. Do police get away with rights violations?
Context:- Article ties to bring out the fact that our system has no concrete mechanisms to deal with human rights violation by the police in India. NHRC deals with such cases but the action it takes is grossly inadequate.
What do the statistics reveal?
As we can see,
- A total of over 35k cases were registered with NHRC against the police in 2015-16 but only 94 FIRs (First Information Report) were filed.
What does it show? – It shows that police is reluctant to file an FIR against one of its own personnel
- Average of 120 FIRs were filed against policemen between 2006 & 2015 as per NCRB
Who investigated cases against police in India?
In India there is no independent body to investigate complaints against police.
- The complaints are registered with NHRC which investigates the cases.
- The officers of its investigative unit are drawn from state police forces on deputation.
- Officers do not have the power of active investigation i.e. they cannot collect or preserve physical evidence, they have to ask local police for it
What are the remedial steps NHRC can take in case offence is established?
After an offence is established after an investigation, NHRC can recommends lawful action which may include,
- Punitive measures against the guilty
- Monetary compensation to the victim
Lacunae with NHRC functioning
At present NHRC recommends disciplinary action in very few cases, though the monetary relief was ordered in higher number of cases. NHRC has complete authority to act against the police but it chooses not to do so.
- From 2012-2015, NHRC recommended disciplinary action in just 22 cases
- From 2013-2015, Monetary relief was recommended in 450 cases
The way ahead
- Instead of NHRC, an independent investigative authority should be established as has been done by countries like UK which has the Independent Police Complaints Commission or South Africa which has the Independent Police Investigative Directorate
- Making sure that the officers of this independent investigative authority are recruited separately and have no connection with the state police whatsoever to ensure impartial investigations
- Police officers can be trained at regular intervals so that they are sensitized against the misuse of their power
With great power comes great responsibility. Power given to police is for public good and not for inflicting violence against them. A potent deterrent is necessary to ensure that the one with power acts responsibly.
. Task force moots panel on BPL
Context:- A task force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya to prepare a road map for elimination of poverty has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and suggested setting up of a committee to identify people below the poverty line (BPL)
What is a Poverty line?
It is a boundary or income threshold below which a family is considered to be poor. It is established by the government to identify the number of poor in the country so that it can direct its welfare programmes suitably.
What is the current poverty line in India?
Following committees were appointed by the government to define the poverty line in India
- First Planning Commission Working Group: The concept of the poverty line was first introduced by a working group of the Planning Commission in 1962 and subsequently expanded in 1979 by a task force. The 1962 working group recommended that the national minimum for each household of five persons should be not less than Rs 100 per month for rural and 125 for urban at 1960-61 prices.
- YK Alagh Committee: Till 1979, the approach to estimate poverty was traditional i.e. lack of income. It was later decided to measure poverty precisely as starvation i.e. in terms of how much people eat. This approach was first of all adopted by the YK Alagh Committee’s recommendation in 1979 whereby, the people consuming less than 2100 calories in the urban areas or less than 2400 calories in the rural areas are poor.
- Lakdawala Formula: This poverty line was set such that anyone above them would be able to afford 2400 and 2100 calories worth of consumption in rural and urban areas respectively in addition to clothing and shelter.This committee defined poverty line on the basis of household per capita consumption expenditure. The committee used CPI-IL (Consumer Price Index for Industrial Laborers) and CPI- AL (Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Laborers) for estimation of the poverty line.
- Suresh Tendulkar Committee: In 2005, Suresh Tendulkar committee was constituted by the Planning Commission. This committee recommended to shift away from the calorie based model and made the poverty line somewhat broad based by considering monthly spending on education, health, electricity and transport also. The Tendulkar panel stipulated a benchmark daily per capita expenditure of 27 and Rs. 33 in rural and urban areas, respectively, and arrived at a cut-off of about 22% of the population below poverty line.
- Rangarajan Committee: Since the figures arrived at by Tendulkar committee received a wide media & public backlash, government appointed another committee under C. Rangarajan to review the poverty estimation methodology in 2012. Rangarajan committee raised these limits to 32 and Rs. 47, respectively, and worked out poverty line at close to 30%.
Present government didn’t accept the recommendations of Rangarajan report and appointed a 14 member task force to come up with a realistic estimate of the poverty line.
Main aim of the task force
- To prepare a road map for elimination of poverty as well as suggest strategies and anti-poverty programmes
- Developing a working definition of poverty and coordinating and developing synergy with Central Ministries and State government task forces
A new committee be set up, which will work on the definition to identify BPL population, and this will include active participation from States.
