GS 2 Constitutional and quasi-judicial Bodies


Audit slams Railways on food quality: (The Hindu) (An audit report on Railway catering) Context

  • A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled in Parliament has found severe deficiencies in the catering services of the Indian Railways.

The result of Joint inspection

  • There are deficiencies in respect of quality of food served were noticed.
  • The food available to travelers are unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorized brands of water bottles, etc.,
  • The joint inspection was done on the selected 74 stations and 80 trains over Zonal Railways.

The Report

  • The audit reports claimed that cleanliness and hygiene standards were not being maintained in the catering units at stations and on trains.
  • Unpurified water straight from the tap are being used in preparation of beverages;
  • Waste bins were found not covered, not emptied regularly, and not washed;
  • Foodstuffs were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust;
  • Rats and cockroaches were found in trains.
  • Unfair trade practices at stations and in trains.
  • Bills were not provided for the food items served on trains;
  • Waiters and catering managers on the trains did not carry printed menu cards with tariffs;
  • The food served was less than the prescribed quantity;
  • Unapproved packaged drinking water was sold;
  • Proprietary Article Depot items were being sold in railway stations at their maximum retail prices.
  • The report also found that the weights and prices of the items sold at railway stations were different from the open market, and that the unit price of food articles sold in railway premises was significantly higher.

Government policies


‘Major deficiencies in Army’s ammunition reserves’: (The Hindu) (Follow up audit on Ammunition Management in Army) Context

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has presented a bleak picture of the Army’s War Wastage Reserve (WWR) ammunition.
  • The report tabled on Friday is a follow-up audit on the measures taken after the CAG’s earlier report on “Ammunition Management in Army,” tabled in 2015

The new report

  • It is an evaluation of the availability of WWR ammunition in the Army during the period 2013-14 to 2016-17 (till September 2016).
  • Despite a lapse of more than three years (from March 2013) no significant improvement in the availability of WWR ammunition was noticed in audit.
  • On the efforts to procure ammunition, there continued to be a critical deficiency in the availability and quality of ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) since March 2013.

Follow up audit on Ammunition Management in Army Context

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has presented a bleak picture of the Army’s War Wastage Reserve (WWR) ammunition.
  • The report tabled on Friday is a follow-up audit on the measures taken after the CAG’s earlier report on “Ammunition Management in Army,” tabled in 2015

The new report

  • It is an evaluation of the availability of WWR ammunition in the Army during the period 2013-14 to 2016-17 (till September 2016).
  • Despite a lapse of more than three years (from March 2013) no significant improvement in the availability of WWR ammunition was noticed in audit.
  • On the efforts to procure ammunition, there continued to be a critical deficiency in the availability and quality of ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) since March 2013.

SC: mentally retarded adult not a child: (The Hindu) (Biological age is that matters for SC) Context:

  • The Indian Law considers a person’s age only through age not through mental age.
  • This evaluation of age needs to be reconsidered as far as the mentally challenged ones are concerned.

POCSO

  • Child sexual abuse laws in India have been enacted as part of the nation’s child protection policies.
  • The Parliament of India passed the ‘Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ regarding child sexual abuse on May 22, 2012 into Act.
  • The rules formulated by the government in accordance with the law have also been notified on the November 2012 and the law has become ready for implementation.

Objective:

  1. The new Act provides for a variety of offenses under which an accused can be punished.
  2. It defines a child as a person under age of 18 years. It encompasses the biological age of the child and not on the mental age considerations. As for example:

a. A recent case in SC has been filed where a women of biological age 40yrs but mental age 6yrs was raped. The victim’s advocate argues that “failure to consider the mental age will be an attack on the very purpose of act.” b. SC has reserved the case for judgement and is determined to interpret whether the 2012 act encompasses the mental age or whether only biological age is inclusive in the definition.

  1. The act is gender-neutral.

4.The Act also provides for various procedural reforms, making the tiring process of trial in India considerably easier for children. Criticism:

  • The Act has been criticized as its provisions seem to criminalize consensual sexual intercourse between two people below the age of 18.
  • The 2001 version of the Bill did not punish consensual sexual activity if one or both partners were above 16 years.

Conclusion:

  • There are different degrees of mental retardation, the court needs to go into the question of consent to the sexual act which is not provided for in POCSO.

