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GS: 1

Society related issues:

Indians averse to adopting children with special needs(The Hindu )

Context

Adoptions by foreign applicants rise by 50%

What has happened?

For every Indian parent who adopts a differently-abled child there are at least seven foreigners who adopt such children from India after they fail to find a family in the country

Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

Apex body for adoption in India, shared latest data=

  • Domestic adoptions falling: Domestic adoptions of children with special needs has fallen with every passing year
  • Rise in foreign adoptions: Foreigners adopting children with a physical deformity or an ailment rose by 50% last year alone

What the law says

Efforts have to be made to place a child within India first, and only when a child is not accepted by Indian applicants is he or she referred to foreigners

Reason for larger adoption by foreigners

  • Most referrals to foreigners are of differently abled children: Overseas applicants are mostly referred differently-abled children as Indians don’t accept them mostly.
  • Primary reason: Differences in cultural attitudes towards disabilities
    • Even parents of healthy children have huge expectations of them. So, naturally, there is social stigma attached with disabilities in our country
    • Those with means in India also don’t adopt these children
  • Better social security abroad: It helps families adopt a child with disabilities

CARA

  • Statutory body: It is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India
  • Nodal body for adoptions: It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
  • Hague convention: CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
    CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies

GS: 2

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Inclusion and the right to dignity(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The onus of battling discrimination must not fall on the shoulders of Dalits alone

Recent events

In January 2016 the death of Rohith Vemula, in July 2016 the public attacks on Dalits in Una, and earlier this year attacks on celebrations of the historic Bhima-Koregaon battle in Maharashtra

Questions raised by the author

We need to go beyond headlines and ask why a vulnerable community took to the streets

  • What has gone wrong with the project of justice that independent India initiated with a flourish? What has gone wrong with our own sensibilities?

Why, as per the author, Dalit are so desperate?

Uneven results

Mixed results of affirmative action policies

Unrealised justice project

Till today what caste we belong to continues to profile social relations, codify inequalities, govern access to opportunities and propel multiple atrocities

Shrugging off indifference by other citizens for Dalit causes

It is only when we concentrate on the construction of a political consensus in society, that the uncomfortable distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that bedevils much of the case for remedial justice will dissolve

Discrimination continues still

  • The ideology of discrimination continues to dominate despite a multitude of constitutional provisions, laws, affirmative action policies and political mobilisation
  • The politics of voice can achieve a great deal in the public sphere, but if the ideology of discrimination continues to shape social relations, much of the gains are lost

Conclusion

One of the most essential goods human beings are entitled to, the right to respect, has not been realised

What is affirmative action?

  • Affirmative action policies are those in which an institution or organization actively engages in efforts to improve opportunities for historically excluded groups
  • Affirmative action policies often focus on employment and education

A case to withdraw the triple talaq Bill(The Hindu  Opinion)

Context

The Bill in its current form has many procedural and legal infirmities

What has happened?

The Prime Minister’s lament to the outgoing Rajya Sabha MPs that they missed out on an opportunity to debate important issues such as the triple talaq Bill — the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 — due to disruptions is an indication that despite widespread public opinion against it, the Centre is inordinately keen on making it a law

SC rendered the pronouncement ineffective

The Supreme Court, in Shayara Bano v. Union of India (2017), had set aside the validity of instant talaq (talaq-e-biddat), thus rendering its pronouncement ineffective in dissolving a marriage

Criminalising inconsequential words

Yet this Bill makes the pronouncement punishable with a three-year imprisonment without realising that such an arbitrary exercise of legislative power is liable to be judicially reviewed and struck down for violating the principles of natural justice and rule of law

Unjust recommendations

If talaq-e-biddat is declared an act of “domestic violence” innocent men could be forced to undergo the humiliating punishments reserved for cognisable and non-bailable offences.

