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[Yojana Archive] Women Entrepreneurship

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A woman entrepreneur is the one who assumes dominant financial control (minimum financial interest of 51 percent of the capital) in an enterprise.

Status of women entrepreneurs in India

  • According to the National Sample Survey, women entrepreneurs account for only 14% of all enterprises in India.
  • Women are founders of only 6% of the Indian Start-ups.
  • In terms of ownership of equity, business stakes held by women are highest in India’s manufacturing sector (mainly related to paper and tobacco products) even exceeding 50% .

Various hurdles for women

  • Male dominant economy: Women have to work in the male-dominant world facing discrimination and social stigma.
  • Familial Constraints: Even though a lot of women have the potential as well as ambition to make it to the top in arenas that are usually dictated by a stark male presence.
  • Small scale: The majority of the businesses are self-funded and operate on a small scale.
  • Uncertain times: At the same time, uncertainty is an important concern for women. They fear failing, especially if the people are sceptical about their business capability.
  • Under-representation: Despite India’s rapid economic growth in recent decades, India still has very few women entrepreneurs.
  • Lack of Funds: It is not unheard of for women entrepreneurs to be denied basic enablers such as easy access to funds and sponsorships.
  • Lack of enterprise: With fewer female business founders, the pool of women who can mentor and advise fellow entrepreneurs is consequently smaller.

These factors restrict women’s participation in the business sphere.

Various Initiatives

The Government of India has taken various steps towards women’s economic empowerment by way of initiatives like:

  1. Stree Shakti Package
  2. Udyogini Scheme
  3. Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme
  4. Stand Up India Scheme
  5. Mahila e-Haat
  6. Mahila Bank
  7. Mahila Coir Yojana
  8. Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)

Why need women entrepreneurs?

There are various reasons why women Entrepreneurs are always required in the world of business.

  • Better management of finance: It is a fact that women can easily utilize the funds whether it is raised for home expenses or the business expenditure.
  • Access and Vigilance: The basic characteristic of an Entrepreneur is that they must stay high on the updated information related to science and technology which would be helpful in the business field.
  • Self-employment: As all women are doing study and capable to grab the job opportunities but due to less availability of positions in their field of interest they are facing unemployment.
  • Empowerment: Women have always a misconception in their minds that they cannot manage or run a business like other men.  
  • Breakthrough orthodox views: In this world of non-conventional business fields, women need to get up and stay strong to change the conventional thinking of segregating different sectors for women and men as well.
  • Narrow down the Gender Gap:  Women Entrepreneurship motivates women to inspire and run a business.
  • Better company culture: It has been observed that women-owned enterprises provide a well-developed and safe atmosphere within the company.  

Way Forward

  • The key drivers of women entrepreneurship are investment in infrastructure and education, which predict a higher proportion of businesses started by women in India.
  • Better education and health that increase female labour-force participation, reduced discrimination and wage differentials that encourage more effort, and improved career-advancement.
  • The government can also provide interest-free loans to encourage women entrepreneurs, increase the subsidy for loans and make provisions of microcredit system to the women entrepreneurs.
  • Existing women entrepreneurs have an important role to play as they can reach out to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in their region.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Regulating Mobile Apps

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Context

  • Mobile apps have become a significant part of the lives of smartphone users. Almost every person seems to be dependent on them.
  • However there is a huge flipside of this flourishing mobile app environment which has become evident quite often in the recent past in cases like that of Bulli Bai App.
  • These apps were used to target women and communities.

So how do we deal with such challenges and what are the provisions in the legal framework to tackle such issues.

Bulli Bai App Controversy: A Backgrounder

  • On New Year’s Day, hundreds of Muslim women in India including journalists, social workers, and other prominent personalities found their images and derogatory content about them on a new app called “Bulli Bai”.
  • The app, created on hosting platform Github, offered an online “auction” of women.
  • It derives its name from the derogatory term used for women of a particular community.

A critical case of abuse

  • The app is clearly an example of online trolling where the dignity and modesty of a woman is highly downgraded.
  • This has not been the very first time. Earlier, no arrests were ever made showing Police inaction.
  • The authorities were using the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain information about the creators of such apps from California-based GitHub.

Why is it a cause of worry?

  • Large user-base: There are about 40 crore internet users and about 25 crore social media users in India.
  • Behavioral impact: Apart from having a huge impact on the life of people, the apps also influence how a person thinks, behaves, or perceives.
  • Lack of regulatory framework: India currently does not have a dedicated legal framework to govern mobile applications.
  • No self regulations: There is no government or self guidelines currently in place in India, regulating the apps.

Legal provisions against such Crimes

For making arrests, the police have invoked Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 354D, 500 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act.

  • Section 153A pertains to the offence of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony
  • Section 153B relates to imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration
  • Section 295A provides punishment for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings
  • Section 354D provides that any man who monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication with malintent, commits the offence of stalking.
  • Section 500 defines the punishment for defamation
  • Section 509 addresses the offence of word, gesture or act intended insulting the modesty of a woman
  • Section 67 of the IT Act lays down the punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form

What are the other provisions related to cybercrimes?

  • Section 66E of the IT Act prescribes punishment for violation of privacy.
  • IPC sections 354A (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) and 354C (voyeurism) of the IPC were introduced along with sections 354B and 354D in 2013.

Threats posed by such apps

  • Foreign scams: These apps are run by scammers in Pakistan and China.
  • Money laundering: More than 40,000 crore hawala transactions took place in India through the distribution of instant loans.
  • Espionage: Mobile apps which are being operated by India’s hostile countries were also used for espionage.
  • Online betting: There are also gaming and betting apps that are currently being used extensively by mobile users in India.
  • Revenue bypass: PUBG (though a banned) gaming app reportedly raised a profit of 2500 crores functioning in India but did not pay any taxes in India.

Psycho-social impacts

  • These applications pose challenges such as addiction and induce violent behavior among children.
  • There are also examples of apps being used to promote hate crime and hate speeches as recently seen in the case of the Bulli Bai app.

Need for Regulations

  • No legal liability on intermediaries: The intermediaries are not liable for any third-party data or communication link hosted or stored on their platforms.
  • Inadequacy of cyber laws: Despite having provisions that address mobile applications, the entire aspect of regulating the affairs of mobile applications has not been defined or adequately dealt with under the Indian cyber laws.
  • Lack of holistic approach: The existing regulations hence do not cover the holistic challenges that are posed by the mobile applications and are to be updated and regulated to tackle the current challenges.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for a comprehensive umbrella IT Law that needs to be proactive and be reviewed from time to time to check the new challenges posed by the technology.
  • The available laws should be enforced in a stringent manner and strict actions should be taken against any violations.
  • Industry interventions should also be allowed in the implementation of the policies to make them dynamic and compliant with economic interests.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Election Freebies- Politics and Economy

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Context

  • With the poll season round the corner, political parties are busy planning to lure the electorate with their promises which also include freebies.
  • Over the years the politics of freebies has become an integral part of the electoral battles and the scenario is no different in the forthcoming assembly polls in five states.
  • There are arguments both in favour and against this practice. In this article, we shall learn analyse all aspects of this issue.

Freebie Politics in India: A backgrounder

  • The term Freebies is not new; rather it is a prevalent culture in Indian politics (in the name of socialism).  
  • The political parties are always trying to outdo each other in luring the Indian voters with assorted freebies.
  • From free water to free smartphones the Indian politicians promise everything to attract prospective voters in favour.
  • This trend has gained more momentum in the recent times with the political parties being innovative in their offerings as the ‘traditional free water and electricity’ is no longer sufficient as election goodies.

Examples of freebies

  1. Promise of Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts 😀
  2. Free TV, Laptops
  3. Free electricity
  4. Loan waivers
  5. Offering free public transport ride to all women in Delhi

Why are such policies popular among the public?

  • Failure of economic policies: The answer lies in the utter failure of our economic policies to create decent livelihood for a vast majority of Indians.
  • Quest for decent livelihood: The already low income had to be reoriented towards spending a disproportionately higher amount on education and health, from which, the state increasingly withdrew.
  • Prevailing unemployment:  Employment surveys have shown that employment growth initially slowed down from the 1990s, and then has turned negative over the past few years.
  • Increased cost of living: Real income growth of the marginal sections has actually slowed down since 1991 reforms.
  • Increased consumerism: The poor today also spend on things which appear to be luxuries; cellphones and data-packs are two such examples which are shown as signs of India’s increased affluence.
  • Necessity: For migrant workers, the mobile phone helps them keep in touch with their families back home, or do a quick video-call to see how their infant is learning to sit up or crawl.

Can Freebies be compared with Welfare Politics?

  • These freebies are not bad. It is a part of social welfare.
  • Using freebies to lure voters is not good.
  • Voter’s greediness may lead to a problem in choosing a good leader.
  • When we don’t have a good leader then democracy will be a mockery.

Impact of such policies

  • Never ending trail: The continuity of freebies is another major disadvantage as parties keep on coming up with lucrative offers to lure more number of votes to minimize the risk of losing in the elections.
  • Burden on exchequer: People forget that such benefits are been given at the cost of exchequer and from the tax paid.
  • Ultimate loss of poors: The politicians and middlemen wipe away the benefits and the poor have to suffer as they are deprived from their share of benefits which was to be achieved out of the money.
  • Inflationary practice: Such distribution freebie commodity largely disrupts demand-supply dynamics.
  • Lethargy in population: Freebies actually have the tendency to turn the nation’s population into: Lethargy and devoid of entrepreneurship.
  • Money becomes only remedy: Everyone at the slightest sign of distress starts demanding some kind of freebies from the Govt. 
  • Popular politics: This is psychology driving sections of the population expecting and the government promptly responds with immediate monetary relief or compensation.

What cannot be accounted to a freebie?

  • MGNREGA scheme (rural employment guarantee scheme)
  • Right to Education (RTE)
  • Food Security through fair price shops ( under National Food Security Act)
  • Prime Minister Kisan Samman Yojana (PM-KISAN)

Arguments in favour

  • Social investment: Aid to the poor is seen as a wasteful expenditure. But low interest rates for corporates to get cheap loans or the ‘sop’ of cutting corporate taxes are never criticized.
  • Socialistic policy: This attitude comes from decades of operating within the dominant discourse of market capitalism.
  • Election manifesto: Proponents of such policies would argue that poll promises are essential for voters to know what the party would do if it comes to power and have the chance to weigh options.
  • Welfare: Economists opine that as long as any State has the capacity and ability to finance freebies then its fine; if not then freebies are the burden on economy.
  • Other wasteful expenditure: When the Centre gives incentives like free land to big companies and announce multi-year tax holidays, questions are not asked as to where the money will come from.

A rational analysis of freebies

  • Winning election and good governance are two different things. The role of freebies to avail good governance is definitely questionable.
  • The social, political and economic consequences of freebies are very short-lived in nature. 
  • There are many freebies and subsidies schemes available in many States but we still find starvation deaths, lack of electricity, poor education and health service. 
  • Hence the sorrow of the masses of India cannot be solved by freebies or by incentives.

So are not freebies meant only to attract voters and swing voters by concentrating on a preferential group or community?

Way forward

  • It can be agreed that a democracy requires popular support for its rule to continue. The sops and freebies to the poor buy it the requisite votes.
  • But the democratic process of election and election promises should be clear. It should not control voters thought. 
  • What some people term as ‘populism’ actually constitutes what real economics should be.
  • If you deprive people of what they really need, you will have to throw allurements at them.
  • This can only be stopped if political masters try to follow what economist EA Schumacher had conveyed through his seminal work Small is beautiful – “Treat economics as if people matter.”

Conclusion

  • There is nothing wrong in having a policy-led elaborate social security programme that seeks to help the poor get out of poverty.
  • But such a programme needs well thought out preparation and cannot be conjured up just before an election.

