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Government Policies

Five-judge statute Bench to decide on Aadhaar validity:

Context

  • The Supreme Court has decided to constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear petitions from November against the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.
  • A separate Bench of Justices have issued notice to the government on a petition filed by advocate Raghav Tankha, challenging the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers.

What is the concern?

  • The concern is that the linkage orchestrated by the Union of India in arrangement with private telecom service providers is in violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

Setting up of a constitution bench

  • A Constitution Bench may be set up to decide, once and for all, the various Aadhaar challenges pending before the court since 2014 instead of passing any temporary orders.
  • The government decided to extend the time during an urgent mentioning in the Supreme Court by petitioners who have challenged both the validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the law passed subsequently in 2016.
  • The decision to set up a five-judge Bench comes despite Justice Rohinton Nariman’s separate judgment in the nine-judge Bench declaring privacy as a fundamental right.
  • Justice Nariman’s judgment had directed the Aadhaar petitions to be posted for hearing before the ‘original’ three-judge Bench.
  • This ‘original’ Bench had referred the petitions for hearing before a five-judge Bench, which found it necessary to first decide whether privacy was a fundamental right or not before hearing the Aadhaar petitions.

What are the various features of Right to Privacy?

  • Privacy is a constitutionally protected right emerging primarily from the guarantee of life and liberty in Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • It includes the preservation of personal intimacies, sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation.
  • Privacy connotes a right to be left alone. It safeguards individual autonomy and recognizes one’s ability to control vital aspects of his/her life.
  • Privacy is not an absolute right, but any invasion must be based on legality, need and proportionality.
  • Informational privacy is a facet of this right. Dangers to this can originate from both state and non-state actors.

Implications on Aadhaar:

  • Aadhar initiative requires collection of personal data from residents of India, and this has resulted in controversy regarding its potential to be missed. This is so because:
  • It requires collection of biometric details like scanning and finger prints which are essentially crucial details and could be misused.
  • Cyber space is a vulnerable space and is prone to threat.
  • Cyber security architecture is not very strong in India.
  • Aadhaar lacks statutory back up and is also running on an executive order, which has also raised questions.
  • The SC ruling will impact daily lives of the people since it has implications for matters ranging from collection and sharing of personal data to the government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for benefits of social welfare scheme.

What is Aadhaar?

  • The Aadhaar is the name of the Unique Identification Number that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issues to every resident of India.
  • It is a twelve digit number which is linked the resident’s demographic and biometric information.
  • The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016

Petitioners have challenged the Aadhaar scheme on the following grounds:

  • Expressing the fear that the data being collected by private agencies may be misused.
  • Questioning the proposal to link Aadhaar with PAN cards and phone number.
  • Making the unique ID number mandatory for availing government benefit.
  • The petitioners are challenging the nature of information collected, which includes biometrics and its alleged unlimited use by government agencies.

What is the need of Aadhaar?

  • The Aadhaar Project is an attempt to aid in real time verification.
  • The objective of the scheme is to issue a unique identification number which can be authenticated and verified online.
  • A large part of the Indian population had no IDs or relied on IDs like ration cards and Voter Cards.
  • This necessitated the need for a single digital ID which could be verified anytime, anywhere in India.
  • The Aadhaar would also facilitate the access to host of governmental benefits and services.
  • For the effective enforcement of individual rights it became necessary to have a unique identification number.
  • A clear registration and recognition of the individual identity with the state is necessary to implement their rights, to employment, education, food etc.
  • Aadhaar project has been linked to some public subsidy and unemployment benefit schemes like the domestic LPG scheme and MGNREGS. In these Direct Benefit Transfer schemes, the subsidy money is directly transferred to a bank account which is Aadhaar-linked.
  • On 29 July 2011, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas signed a memorandum of understanding with UIDAI. The Ministry had hoped the ID system would help them eliminate loss of the subsidised kerosene and LPG. In May 2012, the government announced that it will begin issuing Aadhaar-linked MGNREGS cards On 26 November 2012, a pilot project was launched in 51 district.

What is needed to be done in context of Right to Privacy and Aadhaar?

  • In view of the increased security required specifically for territorial privacy and data privacy, there should be a provision added to the Constitution of India.
  • A provision that deals with multiple dimensions of privacy such as personal, territorial, communication and data/information.
  • Such a provision would bring clarity as to the extent of the right to privacy.
  • There is a dire need for a comprehensive privacy legislation which would ensure the protection of personal and sensitive data of people.
  • There is also the need for an established regulatory body.
  • This could be structured along similar lines as that of the data protection commissioner offices, which exist in Canada, Ireland.

Can the Saubhagya scheme work?: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context:

  • The Government of India has recently launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya Scheme.

What is Saubhagya scheme?

  • The Saubhagya scheme was launched on September 25th, 2017.
  • The scheme will provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas by December 2018.

What is the need for the scheme?

  1. Village electrification programme like Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana, launched in July 2015, realised that a large number of household is still remaining without access to electricity.
  2. The primary need is to execute the physical wire to the homes.
  3. If needed, the state budgetary support or special Central grants needs to supplement insufficient fund.
  4. The scheme mandates a metre where consumers are meant to pay notified tariffs.
  5. Moreover, states are free to offer any usage subsidies above and beyond regulator-approved cross-subsidies

How this scheme will make a difference?

