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Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

India at 75 is ready for a sedition-less future

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of speech and restrictions on it

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with Section 124A of Indian Constitution

Context

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has ignited a passionate debate during a preliminary hearing concerning whether “sedition” should be an offence at all, and how to prevent its misuse or abuse, were it to remain

Issues with the sedition under Section 124A

  • Against fundamental right: The meandering meanings of expressions such as “disaffection” towards the government, “hatred”, “contempt” etc. constitute an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
  • Neither the framers of the Constitution nor the authors of the amended Article 19(2) included “sedition” as a ground for “reasonable restriction” to freedom of speech and expression.
  • Colonial past: CJI Ramana in preliminary hearings has pointedly asked the Attorney General whether “sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is still required after 75 years of independence from colonial rule.
  • Prone to misuse: The lack of definition of terms used in the section leaves vide the scope for interpretation and thus rampant misuse and abuse.

Way forward

  • Some law luminaries have found new stirrings of hope in the Supreme Court to strike it down.
  • Find means to prevent misuse and abuse: Alternative way,as the learned attorney general observed is to find constitutional ways and practical means to prevent the abuse and misuse of law.
  • Forbid rampant private complaints:  A most immediate step is to forbid rampant private complaints by citizens and authorise only very senior police officials to take appropriate action.

Conclusion

What Gandhiji said — the law may not be used to “manufacture affection” under pain of a penal sanction — was as true then as it remains now. It is high time to realise that the law of “sedition” must go, even when it may strictly not even exist!

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

EU’s vaccine travel pass discriminates against low-income countries

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Pass

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with vaccine travel policies

Context

The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines has opened up opportunities to help revive travel. However, it is important to carefully design policies that help revive travel demand.

Vaccine certificates

  • Many countries like China and Israel have introduced vaccine certificates that ease the process of entering and travelling across the destination country for vaccinated travellers.
  • Can encourage discriminatory treatment: Though these certificates can ensure trade facilitation, they can potentially act as a trade barrier if they encourage discriminatory treatment.
  • The recent and the most contentious issue in this regard is the European Union’s “Green Pass” scheme.

Issues with European Union’s Green Pass

  • Through this vaccine certificate, the European Commission intends to remove travel restrictions such as entry bans, quarantine obligations and testing.
  • Only 4 vaccines listed: The EU has listed only four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the pass: Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty, Moderna’s Spikevax, Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
  • It makes travellers from countries administering alternate vaccines ineligible for certification.
  • When it was launched, the policy did not even allow AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine, Covishield.
  • Against COVAX policy: This goes against the policy of COVAX, which has categorically stated that such measures would effectively create a two-tier system and would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.
  • Discriminatory against low-income countries: Vaccine doses administered per 100 people is 1.4 for low-income countries as compared to 93.2 for high-income countries.
  • This makes travellers from low-income countries ineligible to avail these certificates.
  • As per estimates based on information from the WHO, countries not administering any of the EMA-approved vaccines account for at least 14 per cent of the vaccinated population.
  • These lie mostly in low and middle-income countries, including India.
  • Harms domestic sector: Nationals from many of these countries also serve in the hospitality industries in countries across the world, including Europe.
  • With this exclusion criteria, an indirect cost burden is put on their domestic service sectors that are already reeling due to the pandemic.
  • Against globalisation policy: With such discriminatory intervention, the EU policy does not go well with the globalisation policy of collective welfare.

Steps to boost vaccine production

  • Covid vaccine makers across the world have created a platform, led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to connect with key raw material suppliers needed for boosting production.
  • In a recent declaration, WTO members have agreed to review and eliminate unnecessary existing export restrictions on essential medical goods needed to combat the pandemic.

Way forward

  • Cooperate on vaccine production: To achieve the desired goal, countries need to cooperate on vaccine production to accelerate the global vaccination process.
  • Remove restrictions and trade barriers: Accelerating global vaccine production makes lifting trade barriers on raw materials for vaccine production critical.
  • The two relevant bodies, WHO and WTO, should also work together to sort out selective criteria for international movement.

Conclusion

Developed countries should refrain from discriminatory international travel policies against low-income countries and focus on increasing vaccine production to close the vaccination gap at the global level.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

First group insolvency proceeding points to larger weakness in IBC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CoC in IBC

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues with IBC

Context

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) stayed the approval granted by the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to the resolution plan for the Videocon Group.

Concerns with resolution plan

  • Resolution plan submitted by Twinstar Technologies, provided for payment of Rs 2,962 crore — a mere 4.15 per cent of Videocon’s total admitted debt of Rs 64,838 crore.
  • Payment of debt not in fair and equitable manner:  Under the IBC (Section 30(2)(b)), the resolution plan must provide for payment of debts amongst creditors in a “fair and equitable” manner.
  • However, in the plan submitted by Twinstar, unsecured assenting financial creditors and operational creditors are getting a paltry 0.62 per cent and 0.72 per cent of their admitted dues.
  • Even the secured assenting and dissenting financial creditors had to settle for only 4.9 per cent and 4.56 per cent of their respective dues.
  • Confidentiality obligation concerns: Twinstar’s bid of Rs 2,962 crore is close to the liquidation value of the Videocon Group estimated at Rs 2,568 crore, thereby raising legitimate suspicion and concern over the confidentiality of the resolution process.
  • The I&B Regulations, 2016 state that the resolution professional must maintain the confidentiality of the fair market value and liquidation value of the corporate debtor and can only disclose the same to the CoC members after the resolutions plan have been submitted.
  • Time delay: Status-quo ante has been restored until the next date of hearing by which time more than three years would have passed since the Videocon group was admitted into insolvency proceedings.
  • This is way beyond the statutory timeline of 330 days.

