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Category: Institutional Reforms

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.

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.

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.

DEFENCE PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE

Why in news?

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

The Committee:

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

Terms of reference of the Committee:

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

CHIEF JUSTICE ADVOCATES MORE AUTONOMY TO CBI

Why in News?

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

Highlights:

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

Issues:

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

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):

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

CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2019

Context:

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

About:

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

Highlights of The Bill:

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA):

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

Misleading Advertisements:

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

Liability of Celebrity Endorsers:

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

Product Liability:

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

Expanded Definition Of ‘Deficiency’:

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

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

Enhanced Pecuniary Jurisdiction:

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

Offences:

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

ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS

Why in News?

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

Facilitation for Persons with Disabilities:

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

WHO REPORT ON THE GLOBAL TOBACCO EPIDEMIC

Context:

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

MPOWER

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

Indian Context

National Tobacco control programme

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

Significance of graphic warning on tobacco packs

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

NATIONAL INDICATOR FRAMEWORK

Why in news?

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

Features of National Indicator Framework:

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

COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

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

Significance of The Bill:

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

Highlights of The Bill:

Re-categorisation of certain Offences:

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

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):

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

Debarring auditors:

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

Commencement of business:

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

Registration of charges:

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

Change in approving authority:

  • Under the Act, change in period of financial year for a company associated with a foreign company, has to be approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • Similarly, any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company, has to be approved by the Tribunal. Under the Bill, these powers have been transferred to central government.

Compounding:

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

Bar on holding office:

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

Beneficial Ownership:

  • If a person holds beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company, he is required to make a declaration of his interest.
  • The Bill requires every company to take steps to identify an individual who is a significant beneficial owner and require their compliance under the Act.

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

Why in News?

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

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

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

Other Features:

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

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

Why in News?

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

Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules provides:

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

Exceptions:

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

UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES PREVENTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

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

UAPA:

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

Why Amendment?

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

Highlights:

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

Need for Amendments:

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

CODE ON WAGES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

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

Code on Wages Bill 2019:

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

The Salient features of the Code:

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

NEW SPACE INDIA LIMITED

Why in News?

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

Significance:

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

Roles and functions:

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

MERGER OF NIMH WITH ICMR-NIOH

Why in News?

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

Significance:

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

Highlights:

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

What Is Occupational Health?

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

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

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

Highlights of The Act:

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

ARANI SILK SAREE

Context:

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

About:

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

Handloom Marketing Assistance (HMA) scheme:

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

Other Programmes;

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

Schemes related to Textile:

  • Scheme For Integrated Textile Park (SITP)

Objective

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

Features:

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

Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry:
Objective:

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

Powertex India Scheme:

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

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS):

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

Scheme for Capacity Building In Textile Sector (SAMARTH):

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

CANNABIS LEGALIZING ISSUE

Context:

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

Background:

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

Classification:

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

NDPS Act:

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

Cannabis legalization issue at global level:

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

Medicinal Use:

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

Why did US and Canada legalize it?

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

Does legalisation help:

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

Legalization of Cannabis in Indian Context:

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

Will legalisation worsen our overburdened healthcare system?

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

Conclusion:

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

NATIONAL DIGITAL HEALTH BLUEPRINT (NDHB)

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

What is National Health Stack (NHS)

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

Objectives of NDHB

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

NDHB Principle

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

WHY IS INDIA SETTING UP A MOBILE PHONE HANDSETS DATABASE?

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

What is CEIR?

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

What is the purpose of a CEIR?

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

What are the issues with having a CEIR?

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

GAGANYAAN NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL

Why in News?

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

Members:

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

Gaganyaan:

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

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

Why in News?

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

Highlights:

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

Cabinet NOD to Better Pay Benefits for CAPF Officers

Context:

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

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

Significance:

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

The Dentist (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Context:

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

About the Bill:

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

Composition of the Dental Councils:

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

EDUCATION QUALITY UPGRADATION AND INCLUSION PROGRAMME (EQUIP)


Why in News?

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

Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP):

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

ONLY 20% OF NIRBHAYA FUND HAS BEEN USED BY STATES


Context:

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

About Nirbhaya Fund:

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

Recent initiatives under Nirbhaya Fund:

One stop centres:

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

Safe city project:

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

Mahila Police Volunteer:

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

NATIONAL ACCREDITATION BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION BODIES (NABCB)

Why in News?

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

Highlights:

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

Significance:

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

NABCB:

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

ISRO OPENS ITS LABORATORIES FOR INDIAN SCHOOL

Context:

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

Background:

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

BIMAL JALAN COMMITTEE ON THE QUANTUM OF RESERVES

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

What are RBI Reserves?

