Need of Granting Interim Bail to Pregnant Women Undertrials
Synopsis: Even though Pregnant women and children cannot get the Covid-19 vaccination, they continue to remain in prisons. The court has to provide interim bail to women, children and other vulnerable sections in prison.
Long pending prison reforms, overcrowded prisons made the situation of prisoners in India very cruel. The state of women’s prisons is much worse than male prisons. But so far the courts do not consider this condition in granting bail to the persons.
Status of women prisoners:
- So far, bail jurisprudence does not empathize with women and children, or the elderly.
- Similarly, the courts do not consider Custodial rape, pregnancy, or childbirth and degrading treatment of women prisoners as cruel or inhumane.
- While granting bail the court does not consider the rights of children of imprisoned parents.
The recent case:
- In State v. Suman Kumari case, Delhi High Court made a departure from bail jurisprudence. The court regarded the Rights of children of an imprisoned parent and provided bail to a woman.
- This was a case of dowry murder allegation. In this case, the court mentioned that the imprisoned woman (accused sister-in-law of the dead victim) was also the mother of a 21-month infant. From December 9, 2020, the mother was in prison.
The reasons stated by the court for granting bail:
The court granted bail by mentioning that the Imprisonment of mothers amounts to the “de facto detention of their infant/toddler wards”. The court also observed,
- This is a serious violation of Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
- Furthermore, the court also held this as a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. As under Section 3 of the JJ Act, the best interests of the child are considered paramount. Further, the Act suggests “institutionalization of the child as a step of last resort“.
- The court also points out that the child under “de facto detention” must not suffer worse custodial conditions than the children in conflict with the law.
- In this case, the court considered “empathy” as “the ground for bail”.
Impact of the Covid-19 in Prisons:
This order is more significant as the Covid-19 virus attacks increased in prison. The Covid-19 cases in prisons include,
- In Tihar Jail, so far(up to April 17) 117 prisoners and 14 jail staff found infected with the Covid-19.
- 55 prisoners and 4 jail staff infected with the Covid-19 from the Sabarmati Central jail.
- In Maharastra, 198 prisoners get infected due to the Covid-19.
Disaster Management Act, 2005 on prisons:
At the beginning of the Covid-19, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA) mentioned overcrowded prisons as hotspots of mass contagion. Further, as per the Act, the state government needs to take mandatory mitigation, rescue, or relief works.
Section 61 of the DMA mentions that the state must provide compensation and relief to the victims of a disaster. The Act also mentions the state shall not discriminate based on the ground of sex, caste, community, descent, or religion.
Earlier committees on women prisoners:
- In 2020 the NHRC recommended state governments for releasing women prisoners. Especially the pregnant women and mothers with children from prisons. But, most states did not fulfill the recommendations.
- Similarly, in 2020, the high-powered committee of the Delhi High Court did not release all pregnant women or mothers with infants. The high-powered committee mentions the type of offence, duration of sentence, nationality, etc as a condition to release women in prisons. The committee upheld the Prison rules above the DMA.
The high-powered committee failed to read the DMA along with the prison rules. If it read it together, then the most vulnerable population in Prisons such as women, children, and transgender prisoners might receive relief, mitigation, and compensation.
Read Also- :–Appointment of Police officers for Prison
Suggestions to improve the condition of vulnerable prisoners:
- The court while hearing the case, shall consider the release of women, children, and trans-prisoners. Also, the court should provide support for their survival.
- The court should consider situations like Custodial rape, pregnancy, or childbirth with seriousness, and move towards Gender-Sensitive prisons. This is feasible by creating a system of imprisoning women, children, sexual minorities irrespective of their offense, nationality, or exceptional laws.
- The Courts also need to strengthen the law’s legal journey for humanity instead of historical attachment to the custody of prisoners.
Source: The Indian Express
Need to Enact Siras Act on the Lines of Alan Turing law
Synopsis- Ex-post facto pardon to the convicts of homosexuality will serve justice to them. Alan Turing law is a perfect example in this case. Government should consider enacting Siras Act on the same line.
- On September 6, 2018, India’s Supreme Court ruled that consensual homosexual acts would no longer constitute a crime.
- The historic move reversed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
- The change was a positive step towards acceptance and equal rights to LGBTQ+ communities.
However, it is time to enact ex post facto pardon for those who are in jail due to their acts in the past because of their sexuality.
ex-Post facto means it will apply to the acts before the enactment of law or before the judgment i.e. retrospective effect.
What is section 377?
- Firstly, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized homosexuality. Section introduced in 1861 during the British rule in India, modeled on the Buggery Act of 1533.
- Secondly, in 2018, The Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of consensual homosexual sex, under Section 377 between adults was unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary.
- However, Section 377 remains in force for sex with minors, non-consensual sexual acts, and bestiality.
Example of Persecution faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India
Ramchandra Siras Case –
- Siras was a Professor and HOD of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University.
- AMU suspended him for gross misconduct in 2010 due to consensual homosexual sex.
- However, Later, Professor Siras won his case against the university in Allahabad High Court on 1 April 2010 and got back his job as a professor.
What is Alan Turing law?
The Alan Turing law (formal title- the Policing and Crime Act 2017) was passed to correct a historic injustice. The law pardoned gay men convicted in the past because of their sexuality.
- The Law is named after Alan Turing, the World War II code-breaker and computing pioneer. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952.
- However, Alan Turing received a royal pardon in 2013.
- Now, The law applies in England and Wales.
Landmark Judgments related to LGBTQ+ communities–
- Firstly, Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi  is a landmark Indian case of the Delhi High Court. It held that treating consensual homosexual sex between adults as a crime is a violation of fundamental rights.
- As a result of the ruling, homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer illegal in India.
- Secondly, Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation -
- In Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation, SC overturned the previous judgment by Delhi HC 2009 and restored Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
- Thirdly, Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India -
- In Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India in 2018, SC decriminalized homosexuality. Dismissed the position taken by SC in Suresh Kumar Koushal case (2013).
The Indian government should pass a ‘Siras Act,’ similar to the Alan Turing bill, to make amends for past and current abuses towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Source- The Hindu
Empowerment of Transgender community in India
Synopsis: The introduction of 13 members of the Empowerment of Transgender community into the Chhattisgarh police is an encouraging step.
13 members of the transgender community selected as constables under the Chhattisgarh police.
This move is truly historic and exciting for this community. The Tamil Nadu police also welcomed a few transgender earlier. Their entry into the law and order system would ensure the empowerment of the transgender community.
- Their community had no legal recognition till the Supreme Court judgment in NALSA vs. Union of India (2014). It ruled that transgender persons have the right to decide their self-identified gender.
- This move may help in changing the opinion of people.
Steps taken for Empowerment of Transgender community
Post the 2014 Supreme Court judgment, the Chhattisgarh government created the Third Gender Welfare Board. It takes various welfare measures in favor of trans people.
- Firstly, all departments were asked to include the third gender as an option in official documents that need mention of gender or sex of a person.
- Secondly, district-level committees were established to recognize members of the transgender community. It will help in the implementation of welfare schemes for their benefit.
- Thirdly, sensitisation workshops were held at State and district levels by the police department and police officers.
- Fourthly, training capsules were prepared for police training institutes with the help of transgender members of the Welfare Board.
- Fifthly, the police permitted the use of their sports ground for practice and also helped the trans-genders in preparing for the written examination. It was the hard work of the transgender people which ensured their success and marked their presence in the department.
Various institutional developments for the empowerment of transgender Community
The recently passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 is used for issuing a certificate of transgender identity.
- Firstly, it has the essence of international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, and the Yogyakarta Principles, 2006.
- Secondly, the Act recognizes the legal right to have a self-perceived gender identity. It is in accordance with the principle of the Psychological Test instead of the Biological Test. In employing people, any discrimination against the transgender is against the law.
