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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Environmental Performance Index 2018

Why in News?

India ranks 177 among 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2018.

A drop in the rank from the last index demands a relook at the country’s environmental policy.

About Environmental Performance Index?

  1. It is a biennial report published by Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
  2. It ranks 180 countries based on 24 performance indicators.
  3. It is divided into 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem validity.
  4. Top rank in sustainability taken by Switzerland, followed by France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden in the recent EPI.

India’s status

  1. India at the 177th place is one of the bottom 5 countries on the index.
  2. The 177th place is a drop of 36 points from 141 in 2016.
  3. Emerging economies like Brazil and China ranks at 69 and 120.
  4. India is at the bottom of the environmental health category.
  5. In terms of air quality, India is at third last.
  6. Poor performance in the environmental health policy and high pollution-related deaths are the major factors in the overall drop.
  7. Other major causes include pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning and emissions from motor vehicles.
  8. Increasingly degrading air quality in India is attributed to the growth in population, industrial production, and automotive transportation.

Concerns

Health

  1. Air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health
  2. Over the past decade, the deaths due to a large rise in ultra-fine PM 2.5 particles in the country.
  3. An estimated 1.4 million premature deaths in India is due to Air pollution.

Economy

  1. Health impacts cause a serious loss in welfare equivalent to about 8% of GDP in 2013.
  2. The cost of labor productivity became 1.8% of GDP.
  3. Environmental degradation particularly affects the poor and further degrades their standard of living.

Measures taken

Over the past few years, the government has set some ambitious targets for environmental protection as follows

  1. Strict environmental standards for coal-fired power plants.
  2. Bharat Stage VI emission norms to be implemented from April 1, 2020.
  3. Initiatives to manufacture and sell electric vehicles in the country by 2030.
  4. Revision of National Solar Mission.
  5. Encouraging transition to renewable energy.
  6. The target for solar capacity revised from 20GW to 100 GW by 2022.
  7. Target to clean highly polluted Ganga by 2018.

Challenges

  1. There is a huge gap between policy goals and enforcement.
  2. On solar targets, India seems to be moving in the right path. However, balancing it with other goals is seriously lacking.
  3. For example,
  • The government has relaxed its promise of implementing strict power plant emission norms by December 2017.
  • The 30% annual E-waste collection target by manufacturers has been relaxed to 10%.
  1. The automobile industry has stated that full conversion to electric vehicles is possible only by 2047 which is in contrast to the government’s targets.
  2. In the clean Ganga initiative, there have been delays in creating an action plan and lack of proper fund utilization.

Way forward

  1. In order to address the environmental problems, there is a need to recognize the environmental costs of development.
  2. Subsidies shall be given in order to accelerate the transition to renewable, particularly solar energy.
  3. More polluting fuels should be priced higher.
  4. The environmental standards for coal power plants should be strict.
  5. Petrol and Diesel should be priced higher in order to aid the transition to electric vehicles.
  6. More political will is required to effectively implement the existing environmental laws and regulations.
  7. Considering India’s poor performance in the index, the government should take forward the environmental targets seriously.

Practice question

  1. “India’s performance in the recent Environmental Performance Index was poor”. Discuss various reasons for the same and suggest suitable measures to improve India’s ranking.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Draft Space Activity Bill 2017

Why in News?

  1. Recently, India’s draft space activity bill, 2017 was unveiled
  2. It aims at promoting and regulating the space activities in India
  3. The legislation is expected to encourage both public and private players to participate in India’s space programme.

Why is there a need for a space law?

  1. Currently, space activities are regulated by policies like Satellite communication policy, 2000 and Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011. But there is a need for the proper legal environment for orderly performance and growth of the space sector.
  2. Nations such as the USA, Russia, UK, etc. have their own space legislation. Even China and Japan are in the process of formulating their own domestic space legislation.
  3. Earlier, ISRO was the sole player in the space sector. However lately, there have been many start-ups mushrooming in this sector, which calls for a regulatory mechanism and legislation to govern their activities.
  4. Furthermore, the demand for Indian space products has been growing both in the country and outside the country. So it is necessary to include Indian industry and service providers in space activities under the technical guidance of the Department of Space (DOS) and the growth of the Indian space sector.
  5. A legislation is required as India is obligated to UN outer space treaties which require signatories to have a national legislation in place.

What are the key features of the bill?

  1. The provisions would be applicable to all citizens and also to those sectors which are engaged in space activity either inside or outside the country.
  2. It provides for the grant of a non-transferrable license to those people engaged in commercial space activity.
  3. It provides for the appropriate mechanisms for licensing, eligibility criteria and fees for the license.
  4. Union government will have to maintain a register of space objects that are launched or to be launched around the earth.
  5. It provides for technical support in order to facilitate commercial space activity.
  6. It also provides for regulatory procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
  7. It provides for restrictions in sharing of details regarding the pricing of products created through space activity with any person or agency.
  8. It provides for punishment for persons involved in illegal commercial space activities with imprisonment up to 3 years or fine more than Rs 1 crore or both
  9. It also has provisions for the protection of IPR created through space activity.

Arguments favouring the bill

  1. Definition: The bill clearly defines space players, licenses, violations, objects, people, and geography. It is also proposed to define detailed guidelines in consultation with stakeholders and industry bodies.
  2. Promotion: The bill encourages non-governmental players to take the risk and invest in space activities in India. This will make India a commercial hub for space activities and generate jobs in the country.

Arguments against the bill

  1. Clarity: Experts have criticized the bill for its lack of clarity on the use of space objects.
  2. Regulation: It gives arbitrary power to the government for monitoring the research activities. This would scare away international investors from investing in the space sector of India.
  3. Liability: The bill made the government non-liable for any harm caused by the commercial activities by the non-governmental players in space even though the government gives clearance for their involvement in the space activities.

Way forward

The bill is a welcome step in promoting the space sector. But to enable competitive ecosystem in the space sector there is a need to conduct a review of international best practices in managing the space value chain and inducting them within the Act.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] DBT in the Power Sector

Why in News

Recently, the Union and State governments agreed to implement the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme in the power sector for better targeting of electricity subsidies.

Key features

  1. Under the scheme, electricity will be provided to consumers at market rates and those eligible get the subsidy amount directly in their bank accounts.
  2. The cash payment under DBT will be equivalent to the level of payment announced by the state government for per unit of electricity consumption.
  3. The state would decide the subsidy based on average consumption data of a particular set of consumers.
  4. It is to be first launched under a pilot project and the full launch by 2019 when state discoms cleared their losses and started generating profit under UDAY.
  5. To make discoms more responsive, any disruption in electricity will be penalized after March 2019.
  6. For achieving efficiency and reduce losses, 100% metering will be done and there will be no human interface in consumer sides such as metering, billing, and collections.

Need for DBT in the power sector

  1. India’s electricity distribution sector has been facing huge loss over the years even after the launch of UDAY (Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana).
  2. Currently, discoms provide subsidy by the cross-subsidization method. Cross-subsidization is done by subsidizing the electricity tariff of households while keeping the tariff for commercial and industrial consumers high.
  3. People who are capable of paying the tariff benefits from cross-subsidization, but people who can’t pay (small business) are affected due to high electricity costs. Hence, DBT would solve the problem by direct targeting.
  4. India’s per capita power consumption is around 1200 kilowatt-hour (kWh) which is among the lowest in the world. The government has the vision to provide 24×7 power to all by 2019. So power leakage and inefficient distribution shall be minimized with DBT and provide power to all households particularly those who lack.
  5. In 2016, NITI Aayog recommended launching DBT in power distribution.

Benefits

  1. DBT in power sector will result in better targeting of subsidies without any leakages and delays.
  2. It will result in savings to the government exchequer.
  3. The tariff rationalization under the proposed reforms would help discoms escape from losses and recover input costs.
  4. It would result in the development of small industries who were earlier affected by cross-subsidization.

Challenges

  1. Unless metering is done at the lowest levels (backward and rural areas), the power sector will not survive.
  2. DBT is done through Aadhaar. However, the biometric authentication of poor people has not complete.
  3. There is also the need to remove the ghost beneficiaries.

Way forward

DBT in the power sector is a welcome move which would help India achieve 24×7 power for all target. However, the implementation should also be effective in ensuring the success of this scheme with proper monitoring, prompt payments, grievance redressal mechanisms for non-payments or delayed payments, removing ghost beneficiaries etc.

Practice questions

Do you think that the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in the power sector would help the government in achieving the 24×7 power for all target? Critically examine.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Criminal Defamation

 

Why in News

  1. Supreme Court of India in Subramanian Swamy case upheld the validity of the criminal defamation law.
  2. The court pronounced its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code providing for criminal defamation.

What is Defamation?

  1. Defamation refers to the act of publication of defamatory content that lowers the reputation of an individual or an entity when observed through the perspective of an ordinary man. Defamation in India is both a civil and a criminal offence.

The Law which deals with Defamation

  • Sections 499 and 500

Sections 499 and 500 in the IPC deal with criminal defamation. While the former defines the offence of defamation, the latter defines the punishment for it.

Section 499

Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.

Section 500

Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Supreme Court on Defamation

  1. Court rules that defamation laws are not in conflict with the right to free speech.
  2. Court stated that notwithstanding the expansive and sweeping ambit of freedom of speech, as all rights, right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. It is subject to imposition of reasonable restrictions

Why should it be retained?

  1.  The reputation of an individual, constituent in Article 21 is an equally important right as free speech
  2. It has interpreted art 21 to provide for the right to reputation and brought a new concept of constitutional fraternity – that is, an assurance of mutual respect and concern for each other’s dignity.
  3. The Supreme Court declared that the right to free speech under Article 19(1)(a) had to be “balanced” against the right to “reputation” under Article 21.
  4. It has been part of the statutory law for over 70 years. It has neither diluted our vibrant democracy nor abridged free speech
  5. Protection for “legitimate criticism” on a question of public interest is available in the Civil law of defamation & Under exceptions of Section 499 IPC
  6. Mere misuse or abuse of law can never be a reason to render a provision unconstitutional rather lower judiciary must be sensitized to prevent misuse
  7. Monetary compensation in civil defamation is not proportional to the excessive harm done to the reputation
  8. Editors have to take the responsibility of everything they publish as it has far-reaching consequences in an individual and country’s life
  9. Since there is no mechanism to censor the Internet from within, online defamation could only be adequately countered by retaining defamation as a criminal offence.
  10. Also, criminalisation of defamation is part of the state’s “compelling interest” to protect the right to dignity and good reputation of its citizens.
  11. Unlike in the U. S, defamation in India cannot be treated only as the civil liability as there is always a possibility of the defamer being judgment-free, i.e., not having the adequate financial capability to compensate the victim.

