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In the database: on registration of marriages

Context:

In a move meant to push citizens to register their marriages and to curb cases of  NRI husbands abandoning Indian wives, the government will now build a centralized database for marriage registration.

Introduction:

  • Recently, the Supreme Court held that that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife who is below 18 years of age is rape.
  • The judgment was interpreted as a strong warning against child marriage.

Recommendations by the Law Commission of India:

  • In July 2017, the Law Commission of India suggested amendments in the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 to make registration of marriages compulsory, like births and deaths, as an effective antidote to social evils like child marriage, bigamy and gender violence.
  • The Law Commission recommended changes in the 1969 Act which would act as a “guiding principle” for States legislate under Entry 5 of the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution taking into consideration the size of the population and sheer diversity of customary forms of marriage.
  • The inclusion of marriages in the Births and Deaths Act would supplement the domain of family laws that already exist.  It would not aim to remove, abolish or amend specific religious/cultural practices and laws that are accepted under personal laws prevailing in India.

Registration of marriages:

  • The Registrar who is responsible for the registration of births and deaths be responsible for the registration of marriages as well.
  • The Amendment Bill should provide that if the birth or marriage or death is not registered within the specified time limit, then the Registrar shall, on the payment of a late fee, register the death or birth
  1. Within a period of 30 days
  2. Within one year, only with the written permission of the prescribed authority
  3. After one year, only on an order of a Fist Class Magistrate.
  4. It provides for a penalty of Rs 5 per day in case of delay in registration of “marriage without a reasonable cause”.
  5. If the Registrar finds that any entry of a marriage in the register kept by him is erroneous or fraudulent or improper, he may correct or cancel the entries after hearing the parties concerned, subject to State government rules.
  6. In a marriage solemnised abroad, and in which one of the parties is Indian, the Registrar shall verify it was conducted as per the laws of that country and the marriage satisfies conditions laid down in Section 4 of the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.

Compulsory registration of marriages:

  • The Commission called for village panchayats, local civil bodies and municipalities to create awareness about compulsory registration of marriages and to make marriage certificates mandatory for getting benefits or welfare like agricultural loans.

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International relations:

Coup de Grace(The Hindu)

Context

  • Zimbabwe’s prolonged political crisis reached the boiling point earlier this month when President Robert Mugabe dismissed the Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

What happened?

  • Armoured personnel carriers and troops were deployed onto roads leading towards Harare on Tuesday, a day after army chief General Constantino Chiwenga warned the military may intervene after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa last week.
  • There is a climax of a power struggle between liberation-era figures loyal to ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and forces faithful to First Lady Grace Mugabe, who is seen as vying to succeed her 93-year-old husband.
  • Zimbabwean soldiers and armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, Parliament and the courts in central Harare
  • Mr. Mugabe’s wife Grace had supposedly been vying to succeed Mr. Mugabe.
  • Soldiers were deployed across Harare on November 14 and they seized the state broadcaster after the ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.
  • Mr. Mugabe has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years.

An unsafe world( The Hindu)

Context

  • Global instability from proliferation and weaponization may soon become a reality

How is the nuclear armament threatening to humanity?

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) task to balance the benefits of nuclear technology for human development against the irreversible risks to the planet’s survival has been increasing
    The world’s nuclear weapon states (NWSs) continue to flout their disarmament obligations with impunity
  • The possession of the deadly bomb by four other countries, besides the five nations that founded the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), testifies to the impediments to restrict the use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s defiance to expand the country’s weaponization programme is only the latest instance of erosion of the NPT’s authority.
  • The Fukushima disaster has brought into sharp focus major concerns over the management of nuclear waste, with potentially dangerous consequences for human civilisation

What was the Fukushima disaster?

  • The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was an energy accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, initiated primarily by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake on 11 March 2011.
  • The issue will pose questions on the merits and sustainability of nuclear technology as a credible source of energy. Governments ought to be more transparent on these matters.

What is the way ahead?

  • Against this backdrop, the prospects are remote that the 2017 treaty to legally ban nuclear weapons could win support from the NWS.
  • In the historic 1953 Atoms for Peace address to the UN General Assembly, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower proposed the establishment of the agency to harness nuclear science for peace.
  • Equally, the emphasis on nuclear science to promote the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals would be subject to the safety frameworks in place.
  • IAEA member states have evidently been slow to adopt measures to enhance the safety of nuclear material transferred within and across national borders.
  • An amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material came into force only in 2016.