- Continue with the Tendulkar poverty line
- Switch to the Rangarajan or other higher rural and urban poverty lines
- Track progress over time of the bottom 30 per cent of the population
- Track progress along specific components of poverty such as nutrition, housing, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and connectivity
Note: The last two measures deals with tracking the reduction in poverty. They are not to be used as a substitutes for the poverty line itself. They can only complement the poverty estimation by providing a feedback as to whether the government measures to counter poverty are working or not.
. Labour’s love lost
Context:- Author writes on the challenges labour faces today in India.
Author points out that,
In India, corporate sector is vying for labour reforms to achieve the following objectives
- Neutralising Trade unions
- Legalising contractual/temporary labour
He cites the example of the Maruti’s Manesar incident of 18th July 2012 to prove that how corporate has been constantly trying to reduce the power of trade unions & the exploiting every opportunity to support a culture of temporary labour.
- Maruti workers had been agitating for the right to form an independent Union since June 2011
- After several months of struggle, the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MSWU) was formed in early 2012. The union derived its strength from a strategic unity between temporary and permanent workers. The main agenda of the union was pay parity with permanent workers.
- Finally, on July 18, 2012 an outbreak of rioting at the Manesar plant left one HR executive dead and 40 others injured. The police arrested 147 Maruti workers and slapped murder charges on all of them.
The outcome: the termination of 546 permanent workers and 1,800 temporary workers.
Author says that the
Above critical outcome was not discussed upon & the final beneficiary of the whole incident was Maruti itself. It succeeded in dismantling the Union & brought in a regime wherein temporary labour would be employed for 6 months & then laid off for 5 months and then may be recalled for another 6 months.
- Right to form Trade Union is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(c)
- Under the Contract Labour (regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 there is a prohibition of employing contractual labour i.e. temporary workers for core industrial work
Industry wants the government to legalize the culture of temporary workers& make it impossible to form trade unions. Temporary workers are already exploited in worst way possible. Government should not buckle under the corporate pressure & make sure that this culture of casual and temporary labour is ended.
. ISRO makes India proud again
Context:- Successful launch of the INSAT-3DR, the weather satellite.
INSAT -3DR was launched successfully by ISRO using the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) in GSLV Mk II
Successful launch of INSAT-3DR marks the 3rd successful launch using GSLV Mk II
Successful launches using GSLV Mk II employing CUS
1st Launch– 5th Jan 2014 – [GSAT -14]
2nd Launch– 27th Aug 2015 – [GSAT -6]
3rd Launch– 8th Sep 2016 – [INSAT -3DR]
- The first two flights were developmental flights. INSAT -3DR is the first successful operational flight of GSLV Mk II
- INSAT-3DR is the heaviest satellite to be launched from Indian soil. It was made possible by CUS because unlike solid and liquid propellants, the specific impulse or thrust provided by a cryogenic rocket stage is much higher and is therefore more efficient to carry heavier payloads.
ISRO plans to test the next version of GSLV i.e. GSLV Mk III in the coming two months. It would have a Cryogenic engine that would be able to provide lift offs to even heavier satellites than GSLV Mk II, almost double i.e. 4tonnes.
Future missions planned by ISRO include,
- SAARC satellite
- Earth observation satellite
- ISOR-NASA Mission
- Launch of ADITYA
- MARS Mission I
With the successful operational flight of GSLV Mk II, India has now entered the elite club of countries having the indigenously developed cryogenic capabilities. With ISRO planning to go even further with GSLV Mk III, India’s space programme looks brighter than always.
. Unequal by Law
Context:- Government has prepared the draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016. Article talks about certain provisions that go against the constitutional rights of the citizens
What the draft bill intends to do?
As per the draft bill, commercial surrogacy will be prohibited and altruistic surrogacy shall be permitted but only to those heterosexual couples who have been married for over 5years
What is commercial surrogacy?
Commercial surrogacy refers to an arrangement where the surrogate mother is compensated beyond her medical expenses for the surrogacy services provided
Note: – Please refer 9pm Brief dated 1st September 2016 for more info on surrogacy.
Why the bill is exclusionary and controversial?
Because of the two reasons,
- Ignores other assistive reproduction technologies: It focuses exclusively on surrogacy at the cost of ignoring the regulation of other assistive reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilisation, sperm donation, etc.
- Regulating the rights: It raises questions about the Government’s commitment to protect and promote the constitutional, reproductive and human rights of Indian citizens.
How the Draft bill violates Article 14& Article 7, 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Article 14 enshrines the right to equality to all the citizens of India. Bill violates it in the following way,
- The bill bars unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and homosexuals, among others, from availing of surrogacy services in India. It only allows married couples to utilize the technology.
