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DEFENCE PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE

Why in news?

  • Raksha Mantri ShriRajnath Singh has approved setting up of a Committee under the Chairmanship of Director General (Acquisition) to review the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 and Defence Procurement Manual (DPM) 2009. The Committee will revise and align the procedures with the aim of ensuring seamless flow from asset acquisition to life cycle support.

The Committee:

  • The DPP 2016 and DPM 2009 have been due for revision. Aligning the procedures will ensure seamless flow from asset acquisition to life cycle support and strengthen the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government.
  • Apart from DG (Acq) 11 other members, not below the rank of Joint Secretary/Major General equivalent, are part of this high-level committee.

Terms of reference of the Committee:

  • Revise the procedures as given in DPP 2016 and DPM 2009, so as to remove procedural bottlenecks and hasten defence acquisition.
  • Align and standardise the provisions in the DPP 2016 and DPM 2009, wherever applicable, to optimise life cycle support for equipment.
  • Simplify policy and procedures to facilitate greater participation of Indian Industry and develop robust Defence Industrial base.
  • Wherever applicable, examine and incorporate new concepts, such as life cycle costing, life cycle support, performance based logistics, ICT, lease contracting, codification & standardisation.
  • Include provisions to promote Indian start-ups and research & development.
  • Any other aspect which will contribute towards refining the acquisition process and support the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

DRAFT NATIONAL RESOURCE EFFICIENCY POLICY

Why in News?

  • Natural resources form the backbone of any economic development. India, as one of the fastest growing economies with GDP at 2.6 trillion USD, has increased its material consumption to six times.
  • Enhancing resource efficiency and promoting the use of secondary raw materials has emerged as a strategy for ensuring that the potential trade-off between growth, resource constraints and environmental well-being can be minimized.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy

Policy Highlights:

  • The Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP) envisions a future with environmentally sustainable and equitable economic growth, resource security, healthy environment (air, water and land), and restored ecosystems with rich ecology and biodiversity.
  • The Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy is guided by the principles of
  • Reduction in primary resource consumption to ‘sustainable’ levels, in keeping with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and staying within the planetary boundaries,
  • Creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches
  • Waste minimization
  • Material security, and creation of employment opportunities and business models beneficial to the cause of environment protection and restoration.

INDIA’S DOCTRINE OF NUCLEAR NO FIRST USE

Context: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, after visiting the nuclear test site in Pokhran that “The future of India’s ‘No First Use’ policy on nuclear weapons depends on the “circumstances”,

What is No First Use doctrine, and how did it come into being?

    • A commitment to not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict has long been India’s stated policy.
    • India declareda “no-first-use” policy under which it won’t be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with its neighbors, but will retaliate should deterrence fail. Unlike Pakistan, India’s other neighbor and rival China also has a declared no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons.
    • India’s Nuclear Doctrine

    a) Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent

    b) Posture of ‘No First Use’, nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian Territory or on Indian forces anywhere

    c) Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage

    d) Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states

    e) In the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons

Background

  • On January 4, 2003, when Vajpayee was India’s Prime Minister, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met to review the progress in operationalizing the country’s nuclear doctrine.
  • An official release issued that day summarized the decisions that were being put in the public domain.
  • Among the major points in the doctrine was “a posture of No First Use”, which was described as follows:
    • “Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.

Contents of Doctrine

  • Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  • India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  • India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.
  • India’s doctrine does not mention any country, but it is no secret that the Indian nuclear arsenal is to counter threats from China and Pakistan.

Advantages of Doctrine

  • Since there is no first use alert requirement, the chances of reacting to a false alarm are nullified thus effectively quashing the chances of unnecessary chaos.
  • A ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons policy suits India’s interest. Shifting to a first-use policy would mark a shift from deterrence towards nuclear war fighting
  • These weapons are enormously destructive and should not be used.  Since there is no first use alert requirement, the chances of reacting to a false alarm are nullified  A first use would result in international dishonour and weigh heavily on a country with a first use posture.
  • NFU doctrine is cheaper to implement; for India, which has many economic targets to achieve, this is a very important factor.
  • NFU policy is just right for India as it ensures security for the nation and does not detract it from its march towards better prosperity for its people.
  • India’s NFU policy which has kept the nuclear arsenal in both India and Pakistan in a de-mated posture, which means that the nuclear warheads are not mated with the delivery systems.
  • A NFU doctrine is cheaper to implement. For India, which has many economic targets to achieve, this is a very important factor.

China

  • China has maintained a ‘no first use’ policy since 1964 when it went nuclear, and the Chinese leadership has always considered nuclear weapons as political weapons.

Pakistan

  • Pakistan has adopted a first-use policy to ensure full-spectrum deterrence
  • Pakistan knows that it cannot afford to use any nuclear weapons in a war, including its tactical nuclear weapons, as India would respond with massive nuclear retaliation as per its doctrine

E-COURT

Why in news?

  • The High Court of Punjab and Haryana to launch its first virtual court (e-Court) at Faridabad.

Highlights:

  • The e-Court would deal with traffic challan cases from across the State.
  • The project will be launched under the guidance of e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India.
  • Virtual courts will remove the need for the litigant to be present in the court and facilitate adjudication of the case online through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

E-committee:

  • E-committee is a body constituted by the Government of India in pursuance of a proposal received from the supreme court of India for assistance in formulating a National policy on computerization of Indian Judiciary and advise on technological communication and management related changes.
  • The E-Committee was set up in 2004 to provide a guide map for the use of I-T and administrative reforms in the judiciary.

e-Courts Project:

  • The e-Courts project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005”submitted by e-Committee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
  • The e-Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice,Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country.
  • The following are the functions of e-Courts Project:
    • To provide efficient & time-bound citizen-centric services delivery as detailed in e-Court Project Litigant’s Charter.
    • To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
    • To automate the processes to provide transparency in the accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
    • To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively & quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost-effective, predictable, reliable and transparent.

MOD CLARIFIES THERE IS NO PROPOSAL TO PRIVATISE OFB

Why in News?

  • Rumours being spread that Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)is being privatised has resulted in its employees calling for a 30 days’ strike.

Highlights:

  • Committee of senior officials of Ministry of Defenceled by Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production alongwith Chairman of OFB, explained to the employee organisations that there is no proposal to privatise OFB.
  • The proposal under consideration of Government is to make it into Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), which is 100 per cent Government owned.
  • It was also stated that corporatisation of OFB will bring OFB at par with other DPSUs of Ministry of Defence.  This is in the interest of OFB as it will provide operational freedom and flexibility to OFB which it presently lacks.

Ordnance Factory Board:

  • Ordnance Factory Board(OFB) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories is a defense contractor owned by the Indian government.
  • OFB comprises forty-one ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllerates of safety which are spread all across the country.
  • OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation run by the Government of India.
  • It is often called the “Fourth Arm of Defence” and the “Force Behind the Armed Forces” of India.
  • OFB is the 37th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India.

CHIEF JUSTICE ADVOCATES MORE AUTONOMY TO CBI

Why in News?

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has recommended a comprehensive legislation to make the Central Bureau of Investigation functional as an efficient and impartial investigative agency.

Highlights:

  • The Chief Justice said that time and again, the Supreme Court had utilised its constitutional authority to ensure that the CBI functioned without any fear or favour, and in the best public interest. As a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary investigative agency, it had for the most part of its existence enjoyed tremendous public trust.
  • He opined that the CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General.
  • And that the legal mandate of the CBI must be strengthened by having a comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence and oversight.Advocating administrative and financial autonomy for the CBI, he said, “To address an increasing incidence of inter-State crimes, an argument could be made for including ‘public order’ in concurrent list, for the limited purposes of investigating such crimes,”.However, given that the superintendence and control of the agency continues to, in large measure, lie with the executive by virtue of Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the possibility of it being used as a political instrument remains ever present, he said.

Issues:

  • Chief Justice Gogoi lists legal ambiguity, weak human resource, lack of adequate investment, accountability, and political and administrative interference as key concerns.
  • In the context of political and administrative interference, he said that in the Vineet Narain v. Union of India case, the Suprme Court had expressed concern over the state of affairs and laid down explicit guidelines for protecting the integrity of the force.
  • Under the DSPE Act, the CBI requires consent of the State concerned for investigation. Given vested interests or bureaucratic lethargy, such consent is often either denied or delayed, severely compromising the investigation. Additionally, a patch work of legislations governing the functioning of the CBI adversely affects inter-institutional coordination, both horizontally and vertically.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • The agency has been known to investigate several economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases.
  • Its job is to ensure a fair and an impartial probe.

COMPETITION LAW REVIEW COMMITTEE

Why in News?

  • Shri Injeti Srinivas, Secretary (Corporate Affairs) presented the Report of the Competition Law Review Committee

Highlights:

  • The Government constituted a Competition Law Review Committee on 1st October, 2018 to review the existing Competition law framework and make recommendations to further strengthen the framework to inter alia meet new economy challenges.
  • The Committee was chaired by Shri Injeti Srinivas

Recommendations:

  • Introduction of a ‘Green Channel’ for combination notifications to enable fast-paced regulatory approvals for vast majority of mergers and acquisitions that may have no major concerns regarding appreciable adverse effects on competition. The aim is to move towards disclosure based regime with strict consequences for not providing accurate or complete information.
  • Combinations arising out of the insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will also be eligible for “Green Channel” approvals.
  • Introducing a dedicated bench in NCLAT for hearing appeals under the Competition Act.
  • Introduction of express provisions to identify ‘hub and spoke’ agreements as well as agreements that do not fit within typical horizontal or vertical anti-competitive structures to cover agreements related to business structures and models synonymous with new age markets.Additional enforcement mechanism of ‘Settlement & Commitments” in the interests of speedier resolution of cases of anti-competitive conduct.
  • Enabling provisions to prescribe necessary thresholds, inter alia, deal-value threshold for merger notifications.
  • CCI to issue guidelines on imposition of penalty to ensure more transparency and faster decision making which will encourage compliance by businesses.
  • Strengthening the governance structure of CCI with the introduction of a Governing Board to oversee advocacy and quasi-legislative functions, leaving adjudicatory functions to the Whole-time Members.Merging DG’s Office with CCI as an ‘Investigation Division’ as it aids CCI in discharging an inquisitorial rather than adversarial mandate. However, functional autonomy must be protected.
  • Opening of CCI offices at regional level to carry out non-adjudicatory functions such as research, advocacy etc. and interaction with State Governments and State regulators.

DOCUMENT IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (DIN)

Why in News?

  • Every communication to be issued by the Income-Tax Department will now have a Document Identification Number (DIN). This intends to insure proper audit trail of such communication.

Document Identification Number:

  • The CBDT has now laid down parameters specifying the manner in which any communication issued by any income-tax authority relating to assessment, appeals, orders, statutory or otherwise, exemptions, enquiry, investigation, verification of information, penalty, prosecution, rectification and approval to the assessee will be dealt with.
  • All such communication issued on or after the 1st of October, 2019 shall carry a computer-generated Document Identification Number (DIN) duly quoted in the body of such communication.
  • Any communication which is not in conformity with the prescribed guidelines shall be treated as invalid and shall be deemed to have never been issued”.
  • CBDT also specifies exceptional circumstances where communication may be issued manually, only after recording reasons in writing & with prior written approval of Chief Commissioner/Director General of Income-Tax concerned,” the Income Tax Department tweeted on its official Twitter handle.
  • The exceptional circumstances include situations where there are technical difficulties in generating/allotting/quoting the DIN or issuing the communication electronically or the PAN of the assessee is not available or is lying with a non-jurisdictional Assessing Officer due to delay in PAN migration.

CERTIFICATION OF SEEDS TO BE MADE MANDATORY TO STEP UP FARM OUTPUT

  • Context: The Centre is planning to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966.

Background:

  • More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.
  • The existing legislation that was enacted over half a century ago and therefore there is a need for revival.

Proposed Changes in The New Bill:

  • The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…” The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds.
  • The new law will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance. Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000.

Significance:

  • New changes could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%.
  • It will also bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation.

STATE-RUN OMCS TO BUY BIODIESEL MADE FROM USED COOKING OIL

  • Context: Central Government has launched a ‘Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)’sticker and a phone app to enable the collection of used cooking oil. Restaurants and hotels interested in supplying used cooking oil can affix the sticker to show availability.

About RUCO:

  • The RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative have been launched by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil (UCO) to bio-diesel.
  • Under RUCO, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection.
  • FSSAI wants businesses using more than 100 litres of oil for frying, to maintain a stock register and ensure that UCO is handed over to only registered collecting agencies.
  • FSSAI is also working in partnership with Biodiesel Association of India and the food industry to ensure effective compliance of used cooking oil regulations.
  • FSSAI has additionally launched a micro-site to monitor the progress of the collection and conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel.

Background:

  • The consumption of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) poses adverse health effects.
  • During frying, several properties of oil are altered, Total Polar Compounds (TPC) are formed on repeated frying.
  • The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver diseases.
  • Therefore, it is essential to monitor the quality of vegetable oils during frying.
  • In order to safeguard consumer health, FSSAI has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25 percent beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used.
  • All Food Business Operators (FBOs) are required to monitor the quality of oil during frying by complying with the said regulations.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) is an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of UCO to biodiesel.

What are Total Polar Compounds (TPC)?

  • TPC is formed due to repeated frying and usage of edible oil which changes its physiochemical and nutrition properties making it unfit for human consumption.
  • TPCs above the set level cause hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease etc.
  • Cooking oil may have saturated fatty acids (palm oil) or unsaturated fatty acids (soyabean).
  • The saturated fatty acids such as in palm oil are more stable that the unsaturated fatty acids which decompose easily at high temperature forming polar compounds.
  • Thus, it makes oils with saturated fatty acids fit for frying. However, oils with unsaturated fatty acids are healthier provided they are used just once for frying.

MOTOR VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT 2019

Why in News?

  • President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Highlights:

  • The Act aims to make Indian roads safer, reduce corruption and use technology to overhaul the country’s transportation system.
  • Towards safety, the law has proposed stiffer penalties for traffic rule violations such as over-speeding, dangerous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and other offences such as not wearing a helmet or driving without licence.
  • The penalty for drunk driving has been increased by five times to ₹2,000. Speeding will now attract a fine or ₹5,000 instead of₹500 earlier. Noting giving way to emergency vehicles such as ambulances will attract a ₹10,000 fine.
  • The new law also allows the Centre to ask manufacturers to recall vehicles in case of defects that cause harm to the environment.
  • The Centre, in consultation with the states, can frame a national transportation policy to transform the rural and public road transportation system and improve last-mile connectivity.
  • The process for testing and certification for automobiles is proposed to be regulated more effectively. The testing agencies issuing automobile approvals have been brought under the ambit of the Act.
  • The driving training process has been strengthened enabling faster issuance of transport licenses.
  • This will help in reducing the shortage of commercial drivers in the country.
  • To bring harmony of the registration and licensing process, it is proposed to create National Register for Driving Licence and National Register for Vehicle registration through “Vahan” & “Sarathi” platforms. This will facilitate uniformity of the process across the country.
  • The Act proposes offences committed by Juveniles. The Guardian / owner shall be deemed to be guilty in cases of offences by Juveniles and Juvenile to be tried under JJ Act. Registration of Motor Vehicle to be cancelled
  • Improving delivery of services to the stakeholders using e-Governance is one of the major focuses of this Act. This includes enabling online learning licenses, increasing validity period for driving licenses, doing away with the requirements of educational qualifications  for transport licenses are some of the features.

ZERO DEFECT AND ZERO EFFECT SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government has launched a scheme namely “Financial Support to MSMEs in ZED Certification Scheme”.

Highlights:

  • The objective of the scheme for promotion of Zero Defect and Zero Effect (ZED) manufacturing amongst micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
  • The ZED Assessment for their certification so as to:
    • Develop an Ecosystem for Zero Defect Manufacturing in MSMEs.
    • Promote adaptation of Quality tools/systems and Energy Efficient manufacturing.
    • Enable MSMEs for manufacturing of quality products.
    • Encourage MSMEs to constantly upgrade their quality standards in products and processes.
    • Drive manufacturing with adoption of Zero-Defect production processes and without impacting the environment.
    • Support ‘Make in India’ campaign.
    • Develop professionals in the area of ZED manufacturing and certification.
    • There are 50 parameters for ZED rating and additional 25 parameters for ZED Defence rating under ZED Maturity Assessment Model.
  • The MSMEs are provided financial assistance for the activities to be carried out for ZED certification i.e., Assessment / Rating, Additional rating for Defence angle, Gap Analysis, Handholding, Consultancy for improving the rating of MSMEs by Consultants and Re-Assessment / Re-Rating.
  • Quality Council of India (QCI) has been appointed as the National Monitoring & Implementing Unit (NMIU) for implementation of ZED.

HIRING APP FOR FARMERS

Why in News?

  • The agricultural Ministry app will create an invaluable database for policy-makers, who can track the use and cost of equipment.

Highlights:

  • The custom hiring centres (CHC) app is already open for registrations by the farmers, societies and entrepreneurs who run these centres. So far, almost 26,800 CHCs have registered to offer more than one lakh pieces of equipment for hire.
  • Once the app is officially launched, farmers who wish to hire equipment can register using their names, addresses and mobile numbers, and then punch in their requirements.
  • The system would also help to track the usage of new technology that the government wants to promote, such as the Happy Seeder that aims to prevent stubble burning that causes air pollution, or solar dryers that can help farmers process and preserve their produce.
  • Farmers save precious groundwater and increase productivity by 10 to 15%.

Customer Hiring Centres:

  • Customer Hiring Centres (CHCs) are basically a unit comprising a set of farm machinery, implements and equipment meant for hiring by farmers.
  • Marginal farmers (Farmers whose land holdings are less than two hectares of land), by virtue of their economic condition are unable to own farm machinery on their own or through institutional credit.
  • Ideally, the CHCs should be located within a radius of 5 to 7 kms of land holdings. This will reduce the transport cost and time of transport of agricultural machinery.

SABKI YOJANA SABKA VIKAS

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has decided to launch the People’s Plan Campaign, also known as “Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas”from September 2019.

Highlights:

  • It aims to draw up Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) in the country and place them on a website where anyone can see the status of the various government’s flagship schemes.
  • Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) will include 48 indicators covering various aspects such as health and sanitation, education etc.
  • After each GP is scored out of 100 — with 30 marks for infrastructure, 30 marks for human development, and 40 marks for economic activity— the GPs will be ranked.
  • The data on the 48 indicators would come from Census 2011 (for physical infrastructure), Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (for Household-level deprivation data), and fresh survey starting in September 2019 that will be carried out by local facilitators.
  • The score for each GP will reflect the local needs and priorities.
  • The entire ranking exercise is meant to identify the gaps at the GP level, make an assessment of where it stands, and accordingly plan the interventions.

Gram Panchayat Development Plans:

  • Gram Panchayats have been mandated for the preparation of GPDP for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
  • The GPDP planning process will be comprehensive and participatory by involving full convergence with the schemes of all related Central Ministries / Line Departments.
  • The People’s Plan Campaign initiated under “Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas” is an intensive and structured exercise for planning at Gram Sabha through convergence between Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and concerned departments of the State.

MUKHYA MANTRI KRISHI ASHIRWAD YOJNA

Why in News?

  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for introducing structural reforms in the agricultural sector along with financial assistance schemes like Direct Benefit Transfer to make agriculture profitable and sustainable.
  • He inaugurated the Mukhya Mantri Krishi Ashirwad Yojna of the Jharkhand Government.

Highlights:

  • Under the scheme, all the small and marginal farmers of the state, who have arable land up to a maximum of 5 acres, will be given a grant-in-aid at the rate of Rs. 5000 / – per acre per year, which will also reduce their dependence on loans.
  • This amount would be given in two instalments through Direct Benefit Transfer to the beneficiary’s bank account.
  • This is in addition to PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana under which each small & marginal farmer’s family having combined landholding/ ownership of up to two hectares is paid Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer would eliminate middlemen and ensure that every penny of the financial assistance given by the government reaches the beneficiaries.
  • Government of India has taken a firm resolve to double the income of farmers by 2022.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN MAAN-DHAN YOJANA (PM-KMY)

Context: The PM-KMY was launched by Agriculture Minister which entitles eligible farmers for monthly pension of ₹3,000 per month on attaining the age of 60.

About PM-KMY:

  • Aim: Welfare of small and marginal farmers across the country.

Key Highlights of the Scheme:

  • It is a voluntary and contributory scheme for farmers and the entry age is between 18 to 40 years.
  • Eligible farmers will be provided with a monthly pension of Rs. 3000/- per month on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • The farmers will have to make a monthly contribution of Rs.55 to Rs.200, depending on their age of entry, in the Pension Fund till they reach the retirement date i.e. the age of 60 years.
  • The Central Government will also make an equal contribution of the same amount in the pension fund.
  • The spouse is also eligible to get a separate pension of Rs.3000/- upon making separate contributions to the Fund.
  • The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) shall be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.
  • In case of death of the farmer before retirement date, the spouse may continue in the scheme by paying the remaining contributions till the remaining age of the deceased farmer.
  • If the spouse does not wish to continue, the total contribution made by the farmer along with interest will be paid to the spouse.
  • If there is no spouse, then total contribution along with interest will be paid to the nominee.
  • If the farmer dies after the retirement date, the spouse will receive 50% of the pension as Family Pension.
  • After the death of both the farmer and the spouse, the accumulated corpus shall be credited back to the Pension Fund.
  • The beneficiaries may opt voluntarily to exit the Scheme after a minimum period of 5 years of regular contributions.
  • On exit, their entire contribution shall be returned by LIC with an interest equivalent to prevailing saving bank rates.
  • The farmers, who are also beneficiaries of PM-Kisan Scheme, will have the option to allow their contribution debited from the benefit of that Scheme directly.
  • In case of default in making regular contributions, the beneficiaries are allowed to regularize the contributions by paying the outstanding dues along with prescribed interest.
  • The initial enrollment to the Scheme is being done through the Common Service Centres in various states.
  • Later on, alternative facility of enrollment through the PM-Kisan State Nodal Officers or by any other means or online enrollment will also be made available.
  • The enrollment is free of cost. The Common Service Centres will charge Rs.30/- per enrolment which will be borne by the Government.
  • There will be appropriate grievance redressal mechanism of LIC, banks and the Government. An Empowered Committee of Secretaries has also been constituted for monitoring, review and amendments of the Scheme.

THE PUBLIC PREMISES (EVICTION OF UNAUTHORISED OCCUPANTS) AMENDMENT BILL, 2019

  • Context: The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by both the houses of the Parliament. The Bill amends the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971. The Act provides for the eviction of unauthorised occupants from public premises in certain cases.

Background:

  • The aim of the Bill is to facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of occupants of government accommodation on expiry of their terms and conditions.
  • The Government provides residential accommodation to its employees, Members of Parliament and other dignitaries while they are in service or till the term of their office on licence basis.
  • As per the existing allotment rules, after the expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence, the occupants of such residential accommodations become unauthorised for staying in such accommodation and should vacate the same.

Issue:

  • However, it is often seen that the unauthorised occupants do not vacate the government accommodation on expiry of the terms and conditions of the licence as per the rules and uses dilatory tactics to withhold the accommodation.
  • In order to check this delay, it is proposed to insert a new sub-section (3A) in section 7 of the Act to the effect that if the person challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in any court, he has to pay the damages for every month for the residential accommodation held by him.
  • Under the existing provisions, the eviction proceedings of unauthorised occupants from “public premises” take around five to seven weeks’ time.

Key Highlights of the Bill:

Residential Accommodation:

  • The Bill defines ‘residential accommodation occupation’ as the occupation of public premises by a person on the grant of a license for such occupation.
  • The license must be given for a fixed tenure, or for the period the person holds office.
  • Further, the occupation must be allowed under the rules made by the central, state or union territory government, or a statutory authority (such as Parliament Secretariat, or a central government company, or premises belonging to a state government).

 Notice for Eviction:

  • The Bill adds a provision laying down the procedure for eviction from residential accommodation.
  • It requires an estate officer (an officer of the central government) to issue a written notice to a person if he is in unauthorised occupation of a residential accommodation.
  • The notice will require the person to show cause of why an eviction order should not be made against him, within three working days.
  • The written notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the accommodation, in a prescribed manner.

 Order of Eviction:

  • After considering the cause shown, and making any other inquiries, the estate officer will make an order for eviction.
  • If the person fails to comply with the order, the estate officer may evict such person from the residential accommodation, and take possession of it.
  • For this purpose, the estate officer may also use such force as necessary.

 Payment of Damages:

  • If the person in unauthorised occupation of the residential accommodation challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in court, he will be required to pay damages for every month of such occupation.

NHRC NATIONAL LEVEL REVIEW MEETING ON MENTAL HEALTH

Why in News?

  • A day-long NHRC National Level Review Meeting on Mental Health concluded at India International centre, New Delhi, highlighting several issues to bridge the gap between the legislation and its implementation.
  • It was necessary to evaluate the ground realities post-implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.:

  • This ensures every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government.
  • The act assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line, even if they do not possess a BPL card.
  • Every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity and there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.
  • A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.
  • A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code.
  • The government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

BIOMETRIC TOKEN SYSTEM

Why in News?

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new Biometric Token System (BTS) that seeks to streamline the process of boarding unreserved coaches.

Biometric Token System (BTS):

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new system by which passengers travelling in the general coach, where seats are not reserved, are given a token roughly three hours before the train’s departure.
  • These tokens are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and carry a serial number on them, which governs the order in which passengers will board the train.
  • Passengers with valid tickets are required to place their fingers on a scanner, and are issued a token with a serial number against their biometric data.
  • Passengers must queue up and enter the compartment in the order of their serial numbers.
  • The tokens are issued three hours before a train’s departure. The use of biometrics cuts out the touts, and helps genuine passengers.

Why such move?

  • Boarding ‘general’ compartments — in which seating is not reserved — especially in long-distance trains leaving major cities, has always been an ordeal for passengers.
  • The massive mismatch between the numbers of travellers and the available seats drives people to queue up on platforms up to 10 hours in advance.
  • Chaos at the time of boarding has led to stampedes and even deaths in the past.
  • Gangs of touts ‘reserve’ seats for a price, and those who can’t pay suffer.

Significance:

  • The use of biometrics (fingerprint) rules out touts and ensures only bonafide travellers receive a token.
  • The data (captured in the machines) will be used to analyse the pattern of crowds and the patronage of trains.
  • In case of a mishap, officials will have details of the passengers, and with the help of this (biometric information) they can prevent black marketing of unreserved tickets.

FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (FSSAI)

Context:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued an advisory asking all States and Union Territories to discourage the practice of packing of toys/ gifts with food products for infants and small children as there are chances of contamination and risk of accidental ingestion.

What is Issue:

  • It has become a common practice for manufacturers to attract sales by adding small toys/gifts inside food packets.
  • Several brands of chips and even chocolates come along with small toys/ gifts inside the packet. Some brands of chips packets even have tattoo stickers inside.

Concern:

  • Considering the safety of public at large, there is a need to discourage food businesses from providing any toy or gift item inside the food packages, especially in case of food which is likely to be ingested directly by an infant or a small child.
  • Also, it is desirable that the colour, texture and nature of toy or gift item should not at all resemble the food product inside food package.
  • As per Section 3(1) zz (xi) of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 “unsafe food” means an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health by virtue of its being misbranded or sub­standard or food containing extraneous matter.

About FSSAI:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards , 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Establishment of the Authority:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.

Highlights of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006

  • Various Central Acts like:
    • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1954
    • Fruit Products Order , 1955,
    • Meat Food Products Order,1973,
    • Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947,
    • Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation)Order 1988,
    • Solvent Extracted Oil,
    • De- Oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967,
    • Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992 etc will be repealed after commencement of FSS Act, 2006.
  • The Act also aims to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi- departmental control to a single line of command.

Functions:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition.
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.
  • Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
  • Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.

Highlights of Food Safety and Standards Rule, 2011.

  • The Rules provides for: The Food Safety Appellate Tribunal and the Registrar of the Appellate Tribunal, for adjudication of food safety cases.
  • It covers Licensing and Registration, Packaging and Labelling of Food Businesses, Food Product Standards and Food Additives
  • It prohibits and restricts on sales or approval for Non-Specified Food and Food Ingredients, such ingredients may cause harm to human health.
  • It provides for Food Safety and Standards on Organic Food and regulates Food Advertising.

Recent Cases:

Nestle India Limited Maggi Case:

  • The maggi noodles were reported with excess lead unfit for human consumption and FSSAI prescribed for ban.

Cadbury India:

  • It was reported that worms was found in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. The FSSAI declared packaging was not proper or airtight and made it mandatory to change the packaging.

SURROGACY REGULATION BILL, 2019

Context:

  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, was passed by the Lok Sabha.

Provisions of bill:

Regulation of surrogacy:

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

Purposes for which Surrogacy is permitted:

Surrogacy is permitted when it is:

  1. For intending couples who suffer from proven infertility;
  2. Altruistic
  3. Not for commercial purposes
  4. Not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation; and
  5. For any condition or disease specified through regulations.

Eligibility criteria for Intending Couple:

  • The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.
  • 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.

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.

Appropriate Authority:

  • 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.

Registration of Surrogacy Clinics:

  • 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.

National and State 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,
  1. Advising the central government on policy matters relating to surrogacy;
  2. Laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics; and
  3. Supervising the functioning of SSBs.

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.

Offences and Penalties:

  • The offences under the Bill include:
    1. Undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy;
    2. Exploiting the surrogate mother;
    3. Abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child; and
    4. 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.

Critical Analysis:

Altruistic Mother:

  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, once again denies women agency over their own bodies.The bill seeks to outlaw commercial surrogacy, and allows only “altruistic” surrogacy for “needy” couples with proven conditions of infertility.
  • Women are once again being asked to use their bodies for the greater good without getting paid for it. Sperm donors will continue to get paid.
  • Men in general are masters of their bodies. But women’s bodies need to be regulated, policed and legislated into dependence.

Surrogacy in Indian Scenario:

  • There is clear evidence of malpractice surrounding commercial surrogacy in India. Middle men take most of the money, and women are robbed of the income that they deserve. It is also alleged that surrogates are not allowed to choose whether to become surrogates – they are forced into the business by their greedy families.

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER (NPR)

Why in News?

  • The government has decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR) by September 2020 to lay the foundation for rolling out a citizens’ register across the country.

Highlights:

  • NPR is different from both the decennial census and the NRC.
  • It will be in pursuance of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. The decision exempts the state of Assam from NPR-2020.
  • For the purpose of the NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.
  • The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • It will be the next round of recording biometric and family tree details of Indian citizens.
  • The exercise was conducted earlier in two phases in 2010 and 2015.
  • Earlier, the roll out of NPR had slowed down due to overlapping with that of Aadhaar.

SANKALP SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship has reviewed the World Bank loan assisted “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) programme.

Highlights:

  • All 36 States/ UTs across country have submitted their consent for participation in SANKALP.
  • In addition to these State grants of Rs 10 lakh each also released to 117 aspirational districts under Aspirational Skilling Abhiyaan.