  • The scheme will help to meet its global climate change commitments as electricity will substitute kerosene for lighting purposes.
  • Easy access to electricity in turn will also help in improving education, health, connectivity with the multiplier effect of increased economic activities and job creation.

What is Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana?

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana is a Government of India scheme, launched on 25th July 2015.
  • The DDUGJY is one of the flagship programmes of the Ministry of Power.

Objectives:

  • Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for rural areas having following objectives:

To provide electrification to all villages,

  • Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers,
  • Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply and
  • Metering to reduce the losses.

The power sector of India: a quick glance:

  • India’s ranks third globally in terms of electricity production.
  • Sources of power generation in India range from conventional sources such as coal, lignite, natural gas, oil, hydro and nuclear power to viable non-conventional sources such as wind, solar, and agricultural and domestic waste.
  • Electricity comes under the concurrent list.

Problems of power sector in India:

  • The deeply troubled power sector accounts for almost one-tenth of all bank loans in India.
  • The power sector is also facing significant technological challenges as the cost of solar energy continues falling.
  • Increasing power generation costs due to limited fuel availability, poor financial health of State Discoms, high AT&C losses have contributed in suppressed demand projections by State Discoms
  • Power plants and utilities face major constraints and delays regarding the availability of land and obtaining the requisite environment and other clearances for the projects.
  • Apart from these, there is a significant amount of shortage of manpower and machinery equipments.

Government initiatives:

  • The Ministry of Power, Government of India, has taken various measures to achieve its aim of providing 24X7 affordable and environment friendly ‘Power for All’ by 2019.
  • The Government of India has initiated 10-year tax exemption for solar energy projects order to achieve India’s ambitious renewable energy targets by the year 2022.
  • The revised Tariff Policy was notified by Ministry of Power with a focus on ‘4 Es’ i.e. Electricity for all, Efficiency to ensure affordable tariffs, Environment for a sustainable future, Ease of doing business to attract investments and ensure financial viability.

Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for urban areas provides for:

  • strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution networks in urban areas;
  • metering of distribution transformers/feeders/consumers in urban areas; and
  • IT enablement of distribution sector and strengthening of distribution network.

Operationalization of Power System Development Fund (PSDF) shall be utilized for the project proposed by distribution utilities for:

  • creating necessary transmission system of strategic importance;
  • installation of shunt capacitors etc. for improvement of voltage profile in the grid;
  • installation of standard and special protection schemes; and
  • Renovation and Modernisation of transmission and distribution systems for relieving congestion; etc.

Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme has been launched for operational and financial turnaround of Discoms.

Law panel moots life term for torture:

Context

  • The Law Commission recommended that the government should ratify a United Nations convention to tide over difficulties in getting extradited criminals from foreign countries.
  • The steps have been taken due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities. The Law Commission has commended life in jail for public servants convicted of torture.

What are the recommendations?

  • The panel also mentioned that in case the government decided to ratify the UN convention on torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, a Bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials.
  • The draft Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017 proposes a stringent punishment to perpetrators to curb the menace of torture and to have a limited effect on acts of torture.
  • The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and include a fine.
  • The report submitted to the Law Ministry requires amendments to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof.
  • It recommended an amendment to Section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation, in addition to the payment of fine provided in the Indian Penal Code.

The Prevention of Torture Bill

  • The Prevention of Torture Bill introduced by the Minister for Home Affairs makes torture a punishable offence.
  • The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that the Bill is being introduced to ratify the UN Convention against Torture of 1975.
  • India is a signatory of the Convention but has not enacted a law on torture which would enable it to ratify the Convention. The Bill defines torture and prescribes conditions under which torture is punishable.

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 seeks to provide for punishment for torture committed by government officials.
  • The Bill defines torture as “grievous hurt”, or danger to life, limb and health.
  • Complaints against torture have to be made within six months. The sanction of the appropriate government is required before a court can entertain a complaint.

What is extradition?  

  • Extradition refers to the surrender of a criminal to one country by another.
  • The process of extradition is regulated by treaties between the two countries.
  • Extradition is important because it helps to maintain the sanctity of the penal code of one country or territory.
  • The penal code says that it shouldn’t apply its criminal law to a person who committed an offence outside its territories except when the crime is related to the country’s national interest.

What are the internationally accepted conditions for extradition?

  • The crime committed by the accused should fall in the category of dual criminality. It should be a punishable offence according to the laws of both countries – the one where the accused has taken refuge, and the one that seeks extradition.
  • Persons charged for political reasons are generally not extradited.
  • There are countries where capital punishment is banned. If a fugitive has taken refuge in such a country, and if the establishment of that country thinks that, if extradited, the accused might get capital punishment, the country most likely refuses to extradite.

Can an extradited criminal be tried for an offence other than the one with respect to which extradition is granted in India?

  • Section 21 of the Extradition Act places a prohibition on trial of a fugitive for any offence other than the extradition offence.  Therefore, the answer is no.
  • The exceptions are the cases where the fugitive is in fact charged for an offence of similar manner of the offence charged originally or when the foreign court gives its consent to the charge for the newer offence.

