Braille-enabled signboards to be used during Maheshtala bypoll
- Election Commission of India for the first time will start the use of Braille-enabled signboardsfor visually challenged voters in the upcoming Maheshtala Assembly by-election in West Bengal.
- The initiative of Braille-enabled signboards was part of the drive to make elections more accessible to persons with disabilities (PWD).
- The decision to use Braille-enabled signboards is a State-specific measure to ensure hassle-free polling experience for visually impaired voters.
- The Braille-enabled signboards will be available for all the 283 polling stations in the Maheshtala Assembly constituency in South 24 Paraganas district.
- The Braille-enabled signboards includes conventionally displayed instructions for voters on how to use electronic voting machine and voter verifiable Paper Audit Trail.
- EC held consultations with officials of the State government departments such as Women, Child and Social Welfare, Youth Services and Sports to frame strategies to increase involvement of physically challenged voters in the polling process.
Women’s health crucial to combat stunting: study
- A study by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) highlights the impact of women’s health on stunting of children.
- The study analysed data from National Family Health Survey (NHFS) – IV
- There are 63 million stunted children in India
- In May 2018, the prevalence of stunting in India is 38.4% as compared to 48%in 2006
- North-south divide: Northern states account for more than 80% of stunted children at 52.6 million. While southern States together account for 8.1 million stunted children
- North-eastern and island States account for nearly 2.4 million.
- There are wide variations across districts- varies between 12.4% to 65.1%
- 239 out of 640 districts have stunting levels above 40%
- 202 districts have a prevalence of 30-40%
- Only 29 districts have stunting levels between 10-20%
- Most of the concentration of districts with high stunting is in the north and central India
- Inter-district differences are reflected in economic, health, hygiene and demographic factors. Parameters related to women such as education, age at marriage and women nutrition largely determines inter-district variations
- The study highlights the need for targeted policy intervention to combat stunting. Critical determinants in individual districts should be addressed with a focus on women related parameters
Wife has the right to know husband’s salary details, rules Madhya Pradesh High Court
- The Madhya Pradesh high court has ruled that wife has the right to know about the details of husband salary.
- The petition was filled by Sunita jain who has sought a higher maintenance amount from her estranged husband who is senior officer at BSNL.
- Sunita Jain has filled a Right to Information to get details about her husband salary details.
- The Central Information Commission has asked the BSNL to furnish the required details to Sunita Jain
- The Central Information Commission order was challenged by her husband which was later rejected by Madhya Pradesh High Court .
- The Double Bench of the High Court further ruled that a wife was entitled to know the remuneration of her husband.
Ireland’s vote for choice
- In recent referendum, 66.4% of Ireland voters voted to repeal the constitutional block on abortions.
- Abortion in Ireland is prohibited according to eighth amendment introduced in 1983.
- It grants an unborn child and the woman carrying it an equal right to life.
- In 2013, abortions in Ireland have been only permitted when the life of the woman is at risk, including from suicide.
- This 2013 exception comes after the death of Savita Halappanavar. She died of sepsis in a hospital after being denied an abortion while miscarrying at 17 weeks because Ireland was a Catholic country.
- But there were still no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or when the foetus had a fatal abnormality.
- Ireland now plans to introduce legislation:
- To allow for relatively unrestricted abortions up until 12 weeks of pregnancy,
- To allow abortions between 12 and 24 weeks when there are fatal foetal abnormalities or risk to the life of the mother or serious harm to her and
- Beyond 24 weeks, abortions would be permitted when there are fatal abnormalities.
7. Ireland has been gradually making progress to separate Church and State and adopting more open social attitudes such as:
- Legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015
- Electing the first openly gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar on 2017.
8. The decision is especially significant because the democratic world has made a noticeable shift to the right (conservatism).
9. It can be exemplified by Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., and right-wing populism in continental Europe.
US-North Korea:A Deal that can be done.
- Zorawar Daulet Singh ,Fellow at the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi analyses the issue of cancellation of US-North Korea summit
- Mr Trump’s foreign policy has been erratic and inconsistent.Trump has cancelled a June 12th Summit meeting with North Korea.
