Category: Governance

NOT MANY LESSONS LEARNT FROM WATER PLANNING FAILURES

Context:

  • In the absence of scientific planning and implementation, measures like Jal Shakti Abhiyan may not be successful, says Water Experts.

Today’s Water Scenario:

  • Following the massive water crisis across India in the summer of 2019, the Central government hurriedly launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign to be carried out in two phases, across the 255 districts having critical and over-exploited groundwater levels.
  • This campaign, however, was not intended to be a funding programme and did not create any new intervention on its own.
  • It only aimed to make water conservation a ‘people’s movement’ through ongoing schemes like the MGNREGA and other government programmes.

About Jal Shakti Abhiyan:

  • It is a time-bound, mission-mode campaign that would focus on 1,592 “water-stressed” blocks in 257 districts.
  • The campaign will run through citizen participation during the monsoon season, from 1st July, 2019 to 15th September, 2019.
  • The 1,592 blocks, identified as “water-stressed” as per the Central Ground Water Board’s 2017 data, include 313 critical blocks, 1,000-odd over-exploited blocks and 94 blocks with least water availability (for states without water-stressed blocks).
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a collaborative effort of various Ministries of the Government of India and State Governments, being coordinated by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • Under the campaign, teams of officers from the central government will visit and work with district administration in water stressed blocks, to ensure five important water conservation interventions.
  • These will be water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, reuse, bore well recharge structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation.
  • These water conservation efforts will also be supplemented with special interventions including the development of Block and District Water Conservation Plans, promotion of efficient water use for irrigation and better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
  • A large-scale communications campaign has also been planned alongside the JSA involving mass mobilization of different groups including school students, college students, swachhagrahis, Self Help Groups, Panchayati Raj Institution members, youth groups (NSS/NYKS/NCC), defence personnel, ex-servicemen and pensioners, among various others.

Need for Scientific Planning for Water Conservation:

  • Water planning should be based on hydrological units, namely river basins. And, political and administrative boundaries of districts rarely coincide with the hydrological boundaries or aquifer boundaries.
  • However, contrary to this principle of water management, JSA was planned based on the boundary of the districts, and to be carried out under the overall supervision of a bureaucrat.
  • This resulted in the division of basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies. There was no data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off and groundwater maps were rarely used.
  • As a result, one never came to know whether water harvested in a pond in a district was at the cost of water in adjoining districts.
  • The JSA also fundamentally ignored the fact that most of India’s water-stressed basins, particularly those in the peninsular regions, are facing closure, with the demand exceeding supply.
  • Hence, groundwater recharge happened at the cost of surface water and vice versa. This is where an absence of autonomous and knowledge-intensive river-basin organisations is acutely felt.

Data’s given by JSA:

  • The JSA’s portal displays impressive data, images and statistics.
  • For example, it claims that there are around 10 million ongoing and completed water conservation structures; 7.6 million recharge structures.
  • The website also says that one billion saplings have been planted and that six million people participated in awareness campaigns.

Contradictions with JSA’s Data:

  • The data displayed on JSA portal do not speak anything about the pre-JSA water levels, the monthly water levels and impact of monsoon on the water levels across the 255 districts with critical and over-exploited blocks.
  • They also don’t convey anything about the quality of the structures, their maintenance and sustainability.
  • Even if the water levels had been measured, it is unknown whether the measurement was accurate.
  • The results for a 2016 study conducted by the Central Groundwater Board showed that water levels always increase post-monsoon.
  • Therefore, it will require long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA.
  • At present, there is no such parameter to measure the outcome of such a mission-mode campaign.

Drawbacks of JSA:

  • Assumption by the JSA is that common people in rural areas are ignorant and prone to wasting water; on the contrary, they are the ones who first bear the burden of any water crisis.
  • The per capita water allocation to those living in rural areas is 55 litres, whereas the same for urban areas like Delhi and Bengaluru is 135-150 litres.
  • Therefore, the JSA’s move to reach out to poor people and farmers, asking them to ‘save water’, appears hypocritical, particularly when district administrations blatantly allow the sewage generated from towns and cities to pollute village water sources such as tanks, ponds and wells.
  • Moreover, it is difficult to say whether measures like JSA can provide long-term solutions.
  • Most of the farm bunds built with soil can collapse within one monsoon season due to rains and/or trespassing by farm vehicles, animals and humans.
  • Further, there are issues like lack of proper engineering supervision of these structures, involvement of multiple departments with less or no coordination, and limited funding under MGNERGA and other schemes.
  • Finally, there have hardly been many efforts undertaken to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and banana, when it is widely known that agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater.

