Current Affairs - Polity & Governance
- On 8th January, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved an ordinance to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, to open up coal mining in the country to non-coal companies while removing the end-use restrictions of the mining blocks in the country.
- To attract investments and boost domestic coal production.
- At present, Section 11A of the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act allows the government to auction coal and lignite mining licenses only to companies engaged in iron and steel, power and coal washery sectors. This restriction on end use has badly affected participation in the auctions of coal mines.
- Despite having the world’s fourth largest coal reserves, India imported 235 million tonnes (mt) of coal during 2018-19, of which 135mt valued at Rs171,000 crore could have been met from domestic reserves.
- Only 29 coal blocks were auctioned since 2014, when the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks, due to end-user restrictions-meaning coal produced from them could be used only for the designated captive purpose only and not traded in the market.
- The government aims at greater participation in commercial mining of coal and targets 1000 MT coal production by 2023.
- The ordinance will amend the current proviso in the law that allows only companies in coal mining to bid for mines. Any company meeting the minimum criteria will now be allowed to bid for mines.
- It provides for the allocation of coal blocks for composite prospecting license-cum-mining lease and removes restrictions on its end-use.
- It provides for doing away with the requirement of previous approval in cases where the allocation of blocks was made by the central government.
- Ending Monopoly: The move will help create an efficient energy market, usher in competition and reduce coal imports, while also ending the monopoly of state-owned Coal India Ltd.
- Making India Self-Reliant: In today's time when the Oil prices are very uncertain, this decision is path breaking in making India self-reliant.
- Ease of Doing Business: It will contribute to the ease of doing business, the democratisation of the sector by opening it to anyone willing to invest.
- Increased Investment and Employment: The removal of end-use restriction will allow anyone to participate in coal auction and attract large investment. Large investment will create jobs and set off demand in critical sectors such as mining equipment and heavy commercial vehicles.
- Boost to Infrastructure: The government also aims to increase domestic coal production, bringing the steel prices down, which will help in boosting the infrastructure sector.
- Access to Technology: The move will also help India gain access to sophisticated technology for underground mining used by global miners.
- Improved Efficiency: Streamlining the auction process will also lead to greater efficiency and more effective outcomes. It will allow for seamless transfer of environment and forest clearance in operational mines. Shifting from a two-stage ascending forward online electronic auction to a single-stage sealed bid will help dampen aggressive bidding.
- The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has criticized the government’s decision. According to it, to end captive coal mining would be disastrous for the industries concerned including steel, power and aluminum.
- The move has been termed as retrograde because decision to promulgate an ordinance to amend two laws concerning mining would remove the restriction of end-use so that foreign and domestic bidders for mine blocks could convert the natural resources into items for trade and export.
- This would in turn, would expand the grip and control of foreign players with Indian private contractors as their junior partners, on the country’s vital mineral resources, much to the detriment of national interests.
Issues with Coal Mining in India
- Coal mining in India is nationalized by law and the public sector Coal India Ltd (CIL) supplies more than 80% of India’s domestic coal. While nationalization of the coal industry in 1973 helped to improve operating practices, labour safety and coal production, in more recent times led to concerns about the potential abuse of its dominant position by CIL by forcing its customers to accept severely one-sided supply agreements.
- Majority of the coal projects have been halted and delayed due to issues in acquiring land and strict rules and regulations. At present, multiple clearances are required from the government for commencement of new opencast projects like site clearances formining lease, forestry clearance and environment clearance.
- Another issue relates to the allocation of captive mines to end users. According to the Government, the objective of allocating captive coal blocks was not to maximize revenue but to rapidly increase coal production and reduce electricity tariffs. However, it neither imposed any conditions on coal block allottees to pass on the benefits of cheap coal to consumers, nor did it follow up diligently to ensure that development of these blocks progressed satisfactorily. There fore, neither did production increase nor did electricity tariffs come down.
- The lack of account ability with respect to coal block allocations meeting their stated objectives and alleged favouritism in allocation of coal blocks at the cost of the general public and economic efficiency are illustrative of the problems faced by the coal sector.
- Lack of transparency is another problem that plagues the sector. An example of this is the way ‘linkages’ or ‘letters of assurance’ of coal supply are granted to coal consumers such as power plants, based on which such consumers proceed with their plans.
Technology & Infrastructure Issues
- Indian coal reserves continue to be classified using an outdated methodology. Absence of geophysical and geochemical data, use of obsolete and time consuming drilling equipment hinders the growth of mining sector. As a result; there is great uncertainty about economically extractable coal reserves in India.
- One of the major issues being faced by the industry for the coal movement within India is transportation and infrastructure. Bottlenecks in domestic coal transportation and lack of proper road connectivity further increase the challenge. Also, availability of railway wagons and mismatch of demand and supply of wagons and coal off-take affects production capacity
- Coal Mining has multiple adverse impacts on the environment: disturbance of the land resource, adverse effect on river channels and aesthetical deterioration of the landscape, Acid mine drainage from opencast as well as underground mines.
