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Human Rights Issues

[oped of the day] A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Convention on Torture

Mains level : Anti Torture legislation

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

Recently the home minister pronounced that the days of third-degree torture are gone. It is an acknowledgment about something that everyone knows — that torture is an endemic characteristic of Indian policing.

State of torture in India

    • Common cause survey – Common Cause’s recent large national-level survey on the Status of Policing in India affirms violent means
      • 3 out of 5 personnel believe there is nothing wrong with beating up criminals.
      • 4 out of 5 think it’s okay to bash them up to extract a confession. 
      • 1 in 5 even believes that killing dangerous criminals is better than a legal trial. 
    • These show the poor orientation towards working within the law; the deep sub-culture of ferocious machismo; and the tolerance for illegality within the supervisory cadre.
    • These results show the confidence of torturers that no consequences will flow from even extreme acts of cruelty. 
    • When instances of torture become known, a pocketful of ready excuses are used to defend the – necessity, poor working conditions, no other means, mental tension, and pressure from within and without.
    • Poor capacity – generations of active policemen don’t know that any assault and victimisation of anyone that is not entirely in self-defense is prohibited by law.

What should be done – police

    • Not for the police to decide – though the people who come into the police net are cruel, vicious and cunning, their criminality is not for the police to punish. 
    • Role of police – it is to bring alleged criminals before the courts.

Issues persist

    • No detailed provisions – At present, only a few sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code criminalise torture and custodial deaths. 
    • Small changes not useful – A few amendments tucked away in a large code are unlikely to have the visibility or effect that a comprehensive standalone law would. 
    • Convention – India signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1997. But ratification needs us to pass laws at home that reflect the articles in the UN law.
    • In 2017, under the Universal Periodic Review process 29 countries made 37 recommendations that India take urgent steps to stop the torture.
    • 2010 law – the Prevention of Torture Bill lapsed.
    • 2016 – Law Commission drafted a more diluted version. 
    • 2019 – NHRC has registered over 400 cases of alleged deaths in police custody and over 5,000 cases pertaining to deaths in judicial custody. For the past three years alone, these have regularly clocked in at over a thousand a year.
    • At present, the national infrastructure is sorely wanting.

Way ahead

  • A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards. 
  • It will need to have a broad descriptive definition of torture that includes mental torture.
  • It should make it easier to prove as has been done in the case of custodial rape.
  • Fix responsibility not only on the perpetrator but on those who allow it to happen under their watch.
  • Make punishment more stringent especially where there has been sexual violence and ensure the state compensates and cares for its victims. 
  • Bypass the hurdles of Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code which requires permission before public servants can be prosecuted for actions done in the course of his duty. 
  • The new legislation is only a beginning. Actualisation will take much more. 
  • Exhortations will not stop the torture. Having policies, practices and performance in place to demonstrate implementation, will. 
  • The police force has to be reoriented, investigators have to be skilled up with modern techniques of detection and forensic capacities across the country to be ramped up. 
  • It needs long-delayed human rights courts to be set up with specially trained judges in place. 
  • It needs agencies like local legal aid authorities to have clear guidelines to assist where there are allegations of torture. 
  • It requires overseeing bodies like the many human rights commissions and police complaints authorities to do the same. 
  • The police force should have zero-tolerance. It should reinvent its purpose — not as an oppressive force, but as a service whose main work is the protection of the lives and liberties of each of us.
  • The Common Cause survey of 12,000 personnel at police stations uncovers the truth we all know — that political interference in the investigation is near omnipresent. 

Conclusion

Supreme Court has made it clear that torture is not part of anyone’s duty. Still, prosecution and convictions continue to be difficult.

 


Back2Basics

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT)) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

Banking Sector Reforms

[op-ed snap] Who pays?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Banking Regulation Act

Mains level : Need for stringent banking regulation

Context

RBI imposed curbs on the activities of the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC) for a period of six months. This came when certain irregularities in the bank were discovered, including the under-reporting of non-performing assets (NPAs).

Problem

    • The crux of the problem is the bank’s exposure to a real estate firm, which itself is currently undergoing insolvency proceedings. 
    • The bank’s financials for the year ended March 2019 does not provide any indication of financial stress. 

