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9 PM for Main examination
- Aarogya Setu App and Associated Concerns
- Issues with MPLADS
- Cauvery Water Dispute and Cauvery Water Management Authority
- The role of Food Corporation of India during Covid-19 pandemic
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Aarogya Setu App and Associated Concerns
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2 Fundamental Rights, Right to Privacy
Context: Advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has approached the Standing Committee on Information Technology, against mandatory use of Aarogya Setu app on privacy concerns.
Aarogya Setu App
- It is a Covid-19 contact tracing mobile application.
- Developed by:National Informatics Centre under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology.
- Enables people to assess the risk of catching the Covid-19 based on their interaction with others using Bluetooth technology, GPS, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
- Offers access to telemedicine, an e-pharmacy, and diagnostic services
- It is available in 11 Indian languages.
Concerns over Arogya Setu App
- Breach of Right to privacy:
- According to critics, the app violates the requirements of the right to privacy test outlined by the Supreme Court of India in its judgement in KS Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017).
- The government has made the use of app mandatory for many sections of citizens without any legislative authorization. This forces a person to give away data to a system which he may not approve of, thus violating personal data autonomy.
- Further, the government’s use of penalties in case of non-usage of the app has considered arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Note: Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Concerns over Mass surveillance: Activists and lawyers have raised concerns that the app may be used for mass surveillance and restriction on of freedom of movement and access.
- Purpose Limitation: Purpose limitation states the end to which data collected will be used- a key factor in upholding privacy. However, the Indian government has not clearly stated the app’s purpose, functioning, and the nature of the use of the sensitive personal data.
- Concerns over Hacking:Activists have also raised concerns over hacking of the app and consequent misuse of personal data of millions of Indians by miscreants.
- Data Protection:Given that India lacks a comprehensive data protection law, critics have raised concerns over protection of personal information and safeguards in case of misuse of data.
Steps to be taken:
- Right to Privacy: The government should ensure that the app is made consistent with the requirements of the right to privacy test outlined by the Supreme Court of India in its judgement in KS Puttaswamy v Union of India. The usage of the app should eb made voluntary.
- Ensure transparency:The government should publish the application’s source code, and specifications with respect to Bluetooth, cryptography.
- Avoid Centralization: The government should ensure that the personal data is not used after the Covid-19 pandemic and thus ensure nothing is centralised in the server. Example: The EU has issued guidelines stating that contact tracing apps should preserve user privacy and should not be used after contact tracing becomes no longer necessary.
- Release Privacy impact assessment:The government should release privacy impact assessment like Australia to deal with rising privacy concerns over the app.
- Declaration of Purpose: The government should release a manifesto stating all the processes, deployments, plans and justifications for the app.
Conclusion: Usage of mobile applications for contact tracing during Covid-19 pandemic has become a popular idea across nations. However, the government must take necessary steps to ensure right to privacy and data protection.
2.Issues with MPLADS
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2– Government policies and interventions aimed at development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The Union government has recently suspended the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years in order to divert these funds for strengthening the government’s effort in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and its adverse effects.
- Genesis:Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme is central sector scheme launched in 1993.
- Aim:To provide funds to MPs to execute certain developmental projects to meet the urgent needs of their constituents.
Features of MPLADS
- Role of MP:
- The role of the MP is only recommendatory in nature.
- Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works in the state from where they have been elected.
- Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
- Allocation of Funds:An MP is entitled to Rs. 5 crore per annum to identify and fund developmental projects.
- Release of Funds: Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities in two equal instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each. The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
- Works permitted:Education, Drinking Water, Electricity, Non-conventional Energy Sources, Health and Family Welfare, Sanitation and Public Health, Irrigation, Sports, Animal Care, roads, pathways and bridges.
- Implementation of the Work:Following the recommendation of the MP, the district authority is responsible for sanctioning the eligible works, and implementation of the sanctioned ones
- Nodal Ministry:The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation formulates the policy and releases the funds under the scheme. It also puts forward the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the scheme.
Issues with MPLADS Scheme
- Violation of Separation of Powers:The scheme is considered to violate constitutional provisions which envisages separate roles for the Executive and Legislature.
