Fame India Scheme Phase-II


  • On 26th September, 2020, the government has sanctioned 670 electric buses and 241 charging stations to boost the electric mobility in the country under Phase-II of FAME India Scheme.

About FAME-India Scheme

  • The FAME(Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles) was launched by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in 2015 to incentivize the production and promotion of eco-friendly vehicles including electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
  • It is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
  • The vehicles such as two wheelers, three wheelers, electric and hybrid cars and electric buses obtained the subsidy benefit of the scheme.
  • It also covers electric and Hybrid technologies like Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles

Two phases of FAME-India

  • Phase I: started in 2015 and was completed on March 31st, 2019
  • Phase II: started from April 1st, 2019, will be completed by March 31st, 2022

Focus Areas

  • Technology Development
  • Demand Creation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Charging Infrastructure

FAME Scheme-II

  • It aims 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.
  • It offers incentives to manufacturers, who invest in developing electric vehicles and its components, including lithium-ion batteries and electric motors.

Impact

  • 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: It provide fuel security as it helps to lessen the dependency on fossil fuels thereby paving the path of sustainable and efficient use of fossil fuels.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan(NEMMP)

  • The plan was launched by the Government of India in 2013 with the objective of achieving national fuel security by promoting electric and hybrid vehicles in the country.
  • There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.
  • It is a composite scheme using different policy-levers such as-
  • -Demand side incentives to facilitate the acquisition of hybrid/electric vehicles.
  • -Promoting R&D in technology including battery technology, power electronics, motors, systems integration.
  • -Promoting charging infrastructure.
  • -Supply side incentives.
  • -Encouraging retro-fitment of on-road vehicles its hybrid kit.

Pesticides Management Bill-2020


  • According to the experts, the Pesticides Management Bill (PMB), 2020 will have a far-reaching impact on Indian agriculture and farmer’s livelihood if it is passed in the current form.
  • Therefore, they have called for wider consultations on the Bill and asked to place it before a select committee.
  • The Insecticides Act, 1968 currently governs the registration, manufacturing, export, sale and use of pesticides in India.

About the Pesticides Management Bill-2020

  • It was introduced in Rajya Sabha in March, 2020. It seeks to regulate the manufacture, import, sale, storage, distribution, use, and disposal of pesticides, in order to ensure the availability of safe pesticides and minimise the risk to humans, animals, and environment.
  • The Bill seeks to replace the Insecticides Act, 1968.

Key Provisions

  • It will empower farmers by providing them with all the information about the strength and weakness of pesticides, the risk and alternatives. All information will be available openly as data in digital format and in all languages.
  • Any person who wants to import, manufacture, or export pesticides would have to register under the new Bill and provide all details regarding any claims, expected performance, efficacy, safety, usage instructions, and infrastructure available to stock that pesticide.
  • The information will also include details on the pesticide’s potential effects on the environment.
  • It also includes the provision of compensating the farmers in case of losses due to the use of spurious or low quality of pesticides.
  • It mandates the Union Government to form a central fund to take care of the compensation.
  • The Billplans to regulate pesticides-related advertisements to check misleading claims by industries and manufacturers.
  • It also intends to promote organic pesticides.

Significance

  • The enforcement of the Pesticides Management Bill will strengthen the efforts of the program in reducing the use of pesticides and increase the use of safer registered pesticide and organic pesticides.
  • Further, it has the opportunity to clean up the food and farming system of our country, but needs to make the registration process more stringent for manufacturers.

Key Issues with PMB-2020

  • It would not allow the manufacture and export of pesticides not registered for use in India even if these are approved in other countries.
  • The present PMB will increase the import of formulations and will damage the export of agro-chemicals. This is directly against the demands presented by the Ashok Dalwai Committee, constituted in 2018 to promote domestic and indigenous industries and agricultural exports from India, which are missing from PMB, 2020.The committee had recommended reduction in import and dependence on imported formulations.
  • It gives powers to Registration Committee (RC) to subjectively review registration of a pesticide and then suspend, cancel or even ban its usage. This would be done without any scientific evaluation.Such scenarios can disrupt Indian farmers’ functioning and productivity.
  • Further, it provides for re-registration of pesticides already registered under the erstwhile 1968 Act. This will bring instability in the pesticides industry across the country.
  • It lacks a provision for emergency usage approvals of pesticides during any pest-infestation emergency. This will leave crops vulnerable to locust attacks, which left a trail of destruction in some parts of India recently, besides other pests such as fall armyworm, bollworm, etc. It imposes broad liabilities on pesticide manufacturers without accounting for situations wherein liability arises from factors beyond their control.

Way Forward

  • In its present form, PMB has gaps that can directly impact the Centre’s goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • By marginalizing the efficiencies of the domestic crop protection industry that has provided affordable and efficacious products to farmers – most of whom have small landholdings – PMB 2020 may further jeopardize farmers’ livelihoods and create concerns around food security.
  • PMB provides a significant opportunity of reforming the agriculture sector by encouraging science-based solutions to problems faced by farmers and making agriculture more profitable and sustainable.
  • There is a need to have a competent body to ensure strong governance and to oversee and review the decisions of the Registration Committee (RC).This can be easily achieved by amending Section 23 and 24 and corresponding sections in PMB where RC gets to review its own decisions.
  • It is in the interest of the Indian farmers and the pesticides industry to have a transparent, stable and accountable legal regime.
  • In the best interests of the farmers’ community, as well as society and industry at large, the Bill needs wider consultations within Parliament.
  • Ideally, it should be placed before a select committee of Parliamentarians for critical review and necessary changes addressing the needs of farmers, Indian agriculture and the pesticides industry.
  • This is imperative if India seeks to be Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) as a credible manufacturer and supplier of pesticides to the world while promoting food security objectives and generating employment opportunities for its people.

Pesticides Use in India

  • India is the fourth-largest producer of pesticides in the world, with the market segmentation tilted mainly towards insecticides, with herbicides on the increase in the recent past.
  • In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.
  • Maharashtra increased its pesticide consumption by 35.6 per cent between 2014-15 and 2018-19, while UP reported an increase of 14.17 per cent.
  • Pesticide consumption across the country grew by 13.07 per cent between 2014-15 and 2017-18.
  • Bio-pesticides accounted for only 10 percent of the total pesticides consumed, on an average.
  • There are 292 pesticides registered in the country, and it is estimated that there are around 104 pesticides that are continued to be produced/ used in India that have been banned in two or more countries in the world.

National Handloom Day


  • The 6th National Handloom Day was celebrated on 7th August, 2020, to honour the handloom community, and acknowledge their contribution towards India’s socio-economic development.
  • It aims to resolve to protect this heritage and to empower the workers in this sector.
  • The first National Handloom Day was organised in 2015 by the government in Chennai.

Significance

  • The handloom sector is one of the major symbols of the cultural heritage of India.
  • National Handloom Day seeks to highlight the contribution of handloom to the socioeconomic development of the country and increase income of the weavers.
  • It continues to be an important source of livelihood, especially for women, who form around 70% of the weavers or allied workers in the sector.

Reason to Choose 7th August

  • The Union government had declared 7thAugust as the National Handloom Day in July 2015 with the objective to generate awareness about the importance of handloom industry.
  • August 7 was chosen as the National Handloom Day to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement which was launched on this day in 1905 in the Calcutta Town Hall to protest against partition of Bengal by the British Government.
  • The movement had aimed at reviving domestic products and production processes.

Issues with Handloom Sector

Stigma of being Unorganized Sector

  • Primarily a household industry, the weavers are unorganized and the production pattern is mostly dispersed and decentralized and there are no marketing strategies in place, unlike in a cooperative sector.

Non Availability of Raw Material

  • The Fourth All India Handloom Census (2019-2020) cites raw material support needed by nearly 59.5 percent of weaver household. From cotton, silk, and woollen yarn to dyes, costs have increased and so has the shortage.
  • In 2015, concerns had been raised regarding shortage of cotton for weavers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. The weavers had to travel long distances to get cotton added to their transportation costs. Besides, smaller weavers have been unable to buy in bulk leading to lower output of material.

Decreasing Credit Support

  • The Textile Association of India records that the budget allocation for the textile sector came down to Rs 4,831 crore in (2019-2020) from Rs 6,943 in the previous fiscal.
  • This also means that various schemes be it housing, subsidies, health insurance will affect the weaver too.
  • Quite often smaller weavers are at the mercy of money lenders, and suicides have made headlines in recent years.

Migration to Other Fields

  • With many traditional families moving to cities for jobs as labourers, weavers have been leaving the loom.
  • While the recent Handloom Census (2019-2020) records that there are nearly 31.44 lakh handloom households, and it has seen a rise from 27.83 lakh in the last census, the numbers are still dismal.

Poor Infrastructure

  • Since handloom manufacturing is carried on in the houses of weavers spread over a vast geographical area, it lacks the necessary infrastructure which is available in industrial estates. There are no separate sheds, water and power supply, technology support effluent treatment plants and waste management arrangements. The poor infrastructure affects the productivity, quality and cost.

Obsolete Technology

  • The handloom industry has been using age old technology and looms. These results into low productivity and high cost.

Lack of Awareness

  • The unawareness of weavers about market trends is also a reason of low demand of their articles, lack of market information to weavers by the government and illiteracy of the weavers are the responsible factor for this problem.
  • While there are nearly 13 government schemes currently for weavers, there’s basically three per cent that is aware of the Weavers Health Insurance Scheme and only 10.5 per cent know of the credit waivers for loans that they can avail (Handloom Census 2019-2020).

Competition from Power Loom

  • Competition from Power loom is the major problem in marketing of handloom products.
  • This competition over the years has increased after the mushrooming of Power loom, and the power loom sector took several benefits in the name of handloom industry in relation to consumption of yarn, production of reserved items.

Welfare Schemes for Handloom Sector

 Handloom Weavers Comprehensive Welfare Scheme

  • It is providing life, accidental and disability insurance coverage to handloom weavers/workers under the components Pradhan MantriJivanJyotiBimaYojana(PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha BimaYojana(PMSBY) and Converged Mahatma Gandhi BunkarBimaYojana(MGBBY).

National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP)

Components of NHDP

  • Education of Handloom Weavers and their Children: Ministry of Textiles has signed Memorandums of Understanding with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) to secure educational facilities for the weavers and their families.
  • Weavers MUDRA Scheme: Under the Weavers Mudra Scheme, credit at concessional interest rate of 6% is provided to the handloom weavers.
  • Block Level Cluster: Introduced in 2015-16 as one of the components of NHDP. Financial assistance upto Rs.2.00 crore per BLC for various interventions such as skill upgradation, product development, etc.
  • HathkarghaSamvardhanSahayata (HSS): Introduced in 2016 to provide looms/accessories to the weavers. 90% of the cost of loom/accessory is borne by the Government of India while remaining 10% is borne by the beneficiary.
  • Handloom Marketing Assistance: Provide marketing platform to the handloom agencies/weavers to sell their products directly to the consumers.
  • India Handloom Brand:During the celebration of 7th August 2015 as National Handloom Day, ‘India Handloom’ Brand was launched for branding of high quality handloom products.

Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme

  • It is implemented for development of Mega Handloom Clusters covering atleast 15000 to 25,000 handlooms.

Yarn Supply Scheme

  • This scheme is being implemented throughout the country to make available all types of yarn at Mill Gate Price.

Way Forward

  • With a view to promote this industry on a sustainable basis, it is deemed necessary to produce quality fabrics with new design for winning the trust and confidence of the customers.
  • In order to increase the number of active members in the society the Government can increase the wages of the weavers so that they will be motivated to work continuously.
  • The Government can organize training programmes to weavers with respect to weaving clothes of improved designs, so that through training they will be able to earn more wages and their economic conditions will improve.
  • Weavers must get the credit on soft terms as they are supposed to with the new initiatives like opening up of bank accounts, direct delivery of subsidies and digital governance.
  • In order to avoid the competition from mechanized sector the Government should insist the compulsory usage of handloom mark for all the products produced by Handloom Weavers Co-operative Societies.
  • There is a need to revamp the working of NHDC which is presently limited in nature as it is the only agency to support supply of yarn at subsidised prices.
  • There is a need to put an end to the process of advance payment and procuring material by the Primary Weaver Cooperative Societies (PWCS) and instead, the market may be opened up for the weavers for purchase of yarn.
  • The need for awareness, accessibility to markets and design R&D, easy access to raw material and better credit support can make a difference to weavers in different corners of the country. And then we can truly celebrate a National Handloom Day.

National Education Policy-2020


  • On 29th July, 2020, the government approved the National Education Policy 2020, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors.
  • The Cabinet has also approved the renaming of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the Ministry of Education.
  • This policy will replace the National Policy on Education (NPE),1986.

Aim

  • It aims to pave way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country.  
  • It aims for universalization of educationfrom pre-school to secondary level with 100 % Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030. 

Evolution of Education Policy

  • University Education Commission (1948-49)
  • Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
  • Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr. D.S. Kothari
  • National Policy on Education, 1968
  • 42nd Constitutional Amendment,1976-Education in Concurrent List
  • National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
  • NPE, 1986 Modified in 1992 (Program of Action, 1992)
  • S.R. Subramaniam Committee Report (27 May, 2016)
  • K. Kasturirangan Committee Report (31 May, 2019)

Important Highlights

School Education

Ensuring Universal Access at all Levels of School Education

  • NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels i.e. pre-school tosecondary.
  • Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream.
  • Facilitating multiple pathways tolearning involving both formal and non-formal education modes.
  • Open learning for classes3,5 and 8 throughNational Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
  • About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into mainstream under NEP 2020.

Early Childhood Care &Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure

  • With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula isto be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
  • This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under schoolcurriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mentalfaculties of a child.
  • The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years ofAnganwadi/ pre schooling.
  • NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early ChildhoodCare and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

  • NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy andNumeracy.
  • States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universalfoundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners upto grade 3 by 2025.
  • ANational Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in School Curricula and Pedagogy

  • There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences,between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
  • A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Multilingualism and the Power of Language

  • The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium ofinstruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond.
  • Indian SignLanguage (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculummaterials will be developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment of Reforms

  • A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.

Equitable and Inclusive Education

  • NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of thecircumstances of birth or background.
  • Special emphasis will be given on Socially andEconomically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs).
  • This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
  • Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “BalBhavans” as a special day-time boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, andplay-related activities.

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

  • Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based,with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression,paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators.
  • A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council forTeacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expertorganizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance

  • Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governanceand ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strongprofessional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

  • NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations andacademic matters. States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority(SSSA).
  • The SCERT willdevelop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) throughconsultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education

  • NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocationaleducation from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.

Holistic Multidisciplinary Education

  • The policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education withflexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
  • UG education can be of 3 or 4years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
  • An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits.
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to beset up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
  • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strongresearch culture and building research capacity across higher education.

Regulation

  • Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrellabody for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
  • HECI to have fourindependent verticals - National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation,General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council(HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council(NAC) for accreditation.

Rationalised Institutional Architecture

  • Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrantmultidisciplinary institutions providing high quality teaching, research, and communityengagement.
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to beestablished for granting graded autonomy to colleges.

Teacher Education

  • A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.
  • By 2030, the minimumdegree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.

Mentoring Mission

  • A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstandingsenior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages.