SANKALP Scheme:

  • SANKALP is an outcome-oriented centrally sponsored programme of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with a special focus on decentralized planning and quality improvement.
  • The project is implemented with the support of World Bank monetarily in line with the objectives of National Skills Development Mission (NSDM).
  • It focuses on the overall skilling ecosystem covering both Central & State agencies.
  • Under SANKALP four key result areas have been identified viz:
  • Institutional Strengthening (at National, State & District level)
  • Quality Assurance Quality Assurance of skill development programs
  • Inclusion of marginalized population in skill development and
  • Expanding Skills through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

TechEx 2019

Why in News?

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister, inaugurated theTechEx – technology exhibition at IIT Delhi

TechEx:

  • TechEx was organized to demonstrate products and prototypes developed under the two flagship schemes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) namely IMPacting Research, INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) and UchhatarAvishkar Yojana (UAY).
  • TechEx is a unique effort, which offers an excellent platform to the researchers to showcase their work and inspire them to do their best in their respective domains.
  • some prominent among the exhibits were non-invasive and low-cost rapid TB diagnostics, artificial pancreas for closed loop blood glucose control of type-I diabetic patients, affordable cancer diagnosis/treatment, electric vehicle charger, etc.

IMPRINT Scheme:

  • MPRINT scheme was launched in November, 2015 with a view to providing solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges by translating knowledge into viable technology (products or processes) in 10 selected technology domains.
  • The domains are namely health care, energy, sustainable habitat, nano-technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, Information and Communication Technology, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.

Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY):

  • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) was announced in 2015 with a view to promoting innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.
  • UAY projects are funded jointly by MHRD, participating Ministries and the Industry
  • The scheme focusses on a viable industry-academic collaboration where industry shares a part of the cost of research.

GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT INDIA’S IT INDUSTRY

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, held a meeting with senior managers of IT companies in New Delhi

IT Industry Challenges:

  • India’s IT industry contributed 7.7% to the country’s GDP in FY 2017 and is expected to contribute 10% of India’s GDP by 2025.
  • The United States account for 2/3rds of India’s IT services exports.
  • India is the largest exporter of IT services in the world and exports dominate the Indian IT industry and constitutes about 79% of the total revenue of the industry.
  • India’s IT service sector is now gearing up to be the digital partner of intelligent automation like smart algorithms, bots and AI tools, which are fast becoming a part of every industry and an increasingly digital world.

    Challenges and support:

  • The representatives of the companies informed that although the Chinese IT services market is the third largest in the world India’s investments and business have not been able to grow in China.
  • This is due to various non-tariff barriers and challenges faced by Indian companies to set up their entity in China. Market access issues that create hurdles for Indian companies to open their business in China was also discussed.
  • Government of India will give all support for the global growth of India’s flagship industry and will make all efforts to facilitate the IT service industry and for that it is ready to engage with China and also Japan and Korea
  • Commerce and Industry Minister urged India’s IT services companies to explore other markets and not be inhibited in operating in countries that are non-English speaking.

J &K RESERVATION (SECOND AMENDMENT) BILL

Why in News?

  • Cabinet has approved J&K Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill to provide 10 percent reservation to the poor in higher education and government jobs.

Highlights:

  • The bill will pave the way for the extension of 10 percent reservation for the poor in educational institutes and government offices of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The 10 percent reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) will be in addition to the existing reservations in the state.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court had earlier refused to order a stay on the government’s decision to grant 10 percent quota to economically weaker sections in jobs and admissions. The court had, however, agreed to examine the validity of the law and issued a notice to the Centre on the pleas.
  • The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the reservation bill on January 8 and 9 respectively and it was later signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Extension of Reservation:

  • The Act provides for the reservation in appointment and promotions in certain state government posts to persons belonging to socially and educationally backward classes.
  • It defines socially and educationally backward classes to include persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
  • The Bill amends this to include those persons living in areas adjoining the International Border, within the ambit of this reservation.
  • Further, the Act states that any person who has been appointed on the basis of residence in an area adjoining the Line of Control must serve in such areas for at least seven years.
  • The Bill extends this condition to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border as well.

Exclusion from Reservation:

  • The Act states that any person whose annual income exceeds three lakh rupees or other amounts as notified by the state government, would not be included within socially and educationally backward classes.
  • However, this exclusion does not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
  • The Bill states that in addition, this exclusion will not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border also.

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2019

About

  • The New Education Policy drafted by a committee headed by Dr.K.Kasturirangan.
  • The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of:

    1. Access

    2. Equity

    3. Quality

    4. Affordability

    5. Accountability faced by the current education system.

  • The draft Policy provides for reforms at all levels of education from school to higher education.
  • It seeks to increase the focus on early childhood care, reform the current exam system, strengthen teacher training, and restructure the education regulatory framework.

Key Features

Current Situation

  • Early childhood education is delivered through anganwadis and private-preschools.
  • There has been less focus on the educational aspects of early childhood.

Suggestion by Committee

  • The draft Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education.
  • This will consist of:

    1. Guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and

    2. Educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.

  • This would be implemented by improving and expanding the anganwadi system and co-locating anganwadis with primary schools.

RTE Act,2009:

  • The draft Policy recommends to include early childhood education and secondary school education in the ambit of RTE Act so that all children between the ages of 3 to 18 are covered under the Act.
  • It also recommends no detention of children till class 8.

Curriculum Framework:

  • This would consist of a 5-3-3-4 design comprising:

    1. Five years of foundational stage (three years of pre-primary school and classes one and two),

    2. Three years of preparatory stage (classes three to five),

    3. Three years of middle stage (classes six to eight), and

    4. Four years of secondary stage (classes nine to 12).

  • Curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content. This would make space for holistic, discussion and analysis-based learning.

School Exam Reforms:

Current situation of board examinations:

    1. Force students to concentrate only on a few subjects,

    2. Do not test learning in a formative manner, and

    3. Cause stress among students.

Draft policy suggests-

  • To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
  • Restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.
  • These board examinations will be on a range of subjects.
  • The students can choose their subjects, and the semester when they want to take these board exams.
  • The in-school final examinations may be replaced by these board examinations.

School Infrastructure:

Current Situation

  • Establishing primary schools in every habitation across the country has helped increase access to education.
  • However, it has led to the development of very small schools (having low number of students).
  • The small size of schools makes it operationally complex to deploy teachers and critical physical resources.

Recommendation

  • Multiple public schools should be brought together to form a school complex.
  • A complex will consist of one secondary school (classes nine to twelve) and all the public schools in its neighborhood that offer education from pre-primary till class eight.

Regulation of Schools:

  • The Policy recommends independent State School Regulatory Authority for each state that will prescribe uniform standards for public and private schools across the state.

Higher Education:

  • The Policy aims to increase Gross Enrollment Ratio to 50% by 2035 from the current level of about 25.8%.

Regulatory Structure:

  • Instead of multiple regulators the Policy recommends National Higher Education Regulatory Authority which would include professional and vocational education so that the role of professional councils such as AICTE and Bar Council Of India would be limited to setting standards of professional practice.
  • Establishing National Research Foundation: as an autonomous body to fund, mentor and build capacity for quality research in India.

Vocational Education:

  • Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 years receives vocational education in India.
  • The Policy recommends integrating vocational educational programs in all educational institutions in a phased manner over 10 years.
  • National Committee for the integration of Vocational Education will be set up to achieve the intended goals in vocational education in India.

3 Language Formula:

  • Flexibility given to states to select subjects.
  • The state governments should implement a modern Indian language preferably southern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English in Hindi speaking states and of regional language, English and another language preferably Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states.

Challenges:

  • In the case of early childhood care and education, the focus is more on physical resources and less focus is provided to psychosocial stimulation for development.
  • There is no government system to take care of babies of poor families or of mothers who go to work for daily wages. The experimental project of Fulwari or community-managed crèches in Chhattisgarh is one answer to this gap.
  • There needs to be a discussion on whether literacy and numeracy skills should be developed during the time of foundational learning.
  • In the draft Policy, there is no mention of how the State regulatory body will regulate the government institutions.
  • Increasing the limit on the higher side of education i.e.., up to 18 is not consistent with the limits across the world. Also, it is a very expensive proposition.
  • There is not enough capacity in the country to provide for teacher’s education. Also, there is more focus given to B.Ed. and M.Ed. has been given less importance under the policy.
  • There are fewer consensuses on the integration of foundational learning with schooling. In Europe, compulsory education begins at the age of 6. In countries like Denmark and Finland, compulsory education begins at the age of 7.

CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2019

Context:

  • The Lok Sabha unanimously passed the Consumer Protection Bill 2019, which seeks to wholly replace the Consumer Protection Act 1986.

About:

  • The Bill with 109 clauses seeks to establish a National Level Regulator -Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to deal with consumer complaints on a proactive measure.
  • The present law does not have a regulator.
  • The Bill contains key provisions dealing with class actions, product liability, misleading advertisements, liability for celebrity endorsements etc.
  • The Bill also addresses new age developments like e-commerce, direct selling, tele-marketing etc.

Highlights of The Bill:

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA):

  • CCPA is a national level regulator dealing with matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers.
  • CCPA deals with the rights of consumers as a class.
  • It will have an investigation wing headed by a Director General and has powers of search and seizure.
  • It has power to order recall of goods which are dangerous, hazardous or unsafe and to direct discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to the interests of consumers.
  • It also has the power to impose penalties on manufacturers and celebrity endorsers for misleading advertisements.

Misleading Advertisements:

  • The Bill contains provisions to deal with misleading advertisements.
  • Misleading advertisements can attract penalty up to rupees ten lakhs from the CCPA under Clause 21.
  • It is also an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to fifty lakh rupees as per Clause 89.

Liability of Celebrity Endorsers:

  • The endorser can be levied with penalty up to rupees ten lakhs by the CCPA for false and misleading advertisements, under Clause 21.
  • However, the endorser will not be liable if he has exercised due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement regarding the product or service being endorsed by him.

Product Liability:

  • A product liability action may be brought by a complainant against a product manufacturer or a product service provider or a product seller, as the case may be, for any harm caused to him on account of a defective product.

Expanded Definition Of ‘Deficiency’:

  • The Bill expands the definition of ‘deficiency’ in Clause 2(11) to include:
    • 1. Any act of negligence or omission or commission by such person which causes loss or injury to the consumer; and

      2. Deliberate withholding of relevant information by such person to the consumer.

Enhanced Pecuniary Jurisdiction:

  • The limits of pecuniary jurisdiction has been expanded in the following manner:
    • District Forum: Rs. One Crore from Rs. Twenty Lakhs
    • State Commission: Rs. Ten Crores from Rs. One Crore
    • National Commission: Above Rs. Ten Crores from Rs. One Crores.

Offences:

  • Misleading advertisements are made punishable.
  • The Bill also addresses the menace of adulteration, by making manufacture, sale, storage of products mixed with adulterants punishable offences.

CIVIL LIST OF IAS OFFICERS

Why in News?

  • The Union Government has launched the e-Civil List-2019 of the IAS Officers.

IAS Civil List:

  • The IAS Civil list contains vital information in respect of officers in respect of their batch, cadre, present posting, pay scale, qualification and superannuation with their overall cadre strength with search features.
  • The Civil list has been linked with the ER sheets. The List has been designed through DoPT, which gives multiple search options to the users.
  • The Department of Personnel and Training is the cadre controlling authority of IAS officers and the Civil List is prepared with the help of inputs received from the States Cadres.
  • The e-IAS Civil list is available on the website of the Ministry

Significance:

  • The civil list is in line with citizen-centricity in working as it provides the information related to IAS officers in public domain which is accessible to the users from anywhere.
  • It will facilitate the Information Commissions as the information demanded by RTI activists about the officers is already in public domain that too with multiple search options.
  • DoPT being the HR wing of the government, it will also facilitate in research and comparative data analysis based on many parameters such as age, sex. educational qualifications etc
  • It will also assist in the human resource management of the Government to ensure that the services of these officers are utilized to the best of their abilities.

NATIONAL MEDICAL COMMISSION

  • Context- Doctors and medical students under the Indian Medical Association (IMA) held a protest march

Why National Medical Commission Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and provide for a medical education system which ensures:
    • 1. Availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals,

      2. Adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals,

      3. Periodic assessment of medical institutions, and

      4. An effective grievance redressal mechanism.

  • IMC had failed to keep pace with time and various bottlenecks had crept into the system with serious detrimental effects on medical education and, by implication, on delivery of quality health services.

Highlights of the Bill:

Constitution of the National Medical Commission:

  • The Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC).
  • Establish State Medical Councils at the state level.
  • The NMC will consist of 25 members, appointed by the central government.
  • Members of the NMC will include:
  • 1. The Chairperson (must be a medical practitioner),

    2. Presidents of the Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate Medical Education Boards,

    3. The Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services,

    4. The Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, and

    5. Five members (part-time) to be elected by the registered medical practitioners from amongst themselves from states and union territories for a period of two years.

Functions of the National Medical Commission:

  • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals
  • Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure,
  • Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of the regulations made under the Bill,
  • Framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50% of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.

Autonomous Boards:

  • The Bill sets up autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC.
  • Each autonomous board will consist of a President and four members, appointed by the central government.
  • These boards are: The Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB):
  • These Boards will be responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively.
  • The Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB): MARB will have the power to levy monetary penalties on medical institutions which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and PGMEB.

Community Health Providers (CHP):

  • NMC may grant a limited license to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.
  • These mid-level practitioners may prescribe specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare.
  • In any other cases, these practitioners may only prescribe medicines under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner.

Entrance Examinations:

  • There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate super-speciality medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill.The NMC will specify the manner of conducting common counselling for admission in all such medical institutions.

National Exit Test:

  • The Bill proposes a common final year undergraduate examination called the National Exit Test for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice. This test will also serve as the basis for admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this Bill.

Concerns:

  • Indian Medical Association (IMA) – the apex body representing the medical fraternity in India.The first concern is over the CHPs being allowed to practice modern medicine. The Bill does not define who they are or what qualifications they hold and yet they are to be given licenses to the extent of one-third of the total number of licensed medical practitioners in India.
  • The IMA’s second major objection is to the proposed National Exit Test (NEXT) for giving both licenses for practice (to those who have already cleared the MBBS exam) as well as for admission to post-graduate “broad-speciality courses”.
  • The bill takes away the voting right of every doctor in India to elect their medical council.

ATAL INNOVATION MISSION

Why in News?

  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
  • The Mission has been set up under NITI Aayog

Functions of AIM:

  • Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs
  • Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated :
  • Atal Tinkering Labs
  • Atal Incubation Centers
  • Scale-up support to Established Incubators

Atal Tinkering Labs:

  • The objective of establishing AIM is to create scientific temper and cultivate the spirit of curiosity and innovation among young minds.
  • In Schools, AIM facilitates to set up network of Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL).
  • The vision of Atal Tinkering Lab initiative is to ‘Cultivate 1 Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’. The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds and inculcate skills such as design mind-set, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing, rapid calculations, measurements etc.

ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS

Why in News?

  • The motto of ‘Accessible Elections’ was one among the many initiatives of Election Commission to make the world’s largest democratic exercise inclusive and participative for all.
  • During this election special focus was given to ensure the participation of Persons with Disabilities.

Facilitation for Persons with Disabilities:

  • The electors with disabilities and senior citizens were mapped polling station wise to provide them targeted and need-based assistance on the day of poll.
  • During the election, all the polling stations were equipped with enough supply of wheelchairs and it was ensured that all polling stations had sturdy ramps for the convenience of PwD electors.
  • All the polling stations in Lok Sabha Election 2019 had a sign language expert, signage and transport facility.
  • To facilitate PwDs during the enrollment process door to door registration drives were carried out, a special mobile application was also developed by the Commission for easy registration.
  • This election was witness to many firsts in the domain of accessibility of all; EVMs used in the elections were embossed with Braille signage for the visually impaired voters’ assistance.
  • Other documents like voters’ slip, voter guide had braille signage too. Accessibility Observers were introduced, who ensured all the polling stations are accessible to the PwDs.

DEATHS DUE TO MALNUTRITION

Context:

  • The recently published National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare highlights the State-wise prevalence of malnutrition in women and children.

Key Highlights of the report:

  • As per the NFHS-4 report
    • 52.1% – children under 5 years age are underweight
    • 49.3% – children under 5 years age are stunted (not attaining age-appropriate height)
    • 31.3% – children under 5 years age are wasted (not attaining age- appropriate weight)
  • More than half (53.9%) of our girls within 15-19 years have low body mass index (BMI);
  • Only one in every five mothers (21%) has full ante-natal care;
  • One in every two pregnant women (50.3%) within the age-group of 15-49 is anaemic.
  • Only one-third (30%) of the mothers consume iron and folic supplement during pregnancy.
  • The overall child mortality rate as per NFHS- 4 is 9.4 which is declined from 18.4 as per previous NFHS- 3.
  • Malnutrition is not a direct cause of death among children under five years of age.
  • However, it can increase morbidity and mortality by reducing resistance to infections.

What is Malnutrition?

  • Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
  • The term malnutrition covers 2 broad groups of conditions. One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).
  • The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).

About National Family Health Survey (NFHS):

  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India, designated IIPS as the nodal agency, responsible for providing coordination and technical guidance for the NFHS.
  • NFHS was funded by the United States Agency for International
  • Development (USAID) with supplementary support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

About POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  • For monitoring the level of malnutrition among the children (0-6 years of age), POSHAN Abhiyaan has been launched under which near real time monitoring is done through ICDS-CAS Mobile based Software Application.
  • The ICDS-CAS Application enables the identification of malnutrition children based on auto-plotting of Growth Charts.
  • The drill-down dashboard available at National, State, District, Block level contributes towards identifying and addressing the problem of nutrition.

WHO REPORT ON THE GLOBAL TOBACCO EPIDEMIC

Context:

  • The seventh WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic analyses national efforts to implement the most effective measures from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that are proven to reduce demand for tobacco.
  • Report makes special reference about India’s efforts in helping smokers quit.

MPOWER

  • Measures, like the “MPOWER” interventions, have been shown to save lives and reduce costs from averted healthcare expenditure.
  • The MPOWER report was launched in 2007 to promote government action on six tobacco control strategies in-line with the WHO FCTC to:
  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies.
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke.
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use.
  • Warn people about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

Indian Context

National Tobacco control programme

  • The key activities undertaken under the National Tobacco Control Programme include:
  • National Level Public awareness campaigns
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Research.
  • Advocacy and inter-sectoral linkages
  • Training and capacity building of multiple stakeholders.
  • Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act (COTPA, 2003)
  • School Awareness Programmes
  • Setting up and expansion of cessation services.
  • Recently India made mandatory with increase in size of pictorial warning of tobacco causing cancer

Significance of graphic warning on tobacco packs

  • Over half the world’s population – or 3.9 billion people living in 91 countries – benefit from large graphic health warnings, and India is among countries with the highest level of achievement, the WHO report notes.
  • While there has been no India-specific evaluation, studies from several countries that introduced similar strong labels have shown that this policy has been most effective in reducing tobacco use among the youth, and also in motivating users to quit.

NATIONAL INDICATOR FRAMEWORK

Why in news?

  • A national consultation workshop was organized with the Central Ministries / Departments and State Governments to discuss the proposed indicators. The Ministries / Departments were also requested to examine the suggested possible national indicators and add / delete / modify / suggest national indicators for the SDG targets concerned. Furthermore, a public consultation was also made.
  • Based on the suggestions received in the national consultation process from concerned Ministries/Departments and other stakeholders, National Indicator Framework (NIF) consisting of 306 statistical indicators has been prepared by MoSPI.
  • NIF will be the backbone of monitoring of SDGs at the national level and will give appropriate direction to the policy makers and the implementers of various schemes and programmes.

Features of National Indicator Framework:

  • Largest ever Monitoring Framework in the country. National Indicator Framework consists of 306 statistical indicators. This is the largest monitoring framework in the country and will be dependent on a statistical system for flow of information.
  • It has been developed after extensive consultations with NITI Aayog, Central Ministries, State Governments and other stakeholders.
  • The framework consists of nationally defined indicators responding to national priorities and needs.
  • National acceptability was an important criterion used in deciding the indicators.
  • The indicators directly respond to the goals and targets.
  • Attempt made to cover all components of the targets.
  • Data sources and periodicity included.
  • Data disaggregation to be decided by the respective Ministries.
  • Scope of improving the Framework by adding/deleting indicators with improvement in Statistical System.
  • High Level Steering Committee (HLSC) to periodically review and refinement of National Indicator Framework for monitoring SDGs.

COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The legislation is aimed at tightening the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compliance.

Significance of The Bill:

  • The amendment will tighten the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compliance and would reduce the load of cases before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • It would ensure a greater accountability, better enforcement of the corporate governance norms and compliance management in corporate sector.
  • With the amendments, procedural and technical defaults would be decriminalised while compliance would be incentivised.

Highlights of The Bill:

Re-categorisation of certain Offences:

  • The 2013 Act contains 81 compoundable offences punishable with fine or fine or imprisonment, or both. These offences are heard by courts.
  • The Bill re-categorizes 16 of these offences as civil defaults, where adjudicating officers (appointed by the central government) may now levy penalties instead.
  • These offences include:
  • (i) issuance of shares at a discount, and (ii) failure to file annual return. Further, the Bill amends the penalties for some other offences.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):

  • Under the Act, if companies which have to provide for CSR, do not fully spent the funds, they must disclose the reasons for non-spending in their annual report.
  • Under the Bill, any unspent annual CSR funds must be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act (e.g., PM Relief Fund) within six months of the financial year.
  • However, if the CSR funds are committed to certain ongoing projects, then the unspent funds will have to be transferred to an Unspent CSR Account within 30 days of the end of the financial year, and spent within three years.
  • Any funds remaining unspent after three years will have to be transferred to one of the funds under Schedule 7 of the Act.
  • Any violation may attract a fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000 and every defaulting officer may be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or fine between Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,00,000, or both.

Debarring auditors:

  • Under the Act, the National Financial Reporting Authority debar a member or firm from practising as a Chartered Accountant for a period between six months to 10 years, for proven misconduct.
  • The Bill amends the punishment to provide for debarment from appointment as an auditor or internal auditor of a company, or performing a company’s valuation, for a period between six months to 10 years.

Commencement of business:

  • The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it (i) files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid for the shares agreed to be taken by him, and (ii) files a verification of its registered address with the RoC within 30 days of incorporation.
  • If it fails to comply with these provisions and is found not to be carrying out business, its name of the company may be removed from the Register of Companies.

Registration of charges:

  • The Act requires companies to register charges (e.g., mortgages) on their property within 30 days of creation of charge, extendable upto 300 days with the permission of the RoC.
  • The Bill changes the deadline to 60 days (extendable by 60 days).

Change in approving authority:

  • Under the Act, change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company, has to be approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • 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 the Tribunal. Under the Bill, these powers have been transferred to central government.

Compounding:

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

Bar on holding office:

  • Under the Act, the central government or certain shareholders can apply to the NCLT for relief against mismanagement of the affairs of the company.
  • The Bill states that in such a complaint, the government may also make a case against an officer of the company on the ground that he is not fit to hold office in the company, for reasons such as fraud or negligence.
  • If the NCLT passes an order against the officer, he will not be eligible to hold office in any company for five years.

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.
  • The Bill requires every company to take steps to identify an individual who is a significant beneficial owner and require their compliance under the Act.

CODE ON OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar introduced The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha today to amend the laws regulating the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions of the persons employed in an establishment.

Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019:

  • With the ultimate aim of extending the safety and healthy working conditions to all workforce of the country, the Code enhances the ambit of provisions of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from existing about 9 major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees.
  • The proposed Code enhances the coverage of workers manifold as it would be applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more workers, where any industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on, including, IT establishments or establishments of service sector.
  • Further the varying threshold of applicability has been made uniform at 10 workers for all establishments except mines and dock where the Code would be applicable even with 1 worker. In order to ensure wider coverage, the definitions of Working Journalists and Cine worker have also been modified to include workers employed in electronic media and all forms of audio-visual production.
  • Similarly, the definition of inter-state migrant worker has also been proposed to be modified to include those migrant workers who are being employed directly by the employer from other States without contractor or agent. This proposal would enhance the coverage of the safety, health and working conditions provisions manifold as compared to the present scenario.

Other Features:

  • The Code provides basic broad legislative framework with enabling provisions for framing rules, regulations, standards, and bye-laws as per the requirements of different sectors which has Resulted in reduction of 622 sections to 134 sections in the Code. This would result in simple legislation with flexibility in changing the provisions in tune with emerging technologies and makes the legislation dynamic.
  • The Bill proposes one registration for an establishment instead of multiple registrations. Presently 6 labour acts out of 13 provide for separate registration of the establishment. This will create a centralized data base and promote ease of doing business. At present, separate registration is required to be obtained under 6 Acts.
  • Employer to provide free of cost annual health checks-up for employees above prescribed age for prescribed tests and for prescribed establishments. Increases productivity as it would be possible to detect diseases. Coverage of employees above a certain age for health check-up would promote inclusion.
  • First time statutory provision to issue appointment letter to every employee of the establishment with the minimum information prescribed by the appropriate government. The provision of appointment letter will result in formalization of employment and prevent exploitation of the worker.
  • The multiple committees under five labour Acts have been substituted by one National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. The National Board is of tripartite nature and has representation from trade unions, employer associations, and State governments. This will result in reduction in multiplicity of bodies/committees in various Acts and simplified and coordinated policy-making.
  • Enabling provision for constituting a bi-partite Safety Committee in any class of establishment by appropriate government. It will promote safe and healthy working conditions in an establishment. The participatory nature of the committee will encourage implementation of decisions taken by the management.
  • A part of the penalty for contravention of provisions relating to duties of employer leading to death or serious bodily injury to any person may be given to the victim or the legal heirs of the victim by the Court. The part of penalty would help in rehabilitation of injured worker or would provide financial support to the family of deceased.
  • Presently, different applicability thresholds exists for welfare provisions like crèche, canteen, first aid, welfare officer etc in different Acts. The proposed Code has envisaged uniform threshold for welfare provisions for all establishment as far as practicably feasible.
  • Women permitted to work beyond 7 PM and before 6 AM subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments. However, only after taking their consent for night work. This will promote gender equality and is in tune with demands from the various forums including international organizations as it leads to protective discrimination.
    Further, the condition of taking consent/ willingness of the women employee for night work would avoid any kind of misuse of the provision.
  • The provision of one license and one return in place of multiple licenses and returns in existing 13 labour laws subsumed in this Code to save time, resources and efforts of establishments.

IMPLEMENTATION OF POSHAN ABHIYAAN

Why in News?

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan has been set up by Government of India in 2017 for a three-year time frame.

Objectives:

  • Reduce the level of stunting in children (0-6 years) under-nutrition (underweight prevalence) in children (0-6 years) and Low Birth Weight at 2% per annum
  • Reduce anaemia among young children (6-59 months), women and adolescent girls at 3% per annum across the country.

Abhiyaan:

  • The Abhiyaan ensures convergence with various programmes, organising Community Based Events; incentivizing States/UTs for achieving goals.
  • Community Mobilization and Awareness Advocacy leading to Jan Andolan – to educate the people on nutritional aspects. Incremental Learning Approach (ILA); strengthening Field Functionaries.
  • Under the Abhiyan, all districts of the 36 States/UTs, including Tamil Nadu, have been covered for implementation in a phased manner.

NORTH EASTERN REGION VISION 2020

Why in News?

  • North Eastern Region Vision 2020 document provides an overarching framework for the development of the North Eastern Region.
  • The main objective is to bring the north eastern region at par with other developed regions under which different Ministries, including the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region have undertaken various initiatives.

Reasons for resource flow:

  • Mandatory earmarking of at least 10% of GBS of Central Ministries/Departments for North Eastern Region (NER).
  • Creation of Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).
  • There has been a sharp rise in provisional expenditure (subject to final vetting by Ministry of Finance) by Central Ministries in NER by 83%.

Major initiatives:

  • Strengthening infrastructure and connectivity is a major thrust area identified by the Vision document. Several connectivity initiatives have been undertaken in the recent past.
  • In the last five years under the schemes of Ministry of DoNER funds were released for road projects, bridges, ISBT, airports, railway in North Eastern Region.
  • Moreover, Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN) has been launched to provide connectivity to unserved and underserved Airports within the country.
  • Also, to promote regional connectivity, airfare has been made affordable through Viability Gap Funding (VGF). The North East has been kept as a priority area under RCS-UDAN.
  • In respect of Rail Connectivity, during the last four years the entire North East Region has been converted to the Broad Gauge (BG) network.

Other major initiatives taken:

  • Promotion of MSMEs in North Eastern Region and Sikkim
  • Comprehensive Telecom Development Project (CTDP) for the North-Eastern Region
  • Comprehensive Scheme for strengthening of Transmission and Distribution Systems (CSST&DS).
  • North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP)
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region scheme
  • North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS).
  • National Sports University at Imphal, Agartala-Akhaura Rail-Link to connect the existing Agartala station in Tripura to Akhaura Station of Bangladesh Railways
  • Development of Brahmaputra and 19 new waterways including Barak.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

Why in News?

  • It is mentioned that as per Rule 8 of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, no Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, own or conduct or participate in the editing or management of, any public media.

Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules provides:

  • Which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government
  • which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any State
  • which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any foreign State

Exceptions:

  • Bonafide expression of views by office-bearers of a trade union or association of Government servants for the purpose of safeguarding the conditions of service of such Government servants or for securing an improvement thereof.
  • Views expressed by a Government servant in his official capacity or in the due performance of the duties assigned to him.

UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES PREVENTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Lok Sabha has passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, in a move that gives a big push to India’s internal security machinery.
  • The move comes after amendment to the NIA Bill.

UAPA:

  • The UAPA is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004.
  • It was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act” was added to the list of offences.

Why Amendment?

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, and individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India.

Highlights:

  • The proposed amendments to the existing Act redefine “Who may commit terrorism “, establishing that under the Act, the Centre may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
  • The Bill also additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  • The Bill also paves the way for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to seize property as part of investigations into terror cases.
  • At the same time, while the existing Act provides for investigation of cases to be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The proposed amendment additionally empowers the officers of the NIA to investigate cases — of the rank of Inspector or above.
  • Further, the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005) has also been added in the Second Schedule through this Amendment.

Need for Amendments:

  • It is often accused that UAPA Act assigns absolute power to the central government to declare someone as terrorist.
  • Terrorism is not just fostered by the gun. Terrorism is also the spread of hate and radicalism.
  • If the bill is passed, a person can be declared a terrorist when they take part in terror activities, or provide funds, or harbour a terror theory and then spread it among youth.

CODE ON WAGES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith.

Code on Wages Bill 2019:

  • The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 subsumes relevant provisions of The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Payment of Wages Act, 1936, The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. After the enactment of the Code on Wages, all these four Acts will get repealed.

