SPR 2021 | Society Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2021

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Table of Contents

 

Society

Blue Heart Campaign of UN

  • Context:
    • It has been initiated by the UN to raise global awareness to fight human trafficking and its impact on society.
    • It aims to encourage the involvement of the governments, civil society, the corporate sector, and individuals to inspire action and help prevent this heinous crime.
    • It allows people to show their solidarity with the victims of human trafficking and increasing their visibility by wearing the Blue Heart.
  • What are the constitutional & legislative provisions related to Trafficking in India?
    1. Trafficking in Human Beings or Persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1).
    2. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
    3. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking.
    4. Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

  • Context:
    • Celebrated on July 30.
    • Designated by the UN in 2013.
    • This year’s theme focuses on first responders to human trafficking.
  • Who are the first responders?
    • These are the people who work in different sectors – identifying, supporting, counselling, and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.
    • During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important, particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult.
    • Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.
  • Key facts:
    1. People are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging, forced marriage; for selling children and as child soldiers, as well as for the removal of organs;
    2. Women make up 49% and girls 23% of all victims of trafficking;
    3. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (59% share) followed by forced labour (34% share);
    4. Most victims are trafficked within their countries’ borders – those trafficked abroad are moved to the richest countries.

National Council for transgenders

  • Context:
    • The Centre has constituted the national council for transgender persons.
  • Composition:
    • Headed by the Union social justice minister and comprising representatives from 10 central departments, five states and members of the community.
    • The council is India’s first and formed under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
  • The council has five main functions:
    • advising the central government on the formulation of policies, programmes, legislation, and projects with respect to transgender persons; monitoring and evaluating the impact of policies and programmes designed for achieving equality and full participation of transgender persons; reviewing and coordinating the activities of all the departments; redressing grievances of transgender persons, and performing such other functions as prescribed by the Centre.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019

  • Context:
    • After facing flak from the transgender community, the Centre has done away with the requirement of a medical examination for trans persons applying for a certificate of identity in its latest draft rules framed under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
  • Overview of the draft ‘Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020’:
    1. All educational institutions are to have a committee that transgender persons can approach in case of any harassment or discrimination.
    2. The “appropriate government” is also required to take adequate steps to “prohibit discrimination in any government or private organisation or establishment.”
    3. States will be responsible for the “timely prosecution of individuals” charged under Section 18 of the Act which proscribes offences against the transgender community and penalties therein.
    4. The offences would be punishable with imprisonment for six months up to two years, with a fine.
    5. State governments will have to set up a Transgender Protection Cell under the District Magistrate and DGP to monitor cases of offences against transgender persons and implement Section 18.
  • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019:
    • Definition of a transgender person:
      • It defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
      • It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
      • Intersex variations are defined to mean a person who at birth shows the variation in his or her primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from the normative standard of the male or female body.
  • Prohibition against discrimination:
    • Any person who is found to be compelling a transgender person into bonded labour denying the right of public passage to a transgender person, evicting a transgender from his/her place of residence, causing physical, sexual, verbal, economic and emotional abuse, can be penalised with imprisonment of not less than six months, that can extend up to two years.
    • The bill has a provision that provides transgender the right of residence with parents and immediate family members.
  • Background:
    • The law was a consequence of the directions of the Supreme Court of India in the National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India case judgment, mandating the Central and State governments to ensure legal recognition of all transgender persons and proactive measures instituted for their welfare.
    • It calls for establishing a National Council for Transgender persons (NCT).
  • The NCT will consist of:
    1. Union Minister for Social Justice (Chairperson)
    2. Minister of State for Social Justice (Vice-Chairperson)
    3. Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice
    4. One representative from ministries including Health, Home Affairs, and Human Resources Development.
    5. Other members include representatives of the NITI Aayog and the National Human Rights Commission. State governments will also be represented. The Council will also consist of five members from the transgender community and five experts from non-governmental organizations.
  • Covered in detail in Samjaho's Corner: https://samajho.com/upsc/transgender-rights-bill-2019/

Transperson in NCC

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Kerala High Court on Monday allowed a transwoman to apply for enrolment into the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in the senior girls' division as per her self-perceived gender identity in a landmark judgment.
  • Background
    • In 2020, a student at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram has filed a writ petition opposing her exclusion from the NCC unit at the college on the basis of her gender.
    • The petition challenged Section 6 of the National Cadet Corps Act, 1948 which only allows either ‘male’ or ‘female’ cadets.
  • The argument in favour of Transgenders to National Cadet Corps (NCC)
    • The petitioner argued that the ‘inclusion of sexual minorities like transgender persons’ is important to address the ‘rampant marginalisation and discrimination’ that they face.
    • The Kerala High Court took exception to the position and stressed that exclusion of transgenders from NCC goes contrary to Kerala’s Transgender Policy and other applicable statutes.
    • The bench held that the integration of persons of the third gender into the armed forces or the NCC cannot be a justification to deny the petitioner’s entry into the NCC.
    • The Judgement highlighted that the provisions of the NCC Act, 1948 cannot preclude the operation of the Transgender Rights Act, 2019.
    • The High Court also ordered the NCC to amend Section 6 of the Act within six months so that the law offers equal opportunities for everyone.
  • The argument against Transgenders to National Cadet Corps (NCC)
    • The NCC had submitted that as per the existing policy, there was no provision for allowing transgender students to get themselves enrolled in the NCC.
    • The Centre argued that before constituting a new division for the third gender, the Centre had to conduct a major exercise in terms of reviewing the infrastructure facilities, modules, and facilities for such a division.
    • It also argued that any induction of a candidate from the transgender community without due deliberations by the authorities would have far-reaching ramifications.
  • What is Kerala’s Transgender policy?
    • Kerala was one of the first states in the country to formulate and implement a welfare policy for transgender persons in 2015.
    • The policy followed the Supreme Court verdict in 2014 in which the right to equality and equal protection for transgender persons under articles 14, 15 and 16 was upheld.
    • The bracket of a ‘third gender’ was allotted to transgender persons.
    • The policy asked for all government offices and public functionaries to extend nondiscriminatory treatment to transgender.
  • The policy promised to provide:
    • Free legal aid to those fighting discrimination,
    • Recording statistics at the local police station level for crimes against transgenders;
    • A 24×7 helpline and crisis management centre;
    • A monthly pension scheme for destitute and those above the age of 55; and
    • Establishing shelter homes

