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GS-2


Govt. working on tougher consumer protection law:

Context

  • A new consumer protection law is introduced to crack down misleading advertisements and simplify the grievance redressal mechanism.

Rising consumer awareness

  • Consumer awareness about their legitimate rights has been constantly growing in recent years.
  • Consumer protection movement is a part of global recognition and concern that consumers are a weak party in buying goods and services as compared to the manufacturers and traders producing and selling them.

What is the need for consumer protection law?

  • Consumers are largely denied their due rights, especially in developing countries such as India. The consumers are spread widely all over a country and are poor, illiterate and are generally not aware of their rights, though their awareness has recently increased.
  • The manufacturers and suppliers of goods or services often exploit consumers by adopting a number of unfair and restrictive trade practices. They often merge and also form tacit cartels to raise prices for maximising their profits at the expense of consumers.
  • Misleading advertising is another means by which the producers deceive the consumers. More often the purpose of advertisement by the manufacturers and suppliers is to mislead the ill-informed consumers about the quality and contents of their products and services. They indulge in what is called persuasive advertisement to compete away customers from their rivals.
  • Heavy advertising expenditures just enable the manufacturers at the most to maintain their market shares of the product without adding much to its total output. The consumers need protection from such deception of persuasive advertisements.
  • The other and highly injurious practice by the suppliers, especially in India, is widespread practice of adulteration of commodities. The adulteration by private sector can take place right from the manufacturing point to the ultimate supplier of the products to the consumers.
  • It is due to the above practices of the manufacturers and suppliers which have resulted in consumer protection movement and have forced the governments to enact legislation to protect the consumers.

The new Goods and Services (GST)

  • GST is one of the key consumer-friendly reforms that the government had introduced. The GST would benefit consumers in the long run as prices would come down because of competition among manufacturer.
  • Consumers will no longer be cheated as they can see on receipts the tax they are paying with GST setting its foot in the economy.
  • Indian economy is in the process of enacting a new Consumer Protection Act, keeping in view business practices and requirements of the country. The proposed Act lays great emphasis on consumer empowerment.
  • The new law will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and is in line with the revised UN guidelines on consumer protection. It is currently with the Cabinet Secretariat and will be placed before the Cabinet for consideration soon.

Consumer Protection Act 1986

  • India adopted consumer protection legislation – the Consumer Protection Act, in 1986.
  • Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1986 to protect the interests of consumers in India.
  • It makes provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith also.
  • Its National Consumer Policy statement takes into account inter alia the following two rights of consumers: basic needs and a healthy environment.
  • This is a Central Govt. Act applicable in all states of India, to provide for the protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.

RIGHTS PROVIDED under Consumer Protection Act 1986

  • Right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forum;
  • Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
  • Right to consumer education.

The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act 1993 adds the following consumer rights:

  • The right to be assured wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
  • The right to be informed about the quality, potency, purity, standard and price of goods (or services as the case may be) so as to protect the consumers against unfair trade practices; and
  • The right to be protected against the marketing of goods (and services) which are hazardous to life and property.

Consumer Disputes Redressal System:

  • Under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 three-tier consumer disputes redressal system at the District, State and National levels has been set up.

Thus the Act provides for establishing the following consumer redressal agencies:

  • District Consumer Forum in each district of a state set up by the State Government.
  • State Consumer Commission in each state set up by each State.
  • National Consumer Commission set up by the Central Government

The need of a grievance redressal mechanism

  • There are many reasons which give rise to grievances redressal mechanism functionaries. These include malfunctioning, corrupt practices, procedural lapses, lack of transparency & accountability, undue interference, and deficiency of skilled human resource.
  • Such unwanted practices hinder the performance and result in the piling up of more and more complaints. Moreover, in a democratic set up the expectations of people redouble; as compared to all other forms of government; and these practices become even more counterproductive for the overall well being of the relation of the ruled with their government.
  • So, the grievance redressal mechanism in a democratic set up is important for the sustenance of the system itself.
  • If the grievances of the people are timely solved, the people become satisfied with the working of the government and this satisfaction gives stability to the government.
  • Nevertheless, it is not only the existence of the grievance redressal mechanism but its performance which makes one government, that redresses grievances efficiently, successful and the other, which is underperforming on this account, as unsuccessful.