- At the stage of mining, activities like drilling, blasting, excavation, construction of haul roads, movement of heavy earth moving machinery, etc. results in emissions of particulate matter and dust. These emissions cause significant human and social impacts by causing air pollution and ecological disturbances.
- Degradation of land is perhaps the most serious impact of coal mining operations. Open cast mining causes a much greater degradation to land than underground mining.
- Coal mining activities adversely degrades the quality of water by not only lowering the pH of the surrounding water resources but also by increasing the level of suspended particulate solid, total dissolved solids and some heavy metals.
- Mining activities, in general, generate huge social costs in the form of displacement, loss of livelihood, and social exclusion.
- As 90% of India’s coal is produced from open-cast mines, this requires acquisition of large tracts of land – often from agricultural or tribal areas. This leads to lot of displacement and loss of livelihoods among the people, because though seemingly reasonable policies for compensation exist on paper, they are not implemented effectively.
- Taken together, such socio-environmental practices lead to social distress and alienation of the local population. In turn, this leads to resistance to mining activities, and with local citizens become less willing to give up their land and mobilize them selves against such activities. This leads to complaints from coal companies about the difficulty of acquiring land for mining and hence the difficulty of increasing production to meet demand, in turn affecting the country’s overall energy scenario and economic growth.
- During the 107th Indian Science Congress, the Department of Science and Technology, spoke about the government’s policy on implementing Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR).
Indian Science Congress (ISC)
What is Scientific Social Responsibility?
- It is the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity.
- Here, knowledge workers include anyone who participates in the knowledge economy in the areas of human, social, natural, physical, biological, medical, mathematical, and computer/data sciences and their associated technologies.
Idea for SSR
- The Constitution of India (Part-IV, Article 51A (h)) mandates for developing the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry as part of the fundamental duties of a citizen.
- This idea has been carried forward in earlier science policies of India (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013) that propagate for taking the message and benefits of science to society and for bridging the gap between the two.
About SSR Policy
- The Government of India, through the Department of Science and Technology has released a draft of the new Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on 9 September, 2019, for public comments.
- The Policy is intended to promote social responsibility in the scientific establishments on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- To harness the voluntary potential that is latent in the country’s scientific community to strengthen science and society linkages so as to makescience and technology (S&T) ecosystem vibrant.
- Developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.
Need for the Policy
- The new India with its vibrant young populace requires a renewed emphasis on the integration of science and technology (S&T) with society at both the institutional and individual levels.
- New initiatives such as Transformation of Aspirational Districts, Make in India, Swachh Bharat and Digital India, requiresan institutional mechanism facilitating easy access to resources and knowledge, leading to inclusive growth and development.
- The policy would involve four different categories of stakeholders: beneficiaries, implementers, assessors and supporters (BIAS).
- Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
- It has proposed to give credit to knowledge workers or scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
- No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.
- A central and nodal agency would be set up at DST to supervise, monitor and implement SSR activities in the country. Once formalized, the policy requires all the Central Government Ministries, State Governments and S&T institutions to make their own plans to implement Scientific Social Responsibility in India according to their mandate.
- Every knowledge institution would prepare its implementation plan for achieving its SSR goals. All knowledge workers would be sensitized by their institutions about their ethical responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of society and the achievement of national developmental and environmental goals.
- There should be an SSR monitoring system in each institution to assess institutional projects and individual activities. Each knowledge institution would publish an annual SSR report.
Envisioned Benefits of SSR
- Making Scientific Institutions & Scientists More Responsible: It is an effort to make scientific institutions and individual scientists more responsible to society and other stakeholders, which may trigger social entrepreneurship and start-ups impacting S&T ecosystem and society. It would help strengthen the existing efforts of institutions in an organised and sustainable manner
- Strengthening Science-Society Linkage: The policy envisages strengthening science-society linkages in an organic manner by building synergy among all the stakeholders so as to usher in a cultural change in the conduct of science forthe benefit of society at large in the country.
- Transformative Role: It would play a transformative role in bringing scientific and innovative solutions to societal problems, uplifting the life standard of marginalized sections of society through capacity-building and skill development. It will also contribute in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, environmental goals and Technology Vision 2035.
- On 3rd January, 2020, in a bid to push electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the country, the government approved the setting of 2636 charging stations in 62 cities across 24 States/UTs under FAME India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India) scheme phase II.
- Out of these 2636 charging stations, 1633 Charging Stations will be Fast Charging Stations and 1003 will be slow charging stations. With this, about 14000 Charging Stations will be installed across the selected cities.
About FAME Scheme-II
- Launched in March, 2019,under National Electric Mobility Mission (NEMM), FAME-II aims to boost electric mobility and increase the number of EVs in commercial fleets, with an outlay of Rs. 10,000 Crore for a period of 3 years commencing from 1st April 2019.