Open and Distance Learning

  • This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as onlinecourses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-basedrecognition of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-classprogrammes.

Technology in Education

  • An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created toprovide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning,assessment, planning, administration.
  • Appropriate integration of technology into all levels ofeducation will be done to improve classroom processes, support teachers’ professionaldevelopment, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educationalplanning, administration and management.

Promotion of Indian Languages

  • To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommendssetting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (orInstitutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departmentsin HEIs, and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEIprogrammes .

Professional Education

  • All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system.
  • Stand-alonetechnical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities, etc. will aim tobecome multi-disciplinary institutions.

Adult Education

  • Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.

Financing Education

  • The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in education sectorto reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

Significance

  • Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • NEP 2020 is precisely what India needs to dominate in the future decades of growth, and drive the education requirements of our young population.
  • Further, it aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.

Way Forward

  • Education infrastructure is one of the important parameters which also needs a massive boost from the government authorities.
  • The New Education Policy should have been implemented years ago to enable India's education system to catch up with that of other fast-developing nations in Asia.
  • The focus on light government regulation, multidisciplinary institutions and creating equivalence of vocational and academic streams are welcome, but these have been a part of other countries' education models for years.
  • It would have been good to have some more innovative ideas implemented like recognition of pathway/twinning programs with foreign universities, permission for for-profit firms to set up schools & colleges, allowing corporate CSR funding for primary research in universities and allowing universities to offer online degrees to outside their geographical jurisdiction.

Restrictions On Public Procurement: Amending General Financial Rules 2017


  • On 24th July, 2020, the Government amended the General Financial Rules 2017 to enable imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto including national security.
  • For this, Rule 144 of the General Financial Rules, 2017 entitled ‘Fundamental principles of public buying’ has been amended.

Reason for such Action

  • Chinese imports and investments have been facing intense scrutiny in India after a tense border standoff since the last month.
  • The decision has been taken to prevent the influx of Chinese products and investments into India, following the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley.
  • India is aiming at limiting trade links with China as part of policy to cut dependence on that country.

About the Amendments

Mandatory Registration

  • According to the new order, any bidder from countries sharing a land border with India will be eligible to bid in any procurement whether of goods, services or works only if the bidder is registered with the ‘Competent Authority.’
  • The Competent Authority, in this case, is the Registration Committee constituted by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • Political and security clearance from the Ministries of External and Home Affairs respectively will be mandatory.

Applicability

  • It will be applicable to all autonomous bodies, public sector banks and financial institutions, central public sector enterprises, public-private partnerships receiving financial support from the government or public sector undertakings, union territories and National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and the linked agencies.

Invoking Provisions of Article 257(1)

  • The Central government has invoked the provisions of Article 257(1) of the Constitution, directing the state governments to implement this order for all public procurement.
  • For procurementby State Governments, a Competent Authority will be constituted by the states but political and security clearance will remain necessary.

Exceptions

  • Relaxation will be provided for the procurement of medical supplies for containment of COVID-19 global pandemic till December 31st, 2020.
  • Also, the order for prior registration will not apply for countries to which the Government of India extends lines of credit or provides development assistance, even if it shares a land border with India.
  • It does not apply to procurement by the private sector.
  • This order will also not apply to cases where orders have been placed or a contract has been concluded or letter of acceptance has been issued, but new tenders will be covered under this order.
  • Also, if the first stage of evaluation of qualifications has not been completed in the already invited tenders, bidders not registered under the new order will be treated as not qualified.

Impact

  • The move aimed at keeping Chinese companies out could hit sectors with heavy import content and dependence on supplies from China.
  • Infrastructure sectors such as power sector — particularly solar, telecom, highways — are likely to get impacted at different levels.
  • However, it will provide a major push to the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, making India self-reliant by curbing the dependency of import from China.

Previous Anti-China Measures

‘Country of Origin’ Made Mandatory on GeM              

  • In June, 2002, the government made it mandatory for sellers on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal to clarify the ‘country of origin’ of their goods when registering new products.
  • The GeM portal now allows buyers to reserve a bid for Class I local suppliers, or suppliers of those goods with more than 50 per cent local content.

Digital Strike: Banning Chinese App

  • In June, 2020, the government announced an interim ban on 59 apps with Chinese links including TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, CamScanner and WeChat citing “emergent threats” to the country’s sovereignty and national security.
  • On 27th July, 2020, the government again banned 47 more Chinese apps that were clones of the 59 apps banned already.

Amending FDI Rules

  • In April, 2020, the government had amended the FDI rules mandating prior approval for investment by entities in countries that share land borders with India.
  • The move came days after China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), raised its shareholding in Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) to over one per cent.

General Financial Rules (GFRs)

  • GFRs are set of rules that deal with matters that involve public finances.
  • They were first issued in 1947 bringing together all the existing orders.
  • They are instructions that pertain to financial matters.
  • They lay down the general rules applicable to Ministries / Departments, and detailed instructions relating to procurement of goods are issued by the procuring departments broadly in conformity with the general rules, while maintaining flexibility to deal with varied situations.

Article 257(1)

  • It states that the executive power of every State shall be so exercised as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive power of the Union.
  • It also authorises the Union to give such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.
  • In case, if the state failed to comply with (or to give effect to) any directions given by the Centre under Article 257(1), it will be lawful for the President to impose President’s rule under Article 356.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019


  • The new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force on 20th July, 2020.
  • It replaced the existing Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and in its overarching mandate, aims to provide a mechanism for the redressal of consumer complaints regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services, right down to the level of districts.

Background

  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Upper House of Parliament on July 8, 2019.
  • It was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 30, 2019 and Rajya Sabha on August 6, 2019. The Bill was then signed into law by President on August 9, 2019.

Salient Features of the Act

Covers E-Commerce Transactions

  • The New Act has widened the definition of 'consumer'.
  • The definition now includes any person who buys any goods, whether through offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing.
  • The earlier Act did not specifically include e-commerce transactions, and this lacuna has been addressed by the New Act.

Creation of Central Consumer Protection Authority

  • It proposes the establishment of a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers, and make interventions in situations of unfair trade practices.

It will be empowered to -

  • conduct investigations into violations of consumer rightsand institute Complaints / Prosecution;
  • order recall of unsafe goods and services; and
  • order discontinuance of unfair trade practices andmisleading advertisements.

Rules on e-Commerce and Direct Selling

  • Now every e-commerce entity is required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc. including country of origin which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.
  • e-commerce platforms have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act.

Simplifying  Consumer Dispute Adjudication Process

  • Empowering the State and District Commissions to review their own orders.
  • Enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and in consumer commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence.
  • Video-conferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.

Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism of Mediation

  • A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it.
  • Mediation will be held in the Mediation Cells to be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.
  • There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.

Product Liability

  • A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller to be responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services.
  • Basis for product liability action -
  • Manufacturing defect
  • Design defect
  • Deviation from manufacturing specifications
  • Not conforming to express warranty
  • Failing to contain adequate instructions for correct use
  • Service provided-faulty, imperfect or deficient

Fee Exemption

  • A significant note for customers under this Act is that there will be no fee for filing cases up to Rs 5 lakh.
  • There are provisions for filing complaints electronically, credit of amount due to unidentifiable consumers to Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).

Penalties for Misleading Advertisement

  • The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.
  • In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.

Penalty for Adulteration of Products/Spurious Goods

  • In case of the first conviction, a competent court may suspend any license issued to the person for a period of up to two years and in case of second or subsequent conviction, may cancel the license permanently.

Central Consumer Protection Council

  • It provided for constitution of the Central Consumer Protection Council, an advisory body on consumer issues, headed by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with the Minister of State as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members from different fields.
  • The Council, which has a three-year tenure, will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and NER.

Significance

Protecting Consumer Right

  • Earlier Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a single point access to justice was given, which was also time consuming.
  • The new Act has been introduced after many amendments to provide protection to buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from the new e-commerce retailers/platforms.
  • It will prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country.

Grant Of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020


  • On 18th May, 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir administration issued a notification defining the rules for issuing domicile certificates in the Union territory, which specify the conditions and the process to obtain the documents required to applying to jobs and avail other privileges restricted to residents in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The new rules replace the previous J&K permanent resident rules.

Background

  • On 1st April, 2020, , eight months after abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the government notified a law, spelling out new domicile rules for Jammu and Kashmir and eligibility for employment in the region.
  • Under the law, the domiciles have been defined as those who have resided for a period of 15 years in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, those have studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th /12th examination in educational institutions located in J&K.

Need

  • Previously such domicile certificates were issued by officers of the level of deputy commissioners and it involved passing through a labyrinth of procedures and shuffling back and forth between many offices.
  • In that sense, the new rules are intended to bypass the byzantine bureaucracy and offer an accelerated path towards acquiring the domicile for non-locals.

Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020

  • West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs), safai karamcharis and children of women married outside Jammu and Kashmir shall also be now eligible for Domicile Certificate.
  • All migrants and their children who are registered with Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner will be granted domicile certificate.
  • All people who have resided in the UT for 15 years, or have studied for seven years and appeared in class 10th or 12th examination in an educational institution in the region, and their children, are eligible for grant of domicile.
  • Kashmiri migrants can get the Domicile certificate on the production of either a PRC or certificate of registration of migrant.
  • Children of central government, All India service, bank and PSU, statutory body, and central university officials, who have served in Jammu of Kashmir for a total period of 10 years will also be eligible for domicile status.
  • Children of those residents of Jammu and Kashmir who reside outside the Union territory in connection with their employment of business or other professional or vocational reasons have also become eligible for grant of domicile status.
  • The domicile certificate has been made the basic eligibility criteria for appointment to any post under the Union Territory following amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (decentralization).
  • The certificate will be issued by the designated authority which in all cases is tehsildars or other officials that may be notified by the government.
  • Any officer not able to issue the certificate would be penalised ₹50,000. The amount would be recovered from his salary.

Impact

  • As a result of the new rules and procedure, West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) including others who were earlier deprived shall also be now eligible for Domicile Certificate.
  • Further, the domicile rule makes all local government jobs available to non-natives, including those in police and administration, which means they will now be able to serve in such positions as station house officers and senior superintendents of police, etc.
  • As a result, the immediate implication of this change will most likely be reflected by the administrative set-up, which has so far been dominated by J&K natives.

Criticism

  • The regional parties rejected the J&K Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, and the J&K Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020, saying it was aimed at changing the demography of the erstwhile State of J&K.
  • Describing it “unacceptable” and fraught “with widening the gap and inducing alienation”, they stated that his order was aimed at disempowering the people of J&K and effecting a demographic change.

Dilution Of Labour Laws


  • As the economy struggles with the lockdown and thousands of firms and workers stare at an uncertain future, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat made key changes in the application of labour laws.
  • Labour is a concurrent subject under the Constitution of India, states can frame their own laws but need the approval of the Central government.

Need

  • These changes are being brought about to incentivise economic activity in the respective states.
  • To provide employment to workers who have migrated back to the state and to protect the existing employment, some flexibility has to be given to business and industry.
  • To bring about transparency in the administrative procedures and convert the challenges of a distressed economy into opportunities.
  • To increase the revenue of states which have fallen due to closure of industrial units during Covid-19 lockdown.

Changes Made

MADHYA PRADESH

Hire & Fire

  • Establishments with up to 100 workers can hire according to needs.
  • No registration for contractors with 50 labourers.

 End of Inspector Raj

  • No factory inspection for 3 months
  • No inspection for firm with less than 50 workers
  • Third-party inspection allowed.

Easier Licenses and Registration

  • Registration and licenses to be issued in a day
  • Renewal of a factory license once in 10 years
  • startups need one time legislation; no renewal.

 Shift Hours

  • Raised to 12 hours from 8 hours in factory
  • Overtime of up to 72 hours permitted; flexibility in changing shifts
  • Shops and establishments can operate from 6 am till midnight

UTTAR PRADESH

Industry exempted from all labour laws barring the following:

  • Building and Other Construction Workers' Act, 1996
  • Workmen Compensation Act, 1923
  • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
  • A section of Payment of Wages Act to apply.

GUJARAT

New industrial establishments exempted from all labour laws barring the following:

  • Minimum Wages Act
  • Industrial Safety Rules
  • Employees' Compensation Act
  • Ordinance to roll out benefits that will be available for 1,200 days
  • 100% online approvals within 15 days.
  • 33,000 hectares set aside; land to be allocated in 7 days.

Impact

  • The relaxation of rigid and archaic labour laws by is expected to help restart economic activity, attract investments, and in the long create more jobs by ushering in labour market flexibility.
  • Will allow more factories to operate without following safety and health norms and give a free hand to new companies to “keep labourers in service as per their convenience”.
  • No labour inspection or govt intervention.
  • No role of unions, leading to the smooth function of the industries.
  • These new reforms will promote ease of doing business in the state and will promote competition among states for reforms.

Criticism

  • The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has opposed the slew of changes in the labour laws by these states.
  • It has, however, attacked the relaxations as retrograde and warned of erosion of rights of workers.
  • These changes to the labour laws are violation of the international labour law conventions and it will create a situation where there is no rule of law.
  • Safety will be compromised as the provisions of the Factories Act will no longer be there.
  • The new labour law changes are also seen as a bane for the workers desperately looking for a job to end their financial nightmare.
  • Instead of providing protections to the most marginalised and vulnerable, as exposed by the covid crisis, and thus an opportunity to rectify the fractured economic system, these moves will further exacerbate the crisis for those who are worst affected by it.

Way Forward

  • Theoretically, it is possible to generate more employment in a market with fewer labour regulations.
  • However, as the experience of states that have relaxed labour laws in the past suggests, dismantling worker protection laws have failed to attract investments and increase employment, while not causing any increase in worker exploitation or deterioration of working conditions.
  • There is already too much unused capacity. Firms are shaving off salaries up to 40% and making job cuts. The overall demand has fallen.
  • According to the experts, instead of creating exploitative conditions for the workers, the government should have —partnered with the industry and allocated 3% or 5% of the GDP towards sharing the wage burden and ensuring the health of the labourers.

Indian Labour Laws

  • Estimates vary but there are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws. And yet there is no set definition of “labour laws” in the country.
  • Broadly speaking, they can be divided into four categories, shown in the image below.
  • The main objectives of the Factories Act, for instance, are to ensure safety measures on factory premises, and promote health and welfare of workers.
  • The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, on the other hand, aims to regulate hours of work, payment, overtime, weekly day off with pay, other holidays with pay, annual leave, employment of children and young persons, and employment of women.
  • The Minimum Wages Act covers more workers than any other labour legislation.
  • The most contentious labour law, however, is the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as it relates to terms of service such as layoff, retrenchment, and closure of industrial enterprises and strikes and lockouts.

Source: Indian Express

Criticism of Labour Laws

  • Indian labour laws are often characterised as “inflexible”. In other words, it has been argued that thanks to the onerous legal requirements, firms (those employing more than 100 workers) dither from hiring new workers because firing them requires government approvals.
  • Even the organised sector is increasingly employing workers without formal contracts. This, in turn, has constrained the growth of firms on the one hand and provided a raw deal to workers on the other.
  • Further, there are too many laws, often unnecessarily complicated, and not effectively implemented. This has laid the foundation for corruption and rent-seeking.