Issues with the grievance redressal platform

  • The biggest hindrance in the grievance redressal is the attitude of the government functionaries toward complaints of the people.
  • These functionaries take complaints as something hostile to their jobs and an attempt, on part of the people who make complaints, to harm these employees. In reality complaints are ways available with the people to express their problems and helplessness.

Way ahead

  • The better way to deal with the complaints is to look into them with empathy, sincerity and humane considerations.
  • The complaints which are not genuine should be discarded but the genuine ones should be taken care of and the employee or the department should never hesitate in rectifying a mistake or performing an unperformed work.
  • Proper method of dealing with the grievances even enhances the value and worth of these employees, and the departments they represent, for the people.  

India for ‘constructive’ Rohingya policy:

Context:

  • India on Thursday said that displaced members of the Rohingya community will have to return to their place of origin in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.

Introduction:

  • Speaking on the prospects of India-Japan cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and Asia-Pacific regions, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar highlighted India’s regional humanitarian responsibilities and growing convergence with Tokyo.
  •   He also highlighted the need for “a sober, sensitive and locally sensitive approach” in dealing with the humanitarian emergency that the exodus had become.

Regional cooperation:

  •     Mr.Jaishankar also brought up the ties between connectivity, regional cooperation and humanitarian response to evolving crisis.
  •  “One of the areas we want to see in the agenda of BIMSTEC is collaboration on the HADR— that, we would like these member countries to cooperate on humanitarian assistance to disaster situation. In the last three years, Nepal earthquake relief, (India’s response to) Yemen civil war, Maldives water crisis, and even Operation Insaniyat for the Rohingyas are part of cooperation.” Mr Jaishankar highlighted.
  • Nepal earthquake relief, India’s response to Yemen civil war, Maldivian water crisis, and Operation Insaniyat for the Rohingyas are part of cooperation.

Who are the Rohingyas?

  • The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group living primarily in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.
  • They practice a Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam.
  • The estimated one million Rohingya in Myanmar account for nearly a third of Rakhine’s population.
  • The Rohingya differ from Myanmar’s dominant Buddhist groups ethnically, linguistically, and religiously

What is the crisis?

  • The Rohingya crisis is a human rights crisis with serious humanitarian consequences.
  • Large number of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar, many crossing by land into Bangladesh, while others take to the sea to reach Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
  • The unfair policies of the Myanmar government in Rakhine state have resulted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee since the late 1970s.

Why the issue of ethnicity for Rohingya?

  • The Rohingya trace their origins in the region to the fifteenth century when thousands of Muslims came to the former Arakan Kingdom.
  • Many others arrived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Bengal and the Rakhine territory were governed by colonial rule as part of British India.
  • Since independence in 1948, successive governments in Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, have refuted the Rohingya’s historical claims and denied the group recognition as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups.
  • Both the Myanmar government and the Rakhine state’s dominant ethnic Buddhist group, known as the Rakhine, reject the use of the label “Rohingya.

Why are Rohingya fleeing Myanmar?

  • Government policies, including restrictions on marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement have institutionalized systemic discrimination against the ethnic group.
  • Rakhine state is also Myanmar’s least developed state, with more than 78 percent of households living below the poverty threshold, according to World Bank estimates.
  • Widespread poverty, weak infrastructure, and a lack of employment opportunities exacerbate the cleavage between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.

Rohingyas in India

  • There are an estimated 36,000 Rohingya Muslims in India today, concentrated in the seven states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.
  • Delhi stance on the Rohingyas is firm; they are welcome as long as the Rohingyas obtain a valid visa and have a refugee card.
  • Without a refugee card, the Rohingyas can’t claim land, health benefits or education for their kids.
  • According to a Reuters report, only 9000 of the 36,000 Rohingyas who live in India are registered.

Why such distant stand by India?

