaching.
  • Visitor of the universities:
    • Like at all central universities, the President of India will be the Visitor of the central Sanskrit universities.
    • He may appoint persons to review and inspect the functioning of the University.
    • The Executive Council may take action based on the findings of the inspection.

What is the Issue?

  • The government has been accused of neglecting other classical languages in India.
  • Currently there are six languages that enjoy the ‘Classical’ status in India:
    • Tamil (declared in 2004), Sanskrit (2005), Kannada (2008), Telugu (2008), Malayalam (2013), and Odia (2014).
    • All the Classical Languages are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

About Classical Languages:

  • The Ministry of Culture provides the guidelines regarding Classical languages.
  • Guidelines for declaring a language as ‘Classical’ are:
    • High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years;
    • A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
    • The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community;
    • The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
  • Once a language is notified as a Classical language, the Human Resource and Development Ministry provides certain benefits to promote it:
  • Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages
  • A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up
  • The University Grants Commission is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared.

CENTRE WITHDRAWS EX-GRATIA NOTIFICATION ON COVID-19

Why in News?

  • Hours after it issued a notification that an ex-gratia of ₹4 lakhs will be paid to the families of those who die of COVID-19 infection, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) withdrew the order.

Highlights:

  • In an order recently, the MHA said it has decided to treat COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • Under the old notification, the MHA listed ex-gratia relief to families of deceased persons and cost of hospitalization for managing COVID-19 patients at rates fixed by the State government among the items for assistance from the SDRF pool.
  • It issued another “partially modified” notification the same day where the above two items were removed.
  • It said the items that would be included for assistance under the SDRF are measures for quarantine, sample collection, screening and procurement of essential equipment/laboratories in response to COVID-19.
  • Relief to families of victims and cost of hospitalization removed in new order.
  • No explanation was given by the MHA officials for the modified notification.

State Disaster Response Fund:

  • The SDRF is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central government contributes 75 % towards the SDRF allocation for general category states and UTs, and over 90 % for special category states/UTs, which includes north-eastern states, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).
  • For SDRF, the Centre releases funds in two equal instalments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • On the other hand, the National Disaster Response Fund, which is also constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 supplements the SDRF of a state, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.
  • The disasters covered under the SDRF include cyclones, droughts, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches and pest attacks among others.

What is a Disaster?

  • According to the Disaster Management Act, a disaster is a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs has defined a disaster as an “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.”
  • Further, the High Power Committee on Disaster Management, which was constituted in 1999, identified 31 disaster categories organised into five major sub-groups, which are: water and climate related disasters, geological related disasters, chemical, industrial and nuclear related disasters and biological related disasters, which includes biological disasters and epidemics.

UNNAT BHARAT ABHIYAN

Why in News?

  • Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD)  has submitted the information related to the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) recently.

Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA):

  • It is a flagship program of the Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • It aims to link the Higher Education Institutions with a set of at least (5) village, so that these institutions can contribute to the economic and social betterment of these village communities using their knowledge base.

Objectives of the Scheme:

  • To engage the faculty and students of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in identifying development issues in rural areas and finding sustainable solutions for the same.
  • Identify & select existing innovative technologies, enable customisation of technologies, or devise implementation methods for innovative solutions, as required by the people.
  • To allow HEIs to contribute to devising systems for smooth implementation of various Government programmes.

About Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0:

  • It is the upgraded version of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 1.0 launched in the year 2018.
  • The scheme used to be extended to all educational institutes. But under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0 participating institutes are selected based on the fulfilment of certain criteria.
  • The technological interventions under the UBA cover different subjects broadly categorized like in the area of sustainable agriculture; water resource management; artisans, industries and livelihood; basic amenities (Infrastructure & Services) and Rural Energy System.

BIRD FLU – AVIAN INFLUENZA

Why in News?

  • The suspected cases of avian influenza (bird flu) are being reported from various parts of the Kerala.

Mitigatory Measures:

  • Special squads had been formed to cull birds within a certain distance around the affected areas to bring the situation under control.
  • About 4,000 chicken and birds are expected to be killed in two days as part of defensive measures being taken to prevent the spread of bird flu.
  • The State was well-equipped with specialized laboratories to diagnose zoonotic diseases without delay and adopt preventive measures.

Bird Flu or Avian Influenza:

  • Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.
  • These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
  • People catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings or undercooked poultry.
  • Outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.
  • Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A (H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and International Trade.

H5N1:

  • Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. However, some, such as A (H5N1) and A (H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza.
  • Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
  • When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.

How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?

  • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
  • The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.

High Concerns:

  • H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
  • If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.

EPIDEMIC DISEASES ACT

Why in News?

  • The cabinet secretary has recently announced that all states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 by means of which all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable.

COVID-19 in India:

  • At present, at least 60 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in India.
  • Around the world, more than 119,100 people have been infected and nearly 4,300 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements.

History of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
  • The colonial government introduced the Act to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s.
  • Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
  • Historians have criticized the Act for its potential for abuse.
  • In 1897, the year the law was enforced, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was punished with 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment after his newspapers Kesari and Mahratta admonished imperial authorities for their handling of the plague epidemic.

Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:

  • The Act, which consists of four sections, aims to provide “for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.”
  • Section 2 empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
  • It Reads:Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease—

1. When at any time the State Government is satisfied that the State or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the State Government, if it thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

2. In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.”

  • 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.

Past Implementation:

  • In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after 31 persons complained of symptoms of the disease.
  • In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.
  • 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.

COMMERCIAL CORD BLOOD BANKING

Why in News?

  • Poona Citizen Doctor Forum (PCDF), a body that aims to rebuild trust among citizens and doctors, and promote ethical rational medical practice, has come forward to bust the aggressively promoted concept of cord blood banking

Highlights:

  • The leading gynaecologist and activist Dr. Arun Gadre has warned to-be parents against falling prey to the emotional marketing tactics by stem cell banking companies.
  • Over the past decade, stem cell banking has been aggressively marketed even as its use is still in experimental stages.
  • But these companies charge enormous fees from parents to preserve cells, adding it is merely by emotional marketing that companies convince parents to bank the cells for several years promising future therapeutic use.
  • Cord blood banking involves taking the umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells, and preserving it for future use.
  • Private companies who have forayed into this field offer packages anywhere between ₹50,000 and ₹1 lakhs to store and preserve the cells in right conditions.

Views by ICMR:

  • However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does not recommend commercial stem cell banking.
  • It says so far there is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self-use and this practice therefore raises ethical and social concerns.
  • Private storage of the cord blood is advisable when there is an elder child in the family with a condition treatable with these cells and the mother is expecting the next baby.
  • In other situations, parents should be educated about the limitations of banking at this point of time.

Concerns:

  • Despite such guidelines, a nexus of doctors and stem cell banking companies thrives and these companies get access to data of to-be parents.
  • Activists say stem cell banking companies start approaching their prospective customers much before the delivery and offer competitive packages.
  • Cord Blood banking:
  • Globally, cord blood banking is recommended as a source of hematopoietic stem cell (derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood) transplantation for hematological cancers and disorders where its use is recommended.
  • For all other conditions, the use of cord blood as a source of stem cells is not yet established.

Cord Blood:

  • Cord blood is the blood from the baby that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth.
  • It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.

Hematopoietic Stem Cells:

  • Most cells can make copies only of themselves. For example, a skin cell only can make another skin cell.
  • Hematopoietic stem cells, however, can mature into different types of blood cells in the body.
  • Hematopoietic stem cells also are found in blood and bone marrow in adults and children.
  • Hematopoietic stem cells can be used to treat more than 70 types of diseases, including diseases of the immune system, genetic disorders, neurologic disorders, and some forms of cancer, including Leukemia and Lymphoma.
  • For some of these diseases, stem cells are the primary treatment. For others, treatment with stem cells may be used when other treatments have not worked or in experimental research programs.

Stem Cells:

  • Stem cells are cells that can differentiate into other types of cells, and can also divide in self-renewal to produce more of the same type of stem cells.

Indian Council of Medical Research:

  • The ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, and is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world.
  • The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO LAUNCH MAHUA-BASED ALCOHOLIC DRINK

Why in News?

  • The central government is set to launch a Mahua-based alcoholic beverage ‘Mahua Nutribeverage’ in the market for the first time.
  • The beverage has a high nutritional value and relatively low alcohol content (5%). This is the first time that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is getting into bottling and sale of alcoholic beverages.

Key Points:

  • It has been developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi in collaboration with the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED).
  • TRIFED has signed a memorandum with the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) to undertake the assignment of technology transfer to the suitable entrepreneurs for production and marketing of the beverage.
  • The marketing is being undertaken under the Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram.
  • Besides mahua, other tribal staples such as tamarind and amla will be de-seeded and brought to the market in the form of candies and jams.

About Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram:

  • It is Tribal Affairs Ministry’s value-addition scheme which was launched in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur in 2018.
  • The nation-wide programme earmarked ₹500-600 crore for training tribal clusters to add value to their produce and sell it in a packaged format, aiming to increase their income manifold.
  • The products marketed under the scheme include only those that need primary-level processing, including handicrafts, textiles, food items, jams and pulps and jewellery.

About Mahua:

  • It is a prominent forest tree in tribal areas Chhattisgarh and plays an important role in the Rural Economy.
  • The mahua flowers are a rich source of sugars and are said to contain vitamins, minerals and calcium. The flowers are also fermented and distilled yielding spirituous liquor also known as ‘country beer’.
  • An estimated 90% of the annual production of Mahua flower is used in the process of brewing beverages.

 

 

HINDU ADOPTION NOT VALID WITHOUT CONSENT FROM WIFE, SAYS SC

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has recently held that the Hindu adoption is not valid unless the man takes prior consent from his wife and there is a “ceremony of giving and taking in adoption”.

About Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act:

  • The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA) was established in the year 1956 as part of the Hindu Code Bills.
  • This act extends to the whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir and applies to Hindus domiciled in our country.
  • Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act was introduced to codify and standardize the current Hindu legal tradition.
  • This act dealt specifically with the legal process of adopting children by a Hindu adult, and with the legal obligations of a Hindu to provide maintenance to various family members.

