Q.1) In India, corruption is acceptable as a way of life. How far the recent amendments in the Prevention of Corruption Act will help in dealing with this menace?
India has been ranked 81st in the global corruption perception index for 2017, released by Transparency International. As II ARC puts it, both the collusive and coercive corruption prevail in India impacting all walks of life.
Recent amendments made to PCA:
1. Bribery – Earlier, there were no specific provisions except as abetment but under the amendment giving a bribe is now an offence, punishable by a 7-year prison term except when one is forced to give a bribe.
2. Criminal misconduct – Earlier, criminal misconduct used to cover offences including taking bribe habitually, getting anything free or at a concession, obtaining pecuniary advantage for oneself or for another without public interest. Under the amendment to the act, criminal misconduct will now include only two offences:
1. misappropriating of property entrusted to the banker
2. amassing assets disproportionate to known sources of income
3. Pre-investigation approval – Now, a police officer will need prior approval of relevant authority or government to begin investigation. However, the same does not apply when the accused is caught red-handed.
4. Sanction for prosecution – A sanction is needed for prosecuting former officials for offences done while in office. The decision on sanction request is to be made under three months which may be extended by a month.
5. Forfeiture of property – This section was introduced for the Special Court to attach and confiscate property, which was earlier done under a 1944 ordinance through civil courts.
- The criminal misconduct provision is intended to protect public servants from being wrongly prosecuted for official decisions. Under it, bankers cannot be pulled under the corruption law unless they have accumulated assets more than what they could have obtained with their steady income, or have misappropriated assets entrusted to them
- The amendment also intends to empower the public to refuse to give a bribe with provisions of punishment for those who willingly offer bribe to the government officials.
- Earlier, sanction was required under the Prevention of Corruption Act for serving officers only, but now, sanctions for IPC offences cover both serving and retired officers.
- Forfeiture of property is believed to help avoid a fresh procedure to confiscate property obtained through corruption and to enable court conducting trial to do so itself.
- The pre-investigation approval rule is a cause for concern as it leads to potential politicisation. A rule similar to it was struck down by Supreme Court.
Q.2) Discuss the various factors leading to increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India. Mention the important steps taken by the government in combating NCDs.
Non Communicable or chronic diseases are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. The four main types of noncommunicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases , cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
According to WHO, 61% of deaths in India are caused due to NCDs.
Factors for rise in NCD burden:
- Changing lifestyle – food habits tending towards high fat, salt and sugar and sedentary activity.
- Use of tobacco
- High levels of air pollution
- Lack of availability and awareness about preventive medicine
- Alcohol use
Steps taken by government:
- India’s national programme for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and stroke established NCD units in each state last year for the prevention, early diagnosis and management of major NCDs at the district level.
- Union health ministry is expanding the non-communicable diseases programme by promoting early screening, diagnosis and treatment under the 150,000 Health and Wellness Centres being set up by 2022.
- India is the first country to develop specific national targets and indicators aimed at reducing the number of global premature deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025 by developing a National Multisectoral Action Plan.
- India ratified convention against tobacco and is strictly implementing various measures like pictorial warnings, advertisements, taxes to curb tobacco consumption.
Q.3) Critically discuss the socio-economic status of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) and impact of government policies on their wellbeing.
PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development. In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs.
- The health status of PVTGs is in an awful condition because of multiple factors like poverty,illiteracy, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitary conditions, difficult terrain, malnutrition, poor maternal and child health services, unavailability of health and nutritional services, superstition and deforestation. The diseases like anemia, upper respiratory problem, malaria; gastrointestinal disorders like acute diarrhea,Intestinal protozoan; micronutrient deficiency and skin infection diseases are common among PVTGs.
- The condition of education is also very poor, with an average literacy rate of 10% to 44% in PVTGs.
- Due to the shrinking forests, environmental changes and new forest conservation policies, their Non Timber Forest Produce collection is getting hampered. Because of the lack of awareness about the value of NTFP produce, PVTGs have been exploited by the middle men.
- The cultural practices, systems, self governance and livelihood practices of PVTGs have a lot of variations, depending on the group and locality. These tribal groups are widely different culturally.
Challenges that impact reach of government policies:
- Exclusion of the tribals from many government programmes
- Regional and State-specific variations in characteristics of PVTGs also complicates the reach and effectiveness.
- Micro-projects extend benefits only within their jurisdiction. For example, the Lanjia Saora are recognized as a PVTG across Odisha but the micro-projects are established only in two blocks, and the benefits by micro-projects are in these blocks only, while the rest of the Lanjia Saora are treated among the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
- There is a huge variation in the number of PVTGs ranging from a few individuals as in case of Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese and about a little more than a thousand people as in the case of Toda of Nilgiris.
Q.4) Nevertheless, of potential efforts taken by government, examine the reasons which can be attributed to farmers distress in India?
Government has been taking several steps for improving farmers income. These range from works for labour in off season through MNREGA, crop insurance, soil health, animal farming etc., However, NSSO reports still point to poor farm incomes.
Reasons for farmer distress:
- Prevalence of informal moneylenders and huge debt burden.
- Limited reach of crop insurance scheme.
- MSP is not used effectively by the small and marginal farmers.
- Lack of development of rural industry, thus hampering alternative sources of income.
- Failure of food processing to reach the last mile.
- Acts like APMC and Essential Commodities prevent actual benefits from reaching the farmer.
- Excessive chemical, water and fertiliser led agriculture has risen the input costs disproportionate to the outcomes.