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Social issues:

Labelling versus outcomes (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

  • The article talks about the scope and importance of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

What is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?

  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns, and rural areas
  • The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation  through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use

Has the programme been successful?

  • The government are from its own administrative data and the Swachh Survekshan Gramin conducted by the Quality Council of India (QCI), a body set up jointly by the Government of India and industry.

Quality Council of India and SBM’s statistics

  • Swachh Survekshan claimed 62.45% India-wide latrine coverage, which was similar to the SBM’s figure of 63.73
  • The QCI survey also claimed that 91.29% of those with access to a toilet use it.

What is the present scenario?

  • The pressure of an approaching deadline of making India open defecation free (ODF) is one.
  • In a report called “Quality and Sustainability of Toilets” (WaterAid, 2017), the authors report that in the eight States less than a quarter of households said that it was their own initiative to build the toilet.
  • This is contrary to the government’s claim that SBM is a people’s movement.
  • “Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) Immersive Research aimed to explore behavioural change best practices in rural districts that have been declared ODF in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

What is the way ahead?

  • Unfortunately, there is no credible, representative country-wide estimates of latrine use in India.
  • Government data and the Swachh Survekshan show the programme to be achieving what it is meant to achieve.
  • The programme seems to be running on a check mark-based approach, and between all this, widespread open defecation in India continues to kill babies, and stunts those who survive.

Burden of disease shifts to non-communicable ailments (TheHindu)

Context:
The ‘India State Level Disease Burden’ report, prepared as part of the Global Burden of Disease(GBD) Study 2016 published in Lancet.

Introduction:

  • The Indian States Disease Burden Initiative is a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in collaboration with Union health ministry.
  • This is the first time burden of disease has been studied at state-level.
  • Till now only national-level data was available, masking varying disease patterns in states.
  • The study used multiple data sources to map State-level disease burden from 333 disease conditions and injuries, and 83 risk factors for each State from 1990 to 2016.

Key Highlights of the report:

1- On Non-Communicable diseases:

  • The study has found that every State in India has a higher burden from non-communicable disease and injuries than from infectious disease.
  • The contribution of non-communicable diseases to health loss fuelled by unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, and blood sugar- has doubled in India over the past two decades.
  • Air pollution and tobacco smoking continue to be major contributors to health loss.
  • The report provides the first comprehensive set of state-level disease burden data, risk factors estimates, and trends for each state in India, is expected to inform health planning with a view towards reducing health inequalities among States.
  • Lifestyle diseases like heart and chronic respiratory diseases now kill more people than communicable ones like tubercolosis or diarrhoea in every state in India, including the most backward.
  • The least developed states that recently transitioned are having to grapple with having a higher burden of NCDs while they continue to have a high burden of infectious and maternal child diseases, the report pointed out.

2- On Communicable diseases:

  • The report pointed out that communicable diseases constitute almost two-thirds of the disease burden in India.
  • The report studies the period from 1990 to 2016 and shows that communicable diseases constitute almost two-thirds of the disease burden in India from a little over a third in 1990. Despite the transition, which is associated with development, malnutrition remains the single top risk for health loss.
  • Malnutrition is still the single largest risk factor responsible for 15% of the total disease burden in India in 2016.
  • The leading individual cause of death in India in 2016 was inchaemic heart disease.
  • The proportion of all deaths in India due to communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases reduced from 53.6% in 1990 to 27.5% in 2016, while those due to non-communicable disease increased from 37.9% to 61.8%, and those due to injuries changed from 8.5% to 10.7%.

3- On Life Expectancy:

  • The Life expectancy at birth jumping from 59.7 years in 1990 to 70.3 years in 2016 for females, and from 58.3 years to 66.9 years for males.
  • Although Life expectancy at birth has improved at the national level, inequalities between states continue – ranging from 66.8 years in Uttar Pradesh to 78.7 years in Kerala for females, and 63.6 years in Assam to 73.8 years in Kerala for males in 2016.

4- On Diarrhoea, TB among top causes of death:

  • The disease burden due to child and maternal malnutrition in India was 12 times higher per person than in China in 2016.
  • Kerala had the lowest burden due to this risk among the Indian states, but even this was 2.7 times higher per person than in China.
  • The leading individual cause of death in India in 2016 was inchaemic heart disease, the death rate from which was twice as much as the next leading cause.
  • But there were wide variations with the highest death rate among the states from this disease being 12 times the lowest.