Confidentiality rules need to be revised

  • The CoC members must, on receipt of the information, issue an undertaking of confidentiality.
  • But no such obligation falls on the resolution professional.
  • Further, Section 29(2) of the code provides that the resolution professional must disclose all “relevant information” to the resolution applicant and it is for the resolution applicant to ensure compliance with confidentiality obligations.
  • Again, there is no such duty imposed on the resolution professional.
  • Even under Section 25 of the code, titled “Duties of resolution professional”, the specific duty to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information is absent.
  • Clearly, the current regime does not have much deterrence value so as to ensure solemn adherence to confidentiality.

Conclusion

Videocon was one of the first test cases to examine the prospects of insolvency jurisprudence in India and the first one, for group insolvency proceedings.  However, almost four years and a 95 per cent haircut later, the call for an immediate course correction couldn’t be louder.


Back2Basics: Operational creditor and financial creditors

  • When a corporate defaulter is brought under the resolution process (Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process or CIRP), there can be two types of creditors to whom the corporate should give back money –
  • (1) the entities who gave loans or funds to the corporate.
  • (2) the entities from whom the corporate bought inputs and other services.
  • The financial creditors are basically entities (lenders like banks) that have provided funds to the corporate.
  • Their relationship with the entity is a pure financial contract, such as a loan or debt security.
  • On the other hand, business and other entities that have provided inputs and other materials and services and to whom the defaulted corporate owes a debt are called as operational creditors.
  • Both have claims on the defaulted corporate or the defaulted corporate owe payments to both these categories.
  • Rights for these categories under the resolution process are also different.
  • The IBC gives a clear preference to the claims of the financial creditors over the operational creditors through several procedures.

Haircut

  • A haircut is the difference between the loan amount and the actual value of the asset used as collateral.
  • It reflects the lender’s perception of the risk of fall in the value of assets.
  • But in the context of loan recoveries, it is the difference between the actual dues from a borrower and the amount he settles with the bank.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Creamy Layer in OBCs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Creamy Layer

Mains level : OBC issues

A proposal to revise the criteria for defining the “creamy layer” among OBCs has been pending for years, and MPs have raised the issue during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament.

What is the Creamy Layer?

  • Creamy Layer is a concept that sets a threshold within which OBC reservation benefits are applicable.
  • While there is a 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and higher educational institutions, those falling within the “creamy layer” cannot get the benefits of this quota.

Basis of Creamy Layer

  • It is based on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission).
  • The government in 1990 had notified 27% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in vacancies in civil posts and services that are to be filled on direct recruitment.
  • After this was challenged, the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case (1992) upheld 27% reservation for OBCs, subject to exclusion of the creamy layer.

How is it determined?

  • Following the order in Indra Sawhney, an expert committee headed by Justice (retired) R N Prasad was constituted for fixing the criteria for determining the creamy layer.
  • In 1993, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) listed out various categories of people of certain rank/status/income whose children cannot avail the benefit of OBC reservation.
  1. For those not in government, the current threshold is an income of Rs 8 lakh per year.
  2. For children of government employees, the threshold is based on their parents’ rank and not income.
  3. For instance, an individual is considered to fall within the creamy layer if either of his or her parents is in a constitutional post; if either parent has been directly recruited in Group-A; or if both parents are in Group-B services.
  4. If the parents enter Group-A through promotion before the age of 40, their children will be in the creamy layer.
  5. Children of a Colonel or higher-ranked officer in the Army, and children of officers of similar ranks in the Navy and Air Force, too, come under the creamy layer.
  6. Income from salaries or agricultural land is not clubbed while determining the creamy layer (2004).

What is happening now?

  • MPs have raised questions about the pending proposal for revising the criteria.
  • They have asked whether the provision of a creamy layer for government services only for OBC candidates is rational and justified.

Has it ever been revised?

  • Other than the income limit, the current definition of the creamy layer remains the same as the DoPT had spelled out in 1993 and 2004.
  • The income limit has been revised over the years.
  • No other orders for the definition of the creamy layer have been issued.
  • While the DoPT had stipulated that it would be revised every three years, the first revision since 1993 (Rs 1 lakh per year) happened only in 2004 (Rs 2.50 lakh), 2008 (Rs 4.50 lakh), 2013 (Rs 6 lakh), and 2017 (Rs 8 lakh).
  • It is now more than three years since the last revision.

What does the government propose to do about the revision?

  • A draft Cabinet note has stated that the creamy layer will be determined on all income, including salary calculated for income tax, but not agriculture income.
  • The government is considering a consensus on Rs 12 lakh but salary and agriculture income are also being added to the gross annual income.

Visualizing the Himalaya with other coordinates

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Orogeny

Mains level : Territorialization of Himalayas

A conceptual audit of questions related to geopolitics and security concerns while talking or thinking about the Himalaya is perhaps long overdue.

About the Himalayas

  • The Himalayas are a mountain range in South and East Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
  • The range has many of Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest, at the border between Nepal and China.
  • Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan Mountain range runs west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc 2,400 km.
  • It consists of parallel mountain ranges: the Sivalik Hills on the south; the Lower Himalayan Range; the Great Himalayas, which is the highest and central range; and the Tibetan Himalayas on the north.
  • The Karakoram are generally considered separate from the Himalayas.

Identity of Himalayas: Only as a frontier

  • We have been examining the Himalaya mainly through the coordinates of geopolitics and security while relegating others as either irrelevant or incompatible.
  • In a certain sense, our intellectual concerns over the Himalaya have been largely shaped by the assumption of fear, suspicion, rivalry, invasion, encroachment and pugnacity.
  • If during colonial times it was Russophobia, then now it is Sinophobia or Pakistan phobia that in fact determines our concerns over the Himalayas.
  • Ironically it is the Delhi-Beijing-Islamabad triad, and not the mountain per se, that defines our concerns about the Himalayas.

A national Himalaya

  • Border issues has given birth to the political compulsion of territorializing the Himalaya on a par with the imperatives of nationalism.
  • Thus the attempt to create a national Himalaya by each of the five nations (Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Tibet/China) fall within this transnational landmass called the Himalaya.