The Salient features of the Code:

  • The Code on Wage universalizes the provisions of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
  • At present, the provisions of both Minimum Wages Act and Payment of Wages Act apply on workers below a particular wage ceiling working in Scheduled Employments only.
  • This would ensure “Right to Sustenance” for every worker and intends to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage from existing about 40% to 100% workforce.
  • This would ensure that every worker gets minimum wage which will also be accompanied by increase in the purchasing power of the worker thereby giving fillip to growth in the economy.
  • Introduction of statutory Floor Wage to be computed based on minimum living conditions, will extend qualitative living conditions across the country to about 50 crore workers.
  • It is envisaged that the states to notify payment of wages to the workers through digital mode.
  • There are 12 definitions of wages in the different Labour Laws leading to litigation besides difficulty in its implementation.
  • The definition has been simplified and is expected to reduce litigation and will entail at lesser cost of compliance for an employer.
  • An establishment will also be benefited as the number of registers, returns, forms etc., not only can be electronically filed and maintained, but it is envisaged that through rules, not more than one template will be prescribed.
  • At present, many of the states have multiple minimum wages. Through Code on Wages, the methodology to fix the minimum wages has been simplified and rationalised by doing away with type of employment as one of the criteria for fixation of minimum wage.
  • The minimum wage fixation would primarily base on geography and skills. It will substantially reduce the number of minimum wages in the country from existing more than 2000 rates of minimum wages.
  • Many changes have been introduced in the inspection regimes including web based randomised computerised inspection scheme, jurisdiction-free inspections, calling of information electronically for inspection, composition of fines etc.
  • All these changes will be conducive for enforcement of labour laws with transparency and accountability.
  • There were instances that due to smaller limitation period, the claims of the workers could not be raised.
  • To protect the interest of the workers, the limitation period has been raised to 3 years and made uniform for filing claims for minimum wages, bonus, equal remuneration etc., as against existing varying period between 6 months to 2 years.
  • It can be said that a historical step for ensuring statutory protection for minimum wage and timely payment of wage to 50 crore workers in the country has been taken through the Code on Wages besides promoting ease of living and ease of doing business.

NEW SPACE INDIA LIMITED

Why in News?

  • The Union Government has set up New Space India Limited (NSIL), a wholly-owned Government of India undertaking/ Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS)

Significance:

  • To commercially exploit the research and development work of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Centres and constituent units of DOS.
  • The emergence of NSIL would spur the growth of Indian industries in the space sector and enable Indian industries to scale up manufacturing and production base.

Roles and functions:

  • Small Satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein NSIL will obtain license from DOS/ISRO and sub-license it to Industries
  • Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector
  • Productionisation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry
  • Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and application
  • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS
  • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad
  • any other subject which Government of India deems fit.

BENGALURU GOES LIVE WITH FACIAL BIOMETRICS-BASED AIR TRAVEL

Why in News?

  • The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) rolled out a biometric-based self-boarding facility.

Highlights:

  • The passengers had the option of boarding a flight without producing travel documents at each touch point.
  • To avail this facility, a passenger has to enrol their ID, biometric data and flight details before entering the terminal.
  • The passenger will be authenticated and verified at every touch point by biometric technology.

Paperless Biometric System:

  • The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of the KIA, is expected to deploy the paperless biometric system at over 350 passenger touch points in Terminal 1 with the final phase of the project.
  • In the final stage, this technology will be integrated with the Digi Yatra Central Platform that is currently being architecture by the central government’s Digi Yatra Foundation.

User Data Privacy:

  • The BIAL maintains that biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist the boarding process, and not for recognition.
  • The process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of safety.
  • Passenger data will be deleted within a few hours of completion of air travel.
  • Vision Box, the company that developed and installed One – ID biometric platform technology, is compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which adopts privacy by design principles.

MERGER OF NIMH WITH ICMR-NIOH

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet approved to dissolve National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH), an autonomous Institute under Ministry of Mines (MoM) and merge/amalgamate with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH).

Significance:

  • The merger/amalgamation of NIMH with NIOH will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in term of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money.

Highlights:

  • NIMH was set up by Government of India in 1990
  • The Institute conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral-based industry and endeavours for safe mines and healthy miners through R&D.
  • The focus areas of NIOH include a vast array of areas related to occupational health which also includes, occupational medicine and occupational hygiene.
  • Expenditure Management Commission recommended, inter-alia, that- “Organisations with similar objectives can be considered for merger to encourage synergy in operations and reduction in cost”.

What Is Occupational Health?

  • Occupational health deals with all aspects of health and safety in the workplace and has a strong focus on primary prevention of hazards.
  • The health of the workers has several determinants, including risk factors at the workplace leading to cancers, accidents, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory diseases, hearing loss, circulatory diseases, stress related disorders and communicable diseases and others

ANDHRA PRADESH EMPLOYMENT OF LOCAL CANDIDATES IN INDUSTRIES/FACTORIES ACT, 2019

  • Context- The Andhra Pradesh Government on Tuesday reserved 75% jobs in private industrial units and factories for residents of the state.

Highlights of The Act:

  • The new rules will apply to joint ventures as well as projects under public-private partnerships.
  • The law applies to existing units as well as industrial units which will be set up in the state in the future.
  • The new law says that if residents with the necessary skills are not available, the companies will have to train them in cooperation with the state government.
  • Only the industries listed in the first schedule of the Factories Act – mostly producing hazardous goods like petroleum, pharmaceuticals, coal, fertilisers and cement – have been excluded from the ambit of the Act.
  • Companies will have to comply with the new Act within three years of beginning of its operations. They will also have to file quarterly reports about local appointments with a nodal agency.

8 MORE ROUTES START OPERATIONS UNDER UDAN

Why in News?

  • Giving further fillip to Regional Connectivity, 8 more routes became functional Under Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik- UDAN of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Highlights:

  • With the addition of these 8 new routes, total UDAN routes Operational as on date have increased to 194 routes. The scheme seeks to boost regional air connectivity and provides various incentives to airlines. The routes are Mysore – Hyderabad, Mysore – Goa, Mysore – Cochin and Kolkata – Shillong.

UDAN Scheme:

  • UDAN is a regional connectivity scheme. The full form of UDAN is ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik’. The scheme aims to develop smaller regional airports to allow common citizens easier access to aviation services. The following are the stated objectives of the regional connectivity scheme: Operalisation and development of 425 underserved or unserved airports in the country. Boost inclusive economic development by providing faster connectivity
  • Development of air transport infrastructure in remote areas aiding job growth.

PANEL FAVOURS CRYPTOCURRENCY BAN IN INDIA

  • Context: The committee headed by finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg has proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″

Highlights of The Committee Recommendations:

  • Proposed banning of private cryptocurrencies in India by enacting a law and imposing fines and penalties for carrying on activities related to cryptocurrencies.
  • Proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″, which has been placed in the public domain.
  • The committee has, taken a lenient view on the government launching an official digital currency, asking it to keep an open mind on the matter
    It suggested the use of distributed-ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain in India, by banks and other financial firms for processes such as loan-issuance tracking, collateral management, fraud detection and claims management in insurance and reconciliation systems in the securities market.

The committee identifies the potential use cases for blockchain technology in areas such as:

  • Payments systems including cross-border and small value payments;
    Data identity management or know-your-customer requirements by various financial entities.
  • Insurance
  • Collateral and ownership (including land) registries
  • Loan issuance and tracking
  • e-stamping
  • Trade financing
  • Post-trade reporting
  • Securities and commodities and
  • Internal systems of financial service providers.
  • The advantages of using DLT are mainly seen in terms of reducing administration and transaction costs, obviating duplication and improving accuracy of data, improving the speed and efficiency of transactions and detecting fraud.

UGC SCHEME OF ‘PARAMARSH’

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Human Resource Development launched ‘Paramarsh’ – a University Grants Commission (UGC) scheme for Mentoring NAAC Accreditation Aspirant Institutions to promote Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

‘Paramarsh’:

  • This “Paramarsh” scheme will target 1000 Higher Education Institutions for mentoring with a specific focus on quality as enumerated in the UGC “Quality Mandate”.
  • Mentor-Mentee relationship will not only benefit both the institutions but also provide quality education to the 3.6 crore students who are enrolling to Indian Higher Education system at present.

Significance of the scheme:

  • The Scheme will be a paradigm shift in the concept of mentoring of institution by another well performing institution to upgrade their academic performance and enable them to get accredited by focusing in the area of curricular aspects, teaching-learning & evaluation, etc.
  • The scheme is expected to have a major impact in addressing a national challenge of improving the quality of Higher Education in India.
  • The scheme will lead to enhancement of overall quality of the Mentee Institutions and enhance its profile as a result of improved quality of research, teaching and learning methodologies.
  • Mentee Institution will also have increased exposure and speedier adaptation to best practices.
  • “Paramarsh” scheme will also facilitate sharing of knowledge, information and opportunities for research collaboration and faculty development in Mentee Institutions.

SCHEMES FOR INDIGENOUS EMPLOYMENT IN NER

  • The North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Limited (NEHHDC):
  • The North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Limited (NEHHDC), a Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER),
  • Provides marketing linkage to the artisans and weavers of the North Eastern Region (NER) by conducting exhibitions and craft bazaars in various parts of the country which in turn generates indirect employment for the artisans and weavers.

NERCORMP:

  • The North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP), a livelihood project under the Ministry of DoNER, has facilitated in establishing community-based micro-credit organizations and non-farm enterprises in its project areas.
  • It provides employment to Self Help Groups (SHGs) in 10 districts of 4 States of NER namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya for enterprise development.

North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP):

  • A World Bank aided project, being implemented by Ministry of DoNER, provides skill development training, vocational training to unemployed youths & Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in 11 districts of four North East States namely Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

MoUs FOR ENHANCED COOPERATION TO END TB BY 2025

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today exchanged MoUs with the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Railways to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination and efforts towards Tuberculosis-free India by 2025.

Highlights:

  • Although entirely preventable and curable, Tuberculosis is a major obstacle to India’s human and economic development.
  • India, in near future, is predicted to have world’s largest working population and a disease like TB which mostly affects adults in their most productive years, poses a great risk to the country’s economic growth potential.
  • Apart from being a public health problem, TB is also associated with poor socio-economic development, marginalization and exploitation.
  • The actions required to tackle the socio-economic and structural determinants of TB lie beyond the purview of the health sector alone, calling for a harmonized multisectoral response.

ARANI SILK SAREE

Context:

  • Information about Arani Silk Saree was given by the Union Minister of Textiles in a written reply to the Lok Sabha

About:

  • Arani Silk Saree produced on handloom is of high quality and in good demand.
  • Arani Sari is a traditional sari made in Arani, Tamil Nadu

Handloom Marketing Assistance (HMA) scheme:

  • For providing marketing facility to all the handloom products including Arani Silk, Government of India is implementing Handloom Marketing Assistance (HMA) scheme,
  • It is a component of National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP), all across India. The scheme provides marketing platform to the handloom weavers/organisations to sell their products directly to the consumers.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to National Level Handloom Organisations and nominated handloom agencies of the State Governments to organize the marketing events like National Handloom Expos (NHEs), Special Handloom Expos (SHEs) and District Level Events (DLEs).

Other Programmes;

  • Central Silk Board through Silk Mark Organisation of India is organising “Silk Mark Expo” in various towns and cities including Chennai near Arani.
  • Silk Mark Expos provide excellent platform to promote silk products of different silk clusters of India including Arani cluster.
  • under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, Arani Master Weavers have created and registered a non-profit company “Arani Handloom Silk Park” and a MoU have been signed with the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2015.

Schemes related to Textile:

  • Scheme For Integrated Textile Park (SITP)

Objective

  • To provide financial assistance to a group of entrepreneurs to establish state-of-the-art
  • infrastructure facilities in a cluster for setting up their textile units, conforming to international environmental and social standards and thereby mobilize private investment in the textile sector and generate fresh employment opportunities

Features:

  • The Scheme targets industrial clusters and locations with high growth potential, which require strategic interventions for developing world-class infrastructure support.
  • An ITP under the scheme should preferably have 25 integrated units with components like Land (registered under the name of SPV), common infrastructure (compound, road, drainage, electricty, etc), buildings for common facilities (creche, canteen, laboratories, etc), and factory buildings for production purposes.
  • The total project cost shall be funded through a mix of Equity/Grant – from the Ministry of Textiles, State Government, State Industrial Development Corporation, Industry, Project Management Consultant and Loan – from Banks/ Financial Institutions.
  • The Government support under the Scheme by way of Grant or Equity will be limited to 40% (90% for first two projects in N.E states and J&K) of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs. 40 crore.
  • The combined equity stake of GOI/State Government/State Industrial Development Corporation, if any, should not exceed 49%.
  • The release of GoI assistance to the SPV shall be done in 3 (three) installments in the ratio of 30:40:30 depending upon fulfillment of terms and conditions.
  • Each project will normally be completed in 3 years from the date of release of the first installment of government grant. (Delays can lead to cancellation of project and imposition of penalty).
  • The ITPs can also get benefits from Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS), SAMARTH, etc.

Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry:
Objective:

  • To improve the productivity and quality of silk through R&D intervention.
  • To promote improved cross-breed silk and the import substitute
  • Bivoltine silk so that Bivoltine silk production in India enhances to such a level that raw silk imports become nil by 2022 thereby making India self-sufficient in silk.
  • To increase productive employment from 85 lakhs to 1 crore persons by 2020.

Powertex India Scheme:

  • To provide financial assistance to economically weaker low-end powerloom units for their modernisation and Infrastructure development.
  • To improve quality and productivity of the fabrics being produced and enable them to face the competition in domestic and international markets.
  • To boost development cluster-based
  • Organize Buyer-Seller Meets and Reverse Buyer-Seller Meets to promote market for powerloom product.
  • To avoid middle man/local supplier brokerage charge on sales of yarn.
  • To give thrust to renewable energy (solar).

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS):

  • To promote Ease of doing Business in the country and to achieve the vision of general employment and promoting exports through Make in India and Zero Effect and Zero Defect in manufacturing.
  • To facilitate augmentation of investment, productivity, quality, employment, exports along with import substitution in textile industry and to indirectly promote investment in the textile machinery manufacturing.

Scheme for Capacity Building In Textile Sector (SAMARTH):

  • To provide demand driven, placement oriented NSQF (National Skills Qualification Framework) Compliant skilling programme to incentivize organized textile and related sectors excluding Spinning and Weaving.
  • To promote skilling and skill up-gradation in the traditional sectors of Handlooms, Handicrafts, Sericulture and Jute
  • To provide Sustainable livelihood to all sections of the society across the country via wage or self-employment.

RESTRUCTURED NATIONAL BAMBOO MISSION

Why in News?

  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) has been launched in 2018-19 to focus on the development of complete value chain of bamboo sector and link growers with markets.

Objectives of the Mission:

  • To increase the area under bamboo plantation in non-forest Government and private lands to supplement farm income and contribute towards resilience to climate change as well as availability of quality raw material for industries.
  • To improve post-harvest management through establishment of innovative primary processing units near the source of production, primary treatment and seasoning plants, preservation technologies and market infrastructure.
  • To promote product development keeping in view market demand, by assisting R&D, entrepreneurship & business models at micro, small and medium levels and feed bigger industry.
  • To rejuvenate the under developed bamboo industry in India.
  • To promote skill development, capacity building, awareness generation for development of bamboo sector from production to market demand.
  • To re-align efforts so as to reduce dependency on import of bamboo and bamboo products by way of improved productivity and suitability of domestic raw material for industry, so as to enhance income of the primary producers.

EXPORT PROMOTION SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government of India has launched a scheme namely, Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) with the objective to assist Central and State Government Agencies for creation of appropriate infrastructure for growth of exports from the States.

Highlights:

  • The Scheme provides financial assistance in the form of grant-in-aid to Central/State Government-owned agencies for setting up or for up-gradation of export infrastructure as per the guidelines of the Scheme.
  • The scheme can be availed by the States through their Implementing Agencies, for infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, etc.
  • The Government of India strives to ensure a continuous dialogue with the State Governments and Union Territories on measures for promoting exports.
  • Also for providing an international trade enabling environment in the States, and to create a framework for making the States active partners in boosting exports from India.
  • Under the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP), DGFT operates various Export promotion schemes such as Advance Authorization, Duty Free Import Authorization, Export Promotion of Capital Goods, Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) and Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS).
  • To give effect to these schemes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has issued various exemption notifications.

Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS):

  • MEIS was introduced in the FTP from 01.04.2015, providing rewards for exporters of specified goods.
  • The objective of the MEIS is to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in exporting goods/products which are produced/manufactured in India.
  • The scheme incentivizes exporters in terms of Duty Credit Scrips at the rate of 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 % of FOB Value of exports realized.
  • These scrips are transferable and can be used to pay certain Central Duties/taxes including Customs Duties.

Agriculture Export Policy:

  • The Agriculture Export Policy was launched in 2018 to harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income
  • This comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aims to increase agricultural exports by integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.

ATAL BIMIT VYAKTI KALYAN YOJANA

Why in News?

  • The Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Corporation has launched a scheme named ‘Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana’ (ABVKY).

Highlights:

  • In the scheme in case the Insured Person (IP) is rendered unemployed, provides relief to the extent of 25% of the average per day earning during the previous four contribution periods, to be paid up to maximum 90 days of unemployment once in lifetime.

Conditions and other Features:

  • The Insured Person should have been rendered unemployed during the period the relief is claimed.
  • The Insured Person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years.
  • The Insured Person should have contributed not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods.
  • The contribution in respect of him should have been paid or payable by the employer.
  • The contingency of the unemployment should not have been as a result of any punishment for misconduct or superannuation or voluntary retirement.
  • Aadhar and Bank Account of the Insured Person should be linked with insured person data base.
  • In case the IP is working for more than one employers and is covered under the ESI scheme he will be considered unemployed only in case he is rendered unemployed with all employers. As specified in Section 65 of the ESI Act, an IP shall not be entitled to any other cash compensation and the Relief under ABVKY simultaneously for the same period. However, periodical payments of Permanent Disability Benefit (PDB) under ESI Act and Regulations shall continue.
  • As specified under Section 61 of the ESI Act, an IP who is in receipt of Relief under ABVKY shall not be entitled to receive any similar benefit admissible under the provisions of any other enactment.
  • The IP will be eligible for Medical benefit as provided under the Act for the period he is availing this relief.
  • The claim for Relief under ABVKY may be submitted by the claimant any time after rendering unemployed, but not later than one year from the date of unemployment to the appropriate Branch Office in form of affidavit in prescribed Form. No prospective claim i.e. claim for relief under ABVKY for any future period will be allowed.
  • The IP will submit his claim online through the ESIC Portal.

CANNABIS LEGALIZING ISSUE

Context:

  • Litigation has claimed before the Delhi High Court in its pursuit to bring an end to various existing laws in India that prohibit and criminalise its use.

Background:

  • The earliest known reports regarding the use of cannabis in India come from the Atharva-Veda, written around 2000-1400 BCE.
  • Cannabis has been consumed in different ways—smoking (ganja), chewing (bhaang), drinking (tea), etc.
  • Its plant has been used for manufacturing clothes, shoes, ropes and paper. In ancient India, it was used for treating or alleviating symptoms of several diseases.

Classification:

  • The International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders designate cannabis as an addictive substance, with recognised dependence disorders.

NDPS Act:

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, prohibited cultivation or production of cannabis plant by anybody, while reserving these rights with central and state governments if they wish to do so, by creating rules later.

Cannabis legalization issue at global level:

  • There is a global wave of legalisation of cannabis, based on its medicinal properties and commercial utilities.
  • Buoyed by success in the West (Uruguay, some US states, Canada), cannabis supporters are pushing for legalisation in India.
  • In the US, the use of marijuana (a more addictive derivative) for medicinal purposes is legal in a number of states, whereas its use for recreational purpose has also been legalised in some states.
  • Canada has legalised its use for recreational as well as medicinal purposes.
  • Europe recognises the use of marijuana for recreational purposes as a crime, but its use for medical purposes is permitted in many countries.

Medicinal Use:

  • There is no good evidence that cannabis is beneficial when used in diseases such as Crohn’s disease, sleep disorder, glaucoma, etc.
  • Similarly, there is no data to support its use in oncology practice outside of clinical experiments—cannabis derivatives are known to have immunosuppressive that can promote cancer.
  • In summary, its medicinal benefits aren’t as strong as presented by the proponents of legalisation—safer and effective alternatives are available in the market.

Why did US and Canada legalize it?

  • With an increasing number of youth (though a minority) supporting legalisation, most policymakers don’t see it a battle worth fighting, even though justified.
  • In the US, public opinion was built on decades of misinformation, racial discrimination, police excesses, degree of punishment, incarceration in jail, craving for liberty, etc.
  • Also, policymakers seem to be excited about another source of revenue.

Does legalisation help:

  • Colorado legalised marijuana around five years ago.
  • Expert committeee noted there is substantial evidence that its use may lead to cancer, cardiovascular illness, lung diseases, road accidents, impaired adolescent health, serious drug interaction and reproductive health disorders.
  • It reported robust evidence that legalisation may increase unintentional use by children at home. It noted the foetus born to mothers who use marijuana may be seriously harmed.
  • Post-legalisation, new types of crimes emerged, such as illegal cultivation, sale, production.

Legalization of Cannabis in Indian Context:

  • India has a history of misuse of even prescription drugs that are otherwise beneficial.
  • Weak opiates (derivatives of opium) are one of the easily available alternatives to cannabis for medical conditions.
  • Codeine-based cough syrups are effective for controlling severe cough, but after reports of rampant misuse.
  • In Indian context, when prescription drugs are grossly misused, how can we ensure disciplined used of cannabis? It is obvious that arguments of medicinal or industrial use are simply smokescreens to fool policymakers and swing public support.

Will legalisation worsen our overburdened healthcare system?

  • India is struggling to control the three addictive substances of tobacco, alcohol and areca nut.
  • As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 270 million Indians use tobacco and it kills around 1.35 million Indians every year.
  • Nearly 30% of India’s adult population is using alcohol, leading to 3.3 million deaths. Legalisation of cannabis is not only going to worsen these alarming statistics, but also serve as a gateway for one of these carcinogens.

Conclusion:

  • The younger generation is living in an era of personal liberty, rising affluence, more prone to addiction and struggling with personal relationships.
  • Introduction of yet another psychoactive drug will wreak havoc on a population still struggling with tobacco, alcohol and pan masala.
  • It is unlikely to solve the drug menace in Punjab, Rajasthan and other states.
  • Cannabis prohibition is being portrayed as paternalistic nanny-state policy by party hoppers.
  • However, promotion of addiction and sufferings among millions is a heavy price to pay for protection of individual freedom of a handful.
  • We cannot allow our next generation get trapped into a vortex of poor performance, indiscipline, addiction, psychosis, isolation, insecurity and bleak future.

MOTOR VEHICLES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Minister for Road Transport and Highways has been in the news as he pushes the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Parliament.
  • The amendments proposed by the government to the existing Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 essentially focus on improving road safety.

Key elements of the Proposed Amendment:

Minimum Compensation:

  • The Bill proposes to increase the minimum compensation for hit and run cases.
  • In particular, in case of death, such compensation would vary from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 Lakh. In the case of grievous injury, it would vary from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000.
  • Beyond road safety, the Bill also increases penalties for several offences such as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Cashless treatment of victims:

  • The Bill also enables the Central government to develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during the “golden hour” (first 60 minutes following the injury during which doctors have the best chance of saving a life).

Accident Fund:

  • The government’s insurance scheme is likely to be funded through a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that the central government is expected to constitute to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.
  • This fund will be available for the treatment of the injured.

Defining Good Samaritan:

  • The Bill also defines a good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.
  • However, to be seen as one, such assistance must have been given in good faith, voluntarily, and without the expectation of any reward.
  • If these conditions are met, such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in assisting the victim.

National Road Safety Board:

  • The Bill also proposes a National Road Safety Board which will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  • The Bill also enables the central government to order a recall of motor vehicles if it is found that they are defective and can cause harm to other road users or the environment.
  • In case of such a recall, the manufacturers would either have to replace the faulty vehicle or pay full compensation to the customer.

Regulating Digital Intermediaries:

  • The Bill also attempts to plug a policy gap that has been introduced by the emergence of shared economy concepts and technology.
  • As such, it defines taxi aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes.
  • These aggregators will be issued licenses by state, but they must also comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

BROADBAND READINESS INDEX

Why in News?

  • Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) for Indian States and Union Territories (UT).

Highlights:

  • The National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) 2018 acknowledged the need for building a robust digital communications infrastructure leveraging existing assets of the broadcasting and power sectors including collaborative models involving state, local bodies and the private sector.
  • Accordingly, the policy recommended that a BRI for States and UTs be developed to attract investments and address Right of Way (RoW) challenges across India.

Broadband Readiness Index:

  • The BRI consists of two parts. Part I will focus on infrastructure development based on the measurement of nine parameters. Part II consists of demand side parameters which will be captured through primary surveys.
  •  It will include indicators such as percentage of households using computers/ laptops with internet connection, percentage of households with fixed broadband connection, internet users as a percentage of the population, smart phones density, percentage of households with at least one digitally literate member, etc.
  •  The primary survey will be conducted annually until 2022.

Details of the index:

  • Index will appraise the condition of the underlying digital infrastructure and related factors at the State/UT level.
  • Such an exercise will provide useful insights into strategic choices made by States for investment allocations in ICT programmes.
  • In the spirit of competitive federalism, the index will encourage states to cross learn and jointly participate in achieving the overall objective of digital inclusion and development in India.
  • The framework will not only evaluate a state’s relative development but will also allow for better understanding of a state’s strengths and weaknesses that can feed into evidence-based policy making.
  • The methodology developed as a part of this research will be adapted and used on an annual basis for systematic evaluation of state-performance on metrics set out as the goals for 2022 under the new policy.
  • As a result, ranking and understanding State/UT performance over time will be an important part of the exercise.
  • The development of BRI will be a collaborative exercise with stakeholders including State governments and industry associations like the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
  • This will be a first of its kind exercise that will comprehensively measure the development of telecom infrastructure at the sub national level.

NATIONAL DIGITAL HEALTH BLUEPRINT (NDHB)

  • Prepared by a committee constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  • Aims to create an implementation framework for the National Health Stack (NHS) proposed by NITI Aayog.

What is National Health Stack (NHS)

  • The National Health Stack (NHS) envisages a centralized health record for all citizens of the country in order to streamline the health information and facilitate effective management of the same.

Objectives of NDHB

  • Establishing and managing the core digital health data and the infrastructure required for its seamless exchange;
  • Promoting the adoption of open standards by all the actors in the National Digital Health Eco- system, for developing several digital health systems that span across the sector from wellness to disease management;
  • Creating a system of Personal Health Records, based on international standards, and easily accessible to the citizens and to the service providers, based on citizen-consent;
  • Following the best principles of cooperative federalism while working with the States and Union Territories for the realization of the Vision;
    Promoting Health Data Analytics and Medical Research;
  • Enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of Governance at all levels;
  • Ensuring Quality of Healthcare.
  • Leveraging the Information Systems already existing in the health sector.

NDHB Principle

  • The key principles of the Blueprint include, from the domain perspective, Universal Health Coverage, Inclusiveness, Security and Privacy by Design, Education and Empowerment of the citizens, and from the technology perspective, Building Blocks, Interoperability, a set of Registries as Single Sources of Truth, Open Standards, Open APIs and above all, a minimalistic approach.

GOOD SAMARITAN GUIDELINES

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued guidelines in pursuance of order of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to protect the Good Samaritans in case of road accidents.

Good Samaritan:

  • A Good Samaritan is a bystander, who voluntarily comes forward to administer immediate assistance or emergency care to a person injured in an accident, or crash, or emergency medical condition, or emergency situation.

Significance of Good Samaritan law:

  • In the last ten years, road crashes have killed over 13 lakh people in India. According to the Law Commission of India, 50% of these victims died of preventable injuries and could have been saved if they had received care on time.

How law came into force:

  • On March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The purpose of a Good Samaritan law is to provide legal protection to bystanders who come to the aid and rescue of victims of road crashes.

How Good Samaritan is protected:

  • A Good Samaritan will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury or death of the victim
  • Good Samaritan who informs police or emergency service regarding an injured person not to be compelled to reveal his personal details
  • Disciplinary action against public officials who coerce Good Samaritan to reveal his personal details
  • Good Samaritans not to be forced to bear the initial cost of treatment: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to issue guidelines that no public or private hospital can demand payment for registration and admissions costs from the Good Samaritans
  • Hospitals cannot refuse treatment to a victim: Lack of response by a doctor in an emergency situation to be considered as a “Professional Misconduct” and disciplinary action shall be taken against such a doctor
  • The Good Samaritan can choose to be an eyewitness and cannot be compelled
  • Eye witness to be examined in a single occasion
  • Video conferencing may be used for examination of a Good Samaritan

LIFESPAN OF SCHEDULED TRIBE PEOPLE

Why in News?

  • According to data from the National Census 2011 to estimate, by indirect methods, the life expectancy for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and non-ST population in India is 63.9 years, as against 67 years for general population.
  • The reasons for shorter lifespan include gaps in various health and nutritional indicators, education level, poverty level, between ST and non-STs, traditional life styles, remoteness of habitations & dispersed population.

Steps taken by Government:

  • Under National Health Mission (NHM), support is being provided to States for strengthening their healthcare system including for upgradation of existing and setting up new public health infrastructure based on requirements posed by the States/UTs.
  • All tribal districts whose composite health index is below the State average have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs) and receive more resources per capita under the NHM as compared to the rest of the districts in the State.
  • As per the budget announcement 2017-18, 1.5 lakh Health Sub Centres and Primary Health Centres are being transformed into Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs)
  • The Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) aim to provide an expanded range of services to include care for non – communicable diseases, palliative and rehabilitative care, Oral, Eye and ENT care, etc
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs supplements the efforts of Central line Ministries as well as State Governments for addressing needs of education, health and nutrition, skill development, livelihood etc. of tribals/ tribal areas by way of critical gaps filling.

WHY IS INDIA SETTING UP A MOBILE PHONE HANDSETS DATABASE?

    • Context: The National Telecom Policy of 2012 calls for the establishment of a National Mobile Property Registry to address the issue of “security, theft, and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets”.
  • Based on this, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under the Ministry of Communications initiated a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) for mobile service providers. The DoT issued a memorandum in July 2017 announcing the CEIR with a pilot project led by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited in Maharashtra. In January 2018, this project was handed over to the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDoT). Now, it is all set to roll out.

What is CEIR?

  • Based on a 2008 order from the DoT, every mobile network provider in India has an Equipment Identity Register (EIR), or a database of the phones connected to its network. These EIRs will now share information with a single central database, the CEIR.
  • In essence, it will be a repository of information on all mobile phones connected to networks across India.
  • There were over 1,026 million active wireless phone connections by the end of 2018, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
  • As per the DoT’s 2017 memorandum, the CEIR will have information on the device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (every phone or mobile broadband device has this unique 15 digit code that precisely identifies the device), model, version, and “other information”.
  • It will also know if the phone is blacklisted, and the reason why it has been blacklisted.
  • Phones are identified based on the IMEI number, which you can find under the battery in many mobiles or by dialling ‘*#06#’ on the device. Mobile phone manufacturers assign IMEI numbers to each device based on ranges allotted to them by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. Dual SIM phones will have two IMEI numbers.

What is the purpose of a CEIR?