ARMS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha passed the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Highlights:

  • The Bill seeks to enhance the punishment for existing offences like illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, etc.; illegal acquiring, possessing or carrying prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition; and illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, conversion, import, export, etc., of firearms.
  • It also proposes to define new offences and prescribes punishment for them, such as taking away firearms from police or armed forces, involvement in organized crime syndicate, illicit trafficking including smuggled firearms of foreign make or prohibited arms and prohibited ammunition, use of firearms in rash and negligent manner in celebratory gunfire endangering human life, etc.
  • Further, the Bill seeks to enhance the period of arms license from three years to five years and also to issue arms license in its electronic form to prevent forgery.
  • The Amendment assumes significance in recent times as law enforcement agencies have indicated a growing nexus between possession of illegal firearms and commission of criminal offences.
  • The trans-border dimensions of illegal arms trafficking are causing threat to internal security and to prevent the usage of illicit firearms so trafficked has also become a prime concern.
  • To effectively curb crimes related to or committed by using illegal firearms and to provide effective deterrence against violation of law, there is an urgent need to strengthen the existing legislative framework by making appropriate amendments in the Arms Act, 1959.
  • The licenses and arms ownership of sportspersons would not be adversely affected because of the Bill.
  • The provisions related to ownership of arms by retired and serving personnel of armed forces also remain unaffected by the Amendment.

History of the Act:

  • The original law was brought by the British after the Revolution of 1857, in order to prevent such a rebellion in the future.
  • Mahatma Gandhi also connected the issue of arms ownership with the basic rights of Indians and demanded a repeal of the Indian Arms Act, 1878.
  • This demand was also included in the eight-point agenda that Mahatma Gandhi presented to Lord Irwin.

CENTRE ALL SET TO REVAMP BRITISH ERA INDIAN PENAL CODE

Why in News?

  • The Home Ministry is all set to overhaul the Indian Penal Code designed by the British. Rebooting the code introduced by the British in 1860 was necessary as it is primarily based on the spirit of “master and servant”.

Efforts taken by the Government:

  • Home Ministry has written to all States and Union Territories seeking suggestions to amend various sections of the IPC.
  • The ministry has also set up two committees comprising legal luminaries to look into the issue.

 About IPC:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the official criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • The code was drafted in 1860 on the recommendations of first law commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay.
  • The IPC replaced Mohammedan Criminal Law, which had a very close relationship with Islam. Thus, the IPC laid the foundation of secularism.
  • It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862. However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely states, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s.
  • The Code has since been amended several times and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.

How significant it is?

  • Today, it is the longest serving criminal code in the common-law world.
  • Today, most of the commonwealth follows the IPC and legislators would find it difficult to improve it in terms of precision, comprehensibility, comprehensiveness and accessibility.

Why it Needs a Review?

  • Since it has been introduced in the year of 1860, that is almost 150 years back, it has failed to keep pace since then.
  • Macaulay had himself favoured regular revision of the code whenever gaps or ambiguities were found or experienced.
  • No comprehensive revision of IPC has been undertaken, even though the IPC has been haphazardly amended more than 75 times.
  • Most of the amendments have been ad hoc and reactive, in response to immediate circumstances like the 2013 amendment after the Delhi gangrape case.
  • The 42nd report of the law commission in 1971 has also recommended for a complete revisit of the IPC.

Areas that Need Reforms:

  • Some of the concepts underlying the code are either problematic or have become obsolete.
  • Sedition law (Section 124A): A re-examination of the sedition law, inserted in 1898, is necessary.
  • Blasphemy law: The offence of blasphemy should have no place in a liberal democracy and, therefore, there is a need to repeal Section 295A, which was inserted in 1927.
  • Culpable Homicide: The distinction between “culpable homicide” and “murder” was criticised even by Stephen as the “weakest part of the code”, as the definitions are obscure.
  • Sec 497 (Adultery): Sexual offences under the code reveal patriarchal values and Victorian morality.
  • Though the outmoded crime of adultery gives the husband sole proprietary rights over his wife’s sexuality, it gives no legal protection to secure similar monopoly over the husband’s sexuality.
  • Section 377(Homosexuality): The section has been in news as voices being raised against its being in violation of human rights, harassment and violence against LGBT community. The LGBT community and a part of society wants this section to be repealed. The issue has been sub-judice several times.

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL

Why in News?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah has reiterated that the government would first amend the existing citizenship norms – by passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill – before it implements a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:

  • The Bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955, which lays down the norms regarding Indian citizenship, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  • Further, it relaxes one of the requirements for acquiring citizenship by natutralisation under the existing Act for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries by only requiring them to have stayed in India for 6 (instead of 11) of the previous 14 years.
  • The essential point of debate in this proposed amendment was that it makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion – a move that may violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees right to equality.

What is NRC?

  • Till date, Assam is the only state that has implemented the National Register of Citizens.
  • The NRC defines all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion, on the basis of a cutoff date – in Assam this was set to be March 24, 1971.
  • As such, to claim citizenship, individuals had to prove that either they or their ancestors were Indian citizens before March 1971.
  • At the end of the exercise in which 3.11 crore people applied for citizenship verification, 19 lakh were excluded.
  • However, the list of excluded individuals includes several Hindus as well.