Perhaps the best observation has come from Y K Alagh, economist and educationist, that the electorate is nobody’s fool. It will take all the freebies already being distributed and then vote according to its carefully thought out assessment of performance. Much depends on whether the electorate can see through all this posturing.

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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Contribution of Indian Diaspora

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Context

To mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community in the development of India, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated on 9th January every year.

Indian Diaspora: A backgrounder

  • Indian Diaspora is a generic term used for addressing people who have migrated from the territories that are currently within the borders of India.
  • From Google CEO to Nobel laureate scientist Har Gobind Khorana, the list of Indians abroad and their contribution to the world goes endlessly.
  • One of the greatest economic contributions of Indian Diaspora has been in terms of remittances.

Historical perspective

  • Imperialism led-migration: The incorporation of the British Empire in India can be linked to the existence of modern Indian Diaspora all over the world.
  • Indentured labor: Dating back to the nineteenth century, Indian indentured labor was taken over to the British colonies in different parts of the world.
  • World Wars: In the post World War II period, most of the Indian labor and professionals got scattered and it was a worldwide phenomenon.
  • European reconstruction: The reconstruction of Europe after the war was provided by Indians and other South Asians, particularly in the United Kingdom and Netherlands.
  • Modern brain-drain: Most recently, Indians have made their presence visibly felt in professions in countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Major sections of Indian Diaspora

(1) Indians in the Gulf

  • Around 8.5 million Indians live and work in the Gulf countries, one of the largest concentrations of migrants in the world.
  • The geographical and historical proximity makes it a convenient destination for Indians.
  • Today migrants from across India are working and living in the Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait).

(2) Indians in USA

  • In recent decades the population has grown substantially, with 2.4 million Indian immigrants resident in the United States as of 2015.
  • This makes the foreign-born from India the second-largest immigrant group in the US after Mexicans.

Categorizing Indian’s abroad

Overseas Indians, officially known as Non-resident Indians (NRIs) or Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), are people of Indian birth, descent or origin who live outside the Republic of India:

(A) Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • Strictly asserting non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Act.
  • The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.

(B) Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and/or Nepal), who:

  • at any time held an Indian passport OR
  • either of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in GoI Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries OR
  • is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.

(C) Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • After multiple efforts by leaders across the Indian political spectrum, a pseudo-citizenship scheme was established, the “Overseas Citizenship of India”, commonly referred to as the OCI card.
  • The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship.
  • The OCI card is effectively a long-term visa, with restrictions on voting rights and government jobs.

Significance of Indian diaspora 

(A) Contribution in the freedom struggle

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for ending institutionalized discrimination against Indians in South Africa became an inspiring legend for enduring sentimentalism about the diaspora in modern India.
  • The diaspora also became a vehicle for promoting the cause of Indian independence among the political elites of major countries.
  • As the independence movement gathered momentum at home, it began to influence many Indian communities abroad.

(B) Diaspora as Cultural extension

  • The act of migration is not just limited to geographical limits; rather it is a cultural extension.
  • Let us take the example of the Sikh community. The Sikhs are one of the largest migrants from India to the UK, Canada and many other countries.
  • They have very well maintained their culture and ethnic existence for decades.

(C) Remittances

  • Money sent home by migrants is one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries.
  • According to a World Bank Report, India received approximately 87 billion dollars in remittances in 2021 with USA being the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds.
  • Without these remittances, India’s balance of payment position would have looked worse.

(D) Diaspora as ‘Agents of change’

  • Diaspora acts as ‘agents of change’ facilitating and enhancing investment, accelerating industrial development, and boosting international trade and tourism.
  • Diaspora’s motives to invest in India are long-lasting as many of them wish to establish a long-term base in India.

 (E) Technological development and entrepreneurship

  • Another tangible long-term advantage in nurturing ties with an active diaspora is an accelerated technological sector and increased socio-economic development.
  • Some examples to illustrate this phenomenon are Bengaluru, Gurugram and Hyderabad as thriving IT hubs that not only house multinational companies (MNCs) but also multiple Indian start-ups.

(F) Enhancing India’s global say

  • India’s permanent membership to the UNSC can become a reality with support from the diaspora.
  • Apart from political pressures and ministerial and diplomatic level lobbying, India can leverage its diaspora to influence states such as Canada and Mexico to support India’s membership

Most Importantly,

(G) Diaspora diplomacy

  • The diaspora’s ability to spread Indian soft power, lobby for India’s national interests, and contribute economically to India’s rise is now well-recognized.
  • A less tangible but important advantage in having a large immigrant group is “diaspora diplomacy”.
  • The recent engagement of Indian leaders in US general elections is a continuation of the extraordinary political investment in engaging the Indian diaspora.

India’s engagement with Diaspora: A policy-wise perspective

  • Many of the themes of India’s contemporary diaspora policy had their origins in the approach of the Indian national movement before independence.
  • The nationalist backlash against the Indian communities in Africa and Asia in the 1950s and 1960s saw Delhi consciously distance itself from the diasporic communities.
  • As India turned inwards, Delhi also took a dim view of the “brain drain” as many well-trained Indians began to look for opportunities elsewhere.
  • It was only in the late 1980s that Delhi began to rethink its approach to the diaspora.

Change in recent years

  • PM Rajiv Gandhi was the first to appreciate the potential role diaspora could play in advancing national development and improving India’s ties with the US.
  • In 2000, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was commenced to be celebrated and also led to the formation of a separate Ministry for Overseas Indians under PM AB Vajpayee.
  • Other innovative initiatives like the Know India Programme (KIP) and Study India Programme (SIP) were launched.
  • These have engaged the youth living abroad and the Tracing the Roots Scheme, through which some Indians have been able to trace their roots in India.

Most recent initiatives

  • India has been following the spirit of 4 Cs i.e. Connect – Contribute – Celebrate – Care.
  • There is a dedicated Diaspora Welfare Officer.
  • The authorities have been ensuring 100 percent grievance redressal through E-Migration Portal, Madad Portal, and CPGRAMS.

Various policy initiatives   

  • Education: NRI seats are reserved in all the medical, engineering and other professional colleges.
  • Voting rights: The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 the provision would help non-resident Indians (NRIs) to participate in the electoral process through ‘proxy voting’.
  • Know India Program (KIP): It is a flagship initiative for Diaspora engagement which familiarizes Indian-origin youth (18-30 years) with their Indian roots and contemporary India has been refashioned.
  • Minimum Referral Wages (MRW): A number of policies were announced keeping in mind the protection of welfare and interest of Indians abroad; for example, the 2014 Minimum Referral Wages (MRW).
  • Easing the passport facility: The last three years saw the launch of Head Post Offices as passport centers enabling thousands more to apply for a passport.

Challenges faced by Diaspora

  • Racial antagonism: Rising incidence of hate speech and crimes against Indians by the locals due to racism, communalism emboldened by coming of nationalist and ultra-nationalist governments to power in many countries.
  • Protectionism: Fear of losing jobs and educational opportunities to outsiders has resulted in stricter visa rules in many countries including the USA, Australia, etc.
  • Terrorism: Sectarian crisis, increasing terrorist activities and war in the Middle East countries (Yemen, Oman, Libya, Syria etc) leave our diaspora vulnerable to attacks.
  • Political Polarization: Many Indians abroad are turning against India since the change of government and some extreme right wing factionists.
  • Anti-national tendencies: India has had problems with negative campaigning and foreign funding, coming from abroad, for separatist movements like the Khalistan movement.

Way forward

  • India has enjoyed being viewed more favorably by the world since 2014, and the diaspora can further these perceptions.
  • India needs both additional resources as well as better systems to deal with the recurring challenges of supporting citizens abroad.
  • The diaspora can step up and act as Indian ‘ambassadors’, as it is insufficient and ineffective for a country or its missions abroad to rely only on press releases to change public opinion.
  • The diaspora can provide the requisite strategic impulse, which makes it all the more important to unlock their potential.
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[Yojana Archive] Capacity Building of PSUs

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December 2011: Aatmanirbhar Bharat

Context

  • Training and capacity building in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) is an area that is gaining importance, particularly due to rapid advancements in technology and other operational methodologies.
  • To meet the training needs in the current dynamic scenario, it is imperative that there is synergising of resources and a more active exchange of technical knowledge and other related ideas among PSUs.

What are Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)?

  • A state-owned enterprise in India is called a PSU or a public sector enterprise.
  • These companies are owned by the union government of India or one of the many state or territorial governments or both.
  • The company stock needs to be majority-owned by the government to be a PSU.
  • PSUs strictly may be classified as central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) or state level public enterprises (SLPEs).
  • CPSEs are companies in which the direct holding of the Central Government or other CPSEs is 51% or more.
  • They are administered by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

Need for Capacity Building of PSUs

  • PSUs play a multifaceted role in India, laying a solid platform for industrial growth. These firms have contributed to economic prosperity by focusing on infrastructure development and expansion.
  • Many people have found work as a result of these businesses. PSUs want to boost exports while lowering imports.
  • Modern procedures and capacity building in the form of functional competencies, knowledge, and attitudes will encourage a culture of efficiency and competitiveness.

Issues with PSUs through years

  • Economic failure: Inefficient PSU’s were largely responsible for the macro-economic crisis faced by India during 1980’s.
  • Lack of autonomy: Lack of autonomy, political interference, nepotism & corruption has further deteriorated the situation.
  • Bureaucratic rigidities: The entire mechanism did not turn out as efficient as it ought to be, all thanks to the prevailing hierarchy and bureaucracy.
  • Revenue losses: Due to the expenditure on items such as interest payments, wages and salaries of PSU employees and subsidies, the Government is left with hardly any surplus for capital expenditure on social and physical infrastructure.
  • Lack of Competitiveness: In an era of LPG industrial competitiveness has especially assumed an important role, necessitating privatization or disinvestment of PSUs.
  • Poor performance: Despite the huge injection of funds in the past decades, the functioning of many public sector units (PSUs) has traditionally been characterized by poor management, slow decision-making procedures, lack of accountability etc.

Also in discussion: Strategic disinvestment of PSUs

The Union Cabinet has approved sale of the government’s stake to cut shareholding in select public sector firms below 51% to boost revenue collections that have been hit by slowing economy.

The following main objectives of disinvestment were outlined:

  • To reduce the financial burden on the Government.
  • To improve public finances.
  • To introduce, competition and market discipline.
  • To fund growth.
  • To encourage wider share of ownership.
  • To depoliticize non-essential services.

Why disinvestment?

  • Presently, the Government has about Rs. 2 lakh crore locked up in PSUs.
  • Disinvestment of the Government stake is, thus, far too significant. The importance of disinvestment lies in the utilization of funds for:
  1. Financing the increasing fiscal deficit
  2. Financing large-scale infrastructure development
  3. For investing in the economy to encourage spending
  4. For retiring Government debt- Almost 40-45% of the Centre’s revenue receipts go towards repaying public
    debt/interest
  5. For social programs like health and education

Way forward for capacity building of PSUs

  • Collaborative Facilities: There is a need to bring about collaboration between training facilities of various PSUs and create a pool of shared resources. It will create cross-synergization and develop a vibrant pool of common resources to be shared.
  • Centres of Excellences: Resource training should be institutionalized and two or more training institutes should be designated as “Centres of Excellence”.
  • Geographic Clusters: Identify geographic clusters where several training institutes from separate fields are located.
  • Thematic Clusters: There are different institutes offering similar core competencies. Tie-ups between such centres could help create Thematic Centres of Excellence.
  • Ethics standards: PSUs need to be built as agents of socio-economic growth in society. Training inputs can help in developing a sense of responsibility towards nation-building.

Conclusion

PSUs and banks need to collaborate on capacity building, share resources, identify and strengthen the core competencies. This will optimize resource utilization and have benefits of specialization.

