Current Affairs - Polity & Governance
- The Invest India Business Immunity Platform (BIP) is working 24X7 as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
- Launched on 21st March, 2020, the BIP is the active platform for business issue redressal, with a team of dedicated sector experts who respond to queries at the earliest.
- This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp.
- BIP has launched ‘Joining the Dots’ campaign to procure essential healthcare supplies.
- It is also facilitating matchmaking to fill the demand-supply shortages of essential equipment to combat COVID-19.
About Invest India
- Invest India was formed in 2009 under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 for promotion of foreign investment with 49% equity of the then Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion(now renamed as Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry and 51% shareholding by FICCI. The current shareholding pattern of Invest India is 51 % of Industry Associations (i.e. 17% each of FICCI, CII & NASSCOM) and the remaining 49% of Central and 19 State Governments.
- As the national investment promotion and facilitation agency, it focuses on sector-specific investor targeting and development of new partnerships to enable sustainable investments in India.
- It facilitates and empowers all investors under the ‘Make in India’ initiative to establish, operate and expand their businesses in India.
Projects Being Handled by Invest India
- Proactive Investor Targeting: Invest India identifies target companies across focus sectors from target markets looking to initiate investment into India or further expansion in India.
- Handholding Support: Invest India creates vital differentiation and an invaluable service offering of guidance, handholding, problem solving and facilitation for investors.
- Bilateral CEO Forums: Invest India takes up the responsibility of acting as the nodal point for investment related issues/ recommendations and help action investment specific resolutions raised at the CEOs Forums.
- Country – Sector Outreach: Invest India proactively contributes to national and regional policy development by planning Country/Sector interactions.
- Strategic Investment Research Unit: It shapes India’s investment landscape and drives a step change in the quality and quantity of FDI.
- Harnessing Information & Communication Technology for FDI: Invest India scales up use of technology for investment targeting and facilitation.
- Working with State Investment Promotion Agencies: It plays a central role in ensuring that FDI is on the agenda of all State agencies, State Governments and stakeholders.
- Startups: The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with the help of Invest India aims to empower Startups to grow through innovation and design through this initiative.
- Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi): It aims to support the ongoing efforts to boost the innovation ecosystem in the country by connecting innovators across industry.
- India Investment Grid: It is an online platform to showcase investment opportunities in India to global investors. The platform is looked after by Invest India.
- On 24th March, 2020, Government announced a 21-day countrywide lockdown effective from midnight in order to contain the spread of Coronovirus-COVID-19.
- Those violating the lockdown orders can face legal action under the Epidemic Diseases Act (EDA), 1897, which lays down punishment as per Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, for flouting such orders.
Epidemic Disease Act, 1897
- The Epidemic Diseases Act was enacted on February 4, 1897, to stop the spread of the bubonic plague outbreak in Bombay (now Mumbai).
- Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
Provisions of the EDA Act
- The Act consists four sections, aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
- It describes all the title and extent, the second part explains all the special powers given to the state government and centre to take special measures and regulations to contain the spread of disease.
- It has a special subsection 2A empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic, especially allowing the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
- It provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
- This section deals with legal protection to implementing officers acting under the Act.
Section 188 of IPC
Under Section 188, there two offences:
According to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, both offences are cognizable, bailable, and can be tried by any magistrate.
Recent Implementation of EDA Act
- In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after many people complained of symptoms of the disease.
- In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.
- In 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
Scope for Misuse
- While it helps contain epidemics, the Act can also be misused.
- In 1897, for instance, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was imprisoned for 18 months under this Act for his newspaper Kesari‘s anti-establishment coverage of the plague, according to The Indian Express newspaper.
Limitations of EDA Act
- There is no clear definition of whether an epidemic is “dangerous” on the basis of the magnitude of the problem, the severity of the problem, the age of the population affected or its potential to spread internationally.
- There is no explicit reference pertaining to the ethical aspects or human rights principles during a response to an epidemic.
- The Act is purely regulatory in nature and lacks a specific public health focus.
- It does not describe the duties of the government in preventing and controlling epidemic.
