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[op-ed snap]The principle and procedure in Lokpal

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Problems with procedure in appointment of Lokpal


CONTEXT

The Supreme Court’s ultimatum to the Centre to appointment a Lokpal within a given time frame, and the subsequent appointment of the first Lokpal in the country, is to be welcomed.

History Of Lokpal movement

  • The Supreme Court’s ultimatum to the Centre to appointment a Lokpal within a given time frame, and the subsequent appointment of the first Lokpal in the country is to be welcomed.

1.Preference to Vigilance Commission

  • Despite affirmations to its need, no one really wanted a Lokpal in India, preferring instead the mild Vigilance Commission from 1964 to 2003.

2.Ineffectiveness of other Commissions

  • In one sense, the National Human Rights Commission and the various national commissions dealing with Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children and even safai karmacharis are all special Lokpals within their areas.
  • But nobody fears them because they are promotional and deal with individual grievances.
  • They hurt no one and have become semi-ineffective.
  • No one wanted a strong Lokpal because it would demand accountability from politicians and bureaucrats.

3.Maladministration Model

  • After the Emergency, a new model of Lokpal emerged, a model for ‘regime revenge’.
  • The ‘maladministration’ model gave way to an anti-corruption model with a sweep clause of five years.
  • It meant that it would target politicians, but not bureaucrats.

4.Anna Hazare Movement

  • The 2011 Anna Hazare movement, which fought to get the Lokpal Bill passed, faltered in many ways.
  • The new government did not want Lokpal accusations and investigations to mar its tenure.

5. Supreme Court’s involvement

  • Directed by the Supreme Court, the Lokpal appointment process began in 2018.
  • The government constituted a eight-member Search Committee in September 2018, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to recommend names for the posts of Lokpal chairperson and members.

Problems with appointments

1.Neither transparent or fair

  • When the matter was argued in the Supreme Court, advocate Prashant Bhushan asked for the names of those who had applied for the post.
  • This suggestion was shot down during the argument.
  • Did former Supreme Court judge, Justice Pinaki Ghose, apply even though he was a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at the time?

2. Section 4(3)

  • Section 4(3) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 states that the Selection Committee “may also consider any person other than the persons recommended by the Search Committee”.
  • This makes the procedure futile.
  • The Selection Committee was to lay down the criteria for appointment and decide by the majority in cases of difference of opinion.
  • The public is entitled to know the list proposed by the Search Committee.

3.Background of members

  • Justice Pinaki Ghose is not known for any path-breaking judgments, so it is curious why he was chosen over other retired judges, especially as he was already a member of the NHRC.
  • No less than a sitting judge could have been offered this post.
  • The question is, should IAS and IPS officers be appointed, especially since they have to deal with fellow officers?
  • The field was wide open from non-government sectors as well.

Conclusion

  • Mr. Hazare was right in being overjoyed that a Lokpal has been appointed at last.
  • Aruna Roy and others were right in insisting on a wider jurisdiction on maladministration and delivery of services.
  • This Lokpal will always be known as a secretly appointed one.
  • It is supposed to be an anti-corruption institution. Much will depend on how it is used and against whom.

 

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

[op-ed snap]Poll-time censorship

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Valuing freedom of speech over defamation claims by political candidates


CONTEXT

The Bengaluru civil court’s blanket order restraining 49 newspapers, television channels and other media outlets from publishing anything ‘defamatory’ about Tejasvi Surya, the BJP’s candidate for the Bengaluru South Lok Sabha constituency, is contrary to the law and the Constitution.

Violation of free speech

  • The temporary injunction violates the basic principle in free speech law that bars ‘prior restraint’ or pre-censorship of any publication, including the media.
  • As recently as in 2017, a Supreme Court Bench made it clear that pre-broadcast or pre-publication regulation of content was not in the court’s domain.
  • In R. Rajagopal (1994), the court noted that there is no law that authorises prior restraint.

Failing Injunction Test

  • The existence of a prima facie case is a precondition for an interim injunction, and a restraining order may be obtained only if some material deemed defamatory has been published, and when further publication ought to be prevented.
  • Arraying print and electronic media outlets that had not previously disseminated anything defamatory about an individual fails this test, rendering any injunctions obtained against them illegal.