- The US National Security System is dominated by traditionalists who fear change.
- In the unipolar world order US held sway over all geopolitical and geoeconomic matters.
- But there is ample evidence of an emerging multi polar world and waning of America’s relative
- The US under Trump would not easily adjust to the emerging global balance of power.
- For North Korea, nuclear weapons are the only reliable way to ensure the security of its state and survival of the regime.
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
- The process of nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula saw a sustained progress over a decade. It has now acquired credible deterrence capacity along with ballistic missile testing.
- In 2017 when North Korea tested an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile(ICBM), USA realised that North Korea posed a real threat to it.
- Russia and China, as neighbours are concerned with the stability of the Korean peninsula.
- The regional context to conclude a deal was formed with favourable changes in the South Korean domestic politics.
- The Proposed summit created the hope that North Korea might stop its quest for intercontinental nuclear weapons capability in exchange for a gradual normalisation of ties with the U.S. and lifting of multilateral economic sanctions.
- Issues in finalizing the deal:
(i)U.S. is in favour of complete de-nuclearisation whereas North Korea wants to maintain the right to retain an undefined level of nuclear weapon capability as an insurance measure of last resort.
(ii)The traditionalists in U.S. fear that a shifting status quo might undermine US’s military alliances in East Asia.China and Russia might make use of this opportunity to pursue their geoeconomic plans in the region.
(iii)A successful deal implies that U.S. will no longer be able to hold influence in the region as before.
- Impact of a nuclear deal:
(i)North Korea would gain regime and national legitimacy, assurance of survival and an opportunity to economically transform itself.
(ii)A deal would confine North Korea to a regional nuclear power, which would also enable it to preserve a degree of autonomy from China.
(iii)It would stabilise the broader Northeast Asian setting and thereby increase the security of its two key allies, South Korea and Japan.
(iv)A major potential flashpoint in China-U.S. relations would be removed.
- Trump hinted that the cancelled summit could take place at a later date.
- North Korea said that it would meet US at any time to talk.
Political parties under RTI: Election Commission contradicts CIC directive
- The Election Commission has recently ordered that National Political parties are out of the purview of the RTI Act which is contrary to central information commission directives.
- Vihar Dhurve has filled a RTI about the details of donations collected by six national parties — the BJP, the Congress, the BSP, the NCP, the CPI and the CPI (M) and the Samajwadi Party through the newly-introduced electoral bonds.
- The recent order of Election Commission is contrary to the Central Information Commission order of 2013.
- In 2013 CIC has brought Six Nation party under the preview of RTI act by declaring them public authority.
- The political parties have refused to entertain the RTI applications directed at them.
- Several activists have approached the Supreme Court on the grounds of non-compliance of the CIC order and the matter is still pending at apex court.
- When it comes to the RTI Act, the CIC is the only appellate authority which may declare a body as public authority if it is convinced that the organisation fits into the criteria for being under the RTI Act.
- Former Chief Information Commissioner A.N. Tiwari has argue against the recent Election Commission orders.
- He said that the order of Election Commission has no merit.
- He state that when the Central Information Commission has declared six national political parties as public authority the Election Commission cannot take a position contrary to that unless the order of the CIC has been overturned by the Supreme Court or High Courts.
8. Venkatesh Nayak, RTI activist, said the Election Commission has exceeded his limits in giving this order.
- He further elaborated that in June 2013 Central Information Commission has order for bringing six national political parties under the RTI Act.
- He said the the order of CIC has not been stayed or set aside by any court.
9. Recently, Election Commission has recommended for the “New Zealand model” in India which will allow eligible people to vote even if their names is not printed in the electoral roll.
Economic push needed
1.Political analysts feel that India must help in the development of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Majority North and Eastern Provinces.
- Political settlement is seen as the key to the problem faced by Sri Lanka’s North and Easter provinces.It includes
Greater devolution of powers to provinces and Merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces
- Devolution of powers and merger of the provinces was featured in the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord.
- Some provisions of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord have been incorporated into the 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Tamil politicians of Sri Lanka are of the view that India is duty-bound to ensure full and proper implementation these provisions.
5. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s Annual Report for 2017 highlighted the poor contribution of the civil-war-hit Northern and Eastern provinces to the GDP of the country (4.2% and 5.7%, respectively).
- Views of people:
(i)Leaders should highlight the need for economic development of the region.
(ii)Only when the economic contribution of the region increases, the leaders would realise that they have the necessary capacity and competence to handle greater powers that could be devolved through any political settlement.
- These days India has not been stating its position publicly on the political settlement, except for calling for the strengthening of the 13th Amendment.
- No big initiative has been taken for economic engagement with India despite a Tamil Chief Minister heading the Northern Province.
- Indian projects in Sri Lanka:
(i)The Northern Railway reconstruction project, leading to the revival of train services between Talaimannar and Colombo
(ii)Construction of 46,000 houses in the North and East.
(iii)A bilateral pact was signed between India and Sri Lanka to rehabilitate the Kankesanthurai Harbour.
(iv)Proposal to modernise Palaly airport, near Jaffna(not taken off as yet)
10)Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed an economic union of 5 southern States and Sri Lanka which would have a combined GDP of over $500 billion.
India protests Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan order
- Pakistan has proposed to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan(disputed) region into federal structure of Pakistan by granting it provincial status.
- The executive order from Pakistan’s Prime Minister proposes to begin legislative, judicial and administrative measures to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan with the rest of the federal structure of Pakistan.
- India summoned the Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner as a mark of protest.
4.Right now, Pakistan’s National Assembly receives representation from five provinces — Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Gilgit-Baltistan region is excluded which remains on the Pakistani side following the war of 1947 and is governed directly from Islamabad.
- The official Indian statement observed that:
(i)The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947.
(ii)Any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable.
(iii)This order is against the position of the Indian Parliament which in 1994 passed a resolution in support of India’s claims over the undivided Jammu and Kashmir.
(iv)This can neither hide the illegal occupation of part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades,
6.The work on (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor)CPEC, passing through the region has prompted the change of status for Gilgit Baltistan.
7.Afghan government has rejected another proposal of the Pakistan National Assembly. The proposal seeks the merger of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
SEBI MF order spurs changes to schemes
- Mutual fund houses to make changes in their Scheme according to directive from SEBI regarding categorisation and rationalisation of mutual fund schemes.
2. SEBI had issued a directive regarding categorization and rationalization of mutual fund schemes. It defined five categories in which all schemes can be classified as:
- Equity schemes
- Debt schemes
- Hybrid schemes (which invest in a mix of equity and debt)
- Solution-oriented schemes (such as for retirement)
- Schemes (such as index funds and exchange-traded funds)
- Sub-categories like large caps, large and mid-caps and small caps.
- It define the individual characteristics of each of the scheme types and what the portfolio allocation needed
Note: For a large cap fund company should invest at least 80% in large cap shares and a mid-cap fund it should invest at least 65% in mid cap shares.
2. Aim to bring directives
- The number of mutual fund schemes on offer has become large and some of the offerings have been similar without any differentiation, often creating confusion in the minds of investors.
- To bringing uniformity to the schemes and enabling accurate comparisons.
3. Mutual fund companies have been making changes to their schemes to comply with the directive of the SEBI. Across the industry, firms are either renaming their schemes, changing their categories or merging the schemes with other similar schemes.
4. The changes in Mutual fund schemes are disclosed in companies websites.
5. The SEBI directive has accounted for about 30% of schemes in the industry.
6. The investor should analyze the changes on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the asset allocation and category allocation of their portfolio remains intact to the changes.
CAs excluded from fair valuation of start-up
- The Department of Income Tax has given the task of fair valuation of start ups exclusively to Merchant banks.
- The Income Tax Department has excluded chartered accountants (CAs) from assessing the fair valuation of start-ups.
- The decision to exclude CAs from assessing the fair valuation brings it in line with another rule that allows only merchant bankers to calculate the value of unlisted shares issued to employees under the ESOP schemes.
- In the notification, the department provided tax exemption for investments that small start-ups receive from angel investors above their fair valuation.
- The step comes as a relief to start-ups that have been complaining about tax on investments raised from angel investors.
- Start-ups approved by an inter-ministerial panel are exempted from tax levied on firms issuing shares to investors above their fair value, treating it as income from other sources. This exemption was earlier available to investments from registered venture capital funds and foreign investors.
- the exemption is meant for small start-ups whose paid-up capital and share premium do not exceed Rs 10 crore after the share sale.
- The angel investor should have had Rs25 lakh average income in the preceding three years or Rs2 crore net worth at the end of the previous fiscal.
- The decision to exclude chartered accountants from assessing the fair valuation was seen as arbitrary and unfair.
- The decision will impact both the chartered accountants and companies.
Blockchain being used in banking, contracts
- With the advent of blockchain technology, companies and banks are able to increase their operational efficiency.
- Trade finance involves complex documentation processes, high transaction costs, high settlement times and low authenticity rates with physical documents. As a result, a bank’s customer needs to face delays, high costs and risks.
- Blockchain allows all stages of transactions to be securely shared between network members. It also offers cost reduction, risk mitigation, traceability and security.
- The technology not only appeals the Indian companies in simplifying contracts but also helps in applying consensus policy through installing smart contracts.
- As for example, these smart contracts can be used for information which forms the basis of KYC documentation, ensuring that details like name, address, and date-of-birth cannot be modified once they have been entered into the system.
- Government can learn the way to regulate cryptocurrencies and blockchain from smaller countries that have adopted the technology. smaller countries such as Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden are more receptive to adopting new technologies.
- Blockchain technology can be used to digitize and authenticate complex records like land holdings.
Decoding Europe’s New Data Protection Law
- European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) poses a serious challenge for Indian IT companies
- GDPR aims to protect EU citizens from data breaches
- It was approved by EU Parliament in April 2016 and came to effect in May 25, 2018
- The GDPR provides for a heavy penalty of €20 million or 4% of company’s global revenue for non-compliance
- Any organisation providing goods and services to EU comes under the ambit of GDPR. In India, a major focus is on IT/ITES companies which account for 7% of GDP
- In India, many IT organizations are not prepared for GDPR compliance. Only 30-35% has started work towards achieving GDPR compliance
- Large Indian IT companies are well prepared due to economies of scale. However, the impact of GDPR on SMEs and start-ups is a concern as the cost of compliance for them is high
- The introduction of GDPR will positively impact on the way data is handled by companies and will boost consumer trust
- In India, there has been a rise in demand and application for data protection jobs since 2017 and is expected to continue so after the introduction of GDPR
- Recently, Mauritius has also introduced strong data protection law in the lines of GDPR. Further, India has also been working on data protection law- some of the attributes of the draft policy are supposed to be similar to GDPR
A year on, UDAN is yet to soar
- UDAN scheme has recently completed one year.
- The UDAN (Regional Connectivity Scheme) was launched in 2016 aims to develop the regional aviation market and provide connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports.
- Current status of the of UDAN Scheme
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation had planned to add the 56 non-operational airports to the aviation map only 16 are ready.
- Out of 25 , Only 10 under-served airports which has been developed.
- The Subsidiary airline such as Air India subsidiary Alliance Air etc have been able to deliver on most or all the routes assigned to them.
- There are Multiple factor which lead to poor performance of the UDAN include:
- Irregular services of the Airlines
- Lack of trained pilots
- Availability of few planes due to technical issues.
- The frequent cancellation rates of flights
- The UDAN scheme has maintained the entry barriers low and less regulatory procedures to attract more players but it counterproductive for the scheme.
- Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) in a report suggests:
- There is little or no business for small and independent operators
- The Operating use of older equipment on routes dispersed across multiple stations is of great concern
- Major Challenges with the Scheme
- Infrastructure bottlenecks has led to lower the pace in implementation the scheme.
- Some airports owned by State governments and private players have been hesitant in participating because of low profiting making.
- Many obligation of scheme have made airline player to show their reluctance in participating.