About National Cadet Crop (NCC):

  • The Cadet Corps Committee under the chairmanship of Pt HN Kunzru recommended the establishment of NCC.
  • It came into being by an Act of the Parliament Act No. XXXI of 1948 designated ‘The National Cadet Corps Act 1948’.
  • It aims at developing character, comradeship, discipline, a secular outlook, the spirit of adventure, and ideals of selfless service amongst young citizens.
  • It aims at creating a pool of organized, trained, and motivated youth with leadership qualities in all walks of life.
  • It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence.

Survey On Animals In Circuses

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has directed the Animal Welfare Board (AWB) to forthwith carry out a nationwide survey to find out the number of animals in circuses, which are unable to perform due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and consider rehabilitating them to the nearest zoos.
    • The court has also issued notices to other relevant stakeholders and directed them to file replies within two weeks.
  • What’s the issue?
    • The court was hearing a plea stating that the condition of animals is vulnerable due to the bankruptcy of circuses due to the pandemic.
    • The petition was filed by the Federation of Indian Animals Protection (FIAPO), which is a collection of 100 organisations working towards the protection of animal rights for over a decade.
    • It challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 21 to 27 of the prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act so far as they permit exhibition and training of animals in relation to circus acts.
    • The petitioners also sought to declare the Performing Animal Rules, 1973 and Performing Animal (Registration) Rules, 2001 to the extent that they allow registration of animals as ‘performing animals’ for circuses as against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Constitution of India.
  • Present challenges:
    • Circuses with animals performing tricks often use wild animals, including elephants, hippos, and exotic birds.
    • These animals are very often used without requisite paperwork certifying their fitness.
    • Investigations show animals being chained and tied up for several hours each day, made to perform several shows without proper rest, trained using negative reinforcement with instruments like metal rods, wooden sticks, whips and outdated and barbaric tools like hooks and spiked belts.
    • These are in direct violations of animal protection laws, animal rights and welfare.
  • Need of the hour:
    • On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous reports of animals being stranded as part of these circuses all over the country and being abandoned by their owners.
    • Therefore, authorities should formulate an appropriate scheme for the rescue, rehabilitation and relocation of all animals rescued from circuses.
    • There is also an urgent need to ban animals from circuses initiating their rehabilitation.
    • As an interim relief, the authorities should take custody of all animals from all circuses operating in India and make appropriate arrangements for their transfer and well-being.
  • Prelims Facts:
    • Established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, the Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country of India.
    • It was started under the stewardship of Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, well known humanitarian.

Swachh Survekshan 2020 report 

  • Context:
    • Swachh Survekshan 2020 report was recently released by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry.
    • Swachh Survekshan 2020 covered 4,242 cities, 62 cantonment boards, and 92 Ganga towns. This survey was carried out in 28 days.
    • This year the Ministry has released rankings based on the categorization of cities on population, instead of releasing overall rankings.
  • Performance of various cities:
    1. Indore was ranked the cleanest city in the overall category this year followed by Surat and Navi Mumbai.
    2. Chhattisgarh is the cleanest state in the category of states with more than 100 urban local bodies (ULBs).
    3. Ahmedabad is India's cleanest Megacity.
    4. New Delhi is the cleanest capital city.
    5. Chhattisgarh's Ambikapur is the cleanest smallest city.
    6. Bengaluru wins the Best Self Sustainability award in the Megacity category.
    7. Jharkhand is the cleanest state in the category of state with less than 100 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
    8. Cleanest Cantonment: Jalandhar Cantt, Punjab.
    9. Cleanest Town along the banks of river Ganga: Varanasi.
    10. In cities with a population of less than one lakh, Karad in Maharashtra is the cleanest city.
    11. Maximum citizen participation in keeping city areas clean – Shahjahanpur.
    12. The cleanest megacity with more than 40 lac population – Ahmedabad (Gujarat).
    13. Fastest-moving city in terms of cleanliness – Jodhpur (Rajasthan).
    14. Self-sustainable city in terms of cleanliness (more than 10 lakh population) – Rajkot (Gujarat).
    15. Mysuru (Karnataka) is ranked cleanest among the medium-sized cities with a population ranging between 3 lakh and 10 lakh.
  • What is Swachh Survekshan?
    • Launched by PM Modi in 2016.
    • It is meant to monitor the performance of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which was launched on October 2, 2014, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • It was also aimed at inculcating a spirit of healthy competition among cities towards becoming India’s cleanest cities.
    • The dynamic and evolving nature of the Swachh Survekshan framework was also highlighted. From being just a monitoring framework for measuring outcomes, it has become an implementation accelerator for Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U), enabling the sustainability of outcomes by institutionalizing cleanliness.
    • SBM-U was launched in 2014, with the objective of making urban India 100% Open Defecation Free (ODF) along with 100% scientific solid waste management.
    • It has a deep impact on health, livelihoods, quality of life, and behaviour, which proved to be very helpful while dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic as well.
  • Who conducts the survey?
    • The Quality Council of India (QCI) is in charge of evaluating the performance of the participating cities. This is an autonomous accreditation body that was set up by the Government of India in 1997 for quality assurance in all fields, including governance.

Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra

  • Context:
    • Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra was inaugurated recently.
  • What is it?
    • A tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra (RSK) was first announced by the Prime Minister on 10th April 2017, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Gandhiji's Champaran Satyagraha.
    • It is an interactive experience centre on the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • The installations at RSK will include audiovisual immersive shows, interactive LED panels, hologram boxes, interactive games, etc.
  • Roles and functions of RSK:
    1. It will introduce future generations to its successful journey as the world’s largest behaviour change campaign.
    2. It will showcase the core elements of the mission and anecdotes on the journey of the country from Satyagraha to Swachchagrah.
    3. It will impart information, awareness, and education on Swachhata (sanitation) and related aspects.

Prerak Dauur Samman

  • Context:
    • It is a new category of awards announced as part of Swachh Survekshan 2021.
    • It has a total of five additional subcategories – Divya (Platinum), Anupam (Gold), Ujjwal (Silver), Udit (Bronze), Aarohi (Aspiring) – with the top three cities being recognized in each.
  • Implications:
    • In a departure from the present criteria of evaluating cities on ‘population category’, this new category will categorize cities on the basis of six select indicator-wise performance criteria which are as follows:
      1. Segregation of waste into Wet, Dry and Hazard categories
      2. Processing capacity against wet waste generated
      3. Processing and recycling of wet and dry waste
      4. Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste processing
      5. Percentage of waste going to landfills
      6. Sanitation status of cities.

Human Development Index

  • Context:
    • India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) improving from the 130th position in 2018.
    • HDI is part of the Human Development Report that is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The other indices that form the part of the 2019 Report are:
    • Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI),
    • Gender Development Index (GDI),
    • Gender Inequality Index (GII) and
    • Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
    • The focus of the 2019 Report is on ‘Inequality in Human Development.
  • Human Development Index
    • HDI emphasizes that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.
    • HDI measures the average achievement of a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
      • A long and healthy life,
      • Access to knowledge, and
      • A decent standard of living.
    • Top Performers in 2019:
      • Norway, Switzerland, Ireland occupied the top three positions in that order.
      • Germany is placed fourth along with Hong Kong, and Australia secured the fifth rank on the global ranking.
  • India’s Neighbours
    • Sri Lanka (71) and China (85) were higher up the rank scale.
    • Bhutan (134), Bangladesh (135), Myanmar (145), Nepal (147), Pakistan (152) and Afghanistan (170) were ranked lower on the list.
  • Region-Wise Performance:
    • South Asia was the fastest-growing region in human development progress witnessing a 46% growth over 1990-2018, followed by East Asia and the Pacific at 43%.
  • India’s Performance:
    • India’s HDI value increased by 50% (from 0.431 to 0.647), which places it above the average for other South Asian countries (0.642).
    • In India, between 1990 and 2018, life expectancy at birth increased by 11.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.7 years. Per capita incomes rose by over 250%.

Covered in detail in Samjaho's Corner: https://samajho.com/upsc/human-development-index-2020/

Ease of Living Index

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs releases the rankings of the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020.
  • About Ease of Living Index,2020:
    • Developed by: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2018.
    • It is an assessment tool. By this tool, quality of life and the impact of various initiatives on urban development are assessed.
  • Parameters: The index evaluates cities based on the following parameters:
    • Quality of Life (35%):
      • It looks at the indicators for decent urban life.
      • These indicators include affordable housing, access to clean water, basic education, healthcare facilities, safety and security, and recreation avenues.
    • Economic Ability (15%):
      • It captures the economic well-being of citizens. It is done by evaluating the level of economic development and inequalities in a particular city.
    • Sustainability (20%):
      • It evaluates the availability of green spaces, green buildings, level of energy consumption. Moreover, the quality of natural resources such as air, water, and the city’s ability to withstand natural disasters are also assessed.
    • Citizen Perception Survey (30%):
      • It provides a perception of the city residents. Thus, it allows citizens to evaluate the level and quality of development in their respective cities.
    • Coverage: The index assessed 111 cities by bifurcating them into two categories:
      • Million+ populated cities (those with a population of more than a million) and
      • Less than A Million populated cities (those with a population of less than a million) along with all the cities under the Smart Cities Program.
  • Key Findings:
    • Million+ category:
      • Bengaluru has emerged as the top performer.
      • It is followed by Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Navi Mumbai, Coimbatore, Vadodara, Indore, and Greater Mumbai.
    • Less than Million category:
      • Shimla is at the top in this category. It is followed by Bhubaneswar, Silvassa, Kakinada, Salem, Vellore, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Davangere, and Tiruchirappalli.
  • Significance of the index:
    • The findings from the index can help guide evidence-based policymaking.
    • It also promotes healthy competition among cities.
    • It encourages cities to learn from each other and advance their development trajectory.