Applicability of Act:

  • This act applies to any person who is domiciled in the territories
  • A person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or development, including the Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj
  • A person belongs to a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh can adopt a child
  • A child legitimate or illegitimate whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs
  • A child legitimate or illegitimate one of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs and has been so brought up
  • An abandoned child, legitimate or illegitimate of unknown parentage brought up as a Hindu, Buddhist, etc.; and
  • A person who has been converted to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh religion.

Who can Adopt a Child?

  • The person should be a Hindu
  • The person has not been married, unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permit persons who are married being taken in adoption
  • He or she has not already been adopted
  • He or she has not completed the age of fifteen years, unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permit persons who have completed the age of fifteen years being taken in adoption

Mother’s Consent when not Necessary?

  • If the father is alive, he alone has the right to give the child in adoption, but he must do so with the consent of the child’s mother, unless:
    • 1.The mother has completely and finally renounced the world, or

      2.Has ceased to be a Hindu, or

      3.Has been declared to be of unsound mind by a court of competent jurisdiction

CATALOGUING THE GENETIC VARIATION IN INDIANS’ PROJECT

Why in News?

  • Genome India:‘Cataloguing the Genetic Variation in Indians’ project has been sanctioned by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) on January 16, 2020 for a period of 3 years to 20 institutions from varied disciplines across the country.

Highlights:

  • The whole genome sequencing under Genome India has just started.
  • The proposed target of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) is to do it for total 10,000 individuals representing the country’s diverse population in 3 years.

Rationale:

  • The information generated from whole genome sequencing can facilitate future human genetics research in the country with greater precision, and to design a genome wide association array for the Indian population to develop precision healthcare and diagnostics for major diseases at affordable costs.
  • The data security and sharing measures for this project will be governed by the rules and regulations formulated by Government of India.

De-identification:

  • The personal information of all individuals consenting to participate in the study is stripped off from any further records in this project.
  • This process of de-identification ensures that the personal information of the participants is not compromised.
  • Additionally, ethical measures are strictly adhered to in order to maintain data security and protection.

Genome:

  • A genome, is all the genetic matter in an organism.
  • It is defined as an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome — more than 3 billion DNA base pairs — is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

Human Genome Project (HGP):

  • HGP was an international programme that led to the decoding of the entire human genome.
  • It was a discovery looking to sequence and map all of the genes — together known as the genome — of members of our species.
  • Beginning on October 1, 1990 and completed in April 2003, the HGP gave the ability, for the first time, to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.

Genome India Project:

  • The project is being headed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru as the nodal point of about 20 institutions including a few IITs, each doing its bit in collecting samples, doing the computations, and then the research.
  • Aim: To ultimately build a grid of the Indian reference genome, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population.
  • The mega project hopes to form a grid after collecting 10,000 samples in the first phase from across India, to arrive at a representative Indian genome.
  • The Indian project will aim to vastly add to the available information on the human species and advance the cause, because of the scale of the Indian population and the vertical and horizontal diversity here.

Medical ethics:

  • In a project that aims only to create a database of genetic information, gene modification is not among the stated objectives.
  • The risks involved are misuse or unqualified access to the technology.

Data & Storage:

  • After collection of the sample, anonymity of the data and questions of its possible use and misuse would need to be addressed.
  • Keeping the data on a cloud is fraught with problems and would raise questions of ownership of the data.
  • India is yet to pass a Data Privacy Bill with adequate safeguards.
  • Launching a Genome India Project before the privacy question is settled could give rise to another set of problems.
  • The question of heredity and racial purity has obsessed civilisations, and more scientific studies of genes and classifying them could reinforce stereotypes and allow for politics and history to acquire a racial twist.

Social Issues:

  • In India a lot of politics is now on the lines of who are “indigenous” people and who are not. A Genome India Project could add a genetic dimension to the cauldron.
  • It may also add to the existing problem of Selective Breeding.

AYURVEDIC CLASSIFICATION OF DISEASES

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of AYUSH has developed National Ayurveda Morbidity Codes (NAMC), a comprehensive classification of diseases described in Ayurveda as well as Standardized Ayurveda Terminologies.

NAMASTE Portal:

  • These have been made available on National AYUSH Morbidity and Standardized Terminologies Electronic Portal (NAMASTE Portal) developed by the Ministry which is available to the public.
  • The portal was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of 2nd Ayurveda Day (17thOctober 2017).
  • The portal was developed and is being maintained by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), the apex body for research in Ayurvedic Sciences, Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.
  • This portal has the potential to revolutionize morbidity statistics data collection and may have a huge impact on the future policy-making decision by bringing to light the contributions of various AYUSH systems in the health care delivery system of the country.
  • The key features of the portal include the Morbidity Codes and Standardized Terminologies of all the AYUSH systems for unambiguous reporting, electronic data submission through individual institution login ids, and also an integrated electronic health records (EHR) system for detailed data collection for individual institutions.

Standardization and Quality Assurance:

  • For standardization of Ayurvedic diagnostic and treatment protocol, the Central Council of Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) under Ministry of AYUSH has undertaken a project on Reliability testing and Validation of Ayurveda diagnostic methods in June 2018.
  • Under this project, some common disease conditions have been identified and accordingly the pro forma and manual of selected disease conditions is being drafted and validated through scientific methods in a phased manner.
  • In the first phase, the disease conditions which have been identified are Kushtha (skin diseases), Kasa, Shwasa and Jwara.
  • The first draft of Kushtha (skin diseases) manual as clinical Series-I has been published and for other three disease conditions inter-rator reliability has already been completed and second phase validity is under consideration in collaboration with the academic institutes of national repute.
  • Further, the development of pro forma of various other disease conditions has been initiated.
  • Various clinical studies are also being conducted following the integrated protocol in a scientific manner.

NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WOMEN IN POLICE AND CAPFS

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Women and Child Development has recently inaugurated the “National Conference on Women in Police and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs)” which has been organised by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

Highlights of the Conference:

  • The National Conference was to discuss and deliberate on the following two themes:

1.Cyber Stalking and Bullying of Women: Steps for Protection

2.Challenges faced by CAPF Women in Operational Areas

Few important issues related to women in Police which were highlighted during the Conference are:

1. Workplace harassment besides cyber crime.

2.Society should not look at the working women with bias and hold the performance of men to be the only benchmark for success.

3.Training of members of the Child Welfare Committees (CWC).

4.The need to train more female forensic investigators and cyber crime experts.

5.BPR&D was also advised to make a SoP for “One Stop Centre for Women”.

About BPR&D:

  • The Government of India established the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), under the Ministry of Home Affairs in the 1970s.
  • It replaced the Police Research and Advisory Council (1966), with the primary objective of modernization of police force.
  • In 1995 Government of India has entrusted 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 a National Police Mission under the administrative control of BPR&D to transform the police forces in the country.

DEPOPULATION IN BORDER AREAS OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Why in News?

  • The Arunachal Pradesh government has sought pilot development projects to stop people living along its international borders, specifically with China, from migrating to faraway urban centres in the State.

Key Points:

  • McMahon Line is the boundary between India and China.
  • Arunachal Pradesh shares its borders with China, Myanmar and Bhutan.
  • There are  several instances of intrusion by people from Tibet across the McMahon Line into districts of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China have been reported.
  • Following the intrusion, the depopulation in border villages of Arunachal Pradesh have been observed. It is considered as a security threat, as it is easier for foreign armies to occupy vacant villages.
  • Even though possible facilities are being provided to border villagers under the Border Area Development Programme, the state government of Arunachal Pradesh has advocated selection of 10 census towns along the India-China border as pilot projects for infrastructure development.
  • The State government has also proposed a special package of ₹4.60 crores to the Union Home Ministry for development of infrastructure in the border areas.
  • The above development is expected to dissuade people from migrating for livelihood.

About Border Area Development Programme:

  • Border Area Development Programme (BADP) was started for balanced development of border areas of states bordering Pakistan, namely, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. It was subsequently extended to all the land borders.
  • The programme is administered by the Department of Border Management of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • States are provided a 100% non-lapsable Special Central Assistance fund under BADP to meet the special developmental needs and well-being of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border.

CABINET APPROVES COMPANIES (SECOND AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Companies (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 to amend the Companies Act, 2013.

Provisions of the Bill:

  • The Bill would remove criminality under the Act in case of defaults which can be determined objectively and which, otherwise, lack the element of fraud or do not involve larger public interest.
  • This would also lead to further de-clogging of the criminal justice system in the country.
  • The Bill would also further ease of living for law abiding corporates.
  • Earlier, the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2015 amended certain provisions of the Act to remove difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act.
  • The major provisions of The Companies (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2019:

Re-categorisation of certain Offences:

  • The Ordinance re-categorizes 16 of these offences as civil defaults, where adjudicating officers may now levy penalties instead.
  • These offences include: (i) issuance of shares at a discount, and, (ii) failure to file annual return.

Issue of shares at a discount:

  • It prohibits a company from issuing shares at a discount, except in certain cases.
  • The company is liable to pay a fine between one lakh rupees and five lakh rupees every officer in default may be punished with imprisonment up to six months or fine between one lakh rupees and five lakh rupees on failure.
  • Ordinance changes this to remove imprisonment for officers as a punishment.

 

Commencement of Business:

  • A company may not commence business, unless
  • It files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid the value of shares agreed to be taken by him.
  • It files a verification of its registered office address with the Registrar of Companies within 30 days of incorporation.

Registration of Charges:

  • The Ordinance changes this to permit registration of charges:
  • within 300 days if the charge is created before the Ordinance, if not then it must be completed within six months from the date of the Ordinance, if not then the Registrar may grant another 60 days for registration.

Change in Approving Authority:

  • Change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company, has to be approved by the have been transferred to central government.
  • Similarly, any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company, has to be approved by central government.

Declaration of Beneficial Ownership:

  • If a person holds beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company, he is required to make a declaration of his interest.
  • Failure to declare this interest, a person may either be fined, or imprisoned for up to one year, or both under the Ordinance.

Compounding:

  • Under the Act, a regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to five lakh rupees.
  • The Ordinance increases this ceiling to Rs 25 lakh.