‘Protection of personal data a right’: (The Hindu) (The 2016 case on protection of privacy) Context

  • Petition held by students alleging that a Contract between Facebook and Whatsapp in 2016 was a violation of the citizens’ right to privacy.

The issue

  • The Bench is hearing a petition filed by students led by Karmanya Singh Sareen.
  • They are alleging that a contract entered into between Facebook and instant messaging platform WhatsApp includes photographs, messages and pictures shared by users on WhatsApp.

Right to Privacy: Constitution

  • The Constitution of India does not specifically guarantee a “right to privacy”.
  • However, through various judgments over the years, Indian courts have interpreted the other rights in the Constitution as giving rise to a (limited) right to privacy primarily through Article 21, the right to life and liberty.

Restriction on Right to Privacy These restrictions have not been defined or elucidated anywhere and have been identified through the interpretation of various provisions and judgments of the Supreme Court of India:

  • The right to privacy can be restricted by procedure established by law and this procedure would have to be just, fair and reasonable.
  • Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the right to privacy in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence; (Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950).
  • The right to privacy can be restricted if there is an important countervailing interest which is superior to it.
  • The right to privacy can be restricted if there is a compelling state interest to be served.
  • The protection available under the right to privacy may not be available to a person who voluntarily introduces him- or herself into controversy.

Digital trade games: (The Hindu, Editorial) (Global Digital Trade Paradigm at Proposed RCEP Treaty of ASEAN countries) Background:

  • In order to broaden and deepen the engagement among ASEAN countries, the leaders of 16 participating countries established the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to enhance parties’ participation in economic development of the region.
  • Recently, the negotiators of ASEAN countries are meeting at Hyderabad from July 21 to 26, to discuss the negative impact of the fresh round of free trade agreements on e-Commerce, intellectual property rights, and access to medicine, on marginalised communities, agriculture, labour and social security, public services, and fisheries and trade.

About RCEP:

  • The RCEP was built upon the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs with the spirit to strengthen economic linkages and to enhance trade and investment related activities as well as to contribute to minimising development gap among the parties.
  • In August 2012, the 16 Economic Ministers endorsed the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
  • The RCEP negotiations were launched by Leaders from 10 ASEAN Member States (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) and six ASEAN FTA partners (Australia, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand) during the 21st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2012. The RCEP negotiations commenced in early 2013.
  • The objective of launching RCEP negotiations is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN Member States and ASEAN’s FTA partners.
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has free trade agreements with six partners namely People’s Republic of China (ACFTA), Republic of Korea (AKFTA), Japan (AJCEP), India (AIFTA) as well as Australia and New Zealand (AANZFTA).

Area under RCEP Negotiation:

  • The RCEP negotiation includes: trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and other issues.

Issue of Digital Trade and e-commerce at RCEP negotiations:

  • The focus of the negotiators will be on e-commerce and global data trade. The issue under discussion will placing limitations on digital policymaking by any country to protect / promote the e-commerce company of respective country.
  • India has been opposing binding norms on opening up the e-commerce sector at the level of RCEP as well as the global level (WTO) talks on grounds including that it (India) is yet to have a comprehensive national policy on the topic.
  • Many RCEP nations including Australia, Japan and China, are pushing for inclusion of ‘Terms Of Reference’ for RCEP negotiations concerning e-commerce. This is with a view to have some binding commitments from the RCEP members on liberalising e-commerce and ensure that the final pact has a separate chapter on e-commerce.

Concern over Digital Trade:

  • No countries could agree to let the data flow freely across borders.
  • The data that is increasingly basic to banking, retailing, the defence forces, public services, health and education services etc. are not the simple date but digital information or digital intelligence which can be meaningfully negotiated at global trade talks, because each of these services have different dynamics and implications and needs different treatment.
  • It may be too early to understand the real nature of these emergent digitalised services
  • Digital intelligence is going to be by far the single most important economic resource and it believes that whoever has it controls everything. Secondly, today the the digital intelligence tends to concentrate strongly around a few poles or centres for example Uber has worldwide intelligence about urban transport; Monsanto is working on a global agriculture networking and intelligence platform; for General Electric etc.
  • The issues of e-commerce or digital trade are much larger because today every major economic and social activity will be underpinned by digital intelligence.
  • The opening of digital trade will make the domestic e-commerce companies more vulnerable and less competitive.

