Current Affairs - Polity & Governance
Central Consumer Protection Authority
- Recently, the government announced to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)by the first week of April, 2020.
About Central Consumer Protection Authority
- The authority is being constituted under Section 10(1) of The Consumer Protection Act,2019. The Act replaced The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.
- The CCPAaims to protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers.
- The new Act recognizes offences such as providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.
- It also specifies action to be taken if goods and services are found “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe”.
Possible Structure of CCPA
- The proposed authority will be a lean body with a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.
- It will be headquartered in the National Capital Region of Delhi but the central government may set up regional offices in other parts of the country.
- The CCPA will have an Investigation Wing,headed by a Director General. District Collectors.
- The CCPA will have following powers to inquire or investigate into matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suomotu, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
Power to Recall the Goods
- Under Section 20 of the Consumer Protection Act, the proposed authority will have powers to recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe; pass an order for refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services; and discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest”.
Power to Issue Directions
- Section 21 of the new Act defines the powers given to the CCPA to crack down on false or misleading advertisements.
- If the CCPA is satisfied after investigation that any advertisement is false or misleading and is harmful to the interest of any consumer, the CCPA may issue directions to the trader, manufacturer, endorser, advertiser, or publisher to discontinue such an advertisement, or modify it in a manner specified by the authority, within a given time.
- Further, it can file complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at district, state and national level.
- It will issue safety notices to alert consumers against dangerous or hazardous or unsafe goods or services.
Power to Impose Penalties
- It may also impose a penalty up to Rs 10 lakh, with imprisonment up to two years, on the manufacturer or endorser of false and misleading advertisements.
- The penalty may go up to Rs 50 lakh, with imprisonment up to five years, for every subsequent offence committed by the same manufacturer or endorser.
- CCPA may ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.
- For manufacture, selling, storage, distribution, or import of adulterated products, the penalties are:
- If injury is not caused to a consumer, fine up to Rs 1 lakh with imprisonment up to six months
- If injury is caused, fine up to Rs 3 lakh with imprisonment up to one year
- If grievous hurt is caused, fine up to Rs 5 lakh with imprisonment up to 7 years
- In case of death, fine of Rs 10 lakh or more with a minimum imprisonment of 7 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.
Power to Search and Seizure Power
- While conducting an investigation after preliminary inquiry, CCPA’s Investigation Wing will have the powers to enter any premise and search for any document or article, and to seize these.
- For search and seizure, the CCPA will have similar powers given under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- Protecting the interest of consumers is paramount for the government and the establishment of a central authority and initiating action as a class comes as an additional mode of relief which can be exercised along with individual consumers filing complaints to address their grievances.
Inner Line Permit
- Recently, Tribal organizations in Meghalaya again started demanding the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for restricting the entry of outsiders into the State. These demands have turned into violent protests across the state.
- The demand for Inner Line Permit in Meghalaya has been a demand for the last more than two decades and Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has been leading it from the front.
- The Inner Line Permit is an official travel document that allows Indian citizens to stay in an area under the ILP system.
- The document is currently required by visitors to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- The ILP is issued by the concerned state government and can be availed through applying online or in person.
- The permits issued are mostly of different kinds, provided separately for tourists, tenants and for other purposes.
- The document states the dates of travel and specifies the particular areas in which the ILP holder can travel. It's illegal for the visitor to overstay the time granted in the permit.
Need for ILP
- To preservation of indigenous culture and tradition.
- To prevent illegal migrants and encroachment by outsiders.
- In 1873, under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, the British, in a bid to protect the Crown's (commercial) interests, framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas. The Act was brought in to prevent "British subjects" (Indians) from trading within these regions.
- However, after partition in 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India” and retained the ILP to protect the interests of the indigenous tribal communities of the Northeast.
Provision for Foreigners
An ILP is only valid for domestic tourists. For foreign tourists provisions include:
- Manipur: No permit is required. But have to register them.
- Mizoram: No permit is required. But need to register.
- Nagaland: No permit is required. However, they need to register.
- Arunachal Pradesh: Tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Should Meghalaya be brought under ILP?
- ILP means a lot to the tribals in Meghalaya given the pressure on their economy among others.