Why should it not be retained?

  1. These restrictions have a chilling effect on freedom of speech; they create an anomaly whereby the threshold for criminal prosecution for defamation is now possibly lower than the threshold for civil damages;
  2. “Constitutional fraternity” is not a part of Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which specifically limits the circumstances under which the state can restrict speech to eight enumerated categories.
  3. It is also nowhere in the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution, so the question of “balancing” free speech against constitutional fraternity does not arise.
  4. Article 21 which is a shield to protect the individual against State persecution or indifference, is used as a sword to cut down on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression because of this provision.
  5. Freedom of speech and expression of media is important for a vibrant democracy and the threat of prosecution alone is enough to suppress the truth. Many times the influential people misuse this provision to suppress any voices against them.
  6. Considering anecdotal evidence, every dissent may be taken as unpalatable criticism. Sections 499 and 500 of IPC prescribe two years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of defamation.
  7. The right to reputation cannot be extended to collectives such as the government, which has the resources to set right damage to their reputations.
  8. The process in the criminal cases itself becomes a punishment for the accused as it requires him to be personally present along with a lawyer on each date of hearing.
  9. Given that a civil remedy to defamation already exists, no purpose is served by retaining the criminal remedy except to coerce, harass and threaten.
  10. It goes against the global trend of decriminalizing defamation
  • Many countries, including neighbouring Sri Lanka, have decriminalized defamation.
  • The United Kingdom abolished criminal defamation altogether
  • More recently, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe struck it down as an unconstitutional restriction upon the freedom of speech.
  • In 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights called upon states to abolish criminal defamation, noting that it intimidates citizens and makes them shy away from exposing wrongdoing

11 Investigative journalism can be curtailed and the ombudsman would be threatened.

  • The dozens of defamation cases filed in Tamil Nadu to silence journalists show that criminal defamation can fetter democratic accountability.

Way forward

Criminal defamation should not be allowed to be an instrument in the hands of the state, especially when the Code of Criminal Procedure gives public servants an unfair advantage by allowing the state’s prosecutors to stand in for them when they claim to have been defamed by the media or political opponents.

In recognition of the fact that many countries do have criminal defamation laws which are unlikely to be repealed in the very near future, following interim measures can be taken:

  1. No-one should be convicted for criminal defamation unless the party claiming to be defamed proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, the presence of all the elements of the offence, as set out below;
  2. The offence of criminal defamation shall not be made out unless it has been proven that the impugned statements are false, that they were made with actual knowledge of falsity, or recklessness as to whether or not they were false, and that they were made with a specific intent to cause harm to the party claiming to be defamed;
  3. Public authorities, including police and public prosecutors, should take no part in the initiation or prosecution of criminal defamation cases, regardless of the status of the party claiming to have been defamed, even if he or she is a senior public official;
  4. Prison sentences, suspended prison sentences, suspension of the right to express oneself through any particular form of media, or to practise journalism or any other profession, excessive fines and other harsh criminal penalties should never be available as a sanction for breach of defamation laws, no matter how egregious or blatant the defamatory statement.

Conclusion

  1. While the right to reputation may be protected by the Constitution, it should not be at the cost of freedom of speech.
  2. Free speech is necessary because it enables the media to hold governments and individuals accountable. Freedom of speech should also protect the right to offend within reasonable limits.
  3. If the ability to legitimately criticize is not protected, voices throwing light on important issues will continue to be silenced by the rich and powerful
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Competition between India and China in Africa

Background

  1. Africa is a continent with various opportunities such as natural resources, demography and socio-economic development which attracts global attraction and competition.
  2. According to IMF, 11 of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa, with many of the nations recording high growth rates.
  3. Various countries including India and China have been investing in Africa to tap such potential. This led to widespread investment and development which made the African leaders welcoming the competition.
  4. Competition between India and China is for new markets, agricultural land and access to natural resources.

China’s strategy in Africa

  1. China with its economic might has invested heavily in various infrastructural projects in Africa and became a strong player in Africa.
  2. China started its economic liberalization way before India and with huge manufacturing base made deep inroads into Africa and devised effective strategy to exploit the natural resources in Africa. This created a strong lobby for China in Africa.
  3. Since independence, India followed the non-interventionist approach in Africa. However, China established a military base in Djibouti and acts as a net security provider in the region.
  4. The African countries have the huge demand for manufacturing and human resources which China has been effectively utilizing to establish a dominance.
  5. China has also been leveraging its permanent member status in UNSC to convince African countries that it will effectively tend to their concerns in the United Nations.

India’s strategy in Africa

  1. China has made deep inroads into Africa than any other country. But its dominance is slowly being replaced by India’s growing involvement in the region.
  2. India has focussed on showcasing its cultural and historical ties with the region to improve the trade relations with resource-rich countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.
  3. India’s soft power strategy has been successful which is evident in countries like Sudan where Indian companies have attained near complete control of the local oil and natural gas industry.
  4. In Zimbabwe also, China’s dominance in the energy and resource sectors is being replaced by both state-owned and private Indian corporations.
  5. African nations increasingly prefer India over China because of following reasons
  • Chinese companies utilize Chinese workers instead of local people = No employment creation. But India employs local people and provide them with skills.
  • Chinese companies don’t care about environmental protection, instead only the profits.

Chinese loans come with the prerequisite that only Chinese technology shall be utilized.

Way forward

  1. Although China has a larger presence in African economy than India, there are growing opportunities for India to improve trade relations with Africa such as initiatives like Asia-Africa growth corridor proposed by both India and Japan for improving development and people-people partnership.
  2. Africa is key to India’s economic and maritime interests in the Indian Ocean region. The Prime Minister’s emphasis on the “blue economy initiative” which aims to build on maritime trade links between India and the countries situated along the Indian Ocean is significant.
  3. Africa’s automotive sector is growing on the back of rapid urbanisation, a growing consumer base with rising disposable income and a huge regional market.
  4. It needs investments for creating infrastructure in ports, roads and railways, and training programmes to build a skilled labour force.
  5. Therefore, Our expertise and human resources in building roads, airports, ports, railways, economic zones and industrial corridors should be shared.
  6. India must not overlook the prospects of commercialisation of Indian innovation and technology in Africa.
  • For instance, a unique opportunity lies in Africa’s agriculture sector which suffers from low productivity, limited use of technology, lack of high yielding varieties of crops and good quality seeds.
  • This opens a window for Indian entrepreneurs in high social impact sectors including agriculture, information and communication technology, pharmaceuticals, energy and healthcare.

Practice Question

  1. “Although China has a huge presence in African economy, India has been slowly making inroads into Africa replacing China”. Comment.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Coastal Economic Zone

Why in news?

  1. Recently, the government approved the establishment of India’s first mega coastal economic zone (CEZ) at Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Maharashtra.
  2. The CEZ will be located in the north Konkan region spread across Nasik, Thane, Mumbai, Pune, and Raigarh.
  3. It will be part of 14 mega CEZ under the National Perspective Plan of the Sagarmala Programme.

What is Coastal Economic Zone?

  1. It is a spatial economic region that could extend along 300-500 km of coastline and around 200-300 km inland from the coastline.
  2. Each CEZ will be a grouping of coastal districts within a state.
  3. It will provide a geographical boundary within which port led industrialization can be developed through uniform policy along the ports and coastal states.
  4. Under CEZ, investor and business-friendly environment including ease of doing business, swift environmental clearances etc.

Significance

  1. These CEZs are aimed at promoting the development of port-proximate industrial clusters, encourage port-led development, reduction of logistics costs and time for the movement of goods and enhance the global competitiveness of Indian manufacturing sector.
  2. CEZ will facilitate export-led coastal economy based on labour-intensive sectors and will result in employment creation.
  3. It will increase export growth since large manufacturing industries are assisted by ancillary industries in the CEZ.
  4. CEZ would attract foreign investments with technology, capital, goods management and connections to the global markets.
  5. It will create an ecosystem around the CEZ in which productive cluster of the small and medium firm would arise and flourish.

Challenges

  1. Lack of availability of land with the states along with huge acquisition and compensation costs have delayed the implementation of the project.
  2. Lack of sufficient infrastructure for evacuation of cargo at major and non-major ports resulting in a poor mix of modal transportation, low penetration of coastal and inland shipping, lack of scale and deep draft at ports also lead to the poor growth.
  3. Involvement of multiple agencies might lead to a fragmented approach in the development of infrastructure for promoting industrialization, trade, tourism, and transportation across the country.

Way forward

Port-led industrialization through the development of CEZ expected to provide impetus to the “Make in India” initiative of the Government of India that will aid in the creation of jobs in India. However, speedier clearances without concern for the environment will be detrimental for the sustainable development as well. Hence proper environment impact assessment is needed before the actual implementation

Practice question

Critically evaluate the features, significance, and challenges associated with the development of Coastal Economic Zone in India.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act

Why in News?

The Parliament has amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 in July 2016.

What is Child Labour?

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development (International Labour Organization).

Key Statistics of Child Labour in India

  1. 1 in every 11 children in India works to earn a living, according to statistics by Action Aid India
  2. There are five states which are India’s biggest child labour employers-Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as per data given out by save children NGO.
  3. National capital Delhi is responsible for a share of 1 million child labour alone.
  4. A recent analysis by CRY of census data in the country shows that the overall decrease in child labour is only 2.2 per cent year on year, over the last 10 years.
  5. Also it has revealed that child labour has grown by more than 50 percent in urban areas.
  6. There are 33 million child labourers between the ages of 5 – 18 years in INDIA as per census 2011 data and 10.13 million between the ages of 5- 14 years.
  7. Considering that there are 444 million children India under the age of 18, they form 37 percent of the total population in the country.