Extradition laws in India

  • In India, the Extradition Act, 1962, regulates the surrender of a person to another country or the request for arrest of a person in a foreign land.
  • According to the act, any conduct by a person in India or elsewhere mentioned in a list of extradition offences punishable with a minimum one year of imprisonment qualifies for an extradition request.
  • The process of extradition is to be initiated by the central government. Currently, India has extradition treaties with 38 countries.
  • If there is no treaty with the country from which the fugitive is to be extradited, then there aren’t any defined guidelines for the law to be applied and procedure to be followed. In such a scenario, a lot depends on the cooperation and coordination between different authorities of the two countries. Another option is to resort to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty wherein both countries agree to exchange information in order to enforce criminal laws.
  • If the extradition request comes from two or more countries, then the government has the right to take the call to decide which country is fittest for the request.
  • Since 2002, India has extradited 44 fugitive criminals to various countries. On the contrary, India has got 61 criminals extradited to itself from different countries since 2002.

What are the conditions under which the government can deny extradition?

  • In case the government believes that the case is trivial, and it thinks that the surrendering of the person is not being made in good faith, or in the interests of justice, or for political reasons, it can deny the request.
  • If the surrender is barred by time in the law of the country which seeks extradition, then also the person can’t be extradited from India.
  • The government can also stop the process if it feels that the person will be charged with an offence not mentioned in the extradition treaty.
  • The government can put extradition on hold if it feels the person accused will be charged for a lesser offence disclosed by the authorities.
  • If the person is serving a jail term for an offence on Indian soil, which is different from the offence for which the person is wanted abroad, then also the extradition process can be stopped.
  • Similarly, if a fugitive criminal has committed an offence which is punishable with death in India, while the laws of the foreign state do not provide death for the same offence, the criminal will get life imprisonment in India.

India’s biggest success till date

Abu Salem

  • Abu Salem was convicted for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, and the murder of music baron Gulshan Kumar in 1996 along with 50 other cases.
  • On 20 September 2002, he was arrested along with Bollywood actress Monica Bedi, by Interpol in Lisbon, Portugal. In February 2004, a Portugal court cleared his extradition to India to face trial in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.
  • A lower court in Portugal cancelled his extradition to India for violation of deportation rules by Indian authorities by instituting fresh cases against him which attracted the death penalty.
  • In July 2012, the Portuguese Supreme Court of Justice questioned the legal right of Indian authorities to challenge the cancellation of the extradition order.
  • Abu Salem is currently in prison in high-security Arthur Jail in India.

Way ahead

  • Extradition is a great step towards international cooperation in the suppression of crime.
  • States should treat extradition as an obligation resulting from the international solidarity in the fight against crime.
  • With the growing internationalization of crime and judicial developments, extradition law is in a state of great unrest.
  • The courts are grappling with myriad issues including: interpretation of treaties and arrangements vis-a-vis municipal extradition law, balancing of due process versus principle of adherence to comity of courts, the effect of a red corner notice, the role of international agencies, the interface of powers of deportation with extradition, etc.
  • Jurisprudence in the area of extradition law is evolving at a rapid pace and it is hoped that the Indian Judiciary will match up to global standards and resolve the extremely vexing legal challenges posed to it.

International groupings and agreements

India, Italy vow to fight terror:

Context:

India and Italy resolved to fight terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations, as they strongly pitched for strengthening international partnership and concerted action in addressing the menace of terrorism.

Introduction:

  • India and Italy looked at strengthening the bilateral political and economic relations when Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni visited India yesterday
  • The visit marks the end of a chill in ties that set in 2012 after the killing of two Indian fishermen by a pair of Italian marines off the coast of Kerala.
  • The visit, comes after both sides managed to contain the diplomatic fallout of the marine crisis.

Key Takeaways from talks

Combating Terrorism and Cyber Security Cooperation

  • Strengthening international partnership
  • Emphasised on the need for effective implementation of existing international commitments on countering terrorism, including the UN Global Countering Terrorism Strategy, UNSC resolutions and targeted sanctions relating to terrorism.
  • Both the sides also discussed some of the emerging security challenges facing the world.
  •  Both the nations are committed to strengthen cooperation in cyber security.
  • The leaders expressed satisfaction on the first India-Italy Joint Working Group on Combating International Terrorism held in Rome on November 10, 2016, and agreed to further strengthen the consultation mechanism through regular exchange of assessments and information, training and capacity building programmes, etc, in the sphere of counter-terrorism.
  • The leaders of both side agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against the al-Qaeda, ISIS, their affiliates and all the other UN-designated globally proscribed terrorist and terror entities, including those mentioned in the India-EU joint statement on cooperation in combating terrorism.
  • Two leaders also called for an early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UN, as an instrument that would reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.
  • They also expressed concerns at the growing misuse of internet towards radicalization of youth and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating radicalization and violent extremism. The leaders of both countries reaffirmed their commitment to an open, free, secure, stable, peaceful and accessible cyberspace, enabling economic growth and innovation.

Clean Energy & Climate Change

  • On climate change, the two leaders confirmed their strong commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and being guided by its principles including the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances. They pledged to work together in the run up to and at CoP23, and beyond, on the next steps towards substantial and balanced progress on all items of the Paris work programme.