Not substantial objections

  • The allegations that have aggrieved Mr. Surya seem to originate in an individual’s opinion on him on Twitter
  • It is possible that this piece of information was or is likely to be used against him by his electoral rivals.
  • However, this cannot be a reason for a public figure — and a candidate of a major political party, even a debutant, is definitely one — to claim a right to gag the entire media from writing about him.
  • Even if the argument is that the order only prevents ‘defamatory’ content and not responsible reporting or criticism, that doesn’t justify a judicial gag order, as it may be used to prevent the media from writing anything adverse to his campaign.
  • It may also prevent defendants in a future proceeding from using ‘publication of the truth in the public interest’ as a defence.

Conclusion

Requests for omnibus restraining orders against media outlets seem to find favour with some civil judges in Karnataka.  The Karnataka High Court or the Supreme Court must examine this trend and strike down such blanket gag orders.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

[op-ed snap]How to achieve 24×7 power for all

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Structural issues in the power sector


CONTEXT

The household electrification scheme, Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya, has been implemented at an unprecedented pace. More than 45,000 households were electrified every day over the last 18 months.

Reasons behind the success of Saubhagya

  • The efforts under Saubhagya have come upon decades of hard work preceding it.
    1. The enactment of the Electricity Act, in 2003
    2. The introduction of the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, in 2005
  • Over the last year, several engineers and managing directors in electricity distribution companies (discoms), their contractors, State- and Central-level bureaucrats, and possibly energy ministers have been working at fever pitch.
  • Discom engineers have evolved in their attitude from one of scepticism to that of determination.
  • CASE STUDY-Their efforts to meet targets even included crossing streams in Bihar on foot with electricity poles, and reaching far-flung areas in Manipur, through Myanmar, to electrify remote habitations with solar home systems.

Challenges Remaining

  • The erection of electricity poles and an extension of wires do not necessarily mean uninterrupted power flow to households.
  • By tracking more than 9,000 rural households, since 2015, across six major States (Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), the Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity Survey of States (ACCESS) report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has highlighted the gap between a connection and reliable power supply. 
  • No 24*7 power supply-While the median hours of supply increased from 12 hours in 2015 to 16 hours a day in 2018, it is still far from the goal of 24×7.
  • Low voltage Issues-Similarly, while instances of low voltage and voltage surges have reduced in the last three years, about a quarter of rural households still report low voltage issues for at least five days in a month.

Vital Step Forward

  • In order to achieve 24×7 power for all, there is need to focus on three frontiers.

1.Monitoring of Supply

  • First, India needs real-time monitoring of supply at the end-user level.
  • While the government is bringing all feeders in the country online, we currently have no provision to monitor supply as experienced by households.
  • Only such granular monitoring can help track the evolving reality of electricity supply on the ground and guide discoms to act in areas with sub-optimal performance.
  • Eventually, smart meters (that the government plans to roll out) should help enable such monitoring.
  • However, in the interim, we could rely on interactive voice response systems (IVRS) and SMS-based reporting by end-users.

2. Quality and maintenance services

  • Second, discoms need to focus on improving the quality of supply as well as maintenance services.
  • Adequate demand estimation and respective power procurement will go a long way in reducing load shedding.
  • Moreover, about half the rural population across the six States reported at least two days of 24-hour-long unpredictable blackouts in a month.
  • Such incidents are indicative of poor maintenance, as opposed to intentional load-shedding.
  • Discoms need to identify novel cost-effective approaches to maintain infrastructure in these far-flung areas.
  • Some States have already taken a lead in this.
  • EXAMPLES-Odisha has outsourced infrastructure maintenance in some of its rural areas to franchisees, while Maharashtra has introduced village-level coordinators to address local-level challenges.

3.Customer Service

  • Finally, the improvement in supply should be complemented with a significant improvement in customer service,
  • which includes billing, metering and collection. Around 27% of the electrified rural households in the six States were not paying anything for their electricity.
  • Despite the subsidies, constant loss of revenue would make it unviable for discoms to continue servicing these households in the long run.
  • Low consumer density along with difficult accessibility mean that conventional approaches involving meter readers and payment collection centres will be unviable for many rural areas.
  • We need radically innovative approaches such as the proposed prepaid smart meters and last-mile rural franchisees to improve customer service and revenue collection.

