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Leg-up for private sector participation in defence equipment manufacturing

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SPG

Mains level: Indigenization of defence manufacturing


News

Implementing Strategic Partnership guidelines

  1. In a major step towards boosting private sector participation in domestic defence manufacturing, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the implementation of Strategic Partnership guidelines.
  2. SP model aims to revitalise defence industrial ecosystem and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon system for future needs of armed forces.
  3. The guidelines lay emphasis on incentivisation of transfer of niche technology and higher indigenous content.
  4. All procurements under the SP model would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to provide focused attention and ensure timely execution.

Four segments of Policy

  1. The SP model has four segments viz. submarines, single-engine fighter aircraft, helicopters and armoured carriers/main battle tanks which would be specifically opened up for the private sector.
  2. Under this policy, one Indian private company would be selected in each segment which would tie-up with shortlisted global equipment manufacturers to manufacture the platforms in India under technology transfer.

Other developments

  1. The DAC also approved platform-specific guidelines for procurement of Naval Utility helicopters
  2. In another decision, the DAC gave approval for the acquisition of eight Fast Patrol Vessels (FPV) for the Coast Guard at an approximate cost of ₹800 crore
  3. These would be indigenously designed and manufactured.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Govt. plans ‘ISRO-like’ ocean mission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the DOM

Mains level: All such missions are important from examination point of view.


News

Deep Ocean Mission

  1. The Centre has drawn up a five-year, ₹8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.
  2. The Union Earth Sciences Ministry tasked with coordinating the exercise unveiled a blueprint of the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM).
  3. Among the key deliverables to achieve these goals are an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy and developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 meters with three people on board.
  4. The focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, underwater vehicles, and underwater robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among other aspects.

Other deep-sea missions

  1. India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometers in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN)
  2. These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
  3. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  4. It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  5. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometres and in the deep sea, lies unexplored and unutilised.
  6. Recently India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from the seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years by International Seabed Authority

Back2Basics

UN International Sea Bed Authority

  1. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body that was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans
  2. It is an organization established by the Law of the Sea Convention
  3. It is based in Kingston, Jamaica
  4. Currently, the Authority has 167 members and the European Union, composed of all parties to the Law of the Sea Convention
  5. The Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities authorizing them to explore, and eventually exploit, specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources essential for building most technological products
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Govt planning national e-commerce regulator

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the draft

Mains level: Regulation of e-commerce in India


News

Draft National e-Com Regulator

  1. A national regulator for e-commerce provisioning mandatory data localization and tax sops for data centres is a part of an upcoming legislation governing all aspects of electronic commerce in the country.
  2. The regulator will ensure consumer protection and compliance with foreign investment caps in e-commerce.
  3. This is in response to a proposal for multilateral discipline in e-commerce at the WTO as various government departments have contradictory views on the matter.
  4. The national policy framework in this regard has been prepared by a task force headed by commerce secretary Rita Teaotia

Data Localization

  1. Storing user data in a data centre on the Internet that is physically situated in the same country where the data originated is called data localization.
  2. While the draft e-commerce policy has strongly recommended data localization, it has suggested a two-year sunset period for the industry to adjust before localization rules become mandatory.
  3. It has also suggested direct and indirect tax incentives as well as according infrastructure status to data centres to encourage domestic data storage.
  4. The move will help private sector companies comply with the norms laid down by the Srikrishna committee on data localization.

Promoting MSMEs

  1. To encourage micro, small and medium enterprises, the draft policy recommends allowing them to follow inventory-based e-commerce models for selling locally produced goods through an online platform.
  2. Such companies may also be allowed up to 49% foreign investment.
  3. Currently, e-commerce platforms are allowed only to follow marketplace model where 100% FDI is allowed.
  4. However, the government has so far not permitted any FDI in inventory-based models.

Curbing competition-distorting mergers

  1. The draft policy recommends that the Competition Commission of India consider suitably amending the thresholds so that competition-distorting mergers and acquisitions below the existing threshold also get mandatorily examined by it in case of e-commerce entities.
  2. For such entities, thresholds based on other variables (such as access to data) which are more relevant in this area, would be considered.

Simplified GST Procedures

  1. The task force has also recommended that the GST procedures for e-commerce be simplified by allowing centralized registration instead of local registration.
  2. The relevant GST provisions would be modified in order to create a level playing field between online and offline delivery of goods and services for the purpose of GST.
  3. Currently, MSMEs with revenue of less than ₹20 lakh a year are not subject to GST if they sale offline whereas they have to pay GST if they sell goods on online platforms.
e-Commerce: The New Boom

[op-ed snap] Government-mukt governance

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, & potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nation’s E-Government Development Index, E-Participation Index, India Stack

Mains level: Implemenatation of e-governance in India & its role in public services delivery as well as poverty alleviation


Context

India’s low rank on e-governance index

  1. Despite the astonishing pace of digitisation in India, it continues to rank a relatively low 96 in the United Nation’s E-Government Development Index, whose 2018 rankings were released last week
  2. With an EGDI index score of 0.5669, India is just above the world average of 0.55
  3. India’s score is also shy of Iran (0.6083) and even in the SAARC region, Sri Lanka is ahead of India

About the index

  1. The UN E-Government Development Survey is the only global initiative to measure and track how governments are faring on the e-governance front
  2. The report looks at how e-government can facilitate integrated policies and services across the three dimensions of sustainable development