- The locals believe the migration of illegal immigrants to the state could be checked only through the ILP.
- Influx is perceived as dangerous because it could upset the fragile demographic balance of the tribals of Meghalaya.
ILP and CAA Connection
- The Citizenship Act enables non-Muslim refugees (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in the country before December 31, 2014, to obtain Indian citizenship.
- Although the rest of mainland India is protesting the Act for being anti-Muslim, for the northeast, the worry is entirely different. If the Act is implemented without the ILP, then the beneficiaries under CAA will become Indian citizens and will be allowed to settle anywhere in the country.
- However, the implementation of ILP bars the refugees from settling in the states under the ILP system.
- Assam and Tripura have been up in arms against the Act because these states share the longest borders with Bangladesh and have been subjected to the highest influx of Bengali-speaking undocumented refugees since the partition.
- Further, the Northeast is home to 238 indigenous tribes that constitute 26 percent of the region’s population and the tribal leaders state that continued influx of Bengali-speaking refugees will threaten their identity.
Delimitation Commission For Jammu & Kashmir
- In a move that will pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the Centre has begun the process of fresh delimitation of assembly seats as well as readjustment of boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.
- Based on a request from the Ministry of Legislative Affairs (MLA), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has nominated Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his representative in the proposed Delimitation Commission for J&K.
- Prior to 2019, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had a bicameral legislature with a Legislative Assembly (lower house) and a Legislative Council (upper house). The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, passed by the Parliament of India in August 2019, replaced this with a unicameral legislature while also reorganised the state into a union territory.
- Even though the population in Jammu has increased over the years, Kashmir continues to have a disproportionately larger share of Assembly constituencies. This has effectively meant that only a party strong in Kashmir Valley is able to lead the state government.
History of Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir
Composition of the Commission
- According to Section 3 of the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members:
- A serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson
- The Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC
- The State Election Commissioner as ex-officio member
- The delimitation panel will determine the assembly constituencies into which the UT shall be divided; the extent of such constituencies and which of these shall be reserved for SCs/STs.
- It is also tasked with adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies in each UT.
Increase in Seat
- According to the Act, the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation, on the basis of the 2011 Census.
- Notably, 24 of the total seats in J&K remain perennially vacant as they are allotted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
- The Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J&K, while Ladakh will have one seat.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
- The job of delimitation is assigned to a high power body. Such a body is known as Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission.
- To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- Under Article 82 of the Constitution, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission, comprising of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioner.
Process of Delimitation
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
Delimitation Commissions Till Now
- So far, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times :
- in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952
- in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962
- in 1973 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1972
- in 2002 under Delimitation Commission Act, 2002.
- There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
- Delimiting electoral boundaries can have major consequences for the voters, political groups and communities of interest residing within these constituencies as well as for the representatives elected to serve these constituencies. Ultimately, the election outcome and the political composition of the legislature may be affected by the constituency boundaries.
- A failure to recognize the importance of the electoral boundary, delimitation process, and its impact can have serious ramifications: If stakeholders suspect that electoral boundaries have been unfairly manipulated – benefiting some groups at the expense of others – this will affect the credibility and the legitimacy of the election process and its outcome.
- To sum up, delimitation is an integral part of the drive to achieve effective representation and governance in a democracy. The fewer the constraints it operates within, the more it will be able to contribute to this objective.
Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020
- On 5th February, 2020, the Finance Minister introduced The Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas (from dispute to trust) Bill, 2020, in order to provide for a mechanism to settle disputed tax cases across the country.
- However, on suggestions received during the post-budget industry consultation, the Union Cabinet decided to introduce amendments with a view to increase its scope to cover litigations pending in various debt recovery tribunals (DRTs). With the amendments made, the scheme now includes coverage of search and seizure cases where the recovery is up to Rs 5 crore.
- It is to be noted that, Sabka Vishwas Scheme was brought in to reduce litigation in indirect taxes in 2019, which resulted in settling over 1,89,000 cases.
- Resolving direct tax related disputes in a speedy manner.