Smart Cities Awards

  • Context: 
    • The Union ministry of housing and urban affairs has released the list of India smart cities awards (ISCA) 2020. 
    • The awards were announced to commemorate six years of the central government’s three initiatives to spur urban development: 
      • Smart Cities Mission (SCM). 
      • Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). 
      • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U). 

  • Performance of various States and cities: 
    • Uttar Pradesh emerged on the top among all states, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. 
    • Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and Surat (Gujarat) won the award jointly for their overall development. 
    • Ahmedabad bagged the ‘Smart Cities Leadership Award’ and Chandigarh, the award for union territories, while Indore won the “Innovative Idea Award”. 
  • Parameters used for ranking: 
    • These rankings were arrived at by the government on the basis of several parameters such as social aspects, governance, culture, urban environment, sanitation, economy, built environment, water, urban mobility. 
    • For the year of the pandemic, additional parameters of the sustainable business model of Integrated Command and Control Centres and innovation in Covid-19 management were also counted for the awards. 
  • Smart Cities Mission: 
    • GoI launched the smart cities mission in 2015. 
    • The objective is to integrate city functions, utilize scarce resources more efficiently, and improve the quality of life of citizens. 
    • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. 
  • A smart city is envisaged to have four pillars: 
    • Social Infrastructure. 
    • Physical Infrastructure. 
    • Institutional Infrastructure (including Governance). 
    • Economic Infrastructure. 

SDG India Index

  • Context:
    • The third edition of the SDG India Index and Dashboard 2020–21 was released by NITI Aayog.
  • SDG India Index
    • The index measures the progress at the national and sub-national level in the country’s journey towards meeting the Global Goals and targets.
    • It has been successful as an advocacy tool to propagate the messages of sustainability, resilience, and partnerships, as well.
    • From covering 13 Goals39 targets, and 62 indicators in the first edition in 2018-19 to 17 Goals, 54 targets and 100 indicators in the second; this third edition of the index covers 17 Goals, 70 targets, and 115 indicators.
  • Aims and objectives
    • The construction of the index and the ensuing methodology embodies the central objectives of measuring the performance of States and UTs on the SDGs and ranking them.
    • It aims at supporting States and UTs in identifying areas which require more attention; and promoting healthy competition among them.
  • Methodology and Process
    • The index estimation is based on data on indicators for the first 16 goals, with a qualitative assessment for Goal 17.
    • The technical process of target setting and normalization of scores follow the globally established methodology.
    • While target setting enables the measurement of the distance from the target for each indicator, the process of normalization of positive and negative indicators allows for comparability and estimation of goal-wise scores.
    • The composite score of a State is derived by assigning each goal the same weight, keeping in mind the indivisible nature of the 2030 Agenda.
    • The selection of indicators is preceded by a consultative process undertaken in close coordination with MoSPI, Union Ministries and stakeholders from States and UTs.
  • States and Union Territories are classified as below based on their SDG India Index score:
    • Aspirant: 0–49
    • Performer: 50–64
    • Front-Runner: 65–99
    • Achiever: 100
  • Its significance
    • The index represents the articulation of the comprehensive nature of the Global Goals under the 2030 Agenda while being attuned to the national priorities.
    • The modular nature of the index has become a policy tool and a ready reckoner for gauging the progress of States and UTs on the nature of goals including health, education, gender, economic growth and climate change and the environment.
  • Read More:

Bare Necessities Gap

  • Context:
    • The bare necessities gap between States has narrowed since 2012: Economic Survey
  • Details
    • States such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat had the highest access to the bare necessities while it was the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Tripura.
    • Poorer states have reduced the gap with rich States when it comes to providing their citizens with access to the basics of daily life — housing, water, power, sanitation, cooking gas — according to a new ‘Bare Necessities Index’ (BNI) in the Economic Survey 2020-21.
    • The index uses existing National Statistical Office (NSO) survey data to show that between 2012 and 2018, serious gains were made in the area of sanitation although equity in housing access still lagged behind.
    • The Richer states such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat top the index, while the eastern Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Tripura occupy the lowest rungs. States which showed significant improvement include Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
    • “Inter-State disparities in the access to the bare necessities’ have declined in 2018 when compared to 2012 across rural and urban areas,” said the survey.
    • “Access to ‘the bare necessities’ has improved disproportionately more for the poorest households when compared to the richest households across rural and urban areas. The improvement in equity is particularly noteworthy because while the rich can seek private alternatives, lobby for better services, or if need be, move to areas where public goods are better provided for, the poor rarely have such choices.” it added.
    • However, the survey noted that there was still a gap between urban and rural India, as well as among income groups.
    • Better Centre-State coordination with local governments is needed, given that they were responsible for civic amenities in urban areas, added the survey. It also suggested that the BNI could be constructed at the district level using large annual household survey data, to show progress.
    • The index attempts to carry forward the ‘Thalinomics’ exercise in the last Economic Survey, which calculated the average Indian’s access to a plate of food. The survey also correlated the BNI to child mortality and school enrolment data to show the link to health and education outcomes.
    • Access to household toilets piped water, and a reduction in air pollution due to the use of clean cooking fuel have an outsize impact on child health. Studies also showed that girls were more likely to go to school if they had access to toilets, and do not need to spend time hauling water for their families every day.