Reasons for low ranking

  1. In areas like public health and land records, the progress has stopped with putting up some downloadable forms online
  2. Many government departments still insist on physical forms and signatures, despite the near universalisation of an identity instrument like Aadhaar, which allows simple and foolproof authentication

High ranking in e-participation

  1. India does rank very high in one sub-index
  2. It moved up 12 places in the E-Participation Index, from 27 in 2016 to 15 in 2018
  3. The EPI looks at issues like e-information, e-consultation and e-decision making to arrive at a score

The significance of this ranking

  1. India’s high ranking does signify two things:
  • that the government is making more information available online and
  • that more people are in a position to access that information, and also electronically participate in policy formation and decision-making

Linkages between e-governance and poverty alleviation

  1. The reason the UN compiles this index and urges member countries to focus on e-government initiatives is that there is a clear link between greater e-governance and easier public access to government services and a reduction in poverty and inequality
  2. One of the biggest reasons our poverty alleviation measures have failed to achieve the desired impact (apart from corruption and leakage) is inefficient targeting, and lack of information with the intended beneficiaries about plans and schemes meant to assist them

Way Forward

  1. Knowledge is power, but access to knowledge is another kind of power and this is where digital can be a great disruptor
  2. With the India Stack (Aadhaar, UPI, etc. aimed at ensuring presence-less, cashless and paperless service delivery), and the ongoing mobile and broadband revolution, India can become a world leader in e-governance
Digital India Initiatives

India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.

Image result for India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NASAMS-II

Mains level: Defending India’s airspace as well as other strategic locations


News

Shield for NCR

  1. India is in talks with the U.S. to procure an advanced air defence system to defend the National Capital Region (NCR) from aerial attacks
  2. The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) has been initiated

About the project

  1. India is deploying a multi-tiered air defence network to fully secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)
  2. NASAMS is a “highly adaptable mid-range solution” for any operational air defence requirement and provides a tailorable, state-of-the-art defence system
  3. It can maximise the ability to quickly identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, UAV or emerging cruise missile threats
  4. NASAMS-II is an upgraded version of the NASAMS and features new 3D mobile surveillance radars and 12 missile launchers for quicker reaction
  5. India is also in an advanced stage of talks with Russia for the procurement of very long range S-400 air defence systems
  6. India is also developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Govt to roll out DigiYatra offering for air passengers soon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DigiYatra initiative

Mains level: Government interventions in the civil aviation sector in recent years and its impact on overall transportation sector


News

DigiYatra initiative

  1. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is close to rolling out DigiYatra service at airports in a few months
  2. Under this initiative, the moment you will enter the airport, your images will be captured and then you will be able to go through the full lifecycle of your travel in a seamless manner

About DigiYatra

  1. DigiYatra is an industry-led initiative coordinated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in line with Digital India programme
  2. It aims to transform the flying experience for passengers and position Indian Aviation amongst the most innovative aviation networks in the world
  3. The facility will use digital technology to enhance air passenger experience all the way from ticket booking to airport entry check, security check and aircraft boarding
  4. For this, a passenger needs to enrol into DigiYatra program through AirSewa app and a DigiYatra verified passenger will get hassle free entry at the airport through E-Gates
  5. At the entry gate, a single token for the passenger will be created
  6. This will also facilitate walk-through security scanners swiftly owing to advanced biometric security solutions

Optional facility

  1. This facility will be optional for passengers
  2. If somebody does not want to disclose the identity, there will be a separate provision for them
  3. It is not just Aadhaar based but is beyond Aadhaar
  4. The ID verification will be done by the BCAS-approved Government ID
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

All about the FASTag

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FASTag

Mains level: Measures being taken to ensure highway safety along with increasing speed of movement on highways


News

FASTags mandatory

  1. It is mandatory for cars and trucks sold after December 1, 2017, to be fitted with a FASTag

What is a FASTag?

  1. A FASTag is a reloadable tag that automatically deducts toll charges and allows a vehicle to pass through a toll gate without stopping for the payment
  2. It uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to make cashless payments through a prepaid account linked to it
  3. The tag is fixed to the windscreen of a vehicle and an RFID antenna in the canopy of the toll gate scans the QR code and the tag identification number, following which the boom barrier lifts to allow a vehicle to pass through
  4. Apart from enjoying a cashless transaction, users can also pass through the plaza without having to stop their vehicle to make the payment

Categorisation & usage

  1. The tag, which is valid for five years, comes in seven different colours — violet, orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, black
  2. Each colour is assigned to a particular category of vehicles
  3. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has tied up with 20 banks to allow people to recharge their cards as well as for owners of old vehicles to purchase a FASTag
  4. The tags can also be procured from kiosks set up at toll plazas
  5. The NHAI also has a mobile application for FASTag that allows users to buy and recharge these tags as well as seek information on toll rates on different routes
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

These two freight corridors will change the way India transports goods

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DFC, DFCCIL

Mains level: Initiatives for making freight transport cheaper, rapid and feasible


News

Inaugurating first DFC

  1. India is all set to get its first publicly owned freight corridors on August 15.
  2. It is a 190-km railway line between Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and Phulera in Rajasthan, which fall under the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC).