  • Such centralised databases are meant to identify and block stolen or illegal mobile phones across networks.
  • Currently, when a customer reports a mobile phone as missing or stolen, mobile service providers have the ability to blacklist the phone’s IMEI in their EIRs and block it from accessing their network.
  • But if the SIM is changed to a new network, it can continue to be in use. With a CEIR, all network operators will be aware that the phone is blacklisted.
  • The CEIR will also access the GSMA’s database of IMEI numbers to check whether the phone is authentic.
  • There are cases of phones being in use with duplicate IMEI numbers, or with all zeroes instead of an authentic IMEI number.
  • Most importantly, as per the DoT’s 2017 memorandum, the CEIR will be able to block services to subscribers. This ability had rested with individual networks till now. The memorandum also mentions enabling “IMEI-based lawful interception”, which means allowing legal authorities to use CEIR data.

What are the issues with having a CEIR?

  • In its 2010 consultation paper on “issues relating to blocking of IMEI for lost/stolen mobile handsets,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) raises a key issue with the CEIR — who should maintain such a high-value database? Should it be the service provider, or a neutral third party?
  • In their responses to the consultation paper, many major service providers preferred having a third party, ranging from international bodies to TRAI itself as suggested by the BSNL.
  • The CDoT, which is reportedly readying to roll out the service, is an autonomous entity under the DoT.
  • Another major issue is cloning, or reprogramming stolen or unauthorised mobile phones to attach existing genuine IMEI numbers. Blocking cloned IMEI numbers could result in the authentic ones also being blocked.
  • While the actual numbers on phones in circulation with cloned or inauthentic IMEIs are hard to pin down, Parliament, in 2012, was informed of two cases of 18,000 phones using the same IMEI number. In 2015, the government banned the import of mobile phones with fake IMEI numbers. In 2017, the DoT framed the “prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017” that makes it punishable to tamper with the IMEI number of a device or knowingly use such a device. However, tools to reprogramme phones remain available online, and cases of such activities are reported frequently.
  • On this issue, the DoT memorandum of 2017 says the IMEI Cloning and Duplication Restriction (ICDR) software is to be integrated in the CEIR.

CALLS FOR SEPARATE LAW ON EVICTIONS OF URBAN POOR.

Stats

  • Government authorities, at both the central and state levels, demolished over 53,700 homes, thereby forcefully evicting more than 260,000 (2.6 lakh) people across urban and rural India, including the homeless

Major Findings:

  • Forced evictions occurred across urban and rural areas – in cities, towns, and villages.
  • They took place for a range of reasons and under various guises, including: ‘city beautification’ projects, mega events, and interventions aimed at creating ‘slum-free cities’; infrastructure and ostensible ‘development’ projects; forest and wildlife protection; and, disaster management efforts.
  • In most of the reported eviction cases, state authorities did not follow due process established by national and international standards.
  • In the majority of cases, the state has not provided resettlement; where provided, resettlement is largely inadequate. Forced evictions are thus contributing to a rise in homelessness.
  • All cases of forced eviction resulted in multiple, and often gross, human rights violations.
  • Through these acts of eviction and demolition of homes, central and state government authorities have violated national and international laws, policies, guidelines, and schemes.
  • Thousands of families across India are currently threatened with the risk of eviction and displacement.

City Beautification’ Projects:

  • Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) an NGO, finds that the highest percentage of reported evictions (99 of 213 cases) were carried out for ‘slum4 clearance’ drives and ‘city beautification’ projects. The notion of the state that ‘city beautification’ implies removing the poor from cities reflects an alarming prejudice and discrimination against the country’s most marginalized populations.
  • It also indicates the criminalisation of poverty.

Separate law:

  • The authorities in India, instead of seeking to evict a large number of the urban poor before implementing development projects, can adopt a new kind of social compact with the community concerned and real estate developers. Examples in Colombia and Argentina where local governments came together with private real estate developers and the respective communities for improving housing for slum dwellers. the urban poor were provided with better houses at the same place where they were living ear­lier while a portion of the land was released for re­development.
  • Resettlement policy
    • India did not have a resettlement policy,
    • Separate law on evictions on the lines of one in South Africa.

Recommendation:

  • Recognize and uphold the human right to adequate housing, which includes security of tenure and the right to freedom from forced evictions, of all residents of India.
  • Take immediate measures towards restitution of human rights of all affected persons by providing adequate resettlement, rehabilitation, and compensation; restoring homes, livelihoods, basic services, and education; and, enabling return to original sites of residence, where possible. Grant compensation to all affected persons, based on human rights assessments and criteria, for all losses—material and non-material—and damage incurred during the eviction/relocation process. Investigate incidents of forced eviction and take punitive action against those found guilty of violating the law and human rights.

Conclusion:

  • Unless concerted efforts are adopted by both the central and state governments to incorporate a strong human rights approach in the conceptualization and implementation of schemes, the targets of ‘housing for all’ will continue to remain mere rhetoric.
  • It is only through the respect, protection, and fulfilment of the human rights of the urban and rural poor to their lands and homes, that India’s housing crisis can be resolved.

GAGANYAAN NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL

Why in News?

  • A Gaganyaan National Advisory Council has been created with members from different institutions and industries.

Members:

  • Secretaries of Department of Space, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Defence Research and Development, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Principal Scientific Advisor to PM, Senior Officials from Armed Forces, Indian Coast Guard, Former Chairman of ISRO, Member of Space Commission, Former Director of Aeronautical Development Agency, Former Indian Astronaut, Directors of Premier Academic and Research Institutions and Heads of various Indian Industries.

Gaganyaan:

  • Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the basis of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
  • The spacecraft is being designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability.
  • In its maiden crewed mission, Indian Space Research Organisation’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board.
  • The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021.

STUDY IN INDIA’ PROGRAMME

Why in news?

  • To facilitate Internationalization of Higher Education in India, a Programme viz. ‘Study in India’ is under implementation.

Objectives:

  • To make India a preferred education destination/hub for foreign students;
  • Improve the soft power of India with focus on the neighbouring countries
  • Use it as a tool in diplomacy;
  • To rapidly increase the inflow of inbound International Students in India through systematic brand-building,
  • Marketing, social media and digital marketing campaigns;
  • To increase India’s market share of global education exports;
  • Improvement in overall quality of higher education;
  • To reduce the export-import imbalance in the number of international students;
  • Growth in India’s global market share of International students;
  • Increase in global ranking of India etc.

Special Focus:

  • The programme focuses on attracting International students from select 30 plus countries across South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa.
  • The programme envisages participation of select reputed Indian institutes/universities by way of offering seats for the International students at affordable rates, along with fee waivers to meritorious foreign students ranging from 100% to 25%.
  • A centralised admission web-portal (https://studyinindia.gov.in) acts as a single window for the admission of foreign students. With the increase in number of foreign students, the global ranking of the Indian Higher Educational institutions will improve.
  • The domestic students shall be exposed to a more diverse peer group and also get greater International exposure culminating in enhanced interest of Indian students to study in the country.
  • This information was given by the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

MODEL TENANCY ACT

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has drafted a ‘Model Tenancy Act’, 2019 which envisages to balance the interest and rights of both the owner and tenant and to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises in disciplinedand efficient manner.

Model Tenancy Act:

  • Act will enable creation of adequate rental housing stock for various income segmentsof society including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, professionals, students etc. and increase access to quality rented accommodation, enable gradual formalization of rental housing market.
  • It will help overhaul the legal framework vis-à-vis rental housing across the country. It is also expected to give a fillip to private participation in rental housing for addressing the huge housing shortage across the country.
  • The Draft MTA will also promote growth of rental housing and investment in the sector and promote entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative mechanism of sharing of space.This MTA will be applicable prospectively and will not affect the existing tenancies.

Features of Draft Model Tenancy Act:

  • MTA stipulates a robust grievance redressal mechanism comprising of Rent Authority, Rent Court and Rent Tribunal.
  • It has been proposed to cap the security deposit equal to a maximum of two month’s rent in case of residential properties and, minimum of one month’s rent in case of non-residential property.
  • After coming into force of this Act, no person shall let or take on rent any premises except by an agreement in writing.
  • The Model Act provides for its applicability for the whole of the State i.e. urban as well as rural areas in the State.
  • Within two months of executing rental agreement both landowner and tenant are required to intimate to the Rent Authority about the agreement and within seven days a unique identification number will be issued by the Rent Authority to the both the parties.
  • A digital platform will be set up in the local vernacular language of the State for submitting tenancy agreement and other documents.
  • A copy of the draft Act has also been shared with the States/UTs for seeking their views/comments.
  • Once finalized the Model Act will be shared with the States/Union Territory (UTs) for adoption.

Significance:

  • As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
  • The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage the owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession.
  • One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.

CCTV IN CLASSROOMS- ANALYSIS

  • Context– Project to install CCTV cameras inside all classrooms in Delhi state schools.

Delhi Government Stand:

Empowering Parents

  •  In private schools, parents are empowered by their own education and economic leverage due to the fees they pay. Parental oversight has been the bedrock of effective school management. CCTV surveillance would bring empowerment to parents.

Parent Participation

  •  School Management Committees (SMCs), parent bodies mandated by the Right to Education Act. They have been empowered to monitor and supervise basic deliverables of schools, such as teacher attendance, healthy mid-day meals, clean washrooms, drinking water, etc. The CCTV in classrooms project is the next step towards increasing accountability of schools.

Accountability:

  •   By sharing feeds with parents, it is actually ensuring that the crores of public money invested into CCTVs are not wasted.
  •  Often, CCTVs fail to serve their purpose for lack of motivated monitoring.
  •  Outsourcing of the monitoring to an invested stakeholder like parents is actually a smart innovation.

Child Care:

  •  The CCTV feeds can aid parents to identify several problems their children may be facing, including bullying, corporal punishment, inadequate attention spans, teacher absenteeism and even student truancy. It will empower them to not just raise their children better but also to ask the right questions to their child’s school.

Issue of Privacy Breach

  •  Classrooms cannot be classified as private by any stretch of imagination.
  • feed being provided to parents is highly restricted.
  •  Only the feed for their own children will be provided to parents.
  •  The feed does not include audio, and can only be accessed live.

Deterrence for Crimes

  • If CCTVs can be deterrents to crime outside schools, they can be deterrents within too.

Argument Against CCTV Installation in Schools:

The Aim of Education Isn’t Just Disciplinary:

  • While a school is meant to teach discipline, it is also the space where students can make mistakes and subsequently learn from them.
  • Creating panopticons inside schools instils fear, not values.

Classrooms Aren’t Public Spaces Either:

  •  Classrooms cannot be classified as private.
  • However, schools are not as public as a footpath.
  • The expectation of relative privacy is what allows students the freedom to express themselves, make mistakes, and inculcate creativity and imagination.
  • The Delhi government cannot assume that constant surveillance of every activity will improve the learning environment.

Lack of digital infrastructure:

  • Internet penetration in urban India still stands at 64.84%, including multi-SIM usage. In cases where parents don’t have smartphones and internet access, what does the government intend to do?

Phone sharing:

  •  Shared access to a phone is a common habit, and the Delhi government has still not clarified, despite our repeated queries, how they intend to verify a parent’s identity on the DGS Live app.

Access to Videos:

  • Creating a massive repository of video footage of children is a phenomenally bad idea, and a violation of their privacy.
  • In the absence of any legislative and judicial oversight, it can be easily abused.

Conclusion:

  • There should be proper white paper published by Delhi Government regarding CCTV installation so that public understands the motives and undue activity can be restricted.

PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AGAINST SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT (POCSO)

  • Context– Cabinet has approved a new definition for child pornography in its amendments to the POCSO Act.

What is POCSO Act:

  • The POCSO Act provides for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
  • The Act lays down child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation, and speedy trial offences through designated Special Courts.
  • The Act defines “child” as any person below 18 years of age.

Stats of Child Abuse:

  • Child Abuse Report, Women and Child Development India, 2007
    • Half of the country’s children face some form of sexual abuse, with 21% having faced severe sexual abuse.
    • Boys account for around 53% and girls for 47% of all children reporting abuse.

Features of POCSO Act 2012

Aggravated Sexual Assault

  • The POCSO Act criminalises penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault. It makes a distinction between “sexual assault” and “aggravated sexual assault”.
  • Aggravated sexual assault” is under certain circumstances where the child victim is mentally ill or when the offence has been committed by a person in a position of trust or authority (e.g. family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor;)

Special Courts and Public Prosecutors

  • The POCSO Act requires that all trials be conducted in-camera, to ensure that a child’s identity is not revealed.
  • The Act requires State governments to set up Special Courts.
  • These Courts can determine the amount of compensation for the treatment and rehabilitation of the child.
  • Cases before the Court must be disposed within one year from the date they were reported.
  • State Governments are required to appoint Special Public Prosecutors (SPP) who will exclusively address POCSO cases.

Child-Friendly Courts

  • Avoiding exposure to the accused is a crucial component in protecting the best interests of the child, as this ensures that the child is not traumatised by facing the accused, as well as it ensures that the opportunity for the accused and his lawyers to intimidate the child is minimised.

Victim Compensation

  • In addition to the punishment, the POCSO Act requires Courts to prescribe a direct payment of compensation. This victim compensation may be used for medical treatment or rehabilitative purposes.

Recent Amendments to bill: / Child pornography

  • Watching, possessing or circulating animations or cartoons that depict a minor engaging in a sexually explicit conduct could land person in jail.
  • law will also apply to pornographic content where adults or young adults pretend to be children. Fine for possessing child porn to ₹5,000 from the earlier proposal of ₹1000.

Conclusion:

  • While the mandate of the legislation is truly radical in that it aims to protect children against sexual abuse, and provides for a victim sensitive criminal justice process, there are several snags in its implementation.
  • Serious open discussion on child abuse can and is taking place.
  • We need to use this momentum to make lasting systemic change; for our children, it is the least we can do.

INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION

Different initiatives undertaken by Govt. to improve quality of Education:

  • The Central Government has launched an Integrated Scheme for School Education – Samagra Shiksha, from 2018-19 which subsumes the erstwhile centrally sponsored schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
  • Under Samagra Shiksha, funds are given to all States and UTs for various interventions to improve the quality of education such as training of in-service teachers, headmasters and principals, remedial teaching for academically weaker students, provision of library grants to schools, ICT and digital initiatives, strengthening of teacher education institutions, Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan, Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat, etc.
  • In order to focus on quality education, the Central rules to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act have been amended to include reference on class-wise, subject-wise Learning Outcomes for all elementary classes. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a National Achievement Survey, under which learning outcomes of students were evaluated, through a District level sampling and gaps were identified.
  • Government of India has decided to participate in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) to be conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2021.
  • Approval has been given for conducting a Census based audit called Shagunotsav of all government and government aided schools in all States and UTs. Further, in 2019-20 approval has been given for conducting a School Based Assessment (SBA) of all elementary stage students, to evaluate learning outcomes.
  • MHRD has designed a 70 indicators-based matrix Performance Grading Index (PGI) to grade the States and UTs. To collect timely and accurate data, an Educational Management Information System called UDISE+ (UDISE plus) has been launched in 2018-19.
  • In 2019-20, approval has been given for setting up Youth and Eco Club in all Government Schools across the country. In order to experience and celebrate the rich cultural diversity of India and to encourage experimental learning, Rangotsav was organized in schools in 2018-19.

FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY ANALYSIS, INDIA, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019, a report by the MoSPI and The World Food Programme lists Maharashtra as one of the six States with high levels of stunting and underweight.
  • The State also has a prevalence of stunting and wasting.
  • Here’s a look at the highlights of the report and overall malnutrition in Maharashtra.

Malnutrition:

  • Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes under nutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight) inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non- communicable diseases.

Types of Malnutrition:

  • Moderate Acute malnutrition (MAM): Children aged between six months and 59 months who are between the -2 and -3 standard deviation for weight for height (wasting) score.
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM): Children aged between six months and 59 months and have a weight for height (wasting) score 3 standard deviations below the median, have a mid-upper-arm circumference less than 115 mm, or the presence of bilateral edema.
  • Severe Chronic Malnutrition (SCM): Calculated with the Z-score defined as a height-for- age index less than –3 standard deviations from the mean weight of a reference population of children of the same height and/or having edema.
  • Stunting: Calculation is based on height-for-age. It is is associated with an underdeveloped brain, poor learning capacity, and increased nutrition-related diseases.
  • Wasting: Calculated by weight-for-height. It is associated with decreased fat mass. Also known as wasting syndrome, it causes muscle and fat tissue to waste away.
  • Underweight: Calculated by the weight-for-age formula. It is a body weight considered to be too low to be healthy. It can reflect both stunting and wasting.

Food and Malnutrition in the Country:

  • Over the last 20 years, total food grain production in India increased from 198 million tonnes to 269 million tonnes.
  • Despite increase in food production, the rate of malnutrition in India remains very high.
  • In the food basket, it turns out that in both urban and rural areas, the share of expenditure on cereal and cereal substitutes has declined between 1972-73 and 2011-12, from 57% to 25% in rural areas and from 36% to 19% in urban areas.
  • The energy and protein intake from cereals has decreased in both rural and urban India, largely because of increased consumption of other food items such as milk and dairy products, oils and fat and relatively unhealthy food such as fast food, processed food, and sugary beverages.
  • The consumption of unhealthy energy and protein sources is much higher in urban areas.

Double Burden of Malnutrition:

  • For several decades India was dealing with only one form of malnutrition– undernutrition. In the last decade, the double burden which includes both over- and undernutrition, is becoming more prominent and poses a new challenge for India.
  • From 2005 to 2016, prevalence of low (< 18.5 kG/M2) body mass index (BMI) in Indian women decreased from 36% to 23% and from 34% to 20% among Indian men. During the same period, the prevalence of overweight/obesity (BMI > 30 kG/M2) increased from 13% to 21% among women and from 9% to 19% in men.
  • Children born to women with low BMI are more likely to be stunted, wasted, and underweight compared to children born to women with normal or high BMI.

States Performance:

  • The highest levels of stunting and underweight are found in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and
  • At the national level, among social groups, the prevalence of stunting is highest amongst children from the STs (43.6 percent), followed by SCs (42.5 percent) and OBCs (38.6 percent). The prevalence of stunting in children from ST in Rajasthan, Odisha and Meghalaya is high while stunting in children from both ST and SC is high in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
  • Prevalence of wasting is highest in Jharkhand (29.0%) and above the national average in eight more States (Haryana, Goa, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, MP, Karnataka and Gujarat) and three UTs (Puducherry, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli).
  • Prevalence of underweight is also highest in Jharkhand (47.8%) and is above the National average in seven more States (Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, UP, MP and Bihar) and one UT (Dadra and Nagar Haveli).

LABOUR LAWS IN INDIA

Context-

  • Central government for its move to subsume 44 existing labour laws into four codes dealing with wages, social security, industrial safety and welfare, and industrial relations.
  • The code on wages Bill, which seeks to replace existing laws related to workers’ remuneration.
  • Labour Union- These codes will do away with social security measures of the labour force in the country. It will give a free hand to industrial houses and big companies

Issues with Labour Law:

  • Labour laws involving safety at workplace, wages, social security and industrial relations.
  • Distorted the labour market.
  • Due to the complex and massive numbers of labour laws, industries prefer to hire contractual labourers not covered under these laws and without any social security or termination protection.
  • Another major problem of labour market in India is that there is a growing number of unskilled labourers in the country.
  • Current labour reforms are less focus on apprenticeship.
  • Labour market in India is suffering from surplus labour force.
  • lack of adequate information regarding jobs
  • child labour practices
  • lack of proper manpower planning etc.

Polity:

  • Article 246 Labour being in concurrent list, many states and even centre have enacted laws. So many laws lead to confusion about regulation giving rise to inspector raj.
  • Article 43A was inserted by 42nd amendment – directing state to take steps to ensure worker’s participation in management of industries.
  • Article 23 forbids forced labor, 24 forbids child labor (in factories, mines and other hazardous occupations) below age of 14 years.

Important laws related to Industrial relations are

Employee State Insurance Act:

  • ESI card is issued, insuring worker against any accident at work. There’s also ESI corporation.

Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous provisions Act –

  • Provident fund is one in which employee pays part of his wage ( 12 % in most cases) and equal contribution by employer. This is mandatory for establishment employing more than 20 people

Factories Act, 1948

Child Labor (prohibition and regulation) Act:

  • Prohibits Children below age of 14 to work in hazardous jobs. There are demands for complete ban on child employment

Industrial Disputes Act:

  • One important provision – Industries employing more than 100 people can not terminate employment before approval of government. There is strong demand from industry to revise this limit, to facilitate easy entry and exit.

Minimum Wages Act

Bonded Labor system (Abolition) Act:

  • System in which onetime payment was made by employer to supplier or leader of group and whole season’s or year’s services of labor was taken. Still rampant in some businesses like Brick Kilns

Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970:

  • Contract labor is indirectly employed by an establishment through a contractor or agency. So, their relation with principal organization becomes ambiguous. They are generally discriminated against direct employees in terms of wages, job security, status etc. This act attempts to abolish it in certain circumstances and to bring them at par with direct employees.

Apprentices Act, 1961:

Reforms needed in Labour Law:

  • There is an overlapping of labour laws which gives immense powers to official to harass the employer and leads to corruption.
  • Social safety net for workers in order to enable capacity building of workers.
    Disinvestment and FDI: PSE’s one of the main objectives was to provide employment even at cost of economy but this very policy was result of demise of PSEs. Same is true for FDI.

Conclusion:

  • The government needs to bring more investor-friendly labour laws at the national level and reforms such as deregulating labour laws.

SFURTI, ASPIRE & PRADHAN MANTRI MATSYA SAMPADA YOJANA

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Government aims to set up more Common Facility Centres (CFCs) under the ‘Scheme of Fund for Upgradation and Regeneration of Traditional Industries’ (SFURTI).
  • It will facilitate cluster-based development to make the traditional industries more productive, profitable and capable for generating sustained employment opportunities.
  • The focused sectors are Bamboo, Honey and Khadi clusters.
  • SFURTI envisions setting up of 100 new clusters during 2019-20 to enable 50,000 artisans to join the economic value chain.

SFURTI:

  • SFURTI is Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries.
  • Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Govt. of India has launched this scheme in the year 2005 with the view to promote Cluster development.
  • As per the revised guidelines, the following schemes are being merged into SFURTI:
  • The Scheme for Enhancing Productivity and Competitiveness of Khadi Industry and Artisans
  • The Scheme for Product Development, Design Intervention and Packaging (PRODIP)
  • The Scheme for Rural Industries Service Center (RISC) and
  • Other small interventions like Ready Warp Units, Ready to Wear Mission, etc.

Objectives of Scheme:

  • To organize the traditional industries and artisans into clusters to make them competitive and provide support for their long-term
    sustainability and economy of scale;
  • To provide sustained employment for traditional industry artisans and rural entrepreneurs;
  • To enhance marketability of products of such clusters by providing support for new products, design intervention and improved packaging and also the improvement of marketing infrastructure;
  • To equip traditional artisans of the associated clusters with the improved skills and capabilities through training and exposure visits;
  • To strengthen the cluster governance systems with the active participation of the stakeholders, so that they are able to gauge the emerging challenges and opportunities and respond to them in a coherent manner;
  • To build up innovated and traditional skills, improved technologies, advanced processes, market intelligence and new models of public – private partnerships, so as to gradually replicate similar models of cluster – based regenerated traditional industries
  • To make a paradigm shift from a supply driven selling model to a market driven model with the right branding, focus product mix and correct positioning and right pricing to make the offering holistic and optimal for each of the focus categories.
  • To tap the E-Commerce as a major marketing channel given the outreach and the growing market penetration of E-Commerce, the re is a need to devise a quick strategy to make its presence felt in the E – Retail space.

ASPIRE:

  • The Scheme for Promotion of Innovation, Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship’ (ASPIRE) has been consolidated for setting up of Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs).
  • The Scheme contemplates setting up 80 Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and 20 Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in 2019-20 to develop 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industry sectors.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) – Through the Scheme the Department of Fisheries will establish a robust fisheries management framework.
  • This will address critical gaps in strengthening the value chain, including infrastructure, modernization, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control.

CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (RESERVATION IN TEACHERS’ CADRE) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019 has been passed by both the houses of Parliament.
  • The Bill will now be sent for President’s assent.

Highlights:

  • The Bill replaces the “The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Ordinance, 2019”.
  • The new bill considers the University/College as one unit restoring earlier reservation system based on 200-point roster.
  • No longer will ‘Department/Subject’ be treated as one unit.
  • This Decision Will:
    • Allow up of more than 7000 existing vacancies in Central Educational Institutions and pave the way for filling up 3 lakh vacancies in the Government (Central and State) Educational institutions by direct recruitment in Teacher’s Cadre.
    • Ensure compliance of the Constitutional Provisions of Articles 14, 16 and 21.
    • Ensure full representation of the Scheduled Castes/ the Scheduled Tribes, the socially and Educationally Backward Classes and Economically Weaker Sections in direct recruitment in teachers’ cadres.
  • This decision is also expected to improve the teaching standards in the higher educational institutions by attracting all eligible talented candidates belonging SCs/STs/SEBCs/EWS.
  • It will also ensure providing of 10% reservation to EWS.

SURROGACY (REGULATION) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet has approved the introduction of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 that aims to prohibit commercial surrogacy in India.

Highlights:

  • The Bill proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories.
  • The purpose of the Bill is to ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy, and allow ethical surrogacy.
  • While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited, including sale and purchase of human embryos and gametes, ethical surrogacy for needy couples will be allowed on fulfilment of stipulated conditions.
  • It will also prevent exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.
  • There will not be any financial implications, except for the meetings of the National and State Surrogacy Boards and appropriate authorities, which will be met out of the administrative budgets of respective departments.

Concerns with Commercial Surrogacy:

  • Procreation is not just about furthering the family lineage, but also about succession, tradition and legality.
  • Having a child is about putting a biological system in place, not just caring for societal mores.
  • There is therefore a need to define the legality and ethicality of the practice.
  • Commercial surrogacy can lead to complaints of exploitation of women, especially those from the economically weaker section, because it would involve financial compensation, the adequacy of which can always be challenged.
  • Pregnancy remains a biological phenomenon, with its attendant complications, necessitating proper medical care, the grossness of which could be open to challenge in case something goes wrong.
  • Children born out of surrogacy can also face the problems of citizenship, abandonment and abuse, another aspect that needs to be taken care of.
  • There is also the problem of jurisdiction because not all countries permit it. Couples wanting a surrogacy arrangement may travel to a country that permits it.

TRADE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR EXPORT SCHEME (TIES)

Why in News?

  • The Department of Commerce, under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has approved financial assistance for three trade promotion centres under the TIES.

Highlights:

  • Establishment of Main Exhibition Building (Phase-II) at Trade cum Permanent Exhibition Centre at Imphal, Manipur by Manipur Industrial Development Corporation (MANIDCO).
  • Expansion of Chennai Trade Centre by Tamil Nadu Trade Promotion Organisation
  • Establishment of Trade Promotion Centre at Minto Hall, Bhopal by M.P. State Tourism Development Corporation

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):

  • Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry launched the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) in March, 2017.
  • After delinking of the Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities (ASIDE) Scheme in 2015, the State Governments had been consistently requesting the support of the Centre in creation of export infrastructure.
  • The scheme would provide assistance for setting up and up-gradation of infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, cold chains, trade promotion centres, dry ports, export warehousing and packaging, SEZs and ports/airports cargo terminuses.
  • The proposals of the implementing agencies for funding will be considered by an inter-ministerial Empowered Committee.

MINIMUM WAGE SYSTEM

Background

  • In India, labour is included in the concurrent list which implies that both the central government and state governments can make laws regarding this subject.
  • The Second National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended that existing labour laws should be classified into broader groups for easier compliance, such as
  • (i) industrial relations, (ii) Wages, (iii) Social Security, (iv) Safety, and (v) welfare and working conditions.
  • This would also allow for uniformity in the coverage of various labour laws that are in force.2
  • The Code on Wages replaces four existing laws:

1. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936

2. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948

3. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and

4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Who Determines Minimum Wages?

  • The Code provides that a National Minimum Wage may be set by the Central Government. States cannot set minimum wages lower than the national minimum wage.
  • The Central Government may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions of the country. Minimum wages must be revised by the central or state governments at an interval of Five Years.

Key Issues:

  • Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions.
  • 1. The rationale for a national minimum wage, and
  • 2. Whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages.
  • States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages.
  • This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.

Gender Discrimination:

  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender.
  • While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.

Advisory boards:

  • The central government and state governments will constitute the Central Advisory Board
  • and State Advisory Boards respectively.
  • These boards will consist of:
  • 1. Employers,
  • 2. Employees in equal number as the employers, and
  • 3. Independent Persons (Not Exceeding One Third of the Total Members of the Board).
  • They will advise the central or state governments on issues such as setting and revision of minimum wages and increasing employment opportunities for women, among others.

Advantages of A National Minimum Wage:

  • National minimum wage is to ensure a uniform standard of living across the country.
  • The introduction of a national minimum wage may help reduce these differences and provide a basic standard of living for all employees across the country.

Disadvantages of A National Minimum Wage:

  • It may be argued that the ability of state governments to adjust minimum wage levels may be affected, if the central government sets a national minimum wage.
  • These adjustments may be required for variations, across the country, in costs of living such as prices of essential goods and housing.
  • The Code does not provide for consultation between the central and state governments while determining the national minimum wage.

SCHEME FOR TRANS-DISCIPLINARY RESEARCH FOR INDIA’S DEVELOPING ECONOMY (STRIDE)

Why in News?

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a new scheme – ‘Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India’s Developing Economy’ (STRIDE)

STRIDE:

  • STRIDE will provide support to research projects that are socially relevant, locally need-based, nationally important and globally significant.
  • STRIDE shall support research capacity building as well as basic, applied and transformational action research that can contribute to national priorities with focus on inclusive human development.
  • STRIDE shall support creation, development and integration of new ideas, concepts and practices for public good and strengthening civil society.
  • STRIDE scheme will strengthen research culture and innovation in colleges and Universities and help students and faculty to contribute towards India’s developing economy with help of collaborative research.

STRIDE Objectives:

  • To identify young talent, strengthen research culture, build capacity, promote innovation and support trans-disciplinary research for India’s developing economy and national development.
  • To fund multi institutional network high-impact research projects in humanities and human sciences.

STRIDE Components:

  • Component-1 will endeavour to identify the motivated young talents with research and innovation aptitude in universities and colleges. The Scheme will provide research capacity building in diverse disciplines by mentoring, nurturing and supporting young talents to
  • innovate pragmatic solutions for local, regional, national and global problems. This component is open to all disciplines for grant upto 1 crore.
  • Component-2 will be mainly to enhance problem solving skills with help of social innovation and action research to improve wellbeing of people and contribute for India’s developing economy. Collaborations between universities, government, voluntary organizations and industries is encouraged under this scheme. This component is open to all disciplines for grant upto 50 lakh – 1 crore.
  • Component-3 will fund high impact research projects in the identified thrust areas in humanities and human sciences through national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions. Grant available for this component is upto 1 crore for one HEI and upto 5 crores for multi institutional network.

Cabinet NOD to Better Pay Benefits for CAPF Officers

Context:

The Cabinet has approved the proposal to grant Organised Cadre Status to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) officers.

