[op-ed of the day] The judicial presumption of non-citizenship

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Citizenship Process in Assam and challenges therein


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

  • On May 17, in a very short hearing, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court (the Chief Justie of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna) decided a batch of 15 petitions under the title Abdul Kuddus v Union of India.
  • Innocuously framed as resolving a “perceived conflict” between two paragraphs of the Schedule to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, the judgment — little reported in the media — nonetheless had significant consequences for the ongoing events in Assam surrounding the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (“the NRC”).

Process concerning citizenship.

The issue arose because, in the State of Assam, there are two ongoing processes concerning the question of citizenship.

 Foreigners Tribunals – The first includes proceedings before the Foreigners Tribunals, which have been established under an executive order of the Central government.

NRC – The second is the NRC, a process overseen and driven by the Supreme Court. While nominally independent, both processes nonetheless bleed into each other, and have thus caused significant chaos and confusion for individuals who have found themselves on the wrong side of one or both.

Arguments

  • The petitioners in Abdul Kuddus argued that an opinion rendered by the Foreigners Tribunal had no greater sanctity than an executive order.
  • Under the existing set of rules, this meant that an adverse finding against an individual would not automatically result in their name being struck off the NRC.
  • Furthermore, the Tribunal’s opinion could be subsequently reviewed, if fresh materials came to light.
  • In short, the petitioners’ case was that the two processes — that of the Foreigners Tribunal and of the NRC — should be kept entirely independent of each other, and without according primacy to one over the other.

Flawed tribunals

The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ arguments, and held that the “opinion” of the Foreigners Tribunal was to be treated as a “quasi-judicial order”, and was therefore final and binding on all parties including upon the preparation of the NRC.

Problems with judgement and tribunals

1. Establishment – First, Foreigners Tribunals were established by a simple executive order.

2.Qualifications- Second, qualifications to serve on the Tribunals have been progressively loosened and the vague requirement of “judicial experience” has now been expanded to include bureaucrats.

3. No specific process – And perhaps, most importantly, under the Order in question (as it was amended in 2012), Tribunals are given sweeping powers to refuse examination of witnesses if in their opinion it is for “vexatious” purposes, bound to accept evidence produced by the police, and, most glaringly, not required to provide reasons for their findings.

But in further strengthening an institution — the Foreigners Tribunal — that by design and by practice manifestly exhibits the exact opposite of this principle, the Supreme Court failed to fulfil its duty as the last protector of human rights under the Constitution.

Unwelcome departure

  • The Court attempted to justify this by observing that “fixing time limits and recording of an order rather than a judgment is to ensure that these cases are disposed of expeditiously and in a time bound manner”.
  • Departure from rule of law –  When the stakes are so high, when the consequences entail rendering people stateless, then to allow such departures from the most basic principles of the rule of law is morally grotesque.

Background Cases

Sarbananda Sonowal  –

  • The Court’s observations in the Kuddus case, and indeed, the manner in which it has conducted the NRC process over the last few months, can be traced back to two judgments delivered in the mid-2000s, known as Sarbananda Sonowal Iand II.
  • In those judgments, relying upon unvetted and unreviewed literature, without any detailed consideration of factual evidence, and in rhetoric more reminiscent of populist demagogues than constitutional courts, the Court declared immigration to be tantamount to “external aggression” upon the country; more specifically, it made the astonishing finding that constitutionally, the burden of proving citizenship would always lie upon the person who was accused of being a non-citizen.
  • A parliamentary legislation that sought to place the burden upon the state was struck down as being unconstitutional.

Conclusion

1.Presumption of non-citizenship- What the rhetoric and the holdings of the Sonowal judgments have created is a climate in which the dominant principle is the presumption of non-citizenship.

Dehumanisation – Apart from the absurdity of imposing such a rule in a country that already has a vast number of marginalised and disenfranchised people, it is this fundamental dehumanisation and devaluation of individuals that has enabled the manner in which the Foreigners Tribunals operate, the many tragedies that come to light every week in the context of the NRC, and judgments such as Abdul Kuddus.

The right to life – It is clear that if Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to life, is to mean anything at all, this entire jurisprudence must be reconsidered, root and branch.

Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Forest Rights Act case

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Background

  • Districts with sizeable tribal populations saw several protests and demonstrations.
  • The protests were organised by the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan. There were two issues that the demonstrators were decrying.
  • One, the proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927; the concerned amendments to the IFA have been sent to states for consultation.
  • Two, a move to oust forest-dwellers from forest land; a case to this effect concerning the Forest Rights Act (FRA) comes up for its next hearing before the Supreme Court.

What is the FRA case before the Supreme Court?

  • In Feb this year, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of lakhs of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (or FRA), 2006, had been rejected following a three-tier process.
  • Later, the SC temporarily put on hold the eviction by an order giving state governments time to file affidavits on whether due process was followed before claims were rejected.
  • In the next hearing the Centre and states are expected to file affidavits regarding the implementation of the FRA.

What are the proposed amendments to the IFA?

  • The FRA, enacted in 2006, envisions the forest rights committee of a village as the central unit in managing forest resources.
  • The proposed IFA amendments will revert to giving overriding powers to Forest Department officials.
  • The greater policing powers to the Forest Department include the use of firearms, and veto power to override the FRA.
  • Further, if rights under FRA are seen as hampering forest conservation efforts, the state may commute such rights through compensation to the tribals.
  • The changes also propose to open up forest land specifically for commercial exploitation of timber or non-timber forest produce.
  • Across India, tribal rights activists are of the view that the proposed IFA amendments will divest tribals and other forest-dwelling communities of their rights over forest land and resources.

Who are the petitioners, and what is their contention?

  • The petitioners are Wildlife First, Nature Conservation Society, and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust.
  • They contend that the protection of forests has been severely affected due to bogus claims under the FRA.
  • The bogus claimants continue to occupy large areas of forest lands, including inside national parks and sanctuaries, despite their applications being rejected under the appeals process of the FRA.
Tribal Development

India enters 37-year period of demographic dividend

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demograhic Dividend

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • Since 2018, India’s working-age population (people between 15 and 64 years of age) has grown larger than the dependant population (defined as children aged 14 or below as well as people above 65 years of age).
  • This bulge in the working-age population is going to last till 2055, or 37 years from its beginning.

Why it matters?

  • In many ways, India’s demographics are the envy of the world.
  • As populations in countries such as China, US, and Japan is getting older, India’s population is getting younger.

What is demographic dividend?

  • Demographic dividend, as defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) means the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure.
  • This happens when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older).
  • In other words it is a boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents.
  • It indicates that more people have the potential to be productive and contribute to growth of the economy for a longer period of time.

When this happens?

  • This transition happens largely because of a decrease in the total fertility rate (TFR, which is the number of births per woman) after the increase in life expectancy gets stabilized.

Global Examples

Japan

  • Japan was among the first major economies to experience rapid growth because of changing population structure.
  • The country’s demographic-dividend phase lasted from 1964 to 2004.
  • An analysis of the first 10 years since this phase shows how such a shift in the population structure can propel growth.
  • In five of these years, Japan grew in double digits; the growth rate was above 8% in two years, and a little less than 6% in one.

China

  • China entered this stage in 1994 — 16 years after Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms started in December 1978.
  • Although its growth accelerated immediately after the reforms, the years of demographic dividend helped sustain this rate for a very long period.
  • In the 16 years between 1978 and 1994 (post-reform, pre-dividend) China saw eight years of double-digit growth.
  • In the 18 years since 1994 there have been only two years when China could not cross the 8% growth mark.

Indian Case

  • In near future India will be the largest individual contributor to the global demographic transition.
  • A 2011 IMF Working Paper found that substantial portion of the growth experienced by India since the 1980s is attributable to the country’s age structure and changing demographics.
  • By 2026 India’s average age would be 29 which is least among the global average.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau recently predicted that India will surpass China as the world’s largest country by 2025, with a large proportion of those in the working age category.
  • Over the next two decades the continuing demographic dividend in India could add about two percentage points per annum to India’s per capita GDP growth.

What next?