  • Rohingya crisis is irreconcilable and unresolvable. All that can be done is try to mitigate it.
  • With India having no solution or expertise to offer, it is a good reason to stay away.
  • India has real security interests which depend on the goodwill of the Myanmar regime.
  • In 2015, for instance, following an attack by Naga rebels on a security convoy in Manipur, Indian forces carried out a covert raid across the border – with the quiet nod from Yangon. Delhi does not want that trust to be eroded.
  • A new Muslim militant minority across India’s eastern border poses a severe security threat to the stability in Bangladesh and, in turn, across Assam and northeast India.
  • Several thousands of Rohingya refugees already reside in India and with support from activists they could disrupt Delhi’s relations with Myanmar.

Impact on India

  • When peace returns to Myanmar, India can ask the latter to rehabilitate the Rohingyas.
  • A stable and democratic Myanmar will naturally gravitate towards New Delhi.
  • The Rohingya crisis, if it remains unsettled, can become a path toward radicalization and pose a greater security threat for India.
  • There are reports of increasing radicalization among sections of the Rohingya community.
  • A December 2016 report by the International Crisis Group spoke precisely about this challenge and highlighted how rights violations can lead to radicalization.

About BIMSTEC:

  1. The Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia.
  2. These countries includes: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
  3. The BIMSTEC states are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
  4. BIMSTEC  is home to around 1.5 billion people, constituting around 22% of global population with a combined GDP of $2.7 trillion economy.
  5.  Majority of the BIMSTEC countries are situated in South Asian Region (SAR) prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, avalanche.
  6. The seven-country forum aims to achieve its own free trade area by 2017.

Objective of BIMSTEC:

Technological and economic co-operation among south Asian and South East Asian countries along the coast of the bay of Bengal .

  • Commerce, investment, technology, tourism, human resource development, agriculture, fisheries, transport and communication, textiles, leather etc. have been included in it .

Operation Insaaniyat :

  • India has decided to provide humanitarian assistance to Rohingya community though

Operation Insaaniyat:

Key features of Operation Insaaniyat:

  • Indian government has decided to assist Bangladesh in this crisis by sending relief material.
  • The Defence ministry assured the relief material will be delivered in multiple consignments. Items include rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits, mosquito nets etc.
  •  The Indian Air Force was tasked to airlift the relief material from India to Bangladesh.
  •   One C-17 Globemaster strategic heavy lift cargo aircraft was positioned at short notice at Delhi on 13 Sep 17 to airlift 55 Tons of relief material to Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  •       One more C-17 is scheduled to airlift additional relief material to Bangladesh.
  •  The Indian Air Force rose to the challenge and played a pivotal role to further strengthen the close ties of friendship between India and Bangladesh.

Look beyond Af-Pak: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

  • United States seems to be looking at India’s role in the Indian Ocean region as a counter-balance to China under the Revised South Asia Policy.

Indian Ocean Region

  • Indian Ocean Region extends from Australia in the east to South Africa in the west and leading economies of the world China, India, Japan and Australia depend on it.
  • Indian Ocean is of great importance today arguably more than ever. It is a major conduit for international trade, especially energy.
  • The littoral zone of Indian Ocean is vast, densely populated, and comprised of some of the world’s fastest growing regions.
  • The Ocean is a valuable source of fishing and mineral resources. And yet its governance and security are under constant threat of being undermined, whether by non-state actors such as pirates, smugglers, and terrorists, or by furtive naval competition between states.
  • Of late, the docking of Chinese submarines in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, forcing an Indian submarine to surface, building of islands in the South China Sea, forging friendships with smaller Indian Ocean countries, an ambitious Maritime Silk Road (MSR) touted as ‘String of Pearls’ and the massive expansion of PLA-Navy of late has created a buzz of discomfort in India.

Strait of Malacca

  • It runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, has long been a major gateway for trade to and from Asia, and is once again rapidly rising in importance.
  • Already the world’s second-busiest waterway, it has been in continuous use since antiquity, with Roman, Greek, Chinese and Indian traders all taking advantage of this natural channel.
  • The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 only increased its significance as the Strait became a key link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, reducing the distance between Europe and the Far East.
  • More recently it has served as the main transit route supplying vital commodities to fuel the fast-growing economies of Asia and beyond.
  • Of the 87 million barrels of oil produced per day in 2011, approximately 15.2 million passed through the Strait of Malacca, the shortest sea route between African and Persian Gulf suppliers and Asian markets.
  • As the link between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between India and China and hence is one of the most heavily traveled shipping channels in the world.