- Thirdly, the Kerala High Court allowed a petition by a transwoman seeking admission into the National Cadet Corps based on her self-claimed gender identity. The court noted that the NCC Act cannot prevent the operation of the Transgender Persons Act.
The way forward
- It requires more effort to bring about changes in the view of people towards this marginalized community. Implementation of the law must be in letter and spirit to fulfill its objective.
- Society needs to remove its biases and accept transgender people as equal human beings with humility.
Source: click here
PMAY-Gramin achieved 92% target in 1st Phase
What is the News?
PMAY-Gramin (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Gramin) achieves 92% of its target under the 1st phase (i.e. from 2016-17 to 2018-19).
Target under PMAY-Gramin:
- PMAY-G scheme aims to construct 2.95 crore houses with all basic amenities by the year 2021-22.
- However, the number of beneficiaries reduced from 2.95 crores to 2.14 crore. It was after 81 lakh were founded ineligible as per Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC) -2011.
- 1st Phase Target: A target of 1 crore houses was set for completion in the 1st phase of the scheme i.e. from 2016-17 to 2018-19. So far, 92% of the target completion has been achieved.
Expenditure on PMAY-Gramin:
- In the financial year 2020-21, the highest ever money allotted since the launch of the PMAY(G) scheme.
- Further, expenditure incurred by states also seen an unprecedented increase in the current fiscal. This is also the highest expenditure since the launch of the rural housing scheme.
About PMAY- Gramin:
- Launched by: Ministry of Rural Development in 2016
- Aim: The aim is to provide a pucca house with basic amenities to all rural families. The scheme aims to achieve this by the end of March 2022. People who are homeless or living in kutcha or old houses are eligible for benefits.
- Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries under the scheme are identified as per the housing deprivation parameters and exclusion criteria prescribed under Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC) 2011. Gram Sabha verifies these eligible beneficiaries.
Only 5.4% of houses under “PM Awas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G)” Completed this year
What is the News?
The Ministry of Rural Development has informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee about the progress of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin.
Progress under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G):
- PMAY-G Scheme has a target of providing housing for all by March 2022. However, the completion of the construction target was only 55%. Even though there was sanctioning of money for almost 85% of beneficiaries.
Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on the Scheme:
- In 2020-21, less than 6% of houses sanctioned under the PMAY-G have reached the completion stage due to COVID-19.
- Reasons for Delay: In 2019, it used to take an average of 114 days to construct a house under the scheme. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused long delays at every stage in 2020-21.
- However, some states such as Odisha and Jharkhand have completed around 10% of the houses sanctioned in 2020-21. It has also used the scheme to provide employment opportunities for migrant workers who had returned to their villages during the crisis.
- But a number of other states such as Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka did not see completed construction of even a single house that was sanctioned during 2020-21.
About Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin:
- Launched by: Ministry of Rural Development in 2016 launched it.
- Aim: The aim is to provide a pucca house with basic amenities to all rural families by the end of March 2022. People who are homeless or living in kutcha or dilapidated houses are eligible for benefits.
Key Features of the Scheme:
- Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are identified as per the housing deprivation parameters and exclusion criteria prescribed under Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011. Gram Sabha verifies the eligible beneficiaries.
- Target: The scheme had a target of construction of 2.95 crore pucca houses for eligible rural households by March 2022.
- Fund sharing pattern -The Centre and the states share the grants under the scheme in the ratio of:
- 90:10 in case of NE States, Himalayan States & Himalayan UTs.
- For all other States, funds are shared in the ratio of 60:40 by the Centre and the States.
- In cases of other UTs, entire funds are provided by the Centre.
- Monitoring: The programme implementation is being monitored not only electronically but also through community participation (Social Audit), Member of Parliament (DISHA Committee), Central and State Government officials, National Level Monitors, etc.
Source: The Hindu
Issue of Pension System in India – Explained, Pointwise
As per a United Nation’s report, the Population Share of the 60+ age group in India will increase to 20% by 2050 from the present 8%. This segment of the population is unable to work either due to age-related restrictions or health-related reasons. Thus, they require adequate financial support from the government for living a dignified and healthy life.
Pension is a regular income paid by a government or an organization to someone who no longer works, usually because of their age, health or social circumstances. A recent report by the Parliamentary committee highlights the inadequacy of the pension amount provided.
- Recently Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development submitted its report to Lok Sabha.
- In its report, the Committee said that the centre must increase the “meagre” pensions provided to poor senior citizens, widows and disabled people. The committee also pointed out towards low pension amounts given under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP).
- Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture also found out the low level of enrolment under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PMKMY).
Pension system in India
- National Pension System (NPS): It is a government-sponsored pension scheme.
- It was launched in 2004 for government employees. However, in 2009, it was opened to all sections.
- The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority(PFRDA) implements and regulates this scheme.
- Any individual citizen of India (both resident and Non-resident) in the age group of 18-65 years can join NPS.
- Employees Pension Scheme (EPS): It is a social security scheme that was launched in 1995 by the EPFO (Employee Provident Fund Organization).
- It makes provisions for pensions for the employees in the organized sector after retirement at the age of 58 years.
- The benefits of the scheme can be availed only if the employee has provided a service for at least 10 years
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PMKMY): It is a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers having cultivable land up to 2 hectares.
- Farmers within the age group of 18-40 years are eligible to get themselves enrolled in the scheme.
- The scheme aims at providing an assured pension of 3,000 rupees per month once the farmer attains the age of 60 years.
- Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana (PMLVMY): It is a pension scheme for shopkeepers launched in July 2019.
- It assures a minimum monthly pension of 3000 rupees per month to small shopkeepers, retail traders, and self-employed people. A person is eligible after attaining the age of 60 years.
- The Goods and Services Tax (GST) turnover of the beneficiary should be below Rs.1.5 crore.
- National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP): The program extends social assistance to poor households. It covers the aged, widows, disabled, and families where the breadwinner has passed away.
Source: The Hindu
Issues in the Pension system
- Inadequate amounts: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development observed the meagre amount of assistance under the different components of the NSAP. It ranged from 200-500 rupees per month.
- Huge Financial Burden: The government has to bear a significant economic burden for giving pension amounts to the beneficiaries.
- Delay in implementation: Delays were noticed in the issue of Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN) and the first deduction of NPS contributions. It was observed in CAG’s Performance Audit Report on NPS 2020.
- Poor Coverage: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture observed that only 21.2 Lakh farmers have subscribed to PMKMY. However, the target is to cover 5 crore beneficiaries up to 2021-22.
- Dismal performance by Nodal Agencies: CAG’s Performance Audit Report found that PFRDA did not fix timelines to upload legacy data and transfer of contributions to the Trustee Bank. This affects the timely transfer. Further, the PFRDA was not aware of the quantum of the amount to be transferred to the Trustee Bank.
Legacy data: These are essential information that is stored in an old or obsolete format.
- No timely update on pension amount: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development recommended increasing the pension amount two years ago itself. But the centre didn’t increase the amount.
- Monitoring Deficit: Various ministries implementing pension schemes fail to constitute the Monitoring and Overseeing Committees. This will also result in poor implementation of pension schemes.
- Willingness to adopt: The citizens are not enthusiastic about voluntary pension schemes due to faulty design or lack of financial literacy. As per data on January 2020, no one has registered in the PMLVMY scheme from Mizoram and Lakshadweep.
Need of pension system in India
- Constitutional Mandate: The Pension programmes represents a significant step towards the fulfilment of Article 41 of DPSP. Article 41 directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of old age, unemployment, sickness and disablement etc.
- Burgeoning Population: As per a recent UN report, the share of older persons in India is projected to increase to nearly 20 per cent in 2050. This calls for giving due protection to them.
- Greater Life Expectancy: With the advancement of technology and healthcare, people would be living more and hence pension support would be required for survival.
- Social Apathy: The growing materialism in society has increased instances of abandonment of parents by children. In such times, the pension can give hope to survive and reduce the suicide rate among the elderly.