 

Lockdown Withdrawal In 3 Phases


  • An expert committee, under chairmanship of former chief secretary K Abraham, appointed by Kerala government to review Covid-19 nationwide lockdown has suggested a phased relaxation of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 for areas outside the seven hotspot districts in the state from April 15, 2020.
  • The committee has also come up with health-related and non-health-related objectives for the withdrawal strategy and steps for management of hotspots and vulnerable population.

Strategy Adopted

  • According to the committee, the phased withdrawal is sustainable only if there is a steady recovery and decline in the number of cases leading to initial flattening of the infection curve and then gradual tapering of the curve to zero infection cases.

Lockdown relaxation to be provided in 3 phases-

Phase I

  • For qualifying for Phase 1 relaxation, there has to be not more than one new case in the district for the entire week prior to the date of review on April 14, 2020.
  • No increase more than 10% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district
  • No hotspots of COVID-19 anywhere in the district as identified by the Health Department are the other criteria fixed.

Restrictions & Relaxations

  • No outdoor travelling without face masks, occupancy of government vehicles should be restricted to two persons per vehicle excluding the driver, vehicles carrying frontline care workers or other public servants should not exceed the seating capacity of the vehicle.
  • Only one person per house will be allowed to go out at a time for a specific purpose and for not more than 3 hours at a time.
  • Any person above age of 65 years with history of co-morbidity or undergoing any treatment for cancer or major ailments will not be permitted to go out.

Phase II

  • A district will qualify for Phase II relaxation at the time of second review only if there is no more than one new case for the entire fortnight prior to the date of review.
  • Not more than a 5% increase in the number of persons under home surveillance from the date of the previous review and no infection hotspots are the additional criteria.

Restrictions & Relaxations

  • Autos and Taxis may be allowed but restricted to one and three passengers, respectively.
  • Travelling by bus for short distance within a city or town may be permitted but with one person per seat.
  • Activities under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) to be allowed with protocols like use of masks and sanitisers.
  • All Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) shall be allowed to reopen.

Source: The Hindu

Phase III

  • A district will qualify for Phase III relaxation only if there is no new case of infection in that district for the fortnight prior to the date of review.
  • In addition, a decrease of more than 5% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district from the date of the previous review and no hotspots anywhere in the district are needed.

Restrictions & Relaxations

  • Inter-district bus transport may be allowed with two-third capacity with maintaining social distancing protocols.
  • Domestic flights for doctors, health workers, patients etc.
  • International trips and travelling from other parts of India should not be allowed till full relaxation of the lockdown.
  • For educational sector, universities, schools and colleges shall be instructed to open for examination holding purpose.
  • Religious congregations in and outside worship places, weddings, political meetings or conferences or cultural gatherings shall continue to be prohibited during this phase.

 

Salary Cut And Suspension Of MPLADS


  • As a part of Government’s continued efforts to contain spread of COVID 19, the Union Cabinet on 6th April, 2020, decided to cut in the salaries of all Members of Parliament and not to operate Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years (2020-21 and 2021-22).
  • These funds will be used to strengthen Government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID19 in the country

Key Points

  • The Cabinet approved an ordinance to amend the Salaries, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954.
  • It will cut the salaries of Members of Parliament (MPs) by 30%, effective from 1st April 2020.
  • The consolidated amount of MPLAD Funds for 2 years – Rs 7,900 crores – will go to Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The amendment will only cut MPs’ salaries, not allowances or the pensions of ex-MPs.

About MPLAD Scheme

  • Launched during the Narasimha Rao Government in 1993, the objective is to enable the Members of Parliament (MP) to suggest and get executed developmental works of capital nature based on locally felt needs with emphasis on creation of durable assets.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development initially administered the scheme. Since October 1994, it has been transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

Funds Allotted

  • The MPs were entitled to recommend works to the tune of Rs. 1 crore annually between 1994-95 and 1997-98, after which the annual entitlement was enhanced to Rs. 2 crore.
  • The UPA government in 2011-12 raised the annual entitlement to Rs 5 crore per MP.

Salient Features

  • In the case of Lok Sabha, the scheme is implemented in the districts falling within the constituency of the concerned
  • In the case of Rajya Sabha, the MP can suggest works in one or more districts within the State from which he is elected.
  • As far as the nominated MPs are concerned, they can suggest works anywhere in India.
  • It recommend MPs to suggest works costing at least 15 percent of their MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by ST population.
  • In case there is insufficient tribal population in the area of Lok Sabha Member, they may recommend this amount for the creation of community assets in tribal areas outside of their constituency but within their State of election.
  • The scheme can be converged in individual/stand-alone projects of other Central and State Government schemes provided such works of Central/State Governments Schemes are eligible under MPLADS.

Types of Recommended Work

  • Key Priority Sectors: Drinking water facility, education, electricity facility, non-conventional energy resources, healthcare and sanitation, irrigation facilities, railways, roads, pathways and bridges, sports, agriculture and allied activities, self-help group development, urban development.
  • Works Prohibited: construction of office and residential buildings for public and private agencies, land acquisition or paying compensation, naming assets after individuals, grants or loans to state/central relief fund, assets for individual benefits, works on lands belonging to religious groups, execution of works in unauthorized colonies.

Implementation

  • To implement their plans in an area, MPs have to recommend them to the District Authority of the respective Nodal District.
  • The District Authorities then identify Implementing Agencies which execute the projects.
  • The respective District Authority is supposed to oversee implementation, and has to submit monthly reports, audit reports, and work completion reports to the Nodal District Authority.
  • All recommended eligible works should be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, after completing all formalities.
  • The District Authority shall, however, inform MPs regarding rejection, if any, within 45 days from the date of receipt of recommendations, with reasons thereof.

Issues with MPLADS

Corruption Issue

  • There have been cases of widespread corruption and misappropriation of funds. In a lot of cases, private contractors (which are not permitted) are engaged to implement the works.
  • Also, there have been instances where expenditure has been incurred on works which are prohibited under the scheme.

Transparency and Accountability Issue

  • Lack of transparency and accountability in the execution of this scheme has come in for adverse comment from a variety of institutions, including the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor-General General of India.
  • There are large amounts of unspent balances rising over the years, low utilisation of funds and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector.
  • However, despite the severe indictment of this scheme from various quarters, there has been no visible effort by Parliament to stop the misuse of funds and to remove the anomalies.

Implementation Issue

  • There are weaknesses in the process of sanction. The District Authorities tend to execute works without receiving any recommendations from MPs concerned or on the recommendation of the representatives of the MPs rather than the MPs themselves.
  • Further, there are lapses on the monitoring and supervision front, with the District Authorities failing to inspect the required number of sanctioned works as well as in sending regular monitoring reports.

Sustainability Issue

  • There have been charges that the scheme goes against the spirit of the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, with MPs enjoying the privilege of an uninterrupted yearly flow of funds to do the work which local bodies are better placed to deliver.
  • The constitutionality of the scheme has also been questioned, with the argument that the scheme erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.
  • In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the ground that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.

Suggestive Measures for Effective Implementation

  • There needs to be a greater focus on regular monitoring by the District Authorities.
  • Implementing agencies could involve the local community in the voluntary supervision of works.
  • Since maintenance of public assets is where the system breaks down, arrangements can be made for the maintenance of assets or maintenance can be outsourced.
  • In order to better assess the needs of the constituents, surveys can be conducted across the constituency. For this purpose, NGOs and local community can be involved.
  • For the scheme to be more effective, an impact assessment study should be undertaken at the constituency level, on a yearly basis, to assess the benefits of the works implemented to the community at large.
  • To tackle the issue of large unspent balances which have accumulated and are rising over the years, fund can be made lapsable. This way funds lying unused can be put to other uses.
  • Thrust areas could be also modified so as to reflect the needs of the constituency, rather than taking a generic view.

National Security Act


  • Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government invoked the National Security Act (NSA), 1980, against four persons accused of instigating residents of a locality to pelt stones and chase away health workers.
  • Similarly, an order was passed by the Uttar Pradesh government to detain under any person under the NSA, who are found guilty of attacking police and other officials.

About National Security Act (NSA), 1980

  • The NSA is an act that empowers the government to detain a person if the authorities are satisfied that he/she is a threat to national security or to prevent him/her from disrupting public order.
  • The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.

History

  • The first preventive detention rule was passed by government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when it enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.
  • The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
  • After the Preventive Detention Act expired on December 31, 1969, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government.
  • Finally, NSA was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 22 (3) (b): It allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
  • Article 22(4): It states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless: An Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
  • The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 reduced the period of detention without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board from three to two months.
  • However, this provision has not yet been brought into force, hence, the original period of three months still continues.

Grounds for Preventive Detention of a Person

  • Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
  • Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
  • Preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.

Key Provisions

Time Period for Detention

  • Under the Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
  • A person detained under the Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.

Appeal

  • The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

Criticism of the Act

Denial of Basic Rights

  • In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights.
  • Additionally, Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
  • But none of these rights are available to a person detained under the NSA.
  • A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
  • Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
  • The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

No Recorded Figure

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered.
  • Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.

Way Forward

  • According to the experts, the governments sometimes use NSA as an extra-judicial power.
  • India’s parliament and judiciary must revisit the NSA to close any loopholes that permit law enforcement to abuse constitutional and statutory rights.

Invest India Business Immunity Platform


  • 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).

About BIP

  • 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.

Lockdown And Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897


  • 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.

First Section

  • 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.

Second Section

  • 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.

Third Section

  • 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).

Fourth Section

  • This section deals with legal protection to implementing officers acting under the Act.

Section 188 of IPC

  • It states that any person who disobeys an order given by a public servant will be punished with imprisonment upto 1 month.
  • Thus, the Epidemic Diseases Act combined with Section 188 of IPC can result in 6 months imprisonment.
  • Besides, the IPC itself has enough standalone provisions to punish those who indulge in negligent acts which are likely to spread infectious diseases or those who break quarantine.
  • To be punishable under Section 188, the order has to be for public purposes by public functionaries. An order made in a civil suit between two parties does not fall under this Section.

Under Section 188, there two offences:

  1. Disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, If such disobedience causes obstruction, annoyance or injury to persons lawfully employed. Punishment: Simple Imprisonment for 1 month or fine of Rs 200 or both.
  2. If such disobedience causes danger to human life, health or safety, etc.Punishment: Simple Imprisonment for 6 months or fine of Rs 1000 or both.

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.

Way Forward

  • 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.

Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020


  • On 5th February, 2020, the Finance Minister introduced The Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas (from dispute to trust) Bill, 2020, in order to provide for a mechanism to settle disputed tax cases across the country.
  • However, on suggestions received during the post-budget industry consultation, the Union Cabinet decided to introduce amendments with a view to increase its scope to cover litigations pending in various debt recovery tribunals (DRTs). With the amendments made, the scheme now includes coverage of search and seizure cases where the recovery is up to Rs 5 crore.
  • It is to be noted that, Sabka Vishwas Scheme was brought in to reduce litigation in indirect taxes in 2019, which resulted in settling over 1,89,000 cases.

Aim

  • Resolving direct tax related disputes in a speedy manner.

Need

  • 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.

Salient Features

Wide Coverage

  • 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.

Resolution Mechanism

  • 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

  • Introduced in 2019, the scheme aims to resolve all disputes relating to the erstwhile Service Tax and Central Excise Acts, as well as 26 other Indirect Tax enactments (now subsumed under Goods and Services Tax). Hence, the term ‘legacy’.

Components

  • Dispute Resolution Component: It is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums.
  • Amnesty Component: It offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law.

Benefits

  • Taxpayers can pay the outstanding tax amounts due and be free from any other consequences under the Law.
  • Taxpayers will get substantial relief in the form of full waivers of interest, penalties and fines.
  • There will be complete amnesty from prosecution proceedings.

Impact

  • Revenue Generation: The scheme will reduce the litigation expenditure for the government and at the same time, may help in generating revenue.

Criticism

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.

Way Forward

  • With the new scheme, the government hopes to recover a big chunk of money involved in direct tax litigation in a swift and simple way, while offering the taxpayers the relief of not having to fight the case endlessly. For a government that is staring at a big shortfall in revenues, especially tax revenues, the scheme makes a lot of sense.

Medical Devices Notified As Drug


  • On 11th February, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified changes in the Medical Devices Rules, 2017, bringing a range of products from instruments to implants to even software intended for medical use in human beings or animals under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940.
  • The ministry, through a gazette notification, also released the Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020, for mandatory registration of medical devices.
  • The changes made will be effective from 1st April, 2020.

Aim

  • To ensure all medical devices in the Indian market follow safety and quality standards.

Background

  • 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.

Key Changes

Wider Coverage

  • 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)

  • CDSCO under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, is the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India.
  • CDSCO along with state regulators, is jointly responsible for grant of licenses of certain specialized categories of critical Drugs such as blood and blood products, I. V. Fluids, Vaccine and Sera.
  • Functions: Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, CDSCO is responsible for approval of New Drugs, Conduct of Clinical Trials, laying down the standards for Drugs, control over the quality of imported Drugs in the country and coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations.

Risk-Based Classifications for Medical Devices

  • CDSCO  has classified the medical devices according to the risks associated
    • Class A (Low Risk) - Absorbent cotton wools, surgical dressing, alcohol swabs
    • Class B(Low Moderate Risk) - Thermometer, BP monitoring device, disinfectants
    • Class C(Moderate High-Risk) -  Implants, hemodialysis catheter
    • Class D(High Risk) -  Angiographic guide wire, heart valve

Expected Impact

  • 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.

Criticism

  • 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.

Way Forward

  • 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.

 

Purified Terephthalic Acid


  • In the Budget 2020, the government announced abolition of anti-dumping duty on the import of Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) from seven countries, providing a huge relief to polyester industry.
  • It is to be noted that Mono Ethylene Glycol (MEG), another raw material used in the manufacturing of polyester, is currently the subject of another anti-dumping duty investigation initiated by Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) recently.

Objective

  • To make domestic market more competitive

Need for Abolition

  • PTA is a critical input for textile fibres and yarns, and its easy availability at competitive prices is desirable to unlock immense potential in the textile sector, which is a significant employment generator in the country.
  • PTA attracts anti-dumping duty ranging between $27 and $160 per tonne, depending upon the country of origin and the country often faces shortage of PTA that curtail the capacity utilization of the polyester segment industry.

Reasons for Imposing Anti-Duty

  • The anti-dumping duty on PTA was imposed after two domestic manufacturers, MCC PTA India Corp Pvt Ltd and Reliance Industries Ltd, approached the DGTR in October 2013.
  • The companies, which submitted that they accounted for over 50% of the domestic PTA industry, had argued that some countries had been exporting the product to India at prices lower than its value in their own domestic markets.
  • In its final findings, the DGTR,found that Purified Terephthalic Acid has been exported to India from China, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan below its normal value which has resulted in dumping.
  • Following an investigation, DGAD imposed anti-dumping duties on PTA imported from South Korea and Thailand in 2014 and 2015, and from China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Iran and Malaysia in 2015 and 2016.

Dumping

  • Dumping is a process where a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges in its own home market.
  • This is an unfair trade practice which can have a distortive effect on international trade. 

Parameters to Access Dumping

  • There are two fundamental parameters used for determination of dumping- the normal value and the export price.
  • Both these elements have to be compared at the same level of trade, generally at ex-factory level, for assessment of dumping.

