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NLU REPORT ON DEATH SENTENCE

Why in News?

  • The fourth edition of ‘The Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics’ was published by Project 39A of National Law University (NLU), Delhi recently.

Key Findings of the report:

  • The report states that higher number of death sentences awarded in India in recent years relates to the cases of sexual offences. The number of death sentences awarded for murders involving sexual offences in 2019 was the highest in four years.
    • Trial Courts: Imposed 102 death sentences in 2019. The percentage of sexual offences in these cases increased from 41.35% in 2018 to 52.94% in 2019.
    • High Courts:38% of cases of confirmations of death sentences involved sexual offences along with murder.
    • Supreme Court:In 2019, the SC dealt with 27 capital punishment cases, the highest number since 2001. It confirmed the death penalty of seven cases out of which four were of murder involving sexual offences.
    • Warrants Issued:Six death warrants were issued in 2019 against one in 2018, with all warrants eventually stayed by the courts.

Reasons Stated for the rise in death penalty against sexual offences:

  • Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, introducing stringent mandatory minimum punishments and death penalty for penetrative sexual assault on children was a major development.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s amendment to the Indian Penal Code to introduce the death penalty for rape under Disha Act.
  • Widespread discussions on capital punishment in 2019 involving sexual offences against women and children.

About National Law University:

  • It was established in 2008 under the National Law University Act, 2007 with the objective of imparting comprehensive and Interdisciplinary Legal Education.

Project 39A:

  • It is inspired by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, a provision that furthers the intertwined values of equal justice and equal opportunity by removing economic and social barriers.
  • Using empirical research to re-examine practices and policies in the criminal justice system, Project 39A aims to trigger new conversations on legal aid, torture, DNA forensics, mental health in prisons, and the death penalty.

KERALA CHALLENGES CONSTITUTIONALITY OF CAA

Why in News?

  • Kerala has become the first state to move the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA, 2019).

About Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019:

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 seeks to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Buddhist, Hindu, Sikhs, Jain, Parsi and Christian faiths, who have come to India from the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, on or before 31stDecember, 2014.

Key Points regarding Kerala’s Petition:

  • The suit has been filed under Article 131 of the Constitution. Under Article 131, the Supreme Court has “original” jurisdiction in disputes between States or the Centre and State(s). The Article allows the court to directly take cognisance of such a dispute.
  • Kerala has said in its suit that it would be compelled under Article 256 to comply with the CAA, which it considers manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and violative of fundamental rights.Article 256 of the Constitution states that the executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament.
  • Thus, there exists a dispute, involving questions of law and fact, between the State of Kerala and the Union of India, regarding the enforcement of legal rights as a State and as well for the enforcement of the fundamental, constitutional and other legal rights of the inhabitants of the State of Kerala.
  • The Kerala Government has asked for the law to be declared unconstitutional and in violation of:
    • Article 14 (Equality Before Law),
    • Article 21 (Protection of life and Personal Liberty) and
    • Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and Free Profession, Practice, and propagation of religion).
  • It has also sought directions to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, and Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015, to be “ultra vires the Constitution of India and to be void”.

CAA (vs) International Obligations:

  • As per the petition, the amendments also violate India’s international obligations under:

1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Which Provides that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • Which Provides that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality) and

2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

  • which provides that all persons are equal before the law, that all persons are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law and that the law shall prohibit any discrimination.

Article 131 of the Constitution (Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court):

  • The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in any dispute:
    • Between the Government of India and one or more States; or
    • Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
    • Between two or more States.

Supreme Court’s Stand on Article 131:

  • There have been two conflicting judgments from the Supreme Court on whether a State can file an original suit under Article 131 to challenge the constitutionality of a central law.
    • The first judgment reported in 2012 – State of Madhya Pradesh (vs) Union of India – held that States cannot challenge a central law under Article 131.
    • The second judgment – State of Jharkhand (vs) State of Bihar – took the opposite view in 2015 and referred the question of law to a larger Bench of the Supreme Court for final determination. Kerala’s plaint relies on this verdict.

How Article 132 is different from Article 32?

  • Unlike the original jurisdiction under Article 32 (which gives the Supreme Court the power to issue writs, etc.), the jurisdiction in Article 131 is exclusive, meaning it is only the Supreme Court which has this authority. Under Article 226, the High Courts too have the power to issue writs, directions etc.

MANDATORY GOLD HALLMARKING NORMS IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The Department of Consumer Affairs has released the notification regarding mandatory hallmarking of Gold jewellery & artefacts in India.
  • Gold Hallmarking is a purity certification which started in 2000. Earlier, it was optional for the jewellers and thus only 40% of gold jewellery was getting Hallmarked.

Key Points of the Notification:

  • The notification will make hallmarking of gold jewellery mandatory from January, 2021.
  • The jewellers have been given one year time to register with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)and clear their stocks if not hallmarked yet.
  • Hallmarked gold jewellery will be only in three grades – 14-carat, 18-carat and 22-carat instead of current availability of ten grades. It will contain four marks: BIS mark, purity in carat, assay centre’s name and jewellers’ identification mark.
  • The rule is applicable only on sales by retailers and not to consumers. However, it is available for consumers who want to get their old jewellery hallmarked.
  • Anybody found violating the provision, will have to pay a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh or 5 times the price of the article.
  • The government had informed about these hallmarking norms to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which will help exporters get to know the changes in advance in importing country like India.

Reasons for Gold Hallmarking:

  • India is the world’s largest importer of gold, with annual imports of 700-800 tonne.
  • The mandatory hallmarking will protect the public against lower caratage and ensure consumers do not get cheated while buying gold ornaments.
  • It will also help to get the purity as marked on the ornaments. It will bring in transparency and assure the consumers of Quality.
  • The new system will weed out anomalies and corruption in the system of manufacturing of Jewellery.

About Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS):

  • BIS is the National Standard Body of India for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods.
  • The Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act, 2016 establishes BIS as the National Standards Body of India.
  • BIS (Hallmarking) Regulations, 2018 under the BIS act calls for Hallmarking of:
    • Gold jewellery and gold artefacts
    • Silver jewellery and silver artefacts
  • Penal provisions for better and effective compliance have been made stringent under BIS (Hallmarking) Regulations, 2018

 

SC TELLS GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW ORDERS CURBING BASIC RIGHTS IN J&K

Why in News?

  • Supreme Court has recently declared that the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to carry on trade or business using the Internet are constitutionally protected. This judgment came in the backdrop of the five-month-long Internet shutdown in Kashmir.

What did the SC order?

  • SC directed the government to review orderssuspending Internet services in the erstwhile State instantly and held that any order suspending the Internet found to violate the law should be revoked at once.
  • The Court also asked Home Ministry for justification and reason for internet shutdown and whether the action was proportionate to the imminent threat to law and order.
  • The Court said that expression through the Internet has gained contemporary relevance and is one of the major means of information diffusion and laid out essential guidelines that Internet shutdowns cannot be Arbitrary and can be challenged in court of law.
  • The Court also instructed the government to consider restoring government websites, localised/limited e-banking facilities, hospital services and other essential services in areas in the Union Territory, where it was otherwise not thinking to do so immediately.

Legal Framework in India to suspend Internet services:

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000, The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 and The Telegraph Act, 1885 are the three laws that deal with suspension of Internet services.
  • The government in 2017 notified Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017under Telegraph Act to suspend internet.
  • Before 2017, Internet suspension orders were issued underSection 144 of PC, which empowers a district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate to issue orders to prevent and address urgent cases of apprehended danger or if they believe immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable to control the situation.

Does the Government still use section 144 of Cr.PC. for internet shutdown?

  • Despite the 2017 rules, the government has often used the broad powers under Section 144 to shutdown internet.
  • Amid protest in the country against Citizenship Amendment Act, District Magistrates are using section 144 in many districts for temporary suspension of internet.
  • However, no order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order, unless the state government considers it necessary. Even then, the total period cannot extend to more than six months.
  • The court recognised that Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 are the only procedureto be followed to suspend Internet services in the occurrence of a “public emergency” or for it to be “in the interest of public safety”.

About Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017

  • As per 2017 Rules, the competent authorityto issue an order under the Suspension Rules are:
    • In ordinary circumstances, would be the Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • By the Secretary to the State Government in-charge of the Home Department in the case of a State Government,
    • And in unavoidable circumstances, where obtaining of prior direction is not feasible, such order may be issued by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who has been duly authorised by the Union Home Secretary or the State Home Secretary.
  • If the order for suspension of telecom services has been issued by the officer authorised by the Union Home Secretary or the State Home Secretary, then such order must be confirmed by the competent authority within 24 hours of issuing such order.
  • If the order is not confirmed within 24 hours by the competent authority, then the order shall cease to exist.  The orders to suspend internet shall contain reasons for such direction and a copy of such order shall be forwarded to the concerned Review Committee latest by next working day.
  • The Central Government or the State Governments shall constitute a Review Committee. The Review Committee shall meet within five working days of issue of directions for suspension of services due to public emergency or public safety and record its findings whether the directions issued were as per rules and laws or whether they were arbitrary.

HOME MINISTRY ISSUES REVISED NORMS FOR DATA-LED PROBES

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued revised guidelines to streamline the process of seeking legal assistance from foreign countries in criminal matters. The revised guidelines will direct how data requests are processed in any Criminal Investigations.

About the Guidelines:

  • The revised guidelines includes the process for issuing directives on drafting and processing letters of request, mutual legal assistance requests and service of summons, notices and other judicial documents.
  • Most intermediaries and social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Yahoo!, Twitter and YouTube have their servers outside India. And thus Indian investigation agencies need to follow a particular procedure to access the data from these platforms.
  • The revised norms have come in the backdrop of recently tabled Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in the parliament.

Key Points of the Revised Guidelines:

1. Criteria to seek Information from Foreign Countries:

  • Before seeking information about a person’s e-mail account hosted on servers in foreign countries, investigating agencies will have to establish that it is linked to a crime.

2. Data Preservation:

  • Data preservation is the key to the investigation of cyber-offences and those involving digital evidence.
  • Accessing the internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) creates important records and other information such as customer records, connection information and stored data.
  • These are very important evidence to prove the guilt intention of the Accused.
  • Since this type of evidence can disappear quickly, it is important to get the data preserved through Appropriate Channels.

3. Place for Data Preservation:

  • The G-8 24/7 Network allows law enforcement agencies to make urgent preservation requests of the digital data before it perishes.
  • The request for data may be sent to the service provider or to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) — the contact point for India with respect to G-8 24/7 Network.

4. Time Period:

  • The requested country has to be informed about the time period for which the data is required.
  • Such period shall be consented by the requested country.
  • The transferred data shall be kept for no longer than the period required for the purpose for which it has been received and shall be returned to the requested country or deleted at the end of the period specified.

About G-8 24/7 Network:

The G8 24/7 provides for investigations involving electronic evidence that require urgent assistance from Foreign Law Enforcement.
Therefore, to enhance and supplement (but not replace) traditional methods of obtaining assistance, the G8 countries has created this network.
It is a new mechanism to expedite contacts between the Participating States or other autonomous law enforcement jurisdictions of a State.
It is a point to point network for urgent assistance in Cybercrime Matters.

MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission of India on Monday announced the schedule for Delhi assembly elections. It would be a single-phase election for 70 assembly seats in Delhi on February 8 bringing the model code of conductinto Force.

Model Code of Conduct (MCC):

  • The Model Code of Conduct for guidance of political parties and candidates is a set of norms which has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
  • The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections, to ensure free and fair elections. This is in keeping with Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.

Why MCC is Needed?

  • Free and fair elections form the bed rock of democracy. This envisages a level playing field for the contestants and an equal opportunity for all parties for presenting their policies and programmes to voters.  In this context the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) gains relevance as it intends to provide a level playing field for all political parties, keep the campaign fair and healthy, avoid clashes and conflicts between parties, and ensure peace and order.
  • It aims to ensure that the ruling party, either at the Centre or in the States, does not misuse its official position to gain an unfair advantage in an election.

Salient features of the Model Code of Conduct:

  • The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.

Union of India v Harbans Sigh Jalal and Others:

  • In the case of Union of India v Harbans Sigh Jalal and Others, Supreme Court ruled that Code of Conduct would come into force the moment the Election Commission issues the press release, which precedes the notification by a good two weeks.
  • This ruling ended the controversy related to the dates of enforcement of MCC.
  • Thus, the MCC remains in force from the date of announcement of elections till the completion of elections. It is applicable during Lok Sabha Elections, elections to State Legislative Assembly and also during by-elections.
  • However, the MCC does not have statutory backingand it remains only guidelines to be followed during elections and to be executed by the Election Commission of India.

Duration of MCC:

  • The Model Code of Conduct is enforced from the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission and is operational till the processes of elections are completed.

Applicability of Code:

  • During general elections to House of People (Lok Sabha), the code is applicable throughout the country.
  • During general elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha), the code is applicable in the entire State.
  • During bye-elections, the code is applicable in the entire district or districts in which the Constituency Falls.

Whether a Minister can combine his official visit with Electioneering Work?

  • No, The Ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not also make use of official machinery or personnel during the electioneering work.

Whether Govt. can make transfers and Postings of Officials who are related to Election Work?

  • There shall be a total ban on the transfer and posting of all officers/officials directly or indirectly connected with the conduct of the election.
  • If any transfer or posting of an officer is considered necessary, prior approval of the Commission shall be obtained.

Recent Amendment to MCC:

  • The Election Commission (EC) has amended the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and has prohibited political parties from releasing their manifestos in the last 48 hours leading up to voting in each phase of the coming Lok Sabha elections.
  • This change has been made in Part 8 of the MCC, which deals with poll manifestos. The EC’s decision stems from the recommendation of a 14-member committee set up to revisit the MCC.

TUSSLE OVER BELGAUM

Why in News?

  • The rising tension along the Maharashtra- Karnataka border recently has brought back the border dispute over Belgaum into limelight again. The border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belagavi district is a longstanding issue. Let’s discuss the issue in brief in this article.

Background:

  • After India’s Independence, there was demand for the formation of states on linguistic lines. Accordingly, the States Reorganization committee was formed. The Committee recommended for the formation of states on linguistic lines, while keeping in mind the administration efficiency.
  • Based upon recommendations of this committee, Belgaum was included in the Karnataka State in the year 1956. This was done so, because in the year 1881, Kannada Speaking population comprised the majority and the Marathi speaking population comprised of only around 25%.
  • Subsequently, the Maharashtra Government objected to the inclusion of Marathi-speaking areas under Karnataka and petitioned the Centre to set up a committee to look into the issue.

Arguments and Counter Arguments of Both States:

  • Claims of Maharashtra:
    • Maharashtra claims Belgaum district mainly on the grounds of geographical contiguity, relative linguistic majority and wishes of the people.
    • It has also laid claim over Karwar (a city in Uttara Kananda District) where Konkani is spoken by citing Konkani as a dialect of Marathi.
    • Maharashtra has also claimed these areas on historical grounds by pointing out that the revenue records in these areas were kept in Marathi during the British era.
  • Stance of Karnataka:
    • It has argued that the settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act should be treated as final.
    • The State argues that the issue would reopen border issues that have not been contemplated under the Act, and that such a demand should not be permitted.

 Mahajan Committee on Border Dispute:

  • Recommendations: In order to resolve the border dispute, the Central Government appointed Mahajan Committee in 1960.
  • The committee recommended for the following:

    1.Continued Inclusion of Belgaum city in Karnataka.
    2.Around 247 villages/places from Maharashtra such as Sholapur should be transferred to Karnataka.
    3.Around 264 villages/places from Karnataka such as Nippani, Khanapur should be transferred to Maharashtra
    4.Transfer of Kasaragod District from Kerala to Karnataka.

  • Both Maharashtra and Kerala Government rejected the recommendations of the committee. The Maharashtra Government termed the report biased and insisted that the report is against the wishes of the people of Belgaum. On the other hand, Kerala Government refused to hand over Kasaragod.

ALL INDIA JUDICIAL SERVICE, A PANACEA FOR ALL

Why in News?

  • NITI Aayog in its strategy document “Strategy for India@75”, had proposed for the creation of AIJS to bring about the Judicial Reforms and improve the Judicial Administration.
  • However, an Independent think tank known as Vidhi Centre for legal Policy has recently opposed the creation of AIJS.
  • The Debate regarding the Creation of All India Judicial Service has been lingering for almost 60 years in the backdrop of judicial reforms. There are both proponents and opponents to this idea of creating AlJS.  This article discusses about the pros and cons of setting up AJIS in brief.

Present Process of Recruitment and Appointment of Judges:

Single Integrated Judiciary:

  • Some of the Federal countries such as USA have adopted dual system of courts wherein the Federal courts decide on the Federal laws while the State courts decide on the State laws. Thus, in such countries, the Jurisdiction of the courts is well-defined. However, in case of India, In spite of being a Federal country, we have adopted single Integrated Judiciary.

Recruitment and Appointment of Judges:

  • Presently, under the Indian Constitution, the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court are appointed by the President.
  • Whereas, under Article 233 and Article 234, the Judges at the district court and lower subordinate courts are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the concerned high court and State Public Service Commission.
  • So, in case of India, even though we have adopted a single integrated judiciary, there is clear cut demarcation of powers with respect to appointment of Judges. While the Judges for the Supreme Court and High court are appointed by the Centre, whereas the Judges at the district courts and subordinate courts are appointed by the concerned State Governments.

All India Judicial Service (AIJS):

  • The Idea of the AIJS is to have centralized recruitment mechanism for the appointment of the Judges at the district and subordinate courts. This is similar to the IAS and IPS wherein all India exams are conducted by UPSC and subsequently the successful candidates are appointed by the Centre and allocated to the different states.
  • Similarly, in case of AIJS, the UPSC (or any other similar body) would conduct all India Judicial Service Examination for the appointment of District Judges and Judges at the subordinate courts.

 Constitutional Provisions relating to AIJS:

  • Under Article 312 of the Indian Constitution, the Rajya Sabha can pass a resolution supported by at least 2/3 of the members present and voting for the creation of new All India Service. Presently, the IAS and IPS are deemed to be all India Services.
  • So, under Article 312, the RS has to pass resolution. It must be followed by the amendments to Article 233 and Article 234. However, since these amendments are not deemed to be constitutional amendments under Article 368 and hence approval of the state Governments is not needed for the creation of AIJS.

 Proposals for AIJS

  • The proposal for the creation of AIJS was first mooted by the Law commission in the year 1958. Further, in the recent times the Union Law Minister has constantly argued for the creation of AIJS.
  • The NITI Aayog has also mooted the proposal for the creation of AIJS in its strategy document known as “Strategy for India @75”.
  • Majority of the experts also opine that the creation of AIJS is one of the major Judicial reforms that can address the pendency of the cases before the lower Judiciary and it would improve the overall efficiency of the Judicial administration.

Why do We Need AIJS?

  • The various problems existing with the Lower Judiciary (District Courts and Subordinate Courts) have raised the need for AIJS. So let’s have a brief look on the various problems existing in the lower judiciary.
  1. 1.Huge Pendency of Cases: Presently, there are around 3.5 crore cases which are pending across the different courts in India. Out of this, almost around 88% of the cases are pending before the Subordinate courts. This huge pendency of cases is leading to undue delay in the administration of the Justice and hence it is undermining the rule of Law.
  1. 2.Huge Vacancies in Lower Judiciary: According to the Economic Survey 2018-19, there are almost around 2,579 vacancies in the lower judiciary at the district courts and subordinate courts. Most of the state Governments are unable to fill up the existing vacancies and hence the lower judiciary is functioning below the sanctioned strength.

 How the AIJS would help to Overcome the Existing Issues?

1.Timely Recruitment:

  • In some of the states, the exams for the appointment for the appointment for the lower judiciary have not been held every year leading to huge vacancies. Once the AIJS is established, the UPSC would conduct exams annually and ensure that all the vacancies are filled up. Hence, setting up of AIJS would lead to timely recruitment of judges at the lower judiciary.

2.Uniformity in Judicial Administration:

  • Presently, there are large scale differences among the states in term of number of the vacancies in the lower judiciary. In some of the states such as Maharashtra, the number of vacancies is quite less. However, in states such as UP there are almost 42% vacancies in the lower judiciary. The Creation of AIJS would help us solve this problem. This is so because once the exam results are announced, the candidates would be allocated to the different states based on the total number of vacancies. Thus, the AIJS would be able to bring about the Uniformity in the Judicial administration across the multiple states in India.

3.Improvement in Efficiency of Judicial Administration:

  • The AIJS would attract the best talent in the country and hence it would be able to maintain high standards of Judicial administration.

4.Promote National Integration:

  • The AIJS would be able to promote all-India outlook and promote the national integration. This is so because the candidates may be posted in states other than their own state. Hence, the Judicial officers can function beyond their regional and linguistic interest.

5.Beneficial to the states:

  • Some of the states that are poor in human resources may not be able to find the best talent within their state for the recruitment of the judges at the lower judiciary. The AIJS would be able to solve this problem by conducting all India Exams and appointing the best talent from other states in such resource poor states.

6.Representation of Marginalized section:

  • By following the reservation system in the recruitment, the underrepresented communities get represented in the judiciary. This makes the judiciary more diverse and to represent true democracy in decision-making.

Why AIJS is sternly opposed?

1.Goes against the Federalism:

  • Presently, it is the responsibility of the state Governments to appoint the Judges at the lower Judiciary. Hence, any changes in the Judicial structure have to be approved by the State Legislatures. However, as discussed before, the AIJS can be established without any constitutional amendment wherein the prior approval of the State legislature is not needed.

2.Problem of Language:

  • In pursuance of the powers vested with the state Governments in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, most of the state governments have declared the local language to be the language of the court in the lower judiciary.
  • Accordingly, most of the arguments and counter arguments in the lower judiciary are presented in the local regional language. Further, the witnesses also provide their statements in the local regional language. Hence, the Judges in the lower judiciary need to be proficient in the local regional language.
  • However, once the AIJS is established, a person from one state may get appointed to another state and hence he may not be proficient in the local language. Hence, even though, such a person may be exceptionally talented, but the lack of proficiency of the regional language may act as a handicap. This is precisely the reason, some of the southern states have opposed the idea of AIJS.

3.Demoralize the State Judicial Service Officers:

  • Presently, the state judicial officers appointed at the lowest cadre rise through the hierarchy and are promoted to be appointed as District Judges.
  • Once the AIJS is established, the district Judges would be directly appointed and hence it would reduce the promotional avenues for the state judicial officers. Hence, some of the states have opposed the AIJS since it would demoralize the state judicial officers.

4.Unequal Representation of States in AIJS:

  • Presently, in case of All India Services, there is a lack of uniform representation among states and there exists a domination of officers from certain states such as UP, Bihar, TN, AP etc.

5.Violates the sons of the Soil aspect.

IRDAI NORMS FOR STANDARD HEALTH COVER

Why in News?

  • The IRDAI has recently issued guidelines on standard individual health insurance to offer a product that can take care of basic health needs of customers with a maximum sum insured of ₹5 lakh and a minimum of ₹1 lakh.
  • In order to make health insurance policies more transparent and inclusive, the IRDAI guidelines has been issued, which also standardize health insurance policies in our country.

Background Info:

  • While the health space in India is witnessing changing technology and novel treatments, the health insurance policies have to increase their scope in order to keep apace.
  • The health insurance sector in India is clogged with issues including lack of awareness about exclusion lists, claim denials, reduced payouts etc.
  • In this backdrop, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), has prepared guidelines to standardize health insurance policies in India.
  • The major objective of these guidelines are to:
    • Standardize Exclusion list
    • Increase Transparency and
    • Enhance Uniformity and Inclusiveness and
    • Make them Consumer-friendly

Challenges in Health Insurance Products:

1. Non- inclusion of Modern Technologies:

  • The Current Health Insurance Policies do not cover a number of novel treatments and medical procedures in case of critical illnesses.
  • The ‘exclusion list’in most health insurance policies currently incorporates the novel medical procedures such as  robotic surgery, hormone replacement therapy, balloon
  • sinuplasty, oral chemotherapy, cyber knife, stem cell therapy including implants, laser surgery in case of cataract, dental treatment and other aesthetic surgeries.
  • This increases the out-of-pocket expenditure of the patient.

2. Non-inclusion of New-age Diseases:

I. Life-Style Disorders:

  • As a result of growing urbanization, changing lifestyles and nutrition transition, we are witnessing changes in the disease profile in the population with increasing lifestyle disorders including non-communicable diseases.
  • Most insurance policies do not cover these lifestyle diseases such as infertility, obesity and other chronic degenerative, physiological diseases.

II. Non-communicable Diseases:

  • Non-communicable diseases contribute to 61.8% of the disease burden in India today.
  • Non communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases etc covered under current insurance policies have high waiting periods and thus prove to be ineffective.

3. Lack of Transparency:

  • One of the major concerns in health insurance sector in India is non-declarationor Misrepresentation of material facts in the policy contract.
  • In addition, lack of Standard Terminologies, Ambiguous Wordingsin the policy contract discourages insurance penetration among consumers.

4. Pricing Mechanism

  • The pricing mechanism of health insurance products is heavily dependent on a number of non-payables including non-medical consumables such as toiletries, cosmetics, administrative costs, room charges etc.
  • Further the add-on features in the health insurance product significantly increase the price of the insurance product.
  • Without the knowledge of non-payablesthe consumer end up paying more than expected increasing the out-of-pocket expenditure.
  • This is a major hurdle for health insurance penetrationin India.

Guidelines for Standard Health Insurance Policy:

  • In order to overcome the aforesaid challenges, the IRDA has released guidelines to be followed by insurance companies in India for designing a standard health insurance policy.

 

Main Features of the Guidelines:

1. Basic Cover

  • The standard health insurance product should have a minimum basic sum insured of ₹1 Lakh and a maximum limit of ₹5 Lakh.
  • The standard health insurance product standardizes entry-age to cover those in the age bracket 18-65years.
  • This is aimed at increasing the health insurance penetration in India which is less than 20%.

2. Need-based Coverage:

  • The standard health insurance product should a product with basic mandatory covers and no additional or add-on covers.
  • This will standardize the pricing mechanism to a Great Extent.

3. Standardize Exclusion List

  • In 2012 IRDA had released a standard exclusion list of 199 products.
  • Now the regulator is set to streamline the exclusion list in order to minimize the items in the list.
  • The exclusion list will have pre-decided list of diseases which are not covered under the product.
  • Besides the exclusion list will be based on diseases and not treatments.
  • Thus the ‘basic cover’ under the standard health insurance product will cover novel treatments like intensive care unit, treatment of Cataract, Dental Treatment, Plastic Surgery due to disease or injury etc.

4.Enhanced coverage including AYUSH:

  • The standard medi-claim product must also include expenses incurred on treatment under Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy subject to fixed and standard sub-limits.

5. Post and Pre hospitalization Expenses:

  • The standard product should include pre-hospitalisation costs for a period of not less than 30 days prior to the date of hospitalisation and post hospitalization medical expenses incurred for a period of not less than 60 days from the date of discharge.

6. Incentive to Wellness

  • The product will include incentives to wellness in General.
  • This will be done through free regular health check-ups, disease management, fitness activities etc.

About IRDAI:

  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority is an autonomous bodyresponsible for regulating insurance industry in India.
  • IRDA is a statutory bodyset up under the IRDA Act, 1999.
  • It is further entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the policyholders and increase insurance penetration in the country.

Main Functions:

  • Frames regulations for insurance industry.
  • Registrations of new insurance companies
  • Monitoring insurance sector activities
  • Licensing and establishing norms for insurance intermediaries
  • Regulating and overseeing premium rates and terms of non-life insurance covers
  • Ensuring the maintenance of solvency margin by insurance companies
  • Ensuring insurance coverage in rural areas and of vulnerable sections of society.

THE NEED FOR A SINGLE ENERGY MINISTRY

Why in News?

  • There have been multiple proposals to the government to merge the various ministries that deals with energy sector.
  • So, the existing scenario in the energy sector and factors favouring the unification of ministries are discussed in brief.

Existing issues in the Energy Sector:

1. Five different Ministries along with a multitude of regulatory bodies govern India’s Energy Sector:

  • The ministries that are responsible for regulation of the energy sector are as follows:
  • Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (Regulators under the Ministry are – Directorate General of Hydrocarbons and Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board)
  • Ministry of Coal
  • Ministry of Power (Central Electricity Regulatory Commissions, DISCOMs)
  • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
  • Department of Atomic Energy

2. Fragmented Data Collection:

  • No single agency collects energy data in a wholesome and integrated manner for the energy sector in India.
  • Data pertaining to consumption is barely available while supply side data is collected by agencies of respective ministries are riddled with gaps.
  • Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation collates data from various ministries and conducts surveys at sporadic intervals.

3. Energy Efficiency:

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency is the sole authority with the mandate to regulate energy efficiency on the consumption side. There is no agency for the same purpose on the supply side.
  • This leads to problems such as:-

1.Problem of coordination
2.Suboptimal utilisation of resources
3.Undermining of efforts of energy security
4.Each ministry inadvertently promotes its own fuels over other choices, which may not always be the best option.
5.Turf wars between different ministries
6.Regulatory Cholesterol and Unease of doing business

  • Thus, there is a need for Unified Energy Ministry.

Suggestions of NITI Aayog in Draft Energy Policy:

  • NITI Aayog has advocated for a Unified Ministry of Energy to be created by merging Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of Coal, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Ministry of Power.
  • The Department of Atomic Energy has been left out as a Independent Agency because of its strategic nature and involves issues of national security.
  • The proposed ministry will have six agencies under it to handle various aspects of Energy Security:

1.Energy Regulatory Agency
2.Energy Data Agency
3.Energy Efficiency Agency
4.Energy Planning and Technical Agency
5.Energy Schemes Implementation Agency
6.Energy R&D agency

 Advantages of a Unified Ministry:

  • Integrated approach to energy security
  • Quicker policy response
  • Focus on both the supply side and demand side of energy sector
  • Holistic collection of data and its management

 Facts favouring unification of related Ministries:

1. Creation of Ministry of Jal Shaktiby integrating Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has led to:

  • 1)Unification of Water Management Functions
  • 2)Treatment of Issues Related to water more holistically
  • 3)Better coordination of efforts

2.Global Experience:

  • Developed and efficient countries such as USA, UK, France and Germany have their vibrant, diverse and prolific energy sectors administered by single ministry or department.
  • There are also instances where the energy ministry is an conjunction with other portfolios such as environment, climate change, mines and industry. For ex. The UK has the ‘Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’.
  • In India, the Departmentally Related Standing Committees of Parliament is a good example of integration of inter-connected subject matters.

How to reorganize a Ministry?

  • As per article 77 (3) of the constitution: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.
  • So as per this provision, Government of India (Allocation of business) Rules, 1961has been enacted to lay down the provisions that how the business should be transacted.
  • So, just by amending this Government of India (Allocation of business) Rules, changes in the ministry can be brought in.
  • It has to be noted that the responsibility of administering this rules lies in the hands of Cabinet secretariat.

NEED A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO ADDRESS CHILD MALNUTRITION

Why in News?

  • Though National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) shows an encouraging improvement in child nutrition, the world level rankings on child nutrition draws a different picture about India.

Reports that pings on Child Nutrition:

  • UNICEF’s report– one in three malnourished child in world belongs to India, half of the children under three years old are underweight and a third of wealthiest children are over-nutrient-ed.
  • The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI)report ranked India 103rd out of 119 countries.
  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in 2017, malnutrition was the predominant risk factor for death in children younger than five in every state of India.
  • According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017,malnutrition is among the leading causes of death and disability in India.

Measures to address the lag in Improving Child Nutrition:

1.Timely Intervention:

  • The focus must be on the pregnant, breastfeeding mother and the child, especially in the first two years of the child’s life, which is the crucial phase for physical, mental and cognitive development.

2.Targeted Approach:

  • A targeted approach is needed because the size of the needy and the budgetary constraints already pose a big challenge.
  • NFHS-4 provided district level data as well, hence the focus should be on the ones which require urgent attention.
  • More public programmes which cover important nutrition-specific areas such as maternal nutrition should be started.

3.No “one size fits all approach”:

  • As these districts are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand , Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat – their governments should make arrangements for the required funds and formulate policies to tackle high incidence of stunting in these districts.
  • Further, even within these districts, the pockets where child malnutrition is high should be identified and the intervention or the target should go down till the clusters of Anganwadis where the problem is concentrated.

4.Policy Implementation based in Real Time Data:

  • Policy initiatives should be guided by accurate real-time data at the sub-district level also.

5.Educating Girls and Spreading Awareness:

  • Efforts should be made to spread messages on hygiene and sanitation, particularly the need to do away with open defecation practices.
  • Similarly, education for girls should be advocated, as should the importance of enabling the financial independence of women through skilling and employment opportunities along with their inclusion in the formal financial network.

6.Sound public Service Delivery Institutions:

  • Lastly, Programmes will have an impact only when there are sound public service delivery mechanisms, especially in the nutrition, health and education sectors.
  • Hence, building a cadre of dedicated professionals in the government needs a high degree of political will and administrative commitment, centred around developing skills and knowledge and building motivation to stay the course.

INDIA NEEDS A BOTTOM-UP GROWTH MODEL

Why in News?

  • There is a wide spread critique about India’s growth model wherein it highlights that higher GDP growth rates in India has failed to translate into Equitable, Inclusive and Sustainable growth of Indian citizens.
  • This article highlights the various defects in the policies of government and the need why the Government must adopt bottom-up and people-centered approach in its policies.

Problems with India’s Growth Model:

  • India has made rapid strides in its economic growth wherein the GDP size has increased from $ 275 bn in 1991 to $ 2.7 trillion in 2019. India has also been considered as the fastest growing major economies across the world.
  • However, such a growth model has failed to promote balanced, equitable and inclusive growth.
  • For instance, India’s ranking on various Human Development Indicators such as HDI, Global Hunger Index (GHI), Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Environmental Performance Index etc. continues to be remain poor. Similarly, the PLFS report has highlighted that the unemployment has increased to 45-year high of 6.1%.

Reasons for the poor outcomes of India’s Growth Model:

1. Prioritising Growth over Development:

  • The Government has excessively focused on enhancing the GDP growth rates without giving due emphasis on enhancing human capabilities. For instance, India’s expenditure on Education and Health is hardly around 3% and 1.3% of the GDP respectively.

2. Pursuing Top-down Approach:

  • Government has failed to incorporate bottom-up and people-centered approach in its policies which could have empowered the people and led to better outcomes.
  • The Government has excessively focused on improving “Ease of doing Business” to attract foreign capital, but it has failed to focus on improving “Ease of living” of its citizens.

3. Absence of Participatory Approach:

  • Most of the Government schemes and programmes are implemented without the involvement of the stakeholders.
  • For instance, one of the reasons for the success of the MGNREGA programme is its participatory approach wherein the Gram Sabha members decide on the utilization of MGNREGA Funds.
  • However, other government schemes and programmes have failed to incorporate such a participatory approach leading to less than satisfactory results.

What can be done to Improve the Development Outcomes?

1. Follow the footsteps of China’s Model:

  • India’s growth outcomes can be improved by learning from the development models followed by China and some of the states in India.
  • Even though China is non-democratic country, it has given due emphasis on Human Development which is evident in China’s better ranking on various Human development Indicators as compared to India.
  • On the other hand, in spite of being democratic country, India is yet to reach the level of development which China attained way back in 1990s.
  • Thus, there is a need to adopt people-centered policies rather than growth-centered policies to have better outcomes.

2. Kerala- the Forerunner:

  • Similarly, some of the states in India have also taken a lead and shown as to how bottom-up and people-centered policies can have transformative impact on the lives of the people.
  • For instance, Kerala Government has followed “Participative Model” of Governance in order to empower the people at the grassroots level.
  • It has emerged as the frontrunner in empowering the Panchayati Raj Institutions with the constitutionally mandated functions and finances.
  • It has also focused on the women empowerment through the “Kudumbashree” Scheme, which is considered to be a model scheme for multi-faceted development of women.
  • Such a participative model of Governance has enabled Kerala to be well ahead of all other states and match China in terms of Human Development Indicators.

3. Delhi’s “Common man’s Model”:

  • Delhi Government has adopted “Common man’s Model”, wherein it has kept the common man at the centre of the various government policies and schemes.
  • It has given due emphasis on Health and Education and in order to ensure success of Government’s intervention, it has focused on the active participation of the stakeholders.
  • For instance, it has established the School Management Committees which involves the parents. The budget for training teachers has increased by more than five times. This has enabled the Delhi’s Government schools to have much better performance than the private schools.
  • Similarly, the Public health expenditure has more than doubled. Mohalla Clinics have been set up in the poor colonies to provide accessible and affordable health care.