On Non-communicable diseases (NDC):

  • The other non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the top 10 individual causes of death included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.
  • Communicable diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, and tuberculosis, and road injuries and suicides were also in the top 10 causes of death. The death rates from diarrhoeal diseases and tuberculosis were also higher in the least developed states and had a 12-fold and seven-fold variation in rates, respectively, between states.
  • Contribution of non-communicable diseases to health loss had doubled in the past two decades. While air pollution and tobacco continue to be major contributors to health loss, the extent of these risk factors varies considerably across states.

Causes:

  • The contribution of air pollution to disease burden has remained high in India between 1990 and 2016, with levels of exposure among the highest in the world.
  • The burden of household air pollution has decreased during this period due to decreasing use of solid fuels for cooking, and that of outdoor air pollution has increased due to a variety of pollutants from power production, industry, vehicles, constructions, and waste burning.
  • While the disease burden due to child and maternal malnutrition has dropped in India substantially since 1990, this is still the single largest risk factor responsible for 15% of the total disease burden in India in 2016.
  • Kerala had the lowest burden due to this risk among the Indian states, but even this was 2.7 times higher per person than in China.

State wise data:

  • The first group to make the transition in 1986 included Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The last group to do so, accounting for the highest number of people (588 million), made the transition almost a quarter of a century later, in 2010. This group included Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Odisha. India as a country made the transition in 2003.
  • Though life expectancy at birth has improved at the national level, inequalities between states continue – ranging from 66.8 years in Uttar Pradesh to 78.7 years in Kerala for females, and 63.6 years in Assam to 73.8 years in Kerala for males in 2016.
  • The biggest change is seen in the overall disease pattern in the country.
  • In 1990, 61% of the total disease burden in India was attributed to communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases.
  • This figure has dropped to 33% in 2016. At the same time, the contribution of non-communicable diseases (heart disease, cancers, respiratory diseases, neurological disorders) has risen to 55% from 30% in 1990. Kerala, Goa, and Tamil Nadu have the largest dominance of non-communicable diseases and injuries while they are relatively lower in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • The proportion of all deaths in India due to communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases reduced from 53.6% in 1990 to 27.5% in 2016, while those due to non-communicable diseases increased from 37.9% to 61.8%, and those due to injuries changed from 8.5% to 10.7%.

Purpose of report:

  • The purpose was to produce an open-access, public good knowledge base, which has the potential of making fundamental and long-term contributions to improving health in every state the country, through provisions of the best possible composite trends of disease burden and risk factor for policy makers to utilize in their decision making.
  • This has huge implications for policymakers because it means that one health policy and uniform health schemes may not be workable for all the states.

What is communicable disease?

  • Communicable, or infectious diseases, are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another. Some are transmitted through bites from insects while others are caused by ingesting contaminated food or water.
  • A variety of disease-producing bacteria and viruses are carried in the mouth, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Conditions such as leprosy, tuberculosis (TB) and different strains of influenza (flu) can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and saliva or mucus on unwashed hands.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV and viral hepatitis are spread through the exposure to infected bodily fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions and semen. Hepatitis is a significant concern in the African Region and the majority of people living with hepatitis B and C are unaware of their infections.
  • Insects play a significant role in the transmission of disease. Bites from Anopheles mosquitoes transmits malaria parasites that can wreak havoc on high-risk populations such as children under age 5 and pregnant women. Yellow fever has also seen resurgence due to reduced vaccination efforts. Many neglected tropical diseases are caused by unsafe water, poor housing conditions and poor sanitation in the Region.

What is non-communicable disease?

  • Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors.
  • The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
  • NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCD deaths – 31 million – occur.

Conclusion:

The data released by report has the potential of making fundamental and long-term contributions to improving health in every state.


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International relations:

Post-Doklam, India asserts itself in China’s backyard (The Hindu)

Context

  • With the new quadrilateral grouping with U.S., Japan and Australia, India addressed an array of issues ranging from the tension in the Korean peninsula to freedom of navigation and sought a crackdown on chemical weapons during the ASEAN and the East Asia summits.