- The scheme is being implemented through the following verticals:
- Demand Incentives
- Establishment of networks of Charging Stations
- Administration of Scheme including publicity, IEC (Information, Education and Communication) activities.
- This phase mainly focuses on supporting electrification of public and shared transportation, and aims to support (through incentives) about 7000 e-buses, 500,000 electric three-wheelers (e-3W), 55,000 electric four-wheeler (e-4W) passenger cars and one million electric two-wheelers (e-2W).
- Out of total budgetary support, about 86 percent of fund has been allocated for Demand Incentive so as to create demand for EVs in the country.
- To encourage faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles by way of offering upfront incentive on purchase of Electric Vehicles (EV) and by way of establishing necessary charging infrastructure for EV.
- Electrification of Public Transport: The emphasis will be on electrification of public transport that includes shared transport like 3- wheelers and buses and the demand incentives on operational expenditure mode for electric buses will be delivered through state/city transport corporations (STUs).
- Incentives to Public & Private Vehicles: In three-wheeler and four wheeler segments, incentives will be applicable mainly on vehicles used for public transport or registered commercial purposes. In the two-wheeler segment, the focus will be on private vehicles.
- Advancement of Lithium-ion Batteries: In order to encourage advance technologies, the benefits of the incentives will be extended to only those vehicles, which are fitted with advanced battery like lithium-ion battery and other new technology batteries.
National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP)
- Pollution Control: Adoption of EVs in the country will help in addressing the issue of air pollution, due to the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels.
- Sustainable Use of Fossil Fuels: The scheme will provide fuel security as it helps to lessen the dependency on fossil fuels there by paving the path of sustainable and efficient use of fossil fuels.
- Holistic Approach: It presents a more holistic approach as it not only touches upon critical technical issues such as battery cost & efficiency, charging infrastructure, etc. but also stresses upon the indigenization of the entire EV value chain.
Challenges Driving India’s Electric Mobility Initiatives
Rising Crude Oil Imports - An Energy Security Challenge
Rising Pollution Levels – An Environmental Challenge
Rising Population – A Sustainable Mobility Challenge
Recent Government’s Efforts to Promote Electric Mobility
- Tax initiatives to promote fully electric vehicles:
- GST reduction on Fuel cell vehicles: 28% to 18%
- GST reduction on Li-ion battery: 28% to 12%
- Hybrid vehicles have been kept in the same category as luxurycars and will be taxed at the peak rate of 28% plus a cess of 15%.
- Ministry of Power has allowed sale of electricity as ‘service’ for charging of electric vehicles. This would provide a huge incentive to attract investments into charging infrastructure.
- Ministry of Road Transport Highways issued notification regarding exemption of permit in case of battery operated vehicles.
- In March, 2019, the government launched the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to promote clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.
- The second two-plus-two dialogue between India and the US took place on 18th December, 2019, in Washington during which the two countries made a comprehensive review of cross-cutting foreign policy and defence and security issues in bilateral ties.
Industrial Security Annex (ISA)
- The ISA to the India-U.S. General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) will provide a framework for exchange and protection of classified military information between the U.S. and Indian defence industries.
- It will enable greater industry-to-industry collaboration for co-production and co-development in the defence sector, in line with the GOI’s objective of promoting Make in India in the defence sector.
- It will open the door for U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector for several multi-billion dollar deals in the pipeline, especially the deal for fighter jets.
Finalisation of Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)
- DTTI will harmonise the two side’s processes for identification, development and execution of projects under the DTTI.
- This will enable expedited decision making and help to establish a standing mechanism for dialogue and exchanges between the U.S. and Indian defence companies and their governments on defense technology and industrial cooperation.
Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)
- The United States has announced its commitment to being the founding member of the CDRI whose headquarters will be located in India.
Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
- The two sides also took stock of the steps being taken to operationalise the foundational agreement COMCASA
- COMCASA allows India to procure transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is.
- It will allow both sides to operate on the same communication systems, enabling an “interoperable” environment for militaries.
Tiger Triumph Exercise
- Both the parties decided to hold the India-U.S. joint tri-services and amphibious exercise ‘Tiger Triumph’ on an annual basis.
- The maiden exercise was held in November 2019 as a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to develop synergies between the tri-services of both countries in conducting HADR operations.
Science & Technology Agreement
- Both the countries concluded the S&T agreement, which replaced the 2005 Agreement.
- As part of the S&T Agreement both sides have agreed on a common framework on Intellectual Property Rights, consistent with national IPR policy.
Space Situational Awareness
- Both sides have agreed to cooperate for exchange of information in Space Situational Awareness, including space debris and space traffic management.
- The U.S. has established expertise in this field and possesses considerable SSA data, which will be of significant value in ensuring navigational safety of Indian space assets.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India’s Ministry of Jal Shakti and the U.S. Geological Survey to promote technical cooperation in water resources management and water technology.