Why is Indian Ocean Region Important?

The Indian Ocean is important for three reasons:

  • Firstly, it enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific.
  • The energy flows through the Indian Ocean are of particular consequence. Some 36 million barrels per day which is equivalent to about 40 per cent of the world’s oil supply and 64 per cent of oil trade—travel through the entryways into and out of the Indian Ocean, including the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz and the Bab-el-Mandeb.
  • Secondly, the Ocean’s vast drainage basin is important in its own right, creating opportunities, especially given the high rates of economic growth around the Indian Ocean rim, including in India, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, and Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • Finally, the Indian Ocean is rich in natural resources. 40 per cent of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin.
  • Fishing in the Indian Ocean accounts for almost 15 per cent of the world’s total and has increased some 13-fold between 1950 and 2010 to 11.5 million tonnes.
  • Aquaculture in the region has also grown 12-fold since 1980. Although global fishing is reaching its natural limitations, the Indian Ocean may be able to sustain increases in production.
  • Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea-bed.

What is South Asia Policy?

  • South Asia as a region remains to be at the forefront of the United States’ regional interests and concerns.
  • President Trump’s administration has brought a mix of change and continuity in the country’s foreign and security policies, especially those in South Asia.
  • The policy ranges from the situation in Afghanistan to ever-tightened relations with Pakistan alongside the rejuvenation of relations with India.
  • The United States has numerous interests to be protected via this region and concerns to be pacified. Alongside the approval of more troops for Afghanistan, the meeting between President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts to shape up US’ policy towards South Asia.

Pros of the new South Asia policy

More military deployment in Afghanistan

  • The decision of U.S accompanying South Asian countries in throwing out terrorism from the region provides for a significant change in the nature of military peace.
  • The security scenario will result into sophistication of military operations. The new strategy will be dictated by “the conditions on the ground” not “arbitrary timetables”.  Such a move is necessary to avoid the collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul.

Strong hold on Pakistan

  • The second aspect of the new strategy is a strong focus on Pakistan to make sure it abides by its commitments.
  • Recently, U.S has expressed its concern over Pakistan actions in aborting terrorist activities. Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.
  • U.S has asked Pakistan, a change of approach, a break with the status quo, threatening that no partnership can survive a country’s tolerance of militants and terrorists.

India playing an important role

  • The third part of the Trump strategy is his outreach to India, saying a “critical part” of his administration’s South Asia policy is to further develop the US’s strategic partnership with India.
  • U.S expects from India to play a greater role with the credible image it holds in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has also in return nodded in the friendly manner.

What is Malabar exercise?

History

  • In the year 1992, Malabar exercise kicked off which was 23 years ago, a bilateral drill between India and U.S.
  • In the year 2015, Japan became the permanent member of the Malabar exercise. Japan since 2007 have participated as a non-permanent member along with Australia and Singapore.
  • The main aim of the exercise remained to address the shared security threat to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

Recent developments

 

  • On 10th July, 2017 India, Japan and United States kicked off the Malabar naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The tri-lateral naval exercise is the widest in scope than all its previous editions and will continue for 10 days.
  • Malabar 2017 emanates at a crucial time when the Chinese navy is trying hard to increase its presence in the Indian Ocean region.The main aim of the exercise is to address the shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.
  • Primary emphasis this year is on anti-submarine warfare.

Strategic and Maritime importance:

  • The trilateral (India-US-Japan) is of strategic as well as maritime importance due to following reasons:
  • It is important from US view since they look India as balancing power of in Asia countering China’s aspirations.
  • The exercise is also importance from peace, security and stability in Indian Ocean.
  • The technology shared among pioneer of naval countries can be helpful in emergencies like Tsunami, floods etc.
  • The exercise is important from India’s viewpoint as India is getting the chance to get updated with new technology and mechanism related to naval warfare, management and security.As ASEAN countries look to India for maritime security as well as balancing power in Asia. Such exercise can add values in their trust toward IndiaThe increasing ties between India and Japan are resulting into speculation of Australia joining it from next year, thus, adding more value to the exercise.
  • Factors like good diplomatic ties among the countries, sharing of means and measures, getting more knowledge of Indian Ocean and its terrain maintain its importance.
  • The exercise envisages greater role related to trade, Security, Commerce and Regional balances.
  • How can India be more proactive in the Indian Ocean Region?
  • India’s leadership role will be important in determining the strategic future.
  • India is at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in a speech in Mauritius in 2015. “The Indian Ocean Region is at the top of our policy priorities.”
  • Of late, India has grown its military presence in the region, pretty much exponentially, by the Chinese showcasing that India needs to build an effective deterrence.
  • The new ship acquisition policy announced by Arun Jaitley in July 2014, in order to raise India’s home fleet by four times its current capacity, has been a welcome move.
  • Way forward
  • Privatization of shipbuilding industry needs to be undertaken if India is to make great strides in sea.
  • Policy to build new ships fitting specifications by Navy so as to be ready for ocean transport could be explored.
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), is on the tables keeping in view the increase in Chinese submarine excursions.
  • It had been reported last year that the shipping sector received 4272 crore million under Make In India scheme. But the funds are earmarked mainly to upgrade existing port facilities

The Maritime Agenda 2010–2020 pegs an investment of Rs 200 billion by 2020 for dredging and with opportunities which cannot be met by Dredging Corporation of India, forming a policy on dredging and opening that sector to private players could help explore possibilities of extending it to meet military needs.

GS-3


A bold step in bank reform: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • The Government of India recently introduced the recapitalization of public sector banks.

What are Non Performing Assets (NPAs)?

  • A non performing asset (NPA) is a loan or advance for which the principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days.
  • Banks are required to classify NPAs further into Substandard, Doubtful and Loss assets.
  • 1. Substandard assets: Assets which has remained NPA for a period less than or equal to 12 months.
  • 2. Doubtful assets: An asset would be classified as doubtful if it has remained in the substandard category for a period of 12 months.
  • 3. Loss assets: As per RBI, Loss asset is considered uncollectible and of such little value that its continuance as a bankable asset is not warranted, although there may be some salvage or recovery value.

What are the reasons for the rise of NPAs?

  • The banking sector has been facing the severe problems of the rising NPAs. Following are the major reasons:

External Factors:

  • Ineffective recovery tribunal: The government has set an array of recovery tribunals, which works for recovery of loans and advances, due to their carelessness and ineffectiveness in their work the bank suffers the consequence of non-recover, their by reducing their profitability and liquidity.
  • Natural calamities: Every now and then India is hit by major natural calamities thus making the borrowers unable to pay back there loans.
  • Thus the bank has to make large amount of provisions in order to pay damages those loans, hence end up the fiscal with a reduced profit.
  • Industrial sickness: Inappropriate project handling , ineffective management , lack of adequate resources , lack of advance technology , day to day changing governemnt policies produce industrial sickness.
  • Therefore the banks that finance those industries ultimately end up with a low recovery of their loans reducing their profit and liquidity.

Internal Factors:

  • Inappropriate technology: Proper Management Information System (MIS) and financial accounting system is not implemented in the banks, which leads to poor credit collection.
  • Improper analysis: The inappropriate strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis is another reason for increase in NPAs.
  • Poor Credit Appraisal: Deprived credit appraisal is an additional factor for the increase in NPAs, due to poor credit appraisal the bank gives advances to those who are not able to repay it back.

What steps has the  government  taken?

  • Mission Indradhanush: Government has launched ‘Mission Indradhanush’ to make the working of public sector bank more transparent and professional in order to curb the menace of NPA in future.
  • Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC): It is the bankruptcy law of India which seeks to consolidate the existing framework by creating a single law for insolvency and bankruptcy.
  • Reserve Bank of India: RBI introduced number of measures in last few years  which include:tightening the Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) mechanism,setting up a Joint Lenders’ Forum, prodding banks to disclose the real picture of bad loans,asking them to increase provisioning for stressed assets, introducing a 5:25 scheme where loans are to be amortized over 25 years with refinancing option after every 5  years, and empowering them to take majority control in defaulting companies under the Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) scheme.

