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

NITI Aayog proposes revisions to National Food Security Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NFS Act

Mains level : Assurance of Food Security

The NITI Aayog has recently proposed a revision in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 for lowering the coverage of both rural and urban population to save up to Rs 47,229 crore annually.

National Food Security (NFS) Act

  • The NFS Act, 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the GoI.
  • It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme and the ICDS are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.

Key provisions of NFSA

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains at a subsidised price.
  • It includes rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to the provisions made under the National Food Security Act, 2013, consider the following statements:

  1. The families coming under the category of ‘below poverty line (BPL)’ only are eligible to receive subsidized food grains.
  2. The eldest woman in a household, of age 18 years or above, shall be the head of the Household for the purpose of issuance of a ration card.
  3. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a ‘take-home ration’ of 1600 calories per day during pregnancy and for six months thereafter.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

What has NITI Aayog asked for review?

  • A revision of CIPs is one of the issues that have been discussed.
  • The other issues are updating of the population covered under the NFSA, and beneficiary identification criteria.
  • Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories — “priority households”, and families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
  • Priority households are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, whereas AAY households are entitled to 35 kg per month at the same prices.

Provisions for review

  • Under Schedule-I of the Act, these subsidised prices were fixed for “a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act”.
  • While different states began implementing the Act at different dates, the deemed date of its coming into effect is July 5, 2013, and the three-year period was therefore completed on July 5, 2016.
  • However, the government has yet not revised subsidised prices.
  • The government can do so under Schedule-I of the Act, after completion of the three-year period.
  • To revise the prices, the government can amend Schedule-I through a notification, a copy of which has to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as possible after it is issued.
  • The revised prices cannot exceed the minimum support price for wheat and coarse grains, and the derived minimum support price for rice.

The question of coverage

  • The Act has prescribed the coverage under “eligible households” — 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population.
  • On the basis of Census 2011 figures and the national rural and urban coverage ratios, 81.35 crore persons are covered under NFSA currently.
  • This overall figure has been divided among the states and UTs, based on the NSSO Household Consumer Expenditure Survey 2011-12.
  • Section 9 of the Act deals with an update of coverage of the population under the Act.
  • However, given the population increase since then, there have been demands from the states and union territories to update the list by ensuring an annual updating system under NFSA.

Propositions by NITI Aayog

  • The NITI Aayog has suggested that the national rural and urban coverage ratio be reduced from the existing 75-50 to 60-40.
  • If this reduction happens, the number of beneficiaries under the NFSA will drop to 71.62 crores (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).
  • To make these changes in the law, the government will have to amend sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the NFSA. For this, it will require parliamentary approval.

Implications of the move

  • If the national coverage ratio is revised downward, the Centre can save up to Rs 47,229 crore (as estimated by the NITI Aayog paper).
  • On the other hand, if the rural-urban coverage ratio remains at 75-50, then the total number of people covered will increase from the existing 81.35 crores to 89.52 crore —an increase of 8.17 crore.
  • This estimate by the NITI Aayog is based on the projected 2020 population, and, according to the paper, will result in an additional subsidy requirement of Rs 14,800 crore.

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Swiss Neutrality in World Affairs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swiss Neutrality

Mains level : Swiss Neutrality as a foreign policy tool

Switzerland’s traditional foreign policy of neutrality has become attractive again because of the changing political reality in the world, said its Ambassador recently.

Q.In context to foreign policy, discuss the relevance, benefits and limitations of Swiss Neutrality.(150 W)

What is Swiss Neutrality?

  • Swiss neutrality is one of the main principles of Switzerland’s foreign policy which dictates that Switzerland is not to be involved in armed or political conflicts between other states.
  • This policy is self-imposed, permanent, and armed, designed to ensure external security and promote peace.
  • Under this, Switzerland pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.

Historic significance

  • Switzerland has the oldest policy of military neutrality in the world; it has not participated in a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.
  • The European powers (Austria, France, the UK, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Sweden) agreed at the Congress of Vienna in May 1815 that Switzerland should be neutral.
  • But final ratification was delayed until after Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated so that some coalition forces could invade France via Swiss territory.

Swiss moves for the status

  • Since World War II, Switzerland has taken a more active role in international affairs by aiding with humanitarian initiatives, but it remains fiercely neutral with regard to military affairs.
  • It has never joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union, and only joined the United Nations in 2002.

Relevance today

  • Neutrality has become necessary as a foreign policy tool as the phase of power politics has returned in world affairs.
  • Now with big power politics, Switzerland’s neutrality and Switzerland as a place to meet is much more attractive again.

Civil Services Reforms

‘Lateral Entry’ into Bureaucracy: Reason, Process, and Controversy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Lateral entry

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the Indian Express.

Background

  • Earlier this month, the UPSC issued an advertisement seeking applications for the posts of Joint Secretary and Director in central government Departments.
  • These individuals, who would make a “lateral entry” into the government secretariat, would be contracted for three to five years.
  • These posts were “unreserved”, meaning were no quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.

UPSC begins lateral entry

  • The new ad is for the second round of such recruitments.
  • Earlier, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director in 2018.

Q.In light of the growing need for Lateral Entry in top secretarial posts, discuss the need for enhancing the professional competence of Civil Servants in India.(150W)

What is ‘Lateral Entry’ into government?

  • NITI Aayog, in 2017 had recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government.
  • These ‘lateral entrants’ would be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All India Services/ Central Civil Services.

What are the ranks invited for this entry?

  • A Joint Secretary, appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), has the third-highest rank (after Secretary and Additional Secretary) in a Department.
  • It functions as the administrative head of a wing in the Department.
  • Directors are a rank below that of Joint Secretary.

What is the government’s reasoning for lateral entry?

  • Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augments the availability of manpower.
  • Government has, from time to time, appointed some prominent persons for specific assignments in government, keeping in view their specialised knowledge and expertise in the domain area.
  • Indeed, the first ARC had pointed out the need for specialization as far back as 1965.
  • The Surinder Nath Committee and the Hota Committee followed suit in 2003 and 2004, respectively, as did the second ARC.
  • In 2005, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and state levels.

Why is lateral entry sometimes criticised?

  • Groups representing SCs, STs and OBCs have protested the fact that there is no reservation in these appointments.
  • Some argue that the government is opening back doors to bring its own lobby openly.

Mentor’s comment: Why is lateral entry necessary?

For the sake of political economy

  • Pushback from bureaucrats, serving and retired, and the sheer institutional inertia of civil services has existed largely unchanged for decades have prevented progress.
  • The importance of economic effectiveness has risen concurrently.
  • That stagnation means the civil services as they exist today—most crucially, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS)—are unsuited to the country’s political economy in many ways.
  • The need for having bureaucrats act as binding agents, no longer exist.
  • Others, such as socioeconomic development, have transmuted to the point where the state’s methods of addressing them are coming in for a rethink.

Why do lateral entries?

  • Currently, there is no correlation between the postings and their area of specialization.
  • There is a higher chance of junior officers who have acquired specialized knowledge and skills gaining much-prized Central government postings.
  • That correlation comes into existence only at a late-career stage.
  • Political interference and the use of transfers as carrot and stick further complicate the picture, often making it difficult for bureaucrats to stay in a posting long enough to gain relevant expertise.

Conclusion

  • Pushback is inevitable since every smallest policy change is resisted in our country.
  • It is both a workaround for the civil services’ structural failings and an antidote to the complacency that can set in a career-based service.
  • The second ARC report points out that it is both possible and desirable to incorporate elements of a position-based system where lateral entry and specialization are common.

Way forward

  • India’s civil services need reform. There is little argument about this.
  • These are not entirely new in India.
  • Domain experts have been brought in from outside the services to head various committees, advisory bodies and organizations.
  • Internal reforms—such as insulation from political pressure and career paths linked to specialization—and external reforms such as lateral entry are complementary.

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

What is Stockholm+50?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Stockholm+50

Mains level : Progress of global climate action

Stockholm+50 is a high-level meeting that the Government of Sweden plans to hold in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the first UN conference on the human environment – the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

The 1972 Stockholm Conference

  • The UN Conference on the Human Environment, also known as the Stockholm Conference, was the first UN conference on the environment and was held between 5 and 16 June 1972 in Stockholm.
  • The meeting’s outcome document – the Stockholm Declaration – included several principles that are still important for environmental management.
  • Another result of the meeting was the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Environment Day, held annually on 5 June.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty drawn at:

(a) United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 1972

(b) UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992

(c) World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002

(d) UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, 2009

Background

  • It’s been a generation since global leaders met in Stockholm in 1972 to discuss environmental challenges.
  • Then the concerns were for the local environment; there was no talk of climate change or even the depletion of the ozone layer.
  • All that came later. In 1972, the discussion was on the toxification of the environment as water and air were foul.

Progress for 50 years

  • The toxification of the environment is still a pressing concern; countries have indeed cleaned up locally but added to the emissions in the global atmosphere.
  • Now, we are out of time as climate change impacts are spiralling out of control.

Perils of Ecological Globalization

  • The fact is we stitched up the global ecological framework in terms of the many agreements only.
  • During this time, we also signed another agreement on free-trade — the economic globalisation agreement.
  • But we never really understood how these two frameworks — ecological and economic globalisation — would counteract each other.
  • As a result, we have worked to build an economic model based on discounting the price of labour and of the environment.

Expectations from Stockholm+50

  • The aim of Stockholm+50 is to contribute to concrete action.
  • It aims at leveraging sustainable consumption and production patterns and nature-based solutions in order to achieve climate-neutral, resilient, circular and inclusive economies.
  • The narrative and result will be further developed together with interested governments and other partners.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

10th century Buddhist Monastery uncovered in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Buddha's Mudra, Vajrayana Sect

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed a Buddhist monastery, believed to be at least 900 years old, buried under a mound in a village situated in a hilly area of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand.

Details of the excavation

  • The findings were significant since the monastery is on the old route to Varanasi, 10 km from Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
  • Archaeologists found four statues of the deity Tara in Varad Mudra and six statues of the Buddha in bhumisparsa Mudra
  • So it is a significant finding as deity Tara’s statues mean this was an important centre of the Vajrayana sect of Buddhism.
  • Vajrayana is a form of Tantric Buddhism, which flourished in India from the 6th to 11th century.

Tap to read more about Buddhism at:

Chapter 5 | Mauryan Period (400BC – 200BC)

Learning: Various Mudra of Buddha

PC: Pinterest

Human Rights Issues

China’s treatment of Uighurs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Uighurs

Mains level : Uighur's genocide

Canada’s House of Commons has voted to declare that China is committing genocide against more than 1 million Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region.

See the hypocrisy of so-called social activists who see farmers protest, anti-terror operations as a crackdown on human rights, while cases like that of Uighurs, Kurds go unnoticed in the global arena!

Who are the Uighurs?

  • There are about 12 million Uighurs, mostly Muslim, living in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
  • The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
  • They make up less than half of the Xinjiang population.
  • In recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.
  • In the early 20th Century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence, but the region was brought under complete control of mainland China’s new Communist government in 1949.

Where is Xinjiang?

  • Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country’s biggest region.
  • Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning – in theory – it has some powers of self-governance. But in practice, both face major restrictions by the central government.
  • It is a mostly desert region, producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton.
  • It is also rich in oil and natural gas and because of its proximity to Central Asia and Europe is seen by Beijing as an important trade link.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Very recently, in which of the following countries have lakhs of people either suffered from severe famine/acute malnutrition or died due to starvation caused by war/ethnic conflicts?
(a) Angola and Zambia
(b) Morocco and Tunisia
(c) Venezuela and Colombia
(d) Yemen and South Sudan

What was the build-up to the crackdown?