- Both sides will be cooperating in the area of management of river basins, flood management and forecasting, water management, water quality, waste-water recycling and capacity building in testing and instrumentation.
Young Innovators Internship Programme (YIIP)
- YIIP between India and the U.S. will create short-term internship opportunities in the U.S. for Indian students at post-secondary level or recent graduates, in key areas of scientific and economic endeavour.
- It will provide networking opportunities for young entrepreneurs besides helping develop entrepreneurial skills.
- Both Governments hope to strengthen bilateral Parliamentary exchanges through facilitation of reciprocal visits by Parliamentarians from both countries.
- Both the countries seek to expand their satisfactory and mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of counterterrorism jurisprudence to new areas of criminal jurisprudence including money laundering, drug trafficking etc.
Peacekeeping for Indo-Pacific Region
- Both have agreed to deepen their bilateral cooperation in areas of defence, counter-terrorism and trade, and to work with like-minded countries for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
- This will help to counter the China which is flexing its muscle both in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)
- Both countries agreed to continue discussions on BECA.
- Once finalized, it will enable exchange of geo-spatial information between the two countries, enhancing the operational efficiency of the U.S. platforms currently being operated by India.
- India and the United States of America established a 2+2 Ministerial dialogue in June 2017, in Washington DC, USA.
- The first 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September, 2018.
- It is the highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries and provides for a review of the security, defence and strategic partnership between India and the United States.
- The India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue is an effort to generate sustainable economic growth, create jobs, improve business and investment climate, enhance livelihoods, and sustain the rules-based global order.
- It has given has given a new height to bilateral defence partnership. The two sides are now engaging in a tri-service military exercise, enhancing coordination on the Indo-Pacific and even facilitating private sector collaboration in defence.
- Recently, the Code on Social Security, which is the last of the four labour codes, was introduced in Lok Sabha.
- It proposes universalisation of social security benefits for the country’s around 50 crore workforce, along with offerings such as medical, pension, death and disability benefits to them.
- It seeks to amend and consolidate laws relating to the social security of employees, subsuming eight Central laws.
Eight Central Labour Laws
- Employees' Compensation Act, 1923; Employees State Insurance Act, 1948, Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 and Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, are to be subsumed under the new law.
- The unorganised sector, which accounts for a little over 80 per cent of India’s total workforce, has largely been out of social security schemes as well as the ambit of labour regulations at present.
Social Security to Unorganised Workers
- Under the Code, the central government may notify various social security schemes for the benefit of unorganised workers. These include an Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme, an Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS), and an Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) Scheme.
Corporatization of EPFO and ESIC
- The pension, insurance and retirement saving bodies including Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), will be body corporate.
Different Applicability Thresholds
- The Code specifies different applicability thresholds for the schemes. For example, the EPF Scheme will apply to establishments with 20 or more employees. The ESI Scheme will apply to certain establishments with 10 or more employees, and to all establishments which carry out hazardous or life-threatening work notified by the central government.
Social Security Organisations
- The Code provides for the establishment of several bodies to administer the social security schemes. These include:
(i) a Central Board of Trustees, headed by the Central Provident Fund Commissioner, to administer the EPF, EPS and EDLI Schemes,
(ii) an Employees State Insurance Corporation, headed by a Chairperson appointed by the central government, to administer the ESI Scheme,
(iii) National and state-level Social Security Boards, headed by the central and state Ministers for Labour and Employment, respectively, to administer schemes for unorganised workers, and
(iv) State-level Building Worker’s Welfare Boards, headed by a Chairperson nominated by the state government, to administer schemes for building workers.
Social Security Fund
- It proposes to set up a social security fund using the funds available under corporate social responsibility (CSR), to provide welfare benefits such as pensions and death and disability benefits.
- It also has a clause to make fixed-term contract workers eligible for gratuity after one year in place of the existing five years.
Benefits for Gig Workers
- It empowers the government to frame schemes for providing social security to gig workers and platform workers who do not fall under the traditional employer-employee relation.
- It mandates to provide maternity benefit to the woman employees and compensation to the employees in case of the accidents while commuting from residence to place of work and vice-versa.
Special Purpose Vehicles
- The Code also provides an enabling provision for constituting special purpose vehicles for the implementation of schemes for unorganised sector workers.
Inspections and Appeals Provisions
- The appropriate government may appoint Inspector-cum-facilitators to inspect establishments covered by the Code, and advise employers and employees on compliance with the Code. Administrative authorities may be appointed under the various schemes to hear appeals under the Code.
- It also specifies judicial bodies which may hear appeals from the orders of the administrative authorities. For example, industrial tribunals (constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947) will hear disputes under the EPF Scheme.