- Important Supreme Court Judgement: The constitutional validity of the scheme was challenged in Bhim Singh vs. Union of India case in 2010. The Supreme Court upheld its constitutional validity. The SC held that the scheme satisfies the constitutional mandate aimed for the fulfilment of development and welfare of the State as reflected in the Directive Principles of State Policy
- Underutilization of Funds: Low utilisation of funds and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector is a major issue observed with MPLADS by 2012 Public Accounts Committee
- Misutilization of Funds: According to CAG Report, there have been cases of widespread corruption and misappropriation of funds
- Lapses in Monitoring and Evaluation: there are lapses in monitoring and supervision. In many cases, District Authorities failed to inspect the required number of sanctioned works and timely monitoring reports.
- Disparity among districts:In many cases, the lack of adequate information available to MP has led to a disproportionately large amount of money flowing into one district.
- Making funds lapsable:Funds should be made lapsable to address the issue of large unspent. In this way funds lying unused can be diverted for other uses.
- Surveys to assess needs:Surveys should eb conducted to better understand the needs to the constituency.
- Regular monitoring:There should be regular monitoring and inspections of works by District Authority.
- Impact assessment study:Impact assessment studies should be undertaken annually to assess the benefits of work implemented
Conclusion: It is important to address the issues of poor utilisation of funds, misutilization of funds and other gaps in implementation in order to make the scheme more efficient.
3.Cauvery Water Dispute and Cauvery Water Management Authority
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2 – Institutions
Context: The Central government has brought Cauvery Water Management Authority under the administrative control of the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti. However, its structure, powers and functions have not been changed.
- It originates in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, flows into Tamil Nadu, and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar.
- Parts of three Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka – and the Union Territory of Pondicherry lie in the Cauvery basin.
Cauvery Water Dispute: It is an inter-state water dispute between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry. The Supreme Court, in 2018, gave its final verdict on the water dispute. The SC curtailed Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water and increased Karnataka’s share.
- The Constitutional Provision for Interstate water dispute has been laid down in Article 262
- The Article 262 provides for a specific law enacted by Parliament to adjudicate water disputes. It also bars jurisdiction of all courts, including the Supreme Court, on the same
Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA):
Genesis: It was created in 2018 based on the Cauvery Water Management Scheme, 2018
Aim: To implement the water sharing award of the Cauvery water dispute tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court in 2018
- Headed by Chairman who is appointed by the Central government. He/she must be of the rank of secretary or additional secretary or an eminent engineer.
- Tenure of chairman is five years.
- Two part-time members nominated by the Central Government
- Four part-time members nominated by the party State governments and Union territory administration respectively.
- To monitor the storage of water
- Apportion of shares
- Supervise operation of the reservoirs
- Regulate water releases with the assistance of the Regulation Committee.
- Determine the total residual storage in the specified reservoirs on June 1 every year.
Conclusion: Critics have argued that the decision to bring CWMA will make the institution a mere puppet of the Centre and will take away its autonomy.
4.The role of Food Corporation of India during Covid-19 pandemic
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-3- Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security
Context: The Food Corporation of India has a significant role to play during Covid-19 pandemic.
Food Corporation of India (FCI)
- Genesis: It is a statutory body set up under the Food Corporation’s Act 1964.
- Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
- Distribution of food grains throughout the country for public distribution system.
- Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of food grains to ensure National Food Security.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Contribution of FCI during Covid-19 pandemic:
The FCI has always played a major role in ensuring food security in India. In the Covid-19 scenario, it has successfully catered to grain procurement and in moving them to various states.
- Post lockdown, it has moved 3 million tonnes of food grains to different states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka and those in the Northeast. In these states the demand is greater than State procurement and/or stocks.
- It has enabled purchases by States and non-governmental organisations directly from FCI depots.
Recommendations for Strengthening FCI’s Role during Covid-19 Pandemic
- Leveraging road transport: FCI is currently heavily reliant on rail, and only 24% of the grain moved by it is by roads. Given that road transport has much wider reach and is better for meeting emergencies, FCI should consider using more of road transport.
- Pre-positioning shipment: FCI should follow the pre-positioning shipment policy to hotspots. This means that for chronically starved areas, food grains could be stored nearer to the target population.
- Relaxing FIFO principle: The FCI currently follows the FIFO principle – first in- first out. This means that older grains stored for long will be released first. FCI must rethink relaxing this principle as it has two issues:
- often food grains stored for long may not be as fit to consume as the latest produce
- slows down the movement of food grains
- Extension of Services:FCI should extend its functions to help farmer producer organisations in the procurement of seeds, fertilisers, packaging material etc.
Conclusion: FCI has the potential and can play a determining role in ensuring food security during Covid-19 pandemic. It should be reimagined as an “Agency for Innovation in Food Management Systems”- on the lines of Shanta Kumar Committee Report.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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