QS WORLD UNIVERSITY SUBJECT RANKINGS 2020

Why in News?

  • The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Subject Rankings 2020 has been released recently by Quacquarelli Symonds (London). Quacquarelli Symonds is the world’s leading provider of services, analytics, and insight to the global higher education sector.

About the Rankings:

  • QS uses four key metrics to compile the rankings including academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper and the h-index which measures how productive an institution’s research faculty are.
  • 1,368 institutions have been ranked across 48 subjects in 5 broad categories across 159 locations.
  • Top Rankers: Globally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT – USA) emerged as the world’s best-performing institution, achieving 12 number-one positions, followed by Harvard University (USA) with 11 number-one positions and University of Oxford (United Kingdom) with eight top ranked subjects.

India’s Performance as per the Index:

  • The 2020 edition of the QS World University Subject Rankings has ranked as many as 26 departments of higher education institutions in India among the top 100 in the world in their respective subject category.
  • As against 21 institutions getting ranked in 2019, the latest edition has seen 26 Indian departments entering the top-100 list for their subjects. All 26 departments are in institutions run by the Union government — IITs, IIMs, IISc and Delhi University.
  • In terms of institutes and subjects, India’s highest-ranked programs included Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay’s Mineral & Mining Engineering program at 41st rank globally, shared jointly with the University of Delhi’s Development Studies program.
  • IIT Bombay emerged with more top-100 ranks than any other Indian university in QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020.

PRIME MINISTER’S EMPLOYMENT GENERATION PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • A Meeting was held recently to review some of the key schemes of Ministry of Micro, Small and medium Enterprises (MSME) which generate large number of jobs with low capital investment.

Highlights:

  • The focus of the meeting was on the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), a flagship scheme of the Ministry of MSME, and Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).
  • In addition, the issue of restructuring of stressed loans to MSMEs was also discussed to find a way forward to support MSMEs. The cut-off date for restructuring of loans to MSMEs has been extended up to 31st December 2020.
  • The work done by the Banks in supporting setting up large number of enterprises under PMEGP over the past years, was commended, which has particularly seen a two-fold increase in last Financial Year when more than 73,000 micro enterprises were assisted.
  • To give further boost to the scheme, the target in the current year has been increased to support the establishments of 80,000 units.
  • Discussions were also held with Banks on increasing the reach of Credit Guarantee scheme. Government has set a target of increasing credit guarantee to Rs. 50,000 crores under this scheme, which is a jump of about 67% over the last year.

Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme:

  • Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) is a credit-linked subsidy programme introduced by the government of India in 2008.
  • It promotes self-employment through setting up of micro enterprises, where subsidy up to 35 % is provided by the Government through Ministry of MSME for loans up to Rs. 25 lakhs in manufacturing and Rs 10 lakhs in service sector.
  • The scheme is administered by Ministry of Micro, Small and medium Enterprises.
  • The PMEGP Scheme is being implemented by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) at the national level.
  • At the State level, the Scheme is being implemented through State Khadi and Village Industries Commission Directorates, State Khadi and Village Industries Boards and District Industries Centres and banks.

Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE):

  • The scheme was launched by the Government of India to make available collateral-free credit to the micro and small enterprise sector.
  • Both the existing and the new enterprises are eligible to be covered under the scheme.
  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, GoI and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), established a Trust named CGTMSE to implement the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises.
  • Since its inception, CGTMSE has facilitated easy access to credit from organized banking sector to first generation entrepreneurs in the Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) sector.
  • CGTMSE, in turn, provides guarantee to its registered Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) against the loans / credit facilities up to Rs. 100 lakh extended by them without taking any collateral security and / or third party guarantee.

INNER LINE PERMIT

Why in News?

  • The demand by Tribal organisations of Meghalaya for ILP system to restrict the entry of outsiders into the State has turned into violent protests across the state in the past few days.

What is an ILP?

  • It is a document required by non- natives to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system.
  • At present, four North Eastern states are covered under ILP namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • Both the duration of stay and the areas allowed to be accessed for any non-native are determined by the ILP.
  • The ILP is issued by the concerned state government and can be availed both by applying online and in person.

Evolution of ILP:

  • The Inner Line Permit is an extension of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act 1873. The Britishers framed regulations restricting entry in certain designated areas.
  • This was done to protect the Crown’s interest in certain states by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
  • In 1950, the term ‘British subjects’was replaced with the ‘Citizens of India’. Today, all non-natives require the permit. This was done to protect the indigenous tribal communities of these states from exploitation.

Is the rule applicable for Foreigners?

  • An ILP is only valid for domestic tourists. For foreign tourists in:
    • Manipur:No permit is required. But, have to register themselves.
    • Mizoram:No permit is required. But, need to register.
    • Nagaland:No permit is required. However, they need to register.
    • Arunachal Pradesh:Tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

What is the significance of ILP?

  • Preservation of indigenous culture and tradition.
  • Prevents illegal migrants and encroachment by outsiders.

Should Meghalaya be brought under ILP?

  • The ILP is considered the only mechanism to contain influx in the state. Influx is perceived as dangerous because it could upset the fragile demographic balance of the tribals of Meghalaya.
  • Influx definitely is a matter of concern but it requires better solutions than the ILP, not instant solutions demanded by pressure groups.

ZONAL COUNCILS

Why in News?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah will chair the 24thmeeting of the Eastern Zonal Council, comprising States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar.

Highlights:

  • Issues such as inter-State water dispute, power transmission, coal royalty, forest clearance for railway and other infrastructure projects and extension of banking and telecom services in rural pockets will figure in the discussion.
  • Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India that have been grouped into five zones to foster cooperation among them. These were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
  • The North Eastern states are not covered by any of the Zonal Councils and their special problems are addressed by another statutory body, the North Eastern Council, created by the North Eastern Council Act, 1971.

Various Zonal Councils:

  • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
  • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
  • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal;
  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli;
  • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Structure:

  • Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

Objectives and Functions:

  • The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under:
  • Bringing out National Integration;
    • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
    • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
    • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.
  • In particular, a Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to:
    • any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
    • any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport;
    • any matter connected with or arising out of, the re-organization of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.

POLICE AND PUBLIC ORDER IN NCT DELHI

Why in News?

  • The Delhi High Court has issued a series of directions to the Delhi police, the State government and other agencies for providing all necessary assistance to those affected by the violence in northeast Delhi.

What is the Issue?

  • A key question now being raised is whether or not the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi can take any action to bring law and order under control.
  • The NCT of Delhi, under Article 239 AA, has been given a special status.
  • It gives powers of law-making and administration to an elected legislature and the council of ministers. But, puts two subjects — public order and police— directly under the Union government, however, with exceptions- Two sections of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) —129 & 130 — give the Executive Magistrate certain powers relating to “unlawful assembly”.
  • Under these two limited powers, the Executive Magistrate, who reports to the Chief Minister, can issue orders relating to public security.

What does CrPC 129 and 130 says?

  • If a group is found in unlawful assembly under Section 129 CrPC, the Executive Magistrate can issue orders to these persons to disperse. If this fails, the magistrate can use the civil force — which is the police.
  • If efforts under CrPC section 129 fail, the Executive Magistrate, under Section 130 CrPC, can call an officer of the armed forces of the Union to disperse the assembly. This section states that it can be invoked for “public security”.
  • However, this Section empowers the officer to decide, on his own, the manner in which the unlawful assembly has to be dispersed by forces under his command.

How are these Powers Different from the powers of a Full-Fledged state?

  • While public order and police are under the state list, the state government may request the Union government to make available armed forces to help restore public order.
  • Even in circumstances where public disorder is not as serious as to fall in the category of an “internal disturbance” as defined in Article 355 of the Constitution, the Union Government may accede to the request.
  • But, as per CrPC 130, except for the limited purpose of dispersing an “unlawful assembly” and arresting its members, neither the state government nor any authority under it has been conferred by the Constitution any legal right to call the armed forces while dealing with a public disorder or “internal disturbance”.
  • Also, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution states that use of the armed forces in the maintenance of public order is outside the purview of the states.

WAYS TO MEASURE POVERTY IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • President Donald Trump praised India for having lifted over 270 million people out of poverty in a single decade, and said that “12 Indian citizens are lifted out of extreme poverty every single minute of every single day”.

Highlights:

  • Poverty can be defined as a condition in which an individual or household lacks the financial resources to afford a basic minimum standard of living.
  • The official poverty line is the expenditure incurred to obtain the goods in a “poverty line basket” (PLB). Poverty can be measured in terms of the number of people living below this line (with the incidence of poverty expressed as the head count ratio). The “depth” of poverty indicates how far the poor are below the poverty line.
  • Six official committees have so far estimated the number of people living in poverty in India, the working group of 1962; V N Dandekar and N Rath in 1971; Y K Alagh in 1979; D T Lakdawala in 1993; Suresh Tendulkar in 2009; and C Rangarajan in 2014.
  • The government did not take a call on the report of the Rangarajan Committee and therefore, poverty is measured using the Tendulkar poverty line. As per this, 21.9% of people in India live below the poverty line.
  • The PLB comprises goods and services considered essential to a basic minimum standard of living, food, clothing, rent, conveyance, and entertainment.
  • The price of the food component can be estimated using calorie norms or nutrition targets. Until the 1990s, the calorie norms method was used — it was based on the minimum number of calories recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for a household of five members.
  • The Lakdawala Committee assumed that health and education is provided by the state, therefore, expenditure on these items was excluded from the consumption basket it proposed.
  • Since expenditure on health and education rose significantly in the 1990s, the Tendulkar Committee included them in the basket. As a result of revisions to the basket and other changes in the method of estimation, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in 1993-94 rose from 35.97% to 45.3%.
  • Expenditure on health and education were not considered until the Tendulkar Committee, which was criticized for setting the poverty line at just Rs 32 per capita per day in urban India (and at Rs 27 in rural India).
  • The Rangarajan Commission was criticized for selecting the food component arbitrarily, the emphasis on food as a source of nutrition overlooks the contribution of sanitation, healthcare, access to clean water, and prevalence of pollutants.