New Delhi’s position post Doklam

  • New Delhi has emerged as a more dependable partner for South-East Asia following the Doklam face-off with China as the South-East Asian countries expect New Delhi to be assertive with Beijing.
  • The outcome of the Doklam crisis has shown that India has reached a stage where it can be a resilient strategic and defence partner for them.
  • The reason of India’s post-Doklam international image acquires significance in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s one-on-one meeting with Premier Li Keqiang that was held on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

India’s concern

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared concerns of DPRK’s pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons and called for complete verification and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
  • The North Korean threats was part of a new Indian set of concerns that also covers major global issues like terrorism by the Islamic State and its capability to inflict mass casualties, and tensions in the South China Sea that concern the world as well as India.
  • The situation in the South China Sea also featured in the statement of Prime Minister Modi in the ASEAN who asked for upholding of the ‘rules based regional security architecture.’
  • India remains concerned about China’s man-made structures in the South China Sea that are likely to create navigational problems and international friction.
  • India also pushed for a total ban on chemical weapons in the region and for an end to terrorist financing.

India-US deepen engagement  (The Hindu)

Context

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads home after concluding his three-day visit to the Philippines where he attended the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits.

United approach

  • Mr. Modi also held expansive talks with Mr. Trump during which the two leaders carried out a “broad review” of the strategic landscape in Asia, signalling deeper cooperation by the two countries in dealing with sensitive security issues confronting the region.
  • The discussion constituted broader security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of China’s increasing military presence in South China Sea.
  • Other regional and global issues including terrorism emanating from Pakistan, North Korea’s missile tests, situation in Afghanistan and also the Gulf region were also the part of the talk.
  • Mr. Modi also held wide-ranging talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, covering an entire gamut of bilateral relationship. After their talks, the two countries inked four pacts providing for cooperation in a number of areas, including defence and security.
  • Mr. Modi held wide-ranging talks with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, with a focus on ramping up the strategic partnership between the two Asian giants.
  • Mr. Modi held bilateral meetings with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull, Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and discussed ways to further ramp up cooperation in various key areas like trade and investment.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

SC dismisses petition for SIT probe in bribery case (The Hindu)

Context

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed seeking a Special Investigation Team probe in the medical college bribery case as an effort to “create ripples” within the apex court

What is the significance of CJAR?

  • The Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Judicial Reforms(CJAR) is a response of people’s movements, and all organizations and individuals working on public interest issues to a judicial system that has become unaccountable, inaccessible and insensitive to the poor.

What is the verdict?       

  • The court indicated that it was leaning in favour of bringing a quietus to the issue, saying goodwill should prevail.
  • The 38-page judgment drew largely from past verdicts of the Supreme Court dealing with “scandalous allegations” against judges.
  • Judges are not responsible for “corridor” rumours. Recusal of a judge cannot be sought in such instances on the ground of conflict of interest.
  • It is entirely the judge’s prerogative to take cognisance under the Contempt of Court Act and punish a “person who is unscrupulously trying to influence the decision-making or indulging in malpractices,”
  • The verdict again referred to a past judgment where contempt was drawn against an advocate for “mudslinging” at the Supreme Court

Bill banning superstitious practices tabled in Karnataka (The Hindu)

Context

A Bill to prevent and eradicate superstitious practices was tabled in the Karnataka Assembly recently

Introduction:

State Minister for Social Welfare H Anjaneya tabled the Bill titled ‘The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill 2017’.

Features of the Bill:

  • It seeks to ban the controversial ‘made snana’ ritual in public/ religious places.
  • The Bill, does not envisage regulations for astrology or vaastu practices.
  • It primarily aims to protect people against evil and sinister practices and combat inhuman magic.
  • The Bill noted that no person shall himself or through any other person commit, promote, propagate or practice or cause to promote propagate or practice inhuman, evil practices and black magic.

Banned practices:

  • The Bill prohibits 16 practices and prominent among them are: Performing any inhuman, evil act and black magic in search of precious things, bounty and hidden treasure for similar reasons in the name of Banamathi, Mata-Mantra, assaulting any person, parading naked or putting a ban on someone’s daily activities.
  • o claim supernatural powers and create fear in the minds of others or to threaten others of evil consequences for not following the advice of such person or deceive, defraud and deter others.
  • Ill-treatment of women by forcing isolation, prohibiting entry into the village or facilitating segregation of menstruating or pregnant women; and subjecting women to inhuman and humiliating practices such as parading them naked in the name of worship such as ‘betthale seve’.