The ASEAN outreach(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

The Philippines has been the centre of attraction for the last few days with Manila hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India and East Asia summit.

Introduction:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined these meetings, underscoring India’s commitment to deepening ties with the ASEAN member states and the wider Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East ‘policy.

Indo-Pacific region:

  • The- Indo-Pacific region is now central to global politics and economics.
  • China is the most important player in the region, and as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear in his speech that Beijing is now more confident than ever of projecting regional and global power.
  • China has the good fortune of having an administration in the U.S. that lacks seriousness of purpose and is unable to communicate effectively its priorities for the region.
  • This makes this period of transition very significant for communities like India that have a stake in the long-term stability of the region.

India’s relation with ASEAN:

  • India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of its foreign policy.
  • India also assured ASEAN of “steady support towards achieving a rule-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region’s interests and its peaceful development.
  • As China’s profile grows, and the U.S. continues to be unsure of its security commitments, there is a new opportunity for India in the region.

East Asia Summit:

The East Asia Summit includes countries like India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Russia apart from the 10 ASEAN member states.

Power balance:

  • China has actually managed to emerge as a beacon of open and free global order. This has resulted in the regional powers taking it upon themselves to shape the regional economic and security order.
  • Trans –Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being resurrected without the U.S., and the idea of an Indo-Pacific quadrilateral involving Japan, Australia, India and U.S.is back.
  • New Delhi is no longer different about engaging with other regional players if it helps to further Indian interests in maintaining a stable balance of power in region.

About ASEAN:

  • The ASEAN members and India together consist one of the largest economic regions with a total population of about 1.8 billion.
  • ASEAN is currently India’s fourth largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade.
  • India is ASEAN’s seventh largest trading partner.
  • India’s service-oriented economy perfectly complements the manufacturing-based economies of ASEAN countries.

Conclusion:

Although, ASEAN is presently India’s largest trading partner there is, however, considerable scope for further growth. Formidable security challenges remain, and the two sides must think strategically to increase cooperation for a favourable balance of power that would ensure regional stability.

India needs to do a more convincing job as a beneficial strategic partner of ASEAN by boosting its domestic economic reforms agenda, enhancing connectivity within the region, and increasing its presence in regional institutions. The ASEAN nations should be clearer and more specific in their expectations from New Delhi and nudge India for a deeper, more broad-based engagement. There is much at stake for both sides.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Is the Supreme Court facing an institutional crisis?(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

Presently, the Supreme Court is facing an institutional crisis on account of the most ferocious attack ever on the judiciary by the executive.

Present crisis in Indian Judiciary:

  • Corruption in the judiciary.
  • The executive wants a judiciary that is beholden to it.
  • Politicians and governments influence judges.
  • Shortfall of judges.
  • The most telling indicator of the assault on the judiciary is the non-appointment of judges.
  • Absence of separate Commercial Courts.
  • Lack of expertise
  • Poor dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Frequent transfer of judges.
  • Lack of transparency.
  • Expensive and delayed justice
  • Frequent adjournments and indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction.

Second Judges Case:

  • In 1993, through Second Judges case, the Supreme Court appropriated the power to appoint judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court by interpreting the word “consultation” in Article 124(2) of the Constitution to mean concurrence of the Chief Justice of India for each and every appointment to the higher judiciary.
  • The Third Judges case, was a reference to the court from the then President of India seeking a clarification on certain aspects of the judicial appointments system, which is also known as the collegiums system.

Judiciary versus executive:

  • From the very long, the executive has been ‘itching’ to wrest power back from the judges. The discourse on purported judicial activism, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 that lapsed on the dissolution of the 15the Lok Sabha, and the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act(NJAC), 2014 that was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court with a majority of judges as violative of the basic structure doctrine.

Present controversy:

  • The registration of an FIR against a retired judge of the Odisha High Court and some other persons, for allegedly attempting to influence through extraneous means proceedings in the Supreme Court.
  • In K. Veeraswami v. Union of India (1991), the Supreme Court laid down that no criminal case shall be registered under Section 154, Cr.P.C. against judge of the High Court, Chief Justice of High Court or judge of the Supreme Court unless the Chief Justice of India is consulted in the matter. If the CJI himself is the person whom the allegations of criminal misconduct are received, the government shall consult any other judge or judges of the Supreme Court.