India and the Himalayas

  • India’s understanding of the Himalayas is informed by a certain kind of realism, as it continues to remain as space largely defined in terms of sovereign territoriality.
  • It may be perceived that such an alternative conceptualization of Himalayas is not only possible but also necessary.

Various initiatives

  • National Mission on Himalayan Studies: It is a classic case in point that provides funds for research and technological innovations, but creating policies only for the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).

A historical logjam of territorialization

  • The Himalayas territorialization bears a colonial legacy which also sets up its post-colonial destiny as played out within the dynamics of nation-states.
  • The arbitration of relationships between and among the five nation-states falling within the Himalayan landmass has failed to transcend.
  • The lines of peoplehood and the national border never coincided; thus, it was bound to give birth to tensions while working out projects predicated upon national sovereignty.
  • Given this historical logjam, what we can only expect is the escalation of territorial disputes as the immediate fallout.

Borders and their differences

  • It needs to be recognized that political borders and cultural borders are not the same things.
  • Political borders are to be considered as space-making strategies of modern nation-states that do not necessarily coincide with cultural borders.
  • It needs to be realized that the domain of non-traditional security (cases of ecological devastation, climate change) is equally important.

Conclusion

  • The Himalaya is a naturally evolved phenomenon should be understood through frameworks that have grown from within the Himalaya.
  • Viewing the Himalayas as a space of political power is a violent choice, which actually enriched ultra-sensitivity towards territorial claims and border management.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Near-Surface Shear Layer (NSSL) of Sun

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Near-Surface Shear Layer

Mains level : NA

Indian astronomers have found a theoretical explanation for the existence of the Near-Surface Shear Layer (NSSL) of the Sun for the first time.

What is a Near-Surface Shear Layer?

  • It was long known the Sun’s equator spins faster than the poles.
  • However, a peek into the internal rotation of the Sun using sound waves revealed the existence of an intriguing layer where the rotation profile of the Sun changes sharply.
  • The layer is called as a near-surface shear layer (NSSL), and it exists very close to the solar surface, where there is an outward decrease in angular velocity.

What have researchers found?

  • They have used an equation called the thermal wind balance equation to explain how the slight difference in temperature between solar poles and equator, called thermal wind term.
  • It is balanced by the centrifugal force appearing due to solar differential rotation.
  • They have noted that if this condition is true near the solar surface, it can explain the existence of NSSL, which is inferred in helioseismology (technique of using sound waves to peek inside the Sun) based observation.

Why study NSSL?

  • Understanding NSSL is crucial for the study of several solar phenomena like sunspot formation, solar cycle, and it will also help in understanding such phenomena in other stars.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] What are PRIDE Guidelines?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biotech-PRIDE

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Ministry for Science & Technology has released “Biotech-PRIDE (Promotion of Research and Innovation through Data Exchange) Guidelines” developed by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Biotech-PRIDE

  • These guidelines aim at providing a well-defined framework and guiding principle to facilitate and enable sharing and exchange of biological knowledge, information and data.
  • They will facilitate this and enable the exchange of information to promote research and innovation in different research groups across the country.
  • They will be implemented through the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) at Regional Centre for Biotechnology supported by the Department of Biotechnology.

Creating a national repository: Bio-Grid

  • Other existing datasets/ data centres will be bridged to this IBDC which will be called Bio-Grid.
  • This Bio-Grid will be a National Repository for biological knowledge, information and data.
  • It will be responsible for enabling its exchange, developing measures for safety, standards and quality for datasets and establishing detailed modalities for accessing data.

 Why need such guidelines?

  • India ranks number 4 amongst the top 20 countries contributing biological databases.
  • The Government invests a large number of public funds for biosciences to gain deep insights into intricate biological mechanisms and other processes and for translation.

Winning the battle against trafficking

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 23

Mains level : Paper 2- Preventing trafficking in human

Context

July 30 is United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons. It is also a time to reflect on India’s human trafficking crisis.

What are factors increasing vulnerability?

  • Between April 2020 and June 2021, an estimated 9,000 children have been rescued after being trafficked for labour, according to a child rights non-governmental organisation (NGO).
  • Economic distress due to pandemic: The pandemic has resulted in the loss of income and economic crisis.
  • Loss of parental care: It has also caused, in some instances, loss of parental care due to death, illness or separation.
  • Relaxing of legal provision: These factors are compounded by an erosion of some of the checks against child labour and child marriage provided by law, as well as the scrutiny of schools and society.
  • Child marriages are also rampant — over 10,000 cases were tracked between April and August 2020.
  • Internet access: The increase in Internet access in current times has also led to cyber-trafficking.
  • A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on the effects of the pandemic on trafficking echoes these findings.

Challenges in dealing with the issue

  • Lack of national-level data: The Government admitted in Parliament as recently as March 2021 that it does not maintain any national-level data specific to cyber trafficking cases.
  • India does not meet the minimum standards: India is still classified by the U.S. Department of State as a Tier-2 country in its  report on global human trafficking.
  • This means that the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards under U.S. and international law for eliminating trafficking, but is making significant efforts to comply.
  • Lack of implementation: The Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) are specialised district task forces comprising police and government officials.
  • In 2010, it was envisioned that 330 AHTUs would be set up.
  • RTI responses in August 2020 showed that about 225 AHTUs had been set up, but only on paper.

Way forward

  • AHTU: If properly staffed and funded, AHTUs could provide crucial ground-level data on the methods and patterns of traffickers.
  • This, in turn, can strengthen community-based awareness and vigilance activities.
  • Incentivise education and provide safe employment: Global practices such as in Nigeria, Africa, should be encouraged in India, in consonance with a larger framework to protect women and children by incentivising education and creating safe employment opportunities.
  • Implementation of laws: There is no shortage of anti-trafficking policy in India.
  • Where the system is found lacking is in the implementation of the laws.
  • Take preventive action: The failure of existing institutional mechanisms to foresee the present crisis should spur the Government and other stakeholders to take preventive action now.