  • Anti-Han and separatist sentiment rose in Xinjiang from the 1990s, flaring into violence on occasion.
  • In 2009 some 200 people died in clashes in Xinjiang, which the Chinese blamed on Uighurs who want their own state.
  • Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, police are also using a mobile app to monitor peoples’ behaviour, such as how much electricity they are using and how often they use their front door.
  • Since 2017 when President Xi Jinping issued an order saying all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation, there have been further crackdowns.

What does China say?

  • China says the crackdown is necessary to prevent terrorism and root out Islamist extremism and the camps are an effective tool for re-educating inmates in its fight against terrorism.
  • It insists that Uighur militants are waging a violent campaign for an independent state by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest.
  • China has dismissed claims it is trying to reduce the Uighur population through mass sterilizations as “baseless”, and says allegations of forced labour are “completely fabricated”.

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

Same-sex marriages cannot be recognized: Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : LGBTQ Rights

The Centre has opposed any changes to the existing laws on marriage to recognise same-sex marriages, saying such interference would cause “complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country”.

What is the case?

  • A petition had sought to recognize same-sex marriage.
  • Despite the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage being recognised under the laws of the country”.

What did the Centre say?

  • Living together as partners and having a sexual relationship with same-sex individuals is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept.
  • The Indian concept of family constitutes a husband, a wife and children which necessarily presuppose a biological man as a ‘husband’, a biological woman as a ‘wife’ and the children born out.
  • It said the 2018 landmark judgment of the Supreme Court decriminalizing consensual homosexual sex in India was “neither intended to nor did it in fact, legitimize the human conduct in question”.

Why such a move by the Centre?

  • The registration of marriage of same-sex persons also results in a violation of existing personal as well as codified law provisions — such as ‘degrees of prohibited relationship’; ‘conditions of marriage’; ‘ceremonial and ritual requirements’ under the personal laws governing the individuals”.
  • Any other interpretation except treating ‘husband’ as a biological man and ‘wife’ as a biological woman will make all statutory provisions unworkable, the government cautioned.
  • In a same-sex marriage, it is neither possible nor feasible to term one as ‘husband’ and the other as ‘wife’ in the context of the legislative scheme of various personal laws.

Back2Basics: Article 377 of IPC

  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is an act that criminalizes homosexuality and was introduced in the ear 1861 during the British rule of India.
  • Referred to ‘unnatural offences’ and says whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.
  • However, in a historic verdict, the Supreme Court of India on September 6, 2018, decriminalized Section 377 of the IPC and allowed gay sex among consenting adults in private.
  • The SC ruled that consensual adult sex is not a crime saying sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it.
  • It also said that Section 377 remains in force relating to sex with minors, non-consensual sexual acts, and bestiality.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[pib] Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulation of social media and ott platforms

For the first time, the union government, under the ambit of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms.

Try answering this

Q.What is Over the Top (OTT) media services? Critically analyse the benefits and challenges offered by the OTT media services in India.

Guidelines Related to Social Media

  • Due Diligence To Be Followed By Intermediaries: The Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism: The Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.
  • Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that erodes individual privacy and dignity.

Additional Due Diligence to Be Followed by Significant Social Media Intermediary:

  • Appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules. Such a person should be a resident of India.
  • Appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident in India.
  • Appoint a Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism. Such a person shall be a resident in India.
  • Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints.
  • Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information.

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms

This Code of Ethics prescribes the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.

(a) Self-Classification of Content

  • The OTT platforms, called the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories– U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.
  • The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor.

(b) Norms for news

  • Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.

(c) Self-regulation by the Publisher

  • Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it.
  • The officer shall take a decision on every grievance received it within 15 days.

(d) Self-Regulatory Body

  • There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members.
  • Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not to be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

(e) Oversight Mechanism

  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism.
  • It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices.
  • It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.

Back2Basics: Social Media usage in India

  • The Digital India programme has now become a movement that is empowering common Indians with the power of technology.
  • The extensive spread of mobile phones, the Internet etc. has also enabled many social media platforms to expand their footprints in India.
  • Some portals, which publish analysis about social media platforms and which have not been disputed, have reported the following numbers as the user base of major social media platforms in India:
  1. WhatsApp users: 53 Crore
  2. YouTube users: 44.8 Crore
  3. Facebook users: 41 Crore
  4. Instagram users: 21 Crore
  5. Twitter users: 1.75 Crore
  • These social platforms have enabled common Indians to show their creativity, ask questions, be informed and freely share their views, including constructive criticism of the government and its functionaries.
  • The govt acknowledges and respects the right of every Indian to criticize and disagree as an essential element of democracy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka at the UN Rights Council

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNHRC

Mains level : Sri Lanka at the UN Rights Council

Sri Lanka is facing another UNHRC resolution for its war crimes that took place during the military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

UNHRC report on Sri Lanka

  • The report warned that Sri Lanka’s failure to address human rights violations and war crimes committed in the past had put the country on a “dangerous path”.
  • It rose that this could lead to a “recurrence” of policies and practices that gave rise to the earlier situation.
  • It flagged the accelerating militarization of civilian governmental functions, a reversal of important constitutional safeguards, political obstruction of accountability, intimidation of civil society, and the use of anti-terrorism laws.
  • The shrinking space for independent media and civil society and human rights organisations are also themes in the report.

Try this question:

Q.The triangulation in the ties between Sri Lanka, China and Pakistan is an emerging threat in the Indian Ocean Region. Discuss.

The Resolution 30/1

  • The resolution 30/1 launched in 2015 deals with promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
  • It extended an opportunity to make good on its promises for justice and offered extensive support to accomplish that objective.