Importance of Poverty Estimation:

  • Poverty numbers matter because central schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana (which provides subsidided foodgrains to households living below the poverty line) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (health insurance for BPL households) use the definition of poverty given by the NITI Aayog or the erstwhile Planning Commission.
  • The Centre allocates funds for these schemes to states based on the numbers of their poor. Errors of exclusion can deprive eligible households of benefits.

Other methods of estimation of Poverty:

  • Oxford University researchers Sabina Alkire and James Foster devised the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) to capture poverty using 10 indicators: nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, ownership of assets, and access to proper house, electricity, drinking water, sanitation, and clean cooking fuel.
  • The MPI is a more comprehensive measure of poverty because it includes components that capture the standard of living more effectively.
  • It uses “outcomes” rather than expenditure,  the presence of an undernourished person in the household will result in it being classified as “poor”, regardless of the expenditure on nutritious food.

CAUVERY WATER MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (CWMA)

Why in News?

  • Recently, the CWMA dropped the discussion on Karnataka’s application due to the strong objection made by Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

What is Mekedatu Project?

  • It is a multi-purpose reservoir project over Mekedatu, was aimed at solving the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramnagar district. It was also touted as one that could generate hydroelectricity to meet the power demand in the state.

Why does Karnataka want this?

  • Karnataka has been contending that there is a need to augment capacity to store excess water in monsoon surplus years.
  • The recent heavy rain and floods resulted in Karnataka releasing excess water from the Cauvery to Tamil Nadu, which led to the State intensifying its efforts to build the Mekedatu reservoir.
  • The excess water is of no use even to Tamil Nadu as it would run off into the sea.
  • Water minister of Karnataka maintained that the project would not affect water release to Tamil Nadu, nor would it be used for irrigation.

Why is Tamil Nadu opposing it?

  • The state contended that, “the proposed reservoir would affect the natural flows of the river Cauvery. It argued that Cauvery was already a deficit basin and the construction of the project, or any other project, “would drastically affect the lower riparian State in getting their due share of waters.
  • The state fears that Karnataka’s move will affect the lifeline for agriculture in delta districts, besides being a major drinking water source for several districts.
  • Farmers’ organizations fear this could turn the fertile Cauvery delta into a desert.

About CWMA:

  • It has been created as per the Cauvery Water Management Scheme earlier framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.

Composition and Powers of CWMA:

  • It will comprise a chairman, a secretary and eight members. Out of the eight members, two will be full time, while two will be part time members from centre’s side. Rest four will be part time members from states.

Functions of CWMA:

  • The main mandate of the CWMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters”.
  • It will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.
  • It will do so by promoting use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.
  • It will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.

Participation of Central Government in CWMA:

  • The central government will provide help in implementation of the modified award in case of any of the states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka) or UT (Puducherry) parties do not cooperate in implementing the decision or direction of the tribunal. Centre initially contribute Rs. 2 crores for the functioning of the authority.

CABINET APPROVES BILL TO REGULATE SURROGACY

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet recently approved the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020, allowing a “willing” woman to be a surrogate mother.
  • It also proposed that the Bill would benefit widows and divorced women besides infertile Indian couples.

Provisions of the Bill:

What is prohibited?

  • The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy.
    • Altruistic surrogacyinvolves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.
    • Commercial surrogacyincludes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.

When Surrogacy is Permitted?

  • Surrogacy is permitted when it is:
    • for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility;
    • altruistic;
    • not for commercial purposes;
    • not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation; and
    • for any condition or disease specified through regulations.
  • The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.

When the Certificate is Issued?

  • A certificate of essentiality will be issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
  • a certificate of proven infertility of one or both members of the intending couple from a District Medical Board;
  • an order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a Magistrate’s court; and Insurance coverage for a period of 16 months covering postpartum delivery complications for the surrogate.
  • The certificate of eligibility to the intending couple is issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
  • the couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years;
  • between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband);
  • they do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate); this would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness; and
  • Other conditions that may be specified by regulations.

What are the Eligibility Criteria for Surrogate Mother?

  • To obtain a certificate of eligibility from the appropriate authority, the surrogate mother has to be:
    • a close relative of the intending couple;
    • a married woman having a child of her own;
    • 25 to 35 years old;
    • a surrogate only once in her lifetime; and
    • Possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy. Further, the surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy.

What is the function of Appropriate Authorities?

  • The central and state governments shall appoint one or more appropriate authorities within 90 days of the Bill becoming an Act.
  • The functions of the appropriate authority include;
    • granting, suspending or cancelling registration of surrogacy clinics;
    • enforcing standards for surrogacy clinics;
    • investigating and taking action against breach of the provisions of the Bill;
    • Recommending modifications to the rules and regulations.
  • Surrogacy clinics cannot undertake surrogacy related procedures unless they are registered by the appropriate authority.
  • Clinics must apply for registration within a period of 60 days from the date of appointment of the appropriate authority.

What is the function of the Surrogacy Boards?

  • The central and the state governments shall constitute the National Surrogacy Board (NSB) and the State Surrogacy Boards (SSB), respectively.
  • Functions of the NSB include, (i) advising the central government on policy matters relating to surrogacy; (ii) laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics; and (iii) supervising the functioning of SSBs.

What is the procedure for the Parentage and Abortion of Surrogate Child?

  • A child born out of a surrogacy procedure will be deemed to be the biological child of the intending couple.
  • An abortion of the surrogate child requires the written consent of the surrogate mother and the authorisation of the appropriate authority.
  • This authorisation must be compliant with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  • Further, the surrogate mother will have an option to withdraw from surrogacy before the embryo is implanted in her womb.

What are the Offences and Penalties?

  • The offences under the Bill include:
    • undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy;
    • exploiting the surrogate mother;
    • abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child; and
    • Selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy.
  • The penalty for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
  • The Bill specifies a range of offences and penalties for other contraventions of the provisions of the Bill.

What are the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha Select committee?

  • The major changes recommended by the Committee include
    • It recommended that a surrogate mother need not be a “close relative”.
    • It also advocated omission of the five-year time limit before seeking surrogacy.
    • allowing single women (widow or a divorcee and Persons of Indian Origin) to avail of surrogacy,
    • Increasing insurance cover for the surrogate mother from the 16 months proposed in the Bill to 36 months.

Why such recommendations were given?

  • Requiring the surrogate mother to be a “close relative” potentially restricts the availability of surrogate mothers, affecting genuinely needy persons.
  • Deleting the definition of “infertility” as “the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse” is because it is too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.
  • However the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

H1N1 INFECTION OF SUPREME COURT JUDGES

Why in News?

  • Five judges of the Supreme Court of India have been affected by Swine Flu which is caused by the H1N1 virus.

Highlights:

  • In order to prevent the further spread of the virus, many measures have been taken by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India:
  • The First Aid Post (FAP) of CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) was strengthened at the Supreme Court
  • All the judges were provided treatment as per the protocol. Prophylactic treatment was also given to all who have come in contact with them including their family members.
  • All five judges were kept in home isolation. Of these, three Judges have already resumed their duty and two continue to be under home isolation/observation and are recovering.
  • The courtrooms and residences are being sanitised.
  • Awareness information regarding preventive measures was disseminated to all concerned.
  • H1N1 is a seasonal infection which usually occurs every year with two peaks (One in January to March and other between July and September).

Swine Flu (H1N1):

  • Swine influenza, also called pig influenza, swine flu, hog flu and pig flu, is an infection caused by any one of several types of swine influenza viruses. Swine influenza virus is any strain of the influenza family of viruses that is endemic in pigs.
  • Influenza A (H1N1) virus is the subtype of influenza A virus that is the most common cause of human influenza.
  • It is an orthomyxovirus that contains the glycoproteins haemagglutinin and neuraminidase. For this reason, they are described as H1N1, H1N2 etc. depending on the type of H or N antigens they express with metabolic synergy. Haemagglutinin causes red blood cells to clump together and binds the virus to the infected cell. Neuraminidase is a type of glycoside hydrolase enzyme which helps to move the virus particles through the infected cell and assist in budding from the host cells.
  • Some strains of H1N1 are endemic in humans and cause a small fraction of all influenza-like illness and a small fraction of all seasonal influenza. Other strains of H1N1 are endemic in pigs (swine influenza) and in birds (avian influenza).
  • H1N1 influenza (or swine flu) is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred.
  • Most commonly, these cases occur in people with direct exposure to pigs (e.g., children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). However, there have been cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu.

NOT FAIR, JUST OR REASONABLE

Why in News?

  • Numerous political leaders and activists have been arrested in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the name of Public safety.
  • Here this article highlights the lack of procedural fairness with various Preventive Detention Laws in India including Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1968.

About Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978

  • The Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 is a preventive detention law and constitutional protection provided under Article 22 shall not apply to those charged under PSA.
  • Detention orders under the Act can be passed by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrate if they are satisfied that any person
    • May hamper or obstruct security of the state
    • Disturb the maintenance of Public Order
    • To prevent instances of smuggling or helping to smuggle timber or liquor in the state.
    • is a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act

What happens after a person is charged under PSA?

  • The DM communicates to the person within five to ten days in writing the reason for the detention and becomes the only formal communication.
  • This communication is important because it is on the basis of it that the detained person gets an opportunity of making legal representation against the order in High Courts or Supreme Court under Article 226 and 32 respectively.
  • However, the DM also has the discretion not to disclose all the facts pertaining to detention, if according to the officer such facts are against “public interest”.
  • The District Magistrate can call the person charged under PSA to record his statement but legal representation through a lawyer is not allowed.

Referring of Case to Advisory Board:

  • The DM has to place the detention order within four weeks before an Advisory Board including representation if any made by the person detained under PSA.
  • The Advisory Board may call the person charged under PSA for personal representation to record his/her statement. However, legal representation by another lawyer before Advisory Board is not allowed.
  • Within Six Weeks from the date of detention, the Advisory Board shall submit its report to the government, which will determine if the detention is in public interest.