Current Scenario of Child Labour

  1. India is one of the leading countries in Asia has 33 million children employed in various forms of child labour.
  2. India yet to ratify the Minimum age convention 1973 (No 138) of the International labour organization (ILO) that lays down ground rules for employment of minors across the globe.
  3. According to a Live mint report ,the government last year amended child labour laws to allow children below 14 to work in family businesses and the entertainment industry (excluding circuses ) in order to create” a balance between the need for education for a child and reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric of the country”.
  4. The amendment modified the definition of adolescents- to children between 14 and 18 years of age and barred them from working in any hazardous industries only.

Constitutional Safeguards for Children 

The constitution provides various safeguards for children which are as follows:

  1. Article 15(3) gives the power to the State to enact laws to protect children.
  2. Article 21A provides free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
  3. Article 24 prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 years in hazardous industries.
  4. Article 39 (e) provides that the State shall direct its policy to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused.
  5. Article 45 provides that State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
  6. Article 47 provides that it is the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health.

Salient features of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act Bill

  1. The Bill proposes a ban on employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except in family business and in entertainment industry provided education of the child does not get hampered.
  2. It prohibits employment of adolescents (a person between 14 and 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
  3. The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Bill.
  4. It enhances the punishment for employing any child in an occupation and for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation. For the first time, the fine has been increased from 20000 to 50000 Rs and 6 months to 2 years imprisonment. For repeat offenders, the offence is cognizable and proposes a punishment of 1-3 years.
  5. The Bill proposes relaxed penal provisions for parents. In case of parents being repeat offenders, it proposes a fine of 10000 rupees.
  6. It empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
  7. It also sets up a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund to be set up under the Act for rehabilitation of children and adolescents.

Arguments in Favour

  1. The amendments intend to preserve Indian art and craft by enabling parents with traditional skills to pass them on to their children.
  2. The setting up of a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund will help to improve the condition of the children and sponsor education for them.
  3. It prescribes a more stringent penalty for Violators and high term of jail and fine with non-bailable charges.
  4. It gives more autonomy to various institutions involved in child labour protection rehabilitation and redevelopment y empowering the government to make periodic inspection of places.

Arguments in Against

  • Reversing the gains

In 1986, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act had after much discussion and expansion included 83 occupations. The new amendment reverses the gain by bringing down the list of hazardous occupations for children to include just mining, inflammable substances and explosives.

  • Open discretion of government authorities

Further, the occupations listed as hazardous can be removed, according to Section 4 — not by Parliament but by government authorities at their own discretion. This leaves it to open discretion.

  • Promoting family labour

It allows child labour in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to work in the entertainment industry. Most of the child labour is in work with family members. Not defining the nature and time limitation will act as a main obstruction to their educational endeavour.

  • Non-uniform implementation

List of hazardous factories can be amended by the state government, thus, leading to the non-uniform implementation of this act.

  • Making lawful what was unlawful earlier

It allows that the children may work after school hours or during vacations, thus, actually making lawful a large part of child work that was earlier unlawful.

  • Roughly defined purpose of Fund

Funding from the child rehabilitation fund is not directly linked to education and development rather it aims towards these goals without any mentioned method thus not giving any specific list of objectives.

Way forward

  1. The Constitution of India mandates the state to secure a healthy childhood to all its children by virtue of Article 21-A, 24, 39(e), (f), 41 and 45.
  2. Despite this, slavery is the keynote of industrial life in India and child labour prevails in one or the other nook and corner.
  3. Even after the new Amendment Act, the blueprint for tackling child labour has multifarious lacunas and is not conducive in providing the fullest extent of justice to its children. The complete abolishment of child labour is still a distant dream.
  4. It is high time to realize that child labour is not just a social issue but a moral one. The cardinal right to free and compulsory education to children is a fundamental right and child labour is antagonistic to this basic right of a child.

Practice Question

Critically examine the Key features of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act?

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Should Betting Be Legalised in India

Why in News

  1. The Law Commission has recommended that gambling and betting on sports, including cricket, be allowed as regulated activities taxable under the direct and indirect tax regimes and used as a source for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI)
  2. The commission’s report, “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including Cricket in India”, recommends a number of changes in the law for regulating betting and generating tax revenues from it

Definition of Gambling & Betting

  • Betting is considered to be a form of gambling. The main difference between the two activities is that in gambling ‘the stakes’ or ‘the wager’ is placed on an event without any basis of the outcomes, whereas in betting the stakes are placed, based on at least an idea or the performance about the said betting event.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra defined gambling as wagering with inanimate objects such as dice; and betting as something that involved challenges and was concerned with cockfights, animal races and similar contests.

Law Commission Recommendations

  1. Parliament may also enact a model law for regulating gambling that may be adopted by the States or in the alternative, the Parliament may legislate in the exercise of its powers under Articles 249 or 252 of the Constitution.
  2. Gambling and betting, if any, should be offered only by Indian licensed operators from India possessing valid licenses granted by the game licensing authority.
  3. Gambling must be classified into two categories, namely ‘proper gambling’ and ‘small gambling’. ‘Proper gambling’ would be characterized by higher stakes, whereas individuals belonging to the lower income groups will have to confine themselves to ‘small gambling’.
  4. The transactions made between and among operators and players/participants indulging in these activities should mandatorily be made ‘cashless’.
  5. Any income derived from such activities should be made taxable under the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.

Consequences that ensue due to unregulated Gambling and Betting

  • Some of the major problems related to illegal gambling and betting activities are the exponential growth of illegal trade and commerce, and corrupt practices such as spot-fixing and match-fixing being employed in sports.
  • A total of 2916 cases have been registered under the gambling act in a period of 28 months, i.e., 104 cases per month, on an average.
  • The Delhi Police terms gambling as “connecting crime” that connects the gambler with other criminal activities. In order to regain the lost money or in an attempt to ‘invest’ more money into gambling, expecting more return an illegal gambler is bound to end up in committing other crimes like chain snatching, looting, stealing, etc.
  • A total ban on gambling and betting activities has not completely eradicated the problem but it has driven it straight to the black-market. This in turn has resulted in making it harder to monitor such illegal activities.
  • Illegal betting causes substantial monetary loss to the economy, with profits escaping the purview of taxation, and also increases the circulation of black money in the market.

Advantages of a regulated Gambling and Betting industry

  • Protection for the young and vulnerable against the dangers of unwise betting behaviour.
  • Employment generation (more than 8000 people are employed in casinos in Goa).
  • Fairer and more trusted betting experience for consumers, offering entertainment in a controlled and responsible manner.
  • Blow against organized crime like match fixing which threaten to damage public trust both in sport and in the legitimate betting industry.
  • Generation of revenues from taxation of sports development and preventing sport betting from being linked to criminality or used to launder proceeds of crime.
  • Protection of players, coaches and all involved with sport from unprincipled approaches

Lessons from International Perspective on Gambling & Betting

  • Countries across the globe have adopted three approaches in the matter of regulating gambling and betting activities.
  • Some Countries, especially those which give primacy to religious morality, have taken the view that the role of government is to protect its citizens from the negative effects of such activities.
  • The Countries that give primacy to religious morality often impose a complete ban on gambling, while others view gambling and betting as an industry to drive trade and revenue; and encourage tourism and employment.
  • Some countries also operate between these two extremes, striking a balance and permit gambling in a controlled and regulated environment; as a result, they earn substantial revenue from the tax imposed on such activities. This revenue can be utilized for promoting sports, cultural, charitable activities or any other activity aimed at the economic growth or development

What needs to be done?

  • Legalizing betting and gambling is not desirable in India in the present scenario. Therefore, the State authorities must ensure enforcement of a complete ban on unlawful betting and gambling.
  • However, incapability to enforce a complete ban has resulted in a rampant increase in illegal gambling, resulting in a boom in black-money generation and circulation.
  • Since it is not possible to prevent these activities completely, effectively regulating them remains the only viable option.
  • But law commission recommends that regulated gambling would ensure detection of fraud and money laundering, etc.
  • Such regulation of gambling would require a three-pronged strategy, reforming the existing gambling (lottery, horse racing) market, regulating illegal gambling and introducing stringent and overarching regulations

Practice Question

A complete restriction on betting has not eradicated it but has sent the activity ‘underground’ covered in the murky undertakings of the crime syndicates. In the light of the above statement critically analyse the recent proposal of Law commission to regulate gambling and betting on sports in India?

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Belt and Road Initiative

What is Belt and Road Initiative?

  1. The Belt and Road Initiative is a Chinese foreign policy initiative launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
  2. It consists of two projects named Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  3. The objective is to build a trade, investment, and infrastructure network linking Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
  4. China has incorporated Belt and Road Initiative into its constitution.

The significance of BRI for China

  1. It makes China an important maritime power in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and its littoral countries.
  2. It promotes China-led financial institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
  3. Development of Western Provinces:  It will develop poorer western provinces of China, particularly Xinjiang. Xinjiang has had ethnic tensions and is considered to be a vulnerable area for China. The Chinese government made Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region as ‘Core zone of Silk Road Economic belt’. The government has been providing incentives to attract manufacturers and real estate developers.
  4. Transportation links provide better access to rich European markets and boost trade.
  5. Creation of an energy route between the Middle East and Africa will act as a safety valve against any possible prohibition at points like Hormuz and the Malacca Strait.
  6. Development of railways, ports, pipelines, and highways across Asia and the Indian Ocean will help China utilize its excess capacity in steel, cement, and infrastructural engineering. This will result in the development of its manufacturing sector further.
  7. It will enable China to compete with Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or any other future mechanisms that aim at establishing new trading norms.

Challenges to BRI

  • Poor governance and instability in Countries along BRI
  1. The varying levels of development and the poor governance conditions of countries along the BRI may hinder infrastructure development, trade, and investment.
  2. Furthermore, the political instability in a growing number of countries such as Yemen, Syria etc. along BRI poses serious security concerns for BRI
  • Separatist movements and Ethnic Tensions
  1. Separatist movements and ethnic tensions especially in Xinjiang proves to be a major challenge for the development of BRI and its linking with neighbouring countries.
  • Cooperation from neighboring countries:
  1. China has raised several sovereignty-related disputes with neighbouring countries including India which makes them not cooperate with the development of BRI.
  2. Moreover, the Potential ecological and environmental consequences, especially in developing countries along the BRI, renders the project undesirable for many countries including India.
  • Transparency issues in tenders and deal conditions
  1. There are many instances of countries such as Nepal and Pakistan abandoning the deal with China to build the infrastructure project because of the closed tender process and strict deal conditions.