Dedicated freight corridors (DFC)

  1. These are freight-only railway lines to move goods between industrial heartlands in the North and ports on the Eastern and Western coasts.
  2. The dedicated freight-only lines are being built along the four key transportation routes – known as the Golden Quadrilateral and connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Howrah and its two diagonals (Delhi – Chennai and Mumbai – Howrah).
  3. Covering a total of 10,122 km, these corridors carry the heaviest traffic and are highly congested.
  4. The route carries 52 per cent of passenger traffic and 58 per cent of freight traffic, according to the Make-in-India report of 2017.

What is the need of Dedicated Freight corridors?

  1. The above-mentioned routes are highly saturated, with line capacity utilisation reaching as high as 150 per cent.
  2. Considering increased transport demands, overtly congested routes and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with road transport, the government had proposed this initiative.
  3. These freight corridors will help reduce the cost and allow faster transportation.
  4. Along with that, Indian Railways will open new avenues for investment, as this will lead to the construction of industrial corridors and logistic parks along these routes.

Benefits of the DFCs

  1. Freight corridor will permit the trains to carry higher loads, in a more reliable manner.
  2. These lines are also being built to maximize speeds to 100 km an hour, up from the current average freight speed of 20 km an hour.
  3. Freight corridor envisages long-haul operations with trailing loads to increase from 5,000 to 15,000 tonnes and container capacity will go up to 400 per train.
  4. The DFCs will allow much shorter transit times from freight source to destination which means it will reduce the time by up to 50 per cent in some cases.
  5. DFCs made possible by higher freight volumes without substantial investment in infrastructure, increased axle load, reduction of turn-round time, reduced unit cost of transportation, rationalization of tariffs resulting in improvement in market share and improved operational margins.

Back2Basics

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL)

  1. The DFCCIL is a corporation run by the Ministry of Railways (India) to undertake planning & development, mobilisation of financial resources and construction, maintenance and operation of the Dedicated Freight Corridors.
  2. DFCC has been registered as a company under the Companies Act 1956 on 30 October 2006.
  3. It is both enabler and beneficiary of other key Government of India schemes, such as and Industrial corridor, Make in India, Startup India, Standup India, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, UDAN-RCS, Digital India, BharatNet and UMANG.
  4. The DFCC is one of the largest ever infrastructure projects being undertaken by railways since 1947.

DFCs Under implementation:

  1. Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, 1,468 km from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai.
  2. Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, (Ludhiana, 1,760 km from Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal .

Approved in January 2018:

  1. East-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,000 km-long from Kolkata to Mumbai
  2. North-South Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,173 km long from Delhi to Chennai
  3. East Coast Dedicated Freight Corridor, 1,100 km long from Kharagpur to Vijayawada
  4. South-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 890 km-long from Chennai to Goa, this DFC goes through Bangalore-Chennai Industrial Corridor promoted by Japan & India and as a part of Bangalore-Mumbai Economic corridor promoted by UK & India.
Railway Reforms

Centre widens petroleum’s definition to cover more hydrocarbons

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: HELP, new definition of HCs

Mains level: India’s energy security concerns and measures taken to overcome them.


News

Context: The government has amended the Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules 1959 to include shale in the definition of petroleum, a change that would allow private companies to explore and produce the resource in the blocks they already operate.

Redefining Hydrocarbons

  1. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has liberalised the definition of petroleum to bring more hydrocarbons such as coal bed methane and shale gas under its fold.
  2. According to the gazette notification for the Petroleum and Natural Gas (Amendment) Rules, 2018, petroleum will now mean naturally occurring hydrocarbons, whether in the form of natural gas, in a liquid, viscous or solid form, or a mixture of these.
  3. It, however, does not include coal, lignite and helium occurring in association with petroleum or coal or shale, the notification said.
  4. Till now the definition of ‘petroleum’ only meant any liquid hydrocarbon or a mixture of hydrocarbons and any inflammable mixture (liquid, viscous or solid) containing a liquid hydrocarbon.

In line with the HELP

  1. The new HELP allows producers to harness any hydrocarbon resource they find within the assigned area subject to a revenue-share commitment.
  2. The earlier definition had excluded shale and other such hydrocarbons, hampering their exploration and production in the country.
  3. This should help in enhancing domestic exploration and production of hydrocarbons, thereby increasing India’s energy security and reducing our dependence on imports.

Back2Basics

Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)

  1. It is a policy adopted by Government of India on 10.03.2016 indicating the new contractual and fiscal model for award of hydrocarbon acreages towards exploration and production (E&P).
  2. HELP is applicable for all future contracts to be awarded.
  3. HELP replaces the present policy regime for exploration and production of oil and gas, known as New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), which has been in existence for 18 years.
  4. Features of HELP:
  • Uniform License: It provides for a uniform licensing system to cover all hydrocarbons such as oil, gas, coal bed methane etc. under a single licensing framework, instead of the present system of issuing separate licenses for each kind of hydrocarbons.
  • Open Acreages: It gives the option to a hydrocarbon company to select the exploration blocks throughout the year without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
  • Revenue Sharing Model: Present fiscal system of production sharing contract (PSC) is replaced by an easy to administer “revenue sharing model”. The earlier contracts were based on the concept of profit sharing where profits are shared between Government and the contractor after recovery of cost.
  • Marketing and Pricing Freedom: It has been granted, subject to a ceiling price limit, for new gas production from Deepwater, Ultra Deepwater and High Pressure-High Temperature Areas.
Coal and Mining Sector