- Dignified Life: Schemes like PMKMY will help small and marginal farmers lead a dignified life in their elderly years by providing due financial support. If such support is not provided, then the disastrous consequences of farmer suicide would occur.
Step taken for improvement in Pension System
- Coverage Expansion: In 2019, PFRDA permitted Overseas Citizen of India(OCI) to enrol in the National Pension System(NPS) at par with Non-Resident Indians.
- Low Penalty for Delays: Government subscribers under NPS would be compensated for non-deposit or delayed deposit of contributions during 2004-12 at General Provident Fund interest rates.
- More Flexibility: Government sector NPS subscribers were allowed a choice of schemes and Fund/ Asset Managers with effect from 1 April 2019.
Suggestions to improve Pension System
- The government must respond swiftly towards the Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations so that coverage and amount of pension get rationalised.
- This includes providing reasons in the public domain for poor performance and adequate modification as per the need of beneficiaries.
- Further, the government can implement the CAG’s Performance Audit Report on the National Pension System. It recommended few important steps such as,
- Establishment of a robust system to ensure 100% coverage
- Delay in payment should attract compensation
- Government must identify all cases of legacy contributions, not remitted to Trustee Bank
- A minimum assured return needs to be paid to the subscriber so that sufficient amount is available after retirement
- Encouragement of Foreign Pension funds should be done for relieving the government of its economic burden.
- The government should focus on the timely and robust implementation of RBI’s National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE): 2020-2025. This will create a financially aware and empowered India.
In a nutshell, the focus of pension schemes should be reaching the intended beneficiaries on time along with financial awareness for encouraging adoption. This will help to sustain the elders, widow and other dependent populations efficiently thereby providing them with an opportunity to lead a dignified life.
Appointment of Police officers for Prison Management
Synopsis: The appointment of Police officers for Prison management is not right. It is against strengthening the criminal justice system.
- Recently, the Uttarakhand government issued a notification to post IPS officers as superintendents of Prisons.
- A PIL has been filed against the government’s decision before the Uttarakhand High Court.
What are the reasons for Posting police officers to monitor Prisons?
- First, it was done for strengthening security and to control corruption.
- Second, prison departments have limited strength at the officer level, leading to malpractices. So, the suggested solution is to bring fresh talent from outside, who would not have any long-term stake in the system.
Why appointing police officers to prison is criticised?
Though there are problems in Prison management, the process of appointing police officers is adhoc and short-sighted. Because of the following reasons,
- First, the skill requirement for police is different from a prison officer. For instance, police personnel recruited and trained to detect crime and maintain law and order. Whereas, prison officers are recruited and trained to reform and rehabilitate offenders.
- Second, it is not legal and amounts to a violation of rules and procedures. For example,
- The decision contradicts the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Jail (Group A and B) Service Rules, 1982.
- Also, appointing police officers in prisons amounts to a violation of the principle of separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.
- Third, it is against the philosophy of correctional administration. It goes against the Prison reform committee reports like the Justice Mulla Committee on Prison Reforms Report (1983), the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee on Women Prisoners Report (1987). They advocated;
- Prisons should be houses of reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners and their families.
- Creation of a specialised All India Prison Service along the lines of the IPS or IAS.
- Currently, Bihar is the only state which continues to have an IAS officer heading the prison department.
- Finally, posting IPS officers as superintendents of Prisons amounts to police custody. It is because it gives the police direct access to prisoners during “judicial custody”.
What is the way forward?
- First, we need to invest in the prison system in terms of resources and staff. It can be done in the following ways,
- Appointing social workers and counselors in sufficient numbers.
- Conducting regular training in human rights and social reintegration for prison staff.
- Filling vacancies, which are as high as 30 to 40 percent as per the India Justice Report 2020.
- Second, institutionalize practices that will promote upward mobility for prison officers. For example, rewarding good work with promotions.
- Third, need to uniformize their career growth equally across states. It will motivate them for better work performance.
- For example, in a few states, a prison officer who starts his career as a deputy superintendent of a central prison can end up as Additional IG or IG Prisons. Whereas in most states, one can only rise to the rank of DIG Prisons.
“Sugamya Bharat App”
What is the News?
Union Minister for Social justice and Empowerment is going to virtually launch the “Sugamya Bharat App”.
About the Sugamya Bharat App:
It is a mobile application developed to sensitise and enhance accessibility within the 3 pillars of the Accessible India Campaign. These pillars namely- the transportation sector, building an accessible environment and the ICT ecosystem in India.
The app will aid the Accessible India Campaign towards making a barrier-free and conducive environment for Divyangjans (Persons with Disabilities – PwDs)
Features of the Sugamya Bharat App: The app provides five main features:
- The four features are directly related to enhancing accessibility. These accessibility-related features are:
- Registration of complaints of inaccessibility with easy photo uploads and geotagging
- Positive feedback of examples and best practices worth emulating being shared by people as jan-bhagidhari (People’s participation)
- Departmental updates
- Guidelines and circulars related to accessibility.
- The fifth is a special feature meant only for Divyangjan for COVID related issues.
Other Features of the Sugamya Bharat App:
- The app is available in 10 regional languages.
- The app is simple to use with an easy registration process. The Sugamya Bharat App will require only 3 mandatory fields such as Name, Mobile number and Email-id.
- The App also contains many user-friendly features. For example, easy drop-down menus, videos in Hindi and English, sign language interpretation etc.
Vaccination of manual scavengers must be prioritised
Synopsis: The government is focussing on the vaccination of frontline sanitation workers. However, the most vulnerable among them, Manual scavengers, did not gethe attention they deserve.
India is far behind in understanding sanitation workers and their different categories. Manual scavengers belong to the lowest strata of unprotected sanitation workers.
Many people in India believe that manual scavenging is already eliminated since it is legally banned. However, the ground reality is very different.
- Sanitation workers can be categorized into Faecal sludge handlers, Sewage treatment plant sanitation workers, Toilet sanitation workers, public transportation site sanitation workers (railway, roads), Sewer and drain sanitation workers, Sanitation-waste intersection workers, Etc.
- Manual Scavengers are workers discarding human excreta manually, in any form.
The risk involved in septic cleaning among manual scavengers is the highest. One sanitation worker dies every five days. Waste recovery sanitation workers perform the work of manual scavenging as they come in regular contact with unprotected bio-medical waste, animal faeces.
Why sanitation workers should be included in priority population for vaccines?
Vaccination of sanitation workers should be prioritized due to following reasons:
- First, several laws banning this practice are not working properly on the ground. Sewer deaths continue to happen. Caste and economics have a role to play in the deprivation.
- Second, the absence of a policy for the protection of the sanitation workers resulted in the loss of many lives during the initial days of the pandemic. These cases are not even mentioned in the records of the National Commission of the Safai Karmachari (NCSK). The Safai KarmacharI Andolan (SKA) has had far better data.
- Third, there is no social security, no accountability in the actual expenses of the rehabilitation schemes. Even no definite provision for healthcare or pension is provided.
- Fourth, the representation of sanitation workers is not involved during creation of policies for them.
- Fifth, sanitation workers are prone to long-term diseases. In many cases, they don’t even live till the age of retirement. Their children suffer from malnutrition, TB, and cholera because of their habitation around the waste generated by the cities.
- Lastly, the sanitation workers worked full time to ensure safety for the people during the pandemic.
The government must urgently prioritize vaccination for manual scavengers without giving the argument that they have already developed “herd immunity”.
Most Public buses are not accessible to PwDs
What is the News?
According to government data, less than 7% of public buses in the country are fully accessible to PwDs as of December 2020.
Target under Accessible India Campaign for Public Buses:
- Under the Accessible India Campaign, the deadline for making at least 25% of public buses fully accessible was March 2018. However, the deadline had been pushed forward to June 2022.
How much has been achieved so far?
- Inter City Buses: 1 lakh intercity buses are operated by states. Only 0.2% are fully wheelchair accessible, 26% are partially accessible and 74% are not accessible.