Anti-Dumping Duty

  • An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value.
  • Thus, the purpose of anti-dumping duty is to rectify the trade distortive effect of dumping and re-establish fair trade.
  • The first Indian Anti-dumping legislation came into existence in 1985 when the Customs Tariff (Identification, Assessment and Collection of duty or Additional duty on Dumped Articles and for Determination of Injury) Rules, 1985 were notified.
  • Anti-dumping and anti-subsidies & countervailing measures in India are administered by the Directorate General of Anti-dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) functioning in the Dept. of Commerce in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • While DGAD recommends the duty, the Finance Ministry imposes it.

Controversy over Imposition of Anti-Duty

  • Against Government’s Vision: Companies using PTA to manufacture polyester products claimed that the move went against the government’s vision of making the textiles sector a globally competitive industry.
  • Cost Ineffective: The companies had alleged that the product’s cost had become more expensive domestically, which made their own products pricier and less attractive for their domestic and international buyers. This had led to a drop in exports of some of these products during 2014-16, and an increase in imports of the products they had been producing, as there was no safeguard against imports of cheaper versions of these downstream polyester-based products.
  • Unable to Cater Domestic Demand: The domestic industry had argued that domestic PTA producers had not only been unable to ramp up capacity to cater to demand for the product, shutdowns of their manufacturing facilities once a year for maintenance purposes had also led to shortages of the raw material. PTA users claim that they had not been manufacturing as much polyester as they were capable of, operating at 70% of their capacity at any given time.

Impact

Enhance Global Competitiveness

  • The removal of the anti-dumpting duty would greatly help the country to enhance the global competitiveness, boost exports and also enable the domestic manufacturers to compete with the cheaper imports.

Boost to Domestic Users

  • It will help attract imports from China and South-East Asia and might create competition in the market. This would be a boost for PTA users and the entire man-made fibre textiles and clothing segment.
  • It could open up the manmade fibre value chain, benefiting technical textiles, home furnishing, the sportswear industry, sarees and dress materials.

Setting Standard Price

  • Abolition of anti-dumping duty will bring polyester price in India on a par with international price, which is considered the future engine of growth for the Indian textile industry.

Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)

  • PTA is a very important raw material as is it a precursor to mostly vastly used plastics polyethylene terephthalate (PET), poly butyl terephthalate (PBT), polyester fibers and is produced by oxidizing paraxylene.
  • It is a crucial raw material used to make various products, including polyester staple fibre and spun yarn. Some sportswear, swimsuits, dresses, trousers, curtains, sofa covers, jackets, car seat covers and bed sheets have a certain proportion of polyester in them.

Properties

  • Excellent weathering
  • Resistance towards chemicals & stains
  • Hard & Flexible
  • Good glass transition temperature range
  • Efficient powder flow & fluidizing characteristics

Centre Opens Up Coal Sector


  • 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.

Objective

  • To attract investments and boost domestic coal production.

Need

  • 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.

Key Points

  • 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.

Impact

  • 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.

Criticism

  • 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

Governance Issues

  • 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

Environmental Issues

  • 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.

Social Issues

  • 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.

Scientific Social Responsibility


  • 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)

  • The 107th ISC took place at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, from 3rd to 7th January, 2020, under the theme- Science and Technology: Rural Development.
  • ISC is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) every year in the first week of January.
  • ISCA owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. Mac Mahon.
  • The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with Justice Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President.

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).

Objectives

  • 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.

Salient Features

  • 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.

Implementation Strategy

  • 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

  • Expanding the domain of science and its benefits to the community. Encouraging students into science through handholding and nurturing their interest.
  • Providing training for skill development and upgrading scientific knowledge.
  • Helping Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs),Startups and informal sector enterprises in increasing their overall productivity.
  • Creating an opportunity for cooperation and sharing of S&T resources in laboratories with other researchers in universities and colleges.
  • Empowering women, disadvantaged and weaker sections society through scientific intervention.
  • Identification of best practices and success models on SSR for replication with multiplier effect in the country.

Significance

  • 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.

 

FAME Scheme-II


  • 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.

Objective

  • 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.

Salient Features

  • 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)

  • Launched in 2013, NEMMP- 2020 is a National Mission document providing the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of EVs and their manufacturing in the country.
  • This plan has been designed to enhance national fuel security, to provide affordable and environmentally friendly transportation and to enable the Indian automotive industry to achieve global manufacturing leadership.
  • Under the NEMMP, there is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles by the year 2020.

Impact

  • 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

  • India's oil import dependence has risen from 82.9 percent in 2017-18 to 83.7 percent in 2018-19.
  • The country's oil consumption grew from 184.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 194.6 million tonnes in the following year and 206.2 million tonnes in the year there after. In 2018-19, demand grew by 2.6 per cent to 211.6 million tonnes.

Rising Pollution Levels – An Environmental Challenge

  • India ranks as the third largest carbon emitting country in the world accounting for 6% of the global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion.
  • According to the WHO Global Air Pollution Database, 14 out of the 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India.

Rising Population – A Sustainable Mobility Challenge

  • India’s current population of 1.2 billion is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2030. Out of the 1.5 billion people, 40% of the population is expected to live in urban areas compared to 34% of 2018 population projection.
  • The additional 6% population growth is likely to further add strain on the struggling urban infrastructure in the country, including a rise in demand for sustainable mobility solutions.

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 Code On Social Security - 2019


  • 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.

Aim

  • 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.

Need

  • 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.

Key Features

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.

Maternity Benefits

  • 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.

Impact

  • 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.

Criticism

  • 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.

Way Forward

  • 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.

Dadra And Nagar Haveli And Daman And Diu (Merger Of Union Territories) Act, 2019


  • 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.

Aim

  • To provide better delivery of services to the citizens of both the UTs by improving efficiency and reducing paper work

Key Proposals

  • 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

  • It is the motto of the central government to achieve a citizen-friendly and accountable administration.
  • It aims to bring Government closer to citizens so that they become active participants in the governance process and reduce their time and efforts.
  • The idea of minimum government, maximum governance implies that smaller bureaucracy with more skilled people will be more efficient at delivering public services than a larger one.
  • A citizen friendly and accountable administration is the focus of the government.  A series of steps to achieve this goal have been initiated.  These include simplification of procedures, identification and repeal of obsolete/archaic laws/rules, identification and shortening of various forms, leveraging technology to bring in transparency in public interface and a robust public grievance redress system.
  • Simplification of procedures and processes in the Government in order to make the entire system transparent and faster is an important step for Good Governance.

Outcomes

  • 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

Capital: Silvassa

  • 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

Capital: Daman

  • 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.

Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill - 2019


  • 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 354EHarassment 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.

Source: ToI

How Disha Bill is different from present Legislations?

  • The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.
  • Currently, provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
  • The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period).
  • In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from a minimum of three years to maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
  • No provision exists in the Indian Penal Code for the punishment for harassment of women through social media.
  • At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months.

Significance

  • 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.

Insufficient Workforce

  • 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

Way Forward

  • 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.

The Recycling Of Ships Act, 2019


  • 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.

Objective

  • 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.

Salient Features

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.

Impact

  • 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

  • Also known as the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), it was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference held in Hong Kong, in May 2009.
  • It was developed with input from International Maritime Organistaion(IMO) Member States and non-governmental organizations, and in co-operation with the International Labour Organization and the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • The Convention is yet come into force because it has not been ratified by 15 nations, representing 40 percent of the world merchant shipping by gross tonnage (capacity) and a maximum annual ship recycling volume of not less than 3 per cent of the combined tonnage of the countries.
  • As of now, Norway, Congo, France, Belgium, Panama, Denmark, Turkey, Netherland, Serbia, Japan, Estonia, Malta, Germany and India have acceded to the Convention.

Aim

  • To improve the health and safety of current ship breaking practices
  • To ensure safety of  human health and the environment

Significance

  • Once entered into force, it will help address the  concerns about working and environmental conditions in many of the world's ship recycling locations.
  • It will help in addressing the major issues related to   hazardous substances such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, ozone depleting substances and others, which pose a grave threat to the environment.

Benefits to India

  • Boost to Ship Recycle Industry: Accession to HKC will provide boost to recycling sector as more ships will be allowed to come in from countries like Japan, Korea, to be recycled. At present, a lot of countries raise environment and safety issues related to the ship-wrecking industry in India.
  • Investment Opportunities: Being a world player in ship recycling, the move will allow global funds to come and invest in ship-recycling centres in India.
  • Green Recycling of Ships: It will help India to bring in global best practices followed in recycling industries, ensuring that the ships are dismantled in an environment-friendly and responsible manner.

Issues in Ship Recycling Industry in India

Safety Issues

  • 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.

Environmental Issues

Water Pollution

  • 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.

Soil Pollution

  • 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.

Air Pollution

  • 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.

Way Forward

  • 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.

The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019


  • 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.

Objectives

  • 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.

Foreman's Commission

  • 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)

Applicability

  • 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.

Impact

  • 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 Funds

  • 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:

  1. Funds run by state governments;
  2. Private registered chit funds; and
  3. Unregistered chit funds.

Source: ET

Difference between Chit Funds and Ponzi Schemes

  • Chit Funds or Chitty is a kind of a savings deposits which is done by a group of people. The concept is very similar to Kitty Parties which are organised by women to save some money for a particular community project. These chit funds can be managed by registered companies or it can also be organised by a group of people like family and friends. All the Chit Fund activities are regulated by the Chit Fund Act, 1982.
  • Ponzi schemes are a kind of pyramid scheme which operate on the “rob Peter to pay Paul” principle. It is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors.
  • Ponzi Schemes are basically structured in such a way that the money channeled from the investors go around and around in circles. This basically means that, the money collected from the investors is used to pay off the old investors.
  • These schemes basically function till the amount of money coming in from new investments is more than the money going out to pay the old investors. As long as this works the Ponzi scheme can function and the day the chain is reversed is the day it goes bust. For ex Saradha Scam of West Bengal was a Ponzi Scam, not Chit Fund Scam as popularized by media.

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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

Way Forward

  • 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.

 

The Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2019


  • Recently, the Standing Committee on Labour has invited suggestions on the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code, 2019.

Aim

  • To consolidate and amend the laws regulating the occupational safety, health and working conditions of the persons employed in establishments across the country.

Background

  • The OSH Code, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in July, 2019, pursuant to the Report of the Second National Commission on Labour on the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions of the Workers.
  • It is one of the four codes that are part of the Centre’s labour reforms agenda.
  • The four labour codes - on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security and Occupational Safety, and Health and Working Condition, intend to provide workers with wage security, social security, safety, health and grievance redress mechanisms.
  • The Code has been drafted after amalgamation, simplification and rationalisation of the relevant provisions of the 13 Central Labour Acts. After the enactment of the Code, all these Acts being subsumed in the Code will be repealed:
    • The Factories Act, 1948
    • The Mines Act, 1952
    • The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
    • The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
    • The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
    • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
    • The Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
    • The Working Journalist and other News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provision) Act, 1955
    • The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958
    • The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
    • Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976
    • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966
    • The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981.

Salient Features

Enhanced Coverage

  • It would be applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more workers, where any industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on, including, IT establishments or establishments of service sector.
  • Threshold of applicability has been made uniform at 10 workers for all establishments except mines and dock where the Code would be applicable even with 1 worker.
  • Definition of Working Journalists and Cine worker have also been modified to include workers employed in electronic media and all forms of audio visual production.

National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board(NOSHAB)

  • It mandates for establishment NOSHAB which will be of tripartite nature, having the representation from trade unions, employer associations, and State governments. This will result in reduction in multiplicity of bodies/committees in various Acts and simplified and coordinated policy-making.

Single Registration Mechanism

  • It proposes one registration for an establishment instead of multiple registrations. This will create a centralized data base and promote ease of doing business. At present, separate registration is required to be obtained under 6 Acts.

Duties of Employers

These includes-

  • Providing ahazard free workplace
  • Providing free annual health examinations to employees.

Rights and duties of Employees

This includes-

  • Taking care of their own health and safety
  • Complying with the specified safety and health standards
  • Reporting unsafe situations to the inspector.
  • Every employee will have the right to obtain from the employer information related to safety and health standards.

Special Provisions for Factories

  • Government can declare any place wherein manufacturing process is being carried out as a factory, and for any persons working at such premises to be classified as workers.
  • As opposed to the earlier threshold of 30 women workers prescribed under the Factories Act, a creche facility is now required to be provided by all Establishments (including factories) where more than 50 workers are ordinarily employed.

Special Provisions for Women Employees

  • Women permitted to work beyond 7 PM and before 6 AM subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments, only after taking their consent for night work.

Special Provisions for Contract Labour

  • It introduced the concept of work specific license for contractors, if they do not meet the criteria to be prescribed by the Government for grant of license for supply of contract labour or for execution of work through contract labour.

Offences and Penalties

  • An offence that leads to the death of an employee will be punishable with imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine up to five lakh rupees, or both.
  • For any other violation where the penalty is not specified, the employer will be penalised with a fine between two and three lakh rupees.
  • If an employee violates provisions of the Code, he will be subject to a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

Impact

  • Providing Broad Legislative Framework: The Code provides basic broad legislative framework with enabling provisions for framing rules, regulations, standards, and bye-laws as per the requirements of different sectors. This would result in simple legislation with flexibility in changing the provisions in tune with emerging technologies and makes the legislation dynamic.
  • Ensuring Safety of Workforce: It promotes health, safety, welfare and better working conditions of workforce by enhancing the ambit of a dynamic legislation as compared to the existing sectoral approach limited to few sectors.
  • Resource Efficiency: It rationalises the compliance mechanism with one license, one registration and one return for the establishments under the ambit of the Code thereby saving resources and efforts of the employers. Thus it balances the requirements of worker and employer and is beneficial to both the constituents of the world of work.
  • Consolidation of Activities: It allows consolidation of activities commonly carried out prior to and during the operation of factories, such as building, construction or expansion of factories, etc., which is expected to help manufacturing companies as they can obtain a common registration and comply with the safety and welfare requirements of the Code, as opposed to duplicity of provisions under the Current Laws.

Criticism of OSH Code

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)

  • The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has condemned the Code, denouncing it as as a "cut-and-paste job" with no universal application.
  • According to BMS, the safety provisions have been diluted and many of the burning issues with the Contract labour Act, Factories Act, journalists' law, transport workers law etc. have not been addressed.
  • Another objection is towards the absence of equal-wage-for-equal-work, as mandated by the Supreme Court and a universal principle for equity in the labour market that the trade unions have been demanding for long, in so far as contract labour is concerned.
  • Clause 22 of the Code provides discretionary power to the government to set up Safety Committee, while this is a statutory requirement for every hazardous unit under the Factories Act of 1948.
  • Clause 83 gives state government power to "prescribe" maximum permissible limits of workers' exposure to chemical and toxic substances, while the 'second schedule' of the Factories Act of 1948 specifies this.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

  • According to CII, extending the provisions of the OSH Code to smaller enterprises will increase their costs and hurt margins, impacting the sector badly. It would also adversely affect expansion, which is seen to have a strong relationship to creation of new jobs.
  • As per the Factories Act, establishments must appoint welfare officers if they employ manpower of more than 500 persons. The Code cuts this to 250 employees, which would impose a high cost burden on MSMEs, now coming in this ambit.