What will happen if the Citizenship Amendment happens before a nationwide NRC?

  • If that happens, then all Hindus, Jains etc. migrants – essentially non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries – who would have faced the risk of being excluded by the NRC would already be provided Indian citizenship.
  • Thus, this sequencing will ensure that the government would be able to use the NRC to identify and deport, “each and every infiltrator”.

Initials hurdle hits PAN-Aadhaar link

Tens of thousands of people may not be able to file income tax returns for the coming financial year as they are unable to link their Aadhaar to their PANs, for no fault of theirs.

The Point of Mismatch:

  • Since a person’s identity is authenticated biometrically, Aadhaar can allow initials in the name.
  • On the other hand, PAN is based on an old system that will not accept initials even if they are entered.
  • A large number of people, especially in south India, are not being able to link the two because of the name mismatch.

Court’s Stand:

  • According to the Supreme Court’s judgement passed on 9th June 2017, anyone who holds an Aadhaar card has to link it to his/her PANs and mention the same in the tax returns.
  • The government has set July 1, 2017 as the deadline for linking Aadhaar card with the PAN card.
  • However, those who do not have Aadhaar can e-file tax returns without the same for FY 2016-17.
  • Non-resident Indians (NRIs), however, are not required to quote Aadhaar number while filing income tax returns back home.
  • The government has also mandated that bank accounts be linked with PAN by June 30, 2017.

What will happen if one does not link Aadhaar with the PAN?

  • Failing to link Aadhaar and PAN may lead to invalidation of one’s PAN card.
  • If that happens, the PAN card of the concerned will cease to serve as an identity proof, debarring him/her from transactions that cannot be carried out without quoting PAN.

Significance of PAN-Aadhaar Linkage

  • The interlinking of PAN card, Aadhaar and bank accounts, indicates that the government will be able to keep a track of one’s financial transactions. This is expected to result in more transparency in financial transactions across the country.
  • With this linkage, the government is also trying to solve the problem of people having multiple PAN cards and filing tax returns with those. How? As Aadhaar is based on biometrics, the chances of duplication are much less as compared to PAN, which is not based on biometrics.
  • The number of tax-payers in the country is very low. The government intends to check tax evaders with PAN-Aadhaar linkage.

Arguments against PAN-Aadhaar Linkage

  • The petitioners before the court had argued that the provision, which makes it obligatory on individuals filing income tax returns to link their permanent account numbers (PAN) to their Aadhaar, was unconstitutional as it, among other things, infringed a number of fundamental rights.
  • The mandatory linking of Aadhaar to PAN under the newly-included Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act is a “direct invasion” by the state into the citizens’ right to make free, voluntary and informed consent.
  • There is complete collision Aadhaar Act and Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, which provides for mandatory quoting for the Aadhaar. However, UIDAI clearly states that it is voluntary.

Arguments in favour

The government had argued that Section 139 AA was enacted by the Parliament to ensure that fake PAN cards are removed from the system and Aadhaar was the “most effective” way to do so.

Supreme Court’s Verdict and its Implications

  • Supreme Court of India had upheld the constitutional validity of Section 139AA of Income Tax Act which made mandatory linkage of IT returns with Aadhaar.
  • The Court made it clear that those who don’t have Aadhaar need not apply for it for the purpose of filing IT returns.
  • The Supreme Court held that the parliament was competent to enact section 139AA of the IT Act as the said interim orders relied upon by the petitioners were passed when the Aadhaar Act was not even enacted.
  • The court also held that the Aadhaar Act and the law contained in section 139AA of the IT Act deal with two different situations and operate in different fields. This is an alarming statement as it gives the government a much-needed way out from the interim orders of the court. The government can, now, amend any central statute, including non-welfare schemes, and insert a provision making it mandatory to quote Aadhaar number while maintaining the voluntary nature in the parent Aadhaar Act.
  • The court further held that the interim orders were passed in the petitions where Aadhaar scheme was put forward as an executive measure. The court also stated that the said orders were not passed in a case where the court was dealing with a statute passed by the parliament. By creating an artificial distinction between the executive and legislative actions of the government, validated the government’s overt violation of Supreme Court orders.

PAN

  • PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number used for keeping a track of financial transactions
  • It is issued to all judicial entities identifiable under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961.

It is issued by the Indian Income Tax Department under the supervision of the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it also serves as an important proof of identification

Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act

  • It was introduced by the Finance Act of 2017.
  • Section 139AA(1) of the Income Tax Act provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar/Enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form, for filing of return of income and for making an application for allotment of PAN with effect from 1st July, 2017.
  • Section 139AA(2) of the Income Tax Act provides that every person who has been allotted PAN as on the 1st day of July, 2017, and who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar, shall intimate his Aadhaar on or before a date to be notified by the Central Government.