  • It is however important to note that this change in population structure alone cannot push growth. There are many other factors.
  • According to research by the RBI this will depend on India addressing its declining labour force participation rate.
  • The UNFPA states that countries can only harness the economic potential of the youth bulge if they are able to provide good health, quality education and decent employment to its entire population.

Harnessing a golden opportunity

  • India’s working-age population is now increasing because of rapidly declining birth and death rates.
  • India’s age dependency ratio, the ratio of dependents (children and the elderly) to the working-age population (14- to 65-year-olds), is expected to only start rising in 2040, as per UN estimates.
  • This presents a golden opportunity for economic growth that could be reaped through higher growth.

Way Forward

  • India needs to pay  special  attention  to  skilling  and  reskilling  its  workforce,  keeping  in  view  the  changing  nature  of  today’s  job
  • There are  serious  gaps  between  what  the  skill  development  institutions  currently  do  and what the industry requires.
  • Improving education and health infrastructure, in terms of both quality and access and  timely  action  in  a  co-ordinated  manner  by  the  Government,  private  sector  and  researchers  is  necessary  to  harness  the  window  of  opportunity  provided by a favourable demography.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Explained: What changes are being brought in medical education?

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Medical Commission (NMC)

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Background

  • Union Health Minister has introduced the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill in Lok Sabha.
  • An earlier version of this Bill was introduced in the 16th Lok Sabha, and had passed the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare.
  • However, that Bill lapsed at the end of the term of the last Lok Sabha.
  • Once the NMC Bill is enacted, the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, will stand repealed.
  • The existing Act provides for the Medical Council of India (MCI), the medical education regulator in India.

Why is Medical Council of India being replaced?

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare examined the functioning of the MCI in its 92nd report (in 2016) and was scathing in its criticism.
  • The MCI when tested on the above touchstone (of producing competent doctors, ensure adherence to quality standards etc) has repeatedly been found short of fulfilling its mandated responsibilities.
  • Medical education and curricula are not integrated with the needs of our health system.
  • Many of the products coming out of medical colleges are ill-prepared to serve in poor resource settings like Primary Health Centre and even at the district level.
  • Medical graduates lack competence in performing basic health care tasks like conducting normal deliveries; instances of unethical practice continue to grow due to which respect for the profession has dwindled.

How will the proposed National Medical Commission (NMC) function?

  • The NMC Bill provides for the constitution of a 25-member NMC selected by a search committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, to replace the MCI.
  • The Bill provides for just one medical entrance test across the country, single exit exam (the final MBBS exam, which will work as a licentiate examination), a screening test for foreign medical graduates, and an entrance test for admission in postgraduate programmes.
  • The Bill proposes to regulate the fees and other charges of 50 per cent of the total seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.

Medical Advisory Council

  • It will include one member representing each state and UT (vice-chancellors in both cases), chairman of the UGC, and the director of the National Accreditation and Assessment Council — will advise and make recommendations to the NMC.
  • Four boards — dealing with undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, medical assessment and rating board, and the ethics and medical registration board — will regulate the sector.
  • The structure is in accordance with the recommendations of the Group of Experts headed by Ranjit Roy Chaudhury set up by the Union Health Ministry to study the norms for the establishment of medical colleges.

Change in regulatory nature

  • The Bill marks a radical change in regulatory philosophy; under the NMC regime, medical colleges will need permission only once — for establishment and recognition.
  • There will be no need for annual renewal, and colleges would be free to increase the number of seats on their own, subject to the present cap of 250.
  • They would also be able start postgraduate courses on their own.
  • Fines for violations, however, are steep — 1.5 times to 10 times the total annual fee charged.

What are the changes in the 2019 Bill?

  • One, it has dropped a separate exit examination.
  • Two, it has dropped the provision that allowed practitioners of homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine to prescribe allopathy medicines after a bridge course.

The National Exit Test (NEXT)

  • A single National Exit Test (NEXT) will be conducted across the country replacing the final year MBBS exam, and the scores used to allot PG seats as well.
  • It will allow medical graduates to start medical practice, seek admission to PG courses, and screen foreign medical graduates who want to practise in India.
Medical Education Governance in India

[op-ed snap] What’s NEXT?