[op-ed snap] Tackling HIV

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Mains level: Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in India & how it affects various policies being framed to bring down incidences of this disease


Context

UNAIDS report: Reduction in HIV incidence

  1. A new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) bears good news for the global war against the syndrome
  2. Between 2010 and 2017, several countries made rapid progress in reducing HIV incidence and getting antiretroviral therapy to patients
  3. While the largest reduction in incidence came from eastern and southern Africa, Asia also made gains
  4. India, in particular, brought down the number of new cases and deaths by 27% and 56%, respectively, between 2010 and 2017

Efforts by India

  1. With 2.1 million cases, India is among the largest burden countries in the world
  2. Tuberculosis is the biggest killer of HIV patients across the world
  3. India is now able to treat over 90% of notified TB patients for HIV
  4. The social stigma surrounding AIDS-infected people in India, while high, is declining slowly too
  5. Survey data show that in the last decade, the number of people unwilling to buy vegetables from a person with HIV came down from over 30% to 27.6%

Gaps in policy

  1. The UNAIDS report points out that a country’s laws can legitimise stigma and give licence to the harassment of groups at the highest risk of HIV
  2. These include men who have sex with other men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers
  3. Indian laws don’t do well on this count
  4. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act criminalises several aspects of sex work, while Section 377 of the IPC criminalises gay sex
  5. Studies show that fear of prosecution under such laws prevents homosexual men, drug users and sex workers from seeking HIV screening and treatment
  6. As a result, these groups lag behind average treatment rates, although their requirements are higher

What needs to be done?

  1. If India is serious about tackling HIV, it must find ways to reach such groups
  2. Short of changing the law, the Centre can consider targeted interventions
  3. An experiment in Karnataka, between 2004 and 2011, shows that sensitising police personnel and educating female sex workers can greatly reduce arbitrary police raids and arrests

Way Forward

  1. The right to health is universal
  2. India must take note of this to ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against HIV

Back2Basics

United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

  1. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic
  2. The mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV and AIDS that includes preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support to those already living with the virus, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV and alleviating the impact of the epidemic
  3. UNAIDS seeks to prevent the HIV/AIDS epidemic from becoming a severe pandemic
  4. UNAIDS is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group
  6. UNAIDS has five goals:
  • Leadership and advocacy for effective action on the pandemic
  • Strategic information and technical support to guide efforts against AIDS worldwide
  • Tracking, monitoring and evaluation of the pandemic and of responses to it
  • Civil society engagement and the development of strategic partnerships
  • Mobilization of resources to support an effective response
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Explained: Privilege Motion

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Privilege Motion

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Privilege Motion

  1. Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  2. When any of these rights and immunities is disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  3. A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  4. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

What are the rules governing privilege?

  1. Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rulebook govern privilege.
  2. It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  3. The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

Role of the LS Speaker/RS Chairperson

  1. The first level of scrutiny that a privilege motion has to go through is that of the Speaker, in case the motion is moved in the Lok Sabha and that of the Chairperson when a motion is moved in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. The Speaker/Chair may decide on the privilege motion at their own discretion or they may refer it to a parliamentary committee.
  3. The Speaker/Chair has authority to admit or dismiss the Privilege Motion.
  4. The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
  5. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
  6. The Speaker/Chair can seek the services of “Committee of Privileges” to establish the allegations with facts. The committee may also recommend any punishment, which the Speaker may or may not accept.

Privileges Committee

  1. In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration.
  2. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report.
  3. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.
  4. A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
  5. The process is similar in the Upper House, except that the privilege committee consists of 10 members and is headed by the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Lok Sabha passes Anti-Trafficking Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the bill, NATB.

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018

  1. The Bill lays down a stringent punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment for aggravated forms of trafficking, which include buying or selling of persons for the purpose of bonded labour, bearing a child.
  2. It also includes those where chemical substances or hormones are administered, and a survivor acquires life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS.

National Anti-Trafficking Bureau (NATB)

  1. Earlier this year, the Cabinet had approved a proposal for making the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as the nodal authority for probing cases of human trafficking.
  2. The Bill proposes establishing NATB for coordinating, monitoring and surveillance of trafficking cases.
  3. It also provides for a Relief and Rehabilitation Committee and Rehabilitation Fund with an initial allocation of ₹ 10 crore.
  4. It prescribes forfeiture of property used or likely to be used for the commission of an offence.
  5. Trafficking is a borderless crime but jurisdiction issues come in the way of investigation. This Bill provides for the NATB to effectively address this aspect.

Concerns raised over the bills

  1. Some MPs raised questions about the provisions for confiscation of properties which are likely to be misused.
  2. The need for community-based rehabilitation for survivors as had been laid down by a Supreme Court-appointed panel on rehabilitation of sex workers was also emphasized.
  3. Protection for transgender persons under the Bill was also demanded.
  4. MP Shashi Tharoor said trafficking should not be conflated with sex work and the Bill lacks safeguards to ensure that people who voluntarily enter into sex trade are not harassed.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Banka Unnayan among three finalists in Commonwealth awards in innovation category

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Banka Unnayan programme, Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM), Unnat Bharat Abhiyan

Mains level: Various interventions by the government to improve education sector


News

New online learning method

  1. Banka Unnayan programme has got an award from Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM)
  2. It was the government of India that had nominated Unnayan project as its only entry for innovation incubation category

