Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Redefining essential items: why it was needed, and who it will impact

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Essential Commodities

Mains level : Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Recently, the Rajya Sabha passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which is aimed at deregulating commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.

Try this question:

What are the salient features of Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020?

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • It amends the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, by introducing a new Subsection 1(A) in Section 3.
  • After the amendment, the supply of certain foodstuffs — including cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato — can be regulated only under extraordinary circumstances, which include an extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature.
  • In effect, the amendment takes these items out from the purview of Section 3(1), which gives powers to the central government to “control production, supply, distribution, etc, of essential commodities”.
  • Earlier, these commodities were not mentioned under Section 3(1) and reasons for invoking the section were not specified.

How is an ‘essential commodity’ defined?

  • There is no specific definition of essential commodities in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Section 2(A) states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the Schedule of the Act.
  • The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the Schedule.
  • The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.

Which are those commodities?

  • According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, which implements the Act, the Schedule at present contain seven commodities.
  • They are drugs; fertilizers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cottonseed.
  • By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.

Under what circumstances can the government impose stock limits?

  • While the 1955 Act did not provide a clear framework to impose stock limits, the amended Act provides for a price trigger.
  • It says that agricultural foodstuffs can only be regulated under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity.
  • However, any action on imposing stock limits will be based on the price trigger.
  • Thus, in case of horticultural produce, a 100% increase in the retail price of a commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower, will be the trigger for invoking the stock limit.
  • For non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs, the price trigger will be a 50% increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.

Why was the need for this felt?

  • The 1955 Act was legislated at a time when the country was facing a scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistently low levels of foodgrains production.
  • The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import from the US under PL-480) to feed the population.
  • To prevent hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, the Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955. But now the situation has changed.
  • The production of wheat has increased 10 times while the production of rice has increased more than four times since five decades.
  • The production of pulses has increased 2.5 times, from 10 million tonnes to 25 million tonnes. In fact, India has now become an exporter of several agricultural products.

What will be the impact of the amendments?

  • The key changes seek to free agricultural markets from the limitations imposed by permits and mandis that were originally designed for an era of scarcity.
  • The move is expected to attract private investment in the value chain of commodities removed from the list of essentials, such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes.
  • While the purpose of the Act was originally to check illegal trade practices such as hoarding, it has now become a hurdle for investment in the agriculture sector in general, and in post-harvesting activities in particular.
  • The private sector had so far hesitated about investing in cold chains and storage facilities for perishable items as most of these commodities were under the ambit of the EC Act.
  • The amendment seeks to address such concerns.

Why is it being opposed?

  • This was one of the three ordinances/Bills that have seen protests from farmers in parts of the country.
  • The Opposition says the amendment will hurt farmers and consumers, and will only benefit hoarders.
  • They say the price triggers envisioned in the Bill are unrealistic — so high that they will hardly ever be invoked.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

New versions of labour codes – key proposals and concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Labour reforms

The government has introduced new versions of three labour codes – Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020, Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Disguised unemployment generally means:

(a) A large number of people remain unemployed

(b) Alternative employment is not available

(c) Marginal productivity of labour is zero

(d) Productivity of workers is low

What are the key proposals?

(1) Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020

  • In this, the government has proposed to introduce more conditions restricting the rights of workers to strike, alongside an increase in the threshold relating to layoffs and retrenchment.
  • The Code has raised the threshold for the requirement of a standing order — rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments — to over 300 workers.
  • This implies industrial establishments with up to 300 workers will not be required to furnish a standing order, a move which experts say would enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for workers.
  • These steps are likely to provide more flexibility to employers for hiring and firing workers without government permission.

(2) Social Security Code

  • It proposes a National Social Security Board which shall recommend to the central government for formulating suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.
  • Also, aggregators employing gig workers will have to contribute 1-2 per cent of their annual turnover for social security, with the total contribution not exceeding 5 per.

(3) Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code

  • This code has defined inter-state migrant workers as the worker who has come on his own from one state and obtained employment in another state, earning up to Rs 18,000 a month.
  • The proposed definition makes a distinction from the present definition of only contractual employment.
  • The Code, however, has dropped the earlier provision for temporary accommodation for workers near the worksites.
  • It has though proposed a journey allowance — a lump sum amount of fare to be paid by the employer for to and fro journey of the worker to his/her native place from the place of his/her employment.

What are the other proposals for workers?

  • The IR Code Bill has also proposed a worker re-skilling fund.
  • The contributions for the fund are only detailed from the employer of an industrial establishment amounting to fifteen days wages last drawn by the worker immediately before the retrenchment along with the contribution from such other sources.
  • The mention of ‘other sources’ for funding the re-skilling fund is vague.

What are the concerns raised over the new labour codes?

  • Analysts say the increase in the threshold for standing orders will water down the labour rights for workers in small establishments having less than 300 workers.
  • The increase is uncalled for and shows the government is very keen to give tremendous amounts of flexibility to the employers in terms of hiring and firing.
  • Dismissal for alleged misconduct and retrenchment for economic reasons will be completely possible for all the industrial establishments employing less than 300 workers.
  • The Industrial Relations Code also introduces new conditions for carrying out a legal strike.
  • The time period for arbitration proceedings has been included in the conditions for workers before going on a legal strike as against only the time for conciliation at present.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Labour law Reforms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various labour laws

Mains level : Labour reforms in India

This session of Lok Sabha has passed 3 Historic and path-breaking Labour Codes.

UPSC may ask the major laws subsumed under these Labour Codes.

What are the 3 bills?