Way Forward:

  • The Government has to realize that “Ease of Living” is much wider and comprehensive as compared to “Ease of Doing Business”.
  • While, improvement in the Ease of Doing Business can lead to increase in the private sector investment, but improvement in the “Ease of Living” can lead to both better development outcomes and attract private sector investment.
  • This is so because a balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth can enhance the income levels of the people and attract greater amount of private sector investment.
  • Ultimately, Gandhi’s philosophy of putting the last man first should be the sole guiding light for the government’s policies.

30% OF POSHAN ABHIYAAN FUNDS USED

Why in News?

  • The State governments and the Union Territories utilised a mere 30% of the funds released under the Poshan Abhiyaan, or the National Nutrition Mission, since it was launched in 2017.

About POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched by the government on March 8, 2018.
  • It is implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, under nutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters.
  • It is meant to benefit more than 10 crore people and was launched after a Cabinet decision on December 1, 2017, with a total budget of ₹9,046.17 crore for three years, 50% of which is through budgetary support, which is further divided into 60:40 between the Centre and the States, 90:10 for the north-eastern region and the Himalayan States and 100% for the Union Territories without legislature.
  • The remaining 50% is from the World Bank or other multilateral development banks. As a result, the Centre’s total share will be ₹2,849.54 crore.
  • Under the Abhiyaan, Swasth Bharat Preraks will be deployed one in each district for coordinating with district officials and enabling fast and efficient execution of the Abhiyaan across the country.
  • Swasth Bharat Preraks would function as catalyst for fast tracking the implementation of the Abhiyaan.

Are the Funds Used?

  • Barring Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar, none of the governments used even half of the sum granted in the past three years, according to an analysis of the data shared in Parliament.
  • According to the information given by Minister for Women and Child Development in the recent session of Parliament, a total of ₹4,283 crore was disbursed by the Centre to different States and Union Territories.
  • Of this, ₹1,283.89 crore was utilised until October 31, 2019, or only 29.97% of thefunds granted. Figures were not available for 2017-2018 as the scheme was launched at the end of the fiscal.

Important Stats of the Report:

  • The five best performers were Mizoram (65.12%), Lakshadweep (61.08%), Bihar (55.17%), Himachal Pradesh (53.29%) and Meghalaya (48.37%).
  • The worst five performers were Punjab (0.45%), Karnataka (0.74%), Kerala (8.75%), Jharkhand (13.94%) and Assam (23.01%).
  • During 2019-20, funds were released for 19 States, though 12 of them had used less than a third of the funds released in the previous two years.
  • The CNNS, released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in October, showed that 35% of children under the age of 5 are stunted and in this age group, 17% are wasted (low weight for height) and 33% underweight (low weight for age).

Way Forward:

  • It is, thus, expected that utilisation will increase over years. A number of activities had a slow start but are now picking up. These include the Integrated Child Development Services-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) meant to monitor anganwadis.
  • However, given the stiff targets, translating the activities into outcomes will be critical, and that remains to be seen.

PROTECTING MINORS/CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH LAW

Why in News?

  • In the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, a number of minor under the age of 18 have been detained by the law enforcement authorities.
  • This has invigorated the debate around child rights especially of those children who are in conflict with the law.

Legislative Framework in India regarding Child Rights (Children in conflict with law):

1.Juvenile Justice Act:

  • Section 10 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 provides for a Special juvenile police unitor the designated child welfare police officer.
  • A child is found to be in conflict with law he/she shall be placed under the charge of this officer who shall produce that child before the Juvenile Justice Board within a period of 24 hours.
  • Thus the Juvenile Justice Act prohibits the detention of a child in police custody.

2.U.N Convention on Rights of Child

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC), is a comprehensive document containing a set of universal legal standards or norms for the protection and well-being of children
  • As per this document, they have a right to be protected from certain acts, such as torture, exploitation, abuse, arbitrary detention and unwarranted removal from parental care, and children.
  • India ratified this convention in 1992 and enacted various laws in conformity of this convention for the protection of children.
  • So, in accordance with that convention, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) a statutory body was set up under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • It is entrusted with the responsibility to protect, promote and defend child rights in India.
  • The commission works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

NCPCR Guidelines:

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights guidelines on children’s rights in areas of civil unrest provide that law enforcement authorities should avoid blanket characterization of adolescent boys as security threats.
  • Besides the guideline also direct the authorities to take the cases of arbitrary detention, mistreatment, or torture of children extremely seriously and investigate the violations and take appropriate action against personnel involved.
  • In the context of the CAA protests, the NCPCR had highlighted that children were being used by certain groups of protesters were in unlawful activities such as stone-pelting which violates their rights under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

HIGHER EDUCATION – QUALITY MANDATE

Context:

  • Human Resource Development Minister had launched five documents developed by University Grants Commission (UGC) covering the 5 verticals of Quality Mandate.

Quality of Higher Education

  • Innovation and human capital– the two pillars of labour productivity and GDP growth, largely depends on the quality of the higher education. According to the India Skills Report-2019, only 47% of Indian graduates are employable, which is, exacerbated by startlingly low Faculty Figures.
  • Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, SDG4 is dedicated to education.
  • Higher education is mentioned in target 4.3 of SDG4 – “By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.”

Structural flaws in Indian Higher Education System:

  • 1.Faculty shortage – Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. The problem lies in increased demand, and stagnant supply.
    • The number of institutions has surged in India since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant.
    • Meanwhile, there are over a 1,00,000 India-born PhDs in universities around the world, kept away by paltry salaries and poor funding.
    • Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies.
  • 2.Research and publications – Faculty are under pressure to produce a certain number of papers to Gain Promotion.
    • This often makes them publish papers in journals that may not be of high quality.
    • This also means that there is more emphasis on publishing papers than on teaching.
  • 3.Quality Faculty – Teaching and research in any university depends on the quality of faculty as well as the quality of students.
    • The quality of teaching depends on the quality of teachers.
    • For teachers to impart knowledge to students they must have a broad knowledge of their subject matter as well as enthusiasm and a desire for learning throughout the course of their career.
  • 4.Expensive Education – Quality education is expensive in India.
    • India has severely under-invested in education over the last 40 years, not much have been invested in R&D, and today even the top institutions are having very poor laboratory facilities.
  • 5.Expansion – We expanded education very rapidly – India has larger number of institutions than China, both in terms of colleges and universities.
    • In the process of standardisation of such institutions, India has erred by creating one single framework, where examinations became the only way to judge merit.
    • This led to the mushrooming of coaching classes and anybody who could get ranks by studying in such coaching institutes were celebrated.
  • 6.Leadership – The heads of universities are often appointed with Political Motivations.
    • Vice-Chancellors are selected merely because they have the right political connections in the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the case of central universities, or appropriate political or caste affiliations in the concerned state.
    • Also, in many cases, they pay huge amounts of money for the posts that are most visible symbols of the university system.

University Grants Commission and its Mandate:

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up in 1956, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.

The UGC’s Mandate Includes:

  • Determining and maintaining standards of teaching, examination and research in universities.
  • Framing regulations on minimum standards of education.
  • Overseeing distribution of grants to universities and colleges in India.
  • Providing scholarships/fellowships to Beneficiaries.
  • Monitoring conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges.
  • Serving as a vital link between the Union and state governments and institutions of higher learning.

Is UGC a Failure:

  • Though the number of universities and student enrolment has been increasing, the quality of education is still lagging behind, which is attributed to UGC.
  • UGC’s policies suffer from two diametrically opposite issues—under-regulation and over-regulation.While it lets smaller substandard institutions slip by as deemed universities, it also instigates witch-hunts against reputed deemed universities.
  • Hence, it is argued that UGC has not only failed to fulfil its mandate but also has not been able to deal with emerging diverse complexities.

Quality Mandate in 2019:

  • The quality mandate aims at evolving higher education system to equip the country’s next generation with vital skills, knowledge and ethics for leading a rewarding life.
  • UGC released five documents concerning the 5 verticals of Quality Mandate, which covers-
    • Evaluation Reforms
    • Eco-Friendly and Sustainable University Campuses
    • Human Values & Professional Ethics
    • Faculty Induction
    • Academic Research Integrity
  • SATAT– Framework for Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Campus development in Higher Educational Institutions.
  • Mulya Pravah – Guidelines for Inculcation of Human values and Professional Ethics in Higher Educational Institutions.
  • Guru-Dakshta – A guide to Faculty Induction Programme (FIP) to improve student centricity.
  • Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (UGC-CARE)to continuously monitor and identify quality journals across disciplines.
  • ‘Paramarsh’ – To mentor aspirant institutions for promoting quality assurance in higher education and facilitate National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) Accreditation.

 Will Higher Education in India Ever Be “World-Class”?

  • India is one of the youngest nations in the world, where the college-age group is growing at large. Where as in the QS World University Rankings-2015, only two Indian universities were featured in the top 200, while just 10 made it into the top 700.
  • Therefore, the quality of education should be oriented more towards employabilitythan rote learning.
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)– should be utilized to improve the quality of higher education.
  • India shall consider moving towards Learning Outcome based curriculum framework.
  • Continuous internal evaluation– can help in identifying Behavioural outcome of individuals.
  • In terms offaculty selection and promotion – it should be based on proper selection committee.
  • Brain Drain from the country – shall be reduced by appropriate schemes.
    • China solved this problem by attracting Chinese-origin PhDs back home with dollar salaries and monetary incentives for published research.
  • With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), almost 40-50% of existing jobs would be heavily automated. This is the right time for the Indian Higher Education institutions to improve their quality to match the international standards and enhance the employability of the students.

THE DATA PROTECTION BILL ONLY WEAKENS USER RIGHTS

Why in News?

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 which is currently under parliamentary process for approval is criticised to be of heavily tilted towards security and revenue generation of the state rather than Right to Privacy which is the basic reason for a Data Protection Regime.

Categorisation of Data as Per the Bill:

  • The bill constitutes 3 personal information types:
  1. a). Critical
  2. b). Sensitive
  3. c). General
  • Sensitive Data constitutes or is related to passwords, financial data, health data, official identifier, sexual orientation, religious or caste data, biometric data and genetic data. It may be processed outside India with the explicit consent of the user.
  • Critical Datawill be characterised by the government every once in a while, and must be stored and handled only in India.
  • General Data:Any data that is non-critical and non-sensitive is categorised as general data with no limitation on where it is stored or managed.

Provisions of the bill which is Under Criticism:

1. Access to Non-Personal Data:

  • Government is empowered to gain access to any non-personal data — anonymised data like traffic patterns or demographic information — mainly for framing policy for better delivery of services and evidence-based policy.

2. Process Data Without Consent:

  • The Bill includes exemptions for processing data without an individual’s consent for “reasonable    purposes”, including security of the state,detection of any unlawful activity or fraud, whistle blowing, medical emergencies, credit scoring, operation of search engines and processing of publicly available data. Accordingly personal data processed in the interest of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence is exempt.

Issues Regarding the above Provisions:

1. Security Interest vis-a-vis Data Privacy:

  • Not in line with the recommendation of Justice Sri Krishna Committee
  • Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee in its report had cautioned against use of data without consent and had recommended exemptions to be “watertight”, “narrow”, and available for use in “limited circumstances”.
  • But the government empowering themselves to collect data in the name of “national security” which is defined and highly vague goes against the basic intent of the bill.
  • It had also recommended that the Government bring in a law for the oversight of intelligence-      gathering activities, the means by which non-consensual processing of data takes place.

2. Conflict of Interest (Data Protection Authority):

  • The bill provides for Data Protection Authority of India to monitor and enforce the provisions of the Act. Given that the appointment of chairperson and members is done by a panel constituting Government nominees and government agencies but themselves being the major collectors and processors of data, it tantamounts to conflict of interest.

3. Revenue generation vis-à-vis Right to Privacy

  • According to Edward Snowden there is a symbiotic relation between financial models of digital platforms and security interest of the state which leaves a lot of scope for misuse of data.The Data Protection Bill empowers the government to gain access to any non-personal data mainly for framing policy for better delivery of services and evidence-based policy. This is particularly goes against the ‘principle of limited purpose limitation’ according to which personal data that is gathered for a specific purpose cannot be put to use for any other purpose.
  • For instance recently under the Bulk Data Sharing Policy & Procedure of The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways the government shared Vehicle Registration Certificates and Driver License with automobile industries, banks, finance companies etc. at specified rates for each data set.
  • If such policies aimed at monetizing the database by bulk data sharing is adopted to the data that is collected, then the major aims of bill such as privacy and data protection is compromised.

NPR – HOUSE-TO-HOUSE VERIFICATION PLANNED

Why in News?

  • According to an official manual on conducting the fresh NPR exercise, verifying the details of all respondents through house-to-house enumeration will start by April 2020.

About NPR:

  • It is a Register of usual residents of the country.
  • It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
  • To create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
  • Data for the NPR was first collected in 2010, and updated in 2015.

About the News:

  • The Indian Government proposes to update the existing National Population Register, which already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents, by verifying the details of all respondents through house-to-house enumeration.
  • The NPR exercise has become controversial because the Citizenship Rules 2003 link the Population Register to the creation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or National Register of Citizens.
  • Coupled with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which excludes Muslims, fears about an NPR-NRC have brought lakhs of people into chaos.

How it would be taken?

  • The manual states that in cases where date of birth or age was not known, the enumerator could help the respondent by “stimulating her/his memory” with reference to historical events well known in the area such as a “war, flood, earthquake, change in political regime, etc.”
  • The manual says that if the respondent does not know the age of any member of the household and probing also does not help in determining the age of that person, “you will have to estimate her/his age by using your best judgment.”

GOOD GOVERNANCE INDEX

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions launched the ‘Good Governance Index’ on the occasion of ‘Good Governance Day’.
  • Good Governance Day is observed on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee (25thDecember). It was observed for the first time in 2014.

Good Governance Index (GGI):

  • The Good Governance Index is a uniform tool across States to assess the status of governance and the impact of various interventions taken up by the State Government and UTs.
  • The objectives of GGI are:
    • To provide quantifiable data to compare the state of governance in all states and UTs.
    • To enable states and UTs to formulate and implement suitable strategies for improving governance.
    • To shift to result-oriented approaches and Administration.

How is the GGI Calculated?

  • Various principles have been kept in mind while selecting the indicators, i.e. it should be easy to understand & calculate, citizen-centric & result-driven, leading to improved results and applicable to all states and UTs, among others.
  • The GGI takes into consideration ten sectors, namely,
    • Agriculture and Allied Sectors
    • Commerce & Industries
    • Human Resource Development
    • Public Health
  • Public Infrastructure & Utilities
  • Economic Governance
  • Social Welfare & Development
  • Judicial & Public Security
  • Environment
  • Citizen-Centric Governance
  • These ten Governance Sectors are measured on total 50 indicators.
  • Difference indicators are given different weightage under one Governance Sector to calculate the value.
  • e Under Agriculture & Allied Sector, there are 6 indicators with different weightage, Namely: Growth rate of agriculture and allied sector (0.4), growth rate of food grains production (0.1), growth rate of horticulture produce (0.1), growth rate of milk production (0.1), growth rate of meat production (0.1) and crop insurance (0.2).
  • The states and UTs are divided into three groups:
  • Big States , North-East & Hill States, UTs
  • The states and UTs are ranked on all indicators separately, at the same time composite ranking is also calculated for these states and UTs under their respective groups based upon these Indicators.

First GGI Report:

  • Among the Big States:
    • Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the top six rankers.The bottom Six States are Odisha, Bihar, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
  • Among the North-East & Hill States:
    • Top 3 states are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tripura.
    • The Bottom 3 states are Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Pondicherry leads among the UTs followed closely by Chandigarh with Delhi bagging the third spot. Lakshadweep is at the bottom among the UTs.
  • The Report also gives sector-wise ranking.
  • In the Environment Sector:
    • The top three states are West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
    • The bottom 3 states are Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Goa.
    • West Bengal, however, is at the bottom two in the judicial and public security ranking. Tamil Nadu tops the chart here.
    • Karnataka is at the top under the economic governance category while Kerala is at the top in the public health sector.

A DECISION WITHOUT FORETHOUGHT

Why in News?

  • Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has been causing ruckus, protests and violence all over the country.
  • In such a scenario, the impact of various protests in the North-East region and the impact of these protests on the Indian foreign policy and its image are discussed in brief in this article.

Impact of CAA related protests in Northeast and other aspects:

  • The North-east region acts as a major link between India and ASEAN countries. It also acts as a gateway to South-East Asian economies. In such a scenario, various projects such as Asian Trilateral Highway, BBIN corridor, Kaladan Multimodal project will be affected due to the tension and unease in the North-east region.
  • India and Japan have established Act East Forum in 2017. It is expected to serve as a driving force to advance India-Japan cooperation in the North-east. But the violent protests would be having drastic effect on this initiative too.
  • As part of its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, Japan has been investing in various development projects of the North-east.
    1. Japan has decided to invest Rs 13,000 crore in different projects in the Northeast
    2. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is engaged in building Northeast road network connectivity, water supply projects and economic modernisation of the region.
    3. Japan is financing the construction of India’s longest bridge between Dhubri in Assam and Phulbari in Meghalaya.
    4. Contributed official development assistance loans for the North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project.
    5. India and Japan have decided to launch ‘Japan India North East Bamboo Initiative’ in view of the significance bamboo plays in the region. Industrial uses of bamboos and forest management will be pursued.
    6. Promotion of Japanese language learning in the Northeast areas.
    7. Asia Health and Well being Initiative: Japan has decided to pursue skill development of caregivers in the Northeast region.
    8. Private Japanese organisations are also financing a host of development projects in the region.

Due to the CAA, Japan may have a rethink on these development projects, this might also affect Japan’s engagement in projects it is pursuing in the rest of the country.

  • Volatility in Northeast can possibly be a setback to the collaborative efforts between India and Japan in providing an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Japan is also a member of the Quad, which came into existence to counter Chinese economic prowess and unlock India’s potential in the Indo-Pacific. This would also take a beating in the current scenario.
  • With situation in Kashmir already volatile, during such a situation is it prudent to open another frontier of vulnerability in Northeast.
  • UN has also described Citizenship Amendment Act of India as a fundamentally discriminatory legislation.
  • US, UK and Canada and other countries have issued travel advisories to those visiting the Northeast. This affects the image of India in the Global Scenario.
  • India is getting recently described as the Internet shutdown capital of the world. India’s stand on the Human rights has also taken a beating.

Thus, the CAA has had an adverse effect not only on India’s domestic affairs but also on important foreign policy concerns. At the global level, India has always been respected for its diversity and inclusive character. This image of India needs to be preserved and cultivated further.

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER (NPR)

Why in News?

  • The Kerala Government has recently decided to put on hold to all proceedings for updating the National Population Register (NPR).

About NPR:

  • It is a Register of usual residents of the country.
  • It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
  • To create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.

What does NPR consists of?

  • The NPR database would contain demographic as well as biometric details.
  • As per the provisions of the NPR, a resident identity card (RIC) will be issued to individuals over the age of 18.
  • This will be a chip-embedded smart card containing the demographic and biometric attributes of each individual.
  • The UID number will also be printed on the card.

What is the Controversy Around It?

  • It comes in the backdrop of the NRC which excludes lakhs of people in Assam.
  • It intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
  • There is yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.

Significance of the Data:

  • Every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details. It will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
  • It will ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape. Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.
  • With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work.
  • It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, Government Insists.

MANUAL SCAVENGING LEFT 282 DEAD SINCE 2016: SAYS RAJYA SABHA

Context:

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has responded to Rajya Sabha that there were 282 deaths cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the country from 2016 to 2019.

State Wise Figures:

  • Tamil Nadu has recorded 40 deaths, the highest in number, in these four years. This is followed by Haryana with 31 deaths, and Gujarat and Delhi with 30 deaths each. Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have recorded 27 deaths each in the same period.

What is Manual scavenging?

  • Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.
  • The practise of manual scavenging is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes were expected to perform this job.
  • Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India.
  • Frequent deaths occur as manual scavengers don’t even have adequate tools and protective gear to clean the manhole. It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets.

Problems faced by Manual Scavengers:

  • Manual Scavengers in India does the work without any safety equipment, which puts them under the risk of infections and asphyxiations (deprived of oxygen), which are often become fatal.
  • They are exposed to most virulent forms of viral and bacterial infections that affect their skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
  • Statistics prove that 80% of India’s sewage cleaners die before they turn 60, after contracting various infectious diseases.
  • Their Children are also caught up in the plight and make it impossible for them to continue their education.
  • The job is still being performed by communities who are considered untouchables or lower castes. Hence they still face social inequality and exclusion from society.
  • They are denied access to places of worship, public sources of water. They are excluded from cultural events etc.
  • Due to the patriarchy in society, most manual scavengers who clean dry latrines are women. But here also, women are being discriminated against and are paid meagrely.

Why Manual Scavenging still Persists in India?

  • Manual scavenging exists mainly due to the continued presence of unsanitary latrines where human waste has to be cleaned physically, rather than by a machine or sewage system. The majority of such unsanitary latrines are dry latrines that don’t use water.
  • Even if they want to leave their profession, their untouchability and un-cleanliness tag and the resultant social stigma makes it impossible for them to find alternative jobs.
  • Increasing urbanization in the country requires more manual scavengers for the cleaning of sewers or septic tanks.
  • Low education level, low awareness of their rights & laws, job risks and low self-esteem force them to take such work.
  • Lack of empathy among the government, contractors and household members employing manual scavengers, who fail to understand their plight.
  • Poor enforcement of existing laws is also a reason for the continuance.
  • Manual scavengers are not an organized group and don’t have any significant voice in the political and government structures. Hence their problems are not considered a Major Issue.

Legislative Framework regarding Manual Scavenging:

  • Sanitation is a State subject, the people for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks are employed by local bodies.

1. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 provides for the prohibition of employment as manual scavengers, rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their families.

  • Under this, no person, local authority or agency should engage or employ people for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
  • Mechanised cleaning of septic tanks is the Prescribed Norm.
  • When human intervention is unavoidable, safety gear is Mandatory.
  • A violation can be punished with 2 years of Imprisonment or fine or both.
  • It also prohibits the construction of insanitary latrines.
    • However, the law is not Properly Enforced and people are forced to do manual scavenging.

2. National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK):

  • NCSK is a statutory body established under National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993 to deal with the grievances of persons engaged in manual scavenging.
  • It aims to promote and safeguard the interests and rights of Safai Karamcharis( Sanitation related workers) and Manual Scavengers and works for the welfare of both.
  • It is mandated to work towards the elimination of inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities for Safai Karamcharis.
  • It has an important role to ensure the rehabilitation of all identified manual scavengers on a time-bound basis.
  • Under Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, NCSK perform the Following Functions:

1.Monitor implementation of Act.
2.Enquire into complaints regarding contravention of provisions of Act.
3.Advice Central and State Governments for effective implementation of Act.
4.Working for the welfare of Safai Karamcharis/Manual Scavengers.

3. Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS),

  • It was introduced in 2007 with the aim to rehabilitate remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time-bound manner.
  • The responsibility of rehabilitation of the identified manual scavengers is given to the National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation which was established to safeguard the interests and rights of Safai Karamcharis (Manual Scavengers).

4. Swachh Bharat Mission focusses on the conversion of insanitary latrines into Sanitary latrines.

5. Scheme of “Pre-Matric Scholarship to the Children of those engaged in

occupations Involving Cleaning and prone to Health Hazards”,

  • Under this, children of manual scavengers are provided Scholarships.
  • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment

How is the Implementation?

  • Despite a large number of schemes and provisions, the inhuman practice of manual scavenging still continues.
  • The National Safai Karmachari Commission has not been functioning properly. Its website has not been updated about recent developments and initiatives.
  • Protective gears such as gloves, gas masks, and boots are often not provided by employers, in violation of the 2013 Act. This resulted in diseases and even deaths. There is no proper accountability mechanism in place.
  • The Act allows manual scavenging if the employer provides protective gear. However, the Act doesn’t define what constitutes protective gear = employers exploit this provision.
  • Municipalities don’t have enough funds to use machines for cleaning the sewers and also to provide safety gear. Also, they generally blame contractors for any loss of life.
  • States and UTs are slow in the identification of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers since there is no time-bound plan for doing that.
  • Furthermore, many states hesitate in reporting the existence of unsanitary latrines and manual scavengers in their jurisdiction due to the fear of contempt of the court.

Rehabilitation works are also very slow due to various challenges as follows:

1.Lack of Budgetary Support,
2.Manual scavengers are generally uneducated,
3.They have no exposure to other works,
4.Many of them are old particularly women
5.They lack confidence in doing self-employment and
6.Many of them do not come forward to avail of any skill development training
7.Banks are unwilling to provide a loan to manual scavengers due to the low rate of recovery of a loan from them.

What can be Done?

  • The law on manual scavenging must be enforced in letter and spirit both by the Centre and State governments.
  • No person, agency or authority shall employ people for manual scavenging.
  • Local Authorities must find resources to employ machines for cleaning of septic tanks and sewers.
  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyanshould make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance of tanks as it will also help in ending manual cleaning of septic tanks.
  • Two components of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBM) i.e. SBM-Ruraland SBM-Urban must look into the issue of sanitation and use funds available for SBM in providing mechanised way of cleaning septic tanks.
  • Mechanised cleaning of sewers and tanks will Reduce Inequalityespecially for such communities who have been traditionally involved in Manual Scavenging.

DRAFT FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS (LABELLING AND DISPLAY) REGULATIONS, 2019

Why in News?

  • Recently, a study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has shown that the total amount of salts, fat, trans-fat and carbohydrates in various fast foods such as pizzas, burgers, chips, instant noodles etc. is well above the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
  • This has proved to be critical since the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had earlier come out with the draft guidelines to put threshold limits on salt and fat in the packaged foods. However, due to the opposition by the companies, these regulations have not yet been Notified.

Current law in place regarding disclosure of Nutritional Components and its Flaws:

  • Currently, the labelling of the Pre-packaged Foods has been provided under the food safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. It mandates the companies to disclose energy (kilo calories), protein, carbohydrates, total fat, trans-fat and saturated fat contained per 100g or per millilitre or per serve.
  • However, these regulations have not proved to be effective in promoting public awareness about the health hazards of the pre-packaged foods.
  • For instance, the companies are not required to display these nutrients information on the front of the pack. The companies are also not under any obligation to compulsorily declare the salt content in a product.
  • Further, the companies are required just to distinguish veg and non-veg food products through Green and Brown Colour symbol enabling the consumers to make informed choices.
  • However, the same has not been incorporated for the identification of food products with higher salt and fat contents.

Highlights of the Draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2019:

  • The proposed regulation suggests labelling the ingredients Front-of-Pack (FoP). The proposed FoP label has two parts: the first part declares the number of calories, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium per serve; and the second part declares the per serve percentage standards prescribed by recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
  • For nutrients like saturated fat, trans-fat, added sugar and sodium, thresholds are defined and if quantity of these exceeds the threshold the nutrient will be coded with colour red.
  • It aims to make salt declaration mandatory on pre-packaged foods. Salt declaration will help people in taking informed choices, especially those who suffer from hypertension or are prone to it.
  • Another positive change is the mandatory requirement of declaration of added sugar as part of nutrition labelling.
  • Added sugar basically refers to sugar which gets added during processing to improve the taste and shelf life of the products. Under the existing regulations, sugar is to be declared without specifying how much of it is added and how much is naturally present. With the proposed declaration of added sugar, consumers will now be able to make informed choices.
  • As per the existing law, a consumer is expected to be informed only about quantity of ingredients but not their corresponding standard prescribed as per RDA. The proposed regulation will make declaration of per serve contribution to recommended dietary allowance (RDA) mandatory. With this a consumer will be informed about the quantity of the ingredient he or she will consume through a particular product as percentage of daily requirement of that ingredient.

Certain Flaws in the Draft Regulations:

  • The Draft Regulations seeks to exempt certain categories of the pre-packaged foods from following Front-of-Pack (FoP) labelling. These exempted categories include packages less than 100 square centimetre, beverages providing less than 80 kilo calorie per serve and those sold in reusable bottles. Hence, in order to avoid the red coding on their packages, the food companies may start promoting smaller packages.
  • The proposed draft does not mention labelling of genetically modified (GM) food. It was, however, a part of the earlier draft.
  • GM labelling should be mentioned as it falls in the purview of packaged food. The proposed law allows companies three years to adjust to the new laws.

 Why the draft regulations are opposed by the Food Processing Industries?

  • The Industry argues that norms are unscientific and that packaged food is made to cater to the “taste” of people. Further, the packaged industry argues that immense quantities of junk street food such as Samosa and Fried foods are consumed in the country with no check on their nutritional status and hence there is an inherent unfairness in regulating only the organised food processing sector. The Industry is also opposed to the “RED COLOUR” coding since it would dissuade the consumers from buying such products.

About Recommended Dietary allowance (RDA):

  • The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) refers to the daily ceiling on the amount of salt, fat, carbohydrate and trans-fat. The RDA is based on scientific consensus and has been agreed upon by expert bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).
  • As per the RDA, an adult should consume no more than 5g of salt, 60g of fat, 300g carbohydrate and 2.2 g of trans fat every day. Further, the RDA from breakfast, lunch and dinner should not be more than 25% and that from snacks should not be more than 10%. Thus, a snack should ideally have no more than 0.5g of salt and 6g of fat.
  • The study carried out by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that the majority of packaged food and fast food items being sold in India contain “dangerously” high levels of fat and salt in them. The consumption of high levels of fat and salt causes obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart-related ailments.

SECTION 144 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE

Context:

  • In the backdrop of invocation of section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)in many parts of the country amid protest, this article highlights that this provision of criminal law is a legacy of British which we continue to practice even in modern times.

Who is Empowered?

  • District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate can invoke section 144 of CrPC in an area in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger or if they believe immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable to control the situation.

What can the Magistrate Do?

  • Section 144 of CrPC gives power to a District Magistrate, a sub- divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate on behalf of the State Government to issue an order to an individual or the general public in a particular place or area to “abstain from a certain act” or “to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management”.
  • As per the Section, the order can be passed only “if such Magistrate considers”, that the direction is likely to prevent
  • a. Obstruction, Annoyance or Injury to any person lawfully employed
  • b.Danger to Human Life, Health or safety
  • c.Disturbance of the Public Tranquility, or a riot or Affray
  • This order can be passed against a particular individual or general public. The order can be passed even ex-parte.
  • In emergency cases, the magistrate can pass these orders without prior notice to the individual against whom the order is directed.

Can they Prevent Assembly of People?

  • It is generally believed that assembly of three or more people is prohibited under Section 144. However, it can be used to restrict even a single individual. Such an order is passed when the magistrate considers that it is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot, of an affray.

What is the Maximum Tenure of Section 144?

  • However, no order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order, unless the state government considers it necessary. Even then, the total period cannot extend to more than six months.

Rescinding of section 144:

  • As per Cr.PC, an aggrieved person may challenge the order of magistrate to invoke section 144. So under section 144, Any Magistrate may, either on his own motion or on the application of any person aggrieved, rescind or alter any order made under this section, by himself or any Magistrate subordinate to him.
  • While taking such application of rescinding section 144, the magistrate concerned shall provide the applicant an opportunity to appear before him either in person or by pleader for showing cause against the order.

Criticism on invoking section 144 by the Government:

  • Section 144 ends up conferring almost unbridled powers upon executive officers to commit any kind of atrocities on people detained. It also takes away people’s fundamental right under Article 19 of expression and protest against government actions and policies.
  • The only check placed upon the officer before passing any order under Section 144 is whether or not it satisfied his conscience, which is often eroded by political demands by the ruling government.
  • The immediate remedy against such an order is a revision application to the magistrate himself.
  • An aggrieved individual can also approach the High Court by filing a writ petition if his fundamental rights are at stake. However, fears exist that before the High Court intervenes, the rights could already have been infringed.
  • Imposition of Section 144 to an entire state, as in UP, has also drawn criticism since the security situation differs from area to area.

Impact on Fundamental Rights:

  • The orders under this provision will lead to the infringement of fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly and movement guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(a),(b) and (c) of the Constitution. Hence, the orders under Section 144 have to meet the test of “reasonable restrictions” as per Article 19.

“Test of Proportionality”:

1. Modern Dental College case (2016):

  • To ascertain whether a restriction on liberties guaranteed under Article 19 is reasonable or not, the Supreme Court has developed the “test of proportionality”.
  • In the Constitution Bench decision in Modern Dental College case (2016), the Supreme Court  held that a law imposing restrictions will be treated as proportional if :
  • a.It is meant to achieve a proper purpose, and
  • b.If the measures taken to achieve such a purpose are rationally connected to the purpose, and
  • c.If such measures are Necessary.

2.Also in the Puttaswamy case (2017),the SC laid down a four-fold test to determine proportionality:

  • a.A measure restricting a right must have a legitimate goal (legitimate goal stage).
  • b.It must be a suitable means of furthering this goal (suitability or rationale connection stage).
  • c.There must not be any less restrictive but equally effective alternative (necessity stage).
  • d. The measure must not have a disproportionate impact on the right holder (balancing stage).
  • So, the legality of the orders passed under Section 144 CrPC will be tested on the basis of these principles of ‘reasonableness’ and ‘proportionality’.

Rulings of Judiciary favouring Section 144:

1. Babulal Parate vs State of Maharashtra (1961):

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court refused to strike down the law, saying it is “not correct to say that the remedy of a person aggrieved by an order under the section was illusory”.

2.Ram Manohar Lohiya case (1967):

  • It was challenged again by Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya in 1967 and was once again rejected, with the court saying “no democracy can exist if ‘public order’ is freely allowed to be disturbed by a section of the citizens”.

3.Madhu Limaye vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate (1970):

  • In another challenge in 1970 Madhu Limaye vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate, a seven-judge Bench said the power of a magistrate under Section 144 “is not an ordinary power flowing from administration but a power used in a judicial manner and which can stand further judicial scrutiny”.
  • The court, however, upheld the constitutionality of the law.
    It ruled that the restrictions imposed through Section 144 cannot be held to be violative of the right to freedom of speech and expression, which is a fundamental right because it falls under the “reasonable restrictions” under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • The fact that the “law may be abused” is no reason to strike it down, the court said.

Mere likelihood of danger not a ground to invoke Sec.144:

  • As held by the Supreme Court, mere apprehension of danger is not a sufficient ground to curb citizens’ rights by invoking Section 144 CrPC.
  • There should be ‘genuine’ apprehension of ‘imminent’ danger and not mere ‘likelihood’ or ‘tendency’.
  • In Babulal Parate v State of Maharashtra (1961) case, the SC held that the power can be used even in anticipation of danger. But it should be based on sufficient materials which show that immediate prevention of certain acts is necessary to preserve public safety.
  • “The test laid down in the Section is not mere `likelihood’ or `tendency’. The section says that the magistrate must be satisfied that immediate prevention of particular acts is necessary to counteract danger to public safety etc. The power conferred by the section is exercisable not only where present danger exists but is exercisable also when there is an apprehension of danger”.

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT, 2019: CENTRE – STATE RIGHTS

Context:

  • Some of the opposition-ruled states have declared – they will not implement the changes in the Citizenship Act. Kerala, Punjab, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have claimed that they will block implementation of the CAA in their states.

Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019:

  • The Act seeks to provide Indian citizenship to religiously persecuted Hindu, Parsi, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Sikhimmigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, with a cut-off date of their entry into India on December 31, 2014.
  • The Act does not apply totribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Also, the areas that fall under the Inner Limitnotified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview

The Centre – State Rights:

  • While Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal had reserved their apprehension to this amendment, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh indicated that his government is against the law.
  • The Maharashtra government cited that it will take its decision on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act only after the Supreme Court hears a bunch of petitions challenging the legislation.
    • Meanwhile, the Defence minister had announced that the threat by some states not to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a challenge to India’s federal structure as the legislation has been passed by Parliament and is binding on all states after the presidential assent.

Important questions that are arising from the Issue are –

  • What is the extent of a state government’s role in implementing the Citizenship Act?
  • Can the Centre implement the law without the help of the state government?

What is the extent of a state government’s role in implementing the Citizenship Act?

  • Any law requires rules to implement it. Such rules are termed as subordinate legislation in legal parlance and are framed by the respective governments through powers provided in the parent Act.
  • Under Section 11 the Citizenship Rules, 2009, the authority for processing applications for citizenship, both through registration and naturalisation, is the District Collector. The District collector function under the authority of the state government.
  • As per Section 12 (2) of the Citizenship Rules, the state governmentshall forward the application along with its recommendation and the report of the collector to the Central Government.
  • A maximum of 90 days is fixed both for the collector and the state government to complete the process, although the Citizenship Rules allow for a delay on account of special reasons.
  • It is here where the state governments could stall the process. They could simply stop processing applications under the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
    • As per the existing rules, if the application is not forwarded by the state government within 90 days, the applicant may make a representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs by enclosing a copy of the acknowledgement issued by the collector. However, the Union Home Ministry cannot do more than urging the state government to expedite the process.