RBI holds reserves in currency and gold inorder to:

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

ESSENTIAL SERVICES MAINTENANCE ACT (ESMA)

Context:

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

Provisions of Act:

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

Mains Perspective:

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

Hints;

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

CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2022

Why in News:

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

Background:/Important Analysis Agriculture:

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

Sanitation:

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

Power:

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

Employment:

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

Procurement:

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

Governance:

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

Suggestions:

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

ALL STATES, UNION TERRITORIES CAN NOW SET UP FOREIGNERS TRIBUNALS

Why in News:

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

Background: / More in News:

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

NRC and Foreigners Tribunals:

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

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY PROPOSES FORMAL EDUCATION FROM AGE OF THREE

Why in News:

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

Background: / What is the new education policy for?

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

What are the Key Changes Proposed?

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

TAMIL NADU HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM PROGRAM

Why in News:

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

More in News:

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

Background:

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

Way Ahead:

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

SOUTH ASIA IS TOP PRIORITY: JAISHANKAR

Why in News:

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

Background: / More in News

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

On South Asia:

BIMSTEC

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

Regional Connectivity:

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

On Economy:

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

HOME MINISTRY WARNS NGOS

Why in News:

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

Background: / More in News

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

Regulation of NGO under FCRA:

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

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

Why in News:

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

Background: / More in News

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

National Testing Agency:

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

NITI AAYOG RECONSTITUTED

Why in News:

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

Background: / NITI AAYOG:

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

Administrative Skeltal:

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

NITI Aayog Hubs:

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

Importance:

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

Objectives:

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

Challenges:

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

CABINET COMMITTEES

Why in News:

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

Background: / Transaction of Business:

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

Key Committees:

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

Accommodation:

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

Economic Affairs:

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

Parliamentary Affairs:

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

Political Affairs:

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

Security:

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

The New Panels:

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

Investment:

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

Employment:

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

LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION

Why in News:

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

Background: / What is the new education policy for?

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

What are the key changes proposed?

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

FROM SWACHH TO ‘NAL SE JAL’

Why in News:

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

Background:

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

PM MODI TO HEAD CABINET COMMITTEES ON GROWTH, EMPLOYMENT

Why in News:

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

Background: / Committee on Investment and Growth:

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

Reason for the committee on Investment and Growth:

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

Cabinet committee for Employment and Skill Development:

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

Reasons for the committee for Employment and Skill Development:

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

About Cabinet committees:

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

FINE-TUNING THE EDUCATION POLICY

Why in News:

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

Background: / What is the New Education Policy for?

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

What are the key changes proposed?

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

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS BILL TO BE REINTRODUCED

Why in News:

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

Background: Transgender Rights Bill:

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

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

CENTRE TURNS DOWN RTI PLEA FOR CIC SELECTION DETAILS

Why in News:

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

Background: / CIC in Limelight:

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

Central Information Commission (CIC):

 

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

HAVING ONE MINISTER FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT & AGRICULTURE

Why in News:

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

Background:

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

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

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

CENTRE IN DAMAGE CONTROL MODE OVER ANTI-HINDI PROTESTS

Why in News:

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

Background:

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

Three language formulae

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

Implementation of three language formulae

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

VENDOR LICENSING FOR SELLING TOBACCO PRODUCTS IN A MONTH

Why in News:

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

Details:

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

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

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

Provisions:

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

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF CSO AND NSSO MERGER

Why in News:

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

Background: / Present order of the government

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

Problems related to data collection

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

Present structure for data collection

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

CSO

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

NSSO

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

Wayahead:

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

PROJECT: ‘SAFE NEIGHBOURHOOD FOR EVERY CHILD’

Why in News:

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

Background:

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

Child abuse cases

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

Kudumbashree

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

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

Why in News:

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

Background: / ICMR:

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

Mandate

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

Vision

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

Mission

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

Network

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

INSTITUTES OF EMINENCE SCHEME

Why in News?

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

Highlights:

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

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

Why in News:

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

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

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

How prevalent is tenant farming?

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

What are the policy shortfalls?

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

What are the notable state models in lending?

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

How does the future look?

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

What could be done?

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

CBI SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE ON ELEVEN ‘MURDERED’ GIRLS

Why in News

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

Details:

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

CBI

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

A.R Dave Committee Report

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

Settlement Law:

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

Problems:

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

Recommendations:

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

Government scraps scientific panels And forms New Council

Why in news?

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

PM-STIAC:

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

Lateral Entry Into Civil Services

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

Need for Lateral Entry:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Conclusion:

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

NCRB To Track Complaints On Sexual Violence

Why in news?

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

About the news:

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

NCRB:

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

Mission:

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

Objectives:

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

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