The 3 bills which were passed are

  1. Industrial Relations Code, 2020
  2. Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 &
  3. Social Security Code, 2020

All the labour laws (29 in number) being amalgamated into 4 labour codes are :

Name of the Code 

Amalgamated laws

Wage Code

 

4 laws –

  1. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
  2. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  3. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
IR Code

 

3 laws –

  1. The Trade Unions Act, 1926
  2. The Industrial Employment (Standing orders) Act, 1946
  3. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
OSH Code

 

13 laws –

  1. The Factories Act, 1948
  2. The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
  3. The Mines Act, 1952
  4. The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955
  5. The Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958
  6. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
  7. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966
  8. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
  9. The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976
  10. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
  11. The Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981
  12. The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
  13. The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
Social Security Code

 

9 laws –

  1. The Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923
  2. The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948
  3. The Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
  4. The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959
  5. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
  6. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
  7. The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981
  8. The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996
  9. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

 

Here are the key features of these bills:

 (A) Social Security Code, 2020

  • The facility of ESIC would now be provided in all 740 districts. At present, this facility is being given in 566 districts only.
  • EPFO’s coverage would be applicable on all establishments having 20 workers. At present, it was applicable only on establishments included in the Schedule.
  • Provision has been made to formulate various schemes for providing comprehensive social security to workers in the unorganised sector.
  • A “Social Security Fund” will be created on the financial side in order to implement these schemes.
  • Work to bring newer forms of employment created with the changing technology like “platform worker or gig worker” into the ambit of social security has been done in the Social Security Code.
  • Provision for Gratuity has been made for Fixed Term Employee and there would not be any condition for minimum service period for this.
  • With the aim of making a national database for unorganised sector workers, registration of all these workers would be done on an online portal and this registration would be done on the basis of Self Certification through a simple procedure.

 (B) Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • Free health checkup once a year by the employer for workers which are more than a certain age.
  • A legal right for getting Appointment Letter given to workers for the first time.
  • Cine Workers have been designated as Audio Visual Worker so that more and more workers get covered under the OSH code. Earlier, this security was being given to artists working in films only.

(C)  Industrial Relations Code, 2020

Efforts made by the Government for quickly resolving disputes of the workers include:

  • Compulsory facility for Helpline for redressal of problems of migrant workers.
  • Making a national database of migrant workers.
  • Provision for the accumulation of one day leave for every 20 days worked when work has been done for 180 days instead of 240 days.
  • Equality for women in every sphere: Women have to be permitted to work in every sector at night, but it has to be ensured that provision for their security is made by the employer and consent of women is taken before they work at night.
  • In the event of the death of a worker or injury to a worker due to an accident at his workplace, atleast 50 % share of the penalty would be given. This amount would be in addition to Employees Compensation.
  • Provision of “Social Security Fund” for 40 Crore unorganized workers alongwith GIG and platform workers and will help Universal Social Security coverage
  • Occupational Safety & Health Code to also can now over cover workers from IT and Service Sector.
  • 14 days notice for Strike so that in this period amicable solution comes out.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

CAROTAR 2020 Rules

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAROTAR rules

The Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020 (CAROTAR, 2020) shall come into force from September 21.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In the context of the affairs of which of the following is the phrase “Special Safeguard Mechanisms” mentioned in the news frequently?

(a) United Nations Environment Programme

(b) World Trade Organization

(c) ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement

(d) G-20 Summits

CAROTAR rules

  • Importers will have to do their due diligence to ensure that imported goods meet the prescribed ‘rules of origin’ provisions.
  • This is the essential availing concessional rate of customs duty under free trade agreements (FTAs).
  • A list of minimum information, which the importer is required to possess, has also been provided in the rules along with general guidance.
  • Also, an importer would now have to enter certain origin related information in the Bill of Entry, as available in the Certificate of Origin.

Why need CAROTAR?

  • CAROTAR 2020 supplements the existing operational certification procedures prescribed under different trade agreements.
  • India has inked FTAs with several countries, including Japan, South Korea and ASEAN members.
  • Under such agreements, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate import/customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.
  • The new rules will assist customs authorities in the smooth clearance of legitimate imports under FTAs.

Its significance

  • The ASEAN FTA allows imports of most items at nil or concessional basic customs duty from the 10-nation bloc.
  • Major imports to India come from five ASEAN countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • The benefit of concessional customs duty rate applies only if an ASEAN member country is the country of origin of goods.
  • This means that goods originating from China and routed through these countries will not be eligible for customs duty concessions under the ASEAN FTA.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance: A strong EC Act is still needed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EC Act

Mains level : Regulation of essential commodities

As the Union government announced massive reforms as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.  All attention went to three agriculture sector ordinances related to farmers’ trade, contract farming and amendments in the Essential Commodities Act.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Discuss how Essential Commodities Act works to maintain fair prices of commodities for consumers.

Recent amendment to the EC Act

  • Recently, the Centre notified an Amendment Ordinance to the EC Act.
  • A new sub-section 1A in Section 3 of the act stipulated control orders — with respect to the supply of certain foodstuffs was added.
  • It would be issued only under extraordinary circumstances that may include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity of grave nature.

An order for regulating stock limit of any agricultural produce may be issued only if there is:

  • A full increase in the retail price of horticultural produce, or
  • A 50 per cent increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items over the price prevailing immediately preceding a year or the average retail price in the past five years, whichever is lower

The Essential Commodities Act

  • The EC Act, 1955 was enacted at a time when the country faced an acute shortage of several commodities, especially food items.
  • Under the act, an ‘essential commodity’ is a commodity specified under the schedule of the Act.
  • The Union government is empowered to amend the schedule to add or remove a commodity to said schedule in the public interest and in consultation with state governments.
  • The schedule was amended recently in March 2020, when the Centre declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities and fixed their prices.

