1. Discuss the key provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Do you think that anything has changed since the enactment of POCSO Act in 2012? Give arguments in favor of your answer.(GS 2) PIB | Indian Express | PTI Introduction:-
- A 2013 survey conducted by UNICEF states that almost 42% of Indian girls experience sexual violence before they are teenagers.
- This prevalence of child abuse in India is a significant ongoing problem that needs urgent government attention and POSCO act has been one of the measures taken to tackle this issue.
Key provisions of the act:-
- The Act defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children from offences such as sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment. It also penalises a person for using a child for pornographic purposes..
- The Act treats an offence as “aggravated” if it is committed by a person in a position of authority or trust such as a member of the security forces, a police officer or a public servant.
- It specifies penalties for the offences and provides a mechanism for reporting,recording of evidence and trial of such offences
- The legislation defines various types of sexual offences against children
- The law is gender neutral .
- POCSO provides for relief and rehabilitation as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police, who are required to make immediate arrangements for care and protection.
- Special emphasis has been placed on ensuring the speedy disposal of trials in special children’s courts as well as following of special procedures to keep the accused away from the child at the time of testifying.
- For monitoring and implementation of the provisions of POCSO, the Act enjoins that the National Commission and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights constituted under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, shall ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of POCSO.
Concerns with the act:-
- The issue of age of consent has generated some controversy.The implication of this law is not clear in cases where both parties are below 18 years.
- Despite the Supreme Court’s directive in 2013, that the regulatory and monitoring bodies are to be constituted and made functional in states such Commissions are either only partially-functional or effectively non-functional.
- Age covers only physical age but mental age is not covered.The sexual assault case of a cerebral palsy patient in front of SC shoes this dilemma.
- Awareness about the act is very less.
- Many police and medical personnel still need to be sensitized on it. Authorities often tell parents not to report abuse but even one child’s silence is massively dangerous because on average a single molester will abuse 48 more victims.
- Delayed justice:-
- Infact, section 35 (2) of the Act, stipulates a period of one year from the date of taking cognisance of the incident, for the court to dispose off with the case.
- special courts set up to try crimes against children under POCSO are burdened with cases of human rights violations and cases under SEBI, MCOCA and TADA.
- provisions made to protect the privacy of the victim and witnesses, are being violated.
Yes things changed since then:-
- The Act has led to increased number of cases filed, and also translated to an increase in the higher rate of conviction.
- Cases registered for sexual abuse have risen from 8,904 in 2014 to 14,913 in the year 2015, under the POCSO Act. Further, it has made it mandatory for anyone who witnesses suspected child abuse to report any such incidents.
- To prevent child abuse, especially sexual abuse, the Delhi government has decided to come up with Stay Safe-Prevention-Educating Children awareness modules for three age groups (5-8 years, 9-12 years and 12-18 years).
- The Indian parliament also passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in 2015 which includes components such as plans to introduce foster care in India and mandating registration of all institutions housing children in the need of care and protection.
- The recent Supreme Court case Re: Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu v. Union of India & Ors. has redirected public attention to the issue of child abuse.
However still many concerns still exist :-
- lack of a concrete list of institutions for the care, protection, and housing of children.
- state governments involved cite a lack of funds and manpower to appropriately address the issue.
- most states have unspent grants amounting to hundreds of crores of rupees.
- Of the relatively few cases of child sexual abuse that are reported to the police, an even smaller proportion ever makes it through the justice system.
- The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights reported that in 2014, of a total of 6816 cases that were registered as FIRs under the POCSO Act only 555 made it to court. This is a dismal 8%.
What can be done?
- Intervention at the family-level can help prevent children from entering crime, forced labour or trafficking
- Talking to children about body parts and inappropriate touching is an important first step that needs to be refreshed every few months.
- India also needs to break our cultural taboo on sex and talk about it appropriately but openly with the children.
- And while parents teach their children to respect their elders, they should also teach them to scream loudly if their elders do something hurtful.
- All those dealing with children including teachers and doctors should be trained how to detect and deal with the cases they encounter.
- Social workers must be empowered to go into homes to assess children at risk, but they also need to study each case carefully and determine solutions based on legal and cultural considerations
- Government’s and civil society should encourage workshops in schools to create awareness about this issue.
Therefore in forgetting these children,India is creating a class of disaffected, disenfranchised, second class citizens. The Supreme Court and the governments must be working in tandem to assure children at risk receive the legal and practical protection they deserve.
2. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has described India’s National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) as a best practice that other nations can adopt. In view of this, discuss the key objectives of National Trade Facilitation Action Plan.(GS 2) The Hindu | PIB | Financial Express Introduction:
- National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) is a plan to boost trade facilitation which was already mentioned in the Bali package .
- It aims to cut cargo release time for exports and imports as part of measures to boost goods trade.
Key objectives of this:-
- improvement in ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost
- move towards paperless regulatory environment, transparent and predictable legal regime
- improved investment climate through better infrastructure.
- aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, co-ordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.
- part of India’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business ranking.
- It would not only ensure compliance with the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but would also give impetus to trade facilitation.
- It has several activities that go beyond the TFA to help improve India’s competitiveness.
- WCO was 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).
- The Action Plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, DGFT etc in time bound manner.
- The Action Plan not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but they go beyond the ambit of TFA per se, which have been defined as TFA Plus category.
- The Action Plan covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructures leading to ports and the infrastructure within ports, airports, ICDs, Land Customs stations that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries have been assigned specified targets.
- Implementation problems might arise.
Thus this plan is a major step towards trade facilitation and government’s commitment to make India have a conducive investment climate.
- Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in over a month long stand-off in Doklam, which is at a tri-junction of India,Bhutanand China.This might have various repurcussions.
- For the first time ever, India is militarily engaging a state actor from the soil of a third country. This is a leap into the unknown.
- It is militarily intervening on behalf of a friendly partner country to uphold the latter’s claims of sovereignty to a patch of territory which the partner country does not effectively control.
- Neighbours can get cautious about India’s actions of defending a third country’s territory but India is doing this only because Bhutan asked for its help.
- The China-India-Bhutan is not the only unresolved tri-junction along India’s northern frontier.
- India’s intervention in the Doklam dispute between China and Bhutan could pave the way for Chinese intervening in Jammu and Kashmir because “it is disputed by India and Pakistan.
- War is not completely impossible. There is a great deal of precedents of unnecessary battles fought at the completely wrong time and place.
Payback in the same coin could be highly unpalatable for India.
How to prevent the escalation of conflict:
- Both sides need to withdraw their troops from the area and try to resolve through diplomatic dialogue.
- government must ensure that every step it takes is in consultation with Bhutan and make it clear that any final decision it takes will not be about a “win or lose” for India, but dictated by what is in Bhutan’s best interests.
- Astana consensus need to be upheld:-“India’s approach is to have a peaceful resolution of issues on border with China,” which is understood at the Astana meeting that differences between India and China should not be allowed to become disputes.
- Setting up a hotline between the two countries.
- Both India and China should let go of past baggage and demarcate the boundary so that border disputes do not affect their bilateral relations altogether.