India’s stance

  1. India has opposed the BRI and did not attend the 2017 BRI Summit held in Beijing.
  2. It mentioned issues of sovereignty, transparency and unilateral decision making.

Why is India reluctant in joining the initiative?

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

  1. CPEC is a flagship programme of the BRI and the main reason for India opposition to the initiative.
  2. It is because CPEC passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan) which is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan.
  3. Thus CPEC undermines India’s strategic interests and territorial integrity.
  4. More importantly, with CPEC, China will get access to the western Indian Ocean through Gwadar port. This will help China in controlling maritime trade and would affect the freedom of navigation and trade-energy security of India.

Unilateral Decision

  1. India has alleged that China has taken unilateral decisions. There has been a lack of consultations with India before the launch of BRI.

Concern over China’s expanding presence in neighbouring countries and the Indian Ocean

  1. China’s port development projects in the Indian Ocean raises security concerns for India.
  2. Increasing Chinese presence in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar has raised concerns for India. For India, BRI seems driven by large geopolitical aims.

Transparency issues

  1. India has highlighted the importance of openness and transparency
  2. According to India, mutual agreements on infrastructure projects should be transparent and debt repayments should be made easier for recipient countries

Why should India join BRI?

  1. Economic benefits, Boost to trade, investment, and business engagement
  2. It provides direct access to Afghanistan and Central Asia
  3. Energy: BRI is expected to normalize India-Pakistan ties. This would remove the obstacles to the implementation of two major energy cooperation projects: the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. This is crucial for India’s energy security.
  4. Improve Indo-China ties; India and China may cooperate at many global fronts.
  5. Security: Development in Gilgit- Baltistan area would help to curb security threats
  6. All neighbouring countries (except Bhutan) and other countries from South-East Asia, Central Asia has joined BRI. Thus, not joining BRI may lead to the isolation of India
  7. Many geopolitical issues and differences can be resolved through economic integration.

Way forward

  1. More than 65 countries- nearly every country in Asia (except few like Bhutan, Japan), East and Central Europe have joined BRI
  2. BRI is particularly significant in times of rising protectionism across the world.
  3. The success of BRI largely depends on how China manages its debt since 23 countries that joined BRI are in debt distress.
  4. More importantly, the regional cooperation and political stability in countries along BRI is crucial for BRI’s success

Practice questions

  1. Give a brief account of Belt and Road initiative and its significance for China vis-à-vis India. Also, identify the key challenges in the implementation of BRI.
  2. Do you think that it is in the best interest for India to join the Belt and Road initiative? Critically analyse.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Ayushmaan Bharat

AYUSHMAN BHARAT – NATIONAL HEALTH PROTECTION MISSION

What is Ayushman Bharat Scheme?

  1. The Government announced two major initiatives in health sector, as part of Ayushman Bharat programme.
    1. Health and Wellness Centre
    2. National Health Protection Scheme
  2. Aimed at making path breaking interventions to address healthcare problems holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems.
  3. Covers both prevention and promotion of health.

 

Need for Ayushman Bharat

  1. India is in a state of health transition.
  2. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, H1N1 pandemic influenza and antimicrobial resistance are a threat.
  3. Also the country is facing the emerging problem of chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer which are now the leading cause of mortality.
  4. New factors are emerging that threatens the country’s health security like ageing population, climate change, globalization, urbanization and changing lifestyles.
  5. We lag behind in addressing healthcare delivery across the length and breadth of the country.
  6. We have one of the highest levels of out-of-pocket spending on health.
  7. Average cost of treatment in private hospitals is 4 times higher than that of public. This pushes many people below poverty line.
  8. Funding for healthcare has been a major concern.
  9. Several states have implemented or supplemented their own health protection schemes. Ayushman Bharat programme builds on these schemes.
  10. Failure of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).

RSBY

  1. Poor families get an annual coverage of Rs. 30,000.
  2. It was world’s largest publicly-funded health insurance (PFHI) scheme.
  3. RSBY will be subsumed under National Health Protection Scheme.
  4. Similarly, Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS) will also be subsumed under NHPS.

Why RSBY failed?

  1. Failed to cover a large number of targeted families.
  2. Prevalent discrimination against disadvantaged groups.
  3. Lack of mandate on insurance companies to achieve higher enrolment rates.
  4. Absence of oversight by government agencies.
  5. RSBY resulted in higher out-of-pocket expenditures.
  6. This caused the failure of the scheme despite its holistic health care coverage.

Health and Wellness Centre

  1. Health and Wellness Centres will be the foundation of country’s health system.
  2. 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
  3. Will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  4. Will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  5. Also provide mental health services, vaccinations against selected communicable diseases, and screening for hypertension, diabetes, and some cancers.
  6. Allocation of Rs. 1200 crore for this flagship programme.
  7. Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.

National Health Protection Scheme

  1. National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families or around 50 crore people.
  2. Will provide coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  3. Identification of eligible families through the socio-economic caste census (SECC) data.
  4. World’s largest government funded health care programme.
  5. National Health Agency will govern the implementing mechanism.
  6. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme.
  7. Cost of packages will be decided by National Health Agency.

Significance of Ayushman Bharat

  1. Move towards the goal of universal health coverage
  2. Creating Swasth Bharat.
  3. Accessible healthcare at secondary and tertiary level institutions for the bottom 40% of the population.
  4. High involvement of states as the states are the custodians and the implementers of the scheme.
  5. Ensures enhanced productivity, well being and avert wage loss and impoverishment.
  6. Generation of lakhs of jobs, particularly for women.
  7. Like Jan Dhan scheme did for financial inclusion, Ayushman Bharat will create huge awareness of health insurance
  8. A higher life expectancy.
  9. The country will meet its social development goals.
  10. With respect to infrastructure and trained medical professionals, tertiary healthcare faces a big challenge. This problem is more acute in rural areas. AB will address this challenge.
  11. Will improve access to healthcare and bridge the demand-supply gap.

Challenges for Ayushman Bharat

  1. Inadequate funding.
  2. Proper and transparent implementation on such a large scale.
  3. Limited and uneven distribution of human resources at various levels of health services.
  4. Presently, a lack of capacity to respond to huge demand for beds. This will take some time.
  5. Private players faced various hurdles in earlier schemes like RSBY.
  6. There was opaque procedure for empanelment and cost fixating mechanisms.
  7. Huge delays in reimbursement to private hospitals was also a challenge in RSBY.
  8. At the same time, the pricing mechanism of private players needs to be checked.
  9. Politics of parties will hinder the participation of states.

Way Forward

  1. Categorise hospitals into Entry level, Progressive level and Accreditation level. This will help in standardisation in clinical practices.
  2. Use of technology and digitisation for accessible and affordable patient care to the last mile of the country.
  3. Need for proper medical claims system and fraud control mechanisms.
  4. Effective collaboration between centre, states and industry.
  5. States should have some flexibility as costs could vary in tier 1 cities and tier 2 cities.
  6. Proper monitoring and governance of operational and implementation aspect of AB.
  7. Timely resolution of complaints.

Practice Questions

  1. Discuss the features of Ayushman Bharat programme and examine how Ayushman Bharat is different from Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana.
  2. Critically examine the significances of and challenges in the implementation of Ayushman Bharat Programme.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Ashgabat Agreement

Why in News?

In February 2018, India had joined the Ashgabat Agreement.

What is Ashgabat Agreement?

The Ashgabat agreement is a multimodal transport agreement that envisages the creation of an International Transport and Transit Corridor connecting Central Asia with the Persian Gulf. The corridor being multimodal will consist of road, rail and sea transport.

Significance for India

  1. Easing of trade barriers and simplifying procedures for movement of goods between signatory states.
  2. Connectivity to the Central Asian Region
  3. Due to the lack of direct land connectivity, India’s bilateral trade with Central Asia has taken a hit – the trade stands at meagre USD 1 Bn approx. The agreement can address this and will help India diversify its trade market and also its trade basket.
  4. It will make it easier for India to tap the strategic and high-value minerals in Central Asia including uranium, copper coking coal, etc which will give a boost to India’s manufacturing economy.
  5. These countries are located strategically and act as a junction point between India and Eurasia. Thus, connectivity to this region will also facilitate India’s trade relation with other Eurasian countries.
  6. Link with Iran
  7. Iran is India’s gateway to Eurasia, and thus an important link in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
  8. India has also planned to construct a railway between Chabahar to Zahedan. Now, India is considering an enhanced role for Chabahar port by integrating it with INSTC and the proposed transit corridor under Ashgabat Agreement.
  9. With respect to International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
  10. The Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan (ITK) railway line which became operational in 2014 and is included as part of INSTC will also be the major route under the Ashgabat Agreement. Therefore, the Ashgabat Agreement will be easily synchronized with other ambitious infrastructure initiatives of India in the region.
  11. Connectivity to Eurasia
  12. For Eurasia, container transport plays a significant role. And for India to join the competitive situation in the Euro-Asian transit system, active participation in transportation projects like this is essential.
  13. Connectivity to Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
  14. CIS had a share of mere 0.91% in India’s exports and 2% in its imports during 2015-16, with Russia being the most important trading partner accounting for about 65 percent of India’s trade with the CIS.
  15. This agreement will help in expanding India’s connectivity options with CIS region at large thus opening up new markets for India’s trade.
  16.  India’s accession to Ashgabat Agreement will further pave the way for the integration process under the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Conclusion

The Ashgabat agreement will help in securing India’s energy needs as well, by diversifying import market. However, India need not be limited to increasing trade and commerce but should aim to enhance investment and services, interlinking sources of raw material, centres of productions and markets between India and the Eurasian region at large.