Issues over the amendment ordinance:

1. Ordinance route and federalism

  • Though agriculture is a state subject, the concurrent list empowers the Centre to legislate on production and trade and supply of foodstuffs.
  • By taking the ordinance route, a clear attempt was made to bypass the parliamentary process.
  • When a proposed amendment is introduced in Parliament, it is open to debate, scrutiny, comments and valuable inputs from stakeholders before being passed.

2. Surpassing concerns

  • Critical legislation like this should certainly have been put before Parliament.
  • The Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-state relations pointed out that the Centre disproportionately empower itself in the sphere of agriculture.
  • The power of the Centre in agriculture management has certainly increased through this ordinance.
  • States like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have repeatedly called for transfer such entities from the Concurrent to the State list.

3. Constitutional validity and Ninth Schedule

  • The constitutional validity of price fixation under the act was in question before the Supreme Court in the Prag Ice and Oil Mills case, 1978.
  • It was observed that the dominant purpose of price fixation was to ensure availability of essential commodities to consumers at a fair price.
  • It was also held that availability of an essential commodity to the common man, at a fair price, must rank higher than any other consideration.
  • The Essential Commodities Act is enlisted under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. This does not, however, mean it is outside the scope of judicial review.

4. EC Act is no exception

  • The Ninth Schedule came under scrutiny after the landmark IR Coelho, 2007 judgement.
  • The Supreme Court said the laws inserted in it after April 24, 1973 — the day the Kesavananda Bharti verdict was pronounced — are also open to judicial review if they are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Farmers may approach the Supreme Court if they feel laws such as the Essential Commodities Act violate their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 21 or 32.

5. Questions over the amendment

  • The ordinance does not expressly define ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which ‘may’ include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamities of a grave nature.
  • Even in extraordinary circumstances, the government only ‘may’ choose to exercise regulation.
  • Such legislative ambiguity makes one question the entire exercise of introducing this particular provision.

6. Farmers stake are still at risk

  • Drastic changes such as the removal of stock limits and exemption to exporters, traders and value chain participants may not help farmers directly.
  • Big corporates and MNC may prefer to stock up their quota at the time of harvest when prices are low and, thus, would not need to buy from farmers when prices rise.
  • If farmers decide to retain produce for later, prices may not go up or the private sector may not enter the market to purchase.

Conclusion

  • India no longer faces food shortage problems, according to the Economic Survey, 2020.
  • What is seemingly ignored, however, is the population of India increased to 1.3 billion in 2020 from 360 million in 1951.
  • There are more mouths to feed and the responsibility of ensuring food security to the masses cannot be shunned.
  • Sights of migrants scraping for morsels of food during the COVID-19 crisis continue to haunt.
  • Our policies, thus, must ensure sustainable farm growth taking into consideration factors like climate change, land holdings, consumer capacity and farmers’ interests.

Original article:

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/essential-commodities-amendment-ordinance-a-strong-ec-act-is-still-needed-72540

LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

No medical examination for Trans Persons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Trans-persons rights

After facing flak from the transgender community, the Centre has done away with the requirement of a medical examination for trans persons applying for a certificate of identity in its latest draft rules framed under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the salient features of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019? Also, discuss the loopholes.

What are the new rules?

  • The draft of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, published stated that a District Magistrate would issue a transgender identity certificate and card based on an affidavit by the applicant, but without any medical examination.

Issue with the earlier draft

  • An earlier draft of the rules had mandated a report from a psychologist along with the affidavit for the application.
  • The transgender rights movement had opposed this, as it was seen as going against a trans person’s right to self-identification, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.

Change of gender is permissible

  • In case of change of gender, the application for new identification would require a certificate from the medical superintendent or chief medical officer of the medical institution where the applicant the surgery.
  • For this, the Centre has proposed a series of welfare schemes, including making at least one hospital in each State equipped to provide safe and free gender-affirming surgery and counselling and hormone replacement therapy among others.

Back2Basics: The 2014 Judgement on Trans-persons Rights

  • The Supreme Court in 2014 recognized transgenders as the third gender in a landmark ruling, saying it was addressing a “human rights issue”.
  • The ruling came after it heard a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) demanding equal rights.
  • The judgements said that non-recognition of gender identity amounts to discrimination under Article 15, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • The spirit of the constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender said justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri in their ruling.
  • Self-identification as man or woman, irrespective of sexual reassignment surgery, was now protected by law.
  • The judges said rights such as the right to vote, own property, marry and to “claim a formal identity” would be made available “more meaningfully” to the transgender community as a result of the ruling.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

The Parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019.

Key Features

  • Definition of a transgender person: The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes transmen and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
  • Certificate of identity: A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • Prohibition against discrimination: The Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to:
    • Education, employment, healthcare.
    • Access to or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public.
    • Right to movement, right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property.
    • Opportunity to hold public or private office.
    • Access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is.
  • Health care
    • The Bill also seeks to provide rights of health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.
    • It also states that the government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them.
  • It calls for establishing a National Council for Transgender persons (NCT).
  • Punishment: It states that the offences against transgender persons will attract imprisonment between six months and two years, in addition to a fine.