Can the Centre implement the law without the help of the state government?

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has inserted Section 6Binto the principal Act.
  • According to the Section 6B, the Central Government or an authority specified by it in this behalf may, grant a certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation to a person.
  • Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 also inserted a specific clause under Section 18 to ensure the Central government can change the rulesgoverning the new clauses for persecuted minorities from the three countries.
  • This reinforces the Central government’s powers to amend the Citizenship Rules and declare someone other than the District Collector as the authorityto deal with the citizenship applications.

Can the Centre’s powers be Questioned?

  • Under the Citizenship Act, it is mandatory for the Centre to place any amendments made to the rules before Parliament.
  • Within 30 days of the tabling of amendments, any member of Parliament can demand a discussion and a vote to modify or scrap the changes made to the rules.
  • However, PRS Legislative Research data shows that, these rules are rarely scrutinised by Parliament.
  • No discussion on specific rules has taken place in Parliament in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha [between 2004-2010].

The Centre-State Tussle:

  • On disputes between states and Centre, there is always the provision of going to the Supreme Court (under original jurisdiction).
  • However, when the implementation is under concern, the states really have no role because the Grant of citizenship is an act by the Centre.
    • In case of the movement of refugees, a state subject, which comes under law and order, state may act against the Centre’s moves. For example, the state government can choose not to round up refugees and move them to a detention centre.

What happens when a state refuses to carry out the Centre’s orders?

  • In such a case, the Centre can invoke Article 256of the Constitution to issue directions to the state.
  • According to the Article 256, which defines the obligation of states and the Union, the executive power of the Union extends to giving of any such directions to a State, as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for any purpose.
    • Though many of the provisions in the Citizenship Amendment Act were considered to be against the fundamental ideas enshrined in the Constitution, the fate of the law lies with the Guardian of the Constitution, the Supreme Court.

ONE NATION ONE RATION CARD SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Centre has designed a standard format for ration cards as it moves ahead with ‘one nation, one ration card’ initiative and has asked State governments to follow the pattern while issuing fresh Ration Cards.

About the Ration Card and Ration Shop:

  • A ration cardis issued to the head of the family, depending on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.
  • It is used by households to get essential food grains at subsidised prices from designated ration shops (also called fair price shops) under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • Over the years, different types of ration cards were issued depending on the level of deprivation. Later, in 2013, when the National Food Security Billwas passed, different ration cards were compressed to just two — priority and Antyodaya (for the poorest).
  • The responsibility of identifying eligible families and issuing ration cards to them rests with the state/UT government.
  • Ration shopscan be privately owned or owned by cooperative societies or by the government. Ownership licenses are issued by the concerned state government.
  • Presently, commodities including wheat, sugar, rice and kerosene are being allocated as part of the (TPDS). State governments have the discretion to provide additional commodities.

About the Scheme:

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

Benefits of the Proposed Scheme:

  • According to Census 2011, there are more than 45 crore internal migrants in India, of whom more than half have not completed primary education, while 80% have not completed secondary education.
  • Lower levels of education are linked to lower income, which would make a large percentage of these migrants eligible for NFSA benefits.
  • Registering for ration cards at their new location is an arduous process, especially if some members of the household still remain in their original home.
  • Apart from this, there are short-term migrants, often working in cities, but not moving there permanently.
  • Women who change locations after marriage also find it difficult to start accessing ration benefits using a new household’s card.
  • To curb corruption and improve access and service quality by Removing Monopolies.

Drawbacks of the Scheme:

  • Since the scheme is based on technology, the government may face some technical challenges during the implementation of the scheme.
  • Few Regional Parties have expressed apprehensions on bearing the cost of additional ration cards. This is a matter which is to be settled between the states and the Government of India.
  • One of the apprehensions mentioned by few states is the cost of additional food grain to be supplied to the migrant workers.
  • However, the whole system is based on the entitlements mandated under the NFSA and this prevents the charges of additional cost. Beneficiaries will continue to pay the same issue prices that are fixed under the NFSA.

REPORT ON “FUNCTIONING OF BORDER GUARDING FORCES”

Why in News?

  • The Department Related Standing Committee on Home Affairs, currently chaired by Anand Sharma, has submitted a report on the action taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) with respect to the recommendations given by the committee in the 214threport regarding the “Functioning of Border Guarding Forces”.

Key Recommendations of the Report:

  • It has objected to the overuse of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) for rigorous internal security and election-related duties to the extent that even the reserved battalions are deployed not giving them enough time for rest and recuperation.
  • To boost the morale of the CAPFs, the committee insisted on limiting deputation of officers from the IPS and the armed forces to CAPFs at 25% and the CAPFs cadres should be given an opportunity to become the Director General of respective forces. However, the MHA, in its response to the panel, said, the 7th Pay Commission and the Committee on Allowance did not agree to such special pay to CAPF.
  • The committee insisted on paying paramilitary service pay to the CAPF on par with the defence forces personnel.
  • The committee noted that the defence forces personnel are being paid Military Service Pay in view of the risk to life and social and family isolation. So, it recommended that CAPF should also get similar incentive in the form of Paramilitary Service Pay as they also face similar risks and isolation.
  • The committee has also noted it was pained to note that the reserved battalions, which are to be used judiciously and provided rest for being in a state of preparedness, are engaged in duties such as internal security and counter-insurgency, which are quite rigorous.
  • It urged the Home Ministry to draw a line to allow much required rest and recuperation to the personnel and adhere to the laid down policy on “rest and recuperation”.
  • Referring to suicides in the CAPFs, the committee urged the Ministry to put in place an institutional mechanism with representatives of the MHA, the Bureau of Police Research
  • and Development, heads of various forces and experts in public health, mental health, psychology and psychiatry to address the issue.

Action regarding the Recommendations:

  • of the 119 recommendations of the Committee made in its 214th Report, the MHA accepted and acted upon 29. The Committee decided not to pursue further action taken in respect of 50 while rejecting the Ministry’s replies in respect of 17

About Central Armed Police Force (CAPF):

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to seven security forces in India under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs.

1. Assam Rifles (AR)
2. Border Security Force (BSF)
3. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
4. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
5. Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
6. National Security Guard (NSG)
7. Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

  • Each of the seven has its own cadre of officers, but they are headed by officers of the Indian Police Service.

TECH TITANS UNDER WATCH

Why in News?

  • In the recent past a number of investigations have been initiated,against the tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple by the regulatory agencies over practices that amounts to anti-competitive behaviour.
  • These investigations are termed under an over-arching term called ‘anti-trust regulations’.

Background:

  • The world has witnessed the emergence of Big tech firms like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft etc in recent decades.
  • With growing monopoly in the respective areas these firms have a growing clout over world population in the recent times.
  • As a result regulators around the world are calling upon these Bigtechs including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to curb their market monopoly power.

Basic Issues:

  • Basically there are two sources of tension, which has led to the anti-trust regulations against the Tech-Giants.

1. Anti-competitive Behaviour

  • These companies have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour by  thus stifling smaller potential rivals and holding onto an outsized market share.

2. Influence on Policy-Making

  • Due to the monopoly in these businesses, they now have a vast influence on policy making, which could have large-scale impact particularly with respect to issues like data privacy.
  • Example: The United States Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee separately has recently announced major antitrust investigations into Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple promising “a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms.”

Recent examples of Anti-Trust Regulations:

1. Facebook

  • In February 2019, Facebook faced the wrath of antitrust agencies of multiple countries including US, UK, Singapore etc over consumer privacy issues, unauthorized data leak and undue influence on consumers including voter behavior during elections and shaping public discourse.
  • The questions are also focused on acquisition by FB to maintain its pre-eminent market position in the social networking ecosystem (WhatsApp for example).
  • Besides, FB also acquired Onavo, a data analysis firm, in 2013, which then allegedly helped the social media giant see off potential competitors by having access to data.

2. Google

  • The US department of justice is preparing to launch antitrust proceedings against Google.
  • Case: Google being a monopoly in search engines gives it undue advantage in online advertising space. Google handles more than 90% of online searches across the world and therefore can influence the advertising through search results.
  • It is also alleged that Google has increasingly been sending users to its own sites to answer their queries, including products such as Google Flights, Google Maps etc.
  • Google is also alleged to be biased over publishing of some news in favour of some political ideology and restricting the others.

3. Amazon

  • The Federal Trade Commission of US is initiating an antitrust proceeding against Amazon.
  • Case: Being a monopoly in online retailing, it has stifled competition by restricting its sellers from selling their goods more cheaply on other platforms.
  • Questions have also been raised on whether Amazon favours its self-branded products over those of third-party sellers, by requiring other sellers to use its advertising services by rankings of product search displays, or by using data on other sellers to tweak its own offerings to its advantage.
  • Besides a number of acquisitions by Amazon is also seen as anti-competitive Eg: Flipkart in India, Whole Foods, an upmarket U.S. grocery chain etc.

4. Apple

  • Recently there have been questions over the App Store policies with respect to how Apple ranks search results and exclusion of certain competing apps from the Store. For example,

Spotify a music streaming app has complained on the alleged restrictions of their app on App store.

  • Besides there are also questions as to how Apple determines revenue sharing with the companies that have their app on the App store.

Legislative framework regarding Anti-trust regulations in India

  • In the pre-liberalisation era, the antitrust regulation in India was confined to curbing monopolization through the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969.
  • In the post-LPG era, the antitrust law in India had to focus on promoting competition, thereby giving a fillip to investment climate.
  • Accordingly Competition Act, 2002 was enacted replacing the MRTP Act.

About Competition Act, 2002: Main Provisions:

  • To check anti-competitive practices like ‘cartelization’.
  • Regulation of mergers and acquisitions and combinations.
  • To ensure freedom of trade.
  • It restricts the abuse of dominant position of any enterprise that control supply, prices, or other practices that deny market access to other competing firms.
  • It also applies to foreign multinational corporations operating in India and foreign companies selling their goods in India.
  • The Act also provides for Competition Commission of India as the competition regulator in India vested with the powers of a civil court

TRAKEA SOFTWARE FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

Why in News?

  • Haryana Police has adopted unique bar-coding software Trakea to ensure tamper-free Criminal Investigation.

Highlights:

  • As per the conventional practice all over the country, the crime exhibits are labelled with complete details, including the case FIR number; the police station; and the names and addresses of the victim, accused, medical officers, etc.
  • With these details available, the crime exhibits can be easily traced and tracked by virtually anyone.
  • The crime exhibits could include DNA samples, documents, and reports of ballistics examinations, serology, biology, toxicology, lie-detection, etc.
  • From the time the sample is collected to the time when forensic experts draw their final conclusion, there are multiple stages where the accused can use their influence to tamper with the sample in order to get a favourable forensic report.

Trakea Software:

  • Essentially, it is a forensic evidence management system that helps in automation of the entire procedure, right from the stage when forensic experts collect vital samples from the scene of crime.
  • Trakea is aimed at ensuring security and a tamperproof tracking system for forensic reports. It streamlines the functioning of Forensic Science Laboratories.
  • Even the selection of forensic teams is done randomly through this software.
  • Trakea ensures foolproof security of the samples collected from the scene of crime, and the forensic analysis reports, and is different from traditional methods that the state police force has been following for decades.
  • Haryana Police claims it is the country’s first police force to have introduced this unique bar-coding for forensic reports.

Development & Functionality:

  • The software was originally designed by a prisoner who was lodged in Bhondsi jail for 13 months.
  • A software engineer by profession, the man was facing charges of having murdered his wife, but was ultimately acquitted by the trial court.
  • The same software engineer had earlier designed a software digitizing data pertaining to prison inmates and prison operations across all 19 jails of Haryana.
  • Using this software, the judiciary too will be able to track the forensic examination report during the trial, significantly cutting down on delays.
  • The system includes features of two-stage bar-coding to maintain the secrecy of the samples, sent along with a strong, unbroken biometrically authenticated chain of custody trial.
  • It is coupled with features to eliminate chances of pick-and-choose by automated case allocation to the scientists, followed by report-generation and real-time tracking of the status of cases through automated e-mail and SMS notifications.
  • Also, there will be no case details mentioned on the crime exhibits/samples/parcels except the unique bar code that can only be read through the biometric system.

PROGRAMMES TO CONTROL ANAEMIA AMONG WOMEN

Why in News?

  • The anaemia control programme review indicated challenges in IFA supply chain management, demand generation and monitoring. Considering, the slow progress i.e. less than 1% per annum in reduction of anaemia from 2005 to 2015, the Government of India has launched the Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) strategy under the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyaan and the targets has been set to reduce anaemia by 3% per year.

Highlights:

  • The 6x6x6 strategy under AMB implies six age groups, six interventions and six institutional mechanisms. The strategy focuses on ensuring supply chain, demand generation and strong monitoring using the dashboard for addressing anaemia, both due to nutritional and non-nutritional causes.

The Six Population Groups under AMB strategy are:

  • Children (6-59 months)
  • Children (5-9 years)
  • Adolescents girls and boys (10-19 years)
  • Pregnant women
  • Lactating women
  • Women of Reproductive Age (WRA) group (15-49 years)

The Six Interventions are:

  • Prophylactic Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation
  • Deworming
  • Intensified year-round Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) Campaign and delayed cord clamping
  • Testing of anaemia using digital methods and point of care treatment,
  • Mandatory provision of Iron and Folic Acid fortified foods in Government funded health programmes
  • Addressing non-nutritional causes of anaemia in endemic pockets with special focus on malaria, hemoglobinopathies and fluorosis and the six institutional mechanisms.

The Six Institutional Mechanisms are:

  • Inter-ministerial coordination
  • National Anaemia Mukt Bharat Unit
  • National Centre of Excellence and Advanced research on Anemia Control
  • Convergence with other ministries
  • Strengthening supply chain and logistics
  • Anaemia Mukt Bharat Dashboard and Digital Portal- one-stop shop for Anaemia.

CENTRE IN TALKS WITH J&K, LADAKH ON SPECIAL STATUS

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is holding consultations with the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh to grant them “special status” on the lines of Article 371 of the Constitution.

Special Status under Article 371:

  • Articles 369 through 392 appear in Part XXI of the Constitution, titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’.
  • Article 371 of the Constitution includes “special provisions” for 11 states, including six states of the Northeast.
  • Articles 370 and 371 were part of the Constitution at the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950; Articles 371A through 371J were incorporated subsequently.
  • While Article 370, which limited purchase and inheritance of property to permanent residents, was scrapped for J&K, similar provisions provided under Article 371 in many states are still in force.

States that are under Article 371:

  • Article 371, Maharashtra and Gujarat:
  1. 1. Governor has “special responsibility” to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat;
  2. 2. It ensures “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government.
  • Article 371A (13th Amendment Act, 1962), Nagaland:
  1. 1. Inserted after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963.
  2. 2. Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion or social practices, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land without concurrence of the state Assembly.
  • Article 371B (22nd Amendment Act, 1969), Assam:
  1. The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Assembly consisting of members elected from the state’s tribal areas.
  • Article 371C (27th Amendment Act, 1971), Manipur:
  1. The President may provide for the constitution of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning.
  • Article 371D (32nd Amendment Act, 1973; substituted by The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014), Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
  1. 1. President must ensure “equitable opportunities and facilities” in “public employment and education to people from different parts of the state”.
  2. 2. He may require the state government to organize “any class or classes of posts in a civil service of, or any class or classes of civil posts under, the State into different local cadres for different parts of the State”.
  3. 3. He has similar powers vis-à-vis admissions in educational institutions.
  • Article 371E:
  1. Allows for the establishment of a university in Andhra Pradesh by a law of Parliament. But this is not a “special provision” in the sense of the others in this part.
  • Article 371F (36th Amendment Act, 1975), Sikkim:
  1. 1. The members of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in the House of the People.
  2. 2. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections.
  • Article 371G (53rd Amendment Act, 1986), Mizoram:
  1. Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Assembly… so decides”.
  • Article 371H (55th Amendment Act, 1986), Arunachal Pradesh:
  1. The Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”.
  • Article 371I Goa:
  1. The Legislative Assembly of the state of Goa must consist of not less than 30 members.
  • Article 371J (98th Amendment Act, 2012), Karnataka:
  1. 1. There is a provision for a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education.
  2. 2. A proportion of seats in educational institutions and state government jobs in Hyderabad-Karnataka can be reserved for individuals from that region.

Significance of Special Status:

  • The intention behind these provisions is to safeguard the interest and aspirations of certain backward regions or to protect cultural and economic interests of the tribal people or to deal with the disturbed law and order in some parts.

Difference between Special Status and Special Category Status:

  • The constitution provides special status through an Act that has to be passed by 2/3rds majority in both the houses of Parliament whereas the special category status is granted by the National Development Council, which is an administrative body of the government.
  • For example, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also special category status.
  • But now that Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature, special category status doesn’t apply to J&K anymore.

Criteria for special category status:

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

Who grants Special Category status to states?

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

Benefits for States confer with Special Category Status:

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

INDIA SKILLS REPORT

Why in News?

  • India Skills Report 2019-20 has been recently released PeopleStrong, a Global Talent Assessment Company.
  • This report is jointly prepared by PeopleStrong in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) along with partners like UNDP, AICTE, and AIU.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • The report consists of an in-depth study of employability amongst the fresh candidates joining the workforce.
    • About 46.21 per cent students were found employable or ready to take up jobs in 2019. The employability rate was 33 per cent in 2014, and 47.38 per cent in 2018.
    • Female employability witnessed an upward trend at 47 per cent this year from 38 per cent in 2017 and 46 per cent in 2018.
    • Most employable candidates as per the courses were MBA Students at 54 percent.
    • A decline in employability was seen in B.Tech, Engineering, MCA and Technical & Computer-related courses.

Performance of States:

  • Top three states in terms of employability: Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Top two employable cities: Mumbai and Hyderabad.
  • States that registered a dip in ranking were West Bengal and Haryana, which could not make it to the top ten list.

Way ahead for India:

  • The futuristic vision of making India a $5 trillion Economy Demands  Increase in the per-capita income of Indians which can happen only when people get employment.
  • This requires building the human Capital which involves infusing requisite skills and useful talent in the youth.
  • In order to achieve this, along with the universities and colleges in India, various emerging start-ups must involve innovative technologies to facilitate skill up-gradation, job creation, internships and workforce management on their platforms.

INDIA DESIGN COUNCIL (IDC)

Why in News?

  • The India Design Council launches two initiatives to promote Design Education and Standards.

Highlights:

  • The IDC launched the Chartered Designs of India (CDI) and the Design Education Quality Mark (DEQM).These two initiatives of the IDC and the National Institute of design, Ahmedabad will help to address the 5 challenges of scale, quality of design, quality of education for design, raising the priority for design in industry and design for public purpose. As Design Education gains momentum in India, it is necessary that commissioners of design projects and designers are able to distinguish qualified professional designers as against hobbyists and non-professionals.
  • India has a growing design ecosystem that has resulted in growth – both in the employment of creative skills and impact in the service sector.
  • Creative manufacturing and design innovation will be the key drivers in the Make in India initiative of 2020 and beyond and further strengthening the brand “designed in India”.
  • In 2007, India became one of the few countries to adopt a National Design Policy (NDP).

Design Education Quality Mark (DEQM):

  • The DEQM will benchmark design education programmes on predetermined standards and will accord Design Education Quality Mark to institutions that meet the provisions of the published standard.
  • The DEQ Mark will be granted to institutions that undergo the review process and meet or exceed the expectations for quality and standards as prescribed in the Quality Code.
  • The Quality Mark will communicate to everyone that an institution has a guaranteed minimum level of quality and standards and has undergone a third party, neutral review process.
  • The Quality Mark includes a trademark-protected logo, which could be used by the recipient institutions in all forms of internal and external communication.

Chartered Designs of India (CDI):

  • The CDI is envisaged as an institution that will establish and uphold the professional standards of design practice in India.
  • The focus of CDI is the “Professional Designer” identified by a design qualification and or experience.
  • CDI is a cohesive platform that adheres to the design practice to standards in professional design competence, ethics and service.

India Design Council (IDC):

  • The IDC’s establishment was announced by the government in 2009 in order to enable the policy implementation of the National Design Policy.
  • IDC is mandated to implement the NDP and is committed to work towards raising the standards of design education in India and ensure that it meets global benchmarks.
  • IDC is working with other government agencies, the design community, industry and educational institutions to promote design in business, society and public service.
  • The IDC is an autonomous body of the Government of India established under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is a national strategic body for multi-disciplinary design and is involved in the promotion of design to make India a design-enabled country.

INITIATIVES TO DEVELOP WORLD CLASS RESEARCH FACILITIES

Why in News?

  • The Government has taken many initiatives to promote research in the field of science & engineering and to develop world-class research facilities in India.

Highlights:

  • The following are some of the schemes in this regard:

Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship:

  • The Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship (PMRF) scheme is aimed at attracting the talent pool of the country to doctoral (Ph.D.) programmes of Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research (IISERs), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Central Universities (which are among the top 100 National Institutional Ranking Framework, NIRF ranked universities) for carrying out research in cutting edge science and technology domains, with focus on national priorities.
  • Under this scheme, meritorious students of IITs, IIITs, NITs and IISERs, after completing their B.Tech programme can straightaway get admission in PhD programme at IITs and IISc.

Junior Research Fellow (JRF)/Senior Research Fellow (SRF):

  • Under the scheme of Junior Research Fellow, for research personnel engaged in Research and Development programmes are given emoluments of Rs.31,000/- per month. For Senior Research Fellow (SRF) these emoluments are Rs. 35,000/- per month.

Research Associate:

  • Depending upon their experience and qualifications, the research associates are given emoluments in three pay levels ranging from Rs. 47000 to Rs. 54000.
  • National Initiative for Technology Transfer (Establishment of Research Parks):
  • The government has accorded approval for the establishment of research parks in the various IITs.

Institutions of Eminence (IoE):

  • In order to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them in becoming world-class teaching and research institutions, the government has recently declared 20 institutions (10 public and 10 Private institutions) as Institutions of Eminence.
  • These institutes will emphasise on multi-disciplinary initiatives, high quality research, global best practices and international collaboration. Financial assistance up to an amount of Rs 1000 crore is to be provided to government institutions in the next 5 years.

Impacting Research, Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT):

  • IMPRINT is a flagship national initiative of the Government, which aims at providing solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges and translating knowledge into viable technology in 10 selected technology domains, viz. health care, energy, sustainable habitat, nanotechnology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, information and communication technology, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.
  • It is a pan IITs and IISc Joint Initiative seeking to develop a roadmap for research.
  • However, IMPRINT is not meant only for IITs and IISc; it is a national movement providing an opportunity for the higher echelon institutes in India to integrate with all grass-root level institutes, industry and organizations, mutually complement and deliver what the country demands and aspires.

DIVERSION OF LPG CYLINDERS FOR COMMERCIAL USE

Why in News?

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report on the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), have highlighted the risk of diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use.

About PMUY:

  • It aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas)connections to poor households.
  • Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a Below Poverty Line (BPL)family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.
  • Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Under this scheme, initially 5 crore connections were to be provided to the people needing them. But now it has been extended to 8 crores.
  • The scheme also provides interest-free loans to buy stove and refill by oil marketing companies.
  • An initial outlay of Rs.8000 crore was sanctioned for the implementation of the scheme.The scheme is also expected to create employment to the tune of about a lakh.
  • It will also boost the ‘Make in India’ programme for manufacturers of gas cylinders, stoves, gas hose and regulators. Only domestic manufacturers are engaged in this.
  • It is also a business opportunity to the tune of a minimum of Rs.10000 crore.

What did the Report Say?

  • The CAG said this level of consumption seemed improbable in view of the BPL status of such beneficiaries. Similarly, 96lakh beneficiaries consumed 3 to 41 refills in a month. Further, IOCL and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) in 3.44 lakh instances issued 2 to 20 refills in a day to a PMUY beneficiary having single-bottle cylinder connection.
  • As on 31March 2019, Oil Marketing Companies had issued 19 crore LPG connections, which is about 90% of the target to be achieved till March 2020.
  • Audit noticed that out of 3.78 crore LPG connections, 60 crore (42%) connections were issued only on the basis of beneficiary Aadhaar which remained a deterrent in de- duplication.
  • The CAG said that the laxity in identification of beneficiaries was noticed as 9,897 LPG connections were issued against Abridged Household List Temporary Identification Numbers (AHL TINs) where names of all family members and the beneficiary were blank in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)-2011 list.
  • Similarly, 4.10lakh connections were issued against AHL TINs where entire details of family except that of one member were blank in the 2011 list.
  • Audit also observed that due to lack of input validation check in Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) software, 88lakh connections were released against AHL TIN of males.
  • Data analysis also revealed that 8.59 lakh connections were released to beneficiaries who were minor as per the SECC-2011data, which was in violation of PMUY guidelines and LPG Control Order, 2000.
  • It also exposed the mismatch in the name of 12.46 lakh beneficiaries between the PMUY database and SECC-2011 data.

Grievances to be Addressed:

  • Lack of input validation check in the IOCL software allowed issue of 0.80 lakh connections to beneficiaries aged below 18 years.
  • The audit also highlighted the delay of more than 365 days in the installation of 4.35 lakh connections against the stipulated time period of seven  days.
  • Adequate efforts were not made in distributing the small 5-kg cylinders for encouraging usage.
  • Encouraging the sustained usage of LPG remains a big challenge as the annual average refill consumption of 93 crore PMUY consumers (who have completed more than one year as on March 31,2018) was only 3.66 refills as worked out by audit.
  • For the 18crore PMUY beneficiaries, as on December 31, 2018, refill consumption declined to 3.21 refills per annum.
  • The low consumption of refills by 92lakh loanee consumers (who had completed one year or more as on 31 December 2018) hindered recovery of the outstanding loan of ₹1,234.71 crore.

Immediate Requirements:

  • The PMUY is a bold and much-needed initiative, but it should be recognised that this is just a first step.
  • The real test of the PMUY and its successor programmes will be in how they translate the provision of connections to sustained use of LPG or other clean fuels such as electricity or biogas.
  • Truly smokeless kitchens can be realized only if the government follows up with measures that go beyond connections to actual usage of LPG.
  • This may require concerted efforts cutting across Ministries beyond petroleum and natural gas and including those of health, rural development and women and child welfare.

SKILLS BUILD PLATFORM

Why in News?

  • India has recently launched the “Skills Build platform” becoming fourth country in the world to launch such platform.

About Skills Build Platform:

  • It is a digital platform developed by IBM, enabling holistic learning and aligning it with Skills India initiative by Government of India.
  • Launched by Directorate General of Training (DGT), under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) in Collaboration with IBM.
  • As part of the programme, a two-year advanced diploma in IT, networking and cloud computing, co-created and designed by IBM, will be offered at the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) & National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs).
  • The platform will be extended to train ITI & NSTI faculty on building skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Significance of the Programme:

  • The digital platform will provide a personal assessment of the cognitive capabilities and personality via My Inner Genius to the students.
  • They will then learn foundational knowledge about digital technologies, as well as professional skills such as resume-writing, problem solving and communication.
  • Students will also receive recommendations on role-based education for specific jobs that include technical and professional learning.
  • This initiative is part of IBM’s global commitment to create a job-ready workforce and to build the next generation of skills needed for new collar careers.

INNER LINE PERMIT EXTENDED TO MANIPUR AND DIMAPUR (NAGALAND)

Why in News?

  • The government has declared in Lok Sabha that Manipur would be brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in order to exempt it from the provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

About:

  • Recently Citizenship amendment bill, 2019 has been passed by the lok sabha and has been tabled in Rajya Sabha for clearance.
  • As per the governments assurance to allay fears of north Eastern state people due to the above bill, government is insulating north eastern states from the citizenship bill through adding them under the ambit of Inner line Permit.
  • It has to be noted that areas under inner line permit, areas under sixth schedule(i.e. tribal areas of Assam and Tripura), and whole of Meghalaya are exempted from the ambit of citizenship bill already. Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
  • So the remaining areas such as Manipur and Dimapur area of Nagaland are included in the “Inner line permit ambit” now.

Areas that are exempted from Citizenship Amendment Bill:

  • Except non tribal areas of Assam and Tripura, the entire North-east has been exempted from the Citizenship bill.
  • This means that the illegal migrants from the six minority communities who will become Indian citizens as per the proposed amendment will not be able to take up jobs, open businesses or settle down in these areas and will require a permit to enter the States.
  • Also the resident of other Indian states also require ILP to enter these areas.

About Inner Line Permit:

  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.
  • It  is  obligatory  for  Indians  residing  outside  those  states  to  obtain  permission  prior  to entering the protected areas.
  • The main objective of the ILP system is to provide a special protection of the distinct identity and safeguard for the peaceful existence of the indigenous people of the state
  • Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
  • The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.
  • It can be issued for travel purposes solely. Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions. However, there might be a different set of rules for long term visitors, though they are not valid for central government employees and security forces.

PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETIES AND FARMERS’ RIGHTS AUTHORITY AMENDS IT’S FAQ DOCUMENT

Why in News?

  • The government has decided to set up an expert committee revise the FAQ document of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, which was quoted by the PepsiCo in the ongoing issue at the Authority.

Recent Issue:

  • The ongoing case at the PPV&FRA revolves around PepsiCo’s FC5 variety of potatoes, which it grows through a collaborative farmer’s programme, wherein the company sells seeds to 12,000 farmers and has an exclusive contract to buy back their produce to make its chips.
  • PepsiCo supplies the FC5 potato variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price.
  • PepsiCo has exclusive rights on the variety by virtue of a Plant Variety Certificate granted under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001.
  • PepsiCo had sued nine farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety without permission of PepsiCO.
  • This variety of potatoes is grown exclusively for its popular Lay’s potato chips. PepsiCo has filed lawsuits for violating the company’s intellectual property rights on this variety of potato.
  • The damages claimed are over one crore from some farmers.
  • The farmers, on the other hand, have sought protection under Clause 39 of the same law which states that farmers are allowed “to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell… farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as they does not sell a “branded seed”.

Stand of PepsiCo:

PepsiCo has stated that:

  • The Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ document of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority (PPV&FRA), had claimed that “only small and marginal farmers involved in subsistence farming” are eligible to claim rights under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.
  • The FAQ also said these rights are not for “commercial farmers” and are only meant for “small scale” use.So PepsiCo has used the same argument in an ongoing case at the Authority over its registered potato variety used for Lays chips. The company has also cited the FAQ document to justify dragging more than nine farmers to court in 2018 for growing and selling its registered variety.

Decision of PPV&FRA:

  • The government has decided to set up an expert committee revise the FAQ document.
  • The document consisted of some statements that could have been explained in simpler language and some could be interpreted differently from what is provided.
  • So, in order to solve ongoing impasse, government has decided to update the FAQ document.

About Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act of 2001:

  • It is an act of the parliament of India that was enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants.
  • India have ratified the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of the Intellectual property rights hasd to make provision for giving effect to agreement. So, in order to give effect to the aforesaid objectives, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act , 2001 has been enacted in India.
  • The PPV&FR Act was enacted to grant intellectual property rights to plant Breeders, researchers and farmers who have developed any new plant varieties.

Farmers’ rights ensured in the Act:

  • Farmers are entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange or sell their farm produce including seed of a registered variety in an unbranded manner.
  • Farmers, varieties are eligible for registration and farmers are totally exempted from payment of any fee in any proceedings under this act.
  • The period of protection for field crops is 15 years and for trees and vines is 18 years and for notified varieties it is 15 years from the date of notification under section 5 of Seeds Act, 1966.
  • Farmers can claim for compensation if the registered variety fails to provide expected performance under given conditions.

LOKPAL

Why in News?

  • In a response to RTI, Lokpal stated that several key provisions needed for it has not yet been operational.

About the Issue

  • The key Provisions needed for the anti-corruption ombudsman to function is still not been operationalised.
  • The Lokpal’s inquiry and protection wings has not yet begun.
  • The regulation for how to conduct preliminary investigations have not been made.

About Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013:

  • It is for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
  • It is a statutory body without any constitutional status.
  • It performs the function of an “ombudsman”.
  • Its inquiries into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for Related Matters.

Structure of Lokpal:

  • It is a multi-member body, that consists of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
  • Its Chairperson should be either the former Chief Justice of India or the former Judge of Supreme Court or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
  • Its other members are half will be judicial members and minimum 50% of the Members will be from SC/ ST/ OBC/ Minorities and women.
  • The judicial member of the Lokpal either a former Judge of the Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the
  • matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
  • The term of office is 5 years or till the age of 70 years.
  • Its members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
  • The selection committee is composed of the Prime Minister who is the Chairperson; Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and One eminent jurist.
  • For selecting the chairperson and the members, the selection committee constitutes a search panel of at least eight persons.

Lokpal Search Committee:

  • Under the Lokpal Act of 2013, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is supposed to put together a list of candidates interested to be the chairperson or members of the Lokpal.
  • This list will then go to the proposed eight-member search committee, which would shortlist names and place them before the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister.
  • It may or may not pick names suggested by the search committee.
  • In September 2018, the government had constituted a search committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
  • The 2013 Act also provides that All Statesshould set up the office of the Lokayukta within one year from the commencement of the Act.

Jurisdiction and Powers:

  • It includes Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C and D officers and officials of Central Government.
  • It also included the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space.
  • It does not have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there.
  • Its jurisdiction also includes any person who is or has been in charge (director/ manager/ secretary) of anybody/ society set up by central act or any other body financed/ controlled by central government and any other person involved in act of abetting, bribe giving or bribe taking.
  • It mandates that all public officials should furnish the assets and liabilities of themselves as well as their respective dependents.
  • It is the powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
  • If it referred a case to CBI, the investigating officer in such case cannot be transferred without the approval of Lokpal.
  • Its Inquiry Wing is been vested with the powers of a civil court.
  • Its powers of confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances.
  • It has the power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with allegation of corruption.
  • It has the power to give directions to prevent the destruction of records during the preliminary inquiry.

Limitations:

  • It did not provide concrete immunity to the whistle blowers.
  • Its provision for initiation of inquiry against the complainant if the accused is found innocent will only discourage people from complaining.
  • It is not given any constitutional backing and there is no adequate provision for appeal against the Lokpal.
  • The biggest lacuna is the exclusion of judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
  • To some extent, the need for functional independence of the CBI has been catered to by a change brought forth in the selection process of its Director, by this Act.
  • The complaint against corruption cannot be registered after a period of seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such complaint is alleged to have been committed.

The Lokpal and Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2016:

  • It is passed by Parliament in July 2016 and amended the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013.
  • It enables the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the selection committee in the absence of a recognized Leader of Opposition.
  • It also amended section44 of the 2013 Act that deals with the provision of furnishing of details of assets and liabilities of public servants within 30 days of joining the government service.
  • It replaces the time limit of 30 days, now the public servants will make a declaration of their assets and liabilities in the form and manner as prescribed by the government.
  • It also gives an extension of the time given to trustees and board members to declare their assets and those of their spouses in case of these are receiving government funds of more than Rs. 1 crore or foreign funding of more than Rs. 10 lakhs.

About Background:

  • The term Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. L. M. Singhvi.
  • In 2002, the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by M.N. Venkatachaliah recommended the appointment of the Lokpal and Lokayukta; also recommended that the PM be kept out of the ambit of the authority.
  • In 2005, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission chaired by Veerappa Moily recommended that the office of Lokpal should be established without delay.
  • In 2011, the government formed a Group of Ministers, chaired by Pranab Mukherjee to suggest measures to tackle corruption and examine the proposal of a Lokpal Bill.
  • “India Against Corruption movement” led by Anna Hazare put pressure on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre and resulted in the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, in both the Houses of Parliament.

SEXUAL CASES UNDER POCSO

Why in News?

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 has adequate provisions ensuring speedy trial under the Act.

POCSO Act, 2012:

  • Section 28 of the POCSO Act 2012 provides for establishment of Special Courts for the purpose of providing speedy trial.
  • Further, Section 35 of the POCSO Act provides that the evidence of the child shall be recorded within a period of thirty days of the Special Court taking cognizance of the offence and reasons for delay, if any, shall be recorded by the Special Court.
  • Further, Section 35 also lays down that the Special Court shall complete the trial, as far as possible, within a period of one year from the date of taking cognizance of the offence.
  • However, Police and Public Order are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.
  • The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of the citizens including children, rest primarily with the respective State Governments and UT Administration.