Decision of Advisory Board:

  • The Board may either allow for further detention or allow for release of the person concerned whereby the Government shall revoke the detention order.
  • In case, the Advisory Board calls for further detention, the state government can detain for a maximum of
    • 2 years– if accused was detained to obstruct Security of the State and
    • 1 year– if the accused was detained to disturb Public Order.
  • Decisions of the Advisory Board shall be binding on the State Government

Need for Preventive Detention Laws:

  • Preventive detention laws exist at both the national and State levels and are intended to serve as effective measures to prevent the occurrence of crime.
  • These different laws adopt a similar logic as under these laws, executive officers such as District Magistrates or Commissioners of Police are empowered to pass orders for arrest and to take persons into custody.
  • These powers can be exercised if the officers are “satisfied” that the person’s conduct is posing a risk to safety and security of state or might hamper public order.
  • For instance, the National Security Act of 1980 permits arrest and detention of persons when it is in the interest of maintaining “public order”, which can occur even without any allegations of the person breaking any existing laws.
  • Similarly people can be detained under J&K PSA if in the opinion of DM or Divisional Commissioners they are a threat to security of state or they can disturb public order.

Lack of Procedural Fairness:

  • Such laws avoid criminal trial like other regular criminal proceedings because for criminal trials you need to inform the accused of the grounds of crime.
  • Under preventive detention laws, there is no need to inform the accused immediately of grounds of arrest.
  • Arrested person need not be produced before Court within 24 hours as per normal norms.
  • Subsequent checks and scrutiny is heavily guarded by state authorities and chances of unfairness in such proceedings are very high.
  • There is no judicial oversight where detention beyond three months is not sought. And even in those cases which go to a Tribunal comprising judges, there is no public hearing involved and no guaranteed oral hearing for the person detained.
  • Further, no publicly available orders or judgments are published about the ultimate decision.
  • Even legal assistance is somewhat restrained and this goes against the basic human rights of person detained under preventive detention laws.
  • The only opportunity lies in filing writ petitions in High Court or Supreme Court for release of person.
  • At times, preventive detention laws are used to cover normal crimes as this largely reduces the legal assistance of detainees.

Conclusion:

  • This article concludes by saying that the procedures of preventive detention laws in India practically sacrifice due process interests at the altar of crime control, and this bargain is ill-suited to justice, no matter how grave the risks.
  • The government should think towards making certain changes in preventing detention laws making it less draconian and providing for human rights of the accused.
  • Right of Legal Representation through a lawyer of detainee’s choice must be provided in PSA.
  • It must be ensured that parallel proceedings are not initiated under preventing detention laws and regular criminal proceedings. The law must ensure that if charges have been framed under PSA, then regular criminal charges must be either withdrawn or transferred under PSA.
  • It must be ensured that if writ petition is accepted by High Court or Supreme Court against detention of a person under preventing detention laws, such writ petition must be entertained within a period of 15 days. This will expedite the legal process providing for bail.

1 YEAR OF PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN SAMMAN NIDHI (PM-KISAN) SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare observed the 1st anniversary of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme on 24th February.
  • The PM-KISAN was launched on February 24 in 2019.

About PM-KISAN Scheme:

  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% funding from the Government of India.
  • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare.
  • Vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs 6,000 per year.
  • Income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each.
  • All states are implementing the scheme, except West Bengal.
  • It intends to supplement the financial needs of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • The entire responsibility of identification of beneficiary farmer families rests with the State / UT Governments.

 PM-KISAN Mobile App:

  • It was developed and designed by the National Informatics Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • The farmers can view the status of their application, update or carry out corrections of their Aadhaar cards and also check the history of credits to their bank accounts.

Other Important Income Support Schemes for Farmers:

    1. Rythu Bandhu scheme (Telangana)/Farmers’ Investment Support Scheme (FISS).

    • It is a welfare program to support farmer’s investment for two crops a year.
    • The government is providing 58.33 lakh farmers, ?4000 per acre per season to support the farm investment, twice a year, for rabi and kharif seasons.
    • This was the first direct farmer investment support scheme in India, where the cash is paid directly.

    2. Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA):  

    • State Government of Odisha aims to lend farmers with an all-inclusive and flexible support system, ensuring accelerated agricultural prosperity.
    • It will cover 92% of the small and marginal farmers of the State. An amount of Rs.10,000 per family at the rate of 5,000 for Kharif and Rabi shall be provided as financial assistance for taking up cultivation.
    • The farmers will have complete independence to take up interventions as per their needs.
    • This component is not linked to extent of land owned and will greatly benefit share croppers and actual cultivators most of whom own very small extent of land.

HAPPINESS CLASSES

Why in News?

  • On her upcoming visit to India next week along with US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump will visit a Delhi government school, where she will attend a happiness curriculum class.

Highlights:

  • The curriculum is one of the flagship schemes of the Delhi government in the education sector launched in July 2018 in all government schools.

Delhi’s ‘happiness curriculum’:

  • The curriculum calls for schools in India to promote development in cognition, language, literacy, numeracy and the arts along with addressing the well-being and happiness of students.
  • It further says that future citizens need to be “mindful, aware, awakened, empathetic, firmly rooted in their identity…” based on the premise that education has a larger purpose, which cannot be in isolation from the “dire needs” of today’s society.
  • For the evaluation, no examinations are conducted, neither will marks be awarded.
  • The assessment under this curriculum is qualitative, focusing on the “process rather than the outcome” and noting that each student’s journey is unique and different.

Objectives of this Curriculum:

  • The objectives of this curriculum include developing self-awareness and mindfulness, inculcating skills of critical thinking and inquiry, enabling learners to communicate effectively and helping learners to apply life skills to deal with stressful and conflicting situations around them.
  • The curriculum is designed for students of classes nursery through the eighth standard. Group 1 consists of students in nursery and KG, who have bi-weekly classes (45 minutes each for one session, which is supervised by a teacher) involving mindfulness activities and exercise.
  • Children between classes 1-2 attend classes on weekdays, which involves mindfulness activities and exercises along with taking up reflective questions.
  • The second group comprises students from classes 3-5 and the third group is comprised of students from classes 6-8 who apart from the aforementioned activities, take part in self-expression and reflect on their behavioural changes.

Learning outcomes of this Curriculum:

  • The learning outcomes of this curriculum are spread across four categories:
  • becoming mindful and attentive (developing increased levels of self-awareness, developing active listening, remaining in the present);
  • developing critical thinking and reflection (developing strong abilities to reflect on one’s own thoughts and behaviours, thinking beyond stereotypes and assumptions);
  • developing social-emotional skills (demonstrating empathy, coping with anxiety and stress, developing better communication skills) and
  • developing a confident and pleasant personality (developing a balanced outlook on daily life reflecting self-confidence, becoming responsible and reflecting awareness towards cleanliness, health and hygiene).

TARDY PROGRESS IN FARM SCHEMES

Why in News?

  • Recently, Finance Ministry has expressed its displeasure over the tardy progress made by banks in seeding all PM-KISAN beneficiaries with Kisan Credit Card (KCC).

Background info:

  • To enable universal access to Concessional Institutional credit, Government of India has initiated a drive in Mission Mode for saturating all PM-KISAN beneficiaries with Kisan Credit Card (KCC).
  • This will help all such farmers to get short term loan for crop & animal/fish rearing at a maximum interest of 4% on timely repayment.
  • However, there has not been much progress in this seeding process. Accordingly, the Finance Ministry has expressed displeasure over the tardy progress made by banks, and asked them to double their efforts.

 About PM-KISAN Scheme:

  • With a view to augment the income of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs), the government has launched the new Central Sector Scheme, namely, “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)”.
  • Under the scheme, ₹6,000 per year will be provided to farmers holding cultivable land of up to two hectares.The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • This would also protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

 About KISAN Credit Card Scheme:

  • The Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme was introduced in 1998 for issue of Kisan Credit Cards to farmers so that farmers may use them to readily purchase agriculture inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. and draw cash for their production needs.
  • The Kisan Credit Card Scheme is to be implemented by Commercial Banks, RRBs, Small Finance Banks and Cooperatives.
  • The farmers eligible under the KCC scheme include small farmers, marginal farmers, share croppers, oral lessee and tenant farmers. The Self Help Groups (SHGs) or Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) are also eligible for availing benefits under the scheme.

JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN) ACT, 2015

Why in News?

  • Recently, a Group of Ministers (GoM) chaired by the Home Minister met to discuss proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) (JJ) Act, 2015.

About Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • The Act changes the nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’. Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
  • It also includes several new and clear definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.
  • Included special provisions to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
  • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
  • A separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption procedures for an orphan, abandoned and surrendered children.
  • Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • The Act states that the adoption of a child is final on the issuance of an adoption order by the court. Currently, there are 629 adoption cases pending in various courts.
  • The Act included several new offences committed against children (like, illegal adoptions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children, etc) which are not adequately covered under any other law.
  • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.

What is CARA?

  • Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  • It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
  • CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
  • CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.

What does the New Bill Proposes?

  • The Bill provides that instead of the court, the district magistrate will issue adoption orders to address the high pendency of adoption cases.
  • The Bill also seeks to transfer all pending matters related to adoption before any court to the district magistrate having jurisdiction over the area.
  • The proposed amendments intend to expedite proceedings.

Who are the Group of Ministers?

  • Groups of Ministers (GoMs) have been constituted from time to time to look into different issues/subjects.
  • These are ad hoc bodies formed to give recommendations to the cabinet on certain emergent issues and critical problem areas.
  • Ministers heading the concerned ministries are inducted into the relevant GoMs and when the advice is crystallised they are disbanded.
  • Some of these GoMs have been also empowered to take decisions on behalf of the Cabinet known as Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs).
  • But with time the constitution of a large number of GoMs has resulted in many GoMs not being able to meet regularly to complete their work thus leading to significant delays on many major issues. Thus all the Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs) were abolished in 2014.
  • Further in 2015, 16 informal Groups of Ministers (GoMs) were formed to discuss key issues of the country.

ONE IN THREE PAYMENTS FOR MATERNITY BENEFIT SCHEME CREDITED TO WRONG ACCOUNT

Why in News?

  • The progress report on Poshan Abhiyan released by Niti Aayog recently has flagged the failure of Aadhaar-based payments under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana.