Discussion needed on the provision of draft anti-trafficking Bill

  • Significant discussion is required on the provisions of the Bill, particularly with respect to bringing in the National Investigation Agency and increasing the punishment for offences, including the death penalty.
  • Ensure effective functioning of AHTUs: The draft Bill also provides for AHTUs/committees at the national, State and district levels, but as noted, their effective functioning cannot be taken for granted.
  • Challenges faced by prosecutors and judges: There were 140 acquittals and only 38 convictions in 2019, according to government data.
  • This points to a failure of investigation and cannot be solved by the draft Bill’s provision that accused traffickers must be presumed guilty unless they can prove the contrary.
  • Case management: Trials can drag on for years, with victims sometimes withdrawing their complaints after being intimidated by traffickers.
  • Proper case management must be introduced to give meaning to the “fast track” courts.
  • Compensation and counselling: Other problems include the low number of beneficiaries of monetary compensation and the lack of consistent access to psychological counselling.
  • Parts of the draft Bill recognise the importance of rehabilitation, but implementation is key.

Conclusion

Effective implementation of the legal provision and discussion on the various provisions of the draft law is required to deal with the menace of trafficking in persons.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

The epoch of cyberweapons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Zero day vulnerability

Mains level : Paper 3- Cyberwarfare-Fifth dimension

Context

The controversy over the use of Pegasus spyware for snooping highlights the threats posed by cyber-weapons.

The emergence of the cyber weapons epoch

  • Cyberattacks on institutions such as banks and on critical infrastructure have proliferated to an alarming extent, signaling the emergence of the cyber weapon epoch.
  • Privacy has been eroded and the Internet has become a powerful weapon in the hands of those seeking to exploit its various facets.
  • Fifth dimension of warfare: Cyber is often touted as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space.

The domain of everyday life

  • Cyber, as the domain of military and national security, also co-exists with cyber as a domain of everyday life.
  • The war is no longer out there.
  • It is now directly inside one’s drawing-room, with cyberweapons becoming the weapon of choice.
  • Israelis today dominate the cyber domain along with the Chinese, Russians, Koreans and, of course, the Americans.
  • The linkage between sabotage and intrusive surveillance is but a short step.

Cyberattacks during the past decades

  •  Beginning with the 2007 devastating cyberattack on Estonia’s critical infrastructure, this was followed by the Stuxnet worm attack a few years later on Iran’s nuclear facility.
  • The Shamoon virus attack on Saudi Aramco occurred in 2012.
  • In 2016, a cyberattack occurred on Ukraine’s State power grid; in 2017 there was a Ransomware attack (NotPetya) which affected machines in as many as 64 countries.
  • United Kingdom’s National Health Service fell prey to the Wannacry attack the same year.
  • The series of attacks happened this year on Ireland’s Health Care System and in the United States such as ‘SolarWinds’, the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline and JBS, etc.

What are the threats posed by cyberattacks?

  • Cyberweapons carry untold capacity to distort systems and structures — civilian or military.
  • Cyberweapons also interfere with democratic processes, aggravate domestic divisions and, above all, unleash forces over which established institutions or even governments have little control.
  • As more and more devices are connected to networks, the cyber threat is only bound to intensify, both in the short and the medium term.
  • What is especially terrifying is that instruments of everyday use can be infected or infiltrated without any direct involvement of the target.
  • The possibilities for misuse are immense and involve far graver consequences to an individual, an establishment, or the nation.
  • It is not difficult to envisage that from wholesale espionage, this would become something far more sinister such as sabotage.

Way forward

  • Deeper understanding:  Dealing with ‘zero day’ vulnerabilities require far more thought and introspection than merely creating special firewalls or special phones that are ‘detached’ from the Internet.
  • Recognising the mindset: What is needed is a deeper understanding of not only cyber technologies, but also recognising the mindsets of those who employ spyware of the Pegasus variety, and those at the helm of companies such as the NSO.
  • Short-term remedies are unlikely to achieve desired results.
  • No use of AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often seen as a kind of panacea for many of the current problems and ills, but all advances in technology tend to be a double-edged sword.
  • If truth be told, AI could in turn make all information warfare — including cyber related — almost impossible to detect, deflect or prevent, at least at the current stage of development of AI tools.

Conclusion

All this suggests that security in the era of ever-expanding cyberweapons could become an ever-receding horizon.


Back2Basics: Zero-day vulnerability

  • The term “zero-day” refers to a newly discovered software vulnerability.
  • Because the developer has just learned of the flaw, it also means an official patch or update to fix the issue hasn’t been released.
  • So, “zero-day” refers to the fact that the developers have “zero days” to fix the problem that has just been exposed — and perhaps already exploited by hackers.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

One nation, one police is a reform that is long overdue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Police Act 1861

Mains level : Paper 2- One nation, one police

Context

Police reforms are still an unfinished task, fifteen years after the Supreme Court gave directives in the Prakash Singh case in 2006.

Integrated schemes in different facilities

  • The Government of India has lately been talking of “One Nation, One Ration Card”, “One Nation, One Registry”, “One Nation, One Gas Grid”, and even “One Nation, One Election”.
  • These ideas would contribute to an integrated scheme in different facilities and networks across the country.
  • The attempt at uniformity should, however, take cognisance of local factors and special features.

Issue of different states passing different Police Act

  • Every state is legislating a different Police Act, purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms given on September 22, 2006.
  • We are in the process of having “one nation, many police acts”.
  • Circumventing the Prakash Singh judgement: The objective behind these laws is to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement and thereby circumvent the judicial directions given in the Prakash Singh judgement in 2006.
  •  Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.
  • Absence of central guidelines: Several states have, in the absence of any central guidance or directive, passed their own Police Acts, blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s directions.
  • No action by judiciary: The Supreme Court has, for inexplicable reasons, not issued a contempt notice to any of the states for non-compliance of its directions on police reforms.