Steps Taken to Ensure speedy Dispensation of Justice:

  • In furtherance to The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Government has finalized a scheme in for setting up of total of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across the country for expeditious trial and disposal of pending cases pertaining to rape and POCSO Act, 2012, in a time-bound manner under Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was enacted for effective deterrence against sexual offences.
  • Further, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was enacted to prescribe even more stringent penal provisions including death penalty for rape of a girl below age of 12 years.
  • The Act also inter-alia mandates completion of investigation and trials within 2 months each.
  • A “National Database on Sexual Offenders” has been launched to facilitate investigation and tracking of sexual offenders across the country by law enforcement agencies.
  • An online analytic tool for police called “Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences” has been launched to monitor and track time-bound investigation on sexual assault cases in accordance with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018.
  • Guidelines have been notified for collection of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases and the standard composition in a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.
  • A scheme namely Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) has been approved under which an online cybercrime reporting portal to enable public to report complaints pertaining to child pornography/ child sexual abuse material, rape/gang rape imageries or sexually explicit content.

2.3 MILLION CHILDREN IN INDIA UNVACCINATED FOR MEASLES: WHO REPORT

Why in News?

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) in partnership with Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently released a report on “Measles and Rubella disease” on behalf of the Measles and Rubella Initiative.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • With 2.4 million, Nigeria has the most number of unvaccinated children.
  • India is second highest, next only to Nigeria with 2.3 million unvaccinated children.
  • The other four countries with the most number of unvaccinated children are Pakistan (1.4 million), Ethiopia (1.3 million), Indonesia (1.2 million) and the Philippines (0.7 million).
  • In 2017, 2.9 million children in India under one year of age had not been vaccinated with the first dose, according to UNICEF. In one year, the number of unvaccinated children in India had reduced from 2.9 million to 2.3 million.
  • There were nearly 70,000 cases of measles in India in 2018, the third highest in the world. In 2019, over 29,000 confirmed cases have been reported to the WHO.
  • The WHO recommends 95% coverage using two doses of measles vaccine to prevent outbreaks. Though vaccine coverage with first and second dose has increased globally since 2000, it has not reached anywhere near 95%.
  • In 2018, only 86% of children globally received the first dose through routine immunisation. In the case of second dose, the coverage globally is just 69%.

About Measles and Rubella Measles

1. Measles:

  • Measles is a viral infection of the respiratory system which can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze. It is the leading cause of death in children.
  • Measles is a highly-contagious virus and spreads rapidly in unvaccinated children, causing symptoms from rash to blindness, pneumonia to death.
  • Symptoms: Cough fever, red eyes etc. A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles.
  • A vitamin A deficiency is considered to be a risk factor for measles. Children with too little vitamin A in their diets have a higher risk of catching the virus.

2. Rubella (German Measles)

  • Rubella virus is the primary cause of congenital rubella syndrome leading to abortions and children born with birth defects of heart, eye and brain.
  • Rubella is a mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.
  • Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause abortion, stillbirth and may lead to multiple birth defects in the new born; like blindness, deafness, heart defects; known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). India accounts for around one third of all children born worldwide with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
    • Both Measles and Rubella can be prevented by a highly-effective Measles-Rubella (MR) Vaccine.

India’s efforts to control Measles and Rubella:

  • The National Family Health Survey-4 (2015–2016) has assessed the vaccination coverage for the measles to be 81.1%.This is low compared to the 95% coverage level required for elimination.
  • In this regard, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner across the nation in 2017. The MR vaccine has now become part of Routine Immunisation Programme.

About Measles & Rubella Initiative:

  • Measles & Rubella Initiative (MRI), launched in 2001, is a global partnership among leaders in public health which supports the goal of reducing measles deaths globally by 90% by 2010 compared to 2000 estimates.

Partner Organisations:

  • American Red Cross
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
  • United Nations Foundation
  • Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

A POTENTIAL SEEDBED FOR PRIVATE PROFITS

Context:

  • Seeds Bill 2019 which was introduced in the parliament was taken up for consideration recently. The earlier versions of the Bill, in 2004 and 2010, had generated heated debates. The present version has also been with certain problematic provisions and the article discusses it in brief.

Background Information:

1. India Signing TRIPS and UPOV

  • In 1994, India signed the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In 2002, India also joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention.
  • The above two agreements has made a nation has to give priority to Seed breeder’s rights over farmer’s rights.
  • Both TRIPS and UPOV led to the introduction of some form of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) over plant varieties.
  • Member countries had to introduce restrictions on the free use and exchange of seeds by farmers unless the “breeders” were remunerated.

2. India signing CBD and ITPGRFA:

  • In 1992,India signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which provided for “prior informed consent” of farmers before the use of genetic resources and “fair and equitable sharing of benefits” arising out of their use.
  • In 2001, India signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) which recognised farmers‟ rights as the rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.
  • It is clear that these two agreements has made a country to favour farmer’s rights over breeder’s rights. So, national governments had the responsibility of protecting farmer’s rights.
  • Here we can notice TRIPS and UPOV runs counter to the above two international conventions.

3. A Delicate Balance of all:

  • As India was a signatory to TRIPS and UPOV (that gave priority to breeders‟ rights) as well as CBD and ITPGRFA (that emphasised farmers‟ rights), any Indian legislation had to be in line with all.
  • Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers‟ Rights (PPVFR) Act of 2001 was enacted with this delicate balance.
  • The PPVFR Act retained the main spirit of TRIPS viz., IPRs as an incentive for technological innovation. However, the Act also had strong provisions to protect farmers‟The PPVFR Act also recognised three roles for the farmer: cultivator, breeder and conserver. As cultivators, farmers were entitled to plant-back rights. As breeders, farmers were held equivalent to plant breeders. As conservers, farmers were entitled to rewards from a National Gene Fund.

Introduction of New legislation – Seed Bill, 2019

  • According to the government, a new Seeds Bill is necessary to enhance seed replacement rates in Indian agriculture, specify standards for registration of seed varieties and enforce registration from seed producers to seed retailers.
  • While these goals are indeed worthy, any such legislation is expected to be in alignment with the spirit of the PPVFR Act. Not surprisingly, many of the Bill’s provisions deviate from the spirit of the PPVFR Act, are against farmers’ interests and in favour of private seed companies. For instance, a shift from farm-saved seeds to certified seeds, which would raise seed replacement rates, is desirable. Certified seeds have higher and more stable yields than farm-saved seeds. However, such a shift should be achieved not through policing, but through an Enabling Atmosphere.

Interest of Private Companies:

  • From the late-1980s, Indian policy has consciously encouraged the growth of private seed companies, including companies with majority foreign equity.
  • Today, more than 50% of India’s seed production is undertaken in the private sector.
  • These firms have been demanding favourable changes in seed laws and deregulation of seed prices, free import and export of germplasm, freedom to self-certify seeds and restrictions on the use by farmers of saved seeds from previous seasons.
  • Through the various versions between 2004 and 2019 of the same bill, private sector interests have guided the formulation of the Seeds Bill.
  • As a result, even desirable objectives, such as raising the seed replacement rates, have been mixed up with an urge to encourage and protect the business interests of private companies.

Problematic Provisions of the New Bill:

  • The provisions of the new bill that runs counter to the existing PPVFR Act are as follows:

1. Compulsory Registration of Seeds

  • The Seeds Bill insists on compulsory registration of seeds. However,The PPVFR Act was based on voluntary registration of seeds.
  • As a result, many seeds may be registered under the Seeds Bill but may not under the PPVFR Act.
  • Assume a seed variety developed by a breeder, but derived from a traditional variety. The breeder will get exclusive marketing rights. But no gain will accrue to farmers as benefit-sharing is dealt with in the PPVFR Act, under which the seed is not registered.

2. Compensation for Farmer’s Role in Development of a Seed Variety:

  • As per the PPVFR Act, all applications for registrations should contain the complete passport data of the parental lines from which the seed variety was derived, including contributions made by farmers.
  • This allows for an easier identification of beneficiaries and simpler benefit-sharing processes.
  • Seeds Bill, on the other hand, demands no such information while registering a new variety. As a result, an important method of recording the contributions of farmers is overlooked and private companies are left free to claim a derived variety as their own.

3. Ever-Greening of registration

  • The PPVFR Act, which is based on an IPR like breeders‟ rights, does not allow re-registration of seeds after the validity period.
  • However under the new bill private seed companies can re-register their seeds an infinite number of times after the validity period. Given this “ever-greening” provision, many seed varieties may never enter the open domain for free use.

4. Seed Pricing

  • The new bill has vague provisions for regulation of seed prices which appears neither sufficient nor credible.
  • This has been the scenario ,when strict control on seed prices has been an important demand raised by farmers’ organisations.
  • In its absence, they feel, seed companies may be able to fix seed prices as they deem fit, leading to sharp rises in costs of cultivation.

5.Compensation to Farmers:

  • According to the PPVFR Act, if a registered variety fails in its promise of performance, farmers can claim compensation before a PPVFR Authority.
  • This provision is diluted in the Seeds Bill, where disputes on compensation have to be decided as per the Consumer Protection Act 1986. Consumer courts are hardly ideal and friendly institutions that Farmers can Approach.

Way Ahead:

  • Private seed companies prefer policing because their low-volume, high-value business model is crucially dependent on forcing farmers to buy their seeds every season.
  • So, on the other hand, an enabling atmosphere has to be generated by the strong presence of public institutions in seed research and production.
  • When public institutions, not motivated by profits, are ready to supply quality seeds at affordable prices, policing becomes redundant.
  • For the seed sector and its laws to be truly farmer-friendly, the public sector has to recapture its lost space.

About Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, India:

  • It has been established under the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001.
  • Its Objectives Includes:
  • An effective system for protection of plant varieties,
  • The rights of farmers and plant breeders and
  • To encourage the development of new varieties of plants it has been considered necessary to recognize and protect the rights of the farmers in respect of their contribution made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of the new plant varieties.
  • To accelerate agricultural development, it is necessary to protect plants breeders’ rights to stimulate investment for research and development for the development of new plant varieties.
  • Such protection is likely to facilitate the growth of the seed industry which will ensure the availability of high quality seeds and planting material to the Farmers.

FUGITIVE ECONOMIC OFFENDERS

Why in News?

  • A special court on Thursday declared absconding Nirav Modi, prime accused in the Punjab National Bank scam, a fugitive economic offender (FEO).
  • The declaration allows the government to initiate action to confiscate the offender’s properties.
  • Nirav Modi is the second person to be declared a fugitive economic offender, under the new fugitive Economic Offenders Act, after Vijay Mallya.

“Fugitive Economic Offender”

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

About Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018:

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

Proceedings as per the Act:

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

United Nations Convention against Corruption:

  • Non conviction based asset confiscation for corruption related cases are enabled under provisions of United Nations Convention against Corruption which India ratified in 2011. This Act is adopted based on this principle.
    • The United Nations Convention against Corruption is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument.
    • It was adopted by the General Assembly in 2003 and entered into force on December 14, 2005.
    • The Convention covers five main areas: preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.

THE STRUCTURAL FLAWS IN INDIA’S HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM

Why in News?

  • Recently, fee hike in JNU has raised a debate regarding the quality of higher education in India and the kind of support the government is giving to our students. In this context, we need to take a look into the problems that clog the higher education system in India.

Issues and Challenges:

1. Low Enrolment Ratio:

  • According to All India Survey on Higher Education, the gross enrolment ratio in higher education is 25.2% in 2016-17 compared to 44% of China and 85% in US. This shows lack of access to higher education institutions.

2. Shortage of faculty

  • Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average and the teacher-student ratio is now 1:20. The problem lies in increased demand, and stagnant supply.
  • A Deloitte gathering of 63 Deans of top-tier institutions revealed that 80% of those listed lack of quality faculty.

3. Quality standards:

  • About 94% of students of higher education study in 369 State universities.
  • In 2012 only 106 State universities and 4,684 colleges were accredited by NAAC.

4. Underfunding:

  • The number of institutions has surged in India since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant.
  • Meanwhile, there are over a 1,00,000 India-born PhDs in universities around the world, who are kept away from India due to paltry salaries and poor funding.
  • It has to be noted that China has solved this problem by attracting Chinese-origin PhDs back home with dollar salaries and monetary incentives for published research.

5.Complexity in Regulation

  • The heavy hands of multiple regulators (like the UGC and All India Council for Technical Education), together with the empowerment of professional bodies (like the Bar Council of India and Council of Architecture) have not yielded the desired dividends.

6. Inadequate infrastructure

  • Most of the funding from the Central government is skewed towards Central universities, IITs and IIMs.
  • 150 Centrally-funded institutions get most of funding by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

7. Lack of Industry connect

  • Indian universities persist in separating research and teaching activities, depriving students of exposure to cutting-edge ideas.
  • Monetary incentives for academia are practically non-existent, and Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies.
  • It is not surprising, then, that Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching.
  • According to India Skills Report only 47% of the Indian graduates are considered employable.

Impact of such an Issue:

  • These structural flaws in the Indian higher educational institutions could affect macroeconomic indicators such as labour productivity.
  • Labour Productivity:
    • Output obtained from each employee
    • Determined mainly by

    1. Innovation
    2. Human Capital

Suggestion to improve Labour Productivity:

Government Interventions in this Aspect:

1. Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

  • To address the funding concerns of State institutions, the MHRD in 2013 has launched RUSA scheme.
  • RUSA provides strategic funding to eligible State higher educational institutions.
  • The scheme is performance-based in that the funding is linked to reforms in the key areas of governance, learning-teaching outcomes, enrolment and infrastructure support.

2. Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme(EQUIP)

  • It is an ambitious programme to improve Access and Quality in Higher Education over next 5 years.
  • It provides for funding through HEFA that will raise Rs 1 Lakh crore for infrastructure improvement.

3.Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill 2018:

  • The Bill seeks to repeal UGC Act and provides for setting up of Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) to replace the UGC.
  • Separation of academic functions and grants thereby promoting autonomy.
  • The new commission will cover all fields of education (except medical) and institutions set up under the Central and State Acts excluding those of national importance).

4. Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC)

  • Launched in 2018
  • Primarily aims at improving the research ecosystem of India’s Higher Educational Institutions.

5. Institutions of Eminence programme

  • The above efforts have been coupled with an ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme started in 2018 that gave increased funding to some research universities.

Way Forward:

  • The Draft National Education Policy, 2019 has recommended for:

1. Increase GER to at least 50% by 2035.
2. Establishment of National research foundation to improve R&D.
3. Restructure of Higher Education Institutions into following Tiers:

  • Tier 1: Research and teaching
  • Tier 2 : Professional courses
  • Tier 3 : Liberal Arts
  • The government needs to recognise the systemic anger at play, and ensure that higher education’s role in innovation and human capital is not ignored.
  • The Draft National Education Policy, 2019  is a great first-step, but the reforms must be pushed through and must lead to legislation that will fund research-based universities.
  • Only this can bring a culture of discovery and accountability to India’s higher education institutions.

THE NEGLECTED FOOT SOLDIERS OF A LIBERALISED ECONOMY

Why in News?

  • There has been a drastic rise in the contractualisation of the workforce in India. But the government has failed to address the aspiring needs of this segment including the Social Security benefit needs of the same.

Recent Issue:

  • There has been a proposed merger of BSNL and MTNL entities. Permanent employees of these two telecommunication companies are planning to opt for lucrative voluntary retirement schemes and a generous package also awaits the senior employees.
  • But the future of thousands of contract labourers, contractual and temporary workers — who have served the two organisations for several years for far less wages and without any substantial social security benefits is in dire straits.
  • There are also incidents of suicides among these contractual labourers of these two entities.

Who is a Contract Labour?

  • Contract Labour refers to the labourers who do not work directly for a firm but are employed by another firm (intermediary/contractor) which has a contract to do particular work.

Contract workforce share in India:

  • Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) shows that there was an increase in total employment from 7.7 million to 13.7 million between 2000-01 and 2015-16.Of this, over half of the increase was accounted for by contract workers.
  • The share of contract workers in total employment increased sharply from 15.5% in 2000-01 to around 28% in 2015-16.
  • But the Contract Labour Act, 1970, is applicable only to organisations and contractors who are employing 20 or more workers. Hence, the number of such workers could be much more than what the numbers suggest.

Issues Faced by the Contractual Labour segment:

1. Non-compliance of the Contract laws:

  • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 have been in place for long; but non-compliance is the order of the day.
  • Similarly, manual scavengers, most of them employed as contract labourers, are still forced to do cleaning jobs under the most inhumane conditions, despite this barbaric practice having been outlawed through successive pieces of legislation.
  • The Supreme Court, in judgment after judgment, has ruled that contract workers should be paid the same wages as permanent employees for similar jobs, but these orders seem to exist only in the papers. Similarly, Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, has largely been a cosmetic exercise.

2. Hire and fire norm:

  • Indian labour laws are stringent and protective, but this statement applies only to the fortunate permanent employees, who constitute roughly 10% of the total workforce. Hire and Fire is the rule for the contract labourers. Laissez faire is in Full Bloom.

3. Social Aspect:

  • Paradoxically, a rigid labour law system has also contributed to greater contractualisation of the workforce. And, engaged in substantial numbers as contract labourers are people from vulnerable caste groups.

4. Lack of Revisal in the salary structure:

  • Pay Commissions are always very gracious to upgrade the salary structure of permanent employees on a periodical basis, but the genuine needs of contract workers are repeatedly ignored by the state.

5. Precarious Service Conditions.

  • There are thousands of employees in the informal sector, a majority of them engaged through contractors, working in precarious service conditions.

Recommendations of the National Commission on Labour:

  • The second National Commission on Labour, had Strongly Recommended for :
    • Abolition of the exploitative contract labour system in course of time
    • Implementation of a comprehensive social security scheme.
    • A contract worker should be treated as a permanent worker, after two years of working for an organisation
  • But these Recommendations are yet to be Implemented.

Way Ahead:

  • The Contract Labour Act prescribes that contract workers are entitled to “same wages” for the same kind of work as regular workmen. It is thus important to ensure that wages of contract workers are at par with directly hired workers.
  • This is necessary not just for the benefit of contract workers, but also for directly employed workers who have had meagre growth in their real wages.
  • Further, now, contract workers should not be engaged in “core” and “perennial” activities as per the law. However, with increasing substitution of regular workers with contract workers and the changing nature of core and perennial activities, there is an urgent need to review the Contract Labour Act.
  • The provision of decent conditions of work and social security for contract workers must be strictly adhered to.

Conclusion:

  • In the liberalised Indian economy of the 21st century, such labourers are treated as sacrificial goats. Unless our policymakers ensure strong enforcement of policies linked to such workers, suicides, as in the BSNL-MTNL case, will continue.
  • Parliament has already enacted the Code on Wages, 2019. Indeed, we do need reform in our labour laws to enhance globalisation. But, at the same time, we also need a comprehensive umbrella of social security for these foot soldiers of Growth and Development.

NATIONAL COMPANY LAW APPELLATE TRIBUNAL (NCLAT)

Why in News?

  • In pursuance of judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Government has decided to set up a bench of National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) at Chennai.

About NCLAT:

  • National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • Benches of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) are set up in various States depending on the case load and other relevant factors. Considering the heavy case load at some existing benches, additional members have been appointed and additional courts have been operationalised from Time to Time.

Composition:

  • The President of the Tribunal and the chairperson and Judicial Members of the Appellate Tribunal shall be appointed after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  • The Members of the Tribunal and the Technical Members of the Appellate Tribunal shall be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of:
  1. 1.Chief Justice of India or his nominee—Chairperson.
  2. 2.A senior Judge of the Supreme Court or a Chief Justice of High Court— Member.
  3. 3.Secretary in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs—Member.
  4. 4.Secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice—Member.
  5. 5.Secretary in the Department of Financial Services in the Ministry of Finance— Member

Functions:

  • It hears appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT), with effect from 1st June, 2016.
  • It is the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by NCLT(s) under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
  • It is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
  • It is the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

 

REPORT OF ANAEMIC CHILDREN IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The Government has informed Lok Sabha about the prevalence of Anaemia among women and children in urban and Rural India.

About the News:

  • The data, based on the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) IV (2015-16), divide the incidence of anaemia into ‘Mild’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Severe’ kinds for both rural and urban India.
  • As many as 58.5% of children between the ages of 6 months and 59 months, and 53.1% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years, are anaemic in the country.
  • As per the given by the government, 29.8% of children in rural India suffer from moderate anaemia, and 40.3% of women in the villages are mildly Anaemic.

What is Anaemia?

  • According to WHO Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and Pregnancy Status.

Government’s Initiative:

  • The union government had, launched the “Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) Strategy under POSHAN Abhiyan in 2018 with the aim to reduce anaemia prevalence by three percentage points every year till 2022”.

 About Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB):

  • In 2018, the union government launched the Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) Strategy under POSHAN Abhiyan to reduce anaemia prevalence by three percentage points every year till 2022.
  • AMB is a 6x6x6 strategy that is targeting six age groups, with six interventions and six institutional mechanisms.
  • The six age groups include pre-school children (6-59 months), children (5-9 years), adolescent girls (10-19 years), adolescent boys (10-19 years), women of reproductive age group (15-49), and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Among the six interventions is prophylactic iron folic acid supplementation, periodic deworming, and addressing non-nutritional causes of anaemia in endemic pockets, with special focus on malaria, haemoglobinopathies and fluorosis, the Minister said.
  • Institutional mechanisms include a National Anaemia Mukt Bharat Unit, and a National Centre of Excellence and Advanced Research on Anaemia Control.

PROHIBITION OF ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Parliament has recently passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019.

What are e-cigarettes?

  • An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking.
  • It works by heating up nicotine liquid.
  • Nicotine juice comes in various flavors and nicotine levels.
  • e-liquid is composed of five ingredients: vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.
  • Electronic cigarettes do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporize a solution the user then Inhales.

What does the Bill Say?

  • Any production, import, export, transport, sale (including online sale) or advertisement (including online advertisement) of e-cigarettes shall be a cognizable offence punishable with an imprisonment of up to one year or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh or both for the first offence
  • For a subsequent offence, there will be imprisonment of up to 3 years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakh.
  • Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable with an imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 50,000 or both.
  • The Sub-Inspector of Police has been designated as the Authorized Officer to take action under the Ordinance.
  • The Central or State Governments may also designate any other equivalent officer(s) as Authorized Officer for enforcement of the provisions of the Ordinance.

What is the Concern?

  • India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.
  • ENDS contain nicotine solution which is highly addictive.
  • The flavouring agents and vaporizers used in e-cigarettes are also harmful for health.
  • Use of e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans like DNA damage, carcinogenesis, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity.
  • It can cause respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.
  • They are also known to have adverse effects on pregnancy and foetal development.
  • Lack of knowledge about negative effects of nicotine and easy accessibility of these products make the youth prone to addiction.

RESERVATIONS IN PROMOTIONS FOR SC/ST: AN OVERVIEW

Why in News?

  • The Centre on Monday has asked the Supreme Court to refer to a seven-judge Bench the question whether the creamy layer concept should apply or not to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while providing them reservation in promotions.

Current Scenario of Reservations in Promotions in for SC/ST:

  • The 2006 verdict on Nagaraj vs Union of India brought in a creamy layer filter for promotions for SC/ST employees.
  • Also, the judgement ruled that the state had to collect ‘quantifiable data on backwardness’ of the SC/ST class if it wished to provide reservation in promotions.
  • The judgement finally held that when it comes to promotion of SC/ST employees, the court held that the creamy layer concept does Apply.
  • So now, only in direct recruitment of the SC/STs, the creamy layer concept Does Not Apply.

Background Information:

  • Constitutional basis- Article 335:
  • Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.
  • Need: Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity. The proviso contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.
  • Significance: The proviso is an aid of fostering the real and substantive right to equality to the SCs and STs. It protects the authority of the Union and the States to adopt any of these special measures, to effectuate a realistic (as opposed to a formal) consideration of their claims to appointment in services and posts under the Union and the states.
  • It also emphasises that the need to maintain the efficiency of administration cannot be construed as a fetter on adopting these special measures designed to uplift and protect the welfare of the SCs and STs.
  • Indra Sawhney vs Union of India case (1992):
  • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
  • It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment.
  • On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.
  • M Nagaraj case (2006):
  • The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
  • Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision.
  • “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets:
    1. 1. The backwardness of the class.
    2. 2. The inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment.
    3. 3. The general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected.
  • This is to provide for reservations in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with consequential seniority.
  • “Consequential seniority” refers to promotions made purely on reservation basis despite another person waiting for promotion being actually senior to him/her.
  • Jarnail Singh case (2018):
  • In2018, a five-judge Bench in the Jarnail Singh case unanimously agreed with a 2006 judgment of another five-judge Bench in the M. Nagaraj case, which had upheld the application of the creamy layer principle in promotions.
  • Also the judgment has modified a part of the Nagaraj case verdict which required the States to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that the backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis. This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were..

What are the Current Concerns?

1. Against Precedence

  • It has been clearly stated in Indra Sawhney (1992) case, that any discussion on creamy layer “has no relevance” in the context of SC/STs.

2. Against equal Representation

  • Going by the creamy layer ceiling of Rs 8 lakh per annum, even “Group D” functionaries will come under the definition of creamy layer.
  • But notably, the SC/STs lack representation mainly at the Group A level which do not have direct recruitment provisions.
  • Promotions are the way through which members of SC/ST communities make it to this level.
  • So the consequence of the judgement (applying creamy layer in promotions) will be that promotions will stop even at the Group D and Group C levels.

3. Protection

  • The SC/STs are given job reservations not because they are poor but because they are excluded.
  • The Constitution made the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as a separate category of subjects to protect them from caste aggression.
  • It was also to help them gain the strength they need to withstand it and to grow autonomously.

4. Article 335

  • The first part of Article 335 stipulates job reservations for SC/STs as a right of representation, not as a welfare measure.
  • However, the creamy layer among SC/ST employees helps fulfil the second part of Article 335 that requires maintaining the “efficiency of administration”.
  • So, the recent judgement largely undoes the affirmative action of ensuring equality of opportunity.

5. Right to opt out

  • The court also failed to address this, as at present, an SC/ST candidate does not have the right to reject reservations.
  • It is also a punishable offence to withhold one’s caste status while seeking government employment.
  • But allowing SC/ST candidates to compete in the general category would help thousands to leave the space for the less privileged among them.
  • Also, by competing as non-reserved candidates, the well-qualified SC/ST group would corner a substantial number of open posts (General Category).So theoretically, SC/STs would end up garnering more posts than at present.

GETTING ORGAN DONATION TO TICK AGAIN

Context:

  • Indian organ donation day is observed by the Government of India on November 30.
  • It is observed with the primary objective of promoting organ donation and transplantation so that a number of persons suffering from organ failure, such as the kidneys and liver, can get a new lease of life using organs gifted by others who have lost their lives (such as in road accidents or other reasons).

Recent issues in the Transplant Sector:

  • It has been recently alleged that International Patients were given priority in transplants, bypassing long list of Indian Patients.
  • Recent drop in transplant count among various states. E.g. The number of donations in Kerala in 2015 is 76, whereas in 2018 it is just 8.
  • Hearts and lungs harvested from brain-dead patients were given to foreign nationals admitted to Corporate Hospitals.

Existing Problems in India’s Current Transplant Policy:

  • Rampant commercialisation of the transplantation process due to the greed of the hospitals.
  • The organ trade has led to the exploitation of the poverty-stricken people by tempting them with the financial gains.
  • Various allegations that organs were harvested without the consent of a brain-dead patient’s family to meet the needs of foreign nationals.
  • India’s organ allocation program currently lacks transparency.
  • Rampant privatisation has led to a profit-oriented approach to health and has thereby financially skewed organ transplants to the rich.
  • Recently, the controversy has heated up due to a leaked communication from the head of the “National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation”.

Way Ahead:

  • One of the usual approaches is to regulate hospitals through acts and rules. It is time to revisit its effectiveness of Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, since it has been 25 years of its inception.
  • Substitution of bureaucratic procedures for hospital and transplant approval by self-declaration and mandatory sample verification involving civil society will improve compliance.
  • Further amendment is needed to ensure full State autonomy in this area, avoiding the Central government’s interference in organ distribution, which is now demotivating many hospitals.
  • All State organ distribution agencies must make their operations fully transparent. Steps such as making online organ distribution norms and the full details on every organ donation will help build public confidence in the system.
  • We will have to ensure that organs will go to those who need them the most rather than to those who can pay for them.
  • Subsidising transplantation cost (in private) and quota-based organ allocation to public hospitals are some options that can be considered to ensure fairness.

About NOTTO:

National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO)

  • NOTTO functions as the apex centre for All India activities of coordination and networking for procurement and distribution of Organs and Tissues and registry of Organs and Tissues Donation and Transplantation in the country.
  • It functions under the aegis of Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

 

 

THE BODOLAND DISPUTE

Why in News?

  • The central government has extended the ban on the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by five more years for its involvement in a series of violent anti-state Activities.

The Bodoland:

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several Ethnic Groups.

What is the Dispute?

  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

 NDFB:

  • Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary.The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions. In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan.
  • In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.

FEMALE LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION

Why in News?

  • According to an internal study conducted by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), just one out of five persons entering the labour force is expected to be a female in next 5 years.

About NSDC:

  • NSDC is Public Private Partnership (PPP) under Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
  • It was founded in 2009 as not-for-profit Company by Ministry of Finance to address need for providing skilled manpower across various industry sectors.
  • Government of India (GoI) through MSDE holds 49% of share capital of NSDC, while private sector has balance 51% of the share capital.
  • NSDC aims to promote skill development by catalysing creation of large, quality and for-profit vocational institutions.
  • Its objective is to create training capacity in the country; fund vocational training initiatives and create market ecosystem for skill development.
  • Its mandate is to train 150 million people by 2022.
  • It is also involved in re-skilling and also in catering to skilled manpower requirement of overseas markets, most notably that of Japan (under TITP) and UAE.

What did the Study Found?

  • 7 crore additional individuals in the working-age (15-59 years) are expected to enter the labour force by 2023, of which 84.3 % or 5.9 crore will be in the age group 15-30 years.
  • Only six states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — are expected to account for 50 % (about 3 crore) of the new youth entrants (15-30 years) during 2019-23.
  • Just one out of five persons — in the 15-30 years age bracket — entering the labour force is expected to be a female in the five years ending 2023.
  • Many female candidates in the age group of 15-19 years may not be actively in the labour force, instead choosing to opt for higher education, and so, with the changing education pattern, female labour force participation rate should be watched closely for the 20-34 Years Age Group.

Comparison with Other Data’s:

  •  While the NSO’s Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 had estimated female labour force participation rate for 15 years and above at 23.3 %, the comparative numbers of other countries highlight the labour market’s gender skew.
  • According to World Bank data, India’s female labour force participation rate ranks much lower than other Asian economies in 2019, including Vietnam (73 %), China (61 %), Singapore (60 %), Bangladesh (36 %), and is closer to the estimates in countries such as Lebanon (24 %), Pakistan (24 %), Libya (26 %), Tunisia (24 %) and Sudan (24 %).

SOCIAL AUDITS OF MAJOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES

Why in News?

  • The Department of Rural Development decides to institutionalize social audits in major schemes.

Highlights:

  • The Department of Rural Development has decided to institutionalize social audits in major schemes of rural development, starting with the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G).
  • In this backdrop, a two-day ‘National Seminar on Social Audit of Rural Development Programmes’ is being organised in November 2019.
  • It is being jointly conducted by the Department of Rural Development and the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.
  • The objective of the seminar is to understand the current status of social audits and Social Audit Units (SAUs) and develop a plan for roll out of social audit in other programmes.
  • The Seminar will take stock of the current status of Social Audits and SAUs in terms of independency, funds, issues identified, actions taken, etc. and will provide a platform for SAUs to share their experiences of conducting social audit.
  • Models and best practices in social audit from across states in India and also from other countries will be showcased.
  • Participants will also develop an action plan for strengthening SAUs and roll out of social audit in other rural development programmes especially NSAP and PMAY-G.

Social audit for Schemes:

  • Social Audit is recognized by many, including the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), as a powerful tool to enforce transparency and accountability.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was the first Act to mandate Social Audits by the Gram Sabha of all the projects taken up in the Gram Panchayat.
  • In addition to MGNREGA, a few states have taken up social audit of other schemes as well.
  • Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) audits are done in Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
  • National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) audits are done in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Meghalaya Legislature has enacted ‘The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017’ which mandates social audit in 26 different schemes in Education, Health, Rural Development and other areas.
  • Eight States have taken up Social Audit of 11 different schemes including Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meals (MDM).

Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G):

  • This scheme functions under the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • The objective of the scheme is to help rural people below the poverty line (BPL) in constructing dwelling units and upgrading the existing unserviceable kutcha houses by providing assistance in the form of a full grant.
  • Rural housing programme, as an independent programme, started with the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) in January 1996. To address certain gaps in the IAY, the government restructured it into the PMAY-G with a commitment to provide “Housing for All’’ by the year 2022. Beneficiaries are chosen according to data taken from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011.

National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP):

  • NSAP was launched in 1995.
  • This was introduced in accordance with the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) which directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want within the limit of its economic capacity and development.
  • The NSAP aims at ensuring a minimum national standard for social assistance in addition to the benefits that states are currently providing or might provide in the future.
  • It is a social security and welfare programme to provide support to aged persons, widows, disabled persons and bereaved families on the death of the primary breadwinner, belonging to BPL households.

Currently, the NSAP comprises of Five Schemes:

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)
  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS)
  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS)
  • National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS)
  • Annapurna Scheme

MERGER OF ASSAM RIFLES AND ITBP

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed that the Assam Rifles should be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and serve under the operational control of the MHA.

About CAPF:

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to uniform nomenclature of security forces in India under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • They are the, Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Assam Rifles (AR), National Security Guard (NSG) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • At present, the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force, is under the administrative control of the MHA and under the operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence.

BSF:

  • The primary role of the Border Security Force is to guard the border of the India with Pakistan and Bangladesh; it is deployed both on the International Border (IB) between India and Pakistan and the Line of Control (LOC). The BSF also has active roles during times of war.

CRPF:

  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is India’s largest Central Armed Police Force and also considered to be World’s largest Paramilitary Force. It functions under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India. The CRPF’s primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and Counter Insurgency.

CISF:

  • One of the largest industrial security forces in the world, the Central Industrial Security Force provides security to various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and other critical infrastructure installations, major airports across the country and provides security during elections and other internal security duties and VVIP protection.

ITBP:

  • The Indo-Tibetan Border Police is deployed for guarding duties on the border with China from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh covering a total distance of 3488 km.

Assam Rifles:

  • The Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force of India. The unit can trace its lineage back to a paramilitary police force that was formed under the British in 1835 called Cachar Levy. Since 2002 it has been guarding the Indo–Myanmar barrier as per the government policy “one border one force”.

NSG:

  • The National Security Guard (NSG) is a counter terrorism unit under the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It was raised in 15th October1984, following Operation Blue Star, Akshardham Temple attack and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, “for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against Internal Disturbances”.

SSB:

  • The objective of the Sashastra Seema Bal (English: Armed Border Force) is to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Borders.

PRISON STATISTICS INDIA–2017 REPORT

Why in News?

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released the report “Prison Statistics India 2017” recently.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • Indian jails have an average occupancy rate of 115% of their capacity and continue to remain congested and overcrowded.
  • In 16 of the 28 States covered in the report, occupancy rate was higher than 100% with States and Union Territories such as Uttar Pradesh (165%), Chhattisgarh (157.2%), Delhi (151.2%) and Sikkim (140.7%) faring the worst.
  • While overall occupancy rates have come down from 140% in 2007 to 115% in 2017, only a few States have, in this period, gone about building more jails or increasing capacity in prisons in line with the changes in inmate population.
  • Tamil Nadu have reduced their prison occupancy rate (to 61.3%) by increasing the number of jails and their capacity and reducing arrests for actions unless there is a cognisable offence made out.
  • U.P. continue to have high occupancy rates because of increased inmate population despite a relative increase in prison capacity.
  • Rajasthan and Maharashtra have not managed to augment jail capacity to fit in the increased inmate population in the past decade.
  • It has to be noted that more than 68% of those incarcerated were undertrials, indicating that a majority were poor and were unable to execute bail bonds or provide sureties.

Reasons for Overcrowding in Jails:

  • Judicial Backlogs-Due to 1 crore cases (2016) pending in various courts of the country, jails across the country will remain overcrowded in the absence of any effective systemic intervention.
  • Inadequate Prison Capacity– Most Indian prisons were built in the colonial era, are in constant need of repair and part of them are uninhabitable for long periods.
  • Restricted access to legal Representatives-Many inmates are unaware of their rights and cannot afford legal aid, limited ability to communicate with lawyers from within the jail premises hampers their ability to defend themselves.
  • Problems in Acquiring Bail – For poor and marginalized it is also difficult to get bail which leaves them no option but to stay in jails and wait for courts final order.
  • Unnecessary Arrests: Over 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary and such arrests accounted for 3 per cent of jail expenditure.