The proviso to section 139AA (2) provides that in case of non-intimation of Aadhaar, the PAN allotted to the person shall be deemed to be invalid from a date to be notified by the Central Government.

HC Stays Ban on Online Sale of Drugs

Context:

  • A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed the operation of a single judge’s December 17 order banning online sale of medicines.

Details:

  • The Bench has said that imposing a sudden ban would cause grave hardship and health issues to patients relying on e-pharmacies.
  • It further said that the number of people who prefer to purchase medicines online was on the rise because not all patients and their caregivers would be in a position to go in search of the required drugs. It added that e-pharmacies aided those who travelled from one state to another for medical treatment. On the other hand, the Bench warned that sale and dispensation of medicines requires great care as it deals with human lives
  • It is argued that there was no necessity to ban online sale in toto when e-pharma firms had conceded that the authorities constituted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 were already empowered to initiate appropriate action against them.
  • And also, there was no possibility of any irregularity or illegality as medicines would not be dispensed online without buyers having furnished prescriptions from registered medical practitioners.

End Hegemony in CAPF: PANEL

Context

  • A parliamentary panel has recommended that the post of Director-General and other senior positions in Central Armed Police Forces should not be reserved for Indian Police Service officers.

Details

  • The panel has suggested that the nature of duty of CAPF are more similar to that of the Armed Forces and it would make more sense to bring more officers from the Armed Forces on deputation.
  • Currently, the DG rank in CAPFs is “100% reserved for IPS officers.”

About Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)

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

    • The Assam Rifles is the oldest of paramilitary force of India.
    • They perform many roles including the provision of internal security under the control of the army through the conduct of counter insurgency and border security operations, provision of aid to the civil power in times of emergency, and the provision of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas.
  • Border Security Force (BSF)

    • The Border Security Force (BSF) is the primary border defence organisation of India.
    • It is charged with guarding India’s land border during peacetime and preventing transnational crime.
    • It currently stands as the world’s largest border guarding force. BSF has been termed as the First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.
  • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
    • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is the largest of India’s Central Armed Police Forces.
    • The CRPF’s primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and counter insurgency.
  • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
    • The CISF provides security cover to 300 industrial units, government infrastructure projects and facilities and establishments located all over India. Industrial sectors like atomic power plants, space installations, mints, oil fields and refineries, major ports, heavy engineering, steel plants, barrages, fertilliser units, airports and hydroelectric/thermal power plants owned and controlled by Central Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), and currency note presses producing Indian currency are protected by CISF.
    • It thereby covers installations all over India straddling a variety of terrain and climatic conditions.
    • CISF also provides consultancy services to private industries as well as other organisations within the Indian government.
  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
    • The ITBP was intended for deployment along India’s border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • National Security Guard (NSG)
    • It is raised for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against internal disturbances.
  • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)
    • SSB is now spread along the International border across Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It is to safeguard the security of assigned borders of India and promote sense of security among the people living in border areas and to prevent trans-border crimes, smuggling and any other illegal activities.

Self4 Society APP

Professionals keen on doing volunteer work in their free time will be provided a platform by the government through an app, #Self4Society, developed by My Gov.

About:

  • It was the result of the conversations between PM and several corporate leaders who had said their employees wanted to do volunteer work but did not have any guidance.
  • A lot of companies run volunteering initiatives. This platform will help to create better synergies among so many initiatives and lead to a much better outcome of the efforts of professionals.
  • Companies have observed that a spirit of service and volunteering improves employee satisfaction and reduces employee attrition. This app comes after discussions with companies from the information technology sector on these lines.
  • The app will have incentives, gamification and intra- and inter-company competitions, and social networking.
  • At first, this will be aimed at IT companies, with more joining in when it takes off. The volunteer time for the government’s flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat is expected to increase.

Door step delivery of service’s Scheme

  • The Delhi government, which launched its ambitious ‘doorstep delivery of services’ scheme to solve a part of the larger problem in essential service delivery mechanism.

About:

  • Under the scheme, Delhiites can avail of up to 40 government services such as getting caste, income, domicile and marriage certificates, new water connections, driving licence, vehicle registration, scholarships and pensions.
  • As per the scheme, the government will provide a total of 100 services at the doorstep of citizens. The services will be provided for an extra fee of Rs 50. A private company VFS Global has been onboarded to implement the scheme.
  • It will made beneficiary to skipping long queues, and the unnecessary hassle, citizens can now dial 1076 to avail the services.
  • After a request is placed, Mobile Sahayaks (Mobile helpers) will reach the applicant’s doorstep to get the necessary details and documents which are needed.
  • The mobile sahayak will be equipped with all the necessary equipment for the process including biometric devices, camera and printer. Once the process is completed, the documents will be mailed to the citizen’s house. Hence, citizens will no longer have to rush to cyber cafes or stand in long queues just to get their documents uploaded and recorded.