Violation: Just because someone is not married or has an alternative lifestyle, it cannot be made a legal ground to exclude them of availing surrogacy services. Reproductive rights of every citizen should be given equal importance irrespective of the choice of their lifestyle.
- The bill permits altruistic surrogacy, under which only close female relatives are able to become surrogate mothers.
Note: Articles 7 and 16 of the United Nations-backed Universal Declaration of Human Rights, call for equality before the law and the right of men and women of full age to found a family.
State is right in its wake to enact laws to prevent exploitation of a certain section of society but it should not impose its own ideological fantasies upon the citizenry by enacting discriminatory and controversial laws. This Draft surrogacy bill is one such law that if enacted will legalize the inequality & give rise to a mushrooming black market
. From Plate to Plough: Connecting the drops
Context:- In the wake of the ongoing water crisis, this article points out that an enduring solution to India’s water woes lies in buffer stocking during monsoon months and release during lean seasons.
Drought and floods go hand in hand in India it seems. By the end of June, government was concerned with droughts but come August, various Indian states were flooded. Major floods occurred in following areas,
Even areas that were not flood-prone were flooded this year,
- Jaipur, Jodhpur & Southern parts of Rajasthan
Why most of the floods in India occur in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Barak basin?
Because the distance between the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas and the outlet at the Bay of Bengal is short and the contributing tributaries like Kosi, Gandak, Ghaghara and others discharge large volumes of water and devastate the fertile plains of eastern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.
How best can the problem of floods and droughts be addressed so that the losses are minimal and the system becomes more resilient?
Skewed water availability: India gets “too much” water (about 75 per cent of annual precipitation) during 120 days of the monsoon season (June to September) and “too little” for the remaining 245 days. This skewed water availability has to be managed and regulated for its consumption throughout the year.
Due to above reason, after independence India rallied to build dams like Bhakra Nangal, Hirakud, Rihandetc to solve its water woes but gradually the interest of the government died up in developing this potential further. Reasons are,
- Shift in priorities: Priorities of the government shifted towards heavy industrialization from 1956
- Widespread corruption and inefficiencies
- The matter of resettlement of the displaced people
India’s abysmal storage capacity
India has abysmal per capita water storage capacity through dams as of now.
- India: 194 m3 (2015)
- China: 590 m3 (2013)
- Brazil: 3,370 m3 (2015)
- Russia: 5,587 m3 (2015)
- South Africa: 569 m3 (2015)
USA: 2254m3 (2015)
Canada: 3395 m3 (2015)
Such poor storage capacity leads to droughts when water is deficient and to floods when water is abundant.
- Bihar asked for de-silting of the Ganga and removal of the Farakka barrage, as it was causing accumulation of silt flowing from the Himalayan rivers and making the flood situation in Bihar grim. It is only a partial & temporary solution though
- Buffer stocking of water through dams over the ground and by recharging aquifers underground
- Stable resettlement policy so that faith of the people in the system is restored and ensuring that at least new dam projects are not protested because of the poor resettlement policies of the state
- Underground Taming of Floods for Irrigation (UTFI): In this technique, surplus flood water is directed to aquifers through well-designed structures placed in ponds and other depression areas and evacuated through large-scale pump irrigation during the dry season
- Use of smart geo-spatial techniques for flood forecasting
- Construction and strengthening of embankments at critical locations
- Flood tolerant crops: promote flood-tolerant “scuba rice”, sugarcane, jute and high-value aquatic crops in the regions prone to flooding
- Easy access to Insurance in agricultural sector: Access to affordable crop, livestock and asset insurance products
- Raising Awareness: Education and preparedness to live with the floods
- Reducing Agriculture’s share from current share in water usage from 78% to 70% by 2030
- Cascading check dams, drips and sprinkler irrigation can also help
. Cabinet may discuss GST Council set up
The Cabinet is likely to take up the constitution of the GST Council and a secretariat for the work on the GST law.
What is the GST Council?
It is federal body that is going to be set up under the GST law. It will oversee and administer the goods and services tax
The GST council, the key decision-making body that will take all important decisions regarding the GST, will have representation from the central government as well as all the state governments
Structure of GST Council
The GST council will be chaired by the Union finance minister with a state finance minister as deputy chairman.
- All the state finance ministers along with the minister of state for finance in charge of revenue at the centre will be part of this council.
Powers of GST Council
The council will have the last say in finalizing the shape of the GST.
- GST Rate: It will finalize the tax rate under the GST as well as the revenue threshold for traders to be exempt from this tax.
- Taxes to be subsumed: It will make recommendations on the taxes, cesses and surcharges that will be subsumed by the GST.
- Special provisions: It will also make recommendations on special provisions with respect to the eight north eastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand
- It will also decide if and when petroleum and petroleum products will come under the GST’s ambit.