Key Recommendations of the Law Commission:

  • There were a series of recommendations made by the Law Commission of India in its 268th report and key recommendations are as follows:
  • Highlighted the inconsistencies in the bail system as one of the key reasons for overcrowding in prisons.
  • Expediting the trial process for such prisoners is the most important endeavour, but short of this there are ways to decongest prisons by granting relief to undertrials.
  • The Commission recommended that those detained for offences that come with a punishment of up to seven years of imprisonment should be released on completing one-third of that period.
  • Those who charged with offences that attract a longer jail term, should be released after they complete half of that period.
  • For those who have spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone should be considered for remission.
  • It also recommended that the police should avoid needless arrests, while magistrates should refrain from mechanical remand orders.
  • Despite the Supreme Court and other institutions regularly raising the issue of prison reforms and decongestion in jails, it is evident that the measures taken have been piecemeal in most States.
  • Justice Amitava Roy committee is a ray of hope in the direction of prison reforms, but without political reforms in India’s criminal justice system are impossible.

About National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB):

  • NCRB, headquartered in New Delhi, was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It has been created by a government resolution based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task force (1985).
  • NCRB brings out the annual comprehensive statistics of crime across the country (‘Crime in India’ report).

15-POINT REFORM CHARTER FOR BETTER FUNCTIONING OF PARLIAMENT

Context:

  • Our Honourable Vice President has unveiled a 15-point reform charter, while expressing severe concern over the functioning of parliamentary institutions in the country and erosion of public trust in them.
  • The charter is expected to serve as a basis for a new political normal to enable effective functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • He also called for a new political consciousness urging all the stakeholders to review their mindset with regard to their roles and responsibilities.

The 15-point Charter Includes:

  • Parties need to ensure attendance of at least 50% of their legislators all through the proceedings of the Houses by adopting a roster system.
  • Review of anti-defection law.
  • Review of the whip system which is “stifling reasonable dissent even on non-consequential matters”.Set up special courts for time-bound adjudication of criminal complaints against legislators.Pre and post legislative impact assessment.
  • Address problem of rising number of legislators with criminal background.
  • Governments should be responsive to opposition and opposition to be responsible and constructive while resorting to available parliamentary instruments
  • Consensus on the proposal for simultaneous elections.
  • Steps should be taken for the effective functioning of the Parliamentary Committees.
  • The representation of women in legislatures needs to be raised.

Need behind such a charter:

  • The functioning of the parliament is heavily coming under criticism for various reasons and major issues behind them are as follows:
    • Political power continues to be a male dominated. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have not seen women MPs cross the 12% mark.
    • Political parties failing to display internal democracy.
    • The number of sittings the parliament undergoes is declining gradually.
    • Parliament occupied by persistent disruptions.
    • Rising questions on the quality of debates. In 2008, for instance, 16 Bills were passed with less than 20 minutes of debate.
    • Rising number of legislatures with criminal record.
    • Rising money and muscle power in elections.
    • Legislatures displaying high degree of absenteeism.
    • Faulty ‘First Pass the Post (FPTP) election system.
    • There are many instruments like anti-defection law, whip issued by the political parties that are acting as hindrances for free speech of MPs.

KHADI AND VILLAGE INDUSTRIES COMMISSION

Why in News?

  • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and the Goa State Government have joined hands with an aim to generate employment opportunities in Goa.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC):

  • KVIC is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament in 1956.
  • The body is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programs for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.

Objectives of KVIC:

  • The social objective of providing employment.
  • The economic objective of producing saleable articles.
  • The wider objective of creating self-reliance amongst the poor and building up of a strong rural community spirit.
  • Its functions also comprise building up of a reserve of raw materials and implements for supply to producers, creation of common service facilities for processing of raw materials as semi-finished goods and provisions of facilities for marketing of KVI products.
  • It also imparts training to artisans engaged in these industries.
  • It also engages in research of production techniques and equipment employed in the Khadi and Village Industries sector.
  • It also provides financial assistance to institutions and individuals for the development and operation of Khadi and village industries and guides them through the supply of designs, prototypes and other technical information.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and is headquartered in Mumbai.

Khadi:

  • Khadi, also called khaddar, is a hand-spun, hand-woven natural fibre cloth. It is woven from cotton. It may also include silk or wool. It originates from India and Bangladesh. It is associated with the freedom struggle and Mahatma Gandhi, who urged people to use Khadi and ditch foreign imported cloth.

PULSE POLIO PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • 25 years of Pulse Polio Programme to be celebrated in October 2019.

Pulse Polio Programme:

  • The Pulse Polio Campaign was first started in 1994 in Delhi after the success of the first large-scale supplementary immunization campaign with OPV (oral polio vaccine).
  • The campaign was inaugurated with the tagline ‘Do Boond Zindagi Ki’.
  • The campaign in Delhi reached nearly one million children up to the age of three years with two doses of OPV being administered on 02 October and 04 December through exclusive booth-based strategy.
  • This strategy was later adopted and implemented by the Government of India all over the country as Pulse Polio Campaigns.
  • India’s attainment of polio-free status in 2014 was coined by the World Health Organization as “one of the most significant achievements in public health,” and marked not just India but the entire South East Asia Region being declared polio-free.
  • The last case of polio in the country was in 2011.
  • The global initiative of eradicating polio was started by the WHO in 1988.
  • Around 17.4 crore children of less than five years across the country are given polio drops as part of the drive of the Government of India to sustain polio eradication from the country.
  • The Pulse Polio Initiative was started with an objective of achieving a hundred per cent coverage under Oral Polio Vaccine.
  • It aimed to immunize children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain a high level of morale among the public.

FSSAI MILK SURVEY: MILK SAMPLES FAIL TO MEET STANDARDS

Why in News?

  • Milk samples from Telangana, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, accounted for the highest number of cases of adulteration, according to a national milk sample safety quality survey released by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI).

Key Findings:

  • The study noted that processed milk, including that of major brands, failed to meet the prescribed quality norm in 37.7% of the total samples tested, and in the safety parameters too, 10.4% of the processed milk samples were non-compliant.
  • 4% of the total processed milk samples failed to comply with the FSSAI norm as contaminants like aflatoxin-M1, antibiotics and pesticides were found.
  • In case of raw milk, non-compliance was at an even higher rate of 47% of the total samples of 3,825.
  • In terms of quality, the survey found that 37.7% of the total sample of processed milk did not comply with quality parameters because the presence of contaminants such as fats, Maltodextrin and sugar were above permissible limits.
  • The FSSAI has now directed the organised dairy sector to strictly start complying with the quality norms by January 1, 2020.
  • The study shows that contamination was more a serious problem than adulteration.

Concern over Aflatoxin:

  • The problem of Aflatoxin-M1 is more dominant in processed milk than raw milk.
  • Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Kerala were top three States where Aflatoxin residue was found the most, noted the report.
  • In large doses, aflatoxins can be life threatening, usually damaging to liver.
  • Aflatoxin-M1 comes in the milk through feed and fodder that are currently not regulated in the country, and it is for the first time that such a detailed survey of the presence of this residue in milk has been done in India.
  • It has to be noted that India is the world’s largest producer of milk. The total estimated milk production in the country was 176.35 million tonnes during 2017-18.

About FSSAI:

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a nodal statutory agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health in India through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • FSSAI was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and operates under aegis of Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • FSSAI has been established to lay down science based standards for various food products in order ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.

TB CASES SEE DECREASE IN INDIA

Why in news?

  • World Health Organization (WHO) has released the 2019 edition of the Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report.

Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report:

  • The report provides a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the TB epidemic and progress in the response at global, regional and country levels for India.
  • It also features data on disease trends and the response to the epidemic in 202 countries and territories.
  • This includes trends in TB incidence and mortality, data on case detection and treatment results for TB, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), TB/HIV, TB prevention, universal health coverage as well as financing
  • The tuberculosis incidence rate in India has decreased by almost 50,000 patients over the past one year, according to the Report.
  • The treatment success rate has increased to 81% for new and relapse cases (drug-sensitive) in 2017, which was 69% in 2016.
  • In India, of the estimated 2.69 million TB cases emerging in 2018, 2.15 million were reported to the Government of India — leaving a gap of 5,40,000 patients who are going unreported.
  • The India TB-Report 2019 notes that India is closest ever to covering all TB cases through the online notification system (NIKSHAY).

Key challenges to restrict the spread of TB:

  • There is no initial categorization of patients. The Category of TB that a patient is suffering from is not checked in the beginning and the first-line treatment is given which is useless for MDR cases thereby worsening the situation.
  • TB treatment should be on a daily basis however alternate day treatment leaves the programme ineffective.
  • There is poor monitoring of the fact whether the patient is regularly taking the doses or not. This is often wrongly reported.
  • Actual number of cases reported in the National Register for TB is far less than the number of patients actually affected and hence the disease, being contagious, keeps on spreading.
  • Demand and supply gap of the drugs is quite wide. Specific drugs are rather expensive, especially for the rural masses. There is lack of research and research-related funding towards patient-specific drugs.
  • The TB Programme continues to face the challenge of under-reporting of cases from the private sector, which caters to a majority of cases.
  • There is a poor sense of awareness and responsibility on the patient’s part to complete the TB course.

 

NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU (NCRB)

Why in News?

  • The Minister of State for Home Affairs inaugurates the 20th All India Conference of Directors of Fingerprint Bureaus being organised by the NCRB.

National Crime Records Bureau (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 established based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Task force (1985).

NCRB works under the Home Affairs Ministry.

  • The body monitors, coordinates and implements the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project.
  • The project connects 15000+ police stations and 6000 higher offices of police in the country.
  • In 2017, the NCRB launched the National Digital Police Portal, which allows search for a criminal/suspect on the CCTNS database apart from providing various services to citizens like filing of complaints online and seeking antecedent verification of tenants, domestic helps, drivers, etc.
  • The NCRB also maintains the National Database of Sexual Offenders (NDSO), which it shares with states/UTs regularly.
  • It has also been designated as the Central Nodal Agency to manage technical and operational functions of the ‘Online Cyber-Crime Reporting Portal’ through which any citizen can lodge a complaint or upload a video clip as an evidence of crime related to child pornography, rape/gang rape.
  • NCRB also deals with associated work of Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC) through this portal.
  • The National Crime Statistics data is published by the NCRB. These publications serve as principal reference point by policymakers, police, criminologists, researchers and media, both in India and abroad.
  • NCRB has also floated various IT-based Public Services like Vahan Samanvay (online matching for Stolen/Recovered vehicles) and Talash (matching of missing persons and dead bodies).
  • The Central Finger Print Bureau under NCRB is a national repository of all fingerprints in the country and has more than one million ten-digit fingerprints database of criminals both convicted and arrested and provides for search facility on Fingerprint Analysis and Criminal Tracing System (FACTS).

VAN DHAN INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of Tribal Affairs launched the “Van Dhan Internship Programme” organised by TRIFED under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Van Dhan Internship Programme:

  • 18 interns (to be called Minister’s interns) from some of the reputed Institutes of Rural Management/Management Institutions/Institutes of Social Work/Social Services of the country are participating in the “Van Dhan Internship Programme”.
  • These interns have been selected to go and work on Van Dhan programme in the field. These interns have an inclination towards involving in matters related to tribal livelihood.
  • After their selection through the walk-in-interview, these interns are undergoing a one-week training programme. The period of internship is 6 months (extendable developing upon the need of the organisation and mutual sustainability).
  • These interns will work with the team of TRIFED in various states and districts in tribal areas in development of tribal welfare and inclusive growth (a dissertation has to be submitted on the conclusion of the internship).
  • They will support the TRIFED activities on livelihood promotion, value addition of NTFTs, marketing and credit linkages.
  • They will develop tools and techniques on institutional development including mechanism for determination of a just price or producer price of Minor Forest Products.

TRIFED:

  • TRIFED stands for Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited.It was formed in 1987 is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GOI.
  • The ultimate objective of the cooperative is socio-economic development of tribal people in India by way of marketing and development of the tribal products on which the lives of tribals depend heavily on.

FOOD SAFETY MITRA (FSM) SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Union Health Minister launched the Food Safety Mitra (FSM) scheme for strengthening and scaling up the ‘Eat Right India’ movement.
  • He also launched the ‘Eat Right Jacket’ and ‘Eat Right Jhola’ on World Food Day 2019 (16th October).

Food Safety Mitra (FSM) scheme:

  • The ‘Food Safety Mitra (FSM)’ scheme will support small and medium scale food businesses to comply with food safety laws and facilitate licensing and registration, hygiene ratings and training.
  • Apart from strengthening food safety, this scheme would also create new employment opportunities for youth, particularly with food and nutrition background.
  • An FSM is an individual professional certified by FSSAI who assists in compliances related to FSS Act, Rules & Regulations with three avatars – Digital Mitra, Trainer Mitra and Hygiene Mitra depending upon their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • The FSMs would undergo training and certification by FSSAI to do their work and get paid by food businesses for their services.

‘Eat Right Jacket’ scheme:

  • These Jackets will be given to the FSSAI field staff to ensure transparent inspection.
  • They are embedded with RFID tags and QR codes. It is linked to software to capture entry of inspection staff into premise for monitoring.

‘Eat Right Jhola’ scheme:

  • The ‘Eat Right Jhola’ is a reusable, washable and bio-degradable bag.
  • These shall replace plastic bags for grocery shopping in various retail chains. Since on repeated use, bags are often contaminated with microorganisms and bacteria, proper and regular washing of cloth bags is essential to ensure safety and hygiene.
  • These cloth bags are being provided on a rental basis through a private textile rental service company.

‘Eat Right India’ Movement:

  • The campaign was launched in 2018.
  • The campaign is led by FSSAI.
  • It is a Pan-India cycle movement aimed to create consumer awareness about eating safe and nutritious food.
  • It aims to engage, excite and enable citizens to improve their health and wellbeing.
  • ‘Eat Right India’, is built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’.
  • It is a collective effort to make both the demand and supply-side interventions through the engagement of key stakeholders.

World Food Day:

  • It is celebrated on 16th October every year to mark the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on this day in 1945.
  • The day was established in 1979. It has been celebrated every year since 1981.
  • This day generates awareness internationally for those who suffer from hunger and to ensure the need for food security and nutritious diets for all. The day emphasises that food is a basic and fundamental human right.
  • Theme for 2019: “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger World”.

GUJARAT, TAMIL NADU TOP PERFORMERS UNDER PM-JAY HEALTH SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

About the News:

  • The above-mentioned states have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment worth nearly ₹7,901 crore availed under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the flagship health assurance scheme of the Government in just over a year.
  • The scheme crossed the 50-lakh treatment mark this week with secondary and tertiary level treatments carried out across 32 States and Union Territories.Half-a-crore hospital treatments have been provided and there are 9 hospital admissions every minute across India.

Tertiary care-occupies a Lion share:

  • More than 60% of the amount spent has been on tertiary care. Cardiology, Orthopaedics, Radiation Oncology, Cardio-thoracic and Vascular Surgery, and Urology have emerged as the top tertiary specialities.

About Ayushman Bharat:

  • Launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage.
  • The scheme has been meant to focus on reducing catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure, improving access to quality health care and meeting the unmet need of the population for hospitalisation care, and achieving the vision of Universal Health Coverage.
  • There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat:

1.Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY):

  • The National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. Under this 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
  • These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.

2.National Health Protection Scheme:

  • The second flagship programme under Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme.

‘ONE NATION ONE FASTAG’ SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari inaugurated the “One Nation One FASTag” scheme.
  • The plan aims to integrate the collection of toll digitally and ensure seamless mobility of vehicles across India.
  • The scheme will be implemented from December 1, 2019, and can be availed upon activation by new cars having Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on national and state highways throughout the country.

What is ‘FASTagʼ?

  • FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use RFID technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  • The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods. As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number. Sensors are placed on toll barriers, and the barriers open for vehicles having valid FASTags.
  • A FASTag is valid for five years and needs to be recharged only as per requirement.

‘One Nation One FASTagʼ Scheme:

  • Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were signed between state departments and other agencies for bringing in a unified electronic tolling solution across the country.
  • Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Indian Highways Management Company Limited, an arm of NHAI, to accept FASTags on their state highway tolls.
  • The existing FASTags under various jurisdictions of states and agencies would be enabled under this scheme, thus integrating the collection of toll digitally so that seamless services can be provided to consumers all over India.

Significance:

  • The move is significant given that the Centre has decided that from December 1, all national highway toll plazas will accept tolls only through FASTags.
  • At present, 60 lakh vehicles in India have FASTags. According to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), these devices will make passing through tolls considerably smoother since drivers will no longer have to carry cash or stop to make a transaction.

NATIONAL BLINDNESS AND VISUAL IMPAIRMENT SURVEY OF INDIA (2015-19)

Why in News?

  • National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey of India (2015-19) was released recently.

About the Survey:

  • The survey was conducted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Opthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, for Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It was conducted in 31 districts of 24 States across India.

Key Highlights of the Survey:

  • Cataract is the principal cause of blindness for people above 50years in India. Cataract is the cause for 66.2% cases of blindness,7% cases of severe visual impairment, and 70.2% cases ofmoderate visual impairment in the age group.
  • Blindness is more pronounced among illiterate (3.23%) thanliterates (0.43%) and more prevalent in the rural population (2.14%)than urban (1.80%).
  • Approximately 93% of cases of blindness and 96.2% visualimpairment cases in this age group were avoidable.
  • Barriers to accessing treatment includes no one to accompany [thepatient], seasonal preferences, and financial constraints.
    • Among men, the most important barriers are financialconstraints (31%) and local reasons (21.5%).
    • Among women, local reasons (23.1%) and financial constraints(21.2%) were the most important barriers.

HEALTH MINISTRY FINALISES 19 NMC PART-TIME MEMBERS

Why in News?

  • The Union Health Ministry on Monday finalised the names of 19 part-time members of the National Medical Commission (NMC) through a draw of lots in the presence of ministers, senior officials and the media.

About National Medical Commission Act,2019:

  • The National Medical Commission act seeks to improve the medical education system in the country by ensuring availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals, periodic assessment of medical institutions, adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals and an effective grievance redressal mechanism.
  • The National Medical Commission Act, 2019 received assent of the President on August 8 and was published in the official Gazette on the same day.

Key provisions of the Act:

  • The act proposes to set up a medical commission, both at the national and state level.
  • It also has a provision for setting up a Medical Advisory Council by the Centre. The council will act as a channel through which the states/Union Territories can convey their views and concerns to the NMC.
  • It also talks of conducting a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to under-graduate medical education in all medical institutions.
  • The act proposes to hold the National Exit Test for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the licence for the practice.
  • The test will also allow students to take admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this legislation.
  • The Bill says that the NMC will have the authority to grant a limited licence to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.

About National Medical Commission:

  • The NMC will replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) as the apex regulatory authority of medical education in the country. Four boards – dealing with undergraduate, postgraduate medical education, medical assessment and rating board and the ethics and medical registration board – will regulate the sector.
  • The NMC is a 33-Member Body with a chairperson, ten ex officio members, and twenty-two part-time members.
  • These members will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a committee.
  • The chairperson has to be a medical professional of outstanding ability, proven administrative capacity and integrity, possessing a postgraduate degree in any discipline of medical sciences from any University and having experience of not less than twenty years in the field of medical sciences, out of which at least ten years shall be as a leader in the area of medical education.
  • The ex officio members will include the presidents of the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education boards, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, and a director of one of the AIIMS, among others.
  • Part-time members, on the other hand, will include experts from the field of management, law, medical ethics, etc. and nominees of states and union territories.

SARAS AAJEEVIKA MELA

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of State for Rural Development inaugurated SARAS Aajeevika Mela.

Highlights:

  • SARAS Aajeevika Mela is an initiative by the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) and Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).
  • The objective of this initiative is to bring the rural women Self Help Groups (SHGs) formed with the support of DAY-NRLM, under one platform to showcase their skills, sell their products and help them build linkages with bulk buyers.
  • Through participation in SARAS Aajeevika Mela, these rural SHG women get vital national level exposure to understand the demand and taste of urban customers.
  • The Mela is organised by the marketing arm of the Ministry, Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART).
  • Workshops for the rural SHG women would be conducted during the Mela, which will help them to enhance their knowledge and sharpen their skills in bookkeeping and GST, product design, packaging, marketing/e-marketing, communication skills etc.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN SAMMAN NIDHI SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Recently Cabinet has approved for the relaxation of Aadhaar seeding for the beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan).

Background:

  • Under the PM-Kisan scheme funds are released on the basis of Aadhaar seeded database.
  • However, it has not been possible to get 100% Aadhaar seeding for release of funds as per the prescribed time schedule before release of instalments.
  • So, in order to avoid any fore coming issues, government has taken the above step in a Proactive Manner.

About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme:

  • With a view to provide income support to all land holding eligible farmer families, the Government has launched PM-KISAN. The scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income.
  • Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.

Why it is Needed?

  • Declining prices of agricultural commodities in the international market and fall in food inflation in India since 2017-18, relative to non-food sector, therefore reduced the returns from farming.
  • To increase the income of farmers as small and fragmented land holdings and their further divisions has contributed in declined income.
  • To provide structured income support for procuring inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, equipment, labour and other needs.
  • Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.

What is a small and Marginal Landholder Family?

  • It comprises of husband, wife and minor children up to 18 years of age, who collectively own cultivable land up to two hectares as per the land records of the concerned states.

Similar Programmes by States:

1. KALIA or “Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation” scheme of Odisha The aim of the scheme is to accelerate agricultural prosperity and reduce poverty in the State payments to encourage cultivation and associated activities. The scheme is being seen as a viable alternative to farm loan waivers.

2. Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh

  • This was sought to provide relief to farmers by providing the differential between MSPs and market prices.

3. Rythu Bandhu scheme (Telangana)

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

Benefits of the scheme to Farmers:

  • Immediate impact is on reducing hunger and rural poverty.
  • Income support can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.
  • Increased investment in agricultural inputs, including farm implements and livestock.
  • Help households to overcome credit constraints and manage risk. This can increase productive investment, increase access to markets and stimulate local economies.
  • Serve as an important complement to a broader rural development agenda, including a pro-poor growth strategy focusing on agriculture.

Challenges with Cash Transfers- Criticisms:

  • Absolving From Responsibilities: A targeted cash transfer scheme envisions the role of the state to only providing cash income to the poor. This kind of approach seeks to absolve the state of its responsibility in providing basic services such as health, education, nutrition and livelihood.
  • DBT not an alternative to Subsidies: Cash transfer scheme cannot be substituted for subsidies and other institutional support systems. In fact, such cash transfer schemes could be counter productive and may lead to more distress.
  • Not an alternative to Structural Reforms: Cash transfer is neither a substitute for the structural reforms needed in agriculture, nor does it adequately compensate the farmer for the risks and uncertainty of crop cultivation.
  • Absence of proper tenancy records: Such a scenario only benefits the absentee landlords.

JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS

Why in News?

  • Rattled by the high number of children dying due to acute encephalitis syndrome, the Union Health ministry has scaled up vaccination in Bihar and other surrounding states.

About Encephalitis disease:

  • Encephalitis means “Acute Inflammation of the Brain”. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) including Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a group of clinically similar neurologic manifestation caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemical/ toxins etc.

Types of Encephalitis:

  • Japanese encephalitis and viral encephalitis diseases, broadly classified as AES, are a poor man’s diseases and affect the families of paddy farmers.
    • Viral Encephalitis: Water borne disease (Viral encephalitis refers to a type of Encephalitis caused by a virus)
    • Japanese Encephalitis: Mosquito Bite
  • Both of the above make Acute encephalitis syndrome, or AES.
  • The outbreak of JE usually coincides with the monsoon and post monsoon period when the density of mosquitoes increases while encephalitis due to other viruses specially entero-viruses occurs throughout the year as it is a water borne disease.

Causal Agents:

  • Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals, toxins and non-infectious agents have also been reported over the past few decades.
  • Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India (ranging from 5%-35%). Nipah virus, Zika virus are also found as causative agents for AES.
  • In India, AES outbreaks in north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs. Unripe fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which cause vomiting if ingested in large quantities.

Who is Affected?

  • It predominantly affects population below 15 years. The disease most commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality.
  • JEV has its endemic zones running along the Gangetic plain including states of UP (east), Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, and parts of Tamil Nadu.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is characterized by an acute onset of fever and clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma. Apart from viral encephalitis, severe form of leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis can cause AES. Keeping in mind the wide range of causal agents and the rapid rate of neurological impairment due to pathogenesis, clinicians face the challenge of a small window period between diagnosis and treatment.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR OPENS FOR TOURISTS AFTER TWO-MONTH TRAVEL BAN

Why in News?

  • The travel ban imposed on tourists travelling to Jammu and Kashmir has been lifted with effect from October 10, 2019, almost two months after it was issued.
  • Jammu and Kashmir will now be opened for tourists like before.

Highlights:

  • The Union Government had issued a security advisory on August 2, asking tourists to leave the valley immediately due to intelligence inputs of terror threats.
  • The security advisory was issued just days before the government took the decision of revoking Article 370, withdrawing the special status of J&K.
  • The order also assured that the tourists wishing to visit the state will be provided with all the necessary assistance and support.
  • However, internet and telephone services continue to be suspended in the valley. The services were suspended and public movements were restricted hours before revoking Article 370.

Background:

  • The massive security restrictions imposed by the central government in August 2019, as a measure to prevent any untoward happening after the withdrawal of J&K’s special state status, largely impacted the state’s tourism sector, the mainstay of its economy.
  • While some of the restrictions have been relaxed now, the mobile and internet services remain largely blocked.
  • According to official figures, roughly 1.74 lakh tourists visited J&K in June and 1.52 lakh in July. However, since the restrictions were imposed in August, no tourist has been able to visit the valley for over two months.

MAHATMA GANDHI NATIONAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • To boost skill development at the district level, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) signed a contract with the IIM Bangalore for introducing a two-year fellowship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme.

MGNFP:

 

  • Designed under SANKALP the fellowship aims to address the challenge of non-availability of personnel for implementation of various programmes at national, state and district levels.
  • The MGNF programme has an in-built component of on-ground practical experience with the district administration.
  • It is launched on a pilot basis in 75 districts across Gujarat, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • Eligible fellows for the programme have to be in 21-30 years age-group, have a graduation degree from a recognized university and be citizens of India.
  • Proficiency in official language of state of fieldwork will be mandatory.Its unique design will allow the Fellows to take academic learning at IIM Bangalore and use it in the field under faculty mentorship with the goal of understanding challenges and barriers that district ecosystem faces in fostering growth and development.

Aim and Objectives:

 

  • MGNF seeks to create a cadre of young individuals and train them in a blended academic programme that provides both academic inputs and a component of field immersion at the district level.
  • Besides allowing for an immersive experience to fellows under the programme, MGNF will also be an attractive proposition for those who wish to eke a career in public policy.
  • Fellows in the two-year blended programme with academic module at IIM-B & district emersion program will train with district administration officials.
  • They are expected to enrich skilling programmes by bringing in fresh thinking to local planning, execution, community interaction and outcome management.
  • Fellows will receive a stipend of Rs. 50,000 in the first year and Rs. 60,000 in the second year.
  • On completion of their engagement, they will be awarded a Certificate in Public Policy and Management from IIM Bangalore.

SANKALP:

  • SANKALP stands for Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion.
  • Launched by the Government in January 2018, it is a World Bank loan assisted project that aims to strengthen institutional mechanisms for skill development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for youth across the country
  • Four key result areas have been identified under SANKALP viz:
    • 1. Institutional Strengthening;
    • 2. Quality Assurance
    • 3. Inclusion and
    • 4. Expanding Skills through PPPs.

COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL NUTRITION SURVEY

Why in News?

  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey released by the government recently has highlighted the glaring contrast existing in nutritional level between rural and urban areas.

About the Survey:

  • The MoHFW along with UNICEF has conducted a comprehensive survey to assess the nutritional status of more than 115,000 children and adolescents (aged 0-19 yr) in all States of India. The main objective of this survey is to report the micronutrient deficiencies, overnutrition and nutritional risk factors for non-communicable diseases among the above-mentioned age group in India.

Gist of the Report:

  • Malnutrition among children in urban India is characterised by relatively poor levels of breastfeeding, higher prevalence of iron and Vitamin D deficiency as well as obesity due to long commute by working mothers, prosperity and lifestyle patterns.
  • Rural parts of the country see higher percentage of children suffering from stunting, underweight and wasting and lower consumption of milk products.

Major Highlights of the Report:

1.Breastfeeding: The report shows that 83% of children between 12 and 15 months continued to be breastfed, a higher proportion of children in this age group residing in rural areas are breastfed (85%) compared to children in urban areas (76%).

  • Breastfeeding is inversely proportional to household wealth and other factors influencing this trend may include working mothers who have to travel long distances to reach their workplace.

2.Diversity in Food: It also noted that rural children receive meals more frequently in a day at 44% as compared to 37% of urban children. However, a higher proportion of children residing in urban areas are fed an adequately diverse diet as compared to those in rural areas.

3.Iron Deficiency: Children and adolescents residing in urban areas also have a higher (40.6%) prevalence of iron deficiency compared to their rural counterparts (29%).

4.Obesity: Children in urban areas are also overweight and obese as indicated by subscapular skinfold thickness (SSFT) for their age. While 14.5% of children in the age group of 5 to 9 years in cities had higher SSFT than 5.3% in rural areas, 10.4% of adolescents surveyed in urban areas in the age group of 10-19 had higher SSFT than 4.3% in rural areas.

5.Vitamin D Deficiency: Wealthier households in urban areas and sedentary lifestyle of children may also be responsible for higher deficiency of Vitamin D in urban areas (19%) as compared to rural areas (12%), though the study shows that 74% of children living in cities consume dairy products as compared to 58% in Rural Areas.

6.Zinc Deficiency: Rural children lag in intake of zinc which causes diarrhoea, growth retardation, loss of appetite and impaired immune function. Among children aged 1-4 years, zinc deficiency is more common in rural areas (20%) compared to urban areas (16%).

7.Stunting and Malnutrition: Rural areas also witness higher prevalence of stunting (37% in rural versus 27% in urban), underweight (36% in rural versus 26% in urban) and severe acute malnutrition.

Government Interventions with respect to Malnutrition:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission)
  • Anganwadi Services
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY),
  • Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG)
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)
  • National Health Mission (NHM)
  • Swachh-Bharat Mission
  • Public Distribution System (PDS)

AMENDMENTS IN ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) CHARGING GUIDELINES AND SPECIFICATIONS

Why in News?

  • To boost Electric Vehicles in India, the Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) Shri RK Singh has approved amendments in Electric Vehicle Charging Guidelines and Specifications.

Highlights:

  • The guidelines have been made more consumer-friendly.
  • In order to address a range of issues of electric vehicle owners, a phase-wise installation of an appropriate network of charging infrastructure throughout the country has been envisaged in the Guidelines ensuring that.
  • At least one charging station should be available in a grid of 3 km X 3 km in the cities, and
  • At least one charging station every 25 km on both sides of highways/roads.
  • Assuming that most of the charging of EVs would take place at homes or at offices where the decision of using Fast or Slow chargers would rest on the consumers, it has been clarified in the guidelines that private charging at residences/offices shall be permitted and DISCOMs may facilitate the same.
  • Setting up Public Charging Stations (PCS) shall be a de-licensed activity and any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations subject to the conditions as specified in the Guidelines.
  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been nominated as the Central Nodal Agency.
  • The domestic charging shall be akin to domestic consumption of electricity and shall be charged as such.However, in the case of PCS, it has been provided that tariffs for the supply of electricity to PCS shall be determined by the appropriate commission in accordance with the Tariff policy.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
  • It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • It coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.

TELANGANA: DRONE DELIVERY OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES

Why in News?

  • The Telangana government has adopted a framework to use drones for last-mile delivery of essential medical supplies such as blood and medical samples in an effort to increase the access to healthcare to communities across the state.

Details:

  • The framework has been co-designed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Apollo Hospitals Group Healthnet Global Limited.
  • In July, Telangana submitted a proposal for its drone policy to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
  • The state hopes to become ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) compliant, making commercial use of drones possible.
  • The project is a part of the WEF’s “Medicine from the Sky” initiative that aims to develop source materials for policymakers and health systems to analyse the challenges that come with drone delivery, and to compare this model with other competing delivery models.

What is a Drone?

  • A drone is an aircraft that operates without a pilot on board and is referred to as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
  • It has three subsets: Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft, and Model Aircraft.
  • An RPA can be further classified into five types on the basis of weight: nano, micro, small, medium and large.
  • RPAs are aircraft that are piloted from remote pilot stations.

Why Drones?

  • The core advantage of using drones: reduction of the time taken to transport material, and improving supply chain efficiency.
  • Example of Rwanda: drone-related pilot projects have been implemented on a national scale to deliver medical supplies without delay and at scheduled intervals.
  • Adopting this framework brings Telangana one step closer to rolling out a system that could save lives.
  • It outlines what challenges drones can solve, how to oversee operations and how to implement them.

Drone Regulations in India:

  • In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation acts as the regulatory body in the field of civil aviation, responsible for regulating air transport and ensuring compliance to civil aviation requirements, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
  • The DGCA’s drone policy requires all owners of RPAs, except drones in the smallest ‘nano’ category, to seek permission for flights, and comply with regulations including registration, and operating hours (only during the day) and areas (not above designated high security zones).
  • There is no blanket permission for flying BVLOS; the visual line of sight being 450 m with a minimum ground visibility of 5 km.
  • The food delivery platform Zomato has tried out a drone to deliver a payload of up to 5 kg to a distance of 5 km, flying at a maximum speed of 80 km/h; however, regulations do not yet allow the delivery of food by drones.
  • A change of regulations will be required before large-scale use of drones can be made possible for medical or other purposes.

YOUTH CO:LAB

Why in News?

  • In a latest initiative to recognize young people as critical drivers of sustainable development, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India launched Youth Co:Lab which aims at accelerating social entrepreneurship and innovation in young India.

About Youth Co:Lab:

  • Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, and operational in 25 countries across the Asia Pacific region, the Youth Co:Lab initiative aims to create an enabling ecosystem to promote youth leadership, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.
  • Through Youth Co:Lab, young entrepreneurs and innovators will get a chance to connect with governments, mentors, incubators and investors, who will help equip them with entrepreneurial skills.
  • The initiative will also convene a series of youth dialogues across several cities such as New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai to promote entrepreneurship across India.
  • AIM and UNDP, as part of UNSDF signed between NITI Aayog and UN India, are collaborating to spread awareness about different issues pertaining to youth, the future of work and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through Youth Co:Lab.
  • The first phase of Youth Co:Lab will focus on six SDGs:
    • SDG 5: Gender Equality
    • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production
    • SDG 13 : Climate Action

Significance of Youth Co:Lab:

  • Youth entrepreneurship has immense potential benefits and the most significant one is that it creates huge employment opportunities in the country.
  • With the world’s largest youth population, millions in the county are entering the workforce every year, it is critical for India to create a robust employment and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Targeted at supporting young people overcome challenges, UNDP and AIM, NITI Aayog will empower young people through innovative development ideas.
  • In this regard, Youth Co:Lab will convene social innovation challenges at the national and sub-national level, which will invite young people in the age group of 18-29 years and start-ups to showcase their proposed ideas and solutions to tackle some of the region’s biggest social challenges.

About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):

  • AIM including Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Its objective is to serve as a platform for the promotion of world-class innovation hubs, grand challenges, start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

VILLAGE SECRETARIAT PROGRAMME IN AP

Why in News?

  • The Andhra Pradesh government launched its Village Secretariat programme, under which 1.26 lakh new government employees will begin working.

Village Secretariat Programme:

  • Under the new system, the AP government, one Village Secretariat has been set up for every population of 2,000, with each one comprising close to a dozen village officials from various departments like police, revenue, etc.
  • The idea behind it is to ensure that its services reach people on the ground, and also to strengthen the existing Panchayat Raj system.
  • The cost of hiring about 1.26 lakh new employees is going to be roughly about ₹2,200 crore a year for the AP government.
  • Aside from this, the state has also hired another two lakh Village Volunteers, with each of them being paid ₹5,000 per month.
  • Their job will to assist people in availing government services (each volunteer to look after 50 households).