Personal Liberty

The triple talaq Bill fails the test of constitutionality found in Article 21

Due process of law vs. procedure established by law

  • Procedure established by law (explicitly provided in Indian constitution by Article 21): It means that a law that is duly enacted by the legislature or the concerned body is valid if it has followed the correct procedure. Following this doctrine means that, a person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty according to the procedure established by lawSo, if Parliament passes a law, then the life or personal liberty of a person can be taken off according to the provisions and procedures of that law. This doctrine has a major flaw. What is it? It does not seek whether the laws made by Parliament is fair, just and not arbitrary. “Procedure established by law” means a law duly enacted is valid even if it’s contrary to principles of justice and equity
  • Due process of law (followed in US): Due process of law doctrine not only checks if there is a law to deprive the life and personal liberty of a person but also see if the law made is fair, just and not arbitrary. If SC finds that any law as not fair, it will declare it as null and void. This doctrine provides for more fair treatment of individual rights. Under due process, it is the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person and laws that states enact must confirm to the laws of the land like – fairness, fundamental rights, liberty etc. It also gives the judiciary to access the fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty of any legislation

Is fairness also implicit under Article 21?

Yes. As per, SC ruling in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), a seven-judge Constitution Bench ruled that fairness is implicit in the phrase “procedure established by law” and therefore, the procedure should be “fair, just and reasonable, not fanciful, oppressive or arbitrary”; otherwise it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of Article 21 would not be satisfied. The court also clarified that “law” means reasonable law, not any enacted piece.

  • The same view was endorsed by the Supreme Court, in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017)e. the recent Right to Privacy judgement
  • The same view has been further emphasised in stronger words by Justice V. Krishna Iyer in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (1978)

Why the procedure imposing imprisonment in talaq bill is not fair?

  • Against article 19(1)d & 19(1)g: The imprisonment clause is against 19(1)d and 19(1)g which allow all citizens “to move freely throughout the territory of India” and “practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.” Thus, if a man is unjustifiably jailed under the proposed law even for a few weeks, he will be denied of these rights for that period, to say nothing about the dim prospects of securing a job after the stigmatising confinement

Author states that seen in the light of the abovementioned judicial pronouncements & the A19 sub clauses, procedure imposing penal imprisonment for talaq-e-biddat in the proposed Bill is unfair

EC to take a call on electoral bonds soon (The Hindu)

Context

Electoral Bonds

Backdrop

The Union government notified the electoral bond scheme on January 2. The amendment to Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act has made it no longer mandatory for the parties to report the details of donations received through the bonds. It is not clear how the details of the bonds will be shared with the Election Commission. However, the issuing bank has their money trails.

Eligibility for electoral bonds

Under the rule, only registered political parties which have secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the previous Lok Sabha or Assembly elections are eligible for these bonds

  • The first round of sales was allowed in the designated branches of the State Bank of India (SBI) in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai

Election Commission’s view on Electoral bonds

Election Commission had told a parliamentary committee that the introduction of electoral bonds would be a retrograde measure in the effort to make political funding transparent. It had submitted that the changes made to the election laws for the bonds could compromise transparency.

GS: 3

Economy:

Why Indian firms don’t innovate (The Hindu)

Context

A large proportion of Indian companies just don’t have the policy or human resource capabilities to invest in innovation though the country fares favourably in terms of research and development (R&D) spending when compared with its peers, according to a top World Bank official

Issues: Why Indian companies don’t innovate?

  • There aren’t that many of the big and modern firms that are investing a huge amount in R&D and the vast majority of firms in India don’t have the capability to do R&D
  • Firms in India lack the capability to take a careful look at their basic plant layouts, can’t make long-term plans, don’t have an innovation strategy and don’t have an HR (human resources) policy to staff their innovation strategy
  • SMEs (small and medium enterprises) don’t have a five-year plan, they don’t have somebody keeping track of what new technology has come out of some place that they could bring to the firm. They lack managerial cpabilities

What can be done?

  • Focus should be on increasing productivity and not simply focussing on R&D or single-mindedly increasing employment
  • It is not feasible for a country or a company to do everything by itself, and that India still stands to gain a lot from borrowing technology from abroad, which then enables it to leapfrog some existing technologies, such as the case with 4G adoption or the implementation of BS-VI fuel norms
  • One solution can be to attract talent from abroad by engaging with the Indian diaspora more and trying encourage them to come back and bring their training and expertise to India
  • Indian government should help SMEs by helping them to identify their strengths and weaknesses in a systematic manner and then provide them with access to international best practices and advice on how those could help them

Bad loan menace: auditors come under lens of RBI (The Hindu)

Context

With the RBI cracking the whip on bad loans menace, more than three dozen chartered accountants (CAs) are under the scanner for allegedly conniving with promoters in defaulting as well as restructuring the stressed assets, sources said

What is RBI looking into?