Issues Highlighted by the Report:

1. Faulty Payment System

  • Only 66% of pregnant and lactating mothers under PMMVY are getting the benefits from Aadhaar-based payment system.
  • Out of that, about 28% of total Aadhaar-based DBT towards Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana was credited to a Wrong Bank Account.

2. Delay in Payment:

  • According to the report a huge number of beneficiaries had not received the Cash Incentive since 2 years.
  • This was as a result of red tapism that has been so vividly entrenched across data entry operators at taluk-level offices who has to update the data.

3. Cumbersome Application

  • Besides it is said that the application form required to be filled up for availing the benefits under the scheme is too long and cumbersome (32 pages).

About Poshan Abhiyaan:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched by the government in 2018.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia and low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • Mission 25:The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters.
  • Under the Abhiyaan, Swasth Bharat Preraks will be deployed one in each district for coordinating with district officials and enabling fast and efficient execution of the Abhiyaan across the country. Swasth Bharat Preraks would function as catalyst for fast tracking the implementation of the Abhiyaan.

About Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country from 2017.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme being executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
    • Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme: Cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.

Target Beneficiaries:

  • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM), excluding those who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
  • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy for the first child in the family.

Benefits under the Scheme:

  • Under PMMMY cash incentive of Rs 5000 is provided to pregnant and lactating mothers in three installments.
    • 1stinstallment of Rs 1000/ – on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre
    • 2ndinstallment of Rs 2000/ – after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC)
    • 3rdinstallment of Rs 2000/ – after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis – B, or its equivalent/ substitute.
  • The eligible beneficiaries also receive cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6,000.

Distinctive Feature:

  • Implementation of the scheme is closely monitored by the central and state governments through the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana – Common Application Software (PMMVY-CAS).
  • PMMVY-CAS is a web based software application that enables tracking the status of each beneficiary under the scheme, resulting in expedited, accountable and better grievance redressal.

WORLDWIDE EDUCATING FOR THE FUTURE INDEX 2019

Why in News?

  • In the recently released “Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI) 2019” published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, India has been ranked 35th.

About Worldwide Educating for the Future Index:

  • The index and report are commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation.
  • It was developed to assess the effectiveness of education systems in preparing students for the demands of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape.
  • It is the first comprehensive global index to evaluate inputs to education systems rather than outputs such as test scores and concentrates on the 15-24 age band in 35 economies. The index and report are commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation.

Key Highlights of the Report:

  • Finland topped the index followed by Sweden.
  • This year, India scored 53 and has jumped five ranks from the 40th rank with an overall score of 41.2 across categories in 2018.
  • WEFFI ranks countries based on their abilities to equip students with skill-based education.
  • The rankings are based on Three Categories:

1.Policy environment.

2.Teaching environment.

3.Overall socio-economic environment.

  • The report analyses the education system from the perspective of skill-based education in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship as well as digital and technical skills.

Reasons behind the rise in rank of India:

  • The report attributes India’s growth to the new national education policy introduced and published in 2019.
  • The new policy also mentions about future-oriented skills such as critical thinking, communication and entrepreneurship.
  • The education policy was highlighted in the Union Budget 2020 and it will come under ‘Aspirational India’ which will focus on skill-based education, a greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers and innovate and build better labs.

Challenges encountered as per the Report:

  • Lack of decentralised education system in India.
  • The inability of the Indian education system to utilise the opportunity of internationalising the higher education system.
  • Well-intentioned policy goals relating to future skills development often do not get filtered downward which is a problem in economies like the US and India.

Way Ahead:

  • India should develop its education system so that it becomes a preferred destination for higher education.
  • Study in India Programme, Ind-SAT exams held for Asian and African students for scholarships can boost the Government’s Efforts.

SHYAMA PRASAD MUKHERJI RURBAN MISSION

Why in News?

  • 4thanniversary of the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission was observed recently.
  • It was launched from Kurubhat in Rajnandgaon District of Chhattisgarh on 21st February 2016.

About Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission:

    • SPMRM is a scheme launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in 2016 to deliver integrated project based infrastructure in the rural areas, which will also include development of economic activities and Skill Development.

  • It was designed to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth.
  • It is now a Centrally Sponsored Scheme funding shared between the Centre and the State in a ratio of 60:40 for Plain area States and 90:10 for Himalayan and NE States.
  • The Mission aims at development of 300 Rurban clusters, in five years.
  • Under the mission, the Central government in coordination with the district administration has taken measures to bring about multi-layered phased development of the rural gram panchayats and villages on the lines of urban cities with proper civic amenities keeping the soul of villages intact.

What is a Rurban Cluster?

  • A ‘Rurban cluster’, would be a cluster of geographically contiguous villages with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and with a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
  • There are 2 categories of clusters: Non-Tribal and Tribal.

What is the Role of the States?

  • The State Government identifies the clusters in accordance with the Framework for Implementation prepared by the MoRD.
  • For the selection of clusters, the MoRD is adopting a scientific process of cluster selection which involves an objective analysis at the district, sub district and village level, of the Demography, Economy, Tourism and pilgrimage significance and transportation corridor impact.

Why Rurban Development is Essential?

  • These clusters typically illustrate potential for growth, have economic drivers and derive locational and competitive advantages.

What are the outcomes envisaged under this Mission?

  • Bridging the rural-urban divide-viz: economic, technological and those related to facilities and Services.
  • Stimulating local economic development with emphasis on reduction of poverty and unemployment in Rural Areas.
  • Spreading development in the Region.
  • Attracting Investment in Rural Areas.

THE MISSING PIECE IN INDIA’S DEFENCE JIGSAW PUZZLE

  • Despite being the 4thlargest spender on defence in the world, India does not have a defence white paper laying out a realistic framework for strategic requirement in the changing geopolitical scenario.

Current Scenario: How is India Planning?

  • Currently India’s defence planning is lopsided towards the 2-front threats from Pakistan and China and hence lacks a strategic vision.
  • Notwithstanding, the 2-front threat, India’s defence plans should clearly lay out requirements based on
    • Shifting centre of gravity of geopolitics
    • Changing technology (cyber warfare)
    • Emerging strategies like proxy wars etc.

Shortcomings in the Current Planning System:

1. Overemphasis on 2-front Threat:

  • A look at the current acquisitions show that maximum focus has been laid on 2-front threat.
  • For instance, the recent deals for acquiring Rafale fighter jets, 200 Kamov Ka-226 light utility helicopters from Russia, S-400 Triumf Air Defence System, Poseidon-8I Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft, Apache Attack Helicopters, Romeo Multi Mission Helicopters for the Navy etc reflect this overemphasis on Pakistan and China.

2. Lack clarity

  • A look at the plans of the armed forces indicates that the operational requirements are laid out towards generic objective and lack clarity.

What is needed?

3. Modernisation

  • As a thumb rule any modern Armed Forces should have 1/3 rd of its equipment in the vintage category, 1/3 rd in the current category and 1/3 rd in the state of the art category.
  • Indian Army currently has only 8% state-of-the-art.
  • Thus India should plan for technologies of the future including artificial intelligence, robotics, bio-technology, modern weapons like hypersonic technology which are said to be fulcrum of arms race in 21st

4. Clear objectives in line with changing geopolitics:

  • It is well known that the geopolitical centre of gravity has shifted from Atlantic in the 20thcentury to Indo-Pacific in the 21st.
  • India has also articulated for free and open indo-pacific in its construct of Indo-Pacific Policy.
  • While China’s growing assertiveness in Indo-Pacific is a reality, it is not necessarily confrontational in nature.

5. Due Consideration to the Neighbourhood

  • Given that China is a formidable opponent in the neighbor-hood and projects such as BRI involve the sensitive sovereignty issues, India should clearly assess the nature of BRI (whether economic or military) and plan accordingly instead of a conflict-prone approach.
  • India’s defence white paper should keep into account that Chinese spheres of influence in South Asia, South East Asia and West Asia.
  • Our defence white paper should clearly differentiate between areas where India and China can peacefully co-exist and conflict zones.

Conclusion:

  • India should prepare a defence white paper that would be more judicious in planning its resources by clearly laying out more definitive approach keeping in view the above challenges.

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY REGULATION BILL 2020

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has recently approved the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020.

What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

  • Assisted reproductive technology includes medical procedures used primarily to Address Infertility.
  • This subject involves procedures such as in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, cryopreservation of gametes or embryos, and/or the use of fertility medication.

What does the Bill Says?

  • The bill makes provisions for safe and Ethical Practice of assisted reproductive Technology Services in the country.
  • Under it, the National Board shall lay down code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics, to set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.
  • The State Board shall have the responsibility to follow the policies and plans laid by the National Board for clinics and Banks in the State.
  • The Bill also provides for National Registry and Registration Authority to maintain a Central database and assist the National Board in its functioning.
  • The Bill also proposes for a stringent punishment for those practicing sex selections, sale of human embryos or gametes, running agencies/rackets/organisations for such unlawful practices.

What are the Possible Impacts?

  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has given hope to a multitude of persons suffering from infertility, but also introduced a plethora of legal, ethical and Social Issues.
  • Clinics in India offer nearly all the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) services—gamete donation, intrauterine insemination (IUI), In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), ICSI, PGD and gestational surrogacy.
  • ART Regulation Bill 2020 follows the introduction in Parliament of the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020, and the approval of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020. These legislative measures are path breaking steps to protect women’s reproductive rights.

PRIVATE MEMBER BILL PROPOSING TWO-CHILD NORM

Why in News?

  • A Private Member of our parliament has recently introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha which proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.
  • Thus, the bill introduces disincentives to the families with children more than two in the above factors.

Key Features of the Bill:

  • The Bill proposes for the incorporation of a new provision — Article 47A (Duty of the State to promote small family norm) — in Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) of the Constitution.
  • The Bill also intends to offer incentives in taxes, employment, education and priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions to people who keep their family limited to two children.
  • The proposed insertion of Article 47A intends to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the ‘small-family-norm’.