Way forward

1) The Centre should legislate a Model Police Act

  • Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent.
  • Soon after the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms, the Police Act Drafting Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs came out with the Model Police Act, 2006.
  • The Government of India should have enacted a law based on this Model Police Act with such changes as it may have found necessary, and the states should have mutatis mutandis ( making necessary alterations while not affecting the main point at issue) adopted it.
  • The least that the Government of India could have done was to legislate for the UTs and then prevailed upon the states to pass similar legislation.
  • Enacting a law in the states could have been incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.

2) Need for the spirit of cooperative federalism

  • In recent times, we saw the unseemly spectacle of the Mumbai police commissioner accusing the state home minister of using the police as an instrument for extortion.
  • In West Bengal, the police have been a mute spectator to the post-election violence.
  • The Centre, through a fiat, gave protection to all the MLAs of the BJP.
  • Normally, any such arrangement should have been in consultation and with the involvement of the state government. 
  • Cooperative federalism: The best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.

3)Need for a fresh look at the distribution of power

  • If the central and state governments cannot respect each other’s turf, it would perhaps be necessary to have a fresh look at the distribution of powers in the seventh schedule of the Constitution.

Conclusion

Police reforms on the lines of judicial directives given by the Supreme Court is the need of the hour. The centre needs to act first and nudge the states toward a uniform police structure throughout the country.


Back2Basics: Supreme Court Directive on Police Reforms

1) Limit political control

  • Constitute a State Security Commission to:
  • Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
  • Lay down broad policy guidelines.
  • Evaluate the performance of the state police.

2. Appointments based on merit

  • Ensure that the Director-General of Police is appointed through a meritbased, transparent process, and secures a minimum tenure of 2 years.

3. Fix minimum tenure

  • Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in charge of a district and Station House Officers in charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of 2 years.

4. Separate police functions

  • Separate the functions of investigation and maintaining law and order.

5. Set up fair and transparent systems

  • Set up a Police Establishment Board to decide and make recommendations on transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

6. Establish a Police Complaints Authority in each state

  • At the state level, there should be a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody.
  • At the district level, the Police Complaints Authority should be set up to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.

7. Set up a selection commission

  • A National Security Commission needs to be set up at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of 2 years.

Urban Floods

Why cloudbursts could become more frequent?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cloudburst

Mains level : Flash floods

Recently, cloudbursts have been reported from several places in J&K, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. A

What is a Cloudburst?

  • Cloudbursts are short-duration, intense rainfall events over a small area.
  • According to the IMD, it is a weather phenomenon with unexpected precipitation exceeding 100mm/h over a geographical region of approximately 20-30 square km.

What causes Cloudburst?

  • A study published last year studied the meteorological factors behind the cloudburst over the Kedarnath region.
  • They analyzed atmospheric pressure, temperature, rainfall, cloud water content, cloud fraction, cloud particle radius, cloud mixing ratio, total cloud cover, wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity during the cloudburst, before as well as after the cloudburst.
  • The results showed that during the cloudburst, the relative humidity and cloud cover was at the maximum level with low temperature and slow winds.
  • It is expected that because of this situation a high amount of clouds may get condensed at a very rapid rate and result in a cloudburst.

Impact of climate change

  • Several studies have shown that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts in many cities across the globe.
  • As temperatures increase the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture and this moisture comes down as a short very intense rainfall for a short duration.
  • This results in flash floods in the mountainous areas and urban floods in the cities.
  • Also, there is evidence suggesting that globally short duration rainfall extremes are going to become more intense and frequent.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.During a thunderstorm, the thunder in the skies is produced by the:

  1. meeting of cumulonimbus clouds in the sky
  2. lightning that separates the nimbus clouds
  3. violent upward movement of air and water particles

Select the correct option using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) None of the above

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

NEET’s All India Quota, and OBC & EWS reservation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Reservations for OBCs

The Union government has approved reservations for the OBC and EWS (Economically Weaker Section) categories within the All India Quota (AIQ) for NEET, the uniform entrance examination for medical and dental colleges across the country.

What is NEET?

  • The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is the entrance examination for entry to all undergraduate (NEET-UG) and postgraduate (NEET-PG) medical and dental courses in the country.
  • Until 2016, the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) was the national-level entrance examination for medical colleges.
  • State governments used to hold separate entrance tests for seats that were not contested at an all-India level.
  • NEET was held for the first time in 2003, but discontinued the following year.
  • On April 13, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the newly inserted section 10-D of the Indian Medical Council Act.
  • This provided for a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at the undergraduate level and postgraduate level in Hindi, English and various other languages.
  • Since then, NEET has been the uniform entrance test for medical courses across the country.

What is the All-India Quota?

  • Although the same examination is held across the country, a chunk of the seats in state medical/dental colleges is reserved for students domiciled in their respective states.
  • The remaining seats —15% in UG and 50% in PG — are surrendered by the states to the All India Quota.
  • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
  • A student domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, for example, may be eligible for admission to a seat in a state government medical college in West Bengal, provided she scores high enough in the national merit list.
  • If her score is not high enough for AIQ, she may still hope for admission under the state quota in her home state.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

What was the reservation policy followed so far?

  • Until 2007, no reservation was implemented within the All-India Quota for medical admission.
  • On January 31, 2007, in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi and Others, the Supreme Court directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced in the AIQ.
  • The same year, the government passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2007 providing for 27% reservation to OBC students in central government institutions.
  • While state government medical and dental colleges provide reservations to OBCs in seats outside the All India Quota, this benefit was so far not extended to seats allocated under the AIQ in these state colleges.
  • The 10% EWS quota under the Constitution (One Hundred And Third Amendment) Act, 2019, too, has been implemented in central educational institutions, but not in the NEET AIQ for state institutions.