Expected Questions

  1. Discuss the reasons behind India joining the Ashgabat Agreement recently?
  2. What is Ashgabat Agreement? Mention its strategic and economic significances for India?
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Adultery Law: Section 497 of the IPC

Why in news?

The court admitted a petition to drop adultery as a criminal offence from the statute book

Section 497 of the IPC

Section 497 of the IPC mandates that “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished.

Application of Section 497 (example)

  1. X (Male) and Y (Female) have been married for nine years. They both are professionals and lead a seemingly happy life. In the 5th year of their marriage, Y falls in love with her colleague Z (Male). X finds out about this affair and collects evidence of this. When he has enough evidence, he files a case of adultery under the relevant IPC provision.
  2. In India, under the existing provisions, women cannot be prosecuted for adultery. So in the case mentioned above, Y’s husband can press charges of adultery on Z, who can get jail time of up to 5 years, but the same is not applicable for Y. This could, however, change, with the Supreme Court agreeing to revisit the provision.
  3. In this case, both Y and Z are culpable of committing adultery. However, the law does not look at both parties in an adulterous relationship in the same light

What would the court examine?

The court would examine two aspects of the penal provision

  1. Why does Section 497 treat the man as the adulterer and the married woman as a victim
  2. The offence of adultery ceases the moment it is established that the husband connived or consented to the adulterous act. So, is a married woman the “property” of her husband or a passive object without a mind of her own?

Court’s initial observation

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  1. SC has noted that in a case of adultery, one person is liable for the offense but the other is absolved and that the concept of gender neutrality, on which criminal law normally proceeds, is absent
  2. The court has also noted that once the consent or connivance of the husband is established, there is no offense of adultery at all
  3. SC described this as subordination of a woman and something that “creates a dent on the independent identity of a woman”

Past judgments of SC

  1. The apex court had earlier on three separate occasions, in 1954, 1985 and 1988, upheld the constitutionality of Section 497
  2. In the past, the Supreme Court has emphasized that a married woman is a “victim” and the man is “the author of the crime”
  3. It has treated the exemption given to women as a special provision that has the protection of Article 15(3)
  4. It has rejected the argument that it is discriminatory by pointing out that neither a man nor a woman can prosecute their disloyal spouses
  5. It is only the ‘outsider’ to the matrimonial relationship who can be prosecuted, and that too by the aggrieved husband alone
  6. This is made clear in Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a provision also under challenge

Why section 497 needs to be scrapped?

1.International scenario:

  1. Many countries across the world do not treat adultery as an offense any longer
  2. In 2012, a United Nations Working Group on laws that discriminate against women wanted countries that treat adultery as a crime, to repeal such laws.
  3. UK has abolished adultery laws

2.Violation of Constitutional principles

  1. The Constitution confers equal status to a man and a woman
  2. It amounts to a violation of a women’s fundamental right against discrimination under Article 15 when the law “assumes a patronising attitude to women.”

3.Not in consonance with changing Social Conditions

Today both women and men move shoulder to shoulder with each other. Also, today Polygamy is not prevalent in Indian society. So, any biasness in the law towards any gender is like not evolving the law with the ever-changing society.

4.Promotes subordination of women

The section encourages the notion of treating wife as a commodity under the subjugation of husband. It harms the individual independent identity of women whose prosecution depends on husband’s consent.

5.Law discriminates against men

When sexual intercourse takes place with the consent of both parties, there is no good reason to exclude the wife and prosecute only her adulterer. Thus, Section burdens man alone for the offence and grants immunity to wife by treating her as a victim according to prevalent social norms.

Conclusion

No marriage or alliance can take away one’s right over one’s own body. Therefore, while the law on adultery as it is today in the IPC is discriminatory on the ground of sex; the very existence of adultery in the criminal statute is violative of the fundamental right to life and to live with dignity. No doubt that the law, as it stands, is inadequate.

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] NPA Crisis: Major Surgery Needed

 

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Context

According to RBI’s recent data The pile of bad loans, or stressed assets, is close to Rs10 lakh crore($154 billion) now, which is more than the GDP of at least 137 countries. And what’s more, it is only growing.

Stressed assets, which include non-performing assets (NPAs) and restructured loans, form some 12% of the total loans in Indian banking now.

What is NPA?

  1. The assets of the banks which don’t perform (that is – don’t bring any return) are called Non Performing Assets (NPA) or bad loans. Bank’s assets are the loans and advances given to customers. If customers don’t pay either interest or part of principal or both, the loan turns into a bad loan.
  2. According to RBI, terms loans on which interest or instalment of principal remain overdue for a period of more than 90 days from the end of a particular quarter is called a Non-performing Asset.
  3. However, in terms of Agriculture / Farm Loans; the NPA is defined as under- For short duration crop agriculture loans such as paddy, Jowar, Bajra etc. if the loan (instalment/interest) is not paid for 2 crop seasons, it would be termed as an NPA. For Long Duration Crops, the above would be 1 Crop season from the due date

http://image.slidesharecdn.com/nonperformingassetmanagement-150324234247-conversion-gate01/95/non-performing-asset-management-2-638.jpg?cb=1437494895

Impact of NPA on Economy

  1. Depositors do not get rightful returns and many times may lose uninsured deposits. Banks may begin charging higher interest rates on some products to compensate for Non-performing loan losses
  2. Bank shareholders are adversely affected
  3. Bad loans imply redirecting of funds from good projects to bad ones. Hence, the economy suffers due to loss of good projects and failure of bad investments
  4. When bank do not get loan repayment or interest payments, liquidity problems may ensue.

Reasons for the rise in NPA in recent years

  1. GDP slowdown: Between early 2000’s and 2008 Indian economy were in the boom phase. During this period Banks especially Public sector banks lent extensively to corporates. However, the profits of most of the corporate dwindled due to slowdown in the global and domestic economy, bans in mining projects, delays in environmental related permits ,Land acquisition hurdles and volatility in prices of raw material. This has adversely affected their ability to pay back loans and is the most important reason behind increase in NPA of public sector banks.
  2. Relaxed lending Norms: One of the main reasons of rising NPA was the relaxed lending norms especially for corporate honchos when their financial status and credit rating was not analyzed properly. Also, to face competition banks were hugely selling unsecured loans .
  3. Priority Sector Lending: There is a myth that main reason for rise in NPA in Public sector banks was Priority sector lending as according to the findings of Standing Committee on Finance , NPAs in the corporate sector are far higher than those in the priority or agriculture sector. However, even if PSL is not the main cause but it is still a cause for rising NPA which can be seen from the fact that As per the latest estimates by the SBI, education loans constitute 20% of its NPAs.
  4. The Lack of Bankruptcy code in India and the sluggish legal system makes it difficult for banks to recover these loans from both corporate and noncorporate.

Other factors

  1. Banks did not conduct adequate contingency planning, especially for mitigating project risk. They did not factor eventualities like failure of gas projects to ensure supply of gas or failure of land acquisition process for highways.
  2. Restructuring of loan facility was extended to companies that were facing larger problems of over-leverage & inadequate profitability. This problem was more in the Public sector banks.
  3. Companies with dwindling debt repayment capacity were raising more & more debt from the system.

Why most NPA in the Public sector?

  1. Five sectors Textile, aviation, mining, Infrastructure contributes to most of the NPA since most of the loan given in these sectors are by PSB, they account for most of the NPA.
  2. Public Sector banks provide around 80% of the credit to industries and it is this part of the credit distribution that forms a great chunk of NPA. Last year, when Kingfisher was marred in a financial crisis, SBI provided it a huge amount of loan which it is not able to recover from it.
  3. Less Professional management
  4. Political Pressure and interference forces PSB to lend to not so commercially sounds project.

Steps taken by RBI and Government in last few years to curb NPA

  1. The government has launched Mission Indradhanush to make the working of public sector bank more transparent and professional in order to curb the menace of NPA in future.
  2. The government has also proposed to introduce Bankruptcy code which will make it easier for banks to Recover the loans from the debtors.
  3. RBI introduced a number of measures in the last few years which include:
  • Tightening the Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) mechanism,
  • Setting up a Joint Lenders’ Forum, prodding banks to disclose the real picture of bad loans, asking them to increase provisioning for stressed assets,
  • Introducing a 5:25 scheme where loans are to be amortized over 25 years with a refinancing option after every five years, and
  • Empowering them to take majority control in defaulting companies under the Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) scheme.
  • Amendment in banking law to give RBI more powers: The Banking Regulation Act may be amended to give RBI more powers to monitor bank accounts of big defaulters. The amendment in the banking law will enable setting up of a committee to oversee companies that have been the biggest defaulters of loans.
  • Stringent NPA recovery rules: The government has over the years enacted and tweaked stringent rules to recover assets of defaulters. The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act or Sarfaesi Act of 2002 was amended in 2016 as it took banks years to recover the assets.

How to curb the menace of NPA?

#1. Short-Term measures

  1. Review of NPA’S/Restructured advances- We need to assess the viability case by case. Viable accounts need to be given more finance for turnaround and unviable accounts should either be given to Asset Reconstruction Company or Management/ownership restructuring or permitting banks to take over the units.
  2. Bankruptcy code should be passed as soon as possible. Bankruptcy code will make it easier for banks to recover loans from unviable enterprises.
  3. The government should establish an ARC with the equity contribution from the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The established ARC should take the tumour (of non-performing assets or NPAs) out” of the banking system. An ARC acquires bad loans from banks and financial institutions, usually at a discount, and works to recover them through a variety of measures, including sale of assets or a turnaround steered by professional management. Relieved of their NPA burden, the banks can focus on their core activity of lending.