Offences and Penalties Provisions
- The Code specifies penalties for various offences, such as: the failure by an employer to pay contributions under the Code after deducting the employee’s share, punishable with imprisonment between one and three years, and fine of one lakh rupees, and falsification of reports, punishable with imprisonment of up to six months.
- Transparency and Accountability: The codification will make the existing labour laws in sync with the emerging economic scenario; reduce the complexity by providing uniform definitions and reduction in multiple authorities under various Acts and bring transparency and accountability in enforcement of labour laws.
- Boost to Labour Intensive Industries: This in turn would lead to ease of compliance, catalyzing the setting up of manufacturing units including boosting Labour intensive industries such as agriculture and manufacturing exports.
- Employment and Formalisation: The code will ultimately lead to enhancement in employment opportunities as well as its formalisation along with ensuring safety, social security and welfare of workers.
- The Bill fails to appreciate that provision of meaningful social security on such a massive scale is beyond the capacity of any single ministry at any single level of government, and that social security has to be fundamentally rethought, instead of creating a patchwork drawn from different extant laws.
- The code being hyped as ‘Universal’ is being criticized on the groundof the “lack of universal character” as the existing thresholds for applicability of Provident Fund, Employee’s State Insurance , gratuity, maternity benefits etc., have not been removed.
- The Code does not stipulate anything for sector specific social security schemes, making the huge workforce totally out of any social security arrangements.
- The cess-related Act has been claimed to be subsumed by the code. But it remained absolutely silent about the management of the fund collected from the cess. On the social security benefits for construction workers, certain heads of social security benefits have been mentioned but on the details of the benefits, entitlement, calculation, mode of delivery,, the code remained absolutely silent leaving them totally at the disposal of state-level boards.
- All in all, the SS Code lays out an array of wishful benefits, but there is no firm commitment in the provisions to actually provide them. What should have been spelt out as binding legislation which actually compels the government to provide the benefitsis left to the whims and fancies of executive power of the Central government.
- Therefore, it is essential to rethink social security from top to bottom. It should be envisaged holistically, its different components delegated to different arms and agencies of the government at all levels, for the successful implementation of the Code across the country.
- The Home Ministry announced on 19th December, 2019 that from 26th January, 2020, the the UTs of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli will become a single union territory.
- The Parliament passed the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (Merger of Union Territories) Bill, 2019 on 3rd December, 2019 and it was earlier passed by Lok Sabha on November 27, 2019.
- The move comes after the landmark decision of bifurcating the State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
- To provide better delivery of services to the citizens of both the UTs by improving efficiency and reducing paper work
- It proposes to merge the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which presently has only one district with the UT of Daman and Diu, which has two districts. The merged UT will be named as the- Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
- Vidhan Sabha will be established in the new UT, similar to the one in Pudducherry.
- The Bill has been moved in furtherance of the "Minimum Government, Maximum Governance" policy.
Reasons for Merging
- As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons annexed to the Bill, the two UTs share a lot in terms of administrative set up, history, language and culture.
- The Administrator, Secretaries, and Heads of certain departments functions in both the Union territories on alternate days affecting their availability to people and monitoring functioning of subordinate staff.
- Maintaining two separate secretariats and parallel departments not only burdened the State exchequer, but also leadsto lot of duplicacy, inefficiency and wasteful expenditure as well as manpower, impacting the overall development of both the UTs.
Minimum Government, Maximum Governance
- On being merged, the newly formed UT will be allocated two seats in the Lok Sabha. Furthermore, jurisdiction of the High Court of Bombay will continue to extend to the proposed UT.
- Being one UT will help in better management of cadres of various government employees.
- Further, it will help to reduce administrative expenditure, uniformity in policies and effective monitoring of schemes and better implementation of developmental projects.
Dadar and Nagar Haveli
- The U.T. of Dadra & Nagar Haveli is located on the western side of the foot hills of western Ghat, surrounded by Gujarat and Maharashtra. It consists of two pockets namely, Dadra and Nagar Haveli
- The major river Daman ganga criss-cross the U.T. and drain into Arabian sea at
- Between 1954 to 1961, Dadra and Nagar Haveli was administered by a citizen’s council called the Varishta Panchayat of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli. In 1961, it became a Union Territory.
- However, the territory was merged with the Indian Union on 11 August, 1961, and since then, is being administered by the Government of India as a Union Territory.
- The main tribes are Dhodia, Kokna and Varli with small groups of Koli, Kathodi, Naika and dubla scattered over the territory.
Daman and Diu
- U.T. of Daman and Diu comprises two districts namely Daman and Diu. Both Districts are situated on western coast of India at a distance of about 700 kms, geographically separated by the Gulf of Khambhat.
- Diu is island situated slightly off the coast of Kathiawad near the Port of Veraval in Gujarat while Daman is on main land near southern portion of Gujarat State.
- After Liberation on 19th December, 1961 from Portuguese Rule of more than four centuries, Daman and Diu became a part of the T. of Goa, Daman and Diu under Government of India.