What led to the decision?

  • The denial of OBC and EWS reservations has been the subject of protests for years.
  • In July last year, the Madras High Court ruled that OBC students too can avail reservation in the AIQ.
  • It held that the reservation could not be implemented for the then academic year for want of time, and can be implemented from 2021-22.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Geo-imaging satellite EOS-03

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EOS-03, SSLV

Mains level : Not Much

Geo-imaging satellite for earth observation EOS-03, which would enable near real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones, is scheduled for launch in the third quarter of 2021.

EOS-03

  • ISRO has realized a geo-imaging satellite, “EOS-03”, for Earth Observation from Geostationary Orbit.
  • EOS-03 is capable of imaging the whole country four-five times daily and would enable near real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones.
  • In addition to natural disasters, EOS-03 would also enable monitoring of water bodies, crops, vegetation condition, forest cover changes.

Other developments: Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV)

  • The first developmental flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
  • The SSLV is a cost-effective, three-stage and all-solid launch vehicle with a payload capability of 500 kg to 500 km planar orbit or 300 kg to Sun-Synchronous Polar Orbit.
  • It is ideal for the on-demand, quick turn-around launch of small satellites.
  • The major technologies developed as part of SSLV are flexible nozzle control with electro-mechanical actuators for all stages, miniaturized avionics, and a velocity trimming module in the upper stage for precise satellite injection.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] Various initiatives for Minorities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various initiatives for Minorities

Mains level : Minority welfare

The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has informed about various initiatives for minorities.

A brief of the schemes/programmers being implemented by the Ministry for the educational/economic empowerment of Minority students/candidates are as under:

Educational Empowerment

  • Scholarship Schemes: Pre-Matric Scholarship, Post-Matric Scholarship and Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship.
  • Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme: It provides financial assistance to students from notified minority communities and whose annual income is below Rs. 6.0 lakh per annum from all sources, to pursue higher education such as M.Phil and Ph.D.
  • Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship: It provides scholarship for meritorious girls belonging to notified minority communities studying in Classes IX to XII.
  • Naya Savera: It is a free coaching scheme which aims to enhance skills and knowledge of students and candidates from notified minority to get employment in Government Sector/ PSU, jobs in private sector, and admission in reputed institutions in technical and professional courses at UG and PG levels.
  • Nai Udaan: Support for notified minority community students, on clearing Prelims conducted by UPSC, State Public Service Commission (PSC) Staff Selection Commission (SSC) etc.

Economic Empowerment

  • Seekho aur Kamao (Learn & Earn): It is a skill development initiative for minorities and aims to upgrade the skills of minority youth in various modern/traditional skills depending upon their qualification, present economic trends and market potential, which can earn them employment or make them suitably skilled to go for self-employment.
  • Upgrading the Skill and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD): A mission has been launched under scheme to give an effective platform to minority artisans and culinary experts from across the country to showcase and market their finest handicraft and exquisitely crafted products through “Hunar Haats” organized by the Ministry.
  • Nai Manzil: A scheme to provide education and skill training to the youth from minority communities.
  • Gharib Nawaz Employment Training Programme: It provides for short-term job oriented skill development courses to youths belonging to minority communities.
  • National Minorities Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) Loan Scheme: It provide concessional loans for self-employment and income-generating activities for the socio-economic development of the ‘backward sections’ amongst the notified minorities.

Others: Equal Opportunity Commission

  • Among several recommendations, the Sachar Committee opined for an Equal Opportunity Commission to ensure the upliftment of deprived Muslims in the country.
  • It was formed during the first United Progressive Alliance government in 2006 to recommend policy measures for the upliftment of linguistic and religious minorities.
  • It stormed the country when it stated that the condition of Muslims in some states are worse than Dalits.

Back2Basics: National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

  • The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
  • Six religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in Gazette of India as minority communities by the Union Government all over India .
  • Original notification of 1993 was for five religious communities; Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims.

Commission has the following functions:

  • Evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.
  • Monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
  • Make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
  • Cause studies to be undertaken into problems arising out of any discrimination against Minorities and recommend measures for their removal.
  • Conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.
  • Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter pertaining to Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.
  • Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government.

The Commission has the following powers:

  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath.
  • Requiring the discovery and production of any document.
  • Receiving evidence on affidavit.
  • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] 14 Indian Tiger Reserves get Global CA/TS recognition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mapping of the tiger reserves mentioned

Mains level : Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS)

The Environment Ministry has released the names of the 14 tiger reserves that had received the accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured|Tiger Standards (CA|TS), an accreditation tool agreed upon by tiger range countries.

Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS)

  • CA|TS has been agreed upon as an accreditation tool by the global coalition of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and has been developed by tiger and protected area experts.
  • Officially launched in 2013, it sets minimum standards for effective management of target species and encourages the assessment of these standards in relevant conservation areas.
  • CA|TS is a set of criteria that allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation.
  • The Global Tiger Forum (GTF), an international NGO working on tiger conservation, and World Wildlife Fund India are the two implementing partners of the National Tiger Conservation Authority for CATS assessment in India.

Which are the 14 reserves?

The 14 tiger reserves which have been accredited are:

  • Manas, Kaziranga and Orang in Assam,
  • Satpura, Kanha and Panna in Madhya Pradesh,
  • Pench in Maharashtra,
  • Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar,
  • Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh,
  • Sunderbans in West Bengal,
  • Parambikulam in Kerala,
  • Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka and
  • Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu

Significance

  • CATS accreditation is a global recognition of good tiger governance.
  • This recognition means a lot in the context of adaptation to climate change, sustainability of ecosystem services, and safeguarding disruption of zoonotic cycles, through an umbrella species approach.
  • The aspects monitored for accreditation include the importance and status of a reserve, management, community participation, tourism, protection, habitat management, and tiger populations.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Among the following Tiger Reserves, which one has the largest area under “Critical Tiger Habitat”? (CSP 2020)

(a) Corbett

(b) Ranthambore

(c) Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam

(d) Sundarbans

Air Pollution

[pib] Centre launches Secured Logistics Document Exchange (SLDE) and GHG Calculator

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SLDE, GHG Calculator

Mains level : NA

With an aim to further improve ease of doing business, Centre today launched the “Secured Logistics Document Exchange” along with a Calculator for Green House Gas Emissions.