What are the other measures to be taken?

  • Proper and concrete government measures should be taken in order to get back the money extended to people as advances and loans.
  • The banker should take utmost care in ensuring that the enterprise or business for which a loan is sought is a sound one and the borrower is competent of carrying it out successfully, he should be a person of integrity and good character.
  • For a sound security system all the branches of the bank should be computerized.
  • Banks should conduct necessary sensitivity analysis and contingency planning while appraising the projects.

The identity puzzle: DNA Bill: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

  •   The Law Commission of India submitted a draft of the DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 to the government earlier in the year.
  • ‘The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017’ was prepared after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions.
  • The exercise was initiated by the Commission after the Department of Biotechnology forwarded its draft of ‘The Use and Regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016’ in September last year.

What is DNA profiling?   

  • DNA profiling, (also called DNA fingerprinting, DNA testing, or DNA typing) is the process of determining an individual’s’ DNA characteristics, called a DNA profile that is very likely to be different in unrelated individuals, thereby being as unique to individuals as are fingerprints.
  • Developed by Professor of Genetics Sir Alec Jeffreys, the process begins with a sample of an individual’s DNA (typically called a “reference sample”).
  • A common method of collecting a reference sample is the use of a buccal swab, which is easy, non-invasive and cheap. When this is not available (e.g. because a court order is needed but not obtainable) other methods may need to be used to collect a sample of blood, saliva, or other appropriate fluid or tissue from personal items (e.g. a toothbrush, razor) or from stored samples (e.g. banked sperm or biopsy tissue).
  • Samples obtained from blood relatives (related by birth, not marriage) can provide an indication of an individual’s profile, as could human remains that had been previously profiled.
  • A reference sample is then analyzed to create the individual’s DNA profile using one of a number of techniques.. The modern form of DNA profiling, also known as STR (short tandem repeats) analysis, is a technique which requires only a limited quantity of bodily substances for analysis.
  • The DNA profile is then compared against another sample to determine whether there is a genetic match

Uses of DNA profiling:

  • DNA profiling is most commonly used as a forensic technique in criminal investigations to identify an unidentified person or whose identity needs to be confirmed, or to place a person at a crime scene or to eliminate a person from consideration.
  •  DNA profiling has also been used to help clarify paternity, in immigration disputes in parentage testing and in genealogical research or medical research. Only a small sample of cells is needed for DNA fingerprinting. A drop of blood or the root of a hair contains enough DNA for testing.
  •  DNA fingerprinting has also been used in the study of animal and floral populations and in the fields of zoology, botany, and agriculture.
  • DNA profiling is used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes.

Key features of the Bill:

  •  DNA Profiling: The DNA Bill seeks to regulate human DNA profiling and establish standards procedures for DNA testing.
  • DNA Board: The bill provides for the setting up of statutory DNA Profiling Board to spell out procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories.
  •   For Investigation purpose: The draft bill has modified the earlier Bill and suggested various measures to fortify the use of uncontaminated DNA samples for investigation purposes and for identifying missing persons.
  •  The DNA profiles shall be shared with and by foreign governments or government organisations or agencies only for the purposes enumerated in the Act.
  •   Penalty: Violators of the provisions will be liable for punishment of imprisonment which may extend up to three years and also a fine which may extend up to 2 lakh.
  • DNA Data Bank : It provides for the creation of DNA data banks, at national and regional levels, which would be responsible for storing DNA profiles received from the accredited laboratories.
  • Crime scenes figures: They will also be responsible for maintaining certain indices, like crime scene  index, suspects index, offender’s index, missing person’s index and unknown deceased person’s index.
  •   DNA experts would be notified as government scientific experts.
  •  Proper identification of missing persons: With a view to assist the kith and kin of missing persons, provisions have been made for proper identification of missing persons on the basis of their bodily samples/substances.
  •  Right to under trials: The Bill gives the right to an under trial to request for another DNA test in case of doubts that his earlier samples may have been contaminated.