India’s Strategy:

  • India must not succumb to global digital trade paradigms and rules that back predatory business.
  • India must consider a digital industrialisation strategy that ensures that the immense value arising from digitally-induced efficiencies in every sector is retained within India and not allowed to flow out uninhibitedly.
  • If India allows such outflows of data intelligence then it will soon find itself on the wrong side of digital colonisation.
  • India must put its digital house in order before thinking of getting a part of the global digital pie, as China did.
  • Domestic digital strengths should first be developed on the back of its big domestic market.
  • These is a requirement of an independent digital policy, including protections for India’s incipient digital industry. This will not only ensure that our economy and society are not controlled from outside but also protect existing jobs and create many more new ones.

Conclusion:

  • India has just begun some good policy work for a data economy and society, with its “Digital India” policies, and development of “digital public goods” like the IndiaStack of basic digital platforms and infrastructural data systems that are open to all. These can be very helpful in developing a local digital industry. However, such efforts can get nullified if India succumbs to global digital trade paradigms and rules developed by countries that back predatory global digital business, by accepting the “free global flow of data” and sacrificing its digital policymaking powers and sovereignty.

Fighting cow vigilantes is States’ job: Centre: (The Hindu) A matter of Accountability Context:

  • Ending violence by cow protection groups is a ‘State subject’ and the Centre holds the opinion that it has no role to play, though it condemns all forms of vigilantism.

Major negligence:

  • Neither the Centre nor States such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have filed any written response to the court’s repeated orders to them on a bunch of petitions.
  • One of the immediate petitions sought a direction to the Central and State governments to pull down all the videos of violence uploaded by cow vigilante groups from social media sites.
  • On the contrary:

o The Uttar Pradesh counsel merely stated the fact that the State had not filed its response. o The Gujarat counsel said there was one incident of violence involving cow protection and the persons allegedly responsible for it have been arrested.


Untrained teachers get 2 years to qualify: (The Hindu) Bills passed for Untrained teachers Context

  • The Lok Sabha passed a Bill that offers untrained teachers teaching in schools’ time till March 31, 2019, to acquire B.El. Ed (Bachelor of Elementary Education) or D. El. Ed. (Diploma in Elementary Education) qualifications to hold their jobs as teachers.

Need to be done

  • It was brought in through an amendment to the Right to Education Act, 2009, as a last chance to such teachers not to lose their jobs.
  • The Compulsory Education (Amendment) 2017 Bill will now have to pass muster in the Rajya Sabha and get presidential assent after that to become an Act.

The rationale for the bill

  • Many new schools had come up in the days of educational expansion under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the RTE.
  • Faculties hired did not have requisite degrees, some having studied only till school.
  • They were given five years to get trained but almost 6 lakh private school teachers and 2.5 lakh government school teachers still don’t have the required degrees.
  • The qualifications are deemed necessary to ensure that teachers are well-qualified to ensure quality of education.

Steps already taken

  • Rajasthan pasting photographs of all teachers in a school on the notice board with the caption “our respected teachers.”
  • Manipur is using a tab that would mark attendance only within 50 feet of the school.

Creating a new normal: (Indian Express, Editorial) (Leaving no stones unturned for a clean India) Context:

  • India has set itself a seemingly impossible goal, to end open defecation by October 2, 2019.

India’s primary concern:

  • Lack of toilets allows faecal germs to spread, which cause sometimes fatal illnesses like cholera and diarrhoea, especially among children.
  • Moreover, Undernutrition sets in, leaving kids more vulnerable to infections, which in turn make them more malnourished.

Achievement of the Abhiyan:

  • 44 million toilets have been built since the declaration of the Swaach Bharat Abhiyan in October 2014.
  • Over two lakh villages are open-defecation-free, as are 149 districts and 5 states.