Strengthening Economic Partnership

  • The two leaders appreciated the strong India-Italy economic linkages and committed to work in a result-oriented and mutually beneficial manner by injecting a renewed momentum into the broad-based economic engagement between the two countries. PM Modi called upon the Italian industry to explore India’s untapped business opportunities in the infrastructure, food processing, renewable energy, and high-tech manufacturing sectors

Science & Technology and Education collaboration

  • The Leaders noted the increasing number of student exchange programmes at the university level and the growing presence of Indian students in Italian universities. They expressed appreciation at the forthcoming launch of the first Roadshow of the Italian Universities in India which will take place in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru in November 2017.
  • Both sides agreed to initiate collaboration on apprenticeship and on the relationship between industrial clusters and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system. The two leaders also agreed to explore the prospects establishing state-of-the-art skill academies in India for providing training to trainers and trainees on trans-national standards.
  • The two Leaders underlined the importance of the Executive Programme of Cooperation (EPOC) for the years 2017-2019 signed on 18 April 2017 under the framework of the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Department of Science & Technology on the Indian side and Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.

Signed Agreements are :

  • MoU on cooperation in field of Energy.
  • Executive Protocol on Cultural Cooperation.
  • Joint Declaration of Intent of Cooperation for safety in Railway sector.
  • MOU for promoting mutual investments between Italian trade agency and Invest India.
  • MoU on 70 years of diplomatic relations between Indian Council of Cultural Relations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation of Italy.
  • MoU between Training Unit of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Government of Italy and Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs, India

Natural partners:

  • Italy’s support for India’s candidature at the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016 was an important marker in multilateral collaboration and indicated Rome’s long-term commitment to supporting India’s role in the export control regimes.
  • Italian supportive role in the EU and NSG will help our cause with the EU-India FTA (Free Trade Agreement) and out bid for NSG membership.
  • India’s bid for membership at the NSG has so far been scuttled by repeated opposition from China.
  • Apart from the NSG, India is also seeking Italian support at the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) meeting that begins on Monday in Buenos Aires, where India has been pushing for stringent measures against Pakistan on terror funding issues.

A difficult phase:

  • The visit by an Italian PM comes after a decade. The period from 2012 to 2016 marked a difficult bilateral phase as the marines issue, which included two of Rome’s marines became a national debate in Italy.
  • The case is now with the International Court of Justice, where a round of arbitral proceedings is expected to be completed by 2018.
  • However, several meetings were held between the two sides as political ties warmed up following the change of government in Delhi in 2014.
  • In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Mr. Gentiloni on the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburg.
  • Apart from the expected issues, Italy and India may also discuss the tension between the U.S. and Iran after President Donald Trump decertified the nuclear deal with Iran, where both Italy and India have strong contacts.
  • As one of the signatories in the nuclear deal, Italy’s role is crucial in this matter.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR):

  • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime.
  • It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
  • The MTCR was established in April 1987 by the G7 countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
  • The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery system for nuclear weapons.
  • MTCR is a group of nations which controls the transfer of missiles and related technology and keeps a check on its proliferation.

India-Italy relations:

  • India and Italy are ancient civilizations and have known, interacted and traded with each other for over 2000 years. Political relations between India and Italy were established in 1947. The two countries enjoy cordial relationship
  • Italy is India’s fifth largest trading partner in the European Union (EU) with a bilateral trade of $8.79 billion in 2016-17, according to Indian figures.
  • There are more than 600 Italian companies with offices in India in areas ranging from fashion to textiles and textile machinery, auto components, energy and insurance.
  • Italy also has a sizeable population of expatriate Indians numbering almost 200,000.
  • India and Italy are fighting against terrorism and both the nations are committed against climate change.
  • India’s exports to Italy are at $4.90 billion, while its imports are at $3.89 billion, resulting in a trade imbalance of $1 billion in favour of India. In the first four months of 2017-18 fiscal, bilateral trade has reached $3.22 billion.
  • Both the nations share common democratic values and share a rule-based approach to the international system.
  • Ties between the business communities held strong over the years, creating solid bridges between Italy and India.
  • Italy is among top defence manufacturers in Europe.
  • Hundreds of Italian companies are in India and are also part of the Make-in-India initiative .
  • Other sectors include renewable energy and green technologies — key assets on the way toward sustainable growth and development.
  • India and Italy have shared efforts to have a signed declaration on terrorism at the G20 Hamburg Summit.

Strain in ties:

  • The strain in bilateral India-Italy ties—caused by the arrest of the two Italian marines—had spilled over on relations between India and the EU, India’s largest trading partner and a key source of investment.
  • India-Italy ties ran aground after the two marines, Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, were arrested on charges of killing Indian fishermen, mistaking them to be pirates.
  • Italy contested India’s charge that the ship that the marines were on the Enrica Lexie was in Indian waters at the time of shooting.
  • The Italian government was of the view that since the ship was in international waters, only the International Tribunal for the Law of the sea could apply, questioning the Indian government’s jurisdiction over the case.

Hits and misses:  (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • The United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) recently held its meeting to discuss the the progress made on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

What is Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets among them.
  • Governments have created new institutions, or have used existing institutions, to facilitate execution of the SDGs.

India and Sustainable Development Goals:

  • The National Institution for Transforming India – NITI Aayog is the national body primarily responsible for implementing the SDGs in India.
  • The task at hand for NITI Aayog primarily is:
  • to periodically collect data on SDGs,
  • to act productively on the goals and targets not only quantitatively but also maintaining high standards of quality.