#2. Long-term Measures

  1. Improving credit risk management– This includes credit appraisal, credit monitoring, and efficient system of fixing accountability and analyzing trends in group leverage to which the borrowing firm belongs to
  2. Sources/structure of equity capital– Banks need to see that promoter’s contribution is funded through equity and not debt.
  3. Banks should conduct necessary sensitivity analysis and contingency planning while appraising the projects and it should built adequate safeguards against such external factors.
  4. Strengthen credit monitoring– Develop an early warning mechanism and comprehensive MIS(Management information system) can play an important role in it.MIS must enable timely detection of problem accounts, flag early signs of delinquencies and facilitate timely information to management on these aspects.
  5. Enforce accountability- Till now lower ring officials considered accountable even though loaning decisions are taken at higher level. Thus sanction official should also share the burden of responsibility.
  6. Restructured accounts should treated as non performing and technical write-offs where Banks remove NPA’S from their balance sheets Permanently should be dispensed with.
  7. Address corporate governance issues in PSB- This includes explicit fit and proper criteria for appointment of top executives and instituting system of an open market wide search for Chairman

Questions

  1. Non-performing assets, restructured loans and written-off assets — collectively called ‘stressed assets’ — have become a major challenge to the country’s banking system. To combat these, what has the government done? Will these measures be effective? Examine.
  2. The problem of non-performing assets (NPAs) in the Indian banking system is said to be big and might affect economic growth of the country. What are the approaches that RBI and government are adopting to clean the banking system of NPAs? Examine.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Maldives Relations

Recent developments

  1. Maldives immigration authority has not been issuing work visas to Indians since March this year.
  2. This is retaliation from the Maldives for India’s condemnation of Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s declaration of emergency in February after the country’s Supreme Court reversed the conviction of opposition leader, Mohammed Nasheed, and others.
  3. The Maldives has also asked India to take back its gift of two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, one manned by the Indian Coast Guard and another by the Indian Navy, by the end of June. Though the Maldivian government has said that these were not the helicopters it wanted, the real worry seems to be the presence of Indian defence personnel who are maintaining and operating the aircraft.
  4. In retaliation, it is learnt that Delhi voted against Malé and in favour of Indonesia for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council last week.

Weakening ties between India and the Maldives

  1. There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties, starting from March 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled a visit
  2. Recent moves by Abdulla Yameen, President of the Maldives, have put Malé on a collision course with New Delhi
  3. India criticised the government for its incarceration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, sentenced to 19 months in prison for an alleged plot to unseat Mr. Yameen
  4. The Maldives in December 2017 also signed a free trade agreement with China
  5. The Maldives, under Yameen, is also wooing Pakistan, China’s closest friend and ally. Soon after Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid a visit to Malé, Islamabad offered a $10 million loan to finance the purchase of two Super Mushak aircraft from Pakistan’s Aeronautical Complex.
  6. The strain is now evident in two areas where India-Maldives ties had been the strongest: strategic relations and people-to-people engagement

Internal developments in the Maldives which concerned India in recent past

Islamist radicalisation

  1. In the past decade or so, the number of Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan-based madrassas and jihadist groups has been increasing.
  2. In terms of proportion to population, this number of Maldivian nationals(200) joining IS, is quite high compared to other South Asian countries, irrespective of whether they are Muslim-majority countries.
  3. Political instability and socio-economic uncertainty are the main drivers fuelling the rise of Islamist radicalism in the island nation.
  4. India has two worries in this regard:
  • the exfiltration of members of Indian terror groups like the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen (IM) to the Maldives after their crackdown in India
  • the possibility of LeT using remote Maldivian islands as a launch pad for terror attacks against India and Indian interests.

Overall, India’s concern is regarding how radical Islamist forces have been gaining political influence in the neighbourhood.

Role of China

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  1. China’s strategic footprint in India’s neighbourhood has increased.
  2. The Maldives has emerged as an important ‘pearl’ in China’s “String of Pearls” for ensuring the security of its sea lanes, especially the unhindered flow of critically-needed energy supplies from Africa and West Asia through the Indian Ocean.
  3. Chinese have remained among the top visitors to the Maldives. Beijing has evinced a keen interest in developing infrastructure in the Ihavandhoo, Marao and Maarandhoo Islands.
  4. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2014, the Maldives agreed to become a partner in China’s Maritime Silk Route.
  5. China has provided grant and loan assistance to the Maldives to build a bridge between the capital and the airport (called the China-Maldives friendship bridge).
  6. Amendments to the Maldivian Constitution in July 2015 allowed foreigners to own land, including investments of over US$ 1 billion for projects where 70 per cent of the land has been reclaimed. Looking at the parameters, China will be the obvious beneficiary.
  7. Chinese nationals now account for the largest tourist arrivals in the islands.
  8. India views the growing Chinese footprint in the Maldives with concern. India’s concern stems from the increasing Chinese strategic presence in the Indian Ocean region.
  9. Though the Maldivian government under Yameen has reassured India that the Chinese presence is purely economic, the concern of ‘places turning into bases’ is genuine
  10. In December 2017, China signed the Free Trade Agreement with the Maldives.
  11. It paves the way for a tighter embrace between Beijing and Maldives and it will also open the Maldives to Chinese goods and tourists in unprecedented numbers.
  12. Delhi saw this as a betrayal of the Maldives’ publicly stated “India First” policy

Way forward

  1. The Yameen government must reconsider these policies.
  2. India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly.
  3. India cannot take its predominant power in South Asia for granted.
  4. Whether it is Nepal, where the people recently elected the pro-Chinese and moderate Communist, K.P. Oli, to power, or the Maldives, Delhi must abandon their perceived arrogance towards its smaller neighbours.
  5. India needs to separate ground reality from its desires — whatever its discomfort with Yameen, it has to learn to deal with him.
  6. Elections are due in the Maldives later this year and Delhi must realistically assess the pros and cons, including its policy towards exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed, before taking sides.
  7. China is here to stay in the Maldives, as well as across the rest of South Asia. Delhi needs to learn to deal with issues realistically.

Question

  1. There is unmistakable evidence of souring of ties between India and Maldives. Why has the relationship deteriorated? How can it be improved?
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Income support model (Telengana)

 

How Telangana supports farmers with Rs 4,000 for every acre they own

 

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Why in News

  1. An income support scheme for farmers in Telangana has earned the appreciation of outgoing Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
  2. It formally gives scope for the feasible framework at pan-India level.

What Rythu Bandhu provides?

  1. Under Rythu Bandhu, the Telangana government gives every beneficiary farmer Rs 4,000 per acre as investment support before every crop season.
  2. The objective is to help the farmer meet a major part of his expenses on seed, fertiliser, pesticide, and field preparation.
  3. The scheme covers 1.42 crore acres in the 31 districts of the state, and every farmer owning land is eligible.
  4. Officials said 92% of the beneficiaries own less than 5 acres, 5% own 5-10 acres and the remaining 3% own more than 10 acres.

Payment

  1. The government plans to extend the flat Rs 4,000-per-acre subsidy to the rabi season as well, with the distribution of cheques from November 18.
  2. The government has allocated Rs 12,000 crore for Rythu Bandhu in 2018-19; the 24×7 free power supply to farmers is estimated to cost another Rs 1,000 crore.
  3. The government will issue cheques rather than make direct benefit transfer (DBT) because banks might use the DBT money to adjust against farmers’ previous dues.
  4. The cheques have been distributed along with free Pattadar Dharani passbooks with updated information including ownership and land purchase and sale.

Beneficiaries

  1. The government had initially drawn up a list of 72 lakh beneficiaries based on a revenue department survey last year.
  2. Lack of proper land records resulted in the total being shortlisted at 57.33 lakh.
  3. But the records are still under rectification and more farmers will be added to the list later.

Relief from Indebtedness – the major impact

  1. Rythu Bandhu money provides that cushion to the farmer because with that money the farmer can purchase seeds and fertiliser and start sowing.
  2. If a bank approves his loan later then it is of additional help to hire farm labour etc but at least he is not going to moneylenders.

Criticisms of the scheme

  1. The foremost issue is that it does not exclude rich farmers and wealthy landlords. The scheme does, however, have a provision under which cheques can be returned to the local authorities.
  2. The scheme leaves out tenant cultivators — an estimated 40% of Telangana’s farming population and mostly coming from the poorest and most disadvantaged backgrounds. Tenant farmers cannot be included in the scheme as they cannot submit any proof of cultivation of land, which is done mostly based on informal and oral lease arrangements. Their frequent movement makes it very difficult to identify them. If they are included in the scheme, it will lead to unnecessary litigation.

Way forward

  1. Acute agri distress is a grim reality that needs to be tackled on a war footing. Schemes like Rythu Bandhu show promise.
  2. Filter out the rich farmers (on the basis of factors like income, land and asset ownership etc) so as to make the model more cost-effective and impactful.
  3. The model will have to be customised to suit the agro-climatic and socio-economic variations across India. A blanket approach will not work.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Hybrid Electric Vehicles & Fame Scheme

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

  1. Conventional cars use an internal combustion engine for power.
  2. Battery electric vehicles only use an electric motor and battery, eschewing conventional engines altogether.
  3. Hybrid cars have the advantage of both of above type of vehicle. They have, in addition to the internal combustion engine, also an electric motor and a battery.
  4. If we had better batteries with greater power storage capacity, we would need hybrid cars.
  5. The most advanced hybrids have larger batteries and can recharge their batteries from an outlet. These are known as “plug-in hybrids” and can cover long distances.

BENEFITS

  1. Fuel Efficiency: It greatly increases fuel efficiency by increasing mileage, turning off combustion engine while driving at lower speeds and when the car is stopped, battery provides power for air conditioning.
  2. While accelerating or at higher speeds, combustion engine can be used, thus not compromising with the power of vehicles.
  3. Global Warming: Will cut down emissions of global warming pollutants by a 1/3 to 1/2.
  4. It will greatly reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  5. The later model may cut down these emissions even further.

FAME India – Hybrid and Electric vehicles scheme

  1. Union Government on 1 April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme
  2. The scheme was launched as part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility to boost eco-friendly vehicles sales in the country

Key facts

  1. Objective: To support the hybrid or electric vehicles market development and its manufacturing eco-system in the country in order to achieve self-sustenance in stipulated period
  2. The overall scheme is proposed to be implemented over a period next 6 years i.e. till 2020
  3. It envisages providing Rs 795 crore support till 2020 for the manufacturing and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles
  4. It also seeks to provide demand incentives to electric and hybrid vehicles from two-wheeler to buses
  5. Implementation: It will be implemented in phases
  • The Phase-1 will be implemented over a two year period in FY15-16 and FY16-17
  • Based on the outcome and experience from the Phase-1, it will be reviewed for implementation after 31 March 2017
  • Then appropriate fund will be allocated for future.
  1. Four focus areas: Technology development, Pilot Projects, Demand Creation and Charging Infrastructure.
  2. The Department of Heavy Industries under the aegis of Union Ministry of Heavy Industries will be will be nodal department for the scheme

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Challenges

  • Funding constraints
    1. The automobile industry is already under a fund crunch due to BS VI fuel norms and banks spooked of NPAs.
  • Market demand
    1. Owing to their higher prices, electric vehicles will not have a very large market in India.
  • Charging Infra
    1. At present, the charging infrastructure is hugely lacking in the country.
    2. Unreliable power is another worry that concerns buyers.
  • High cost of batteries
    1. Batteries for electric vehicles are 40-50% more expensive than regular ones.
  • Disposal of batteries
    1. In the absence of safe disposal options, the used batteries will be a curse on the environment.