- After delinking of Goa, which attained statehood, U.T. of Daman and Diu came into existence on 30th May, 1987.
- Recently, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2019.
- The proposed new law has been named as Disha Act Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act, 2019, as a tribute to the veterinary doctor who was raped and murdered recently in neighboring Telangana.
Key Highlights of Disha Bill
Women and Children Offenders Registry
- The bill envisages to establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’, which will be made public and available to law enforcement agencies.
Death Penalty for Rape Crimes
- It has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence. Provision is given by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Reducing the Judgment Period
- As per the Bill, the judgment will now have to be pronounced in 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence.
- The investigation shall be completed in seven working days and trial shall be completed in 14 working days.
Punishment for Sexual Offences against Children
- It prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
- New Sections 354F and Section 354G ‘Sexual Assault on Children’ is being inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Punishment for Harassment through Social Media
- A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860
- In cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment up to two years on first conviction which may extend to four years on second and subsequent conviction.
Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts
- It mandates the government to establish exclusive special courts in each district of the state to ensure speedy trial. These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
Reduced Period of Disposal
- The period for disposal of appeal cases has been reduced to three months. Amendments are being made in Section 374 and 377 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973.
Constitution of Special Police Teams
- It mandates the government to constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.
- In addition, the government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.
How Disha Bill is different from present Legislations?
- Deterrent for Crimes: The new legislation will act as a deterrent for crimes against women and children across the state.
- Strong Justice System:Further, it will make the criminal justice system tougher on an offender committing sexual crimes against women and children.
- Speedy Trial: It will help hasten the trial process of crimes against women and children.
Skepticism over the Bill
The bill has evoked skepticism from the human rights activists and legal fraternity, who raised doubts over its efficiency in preventing crimes against women and its practicability.
- Questions have been raised over the limited investigation and trial period as per the bill. The question is with 58 percent vacancies in subordinate judiciary and 25 percent vacancies in police officers; can Andhra Pradesh government complete any trial in 21 days?
- Similarly, it has constituted special police teams from out of the existing strength, without adding a single post of police. With one-fourth vacancies, the police cannot perform any skillful or speedy investigation.
Burden of Pending Cases
- The AP government has carved out special courts in each district, without allocating a single rupee or creating a single new post.
- Further, already existing courts and judges are burdened with several hundreds of pending cases. The new act will only add burden to the judiciary system, further making it
- Andhra Pradesh is the first state in the country to tighten the laws to punish the crooks to decrease the crime ratio on women, which is a welcome move and should be followed by other states across the country, in order to ensure the safety and integrity of women as well as children.
- On 13th December, 2019, the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 received the President's assent and became an Act. The government also decided to accede to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 on 28th November, 2019.
- When the Hong Kong International Convention comes into force, its provisions will be implemented under the provisions of the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and rules and regulations framed there under.
- To provide a boost to the ship-wrecking industry in India
Need for Bill
- India is the leader in the global ship recycling industry, with a share of over 25% of the world’s ship recycling industry. But the industry is plagued with issues like the safety of worker as well as the environment concerns.
Authorization of Recycling Facilities
- Under the Bill, ship recycling facilities are required to be authorized and ships shall be recycled only in such authorized ship recycling facilities.
Ship-Specific Recycling Plan
- The Bill also provides that ships shall be recycled in accordance with a ship-specific recycling plan. Ships to be recycled in India shall be required to obtain a Ready for Recycling Certificate in accordance with the Hong Kong Convention (HKC).
Restriction on Hazardous Material
- It restricts and prohibits the use or installation of hazardous material, which applies irrespective of whether a ship is meant for recycling or not. Ships shall be surveyed and certified on the inventory of hazardous material used in ships.
Grace Period for Existing Ships
- For new ships, such restriction on use of hazardous material will be immediate, that is, from the date the legislation comes into force, while existing ships shall have a period of five years for compliance.
- However, restriction on use of hazardous material would not be applied to warships and non-commercial ships operated by Government.
- Regularising Ship Recycling Industry: The bill will help to provide for the regulation of recycling of ships by setting certain international standards and laying down the statutory mechanism for enforcement of such standards.
Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships
Benefits to India
Issues in Ship Recycling Industry in India
- Workers usually lack personal protective equipment and have little training, if at all. Inadequate safety controls, badly monitored work operations and high risk of explosions create very dangerous work situations.
- Due to the absence of norms about the standard the vessel should be in when it arrives for scrapping, the vessel represents in itself a number of potential risks. Basic risk-reducing or eliminating measures are often ignored and ultimately accidents occur.
- Lack of coordination for work procedures, the absence of facilities and the absence of safety control represent elements of risk causing bodily harm and injuries.
- In addition, impunity for yard owners remains a serious concern. No yard owner has ever been held responsible for the death of a worker as they manage to put pressure on the law enforcers to quickly drop the charges.