Drawbacks of the Abhiyan:

  • Not everyone who has a toilet, chooses to actually use it.

o Government has thus had to switch focus from building toilets to encouraging behavior changes that can make villages truly open defecation free. o Their surveys now aim to measure use as well as construction. Arguments:

  • There’s an argument stating that incentivizing building toilets at a rapid pace is damaging because many are poorly constructed and some are never or partially used. This makes little sense from three perspectives.

o In the first place, it is incorrect to argue that a policy is poor for the reason that some aspects of implementation are challenging. o Second, even if 20 per cent of these new toilet owners continue to go to the bush, the reduction in infection from the 80 per cent who use toilets will provide substantial benefits. o Third, it flows from behavioral science that the very presence of a toilet is a constant reminder that society is changing, that new norms of hygienic behavior are expected. Conclusion:

  • Swachh Bharat has garnered international support and emulation, and NGOs, national and international development agencies have mobilized across India’s least well-off districts.
  • Academics will continue to play their important role of questioning government policy and remind them to use best practices but the Government must listen and continue to march on to achieve results by 2019.

BHAG

  • Ending open defecation for all Indians by 2019 is what is known, in management parlance, as a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
  • Leadership experts know that by offering a worthwhile, but difficult to achieve vision, one can mobilize an institution, motivate a workforce, drive change and, sometimes, even reach that goal[1] .
  • The BHAG was set by the great leader John F Kennedy in his speech in 1961, when he said, “We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things — not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Speaking for the voiceless: (Indian Express, Editorial) A need to redefine the process of criminal justice Context:

  • An analysis of rape cases of minors reveals that nothing has changed even after the enactment of the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act in 2012.
  • The Criminal justice process would benefit from more elements of inquisitorial system.

The drawback:

  • In most cases when the medical examination of minor victims is not granted by their guardians then more emphasis needs to be laid on oral evidence.
  • But it has been found that comparatively less importance is given to the uncorroborated oral evidence in cases where the consent for medical examination is withheld.
  • The adversarial system of dispensing justice had not worked satisfactorily in India and some beneficial features of the inquisitorial system should be incorporated.
  • As for example:

o In an inquisitorial system, as applicable in China, Russia, Japan, Scotland, etc judicial magistrates investigate criminal offences and search for the truth. o In Germany, a breach of the judges’ duty to actively discover truth would amount to a procedural error which may provide grounds for an appeal. o Italy uses a blend of two systems.

  • Having a separate law like the POCSO Act does not seem to be sufficient to dispense justice to a spectrum of victims who are not even capable of comprehending the trauma of sexual violence.

Suggestion:

  • Investigative powers can be given to the judicial magistrates in cases of rape of children under 12 years of age.
  • The investigative judicial (woman) magistrate could be assisted by a female medical doctor and an expert in child psychology.
  • The report of such magistrate could be treated as a final piece of evidence and the accused may be given an opportunity to state and defend his version.

A stronger river referee: (Indian Express, Editorial) Inter-State River Water Disputes gets a new Bill Context:

  • The government introduced the long-awaited Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017.

Introduction:

  • The Interstate Water Disputes Act 1956, has been amended about half a dozen times.
  • The amendments have stuck to a template, which relies exclusively on tribunals for expeditious resolution of river disputes.
  • Disputes have recurred, there have been long delays in adjudication and states have not complied with verdicts of the court.
  • But the current bill has provisions solve the disputes.

Solutions:

  1. The bill proposes a permanent Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal (ISRWDT).
  • In the current arrangement, tribunals are formed when a river water dispute arises which are dispute-specific.
  • The ISRWDT will be an eight-member body comprising serving Supreme Court and high court judges.
  • It will have a chairperson and a vice-chairperson.
  • The members will retire when they are 70 — there was no such limit earlier.
  • Each dispute will be referred to a three-member bench and resolution will be time bound.
  • At least on paper, the entire process is restricted to five-and-half years, taking into account all extensions.
  • There is almost no limit on extensions in the current arrangement.
  1. The bill provides for a DRC (Disputes Resolution Committee) to enable ex-ante negotiated settlements, in place of earlier mediation by the Centre.

Challenges:

  • The benefits of the bill depends on the mechanism’s efficiency.
  • But the government is ill-equipped to offer competent and resilient mechanisms.
  • The bill doesn’t fully recognize the need to plug holes in the larger ecosystem of interstate river water sharing, development and governance.
  • In any case, the challenge is not about gathering data and information, but more about states agreeing over a particular piece of data.
  • The challenge is also about tapping the data to produce knowledge that can be used for decision-making.

Conclusion:

  • The bill no doubt holds promise for tightening and improving adjudication.