Exempted practices

  • The Bill has exempted a few practices such as piercing of ears and nose of children in accordance with rituals and performance of religious ritual such as Keshlochan by the Jains and the advice in regard to vashthushashtra, advice by Jyothishya and astrologers.
  • The forms of the worship such as pradakshina, yatra, parikarma performed at any religious spiritual places. Harikatha, Keerthana, Pravachana, Bhajana, teaching of ancient and traditional learning and arts, practice, propagation and circulation.
  • To state about the miracles of the deceased saints propagation, publicity and circulation of the same and the propagation, publicity and distribution of literature about the miracles of the religious preachers which do not cause physical injury.
  • The performance of prayers, upasana and all religious ritual at the places such as home, temple, dargha, gurudwara, pagoda, church and other religious places which do not cause physical injury.

Penalties

  • The Bill said any person by himself or through any other person shall constitute an offence under the provisions of this Act shall on conviction be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend up to seven years and with a fine which shall not be less than 5,000 but which may extend to 50,000.

Can Delhi get executive powers like other States (The Hindu)

Context

  • The Supreme Court questioned whether the constitutional scheme on division of executive powers between the Centre and the States can be made applicable to the Union Territory of Delhi.

What did the supreme court state?

  • A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India stated that the executive powers of Delhi should be ascertained in the light of the constitutional scheme providing a clear division of powers between the States and the Centre.
  • The court should not be guided by the nomenclature of Delhi as a Union Territory while interpreting Article 239AA and the executive powers of the Delhi government and there should be no “blurring of responsibilities” between the State and the Centre.

What are the special provisions with respect to Delhi?

  • Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, enacted as per 69th Amendment Act of 191, confers special previsions for Delhi (National Capital Territory of Delhi). Some of them are listed below.
  • The Union Territory of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory and the administrator thereof appointed under article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant Governor.
  • Provisions of public order, police and land is not under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government, but is with the centre.
  • The total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly, the number of seats reserved for scheduled castes, the division of the National Capital Territory into territorial constituencies and all other matters relating to the functioning of the Legislative Assembly shall be regulated by law made by Parliament.
  • The provisions of articles 324 to 327 and 329 shall apply in relation to the National Capital Territory, the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory and the members and any reference in articles 326 and 329 to “appropriate Legislature” shall be deemed to be a reference to Parliament.

A question of probity (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of India, in a case concerning corruption arising out of certain judicial proceedings, declared that the master who alone could decide what case goes to which judge in the Supreme Court.
  • The registry published a circular notifying lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided by the Chief Justice of India

What was the issue?

  • On November 9, advocate Kamini Jaiswal had made an urgent oral mention of a petition before a two-judge Bench. The petition wanted the investigation into the medical college corruptioncase to be transferred from the CBI to a SIT supervised by a retired CJI.
  • The petition said the FIR suspected that a conspiracy was highlighted to bribe Supreme Court judges.
  • The two-judge Bench immediately listed the case for hearing on the same afternoon and ordered a Constitution Bench of the “first five judges in the order of seniority” to be set up on November 13 to hear Ms. Jaiswal’s petition.

What was the CJI’s reaction to it?

  • The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Misra effectively prevented the scheduled hearing on November 13 by laying down the law that no two-judge Bench can command the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches to hear cases in the Supreme Court.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the sole master and carries the complete administrative prerogative over which judge should hear which case in the apex court. The Constitution Bench, in effect, nullified the two-judge Bench’s order.

What is the way ahead?

  • The principle that the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster must be re-examined.
  • Although there can scarcely be any argument against it as a tenet of judicial discipline, it would be naive to consider it an absolute principle of justice delivery.
  • The unchecked power of the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches must be similarly circumscribed.
  • Doing so does not amount to mistrusting the Chief Justice, but rather being cognisant of changing demands of accountability.
  • The moral authority of the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court is to be restored, something similar is needed urgently.
  • In respect of judicial appointments a ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ is required if the system is to regain public confidence.

Manual scavenging law to be amended to hike compensation for deaths (Indian Express)

Context

  • he Union government is set to amend the rules of the legislation that outlaws manual scavenging to hike compensation to Rs 10 lakh each to families of those who die while cleaning sewers or septic tanks.

What is the manual scavenging law about?

  • This law makes it an offence to:
  • Employ people as manual scavengers to clean insanitary latrines.
  • Employ people to clean sewers and septic tanks without protective gear.
  • Construct insanitary latrines.
  • Not demolish or convert insanitary latrines within a certain period of this Act coming into force.
  • Manual scavenging, with its definition limited to manual cleaning of dry latrines, was outlawed in India in 1993.
  • It was only in 2013 that the amended ‘The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act’ recognised more hazardous forms of the practice including the work of sewer and septic tank cleaners, whose deaths were entirely unaccounted for until then.