- The Act emphasises the power of the government, but is silent on the rights of citizens. It has no provisions that take the people’s interest into consideration.
- The Act is not in line with the contemporary scientific understanding of outbreak prevention and response, but only reflects the scientific and legal standards that prevailed at the time when it was framed.
- For example, the Act placestoo much emphasis on isolation or quarantine measures, but is silent on the other scientific methods of outbreak prevention and control, such as vaccination, surveillance and organised public health response.
Need of the Hour
- The Act was formulated about 123 years ago and thus has major limitations in this era of changing priorities in public health emergency management.
- The factors leading to the emergence and spread of communicable diseases have also changed over the years.
- Some of the factors that need to be addressed now are the increasing rates of international travel,more extensive use of air travel compared to sea travel, greater migration within states, increased urbanisation, man-made ecological changes, changing climatic conditions, breakdown of public health measures and biosafety lapses.
- The Epidemic Diseases Act needs modifications in the changing scenario. For example, it is too oriented towards travel by ship and silent on “air travel”, which was uncommon at that time.
- The epidemiological concepts used in relation to the prevention and control of epidemic diseases have also changed over time.
- The political scenario in the country and Centre-state relationships have changed.The Act, as such, is not sufficient to deal with the prevention and control of communicable disease in the current situation.
- There is a need to strengthen legal frameworks to prevent and control the entry, spread and existence of communicable diseases in India.
- There is a need for an integrated, comprehensive, actionable and relevant legal provision for the control of outbreaks in India that should be articulated in a rights-based, people-focused and public health-oriented manner.
- On 29th February, 2020, the US and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months and to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue in Oslo (Norway) starting from 10th March, 2020.
- India attended the signing ceremony which was held in Doha, Qatar.
Key Elements of the Pact
- Troops Withdrawal: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
- Counter-terrorism Assurances: The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that it will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
- Sanctions Removal: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29, 2020) and US sanctions by August 27, 2020.
- Prisoner Release: The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by 10th March, 2020.
- Ceasefire: The agreement states that, ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.
Source: The Hindu
- There are still many issues remain to be worked out during intra-Afghan negotiations, including sharing power, disarming and reintegrating Taliban fighters into society, and determining the future of the country’s democratic institutions and constitution.
- The process could be complicated by a weak central government, afflicted by ethnic, sectarian, and tribal differences, which may descend into open conflict and might start the next round of civil war, hampering the peace deal.
- At the same time, experts say the Taliban is stronger now than at any point in the last eighteen years. It earns millions of dollars from opium poppy cultivation and the illegal drug trade. Some analysts are also worried that rank-and-file Taliban fighters might not abide by a peace deal.
Impact on Afghanistan
- The U.S. withdrawal will invariably weaken the Kabul government, altering the balance of power both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
- The Taliban have got what they wanted: Troops withdrawal, removal of sanctions, and release of prisoners. This has also strengthened Pakistan, Taliban’s benefactor, and the Pakistan Army and the ISI’s influence appears to be on the rise.
- Further, the social change brought about by two decades of US presence in Afghanistan — human rights, female emancipation, entertainment — could be in peril.
- The future for the people of Afghanistan is uncertain, and will depend on how Taliban honours its commitments and whether it goes back to the mediaeval practices of its 1996-2001 regime.
Impact on India
- The Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
- India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001.
- The peace deal holds strategic and geopolitical implications for the country, which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan.
- The decision to withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan is likely to have far-reaching consequences for India – an increase in Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan could negatively impact the security situation in the restive Kashmir valley.
- Further, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. Again, India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.
- The deal also holds significance in terms of the strained relations with Pakistan which has interests in the region.
- With US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan will indeed become an important player. And India’s security in the region would be far more vulnerable than it is today.
- The withdrawal of US forces has the probability of the creation of vacuum in the region and possibility of filling the void by terrorists and extremists.
- US, along with other stakeholders in the region like India, Russia and Chinashould be prepared for a long-term diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan, which will involve simultaneously strengthening the country’s political mainstream and integrating the Taliban within it.
- The challenges ahead are formidable. There is hope, but skepticism runs deeper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.