CURRENT AFFAIRS FOR PERSONALITY TEST WBCS 2020

Contents

NATIONAL ISSUES

INTERNATIONAL ISSUES

ECONOMIC ISSUES

Budget 2022-23

SOCIAL ISSUES

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

WB CURRENT AFFAIRS

WEST BENGAL IMPORTANT FACTS

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    NATIONAL CURRENT EVENTS
    Economically Weaker Section (EWS) 
    Context

    • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court by a majority of 3:2 has upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act.
    • Petitioner arguments: The amendment violates the basic structure of the Constitution. However, there is no clear definition of basic structure.
      • It violates the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Indra Sawhney & Ors v Union of India, which restricted reservations to 50%. The court held that economic backwardness cannot be the sole criterion for identifying a backward class.
    • Government Arguments: The government argued that under Article 46 of the Indian Constitution, the state must protect the interests of economically weaker sections: “The state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
    • Arguments by the judges in favour of EWS reservation;
      • Reservation based only on economic criteria does not damage the basic structure of the Constitution.
      • Treating EWS as a separate class would be a reasonable classification, and treating unequals equally would violate the principle of equality under the Constitution. 
    • Arguments by the judges in against EWS reservation;
      • While reservation on economic criteria is not violative of the basic structure of the Constitution, excluding SC/ST/OBC from the purview of EWS is a clear violation of the basic structure. 

    Details

    • In 2019, The Indian parliament has passed the 103rd Amendment act that inserted Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution of India to provide up to 10% reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS) among non-OBC and non-SC/ST sections of the population. 
      • The amendment introduced a quota for the poor among the so-called ‘forward castes’ or ‘general category’.
    • The 10% EWS quota is available in admissions to higher educational institutions, and initial recruitment in central government jobs. 
    • The amendment also empowered state governments to provide reservations based on economic backwardness

    Basic Structure of the Constitution

    • In the Shankari Prasad case (1951), the constitutional validity of the 1st Amendment Act (1951), which trimmed the right to property, was challenged. 
      • The Supreme Court ruled that the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 also includes the power to amend Fundamental Rights. 
      • Therefore, the Parliament can shorten or take away any of the Fundamental Rights by enacting a constitutional amendment act.
    • In the Golak Nath case (1967), the constitutional validity of the 17th Amendment Act (1964), which inserted certain state acts in the 9th Schedule, was challenged. 
      • The Supreme Court ruled that the Fundamental Rights are given a ‘transcendental and immutable’ position and hence, the Parliament cannot shorten or take away any of these rights. 
    • The Parliament reacted to the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Golak Nath case (1967) by enacting the 24th Amendment Act (1971).
      • It declared that the Parliament has the power to shorten or take away any of the Fundamental Rights under Article 368.
    • In the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), the Supreme Court overruled its judgment in the Golak Nath case (1967). 
      • The Court stated that Parliament is empowered to shorten or take away any of the Fundamental Rights. At the same time, it laid down a new doctrine of the ‘basic structure’ (or ‘basic features’) of the Constitution. 
      • It ruled that the power of Parliament under Article 368 does not allow it to alter the ‘basic structure of the Constitution. 
    • In the Minerva Mills case (1980), the court held that: “Since the Constitution had conferred a limited amending power on the Parliament, the Parliament cannot under the exercise of that limited power enlarge that very power into absolute power. 
    • The current position is that the Parliament under Article 368 can amend any part of the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights but without affecting the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. 

     Economically Weaker Section (EWS)

    • Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in India is a subcategory of people belonging to the Economy Based Un-Reserved Category having an annual family income of less than ?8 lakh and who do not belong to any category such as SC/ST/OBC across India.
      • Candidates who do not fall under SC/ST/OBC and fulfil the EWS economic criteria are to be part of the EWS category.
    • In January 2019, the Union Council of Ministers approved a 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in the General category.
      • The cabinet decided that this would be over and above the existing 50% reservation for SC/ST/OBC categories.
    • The 103rd Amendment of the Constitution of India amended articles 15(6) and 16(6) of the Constitution of India to permit 10% reservations to the EWS category students among the unreserved category or General category students. 
      • Several state cabinets approved the law and announced their intention to implement the 10% EWS reservations.

     Eligibility Criteria under EWS Reservation 

    • The eligibility to get the EWS certificate is not only purely based on annual family income but also based on the held property. 
    • The central government has set the income limit for admission to central government-owned colleges and jobs offered by the central government. 
      • State governments are given the authority to change the eligibility criteria and also to extend the income limit further for candidates seeking reservation under the EWS category, which will be valid only in state-owned colleges and state government jobs as deemed fit for the respective states.
    • Criteria for identifying EWS quota;
      • The candidate's annual family income must be less than Rs. 8 lakhs per annum.
      • Their family must not own more than 5 acres of agricultural land.
      • The residential flat area should be below 1000 sq ft.
      • The residential plot's area should be below 100 square yards if in a notified municipality sector.
      • The residential plot's area should be below 200 square yards if in a non-notified municipality sector.

    Significance of EWS Reservation 

    • People belonging to the Economically Weaker Section now get 10% reservation in education and government jobs in India (vertical reservations) similar to OBC, SC, and ST.
    • This reservation weakened the pace of many reservation agitations such as the Jat reservation movement, the Patidar reservation movement, and the Kapu reservation movement.  

    Concern 

    • Aspirants from the EWS category are not fully satisfied with this reservation because it does not include many benefits like age relaxation, fee relaxation, etc. 
    • In Indra Sawhney's Judgement, a nine-judge bench had struck down a provision that provided 10% reservation for the economically backward on the ground that economic Criteria Cannot be the Sole basis to determine backwardness.
    • In Nagaraj's judgment, a Constitution Bench ruled that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. It is said the 50% ceiling, among other things, was a constitutional requirement without which the Structure of equality of opportunity would Collapse.
    • Another issue is whether reservations can go to a Section that is already adequately represented in Public Employment.
    • One of the Criteria has an income limit of less than 8 lakh Per Annum, National Sample Survey Shows that the annual per Capita expenditure for 99% of households fall under this limit, even if we apply all the other Criteria for exclusion the bill would Still Cover over 95% of households.

    Way Forward 

    • The general problem faced by children and youth of so-called Socially Advanced Castes who are poor is that they are not able to afford education. This problem needs to be resolved by the scheme of scholarships and educational loans so that no child or youth of any caste has to drop out of education at any stage due to financial incapacity. 
    • Future economic growth in India is going to come from the Private Sector and entrepreneurship. To ensure that all Indians, regardless of caste, class and religion, can take part in economic growth, we must focus on basic skills. We need to focus on reducing inequalities where they 1st emerge, within primary Schools.
    • The Provision of Reservation to some communities aims at empowering them and ensuring their participation in the decision-making process of the State and enabling them to contribute to Nation building. 

    Voting Rights for NRI
    Context

    • The Attorney General of India stated in the Supreme Court that the government is in the process to facilitate non-resident Indians (NRI) to cast their votes remotely while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process of Indian Democracy. 

    Details

    • India has the largest diaspora population, with nearly 1.35 crore non-resident Indians (NRI) spread across the globe. 
      • Many of them are in the Gulf countries, the U.S. and the U.K. 
    • In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 99,844 NRIs registered as voters and 25,606 electors turned up to vote, with a majority hailing from Kerala (25,534). 
    • A major reason for low NRI registration and voting is the condition that they have to visit the polling booth in person.
    • In 2014, The Election Commission of India (ECI) formed a Committee to explore the options for overseas electors. The committee suggested 2 remote voting options; e-postal ballot and proxy voting.
      • e-Postal Ballot System involves the NRI voter sending an application to the returning officer in person or online. 
        • The returning officer will send the ballot electronically. 
        • The voter can then register their mandate on the ballot printout and send it back with an attested declaration. 
        • The voter will either send the ballot by ordinary post or drop it at an Indian Embassy where it would be segregated and posted. 
      • Proxy voting enables voters to appoint proxies to vote on their behalf.
    • Currently, both ETPBS and proxy voting are available to only service voters, like those in the armed forces or diplomatic missions.

    NRI Voter

    • Citizen of India, who is absent from the country owing to employment, education etc, and has not acquired citizenship of any other country are known as Overseas Voters and are eligible to be registered as a voter at the address mentioned in their Indian passport. 
    • According to the provisions of Section 19 of the Representation of People Act, 1950, an NRI could join the electoral rolls as an elector. 
      • However, till 2010, NRIs settled in other countries were not permitted to exercise their right to vote during the elections. 
      • It was a simple amendment to the Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2010 that crystallized voting rights for non-resident Indians, even though they had to be physically present in the constituency.

    Significance of Overseas Indian

    • Remittances close to 90 billion dollars make an invaluable contribution by aiding in socio-economic development, poverty reduction and changes in consumption behaviour in rural areas.
    • NRIs are more prone to donate to domestic charities because of the strong cultural and emotional feelings that they experience.
    • Diaspora acts as 'agents of change' facilitating and enhancing investment, accelerating industrial development, and boosting international trade and tourism.
    • They act as “bridge-builders” between their home and adopted countries. The migration of labour (especially to West Asia) has also helped in bringing down disguised unemployment in India.
      • The migration of skilled labourers to foreign countries and their eventual success bolstered the nation’s image.
    • Diaspora’s motives to invest in India are in contrast to non-diaspora FDI. Their investments are long-lasting as many of them wish to establish a long-term base in India.

    How NRIs get voting rights 

    • They should be Indian and not citizens of the foreign country where they live; that means they must possess a valid Indian passport.
    • They must be at least 18 years old as of January 1st of the year in which the electoral roll is published.
    • Once they fulfil these conditions, they may register themselves as an overseas voter.
    • Offline registration
      • Step 1: If they wish to apply for an NRI Voter ID offline, they need to visit their constituency.
      • Step 2: Visit the Election Registration Office.
      • Step 3: Fill out form 6A for being registered in the roll for the constituency pertaining to the locality in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in the passport is located. 
      • Step 4: Submit documents, including a recent passport-size coloured photograph, self-attested photocopies of relevant passport pages, address in India, and visa endorsement.
      • Step 5: They need to show their original passport for verification.
    • Online registration
    • Visit the ECI website.
    • Choose your state or union territory and go to the State Election Commission of India division.
    • Find form 6A and download it, Print out the form, and Fill in the details.
    • Check that the details are the same as those mentioned in the documents and passport.
    • Scan the form as well as the documents required: One recent passport-sized coloured photograph, duly affixed in Form 6A; self-attested photocopies of the relevant pages of the passport containing the photograph, your address in India, all other particulars and also the page of your passport containing the valid visa endorsement.
    • To submit, create a login ID with a password if the online registration is supported for your area.
    • Upload the scanned documents and apply online.
    • The application will be scrutinized and posted to screen for objections over a week.

    About Non-Resident Indians (NRIs)

    • Overseas Indians, officially known as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are people of Indian birth or ancestry who live outside the Republic of India. 
      • An Indian citizen who is ordinarily residing outside India and holds an Indian Passport
    • According to a Ministry of External Affairs report, there are 32 million NRIs residing outside India. 
      • Every year 2.5 million (25 lakhs) Indians migrate overseas, which is the highest annual number of migrants in the world.
    • If an individual has been in India for a minimum of 182 days in the previous financial year is deemed to be a Resident of India. Anyone who does not meet the conditions will be considered an NRI for the previous financial year.
      • In simple terms, an Indian citizen residing outside India for a combined total of at least 183 days in a financial year is considered to be an NRI.
    • NRIs are eligible to vote, and only the income that they have earned in India is taxable in India. 
      • Therefore, any income earned outside India is not taxable in India.
    • They are entitled to all benefits available to Indian citizens subject to notifications issued by the Government from time to time.
    • They don’t require a visa for visiting India.
    • They can adopt children in India, appear in competitive exams, purchase or sale of immovable property barring agricultural land and farmhouses, and pursue professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and chartered accountants.
    • They have parity with Indian nationals in the matter of domestic airfares, and entry fees to monuments and public places.
    • They are exempted from registration with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.
      • Foreigners visiting India who hold long-term visas (more than 180 days) are required to register their presence in India with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
    • Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 are available to all persons whether citizens or foreigners. 
      • The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 15, 16, 19, 29, and 30 are available only to citizens of India and NRIs. 
    • In case an NRI wishes to take up foreign citizenship, he/she will have to give up Indian citizenship as the Indian constitution does not allow dual citizenship.
      • A person cannot hold Indian as well as foreign citizenship simultaneously.

    UNIFIED DISTRICT INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR EDUCATION PLUS (UDISE+) REPORT
    Context

    • The Union Ministry of Education released a report titled ‘Unified District Information System for Education plus (UDISE+) 2021-22’ on school education in India.

    Key Points of the UDISE+ 2020-21 Report

    • In 2021-22 total number of students enrolled in school education from primary to higher secondary increased as compared to the enrollment in 2020-21.
      • 57 crore students enrolled in 2021-22 as compared to 25.38 crores in 2020-21
    • Enrolment of Students from Scheduled castes increased to 4.82 Crore in 2021-22 as compared to 4.78 Crore in 2020-21. 
      • Enrolment of Students from the Scheduled Tribe increased to 2.51 crore in 2021-22 from 2.49 crore in 2020-21. 
      • Enrolment of Students from other backward groups also increased to 11.48 crore in 2021-22 from 11.35 crore in 2020-21.
    • The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) which measures the general level of participation has improved in 2021-22 at all levels of school education compared to 2020-21.
      • GER in higher secondary has increased from 53.8% in 2021-21 to 57.6% in 2021-22.
    • In 2021-22, the Total enrolment of Children with Special Needs (CWSN) stands at 22.67 lakh as compared to 21.91 lakh in 2020-21.
    • During 2021-22, nearly 95.07 lakh teachers were engaged in school education out of which more than 51% are female teachers. 
    • In 2021-22, the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) stood at 26 for primary, 19 for upper primary, 18 for secondary and 27 for higher secondary.
      • In 2018-19, the PTR for primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary was 28, 19, 21, and 30 respectively.
    • In 2021-22, more than 12.29 crore girls were enrolled in primary to higher secondary. 
    • The Gender Parity Index (GPI) shows the representation of females in school education is in line with the representation of girls in the population.
    • In 2021-22, the total number of schools stood at 14.89 lakhs as compared to 15.09 lakhs in 2020-21. 
      • The decline in total schools is mainly due to the closure of private and other management schools and the grouping/ clustering of schools by various States.
    • The availability of basic infrastructure facilities in schools;
    • Electricity connection in 89.3% of schools.
    • Drinking water in 98.2%  of schools
    • Girls' toilets in 97.5% of schools
    • Playground in 77% of schools
    • Library/ Reading room/ Reading corner in 87.3% of schools
    • Only 27% of schools have special toilets for children with special needs (CSWN).
    • Kitchen Gardens in 27.7% of schools
    • Rain Water Harvesting in 21% of schools.
    • Only 44.85% of schools had computer facilities, and nearly 34% had an internet connection.

    About UDISE+

    • The UDISE+ system of online data collection from the schools was developed by the Department of School Education and Literacy in the year 2018-19.
    • It aims to overcome the issues related to the practice of manual data filling in paper format and then feeding them on computers at the block or district level in the UDISE data collection system since 2012-13.
    • In the UDISE+ system, improvements have been made particularly in the areas related to data capture, data mapping and data verification.
    • In UDISE+ 2021-22, additional data on a digital library, peer learning, hard spot identification, the number of books available in a school library, etc have been collected for the first time.

    UNIFORM CIVIL CODE
    Context

    • The Union Government has informed the Supreme Court that the matter of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) will be placed before the 22nd Law Commission.
    • The government highlighted that “Part IV of the Indian Constitution creates an obligation upon the State to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country under its Article 44”. 

    About Uniform Civil Code 

    • Uniform Civil Code comes under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which lays down that the state shall aspire to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
    • It calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would apply to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.

    Origin of Uniform Civil Code

    • The origin of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) dates back to the colonial period when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
    • An increase in legislation dealing with personal issues at the far end of British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941. 
      • The Hindu Law Committee was formed to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws. 
      • The committee, in accordance with scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women. 
      • The committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus.
    • The Hindu Code Bill
      • The draft of the Rau Committee report was submitted to a select committee chaired by B.R Ambedkar that came up for discussion in 1951 after the adoption of the Indian Constitution
      • While discussions continued, the Hindu Code Bill lapsed and was resubmitted in 1952. 
      • The bill was then adopted in 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. 
      • The Act reformed the Hindu personal law and gave women greater property rights, and ownership. 
      • It gave women property rights in their father's estate. The daughter is allotted the same share as is allotted to a son.

    Arguments in Favour of the Uniform Civil Code

    • A Secular republic needs a Common law for all Citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious Practices.
    • Courts also Suggested in their judgements that the government should move toward a uniform civil code including the judgment in the Shah Bano Case.
    • It will address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country.
    • Ensure gender justice, and promote women's empowerment. 
    • The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then apply to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
    • Dr B R Ambedkar, while formulating the Constitution had said that a UCC is desirable but for the moment it should remain voluntary, and thus it was added as a part of the Directive Principles of the State Policy in part IV of the Constitution of India as Article 44.  

    Arguments against Uniform Civil Code

    • Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for a threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.
    • Diversity, both religious and regional, Should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority.
    • Article 25 of the Indian constitution preserves the freedom to practise and propagate any religion that gets into conflict with the concepts of UCC. 
      • Fundamental Rights v/s DPSPs: Fundamental rights are justiciable whereas DPSPs are non-justiciable and optional for the state.
    • The demand for a uniform civil code has been framed in the context of communal politics. A large section of society sees it as majoritarianism under the garb of social reform.

    21st Law Commission on Personal Law 

    • Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage.
    • Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for a threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.
    • The difference does not always imply discrimination.
    • Diversity, both religious and regional should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority.
    • Codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and Stereotypes in every religion would come to light.
    • Certain measures in marriage and divorce should be uniformly accepted in the personal laws of all religions.
    • 18 years be the minimum legal age for men and women to get married, and different ages of marriage between adults must be abolished as it contributes to the Stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands.
    • Need to recognize the role of women in a household. Women should get an equal part of the property gained after marriage in the event of divorce.

    Way Forward

    • Discriminatory practices within a religion should be eliminated. 
    • The achievement of a uniform civil code becomes more desirable when it comes to the diversity of the matrimonial laws, simplifying the Indian legal system and making Indian society more homogeneous. The uniform civil code will envisage uniform provisions that will apply to everyone and will be based on social justice and gender equality in family matters. 
    • By Codification of different Personal laws, we can arrive at certain universal Principles that promote equity.
    • The UCC aims to protect vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities. 
    • The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions making them one for all.  The same civil law will then apply to all citizens irrespective of their faith.

    THE CRIMINAL PROCEDURE (IDENTIFICATION) ACT, 2022
    Context

    • Recently the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has notified the rules governing The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022.
      • An Act can be implemented or come into force when rules are notified.
    • The Act provides a legal sanction to law enforcement agencies for “taking measurements of convicts and other persons for identification and investigation of criminal matters.
    • The Union government stated that the sole purpose is to improve the conviction rate in the country and to safeguard the human rights of law-abiding citizens.

    Details

    • The 2022 Act replaced the Identification of Prisoners Act, of 1920, as the 1920 Act’s scope was confined to capturing finger impressions, footprint impressions and photographs of convicted prisoners and a certain category of arrested and non-convicted persons on the Magistrate orders.
    • The main objective of the 2022 Act is to enable police and central investigating agencies to collect, store and analyze physical and biological samples of arrested persons. 
    • Under the new Act, The Measurements and photographs for identification would serve 3 main purposes;
      • Establish the identity of the culprit against the person being arrested.
      • Identify suspected repetition of similar offences by the same person.
      • Establish a previous conviction.

    Provisions under the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920;

    • The police have powers of arrest, but that does not give them the right to search a person. 
      • The police needed legal sanctions to search the person and collect evidence. These legal sanctions were designed to maintain a balance between the rights of an individual and the interests of society.
      • It became essential when the recording of newer forms of evidence such as fingerprints, footprints and measurements became more accurate and reliable. 
    • Over the years, many legal experts and activists have demanded to amend/update of the Identification of Prisoners Act, of 1920. 
    • In 1980, the 87th Report of the Law Commission of India recommended several amendments;
      • Amend the Act to expand the scope of measurements to include “palm impressions”, “specimen of signature or writing” and “specimen of voice”. 
      • Allowing measurements to be taken for proceedings other than those under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). 

    Key Features of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022.

    • It would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans.
    • It would empower the police to collect finger impressions, palm print impressions, footprint impressions, iris and retina scans, footprint impressions, physical, and biological samples and their analysis, and behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting or any other examination. 
    • Biological samples can be forcibly collected from the convicted or persons arrested for crimes against women or children, or in case the crime attracts a minimum of 7 years in jail. 
      • It can also be taken on the order of a magistrate to assist in the investigation.
    • It also seeks to apply the above provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law. 
      • As per the provisions of the act any person convicted, arrested or detained under any preventive detention law will be required to provide the above-mentioned measurements to the police or a prison official.
    • If any person resists or refuses to allow the taking of such measurements, it shall be lawful for the police officer or prison officer to take such measurements in such manner as may be prescribed. 
      • Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code.
    • It would authorize the police to take and preserve records of convicts and other persons for identification and investigations.
    • It would repeal the existing Identification of Prisoners Act, of 1920.

     Implementing body

    • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under the Ministry of Home Affairs will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signatures and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
    • The State Government and Union territory Administration may notify an appropriate body to collect preserve and share the measurements in their respective jurisdictions.

     Arguments in favour of the Act

    • It will Protect the Human rights of the law-abiding victims of crime
    • It will improve the conviction rate in the country.
    • It will ensure a foolproof mechanism to prevent any data leak or misuse. 
    • Providing the sample will be voluntary for a person detained under any preventive law, they could not be forced to give the sample.
    • No analysis or brain-mapping test would be performed without the person’s approval.

     Arguments against the Act

    • The issue of data protection.
    • Possible misuse of the proposed law.
    • Violation of the citizen’s right to privacy and other fundamental rights.

    Way Forward

    • The Identification of Prisoners Act, of 1920 was colonial legislation, its repetition in the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, of 2022 has raised some concerns related to fundamental rights. 
      • According to some activists, the act violet the right to privacy as per the Puttaswamy case judgment.
      • Concerns that data processing may go beyond the recording of core measurements, and fear of data leakage or data theft. 
    • The Government needs to take concrete steps to redress the grievances raised by different stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation of the law, and also needs to balance the National security needs and Privacy concerns of the citizens.

    CONVERSION THERAPY
    Context

    • The National Medical Commission (NMC) has called ‘conversion therapy’ a “professional misconduct” and released guidelines to all State Medical Councils to ban the therapy.
      • NMC has also empowered the State bodies to take disciplinary action against medical professionals who breach the guideline. 
    • The guidelines highlighted that the NMC is following the Madras High Court order to issue an official notification listing conversion therapy as wrong, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquettes and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.

    Details

    • Madras High Court ruling prohibited any attempt to medically “cure” or change the sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or of any other orientation) people
    • The court instructed the authorities to take action against professionals involved in any form or method of conversion therapy, including the cancellation of their medical licence. 
    • The court gave an order to the National Medical Commission mandating it to “issue an official notification by enrolling ‘Conversion Therapy’ as a professional misconduct.” 

    Conversion Therapy

    • Conversion therapy is a medical procedure that is aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual with the use of either psychiatric treatment, drugs, exorcism or even violence, with the aim being to make the individual a heterosexual. 
    • It also includes steps to change the core identity of a person whose gender identity is incompatible with their sexual anatomy
    • Often, the therapy is offered by quacks with little expertise in dealing with the issue. 
    • According to health experts, the therapy poses the risk of causing or exacerbating mental health conditions, like anxiety, stress and drug use which sometimes even lead to suicide. 

    VIRTUAL SCHOOL
    Context

    • Recently the Chief Minister of Delhi launched a virtual school, and he also announced that students from across the country will be eligible for admission.
    • The Chief Minister highlighted that the Delhi Model Virtual School (DMVS) will be for classes 9-12 and also for students preparing for competitive exams like JEE, NEET and CUET.
      • Any child aged between 13 and 18 who has completed class 8 from any recognized school can apply for admission to class 9.
      • The school will not charge any fee and there will be an attendance tracking system in-built into the online platform used for classes.
      • All classes will be online, the Online classes will be recorded so that students who are unable to attend the live classes can watch them in their free time."
      • For the exams, students will be required to physically come to Delhi.

    Challenges in Indian Education System 

    • India has achieved universal enrolment at the elementary level. This is a great achievement, but getting Students to School is only the beginning of human Capital formation. 
    • Poor quality of facilities, Shortage of qualified faculty.
    • Date Curriculum, Limited university-industry Partnership.
    • Indian-origin Scientists have won the Nobel Prize, but post-independence work done in India has not led to a Science novel. If Indians Studying and working abroad can have a great impact, then obviously the problem has to do with our Systems of education and research.
    • Broken Governance System. There are few rewards for being a good teacher and few Punishments for being a Careless one. 
      • Need more effective and accountable governance Systems
    • The greed of Private Colleges to earn the maximum from every Student puts traumatic Pressure on Students which results in mental breakdown.
    • More girls than boys drop out of School. While boys drop out to work, girls usually Stay at home and help with domestic Work. Social Conception of gender roles is an important factor.
    • Learning loss due to pandemics and the digital divide. 

    Steps taken by the Government 

    • The 86th Constitution Amendment provides the Fundamental right to free and compulsory education under Article 21A includes a Common education System where the “rich and Poor are educated under one roof".
    • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan provides funding to eligible State higher educational institutions.
    • Declaration of Educational Institutions as institutions of Eminence, to provide world-class education to Indian Students within the Country. 
    • Creation of a Higher Education Financing Agency, for high-quality infrastructure in Premier educational institutions.
    • National Institution Ranking Framework for ranking our higher education institutions.
    • GIAN Initiative invites distinguished academicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, and experts from premier institutions across the world to teach in higher educational institutions in India. 
    • SWAYAM Portal for Online Courses.
    • SWAYAM Prabha provides HD educational Channels through DTH on a 24X7 basis. 
    • Sodhganga to develop a national repository of universities in India, and digital Study material for higher education.
    • Samagra Shiksha Scheme to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education.

    Way Forward

    • School closures during lockdown had negatively impacted students, family structures, and learning outcomes (in reading, writing, and arithmetic).  
      • Assessing learning outcomes to understand learning gaps.
      • Developing expert-led bridge courses and accelerated learning programmes to address learning gaps.
      • Institute personalized remedial classes for students with learning gaps.
    • A sustainable model of digital learning needs to create communication channels (mandatory Helpline Centres, WhatsApp groups, etc) to clear doubts. 
      • Need to Increase investment in electrical (including non-conventional sources), communication (satellite TV and radio), and digital infrastructure to enable access to digital education.
      • Distribute subsidized internet connections and content pre-loaded devices to students from backward sections of society.
    • Need to develop a long-term strategy to ensure continued access to digital education.

    National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’S 2021 REPORT
    Context

    • Recently data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) highlighted that as compared to the lockdown period, the year 2021 experienced an increased number of violent crimes such as rape, kidnapping, atrocities against children, and robberies across India.

     Highlights of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report 2021

    • Murders cases registered increased in 2021.
    • Increased the number of registered rape cases from 28,046 in 2020 to 31,677 in 2021.
    • Cases related to kidnapping and abduction fell to 84,805 in 2020 from 1, 05,036 cases in 2019 but again rose to 1, 01,707 in 2021. 
    • The overall registered cognisable crimes decreased by 7.6% falling from 66 lakh in 2020 to 60.9 lakh in 2021.
    • The crime rate (crimes per 1 lakh people) also decreased from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021. 
    • The decline in overall crimes in 2021 can be attributed to a sharp decrease in cases registered over violations of COVID-19 norms.   
    • The rate of violent crimes (per 1 lakh people) among major States was the highest in Assam in 2021, followed by Delhi and West Bengal at 48.7.  
      • The rate was the lowest in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  
      • The biggest increase in the rate of violent crimes was recorded in Odisha. 
    • A total of 1, 49,404 cases of crime against children were registered in 2021, showing an increase of 16.2% over 2020 (1, 28,531 cases).
    • A total of 26,110 cases were registered for committing crimes against Senior Citizens (aged above 60 years), showing an increase of 5.3% in registration over 2020 (24,794 cases).
    • A total of 52,974 cases were registered under Cyber Crimes, showing an increase of 5.9% in registration over 2020 (50,035 cases). 
    • During the year 2021, a total of 64,471 cases were registered under Environment-Related Offences as compared to 61,767 cases in the year 2020, showing an increase of 4.4%.
    • A total of 2,189 cases of Human Trafficking were registered in 2021 as compared to 1,714 cases in the year 2020, showing an increase of 27.7%.
    • State/UT reporting the highest Charge-sheeting Rate under IPC Crimes is Gujarat (95.9%), Puducherry (93.0%) and Andhra Pradesh (92.9%).

    About National Crime Records Bureau

    • National Police Commission in 1977.
      • The Commission was set up to look into all aspects of policing in the country and make recommendations to bring about the required organizational, procedural and cultural changes in the State Police to bring it in tune with the national aspirations of a democratic and welfare State.
    • Committee on Crime Records in 1978.
      • The Committee was set up to review the existing crime records and associated procedures and to recommend changes to enable the police forces to meet the present-day requirements of crime and criminal information.
    • Accepting the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977), the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a Task Force in 1985 to work out the modalities for setting up the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). 
    • The Government accepted the recommendations of the Task Force and constituted the NCRB with headquarters in New Delhi in January 1986.

    Significance of NCRB

    • NCRB functions as the house of information on crime and criminals including those operating at National and International levels.
    • Stores, coordinates and shares information with States and national investigating agencies.
    • Collects and processes crime statistics at the National level.
    • Coordinate, guide and assist the functioning of the State Crime Records Bureau.
    • Function as the National storehouse of fingerprint (FP) records of convicted persons including FP records of foreign criminals.
    • Advises Central and State Governments on matters related to fingerprints and footprints, and conducts training courses for fingerprint experts.

    HC JUDGES VACANCIES
    Context

    • Supreme Court collegium led by the Chief Justice of India (Justice N V Ramana) has made more than 250 recommendations for high court judge appointments. This helps in bringing down vacancies to their lowest level since 2016.
    • According to the latest data from the Ministry of Law and Justice, as of 1st August; there are 380 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges in 25 high courts.
    • CJI Ramana’s tenure also saw the most appointments being cleared by the government. 

     Appointment of the High Court Judges

    • According to Article 217, the Chief Justice of a High court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief justice of India as well as the Governor of the state. 
    • A Collegium headed by the CJI makes a recommendation to the government for the appointment of judges. 
    • The Collegium recommends the eligible names to the law ministry which after scrutinizing recommended to the president. 
    • The president either approves the names or returns the names for reconsideration by the Supreme Court. 
      • If the Supreme Court sends the names 2nd time then the president appoints the recommended persons.
    • Qualification 
      • He should be a citizen of India.
      • He should have held a judicial office in the territory of India for 10 years or Should have been an advocate of the high court(s) for 10 years.
      • No minimum age is fixed for High Court judges.
    • A High Court Judge holds the office till the age of 62 years
    • The salaries and allowances of the Chief Justice of the High Court and Other High Court Judges are decided by the parliament by law, from time to time.
    • Salaries and other expenses are charged from the consolidated fund of the State. 
      • Pension comes from the Consolidated Fund of India.
    • A Judge of the High Court can be removed from office only for proven misbehaviour or incapacity and only in the same manner in which a Judge of the Supreme Court is removed. 

     Collegium System

    • Under the Collegium System, appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to the Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a panel of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ 
    • The word ‘Collegium’ is nowhere mentioned in the Indian Constitution, it has come into force as per Judicial Pronouncement.  

     

    Evolution of Collegium System 

    • Under the Constitution, The Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president. The chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with such judges of the Supreme Court and high courts as he deems necessary. 
      • The other judges are appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court and the high court as he deems necessary. 
      • Consultation with the chief justice is obligatory in the case of the appointment of a judge other than the Chief justice
    • First judges case (1982): The Supreme court held that consultation does not mean agreement and it only means an exchange of views. 
    • Second judges case (1993): The court changed its earlier ruling and changed the meaning of the word consultation to consensus. 
      • It ruled that the advice tendered by the CJI is binding on the President in matters of appointment of SC judges. But any such advice would be tendered after CJI consults with two of his most senior judges. 
    • Third judges case (1998): The consultation process should be based on the plurality of judges. 
      • CJI should consult a Collegium of four senior-most judges before making a recommendation to the President and even if two judges give an unfavourable opinion, he should not send the proposal to the President.

    PLACES OF WORSHIP ACT 1991
    Context

    • Recently the Places of Worship Act of 1991 was Context due to several Religious and Political events.

     The Places of Worship Act, 1991

    • The Places of Worship Act 1991 was passed by parliament during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. 
    • The Act was introduced to promote peace, harmony and brotherhood
    • The main objective of the Act is to maintain the religious character of any such place as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947 (at the time of Independence).
    • The act prohibits conversion of any place of worship or changing the religious character of any place from its status at the time of Independence.
    • The main purpose behind the Act was to check and control communal hatred and promote peace and harmony in the country. 
    • The 1991 Act covered all disputed sites to which religious groups had raised a claim.
      • The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri case was excluded from the provision of the Act. 
    • Section 4(2) of the Act says that any legal proceeding concerning the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court, shall be dropped and no fresh suit or legal proceeding shall be initiated.

    Way Forward 

    • India was not a constitutional democracy before August 15, 1947. There was no rule of law during the medieval period when a temple was allegedly destroyed.
    • In the past, the rule of law did not exist and the polity was characterized by an expansionist attitude. 
      • The medieval polity was quite different from the modern Indian political entity.
      • But today, we live in a modern democracy with constitutional values and follow rule of law.
    • The recent incidents appear to be a part of an agenda to create deep communal divides and serious injuries to peace and harmony and undermine the country’s social and political fabric.
    • The Supreme Court in the demolition of the Babri Masjid case has described it as a criminal act.
      • The court said that “the State has a constitutional commitment and constitutional obligations to uphold the equality of all religions and secularism which is a part of the basic features of the Constitution”. 
      • The Court concluded that the Places of Worship Act 1991 is necessary for upholding our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution.
    • The Government, Administration and Courts must decide the case based on law and constitutional values instead of emotions and Majoritarianism political pressure.

    REMISSIONS
    Context

    • The state government of Gujarat has released 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano murder and gang rape case of 2002.
      • They were released under the remission and premature release policy of the state government.

     Law on Remissions

    • Under Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution, the President and Governors have the power to pardon, suspend, remit, or commute a verdict passed by the courts.
    • Since prisons are a state subject, state governments also have authority under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to remit sentences.
    • Section 433A of the CrPC puts certain limitations on state government powers of remission:
      • Where a sentence of life imprisonment is imposed on a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law.
        • Such a person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.
      • Prisoners are usually released on the birth and death anniversaries of prominent leaders and other important events (Independence Day, Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanti, etc).

    Grounds for remission

    • Many States have set up their Sentence Review Board to exercise the powers under Section 432 of the CrPC. 
      • The policy varies from state to state; broadly the grounds for remission considered by the Board are the same.
    • The Supreme Court has highlighted that states cannot arbitrarily exercise the power of remission and they must need to follow due process.
    • The following factors need to be considered before granting remission;
      • The seriousness of the crime.
      • The status of the co-accused.
      • Conduct of accused in jail. 
    • The Supreme court in the ‘Laxman Naskar v. Union of India’ (2000) case verdict has laid down 5 grounds on which remission is considered:
      • Whether the offence is an individual act of crime that does not affect society.
      • Whether there is a chance of the crime being repeated in future.
      • Whether the convict has lost the potential to commit a crime.
      • Whether any purpose is being served in keeping the convict in prison.
      • Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.
    • Jail manuals contain rules that allow certain days of remission every month for the good behaviour of convicts. 
      • However, convicts serving life sentences are entitled to seek remission only after serving a minimum of 14 years. 

    OPERATION MEGH CHAKRA
    Context

    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under operation code-named “Megh Chakra” searched across 20 States and one Union Territory, to curb the circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).
    • Operation “Megh Chakra” was conducted following the inputs received from Interpol.
    • During the raids, CBI seized the electronic devices, including mobile phones and laptops, belonging to the suspects. 

    Related News

    • Recently India’s Central Bureau of Investigation has joined Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) initiative that will allow it to collaborate with investigators in other countries for detecting child sexual abuse online and identifying abusers, victims, and crime scenes from audio-visual clips using specialised software.
      • India is the 68th country to have access to this database and software.
    • Interpol is the world’s largest international police organisation with 195 member countries and is headquartered in Lyon, France.
    • Each member country hosts an Interpol National Central Bureau that connects their national law enforcement to it and in India, the CBI is that nodal agency.

    Steps taken by the Indian Government to curb online child sex abuse

    • India reported over 24 lakh instances of online child sexual abuse from 2017 to 2020, with 80% of victims being girls below the age of 14 years, according to Interpol data.
    • More than 60% of unidentified victims were prepubescent, including infants and toddlers.
    • Around 65% of unidentified victims were girls, but severe abuse images were more likely to have boys
    • In 2019, the CBI set up a special unit called the ‘Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/Investigation (OCSAE)’, for tracking and monitoring posting, circulation and downloads of CSEM online.
    • Based on intelligence developed by the unit, the CBI started a country-wide operation against the alleged peddlers of online CSEM in India last year
    • Back in 2020, the cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police had acquired software from Interpol to track child sex abuse captured on video and in photos.
    • In 2019, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, a US-based non-profit organisation, started sharing tip-offs about child sex abuse with Indian agencies. Received by the National Crime Records Bureau, this information was passed on to the states where the incidents took place, to boost the detection of those sharing such content.

    Other measures to prevent cyber crimes against children

    • The Government has ordered all the intermediaries to adopt a strong grievance redressal mechanism including time-bound disposal of grievances against Child abuse.
    • Social media Intermediary need to take measures to identify child sexual abuse material.
    • The Information Security Education and Awareness (ISEA) program of the Union Government has been creating awareness and highlighting the importance of following ethics while using the Internet.
    • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was amended in 2019 to provide more severe punishment. 
    • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs is implementing Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) under Nirbhaya Fund. 
    • The Government has launched the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal to enable the public to report incidents pertaining to all types of cyber crimes, with a special focus on cyber crimes against women and children.
    • A toll-free number has been operationalised to assist in lodging online cyber complaints.
    • The Government has established the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) to provide a framework and eco-system for LEAs to deal with the cyber-crimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
    • The Central Government supplements the initiatives of the State Governments through advisories and financial assistance.
    • The Central Government also takes measures such as issuance of alerts/ advisories, capacity building/ training of law enforcement personnel/ prosecutors/ judicial officers, improving cyber forensic facilities and spreading awareness about cybercrimes.

    DEATH PENALTY IN INDIA
    Context

    • The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is in the process to decide a set of guidelines to provide a “meaningful, real and effective” hearing to an accused in death penalty cases.

    Details

    • The Supreme Court of India highlighted the need for a holistic view of prisoners facing the death sentence.
    • The Supreme Court stated that for decades, conviction hearings have covered only primary details like the convict’s family structure, educational qualifications and work. 
      • The Supreme Court also mentioned that ``No effort was made to consider information like unfavourable childhood experiences, history of physical and mental health issues, exposure to traumatic events and other social and cultural factors”.
    • Though the death sentence is seen only in the rarest of rare cases, even in these cases the courts should be well-informed about the convict.

    About Capital Punishment or Death Penalty in India 

    • Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal penalty for some crimes under the Indian Penal Code or other laws. 
    • In the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1898 death was the default punishment for murder and mandated the judges to give reasons in their judgment if they desired to give life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. 
      • The CrPC was created for the first time in 1882 and then amended in 1898.
    • By an amendment to the CrPC in 1955, the requirement of written explanations for not imposing the death penalty was terminated.
    • With the amendment of CrPC in 1973, life imprisonment became the norm and the death penalty was to be imposed only in extraordinary cases and required ‘special reasons.
      • The amendment also divided a criminal trial into two stages; one for conviction and another for sentencing.
      • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, also contains a provision that the court must write "Special reasons" justifying the sentence and mention why an alternative sentence would not meet the ends of justice.
    • In India, as per the current position of law, capital punishment is awarded only in the 'rarest of cases' and the primary method of execution as given under Section 354(5) of the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973 is "Hanging by the neck until dead".

    Process of Death Penalty 

    • Trial Court
      • After the proceedings as specified by the Code of Criminal Procedure, the judge pronounces the judgement. 
    • High Court
      • After the decision by the Session Court, a high court needs to confirm the death sentence.
      • The high court may confirm the death sentence or pass any other sentence or annul the conviction.
      • The High Court also has the power to withdraw a case pending before a subordinate court and conduct the trial and may award the sentence of death.
    • Special leave petition
      • After the death sentence is confirmed by the High Court, an appeal by Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution may be filed with the Supreme court.
      • Under Article 136, the Supreme Court decides whether the special leave petition deserves to be heard as an appeal or not. 
    • Curative petition
      • The Supreme Court may allow a curative petition to reconsider its judgement or order if it is established that there was a violation of principles of natural justice or suspicion of bias in the role of a judge.
      • The curative petition would be circulated before the same bench which decided on the review petition.
    • Mercy Petition
      • Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution give power to the President of India and the Governor to grant pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
      • The president or the governor may consider the case of the convict and may pardon the death sentence.
    • Death warrant
      • In cases where the death sentence is awarded, the convict should be allowed to use all the legal remedies available such as appeal, review and mercy petitions. 
      • The Supreme Court guidelines are needed to be followed before issuing the death warrant.
    • Execution
      • The death sentence or death penalty is a punishment approved for committing the offence. 
      • The act of carrying out a death sentence is known as an execution.

    Arguments in support of Capital punishment 

    • All Guilty people deserve to be penalised in proportion to the severity of their crime.
    • Real justice requires people to suffer in a way suited to the crime. Every criminal must get what their crime deserves and in the case of murder they deserve death.

    Arguments against capital punishment 

    • Capital punishment is revenge rather than punishment and is a morally doubtful concept.
    • Against Real or Proportional justice, as the criminal suffers for many years before execution, it makes the punishment more severe.
    • There is always a risk of executing the innocent due to mistakes or defects in the justice system.
    • The death penalty doesn't seem to deter people from committing serious crimes. 
    • The Law Commission of India recommended abolishing the death penalty, except in terror cases.

    Way Forward 

    • In India, the current position regarding death sentences is quite a balanced one. But the broad judicial discretion given to the court has resulted in an extremely uneven judgment in similar cases; this does not represent a good picture of the Indian Judiciary. 
    • The principle laid down in cases like Bachan Singh or Machhi Singh has to be strictly followed so that the person convicted for an offence of identical nature is awarded a punishment of an identical degree.

    NATIONAL INVESTIGATION AGENCY
    Context 

    • The Union Minister of Home and Cooperation has inaugurated the office of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) at New Raipur in Chhattisgarh.
    • The Minister has highlighted that the NIA has achieved a conviction rate of nearly 94 %.
    • NIA has extended its operations in 18 States. The Minister has set a target that by May 2024 the NIA will make its presence in all states.