Does this law provide for rehabilitation of manual scavengers?

  • The rules and procedure for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers through training in alternate employment, financial help and help with purchasing property.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered that state governments have to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each to families of all deceased workers since 1993.

How many deaths have been reported so far?

  • Members concede that even these states — Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have identified only around 270 cases of deaths
  • However, even four years since the Act came into force, several states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi have reported the numbers as zero.

What is the way ahead?

  • The ministry will involve a third-party surveyor to determine the number of workers manually cleaning dry latrines, open drains, pits, railway tracks, septic tanks and sewers.
  • The survey, covering 15 major states, will be completed within six months.
  • The only data available now is the Socio-Economic Caste Census, which excludes sewer and septic tank cleaners as well as those employed in cities.
  • The SECC data shows that in villages alone, 1.82 lakh households have at least one-member cleaning dry latrines.
  • The NSKFDC has no mandate to demand data from the Railways, which is one of the largest employers of manual scavengers but refuses to acknowledge a single case
  • The law provides for prosecuting anyone even engaging people for manually handling human waste but there is not a single prosecution till date

Human rights and wrongs (Indian Express Opinion)

Context:

In a recent case in the Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) referred to itself as “a toothless tiger”.

Introduction:

  • The NHRC has on several occasions boasted of its independence, referring to its leadership comprising a former chief justice of the Supreme Court.
  • The recent submissions to the Sub-Committee of Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions concerning the NHRC’s review this week speak of its journey from a toothless tiger to a spiritless body.
  • A case in point is that of Khurram Parvez, a human rights defender who was arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
  • On September 16, 2016, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) approached the NHRC to intervene in the case through an independent investigation.

About NHRC:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
  • The NHRC is the national human rights institution, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.

Composition:

  • It consists of a Chairman and 4 members. Chairman should be a retired Chief Justice of India. Members should be either sitting or retired judges of the Supreme Court or a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court and 2 persons having practical knowledge in this field.
  • Ex officio members are the chairmen of National Commission for Scheduled Caste, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women.

Appointment:

  • The chairman and members are appointed on the recommendation of a 6 member committee consisting of Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of opposition in both the houses of parliament and Union Home Minister.

Term:

  • Term of the chairman and members is 5 years or 70 years whichever is earlier. After retirement they are not eligible for further reappointment.

Removal:

  • President has to refer the matter to Supreme Court and if after enquiry Supreme Court holds it right then they can be removed by the President.

Why NHRC is called as a toothless tiger?

  • NHRC has also informed the court that it had no power to act against persons or authorities who did not follow the guidelines laid down by it nor did it have the power to issue directives or pass orders but could only make recommendations.
  • It is because NHRC investigates human rights violation cases, sometimes in remote areas, with very limited resources. The evidence collected is put to forensic judicial adjudication by its chairman and members, who are former judges. But at the end, when NHRC arrives at a finding, it can only recommend remedial measures or direct the state concerned to pay compensation.

Problems being faced by NHRC and other State Human Rights Commissions:

  • Most human rights commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed Members. This limits the capacity of commissions to deal promptly with complaints, especially as all are facing successive increases in the number of complaints.
  • Scarcity of resources is another big problem. Large chunks of the budget of commissions go in office expenses, leaving disproportionately small amounts for other crucial areas such as research and rights awareness programmes.
  • NHRC is deluged with too many complaints. Hence, in recent days, NHRC is finding it difficult to address the increasing number of complaints.
  • As human rights commissions primarily draw their staff from government departments – either on deputation or reemployment after retirement – the internal atmosphere is usually just like any other government office.
  • Strict hierarchies are maintained, which often makes it difficult for complainants to obtain documents or information about the status of their case.