DNA profiling Vs Right to Privacy:

  • Serious concerns have been raised regarding various provisions of the bill ranging from its reliability to its potential for misuse and errors.
  • Among others, right to privacy is one of the important concerns of this bill.
  • These concerns are discussed as below:
  • There are many concerns raised by human right activists over the impact of such a bill:
  • Social Misuse: The bill mentions pedigree inclusion that could be used for racial and communal profiling. It might also lead to the stigma of ‘genes of criminality’
  • Political Misuse: It mentions the profiling of ‘suspects’ along with the ‘convicts’ which could be misused though errant testing and conviction. It also has an loosely defined column of ‘volunteer’.
  • Violation of Privacy: It will involve taking ‘intimate samples’ and examination of private parts which would invade person’s right to privacy.
  • Longer judicial delays: Legal luminaries point out that since this bill will also be applicable to civil matters, it will further increase the judicial delays as DNA profiling is a cumbersome process and India’s infrastructure is lacking in this field.
  • The bill does not guarantee that data will not be used for anything other than specified purpose. Its proposal to constitute a national DNA databank for forensic and non-forensic purposes could be misused if not accompanied strong privacy laws.
  • Other than criminal investigation, bill allows use of data for non-forensic purposes such as to identify victims of accidents or disasters, to identify missing persons, and for civil disputes. The objection is that this data could be used by state for surveillance over its citizens, thus making them vulnerable..
  • Other loopholes involved:
  • 1-  The imminent possibility of contamination of previous samples.
  • 2-  Need for professionally qualified manpower.
  • 3-  No special provisions in respect of funding of the Board and how the required funds will be made available to the investigating agencies .
  • 4-Did not specifically provide as to on what stage the samples could be collected.
  • 5-  No proper procedure to obtain consent and also under which volunteer can withdraw his data. That before giving the data to a third party, the person must be notified and consent must be sought.
  • 6-  Bodies collecting, analyzing, and storing DNA data should be made to release an annual report, detailing their practices and organisational structure.
  • 7-    DNA is not foolproof false matches can take place for multiple reasons.

Recent Judgment of Supreme Court on Right to Privacy:

  1. The SC’s  recently held that the “Right to Privacy is an integral part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution”
  2. From now on, ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right

What will be the functions of DNA profiling board?

  • The profiling board will undertake functions such as laying down procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories and granting accreditation to such laboratories, and advising the concerned Ministries/ departments of the Central and State governments on issues relating to DNA laboratories.
  •  It will be responsible for supervising, monitoring, inspecting and assessing the      laboratories.
  • The Board will frame guidelines for training the police and other investigating agencies dealing with DNA-related matters.
  • Its functions also include giving advice on all ethical and human rights issues relating to DNA testing in consonance with international guidelines.
  • It will recommend research and development activities in DNA testing and related issues.
  • DNA profiling will be undertaken exclusively to identify a person and will not be used to extract any other information.

DNA Data bank:

  •  The Bill has also recommended the setting up of a DNA data bank both nationally and on a regional basis in the States.
  •  The data bank will primarily store DNA profiles received from the accredited laboratories and maintain certain indices for various categories of data such as crime scene index, suspects index, offenders index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index with a view to assisting families of missing persons on the basis of their bodily samples and substances.
  • Strict confidentiality will be maintained with regard to keeping records of DNA profiles and their use.

Way ahead:

  •  The procedure of DNA profiling if given statutory recognition, should be as per the constitutional provisions.
  • The implications of creating regional and national level DNA Database need to be fully understood.
  •   Need for a robost process and structure for collection of DNA samples from crime scenes.
  •   Enactment of comprehensive privacy policy in India.

Prelims Related News

Context:

  • Between February and May, most of the Indian cities that are to be developed as Smart Cities have been found to be 1-5 degree C cooler during the day relative to the surrounding non-urban areas.

Introduction:

  1. More than 60% of the total 89 urban areas are 1-5 degrees C cooler during April.
  2. This observation is in contrast with the globally witnessed phenomenon of urban areas getting significantly warmer during the day compared with the surrounding areas as a result of urban heat island effect.
  3. In contrast, during the post-monsoon period(October to January), about 80% of the  urban areas show typical urban heat island effect and are 1-6 degree C warmer than the surrounding non-urban areas.
  4. During the night, all the cities are warmer(1-5 degree C) than the surrounding non-urban areas due to urban heat island effect regardless of the season and location.
  5. Compared with other cities, urban areas in semi-arid and arid regions of western India show higher warming in the night.
  6. The night time warming is driven mainly by heat stored in building and impervious concrete areas.