- According to the Finance Ministry, at present there are as many as 4,83,000 direct tax cases, having collective amount of nearly 9 lakh crore worth, pending in various appellate forums i.e. Commissioner (Appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), High Courts and Supreme Court. The idea behind the scheme is to reduce litigation in the direct tax arena.
- It has provisions to cover tax disputes pending at the level of Commissioner (appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunals (ITAT), High Courts and the Supreme Court.
- Under the proposed scheme, taxpayers willing to settle disputes shall be allowed a complete waiver of interest and penalty if they pay the entire amount of tax in dispute by March 31 this year, following which a 10 per cent additional disputed tax shall have to be paid over and above the tax liability.
- In case the tax dispute is over penalty, interest or fee, the settlement amount payable is 25% of the dues if paid before the end of March, 2020, beyond which the same shall be enhanced to 30 %.
Immunity to Appellant
- Once a dispute is resolved, the designated authority cannot levy interest or penalty in relation to that dispute. Further, no appellate forum can make a decision in relation to the matter of dispute once it is resolved. Such matters cannot be reopened in any proceeding under any law, including the IT Act.
Revival of Disputes
- The declaration filed by an appellant will become invalid if: (i) its particulars are found to be false, (ii) he violates any of the conditions referred to in the IT Act, or (iii) he seeks any remedy or claim in relation to that dispute. Consequently, all proceedings and claims withdrawn based on the declaration will be deemed to have been revived.
Disputes Not Covered
- The proposed mechanism will not cover certain disputes. These include disputes: (i) where prosecution has been initiated before the declaration is filed, (ii) which involve persons who have been convicted or are being prosecuted for offences under certain laws (such as the Indian Penal Code), or for enforcement of civil liabilities, and (iii) involving undisclosed foreign income or assets.
Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019
- Revenue Generation: The scheme will reduce the litigation expenditure for the government and at the same time, may help in generating revenue.
However, the Bill has been criticized on two grounds:
- Using Hindi Words in Scheme Name: On use of Hindi words in its name, it is argued that this was government’s way to impose Hindi on the non-Hindi speakers. Some political parties objected to its name, saying that the name of Bills should be in English, considering the diversity of languages used by the population in the country.
- Violation of Fundamental Right: The Bill is criticized for treating both honest and dishonest people on equal footing. The Bill endorses the idea of exempting the defaulting taxpayers of their penalty and interest on the aggregate amount and getting away with the payment of the disputed tax alone. This violates the fundamental right to equality since it is arbitrary and treats equals unequally which leads to an unreasonable classification.
- With the new scheme, the government hopes to recover a big chunk of money involved in direct tax litigation in a swift and simple way, while offering the taxpayers the relief of not having to fight the case endlessly. For a government that is staring at a big shortfall in revenues, especially tax revenues, the scheme makes a lot of sense.
Medical Devices Notified As Drug
- On 11th February, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified changes in the Medical Devices Rules, 2017, bringing a range of products from instruments to implants to even software intended for medical use in human beings or animals under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940.
- The ministry, through a gazette notification, also released the Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020, for mandatory registration of medical devices.
- The changes made will be effective from 1st April, 2020.
- To ensure all medical devices in the Indian market follow safety and quality standards.
- The country's highest advisory body on technical issues related to drugs and medical devices, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), had in April 2019 recommended that all medical devices should be notified as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
Need for Such Move
- Past few years, the health sector has been at the centre of attention following revelations about faulty hip implants marketed by pharma major Johnson & Johnson. This has caused major embarrassment to the government, too, as it exposed the lack of regulatory teeth when it came to medical devices.
- Presently, only 23 categories of medical devices are regulated under the Act.
- It will cover all devices, including instruments, apparatus, appliance, implant, material or other articles -whether used alone or in combination, including software or an accessory - intended by its manufacturer to be used especially for human beings or animals.
Host of Devices
- A list of 37 devices has been drawn up including syringes, needles, stents, catheters, intraocular lenses, intravenous cannulae, prosthetic replacements, ligatures, sutures, staplers, condoms, blood bags, nebulizers, blood pressure monitoring machines and digital thermometers.