Functions:

  • Inquire into violations of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant.
  • By leave of the court, to intervene in court proceeding relating to human rights.
  • To visit any jail or other institutions under the the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection, for the study of the living conditions of the inmates and make recommendation.
  • review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation
  • review the factors, including acts of terrorism   that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures
  • to study treaties   and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation
  • undertake and promote research in the field of human rights
  • engage in human rights education   among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means
  • encourage the efforts of NGOs  and institutions working in the field of human rights
  • such other function as it may consider it necessary for the protection of human rights
  • requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

Problems associated with the current Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993:

  • NHRC’s recommendations do not percolate to the ground level as the NHRC does not have the backing of the Protection of Human Rights Act to penalise authorities which do not implement its orders.
  • The Act does not extend to Jammu and Kashmir and hence the commission has to keep its eyes closed to human rights violations there.
  •  The Act does not categorically empower the NHRC to act when human rights violations through private parties take place.
  • The Act requires that three of the five members of a human rights commission must be former judges but does not specify whether these judges should have a proven record of human rights activism or expertise or qualifications in the area. Regarding the other two members, the Act is vague, saying simply: “persons having knowledge and experience of human rights.”
  • Under the Act, human rights commissions cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed.
  • The powers of the National Human Rights Commission relating to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been restricted to simply seeking a report from the Government, (without being allowed to summons witnesses), and then issuing recommendations.

What can be done?

  • The effectiveness of commissions will be greatly enhanced if their decisions are immediately made enforceable by the government. This will save considerable time and energy as commissions will no longer need to either send reminders to government departments to implement the recommendations or alternatively to approach High Courts through a cumbersome judicial process to make the government take action.
  • Governments should seriously consider the recommendations made by NHRC as NHRC’s orders are passed by persons who had long training and experience as judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. Directives are issued by them after sifting chaff from grain, which they are judicially trained to do.
  • Also, a large number of human rights violations occur in areas where there is insurgency and internal conflict. Not allowing NHRC to independently investigate complaints against the military and security forces only compounds the problems and furthers cultures of impunity. It is essential that commission is able to summons witnesses and documents.
  • As non-judicial member positions are increasingly being filled by ex-bureaucrats, credence is given to the contention that NHRC is more an extension of the government, rather than independent agency exercising oversight.
  • NHRC also needs to develop an independent cadre of staff with appropriate The present arrangement of having to reply on those on deputation from different government departments is not satisfactory as experience has shown that most have little knowledge and understanding of human rights issues.

Conclusion:

The Human Rights Commissions can work effectively only when institutional autonomy guaranteed to the HRC. Now it is a good time to examine not only the functioning and effectiveness of the NHRC and the SHRCs but also to identify the central challenges relating to human rights in the future and work towards tackling them. It is crucial that Human Rights Commission (HRCs) succeed in their efforts to promote and protect human rights.


GS-3


Rasogolla hits sweet spot, gets GI tag (The Hindu)

Context:

The Geographical Indication (GI) Registry and Intellectual Property India recently presented the Geographical Indication Tag status to Banglar Rasogolla of West Bengal and Mamallapuram stone sculptures of Tamil Nadu.

Introduction:

  • West Bengal was involved in a lengthy battle with Odisha , which too had claimed Rasogolla as its invention.
  • Odisha’s claim
  • While West Bengal believes that the Rasogolla was invented in Calcutta by confectioner Nabin Chandra Das, Odisha says it was invented in the holy city of Puri in the 13th century.
  • West Bengal in its application had provided proof of origin — historical records dating back to 1896.
  • According to the documents submitted by West Bengal citing historical evidence, Rasogollas invented in the Nadia district of West Bengal are 60 years old (lower end time frame). Haradhan, a confectioner of village Phulia is named as the inventor.
  • Mamallapuram stone sculptures of Tamil Nadu
  • Tamil Nadu in its application stated that the sculptures from Mamallapuram were known to be carved in stone with characteristics of intricate designing chiselled finely, keeping with the spirit of the surrounding Pallava art and architecture.
  • The description includes cave architecture, rock architecture, structural temples, open sculptures, relief sculptures and painting/portrait sculptures.

About Geographical Indication (GI) :

  • A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin
  • The qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin
  • GI tag is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regards to its special quality or reputation attributes.
  • The status to the products marks its authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name.
  • It is covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Benefits of GI Status:

  • Legal protection to the products
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
  • Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits (iv) Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demands in international and national market.
  • GIs are of utmost importance to the country as they are an integral part of India’s rich culture and collective intellectual heritage.
  • Goods branded as GIs can be made indigenously by local communities independently and in a self-sustaining manner.
  • It Prevents unauthorised use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others
  • It promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in a geographical territory.
  • GIs can also promote rural development in a significant manner and could be fitted in as the most ideal intellectual property right to bolster a programme such as ‘Make in India’.
  • A GI is supposed to convey to a consumer the assurance of a certain quality, reputation or other characteristics of the goods on which it is applied, which are essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

Environment:

The aim is pollution control, not theatre (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, a statutory body set up under the Environment Protection Act as well as the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), led the shift to compressed natural gas in Delhi, to reduce air pollution.