- Buses Operating in Urban Areas: Of the 44,000 buses operating in urban areas, only 22% is fully wheelchair accessible, 33% is partially accessible and 44% is not accessible.
Accessible India Campaign(AIC):
- It is the nationwide flagship campaign. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) launched it in 2015.
- Aim: It is aimed at making a barrier-free and conducive environment for Divyangjans (Persons with Disabilities – PwDs) all over the country.
Components under the campaign:
- Build Accessibility Environment: It aims to provide an accessible physical environment for everyone. For that, elimination of obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities is required, including in schools, medical facilities, and workplaces.
- Transportation System Accessibility: It focuses on providing PwDs an equal rights. Rights include travel and use of public and private transportation infrastructure with dignity and independence.
- Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility: It aims to eliminate all barriers linked to society and infrastructure, in the way of obtaining and utilizing information in daily life.
Key Targets under the Campaign:
- 50% of all the government buildings of National Capital and all the State capitals to be fully accessible buildings.
- 50% of railway stations in the country to be converted into fully accessible railway stations.
- Moreover, 25% of Government-owned public transport carriers in the country to be converted into fully accessible carriers.
- Conducting an accessibility audit of all the domestic airports and converting them into fully accessible airports.
- Ensure that at least 50% of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards.
- Ensuring that 25% of all public television programmes aired by the government are accessible to PwDs.
Source: The Hindu
Every fourth senior citizen in India rates health as poor: LASI
Why in News?
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has released the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1 Report.
- About the study: It is a full-scale national survey of scientific investigation. It investigates the health, economic and social determinants and consequences of the ageing population in India. It was commissioned in 2016.
- Conducted by: The National Programme for Health Care of Elderly, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It undertakes the Study through International Institute for Population Sciences(IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health, University of Southern California, USA, United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) and National Institute on Ageing.
Self Rated Health:
- Every fourth Indian above the age of 60 and every fifth Indian above the age of 45, reported poor health.
- The prevalence of poor self-reported health (SRH) in those above 60 (24%) is twice than in the 45-59 age group.
- Among these age groups, a higher percentage of women and individuals from rural areas reported poor health.
Disabilities among ageing Population:
- About 8% of Indians aged 45 years and above, reported having at least one form of impairment. The prevalence is almost twice among senior citizens(10.5%) than those between 45 years and 59 years.
- A high percentage of senior citizens in rural areas had a physical or mental impairment than their urban counterparts.
- The major disabilities reported are locomotive impairments (five per cent), followed by visual (three per cent), mental (two per cent), hearing (two per cent) and speech impairments (one per cent).
- Karnataka and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have the highest proportions of senior citizens with disabilities. Meghalaya, Lakshadweep, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh reported the least.
- According to the Elderly in India: Profile and Programmes, 2016, senior citizens comprised 21% of Indians with some form of disability.
- Disability: It is an umbrella term for impairments and physical limitations hindering the smooth activity and participation in daily social life.
- A decade of Healthy Ageing: The United Nations has declared 2021-2030 as the “Decade of Healthy Ageing”. It called upon governments, civil society, international agencies, and others to come together to improve the lives of older people in their families and the communities in which they live.
Source: Down To Earth
Need and ways of Decongesting Indian prisons
Synopsis: Health Experts are calling federal prisons a “breeding grounds for uncontrolled transmission” of the virus. There is an urgent need of decongesting them. What are the ways to decongest Indian prisons?
- In India there are around 1,400 prisons, ‘housing’ over 5 lakh prisoners. These prisoners are facing the threat of Covid pandemic, with no organisational support.
- Whereas, in the countries such as U.K and U.S, activists are strong enough to influence public policy and voice against human rights abuse in prison.
- Also, these Countries have accurate data over the impact of pandemic on prisoners in public domain. For example
- The data from Texas state shows that the pandemic has killed more than 230 people in prisons, 80% of whom had not been convicted of a crime.
- Similarly, The United Kingdom Ministry of Justice figures shows that prisoners testing positive in October stood at 1,529, with five deaths.
- However, India lacks such crucial data on Prison Statistics in public domain and also such statistics are not being demanded of our criminal justice system.
How a lack of effective criminal laws is affecting under-trial prisoners in India?
According to the Prisons Act of 1894, prisons come under the exclusive responsibility of State governments. Over the years, despite being upgraded to the status of correctional homes, these prisons are facing the challenge of Congestion of Under Trial Prisoners (UTPs).
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s report for 2019 out of 4.5 lakh prisoners, 3.3 lakh are ‘under-trial prisoners’, i.e., investigation or trial is supposed to be ‘in progress’.
- These UTPs are detained under Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which provides for “Procedure when investigation cannot be completed in 24 hours”.
- The original Cr.PC of 1898 specified the period of detention as 15 days. Later, through amendments, it was extended to periods that can go up to 90 days and, in some exceptions, to an indefinite period.
- Out of 3.3 lakh, about 2.2 lakh are either not likely to be even charge-sheeted, or they are likely to be acquitted.”
- This is a huge violation of the basic human rights of UTPs, who are already facing the issue of inadequate healthcare facilities and torture by other rowdy prisoners.
- Moreover, it is a huge injustice to the families of the UTPs. For example, their children are denied a normal childhood, proper education, and are exploited by a cruel section of the society and are forced to take to the path of crime.
What needs to be done?
Pandemic provides an opportunity for an immediate review of all prisoners’ vulnerability to the epidemic,
- First, we need to conduct repeated testing in all prisons, especially sub-jails. An arrangement for the isolation and hospitalization of who testing positive needs to be planned.
- Second, to de-congest prisons, the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005, which contains the much-needed Section 436-A needs to be activated.
- it provides for an under-trial to be released on a personal bond, with or without sureties if the under-trial has spent half of the period of prescribed imprisonment in detention.
- Third, ‘Prisons’ is purely a ‘State subject’. But it is imperative of the centre to support the states as the Constitutional responsibility of handling infectious and contagious diseases listed in the Concurrent List.
It is the duty of the state to vaccinate inmates at the ‘Hospitals of Correction’. It is similar to anyone in a state hospital may rightly expect to be vaccinated on a priority against the virus.
NHRC recommends measures against manual scavenging
News: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made a series of recommendations to the Centre to eradicate manual scavenging.
- Manual scavenging: It is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or handling human excreta. According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country and the existence of insanitary latrines is the main reason for manual scavenging.
Key Recommendations of NHRC:
- Broaden the definition of manual scavenging to cover other types of hazardous cleaning or enact a new law for it. A penal section may be put in law to prevent the discrimination and harassment faced by the children of manual scavengers and women manual scavengers.
- Rehabilitation process of manual scavengers may be linked to schemes under which they can immediately start earning like MNREGA and revisit to see how they and their families are doing;
- Compensation: The amount of compensation paid as one time cash assistance for rehabilitation of manual scavengers may be enhanced from Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 1 Lakh. Nodal authority/department that will bear the expense of such Compensation may also be clearly specified;
- Ensure to remove the role of middlemen by making provision like direct benefit transfer or by collaborating with NGOs;
- Strict Action against local authorities who employ people to work as manual scavengers; An App and a toll-free number for registration of complaints;
- The National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) to monitor the sewer deaths and data reflected in its report;
- Union Finance Ministry may designate particular Nationalized Bank for each State to take-up the responsibility of extending loans to the Manual Scavengers and their dependents’ up to Rs.10.00 lakhs to take up the business Activity;
- Either individual or group insurances must be provided to Manual Scavengers and the premium shall be paid by the concerned Local Bodies;
- National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) may provide financial assistance to manual scavengers to help start up working in the domain of sanitation and training to them.
Further Reading On Manual Scavenging: https://blog.forumias.com/swachhata-abhiyan-mobile-application/
Government released Longitudinal Ageing Study in India(LASI)
News: Union Health Ministry has released the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India(LASI).