Atal Rankings of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2020

  • Context:
    • The Atal Rankings of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2020 has been released.
  • What is it?
    • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Government of India to systematically rank all the major higher education institutions and universities in India on indicators related to “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development” amongst students and faculties.
    • More than quantity, ARIIA focuses on the quality of innovations and tries to measure the real impact created by these innovations nationally and internationally.
  • ARIIA ranking will primarily focus on 6 main parameters:
    1. Programs and Activities on IPR, Innovation, Start-up, and Entrepreneurship.
    2. Pre Incubation & Incubation Infrastructure & Facilities to Support I&E.
    3. Annual Budget Spent on Promoting and Supporting I&E Activities.
    4. Courses on Innovation, IPR, and Entrepreneurship Development.
    5. Intellectual Property (IP), Technology Transfer, and Commercialization.
    6. Successful Innovation and Start-ups & Funding Innovation & start-ups.
  • Rank Categorisation- Two Broad Categories:
    • 1. Publicly Funded Institutions:
      • Sub Categories:
        1. Institute of National Importance, Central Universities, and Centrally Funded Technical Institutes.
        2. State University & Deemed Universities (Government & Government. Aided)
        3. Government and Government/Aided College/Institutes.
    • 2. Private or Self-Financed Institutions:
      • Subcategories:
        1. Private or Self-Financed Universities.
        2. Private or Self-Financed College/Institutes.
    • For the first time, ARIIA 2020 has a special prize category for women only higher educational institutions.
    • This will be the 6th subcategory.
  • Top Performing of various institutions:
    1. IIT Madras under the category of Institutes of National Importance, Central Universities, and Centrally Funded Technical Institutes;
    2. Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai got the top position under Government and Government Aided Universities;
    3. College of Engineering, Pune under Government and Government Aided Colleges;
    4. Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar under Private or Self-Financed Universities.
    5. S R Engineering College, Warangal under Private or Self-Financed Colleges.
    6. Avinashilingam Institute For Home Science And Higher Education For Women, Tamil Nadu got the first rank in Higher Educational Institutions Exclusively for Women.

Ambedkar Social Innovation & Incubation Mission (ASIIM) 

  • Launched by:
    • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Launched under:
    • Venture Capital Fund for SCs.
  • Objectives:
    • To promote entrepreneurship among the SC Youth with special preference to Divyangs;
    • To support (1,000) innovative ideas till 2024 through a synergetic work with the Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) set up by the Department of Science and Technology;
    • To support, promote, hand-hold the start-up ideas till they reach the commercial stage by providing liberal equity support; and
    • To incentivise students with an innovative mindset to take to entrepreneurship with confidence.
  • Benefits:
    • 1,000 SC youth would be identified in the next 4 years with start-up ideas through the Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in various higher educational institutions.
    • They will be funded @ Rs. 30 lakhs in 3 years as equity funding so that they can translate their start-up ideas into commercial ventures.
    • Successful ventures would further qualify for venture funding of up to Rs. 5 Crore from the Venture Capital Fund for SCs.
  • Who is eligible for support under ASIIM?
    • Youth who have been identified by the TBIs are being promoted by the Department of Science & Technology.
    • Youth who are identified for incubation by reputed private TBIs.
    • Students who have been awarded under the Smart India Hackathon or Smart India Hardware Hackathon being conducted by the Ministry of Education.
    • Innovative ideas focusing on the socio-economic development of the society identified in the TBIs.
    • Start-ups nominated and supported by corporates through CSR funds.
  • What is Venture Capital Fund for SCs (VCF-SC)?
    • Launched by the Ministry of Social Justice in 2014-15 with a view of developing entrepreneurship amongst the SC/Divyang youth and to enable them to become 'job-givers’.
    • The objective of this fund is to provide concessional finance to the entities of the SC entrepreneurs.