UDAY Scheme for Discoms

[pib] Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Highlights of the policy

The Ministry of Power has issued a draft proposal for amendment of Electricity Act, 2003 in the form of the draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill 2020

Major amendments proposed in the Electricity Act are as follows:

Viability of DISCOMs

  • Cost reflective Tariff: To eliminate the tendency of some Commissions to provide for regulatory assets, it is being provided that the Commissions shall determine tariffs that are reflective of  cost so as to enable Discoms to recover their costs.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer: It is proposed that tariff be determined by Commissions without taking into account the subsidy, which will be given directly by the government to the consumers.

Sanctity of Contracts

  • Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority:  Such an authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court is proposed to be set-up with powers of the Civil Court to enforce performance of contracts related to purchasing or sale or transmission of power between a generating, distribution or transmission companies.
  • Establishment of adequate Payment Security Mechanism for scheduling of electricity: It is proposed to empower Load Dispatch Centres to oversee the establishment of adequate payment security mechanism before scheduling dispatch of electricity, as per contracts.

Strengthening the regulatory regime

  • Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL): It proposed to increase the strength of APTEL to seven apart from the Chairperson so that multiple benches can be set-up to facilitate quick disposal of cases.
  • Doing away with multiple Selection Committees: It is proposed to have one Selection Committee for selection of Chairpersons and Members of the Central and State Commissions and uniform qualifications for appointments of Chairperson and Members.
  • Penalties: In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission, section 142 and section 146 of the Electricity Act are proposed to be amended to provide for higher penalties.

Renewable and Hydro Energy

  • National Renewable Energy Policy: It is proposed to provide for a policy document for the development and promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy. It is also proposed that a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from hydro sources of energy is to be specified by the Commissions.
  • Penalties: It is being further proposed to levy penalties for non-fulfilment of obligation to buy electricity from renewable and/or hydro sources of energy.

Miscellaneous

  • Cross border trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.
  • Franchisees and Distribution sub licensees: It is proposed to provide that the Distribution Companies, if they so desire, may engage Franchisees or Sub-Distribution Licensees to distribute electricity on its behalf in a particular area within its area of supply. However, it will be the DISCOM which shall be the licensee, and therefore, ultimately responsible for ensuring quality distribution of electricity in its area of supply.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What is Finance Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Finance Bill

Mains level : Finance Bill

The Parliament has passed the Finance Bill 2020 with 40 amendments without any discussion.

Highlights of the Bill

  • Among the important amendments included was one enabling the government to raise additional excise duty on petrol by up to Rs 18 per litre and diesel by up to Rs 12 per litre when required.
  • Amendments enabling the taxation of NRIs’ India-controlled income above Rs 15 lakh, and another extending the DDT exemption to REITs and Infrastructure Investment trusts were passed.
  • The Bill also changes the definition of ‘Resident’, as stipulated under the Income Tax Act.
  • Presently, a person is considered a resident of India, i.e. their global income is taxable in India if they are in the country for more than 182 days a year. This has now been reduced to 120 days.
  • The amendments also include provisions for levying TDS of 1 per cent on e-commerce transactions.

What is a Finance Bill?

  • As per Article 110 of the Constitution, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister.
  • This Bill encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
  • The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament. Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.

Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill

1) Money Bill

  • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations.
  • The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days.
  • However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.

2) Finance Bill

  • In a general sense, any Bill that relates to revenue or expenditure is a Financial Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is introduced in Lok Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha can recommend amendments in the bill. However, the bill has to be passed by the Parliament within 75 days of introduction.

>Types of Finance Bills

Type I

  • Financial Bill Cat-1 is a bill which contains any of the matters specified in Article 110 but does not exclusively deal with such matters.
  • For example- a bill which contains a taxation clause, but does not deal solely with taxation under Article 117 (1), has two features in common with a money bill.
  1. It cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. It can only be introduced in Lok Sabha with the prior recommendation of the President.(Similarities)
  • But has one feature uncommon that is, not being a Money Bill, the Rajya Sabha has the same power to reject or amend such Financial Bill subject to limitation.

Type II

  • It is a finance bill which merely involves expenditure and does not include any of the matters specified in Article 110.
  • It is an Ordinary Bill and may be initiated in either House and the Rajya Sabha has full power to reject or ament it.
  • It is thus apparent that all Money Bills are Financial Bills but all Financial Bills are not Money Bills.

Who decides the Bill is a Finance Bill?

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is authorised to decide whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not.
  • Also, the Speaker’s decision shall be deemed to be final.

Why Finance Bill is needed?

  • The Union Budget proposes many tax changes for the upcoming financial year, even if not all of those proposed changes find a mention in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
  • These proposed changes pertain to several existing laws dealing with various taxes in the country.
  • The Finance Bill seeks to insert amendments into all those laws concerned, without having to bring out a separate amendment law for each of those Acts.
  • For instance, a Union Budget’s proposed tax changes may require amending the various sections of the Income Tax law, Stamp Act, Money Laundering law, etc.
  • The Finance Bill overrides and makes changes in the existing laws wherever required.

What changes can be made via Finance Bill?

  • The most awaited changes in the tax proposals in the Union Budget usually pertain to personal income tax.
  • For taxpayers across the country, the most awaited moment is when the Finance Minister’s speech announces an increase in minimum income threshold, or declares any changes in income tax slabs to make it less costly, or other exemptions.
  • In addition, there might be changes in the rules, procedures, and deadlines for filing tax returns or the payment of tax itself.
  • For instance, there might be a change in the amount of penalty for missing the deadline. Those proposed changes would typically need to be brought in via amending the Income Tax Act.
  • Among other changes, the FM may propose in the Union Budget with regard to the rates or processes for payment or administration of stamp duty levied on various instruments.
  • Such a change would need to be brought in via an amendment to the Stamp Act.
  • Since the introduction of GST, there is no amendment to indirect taxes in the Union Budget, since that is under the purview of the GST Council.