What is Urban Heat Island effect?

  • An urban heat island is an urban area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.
  • The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak.
  •   It is most noticeable during the summer and winter.

Causes of urban heat island effect:

  •    Modification of land surfaces: The main cause of the urban heat island effect is from the modification of land surfaces.
  •   Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor.
  • Due to rise in population pressure, it tends to expand its areas and increase its average temperature.
  • Dark surfaces absorb significantly more solar radiation, which causes urban concentrations of roads and building to heat more than suburban and rural areas during the day.
  • Evapotranspiration: Another major reason is the lack of evapotranspirtion , for example through lack of vegetation in urban areas. With a decreased amount of vegetation, cities also lose the shade and cooling effect of trees, and the removal of carbon dioxide.
  •   Geometric effects. This is another causes of urban heat effect. The tall buildings within many urban areas provide multiple surfaces for the reflection and absorption of sunlight, increasing the efficiency with which urban areas are heated. This is called the “urban canyon effect”
  •   Waste heat from automobiles, air conditioning, industry, and other sources also contribute to the urban heating effect.

Consequences of urban heat island effect:

1- Impact on whether and climate:

  •  Monthly rainfall is greater downwind of cities, partially due to urban health island
  •  Increases in heat within urban centers increases the length of growing seasons, and decreases the occurrence of weak tornadoes.
  • The urban health island decrease air quality by increasing the production of pollutants such as ozone.
  •  It decreases the water quality as warmer waters flow into area streams and put stress on their ecosystem.
  •   Contribution to global warming.
  •  On energy usage: Another consequence of urban heat islands is the increased energy required for air conditioning and refrigeration   in cities that are in comparatively hot climates.

2- On water quality: It also impairs water quality. Hot pavement and rooftop surfaces transfer their excess heat to stormwater, which then drains into storm sewers and raises water temperatures as it is released into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

3- Health effect: Urban health islands have the potential to directly influence the health and welfare of urban residents. Research has found that the mortality rate during a heat wave increases exponentially with the maximum temperature an effect that is exacerbated by the UHI. The nighttime effect of UHIs can be particularly harmful during a heat wave, as it deprives urban residents of the cool relief found in rural areas during the night. Increased temperatures have been reported to cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, and heat cramps.

Smart Cities Program:

    • Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with a mission to develop 100 cities all over the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
    • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
    • Smart Cities Mission envisions developing an area within 100 cities in the country as model areas based on an area development plan, which is expected have a rub-off effect on other parts of the city and nearby cities and towns.Cities will be selected based on the Smart Cities challenge, in which cities will compete in a countrywide competition to get the benefits from this mission.

As of June 2017, 90 cities have been selected to be upgraded as part of the Smart Cities Mission after they defeated other cities in the challenge.

  • It is a five-year program, where all of the Indian states and Union territories are participating except West Bengal by nominating at least one city for the Smart City challenge.
  • Each city will create a corporate company headed by a full-time CEO to implement the Smart Cities Mission. The execution of projects may be done through joint ventures, subsidiaries, public-private partnership (PPP), turnkey contracts, etc suitably dovetailed with revenue streams

Aerosols:

  • An aerosol is a colloid of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, in air or another gas. It can be natural or anthropogenic.  Examples of natural aerosols are fog, forest, exudates and geyser stream.  Examples of artificial aerosols are haze, dust, particulates air pollutants and smoke.

What needs to be done?

  • The government is planning to develop smart cities, it would be much better if it uses more sustainable building materials that absorb less heat during the day.
  • There is also need to include passive cooling measures such as increased tree cover, increased ventilation in building and orientation of building in modern building designs to reduce the night-time urban heat island effect.
  • There should be an optimal combination of impervious cover , vegetation cover, and water bodies within the cities.
  • Mitigation of urban heat island effect can be accomplished through the use of green roofs.
  • ·  The use of lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas, which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.
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