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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Innovation in Education

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Context

  • The buzzword across the globe for the 21st century is Innovation which is considered to be the primary driver of progress.
  • Incentivising innovation and intellectual property creation is important for India’s future growth prospects.
  • Making all these considerations, the Ministry of Education’s innovation cell has recently released the third edition of Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2021.

What is Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)?

  • ARIIA ranking classifies participating institutions into two major categories; technical and non-technical.
  • It is developed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Ministry’s Innovation Cell.
  • It aims to systematically rank all major higher educational institutions and universities in India.

Highlights of ARIIA 2021

  • In the technical ranking IIT Madras has been recognised as the Most Innovative Educational Institute in India.
  • This is the third time that IIT Madras has secured the first rank. IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi were placed at the second and third ranks respectively.
  • Out of total of 3551 HEIs registered, 1438 institutions including all IITs, NITs, IISc, etc. participated in this exercise.

Why discuss innovation?

  • Academic nature: For the longest of time in India, innovation was either tucked away in the R&D centres of government enterprises, academia and the MNEs.
  • Situational constraints: Quiet often it was around unorganised markets in the form of the cheap Jugaad.
  • Rise of Unicorns: With over 35 Unicorns (and counting), India has become the third-largest hub of Unicorns globally, something that is not even remotely replicable by others in similar class of economies.
  • Pitch for Indigenization: Introduced at the beginning of the 2020s, the ‘Vocal for Local’ credo is symbolic of a nation that is beginning to believe in its own self-worth.
  • Unleashed potential: From ISRO’s groundbreaking low-budget streaks to India being a frontrunner in the Covid vaccine development, India’s ability to innovate is beginning to make a lasting impact on the world.
  • Global acknowledgement: The Global Innovation Index indicates India has been consistently outperforming other economies. India’s ranking has gone up from 81 (2015) to 48 (2020).

For a better India

  • The once stereotypical attitude of ‘chalta hai’ is giving way to the newfound zeal around ‘how to make things work better.
  • This is the question that Indian entrepreneurs are applying to the products and services landscape of new India.

Why does India need innovation?

  • Heterogeneity of users: With the hard metrics of innovation ecosystem in place, what really acts as the magic ingredient is the vast and heterogenous user segments in India that are hungry for novel solutions.
  • Capable institutions: This combination of strong capabilities and categories ripe for disruption makes India a fertile ground for new innovations.
  • Youth: India is also a young country. While population growth is under control, it is still growing at two per cent per year in population.
  • Being later than never: Technology is clearly the biggest area of transformation in India. India has some advantages in this area from being a ‘late mover’, which has enabled it to leapfrog the competition in many cases.

Hurdles to Innovation in HEIs

  • Low gross enrolment ratio is a major challenge in India towards the introduction of innovation in education
  • Inadequate quality of education and infrastructure that is requisite to boost innovation
  • Lack of funds for state-run Universities
  • Faculty crunch and severe shortage of teaching staff and poor facilities
  • Stagnant academic syllabus in institutions other than IITs/NITs
  • Decline in research standards due to lack of infrastructure
  • Limited institutional support- While India has the scientific talent, we do not have the deep pockets and the enabling ecosystem that drives most of the innovation in the West.

Structural lacunae

  • Lack of incubation centres: In terms of world-class manufacturing, India still lags behind.
  • Limited policy successes: Even though the government has an initiative in place to encourage companies under Make In India/ Vocal for Local, it hasn’t had any major victories in terms of attracting big players.
  • Weaker IPR regime: The lack of funding support in the country forces innovators in India to park their IP rights outside the country.

Significance of Innovation in Higher Education

  • Competition: The ranking system of ARIIA facilitates a healthy competitive environment among institutions to expand the purview of innovation. 
  • Formative years of students: This ecosystem would inspire young students to put forth their ideas in their formative years. 
  • Quality enhancement: ARIIA will exert a large emphasis on the quality of innovation and will make an attempt to examine the influence of the innovations nationally and internationally. 
  • Social applications: The innovation in education has a far-reaching impact on human development for productivity, research and improved value chain interaction across different spheres of the economy.

Way forward

  • In today’s knowledge-driven economy, innovation is the primary driver of progress. And, a large reservoir of entrepreneurial energy in India waiting to be tapped lies in these HEIs.
  • For innovation to flourish, ideas must be funded and taken to market. The HEIs are the right place to invest in for innovations.
  • It is by investing in breakthrough ideas and embracing entrepreneurship as an economic model of growth that India will be able to unleash the power of innovation to ensure a better life for its billion-plus citizens.

Conclusion

  • We must build the credibility of Indian innovation within our borders and convince people that the quality of research done in India is at par with the best in the world.
  • This can be done by promoting more innovations in HEIs.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Saving the Tiger

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Context

  • India has registered biggest margin of drop in tiger numbers in a decade in the year 2021.
  • 127 big cats have fallen prey to everything from poachers and accidents to natural causes with man-animal conflict last year.

Tigers in India

  • India is home to a third of the global tiger population and the country’s success in saving the big cat is crucial to global efforts to protect their numbers.
  • India was the first country in the world to champion the cause of conservation of the tiger and its natural habitats.
  • The aesthetic, ethical and cultural value of tigers have also proved to be critical factors for saving tigers, which has also ensured the success of tiger conservation in India.

Why is it necessary to conserve Tigers?

The tiger is a unique animal that plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of an ecosystem.

  • Predation balance: It is a top predator which is at the apex of the food chain.
  • Regulation of herbivores: It keeps the population of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
  • Ecosystem balance: Therefore, the presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem.
  • Tourism: Apart from the ecological services provided by the animal, the tiger also offers direct use such as attracting tourists, which provide incomes for local communities.

Various efforts to save Tigers

India is home to 70 percent of the global tiger population. Therefore, the country has an important role to play in tiger conservation.

[1] Project Tiger

  • The Government of India started ‘Project Tiger’ in 1972 with a view to conserving the animal.
  • As part of this project nine core buffer areas for maintaining tiger population were notified. Now, this has >expanded to 48 tiger reserves.

[2] CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

  • Besides protecting tiger territory, other measures being taken to save the tiger include: curbing wildlife trade through international agreements.
  • CITES is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, including tigers, does not threaten their survival. India ratified this treaty in 1976.

[3] Global Tiger Forum and Tiger Range Countries

  • Established in 1994, the Global Tiger Forum is the only inter-governmental body for tiger conservation.
  • Its membership includes seven tiger range countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.

[4] CA|TS

  • 14 tiger reserves have been accredited under CA|TS (Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards) categories.
  • The CA|TS is a set of criteria that examines the management of tiger sites to gauge the success rates of tiger conservation.

[5] St. Petersburg Declaration   

  • This resolution was adopted In November 2010, by the leaders of 13 tiger range countries (TRCs) assembled at an International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • It aimed at promoting a global system to protect the natural habitat of tigers and raise awareness among people on white tiger conservation.

[6] Various NGOs

  • International NGO members consist of World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and TRAFFIC.
  • Several national NGOs from India and Nepal are also members.

Success of these efforts

The four-year tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018 shows numbers of the big cat have increased across all landscapes.

The total count has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.

  • At present, India has around 75% of tiger population and its source areas amongst the 13 tiger range countries in the world.
  • 2.24% of country’s geographical area is spread out in 51 tiger reserves in 18 States.

Various threats to Tigers

  • Despite measures being initiated to protect wild tigers, habitat loss and poaching continue to pose a threat to the animal’s survival.
  • Tiger parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines, tiger skin is used for decorative and medicinal purposes and tiger bones are again used for medicinal purposes for curing body pain, et al.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, TRAFFIC’s research found that parts of a minimum of 1,590 Tigers were seized in Tiger range States, an average of two Tigers per week.

Other existential threats to tigers

  • Man-Animal conflict: This largely seems a normal phenomenon in India. We broadly remember the case of Tigress Avni which was finally shot dead by the forest officials in Maharashtra.
  • Shrinking habitat: This often leads to territorial conflicts among the Tigers.
  • Issues with Tourism: Excess of tourist activities is problematic for animals. Frequent visits in reserved forests areas disrupt them to move freely for their prey.
  • Climate Change: The effects of climate change and floods are a major problem.  The latest study by WWF shows that Sundarban which is one of the biggest home of tigers in India would sink entirely in 2070.

Way forward

  • The process of tiger conservation should be more dynamic and compatible with the future possibilities of climatic changes as well.
  • The Forest Department and the Central government can collaborate to protect the natural corridors to ensure the free movement of the tigers for better food resources.
  • Campaigns such as ‘Save the Tiger’ are recommended as effective measures to make people across the country and globe aware of the significance of conserving tiger species.
  • Sensitization of local communities against poaching is also a crucial measure in this regard.
  • We have to make the environment and development co-exist and go hand in hand by planning our future developmental goals in such a manner that our environmental goals are not compromised.
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[Yojana Archive] GI Tagging of Rural Products

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Background

  • India realized the need to protect its indigenous, unique, and reputed products through GI when an American company was given a patent of Basmati rice, and India had to resort to an expensive procedure of challenging the patent in the US court of law.
  • This necessitated India to enact the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 in 2003 to give protection for GI through sui generis legislation.
  • To facilitate this process, the Geographical Indications Registry of India was set up in Chennai.
  • Darjeeling tea was the first Indian product that was awarded the GI tag in 2004 for its naturally occurring quality, flavor, and market potential.

Arriving at GI framework

  • The present international framework on the Geographical Indications (GIs) derives its strength from Article 22 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
  • It defines GIs as ‘indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin’.
  • GI are also covered as an element of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) under Articles 1(2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

What is Geographical Indication (GI)?

  • GI is not a property right given to an individual to use it, rather it is attributed to goods or services specific to a region which allows every producer in the specified region to use the said GI.
  • It is applicable as long as the quality of the GI goods is similar to the specified qualities of the identified product of the said region.
  • This mandates member countries to provide for the protection of all GIs, where the obligation is for the members to provide the’ legal means for interested parties’, to secure protection of their GIs.

Need for GI

In general, GIs backed up by solid business management can bring competitive advantage by:

  • More added value to a product
  • Increased export opportunities
  • Strengthened brand of produce
  • Protect Indian products
  • Better price and branding
  • Recognition of uniqueness

Initiatives taken by India

In a bid to popularize India’s GI-tagged products and works of artisans, the government is aiming to market the products in international markets.

  • GI Logo and taglines: While launching the new logo for the GI products, a new tagline for promotion ‘Invaluable Treasure of Incredible India’ has been selected.
  • Marketing: The Ministry of Commerce is working with the Ministry of Civil Aviation as well as the Ministry of Railway to arrange a display for GI-tagged products.
  • Dedicated GI stores: India’s very first GI Store of Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI) was launched in 2019, at the departure terminal of Goa.
  • Export promotion: India’s Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2021-2026, which targets to achieve the exports value to USD 1.0 trillion by 2025, has recognized GI-tagged Agri commodities as one of the growth drivers.
  • Various exemptions: Another small but important step to boost indigenous toys production to support artisans and MSMEs is the government adopting Toys (Quality Control) Second Amendment Order, 2020 which exempts goods manufactured and sold by artisans and those registered as GI from Quality Control Orders.
  • Buyer-Seller Meets: Many agencies as well as the State governments are now frequently organizing Buyer-Seller Meet with a specific focus on GI-tagged products.