Secured Logistics Document Exchange (SLDE)

  • The SLDE platform is a solution to replace the present manual process of generation, exchange and compliance of logistics documents with a digitized, secure and seamless document exchange system.
  • It is set to improve logistics efficiency, reduce logistics cost, and promote multi-modality and sustainability in a big way.
  • This will enable generation, storage and interchange of logistics-related documents digitally using Aadhaar and blockchain-based security protocols for data security and authentication.
  • It will also provide a complete audit trail of document transfer, faster execution of transaction, lower cost of shipping and overall carbon footprint, easy verification of authenticity of documents, lowered risk of fraud, etc.
  • The proof of concept of the platform has been developed and executed with banks (ICICI, Axis Bank, State Bank of India and HDFC Bank) and stakeholders including freight forwarders, exporters, importers and vessel operators.

Green House Gas (GHG) Emission Calculator

  • The GHG Calculator is an efficient, user-friendly tool and provides for calculating and comparing GHG emissions across different modes.
  • It allows for a commodity-wise comparison of GHG emissions and total cost of transportation, including their environmental cost, between movement by road and rail.
  • The tool is intended to facilitate appropriate modal choice for all concerned.

Back2Basics: Green House Gases (GHGs)

  • A greenhouse gas (GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect.
  • The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor (H 2O), carbon dioxide (CO 2), methane (CH 4), nitrous oxide (N 2O), and ozone (O3).
  • Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth’s surface would be about −18 °C (0 °F), rather than the present average of 15 °C (59 °F).
  • The atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and Titan also contain greenhouse gases.

Promoting fiscal federalism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 101st Constitutional Amendment

Mains level : Paper 2- Fiscal federalism

Context

States are facing financial constraints in the backdrop of lockdown and consequent dwindling revenue collection. The situation also highlights the issues of fiscal federalism in India.

Issues facing fiscal federalism in India

1) Issue of 14% compensation

  • As per the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, compensation on account of the implementation of GST will be available for a period of five years.
  • 14% increment assurance: At the time of introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) law assured States a 14% increase in their annual revenue for five years (up to July 1, 2020).
  • But the Union government has deviated from the statutory promise and has been insisting that States avail themselves of loans.
  • The future interest liability of these loans should not be placed on the shoulders of the States.
  • Borrowing limits built into loan: Moreover, the borrowing limit of States, as per the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, should not be built into these loans.

2) Conditional increase in borrowing limit

  • Last year, the Union government increased the borrowing ceiling of the States from 3% to 5% for FY 2020-21.
  • But conditions are attached to 1.5% of the 2% of increased ceiling.
  • Attaching conditions for expenditure out of the borrowed amount would clip the wings of the States and goes against the principle of cooperative federalism.

Way forward

  • Introduce special rate: A special rate could be levied for a specified period in order to raise additional resources to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 with the approval of the GST Council.
  • As per Section 4(f) of Article 279A, the Union government can consider introducing any special rate to raise additional resources during the pandemic (any natural calamity or disaster).
  • The present GST compensation period will end in 2021-22.
  • Increase the period beyond five years:  Compensation beyond five years requires a constitutional amendment.
  • If this period is not increased, it will create serious financial stress to the States, especially to those which require higher compensation.

Conclusion

There is a need for measures on part of the Central government to consolidate fiscal federalism in the aftermath of pandemic and implementation of the GST regime in India.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

How to exit farming risk trap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Agriculture reforms to reduce the risk in agriculture in India

Context

The farmers’ protest against farm laws brings into focus the factors afflicting agriculture in India.

Issues of Indian agriculture

  • Some 50 years after the Green Revolution, an all-India agricultural landscape is characterized by relatively low productivity levels that co-exist with high levels of variation in crop yields across our farming districts.
  • Excessive control: Various government agencies have a say on all aspects of the farmer’s livelihood — the latest count includes 13 central and countless state ministries and agencies.
  • These agencies oversee rural property rights, land use, and land ceilings; commodity prices, input subsidies, and taxes, infrastructure, production, credit, marketing and procurement, public distribution, research, education, trade policy, etc.
  • Poor policies: The result has been a mix of arbitrary and conflicting policy interventions by both the central and state government agencies.
  • Poor provision of basic public goods: This, combined with poor and varying levels of provision of basic public goods, including irrigation explains the poor state of Indian agriculture.

Risk-to-return in agriculture

  • The following figures indicate the median (typical) district-level yield (in tonnes-per-hectare) for four major crops — rice, wheat, maize, and cotton — along with the geographic variability of this yield (risk) across all reporting districts for each year from 1966 to 2018.
  • Combining these two values — median district yield and its geographic variability across all farming districts — provides us a measure of the all-India level of risk-to-return, in percentage terms.

Lessons from risk-to-return profile

  • One, the large gap in rice and wheat yields that opened up between Punjab and Haryana and the farm districts in the rest of the country remains far from being closed.
  • Limited mobility of ideas: There is severe unevenness in the provision of common goods across districts — irrigation, roads, power, etc.
  • There is also the absence of well-functioning markets for agricultural land, crops, and inputs, the slow labour reform, and the poor quality of education.
  • These two factors have worked to reduce overall resource mobility within and across our farming districts.
  • Most importantly, they have limited the mobility of ideas and technology needed to increase productivity and reduce the variation of yield across districts.
  • Decentralization failed: As a result of lack of mobility, the real promise of a decentralized system — of experimentation, of learning from each other, and the adoption of best practices and policies — has failed to materialize.
  • Distortion due to subsidies: Various input subsidies and minimum price guarantee procurement schemes provided by the state have worked to worsen the overall levels of productivity and the risk in agriculture, generating adverse effects for all of us, through the degradation of our water resources, soil, health, and climate.
  • At the same time, these policies have tightened the trap our farm households find themselves in.
  • Thus, as is evident in the next chart, outside of rice and wheat, the risk-to-return levels are even higher in the case of maize and cotton, including for Punjab.
  • As a result, the farm households of Punjab and Haryana fear both, the loss of state support for rice and wheat and the higher risks implied by a switch to other crops.