- LASI: It is a full scale national survey of scientific investigation of the health, economic, and social determinants and consequences of population ageing in India.
- Study conducted by: National Programme for Health Care of Elderly, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has undertaken the study through International Institute for Population Sciences, (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health, University of Southern California, USA, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and National Institute on Ageing
- Objective: To provide a longitudinal database for designing policies and programmes for the older population in the broad domains of social, health and economic well-being.
- Coverage: The study covered a panel sample of 72,250 individuals age 45 years and above, including 31, 464 people above 60 and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above.
Key Takeaways from the study:
- In the 2011 census, the 60+ population accounted for 8.6% of India’s population, accounting for 103 million elderly people. Growing at around 3% annually, the number of elderly people will rise to 319 million in 2050.
- About 75 million elderly persons in India or one in two people above 60 years of age suffer from some chronic disease.
- About 40% have some form of disability and as high as 20% are suffering from mental health issues. Also, 27% of this population group has multi-morbidities which translates to roughly 35 million people.
- About a third(32%) of elderly age 60 and above have hypertension, 5.2% were diagnosed with chronic heart disease and 2.7% with stroke. The self-reported prevalence of diabetes mellitus among older adults age 45-59 is 9% and among the elderly age 60 and above is 1%.
- The prevalence of asthma, bronchitis, and COPD is higher among elderly age 60 and above (5.9%, 1.6% and 2.8% respectively) than in older adults aged 45-59 (3.1%, 0.7%, and 1.6% respectively).
PM lays foundation stone of Light House projects (LHPs) across six states
News: The Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone of Light House Projects (LHPs) at six sites across six states in the country.
- LightHouse Projects(LHPs): These are model housing projects with houses built with shortlisted alternate technology suitable to the geo-climatic and hazard conditions of the region.
- The projects are being constructed under Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) at six sites across six states namely Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).
- About 1,000 houses at each location are to be constructed in a year, using six distinct technologies from a basket of 54 such technologies shortlisted under the GHTC-India.
- Significance: These projects will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses at an expedited pace within twelve months as compared to conventional brick and mortar construction and will be more economical, sustainable, of high quality and durability.
Read Also:-CURRENT AFFAIRS 2020-2021
Other Initiatives launched:
- Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(PMAY-Urban) Scheme: Under this, 1.09 crore houses had been sanctioned against the demand of 1.12 crore houses, 40 lakh houses handed over to beneficiaries and 70 lakh more houses were under construction.
- PMAY-Urban: It was launched in 2015 with the aim to provide housing for all in urban areas by year 2022.The Mission provides Central Assistance to the implementing agencies through States/Union Territories (UTs) and Central Nodal Agencies (CNAs) for providing houses to all eligible families/ beneficiaries.
- ASHA-I: Five incubation centers set up under the Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators-India(ASHA-I) were launched for identifying innovative materials, processes and technology for resource efficient, disaster resilient and sustainable construction.
- NAVARITIH (New, Affordable, Validated, Research Innovation Technologies for Indian Housing): It is a certificate course on innovative construction technologies.
- GHTC-India: It was launched in 2019 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).
- Aim: To transform the ecosystem of the housing construction sector in India through lighthouse projects built using advanced proven technologies.
- Components: The challenge has three components:
- Conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference
- Identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the globe and
- Promoting Potential Technologies through the establishment of Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-I) for incubation and accelerator support.
State of our prisons today
Synopsis: The under trial prisoners in the Bhima-Koregaon case had to move the courts for the basic requirements such as to get a sipper cup and a straw because the prisoner is an 80-year-old man with Parkinson’s and the other to take a pair of glasses to replace a broken pair.
The prisons should be places of reform and rehabilitation but they have become a crowded warehouse for the vulnerable marginalised sections.
What is the state of prisons in our country?
- Firstly, around 70 per cent of the prisoners are under trial and more than 75 per cent come from marginalised sections that hardly have knowledge about the laws. Even if they are aware, they have little option and access to any complaints mechanism.
- Secondly, financial, infrastructural, and human resource shortages that range from 20 to 40 per cent also add to staff stress and prisoner despair.
- Thirdly, overcrowding in prisons between 2017 and 2019 shows that overcrowding increased from 116 to 119 per cent. Some of the prisons are more than three times crowded than their official capacity.
- Lastly, there is a serious shortage of judges which results in gathering of cases in courts, the number of cases rose from 3.5 crore to 4 crore between 2019 and 2020.
- According to the India Justice report 2019, it takes an average of three years for the case to go across the high court and six years in the subordinate courts.
Did the attempts of prison reforms turn out to be fruitful?
The recent case of “Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, saw the need for systemic change in prisons as violations have become an everyday routine. There are pathways to accountability and to reform:
- Reform attempts like the constitution of under trial Review Committees directed by the Supreme Court work occasionally. In most prisons, the Board of Visitors meant to function as an oversight mechanism are not even created.
- The neglect of reforms by the executive and oversight bodies make sure they act as warehouses for the poor and the marginalised.
Discuss the various efforts previously taken by the court for the prisoners?
- The Bombay High Court observed that workshops should be conducted for the prison staff to sensitise them towards the prisoners.
- The responsibility of providing basic facilities to the prisoners is with custodial authorities as stated by the law on the provision of basic facilities.
- The Nelson Mandela Rules 2015 issued by the UN and the Model Prison Manual 2016 by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, have detailed provisions regarding the care, treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.
- The Supreme Court has asked state governments to take steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons through a PIL filed in March 2020, which lead to more than 68,000 prisoners being released.
So many Supreme Court and high court judgments have repeated that prisoners are human beings with basic rights. The law stresses that under trial prisoners, except for being prisoned cannot be deprived of any of their other rights.
“Swachhata Abhiyan” – Mobile Application
News: Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment has launched a Mobile Application “Swachhata Abhiyan”.
- Swachhata Abhiyan: It is a mobile application developed to identify and geotag the data of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers so that the insanitary latrines can be replaced with sanitary latrines and rehabilitate all the manual scavengers to provide dignity of life to them.
- Significance: This would help in rehabilitating all manual scavengers and replace insanitary latrines with sanitary ones.
- Manual scavenging: It is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or handling human excreta.
- According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country and the existence of insanitary latrines is the main reason for manual scavenging.
Indian Government efforts to end Manual Scavenging:
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013: The key features of the act are:
- It bans manual scavenging and also discharges employees who are engaged in this practice on a contractual or regular basis.
- It widened the definition of manual scavengers by including it in all forms of manual removal of human excreta like an open drain, pit latrine, septic tanks, manholes, and removal of excreta on the railway tracks.
- It lays key focus on rehabilitating the manual scavengers by providing them with ready-built houses, financial assistance & loans for taking up alternate occupation on a sustainable basis, organizing training programs for the scavengers so that they can opt for some other profession at a stipend of Rs. 3000 and offering scholarships to their children under the relevant scheme of the government.
- The Act makes the offense of manual scavenging cognizable and non-bailable.
- It calls for a survey of manual scavenging in urban & rural areas and the conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines.
- It makes it obligatory for employers to provide protective tools to the workers.
Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS):
- It aims to rehabilitate manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time bound manner.
- Under this, manual scavengers are provided rehabilitation benefits which include
- One Time cash assistance of Rs.40000/-.
- Loans up to Rs. 15.00 lacs at concessional rate of interest.
- Credit linked back end capital subsidy up to Rs. 3,25,000/-.
- Skill Development Training up to two years with a stipend of Rs.3000/- per month.
National Centre for Divyang Empowerment(NCDE)
Source: Click here
News: The Minister of State for Home Affairs has inaugurated the National Centre for Divyang Empowerment(NCDE).
- National Centre for Divyang Empowerment(NCDE): It has been set up by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
- Objective: To skill, re-skill and rehabilitate Divyang warriors of the force suffering from disability that occurred in line of duty.
- Location: Rangareddy, Telangana.
India’s 1st LGBT+ workplace equality index launched
Source: Click here
News: India’s 1st LGBT+ workplace equality index has been launched.