 

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

New environment impact norm cuts time for public hearing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EIA in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

A set of key updates to India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act has been proposed to reduce the time given to people to air objections.

Features proposed by the amendment

  • The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006, which specifies a “minimum of 30 days” for people to respond.
  • The current version of the update, which will likely become law in 60 days, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
  • The public hearing process is considered a key component of the EIA. An organisation has to submit a detailed plan, as part of the EIA process that details the nature, need, potential impact and remedial measures, if their proposed infrastructure project threatens to significantly impact a region.
  • It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in India

  • EIA is a management tool to minimize adverse impacts of developmental projects on the environment and to achieve sustainable development through timely, adequate, corrective and protective mitigation measures.
  • The MoEFCC uses EIA Notification 2006 as a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of rapid industrialization on the environment and for reversing those trends which may lead to climate change in long run.
  • EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.

EIA stages

  1. Screening: This stage decides which projects a full or partial assessment need study.
  2. Scoping: This stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions that avoid or at least reduce the adverse impacts of the project.
  3. Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: This stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.
  4. EIA Report: In this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  5. Decision making: The decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.
  6. Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: This stage monitors whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.

Scope of Environmental Clearance (EC)

  • Environmental clearance is required in respect of all new projects or activities listed in the Schedule to the 2006 notification and their expansion and modernization, including any change in product –mix.
  • Since EIA 2006 the various developmental projects have been re-categorised into category ‘A’ and category ‘B’ depending on their threshold capacity and likely pollution potential.
  • They require prior EC respectively from MOEFCC or the concerned State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs).
  • Where state level authorities have not been constituted, the clearance would be provided by the MOEFCC.

The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

 

 

The Union Minister of HRD has introduced The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha.

Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019

The Bill is intended to convert India’s three deemed-to-be Sanskrit universities — (i) Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, (ii) Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, and (iii) Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati — into Central Sanskrit Universities.

The following are the salient features of the Bill:

What the universities will do

The proposed central universities will:

  1. disseminate and advance knowledge for the promotion of Sanskrit,
  2. make special provisions for integrated courses in humanities, social sciences, and science, and
  3. train manpower for the overall development and preservation of Sanskrit and allied subjects.

Powers and functions

These include:

  1. prescribing courses of study and conducting training programmes,
  2. granting degrees, diplomas, and certificates,
  3. providing facilities through a distance education system,
  4. conferring autonomous status on a college or an institution,
  5. providing instructions for education in Sanskrit and allied subjects.

University authorities

Some of the authorities that the universities will have:

  • A court, which will review the policies of the university and suggest measures for its development.
  • An Executive Council, which will be the principal executive body. The 15-member council will include the Vice-Chancellor appointed by the Centre, who will be the chairperson; a joint secretary of the Ministry of HRD, and two eminent academics from the field of Sanskrit or allied subjects.
  • The council will, among other functions, create teaching and academic posts and their appointment, and manage the revenue and property of the university.
  • An Academic and Activity Council, which will supervise academic policies.
  • A Board of Studies, which will approve the subjects for research and recommend measures to improve standards of teaching.

Visitor of the universities

  • Like at all central universities, the President of India will be the Visitor of the central Sanskrit universities.
  • He may appoint persons to review and inspect the functioning of the University.
  • The Executive Council may take action based on the findings of the inspection.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

In news: Two-child Norm

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 47

Mains level : Population explosion in India

A Rajya Sabha MP has introduced a Private Member’s Bill on two-child norms.

Key propositions of the Bill

  • Essentially, the Bill aims to amend the Constitution in order to incentivise limiting families to two children by offering tax concessions, priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions, among other things.
  • It proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.

Article 47A

  • The Bill has sought the incorporation of a new provision, Article 47A in Part IV of the Constitution, to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the “small-family” norm.
  • Article 47A says the following:

 “47A. The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.”

Note: Article 47 of the Indian Constitution is one of the DPSP  which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.

Why such Bill?

  • The Bill’s Statement of Object and Reasons states that the fact that India’s population has already crossed 125 crore is “really frightening”.
  • It goes on to say that India’s population has doubled in the last 40 years and that it is expected to unseat China as the world’s most populous nation in the next couple of decades.
  • Despite the fact that we have framed a National Population Control Policy, we are the second most populous country in the world.
  • Further, the population explosion will cause “many problems” for our future generations.
  • The Bill also makes a reference to “overburdened” natural resources that are overexploited because of overpopulation.

Statewide policies relating to two-child norms

Assam Cabinet has recently decided that those with more than two children will be ineligible for government jobs from 2021. Other states with similar norms:

Rajasthan: For government jobs, candidates who have more than two children are not eligible for appointment.

Madhya Pradesh: The state follows the two-child norm since 2001. Under Madhya Pradesh Civil Services (General Condition of Services) Rules, if the third child was born on or after January 26, 2001, one becomes ineligible for government service. The rule also applies to higher judicial services.

Telangana: Under Section 19 (3) read with Sections 156 (2) and 184 (2) of Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, a person with more than two children shall be disqualified from contesting election. However, if a person had more than two children before May 30, 1994, he or she will not be disqualified.  The same sections in the Andhra Pradesh: AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, apply to Andhra Pradesh, where a person having more than two children shall be disqualified from contesting election.