Way ahead:

  • Increase the number of judges, as per the international standards.
  • Increase in the number of judges.
  • Enhancing the productivity of existing court infrastructure and human resources.
  • Productivity enhancement for handling cases more efficiently, that is, case flow management (CFM).
  • Creation of judicial infrastructure, all States and Union territories should have high courts.
  • Mechanism of accountability of judges.
  • Well-trained and specialized should be placed mainly in subordinate and district court, from where huge appeals pops up. All India Judicial commission could be a solution
  • Increase and strengthen alternative dispute mechanisms like fast track courts, mobile courts, commercial courts
  • More importantly tussle over MoP should be done away by improving the channels of communication between executive and legislature
  • Usage of IT tools should be promoted, well integrated database across the judicial system reduces the time involved
  • Fair promotion of judges and scrapping the collegiums system.
  • Better case management and procedural reforms can go a long way in reducing case pendency.
  • Increase the number of national law schools to get even more lawyers into the system.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court is considered as a temple of justice. The Constitution describes the judiciary as one of the three pillars of our democracy. This expression is an embodiment of the spirit of the highest court of the country. It is mostly the Supreme Court, along with the High Courts, that comes to the rescue of the common person and ensures that his or her faith in the rule of law is not shaken. Therefore, it is necessary that judiciary should be free from any political interference and work independently.

Overreach(The Hindu)

Context:

  • It is an act of constitutional impropriety for the Governor of a State to review the work of government officials when an elected regime is in place.

Why is it in news?

  • Recently in news, by holding meetings in Coimbatore to review programmes, the Tamil Nadu Governor has left himself open to charges.
  • Justifications say that it was an attempt to familiarise with the administration and that could appreciate its work in implementing schemes only if he got to know all details first hand.

Why this act is constitutional impropriety?

  • Article 167 of the Constitution says it is the Chief Minister’s duty to communicate to the Governor about all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration and proposals for legislation.
  • It enjoins the Chief Minister to furnish such information relating to the administration as the Governor may call for.
  • There may be occasions when the Governor may need to ask a top bureaucrat or the head of the police force for a report on a major incident or development, but even that should be for the limited purpose of getting an accurate picture before sending a report to the Centre.

Conclusion:

  • The Governor’s familiarisation exercise is bound to be read for signs of what the future has in store.
  • It opens up a prospect of the State coming under a spell of President’s Rule if the present regime formally loses its majority in the House.
  • But the functioning of the Governor should be within the bounds of established norms and conventions.

Anti-superstition Bill passed, with minor changes(The Hindu)

Context:

The State Legislative Assembly recently passed the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017, popularly known as the ‘anti-superstition’ Bill, with minor changes.

Changes introduced in the Bill:

  • Stamping of mudra on the body, a practice in the upper caste community (Madhwa Brahmins), has been exempted from the ban, advertisements that offer miracle cures for disease have been banned.
  • As per this practice, ‘Mudras’ (dyes) usually made of gold or copper are heated on coal fire and stamped on the body.
  • In the change Bill more attention should be given to creating awareness about preventing superstitious in various lower caste communities.
  • The proposed law would be a diluted version of an original Bill that had proposed a ban on all forms of unscientific practices.
  • The Cabinet will carry a list of practices that would be allowed, and ones that will be controlled or prohibited.
  • The legislation was earlier proposed as The Evil, Inhuman and Superstitious Practices Prevention Bill.
  • After Omitting the word superstitious, it is now titled the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practice and Black Magic Bill, 2017.

Reasons for introducing changes:

  • It aims to bring social awakening and awareness in the society and create healthy and safe social environment.
  • The prohibited practices will be those that violate human dignity.
  • The bill seeks to combat and eradicate other such inhuman practices propagated and performed in the name of”black magic” by conman with sinister motive of exploiting the common people, thereby destroying the social fabric in the society.
  • It will ban on all forms of unscientific practices.
  • It will help in achieving equality in society.
  • It primarily aims to protect people against evil and sinister practices and combat inhuman magic.