Health Related Issues
- On the shipbreaking beaches, asbestos fibers and flocks fly around in the open air, and workers take out asbestos insulation materials with their bare hands. Exposure to other heavy metals found in many parts of ships such as in paints, coatings, anodes and electrical equipment can result in cancers and also cause damage to blood vessels.
- Workers spend their days slathered in mud contaminated with heavy metals and toxic paint particles that leach from the ships into the tidal flats.
- Workers have very limited access to health services and inadequate housing, welfare and sanitary facilities further exacerbate the plight of the workers. Despite of thousands of workers deployed at a ship breaking site there is hardly any provision of doctors or clinics to meet any exigencies.
Waste Management Issues
- Wastes generated by Ship breaking industry can be broadly classified into hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste stream comprises of asbestos, Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), Tributyltin TBT, heavy metals etc.
- Besides solid wastes, gases such as ammonia, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from the air conditioning system, and inflammable gases may be present in pipelines of oil tankers. Although these wastes constitute only around 1% of dead weight of a ship, the total amount in millions of tonne, make these wastes difficult to handle, posing a major risk both to health and environment.
- Water body, primarily the marine environment gets polluted in terms of suspended solids, nitrates, phosphate, heavy metals, oil and grease from bilge water.
- Oil spills, heavy metals like lead, mercury and organotins like Tributyltin (TBT) pose threat to marine ecosystem including birds and mammals, zooplanktons, phytoplanktons, etc.
- Improperly handled heavy metals (lead, cadmium) found in paint chips, asbestos fibres and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) containing elements can become potential source of contamination of soil in the vicinity of the ship scrapping activity.
- The paints and coatings on a ship are generally flammable and contain toxic compounds such as PCBs, heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc and copper) and pesticides such as TBT.
- Toxic smoke potentially carrying dioxins, furans and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are generated when non-recyclable rubber pipes, broken electrical fixtures are burnt in open air.
- Fine particulates generated during stripping of ship and release of CFCs from explosion of gases entrapped in refrigeration system or other explosive chemicals further contributes to air pollution from various ship breaking processes.
- Ship breaking industry in India is a part of the global ship recycling practices. This industry, like others, has many challenges and opportunities. On one hand, ship breaking is a green process wherein a ship at end of its life cycle is being dismantled and each part is sent further for reuse, but on the other hand, the complex process of dismantling involves issues like labour safety and health and further it poses challenges on environment as well, which is a matter for criticism.
- Despite all its drawbacks, theoretically, shipbreaking has many advantages – it promotes sustainable development by reducing the need for mining of natural resources and it contributes to production of steel which helps in generation of employment. With the back drop of sustainability issues, this industry has the potential to be the prime economic activity in India.
- On 28th November, 2019, the Rajya Sabha passed the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019, aimed at reducing the compliance burden on chit funds and protecting subscribers that primarily comprises economically weaker sections of the society.
- The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 20th November, 2019.
- It seeks to amend the Chit Funds Act, 1982, which regulates chit funds and prohibits a fund from being created without prior sanction of a state government.
- To facilitate orderly growth of the chit fund sector and streamline operations of collective investment schemes or chit funds
- To remove bottlenecks being faced by the chit fund industry
- To enable greater financial access to people
Need for Bill
- To Protect Investor’s Interest: The need to protect investor interest highlights the crucial role chit funds play in India’s rural economy, providing people with access to funds and investment opportunities, especially in regions where banks and financial institutions do not have a presence.
Salient Features of the Bill
Substitution of Terms
- The Bill substitutes the words chit amount, dividend and prize amount with gross chit amount, share of discount and net chit amount,
- It has introduced words such as ‘fraternity fund’, ‘rotating savings’ and ‘credit institution’ to help these funds get an image makeover, and build a brand for them.
- In addition, it recognizes chit funds under various names, including kuri, fraternity fund, rotating savings, credit institution.
Increase in Aggregate Amount of Chits
It proposes to increase the maximum amount of chit funds which may be collected by:
- Individuals: from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh
- Firms: from Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 18 lakh.
Presence of Subscribers through Video-Conferencing
- It mandates that at least two subscribers must be present, either physically or via video-conferencing, when a chit is drawn.
- It proposes to raise the maximum commission of a foreman from 5% of the chit amount to 7%.
- Further, the Bill allows the foreman a right to lien against the credit balance from subscribers. (A foreman is simply the manager of the chit fund)
- The principal Act does not apply to any chit started before it was enacted or to any chit where the amount is less than Rs 100.
- The Bill seeks to remove the limit of Rs 100, and allows the state governments to specify the base amount over which the provisions of the Act will apply.
- Ensuring Accountability and Transparency: The provision in the bill to allow subscribers to be present through video conferencing would increase transparency and accountability in managing chit funds.