     

     National Investigation Agency

    • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act of 2008 established the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
    • It is a central agency charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes:
      • Harming India's sovereignty, security, and integrity, as well as state security and amicable ties with other countries.
      • Oppose nuclear and atomic power plants.
      • High-Quality Counterfeit Indian Currency Smuggling.
    • Its goal is also to fight terrorism in India.
    • The Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency is in charge of it.

     Concern

    • Legal Requirements:
      • In the Indian judicial system, no provision allows a domain expert to be a formal member of the evidence-gathering team.
      • In the absence of such a provision, the prosecution risks being charged with evidence tampering if any agency uses a domain expert, as the Criminal Procedure Code only allows the police to gather evidence.
    • Inducement of experts:
      • Domain expertise was also required for the efficient use of the instruments used to investigate such crimes.
      • Investigative agencies often suggested inducting specialists and providing necessary staff training during the UPA era.
    • Cross-border investigation:
      • Problems involving many countries demand more skilled and effective teams.
      • Such team formations necessitate a change in the legislation as well as the government's willingness to make the change.
    • Police – the state subject:
      • The preservation of public order and police forces are listed as matters of state in Schedule VII of the Constitution.
      • Criminal law, on the other hand, is on the concurrent list, while national security is on the union list.

    Way Forward

    • Given that cross-border investigations are frequently required in cybercrime cases, a mechanism of cooperative investigations involving investigators from India and the nations involved should be implemented.
    • The need for team inquiry should be emphasised.
    • It is widely used in many nations. For example, crimes like the ransomware assault on a pipeline network in the United States were probed by teams of police officers and professionals in the disciplines.

    OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA
    Context

    • Outrage over the allegations of a leaked objectionable video of women students of Chandigarh University.

    Steps taken by government agencies to tackle objectionable media content

    • The first step for the investigation agency is to identify the social media intermediary through which the objectionable content (Picture, video, voice message, etc) is being spread. 
      • Generally, investigation agencies depend on the information of the first arrested accused, who discloses the first method through which the content was shared. 
      • In complex cases in which the content is being shared on multiple social media platforms, the investigating agencies communicate with all social media intermediaries including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter etc.
    • Once the social media intermediaries are identified, the investigation agency communicates with the regulating authorities/headquarters of these intermediaries. There are two methods for communication. 
      • Routine matters in which there is no urgency are pursued through Emergency disclosure methods in which the agency seeks the phone number and IP address of a device which was used to create/record the objectionable/vulnerable content. 
      • Matters related to national security, threats to human lives and child abuse are followed through Emergency response methods; in this case, the regulating authorities of social media take prompt decisions over applications sent by the investigation agency.
    • The Union Government has recently notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to deal with the objectionable content on social media.

    About Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code)Rules, 2021

    • The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, was notified by the Central government on February 25, 2021, relates to digital news publishers, including websites, portals and YouTube news channels, and Over The Top (OTT) platforms, which stream online contents such as web series and films. 
    • It is jointly administered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
    • The Rules provide for a code of ethics to be followed by digital news publishers and OTT platforms; A three-tier grievance redress mechanism, which includes: 
      • Self-regulation by publishers at the first level
      • Self-regulation by Self-regulating bodies of the publishers 
      • An oversight mechanism by the Central government

    Key Features of the Rules 

    • Social media intermediaries, with registered users in India above a notified threshold, have been classified as significant social media intermediaries.
      • They are required to appoint certain personnel for compliance, identification of the first originator of the information on its platform, and identify certain types of content. 
      • They need to appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident of India.
      • Appoint a Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism. Such a person shall be a resident of India.
      • Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints.
    • The Rules prescribe a framework for the regulation of content by online publishers of news and current affairs content and audio-visual content.
    • A 3-tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Social media intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers. 
    • The grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.
    • 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 expose the Privacy of individuals.
      • Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.
    • Voluntary User Verification Mechanism: Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided with an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with a demonstrable and visible mark of verification.
    • Giving Users An Opportunity to Be Heard: Users must be provided with an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary. 
    • Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.
    • This Code of Ethics prescribes the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
    • Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms would be required to self-classify the content into five age-based categories; U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). 

    REGISTERED UNRECOGNISED POLITICAL PARTIES

    Context

    • The Election Commission of India delisted 86 non-existent Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs) and declared an additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. 
    • These Political parties have been reported inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. 
      • Many RUPPs are non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on the report of undelivered letters/notices from the Postal Authority sent to the registered address of the concerned RUPP. 

    Details 

    • Under section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, and PAN to the Election Commission without delay. 
    • Any party dissatisfied with the action of ECI may approach the concerned Chief Electoral Officer/Election Commission within 30 days of the issue of this direction along with all evidence of existence, and other legal and regulatory compliances including year-wise annual audited accounts, contribution reports, expenditure report, updating of office bearers including authorized signatories for financial transactions (including bank account).

    Registered Unrecognized Political Parties

    • There are 2,360 political parties registered with the Election Commission of India and about 50% of them are unrecognized parties.
    • Unrecognized Political Parties are those newly registered parties which have not secured enough percentage of votes in the assembly or general elections to become a state party, or which have never contested elections since registered.
      • They don’t enjoy the benefits extended to the recognized parties.
    • A Political Party is called a Recognized Political Party if it meets certain conditions.
      • Won a certain percentage of valid votes or a certain number of seats in the State legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha in the last election.

    AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, THE GOVERNMENT OF ASSAM AND REPRESENTATIVES OF 8 ADIVASI GROUPS
    About

    • The Union Minister of Home Affairs headed over the signing of an agreement between the Government of India, the Government of Assam and representatives of 8 Adivasi Groups in New Delhi.
    • The agreement was signed to end the decades-old problem of Adivasis and tea garden workers in Assam. 
      • In the agreement, provisions have been made to protect the social, cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity of Adivasi groups as well as to further strengthen them.
      • The agreement also provides for the establishment of a Tribal Welfare and Development Council to ensure the speedy and focused development of tea gardens. 
      • The agreement also provides for the rehabilitation and resettlement of armed cadres and measures for the welfare of tea garden workers.
      • A special development package of Rs.1000 crore (Rs.500 crore each by the Government of India and the Government of Assam) will be provided over 5 years for infrastructure development in villages/areas with tribal populations.
    • The Union Home Minister highlighted that this agreement will prove to be an important landmark and is in the direction of the government's vision of a peaceful and prosperous North East and making North-East extremism free by 2025.
    • The Minister stated that the government has taken many efforts in the direction of making the Northeast peaceful and developed by;
      • Promoting and developing the rich culture of the region.
      • Settling all disputes.
      • Establishing peace and accelerating development in the Northeast to make it peaceful and prosperous. 
      • NLFT agreement in 2019.
      • BRU-REANG and Bodo accord in 2020.
      • Karbi Anglong agreement in 2021.
      • Assam-Meghalaya Inter-State Boundary Agreement in 2022.
    • The Home Minister announced that the Union Government has decided that before 2024, all border disputes between the North Eastern states and all disputes related to armed groups will be resolved.

    SWACHH SURVEKSHAN 2022
    Context

    • Indore is the cleanest city in India, while Madhya Pradesh is the cleanest State in the country. 
      • Surat (Gujarat) is the 2nd cleanest city.
      • Chhattisgarh is the 2nd cleanest State. 
    • Tirupati received the best city award in the Safai Mitra Suraksha category.
    • Haridwar (Uttarakhand) received the best Ganga town award in more than one lakh population cities categories.

     Details 

    • The field assessment for Swachh Survekshan was launched on 1st March 2022 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). 
    • Swachh Survekshan 2022 is targeted toward capturing the initiatives of cities for the overall welfare and well-being of Sanitation workers. 
    • This year another new indicator ‘Swachh Technology Challenge’ has been added. 
    • To expand the Survekshan footprint, district rankings have been introduced.
    • The scope of the survey has been expanded to now cover 100% of wards, as compared to 40% in previous years

     Swachh Survekshan 

    • Swachh Survekshan was initiated by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2016 as a competitive framework to encourage cities to improve the status of urban sanitation.
    • Swachh Survekshans are conducted under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
    • It has promoted a spirit of healthy competition among cities and towns in India. 
    • The Primary goal of Swachh Survekshans is to encourage large-scale citizen participation and create awareness amongst all sections of society about the importance of working together towards making towns and cities better places to reside in.
    • The performance of each city is evaluated on six parameters:
      • Municipal solid waste, sweeping, collection and transportation.
      • Municipal solid waste, processing, and disposal of solid waste.
      • Open defecation free and toilets.
      • Capacity building and e-Learning.
      • Provision of public toilets and community toilets.
      • Information, education and communication, and behaviour change.

    Swachh Bharat Mission

    • Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is a country-wide campaign initiated by the Government of India in 2014 to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management.
    • It is a restructured version of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan launched in 2009.
    • Phase 1 of the Swachh Bharat Mission lasted till October 2019.
    • Phase 2 is being implemented between 2020–21 and 2024–25.
    • The mission aimed to achieve an "open-defecation-free" (ODF) India by 2nd October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi through the construction of toilets.
    • The objectives of the first phase of the mission:
      • Eradication of manual scavenging.
      • Generating awareness and bringing about a behaviour change regarding sanitation practices.
      • Building capacity at the local level.
    • The second phase of the mission aims to sustain the open defecation-free status and improve the management of solid and liquid waste, while also working to improve the lives of sanitation workers.
    • Under the scheme, the Government provides subsidies for constructing toilets, waste management structures, and awareness campaigns to bring behaviour change. 
    • The campaign is financed by the Government of India and state governments.
    • The mission is split into two: Rural and Urban. 
      • In rural areas "SBM – Gramin is financed and monitored through the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
      • In Urban areas "SBM - Urban is overseen by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

    Present Status

    • According to the dashboards maintained by ministries, more than 100 million individual household-level toilets have been constructed in rural areas and 6 million household toilets in urban areas. 
    • Nearly 6 million community and public toilets have also been constructed in urban areas. 
    • More than 4,200 cities and more than 600,000 villages across the country have declared themselves open defecation-free (ODF).
    • More than 81.5 thousand wards in urban areas now have 100% door-to-door collection of solid waste and nearly 65 thousand wards practice 100% segregation of waste at source. 
    • According to UNICEF, the number of people without a toilet has been reduced from 550 million to 50 million.
    • The World Bank reports that 96% of Indians who have a toilet use it.
    • A study concluded that the construction of toilets under the program led to a reduction in the incidence of sexual assault against women.

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    SC STEPS ON TRANSPARENCY 
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India has decided to live to stream its proceedings in important Constitution Bench cases. 

    Present status of live streaming of judicial proceedings in India

    • In 2018, a Supreme Court bench had agreed to hear a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) aspiring live streaming of judicial proceedings on important matters of constitutional and national importance.
    • The Supreme Court approved a set of guidelines and also did not allow live streaming in the cases involving:
      • Matrimonial matters.
      • Matters involving juveniles or the protection and safety of the private life of young offenders.
      • Matters of National security.
      • To ensure that victims, witnesses or defendants can depose truthfully and without any fear. Special protection must be given to vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
        • It may provide for face distortion of the witness if she/he consents to the broadcast anonymously.
        • To protect confidential or sensitive information, including all matters relating to sexual assault and rape.
      • Cases which may provoke sentiments and arouse passion and provoke enmity among communities.
    • Currently, the Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and Patna High Courts are live to stream their proceedings.

    Live streaming of judicial proceedings around the Globe

    • In USA: The US Supreme Court has rejected appeals for the broadcast of its proceedings, but since 1955 allowed audio recording of oral arguments.
    • In Australia: Live or delayed broadcasting is allowed but the practices differ across courts.
    • In Brazil: Since 2002, live video and audio broadcasts of court proceedings is allowed. 
    • In Canada: Court Proceedings are broadcast live on Parliamentary Affairs Channel.

    In the United Kingdom: Court Proceedings are broadcast live with a one-minute delay on the court’s website, but coverage can be withdrawn in sensitive appeals.
    Significance of live streaming of judicial proceedings

    • Broadcasting court proceedings will ensure transparency and greater access to the justice system.
    • Citizens have a right to know what arguments are made and the responses of the judges as their judgements bind us all.
    • The principle "justice should not only be done but seen to be done".
    • Live Steaming would empower, and provide access to citizens who cannot personally come to court due to social, economic, health, or physical disability-related limitations.
    • It would enable citizens to have first-hand information on case proceedings on issues of constitutional importance that affect them directly or indirectly.

     Concern

    • The individuality of judges is more likely to become a subject of public debate through live-streaming, creating problems of its own.
    • Lawyers aspiring to publicize themselves through their addresses to the Bench.
    • It will affect the normalcy of the proceedings.
    • Video clips of court proceedings are already on social media platforms with sensational titles and little context, such as “HIGH COURT super angry on IAS/IPS officer”. This irresponsible use of content could spread disinformation among citizens.

    Way Forward

    • Live streaming is neither required in all types of matters nor in all courts.
    • Live streaming or videography could be avoided in the matters which have a privacy dimension, such as family matters or criminal matters.
    • Any Kind of Misuse of court proceedings video must be dealt with strict law and also need to formulate guidelines to promote the positive impact while curbing the negative one

    SHOONYA CAMPAIGN
    Context

    • Recently NITI Aayog has organized an event to INITIATE Shoonya Campaign, India’s zero pollution e-mobility campaign.
    • Shoonya is a consumer awareness campaign to reduce air pollution by promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) for ride-hailing and deliveries. 
      • The campaign has more than 130 industry partners, including ride-hailing, delivery and EV companies.

    Electric Vehicles

    • An electric vehicle uses electricity from extravehicular sources, or it can be powered by a battery (sometimes charged by solar panels). 
    • Electric vehicles are vehicles that are either partially or fully powered by electricity.
    • Electric vehicles have low running costs as they have fewer moving parts for maintenance and also are very environmentally friendly as they use little or no fossil fuels (petrol or diesel).
    • Electric Vehicles are easy and cheaper to maintain because of their simple structure and operations.
    • Another benefit that an EV can deliver is the silent functioning capability. 
    • Switching to Electric Vehicles will improve the overall energy security situation as the country imports over 80% of its total crude oil requirements, and also save valuable foreign reserves. This will help India in achieving the goal of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat”. 
    • Increasing demand for EVs is also expected to boost the local EV manufacturing industry, this will support the “Make in India” programme. 

    Present Status

    • Government efforts resulted in a 2.5 times increase in charging stations in 9 mega cities in the last four months.
    • These 9 cities (Surat, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai) account for about 940 of India's 1640 public EV chargers.
    • Oil Marketing Companies to set up 22,000 EV charging stations across the country in prominent cities and highways.
    • In 2020-21, around 1.59 lakh EVs were sold in India, which is 0.8% of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) sales in the same period (1.79 crores).  

    Steps taken by Government to promote Electric Vehicles

    • The government has taken various initiatives to promote the manufacturing and adoption of electric vehicles in the country.
    • Government of India to expand Public Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure across the nation. 
    • The government is working with private and public agencies to increase public EV charging infrastructure.  
    • The faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India Scheme (FAME) was launched in 2015 to promote the manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles.
    • The Ministry of Power released guidelines about installing charging stations.
    • The efforts undertaken by the government through various implementing agencies have increased the number of public EV charging infrastructures. 
    • After ensuring adequate EV infrastructure in megacities, the government is planning to expand the coverage to other cities.
    • The Department of Heavy Industry has sanctioned Public Charging Stations for 25 Highways and Expressways, EV charging stations must be located within every 25 km of range on these expressways and highways.
    • Cabinet approved a Production-linked incentive scheme for the automotive sector to boost the manufacturing of electric vehicles.
    • NITI Aayog Released Handbook to Guide EV Charging Infrastructure in India. 
    • Goods and Services Council decided on 5% GST on Electric vehicles. 
    • Government Launched ‘e-AMRIT’ portal: One-stop platform for information on electric vehicles.

     Challenges

    • Many residents park their vehicles in open or uncovered parking slots as they have no dedicated parking space. So, how would they set up their charging infrastructure?
    • In India, more than 90% of Workers are engaged in the unorganized sector and even organizations in the organized sector lack dedicated parking infrastructure. Organizations in both the Organized and unorganized sectors that don’t have dedicated parking spots will face the problem.
    • Lack of charging infrastructure, disruption in power supply, inadequate dedicated service centres, doubts over the sustainability of Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, long charging hours, etc are the key challenges, which need to be addressed.   

    Way forward

    • The availability of adequate charging infrastructure is the key element for accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in India.
    • Many states have notified dedicated EV policies, while many are in process of drafting their policies. The Central Government needs to align the policies at the central and state level and create a national-level policy for promoting EVs in the country.  
    • Promote local manufacturing, Provide adequate Support to the local manufacturing ecosystem to lower the price of EV vehicles. 
    • Improve the research and development to promote indigenous manufacturing and reduce dependency on imports.

    BS VI VEHICLES
    Context

    • The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has allowed retro fitment of compressed natural gas (CNG) and Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) kits in petrol and diesel vehicles that are compliant with the BS-VI emission norms.
      • Currently, such modifications are only permitted in BS-IV emission norms-compliant vehicles.
    • The Ministry highlighted that Compressed natural gas (CNG) is an environment-friendly fuel and will reduce the emission levels of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, particulate matter and smoke as compared to petrol and diesel engines

    BS Norms

    • Bharat stage (BS) emission standards were adopted to regulate air pollutants from internal combustion engines, and engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
      • The Bharat stage (BS) standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
      • All new vehicles manufactured have to be compliant with the regulations.
    • The Bharat Stage (BS) Standards are based on European regulations that were first introduced in India in 2000, and with time more strict standards were adopted.   
      • With the introduction of the first Bharat Stage (BS-1) standards, the catalytic converter became mandatory for petrol vehicles and unleaded petrol was introduced in the Indian market.
    • In 2016 Indian government announced that it would skip the BS-V and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.
      • The Supreme Court has banned the sale and registration of motor vehicles fitting with Bharat Stage IV emission standards in the entire country from 1 April 2020.
    • While the higher Standard norms help in bringing down pollution levels, they also increase vehicle costs due to improved technology and higher fuel prices. 
    • BS-VI Standards
    • BS-VI emission norms set the maximum permissible levels for pollutants that an automotive or a two-wheeler exhaust can emit. 
    • Sulphur content in BS-IV fuel has five times lower (10ppm) as compared to sulphur content in BS-IV fuel (50ppm).
    • The nitrogen oxide emission level for diesel engines and petrol engines will decline by 70% and 25% with the BS-VI standards.
    • The introduction of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR).

    REVENUE POLICE SYSTEM
    Context

    • The state cabinet of Uttarakhand has cleared a proposal to replace the “Revenue Police” system with the regular police.
    • In Uttrakhand, Regular police force jurisdiction does not extend to several hilly areas. 
      • Currently, the revenue police jurisdiction covers over 50% of the state in terms of area, and about 25% of the population.

    The Revenue Police System in Uttrakhand

    • The British government introduced the system of revenue police in Uttrakhand; the motive was to save money and resources by not deploying regular police, as the crime rate was low in the hilly areas.
    • Under the system, civil officials of the revenue department have the powers and functions of the regular police. 
      • The revenue police of the area file an FIR investigate the case, arrest the accused and also file a charge sheet in the local court.
    • Heinous crimes like murder, rape, or crimes against Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), are transferred to the regular police. 

     

    • The main criticism of the system is that the revenue officials are given the additional task of policing without any adequate training.
      • The prevention of crime, either by collecting intelligence or creating a fear of law and order, cannot be done by the revenue officials, as they are not trained to do these added responsibilities.  
    • In 2018, the Uttarakhand High Court ordered the state government to abolish the revenue police system.
    • In other states, the core function of revenue officials is to maintain land, cultivation and revenue records of villages, and collect revenues on behalf of the government. 
      • Revenue officials like patwari collect data on crop production, perform election-related duties and collect census and literacy data. 
      • They are also given the duty of implementing government schemes and preparing birth, death, and caste certificates.

    ANTI-CONVERSION BILL 
    Context

    • The Karnataka Legislative Assembly has recently passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022, (popularly called the anti-conversion Bill).
    • The State Government stated that the Right to Freedom of Religion is guaranteed under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution are subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of part III of the Constitution. 
      • The State government highlighted that the Supreme Court had held that the “right to propagate” under Article 25 did not include the right to convert to another person.

    Details 

    • The legislation envisages stringent provisions for “forced” or “induced” conversions. 
    • It prohibits conversion by “misrepresentation, force, allurement, fraudulent means, or marriage”. 
    • It proposes maximum imprisonment of 10 years for the forcible conversion of persons from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe communities, minors, and women to another religion. 

    Lawmaking process at the State level 

    • Step 1 - The State cabinet approves the draft of the Bill. 
    • Step 2 - The State government introduces the bill in the State Assembly or Vidhan Sabha.
    • Step 3 - Discussion on the bill in the state assembly, members give their suggestions, and at the end, voting is done.
    • Step 4 - Once the state assembly passes a bill, it is sent to the Governor for his final assent. Once the Governor gives his assent, it shall be enacted as law and implemented across the state.

    Arguments in Favor of the anti-conversion bill

    • These laws only ban and punish forceful religious conversion.
    • Fundamental rights under Article 25 ‘Right to propagate a religion” did not extend to forced conversions.
    • There is no fundamental right to convert another person to one's religion. 

    Arguments against the anti-conversion bill

    • According to some activists “, such laws are used to target religious minorities and interfaith couples”.
    • These laws would be used to target even voluntary conversions and curb the fundamental rights of “Freedom of conscience” under Article 25.
    • These Acts do not satisfy the test of reasonableness and fairness and also go against the fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 21” of the Constitution.

    Way forward

    • Anti-conversion laws have been challenged in courts ever since Odisha moved the first such legislation in 1967. However, the courts have a mixed record defending the freedom of choice concerning religion, ruling in favour of individual liberty in some cases but not in others.
    • The High Court on many occasions clearly said that while a person has the right to believe and the right to change their beliefs, they also have a right to keep their ideas secret.

    CASE PENDENCY IN LOWER COURTS
    Context

    • According to data compiled from the National Judicial Data Grid, more than one lakh cases are pending in district and taluka courts for 30 years. 
    • Over 90% of these cases are pending in just 4 states: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Bihar. 
      • Uttar Pradesh leads the list with more than 41,000 cases and is followed by Maharashtra with nearly 23,500 cases. 
      • Nearly 91,000 cases in just 4 states. They all are large states, but they only have about 42% of India’s population.
      • Among large states, Haryana has the lowest number with only 14 such cases. 
    • There are no pending cases over 30 years in Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Ladakh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim. 
    • There is nearly 5 lakh pending cases for 20 to 30 years and 28.7 lakh that are pending cases for 10-20 years. 

    Details 

    • Over 31 million cases are pending in Subordinate Courts across the country.
    • The high pendency of Cases in Some tribunals indicates that the objective of setting them is not achieved.
    • The government, including PSUs and other autonomous bodies, are party to around “46%” of 3.14 crore court cases pending in various courts in the country, making it the biggest litigant in the country.

    Concern

    • Case pendency Hurts investors’ confidence.
    • Economic activity is getting affected by high pendency and delays across the legal system.
    • It adds a burden on Courts and collaterally harms other litigants.
    • It increases project costs and delays projects.
    • Slows down administrative processes, delaying decision-making.
    • Diversion of precious resources.
    • Effects ease of doing business.

    Steps to reduce Pendency by Government

    • Adoption of “National Litigation Policy 2010” to transform the government into an Efficient and Responsible litigant. 
    • All states formulated state litigation policies after National Litigation Policy 2010.
    • Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS), was created in 2015 with the objective of tracking cases to which the government is a party.
    • The Supreme Court advised the centre that criminals sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months or a year should be allocated social service duties rather than be sent to further choke the already overflowing prisons.

    Steps need to be taken 

    • National Litigation Policy should be revised. 
    • Address all 3 stages of dispute: 
      • Pre-litigation
      • Litigation 
      • Post litigation stage.
    • Establish Fair accountability mechanisms, Consequences for violation must be provided. 
    • Appointment of a Nodal Officer to regularly monitor the status of the cases in every department.
    • Promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to encourage mediation.
    • Coordinated action between government and judiciary. 
    • Judicial capacity should be strengthened in the lower courts to reduce the burden on higher courts. 
    • Increase expenditure on the judiciary.
    • Improve court case management and court automation system. 
    • Create subject-specific benches.
    • Tax departments must limit their appeals as their success rate is less than 30% at all three levels of the judiciary.
    • Robust internal dispute resolution mechanisms
    • Step-by-step online dispute resolution must be adopted as done by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
    • Judges should write Shorter and more Pointed judgments.

    Way Forward

    • Courts need to monitor the progress of Cases based on urgency and type of Case.
    • Courts must set a time limit to dispose of certain types of Cases.
    • Understand why Some Courts perform well despite a Shortage of judges and adopt Such Courts as role models.
    • Analytics tools Can be developed in a manner that helps the judges monitor Cases based on parameters Such as how long an accused has been in judicial custody, Cases that Can affect the General public, and Cases that have been long pending. 
    • Alternative methods should be used for dealing with non-criminal offenders and petty criminals.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIA
    Context

    • The President of India has appointed R. Venkataramani as the new Attorney-General (A-G) for three years.
    • Mr Venkataramani will succeed K.K. Venugopal as Attorney-General of India.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIA

    • The Indian constitution under Article 76 has provided for the office of the Attorney General for India.
    • He is the highest law officer in the country.
    • He is appointed by the President of India. 
    • He must be a person who is qualified to be appointed a judge of the Supreme Court.
    • The term of office of the AG is not fixed by the constitution. Further, the constitution does not contain the procedure and grounds for his removal.
    • He holds office at the pleasure of the president.
      • This means that he may be removed by the president at any time.
      • He may also quit his office by submitting his resignation to the president.
    • Conventionally, he resigns when the government (council of ministers) resigns or is replaced, as he is appointed on its advice.
    • The remuneration of the AG is not fixed by the constitution. He receives such remuneration as the President may determine.
    • The Attorney General is not a full-time counsel for the Government.
      • He does not fall into the category of a government servant. Further, he is not debarred from private legal practice.

    Duties and Functions

    • Advise the Union Government upon such legal matters, which are referred to him by the president.
    • Perform such other duties of a legal character that are assigned to him by the president.
    • Discharge the functions conferred on him by the constitution or any other law.
    • President has assigned the following duties to the AG: To appear on behalf of the Government of India in all cases in the Supreme Court in which the Government of India is concerned.
    • He represents the Union Government in any reference made by the president to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the constitution.
    • He appears (when required by the Union Government) in any high court in any case in which the Union Government is concerned.

    Rights and Limitations 

    • While performing his official duties, the Attorney General has the right to an audience in all courts in the territory of India.
    • He has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament or their joint sitting and any committee of the Parliament of which he may be named a member but without a right to vote.
    • He enjoys all the privileges and immunities that are available to a Member of Parliament.
    • The following limitations are placed on the Attorney General to avoid any complication and conflict of duty:
      • He should not advise or hold a brief against the Government of India.
      • He should not advise or hold a brief in cases in which he is called upon to advise or appear for the Government of India.
      • He should not defend accused persons in criminal prosecutions without the permission of the Government of India.
      • He should not accept an appointment as a director in any company or corporation without the permission of the Government of India.

    BANDHAVGARH FOREST RESERVE
    About

    • Recently the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ministry of Culture discovered important archaeological remains in Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve, Madhya Pradesh.
      • Remains of 26 ancient temples/relics of the Kalachuri period (9th century CE to 11th Century CE).
      • Remains of 26 caves (2nd Century CE to 5th century CE mostly Buddhist in nature).
      • Remains of 2 monasteries, 2 stupas, 24 Brahmi inscriptions (2nd century CE to 5th century CE), 46 sculptures, 20 scattered remains and 19 water structures (2nd CE-15th CE) are recorded. 
        • Among the 46 sculptures, the Varah sculpture is the largest one.

    BANDHAVGARH FOREST

    • Bandhavgarh National Park is located in the Vindhya Hills of the Umaria district in Madhya Pradesh.
      • Mythologically the name “Bandhavgarh” means (Bandhav = Brother and Garh = Fort) and was acquired the name Bandhavgarh with the name of the fort. This fort was built and given to brother Lakshman by Lord Rama, to keep a watch on Lanka.
    • Bandhavgarh was declared a National park in 1968 and then became Tiger Reserve in 1993. 
    • The Park consists of mixed vegetation ranging from tall grasslands to thick Sal forest and is the perfect habitat for a variety of animals and birds.
    • This park lies in the Monsoon type with a Dry Winter Climate. 
      • The mean temperature and precipitation of this park are 23 degrees C and 101 cm respectively. 
      • May is the hottest month while December is the coldest month having mean maximum temperatures of 41.6 degrees C and 4.2 degrees C respectively. 
      • August is the wettest month it receives 30.4 cm of rainfall.
    • Bandhavgarh is best known for its Evergreen Sal forest and Mixed forest about 515 species of Plant are found there and is also home to 242 species of Birds and many species of reptiles and insects are found there. 
      • The Major Mammals of Bandhavgarh are Tiger, Leopard, Wild dog, Wild cat, Hyena, Wolf, Chital, Sambar, Black Buck, Rojda etc 
    • The park is the home of; 
      • Leopards, deer, Bengal tiger, etc.  
      • More than 35 species of mammals. 
      • More than 250 species of birds.
      • About 80 species of butterflies, and a number of reptiles. 
    • Bandhavgarh has a very high density of tigers within its jungles. 
    • The forest is also densely populated with other species: 
      • The gaur or Indian bison 
      • Sambar and barking deer
      • Nilgai 
      • Indian wolf 
      • Striped hyena
      • Caracal 

    RYTHU BHAROSA KENDRAS 
    Context

    • An Ethiopian delegation visited Andhra Pradesh to study the Rythu Bharosa Kendras (RBKs) and to understand how they work.
    • The Ethiopian delegation will possibly sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government and Centre to transfer the knowledge.

    Rythu Bharosa Kendras 

    • They are unique seeds-to-sales, single-window service centres for farmers in Andhra Pradesh.
    • They sell pre-tested quality seeds, certified fertilizers and animal feed. 
    • Farmers can purchase or hire farm equipment, and even sell their produce at the prevailing Minimum Support Price (MSP).
    • They also provide services like soil testing and also make recommendations; on which crops to sow, and the quantity and type of fertilizer to be used. 
    • The state government pays crop insurance, procures grains and makes payments to farmers through these Kendras.
    • The state government set up more than 10,700 centres. 
    • Objectives: 
      • Increase in Agriculture output.
      • Improve the quantity and quality of yields.
      • Reduce production costs.
      • Provide newer skills to farmers. 

    Significance

    • They encourage interaction between farmers, agriculture scientists, and agriculture officers at the village level. 
    • They display new farm equipment and also provide training to farmers.
    • They provide information about soil and weather conditions, which help farmers to change their cropping patterns and reap benefits.
    • They eliminate spurious seeds and uncertified or harmful fertilizers, which can cause crop damage and failures.
    • These centres are staffed by agriculture and horticulture graduates and they help farmers to decide the crops they should cultivate scientifically.
    • They aid farmers in selling their produce at MSPs, through supporting systems of e-cropping, and geo-tagging.

    MULTI-STATE COOPERATIVE SOCIETIES (Amendment) Bill, 2022
    Context

    • The Union Cabinet approved the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
    • The amendment bill aims to make the governance of multi-State cooperative societies more democratic, transparent and accountable
    • The Bill has the provisions of the 97th Constitution Amendment act which provides Constitutional status and protection to cooperative societies.
    • It has the provision to set up a cooperative election authority, an information officer and an ombudsman.

     Cooperative Societies in India

    • A Cooperative Society can be defined as a voluntary association of individuals united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural Interests. 
      • It aims to serve the interest of society through the principle of self-help and mutual help. 
    • The roots of cooperative Societies in India were sown when the first Cooperative Societies Act was passed in 1904.
    • The Government Passed the Co-operative Societies Act of 1912. 
    • In 1958, the National Development Council (NDC) recommended a national policy on cooperatives and the setting up of Cooperative Marketing Societies.
    • National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) was set up under the National Cooperative Development Corporation Act, of 1962.
    • Union Government announced a National Policy on Cooperatives in 2002.
    • The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2011 granted constitutional status and protection to cooperative societies. This Amendment introduced 3 changes in the constitution: 
      • It made the right to form cooperative societies a fundamental right (Article 19 ).  
      • It included a new Directive Principle of State Policy on the promotion of cooperative societies (Article 43B). 
      • It added Part IX-B in the Constitution “The Co-operative Societies” (Articles 243-ZH to 243-ZT). 
    • Provisions under Indian Constitution
    • Indian Constitution under Part IX-B contains various provisions related to cooperative societies.
    • The state legislature may make provisions for the incorporation, election, regulation and winding-up of cooperative societies.
    • Organisation Structure 
      • The board shall consist of some directors as may be provided by the state legislature, but, the maximum number of directors of a cooperative society shall not exceed 21. 
      • The state legislature shall provide for the reservation of one seat for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes and two seats for women on the board of every cooperative society having members from such a category of persons. 
    • The functional directors of a cooperative society shall also be the members of the board and such members shall be excluded to count the total number of directors (21).
    • The term of office of elected members of the board and its office bearers shall be 5 years from the date of the election.

    Significance of Cooperative Societies

    • The village cooperative societies provide important inputs for the agricultural sector.
    • Consumer societies meet their consumption requirements at concessional rates.
    • Marketing societies help the farmer to get remunerative prices.
    • The Cooperative processing units help in value additions to the raw products.
    • They also help in building up storage, warehouse, cold storage, rural roads and in providing facilities like irrigation, electricity, transport, education and health
    • They play the role of a balancing factor between the public and private sectors and also supplement the work of the government and its agencies.
    • Many Cooperative societies have Successfully promoted rural development  
      • National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC)
      • National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED)
      • AMUL and Co-operative Rural Development Trust (CORDET)
    • They play an important role in poverty reduction, promoting women's empowerment, and improving literacy rate and skill development. 

    Concern

    • Cooperative Societies usually do not come forward to organise cooperatives of their consensus, many times it is done by the government or local administration. 
    • The cooperatives have limited resources.
    • They grant loans only for agricultural operations. Farmers approach the money lenders to meet their other requirements.
    • Lack of co-operation, as the people rarely understand the importance of cooperation in their lives. The absence of willing cooperation on their part hinders the growth of the cooperative movement.
    • Political interference acts as a barrier to the growth of cooperative societies. The selection of beneficiaries is mostly done on political relations.
    • The cooperative credit structure is criticized on the ground that it is mostly managed by landlords and large farmers.
    • Poor performance, increasing debt and overdue, inefficient administration and management of Cooperative societies. 

    Way Forward 

    • Need to ensure transparency in the processes and independence in the functioning of Boards.
    • Good Cooperative management includes setting up clear objectives, accountability, sound planning, and establishing performance evaluation measures.
    • The objectives of the cooperative societies must be recognized in their long-term strategy. 
    • Increase access to competitive and affordable external financing.
    • Better operational and financial performance through improved strategic decision-making. 
    • Take a comprehensive approach including working with the government, other institutions, and the public.
    • Take a practical, ground-level approach.
    • Improve the decision-making process, and introduce specialists at the board meeting. 
    • Put the right people in the right place, and don't let internal organizational structures be politically influenced. 

    POLL PROMISES
    Context

    • The Election Commission of India has proposed changes to manifesto guidelines under the model code of conduct regarding poll promises.
    • The proposed change requires political parties to specify how they will arrange resources for the implementation of the poll promises.
    • The Election Commission proposed disclosures about the promises and their implementation that would help voters make informed choices.
    • The proposal comes as the result of the debate over freebies, the Supreme Court also hearing a petition seeking regulation of freebies.

    Details

    • During election time, Political parties make promises to the voters to provide free electricity/water supply, monthly allowance for the unemployed, laptops, smartphones, etc.
    • These steps are justified as there has been rising inequality in our country, therefore some kind of relief to the population needs to be provided.
    • It promotes socio-economic Growth: Public Distribution System, employment guarantee schemes, and support for the social sector: education and health.

    Concern

    • Freebies can hurt macroeconomic stability, it distorts expenditure priorities.
    • Negative impact on the public exchequer and most of the states of India do not have strong financial health.
    • Against Free and Fair Election
    • It would lead to the overuse of natural resources, Ex- Free water, electricity, etc.

    Way Forward

    • Need to understand the socio-economic impact of state support on the economy, life quality, and social cohesion in the long run.
    • Need to Differentiate between Subsidies and Freebies, as targeted subsidies are justified to promote socio-economic development and reduce inequality and for promoting sustainable development, however, irrational freebies need to be regulated as they could challenge the economic stability of the nation. 

    PROJECT SALT 
    About

    • The World Bank has extended an unconditional loan of $250 million to Support Andhra’s Learning Transformation (SALT) project.
      • The SALT project is the first project in the school education sector to be financed by the World Bank without any precondition. 
    • It is an innovative project for teachers' training, promoting state-level assessment and establishing effective education management and information system.
    • It would focus on important key areas such as;
      • Strengthening the foundation of learning.
      • Teacher-student interactions.
      • Improving the quality of teaching.
      • Organizational capabilities 
      • Providing quality services
      • Strengthening the involvement of social organisations.
    • The scheme is integrated with the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.
    • An IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer and a joint director-level officer would be appointed to supervise the scheme.
    • Steps would be taken to set up schools in all districts across the state for physically challenged children.

    REGULATION OF ONLINE GAMING
    Context

    • A task force set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has prepared a final report of its recommendations to regulate the online gaming industry in India.
    • For this, it has proposed the creation of a central regulatory body for the gaming sector, clearly defining what games of skill and chance are, and bringing online gaming under the purview of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, among other things.

    What is the need for a Central level Law?

    Failure of State Governments

    • Online gaming so far has been a state subject, but state governments have said they find it extremely difficult to enforce certain rules like geo-blocking certain apps or websites within the territory of their state.
    • Also, there is a concern that rules passed in one state are not applicable in another, which has caused inconsistency in how the online gaming industry is regulated in the country.
    • State governments also do not have enough blocking powers like the Centre to issue blocking orders for offshore betting sites.

    Suicides

    • Stakeholders have highlighted several societal concerns that can arise from the proliferation of online games in the country. There have been several reported incidents of people losing large sums of money on online games, leading to suicides in various parts of the country.

    Impact of gaming on health

    • Research shows that gaming disorders can also be linked with anxiety, depression, obesity, sleeping disorders, and stress.
    • People, who remain physically inactive for long periods because of gaming may also be at higher risk of obesity, sleep disorders, and other health-related issues.
    • While time spent online is still not as high as in other countries, almost a quarter of adult Indian gamers had missed work while playing games during this pandemic.
    • Gaming addictions cause physical, social and emotional damage, impairing sleep, appetites, careers and social lives.

    Lack of Regulatory Framework

    • There is currently no regulatory framework to govern various aspects of online gaming companies such as having a grievance redressal mechanism, implementing player protection measures, protecting data and intellectual property rights, and prohibiting misleading advertisements.

     For online gaming businesses, the inconsistency has led to uncertainty. The thinking within the government is to have a nodal agency that will address all issues related to online gaming, including introducing a uniform law to determine what forms of online gaming are legally allowed.

    Recommendations of the task force

    Central-level law for online gaming

    • According to the Task Force’s Report, a central-level law for online gaming should apply to real money and free games of skill, including e-sports, online fantasy sports contests, and card games among others.
    • Casual games with no real money element in the form of stakes may be kept outside the scope of such rules, unless they have a high number of users in India, or permit the publication or transmission of information like any inappropriate content like violence, nudity, addictive content or misleading content.

     The regulatory body for the online gaming industry

    • It has also recommended creating a regulatory body for the online gaming industry, which will determine what qualifies as a game of skill or chance, and accordingly certify different gaming formats, seek compliance and enforcement.

     The three-tier dispute resolution mechanism

    • A three-tier dispute resolution mechanism, similar to that prescribed under the Information Technology Rules, 2021 for online streaming services, consisting of a grievance redressal system at the gaming platform level, a self-regulatory body of the industry, and an oversight committee led by the government should be put in place for online gaming.

    ‘Reporting Entities’ under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002,

    • Any online gaming platform – domestic or foreign– offering real money online games to Indian users will need to be a legal entity incorporated under Indian law. These platforms will also be treated as ‘reporting entities under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, and will be required to report suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit-India.

    Which ministry will be in charge of the regulation?

    • The task force has suggested that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) may act as the nodal ministry to regulate online gaming, except for the e-sports category on which the Department of Sports can take the lead.
    • The scope of the regulation by MeitY should only cover online gaming, that is, games of skill, and the issues of online betting and gambling being games of chance in nature should be excluded from its scope.
    • Certain other aspects of online gaming such as advertisements, code of ethics relating to content classifications etc. could be regulated by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, while the Consumer Affairs Ministry can regulate the sector for unfair trade practices.

    What did the task force say about offshore betting apps?

    • On the aspect of prohibiting games of chance, gambling websites or apps being played online, the proposed Digital India Act can include it in the list of prohibited user harms that will not be permitted, the task force has said.
    • Many offshore betting and gambling websites which are illegal in India have become popular among Indian users. Despite being based outside India, some of these websites are widely advertised in Indian newspapers and TV channels, and allow users to transact in Indian rupees through popular digital payment modes such as internet banking, UPI and popular wallets,” the task force is learnt to have said in its report.

    Online Gaming Market in India

    • A 2019 survey by the U.S.-based Limelight  Networks found that India had the second-largest number of gamers after South Korea.
    • The revenue of the Indian mobile gaming industry is expected to exceed $1.5 billion in 2022 and is estimated to reach $5 billion in 2025.
    • The industry in the country grew at a CAGR of 38% between 2017-2020, as opposed to 8% in China and 10% in the US.
    • It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% to reach Rs 153 billion in revenue by 2024. India’s percentage of new paying users (NPUs) in gaming has been the fastest growing in the world for two consecutive years, at 40% in 2020 and reaching 50% in 2021.
    • According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), transaction-based games’ revenues grew 26% in India, with the number of paying gamers increasing by 17% from 80 million in 2020 to 95 million in 2021.
    • In India, there has been a rise in the gaming industry, as well as recognition by the government of the benefit of revenue by investing in the gaming industry leading to the development of draft guidelines for the regulation of games such as the “Online fantasy sports platforms” in India. There are also plans to set up a Center of Excellence for Gaming. However, how these guidelines and centres of excellence will have an impact on problematic Internet use needs to be examined further.
    • Government policies restrict the timings children and adolescents indulge in online, especially in gaming, for example, the “gamer guard” policy in Thailand, the “fatigue system” policy in China, and the “shut down” policy in South Korea.
    • Harm reduction initiatives concerning Internet addiction involve displaying warning messages and restrictions on advertisements or gaming, regulation of product development, etc.
    • There is also a need for multisectoral coordination – there should be the involvement of public health experts, behavioural addiction experts, and experts from the department of education, information, and technology to promote responsible Internet use.
    • The setting up of a Central Level Regulatory Body as envisaged by the Task Force is a step in the right direction.