Steps taken:

  • Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has already undertaken a parallel exercise of interaction with the ministries to evolve indicators reflecting the SDG goals and targets.
  • To achieve these tasks, the draft mapping of the goals and targets as an initial step on proposed Nodal and other Ministries has been carried out in consultation with MoSPI.
  • Further, as an illustration, the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs),including the ‘core of the core’, ‘core’ and ‘optional’ Schemes being implemented by the States have been mapped along with some of the recent initiatives undertaken by the Central Government.
  • In addition, Ministries are implementing Central Sector Schemes and States are also implementing various State Schemes aligned with one or more SDGs.

How can India achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

  • The country needs to clearly identify priorities, have locally relevant and people-centric development policies, and build strong partnerships.
  • The government also needs to have a focused plan for tracking and evaluating impact and scaling up successful interventions.
  • A multidimensional poverty index ought to be adopted to analyse domestic poverty conditions as suggested by some nations.
  • A clear road map needed to address pressing challenges of refugee crisis, terrorism, fundamentalism, increasing hunger, inequality and climate change.
  • The HLPF process needs to be strengthened by formalising multi-stakeholder consultations, discussing critical challenges, and making the ministerial declaration mandatory for nations to fulfil.

What is High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development?

  • The establishment of the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was in 2012.
  • It replaced the Commission on Sustainable Development.

High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development aims to:

  • provide political leadership and recommendations for sustainable development,
  • follow-up and review progress in implementing sustainable development commitments,
  • enhance the integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development,
  • have a focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda,
  • consider new and emerging sustainable development challenges,
  • from 2016 take on the functions of the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Reviews on the post-MDG/Sustainable Development goals.

Complete the justice: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

The recent Supreme Court verdict making sex with a girl between 15 and 18 years even within marriage a criminal offence may have set in motion a series of positive effects for the girl child.

Introduction:

  • The apex court criminalized sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife who is under 18 years of age.
  • The apex court said that it is removing the distinction between an unmarried and married child because “it is arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of the rights of the girl child and not fair, just and reasonable and, therefore, violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Rationale behind decision:

  • The judgment removes the distinction between an unmarried and married child.
  • Upholds right of equality, right to make choice and right of life of a married girl child.
  • Will be a big deterrent for child marriage-Sexual and domestic servitude of child girl will be stopped.
  • It will reduce burden on maternal and infant mortality a Early marriage generally leads early pregnancy.

Consequences of judgment:

  • A major consequence of this judgment is also its potential towards reducing India’s burden of maternal and infant mortality.
  • There is a close causative link between child marriage and maternal, neo-natal and infant mortality along with stunting and malnutrition.
  • Early marriage leads to early pregnancy. Twelve per cent of girls aged 11-19 are already mothers.
  • Risk to both mother and infant survival are much higher.
  • Underweight mothers tend to give birth to underweight babies.
  • Nearly 50 per cent of new-born deaths are caused due to complications arising out of low birth weight and premature delivery.
  • According to the National Family and Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) nearly 50 per cent pregnant women in the age group 14 to 59 are anaemic. More than half of these women in the age group 20-24 years were married before they attained the age of 18 years, and nearly 27 per cent were anaemic.
  • States and regions with high incidence of child marriage also show greater prevalence of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.
  • Madhya Pradesh, for instance, has the worst infant mortality of 47 deaths per 1,000 live births and also tops the list of states for the number of child marriages.
  • Other states that display a similar pattern are Odisha, Assam , Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.
  • The Supreme Court says , “ the National Plan of Action for Children recognizes that the early marriage of girls is one of the factors for neo-natal deaths, early marriage poses various risks for the survival, health and development of young girls and to children born to them and most unfortunately it is also used as a means of trafficking.”

Criticisms of judgment:

  • Judgment points to severe anomalies within the law which does not, in fact, ban child marriage outright but says that it voidable at the option of the contracting party who is a child at the time of marriage and void only in certain circumstances.
  • Despite laws against child marriage, there are around 23 million child brides in the country.
  • Child marriage continues to be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Muslim Personal Law.  This is a violation of human rights of children –both boys and girls with particularly negative consequences for the health, welfare and dignity of the girl child.

Child marriage in India:

  • Child marriage has historically cast a shadow over rape law reform in India. Child marriage is a specific form of customary practice arranged by parents or male community elders.
  • These are  a distinct form of early marriages in which the consent of the patriarch of the family or elder determines the matrimonial fate of the child.
  • Recently, research by Young Lives in coordination with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) revealed that Rajasthan has reported the highest incidence of child marriages.

Highlights of the Report

  • The study based on 2011 Census, stated that 2.5% of marriages of minor girls were reported in Rajasthan.
  • The other states with a high incidence of marriages of girls below the legal age are Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Rajasthan also topped in the percentage of boys marrying below the legal age of 21 (4.69%).
  • No marriage below 10 years of age was reported across the country.
  • According to the Census study, 12.9% of girls got married at the age of 10-17 years and 43.6% between 18-20 years.
  • However, only 4.9% of boys got married in the 10-17 years age group and 11.2 % in the 18-below 21 age group.
  • The study shows a minor decline of 0.1% in the marriage of minor girls.
  • The decline in rural India, between 2001 and 2011 Census was marginally higher than in the whole of the country.
  • However, the incidence of child marriage among girls increased substantially in urban India from 1.78% in 2001 to 2.45% in 2011.