- Exempted products: The council will also decide which goods and services will be exempt from the tax to protect the common man as well as the sharing mechanism of administrative duties between the central board of excise and customs and the state tax officers
- Dispute redressal: The council will also have the final say on the mechanism to resolve disputes that may arise between the centre and the states or between states. GST Council as a dispute resolution body has been criticized on the ground that how can it resolve the disputes arising out of its own recommendations.
How GST Council promotes co-operative federalism?
Though GST Law will subsume many taxes levied by states but the council has been structured in such a way that any of its major decision would need near consensus between states and centre.
- Every decision of the GST council needs to be taken with a 3/4th
- Weightage of votes: While the central government’s vote will have a 1/3rd weightage, the votes of all the state governments put together will have a 2/3rd weightage
Thus, GST Council promotes the spirit of co-operative federalism as it gives states a major say in the way indirect taxes will be administered across the country.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
. India to lead global coalition to fight epidemics
Context:- India is all set to lead the global fight against epidemics as it is a key member of the newly formed Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with its headquarters at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, in Oslo
At the coalition India is represented bythe Ministries of Science and Technologies and Health and Family Welfare. India intends to develop the strategies for
- Technical development
- Regulatory and ethical approaches
- finding the resources and commitments needed for the coalition
Which are the diseases being actively targeted? What is the strategy?
Those diseases will be focused upon which do not have a large market in global terms meaning such diseases for which manufacturers are not willing to develop vaccines as the return might not be sufficient to make an investment.
- The coalition will be guided by WHO’s R&D blueprint (2016), which lists 11 illnesses to focus on, including Chikungunya, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic feveretc.
. Anthropocene: why this naming has risen in the earth’s history
Context:- Scientists are of the view that the time has come to describe a new geological epoch.
What is an epoch?
A particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc
Holocene: Present Epoch
Holocene epoch started 11,700 years ago after the last Ice age. At the start of Holocene, most of the Ice age animals including the woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and giant bears had died out. By 11000 years, man had occupied significant parts of the earth as hunter gatherers as well as settled communities, inventing farming and agriculture.
A group of geoscientists gathered at Cape Town, South Africa, and have recommended that mankind’s impact on Mother Earth has been so profound in recent years, that it is time to describe a new geological epoch in the history of earth, calling it Anthropocene (Anthropo, from the Greek for humankind, and cene from the Greek kainos, Latinised as caenus or cene,meaningnew)
What events have led scientists to suggest a new epoch?
- High concentration of carbon dioxide: Since the beginning of the 19th century due to industrial revolution coal has been used extensively as the fuel for transport and industry.
The other major fossil fuels, oil (petroleum) and natural gas have also been put to use on a large scale. Burning carbon-rich fossil fuel liberates CO2.It has accumulated in large quantities in the atmosphere due to gravitational pull of the earth (Lighter gases like Helium or hydrogen escape but carbon dioxide cant).
This gas acts like a greenhouse gas by trapping the sun’s incoming solar radiation but not letting it out thereby raising the average surface temperature over two centuries up by 1.5 degrees Centigrade.
This has also started melting glaciers and raised the sea level by 3.2 mm every year. (Indeed, the island nation, Maldives, is worried that at this rate, some of its islands may be submerged in the near future, and had actually asked Australia whether they could buy land and move there!).
- Plastic pollution
- Increase in human population from 1.2 billion in 1850 to the current 7 billion, has led to massive destruction of forests and animals therein has led to a crowding problem, and its associated effects.
Changed concentrations of CO2
11000 years ago: 220ppm
8000 years ago: 260ppm
Start of the industrial revolution: 280ppm
Has any such event happened in the past which led to a massive change in earth’s atmosphere like it is happening now?
Such a thing happened long time ago, during what is called the “Oxygen Catastrophe” (or more politely as the Great Oxygenation Event) which occurred about 2.4 billion years ago.
- Those days, the earth was rich in a set of microbes called cyanobacteria, which started the early events of photosynthesis, wherein the microbe used CO2 for energy production and emitted oxygen gas (O2) as the waste material.
- Cyanobacteria reproduce very fast (doubling every 30 minutes), thus leading to vast amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere. Some of this was ‘fixed’ by iron and organic matter of earth, but the rest soon led the ‘poisonous’ gas, oxygen, attain levels of about 20 per cent in the air. This burnt off many living forms and it took a long time before oxygen- using life forms (aerobics) started flourishing about 500 million years later
At least now we should become aware about the dangers we are posing to our planet by the unabated use of fossil fuels and other products. It is our responsibility to ensure that Earth is preserved for future generations and that they do not inherit an earth rendered inhabitable by us.