    Way Ahead

    • Many countries — including Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan— already officially recognize tech addiction as a disorder, some even going so far as to declare the issue a public health crisis, leading governments and healthcare providers to develop a series of major initiatives to curb the problem. India needs to take a cue from them.
    • The live streaming of unauthorized video games was banned in China, signalling stricter enforcement of rules as part of its broad crackdown on the gaming industry aimed at purging content the government does not approve of.
    • Awareness needs to be generated among the youth and their parents about internet addiction and educate them about the use of the internet in a responsible manner.

    BALAKRISHNAN PANEL
    Context

    • The Government of India has formed a three-member Commission under Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, the former Chief Justice of India.
      • The Commission will examine whether the Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism. 

    Details

    • Recently several petitions were filed before the Supreme Court related to SC to reservation benefits for Dalits who converted to Christianity or Islam.
    • The Indian Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, under Article 341 of the Indian constitution mentioned that no person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism can be supposed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. 
      • On the recommendation of the Kalelkar panel, the order was amended in 1956 to include Sikhs, and in 1990 to cover Buddhists.
    • The proposed commission will also study the impact of adding more members to the current SC list.
    • According to some activists, “a person can’t be punished or deprived of benefits only based on his/her faith, as this would violate the Right to freedom of religion, which is a fundamental right under the Indian constitution.

    Constitutional Articles related to Freedom of Religion 

    • Article 25 says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. 
      • Freedom of conscience: Inner freedom of an individual to frame his relation with God or Creatures in whatever way he desires. 
      • Right to Profess Declaration of one’s religious beliefs and faith openly and freely. 
      • Right to Practice: Performance of religious worship, rituals, ceremonies and exhibition of beliefs and ideas.
      • Right to Propagate: Transmission and promotion of one’s religious beliefs to others. But, it does not include a right to convert another person to one’s religion. 
      • Article 25 covers religious beliefs and also religious practices (rituals). 
    • Article 26: Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs, every religious denomination or any of its sections shall have the following rights:
      • Right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
      • Right to manage its affairs in matters of religion.
      • Right to own and acquire movable and immovable property.
      • Right to administer such property under the law.
    • Article 27 - Freedom from Taxation for the Promotion of a Religion
      • No person shall be forced to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. 
      • The State should not spend the public money collected by way of tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion. 
      • This provision prohibits the State from favouring and supporting one religion over the other. This also means that taxes can be used for the promotion or maintenance of all religions. 
      • This provision prohibits only the levy of a tax and not a fee.
    • Article 28 -  Freedom from Attending Religious Instruction
      • No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds.
      • No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to attend any religious instruction or worship in that institution without his consent.
    • Article 29 - Protection of Interests of Minorities
      • It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
      • No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, or language. 
    • These rights are subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions relating to fundamental rights.
      • The State is permitted to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice.

     Way Forward

    • There is no religion-specific mandate for STs and OBCs. According to the Department of Personnel and Training website “The rights of a person belonging to a Scheduled Tribe are independent of his/her religious faith,”
    • In 2007, the Ranganath Misra Commission in its report recommended that SC status be completely delinked from religion and be made religion-neutral like STs.
    • A study commissioned by the National Commission for Minorities in 2007 concluded that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims need to be accorded SC status. 
    • Any decision in future to change the status of these groups must be taken after due consideration of all the relevant factors, consulting with all stakeholders and must be based on ground-level studies.

    RTI Pleas
    Context

    • According to a report by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, nearly 3.15 lakh complaints and appeals are pending before 26 information commissions across India. 
    • The highest number of pending cases (99,722) was in Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

    Details

    • The report says information commissions in Jharkhand and Tripura have been not functioning for 29 months and 15 months respectively. 
    • Only 5% of all positions in commissions are occupied by women
    • Several information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are working with a shortage of manpower.
    • Out of the total of 165 posts of information commissioners, 42 are vacant, including two chief State information commissioners.

    Right to Information  (RTI) Act, 2005

    • The Right to Information Act requires timely responses to citizen requests for Public authority.
      • There is no defined format of application for pursuing information.
      • The information seeker is not required to provide reasons for asking for information.
    • The main objective is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, curb corruption, etc.
    • Under the act, Information is any material in any form. 
      • It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, and data.
    • A “Public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted; 
      • by or under the Indian Constitution.
      • by any other law made by the Indian Parliament.
      • by any other law made by State Legislature.
      • by notification issued or order made by the Government, and includes any body owned, controlled or substantially financed.
    • Public Authorities publish the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records.
    • He publishes facilities available to citizens for obtaining information.
    • He provides reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons.
    • Types of information exempted from RTI
    • Which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, and affect the relation with foreign States.
    • Which may constitute contempt of court.
    • Anything under the Official Secrets Act, of 1923.
    • Intelligence and security organisations are specified in the 2nd Schedule.

    Central Information Commission

    • It is the statutory body constituted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. 
    • They are the final appellate authority for RTI Act.
    • Central Information Commission consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC).
    • They are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of;
      • The Prime Minister.
      • The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
      • A Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM.
    • They shall not be Members of Parliament or Members of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carry on any business or pursue any profession.
    • They are not eligible for reappointment.
    • The tenure, salary and allowances of the information commissioners are not fixed. 
      • RTI Amendment Act, 2019 has empowered the Central Government to notify them.
    • They are required to submit annual reports to the Parliament through the Ministry of Personnel and Training.

    ‘GENERAL CONSENT’ FOR CBI
    Context

    • The State government of Maharashtra has reversed the decision of the previous government and restored general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate cases in Maharashtra.

    About General consent

    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and it must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.
    • General consent is normally given by states to help the CBI in a seamless investigation of cases of corruption against central government employees in their states. 
    • In the absence of general consent, CBI would have to apply to the state government in every case, and before taking even small actions.

    About Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) 

    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Later, it was transferred to the Ministry of Personnel.
      • The Special Police Establishment setup in 1941 was also merged with the CBI. 
    • The establishment of the CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1962–1964). 
    • The CBI is not a statutory body. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, of 1946. 
    • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the Central Government. It plays an important role in the prevention of corruption and maintaining integrity in administration.
    • It also assists the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal. 
    • The CBI investigates crimes of corruption, economic offences and serious and organized crime other than terrorism.
      • For terrorism: The National Investigation Agency (NIA)  has been constituted after the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 mainly for investigation of incidents of terrorist attacks, funding of terrorism and other terror-related crime.
    • CBI is headed by a Director. He is assisted by a special director or an additional director.
    • The Central Government appoints the Director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of;
      • The Prime Minister as Chairperson
    • The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha 
    • The Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him. 

    Cases Investigated by the CBI

    • Anti-Corruption Crimes - Investigate cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Public officials and the employees of the Central Government, Public Sector Undertakings, Corporations or Bodies owned or controlled by the Government of India.
    • Economic Crimes - Investigate major financial scams and serious economic frauds, including crimes relating to Fake Indian Currency Notes, Bank fraud and Cyber Crime, and Smuggling of narcotics, antiques, cultural property and smuggling etc.
    • Special Crimes - Investigate serious and organized crime under the Indian Penal Code and other laws at the requests of State Governments or on the orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
    • Suo Moto Cases - CBI can suo-moto take up investigation of offences only in the Union Territories.
    • The Central Government can authorise CBI to investigate a crime in a State but only with the consent of the concerned State Government.
    • The Supreme Court and High Courts, however, can order CBI to investigate a crime anywhere in the country without the consent of the State.

    SUTLEJ YAMUNA LINK (SYL) CANAL

     Context

    • The Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab to discuss the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.
    • Recently the Supreme Court had asked Punjab Chief Minister to meet with his Haryana counterpart to find a solution for the SYL issue.

     Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal

    • The canal will resolve the water dispute between the rivers Ravi and Beas between Punjab and Haryana
    • The water dispute emerged in 1966 at the time of the reorganization of Punjab and the formation of Haryana.
      • The Punjab assembly has opposed the proposal of Water sharing of the two rivers with Haryana.
    • In 1982, the Prime Minister initiated the construction of the SYL Canal, but the political parties in Punjab were against the construction of the canal. 
      • Incidence of Violence pressured the government to stop the construction of the Canal. 
    • Arguments of Punjab
      • Many areas in Punjab may go dry after 2029. 
      • The groundwater level is declining.
      • Punjab need water for irrigation purposes and for ensuring food security 
      • As per the study, water in about 79% of the state’s area is over-exploited. 
    • Arguments of Haryana
      • The Haryana government stated that providing water for irrigation is getting tough for the state. 
      • Declining groundwater level. 
      • The problem of drinking water. 

    Sutlej River 

    • Sutlej River is the easternmost tributary of the Indus River. 
    • It rises in the Kailash Mountain near Mansarover Lake from Rakas lake in Tibet.
    • The Bhakra Nangal Dam is built on the river Sutlej.
      • It provides irrigation and other facilities to the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana.
    • The Sutlej water is allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan.
    • The drainage basin in India includes the states and union territories of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Ladakh and Haryana.

    Yamuna River 

    • The Yamuna is the 2nd-largest tributary river of the Ganges by discharge and the longest tributary in India. 
    • Yamuna river originates from the Yamunotri Glacier at the Bandarpunch peaks of the Lower Himalaya in Uttrakhand.
    • It merges with the Ganges at Triveni Sangam, Prayagraj, which is also a site of the Kumbh Mela.
    • It flows through several states: Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, passing by Uttarakhand and later Delhi.
    • The important tributaries of the Yamuna River are Tons, Chambal, Hindon, Betwa and Ken.

    Constitutional Provisions and Water 

    • Entry 17 of the State List deals with water; water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, dams, water storage and water power.
    • Entry 56 of the Union List empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys.

    Inter-State Water Dispute in India

    • Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides for the adjudication of interstate water disputes. 
      • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute concerning the use, distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley. 
      • Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any inter-state water dispute.
    • The Parliament has enacted two laws;
      • The River Boards Act (1956) 
      • The Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956). 
    • Under the River Boards Act, a river board is established by the Central government for the regulation and development of Inter-state Rivers and river valleys.
    • The Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 authorizes the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to inter-state water disputes
      • The judgment of the tribunal would be final and binding on the parties to the dispute. 

    OFFICE OF PROFIT
    Context

    • The Election Commission of India (ECI) expressed its decision to the Governor of Jharkhand in an office-of-profit complaint against the Chief Minister of Jharkhand
      • According to the unofficial source, ECI had recommended his disqualification as Minister of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). 

    Office of Profit

    • Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work. 
    • Under the Representation of People Act holding an office of profit is grounds for disqualification.
    • The rationality behind the disqualification under the office of profit law is that if legislators hold an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might influence the government, and may not discharge their constitutional duty.
      • Disqualification under “office of profit” ensures that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member. 
    • Disqualification based on the office of profit upholds the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive; an essential feature of the Indian Constitution.
    • Under Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Indian Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the central or state government, but Indian Constitution or any law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit, the definition has evolved over the years with various court judgments. 
      • An office of profit is defined as a position that brings to the officeholder some financial gain, advantage, or benefit. 
    • The Supreme Court ruled that Several questions need to be considered in deciding the matter of office of profit:
      • Whether the government is the appointing authority.
      • Whether the government has the power to terminate the appointment.
      • Whether the government determines the remuneration.
      • What is the source of remuneration.
      • The power that comes with the position.

    Another reason for the Disqualification of the member

    • If he holds any office of profit under the Union or state government.
    • If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
    • If he is an undercharged insolvent.
    • If he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign state.
    • If he is so disqualified under any law made by Parliament. 
    • The Parliament has prescribed several additional disqualifications in the Representation of People Act (1951). 
      • He must not have been found guilty of certain election offences or corrupt practices in the elections. 
      • He must not have been convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more years. But, the detention of a person under a preventive detention law is not a disqualification. 
      • He must not have failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time. 
      • He must not have any interest in government contracts, works or services.
      • He must not be a director or managing agent nor hold an office of profit in a corporation in which the government has at least a 25% share. 
      • He must not have been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the state. 
      • He must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery. 
      • He must not have been punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati. 
    • To decide whether a member has become subject to any of the above disqualifications, the governor’s decision is final. 
      • However, Governor should obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and act accordingly. 
    • Indian Constitution also lays down that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of either House of state legislature if he is so disqualified on the ground of defection under the provisions of the 10th Schedule. 
      • The question of disqualification under the 10th Schedule is decided by the Chairman, in the case of the legislative council and, Speaker, in the case of the legislative assembly (and not by the governor). 
      • The decision of the Chairman/Speaker is subject to judicial review.

    Way forward

    • In modern polity, the concept of separation of power becomes too thin because the government function becomes so wide that the government can't work in its limited power which is given to the government. 
    • We must bear in mind the objective of the disqualification under ‘the office of profit’ is to avoid conflict between the different branches of the state.
    • The need of the hour is to enact a comprehensive national law to clearly define the ‘office of profit’.

    ELECTION SYMBOL
    Context

    • The Election Commission of India has banned both the groups led by former Maharastra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and State Chief Minister Eknath Shinde from using the Shiv Sena party name and symbol in the upcoming Bye-elections till the final decision.
    • The Commission said that both groups may choose symbols from the list of free symbols notified by the Election Commission for the current bye-elections. 

     Election Symbols

    • The Election Commission of India is authorized to recognize political parties and allot symbols to them under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968.
    • Electoral symbols were introduced to encourage voting, as illiterate people can’t read the party name, but they can easily identify the party with their symbols.
    • Electoral symbols allocated to political parties are used by them during election campaigning and are present on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
    • The Election Commission of India grants the status of National or state parties based on the party's electoral performance.
      • They are known as Recognized political parties and they enjoy certain privileges like allocation of the party symbols, provision of time for political broadcasts on television and access to electoral rolls.
      • A Political Party is called a Recognized Political Party if it meets certain conditions.
        • Won a certain percentage of valid votes or a certain number of seats in the State legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha in the last election.
      • There are 2,360 political parties registered with the Election Commission of India and about 50% of them are unrecognized parties.
      • Unrecognized Political Parties are those newly registered parties which have not secured enough percentage of votes in the assembly or general elections to become a state party, or which have never contested elections since registered.
      • They don’t enjoy the benefits extended to the recognized parties.
      • The Election Commission is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute related to electoral symbols. 

     Election Commission of India

    • It is a permanent constitutional body.
    • Article 324 of the constitution establishes the Election Commission of India.
    • It was established on 25th January 1950.
    • It supervises the conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and elections to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
    • It consists of the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
      • Originally, there was only Chief Election Commissioner, there were no Election Commissioners.

    Appointment of Election Commissioners

    • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
    • Tenure of 6 years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
    • The status, salary and perks of election commissioners are equivalent to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
    • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by
      • Other members can be removed by the President in consultation with the Chief Election Commissioner.
    • The President may appoint Regional Election Commissioners in consultation with the CEC before elections to the Parliament or Assemblies.
    • The Chief Election Commissioner cannot hold any office of profit after retirement.
    • The Commissioner cannot be reappointed to the post.

    Powers of the Election Commission

    • The EC enjoys complete autonomy and is insulated from any interference from the Executive.
    • It also functions as a quasi-judicial body regarding matters related to elections and electoral disputes.
    • Its recommendations are binding on the President of India.
    • However, its decisions are subject to judicial review by High Courts and the Supreme Court acting on electoral petitions.
    • During the election process, the entire Central and state government machinery (including paramilitary and police forces) is deemed to be on deputation to the Commission.
    • The Commission takes effective control of government personnel and movable and immovable property for the successful conduct of elections.

    Functions of the Election Commission

    • Demarcation of constituencies.
    • Preparation of electoral rolls.
    • Issue notification of election dates and schedules.
    • Establish and enforce a code of conduct.
    • Scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates.
    • Scrutiny of election expenses.
    • Allot symbols and accord recognition to political parties.
    • Render advice to the President and Governors regarding the disqualification of MPs and MLAs.
    • Allot schedules for broadcast and telecast of party campaigns.
    • Grant exemptions to persons from disqualifications imposed by judicial decisions.

    HATTI COMMUNITY
    Context

    • Recently the Union Government announced bringing the Hatti community under the Scheduled Tribes list.
    • The demand to declare the Trans-Giri region as a tribal area is old, and the demand is linked with another demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the Hatti community which lives in the Trans-Giri region.
    • The list of Major STs in Himachal Pradesh includes;
      • Gaddis
      • Gujjars
      • Kinnaras (Kinnauras)
      • Lahaulas
      • Pangwalas, and some other smaller tribes. 
    • The bulk of the tribal population lives in remote, high-altitude areas in the districts of Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur, and Chamba. 
    • The tribal population of the state was 3.92 lakh (about 6% of the total) in 2011.

     Hatti community

    • The Hattis are a close-knit community.
    • Harris people take their name from their traditional occupation of selling home-grown crops, vegetables, meat, and wool at small-town markets known as ‘haats’. 
    • Hatti men traditionally dress in distinctive white headgear on ceremonial occasions.
    • In Himachal Pradesh, Hattis people live in 154 panchayat areas, and according to the 2011 census; members of the community are around 2.5 lakh. 
      • The present-day population of the Hattis is around 3 lakh.
    • They live near the Himachal-Uttarakhand border area in the basin of the Giri and Tons rivers, both these rivers are tributaries of the Yamuna. 
    • The Tons River marks the border between the two states.
      • Hattis live in the Trans-Giri area in Himachal Pradesh and Jaunsar Bawar in Uttarakhand.
      • Both have a similar tradition, and inter-marriages are common among them.
    • A rigid caste system operates in the community;
      • The Bhat and Khash are so-called upper caste people.
      • The Badhois are so-called lower caste people.
      • Inter-caste marriages between these 2 castes are discouraged.
    • The Hattis people are governed by a traditional council called ‘khumbli’ which is similar to the ‘khaps’ of Haryana, they decide community matters.

     Tribal Area

    • The Indian Constitution states two types of areas: 
      • Scheduled Areas in terms of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.
      • Tribal Areas in terms of the 6th Schedule. 
    • “The “Tribal Areas” are also mentioned under Article 244(2) of the Constitution.
    • For the declaration of Scheduled Areas, the criteria followed are: 
      • The predominance of the tribal population.
      • Closeness and reasonable size of the area.
      • Presence of a viable administrative unit such as a district, block or taluk.
      • Economic backwardness of the area as compared to neighbouring areas.

    GOVERNOR
    Context

    • The Governor of Kerala said that the Finance Minister of the state has ceased to enjoy the Governor’s pleasure in continuing in office as he had “stoked regionalism and challenged national unity”. 
    • Last week the Governor’s decision to ask the Vice-Chancellors of 11 universities to resign over the process of appointments led to a controversy. 
    • Recent decisions and statements made by the state Governors have started a debate related to the power and limitations of the State Governor.

     Governor

    • Part VI of the Indian constitution deals with the state executive under Articles 153 to 167.
      • The Governor, the chief minister, the council of ministers, and the state's attorney general comprise the state executive.
    • Article 153 of the Indian constitution requires that there shall be a Governor for each State.
      • Normally, each state has its governor, but the 7th the constitutional Amendment Act of 1956 made it easier to appoint the same individual to serve as governor of two or more states.
    • Article 154 vests the executive power of the State in the Governor.
    • Article 155 says that the Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
    • Article 156 provides that ?The Governor shall hold office at the pleasure of the President.
    • Article 157 lay down two qualifications for the office of the Governor:
      • He should be a citizen of India.
      • Must have completed the age of 35 years.
    • The term of the Governor is prescribed as 5 years.
        • He can quit at any time by writing the President a letter of resignation.
    • Article 158; Conditions of the Governor’s office as the following:
          • Shall not be a member of either House of Parliament or State Legislature, and if such a member is appointed Governor, he shall be deemed to have vacated his seat in that House on the date on which he enters upon his office as Governor.
          • Shall not hold any other office of profit.
    • The Governor has to take oath/affirmation before entering upon his office, in the presence of the Chief Justice of the High Court exercising jurisdiction to the State, or, in his absence, the senior-most Judge of that Court available to faithfully discharge the functions.

    Executive Powers of Governors

    • The Governor is the chief executive of the state; all executive actions must be conducted in his or her name.
    • The executive power of the state is vested in the Governor.
    • He exercises it either directly or through officers subordinate to him.
    • It has been held that ministers are officers subordinate to them.
    • The executive power of the state extends to all matters concerning which the State Legislature has the power to make laws.
    • All executive is expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor.
    • All orders, instruments, etc are authenticated in the manner specified in the rules made by the Governor.
    • Appoints the Chief Minister and other ministers are appointed by him on the advice of the Chief Minister.
    • Appoints the Council of Ministers, Advocate General, Chairman and the members of the State Public Service Commission.
    • He has the power to nominate 1/12th of the members of the Legislative Council of State.
    • The persons to be nominated are required to have special knowledge and practical experience in respect of Literature, Science and Arts etc.

    Legislative Powers of Governors
    The Governor is a part of the state legislature (Art. 168). He undertakes the following legislative tasks in this capacity:

    • The legislative Assembly is summoned, prorogued, and then dissolved.
    • Right to speak to and send messages to the legislature.
    •  No Bill can become law unless it receives the Governor's approval.
    • He has the option of giving his consent, withholding his assent, or exercising his pocket veto over a state bill.
    • He has the power of causing to be laid the legislature, the Annual Financial Statement (Budget) and reports of the State Finance Commission.
    • Without his recommendation, no demand for a grant can be made by the legislature.
    •  May reserve Bills for the assent of the President made by the Legislature.

    Financial Power of Governors  

    • The annual financial statement is put before the legislature (Art-202).
    •  Without the Governor's permission, a money bill cannot be introduced in the State Legislative Assembly.
    • In the name of the Governor, the annual and supplemental budgets are introduced in the Assembly.
    • No grant request can be made unless he recommends it.
    • The State Contingency Fund is under the jurisdiction of the Governor, and it cannot be used without his approval.

    Judicial Power

    • When the president appoints judges to the State High Court, he consults him.
    • According to Article 161, the Governor has the authority to suspend, remit, or commute the sentence of anyone guilty of violating the law that the state's executive power extends.
    • Pardon: the accused is fully free of any consequences.
    • Reprieves are temporary halts in the execution of the punishment.
    • Respite is a reduction of the severity of a penalty for a specific reason.
    • Remission: a reduction in the length of a sentence without changing its nature.
    • Commutation is the process of substituting one form of punishment for a less severe one.

     Concern

    • Misuse of discretionary powers: States allege that the Governor acts on behalf of the Union government for political gains.
    • Appointment by Centre: The post has become a retirement package for politicians.
    • Arbitrary removal before the expiration of their tenure: Even after the Supreme Court Judgement in B.P. Singhal v/s Union of India, a fixed tenure for Governors to encourage neutrality and fairness in the discharge of their duties, is not being implemented on the ground.

    Way Forward

    • Punchhi Commission elaborated that the governor should follow “Constitutional Conventions” in a case of a hung Assembly.
    • Bommai Case mentioned that the discretion of the Governor does not apply to hung assembly but it emphasized floor tests in the house within 48 hours.
    • Sarkaria Commission recommended that;
      • The governor must be an important figure.
      • He must be a distant person who has no strong political ties or has not recently participated in politics.
      • He must not be a member of the ruling party.
      • If possible, the governor's term should be five years.
      • He should only be dismissed before his term for reasons stated in the constitution, or for reasons such as his morality, dignity, or constitutional order.
    • The constitution does not allow the governor to run a parallel government and does not hold him personally responsible for his actions as governor.
    • The governor must be a high constitutional authority, function within the terms of the constitution, and be a friend, philosopher, and leader of his government.

    GOVERNMENT APPELLATE COMMITTEES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
    Context

    • The Union government plans to set up three-member grievance appellate committees to redress users' grievances against how social media platforms initially addressed their complaints regarding content and other issues.

     Details 

    • The panels will be constituted by amending the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 
      • The Amendments may require social media platforms to acknowledge user complaints within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days. 
      • The complaints could vary from child sexual abuse material to nudity to trademark and patent infringements, misinformation, impersonation of another person and content threatening the unity and integrity of the country. 
      • Any person aggrieved by a decision of the grievance officer of social media platforms may prefer an appeal to the appellate committee within 30 days.

     About Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

    • The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, was notified by the Central government on February 25, 2021, relates to digital news publishers, including websites, portals and YouTube news channels, and Over The Top (OTT) platforms, which stream online contents such as web series and films. 
    • It is jointly administered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
    • The Rules provide for a code of ethics to be followed by digital news publishers and OTT platforms; A three-tier grievance redress mechanism, which includes: 
      • Self-regulation by publishers at the first level
      • Self-regulation by Self-regulating bodies of the publishers 
      • An oversight mechanism by the Central government

     Key Features of the Rules 

    • Social media intermediaries, with registered users in India above a notified threshold, have been classified as significant social media intermediaries.
      • They are required to appoint certain personnel for compliance, identification of the first originator of the information on its platform, and identify certain types of content. 
      • They need to appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident of India.
      • Appoint a Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism. Such a person shall be a resident of India.
      • Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints.
    • The Rules prescribe a framework for the regulation of content by online publishers of news and current affairs content and audio-visual content.
    • A 3-tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Social media intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers. 
    • The grievance officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.
    • 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 expose the privacy of individuals.
      • Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.
    • Voluntary User Verification Mechanism: Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided with an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with a demonstrable and visible mark of verification.
    • Giving Users An Opportunity to Be Heard: Users must be provided with an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary. 
    • Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.
    • This Code of Ethics prescribes the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
    • Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms would be required to self-classify the content into five age-based categories; U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). 

     Concerns 

    • Intermediaries include telecom service providers, internet service providers, search engines, online marketplaces, payment sites, cyber cafes, messaging services, and social media sites.  While many intermediaries are mere storage providers, where they are unaware of the content being transmitted or stored on their platform, other intermediaries may be aware of the user-generated content on their platform. This raises the question that to what extent intermediaries should be held liable for the user-generated content on their platform.
    • There are growing concerns around the misuse of these platforms for the proliferation of illegal or harmful content such as child sex abuse material, content provoking terrorism, misinformation, hate speech, and voter manipulation. 
    • Some platforms have been self-regulating the publication of such content.  However, this has raised concerns about arbitrary actions taken by these platforms which could affect freedom of speech and expression. 
    • Certain grounds for restricting content may affect freedom of speech, some of these restrictions are subjective and overbroad, and may adversely affect the freedom of speech and expression of users of intermediary platforms.
    • The 2021 Rules do not restrict the extent or type of information that may be sought.  For example, the information sought may be personal data of individuals such as details about their interactions with others. Such powers, without adequate safeguards, may adversely affect the privacy of individuals.  
    • The Rules require significant social media intermediaries, to enable the identification of the first originator of information within India. 
      • Identifying the first originator of information on a messaging platform will require the service provider to permanently store certain additional information: 
      • The Rules also do not specify any timeline in terms of how far back in time the messaging service will be required to check for determining the first originator.  
    • Overall, this requirement will lead to the retention of more personal data by messaging services which goes against the principle of Privacy and Data minimization.

     Way Forward

    • Government can facilitate the Reform Process. The government may pass a law that any violation will face legal action or criminal action, but the media needed a strong policy of Self­-regulation and at the same time independent regulation, as excessive regulation could result in eroding the independency of media and goes against the right to privacy of citizens. 
    • Privacy is one of the fundamental freedoms of people and it is essential to liberty and human dignity. Therefore government needs to balance our security concerns with Privacy concerns.

    ELECTORAL BONDS
    Context

    • According to Right to Information (RTI) replies from the State Bank of India (SBI); the Union government of India printed 10,000 electoral bonds worth Rs 1 crore each sometime between August 1 and October 29.
      • Most of the recent electoral bonds went on sale in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
    • The last time the Union Government printed electoral bonds was in 2019 when bonds worth Rs 11,400 crore in different denominations were printed.

     Electrol Bonds

    • The Electoral bonds were introduced with the Finance Bill (2017). 
    • The Union Government has notified the detailed guidelines about the Electoral Bonds Scheme in January 2018, with the objective to cleanse the system of political funding in the country.
    • The Electoral Bond is a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note and an interest-free banking instrument. 
      • A bearer instrument is a document that authorizes the holder with the right of ownership or title of the property, such as Currency, shares or bonds. 
      • Unlike normally registered instruments, no record is kept about the owners of bearer instruments or the transfer of ownership. 
      • Whoever physically holds the bearer document is assumed to be the owner of the property.
    • Electoral bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or established in India. 
      • An individual can buy electoral bonds either singly or jointly with other individuals.
      • The Electoral Bond does not carry the name of the payee. 
    • Electoral bonds would be issued/purchased for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000 from the specified branches of the State Bank of India (SBI).
      • Electoral Bonds have a validity of 15 days. 
    • Political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and also secured a minimum of 1% of voters polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State are eligible to receive electoral bonds.
    • The Electoral Bonds shall be available for purchase for 10 days each in January, April, July and October, as may be specified by the Central Government. 
      • An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of the General election to the House of People.
    • Electoral Bonds can be encashed by an eligible political party only through their bank accounts with the authorised bank. 
      • The bonds do not have the name of the donor or the receiving political party.
      • It only carries a unique hidden alphanumeric serial number as an in-built security feature.
    • Electoral bonds protect the identity of political donors and parties receiving contributions. 
      • Donors who contribute less than Rs 20,000 to political parties through the purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details such as PAN, etc.

     Finance Bill (2017) 

    • Before the bill came into force;
      • A company donating to a political party could contribute a maximum of 7.5% of the average net profits in the last three financial years.
      • It was required to disclose the details of the contributions made to any political parties along with the name of the political parties to which such contributions were made.
    • The Finance Bill (2017) introduced new provisions;
      • It removed the maximum limit set on the companies for donations to political parties, now there is no limit on companies for donating to political parties. 
      • It also removed the requirement for a company to disclose the name of the political parties to which it was donating.
    • The bill adds that "contributions will have to be made only through a cheque, bank draft, electronic means, or any other scheme notified by the government to make contributions to political parties."

     Arguments in favour of the Electoral Bond 

    • It promotes transparency in funding and donation received by political parties.
    • It is an important “electoral reform” toward a “cashless-digital economy”.
    • It is a tool to eradicate black money in political funding.

     Arguments against Electrol Bond

    • The bonds increase the anonymity of political donations, Citizens will not be able to know who is donating how much money to which political party.
    • Promoting corruption and lack of transparency in the accounts of all political parties.
    • The electoral bonds scheme has opened floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which is a threat to Indian democracy.

    Concern

    • The Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India objected to electoral bonds and had advised against the issuance of electoral bonds as a mode for donation to political parties.
    • It alleged that almost 99% of electoral bonds purchased are of value one crore and 10 lakh denominations which shows that it is not individual citizens but large corporations which are purchasing these bonds with a view to receiving kickbacks from the government.
    • The Election Commission of India filed an affidavit in 2019, saying the government’s scheme for political funding has legalized anonymity.
    • Many major political parties have not disclosed the amount they received through electoral bonds. 
    • As the bonds are sold through a public sector bank, the government would easily know who is funding which political party.

    It is important to fill the gaps in the present laws to make the entire electoral process more accountable and transparent. There is a need for effective regulation of political funding along with courageous reforms to break the vicious cycle of corruption and improve the quality of democratic polity in India.

    AADHAAR-VOTER ID LINKING
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India has issued notice to the Union Government on a petition challenging the power of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to link the Aadhaar database with voter ID cards.
      • The petition challenged the constitutional validity of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 that amended the Representation of People’s Act, 1950 and the Representation Act, 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms, including Aadhaar-Voter Card linkage.

    Background

    • The Indian Parliament passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2021 to amend the Representation of the People Act, of 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, of 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms. 
      • The 1950 Act provides for the allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections, qualifications of voters, and preparation of electoral rolls.  
      • The 1951 Act provides for the conduct of elections, and offences and disputes related to elections.

     Key features of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2021

    • Linking Voter list with Aadhaar
      • The electoral registration officer may ask a person to provide their Aadhaar number for verifying their identity.   
      • If their name is already on the electoral roll, then the Aadhaar number may be required for authentication. 
      • Persons will not be refused inclusion in the electoral roll or have their names deleted from the roll if they are unable to furnish an Aadhaar number.
        • Such persons may be permitted to furnish alternate documents prescribed by the central government. 
      • Date for enrolment in Voter list
        • Under the 1950 Act, the qualifying date for enrolment is 1st  January of the year.
        • The 2021 act amended the earlier provisions and provide 4 qualifying dates in a calendar year: January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 to enrol under the voter list. 
      • Gender equality
        • The 1950 Act permits service voters, such as members of the armed forces or central government employees posted outside India. 
          • The 1951 Act enables the wife of a person holding a service qualification to vote either in person or by postal ballot.  
        • The recent amendment replaces the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in both the Acts.   

    The argument in Favor of Aadhar-Voter ID Linkage

    • The Election Commission conducts regular exercises to maintain an updated and accurate voter list.
      • As part of this exercise, the officials weed out duplication of voters.
    • Linkage of Aadhaar with voter IDs will ensure that only one Voter ID is issued per Indian citizen and will also upload the constitutional principles of “One Person-One Vote”.
    • At the end of 2021, 99.7% of the adult Indian population had an Aadhaar card. This range exceeds any other officially valid document such as driver’s licence, ration cards, PAN cards etc.
    • Aadhaar allows for biometric authentication, Aadhaar authentication and verification are considered more reliable, quicker and cost-efficient.

     Concern

    • This goes against the verdict of the Puttaswamy case (Right to Privacy).
    • The preference for Aadhaar to decide valid voters is confusing as an Aadhaar is only a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship
      • This could solve the problem of duplication of voters but it will not remove voters who are not citizens of India from the electoral rolls.  
    • Error rates in the biometric-based authentication system. As per the Unique Identification Authority of India in 2018, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate. 
      • The Supreme Court of India stated in Puttaswamy's judgement that a person would not be denied benefits in case Aadhaar-based authentication could not take place.
      • This concern is also valid in the case of using Aadhaar as a tool to clean electoral rolls.
    • Several social activists and civil society have raised concerns that linking electoral rolls and Aadhaar could lead to the violation of the right to privacy and encourage surveillance measures by the government. 

     Way Forward

    • Aadhaar card for authentication or verification must not violate individuals' informational autonomy (right to privacy), People must have the right to decide which official document they want to use for verification and authentication.
    • In Lal Babu Hussein (1995), the Supreme Court held that the Right to vote cannot be disallowed by demanding only limited identity proof, voters can use any other identity proof to practice their right to vote.
    • Election Commission and Government need to address the concerns related to “the Violation of Right to Privacy and creation surveillance state”, the government also need to enforce data protection principles that regulate how official data will be used. 
    • Other means of verification and authentication must be allowed if the person does not hold an Aadhaar card.

    NEWS BROADCASTING STANDARDS
    Context

    • The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), has fined a News channel for diverting a news debate on hijab into a “communal issue” and not sticking to guidelines. 
      • The NBDSA held that the News programme violated the principles of impartiality, neutrality, fairness and decency.
      • The NBDSA highlighted that, they did not have any problem with the subject of debate but with the narrative of the debate. 
    • The issue has raised a debate related to the working of Media in a democracy. 

     News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA)

    • The NBDSA is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA); it serves as a representative of private television news, current affairs and digital broadcasters. 
      • It promotes itself as “the collective voice of the news, current affairs and digital broadcasters in India.”
    • Though it is not a government or legal organization, its rulings matter within the industry.
    • The NBDA has 26 news and current affairs broadcasters (comprising 119 news and current affairs channels) as its members. 
      • It is funded entirely by its members.
    • It aims to protect all its members from persons carrying unfair and/or unethical practices or who discredit television news broadcasters, digital news media and other related entities.
    • It carries out activities to promote, protect and secure the interests including the right of freedom of speech and expression of the news broadcasters, digital news media and other related entities.
    • It lay down and fosters high standards, ethics and practices in Context broadcasting, including entertaining and deciding complaints against or in respect of broadcasters. 
    • It includes a Chairperson who is to be an eminent jurist, and other members such as news editors, and those experienced in the field of law, education, literature, public administration, etc. nominated by a majority of the Board. 
    • It may initiate proceedings on its own and issue notice or take action with respect to any matter which falls within its regulations. 
      • It can impose a fine up to Rs. 1 lakh and such a fine shall be recovered from the concerned broadcaster.

    Significance of Media 

    • Media refers to all means of Communication, everything ranging from a Phone Call to the news on TV. 
      • TV, radio and newspapers are a form of media. Since they reach millions of people across the world they are Called Mass Media.
    • A balanced report is essential in media which has to report independently. 
    • Media plays a very important role in providing news and discussing events taking place in the Country and the world.
      • News Stories in the media inform people about important events in the Country.
    • Media by focusing on particular issues influences and Shapes our thoughts. It is said the media sets the agenda for People.
      • Opinions, attitudes, and Conduct of persons are dependent upon the information available to them.
      • Most of our knowledge of Contemporary events comes from newspapers, Radio, Television and movies. 
      • Our emotions and attitudes are also formed or influenced to a large extent by the media.
    • The media tell us about the working of the Government and create awareness about the welfare programmes.

    Concern

    • The media is far from being independent. This is because of the Control of the Government over the media Called Censoring and because big business houses Control the media.
    • Corporate Funding - A lot of money is spent on maintaining People and getting the latest technology. To meet this Cost, it needs money. 
      • Media, therefore, uses advertising as a tool to raise revenue.
    • Manipulating News for TRPs is not only a financial scam but also morally and ethically wrong. 
    • Some Channels are spreading a hate narrative which is a violation of the fundamental right of the citizen to know the truth through the media. 
    • The media has become a source of disinformation, and this is also an ethical issue. 
      • Both legal and ethical dimensions are equally serious

     Way Forward 

    • The democratic way of life depends upon the existence of free agencies of mass media.
    • The Media must act in a Responsible and Independence manner; they need to promote Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy, and Impartiality in their work.
    • News reporting must be factual and objective
    • Programs relating to Controversial public issues are needed to give fair representation to both sides of the issue. 
    • Children’s programs are to be educative rather than merely entertaining.
    • Advertising of hard liquor, and fortune-telling, must be avoided.
    • Privacy is one of the fundamental freedoms of people and it is essential to liberty and human dignity.
    • A journalist must be held accountable for the consequences of the reporting.
    • Need to promote a Free and Responsible Press.
    • The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation. 
    • Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.
    • The media should not report the glorification of war, over-sentimentality, unnecessary brutality or killing, passionate love scenes, undue sympathy for immoral or criminal behaviour, or superficiality.
    • Government can facilitate the Reform Process. The government may pass a law that any violation will face legal action or criminal action, but the media needed a strong policy of Self­-regulation and at the same time independent regulation. 

    PREVENTIVE DETENTION
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India has raised concern that the provisions under preventive detention rules negatively affect personal liberty.
      • The Supreme Court highlighted that protection provided under the Indian Constitution must be strictly followed. 
    • The Court stated that “preventive detention is designed to protect society. Its object is not to punish a man for having done something but to intercept before he does it and to prevent him from doing it”.

    Preventive Detention 

    • Article 22 of the Indian Constitution grants protection to persons who are arrested or detained. Detention is of two types:
      • Punitive detention 
      • Preventive detention
    • Punitive detention is to punish a person for an offence committed by him after trial and conviction in a court. 
    • Preventive detention means the detention of a person without trial and conviction by a court. 
      • Its purpose is not to punish a person for a past offence but to prevent him from committing an offence in the near future. Thus, preventive detention is only a precautionary measure and it is based on suspicion. 
    • Article 22 of the Indian Constitution has two parts;
      • One Part deals with the cases of ordinary law.
      • The second part deals with the cases of preventive detention law. 
    • A person who is arrested or detained under ordinary law has the following rights: 
      • Right to be informed of the grounds of arrest. 
      • Right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner.  
      • Right to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours including the journey time. 
      • Right to be released after 24 hours unless the magistrate authorizes further detention. 
    • These above safeguards are not available to an enemy alien or a person arrested or detained under a preventive detention law. 
    • Article 22 also grants protection to persons who are arrested or detained under a preventive detention law. This protection is available to both citizens as well as aliens and includes the following:
      • The detention of a person cannot exceed three months unless the advisory board reports sufficient cause for extended detention. The board is to consist of judges of a high court.  
      • The grounds of detention should be conveyed to the detained person However; the facts considered to be against the public interest need not be disclosed. 
      • The detained person should be allowed to make representation against the detention order. 
    • The Constitution authorized the  Parliament to prescribe;
      • The circumstances and the classes of cases in which a person can be detained for more than three months under a preventive detention law without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board.
      • The maximum period for which a person can be detained in any case under a preventive detention law.
      • Procedure to be followed by an advisory board in an inquiry. 
    • The Constitution has divided the legislative power related to preventive detention between the Parliament and the state legislatures. 
      • Both the Parliament and state legislatures can concurrently make a law on preventive detention
      • The Parliament has exclusive authority to make a law of preventive detention related to defence, foreign affairs and the security of India. 
      • State legislatures can make a law of preventive detention for reasons connected with the security of a state, the maintenance of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. 

    Concern

    • Preventive detention is the act of detaining an individual who has not committed any wrong but on mere suspicion that he/she is likely to commit a crime in future. 
    • It violates the right of personal liberty and fundamental rights. 

     Way Forward

    • Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees “the right to life, liberty, and security of person”. It says that detention must be carried out in conformity with the law, and not arbitrarily. 
    • Preventive Detention must be according to the law, reasonable and also lawful.
      • Detainees must have the right to be informed of the reasons for the arrest and the charges framed against them.
      • The detainee must have the right to get a lawyer of his/her own choice.
    • It is essential to have an independent body outside the control of the executive to determine the legality of preventive detention.
    • Just like two faces of a coin, preventive detention also has its own merits and demerits. It is the responsibility of the legislature and executive to use it according to the law without shifting from the core value of the Indian Constitution.

    SECTION 66A of IT Act
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India has asked the chief secretaries of states to withdraw the cases registered under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 within three weeks.
      • Under section 66A of the IT Act, a person posting offensive content could be imprisoned for up to 3 years and also fined. 
      • The court struck down the provision as unconstitutional and a violation of free speech in the Shreya Singhal Case in 2015.
    • The Supreme Court has scrapped the registration of FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
      • The court highlighted that “the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
      • The section conflict with the rights granted under Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution.
    • Local authorities could proceed arbitrarily on the order of their political masters.
    • The Supreme court did not strike down section 69A of the Information Technology Act and stated that it can remain enforced with certain restrictions.

    Section 69A of the IT Act 2000

    • Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act empowers the government to restrict access to any online content to protect the interest of;
      • Sovereignty and Integrity of the Nation.
      • Security of the State.
      • Friendly relations with foreign states.
      • Public order. 
    • All orders to restrict information or content must be recorded in writing
    • Social media intermediaries failing to comply with the rules and regulations are liable to be monetarily penalized along with an imprisonment term which may extend up to 7 years. 
    • The procedures for executing the provisions of the act are mentioned in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009. 
      • Step 1: It mentioned that an officer along with an examination committee reviews the content in question within 48 hours of receiving the takedown request. 
      • Step 2: Provide an opportunity to the author or originator of the content for clarification. 
      • Step 3: The recommendations are then sent to the Secretary of the Dept of Information Technology for approval and then a request is forwarded to the social media intermediary for restricting access. 
    • Emergency provisions specify that clarification is required within 48 hours after the content has been blocked for specified reasons.
      • Blocking Orders can be revoked after review or examination. 
    • Rule 16 of the act states that strict confidentiality should be maintained on all requests and actions taken, but without compromising transparency and accountability.
    • The Act complies with Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. However, Clause 2 of the article allows the state to impose reasonable restrictions for the same reasons as those for Section 69A. 