Way forward

  • Awareness: There is a need to prepare a strategy to raise awareness about various GI products, and the difference between GI and non-GI products amongst local farmers, consumers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Promotions through policy input: The Central Government needs to come out with some long-term policy to provide Indian GI products an assured domestic as well as international market.
  • FPOs promotion: The Central Sector Scheme of promotion and nurturing of 10,000 Agri-based Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs), is being implemented through three national agencies, NABARD, SFAC, and NCDC, and a few other agencies.
  • Cluster approach: Ex. One District One Product (ODOP) has been adopted to increase value addition, marketing, and exports which will benefit small, marginal, and landless farmers by giving access to technological inputs, finances, and better markets and prices for their crops.
  • Necessary infrastructure: The government needs to make efforts for creating required infrastructures such as customs clearance facilities, laboratory testing facilities, pack-houses, and pre-cooling facilities, which would harness and boost the exports potential of GI products.

Conclusion

  • Despite GI tagging, the commercial performance of many GI products is not up to the mark, even in the domestic market.
  • Therefore, the govt may identify such product-place clusters and evaluate them commercially to develop them in their entirety.
  • Setting up an incubation centre for helping users/farmers/entrepreneurs for obtaining GI and traceability solutions of their produce may help GI products to grow.

Click here to read all GI tags in news:

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Sansad TV Perspective: Protecting E-Com Consumers

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Context

  • Every year, 24th of December is observed as National Consumer Day.
  • On this day, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the president.
  • The enactment of this Act is considered as a historic milestone in the consumer movement in the country.

This day presents an opportunity to highlight the importance of the consumer movement, the need to make people aware of their rights as consumers, and to ensure consumers with effective safeguards against different types of exploitation such as defective goods, deficiency in services and unfair trade practices.

In this age of e-commerce, which facilitated creation of new approaches to service and product delivery, the challenges of ensuring customer protection have grown manifold. It has raised multiple questions:

  1. How are the interests of e-commerce consumers being protected?
  2. How free and fair competition in e-com market is being encouraged?
  3. How redressal mechanisms for consumer grievances are being strengthened?

E-Commerce boom since Pandemic

  • The significance of e-commerce has gained attention especially at time of pandemic where the entire value chain and flow of goods and services were dependent on e-commerce.
  • It was discussed that the emergence of the e-commerce market has created several avenues for online frauds, counterfeit products that affect consumer safety.

Various threats to consumers on E-Com platforms

[A] INFORMATION

  • Sharing unwanted program- Adware
  • Spyware
  • Browser parasites
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Risks to behavioural data

[B] ORDERING OF PRODUCTS

  • Risk of misuse of behavioural pattern data
  • Malicious recommender algorithm

[C] PAYMENT

  • Phishing (Threat to login credentials and credit card numbers)
  • Pharming attacks (fake websites)
  • Salami attacks (very small amounts of money from thousands of bank accounts is manipulated at once)
  • Risks to transaction data

[D] DELIVERY

  • Breach of contract. Ex. Product quality, delivery time etc.

[E] SUPPORT

  • Processing of cancellation
  • Refund
  • Service related issues

Rationale for Consumer Protection in E-commerce

  • All consumers need to have access to e-commerce.
  • To build consumer trust/confidence in e-commerce, the continued development of transparent and effective consumer protection mechanisms is required to check fraudulent, misleading, and unfair practices online.
  • All stakeholders-government, businesses, consumers, and their representatives- must pay close attention to creating effective redress systems.

E-Commerce Rules

  • Framed under Consumer Protection Act, 2019, it regulates goods and services sold over digital or e-networks.
  • It lays down duties, liabilities for all e-commerce entities.
  • Rules don’t apply to activities taken in personal capacity. It applies to entities not set up in India, but offering business here.
  • Fair pricing: No e-commerce entity should manipulate the price of goods/services offered
  • Authentic information: No fake customer reviews, advertisements inconsistent with actual features, access or usage of goods
  • Seller information: It must provide details about the sellers including registration status
  • Dedicated grievance redressal mechanism: Every e-com company must establish mechanism for grievance redressal
  • Compliance officer: The firm has to appoint a person to ensure compliance with this Act
  • Headquarters: Platform should provide legal name, address of headquarters and its branches
  • Timely resolution of complaints: Grievance officer to acknowledge receipt of complaint within 48 hrs and must resolve the complaint within a month
  • Refunds in compliance with RBI: Every entity shall affect all refund payment requests as per rules laid by the RBI

Also read

Various Rights of Customer

  • Right to safety
  • Right to be informed
  • Right to choose
  • Right to be heard
  • Right to seek redressal
  • Right to consumer education

Where to file complaint?

  • National Consumer Helpline (NCH) App / Website
  • UMANG App
  • Toll free number 14404

Way forward

  • With the changing technology and trending trade policies it is recommended that there needs to be effective interventions by the government to implement the consumer outreach programmes.
  • There is an essential role played by social media in spreading awareness among consumers which can be further promoted and added on to the exemplary campaign like “ Jago Grahak Jago”.
  • Special and effective awareness campaigns must be brought into the rural areas.
  • Data privacy and data security of the consumers must be ensured to prevent cybercrime threats.

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[Sansad TV] Perspective: 160 years of the Indian Penal Code

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Context

Formed in 1862, the Indian Penal Code completes 160 years of its existence.  One of the prominent remains of the British era, IPC has been a part of Indian society.  But has it served society according to its needs? Or does it still have a colonial hangover?

More important… has it been able to keep pace with the changing face of crime.

The article looks back at the journey of the Indian Penal Code and discusses the possibilities of reforms.

What is Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

  • The IPC is the official criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • The code was drafted on the recommendations of first Law Commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.
  • It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862.
  • However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely States, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s.
  • The Code has since been amended several times (more than 70 times) and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.

Applications beyond India

  • After the partition, the IPC was inherited by its successor states, the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, where it continues independently as the Pakistan Penal Code.
  • After the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the code continued in force there.
  • The Code was also adopted by the British colonial authorities in Colonial Burma, Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), the Straits Settlements (now part of Malaysia), Singapore and Brunei, and remains the basis of the criminal codes there.

Key feature: Versatility of the IPC

  • The Code is universally acknowledged as a cogently drafted code, ahead of its time.
  • It has substantially survived for over 150 years in several jurisdictions without major amendments.
  • The Supreme Court of UK has applauded the efficacy and relevance of IPC while commemorating 150 years of IPC.
  • Modern crimes involving technology unheard of during Macaulay’s time fit easily within the Code mainly because of the broadness of the Code’s drafting.

Some controversial sections of IPC

[A] Section 377: Homosexuality

This section prevented private consensual sex between adults of same sex. The Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by striking off parts of Sec. 377 of which were held violative of Fundamental Rights of LGBTQ Community under Art 14.

[B] Section 309: Attempt to Commit Suicide

The Section 309 of dealt with criminalizing attempt to suicide. This was however in P Rathnam v. Union of India held this section as unconstitutional and void for it violates Article 21.

[C] Section 497: Adultery

The Section was been criticised on the one hand for allegedly treating woman as the private property of her husband. The Supreme Court headed by the then CJI, Deepak Misra, pronounced that Section 497 is unconstitutional and hence, struck it down.

[D] Section 124A: Sedition

This section criminalises anti-national activities and sedition . Throughout India’s history this overbroad provision has been used to silence public figures, including Mahatma Gandhi. More recently it has been used to justify the harassment of protesters.

[E] Section 153A: Hate Speech

Promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’, is an offence punishable with three years’ imprisonment.

[F] Section 499: Criminal Defamation,

This section criminalizes defamation, can be used to secure a conviction without proof that actual harm has occurred – the intent or knowledge that harm would likely result is sufficient. Predictably, this provision has been used to silence political speech.

Lacunae in IPC

  • Unchallenged and archaic:  The code has been premised on some very basic principles of criminal jurisprudence and hence the underlying expositions and definitions in the IPC mostly remained unchallenged.
  • Covers generic offences: The classification of offences was kept generic and wider enough to include a vast array of wrong-doings and therefore it also did not pose major problems until recently.
  • Colonial attempt: The IPC was essentially a cultural product that reflects a European lineage which was quite alienated to many indigenous personal laws based on religion.
  • Modern crimes not covered:  For instance Cyber Crimes, Drug Offences, Economic Offences, Juvenile Offences, Customs & Excise Offences and further there are many more emerging forms of crime to which IPC does not address.
  • Persistence of death penalty: Keeping of death penalty in the IPC had a different objective in colonial times. All such reasons have now vanished and the presence of death penalty in master criminal law of India defies modern principles of penology and rehabilitation.

Other legacy challenges

  • Delays in criminal trials pose a major challenge in the way of justice and seek more coordination between the stakeholders of the legal system.
  • Lack of awareness among people regarding the criminal laws adds to the weak functioning of the legal system even after the existence of a comprehensive legal framework.
  • Complex language of the laws mentioned under IPC forms a barrier for the legal interpreters and the common citizens which results in the delay of justice and adds loopholes in the entire system.

Way forward

The Malimath Committee (2003) has made following suggestions for a comprehensive for reforming and restructuring of IPC:

  • Legal research: There is a need to have empirical legal research showing areas required to be contemplated as new offences in the code.
  • Enforceability check: The same process should also be applied in case of identification of offences to be dropped from the IPC on account of being outdated nature and issues of enforceability involved in them.
  • Gender-based offences: There is no separate chapter on sexual offences in IPC. It is therefore the right time to dedicate a full chapter on this subject to bring all sexual offences at one place.
  • Cover modern laws: To be comprehensive enough, the IPC must also include chapters on cyber laws, economic offences, and terrorist offences in the code. This would be helpful in avoiding duplicity and confusion.
  • Indigenization: In revision, the indigenousness in the framing of laws must be given space which was completely left out by the IPC.
  • Parallel reforms in Policing: Although revamping IPC will lead to reforming the criminal justice system, additional changes in the police structure are also needed.

Conclusion

  • Reforming the criminal justice system is not just a one-step process.
  • Revamping IPC is a major step to modernize the criminal law of India and make it in accordance with the Indian democracy.
  • Fulfilling political agendas should not be the reason behind adding specific provisions.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective – Internet: Regulating the Ban

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Context

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT has observed that Internet today is an indispensable part of everyday lives of citizens.
  • Hence, the government should explore the possibility of banning particular internet services, such as messengers like WhatsApp and social media websites, instead of putting in place blanket internet bans.

Internet shutdowns in India

  • Nowadays, India is widely considered to be a world leader in cutting off access to the Net.
  • Yet, there are no detailed official data on Internet shutdowns in India.
  • Taking a serious note of the situation, the Supreme Court has for the first time set the stage for challenging such suspension orders before courts.
  • It has directed the government to mandatorily publish all orders permitting Internet shutdowns. It has opened such decisions amenable to judicial review.

Recent statistics

  • India leads the global tally in suspension of internet services.
  • An internet tracker internetshudowns.in points out there have been 550 internet shutdowns in India since 2012, more than 50 per cent of which were imposed since 2019.
  • The longest shutdown, lasting for 552 days, was imposed in J&K from August 4, 2019 to February 6, 2020.

Mechanisms allowing Internet Shut-downs

[1] Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rule, 2017

  • Home Departments in the states are mostly the authorities that enforce shutdowns, drawing powers from The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
  • The decisions are reviewed by a state government review committee. The central government also has powers under this law, but has not used it.

[2] CrPC

  • Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has enabled many of the shutdowns in the recent past, especially until the time the telecom suspension Rules came into force in 2017.

[3] Telegraph Act, 1885

  • Less frequently used is The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, whose Section 5(2) allows central and state governments to prevent the transmission of messaging during a public emergency or in the interest of public safety or in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India etc.
  • This act stipulates that only the Home Secretary of the Union or a state can pass an order, and that the order must include the reasons for the decision.
  • Under this the government has the power to block the transmission of messages during a public emergency or for public safety.