Way Forward

  • Safety, Health, welfare and improved working conditions are pre-requisite for well-being of the worker and also for economic growth of the country as healthy workforce of the country would be more productive and occurrence of less accidents and unforeseen incidents would be economically beneficial to the employers also.
  • Codification is necessary to rationalise proximate labour laws, but this should not lead to bundling together of diverse and unique laws concerning disparately positioned categories of workers, which are yet to mature into meaningful pieces of legislation (for example, the law on building and construction workers) in their own right and hence need respective suitable amendments.
  • In view of widespread criticism against the Code, the government should address the concerns raised by various organisations and must ensure that the Code provides safer and healthier conditions of work to worker, instead exposingthem to greater risks.

Steel Scrap Recycling Policy


  • The Ministry of Steel on 8th November, 2019, came out with a Steel Scrap Recycling Policy in a bid to ensure quality scrap for the steel industry in India.

Aim

  • To reduce imports, conserve resources and save energy.
  • To help all stakeholders engaged in collection, dismantling, processing, and transportation in order to ensure the sustainable development of scrap-based steel industry.

Need for Policy

  • Non-Availability of Scrap: The availability of scrap is a major issue in India and in 2017 the deficit was to the tune of 7 million tons due to which the government had to import scrap worth Rs. 24,500 crores in 2017-18.
  • De-incentivising pre-2005 Vehicles: As per estimates, there are about 2 crore pre-2005 built vehicles that are plying on Indian roads and there is needs to be de-incentivise such vehicles in view of about 10 to 25 times higher pollution emission by them under the new emission norms. Even if those old vehicles are maintained properly, they will be polluting more with more emissions and will prove to be a hazard for road safety.
  • To Channelise Scrap Industry: With the increase in consumption of steel in the recent past and End of Life Vehicles (ELVs), the generation of scrap is likely to be increased considerably. This scrap has to be channelized so that the same can be utilized for steel production in an environmental friendly manner.

Key Points

To Promote Circular Economy

  • The policy envisions promoting circular economy in the steel sector. The high grade steel scrap shall be recycled to produce high grade steel again, to be used in the industries such as equipment manufacturing, automobiles and other downstream industries.
Read: Circular Economy

Hub and Spoke Working Model

  • A hub and the spoke model is promulgated in order to address the issue of collecting such end of life products for increasing scrap generation.

Structuring Formal and Informal Recycling Sector

  • Promotion of a formal and scientific collection, dismantling and processing activities for end of life products as well as structuring the informal recycling sector based on environmental and scientific fronts is mandated in the policy.

Extended Producer Responsibility(EPR)

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the Department of Heavy Industries are working towards ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ by requiring the vehicle manufacturers to incentivise scrapping of unfit vehicles in exchange for price discounts for purchase of new vehicles.

Creating Effective Treatment Mechanism

  • It aims to decongest the Indian cities from reuse of ferrous scrap, besides creation of a mechanism for treating waste streams and residues produced from dismantling and shredding facilities in compliance to Hazardous & Other Wastes (Management &Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016 is proposed in the policy.

Evolving a Responsive Ecosystem

  • Development of an organized scrapping / shredding industry through a self- regulatory ecosystem based on a system of shared responsibility (SR) to beevolved, for collection, dismantling and disposal of ELVs, White Goods and otherscraps, involving all the key stakeholders such as aggregators, scrappingcenters, manufacturers (OEMs), owners and Government.

Impact of the Policy

Positive Impacts

Economic

  • The policy will help make India a producer of high quality ferrous scrap for quality steel production thus minimising the dependency on imports.The gap between demand and supply can be reduced in the future and the country may be self-sufficient by 2030.
  • It will help India emerging as a hub for automobile manufacturing as key raw material available from scrapping like steel,aluminium and plastic are bound to be recycled, bringing down automobile prices by 20-30 percent.
  • The use of every ton of scrap shall save 1.1 ton of iron ore, 630 kg of coking coal and 55 kg of limestone. There shall be considerable saving in specific energy consumption by 16-17%.
  • Operating on the 4+1 hub and spoke model, where 4 collection and dismantling centres were to cater to the 1 scrapprocessing centre then 400 jobs would be created by one such composite unit. And for 70 units producing a total of 7 MT of scrap the potential for employment generation would be of 2800 persons. If the country was to produce 70 MT, as if expected as per NSP 2017, the employment generation could be in the range of 3 lakh jobs.
  • The setting up of scrapping centres near highways, industrial corridors, railway sidingsand in the close proximity to Sagarmala project shall help in development ofmultimodal logistics parks.

Environment

  • The policy will contribute in adopting the principle of 6 Rs i.e. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Remanufacture to avoid any adverse impact on the environment.
  • The saving in energy will help reduce the water consumption and Green House Gas (GHG) emission by 40% and 58% respectively.
  • It can contribute to promotion of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by developing recycling zones.

Negative Impacts

  • However, the policy comes at a time when countries worldwide are seeking an outlet for waste metals after China's tightening of mixed metal imports. It could result in a surge of mixed metal (unprocessed) scrap into India.
  • Employees in facilities that recycle metal scrap are exposed to a range of safety hazards associated with material handling methods, hazardsassociated with the metals themselves (as dust or fumes), and with thehazardous substances used to process or recover these metals, leading to several health related issues.

Challenges in Scrap Recycling

 Following challenges, which adversely impact the areas of scrap metal supply, industry growth, pollution, quality, safety, revenue and transparency in different steps of steel scrap recycling.

Generation

  • Lack of definite guidelines for scrap classification (in line withInstitute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) or equivalent classification)
  • No definite criteria of defining “End of Life of Equipment” or “ End of life Vehicle”
  • Rationalization of tax and duty structure
  • Quality of domestic scrap

Collection/Processing

  • Logistic issues as high transport cost may act as a deterrent for scrap movement within the country
  • Lack of regulations to handle contaminated waste and other hazardous items arising out of scrapping and shredding
  • E-Procurement of scrap and standardization of procurement policy for various government related departments / institutions
  • Lack of uniform standard and specifications for usage acrossindustries
  • Lack of storage guidelines for hazardous waste, non-ferrous and non-metallic waste
  • Lack of organized recycling zones

Usage

  • Lack of implementation of safety standards in melting process
  • Promotional schemes for firms for R &D on recycling process to develop better technologies/equipment

Disposal

  • Scrap residue sold to agent without verifying authorization certificate
  • Lack of authorized disposal sites (landfills) in all the major cities
  • Water and other waste generated during melting.

Way Forward

  • Steel is a material most conducive for circular economy as it can be used, reused and recycled infinitely.
  • In the National Steel Policy (NSP)-2017, the importance of scrap was realised. This Scrap Policy only promotes the role envisaged in the NSP-2017 to ensure scrap segregation (quality wise), collection, processing and recycling.
  • However, following China's toughened stand on waste material imports into the country since 2017, countries like Japan were finding alternative venues for its mixed metal scrap, which included places like Vietnam, Malaysia, and recently India.
  • After China, Japan was sending mixed metal scrap to Malaysia and Vietnam. But the governments there are making it difficult now too. In this changing scenario, India seems to be another preferable venue for dumping of mixed scarp metals.
  • Therefore, the government must ensure to set up a sound regulatory and management system in order to make India self-sufficient in scrap availability and make steel sector resource efficient, rather than turning India into a scrap dumping ground.

 

Tamil Nadu Electric Vehicle Policy 2019


  • Recently, the Tamil Nadu Government introduced its first-ever electric vehicle (EV) policy.
  • The Tamil Nadu Electric Vehicle Policy, 2019, provides for various concessions to manufacturers of e-vehicles.
  • Tamil Nadu, known as the Detroit of South India, accounts for 6.4% of the electric vehicles sold in the country as of July 31, 2019.

Aim

  • To promote electric mobility in the state
  • To build a comprehensive Electric Vehicle(EV) ecosystem

Objectives

  • To create a robust infrastructure for electric vehicles, including adequate power supply and network of charging points.
  • To create a pool of skilled workforce for the Electric Vehicle industry.
  • To recycle and reuse used batteries and dispose of the rejected batteries in an environment-friendly manner to avoid pollution.
  • To create a conducive environment for the EV industry and research institutions to focus on cutting-edge research in Electric Mobility technologies.
  • To promote E-Mobility and green mobility innovation for automotive and shared mobility by providing the ecosystem and infrastructure.

Key Features of the Policy

  • Host of Services: Various incubation services will be offered in the form of office space, common facilities and mentoring support in order to encourage start-ups in the EV sector.
  • Establishment of EV Parks: The government will set up exclusive EV parks in major auto-manufacturing hubs and also in areas that have the potential to attract EV investments. These EV parks will enable the creation of a vendor ecosystem that will serve original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
  • Creation of EV Venture Fund: An EV Venture Capital Fund will be created to offer financial support to EV start-ups to enable them to scale up their business.
  • Exemption from Electricity Tax:EV-related and charging infrastructure manufacturing units will be provided 100% exemption on electricity tax till December 2025.
  • Subsidy on Land Cost: It offers to provide investors a 50 percent subsidy on the land cost if the investment is made to obtain land from government agencies in southern districts, while in other districts it is just 15 percent, valid till 2022.
  • Higher Capital Subsidy Provision for EV Manufacturers:The government will provide a higher capital subsidy of 20% of the eligible investment over 20 years in cases where units are engaged in making EV batteries.

Impact

  • New Job Opportunities:It is expected to attract massive investment of Rs.50,000 crore in the state and will help to create 1.5 lakh new jobs.
  • Making Tamil Nadu EV Hub:It will help the Tamil Nadu state in emerging as a leader in the EV space.
  • Boost to Vision 2023: It will provide a major boost to the Tamil Nadu government Vision 2023 initiative which aims to develop various infrastructure projects in six major sectors viz. energy, transport, industrial and commercial infrastructure, urban infrastructure and services, agriculture and human development.

Central Government Initiative for EV

1. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020

  • Launched in 2013, NEMMP is a National Mission document providing the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing in the country.
  • Under the NEMMP 2020, there is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles by the year 2020.

Aim

  • To enhance national fuel security
  • To provide affordable and environmentally friendly transportation
  • To enable the Indian automotive industry to achieve global manufacturing leadership

Source: The Economic Times

2. Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) Scheme

  • As part of the NEMMP 2020, Department of Heavy Industry formulated FAME Scheme in 2015 to promote manufacturing and sustainable growth of electric and hybrid vehicle in the country.

FAME-I

  • Started in 2015 and was completed on March 31st, 2019.
  • It focused on four essential areas namely (i) Demand Creation, (ii) Technology Platform, (iii) Pilot Project and (iv) Charging Infrastructure.

FAME-II

  • Started from April 1st, 2019, will be completed by March 31st, 2022.
  • The emphasis will be on electrification of public transport that includes shared transport; demand incentives on operational expenditure mode for electric buses will be delivered through state/city transport corporations (STUs).

Significance of the FAME Scheme

  • It will encouragefaster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and also by way of establishing a necessary charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles.
  • It will help in addressing the issue of environmental pollution and fuel security.

Need for Adoption of EV in India

  • Climatic Change: The concern of rapid global temperature increase has created the need for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the associated emissions. Adoption of EV will help India to cut its GHG emissions intensity by 33% to 35% percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Increasing Pollution in Cities: Economic development, especially in emerging economies, is creating a wave of urbanization as rural populations move to cities in search of employment. While urbanization is an important component of the process of economic development, it also stresses upon the energy and transport infrastructure leading to congestion and pollution. According to a recent study by WHO, India is home to 14 out of 20 most polluted cities inthe world. Electric vehicles (EVs) can improve the environment by reducing concentrations of pollutants released from fossil fuels.
  • Less Dependency on Fossil Fuels:India depends largely on oil imports to meet its energy needs. The percentage of oil import is likely to reach 92% of the total demand by 2020.High import dependence along with continuously increasing prices of oil poses a serious challenge for India’s future energy security. Switching to EV will make India less dependent on fossil fuels, providing a major thrust to its economy.

Way Forward

  • The Indian Electric Vehicle Industry could cumulatively add about $300 billion by 2030 according to NITI Aayog. This is a massive opportunity for a wide range of Indian businesses-both large and small, and in all main value chain sectors -manufacturing, trading and services.
  • A successful transition to electric vehicles will significantly improve India’s energy security;improve its balance of payment position creating a growth-friendly environment for the economy and make Indian cities, which top the pollution charts, more liveable.

Bamboonomics: Tribal Movement To Promote Tribal Enterprise


  • Recently, Union Ministry for Tribal Affairs launched the biggest tribal movement to promote tribal enterprise through Bamboonomics in the country under the 4P1000 initiative.
  • The event was held on the concluding day of the 14th session of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

Aim

  • To provide job security to the tribal population for their better growth and development.

About Bamboonomics

  • The initiative is launched under the Central government's Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) through bamboo cultivation project under Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan scheme. The initiative has been launched jointly with a German company named
  • Two high-powered committees chaired by Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED) will monitor the on-ground delivery of the bamboo project and linkages at the national and international level.
  • TRIFED will integrate its Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojna (PMVDY) with this new global environmental intervention termed as TRIFED’s Initiative to Combat Desertification (TICD).
  • It proposed a business model to supplement the income of tribal community.

Van Dhan Yojana(VDY)

  • Launchedin 2018, it is an initiative targeting livelihood generation for tribal population by harnessing the wealth of forest i.e. Van Dhan.
  • Implementation of VDY is through Van Dhan Kendras. Selection of a place for setting up of a Van Dhan Kendra is dependent upon the area’s potential and availability of land to be provided by the State Government.
Aim
  • It aims to tap into the traditional knowledge and skill sets of tribal people by adding technology and Information Technology for upgradation of output at each stage and to convert the tribal wisdom into a remunerative economic activity.
  • It seeks to promote and leverage the collective strength of tribal people to achieve a viable scale.
Impact
  • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras is important milestone in economic development of tribals involved in collection of Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) by helping them in optimum utilization of natural resources and provide sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts. 

4P1000 Initiative

  • It was launched by France on 1 December 2015 at the COP 21, consists of federating all voluntary stakeholders of the public and private sectors (national governments, local and regional governments, companies, trade organisations, NGOs, research facilities, etc.) under the framework of the Lima-Paris Action Plan (LPAP).
Aim
  • To increase the soil organic matter content and carbon sequestration, through the implementation of agricultural practices adapted to local environmental, social and economic conditions, as proposed in particular by the agro-ecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture or landscape management.
Significance
  • It will help stakeholders to move towards a productive, highly resilient agriculture, based on the appropriate management of lands and soils, creating jobs and incomes hence ensuring sustainable development.

Ecological Importance of Bamboo

  • Bamboo has a higher carbon sequestration potential compared to other trees and can help restore fertility of degraded land. It is a pioneering plant and can be grown in soil damaged by overgrazing and poor population.
  • It is a natural water control barrier. It’s wide spread root system and large canopy helps in reducing rain runoff, thus preventing massive soil erosion.

Impact of Bamboonomics

  • The importance of indigenous community in combating desertification and for environmental upgradation is crucial as the tribal community has lived in a very eco-friendly manner for generations in and around the forest areas and they have never degraded the forest lands. So, their expertise and experience should be taken into consideration.
  • The initiative will involve the tribal community of India for rehabilitating the degraded land without compromising the income of the poor in the garb of environmentally friendly development.