Issues involved in the Bill:

Some of the proposals under the 2016 Bill that raised the hackles of religious leaders and political parties was the proposal to ban practices such as carrying of swamijis (religious leaders) in palanquins, worshipping at the feet of religious leaders, and Made Snana, a practice popular in Dakshina Kannada where Dalits have to roll on food left over by upper caste people.

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.
  • 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 prohibited activities like:

  • Performing any inhuman, evil act and black magic in search of precious things, assaulting any person, parading naked or putting a ban on someone’s daily activities.
  • 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

Conclusion:

Awareness needs to be created among the public about the ill-effects of superstitions.

Venkaiah for single media watchdog( The Hindu)

Context

  • Self-regulation is not working and there is growing need for a single watchdog for the television and print media, Vice-President, Press Council of India, Venkaiah Naidu said on the occasion of National Press Day.

The necessity of a watchdog

  • There is need for a single watchdog body for both print and television media, however, regulation should not become strangulation.
  • The watchdog is necessary to guarantee that political and business interests of the owners of media houses did not affect news.
  • News gets increasingly coloured with views that are consistent with the agenda of the management.
  • Barring a few honorable exceptions, the press behaved like a handmaiden of the government, therefore a watchdog is a must.

Credibility affected

  • Credibility is becoming a rare commodity. One does not know what to believe.
  • For a democracy to thrive, free flow of information is essential. Democracy needs information and dissent but it does not mean disintegration.

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Economy:

Indian Bank to seek bids for sale of NPAs worth Rs 1,100cr (The Hindu)

Context

  • The Chennai-based Indian Bank has decided to invite bids for sale of NPAs (non-performing assets) worth close to 1,100 crore.

The sale

  • NPA’s covering over 8,250 accounts will be sold and the sale is without any recourse to the bank.
  • The bank has invited proposals from eligible asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), banks, non-banking financial companies and financial institutions.
  • The deadline e had been set to November 30 for submission of the bids.
  • The sale will comprise seven NPA accounts with a book balance of 25 crore and above worth 572 crore.

Top three

  • The bank will be short listing the top three bidders based on the bid amount quoted.
  • It could adopt either the e-auction process or could go for negotiation with the highest bidder as recommended by the asset sale committee.
  • Though the bank has indicated the reserve prices for these NPA categories, the ultimate reserve price for each portfolio of accounts would be based on the dues on the cut-off date i.e. November 24, 2017.
  • Indian Bank is attempting to bring down the gross NPAs to below 5% or at least in the range of 5-5.5% from the current level of 7% and the net NPAs to less than 3% from the current level of 4%.

How a split-second advantage can bring huge unfair gains at the NSE(Indian Express)

Context

  • I-T has searched the premises of top former exchange officials as part of a multipronged investigation into how brokers got preferential access to the trading system.

What is the controversy pertaining to the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and algorithmic trading?

  • The NSE is facing allegations that some brokers got preferential access to the trading system through the co-location facility at the stock exchange
  • The allegations of unfair access were first made by a whistle blower in January 2015.
  • The whistle blower stated that a few brokers were able to log on to the NSE system with better hardware specifications while engaged in algorithmic trading to their unfair advantage.
  • The letter to Sebi alleged that sophisticated market manipulation had been taking place at the NSE co-location centre.
  • It also said that NSE had allowed a non-empanelled Internet Service Provider (ISP) to lay fibre optic cables on the premises for a few stock brokers.

What is Algorithmic trading?

  • Algorithmic trading refers to orders generated at superfast speed by the use of advanced mathematical models that involve automated execution of trade.

What happened after the allegation came to light?

  • Sebi formed an expert committee under its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to examine the allegations against NSE.

What action has Sebi taken so far?

  • It has issued show cause notices to NSE and 14 key management personnel as part of its investigation into alleged lapses in high-frequency trading or algorithmic trading.
  • Sebi proposed measures to tighten rules for algo, citing concerns about fair access to markets.

Curb on exports of pulses lifted(The  Hindu)

Context

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has abolished all restrictions on export of pulses to allow farmers to seek remunerative prices for their output.

Why this step?

  • India produced 23 million tonnes of pulses in 2016-17 and the government has set a target to produce 22.90 million tonnes in 2017-18.
  • The Centre has acquired 20 million tonnes at market rates or minimum support price.
  • The Cabinet’s economic panel has further decided that the export and import policy for pulses will be reviewed by a committee of top officials
  • This is also likely to provide higher levels of protein to the population and work towards nutritional security.

