[op-ed snap] Women and the workplace

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing Much

Mains level:Facilitating womes’s representation and safety at workplace following UN’s Model


NEWS

CONTEXT

For more than a century, March 8 has marked International Women’s Day — a global day celebrating the achievements of women and promoting gender equality worldwide. But as we pause to celebrate our many advances, we must also acknowledge how much remains to be done.

Interlinking Issues

  • Two interconnected issues have emerged as priorities over the past two years:
    • sexual harassment at the workplace
    • obstacles to women’s participation at all levels of the workforce, including political representation.
  • The 2017-18 explosion of the #MeToo movement across social media uncovered countless cases of unreported sexual harassment and assault, first in the U.S. and then in India.
  • In both countries, it led to the resignations or firing of dozens of prominent men, mostly politicians, actors and journalists.

UN’s Stand on women’s representationand safety

  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been a staunch supporter of women’s rights since his election in 2016, stating the need for “benchmarks and time frames to achieve [gender] parity across the system, well before the target year of 2030”.
  • he UN released a System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity to transform the UN’s representation of women at senior levels. Today the UN’s Senior Management Group, which has 44 top UN employees, comprises 23 women and 21 men.

UN’s response to MeToo movement

  • In response to the MeToo movement, the UN recently conducted a system-wide survey to gauge the prevalence of sexual harassment among its more than 200,000 global staff.
  • Though only 17% of UN staff responded, what the survey uncovered was sobering.
  • One in three UN women workers reported being sexually harassed in the past two years, predominantly by men.
  • Clearly, the UN gender strategy has much to improve, but then the UN, like most other international and national organisations, has a decades-old cultural backlog to tackle.
  • UN research plays a significant role. As findings on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) indicate, many countries, including India, were able to substantially increase their performance on issues such as sex ratios and maternal mortality once their leaders had signed on to the MDGs.
  • Tracking performance on the Sustainable Development Goals, a more comprehensive iteration of the MDGs, will again provide useful pointers for policymakers and advocates going forward.

Efficacy of Single Window Grievance redressal

  • How can organisations as large as the UN improve their internal cultures surrounding sexual harassment, gender parity, and gender equity?
  • This issue has generated considerable debate in India, where political parties have begun to ask how they are to apply the rules of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which lays down that every office in the country must have an internal complaints committee to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
  • In this context, does the UN Secretariat’s single window structure for such complaints provide a better practice?
  • UN agencies, including the multi-institute UN University that aims to achieve gender parity at the director level by end 2019, still have to identify their organisation-specific mechanisms.

Impact of Previous Laws

  • In India, going by past figures — — the impact of the 2013 Act, one of the most comprehensive in the world, has been poor.
  • Despite a large jump in complaints recorded, convictions have not shown a proportionate rise, largely due to poor police work.

Way Forward

  • Both the UN’s early successes and the Indian experience offer lessons to UN member-states, few of which have gender parity or serious action against sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • .In the U.S., companies such as General Electric, Accenture, Pinterest, Twitter, General Mills and Unilever are setting and achieving targets to increase female representation at all levels of their workforce.
  • This March 8, let us hope that companies worldwide pledge to follow the examples in the U.S. And that other institutions, whether universities or political parties, follow the UN example.
  • Gender reforms begin at home, not only in the family but also in the workplace.

 

Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap]Probing the press

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models,

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Provisions and utility of the OSA Act,it’s  effcts on freedom of press.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Attorney General. K.K. Venugopal’s claimed that documents pertaining to the purchase of Rafale jets published by the media, have been “stolen”.

Background

  • The documentary evidence published so far indicates that “parallel parleys” held at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office undermined the Indian Negotiating Team’s discussions with the French side.
  •  Internal questions had been raised about the absence of bank guarantees to hedge against possible default by the vendor; and that this had an adverse effect on the pricing of the 36 jets to be bought in fly-away condition.

The conflict between National Security and public interest

  • These revelations advance the public interest, and have no impact on national security.
  • The publication of the documents and news reports based on them constitute the legitimate exercise of the freedom of the press.
  • The threat of a criminal investigation under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) is disappointing, if not downright perverse.
  • The government is also on weak legal ground when it claims the court should not rely on “stolen” documents while hearing petitions seeking a review of its judgment declining a probe into the Rafale deal.

Court’s Point of view

  • As the Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, pointed out, the manner in which a document has been procured is immaterial, if it is relevant to an adjudication. As one of the judges asked, can the government seek shelter behind the notion of national security if a corrupt practice had indeed taken place?

Official Secret’s Act Usage in Past

  • It is to the credit of successive governments that the OSA has rarely been used against the press.
  • The law primarily targets officials entrusted with secret documents, codes and other material, but Section 5 criminalises voluntarily receiving and possessing such documents, if given to them in contravention of the Act.
  • The Law Commission observed in a 1971 report that its wording was quite wide.
  • However, it left it to the government to decide against prosecution, if the information leak did not materially affect the state’s interest.