Way Forward

  • Electricity is the driver for India’s development.
  • As we focus on granular monitoring, high-quality supply, better customer service and greater revenue realisation at the household level,we also need to prioritise electricity access for livelihoods and community services such as education and health care.
  • Only such a comprehensive effort will ensure that rural India reaps the socio-economic benefits of electricity.

 

 

Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

AFSPA partially withdrawn from Arunachal Pradesh

Mains Paper 3 : Linkages Between Development & Spread Of Extremism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AFSPA

Mains level : Controversy over use of AFSPA


News

  • The controversial AFSPA was partially removed from Arunachal Pradesh, 32 years after it was imposed, said MHA.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

  • AFSPA enacted by Parliament in 1958, is declared in areas where armed forces are required to operate in aid to civil authorities.
  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts(AFSPA) are Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces and the state and paramilitary forces in areas classified as “disturbed areas”.
  • It gives powers to the army, state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed” by the home ministry.
  • AFSPA is invoked when a case of militancy or insurgency takes place and the territorial integrity of India is at risk.
  • Security forces can “arrest a person without warrant”, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even based on “reasonable suspicion”.
  • It also provides security forces with legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
  • While the armed forces and the government justify its need in order to combat militancy and insurgency, the Act has been associated with several human rights violations including fake encounters, rape, torture, abduction etc.

Background

  • The AFSPA – like many other controversial laws – is of a colonial origin. The AFSPA was first enacted as an ordinance in the backdrop of Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.
  • A day after its launch on August 8, 1942, the movement became leaderless and turned violent at many places across the country. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, VB Patel and a host of others had been put behind the bars.
  • Shaken by the massive scale of violence across the country, the then Viceroy Linlithgow promulgated the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance, 1942.

With inputs from:

India Today

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

RBI circular to banks on loan defaulters quashed

Mains Paper 3 : issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IBC

Mains level : Effectiveness of regulatory mechanism for stressed assets resolution


News

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court has struck down a Feb-2018 RBI circular giving lender banks six months to resolve their stressed assets or move under the Insolvency Code against private entities who have defaulted in loans worth over Rs. 2000 crore.

About the RBI circular

  • Through a notification issued on Feb 12, 2018 the RBI laid down a revised framework for the resolution of stressed assets, which replaced all its earlier instructions on the subject.
  • Banks were required to immediately start working on a resolution plan for accounts over Rs 2,000 crore, which was to be finalised within 180 days.
  • In case of non-implementation, lenders were required to file an insolvency application.
  • RBI termed it necessary to substitute the existing guidelines with a harmonized and simplified generic framework for resolution of stressed assets.

What did the revised framework replace?

  • The circular went into effect on the same day that it was issued, and all existing schemes for stressed asset resolution were withdrawn with immediate effect.
  • The circular was ostensibly intended to stop the “evergreening” of bad loans the practice of banks providing fresh loans to enable timely repayment by borrowers on existing loans.
  • The RBI warned banks that not adhering to the timelines laid down in the circular, or attempting to evergreen stressed accounts, would attract stringent supervisory and enforcement actions.

Issues with the circular

  • The companies argued that the circular was arbitrary and discriminatory, and therefore, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • Several companies from the power and shipping sectors had challenged the circular, arguing that the time given by the RBI was not enough to tackle bad debt.
  • The government had earlier asked the RBI to make sector-specific relaxations in the timeline for the implementation of the circular.
  • Power producers, for instance, had argued that the RBI’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was impractical since the sector had to confront external factors that were beyond its control.
  • These factors included the unavailability of coal and gas, and problems arising out of the failure of state governments to honour power purchase agreements.

Impact of SC’s relaxation

  • The order provides immediate relief to companies that have defaulted in repayments, especially those in the power, shipping and sugar sectors.
  • However, many financial sector experts argued that the verdict could delay the process of stressed assets resolution, which had of late picked up pace.
  • Since banks will have the choice of devising resolution plans or going to the National Company Law Tribunal under the IBC, the urgency that the RBI’s rules had introduced in the system could be impacted.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

GI tag for Kandhamal and Erode Turmeric

Mains Paper 3 : Intellectual Property Rights |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kandhamal and Erode Turmeric

Mains level : GI Indications and their importance


  • ‘Kandhamal Haldi’, a variety of turmeric indigenous to southern Odisha, has earned the GI tag.
  • Earlier this month, Erode turmeric also got a GI tag from the Geographical Indication Registry.