Background:

  • The doorstep delivery of services was in the pipeline for a long time and became a bone of contention between the Delhi Government and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on the ground that the scheme would lead to the additional expenditure of the government.
  • However, in January 2018, governor cleared a revised proposal of the scheme, paving the way for the government to provide home delivery facilities.

Significance:

  • With this service, the government has made it easier for people to apply for a service.
  • It will increase number of people on getting government services as it will create awareness in digital mode. As on the launch day itself, the government received over 25,000 calls from people out of which it could answer only 1,286.
  • It will bring new sections of society under the governance sphere including those who are most likely to remain excluded – namely the poor, the illiterate, the differently abled, the indigenous people, the migrants and displaced people. This has led to the fostering of a sense of ownership and the building of social capital, which in turn, constitutes basis for local revitalization. Act as basis of Equity and inclusiveness
  • Improve the accessibility, cutting down costs, reducing corruption and extending help and increased access to un-served groups within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Chance of Provide new governance services and products based on feedback. Speeding up the flow of information and knowledge between government and citizens and transforming the way in which governments and citizens interact.
  • Facilitates more accessible government services, allows greater public access to information, and makes government more accountable to citizens.
  • It is a part of the ongoing reform and transformation of government enabling participatory governance and partnerships to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Plays a critical role in sustainable human development and poverty eradication.
  • It has been called the bottom-up model where services reach a citizen’s doorstep, thus providing last mile connectivity through a single point and location for various services— education, health, agricultural, banking, utility etc. citizens in a convenient manner.

VV PAT for 2019 Election

  • The Election Commission said that the supply of VVPATs for use in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 was on track and that it was committed to 100% deployment of machines at all polling stations in the future.

About:

  • The Commission has placed an order of 17.45 lakh VVPATs to Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited for use in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
  • The EC has enhanced the requirement of additional VVPATs from 125% to 135% considering the trend of failure rate of machines in the recent elections. Besides adopting the hardware improvement for the machines in view of a large number of paper trail unit’s failure in Kairana and Bhadara-Gondiya by-polls earlier this year.
  • The Commission has adopted the hardware improvement recommended by the TEC to prevent auto shutdown of VVPATs due to excessive light
  • EC has been “consistently and periodically” reviewing the status of production and supply of VVPAT units with the top brass of BEL and ECIL.
  • In the last 20 years, the EC has conducted 113 state assembly elections and three Lok Sabha elections using EVMs. Since June 2017, VVPAT machines have also been used along with EVMs in general as well as by-elections.

Background:

  • Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot less voting system.
  • A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
  • It contains the name of the candidate (for whom vote has been cast) and symbol of the party/individual candidate. A paper VVPAT is readable by the human eye and voters can directly interpret their vote as it serve as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes.
  • It’s intent is to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.
  • VVPATs with EVMs were used for first time in a bye-election from 51-Noksen (ST) Assembly Constituency of Nagaland. Goa is the first state to haven VVPAT system for the Assembly elections in the entire state.

Ordinance to replace MCI

  • An ordinance was issued to allow a committee of eminent professionals run the scamtainted Medical Council of India till a bill which seeks to replace the body with a new commission is passed by Parliament.

About:

  • The Cabinet cleared the ordinance and the President has given his assent. Now the committee of most eminent doctors in the country will run the MCI.
  • A Bill pending in Parliament seeks to replace the MCI with the National Medical Commission.
  • The Bill was taken up for consideration and was referred to Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health & Family Welfare for examination. The Parliamentary Standing Committee presented its 109th Report on the Bill to the House. The Ministry after examining the recommendations obtained approval of the Cabinet for moving official amendments. Thereafter, the Bill is pending in the Lok Sabha.
  • Amid allegations of corruption against MCI office bearers and probes into opaque accreditation to medical colleges, the Supreme Court had, in May 2016, directed the Centre to set up an oversight committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of the MCI till a new legislation is enacted. Several MCI members have been accused of accepting bribes to fast-track accreditation.
  • When the SC-appointed panel could not function and the bill to replace MCI awaiting parliamentary nod, certain “immediate steps” were needed.
  • The Bill pending in Parliament provides for simplification of procedures and is expected to spur rapid growth in the number of undergraduate and post-graduate seats in the country besides enhancing the governance and quality of medical education.
  • In 2017, another oversight committee was set up with the approval of the top court after the expiry of the one-year term of the first panel.
  • The BoG will run the MCI till the time a Bill, which seeks to replace the body with a new commission, is passed by Parliament.
  • The Board of Governors includes NITI Aayog member V K Paul, AIIMS, Delhi director Randeep Guleria, PGIMER, Chandigarh director Jagat Ram, NIMHANS, Bangalore director B N Gangadhar and Nikhil Tandon, professor, AIIMS Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
  • All the BoG members are eminently qualified and apolitical. Further, five of the seven members were the members of the Supreme Court appointed Oversight Committee. It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and the much-required reforms in the field of medical education and promote access to quality healthcare for all the people of India.
  • It is aimed at bringing complete transparency in the medical education system. This will strengthen medical education in the country.
  • It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and much required reforms in the field of medical education.