    Concern

    • The Confidentiality Clause under the act is preventing legal challenges to content-blocking orders; it is difficult to understand the Governments reasoning. 
    • It doesn't come under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI), recently Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) rejected many RTI requests that asked for the list of blocked websites.
    • The lack of transparency, Clear guidelines and a monitoring mechanism under the act means that there are various forms of arbitrary behaviour involved.
    • The concerns are raised mainly when the orders are aimed at blocking individual accounts and not the specific content. 

     Way Forward

    • The Supreme Court in the Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh vs Ram Manohar Lohia (1960) case has stated that restrictions made in the public interest must include a reasonable connection with the purpose being achieved
    • In Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2012) the Supreme Court stated a mandatory hearing for the author of the content as well as the intermediary. It is also guaranteed under Rule 8 of the act.
    • India needs clarity about the rationality behind limitations and restrictions of free speech which may also guide legislative drafting and judicial decisions in the future. 
    • We need to balance the National security concerns and the Fundamental Rights of our Citizens. 

    DISQUALIFICATION OF LEGISLATORS
    Context

    • Recently 2 legislators from Uttar Pradesh (UP) were convicted of criminal charges, and one of them has been disqualified from the state assembly and the State’s Legislative Assembly secretariat declared his seat vacant.

     Details

    • Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951, contains provisions to decriminalize electoral politics. There are two categories of criminal cases that attract disqualification upon conviction. 
    • Under Category 1 - Disqualification for 6 years upon any conviction.
      • If the punishment is fine, the 6-year period will start from the date of conviction, but if there is a prison sentence, the disqualification will start on the date of conviction and will continue up to the completion of 6 years after the date of release from jail. 
      • Major offences under this category
        • Making speeches that cause enmity between groups.
        • Bribery during elections and other electoral offences.
        • Offences relating to rape and cruelty to women by husbands and relatives. 
      • Special laws such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, Customs Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Laws for prevention of Sati, corruption, terrorism and insult to the national flag and national anthem etc, are among the category of offences that entail disqualification regardless of the period of punishment.
    • All other criminal provisions fall in the 2nd category under which at least 2 years in prison is needed for disqualification. 

     State Assembly

    • Articles 168 to 212 under the Part VI of the Indian Constitution deal with the organisation, composition, duration, procedures, powers, etc of the state legislature. 
    • There is no uniformity in the structure of state legislatures. 
      • 22 states have only the lower House or Legislative Assembly (unicameral system). 
      • Only 6 states have two Houses (bicameral system): Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka. 
        • Both the lower house or Legislative Assembly and the Upper House or Legislative Council.
      • Legislative Assembly; 
        • Members are directly elected by the people.
        • Its maximum strength is fixed at 500 and minimum strength at 60. The strength varies from 60 to 500 depending on the population of the state. 
          • However, in the case of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Goa, the minimum number is fixed at 30 and in the case of Mizoram and Nagaland, it is 40 and 46 respectively. 
          • Some members of the legislative assemblies in Sikkim and Nagaland are also elected indirectly. 
        • The term of a member is 5 years.
      • Legislative Council;
        • Members are indirectly elected. 
        • The minimum strength of the council is fixed at 40 and the maximum strength is fixed at 1/3rd of the total strength of the assembly.
          • The size depends on the size of the assembly of the concerned state. 
        • The term of a member is 6 years.
      • Election of a legislative council:
        • 1/3rd of members are elected by the members of local bodies in the state like municipalities, district boards, etc., 
        • 1/12th of members are elected by graduates of three years standing and residing within the state.
        • 1/12th of members are elected by teachers of three years standing in the state, not lower in standard than secondary school.
        • 1/3rd of members are elected by the members of the legislative assembly of the state from amongst persons who are not members of the assembly.
        • 1/6th of the members are nominated by the governor of the State. 

    Qualifications for membership of the State Legislature

    • He must be a citizen of India. 
    • He must make and subscribe to an oath or affirmation before the person authorised by the Election Commission for this purpose. In his oath or affirmation, he swears;
      • To bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.
      • To uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.
    • He must be at least 30 years of age in the case of the legislative council and at least 25 years of age in the case of the legislative assembly.
    • He must possess other qualifications prescribed by Parliament. 
    • Parliament has laid down additional qualifications in the Representation of People Act (1951): 
      • A person to be elected to the legislative council must be an elector for an assembly constituency in the concerned state and to be qualified for the governor’s nomination, he must be a resident in the concerned state. 
    • A person to be elected to the legislative assembly must be an elector for an assembly constituency in the concerned state. 
    • He must be a member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe if he wants to contest a seat reserved for them. However, a member of scheduled castes or scheduled tribes can also contest from the General seat (not reserved).

     Disqualifications of the member

    • If he holds any office of profit under the Union or state government.
    • If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
    • If he is an undercharged insolvent.
    • If he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign state.
    • If he is so disqualified under any law made by Parliament. 
    • The Parliament has prescribed several additional disqualifications in the Representation of People Act (1951). 
      • He must not have been found guilty of certain election offences or corrupt practices in the elections. 
      • He must not have been convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more years. But, the detention of a person under a preventive detention law is not a disqualification. 
      • He must not have failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time. 
      • He must not have any interest in government contracts, works or services.
      • He must not be a director or managing agent nor hold an office of profit in a corporation in which the government has at least a 25% share. 
      • He must not have been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the state. 
      • He must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery. 
      • He must not have been punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati. 
    • To decide whether a member has become subject to any of the above disqualifications, the governor’s decision is final. 
      • However, Governor should obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and act accordingly. 
    • Indian Constitution also lays down that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of either House of state legislature if he is so disqualified on the ground of defection under the provisions of the 10th Schedule. 
      • The question of disqualification under the 10th Schedule is decided by the Chairman, in the case of the legislative council and, Speaker, in the case of the legislative assembly (and not by the governor). 
      • The decision of the Chairman/Speaker is subject to judicial review.

    SC ABORTION RULING
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India stated that differentiating between married and unmarried women for allowing termination of pregnancy on certain exceptional grounds is unconstitutional.
    • The Court remark came in the case of a 25 years old pregnant woman who moved to the Supreme Court to allow abortion after the Delhi High Court declined her request last week.
    • She has challenged the Medical termination of pregnancy rules 2003, which allows only specific categories of women for termination of pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks.

    Abortions law in India

    • In the 1960s, the Union government constituted Shantilal Shah Committee to prepare a draft for the legalisation of abortion in India.
    • In 1971, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was enacted to reduce maternal mortality due to unsafe abortions.
      • It set an upper limit of the gestation period to which a woman can seek a medical abortion to 20 weeks.
      • Abortion is to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics.
    • Under section 312 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a person who “voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry” will be jailed for up to 3 years or fined or both.
      • The only exception from punishment is when it was done to save the life of the pregnant woman. 
    • The MTP Act was amended in 2003 to allow the use of the abortion medicine misoprostol, to medically terminate a pregnancy for up to 7 weeks. 
    • The MTP Act was again amended in 2021, it increased the upper limit of the gestation period to which a woman can seek a medical abortion to 24 weeks from the 20 weeks permitted in the 1971 Act. But the new upper limit can only be applied in specific cases. 
      • Abortion up to 20 weeks of gestational age can be done after the opinion of a single registered medical practitioner.
      • From 20 weeks up to 24 weeks, the opinion of two registered medical practitioners is required. 
    • Under the 2021 amendment Act, medical termination of pregnancy is permitted if it is based on medical opinion and fulfil at least one of the following reasons;
      • If the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.
      • If pregnancy results in any injury to the woman’s physical or mental health.
      • If f unborn child suffers from a serious physical or mental abnormality. 
    • The pregnancy can be terminated up to 24 weeks of gestational age under any of these conditions;
      • If the woman is either a survivor of sexual assault or rape. 
      • If she is a minor.
      • If her marital status has changed during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood or divorce).
      • If she has major physical disabilities or is mentally ill.
      • If foetal malformation was incompatible with life or after birth, it would be seriously handicapped.
    • If the pregnancy has to be terminated beyond the 24-week gestational age, it can only be done on the grounds of foetal abnormalities and only after clearance from a four-member Medical Board.
    • In the K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India and other cases, the Supreme Court had held that the decision taken by a pregnant person related to pregnancy is part of her right to privacy under article 21.

     Concern

    • According to the Lancet study, 6 million abortions were conducted every year in India.
    • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s 2019-20 report indicates that there is a 70% shortage of obstetrician-gynaecologists in India. 
    • As the law does not permit abortion at will, it pushes women to adopt unsafe, illegal and dangerous ways of abortion.
    • According to a study, every year more than 8, 00,000 unsafe and illegal abortions are performed in India and many of them result in maternal mortality.

    NATIONAL GAMES
    About

    • The Prime Minister of India inaugurated the 36th National Games in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
    • National Games anthem 'India will join, India will win'.
    • The official mascot of the National Games 'Sawaj' was launched
    • The Prime Minister highlighted that the progress of any country and its respect in the world is directly related to its success in sports, The soft power of sports makes the identity of the country.
    • Traditional Indian sports like 'Kalaripayattu' and Yogasana are also included in the National Games. 
    • Recently, the Sports Ministry included 4 indigenous martial art forms in the National Games.
      • Kalaripayattu of Kerala
      • Mallakhamb of Central India
      • Gatka of Punjab 

    ONLINE NEWS DISSEMINATION
    Context

    • Recently, the News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against Google.
      • NBDA has raised concern that Google had deprived them of their justifiable revenue acquired from news dissemination on the tech giant’s platforms. 

     Concerns raised by News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) 

    • Google controls 94% of the search engine market share in India and People shifting towards news consumption online or app-based consumption. 
    • In India, the traditional newspaper industry sustained itself on a business model wherein advertisement revenue accounts for two-thirds of its total revenue. 
      • With the increasing number of online news platforms, there is an increased dependency of news publishers on digital advertisement revenues.
    • More than 50% of the total traffic on news websites is routed through Google. Its algorithms determine which news websites would be prioritized in the search list. 
    • Google is dominant in both markets; online web search services and digital advertising services. 
    • Google’s conflicts of interest, as Google represents the buyer and the seller in the same transaction.

    Google’s arguments: Like every organization, Google also needs revenues to manage “a complex and evolving business” such as maintaining data centres, further technological investments, enabling innovations that increase publisher revenue and maximizing advertiser return on investment, among other things.

    Steps taken by other countries

    • The European Publishers Council filed an anti-trust complaint against Google with the European Commission, challenging its existing “ad tech stranglehold” over press publishers.
    • Australia introduced the ‘Media Bargaining Code’ to address Google’s control of Search engines.

     Way Forward

    • Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all Internet transmissions equally, offering users and online content providers consistent rates irrespective of content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, a destination address, or method of communication.
    • Internet content must ensure freedom of speech and democratic participation, promotes competition and innovation, and prevents dubious services. 
    • Need to regulate and prevent Internet content from being misused, ensure open standards, transparency, lack of Internet censorship, and low barriers to entry. 
    • In the year 2018, the Indian Government unanimously approved new regulations supporting net neutrality, guaranteeing free and open Internet.

    INTERNATIONAL CURRENT EVENTS
    Super Typhoon ‘Hinnamnor
    News

    • The strongest tropical storm of 2022, dubbed Super Typhoon ‘Hinnamnor’, has been barrelling across the western Pacific Ocean.
    • The category 5 typhoon — the highest classification on the scale — was about 230 km away from Japan’s Okinawa. The storm moved over parts of Southwestern Japan, Eastern China and South Korea.

    Tropical Storms

    • Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all types of tropical storms. But are given different names depending on where they appear.
    • Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific.
    • Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
    • Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

    Conditions for the development of Tropical Cyclones

    • Sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures (higher than 26º C).
    • Atmospheric instability.
    • High humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere.
    • Enough Coriolis force to sustain a low-pressure centre.
    • A pre-existing low-level focus or disturbance.
    • Low vertical wind shear.

     TURKEY’S DISINFORMATION LAW
    About

    • The Parliament of Turkey adopted the ‘disinformation law’, the law has provision to jail terms of up to three years for social media users and journalists for spreading ‘disinformation’. 
    • The law includes 40 articles that would amend several other laws. 
    • It designates it an offence to publicly spread misleading information about the country’s internal and external security, public order and general well-being to cause fear or panic among the people. 
    • The Turkish government has argued that it would curb sharing of illegal content under fake names and where anonymous accounts defame individuals of differing political thought, religion or ethnicity
    • To implement the law, Social media platforms could be asked to hand over user data to Turkish courts. 
    • Critics have criticized the unclear interpretation of ‘disinformation’. The legislation also lacks clarity on how the individual shall be deemed guilty of sharing or manufacturing the information in an offline space. 

    WORLD BANK’S REPORT ON GLOBAL POVERTY
    Context

    • According to a new World Bank report, titled “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022: Correcting Course”, the Covid pandemic has been the biggest setback to global poverty alleviation in decades.

     Details

    • The World Bank's Poverty and Shared Prosperity series provide the latest estimates and trends in global poverty and shared prosperity.
    • Poverty and Shared Prosperity is a biennial series that explores a central challenge to poverty reduction and boosting shared prosperity, assessing what works well and what does not in different settings. By bringing together the latest evidence, this corporate flagship report provides a foundation for informed advocacy around ending extreme poverty and improving the lives of the poorest in every country in the world.
    • The 2022 edition provides the first comprehensive look at the landscape of poverty in the aftermath of an extraordinary series of shocks to the global economy.

     Findings of the Report

    • The world is unlikely to meet the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 absent history-defying rates of economic growth over the remainder of this decade.
    • COVID-19 dealt the biggest setback to global poverty-reduction efforts since 1990 and the war in Ukraine threatens to make matters worse.
      • The pandemic pushed about 70 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, the largest one-year increase since global poverty monitoring began in 1990. As a result, an estimated 719 million people subsisted on less than $2.15 a day by the end of 2020.
    • 2020 marked a historic turning point—when the era of global income convergence yielded to divergence. The poorest people bore the steepest costs of the pandemic: income losses averaged 4% for the poorest 40%, double the losses of the wealthiest 20% of the income distribution. Global inequality rose, as a result, for the first time in decades.
    • The new report is the first to provide current and historical data on the new global extreme-poverty line, which has been adjusted upward to $2.15 a day to reflect the latest 2017 purchasing-power-parity data.
    • Extreme poverty fell dramatically across the world from 1990 through 2019, the latest year for which official data are available. But progress slowed after 2014, and policymakers now confront a tougher environment: Extreme poverty is concentrated in parts of the world where it will be hardest to eradicate—in Sub-Saharan Africa, in conflict-affected areas and rural areas.
    • Sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for 60% of all people in extreme poverty—389 million, more than any other region. The region’s poverty rate is about 35%, the world’s highest.
    • Government spending and emergency support helped avert even bigger increases in poverty rates, the report showed, but the economic recovery had been uneven, with developing economies with fewer resources spending less and achieving less.

     

    Status of Poverty in India

    • The World Bank in its latest report has used a consumption survey; According to this update on Indian poverty, the new poverty line is $2.15 per day.
      • In other words, anyone living on less than $2.15 a day is considered to be living in extreme poverty. About 648 million people globally were in this situation in 2019.
      • This international poverty line is revised periodically to account for rising prices of goods and services over time. 
      • According to the report, India still has the largest number of poor people worldwide at 22.8 crores, followed by Nigeria at 9.6 crores.
    • Nearly 600 million Indians survive at less than $3.65 (Rs 84) a day level of expenditure.

      Reasons behind Poverty in India

    • Illiteracy and lack of quality education: Despite more than 15 million graduates being produced every year, there are no jobs available for them due to the lack of quality education. Most of these graduates are studying outdated educational syllabi and hence cannot be productively employed anywhere.
    • A vicious trap of poverty: Prevalence of massive malnourishment, stunting and wasting amongst children which negatively impact their physical and mental potential pushing them deeper into the vicious trap of poverty for the rest of their lives.
    • Sub-standard health outcomes: More than 60% of the household incomes in many families are devoted towards health expenditure. This out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare is one of the biggest pull factors for poverty.
    • Administrative Bottleneck: Certain government policies favour one sector over the other. Also, there is a lack of rule of law and enforcement of laws such as the Minimum Wages Act.
    • Income Inequality: According to Oxfam, the top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while 67 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth.
    • Discrimination: Discrimination and poverty go hand in hand. Discrimination can both cause poverty and be a hurdle in alleviating poverty. Ex: Discrimination against women, SC, ST, Disabled, Old age people etc is one of the major causes of poverty among them.
    • Nature of job: Approximately 56% of the total working population is in the agricultural sector. Which is marked by poor landholding, low productivity and disguised unemployment.
    • The issue of low employment growth within industrial and service sectors has contributed to stagnant or declining standards of living.
    • Inadequate public infrastructure: Lack of accessibility to primary health care centres, quality public schools, research institutions, roads, waterways, rural markets, etc. act complementary for the rise and sustenance of poverty in India.
    • Poor policy structure: Given the vicious cycle of poverty, government hand-holding is needed to support those above the poverty lines to prevent them from slipping below the line.

     Learning from China

    • The World Bank found that between 1978 and 2019, China’s poverty headcount dropped from 770 million to 5.5 million people.
      • China lifted 765 million (76.5 crores) people from extreme poverty in the last four decades.
    • In China, Rapid economic growth, supported by economic transformation, provided new economic opportunities for the poor and raised their average incomes and improved their standard of living.
      • Reforms introduced in the agricultural sector benefited people directly from productivity improvements.
    • The development of low-skilled, labour-intensive industries provided a source of employment for workers released from agriculture. 
    • Urbanization helped migrants take advantage of the new opportunities in the cities, and migrants transferred their incomes to the villages. 
    • Public investment in infrastructure improved living conditions in rural areas and also connected them with urban and export markets.

     Way Forward

    • Countries should boost cooperation, avoids broad subsidies, focus on long-term growth and adopt measures such as property taxes and carbon taxes that could help raise revenue without hurting the poorest people.
    • National policy reforms can help restart progress in reducing poverty, the report finds. Stepped-up global cooperation will also be necessary. In fiscal policy, governments should act promptly on three fronts:
    • Avoid broad subsidies, and increase targeted cash transfers: Half of all spending on energy subsidies in low- and middle-income economies go to the richest 20% of the population who consume more energy. Cash transfers are a far more effective mechanism for supporting poor and vulnerable groups.
    • Focus on long-term growth: High-return investments in education, research and development, and infrastructure projects need to be made today. In a time of scarce resources, more efficient spending and improved preparation for the next crisis will be key.
    • Mobilize domestic revenues without hurting the poor. Property taxes and carbon taxes can help raise revenue without hurting the poorest. So can broaden the base of personal and corporate income taxes. If sales and excise taxes do need to be raised, governments should minimize economic distortions and negative distributional impacts by simultaneously using targeted cash transfers to offset their effects on the most vulnerable households.

    India-Bangladesh River Pact
    Context

    • Following a meeting with the visiting Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India and Bangladesh will soon commence negotiations on a Bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). 

    Details

    • After holding bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the visiting leader described India as the ?most important and closest neighbour that is bound with Bangladesh through 54 common rivers and 4,000 km of border.
    • The two sides signed seven agreements covering railways, science and technology, space cooperation, media, and water sharing.
    • The two sides, however, made a significant beginning in river-water sharing by reaching an agreement — a first in 28 years — on drawing water from the common border river Kushiyara for supplying to parts of lower Assam as well as Sylhet in Bangladesh.
    • PM Modi highlighted the values that made India and Bangladesh put up a joint fight in the Liberation War of 1971 and said, ?To keep the spirit of 1971 alive, we must confront those forces that want to hurt our common values. 
    • The pact over the Kushiyara was the first river-related agreement that the two sides reached 28 years after the conclusion of the Ganga Waters Agreement of 1996. 
    • India had extended the period of sharing flood water-related information in real-time that would help Bangladesh counter the annual floods.
    • The Ministries of Railways of India and Bangladesh signed an agreement on training personnel of the Bangladesh Railway in India.
    • In a bid to help Bangladesh deal with the energy crisis, the two leaders unveiled Unit 1 of the Maitree power plant, a 1,320-MW supercritical coal-fired thermal power plant, at Rampal in the Khulna division of Bangladesh. 
    • The two sides also inaugurated the Rupsha rail bridge, which will help in connecting Khulna with Mongla port and Petrapole and Gede in West Bengal. 

    Trade

    • In 2021-22, Bangladesh has emerged as the largest trade partner for India in South Asia and the fourth largest destination for Indian exports worldwide.
    • Exports to Bangladesh grew more than 66 per cent from $9.69 billion in FY 2020-21 to $16.15 billion in FY 2021-22.  
    • India is Bangladesh‘s second-biggest trade partner and its largest export market in Asia. Despite Covid-19-related disruptions, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of almost 44 per cent from $10.78 billion in 2020-21 to $18.13 billion in 2021-22.  
    • India‘s main exports to Bangladesh are raw cotton, non-retail pure cotton yarn, and electricity, and its main imports from the country are pure vegetable oils, non-knit men‘s suits, and textile scraps.
    • While informal talks on CEPA have been happening since 2018, officials said that the pandemic has brought urgency.  
    • Chinese investments in Bangladesh were an initial trigger for India, but Delhi and Dhaka want to step up the pace following the economic shock faced by the two economies.  
    • The CEPA is likely to focus on trade in goods, services, and investment, with a key objective being the reduction of the trade gap between the two countries.  
    • As Bangladesh prepares to graduate into a developing nation by 2026 — after which it may no longer qualify for trade benefits that it currently enjoys as a least-developed country — it is keen to clinch the CEPA in a year. 

    What is the status of the Teesta dispute?  

    • The 400-odd-km-long Teesta rises in the Pauhunri mountain and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh near Mekliganj, downstream of Jalpaiguri.  
    • The Teesta, which joins the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh, carries a significant volume of water; it is the second largest river of West Bengal after the Ganga.
    • India and Bangladesh have been in negotiations to determine the share of each country in the waters of the river since the early 1980s. 
    • The two countries had reached a water-sharing agreement in 2011, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was about to sign the deal on what was billed as a historic visit to Bangladesh in September of that year.

    How has the relationship with Bangladesh evolved over the years?  

    • India has a robust relationship with Bangladesh, which it has carefully cultivated especially since Prime Minister Hasina came to power in 2009.  
    • Over this period, India has benefited greatly from the security relationship with Bangladesh, and the Hasina government‘s crackdown against anti-India outfits, which has helped New Delhi maintain peace and security in India‘s eastern and Northeastern states.  
    • Bangladesh too has benefited from its economic and development partnership with India.  
    • It is India‘s biggest trade partner in South Asia, and bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last decade: Bangladesh‘s exports to India have gone from only $304.63 million in 2009-10 to $1.28 billion in 2020-21, while its imports from India during this same period have risen from $2.3 billion to $8.6 billion. 
    • India grants some 15-20 lakh visas every year to Bangladeshi nationals who visit for medical treatment, tourism, work, and entertainment.  It is fairly common for the Bangladeshi elite to make a weekend shopping trip to India.  
    • For India, Bangladesh has been a key partner in the neighbourhood first policy — and possibly the only success story in bilateral ties among its neighbours.

    Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) 
    Context  

    • The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States, as a result of the meeting of the Council of Heads of State in the city of Samarkand on 16 September 2022, gave the Samarkand declaration.

     Details

    • The member states oppose grouping and ideological and confrontational approaches to solving international and regional issues.
    • The declaration reaffirms that it is of great practical significance to work together to build a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice as well as a win-win cooperation. 
    • They reaffirm that disputes between countries should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation. 
    • The leaders of the member states adopted the Comprehensive Plan for the Implementation of the SCO Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation for 2023-2027. 
    • The member states reaffirmed their steadfast commitment to combating terrorism, separatism and extremism. 
    • The member states said they will strengthen cooperation among their national authorities in the field of digital literacy to bridge the digital divide. 
    • It also calls for continuously expanding cooperation in local currency settlement, creating conditions for e-commerce development, supporting MSME enterprises in SCO member states to tap the potential of their e-commerce, strengthening cooperation on the establishment of high-end industrial chain and deep processing, and advancing investment cooperation in digital economy and green, sustainable development. 
    • They expressed firm opposition to the militarization of information and communication technologies. 
    • The member states stressed the importance of forming a common and balanced position on combating the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and their precursors. 
    • The member states that are signatories to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are committed to strict compliance with the provisions of the treaty.
    • The member states support the prevention of the weaponization of outer space.
    • The SCO member states support Afghanistan to become an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful country, which is free of terrorism, war and drugs.
    • Member states signed a memorandum of obligations on Iran's SCO membership. The member states stressed the importance of the decision to start the procedure for Belarus' accession. 
    • The member states reaffirmed the importance of continuing to improve the global economic governance system. 
    • They adopted a document for the infrastructure development of the SCO member states. 
    • They will carry out cooperation in environmental protection, joint disaster relief and rescue exercises, education, food security, agriculture, science and technology, women, culture, tourism, media and sports. 
    • India will assume the next SCO rotating presidency and hold the next Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO in 2023. 
    • The member countries support Tajikistan's proposal to name 2025 The International Year for Preservation of Glaciers.

     What is SCO? 

    • It is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance. 
    • The original five nations, with the exclusion of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group. 
    • Since then, the organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. 
    • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. 
    • It is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population. 
    • The SCO is widely regarded as the "alliance of the East", due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific, and has been the primary security pillar of the region. 
    • The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent organ of the SCO, which serves to promote the cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.

     Criticisms of the SCO  

    • It is used by member states to shield each other from international criticism regarding human rights violations.  
    • Even after 19 years, the SCO is struggling to emerge as a cohesive organisation because it lacks coherence on account of China‘s pre-pondering influence. 

     India-SCO  

    • It is the only regional grouping in the vast Eurasian space.  
    • The specific advantage for India lies in the SCO providing a robust platform for connecting with countries of Central Asia, which comprise our extended neighbourhood and with whom India shares millennia of vibrant, multifaceted linkages.  
    • Central Asia and Afghanistan are vital for India‘s security, meeting its energy requirements, connectivity, trade and economic progress and growth. 
    • India through its active participation has strengthened greater trade, economic and cultural cooperation within SCO by putting human beings at the centre of SCO activities.
    • It has fostered greater peace and prosperity in the region.  
    • India‘s initiatives have emphasised its commitment to expanding its partnership with SCO by playing a proactive, positive and constructive role in the organisation.

     RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT: GLOBAL ECONOMIC IMPACT
    Context:

    • The Russia-Ukraine conflict has upended commodity markets from oil to gas and wheat leading to the prospects of an increase in inflationary pressure on countries trying to revive their economic growth after the pandemic.
    • Crude oil prices continue to rise and oil companies like Shell and BP are winding up their operations in Russia.
    • Russia is the world’s third-biggest oil producer and the second-most influential member of the OPEC+ alliancebehind Saudi Arabia.
    • Sanctions imposed by the US and other western countries on Russia particularly banning some Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial payment system are expected to make it cumbersome for many companies to do any kind of business with Russia.
    • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has recently said that the Centre govt was seized of the matter and discussions were on for a complete assessment of the issue.

    Impact of sanctions:

    • War has immediate consequences for global trade, capital flows, financial markets and access to technology.
    • There are five areas where the impact was visible: A sharp tanking of the Russian ruble, a looming fear of a run on its banks, a panic reaction by the Russian central bank to suspend the execution of all orders by foreigners to sell securities indefinitely, a looming shortage of most consumer goods that Moscow sources from the West, and a worsening of terms of trade on future imports.
    • Also, the global commodity markets are seeing an upsurge, with crude, gas and metals spiking.
    • Currency impact: The Russian ruble tanked 30 per cent versus the dollar in offshore trading.
    • Suspension of sell orders of Russian securities: Reacting to the plans announced by the US and European Union nations to sanction Moscow’s central bank and cut off some financial institutions from the SWIFT messaging system, Russia’s central bank ordered professional stock market participants “to suspend the execution of all orders by foreign legal entities and individuals” to sell Russian securities.
    • Consumer goods shortage:The impact of some of these measures would end up hurting middle-class Russians, given that the country remains highly dependent on the West for many of its consumer goods.
    • Bank run: The US, EU, United Kingdom and Canada had announced that the assets of Russia’s central bank will be frozen, which would make it difficult for it from selling them overseas to support its banks and companies. Also, some Russian banks are to be excluded from the SWIFT payment network.
    • Oil surge:Brent crude surged past $104 a barrel in the wake of the fresh sanctions on Russia, one of the top global producers of oil, gas, metals and agricultural products. 

    Impact on the global economy:

    • A rising concern:Russia’s attack on Ukraine could cause dizzying spikes in prices for energy and food and could spook investors. The economic damage from supply disruptions and economic sanctions would be severe in some countries and industries and unnoticed in others.
    • The cost of energy:Oil prices already are the highest since 2014, and they have risen as the conflict has escalated. Russia is the third-largest producer of oil, providing roughly one of every 10 barrels the global economy consumes.
    • Gas supplies:Europe gets nearly 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia, and it is likely to be walloped with higher heating bills. Natural gas reserves are running low, and European leaders have accused Russia’s president of reducing supplies to gain a political edge.
    • Food prices:Russia is the world’s largest supplier of wheat and, together with Ukraine, accounts for nearly a quarter of total global exports. In countries like Egypt and Turkey, that flow of grain makes up more than 70 per cent of wheat imports.
    • Shortages of essential metals:The price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.
    • Financial turmoil:Global banks are bracing for the effects of sanctions designed to restrict Russia’s access to foreign capital and limit its ability to process payments in dollars, euros and other currencies crucial for trade. Banks are also on alert for retaliatory cyberattacks by Russia

    Impact on India:
    Inflation risks

    • Rising oil pricescould speed up already rising inflation.
    • India imports more than 80% of its oil requirement, but the share of oil imports in its total imports is around 25%.
    • Rising oil prices will also impact the current account deficit, which is the difference between the values of goods and services imported and exported.
    • A recent surge in global crude could intensify the pressure on state-owned oil retailers.
    • Calibrating price hikes is now more complex, given the cascading inflation impact that could follow the increase.
    • India imports most of its requirement of sunflower oil from Ukraine, and the two countries now at war are also two of the world’s biggest producers of wheat.

    Economic recovery

    • The rise in crude prices poses inflationary, fiscal, and external sector risks.
    • Oil-related products have a share of over 9% in the WPI basket — and a 10% increase in crude would lead to an increase of around 0.9% in WPI inflation.
    • A larger oil import bill will impact India’s external position; it is also likely to increase subsidies on LPG and kerosene, pushing up the overall subsidy bill.

    FPI sentiment, rupee

    • Foreign portfolio investors have been selling their holdings in Indian equities over the last four months. This outflow is likely to continue over the coming days.
    • As FPIs pulled out, domestic institutions emerged as net investors.

    Equity investors

    • While markets may remain volatile, retail investors should look at the DII investment pattern. If DIIs are investing amid the sharp fall in markets, retail investors too should not panic — and should increase their investments if they are underweight in equities.
    • Experts say that the current geopolitical concerns will not impact the long-term fundamentals and prospects of businesses, and investors should take the fall in markets as an opportunity to invest in mutual funds and high-quality blue chip companies.

    Gold Outlook

    • In times of uncertainty and inflation, gold emerges as the asset class of choice for investors. It is important to note that at a time when equities have been falling, gold has risen sharply.

    Trade

    • India runs a trade deficit with Russia, with exports declining while imports are increasing. Oil forms a major part of our import basket from Russia.
    • 8 per cent of our total imports have been imported from Russia in FY22 so far.

    Banking

    • The banking sector has remained resilient to the Russia-Ukraine conflict so far.
    • Profitability, asset quality and capital adequacy have risen to a new peak with the profitability of banks in the Dec’21 quarter, as well as YTD FY22 seen touching new highs.

    Concern

    • India will see an immediate impact on inflation (already ruling at high levels) with the rise in fuel and food prices.
    • Other prices will also rise as supply bottlenecks get aggravateddue to sanctions and the war situation.
    • The investment climate will deterioratedue to uncertainty.
    • Capital flows into the country will decline to lead to a further decline in the stock markets. The P/E ratio was already ruling at high levels and such a big shock was bound to hit stock prices.
    • Demand for gold is likely to increaseleading to its increased import. This along with the high bill for petro goods will mean that the import bill will rise.
    • Exports are likely to be hitdue to the decline in growth in the world economy and deglobalisation.
    • With capital flows declining the Balance of Payment which was already turning adverse will deteriorate further. Consequently, the rupee will weaken compared to the dollar which will aggravate inflation further.
    • All these factors, uncertainty, demand, investment, inflation and BOP, will reduce the rate of growth of the economy which was badly hit by the pandemic.
    • Budgetary arithmetic will also be impacted.
    • Expenditures will increase while real revenues will be hit due to slow down and other difficulties. The already high fiscal deficit will increase further and in such circumstances, it is the social sector and capital account expenditures that are curtailed. The support for the poor then declines.
    • It will face difficulty in procuring defence equipment already contractedsince both the rich countries and the Russians will delay deliveries, given their requirements.

     Way forward for India:

    • India will have to strengthen its economy on its own.
    • The public sector will have to play an important rolesince the private sector will not be able to boost itself on its own when demand is short.
    • The country will have to strengthen its R&D.
    • Social sectors will have to receive a much higher priority so that the productivity of workers rises and their degrading living conditions improve. That will not only provide a market for the growth of the Indian economy but strengthen the country.

    THE ECONOMIST’S DEMOCRACY INDEX 
    Context

    • According to the Democracy index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit “USA is categorized as a “flawed democracy,”.
      • The USA falls short of being a top-rated “full democracy” in large part because of a fractured political culture. 

    Details

    • The Democracy Index is released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the index attempts to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries.
    • The index is based on 60 indicators grouped into five different categories:
      • Electoral process and pluralism
      • Civil liberties 
      • Functioning of government
      • Political participation
      • Political culture
    • Full democracies are countries where civil liberties and fundamental political freedoms are respected and reinforced by a political culture that promotes democratic principles. These nations have a valid system of governmental checks and balances, an independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, governments that function adequately, and diverse and independent media. 
    • Flawed democracies are countries where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honoured but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement and minor suppression of political opposition and critics). 
    • Authoritarian regimes are countries where political pluralism is nonexistent or severely limited. These nations are often absolute monarchies or dictatorships and may have some conventional institutions of democracy but with meagre significance.

    Significance of Democracy 

    • For long People have struggled for their Rights. It is generally believed that democracy is the best System to give Rights to People.
    • Most modern States include People of different religions, languages, and Cultural traditions. But the National identity of a democratic State is Supposed to Provide Citizens with a Political identity that Can be Shared by all the members of the State. 
      • The democratic States usually try to define their identity So that it is as inclusive as possible, which allows all Citizens to identify themselves as Part of the Nation.
    • Why Democracy?
      • It Promotes equality among Citizens.
      • Enhances the dignity of the individual.
      • Improves the quality of decision-making. 
      • Provides a method to resolve Conflicts.
      • Allows room to Correct mistakes. 
      • The Countries which have formal Constitutions, hold elections and form governments.
      • Guarantee the Rights of Citizens.
      • Solves the Social, Political and Economic Problems of the Country.
    • Ending of Racial Discrimination;
      • In South Africa, After Several decades of Struggle, the Policy of Racial discrimination toward blacks Came to an end in 1994 with Nelson Mandela being Sworn in as a Black President.
    • Participation;
      • For a Successful democracy, People need to Participate in its Governance.
      • Participation through voting in elections. Other ways of Participation are Dharna, Rallies, Strikes, Signature Campaigns and other forms of Protests.
      • Mass media like TV, Newspapers, Magazines and other agencies also play a major role in highlighting Public issues and moulding Public opinion.
    • Resolve Conflicts;
      • In any Country, Problems may result in Conflicts and lead to Social Tension.
      • There may arise a situation when two people or two groups feel that they are not being treated fairly or are being discriminated against on grounds of Culture, Region, Religion, Economic background, Caste, Race, etc.
      • It is the Government’s responsibility to resolve these Conflicts. EX- Interstate Rivers dispute.
    • Equality and Justice;
      • Ensure Justice and equality for all, they are two different Sides of the Same Coin and are essential in a democracy.
      • Without Justice and equality democracy would remain meaningless and directionless.
    • Accountable Government;
      • Democracy is accountable because it is the government of the People and made by the People and for the People.
      • Representatives elected by the People are responsible to them. If the People are not happy, they can change the leaders in the coming elections.
    • Responsive Government;
      • A Citizen has the right and the means to examine the process of decision-making. This type of transparency is not available in non-Democratic Governments. 
      • Ex - In the USA Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s restored the dignity of Afro-Americans based on Color.
    • Legitimate Government;
      • A democratic government is a legitimate government. 
      • It may be slow, less efficient, and not always very responsive or clean. But a democratic Government cannot ignore the needs of the People

    HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX (HDI)
    Context

    • India ranked 132 out of 191 countries in the recently released Human Development Index (HDI) 2021 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
      • India’s rank declined from 130 in 2020 to 132 in 2021.
    • The performance of nearly 90% of the countries has declined in human development due to multiple crises such as COVID-19, the Ukraine war, violent conflicts, Climate changes, environmental challenges, etc.
    • India with an HDI score of 0.633 is in the medium Human Development category.
      • Decline in HDI from 0.645 in 2018 to 0.633 in 2021.
      • Falling life expectancy at birth from 70.7 years in 2018 to 67.2 years in 2021. 
    • Gender inequality increased by 6.7% globally.
      • In the latest report, India has shown a slight improvement in its Gender Inequality Index value as compared to the 2020 index.
    • The report raised concern over the increasing polarisation which is deteriorating democratic freedom and human rights in many parts of the world.

     Human Development Index

    • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its first Human Development Report (HDR) in 1990.
      • The report had a human development index (HDI) which was the first attempt to define and measure the level of development of economies.
    • The ‘index’ was a product of a select team of leading scholars, development practitioners and members of the Human Development Report Office of the UNDP.
      • The first such team which developed the HDI was led by Mahbub ul Haq and Inge Kaul.
    • The HDR measures development by combining three indicators;
      • Health: Measured by the life expectancy at birth.
      • Education: Measured by the mean of years of schooling.
      • Standard of Living: Measured by GNI (Gross National Income/Product) per capita at ‘Purchasing Power Parity in US Dollars (PPP $) instead of GDP per capita (PPP $) of the past.
    • The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index using the geometric mean. The HDI facilitates instructive comparisons of the experiences within and between different countries.
    • The HDI sets a minimum and a maximum for each dimension, called goalposts, and then shows where each country stands to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 1 (the index is prepared on the scale of one).
    • The UNDP ranked the economies by their achievements on the above-given three parameters on a scale of one (0.000–1.000). As per their achievements, the countries were broadly classified into three categories with a range of points on the index:
      • High Human Development Countries: 0.800–1.000 points on the index.
      • Medium Human Development Countries: 0.500–0.799 points on the index.
      • Low Human Development Countries: 0.000–0.499 points on the index. 

    CZECH REPUBLIC
    Context

    • More than 70,000 Czech Republic citizens have gathered in a protest against their government’s failure to control increasing energy prices. 
    • The demonstration was the most extensive display of public dissatisfaction against the cost-of-living crisis due to increasing energy prices that have been exacerbated in Europe due to the Russia-Ukraine
    • The protesters demanded:
      • Military neutrality.
      • Direct gas supply contracts, including with Russia.
      • Denial of permanent settlement to Ukrainian refugees. 

     Czech Republic

    • The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. 
    • It is bordered by:
      • Austria in the South.
      • Germany in the West.
      • Poland in the Northeast.
      • Slovakia to the Southeast.
    • The Czech Republic has mostly temperate continental and oceanic climates. 
    • Prague is the capital and largest city.
    • The Czech Republic has a developed, high-income, export-oriented economy based on services, manufacturing and innovation.

    Emergency in Srilanka

    • India and Sri Lanka have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction and the relationship between the two countries are more than 2500 years old. Buddhism is one of the strongest pillars connecting the two nations and civilizations from the time of the Great Indian Emperor Ashoka.
    • Sri Lanka is going through an economic Crisis, which is affecting millions of people as they are struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other daily essentials. 

    How Sri Lanka Fell into Economic Crisis

    • Since its Independence, there were a lacked foreign currency; the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel.
    • The root of the present crisis lies in economic mismanagement.
    • The covid-19 Pandemic has affected the exports of tea, rubber, spices and garments.
    • The tourism industry was negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in a huge decline in foreign reserves and rises in the current account deficit, further credit rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka and effectively locked it out of international capital markets.
    • The government’s ban on chemical fertilizers to become the first country to fully adopt organic farming backfired, as it affected the productivity of crops. 
    • As of February 2022, the country was left with only $2.31 billion in its reserves but faces debt repayments of around $4 billion in 2022. 

    India’s Support to Sri Lanka in the present Crisis

    • India has extended financial assistance to the tune of $2.4 billion in the last three months to Sri Lanka, which includes a $400 billion RBI currency swap, deferral of a $500 million loan and a $1.5-billion credit line for importing fuel, food and medicines.
    • A diesel shipment under a $500 million credit line signed with India. 
    • Sri Lanka and India have signed a $1 billion credit line for importing essentials, including food and medicine.

     Sri Lanka is a geopolitically important country and India wants a stable neighbourhood to counter increasing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region, but at the same time, India doesn’t want to get involved in any regional Politics. Therefore India clearly stated that “India will continue to provide Sri Lanka with economic support but not political support” to ensure peace and stability in the region. 

    I2U2 grouping

    • I2U2 stands for India, Israel, the UAE and the US, and It is also frequently referred to as the ‘West Asian Quad’. The objective is to discuss “common areas of mutual interest, to strengthen the economic partnership in trade and investment in our respective regions and beyond”. 

    Role of I2U2:

    • The Grouping have mutually recognized 6 areas of association to encourage joint investments in these areas: water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security. It aims to Strengthen the relationship between Israel and Gulf partners of the I2U2 grouping. 

    Significance of the ‘I2U2 for India

    • It will Strengthen India’s relations with Israel and West Asian countries or Gulf partners. It will help India to close the diplomatic gap between Israel and the Gulf countries.
    • It will Safeguard and promote India’s interests; as UAE and Saudi Arabia are important oil exporters to India and Israel is India’s important defence partner.
    • It will strengthen India’s ties with the USA; India and the USA now have two platforms to engage; QUAD and I2U2 group. 
    • With the help of “private sector capital and expertise”, India will look to modernize infrastructure, explore low-carbon development avenues for industries, improve public health, and promote the development of critical emerging and green technologies.

    West Asia region is infamous for diplomatic tension and mistrust, to make the group effective and efficient; there is a need to take confidence-building measures between Israel and the Arab countries as they have historical trust issues due to frequent conflicts between them. I2U2 grouping is a good opportunity for India to deepen its economic and diplomatic relations with other members, and India can also act as a communication channel to build trust between Israel and the Arab countries.