Need for Internet Shutdowns

  • Civil unrest: Internet serves as a medium for the transmission of information through pictures, videos and text that have the potential to cause civil unrest and exacerbate the law and order.
  • Fake news: Shutdowns in order to block the flow of information about government actions or to end communication among activists and prevent the spread of rumors and fake news.
  • Rumors: Shutdown helps prevent the “spreading of rumors and misinformation using social media platforms which can hinder peace and law and order”.
  • Preventive Response: Cutting off the Internet is both an early and preventive response to block restive groups to organize riots against the Government.
  • National Interest: The Internet cannot be independent of national sovereignty. Therefore, the necessary regulation of the internet is a reasonable choice of sovereign countries based on national interests.

Issues with the Kashmir Shutdown

  • Arbitrary: The Internet shutdown in Kashmir was is often alleged to be non-compliant with the Rules.
  • Unnecessary: The Rules require the suspension to be temporary; also, the orders did not provide reasons for the restrictions.
  • Discriminatory: Shutdowns in Kashmir often led to obstruction for essential services such as e-banking and hospitals.

Supreme Court Judgment on Internet Shutdowns

  • The court ordered the government to review its order, ruling that the freedom of speech and trade on the Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19.
  • Non-recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.
  • The court said that because the Rules require the order to be in accordance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, the order must be during a “public emergency” or in the “interest of public safety”.
  • Also, the suspension must be “necessary” and “unavoidable”.
  • In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy,” the court said.

Legal basis for Right to Internet

  • The access to the Internet is a right very similar to what the Supreme Court held with respect to the right to privacy in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy.
  • The Human Rights Council of the United Nations Resolution dated July 2, 2018, on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, made important declarations.
  • It noted with concern the various forms of undue restriction on freedom of opinion and expression online, including where countries have manipulated or suppressed online expression in violation of international law.

Why is the Internet a necessity?

  • Information: While the Internet is certainly the main source of information and communication and access to social media, it is so much more than that.
  • Education: It is a mode of access to education for students who do courses and take exams online. Access to the Internet is important to facilitate the promotion and enjoyment of the right to education.
  • Livelihood: People working in the technology-based gig economy — like the thousands of delivery workers for depend on the Internet for their livelihoods.
  • Healthcare: It is also a mode to access to health care for those who avail of health services online. 

Dysfunctions created by shutdowns

[1] Economic impact

  • While there is no proven benefit of closing down the internet, there are serious economic repercussions.
  • A report by the Brookings Institute adjudged India to have topped the list by incurring losses to the tune of $968 million in 2016 itself.
  • Over the past five years, some 16,000 hours of Internet shutdowns cost the economy a little over $3 billion, according to estimates in a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

[2] Governance hurdles

  • In Sept. 2018, the Dept. of Telecommunication had acknowledged the adverse impact of a rising number of internet shutdowns that State governments are ordering.
  • The Govt. has embarked upon a programme to deliver services through mobile and internet apart from promoting a cashless economy.
  • Neither banking transactions using credit and debit cards nor internet banking can be done, which leads to hardships to common citizens.

Way Forward

  • Internet shutdowns should be used as the option of the last resort.
  • There exists no qualitative or quantitative evidence to show that internet shutdowns are effective tools to restore normalcy.
  • In fact, the internet itself can be used to resolve the problem.
  • For example, the Government can have verified sources to spread legitimate information across various mediums stating areas that are safe/affected the updated status of the situation, etc.
  • State interests like security are important because they are the prerequisites for us to exercise our freedoms. However, in pursuing this, the freedoms themselves cannot be suspended.
  • Therefore, the government needs to clearly lay down a comprehensive framework, stating the conditions behind such Internet shutdowns.

Conclusion

  • It is time that we recognize that the right to access to the Internet is indeed a fundamental right within our constitutional guarantees.
  • The Internet is pretty much a basic human right, even if not legally defined as such, for most parts of the world — without access to the virtual world, a very large number of vital human activities simply stops.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: All India Judicial Service

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Context

  • There were reports of the Centre renewing attempts to build consensus with state governments and High Courts on setting of the AIJS.
  • However the government recently informed Parliament that only 2 states – Haryana and Mizoram, and two high courts, Tripura High Court and Sikkim High Court, are in favour of creating the AIJS.
  • As per govt data on High Courts, 13 have opposed the proposal, six have sought changes in it and others have not responded.

All India Judicial Service (AIJS): A backgrounder

  • The AIJS is a reform push to centralize the recruitment of judges.
  • It would work at the level of additional district judges and district judges for all states.
  • In the same way that the UPSC conducts a central recruitment process and assigns successful candidates to cadres, judges of the lower judiciary are proposed to be recruited centrally and assigned to states.

This idea has been debated in legal circles for decades, and remains contentious.

How are district judges currently recruited?

  • Articles 233 and 234: These articles deal with the appointment of district judges, and place it in the domain of the states.
  • State PSC: The selection process is conducted by the State Public Service Commissions and the concerned HC since HCs exercise jurisdiction over the subordinate judiciary in the state.
  • Interview by HC judges panelists: They interview candidates after the exam and select them for an appointment.

Why has the AIJS been proposed?

The idea was to ensure:

  • Efficient subordinate judiciary
  • Address structural issues such as varying pay and remuneration across states
  • Fill vacancies faster
  • Ensure standard training across states

Beginning of the debate

  • The idea of a centralized judicial service was first proposed in the Law Commission 1958 ‘Report on Reforms on Judicial Administration’.
  • It was proposed again in the Law Commission Report of 1978, which discussed delays and arrears of cases in the lower courts.
  • In 2006, the Parliamentary Standing Committee backed the idea of a pan-Indian judicial service, and also prepared a draft Bill.

What is the judiciary’s view on the AIJS?

  • 1992: the Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up an AIJS in All India Judges’ Assam. vs Union of India
  • 1993: In review of the judgment, the court left the Centre at liberty to take the initiative on the issue.
  • 2017: The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the issue of appointment of district judges, and mooted a “Central Selection Mechanism”.

Need for AJIS

  • Huge vacancy of judges and delay in recruitment: Currently there are about 5400 vacant posts in lower judiciary across the country and a pendency of 2.78crore cases in lower judiciary.
  • Dearth of good quality judicial officers: The ever continuing decline in their qualityhas led to decline in the competence of overall judiciary.
  • Lack of finances: State judicial services are not attractive for ‘best talents’ due to low salaries, rewards and compensations by the state governments.
  • Lack of specialized training: Adjudication is a specialization which requires state of the art training institutes and professors but state institutes don’t allow such exposure to interns.
  • Discretion of a narrow body: The process of selecting a good judge is a difficult job and should not be left at the discretion of few persons (collegiums) however sagacious they may be.
  • Subjectivity in the process: Current judicial appointments suffer subjectivity, corruption and nepotism on the part of Collegium.

Critical views on AJIS

  • Blow to federalism: AJIS is seen as an affront to federalism and an encroachment on the powers of states granted by the Constitution.
  • Language of Business: Language and representation, for example, are key concerns highlighted by states. Judicial business is conducted in regional languages, whi ch could be affected by central recruitment.
  • Quotas: A “national exam” risks shutting out those from less privileged backgrounds from being able to enter the judicial services.
  • Separation of power: The opposition is also based on the constitutional concept of the separation of powers.
  • Not a complete remedy: Additionally, legal experts have argued that the creation of AIJS will not address the structural issues plaguing the lower judiciary.
  • Mismanaged legal education: Curriculum followed by law universities, overseen by Bar Council of India, lacks effective standards barring few National Law Universities.

Other limitations of AJIS

  • Legacy issues unaddressed: AIJS addresses neither the problem of disproportionately low pay nor unavailability of adequate judicial infrastructure in states nor the lack of career advancement.
  • Problem of local laws and customs: AIJS does not take into account the problem of local laws, practices and customs which vary widely across States, thus increasing the costs of training for judges selected through the mechanism.
  • Unnecessary bureaucratization: The argument that the centralization of recruitment processes through the UPSC automatically leads to a more efficient recruitment process is flawed and not a guarantee of a solution.

Why is the government seeking to revive the idea of AIJS?

  • The government has targeted the reform of the lower judiciary in its effort to improve India’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.
  • It will act as efficient dispute resolution is one of the key indices in determining the rank.
  • AIJS is a step in the direction of ensuring an efficient lower judiciary.

Centre’s argument for AJIS

  • The government has cited IAS officers’ examples.
  • It has argued that if a central mechanism can work for administrative services — IAS officers learn the language required for their cadre — it can work for judicial services too.

Way forward

In its report on Strategy for New India @75 which defines objectives for 2022-23, Niti Aayog suggested that

  • An all-India judicial services examination on a ranking basis can be considered to maintain high standards in the judiciary
  • There is a need to facilitate the availability and usage of video-conferencing facilities to assist in speedy access to justice and to minimize logistical issues.
  • To maintain judicial independence, the cadre should report to the Chief Justice in each High Court.

The Supreme Court has recently suggested the establishment of the National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)  for the modernization of judicial infrastructure. This is also another welcome move in reforming India Judiciary.

Conclusion

  • If we want to create a robust judicial system at the subordinate level, the constitution of an Indian judicial service is a sound idea.
  • Only a meritocratic service with a competitive recruitment, high-quality uniform training and assured standards of probity and efficiency would be able to ensure speedy and impartial justice in India.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Energy Conservation

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Context

  • Recently, the National Energy Conservation Day was observed on December 14th by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

UN Statistics on Energy

  • 13% global population lacks access to electricity
  • 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, waste for cooking and heating
  • Energy dominant contributor for climate change
  • Energy needs account for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions

What is Energy Conservation?

  • Energy conservation is a conscious, individual effort, and at a macro level, it leads to energy efficiency (most precisely Electrical Energy).
  • It involves the effort made to ensure that energy is used efficiently by either using less energy or reducing the use for a particular constant purpose.
  • The end goal of energy conservation is to reach towards sustainable energy.
  • It is different from the term ‘energy efficiency’, which is using technology that requires less energy to perform the same function.

Energy scenario in India

  • India is the third-largest electricity producer in the world.  Thermal, nuclear, and renewable energy systems are the major sources for generating India’s electricity.
  • Installed power generation capacities include:
  • Thermal: 60% (234.69 GW)
  • Nuclear: 2% (6.78 GW)
  • Renewable Energy: 38% (150.54 GW)
  • The overall capacity of about 392 GW is added into its electricity grid, as of November 2021. Perhaps this is insufficient to meets its total demand.

Various govt. initiatives

[1] Energy Conservation Act, 2001

  • Considering the vast potential of energy savings and benefits of energy efficiency, the GoI enacted the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • The Act provides for the legal framework, institutional arrangement and a regulatory mechanism at the Central and State level to embark upon energy efficiency drive in the country.
  • Five major provisions of EC Act relate to:
  • Designated Consumers
  • Standard and Labeling of Appliances
  • Energy Conservation Building Codes
  • Creation of Institutional setup i.e. Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)
  • Establishment of Energy Conservation Fund

[2] National Programme for LED-based Home and Street Lighting

  • The initiative is part of the Government’s efforts to spread the message of energy efficiency in the country.
  • LED bulbs have a very long life, almost 50 times more than ordinary bulbs, and 8-10 times that of CFLs, and therefore provide both energy and cost savings in the medium term.
  • Under this scheme, Government aims to replace 3.5 crore conventional street lights with energy efficient LED lights.

[3] Standards and Labelling Programme

  • Standards and Labelling (S&L) programme has been identified as one of the key activities for energy efficiency improvements. The scheme was launched on 18th May 2006
  • Key objective of the scheme is to provide the consumer an informed choice about the energy saving and thereby the cost saving potential of the relevant marketed product.

[4] Energy Conservation Building Codes (ECBC)

  • The ECBC was launched by Ministry of Power for new commercial buildings in 2007. It sets minimum energy standards for new commercial buildings.
  • In order to promote a market pull for energy efficient buildings, the BEE developed a voluntary Star Rating Programme for buildings which are based on the actual performance of a building.