Way forward

  1. Many multilateral financial institutions like Soft Bank of Japan provide cheaper loans for eco-friendly projects. Tap these.
  2. Better charging facilities, efficient electric transmission infrastructure and integration of renewable energy into electricity grid would be a sustainable option for addressing infrastructure deficit.
  3. Encourage local manufacturing through a positive policy environment.
  4. Increasing Public awareness as there is a direct correlation between knowledge of electric vehicles and its adoption.
  5. Battery Swapping, as recommended by NITI Aayog, could significantly reduce the cost of EV and would save the precious charging time.
  6. Batteries in EVs can be a viable option for storing power generated under National Solar Mission [100 GW solar energy by 2022].
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018

Cabinet approves the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018

Why in news

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, has been passed by the Lok Sabha recently.

What is human trafficking?

The action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

As per the definition given by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – ‘Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.’

Status of human trafficking in India

  1. As per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human trafficking numbers rose by almost 20% in 2016 against the previous year.
  2. NCRB said there were 8,132 human trafficking cases last year against 6,877 in 2015, with the highest number of cases reported in West Bengal (44% of cases), followed by Rajasthan (17%). Of the 15,379 victims who were caught in trafficking, 10,150 were female and 5,229 males.

Schemes and initiatives launched by Government to tackle human trafficking

  1. Ministry of Home Affairs has set up of a dedicated nodal Cell in the MHA for prevention of trafficking. The cell is responsible for providing state governments with the necessary research, studies and information.
  2. The ministry organises workshops for NGOs on issues relating to trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation. A special module for counsellors of trafficked victims has been formulated.
  3. Training to all stakeholders such as police, government officials, etc. to better understand the situation and hence respond properly to a suspicious activity or person.
  4. The MWCD runs Shelter based homes Short Stay Homes, Swadhar Homes for women in difficult circumstances.
  5. Ujjawala: A comprehensive scheme for prevention of Trafficking and Rescue and Rehabilitation and Re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitations.

Why this law?

  1. No single law: Currently, there is no single law dealing with human trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries, including WCD, home, labour, health, Indian overseas affairs and external affairs. More often than not, this results in lax enforcement.
  2. Trafficking on the rise: Statistics reveal that heinous crimes like trafficking is on the rise. This is shocking and calls for a comprehensive mechanism to tackle the situation
  3. The weakness of the ITPA 1956 act: The law is inadequate as it talks only about prostitution which is an outdated concept for human trafficking.

Highlights of Bill:

Trafficking-of-Persons-Bill-iastoppers

Aggravated forms of trafficking

  1. It takes into consideration aggravated forms of trafficking. It includes trafficking for purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity etc.
  2. It comprehensively addresses transnational nature of the crime.

Punishment

  1. It prescribes punishment for promoting and facilitating the trafficking of the person. It includes producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake certificates, registration or stickers as proof of compliance with Government requirements or commits fraud for procuring or facilitating the acquisition of clearances and necessary documents from Government agencies.
  2. The punishment prescribed under it ranges from rigorous minimum 10 years to life and fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh. In order to break the organized nexus, both at the national and international level, it mandates for attachment & forfeiture of property and also proceeds for the crime.

Confidentiality of victims and witnesses

  1. It deals with the confidentiality of victims and witnesses and complainants by not disclosing their identity. It will be maintained by recording their statement through video conferencing (it will help trans-border and inter-State crimes).

Trial and repatriation

  1. It has provision for time-bound trial and repatriation of the victims. It will be within a period of 1 year from taking into cognizance.
  2. It provides immediate protection of rescued victims and their rehabilitation. T
  3. The victims will be entitled to interim relief immediately within 30 days to address their physical, mental trauma etc. and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of charge sheet.

Rehabilitation Fund

  1. It creates Rehabilitation Fund for the first time.
  2. It will be used for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim including education, skill development, health care and psychological support, legal aid, safe accommodation etc.
  3. It mandates designation of courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.

Institutional mechanisms 

  1. It creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at District, State and Central level. They will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.
  2. The tasks of Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level will be performed by National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Anti-trafficking bureau: 

  1. The bill proposes the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau, which shall be entrusted with the gamut of issues aimed at controlling and tackling the menace under various forms.
  2. Functions include coordination, monitoring and surveillance of illegal movement of persons and prevention.
  3. The bureau will also be entrusted with increasing cooperation with authorities in foreign countries for boosting operational and long-term intelligence for investigation of trafficking cases and driving in mutual legal assistance.

The significance of the bill:

  1. Human Trafficking is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. At present, there is no specific law to deal with this crime. The bill addresses the issue of human trafficking from point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation.
  2. The Bill addresses one of the most pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting most vulnerable persons especially women and children.
  3. It will make India leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking, as UNODC and SAARC nations are looking forward to India to take lead by enacting this law.

Criticism/challenges

(a) Drafting error

  1. It proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation
  2. A/c to Section 36 “any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner” has wide amplitude as Bill does not define what constitutes “promotion”.
  3. For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting lustful interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.

(b) Will Promote censorship

  1. In June 2016, the Union government banned 240 escort sites for obscenity even though it cannot do that under Section 69A or Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, or Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  2. In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging “morality” and “decency”, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism.
  3. If historical record is any indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.

(c) The excessive scope of the bill

  1. Section 39 proposes a weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising “which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished” (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years.
  2. In effect, the provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
  3. The excessive scope of this provision is prone to severe abuse since, without any burden of showing a causal connection, it could be argued that anything “may lead” to the trafficking of a person.

(d) Multiplicity of institutions

The bill is silent on whether existing institutional structures – such as child protection units at the state, district, block and community levels established under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme – will work parallel to the proposed institutions under the anti-trafficking bill. This can give rise to the distinct possibility of child victims of trafficking being passed around from one authority to another.

(e) Consent of Victim is disregarded

The bill will lead to greater surveillance and adult victims will be sent to rehabilitation homes or repatriated to their places of origin. There is no provision provided if ‘victims’ do not want to go to rehabilitation or accept repatriation which is against Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which guarantees the fundamental right to work.’

(g) Illegal organ trade ignored

Bill doesn’t address the issue of illegal organ and skin trading, which is a form of human trafficking. There are thousands of victims who complain of being duped after being lured to migrate and sell their organs for hefty money (often deceitfully).

Way forward

  • Further measures that can be undertaken
  • Increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking
  • Developing Standard operating procedures for Victim Identification and training officials in the same.
  • Improving Inter-state co-ordination.
  • Developing a national action plan to combat trafficking.

Conclusion

 Trafficking of persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill is an important legislative step in dealing with the pervasive malaise of human exploitation and trade in humans. It is comprehensive in its coverage, lays down an institutional mechanism, provides for international cooperation and is sensitive towards the needs of the victim.

Question

  1. Human trafficking is a grim reality in India. In this context critically examine the recently passed ‘The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018’.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Fake News Menace in India

 

Context

In last 1 year at least 20 individuals have been lynched or beaten to death in incidents across India, where rumours on WhatsApp have inspired vigilante mobs to swarm visitors accused of being child kidnappers. Dozens more have been injured in similar attacks.

Meaning

Fake news refers to the deliberate creation of misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media shaping the belief of people around the nation and world.

What gives rise to the fake news?

  1. Lack of regulation – The online platforms, unlike the mainstream media, do not fall under comprehensive regulation. A number of online news/information portals are being set up due to the lack of proper entry barriers. The lack of binding rules and the ability to keep owners and editors private, offers a larger scope for wrongdoing in case of online platforms.
  2. Communal polarisation – The growing polarisation of society on ideological lines has made the job of spreading fake news easier. Also, the spread of hatred-inducing content among leaders/groups of the opposing ideologies, further deepens the prevailing communal hatred.
  3. Reach – In the past, communal violence in India was more a localised affair. However, in recent days it is extensively being triggered through the Internet on a much larger scale. The online and mobile platforms serve like nodal agencies distributing unverified information.
  4. Quick gains – Spreading false news is becoming a way to make advertising money through click baits. In India, numerous sites are being set up to commercialise fake news with click-bait headlines. Users are enticed with multiple link pages to click and continue reading making the content go viral.
  5. Cheap data plans – The proliferation of technology, cheap smartphones, and reasonable data rates has enabled the democratization of online content. The flip side is that the speed of content distribution has made traditional journalistic controls of verification unfeasible.

Why is fake news dangerous?

  1. People’s faith in social, print and electronic media reduces which could affect the benefits of these Media.
  2. It can lead to violence between two or more communities thereby creating enmity and hatred between them.
  3. It can disturb the social fabric of the society and tensions among communities persists for long times.
  4. It reduces the tendencies of cooperation between different communities.
  5. Political parties try to gain political advantages by polarizing the voter’s mind which further intensifies the tensions between different sections of society.
  6. Politics of development takes back seat and communal tendencies emerge in politics.
  7. In its purest form, fake news is completely made up, manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue.
  8. Political campaigning has progressed from mere appeals in the name of identity or loyalty or tall promises to something akin to psychological warfare. Parties that master the tools of such psych ops have a distinct edge over those stuck in the traditional mud. Fake news spreads on social media.

How can we control the fake news menace?