Gujarat: In 2005, the government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act. The amendment disqualifies anyone with more than two children from contesting elections for bodies of local self-governance — panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations.

Maharashtra: The Maharashtra Zilla Parishads And Panchayat Samitis Act disqualifies people who have more than two children from contesting local body elections (gram panchayats to municipal corporations). The Maharashtra Civil Services Rules, 2005 states that a person having more than two children is disqualified from holding a post in the state government. Women with more than two children are also not allowed to benefit from the Public Distribution System.

Karnataka: The Karnataka (Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj) Act, 1993 does not bar individuals with more than two children from contesting elections to local bodies like the gram panchayat. The law, however, says that a person is ineligible to contest “if he does not have a sanitary latrine for the use of the members of his family”.

Odisha: The Odisha Zilla Parishad Act bars those individuals with more than two children from contesting.

Human Rights Issues

Karnataka Anti-superstition Law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Superstitions and associated socail injustice

A controversial anti-superstition law in Karnataka was formally notified by the current government.

Provisions of the earlier drafts

  • The law, which was initially drafted as the Karnataka Anti Superstition Bill, 2013, was a pet project of former CM Siddaramaiah.
  • The model Bill held human dignity as its central tenet and sought eradication of irrational practices found in different communities.
  • The first draft made practices like inflicting self-wounds and conversion through bribery illegal.
  • Some of the proposals opposed by religious leaders and political parties in the early draft were the ban on practices such as the carrying of priests in palanquins, worshipping the feet of religious leaders.
  • It sought to ban Made Snana practised in the Dakshina Kannada region where Dalits roll over the remains of food consumed by upper castes.

The current version

  • A Bill with sizable consensus across the political spectrum finally evolved in 2017. A total of 16 practices have been banned under the law.
  • The practice of Vaastu, astrology, pradakshina or circumabulation of holy places, yatras, parikramas performed at religious places were kept out of the purview of the law.
  • Made Snana was banned under the law with respect to having Dalits roll over leftover food.
  • The practice has now been modified to be voluntary and not involving leftover food.
  • Practices such as barring menstruating women from entering houses of worship and their homes, coercing people to take part in fire-walks, and beating up people by declaring them evil, are among the irrational practices that have been banned under the 2017 law.

Penalties

  • The law stipulates “imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to seven years and with fine which shall not be less than five thousand rupees but which may extend to fifty thousand rupees”, as punishment for violations.
  • The law is to implemented by the state police with the appointment of vigilance officers under the law at police stations.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[pib] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the bill

Mains level : MTP: Ethical and health issues surrounding it

The Union Cabinet has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

About the Bill

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.
  • It aims to increase upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy under certain conditions and to strengthen access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.

Salient features of proposed amendments:

  • Proposing requirement for opinion of one provider for termination of pregnancy, up to 20 weeks of gestation and introducing the requirement of opinion of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  • Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include ‘vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.
  • Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
  • Anonymity of the person: Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.

Benefits

  • It is a step towards safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this.
  • Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
  • The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.

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

Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Disha Act

Mains level : Need for stringent framework for crimes against women and children

The AP Legislative Assembly has passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019).

Disha Act

  • The bill provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gangrape and expediting trials of such cases to within 21 days.
  • The Act envisages the completion of investigation in seven days and trial in 14 working days, where there is adequate conclusive evidence, and reducing the total judgment time to 21 days from the existing four months.
  • The AP Disha Act also prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
  • In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent convictions.
  • For this, a new Section 354 E will be added in IPC, 1860.

Highlights of the Disha Act

Introducing women and children offenders registry

  • The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government will establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.
  • This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.

Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes

  • At present, provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
  • The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
  • Provision is given by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Reducing the judgment period to 21 days

  • The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period)
  • As per the  Disha Act 2019, the judgment will now have to be pronounced in 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence.
  • The investigation shall be completed in seven working days and trial shall be completed in 14 working days.
  • For this, amendments have been made to Section 173 and Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 and via the introduction of additional clauses in the act.
  • The same has been done in cases involving minors.

Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children

  • In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from a minimum of three years to maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
  • In the Disha Act 2019, apart from rape, the Government of Andhra Pradesh prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
  • New Sections 354F and Section 354G ‘Sexual Assault on Children’ is being inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Punishment for harassment of women through social media

  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, in cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment.
  • The imprisonment will be for a term which may extend to two years on first conviction and with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years on second and subsequent conviction.
  • At present, no such provision exists in the Indian Penal Code. A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860

Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh

  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the government will establish exclusive special courts in each district to ensure speedy trial.
  • These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
  • The state government has introduced the ‘Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women & Children Act, 2019′.

Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases 

  • At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the period for disposal of appeal cases has been reduced to three months.
  • Amendments are being made in Section 374 and 377 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973.

Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts

  • There is no such provision in existing laws.
  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, the government will constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.
  • The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.