[5] UJALA scheme

  • UJALA scheme aims to promote efficient use of energy at the residential level, enhance the awareness of consumers about the efficacy of using energy efficient appliances.
  • It facilitates higher uptake of LED lights by residential users.
  • It may be noted that the scheme was initially labelled DELP (Domestic Efficient Lighting Program) and was re-launched as UJALA.

[6] School Education Program

  • Considering the need to make the next generation more aware regarding efficient use of energy resources, it is necessary to introduce children during their school education.
  • In this regard, promotion of energy efficiency in schools is being promoted through the establishment of Energy Clubs.
  • BEE has prepared the text/material on Energy Efficiency and Conservation for its proposed incorporation in the existing science syllabi and science text books of NCERT for classes 6th to 10th.

Way forward

  • Universal Access: There must be universal access to affordable energy with effective intervention by the government.
  • Awareness: More awareness programmes regarding green buildings should be held as there is a rapid expansion of urbanization.
  • Investments: More investments in energy-efficient infrastructure are required.
  • Storage: Li-ion batteries can be promoted and deployed with measures to manufacture indigenous lithium-ion batteries.
  • Clean Energy: A stable supply chain of renewable energy and cleaner fossil fuel technologies must emerge in order to achieve the ambitious energy targets.

Conclusion

  • India has taken strong strides on its clean energy transition.
  • While India’s energy needs are expected to grow, energy efficiency can help meet them cost-effectively while leaving a better environment for the next generation.
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[Yojana Archive] SVAMITVA Scheme

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November 2021: Panchayati Raj

Context

  • One of the vital factors in land resources-led economic growth is the ownership of the properties, especially in rural areas.
  • It is observed that ownership of land in rural areas is based on physical possession of the property and lacks sufficient documentary evidence of ownership.
  • To remove this disparity, SVAMITVA Scheme was launched in April, 2020.

What is SVAMITVA Scheme?

  • SVAMITVA stands for Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas.
  • Under the scheme, the latest surveying technology such as drones will be used for measuring the inhabited land in villages and rural areas.
  • The mapping and survey will be conducted in collaboration with the Survey of India, State Revenue Department and State Panchayati Raj Department under the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
  • The drones will draw the digital map of every property falling in the geographical limit of each Indian village.
  • Property Cards will be prepared and given to the respective owners.

Broad Objectives

  1. Leveraging property as a financial asset by the citizens of rural India
  2. Creation of accurate land records for rural planning
  3. Provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India
  4. Serve as a means of reduction in property-related disputes Facilitate with the determination of property tax
  5. Creation of survey infrastructure and GIS (Geographic Information System) maps that can be used by any department or agency

Features of the Scheme

  • Accurate survey: SVAMITVA Scheme uses the combination of Survey Grade Drones and CORS network (Continuously Operated Reference Stations) to accurately survey large areas in a very short span of time.
  • High resolution: The 1:500 scale maps generated through the drone survey are of very high accuracy i.e., 3-5 cms, which the conventional methodology does not provide.
  • Geo-tagging: Moreover, editable and geo-tagged maps are produced at a fraction of the cost without the need for line-of-sight.
  • Permanent records: These maps facilitate the creation of the most durable record of property holdings in areas with no legacy revenue records.

Need for digitized land records

  • Land as a finite resource: Land is an essential resource for most economic activities aimed at the creation of economic growth in the world.
  • Asset to Economy: The management of land resources, therefore, is considered an important component of the economic policies of any country.
  • Ambiguous ownership: In the absence of a legal document, the owner of the property in the rural areas is not able to leverage it as a financial asset.
  • Credit liabilities: Ambigous records are not accepted by the banks to provide loans and other financial assistance. These residents are left with no other option but to avail loans from non-institutional creditors.
  • Debt-trapping: Lack of awareness among the uninformed rural populace leads them into a spiralling debt trap, leaving them at the mercy of the moneylenders.

Significance of Svamitva Scheme

  • Villagers can utilize their property as a financial asset to take out loans and other financial benefits under the Svamitva plan.
  • People in rural regions would gain from the plan because they will be able to utilise their property as a financial asset to obtain loans and other financial benefits.
  • It will also result in the compilation of accurate land records for rural planning and property tax calculation.
  • Drone technology will also be used to assess land parcels in rural inhabited areas under the initiative.
  • It will save them from the land mafia’s loot of land and help resolve other property-related disputes with the title deeds allotted as well. 

Implementation flow

  • Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS): It is a network of reference stations that will provide a virtual base station and allow access to long-ranging and high accuracy network Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) corrections. It helps in the process of georeferencing, ground-truthing, and land demarcation.
  • Large Scale Mapping (LSM) using drone: A drone survey will be used for mapping the Abadi area by SOI. It will produce high-resolution and accurate maps. Based on this data, ownership rights will be conferred and property cards will be issued to the rural household owners.
  • Information, Education, and Communication (IEC): It will include running campaigns, circulation of good practices, and other campaigns on the national level through social media platforms. It is upon the state government to develop a comprehensive communication strategy to sensitize the local population.
  • Enhancement of Spatial Planning Application “Gram Manchitra”: In order to support the preparation of the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP), the digital spatial data created using the drone survey shall be leveraged.
  • Online Monitoring System: It is important to monitor the activities and their progress for which reporting dashboards and online monitoring systems will be used.
  • Program Management Unit: It has two units namely the National Programme Management Unit (NPMU) and the State Programme Management Unit (SPMU). These will assist the departmental mechanism in the implementation of the scheme.                                         

Way forward

  • Better planning: The creation of accurate land records and GIS maps will support Panchayats in the preparation of a better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP).
  • Land revenue management: With this, Gram Panchayats can better streamline their property tax determination and collections in States:
  • Revenue generation: This will lead to the generation of their own sources of revenue which could’ be gainfully utilized for various developmental works.
  • Boost to drone industry: The Scheme has also given an impetus to the drone ecosystem in the country.

Conclusion

  • Thus, SVAMITVA Scheme aims for holistic development of Gram Panchayat through the empowerment of villages and their residents which will eventually make rural India Atmanirbhar.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Electronic Waste Management

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Context

  • According to Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world generated a striking 53.6 Mt of e-waste in 2019 which is an average of 7.3 kg per capita.
  • The growing amount of e-waste is mainly fueled by higher consumption rates of Electronic equipments, short life cycles, and few repair options.
  • Since 2014, the number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78.
  • In India E-Waste (Management) Rules were notified in March 2016 for providing environmentally sound systems for disposal of e-waste.

E-Waste Generation in India

  • Electronic waste (e-waste) i.e., waste arising from end-of-life electronic products, such as computers and mobile phones, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world today.

Toxins present in E-Waste

  • They contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), CFCs and HCFCs.
  • The increasing levels of e-waste, low collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of this waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and to human health.
  • Improper management of e-waste also contributes to global warming.

Why is it generated at such a large scale?

  • Ubiquitous consumption: With the enhancement in the standard of living, modern societies have become resource-intensive in their consumption.
  • Invention: This has increased the demand for electronic items while considerably bringing down the life cycle of electronic products.
  • Upgradation: Coupled with planned obsolescence by the producers, inadequate repair options or awareness about deposit refund policies consumers tend to dispose of electronic goods along with other household waste, thus products entering the informal market.

What is E-waste Management?

  • E-waste management is a complicated process given the multitude of actors that are involved in the process.
  • The major stakeholders in the value chain include importers, producers/manufacturers, retailers (businesses/government/others), consumers (individual households, businesses, government and others), traders, scrap dealers, dissemblers/dismantlers and recyclers.
  • To critically assess each in the different stages of processing, it is important to understand the e-waste value chain.
  • The process involves four stages: generation, collection, segregation and treatment/disposal.

[1] Generation (discussed earlier)

[2] Collection

  • E-waste is collected by designated organizations, producers, Government retailer take-back, and producer take-back. This e-waste is then taken to a specialised treatment facility.
  • The disposer resorts to openly dumping the product in a waste bin along with other household wastes. E-waste ends up being incinerated or landfilled as other domestic waste.

 [3] Segregation and Disposal

  • The e-waste collected may be sold to an informal dealer who may repair, refurbish, or sell again to a backyard recycler.
  • This recycler dismantles the product through burning, leaching, and melting, thus converting it into secondary raw materials.

India’s regulatory ecosystem

  • Indian electronics sector boomed in the last decade.
  • Increased production and penetration of imported electronics items led to an accelerated e-waste generation that necessitated regulatory control over the sector.
  • India has Electronic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 in place since . Its scope was expanded in 2016 and 2018 through amendments.

Provisions of the 2011 Rules

  • To streamline e-waste management, the Government introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) whereby producers were required to collect and recycle electronic items.
  • Since manufacturers were incurring the disposal cost, their designs would incorporate less toxic and easily recyclable materials, thereby reducing input material requirement.

Inherent flaws in Implementation

  • Recycling: Less than five percent of the waste is treated through formal recycling facilities.
  • Informal sector: The rest is handled by the informal sector with very little enforcement of environmental and occupational safety norms.
  • Weak Regulations: A deeper analysis revealed that the EPR regulations in India were not quantified through collection or recycling targets as in other countries with better implementation framework and mechanisms.
  • Lack of incentivization: In the absence of targets, producers had little incentive to ensure the collection of their used products.

Current scenario and issues in e-waste recycling

  • Crude and Scrappage: As of today, some 95% of e-waste is managed by the informal sector which operates under inferior working conditions and relies on crude techniques for dismantling and recycling.
  • Infrastructure lacunae: Another important issue is the lack of sufficient metal processing infrastructure which is why recyclers have to export materials to global smelters.
  • Price competencies: As aggregators are mostly informal, they demand up-front cash payments.
  • Bloomed informal network: The informal network is well-established and rests on social capital ties that PROs have yet to establish and are hence insulated from reaching the viable number of aggregators.
  • Policy failure: Policy changes have tried repeatedly to formalize the sector, but issues of implementation persist on the ground.

Way forward

  • Effective design: Since India is highly deficient in precious mineral resources, there is a need for a well-designed, robust and regulated e-waste recovery regime that would generate jobs and wealth.
  • Consumer responsibility: The consumers must responsibly consume the product for its useful life and then weigh between the chances of repair or disposal with utmost consciousness towards the environment.
  • Recyclable products: On the supply side, e-waste can be reduced when producers design electronic products that are safer, and more durable, repairable and recyclable.
  • Reuse: Manufacturers must reuse the recyclable materials and not mine rare elements unnecessarily to meet new production.
  • Commercial recycling: Rather than hoping that informal recyclers become formal it would be more feasible for companies and the state to design programs ensure e-waste easily makes its way to proper recyclers.
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[Yojana Archive] Financial Devolution

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November 2021: Panchayati Raj

Financial powers to Panchayat

  • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, promulgated on 24 April 1993, has been inserted as Part IX in the Constitution that enjoins the States to establish Panchayats.
  • It lays down that “the State shall take steps to organise village Panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.”

Need for financial devolution:

  • To strengthen democracy at grass root level with more revenue resources for better service delivery.
  • To increase accountability to people so performance can be realized as direct contact with people.

Various Constitutional Provisions

  • Collection of Taxes: States have been provided the powers to authorise the PRIs to levy, collect, and appropriate certain taxes, duties, tolls, fees, etc.
  • Share of revenues: They can also assign to them the revenues of certain State-level taxes, subject to such conditions as are imposed by the State Government.
  • Grant-in-aid: The PRIs may also be provided with grant-in-aid.
  • State Finance Commission for review: In support of these requirements, Article 243-I of the Constitution mandates setting up of the State Finance Commission (SFC) every five years.
  • Central provisions: Under the Article 280(3) (bb) of the Constitution, Central Finance Commissions are required to make recommendations to augment the Consolidated Fund of the State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats in the State.