Reasons of child marriage and its impact:

Major Reasons for prevalence of Child Marriage in India:

Economies of marriage:

  • Poverty and marriage expenses such as dowry may lead a family to marry off their daughter at a young age to reduce these costs.
  • Patriarchal Indian society considers a girl as an economic burden. Marrying her off at an early age is a way to transfer this burden to the marital family.
  • There is another dimension to the economies of marriage. The marriage of the boy brings home an additional hand to assist the unpaid household and economic activities.

Lack of education:

  • Poor educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas increase the vulnerability of a girl child to be married off early.
  • Also, in the current patriarchal setup of the Indian society a girl’s right to education is regarded as a secondary priority to her labour in the household. This aggravates the situation as the girls’ power to resist marriage and opt for alternative aspirations is decreased.
  • Patriarchy and gender inequalities prevailing in the Indian society is one of the major reasons for persisting high incidence of child marriages.
  • Prevailing cultural perspectives to encourage the child marriage to thrive in.
  • Inadequate implementation of laws is a major reason for persisting menace of child marriage in the country.

Impacts of Child Marriage

  • On women health: Issues related to early pregnancy. Mental health is also a major concern. Violence and abuse at marital home can lead to post-traumatic stress and depression.
  • On Education: Girls are forced to drop out schools. There lies a cause and effect relationship between lack of education and child marriage.
  • On fertility: Lower age at marriage directly affects fertility rates. Lower the rate of age at marriage higher is the fertility rate.
  • Maternal mortality: Maternal mortality is high among women who have conceived at an early age. Risks associated with pregnancy are higher.
  • Infant Mortality: Mortality rates of children born to very young mothers are high. The children that survive are likely to develop health problems and are more at risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS.
  • Violation of Rights of Children: The Rights of Children are denied by early marriage. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is designed to guarantee certain individual rights. Child marriage denies the following rights:
  • The right to education,
  • The right to be protected from physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation,
  • The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,
  • The right to rest and leisure, and to participate freely in cultural life,
  • The right to not be separated from parents against the child’s will,
  • The right to protection against all forms of exploitation affecting any aspect of the child’s welfare and
  • The right to eventual employment

Laws related to child marriage:

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

  • The Act came into effect on 1st November 2007
  • The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India
  • Under this Act, “child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
  • The Act defines “child marriage” as a marriage where either of the contracting parties is a child
  • Boys and girls forced into child marriages as minors have the option of voiding their marriage up to two years after reaching adulthood, and in certain circumstances, marriages of minors can be null and void before they reach adulthood.
  • It provides maintenance for the female contracting party.
  • The act prohibits the solemnization of child marriages wherein a child means a person who if male has not yet completed 21 years, and if female not yet 18 years.
  • Every child marriage, whether solemnized before or after the Act came into effect, can be made void by either the man or the woman within two years of attaining majority.
  • Karnataka has passed a law making all child marriages void.
  • Children born of child marriages are considered to be legitimate.
  • Responsibility laid on the District Courts to decide upon the parental custody of the child, keeping in mind children’s best interests.
  • Punishment of male adult marrying a child: A male adult above eighteen years of age, if contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.
  • Punishment for solemnizing a child marriage: Whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees unless he proves that he had reasons to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

Objectives:

  • The Act defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
  • The Act also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process
  • The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
  • It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible.
  • Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.

Incentives and Schemes provided by the Government of India to end child marriage

  • Dhan Laxmi scheme
  • Apni Beti Apna Dhan Programme- conditional cash transfer program which aims at delaying early marriages of girls
  • Kishori Shakti Yojna
  • India as a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) adopted a regional plan to end child marriage.
  • India is a part of UNFPA and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.

Suggestions to combat the menace:

  • Extending educational infrastructure especially in rural areas. Education for girls at least up to secondary level should be provided
  • Addressing the issue of gender biases
  • Extensive awareness and gender sensitization programs.
  • Empowering young people to criticize the existing social norms.
  • Integration of existing child laws in India.
  • Effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006).
  • Consistency between personal laws and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act should be established.
  • The question of sexual consent must lie with the individual woman.
  • Parents, elders, political parties, priests or vigilante groups should not be permitted to force women, adult, or minor, into marriage or compulsory heterosexuality.
  • Young adults should not be forced be forced into heterosexuality per se, if they are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex.

GS-3


Prelims Related News

Fewer TB deaths in India: WHO:

Context:

  • According to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), death from tuberculosis in India saw a good decline from last year.
  • Also, the number of new cases saw a rise of 5% increase.

What is tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a multi-systemic infectious disease.
  • It is caused by a bacteria called as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • It is a communicable disease.

What are the causes of tuberculosis?

  • Microscopic droplets: Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air.
  • This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings.
  • HIV and TB: Infection with HIV suppresses the immune system, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria.
  • As a result, people with HIV are many times more likely to get TB and to progress from latent to active disease than are people who aren’t HIV positive.
  • Drug-resistant TB: Another reason of tuberculosis is the increase in drug-resistant strains of the bacterium.
  • Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis emerge when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria it targets.
  • The surviving bacteria become resistant to that particular drug and frequently other antibiotics as well.

What are the different types of Tuberculosis?