Introduction:

  • The Supreme Court asked the Environment Ministry to come up with what is now called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

Problems:

  • Forecasting data were very poor.
  • Due to poor infrastructure
  • Governance crisis

What possibly makes the air of the capital so polluted?

  • Burning of crops
  • Weather pattern which brought winds from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This brought a lot of dust, huge wind storms which collided with the wind system coming from the east which was bringing moisture. The moisture locks in the dust and becomes a cloud.
  • Emissions of pollutants from vehicles

How is air pollution measured in India?

  • Air pollution is measured by many parameters, like CO and PM2.5
  • India has come up with an Air Quality Index (AQI) to give an aggregate sense of the quality of air.
  • The formulation of the index was a continuation of the initiatives under Swachh Bharat Mission envisioned by the present Prime Minister of India.
  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.
  • The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.

What are the prime sources of air pollution in India?

Agricultural waste burning

  • The burning of agricultural waste in three neighbouring states is responsible for the rise in Air Pollution levels in Delhi.
  • Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are claiming to have taken several measures to discourage straw and stubble burning, but farmers say they have not received any assistance from their respective governments on an alternate method to clear the fields after the harvest

Industrial chimney wastes:

  • There are a number of industries which are source of pollution.
  • The chief gases are SO2and NO2.
  • There are many food and fertilizers industries which emit acid vapors in air.

Thermal power stations:

  • There are number of power stations and super thermal power stations in the country.
  • The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is setting up four mammoth coal- powered power stations to augment the energy generation.
  • The chief pollutants are fly ash, SO2 and other gases and hydrocarbons.

Automobiles:

  • The Toxic vehicular exhausts are a source of considerable air pollution
  • In all the major cities of the country about 800 to 1000 tonnes of pollutants are being emitted into the air daily, of which 50% come from automobile exhausts.
  • The exhaust produces many air pollutants including un-burnt hydrocarbons, CO, NOx and lead oxides.

Way ahead:

  • There is need to have proper data in order to integrate weather forecast with pollution monitoring.
  • Need a better system and protocol in place to inform people about spiked pollution levels.
  • Comprehensive plan should be put in place.
  • Infrastructure to bring long-term and emergency measures.
  • Need for clean fuel –gas or electricity.
  • Need for proper governance system.

Warm, warmer (The Hindu Opinion)

Rich countries must pay more for plans to limit and deal with climate change

Context:

  • The recent 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate change in Bonn reveals the fact that developing countries including India are focusing on the imperatives of ensuring adequate financing for mitigation and adaptation.

What has been India’s contribution so far?

  • India’s progress in reducing the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020 has been positive.
  • Early studies also suggest that it is on track to achieve the national pledge under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Since this performance is predicated on a growth rate of just over 7%, and the parallel target for 40% share of renewable energy by that year, the national road map is clear.
  • The country has also chalked out an ambitious policy on renewable energy, hoping to generate 175 gigawatts of power from green sources by 2022.

What are the challenges for India?  

  • India is concerned about the impact of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods that would have a bearing on economic growth.
  • It is in this context that the rich countries must give up their rigid approach towards the demands of low and middle income countries, and come to an early resolution on the question of financing of mitigation, adaptation and compensation.
  • India importantly retains the right to meet its energy access needs and energy for development through fossil fuel use, particularly coal, if needed.
  • The Paris Agreement does not constrain this approach, which is based on Indian interests.

A new Transport Decarbonisation Alliance declared at the Bonn conference:

  • At the Bonn conference, a new Transport Decarbonisation Alliance has been declared.
  • It is aimed at achieving a shift to sustainable fuels, getting cities to commit to eco-friendly mobility and delivering more walkable communities, all of which will improve the quality of urban life.

Benefits of Transport Decarbonisation Alliance:

  • Such measures will have a beneficial effect not just on transport choices, but on public health through pollution abatement.
  • A national law to raise the efficiency of transport could well be the answer, which the States will readily adopt if supportive financial arrangements are built in.
  • This presents a good template for India, building on its existing plans to introduce electric mobility through buses first, and cars by 2030.
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