India’s Present Scenario:

  • Presently, six states including Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have made the two-child norm mandatory for all panchayat members.
  • The Supreme Court has also upheld the provision in several states that debars members with more than two children from contesting and holding panchayat posts.

Why such a norm has been Proposed?

  • India’s population has already crossed 125 crores and is expected to surpass the world’s most populous nation-China in the next couple of decades.
  • The growing population is also expected to cause burden on the already over-exploited natural resources of India.
  • National Population Control Policy (2000) has been introduced, but its success has not been seen on ground.
  • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, headed by M.N. Venkatachaliah had also recommended for Article 47A to be inserted into the Constitution to control population explosion

Shortcomings of the Two-Child Norm:

  • The problems like gender imbalance, undocumented children, etc. faced by China (as a result of the one-child policy) might be experienced by India.
  • India’s birth-rate is slowing down to sustainable levels. In 2000, the fertility rate was still relatively high at 3.2 children per woman. By 2016, that number had already fallen to 2.3 children.
  • The restricted child policy will create a shortage of educated young people needed to carry on India’s technological revolution. India might also lose its advantage of Demographic Dividend.

NOTE:

  • Entry 20-A in List III (Concurrent List) of the 7thSchedule deals with population control and family planning. This provision was added through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment 1976. Thus it empowers both Centre and state to frame policies in such matters.
  • Any Member of Parliament (MP) who is not a minister is referred to as a private member. A bill introduced by such a member is known as private Member Bill.14 private member’s bills have become law so far in India.

DEPORTATION LAWS IN INDIA

Context:

  • British MP, Debbie Abrahams, who is also the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir, was denied entry into India as her e-visa had been “rejected” by India.

The Issue:

  • India has denied entry to a UK Labour MP who was critical of the government’s controversial decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status last year.
  • Indian officials have clarified that the British lawmaker Debbie Abrahams, who was denied entry into the country on Monday, did not hold a valid visa.
  • This was done after various media organisations claimed that Abrahams was deported.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs also responded that, on account of her involvement in activities against India’s national interest, her visa had been revoked.
  • In this case, the government had claimed that this instance of denial of entry is not same as deportation as the British MP has claimed

What does Rejection of Visa Mean?

  • Grant, revocation, or rejection of a visa is sovereign right of a country.
  • Any foreign national who remains in any area in India for a period exceeding the period for which the visa was issued to him can be proceeded against under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • A foreigner who enters into or stays in any area in India without the valid  documents required for such entry or for such stay, as the case may be, can also be proceeded against under Section 14A (b) of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

What is deportation? And what are its types?

  • Deportation is the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. It can be done by a country, when a foreigner violates the immigration laws of the country.
  • It applies equally to nationals and Foreigners.
  • External Deportation:
    • All countries reserve the right to deport persons without right of abode even those who are long-time residents or possess permanent residency.
    • In general, foreigners who have committed serious crimes, entered the country illegally, overstayed or broken the conditions of their visa, or otherwise lost their legal status to remain in the country may be administratively removed or deported.
    • In some cases, even citizens can be deported; some of the countries in the Persian Gulf have deported their own citizens. They have paid the Comoros Islands to give them passports and accept them.
  • Internal Deportation:
    • Deportation can also happen within a state, when (for example) an individual or a group of people is forcibly resettled to a different part of the country.
    • If ethnic groups are affected by this, it may also be referred to as population transfer.
    • The rationale is often that these groups might assist the enemy in war or insurrection.
    • For example, the American state of Georgia deported 400 female mill workers during the Civil War on the suspicion they were Northern sympathizers.
  • Colonial Deportations:
    • Deporting individuals to an overseas colony is a special case that is neither completely internal or external.
    • For example, from 1717, Britain deported around 40,000 religious objectors and criminals to America before the practice ceased in 1776.
    • Jailers sold the criminals to shipping contractors, who then sold them to plantation owners. The criminal was forced to work for the plantation owner for the duration of their sentence.
    • After Britain lost control of America, Australia became the destination for criminals deported to British colonies.
  • Criminal Deportation:
    • criminal deportation is where a foreigner is ordered to be deported or physically removed from a country by reason of such person’s criminal conduct or activity.

What are the regulations applicable to foreigners in India?

  • The extent Acts dealing with entry, stay and exit of foreign nationals in the country are:
  •  

    • Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920
    • Foreigners Act, 1946
    • Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
  • The Passport (Entry in India) Act, 1920
    • It prescribes specific authorization of foreign nationals on their valid travel documents/passports for allowing entry into the country.
    • Under this Act, foreigners coming to India are required to get a visa from Indian Missions/Posts.
  • The Foreigners Act, 1946
    • It regulates the entry of foreigners into India, their presence and their departure.
  • The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992
    • It mandates that certain categories of foreigners whose intended stay in India for more than the specified period, or as provided in their visa authorization, are required to get themselves registered with the Registration officer.

Power to grant or refuse permission to enter India under Foreigners Act, 1946:

  • Permission to enter shall be refused if the concerned authority (Central Government officer) is satisfied that-
    • The foreigner is not in possession of a valid passport or visa for India or has not been exempted from the possession of a passport or visa;
    • He is a person of unsound mind or a mentally defective person;
    • He is suffering from a infectious disease in consequence of which, in the opinion of the Medical Officer of the port, the entry of the foreigner is likely to prejudice public health;
    • He has been sentenced in a foreign country for an extradition offence within the meaning of the Indian Extradition Act, 1903 (15 of 1903);
    • His entry is prohibited either under an order issued by a competent authority or under the specific orders of the Central Government.
    • The civil authority may attach such conditions as it thinks fit to grant or refuse permission to enter which includes, the interests of public safety.

WOMEN TO GET PERMANENT COMMISSION IN INDIAN ARMED FORCES

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court recently declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.

What is the Issue?

  • The verdict came on a nearly 10-year-old appeal filed by the government against a 2010 decision of the Delhi High Court to grant SSC women officers permanent commission.
  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992. Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • According to government, isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and they would have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family. Women ran the risk of capture by enemy and being taken prisoner of war.

What is the SCs Verdict?

  • The Supreme Court dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
  • It also declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.

Why this Verdict?

  • The court found the remarks in the note not only constitutionally invalid but discriminatory, affecting the dignity of women officers.
  • Article 15 states that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
  • So, the SC ordered not to discriminate women on the basis of gender and ordered to appoint them in command posts in the Army.

Way Forward:

  • Moreover, to cast aspersion on women’s abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.

TREATING A CHILD WITNESS

Why in News?

  • A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Karnataka High Court, asking for guidelines to be issued to police regarding interrogation of minors in criminal proceedings.
  • The PIL has asked the court to issue guidelines in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act and United Nations (UN) resolutions.

Definition of the term “Witness”:

  • Any person who appears before a court or tribunal so as to give evidence or testimony, for or against any person involved is called as a witness.
  • Any person may be a witness who can understand the questions put to him and rationally answer them.
  • Usually during a trial, the court, before recording the testimony of a child witness, determines his or her competency on the basis of their ability to give rational answers.
  • Age Limit to be a Witness: Under Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, there is no minimum age for a witness. Children as young as three years old have been witnesses before trial courts in cases of sexual abuse.

Existing Guidelines with respect to Child Witnesses:

  • Authorities should treat children in a caring and sensitive manner, with interview techniques that “minimise distress or trauma to children”.
  • An investigator specially trained in dealing with children be appointed to guide the interview of the child, using a child-sensitive approach.
  • The investigator shall, to the extent possible, avoid repetition of the interview during the justice process in order to prevent secondary victimisation of the child.
  • Secondary victimisation is defined as victimisation that occurs not as a direct result of a criminal act, but through the response of institutions and individuals to the victim.

Legislative Framework in existence regarding Protection of Child Witnesses:

1. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:

  • The Act does not provide guidelines specifically relating to questioning or interviewing children as witnesses. However, it advocates for the following:

1. Child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters. This implies, for the police to not be in their uniform while dealing with children.

2. Special Juvenile Police Unit: Interviews of children are done by specialised units of police who are trained to sensitively deal with them.

3 . Provides for a Child Welfare Committee in every district to take cognisance of any violations by the authorities in their handling of children.

2. POCSO Act:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 has specific guidelines regarding interviewing children as witnesses, though the guidelines pertain to child sexual abuse victims.
  • Interviews should be conducted in a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment, including allowing for them to be done at homes.
  • It says a child should not be made to recount the incident in question multiple times.
  • The Act also allows for a support person, who could be trained in counselling, to be present with the child to reduce stress and trauma.

3. Article 39 (f) of the Constitution (DPSP):

  • The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

4. UN Resolution:

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989: It states that ‘in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’.
  • India has been a signatory to this Convention since 1992.

MADHYA PRADESH GRAPPLES WITH SPIRALLING NEONATAL DEATHS

Why in News?

  • According to the National Health Mission (NHM), Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest percentage of newborn deaths of 11.5% against the total admissions to government-run sick newborn care units (SNCUs).

What is Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR)?

  • NMR is the probability of dying during the first 28 days of life, expressed per 1,000 live births.
  • According to the Sample Registration System, neonatal deaths in India mainly occur owing to premature births and low birth weight (35.9%), pneumonia (16.9%), birth asphyxia and birth trauma (9.9%), other non-communicable diseases (7.9%), diarrhoea (6.7%), congenital anomalies (4.6%) and infections (4.2%).Under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, each country, including India, has aimed to bring down neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1,000 live births. In 2018, it stood at 23 for India.

What does the Report Says?

  • Although admissions of neonates in the Madhya Pradesh have dropped from April 2017 to December 2019 — remaining lower than West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — the percentage of deaths at 12.2% surpassed Bihar’s last year.
  • In Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, one in every five children admitted to a unit died in the three years — the highest death percentage of 19.9% in the State, ten times above the NHM’s mandated key performance indicator of below 2%.

Why the Surge Happened?

  • Staff crunch, low community referrals, absence of a special neonatal transport service to health centres, and the non-availability of enough units to cater to increasing institutional deliveries had contributed to the spike in the percentage of deaths.
  • Meanwhile, West Bengal, where 34,344 neonatal deaths occurred in the period, the most in the country, the declining percentage of deaths from 9.2% in 2017 to 8.9% in 2019 coincided with a slump in admissions.
  • The health of children and mothers is not tracked in a systematic way by one platform, and services are often given randomly.