- India Workplace Equality Index: It is the country’s first comprehensive benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on LGBT+ inclusion at the workplace.
- Launched by: It was launched by non-profit Keshav Suri Foundation, partnered with Pride Circle, Stonewall UK and FICCI.
- Parameters: The index measures nine areas: policies and benefits, employee lifecycle, employee network group, allies and role models, senior leadership, monitoring, procurement, community engagement and additional work.
- Winners: Twenty-one firms won under the gold category while 18 were placed under silver and 13 got bronze.
Sanitation in India- Cultural stigma
Context- The problem with sanitation in India is not lack of infrastructure but the social and cultural stigma attached to it.
What is the state of sanitation in India?
- Lack of proper toilets– the lack of proper restrooms makes long distance journeys an ordeal for women.
- However, NHAI maintains one restroom every 40-50 Km, but their hygiene standards are not monitored.
- A high proportion of the population does not have access to “improved sanitation”.
- Improved sanitation is defined as facilities that “ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact”.
- Work related discrimination-Sanitation workers are compelled to travel to their workplaces in garbage trucks, standing next to the very garbage they clean and collect.
- Neither users nor the sanitation workers feel equal.
- In spite of a well-funded programme such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in operation, little attention is devoted to this aspect of sanitation.
What are the issues related to scavenging in India?
- Caste system– Caste hierarchy still exits and it reinforces the caste’s relation with occupation.
- Only country that not only differentiates spaces as pure and impure but also its people.
- The social status of this section has been permanently fixed.
- Government discussions and policies hardly address this stigma.
- Lack of physical resources– Adequate machinery to clean septic tanks, protective gears and flush toilets are not available.
What are the steps taken by the government to address this problem?
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act–
- Prohibition:The act prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines.
- Rehabilitation:It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.
- The act ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers to be identified through a mandatory survey.
- Mechanized cleaning of septic tanks is the prescribed norm.
- The act also directed the government to pay a compensation of 10 lakh rupees to the family members of those killed in acts of manual scavenging since 1993.
- Adopting technology to end manual scavenging– Government’s move to use machines is a first step towards according dignity and respect to sewer workers. However, technology’s emancipatory powers will be realized at their fullest only when the states stop living in denial about manual scavenging.
- Direct allocation of funds– Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said that it would directly transfer funds to ‘sanitation workers’ to buy cleaning machines, instead of contractors or municipal corporations.
Disability – policy and challenges
Context: 3rd dec is the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations in 1992.
More on news:
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.
- Increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
What are the problems faced?
- Huge numbers: About a billion people internationally live with a disability, with 80 per cent of these being residents of the developing world. In 2007, the UN passed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- India is a state party to the convention, and the World Bank estimates that there may be well over 40 million Indians living with disabilities.
- Shortage of ramps: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was passed in 2016 but our country is still largely devoid of ramps on its footpaths or government buildings.
- Poor development: Indians with disabilities are far more likely to suffer from poor social and economic development. Shockingly, 45 per cent of this population is illiterate.
- Community’s lack of political representation: Despite the vast population of people with disabilities in India, in our seven decades of independence we have had just four parliamentarians and six state assembly members who suffer from visible disabilities.
What are the steps taken by India?
- Mental health care act: In 2017, the Mental Healthcare Act recognised and respected the agency of persons with mental-health conditions.
- Expanding the presence of mental-health establishments across the country.
- Restricted the harmful use of electroshock therapy.
- Clarified the mental-health responsibilities of state agencies such as the police.
- Effectively decriminalised attempted suicide.
- Initiatives: Initiatives to improve the life of Indians with disabilities, such as the ADIP scheme for improving access to disability aids.
- The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, or Accessible India Campaign, has aimed to make public transport, buildings and websites more accessible.
- The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: The best that can be said is that the passage of this law may have helped shift the treatment of disabled persons in society towards rights-focused thinking.
- Media representation: Mainstream media has increasingly started showing positive representations of people with disabilities, from Taare Zameen Par to Barfi.
- Representation in sports: Athletes with disabilities have reached the pinnacles of sport and done us proud repeatedly, most recently winning four athletics medals at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
- It is critical that the government work with civil society and individuals with disabilities to craft an India where everyone feels welcome and treated with respect, regardless of their disabilities.
Impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities
Context – The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on forest community and their spirited efforts to tackle it.
What are the problems faced by forest community during COVID-19?
- Losses of livelihood and shelter-Due to sudden lockdown, the forest-dwelling communities who got stuck in the cities without any support system, shelter, food or water.
- The lockdown measures have badly affected wage employment for tribal communities.
- Lack of health infrastructure– The absence of healthcare facilities in tribal areas posing a serious threat to the tribal population.
- Problems accessing the PDS-poor access to public distribution system among tribal people and other traditional forest dwellers during the lockdown.
- Loss of forest products collection season– The other major challenge faced by tribal communities during the lockdown was the collection, use and sale of minor forest produce (MFP) with April-June being a peak season for generating their income.
- According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFP for food, shelter, medicines and having cash with them.
- Tribals were not able to get direct cash benefits as they did not have bank accounts or banks were located in remote locations.
What are the government interventions to resolve the situation?
- Revision in MSP – The Centre recently revised the minimum support price for 49 MFPs to provide relief to tribal groups amid the lockdown. It urged states to speed up procurement operations for MFP
- FRA title holders are entitled to an additional 50 days of work under employment guarantee schemes.
How forest dwelling communities are braving the pandemic?
Examples indicate that these communities have coped with the crisis with remarkable resilience.
Case studies documented– Local communities and gram sabhas better understand the local complexities than local administrations while dealing with a crisis as presented by COVID-19.
- In each village, the Community Forest Rights Management Committees (CFRMCs) members identified families that were starving due to no income and provided ration to them.
- Holistic COVID-19 governance plan– Gram sabhas encouraged local and forest-based food security, thereby preventing crowding in market places.
- Use of local knowledge– Many communities were able to survive on a diverse range of forest foods during the lockdown as they had been regenerating their natural forests for over four decades.
- Women played the leading role in the gram sabhas, organising systems to work with social distancing.
- In many tribal communities, they made face masks of leaves to cover their faces due to non-availability of protective masks in the areas.
- The above examples lead to an understanding that community empowerment, particularly by ensuring tenure security and devolving natural resource governance and management power, can restore ecosystems, create sustainable economies and community resilience to cope with the natural and human-induced calamities such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Government need to learn from these stories of resilience and works towards effective implementation of the FRA.
- The Centre should provide state governments with adequate financial resources to ensure tribal communities and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers receive cash entitlements.
PRISON REFORMS IN INDIA | 21st November, 2020
The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) had invited research proposals from academics and legal experts in 2018. Among those two topics were shortlisted for further research by the Ministry of Home Affairs recently. The topics were
- “Status of radicalisation in India: an exploratory study of prevention and remedies”
- “Functioning and impact of open prisons on the rehabilitation of prisoners”
|Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D)|
Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), the police think tank formed in 1970, under the Ministry of Home Affairs to give a new orientation to the then existing Police Research and Advisory Council formed in 1966.
Bureau was established with two divisions initially
In 2008, the Government further decided to create the National Police Mission (NPM) under the administrative control of BPR&D
Criminal Justice reforms include reforms in Judiciary and the justice system, Police reforms and prison reforms. Though all 3 reforms are equally important to society at large, prison reforms get the low level of attention in most of the countries including India. This is why it is said Prison is a recruitment centre for the army of crime.
Present condition of Prison in India:
NCRB 2019 data says there are 1350 functional jails in India, with a total capacity of approx. 4 Lakh prisoners but actual strength exceeds 4.78lakh. In that 4.3% are women and 69.05% (approx. 3.3 lakh) were under trials and only 30.11% are convicted for crime. Occupation rate in all prison is on an average 118.5%. In general, under trials spend three months to five years in jail before getting bail.