Conclusion

  • There is undoubtedly a case for distinguishing between an act that helps the enemy or affects national security, and one that advances legitimate public interest.
  • In times when information freedom is seen as salutary for democracy, laws such as the OSA should yield to the moral imperative behind the Right to Information Act.
  • This reasoning is embedded in Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, which says that notwithstanding the provisions of the OSA, “a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.”
  • The government should refrain from using its secrecy laws to contend with embarrassing media revelations. It would do well instead to respond responsibly to questions thrown up by the revelations.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap]Credit rating firms came under criticism from RBI

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Credit ratings

Mains level: Problems being faced due to credit rating sector in India & need for revamping the market structure for same.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Credit rating firms came under sharp criticism from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for failing to identify financial troubles in various companies, especially in the case of IL&FS.

Concerns over rating agencies
  • Inability to assess credit risk and take timely rating actions.
  • Ratings are supposed to be forward-looking, but they are always a laggard.
  • The central bank is said to have told credit ratings officials that the abrupt ratings downgrades in recent months have hurt investors and banks.
  • Credit Rating agencies have been criticised for being late in identifying the stress in the IL&FS Group, which defaulted on its loans from banks, mutual funds and provident funds.
  • Various debt mutual fund schemes saw erosion in their net asset values, or NAVs, because of the defaults.
  • The crisis soon spread to other non-banking finance companies — mainly housing finance — which have been struggling to sort out their asset-liability mismatches.
  • RBI said one third of the total NPAs (non-performing assets) in the system stemmed from investment grade ratings.
  • Total stressed assets are about Rs 12 lakh crore in the banking system.

Conflict of Interest

  • Globally, rating agencies limit themselves to ratings and research related to credit ratings.
  • All other businesses like market research, training, risk solutions are carried out under separate entities with no common directors, employees and shareholding from the rating entity.
  • In India, the same rating agency rates and provides valuation opinions to the same set of securities to investors like mutual funds and provides advisory services.
  • The central bank governor disapproved of the practice of “rating shopping”— where companies migrate from one rating agency to another for better ratings.
  • RBI was also concerned about issues such as rating agency CEOs being part of rating committees and rating advisors who promise better ratings to an issuer due to their special relationship with rating agencies.

Conclusion

  • RBI is examining the matter and along with Sebi, it will bring out regulations to address this.
  • Though credit rating agencies are registered with the capital market regulator Sebi, they are jointly regulated by both Sebi and RBI as these firms rate bank loans which constitute 70% of their business.
  • On short-term instruments like commercial paper, RBI feels that the ratings do not reflect the pricing these papers command.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Explained: India’s Official Secrets Act, its history and use

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Official Secrets Act, RTI

Mains level: Utility and misuse of the aforesaid Act


Context

  • The Attorney-General has asked for “criminal action” against those responsible for making “stolen documents” on the Rafale deal public, has brought the Official Secrets Act into focus.
  • The colonial-era law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.
  • Governments have also faced criticism for misusing the law against journalists and whistleblowers.

The Official Secrets Act

  • The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • It was an amended and more stringent version of The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV) of 1889, brought in at a time when a large number of powerful newspapers had emerged in several languages across India.
  • Fearless editors opposed the Raj’s policies on a daily basis, building political consciousness among the people, and facing police crackdowns and prison terms to uphold their mission and convictions.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
  • In April 1923, a newer version of the Official Secrets Act was notified.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

Ambit of the Act

  • The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5.
  • The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.
  • Since the classification of secret information is so broad, it is argued that the colonial law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  • Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency.

Did the law undergo any changes over the years?

  • No. However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC) Report, 2006, suggested the Act should be substituted by a chapter in the National Security Act that incorporates the necessary provisions.
  • The reason: it had become a contentious issue after the implementation of the Right to Information Act.
  • The OSA does not define “secret” or “official secrets”. Public servants could deny any information terming it a “secret” when asked under the RTI Act.

Why it is problematic?

  • The SARC report stated that as the OSA’s background is the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, it created a culture of secrecy.
  • However, confidentiality became the norm and disclosure the exception. This tendency was challenged when the Right to Information Act came into existence.

Is withholding information the only issue with the Act?

  • Another contentious issue with the law is that its Section 5, which deals with potential breaches of national security, is often misinterpreted.
  • The Section makes it a punishable offence to share information that may help an enemy state.
  • The Section comes in handy to book journalists when they publicise information that may cause embarrassment to the government or the armed forces.
  • The Delhi High Court in 2009 has ruled that publishing a document merely labelled as “secret” shall not render the journalist liable under the OSA.

Do other nations have similar laws?

  • Several countries including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand continue to use the legislation to protect state secrets.
  • In 2001, Canada replaced its OSA with a Security of Information Act. The “official secrets” come under the Espionage Act in the U.S.

With inputs from:

The Hindu

Civil Services Reforms

Large hydro projects get ‘renewable energy’ status

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Move towards India’s NDCs for clean energy


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a new hydroelectric policy aimed at boosting the sector, including according large hydro projects the status of renewable energy projects.

New Hydroelectric Policy

  • According to the new policy, large hydro projects will also be designated as renewable energy projects.
  • So far, only smaller projects of less than 25 MW in capacity were categorised as renewable energy.
  • The tag allows these to qualify as part of the framework for non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) of the states.
  • Under this, power purchasers will have to source a portion of electricity from large hydro projects.