    GLOBAL EDUCATION MONITORING (GEM) REPORT 2022
    Context

    • The Global Education Monitoring Report 2022 was released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

     Key Points of the Report 

    • South Asia has experienced fast education expansion in the past 30 years, and India is working as the driving nation in this region. 
    • In India, in the last 8 years, of every 10 new schools established, 7 are private independent schools. 
    • The report highlighted that inadequate supply and quality of public education, combined with parental aspirations, have driven private education growth in India.
    • The report says that in India “Only 46% of adults agreed that providing school education is the primary responsibility of the government, this is the lowest share amongst 35 middle-and high-income countries globally.” 
    • The report highlighted that in India, there is a mass increase in the rates of private tutoring, with nearly 61% of secondary school students taking private tutoring due to the poor quality of school education.
    • The report stated that nearly 75% of students in India and Pakistan, and 25% in Nepal are in private schools that receive no state support. 
    • In India, there are nearly 4,139 unrecognized madrasas that educate over 500,000 students.
    • The report mentioned that there are regulations and guidelines against teachers providing tutoring to their students, and at present no licensing or registration is required to set up private tutoring. 
    • The survey found that;
      • 73% of parents chose private schools as public schools did not meet quality standards and did not provide quality education.
      • 12% of parents chose private schools as they offered English-medium education.
      • 10% of parents chose private schools because public schools were not available

    UNESCO

    • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN).
    • It aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture.
    • It has 193 member states, headquartered in Paris, France.
    • UNESCO was founded in 1945 to promote peace, sustainable development and human rights by facilitating collaboration and dialogue among nations.

    THE BLACK SEA GRAIN INITIATIVE
    Context

    • The deal, brokered by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey, was signed in Istanbul in July 2022. 
      • The central idea was to calm markets by ensuring an adequate supply of grains, thereby limiting food price inflation.

     Why was the grain export deal signed?

    • Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country and naval blockade of its ports has halted shipments.
    • Some grain is being transported through Europe by rail, road and river, but the prices of vital commodities like wheat and barley have soared during the nearly five-month war.
    • Ukrainian and Russian military delegations reached a tentative agreement on a U.N. plan that would also allow Russia to export its grain and fertilizers.

    What is the grain export deal?

    • The deal makes provisions for the safe passage of ships.
    • It foresees the establishment of a control centre in Istanbul, to be staffed by U.N., Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials, to run and coordinate the process.
    • Ships would undergo inspections to ensure they are not carrying weapons.
    • No Russian ship would escort vessels and there would be no Russian representative present at Ukrainian ports.
    • Ukraine was expected to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to the war.

    ANNA MAY WONG
    Context

    • Late Hollywood actress and fashion icon Anna May Wong became the first Asian American to feature on the United States (US) currency. 
    • A quarter-dollar coin featuring Wong’s face will be circulating from 24th October 2022. 

    Anna May Wong

    • Wong Liu Tsong (1905 – 1961), was known professionally as Anna May Wong. She was born in Los Angeles to second-generation Chinese-American parents.
    • She was an American actress, considered the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood.
    • She acted in silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio.
    • She started her film career at the age of 14 years.
    • She became a fashion icon and achieved international stardom in 1924.
    • Discouraged by the stereotypical supporting roles in Hollywood, Wong left for Europe in 1928, where she starred in several notable plays and films.
    • During World War II, she devoted her time and money to helping the Chinese cause against Japan. 
    • She died in 1961, at the age of 56, from a heart attack.

    GENDER GAP
    Context

    • India ranked 135 among 146 countries in the recently released Global Gender Gap Index 2022.
      • In 2021, India ranked 140 out of 156 nations. 
    • Iceland ranked at the top and it is the only country to have closed more than 90% of its Gender gap.
    • Global Gender Gap Index was released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
    • In the sub-index of “health and survival”, India has ranked (146th) as the worst performer in the world.
    • According to the report, India will take more than 132 years to reach gender equality. 
    • India has ranked poorly among its neighbours and it is behind: 
      • Bangladesh (71)
      • Nepal (96)
      • Sri Lanka (110)
      • Maldives (117)
      • Bhutan (126). 
    • In South Asia, only the performance of Iran (143), Pakistan (145) and Afghanistan (146) was worse than India.
    • India’s scored 0.629 (out of 1), and this was the 7th-highest score in the past 16 years. 
    • The report mentioned that the labour force participation shrunk for both men (by 9.5%) and women (3%).

     Steps taken by the Indian Government to ensure gender equality

    • The Union Government is implementing several schemes/programs to ensure welfare, rehabilitation, empowerment, education and generating employment opportunities for women.
    • SwadharGreh Scheme aims to provide shelter, food, clothing, counselling, training, clinical and legal, and rehabilitation in difficult circumstances; homeless due to family discord, crime, violence, mental stress, social ostracism or being forced into prostitution, etc.
    • A Home for widows has been set up in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh to provide a safe place to stay, health services, nutritious food, and legal and counselling services.
    • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, to address the declining Child Sex Ratio.
    • PM Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) Providing Cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers.
    • Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims at girls in the age group 11-18, to empower and improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
    • Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme to promote community participation through the involvement of Student Volunteers for the empowerment of rural women
    • National Creche Scheme to provide daycare facilities to children of the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women who are employed.
    • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-credit to poor women for various livelihood support and income-generating activities at concessional terms.
    • Ujjawala is a Comprehensive Scheme for the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and repatriation of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
    • Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for women working away from their place of residence. 
    • One-Stop Centre (OSC) and Women Helpline (WH) are being implemented to facilitate access to an integrated range of services including medical aid, police assistance, legal aid/ case management, psychosocial counselling and temporary support services to women affected by violence.
    • The gender Budgeting Scheme is being implemented as a tool for mainstreaming gender perspective at various stages of planning, budgeting, implementation, impact assessment and revisiting of policy/programme objectives and allocations. 
    • Panic Button on Mobile Phones.
    • Emergency Response Support System Set up under Nirbhaya Fund.
    • Mahila Police Volunteers, to report the incidences of violence against women.
    • Inclusion of Acid Attack as a disability.
    • Training for Women Heads of Panchayats.
    • Extending Maternity Leave duration From 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
    • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Providing micro-credit to Poor women through NGOs, SHGs.
    • Mahila e-Haat, online digital marketing Platform for women.
    • New Passport Rules, Submission of the father's name is not mandatory and Does not need to submit her/his marriage/divorce Certificates.
    • The dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961, Penalizes Giving and taking.
    • SABLA Scheme, Provides life Skills and Supplementary nutrition to out-of-school girls.
    • Sexual Harassment electronic-Box (SHe-Box).
    • The national database on Sexual offenders includes the name, addresses, photographs and fingerprint details of those Convicted in Sexual assault Cases. 

    ECONOMIC ISSUES
    FOREIGN CONTRIBUTION REGULATION ACT (FCRA)  
    Context

    • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) for alleged violations of the provisions of the FCRA Act.

    Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

    • The FCRA was enacted in 1976 to regulate foreign money into the country through independent organizations.
    • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was amended by the Indian Parliament in 2010. 
      • To effectively regulate the foreign contribution by individuals or associations or companies.
    • The Union Minister of Home Affairs introduced the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill in 2020, which made several changes. 

    Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020

    • The Act regulates the acceptance and utilization of foreign contributions by individuals, associations and companies.  
      • Foreign contribution is the donation or transfer of any currency, security or article (of beyond a specified value) by a foreign source.
    • Prohibition to accept foreign Contributions: Certain persons are prohibited to accept any foreign contribution. These include: 
      • Election candidates, editors or publishers of a newspaper, judges, government servants, members of any legislature, and political parties, among others.  
      • The Bill adds public servants (as defined under the Indian Penal Code) to this list.  A public servant includes any person who is in service or paid by the government or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
    • Transfer of foreign Contributions
      • Foreign contributions cannot be transferred to any other person unless such person is also registered to accept foreign contributions (or has obtained prior permission under the Act to obtain foreign contributions).  
    • The Act prohibited the transfer of foreign contributions to any other person.  The term ‘person’ under the Act includes an individual, an association, or a registered company. 
    • Aadhar for registration
      • Any person seeking registration (or renewal of such registration) or prior permission for receiving a foreign contribution must make an application to the central government in the prescribed manner.  
      • The Act adds that any person seeking prior permission, registration or renewal of registration must provide the Aadhar number of all its office bearers, directors or key functionaries, as an identification document.  
      • In the case of a foreigner, they must provide a copy of their passport or the Overseas Citizen of India card for identification.  
    • FCRA Account
      • Foreign contributions must be received only in an account designated by the bank as an “FCRA account” in such a branch of the State Bank of India, New Delhi, as notified by the central government.
      • No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.  
      • The person may open another FCRA account in any scheduled bank of their choice for keeping or utilizing the received contribution.
    • Restriction in the utilization of foreign contribution
      • The Government may restrict the usage of unutilized foreign contributions for persons who have been granted prior permission to receive such contributions.     
    • Renewal of licence
      • Every person who has been given a certificate of registration must renew the certificate within 6 months of expiration.  
      • The Act provides that the government may conduct an inquiry before renewing the certificate. 
    • Reduction in the use of foreign contributions for administrative purposes
      • A person who receives a foreign contribution must use it only for the purpose for which the contribution is received. 
      • They must not use more than 20% of the contribution for meeting administrative expenses (earlier it was 50%).
    • Suspension of Registration
      • Earlier governments may suspend the registration of a person for a period not exceeding 180 days.  
      • The Act adds that such suspension may be extended up to an additional 180 days.
    • The Union government reserves the right to cancel the FCRA registration of any NGO if it finds it to violate the Act. 
      • Registration of the NGO can be cancelled for a range of reasons. Once the registration is cancelled, it is not eligible for re-registration for three years. 
      • All orders of the government can be challenged in the High Court.

    Way Forward

    • NGOs must be made an essential part of the development process by simplifying the regulatory process. They can play a major role in providing a voice to the grievances of the poor, tribals and other marginalized section of society and make them aware of their rights. They could work with the government to achieve socioeconomic development goals. 

    JAL JEEVAN MISSION
    Context

    • The Vice-President of India has launched Jal Jeevan Survekshan (JJS) Toolkit 2023.
      • On this occasion, he described “quality, quantity and continuity” as the core principles of the Jal Jeevan Mission for ensuring a strong and credible accountability mechanism in the implementation of this people-centric program.
    • The toolkit has been developed by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti to help the States/ UTs understand the assessment criteria.

    Jal Jeevan Mission

    • The Mission was launched on August 15, 2019.
    • Implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti
    • To provide safe and adequate drinking water through household tap connections by 2024 to all rural households and public institutions; Gram Panchayat building, Primary Schools, Anganwadi centre, Health and wellness centres, etc.

    Features

    • The Mission ensures community participation and also includes an Awareness, Education and Communication Campaign. 
    • Development of water supply infrastructure to provide tap water connection to every rural household.
    • Development of drinking water sources to ensure the long-term sustainability of the water supply system.
    • Other features; Providing training, establishing water quality laboratories, Strict water quality testing and surveillance, Promoting Research work, starting a knowledge centre, a programme for capacity building of communities, etc.

     Significance of the Mission

    • Jal Jeevan Mission has brought socio-economic benefits to the rural population
    • Regular tap water supply relieves people, especially women and young girls, from carrying heavy bucket loads of water to meet their daily household needs. 
    • The saved time can be used for income generation activities, learning new skills and supporting children’s education.

     Concern

    • India has adequate fresh water. The problem is inefficient and wasteful use.
    • Law and policy measures to address it remain insufficient. The primary source of domestic water and irrigation is groundwater but the media and policymakers still and often focus on surface water.
    • The reason for the excessive use of groundwater is the legal framework governing access to the resource;  landowners see groundwater as their own and as a resource, they can exploit without considering the need to protect
    • The present framework remains mostly top-down and is incapable of addressing local situations adequately.
    • Water usage for major crops in India is two to four times that in other large farming nations due to wasteful flood irrigation, mostly in northern India. 
    • The present subsidy structure “encourages using more inputs such as fertilizer, water and power. Most states provide electricity either for free or at a flat rate. This leads to wasteful water extraction.
    • About 80 Crore Indians face water Scarcity and about 2 lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to Safe water.
    • The population of India will be more than 1.5 billion people by 2030. Achieving food Security for this rising Population becomes more difficult with water Scarcity.
    • No Indian City Supplied 24x7 water to its entire urban Population, and only 35% of urban households in India had piped water.  
    • Water Shortages Can hamper industrial operations
    • Biodiversity is impacted by human activities undertaken to Create additional water Sources. These activities include dam Construction and river diversion which Can lead to Changes in water flow, Salinity levels, and monsoon Patterns.

     Steps by the Government for water management 

    • The government of India launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan with a mission mode approach intended to improve water availability including groundwater conditions in the water-stressed blocks in India.
    • National Water Policy (2012) has been formulated by the Department of Water Resources for the conservation of rivers, river bodies and infrastructure in a scientifically planned manner through community participation. 
    • Central Ground Water Authority has been constituted under the “Environment (Protection) Act, 1986” for regulation and control of groundwater development and management in the Country.
    • Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater 2020 has been prepared in consultation with States/UTs.
    • Construction of watershed management structure under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana promotes water conservation and management, water harvesting, soil and moisture conservation, groundwater recharge, flood protection, and land development.
    • Atal Bhujal Yojana for sustainable management of groundwater with community participation is being taken up in the identified over-exploited and water-stressed areas in the States of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 

    Way Forward

    • Need to adopt innovative approaches to Sustainable Operation and Maintenance. Involve community members at all Stages, and ensure effective Communication among all stakeholders. 
    • Government and administration should work with local communities to revive traditional water bodies, and design and construct cost-effective groundwater recharge structures; such as check dams, ponds, farm ponds, tanks, recharge wells, etc.
    • The Water Management program focuses on recharging underground aquifers and promoting rainwater harvesting. This improves the availability and quality of groundwater in the long run and provides water security to all. 
    • India has one of the largest watershed management programs in the world. This programme will enhance this progress by adopting and applying scientific technologies, decision-support tools, and knowledge exchanges.

    BETI BACHAO BETI PADHAO SCHEME 
    Context

    • The Union Government announced the inclusion of the skilling of girls in non-traditional livelihood (NTL) under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme.
    • The scheme will now also focus on increasing the enrolment of girls in secondary education, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. 

    Background

    • The Census of 2011 reflects a declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) between 0-6 years with an all-time low at 918.
    • A decline in CSR reflects:
      • Pre-birth discrimination through gender-biased sex selection.
    • Post-birth discrimination against girls (in form of their health, nutrition, and educational needs). 

     Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme

    • In 2015, the Union Government has launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme.
    • It is a tri-ministerial effort of;
      • Ministry of Women and Child Development.
      • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
      • Ministry of Education (Earlier Ministry of Human Resource Development).
    • Since 2021 the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Minority Affairs have also been added as partners.
    • The programme only focuses on awareness campaigns and no provision of individual cash transfers by the Government.
    • The scheme is now subsumed into Mission Shakti.
    • Objectives of the Scheme;
      • Prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination.
      • Ensure the survival and protection of the girl child.
      • Ensure the education and participation of the girl child.
      • Increase girls' participation in the fields of sports.
    • The scheme aims to achieve:
      • Improvement in the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) by 2 points every year,
      • Improvement in the percentage of institutional deliveries sustained at the rate of 95% or above.
      • 1% increase in enrolment at the secondary education level and skilling of girls/women per year.
      • To check the dropout rate among girls at secondary and higher secondary levels.
      • Raising awareness about safe menstrual hygiene management (MHM)
    •  The Union Government is implementing several schemes/programs to ensure welfare, rehabilitation, empowerment, education and generating employment opportunities for women
    • SwadharGreh Scheme aims to provide shelter, food, clothing, counselling, training, clinical and legal, and rehabilitation in difficult circumstances; homeless due to family discord, crime, violence, mental stress, social ostracism or being forced into prostitution, etc.
    • A Home for widows has been set up in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh to provide a safe place to stay, health services, nutritious food, and legal and counselling services.
    • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, to address the declining Child Sex Ratio.
    • PM Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) Providing Cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers.
    • Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims at girls in the age group 11-18, to empower and improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
    • Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme to promote community participation through the involvement of Student Volunteers for the empowerment of rural women
    • National Creche Scheme to provide daycare facilities to children of the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women who are employed.
    • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-credit to poor women for various livelihood support and income-generating activities at concessional terms.
    • Ujjawala is a Comprehensive Scheme for the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and repatriation of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
    • Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for women working away from their place of residence. 
    • One-Stop Centre (OSC) and Women Helpline (WH) are being implemented to facilitate access to an integrated range of services including medical aid, police assistance, legal aid/ case management, psychosocial counselling and temporary support services to women affected by violence.
    • The gender Budgeting Scheme is being implemented as a tool for mainstreaming gender perspective at various stages of planning, budgeting, implementation, impact assessment and revisiting of policy/programme objectives and allocations. 
    • Panic Button on Mobile Phones.
    • Emergency Response Support System Set up under Nirbhaya Fund.
    • Mahila Police Volunteers, to report the incidences of violence against women.
    • Inclusion of Acid Attack as a disability.
    • Training for Women Heads of Panchayats.
    • Extending Maternity Leave duration From 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
    • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Providing micro-credit to Poor women through NGOs, SHGs.
    • Mahila e-Haat, online digital marketing Platform for women.
    • New Passport Rules, Submission of the father's name is not mandatory and does not need to submit her/his marriage/divorce Certificates.
    • The dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961, Penalizes Giving and taking.
    • SABLA Scheme, Provides life Skills and Supplementary nutrition to out-of-school girls.
    • Sexual Harassment electronic-Box (SHe-Box).
    • The national database on Sexual offenders includes the name, addresses, photographs and fingerprint details of those Convicted in Sexual assault Cases. 

    FOOD SECURITY
    Context

    • The Supreme Court of India has directed the Union government to expand the coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
      • The main objective of the verdict was to provide benefits to needy persons and citizens under the provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
    • The Supreme Court also directed the States to register unorganized workers, including migrant labourers, on the e-Shram portal within 6 weeks.

    Food Security

    • The basic concept of food security is to ensure that all people, at all times, should get access to basic food.
    • The right to food is part of the fundamental right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    • The government enacted the National Food Security Act, of 2013 to shift the approach from welfare to a rights-based approach.
    • National Food Security Act, 2013
    • The National Food Security Act, of 2013 was notified to provide food and nutritional security.
    • The objective of the Act is to provide food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to an adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity.
    • The Act provides for coverage of up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
    • The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kg of foodgrains per person per month at subsidized prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains. 
    • The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kg of foodgrains per household per month.
    • Corresponding to the all-India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas, State-wise coverage is determined by the Central Government.
    • The work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
    • Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years are entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes.
    • Children up to 14 years of age are entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. In case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive a food security allowance.
    • Besides meals to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after childbirth, such women are entitled to receive maternity benefits of not less than Rs. 6,000.
    • The eldest woman of the household age 18 years or above be the head of the household to issue ration cards.
    • Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanisms.

     PM GARIB KALYAN ANN YOJNA (PMGKAY)
    Context

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY-Phase VII) for the next 3 months (October to December 2022).
    • Under PMGKAY, 5 kg of food grain per person per month is provided free of cost for all the beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
    • PMGKAY  is in operation for 25 months;
    • Phase I and II: April’20 to Nov.’20
    • Phase-III to V: May’21 to March’22
    • Phase-VI: April’22 to Sept.’22

    Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana 

    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) is a food security welfare scheme announced by the Government of India in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. 
    • The program is implemented by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) is a scheme as part of AtmaNirbhar Bharat to supply free food grains to migrants and the poor. 
    • The objective of the Scheme is to support the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System. 
    • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.
    • PMGKAY provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person and 1 kg of pulses to each family holding a ration card.

     Beneficiaries 

    • Families belonging to the Below Poverty Line, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH) categories will be eligible for the scheme.
      • PHH are to be identified by State Governments/Union Territory Administrations as per criteria evolved by them. 
      • AAY families are to be identified by States/UTs as per the criteria prescribed by the Central Government.
    • Households headed by widows or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support.
    • All primitive tribal households.
    • Landless agricultural labourers, marginal farmers, rural artisans/craftsmen such as potters, tanners, weavers, blacksmiths, carpenters, slum dwellers, and persons earning their livelihood on daily basis in the informal sector like porters, coolies, rickshaw pullers, hand cart pullers, fruit and flower sellers, snake charmers, rag pickers, cobblers, destitute and other similar categories in both rural and urban areas.
    • All eligible Below Poverty Line families of HIV-positive persons.

     Present Status 

    • The government has spent approximately Rs 2.6 lakh crore so far and another Rs 80,000 crore will be spent over the next six months till September 2022, taking the total expenditure under PM-GKAY to nearly Rs 3.4 lakh crore. 
    • The scheme covers 80 crore ration cardholders across the countries who are supplied 5 kg of rice or wheat and one kg of pulses per person per month. 
    • The benefit of the free ration can be availed through Ration card portability by any migrant labourer or beneficiary under the One Nation One Ration Card plan from nearly five lakh ration shops across the country. 
      • So far, over 61 crore portability transactions have benefited the beneficiaries away from their homes.
    • Phase-I and Phase-II of this scheme were operational from April to June 2020 and July to November 2020 respectively. 
      • Phase III of the scheme was operational from May to June 2021. 
      • Phase IV of the scheme is currently operational for July-November, 2021.
      • Phase-V of the scheme from December 2021 to March 2022. 
      • Phase VI of the scheme from April 2022 to September 2022.

    Steps by the Government to reduce Poverty and Hunger

    • The government launched an Action Plan on ‘Undernourishment frees India’ by 2022. 
    • National Nutrition Strategy has set targets for 2022 and Poshan Abhiyan has Specified 3-year targets to Reduce Stunting, undernutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year and to reduce anaemia by 3% each year. 
    • The public Distribution System (PDS) under NFSA (National Food Security Act), 2013 Provides food grains to 67% of India’s Population at Subsidised Prices.
      • The Beneficiaries are entitled to 5 kilograms per person per month of cereals at the following prices: Rice at ?3 per kg, Wheat at ?2 per kg, and coarse grains at ?1 per kg.
      • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.
      • Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefits of not less than Rs. 6,000.
      • The eldest woman of the household age 18 years or above be the head of the household to issue ration cards.
      • Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals.
    • Operation Green to reduce Price volatility, Provide vegetables to Consumers at Affordable Prices.
    • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) guarantees the “right to work” to adult members of any rural household at Statutory minimum wage, 100 days of employment. 
    • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission. 

     Concern

    • Approx 200 million people in India sleep hungry every night.
    • The green revolution turned India into a Food Surplus nation, but a large part of the Population is Still Poor and Malnourished. 
    • Challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly in rural areas. 
    • Evidence Confirms that increased income does not necessarily translate into improved diets and nutrition. 

     Steps need to be taken to reduce Poverty and Hunger

    • Ensure Sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
    • Investing in people to build human capital.
    • Providing Safe Water and Sanitation for all.
    • Better transport Connectivity. 
    • Partnership with the Private Sector on infrastructure.
    • Boosting agriculture to Create jobs.
    • Supporting Children, adolescent girls, and women.
    • Facilitating women’s economic empowerment.
    • Promoting universal Social Protection.
    • Addressing the growing risks of Violence, Disasters and Climate Change. 
    • Raising agricultural Productivity and Promoting Climate-Smart agriculture.
    • Ensure access to affordable and reliable energy.
    • Investing in education to boost job Skills.
    • Promote regional integration.
    • Ensuring food and nutritional Security through alleviation of poverty and hunger.
    • Integrating Agri Production, Nutrition and health.
    • Sustainable use of traditional Crops, vegetables, and fruit trees, as well as greater livestock diversity, to increase income and improve food and nutrition security in rural India.
    • Bio-fortification is important in overcoming hidden hunger Caused by micronutrient deficiencies Such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. 
    • Continue to identify issues and seek evidence-based solutions through research. Improve Connections between agricultural and nutritional research.
    • Decrease food loss and waste through more efficient distribution Systems.
    • Address the dual burdens of under-nutrition and obesity to ensure full human potential.

    Way Forward 

    • Poverty is a condition in which an individual or household lacks the financial resources to afford a basic minimum Standard of living. PM-GKAY would help us to fulfil the national goal of freedom from hunger and will ensure them a minimum standard of living and a minimum standard of public health. 
    • Even though COVID-19 cases have declined and economic activities are gathering momentum, this PM-GKAY extension would ensure that no poor household goes to bed without food during this time of recovery.

    GROSS NON-PERFORMING ASSETS
    Context

    • The Gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) of Indian banks are expected to decline to 5% this fiscal year, and to 4% by March 31, 2024, as the economy is showing a strong post-pandemic economic recovery and higher credit growth, according to a study released by Crisil Ratings. 
    • The asset grade of the Indian banking sector also benefits from the sale of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) to the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL).
    • The study also raised concerns about the highly unequal recovery in various sectors.
      • Maximum improvement was seen in the corporate sector, where gross NPAs may decline to 2% in the next fiscal year from 16% NPAs in March 2018. 
      • However, Gross NPAs in the MSME sector may increase to 10-11% by March 2024 from 9.3% in March 2022.

    Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) 

    • A non-performing asset (NPA) is a classification used by financial institutions for loans/credits/advances on which the principal is due and no interest payments have been paid for a period.
      • In easier words, if the clients do not repay the principal amount and interest for a certain period, then such loans are classified as Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).
    • An account will be classified as NPA if the interest payment remains overdue for more than 90 days.
      • In the banking sector, accounts are classified as NPAs on the day the account becomes overdue for more than 90 days. 
      • However, in many Non-Banking Financial companies (NBFC), this classification is made after the end of 90 or 180 days.

    Types of NPAs

    • Standard Assets: It is a kind of performing asset on which principal and interest are due for anywhere from 90 days to 12 months. These assets carry a normal risk and are not NPA in the real sense. 
      • Therefore, no special provisions are required for standard assets.
    • Sub-Standard Assets: Loans and advances which are non-performing assets for 12 months, fall under the category of Sub-Standard Assets.
    • Doubtful Assets: Assets are classified as doubtful when principal and interest for more than 12 months are known as Doubtful Assets.
    • Loss Assets: All those assets which cannot be recovered by the lending institutions are known as Loss Assets.

     Concern

    • The problem of NPAs in the Indian banking system had impacted the Indian Economy and negatively affected its Growth potential.
    • It reduced the profitability and credit growth of the banks.
    • According to the Basel norms, banks are required to maintain a Capital Adequacy Ratio of 8%. 
      • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk-weighted assets and current liabilities. CAR is decided by central banks and bank regulators of a country.
      • In India, as per RBI guidelines, Indian banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9% while Indian public sector banks have to maintain a CAR of 12%.
      • Every increase in the NPAs level adds to risk-weighted assets which require banks to increase their capital under Capital Adequacy Ratio.
    • To maintain profitability, banks decrease the interest rates on deposits and charge high-interest rates on loans/credit/advances. This negatively affects economic growth.
    • The credibility of the Indian banking system might decline due to higher NPAs levels because it directly affects public trust.

    Steps to Manage NPAs

    • Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)
      • Asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) are specialized financial institutions that buy NPAs from banks and financial institutions and aid them in cleaning up their balance sheets.
      • They function under the regulatory supervision of the Reserve Bank of India.
      • ARCs save the time and effort of banks in going after defaulters and thus allow them to focus on normal banking activities.
    • Bad Bank
      • A bad bank is a corporate structure that isolates high-risk assets or non-performing loans held by a bank or a financial organization. 
      • Bad Bank aimed at easing the stressed assets burden of banks and allowing them to lend more actively. 
      • It generally does not have a primary purpose of generating profits. It will mainly focus on resolving and restructuring accounts.
      • It works by demarcating assets into good assets (that are repaid within time) and toxic or bad assets (defaulted loans).
      • Such toxic assets are meant to be transferred from the books of banks to bad banks at a price below their book value, for the sole purpose of recovery of risky assets.
    • National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd
      • It is India’s first-ever Bad Bank, which was set up in 2021, and RBI has recently granted permission under the SARFAESI Act 2002.
      • If the bad bank is unable to sell the bad loan or has to sell it at a loss, then the government guarantee will be invoked.
      • To manage assets with the help of market professionals and turnaround experts, the Government will also set up India Debt Resolution Company Ltd. (IDRCL) along with NARCL. 
      • The IDRCL is a service company or an operational entity wherein public sector banks (PSBs) and PFIs will hold a maximum of 49% stake and the rest will be with private-sector lenders. When the assets are sold, with the help of IDRCL, the commercial banks will be paid back the rest.

    Way Forward

    • There must be a sunset clause in the resolution process. It is necessary to develop time-bound strategies for the resolution of assets, or else the bad bank will be reduced to a mere parking space for bad loans.
      • Bad Banks should have a suitable mechanism in place that can facilitate funding for maintaining the quality of assets till their resolution.
    • Banks have to accept losses on loans (or ‘haircuts’). They must do voluntarily; without any fear of harassment by investigative agencies.
    • Recently The Indian Banks’ Association has set up a six-member panel to oversee the resolution plans of lead lenders. To expedite resolution, more such panels are required.
    • There is an urgent need to set up a Loan Resolution Authority, if necessary through an Act of Parliament. Also, the government must infuse at one go whatever additional capital is needed to recapitalize banks — providing such capital in multiple instalments is not helpful.
    • Concerns and loopholes raised over bad banks (NARCL) must be readdressed to promote transparency and accountability in the mechanism and to ensure its independence. 
    • Global experiences show that the recovery process for NPSs must be made flexible as per the needs of the business and economic sectors. 

    PM-SHRI Yojana
    Context

    • On the occasion of Teacher's Day, the Prime Minister highlighted that under the Pradhan Mantri Schools For Rising India (PM-SHRI) Yojana, the government will develop and upgrade14, 500 schools across India.
    • The Prime Minister stated that the PM-SHRI yojana would benefit lakhs of students across India and also support the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP).

    New Education Policy-2020

    • The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was released in July 2020.  
    • NEP 2020 will replace the National Policy on Education, 1986.
    • It aims at ensuring Universal Access at All Levels of schooling from pre-primary school to Grade 12.
    • It Ensures quality early childhood care and education for all children between 3-6 years.
    • It introduced a New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure (5+3+3+4).
      • 5 years of foundational stage (for ages 3 to 8).
      • 3 years of preparatory stage (for ages 8 to 11 or classes 3 to 5).
      • 3 years of middle stage (for ages 11 to 14 or classes 6 to 8).
      • 4 years of secondary stage (for ages 14 to 18 or classes 9 to 12).
    • No strict separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extracurricular activities, and between vocational and academic streams.
    • To establish a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.
    • Promoting multilingualism and Indian languages.
    • Reform in Assessment of Board Exams. Setting up a new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development).
    • Special priority is given to socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups.
    • A separate Gender Inclusion fund and Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups;
    • A transparent process for recruitment of teachers and merit-based performance assessment. 
    • Ensuring availability of all resources through school complexes and clusters.
    • Setting up of the State School Standards Authority.
    • Promoting Vocational education in school and higher education systems.
    • Increasing Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50%.
    • Multidisciplinary Education with multiple entry/exit options.
    • Establishment of Academic Bank of Credit
    • Setting up of Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities.
    • Setting up of the National Research Foundation.
    • Expansion of open and distance learning to increase GER.
    • Teacher Education - 4-year integrated stage-specific, subject-specific Bachelor of Education
    • All higher education institutions (HEIs) will be restructured into 3 categories
      • Research universities focus equally on research and teaching.
      • Teaching universities focus primarily on teaching.
      • Degree-granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.
    • Multiple mechanisms with checks and balances will combat and stop the commercialization of higher education.
    • All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as not-for-profit entities.
    • The Centre and the States will work together to increase public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
    • Strengthening of the Central Advisory Board of Education to ensure coordination to bring overall focus on quality education. 

    Challenges in Indian Education System 

    • India has achieved universal enrolment at the elementary level. This is a great achievement, but getting Students to School is only the beginning of human Capital formation. 
    • Poor quality of facilities, Shortage of qualified faculty.
    • Date Curriculum, Limited university-industry Partnership.
    • Indian-origin Scientists have won the Nobel Prize, but post-independence work done in India has not led to a Science novel. If Indians Studying and working abroad can have a great impact, then obviously the problem has to do with our Systems of education and research.
    • Broken Governance System. There are few rewards for being a good teacher and few Punishments for being a Careless one. Need more effective and accountable governance Systems
    • The greed of Private Colleges to earn the maximum from every Student puts traumatic Pressure on Students which results in mental breakdown.
    • More girls than boys drop out of School. While boys drop out to work, girls usually Stay at home and help with domestic Work. Social Conception of gender roles is an important factor.
    • Learning loss due to pandemics and the digital divide. 

    Steps taken by the Government 

    • The 86th Constitution Amendment provides the Fundamental right to free and compulsory education under Article 21A includes a Common education System where the “rich and Poor are educated under one roof".
    • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan provides funding to eligible State higher educational institutions.
    • Declaration of Educational Institutions as institutions of Eminence, to provide world-class education to Indian Students within the Country. 
    • Creation of a Higher Education Financing Agency, for high-quality infrastructure in Premier educational institutions.
    • National Institution Ranking Framework for ranking our higher education institutions.
    • GIAN Initiative invites distinguished academicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, and experts from premier institutions across the world to teach in higher educational institutions in India. 
    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to Provide Personalised instructions based on Student needs.
    • The government needs to work on improving digital infrastructure and ensure that students have access to mobile phones or laptops.
    • SWAYAM Portal for Online Courses.
    • SWAYAM Prabha Provide HD educational Channels through DTH on a 24X7 basis. 
    • Sodhganga to develop a national repository of universities in India, and digital Study material for higher education.
    • Samagra Shiksha Scheme to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education.
    • The government is encouraging Open Online Courses via Swayam Platforms So that Students Can have access to quality lectures online. 

    SMILE 75 INITIATIVES 
    Context

    • The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the ‘SMILE-75’ initiative.
    • The main objective of the scheme is to ensure comprehensive rehabilitation of baggers in 75 identified municipalities as a part of the 75th year of Independence day celebrations.
    • The initiative is a part of the Ministry’s ongoing SMILE project.

    Details 

    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched an umbrella scheme “SMILE: Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise” to cover several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for both transgender persons and persons who are engaged in the act of begging.
    • The Ministry allocated Rs 265 cr under Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons, and Rs 100 cr under Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the Act of Begging for the years 2021-22 to 2025-26.

    About SMILE Scheme

    • The Scheme aims to provide welfare and rehabilitation to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging.
    • The 2 sub-schemes of SMILE are:
      • Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons.
      • Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation engaged in the act of Begging’.
    • It aims to provide comprehensive welfare and rehabilitation measures to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging.
    • The scheme aims to ensure social security through multiple dimensions of identity, medical care, education, occupational opportunities and shelter.
    • The Ministry has allocated Rs. 365 Crore for the scheme from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
    • It has provisions for Skill Development and Livelihood under the PM-DAKSH scheme. 

      Expected Outcome of the Scheme

      • Through Composite, Medical Health aims to provide a comprehensive package in convergence with PM Jan Arogya Yojna (PM-JAY) supporting Gender-Reaffirmation surgeries through selected hospitals. 
      • Providing Housing facilities in the form of ‘Garima Greh’ to ensure food, clothing, recreational facilities, skill development opportunities, recreational activities and medical support etc. to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging. 
      • The Provision of a Transgender Protection Cell in each state will monitor cases of offences and ensure timely registration, investigation and prosecution of offences. 
      • The National Portal and Helpline will provide necessary information and solutions to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging when needed.

      Concerns

      • Transgender face numerous forms of discrimination and injustice, exclusion from participation in social and cultural life, education, and economic sphere, and political and decision?making processes.
      • Issues with Current legislations: 
        • Discretionary powers to Police to arrest.
        • No distinction between beggars and the homeless.
        • Different definitions in different States. 
      • The problem of beggary, like any other social problem, is multi-dimensional. Its roots are found in the diverse patterns of its intertwined and interlocked social fabrics.
      • According to an estimate, 3 lakh children across India are forced to beg, using everything from addiction to drugs, to threats of violence and actual beating.
      • In India, there is a lack of adequate provision for treatment and social rehabilitation of the blind, deaf, dumb or physically handicapped. In the absence of any reasonable alternative, such persons are forced to beg.
      • Economic factors generally prompt people to take to begging. Among these factors poverty, unemployment, under-employment and loss of income are important.

      Way forward 

      • These are Social problems and have to be seen in a Holistic manner as there are numerous contributory factors such as poverty, unemployment, disability and migration.
      • Rehabilitate through rehabilitation centres, Setting up Counseling Committees to interact with them and assist them.
      • Sensitizing people and authorities, Coordination of stakeholders such as Civil Society, Government, media, police and Citizens are needed to end this.
      • As a progressive and developing society, we must respect the identity and dignity of all sections of society. 
      • The Ministry has ensured that every need of the Transgender community and persons engaged in the act of begging is taken care of in a most professional way.
      • The provision under the SMILE initiative will provide necessary information and solutions to the problems of the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging.

      herSTART
      Context

      • The President of India launched the 'herStart' -- a start-up platform of Gujarat University for women entrepreneurs. 
        • On the occasion, the President highlighted that “If the states move forward by learning and adopting each other's successful models, then India will ensure its place as a developed country during the Amrit Kal”.
      • The President also inaugurated various projects related to education and tribal development at Gujarat University.
      • The president said that the 'HerStart' initiative will link women entrepreneurs with various private and government platforms.

        Women Entrepreneurs in India

      • Nearly 3 million micro, small, and medium enterprises with full or partial female ownership contribute more than 3 % of industrial output and employ over 8 million people
      • 78% of women's enterprises belong to the services sector

      Concerns

      • The social status of women and prevalent social norms in India influence financial institutions and the ability of women entrepreneurs to access finance.
      • Absence of collateral security and guarantee/support.
      • Limited financial awareness and understanding of financial products/ services.
      • Bank branches are unwelcoming to women customers.
      • Lack of confidence or hesitation to approach financial institutions.
      • The lack of reliable information about financial management makes women entrepreneurs less attractive to financier

      Way Forward

      • Access to finance is key to the growth of the MSME sector in India.
      • Microfinance plays a key role in expanding access to finance for low-income women aspiring to become entrepreneurs.
      • Training programs on human resources, financial management, business management, marketing, and financing the venture.
      • Learning from Global Best Practices for Women-owned Enterprise Financing; Westpac Banking Corporation (AUSTRALIA), American Express (USA).
      • DFCU BANK in UGANDA created a “land loan” specifically for women. Women can take a loan to purchase property that they can later use as collateral for business loans.
      • Ensure access to business and financial management training through the bank’s partnerships with local universities.
      • Simplify the approval process to reduce the number of visits to branches.
      • Explore the potential for “doorstep financial delivery model” branchless banking and other innovative delivery systems tie-ups with NGOs, microfinance institutions, and SHGs.
      • Remove dependence on male members of the family as a prerequisite to access finance.
      • Promote a friendlier environment for women customers.
      • Governments should promote Equal rights to property, joint property registration, and land ownership of women.
      • Formulate women-focused policies to promote women-owned enterprises. Create online customer care support.

      INDIRA GANDHI URBAN EMPLOYMENT SCHEME
      Context

      • The State government of Rajasthan has launched an urban employment guarantee scheme.
      • The scheme is inspired by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), and it would provide guaranteed work to people in distress.

      Details

      • The main objective of the scheme is to provide economic support to the poor and needy families living in the cities through the work on-demand principles for 100 days a year. 
        • Work for people aged between 18 and 60 years in eligible families. 
      • A Janaadhar card or its registration slip would be necessary for the registration, which will be done at e-Mitra centres.
      • More than 3.5 lakh people across the State got themselves registered under the scheme and job cards were issued to 2.25 lakh of them.
      • The State government had appointed several committees at various levels for the effective implementation of the scheme.
      • It would provide livelihood opportunities to the pandemic-affected families and also ease the burden of high inflation.
      • It will reduce the unemployment rate in urban areas.
      • Eligible people would get employment in areas such as;
        • Environment and water conservation.
        • Cleanliness and sanitation.
        • Stopping defacement of property.
        • Service-related works.
        • Convergence work and heritage conservation. 
        • Tree plantations.
        • Cleaning ponds.
        • Collecting garbage.
        • Catching stray animals.
      • The programme will provide economic security and also create urban assets.
      • It will also help in protecting the environment, reducing migration and promoting social equity, etc.
      • It focuses on the economic and social empowerment of women.
      • It provides “Green” and “Decent” work.
      • Works under the scheme would help to address the climate change vulnerability and protect the urban area from such risks and conserve natural resources.

      Significance of the Step

      • It will provide a 'right to work” in accordance with Article 41 which directs the State to secure for all citizens the right to work.
      • It also protects the environment through sustainable urban works, which is consistent with Article 48A which directs the State to protect the environment.
      • Article 21 guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India, this act promotes dignity among the rural people through an assurance of livelihood security.
      • Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them.
      • It will also follow Article 46 which requires the State to promote the interests of and work for the economic uplift of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and protect them from discrimination and exploitation.
      • Article 40 mandates the State to organize village panchayats and award them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government. 

      Way Forward

      • The major problem right now is low consumption demand due to a decline in income, and businesses cannot sell their goods, which means that they have no reason to hire. The less consumer demand results in less job generation. And less job generation results in less demand. 
      • The government tries to increase spending, by supporting businesses, promoting ease of doing business, increasing capital expenditure, and providing several socio-economic benefits through several schemes such as UJJWALA, PM-KISAN, PM-Garib Kalyan etc. By doing this the government creates demand in the economy, which in turn expands business and creates new jobs.
      • Employment programs play an important role in the economy by protecting workers’ incomes, improving their standard of living, and supporting the economy during recessions. 

      NAMASTE PROJECT
      Context

      • The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is in the process to start a nationwide survey to list all people engaged in the hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
      • The Ministry also highlighted that the practice of manual scavenging no longer takes place in the country as all manual scavengers had been enrolled on the rehabilitation scheme.

      Details

      • The Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs has announced the ‘NAMASTE scheme’ for cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
      • NAMASTE (National Action Plan for Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem) Scheme is a joint venture between;
        • The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
        • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
        • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. 
      • The main objective of the scheme is to ensure;
        • Zero fatalities in sanitation work in India.
        • No sanitation workers come in direct contact with human faecal matter.
        • All Sewer and Septic tank sanitation workers have access to alternative livelihoods.
      • The Ministry has announced that;
        • They have shortlisted the types of machinery and core equipment required for maintenance works and Safety gear for Safai Mitras. 
        • Skill Development and training of Safai Mitras are to be conducted with the help of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment through the National Safai Karamchari Finance Development Corporation.

       Sanitation workers in India

      • Despite the various laws, Sanitation workers in India constantly face stigma and are devoid of fundamental rights.
      • During the 1990s, various civil societies started a movement to abolish dry latrines.
        • This movement has always demanded the abolition of the dehumanising practice of the manual removal of human excreta.
        • In the present time, the focus shifted to manhole deaths and the requirement of safety equipment for sanitation workers.
      • The Union government has enacted an Act in 1993, the act restrict the construction of unsanitary dry latrines and employing manual scavengers. 
        • With time, the construction of dry latrines has reduced, but the number of deaths in manholes, sewers and septic tanks continues to remain high. 
      • According to the data released by the  Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, a total of 971 people lost their lives while cleaning sewers or septic tanks since 1993, the year law prohibiting the employment of manual scavengers was passed.
      • The occupation of sanitation work is tied with the caste in India. All kinds of cleaning are considered lowly and are assigned to people from the so-called lowest caste of the social hierarchy. 
      • Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released in 2015, states that there were around 18 million manual scavenging households in rural areas.
      • Statistics show that 80% of India’s sewage cleaners die before they turn 60, after contracting various infectious diseases.
      • Data show the manual scavengers' reluctance to take up self-employment, even if they try to switch jobs; they face social discrimination due to their caste.