Need for prison reforms:
- Indian prisons face three long-standing structural constraints: overcrowding, understaffing and underfunding. The inevitable outcome is subhuman living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes etc.
- Extradition of fugitive under UN Convention directly depends on prison reforms
- g.: India lost the case of bringing KIM DEVY from Denmark who is accused of PURILA ARMS DROP CASE.
- under trials lose four of their fundamental rights: the right to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation, and freedom of dignity. And the legal right to vote as well.
- NHRC figures show that prisoners cut off from family and friends had a 50% more chance of committing suicide than those outside.
- While 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant. Police personnel in India is 181/lakh population which is much less than the UN prescribed 222/lakh.
Challenges in prison reforms:
- Prison is a State subject.
- Prison Act 1894, which governs prisons with modifications is more than a century old and focus more on keeping them alive (headcount) not reform and rehabilitation.
- No separation between hard hand criminals and petty under trails.
Committees on Prison reforms:
Justice Mulla Committee 1983:
- All India cadre for prison staff and Bringing prison under the concurrent list
- Government should form a National Policy on Prisons
- Government to use alternatives to imprisonment such as community service, etc.
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer committee on women prisoners 1987:
- Separate institutions with women employees alone for women offenders.
- Necessary provisions to restore the dignity of women even if convicted.
Committee under the chairmanship of Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) 2005:
- used the reports of Justice Mulla Committee Report & Justice Krishna Iyer Committee and made several additional and new recommendations. It also drafted a National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration, 2007.
|Draft National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration|
Justice Amaitava Roy panel on prison reforms:
In 2018, the Supreme Court appointed this panel. The committee submitted its report on February 2020 with major recommendations includes
- For overcrowding
- Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal with petty offences.
- Lawyers – prisoners ratio: there should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners.
- For Understaffing
- The Supreme Court should pass directions to start the recruitment process against vacancies
- There should be use of video-conferencing for trial.
- For Prisoners
- Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
- Alternative punishments should be explored.
- Government should frame a National Policy on prison and form a National Commission on prisons to look into matters more seriously.
- Ensure the holistic development of prisoners like stress management, Yoga, etc.
- Ratifying the UN Convention against torture and sensitizing the staffs about the need to treat prisoners as humanely as possible.
- Changing the people’s attitude that “Everyone inside the jail is not a criminal, he is either an offender nor an under trail”.
- Increasing the budgetary allocation of the Criminal Justice System.
- Encourage Interactive and community policing in all possible ways.
- Open prison or semi open prison has to be encouraged like that in UP and Rajasthan.
|Open or Semi open prisons|
Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening.
- Utilizing the first-of-its-kind advanced DNA FORENSIC LAB in CHANDIGARH and pass The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 to reduce the overcrowding by the faster conviction of offenders.
- Extending Legal Right to Vote prisoners and free legal aid (Directive Principle entrusted in Article 39a of our Constitution).
Indian jails dubbed as a university for grooming criminals structural changes are needed to address the key issues. Else, prisons will continue to be heaven for politically connected criminals and hell for socio-economically disadvantaged undertrials.
Machine hole- Technology led initiative
Context – Centre announces new measures to end manual scavenging by august 2021.
What is manual scavenging and step taken by government to eliminate manual scavenging?
Manual scavenging is the practice of removing human excrement from toilets, septic tanks or sewers by hand.
- More than 375 workers died while cleaning septic and sewer tanks between 2015 and 2019.
Government initiatives –
- Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993-
- The act prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning dry latrines and also the construction of dry toilets (that do not operate with a flush).
- Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013
- Prohibition:The act prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines.
- Rehabilitation:It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.
What are the new measures announced by the government?
- Mechanized cleaning– Sewers and septic tanks in 243 cities will be mechanized and a helpline created to register complaints if manual scavenging is reported
- Change in terminology– The word “manhole” will be replaced with “machine-hole” in official usage
- Direct allocation of funds– Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said that it would directly transfer funds to ‘sanitation workers’ to buy cleaning machines, instead of contractors or municipal corporations.
Why the impacts of such measures always fall short?
These measures are not giving adequate attention to the social conditions that force people to plumb toxic cesspools.
- Failure in the implementation of law-
- The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, allows the use of manual labour to clean sewage if the employer provides safety gear. But, in practice, this provision is more flouted than followed.
- Municipal corporations and local bodies very often outsource the sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors, who do not maintain proper rolls of workers.
- In case after case of sanitation workers being asphyxiated to death while working toxic sludge pools in different parts of the country, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.
- Discrimination– The entrenched belief in the caste system that assumes people belonging to a particular caste group will readily perform the stigmatized task of emptying latrines.
- The design of septic tanks in large parts of the country is not amenable to technological intervention and machines are too big to enter narrow by-lanes, especially in dense urban areas.
- Government’s move to use machines is a first step towards according dignity and respect to sewer workers. However, technology’s emancipatory powers will be realized at their fullest only when the states stop living in denial about manual scavenging.
- Systems need to be put in place to prevent pilferage, ensure that the machines reach the right hands.
Custodial Violence in India | 13th Nov. 2020
What is Custodial Violence?
- Custodial violence primarily refers to violence in police custody and judicial custody. It may be mental or physical in nature.
Types of Custodial Violence:
- Rape and torture are the two common manifestations of custodial violence which may turn out to be fatal and cause death.
State of custodial violence in India:
- According to the data published by The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 2001 and 2018, a total of 1,727 persons have died in police custody including those in judicial remand and those who have been arrested but not yet produced before the court.
- 75% of the people who died in police custody were tortured.
- Low conviction rate: Apart from custodial deaths, more than 2,000 human rights violation cases were also recorded against the police between 2000 and 2018. And only 344 policemen were convicted in those cases.
Challenges in curbing custodial violence
- Absence of strong legislation: India is yet to criminalize custodial violence. The available safeguards have proved insufficient to deal with issues of custodial violence.
State of prisons:
- There is a lack of facilities for medical, sanitation, security, and food in the prison.
- Further, a disproportionate ratio between crime rate and manpower makes the enforcement of laws difficult.
- India has failed to bring adequate prison reforms to curb the existence of police subculture and punitive violence.
Non-ratification of UN Convention against torture:
- The United Nations convention against torture in 1997 was signed by India but the country did not ratify it.
- While signing only indicates the country’s intention to meet the obligations set out in the treaty, Ratification, on the other hand, entails bringing in-laws and mechanisms to fulfill the commitments.
- Politicization of police: The Police Act, 1861 which governs the Indian police system has no explicit provisions on the superintendence and general control and directions of police. This leaves the executive with a lot of power to control the law enforcement authorities as per vested interests.
|Police brutalities: The instances of custodial violence point to the mindset of police authorities who believe in a sense of impunity by conducting such types of acts. This is further corroborated by the following facts revealed by NCRB:|
- Provisions available to deal with custodial violence. Lack of police accountability: The Prakash Singh guidelines of 2006 had recommended the constitution of an independent complaints authority to inquire into police misconduct. However, this has not been implemented by many states.
Poor witness protection regime:
- Investigations related to custodial killings often run into delays due to a lack of witnesses.
- The lack of strength in the institutional system to protect the witnesses result in the intimidation of the families of witnesses and thus, they turn hostile.
- Though a witness protection bill was introduced in 2015, it’s yet to get a place in the statute books.
- Article 20: Right to protection against the conviction of offenses.
- Article 21: Right to life and liberty.
- Article 22: Right to protection against arrest and detention in certain circumstances:
- Being informed of the grounds of arrest.
- To be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
- Production in the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest.
Statutory safeguards :
- Indian evidence act, 1872: Section 25 mentions that a confession to a police officer cannot be proved as against a person accused of any offense.
- Code of criminal procedure, 1973 (amendment in 2008): Section 46 and 49 of the code protect those under custody, from torture, who are not accused of an offense punishable with death or life imprisonment.