Online Documentation & Identification
- The manufacturer or importer will have to upload the generic name, model number, intended use, class of medical device, material of construction, dimensions, shelf life and brand name on the online portal of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
Timeline for Various Classes of Medical Devices
- Further, the notification also provides timelines for medical devices that will be notified under the Act with effect from April 1 - the low to moderate risk category A and B devices from 30 months after the notification and moderate to high risk category C and D devices 42 months onwards. Upon the expiry of these time periods, all provisions of the Medical Devices Rules 2017 will apply to the respective devices.
Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO)
Risk-Based Classifications for Medical Devices
- Ensuring Accountability and Transparency: It will make medical device companies accountable for quality and safety of their products being provided across the country. The temporary registration application for devices that are currently unregulated will now become regulated ensuring transparency, leading to better growth of the medical device industry.
- According to the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AIMED), the move is going to impact small manufacturers as it would not be sustainable for them to hire a qualified quality management system(QMS) manager with biomedical engineering for quality check.
- Almost all low-risk Class A category products like orthopaedic collars and pillows, spectacles and wheel-chairs and stretchers, etc, are made by MSMEs. Most small manufacturers can't comply with and have qualified regulatory staff to meet the Medical Device and Diagnostic Rules (MDR) Schedule 5.
- However, the hi-tech diagnostic imaging sector is dominated by large players and will be the least impacted.
- Further, under the Drugs Act, any non-conformity to guidelines can be treated as a criminal offence by any drug inspector at his discretion and hauled before a court and there is no risk proportionate penalties.
- The Surgical Manufacturers and Traders Association, another body that represents wholesale traders and MSME device manufacturers, has also criticised the government's move, saying it may lead to the closure of thousands of small and micro units and impact consumers by way of high prices as imports will become multiple times costlier.
- On the whole, the move is a positive step. However, consumer groups remained sceptical about the ability of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation to regulate devices under the wider scope.
- There is need for comprehensive reforms to strengthen the regulatory mechanism in relation to patients' safety, which includes guidelines for the approval of devices including clinical investigation requirements, oversight of marketing and promotion, putting in place a robust and functioning system of adverse event reporting accessible to the public, rules for voluntary and statutory recalls, and patient compensation scheme.
Special Category Status
- Recently, the Andhra Pradesh government urged the Central government to grant Special Status Category (SCS) to Andhra State as being promised earlier by the Centre.
- Andhra Pradesh was promised Special Category Status by the Congress government, which was at the Centre during the state bifurcation, and by the BJP during the course of its 2014 election campaign. The then ruling government promised special category status would be extended to Andhra Pradesh for five years to help put the state on a firmer footing.
- Other than Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal are demanding the status of special category.
Why Andhra Pradesh is demanding Special Category Status?
- Andhra sought special category status on the grounds that it was at a disadvantage, since it would lose a significant amount of revenue as a result of Hyderabad going to Telangana.
Why the Central Government is denying Andhra SCS demand?
- The 14th Finance Commission, tabled in Parliament in February 2015, did away with the distinction between states with SCS and other states and instead recommended a higher share of taxes — 42% instead of 32% — for states and revenue-deficit grants for those states in need, like Andhra. It meant that SCS had ceased to exist so there was no question of granting Andhra the status.
- Recently, the 15th Finance Commission, in its interim report for 2020-21, has made it clearly that the special category status demand remained entirely in the domain of the Union government, which can take an appropriate decision after due consideration.
- Further, despite the disadvantage of losing Hyderabad, an information technology and pharma hub, in the bifurcation, Andhra has grown at nearly 10% annually between 2013-14 and 2017-18, compared with Telangana’s 8.6%, and is estimated to have a fiscal deficit of 2.8% in 2018-19, compared with Telangana’s 3.5%.
What is Special Category Status?
- Special Category Status (SCS) is a classification given by Centre to assist in the development of those states that face geographical and socio-economic disadvantages like hilly terrains, strategic international borders, economic and infrastructural backwardness, and non-viable state finances.
- The Constitution does not include any provision for categorisation of any State in India as a Special Category Status (SCS) State.
- The concept of a special category status was first introduced in 1969 when the fifth Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks, establishing special development boards, reservation in local government jobs, educational institutions, etc.
- This formula was named after the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Gadgil Mukherjee and is related to the transfer of assistance to the states by centre under various schemes.