RBI’s response

    • Initially, RBI allowed depositors to withdraw only Rs 1,000 over a six-month period. 
    • After a public outcry, it revised this limit upwards to Rs 10,000. With this relaxation, more than 60% of depositors would be able to withdraw their entire account balance.
    • The restrictions imposed by RBI under section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, are aimed at safeguarding depositors’ interest and preventing a run on the bank.
    • These measures are seen as penalising depositors. But they can end up having the opposite effect of denting trust in cooperative banks and increasing the risk of contagion.
    • RBI has appointed J B Bhoria as an administrator of the bank. 
    • A forensic audit could shed light on an asset-liability mismatch and reveal the true extent of the problem. 
    • RBI could also explore the option of merging PMC with another healthy cooperative bank to avoid any instability, as it has done so in the past.

Issues that arise

    • It raises questions not only on the governance structures at these cooperative banks but also on their supervision
    • Cooperative banks are under the joint supervision of the RBI and states. 
    • While the RBI has signed MoUs with state governments, unless state governments cooperate in effecting regulations, supervision is likely to be ineffective.
    • There were no early warning signs of trouble in this case.
    • It is likely to raise calls for reviewing this regulatory framework and giving more powers to the RBI to oversee these entities. 

Way ahead

The RBI should also examine the long-term feasibility of their business models in light of the rapid technological changes in the financial sector. The larger question over the absence of a framework for the timely resolution of financial firms remains.

 


Back2Basics

The Banking Regulation Act, 1949 is legislation in India that regulates all banking firms in India.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] The food industry’s role in sustainable development

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sustainable food production

CONTEXT

Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is not easy. 

Stakeholders

    • Every person on the planet has the right to a healthy diet
    • Every farmer has the right to a decent livelihood
    • The roughly ten million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive. 
    • Every business that produces, processes and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.

Challenges to food security

    • Over 820 million people are chronically hungry
    • Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins. 
    • Around 650 million adults are obese. This is caused in part by ultra-processed foods stuffed with sugar, saturated fats, and other chemical additives.

Agri Industry – Issues

    • Healthfulness of products – Too few companies report on the healthfulness of their product lines or how their products contribute to healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. 
    • Environmental contribution – Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia. 
    • Tax practices – Companies don’t report in detail on their tax practices.

Agri industry – what can be done

    • It is a powerhouse of the global economy. 
    • Solving food crises needs the industry to change its ways.
    • Their practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity
    • Human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on crop production. 
    • In 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations agreed unanimously to two vital agreements.
      • Agenda 2030 – adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap to human well-being and planetary safety. 
      • Paris climate agreement – commits the world’s governments to take decisive action to keep global warming to less than 1.5º Celsius. 
    • All companies in the food sector should adopt clear guidelines, metrics and reporting standards to align with the global goals. 
    • Each company must address four critical questions:
      • Do their products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets? The fast-food culture has to change to promote healthy diets.
      • Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.
      • Company’s upstream supplier’s sustainability – no consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
      • Good corporate behavior – aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services.

Way ahead

Around the world, young people are demanding a sustainable and safe way of living and doing business. Companies will change. The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Explained: The PM’s Economic Advisory Council — role and evolution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMEAC

Mains level : Role and functions of the EAC


  • The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM).
  • Bibek Debroy, who was appointed Chairman of the Council in 2017, continues in his post.

PMEAC

  • The PMEAC was set up “with a view to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in government on the different point of view on key economic issues”.
  • Its functions included analysing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the PM and advising him thereon.
  • It aimed at addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister”, either on its own or upon reference; and presenting to the PM from time to time reports on “macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy”.

Its inception

  • PM Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power in 1980, faced formidable economic challenges.
  • The global oil shock and drought had led to a decline in the national income, and soaring prices.
  • In this situation, Finance Minister R Venkataraman stressed to the PM the need to arrest the slide and set the economy on the path to stability and growth.
  • Indira decided to rope in Prof Sukhamoy Chakravarty, a man who had taught alongside Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh at the Delhi School of Economics, and who had, in the mid-1970s, headed the Policy Perspective Division in the Planning Commission.