- Indian police act, 1861: Section 7 and 29 of the Act provide for dismissal, penalty, or suspension of police officers who are negligent in the discharge of their duties or unfit to perform the same.
- Indian penal code: Section 330, 331, and 348 were enacted to curb the tendency of policemen to resort to torture to extract confessions.
- Judicial Pronouncements regarding custodial violence
- K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, 1987: Under this case, the Supreme Court of India observed that using torture is impermissible and offensive to Article 21.
- Munshi Singh Gautam and others vs the State of Madhya Pradesh: The Supreme Court ruled that the dehumanizing torture, assault in alarming proportions raise serious questions about the credibility of the rule of law and administration of the criminal justice system.
- Rama Murthy v. State of Karnataka (1996): The SC while upholding fundamental rights of prisoners identified ‘Torture and ill-treatment’ in prisons as an area that needs reform.
- Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa: It ensured that the state could no longer escape liability in public law and had to be compelled to pay compensation.
- Death due to custodial violence is a heinous act. India, being a flourishing democracy can undertake the following measures to address the issue:
- Dk Basu guidelines: Implementing the 11-point guidelines mentioned in the DK Basu case by the Supreme Court.
- Implementation of Law Commission of India’s 273rd Report: The report recommends that those accused of committing custodial torture – be it policemen, military and paramilitary personnel – should be criminally prosecuted instead of facing mere administrative action establishing an effective deterrent.
- Implementing Prison reforms: Prison reforms are required for ensuring humane conditions and security for the people in custody.
- CCTV cameras should be installed in police stations and in interrogation rooms.
- Introduction of a monetary body to keep an eye on the activities in the prison.
- The adoption of an effective mechanism for police will enable police supervisory structures to reduce torture.
- Police reforms to include ethical policing.
- Implementing the recommendations of the Prakash Singh guidelines in letter and spirit.
- The need for the hour is that the government should ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture, which was also recommended by the Law Commission in its 273rd report.
GST levy on mobility aids
Context: The GST levy on mobility aids places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to lead a dignified life
- Recently, in Nipun Malhotra vs. Union of India case the Supreme Court of India heard brief arguments on the constitutional validity of the levy of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on mobility aids used by disabled citizens.
- According to the petitioner, the tax imposed on the products such as wheelchairs, tricycles for the disabled, braille paper and braille watches was discriminatory.
- But the Court adjourned the case stating that its power to review the decision of imposing tax was constrained by the principle of separation of powers.
- it suggested that the GST council (the governing body) is responsible for determining which products are taxed, and at what rate and its decisions are final.
- However, until the advent of the GST, mobility aids were almost entirely immune from indirect taxes.
- In virtually every State, exemptions were granted on the payment of value-added-tax on such goods. The GST did away altogether with this exemption.
Why should the Supreme court review the legitimacy of the taxes levied?
- Protecting the Fundamental rights: Taxes have a direct bearing on society. The nature and rate of tax imposed on a product have direct consequences on a person’s freedom and on a person’s right to be treated with equal care and concern.
- Promotes inequality: The tax places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to access the most basic goods, to lead lives with dignity.
- To Validate the legitimacy: When the GST Council reject the petitioner’s plea, it would be irrational of the Court not to test the legitimacy of the levy.
- International Precedence: The top courts in Canada and Colombia have recently came up to examine whether or not an imposition of a tax violates a fundamental right.
- Does not affect separation of powers: Taxing laws are very much similar to ordinary laws where judiciary has the power of judicial review and it doesn’t obstruct legislative and executive competence.
What were the reasons provided by government to impose GST on mobility aids?
- According to the government, relieving mobility aids from taxation, will disincentivise domestic manufacturers.
- In the absence of a levy of GST on the final product, the manufacturer will be burdened with input taxes. Since it cannot claim any credit for those taxes paid.
- So, the prices of the final product would have to be higher, otherwise the manufacturer will be placed in a relative position of disadvantage to foreign makers.
- The 5% concessional GST rate will result in a win-win situation for both the users of such devices, the disabled persons, as well as the domestic manufacturers of such goods.
Why the arguments given by government is not satisfactory?
- First, many other essential products are exempted from GST.For example, in July 2018, following a sustained campaign, the levy imposed on female personal hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) was removed.
- Second, the Parliament has other ways to ensure that domestic manufacturers, for example, it can exempt firms from paying taxes on inputs on the condition that such inputs will be used to manufacture mobility aids.
Taxation, is just a tool intended to augment general welfare. The GST Council can learn from the good practices of Canada and Australia and grant a complete exemption on the levy imposed on mobility aids.
LGBT community rights
Context- Issues and Challenges of same sex marriages in India.
What is Solicitor General Verdict on same sex marriage?
Same-sex marriages are neither a part of “our culture” nor a part of the law, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Delhi High Court Monday, opposing a petition demanding marriage rights for the gay community under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.
What is the history of same sex marriage in India?
Same-sex marriages are not a new phenomenon in India.
- Hindu scriptures define marriage as the union of ‘two souls’ and the same scriptures also define that a soul has no gender. It is only the human bodies that possess a gender.
- These scriptures are a major source of Hindu Law including the Act. The Act merely codifies the Hindu law and doesn’t try to erode the values imbibed within the Holy Scriptures.
- The 11th-century Sanskrit text, the Kathasaritsagara, provides the same explanation for cross-class and cross-caste couples who want to marry.
What are difficulties faces by LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community?
- Legal recognition- Same-sex marriages are not legally recognized in India.
- For example- Recently, a PIL was filed in the High Court of Delhi seeking declaration to the marriage rights of the gay community under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- The petitioner avers that the Act allows marriages between “two Hindus” without any discrimination between heterosexual and homosexual couples.
- But still, gay couples can’t get married and register the same under the Act.
- Deprived in Rights – The rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples are not enjoyed by same-sex couples. They are prohibited from those rights. For example-
- The lack of a legal structure around their relationship became increasingly stark when they tried to bring each other on as nominees in insurance and financial plans, just as a married couples did.
- Most male-female married couples take for granted that the day after they marry, they can open a joint account, make health and funeral-related decisions for each other, and inherit each other’s property.
- Families violently separated the same sex couples, often driving them to suicide.
- Racial Discrimination– Additionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people suffer from social and economic inequalities due to continuous discrimination.
- Countries around the world have legalized same-sex marriages. The world is heading towards progressive LGBTQ rights. Therefore, it is time to join the many democracies which recognize the right of a citizen to marry anyone she chooses.
Repopulation of prisons during pandemic is dangerous
Context: Recently, the Delhi’s high-powered committee (HPC) for the decongestion of prisons directed that the undertrials and convicts must return to prisons from early December.
Background of the issue
- Given the contagious nature of COVID-19 and overcrowding in prisons, the court ordered for depopulation of prisons.
- The court ordered state governments to form HPCs to determine the criteria for release.
- Following the Supreme Court order, in March 2020, India’s prisons released convicts on emergency parole, and undertrials on interim bail.
Why have prison populations increased during a pandemic which necessitated decongestion?
- High number of lockdown-related arrests reveals that policing priorities have been misplaced and a public health crisis has been treated more as a law and order issue.
- For example, arrests made during the first three phases of the lockdown, unusual number of arrests under Excise Act (15.8 per cent) and the Public Gambling Act.
- Reduced court capacities due to the pandemic, have impaired the access to bail for arrested persons.
- The adoption of a virtual court system also aggravated judicial delays.
- Failure of the criminal justice system (Police, courts and prisons) to work in an integrated manner towards the decongestion even during this pandemic.
What are the causes for the historically burdened prison system?
- The problem of over-arrests and inherent problems of policing have never been addressed.
- Reforms to reduce the undertrial prison population have not been implemented effectively.
- High representation of undertrials in the total prison population (55-90 per cent) is a major cause of concern.
With Global health experts not signalling an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, the call for the inmates to safely return to prisons is entirely misplaced and dangerous.