- Initially, three states; Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir were granted special status but from 1974-1979, five more states were added under the special category. These include Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura.
- In 1990, with the addition of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the states increased to 10. The state of Uttarakhand was given special category status in 2001.
- But after the dissolution of the planning commission and the formation of NITI Aayog in 2015, the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission were implemented which meant the discontinuation of the Gadgil formula-based grants.
Note: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also Special Category Status. But now that Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature, SCS doesn't apply to J&K anymore.
Criteria for SCS
- Hilly and difficult terrain
- Geographical isolation
- Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
- Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
- Economic and infrastructural backwardness
- Economic and infrastructure backwardness
- Non-viable nature of state finances
Benefits under SCS
- The central government allocates 30 percent of its plan expenditure to special category states while the remaining 70 percent goes to other states.
- In the case of the centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS) and external aid, special category States get 90 percent as grant and 10 percent as loan. For general category States, it is 30 percent grant and 70 percent loan.
- Unspent funds don't lapse and get carried forward in the case of special category States while they lapse in the case of non-special category States.
- The central government offers a host of tax benefits for the new industrial units set up in the special category States.
- They include capital investment subsidy, income tax exemption for five years, interest subsidy, comprehensive insurance subsidy, central excise duty exemption and transport subsidy.
- Further, these states avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
- The Andhra Pradesh and other State’s government demanding for SCS should explore other options to put their state on faster development, put its finances in order in order to develop their respective states, rather than sticking to and crying over the SCS.
- States must understand their industrial strengths and create a policy environment to leverage their exclusive resources instead of relying on Centre’s support.
- The first India-Africa Defence Minister’s Conclave was held on 6th February, 2020, on the sidelines of the ongoing Def Expo 2020 (5th to 9th February) in Lucknow.
- During the conclave, India, along with counterparts from 12 African nations and heads of delegations from 38 other African countries adopted the Lucknow Declaration.
- India and African nations had previously adopted declarations during the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in April 2008, India-Africa Forum Summit-II in Addis Ababa in May 2011 and the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, held in Delhi in October 2015 and the India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation.
- All these declarations had worked to strengthen the multi-faceted partnership between India and Africa.
Major Highlights of the Declaration
Peace and Security
- Emphasizing the need for peace and security in both India and African region, the countries committed to continue their collaboration in the fields conflict prevention, resolution, management and peace building through-
- exchange of expertise and training
- strengthening regional and continental early warning capacities and mechanisms
- enhancing the role of women in peace keeping and propagating the culture of peace.
- In this regard, establishment of the African Union's International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peace keeping and Peace building in Cairo as a major contribution to peace and security in Africa has been lauded by the countries.
- Stating that terrorism is a major threat in the region, the declaration urged all the signatories’ countries to take resolute action in rooting out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and eliminating financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists.
- This must be done by enhancing cooperation and coordination between Africa and India to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to combat transnational crime.
- In order to strengthen the UN Counter-Terrorism mechanisms and to ensure strict compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions regime on terrorism, it was urged that international community to envisage the adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations General Assembly.
- It emphasized to strengthen the Maritime security across both the region as it is a pre-requisite for the development of Blue and Ocean economy.
- It was decided to increase mutual cooperation in securing sea lines of communication, preventing maritime crimes, disaster, piracy, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing through sharing of information and surveillance.
- Regarding the aligning views of India and the African nations on the importance of the Indo-Pacific, the declaration stated that all member countries to encourage enhanced cooperation between India and Africa on the evolving concept of Indo-Pacific.
- It welcomed the African Union (AU) vision for peace and security in Africa that coincides with India’s vision of Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR).
- The countries called for deeper cooperation in the domain of defence industry including through investment, joint ventures in defence equipment software, digital defence, research & development, provisioning of defence equipment, spares and their maintenance on sustainable and mutually beneficial terms.
- The leaders also appreciated the initiation of Africa -India Field Training Exercises (AFINDEX) and agreed to further strengthen cooperation in defence preparedness and security.
Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX)
African Union (AU)
- The Lucknow Declaration will provide a major impetus to the India-Africa relation and will further help both the region to deal effectively against the critical challenges such as terrorism and extremism, piracy, human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapon smuggling, etc. and maintaining order and peace across both the regions.
Importance of Africa
- Africa is a continent on the move, characterised by rapid economic growth, rising educational and health standards, increasing gender parity, and expanding infrastructure and connectivity.
- In recent years, the African continent has been accorded top priority in Indian foreign and economic policy; there has been an unprecedented intensification of political engagemen.t
- A resurging Africa and a rising India can give a strong impetus to South-South Cooperation, especially when it comes to addressing challenges in areas like clean technology, climate-resilient agriculture, maritime security, connectivity, and Blue economy.
- On Economy side. African subcontinent provides a good market for Indian companies of different sectors whether it is automobile, IT or defence sector.
- Trade between Africa and India has increased more than eight-fold from USD 7.2 billion in 2001 to USD 59.9 billion in 2017, accounting for over 8 percent of India's total trade.
- To meet its energy security, India sources nearly 18% of its crude oil and also LNG requirement mostly from the West African region.
- Primary commodities and natural resources account for around 75 percent of Africa's total exports to India.
- In the perspective of geopolitics, having these 54 African nations as allies in the United Nations is favourable to India as these nations might support in passing any resolution.
Purified Terephthalic Acid
- In the Budget 2020, the government announced abolition of anti-dumping duty on the import of Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) from seven countries, providing a huge relief to polyester industry.
- It is to be noted that Mono Ethylene Glycol (MEG), another raw material used in the manufacturing of polyester, is currently the subject of another anti-dumping duty investigation initiated by Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) recently.
- To make domestic market more competitive
Need for Abolition
- PTA is a critical input for textile fibres and yarns, and its easy availability at competitive prices is desirable to unlock immense potential in the textile sector, which is a significant employment generator in the country.
- PTA attracts anti-dumping duty ranging between $27 and $160 per tonne, depending upon the country of origin and the country often faces shortage of PTA that curtail the capacity utilization of the polyester segment industry.
Reasons for Imposing Anti-Duty
- The anti-dumping duty on PTA was imposed after two domestic manufacturers, MCC PTA India Corp Pvt Ltd and Reliance Industries Ltd, approached the DGTR in October 2013.
- The companies, which submitted that they accounted for over 50% of the domestic PTA industry, had argued that some countries had been exporting the product to India at prices lower than its value in their own domestic markets.
- In its final findings, the DGTR,found that Purified Terephthalic Acid has been exported to India from China, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan below its normal value which has resulted in dumping.
- Following an investigation, DGAD imposed anti-dumping duties on PTA imported from South Korea and Thailand in 2014 and 2015, and from China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Iran and Malaysia in 2015 and 2016.
Parameters to Access Dumping
Controversy over Imposition of Anti-Duty
- Against Government’s Vision: Companies using PTA to manufacture polyester products claimed that the move went against the government’s vision of making the textiles sector a globally competitive industry.
- Cost Ineffective: The companies had alleged that the product’s cost had become more expensive domestically, which made their own products pricier and less attractive for their domestic and international buyers. This had led to a drop in exports of some of these products during 2014-16, and an increase in imports of the products they had been producing, as there was no safeguard against imports of cheaper versions of these downstream polyester-based products.
- Unable to Cater Domestic Demand: The domestic industry had argued that domestic PTA producers had not only been unable to ramp up capacity to cater to demand for the product, shutdowns of their manufacturing facilities once a year for maintenance purposes had also led to shortages of the raw material. PTA users claim that they had not been manufacturing as much polyester as they were capable of, operating at 70% of their capacity at any given time.
Enhance Global Competitiveness
- The removal of the anti-dumpting duty would greatly help the country to enhance the global competitiveness, boost exports and also enable the domestic manufacturers to compete with the cheaper imports.
Boost to Domestic Users
- It will help attract imports from China and South-East Asia and might create competition in the market. This would be a boost for PTA users and the entire man-made fibre textiles and clothing segment.
- It could open up the manmade fibre value chain, benefiting technical textiles, home furnishing, the sportswear industry, sarees and dress materials.