Central Finance Commission Recommendations

  • Recommendations for devolution to the Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) began from the Tenth Finance Commission onwards (period 1995-2000).
  • Up to the Twelfth Finance Commission (period 2005-10), nominal amounts of devolution were made to the RLBs on a lump sum basis.
  • Thirteenth Finance Commission (XIII FC) made a radical departure by awarding a percentage of the divisible pool.

Fourteenth Finance Commission (XIV FC)

  • It has recommended an amount of Rs 200292.20 crore to the GPs in the country.
  • This amount was divided in Basic Grant (Rs. 180262.98 crores) and Performance Grant (Rs. 20029.22 crore).
  • It adopted a trust-based approach and recommended that the devolutions be made directly to the GPs without any share at the levels of other tiers.

Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV FC)

  • It recommended devolution to all tiers of the Panchayati Raj including the Traditional Bodies of Non-Part IX States and Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas.
  • XV FC grants are provided in two parts, namely-
  • Basic (Untied) Grant: For general purposes
  • Tied Grant: 30% of the total grants be utilised for drinking water, rainwater harvesting, and water recycling

Own Sources of Revenues (OSRs) of RLB

  • The three tiers of the Panchayats have been provided with own revenue generating powers.
  • However, the GPs in general are empowered to levy the most number of taxes and non-taxes within their jurisdiction.
  • Property tax, cess on land revenue, surcharge on additional stamp duty, tolls, tax on professions, tax on advertisements, non-motor vehicle tax, user charges, etc. contribute the maximum to the OSR.

Issues

  • OSR amounts manage to meet only around 10 per cent of the total expenditure of the panchayats.
  • In most States, the property tax generates the maximum revenue. However, this tax remains inelastic and adds to the inefficient ways of its administration.
  • A few progressive States like Karnataka have reformed the tax structure and are using the unit area method in determining the tax base.

Hurdles in Financial Devolution

  • Political will: Reluctance of Politicians and bureaucrats to relinquish power to local bodies remain major hurdle.
  • Lack of resources: Issues like lack of expertise to plan development priorities and use resources optimally, lack of resources to implement development agenda with minimal avenues for taxation and income.
  • Lack of institutional mechanism: Non-uniformity of various programmes at local level can make regulatory oversight difficult.

Way Forward

  • Updating of PRI Acts/Financial Rules and making them available to change in tax and non-tax levy, rate structure etc.
  • Better assessment of properties required for levying Property Tax (classified plinth area-based valuation seems to be the most scientific)
  • Relook on various exemptions to rationalise the taxes/levies
  • Augmentation of Tax Administration Structure
  • Technology-based Tax Administration may also be further expanded to cover even utility charges like water, street lights, sanitation charges, etc.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Defining EWS

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Context

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has recently appointed a three-member committee to revisit the criteria for 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) in educational institutions and government jobs.

This came after Supreme Court’s observations while hearing petitions challenging the government notice issued in July which provides for 10% EWS quota in NEET admissions.

Not pronouncing any judgment means that EWS reservation will be put on hold as far as medical admissions are concerned.

EWS Quota: A backgrounder

  • The 10% reservation was introduced through the 103rd Constitution Amendment and enforced in January 2019.
  • It added Clause (6) to Article 15 to empower the Government to introduce special provisions for the EWS among citizens except those in the classes that already enjoy reservation.
  • It allows reservation in educational institutions, both public and private, whether aided or unaided, excluding those run by minority institutions, up to a maximum of 10%.
  • It also added Clause (6) to Article 16 to facilitate reservation in employment.
  • The new clauses make it clear that the EWS reservation will be in addition to the existing reservation.

Significance of the quota

  • The Constitution initially allowed special provisions only for the socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The Government introduced the concept of EWS for a new class of affirmative action program for those not covered by or eligible for the community-based quotas.

What are the criteria to identify the section?

  • The main criterion is that those above an annual income limit of ₹8 lakh are excluded.
  • It accounts income from all sources such as salary, business, agriculture and profession for the financial year prior to the application of the family, applicants, their parents, siblings and minor children.
  • Possession of any of these assets, too, can take a person outside the EWS pool:
  1. Five or more acres of agricultural land
  2. A residential flat of 1,000 sq.ft. and above
  3. A residential plot of 100 square yards and above in notified municipalities, and
  4. A residential plot of 200 square yards and above in other areas

What are the court’s questions about the criteria?

  • Reduction within general category: The EWS quota remains a controversy as its critics say it reduces the size of the open category, besides breaching the 50% limit on the total reservation.
  • Arbitrariness over income limit: The court has been intrigued by the income limit being fixed at ₹8 lakh per year. It is the same figure for excluding the ‘creamy layer’ from OBC reservation benefits.
  • Socio-economic backwardness: A crucial difference is that those in the general category, to whom the EWS quota is applicable, do not suffer from social or educational backwardness, unlike those classified as the OBC.
  • Metropolitan criteria: There are other questions as to whether any exercise was undertaken to derive the exceptions such as why the flat criterion does not differentiate between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
  • OBC like criteria: The question the court has raised is that when the OBC category is socially and educationally backward and, therefore, has additional impediments to overcome.
  • Not based on relevant data: In line with the Supreme Court’s known position that any reservation or norms for exclusion should be based on relevant data.
  • Breaches reservation cap: There is a cap of 50% on reservation as ruled in the Indira Sawhney Case. The principle of balancing equality ordains reservation.

What is the current status of the EWS quota?

  • The reservation for the EWS is being implemented by the Union Government for the second year now.
  • Recruitment test results show that the category has a lower cut-off mark than the OBC, a point that has upset the traditional beneficiaries of reservation based on caste.
  • The explanation is that only a small number of people are currently applying under the EWS category — one has to get an income certificate from the revenue authorities — and therefore the cut-off is low.
  • However, when the number picks up over time, the cut-off marks are expected to rise.

Practical issues with EWS Quota

The EWS quota will come in for judicial scrutiny soon. But it’s not only a matter for the judiciary, India’s Parliament should revisit the law too.

  • Hasty legislation: This law was passed in haste. It was passed in both the houses within 48 hours, and got presidential approval the next day.
  • Minority appeasement: It is widely argued that the law was passed to appease a certain section of upper-caste society and to suppress the demands for minority reservations.
  • Morality put to question: Imagine! A constitutional amendment has been made with few hours of deliberation and without consultation of the targeted group. This is certainly against constitutional morality and propriety.
  • Substantial backing is missing: This amendment is based on a wrong or unverified premise. This is at best a wild guess or a supposition because the government has not produced any data to back this point.
  • Under-reservation of Backward Classes: The assertion is based on the fact that we have different data to prove the under-representation of SC, ST, OBCs. That implies that ‘upper’ castes are over-represented (with 100 minus reservation).
  • Rationale of 10%: There is one more problem in this regard. The SC and ST quota is based on their total population. But the rationale for the 10 per cent quota was never discussed.
  • Principle of Equality: Economic backwardness is quite a fluid identity. It has nothing to do with historic wrongdoings and liabilities caused to the Backward Classes.

Way forward

  • Preserving the merit: We cannot rule out the sorry state of economic backwardness hampering merit in our country .
  • Rational critera: There has to be collective wisdom to define and measure the economic weakness of certain sections of the society in order to shape the concept of economic justice.
  • Judicial guidance: Judicial interpretation will pave the wave forward for deciding the criterion for EWS Quota.
  • Targetted beneficiaries. The centre needs to resort to more rational criteria for deciding the targeted beneficiary of this reservation system. Caste Census data can be useful in this regard.
  • Income study: The per capita income or GDP or the difference in purchasing power in the rural and urban areas, should be taken into account while a single income limit was formulated for the whole country.

Conclusion

  • Reservation is a constitutional scheme to ensure the participation of backward classes shoulder to shoulder with all citizens in the nation-building process.
  • The EWS quota with above discussed ambiguities is the subversion of the constitutional scheme for reservation.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Multidimensional Poverty in India

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NITI Aayog has recently released the state-wise National Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI in line with the global index released by the United Nations each year.

Must read:

National MPI Project

  • The National MPI Project is the first attempt in years to define poverty measures and is aimed at deconstructing the Global MPI and creating a globally aligned and yet customised India MPI.
  • The MPI is based on three dimensions — health, education, and standard of living — with each having a weighting of one-third in the index.
  • The household micro data collected at the unit-level for the NFHS serves as the basis of the computation of National MPI.

Parameters used

  • The NMPI is calculated using 12 indicators — nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, antenatal care, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, assets and bank account,
  • They have been grouped under three dimensions namely, health, education and standard of living.

Why NFHS-4?

  • Connoting regime change: Data collected during the NFHS-4 (2015-2016) corresponds to the period before the full roll out of new governments’ flagship schemes.
  • Baseline after rollout of new schemes: Hence it serves as a useful source for measuring the situation at baseline i.e. before large-scale rollout of nationally important schemes.

Key highlights NMPI

The MPI identifies 25.01 percent of the population as multidimensionality poor.

  • As per the index, 51.91% of the population in Bihar is poor, followed by Jharkhand (42.16%), Uttar Pradesh (37.79%), Madhya Pradesh (36.65%) and Meghalaya (32.67%).
  • On the other hand, Kerala registered lowest population poverty levels (0.71%), followed by Puducherry (1.72%), Lakshadweep (1.82%), Goa (3.76%) and Sikkim (3.82%).
  • Other States and UTs where less than 10% of the population are poor include Tamil Nadu (4.89%), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (4.30%), Delhi (4.79%), Punjab (5.59%), Himachal Pradesh (7.62%) and Mizoram (9.8%).

Need for National MPI

Poverty is not just the absence of income, money and/or money-like resources required to meet needs. 

  • Multiple disadvantages: A person who is poor can suffer multiple disadvantages at the same time – for example they may simultaneously have:
  1. Poor health or malnutrition
  2. Lack of clean water or electricity
  3. Poor quality of livelihood options
  4. Little/No schooling
  5. Disempowerment
  6. Threats of violence
  7. Climate change vulnerability etc.

Other factors include:

  1. Limited financial resources
  2. Material deprivation
  3. Social isolation
  4. Exclusion and powerlessness
  5. Physical and psychological ill-being
  • Multiple dimensions: Focusing on one factor alone, such as income, is not enough to capture the true reality of poverty. National MPI ensures a holistic approach towards defining poverty at the national level.
  • More comprehensive: MP measures can be used to create a more comprehensive picture. They reveal who is poor and how they are poor – the range of different disadvantages they experience.
  • Better targeting: As well as providing a headline measure of poverty, multidimensional measures can be broken down to reveal the poverty level in different areas of a country and among different sub-groups of people.
  • Priority definition for target groups: It offers statistics that determine the national priorities by using a set of dimensions, indicators with respect to the urban and rural areas of India along with an indicator-wise deconstruction and breakdown.

Various govt. interventions to for poverty alleviation

(I) Food Security

  • National Food Security Act 2013 (also ‘Right to Food Act’): It aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people.  

(II) Employment and Skilling

  • National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)Ministry of Rural Development started NRLM 2011 to evolve out the need to diversify the needs of the rural poor and provide them jobs with regular income on a monthly basis.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) – In 2005 Ministry of Rural Development initiated MGNEREGA to provide 100 days of assured employment every year to every rural household. One-third of the proposed jobs would be reserved for women.

(III) Income Support

  • PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): The Ministry of Finance in 2014 initiated PMJDY that aimed at direct benefit transfer of subsidy, pension, insurance, etc., and attained the target of opening 1.5 crore bank accounts. The scheme particularly targets the unbanked poor.
  • PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN): PM KISAN is an initiative by the government of India in which all farmers will get up to ₹6,000 per year as minimum income support.