- Achievement of the Scheme
- Many routes have seen a steady rise in the number of passengers
- The cumulative average of seat occupancy has increased from 55% to 70% in a year
- Way forward
- The northeast should be connected to maximum the passenger traffic
- Regional Connectivity Scheme have less competition and competitive pressures and should be proactively used by new startups.
- The government should take stakeholder in confidence to make UDAN scheme a success.
Ayushman Bharat: a health scheme that should not fail
- Sujatha Rao, former Union Secretary, MHFW, presents her views on the implementation of Ayushman Bharat.
- Health policies have two objectives:
- To enhance the health of the population and
- Reduce the financial risk for those accessing treatment.
- Success of health policies are measured by:
- Reduction in the disease burden,
- Subsequent increase in people’s longevity and
- Reduction in cost of health-care.
- Ayushman scheme has two components:
- Upgrading the 150,000 sub-centres (for a 5,000 population level) into wellness clinics that provide 12 sets of services; and
- Providing health security to 40% of India’s population requiring hospitalisation for up to an assured sum of Rs 5 lakh per year per family.
- Problems in implementation:
- Shortages in the supply of services (human resources, hospitals and diagnostic centres in the private/public sector),
- There is no clarity on the negotiating/containing prices that is being charged for services. For example: The ‘Rajiv Aarogyasri’ scheme of Andhra Pradesh has only package rates, but package rates are not a substitute for arriving at actuarial rating.
- There is absence of primary health care centers.
- Provision of Portability under National Health Policy Scheme raises concerns as it will take time for hospitals to be established in deficit areas. This in turn could compel the patients to move toward the southern States that have a comparatively better health infrastructure than the rest of India.
- This led to increase pressure of insured patients from other States, growing medical tourism (foreign tourists/patients) as a policy being promoted by the government, and also domestic patients, both insured and uninsured on southern states.
- The implementation of Ayushman Bharat will have to be contextualised and synchronised with a reform agenda that must include:
- Improved governance and
- Enforcement of regulations.
- Success of Ayushman Bharat can help to achieve the goals of equity, efficiency and quality.
Farmers urged to go for barter system during bandh
- Farmers organizations is planning to adopt barter systemduring the upcoming village shutdownacross the country.
- Farmers’ organizations across the country have called a 10-day ‘gaon bandh’ (village shutdown) from June 1.
- The Kisan Ekta Manch and the Kisan Maha Sangh an umbrella body have requested the farmer to go for barter system during the protest.
- Note: Previous year farmer agitation has led the angry farmers to emptied milk tankers and thrown vegetables on the roads.
- Farmers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab and Chhattisgarh have been told to follow this System.
- The farmer will have to identify nearby villages where they can directly exchange perishable agricultural products for other goods or services.
- The farmer’s community is using social media platform to spread the messages to nearly 10 lakh farmers.
A Blow to Civil Service Ideals
- Ashok, a retired IAS officer observes that government’s recent proposal for allocation of civil services and cadres violates the law
- The Civil service Examination (CSE)is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
- It is conducted every year in two stages: a preliminary examination and then the main examination.
- Successful candidates are allocated services based on their ranks in the CSE and their preferences.
- The successful candidates of the IAS, IFS, IPS and Central Services Group A undergo a 15-week foundation course in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.
- The course focuses on promoting inter-service comradeship, cooperation, and capacity building of the officer-trainees.
- Recently, the government has proposed that the services and cadres would be allocated based on the combined marks obtained in the CSE and the foundation course.
- Major criticisms:
- Violates Article 320(1) of the Constitution which states that conducting the CSE is vested only on the UPSC. If the marks secured in the foundation course in the training academy are included for allocation for services, it would make the training academy an extended wing of the UPSC
- The Director of the training academy does not have constitutional protection and is a career civil servant on deputation who can be transferred. The Director and faculty members might not be able to withstand pressure from politicians, senior bureaucrats and others to favour few candidates and thus there is a huge risk of corruption in the academy
- Administratively unworkable as it might bar students to take re-examinations to improve ranks
- May lead to faulty evaluation leading to improper rankings and allocation of services and cadres
- Ignores pertaining issues which take place after recruitment. Example: unjustified and frequent transfers