  •  The move comes after a Supreme Court order asked the government to extend the benefit already available to IPS, IAS, IRS and IFS officers — to CAPF officers

Significance:

  • This will make them eligible for several benefits, including Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU).
  • The move will benefit thousands of serving officers and many others who have retired since 2006 from the five primary CAPFs or paramilitary forces — CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP and SSB.
  • The officers will now get better deputation chances as they will be eligible to get empanelled under the central staffing scheme, get enhanced facilities of transportation, house rent allowance, travelling and dearness allowance.
  •  Besides the pay hike, the demand for NFFU also encapsulates a long-standing tussle between CAPF cadre officers and IPS officers who come on deputation to the forces.
  • Most top positions in these forces are occupied by IPS officers.

The Dentist (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Context:

The Dentist (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was recently passed in the monsoon session of the Parliament.

About the Bill:

  • The Bill amends the Dentists Act, 1948.
  • The Act regulates the profession of dentistry and constitutes:
    • The Dental Council of India,
    • State Dental Councils and
    • Joint State Dental Councils.
  •  A register of dentists is maintained under the Act in two parts, Part A and Part B.  Persons possessing recognised dental qualifications are registered in Part A and persons not possessing such qualifications are registered in Part B.
  • The persons in Part B are Indian citizens who have been practicing as dentists for at least five years prior to a registration date notified by the state government.

Composition of the Dental Councils:

  • Under the Act, composition of the Dental Council of India, State Dental Councils, and Joint State Dental Councils includes representation from dentists registered in Part B.
  • The Bill seeks to remove the mandatory requirement of the representation of dentists registered in Part B in these Councils.

NATIONAL COMMON MOBILITY CARD

Why in News?

  • National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) – One Nation, One Card for transport mobility is an initiative of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to enable seamless travel by different metros and other transport systems across the country besides retail shopping and purchases.

Highlights:

  • The Indigenous Automatic Fare Collection System based on One Nation One Card Model is the first of its kind in India.
  • These are bank issued cards on Debit/Credit/Prepaid card product platform.
  • The customer may use this single card for payments across all segments including metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, parking, smart city and retail.
  • The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders. The service area feature of this card supports operator specific applications e.g. monthly passes, season tickets etc.

Benefits of NCMC:

  • NCMC Ecosystem offers the value proposition for customers as they need not to carry multiple cards for different usage. Further, the super quick contactless transactions will improve the seamless experience.
  • For operators, NCMC ecosystem brings common standards for implementation without vendor lock-in.
  • This will also help in higher digital payments penetration, savings on closed loop card life cycle management cost and reduced operating cost. The rich data insights may be used by operators for business intelligence leading to efficient operation.
  • With NCMC Ecosystem, Banks will get an access to segments which are highly driven by cash but stickiness in nature. NCMC Ecosystem will further help government in digitization of low value payments and reduced cost for the entire ecosystem.

CHILD LABOUR

Context:

  • Instances of child labour detected during inspections have reduced successively from 2014 to 2018, figures presented by the government in Lok Sabha show.
  • Child labour cases: trend shows decline, govt says will eradicate it

Constitution on Child Labour:

  • The Indian Constitution ensures the right of all children (6-14 years) to free and compulsory education and prohibits their employment in hazardous occupations; and promotes policies protecting children from exploitation

Laws Prohibiting Child Labour:

  • The Child Labour Act was amended in 2016 and the amendment provides for complete prohibition of work or employment of children below age 14 in any occupation and process and prohibition of adolescents in the age group 14-18 in hazardous occupations and processes.
  • The Amendment Act also provides for strict punishment of employers for violation of the Act and has made the offence cognisable.

National Child Labour Project (NCLP)

  • Under the scheme, children aged 9-14 are rescued/withdrawn from work and enrolled in NCLP Special Training Centres before being mainstreamed into the formal education system. Children aged 5-8 are directly linked to the formal education system through close coordination with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

What type of Works:

  • Engaged in manual work, in domestic work in family homes, in rural labour in the agricultural sector including cotton growing, at glass, match box and brass and lock-making factories, in embroidery, rag-picking, beedi rolling, in the carpet-making industry, in mining and stone quarrying, brick kilns and tea gardens amongst others.
  • Gender Specific Work girls performing more domestic and home-based work, boys are more often employed in wage labour.

Factors which lead to Child Labour:

  • It is a multi-dimensional problem that involves various reasons contributing to it in a variety of ways. continued poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of poor parents, population explosion-large family size, low family income, the tradition of making children learn the family skill, lack of political will and weak/tardy enforcement of laws, un-employment/under-employment, migration, absence of provision for universal compulsory primary education.

Employers Preference for Child Labour

  • The most important objective of the employer is to earn more profit on limited expenditure

National Legislations regarding Child Labour:

  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
  • National Policy on Child Labour (1987) which focuses upon rehabilitation of such children
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015
  • India has recently ratified two of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Conventions on Child labour i.e. o Minimum Age Convention 1993 o Worst forms of Child Labour Convention 1999.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
  • It amends the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
  • The major amendments include Extends this ban on employment of children under 14 across all sectors, o Prohibits the employment of adolescents aged 14-18 years in hazardous occupations and Introduces more stringent jail term and fines for offenders: a jail term of six months to two years and a fine upto Rs 50,000.
  • The Bill adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The Bill prohibits employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
  • It brings down the list of hazardous occupations from the earlier 83 to just three: mining, inflammable substances, and hazardous processes under the Factories Act, and the centre will decide which processes are hazardous.
  • The Act has a provision of creating Rehabilitation Fund has also been made for the rehabilitation of children.

ILO Convention upon Child Labour:

  • Recently India ratified the two fundamental ILO Conventions concerning the elimination of child labour,
  • India ratify ILO Convention No.138, which requires States party to set a minimum age under which no one shall be admitted to employment or work in any occupation, except for light work and artistic performances.
  • Convention No. 182. The latter calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour and trafficking; the use of children in armed conflict; the use of a child for prostitution, pornography and in illicit activities (such as drug trafficking); and hazardous work.

Conclusion:

  • The phenomenon of child labour is multi-dimensional complex problem and deep rooted in the socio-economic fabric of the society.
  • There are many factors responsible to this complex problem, so a comprehensive integrated approach is required to tackle and combat child labour.
  • This can be done only by bringing attitudinal change, and social awareness and rigorous campaign against the problem of child labour.
    Thus, it requires honest effort and strong commitment and support from all concerned.

NATIONAL POLICY ON SAFETY, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT AT WORKPLACE

Aim-

  • To establish a preventive safety and health culture in the country through elimination of the incidence of work related injuries, diseases, fatalities, disasters and to enhance the well-being of employees in all the sectors of economic activity in the country.

Steps taken Legislation:

  • Mines Act, 1952 has been enacted by Central Government to regulate the objectives of safety and health of workers in mines.
  • In respect of factories, a comprehensive legislation in the form of the Factories Act, 1948, for taking care of the occupational safety and health aspects of the workers employed in factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 has been enacted.

Recent tragedy:

  • Meghalaya mining accident.

Way Forward:

  • Reforms in labour laws are an ongoing process to update the legislative system to address the need of the hour so as to make them more effective, flexible and in sync with emerging economic and industrial scenario.
  • The Ministry has taken steps for drafting four labour codes on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security & Welfare, and Occupation Safety, Health and Working conditions respectively, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws.

THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR RESERVATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

  • Context: Jammu and Kashmir (Reservation) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by both the houses of the Parliament.

About the Bill:

  • The Bill amends the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004.
  • The Act provides for reservation in appointment and promotions in state government posts, and admission to professional institutions for certain reserved categories.
  • Professional institutions include government medical colleges, dental colleges, and polytechnics.
  • Extension of reservation: The Act provides for reservation in appointment and promotions in certain state government posts to persons belonging to socially and educationally backward classes.
  • It defines socially and educationally backward classes to include persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
  • The Bill amends this to include those persons living in areas adjoining the International Border, within the ambit of this reservation.
  • Further, the Act states that any person who has been appointed on the basis of residence in an area adjoining the Line of Control, must serve in such areas for at least seven years.
  • The Bill extends this condition to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border as well.
  • Exclusion from Reservation: The Act states that any person whose annual income exceeds three lakh rupees or other amount as notified by the state government, would not be included within socially and educationally backward classes.
  • However, this exclusion does not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the Actual Line of Control. The Bill states that in addition, this exclusion will not apply to persons living in areas adjoining the International Border also.

NAGALAND TO SET UP A REGISTER OF INDIGENOUS INHABITANTS

  • Context: After Assam, Nagaland government has initiated a move to implement its own version of citizenship register for indigenous communities of the state.

What is Nagaland’s Initiative?

  • According to a notification issued by the Government of Nagaland has decided to set up a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) with the aim of preventing fake indigenous inhabitants’ certificates.
  • The RIIN will be the master list of all indigenous inhabitants of the state.
  • The RIIN list will be based on “an extensive survey”.
  • It will involve official records of indigenous residents from rural and (urban) wards and would be prepared under the supervision of the district administration.
  • All indigenous inhabitants of the state would be issued a barcoded and numbered Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate.
  • The process will be conducted across Nagaland and will be done as part of the online system of Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is already in force in Nagaland.

What is Inner Line Permit?

  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document required by Indian citizens residing outside certain “protected” states while entering them.
  • The ILP is issued by the Government of India and is obligatory for all those who reside outside the protected states.
  • With the ILP, the government aims to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.
  • ILP’s origin dates back to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade.
  • It prohibited “British subjects” or Indians from entering into these protected areas. After Independence, in 1950, the word “British subjects” was replaced by Citizens of India and the focus of the ban on free movement was explained as a bid to protect tribal cultures in North-eastern India.

TRIFED SIGNED AN AGREEMENT TO PARTNER WITH THE e-COMMERCE GIANT’S GLOBAL SELLING PROGRAMME

  • TRIFED, a PSU under Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India has been working with the main objective of promoting tribal art and craft for the benefit of tribal artisans of the country, under the scheme “Institutional Support for Development & Marketing of tribal products/produce” of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India.
  • Sale through e-commerce platforms: The various e-commerce platforms offers a huge potential for promotion and sale of tribal products. However, TRIFED is also expanding its operations through other e-commerce portals.
  • Benefits-The online market has no geographic borders

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED):

  • The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) came into existence in 1987. It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India.
  • TRIFED aims to improve the livelihood of the tribal communities by creating a sustainable market and create business opportunities for them based on their cultured knowledge and traditional skills whilst ensuring fair and equitable remuneration. It involves exploring marketing possibilities for marketing of tribal products on a sustainable basis, creating brand and providing other services.

Marketing of Tribal Products:

  • TRIFED has been marketing tribal products through its Retail Outlets located across country and also through exhibitions.
  • TRIFED has established a chain of 35 own showrooms and 8 consignment showrooms in association with State level Organisations promoting tribal handicrafts.

EDUCATION QUALITY UPGRADATION AND INCLUSION PROGRAMME (EQUIP)


Why in News?

  • In accordance with the decision of the Prime Minister for finalizing a five-year vision plan for each Ministry, the Department of Higher Education of HRD Ministry has finalized and released a five-year vision plan named Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP).

Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP):

  • The Expert Groups drawn from senior academicians, administrators and industrialists, have suggested more than 50 initiatives that would transform the higher education sector completely.
  • Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India
  • Upgrade the quality of education to global standards
  • Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities
  • Introduce governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses
  • Accreditation of all institutions as an assurance of quality
  • Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in the Top-3 countries in the world in matters of knowledge creation
  • Double the employability of the students passing out of higher education
  • Harness education technology for expanding the reach and improving pedagogy
  • Promote India as a global study destination
  • Achieve a Quantum Increase in Investment in Higher Education.

ONLY 20% OF NIRBHAYA FUND HAS BEEN USED BY STATES


Context:

  • The States and Union Territories have utilised less than 20% of the budget allocated to them under the Nirbhaya Fund for safety of women by the Central government between 2015 and 2018.

About Nirbhaya Fund:

  • It is a dedicated fund set up by Ministry of Finance, in 2013, for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security for women in the country.
  • It is a non-lapsable corpus fund.
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal Ministry to appraise schemes under Nirbhaya Fund and also to review and monitor the progress of sanctioned Schemes in conjunction with the line Ministries/Departments.
  • Central Victim Compensation Fund has been created under Nirbhaya, which is a corpus fund to support States/UTs for their Victim Compensation Scheme. This helps in ensuring adequate and timely support for women survivors of crime and violence.

Recent initiatives under Nirbhaya Fund:

One stop centres:

  • It is a sub-scheme under National Mission for Empowerment of Women being run by Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • It is aimed at supporting women affected by violence in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace.
  • Establishment of OSCs was one of the key components of Nirbhaya Fund. Every OSC is integrated with newly operational Women’s Helpline (181).

Safe city project:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved a Safe City project for Lucknow at a total cost of Rs.194.44 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund Scheme.
  • This approval i4s a part of MHA’s plans to implement Safe City projects in 8 selected cities, namely, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Lucknow under Nirbhaya Fund with the purpose of strengthening safety and security of women in public places.
  • The project is implemented with collaboration of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, respective municipal and police commissioners of the cities besides civil society organizations.

Mahila Police Volunteer:

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs has envisaged engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) in the States/UTs who will act as a link between police and community and help women in distress.
  • Haryana is the first state to adopt this initiative.
  • For implementing the initiative of Mahila Police Volunteer, fund will be released out of Nirbhaya Fund to the States.

Fortified Ration


Why in News?

  • Department of Food & Public Distribution has approved the “Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System”. Financial Assistance up to 90% in case of North-Eastern, Hilly and Island States and up to 75% in case of rest of the States has been extended.

Fortified Ration

  • Under the scheme, milled rice will be mixed with a premix containing vitamins and minerals post-harvest.
  • As per the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, iron, Vitamin B12, and Folic acid are the mandatory nutrients for the fortification of rice, the kernels of which are added into the regular rice kernels in 1 to 100 ratio.
  •   Iron and folic acid are the two main ingredients that will be added to the food grains.
  • Fortification norms will be in accordance with the specifications laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  • Further, Government of India has also advised all States/UTs especially those States/UTs that are distributing wheat flour through Public Distribution System (PDS), to distribute fortified wheat flour through PDS Fortified Edible oils is also supplied to certain states through PDS

THE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

  • It amends the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 and replaces an Ordinance that was promulgated on March 2, 2019. The Act provides for the establishment, development and management of Special Economic Zones for the promotion of exports.

About:

  • This policy intended to make SEZs an engine for economic growth supported by quality infrastructure complemented by an attractive fiscal package, both at the Centre and the State level, with the Minimum Possible Regulations.
  • It is expected that this will trigger a large flow of foreign and domestic investment in SEZs, in infrastructure and productive capacity, leading to generation of additional economic activity and creation of employment opportunities.

The Main Objectives of the SEZ Act are:

  • Generation of additional economic activity
  • Promotion of exports of goods and services
  • Promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources
  • Creation of employment opportunities
  • Development of infrastructure facilities

The SEZ Rules provide for:

  • Simplified procedures for development, operation, and maintenance of the Special Economic Zones and for setting up units and conducting business in SEZs;
  • Single window clearance for setting up of an SEZ;
  • Single window clearance for setting up a unit in a Special Economic Zone;
  • Single Window clearance on matters relating to Central as well as State Governments;
  • Simplified compliance procedures and documentation with an emphasis on self-certification.

FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY ANALYSIS REPORT

  •       Prepared by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation & The UN World Food Programme.
  •       31.4% of Indian children will be stunted by 2022
  •       Food grain yields have risen 33% over the last two decades, but are still only half of 2030 target yields
  •       The Indian farmer is producing more food grains than ever before, making the country Self­ Sufficient. The Consumer’s access to rice, wheat and other cereals has not increased at the same rate, due to population growth, inequality, food wastage and losses, and exports
  •       Average Per Capita Consumption of energy among the poorest 30% of the population is 1811 kilo calories, much lower than the norm of 2155 kilo calories per day.
  •       There are high rates of stunting among children in the poorest wealth quintile (51.4%), Scheduled Tribes (43.6%) and Scheduled Castes (42.5%), and children born to mothers with no education (51%).

HEALTHY STATES, PROGRESSIVE INDIA’-NITI Aayog

  •       Is a Report on Health published by NITI Aayog
  •       Report on Rank of States and UTs’ has ranked states in three categories — larger States, smaller States and UTs “to ensure comparison among similar entities”.
  •       The report ranks states and Union territories innovatively on their year-on-year incremental change in health outcomes, as well as, their overall performance.
  •       It ranks states and union territories on their year on year incremental change in health outcomes, as well as, their overall performance with respect to each other.
  •       Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Maharashtra ranked on top in terms of overall performance. Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand ranked top three States in terms of annual incremental performance.

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2019

Context:

  • The Committee for Draft National Education Policy (Chair: Dr. K. Kasturirangan) Report discussed in Parliament.
  • The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of:
  • Access
  • Equity
  • Quality
  • Affordability, and
  • Accountability faced by the current education

School Education:

Early Childhood Care and Education:

  • Curriculum that doesn’t meet the developmental needs of children,
  • Lack of qualified and trained teachers, and
  • Substandard pedagogy
  • Draft Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education. This will consist of:
  • Guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and
  • Educational framework for three to eight-year-old
  • The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act):

    • Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years.  The draft Policy recommends extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education.
    • This would extend the coverage of the Act to all children between the ages of three to 18 years.

    School Exam Reforms:

    • The Committee noted that the current board examinations:
      • Force students to concentrate only on a few subjects
      • Do not test learning in a formative manner, and
      • Cause stress among
    • To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
    • it recommends restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.

    Teacher Management:

    • The Committee noted that there has been a steep rise in teacher shortage, lack of professionally qualified teachers, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes.
    • The draft Policy recommends that teachers should be deployed with a particular school complex for at least five to seven years.
    • Teachers will not be allowed to participate in any non-teaching activities (such as cooking mid-day meals or participating in vaccination campaigns) during school hours that could affect their teaching capacities.
    • The Ministry of Human Resources and Development must be renamed as the Ministry of Education in order to bring focus back on education.

    Financing Education:

    • The Draft Policy reaffirmed the commitment of spending 6% of GDP as Public Investment in Education.

    NATIONAL ACCREDITATION BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION BODIES (NABCB)

    Why in News?

    • The National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB), India’s national accreditation body, secured international equivalence for its accreditation programme for personnel certification bodies in the annual meetings of the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation in Singapore today.

    Highlights:

    • NABCB has currently accredited one certification body for Personnel Certification and has 4 applicants.
    • This programme will help professionals to get certified based on their competence in any required field.
    • NABCB is already supporting Ministry of AYUSH and has accredited a certification body for certification for Yoga professionals. This would promote Yoga certification scheme internationally.

    Significance:

    • With the above recognition, NABCB hopes to facilitate export of Indian services and skills into the world market by attesting that persons are certified following international standards by the certifying bodies.
    • Personnel Certification would support many professionals in India, especially those who do not have formal education or certificate programme.
    • Any  person  carrying  ISO/IEC  17024  certificate  with  NABCB  logo  will  be  recognized internationally.
    • It can also be used by regulators for establishing confidence in certified personnel for different activities.
    • This signifies that the accreditation of personnel certification bodies by NABCB is now accepted as equivalent at international level

    NABCB:

    • NABCB, a constituent Board of the Quality Council of India provides accreditation to Certification and Inspection Bodies based on assessment of their competence as per the Board’s criteria and in accordance with International Standards and Guidelines.
    • NABCB is internationally recognized and represents the interests of the Indian industry at international forums through membership and active participation with the objective of becoming a signatory to international Multilateral / Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MLA / MRA).

    ISRO OPENS ITS LABORATORIES FOR INDIAN SCHOOL

    Context:

    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an agency which has the legacy of India’s ancient knowledge and modern technology. She opened its laboratories for Indian school students to undergo two-week training from this year. First Batch 108 students drawn from all states.Union Territories completed their exposure in its laboratories in Bengaluru, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram. The training module devised as part of its new Young Scientists Programme.

    Background:

    • Yuva Vigyanik Karyakram, YUVIKA.
    • ISRO’s YUVIKA is modeled around the Indian government’s vision ‘Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan’.The initiative is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to children to kindle their interest in the emerging areas of space activities. The two-week-long program would include invited talks, experience sharing by eminent scientists, facility and lab visits, exclusive sessions for discussions with experts, practical and feedback sessions.

    NEW POLICY TO PROTECT INDIAN LANGUAGES

    Context:

    • Rashtriya Siksha Ayog has been proposed to be set up under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister.
    • The member of draft New Education Policy Prof.M K Sridhar said that the new policy protects the Indian languages which are on the verge of extinction.
    • The new policy will put education on the pedestal of evaluation and performance and lay emphasis on teachers’ education.

    Background:

    • The United Nations declared the International Mother Language Day (February 21) the founders of the Indian Constitution gave top priority to teaching in mother tongues’, enabling the child to develop its full potential.
    • This concept is in total agreement with the 2017 theme of United Nations World Mother Language Day “to develop the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged in education, administrative systems, cultural expression and cyber space”.
    • In 1956 reorganisation of states in India was carried out with linguistic boundaries that had its own script. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then home minister played key role in formation and amalgamation of states based on linguistic attributes.

    BIMAL JALAN COMMITTEE ON THE QUANTUM OF RESERVES

    Constituted  on  26  December  2018,  to  decide  upon  the  appropriate  level  of  reserves  the regulator should hold. This committee has been appointed in the backdrop of a deadlock between the RBI and the Government. The government feels that RBI’s reserves exceeded its limits and that these could be used for productive purposes such as recapitalizing public sector banks.

    What are RBI Reserves?

    RBI holds reserves in currency and gold inorder to:

    • Absorb potential losses that it may incur while holding foreign
    • Shield the economy from monetary and financial
    • Carry monetary burden during unstable
    • Perform price and exchange
    • Perform its functions independently of the government
    • RBI holds 25.6 % of its assets as reserves while the global median is 16%. Under Section 47 of RBI Act, RBI transfers the excess funds to the Government after accounting for contingency reserves.

    ESSENTIAL SERVICES MAINTENANCE ACT (ESMA)

    Context:

    • Doctors Strike in West Bengal regarding assault on doctors by public. Esma is Central law.
    • ESMA enables the Government to ban strikes and demand conciliation or arbitration in certain “essential” industries.
    • Act also allows states to choose the essential services on which to enforce Esma.
    • Its implementation is entirely on discretion of State Government.

    Provisions of Act:

    • Esma gives police the right to arrest, without a warrant, anybody violating the Act’s provisions. “Any person who commences a strike…or otherwise takes part in… any such strike shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both,” the Act reads.
    • “Any person who instigates…a strike which is illegal under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

    Mains Perspective:

    • Provisions that need to be brought to assure that there is no disruption in vital services like Health. Reasons for recent attacks on doctors by public across the country and what are solution to avoid the same?

    Hints;

    • Poor Doctor patient ratio,
    • Infrastructural bottle necks of health sector. Accessibility of quality health care for poor.
    • Right to strike for people in essential service such as health sector?

    CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2022

    Why in News:

    • Article highlight the challenges in implementation of NITI Aayog agenda 2022 and suggests some measures.

    Background:/Important Analysis Agriculture:

    • The document suggests converting farmers into “agripreneurs” by expanding the e- National Agriculture Markets and replacing the existing Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act.
    • A model Bill proposed in 2017 has not made much headway possibly because it extinguishes middlemen and commission agents.
      The state bureaucracy’s uninspiring performance in replacing water-intensive crops, containing wasteful irrigation practices and the alarming depletion of groundwater does not bode well for effecting radical change.

    Sanitation:

    • Agenda 2022 gives primacy to gargantuan problems such as landfills, plastic waste and sustainable revenue generation from municipal waste.It seeks to subsume these neglected areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • But unless the municipal commissioners compel waste segregation and deter non- compliance with fines and penalties available under the solid waste, plastic and water pollution rules, cleanliness cannot come.
    • Municipal commissioners and district magistrates rarely act. Unless municipal offences are fined heavily on-the-spot like traffic violations, the goals cannot be realised.

    Power:

    • Agenda 2022 seeks to rationalise power tariff to promote the use of renewable energy.
    • But without privatising the DISCOMs, good intentions will not change the ethos underlying distribution. To reap the benefits of renewable energy fully, only privatising the DISCOMs can rationalise power purchase and tariff.
    • No chief minister is however willing to privatise power distribution and bureaucracy by itself cannot usher in privatisation. Delhi remains the solitary exception.

    Employment:

    • The codification of labour laws and expanding apprenticeships will boost employment but unless industry has the flexibility to make a transition from micro-to-small to medium-to- large manufacturing, apprentices will have few places to learn on the job.
    • The flexibility to reduce the workforce within the law must be ensured and the backlash met firmly. This will present the biggest challenge for bureaucracy.

    Procurement:

    • Modernising public procurement systems to international competitive bidding (ICB) standards is another important reform.
    • Unless there is willingness to outsource this to professional bodies, ICB will stay on paper. The move will meet with stiff resistance from state politicians,contractors and lobbies. No bureaucracy can pursue this proposal without solid political backing.

    Governance:

    • India’s first deputy Prime Minister, Vallabhai Patel, wanted IAS officers to be men of integrity and capable of “brashness” possibly meaning bold, audacious and self-assertive. But today brashness is unacceptable to bosses within the political executive and the bureaucracy.
    • IAS remains indispensable primarily because the officers provide an interface with the political executive and handle complex federal issues, Centre-State relations and municipal and panchayat governance functions.
    • They coordinate and interact meaningfully through a nationwide network which remains matchless. No chief minister can run his government without them.

    Suggestions:

    • First, subdivide the 41 identified goals into those which require the approval of Parliament or state legislatures. Set up empowered councils headed by a central minister with state ministers as members to reach consensus within six months on the lines of the VAT and GST councils. The central and state bureaucracies function best under this edifice.
    • Second, in areas which fall in the state domain, create one working model of each of the following in a single State, city or district to emulate.
    • Establishing a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority in a million-plus cities.
    • Establishing public health cadres, introducing user charges for garbage collection and toilet maintenance.
    • Using treated wastewater for non-potable purposes.
    • Third If Agenda 2022 is to become a reality both at the Centre and in the states, there should be sizeable induction of professionals but only by following rigorous and transparent processes for selection.

    ALL STATES, UNION TERRITORIES CAN NOW SET UP FOREIGNERS TRIBUNALS

    Why in News:

    • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.

    Background: / More in News:

    • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
    • Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.    The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said:
    • “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.”
    • The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying
    • illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
    • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail.
    • Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

    NRC and Foreigners Tribunals:

    • According to the Assam Accord, individuals who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, are illegal immigrants.
    • There are two parallel processes to establish citizenship:
    • National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is under preparation, and    Foreigners Tribunals operating under the Foreigners Act,
    • As per directions of the Supreme Court, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.
    • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
    • The final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam, will be published by July 31, 2019.
    • The tribunals will be required after the publication of the final NRC
    • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals, if a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal.
    • Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
    • The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not. MHA sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of the publication of the final NRC by July 31.
      Recently, The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring
      a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude a name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

    DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY PROPOSES FORMAL EDUCATION FROM AGE OF THREE

    Why in News:

    • Three years of preschool and four-year undergraduate honours courses are among features of a draft National Education Policy that the Narendra Modi government received on the first day of its second innings.

    Background: / What is the new education policy for?

    • The extant National Policy on Education, 1986 modified in 1992 required changes to meet the contemporary and futuristic needs of India’s large youth population.
    • A New Education Policy is designed to meet the changing dynamics of the requirements in terms of quality education, innovation and research.
    • The policy aims at making India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.
    • It also focusses on eliminating the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and industry.
    • The Draft Policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

    What are the Key Changes Proposed?

    • Ministry – The committee has proposed to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education (MoE).
    • Curriculum – In school education, a major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure was proposed.
    • The policy calls for an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education.
    • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children was proposed.
    • It consists of –
    • Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2
    • Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5
    • Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8
    • Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12
    • The policy also seeks to reduce content load in school education curriculum.
    • There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra- curricular areas.
    • All subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc will be part of the curricular.
    • Thus, schools will be re-organized into school complexes.
    • The policy promotes active pedagogy to focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21st century skills.
    • RTE Act – The committee recommends Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18 (currently, 6-14).
    • Teacher education – The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education.
    • It calls for shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions.
    • It proposes moving all teacher preparation/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.
      The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.
    • Higher education – A restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions was proposed –
    • Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching
    • Type 2: Focused on high quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research
    • Type 3: High quality teaching focused on undergraduate education
    • This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.
    • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs such as BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc of 3- or 4-years duration and having multiple exit and entry options.
    • Institution – A new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog is proposed.
    • This is to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions.
    • The body will also coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
    • The National Research Foundation, an apex body, is proposed for creating a strong research culture.
    • It will help build research capacity across higher education.
    • The four functions of Standard Setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation will be separated and conducted by independent bodies.
    • National Higher Education Regulatory Authority will be the only regulator for all higher education including professional education.
    • The policy proposes to create an accreditation eco-system led by a revamped NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).
    • Professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education was proposed.
    • UGC is to be transformed to Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC).
    • The private and public institutions will be treated on par, and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity.
    • Besides the above, the committee also recommended several new policy initiatives for – promoting internationalization of higher education
      strengthening quality open and distance learning technology integration at all levels of education facilitating adult and lifelong learning
      enhancing participation of under-represented groups
    • eliminating gender, social category and regional gaps in education outcomes
    • Language – Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new National Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit were proposed.
    • Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) has been recommended.
    • The policy called for the proper implementation of the three-language formula (dating back to 1968) in schools across the country.
    • Accordingly, students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English. In non-Hindi-speaking states, students will have to learn Hindi along with the regional language and English.
    • The controversial three language provision was, however, dropped after protests against it in many states. The draft was revised by the committee making the changes in this regard.

    TAMIL NADU HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM PROGRAM

    Why in News:

    • The Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) and the World Bank have signed a $287 Million Loan Agreement for the Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program.

    More in News:

    • Tamil Nadu ranks third among all Indian States in the NITI Aayog Health Index which is reflected in vastly improved health outcomes. The State’s maternal mortality rate has declined from 90 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 62 deaths in 2015-16.
    • Infant mortality has declined from 30 deaths per 1000 live births to 20 in the same period.
    • A key contribution to these achievements has been the establishment of emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care Centres and the 108-ambulance service with previous support from the World Bank.
    • These have ensured that no mother has to travel more than 30 minutes to access emergency obstetric and neonatal care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Background:

    • Despite these impressive gains, certain challenges in health care remain, including quality of care and variations in reproductive and child health among districts. Tamil Nadu is also dealing with a growing burden of NCDs as they account for nearly 69 percent of deaths in the State.
    • The Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program will support the State Government to:
    • Develop clinical protocols and guidelines
    • Achieve national accreditation for primary, secondary, and tertiary-level health facilities in the public sector
    • Strengthen physicians, nurses and paramedics through continuous medical education
    • Strengthen the feedback loop between citizens and the state by making quality and other data accessible to the public
    • The Program supports interventions to strengthen institutional and state capacity to achieve results.
    • Good practices and innovations from Tamil Nadu are being scaled-up while others from around the world are being introduced through the program to improve management of the State’s Public Health Sector, increase transparency, and strengthen accountability.
    • The Program will promote population-based screening, treatment and follow-up for NCDs, and improve monitoring and evaluation.
    • Patients will be equipped with knowledge and skills to self-manage their conditions.
    • Lab services and health provider capacity will also be strengthened to address mental health.
    • To tackle road injuries, the program will improve in-hospital care, strengthen protocols, strengthen the 24×7 trauma care services and establish a trauma registry.
    • Another key aim of this Program is to reduce the equity gaps in reproductive and child health.
    • Special focus will be given to nine priority districts, which constitute the bottom quintile of the RCH indicators in the State and have a relatively large proportion of tribal populations.