Setting Standard Price
- Abolition of anti-dumping duty will bring polyester price in India on a par with international price, which is considered the future engine of growth for the Indian textile industry.
Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)
- PTA is a very important raw material as is it a precursor to mostly vastly used plastics polyethylene terephthalate (PET), poly butyl terephthalate (PBT), polyester fibers and is produced by oxidizing paraxylene.
- It is a crucial raw material used to make various products, including polyester staple fibre and spun yarn. Some sportswear, swimsuits, dresses, trousers, curtains, sofa covers, jackets, car seat covers and bed sheets have a certain proportion of polyester in them.
- Excellent weathering
- Resistance towards chemicals & stains
- Hard & Flexible
- Good glass transition temperature range
- Efficient powder flow & fluidizing characteristics
National Commission For Indian System Of Medicine Bill, 2019
- On 30th January, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the draft National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine Bill, 2019.
- The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and provide for a medical education system which ensures:
- adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals of Indian System of Medicine
- periodic assessment of medical institutions
- an effective grievance redressal mechanism
- The proposed legislation will ensure necessary regulatory reforms in the field of Indian System of Medicine education.
- The proposed regulatory structure will enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public. The Commission will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.
National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCISM)
- The main objective of establishing NCISM is to promote equity by ensuring adequate supply of quality medical professionals and enforce high ethical standards in all aspects of medical services in Indian System of Medicine.
- The NCISM will consist of 29 members, appointed by the central government.
- A Search Committee will recommend names to the central government for the post of Chairperson, part time members, and presidents of the four autonomous boards set up under the NCISM.
- The Board of Ayurveda and the Board of Unani, Siddha, and Sowa-Rigpa: Responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines for setting up of medical institutions, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels in their respective disciplines.
- The Medical Assessment and Rating Board for Indian System of Medicine: It determine the process of rating and assessment of medical institutions and have the power to levy monetary penalties on institutions which fail to maintain the minimum standards It will also grant permission for establishing a new medical institution.
- The Ethics and Medical Registration Board: It will maintain a National Register of all licensed medical practitioners of Indian System of Medicine, and regulate their professional conduct.
Functions of the NCISM
- Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals of Indian System of Medicine
- Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure
- Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of Indian System of Medicine of the regulations made under the Bill
- Ensuring coordination among the autonomous boards set up under the Bill
Advisory Council for Indian System of Medicine
- The Council will be the primary platform through which the states/union territories can put forth their views and concerns before the NCISM. Further, the Council will advise the NCISM on measures to determine and maintain the minimum standards of medical education.
Indian System of Medicine
- Initially, India System of Medicine recognises six systems of medicine Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Yoga, Naturopathy and Homoeopathy.
- The Sowa-Rigpa medicine system has been recognized by Government of India (GoI) by amending the Indian Medicine Central Council (IMCC) Act, 2010.
- The Ministry of AYUSH was formed on 9th November 2014 to ensure the optimal development and propagation of AYUSH systems of health care. Earlier it was known as the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H) which was created in March 1995 and renamed as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in November 2003.
- The government, in 2018, included Sowa-Rigpa into the acronym of AYUSH where the alphabet ‘S’ represents both — Siddha and Sowa-Rigpa.
- The word ‘Ayurveda’ has derived out of fusion of two separate words- ‘Áyu’ i.e. life and ‘veda’ i.e. knowledge.
- The philosophy of Ayurveda is based on the theory of PanchaMahaBhutas(Five Primordial Elements) of which all the objects and living bodies are composed of.
- The doctrine of Ayurveda aims to keep these structural and functional entities in a functional state of equilibrium which signifies good health (Swastha).
- The word "Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to unite or integrate."
- Yoga is about the union of a person's own consciousness and the universal It is primarily a way of life, first propounded by Maharshi Patanjali in systematic form Yogsutra.
- Naturopathy is a system of natural treatment and also a way of life widely practiced, globally accepted and recognized for health preservation and management of illnesses without medicines.
- It advocates living in harmony with constructive principles of Nature on the physical, mental, social and spiritual planes. It has great promotive, preventive, curative as well as restorative potentials.