       Concern

      • Even though manual scavenging is banned in India, the practice is still prevalent in many parts of the country.
      • Only in 30% of cases of Compensation awarded after death, hardly anyone receives the Rehabilitation or Alternative jobs to which they are entitled by law.
      • Employers and local authorities are not providing Protective measures.
      • When the Government builds toilets through its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it is not taking into account the question of who will have to clean the septic tank.
      • Rehabilitation has been Slow because they are mostly illiterate and have no Skill to do any work other than Sanitation related activities.
      • Most sanitation staff hardly has any ID cards, protection of medical insurance policies, etc
      • The workers in sanitation departments are recruited through open competition. The local administration usually approaches particular cast members during such hiring. 
        • The situation is so alarming that while we find volunteers to distribute food and undertake rescue operations during natural calamities, hardly any volunteer offers to do clean-up work or dispose of dead bodies. 
      • There are no vehicles for sanitation workers to travel to their designated workplace, and they have to either walk for kilometres or use garbage vehicles. This is a forced choice and is connected to the dignity of a worker. 
      • There are hardly any exclusive trade unions for sweepers, and unlike other sections in the government or private workforce, their problems are expressed by mainly those who are not associated with sanitation work (Civil society or NGOs).
      • Despite the laws, manual scavenging was reported in many states. In 2021, the National Human Rights Commission observed that the eradication of manual scavenging as claimed by state and local governments is far from over.

      Steps by the Government

      • Sanitation is a State subject as per the 7th Schedule
      • In 2013 Delhi announced that they were banning manual scavenging, making them the first state in India to do so. 
        • District magistrates are responsible for ensuring that no manual scavengers are working in their district.
      • "The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993", drafted by the Ministry of Urban Development was passed by Parliament in 1993. 
        • The act punishes the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of Rs 2,000.
      • In 2007 the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers was passed to help in the transition to other occupations.
      • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
      • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
        • The Bill calls for complete mechanization of cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
      • Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to make sewer cleaning mechanized. 
      • ‘Swachhta Abhiyan App’ has been developed to identify and Geotag the data of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers so that the insanitary latrines can be replaced with sanitary latrines and rehabilitate all the manual scavengers to provide dignity of life to them.
      • In 2014, the Supreme Court order made it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewage work since 1993 and provide Rs. 10 lakh each as compensation to their families. 

      Way Forward

      • India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the practice of manual scavenging violates international human rights law, including protections found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 
        • India is also a party to other international conventions that reinforce obligations to end manual scavenging.
      • Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the Right to Life and that also with dignity. 
      • Need to ensure proper implementation of the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, and promote Alternative opportunities or Jobs. 
      • Ensure that rehabilitation entitlements under the 2013 Act—including financial assistance, scholarships, housing, alternative livelihood support, and other important legal and programmatic assistance—are available to manual scavenging communities.

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      HEALTH EXPENDITURE IN INDIA
      Context

      • India’s total health expenditure went down from 3.9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013-14 to 3.2% in 2018-19, according to the latest national health estimates- National Health Accounts Estimates 2018-19 Report.

      Details

      • Total health expenditure is the money spent by the government, people, private entities and external funding.
      • The trend was reflected by the Union government, whose expenditure on healthcare went down to 1.28% of the GDP in 2018-19 from the previous year’s figure of 1.35%.
      • As the total healthcare expenditure has increased from 29% in 2014-15 to 40.6% in 2018-19, the decline is even more pronounced.
      • Out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare by households — a key reason pushing Indians into poverty — has declined by 16%; from 64.2 % to 48.2% in the same period.
        • In Uttar Pradesh, out-of-pocket health expenditure accounts for 71.3% of the state’s total health expenditure.  
      • The economic burden of healthcare in India is largely borne by households that contribute Rs 3, 24,717 crores to the current healthcare expenditure.
        • While the Union government’s share is Rs 63,256 crore, the state government's share is Rs 1, 06,056 crore and local bodies contribute Rs 5,451 crore. 
        • Non-governmental organisations spend Rs 8,484 crore, while external/donor funding contributes about Rs 2,493 crore.
      • These statistics are critical because they answer important policy questions such as what are the sources of healthcare expenditures, who manages these, who provides healthcare services, and which services are utilised.

      Present Status of India’s healthcare:

      • Data shows that India has 1.4 beds per 1,000 people, 1 doctor per 1,445 people, and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people.
      • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India ranks 184 out of 191 countries in health spending.
      • The US spends over 16% of its total GDP on healthcare, while Japan, Canada, Germany etc. spend over 10% of their GDP on healthcare.
      • India has a dual burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases and many of these diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, providing health education, timely referral and management.
      • Nearly 8 lakh cases of cancer are detected each year and around 60-80% of the cases are diagnosed late.
      • Lack of awareness and poor health-seeking behaviour is the major underlying causes of many diseases.
      • Inadequate Quality, Accessibility and Affordability of Health Services. 
      • High out-of-pocket expenses. 
      • Shortage of Infrastructure, Equipment and Skilled Manpower.
      • Rigid regulatory Framework Combined with Corrupt enforcement. 
      • Primary Health Care Centres are not Present in many villages and wherever Present they lack basic facilities. 
      • Inefficiencies in Procurement Process result in both Shortages and Wastage.
      • Nearly 70% of Healthcare delivery is through Private Players which are largely regulated.
      • Lack of Sanitation, disease Surveillance, Political will and Public Health response.
      • The government spends less than 1.5% of the GDP on Public Health Care.
      • Rising incidence of non-Communicable diseases with income growth, lifestyle changes and environmental degradation, resulting in a rising total burden of disease. 

      Concern

      • Shortage of Staff and Equipment;
        • Overall there was a shortfall of 86.5% surgeons; 74.1% obstetricians &gynaecologists; 84.6% general physicians and 81% paediatricians in the country.
      • Healthcare infrastructure is heavily skewed in favour of urban areas.
        • The evidence shows that the private healthcare market occupies a large share of hospitals (75%), hospital beds (50.7%) and medical institutions (54.3%) largely located in urban areas.
        • Almost half (48%) of the large private hospitals and two-thirds of corporate hospitals are located in five million plus cities in India.
      • Inter-State and Intra-state variations
        • In a few states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi; the public health facilities play their intended role of being the first point of care and proactively delivering essential services while in some states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand primary health care is not available to masses and they are highly dependent on the private sector with their expenditure.
        • While the private facility is highly urban-centric covering a few districts of India, there is a dearth of both public and private health care facilities in many of the districts and there are many parts/areas/districts where no one is to serve people.
      • No proper regulatory mechanism and monitoring
        • According to a WHO report published in 2016, 31.4% of those calling themselves allopathic doctors were educated only up to class 12 and 57.3% of doctors did not have a medical qualification.
        • Due to poor regulatory mechanisms and monitoring, private health care services and doctors are following unethical practices treating medical services as a business and hospitalisation as a source of profit, writing unnecessary diagnostic tests, high-rate medicines instead of generic ones, and organ theft (kidney racket) etc. even denying treatment to poor people though getting land from the government on a subsidised rate.
      • Lack of Affordability
      • The contribution of the private sector to healthcare expenditure in India is around 80 % while the rest 20% is contributed by Public Sector.

      Steps taken by the Government 

      • Promotion of Institutional deliveries through Cash incentives under Janani Suraksha Yojana.
      • Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram: Free ante-natal Check-ups, Post-natal Care and treatment of Sick infants till one year of age. 
      • Providing Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Services, the establishment of Special Newborn Care Units. 
      • Mission Indradhnaush: Expanding full immunisation Coverage, the introduction of new vaccines.
      • PM Swasthya Suraksha Yojana for strengthening the tertiary health Sector.
      • POSHAN Abhiyaan to address Malnutrition.
      • Iron and folic acid Supplementation for the Prevention of Anaemia, home visits by ASHAs to promote breastfeeding and promote the use of ORS and Zinc for the management of diarrhoea in children.
      • Capacity building of Health Care Providers: Training is being conducted under the National Health Mission to build and upgrade the Skills of Health Care Providers. 
      • National Health Resource Repository: Create a reliable, unified registry of the Country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and Services between Cities and rural areas. ISRO is a Technology Partner for providing data Security. 
      • Allowed 100% FDI in the Medical devices Sector to promote Make in India. 
      • Kayakalp initiative to Promote Cleanliness, hygiene and infection control practices in public health facilities.

      Way forward:

      • Primary health Centres need to be strengthened as 80-90% health needs of a person in a lifetime can be provided by primary health care centres. 
      • Increase the expenditure on health to 2.5% of GDP as envisaged in NHP 2017 to improve infrastructure in health centres.
      • To meet the shortage and availability of trained staff, preference should be given to local people. Skills of good performing ASHA, and ANM workers and nurses should be upgraded and they should be posted in their own rural and remote areas of the Health centre.
      • To remove misallocation, new medical colleges whether it is private or public should be opened strictly only in rural and remote areas. Special focus should be on large populous northern states or backward states.
      • There should be proper regulation and monitoring against all the malpractices prevalent in the health sector. Stringent laws and punishment should be there for all those who do unethical practices in this field.
      • The use of technology can help a lot to reduce the cost as well as improve facilities in the healthcare area.
      • A National Health Regulatory and Development Framework need to be made for improving the quality (for example registration of health practitioners), performance, equity, efficacy and accountability of healthcare delivery across the country.
      • Increase the Public-Private Partnerships to increase the last-mile reach of healthcare.
      • Generic drugs and Jan Aushadi Kendras should be increased to make medicines affordable and reduce the major component of Out of Pocket Expenditure.
      • The government’s National Innovation Council should encourage a culture of innovation in India and help develop policy on innovations that will focus on an Indian model for inclusive growth.

      Gati-Shakti Yojana

      • Gati Shakti yojana is India’s national master plan for the development of multi-modal connectivity to ensure better infrastructure development in economic zones and boost last-mile connectivity. The programme aims to unite the infrastructural initiatives planned and started by different Union ministries and departments.
      • Gati-Shakti targets to promote socio-economic growth and sustainable development in; Railways, Roads, Ports, Waterways, Airports, Mass Transport, and Logistics Infrastructure.

      Significance of Gati Shakti

      • Gati Shakti targets to cut logistic costs, increase cargo handling capacity and reduce transportation time.
      • It will include all the existing and planned initiatives of various Ministries and Departments with one centralized portal. 
      • Different Departments will be able to prioritize their projects through continuous interactions.
      • It will assist different ministries in planning for projects after the identification of critical gaps. 
      • It will provide the entire data in one place with GIS-based spatial planning and analytical tools.

      The success of the initiative depends on the level of coordination between the Government and the Private sector. Better Coordination is needed to:

      • Improve quality and efficiency of service delivery.
      • Ensure investments and Finance availability.
      • Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation and technology development.
      • To Maximise utilization of government investment and infrastructure.

      Gati Shakti yojana aims to strengthen the infrastructure and logistics sector. Reduced logistics costs and increased logistic efficiencies will fuel the economy in multiple ways and take us closer to the goal of emerging as a global manufacturing powerhouse.

      NATIONAL MOBILE MONITORING SYSTEM
      Context

      • Months after the Union government’s order making it mandatory to record attendance of MGNREGA workers through the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS), some States; including Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Assam are asking to make it universal.
        • However, the majority of the States are still concerned about it.
      • The Union Rural Development Ministry data shows that only 8 States have recorded usage of the app at 90% or more worksites. They are;
        • Assam (93.42%)
        • Odisha (92%)
        • Tamil Nadu (93%)
        • Karnataka (92%) 
        • Kerala (91.5%)
        • Tripura (91%)
        • Uttarakhand (91%) 
        • Puducherry (99%). 
      • The app can record the attendance even if there is no Internet connectivity and it will get uploaded whenever they reach a place which has the necessary signal strength

      Background

      • Recently the Union government has introduced the mandatory implementation of a national mobile monitoring system for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
      • The National mobile monitoring system was initiated to capture attendance through the mobile system at worksites with more than 20 workers.
      • The new system has resulted in the delay of wage payments to workers.
        • According to some social activists, the new system was launched without addressing various technical issues.
        • Many districts are unable to process wage payments.
        • Inability to upload attendance data.
      • Critics say that the Union government has implemented these changes unilaterally without studying the ground reality.
      • Several Social activists and organizations have requested the Union Rural Development Ministry to withdraw its order to suspend manual attendance for MGNREGS work sites and use a Mobile application for recording attendance.
        • The Mobile app wants MGNREGA workers to upload two photos daily.
      • They raised concern over the guidelines that made it mandatory to upload two time-stamped photos daily. 
        • Many women from poorer households do not have access to smartphones. 
        • The app has been completely designed in English and there is no technical help available to redress problems. 
      • According to the officials this step will;
        • Promote Transparency and Accountability.
        • Reduce financial mismanagement 
        • Curb Corruption
        • Protome rural development
        • Ensure timely payment of wages.

      Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005

      • The MGNREGA is Indian labour law and social security programme that aims to guarantee the 'right to work'.
      • It provides a legal right for 100 days of employment in every financial year to at least one member of every rural household whose adult members agree to do unskilled manual work.
      • The Ministry of Rural Development is monitoring the implementation of this scheme.
      • Women were guaranteed one-third of the jobs made available under the MGNREGA.
      • The MGNREGA programme also helps in creating durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells). 
      • Work is to be provided within 5 km of workers' residence and minimum wages are to be paid.
      • Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within 15 days of applying.
      • MGNREGA is implemented mainly by gram panchayats. Adult members of rural households submit their details to the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat registers households after making an enquiry and issues a job card. The job card contains the details of the adult member enrolled and his /her photo
      • The involvement of contractors is banned.
      • The Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which ensures accountability and transparency.

      Constitutionality of MGNREGA 

      • MGNREGA provides a 'right to work in accordance with Article 41 which directs the State to secure for all citizens the right to work.
      • It also protects the environment through sustainable rural works, which is consistent with Article 48A which directs the State to protect the environment.
      • Article 21 guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India, this act promotes dignity among the rural people through an assurance of livelihood security.
      • Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them.
      • NREGA also follows Article 46 which requires the State to promote the interests of and work for the economic uplift of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and protect them from discrimination and exploitation.
      • Article 40 mandates the State to organize village panchayats and award them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government. 

      Significance of MGNREGA 

      • The programme is providing economic security and creates rural assets.
      • It also helps in protecting the environment, reducing rural-urban migration and promoting social equity, etc.
      • It focuses on the economic and social empowerment of women.
      • It provides “Green” and “Decent” work.
      • Works under MGNREGA help to address the climate change vulnerability and protect the farmers from such risks and conserve natural resources.

      PRADHAN MANTRI AWAS YOJANA
      Context

      • The Union Ministry of Rural Development has decided to impose penalties on the State governments for the delay in the completion of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin).
      • According to a recent report, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Assam, are the leading four States who are far behind their targets. 
        • The initial deadline for the scheme was March 2022, which was extended by another two years till March 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • The Ministry sent a circular to all States listing that if a house construction is delayed for more than one month from the date of issue of the target, the State government will be penalized Rs 10 per house for the first month of delay and Rs 20 per house for each subsequent month of delay.

      Related News

      • The Union Ministry of Rural Development has decided to impose penalties on the State governments for the delay in the completion of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin).
      • According to a recent report, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Assam, are the leading four States who are far behind their targets. 
        • The initial deadline for the scheme was March 2022, which was extended by another two years till March 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • The Ministry sent a circular to all States listing that if a house construction is delayed for more than one month from the date of issue of the target, the State government will be penalized Rs 10 per house for the first month of delay and Rs 20 per house for each subsequent month of delay.

      Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

      • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation launched Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in 2015.
      • The Programme was initiated with the objective of ‘Housing for All by 2022’.
      • Providing housing Facilities to rural poor and urban poor including slum dwellers
      • Financial assistance is provided to eligible beneficiaries for the construction of pucca houses. 
      • The Centre and States share the Cost of the houses made under the scheme.
      • The mission has 2 Components: Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Rural).
      • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) was formerly called the Indira Awas Yojana and was renamed in March 2016.
        • It is targeted at promoting accessibility and affordability of housing for all of rural India with the exceptions of Delhi and Chandigarh.
      • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme
        • In Situ Slum Redevelopment: A slum rehabilitation grant of Rs. 1 lakh per house, on average, would be admissible for all houses built for eligible slum dwellers in all such projects. Slums so redeveloped should compulsorily be denotified.
        • Affordable Housing through Credit Linked Subsidy: Under Credit Linked Subsidy, beneficiaries of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Group (LIG) can seek housing loans from Banks, Housing Finance Companies and other such institutions for new construction and enhancement of existing dwellings as incremental housing.
        • Affordable Rental Housing Complexes: It will be a mix of single/double bedroom Dwelling Units and a Dormitory of 4/6 beds including all common facilities which will be exclusively used for rental housing for a minimum period of 25 years.
      • Aadhar Card is mandatory to take benefit of the scheme.
      • Economically weaker sections and Middle-Income Groups are also eligible for financial assistance under the Missions.
      • Priority is given to SCs, STs, OBSs, differently-abled persons, senior citizens, minorities, single women, transgender and other Socio-economic weaker sections of society.
      • Identifying beneficiaries eligible for assistance and their prioritization to be done using information from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) ensures total transparency and objectivity.
      • The ownership of houses is provided in the name of female members or joint names.
      • Houses made under the scheme would ensure basic facilities like salutation, tap water connection, etc.
      • Under the scheme, the Government promoted Training to Rural Masons under Rural Mason Training (RMT) programme to make a pool of trained rural masons available for faster construction of quality houses.

       Objectives of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

      • To promote the empowerment of citizens, the Ownership of a house is one of the key indicators of socio-economic development.
      • They are ensuring Women's empowerment through the Scheme, as the ownership of the house is provided in the name of a female member or joint ownership.
      • To Promote Cooperative Federalism, Autonomy is given to States/UTs to decide the list of beneficiaries and adopt innovative methods to implement housing projects.

       Present Status 

      • The Prime Minister has said that the Government has provided pucca houses to 2.5 crore families across the country — of these, 2 crore houses are in rural areas. 
      • To achieve the target of “Housing for All”, the Union Government is implementing Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana.
      • According to the data released by the government, more than 69% of houses constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) are either wholly or jointly owned by women in rural areas.
      • It aims to assist eligible rural households with an overall target to construct 2.95 crore pucca houses with basic amenities by March 2024. 

      PM-DevINE
      Context

      • The Union Cabinet has approved Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE) for the remaining 4 years of the 15th Finance Commission (2022-23 to 2025-26). 

      About Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE)

      • The PM-DevINE initiative was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, to address development gaps in the North Eastern Region (NER).
      • It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% central funding and implementation by the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER).
        • It will be implemented through North Eastern Council or Central Ministries/ agencies. 
      • The Scheme will have an outlay of Rs.6, 600 crores for the four years from 2022-23 to 2025-26.
      • It will create infrastructure, support industries, social development projects and create livelihood activities for youth and women, thus leading to employment generation and socio-economic development in the North-East region.

      Objectives of PM-DevINE

      • To Fund infrastructure and create new economic opportunities.
      • Support social development projects based on local needs.
      • Provide livelihood activities for youth and women;
      • Fill the development gaps in different sectors.
      • To ensure that there is no duplication of project support under PM-DevINE with any of the other schemes of MDoNER or those of any other Ministry/Department.

      Concern

      • Geographical challenges: Very high rainfall, shifting river courses, poor drainage systems, and landslides in the North East.
        • Inaccessible Hilly terrain and underdeveloped transport.
      • Low participation of the Private sector due to geographical and political reasons. 
      • Large scale Migration from Bangladesh resulted in socioeconomic and socio-Political problems
      • Poor financial condition and lack of development increased their dependence on central devolution.
      • The poor state of basic infrastructural facilities like roadways, railways, educational institutions, health facilities etc. 

      Steps taken by the Government

      • The Union Government established the Ministry of Development of North East Region (MDoNER) in 2001.
      • It deals with matters related to the socio-economic development of the Northeast region.
      • It promotes coordination between Central Ministries/ Departments and the State Governments.
      • NITI Forum for North East to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and to recommend appropriate interventions for the development of the Northeast.
      • North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme to create infrastructure to ensure water supply, power connectivity, education and health.
      • North-East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) to promote MSME Sector.
      • Act East Policy to connect the Northeast with the East Asian countries to promote development. 
      • Government Increased Infrastructure Investment in the region through various schemes. 
      • Increase air connectivity to the Northeast Region

      Budget 2022-23
      Key Points of Budget 2022-23

      • India’s economic growth in the current year is estimated to be 9.2%, the highest among all large economies.
      • This Budget seeks to lay the foundation and give a blueprint to steer the economy over the Amrit Kaal of the next 25 years – from India at 75 to India at 100.
      • We are marking Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, and have entered into Amrit Kaal, the 25-year-long lead-up to [email protected]

      The government’s focus has been on the empowerment of citizens, especially the poor and the marginalized.

      1. Measures have included programmes that have provided housing, electricity, cooking gas and access to water.
      2. Programmes for ensuring financial inclusion and direct benefit transfers.

      Vision for [email protected] By achieving certain goals during the Amrit Kaal, the government aims to attain the vision. They are:

      1. Complementing the macro-economic level growth focus with a microeconomic level all-inclusive welfare focus.
      2. Promoting digital economy & fintech, technology-enabled development, energy transition, and climate action.
      3. Relying on a virtuous cycle starting from private investment with public capital investment helps to crowd-in private investment.
      4. Productivity Linked Incentive in 14 sectors for achieving the vision of Atma Nirbhar Bharat has received an excellent response, with the potential to create 60 lakh new jobs, and additional production of ‘30 lakh crore during the next 5 years.
      5. Towards implementation of the new Public Sector Enterprise policy, the strategic transfer of ownership of Air India to the Tata group has been completed.

      The budget provided a blueprint for the Amrit Kaal, which is futuristic and inclusive.

      • This will directly benefit our youth, women, farmers, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
      • Big public investment for modern infrastructure, readying for India at 100.
      • This shall be guided by PM Gati Shakti.

      PM Gati Shakti

      • It is a transformative approach to economic growth and sustainable development.
      • The approach is driven by 7 engines, namely, Roads, Railways, Airports, Ports, Mass Transport, Waterways, and Logistics Infrastructure.
      • The approach is powered by Clean Energy and Sabka Prayas – the efforts of the Central Government, the state governments, and the private sector together - leading to huge job and entrepreneurial opportunities for all, especially the youth.

      PM GatiShakti National Master Plan

      • The scope of PM GatiShakti National Master Plan will encompass the seven engines for economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics efficiency.
      • It will also include the infrastructure developed by the state governments as per the GatiShakti Master Plan.
      • The 4 focuses will be on planning, financing including through innovative ways, use of technology, and speedier implementation.
      • The projects of these 7 engines in the National Infrastructure Pipeline will be aligned with the PM GatiShakti framework.

      Road Transport

      • The National Highways network will be expanded by 25,000 km in 2022-23.
      • For this `20,000 crores will be mobilized through innovative ways of financing to complement the public resources.

      Railways

      • Railways will develop new products and efficient logistics services for small farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises, besides taking the lead in the integration of Postal and railway networks to provide seamless solutions for the movement of parcels.
      • The ‘One Station-One Product’ concept will be popularized to help local businesses & supply chains.
      • As a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat, 2,000 km of the network will be brought under Kavach, the indigenous world-class technology for safety and capacity augmentation in 2022-23.
      • Four hundred new-generation Vande Bharat Trains with better energy efficiency and passenger riding experience will be developed and manufactured during the next three years.

      Agriculture

      • Chemical-free Natural Farming will be promoted throughout the country, with a focus on farmers’ lands in 5 km wide corridors along the river Ganga.
      • 2023 has been announced as the International Year of Millets. Support will be provided for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption, and branding millet products nationally and internationally.
      • To reduce our dependence on the import of oilseeds, a rationalised and comprehensive scheme to increase the domestic production of oilseeds will be implemented.
      • The use of ‘Kisan Drones’ will be promoted for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides, and nutrients.
      • States will be encouraged to revise the syllabus of agricultural universities to meet the needs of natural, zero-budget and organic farming, modern-day agriculture, value addition and management.
      • A fund through NABARD to finance Startups for agriculture & rural enterprise, relevant for farm produce value chain.

      Parvatmala: National Ropeways Development Programme

      • As a preferred ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional roads in difficult hilly areas, National Ropeways Development Programme will be taken up on PPP mode.
      • The aim is to improve connectivity and convenience for commuters, besides promoting tourism.
      • This may also cover congested urban areas, where conventional mass transit systems are not feasible.
      • Contracts for 8 ropeway projects for a length of 60 km will be awarded in 2022-23.

       Skill Development

      • Skilling programmes and partnerships with the industry will be reoriented to promote continuous skilling avenues, sustainability, and employability. The National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) will be aligned with dynamic industry needs.
      • Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood – the DESH-Stack e-portal – will be launched. This aims to empower citizens to skill, re-skill or upskill through online training.
      • Startups will be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS). In select ITIs, in all states, the required courses for skilling will be started.

       Education

      • Due to the pandemic-induced closure of schools, our children, particularly in the rural areas, and those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections, have lost almost 2 years of formal education.
      • The ‘One class-one TV channel’ programme of PM e-VIDYA will be expanded from 12 to 200 TV channels. This will enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for classes 1-12.
      • 750 virtual labs in science and mathematics, and 75 skilling e-labs for simulated learning environments, will be set up in 2022-23.
      • High-quality e-content in all spoken languages will be developed for delivery via the internet, mobile phones, TV and radio through Digital Teachers.
      • A Digital University will be established to provide access to students across the country for world-class quality universal education with a personalized learning experience at their doorsteps.

      The National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out.

      • It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, a unique health identity, a consent framework, and universal access to health facilities.

      National Tele Mental Health Programme

      • The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages.
      • To improve access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ will be launched.
      • This will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence.

      Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi & Poshan 2.0

      • By the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
      • The schemes, namely, Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 were launched recently to provide integrated benefits to women and children.
      • Saksham Anganwadis are a new generation of anganwadis that have better infrastructure and audio-visual aids, are powered by clean energy and provide an improved environment for early child development. Two lakh anganwadis will be upgraded under the Scheme.

      Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE)

      • It will be implemented through the North-Eastern Council.
      • It will fund infrastructure, in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti, and social development projects based on the felt needs of the Northeast.

      Aspirational Blocks Programme

      • Our vision to improve the quality of life of citizens in the most backward districts of the country through the Aspirational Districts Programme has been translated into reality in a short period.
      • 95% of those 112 districts have made significant progress in key sectors such as health, nutrition, financial inclusion and basic infrastructure. They have surpassed the state average values.
      • However, in those districts, some blocks continue to lag. In 2022-23, the programme will focus on such blocks in those districts.

      Vibrant Villages Programme

      • Border villages with sparse populations, limited connectivity and infrastructure often get left out of the development gains. Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Villages Programme.
      • The activities will include the construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, provisioning of decentralized renewable energy, direct-to-home access for Doordarshan and educational channels, and support for livelihood generation.
      • Additional funding for these activities will be provided. Existing schemes will be converged.

      Urban Development

      • By 2047, nearly half our population is likely to be living in urban areas. To prepare for this, orderly urban development is of critical importance.
      • This will help realize the country’s economic potential, including livelihood opportunities for the demographic dividend.
      • For this, on the one hand, we need to nurture the megacities and their hinterlands to become current centres of economic growth.
      • On the other hand, we need to facilitate tier 2 and 3 cities to take on the mantle in the future.
      • This would require us to reimagine our cities into centres of sustainable living with opportunities for all, including women and youth.
      • A high-level committee of reputed urban planners, urban economists and institutions will be formed to make recommendations on urban sector policies, capacity building, planning, implementation and governance.
      • For developing India-specific knowledge in urban planning and design, and to deliver certified training in these areas, up to five existing academic institutions in different regions will be designated as centres of excellence. These centres will be provided endowment funds of `250 crore each.

      Battery Swapping Policy

      • Considering the constraint of space in urban areas for setting up charging stations at scale, a battery-swapping policy will be brought out and interoperability standards will be formulated.
      • The private sector will be encouraged to develop sustainable and innovative business models for ‘Battery or Energy as a Service. This will improve efficiency in the EV ecosystem.

      Land Records Management

      • States will be encouraged to adopt Unique Land Parcel Identification Numbers to facilitate IT-based management of records.
      • ‘One-Nation One-Registration Software’ will be promoted as an option for a uniform process for registration and ‘anywhere registration’ of deeds & documents.

      Animation, visual effects, gaming, and comics (AVGC) Sector.

      • AVGC Sector offers immense potential to employ youth.
      • An AVGC promotion task force with all stakeholders will be set up to recommend ways to realize this and build domestic capacity for serving our markets and the global demand.

      Export Promotion

      • Special Economic Zones Act will be replaced with new legislation that will enable the states to become partners in the ‘Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs’.

      To mark 75 years of our independence, it is proposed to set up 75 Digital Banking Units (DBUs) in 75 districts of

      the country by Scheduled Commercial Banks.

      • Digital banking involves taking all traditional banking activity online and doing away with paperwork like cheques, pay-in slips, demand drafts and so on.
      • Digital banks would primarily work on the internet and other proximate channels to offer their services, instead of physical branches.
      • These proposed banks will help mitigate the financial deepening challenges being faced in the country.

      Telecom Sector

      • A scheme for design-led manufacturing will be launched to build a strong ecosystem for 5G as part of the Production Linked Incentive Scheme.
      • To enable affordable broadband and mobile service proliferation in rural and remote areas, 5% of annual collections under the Universal Service Obligation Fund will be allocated. This will promote the R&D and commercialization of technologies and solutions.
      • The contracts for laying optical fibre in all villages, including remote areas, will be awarded under the Bharatnet project through PPP in 2022-23. Completion is expected in 2025.
      • Measures will be taken to enable better and more efficient use of optical fibre.

      Solar Power

      • Facilitate domestic manufacturing for the ambitious goal of 280 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030.

      Carbon Neutral Economy

      • 5 to 7 % biomass pellets will be co-fired in thermal power plants resulting in CO2 savings.
      • Pilot projects for coal gasification and conversion of coal into chemicals required for the industry will be set up to evolve technical and financial viability.
      • The policies and required legislative changes to promote agroforestry and private forestry will be brought in.
      • Financial support will be provided to farmers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who want to take up agro-forestry.

      Green Bonds

      • As a part of the government’s overall market borrowings in 2022-23, sovereign Green Bonds will be issued for mobilizing resources for green infrastructure.

      Infrastructure Status

      • Data Centres and Energy Storage Systems including dense charging infrastructure and grid-scale battery systems will be included in the harmonized list of infrastructure.
      • An International Arbitration Centre will be set up in the GIFT City (Gujarat) for the timely settlement of disputes under international jurisprudence.

      Digital Rupee

      • Digital Rupee, is an electronic record or digital token to represent the virtual form of a currency.
      • The digital rupee will allow users to transfer purchasing power from deposit accounts into Smartphone app wallets in the form of online tokens, which like cash will be a liability of the Reserve Bank of India.
      • The introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) will give a big boost to the digital
      • Digital currency will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system.
      • It is, therefore, proposed to introduce Digital Rupee, using blockchain and other technologies, to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India starting 2022-23. 

      The issuance of e-Passports using embedded chips and futuristic technology will be rolled out in 2022-23.

      AtmaNirbharta in Defence

      • Reducing imports and promoting AtmaNirbharta in equipment for the Armed Forces.
      • 68 % of the capital procurement budget will be earmarked for the domestic industry in 2022-23, up from 58 % in 2021-22.
      • An independent nodal umbrella body will be set up for meeting wide-ranging testing and certification requirements.

      Circular Economy

      • The action plans for ten sectors such as electronic waste, end-of-life vehicles, used oil waste, and toxic & hazardous industrial waste is ready.
      • The focus now will be on addressing important cross-cutting issues of infrastructure, reverse logistics, technology Upgradation and integration with the informal
      • This will be supported by active public policies covering regulations, extended producers’ responsibilities framework and innovation facilitation.

      Introducing new ‘Updated return’ 

      • Some taxpayers may realize that they have committed omissions or mistakes incorrectly estimating their income for tax payments.
      • To provide an opportunity to correct such errors, the Government proposed a new provision permitting taxpayers to file an Updated Return on payment of additional tax.
      • This updated return can be filed within two years from the end of the relevant assessment year.

      Scheme for taxation of virtual digital assets

      • Any income from the transfer of any virtual digital asset shall be taxed at the rate of 30 %.
      • No deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance shall be allowed while computing such income except the cost of acquisition.
      • A gift of a virtual digital asset is also proposed to be taxed in the hands of the recipient. 

      Reduced Alternate minimum tax rate and Surcharge for Cooperatives

      • Currently, cooperative societies are required to pay an Alternative Minimum Tax at the rate of 18%. However, companies pay the same at the rate of 15%.
      • To provide a level playing field between cooperative societies and companies.
      • Propose to reduce this rate for the cooperative societies also to 15%.
      • Reduce the surcharge on co-operative societies from the present 12% to 7% for those having a total income of more than `1 crore and up to `10 crores.

      Financial Assistance to States for Capital Investment

      • For 2022-23, the allocation is `1 lakh crore to assist the states in catalyzing overall investments in the economy.
      • These fifty-year interest-free loans are over and above the normal borrowings allowed to the states.
      • This allocation will be used for PM GatiShakti-related and other productive capital investments of the states.
      • It will also include components for Supplemental funding for priority segments of PM Gram Sadak Yojana, including support for the states’ share.
      • Digitisation of the economy, including digital payments.
      • Reforms related to building bye-laws, town planning schemes, transit-oriented development, and transferable development rights.
      • Following the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, the states will be allowed a fiscal deficit of 4% of GSDP of which 0.5% will be tied to power sector reforms.

      2022-23 Budget Estimates

      • Total expenditure is estimated at ` 39.45 lakh crore.
      • Total receipts other than borrowings are estimated at `22.84 lakh crore.
      • The fiscal Deficit in 2022-23 is estimated at 6.4% of GDP, the target is to reach a fiscal deficit level below 4.5% by 2025-26.
      • The Ministry of Defence has been allocated a total budget of Rs 5.25 lakh crore, which is 13.31% of the total budget.

      MSME Sector

      • Udyam, e-Shram and ASEEM portals will be interlinked. Their scope will be widened.
      • These services will relate to credit facilitation, skilling, and recruitment to further formalise the economy and enhance entrepreneurial opportunities for all.
      • Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) has provided much-needed additional credit to more than 130 lakh MSMEs. This has helped them mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic.
      • Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme will be revamped with a required infusion of funds. This will facilitate additional credit of ‘2 lakh crore for Micro and Small Enterprises and expand employment opportunities.
      • The National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) will be aligned with dynamic industry needs.

      Accelerated Corporate Exit

      • Facilitate and speed up the voluntary winding-up of these companies from the currently required 2 years to less than 6 months.

       Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood – DESH-Stacke-portal will be launched.

      • This aims to empower citizens to skill, re-skill or upskill through online training.
      • It will also provide API-based trusted skill credentials, payment and discovery layers to find relevant jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
      • Startups will be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS).

      Gems and Jewellery

      • Customs duty on cut and polished diamonds and gemstones is being reduced to 5%.

      Anytime – Anywhere Post Office Savings

      • In 2022, 100% of 1.5 lakh post offices will come on the core banking system enabling financial inclusion and access to accounts through net banking, mobile banking, ATMs, and also providing online transfer of funds between post office accounts and bank accounts.
      • This will be helpful, especially for farmers and senior citizens in rural areas, enabling interoperability and financial inclusion.

      Economic Survey 2021-22
      The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Economic Survey 2021-22 in Parliament today. The highlights of the Economic Survey are as follows:
      Economic Development

      • The central theme of this year’s Economic Survey is the “Agile approach”, implemented through India’s economic response to the COVID-19 Pandemic shock.
      • The Economic Survey projected Gross Domestic Product to grow by 8%-8.5% in 2022-23.
      • World Bank and Asian Development Bank’s forecasts of real GDP growth of 8.7% and 7.5% respectively for 2022-23.
      • As per International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook projections, India’s real GDP is projected to grow by 9% in 2022-23, which would make India the fastest-growing major economy in the world.
      • Agriculture and allied sectors are expected to grow by 3.9%, industry by 11.8% and the services sector by 8.2% in 2021-22.
      • The combination of high foreign exchange reserves sustained foreign direct investment, and rising export earnings will provide an adequate buffer against possible global liquidity tapering in 2022-23.
      • The economic impact of the “second wave” was much smaller than that during the full lockdown phase in 2020-21, though the health impact was more severe.
      • The government of India’s unique response consisted of safety nets to cushion the impact on vulnerable sections of society and the business sector, a significant increase in capital expenditure to spur growth and supply-side reforms for a sustained long-term expansion.
      • The government’s flexible and multi-layered response is partly based on an “Agile” framework that uses feedback loops, and the use of eighty High-Frequency Indicators (HFIs) in an environment of extreme uncertainty.
      • The Contribution of Various sector to GDP;
        • Agriculture sector – 18.8%
        • Industry Sector -28.2%
        • Service Sector – 53%

       Fiscal Position

      • The Central Government debt has gone up from 49.1% of GDP in 2019-20 to 59.3% of GDP in 2020-21.
      • India’s merchandise exports and imports rebounded strongly and surpassed pre-COVID levels during the current financial year.
      • There was a significant pickup in net services with both receipts and payments crossing the pre-pandemic levels, despite weak tourism revenues.
      • India’s external debt crossed US $ 590 billion.
      • India's foreign exchange reserve crossed US$ 630 billion.
      • As of end-December 2021, India was the fourth-largest forex reserves holder in the world after China, Japan and Switzerland.

      Domestic Inflation

      • The decline in the Consumer Price Index (inflation measure) was due to the easing of food inflation.
      • Reduction in central excise and subsequent cuts in Value Added Tax by most States helped ease petrol and diesel prices.
      • Wholesale inflation based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) rose to 12.5% during 2021-22.

      Banking Sectors

      • RBI's Repo rate was maintained at 4% in 2021-22.
      • The Gross Non-Performing Advances ratio of Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) declined to 6.9% at the end of December 2021.

      Sustainable Development

      • India’s overall score on the NITI Aayog SDG India Index and Dashboard improved to 66 in 2020-21 from 60 in 2019-20.
      • India has the tenth-largest forest area in the world.
      • In 2020, India ranked third globally in increasing its forest area from 2010 to 2020.
      • In 2020, the forests covered 24% of India’s total geographical area, accounting for 2% of the world’s total forest area.
      • The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, was notified which is aimed at phasing out single-use plastic by 2022.
      • The Prime Minister, as a part of the national statement delivered at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow in November 2021, announced ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030 to enable further reduction in emissions.
      • The need to start the one-word movement ‘LIFE’ (Lifestyle for Environment) urging mindful and deliberate utilization instead of mindless and destructive consumption was underlined.

      Agricultural Sector

      • The Agriculture sector experienced buoyant growth in the past two years, accounting for a sizable8% (2021-22) in Gross Value Added (GVA) of the country registering a growth of 3.6% in 2020-21.
      • The Minimum Support Price (MSP) policy is being used to promote crop diversification.
      • Allied sectors including animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries are steadily emerging to be high-growth sectors and major drivers of overall growth in the agriculture
      • The Livestock sector has been a stable source of income across groups of agricultural households accounting for about 15% of their average monthly income.
      • Government facilitates food processing through various measures of infrastructure development, subsidized transportation and support for the formalization of micro food enterprises.
      • India runs one of the largest food management programmes in the world.
      • The government extended the coverage of the food security network through schemes like PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).

      Industrial Sector

      • The extent of road construction per day increased substantially in 2020-21 to 36.5 Kms per day from 28 Kms per day in 2019-20 – a rise of 30.4 %.
      • Introduction of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, a major boost provided to infrastructure-both physical as well as digital, along with measures to reduce transaction costs and improve ease of doing business, would support the pace of recovery.

      Service Sector

      • Rail freight crossed its pre-pandemic level while air freight and port traffic almost reached their pre-pandemic levels, domestic air and rail passenger traffic are increasing gradually – showing the impact of the second wave was much more muted as compared to during the first
      • India has become the 3rd largest start-up ecosystem in the world after the US and

      Social Sector

      • According to Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) data, the formalization of jobs continued during the second COVID wave; the adverse impact of COVID on the formalization of jobs was much lower than during the first COVID wave.
      • Expenditure on social services (health, education and others) by the Centre and States as a proportion of GDP increased from 6.2 % in 2014-15 to 8.6% in 2021-22. 
      • Increased allotment of funds to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) to provide a buffer for unorganized labour in rural areas during the pandemic.
      • The total Fertility Rate (TFR) came down to 2 in 2019-21 from 2.2 in 2015-16.
      • The Survey observes a decline in drop-out rates at primary, upper primary and secondary levels.

      SOCIAL ISSUES
      CHILD MARRIAGE
      Context

      • An international steering panel by the United Nations Population Fund and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNFPA-UNICEF) Global Programme to end Child Marriage is visiting India to witness state initiatives which helped in declining the incidents of child marriages. 
        • They visited to learn from India’s successes in reducing the incidence of child marriage.

      Details

      • The panel estimates that as a result of the pandemic nearly 10 million children could become child brides globally. 
        • In India, child marriage reduced from 47.4% in 2005-06 to 23.3% in 2020-21, according to the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS 5) data.
      • According to UNICEF, every year nearly 12 million girls are married before they turn 18 years of age, and it is estimated that more than 150 million additional girls will marry before 18 years by 2030. Therefore steps must be taken to end the practice.
      • In the past decade, some progress has been made in South Asia, where a girl’s risk of marrying before she is 18 has from nearly 50% to below 30%, but it is not enough, and also the progress has been uneven. 

       Related news 

      • Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has launched a nationwide campaign against child marriage.
        • He requested Citizens to start collective action against child marriage.
      • The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) leading the campaign. 
      • 70,000 women and girls led people in lighting lamps, and torchlight processions in around 10,000 villages from over 500 districts in 26 states, as part of the campaign.
      • The campaign has three main objectives:
        • To ensure the strict implementation of the law.
        • To enhance the participation of children and women and to ensure their empowerment by providing them with free education till the age of 18.
        • To provide safety to children against sexual exploitation. 

      Child Marriage in India

      • As per Census 2011, over 12 million child marriages were reported in the country.
      • Child Marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of minimum legal age (18 years).
      • According to the data released by National Family Health Survey-5 
        • In India, 8 States have a higher prevalence of child marriage than the national average; West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura top the list with more than 40% of women aged 20-24 years married below 18.
        • States with a large population of tribal poor have a higher prevalence of child marriage. In Jharkhand, 32.2% of women in the age bracket 20-24 got married before 18 years.
        • Infant mortality stood at 37.9%
        • 8% of women in the 15-19 years age bracket are anaemic. 
        • Assam too has a high prevalence of child marriage (31.8% in 2019-20).
        • States with high literacy levels and better health and social indices have performed much better; In Kerala, women who got married before the age of 18 years stood at 6.3% in 2019-20.
      • The reason behind Child Marriage
      • It is a widely practised social custom.
      • Poverty and Illiteracy of a Child's parents.
      • Social and Economic Condition of the family including the Cultural values of the family and the Surrounding Society.
      • Lack of awareness about the harmful effects Lack of easy access to Schooling.
      • Political Patronage: Due to Social acceptance politicians find it difficult to oppose the practice of child marriage as it may mean losing votes and Support. 
      • Child marriage is also widely reported to be used to traffic girls from poor and tribal families for either the Sex trade or as cheap labour.
      • It is more prevalent in rural areas.
      • Rates of Child marriage are highest in the Central and Western parts of India and lower in the eastern and southern parts of India.
      • Result of Child Marriage;
        • It Restricts access to education and better opportunities in the future. 
        • It limits the freedom of decision and promotes socio-economic and gender inequality.
        • It is associated with multiple health risks, limited Knowledge and access to, and use of, Contraception and reproductive health services and information.

      Concern 

      • Child marriage violates children’s rights, and also results in more infant and maternal deaths. Children born to adolescent mothers have a greater possibility of seeing stunted growth as they have low weight at birth. According to NFHS-5, the prevalence of child stunting is 35.5% in 2019-21.
      • About a quarter of 20-24-year-old women are married before the age of 18 years, despite that being the minimum age of marriage since 1978.  
        • The limited success of the current law raises the question of whether an increase in the minimum age would have any significant impact on reducing the incidence of child marriage
      • According to NFHS-5 (2019-21), the prevalence of underage marriages remains high, with 23% of women between 20 and 24 years of age married before the age of 18.  At the same time, the detection of such marriages remains low, with only 785 cases registered under the law in 2020.
        • This raises the question of whether the increase in the minimum age would have any significant impact on reducing child marriages.
      • Increasing the legal age for marriage for women will increase the number of marriages performed underage and render young adults without legal protection.

      Steps by Government 

      • Indian Parliament enacted several laws including the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to protect the human rights of Children.
      • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to address the declining Child Sex Ratio. 
      • PM Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) Providing Cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers.
      • Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims at girls in the age group 11-18, to empower and improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
      • Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme promotes community participation through the involvement of Student Volunteers for the empowerment of rural women
      • National Crèche Scheme to provide daycare facilities to children of the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women who are employed.
      • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-credit to poor women for various livelihood support and income-generating activities at concessional terms
      • Swadhar Greh provides relief and rehabilitation to destitute women and women in distress.
      • Ujjawala is a Comprehensive Scheme for the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and repatriation of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
      • Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for women working away from their place of residence. 
      • One-Stop Centre (OSC) and Women Helpline (WH) are being implemented to facilitate access to an integrated range of services including medical aid, police assistance, legal aid/ case management, psychosocial counselling and temporary support services to women affected by violence.
      • Emergency Response Support System set up under Nirbhaya Fund.
      • Mahila Police Volunteers, to report the incidences of violence against women. 
      • The dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961, Penalizes Giving & taking.
      • SABLA Scheme, Providing life Skills and Supplementary nutrition to out-of Schoolgirls.
      • The national database on Sexual offenders includes the name, addresses, photographs and fingerprint details of those Convicted in Sexual assault Cases. 
      • National Policy for Women, 2016
        • Addresses women's issues throughout life-Cycle, issues from education, health, economic participation, decision making, violence, Creation of an enabling environment etc.
      • In 2020, the Union government has set up a task force under Ms Jaya Jaitly, it suggested increasing the age of marriage for females to 21.
      • The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the minimum age of marriage for females to 21 years.  

      Way Forward 

      • The issue of increasing the age of marriage for women must be supported with other measures that help delay underage marriages such as access to education and improving women’s safety.
      • The practice of child marriages is largely due to the overall social customs, tradition, illiteracy, poverty, low status of women in society, and lack of awareness.  These issues cannot be tackled by legislative interventions alone.
      • There is a need for improved access to education, skill training and employment opportunities, safety for women and strengthening maternal health services to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. 
      • Need to adopt a comprehensive approach to curb the factors closely related to child marriage, including poverty eradication, better education and public infrastructure facilities for children and raising social awareness on health, nutrition, regressive social norms and inequalities. 

      SUPERSTITIONS IN INDIA
      About

      • The recent incident of brutal murders of two women as part of “ritualistic human sacrifices” in Kerala has started a debate about superstitious beliefs and witchcraft in India. 

      Present Status 

      • As per the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2021, a total of 6 deaths were linked to human sacrifices, while witchcraft was the motive for 68 killings. 
        • The maximum number of witchcraft cases were reported from Chhattisgarh (20), followed by Madhya Pradesh (18) and Telangana (11). 
        • Kerala saw two cases of human sacrifice. 
      • India saw 88 deaths due to witchcraft and 11 died as part of ‘human sacrifices, In 2020 as per the NCRB report.
      • According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2021: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana accounted for 49 out of the 68 registered cases of witchcraft in the country.
      • In India, no Union law criminalizes actions that promote the belief in witchcraft; however, several states had made laws.

      States' law

      • In 1999, Bihar became the first state to introduce a law on the subject. 
        • It defined Witches as women who were thought by society members to possess the power of harming others through the art of black magic, evil eyes, or “Mantras” (chants).
      • Bihar passed the Prevention Of Witch Practices Act, of 1999, which provides effective measures to prevent witch practices and identification of a woman as a witch and their oppression mostly prevalent in Tribal areas and to eliminate the woman’s torture, humiliation and killing by the society. 
        • The act defined it as a cognizable and non-bailable offence; meaning a police officer could make an arrest without a warrant, and bail is not automatically given.
        • It has a provision of jail term extending up to 3 months or a fine of Rs 1,000 for those who caused harm to a woman by branding her a witch. 
      • In 2001, Jharkhand also made a law. According to the law identification of ‘witches’, lead to horrific crimes against women…including death, inhumane treatment, rape, etc. 
      • In Chhattisgarh; Provision of punishment of up to 3 years of jail for identifying any person as a witch. 
      • The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013 criminalises practices related to black magic, human sacrifices, the use of magic remedies to cure ailments and other such acts which may exploit people's superstitions.
      • Odisha passed a law in 2013 to provide effective measures to tackle the menace of witch-hunting. 
      • Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act, 2017 bans several practices related to black magic and superstition, like forcing a person to walk on fire at religious festivals and the practice of piercing rods from one side of the jaw to the other. 
      • In 2018, Assam passed a law to prevent the sharing of harmful information and to ensure the protection or shelter home the possible victims.

      Way Forward

      • Witch-hunting and superstition-related crimes violate basic fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. 
      • These acts also violate provisions of several International legislations to which India is a signatory, such as; 
        • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
        • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
        • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979.
      • Illiteracy, misleading information, Orthodox and superstitious mindset of the people are the main reasons behind this evil practice. 
      • Strict implementation of the law and promotion of education and social awareness could help us to get rid of this social evil.

      HATE SPEECH 
      Context

      • The Supreme Court of India expressed concern over rising incidents of hate speeches, the Court directed the police to take suo motu action against the culprits by registering criminal cases without waiting for formal complaints.
        • The court alerted the authorities that “any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be viewed as contempt of court and appropriate action shall be taken against the erring officers”

      Details

      • The court said that hate speech cases must be dealt with IPC Sections 153A, 153B and 295A and 505, etc.
        • IPC Section 153A deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.
        • IPC Section 153B speaks about imputations, and assertions prejudicial to national integration.
        • IPC Section 295A refers to deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
        • IPC Section 505 deals with statements conducing to public mischief.

      Hate Speech 

      • Hate speech can be defined as “Any kind of communication; in speech, writing or behaviour that attacks or uses derogatory or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factors.”
      • It is an act of using threatening words or Signs within the hearing or sight of a person to create fear.
      • It has become one of the biggest challenges to the rule of law and our democratic structure.
      • Hate speech is a serious global challenge; Recently Facebook, in its Transparency Report, disclosed that it ended up taking down 3 million hateful posts from its platform while YouTube removed 25,000 posts in one month alone.

      Concern 

      • The criminal law or the Constitution does not define hate speech.
      • Hate Speech is the root of many forms of violence that are being committed.
      • One of the most visible effects of hate speech is growing electoral mobilization along communal lines.
      • It not only negatively affects human rights values but also affects the socioeconomic development of the nation and also undermines constitutional values.
      • Hate speech has reached a systemic presence in the media and the internet, from electoral campaigns to everyday life. 
      • Abusive speech directed against minority communities, disinformation campaigns on TV channels and Social Media, trolling and fake news is becoming the new normal. 
      • In 2019, the Supreme Court criticized the Election Commission, dubbing it “toothless” for not taking action against candidates engaging in hate speech during the election campaigns.

      Provisions under Present laws to deal with Hate Speech

      • There are many laws to curb hate speech. 
      • Sections 153A, 295A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code, criminalize the promotion of hostility between different groups of people on grounds of religion and language.
      • Section 125 of the Representation of People Act states that any person during an election campaign promoting feelings of hostility and hatred on grounds of religion and caste is punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years and a fine or both.  

      Suggestions to curb the menace of Hate Speech

      • Monitoring and analyzing hate speech trend 
        • Authorities must recognize, monitor, collect data and analyze hate speech trends.
      • Addressing root causes, drivers and actors of hate speech
        • Government should adopt a common understanding of the root causes and drivers of hate speech to take relevant action to best address and/or mitigate its impact. 
        • Government should also identify and support actors who challenge hate speech.
      • Engaging and supporting the victims of hate speech
        • Government should show solidarity with the victims of hate speech and enforce human rights-centred measures which aim at countering hate speech and the escalation of violence. 
      • Promote measures to ensure that the rights of victims are upheld, and their needs addressed, including through advocacy for remedies, access to justice and psychological counselling.
      • The government must also engage private sector actors, including social media companies, to address and counter hate speech, encouraging partnerships between government, industry and civil society.
      • Raise awareness about respect for human rights, non-discrimination, tolerance and understanding of other cultures and religions, as well as gender equality, including in the digital world. 
      • We should promote intercultural, interfaith and interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding.
      • Citizens' support must be used to address, counter and mitigate the impact of hate speech, as well as counteract its bearing, without restricting the right to freedom of expression.

      Way Forward 

      • Hate speech must be condemned and the law must take action. It must be treated as a violent act.
      • The Law Commission recommended the introduction of new provisions within the Indian Penal code that specifically punish provocation to violence in addition to the existing ones. 
      • Addressing hate speech requires a coordinated response that tackles the root causes and drivers of hate speech, as well as its impact on victims and societies more broadly.
      • Tackling hate speech is the responsibility of all – governments, societies, and the private sector, starting with individual women and men. All are responsible, all must act. 
      • Hate Speech promotes hatred and rift in our society; it hurt the socio-economic development of the country and also goes against the secular spirit of the Indian Constitution.
      • The Indian Constitution envisages Bharat as a secular nation and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the Preamble. There cannot be fraternity unless members of the community drawn from different religions or castes of the country can live in harmony.

      HIJAB ROW VERDICT
      Context

      • The Supreme Court of India expressed a divided opinion in the Karnataka hijab ban case.
        • Now, the matter is to be placed before the Chief Justice of India.
      • Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the requests challenging the Karnataka High Court order, however Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia allowed them.
      • The Court defined that it is a question of Article 19(1)(a) and 25(1).

      Details

      • In 1986, a Supreme Court bench in the Bijoe Emmanuel case held that forcing children to sing the anthem violated their fundamental right to religion.
      • The Supreme Court held that “Article 25 (right to practice and propagate your religion) under Indian Constitution ensure minority to find their identity under the Constitution”. 
      • The SC highlighted that “our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance”.

      Constitutional Articles related to Freedom of Religion and educational rights

      • Article 25 says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. 
        • Freedom of conscience: Inner freedom of an individual to frame his relation with God or Creatures in whatever way he desires. 
        • Right to Profess Declaration of one’s religious beliefs and faith openly and freely. 
        • Right to Practice: Performance of religious worship, rituals, ceremonies and exhibition of beliefs and ideas.
        • Right to Propagate: Transmission and promotion of one’s religious beliefs to others. But, it does not include a right to convert another person to one’s religion. 
        • Article 25 covers religious beliefs and also religious practices (rituals). 
      • Article 26: Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs, every religious denomination or any of its sections shall have the following rights:
        • Right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
        • Right to manage its affairs in matters of religion.
        • Right to own and acquire movable and immovable property.
        • Right to administer such property in accordance with the law.
      • Article 27 - Freedom from Taxation for the Promotion of a Religion
        • No person shall be forced to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. 
        • The State should not spend the public money collected by way of tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion. 
        • This provision prohibits the State from favouring and supporting one religion over the other. This also means that taxes can be used for the promotion or maintenance of all religions. 
        • This provision prohibits only the levy of a tax and not a fee.
      • Article 28 -  Freedom from Attending Religious Instruction
        • No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds.
        • No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to attend any religious instruction or worship in that institution without his consent.
      • Article 29 - Protection of Interests of Minorities
        • It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
        • No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, or language. 
      • These rights are subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions relating to fundamental rights.
        • The State is permitted to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice.

      How to Draw the Line between Matters of Religion and Matters Other Than Religion?

      • The ‘essential practice’ doctrine can be traced to a 1954 decision of the Supreme Court in the ‘Shire Mutt’ case. In this case, the Court said: “In the first place, what constitutes the essential part of a religion is primarily to be decided with reference to the doctrines of that religion itself.”
      • In 2004, the Supreme Court held that the Ananda Marga sect had no fundamental right to perform the Tandava dance in public streets since it did not constitute an essential religious practice of the sect.
      • In 2016, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the discharge of a Muslim airman from the Indian Air Force for keeping a beard.
      • In the Sabarimala case (2018), the majority ruled that the bar on entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 was not an essential or integral part of the religion, and denied the status of a separate religious denomination of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

      Argument in Support of the Hijab Ban 

      • Hijab is not an essential religious practice and the freedom of religion can be subjected to reasonable restrictions under constitutional provisions for maintaining institutional discipline.
      • Educational institutions can impose dress codes/uniforms prohibiting religious dress to ensure secular education.
      • Public places are meant to be secular, religion has to be kept out of them. 
      • The right to practice religion is subject to several restrictions and rules of public morality.
      • The spirit behind a dress code is of ensuring homogeneity in a classroom and obliterating the visible class or caste divide.

      Argument against Hijab Ban

      • Constitutional Right - Wearing of hijab is their fundamental right under the right to freedom of religion under article 25, and also wearing a hijab is an expression protected under Article 19 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression. 
      • Irrational restrictions - Government has the right to restrict fundamental rights to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of courts.
        • But, Students silently wearing a hijab/headscarf and attending class cannot in any manner be said to be a practice that disturbs “public order”.
      • While Hijab is being attacked for disrupting the ‘uniform style of clothes, no other religious symbols displayed on the body (Turban, Bindi, Sindur, Mangasutra, etc) are being questioned.
      • The Kerala High Court and the Madras High Court concluded that purdah or burkha may not be an essential religious practice but a hijab/headscarf is. 
      • India is a land of diversity, and the diversity in the classroom must reflect this social reality, as this helps students to know about different diverse groups and they learn to respect diversity. If the classroom becomes homogeneous then students could feel uncomfortable in a Heterogeneous Indian Society.  
      • When the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, officials, etc, could follow their constitutional duties while publicly following their own religious identity and values, then why can’t a common man be allowed to do so?

      Concerns 

      • Negative effect on the students, this whole controversy emerged when only a few months left before their final examination.
      • Negative impact on students’ Mental and Psychological health, as female students are already struggling at home to get an education, and now they are also struggling outside their homes. This 2 front struggle could result in an increasing dropout rate and go against the Vision of Women's empowerment. 
      • This controversy is promoting hatred and discrimination and goes against the constitutional value of ‘Brotherhood’. 
      • The female students are seeing that students from other religions are allowed to wear a turban, bindi, mangal sutra, sindoor, etc. but they are not, in the long run, this could promote division in our society and hamper peace and harmony in the nation

      Way forward

      • The Law Commission in its report mentioned that ‘Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the unity and integrity of the nation’.
      • The difference does not always imply discrimination. Diversity, both religious and regional should not be subsumed under the louder voice of the majority.    
      • Codification of all religious laws is necessary to avoid controversies related to what is and what is not essential religious practices under the Right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. 
      • There are some protocols developed for regulating educational institutions, any amendment to them must be made after consulting all stakeholders, and once a decision is made then there must be a time limit to implement them, for example, any change introduced in the dress code must be made from next academic year and not in the middle of the year so that parents and students could plan. 

      BETI BACHAO BETI PADHAO SCHEME 
      Context

      • The Union Government announced the inclusion of the skilling of girls in non-traditional livelihood (NTL) under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme.
      • The scheme will now also focus on increasing the enrolment of girls in secondary education, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. 

      Background

      • The Census of 2011 reflects a declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) between 0-6 years with an all-time low at 918.
      • A decline in CSR reflects:
        • Pre-birth discrimination through gender-biased sex selection.
        • Post-birth discrimination against girls (in form of their health, nutrition, and educational needs). 

      Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme

      • In 2015, the Union Government has launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP)
      • It is a tri-ministerial effort of;
        • Ministry of Women and Child Development.
        • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
        • Ministry of Education (Earlier Ministry of Human Resource Development).
      • Since 2021 the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Minority Affairs have also been added as partners.
      • The programme only focuses on awareness campaigns and no provision of individual cash transfers by the Government.
      • The scheme is now subsumed into Mission Shakti.
      • Objectives of the Scheme;
        • Prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination.
        • Ensure the survival and protection of the girl child.
        • Ensure the education and participation of the girl child.
        • Increase girls' participation in the fields of sports.
      • The scheme aims to achieve:
        • Improvement in the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) by 2 points every year,
        • Improvement in the percentage of institutional deliveries sustained at the rate of 95% or above.
        • 1% increase in enrolment at the secondary education level and skilling of girls/women per year.
        • To check the dropout rate among girls at secondary and higher secondary levels.
        • Raising awareness about safe menstrual hygiene management (MHM)

      INDIA DISCRIMINATION REPORT 2022
      Context

      • Gender-based discrimination is the reason for 98% of the employment gap between males and females in urban India, an extensive analysis by Oxfam India has found.

      Key Findings of the India Discrimination Report 2022 

      • Labour force participation rate (LFPR)
        • LFPR of women in India was just 25% in 2021. It is broadly lower than Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.
        • LFPR of women was 42.7% in 2004-05, and the significant decline indicates the withdrawal of women from the workforce despite rapid economic growth during the same period.
        • The low participation was largely due to gender discrimination in wages and opportunities.
      • Wage Gap
        • Self-employed urban males earn 2.5 times more than their female counterparts. 83%of this wage gap is attributed to gender-based discrimination.
        • The research found that discrimination against women in India is so high that there is hardly any difference observed across religious and caste-based sub-groups. All women, regardless of their socio-economic position, are highly discriminated against.
        • In rural areas, 93% of the gap in earnings between men and women is due to gender discrimination.
      • Discrimination delinked with educational qualifications
        • The employment status of women does not depend on their educational qualifications. This leads to the alarming result emerging from a mathematical model that gender discrimination is almost total in the country. This is partly because women candidates are not selected by employers due to their gender-linked prejudices.
      • Social Norms
        • A sizable segment of qualified women is not available in the labour market because of “family responsibilities” or the need to conform to social norms, status within the caste hierarchy and community, family traditions, etc, that are often at odds with participation in the labour force.
        • Women in well-educated and economically better-off households often withdraw from the labour force due to socio-cultural reasons.
        • Women do not enter the labour market due to “family reasons,” a lack of safety associated with travelling and timing requirements of jobs in addition to esoteric reasons ranging from “societal norms” and practices that associate respectability with staying out of the workforce for women."
      • Lack of salaried jobs
        • 60% of urban men are engaged in salaried jobs or are self-employed, whereas this figure is reduced to a mere 19% for women.
        • While 53.8% of the 15+ population of men is engaged in salaried or self-employed work in rural areas, the figure for women is 23.3% only.
      • Scenario in rural areas
        • In rural areas, any “social capital” gains, in terms of the education of the heads of households, reduce women’s probability of participation in regular salaried or self-employed work, implying that women from such households are less likely to seek and get jobs.
      • Exception of SC, ST communities
        • There is a deviation for women belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, as observed by the Oxfam India study.
        • SC and ST women start working at an early age without any formal education due to desperate socio-economic conditions, the report noted. This means that more than educational qualifications or age, social factors are greater determinants for rural women stepping out – or keeping away – from work.
        • Notably, persons belonging to SC and ST communities earn Rs 5,000 less than the national average. 

      Effect of COVID-19: Key Findings

      • Women during the first quarter of the pandemic (April-June 2020) recorded a massive increase in their unemployment rate, similar to that of men in urban areas. However, in rural areas, the unemployment rate for women was less than that of men over the same period. The diminished effect of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns on women's employment in rural areas could be due to women being engaged in agriculture and home-based activities in rural areas.
      • The urban unemployment rate for women did not rise above men because a large segment of women workers was engaged as domestic help and in unskilled jobs, regularly, which saw less impact.
      • The pandemic-induced lockdowns constrained the mobility of women much more than men, resulting in high employment losses in urban areas.

      Recommendations to address the discrimination

      • Actively enforce legislation for the protection of the right to equal wages and work.
      • Work to actively incentivize the participation of women in the workforce, including enhancements in pay, upskilling, job reservations, easy return-to-work options, particularly after maternity leave, and the option to work from home, wherever possible.
      • Work to ensure a more equitable distribution of household work and childcare duties between women and men.
      • Implement “living wages” as opposed to minimum wages, particularly for all informal workers, and formalize contractual, temporary, and casual labour as much as possible. 

      Challenges faced by Women Workforce in India

      • More women in the rural area in the labour force Compared to Urban areas.
      • Gender wage gaps remain in every employment.
      • The double burden on women: Balancing employment and domestic responsibilities (including household chores and caregiving).
      • Safety concerns, Sexual harassment at the workplace.
      • Migration, Unfair Sex ratio, and Environmental degradation have added to women’s vulnerability.
      • India is a male-dominated Society in which the Economic, Political, Religious, Social and Cultural institutions are largely controlled by men.
      • Control over women’s livelihood Choices and Sexuality has existed and evolved over Centuries through various discriminatory Social Practices and Institutions.
      • Despite laws, gender-based discrimination against women continues in Indian Society. Clearly shows the laws and gaps in their implementation.
      • The structure of judicial remedies is still insufficient to serve the needs of women, Particularly Poor and marginalized women, in accessing justice.
      • Development Programmes introduced to bring gender equality have produced mixed results. Legislative Changes have faced resistance in their implementation due to Social, Cultural and religious Customs.
      • There is no comprehensive policy support and there is a lack of effective implementation.
      • There is a lack of match between the aspirations of more educated women and the quality and availability of jobs. Further, there is a lack of salaried opportunities available for women with moderate levels of education.
      • Insufficient formal wages and poor job opportunities are other reasons for the decline.
      • While social norms and family commitments are important issues, factors such as terms of employment, working conditions, mobility limitations, and hiring practices also make things difficult.
      • Women’s workforce participation is declining in rural India and is low and stagnant in urban India, primarily due to the shrinking of the agriculture sector.
      • The lack of formal enterprises and the absence of 200 cities with 30-minute safe commutes explain a lot, if not most, of this tragedy.
      • A large proportion of the women who left the labour market are
      • Many women who join the workforce are unable to re-join after having a child.
      • If women's perceived productivity at home is greater than their returns in the labour market, women are likely to withdraw from the labour force.
      • Barriers to migration for women, Discrimination, in the Workplace are other factors.

      Steps taken by Government to improve women's labour force participation

      • Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims at girls in the age group 11-18, to empower and improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
      • Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme promotes community participation through the involvement of Student Volunteers for the empowerment of rural women
      • National Crèche Scheme to provide daycare facilities to children of the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women who are employed.
      • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-credit to poor women for various livelihood support and income-generating activities at concessional terms
      • Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for women working away from their place of residence.
      • SABLA Scheme, Providing life Skills and Supplementary nutrition to School girls.
      • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 -Cover all women, of all ages, both in the public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized.
      • The Government enhanced paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, provision for mandatory crèche facilities in establishments having 50 or more employees, permitted women workers in the night shifts with adequate safety measures, etc.
      • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 now subsumed in the Code on Wages, 2019 provides that there shall be no discrimination in an establishment on the ground of gender in matters relating to wages by the same employer, in respect of the same work or work of similar nature done by any employee.
      • To enhance the employability of female workers, the Government is providing training to them through a network of Women's Industrial Training institutes, National Vocational Training Institutes and Regional Vocational Training Institutes.

      ATROCITIES AGAINST SCs/STs
      Context

      • A Class 7 Dalit boy was allegedly beaten by his school teacher after that the student fell unconscious.
        • Several Dalit organisations protested against the teacher and school management and following that the accused teacher was taken into custody.
      • Recently, a nine-year-old Dalit student was allegedly beaten by a teacher for touching a pot in the school, the child died during treatment.

      Related News

      • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has expressed serious concern over the increasing trend of crimes against the oppressed sections, especially Dalits.
      • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an advisory to the States/Union Territories for identifying areas prone to atrocities against Dalits.
      • The Ministry has also suggested deploying adequate manpower/infrastructure to safeguard the life and property of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.
      • The guidelines have also highlighted the need for strong enforcement of the statutory provisions and laws relating to offences against SC/ STs.

      Dalits in India 

      • According to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau.
        • Crimes against scheduled tribe (ST) communities increased by 9.3% to a total of 8,272 cases registered in 2020.
        • Crime against Scheduled caste (SC) communities increased by 9.4% to a total of 50,291 cases registered in 2020.
      • They face Social discrimination in their day-to-day life, which in turn limit their Education, health, economic opportunities, liberty, freedom, etc, and erode their chance to live a life of dignity, as they face different kind of stereotype like in the case of theft, crime, etc they came in the circle of doubt and were also arrested by police.
      • Many people hide their caste identity by adopting a different name, or title, or they migrate to another place and start a new life by hiding their caste identity, by doing this they can save themselves from social discrimination and lead a life of dignity, and take benefit of economic opportunities and improve the standard of living. 
      • India is a democratic country; governments at every stage have tried to readdress these discriminations and ensured certain rights and protection for different groups of people, provided equal opportunities to all citizens, and also prohibited any kind of discrimination based on religion, caste, gender etc. 
        • Through Constitutional equality, they provided all people with the same level of opportunities and a proper mechanism to get justice.
      • They mainly face violence due to their so-called lower caste status in the social Caste System hierarchy.

      Steps taken to ensure socio-economic equality for Dalits, and other marginalized sections of the society. 

      • Article 17 of the Indian Constitution abolishes Untouchability.
      • Article 46 requires the State ‘to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
      • Article 335 provides that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or a State.
      • Article 15(4) refers to the special provisions for their advancement.
      • Article 16(4A) speaks of “reservation in matters of appointment/promotion’
      • Article 338 provides for a National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with duties to investigate and monitor all matters relating to safeguards provided for them.
      • Article 330 and Article 332 of the Constitution respectively provide for the reservation of seats in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and the legislative assemblies of the States. 
      • Part IX of the Indian Constitution relating to the Panchayats and Part IXA of the Constitution relating to the Municipalities provides reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in local bodies.
      • The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal Ministry to oversee the interests of the Scheduled Castes.
        • The Scheduled Castes Development (SCD) Bureau promotes the welfare of Scheduled Castes through their educational, economic and social empowerment.
      • Pre-Matric Scholarships.
      • Scholarships for obtaining Higher Education and Coaching Scheme.
      • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, of 1955 was enacted to provide punishment for the practice of untouchability. 
      • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
      • Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995.
      • Enactment of “Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
      • The ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’.     

      Way forward

      • In democratic Societies there is nothing to legally stop a Person from the most deprived Class and Caste from reaching the highest Position, but these legal rights also need socioeconomic support from the government as affirmative action.
      • Education can play an important role in reducing caste rigidity in our society.
      • Governments need to take effective affirmative action based on strong data to ensure the socio-economic development of marginalized people living at the bottom of the social hierarchy.   
      • People also need to understand that our Sources of knowledge about the past and especially the ancient Past are inadequate. It is difficult to be very certain about what things were like at that time, or the reasons why some institutions and Practices came to be established. 
        • But even if we knew all this, just because something happened in the Past or is Part of our tradition, it is not necessarily right or wrong forever. 
        • Every age has to think afresh about such questions and Come to its own Collective decision about its Social institutions.
      • Discrimination is an evil present in every society, which limits the political, social, economical, and cultural opportunities of people and promotes a sense of insecurity among them stereotypes push them to that limit where they see violence as the only option to fight against discrimination. 
      • Therefore, it is necessary for all the society to get rid of this evil, to create a sustainable peaceful and tolerant society, where everyone could equally contribute in Nation building.

      ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
      BLUE FLAG BEACHES 
      Context

      • International eco-label "Blue Flag”, has been accorded to two new Indian beaches; Minicoy Thundi Beach and Kadmat Beach- both in Lakshadweep, with this the number of beaches certified under the Blue Flag certification increased to 12 in India.

      BLUE FLAG

      • It is an internationally recognized eco-label that is accorded based on 33 criteria. These criteria are divided into 4 major heads namely; Environmental education and information, Bathing water quality, Environmental management, and Conservation and safety services on the beaches.
      • Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches in the world.
      • It is accorded by the international jury composed of eminent members - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and Denmark-based NGO Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
      • The mission of Blue Flag is to promote sustainability in the tourism sector, through environmental education, environmental protection and other sustainable development practices.

      BEAMS program

      • Under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) has piloted the Beach Environment & Aesthetic Management Service (BEAMS) Programme.
      • The objective of the BEAMS program is to abate pollution in coastal waters, promote sustainable development of beach facilities, protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources, and seriously challenge local authorities & stakeholders to strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness, hygiene & safety for beachgoers in accordance with coastal environment & regulations.
      • Under this programme, various activities related to pollution abatement, beach awareness, aesthetics, safety, surveillances services and environmental education, etc., have been done at identified beaches aimed to achieve international standards for Blue Flag Beach Certification.
      • A total of 12 beaches situated in 6 States and 4 Union Territories have been developed at par with the best international beaches with safe and ecologically sustainable infrastructure, acceptable bathing water quality, self-sustaining energy supply and environmentally sound services/management measures.
      • Beaches that have been conferred with internationally recognized Blue Flag Certification are;
      1. Shivrajpur, Devbhumi Dwarka District, Gujarat
      2. Ghoghla (Diu) Dadara Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu
      3. Padubidri, Udupi District, Karnataka
      4. Kasarkod, Karwar District, Karnataka
      5. Kappad, Kozhikode District, Kerala
      6. Kovalam, Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu
      7. Eden, Puducherry District, Puducherry
      8. Rushikonda, Vishakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh
      9. Golden, Puri District, Odisha
      10. Radhanagar (Havelock), Andaman & Nicobar Islands
      11. Minicoy Thundi Beach in Lakshadweep
      12. Kadmat Beach in Lakshadweep

      HEATWAVES
      Context

      • According to a new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report “Nearly all the world’s children will be exposed to more frequent and severe heatwaves by 2050”.
      • The report highlighted that even under a low greenhouse gas emission scenario “virtually every child on earth” will face severe heat waves. 

      Key Points of the Report

      • Heatwaves with longer duration pose more risks for children as they spend more time outdoors than adults for sports and other activities.
      • Nearly 25% of children live in areas where the average heatwave event lasts 4.7 days or longer in 2020. This percentage will rise to over 75% by 2050.
      • Children in southern, western and south-eastern Asia, eastern and southern Europe and northern Africa experience heatwaves for a longer duration.
      • Children are affected by heat; Risks to health and well-being and Social and educational risks.
        • Heatwaves lead to poor health and nutrition among children and are linked to lower academic performance and attendance. 
        • High temperatures and lower hydration affect children’s ability to concentrate.
      • Heatwave increase health risks; heat stroke, heat stress, allergy, chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, mosquito-borne disease, cardiovascular disease, under-nutrition and diarrhoea.
      • High temperatures are linked to increased mental health problems in children and adolescents, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
      • The report stated that extreme heat affects children’s education and future livelihoods.
      • Heatwaves also threaten children’s safety. Communities are forced to search for new resources. The resulting migration, displacement and conflict expose children to serious physical harm and violence risks.
      • The report stressed adopting adaptation and mitigation strategies. The report said the countries must:
        • Protecting children from climate devastation by encouraging social services.
        • Preparing children to live in a climate-changed world.
        • Prioritising children and youth in climate finance and resources.
        • Preventing a climate catastrophe by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

      What is a Heat Wave?

      • A heatwave is a period of excessively hot weather, with high humidity, especially in oceanic climate areas.
      • Heatwaves are usually measured relative to the usual weather in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season.
      • The definitions of heatwave vary from region to region. Temperatures that people from a hotter climate consider normal can be called a heatwave in a cooler area if they are outside the normal climate pattern for that area.
      • Severe heatwaves have caused catastrophic crop failures, thousands of deaths from hyperthermia and widespread power outages due to increased use of air conditioning.
      • A heat wave is considered extreme weather that can be a natural disaster and a danger because heat and sunlight may overheat the human body.
      • Heatwaves can usually be detected using forecasting instruments so that a warning call can be issued.
      • Climate models reveal that future heatwaves will have a more intense geographic pattern. The world will experience more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting heat waves in the second half of the 21st century.
      • Increased anthropogenic activities causing increased greenhouse gas emissions show that heat waves will be more severe.
      • Heatwaves and droughts, as a result, minimize ecosystem carbon uptake. Carbon uptake is also known as carbon sequestration. 
        • This will cause changes in the ecosystem's carbon cycle feedback because there will be less vegetation to hold the carbon from the atmosphere, which will only contribute more to atmospheric warming.

      How do heat waves form?

      • A heatwave is formed when static high pressure is generated in the upper atmosphere over a region for several days up to several weeks.
      • This static high pressure generates a hot mass of air, which is stagnant for many days and weeks, which results in the trapping of more heat that also reduces the convection currents.
      • The high pressure acts as a barrier and forces the mass of air to sink to the surface of the land that preventing heat from rising.
      • This hot mass of air accumulates only heat and humidity without any trace of precipitation that causes abnormally high temperatures. It is very common during the summer season, from May to November in the northern hemisphere.
      • The seal keeps out convection currents that form clouds and eventually rain clouds, both of which would help the area affected cool off.
      • Instead, the result is a heatwave that has both high heat and high humidity near the ground.
      • These heat waves can last from days to weeks.

       

      • A heatwave occurs when a system of high atmospheric pressure moves into an area and lasts two or more days.
        • In such a high-pressure system, air from the upper levels of our atmosphere is pulled toward the ground, where it becomes compressed and temperature increases.
      • This high concentration of pressure makes it difficult for other weather systems to move into the area, which is why a heatwave can last for several days or weeks.
        • The longer the system stays in an area, the hotter the area becomes.
      • The high-pressure system also prevents clouds from entering the region; sunlight can become punishing, heating the system even more.
      • The combination of all of these factors comes together to create the exceptionally hot temperatures we call a heatwave.
      • This is common in summer (in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres) as the jet stream 'follows the sun'.

      Heatwave in India

      • In India, a region or locality is considered to be under the influence of a heatwave if the maximum temperature reaches or exceeds;
        • 40 degrees Celsius in the plains.
        • 30 degrees Celsius in hilly regions.
        • 37 degrees Over the coastal regions
      • When the maximum temperature departure ranges between 4.5 and 6 degrees, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) declares a heatwave.
        • For example; If the normal temperature of a locality should be 40 degrees, and the actual recorded temperature is 45 degrees, the locality is under a heatwave.
        • A severe heatwave is declared when the recorded maximum temperature of a locality departure from normal is over 6.4 degrees.
      • In India, heat waves occur from March to June, occasionally in July. The peak heatwave events have been reported in May.
      • As per the IMD, the most heatwave-prone states are Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Vidarbha, and parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and occasionally over Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

      Implications of Heat Waves
      Social impacts

      • Extreme heat can lead to heat-related illness and death, particularly in elderly populations, the poor, outdoor workers, and urban areas.
      • Heatwaves exacerbate the urban heat island effects, amplifying temperatures in built environments, and resulting in poorer air quality due to the creation of ozone that negatively impacts health.
      • Heat-related mortality is expected to be higher in cities, particularly those characterised by high population density, inequalities, limited access to health care, high pollution levels and fewer green spaces.

      Economic impacts

      • Multiple areas of the economic sector experience reduced worker productivity during heatwaves, especially agriculture and construction.
      • Globally, 2% of total working hours are projected to be lost every year, either because it is too hot to work or because workers have to work at a slower pace.
      • Lost productivity from heat stress at work, particularly in developing countries, is expected to be valued at $ 4.2 trillion per year by 2030, driving more inequality.
      • The agricultural sector, where 940 million people earn their livelihood, is set to be harder hit by hotter temperatures, pushing workers, crops and livestock past their physiological heat and drought tolerances.
      • This will result in lost labour, smaller harvests for farmers and higher prices for consumers, and negative impacts on livelihoods.
      • A World Bank report suggests that by 2050, about 600 million Indians will live in places that could experience a loss of living standards, which could cost 2.8% of the GDP, stalling efforts to pull large parts of the population out of poverty.
      • Increasing energy demand for cooling also comes as an extensive economic cost to residents, businesses, and governments.
      • With these extreme heat events, the need for access to cooling should be viewed as a basic necessity – not just for health and productivity reasons but, in some cases, even for survival.

      Ecological impacts

      • Heatwaves, without concomitant increases in precipitation, can lead to water shortages and increased stress for plants, particularly in arid regions.
      • This has the effect of reducing plant growth, the basis of energy production and the food chain, with an overall drying-out of the landscape.
      • For example, the 2003 European heatwave resulted in a 10% loss in glacier mass in Europe, which was five times more than the average annual loss.
        • Similar impacts were reported for the French Alps in 2019.
      • Over time, such deep permafrost warming and thawing could cause landslides and rockfalls, continuing the negative ecological impacts. 

      Health Impacts of Heat Waves

      • The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
      • Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing morbidities are particularly vulnerable.
      • Vegetable vendors, cab drivers, construction workers, police personnel, roadside kiosk operators and mostly weaker sections of society have to work in the extreme heat to make ends meet and are extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of heatwaves such as dehydration, heat and sunstrokes.

      Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies

      • The Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies are intended to mobilise individuals and communities to help protect their neighbours, friends, relatives, and themselves against avoidable health problems during spells of very hot weather.
      • Government agencies need to play a critical role in preparing and responding to heat waves at a local level, working closely with health and other related departments on a long-term strategic plan.
      • Establish Early Warning System and Inter-Agency Coordination to alert residents on predicted high and extreme temperatures. Who will do what, when, and how is made clear to individuals and units of key departments, especially for health.
      • Capacity building/training programme for health care professionals at the local level to recognize and respond to heat-related illnesses, particularly during extreme heat events.
        • These training programmes should focus on medical officers, paramedical staff and community health staff so that they can effectively prevent and manage heat-related medical issues to reduce mortality and morbidity.
      • Public Awareness and community outreach - Disseminating public awareness messages on how to protect against the extreme heatwave through print, electronic and social media and Information, Education and Communication materials such as pamphlets, posters and advertisements and Television Commercials on Do and Don’t and treatment measures for heat-related illnesses.
      • Collaboration with non-government and civil society to improve bus stands, build temporary shelters, wherever necessary, improve water delivery systems in public areas and other innovative measures to tackle Heatwave conditions.
      • Identifying heat hot spots through appropriate tracking of meteorological data and promoting timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency coordination, and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups.
      • Review of existing occupational health standards, labour laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in climatic conditions.
      • Policy intervention and coordination across three sectors health, water and power are necessary.
      • Expedite the rollout of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and Health.
        • Preventing temperature-related morbidity and mortality could be a key programme under this mission.
        • Ensure an adequate supply of water. Timely access to drinking water can help mitigate this escalation.
      • Further research using sub-district level data to provide separate indices for urban and rural areas to enable more targeted geographical interventions.
      • Provision of public messaging (radio, TV), mobile phone-based text messages, automated phone calls and alerts.
      • Promotion of traditional adaptation practices, such as staying indoors and wearing comfortable clothes.
      • Popularisation of simple design features such as shaded windows, underground water storage tanks and insulating housing materials.
      • Advance implementation of local Heat Action Plans, plus effective inter-agency coordination is a vital response that the government can deploy to protect vulnerable groups.

      WB CURRENT AFFAIRS
      National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a penalty on the West Bengal government 
      Context

      • The National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty of Rs 3,500 crore as environmental compensation for its failure in the treatment of solid and liquid waste.
      • The green bench order said that for failure in liquid waste management processing, the "liability of the state is to pay compensation of Rs 2,980 crores, rounded off to Rs 3,000 crore given continuing damage."
        • "Final amount of compensation under the two heads (solid and liquid waste) is assessed at Rs 3500 crore. 

      National Green Tribunal

      • It is a Statutory Body under National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act 2010. 
      • It ensures environmental justice.
      • It is not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure; it is guided by principles of natural justice.
      • Disposal of applications within 6 months.
      • Currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (the Act allows for up to 20 of each).
      • Only a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Chief Justice of a High Court Can be appointed as Chairman.
      • Members are chosen by a Selection Committee (headed by a sitting judge of S(C).
        • Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
        • Expert members are Chosenfrom applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary.
      • Expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
      • Chairman and members term of 5 yrs and are not eligible for re-appointment.
      • NGT pass orders or provides Compensation under;
        • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
        • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, Forest (Conservation) Act.
        • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
        • Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
        • Public Liability Insurance Act 1991.
        • Biological Diversity Act 2002.
      • The act proposed to Set up 5 places for Sittings:
        • New Delhi
        • Bhopal
        • Pune
        • Kolkata
        • Chennai

      West Bengal bagged International Travel Award 

      • West Bengal has bagged the International Tourism award for ‘best destination for culture’.
      • The Pacific Area Travel Writers Association, an affiliate of the UN World Tourism Organization, will confer West Bengal with the International Travel Award 2023 for ‘Best Destination for Culture’. 
      • The award will be presented in Berlin, Germany at the World Tourism and Aviation Leaders’ Summit in March 2023.
      • Banerjee will attend the award ceremony in Berlin next year. She had earlier gone to the UN to receive appreciation for the ‘Kanyashree’ welfare scheme.
      • The Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) is a professional travel writers' organization established in 1998.

       Tajpur deep sea port 

      • West Bengal State Government has approved a proposal for issuing a letter of intent (LoI) to Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for the development of a Greenfield deep sea port at Tajpur, Purba Medinipur district, West Bengal.
      • The cost of the project is around Rs 25,000 crore.
      • The port would entail an investment of Rs 15,000 crore.

      Purba Medinipur District 

      • The headquarters is in Tamluk.
      • It was formed in 2002 after the Partition of Midnapore into Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur which lies at the northern and western border of it. 
      • The Tamluk town in present-day West Bengal is identified as the site of the Port city of Tamralipti. 
      • Purba Medinipur district is part of the lower Indo-Gangetic Plain and Eastern coastal plains.
      • The major rivers are Haldi, Rupnarayan, Rasulpur, Bagui, and Keleghai, flowing in the north-to-south or southeast direction. 
      • It is ranked first in literacy in comparison to other districts of West Bengal. 
      • Digha is a seaside resort town in the Purba Medinipur district
      • Haldia oil refinery is one of the ten refineries of the Indian Oil Corporation. It was commissioned in 1975. 
      • The oil refinery in Haldia was built with French collaboration and the Lube sector with Romanian collaboration. 
      • Famous Personalities: Matangini Hazra (Famous As Gandhi Budhi)

      Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park 

      • The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park of Darjeeling, West Bengal has been recognized as the best zoo in India.
      • The ranking list was released by the Central Zoo Authority
      • Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (also known as Darjeeling Zoo) was established in 1958.
      • The park is internationally recognized for its breeding and conservation programs of endangered animal species including the Snow Leopard and the Red Panda.

      World’s largest religious monument 

      • World's largest religious monument Temple of Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, West Bengal.
      • The project cost around $100 million and it is expected to open in 2024.
      • The temple will be the headquarters of the ISKON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness).
      • It will be one of the tallest Hindu temples in the world. 

       India International Seafood Show

      • The Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) will host the 23rd India International Seafood Show (IISS) in Kolkata.
      • MPEDA Chairman Dr K.N. Raghavan announced that the biennial showpiece event in the seafood sector will be organized in February 2023. 

      La Ganesan

      • La Ganesan was appointed as the new Governor of West Bengal.
      • Governor of Manipur La Ganesan got the additional charge of West Bengal after the resignation of Dhankhar.
      • He was born in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu. 

      CREATION OF DISTRICTS
      Context

      • The State cabinet of West Bengal headed by the Chief Minister has approved the creation of 7 new districts in the state.
        • This will increase the number of districts in West Bengal from the existing 23 to 30.
      • The Chief Minister stated that;
        • A new Sundarban district will be carved out of the South 24-Parganas district.
        • 2 new districts will be created out of the North 24-Parganas district.
        • A new district in Basirhat.
        • A new district will be carved out of the existing Bankura district.
        • 2 new districts will be created out of the Murshidabad district. 

      Creation of New Districts

      • States keep creating new districts from time to time to make governance easier and to bring the government and the administration closer to the people. 
      • Sometimes, the decision to create a new district is influenced by local demands.
      • In April 2022, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister announced 13 new districts to fulfil his election promise.
        • He believes that the decentralisation and smaller administrative units will bring better and more transparent governance and smoother and more effective delivery of welfare.
        • The same reasons would apply to West Bengal too. 
      • As per Census 2011 figures, on average 4 million people live in each of the 23 districts in West Bengal.
        • This is among the highest in the country.
      • The Power to decide on creating or scrapping districts or changing their boundaries lies with the state governments, who can pass a law in the Assembly or simply issue an order and notify it in the gazette. 
        • The Union government does play a role, however, when a change of name of a district or railway station is changed. 
        • The request of the state government is sent to several central government departments to get a no-objection certificate.

      Districts in Indian

      • The number of districts around the country is increasing with time. 
        • The 2001 Census recorded 593 districts, which increased to 640 in 2011. 
        • Currently, India has more than 775 districts.
      • Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of districts (75) in the country, with Madhya Pradesh (52) in the 2nd position. 
      • Goa has only 2 districts. 
      • The Kachchh district of Gujarat is the largest in the area.
      • Mahe district of the Puducherry union territory is the smallest district in the area.
      • The largest district by population is Thane (Maharashtra).
      • Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh is the lowest populated district of India.

      Kolkata 

      • Kolkata is the first metro city in the country to prepare a detailed register of biodiversity. 
      • It was prepared by the biodiversity management committee (BMC) of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

      Jute Industry

      • West Bengal is experiencing a crisis that has led to the closure of several Jute Mills. 
      • India is the largest producer of jute followed by Bangladesh.  
      • Major jute-producing states are West Bengal and Bihar.
      • Jute is known as golden fibre.  
      • The first jute mill was established at Rishra (Bengal - now in West Bengal), on the river Hooghly near Calcutta in the year
      • India is the world's largest producer of raw jute and jute goods. West Bengal is the largest producer of jute in India. 
      • West Bengal alone accounts for over 50 % of raw jute production.  
      • Jute is grown in major parts of the lower Ganges plains, especially in the districts of Medinipur, Bardhaman, 24 Paraganas, Malda, Murshidabad etc. 

      Darjeeling zoo to release Red Panda in Singalila National Park.

      • Singalila National Park is one of the highest protected areas in West Bengal
      • Darjeeling Zoo has initiated an ambitious programme to expand the wild red panda population. 
        • The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling will release 20 Red Pandas into the forests. 
      • In recent decades, the number of red pandas has declined in the wild.
      • Singalila and Neora Valley National Parks in West Bengal are the two protected areas where the red panda is found, even in these protected areas the panda population has declined.
        • According to recent studies, there are 38 of them in Singalila and 32 in Neora. 
      • The Padmaja Naidu park is at a height of about 2,000 metres above sea level, is one of the high-altitude zoos in the country and has been quite successful in captive breeding of the Panda. 
      • Red pandas are categorised as an endangered species as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
      • Red pandas are shy, solitary and arboreal animals and are regarded as an important indicator species for ecological change.

      Singalila National Park

      • Singalila National Park is located on the Singalila Ridge at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above sea level.
      • It is in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.
      • It is bordered on the north by Sikkim and on the west by Nepal.
      • The park is part of the Eastern Himalayas. 
      • The Singalila Ridge runs roughly from North to South and it separates Himalayan West Bengal from the other Eastern Himalayan ranges.
      • The two highest peaks of West Bengal: Sandakphu (3630 m) and Phalut (3600 m), are located inside the park.
      • Rammam river and Srikhola River flow through the park.
      • Flora - Thick bamboo, oak, magnolia, rhododendron and numerous orchids.
      • Sandakphu is also known as the "mountain of poisonous plants" due to the presence of large numbers of Himalayan cobra lilies (Arisaema).
      • Fauna - Red panda, leopard cat, barking deer, wild boar, pangolin, Himalayan black bear, leopard, clouded leopard, Tigers, Himalayan Vulture, scarlet minivet, parrotbills, golden-breasted fulvetta, etc.

      Internet Exchange Points at Durgapur and Bardhaman

      • The Internet exchanges were launched under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India vision to connect every Indian with open, safe & trusted and accountable internet and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) vision 1000 days.
      • Internet exchanges in states are expected to contribute to the enhancement and improvement of Internet and Broadband services in West Bengal and neighbouring regions.

      West Bengal and Sikkim have signed an agreement to promote tourism

      • The State governments of West Bengal and Sikkim have signed an agreement to help tourists to travel between the two neighbouring states with ease in a bid to boost tourism.
      • The agreement was signed between West Bengal transport minister Firhad Hakim and Sikkim tourism minister Sanjit Kharel.
      • The agreement will allow West Bengal-registered commercial vehicles to drop tourists at their hotels in different destinations in Sikkim.
      • At Present, after getting down at Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station in West Bengal, people have to take Sikkim-registered vehicles to reach the state, as there were restrictions on West Bengal-registered vehicles in the Himalayan state
      • The two governments also agreed to increase the number of vehicles being operated between Siliguri and the popular tourist destinations in Sikkim.

      Chief Minister as the Chancellor of State Universities

      • The government of West Bengal is to introduce 6 legislations in the Assembly to make Chief Minister the Chancellor of all the State-run universities.
      • Recently the Cabinet passed a resolution to appoint the Chief Minister as Chancellor of all State universities.
      • Generally, the post of Chancellor is held by the State’s Governor.
      • The State government has accused the Governor of interfering in the working of state universities.
      • The Governor had also indicated that he is not ready to allow the government to enact the legislation.

      SKOCH Award

      • West Bengal government has bagged the SKOCH award for ‘ease of doing business’.
      • West Bengal has topped nationally in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’. 
      • The Chief Minister has said that this award is being given for the initiatives taken by us in introducing around 100 new online services, reducing and rationalisation around 500 business-related compliance burdens on the industry, developing department-wise dashboards, etc. Egiye Bangla.
      • The state has recently won a SKOCH award for education.

      In West Bengal, 78.9% of the households have bicycles, the highest in the country, as per the
      National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5).

      • While the National average is 50.4%.
      • Uttar Pradesh holds the second rank with 75.6% of the households owning a bicycle.
      • A senior West Bengal government official said the top spot could be bagged because of the state government's 'Sabooj Sathi' scheme.

      Sabooj Sathi

      • Hon’ble Finance Minister, in his Budget Speech of 2015-2016, announced a scheme for the distribution of bicycles to an estimated 40 lakh students studying in classes IX to XII in Government Government Aided Schools and Madrasahs of the State. 
      • The scheme is well-known as “Sabooj Sathi” as coined by the Hon’ble Chief Minister herself and it reflects her desire to see young students empowered to achieve new feats in the future through the bicycles provided under the scheme. 
      • Chief Minister has also created the scheme logo which is firmly attached to the basket in front of the bicycle. Hon’ble CM flagged off the distribution in October 2015 from Paschim Medinipur.
      • Till May 11, 1, 03,97,444 students have received bicycles in West Bengal under the 'Sabooj Sathi' scheme.

      Swasthya Sathi health card

      • West Bengal CM stated that strict action will be taken against hospitals that refuse to accept the Swasthya Sathi health card.
      • It is a health scheme launched by Ms Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal. 
      • Swasthya Sathi Scheme aims to benefit 7.5 crore, people of the state, by providing financial health support of Rs 5 lakh to every family. 
      • The Scheme offers the citizens of West Bengal, a smart card through which they can avail of healthcare benefits covering up to 5 Lakh. 
      • The scheme was announced for the first time in February 2016 and was officially launched on 30th December 2016 by the Chief Minister of West Bengal. 
      • It is a cashless health Scheme to get all the health-related cost benefits.

      Bengal Global Business Summit

      • To showcase to the world that ‘Bengal Means Business’ and explore more business opportunities, and forge partnerships and collaboration, the state is organizing the 6th edition of Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) on April 20-21, 2022.
      • West Bengal is the 6th largest state of India in economic size with a GSDP of INR 14.44 lakh crore (US$ 206.64 billion) in 2020-21. 
      • The State has witnessed a positive growth rate of 1.2% despite the pandemic in 2020-21. 
      • The Bengal Global Business Summit is an ideal platform for forging alliances, tying up partnerships, and acquiring a clear vision of the opportunities that the state provides for expanding business, making new investments, setting up green field manufacturing projects and associated activities.
      • BGBS 2019 attracted the participation of over 4000 delegates including 450 international delegates from 35 countries. The business proposed in the earlier five editions of BGBS amounts to INR 12,35,578 crore.
      • The 6th edition of BGBS has FICCI and CII as its Business Partners and KPMG, EY, PWC and CRISIL as its Knowledge Partners.
      • This forum offers free-flowing and seamless interactions for the stakeholders to explore investment possibilities and potential in the state and to become partners in our growth story.
      • The business proposed in the earlier five editions of the Bengal Global Business Summit amounted to ?1,235,578 crore, according to data shared by the state government.

      Alipurduar district

      • An adult red kangaroo was rescued from Kumargram near the West Bengal-Assam border in the Alipurduar district.
      • The Discovery of kangaroos in West Bengal raises questions about animal trafficking by Indian zoos.
      • Alipurduar District was made a district in 2014 after splitting from the Jalpaiguri District. 
        • The district headquarters Alipurduar is situated on the east bank of the Kaljani River in the foothills of the Himalayas. 
        • Buxa Tiger Reserve (IUCN category II national park), Jaldapara National Park, and Chilapata Forests are located in Alipurduar District‘ 

      Bhasha Shaheed Barkat Memorial in Murshidabad 

      • The West Bengal government has announced the building of the Bhasha Shaheed Barkat Memorial in Babla village in Murshidabad. 
      • This announcement was made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a function organised in Kolkata. 
      • Abul Barkat was a protester killed during the Bengali language movement which took place in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) in 1952. 
        • He is considered a martyr in Bangladesh. 

      Murshidabad District 

      • The city of Murshidabad is located on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi, a distributary of the Ganges River. 
      • The main river Bhagirathi divides the district into two parts namely 'BAGRI' on the eastern side and ‘RARH' on the western side 
      • The grand celebrations of 'Bera Utsav' are conducted at Lalbagh, on the banks of river Bhagirathi, near the palace of Nawabs. 
      • The skill of gifted craftsmen can be seen in the district markets. 
      • Sandalwood etching has become more popular than ivory carving now. Murshidabad is famous for brass and bell metalware also. 
      • Ivory carving has been patronized since the Nawabs' time and about 99% of the total production of ivory is exported, which draws a significant amount of Murshidabad's income. 
      • The brand "Murshidabad silk" Is not only famous across India but also has great demand throughout the world. Sericulture Industry is the principal agro-based rural industry in Murshidabad.

      Metro Ride Kolkata

      • The Kolkata Metro has launched a new app "Metro Ride Kolkata", developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems
      • Commuters can now recharge their cards from their homes. 
      • The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation has also assigned colours to the city's corridors and their extensions.  
      • The new colours will help passengers to identify the direction of travel.

      Government of India, Govt of West Bengal, World Bank sign $125 million loan 

      • The Government of India, the Govt of West Bengal, and the World Bank have signed a $125 million loan. 
      • The loan will support efforts to help poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services in West Bengal. 
      • West Bengal runs more than 400 programs that provide social assistance, care services, and jobs. 
      • Most of these services are offered through an umbrella platform called Jai Bangla.

      Matua Community 

      • The Prime Minister of India virtually addressed the Matua community during the opening of ‘Matua Dharma Maha Mela 2022’. 
      • The Mela is being organised by All India Matua Mahasangha at Shreedham Thakurnagar in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on the occasion of the 211th birth anniversary of Shree Shree Harichand Thakur.
      • Matua is a sect of depressed-class Hindus who are Namasudras, a Scheduled Caste group.Originally from East Pakistan, the Matuas migrated to India during Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh. However, a sizable number are yet to get Indian citizenship

      CBI probe into Birbhum violence

      • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested the accused in the violent incident at Birbhum district’s Bogtui village in which eight people, including women and children, were fired to death following the murder of a Panchayat representative.

      Birbhum District 

      • The district comprises three subdivisions: Suri Sadar, Bolpur and Rampurhat.
      • The district headquarters is in Suri.
      • Often called "the land of red soil.” 
      • The Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan, established by Rabindranath Tagore on the bank of the river Kopai, is one of the places Birbhum is internationally renowned for
      • Many festivals are celebrated in this culturally rich district, including the notable Poush Mela.
      • In the district, there is only a hilly area of natural rock formation situated near Dubrajpur town called Mama Bhagne Pahar (Hill). 
      • Several rivers flow across Birbhum. Some of these are Ajay, Mayurakshi, Kopai, Shal, Bakreswar, Brahman, Dwarka, Hinglo, and Chapala. 
      • Birbhum is a major centre of cottage industries.  
      • Bakreswar is also a place of geological interest with many hot springs. 
      • The bauls of Birbhum, their philosophy, and their songs form a notable representation of the folk culture of the district. 
      • Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary near Santiniketan was declared a sanctuary in 1977
      • Famous Personalities: Somnath Chatterjee, Pranab Mukherjee. 

      West Bengal Budget Analysis 2022-23

      • The West Bengal Minister of State for Finance, Ms Chandrima Bhattacharya, presented the Budget for the state for the financial year 2022-23 on March 11, 2022.
      • The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of West Bengal for 2022-23 (at current prices) is projected to be Rs 17,13,154 crore. 
      • This is a growth of 11.5% over the revised estimate of GSDP for 2021-22 (Rs 15,36,681 crore). 
      • The fiscal deficit for 2022-23 is targeted at Rs 62,397 crore (3.64% of GSDP).
      • The state government has exempted payment of the Rural Employment Cess and the Education cess for the tea industry for the next financial year (2022-23). 
      • The Agricultural Income cess has been waived off for 2022-23 to provide relief for small tea gardens
      • To incentivise electric vehicles (two-wheelers and four-wheelers), the Registration Fees and Road Tax has been exempted for two years, from 2022-23. 
        • This will also apply to all categories of CNG vehicles. 
      • Widow pensions will be provided to new eight lakh applicants received through ‘Duare Sarkar’ from April 1, 2022. 
        • More than 21 lakh widows will be covered under the scheme. 
      • Education: West Bengal has allocated 16.8% of its total expenditure for education in 2022-23. This is higher than the average allocation (15.2%) for education by all states (as per 2021-22 Budget Estimates). 
      • Health: West Bengal has allocated 6.9% of its total expenditure on health, which is higher than the average allocation for health by states (6%). 
      • Agriculture: The state has allocated 4.9% of its total expenditure towards agriculture and allied activities. This is lower than the average allocation for agriculture by states (6.2%). 
      • Rural development: West Bengal has allocated 8.8% of its expenditure to rural development. This is higher than the average allocation for rural development by states (5.7%). 
      • Police: West Bengal has allocated 4% of its total expenditure on police, which is marginally lower than the average expenditure on police by states (4.3%). 
      • Roads and bridges: West Bengal has allocated 2.1% of its total expenditure on roads and bridges, which is lower than the average allocation by states (4.7%)

       M Mamata Banerjee launches first e-locker in West Bengal

      • West Bengal will have its e-locker called Banglar ICloud where one can get all kinds of certificates one needs.
      • This was launched by CM Mamata Banerjee at the meeting of the West Bengal Industry Promotion Board.
      • The name and the logo of the e-locker were designed by CM herself. 

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      WEST BENGAL IMPORTANCE
      West Bengal: The Land of Geographical, Ecological, and Cultural Diversity
      Context

      • Located in Eastern India, the 4th most populous state in the country is widely considered the Melting pot of Cultures.
      • West Bengal borders the 5 Indian states that are Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam.
      • West Bengal has international boundaries with Bangladeshin the east, Bhutan in the North, and Nepal in the northwest.
        • West Bengal with 2,217 km (2,545-mile) shares the longest border with Bangladesh
      • Himalayan ranges in the north and the Bay of Bengal in the south, Bengal has every geographical feature.
      • In the North, one of the most magnificent hill stations in the world, Darjeeling has often been dubbed the Queen of the Hills. Renowned for its tea plantations, Darjeeling tea is one of the most sought-after in the world.
      • With its broad network of rivers and geographical features, West Bengal is celebrated for having the largest mangrove forest in the world in the Sunderbans.
        • Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sundarbans is universally acclaimed for housing globally endangered species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger.
      • Apart from possessing some of the finest hill stations, Bengal also offers some of the best beachfront locations.
      • Places like Digha and Mandarmani are perfect getaways that offer pristine beaches and accommodations for every traveller.
      • Once the capital of British India, Kolkata is a blend of Western and Indian cultures. It houses Hindu temples, mosques, and churches, as well as British monuments like the Victoria Memorial.
        • The people of different castes, races and colours all live in perfect harmony, celebrating festivals like Id, Christmas and the Pujas in equal fervour and enjoying cuisines of different kinds.
      • After India gained independence from the British, Bengal played the most important role in the emerging renaissance in the field of social, cultural, political and educational reforms.
        • Reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose were at the forefront of the freedom movement.
      • West Bengal has also been home to world-famous figures like Mother Teresa who is described as a metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness by the Vatican.
        • Satyajit Ray, the first academy award winner in India and winner of 32 National Film Awards, changed the face of cinema around the globe.
        • Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize in 1913 and showcased Bengali Literature to the world.

      West Bengal Basic Information

      • West Bengal is one of the 28 Indian states. There were officially 29 states in India until August 6, 2019. However, when Jammu & Kashmir was awarded Union status, the total number of states has fallen by one, to 28.
      • It is India's fourth most populated state, accounting for 7.80 % of the country's total population.
      • With a population density of 1028 people per square kilometre, West Bengal is the 2nd most densely populated state in India, after Bihar (1106 people per square kilometre).
      • It ranks 12th in terms of area but 4th in terms of population proportion.
      • West Bengal, a major agricultural producer, contributes the sixth most to India's net domestic product.
      • On the west, it is bordered by Orissa, Jharkhand, and Bihar; on the north, it is bounded by Sikkim; and on the east, it is bounded by Assam.
      • It shares international boundaries with Bhutan and Nepal to the north, as well as Bangladesh to the east.

      Districts Of West Bengal
      West Bengal is divided into 23 districts, which are subdivided into 5 divisions:

      1. Burdwan Division
      2. Malda Division
      3. Jalpaiguri Division
      4. Presidency Division
      5. Medinipur Division

      Burdwan Division

      • Hooghly district
      • Purba Bardhaman district
      • Paschim Bardhaman district
      • Birbhum district

      Malda Division

      • Malda district
      • Uttar Dinajpur district
      • Dakshin Dinajpur district
      • Murshidabad district

      Jalpaiguri Division

      • Alipurduar district
      • Cooch Behar district
      • Darjeeling district
      • Jalpaiguri district
      • Kalimpong district

      Presidency Division

      • Howrah district
      • Kolkata district
      • Nadia district
      • North 24 Parganas district
      • South 24 Parganas district

      Medinipur Division

      • Purba Medinipur district
      • Paschim Medinipur district
      • Jhargram district
      • Purulia district
      • Bankura district

      Darjeeling District

      • Darjeeling is the headquarters of the Darjeeling District which has a partially autonomous status within the state of West Bengal.
      • The name Darjeeling comes from the Tibetan words "Dorje", which is the thunderbolt sceptre of the Hindu deity Indra, and "ling'', which means "a place" or "land". Thus Darjeeling means "land of the thunderbolt."
      • The hills of Darjeeling are part of the Lesser Himalayas.
      • The Lloyd's Botanical Garden preserves common and rare species of plants, while the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park specializes in conserving and breeding endangered Himalayan species.
      • A conservation centre for red pandas opened at Darjeeling Zoo in 2014, building on a prior captive breeding program.
      • The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the DHR or Toy Train, 1999, UNESCO declared DHR a World Heritage site.
      • Tea planting in Darjeeling began in 1841 by Archibald Campbell, a civil surgeon of the Indian Medical Service. Darjeeling tea is available in black, green, white and oolong traditional Chinese tea.
      • Cinchona is grown in Darjeeling District.

      Kalimpong District

      • It was formed in 2017, after splitting from the Darjeeling district as the 21st district of West Bengal.
      • The district has its headquarters at Kalimpong.
      • Kalimpong district is home to the Neora Valley National Park. It is the land of the elegant red panda. Clouded leopards are seldom seen and are likely to be present in the park.
      • The forests consist of mixed species like rhododendron, bamboo, oak, ferns, sal, etc. The valley also has numerous species of orchids.

      Jalpaiguri District

      • A major stretch of the area is bordered in the north by Bhutan and hence the name - Dooars/Dooars which means - Door of Bhutan.
      • The city is located on the banks of the Teesta River.
      • Apart from Gorumara National Park, the district contains Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary.
      • Dolomite is found in the Jalpaiguri district.
      • Jalpaiguri‘s very own Folk form is the 'Chor Chunni'. 'Dham Gaan' is another popular folk song of Jalpaiguri. It revolves around the rise and fall of mythological characters.
      • 'Bhawaiya' the folk song of the Rajbanshis, depicts the love of both God and Man.
      • 'Bisha-Hara Pala' is another very popular stage drama of Jalpaiguri.

      Alipurduar District

      • It was made a district in 2014 after splitting from the Jalpaiguri District.
      • The district headquarters Alipurduar is situated on the east bank of the Kaljani River in the foothills of the Himalayas.
      • Buxa Tiger Reserve (IUCN category II national park), Jaldapara National Park, and Chilapata Forests are located in Alipurduar District‘

      Cooch Behar District

      • Cooch Behar is a district under the Jalpaiguri Division of the state of West Bengal.
      • During the British Raj, the town of Cooch Behar was the seat of a princely state of Koch Bihar, ruled by the Koch dynasty.
      • Six rivers that cut through the district are the Teesta, Jaldhaka, Torsha, Kaljani, Raidak, Gadadhar and Ghargharia.

      North Dinajpur District

      • It comprises two subdivisions: Raiganj and Islampur.
      • Raiganj on the banks of the River Kulik is the District Headquarters where the "Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary"(Kulik Wildlife Sanctuary), the second-largest bird sanctuary in Asia, is situated.
      • The major native dialect is called locally Surjapuri or Rangpuri (or even Dinajpuri) and is one of the sweet dialects of the Bengali language in the North Bengal region.
      • Tulaipanji paddy is traditionally grown in Uttar Dinajpur (Kaliaganj, Raiganj, and Hemtabad). Tulaipanji rice was granted the GI Tag certificate.

      South Dinajpur District

      • The district headquarters (Sadar) of the district is situated at Balurghat. It comprises two subdivisions: Balurghat and Gangarampur.
      • As of Census 2011, it was the least populous district of West Bengal.
      • The district is drained by north-south flowing rivers like Atreyee, Punarbhava, Tango, and Jamuna Rivers.

      Malda District

      • Mango, jute, and silk are the most notable products of this district. A special variety of mango (Fazli) is produced in this region.
      • The folk culture of gombhira is a feature of the district, being a unique way of representing joy and sorrow in the daily life of the common people.
      • The district headquarters is English Bazaar, also known as Malda, which was once the capital of Bengal.
      • The district maintains the traditions of the past in culture and education.
      • Old Malda, the town which lies just east of the confluence of the Mahananda and Kalindi rivers, is part of the English Bazaar urban agglomeration.
      • The town rose to prominence as the river port of the old capital of Pandua.
      • Malda is the largest producer of excellent quality jute in India.
      • Mulberry plantations and mango orchards occupy large areas; mango trade and silk manufacture are the main economic activities.
      • Malda is called the gateway of North Bengal. It was once the capital of Gour-Banga with its 3,733 square kilometres lay of land classified Into Tal, 'Nara, and Barind.

      Murshidabad District

      • The city of Murshidabad is located on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi, a distributary of the Ganges River.
      • The main river Bhagirathi divides the district into two parts namely 'BAGRI' on the eastern side and ‘RARH' on the western side
      • The grand celebrations of 'Bera Utsav' are conducted at Lalbagh, on the banks of river Bhagirathi, near the palace of Nawabs.
      • The skill of gifted craftsmen can be seen in the district markets.
      • Sandalwood etching has become more popular than ivory carving now. Murshidabad Is famous for brass and bell metalware also.
      • Ivory carving has been patronized since the Nawabs' time and about 99% of the total production of ivory is exported, which draws a significant amount of Murshidabad's income.
      • The brand "Murshidabad silk" Is not only famous across India but also has great demand throughout the world. Sericulture Industry is the principal agro-based rural industry in Murshidabad.

      Nadia District

      • Krishnanagar is the district headquarters of Nadia.
      • It is located on the bank of the Jalangi River. Krishnanagar is named after Raja Krishnachandra Roy.
      • Nabadwip, a town in the Nadia district, is often referred to as the "Oxford of Bengal".
      • Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486- 1534 CE) was born in Nabadwip.
      • One of the Indian schools of logic (Tarka sastra) called the Navya Nyaya system was developed in Nabadwip, which produced great logicians in the 15th century
      • Kalyani is another important city. During the period of World War II, Kalyani was the site of an American Airbase, known by the name of Roosevelt Town or Roosevelt Nagar.
      • It was developed as a planned town in the early 1950s by the Government of West Bengal at the behest of Bidhan Chandra Roy.
      • Ranaghat, situated north of Kolkata on the bank of the Churni River, is famous for its railway communication.
      • Bethuadahari is an important town in this district. This place is very much famous for Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary.
      • Palashi is a historic town of Nadia adjacent to the Murshidabad District. This place is famous for the Battle of Plassey.
      • Famous Personalities: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Jatindranath Mukhopadhyay (Bagha Jatin), Jhulan Goswami, etc.

      Hooghly District

      • The headquarters of the district are at Hooghly-Chinsurah.
      • There are four subdivisions: Chinsurah Sadar, Serampore, Chandannagar, and Arambagh).
      • Hooghly is one of the most economically developed Bengal. It is the main jute cultivation, jute industry, and west jute trade hub in the state.
      • The Hindustan Motors plant is situated in Uttarpara.
      • The historical triple cities of Chandannagar-Chinsurah-Serampore are called Little Europe as these were all European colonies.
      • In 1954 Chandannagar was integrated into the state of West Bengal.
      • Famous Personalities: Prafulla Chandra Sen, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Shri Ramkrishna Paramahansa, K.C Nag, etc.

      Howrah district

      • The district is named after its headquarters, the city of Howrah.
      • Howrah district has two subdivisions: Howrah Sadar and Uluberia.
      • Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (formerly Bengal Engineering & Science University, Bengal Engineering College), over 150 years old, among the oldest and most prestigious engineering institutes in the country, is located in the city.
      • Often termed Sheffield of the East, Howrah is known today as an engineering hub, mainly in the area of the light engineering industry.
      • Howrah Station: The British architect Halsey Ricardo designed the new station. It was opened in 1905.
      • The British established the Indian Botanical Gardens in 1786 between the Great Banyan tree and the Hooghly River.
      • Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, a chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. It is located on the west bank of the Hooghly River, Belur.
      • Howrah Bridge is a bridge with a suspended span over the Hooghly River; Commissioned In 1943, the bridge was originally named the New Howrah Bridge because it replaced a pontoon bridge at the same location linking the two cities of Howrah and Kolkata (Calcutta). In 1965, it was renamed Rabindra Setu.
      • Vidyasagar Setu also known as the Second Hooghly Bridge was commissioned in 1992. 1t is a cable-stayed bridge.
      • Vivekananda Setu (also called Willingdon Bridge and Bally Bridge) was opened in 1932. It is a multi-span steel bridge.
      • Nivedita Setu (also called Second Vivekananda Setu) is a cable-stayed bridge over the Hooghly River that was opened to traffic in 2007. The bridge is India's first multi-span, single-plane cable-supported extra-dosed bridge.

      Purba Bardhaman District

      • It was formed in 2017 after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Bardhaman district and its headquarters in Bardhaman.
      • Purba Bardhaman district is a flat alluvial plain area.
      • The district comprises four subdivisions: Kalna, Katwa, Bardhaman Sadar North and Bardhaman Sadar South.
      • The oxbow lake of Purbasthali is located In the Kalna subdivision.
      • Gobindo Bhog Rice of Purba Bardhaman was granted the GI tag certificate.

      Paschim Bardhaman District

      • Paschim Bardhaman district is a predominantly urban mining-industrial district in West Bengal.
      • The headquarters of the district Is Asansol. It was formed in 2017 after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Bardhaman district as the 23rd district of West Bengal.
      • The rocky undulating topography with laterite soil found in Paschim Bardhaman district is a sort of extension of the Chota Nagpur plateau.
      • The district comprises two subdivisions: Asansol Sadar and Durgapur.
      • Coal Mining in India first started in the Raniganj Coalfield in 1774.
      • Chittaranjan Locomotive Works is a state-owned electric locomotive manufacturer based in India. It is located at Chittaranjan in Asansol.
      • Founded in 1950 the Indian Railway-owned industrial unit is named after the Indian freedom fighter Chittaranjan Das.
      • IISCO Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India Limited is an integrated steel plant located at Burnpur, Established in 1918.
      • Durgapur Steel Plant is one of the integrated steel plants of Steel Authority of India Limited, located in Durgapur. It was set up with the help of the UK In 1955. There is an alloy steel plant at Durgapur.
      • Durgapur Barrage was built by Damodar Valley Corporation in 1955 and handed over, along with the canal network, to the Government of West Bengal in 1964.
      • Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was born in Churulia, Asansol.
      • Hindustan Cables was founded at Rupnarayanpur in Asansol, West Bengal in 1952. The present headquarters is in Kolkata.
      • Durgapur has the only operational dry (inland) port in Eastern India.
      • Durgapur was planned by two American Architects Joseph Allen Stein and Benjamin Polk in 1955.
      • Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport is a domestic airport located in Andal. it is part of the country's first private sector Aerotropolis, being developed by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL). The airport was officially inaugurated in 2013.
      • Panagarh Airport was constructed in 1944, during the Second World War. It serves as a base for the Indian Air Force. In 2016, it was renamed Air Force Station, Arjan Singh.

      Bankura District

      • The district headquarters is located in Bankura town.
      • The district comprises three subdivisions: Bankura Sadar, Khatra and Bishnupur.
      • The district has been described as the "connecting link between the plains of Bengal on the east and Chota Nagpur plateau on the west."
      • The western part of the district has poor, ferruginous soil and hard beds of laterite with scrub jungles and sal woods.
      • The hills of the district consist of outliers of the Chota Nagpur plateau and only two are of any great height — Biharinath and Susunia.
      • The principal rivers are Sall, Gandheswari, Kukhra, Birai, oamonar, Dwarakeswar, Shilabati, Kangsabati, Thypanda, and Bhairahbanki.
      • The Kangsabati Project was started during the Five-Year Plan period (1956-61).
      • Stone-crushing, Weaving, Oilseed-crushing, handicraft units like Dokra, Terra-cotta, and Baluchari Sari (It was mainly produced in Murshidabad but presently Bishnupur and its surrounding places of West Bengal is the only place where authentic Baluchari sarees are produced.), etc. plays a key economic role of the district.
      • Darakeshwar, Gandheswari, and Kangsabati are the major rivers that flow through the district.
      • Jaipur forest is the only forest in the plains of Southern Bengal.
      • Bankura Sammilani Medical College is the oldest medical college in this area.

        Birbhum District

        • The district comprises three subdivisions: Suri Sadar, Bolpur and Rampurhat.
        • The district headquarters is in Suri.
        • Often called "the land of red soil.”
        • The Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan, established by Rabindranath Tagore on the bank of the river Kopai, is one of the places Birbhum is internationally renowned.
        • Many festivals are celebrated in this culturally rich district, including the notable Poush Mela.
        • In the district, there is only a hilly area of natural rock formation situated near Dubrajpur town called Mama Bhagne Pahar (Hill).
        • Several rivers flow across Birbhum. Some of these are Ajay, Mayurakshi, Kopai, Shal, Bakreswar, Brahman, Dwarka, Hinglo, and Chapala.
        • Birbhum is a major centre of cottage industries.
        • Bakreswar is also a place of geological interest with many hot springs.
        • The bauls of Birbhum, their philosophy, and their songs form a notable representation of the folk culture of the district.
        • Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary near Santiniketan was declared a sanctuary in 1977.
        • Famous Personalities: Somnath Chatterjee, Pranab Mukherjee.

        Purba Medinipur District

        • The headquarters is in Tamluk.
        • It was formed in 2002 after the Partition of Midnapore into Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur which lies at the northern and western border of it.
        • The Tamluk town in present-day West Bengal is identified as the site of the Port city of Tamralipti.
        • Purba Medinipur district is part of the lower Indo-Gangetic Plain and Eastern coastal plains.
        • The major rivers are Haldi, Rupnarayan, Rasulpur, Bagui, and Keleghai, flowing in the north-to-south or southeast direction.
        • It is ranked first in literacy in comparison to other districts of West Bengal.
        • Digha is a seaside resort town in the Purba Medinipur district.
        • Haldia oil refinery is one of the ten refineries of the Indian Oil Corporation. It was commissioned in 1975.
        • The oil refinery in Haldia was built with French collaboration and the Lube sector with Romanian collaboration.
        • Famous Personalities: Matangini Hazra (Famous As Gandhi Budhi)

        Paschim Medinipur District

        • It was formed in 2002 after the Partition of Paschim Medinipur and Purba Medinipur.
        • In 2017, the Jhargram subdivision was converted into a district.
        • Medinipur is the district headquarters.
        • The district with the next highest number of villages, Mayurbhanj, is in the state of Odisha.
        • Joint Forest Management site Arabari is situated in Paschim Medinipur.
        • Famous Personalities: Sahid Kshudiram Basu.

        Jhargram District

        • The district was formed in 2017, after bifurcation from the Paschim Medinipur district as the 22nd district of West Bengal.
        • The only subdivision, the Jhargram subdivision, has its headquarters at Jhargram.
        • The important rivers of this division are the Kangsabati (popularly known as Kasai), the Tarafeni, the Subarnarekha, and the Dulong.
        • Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve (henceforth MER) is the only elephant reserve in Eastern India.
        • The reserve is located in parts of Paschim Medinipur district, Bankura district, and Jhargram district of West Bengal.

        Purulia District

        • In 1956 Manbhum district was partitioned between Bihar and West Bengal under the States Reorganization Act and the Bihar and West Bengal (Transfer of Territories) Act 1956 and the present Purulia district was created on 1st November 1956.
        • Purulia is the westernmost district of West Bengal.
        • Among small-scale industries, the Lac industry and sericulture industry is another major source of income for this district.
        • Purulia produces 90% of the lac produced in WB.
        • Tourism is another source of income for this district. Forests, Hillocks, to be Rivulets, Streams, Wild Life, and Flora & Fauna have tremendous scope explored by tourists.
        • The prominent districts like Ajodhya Hills, Matha, Murg Darn and Kullapal Forests, Jaychandi Pahar, Panchakote Raj, Duarsini Hills, and Forests attract quite a good number of visitors to Purulia every year.
        • The district comprises three subdivisions: Purulia Sadar, Jhalda, and Raghunathpur.
        • Purulia has a distinct folk culture of Jhumur, Tusu, and Bhadu songs. It is also the birthplace of the martial dance of Bengal Chhau.
        • Santaldih Thermal Power Station is situated in the Purulia district.

        North 24 Parganas District

        • In 1983, an administrative reform committee under the chairmanship of Dr Ashok Mitra suggested splitting the district into two and as per the recommendation of the committee in 1986,1 March two districts—North 24 Parganas (24 PGS N) and South 24 Parganas (24 PGS S) were created.
        • Barasat is the district headquarters of North 24 Parganas.
        • North 24 Parganas is West Bengal's most populous district and (following the splitting of the Thane district of Maharashtra in 2014) the most populated district in the whole of India.
        • There are many other rivers, which include the Ichhamati, Jamuna, and Bidyadhari.
        • It is also home to the Bibhutibhushan Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established in 1985.
        • Famous Personalities: Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Taradas Bandyopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Titumir, M. N. Roy, etc.

        South 24 Parganas District

        • South 24 Parganas is a district of West Bengal State, headquartered in Alipore.
        • It is the largest district of West Bengal State by area and second-Largest by population.
        • In 1984, the South 24 Parganas district became home to Sundarban National Park, which has an area of 1,330 sq. km.
        • It shares the park with the North 24 Parganas district and is also home to four wildlife sanctuaries: Haliday Island, Lothian Island, Narendrapur, and Sajnekhali.

        Kolkata

        • Kolkata, Bengali Kalikata, formerly Calcutta, city, capital of West Bengal state, and former capital (1772– 1911) of British India.
        • It is one of India‘s largest cities and one of its major ports.
        • The city is centred on the east bank of the Hugli (Hooghly) River, once the main channel of the Ganges (Ganga) River, about 154 km upstream from the head of the Bay of Bengal
        • According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the seventh most populous city; the city had a population of 4.5 million, while the suburban population brought the total to 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India.
        • The city, nicknamed the "City of Joy" is widely regarded as the "cultural capital" of India and as of 2019, 6 Nobel Laureates have been associated with the city.
        • Famous Personalities: Swami Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, P C Mahalanobis, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Abhijit Banerjee (Nobel Prize winner), Sourav Ganguli, Sukumar Ray, and others.

        Geography of West Bengal

        • The state's physical location extends between latitudes 21°38' and 27°10' north, longitudes 85°50' and 89°50' east, at the head of the Bay of Bengal, in the eastern part of the country.
        • The mighty Himalayas guard the north with rampart-like parts up to 800 feet high. The entire Bengal basin is that portion of the enormous Indian shield that spreads 87° E longitude and vanishes underneath the Gangetic alluvium blanket.
        • West Bengal is largely an alluvial plain.
        • The Ganga delta encompasses a large chunk of southern Bengal.
        • Only 1% of the state's land is mountainous, located in the extreme north.
        • The plateau fringe and Purulia triangle of highlands near the western border account for about 6% of the total land area.
        • The capital and largest city of the state is Kolkata.
        • Asansol is the second-largest city & urban agglomeration in West Bengal after Kolkata.
        • The highest rainfall occurs in Buxa Dooars in Jalpaiguri.
        • Durgapur is known as the Ruhr of India
        • Murshidabad is famous for the silk industry
        • West Bengal is 623 km wide from north to south and nearly 320 km from east to west
        • In West Bengal, the Tropic of Cancer passes through 5 District:
          • Nadia
          • Purba Bardhaman
          • Paschim Bardhaman
          • Bankura
          • Purulia
        • The narrowest part is 9 km wide in Chopra of North Dinajpur (also called chicken neck)
        • State boundary with West Bengal
          • Jharkhand - 500 km
          • Bihar - 300 km
          • Odisha - 150 km
          • Assam - 90 km
          • Sikkim - 60 km
          • Bangladesh - 900 km
          • Bhutan - 150 km
          • Nepal - 90 km

        Districts

        23

        Formed On

        26-Jan-50

        Coordinates

        22.9868° N, 87.8550° E

        Language

        Bengali, Hindi, Urdu

        Natural Vegetation

        Tropical dry moist deciduous

         

        Major Rivers

        ·          Ganga in 4 districts

        ·          Bhagirathi-Hooghly (Heart & Soul of Bengal)

        ·          Teesta from Zemu Glacier

        Major Art Forms

         

         

         

        ·          Dance: Chhau Dance, Tusu, Bhaduriya Saila, Jhumar, Ashariya Jhumar, Raibense

        ·          Music: Bishnupur Gharana,

        ·          Rabindra Sangeet

         

         

        Industry

        ·          Chemicals & fertilizers

        ·          Wagons

        ·          Ships, Automobiles

        ·          Electronics

        ·          Paper

        ·          Jute & Cotton textiles

         

         

        Minerals & Ores

         

        ·          Coal, fireclay, China clay

        ·          limestone, Copper

        ·          Iron, wolfram

        ·          manganese & dolomite

                Agriculture

         

        ·          Rice, Wheat, Potatoes, Tea

        ·          Sugarcane Oilseeds, Jute, Mangoes

         

        Geographical Indications

         

        ·          Darjeeling Tea, Nakshi Kantha

        ·          Shantiniketan Leather Goods

        ·          Laxman Bhog Mango, Himsagar, Fazli Mango

        ·          Santipur Saree, Baluchari Saree

        ·          Dhaniakhali Saree, Joynagarer Moa

        ·          Bardhaman Sitabhog, Bardhman Mihidana

        State Animal

        Fishing Cat

        State Bird

        White-breasted kingfisher

        State Tree

        Chatian

        State Flower

        Shephali

        World Heritage Sites

        Sunderbans

        Ramsar Sites

        East Calcutta Wetlands

         

         

        Bird Sanctuaries

        ·          Chintamoni Kar BS

        ·          Thasrana BS

        ·          Raiganj WLS

         

         

         

        National Parks

        ·          Gorumara NP

        ·          Buxa NP

        ·          Neora Valley NP

        ·          Singalila NP

        ·          Jaldapara NP

        ·          Sundarbans NP

         

         

         

         

        Biosphere Reserve

        ·          Sunderbans

        ·          Ballavpur WLS