Why such move?

  • Development of hydro power projects is important to provide India a stable grid, given the country’s commitment towards 160 GW capacity additions from infirm sources of power like solar and wind by 2022.
  • The new measures give developers the flexibility to determine tariff by backloading it after increasing the project life to 40 years, increasing the debt repayment period to 18 years and introducing an escalating tariff of 2 per cent.
  • This will help bring down the initial tariff of hydro power projects, which is normally on the higher side on account of including flood moderation and enabling infrastructure costs in the project cost.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle (1857-1947)

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: History | Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Dictionary of Martyrs Project

Mains level: Contribution of various freedom struggle


News

  • Hon’ble PM has released the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle, at an event.

 “Dictionary of Martyrs” Project

  • The project for compilation of “Dictionary of Martyrs” of India’s Freedom Struggle was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of uprising of 1857.
  • In this dictionary a martyr has been defined as a person who died or who was killed in action or in detention, or was awarded capital punishment while participating in the national movement for emancipation of India.
  • It includes ex-INA or ex-military personnel who died fighting the British.
  • Information of about 13,500 martyrs has been recorded in these volumes.

Who are included?

  • It includes the martyrs of 1857 Uprising, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34), Quit India Movement (1942-44), Revolutionary Movements (1915-34), Kissan Movements, Tribal Movements, Agitation for Responsible Government in the Princely States (Prajamandal), Indian National Army (INA, 1943-45), Royal Indian Navy Upsurge (RIN, 1946), etc.

Five Volumes

  • Volume 1: In this volume, more than 4400 martyrs of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have been listed.
  • Volume 2: In this volume more than 3500 martyrs of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir have been listed.
  • Volume 3: The number of martyrs covered in this volume is more than 1400. This volume covers the martyrs of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Sind.
  • Volume 4: The numbers of martyrs covered in this volume is more than 3300. This volume covers the martyrs of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
  • Volume 5: The number of martyrs covered in this volume is more than 1450. This volume covers the martyrs of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] NABL launches Quality Assurance Scheme for Basic Composite Medical Laboratories

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: QAS, NABL

Mains level: Promoting quality healthcare services


News

Quality Assurance Scheme

  • NABL has launched a voluntary scheme called Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) for Basic Composite (BC) Medical Laboratories.
  • The laboratories performing only basic routine tests like blood glucose, blood counts, and rapid tests for common infections, liver & kidney function tests and routine tests of urine will be eligible to apply under this scheme.
  • These changes have been made in the Clinical Establishments (Central Government) Rules, 2012.
  • The scheme requires minimal documentation and a nominal fee has been prescribed for availing the scheme.

Aim and Objectives

  • The scheme will help to bring quality at the grass root level of India’s health system where laboratories follow the imperatives of quality in all their processes.
  • Through this scheme, patients availing services of small labs in primary health centers, community health centers, doctor’s clinic etc. will also have access to quality lab results.
  • This scheme will enhance the intent of AB-NHPM of universal access to quality healthcare for majority of citizens especially those residing in villages and small towns by providing them access to quality diagnostics.
  • This will ensure end-to-end sample integrity leading to reliable test results and help laboratories to gain patient’s trust and satisfaction.

About NABL

  • National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) is a constituent board of Quality Council of India (QCI) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • NABL is Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) signatory to International bodies like International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and Asia Pacific Accreditation Co-operation (APAC) for accreditation of Testing including Medical and Calibration laboratories.
  • MRA are based on evaluation by peer Accreditation Bodies and facilitates acceptance of test/ calibration results between countries which MRA partners represent.
  • Thus NABL accredited laboratory results are accepted across more than 80 economies around the world.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment| Disaster and Disaster Management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FBMAP

Mains level: Flood management


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the “Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)” for Flood Management Works in entire country and River Management Activities and works related to Border Areas.

FMBAP

  • The Scheme “FMBAP” has been framed by merging the components of two continuing XII Plan schemes titled “Flood Management Programme (FMP)” and “River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas (RMBA)”.
  • The aim of the scheme is to assist the State Governments to provide reasonable degree of protection against floods in critical areas.
  • The works under the scheme will protect valuable land from erosion and flooding and help in maintaining peace along the border.
  • The Scheme aims at completion of the on-going projects already approved under FMP.
  • Further, the scheme also caters to Hydro-meteorological observations and Flood Forecasting on common rivers with the neighbouring countries.

Funding Pattern

  • The funding pattern for FM Component for works in general category States will continue to be 50% (Centre): 50% (State).
  • For projects of North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the funding pattern will continue to be 70% (Centre): 30% (State).
  • RMBA component being specific to activities in border areas, the project works will continue to be funded as 100% grant-in-aid / central assistance.

Benefits

  • The FMBAP Scheme will be implemented throughout the country for effective flood management, erosion control and anti-sea erosion.
  • The proposal will benefit towns, villages, industrial establishments, communication links, agricultural fields, infrastructure etc. from floods and erosion in the country.
  • The catchment area treatment works will help in reduction of sediment load into rivers.
Urban Floods