Challenges Faced by Tribals

Loss of Control over Natural Resources

  • Tribal people survival depends on the land they have lived in harmony with for generations and by taking away forest lands for industries and plantation forestry instead of preserving natural species that provide livelihood to these people, the government is depriving them of the basic means of livelihood.

Poverty

  • Majority of tribes live under poverty line. Primary occupations, lack of resources and industrialization, derogated social and economic life, illiteracy are the various factors related to it. It gives rise to other problems like malnutrition, high crime and death rate, physical and psychological disorders,etc.

Health Issues

  • Malnutrition is the most common health problem among tribals. In addition, they are prone to variety of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, etc.

Displacement and Rehabilitation Issues

  • Tribal are usually the most affected amongst the displaced due to government plan such as construction of dam or industries. Displacement further increases their poverty due to loss of land, home, jobs, food insecurity, and loss of access to common property assets, mortality and social isolation.

Cultural Issues

  • The tribal culture is entirely different from the way of life of the civilized people which make them suspicious towards the civilized people. They are clinging tenaciously to their customs and traditions which is also a major hindrance in their growth and development. Further, the cultural gap is hindering the integration of the tribal people into the mainstream of the national life of India.

Way Forward

  • There are ample numbers of state government and central government schemes under which the funds flow to the tribal welfare. But, still the basic facilities like health, education, accessibility and livelihood has remained the major challenge in the tribal areas.
  • There is a need to take up massive awareness creation activities among the tribal to make them realise their development potential, which is the way forward for the tribal development.

Timeline Extension On Draft NREP, 2019


On 26th August, 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, acknowledging the progress that has been made to implement Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP), 2019, extended the timeline to invite comments on it till 24.09.2019.

Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy

The Draft NREP envisions a future with environmentally sustainable and equitable economic growth, resource security, healthy environment (air, water and land), and restored ecosystems with rich ecology and biodiversity.

Aim

It aims to implement resource efficiency across all resources including both biotic and abiotic resources, sectors and life cycle stages.

Guiding Principles

  • Reduce primary resource consumption to sustainable levels, in keeping with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Create higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches
  • Minimize waste creation and loss of embedded resources at the end-of-life of products
  • Ensure security of material supply and reduce import dependence for essential materials
  • Create employment opportunities and business models beneficial to the cause of environment protection and restoration

Salient Features of NREP

  • It mandates setting up of National Resource Efficiency Authority
  • (NREA) to drive the agenda of resource efficiency across the country. An inter-ministerial National Resource Efficiency Advisory Board (NREAB) will provide necessary guidance on the aspects critical to the implementation of resource efficiency across all sectors.
  • Establish resource efficiency targets(based on 6Rs principles) for material recycling, reuse and landfilling targets for various sectors, in order to steer the country towards the circular economy.
  • Set standards and guidelines for reuse of secondary raw materials to address concerns regarding material quality, for product design to make products more durable, make use of secondary materials, and easy to repair and/or recycle.
  • Create and maintain database of material use and waste generated, recycled and landfilled, across various sectors and life cycle stages and across different regions (states/zones). To this purpose NREA will design database templates which will be fed in by concerned government agencies.
  • Establish audit mechanisms with deterrent penal provisions regulated by law, which will be undertaken by the concerning government agencies.
  • Provide training and capacity building to key actors responsible for undertaking or overseeing resource efficiency plans and strategies.

Resource Efficiency (RE)

  • It is a strategy to achieve the maximum possible benefit with least possible resource Fostering resource efficiency aims at governing and intensifying resource utilization in a purposeful and effective way.
  • It is the ratio between a given benefit or result and the natural resources use required for it.

Circular Economy (CE)

  • It is an alternative to the traditional linear economy in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value, recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life.
  • Circular Economy along with RE are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development.

6Rs Principles

These principles arekey to drive resource efficiency and refer to:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Refurbish
  • Redesign
  • Remanufacture

Need For Resource Efficiency in India

  • Economic growth and development in India over the last two decades has brought decline in poverty rates, increased urbanization and has put tremendous demand for various goods and services.
  • In the endeavor for economic growth, natural resources have been largely indiscriminately exploited, adversely impacting the environment and biodiversity.

Current Scenario

  • India’s resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre.
  • Low material productivity compared to global average.
  • 3rd highest CO2 emitter, making it responsible for 6.9% of global CO2 emissions.
  • Highest water withdrawal globally for agriculture.
  • 30% of land undergoing degradation.
  • High import dependency of many critical raw materials. For ex- India imports more than 80% of the oil that is processed in the economy and about 85% of its coking coal demand.
  • Recycling rates below international benchmarks- for packaging paper (27%); plastics(60 %) and metals(20-25%). In Scandinavian countries, the average recycling rates have reached 90 %.

Benefits of Resource Efficiency

  • It brings about multiple benefits along the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental.


Government’s Role towards Resource Efficiency

  • NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency in 2017. The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.
  • Besides, the government should:
    • Set-up in house resource efficiency institution(resource efficiency cell) in their ministry/region to work and coordinate the tasks on resource efficiency in their concerned sector/region.
    • Implement the resource efficiency strategies, for their concerned sector/region.
    • Develop and implement policy instruments and enabling regulatory frameworks for resource efficiency in their concerned sector and/or region.
    • Facilitate b relevant datasets for their concernedsector/region.
    • Facilitate setting-up of infrastructure for recovery and recycling eg. setting-up of Material Recycling Zones (MRZs) that co-locate recyclers and end use producers with common facilities and shared infrastructure.
    • Institutionalize product labelling requirements that include relevant information about product with information on its safe usage and disposal.
    • Implement green public procurement that includes procurement of product manufactured from recycled scrap materials, use of recycled materials etc.
    • Implement waste segregation at sources in all its offices, residential areas and other establishments.
    • Incentivise production and consumption of resource efficient products through appropriate fiscal incentives in order to correct for market failures.

Way Forward

  • Natural resources form the backbone of any economic development. Resources not only help in meeting our basic needs, but also fulfill human aspirations for a better quality of life, higher standards of living.
  • Enhancing resource efficiency and promoting the use of secondary raw materials has emerged as a strategy for ensuring that the potential trade-off between growth and environmental well-being can be minimized.
  • Owing to current grim situation, the NREP, 2019 seeks to create a facilitative and regulatory environment to mainstream resource efficiency across all sectors by fostering cross-sectoralcollaborations, development of policy instruments, action plans and efficient implementation and monitoring frameworks.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 Passed


  • On 9th August, 2019, the President gave assent to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019, in an attempt to regulate and improve road safety across the country.
  • The new act replaces the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

Aim:

  • It aims to make Indian roads safer, reduce corruption and use technology to overhaul the country's transportation system.

Need for the Amendment:

  • According to the road transport and highways ministry,maximum road accidents in the world occurred in India. Nearly half a million accidents are reported in India every year resulting in loss of precious lives.

Salient Features of the Act:

  • National Transportation Policy: It empowers the government to develop a National Transportation Policy, for establishing a framework for grant of transport permits. The Policy will help:
  • Establishing a planning framework for road transport
  • Developing a framework for grant of permits
  • Specifying priorities for the transport system, among other things.
  • Road Safety Board: It provides for creation of Road Safety Board for advising on matters relating to road safety.
  • National Register of Driving License: It will comprise licence data from through out the country to make transfer of vehicles across states easier and weed out fake DLs.
  • Hit and Run Scheme: The compensation payable for victims in 'hit and run' out of the scheme fund under Section 161 has been raised to Rs. 2 lakhs in case of death, and Rs. 50,000/- in case of bodily injury, from Rs.25,000 and Rs.12,500 respectively.
  • Manufacturer to Recall Defective Vehicles: It enables Central Government to issue directions to manufacture to recall vehicle or components in cases of defects reported by such percentage of users as notified, or by any testing agency or by any other source.
  • Liability of Contractor in Case of Faulty Road Design: It imposes liability on contractor, concessionaire or designated authority when their failure to follow prescribed design and standards results in death or injury.
  • Liability of Guardians in Case of Accidents by Juveniles: It imposes liability on guardian or the owner of the vehicle responsible for an accident caused by a juvenile, with a fine of Rs 25,000 with 3 years of imprisonment
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Fund: The Fund is to be utilized for giving immediate relief to victims of motor accidents, and also hit and run cases. The compensation paid out of the fund shall be deductible from the compensation which the victim may get in future from the Tribunal.
  • Power of Central Government to Frame Schemes for Inter-State Permits: As per the present Act, the power to make scheme for inter-state transportation of goods or passengers is an exclusive domain of the states. The new actempowers the Central Government to make schemes for national, multi-modal and inter-state transportation of goods or passengers. Further, in the event of any conflict between the schemes made by the Central Government and schemes made by two or more States, the schemes made by Central Government will prevail.
  • Protection of Good Samaritans: It makes provision for protection of Good Samaritans from unnecessary trouble or harassment from civil or criminal proceedings and empowers Central Government to frame Rules for their protections.

Significance:

  • It is an effort to overhaul the country’s transportation laws by addressing crucial issues such as road safety, reducing deaths due to road accidents, imposing stiffer penalties on violation of rules, and weeding out corruption, thereby transforming India’s road transport system.
  • It will help the government to meet its international commitments under the Brasilia Declaration of 2015(under which the government intends to reduce traffic fatalities by 50% by 2020)and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.6).

Hurdles to Road Safety in India:

  • Civilians Irresponsibility and Negligence Attitude:Its only human factor that contribute significantly to increasing number of road accidents in India. Drunken driving is one of the major reasons causing road traffic accidents largely among commercial vehicle drivers on highways. Reckless, over speeding, absence of seats belts, use of mobile phone increases the chance of fatal injuries for car occupants from near zero to almost 100%.
  • Awful Condition of Roads:Another reason for road accidents in India is pathetic conditions of the road. Most of them have potholes, without road signs or under construction for a long period. All these lead to road accidents. Roads are built without giving much consideration to its functionality.
  • Vehicle Design below International Standard:Indian vehicles design as well as safety normsdo not match up to the International Standards, leading to increasing number of road related casualties.
  • Improper Implementation of Road Safety Standards:Mostly Indian road are not well informed with the markings and signals.Most of the primary and secondary traffic signals are either not functioning as per the prescribed standards or wrongly installed. Road barriers and other related equipments are seen dwindling here and there on the roads. According to a study by Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) in Delhi, about 75% of road signs did not meet requirements under the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) Code and the insertion of a regulatory or warning sign with another colour board
  • Lack of Emergency Services:Indian roads lack any provision for emergency services. In case of an accident there is no provision for first aid treatment near the intersections. Victims have to cost their lives as due to unavailability of doctors and hospitals nearby.

Government Initiatives Towards Road Safety

 National Road Safety Policy(2017)

  • It outlines various policy measures such as promoting awareness, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport, enforcement of safety laws trauma care etc.

 National Road safety Council

  • The Government has constituted the National Road Safety Council as the apex body to take policy decisions in matters of road safety.

 4 ‘E’s Strategy:

  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highway (MoRTH) has formulated a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue of road safety based on 4 ‘E’s viz.Education, Engineering (both of roads and vehicles), Enforcement and Emergency Care. Based on this, a draft action plan has been shared with the states.

 30th National Road Safety Week(4th – 10th February-2019):

  • In February, 2019, 30th National Road Safety Week was observed.A host of initiatives were launched on this occasion, aimed at generating awareness and sensitizing people about safe road usage.
  • SurakshaYatra - a motor car rally from Rajghat in New Delhi was flagged off to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The flag off was also part of an event to launch the 30th National Road Safety.
  • Dash Board for Road Accident Data of India and States: This will be available on the website of the Road Ministry. People can access road accident related data and other information from this Dash Board.
  • Swachha Safar and SurakshitYatra: It is a set of comic books on road safety produced by Uber and Amar Chitra Katha were also released on this These comic books are aimed at creating awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to.
  • iSafe Campaign: The Safer India(ISafe) Challenge, 2019, is a 9 month long championship held annually, with the aim to reduce the deaths caused due to road accidents to half by 2020. It is an initiative of Indian Road Safety Campaign and MoRTH, held for colleges all across India.iSAFE aims to spread awareness among the youth and at the same time make use of them as a resource to create awareness among the nation.

 National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme:

  • Under this scheme, state governments are provided cranes and ambulances and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) also provides ambulances at a distance of every 50 km on its completed stretches.

Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, 2015

  • The Brasilia Declaration which was hosted by Brazil in November 2015 in Brasilia, Brazil, also co-sponsored by WHO, is a call to rethink transport policies in order to advice more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and using public transport.
  • It underline strategies to secure the safety of all road users, specially by improving laws and administration; making roads safer through infrastructural modifications; making sure that vehicles are equipped with life-saving technologies; and strengthening emergency trauma care systems.
  • It encourages WHO and partners to smooth the way for the development of targets to lower road casualties, and keep up with the definition and use of indicators linked to the SDG targets related to road safety.

Vision Zero

  • Started in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic.
  • It is an approach wherein responsibility for transport safety is shared between individual transport system users and system designers (the entities that shape the system, such as the automotive industry, lawmakers and infrastructure owners).

Way Forward:

  • Road safety is an issue that requires a multi-pronged solution. Recognition of road safety as the joint responsibilityof decision makers and road users, coupled with political action and legislative reform at all levels of government will be essential to bring about long-term improvement.
  • Such changes, accompanied by increased participation from the civil society and private players can push India to achieve its target of 50 percent reduction in road traffic fatalities in the foreseeable future.
  • Time is ripe to rethink our strategies to overcomechallenges and focus on creating a road safety revolutionin the country. There is a need for political commitmentlike ‘Swacch Bharat’ to ensure this road safety revolutiontowards a ‘Suraksha Bharat’.

 

National Medical Commission Act, 2019


  • On 8th August, 2019, the President gave assent to the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019.
  • With this, it repealed the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 that led to the formation of the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Aim

  • To provide for a medical education system that improves access to quality and affordable medical education,ensures availability of adequate and high quality medical professionals in all parts of the country.
  • To promote national health goal and equitable and universal healthcare that encourages community health perspective across the country.

Background

  • Medical Council of India (MCI) was dissolved in 2010 following corruption charges against its president Ketan Desai by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
  • An earlier version of this Bill was introduced in the 16thLokSabha, which got lapsed at the end of the term of the LokSabha.

Key Features of the Bill

  • Establishment of National Medical Commission(NMC): ANMC will be set up in place of MCI that will have responsibilities such as approving and assessing medical colleges, conducting common MBBS entrance and exit examinations and regulating medical course fees. The Commission shall consist of the following persons to be appointed by the Central Government, namely:
  • a Chairperson
  • ten ex officio Members
  • twenty-two part-time Members
  • State Medical Council: States will establish their respective State Medical Councils within three years. These Councils will have a role similar to the NMC, at the state level.
  • Establishment of Autonomous Board: It proposes to set up four autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC. Each board will consist of a President and four members (of which two members will be part-time), appointed by the central government (on the recommendation of a search committee).  These bodies are:
    • The Under-Graduate Medical Education Board
    • The Post-Graduate Medical Education Board
    • The Medical Assessment and Rating Board
    • The Ethics and Medical Registration Board
  • National Exit Test (NEXT): It proposes a common final-year MBBS examination, known as NEXT, for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining a license to practice medicine, which will also serve as a screening test for foreign medical graduates. Currently, foreign students with MBBS degrees are automatically entitled to practice in India.
  • Fee Regulation:It proposes to regulate the fees and other charges of 50 percent of the total seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.
  • Community Health Providers:It provides for the NMC to grant limited license to certain mid-level practitioners called community health providers, connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine. These mid-level medical practitioners may prescribe specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare. 