What are the Challenges Faced?

  • As the units are located at hospitals with the delivery load of more than 3,000 infants per year, mostly in District Headquarters, transporting neonates on time is crucial as they may succumb to fatal diseases within hours.
  • Although there is a dedicated service to transport pregnant women to hospitals from remote areas, there is none for neonates, who are mostly dependent on the 108 ambulance service.
  • The major challenge, however, remained community referrals, significantly aided by ASHA workers — only one in ten sick neonates born outside a hospital is taken to an SNCU. This is due to the absence of transport, inability to identify a disease by parents, and lack of awareness.

Way Forward:

  • Measures should be taken to ensure early registration of pregnancies, and for early detection of high risk cases, improving institutional deliveries, providing skill development training to health staff.
  • Education campaign should be taken up to aware the mother of the merits of antenatal care, institutional delivery, importance of exclusive breast feeding, immunization, home care for diarrhoea; all these are meant to create awareness among family members to provide support to women during pregnancies and deliveries.

TWO CHILD NORMS DEBATE

Why in News?

  • Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

Highlights:

  • The Bill proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.
  • The Bill has sought the incorporation of a new provision, Article 47A in Part IV of the Constitution, to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the “small-family” norm.
  • The Bill aims to amend the Constitution in order to incentivise limiting families to two children by offering tax concessions, priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions, among other things.
  • The Bill proposes the insertion of Article 47A after Article 47 of the Constitution.
  • Article 47A says the following: The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.

Need for Two Child Norms:

  • India’s population rate has overrun the ability of the environment to cater to. This has caused stress on the limited resources of the country.
  • The higher population has not resulted in higher productivity rate in terms of creation of wealth instead the per capita wealth has depriciated.
  • Women are forced to undergo multiple pregnancies over a short period of time. This has created adverse effect on their health leading to their death in some cases.

Drawbacks of Two Child Norms:

  • It will increase the cases of mass sterilization especially by poor women belonging to backward area. This may result in deaths of women due to improper procedures.
  • The replacement rate of the old population will decrease significantly due to which the number of working age population will reduce drastically.

NATIONAL LITERACY MISSION

Why in News?

  • Adult Education is a Concurrent Subject with both Central and State Governments being required to contribute to its promotion and strengthening.
  • At the national level, National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), an autonomous wing of MHRD is the nodal agency for overall planning and management and funding of Adult Education Programmes and institutions. Its inter – ministerial General Council and Executive Committee are the two policy and executive bodies.

Centrally Sponsored Schemes:

  • Presently, the provision of adult education is through the Saakshar Bharat Programme (SBP) which is a centrally sponsored scheme.
  • The National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), is the Nodal Agency at the National level. The Joint Secretary (Adult Education) is the ex – officio Director General of NLMA.
  • It was set up in 1988 with the approval of the Cabinet as an independent and autonomous wing of the Ministry of HRD (the then Department of Education). The Cabinet vested NLMA with full executive and financial powers in the sphere of work.
  • National Literacy Mission Authority is mandated with
  • Policy and planning;
  • Developmental and promotional activities;
  • Operational functions including assistance to voluntary agencies and other NGOs,
  • Technology demonstration
  • Leadership training
  • Resource development including media and materials
  • Research and development
  • Monitoring and evaluation etc.

The Council of NLMA:

  • Is the apex body of NLMA, headed by Minister of Human Resource Development and consists of, among others, Ministers of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Minority

Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, Health and Family Welfare, Youth Affairs and Sports, Social Justice and Empowerment, Women and Child Development, senior level

political leaders of the main political parties, three Members of Parliament, Education Ministers of six States etc.

Executive Committee:

  • The Executive Committee is responsible to carry out all the functions of the Authority in accordance with the policy and guidelines laid down by the Council.
  • It strives for proper implementation of policies and incorporation of latest developments in the field of Adult Education.

Major campaigns under the National Literacy Mission:

  • TOTAL LITERACY CAMPAIGNS (TLC):This model is the dominant strategy for the eradication of adult illiteracy in India. TLC campaigns are area-specific, time-bound, volunteer-based, cost-effective and outcome-oriented.
  • The campaigns are implemented through district-level literacy committees which are registered under the Societies Registration Act as independent and autonomous bodies to provide a unified umbrella under which a number of individuals and organisations work together.
  • POST LITERACY PROGRAMME (PLP):Post-literacy programmes attempt to give interested learners an opportunity to harness and develop their learning potentials after completion of a course in basic literacy.
  • Post literacy programmes are open to neo-literates in the age group of 9-35 who have completed the basic literacy course under the total literacy campaigns, dropouts from primary schools and pass outs from Non formal Education (NFE) programmes.
  • CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMME (CEP):After the impingement of literacy and adult education programmes another challenge that came before the National Literacy Mission was to create a Continuing Education System and maintain a channelled continuous and life-long learning process.
  • Thus, the scheme of Continuing Education was taken up. The Continuing Education Scheme is multi-faceted and is postulated on the principles of treating basic literacy, post literacy and later continuing education. Above all the scheme aims at addressing the socio-economic situations of the community to provide infrastructure for larger development initiatives.

NATIONAL SECURITY ACT (NSA), 1980

Why in News?

  • Recently NSA has been invoked by Uttar Pradesh government to arrest persons for their inflammatory speeches.

About National Security Act (NSA):

  • The National Security Act (NSA), 1980 empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person to prevent him from
    • acting in any manner prejudicial to national security.
    • disrupting public order or for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community.
  • The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months. But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.
  • The act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Preventive Detention in India: A Timeline:

  • Preventive Detention Laws in India date back to 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.
  • Other preventive detention laws that existed in colonial era are: Defence of India Act of 1858, The Government of India Act of 1935.
  • In Post-independence India, the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950. The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
  • After the Preventive Detention Act expired in 1969, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, brought in the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971.
  • Though the MISA was repealed in 1977 after the Janata Party came to power, the successive government led by Indira Gandhi brought in the NSA in 1980.
    • The only period in the Indian “republic without any preventive detention law was the three year period, beginning with the repeal of MISA in 1977 to the promulgation of the NSA in 1980.

Rights against Preventive Detention:

  • 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 provides 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 not be informed about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
  • 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.

PUBLISH CRIMINAL HISTORY OF ELECTION CANDIDATES, SAYS SC

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court recently ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

What did SC said?

  • In addition to the entire criminal history of their candidates the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people are also ordered to be published.
  • The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • The published information on the criminal antecedents of a candidate should be detailed and include the nature of their offences, charges framed against him, the court concerned, case number, etc.
  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

Why this order?

  • It appears that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics.
  • In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them”.
  • The unimpeded rise of criminals, often facing heinous charges like rape and murder, encroaching into the country’s political and electoral scenes compelled SC to interfere in this issue.

What are the significances of the Judgement?

  • A political party should explain to the public through their published material how the “qualifications or achievements or merit” of a candidate, charged with a crime, impressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his criminal background.
  • A party would have to give reasons to the voter that it was not the candidate’s “possibilities of win at the polls” which guided its decision to give him ticket to contest elections.

PESTICIDES MANAGEMENT BILL, 2020

Why in News?

  • Union Cabinet has recently approved “The Pesticides Management Bill, 2020”. Currently, the pesticide business is regulated by rules under the Insecticides Act 1968.

Objectives of the Bill:

  • The Bill aims at regulating the business of pesticides and compensating farmers in case of losses from the use of agrochemicals.
  • Agrochemicals imply chemicals used in agriculture, such as a pesticide or fertilizer.

Key Features of the Bill:

1. Empowering Farmers through Information:

  • It will empower farmers by providing them with all the information about the strength and weakness of pesticides, the risk and alternatives. All information will be available openly as data in digital format and in all languages.

2. Compensation:

  • The Bill has a unique feature in the form of a provision for compensations in case there is any loss because of the spurious or low quality of pesticides.
  • If required, a central fund will be formed to take care of the compensations.

3. Registration of Pesticide Manufacturers:

  • All pesticide manufacturers have to be registered and bound by the new Act, once it is passed. The advertisements of pesticides will be regulated so there should be no confusion or no cheating by the manufacturers.

4. Organic Pesticides:

  • The Bill also intends to promote organic pesticides.

Usage and ill-impact of Pesticides in India:

  • India is among the leading producers of pesticides in Asia. In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.
  • Spurious Agrochemicals are responsible for the losses of not just farmers but also producers of genuine agrochemicals and the government, which loses revenue from the sales of the counterfeit versions of the real farm inputs. They harm crop, soil fertility and the environment.

About Insecticides Act, 1968:

  • It was passed in 1971 with a view of regulating the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides in order to prevent risk to human beings and animals.
  • This act brings in Central Insecticides Board which works under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
  • The board advises the central government and state governments on technical matters arising out of the administration of the act and to carry out the other functions assigned to it.

JAL JEEVAN MISSION

Why in News?

  • Rajasthan has recently demanded higher central assistance for Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) from the Union Government to achieve the targets of the Mission.

About Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • The chief objective of the Mission is to provide piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural and urban households by 2024. It envisages supply of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by 2024.
  • JJM focuses on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
  • Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
  • The Jal-Jeevan Mission is set to be based on various water conservation efforts like point recharge, desilting of minor irrigation tanks, use of grey-water for agriculture and source sustainability.
  • The Mission is based on a community approach to water and includes extensive Information, Education and Communication as a key component of the mission. Thus JJM looks to create a jan andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority.

Funding Pattern:

  • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.

 Institutional Arrangement:

1. National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM) at the Central level

2. State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) at the State level

3. District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) at the District level

4. Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC) at Village level

Village Action Plan (VAP):

  • Every village will prepare a Village Action Plan (VAP) which will have three components:
    • Water source & its maintenance
    • Water supply
    • Grey-water (domestic wastewater) Management.

Need for and significance of the Mission:

  • India has 16% of the world population, but only 4% of freshwater resources. Depleting grou