About the program

  1. It is an interactive online and offline study method through interactive concept videos, real-time doubt-clearing, examination and digital report card generation
  2. It has been teaching Class IX and Class X students through smart classes and Eckovation app
  3. Banka district has been running Unnayan programme in its 70 schools under a project that was started in August 2017
  4. The model is being replicated by Unnat Bharat Abhiyan in schools of about 5,000 villages across the country
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Iran can’t issue threats to seek India’s help

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Sanctions on Iran and its impact on India


News

Background

  1. As pressure mounts on India to take a re-look at its energy ties with Iran, the debate has taken a predictable turn, one which assesses India-Iran relations through the prism of the US.
  2. India has been steadfast in its opposition to the collapse of the JCPOA and is working with Europe and China to salvage the deal.
  3. At the same time, India continues to look at the possibility of being exempted from the US sanctions. The US has indicated that waivers could be given if there was significant reduction in oil imports from Iran.

India’s stakes in Iran are quite limited

  1. Iran is indeed India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but if push comes to shove, it can be replaced by other sources as the volume is manageable.
  2. The larger economic relationship is nothing much to write about, especially when compared to burgeoning trade ties with the Arab Gulf states.

Iran’s hype

  1. The suggestions by Iranian officials that India could lose “privileges” and revert back to dollar-denominated trade could have been avoided.
  2. Though it was later clarified that Iran will do its best to ensure security of oil supply to India through offering various flexibility measures, which facilitates our bilateral trade in particular Indian export to Iran.
  3. India should not bother much about Iranian oil if Tehran continues to threaten New Delhi about certain nominal “privileges”.

Chabahar Port makes India bother

  1. New Delhi certainly remains keen on the Chabahar Port and has spent significant diplomatic and political capital on the project.
  2. The port is expected to be operational by the end of 2018, with New Delhi committed to developing a free trade area around the port, and finally completing the loop with a $1.6 billion railway line to Zahedan.
  3. As underlined by former foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, it was Iran which was responsible for causing delays in the execution of the Chabahar project.

Bringing threats onboard to Chabahar

  1. Iran has not only suggested that China would be part of the Chabahar project, but has also dangled the possibility of Pakistan joining the project at some future date.
  2. In theory, Sino-Indian cooperation or a wider regional cooperative framework would be an excellent idea.
  3. But to talk of India’s two main adversaries, while asking India to continue to invest in the project certainly won’t make it very enticing to New Delhi.

Regional Security at stake

  1. On Afghanistan and regional security, there are growing divergences between India and Iran. Much like the Taliban, Iran wants to see foreign forces leave.
  2. Tehran has been providing military support to the Taliban in Afghanistan for some time now, but this engagement has reached new heights more recently.
  3. Recent reports suggest that hundreds of Taliban fighters are being trained by Special Forces at Iran’s military academies as part of a significant escalation of support for the insurgents.
  4. Iran has also reportedly sent Afghans to fight for its ally, Assad, in Syria. US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal further incentivises Iran to enhance its support to the Taliban.
  5. Emboldened by their experience in Syria, Iran and Russia are also working closely in Afghanistan to challenge the US and, this primarily means, supporting the Taliban with greater vigour.

Way Forward

  1. The Indian strategic community should resist the temptation of making this debate about India resisting or buckling under American pressure.
  2. As a self-confident rising power, this debate should essentially be about Indian strategic priorities.
  3. If India has to move beyond symbolism in its ties with Iran, Iran has to do the same.
  4. Challenging Indian vital interests even as it asks for New Delhi’s help is surely not the best way forward.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] India’s Magna Carta

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Freedom Struggle| Various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  100th year of Montford Reform , GoI Act 1919, Rowlatt Act.

Mains level:  Role of Montford Reforms in forming a responsible government in India


News

Context

This month marks the 100th year of the publication of the ‘Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms’, commonly known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Report (MCR).

Montague-Chelmsford Reforms 

  1. Edwin Montagu, then Secretary of State for India, had advocated for increased participation of Indians in the British Indian administration and had begun consultations nearly a year earlier.
  2. After many meetings with Indian representatives, Montagu and the then Governor-General, Lord Chelmsford, published the MCR on July 8, 1918.
  3. It drew up a report, with the help of Bhupendra Nath Bose, Lord Donoghmore, William Duke and Charles Roberts.

Created background for Government of India Act 1919

  1. The important features of this act were as follows:
  • The Central Legislative Council was now to consist of two houses- The Imperial Legislative and The Council of States.
  • The provinces were to follow the Dual Government System or
  1. Accordingly, the Rights of the Central and Provincial Governments were divided in clear-cut terms.
  2. The central list included rights over defence, foreign affairs, telegraphs, railways, postal, foreign trade etc.
  3. The provincial list dealt with the affairs like health, sanitation, education, public work, irrigation, jail, police, justice etc.
  4. The powers which were not included in the state list vested in the hands of the Centre.
  5. In case of any conflict between the ‘reserved’ and ‘unreserved’ powers of the State (the former included finance, police, revenue, publication of books, etc. and the latter included health, sanitation, local-self government etc.), the Governor had its final say.
  6. In 1921, the “Diarchy” was installed in Bengal, Madras, Bombay, United Provinces, M.P., Punjab, Bihar, Orissa and Assam and in 1932; it was extended to the North-West Frontier Province.