  • There are many types of tuberculosis, but the main two types are termed as:
  • Active tuberculosis infection: when the disease is actively producing symptoms and can be transmitted to other people.
  • Latent tuberculosis infection: when the person is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, but the bacteria is not producing symptoms.
  • Other forms of Tuberculosis are:
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis mainly infects the pulmonary system;
  • Cutaneous tuberculosis has skin symptoms;
  • Miliary tuberculosis describes widespread small infected sites.

WHO’s treatment guidelines for drug-resistant tuberculosis:

  • The WHO treatment guidelines for drug-resistant tuberculosis (2016 update) contain policy recommendations on priority areas in the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
  • The revision is in accordance with the WHO requirements for the formulation of evidence-informed policy.

The main highlights of the WHO guidelines, 2016-17 are:

  • A shorter MDR-TB treatment regimen is recommended under specific conditions;
  • Medicines used in the design of conventional MDR-TB treatment regimens are now reclassified to reflect updates in the evidence on their effectiveness and safety;
  • Specific recommendations are made on the treatment of children with rifampicin-resistant or MDR-TB based on a first-ever individual patient data meta-analysis;
  • Recommendations on the role of surgery in MDR-TB case management are included.

What is the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP)?

  • Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) is the state-run tuberculosis (TB) control initiative of the Government of India.
  • As per the National Strategic Plan 2012–17, the program has a vision of achieving a “TB free India”.

Objectives:

  • RNTCP provides various free of cost, quality tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment services across the country through the government health system.
  • The program uses the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy and reaches over a billion people in 632 districts/reporting units.
  • It is also responsible for carrying out the Government of India five year TB National Strategic Plans.

Loopholes in the program:

  • Though the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) has treated 10 million patients, the rate of decline has been slow.
  • RNTCP failed on universal access to early diagnosis and treatment and improving case detection.
  • Also, India is far from reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, i.e. reducing the number of deaths by 90% and TB incidence by 80% compared with 2015.  

What is National Strategic Plan for tuberculosis 2017– 2025?

  • The national strategic plan for tuberculosis elimination (2017-2025), has set a goal of “achieving a rapid decline in burden of TB, morbidity and mortality while working towards elimination of TB by 2025.”

Highlights:

  • The TB control programme plans to do away with the strategy of waiting for patients to walk in to get tested and instead engage in detecting more cases, both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant.
  • The emphasis will be on using highly sensitive diagnostic tests, undertaking universal testing for drug-resistant TB, reaching out to TB patients seeking care from private doctors and targeting people belonging to high-risk populations.
  • The other priority is to provide anti-TB treatment irrespective of where patients seek care from, public or private and ensure that they complete the treatment.
  • The TB control programme also talks of having in place patient-friendly systems to provide treatment and social support.

Climate change taking a toll on global health:

Context:

New research published by The Lancet medical journal states that on an average there has been a 5.3% fall in productivity for rural labour estimated globally since 2000, as a result of rising temperatures around the world.

The Lancet report:

  • Lancet study estimates 1.9 million deaths in 21 Asian countries in 2015 that could be attributed to PM2.5 air pollution from sources such as coal plants, transport, household pollution, others
  • The report talks of the various ways climate change has started affecting the health of people across the planet.
  • Doctors, academics and policy makers have contributed to the analysis and jointly authored the first report of “The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change”.
  • Partners behind the research include the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), University of London and Tsinghua University.

Anthropogenic effect

  • The research builds on the work of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, which concluded that anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the last 50 years of gains in public health.
  • The report said that over one billion people globally will be faced with a need to migrate within 90 years, due to a rise in sea level caused by ice shelf collapse, unless action is taken.
  • The research found that 87% of a random sample of global cities are in breach of WHO air pollution guidelines.
  • The world has seen a 46% global increase in weather related disasters since 2000, the reported pointed out.
  • The total value of economic losses resulting from climate-related extreme weather events was estimated at $129 billion in 2016.

What is Climate Change?

  • Climate change is a long-term shift in the statistics of the weather (including its averages).
  • For example, it could show up as a change in climate normals (expected average values for temperature and precipitation) for a given place and time of year, from one decade to the next.

Why is climate changing?

Natural causes

  • Climate change is a normal part of the Earth’s natural variability.
  • It is related to interactions among the atmosphere, ocean, and land.

Variation in Solar energy:

  • It is also related to changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth-As the stream of solar energy reaches earth, the character of the Earth’s orbit and of its rotation plays a major role in causing long-term climate change.

Volcanic eruptions:

  • Explosive volcanic eruptions can inject large quantities of dust and the gas, sulphur dioxide, high into the atmosphere.
  • Whereas volcanic debris in the lower atmosphere falls out or is rained out within days, the veil of pollution in the upper atmosphere is above the weather and may remain for several years, gradually spreading to cover much of the globe.
  • The volcanic pollution results in a substantial reduction in the stream of solar energy as it passes through the upper layers of the atmosphere, reflecting a significant amount back out to space.

Anthropogenic Causes

  • Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth’s temperature.

What is Paris agreement?

It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Accord is considered as a turning point for global climate policy.

Aims:

  • The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • It further aims at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • The agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • It also aims at making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
  • The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCC in Paris on 12th December 2015.