Centre doubles down on GST’s  gains for consumers (The Hindu)

Context:

The Union Cabinet approved establishing the National Anti Profiteering Authority (NAA) under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) to ensure fair pricing.

Introduction:

  • The Centre notified the latest set of cuts in the rate of tax to be levied on a wide range of goods as part of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Union Cabinet recently approved the creation of the National Anti-profiteering Authority to ensure that businesses pass on the benefits of GST to consumers.
  • The decision was an outcome of sharp reduction in the GST rates of a large number of items of mass consumption.

About NAA:

  • The NAA will be headed by a senior Secretary-level official of the Central government, with four technical members from either the Centre or the states.
  • This is the second major GST-related decision taken by the government .

Objectives of establishing:

  • To ensure that benefit of the reduction in prices under the uniform tax regime reaches the consumers.
  • The Cabinet consented to creating positions of Chairman and technical members of the authority which would lead to immediate establishment of the apex body.
  • To ensure that the latest tax rate reductions approved by the GST Council on more than 200 items are implanted immediately by businesses.
  • The GST Council, at its recent meeting, held that restaurants had failed to pass on the benefit of input tax credit to customers by way of lower prices.
  • Help in controlling inflation.
  • The objective of the anti-profiteering clause in GST is to ensure that any reduction in tax rate as a result of GST should be passed on to consumers by way of commensurate reduction in prices.

Composition:

  • The institutional framework comprises the NAA, a Standing Committee, and Screening Committees in every state and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).

Functions:

  • The NPP can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.
  • It has the authority to order the supplier / business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed by it along with interest to the recipient of the goods or services.
  • If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund.
  • In extreme cases, the NAA can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.”

Implications:

Positive Implications

  • Inflation :GST may bring in general inflation in the introductory phase as some goods and service become expensive and others cheaper(but the reduction in price is not passed on to customers). The anti – profiteering clause will minimise this risk.
  • Confidence in GST :With a legal obligation on businesses to pass on the benefit, this will help in instilling confidence in GST among people.
  • Intermediate Goods :Sectors dependent on intermediate goods may face sudden rise in price. This clause protects them.

Negative Implications

  • Against Free Market: In a free market prices are decided by demand and supply. They eventually balance out. This is a distortion
  • Fear of Tax Raj: Companies fear tax authorities may misuse this rule to unfairly target them or worse lead to bribed and corruption
  • Adverse Impact on Investments: There may be a fall in investments due to the confusion created in implementation of this clause.

Economic reforms taken by the Government:

To provide further impetus to the economy, the present government has implemented a slew of economic reforms like:

  1. Introduction of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
  2. Recapitalization package for the banks. Recapitalisation will help to redress the twin balance sheet problem and revive private investment.
  3. Roll out of the game changing tax reform Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  4. Crackdown against black money through demonetisation
  5. Major changes in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy regime with an aim to make it more liberal and investor friendly.

Environment:

120 Indian signatories to scientists’ ecology warning(The Hindu)

Context:

  • More than 120 Indian scientists are among the 15,364 scientists from 184 countries to endorse the second warning that the world’s scientists have issued to humanity.
  • They say that if the current unsustainable ways of living is not mended, it could augur “widespread misery” and “catastrophic biodiversity loss”

Explanation:

  • Following up on nine environmental issues, identified by these scientists, a compiled current data on them goes on to say:
  • Decline in freshwater availability and the catch in global marine fisheries.
  • Biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming pace: between 1970 and 2012, the world’s vertebrate populations declined by 58%.
  • Forest loss has been tabled at 129 million hectares between 1990 and 2015, and both human and livestock populations have increased.

What are the recommendations made by the scientists?

  • Recommendations to transition to sustainability include:
  • halting conversion of natural habitats such as forests and grasslands,
  • reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure,
  • promoting new green technologies, and
  • revising economies to reduce inequalities in wealth.
  • There is a need for both immediate and long-term solutions.
  • It is critical to limit further habitat loss and the expansion of new roads, mines and mega-projects into the last wild places.
  • There is also a need to enlist the help and engagement of local communities wherever possible Indian scientists, from.
  • Societies need to take into account evidence-based inputs from the scientific community.
  • Evidence-based inputs are issues that are critical to address, especially in a developing country like India.
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