The National Medical Commission Bill:

  • The National Medical Commission Bill, 2017 was introduced by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and provide for a medical education system which ensures
    • Availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals.
    • Adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals.
    • Periodic assessment of medical institutions.
    • An effective grievance redressal mechanism.

Constitution of the National Medical Commission:

  • The Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC). Within three years of the passage of the Bill, state governments will establish State Medical Councils at the state level.
  • The NMC will consist of 25 members, appointed by the central government.
  • Members of the NMC will include: (i) the Chairperson, (ii) the President of the Under Graduate Medical Education Board, (iii) the President of the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board, (iv) the Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services, (v) the Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, and (vi) five members (part-time) to be elected by the registered medical practitioners from amongst themselves from the prescribed regional constituencies under the Bill. Functions of the National

Medical Commission:

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

Medical Advisory Council:

  • Under the Bill, the central government will constitute a Medical Advisory Council. The Council will be the primary platform through which the states/union territories can put forth their views and concerns before the NMC.

Entrance Examinations:

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

Telecom Commission approves forming

Why in News?

  • The Telecom Commission today said a new National Trust Centre will be created for certifying devices and applications for machine-to-machine communication, a new-age technology that is at the heart of concepts like smart homes.

Background:

  • It has also decided to form an apex body for this technology segment and its members will include representatives from other regulatory authorities like National Highways Authority of India and Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.
  • Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications forms the basis for automated information exchange between machines. It can impact various industries like smart cities and grids, transportation systems and healthcare, among others.
  • According to some estimates, the number of connected devices in India is projected to touch about 275 million by 2020.
  • The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) and Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) will spell out the detailed security parameters.
  • TRAI’s recommendations on M2M have been accepted, and all access providers holding any kind of licence shall be allowed to provide M2M connectivity, but they will have to register as M2M service providers.
  • The process of registration will be kept simple and those operating on unlicensed spectrum in a smaller service area will not have to procure a licence. For example, of a health clinic that has connected machines communicating with each other.
  • Aiming to grow the M2M segment, the government has also decided against levying performance bank guarantee or financial bank guarantees from players providing M2M services in limited geographies.
  • However, those operating in unlicensed spectrum but using wide area networks will come under the category of licensing and there will be a new authorisation called UL – Universal Licence M2M, which in turn.
  • For the larger players, the entry fee and bank guarantee have been kept at a nominal rate. The Telecom Commission has also decided that no spectrum band will be allocated exclusively for these services.
  • On cloud, the Telecom Commission favoured a “light touch regulatory framework” and will ask cloud service providers to form industry associations that will be registered.
  • DoT can issue directions to the industry bodies, it can withdraw or cancel registration of industry body if it finds breaches. A cloud service advisory group comprising all stakeholders will be constituted.
  • The Telecom Commission — which is the highest decision-making body of the Telecom Department — also took note of reports that suggest that cloud can create more than one million jobs.
  • Also, the Telecom Commission has decided that BSNL would be asked to take up projects (to connect about 44,000-gram panchayats) under Bharat Net and be given a five per cent incentive if the state-run telecom operator meets the December deadline.

CARA rules on Adoption for live-in

  • Individuals in a live-in relationship will be able to adopt children from and within India after the country’s nodal adoption agency decided to withdraw a circular issued earlier this year disallowing them from doing so.

Background:

  • The Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA), in a circular issued on May 31, barred applicants in a live-in relationship from adopting a child on the ground that “the Authority would like the children to be placed only with a stable family and individuals in a live-in relationship cannot be considered as stable family.”
  • The revised guidelines have been framed keeping in mind the issues and challenges faced by CARA, Adoption Agencies and Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) and are intended to provide for more effective regulation for adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children and would bring more transparency and efficiency in the adoption system,
  • The eligibility criteria under Adoption Regulations, 2017, permit single women to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys. When a married couple seeks to adopt a child, it needs to give its consent for adoption and should be stable marriage for at least two years. Applicants have to be physically, mentally and financially stable to raise a child.
  • In India, a live-in relationship is not considered a stable family and we need to ensure the best interest of the child is served.
  • The Supreme Court has on several occasions said that a live-in relationship is neither a crime or a sin.
  • The Courts have taken the view that where a man and a woman live together as husband and wife for a long term, the law will presume that they were legally married unless proved contrary.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court in S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal case had said that adult couples have the right to live together even if they were not married which imply they have children either by biological or by adopting as normal married couple.
  • It will benefit both domestic and international applicants who are live in interested to make adoption.