Shift from e-Governance:

  • The system is in complete contrast to the earlier trajectory of the state, which had been pushing for e-governance or online services instead under the former chief minister.
  • The previous government had launched the e-Pragati platform, bringing many of the state government’s services online, in partnership with EY Consultancy.
  • The e-Pragati programme enabled citizens to avail over 745 services from 34 departments and 336 autonomous organizations of the AP government online.
  • Prior to that in 2017, Real Time Government Service at the state secretariat at Amaravati was started. It was launched with the Real Time Governance Society as its functional arm, which directly reported to the then Chief Minister.

‘MO SARKAR’ INITIATIVE LAUNCHED

Why in News?

  • The Odisha government has launched a new governance initiative ‘Mo Sarkar’ on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Mo Sarkar:

  • “Mo Sarkar” literally translates to “My Government”.
  • Under the programme, feedback will be collected on government officers from public.
  • The ministers would dial common citizens to seek feedback on the kind of response they get during recent visits to police stations and district headquarters hospitals (DHH).
  • The state government will collect feedback on the behaviour and professionalism of government officers. The government employees will be incentivised or action will be taken against them, based on the feedbacks.
  • All of these government officers will then be graded on the basis of feedback received from people.
  • The ”Mo Sarkar” initiative is an important transformative move under the 5T programme introduced by Chief Minister of Odisha.
  • The 5Ts aim at achieving progress through Transparency, Teamwork, Technology, Time and Transformation.
  • This is the first such type of programme in the country.
  • Any government employee found guilty of misbehaviour or any other wrongdoing will face strict punishment.

CONVERTING USED COOKING OIL TO BIODIESEL

Why in News?

  • The Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas flagged off publicity vans in Delhi, to generate awareness about the initiative of converting used cooking oil to biodiesel.

Highlights:

  • Wide publicity is being given to the RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to make India more environmentally sustainable by the conversion of used cooking oil, which otherwise would be disposed of in drains, cause spillages/ environmental damage and pose health hazards.
  • More such initiatives are being planned in other cities of the country.
  • The publicity involves wide social media campaigns to spread awareness and educate people about the ill effects of used cooking oil and ways to dispose it off for converting it to biodiesel.
  • Oil Marketing Companies, under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, have floated Expression of Interest (EOI) across 100 cities of India for the supply of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO).
  • The EOI was floated on 10th August 2019 on the occasion of World Bio-fuel Day.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO), launched by FSSAI, provides an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of UCO to biodiesel.
  • Consumers can give their used cooking oil to authorised aggregators of used cooking oil who will in turn give it to the biodiesel manufactures for production of biodiesel which will be used for blending with diesel. The details of the RUCO oil aggregators are available at FSSAI’s official website.

Ill-effects of Consuming Used Cooking Oil:

  • During frying, several properties of cooking 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, etc.
  • Additionally, the disposal of UCO in drains causes ecological damage and is an environment concern.In order to safeguard consumer health, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25 percent beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used for cooking.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

  • It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GOI.
  • It is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi with regional offices and laboratories across the country.
  • It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

STATIONS’ CLEANLINESS SURVEY REPORT

Context:

  • Recently Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry has released the “Stations’ Cleanliness Survey Report” (Cleanliness assessment of Non-suburban and Suburban Stations 2019).

Background:

  • Railways have been conducting third party audit and cleanliness ranking of major railway stations annually since 2016. Earlier the survey covered 407 stations, but this year the survey was expanded to include 720 stations. The suburban stations were also brought under the ambit of the survey for the first time.

Basis for Ranking:

  • Criteria chosen for Ranking:
    1.Process Evaluation

    2.Direct Observation

    3.Citizen Feedback

  • Each of the above criteria carries 33.33% weightage and score is given based on this.
  • The total score is out of 1000 and based on the score, the stations under consideration are ranked.

Major Findings of the Report:

  • Top Three Railway Zones- North Western Railway followed by South East Central Railway and East Central Railway.
  • Top Three Cleanest Railways Stations – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Durgapura. (All 3 are from the western state of Rajasthan).
  • Top three suburban stations: Andheri, Virar and Naigaon railway stations.

Similar Efforts in this Regard:

  • Single use plastics has been banned completely by the Indian Railways across its premises recently.
  • Cleanliness programme is being conducted over 6500 stations across Indian Railways to showcase the efforts putting in by Indian Railways to keep trains, stations and railway premises clean.
  • Our present government’s commitment to develop India as a “Clean India, Healthy India and Prosperous India” is also in line with the above efforts.

PRAKASH PORTAL

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Power launched PRAKASH (Power Rail Koyla Availability through Supply Harmony)

About PRAKASH (Power Rail Koyla Availability through Supply Harmony) Portal:

  • The Portal aims at bringing better coordination for coal supplies among all stakeholders viz – Ministry of Power, Ministry of Coal, Coal India, Railways and power utilities.
  • The Portal is designed to help in mapping and monitoring entire coal supply chain for power plants, viz:
    • Coal Stock at supply end (mines),
    • coal quantities/ rakes planned,
    • coal quantity in transit and
    • coal availability at power generating station.

Benefits of Portal to the Stakeholders:

  • The portal makes available following information on a single platform:
    • Coal company will be able to track stocks and the coal requirement at power stations for effective production planning.
    • Indian Railways will plan to place the rakes as per actual coal available at siding and stock available at power stations.
    • Power stations can plan future schedule by knowing rakes in pipe line and expected time to Reach.
    • Stock at power generating station
    • Ministry of Power /Ministry of Coal/ Central Electricity Authority/ Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) can review overall availability of coal at thermal power plants in different regions.
  • PRAKASH Portal is developed by NTPC and sources data from different stakeholders such as Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) and coal companies. All reports are available in PDF/Excel format. However, to present information in a user friendly method, the Portal gives graphical representation of reports with details shown on the map of India.
  • Currently, the Portal will make available four reports as detailed below:
    • Daily Power Plant Status: This report gives Station data related to power generation, coal receipt, consumption and stock. Report can be generated utility wise, state wise and sector wise (default utility-wise).
    • Periodic Power Plant Status: Report gives Station data related to power generation, coal receipt, consumption and stock for selected period. Coal materialisation based on dispatch by coal company is available.
    • Plant Exception Report: This report gives materialisation and rakes in pipeline through Rail.
    • Coal Dispatch Report: Report gives coal subsidiary wise dispatch for particular period. It also gives source wise details of coal dispatch. Dispatch trend is also shown. Plant wise and siding wise details are available.

Present Mechanism:

  • Present mechanism to review coal supply situation consists of an inter-ministerial group which has officials from Ministries of Power, Coal, Railways, CEA, power utilities and coal companies.
  • This group holds weekly meetings to review coal supply situation as well as railway logistics.
  • It was observed that this mechanism faced several issues such as scattered information, correctness of data from different organizations, timely availability of data etc. This often led to difficulties in decision making
  • To address such situations, Ministry of Power asked CEA for establishment of a transparent mechanism to monitor the coal availability at loading site (CIL,SCCL), placement of rakes by Railways (CRIS) and availability of coal at power stations (NTPC / DVC /State utilities) and also directed NTPC to facilitate CEA for portal development.

AUDIO GUIDE FACILITY APP “AUDIO ODIGOS”

Why in News?

  • On the second day of nationwide “Paryatan Parv 2019” Ministry of Tourism launched the Audio Guide facility Audio Odigos for 12 sites of India(including Iconic Sites).

Audio Guide- Audio Odigos:

  • It is an app for the benefit of the tourists. Audio guide odigo offers Government of India verified content, with visuals & voice over support.
  • With Audio Odigos, tourists will now enjoy a more enriching experience and take back historical insights of the Indian culture and heritage.
  • The Audio Odigos app contains an inbuilt map of the site for a smooth navigation during the tour.Listeners will be offered various versions of history like Synopsis, Detailed History and Podcasts.The audio can be chosen in their preferred language & version of the history. Audio Odigos is now available for download on all Android and iOS supported mobile phones.Audio Guide facility Audio Odigos can be used in 12 sites that includes: Amer Fort, Rajasthan, Chandni Chowk, Red Fort, Purana Quila, Humayun’s tomb, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, Somnath and Dholavira, Gujarat, Khajuraho, Madhya pradesh, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu and  Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar.

‘Adopt a Heritage, Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan’ Scheme:

  • It is a scheme of Ministry of Tourism for development of Tourism Amenities. The project aims to develop synergy amongst all stakeholders and involves active participation of local communities / players to promote ‘responsible tourism’.
  • It is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Governments / UT Administrations. It aims at involving public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility for making our heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India.

SOVEREIGN GOLD BONDS SCHEME 2019 – 2020

Why in News?

  • The Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme:

  • The SGB will be issued in six tranches from October 2019 to March 2020
  • The Bonds will be sold through:
    • Scheduled Commercial banks (except Small Finance Banks and Payment Banks)
    • Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL)
    • Designated post offices
    • Recognised stock exchanges viz., National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange Limited
  • The main features of the SGB are:
    • It will be issued by Reserve Bank India on behalf of the Government of India.
    • The Bonds will be restricted for sale to resident individuals, Universities, Charitable Institutions, HUFs and Trusts
    • The tenor of the Bond will be for a period of 8 years with exit option after 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.
    • The minimum permissible investment will be 1 gram of gold.
    • The maximum limit of subscribed shall be 4 KG for individual and HUF each and 20 Kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March) notified by the Government from time to time.
    • In case of joint holding, the investment limit of 4 KG will be applied to the first applicant only.The investors will be compensated at a fixed rate of 2.50 % per annum payable semi-annually on the nominal value.
    • Bonds can be used as collateral for loans.

CONSUMER APP

Why in News?

  • In order to fast-track consumer grievance redressal process and provide an effective forum for consumers to give their valuable suggestions Union Minister of Consumer Affairs launched the ‘Consumer App’.

Consumer App:

  • The app aims to provide a one stop solution for consumer grievance redressal at the palm of every consumer across the nation via mobile phones.
  • The complaint status will be monitored on a daily basis by the ministry and on a weekly basis by the minister personally.
  • The registered consumer will be informed about their complaint via SMS/E-mail with a unique number which can be tracked by the consumer.
  • The knowledgebase available in the app is very useful feature that will help consumers get information pertaining to 42 Sectors including Consumer Durables, Electronic Products, e-commerce, Banking, Insurance, etc.

Grievance Redressal:

  • There will be time bound resolution of all grievances and those that are simple in nature will be resolved within 20 days.Those that elicit a feedback from companies or further enquiries will be resolved within 2 months/60 days.If after 60 days the grievance is not resolved, the consumer will be advised to proceed to consumer fora.
  • Also, now the consumer will be informed before closure of a complaint and if the consumer is not satisfied then the complaint will be referred further to the concerned department.

AYUSHMAN BHARAT PMJAY START-UP GRAND CHALLENGE

Why in News?

  • The Prime Minister will launch the Ayushman Bharat Start-Up Grand Challenge in New Delhi at Arogya Manthan function organized by the National Health Authority. This function marks the one-year anniversary of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).

Ayushman Bharat PMJAY Start-Up Grand Challenge:

  • The Ayushman Bharat PMJAY Start-Up Grand Challenge is a call to action for the Indian start-up community to generate cutting-edge solutions for supporting the National Health Authority towards more effective implementation of Ayushman Bharat PMJAY.
  • It is in partnership with Startup India.
  • It is showcased as a unique, first-of-its-kind opportunity for start-ups to be a critical participant and stakeholder in implementing AB-PMJAY. Under this initiative, Startups engaged in sectors such as medical devices, digital health, health communications, hospital services and hospital management, medical workforce training and capacity building, etc. are invited to solve a set of problem statements reflecting critical implementation challenges of AB-PMJAY.
  • The top 7 startups will be selected to work with the Ayushman Bharat scheme. Other benefits that winners will receive include cash prizes, piloting and testing opportunities, industry mentorship, procurement and funding support.

94TH MILITARY NURSING SERVICE RAISING DAY

Why in News?

  • The 94th Military Nursing Service Raising Day is being celebrated on 1st October 2019.

Highlights:

  • On this day, nursing officers will rededicate themselves to render high quality, selfless nursing care to their patients by reading the Florence Nightingale Pledge on the occasion.
  • The occasion is celebrated at the Army Hospital (Referral & Research), New Delhi.

Military Nursing Service (MNS):

  • The MNS is the only all-women corps in the Armed Forces in India. It is a part of the Armed Forces Medical Services.
  • It came into being on March 28, 1888, with the arrival of the first batch of 10 qualified British nurses in Bombay, to organize nursing in military hospitals in India.
  • In 1893 it was designated as the Indian Army Nursing Service (IANS) and in 1902 as Queen Alexandra Military Nursing Service (QAMNS).
  • In 1914 for the first time, nurses were enrolled in India and were attached to QAMNS.
  • On October 1, 1926, a permanent nursing service for Indian troops was formed and was designated as the Indian Military Nursing Service (IMNS).
  • On September 15, 1943, the IMNS officers became a part of the Indian Army and the members of the service became Commissioned Officers.
  • After independence, the government constituted the MNS and the IMNS was subsumed in the MNS in 1950.
  • The organization is headed at the Army Headquarters by the Additional Director General, MNS (ADGMNS) in the Rank of Major General and at command level by Brigadier MNS in the rank of Brigadier.

THE ‘RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN’ ON THE INTERNET

Context:

  • European Union’s highest court ruled that an online privacy rule known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law would not apply beyond the borders of EU member states.
  • The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of the search engine giant Google, which was contesting a French regulatory authority’s order to have web addresses removed from its global database.

What is the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ under European law?

  • The right to be forgotten empowers individuals to ask organisations to delete their personal data.
  • It is provided by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law passed by the 28-member bloc in 2018.
  • “personal data” means “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”)”, and “controller” means “the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body which… determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data”.

Significance of the Ruling:

  • The ruling comes as an important victory for Google, and lays down that the online privacy law cannot be used to regulate the internet in countries such as India, which are outside the European Union.

VOLUNTARY CODE OF ETHICS” BY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Why in News?

  • Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing State Assembly Elections.
  • IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, Share chat and TikTok had presented and observed this Code during the General Elections to 17thLok Sabha 2019.

Highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics”:

  • Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases reported by the ECI.
  • Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential  violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.

DIAL 112: INDIA’S NEW ALL-PURPOSE EMERGENCY NUMBER

Why in News?

  • Delhi became the fifth UT after Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to implement the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) since its inaugurat
  • In November 2018, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to roll out the ERSS, under which there is a single emergency response number across the country — 112.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS):

  • In India, the decision to launch the ERSS system was taken in the wake of the 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case.The MHA accepted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the backdrop of unfortunate incident of Nirbhaya in December 2012 and has approved a national project by name of ERSS.
  • ERSS was earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance, etc.

Why ‘112’?

  • A single emergency number under the ERSS makes it easier for people travelling across states/UTs, since they don’t have to remember the local emergency numbers of every place.The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in India.
  • This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.Existing emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire, 108 for health services, the women’s helplines 1091 and 181, the child helpline 1098, etc., will be gradually integrated under 112.A “112 India” app has been launched as well, through which users, after registering, can reach out to police, health, fire, and other services.
  • 112 is the common emergency number in several other countries as well, including most countries in Europe.

GOVT LAUNCHES NEW FRAMEWORK TO SUSTAIN INDIA’S ‘100% ODF STATUS’

Why in News?

  • The Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), launched a 10-year national rural sanitation strategy to sustain India’s 100 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.

About the Framework:

1. Sustaining the Success: The framework, to be in place from 2019 to 2029, will ensure that people sustain their usage of toilets.

2. A District-level training management unit (TMU) will be set up to provide oversight and support to gram panchayats (GPs) so that they ensure the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure. The GPs are also supposed to conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps.

3. Filling the Existing Gaps: While there are still houses that have been left behind under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and gaps which need to be addressed, the Centre has said India will be declared ODF on October 2, 2019, the target it had set itself five years ago.

  • The government acknowledges there might be some gaps but those are miniscule in number and the ministry will fix them under its ODF plus mission.

4. Solid Waste and Sludge management: It will also focus on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge in rural areas.

5. Updation of existing Toilets: A report was released on the occasion and outlined the steps that the government intends to take under the framework.

  • They include the retrofitting of single pit toilets to twin pits or making provisions to empty pits every five years, repair of defunct ones, and construction of soak pits for septic tanks wherever not already present.

6. Funding Strategy: While government funding is the primary source of financing in the sanitation sector, the strategy mentioned in the framework also suggests alternative self-financing by gradual leveraging of community resources in the form of tariffs for ODF plus activities.

  • It will follow the same 60:40 financing model as being followed till now in Swachh Bharat. It will be finalised after the cabinet’s approval.

7. Focus on Menstrual Hygiene Management: The framework also talks about state-specific strategies on menstrual hygiene management, including menstrual waste management, which may be supported under the ODF plus strategy.

8. Coercive Action: Any coercive action taken by anybody, including government or elected officials, or private individuals with respect to sanitation behaviour of any kind is ‘totally unacceptable’, the advisory said. This statement was issued in the wake of the murder of two children in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district over Open Defecation.

What is ODF PLUS Status:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s guidelines, prepared by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) defines ODF plus as an area where along with regular availability and usage of toilets, management of solid and liquid waste, cleanliness of water resources, maintenance of public and household toilets and awareness on personal hygiene are at their highest.
  • The Ministry, on several occasions has said that ODF plus is not just a label, but a sustained campaign to achieve all-round cleanliness in an area.

TOBACCO QUITLINE

Why in news?

  • Since its inception in September, 2018, the union government’s tobacco Quitline, for counselling in south Indian languages, has received more than 5 lakh calls.
  • The National Tobacco Cessation QuitLine is a dedicated toll-free number that helps tobacco users to receive free support and guidance to subdue their addiction.

Highlights:

  • The Union government’s tobacco Quitline is monitored by National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).
  • The helpline started by the Union Health Ministry in April 2018 is displayed on all tobacco products.
  • Subsequently, the south Indian regional languages cell, NIMHANS Tobacco Quitline was started on September 11, 2018.
  • Those who are unable to kick the habit only with the help of Quitline, are referred to the nearest Tobacco Cessation Clinic (TCC). Penetration in rural areas is the next plan.

mCessation programme:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in partnership with World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunications Union, had started an initiative for utilising mobile technology for tobacco cessation.
  • WHO-ITU’s ‘Be Healthy Be Mobile’ initiative, aims to reach out to tobacco users of all categories who want to quit tobacco use.
  • The Centre’s ‘mCessation’ Programme to quit tobacco is a text messaging programme for mobile phone users.
  • A person looking to quit tobacco can give a missed call to the toll-free number after which, they will be sent a series of messages over several months.
  • In a 2018 report published by the peer-reviewed online journal BMJ Innovations it was reported that the ‘mCessation’ programme in India had seen a 19% quit rate (estimated as not used any tobacco in the past 30 days).

‘TB HAREGA DESH JEETEGA’ CAMPAIGN

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare launched the ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign along with the National TB Prevalence Survey on 25th September. He also released the TB India Report (2019).

‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign:

  • The chief objective of the campaign is to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) from India.
  • The campaign has 3 pillars:
    • Clinical approach
    • Public health component
    • Active community participation
  • Supporting aspects of the campaign include patient support, private sector engagement, political and administrative commitment at all levels.
  • The government will make sure that TB patients receive free and high quality treatment and care at private and public hospitals.
  • The government has set the target year for eradicating TB from the country as 2025. The global target set by the UN is 2030.
  • It also aims to improve and expand the reach of TB care services across the country by 2022.
  • This includes preventive and promotive approaches, and proposes interventions such as engagement with private sector health care providers, inter-ministerial partnerships, corporate sector engagement, latent TB infection management, and community engagement.
  • The interventions will be accompanied by a comprehensive, mass media and communications campaign to generate awareness about the disease and the free treatment services available under the government programme.
  • Last year, the government has launched the Nikshay Poshan Yojana, a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme to provide nutritional support to TB patients. Since then, about 26 lakh patients have received the benefit directly into their bank accounts.

National TB Prevalence Survey:

  • This survey is crucial for achieving the goal of ending TB in India by 2025.
  • The survey will take 6 months and cover the whole country.
  • The data thus obtained will be used as a policy tool for further interventions.
  • According to TB India Report, 21.5 lakh cases of TB were reported in 2018.
  • In 2017, there were 18 lakh cases and 2018 saw a rise of 17% from the previous year.

NATIONAL SERVICE SCHEME (NSS)

Why in News?

  • The President of India presented the National Service Scheme Awards at New Delhi on 24th September.

National Service Scheme:

  • The National Service Scheme (NSS) is a Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
  • It gives opportunities to school students of classes XI and XII, and university/college students to take part in various government led community service activities and programmes.
  • The chief Objective of the NSS is to offer students and young people a first-hand experience in delivering service to the community.
  • It was started in the year 1969. Currently, there are 3.8 million student volunteers in this scheme. Motto of NSS: “Not Me But You”
  • All volunteers wear the NSS badge which is a symbol of pride and honour for them. The badge signifies that they are ready for service round the clock.
  • The benefits that students get from being a part of this scheme are:
    • They can get skills to become accomplished social leaders in the future
    • They get experience which will help them become efficient administrators
    • It will help them understand human nature better
    • It will also help them understand the rich cultural diversity of India
    • It will help them have national pride through a better knowledge of the country
    • NSS organises camps, parades, youth festivals, etc. as part of its activities.

NATIONAL CONCLAVE ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN MSME SECTOR

Why in News?

  • The National Conclave on Energy Efficiency in MSME sector was inaugurated by Union Ministers in Hyderabad.

Highlights:

  • The two-day Conclave was organized by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) with participation from MSME entrepreneurs, industry associations, technology and service providers, sectoral energy experts and senior officials from the Government.
  • The Ministers also released Energy Conservation Guidelines for MSMEs.
  • They also launched the Knowledge Management Portal “SIDHIEE” under the BEE’s MSME Programme.
  • The SIDHIEE portal will host useful information including fifty videos of multimedia tutorials for MSMEs for early adoption of energy-efficient technologies.
  • The Conclave is expected to be useful in creating a platform for pooling the knowledge and synergising the efforts of various stakeholders.
  • The participantsdiscussed various issues such as strategies to promote energy efficiency, technical and financial capabilities of MSMEs, capacity-building and awareness programmes.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
  • It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • It coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.

MULTIPURPOSE NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD (MPNIC)

Why in News?

  • Announcing that the 2021 census exercise would be carried out digitally, Union Home Minister Amit Shah suggested one card for all utilities in future.
  • The Home Minister’s suggestion resembles the so-called Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) that was first suggested in 2001.

Background:

  • The Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) was first suggested by a 2001 report on “Reforming the National Security System” by an empowered Group of Ministers (eGOM) during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
  • The eGOM report itself was a response to the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee, which was instituted in the wake of the Kargil conflict of 1999.
  • The eGOM recommended MPNIC in relation to the growing threat from illegal migration.
  • It said that all citizens should be given a Multi-Purpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design. This should be introduced initially in the border districts or maybe in a 20 Kms border belt and extended to the hinterland progressively.

Highlights of Home Minister’s Statement:

  • Home Minister has clarified that there is no specific scheme that is in the offing. But the government would want to link various databases if it intends to create a card that works as a single point of access to various accounts held by an individual.
  • He hinted at the possibility of linking the registration of birth and death with the country’s voter list, this way no one would have to apply for a voter card when they reach the voting age – it would happen on its own. Similarly, if someone dies, the voter list would be updated on its own.
  • Home Minister clarified that it was possible to get rid of excess processes and cards such as the Aadhaar card, the voter card, the identity card etc.
  • He further argued that if this Census was done properly and in the right format, it was possible that there could be just one single card in which all the other cards could reside. In other words, a single card that has your bank card, voter id card, Aadhaar card, and passport.

ALL INDIA SURVEY ON HIGHER EDUCATION: 2018-19

Context:

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has recently published the 2018-19 edition of the AISHE Report 2019, which has thrown up some startling findings and revelations about the higher education sector in the country.

About AISHE Report:

  • AISHE is a Pan India, annual web-based survey which covers all the Higher Educational Institutions in the country conducted by Ministry of Human Resource Development in order to give an overview and understand about the latest developments in the field of higher education.
  • Various parameters on which the data is collected are teachers, student enrolment, programs, examination results, education finance, infrastructure etc.

Key Findings of the Report:

1. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): GER is statistical measure for determining number of students enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and research-level studies within country and expressed as a percentage of population.

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is 3% which is a marginal increase from 25.8% in 2017-18, which is calculated for 18-23 years of age group.

2. Gender parity among teachers: The total number of teachers are 14,16,299, out of which about 57.8% are male teachers and 42.2% are female teachers. At All-India level there are merely 73 female teachers per 100 male teachers.

3. Gender parity among students: It may be seen that ratio of male is higher than female in almost every level, except M.Phil., Post Graduate and Certificate.

Student enrolment at Under Graduate level has 51% male and 49% female. Diploma has a skewed distribution with 66.8% males and 33.2% females. Ph.D. level has 56.18% male and 43.82% female.

4. Narrowing Gender Gap: Total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 37.4 million and among them female constitute of 48.6% of the total enrolment. It was a slight improvement from earlier 47.6% in 2017-18.

5. Number of Higher Educational institutes: The number of universities has grown to 993 in 2018-2019 from 903 in 2017-18 and there is a 3.3% increase in the number of colleges in the country.

6. Preference to Higher studies: Of the total student enrolment in higher studies, about 79.8% of the students belongs to Undergraduate level programme, while only 0.5% of students of the total enrolment enrols for a Ph.D. programme.

7. Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR): PTR in Universities and Colleges is 29 and PTR for Universities and its Constituent Units is 18.

Other key Facts:

1. Share of female students is lowest in Institutions of National Importance followed by State Private Open Universities, Deemed Universities-Government.

2. Uttar Pradesh comes at number one with the highest student enrolment followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

3. In Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, there are now more females in the age group of 18-23 enrolling for higher education than male students.

State of Higher Education in India

  • India’s Higher Education sector is one of the largest in the world. However, it still lags behind other countries such as USA, China, Thailand etc.
  • This has been aptly proved by the absence of India’s top Universities in the world ranking list annually.

Some of the Key Challenges Faced by the Sector are as:

  • Dominance of private sector that has caused skewed regional and sectoral growth.
  • Lack of focus on Skill Development: Education system has been plagued with outdated syllabus, rot learning, lack of employability and lack of focus on skill development.
  • Overregulation: Higher Education System is regulated by many bodies that causes overlap of power and confusion. This has drastically reduced the autonomy of Universities.
  • Lack of resources and required funds and largely linear model with very little focus on specialization.
  • More emphasis only on few specialised branches such as social sciences and absence of due importance on diversified fields.

Government Interventions:

  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) scheme has been sanctioned to improve the development of infrastructure in premier education institutions.
  • Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh: Non lapsable funds for secondary and higher education sectors respectively.
  • New Delhi Declaration on Education: It reiterates India’s commitment to achieve SDG 4 and improve quality of education.

PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SYSTEM (PGS)

Why in News?

  • Chairperson of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said on the sidelines of a function of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Coordinating Committee for Asia (CCASIA) in Panaji that she expects the Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) to incentivise more farmers to grow organic food.

About Participatory Guarantee System (PGS):

  • PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards. The certification is in the form of a documented logo or a statement.
  • pgsindia-ncof.gov.in is web based platform to simplify the process of certifying organic products in accordance with the standards laid down for organic products for export purpose. Thus it seeks to curb third party certification.
  • Implemented: by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under the aegis of Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Guiding Principles of PGS:

  • PGS India system is based on participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust. In addition it gives PGS movement a National recognition and institutional structure.

Participation:

  • Participation is an essential and dynamic part of PGS. Participation embodies the principle of collective responsibility for ensuring the organic integrity of the PGS. This collective responsibility is reflected through:
    • Shared ownership of the PGS
    • Stakeholder engagement in the development and operation process
    • Understanding of how the system works and
    • Direct communication between producers and consumers and other stakeholders

Shared Vision:

  • Collective responsibility for implementation and decision making is driven by common shared vision. All the key stakeholders (producers, facilitating agencies, NGOs, social organizations, State Governments and state agencies) support the guiding principles and goals, PGS is striving to achieve and this is achieved initially through their participation and support in the design and then by joining it. This may include commitment in writing through signing an application and pledge that includes the vision.

Transparency:

  • Transparency is created by having all stakeholders, including producers and consumers, aware of exactly how the guarantee system works to include the standards, the organic guarantee process (norms) with clearly defined and documented systems and how decisions are made.

Trust:

  • The integrity base upon which PGS-India programme is built, is rooted in the idea that producers can be trusted and that the organic guarantee system can be an expression and verification of this trust. The foundation of this trust is built from the idea that the key stakeholders collectively develop their shared vision and then collectively continue to shape and reinforce their vision through the PGS. The idea of ‘trust’ assumes that the individual producer has a commitment to protecting nature and consumers’ health through organic production.

Horizontality:

  • PGS India is intended to be non-hierarchical at group level. This will reflect in the overall democratic structure and through the collective responsibility of the PGS group with sharing and rotating responsibility, by engaging producers directly in the peer review of each other’s farms; and by transparency in decision making process.

National Networking:

  • PGS India while keeping the spirit of PGS intact aims to give the entire movement an institutional structure. This is achieved by networking the groups under common umbrella through various facilitating agencies, Regional Councils and Zonal Councils.
  • National Centre of Organic Farming shall be the custodian of data, define policies and guidelines and undertake surveillance through field monitoring and product testing for residues. Regional councils and facilitating agencies facilitate the groups in capacity building, training, knowledge/ technology dissemination and data uploading on the PGS website.

Advantages:

Among the advantages of PGS over third-party certification, identified by the government document, are:

  • Procedures are simple, documents are basic, and farmers understand the local language used.
  • All members live close to each other and are known to each other. As practising organic farmers themselves, they understand the processes well.
  • Because peer appraisers live in the same village, they have better access to surveillance; peer appraisal instead of third-party inspections also reduces costs
  • Mutual recognition and support between regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
  • Unlike the grower group certification system, PGS offers every farmer individual certificates, and the farmer is free to market his own produce independent of the group.

Limitations:

  • PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of contiguous villages, and is applicable only to farm activities such as crop production, processing, and livestock rearing, and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”.
  • Individual farmers or group of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS. They either have to opt for third party certification or join the existing PGS local group.
  • PGS ensures traceability until the product is in the custody of the PGS group, which makes PGS ideal for local direct sales and direct trade between producers and consumers.

CORPS OF ARMY AIR DEFENCE

Why in News?

  • The sixth reunion of the Corps of Army Air Defence was celebrated on 20 and 21 September 2019 at Army AD College, Gopalpur.

Corps of Army Air Defence:

  • The Corps of Army Air Defence (AAD) is an active corps of the Indian Army that is mandated with protecting Indian air space from enemy aircraft and missiles, particularly below 5000 feet, where it is highly impossible for Air Force planes to intercept the threat.
  • AAD is tasked with India’s air defence against foreign threats.
  • The Corps was first raised in 1939 when it participated in the Second World War.
  • However, the Corps became an autonomous corps only recently in 1994, when the Corps of Air Defence Artillery was bifurcated from the Army’s artillery regiment.
  • A training school called the Army Air Defence College (AADC) was set up to provide training to its personnel, at Gopalpur, Odisha.
  • The motto of the corps is: ‘Aakashe Shatrun Jahi’ (Sanskrit for ‘Defeat the enemy in the sky’).
  • Apart from the Second World War, it has seen action in the wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971; in the 1962 war with China and in the Kargil War in 1999.
  • The Corps is headed by the Director General of Corps of Army Air Defence, who is generally a 3-star general.

MOCHI SWABHIMAAN INITIATIVE

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, GOI awarded Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Certificates to more than one thousand workers from the leather sector in Chennai. He also launched the Mochi Swabhimaan Initiative.

RPL Certificates:

  • RPL certificates are given under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) of Skill India to the unorganised semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
  • These certificates can help them get assessed and certified on their current competencies as per NSQF levels (National Skills Qualifications Framework).
  • RPL also shows them a path to bridge their current knowledge and skill levels to reach a competency level or go for higher skills for professional growth.
  • The RPL scheme envisions to impart skill-based training to one crore people between 2016 and 2020.
  • The certificates can give workers the chance to go for higher education in their respective fields.It will also give them different options in upgrading and upskilling.
  • RPL certificates certify skills acquired informally and drive young people to venture into aspirational job roles.
  • The industry will also be benefitted because formalizing the skills of employees will give a clear picture of the available skill sets, skill gaps and the need for upgradation to achieve desired quality and productivity benchmarks.

Mochi Swabhimaan Initiative:

  • It is a nationwide activity in which the Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC) will extend support to the cobbler community who provide leather-based services, with CSR funds and bring respect to their skills by giving them a better working environment in the form of kiosks/umbrellas.

Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC):

  • It is a non-profit organisation dedicated to meeting the demand for skilled workforce in the leather industry in India.
  • The LSSC was set up in 2012 as one of the key sector skill councils approved by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
  • The LSSC caters to the training and employment needs of various subsectors in the leather industry such as finished leather, footwear, garments, leather goods, accessories, saddlery and harness sectors.
  • It also has a partnership with the Council of Leather Exports (CLE).

DRAFT RULES TO REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA

Why in News?

  • The Centre has informed the Madras High Court that deliberations on the Draft Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment)] Rules, 2018, has been completed.

Highlights:

  • The Government had sought to make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to trace originator of unlawful information.
  • It had also sought to make it mandatory to remove such content within 24 hours after being notified.
  • Initially, Advocate Antony Clement Rubin had approached the Court to obtain an order for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts.
  • However, the HC made it clear that it was not in favour of such a plea.
  • Instead, the HC expanded the scope of the case & suo motu impleaded Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp as parties to the case.
  • This ensured that they could be made to cooperate with the local police in cracking cybercrimes by sharing necessary information
  • The guidelines mandate social media companies to cooperate with the police in cracking cybercrimes.
  • The Bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan, told senior counsel, representing WhatsApp, that the social media giants were bound to obey local laws of the country in which they operate & share requisite information with the police.
  • It said, the companies could not take umbrage under the right to privacy.

PRADHAN MANTRI MATRU VANDANA YOJANA

Why in News?

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), a flagship scheme of the Government for pregnant women and lactating mothers has achieved a significant milestone by crossing one crore beneficiaries.

PMMVY:

  • PMMVY is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme under which cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.
  • Implementation of the scheme started with effect from 01.01.2017.
  • Under the ‘Scheme’, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) receive a cash benefit of Rs. 5,000 in three instalments on fulfilling the respective conditionality.
  • They include early registration of pregnancy, ante-natal check-up and registration of the birth of the child and completion of first cycle of vaccination for the first living child of the family.
  • The eligible beneficiaries also receive cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6,000.

Performance by states:

  • Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Rajasthan are the top five States/UT in the country in implementation of PMMVY.
  • Odisha and Telangana are yet to start implementation of the scheme.

GOVERNMENT TO PEG MGNREGA WAGES TO INFLATION IN BID TO HIKE INCOMES

Why in News?

  • The Centre has planned to inject more money into the UPA’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme by linking wages under the Act to an updated inflation index, which will be revised annually to counter slump in rural demand and a slowdown in the rural economy.

What is MGNREGA?

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a social security scheme that attempts to provide employment and livelihood to rural labourers in the country.
  • The scheme was designed to provide any adult who registers for rural employment a minimum job guarantee of 100 days each financial year.
  • This includes non-skilled work, making it one-of-its-kind across the world. It was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • The MGNREGA is an entitlement to work that every adult citizen holds. In case such employment is not provided within 15 days of registration, the applicant becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.

Current Wages:

  • The national average wage of an MGNREGA worker is ₹178.44 per day, less than half of the ₹375 per day minimum wage recommended by a Labour Ministry panel earlier this year.Now the govt plans to link the daily wages to the inflation rate (CPI-AL), so that the rural labourers can benefit in real time.

Benefits:

  • This effort of government to hike the wages is a part of a stimulus package initiated in order to counter the ongoing economic slowdown.
  • If transferring expenditure [via MGNREGA] is done, rural wages could increase and that could percolate down into more purchasing power in the hands of the consumer. This is in turn expected to boost the rural economy.

About Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • It measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer.
  • It measures changes over time in the level of retail prices of selected goods and services on which consumers of a defined group spend their incomes.

Four types of CPI are as follows:

Compiled by
1CPI for Industrial Workers (IW).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
2CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
3CPI for Rural Labourer (RL).Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
4CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined).Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

POSHAN ABHIYAAN OR NATIONAL NUTRITION MISSION (NNM)

Context:

  • A study by Lancet has shown that India is unlikely to meet “Poshan Abhiyaan” scheme

About Poshan Abhiyaan:

  • Poshan Abhiyaan is Government of India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It was launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2018.
  • This initiative is aimed at sensitising public on healthy eating, addressing twin issues of malnutrition and undernutrition and obesity in some sections and also intensifying existing nationwide campaign for ‘malnutrition-free India‘
  • Targets:
    • Poshan Abhiyaan, the world’s largest nutrition programme, expected to benefit 10 crore people and launched in 2018 by government.
    • Aims to reduce stunting, underweight, and low birth weight, each by 2% per year; and anaemia among young children, adolescents and women each by 3% per year until 2022. A special target for stunting is set at 25% by 2022.