Right To Privacy

Keywords in Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various keywords mentioned in the Bill

Mains level : Personal Data Protection: Prospects and challenges

The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019, introduced in Lok Sabha this week, has been referred to a joint select committee. Here are some terms described in the Bill:

  • Data: Information that is represented in a form that is more appropriate for processing.
  • Cross-border transfer: The movement of data across nation borders
  • Data localisation: Restrictions on the transfer of data outside national borders.
  • Data processing: The analysis of data to glean patterns, turning raw data into useful information
  • Personal data: Data that identifies an individual
  • Non-personal data: Data that is anonymised, most probably because it is presented in an aggregated or summary form
  • Data principal: The individual whose data is being collected and processed
  • Data fiduciary: The entity that collects and/or processes a data principal’s data
  • Data processor: The entity that a fiduciary might give the data to for processing, a third-party entity
  • Notice: The fiduciary gives the principal a notice of the collection, including the purpose, the type of data, fiduciary contact details, the principals’ rights, and more
  • Right to correction and erasure: Principal’s right to correct and erase their data
  • Right to data portability: The right to receive the data from the fiduciary in a machine-readable format
  • The right to be forgotten: The right to restrict continuing disclosure of personal data
  • Privacy by design: Developing the product and business with privacy concerns in mind
  • Significant data fiduciaries: The Data Protection Authority labels certain as this depending on its data processing, such as volume of data, sensitivity of data, company turnover, risk of harm, and newer technologies.
  • Data protection impact assessment: The fiduciary’s internal assessment
  • Data protection officer: A representative of the fiduciary that coordinates with the Authority
  • Critical personal data: The government decides the definition from time to time and it cannot be taken outside of India at all.
  • Adjudicating officers: Officers in the DPA with the power to call people forward for inquiry into fiduciaries, assess compliance, and determine penalties on the fiduciary or compensation to the principal. Adjudication decisions can be appealed in the appellate tribunal.

Sensitive personal data

  • Data related to finances, health, official identifiers, sex life, sexual orientation, biometric, genetics, transgender status, intersex status, caste or tribe, religious or political belief or affiliation.
  • This data can only be sent abroad with Authority approval.

Data Protection Authority

  • A government authority tasked with protecting individuals’ data and executing this Act through codes of practice, inquiries, audits and more
  • The authority has four groups of tasks. In adjudication, the DPA receives grievances and handles enforcement.
  • In monitoring, it oversees internal assessments and external audits of the fiduciaries, as well as tracks data security breaches.
  • In policy, the DPA defines sensitive personal data, reasonable purposes for processing, forms of consent, and the lawful transfer of data outside of India. Finally, the Authority conducts research and awareness building about data protection.

Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

The New Seeds Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Salient features of The New Seeds Bill, 2019

Govt plans to change existing law to ensure availability of quality seeds to farmers with a proposed Bill to replace The Seeds Act, 1966

The New Seeds Bill, 2019

  • The new Seeds Bill, 2019 provides for compulsory registration of “any kind or variety of seeds” that are sought to be sold.
  • According to Section 14 of the draft Bill, “no seed of any kind or variety… shall, for the purpose of sowing or planting by any person, be sold unless such kind or variety is registered”.
  • In other words, even hybrids/varieties of private companies will need to be registered, and their seeds would have to meet the minimum prescribed standards relating to germination, physical and genetic purity, etc.
  • Breeders would be required to disclose the “expected performance” of their registered varieties “under given conditions”.
  • If the seed of such registered kind or variety “fails to provide the expected performance under such given conditions”, the farmer “may claim compensation from the producer, dealer, distributor or vendor under The Consumer Protection Act, 1986”.

Why need such a bill?

  • The 1966 Act only covers “notified kinds or varieties of seeds”.
  • Thus, regulation of quality, too, is limited to the seeds of varieties that have been officially notified.
  • Such varieties would be mostly those that are bred by public sector institutions — the likes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the state agricultural universities (SAUs).
  • And the provisions of The Seeds Act, 1966, apply only to certified seeds produced of notified varieties.

What is the context for bringing the Bill?

  • The 1966 legislation was enacted at the time of the Green Revolution when the country hardly had any private seed industry.
  • The high-yielding wheat and paddy varieties, which made India self-reliant in cereals by the 1980s, were developed by the various ICAR institutes and SAUs.
  • These public sector institutions have retained their dominance in breeding of wheat, paddy (including basmati), sugarcane, pulses, soyabean, groundnut, mustard, potato, onion and other crops.
  • Over the last three decades or more, however, private companies and MNCs have made significant inroads, particularly into crops that are amenable to hybridization.
  • Their seeds are first-generation hybrids produced by crossing two genetically diverse plants, and whose yields tend to be higher than that of either of the parents; the grains from these, even if saved as re-used as seed, will not give the same “F1” vigour.

So, are privately-bred hybrids not covered under any regulation?

  • The current Seeds Act, as already noted, applies only to notified varieties. Also, unless a variety or hybrid is notified, its seeds cannot be certified.
  • Most of the private hybrids marketed in India, by virtue of not being officially “released”, are neither “notified” nor “certified”. Instead, they are “truthful labeled”.
  • The companies selling them simply state that the seeds inside the packets have a minimum germination (if 100 are sown, at least 75-80, say, will produce plants), genetic purity and physical purity (proportion of non-contamination by other crop/weed seeds or inert matter).

How does the proposed Seeds Bill, 2019 address the above lacuna?

  • It does away with the concept of “notified” variety.
  • By providing for compulsory registration of “any kind or variety of seeds”, private hybrids — whether officially “released” or “truthful labeled” — will automatically be brought under regulatory purview.
  • It must be mentioned here that the Seeds (Control) Amendment Order of 2006 under the Essential Commodities Act mandates dealers to ensure minimum standards of germination, purity, and other quality parameters even in respect of “other than notified kind or variety of seeds”.
  • Enforcing mandatory registration under a new Seed Act, encompassing all varieties and hybrids, is expected to bring greater accountability from the industry, even while rendering the Seeds Control Order redundant.

Banking Sector Reforms

International Financial Services Centres (IFSC) Authority Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IFSC Bill

Mains level : Banking regulation in India

The International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 is likely to be taken up by Parliament.