- Making Chit Funds Investor Friendly: It will help in safeguarding the people subscribing to the scheme as it provides for the chit fund operator to have secured deposit to the size of the scheme, thus making chit funds investor friendly.
- Chit fund is a traditional financing system practiced in India wherein a few people (known as members or subscribers) come together and invest a fixed amount every month for a fixed period.
- It provides assistance to those who are looking at an alternate to money lenders and the stringent procedures followed by banks.
- During the process of collection, any member can draw a lump sum through various ways like a lucky draw, an auction or a member can even fix a payout date based on a known expenditure.
- Although the system exists in other parts of the world by the name Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA), India is the only country where its operations are governed by legislations.
Types of Chit Funds
In India there are three types of chit funds, namely:
- Funds run by state governments;
- Private registered chit funds; and
- Unregistered chit funds.
Difference between Chit Funds and Ponzi Schemes
- Provides flexibility to borrow and save. One get a chance to borrow money (pot) just by paying first monthly installment.
- Best option of finance for needy people, without any documents like IT returns, PAN card etc.
- Chit fund is a good savings instrument and it can be a reliable source of funds in an emergency.
- Intermediation cost is the lowest when compared to other instruments.
- Chit-funds do not offer any pre-determined or fixed returns.
- Chances of fraud are high suppose foreman run away with corpus amount.
- A winning subscriber may disappear after winning the first bid.
- The subscriber may default and not ready to pay next installments.
- High degree of risk with very little protection
- Chit funds are popular among low-income group people as it offers them the opportunity to save and invest. It is an excellent tool to promote financial inclusion, if channelized in the right format.
- However, archaic legislations have made it impossible for the chit fund industry to adopt technology and move to a system of e-auctions and e-payments because of the insistence of “physical presence” required as per Sections 16 of the Chit Fund Act.
- It is high time that policymakers review their apathy for the chit fund industry to redesign and modernize the legislation that regulates this widely spread financial practice.
- Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the clutch 49 review petitions and all pending applications against its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple.
- However, the five-judge bench, comprising of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, clarified that there would be no stay on its September 28, 2018.
- Petitioners also plan to seek review of the recently delivered Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi and telecom revenue verdicts.
- A decision of the Supreme Court can be reviewed in a Review Petition. Such review petition is filed before the same court, generally on very limited grounds, such as an error apparent on the face of the record.
- Courts generally do not unsettle a decision in a review petition, unless there is a strong case.
- Article 137 of the Constitution of India grants the Supreme Court the power to review and judgment or order pronounced by the Court.
- This power is however subject to the Rules made by the Supreme Court under Article 145, as well as the provisions of any law enacted by Parliament.
Scope of Review
- The court has the power to review its rulings to correct a patent error and not minor mistakes of inconsequential import.
- When a review takes place, the law is that it is allowed not to take fresh stock of the case but to correct grave errors that have resulted in the miscarriage of justice.
- The scope of the power of review was explained by the Court in Northern India Caterers (India) vs Lt. Governor Of Delhi (1979) wherein the Court held that a party is not entitled to seek a review of a judgment delivered by this Court merely for the purpose of a rehearing and a fresh decision in the case. If the attention of the Court is not drawn to a material statutory provision during the original hearing the Court will review its judgment.
- The Court may also reopen its judgment if a manifest wrong has been done and it is necessary to pass an order to do full and effective justice.
Grounds to Seek Review Petition
In a 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court laid down three grounds for seeking a review of a verdict it has delivered-
- The discovery of new and important matter or evidence which, after the exercise of due diligence, was not within the knowledge of the petitioner or could not be produced by him.
- Mistake or error apparent on the face of the record.
- Any other sufficient reason (any sufficient reason means a reason that is analogous to the other two grounds).
In Union of India v. Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd, 2013, the court laid down nine principles on when a review is maintainable.
Filing of Review Petition
- According to Civil Procedure Code and the Supreme Court Rules, any person aggrieved by a ruling can seek a review.
- However, the court does not entertain every review petition filed. It exercises its discretion to allow a review petition only when it shows the grounds for seeking the review.
Time-period to File Review Petition
- Under Supreme Court Rules, 1999, suchpetition needs to be filed within 30 days from the date of judgement or order.
- In certain circumstances, the court can condone a delay in filing the review petition if the petitioner can establish strong reasons that justify the delay.
Procedures Followed in the Court
- According to the 1999 Rules, areview petitions is entertained without oral arguments by lawyers. Therefore, it is heard through circulation by the judges in their chambers.
- Review petitions are also heard the same combination of judges who delivered the order or judgment that is sought to be reviewed.
- If a judge has retired or is unavailable, a replacement is made keeping in mind the seniority of judges.
Incase if Review Petition Fails
- As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court’s verdict cannot result in a miscarriage of justice. The court has evolved the concept of a curative petition, which can be heard after a review is dismissed to prevent abuse of its process.