Early years

  • In the initial years of its existence, the members of the Council included the famed economist K N Raj, besides C Rangarajan, who would later become the Governor of the RBI.
  • Vijay Kelkar was the first Secretary of the PMEAC during 1982-83.
  • Chakravarty who briefed the Prime Minister occasionally on the state of the economy, continued in the post after Rajiv Gandhi succeeded Indira in 1984.

First case of reference

  • Around 1986-87 the government had opened up the economy a little and allowed liberal foreign borrowings while spending to boost growth.
  • The Council made a presentation to the PM flagging emerging faultlines, and warning of an emerging fiscal imbalance.
  • Rajiv acknowledged the input, and announced that the government had decided to accept the report of a committee appointed in 1985 by then RBI Governor Manmohan Singh to review the working of the monetary system and Budget deficit.

The 1990s

  • Manmohan Singh himself headed the Council briefly when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, before moving on to become Advisor to the PM in the months leading to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
  • Bimal Jalan, who was finance secretary in the V P Singh government and, for a while in the Chandra Shekhar government as well, was moved to head the Council.
  • When P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, and Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister, the Council held only a few meetings.

The Vajpayee years

  • Things changed after Vajpayee became PM for the second time in 1998.
  • The economy was again in trouble after the Asian crisis, and the PMEAC was expanded with the Prime Minister himself at its head.
  • A 12-member Council for Trade and Industry was also appointed. Vajpayee’s PMEAC had heavyweights such as I G Patel, the former RBI Governor; P N Dhar, a former Secretary in Indira’s PMO; and noted economists.
  • At a meeting of the Council in July 2002, Vajpayee unveiled an economic agenda for 8% growth — featuring plans to provide 10 million job opportunities annually, re-target subsidies and spending.
  • Through this period, the Finance Ministry remained dominant in economic policymaking.

The Manmohan years

  • After he became PM in 2004, Manmohan Singh, conscious that he could no longer afford to focus on multiple economic issues, got his former RBI colleague Rangarajan to head the PMEAC.
  • The EAC by this time was more compact, with fewer than a half-dozen members. The Council was seen as the advisory group best equipped to provide independent advice to the PM.
  • During the 2004-14 decade, the Council often brought out its own review of the economy, besides reports on a range of issues.
  • Singh’s Council was the most influential in the over three-decade history of the institution.
  • It drew its strength, most importantly, from the confidence and trust that the economist PM had in the head of the Council.

Revival in 2017

  • One of the early decisions that the new government under PM Modi took was to dismantle the Planning Commission.
  • However, the PMEAC was not restructured under the new government.
  • The Council was later reconstituted during first Modi government, with Debroy, then a member of the NITI Aayog, as chairman.
  • The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.

Citizenship and Related Issues

In news: National Population Register (NPR) 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR, NRC

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Government has revived National Population Register (NPR) project at a time when National Register of Citizens has been published in Assam.

National Population Register (NPR)

  • The NPR is a list of “usual residents of the country”. The exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • The data for the NPR were first collected in 2010 along with the houselisting phase of Census 2011. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey.
  • It will be conducted in conjunction with the houselisting phase, the first phase of the Census, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the MHA for Census 2021.

How is NPR different from NRC?

  • Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.
  • Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

Controversy around it

  • It comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding 19 lakh people in Assam.
  • With the government insisting that the NRC would be implemented across the country, the NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
  • The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
  • The NPR is also amongst a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more that MHA would like to see combined into one card.

Is the NPR a new idea?

  • The idea actually dates back to the UPA regime and was put in motion in 2009.
  • In fact, at that time it had clashed with Aadhaar (UIDAI) over which project would be best suited for transferring government benefits to citizens.
  • The MHA had then pushed the idea of the NPR being a better vehicle because it connected every NPR-recorded resident to a household through the Census.
  • Back then, the Home Ministry push had even put the UIDAI project on the backburner.
  • The exercise to update the 2015 NPR with additional data has begun and will be completed in 2020.

What kind of data will NPR collect?