Adoption:

  • Is a process to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one’s own child especially in compliance with formal legal procedures”.
  • Adoption can be legal as well as illegal. Under Indian law adoption is legal coalition between the party willing for adoption and a child, it forms the subject matter of personal law where Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion can make a legal adoption.
  • In India there is no separate adoption laws for Muslims, Christians and Parsis, so they have to approach court under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 for legal adoption.
  • In India, an Indian whether he is married or single, Non-Resident Indian (NRI), or a person belonging to any nationality (foreigner) may adopt a child.

Intercountry Adoption:

  • In India, there is no separate act that governs adoption by foreign citizens or NRIs but it is covered under Guidelines Governing Adoption of Children, 2015. Under these guidelines misuse or illegal use of the children through adoption is prevented. As per the Supreme Court Guidelines for intercountry adoption a foreign parent can adopt an Indian child before he/she completes the age of 3 years.
  • In the absence of any concrete Act on intercountry adoption, the provisions of Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 will be followed for adoption. In case of adoption of abandoned, abused and surrendered children all intercountry adoptions shall be done only as per the provisions the juvenile justice (care and protection of children) act, 2015 and the adoption regulations framed by the Authority.

Eligible:

  • Under THE HINDU ADOPTIONS AND MAINTENANCE ACT, 1956 following category of people can make adoptions:
  • Any male Hindu (including Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion) who is of sound mind, not a minor and is eligible to adopt a son or a daughter. But if such male has living spouse at a time of adoption then he can adopt a child only with a consent of his wife (unless she has been declared incompetent to give her consent by the court).
  • Any female Hindu (including Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion) who is not married, or if married, whose husband is not alive or her marriage has been dissolved or her husband has been declared incompetent by the court has the capacity to take a son or daughter in adoption.
  • In case of adoption of a son by any Hindu male or female, there should not be any living son in the succeeding three generation of the party (whether by legitimate blood relationship or by adoption) at the time of adoption.
  • In case of adoption of a daughter by any Hindu male or female, they should not have any daughter or son’s daughter at the time of adoption.
  • Where there is an adoption of a daughter by a male then the adoptive father should be at least twenty-one years older than the child.
  • Where there is an adoption of a son by a female than the adoptive mother should be at least twenty-one years older than the child.

As per the Hindu law following child may be adopted namely

  • The child can either be a girl or a boy if he/she is a Hindu.
  • He/ She has not been adopted before.
  • The age of the child is below 15 years.
  • The child should not be married.

Procedure:

  • Under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 the party willing for adoption can make application to Child Welfare Agency. Registration can be done either an Adoption Coordinating Agency (ACA) found in each state’s capital city, or an agency certified by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in New Delhi
  • After this, the agency conducts a preliminary interview with the adopting couple in order to understand their intention and motivation behind adoption.
  • Once the party decides which child are they going to adopt they file the petition at the court of apt jurisdiction, where court hearing takes place regarding adoption (the court is required to dispose the adoption case within 2 months).
  • Once the Court issues the decree, the adoption is finalized.

Central adoption resource Authority:

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

Pravasi Bhartiya Diva

  • Government links Pravasi Divas with Kumbha mela and republic day

About:

  • The 15th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas will be held in Varanasi in January next year and the Indian diaspora attending the event will also get an opportunity to participate in the ‘Kumbha Snan’ and attend the Republic Day parade.
  • It is on the request of diaspora who were expressed interest in attending the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad and Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi, usually Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) is held on January 9 every year.
  • The government is touting the event as the first of its kind as the participants will witness the cultural heritage of Varanasi and of Allahabad during the Kumbha Mela.
  • The event is jointly being organised by the Uttar Pradesh government and the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The theme of PBD 2019 is the “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India”.
  • Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth will be chief guest for the January 22 main event while Norway leader Himanshu Gulati and New Zealand MP Charanjit Singh Bakshi will be special guests at the PBD event to be held on January 21.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas:

  • It is observed on 9 January by the India to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community towards the development of India. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai on 9 January 1915.
  • The decision to celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was taken in accordance with recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC) on the Indian Diaspora set up by government of India under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi
  • Established in 2000, it is sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industries and the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region.
  • A celebratory event is held on 7–9 January every other year in an Indian city: a forum for issues concerning the Indian Diaspora is organised and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are given.
  • The 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which was supposed to be held during 7–9 January 2016 at New Delhi, was cancelled under the MEA’s decision to make the event biennial.
  • The 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was held during 7–9 January 2017 at Bengaluru, Karnataka.
  • The Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2018 was held during 6–7 January 2018 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
  • The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians.
  • PBSA is conferred by the Hon’ble President of India as a part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Conventions organized annually since 2003 on Non-Resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin or an organization or institution established and run by the Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin in recognition of their outstanding achievements both in India and abroad.

Food safety audit

  • In order to strengthen the food safety surveillance system, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has envisaged audit of food business operators through thirdparty private agencies.