Kandhamal Haldi

  • Kandhamal in Odisha’s southern hinterland is famed for its turmeric, a spice that enjoys its pride of place in an array of cuisines.
  • The agricultural product also stands out for its healing properties and arresting aroma.
  • The GI tag was primarily developed with the purpose of recognising the unique identity connecting different products and places.
  • For a product to get GI tag it has to have a unique quality, reputation or characteristic which is attributable to its geographic origin. ‘Kandhamal Haldi’ has been placed under Class-30 type

Other associated facts

  • The Kandhamal turmeric was accorded the tag on the state’s Foundation Day.
  • Odisha, on April 1 1936, was carved out as a separate state in the then British India on a linguistic identity.

Erode turmeric

  • Erode turmeric is a rhizome, both finger and bulb obtained from the Erode local cultivar.
  • In its claim for uniqueness, the application said the mean length of the fingers of Erode turmeric was about 4.15cm and the mean circumference was about 3.03cm.
  • The mean bulb length of the mother rhizome is about 4.54cm and the mean circumference is 6.54cm.
  • Quality parameters of the turmeric included 2.5 to 4.5% of curcumin content, a golden yellow colour and resistence to pests after boiling.

Back2Basics

Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004. There are a total of 325productsfrom India that carry this indication.
  • Darjeeling Tea, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus are some of the GIs.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement. See also the Paris Convention, the Madrid Agreement, the Lisbon Agreement, the Geneva Act.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

SEBI mulls SRO for investment advisers

Mains Paper 3 : Mobilization Of Resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SRO and its mandate

Mains level : Regulation of capital markets in India


News

  • The SEBI has proposed a self regulatory organisation (SRO) for the growing number of investment advisers to address issues related to the quality of advice given to investors by such entities.

What is Self Regulatory Organisation?

  • An SRO is the first-level regulator that performs the crucial task of regulating intermediaries representing a particular segment of securities market on behalf of the regulator.
  • An SRO would be seen as an extension of the regulatory authority of the SEBI and would perform the tasks delegated to it by the SEBI.
  • The role of an SRO is developmental, regulatory, related to grievance redressal and dispute resolution as well as taking disciplinary actions.

Why need SRO?

  • SEBI is in receipt of a large number of complaints alleging charging of exorbitant fees, assurance of returns, misconduct etc. by investment advisers.
  • Incidentally SEBI has said that there was a need for an SRO for mutual fund distributors — that currently register with Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI).
  • It was aimed to bring in consistency in industry practices and also to take disciplinary action against alleged malpractices such as mis-selling of products and churning of portfolio.

Expected functions

  • SEBI has proposed the strengthening of the existing regulatory framework for SROs by introducing features such as a governing board with public interest directors and a clear policy for arbitration and dispute resolution.
  • The regulator has proposed a governing board with at least 50% public interest directors along with 25% representation each of shareholder directors and elected representatives.
  • Further, the governing board can appoint a managing director or chief executive officer to manage the daily affairs of the SRO.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Systematic Investment Plan (SIP)

Mains Paper 3 : Investment Models |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SIP

Mains level : Not Much


News

What is SIP?

  • A SIP is a way to invest in mutual funds wherein a fixed sum of money is put into a mutual fund scheme at a specified date every month.
  • It is considered to be investor-friendly and an efficient manner of investing in the capital markets as one can start investing with small monthly contributions instead of first building a huge investment corpus.
  • It is a hassle-free manner of investment as well since one can issue standing instructions to the bank for a specified amount to be transferred to the fund house/distributor every month at a pre-determined date.

How can one start a SIP?

  • There are two ways of starting an SIP. One can use the direct way of investing though the fund house or go through a distributor.
  • For direct plans, an investor can go to the website of the fund house for the scheme in which the SIP has to be started.
  • All the fund houses have a link on their portals for investors who want to start an SIP.
  • Typically, only the PAN and/or Aadhaar is needed to open an account.
  • Thereafter, one can select the scheme, SIP amount, starting date and duration of SIP.
  • If one opts for a distributor, then the same process can be done online on the distributor’s portal.

Benefits of a SIP

  • Timing the market is the most difficult thing when it comes to equity investment. SIPs, in a way, address this issue.
  • SIPs capture every rise and fall of the market and hence, an investor need not worry about the level of the market.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments