Protecting incarcerated women
- K. Raghavan, a former CBI Director, shares his opinion about the status of women and their children behind the prisons.
- Overcrowding, brutality, a lack of sanitation and unacceptable standards of health care are evident in prisons across the world.
- Reforms for these pathetic conditions are not much talked about. Because of:
- Insufficient resources and
- The mindset that those in jail do not deserve better.
- But the author is of the opinion that harsh punishment is not the only solution to prevent a determined or an impulsive offender from committing more crimes in future.
- It is the fundamental duty of the state to see that physical and emotional needs of women prisoners are taken care of.
- For criminal justice policy makers, there are three challenges:
- Firstly, the effort to reduce female imprisonment is a unanimous agreement. But there is a general lack of will because it is assessed that any radical departure from the law and practices can not be en cashed during elections.
- The second challenge is on protecting the children of women prisoners. Most of them do not have physical and emotional support and many are single parent children, usually with their mothers.
- The third challenge is protecting women inmates from sexual/non-sexual violence and their forceful initiation into substance abuse while in custody. An all-female warden system is difficult as a small complement of male security staff is needed despite its attendant consequences.
- Suggestions for reforms in the nature of punishment for women:
- Less harsh punishments for women,
- Concessions with regard to detention before trial
- Non-violent women offenders should be subjected to community service and jail term should be the last resort. It would be an entirely different matter if such a convict commits an offence again after community service. In such cases she would be on a par with a male recidivist.
- Woman prisoners should be given standards of facilities more liberal than for men and especially when she is with a child.
8. Prisons can be made safer for women only by a mindset which is convinced that female offenders deserve compassion.
9. Some related important facts:
- Tamil Nadu has some prisons exclusively for women; current occupancy is estimated to be at 25%.
- Creches for children up to the age of 3 and nurseries for children up to 6 years are available.
- Older children are entrusted to relatives or voluntary organisations.
- In the U.S., according to a study (2010), several thousand children lived with their imprisoned mothers at one time.
- The same study suggested that the U.S. has a third of all women prisoners in the world; about 60% of them have children less than 18 years.
- The European Prison Rules have been modified to make treatment of prisoners in all member-nations more civilised.
- The World Health Organisation in particular has expressed concern over the reproductive health of women prisoners and the absence of maternal education during pregnancy.
Looking for a new clarity
- Suhrith Parthasarathy, advocate at the Madras High Court, discusses about the loopholes in the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court gave a remarkable judgment in the recent Karnataka election. But this should not veil the deeper problems that the apex court is affected with.
- These problems are:
- Firstly, rejection by the government of the collegium’s recommendation of K.M. Joseph currently Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, for elevation to the Supreme Court.
- Secondly, the need for a systemic mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the higher judiciary.
- Thirdly, the controversial position of Chief Justice of India as Master of Roster.
- These issues are not unique but they are recurring problems left unaddressed for decades.
- To reach the root causes of these problems, the author sites some of the core areas:
- The Indian Constitution leaves many things unattended. For example, Article 124 states that judges of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President, after consultation with certain authorities, including the CJI. But it does not tell us how these consultations are to be made, or what criteria ought to be applied in deciding who becomes a judge.
- The Constitution is also silent on the administrative role that the CJI performs. Over a part of time, the CJI has wielded enormous power in contrast to what might have been originally thought of as a simple managerial task.
- Even though the Constitution has a broad vision, its foundation is very fragile. Protecting its text and its values requires an independent judiciary that is not only committed to constitutionalism but that is also democratically accountable.
- The government many a times is reluctant about the collegiums’ re-recommendation. For example in recent Justice K.M Joseph’s elevation to SC. In this regard, it can be said that the collegium system is:
- opaque and inequitable,
- against constitutionally provided check or balance,
- it doesn’t help to improve the judiciary’s independence or provide a seamless system of elevating well-qualified persons to the bench.
- According to the author, there is a need for:
- Defined role of the CJI,
- Amendment in the existing framework of rules and regulations on how benches are to be created, and on how work ought to be divided between the different panels,
- Protection of text and values of the Constitution,
- Guidelines to reshape the composition of a potential judicial appointments panel,
- Independent mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the judiciary,
- Proper investigation panel for claims made against judge of dishonesty, which ought to be granted a status separate from all three established wings of government and
- Independent judiciary that is committed to constitutionalism and democratic accountability.
VVPAT glitches pose a new headache for poll panel
- In recent by elections, there are reports of malfunctioning of EVMs in many booths, especially in Kairana and Bhandra-Gondiya.
- The Chief Election Officer Uttar Pradesh has admitted that the commission received complaints of malfunctioning of VVPAT machines.
- The VVPAT replacement rate due to glitches in the machines was as high as 20.82% (way above the 5% limit seen as acceptable by the EC)) in Kairana, 19.22% in Bhandara-Gondia and 13.16% in Palghar.
- Some of reasons which has led to failure of VVPAT include:
- Electronic devices were sensitive to extreme heat.
- Fitting of VVPAT machine under direct light.
- Mishandled use of VVPAT
- VVPATs were being used for the first time by polling staff (unlike the EVM itself)
4. About VVPAT machine
- The VVPAT, or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, is an EVM-connected verification printer device.
- It allows voters to verify if their vote has indeed gone to the intended candidate by leaving a paper trail of the vote cast.
- After the voter casts his or her mandate by pressing a button in the EVM, the VVPAT connected to it prints a slip containing the poll symbol and the name of the candidate.
- Slips from a randomly selected polling booth from each constituency are then matched with the EVM tallies during counting to check for the accuracy of the process.
5. EVMs were use in India since 1998 and have been gradually upgraded with security features to avoid any malpractice of voting machine.
6. The VVPATs will bring in accountability and transparency to the voting process.
7. The VVPATs were introduced in the past year and were recently used in the Goa Assembly elections in 2017.
No sanctions on Iran: Sushma
- Indian External Affairs Minister has assured that India will not accept sanctions imposed, or to be imposed, by the United States on Iran
- The statement came in the backdrop of US’s withdrawal from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, popularly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The USA had thereafter announced reimposing sanctions on Iran.
- India affirms that India recognises only UN sanctions.
- Swaraj’s comments and the visit by Mr. Zarif to Delhi indicate the government intends to continue its engagement with Iran despite U.S. sanctions.
- India hope to find a way for banking and insurance restrictions that may come about as the U.S. increases pressure on European banks on which the India-Iran trade depends on.
- India-Iran Relation:
- Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier
- In 2016-17, India-Iran bilateral trade accounted for about $13 billion of which about $5 billion was in non-oil trade
- Strategic relation: management of the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, co-development of the International North-South Transport Corridor to Russia
The cost of deterrence
- Martand Jha, SIS, JNU has analyzes how the balance of strategic nuclear power has evolved over the past two decades in South Asia.
- On May 11, India celebrates its 20 years of nuclear tests at Pokhran, which put India into de facto status as the sixth nuclear power nation of the world.
- On May 28, 1998, just a fortnight after India’s tests, Pakistan also became a nuclear capable state.
- With this test Pakistan deter India from undertaking any major action, conventional or nuclear, against it, even if the situation demanded it.
- Nuclear weapons programmes reduce the power gap between two unequal conventional weapon states. The deterrence effect of nuclear weapons makes nuclear war less likely.
- On two occasion, December 2001 Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India’s potential for military action seemed to be have been deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
- Being a responsible state, India couldn’t afford to risk a nuclear strike by Pakistan in the face of Indian escalation, especially as India likely believed Pakistan’s intention of using its nuclear arsenals, including “theatre nukes”.
- It is also argued that less responsible usually provoke responsible one to use nuclear weapons against the latter without fearing its own annihilation, in the event of a massive retaliation.
- India’s ‘no first use policy’ for its nuclear weapons give Pakistan a power of deterrence. Pakistan did not need to install its nuclear weapon with a fear of disproportionate consequences.
- In the nuclear context, deterrence is a powerful force because of the overwhelmingly destructive nature of these weapons.
- Both South Asian countries in last two decade involve in increasing their nuclear arsenal and arms race that has consumed on vast scale scarce resources that could be used for non-military, welfare purposes.
States yet to decide on national anthem query
- No states respond to the Centre’s letter seeking their opinion on playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places.
- On December 5 last year, the Home Ministry notified the appointment of a 12-member inter-ministerial committee which would take a final call on the playing of the national anthem in cinema and public places.
- The committee is expected to give recommendations regarding regulations on playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act, 1971.
- Committee was expected to submit its report within six months.
- The Central government’s decision to set up the expert committee came after the Supreme Court observation that people’s patriotism cannot be judge whether the person stand for the national anthem or not.
- An earlier advisory of the Home Ministry said that audiences were not expected to stand if the national anthem was played as part of the film.
- Home ministry also observes that Whenever the Anthem is sung or played; the audience shall stand to attention.
- However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the anthem.
Rajasthan seeks formation of Inter-State Basin Authority
- Rajasthan has demanded the establishment of an Inter-State Basin Authority rather than watershed agencies to resolve disputes among different States on sharing of river waters.
- In Inter-State Council’s Standing Committee meeting in New Delhi, Rajasathan showed its reservation towards setting up a watershed agencies.
- Rajasthan Minister said that several Boards were already functioning for management of inter-State basin waters, there would be no utility for the integrated group of watershed agencies.
- The Boards include Bhakra-Beas Management Board for Indus basin, Upper Yamuna River Board for Yamuna river waters, Narmada Control Authority for Narmada river waters and the Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan Chambal Inter-State Board for Chambal river waters.
4. Rajasthan also demanded allocation of more Central funds ansd a special status for Rajasthan for expansion of forest areas to meet the national targets.
5. Rajasthan has “scattered environmental status” with the presence of the Aravalli hills range and the vast Thar desert.
Maritime dialogue resumes
- Recently, the heads of maritime security agencies of India and Pakistan met after a gap of two years.
- Meeting is considered as an efforts to improve India-Pakistan relations in recent months after the restarting of the Track II Neemrana Dialogue in April.
- The dialogue is held annually as per the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two agencies in 2005.
- Last year India had refused to participate in the talks following the controversy over the arrest of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistani agencies.
- During the meeting both the countries agreed to work on improving exchange of information regarding fishermen apprehended by each other.
- India has reiterated the need for instituting Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for immediate release and repatriation of fishermen.
- India has voice for the safety and humanitarian approach for fisherman who accidentally crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
- To validate the SOPs for efficient conduct of rescue of distressed vessels/crew at sea, the two agencies also agreed to “conduct search and rescue communications exercises” between the rescue coordination centres.
- India – Pakistan have agreed to collaborate in preservation and protection of marine environment
- Both country have also agreed to “explore opportunities for cooperation in the field of oil spill response at sea which is aligned with the MoU signed recently with the South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).
Talk it over: the Centre’s role in J&K
- The Ministry of Home Minister has offered talks with the Hurriyat and Pakistan.
- Recently various moves of central government shows its softer Jammu and Kashmir policy.
- The Centre has decided the suspension of operations and looking forward to end the terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had suggested the ceasefire plan could be extended.
- The Army has earlier taken a very tough action to combat the terror and launched “Operation All-Out”
- The hardline policy saw successes which has led killing of more than 200 militants.
- But the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016 had set off a wave of violence in the Valley.
- After the death of Burhan wani large number of young men picked up the gun.
- As the level of disaffection among the population continued to grow, locals would gather in thousands at funerals, which became recruitment sites.
- Initiatives by Central Government for promoting peace in the valley:
- The government has authorized an interlocutor to speak with “all sections of society”
- The interlocutor opened several conversations in the Valley.
- The interlocutor suggested the government to paradon the first-time stone-pelters.
- The Centre has supported the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on a wide range of political issues.
- The central government ordered for cease-operations to maintain peace in valley. The cease-operation has stop the violence, funeral, encounters and terrorist recruitment in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Way Forward:
- The Centre must review the actions of security forces.
- The government must act to rebuild the ceasefire on the border with Pakistan and discuss the issue at a bilateral level.
- Government must be alert with all attempts at subverting the cease-ops initiative
- The government should aimed for vision that has long-term resolution to reverse alienation amid a polarized debate.
- The government must maintain law and order.
EU proposes ban on straws, other single-use plastics
- The European Union proposed on a bloc-wide ban on single-use plastics.
- A bloc is a group of countries which have similar political aims and interests and that act together over some issues.
- This set of proposals is a part of EU’s quest to get rid of plastic waste. They are concerned about the increasing use of plastic in the food chain.
- China’s decision to ban imports of foreign waste products for recycling led EU to come with this proposal along with a proposal in January.
- In January EU proposed for all plastic packaging in Europe to be recycled by 2030
- These proposals can only be executed only when 28 EU member countries and the European Parliament gives their approval.
- Highlights of the current proposal:
- Ban of single-use plastics such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks,
- These items are suggested to be made from sustainable materials instead,
- Member countries must collect most of plastic drinks bottles by 2025 through deposit refund scheme,
- Reduction in the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups by member states,
- Contribution of producers to the costs of waste management,
- The producers will be offered incentives to develop less polluting alternatives and
- The producers need to clearly label products and inform consumers how the waste should be disposed of.
‘Gaj Yatra’ honours Meghalaya’s elephant corridor effort
- Recently the Gaj Yatra began from Tura town in Meghalaya
- Gaj Yatrais a nationwide campaign launched by the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- The campaign aims to protect the elephant and its habitat.
- The event involves taking an elephant mascot across districts frequented by elephant herds for generating awareness among the people.
- In India, there are 100 elephant corridors. Meghalaya has 4 elephant corridors
- In Garo Hills, expansion of human settlements have resulted in fragmented elephant habitats and consequent man-animal conflict
- In 2014, villagers in Garo Hills had set aside a part of their community-owned land to create village reserve forests. This had provided passage for elephant movement.
The impact of environment on FDI
- Vinish Kathuria, Professor at IIT, Bombay, has analysed whether foreign direct investment (FDI) linked to easing environmental regulations in India.
- The findings were published in a study titled ‘Does environmental governance matter for foreign direct investment? Testing the pollution haven hypothesis for Indian States’ in the Asian Development Review.
- Takeaways from the recent study:
- Environmental regulation has little impact on FDI.
- FDI is instead dependent on other variables such as infrastructure and labour.
- In terms of policy, it would help India if it is focused more on these factors (infrastructure and labour) rather than on ease of environmental regulation.
- The study dealt with pollution related expenditures of the manufacturing sector between 2002 and 2010. Higher costs in dealing with pollution from an industry show stricter environmental norms being in place.
- Of the 28 States reviewed, 16 saw pollution abatement costs reduce (including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka); while only in 11 States did the costs increase (undivided Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala).
- The study also dealt with industrial composition. A State with a high number of chemical industries will have higher environmental costs despite the level of environmental regulations.
- Thus, to adjust for this, Kathuria created a industrial-composition-adjusted abatement index using unit level data from the Annual Survey of Industries.
- The index shows that Chandigarh, Odisha and Karnataka have the highest environmental stringency, while Bihar, Delhi and the northeastern States have the lowest.
- study also compared FDI inflow to :
- control variables of per ca-pita income of 21 States,
- manufacturing share of the State GDP,
- installed electricity generation capacity,
- transmission and distribution losses in the power sector (a reflection of industrial regulations),
- proximity to coast, and
- the readiness of a State to accept investments.
- study conclude that foreign firm’s location decision is primarily based on infrastructure and market access-related factors rather than environment regulation.