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : NEXT and medical education in India


CONTEXT

In its second iteration, the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill seems to have gained from its time in the bottle, like ageing wine. The new version has some sharp divergences from the original.

Background

  • Presented in Parliament in 2017, it proposed to replace the Medical Council Act, 1956, but it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
  • The NMC will have authority over medical education — approvals for colleges, admissions, tests and fee-fixation.
  • The provisions of interest are in the core area of medical education. The Bill proposes to unify testing for exit from the MBBS course, and entry into postgraduate medical courses.
  • A single National Exit Test (NEXT) will be conducted across the country replacing the final year MBBS exam, and the scores used to allot PG seats as well.
  • It will allow medical graduates to start medical practice, seek admission to PG courses, and screen foreign medical graduates who want to practise in India.

Changes in National Exit Test (NEXT)

  • Per se, it offers a definite benefit for students who invest much time and energy in five years of training in classrooms, labs and the bedside, by reducing the number of tests they would have to take in case they aim to study further.
  • There are detractors, many of them from Tamil Nadu — which is still politically opposing the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) — who believe that NEXT will undermine the federal system, and ask whether a test at the MBBS level would suffice as an entry criterion for PG courses.
  • The Bill has also removed the exemption hitherto given to Central institutions, the AIIMS and JIPMER, from NEET for admission to MBBS and allied courses.

Benefits

  • In doing so, the government has moved in the right direction, as there was resentment and a charge of elitism at the exclusion of some institutions from an exam that aimed at standardising testing for entry into MBBS.
  • The government also decided to scrap a proposal in the original Bill to conduct an additional licentiate exam that all medical graduates would have to take in order to practise, in the face of virulent opposition.
  • It also removed, rightly, a proposal in the older Bill for a bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to make a lateral entry into allopathy.

Way Forward

  • It is crucial now for the Centre to work amicably with States, and the Indian Medical Association, which is opposed to the Bill, taking them along to ease the process of implementation.
  • At any cost, it must avoid the creation of inflexible roadblocks as happened with NEET in some States.
  • The clearance of these hurdles, then, as recalled from experience, become fraught with legal and political battles, leaving behind much bitterness.
  • NEXT will have to be a lot neater.
Medical Education Governance in India

Successful Launch of Chandrayaan-2

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayan 2

Mains level : India's moon mission



News

  • The 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III rocket successfully injected the 3,850-kg Chandrayaan-2 composite module into the Earth’s orbit.
  • With the successful launch all eyes are now on September 7 when the lander and rover modules of the spacecraft will make a soft landing on the surface of the moon.

Chandrayaan-2: India’s first lander mission

  • Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would once again watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on moon’s surface.
  • ISRO has named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
  • Once on the moon, the rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself from the lander, and would slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data.

Tasks to be accomplished

  • The mission will be equipped with two instruments, and its primary objective would be to study the composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and determine its abundance of different elements.
  • One of the instruments will also look out for seismic activity on lunar surface.
  • While the lander and rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year.
  • It is equipped with different kinds of cameras to take high-resolution 3D maps of the surface.
  • It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on the moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.

Chandrayaan-2 to enter uncharted territory

  • With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon.
  • So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, on the moon have been in areas close to its equator.
  • That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight that is required by the solar-powered instruments to function.
  • Earlier this year, in January, China landed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon, the side that is not facing the earth. This was the first time that any landing had taken place on that side.

What differentiates Chandrayaan 2 with others?

  • Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the South pole of the moon.
  • It is a completely unexplored territory and therefore offers great scientific opportunity for the mission to see and discover something new.
  • Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from the Chandrayaan-1 mission had also happened in the same region.
  • The south pole of the moon holds the possibility of the presence of water, and this is one aspect that would be probed meticulously by Chandrayaan-2.
  • In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of moon, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Bhabha Kavach

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bhabha Kavach

Mains level : Not Much



News

Bhabha Kavach

  • Bhabha Kavach, billed as “India’s lightest bullet-proof jacket”, was launched at the International Police Expo 2019 in New Delhi.
  • The bullet-proof jacket is developed jointly by the Ordnance Factories Board and the public sector metals and metal alloys manufacturer MIDHANI.
  • It can withstand bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle (7.62 mm hard steel core bullets), and the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle.
  • The Kavach weighs 9.2 kg, a half kilogram less than the weight for a bullet-proof jacket prescribed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The jacket is powered with nano technology from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and has a five-year warranty.