Sri Lanka’s intention

  • It is more than Sri Lanka has failed to – and doesn’t intend to — take the necessary, decisive, and sustainable steps necessary to achieve domestic justice and reconciliation.
  • Sri Lanka has officially sought India’s help to muster support against the resolution, which it has described as “unwanted interference by powerful countries”.

Where India comes in

  • The UNHRC is scheduled to hold an “interactive” session on Sri Lanka where the report was to be discussed, and member countries were to make statements. India is expected to make a statement too.
  • Country-specific resolutions against Sri Lanka have regularly come up at the UNHRC in the last decade.
  • New Delhi voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 and abstained in 2014. It was spared the dilemma in 2015 when Sri Lanka joined resolution 30/1.
  • With elections coming up in Tamil Nadu, and PM declaring on a recent visit that he was the first Indian leader to visit Jaffna, Sri Lanka has begun reading the tea leaves.
  • Whichever way it goes, the resolution is likely to resonate in India-Sri Lanka Relations and for India internally, in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

Back2Basics:

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

Pakistan- Sri Lanka Relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-Sri Lanka relations in recent times

Pakistani PM is in Colombo on a two-day visit for ways and means to enhance trade and connectivity with Sri Lanka.

What is the news?

  • Pakistan PM’s visit has attracted a fair amount of controversy because of a cancelled invitation to address the Sri Lankan parliament.
  • India too granted permission for using its airspace for the Pakistani PM’s aircraft.

Try this question:

Q.The triangulation in the ties between Sri Lanka, China and Pakistan is an emerging threat in the Indian Ocean Region. Discuss.

Sri Lanka- Pakistan Relations

  • For Colombo, the visit holds much value. It comes at a fraught time for the government on the international stage.
  • Imminently, it is bracing to be hauled over the coals at the UN Human Rights Commission for withdrawing from resolution 30/1 of September 2015, under which it committed to carrying out war crime investigations.
  • To make matters worse, the Islamic world is appalled by Sri Lanka’s tight rules for the cremation and not burials of Muslims who have died of COVID-19.
  • The rule created a storm in Sri Lanka, with community leaders convinced that this is nothing but an extension of the state’s persecution of Muslims.

Why Pakistan?

(1) Trade ties

  • Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s second-largest trading partner in South Asia after India.
  • Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a free trade agreement dating back to 2005.
  • Pakistan’s top exports to Sri Lanka are textiles and cement.
  • Sri Lanka’s top exports to Pakistan are tea, rubber and readymade garments.

(2) Cultural ties

  • In addition to trade cooperation, Pakistan invokes cricket and Buddhism, topics that most Sri Lankans share a deep connection with.
  • Over the last decade, Pakistan has also been projecting its ancient Buddhist sites to promote cultural ties with Sri Lanka.

(3) Defence ties

Defence ties are a strong pillar of Sri Lanka- Pakistan bilateral relationship.

  • During the 1971 war, Pakistan Air Force jets refuelled in Sri Lanka.
  • India pulled back the peacekeeping forces in 1990, it provided no active defence support to the Sri Lankan military.
  • Sri Lanka turned to Pakistan for arms, ammunition as well as training for its fighter pilots.
  • Gotabaya, who was defence secretary at the time, visited Pakistan in 2008 to make a request for emergency assistance with military supplies.
  • Earlier this month, Sri Lanka participated in Pakistan’s multi-nation naval exercise Aman.

India’s observations and concerns

  • As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour with strong, all-encompassing ties, even if these are sometimes problematic, India has not perceived Pakistan as a serious rival in Sri Lanka so far.
  • Sporadically, the Indian security establishment has voiced concerns about Pakistan’s role in the radicalization of people, especially in Eastern Sri Lanka.
  • Funds have poured in for new mosques from some West Asian countries, and the effect that this could have in India.

Emerging threats from the ‘Triad’

  • There is now a new wariness about triangulation in the ties between Sri Lanka, China and Pakistan in defence co-operation, though it has not been publicly expressed.
  • In 2016, India put pressure on Sri Lanka to drop a plan to buy the Chinese JF-17 Thunder aircraft made in Pakistan and co-produced by the Chinese Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.
  • The most recent threat was from excluding India from the Colombo Terminal Project.

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

NITI Aayog’s Draft National Policy on Migrant Workers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Migration pattern in India

Mains level : Welfare of the migrant workers

Spurred by the exodus of 10 million migrants from big cities during the Covid-19 lockdown, the NITI Aayog has prepared a draft national migrant labour policy.

Must read:

India’s internal migration

Highlights of the Policy

  • The draft describes two approaches to policy design:
  1. To focus on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations
  2. To enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive

A rights-based approach

  • The policy rejects a handout approach, opting instead for a rights-based framework.
  • It seeks to remove restrictions on the true agency and potential of the migrant workers.
  • The goal a/c to the document should not be to provide temporary or permanent economic or social aids”, which is “a rather limited approach”.
  • Migration, the draft says, should be acknowledged as an integral part of the development and government policies should not hinder but…seek to facilitate internal migration.

Issues with existing law

  • The 2017 report argued that specific protection legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary.
  • Migrant workers aren’t yet integrated with all workers as part of an overarching framework that covers regular and contractual work.
  • The report discussed the limitations of The Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was designed to protect labourers from exploitation by contractors by safeguarding their right to non-discriminatory wages.
  • It mentions that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act for “effective utilization to protect migrants”.

Restructuring the institutions

The NITI draft lays down institutional mechanisms to coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programmes for migrants.