- As the name indicates, Unani system originated in Greece. The foundation of Unani system was laid by
- The system is holistic in nature and takes into account the whole personality of an individual rather than taking a reductionist approach towards disease.
- The Siddha System of medicine is one of the ancient systems of medicine in India having its close bedd with Dravidian culture.
- The term Siddha means achievements and Siddhars are those who have achieved perfection in medicine. The system is largely therapeutic in nature.
- Homoeopathy was introduced as a scientific system of drug therapeutics by a German Physician, Dr. Christian Frederick Samuel Hahnemann in 1805.
- Its strength lies in its evident effectiveness as it takes a holistic approach towards the sick individual through promotion of inner balance at mental, emotional, spiritual and physical levels.
- The term ‘Sowa Rigpa’ means ‘Knowledge of Healing’.
- It has been originated from Tibet and popularly practice in India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia and Russia.
- The principle medical text “rGyud-bZi” Chatush Tantra-a textbook of fundamental principles of Sowa-Rigpa is in Sanskrit language which was further translated into Bhoti language around 8th – 12th Century and further amended by Yuthok YontanGombo and other scholars of Trans Himalayan region according to the socio-climatic conditions.
Andhra Pradesh Government To Abolish State Legislative Council
On 27th January, 2020, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed a resolution to abolish the state’s Legislative Council, with 133 legislators of the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), which has 151 seats in the 175-member assembly, backing the decision.
Reasons behind the Move
- The ruling government has taken the decision to abolish the upper house following the Telugu Desham Party (TDP) rejecting the bills passed by the Legislative Assembly.
- The move comes after the main Opposition TDP, which has 27 members out of the total of 58 in the council, created a roadblock for the YSRCP in the council by sending the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill 2020 and the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill 2020, to a select committee for further deliberation, after it was passed in the Assembly.
- Earlier, it had rejected bills related to the introduction of English as a medium of instruction at government schools in the winter session held in December, 2019.
- As there is no scope of YSR Congress getting a majority in the near future to get the bills passed smoothly, current government decided to abolish the council.
Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council
- India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament.
- At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
- The power to create or abolish such a body in any state rests with Parliament, on the basis of an appropriate resolution being adopted by a two-thirds majority in the respective State Legislative Assembly.
- This Act of Parliament is not to be deemed as an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of Article 368 and is passed like an ordinary piece of legislation (i.e., by simple majority).
- Under Article 168, states can have either one or two Houses of legislature.
- Article 169 provides the choice of having a Vidhan Parishad to individual states.
- Under Article 171, a Council cannot have more than a third of the number of MLAs in the state, and not less than 40 members.
- It means that the size of the Council depends on the size of the Assembly of the concerned state.
- Unlike the members of the Legislative Assembly, the members of the Legislative Council are indirectly elected.
- The members are elected in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
- A third of the MLCs are elected by MLAs, another third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local government bodies such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by an electorate of teachers, and another 1/12th by registered graduates. The remaining members are appointed by the Governor for distinguished services in various fields.
- Like the Rajya Sabha, the Legislative Council is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. But, one-third of its members retire on the expiration of every second year.
- So, a member continues as such for six years. The vacant seats are filled up by fresh elections and nominations (by governor) at the beginning of every third year. The retiring members are also eligible for re-election and re-nomination any number of times.
Procedure for Dissolving
- The state Cabinet will adopt a resolution and introduce it in the Assembly for adoption. Once the Assembly passes the Bill, it will be sent to the Union Home Ministry for placing before the Cabinet. The Union Cabinet has to adopt the Bill and place it before the Parliament for adoption in both the Houses.
The second House of the Legislature is considered important for two reasons-
- One, to act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House.
- Second, to ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.
Argument against having Legislative Councils
Comparison with Rajya Sabha
- The Councils are less powerful than the Rajya Sabha, however. Unlike, the Rajya Sabha, which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lacks a constitutional mandate to do so.
- Also, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President.
States having Legislative Council
- Apart from Andhra Pradesh (58 members), five other states have Legislative Councils: Bihar (58), Karnataka (75), Maharashtra (78), Telangana(40) and Uttar Pradesh (100).
- Jammu and Kashmir too had a Council, until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh in October, 2019.