The regulator is looking to ascertain whether these chartered accountants helped the entities in any illegal manner causing deliberate defaults and subsequently assisting them in restructuring the dud assets

Additional measures by SEBI
The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is looking to enhance oversight to check such frauds with new regulations for fiduciaries in the securities markets

  • It will require additional disclosure requirements and greater scrutiny of financial statements by auditors and other third party entities, he said. SEBI may finalise rules which will put the responsibility on chartered accountants, company secretaries, cost accountants, valuers and monitoring agencies to get firms to comply with securities regulations and act in the interests of shareholders

‘LTCG tax to spur growth in fixed-income MFs’ (The Hindu)

Context

Year 2017 was one of the most remarkable years for the mutual fund industry both in terms of growing the equity asset class, as well as systematic investment plans (SIP) as a mode of investing

Prelims relevant info

What is LTCG tax?

It is the tax paid on profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held for a particular time-frame. The definition of Long-term Capital Gains, or LTCG, is different for various products

B15 markets

Although mutual funds (MF), as a financial instrument, is supposed to be available in every nook and corner of the country, the reality is that it’s hard to find a distributor selling MFs just about anywhere or any MF’s office in, say, remote areas

  • The capital market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) wants to change this and have incentivized fund houses to go to what is commonly referred to in MF parlance as—B15 cities. While B15 stands for beyond (top) 15 cities, T15 stands for top 15 cities. Association of Mutual Funds in India (Amfi) has analysed inflows of fund houses, geography-wise, and has classified cities as T15 and B15 in the order of inflows that come from these places

Science and Technology:

Humanity’s first flight to sun in July: NASA (The Hindu)

Context

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — humanity’s first mission to the Sun — is undergoing final preparations for its launch scheduled for July 31

Launch by: Delta IV Heavy Launch Vehicle

Launched from: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Objective of the mission

  • It will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere — the corona — closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone
  • While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth

Environment

Smoke in the woods (The Hindu Opinion)

Context
The new draft Forest Policy 2018

Different approaches

  • Pre & Post independence: Forest policy in colonial India focussed on maximising products and revenues for the state through the imperial forest department as sole owner, protector and manager of the forest estate. In post independent India forests were seen as sources of raw material for industry and local communities were simply treated as labour
  • Forest policy 1988: It recognised the multiple roles of forests and prioritised environmental stability over revenue maximisation. It also acknowledged that the needs of forest-dependent communities must be the first on forest produce. Equally important, the policy emphasised people’s involvement in protecting and regenerating forests, thus formally recognising the limitations of state-managed forestry
  • Joint Forest Management: Joint forest management (JFM) was initiated in the 1990s to implement the concept of people’s involvement. But it failed as foresters created thousands of village forest committees but severely limited their autonomy and jurisdictions. Donor money was spent on plantations but activities were stopped once funds ran out. Instead a meaningful devolution of powers was required
  • Forest Rights Act 2006: It created a historic opportunity for such devolution. Its community forest resource provisions gave communities rights to both access and manage forests. The FRA democratised the forest diversion process by requiring community concurrence for forest diversion once community forest rights are recognised. The Adivasis of Niyamgiri in Odisha exercised this provision to prevent bauxite mining in their sacred hill tracts

What important provisions entail the new draft forest policy 2018?

It talks of production forestry & plantations s new thrust area

Production forestry: The practice of forestry with object of producing maximum quantity of timber, fuel wood and other forest produce is called Production Forestry

  • Forest Development Corporations will now enter into public-private partnerships (PPPs) to bring corporate investment into forest lands
  • In the past production forestry has led to destruction of diversity, dried up streams and undermined local livelihoods. PPPs will entail more such destruction, with even the profits ending up in corporate hands.

What should be done?

There is a need to replace JFM committees with statutorily empowered Gram Sabhas, and revamp the colonial-era Indian Forest Act by incorporating FRA provisions

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