GS 3 Science and Tech


H1N1 returns: what can be done to control the virus: (The Hindu, Editorial) (H1N1 returns: Preventive measures you should take) Context: At least 22 people died of H1N1 infections in Mumbai in 2017, and more than 500 cases were registered Statistics related to H1N1 virus:

  • This year, 12,500 people have been infected with the influenza a H1N1 virus, of which 600 have died.
  • According to official data, Maharashtra alone account for 284 deaths, which by itself is much more than the total mortality figure of 265 in the country as a result of H1N1 in 2016.
  • Even in the first three months of 2017, the number of cases and deaths were fairly high , at over 6,000 and 160, respectively.
  • The whole genome sequencing carried out at Pune’s National Institute of Virology.
  • For instance, the California strain had been circulating around the world since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. But, as a result of point mutations, a new strain- the Michigan stain –emerged last year.
  • India witnessed the circulation of both the California and Michigan strains in 2016.
  • This year, surveillance revealed that the H1N1 virus found in India is only the Michigan strain.

Key points:

  • As in the case of the California strain, the Michigan strain too is susceptible to the drug Oseltamivir.
  • In order to make to the drug widely available and easily accessible, the drug was moved from Schedule X to Schedule H1 last month.
  • Timely diagnosis and easy availability of the drug are expected to reduce mortality.
  • There are total 42 laboratories providing diagnostic services across the country, and there is compelling need to increase this number.
  • Since the 2009 pandemic, H1Ni has become a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during the peak of summer.

What is H1N1 virus?

  • H1N1 virus or swine flu is a respiratory disorder.
  • According to WHO, the virus is a strain of influenza.
  • It is commonly known as swine flu because it was detected in patients who were directly in contact with pig.
  • According to WHO, genetic analyses of the virus shows that it originated from animal influenza viruses.
  • It was detected for the first time in North America in April 2009, after which it rapidly spread all around the world.
  • In June 2009, the disease spread across 74 countries and territories.

What are the causes?

  • As per WHO, the H1N1 virus spreads just like other seasonal influenza viruses.
  • It spreads from exposure to an infected person.
  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes, he/she leaves behind infected droplets. Exposure to these infected droplets can contaminate hands and surfaces.

What are the symptoms of the virus?

  • The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to season flu.
  • The symptoms included cough, fever, sore theat, runny nose, headache and bodyache.
  • In extreme cases, the patient also feels chills and fatigue.
  • The swine flu, like every other regular flu, can develop into serious problems such as pneumonia, lung infection and other breathing problems.

Solutions:

  • The solution to reduce the number of cases and deaths is by framing a national policy for influenza immunization
  • Better awareness
  • More robust surveillance system
  • There is need to have both qualitative and quantitative data on the vulnerable population
  • Vaccinating health-care workers who come in contact with high-risk patients should be given priority.

Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment


Floor price for voice, data not ‘workable’, says TRAI: (The Hindu) TRAI rejects telcos proposal on flour price for voice Background:

  • Recently, some telecom services providers, in a meeting with TRAI, had sought imposition of a floor price for both voice and data services.
  • The telecom operators had argued that telcos offering below cost tariffs to consumers over a period of time might harm the industry and its financials.

Introduction:

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday said that during a meeting the telecom industry had reached a consensus that fixing of floor price for voice and data services was not a “workable idea” at the moment, because they believe that there are enough competition in the telecom service market.
  • The telecom operators and the TRAI reached to a consensus that current regime of tariff forbearance would continue and operators are allowed to fix their own tariffs.

Principle of forbearance:

  • Forbearance has been a watchword with the telecom regulator since September 2002 when Trai first decided to allow market forces to determine the rates that cellular mobile telephony operators could charge their customers.
  • The consultation paper of 2012 clearly spelt out what “regulatory forbearance” meant. “Forbearance needs to be distinguished from deregulation,” the paper said, a concept that encapsulated the idea of discretionary restraint on the part of the regulator.
  • Under the forbearance policy, telecom players have the flexibility to fix tariffs for all the services they offer, except in the case of national roaming, fixed rural telephony and leased lines
  • There are a couple of conditions attached to the exercise of this right: the telecom player must carry out a self-check to ensure that the tariff plan does not fall foul of a triad of regulatory principles that include the interconnection usage charge (IUC) regime, non-discrimination and non-predation. The tariff plans must report the details of each plan within seven days of its implementation.