Global Burden of Disease Study:

  • Poshan Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission (NNM) for reduction in prevalence of stunting, underweight, low birth weight and anaemia in women and children by 2022 if there is no progress achieved in improving the rate of decline observed between 1990 and 2017.
  • The study points out that India will miss its target for
    • Stunting Levels of 25% by 9.6%;
    • Underweight Target of 22.7% by 4.8%;
    • Desired Low Birth level of 11.4% by 8.9%;
    • Anaemia Level Among Women of 39.4% by 13.8%; and
    • Anaemia Level Among Children of 44.7% by 11.7%,

About the Report:

  • The report is a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

For implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan the four-point strategy/pillars of the Mission are:

  • Inter-sectoral convergence for better service delivery
  • Use of technology (ICT) for real time growth monitoring and tracking of women and     children
  • Intensified health and nutrition services for the first 1000 days
  • Jan Andolan.

Monitoring:

  • As a part of its mandate, NITI Aayog is required to submit implementation status reports of POSHAN Abhiyaan every six months to the PMO.

Background:

What is Malnutrition?

  • Malnutrition indicates that children are either too short for their age or too thin.
  • Childrenwhose height is below the average for their age are considered to be stunted.
  • Similarly, children whose weight is below the average for their age are considered thin for their height or wasted.
  • Together, the stunted and wasted children are considered to be underweight – indicating a lack of proper nutritional intake and inadequate care post childbirth.

Malnutrition in India:

  • India’s performance on key malnutrition indicators is poor according to national and international studies.
  • According to UNICEF, India was at the 10th spot among countries with the highest number of underweight children, and at the 17th spot for the highest number of stunted children in the world.
  • Malnutrition affects chances of survival for children, increases their susceptibility to illness, reduces their ability to learn, and makes them less productive in later life.
  • It is estimated that malnutrition is a contributing factor in about one-third of all deaths of children under the age of 5.

National Nutrition Strategy:

  • Various government initiatives have been launched over the years which seek to improve the nutrition status in the country.
  • These include the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the National Health Mission, the Janani Suraksha Yojana, the Matritva Sahyog Yojana, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, and the National Food Security Mission, among others.  However, concerns regarding malnutrition have persisted despite improvements over the years.  It is in this context that the National Nutrition Strategy has been released.

State-wide data on malnutrition presented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

  • Malnutrition was the predominant risk factor for death in children younger than five in every state of India in 2017, accounting for 68.2 per cent of the total under-5 deaths, translating into 706,000 deaths (due to malnutrition).
  • It was also the leading risk factor of loss of health among all age groups.
  • These findings also raise concern about a host of policies in India which have been in practice since 1990 to tackle malnutrition, the key ones being Integrated Child Development Scheme launched in 1975, the National Nutrition Policy 1993, the Mid Day Meal Scheme for school children 1995, and the National Food Security Act 2013, as the prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight remains high.

DRAFT CODE ON SOCIAL SECURITY, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Centre has proposed a new draft Code on Social Security that amalgamates eight laws that makes way for establishing funds for PF and pension as well as covering workers of the gig economy in social security schemes.
  • The draft code, which was published by the Labour and Employment Ministry this week, will be up for public comments till October 25.

Background:

  • The draft proposal comes in the wake of California approving a law for wage benefit and protection for gig workers, including those working in taxi aggregating companies such as Uber and Lyft, which is a popular tax aggregator in the US.
  • The development comes as the size of the number of workers in the gig economy is ballooning in the country where nearly one out of four gig workers in the world are in India.

Highlights of the Code:

  • The code has recognised ‘gig workers’ and ‘platform workers’, it is for the first time that the two terms are being used in the country’s labour laws.
  • As per the draft Bill, these workers will be entitled to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits and old-age protection.
  • However, the workers will not be entitled to EPF and ESIS benefits; they will also not be entitled to gratuity benefits.
  • The code also says no employer can knowingly employ a woman six weeks after a delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which is among the laws being subsumed by the code, had placed the six-week restriction for women after delivery or miscarriage, not mentioning medical termination.
  • Defines a gig worker: as a “person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship”.
  • Defines a platform worker: as someone who is part of an organisation which “uses an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment”.

Concerns:

  • It might bring challenges for policy implementation and growth of gig players such as taxi aggregators, food apps, and workforce supplier platforms.
  • The cost incurred on company will go up which in turn pass on the cost to gig workers, reducing their take home income.

Conclusion:

  • The government has in the Code on Social Security Bill 2019 proposed to extend certain social security benefits to so-called gig workers—those who work for various aggregators mostly on contract.
  • This is an important step towards ensuring that such workers, who typically don’t get the benefits of regular employees, are also provided with some minimum social security benefits.
  • For businesses, though, this would mean higher costs, which could discourage them from hiring freely. Perhaps a middle path is needed so that workers aren’t denied some essential benefits while the impositions don’t impede future hiring.

TWO OUT OF THREE CHILD DEATHS DUE TO MALNUTRITION

Why in News?

  • A report regarding Under five mortality rate was recently published by India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative in The Lancet Child & Adolescent journal.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • The report says the overall under-five death rate and the death rate due to malnutrition has decreased substantially from 1990 to 2017.But malnutrition is still the leading risk factor for death in children under five years.
  • Two-thirds of the 1.04 million deaths in children under five years in India are still attributable to malnutrition.
  • The report states that the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rate attributable to malnutrition in children varies 7-fold among the States and is highest in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Nagaland and Tripura.
  • The report also states that low birth weight needs particular policy attention in India as it is the biggest contributor to child death among all malnutrition indications and its rate of decline is among the lowest.
  • Another important revelation is that overweight among a subset of children is becoming a significant public health problem as it is increasing rapidly across all States.

About India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative:

  • The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative is a joint initiative of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with experts and stakeholders associated with over 100 Indian institutions, involving many leading health scientists and policy makers from India.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF OCEAN TECHNOLOGY (NIOT)

Why in News?

  • Officials from the Ministry of Earth Sciences apprised the Vice-president of the status of the National Institute of Ocean Technology’s research facility at Thupilipallam village in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

Highlights:

  • The foundation stone for the research facility at Thupilipallam was laid in 2016 but the project has seen delays due to legal hurdles.

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT):

  • NIOT is an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, established in 1993.
  • It has its main office at Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • The chief objective of the institute is to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve the various engineering problems associated with the harvesting of non-living and living resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is about two-thirds of the land area of India.
  • The institute engages in developing technologies for sustainable utilization of ocean resources.
  • It also engages in providing solutions to organisations working in the field.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ):

  • The EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the UNCLOS in 1982, over which a country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
  • It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from a country’s coast.
  • The term EEZ does not include the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. It also does not include the territorial sea.
  • The difference between territorial sea and the EEZ is that the former confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the latter is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal nation’s rights below the surface of the sea.
  • The surface waters are international waters.

NATIONAL RECRUITMENT AGENCY (NRA)

Why in News?

  • The Finance Ministry has approved a proposal to streamline recruitment of some posts in the government along with various equivalent recruitment in public sector banks.
  • A new National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will be set up to conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for all these competitive examinations, in which an estimated 2.5 crore candidates appear annually.

National Recruitment Agency (NRA):

  • The proposed NRA will conduct preliminary examinations for all these recruitment, which are at present conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
  • As per the proposal, the NRA will subsequently forward the list of qualifying candidates to the respective recruiting agencies to conduct the mains examinations.
  • The SSC and IBPS, it is learnt, will not be disbanded for now and will conduct the mains examinations as usual.
  • The basic idea behind this proposal is to shortlist qualifying candidates through a Common Eligibility Test before sending them for the mains examination.

Need for a New Agency:

  • The proposal for a new agency is meant to streamline recruitment process on subordinate-rank posts in the government.
  • The proposed NRA is expected to reduce the burden of SSC and the IBPS, among others, from holding preliminary recruitment exams, which is an extensive exercise.
  • Once up and running, NRA will work as a preliminary single-window agency to shortlist qualifying candidates from bulk of applicants and forward the list to SSC, IBPS, etc, to hold the mains.
  • According to an estimate, more than 2.5 crore candidates sit for these prelims, most of them conducted by SSC.
  • Recruitment conducted at present through the SSC and proposed to go to the new agency include the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination to enter government departments.

Clerical level:

  • Similarly in line with CGL, recruitment tests for clerical-level recruitment in public sector banks are proposed to go to the NRA.
  • The proposed agency, however, will not be in charge of recruitment of Probationary Officers (PO) in banks.

NGOS “SUBSTANTIALLY” FUNDED BY CENTRE COMES UNDER RTI ACT- SUPREME COURT

Why in News?

  • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) receiving substantial financing from the government are bound to give information to the public under the RTI Act, the Supreme Court held recently.

Background:

  • The bench was dealing with an issue on whether NGOs substantially financed by the government fall within the ambit of “public authority” under provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • Several schools and colleges and associations running educational institution have moved the top court claiming that NGOs are not covered under the RTI Act.

Highlights of The Judgement:

  • The Supreme Court laid down that NGOs which receive considerable finances from the government or are essentially dependent on the government fall under the category of “public authority” defined in Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.
  • This means that they have to disclose vital information, ranging from finances to hierarchy to decisions to functioning, to citizens who apply under RTI.
  • An NGO may also include societies which are neither owned or controlled by the government, but if they are significantly funded by the government, directly or indirectly, they come under the RTI Act.
  • The court defined “substantial” as a “large portion.”
  • It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%. Substantial financing can be both direct or indirect.

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

Why in News?

  • The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 which was passed by the Parliament during the last Budget Session has come into effect.

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.

TAMIL NADU ELECTRIC VEHICLE POLICY, 2019

Why in News?

  • In an attempt to give a boost to the manufacture and use of electric vehicles in the State, Chief Minister released the Tamil Nadu Electric Vehicle Policy, 2019, which provided for various concessions to manufacturers and users of e-vehicles.

Key features of the Policy:

  • The policy called for 100% road tax exemption till December 30, 2022, besides a waiver of registration charges for electric two-wheelers. These sops are expected to push up sales of electric vehicles.
  • The policy stated that the registration fees would be waived as per Government of India’s notification while road tax exemption would be enhanced from 50% to 100% till December 2022.

Special Package:

  • The manufacture of electric vehicles, their components, particularly EV batteries, and manufacture of charging infrastructure would be provided a special package of incentives.
  • Special packages were announced for units engaged in e-vehicle manufacture that made investments over ₹50 crore and employed at least 50 persons.
  • Full reimbursement would be provided for SGST paid on the sale of EVs manufactured, sold and registered for use in the State till 2030.In the case of intermediate products where SGST reimbursement was not applicable, a capital subsidy of 15% would be given on eligible investments over 10 years.As for transport vehicles such as taxis and tourist cars, permit fees would be waived for electric transport vehicles till December 2022 and they would be granted 100% road tax exemption for the same period.
  • The capital subsidy for e-vehicle manufacturers would be payable on eligible investments made in the State till December 2025. The cost of land shall not exceed 20% of the total eligible investments reckoned for the purpose of capital subsidy.
  • The State government has attempted to put southern districts also on the investment map. The new electric policy offers to provide investors a 50 per cent subsidy on the land cost if the investment is made to obtain land from government agencies in southern districts, while in other districts it is just 15 per cent.

Separate plates:

  • In order to distinguish electric vehicles from others, registration number shall be exhibited in yellow colour on a green background for transport vehicles and in white on a green background for all other EVs.

ODISHA GOVT. TO LINK PROMOTION OF POLICEMEN TO PUBLIC FEEDBACK

Why in News?

  • The Odisha government has decided to evaluate performance and incentives of police personnel on the basis of public feedback in their localities in addition to the existing parameters.

Details:

  • In a briefing session with top police officers Odisha CM explained the concept of the government’s 5T vision.
  • 5Ts-Transparency, Tech, Teamwork, Time lead to Transformation. Under 5T (vision), Mo Sarkar (meaning My Government) is a component.
  • Police stations across the state will be required to register on the Mo Sarkar portal. After filing a complaint at a police station, an SMS will be sent to the complainant. The Chief Minister and his officials will make direct calls to the public for feedback on their experience at a police station.
  • Based on public feedback and efficiency in service delivery, performing police stations and personnel shall be identified and recognised with faster promotion and other incentives.

INFLIGHT AND MARITIME TELECOM CONNECTIVITY IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • Union Ministry for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology has launched the maritime communication services.

Providing Maritime Connectivity:

  • Nelco India’s leading VSAT solutions provider is the first Indian company that will now provide quality broadband services to the maritime sector.
  • Nelco through global partnerships, infrastructure including transponder capacity on satellite of ISRO and a comprehensive service portfolio
  • It will help Energy, Cargo and Cruise vessels by enhancing operational efficiency, improving crew welfare and enabling customer services.Maritime Connectivity will enable high-end support to those in sea by providing access to Voice, Data and Video services while traveling on sailing vessels, cruise liners, ships in India, using satellite technology.

Making it possible through IFMC license:

  • In December 2018, the Govt. announced the licenses for In-flight and Maritime Communications (IFMC) that allows voice and internet services while flying over the Indian skies and sailing in Indian waters.
  • The IFMC licence has not only enabled connectivity for on-board users on ships but also brings operational efficiencies for shipping companies which were less evolved until now.
  • The IFMC license is a key initiative of the Telecom Ministry, a move to liberalise satellite communication services in India.
  • It permits both international and Indian aircrafts and vessels.

FMC Rules:

  • In a major policy decision, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications had notified the Flight and Maritime Connectivity (FMC) Rules, 2018 on 14th December, 2018.
  • It permits voice and data service provisioning in flights and ships.
  • The intent is to open the airspace and territorial waters for telecommunication services for general public which was not possible earlier due to lack of enabling rules.
  • Rules envisage creation of satellite gateway within India for providing telecom services in aircraft and ships through Indian licensed service providers.
  • Further, Indian satellite bandwidth has to be utilised. If a foreign satellite is used, it has to be approved by ISRO.
  • Only the authorized IFMC service provider, can provide wireless voice or data or both type of services on ships within Indian territorial waters and on aircraft within or above India or Indian territorial waters.

GLARING SECURITY LAPSES AT EMINENT SCHOOLS ACROSS INDIA, REVEALS CISF AUDIT

Why in News?

  • Following the murder of seven-year-old Pradyumna Thakur at a school in Gurgaon in 2017, the paramilitary force had written to various schools offering consultancy services through a security audit. Nearly two dozen schools agreed to the proposal and CISF conducted the audit at nine.

Key Lapses Revealed:

  • Some of the most prestigious schools in the country do not provide secure spaces to their students, safety audits conducted by the CISF have revealed.
    • Inadequate number of CCTV cameras.
    • Lack of background verification of security guards.
    • Non-installation of CCTV cameras at proper locations.
    • Poor quality of cameras that are not able to recognize individuals and vehicles.
    • Lack of fire safety measures in some schools like a non-functional fire hydrant and insufficient fire-fighting gadgets.
    • The absence of security gadgets and insufficient lighting.

Consequences:

  • The absence of these measures shows that unauthorized entry of individuals and vehicles, smuggling of objectionable items is a big possibility in the schools, making students susceptible to threats.

Way Ahead:

  • CISF has given some key recommendations and few of them are:
    • The cameras should cover entry and exit gate corridors, lobbies and parameters of the building which was missing in most schools.
    • Schools have been asked to procure X-ray Baggage Machines in their canteens to ensure that snacks and other food materials make way to the canteen only after proper inspection.
    • CISF has recommended schools to put in place an electronic key management system that will maintain a record of rooms being used.
    • Proper installation of fire safety measures like a proper functional fire hydrant and sufficient Fire-Fighting Gadgets.

CENTRAL EQUIPMENT IDENTITY REGISTER (CEIR)

Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR):

  • International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is supposed to be a unique identity of a mobile phone device.
  • IMEI number being programmable, some miscreants do reprogram the IMEI number, which results in cloning of IMEI causing multiple phone devices with same IMEI number.
  • As on date, there are many cases of cloned/duplicated IMEI handsets in the network.
  • If such IMEI is blocked, a large number of mobile phones will get blocked being handsets with same IMEI causing inconvenience to many genuine customers.
  • Thus, there is a need to eliminate duplicate/fake IMEI mobile phones from the network.
  • Accordingly, a project called Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) system has been undertaken by the DoT for addressing security, theft and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets.

Objectives:

  • Blocking of lost/stolen mobile phones across mobile networks thus discouraging theft of mobile phones.
  • Facilitate in tracing of such reported lost/stolen mobile phones.
  • Prevention of mobile devices with duplicate and fake IMEIs in the network.
  • Curtail the use of counterfeit mobile devices.
  • Reduced health risks to the users with the control of use of counterfeit mobile phones
  • Improved QoS and reduced call drops with reduction in use of counterfeit mobile devices.

JALDOOT’ EXHIBITION FLAGGED OFF

Why in News?

  • ‘Jaldoot’ a travelling exhibition arranged by Regional Outreach Bureau, Pune under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was flagged off.

Highlights:

  • To tackle the water crisis looming the country, the Government of India launched the JALSHAKTI ABHIYAN, a water conservation campaign focusing on 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts across the country.
  • The Regional Outreach Bureau, (ROB), an office under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, takes care of various outreach activities and development communication needs of the Central Government.
  • ROB in association with MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) is launching the Jaldoot campaign.
  • The ROB has redesigned the bus, to create the Jaldoot: Travelling Exhibition on Jalshakti Abhiyan.

Jalshakti Abhiyan:

  • The Jalshakti Abhiyan focus on five key aspects:
    • Water Conservation and Rain Water Harvesting
    • Renovation of Traditional and other Water Bodies
    • Reuse of Water and Recharging of structures
    • Watershed Development
    • Intensive Afforestation

SCIENTIFIC SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (SSR) POLICY

Why in News?

  • India is going to be possibly the First country in the world to implement a Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to encourage science and technology (S&T) institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society. A draft of the new policy has been made available by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on its website for public comments.

Background:

  • This draft policy builds upon traditions of earlier policies (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013) while proposing more pragmatic provisions to make institutions and individual scientists socially responsible.

Highlights:

  • The policy aims to harness latent potential of the scientific community for Strengthening linkages between science and society, and for making S&T ecosystem vibrant.
  • It is aimed at developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.
  • Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
  • It also recognises the need to provide incentives for outreach activities with necessary budgetary support.
  • It has also been proposed to give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
  • No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.
  • The draft defines SSR as “the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity”.
  • A central agency will be established at DST to implement the SSR. Other ministries would also be encouraged to make their own plans to implement SSR as per their mandate.
  • For implementation of the policy, a national portal will be developed up to capture societal needs requiring scientific interventions and as a platform for implementers and for reporting SSR activities.

Conclusion:

  • When most research is being done by using taxpayers’ money, the scientific establishment has an ethical obligation of “giving back” to the society.
  • SSR is not only about scientific impact upon society but also about the social impact upon science. SSR would therefore strengthen the knowledge ecosystem and bring efficiencies in harnessing science for the benefit of society.

DISTRICT MINERAL FOUNDATION

Context:

  • Amendments to District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust Rules, 2015, by Chhattisgarh government

Background:

  • Chhattisgarh, which has more than Rs 4,200 crore in DMF Trust, became the first state in July 2019, to amend DMF rules.

What is District Mineral Foundation?

  • District Mineral Foundation (DMF) is a trust set up as a non-profit body, in those districts affected by the mining works, to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations. It is funded through the contributions from miners.
  • Setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining related operations was mandated through the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, (MMDRA) 2015

What Changes will it make?

  • The new rule mandates the inclusion of 10 Gram Sabha members directly from mining-affected areas in the DMF Governing Council (GC).
  • In Scheduled Areas, at least 50 per cent of the Gram Sabha members must be from Scheduled Tribes (ST).
  • It will also strengthen women’s voices in the GC by mandating that from each Gram Sabha, there will be one male and one female member in the GC.
  • The amendments create a huge scope for mining districts in the state to improve the lives and livelihoods of those affected by mining,”
  • The DMF had been envisaged to build ‘social capital’, thus it must not be wasted on just building physical infrastructure, for which there are other funds.
  • A 20 per cent cap has been put on the use of DMF funds for big physical infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, railways, industrial parks etc.
  • The rules mandate spending of at least 50 per cent of the funds on directly-affected areas to ensure worst-hit areas and people are prioritised.
  • This is in addition to 60 per cent to be used on high-priority issues such as drinking water, livelihoods, healthcare, women and child development, education, etc.
    • This will not only stop misuse of the funds on big projects such as roads, bridges, industrial parks etc, but will also create more scope to improve investment on soft resources.
  • To improve DMF’s efficiency in operations and fund use, the amendments have also asked districts to identify mining-affected people and delineate mining-affected areas.
  • To ensure better public accountability, a two-step social audit process has been mandated. Provisions have also been introduced for five-year plan, which can be subjected to a third-party review if the secretary of the mines department considers it to be necessary.

Government Intervention:

Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY):

  • This programme meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related operations. The most productive mining areas in the country are largely areas inhabited by scheduled tribes. They also are mainly located in the areas covered by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The PMKKKY is, therefore, very sharply focused on safeguarding the health, environment and economic conditions of the tribals and providing them with opportunities to benefit from the vast mineral resources that are extracted from the areas where they live.
  • The overall objective of PMKKKY scheme include:
    1. To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas, and these projects/ programs will be complementing the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government;
    2. To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts;
    3. And to ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.

 

CENTRAL ADVERSE LIST

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has removed from its blacklist — or the Central Adverse List as it is officially known — names of 312 Sikh foreign nationals involved in anti-India activities and only two persons figure in the list now.

What is Central Adverse List?

  • It is a list by Ministry of Home Affairs and has names of those individuals who are suspected to have links with terrorist outfits or have violated visa norms in their previous visit to India.
  • The list also includes the names of those persons who have indulged in criminal activities or have been accused of sexual crimes against children in their respective countries. It has more than 35,000 names on it.

Purpose of Maintaining Such List:

  • This list is constantly used by all Indian Missions and Consulates to stop the individuals named in it from entering India.This is done by not granting visa to such persons. It is a step taken by the Indian government to maintain internal security.
  • The list is also used to keep serious offenders outside India as somebody may commit a crime in his native nation and then apply for an Indian visa to escape prosecution.

Maintenance of Adverse List:

  • The list is maintained by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs with inputs from all the state governments. Various intelligence agencies constantly review this list and add new names to it. Central intelligence agencies as well as the state-level intelligence contributes to the information determining the inclusion of a person in this list.
  • Since law and order is a state subject, the state police are also utilised for intelligence gathering in order to update the list.

CENTRE TO BRING ORDINANCE TO BAN E-CIGARETTES IN COUNTRY

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet is likely to approve an ordinance prohibiting the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes in the country.

Highlights:

  • The law would make production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence.
  • As per the draft bill, the offence will be punishable with jail up to one year or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh or both for first-time offenders, and jail of up to three years and fine up to 5 lakh for repeat offenders.
  • Storage of e-cigarettes shall also be punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine up to 50,000 or both.
  • Experts from various fields have welcomed the move and urged the government to pass the ordinance in the larger interest of public health.
  • E-Cigarettes are banned in about 30 countries.
  • While anti-tobacco health experts are calling it a move in the right direction, the tobacco industry and its allies state that if enforced, this would be a draconian law hitting at the livelihood of many.

What are e-cigarettes?

  • An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking.
  • It works by heating up a nicotine liquid.
  • Nicotine juice comes in various flavors and nicotine levels.
  • e-liquid is composed of five ingredients: vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.
  • Electronic cigarettes, do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise a solution the user then inhales.

Concerns:

  • India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.
  • ENDS contain nicotine solution which is highly addictive.
  • The flavouring agents and vaporizers used in e-cigarettes are also harmful for health.
  • Use of e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans like DNA damage, carcinogenesis, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity.
  • It can cause respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.
  • They are also known to have adverse effects on pregnancy and foetal development.
  • Lack of knowledge about negative effects of nicotine and easy accessibility of these products make the youth prone to addiction.

ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD FOR TV PROGRAMMES FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED

Why in News?

  • In order to enhance the accessibility of television programmes for the hearing impaired, Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting announced the implementation of Accessibility Standard for TV Programmes for persons with hearing impairment.

Highlights:

  • The Accessibility will be enhanced through the provision of captioning and Indian Sign Language.
  • All news channels are advised to carry a news bulletin with sign language interpretation at least once per day and all TV channels and service providers will run at least one programme per week with subtitles / captioning.
  • Live news, live and deferred live content/events such as sports, live music shows, award shows, live reality shows, live debates, scripted/ unscripted reality shows, etc. and advertisements/ teleshopping content have however been exempted.
  • The channels could either make their own programme with sign language interpretation, or, if they wished, carry a bulletin prepared by DD News free of cost.
  • This will be implemented from 16th September, 2019. The overall implementation of the Standards will be done in a phase wise manner in the next five years. The policy will be reviewed after two years.

TRIBAL AREA STATUS FOR LADAKH

Context:

  • THE NATIONAL Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has sent a formal recommendation to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to declare Ladakh a “tribal area” in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

What is Tribal Area:

  • The Constitution of India makes special provisions for the administration of the tribal dominated areas in four states viz. Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • As per article 244 and 6th Schedule, these areas are called “Tribal Areas“, which are technically different from the Scheduled Areas under fifth schedule.

Why Such Move?

  • According to the NCST, this will help“democratic devolution of powers, preserve and promote distinct culture of the region, protect agrarian rights including rights on land and enhance transfer of funds for speedy development of the region.
  • There is also same demand from tribal population of Ladakh area.
  • Within J&K’s budget, Ladakh usually got the short shrift. Fund transfer was usually delayed — by which time, the construction season was over. Devolution of tribal development funds (TDPs) was based primarily on population, and didn’t take into consideration area and geographical spread, relative inaccessibility, relative backwardness, and the presence and demography of nomadic tribes. As a result, development of this region has been generally neglected.

Strategic Location of Ladakh:

  • The passes of Ladakh connect Central Asia, South Asia and China, and the region is cut off from the rest of India for six months during winter.
  • The tribes here have limited means of livelihood, poor roads, impossible telecom and internet connectivity, undeveloped markets for their produce and low employment opportunities.
  • The proximity of the India-Pakistan-China border, and the ubiquitous presence of Indian Army and paramilitary forces, underlines not only Ladakh’s strategic sensitivity, but also its people’s vulnerability.
  • Tribes
  1. Tribes constitute 90% of the population of Ladakh — made up of the districts of Leh and Kargil. Gujjars, Bakarwals, Bots, Changpas, Baltis and Purigpas have played an important role in various wars that have been fought, and have been displaced and disturbed by border tensions.
  • Agriculture
  1. Ladakh’s terrain is essentially inhospitable to agriculture and has been badly neglected by government agencies. In the apricot cluster of Kargil — which accounts for about half of J&K’s total apricot plantation —the crop has been annually afflicted by the codling moth for a decade. No solution for this blight has been sought yet.
  2. Kargil’s famous apples were quarantined by Kashmiri lobbies from going beyond Kargil, and the produce was forced to be locally consumed. If some of the nomadic tribes in Ladakh are trained and funded to grow their livestock on a commercial scale, it could prevent a net outflow of as much as Rs 800 crore from going out of the region to other states.

Way Forward:

  • The erstwhile state of J&K was indifferent to the needs of the tribes of Ladakh. Tribal affairs officers should be established in Leh and Kargil, as there are in other states. In fact, there is need for a separate tribal development budget head to facilitate their development.
  • With Ladakh as a Union territory, humane laws such as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the vigilance of national watchdogs, like the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), can be duly applicable to safeguard the welfare of the tribes of this region.

Difference Between 5th Schedule and 6th Schedule Areas:

  • While both the areas under 5th schedule and 6th schedule have dominance of the tribal people, constitution calls them with different names viz. Scheduled Area under 5th schedule while Tribal areas under 6th schedule.
  • While executive powers of the union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in 5th schedule; the 6th schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state.
  • While 5th schedule envisages creation of Tribal Advisory Council, 6th schedule provides for District Councils and Regional Councils with certain legislative and judicial powers.

Legislative Powers of the Sixth Schedule Councils:

  • The district councils and regional councils have powers to make laws on certain matters of local importance but all such laws require the assent of the governor. The subjects on which these councils can make laws include: Roads, bridges, ferries etc. modes of transport Animal husbandry, veterinary training & practice Primary and Secondary Education
  • Agriculture including farm research and education Fisheries
  • Social security and social insurance employment and unemployment Flood control
  • Entertainment including Cinemas and Theatres Public health, sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries Minor irrigation. Trade and commerce in certain products such as food, cattle fodder, raw cotton, raw jute etc. Libraries, museums, monuments etc. Alienation of land.

Judicial Powers of the Sixth Schedule Council:

  • The laws made by the state legislature on any subject that comes within the jurisdiction of the council, would not extend within the jurisdiction of the autonomous council unless the council so directs by public notification. The President in regard to a Central Act and the Governor in regard to a State Act may direct that the Central Act or State Act shall not apply to an autonomous district or shall apply with such modifications as may be specified.
  • The Councils have also been endowed with wide civil and criminal judicial powers, for example establishing village courts etc.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes:

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amendingArticle 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely-

(i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and

(ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

Functions of the Commission:

  • To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.
  • To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;
  • To participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
  • To submit report to the President annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs;
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify;

NATIONAL ANIMAL DISEASE CONTROL PROGRAM

Context:

  • In a key initiative aimed at doubling farmers income, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be launching the National Animal Disease Control Programme for eradicating Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis in livestock.

Funding:

  • The project, which will cost ₹12,652 crores for a period of five years till 2024, will be funded entirely by the government.The programme, to be launched in Mathura, aims to control the livestock diseases by 2025 and eradicate these by 2030.

Aim:

  • The programme aims at vaccinating over 500 million livestock including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs against the FMD. The programme also aims at vaccinating 36 million female bovine calves annually in its fight against the brucellosis disease.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Control Programme:

  • It envisages 100% vaccination coverage of cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats and pigs at six-months interval in the entire country. Further, animals would be identified using unique animal identification ear tags. The programme also includes de-worming of the targeted population of livestock twice a year.

Brucellosis Control Programme:

  • It envisages 100% vaccination coverage of female cattle and buffalo calves (4-8 months of age) once in a life time.

Stats:

  • In India, livestock contributes over 4% to the country’s total GDP. As per estimates of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the value of output from livestock and fisheries is estimated to be close to Rs 5 lakh crore.

Livestock in India:

  • India has the privilege of having the largest population of livestock in the world.
  • India’s milk production is highest in the world.
  • And yet, the sector has been neglected for years.

Issue with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and brucellosis.

  • It is actually the presence of FMD in India that has stopped us from realising the true potential of this sector.
  • Trade barriers are put using this as an excuse, while totally putting aside the fact the OIE (The World Organisation for Animal Health) has endorsed our FMD vaccination programme.
  • While Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have reported no outbreak of FMD in the last few years, states like UP, Maharashtra and Punjab need extra focus as major trade emanates from there.

What is Foot and mouth disease (FMD):

  • Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
  • Intensively reared animals are more susceptible to the disease than traditional breeds. The disease is rarely fatal in adult animals, but there is often high mortality in young animals due to myocarditis or, when the dam is infected by the disease, lack of milk.

Importance of Livestock to Indian Farmer:

  • In India, 75% of the poor control the country’s livestock, which in turn becomes a major source of their income.
  • The direct losses to a farmer due to these diseases comes from a loss in milk production and reduction in the working ability of the animals.
  • Export issue
    1. The bigger economic losses, however, are the non-acceptance of our milk and milk products, meat and its products in certain parts of the world, making the value realisation of our agri exports not at par with countries like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and so on. Hence, it’s important that we as a nation give top priority for the control, prevention and eradication of this disease.
  • Income:
  1. Livestock is a source of subsidiary income for many families in India especially the resource poor who maintain few heads of animals.
  2. Cows and buffaloes if in milk will provide regular income to the livestock farmers through sale of milk.
  3. Animals like sheep and goat serve as sources of income during emergencies to meet exigencies like marriages, treatment of sick persons, children education, repair of houses etc.
  4. The animals also serve as moving banks and assets which provide economic security to the owners.
  • Employment:
  1. A large number of people in India being less literate and unskilled depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods.
  2. But agriculture being seasonal in nature could provide employment for a maximum of 180 days in a year.
  3. The land less and less land people depend upon livestock for utilizing their labour during lean agricultural season.
  • Food:
  1. The livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs are an important source of animal protein to the members of the livestock owners.
  2. The per capita availability of milk is around 355 g / day; eggs is 69 / annum;
  • Social security:
  1. The animals offer social security to the owners in terms of their status in the society.
  2. The families especially the landless which own animals are better placed than those who do not. Gifting of animals during marriages is a very common phenomenon in different parts of the country.
  3. Rearing of animals is a part of the Indian culture. Animals are used for various socio religious functions.
  4. Cows for house warming ceremonies; rams, bucks and chicken for sacrifice during festive seasons; Bulls and Cows are worshipped during various religious functions. Many owners develop attachment to their animals.
  • Draft:
  1. The bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. The farmers especially the marginal and small depend upon bullocks for ploughing, carting and transport of both inputs and outputs.
  • Dung:
  1. In rural areas dung is used for several purposes which include fuel (dung cakes), fertilizer (farm yard manure), and plastering material (poor man’s cement).

KISAN MAN DHAN YOJANA

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana in September 2019.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated 400 Ekalvya Model Residential Schools to provide quality upper primary, secondary, and senior secondary level education to ST Students in Tribal dominated areas.

Scheme Highlights:

  • The Scheme shall secure the lives of 5 Crore Small and Marginal Farmers by providing a minimum pension of Rs 3000 per month, to those who attain 60 years of age.
  • All the small and marginal farmers who are currently between the ages of 18 to 40 years can apply for the scheme.
  • Farmer’s monthly contribution can be made from the instalments of PM-KISAN or through CSCs.

Ekalvya Model Residential Schools:

  • Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS) is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (ST, Scheduled Tribes) across India.
  • It is one the flagship intervention of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and was introduced in the year 1997-98 to ensure tribal students get access to quality education in the remote tribal areas.
  • EMRSs are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India.

INDIA POST PAYMENTS BANK (IPPB) ANNOUNCES ROLLOUT OF NEW SERVICES

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & IT and Law & Justice announced the rollout of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) Services by India Post Payments Bank (IPPB).

India Post Payments Bank:

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India. IPPB was launched in 2018.
  • The bank has been set up with the vision to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man in India.
  • The fundamental mandate of India Post Payments Bank is to remove barriers for the unbanked & underbanked and reach the last mile leveraging the Postal network in India.
  • IPPB’s reach and its operating model is built on the key pillars of India Stack – enabling Paperless, Cashless and Presence-less banking in a simple and secure manner at the customers’ doorstep, through a CBS-integrated smartphone and biometric device.

Significance of the AePS:

  • IPPB’s unparalleled network complimented with robust interoperable technology platform set up by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is poised to take banking to each & every household across the remotest parts of the country.
  • With AePS services any common person with a bank account linked to Aadhaar can perform basic banking services such as cash withdrawals and balance enquiry irrespective of the bank they hold their account with.
  • To avail these services, a customer with an Aadhaar linked account can simply authenticate his/her identity with fingerprint scan & Aadhaar authentication to complete a transaction.
  • AePS services are bank-agnostic and are driven by an inexpensive infrastructure enabling low cost delivery of doorstep banking services to every section of the society without discrimination, thus bringing forth the dawn of a ‘Truly Inclusive Financial System’.

ONE NATION ONE RATION CARD

Why in News:

  • The government is showcasing the rollout of the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme as one of the biggest achievements of its first 100 days in power. The launch of the nationwide food security net is scheduled for June 2020.

About the Current Scheme:

  • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), each beneficiary is eligible for five kg of subsidised grains per month at the rate of ₹3/kg for rice, ₹2/kg for wheat and ₹1/kg of coarse cereals.

Issues with the Current Scheme:

  • It has been a location-linked benefit, leaving crores of migrant workers and families out of the food safety net.
  • Each household’s ration card is linked to a specific fair price shop and can only be used to buy rations in that particular shop.

Proposed Scheme:

  • The proposed scheme envisages a scenario where in a ration card holder can buy subsidised grain at any fair price shop in the country.