  • Nodal agency: It identifies the Ministry of Labour and Employment as the nodal Ministry for implementation of policies, and asks it to create a special unit to help to converge the activities of other Ministries.
  • Resources centre: This unit would manage migration resource centres in high migration zones, a national labour Helpline, links of worker households to government schemes, and inter-state migration management bodies.
  • Migration corridors: On the inter-state migration management bodies, it says that labour departments of source and destination states along major migration corridors, should work together through the migrant worker cells.
  • Labour officers from source states can be deputed to destinations – e.g., Bihar’s experiment to have a joint labour commissioner at Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi.
  • Role for Panchayats: Alongside the long-term goal, policies should promote the role of panchayats to aid migrant workers and integrate urban and rural policies to improve the conditions of migration.
  • Migration management: Panchayats should maintain a database of migrant workers, issue identity cards and passbooks, and provide “migration management and governance” through training, placement, and social-security benefit assurance, the draft says.

Ways to stem migration

  • Even as it underlines the key role of migration in development, the draft recommends steps to stem migration.
  • The draft asks source states to raise minimum wages to bring a major shift in the local livelihood of tribal that may result in stemming migration to some extent.
  • The absence of community building organisations (CBO) and administrative staff in the source states have hindered access to development programmes, pushing tribals towards migration, the draft says.
  • The “long term plan” for CBOs and panchayats should be to “alleviate distress migration policy initiatives” by aiming “for a more pro-poor development strategy in the sending areas.

The importance of data

  • The draft calls for a central database to help employers “fill the gap between demand and supply” and ensures “maximum benefit of social welfare schemes”.
  • It asks the Ministries and the Census office to be consistent with the definitions of migrants and subpopulations, capture seasonal and circular migrants, and incorporate migrant-specific variables in existing surveys.
  • Both documents see limited merit in Census data that comes only once a decade.
  • It asked the National Sample Survey Office to include questions related to migration in the periodic labour force survey and to carry out a separate survey on migration.

Preventing exploitation

  • The policy draft describes a lack of administrative capacity to handle issues of exploitation.
  • State labour departments have little engagement with migration issues, and are in “halting human trafficking mode”, the draft says.
  • The local administration, given the usual constraints of manpower, is not in a position to monitor.
  • This has become the breeding ground for middlemen to thrive on the situation and entrap migrants which leads to potential exploitation and trafficking.

Specific recommendations

  • The draft asks the various ministries to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones.
  • It asks the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to focus on skill-building at these centres.
  • The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
  • The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses etc.

History- Important places, persons in news

Pagri Sambhaal Movement of 1907

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ajit Singh , Pagri Sambhal Movement

Mains level : Farmers agitation since colonial times

As a part of the ongoing farmers’ protest, groups across the country have celebrated February 23 as ‘Pagri Sambhal Diwas’.

Try this PYQ:

Q.What was the immediate cause for the launch of the Swadeshi movement?

(a) The partition of Bengal done by Lord Curzon.

(b) A sentence of 18 months rigorous imprisonment imposed on Lokmanya Tilak.

(c) The arrest and deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh; and passing of the Punjab Colonization Bill.

(d) Death sentence pronounced on the Chapekar brothers.

Pagri Sambhaal Movement

  • Pagrhi Sambhaal Jatta was a successful farm agitation that forced the British government to repeal three laws related to agriculture back in 1907.
  • Bhagat Singh’s uncle Ajit Singh was the force behind this agitation, and he wanted to channel people’s anger over the farm laws to topple the colonial government.

What were the ‘three laws’?

  • The three farm-related acts at the centre of the storm in 1907 were the Punjab Land Alienation Act 1900, the Punjab Land Colonization Act 1906 and the Doab Bari Act.
  • These acts would reduce farmers from owners to contractors of land, and gave the British government the right to take back the allotted land if the farmer even touched a tree in his field without permission.
  • Amid resentment against the laws, Bhagat Singh’s father Kishan Singh and uncle Ajit Singh, with their revolutionary friend Ghasita Ram, formed the Bharat Mata Society.
  • It worked to mobilise this unrest into a revolt against the British government.

Repeal of the laws

  • Ajit Singh persuaded Congress leader Lala Lajpat Rai to come on the stage during a rally in Lyallpur on March 3, 1907, to protest against the laws.
  • On sensing the popular resentment, the British made a minor amendment to the laws.
  • The agitation couldn’t remain non-violent. Ajit Singh was booked for sedition after his speech at a public meeting in Rawalpindi on April 21, 1921.
  • Violence erupted soon afterwards and the British government repealed the three controversial laws in May 1907.

Land Reforms

Why does India need Conclusive Land Titling?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Conclusive Land Titling

Mains level : Land records management in India

The Centre wants to reform the country’s land markets through a fundamental legal and procedural shift in how land titles are awarded.

Must read:

Land Reforms in India

Land ownership in India

  • In India, land ownership is determined through various records such as sale deeds that are registered, property tax documents, government survey records, etc.
  • Land ownership is broadly defined by access to a land title.  Land Title is a document that determines the ownership of land or immovable property.
  • Having a clear land title protects the rights of the titleholder against other claims made by anyone else to the property.

What is the news?

  • In 2020, even as laws for farm reform and labour code reform were being enacted, the government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, took steps to initiate land reforms.
  • A Model Bill on Conclusive Land Titling was sent to States and Union Territories last June seeking their comments.
  • In September, after many States failed to send in their feedback, the Centre warned that their agreement would be presumed.

What is Conclusive Land Titling?

  • In a conclusive titling system, the government provides guaranteed titles and compensation in case of any ownership disputes.
  • Achieving this will require shifting to a system of registered property titles (as opposed to sale deeds) as the primary evidence of ownership, and having clear and updated land records.

How does the current system work?

  • India currently follows a system of presumptive land titling.
  • This means that land records are maintained, with information on possession, which is determined through details of past transactions.
  • Ownership, then, is established on the basis of current possession. Registration of land is actually a registration of transactions, such as sale deeds, records of inheritance, mortgage and lease.
  • Holding registration papers does not actually involve the government or the legal framework guaranteeing the ownership title of the land.

What will change in the new system?