India’s commitment to climate change

  • Post US withdrawal from Paris Agreement, India announced that it would continue its support for climate action.
  • Given the current scenario, India could play a leadership role in mobilizing the climate-vulnerable countries, to recommit to and strengthen the Paris Agreement.
  • India could also formally make clause with China and the European Union (EU).China and EU have reportedly planned alliance to lead the implementation of the Paris Accord.
  • Recently, the price of solar energy has fallen and the need for coal has also decreased substantially, indicating that India is well placed to make a transition to clean energy use.
  • As a strategy to reduce its emission, India has embarked on a massive renewable energy programme.
  • Upscaling the National Solar Mission, India has set a target of 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar energy capacity by 2022. This is five times higher than the original 20 GW target. May 2017 has seen record drop in solar power prices to Rs 2.44/kWh.
  • India also recently became the fourth largest producer of wind energy in the world and announced plans to cancel 14 GW of coal plants. Indeed, India is currently in a strong position not only to meet, but exceed its Paris climate targets.
  • Even under India’s new tax regime, 18% of tax is proposed to be levied on electric cars, vis-a-vis 28% tax on conventional cars.
  • The green power revolution is envisaged to attract millions in investment and create job opportunities, while providing a substantial boost to export of new commodities.
  • In the aftermath of creating the largest market of solar power for itself, India has now proposed a pioneering commitment to sell only electric cars by 2030.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs):

  • NDCs are contributions that each country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goals.
  • The level of NDC that each country sets determines the targets to be achieved by the particular country.
  • These contributions should be reported every five years.
  • The principle of ‘progression’ prevails which indicates that the next NDC should be more ’ambitious’ than the previous one.

What are India’s intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) targets?

Reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

  • India will introduce new, more efficient and cleaner technologies in thermal power generation.
  • Reducing emissions from transportation sector.
  • Promote energy efficiency, mainly in industry, transportation, buildings and appliances.
  • Develop climate resilient infrastructure.
  • Pursue Zero Effect, Zero Defect policy under Make in India programme.

Produce 40 per cent of electricity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, if international community helps with technology transfer and low cost finance.

  • India will install 175 GW of solar, wind and biomass electricity by 2022, and scale up further in following years
  • India will aggressively pursue development of hydropower.
  • Will try to achieve the target of 63 GW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2032

Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 through additional forest and tree cover.

  • India is looking towards full implementation of Green India Mission and other programmes of afforestation.
  • Develop 140,000 km long tree line on both sides of national highways.

Develop robust adaptation strategies for agriculture, water and health sectors

  • Redesign National Water Mission and National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture
  • Active implementation of ongoing programmes like National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture, setting up of 100 mobile soil-testing laboratories, distribution of soil health cards to farmers.
  • Additional impetus on watershed development through Neeranchal scheme
  • Effective implementation of National Mission on Clean Ganga
  • Early formulation and implementation of National Health Mission
  • Complete Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan. Mapping and demarcation of coastal hazard lines.

Major Climate Laws in India

National Action Plan on Climate Change, 2008 –

  • The Plan outlines eight “national missions” running until 2017. These include solar, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, Green India (REDD & LULUCF), water, Himalaya ecosystems, agriculture and strategic knowledge of climate change.

National Electricity Plan, 2012 –

  • The Plan’s 4th chapter deals with initiatives and measures for GHG mitigation, and aims to keep CO2 intensity declining while massively expanding rural access and increasing power generation to meet the demands of a rapidly growing economy.

Post – Copenhagen domestic actions, 2010 –

  • On 10 May 2010, India released its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for 2007, with the aim of enabling informed decisionmaking and to ensure transparency. India has become the first “nonAnnex I” (i.e. developing) country to publish such updated numbers.

National Clean Energy Fund

  • India has announced a levy, a clean energy cess, on coal, at the rate of Rs. 50 (US$1) per tonne, which will apply to both domestically produced and imported coal. This money will go into a National Clean Energy Fund that will be used for funding research, innovative projects in clean energy technologies and environmental remedial programmes. Expected earnings are US$500 million for the financial year 2010–2011.

Impacts of climate change:

  • More than half a million Indians are estimated to have died prematurely in 2015 due to particulate matter (PM) 2.5 air pollution, according to a new Lancet report that highlights the significant public health risks from climate change.
  • The medical journal said that the world has seen a 46% increase in weather-related disasters since 2000, contributing to $129 billion in economic losses in 2016.
  • It estimated an average of 5.3% fall in productivity for rural labour globally since 2000 as a result of rising temperatures.
  • The study estimated 1.9 million deaths across 21 Asian countries in 2015 that could be attributed to PM2.5 air pollution from sources like coal power plants, transport, household pollution, waste, shipping, agriculture and others.
  • PM2.5 (particulate matters less than 2.5 micron) is one of the deadliest components of air pollution. It is a fine particle that can settle deep in the lungs and be absorbed in the bloodstream, which can lead to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.
  • However, it is not Asia alone that faces high air pollution—the report revealed that “87% of random sample of global cities are in breach of WHO air pollution guidelines, meaning billions of people worldwide are exposed to unsafe levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5)”.
  • Undernutrition as the largest health impact of climate change in the 21st century” and noted a 6% decline in global wheat yields and 10% fall in rice yields for each additional one degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
  • The report observed that climate change is affecting the health of all populations and that these impacts are disproportionately felt by communities least responsible for climate change and those who are the most vulnerable in society.
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