Need for National Medical Commission

  • MCI not fulfilling its Responsibilities: According to the 92th report (2016) of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, the MCI has repeatedly been found short of fulfilling its mandated responsibilities.
  • Inefficient Current Model of Medical Education: The current model of medical education is not producing the right type of health professionals that meet the basic health needs of the country because medical education and curricula are not integrated with the needs of our health system.
  • Incompetence Medical Practitioners: Many of the products coming out of medical colleges are ill-prepared to serve in poor resource settings like Primary Health Centre and even at the district level. Further, medical graduates lack competence in performing basic health care tasks like conducting normal deliveries.
  • Increasing Instances of Unethical Practice and Corruption: Be it in urban or rural areas, the malpractices in medical profession in India is continuously increasing day by day. Hundreds and thousands of cases happen every day in Indian medical profession, where doctors, on whom patients blindly trust, make fool out of patients.

Significance

  • Help to Curb Corruption: It may prove helpful in fighting corruption, which had affected MCI.Unlike MCI, the members of NMC will have to declare their assets at the time of assuming office and when they leave. They will also have to submit a conflict of interest declaration.
  • Availability of More Practitioners: Also, the World Health Organization prescribes a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,000, but as reports indicate, India is far from achieving that target. Allowing Community Health Providers to practise medicine is likely to plug this shortage to some extent.
  • Multiple Benefits: It will help reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down costs of medical education, simplify procedures, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people to quality healthcare.

Why is the NMC Act being protested by the Medical Fraternity?

  • The Indian Medical Association(IMA) has raised concerned over license being provided to 5 lakhs non-medical persons or Community Health Providers to practice modern medicine. According to the IMA, this may open the door for persons with inadequate training in modern medicine to practice, putting patients at risk and lowering standards of healthcare.
  • It has been termed as 'anti-poor and anti-public' since making NEXT mandatory before NEET can reduce the chances of people from economically weaker section entering the medical sector.
  • The Act allows the commission to frame guidelines for determination of fees and all other charges in respect of 50 percent of seats in private medical institutions and deemed to be universities. This increases the number of seats for which private institutes will have the discretion to determine fees. At present, in such institutes, state governments decide fees for 85 per cent of the seats.
  • Another objection is regarding the power it grants to the central government to give policy and other directives to the NMC and its autonomous boards which will be binding and final. This is contradictory to the very concept of autonomy of the four boards. The central government has also been empowered to give directives to state governments for implementing provisions of the act, which will also be binding, reflecting the anti-federal character of the Bill.

Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019


On 31st July, 2019, the LokSabha passed a bill designed to speed up the resolution of long-festering inter-state water disputes by establishing a single central tribunal in place of the numerous existing ones.

Objective

The Bill aims at amending the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to make the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes more efficient and smooth.

Background

  • In 2002, the 1956 Act was amended with a target of five years for resolution of any river water dispute. However, the purpose of moving forward with the amendment was not fulfilledowing to the extensions given to the tenure of tribunals.
  • A bill similar to this was brought to LokSabha in 2017 which was then referred to the standing committee, but the draft law lapsed as the term of the 16th LokSabha had ended.

Key Features of the Bill

  • Provision for Single Tribunal: A key feature of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Amendment Bill, 2019 is the constitution of a single tribunal with different benches, and the setting up of strict timelines for adjudication.
  • Two-Tier Resolution Mechanism: Itputs forward a provision for a two-tier dispute resolution mechanism. When a dispute emerges, it would be referred to a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) which is to be headed by a secretary-level officer of the central government along with experts from relevant fields. If cases where the committee fails, the dispute will move to a centralised (single standing) tribunal with various benches - instead of the multiple tribunals that currently exist.

All the existing tribunals would be dissolved with the setting up of such a tribunal to which all the pending cases will be transferred to it.

  • Appointments: The tribunal would have a chairman, a vice-chairman and six members - three judicial and three experts. They would be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a selection committee, which would comprise of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and ministers for law and justice and Jal Shakti.
  • Retirement: The term of office of the chairperson and vice-chairperson would be five years or until the age of 70 years. That of the other members would be co-terminus with adjudication of dispute or until 67 years.
  • Time Limit: The maximum time allowed for the DRC would be one-and-half years, for the tribunal three years and for reconsideration another one-and-half years - taking the total to six years.There would be no requirement of publication of the tribune's report.
  • Basin-Wise Data:It also provides for a transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin, the lack of which has been felt for a long time.

Need for Such Amendment

  • Much Delay in Award: The existing tribunals dealing with inter-state river water disputes are legendary for the time they take to give awards. Under the 1956 Act, nine tribunals have so far been set up. Only four of them have given their awards. One of these disputes, over Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, took 28 years to settle. The Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal was set up in April 1986 and it is still to give the final award.     

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, there are five major causes for the delays:

    • No strict time limit for adjudication as the central government kept extending tenure of the tribunals indefinitely, even though they were to resolve disputes within 5 years
    • No limit for publishing the report of a tribunal
    • no upper limit for retirement of the chairperson or other members
    • In case of any vacancy, the Chief Justice of India to nominate a person which took time and caused considerable delays
    • Absence of data on river basins.
  • Increasing Inter-water Disputes:The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill says the number of inter-state water disputes is on the rise due to an increase in demand for more water by states. Though the existing Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956 provides for a legal framework to address such disputes, it suffers from many drawbacks, which this Bill seeks to address.
  • Saving of Manpower and Money as Well:The multiplicity of tribunals has led to an increase in bureaucracy, delays, and possible duplication of work. The replacement of five existing tribunals with a permanent tribunal is likely to result in a 25 per cent reduction in staff strength, from the current 107 to 80, and a saving of Rs 4.27 crore per year.

Significance

  • It seeks to streamline the adjudication of such disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust to overcome these challenges.
  • The timely resolution of river water disputes will bring development of both the states as well as the country.

Constitutional Provision for Inter State Water Disputes

  • Article 131: It which deals with the Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes between States is not an unrestricted one.
  • Article 262: It states that the Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Entry 17 of State List: deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, and water storage and water power.
  • Entry 56 of Union List: empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Inter-State Water Disputes and States Involved

  • Narmada Water Dispute- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
  • Mahi River Dispute- Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • Ravi and Beas Water Dispute- Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi
  • Cauvery Water Dispute- Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
  • Krishna Water Dispute- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
  • Godavari River Water Dispute- Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh

Reasons for Water Disputes

  • Uneven Distribution of Water Resources: Some of the states having more flowing of rivers and they have enough water for their irrigation and the production of electricity, while some lack in water resources. Due to the uneven distribution of water resources some of the states are going to deficient of water and they will depend on the available resources.
  • Variation of rainfall and Frequent Drought: There has been a consistent drop in the average seasonal rainfall India receives during the summer monsoon months of July-August, resulting in frequent drought across the India. This, in turn, gives rise to more demand for water, ultimately leading to water disputes among the states.
  • Dam Construction: Construction of more dams across the river also creates disputes among the states. Because of these dams, downstream regions will not get water for irrigation projects and multi-purpose projects. Due to this demand for the river water increases and generates the disputes among the states.

Way Forward

Water disputes have humanitarian dimensions which include agrarian problems that are worsened by drought and monsoon failures. There must be a sense of responsibility in states to consider these aspects. The disputes should be depoliticised and there must be political will to make the institutional mechanisms work, contributing to overall development of country.

Nagaland Govt. Constitutes Commission For RIIN


  • On July, 27th, 2019, the Nagaland Government constituted a commission to frame the modalities of creating the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).
  • The commission shall have access to all records and documents that may be relevant to the subject and shall also be free to associate any government official or any person as it may deem fit for successful completion of the task assigned.
  • The Commission is required submit its report within three months.

Members

  • It included headed by retired Chief Secretary Banuo Z. Jamir as chairman and T. Kiheto Sema and S. Chingwang Konyak as members.
  • Justice (Retd.) Zelre Angami will function as the advisor to the Commission.
  • The Home Commissioner and the Commissioner Nagaland will be ex-officio members of the panel.

Objectives

  • To chalk out modalities for the RIIN exercise.
  • To study and examine all issues related to the exercise and submit its recommendations to government.
  • Issues like eligibility criteria to be an indigenous inhabitant, relevant authority to authenticate claims, place of registration and nature of documents needed to substantiate claims will be studied and finalised by the commission.

Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN)

  • In June, 2019, the Nagaland Government decided to set up a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) with the aim of preventing fake indigenous inhabitant’s certificates. The RIIN will be the master list of all indigenous inhabitants of the state.
  • The government began the process of preparing the RIIN on July 10, 2019.
  • Only those whose names figure in the RIIN will be issued indigenous inhabitant certificates and all other certificates would become invalid after the preparation of the final register.
  • However, the Nagaland government has put on hold the enrolments for the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) as it announced the formation of a three-member commission to study the exercise amid concerns by civil society groups and political parties.

Objectives

  • The RIIN would provide protection to genuine citizens who are permanent settlers of Nagaland and non-Nagas will not be harassed during preparation of the list of indigenous citizens.
  • It will help identify the citizens who settled in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963, the day it became a full-fledged State.

How will the list be prepared?

  • The RIIN list will be based on an extensive survey. It will involve official records of indigenous residents from rural and (urban) wards and would be prepared under the supervision of the district administration.
  • Designated teams of surveyors will be formed within seven days from the date of publication of the notification, and thereafter these teams will be sent across each village and ward.

How will the survey be done?

  • The designated teams comprising Sub-Divisional Officers (SDO), Block Development Officers (BDO), Headmasters and other nominated members, will make a list of indigenous inhabitants in the state.
  • The database will note each family’s original residence, current residence as well as the concerned Aadhaar numbers.

What will the unique identity look like?

  • Based on the adjudication and verification, a list of indigenous inhabitants will be finalised and each person will be given a unique ID. The final list or the RIIN will be created and its copies will be placed in all villages and ward. Electronic copies of the list will also be stored in the State Data Centre.
  • A mechanism or electronic and SMS-based authentication will be put in place. All indigenous inhabitants of the state would be issued a barcoded and numbered Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate. The process will be conducted across Nagaland and will be done as part of the online system of Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is already in force in Nagaland.

Inner Line Permit (ILP)

  • ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions.
  • It is obligatory for Indians residing outside those states to obtain permission prior to entering the protected areas.
  • Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and
  • The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.

Aim

  • It aims to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.

How will the RIIN be updated?

Once the RIIN is finalised, no fresh indigenous inhabitant certificates will be issued except to newborn babies born to the indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland.

What about those excluded from the list?

In case anyone who is left out of the RIIN, he/she will need to file an application before Home Commissioner who will get the matter verified and take necessary action for updating the RIIN if needed.

Challenges to RIIN Initiative

Definition of Indigenous Inhabitants:

  • One the major challenge is to decide the indigeneity of the inhabitant because there is no clear definition of who is an indigenous inhabitant; although the State has 16 recognised tribes. Attempts to arrive at a conclusion have failed because of a Naga customary law that allows adoption of other communities.
  • An example is that of the Gurkhas who settled in the State before December 1963. They have been recognised as indigenous.

Cut-off Date Issue:

  • Though the official notification on RIIN has not mentioned a cut-off date to compile the proposed register, the authorities in Nagaland have till date issued indigenous inhabitant certificates using December 1, 1963 as the cut-off date.
  • Since 1977, to be eligible to obtain a certificate of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland, a person has to fulfill either of the below conditions:
    • the person must be settled permanently in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963
    • his or her parents or legitimate guardians were paying house tax prior to the cut-off date (December 1, 1963)
    • the applicant, or his/her parents or legitimate guardians, acquired property and a patta (land certificate) prior to this cut-off date
  • If the Nagaland government goes ahead with a compilation of RIIN with this cut-off date, then all Naga people who have migrated to the State from the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in India after this day will have to be excluded.

Adopted non-Naga Children:

  • The compilation of RIIN involves the complexities of deciding on the claims of the children of non-Naga fathers as well as non-Naga children adopted by Naga parents.In such case, all Naga people who have migrated to the State after this day will have to be excluded.These include migrants from the neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in India.

Inner Line Permit Issue:

  • As the Nagaland government has begun a consultation process on RIIN, it will be under pressure to de-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism from the proposed register.
  • The RIIN proposal may require large numbers of non-indigenous inhabitants to obtain an ILP to carry out day-to-day activities.Notably, most of them are migrated ones from other States and have been carrying out trade, business and other activities for decades. It will hit the economy of the state.
  • Further, the complexities that may arise in streamlining the ILP mechanism due to non-issuance of domicile certificates or permanent residence certificates to a large number of non-Naga, non-indigenous inhabitants could also make the task even more difficult for the Nagaland government.

Protection Of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019


On 19th July, 2019, the Lok Sabha passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

Objective:

The proposed amendments will enable both the Commission as well as the State Commissions to be more compliant with the Paris Principles concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.

Salient Features of the Bill:

 ·Supreme Court Judge: It provided that a person who has been the Chief Justice of India, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the National Human Right Commission (NHRC). As per the 1993 Act, only a person who has been the Chief Justice of India can be made the NHRC chairperson.

·High Court Judge: It proposes to enable any person who has been a judge of a High Court to be the chairperson of State Human Right Commission (SHRC).

·Human Right Experts to be Member: It provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC.

·Provision of Women Member: It increases the number of members from two to three and that of three members of the commission; at least one will be a woman.

·Reduction of Term of Office: It reduces the term of office of chairpersons and members of NHRC and SHRC to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The 1993 Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.

·Reappointment Provisions: It also allows for the reappointment of chairpersons of the NHRC and SHRCs.

·Members from Various Commissions: It also provided to include Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as deemed Members of the Commission.

·Powers of Secretary-General: It allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.

·Union Territories: Now the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.

Impact:

The amendment will ensure transparency in the appointment of chairman and members of the commission and better performance of functions and duties.

Human Rights Issues in India:

Custodial Violence

Custody death, torture in custody and custodial rape has been subjects of much concern. The incidence of custody deaths demonstrates more undeniably the brutalisation of the processes of law enforcement by the police and armed forces.

Project Displacement

Project displacement for the construction of large dams or for power projects, for instance, has led to protest movements directly involving the affected people. Human rights issues that arise include displacement, rehabilitation, impoverishment that results from displacement, for e.g. Narmada Bachao Andolan was started in 1985 to stop indigenous people being deprived of their land and livelihood.

Refugees Human Rights Issue

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and also it does not have a domestic legislation in place. Despite this, it continues to be a host to the largest number of refugees across South East Asia. India has adopted an ad hoc administrative policy to accord protection to refugees ever since independence. This poses problems of human right abuses of refugees, lack of basic amenities and discrimination between refugees themselves, for e.g. ongoing crisis over Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The exclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees adds up to violation of India’s duty under customary international law, which restricts governments from returning people to a territory where they are vulnerable to serious human rights violations.