IFSC Authority Bill, 2019

  • The Bill provides for the establishment of an Authority to develop and regulate the financial services market in the International Financial Services Centres in India.
  • The Bill will be applicable to all International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) set up under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005.

What is IFSC?

  • IFSCs are intended to provide Indian corporates with easier access to global financial markets, and to complement and promote further development of financial markets in India.
  • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches/subsidiaries of financial institutions (FIs) to India.
  • This is done by offering business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centres in the world like London and Singapore.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

What is the need for such an Authority?

  • The release issued by the government explained that currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
  • However, the dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination.
  • It also requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs.
  • The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
  • Hence, a need is felt for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India to provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants.
  • Further, this would also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective.
  • The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in sync with the global best practices.

What is the Authority that the Bill seeks to set up?

  • The International Financial Services Centres Authority will consist of nine members, appointed by the central government.
  • They will include, apart from the chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the IRDAI, and the PFRDA; and two members from the Ministry of Finance.
  • In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Search Committee.
  • All members of the IFSC Authority will have a term of three years, subject to reappointment.

Functions of the Authority

  • According to the PRS note, the Authority will regulate financial products such as securities, deposits or contracts of insurance, financial services, and financial institutions which have been previously approved by any appropriate regulator such as RBI or SEBI, in an IFSC.
  • It will follow all processes which are applicable to such financial products, financial services, and financial institutions under their respective laws.
  • The appropriate regulators have been listed in a Schedule to the Bill, and include the RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, and PFRDA.
  • The central government may amend this schedule through a notification.
  • Other functions of the Authority are the regulation of any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions in an IFSC, which may be notified by the central government; and to recommend to the central government any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions, which may be permitted in an IFSC.

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the bill

Mains level : Old age care


The Union Cabinet has approved The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

About the Bill

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007, passed by Parliament during the term of UPA-I.
  • The 2007 Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 20, 2007, and passed on December 5 and 6 of that year by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively.
  • Among the key features of the Bill, as per a summary were:
  1. Children and heirs were legally obligated to provide maintenance to senior citizens.
  2. State governments were permitted to establish old age homes in every district.
  3. Senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves, were given the right to apply to a maintenance tribunal seeking a monthly allowance from their children or heirs.
  4. State governments were to set up maintenance tribunals in every subdivision to decide the level of maintenance. Appellate tribunals were to be established at the district level.
  5. State governments were to set the ceiling for the maximum monthly maintenance allowance. The Bill capped the maximum monthly allowance at Rs 10,000 per month.
  6. Punishment for not paying the required monthly allowance was fixed at Rs 5,000, or up to three months in prison, or both.

The proposed changes

  • The “major salient features” of the proposed Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill are:

(i) Definition of ‘children’ and ‘parents’ has been expanded.

(ii) Definition of ‘maintenance’ and ‘welfare’ has been expanded.

(iii) Mode of submission of application for maintenance has been enlarged.

(iv) Ceiling of Rs 10,000/- as maintenance amount has been removed.

(v) Preference to dispose of applications of senior citizens, above eighty years of age, early has been included.

(vi) Registration of Senior Citizens Care Homes/Homecare Service Agencies etc. have been included.

(vii) Minimum standards for senior citizen care homes has been included in the Bill.

(viii) Appointment of Nodal Police Officers for Senior Citizens in every Police Station and District level Special Police Unit for Senior Citizens has been included.

(ix) Maintenance of Helpline for senior citizens has been included.

LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Transgenders and their upliftment measures


The Parliament has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, with the Rajya Sabha approving it by a voice vote. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill in December 2018.

Various provisions of the Bill

Defining Transperson

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
  • It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.

Prohibition against discrimination

  • It prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to education, employment, healthcare, access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public.
  • Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.
  • No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.

HRD measures

  • A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • Educational institutions funded or recognised by the relevant government shall provide inclusive facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination.
  • The government must provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.

Grievances redressal

  • The National Council for Transgender persons (NCT) chaired by Union Minister for Social Justice, will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies with respect to transgender persons.
  • It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

Legal Protection

The Bill imposes penalties for the offences against transgender persons like bonded labour, denial of use of public places, removal from household & village and physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.

Named Driver Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Telematics

Mains level : Salient features of the Named Driver Policy

Soon, the way we drive will determine our motor insurance cover a/c to the Named Driver Policy.

Named Driver Policy

The ‘Named Driver Policy’ to the use of telematics data to reclassification has been recommended by the IRDAI against the own damage (OD) segment of motor insurance.

Why such move?

  • Vehicle plying on the road is a risk, but the driver who drives the vehicle is a key determinant of the risk.
  • Such a move is part of an effort to make pricing reflect risk, which is an international practice.
  • Opting for driver information in a policy will help integrate information from government authorities, particularly about traffic violations.

Use of Telematics

  • Another recommendation was adoption of telematics for motor insurance.
  • Use of telematics or tracking devices will monitor the driving habits such as acceleration, and braking and will provide feedback to the driver.
  • Auto owners only pay the premium aligned to their driving profile and thus avoid paying for coverage based on one-size-fits-all system.
  • Telematics will eventually pave the way for a ‘Pay As You Drive’ and ‘Pay How You Drive’ model.

Benefits for Insurance companies

  • Over time, with access to drivers’ or their driving habit data, insurers will be able to develop sharper risk-based underwriting practices.
  • Having information about drivers, with details such as age and gender would help assess the risk better.
  • Also, the insurance firm will pay the claim amount in full only if the named driver was at the wheel.