Code on Social Security, 2019

  • Context:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, in its report on Code on Social Security, 2019, has submitted its report to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
    • The parliamentary committee, headed by senior BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, had examined the code referred to it by the Lok Sabha last December.
  • Key recommendations:
    1. The time limit for payment of gratuity to an employee after termination of employment should be reduced from the current five years of continuous service to just one year.
    2. The provision of gratuity should be extended to all kinds of employees, including contract labourers, seasonal workers, piece-rate workers, fixed-term employees, and daily/monthly wage workers.
    3. “Inter-state migrant workers” should be mentioned as a separate category in the Code.
    4. A welfare fund should be created exclusively for them. The fund should be financed proportionately by the sending states, the receiving states, the contractors, the principal employers, and the registered migrant workers.
    5. The funds so created should exclusively be used for workers/employees not covered under other welfare funds.
    6. Create a central online portal and database of registered establishments as well as migrant workers, including building and other construction staff.
    7. Registration: It should be made mandatory for all establishments, including agricultural, nonagricultural, contract as well as self-employed workers to register under one body, instead of multiple organisations. This body “should remain responsible for the provision of social security for all types of workers in the country”.
    8. An enabling mechanism should be included in the code itself for portability of the Building and Construction Workers Welfare Fund among states so money due to beneficiaries can be paid in any state irrespective of where the cess has been collected.
  • Background:
    • The Code on Social Security, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha in December last year but several concerns were raised over some of its key provisions which led to the Bill being sent to the Standing Committee.
    • The Code replaces nine laws related to social security and is focused on to amendment and consolidate the laws relating to the social security of the employees’ and related issues.
  • Prelims Facts:
    • The Building and Construction Workers Welfare Fund are raised by levying a cess of 1 percent of the construction cost.
    • It is part of the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, 1996, which regulates the employment and working conditions of construction workers and also provides for their safety and welfare measures.

Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP) and VPRP

  • Context:
    • With the current Covid-19 situation, DAY-NRLM has designed an online training program to train all State Missions across the country on Village Poverty Reduction Plans (VPRP), in partnership with Kudumbashree (National Resource Organisation), National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR), Hyderabad and Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
  • What are the Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP)?
    • GPDP is conducted from 2nd October to 31st December, every year across the country, under the People’s Plan Campaign (PPC).
    • Local bodies, across the country, are expected to prepare context-specific, need-based GPDP.
    • It brings together both the citizens and their elected representatives in the decentralized planning processes.
  • What are Village Poverty Reduction Plans (VPRP)?
    • PPC guidelines and the joint advisory issued by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Rural Development has mandated Self Help Groups and their federations under Deendayal Antyodaya YojanaNational Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) to participate in the annual GPDP planning process and prepare the Village Poverty Reduction Plan (VPRP).
    • VPRP is a comprehensive demand plan which needs to be integrated with the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP).
    • The VPRP is presented in the Gram Sabha meetings from Oct. to Dec. every year.
  • Demands under VPRP are categorized into five major components:
    1. Social inclusion: plan for inclusion of vulnerable people/households into SHGs under NRLM
    2. Entitlement: demand for various schemes such as MGNREGS, SBM, NSAP, PMAY, Ujjwala, Ration card, etc.
    3. Livelihoods: specific demand for enhancing livelihood through developing agriculture, animal husbandry, production and service enterprises and skilled training for placement, etc.
    4. Public Goods and Services: demand for necessary basic infrastructure, for the renovation of the existing infrastructure, and for better service delivery
    5. Resource Development: demand for protection and development of natural resources like land, water, forest, and other locally available resources
    6. Social Development: plans prepared for addressing specific social development issues of a village under the low cost no cost component of GPDP.
  • About:
    • Article 243G of the Constitution intended to empower the Gram Panchayats (GPs) by enabling the State Governments to devolve powers and authority in respect of all 29 Subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule for local planning and implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice.

Lancet Citizens Commission

  • Context:
    • Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System initiative has been launched.
  • About:
    • It is a first of its kind participatory, countrywide initiative in collaboration with the world’s leading health journal The Lancet and the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University.
  • Objective:
    • To develop a citizens’ roadmap to achieving universal health coverage(UHC) in India over a period of ten years.
  • Principles The Commission will be guided by four principles:
    1. UHC covers all health concerns;
    2. Prevention and long-term care are key.
    3. The concern is financial protection for all health costs and
    4. Aspiring for a health system that can be accessed by all who enjoy the same quality.

Census-2022

  • Context:
    • The Government of India is likely to postpone the 2021 census to 2022, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the country.
  • About Upcoming Census 2022:
    • The 2021 Census of India, also the 16th Indian Census, will be taken in 2021.
  • What's new in Census 2021: 
    • For the first time in the 140 year history of the census in India, data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators.
    • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, while Census 2011 was in 16 of the 22 scheduled languages declared at that time.
    • The latest Census (as per the existing plan) will not collect caste data. While the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was conducted alongside Census 2011, that is yet to be released.
    • The option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
  • What is Census?
    • Definition:
      • A population Census is that the process of collecting, compiling, analyzing, and disseminating demographic, social, cultural, and economic data concerning all persons within the country, at a specific time in ten years intervals.
    • Historical Background:
      • The earliest literature 'Rig-Veda' reveals that some kind of population count was maintained during 800-600 BC in India.
      • The celebrated 'Arthashastr' by 'Kautilya' written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
      • It contained a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses.
      • During the regime of the Mughal king Akbar, the administrative report 'Ain-e-Akbari' included comprehensive data pertaining to population, industry, wealth, and many other characteristics.
      • A systematic and modern population census, in its present form, was conducted non synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country.
      • This effort culminating in 1872 has been popularly labeled as the first population census of India However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881.
      • Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
    • How is the census conducted?
      • The primary tool of census operations is the questionnaire that is developed over the years, taking into account the changing needs of the country.
      • It is a list of questions that help the government collect all the necessary details required about citizens.
      • The name of a person, relationship to head, sex, date of birth and age, current marital status, religion, mother tongue, literacy status are some of the fundamental questions one can find in almost all census questionnaires. 
    • What is the Census Act? 
      • The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide for the scheme of conducting population census with the duties and responsibilities of census officers.
      • The Government of India decided in May 1949 to initiate steps for developing a systematic collection of statistics on the size of the population, its growth, etc., and established an organization in the Ministry of Home Affairs under Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India. 
      • This organization is responsible for generating data on population statistics including vital statistics and census. 