    Way Ahead:

    • This Program focuses on results instead of inputs through a Program-for-Results (PforR)lending instrument. This will provide a much greater focus on outputs and outcomes through better alignment of expenditures and incentives with results. The use of the PforR instrument is a first for the health sector and will offer lessons for other States.

    SOUTH ASIA IS TOP PRIORITY: JAISHANKAR

    Why in News:

    • Building connectivity in the South Asian region and coordinating economic issues will be top priorities of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said S. Jaishankar.

    Background: / More in News

    • Jaishankar is on a two-day tour to Thimphu on June 7-8 to meet with the King of Bhutan, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, and Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji
    • Speaking at the event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ananta Centre and Smadja and Smadja, S Jaishankar highlighted three trends being witnessed in the world which include
    • Globalisation under stress especially in terms of market access and mobility of labour, Growth of nationalism and
    • Global rebalancing.

    On South Asia:

    BIMSTEC

    • Mr Jaishankar indicated that the government had chosen to invite leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) rather than leaders of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), because there was a higher likelihood of making progress with BIMSTEC, as it doesn’t include Pakistan.

    Regional Connectivity:

    • He highlighted the importance of regional connectivity. South Asia is among the least inter-connected regions in the world, but efforts are being made to make the region more integrated.
    • Mr Jaishankar  emphasised the need for more regional  exchanges,  saying India needed to “incentivise cooperation in the neighbourhood” by being “generous” to smaller neighbours.

    On Economy:

    • Jaishankar also spoke on the need for more coordination between the MEA and economic ministries.
    • The comments reflect the economic challenges the government faces immediately, given the United States decision to withdraw India’s ‘GSP’ preferential trade status, and the emerging costs of replacing Iranian oil after sanctions.
    • He also said that a large part of India’s economy has been externalised and there is a need for India’s foreign policy and the diplomatic machinery to help Indian companies gain better access to overseas markets.

    HOME MINISTRY WARNS NGOS

    Why in News:

    • The Home Ministry has warned of taking penal action against NGOs which change office bearers without taking its approval.

    Background: / More in News

    • In a notification, the home ministry said incidents have come to light that some NGOs, having registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), have changed their office bearers without its approval and without updating this data on a real-time  basis through the online application meant for a change of these details.
    • All  NGOs  and  associations  registered  under  the  Foreign  Contribution  Regulation  Act (FCRA), 2010, which makes them eligible to receive foreign funds and donations, have to submit  an  online  application  for  addition,  deletion  and  change  of  details  about  office- bearers and key functionaries within one month.
    • The ministry told the NGOs to submit applications for addition/ deletion/change of details about office bearers/ key functionaries by July 7, failing which penal action will be initiated against them. Since 2014, the central government has started scrutiny of the activities of NGOs  leading  to  the  cancellation  of  their  FCRA  registration,  which  allows  them  to  get foreign funding.
    • There was a total of 23,176 FCRA registered NGOs in 2016-17, which has now come down to around 12,000.

    Regulation of NGO under FCRA:

    • The Home Ministry monitors foreign funds donated to NGOs and organisations through the FCRA. The FCRA was brought into force to regulate the flow of foreign funds to voluntary organisations with the objective of preventing any possible diversion of such funds to anti-national activities.
    • However, there are many NGOs which are registered under FEMA and continue to disburse foreign funds to various associations. NGOs under FEMA is regulated by the Finance Ministry, there are many occasions when the Home Ministry failed to monitor the flow of funds effectively.
    • International donors such as the Ford Foundation, the U.K.’s Department for International Development  and  Canada’s  International  Development  Research  Centre  are  registered under FEMA but not the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010.
    • Funds flowing to NGOs can be used for an anti-national activity such as economic security. Hence regulation of NGO receiving fund is necessary.
    • NGO is used by vested interest to halt the developmental project in India as reported by the Intelligence Bureau. This was witnessed in kudankulam protest.
    • Earlier, the Home Ministry wants the Finance Ministry to surrender its to monitor non- governmental organisations (NGOs) under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for effective and better monitoring.

    DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY MOOTS ALL-INDIA ENTRANCE TESTS FOR UG COURSES

    Why in News:

    • Admission to undergraduate  courses  in  all  government-funded  universities  and  colleges will soon be through all-India entrance tests, if the draft National Education Policy is approved.

    Background: / More in News

    • Private institutes will also be strongly encouraged to make use of the common admission tests, which will be available from 2020. Both aptitude and subject knowledge-based tests will be offered.
    • According to draft policy,
    • This  seems  to  indicate  that the  NTA  assessment  will  replace  Class  12  marks  as  the criteria for admission to these government funded institutions.
    • The NTA tests will aim to assess essential concepts, knowledge, and higher order skills from the national common curriculum as per the NCF in each subject, for the purpose of aiding colleges and universities in their admissions decisions.
    • This  will  help  to  eliminate  the  intensity,  stressfulness,  and  wasted  time  of  the  Grade  12 examination season faced by students every year as well as by so many higher educational institutions and employers
    • The system seems to have some similarities to the SAT, a standardised aptitude test widely used for admissions to colleges and universities in the United States. The SAT, however, is used as a criterion alongside school grades.
    • In India, the common entrance test has largely been the domain of aspirants to professional or post-graduate courses, but that is already changing.
    • The new National Testing Agency (NTA) has already conducted premier professional entrance tests — JEE, NEET, and CMAT — this year.
    • NTA  will  also  conduct  admission  tests  for  applicants  to  more  than  170  Delhi  University (DU) courses, including 12 undergraduate programmes.

    National Testing Agency:

    • National Testing Agency (NTA) is an Indian government agency that has been approved by the  Union  Council  of  Ministers  and  established  in  November  2017  to  conduct  entrance examinations for higher educational institutions
    • It also helps individual colleges and universities in the field of testing and to provide training and advisory services to the institutions in India. It provides quality testing services to the academic institutions in India.
    • It undertakes the reforms and training of school boards as well as other bodies where the testing standards should be comparable with the entrance examinations.

    NITI AAYOG RECONSTITUTED

    Why in News:

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday approved the reconstitution of the NITI Aayog.

    Background: / NITI AAYOG:

    • Planning Commission was replaced by a new institution – NITI AAYYOG on January 1,
      2015 with emphasis on ‘Bottom –Up’ approach to envisage the vision
    • of Maximum Governance, Minimum Government, echoing the spirit of ‘Cooperative Federalism’.

    Administrative Skeltal:

    • Chairperson: Prime Minister
    • Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by Prime-Minister
    • Governing Council: Chief Ministers of all states and Lt. Governors of Union Territories.
    • Regional Council: To address specific regional issues, Comprising Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors Chaired by Prime Minister or his nominee.
    • Adhoc Membership: 2 members in ex-officio capacity from leading Research institutions on rotational basis.
    • Ex-Officio membership: Maximum four from Union council of ministers to be nominated by Prime minister. Chief Executive Officer: Appointed by Prime-minister for a fixed tenure, in rank of Secretary to Government of India.
    • Special Invitees: Experts, Specialists with domain knowledge nominated by Prime- minister.

    NITI Aayog Hubs:

    • Team India Hub acts as interface between States and Centre.
    • Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds the think-tank acumen of NITI Aayog.
    • The Aayog planned to come out with three documents — 3-year action agenda, 7-year medium-term strategy paper and 15-year vision document.

    Importance:

    • The 65-year-old Planning Commission had become a redundant organization. It was relevant in a command economy structure, but not any longer.
    • India is a diversified country and its states are in various phases of economic development along with their own strengths and weaknesses.
    • In this context, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning is obsolete. It cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy.

    Objectives:

    • To foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation. To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.
    • To ensure, on areas that are specifically referred to it, that the interests of national security are incorporated in economic strategy and policy.
      To pay special attention to the sections of our society that may be at risk of not benefitting adequately from economic progress. To provide advice and encourage partnerships between key stakeholders and national and international like-minded Think Tanks, as well as educational and policy research institutions.
    • To create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.
    • To offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda.
    • To maintain a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, be a repository of research on good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development as well as help their dissemination to stake-holders.

    Challenges:

    • To prove its mettle in policy formulation, the NITI Aayog needs to prioritize from the long list of 13 objectives with clear understanding of the difference in policy, planning and strategy.
    • To build the trust, faith and confidence more than the planning commission, NITI Aayog needs freedom of various kinds with budgetary provisions not in terms of plan and non- plan expenditures but revenue and capital expenditure as the higher rate of increase in capital expenditure can remove infrastructural deficits at all levels of operation in the economy.

    CABINET COMMITTEES

    Why in News:

    • To address the twin problems of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment, the government has constituted two Cabinet committees to be chaired by Prime Minister.

    Background: / Transaction of Business:

    • The executive works under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961.
    • These Rules emerge out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which states:
    • “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the
      Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
    • The Rules mandate the minister-in-charge of a department (ministry) to dispose of “all
      business allotted to a department under” him or her.
    • However, “when the subject of a case concerns more than one department”, no decision can be taken “until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet”.
    • The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.
    • Many a time, when an activity/agenda of the Government acquires prominence or requires special thrust, a Cabinet Committee may be set up for focused attention.
    • Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters.
    • A policy paralysis had hit the UPA-II government because it had passed on numerous issues to Groups of Ministers.

    Key Committees:

    • Appointments: This Committee decides on all important empanelment and shift of officers serving on Central deputation. This panel makes appointments to posts of
    • The three service chiefs,
    • Director General of Military Operations, Chiefs of all Air and Army Commands,
    • Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister,
    • Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Director General of Ordnance Factories,
    • Director General of Defence Estates, Controller General of Defence Accounts,
    • Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Solicitor-General, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Chairman and Members of the Railway Board,
    • Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings and
    • Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government.

    Accommodation:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Accommodation determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation. It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organisations as also the rent to be charged from them. It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament. It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.

    Economic Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects “for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy”, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities.
    • It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deal with industrial licensing policies and review rural development and the Public Distribution System.

    Parliamentary Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament.
    • It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

    Political Affairs:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs addresses problems related to Centre-state relations. It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.

    Security:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Security deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications. It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security.
    • It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure more than Rs 1,000 crore.
    • It considers issues related to the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Research and Development, Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for procurement of security-related equipment.

    The New Panels:

    • The addition of the two committees is indicative of the new focus areas for the government. The goal of both is new jobs.

    Investment:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Investment will “identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis”, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing.
    • It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors. It will also monitor the progress of such projects.

    Employment:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development is supposed to provide “direction to all policies, programmes, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce for effectively meeting the emerging requirements of the rapidly growing economy and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”.
    • It is required to enhance workforce participation, foster employment growth and identification, and work towards removal of gaps between requirement and availability of skills in various sectors.
    • The panel will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and to periodically review the progress in this regard.

    LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION

    Why in News:

    • The first draft of the National Education Policy gathered controversy.

    Background: / What is the new education policy for?

    • The extant National Policy on Education, 1986 modified in 1992 required changes to meet the contemporary and futuristic needs of India’s large youth population.
    • A New Education Policy is designed to meet the changing dynamics of the requirements in terms of quality education, innovation and research.
      The policy aims at making India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.
    • It also focusses on eliminating the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and industry. The Draft Policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

    What are the key changes proposed?

    • Ministry – The committee has proposed to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education (MoE).
    • Curriculum – In school education, a major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure was proposed.
    • The policy calls for an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education.
    • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children was proposed.
    • It consists of –
    • Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2 Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5
    • Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8
    • Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12
    • The policy also seeks to reduce content load in school education curriculum.
    • There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra- curricular areas.
    • All subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc will be part of the curricular.
    • Thus, schools will be re-organized into school complexes.
    • The policy promotes active pedagogy to focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21ST century skills.
    • RTE Act – The committee recommends Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18 (currently, 6-14).
    • Teacher education – The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education.
    • It calls for shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions.
    • It proposes moving all teacher preparation/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.
    • The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.
    • Higher education – A restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions was proposed –
    • Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching
    • Type 2: Focused on high quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research
    • Type 3: High quality teaching focused on undergraduate education
    • This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.
    • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs such as BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc of 3 or 4 years duration and having multiple exit and entry options.
    • Institution – A new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog is proposed.
    • This is to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions.
    • The body will also coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
    • The National Research Foundation, an apex body, is proposed for creating a strong research culture.
    • It will help build research capacity across higher education.
    • The four functions of Standard Setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation will be separated and conducted by independent bodies.
    • National Higher Education Regulatory Authority will be the only regulator for all higher education including professional education.
    • The policy proposes to create an accreditation eco-system led by a revamped NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).
    • Professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education was proposed.
    • UGC is to be transformed to Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC).
    • The private and public institutions will be treated on par, and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity.
    • Besides the above, the committee also recommended several new policy initiatives for – promoting internationalization of higher education
      strengthening quality open and distance learning technology integration at all levels of education facilitating adult and lifelong learning
      enhancing participation of under-represented groups
    • eliminating gender, social category and regional gaps in education outcomes
    • Language – Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new National Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit were proposed.
      Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) has been recommended.
    • The policy called for the proper implementation of the three-language formula (dating back to 1968) in schools across the country.
      Accordingly, students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English.
    • In non-Hindi-speaking states, students will have to learn Hindi along with the regional language and English.
    • The controversial three language provision was, however, dropped after protests against it in many states.
    • The draft was revised by the committee making the changes in this regard.

    FROM SWACHH TO ‘NAL SE JAL’

    Why in News:

    • The yet-to-be formally initiated Nal se Jal scheme would aim to provide piped drinking water to every rural home by 2024.

    Background:

    • With the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheduled to officially complete its mission of an open defecation free India by October 2 this year, the government is expected to shift focus to the allied issue of water
    • Since its launch by the Prime Minister in 2014, the rural component of the mission alone has attracted government spending of about ₹1 lakh crore, split between the Centre and States in a 60:40 ratio.
    • Representatives of UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have both funded Swacch Bharat projects, said they were working on faecal sludge management projects for phase two, but expected that greater attention and government funding may now be focussed on a new piped water scheme.
    • UNICEF study showing that groundwater is 12.7 times less likely to be contaminated in ODF villages than non-ODF villages.
    • 84% of rural homes have no access to piped water while more than 70% of the country’s water is contaminated.
    • For this a new ministry, Jal Shakti Ministry, has been created which is expected to absorb the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry into itself.
    • The scheme ‘Nal se Jal’ to provide piped drinking water to every household will be a
      component of the government’s Jal Jivan Mission.
    • According to a 2018 NITI Aayog report, “600 million Indians face high to extreme water
    • stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
    • By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP. However, government officials and funding agencies stress the importance of a second phase past October, with continued behaviour change and solid and liquid waste management programmes that is required to maintain the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s gains.

    PM MODI TO HEAD CABINET COMMITTEES ON GROWTH, EMPLOYMENT

    Why in News:

    • To address the twin problems of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment, the government has constituted two Cabinet committees to be chaired by Prime Minister.

    Background: / Committee on Investment and Growth:

    • The five-member Committee on Investment and Growth consists of Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister for Road Transport and Highways and MSME Nitin Gadkari and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
    • This committee will be a focussed group to take measures to bring investments and spur growth in the critical sectors including infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture, as the economy is passing through a highly volatile period.

    Reason for the committee on Investment and Growth:

    • With the GDP falling to 5.8% in the last quarter of 2018-19, lowest in last five years, the committee on economic growth will prepare a road map to bring the economy back on the growth trajectory. The GDP growth for 2018-19 was 6.8 %, against the target of 7.2 %.

    Cabinet committee for Employment and Skill Development:

    • The Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development constitutes of 10 members including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Ramesh Pokhriyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, and Hardeep Singh Puri.

    Reasons for the committee for Employment and Skill Development:

    • Employment data for 2017-18, released on May 31, brought out that India’s unemployment
      rate rose to 6.1% in the said period, which is the highest in 45 years.
    • As per the PLFS, which covered 4.3 lakh people across 1.02 lakh households, the unemployment rate among urban workforce was 7.8 per cent, while the unemployment rate for the rural workforce was 5.3 per cent.
    • The unemployment rate of males on the all-India basis was 6.2 per cent, while it was 5.7 per cent in the case of females.
    • It also showed that the unemployment rate for males was higher at 7.1 per cent in urban areas compared to 5.8 per cent in rural areas. Similarly, the unemployment rate for women was also higher in urban areas at 10.8 per cent compared to 3.8 per cent in rural areas.

    About Cabinet committees:

    • Many times, when an activity/agenda of the Government acquires prominence or requires special thrust, a Cabinet Committee may be set up for focussed attention.
    • Government of India’s (transaction of business) rules, 1961, empower the Prime Minister
      to set up, add, reduce or modify the numbers and functions of cabinet committees. Currently, there is six Cabinet committee (except newly formed two committees).
    • These are on
    • 1. Appointments
    • 2. Accommodation
    • 3. Security
    • 4. Economic Affairs
    • 5. Investment
    • 6. Parliamentary Affairs

    FINE-TUNING THE EDUCATION POLICY

    Why in News:

    • The draft National Education Policy, 2019 is out in the public domain, with comments sought from all stakeholders till June 30.

    Background: / What is the New Education Policy for?

    • The extent National Policy on Education, 1986 modified in 1992 required changes to meet the contemporary and futuristic needs of India’s large youth population.
    • A New Education Policy is designed to meet the changing dynamics of the requirements in terms of quality education, innovation and research.
    • The policy aims at making India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.
    • It also focusses on eliminating the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and industry.
    • The Draft Policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

    What are the key changes proposed?

    • Ministry – The committee has proposed to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education (MoE).
    • Curriculum – In school education, a major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure was proposed.
    • The policy calls for an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education.
    • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children was proposed.
    • It consists of –
    • Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2
    • Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5
    • Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8
    • Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12
    • The policy also seeks to reduce content load in school education curriculum.
    • There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra- curricular areas.
    • All subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc will be part of the curricular.
    • Thus, schools will be re-organized into school complexes.
    • The policy promotes active pedagogy to focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21ST century skills.
    • RTE Act – The committee recommends Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18 (currently, 6-14).
    • Teacher education – The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education.
    • It calls for shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions.
    • It proposes moving all teacher preparation/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.
    • The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.
    • Higher education – A restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions was proposed –
    • Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching
    • Type 2: Focused on high quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research
    • Type 3: High quality teaching focused on undergraduate education
    • This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.
    • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs such as BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc of 3- or 4-years duration and having multiple exit and entry options.
    • Institution – A new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog is proposed.
    • This is to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions.
    • The body will also coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
    • The National Research Foundation, an apex body, is proposed for creating a strong research culture.
    • It will help build research capacity across higher education.
    • The four functions of Standard Setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation will be separated and conducted by independent bodies.
    • National Higher Education Regulatory Authority will be the only regulator for all higher education including professional education.
    • The policy proposes to create an accreditation eco-system led by a revamped NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).
    • Professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education was proposed.
    • UGC is to be transformed to Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC).
    • The private and public institutions will be treated on par, and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity.
    • Besides the above, the committee also recommended several new policy initiatives for
    • – promoting internationalization of higher education
    • Strengthening quality open and distance learning Technology integration at all levels of education Facilitating adult and lifelong learning
    • Enhancing participation of under-represented groups
    • Eliminating gender, social category and regional gaps in education outcomes
    • Language – Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new National Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit were proposed.
    • Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) has been recommended.
    • The policy called for the proper implementation of the three-language formula (dating back to 1968) in schools across the country.
    • Accordingly, students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English.
    • In non-Hindi-speaking states, students will have to learn Hindi along with the regional language and English.
    • The controversial three language provision was, however, dropped after protests against it in many states.

    TRANSGENDER RIGHTS BILL TO BE REINTRODUCED

    Why in News:

    • In the first 100 days of the Narendra Modi government’s second term, the Social Justice
      and Empowerment Ministry will reintroduce the lapsed Transgender Persons (Protection
      of Rights) Bill, 2016 and pay out the ₹3,000-crore arrears in the scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students.

    Background: Transgender Rights Bill:

    • The bill creates a statutory obligation on public and private sectors to provide them with
      employment and recognises their right to “self-perceived gender identity”.
    • A transgender person must obtain a certificate of identity as proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to invoke rights under the Bill.
    • It also provides for a grievance redressal mechanism in establishments. It has provisions to establish a National Council for Transgenders.
    • It makes the government responsible for preparing welfare schemes and programmes
      which are “transgender sensitive, non-stigmatising and non-discriminatory”.
    • It holds that it is a crime to push transgender persons into begging or bonded or forced labour.
    • The Bill recognises the rights of transgender persons to live with their families without exclusion and use the facilities of those households in a non-discriminatory manner.
    • Employment – The Bill criminalises begging and prescribes a jail term for 6 months to 2 years for anyone who compels or entices a transgender person to indulge in the act of begging.
    • This may harm the community, since in the absence of employment, transgender persons engage in begging as a means of livelihood.
    • Reservation – The Bill states that the State will ensure the “rescue, protection and rehabilitation” of transgender persons.
    • However, it fails to grant backward class reservation to trans people in education and public employment. Also recognition of civil rights in marriage, divorce and adoption among transgender persons have not been addressed.
    • Rehabilitation – The bill bars forcible separation of transgender persons (including transgender children) from their families, except through court orders.
    • They should either live with their natal “family” (blood or adoptive relations) or sent to rehabilitation centres. However, the bill failed to noted that it was within the family that many transgender persons faced harassment and abuse, and often felt driven to flee their homes.
    • Also, when a parent or immediate family member is unable to take care of a transgender, they should be sent to a rehabilitation centre.

      This controls the right to liberty of a cisgender people (people who identify with the same gender identity they were assigned at birth) and make them subjects of “care” which they do not want or need.

    CENTRE TURNS DOWN RTI PLEA FOR CIC SELECTION DETAILS

    Why in News:

    • The Centre has denied a RTI request for details of the ongoing recruitment process for four vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC), despite a recent Supreme Court order mandating that such information be made public.

    Background: / CIC in Limelight:

    • The Centre is planning to setup bureaucrat-led committees to hear and decide on complaints against the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs).
    • This move has evoked sharp criticism from RTI activists and former Information Commissioners. The proposed change would be in contravention to the current RTI law and therefore is being seen by the CIC as an attempt to erode its independence and undermine its role.
    • The SC had directed the Centre and States to pro-actively disclose all information regarding the recruitment, selection and appointment of candidates.

    Central Information Commission (CIC):

     

    • The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorized quasi-judicial body, established in 2005.
    • It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
    • The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
    • CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

    UDCHALO’ TO GIVE A NEW LEASE OF LIFE TO WOUNDED SOLDIERS

    Why in News:

    • In a bid to make wounded soldiers, who are confined to wheelchairs, self-reliant, an initiative ‘UdChalo’ is all set to take off at the Army’s Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) in Punjab’s Mohali.

    Details:

    • ‘UdChalo’ is a travel portal, that caters for the personal travel of the military and paramilitary forces personnel by aggregating defence fares and getting exclusive discounts.
    • The PRC has joined hands with UdChalo with an aim to empower the disabled military veterans.
    • Purpose in life’

      Paraplegic and quadraplegic veterans have found a purpose in life through ‘UdChalo’, when they interact with fellow soldiers and resolve their concerns. The initiative is unique and has given a new lease of life of these soldiers who are confined to wheelchairs. PRC provides institutionalised care to soldiers, who are wounded in military or insurgency operations and can’t adequately provide for themselves the constant medical care associated with quadriplegia and paraplegia. Currently, PRC has 31 ex-servicemen from across the country.

    MANDATORY HINDI GOES OUT OF DRAFT EDUCATION POLICY

    Why in News:

    • The clause recommending mandatory Hindi teaching in all schools was dropped from the draft National Education Policy, after the Union government faced an intense backlash from States.

    Details:

    • The revised draft retains the recommendation to
      introduce a three-language formula from Class 1 onwards; it simply removes the clause stipulating the specific languages that students must choose.
    • There is substantial space devoted to recognising the diversity and multilingual nature of the country, and giving autonomy to the States.
    • The Centre went into damage control mode, with senior Cabinet Ministers tweeting reassurances that Hindi would not be imposed without further consultations.
    • Finally, the revised draft was uploaded by the Human Resource Development Ministry.
    • In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school.”

    HAVING ONE MINISTER FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT & AGRICULTURE

    Why in News:

    • The appointment of a single person as Union Minister in charge of both agriculture and rural development marks the start of an effort to integrate two departments that have tended to work in isolation with markedly varying performance.

    Background:

    • The government’s track record on rural development has been considered generally good. Following reasons can be attributed to its success; Flagship rural development schemes have been well-funded. They have been target-oriented with clear deadlines
    • Dashboards tracking implementation on a near real-time basis
    • The success in the rural sector has, however, not been seen vis-a-vis agriculture owing to the reasons stated below; Lack of imagination and focus.
    • Sense of purpose and scale has been missing in agriculture-specific programmes. For example – Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, is alleged to have benefited insurance companies more than farmers. Not only have the gross premiums collected by insurers far exceeded the claims paid out but even these have been made with considerable delays.
    • Inability to make any tangible impact on the ground.
    • Not appointing full-time directors in most Indian Council for Agricultural Research Institutions. The average annual growth in the agriculture sector’s gross value added from 2014-15 to 2018-19 was just 2.9 per cent in real (constant prices) terms and 7.6 per cent at current prices. This is as against the required 10.3 per cent growth required for doubling in seven years.

    How will Agriculture and rural coming under a single minister is a good thing?

    • It will help bring in synergies. For example, MGNREGA is viewed as a pure rural scheme when one should be looking at greater convergence with agriculture for achieving the doubling of farm incomes. MGNREGA’s focus would be increased at asset creation on individual farms, as opposed to community-based works.
    • But even as Agriculture and Rural Development has been brought under a single minister, the Centre has created a new Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries. Along with it, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Food Ministry and the Department of Fertilizers would ensure continued fragmentation

    CENTRE IN DAMAGE CONTROL MODE OVER ANTI-HINDI PROTESTS

    Why in News:

    • The draft national education policy recommends a range of reform measures and favours teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states. The move is opposed by many states.

    Background:

    • The draft NEP outlines an ambitious agenda with regard to language teaching, calling for all students from pre-school or Class 1 onwards to be exposed to three or more languages, with the medium of instruction until Class 5 to be the child’s mother tongue or home language. From Class 6 onwards, there can be greater flexibility in the choice of languages
    • This led to outrage in Non-Hindi speaking state of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
    • The Ministry of Human Resource Development on Saturday clarified that it is the draft National Education Policy which has been submitted to the newly appointed HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank by the Chairman Kasturirangan and the members and it is not the policy announced by the government.
    • It added, that after getting feedback from general public, and after consulting State Governments, the National Education Policy will be finalised by Government.

    Three language formulae

    • The three-language formula has its roots back in the year 1948 Origins of the Three Language Policy (1948)
    • Recommendations for the use of TLF at the Secondary School level (1952)
    • The Three-Language Formula was devised in the Chief Ministers’ conferences in 1961
    • The Official adoption of TLF (1968)
    • Implementation and reinforcement of TLF (National educational policy documents 1986, 1988, 2000, 2005, 2016). According to the National Education Policy of 1968, three language formulae
    • First language: Mother tongue or the regional language
    • Second language: Modern Indian language or English (in Hindi-speaking areas) or Hindi or English (in Non-Hindi speaking areas)
    • Third language (not studied as the second language): Modern Indian language or English (in Hindi-speaking areas) or Hindi or English (in Non-Hindi speaking areas).

    Implementation of three language formulae

    • In 2014, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has informed the Lok Sabha that the formula has not been implemented effectively. Implementation of the Centre’s Three- Language Formula for schools all over the country has been uneven owing to various interpretations of the formula by different States.
    • All the States, except Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Tripura, have implemented the Three- Language formula and three languages viz. Hindi, English and State official language are taught in the schools of these States. Hindi is not taught in the States of Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Puducherry. In many States, it has been adopted as 3+/-1 formula, and for the speaker of (linguistic) minority languages it has become a four-language formula as they have to learn their mother tongue, the dominant regional language, English and Hindi.
    • In many of the Hindi speaking States Sanskrit became the third language instead of any modern regional language (preferably South Indian language), whereas the non-Hindi speaking State like Tamil Nadu operates through a two-language formula (Tamil and English). The Union Minister said some boards/institutions permit even foreign languages such as Spanish, French and German in place of Hindi or Sanskrit.

    VENDOR LICENSING FOR SELLING TOBACCO PRODUCTS IN A MONTH

    Why in News:

    • Tamil Nadu is all set to introduce vendor licensing for selling tobacco products. Under this, shopkeepers need to obtain licenses to sell cigarettes and beedis and stand a chance of losing their licenses if they violate rules laid down by the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

    Details:

    • As of now, vendors who violate rules pay fine and go back to selling tobacco products such as cigarettes and beedis. Once vendor licensing is introduced, license is cancelled. This will act as a major deterrent and enforcement will become easy and better.
    • Through this way, access to cigarettes for minors will be reduced. Violations under sections 6 (a) prohibition of sale of tobacco products to minors and 6 (b) prohibition of sale within 100 yards of any educational institution of COTPA would be made implemented.

    Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

    • The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 or COTPA, 2003 is an Act of Parliament of India enacted in 2003 to prohibit advertisement of, and to provide for the regulation of trade and commerce in, and production, supply and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India.
    • It was enacted by Parliament to give effect to Resolution passed by 39th World Health Assembly (WHA), urging member states to implement measures to provide non-smokers protection from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke.

    Provisions:

    • The Act prohibits smoking of tobacco in public places, except in special smoking zones in hotels, restaurants and airports and open spaces.
      Advertisement of tobacco products including cigarettes is prohibited. No person shall participate in advertisement of tobacco product, or allow a medium of publication to be used for advertisement of tobacco products.
    • Tobacco products cannot be sold to person below the age of 18 years, and in places within 100 yards radius from the outer boundary of an institution of education, which includes school colleges and institutions of higher learning established or recognized by an appropriate authority.
    • Cigarette packets are required to carry pictorial warnings of a skull or scorpion or certain prescribed pictorial warnings along with the text SMOKING KILLS and TOBACCO CAUSES MOUTH CANCER in both Hindi and English.
    • A person who advertises tobacco products shall on first conviction shall be punished with up to 2 years in imprisonment or with fine which can extend to Rs. 1000, in case of subsequent conviction shall be punished with up to 5 years in imprisonment or with fine which can extend to Rs. 5000.

    CRITICAL EVALUATION OF CSO AND NSSO MERGER

    Why in News:

    • Government has lately announced that National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) will be merged with Central Statistics Office (CSO) to create the National Statistics Office (NSO).