Benefits of the Proposed Scheme:

  • According to Census 2011, there are more than 45 crore internal migrants in India, of whom more than half have not completed primary education, while 80% have not completed secondary education.
  • Lower levels of education are linked to lower income, which would make a large percentage of these migrants eligible for NFSA benefits.
  • Registering for ration cards at their new location is an arduous process, especially if some members of the household still remain in their original home.
  • Apart from this, there are short-term migrants, often working in cities, but not moving there permanently.
  • Women who change locations after marriage also find it difficult to start accessing ration benefits using a new household’s card.
  • To curb corruption and improve access and service quality by removing monopolies.

UJJWALA YOJANA ACHIEVES TARGET

Why in News?

  • The PM addressed a state-level Mahila Saksham Melava or Empowered Women’s Meet of Self Help Groups, organized by Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (UMED), in Aurangabad
  • Marking the ahead-of-date achievement of 8 crore LPG connections under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the PM distributed LPG connections to five beneficiaries.
  • The PM said that Jal Jeevan Mission has been launched in order to free women from the trouble of having to toil hard to fetch water.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

  • The PMUY is a scheme to provide LPG (liquid petroleum gas) to households below the poverty line. This is to have universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. The chief aim of this scheme to protect the health of the women and children in homes where unclean cooking fuels are used.
  • About 10 crore households in the country use firewood, dung cakes, coal, etc. as their cooking fuel.
  • The smoke emanating from such stoves are alarming and they cause severe health problems for the people living in such houses, especially the women who use them to cook food.
  • As per WHO, about 5 lakh fatalities in India occur because of unclean cooking fuel.
  • They cause severe respiratory diseases and problems as well.
  • Additionally, there is also the hassle of collecting firewood from mostly unsafe places.
  • To avoid these problems, the government came up with this scheme.
  • It was inaugurated in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1st May, 2016.
  • This will go a long way in making women more empowered.

PMUY Features:

  • Under this scheme, 5 crore connections are to be provided to the people needing them.
  • BPL families will be offered a support of Rs.1600 per connection. This is for the cylinder, booklet, pressure regulator, safety hose, etc. and will be borne by the government itself.
  • Apart from these, the scheme also provides interest-free loans to buy stove and refill by oil marketing companies.
  • The connections would be given in the name of women of the households.
  • An initial outlay of Rs.8000 crore was sanctioned for the implementation of the scheme.
  • The authorities would identify BPL families based on the Socio Economic Caste Census data.
  • The scheme is also expected to create employment to the tune of about a lakh. It will also boost the ‘Make in India’ programme for manufacturers of gas cylinders, stoves, gas hose and regulators. Only domestic manufacturers are engaged in this.
  • It is also a business opportunity to the tune of a minimum of Rs.10000 crore.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • Major objective of Jal Jeevan Mission is to provide piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural and urban households by 2024.
  • It also aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.
  • According to the data published in various reports, about half of the country’s households don’t have access to piped water supply.
  • It is an urgent requirement of water conservation in the country because of the decreasing amount of groundwater level.
  • Therefore, Jal Jeevan Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply management of water at the local level.

Benefits of Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • Household pipeline water supply
  • Clean and drinkable water
  • Recharge of ground water level
  • Better local infrastructure
  • Less water-borne diseases
  • Less water wastage

INDIA DECLARED AVIAN INFLUENZA FREE

Context-

  • OIE-World Organisation for Animal Health declared the country free of the virus, the Centre’s Animal Husbandry Department informed the states in a letter.

Background:

  • In the last two years, outbreaks of the disease had been reported from several places, including Budhibara, Patharaganja, Malud, Brahmandeo, Kanheipur, Epinga and Nandala in Odisha, Goraho, Mubarakchak and Babura in Bihar and Fazil Khuthari in Jharkhand.
  • The status will last only till another outbreak is reported.
  • India was last declared free of the disease in 2017.

What is Avian Influenza?

  • Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses.
  • These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
  • Avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans.
  • However, sporadic human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred. The links below offer more information about avian influenza.

Brief Scenario on Outbreaks of Avian Influenza in India.

  • The trend of infection of Avian Influenza has changed. Initially, in India, the disease was being reported mainly in backyard poultry in vicinity of migratory birds/ water bodies particularly in North-Eastern States and West Bengal.
  • The main species affected used to be chicken.
  • The ducks used to be reservoir of the virus, harbouring the infection without showing the clinical signs/ disease.
  • However, the trend of occurrence of AI changed since 2011, gradually and most of the occurrences were reported from the poultry farms of central government such as DADF, ICAR and State Governments.

Possible reasons for occurrence of Avian Influenza:

  • A number of factors contribute to make India vulnerable to primary incursion of Avian Influenza into the country.
  • These include high density of poultry population;
    • Mixed Rearing of chicken and ducks;
    • Three flyways of migratory birds passing through the country;
    • Illegal Movement of poultry and poultry products from infected areas into the country;
    • Presence of large number of water-bodies visited by migratory / wild birds;
    • Inadequate bio-security in backyard rearing;
    • Inadequate sanitation of wholesale and retail poultry markets;
    • Endemic Situation of Avian Influenza in the neighbouring countries and
    • Porous Nature of the Border.

What is H5N1?

  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”).
  • Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
  • When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.

How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?

  • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
  • The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
  • There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.

Why is there so much concern about H5N1 influenza?

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

Why might the H5N1 influenza Virus Change?

  • Influenza viruses constantly undergo genetic changes.
  • It would be a cause for concern, should the H5N1 virus become more easily transmissible among humans.

What are the Symptoms of H5N1 Avian Influenza in Humans?

  • The symptoms of H5N1 infection may include fever (often high fever, > 38°C) and malaise, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Other early symptoms may include abdominal pain, chest pain and diarrhoea.
  • The infection may progress quickly to severe respiratory illness (for example, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and neurologic changes (altered mental status or seizures).

Is a vaccine available to prevent human infection with H5N1avian Influenza?

  • Candidate vaccines to prevent H5N1 infection have been developed, but they are not ready for widespread use.

What is the WHO response to H5N1 Influenza?

  • WHO is working with countries to help them detect and manage cases of H5N1 infection in humans when they occur.
  • WHO collaborates with global health partners and agencies, including the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to control and prevent the spread of animal diseases.
  • WHO’s global laboratory system, the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), identifies and monitors strains of circulating influenza viruses, and provides advice to countries on their risk to human health and available treatment or Control Measures.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

  • The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide.
  • It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2018 has a total of 182 Member Countries.
  • The OIE maintains permanent relations with nearly 75 other international and regional organisations and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent.

ELIMINATION OF MEASLES AND RUBELLA BY 2023

Context:

  • Member Countries of WHO South-East Asia Region resolved to eliminate measles and rubella by 2023, to prevent deaths and disabilities caused by these highly infectious childhood killers’ diseases.

Background:

  • The new target to eliminate both the diseases will leverage the existing momentum and strong political commitment which is being demonstrated through unprecedented efforts, progress and successes.
  • A resolution to eliminate the two diseases was adopted at the Seventy Second Session of WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia here in New Delhi.
  • Measles elimination and rubella control has been a regional flagship priority since 2014.
  • The Member countries adopted a “Strategic Plan for Measles and Rubella Elimination 2020-2024” that lays down the road map and focus areas to achieve the elimination targets in the Region.

Countries that Eliminated Measles and Rubella:

  • Five countries have eliminated measles – Bhutan, DPR Korea, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.
  • Six countries have controlled rubella – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

What will be done Eliminate Measles and Rubella?

  • To achieve the new targets, the Member countries resolved to strengthen immunization systems for increasing and sustaining high level of population immunity against measles and rubella at both national and sub-national levels.
  • The resolution calls for ensuring a highly sensitive laboratory supported case-based surveillance system – better evidence for appropriate planning and response. It also emphasizes on preparedness for outbreak response activities for measles and rubella.
  • All countries pledged to mobilize political, societal and financial support to ensure interruption of transmission of indigenous measles and rubella virus by 2023.

Current Status:

  • There has been a 23% decline in mortality due to measles in the 2014-17 period. Nearly 366 million children have been reached through mass vaccination campaigns with measles-rubella (MR) containing vaccines in the Region since January 2017.
  • Children in all 11 Member countries have access to 2 doses of measles containing vaccine (MCV) and ten countries have access to rubella-containing vaccine.
  • India ranks 4th among 194 countries in measles cases, according to WHO data.
  • The latest Global Measles and Rubella Update, which lists provisional data received in June and covering the period between May 2018 and April 2019, says India reported 47,056 measles cases and 1,263 rubella cases during these 12 months.

Measles:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral disease.
  • It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.

Vaccine:

  • Measles can be prevented with MMR vaccine. The vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
  • Teens and adults should also be up to date on their MMR vaccination.

Rubella:

  • Rubella is a contagious, generally mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.
  • Rubella is the leading vaccine-preventable cause of birth defects. Rubella infection in pregnant women may cause fatal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome.
  • There is no specific treatment for rubella but the disease is preventable by vaccination.

Vaccine:

  • The rubella vaccine is a live attenuated strain, and a single dose gives more than 95% long-lasting immunity, which is similar to that induced by natural infection.
  • The rubella vaccine is a live attenuated strain, and a single dose gives more than 95% long-lasting immunity, which is similar to that induced by natural infection.

Indian Government Initiatives:

Measles-Rubella (MR) Vaccination Campaign:

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner across the nation. The campaign aims to cover approximately 41 crore children.
  • The vaccination campaign is being held to protect children against measles and rubella which are highly contagious viral diseases. While measles kills nearly 49,000 children in the country every year, rubella causes irreversible birth defects.
  • There is no treatment for measles and rubella, but both diseases can be prevented by vaccination.
  • By vaccinating all children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years, India aims to eliminate both measles and rubella.

Benefits:

  • Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and in combination with rubella vaccine, it will control rubella and prevent CRS.

How Sri Lanka Eliminated Measles:

  • Sri Lanka’s success follows its persistent efforts to ensure maximum coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccines being provided in the childhood immunisation programme.
  • The vaccination coverage in the country has been consistently high – over 95% with both the first and second doses provided to children under the routine immunisation programme. nAdditionally, mass vaccination campaigns with a measles-rubella vaccine have been held periodically to plug immunisation gaps, the last one in 2014.
  • The country has a strong surveillance system and all vaccine-preventable diseases are an integral part of the communicable disease surveillance system.
  • Measles is a notifiable disease in the country.

INSTITUTIONS OF EMINENCE (IOE) SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has awarded the status of Institute of Eminence to the IIT-Madras, the IIT-Kharagpur, Delhi University, Benares Hindu University and the University of Hyderabad.

Scheme & Objective:

  • Institutions of Eminence scheme has been launched in order to implement the commitment of the Government to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them become world-class teaching and research institutions.
    • To provide for higher education leading to excellence and innovations in such branches of knowledge as may be deemed fit at post-graduate, graduate and research degree levels and award degrees, diplomas and other academic distinction
    • To engage in areas of specialization to make distinctive contributions to the objectives of the university education system wherein the academic engagement is clearly distinguishable from programmes of an ordinary nature.
    • To develop the capacity of the students and the researchers to compete in the global tertiary education marketplace through the acquisition and creation of advanced knowledge in those areas
    • To provide for high-quality teaching and research and for the advancement of knowledge and its dissemination through various research programmes undertaken in-house by substantial number of full-time faculty and research scholars in diverse disciplines
    • To pay special attention to teaching and research in unique and emerging areas of knowledge, including interdisciplinary areas, which are regarded as important for strategic needs of the country but are not being pursued by conventional or existing institutions so far, and award degrees, diplomas and other academic distinctions.
    • To aim to be rated internationally for its teaching and research as a top hundred Institution in the world over time.

‘EAT RIGHT INDIA’ CAMPAIGN

Why in News?

  • Government of India launches ‘Eat Right India’ to tackle lifestyle diseases.

Need for Such Campaign:

  • India is passing through an epidemiological shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases, and the burden of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity is rising rapidly.
  • The new “food systems approach” judiciously combines the regulatory and capacity building measures with consumer empowerment initiatives

About Eat Right India:

  • Eat Right India’, built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’, aims to engage, excite and enable citizens to improve their health and well-being.
  • Led by FSSAI, it is a collective effort to make both the demand and supply-side interventions through the engagement of key stakeholders.
  • It is a part of the vision of the Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, that the month of September is being celebrated all across the country as “Poshan Maah” (Nutrition Month) to sensitize the public towards healthy eating, address the twin issues of malnutrition/undernutrition and problem of obesity in some sections of the population, and also intensifying the campaign towards a ‘Malnutrition Free India.
  • This movement is aligned with the Government’s flagship public health programmes such as POSHAN Abhiyaan, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and Swachh Bharat Mission to lead us to the New India, which our Prime Minister wishes to deliver to all citizens by 2022.

Aim:

  • To improve public health in India and combat negative nutritional trends to fight lifestyle diseases.

Features:

  • The strength of the ‘The Eat Right Movement’ lies in its holistic and collaborative approach, with stakeholders on both the demand and supply-side joining to make a difference through some clearly identified steps.
  • On the demand side, the Eat Right Movement focuses on empowering citizens to make the right food choices.
  • On the supply side, it nudges food businesses to reformulate their products, provide better nutritional information to consumers and make investments in healthy food as responsible food businesses.
  • Social and behavioural change: Eat Right India movement is a crucial trigger for the much needed social and behavioural change.

The Eat Right Movement’ brings together three ongoing initiatives of FSSAI:

  1. Safe and Nutritious Food Initiative, focused on social and behavioural change around food safety and nutrition at home, school, workplace and on-the-go;
  2. The Eat Healthy Campaign focused on reduction of high fat, sugar and salt foods in the diet; and
  3. Food Fortification, focused on promoting five staple foods-wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt that are added with key vitamins and minerals to improve their nutritional content.

Other Measures:

  • Government has prescribed a limit for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) at 25% in cooking oil to avoid the harmful effects of reused cooking oil.
  • Standards for five fortified staples -wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt to reduce large-scale deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have been notified, in addition to standards for health supplements, nutraceuticals, prebiotics and probiotics products.
  • To facilitate informed consumer choices Regulations on Advertising and Claims and mandatory menu labelling has been notified.
  • In addition, labelling provisions have been made for appropriate use of sweeteners for children and pregnant women.
  • To reach the target of Trans-fat Free India by 2022, regulations to reduce trans-fat to less than 2% in all oils, fats and food products are in place.
  • Robust material in the form of a Pink Book, Yellow Book, DART Book, informative videos, are in place, and can be accessed through a video library on FSSAI’s website.
  • First ever state-of-the-art National Food Laboratory of Delhi, NCR and to strengthen the Eat Right Movement a network of food testing laboratories is being establish.

WHO on Eat Right India:

  • The Eat Right campaign is a true example of multi-sectoral collaborative approach that WHO has been advocating for to address non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, malnutrition.

About FSSAI:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 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.

ELECTORS VERIFICATION PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission of India has launched a 15-day-long Electors Verification Programme where voters can verify their data with the poll body.
  • The campaign that was kick-started on 01 September allows the voter to let the poll body know whether the data about him or her is correct

Electors Verification Programme:

  • The main aim of the programme is to improve the health of Electoral rolls and to provide better electoral services to citizens and increase the level of Communication between voters and the Commission.
  • The program has been launched at all Levels starting from the State/UT Headquarters by 32 CEOs, District level by about 700 DEOs and at around 1 million Polling Stations by BLOs/EROs and will continue from September 1, 2019 to October 15, 2019.
  • The voters can log on to NVSP portal (nvsp.in) or Voter Helpline App or Common Service Centres or any nearby voter facilitation centre to avail the following facilities.
  • Verification and corrections of the existing details
  • Authentication of entry by furnishing scanned/DigiLocker copy of one of the following documents:(i) Indian Passport (ii) Driving License (iii) Aadhaar Card (iv) Ration Card (v) identity card for Government/Semi Government Officials (vi) Bank Passbooks (vii) Farmer’s Identity Card (viii) PAN Card (ix) Smart Card issued by RGI (x) Latest bill for water/electricity/telephone/gas connection.
  • Furnishing details of family members and verifying their entries too
  • Updating details of family members already enrolled as voters but permanently shifted or expired
  • Furnishing details of eligible un-enrolled family members (born on or before 01.01.2001) and prospective electors born between (02.01.2002 till 01.01.2003) who are residing with the elector.
  • Furnishing GIS Coordinates of House (through Mobile App) to avail better electoral Services. Feedback regarding existing Polling Stations and suggestions on alternate PS, if any.

DESIGNATING TERRORIST UNDER UAPA

Context:

  • Maulana Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Dawood Ibrahim, who are on India’s most-wanted list, became the first individuals to be declared terrorists invoking the new Amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Passed by Parliament recently.

Designation of Terrorist:

  • Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Azhar figures as the first name in list in Fourth Schedule of UAPA followed by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Saeed, LeT chief commander Lakhvi and underworld don Dawood.
  • All of them have already been designated global terrorists by the United Nations earlier for their involvement in terrorist acts and have red corner notices issued against them by the Interpol.

UAPA new Amendment Provision:

  • According to the amendment, individuals could also be declared as terrorists. Earlier, only groups or organisations could be declared as terrorists.
  • The notification was issued based on clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which empowers the Central government to notify the name of an individual in the fourth schedule to the Act, if it believes that the individual is involved in terrorism.
  • The new Amendment seek “to introduce fourth schedule to add or remove the name of individual terrorists.
  • This will allow the Central government to designate individual terrorist and bring in embargo on arms/assets seizures.
  • The individual however can appeal against the inclusion of his/her name and seek a hearing before the review committee, constituted by the Central government under UAPA.

United Nations:

  • Azhar has been designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on May 1 this year.
  • Dawood is also designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 and listed in Al-Qaeda sanction list on November 3, 2003.

Issues already with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA):

  • It casts such a wide net of offences that it makes all kinds of legitimate, constitutionally protected activity an offence: the police can choose who they want to prosecute, when and for what reason.
  • It allows for persons to be held in custody for six months before they get to know the case against them.
  • Bail is so stringent as to be almost unavailable, this is an affront to the ‘dignity’ and the ‘presumption of innocence’ that our Constitution entitles all of us to.
  • It reverses the presumption of innocence and presumes guilt, a guarantee of wrongful imprisonment and false convictions.

WHO IS A PROFESSOR EMERITUS?

Context:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has recently asked some of its Professors Emeriti, including historian Romila Thapar, for CVs to “review their position”.

The Title:

  • ‘Emeritus’ (female equivalent ‘Emerita’, although the usage is often gender-neutral) is a Latin word that literally means a veteran soldier. Worldwide, ‘Professor Emeritus/Emerita’ is the title bestowed upon an eminent retired academic in recognition of their work and distinguished service.
  • Across the world, institutions of excellence such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Oxford University, etc. have long lists of Professors Emeriti, who are considered to add to the prestige of the university.

UGC Scheme:

  • In India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has a ‘Scheme of Emeritus Fellowship’ in order “to provide an opportunity to the superannuated teachers who have been actively engaged in research and teaching programmes in the preceding years to undertake research, without any restriction of position or pay scales”.
  • According to the UGC’s website, eligibility for the fellowship “will be based on the quality of research and published work contributed by the teacher in his/her service career. The awardee (superannuated) can work under this scheme with a well-defined time-bound action plan up to the age of 70 years or up to two years (non-extendable) of the award whichever is earlier.”
  • “No extension under the scheme is admissible and hence the proposal should be well defined with a time-bound action plan so that it is completed within the prescribed tenure,” the UGC site says.

MOU BETWEEN TB DIVISION OF THE HEALTH MINISTRY AND WADHWANI INSTITUTE FOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Why in News?

  • The Central TB Division of the Health Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence to explore the application of cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology in its fight against TB.

Highlights:

  • Wadhwani AI would be supporting National TB programme become AI-ready which would include, developing, piloting, and deploying AI-based solutions.
  • It would support the programme in vulnerability and hot-spot mapping, modelling novel methods of screening and diagnostics and enabling decision support for care-givers apart from supporting the RNTCP in adoption of other AI technologies.
  • The Revised National TB Control Programme has been at the forefront of adoption of newer technologies in healthcare.India is committed to ending TB by 2025, five years ahead of the Global Sustainable Development targets.

TB:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.
  • TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

What are Latent TB and active TB?

  • Latent TB: In this condition, you have a TB infection, but the bacteria remain in your body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB, also called inactive TB or TB infection, isn’t contagious. It can turn into active TB, so treatment is important for the person with latent TB and to help control the spread of TB. About one-third of the world’s population has latent TB.
  • Active TB: This condition makes you sick and, in most cases, can spread to others. It can occur in the first few weeks after infection with the TB bacteria, or it might occur years later.

PORTAL FOR AFFORDABLE CREDIT AND INTEREST SUBVENTION ACCESS (PAISA)

Why in News?

  • Deendayan Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), a flagship mission under the MoHUA has been conferred the prestigious SKOCH Governance Gold Award for its PAiSA portal.

PAiSA Portal:

  • PAiSA stands for Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access.
  • Launched in November 2018, PAiSA is a centralized IT platform which simplifies and streamlines release of interest subvention under the DAY-NULM.
  • It has been designed and developed through the Allahabad Bank.

What it offers?

  • It offers end to end online solution for processing, payment, monitoring and tracking of interest subvention claims from banks on a monthly basis.
  • Claims for subvention are uploaded by banks through their CBS (Core Banking Solution) in respect of the beneficiaries of the Self Employment Programme, which are verified and approved by the ULB and State concerned.
  • The approved claim amount gets credited directly to the beneficiary’s loan account through DBT mode.
  • SMS is also sent to the beneficiary’s mobile number intimating the credit of subvention amount.

SKOCH Award:

  • SKOCH Award, instituted in 2003, is the highest civilian honour in the country conferred by an independent organisation.
  • It recognizes people, projects and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.
  • SKOCH Award covers the best of efforts in the area of digital, financial and social inclusion.

BIOMETRIC SEAFARER IDENTITY DOCUMENT (BSID)

Why in News?

  • India has become the first country in the world to issue Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID), capturing the facial bio-metric data of seafarers.

BSID:

  • In India the BSID project has been taken up in collaboration with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Mumbai.
  • The Government notified the Merchant Shipping (Seafarers Bio-metric Identification Document) Rules in 2016.
  • Every Indian seafarer who possesses a valid Continuous Discharge Certificate issued by the Govt. of India will be eligible for issue of a BSID.
  • Nine data collection centers have been setup at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Noida, Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Vizag & Kandla for issue of BSID.

Working of BSID:

  • It introduces modern security features. It will have a biometric chip embedded in it.
  • The security of the BSID card is ensured at various levels and through different methods.
  • At the time of data capturing the live face is cross matched through passport photo using a face matching software.
  • The card has two optical security features- Micro prints/micro texts and Unique Guilloche pattern.
  • A software has been developed for capturing the facial biometrics and its authentication through the public key infrastructure.
  • A record of each SID issued will be maintained in a national database and its related information will be internationally accessible.

Significance:

  • The BSID is a marked improvement over the two finger or iris based bio-metric data, with modern security features.
  • It will make the identification of the SID holder more reliable and efficient, while protecting their dignity and privacy.
  • It will give a fool proof identification to our seafarers which will facilitate their movement, provide ease of getting jobs and help in identifying them from any location in the world.
  • The new card is in confirmation of the Convention No. 185 of the International Labour Organisation on BSID. (India ratified the Convention in October 2015.

SHAGUN-INTEGRATED ONLINE JUNCTION FOR SCHOOL EDUCATION

Why in News?

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry launched one of the world’s largest Integrated Online Junction for – School Education ‘Shagun’.

Shagun:

  • School Education Shagun (URL: htpp://shagun.govt.in/) is an over-arching initiative to improve school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Government of India and all States and Union Territories.
  • The word Shagun is coined from two different words- ‘Shala’ meaning Schools and ‘Gunvatta’ meaning Quality and this online junction of different websites and portals into a single platform will enhance the accessibility of information relating to schools and will ensure a holistic approach to transform the education sector.
  • The portal seeks to provide a very robust feedback mechanism which will increase public participation and will ensure accountability and transparency.
  • The portal seeks to connect approximately 92 lakh teachers and 26 crore students.

Integrated National School Education Treasury:

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister has also announced the setting up of the Integrated National School Education Treasury (INSET).
  • It will envisage a fully integrated, accessible and seamless information network for all parameters relating to the students, teachers, and schools in the country.
  • The main focus will be on the following areas:
  • Reinforcing and cleaning the data of the Integrated Online Junction through feedback from Stakeholders
  • Ensuring full inter-operability among the websites, portals and applications which are already hosted in the junction
  • Creating high quality e-contents, including quizzes and puzzles to enhance learning and also for teachers in aiding classroom transactions
  • Using artificial intelligence and deep machine learning in a variety of ways to enhance the quality of school education including for designing evidence based inventions.

E-CIGARETTE BAN & THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT

Why in News?

  • One of the three 100-day goals the health ministry has set for itself, The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019 is being sent to a Group of Ministers as directed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

What Are E-cigarettes?

  • An e-cigarette, short for electronic cigarette, is a battery-operated device.
  • One of a large variety of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), an e-cigarette emits vaporised nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions.
  • The user inhales it looking for a sensation similar to inhaling tobacco smoke, but without the smoke.
  • The pros and cons of e-cigarettes are hotly debated, with the industry refuting scientific evidence about the product being harmful, and users urging the government to legalise it. India’s market for e-cigarettes, while nascent today, is projected to grow annually at more than 25 per cent in the next five years.

The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019:

  • The draft ordinance was necessitated by the fact that an earlier order by the Centre asking the states to crack down against e-cigarettes could not stand judicial scrutiny.
  • However, a recent order, in which the High Court threw out a petition asking for protection from an ordinance against e-cigarettes, has emboldened the Health Ministry, which now seeks legal backing for a ban (rather than just an advisory) in the form of an ordinance.
  • The ordinance makes any violation of its provisions punishable by imprisonment of one to three years, and a fine of Rs 1-5 lakh.
  • Some states, including Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Mizoram, have already banned use and sale of e-cigarettes, vape and e-hookah.
  • Under the Constitution, health is a state subject, so any move to ban manufacture and sale of a product on health grounds needs to come from the state government.
  • In February, the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation had written to all state drug controllers, saying they should not allow sale, online sale, manufacture, distribution, trade, import or advertisement of ENDS.
  • The Delhi High Court stayed the Centre’s circular banning sale and manufacture of ENDS like e-cigarettes and e-hookah with nicotine flavour, saying as the products were not a “drug”.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s Scientific Position:

  • The use of ENDS or e-cigarettes adversely affects almost all the human body systems with impact across the life course, from the womb to tomb.
  • The cartridges used in ENDS or e-cigarettes are filled with liquid nicotine, flavouring agents and other chemicals.
  • A typical cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes and can act as a potential source for nicotine addiction.
  • Studies on these nicotine solvents had shown a varied degree of release of potential carcinogens, depending on the battery output voltage.
  • The liquid-vaporizing solutions also contain toxic chemicals and metals that have been demonstrated to be responsible for several adverse health effects, including cancers and diseases of the heart, lungs and brain.

Conclusion:

  • The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.

NOC ONLINE APPLICATION PROCESSING SYSTEM (NOAPS)

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Culture & Tourism has launched an integrated No Objection Certificate (NOC) online Application Processing System (NOPAS) for National Monuments Authority (NMA) for 517 local bodies of six states.

Highlights:

  • The online system automates the process of granting No-Objection Certificate (NOC) for construction-related work in the prohibited and regulated areas of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments.
  • NMA considers grant of permissions to applicants for construction-related activity in the prohibited and regulated area.
  • National Monuments Authority (NMA) under the Ministry of Culture, has been set up as per provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010.
  • The applicant needs to fill up a single form which is being sent to the concerned agencies by the Urban Local Body, from whom No Objection Certificate (NOC) is required.
  • The Portal has integration with the Smart ‘Smarac’ Mobile App of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), through which the applicant traverses his plot and the geo-coordinates of his plot along with the images get uploaded into the NIC portal along with the proximity and the approval status.
  • NOAPS was launched by the NMA in September 2015 but was limited to only five urban local bodies in Delhi and one civic body in Mumbai. Now, the facility has been expanded to six more states: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jharkhand and Telangana.

HOW THE FORCES PROTECT VIPS IN INDIA?

  • Context: The Government recently downgraded the security cover of former PM Manmohan Singh, from Special Protection Group (SPG) to Z plus of the CRPF. The security cover of several other VIPs too has been downgraded.

How Does the Government Decide the Level of Protection an Individual Needs?

  • The Home Ministry takes the decision based on inputs from intelligence agencies, which include the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing.
  • They largely give a subjective measure of threat to life or injury to a person from terrorists or any other group, based on information from their sources.
  • Certain individuals, by dint of their position in government, are automatically entitled to security cover. These include the Prime Minister and his immediate family.
  • The Home Minister and officials such as the National Security Adviser too generally get security cover on the basis of their position.
  • Since none of the intelligence agencies in India is accountable to any statutory body, barring the internal oversight of the Home and External Affairs Ministries, VIP security is sometimes seen as open to manipulation.
  • A number of protectees, it has been alleged, are under security cover for political reasons and not necessarily due to any real threat.

What Are the Various Protection Levels?

  • There are largely six types of security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus and SPG.
  • While SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs about facing a threat.
  • There are various kinds of cover within these levels. These include security of residence, mobile security, office security and inter-state security. Different VIPs are given different kinds of cover depending on threat perception.
  • For example, if the Chhattisgarh CM is assessed to be facing a threat from Maoists only in his state, the Centre may choose to give him residence and mobile security only in his state, and appropriate security by the concerned state police when he travels out. Similarly, some may have a threat only when they travel, so they are given an escort force.
  • Then, different forces may be engaged for residence and mobile security. Many protectees get residence security from state police and mobile security from a Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).

Genesis of SPG:

  • In March 1985, following the recommendations of a committee set up by the Home Ministry, a special unit was created for this purpose under the Cabinet Secretariat. This unit, initially called the Special Protection Unit, was renamed as Special Protection Group in April 1985.
  • Subsequently, the Parliament passed The Special Protection Group (SPG) Act, which was notified in June 1988 “to provide for the constitution and regulation of an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and for matters connected therewith”.
  • The SPG Act defined “proximate security” as “protection provided from close quarters, during journey by road, rail, aircraft, watercraft or on foot or any other means of transport” and to “include the places of functions, engagements, residence or halt”.
  • Coverage: SPG protection was extended, apart from the Prime Minister, to “former Prime Ministers of India and members of their immediate families” through an amendment in the Act in the aftermath of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

KERALA, TAMIL NADU AND HIMACHAL TOP INDIA’S CHILD WELL-BEING INDEX

Why in News?

  • Child well-being index, a tool designed to measure and tracks children’s well-being comprehensively has been released.

Highlights:

  • The report released by the non-government organisation World Vision India and research institute IFMR LEAD.
  • The report is an attempt to look at how India fairs on child well-being using a composite child well-being index.
  • The India child well-being index is a crucial report that can be mined both by the Government and civil organisations to achieve the goal of child well-being and we will use this report effectively.
  • This report provides insights on health, nutrition, education, sanitation and child protection.
  • The dimensions of the index include healthy individual development, positive relationships and protective contexts.
  • Focusing on the three key dimensions, 24 indicators were selected to develop the computation of the child well-being index.
  • The report highlights the multi-dimensional approach towards measuring child well-being — going beyond mere income poverty.

Significance of the Report:

  • The report is important considering that 40 per cent of the country’s population is made of children between the ages of 1 and 18.
  • The report, calls for States to look at their respective scores on the dimensions of child well-being, and to prepare for priority areas of intervention with specific plans of action.
  • It also hopes to trigger policy level changes, seek better budgetary allocations and initiate discussions with all stakeholders, which can help in enhancing the quality of life of all children in the country.
  • One of the primary objectives of this index is to garner attention to the under-researched theme of child well-being in India, and inspire further academic and policy conversations on related issues.

Performance of the states:

  • Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Puducherry topped the charts in the child well-being index.
  • Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh featured at the bottom.
  • Among the Union Territories, Puducherry led the way and Dadra and Nagar Haveli featured at the other end.
  • Kerala bagged the top spot due to its exceptional performance in health, nutrition and education facilities.
  • Kerala also performed better in addressing malnutrition and ensuring child survival and access to a healthy environment in terms of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.

MOBILE APPLICATION- “JANAUSHADHI SUGAM” LAUNCHED

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers launched a mobile application “Janaushadhi Sugam”.

Highlights:

  • The minister announced that “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” will now be available at only One Rupee per pad.
  • Janaushadhi Sugam app will enable people to search for Janaushadhi generic medicines and the stores at the tip of their fingers.
  • About 28 million girls are reported to be leaving education because of lack of availability of good quality Sanitary Napkin” pads at a reasonable cost.
  • The Government of India launched “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” at Rs 2.50 per pad on the eve of the World Environment Day
  • Jan Aushadhi Suvidha comes with a special additive, which makes it biodegradable when it comes in contact with oxygen after being discarded.
  • This is an important step in ensuring the health security for the section of Indian women who still use unhygienic aids during menstrual period due to non-affordability of sanitary pads available in the market.
  • This will ensure ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’ for the underprivileged women of the country. This step was taken by the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
  • “Janaushadhi Sugam” app would have user-friendly options like- to locate nearby stores, direction guidance for the location through Google Map.
  • The app will also enable to search Janaushadhi generic medicines, analyse product comparison of Generic vs Branded medicine in form of MRP & overall Savings, etc.

ENHANCED OUTREACH ON HIV/AIDS PREVENTION

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) for enhanced HIV/AIDS outreach.

Highlights:

  • The MoU signing took place between the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment (DoSJE).
  • The objective is to reduce the incidence of social stigma and discrimination against victims of drug abuse and Children and People Living with HIV/AIDS.
  • The MoU will help in developing specific strategies and action plans for HIV and AIDS prevention and mechanisms for drug addiction treatment and extending social protection schemes to the vulnerable populations.

India’s current situation of HIV/AIDS:

  • The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies.
  • NACO has played a very big role in significantly reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country and that too faster than the global rates.
  • More than 80% decline in estimated new infections from the peak of epidemic in 1995.
  • Estimated AIDS-related deaths declined by 71% since its peak in 2005.
  • As per the UNAIDS 2018 report, the global average for the decline in new infections and AIDS-related deaths from peak has been 47% and 51% respectively.

Antiretroviral Therapy:

  • With neither a vaccine nor a cure in sight, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is the only option available for people living with HIV-AIDS.
  • HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus, and the combination of drugs used to treat it is called Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
  • According to the World Health Organization, standard ART consists of a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.
  • Significant reductions have been seen in rates of death and suffering by the use of potent ART regimen, particularly in the early stages of the disease.

India’s Role in the Global Fight against AIDS:

  • There are 2 million new AIDS infections every year, and about 66% of the world population currently on antiretroviral therapy consumes drugs manufactured in India.
  • Globally, the ART market is valued at .48 billion (in 2018) and is expected to reach .83 billion by 2025.
  • Thus, Indian pharmaceutical companies, with their ability to manufacture high-quality, affordable medicines are very important in the global battle against AIDS.

SABKA VISHWAS – LEGACY DISPUTE RESOLUTION SCHEME

Why in News?

  • In the Union Budget 2019-20, the Hon’ble Finance Minister announced the Sabka Vishwas-Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019.

Scheme:

  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums.
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law.
  • The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine and penalty.
  • As the objective of the Scheme is to free as large a segment of the taxpayers from the legacy taxes as possible, the relief given thereunder is substantial.
  • The Scheme is specially tailored to free a large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the tax administration.
  • Government urges the taxpayers and all concerned to avail the SabkaVishwas – Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019 and make a new beginning.

RICE FORTIFICATION

Why in News?

  • The NITI Aayog seeks creation of roadmap by Department of Food and Public Distribution for taking the Rice Fortification Pilot Scheme Pan India to tackle the menace of Malnutrition.

Rice Fortification:

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Rice fortification is the practice of increasing the content of essential micronutrients in rice and to improve the nutritional quality of the rice.
  • Fortified rice contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.

Benefits of Fortification:

  • If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittent supplements.
  • Fortified foods are also better at lowering the risk of the multiple deficiencies that can result from seasonal deficits in the food supply or a poor-quality diet.
  • Fortification can be an excellent way of increasing the content of vitamins in breast milk and thus reducing the need for supplementation in postpartum women and infants.
  • Fortification of widely distributed and widely consumed foods has the potential to improve the nutritional status of a large proportion of the population, both poor and wealthy.
  • Fortification is often more cost-effective than other strategies, especially if the technology already exists and if an appropriate food distribution system is in place.

Food fortification in India:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
  • These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
  • The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.