UN Population Award

  • Context:
    • Recently, HelpAge India has been presented the UN Population Award for 2020 in the institutional category.
  • About UN Population Award:
    • It was established by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1981.
    • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as its secretariat.
      • Objective: The award honours an individual and/or institution in recognition of outstanding contributions to population and reproductive health questions and to their solutions.
      • Committee: The Committee for the United Nations Population Award is composed of 10 UN Member States with United Nations Secretary-General and UNFPA Executive Director serving as ex-officio members.
      • Award: It consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a monetary prize.
  • HelpAge India:
    • It is a leading charity in India working with and for disadvantaged elderly for nearly 4 decades.
    • It was set up in 1978 and is registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860.
    • For the first time in the history of the UN Population Award, the honour is being conferred on an Indian institution.
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):
    • It is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
    • It aims to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
    • Headquarters is in New York, United States.
    • A report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the State of World Population Report.

What is CBID? 

  • CBID is an approach that brings a change in the lives of people with disabilities at the community level, working with and through local groups and institutions. 
  • CBID addresses challenges experienced by people with disabilities, their families, and communities in practical ways. For example, it offers opportunities to join community-based self-help groups and livelihood activities. 
  • CBID program can include health, education, livelihood, social, and empowerment activities, working closely with different stakeholders. 

Project Ladakh Ignited Minds

  • Context:
    • To provide better educational opportunities for Ladakhi students, the Indian Army has initiated the project Ladakh Ignited Minds: A Centre of Excellence and Wellness.
  • About the Project:
    • The project is aimed at providing better training facilities to disadvantaged Ladakhi students to give them the opportunity to study in niche educational institutes.
  • Implementation:
    • Fire and Fury Corps of Indian Army with the support of HPCL and execution agency NIEDO will provide holistic training for Ladakhi youth.
    • In the first batch, comprising 20 girls, 45 students from Leh and Kargil districts, would get training for JEE and NEET entrance examinations.

Report on long working hours and their impact

  • Context: A study on the impact of long working hours on health was published.

More about the Report:

  • Released by: It is a report jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). 
  • In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398 000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 from heart disease.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%. 
  • Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard.
  • Age group: It showed that most victims (72%) were men and were middle-aged or older.
  • It also showed that people living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region (the region which includes China, Japan, and Australia) were the most affected. 
  • Overall, the study drawing on data from 194 countries said that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with a 35-40 hour working week.
  • The study covered the period 2000-2016, and so did not include the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the ILO:

  • The ILO is a United Nations (U.N.) agency founded in October 1919 under the League of Nations. 
  • Goal: The goal of the ILO is to advance social and economic justice by setting international labor standards. 
  • The standards upheld by the ILO are broadly intended to ensure accessible, productive, and sustainable work worldwide in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and dignity.
  • Members: The ILO has 187 member states and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Is RTE enforceable against individuals?

  • Context:
    • Most fundamental rights are enforceable against the state, not against private individuals.
    • Certain rights, however, are horizontally enforceable too, that is, they can be enforced against individuals.
    • The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act or RTE falls in the latter category.
    • The right to education was initially mentioned in Article 45 as a part of the Directive Principles.
  • Evolution of Article 21A
    • The Supreme Court in 1992 held in Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka that the right to education was a part of the right to life recognised in Article 21.
    • The next year, the court in Unnikrishnan JP v. State of Andhra Pradesh held that the state was duty-bound to provide education to children up to the age of 14 within its economic capacity.
    • The court also acknowledged that private educational institutions, including minority institutions, would have to play a role alongside government schools.
    • The right to education was finally given the status of a fundamental right by the 86th constitutional amendment in the year 2002 by the addition of Article 21A in the Constitution.
    • The Supreme Court held in P. A. Inamdar case that there shall be no reservation in private institutions and that minority and non-minority institutions would not be treated differently.
  • Impact of 93rd amendment
    • In 2005, the Constitution was amended by the 93rd amendment to include Clause(5) to Article 15 which dealt with the fundamental right against discrimination.
    • The clause permitted the state to provide for the advancement of “backward” classes by ensuring their admission in institutions, including private institutions.
    • The clause, however, excluded both aided and unaided minority educational institutions thus overruling the Supreme Court’s judgment in the P.A. Inamdar case.
  • Discrimination in RTE
    • When the RTE Act was subsequently enacted in 2009, it did not directly discriminate between students studying in minority and non-minority institutions.
    • Subsequently, the provision of 25 percent reservation in private institutions was however challenged in Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan v. Union of India where the court upheld the validity of the legislation exempting only unaided minority schools from its purview.
    • In response to the judgment, the RTE Act was amended in 2012 to mention that its provisions were subject to Articles 29 and 30 which protect the administrative rights of minority educational institutions.
    • So, the onus on private unaided schools was much higher than that on government schools, while even aided minority schools were exempt.
    • But the constitutional provision enabling the RTE Act, that is, Article 21, does not make any discrimination between minority and non-minority institutions.
  • Issues
    • The above provisions of RTE made it violative of Article 14 and also economically unviable for many private schools.
    • Not only has RTE unreasonably differentiated between minority and non-minority schools without any explicable basis, but there is also no rational nexus between the object of universal education sought to be achieved by this act and the step of excluding minority schools from its purview.
    • Given the doctrine of harmonious construction of fundamental rights, it is unclear why the court granted complete immunity to minority institutions when several provisions of RTE would not interfere with their administrative rights.
    • RTE has provisions such as prevention of physical/mental cruelty towards students as well as quality checks on pedagogical and teacher standards which children studying in minority institutions should not be deprived of and to that extent be discriminated against.
  • Way forward
    • The Kerala High Court held in Sobha George v. State of Kerala that Section 16 of RTE, which forbids non-promotion till the completion of elementary education, will be applicable to minority schools as well. 
    • The bench said that the courts must examine whether provisions such as Section 16 of RTE are statutory rights or fundamental rights expressed in a statutory form.
    • If the latter, then the Pramati case judgement will not be fully available to minority institutions.
    • The Supreme Court should take inspiration from the prudent decision delivered by the Kerala High Court and overrule its own judgment delivered in the Pramati Educational Society.
  • Conclusion
    • RTE as legislation may be well-intentioned, but the time has come to relook at the discriminatory nature of RTE against private non-minority institutions, and to that extent, undo the damage done by 93rd Amendment and the subsequent SC judgments.