  • The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data.
  • There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation, that the RGI is supposed collect in the NPR.
  • For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.
  • Apart from this, in a test run going on across the country, the RGI is seeking details of mobile number, Aadhaar, PAN card, Driving Licence, Voter ID card and passport (in case the resident is Indian).
  • It is also working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.

More personal data

  • In the 2010 exercise, the RGI had collected only demographic details.
  • In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents.
  • In the 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.
  • According to MHA sources, while registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary.
  • The Ministry has also floated the option of residents updating details in the NPR online.

Why does the government want so much data?

I. Identifying own citizens

  • The first is the assertion that every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details.
  • It says it will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.

II. Streamlining data

  • The second, largely to justify the collection of data such as driving licence, voter ID and PAN numbers, is that it will only ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape.
  • Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.

III. Preventing duplication of data

  • It is common to find different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that.
  • With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work. It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, government insists.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Project NETRA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project NETRA

Mains level : Need for ensuring Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • ISRO has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ – an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.

Project NETRA (Network for space object Tracking and Analysis)

  • The project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • The space agency says our SSA will first be for low-earth orbits or LEO which have remote-sensing spacecraft.
  • Under NETRA the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre.
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
  • The NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.

What NETRA consists of?

  • In the plans are a high-precision, long range telescope in Leh and a radar in the North East.
  • Along with them, we will also use the Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) that we have put up at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, and the telescopes at Ponmudi and Mount Abu to get a broad SSA picture.
  • NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.
  • The new SSA centre would consolidate debris tracking activities that are now spread across ISRO centres.
  • Currently there are 15 functional Indian communication satellites in the geostationary orbit of 36,000 km; 13 remote sensing satellites in LEO of up to 2,000 km; and eight navigation satellites in medium earth orbits.

Why Space debris matters?

  • Space debris could be floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts that stay in orbit for many years.
  • Satellite agencies worry over even a speck of paint or fragment floating towards their spacecraft: it disables on board electronics and cripples the satellite worth several hundred crore rupees.
  • Agencies constantly look for debris at the time of a launch and through the life of a satellite.

Enhancing Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • India, as a responsible space power, should have SSA as a part of a national capability, as in the U.S. This is a vital requirement for protecting our space assets and a force multiplier.
  • The SSA has a military quotient to it and adds a new ring to the country’s overall security.
  • It uses satellites, ground and air radars to secure its two countries against attacks from air, space or sea.
  • With long-range tracking radars, the SSA also provides us the capability of an early warning system against ballistic missiles coming in at a height.
  • Apart from radars and telescopes, he said India should also think of deploying satellites that track other satellites — as the U.S. and other space powers had done.
  • Combined with other elements of military intelligence SSA would help us to understand motives behind any suspicious orbit changes of other satellites and to know if they were spying on or harming our spacecraft.

Forest-PLUS 2.0 Programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest PLUS 2.0

Mains level : Forest management in India

  • US Agency for International Development (USAID) and India’s MoEF&CC officially launched Forest-PLUS 2.0 initiative.

Forest-PLUS 2.0

  • It is a five-year programme initiated in December 2018 that focuses on developing tools and techniques to bolster ecosystem management and harnessing ecosystem services in forest landscape management.
  • Forest-PLUS 2.0, the second set of pilot project is meant to enhance sustainable forest landscape management after Forest-PLUS completed its five years in 2017.
  • The programme’s first set focused on capacity building to help India participate in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
  • It included four pilot projects in Sikkim, Rampur, Shivamogga and Hoshangabad.

About the programme

  • Under these, field tests, innovative tools and approaches for Indian forest management were developed.
  • Promotion of bio-briquettes in Sikkim, introduction of solar heating systems in Rampur and development of an agro-forestry model in Hoshangabad were some of the achievements of this programme.
  • Forest-PLUS 2.0 comprises pilot project in three landscapes — Gaya in Bihar, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Medak in Telangana.

Target

  • 1,20,000 hectares of land under improved management
  • New, inclusive economic activity worth $12 million
  • Measurable benefits accrued to 800,000 households
  • Three incentive mechanisms demonstrated in managing landscapes for ecosystem services

Three focal points of action

i. Developing tools for multiple services in forests management

  • The tools consist innovative apps for automating forest planning processes, model forest management plans.
  • These tools are expected to result in enhanced water flow and quality, improved livelihoods and resilience of forest-dependent communities.