Outcomes

  1. The MCR stands out for proposing some of the most radical administrative changes for giving provincial legislatures the mantle of self-governance.
  2. The report recommended that the Provinces are the domain in which the earlier steps towards the progressive realisation of responsible government should be taken.
  3. Another one of the most far-reaching objectives of the report was to elucidate the principle of accountable governance by directing that the “Government of India must remain wholly responsible to Parliament.

Reception in India

  1. Many Indians had fought with the British in First World War and they expected much greater concessions. Congress and the league had recently come together demanding for self-rule.
  2. The 1919 reforms did not satisfy political demands in India. The British repressed opposition, and restrictions on the press and on movement were re-enacted through the Rowlatt Acts introduced in 1919.
  3. The act allowed certain political cases to be tried without juries and permitted internment of suspects without trial.
  4. These measures were rammed through the Legislative Council with the unanimous opposition of the Indian members. Several members of the council including Jinnah resigned in protest.
  5. These measures were widely seen throughout India of the betrayal of strong support given by the population for the British war effort.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

  1. Gandhi launched a nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Acts with the strongest level of protest in the Punjab.
  2. The situation worsened in Amritsar in April 1919, when General Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on demonstrators hemmed into a tight square, resulting in the deaths of 379 civilians.
  3. Montagu ordered an inquiry into the events at Amritsar by Lord Hunter.
  4. The Hunter Inquiry recommended that General Dyer, who commanded the troops, be dismissed, leading to Dyer’s sacking.
  5. The Amritsar massacre further inflamed Indian nationalist sentiment ending the initial response of reluctant co-operation.
  6. At the Indian National Congress annual session in September 1920, delegates supported Gandhi’s proposal of swaraj or self-rule – preferably within the British Empire or out of it if necessary.
  7. The proposal was to be implemented through a policy of non-cooperation with British rule meaning that Congress did not field candidates in the first elections held under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms in 1921.

Paving way for the 1935 Act

  1. The Montagu-Chelmsford report stated that there should be a review after 10 years.
  2. Sir John Simon headed the committee (Simon Commission) responsible for the review which recommended further constitutional change.
  3. Three round table conferences were held in London in 1930, 1931 and 1932 with representation of the major interests. Mahatma Gandhi attended the 1931 round table after negotiations with the British Government.
  4. The major disagreement between the Indian National Congress and the British was separate electorates for each community which Congress opposed but which were retained in Ramsay MacDonald’s Communal Award.
  5. A new Government of India Act 1935 was passed continuing the move towards self-government first made in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report

Magna Carta of Modern India

  1. The MCR went on to become the basis for the Government of India Act, 1919 and 1935, and, ultimately, the Constitution.
  2. The key principles of responsible government, self-governance and federal structure grew out of these reforms.
  3. The MCR on Indian constitutional reforms along with the Montagu Declaration are, thus, worthy claimants of the title of the Magna Carta of Modern India.
History- Important places, persons in news

Banks agree to resolve stressed assets quickly

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Inter- Creditors Agreement

Mains level: NPA problem and measures for its resolution


News

Speeding up action on Stressed Assets

  1. Leading lenders of the country signed an agreement among themselves to grant power to the lead lender of the consortium to draw up a resolution plan for stressed assets.
  2. The plan would be implemented in a time-bound manner before bankruptcy proceedings kick in, as was the mandate of the Reserve Bank.
  3. The move comes after the RBI in its circular dismantled all the existing resolution mechanisms, such as the joint lenders’ forum, and asked lenders to start resolution for the asset even if the default was by one day.

Inter-Creditor Agreement (ICA)

  1. The agreement, known as Inter-Creditor Agreement (ICA) was framed under the aegis of the Indian Banks’ Association and follows the recommendations of the Sunil Mehta Committee (PNB) on stressed asset resolution.
  2. 24 public, private and foreign banks have signed ICA agreements under Sashakt to resolve stressed assets.
  3. Lenders including State Bank of India, Bank of India, and Corporation Bank have already signed the pact.
  4. The ICA has been executed by 24 lenders, primarily those who have obtained their board approvals.
  5. Other lenders and NBFCs are expected to execute the ICA shortly after getting approval from the respective Boards.

Massive step to resolve NPAs

  1. This resolution over dissolution approach will strengthen banks & businesses, protect jobs & help economy grow even faster.
  2. The ICA is applicable to all corporate borrowers who have availed loans for an amount of ₹50 crore or more under consortium lending / multiple banking arrangements.
  3. It had mandated that if the resolution plan was not finalised within 180 days, the account had to be referred for bankruptcy proceedings.

Working of the ICA

  1. The lender with the highest exposure to a stressed borrower will be authorised to formulate the resolution plan which will be presented to all lenders for their approval.
  2. The decision making shall be by way of approval of ‘majority lenders’ (i.e. the lenders with 66% share in the aggregate exposure). Once a resolution plan is approved by the majority, it shall be binding on all the lenders that are a party to the ICA.
  3. Dissenting lenders can either sell their exposure to another lender at a 15% discount or buy the entire exposure of all the banks involved, at a 25% premium.

Building consensus over a common resolution plan

  1. One of the major issues identified was a lack of consensus among the lending banks over a common resolution plan which would have helped in getting the asset back into the resuscitation mode rather than allowing it to impair over a period of time.
  2. ICA primarily focuses on the ₹50 crore-₹500 crore and the ₹500 crore-₹2,000 crore categories. If there are any specific assets of more than ₹2,000 crore, it will be dealt separately by ICA.
  3. The Mehta committee had estimated ₹2.1 lakh crore of stressed assets in the ₹50 crore to ₹500 crore category.
  4. The total stress in public sector banks is estimated at ₹10.6 lakh crore, as on March 31, 2018.
NPA Crisis

Explained: Ending “No detention Policy” in schools

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Read the attached story.