Pre-Censorship is Impossible

  1. Pre-censorship of news and information, while being virtually impossible due to the speed of content creation, will also violate the guarantee of free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  2. On the one hand, such legislation could divest individuals of autonomy.
  3. On the other, it could bolster the power of the government to censor opinions it is uncomfortable with.
  4. Any screening in the context of social media applications such as WhatsApp could also violate the fundamental right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court.

Self- Censorship can work

  1. A cautionary approach warrants avoiding overarching regulation in the form of anti-fake news legislation, irrespective of the benignity of its motivations.
  2. Entrusting a judge, the state or companies like Facebook with the task of making an evaluation of veracity will facilitate judicial, government or private censorship.
  3. This can breed a chilling effect and self-censorship.

A decentralized three-point agenda to address fake news

  • To ensure critical media literacy, with critical digital literacy as a component.
  1. This would focus on encouraging individuals to learn the skills required to navigate the internet and question the content they are exposed to.
  2. Users should understand the limitations of digital media.
  3. Full Fact and Facebook’s toolkit offer useful suggestions about this. Design changes to social media platforms that flag content can also be incorporated.
  • To nurture a general culture of scepticism among citizens towards information
  1. Good practices, such as verifying the source of the news and corroboration with related news, ought to be advanced in schools and through public education campaigns.
  2. The role of the district administration and local community leaders is key in this regard.
  3. Heartening examples such as the Satyameva Jayate programme in Kannur schools and initiatives by the superintendent of police in Gadwal demonstrate the potential of such an approach.
  • Limited Legal Interventions can be explored
  1. In a limited set of situations, such as when there is threat to life or national security, targeted and proportionate legal interventions can be explored.
  2. They should account for existing speech offences to avoid overlap.
  3. Despite their own flaws, existing provisions on hate speech, sedition and defamation already deal with certain kinds of harm that may be substantially similar to those posed by fake news.

Other steps Which Government can take

  1. The government must take the initiative to make all sections of the population aware of the realities of this information war and evolve a consensus to fight this war. It must also take strict action
  2. News being spread using chatbots and other automated pieces of software should automatically be selected for special screening. Ordinary consumers of news can play a big role by, first, waking up to the reality that all they read on WhatsApp and Twitter is not the gospel truth, and then, by refusing to pass on what they cannot independently verify with other sources.
  3. Websites that mimic well-known, credible media outlets in their name should be exposed with the vigour with which jokes are shared on social media.
  4. Government should have independent agency to verify the data being circulated in social and other media. The agency should be tasked with presenting real facts and figures.
  5. Government should have mechanism for immediately issuing of notice against sites/people/agencies involved in spreading fake news.
  6. There should be a provision of effective balances and check of filtering fake posts before it getting viral.
  7. Social media websites should be made accountable of such activities so that it becomes their responsibility to have better controlling restricting the spread of fake news.
  8. Government should take active measures for promoting awareness among people about fake news and their consequences.
  9. Government should enlist penal provisions to perpetrators of fake news if it causes violence or deaths.
  10. Government should make mandatory for Print and Electronic media to have internal mechanism for verifying incidents, facts and figures.
  11. Public should verify the accuracy and of reliability of any news or data either from government or any independent agency specifically involved in such task.
  12. Public should not blindly trust any sensitive news and should not forward it to others.
  13. Public should inform concerned department about any fake post as soon as they come across. They should act as active vigilant for maintaining peace and harmony in the society.
  14. NGO’s and other civil society groups can play important role in spreading awareness about the ill effects of fake news.

Question

  1. In the post-truth world, digitisation and fake news has become a deadly combo. Discuss. What steps can be taken to counter the menace?
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Electoral Bonds

Government notifies electoral bonds for political donations

Why in news?

  1. Details such as denominations, validity, and eligibility of the purchasers were announced by Finance minister for the electoral bonds scheme announced during the 2017 Budget
  2. Electoral bonds will allow donors to remain anonymous and pay political parties using banks as intermediaries

Highlights of the scheme

  • Electoral bonds would be a bearer instrument in the nature of a promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument
  • A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond
  • Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore from any of the specified branches of the State Bank of India
  • The purchaser will be allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfillment of all the extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account
  • The bonds will have a life of 15 days (15 days time has been prescribed for the bonds to ensure that they do not become a parallel currency)
  • They can be used to make donations to registered political parties that have secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last election to the Lok Sabha or Assembly
  • The bonds shall be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July, and October, with an additional 30 days to be specified by the Central government in the year of a general election
  • The bond shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a designated bank account with the authorized bank

Why is the name of the donor not being disclosed?

  • Bonds would get reflected in the balance sheet of the donors
  • Currently,  for a very large part of donation coming to political parties by the donors, quantum and source is not known
  • The past experience has shown that once the names are disclosed, there is a tendency to shift to cash donations.
  • Bonds will ensure cleaner money coming from donors, cleaner money coming to political party and ensure significant transparency

Why was this scheme brought?

  • To ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money
  • It will also boost digital transactions

Concerns

  • While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.
  • Also income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. This pushes the donor to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes.
  • Also, privacy of the donor is compromised as the bank will know their identity.
  • The opposition has pointed out that the bonds will help any party that is in power because the government can know who donated what money and to whom.
  • It can tantalize the buyer of the bond into trading in it for profit. An example is in order. Suppose a company (not an honest one) buys bonds worth Rs 200 crore from a designated branch of the SBI. Remember electoral bonds can remain in circulation for 15 days before they find their way into a political party’s coffers. It is during this crucial period that danger lurks. Suppose a moneybag wanting anonymity is on the prowl and there is a sympathetic political party hungering for his munificence? What would happen? Well, he would buy the bonds for Rs 225 crore by paying cash to the original subscriber. Who could have thought the docile electoral bonds would electrify further the hurly-burly world of black money? In other words, there could be two owners of these bonds in the short time period of 15 days they are allowed to circulate without hindrance. Who knows there could be a third within the above example of a Johnny-come-lately offering Rs 230 to the buyer in the black market?

Way forward

  • Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has suggested an alternative worth exploring
  • A National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute
  • The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get.
  • Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding.
  • There can be a tax benefit for those who donate to the fund

Question

  1. Will the electoral bonds scheme be successful in achieving the coveted objective of transparency in political funding? Critically analyse.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018

Image result for DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018.

Why in news

The Union Cabinet has approved The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018.

Key features of the Bill

  1. It allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and special databanks for forensic-criminal investigations.
  2. It states that all DNA data, including DNA samples, DNA profiles and records, will be only used for identification of the person and not for any other purpose.
  3. It creates DNA Profiling Board (DPB) that will be the final authority that will authorise the creation of State-level DNA databanks, approve the methods of collection and analysis of DNA-technologies.
  4. It makes accreditation and regulation mandatory for DNA laboratories.
  5. It allows the government to set up DNA databanks across India to store profiles.
  6. These banks will maintain a national database for identification of victims, accused, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
  7. It also empowers the government to impose a jail term of up to 3 years and fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh on those who leak information stored in such facilities.
  8. It prescribes similar punishment for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally.

The objective of the Bill

  1. Forensic DNA profiling helps in offences categorized as affecting the human body and those against property. It includes murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt and theft, burglary, dacoity.
  2. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) put the number of such crimes in excess of 3 lakhs per year. Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
  3. The primary purpose of the Bill is thus to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies.

DNA Profiling Board

  1. The Board, with 11 members, is supposed to be the regulatory authority that will grant accreditation to DNA laboratories and lay down guidelines, standards and procedures for their functioning.
  2. It will advise central and state governments on “all issues relating to DNA laboratories”.
  3. It will also be the authority to make recommendations on ethical and human rights, including privacy, issues related to DNA testing.

DNA Data Bank

  1. A national databank of DNA profiles is proposed to be set up, along with regional databanks in every state
  2. The new draft does not specify the location of the national databank. All regional DNA databanks will be mandated to share their information with the national databank.
  3. Certain DNA Profiling Board-accredited labs would be authorised to carry out DNA testing and analysis. These are the only places to which DNA samples, picked up from a crime scene can be referred for analysis
  4. Data from the analyses will need to be shared with the nearest regional DNA databank which will store it and share it with the national databank.
  5. The databanks will maintain five sets of databases — for DNA samples picked up from crime scenes, for suspects or undertrials, and for offenders, missing persons, and unidentified dead bodies.

Significance of Bill

  1. Bill will ensure that with proposed expanded use of DNA profiling technology in the country, there will be also assurance that DNA test results are reliable and data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  2. It will also ensure speedier justice delivery and increased conviction rate.
  3. It will also enable cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  4. It will set in place, an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or for identifying missing persons.
  5. The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is in excess of 3 lakhs per year.
  6. Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
  7. It is expected that the expanded use of this technology in these categories of cases would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

Criticisms

  1. The main issue is whether DNA technology is foolproof, and whether the proposed law adequately addresses the possibility of abuse.
  2. It has been argued that although DNA technology is the best method available to carry out this kind of identification, it is still probabilistic in nature.
  3. There are chances, however remote, that a wrong match is generated. If the DNA result is taken as the ultimate evidence, no recourse will be available to an individual who has been wrongly matched.
  4. More frequently asserted are the privacy-related objections. Questions such as whose DNA can be collected and under what circumstances, whether the consent of the individual is required, who can access the database, to what uses the DNA information can be put apart from identifying an individual, and the circumstances under which a record can be deleted, have been raised repeatedly.
  5. It has been pointed out that information like ancestry or susceptibility to a disease, or other genetic traits, is liable to be misused.
  6. It has also been argued that DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.

Way forward

  1. Privacy issue can be handled by adopting the best practices from the world. The Bill does not set a limit to how long someone’s DNA will keep on record. In countries like UK, DNA data of a recordable offence can be kept for only six year.
  2. The Law Commissions report related to scientific collection of data need to be incorporated.
  3. Maintenance of strict confidentiality with regard to keeping of records of DNA profiles and their use as recommended by Malimath report can be followed.
  4. Safeguard to prevent illegal collection and use of DNA data as stated by A. P. Shah Committee.
  5. Need for robust process and structure for collection of DNA samples from crime scene to the laboratory for analysis, to the DNA Bank for storage and comparison.

Question

  1. Highlighting its key features, critically examine the DNA Technology Regulation Bill 2018. Suggest reforms, if any.