Why Principle of Forbearance was in news:

  • In 2012, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that it will review forbearance in telephone tariffs in a bid to check recent increase in prices by operators. TRAI observed that tariff for data service were very high and in almost all the cases, the default tariff for data services post-free usage as high as Rs. 10,485 per GB.
  • Recently, the issue has come to a limelight because of free voice and dirt cheap data prices being offered by a new player Reliance Jio since the launch in September last year.
  • Existing operators have been forced to match the tariffs being unleased by Reliance Jio and it has impacted their margins and overall profitability since last two quarters.
  • Reliance Jio has termed the proposal of fixing floor price as a regressive and anti-competitive step.
  • Last month, some operators had argued that telcos offering below cost tariffs to consumers over a period of time might harm the industry and its financials and sought intervention of TRAI to review the forbearance principle.

TRAI consensus with Telecom Operators:

  • The representatives of all telecom operators and TRAI have decided that they do not need to forgo the principal of forbearance which has been accepted and working for the last 14 years.
  • This means that the telecom operators will come up with the new voice and data offer and the completion among the telecom operators to increase the number of subscribers

WCO lauds India’s trade facilitation plan: (The Hindu) Trade Facilitation Pact to promote Ease of doing business: Context: The World Customs Organisation (WCO) describes India’s National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) as a best practice other nations can adopt. Introduction:

  • A National Trade Facilitation Action Plan has been released for a time bound map for implementing of the TFA.
  • The WCO, the international body supporting the uniform implementation of the TFA across the globe has 182 member nations including India that manage more than 98% or world trade.
  • As per the WTO, “the full implementation of the TFA could boost global trade by up to $ 1 trillion per year.”

Objectives of National Action Plan:

  • The objectives to be achieved by national action plan were improvement in ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost, paperless work, transparent and predictable legal regime.
  • Improved investment climate through better infrastructure.
  • The action plan released by India comprises concrete steps for moving the agenda ahead and also fixed accountability and time frame for accomplishing the plan.
  • TFA would simplify procedures and enhance competitiveness making economies more vibrant leading to increase in revenue.
  • Trade facilitation will play a key role for India to achieve its goal of becoming a high middle-income level economy.
  • The TFA is meant to ease customs norms for faster flow of goods across borders-had come into force in February 2017.
  • The NTFAP, which is to be implemented between 2017 and 2020, is part of India’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business ranking.
  • India’s overall rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business report is 130, it ranks 144 out of 190 nations in the ‘Trading Across Borders’ category.

Key points:

  • The WCO is impressed by the fact that as many as 51 of the 76 activities mentioned in the NTFAP “go beyond” the implementation requirements of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)
  • Infrastructure and technology augmentation are prime enablers for trade facilitation, more so for India, the action plan (NTFAP) covers many activities in these areas.
  • India had ratified the TFA in April 2016.

Global benchmarks:

  • Enhancement of existing compliance levels to achieve global benchmarks in crucial segments like Time Release Study, Post Clearance Audit and AEO (Authorised Economi Operator) scheme belong to the TFA Plus category as they are dynamic objectives.

Deadline:

  • Out of the total 51 “TFA-plus activities”, most (or 34) have a timeline of six to 18 months
  • 12 of the “TFA-Plus activities” have a deadline of up to six months; five such activities have a timeline of 18-36 months including improving infrastructure.
  • Out of the 25 activities that are part of the TFA requirements, 17 will be implemented within 6-18 months, while eight have a timeline of up to six months.

World Customs Organization:

  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
  • It has 182 member nations (including India) that manage more than 98 % of world trade.
  • The WCO is covers areas like development of international conventions, instruments, and tools on topics such as commodity classification, valuation, rules of origin, collection of customs revenue, supply chain security, international trade facilitation, customs enforcement activities, combating counterfeiting in support of Intellectual Property Rights(IPR), drugs enforcement, illegal weapons trading, integrity promotion, and delivering sustainable capacity building to assist with customs reforms and modernization.
  • The WCO maintains the international Harmonized System (HS) goods nomenclature, and administers the technical aspects of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin.

Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):

  • The TFA is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to simplify customs regulations for the cross-border movement of goods.
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