  • On the other hand, under a conclusive land titling system, land records designate actual ownership.
  • The title is granted by the government, which takes the responsibility for accuracy.
  • Once a title is granted, any other claimant will have to settle disputes with the government, not the titleholder.

Why is conclusive land titling needed?

  • The main advantage is that a conclusive system will drastically lower litigation related to land.
  • According to a 2007 World Bank study on ‘Land Policies for growth and poverty reduction’, land-related disputes accounted for two-thirds of all pending court cases in India.
  • A NITI Aayog study on strengthening arbitration estimated that disputes on land or real estate take an average time of 20 years in the courts to be resolved.

A move for EODB

  • Right now, because land titles are based on transactions, people have to keep the entire chain of transaction records, and a dispute on any link in that chain causes ambiguity in ownership.
  • Once conclusive titling is in place, investors who want to purchase land for business activities will be able to do so without facing the constant risk that their owners may be questioned and their entire investment may go to waste.
  • Land disputes and unclear titling also create hurdles for infrastructure development and housing construction, leading to costly delays and inefficiency.

Multiple benefits

  • In cities, urban local bodies depend on property taxes that can be levied properly only if there is clear ownership data available.
  • In rural areas, the need is even more acute. Access to agricultural credit is dependent on the ability to use the land as collateral.
  • Without being able to prove their ownership of land and access formal credit from banks, small and marginal farmers are often left at the mercy of unscrupulous moneylenders.

What does the model Bill propose?

  • The Bill circulated by the NITI Aayog in 2020 calls for Land Authorities to be set up by each State government, which will appoint a Title Registration Officer (TRO),
  • TRO will prepare and publish a draft list of land titles based on existing records and documents.
  • This will be considered a valid notice to all potential claimants interested in the property, who will have to file their claims or objections within a set period of time.
  • If disputing claims are received, the TRO will verify all the relevant documents and refer the case to a Land Dispute Resolution Officer (LDRO) for resolution.

Major hurdles

  • The biggest challenge is that land records have not been updated for decades, especially in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • Land records are often in the name of the grandparents of the current owner, with no proof of inheritance.
  • Unless they are based on updated records, conclusive land titles could create even more problems.
  • Comprehensive village-level surveys with community involvement are a necessary precursor to the land titling process.
  • Relying on current records or even satellite imagery will not provide the same accuracy as actual, on-the-ground, local surveys.

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

No role in State’s quota decisions: Centre tells SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indira Sawhney Case

Mains level : 50% quota limit

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has no role in the choices made by the Tamil Nadu government with regard to the provision of reservation for specific castes or communities in state government jobs and admissions.

Reservation being an all-time contested issue is a less inevitable topic for mains. However, we can expect some of the thought triggering questions such as – “Reservation is hardly capable of striking a balance between social inclusion and merit. Critically comment. (250 W)”

OR

Essay topic like- “Meritocracy is unrealized without an egalitarian society” are ready to raid your mind.

Issue over 69%

  • The Centre was responding to a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, SCs and STs Act of 1993, which provides 69% reservation in the State.
  • The petitioner contends that the TN has acted “outside its competence” by identifying and classifying socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
  • It is too far in excess of the 50% limit on quota laid down by a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in its judgment in the Indira Sawhney Case (1992).

Indira Sawhney Case

In the famous Mandal case (Indra Sawhney Case, 1992), the scope and extent of Article 16(4), which provides for reservation of jobs in favour of backward classes, has been examined thoroughly by the Supreme Court.

  • Though the Court has rejected the additional reservation of 10% for poorer sections of higher castes, it upheld the constitutional validity of a 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions.
  • The advanced sections among the OBCs (the creamy layer) should be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation.
  • No reservation in promotions; reservation should be confined to initial appointments only. Any existing reservation in promotions can continue for five years only (i.e., upto 1997).
  • The total reserved quota should not exceed 50% except in some extraordinary situations. This rule should be applied every year.
  • The ‘carry forward rule’ in case of unfilled (backlog) vacancies is valid. But it should not violate the 50% rule.

What did the Centre say in the TN case?

  • The inclusion or exclusion of any caste/community in the State List of SEBCs is the subject matter of the State government, and the Government of India has no role in the matter.
  • It referred to the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act of 2018, which details the difference in the procedure for inclusion or exclusion of castes and communities in the State List for SEBCs and the Central List.

Identifying SEBC

  • The power to identify and specify SEBCs lies with Parliament only with reference to the Central List.
  • The State governments may have separate State Lists of SEBCs for providing reservation for recruitment to State services or admissions in State government educational institutions.
  • Under the newly-inserted Article 342A of the 102nd Amendment Act of 2018, the President notifies the SEBCs in a State after consultation with the Governor.
  • The castes or communities included in such State Lists may differ from those included in the Central List.

A case for TN

The senior advocate appearing for Tamil Nadu said the State’s case should be heard separately. The filed affidavit said:

  • India is an amalgam of States with varied population, size, history, culture and social fabric.
  • The circumstances and facts prevailing in Tamil Nadu are not the same or similar to those in any other State.
  • Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in the implementation of reservation in public employment and education. The policy of reservation has been in practice since 1921 in this State.
  • Factual variations contributing to the grant of reservation need to be reckoned with differently for different States while deciding the question on its validity.
  • The State argued that its law was protected under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution from judicial review.
  • Section 4 of the 1993 Act provides 30% reservation to the Backward Classes, 20% for the Most Backward Classes and de-notified communities, 18% for the SCs and 1% for the STs.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Australia vs Facebook Row

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Social media regulation

The social media giant Facebook is locked in a battle with Australia over legislation that would require FB, Google to pay for news outlets.

Row over the news on social media

  • Australia had proposed a law called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020.
  • It seeks to mandate a bargaining code that aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content.

Imagine if the case arises in India where tons of news channels and impulsive journalists are dying off hard to gather TRPs!