    Background: / Present order of the government

    • NSO would be headed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) secretary and 3 director generals will assist him. All divisions will report to the secretory through Director Generals.
    • The Data Processing Division (DPD) of the present NSSO would be renamed Data Quality Assurance Division (DQAD) and have the responsibility to bring out quality improvements in survey data.
    • The Field Operation Division (FOD) of the present NSSO will be subordinate office of the MOSPI. There was no mention of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) in the order.

    Problems related to data collection

    • Recently, there have been controversies surrounding data collection and presentation by the government. Economists and investors are increasingly showing that they have little or no confidence in India’s official economic data.
    • A study conducted by NSSO in the 12 months ending June 2017 found that as much as 36 percent of the companies in the MCA-21 database of companies used in India’s GDP calculations could not be traced or were wrongly classified.
    • In the latest controversy, government was accused of holding on to the data provided by NSC, that showed that showed the unemployment rate had touched its highest level in 45 years.
    • In January, 2 members of NSC resigned, because they felt that NSSO is delaying the release of job data due to government pressure. Some of the economists are of the view that government has overestimated the GDP growth. For example, government upwardly revised GDP growth for 2016/17 to 8.2 percent from 6.7 percent. Economists and investors are now voting with their feet by using alternative sources of data and in some cases creating their own benchmarks to measure the Indian economy.

    Present structure for data collection

    • Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) came into existence as an independent ministry in 1999 after the merger of the Department of Statistics and the Department of Programme Implementation. The Statistics Wing re-designated as National Statistics Office (NSO), consists of the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Apart from the above wings, there is National Statistical Commission (NSC) created through a resolution of Government of India and one autonomous institute, viz., Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) declared as an institute of national importance by an Act of Parliament.

    CSO

    • The Central Statistics Office (CSO), an attached office of the Ministry, coordinates the statistical activities in the country and evolves statistical standards.
    • Its activities include compilation of national accounts, index of industrial production, consumer price indices (urban/rural/combined) etc.

    NSSO

    • NSSO was established in 1950 as an organisation outside government control. It was formed as a part of the Indian Statistical Institute, as an independent, non-bureaucratic, national level socio-economic data gathering organisation. In 1972, NSSO came under the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation. It is responsible for conduct of large- scale sample surveys, in diverse fields, on all India basis. Primary data is collected regularly through nationwide household surveys on various socio-economic subjects like health, education and Annual Survey of Industries (ASI).

    Wayahead:

    • At present there is greater need to bring accountability and transparency in the process of development and governance, whereas government moves appear to promote greater centralisation and administrative convenience, particularly in the area of statistical information generation.

    PROJECT: ‘SAFE NEIGHBOURHOOD FOR EVERY CHILD’

    Why in News:

    • Childline Kozhikode is planning to launch a new project titled ‘Safe neighbourhood for every child’ in the district soon, in view of the increasing physical and sexual offences on children in the district.

    Background:

    • The project will be implemented with the help of various agencies including residents’
    • associations and Kudumbashree.

    Child abuse cases

    • A recent data released by Childline shows that close relatives and neighbours are the key offenders in most of the sexual and physical abuse cases in which children are victims.
    • Members of the family are behind at least one-third of the total abuse cases.
    • While boys in the 11-15 age group are most prone to physical abuses of different nature, girls of the age group 6 to 16 are most prone to sexual abuse. The number of serious sexual abuse is much higher as against sexual harassment cases. It has been noted that parental conflicts often lead to abuse of the children caught in between in many houses. However, a comforting feature is that parents/guardians of abused children have become increasingly willing to file complaints and move legally. In the 120 sexual offence cases, the guardians filed a complaint willingly in 90 cases.

    Kudumbashree

    • Kudumbashree  is   the  poverty  eradication  and   women  empowerment  programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala. Its main features include democratic leadership, and support structures formed from the ‘Kudumbashree family’.
    • Kudumbashree was set up in 199. Kudumbashree has a three-tier structure for its women community network, with Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs) at the lowest level, Area Development Societies (ADS) at the middle level, and Community Development Societies (CDS) at the local government level.

    ICMR HEAD BALRAM BHARGAVA WINS DR. LEE JONG-WOOK PRIZE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH

    Why in News:

    • ICMR head Balram Bhargava wins Dr. Lee Jong- wook Prize for Public Health

    Background: / ICMR:

    • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is
    • today the apex and premier medical research organization in the country which spearheads planning, formulation, coordination, implementation and promotion of biomedical research.
    • It is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world.
    • In 1911, Government of India made a historic decision to establish Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) with the specific objectives of sponsoring and coordinating medical research in the country.
    • After Independence, in 1949, the IRFA was re-designated as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) with considerably expansion in its functions and activities.

    Mandate

    • Apex body in India for formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research
    • Conduct, coordinate and implement medical research for the benefit of the Society
    • Translating medical innovations in to products/processes and introducing them in to the public health system

    Vision

    • Translating Research into Action for improving the health of the population

    Mission

    • Generate, manage and disseminate new knowledge.
    • Increase focus on research on the health problems of the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and marginalized section of the society. Harness and
    • encourage the use of modern biology tools in addressing health concerns of the country.
    • Encourage innovations and translation related to diagnostics, treatment, methods/ vaccines for prevention.
    • Inculcate a culture of research in academia especially medical colleges and other health research institutions by strengthening infra-structure and human resource.
    • Integrate research in different systems of medicine.

    Network

    • Today ICMR has pan-India presence with 26 research institutes mandated to work on national health research needs with the ICMR Headquarter as the nodal point of all ICMR funded extramural and intramural research. There are 14 divisions at ICMR Headquarters that deals with different areas of medical research.

    INSTITUTES OF EMINENCE SCHEME

    Why in News?

    • The human resource development (HRD) ministry is likely to move the Cabinet soon to increase by half the number of educational establishments that can be tagged “institutes of eminence”, or IoEs, offering them greater autonomy. The ministry wants the number increased to 30 from the original 20.

    Highlights:

    • The institutes of eminence scheme under the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry
      It aims to project Indian institutes to global recognition.
    • Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag.
    • The selection shall be made through challenge method mode by the Empowered Expert Committee constituted for the purpose.
    • Institutions with the eminence tag would be allowed greater autonomy without having to report to the University Grants Commission (UGC).
    • They would be able to admit foreign students and recruit faculty from abroad, and follow a flexible course and fee structure to enable them to vault to the ranks of the top global institutions.
    • Six institutes – the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, and Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore in the public sector and BITS Pilani, Manipal Institute and Jio Institute in the private sector — have so far been given the tag.

    NEW INCOME TAX RULE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS

    Why in News:

    • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has revised the rules applicable in case of filing of Form 15 H, allowing Section 87A rebate.

    What is Form 15 H?

    • The Form 15 H is a declaration under section 197A (1C) of the Income Tax Act.
    • This is to be made by an individual who is of the age of 60 years or more claiming certain incomes without deduction of tax, i.e. TDS.
    • The form needs to be submitted to any institution such as a bank.
    • It deducts TDS if interest income exceeds Rs 50,000 a year (Rs 40,000 for non-senior citizens).

    What is Section 87A?

    • Under Section 87A of the Income Tax Act, an assessee, being an individual resident in India, whose total income does not exceed Rs 5 lakh, shall be entitled to a deduction.
    • This will be a deduction from the amount of income-tax (as before allowing the deductions) on the total income with which s/he is chargeable for any assessment year.
    • The deduction will be an amount equal to 100% of such income-tax or an amount of Rs 12,500, whichever is less.

    What is the new rule?

    • CBDT has notified that the Form 15H declaration will cover the Section 87A rebate. The new rule is applicable for the financial year 2019-20.
    • The new rule will benefit those senior citizens whose tax liability will be Nil after allowing rebate under Section 87A.
    • This means that if they are able to keep their total taxable income within Rs 5 lakh, they will face no tax and will be eligible to file Form 15H.
    • Those who have interest income as the only source of income will stand to benefit from this change. The new rule will help reduce the running around for tax refund for those who now become eligible for submission of Form 15 H.

    CBDT

    • The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. CBDT consists of a Chairman and six Members.
    • The officials of the Board in their ex-officio capacity also function as a Division of the Ministry dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.

    HIGHER EDUCATION TO GET A BOOST WITH ₹1.5 LAKH CRORE ACTION PLAN

    Why in News:

    • The Ministry of Human Resource Development plans to launch an ambitious ₹1.5 lakh crore action plan to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the next five years.

    Background: / EQUIP:

    • EQUIP stands for the Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme and was crafted by ten committees led by experts within the government
    • The ten committees have drafted strategy to improve access to higher education, especially for underserved communities; improve the gross enrolment ration; improve teaching and learning processes; build educational infrastructure; improve the
    • quality of research and innovation; use technology and online learning tools; and work on accreditation systems, governance structures and financing.

    What were the recommendations of Subramaniam committee?

    • T.S.R.Subramaniam committee was formed in the year 2015 and the committee submitted following recommendations.
    • Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with the cadre controlling authority vesting Resource HRD ministry.
    • The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers.
    • Compulsory licensing for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory.
    • Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right. The no detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class V when the child will be 11 years old.
    • A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
    • The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. The University Grants Commission (UGC) needs to be made leaner and thinner and given the role of disbursal of scholarships and fellowships.
    • Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India.

    What are the issues with these recommendations?

    • The original report recommended that political parties to be banned from appointing Vice Chancellors for universities.
    • A radical reform it had recommended is separate bureaucratic framework for HRD functions.
    • An autonomous body to handle the selection of teachers for government schools and colleges was also recommended.
    • These recommendations may not have been new, but nearly all of them broke with the dogmas of the past.

    What is the purpose of new committee?

    • The government is not satisfied with the reports of TSR Subramanian Committee.
    • Fresh and comprehensive reports are the main objectives for the government to announce the new committee. The new committee will be headed by ISRO chief K Kasturirangan.
    • The new committee will consider inputs from the Subramanian committee reports.

    What should be done?

    • The government’s intention on reforming education would be successful only when it is ready to accept the recommendations and implement them.

    UNDER RENT ACT, THE TENANT HAS A PROTECTED STATUS: SC

    Why in News:

    The Supreme Court has held that Owner cannot demand re-possession of property without following statutory procedure.

    Background: / East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949:

    • Under the Act, the tenant has a protected status.
    • That status cannot be disrupted or brought to an end except on grounds specified in the enactment.

    How prevalent is tenant farming?

    • Tenant farmers are those who undertake farming on rented land.
    • Tenant farming was 20.6% of the operating area according to 8th round of NSSO Report in 1953-54.
    • In 2002-03, it fell sharply to just 6.6% of the operating area.
    • Policymakers focused on abolition of feudal/semi-feudal agrarian structure, with tenancy reforms aimed at conferring ownership right to tenants.
    • But post liberalisation, during 2003-13, tenancy increased to 10.4%.
    • Andhra Pradesh (35.7%), Bihar (22.7%), Haryana (14.8%), Odisha (16.9 %), TN (13.5%)  and WB (14.7%) lead the tenancy league, far above the all-India average of 10.4%.

    What are the policy shortfalls?

    • Tenant farmers account for 80% of farmers’ suicides in the country.
    • Tenant farmers rarely get bank credit and they do not get any subsidies.
    • Even with Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) and JLGs (Joint liability groups-‘Bhoomi Heen Kisan’) in
    • place, tenant farmers receive barely 3% of total farm credit.
    • Loan waivers have not helped tenant farmers as a significant number of crop loans are availed by the land owners even when they are not the actual cultivators.
    • Tenant farmers with no documentary evidence become ineligible for crop insurance under PM Fasal Bima Yojana.
    • State level panel data of NABARD indicates that a 10% increase in agricultural growth leads to a 2.1% rise in GDP.
    • But uneconomic holdings, lack of adequate credit flow and poor insurance cover to the tenant farmers prevent such growth.

    What are the notable state models in lending?

    • Kerala is the only State that enacted the Money Lending Act, protecting borrowers from high rates of interest and tenants from excesses in private debt.
    • The AP government has adopted and refined the implementation process under the AP
    • Licensed Cultivators’ Act 2011.
    • It undertook digitisation of land records and created a webland portal.
    • Loan Eligibility Cards (LEC) or a Certification of Cultivation (CoC) is issued by the designated authority of revenue or agriculture department.
    • A standard operating procedure has been put in place for the banks to record the crop loans issued to all farmers including tenants, on the webland portal.
    • Telangana did not annul the AP law, but took up a massive drive for digitisation.
    • It  revised  the  land  records  under  the  Dharani project (Telangana Land Records Management System).
    • This is being implemented for direct transfer of Rs. 4,000 per owner-farmer per acre per crop season to meet the input needs.
    • Besides, farmers are entitled to Rs. 5 lakh insurance with the LIC, with the State paying the same.
    • Tenant farmers are, however, not eligible.

    How does the future look?

    • As the Indian economy becomes mature and inclusive, tenancy is likely to increase further. Urbanisation has made inroads into the rural landscape, and with land being scarce there is severe demand for it.
    • Tenancy and sharecropping have become livelihood options in agriculture, to supplement incomes arising out of lesser availability of land.

    What could be done?

    • An inclusive growth agenda requires that tenant farmers’ issues of both debt and insurance
    • be tackled.
    • Agricultural insurance needs to be decoupled from crop loans.
    • Farmers’ assets (crop husbandry, animal husbandry, poultry, horticulture and family assets)
    • need to be insured irrespective of owned or leased-in. Other relevant measures for tenant farming may include – creating a legal framework for the States
    • issuance of loan eligibility cards
    • ensuring that banks lend to cultivators and not owners
    • creation of web-based land portals after digitising land records setting targets for short-term production credit for tenant farmers formation of JLGs
    • Direct cash transfer to tenant farmers following an affidavit of self-declared tenancy conditions and crop(s) grown can help significantly.
    • NABARD can set up a Tenant Farmers Development Fund to refinance short-term credit.
    • It can also assist JLGs, SHGs, FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations), and pay crop insurance premium for crop loans less than Rs. 1 lakh, besides providing skilling and calamity relief.

    ICELAND CANYON WANTS NO MORE VISITORS, THANKS TO JUSTIN BIEBER

    Why in News:

    • After bieber’s I’ll Show You was shot at the spot, the footfall of tourists in the region rose,
      leaving deep scars on its vegetation.

    Details:

    • A large sign warns motorists that Iceland’s Fjadrárgljúfur canyon is closed to visitors but drivers keep on coming down the narrow gravel road.
    • A ranger at a roadblock has to explain why no one can pass: the vulnerable landscape cannot sustain more visitors. Bieber’s magical music video I’ll Show You was filmed at the
      canyon and seen by millions, creating overwhelming demand for the once-pristine spot
    • Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited Iceland, compared with just 6,00,000 eight years ago. The 20% annual uptick in visitors has been out of proportion with infrastructure that is needed to protect Iceland’s volcanic landscape, where soil forms slowly and erodes quickly.
    • The nearby Skūgar waterfall and the Svţnafells glacier are also backdrops in the fictional Thrones world of warriors and dragons.

    Arctic Council

  • It was established in 1996 by Ottawa Declaration.
  • Headquarter: Tromso, in Norway.
  • Members (8): Russia, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark (representing Greenland and Faroe Islands), Canada and United States).
  • It is a high-level intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by Arctic states, its indigenous people and its other inhabitants seeks to promote coordination, cooperation and interaction among them on common issues but mainly on environmental protection and sustainable development in Arctic.
  • India and Arctic Region

    • Indian researchers have been studying whether there is a co-relation between Indian monsoon and the Arctic region.
    • National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, an Indian institute under Ministry of Earth Sciences, has set up research station, ‘Himadri’, in Svalbard (Norway). It studies and works on mass balance of glaciers, effect of climate warming on marine system, clouds formation and precipitation and also effect on biodiversity.

    NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF NUTRITION STANDS BY ITS REPORT ON NO ONION, GARLIC IN ITS MEALS

    Why in News:

    • The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) said on Tuesday that it stands by its findings certifying mid- day meals without onion
      and garlic provided by the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) in karnataka schools as compliant with nutritional norms laid down by the State government.

    Background:

    NIN: / Aim:

    • To achieve optimal nutrition status that is conducive for mental, physical and social well- being of all Indians.

    Provisions:

    • Periodic Assessment of Nutrient intakes, Health and Nutrition status of the population for optimal health, and assist the Government and regulatory bodies in policy making.
    • Establishment of Dietary Reference Intake values, Recommended Dietary allowances, Dietary guidelines for Indian population; and assessment of Nutrient Composition of Foods. Identify various nutrition deficiency disorders prevalent among different segments of the population.
    • Conduct operational research for planning and implementation of National Nutrition Programmes in the country. Conduct surveys and study the risk factors of NCDs through multidisciplinary research.
    • Conduct innovative basic science Research on nutrient interactions, requirements, responses etc. Identify and study food and environmental safety challenges for providing scientific input for policy and regulation. Development of human resource in nutrition and also provide evidence-based nutrition knowledge to the community.
    • Akshaya Patra Foundation:

      • Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) Mid-Day Meal Programme serving wholesome food every school day to over 1.76 million children from 14,702 schools across 12 states in India.

    VERY FEW TAKERS FOR RTE QUOTA SEATS

    • After the State government amended the rules to prioritise government and aided schools. Admissions for only 28% of the total 7,346 seats allotted during the first round under the reservation quota have been completed.
    • The number of seats and applications, too, have declined. This trend is the result of new rules which mandate that a child can be admitted to a private school under the quota only if there is no government or aided school in the locality.

    Right to Education (RTE) Act:

    • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
    • This act is an embodiment of Article 21-A, which says that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
    • Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010
    • It is seen as the most historic development in universalisation of elementary education in the country.
    • It implies that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years has Right to elementary education. They are entitled for free and compulsory education.

    Salient features:

    • The RTE Act provides for the right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
    • It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
    • It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
    • It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
    • It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
    • It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
    • It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
      The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the main vehicle for implementation of the RTE Act. It is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world.

    • It is primarily funded from central budget and it covers the whole country.
    • Under SSA, special attention has been given to urban deprived children, children affected by periodic migration and children living in remote and scattered habitations. Attempts have also been made to reach out to children suffering from autism. It involves their identification, preparation of individualized Education Plan, teacher training on Autism and therapeutic support.

    SUBSTANTIVE EQUALITY: ON SC/ST GOVERNMENT STAFF

    why in news:

    • The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the validity of a new Karnataka law granting reservation in promotions to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) employees.

    Background: / Various judgements related to SC/ST reservations in promotion:

    1. Indhira Sawhney Case (1992):

    • In Indira Sawhney case, where it was held that once SCs and STs were part of the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, and there was no need to prove backwardness.
    • Hence, SC ruled that States need not collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of SC/ST for giving quota in job promotion to SC/ST employees.
    • It had not made any changes to application of ‘creamy layer’ principle in reservation in promotion of SC/STs.

    2.  Nagaraj Case (2006):

    • The Supreme Court had held that the state was not bound to provide reservation in promotions to SCs/STs.
    • But in case any state wished to make such a provision, it was required to –
    • Collect quantifiable data on backwardness of the
    • Prove its inadequate representation in public
    • Show no compromise on efficiency of
    • Additionally, the state was also required to ensure that the reservation does not breach the 50% ceiling.
    • The ruling also said that the ‘creamy layer’ concept applies to SCs and STs for promotions in government jobs.

    3.  Jarnail Singh Case (2018):

    • The court set aside the requirement to collect quantifiable data that was stipulated by its 2006 verdict in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India as it ignored the reasoning of a nine-judge bench in Indra Sawhney (1992) that any discussion on creamy layer “has no relevance” in the context of SC/STs.
    • The court has taken more than a decade to correct an anomaly in the Nagaraj case which brought in a creamy layer filter for promotions for SC/ST employees. This resulted in thousands of employees being denied their due promotions.

    Way Ahead:

    • The court said special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level playing field. 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, it pointed out.

    ODISHA SET TO INTROSPECT POST-DISASTER COMMUNICATION

    Why in News:

    • The State control room was not able to establish regular communication (telephone, FAX, HAM radio and VHF) with the district headquarters, resulting in utter confusion in relief and rescue operations after cyclone Fani.

    Background: / Cyclone Fani:

    What is the Issue?

    • A powerful cyclonic storm named Fani is headed towards the Odisha coast.
    • As a cyclone in Bay of Bengal in April-May season, of this nature, is unusual, it is essential to understand the causes.

    How do tropical cyclones form?

    • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters. It depends on the temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 metres. This has to be at least 28°C to support the formation of a cyclone. This explains why the April-May and October- December periods are conducive for cyclones. Secondly, the low level of air above the waters needs to have an ‘anticlockwise’ rotation in the northern hemisphere and vice versa. During these periods, there lies the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) (a low pressure zone) in the Bay of Bengal region, which shifts with seasons. The southern boundary of the zone experiences winds from west to east and the northern boundary from east to west. The ITCZ and the resultant wind pattern induce the anticlockwise rotation of air. Once formed, cyclones in this area usually move northwest.
    • As it travels over the sea, the cyclone gathers more moist air from the warm sea, and adds to its strength.

    How and Why is Fani different?

    • Tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are graded according to maximum wind speeds at their centre as follows:
    • Depressions – 30 to 60 km per hour (kph)
    • Cyclonic storms – 61 to 88 kph
    • Severe cyclonic storms – 89 to 117 kph
    • Very severe cyclonic storms – 118 to 166 kph
    • Extremely severe cyclonic storms – 167 to 221 kph
    • Super cyclones – 222 kph or higher
    • Fani is now categorised as an “extremely severe cyclone”.
    • It is expected to generate storms with wind speeds as high as 200 km per hour.
    • It has the potential to cause widespread damage in Odisha and neighbouring states.
    • Given the above discussed reasons, a cyclone of this nature is unusual for April-May cyclones in India. Fani is different mainly on account of its place of origin, and the route it has taken. Origin – The in situ cyclonic systems in the Bay of Bengal usually originate around latitude 10° N (in line with Chennai).
    • But Fani originated quite close to the Equator, around latitude 2° N, well below the Sri Lankan landmass. The forecast landfall on the Odisha coast is at a latitude of almost 20°N. As it has originated very close to the Equator, it has taken a long route to reach the landmass. Resultantly, it has traversed a long way on the sea, and thus gained more strength. Route – Fani was initially headed north-westwards, towards the Tamil Nadu coast. But it changed its course midway and moved northeast away from the coastline to reach Odisha.
    • The recurve it has taken gave it more time over the sea and has ensured that it has gathered unusual strength.

    B2B TECH START-UPS TREBLE IN 5 YEARS: STUDY

    Why in News:

    • Business-to-business (B2B) technology start-ups have more than trebled in the last five years driven by the spurt in the need for digital transformation of enterprises, financial institutions, hospitals, government and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), among others.

    Details:

    • While the number of such ventures has increased from 900 to over 3,200, the investment in such start-ups touched $3.7 billion in 2018, a rise of 364% from $797 million in 2014, as per a study
    • According to the study, 70% of the B2B start-ups are in the area of enterprise technology, financial technology and health technology.

    Growth of B2C

    • However, the growth in the number of B2C technology start-ups has been comparatively slower since there were 2,200 such B2C ventures in 2014.
    • Within the B2B technology segment, ‘advanced tech start-ups’ have grown at a higher pace when compared to the entire technology start-up segment.
    • Advanced B2B tech start-ups typically deal in 3D printing, blockchain and robotic process automation.

    Bengaluru leads

    • Bengaluru is the top city for B2B technology start-ups followed by Delhi NCR and Mumbai, with the three cities accounting for about 60% of all B2B technology start-ups.
    • Further, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai are poised to be the growing start-up hubs on account of flexible economic policies, State government support and access to various industries.
    • There are over 50 corporate accelerators and incubators in the country, focussing on technologies such as AI/ML, Big Data, Cloud, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, among others,”

    Different types of e-commerce

    • Business-to-business (B2B)
    • Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
    • Business-to-government (B2G)
    • Consumer-to-consumer (C2C)
    • Government to consumer (G2C)
    • Government-to-business (G2B)

    JUSTICE BOBDE PANEL GIVES CLEAN CHIT TO CJI IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT PROBE

    Why in News:

    • The Justice S.A. Bobde in-house committee has found “no substance” in the sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former Supreme Court staff member against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

    Details:

    • As part of the in-house procedure, the report would not be placed in the public domain, the court added. The inquiry was by nature purely preliminary, ad hoc and only for the purpose of getting information. The report was “wholly confidential” and existed “only for the purpose of satisfaction that such a report has been made”.

    What were the earlier Vishaka guidelines?

    • The Vishaka guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan judgment in 1997.
    • It imposes three key obligations on employing institutions – prohibition, prevention, and redress. The institutions are mandated to establish a Complaints Committee.
    • This was to look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. These guidelines are legally binding

    Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace

    • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Actwas passed in 2013. It broadens the Vishaka guidelines, which were already in place.
    • An aggrieved victim is a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
    • The Act thus covers the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity. Sexual harassment is any one or more of “unwelcome acts or behaviour”,committed directly or by implication. They include:
    • Physical contact & advances
    • A demand or request for sexual favours
    • Sexually coloured remarks, Showing pornography
    • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

    CBI SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE ON ELEVEN ‘MURDERED’ GIRLS

    Why in News

    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is searching for evidence related to the 11 girls believed to have been murdered in shelter home in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. CBI files 7th status report in Muzaffarpur shelter home case

    Details:

    • The agency got wind of the alleged murders from the rescued children.
    • In its seventh status report to the Supreme Court, the CBI, which is facing allegations that its probe into the grisly case is “hogwash”, said a scrutiny of the girls’ home register at Muzaffarpur had so far revealed that a total of 35 girls with identical or similar names had lived there at one point of time or the other. A “field-level verification” of the existence of these girls is also under way.

    CBI

    • The CBI was established as the Special Police Establishment in 1941, to enquire into cases of corruption in the procurement during the Second World War.
    • With time the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption recommends the establishment of CBI. The CBI was then established by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry of Personnel eventually took over the responsibility of CBI and now it plays the role of an attached office.
    • The CBI is the premier investigating agency of the Central Government. It is not a statutory body; it derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
    • The important role of CBI is prevention of corruption and maintaining integrity in administration.

    BEYOND THE FREE TRADE IDEALISM

    Why in News?

    • An ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the top priority for the next government

    Details:

    • The U.S. has begun trade skirmishes with India.
    • It objects to India increasing import duties on electronic goods and wants India to reduce duties on U.S.-made motorcycles. Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation seems to be in the intensive care unit. It is time to apply fundamental principles to reshape a trade regime that is fair to all.

    On free trade

    • Dani Rodrik has estimated that for every unit of overall increase in global income, six or seven units of incomes will have to be shuffled around within.
    • Moreover, according to this theory, people should not start producing what others are already producing, because they will produce less efficiently until they learn to do it well. According to this theory of free trade, Indians should not have bothered to learn how to produce trucks, buses and two-wheelers when the country became independent. They should have continued to import them from American, European and Japanese companies.
    • Free trade purists say that easy import of products from other countries increases consumer welfare. Consumers everywhere welcome a lowering of import barriers because it brings products into their shops they could only dream of before
    • Therefore, resistance to free trade does not come from consumers.
    • It generally comes from companies which cannot compete: companies in less developed countries which are not able to compete until their country’s infrastructure is improved and they have acquired sufficient capabilities, or even from companies in developed countries when producers in developing countries overtake them.

     

    Job growth:

    • However, to benefit from easy imports, citizens need incomes to buy the products and services available. Therefore, they need jobs that will provide them adequate incomes.
    • Any government responsible for the welfare of its citizens has to be concerned about the growth of jobs in the country. Domestic producers can provide jobs.
    • Therefore, a developing country needs a good ‘industrial policy’ to
    • accelerate the growth of domestic production, by building on its
    • competitive advantages; and by developing those capabilities, it can compete with producers in countries that ‘developed’ earlier.
    • India liberalised imports in the 1990s and Indian consumers have benefited greatly since then from the variety of products available to them from around the world.
    • The manufacturing sector in India and China had comparable capabilities in 1990.
    • By 2009, China’s was 10 times larger than India’s, and its capital goods production sector was 50 times larger. Not only was the Indian market being flooded with Chinese hand- tools and toys, China was also selling high-tech electrical and telecommunication equipment to India (and around the world too).
    • Some people in government recommended the need for an ‘industrial policy’ to stimulate
    • the growth of domestic production
    • However, many Indian economists, along with others from the World Bank and the U.S., pushed back
    • If Indian industry was not growing, it was because India had not ‘reformed’ enough: India should reduce trade barriers further and government should get further out of the way of industry,

    The Next step

    • By 2019, it has become clear that India’s policy-makers must find a way for economic growth to produce more income-generating opportunities for Indian citizens.
    • Employment and incomes are the most pressing issues for Indian citizens according to all pre-election surveys of what citizens expect from the next government
    • Therefore, an ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the highest priority for the next government.
    • The scope of ‘industry’ must be broadened to include all sectors that can build on India’s competitive advantages.
    • For example, the tourism and hospitality industry, taking advantage of India’s remarkable diversity of cultures and natural beauty, has the potential to support millions of small enterprises in all parts of the country
    • There are lessons India can learn from its own history. With the government’s insistence in the pre-liberalisation era , India’s automobile sector was able to provide Indian consumers with good products. Indian auto-component producers and commercial vehicle producers export to the world’s most competitive markets.
    • The WTO’s governance needs to be overhauled to promote the welfare of citizens in all countries, especially poorer ones, rather than lowering barriers to exports of companies in rich countries in the guise of free trade idealism
    • A robust ‘Incomes and Employment Policy’, supported by an imaginative Industrial Policy, must guide India’s trade policy.

    THE LIMITS OF POPULISM

    • It is very difficult for an incumbent government to offer biographical solutions to structural problems.

    Details:

    • Democracy and populism are cousins.
    • Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were charismatic but not populist as they assumed a guiding role vis-à-vis the people rather than getting subsumed by their worldview. Gandhi didn’t hesitate to
    • withdraw the non-cooperation movement in the aftermath of Chauri Chaura when it gained momentum, and Nehru stood for secularism and scientific rationality in the midst of Partition’s mass frenzy. The popular and the populist can be perfect strangers or bedfellows, and their transition into populism lies in a social, political and electoral mix.

    History of populist elections

    • Against this backdrop, post-Independence India witnessed the first populist national election transcending into populism in 1971, on the plank of Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao” slogan. That populism made the leader and the led coterminous. Since 1971, India has witnessed three more populist national elections transcending into populisms of various kinds, in 1977, 1989 and 2014, when the collective democratic quest in the electoral arena seemed to be for a saviour rather than a leader.
    • On every occasion election appeared like a biography of a new saviour.

    The story since 2014

    • A ‘Hindu-Hriday-Samrat’ to the Hindutva constituency, a ‘developmentalist’ for the corporate and middle class, a ray of hope for the rural masses, an ultra-nationalist for those sensing a national drift, a ‘chaiwala’ for the poor, and an insider-outsider to the masses feeling vanquished by the very system that is supposed to empower them. Thus, the circle of electoral populism that emerged from the leftward vantage point in 1971 got completed in 2014 with the right-wing populism. India is in a post-charismatic leadership phase. How this phenomenon unfolds in these Lok Sabha elections is yet to be seen, but one big takeaway lies in the fact that a populist election without a charismatic leader cannot transcend into populism.