About:

  • FSSAI said that the audit through “recognised” agencies in addition to existing enforcement and inspection procedure is critical to ensuring safety aspect of an extensive network of food businesses in India.
  • FSSAI has already notified the Food Safety and Standards (Food Safety Auditing) Regulation 2018. Which outline procedure for recognition of auditing agencies, terms and conditions for recognition, duties of auditors, audit reporting and audit monitoring systems among others.
  • FSSAI expects that this regulation will strengthen the food safety surveillance system in the country by encouraging self-compliance. It empowers the FSSAI to recognise an organisation or an agency for carrying out food safety audit and checking compliance with the food safety management systems. • Following this FSSAI has provisionally recognised 22 audit agencies in accordance with the draft Food Safety and Standard (Food Safety Auditing) Regulation, 2017.
  • These third-party agencies will work in close coordination with the government’s food safety apparatus.
  • Third-party safety audits will be made mandatory for certain food categories based on risk classification.
  • Based on their audit reports, the frequency of inspections by regulatory officials will be decreased or increased, as the case may be. Satisfactory audits will lead to less frequent regulatory inspections, except regulatory sampling by central or state licensing authorities.
  • These agencies will also be used to rate catering establishments under FSSAI’s Hygiene Rating Scheme and Responsible Place to Eat schemes under Project ‘Serve Safe’.
  • These agencies can also be used by FSSAI for audits on central institutions/Ministries like the railways and defence.

FSSAI:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.
  • FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.

Mandate:

  • Framing of regulations to lay down food safety standards
  • Laying down guidelines for accreditation of laboratories for food testing
  • Providing scientific advice and technical support to the Central Government
  • Contributing to the development of international technical standards in food
  • Collecting and collating data regarding food consumption, contamination, emerging risks etc. 6. Disseminating information and promoting awareness about food safety and nutrition in India. P

Panel for e-com

  • The central government has reportedly set up a panel comprising secretaries from various departments and ministries to look into the matter on issues in e-commerce.

Background:

  • The group will be chaired by the secretary in the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP). The other members of the group include secretaries of the ministry of electronics and information technology and department of commerce. Representatives of Niti Aayog and department of economic affairs are also members of the group.
  • As Commerce and Industry minister last month received few concerns regarding the draft ecommerce policy following which he directed officials to conduct another round of consultation with stakeholders to address them.

Draft E-Commerce Policy:

  • Recently India’s first draft e-commerce policy was released, which effectively seeks to regulate all aspects of online retail and recommends strict restrictions, including curbs on discounts, may impact not just e-commerce companies, but also countless sellers working on those platforms.

Highlights:

  • The draft presented by the Indian Govt. on e-commerce portals mentions some new regulations for the digital marketplaces, which have proved to be the main medium of online shopping. For instance, e-commerce marketplaces would be prohibited from influencing the prices of goods and services, and most probably
  • To support ‘Make in India’, the draft policy limits inventory based B2C e-commerce in India for products made outside India. This means that domestically produced goods can be stored in inventory, but imported goods cannot wherein local manufacturers and farmers are given more preference.
  • A separate wing within Directorate of Enforcement can be allocated for handling e-commerce complaints and issues from customers. We have already reported that e-commerce complaints have increased by 1500%.
  • All active e-commerce portals in India will have to register with e-Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which will be soon established to monitor the industry.
  • More control and more power to the founders of the eCommerce business, rather than the investors. As per some analysts, this has been done because most of the biggest e-commerce portals in India are funded by foreign investors.
  • An Indian e-commerce portal as the one where: FDI doesn’t exceed more than 49%; the founders are Indians; the platform is controlled by an Indian management.
  • On the matter of discounts, the draft policy suggests a ‘sunset period’ for every discount and offer, beyond which no e-commerce portal can be allowed to provide discounts.
  • The Draft Policy suggests creating infrastructure for data centres in India and links this to a sunset provision of two years at the end of which it will be mandatory to hold all data generated by users in India within India.

Criticism:

  • The recent draft policy, seems to be a major hurdle considering that it plans to crackdown on deep discounts offered by Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon the two biggest online e-commerce websites in India.
  • The recommendations that have been floated now should have been implemented years ago – when Flipkart and Amazon were new players in the market. Updating the norms at the behest of physical retail lobbies could prove to be a major deterrent to the entire e-commerce market in India.
  • There is also a view that cracking down on pricing strategies of foreign e-commerce firms can create a significant disruption in current operations.
  • The government may be encouraging Indian company at the cost of upsetting foreign investors who have invested billions in the Indian e-commerce sector.
  • It is not clear whether the single regulator proposed is the CCPA or a separate e-commerce regulator which the policy envisages will oversee the entire segment of “e-commerce”, including FDI, consumer protection, payment mechanisms on e-commerce platforms, etc.
  • Incentivising the development of large data centres is a welcome move; but the policy rationale for storage of all Indian data in India is not clear, since storage in India does not automatically ensure security of the data.

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