Right over Resources

The 2006 Forest Rights Act gave tribal’s right to live on and protect the land that they had been cultivating within forest boundaries. But in February 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of more than a million forest-dwelling and tribal families across 16 states, depriving them from their rights over forest resources.The next Supreme Court hearing in the case will be on 24 July, 2019, when the court may once again order the eviction of millions of people. This comes at a time when India’s tribal peoples are facing an unprecedented assault on their rights.

Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Sexual harassment at workplace is a universal issue whether it be a developed nation or a developing nation or an underdeveloped nation, cruelties and abuse against women is common everywhere. It is seen to be occurring more with women as they are viewed as the most vulnerable section of the society. Registered cases of sexual harassment at Indian workplaces increased 54% from 2014 to 2017. Sexual harassment violates the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Fake Encounters (Extra-judicial killings)

In India, extra-judicial killings by the police or the security forces are called encounter killings. The killing by the state forces is most often declared to be defensive, cases of attempted murder and other related offences are registered against the victims, and the cases closed without further investigation.

Recently, in January, 2019, the officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights (OCHR) raised concerns on extra judicial killing by Uttar Pradesh police. Most of the cases which the OHCHR has raised with the Indian government pertain to Muslim victims.

Child Rights Issues

According to the UNICEF, there are about 10.1 million children employed in child labour in India today. That amounts to nearly 13% of our workforce, or in other words, 1 in every 10 worker in India is a child; a child who is promised protections under the Indian Law, and guaranteed education and mid-day meals, till the age of 14 is being robbed off their rights.

Prisons Related Issues

The conditions in jails, solitary confinement, the inhuman treatment of prisoners, overcrowding of prisons are some of serious issues that have been raised repeatedly against human rights violation.

Recently released NCRB data in May, 2019, presents a pathetic condition of Indian prisons and prisoners. According to it, the number of unnatural deaths in prisons doubled between 2015 and 2016; the rate of suicide among prisoners also increased by 28%. A phenomenal rise in the number of people held under administrative (or ‘prevention’) detention laws in Jammu and Kashmir (a 300% increase) was also noted.

Minorities Rights Violation

Religious minorities, especially Muslims, have come under increasing threat of harassment and violence in recent years. Mobs have lynched many people from marginalized groups throughout India, especially Muslims often over suspicions of cow slaughter and religious fundamentalism.

Cabinet Approves Banning Of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019


On 10th July, 2019, the Cabinet approved the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019, replacing the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance introduced in February, 2019.

Aim:

It aims at plugging gaps in existing laws and giving powers to the government to prohibit companies from taking such funds from the public.

Salient Features of Bill:

  • Banning Provision: It bans deposit takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any unregulated deposit scheme.
  • Obligation on Deposit Taker: It has provisions to impose an obligation on the deposit taker, pursuant to a regulated deposit scheme, not to commit any fraudulent default in the repayment or return of the deposit.
  • Defines Three Different Types of Offences:
  • Running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes
  • Wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes
  • Fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes
  • Creation of Competent Authority: It provides for appointment senior government officials or a competent authority that can attach assets or properties and subsequently realize the assets towards repaying depositors.
  • Punishment and Repayments: It prescribes severe punishment and heavy fines for offenders. It also provides adequate provisions for repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes manage to raise deposits illegally.
  • Creation of Online Database: It calls for creation of online database for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country.

Need for Such a Scheme:

  • Absence of Regulatory Framework: The menace of increasing Ponzi schemes across the country has exposed the inadequacy of the existing legal and regulatory framework in ensuring that entities that run and manage such schemes are held accountable.
  • Rising Number of Fraud Cases: In the past four years, 146 cases of illegal deposits had been investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, 56 by the Enforcement Directorate, 32 cases involving 223 companies by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office and 978 cases were referred to various investigating enforcement agencies by the State Coordination Committees.
  • Indeed, one of the factors that led to the introduction of the Banning of Unregulated Deposits Scheme was the controversies in relation to Ponzi schemes such as Rose Valley and Saradha scam in West Bengal.

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

  • A typical Ponzi scheme involves the operator collecting a large amount of money from investors and paying them returns from their own money or the money collected from subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the person or the entity operating such a scheme.
  • The basic idea of the scheme is to gain continuous flow of money by attracting new clients. The scheme falls when this flow of money is stopped. So, the company lured people to invest by promising them to multiply their money in a short span of time.
  • It is named after Charles Ponzi who became notorious for using the technique in the early 1920s. He duped thousands of people into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme.

Impact:

  • Curbing the Illicit Deposits Activities: It will help tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, which at present are exploiting regulatory gaps and lack of strict administrative measures to dupe poor and vulnerable people of their hard earned money.
  • Boosting Investor’s Confidence: With such banning and regulatory framework, it will further help boosting the confidence of investors in dealing with deposit schemes across the country.

Centre Rejects UP Government’s Move To Shift 17 OBC’s To SC List


On 2nd July 2019, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment said in the Rajya Sabha that shifting of 17 Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to the Schedule Caste list is unconstitutional, and a transgression of Parliament’s jurisdiction.

Relevance of the News: The news clarifies the procedure for shifting of backward classes into the reserved lists.

Details of the News:

  • In June 2019 the UP government directed District Magistrates and Commissioners to issue caste certificates to the 17 OBCs, Kashyap, Rajbhar, Dhivar, Bind, Kumhar, Kahar, Kewat, Nishad, Bhar, Mallah, Prajapati, Dhimar, Batham, Turha, Godia, Manjhi and Machua.
  • UP government’s decision refers to an order of the Allahabad High Court (dated March 29, 2017) which laid that “in the event, any caste certificates are issued pursuant to the order impugned, those certificates shall be subject to the outcome of the writ petition.”
  • But the Union Minister disapproved the UP government’s decision to issue caste certificates to these communities terming it neither appropriate nor “constitutional”.
  • It is the Parliament’s prerogative to remove an SC, ST or OBC caste from one group and include in another.
  • Article 341(1) of the Constitution prescribes the procedure for regarding castes as “Scheduled Castes”
  • Under Article 341(2) of the Constitution, the power to make changes in the SC list lies only with Parliament.

Similar Attempts in the Past:

  • Similar attempts in the past have been rejected by the SC. In 2005, the Mulayam government amended the Uttar Pradesh Public Services Act, 1994, to include 17 OBC castes in the SC list. The Allahabad High Court quashed the amendment, terming it unconstitutional, since only Parliament has the power to make such an inclusion.
  • Another attempt by the Akhilesh government in 2013 met a similar fate.

Nagaland Plans To Implement NRC


Nagaland on 29th June announced starting of its own National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Relevance of the News: The news highlights the importance of NRC and its gradual acceptability among other states.

Nagaland Notification:

  • Nagaland Home Commissioner R. Ramakrishnan issued a notification for the setting up of the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).
  • RIIN is aimed at preparing a master list of all indigenous peoples in Nagaland and curbing the fake indigenous inhabitant certificates issued to people.
  • Once the process is complete the database would be updated with latest photographs and other details every five years.
  • There would be a complete ban on issue of fresh indigenous inhabitant certificates once the final RIIN is notified.

The process of Nagaland NRC:

  • Designated teams will move out to villages and urban wards from July 10, less than a month before Assam is to publish the final NRC.
  • There is a 60-day deadline for collecting information on locals and non-locals. This exercise will be monitored by the Home Monister.
  • Claims and objections can be filed for a period of 30 days, i.e. on or before October 10, 2019. Once new genuine indigenous inhabitants are issued certificates and RIIN is notified, all existing indigenous inhabitants certificates issued by any authority will become invalid.
  • The list will be prepared under the supervision of each district administration. Only those persons who names will figure in the RIIN will be issued indigenous inhabitant certificate.

Aadhaar Bill Re-introduced In The Parliament


Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019, has been re-introduced in the parliament by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019:

  • The proposed amendments to Aadhaar Act 2016 will:
  • Provide for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder.
  • It will also pave the way for use of alternate virtual identity number to keep hidden the actual Aadhaar number of the person.
  • It seeks to allow entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security defined by the UIDAI.
  • The amendment will also prevent denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication.
  • Give a child an option to exit from the biometric ID programme on attaining 18 years of age.
  • Impose stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar and violation of privacy. A civil penalty of up to Rs 1 crore on violation of provisions, and additional fine of up to Rs 10 lakh per day in case of regular non-compliance.
  • Unauthorised use of identity information by a requesting entity would be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years with a fine that may extend to Rs 10,000 or in case of a company with a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
  • Punishment for unauthorised access to the Central Identities Data Repository as well as data tampering is proposed to be extended to 10 years each from the current three years.
  • The proposed Bill will replace the ordinance already in place issued in March 2019.

Opposition to the Amendment bill:

Various oppositions have been raised to the provisions of the amendment act, which include:

  • The bill allows private companies to access data without laying safeguards for data protection as mandated by Supreme Court thus infringing the Right to Privacy of citizens.
  • The Data Protection Bill should be passed either simultaneously with the Bill or before the amendment bill is passed.
  • The amendment contravenes the Supreme Court’s judgement that restricted the use of Aadhaar for only such things which have the colour of a subsidy and which are paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India. The amendment allows Aadhaar to be used for verification, phone connections etc.

MOSPI Will Set Up ‘National Data Warehouse’


Why is it in News?

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has proposed to set up a ‘National Data Warehouse’ wherein big data analytical tools will be leveraged to further improve the quality of macro-economic aggregates. The ministry is also redrafting the National Policy on Official Statistics (NPOS).

Relevance of the News: Data security and authenticity is an important part of national security and economic data security of India which is a part of Paper 3 in UPSC Mains.

More on the News:

  • On the issue of restructuring in official statistics system, the Ministry is giving an increased focus on Data Quality and Assurance by repositioning the existing data processing personnel.
  • MoSPI, in an order on May 23, had cleared the merger of NSSO and CSO under National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • The ministry also said that efforts are underway to evolve a legislative framework under which the National Statistical Commission (NSC) may function with independence and give holistic guidance for improving the national statistical system.
  • India has adopted the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (FPOS) in May, 2016. The reforms being undertaken in MoSPI are in consonance with these principles as also the various recommendations of the NSC.

National Data Warehouse:

  • MoSPI is working to collate all the official statistics in a National Data Warehouse.
  • There will be a repository vault where all statistical information like surveys and administrative systems will be collected.
  • This prime project will streamline the availability of data across departments, ministries, sectors and state governments and everyone will have access to same set of data.
  • The data warehouse would work as a central repository of all the statistical data collected various ministries, UTs and state governments.

Electoral Bonds


Why is it in News?

The Supreme Court has passed an interim order directing the political parties to provide complete information to the Election Commission of India in sealed cover regarding the donations received through Electoral Bonds.

What is an Electoral Bond?

  • An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a promissory note - in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest.
  • It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.
  • Tax deductions can be provided to the people who are funding these electoral bonds.

Note: Although it is being referred to as a bond, but please do keep in mind that it will not carry an interest.

Denominations of Electoral Bond:

  • The bonds will be issued in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore and will be available at specified branches of State Bank of India.
  • They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account.
  • Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party's verified account within 15 days.

Who all are eligible to get Electoral Bonds?

  • As per provisions of the scheme, only the registered political parties which have secured not less than one per cent (1%) of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the electoral bonds.

Who issues Electoral Bonds?

  • Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance promulgated Electoral Bond Scheme in 2018 via section 31(3) of Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

What were the Amendments done to bring the Electoral Bonds?

Changes were made to bring the Electoral Bond Scheme in the following acts:

  • Representation of People Act, 1951.
  • Income Tax Act, 1961
  • Companies Act, 2013
  • RBI Act, 1934
  • Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010.

Why Electoral Bonds are being criticized?

  • Earlier, any donations above Rs. 20,000 was to be recorded by political parties with the name of the donor, but after introduction of electoral bonds, political parties can accept donations in cash below Rs. 2,000 only. Any donation above Rs. 2,000 has to be taken through electoral bonds/ cheque. Since electoral bonds don’t have the name of donors in it, it is likely to promote opacity in the system.
  • Earlier, only those companies can donate to political parties who are at least 3 years old and the cap was to the tune of 7.5% of the average net profit in three preceding years but with the coming of electoral bonds the cap of 7.5% has been removed.
  • Now, any company can donate any amount of cash through electoral bonds, this loophole can be easily exploited by the shell companies.
  • These shell companies can be formed just for the political funding and thus it will promote opacity and corruption in the electoral process.
  • Earlier, donations to the political parties by foreign entity was banned, but with the amendments done to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, foreign companies with majority stake in India can donate to the political parties. The major concern is that these big corporate bodies can interfere in the policy making of the Government at a later stage.


Source: eci.gov.in, Financial Express, TH

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)


Why is it in News?

Real Estate Company ‘Embassy Office Parks REIT” will be the first company to set up a Real Estate Investment Trust in India with plans to raise Rs 4,500 crore.

About REIT:

  • A REIT is a company that owns, operates or finances income-producing real estate.
  • It is modeled after mutual funds, i.e. money is pooled from the retail investors and is invested in the real estate sector.

How much is the Minimum Money that can be invested?

As per the recent SEBI guidelines, the minimum money that can be invested in the REIT is Rs. 2 Lakhs.

How does REIT Operate?

  • REIT invests that pooled money into the real estate sector. 80% of the money has to be invested in completed projects and rent yielding assets.
  • Remaining 20% of the money can be invested in government securities (G-Sec) or other developmental projects.

Why has SEBI put such Stringent Norms on the operation of REIT?

  • Real Estate sector has got a bad name due to the delay in delivery of the projects, cost overrun etc.; this has made SEBI put stringent norms so that money of the investors is not fettered in the low yielding and risky projects and that maximum money shall be invested in the completed projects.

But how does REIT earn Profit?

  • REIT invests the pooled money through experts in the offices, restaurants, housing etc. and they earn money through rents, capital gains etc.
  • SEBI has made mandatory that 90% of the dividend shall be distributed to the investors.

How can REIT be of help to the Real Estate Sector?

  • REIT mode of investment is an alternative form of investment that gives avenues to the investors who used to purchase houses/ flats for the sake of investment; now they can get their money invested through REIT.
  • REIT will finance the Real Estate Sector which is starving for funds due to recent IL&FS crisis.
  • REIT will be listed on stock exchange which will allow its share to be traded too. Thus investors will get a new area to trade upon.

Source: TH

Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC)


Why is it in News?

Recent situation in Arunachal Pradesh was tensed due to PRC given to six non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe communities.

What is PRC?

PRC is a legal document that a state gives to its citizen as a proof that they are the permanent residents of that state.

Why PRC has become an ‘Apple of Discord’ in Arunachal Pradesh?

Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings were demanding Permanent Residence Certificate as they have been staying in the state of Arunachal Pradesh for decades. Other locals believe that they shall not be granted PRC as they are not the natives of Arunachal Pradesh but belong to neighboring state of Assam (most of these tribes have been given ST status in Assam).

What are the Benefits if one gets PRC?

  • In Arunachal Pradesh, PRC is a must for ration card and these tribals need rations for their sustenance.
  • PRC is required to avail the reservations in jobs, educational institutions etc.

Committee dealing with PRC:

A Joint High Power Committee headed by Nabam Rebia- consisting of civil society members and student organizations had been looking into the matters of PRC.

Source: IE