Way forward

  • Minimize risk: The guiding principle for three farm laws must be to create conditions that allow farm households to maximize their income while minimizing the overall level of risk in Indian agriculture.
  • Freedom of choice: Farmers must be made free to determine the best mix of resources, land, inputs, technology, and organizational forms for their farms.
  • More freedom: Farmers, just as entrepreneurs in the non-farm sector, must be allowed to enter and exit agriculture, on their own terms and contract with whomever they wish.
  • Allow entry of corporates: Entry of the large or small private corporates in the Indian agricultural stream will help the Indian farmer, along with the rest of us, move to a low-risk, high-return path of progress.

Conclusion

The more we delay the needed reforms, the more difficult it will prove to be for all of us to extract ourselves out of these risk-laden currents of agriculture.

Important Judgements In News

Supreme Court strikes down part of Constitution Amendment on cooperative societies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 97th Amendment

Mains level : Paper 2- Striking down of the 97th Amendment Act

Context

In Union of India vs Rajendra N. Shah, the Supreme Court of India partially struck down the 97th Constitutional Amendment.

Background of the 97th Constitutional Amendment

  • The 97th Constitutional Amendment came into effect from February 15 2012.
  • The amendment added “cooperative societies” to the protected forms of association under Article 19(1)(c), elevating it to a fundamental right.
  • It also inserted Part IXB in the Constitution which laid down the terms by which cooperative societies would be governed, in more granular detail than was palatable.

Why was the Amendment struck down?

  • The Constitution can be amended only by the procedure provided in Article 368.
  • The amendment procedure requires a majority of the total strength of each of the Houses of Parliament and two-thirds majority of those present and voting.
  • A proviso to the Article lists out some articles and chapters of the Constitution, which can be amended only by a special procedure.
  • The special procedure requires that the amendment will also have to be ratified by the legislatures of half of the States.
  • It is precisely on the grounds of violation of this additional requirement that the 97th Constitutional Amendment was challenged.
  • The Gujarat High Court struck down the amendment in 2013 on the grounds that it had failed to comply with the requirements under Article 368(2) by virtue of not having been ratified by the States and had also given an additional finding that the 97th Amendment violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The Union Government challenged the Gujarat High Court judgment before the Supreme Court, arguing that the amendment neither directly nor effectively changed the scheme of distribution of powers between the Centre and the States.
  • The court took the example of the 73rd and 74th Amendments which were similar in impact on the legislative power of the States, had been passed by the special procedure involving ratification by State legislatures.
  • Procedural lacuna: The court noted that the procedure had not been followed in this case.
  • The Supreme Court clarified that the does not go into the question of the amendment being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The judgment makes a distinction between cooperative societies operating in one State and multi-State cooperative societies and holds that while a ratification by half the State legislatures would have been necessary insofar as it applies to cooperative societies in one State.

Increasing control of the Union government

  • Union government has been acquiring incrementally greater control of cooperative societies over the years.
  • Cooperative banks have been brought under the purview of the Reserve Bank of India.
  • Union Government recently established Union Ministry for Cooperation.

Issues with Central control over cooperative sector

  • Domain of States: The idea that the cooperative sector ought to be controlled at the State level and not at the central or Union level goes back all the way to the Government of India Act, 1919 which placed cooperatives in the provincial list.
  • Part of State list: Entry 32 of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution confer power on the State legislatures to make laws pertaining to incorporation, regulation and the winding up of cooperative societies.
  • The cooperative sector has always been in the domain of the States or provinces.
  • Different organising principles: The organising principles and mechanism of these cooperatives differ from area to area and depend on the industry or crop which forms the fulcrum of the cooperative.
  • Homogeneity nor require: Homogeneity in this area would only result in the creation of round holes in which square pegs no longer fit.
  • They also would not really serve to break the control some political interests have taken over cooperatives.

Conclusion

It is best that the Government takes this judgment in the right spirit and stays away from further meddling in the cooperative sector, notwithstanding the creation of the new Ministry.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

What is National Farmers Database?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Farmers Database

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Centre’s new National Farmers Database will only include land-owning farmers for now as it will be linked to digitized land records.

National Farmers Database

  • The Central government had proposed an Agristack initiative to create a digital database that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • As part of the first step of this initiative, the government has initiated a farmers database that would serve as the core of the Agristack.
  • The database would be linked to the digital land record management system and would thus only include farmers who were legal owners of agricultural land.
  • The database would facilitate online single sign-on facilities for universal access and usher in proactive and personalized services to farmers such as DBT, soil and plant health advisories, weather advisories
  • It would also facilitate seamless credit & insurance, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticide-related information.

Need for such database

  • India has 140 million operational farmland holdings.
  • The availability of a database would serve an important role in the formulation of evidence-based policies for the agricultural sector.
  • Also, the government can make use of the database for targeted service delivery with higher efficiency and in a focused and time-bound manner.
  • The database could be used to select beneficiaries of government schemes.
  • The availability of data will make it possible to implement digital technologies like AI/Machine Learning, IoT in the agricultural domain, thus opening up the sector to immense opportunities for improvement in productivity.

Back2Basics: AgriStack Initiative

  • The AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • The central government has claimed that these new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.
  • Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.
  • The digital repository will aid the precise targeting of subsidies, services, and policies.
  • Under the program, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them.