Various challenges

  • Pauperization: Every year a huge number is added to the population pool of the country. To exemplify, this pandemic has led to severe pauperization of migrant workers.
  • Regional divide: Incidence of extreme poverty continues to be much higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • Jobless growth: Despite rapid growth and development, an unacceptably high proportion of our population continues to suffer from severe and multidimensional deprivation.
  • Inadequate resources: The resources allocated to anti-poverty programmes are inadequate and there is a tacit understanding that targets will be curtailed according to fund availability.
  • Implementation bottlenecks: Lack of proper implementation and right targeting has been legacy issues in India. There has been a lot of overlapping of schemes.

Conclusion

  • The National MPI offers a clear picture of various developmental projects and their impact in creating a better roadmap to gauge poverty at different levels.
  • Active participation by the states in the creation of alignment with the development agendas is must.
  • To do so, indices like NMPI act as a directive in shaping up policy and will better their implementation.
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[Sansad TV] Perspective: India – Russia Annual Summit

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Overview

  • The Summit between India and Russia marks the 21st Annual Summit between the two countries after the 2+2 dialogue.
  • This will be the first in-person meeting of the Russian President and PM Modi after 2019.
  • It is in continuation of the tradition of Annual Summits alternately in India and Russia.

The 2+2 Dialogue

  • It is a strategic conversation between the defense and the foreign ministries of two countries having diplomatic relations.
  • India now has a 2+2 format dialogue mechanism on strategic and security issues with four of its key strategic partners, Russia being the latest.
  • The three others — Australia, the US and Japan — are also ‘Quad’ partners.

2+2 Dialogue with Russia

  • Russia is one of those countries with which a 2+2 format talk “fits perfectly” in India’s foreign policy.
  • To be sure, the India-Russia 2+2 do have a particularly strong signaling component when seen against the backdrop of the S400 controversy.
  • It can be read as a reminder to Washington that the S400 deal and broader India-Russia defense cooperation will continue, regardless of US concerns.

Expected outcomes of this Summit

  • There is a propensity towards the signing of agreements between India and Russia in areas of Defence, Trade, Energy and also Space Technology.
  • The Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics (RELOS) Agreement is expected to be signed between the two countries.
  • Both nations have agreed for the manufacture of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles by a Joint Venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd, at Korwa, Amethi, in UP.
  • Both countries will take an attempt to deepen their collaboration with a primary focus on regional security concerns with the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

India-Russia Relations: A backgrounder

  • The relations between Russia and India are an important and privileged strategic partnership.
  • The relationship began with a visit by Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955.
  • During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.
  • After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited its close relationship with India resulted in the special relationship.

The Partnership

Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defense, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism cooperation and space.

(1) Strategic Relations

  • India is the second-largest market for the Russian defence industry.
  • In 2017, approximately 68% of the Indian Military’s hardware import came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment.
  • It has rose above a buyer-seller relationship with the joint ventures projects.

(2) Economic Relations

  • Bilateral trade between both countries is concentrated in key value-chain sectors.
  • These sectors include highly diversified segments such as machinery, electronics, aerospace, automobile, commercial shipping, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc.
  • Both countries set a target of reaching US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025.
  • Energy sector is another important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations.

Recent trends in bilateral ties

Despite the best efforts, divergences grew in the bilateral relationships as the underlying structural changes in the international environment are pulling the two nations apart.

(1) Bilateral divergence

  • While the top leadership of the two nations have continued to engage with each other, divergences have been cropping up with disturbing regularity.
  • For India, what should be concerning is Russia’s increasing tilt towards Pakistan as it seeks to curry favour with China.
  • Moscow had historically supported India at the UNSC by repeatedly vetoing resolutions on the Kashmir issue.

(2) Military-Defence Complexes

  • Strains are becoming apparent as India moves further along the path of military indigenization and import diversification.
  • India’s procurement from the US and France has also been seen as a heated divergence between the two.
  • This was a result of the unreliability of Russian supplies, as manifested in late arrivals, defective parts, and perennial conflicts overpricing and warranties.

(3) Cultural Vacuum

  • On an everyday level, while India films and yoga are popular in Russia, no parallel exposure to any aspect of Russian popular culture exists among Indians.
  • This is the most woefully neglected aspect of their relationship, suffering on both sides from lack of funding and, no less important, a shortage of political will.
  • Another aspect of ties is tourism which could be much more vigorous between the two countries than present India’s US affinity

(4) India-US ties

  • India’s engagement with the US addresses its core concerns regarding regional security.
  • The signing of the long-awaited Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) is set to elevate the bilateral defence partnership and give India access to advance US defence systems.
  • A closer engagement with the US is a challenge for India, as this relationship is not likely to be a partnership of equals, for the foreseeable future.

Significance of ties

(1) Russia needs India as

  • Ukraine conquest: A market for its goods to bypass Western sanctions imposed after its power push in Ukraine.
  • Countering China: Despite its renewed friendship with China, Russia will soon find itself in competition with it as Beijing regards itself as the new G2 along with the US.
  • Against US hegemony: India can help provide the multi-polarity that Russia fiercely seeks.

(2) India needs Russia because

  • Energy security: An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East where India has decided to extend a $1 billion Line of Credit.
  • Space collaboration: Despite expanding its purchases from the US, Israel and Europe, India still needs to collaborate with Russia to master future technology including for space.
  • Defence purchases: It improves India’s bargaining power when it negotiates arms sales with the West.
  • Indian exports: Russia can be a major market for Indian industry such as pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, dairy products, bovine meat and frozen seafood.
  • Geopolitical importance: Russia continues to be a balancing force against any designs China and Pakistan may have in our region.
  • UNSC ambitions: New Delhi needs Moscow’s support in the former’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Way forward

  • The recent comprehensive U.S.-India Strategic 2+2 Dialogue is a model to follow.
  • There should be more meetings at the highest state level, regular annual reports on the progress of the working groups, and reinvigorated interactions.
  • India’s cores strength is that it follows an independent foreign policy.
  • On its long way to become a global power, it will likely have to follow a zigzag course, balancing between American demands, long-term friendship with Russia and its own strategic necessities.
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[Yojana Archives] Journey of Panchayats

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November 2021: Panchayat Raj

Historical background

  • Lord Mayo’s Resolution of 1870 on financial decentralisation visualised the development of local self-government institutions.
  • Lord Ripon’s Resolution of 1882 has been hailed as the ‘Magna Carta’ of local self-government. He is called as the father of local-self government in India.

Establishment of Panchayats

  • DPSP: The Part IV of the Constitution of India contains Directive Principles of the State Policy in which Article 40 is provisioned for organisation of village panchayats.
  • 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992: It has inserted the Part IX in the Constitution, that enjoins the States to establish panchayats.
  • PESA Act: A separate legislation “Provisions for Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act” (PESA) was passed in 1996 to extend Part IX of the Constitution to the areas listed under the Fifth Schedule, subject to certain exceptions and modifications.

Why need PRIs?

  • India is predominantly a rural nation, wherein about 65 per cent of people and 70 per cent of the workforce lives in rural areas that contribute to about 46 per cent of the economy.
  • In view of the increasing rural population, the number of administrative units- PRIs has been increasing over time.
  • Expansion of rural residential areas, creation of new districts, Tehsils, blocks, etc., are other contributing factors.

Landmark feat: 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act

  • This Amendment paved the way for reform in local governance in the country.
  • It provided for setting up of three tiers of panchayats (only two tiers in case of States or Union Territories (UTs) having population less than 20 lakhs) ,

It contains provision for:

  • Devolution of powers and responsibilities to panchayats for both preparation of plans for economic development and social justice, utilising resources available with them (Article 243G)
  • Implementation of the schemes and programmes related to twenty-nine subjects listed in the ‘Eleventh Schedule’ of the Constitution
  • Women’s reservation

Establishment of a separate Ministry

  • Subsequently, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) was established on 27 May 2004.
  • The primary objective to oversee the implementation of Part IX of the Constitution and PESA Act 1996.
  • ‘Panchayats’ being a State subject, their functioning is guided by respective State/U’T Panchayati Raj Acts.

Women empowerment and PRIs

  • Reservation for women in PRIs and subsequent increase in the quota by States has brought an unprecedented and huge number of women in the governance arena in India.
  • 21 states have made provisions of 50% reservation in PRIs in their respective State Panchayati Raj Acts.

E-Governance Mechanism in Panchayats

  • Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) serve around 65% of the country’s population.
  • Improving functions of PRIs for better delivery of services is essential for the well-being of rural people.
  • Now the applications for these services have been unified in a single and simplified portal called eGramSwaraj.

Bottom-up Planning

  • Provision of basic infrastructures: Emphasis on e-governance, capacity building of PRIs, focused information, education, and communication (lEC) campaign are some of the main activities.
  • These are prerequisites for effective planning by PRIs in consultation with local people organized by the Gram Sabhas.
  • Backward Regions Grant Funds (BRGF) Scheme: This was implemented (2006-2015) to bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other developmental requirements along with the capacity building of PRIs.
  • Preparation of the district plan:  This was an important part of BRGF.

Capacity Building of PRIs

  • Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA): It was launched for implementation to develop and strengthen the capacities of PRIs to become more responsive towards local development needs.
  • Training: It is conducted on various themes such as constitutional and statutory provisions on the functioning of PRIs, e-Governance, financial management, commitments on SDGs, and livelihood troubles, and so on.
  • Participatory plans: This helps PRIs in preparing participatory plans that leverage technology, efficient and optimum utilisation of available resources, for realising solutions to local problems linked to SDGs.
  • Incentivization: Further, panchayats are also being incentivized through awards and financial incentives in recognition of their good work for improving planning and delivery of services.

Devolution of Funds, Functions, and Functionaries (3Fs)

  • MoPR has been working to realize the aspirations of constitutional provisions on various aspects of devolution of 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
  • The progress made by the States is quite varied in terms of the devolution of subjects.
  • Various studies have highlighted that in some States the extent of devolution is robust; in others still, it is a work in progress.

Other works: Land records management through ‘SVAMITVA’

  • Ensuring the property rights of rural inhabitants is essential for and inclusive social and economic development of the country.
  • The Ministry has launched a scheme named ‘SVAMITVA’ to prepare property records of rural people of their houses using drone surveying technology.
  • The goal is to cover most of the more than six lakh villages in the next five years.

Outcomes: Structural change in rural economy

  • Employment opportunities are shifting from the agriculture sector to construction, manufacturing, and service sectors.
  • Also, there is a huge potential for Agro-processing industries and MSMEs in rural areas.
  • Panchayats need to appropriately include these in their planning and work with relevant agencies and stakeholders for their implementation.
  • An emphasis on skilling of rural population and promotion of rural entrepreneurship is needed in these sectors.
  • As per a report, there is huge untapped potential for the growth of financial services such as credit, insurance, and digital payment facilities in rural areas.

Way forward

  • Flagship progam of Central and State Governments should clearly lay out the role of panchayats in their guidelines.
  • A lot of Panchayats are now equipped with the basic infrastructure but gaps still remain across the States.
  • In order to fill the gaps, the saturation approach needs to be adopted as announced by the Prime Minister on 75th Independence Day.
  • Representation of women in PRIs has substantially increased but effective participation requires appropriate training and exposure visits of these elected representatives.

Conclusion

  • Panchayats have also strengthened and are now equipped to handle disasters/ natural calamities.
  • They have played an active role in mitigation and management of Covid-19, which is reflected in the dashboard created by the Ministry to monitor real-time activities in this direction.
  • Panchayats need to be empowered to levy and collect taxes, tolls, fees, user charges, etc., along with other activities to enhance their Own Source of Revenue.
  • Panchayat also need to consider climate action as an integral part of planning and harnessing renewable energy.