    A fractured narrative

    • Populism is no more the defining feature of Indian politics and, by extension, of Indian democracy. All the narratives offered are fractured, including that of nationalism. In all likelihood, the Lok Sabha elections, too, will yield a fractured mandate. A fractured mandate at this juncture will be a good omen for Indian politics as democracy mustn’t be reduced to the biography of a leader.

    PARTIES SEEK CREDIT FOR ENCLAVE EXCHANGE

    Enclave exchange settlements

    • The India–Bangladesh enclaves, also known as the chitmahals and sometimes called pasha enclaves, were the enclaves along the Bangladesh–India border in Bangladesh and the Indian states of west Bengal, Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya.

    Agreement

    • The Land Boundary Agreement was signed on 16 May 1974 between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which provided for the exchange of enclaves and the surrender of adverse possessions.

    Details:

    • It becomes the responsibilities of the governments of India and Bangladesh to ensure that there is no discrimination against them. The deal also opens the door for collaboration with Bangladesh for transit facilities to India’s landlocked North-East, a long-standing demand of India crucial for developing the vast insurgency-riven region.
    • This deal also helps check illegal migration which has been a major problem which has been termed as demographic invasion driving to out populate indigenous community and region. Smuggling of goods, drugs, trafficking of women and children can all also be put under check.

    Increase in VVPAT numbers will delay counting

    Over 20 opposition party leaders had moved the Supreme Court, seeking physical verification of at least 50% of the votes cast on EVMs to ensure the purity of the process.
    The petition has challenged the decision of the Commission to check VVPATs of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency. The petitioners have said that this will account only for 0.44 per cent of the votes polled.

    Reply of ECI:

    • The current confidence level in the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)-VVPAT accuracy was 99.9936%. Any increase in the sample size of verification of VVPAT slips would only lead to a “very negligible gain in the confidence level.
    • The 50% Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slip verification in each Assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency or Assembly Constituency on an average shall enlarge the time required for counting to about six days.

    About VVPAT:

    • The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters. It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines. It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
    • This second line of verification process was introduced after allegations around Electronic Voting Machines’ tampering cropped up.

    How does VVPAT functions?

    • When a voter presses the button on the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machine against the chosen candidate, a printed VVPAT slip is displayed for 7 seconds before it’s automatically cut and delivered to a sealed ballot compartment.
    • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.
    • The VVPAT slip contains the following details:

      • A candidate’s serial number
      • Name of the candidate
      • Corresponding symbol

    Election Commission regularly monitoring J&K situation

    Governor’s rule to expire

    • Jammu and Kashmir is under President’s rule since January and there were no plans to dissolve the Assembly yet.
    • Since J&K has a separate Constitution, Governor’s rule is imposed under Section 92 for six months after an approval by the President.
    • In case the Assembly is not dissolved within six months, President’s rule under Article 356 is extended to the State.

    Centre has to decide

    • There are no plans to dissolve the Assembly yet.
    • The decision to hold fresh Assembly elections in the State lies with the Centre and the Election Commission.

    Governor’s rule in J&K

    • In all states of India, the state government’s failure results in President’s rule.
    • The process is slightly more nuanced in Jammu and Kashmir where not the President’s but Governor’s rule is imposed.
    • The Constitution of India grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir among Indian states, and it is the only state in India to have a separate Constitution and regulations specific to it.
    • Under the provision of Section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, Governor’s rule is imposed for six months, but only after the consent of the President of India.
    • The President’s rule in other states of India is imposed under Article 356 of the Constitution of India.
    • Under the Governor’s rule, the State Assembly is either kept in suspended animation or dissolved.
    • If it is not possible to restore the state machinery before the expiry of the six-month period, the provision is extended.
    • The Governor’s rule was imposed on the state for the first time in March 1977, when the Congress withdrew support to National Conference (NC) government led by the late Sheikh Abdullah.
    • Among notable differences with other states, till 1965, the head of state in Jammu and Kashmir was called Sadr-e-Riyasat, whereas in other state, the title was Governor, and head of government was called Prime Minister in place of Chief Minister in other states.

    Political parties yet to comply with RTI Act

    • In a time of deep political polarisation, refusing to comply with the RTI Act seems to be one of the few issues that has united national parties across the ideological spectrum.
    • Despite a June 2013 ruling from the Central Information Commission (CIC) that they fall within the ambit of the transparency law, parties insist that they cannot be considered public authorities under the Act.
    • Six years on, with another Lok Sabha election in the offing, the Supreme Court is set to adjudicate on the issue.
    • National political parties are the main players as far as elections are concerned. In a democratic system of governance, it is essential that they are held accountable by informed citizens. But most political parties refused to comment publicly on the issue, saying it was sub judice.

    RTI not extended to political parties:

    1. The Election Commission has said in an order that political parties are out of the purview of the RTI Act

    2. This is contrary to the Central Information Commission’s directive bringing six national parties under the transparency law

    RTI act enforcement

    • When it comes to the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission is the only appellate authority which may declare a body as a public authority if it is convinced that the organization fits into the criteria for being under the Right to Information Act
    • The Central Information Commission has declared six national political parties as a public authority
    • The Election Commission cannot take a position contrary to that unless the order of the CIC has been overturned by the Supreme Court or High Courts

    Central Information Commission

    • The Central Information Commission has been constituted under the Right to Information Act, 2005
    • The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities
    • The Commission has certain powers and functions mentioned in sections 18, 19, 20 and 25 of the RTI Act, 2005
    • These broadly relate to adjudication in the second appeal for giving information; direction for record keeping, suo moto disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on the inability to file RTI etc; imposition of penalties and Monitoring and Reporting including preparation of an Annual Report
    • The decisions of the Commission are final and binding.
    • The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India
    • CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister

    Right to Information Act 2005:

  • This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. It mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information by various public authorities under Central Government as well as the State Governments.
  • The law imposes penalty for wilful default by government officials.
  • Citizens can ask for anything that government can disclose to Parliament.
  • Objectives of RTI are to empower citizens (as right to information is fundamental right of the citizens under Article 19), promote transparency and accountability in working of Government, check corruption and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
  • Public authorities defined under this law are required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days of the request.
  • The law also mandates every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and proactively certain categories of information so that citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
  • Rights of children caught in parental conflict need focus

    • A proactive step need to be taken to focus on child rights, specifically in cases of parental conflict – Supreme Court.
    • The rights of children caught in the middle of an ugly divorce or a custody battle between parents need specific articulation.

    A quagmire:

    • Divorce and custody battles are a quagmire and it is heart-wrenching to see an innocent child ultimately suffer for the legal and psychological war waged between the parents.
    • The plight of children caught in the emotional roller-coaster of their parents’ divorce and custody battles.

    Psychological harm:

    • The courts and judges could be able to resolve the legal problems of the parents, grant them divorce and send them on their separate ways. But what would become of the psychological harm caused to child who has witnessed the ugliness between the parents
    • The child is unwittingly at the centre of the custody battle, but is yet not a true participant in the process.
    • The child’s psychological balance is deeply affected through the marital disruption.
    • Hence, for the sake of a child’s future relationship with each of his parents, a negotiated settlement is much better than an order imposed by a court after adversarial proceedings.

    DIPP rechristened to include internal trade

    Why in news?

    • The government has notified changing the name of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, and has enhanced its role.

    Highligths:

    • In addition to the previous responsibilities of the erstwhile DIPP relating to general industrial policy, administration of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, industrial management, productivity in industry, and matters related to e- commerce.
    • The notification has also included four new categories of responsibilities the renamed body will be in charge of, including:
    • Promotion of internal trade (including retail trade)
      Welfare of traders and their employees
      Matters relating to facilitating Ease of Doing Business
      Matters relating to start-ups

    DIPP:

    • DIPP was established in the year 1995, and was reconstituted in the year 2000 with the merger of Department of Industrial Development.
    • The department functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
    • It is responsible for formulation and implementation of promotional and developmental measures for growth of the industrial sector, keeping in view the national priorities and socio-economic objectives. While individual Administrative Ministries look after the production, distribution, development and planning aspects of specific industries allocated to them, DIPP is responsible for the overall industrial policy.
    • It is also responsible for facilitating and increasing the foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to the country.
    • It is currently working to frame a new industrial policy, to be the third such policy in India since its independence in 1947.

    Cabinet NOD to merger of skill development bodies

    Why in news?

    • The Union cabinet on has approved the merger of the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) and the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA). The merger is aimed to consolidate fragmented regulatory structures and improve the outcome of the Skill India mission.

    National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET):

    • The National Council for Vocational Education and Training will regulate the functioning of entities engaged in vocational education and training, both long-term and short-term, and establish minimum standards for the functioning of such entities. The primary functions of NCVET will include recognition and regulation, assessment, approval of qualifications developed by different bodies and industry governed sector skill councils. The merger would bring in accountability in skill sector that caters to nearly 15 million students at any given time. This reform will ultimately increase credibility of the skill sector and encourage greater private investment.

    NCVT and NSDA:

    • The NCVT was a regulator and assessment body of the long-term skill education space comprising more than 13,000 industrial training institutions.
    • While the NSDA was policy formulating bodies of the skill development ministry helping it devise training and industry collaboration policy for the Skill India mission.
    • The NCVT had been in existence for more than four decades as part of the directorate general of training, while the NSDA was a relatively new body that came into force in 2013.

    A.R Dave Committee Report

    • Securities and   Exchange   Board   of India  (“SEBI”)   has   constituted   a   High   Level  Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice A. R Dave to review the SEBI (Settlement of Administrative and Civil Proceedings) Regulations, 2014 and the Enforcement mechanism of SEBI and to suggest suitable recommendations as it considers necessary.
    • The Committee has submitted its ‘Report on Settlement Mechanism’ to SEBI on August 10, 2018.

    Settlement Law:

    • In order to protect the interests of investors in securities and to promote the development of and to regulate the securities market, Settlement for securities was introduced in India in the year 2007.
    • With a view to deal with accumulated cases, SEBI felt the need to find an alternate enforcement mechanism to expedite the delivery of justice and towards that end, introduced a settlement process in 2007 that would deal with the arrear of cases and simultaneously ensure the protection of interest of investors and effective regulation and development of the securities market.

    Problems:

    • SEBI also witnessed and faced challenges in its settlement mechanism while dealing with issues such as which cases or violations are to be settled and the manner of settlement as also the terms of settlement.
    • Pertinent questions such as what would constitute a serious violation and who may be permitted to apply for the settlement process has been a constant challenge.
    • Under the present settlement regulations, applications for settling specified proceedings with regard to defaults involving insider trading, serious cases of fraudulent and unfair practices including front running, failure to make open offer, defaults or manipulative practices by mutual funds, AIFs, CIS etc, failure to redress investor grievances, non-compliance of notices and summons issued by Board or the AO, cases involving refund of monies to investors, etc., shall not be settled.
    • In the absence of clear manner of quantifying gains made and losses caused, it is difficult to obtain a fair settlement in serious matters.

    Recommendations:

    • It may be appropriate for the Board to write to the Central Government to request appropriate changes in the Income Tax Act, 1961 on the lines of the US IRC and explore seeking an undertaking, to be reproduced in settlement orders, in respect of non-tax reimbursements.
    • The existing regulations were drafted with the objective that certain serious violations/defaults should not be settled as the settlement regulations must not become a platform where applicants may wilfully violate the securities laws knowing that it may be settled.
    • The Committee is of the opinion that a more arduous approach ought to be adopted to ensure that only genuine applications are filed and the settlement process is not adopted as a means of forum shopping and delaying civil and administrative proceedings.

    India’s First Drone Policy

    • Government of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation announced guidelines on Monday for remotely piloted aircraft — or drones as they are more commonly known — which will come into effect from 1 December, aiming to open up an array of opportunities in the Indian civil aviation sector.
    • The guidelines would help foster technology and innovation in the development of drones ,devices which have an extensive range of applications ranging from disaster relief to agriculture.

    Need of Regulation:

    • Drone technologies have been evolving very rapidly.
    • Many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations and no ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) stands have been developed.
    • India’s security environment necessitates extra precautions.
    • Drone Regulations 1.0 have been formulated as an “all digital process” that will become effective from 1 December, which is when the “Digital Sky” platform will become operative.
    • The new Digital Sky platform will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements a ‘no permission, no take-off’ system for remotely piloted aircraft.
    • Users will be required to make one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners on the platform, which will also allow for online filing of a drone’s specific flight path and use.
    • Every flight users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process permits or denies the request instantly.
    • To prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take-off.
    • The UTM platform operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on approved flight paths.

    Types:

    • The new regulations have categorised drones into five separate types, on the basis of their weight.
    • The rules that apply for the drones will depend on the weight class that they fall into, which begin from under 250 grams and extend to over 150 kilograms.
    • The five types are Nano, micro, small, medium and large.
    • Other than Nano, all other categories of drones need to be registered with the government and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).

    Airspace, too, has been divided by the government into different zones. Here’s what they indicate:

    • Red Zone: Flying not permitted
    • Yellow Zone: Controlled airspace -permission required before flying
    • Green Zone: Uncontrolled airspace – automatic permission
    • Beyond these, there are also specific regions around the country that have been marked as ‘No Drone Zones’. Some of these No Drone Zones that have been defined are areas around airports, those near the international border called “strategic locations/vital and military installations”.

    Significance:

    • The use of remotely piloted aircraft, a kind of drone, is allowed for taking photographs, conducting surveys such as for laying of pipelines and agricultural purposes and surveillance.
    • They can be deployed for spraying of pesticides and delivery of relief material during a natural disaster only on a case-by-case basis.
    • Operations are allowed in daylight and within the visual range or a range of 450 m. Wedding photographers are allowed to use micro drones during night, if they are taking pictures in an enclosed premise which is also well-lit.

    Non-Compliance:

    • In addition to the multiple checks and balances put in place for drone operators, the government will also enforce punitive action against those who do not comply with these new regulations after 1 December.
    • The following enforcement actions have been stated by the civil aviation ministry
    • Suspension or cancellation of UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions
    • Actions as per relevant Sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions
    • Penalties as per applicable sections in the Indian Penal Code (such as 287, 336, 337, 338, or other relevant sections in the IPC)
    • It will encourage a vast Make in India drone industry. These regulations will place the country among the global leaders in drone technology.
    • Our policy roadmap will certainly provide a strong impetus to all players in the drone ecosystem. We hope that these initiatives will enable unto create a vibrant new industry which India’s expertise in technology is characterised by its capacity to devise low-cost solutions.

    Government scraps scientific panels And forms New Council

    Why in news?

    • The government has scrapped two Scientific Advisory Committees (SAC) for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and replaced them with a nine-member, Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).

    PM-STIAC:

    • Government has constituted it as a high-power committee to advise it on policy matters related to science, technology and innovation.
    • According to an official notification, secretaries of all science & technology related ministries are part of the special invitees. These include atomic energy, space, biotechnology, new & renewable energy, environment & forests, agriculture, health & higher education.
    • The committee will advise the Prime Minister on all matters related to S&T, innovation and monitor the implementation of PM’s vision on the same.
    • It will facilitate the formulation and implementation of policies and decisions, provide action-oriented and future preparedness advise and assist in directing S&T to solve the socio-economic problems in the country.
    • It will also have a large focus on driving innovation in education, research, industry etc.

    UPI 2.0

    • NPCI launches UPI 2.0 with overdraft facility. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has upgraded unified payments interface (UPI) with enhanced security features and overdraft facilities.
    • With the launch of UPI 2.0 we hope to touch new milestones by expanding UPI’s presence especially in person-to-merchant payment space.

    About:

    • The UPI 2.0 has enhanced features such as Invoice in the Inbox, Signed Intent/QR, UPI Mandate with Blocking of Funds and UPI for Overdraft Account, all operating in a safe and secure manner.
      • Overdraft facility in addition to current and savings accounts, customers can link their overdraft account to UPI. Thus UPI 2.0 will serve as an additional digital channel to access OD account.
      • One Time Mandate UPI mandate could be used in a scenario where money is to be transferred later by providing commitment at present. UPI 2.0 mandates are created with one-time block functionality for transactions. Customers can pre-authorise a transaction and pay at a later date.
      • Invoice in the inbox This feature is designed for customers to check the invoice sent by merchant prior to making payment. It will help customers to view and verify the credentials and check whether it has come from the right merchant or not.
      • Signed intent & QR This feature is designed for customers to check the authenticity of merchants while scanning QR code.
      • It is a bid to integrate its retail payments infrastructure with businesses, whereby a trader, restaurateur, shopkeeper or SME entrepreneur can send a Goods and Services Tax (GST) invoice or a bill to his customer as an attachment for verification and payment digitally.
      • UPI 2.0-member banks as on date are: State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, RBL Bank, YES Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank, Federal Bank and HSBC.
      • To incorporate signed intent for QR (quick response) code-based payments to provide an additional layer of security.
      • The launch has been the result of the calibrated approach adopted by the Reserve Bank – in the initial years as a developer and in later years as a catalyst and facilitator.
      • As UPI has grown considerably post demonetisation and has been the catalyst for retail payment systems with many banks building products around the UPI with the fintech industry and other IT players positioned at the edge, providing innovative solutions for end-user delight.
      • But UPI 2.0 is a big change and all the apps will need to be changed.

    Unified Payments Interface:

    • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India facilitating inter-bank transactions. The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform
    • It is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
    • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience. Each Bank provides its own UPI App for Android, Windows and iOS mobile platforms.

    NPCI:

    • National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which is the umbrella body for retail payments in the country which was set up in 2009 as the central infrastructure for various retail payment systems in India and was envisaged by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as the payment utility in the country.
    • NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.

    The organisation is owned by a consortium of major banks and has been promoted by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India

    Services:

    • It looks range of services like switching of interbank ATM transactions through National Financial Service, Cheque Truncation System, National Automated Clearing House (NACH), Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS), USSD based *99#, RuPay card, Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), BHIM Aadhaar, National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) and Bharat Bill Pay.

    Innovation Cell and Atal Ranking Of Institutions On Innovation Achievements (Ariia)

    Why in news?

    • The Centre announced another annual ranking of higher educational institutions, based on how they fare in terms of innovation.

    MHRD Innovation Cell (MIC)

    • Innovation cell is MHRD’s initiative established at AICTE with a purpose to systematically foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country.
    • The primary mandate of Innovation Cell is to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years fostered through Network of Innovation clubs in Higher Educational Institutions.

    Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)

    • For India to emerge as a global innovation hub, the youth of our country, especially in higher education institutions (HEIs) need to play a crucial role to create a sustainable innovation ecosystem.
    • Hence, ideally all HEIs should have a comprehensive and functional mechanism to convert research into innovations.
    • This ecosystem will encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years.
    • To ensure that Innovation is primary fulcrum of all HEIs, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of India is introducing ‘Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)’ to systematically rank education institutions and universities primarily on innovation related indicators.
    • ARIIA considers all major indicators which are commonly used globally to rank most innovative education institutions/ universities in the world.
    • ARIIA ranking will certainly inspire Indian institutions to reorient their mind-set and build ecosystems to encourage high quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
    • More than quantity, ARIIA will focus on quality of innovations and will try to measure the real impact created by these innovations nationally and internationally.
    • Moreover, ARIIA will set tone and direction for institutions for future development for making them globally competitive and in forefront of innovation

    Parinam Manjusha

    Why in news?

    • The CBSE has decided to allow students in Kerala who have lost their marksheet, migration certificate and pass certificate in the floods, to retrieve them from its digital academic repository ‘Parinam Manjusha’.

    About Parinam Manjusha:

    • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) ‘s digital academic repository called ‘Parinam Manjusha’, will allow students to find their mark sheets, pass and migration certificates online. It has been developed by the board in collaboration with NEGD (DigiLocker)
    • According to an HT report, employers and educational institutions can use it to verify academic records and students can have the access to their certificates.
    • The users are required to get themselves registered on the website and after paying the verification fee online, they will then be able to check the certificates.
    • The documents will be sent to the employer through mail and the applicant will be notified, thus preventing students from submitting fake documents.
    • The documents will contain a QR code, which can be checked through a mobile-based scanning app that can be downloaded from the website.
    • CBSE and its regional offices can store, access and update academic records of students in a central repository.

    Lateral Entry Into Civil Services

    The personnel Ministry had recently announced recruitment of 10 joint secretaries in select government departments through lateral entry mode.

    Need for Lateral Entry:

    • There is a huge shortfall in a number of recruits, such as 20% shortage of IAS officers in 24 state cadres of India.
    • The Baswan Committeehas pointed out the huge deficit of officers. The government has in March 2017, informed that there is a shortage of over 1,400 IAS and 900 IPS officers in the country. While the total strength should be 6,396 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, however, there are only 4926 officers in the country.
    • There is an unwillingness among officers of the state to undertake Centre deputation.
    • Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target-oriented, which will improve the performance of the government.

    Pros:

    • The lack of specialisation across the top tier of Indian bureaucracy is a concern that has remained unaddressed until now.
    • IAS officers get recruited at a very early age via the UPSC exams. It is difficult to gauge their administrative judgement and capabilities then. Some may pass with flying colours, while others don’t make the cut even later on in their careers. Allowing for lateral entry of seasoned professionals and experts into the service makes up for this deficiency.
    • Career promotions in the IAS move along seamlessly with few impediments along the way. Attempts to introduce ‘meritocracy’ hasn’t quite worked out. Bringing in experts from the professional sphere is expected to shake the IAS out of their comfort zone.
    • This isn’t the first time that the government brought in professionals from the private sector or academia into the top tier of government. Take a look at the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank of India and even the current NITI Aayog, which have hired the likes of Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian and Arvind Panagriya to name a few.
    • The IAS was designed for a time when the State was all-powerful. That reality somewhat changed with liberalisation in 1991, where the state was compelled to cede more space to markets. Therefore, it becomes more critical for the government to ascertain the impact its policy decisions have on various stakeholders such as the private sector, non-profits, and general public, i.e. those who have experienced government from the outside

    Cons:

    • Lateral entrants from the private sector and academia may not work well with the bureaucracy. The same pretty much goes for any inter-sector scenario. Differences in work culture, turf wars and systemic inertia often come in the way.
    • It’s important to gauge what processes the Centre has put in place to ease the transition and establish authority. Candidates coming from the outside may not know the nuances of the system which can be exploited against them in any number of ways.
    • The IAS establishment is likely to baulk at lateral entrants who haven’t made it through probably the hardest open competitive exam in the world, but because of privilege and social networks.
    • One of the distinguishing aspects that the current crop of IAS officers can hold up is their experience in the field, serving some of the poorest districts in our hinterlands. Those entering from privileged backgrounds and the private sector may have never seen a village school.
    • There are also concerns that the introduction of pro-establishment candidates through lateral entry at the position of joint secretary could stifle good civil servants who are resisting against something inadvisable that the government seeks to do.

    Conclusion:

    • India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this. Internal reforms—such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization—and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary.
    • Any new system will take time to evolve. So, one can only hope that those at the top see this through till it becomes efficient and transparent and ensure a way to keep the public informed about it objectively.

    NCRB To Track Complaints On Sexual Violence

    Why in news?

    A high-level meeting was convened to discuss recommendations on ways to curb “sexual violence” videos involving women and children

    About the news:

    • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) would be the designated nodal agency for monitoring the complaints received on a government portal that records child pornography and sexual violence videos.
    • The NCRB would coordinate with service providers such as Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp and ask them to block malicious videos and contents.
    • NCRB derives its power from Information Technology Act, 2000 to take action against such videos.
    • Whenever such incidents are reported, NCRB will write to service providers and ask them to block the content.

    NCRB:

    • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
    • It was set up based on the recommendation of the Task force and National Police Commission by merging the Directorate of Coordination and Police Computer (DCPC), Statistical Branch of BPR&D, Inter State Criminals Data Branch of CBI and Central Finger Print Bureau of CBI.

    Mission:

    • To Empower Indian Police with Information Technology and criminal Intelligence to enable them to uphold law and protect people. To provide leadership and excellence in crime analysis particularly for serious and organized crime.

    Objectives:

    • Create and maintain secure sharable National Databases on crimes and criminals for law enforcement agencies and promote their use for public service delivery.
    • Collect and process crime statistics at the national level and clearing house of information on crime and criminals both at National and International levels.
    • Lead and coordinate development of IT applications and create an enabling IT environment for Police organizations.
    • National repository of fingerprints of all criminals.
    • To evaluate, modernize and promote automation in State Crime Records Bureaux and State Finger Print Bureaux. Training and capacity building in Police

    UIDAI To Roll Out Face Recognition Feature

    The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has announced a phased roll out of face recognition feature as an additional mode of authentication

    Face Recognition:

    • The UIDAI said that ‘live face photo’ capture and its verification with the photo obtained in eKYC will be essential in those cases where Aadhaar is used for issuing mobile SIMs.
    • The move aims at curbing the possibility of fingerprint spoofing or cloning, and seeks to tighten the audit process and security around issuance and activation of mobile SIMs.
    • The Authority announced to roll out face recognition feature as an additional mode of authentication, starting with telecom service providers, from September 15.
    • It has also proposed a monetary disincentive for telcos found slipping on the prescribed targets.
    • For authentication agencies other than telecom service providers, the UIDAI said specific instructions will be issued on implementation of face authentication feature, but did not give a new deadline.
    • The UIDAI has proposed a two-factor authentication for use of face recognition by telcos. Where an individual provides the Aadhaar number, the authentication will be done using fingerprint or iris and face.
    • For individuals providing Virtual ID, the authentication can be on the basis of fingerprint or iris.

    Need for face recognition:

    • Combination of live face with fingerprint in authentication will also enhance Aadhaar security as it will effectively curb fingerprint spoofing.
    • This will ensure that telcos provide face capture facilities to customers who encounter difficulty in authentication due to worn out finger prints.

    UIDAI:

    • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (“Aadhaar Act 2016”) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
    • UIDAI was created with the objective to issue Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India that is
      • Robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities
      • Can be verified and authenticated in an easy, cost-effective way

    CMSMS and ‘KHAN PRAHARI’ App

    • Union Ministry of Coal launched the Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS) and Mobile Application ‘Khan Prahari’.
    • Developed by CMPDI, Ranchi a Subsidiary of CIL and Bhaskarcharya Institute of Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG).
    • CMSMS-The objective of CMSMS is reporting, monitoring and taking suitable action on unauthorised coal mining activities.
    • It is a Web-based GIS application through which location of sites for unauthorised mining can be detected.
    • The basic platform used in the system is of Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s (MeiTY) map which provides village level information. The leasehold boundary of all the coal mines are displayed on this map by which any change in allotted lease area due to unauthorised mining activity can be detected.
    • CMSMS also provide other important information like reclamation work being done by Coal India Limited which is being monitored every year by CMPDI using satellite data

    The ‘Khan Prahari’ App is for reporting any activity taking place related to illegal coal mining like rat hole mining, pilferage etc. One can upload geo-tagged photographs of the incident along with textual information directly to the system.

    The system uses both satellite data and public input to capture information on unauthorised coal mining activities and also take appropriate action on them with due transparency.Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Limited (CMPDI) is a Government of India enterprise having its corporate headquarters at Ranchi in India.

    It is a fully owned subsidiary of Coal India Limited India’s largest consultancy organisation and the market leader in an expanding earth resource sector. CMPDI also handles specialised assignments of Ministry of Coal and CIL. Offering services in the sphere of resource exploration & development in Exploration, Mining ,Coal Preparation, Coal Utilisation and Management, Coal Technology, Coal / Material Handling Arrangement, Engineering,and Environmental Management

    Digi Yatra

    • Under Ministry of Civil Aviation, an Industry – led initiative co-ordinated by the Ministry
    • Brings Together entire industry to develop a digital ecosystem that will deliver Indian Customer’s fully digital at every touch point of their Journey
    • By this initiative we can optimally link Aadhar to airlines and other ecosystem players at the time of booking for faster airport entry and automated check-ins without requiring any paper -based interventions.

    C vigil

    • Election commission of India launched a mobile app called cVIGIL.
    • A user-friendly and easy to operate Android application, requires an Android smartphone equipped with a camera, good internet connection and GPS access
    • It will be operational only where elections are announced. cVIGIL will allow anyone in the election-bound state to report violations of Model Code of Conduct.

    • Citizens can immediately report on incidents of misconduct within minutes of having witnessed them and upload it on this app, without having to rush to the office of the returning officer to lodge a complaint.
    • The automated location mapping will be done using Geographic Information System.
    • After its successful submission through the app, the vigilant citizen gets a Unique ID to track and receive the follow up updates on her or his mobile and will get a unique id for each report for follow up updates.
    • The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential.
    • The app has inbuilt features to prevent its misuse. It will receive complaints only about Model Code of Conduct violations. The user will get 5 minutes to report an incident after having clicked a picture or a video.
    • To prevent any misuse, the app will not allow uploading of the pre-recorded or old images and videos. The app will not facilitate saving of the photos or videos recorded using the ‘cVIGIL’ app into the phone gallery either.
    • Further, the application will be active only in States where elections have been announced. The moment a citizen exits an election-bound State, the app will become inactive

    Drawback in current practice:

    • The complaints about violations of Model Code of Conduct often could not be followed instantly, leading to the violators escaping detection from the action squads.
    • The lack of any documented evidence in the form of pictures or videos was seen as a hurdle in verifying a complaint.
    • The absence of a robust response system to quickly and accurately identify the scene of occurrence of violations with the help of geographical location details hampered election officers’ ability to apprehend the violators
    • The new app is expected to fill in all these gaps and create a fast-track complaint reception and redressal system. A significant step towards empowering of vigilant citizens and to hold political parties and politicians accountable.

    National Health Stack (NHS)

    NITI AAYOG unveiled the blue print of National Health Stack, a shared digital healthcare infrastructure. It is in accordance with National Health Policy 2017 had also envisaged creation of a digital health technology ecosystem aimed at developing an integrated health information system that serves the needs of all stakeholders

    • It is in line with the implementation of the Centre’s flagship scheme Ayushman Bharat and other public healthcare programmes in the country.
    • It envisages a centralized health record for all citizens of the country in order to streamline the health information and facilitate effective management of the same.
    • The components include national health electronic registries, a coverage and claims platform, a federated personal health records framework, a national health analytics platform among others.
      The proposed NHS is an approach to address the challenge and seeks to employ latest technology including Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning Artificial Intelligence, a state of the art Policy Mark-up Language and create a unified health identity of citizens – as they navigate across services across levels of care, i.e. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary and also across Public and Private.
    • This will allow policy makers to further build their projections around upcoming outcomes, experiment with new services as well as fill the existing gaps in the Indian healthcare industry among others.
    • Allow states to incorporate horizontal and vertical expansion of scheme
    • Avoid duplication of efforts.
    • Enable ease of adoption for those without systems or with dysfunctional systems in place.
    • The registrant may create a virtual health ID to preserve their privacy when interacting with other users or stakeholders in the system.
    • Once implemented, it is expected that National Health Stack will significantly “bring down the costs of health protection, converge disparate systems to ensure a cashless and seamlessly integrated experience for the poorest beneficiaries, and promote wellness across the population

    NHS will not only allow policy makers to experiment with policies, detect fraud in health insurance, measure outcomes and move towards smart policy making, but also engage market players (NGOs, researchers, watchdog organisations) to innovate and build relevant services and fill the gaps.