Response from the ‘giants’

  • Google had threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia in response to the legislation, which would create a panel to make pricing decisions on the news.
  • Facebook responded by blocking users from accessing and sharing Australian news.

Why countries are bringing such legislation?

  • Australia has launched a global diplomatic offensive to support its proposed law to force Internet giants Facebook and Google to pay media companies.
  • Google accounts for 53% of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook for 23%.
  • The legislation sets a precedent in regulating social media across geographies and is being closely watched the world over.

What is happening in other countries?

  • Australia’s proposed law would be the first of its kind, but other governments also are pressuring Google, Facebook and other internet companies to pay news outlets and other publishers for the material.
  • In Europe, Google had to negotiate with French publishers after a court last year upheld an order saying such agreements were required by a 2019 EU copyright directive.
  • France is the first government to enforce the rules, but the decision suggests Google, Facebook and other companies will face similar requirements in other parts of the 27-nation trade bloc.

The ‘doubted’ reluctance

  • Last year, Facebook announced it would pay US news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today for headlines.
  • In Spain, Google shut down its news website after a 2014 law required it to pay publishers.

Why does this matter?

  • Developments in Australia and Europe suggest the financial balance between multibillion-dollar internet companies and news organizations might be shifting.
  • Australia is responding to complaints by news reports, magazine articles and other content that appears on their websites or is shared by users.
  • The government acted after its competition regulator tried and failed to negotiate a voluntary payment plan with Google.
  • The proposed law would create a panel to make binding decisions on the price of news reports to help give individual publishers more negotiating leverage with global internet companies.

Not losing out revenue gain

  • Google’s agreement means a new revenue stream for news outfits, but whether that translates into more coverage for readers, viewers and listeners is unclear.
  • The union for Australian journalists is calling on media companies to make sure online revenue goes into newsgathering.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s Perseverance rover makes historic Mars landing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various missions on Mars

Mains level : Mars mission worldwide and their success

NASA’s rover Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world has landed safely on the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars.

Last week, separate probes launched by the UAE (Hope Mission) and China (Tianwen-1) reached Martian orbit. NASA has three Mars satellites still in orbit, along with two from the European Space Agency.

Perseverance Rover

  • The Perseverance rover weighs less than 2,300 pounds and is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
  • It is a part of the mission named ‘Mars 2020’.
  • The rover’s mission will be to search for signs of past microbial life. It will also collect samples of Martian rocks and dust, according to the release.
  • All of NASA’s previous Mars rovers — including the Sojourner (1997), Spirit and Opportunity (2004) and Curiosity (exploring Mars since 2012) — were named in this way.

Objectives of the mission

  • Looking for habitability: identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
  • Seeking bio-signatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs over time.
  • Caching samples: collect core rock and regolith (“soil”) samples and store them on the Martian surface.
  • Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

Major components

(a) Looking for underground water

  • Perseverance will carry the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX).
  • The instrument will look for subsurface water on Mars – which, if found, will greatly help the case for a human mission or the cause of a human settlement on Mars.

(b) Testing a helicopter

  • The Mars Helicopter is a small drone. It is a technology demonstration experiment: to test whether the helicopter can fly in the sparse atmosphere on Mars.
  • The low density of the Martian atmosphere makes the odds of actually flying a helicopter or an aircraft on Mars very low.

(c) Producing oxygen on Mars

  • Perseverance will have an instrument – MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – that will use 300 watts of power to produce about 10 grams of oxygen using atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Should this experiment be successful, MOXIE can be scaled up by a factor of 100 to provide the two very critical needs of humans: oxygen for breathing, and rocket fuel for the trip back to Earth.

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

#MeToo and Defamation Cases

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Criminal Defamation

Mains level : Women safety issues

The Delhi High Court has dismissed former Union Ministers’ criminal defamation complaint against a famous journalist over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.

What is the #MeToo Movement?

  • The #MeToo movement, with variations of related local or international names, is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment towards women, where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.
  • The phrase “Me Too” was initially used in this context on social media in 2006, on Myspace, by sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke in the US.
  • It is aimed at demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

You must know this!

The Vishaka Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

What did the court say?

  • Women have the right to put their grievances at any platform of their choice and even after decades.
  • The court also rejected the argument that the former union minister was a man of a stellar reputation.

What is the case?

  • The former minister had filed a criminal defamation case against the person in October 2018 since she did not produce any proof.
  • The criminal case was initiated to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassments.

Legal backing of the acquittal

  • Criminal defamation is defined in Section 499 of the IPC as making or publishing any imputation about a person intending to harm, or knowing it will harm the reputation of a person.
  • Any statement or article criticizing a person or accusing them of any sort of problematic behaviour will obviously lower their reputation.
  • Hence this is always emphasised in legal notices and complaints to courts alleging defamation.
  • However, the law recognizes that a person’s reputation can’t be a shield against their own bad behaviour and that there can be various circumstances when outing this bad behaviour is in the public interest.
  • This is why Section 499 of the IPC also prescribes several exceptions to claims of defamation.

Is it a win for the survivors?

  • It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that a corresponding criminal case for sexual harassment against the man would be successful.
  • This is because the allegations of harassment would have to be proved against the man beyond all reasonable doubt.
  • Therefore even though the present defence of truth was accepted by Delhi HC, this would not guarantee that the former minister would be convicted, as the standard of proof is different.

Conclusion

  • This judgement will set an example for the reluctant or other ousted women who are willing to revisit the cases of sexual misconduct against them.

Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act

Proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

Mains level : Key provisions of Juvenile Justice Act

The Union Cabinet has approved a slew of amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

What are the key features of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015? Discuss the proposed amendments by the WCD ministry.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

  • The JJ Act, 2015 replaced the Indian juvenile delinquency law, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • It allows for juveniles in conflict with Law in the age group of 16–18, involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults.
  • The Act also sought to create a universally accessible adoption law for India.
  • The Act came into force from 15 January 2016.

Key features

  • Change in nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, across the Act to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”
  • Inclusion of several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children;
  • The Act mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
  • Special provisions for heinous offences committed by children above the age of sixteen years – Under Section 15, special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years (in response to the juvenile convict in Nirbhaya Case).
  • Separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children – To streamline adoption procedures for orphan, abandoned and surrendered children, the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is given the status of a statutory body.
  • Inclusion of new offences committed against children – Sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children and, kidnapping and abduction of children.
  • Penalties for cruelty against a child– offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child has been prescribed.
  • Mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions

What are the news amendments?

The amendments are aimed at strengthening the Child Protection set-up to ensure the best interest of children.

(A) More powers to the DM

  • These include empowering the DMs and the additional DMs to monitor the functioning of agencies responsible for implementing the JJ Act.
  • The District Child Protection Units will function under the DMs.

(B) Evaluating shelter homes

  • Before someone sets up a shelter home for children and sends their proposal for registration under the JJ Act to the State, a DM will have to assess their capacity and conduct a background check.
  • A DM could also independently evaluate the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee, Special Juvenile Protection Units and registered childcare institutes, the Minister stated.

(C) Members of committees

  • The proposed amendments also define the eligibility parameters for the appointment of members of the Child Welfare Committees.
  • These committees are tasked to decide on children in need of care and protection and mandate their background checks.

(D) Definition of Children

  • It is also proposed to expand the definition of children in need of care and protection and include those children who have been victims of trafficking or drug abuse or child labour.
  • It would also include those children who have been abandoned by their guardians.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Govt liberalized Geospatial Data Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Geospatial data

Mains level : Benefits of the liberalized scheme

In sweeping changes to the country’s mapping policy, the government has announced liberalisation of norms governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data.

Q.What do you mean by Geo-Spatial Data? What are its economic and strategic significance?

What is the news?

  • The Ministry of Science and Technology has released new guidelines for the Geo-spatial sector in India.
  • It deregulated the existing protocol and liberalizes the sector to a more competitive field.

What is a Geo-Spatial Data?

  • Geospatial data is data about objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth.
  • The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
  • Geospatial data combines location information, attribute information, and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
  • Geo-spatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, localities, rail lines, water bodies, and public amenities.
  • The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geospatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.

What is the present policy on geospatial data?

  • There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping under the current regime.
  • The policy had not been renewed in decades and has been driven by internal as well as external security concerns.
  • Private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government as well as the defence and Home Ministries, to be able to collect, create or disseminate geospatial data.

Why has the government deregulated geospatial data?

  • This system of acquiring licenses or permission, and the red tape involved, can take months, delaying projects, especially those that are in mission mode – for both Indian companies as well as government agencies.
  • The deregulation eliminates the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns.
  • Indian companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency- these guidelines, therefore, place a great deal of trust in Indian entities.
  • There is also a huge lack of data in the country which impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses which are data-based.
  • The mapping of the entire country that too with high accuracy, by the Indian government alone could take decades.
  • The government, therefore, felt an urgent need to incentivise the geospatial sector for Indian companies and increased investment from private players in the sector.
  • Large amounts of geospatial data are also available on global platforms, which makes the regulation of data that is freely available in other countries, untenable.

What next?

  • While for decades, geospatial data has been a priority for strategic reasons and for internal and external security concerns.
  • This priority has seen a shift in the past 15 years – geospatial data has now become imperative for the government in planning for infrastructure, development, social development as well as the economy.
  • More and more sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals etc) are relying heavily on this data.
  • There has also been a global push for open access to geospatial as it affects the lives of ordinary citizens.

Expected impacts

  • By liberalizing the system, the government will ensure more players in the field, the competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market, and more accurate data available to both the government to formulate plans and administer, but also for individual Indians.
  • Startups and businesses can now also use this data in setting up their concerns, especially in the sector of e-commerce or geospatial based apps – which in turn will increase employment in these sectors.
  • Indian companies will be able to develop indigenous apps, for example, an Indian version of Google maps.
  • There is also likely to be an increase in public-private partnerships with the opening of this sector with data collection companies working with the Indian government on various sectoral projects.
  • The government also expects an increase in investment in the geospatial sector by companies, and also an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries, which in turn will boost the economy.

Andhra-Odisha Boundary Dispute

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Interstate boundary disputes in India

Andhra Pradesh recently held panchayat elections in three villages in the Kotia cluster, which is at the centre of a dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Do you know?

Sukma district of Chhattisgarh borders with Odisha (Malkangiri district), Telangana (Bhadradri Kothagudem district) and Andhra Pradesh (East Godavari district).

You got it right. Thers’ a junction. AP and Telangana , both borders with Chhattisgarh.

Andhra-Odisha Boundary Dispute

  • Prior to April 1, 1936, villages under Kotia panchayat were part of Jeypore Estate.
  • In the Constitution of Orrisa Order, 1936, published in the Gazette of India on March 19 that year, the GoI demarcated Odisha from the erstwhile Madras Presidency.
  • In 1942, the Madras government contested the boundary and ordered re-demarcation of the two states.
  • When the state of Andhra Pradesh was created in 1955, the villages were not surveyed by the state government either.

Details of the villages

  • These villages, with a population of nearly 5,000, are located on a remote hilltop on the inter-state border and are inhabited by Kondh tribals.
  • The region, once a Maoist hotbed which still reports sporadic incidents of violence, is also rich in mineral resources like gold, platinum, manganese, bauxite, graphite and limestone.

What is the judicial reaction?

  • In the early 1980s, Odisha filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding right and possession of jurisdiction over the 21 villages.
  • In 2006 the court ruled that disputes belonging to the state boundaries are not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • The matter can only be resolved by Parliament and passed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.