II. Developing incentive-based instruments for leveraging finance

  • For example, a payment mechanism where a municipality or industry would pay upstream forest communities to use water flowing down because of improved forest management.

III. Unlocking economic opportunities for forest-dependent people

  • This is to be done by modelling and setting up conservation enterprises and mobilizing investment from the private sector.

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

Mains level : Ensuring sustainable development worldwide


  • PM Modi has announced a $150 million line of credit to the group of Pacific island nations for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate related projects based on their requirement.

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

  • The PSIDS comprises of the 14 Pacific Island countries viz. The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

About Small Island developing states (SIDS)

  • SIDS is a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges.
  • The challenges include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.
  • Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.

Location

  • These countries are across the globe in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and South China Sea.

Groupings

  • These are broken down into following three geographic regions, with each region having it’s own regional cooperation body.
  1. Caribbean: The Caribbean Community
  2. Pacific: The Pacific Islands Forum
  3. Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS)

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Dial 112: India’s new all-purpose emergency number

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ERSS, Justice Verma Committee

Mains level : Utility of ERSS


  • Delhi became the fifth UT after Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to implement the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) since it was inaugurated.
  • In November 2018, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to roll out the ERSS, under which there is a single emergency response number across the country — 112.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

  • In India, the decision to launch the ERSS system was taken in the wake of the 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case.
  • The MHA accepted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the backdrop of unfortunate incident of Nirbhaya in December 2012 and has approved a national project by name of ERSS.
  • ERSS was earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance, etc.

Why ‘112’?

  • A single emergency number under the ERSS makes it easier for people travelling across states/UTs, since they don’t have to remember the local emergency numbers of every place.
  • The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in India.
  • This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.

How it will work

  • Existing emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire, 108 for health services, the women’s helplines 1091 and 181, the child helpline 1098, etc., will be gradually integrated under 112.
  • A “112 India” app has been launched as well, through which users, after registering, can reach out to police, health, fire, and other services.
  • 112 is the common emergency number in several other countries as well, including most countries in Europe.

Back2Basics

Justice Verma Panel

  • The Justice Verma Committee was set up to recommend amendments to criminal law with the aim to provide for quicker trial and stronger punishment for sexual assault against women.
  • The panel was constituted on December 23, 2012, and included, apart from former CJI J S Verma, former High Court Justice Leila Seth, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium.
  • It submitted its report on January 23, 2013.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] High Temperature Fuel Cell System

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fuel Cells

Mains level : Fuel cell technology and its uses


  • The President of India unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by CSIR.

What is Fuel Cell?

  • A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions.
  • Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction.
  • Whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery, except in flow batteries.
  • Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

High Temperature Fuel Cell System

  • The Fuel Cells developed are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) Technology.
  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane, with heat and water as bi-products for further use.
  • It has greater than 70% efficiency, which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.

Utility of the cell

  • It is most suitable for distributed stationary power applications like; for small offices, commercial units, data centers etc.; where highly reliable power is essential with simultaneous requirement for air-conditioning.
  • This system will also meet the requirement of efficient, clean and reliable backup power generator for telecom towers, remote locations and strategic applications as well.
  • This development would replace Diesel Generating (DG) sets and help reduce India’s dependence on crude oil.

Why fuel cell?

  • In the field of clean energy, Fuel Cell distributed power generation systems are emerging as promising alternative to grid power.
  • The developed technology is world class and the development has placed India in the league of developed nations which are in possession of such a knowledgebase.
  • The Fuel Cells fit well in India’s mission of replacing diesel with green and alternate fuels.
  • The development of this technology is indigenous and carries immense national importance in terms of non-grid energy security.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[pib] “Voluntary Code of Ethics” by Social Media Platforms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating role of social media in elections campaigning

  • Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing State Assembly Elections.
  • IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and TikTok had presented and observed this Code during the General Elections to 17thLok Sabha 2019.

Highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics”

  • Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases  reported by the ECI.
  • Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification  mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential  violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.
  • Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in   paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.