Context

  1. A bill to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools was passed in the Lok Sabha recently as per the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee.
  2. Under the current provisions of the RTE Act, no student can be detained till class 8 and all students are promoted to the next grade.
  3. This provision has resulted into a severe threat in the Accountability of our elementary education system.

Provisions in the new Amendment

  1. Now onwards, under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (second amendment) Bill, 2017, it will be at the discretion of the states whether to continue with no detention or not.
  2. This Bill provides for a regular examination in classes 5 and 8 and if the child fails, he or she shall be given an additional opportunity for re-examination in two months’ time.
  3. It aims brings accountability to our elementary education system.

What is no detention policy?

  1. The right to education act has been amended to provide the guarantee of uninterrupted schooling under sections 16 and 30(1) until Class 8.
  2. According to this, no student can be failed or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education covering classes I to VII. They shall automatically be promoted to next class till VIII standard.

Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)

  1. The RTE Act has a provision for CCE which is aimed to assess the child’s understanding of what was being taught in class at periodic intervals.
  2. But it has certain concerns of flawed evaluation due to inadequate training of teachers and other infrastructural bottlenecks such as non-compliance of school under RTE.
  3. The Government is seeking to improve CCE as per global standards.

Why ‘no detention policy’ should be scrapped

  1. It has led to increased failure rate in classes 9th and 10th. Hence, if the ‘no detention policy’ continues, it will leave a negative impact on the standard of education and force the children to face more harsh future.
  2. This policy has led to students developing a casual attitude, with there being no risk of failing. The teachers have also become lethargic & started showing lesser interest towards academics.
  3. Reducing Institutional significance: Schools have become only schools for mid-day meal as education and learning are missing.
  4. Zero academic outcomesIf no merit is checked while giving promotion to another class, the children will never learn the importance of studying and acquiring knowledge. It will lead to poor academic outcome in classes.
  5. In some of the states like Sikkim, Kerala and Telangana, the students, who were studying in private schools, have come back to government schools to avoid detention.

Arguments in Favor of No Detention Policy

  1. Reducing dropouts from the schools due to peer pressure was the main reason the Right to Education Act included the no-detention provision if it is reversed many students would stop going to schools when they fail due to pressure from peers and family.
  2. Section 29 (2) (h) of the RTE Act makes a comprehensive and continuous evaluation (CCE) mandatory, wherein schools are expected to use test results to improve teaching and learning of the child and visualise evaluation as a diagnostic tool to improve learning.
  3. If a student is made to repeat a grade, there’s a strong chance he or she will discontinue learning thereby increasing dropout rates especially in the case of Girls.

Way Forward

  1. Shouldering the students with the responsibility of their own performance is absurd.
  2. The steps that can be taken to improve their performance outcomes can be:
  • measuring learning level outcomes of all children on a regular basis,
  • catalysing a “performance-driven culture” and rewarding high performers at every level,
  • changing stakeholders’ mindset and preparing them for new provisions, in which parents are made responsible or accountable for full attendance of their children.
  1. Schooling alone cannot improve the learning of the student. His/her family has a vital role to be played.
  2. In the UK, a student is promoted to the next grade irrespective of his level of progress. If students underperform, their assessment grades are compared with national data of progress levels and a ‘targeted intervention’ is made.
  3. Though ambitious, such a model can be taken into consideration by creating a national repository of school going children enhanced with certain performance parameters.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Parliament gives nod to Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Provisions of the bill

Mains level: Measures to prevent corruption and grafting


News

Provisions of the Bill

  1. The Lok Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that seeks to punish bribe-givers and bribe-takers.
  2. The Bill provides for jail terms of three to seven years, besides fine, to those convicted of taking or giving bribes to public officials.
  3. The Bill also extends the ambit of public servants who will be protected by the provision of a prior government sanction for prosecution.

Safeguards incorporated for Honest Officers

  1. Safeguards had been provided to ensure that honest officers were not intimidated by false complaints.
  2. In a departure from the earlier anti-corruption law, the current law makes a distinction between collusive bribe givers and those who are forced to give.
  3. In such cases, the Bill seeks to protect those who report the matter within seven days.
  4. The amendments propose that a police officer will now have to take prior permission from appropriate authorities while pursuing cases against all public servants.
  5. Earlier, prior permission was needed only for joint secretaries and above.
Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

[op-ed snap] India needs smart urbanization

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization, their problems and remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard discusses the shortcomings of previous policies on urban transformation and highlights new avenues for the draft National Urban Policy which is under consideration.


News

Context

  1. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has recently formed a committee to draft India’s National Urban Policy.
  2. The move is in accordance with the requirements of the New Urban Agenda of UN-Habitat, signed by 193 countries in Quito in October 2016.

Rural-Urban mismatch

  1. Case Study: Residents of Bhavanpur, a village about 15 km outside Ahmedabad, have been protesting against their inclusion in the city’s urban area by the local urban development authority.
  2. Similar protests have been observed in villages elsewhere in Gujarat. It’s a strange trend, the fruits of urban development seemingly rejected.
  3. Meanwhile, pollution in India’s urban areas seems to have sparked off a reverse migration.
  4. Farmers from Haryana who had migrated to Delhi and Gurugram for work to escape an agricultural crisis are increasingly going back to their farms during winter, unable to take the toxic pollution.