Stands all Quality standards

  • The trials have validated that the Bhabha Kavach meets US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level III standards, which guarantees protection against 7.62 mm NATO-standard bullets.
  • Most army bulletproof jackets meet the lesser NIJ Level II standard, which protects soldiers from 9 mm bullets fired from a carbine or handgun.
  • That is because the army places a premium on mobility as well as protection and does not want a heavy jacket.

Imbibing strength

  • Bhabha Kavach is built from layers of “high-density, high-tenacity polyethelene, which are thermo-sealed” by MIDHANI.
  • This means the layers are fused together at high temperature.
  • This forms a thick, hard armour plate, which is then sprayed with BARC’s carbon nanomaterial.
  • Soaking into the layers of the plate, the nanomaterial instils the toughness and tenacity needed to slow down and trap a bullet as it passes through the plate.
  • Bulletproof jacket armour is of two types. Soft armour provides lesser protection, suitable for threats from handgun and small arms bullets and is worn by bodyguards and VIPs against personal threats.
  • Hard armour is stronger and heavier and is designed to stop high calibre rounds.
  • NIJ Level IV jackets even provide protection against armour-piercing rounds.
  • Each Bharat Kavach has four hard armour plates, which protect the wearer from the front, back, and either side.
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Soaring to the moon

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayaan

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2 mission


CONTEXT

A decade after the first successful mission to the moon with Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched its sequel, Chandrayaan-2, to further explore the earth’s natural satellite.

Moon exploration

  • Earlier this year, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon, in a first-ever attempt.
  • Now India is attempting a similar feat — to land its rover Pragyan in the moon’s South Polar region, attempted so far by none.
  • The equatorial region has been the only one where rovers have landed and explored.

Significance of launch

  • The launch by itself is a huge achievement considering that it is the first operational flight of the indigenously developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mark-III) to send up satellites weighing up to four tonnes
  • The orbiter, the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) together weigh 3.87 tonnes.
  • Having reached the earth parking orbit, the orbit of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be raised in five steps or manoeuvres in the coming 23 days before it reaches the final orbit of 150 x 1,41,000 km.
  • It is in this orbit that Chandrayaan-2 will attain the velocity to escape from the earth’s gravitational pull and start the long journey towards the moon.
  • A week later, on August 20, the spacecraft will come under the influence of the moon’s gravitational pull, and in a series of steps the altitude of the orbit will be reduced in 13 days to reach the final circular orbit at a height of 100 km.
  • The next crucial step will be the decoupling of the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) from the orbiter, followed by the soft-landing of the lander-rover in the early hours of September 7.
  • Despite the postponement of the launch from July 16 owing to a technical snag, the tweaked flight plan has ensured that the Pragyan robotic vehicle will have 14 earth days, or one moon day, to explore.

Innovation

  • Unlike the crash-landing of the Moon Impact Probe on the Chandrayaan-1 mission in November 2008, this will be the first time that ISRO is attempting to soft-land a lander on the earth’s natural satellite.
  • A series of braking mechanisms will be needed to drastically reduce the velocity of the Vikram lander from nearly 6,000 km an hour, to ensure that the touchdown is soft.

Aims of mission

  • The presence of water on the moon was first indicated by the Moon Impact Probe and NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 a decade ago. The imaging infrared spectrometer instrument on board the orbiter will enable ISRO to look for signatures indicating the presence of water.
  • Though the Terrain Mapping Camera on board Chandrayaan-1 had mapped the moon three-dimensionally at 5-km resolution, Chandrayaan-2 too has such a camera to produce a 3-D map.
  • But it will be for the first time that the vertical temperature gradient and thermal conductivity of the lunar surface, and lunar seismicity, will be studied.

Conclusion

While ISRO gained much with the success of Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan, the success of Chandrayaan-2 will go a long way in testing the technologies for deep-space missions.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries