TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY 1. Cabinet nod for Bill making instant triple talaq a crime 2. Cabinet clears Bill to replace Medical Council of India 3. Crackdown on child porn, rape videos with ISP norms, portal 4. Make offices accessible to disabled: SC 5. Rajasthan HC lays down guidelines to check ‘forcible conversion’ BILATERAL RELATIONS/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Revisit of India-China Border Dispute HEALTH ISSUES 1. Giving TB patients money C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Centre raises duty on electronic items 2. Bad Loans and Corporate Defaulting 3. U.S. obstructionism at WTO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY 1. NGT once again bans plastic use in Haridwar, Rishikesh to save Ganga 2. Karnataka HC strikes down rule on stringent tobacco pack warnings D. GS4 Related E. Prelims Fact F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for Today!!!
B. GS2 Related
Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill:
- The Union Cabinet approved a Bill that makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence.
- Instant triple talaq in any form — oral, written or electronic form — has been banned and made a cognisable offence.
- As per the bill, a Muslim husband resorting to instant talaq can be jailed for up to three years.
- The proposed Bill will deal with complaints against instant triple talaq across the country, except Jammu and Kashmir.
- As per provisions of the draft Bill, a husband who resorts to instant triple talaq can be fined or face a jail term of up to three years.
- The Bill also provides for a subsistence allowance of a harassed Muslim woman and her dependent children and the custodial rights of minor children.
- In August, the SC had passed a landmark judgment terming instant triple talaq “illegal and unconstitutional.”
- Even after the judgement, there have been 66 cases of instant divorce until November.
- Prime Minister Modi had set up an inter-ministerial group to examine the issue after the Supreme Court judgment.
National Medical Commission Bill:
- The bill seeks to replace Medical Council of India (MCI) it with a regulator that will do away with “heavy-handed regulatory control” over medical institutions and will also bring in a national licentiate examination.
- The bill has been cleared by the Union Cabinet.
- Key Provisions:
- Ease the processes for colleges to manage undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
- Earlier, the MCI approval was needed for establishing, renewing, recognising and increasing seats in a UG course. Under the new proposal, permissions need only be sought for establishment and recognition.
- While separate permission would be required for starting a postgraduate course after UG recognition, colleges could start PG courses on their own.
- The new commission will also have the power to frame guidelines for fees for up to 40% seats in private colleges and deemed universities.
- The Bill proposes a government-nominated chairman and members, who will be selected by a committee under the Cabinet Secretary.
- The 25-member NMC will have 12 ex-officio members, including four presidents of boards from leading medical institutions such as AIIMS and the ICMR; 11 part-time members and, a chairman and member-secretary.
Why this bill?
- The Bill is aimed at bringing reforms in the medical education sector which has been under scrutiny for corruption and unethical practices
- The Union Home Ministry will issue guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and set up an online portal by next month for centralized reporting of complaints against child pornography and rape videos
- The Supreme Court had directed the government on setting up such a portal by January 10
- The Home Ministry is also expected to write to DGPs/IGs of all states and Union Territories, directing them to ensure reporting of such videos on social media or other online platforms
Mode of operation:
- Ministry will generate a hash value (a code) of all such videos and child sexual abuse material and share it with the content service provider, which will be used to identify such videos online
- A list of 500 keywords used in searching for such videos has also been compiled and will be shared with the ISPs, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, WhatsApp and Microsoft
- The Home Ministry has also sanctioned Rs 80 crore for setting up forensic labs in all states and Union Territories for Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Child (CCPWC)
Changes sought by the states:
- The states urged the Centre to bring amendments to the Information Technology Act, 2000 and authorise a sub-inspector (SI)-level officer to investigate such cases.
- At present, only an inspector-level officer can investigate IT-related offences
Expert Committee Suggestions:
- Committee was headed by Ajay Kumar, then additional secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
- It suggested that the government must ensure that Search Engines other than those already implementing URL blocks for identified child porn/rape and gang rape content initiate similar processes
- Internet companies should consider providing support to Indian NGOs to help bring awareness
- WhatsApp should make further improvement in their reporting process
- This would enable easier reporting of contents in the app while maintaining the integrity of the contents and metadata available on phone at the time of reporting
- Content hosting platforms, social media platforms, and search engines should provide links for reporting child porn and rape imagery as a specific category, which must be more prominently displayed on their pages
- The solution lay in proactively identifying rogue sites by an independent agency which can identify sites that contains child porn and rape and gang rape content and blocking these sites
- To prevent the circulation of subject imagery, the government can block any additional sites/applications if they do not remove such contents of their own
Right to dignity of the disabled:
- The Supreme Court upheld the right to dignity of the disabled.
- It directed the government buildings providing public services should be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June 2019.
- The targets to have at least 20 to 50 State government disabled-friendly buildings across 50 cities by December 2017 should be fulfilled.
- The court also held that 50% of such buildings in the National Capital and State capitals should be made disabled-friendly by December 2018.
- Only seven States had met the target of having at least 50% of their government buildings accessible to the disabled.
- The Rajasthan High Court issued guidelines to check alleged “forcible conversion” in the state.
- Violation of any of the guidelines will mean an inter-faith marriage would be void if a complaint is submitted against it.
Key guiding principle:
- Anyone who wishes to convert in Rajasthan shall give information “to the District Collector/SDM/SDO of the city and Sub-Divisional Area” before conversion, and the authority will put it up on the notice board the same day.
- The marriage is to be solemnised a week after the conversion.
- If the District Collector comes to know of any forcible conversion, they/he/she “shall take appropriate action in accordance with law, so as to check the forcible conversion”.
- Ahead of the 20th round of the now moribund talks between the Special Representatives of India and China entrusted with finding an early settlement of the border question, set out parameters that needed to be bilaterally addressed with urgency.
- A course correction is being sought, months after the Doklam crisis has been perceived to have been set at rest.
- The most important thing to do was genuine cultivation of mutual trust. So long as mutual trust continued to be absent, some individual issues will keep fermenting and spilling over, thus eroding the overall situation of bilateral relations.
- That the Dong Lang incident caused by the Indian border troops’ illegal crossing of the China-India boundary into the Chinese territory was a severe test for bilateral relations.
- That the two countries should properly control and handle problems left over from history and some specific issues in bilateral relations by putting them in the right place of China-India relations, without politicizing and complicating them to hamper the overall development of China-India relations.
- Both sides should enhance strategic communications at all levels, restore established dialogue mechanisms (emphasis added), deepen practical cooperation in various fields and meanwhile, well manage existing differences and well safeguard peace and tranquility in border areas.
- The benefits that await India were it to come aboard the Belt and Road Initiative, which New Delhi has shown some reluctance towards. Thus some of the Chinese goals and the problems have been clearly set out in public.
- This is the clearest confirmation yet that the dialogue mechanism —where the two Special Representatives (SR) meet, and set up with so much fanfare in 2003 — may have over the last decade-and-a-half or so, been more or less transformed into an exercise in general fatuity.
- Just like the Joint Working Group that looked at clarifying the border areas before the SRs came along. In the meanwhile, four Special Representatives have changed — Brajesh Mishra, J.N. Dixit, M.K. Narayanan, as well as Shivshankar Menon.
- It is also significant that Mr. Wang’s candid remarks should come days after the tenth round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination on India China Border Affairs, (WMCC) which concluded with a positive spin having been imparted to them as having been constructive and forward looking, but without firm dates for the next meeting.
- The SR dialogue was set up after lengthy diplomatic negotiations had yielded the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question.
- The hard-fought principles set out that the eventually delineated boundary would be along well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features and that the due interest of the settled populations in the border areas would be taken care of. It was expected that the exploration for the framework for the boundary settlement would commence thereafter.
- In the meanwhile, some of the expectations had rewritten themselves. The Joint Working Group — that had been clarifying the border areas with a view to leading up to exchange of maps on a mutually agreed scale on where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lay in each others’ perception — had run itself into the ground. This was after sample maps were exchanged in the Middle Sector without having been able to progress to the Western and Eastern Sectors.
- There was a time when as many as four lines ran across the border areas: one where we perceived the LAC to be, one where the Chinese perceived the LAC to be, one where we perceived the Chinese perceived the line to be and one where the Chinese perceived where we thought our line lay.
- The last two lines were somewhat guess-worked from the military graffiti, tell-tale traces that our armies leave behind when they foray into the border areas asserting perceptional rights through patrols, the same way as animals mark territory. It is not even clear whether we have spoken of each other’s perception of the LAC for the last decade.
- This after China had till the middle of the 1980s seemed open to a process that would let India keep the areas in the East while they held on to those in the West. The fond hope was of an “LAC plus” solution. That changed as well. As did the pious intention to earnestly look for an early solution.
- Utterances of visiting Chinese premiers introduced new nuances into the diplomatic liturgy, emphasizing the complexity of the issue, underlining the difficulty of its resolution, and, thereby, leaving it to future generations to grapple with.
Lessons for India
- Instead of enlarging commonalities, what is being expanded instead are the divergences: whether it is China’s opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or its steadfast support to Pakistan’s mollycoddling of terrorist groups that are inimical to India, or its pointed message to encourage Bhutan to settle its boundary dispute with China in a way that would make the Indian Army’s presence in Doklam eventually redundant.
- Just look at the Chinese penetration of the area we consider to be our backyard: whether it is Sri Lanka, Nepal, and now the Maldives.
- To this day, even though a military hotline between the two army headquarters had been agreed upon years ago, it has not materialized. This is something that would be logical, even imperative, given that both countries have improved their border infrastructure in terms of roads and accessibility in such a way that increases the possibilities of troops chancing upon each other.
- Therefore, transgressions will increase in terms of frequency, duration, depth, and intensity. The aim should be to evolve a stronger mechanism to manage the border areas more effectively to ensure equilibrium. This must include a more robust code of military conduct, even though neither side has sought to alter border reality through use of force.
- It is time New Delhi put more effort into strengthening India’s presence in those areas where we are present, where we consider to be them as our border, and live with it rather than to wait for Beijing to alter reality again.
- It is easier to make provisions to better live with it than to squander energies resolving it. If we don’t let the boundary question detain us, we will be in a better position to enlarge the areas where we can more fruitfully, in the Asian Century, engage the Chinese in line with the bilateral intentions that envisaged the simultaneous rise of both China and India.
- The Central TB Division has said the government would hand over a sum of Rs. 500 a month to each of India’s 35 lakh diagnosed TB patients in order to strengthen the fight against the disease.
- The funds are intended to offset the loss of wages due to TB, and to help with travel and nutrition. Yet, much more needs to be done to protect TB patients from the effects of malnutrition, which has a complicated relationship with TB.
- An early study from a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany in the 1940s showed that Soviet inmates, who didn’t receive extra rations from the Red Cross as their British counterparts did, were around 16 times more likely to develop the disease. Since then, evidence linking low body mass index and nutritional deficiencies with higher rates of disease has piled up.
- It is a vicious cycle, because TB itself triggers malnutrition by hurting the patient’s appetite. One calculation suggests that half of all adult Indian TB patients get the disease due to malnutrition.
- Sadly, despite the evidence on the TB-diet link, it is still not clear how best to fix the problem, given the lack of research into interventions that can speed up recovery.
Role of Nutrition
- A few small-scale studies have looked at cure rates among those patients consuming cereal-lentil powders or micronutrients such as Vitamin A and zinc, with mixed results.
- But lack of data isn’t a justification for inaction. In a guidance document this March, the Central TB Division proposed extensive interventions to tackle the problem.
- One recommendation was to double the rations under the public distribution system to families of TB patients, so that they are less likely to contract the disease.
- Because TB patients also need a high protein intake, the document recommends a second set of supplements, such as oilseeds and dried milk powder, which they wouldn’t have to share with the family.
- Given these recommendations and the scale of India’s malnutrition problem, the proposed assistance of Rs. 500 may not make any dent, especially if patients are not counselled on their ideal diet.
- India needs to fine-tune these interventions with further evidence so that policy can be more precisely targeted.
- A recently announced 2000-subject study by the Indian Council of Medical Research in Jharkhand may go some way in plugging the knowledge gap, but more research is required.
- A better diet is a no-brainer for an illness like this, historically called “Consumption” because of how it ate away at patients. But understanding what constitutes such a diet, and making sure that patients get it, isn’t as straightforward.
C. GS3 Related
- The Centre has increased customs duty on several electronic items including televisions, mobile phones and microwaves
Why such a move?
- The duties have been hiked to make the import of these goods more expensive and thus lending a fillip to its ‘Make in India’ programme.
- The move is viewed with twin objectives of increasing revenue as well as to encourage more manufacturing and value addition in India.
- India’s goods imports in the seven months ending October rose 22 % to $256.4 billion from a year earlier, raising concerns among policymakers.
- It is ironical that while the 2017 Forbes India List says that the combined net worth of India’s 100 wealthiest stood at a whopping $479 billion, top corporate borrower groups in India are unable to repay loans and make timely interest payments.
- The government has taken the high moral ground to deal with the menace of non-performing assets or NPAs that have brought many public sector banks on the verge of bankruptcy.
- It sounded the bugle for errant promoters with its ordinance of November 23 amending the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) 2016.
- Many are of the view that if the errant promoter is disqualified from the bidding process it will lead to further losses for banks.
- However, the ordinance is not likely to either eliminate errant promoters or hugely escalate bank losses apart from the deep haircuts already suffered. It merely signals the government’s intent to shift attention away from recovery of bad loans to selling the assets of defaulting corporates.
- The May 2017 ordinance directed banks to accept deep haircuts on their non-performing loans. However, there was no explicit direction from the government as the majority owner of public sector banks to recall the outstanding loans and recover as much as possible against the personal guarantees of promoters.
- The Mumbai and Delhi airports are being cited as examples of the success of the public-private partnership (PPP) model.
- The fact that defaulting corporates such as GMR Infrastructure, GVK Power and Infrastructure, and Jaiprakash Associates borrowed more money than they could repay is being overlooked and their inability to repay is sought to be justified by circumstances beyond their control.
- These corporates have not been downgraded on their creditworthiness parameter although the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been monitoring all large loans through the Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) since 2014.
- The fact that lending banks in case of large borrowers were operating as a consortium of a score or more of banks obviates the need for any investigation into the corporates-bank nexus that caused this loss of lakh-crores of depositors’ money.
- In all fairness, this hit being taken by banks for the sake of development should be treated as a government bailout of the corporate sector. Alternatively, it could be seen as the RBI making credit available to defaulting corporates at negative rates of interest.
- The recent ordinance makes the resolution professional all powerful. It is now up to the resolution professional to decide who will be eligible to bid for the defaulter companies or their assets.
- The ordinance conveys the urgency of impeccable antecedents of bidders so as to exclude wilful defaulters as well as companies whose interest and charges are outstanding for a period of one year or more.
- An existing promoter is eligible to bid for majority control only if all dues are paid. A defaulting promoter is not even allowed to bid indirectly through or along with other parties since “connected persons” are excluded from eligibility.
- A strict interpretation of the ordinance would mean that the loan accounts of each one of the 400-odd defaulter corporate borrowers are technically classified as NPAs. Otherwise they would not have reached this stage of resolution.
- These accounts are likely to have been through various rounds of unsuccessful restructuring in the past. Having failed to repay even the reduced amounts of loan and interest to the banks, their past credit history should raise serious questions on their antecedents.
- Hence, the promoters of these companies should not qualify as eligible bidders. So far, none of the first 12 corporates referred to the IBC has been debarred from bidding back their companies after driving them aground. Thus, the ordinance creates the scope for disqualifying an existing promoter or including a rank outsider into the bidding process.
Role of the New Regulator
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) is the regulator set up on October 1, 2016 under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The resolution professionals entrusted with the responsibility of sorting out the insolvent companies or individuals can be registered with any one of the three insolvency professional agencies.
- The IBBI is assisted by the disciplinary, advisory and technical committees. A quick glance at the IBBI website reveals that the advisory committees on corporate insolvency and liquidation are chaired by several top corporates.
- While there is nothing unusual about government consultation with corporate India, the appointment of corporates as heads of important corporate insolvency advisory committees under IBBI does not inspire confidence in the credibility of the resolution process.
- The recent ordinance may end up being used selectively to defeat the very objective of penalising the errant promoter. The banks will only lose if resolution is sidetracked by the ensuing power struggle among corporate India to purchase distressed assets at rock-bottom prices.
- The 11th biennial ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation ended in a stalemate, with countries divided along industrial and developing lines. India is seeing the outcome as a partial success; none of its “offensive” interests were achieved, but its “defensive” interests remain protected.
- While India’s push to ensure a consensus around a ‘permanent solution’ to the public stockpiling of food for food security purposes was thwarted by the U.S., the “peace clause”, under which countries would not lodge complaints against developing country subsidies to meet their food security needs, remained in place.
- The failure of industrial countries to fast-track e-commerce talks, and commitments that reductions in fishing subsidies would not be discussed at least until the next ministerial in 2019, are being seen by India as points in its favour.
- The rift between advanced economies and the rest was apparent. Industrial countries have been keen on moving the agenda forward from development, which was the stated focus of the Doha Round that began in 2001.
- Developing countries want Doha Round commitments to be fulfilled before topics of interest to the West — such as e-commerce and market access for small enterprises — are discussed.
- The U.S. has said it wants to clarify its understanding of “development”, and contended that members were using it to gain exemptions from rules, and that some of the richest countries (presumably in absolute and not per capita GDP terms) were claiming this status.
- It also issued a joint statement with the European Union and Japan, aimed primarily at China, on trade-distorting practices such as over-capacity and mandatory technology transfer policies, while India and China submitted a proposal to end the trade-distorting farm subsidies of Western nations.
- President Donald Trump’s disdain for multilateral forums and agreements, which he sees as opportunities for countries to take advantage of America, was reflected in Buenos Aires.
- S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer left before the conference concluded, leaving a leadership vacuum that his EU counterpart, Cecilia Malmström, unsuccessfully tried to fill.
- In fact, since Mr. Trump assumed office, the administration has blocked the reappointment of judges to the appellate body of the WTO, despite the U.S. being a frequent user of the dispute resolution mechanism.
- India rightly argued that while its GDP may be growing, the country has hundreds of millions living in poverty and without food security.
- While India can, and must, develop a multi-pronged approach to end hunger, it is correct to seek clarifications that its sovereign right to provide subsidies for food security is not compromised by the WTO.
- What has become clear in Buenos Aires is that India cannot rely on the Trump administration for support on crucial trade issues at multilateral forums
- National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a ban on plastic items, including plastic bags and cutlery, in Haridwar and Rishikesh.
- Further NGT also banned the sale, manufacture and storage of all such plastic items, till Uttarkashi.
- Ban would be applicable to towns in Uttarakhand, along river Ganga and its tributaries.
- Fine of Rs.5,000 would be imposed on those violating the order.
- Action would be taken against erring officials as well.
2015, NGT’s observation: Plastic waste and other municipal waste is being thrown directly into river Ganga and its banks are full of such waste. There is no proper system for collection, segregation and disposal of municipal solid waste in the entire city of Haridwar.
NGT’s order: There shall be complete prohibition of use of plastic in the entire city of Haridwar and Rishikesh and particularly on the banks and flood plain of river Ganga. Plastic will not be used for any purpose whatsoever, that is serving food, commodities, packaging or even carrying the plastic in that area.
- Karnataka High Court declared the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, as unconstitutional
- The rules had enhanced to 85% the area of pictorial warning on the principal area of packages of cigarette and other tobacco products.
- The court, however, upheld the similar Rules of 2008.
- Rule of 2008 had prescribed that 40% of the specified pictorial warning be printed on the principal area of the packages.
- The Parliamentary Committee, in its final report submitted on March 15, 2016 had recommended restricting the area of pictorial warning to 50%.
- The petitions were filed by the Tobacco Institute of India, cigarette manufacturers like ITC Ltd., beedi and other tobacco products manufacturers before the High Courts of Karnataka, Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, challenging the 2014 rules.
- All these petitions were transferred to the Karnataka High Court by the apex court.
Reason given behind the ruling:
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unilaterally framed the Rules without concurrence of the other departments concerned
- This was a violation of the Article 77 (Conduct of Business of Government of India) and the Transaction of Business (ToB) rules framed under it
- The rules were notified even before the Parliamentary Committee on sub-ordinate legislations was examining them
- Parliamentary Committee, in its final report submitted on March 15, 2016, had recommended restricting the area of pictorial warning to 50%
- The rules are contrary to Article 19(1)(g) [right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business] as they are “unreasonable” restrictions imposed “without application of mind or any basis”
Opposition from ministries:
- Ministry of Commerce had opposed 85% area for pictorial warning on the ground that it would not result in any benefit and wanted to restrict the pictorial warnings to 40% or 50%
- The Labour Ministry had opposed pictorial warning for the reason that it would harm the beedi industry, on which several poor families are depending upon for their livelihood
Government reasoning inappropriate:
- Referring to cautions and contents of warnings lime “smoking kills” or “tobacco kills”, “smoking causes cancer”, etc, court pointed out that no medical or scientific data or empirical research was conducted and data collected placed before the court in this regard
- Tobacco products inside the packages remain legally sellable even after changed pictorial warning
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for Today!!!
E. PRELIMS FACT
Nothing here for Today!!!
F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. The Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane is approved by
- Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
- Commission for Agriculture costs & prices
- Agricultural Produce Market Committee
- None of the above
Question 2. The authorization for the withdrawl of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India must come from
- The President of India
- The Parliament
- The Prime Minister
- The Union Finance Minister
Question 3. Which one of the following brings out the publication called “Energy Statistics” from time to time?
- Central Power Research Institute
- Planning Commission
- Power Finance Corporation Ltd
- Central Statistical Organisation
Question 4. Consider the following statements
- In plants, Phosphorus (P) is considered second to nitrogen as the most essential nutrient to ensure health and function.
- Phosphorus deficiency can be controlled by applying sources of phosphorus such as bone meal.
- Many parts of India had phosphorous-deficient soil.
Choose the correct answer
- 1 and 3 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 1 only
- All are correct
Question 5. Consider the following statements
- Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction summit is being held at Mexico.
- Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is global forum for reviewing of progress in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Choose the correct option
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
GS Paper II
- Discuss the role of Public Accounts Committee in establishing accountability of the government to the people.
GS Paper IV
What do you understand by the terms ‘governance’, ‘good governance’ and ‘ethical governance’?
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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