A rising number on Migration

  1. Over 34% of India’s current population lives in urban areas, rising by 3% since 2011.
  2. More importantly, while existing large urban agglomerations (those with a population above 50 lakh) have remained mostly constant in number since 2005.
  3. Smaller clusters have risen significantly (from 34 to 50 clusters with 10-50 lakh population).
  4. Migration is mostly a shadowed on that is taking place before actual urbanisation taking place in the context of basic amenities.

Stumbled initiatives on rise

  1. There is still an outstanding shortage of over 10 million affordable houses (despite the government taking encouraging steps to incentivize their construction.
  2. The annually recurring instances of floods in Mumbai, dengue in Delhi and lakes on fire in Bengaluru paint a grim picture.
  3. Various policy initiatives have not yielded much significant results.

Defining what is ‘Urban’

  1. Urban development comes under State governments, with the Governor notifying an area as urban based on parameters such as population, density, revenue generated for the local administration and percentage employed in non-agricultural activities.
  2. This notification leads to the creation of an urban local government or municipality, classifying the area as a “statutory town”.
  3. With such a vague definition, discretionary decisions yield a wide variance in what is considered a town.
  4. The Central government considers a settlement as urban if it has a urban local government, a minimum population of 5,000; over 75% of its (male) population working in non-agricultural activities; and a population density of at least 400 per sq. km.
  5. However, many States consider such “census towns” as rural, and establish governance through a rural local government or panchayat.

Infrastructural bottlenecks

  1. India spends about $17 per capita annually on urban infrastructure projects, against a global benchmark of $100 and China’s $116.
  2. Governments have come and gone, announcing a variety of schemes, but implementation has been mostly inadequate, with exploration of financing options limited as well.

Migration as a negative phenomenon

  1. Internal migration in India is very closely linked to urban transitions, with such migration helping reduce poverty or prevent households from slipping into it.
  2. Urban migration is not viewed positively in India, with policies often bluntly seeking to reduce rural to urban migration.
  3. Preventing such migration can be counterproductive it would be better to have policies and programmes in place to facilitate the integration of migrants into the local urban fabric, and building city plans with a regular migration forecast assumed.
  4. Lowering the cost of migration, along with eliminating discrimination against migrants, while protecting their rights will help raise development across the board.

Way Forward

  1. The announcement of a new urbanisation policy that seeks to rebuild Indian cities around clusters of human capital, instead of considering them simply as an agglomeration of land use, is a welcome transition.
  2. We need to empower our cities, with a focus on land policy reforms, granting urban local bodies the freedom to raise financing and enforce local land usage norms.
  3. For an India to shine, the transformation of its cities is necessary.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Anti-trafficking Bill may lead to censorship

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 36 and 39, Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.

Mains level: The newscard discusses major issues with errors in draft Anti-Trafficking Bill.


News

Context

  1. The govt introduced the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha.
  2. The intention of the Union government is to “make India a leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking” through the passage of this Bill.
  3. Good intentions aside, there are a few problematic provisions in the proposed legislation, which may severely impact freedom of expression.

Drafting error

  1. It proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation
  2. A/c to Section 36 “any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner” has wide amplitude as Bill does not define what constitutes “promotion”.
  3. For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting prurient interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.

Fouled Censorship experiments of the past

  1. In June 2016, the Union government banned 240 escort sites for obscenity even though it cannot do that under Section 69A or Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, or Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  2. In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging “morality” and “decency”, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism.
  3. If historical record is any indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.

The excessive scope of the bill

  1. Section 39 proposes a weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising “which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished” (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years.
  2. In effect, the provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
  3. The excessive scope of this provision is prone to severe abuse since, without any burden of showing a causal connection, it could be argued that anything “may lead” to the trafficking of a person.

Another scope of ambiguity

  1. Another by-product of passing the proposed legislation would be a dramatic shift in India’s landscape of intermediary liability laws, i.e., rules which determine the liability of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and messaging services like WhatsApp for hosting or distributing unlawful content.
  2. Provisions in the Bill that criminalize the “publication” and “distribution” of content, ignore that modern electronic communication requires third-party intermediaries to store and distribute content.
  3. Under the proposed legislation, the fact that human traffickers used WhatsApp to communicate about their activities could be used to hold the messaging service criminally liable.

Comparing the bill with global standards

  1. The Bill is in direct conflict with the internationally recognized Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.
  2. It is also in dissonance with existing principles of Indian law, flowing from the Information Technology Act, 2000, that identify online platforms as “safe harbours” as long as they act as mere conduits.
  3. From the perspective of intermediaries, monitoring content is unfeasible, and sometimes technologically impossible as in the case of Whatsapp, which facilitates end-to-end encrypted messaging.

Way forward

  1. The proposed changes will invariably lead to a chilling effect on speech on online platforms.
  2. Considering these problematic provisions, it will be a wise move to send the Bill to a select committee in Parliament.
  3. The relevant stakeholders can engage with the lawmakers to arrive at a revised Bill, hopefully, one which prevents human trafficking without threatening the Constitutional right of free speech.
Human Rights Issues