Religious Freedom Report

  • Context:
    • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan commission, has released its 2021 annual report.
  • Highlights of the report:
    • The report designated 14 countries as “countries of particular concern (CPCs)” as “their governments are engaged in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” This includes India.
  • Observations made about religious freedom in India by USCIRF:
    • This year, USCIRF said that religious freedom conditions in India “continued their negative trajectory”.
    • The government promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
    • It particularly noted the passage of the “religiously discriminatory” Citizenship Amendment Act.
    • The report indicated that there was seeming police complicity in the Delhi riots.
    • Further, the report alleged that “government action including the acquittal of all individuals accused of demolishing the Babri Masjid mosque—as well as government inaction to address religious violence contributed to a culture of impunity for those promulgating hate and violence toward religious minorities.
  • Recommendations made by USCIRF:
    • The administration should impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for ‘severe violations of religious freedom’.
    • It should promote inter-faith dialogue and the rights of all communities at bilateral and multilateral forums “such as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral [the Quad].”
    • Raise issues in the U.S. – India bilateral space, such as by hosting hearings, writing letters, and constituting Congressional delegations.
  • Implications:
    • USCIRF recommendations are non-binding and the Trump administration had rejected the USCIRF recommendation to designate India a CPC last year when it released its own determinations in December.

Regulation of Inter-Faith Marriage

  • Context:
    • Madhya Pradesh Cabinet has given its nod to an ordinance on the Bill.
    • The proposed law is called the Madhya Pradesh Dharmik Swatantrata (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2020.
  • Key Provisions:
    • Seeks to regulate inter-faith marriages in the state.
    • Exempts reconversion to parental religion from its purview.
    • Jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of ₹1 lakh for “conversion through marriage or other forcible means”.
    • The bill seeks to prohibit religious conversions or an attempt of conversion by means of misrepresentation, allurement, threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage, and any other fraudulent means.
    • The conspiracy and (the act of) abetting a person for conversion has also been prohibited.
    • Forceful conversions and marriages will be a cognizable offence and be non-bailable.
  • Issues and concerns:
    • States are opting for laws on freedom of religion for marriage (‘love jihad’).
    • The Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was notified by Uttar Pradesh last month.
    • Haryana and Karnataka announced intentions to enact such laws.
    • This has made the topic debatable.
  • Constitutional Basis of Religion
    • The right to freedom of faith is not a conferred right but a natural entitlement of every human being. In fact, the law does not assign it but it asserts, protect and insurers its entitlement.
    • Indian Society has nourished and nurtured almost all the established religions of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. from time immemorial.
      • Article 25 (1) states: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
      • Article 25 (2) says: Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law-
        • regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
        • providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub-clause;
          • of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.
  • Concerns:
    • The law has come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.
    • They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
    • Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of the religion of one’s choice including not following any religion, are also guaranteed.
  • Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:
    • The Apex Court of India in its several judgements has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
    • The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.

Special Marriage Act

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Allahabad High Court has struck down the provisions under Section 5 of the Special Marriage Act that required parties to give a 30-day mandatory public notice of their intention to marry.

  • Key Points
    • Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954:
      • The Special Marriage Act is central legislation made to validate and register interreligious and inter-caste marriages in India.
      • The original Special Marriage Act was enacted in 1872. It was moved by an eminent jurist and Legislative Council member named Henry Maine.
      • It was enacted following a campaign launched in 1860 by Brahmo Samaj, especially Keshab Chandra Sen, for simpler marriage ceremonies.
      • But it required that two people of different faiths who wish to get married must renounce their respective religions.
      • Its requirement of renouncing one’s religion was not compatible with modern ideas of liberalism, individualism, and the autonomy of the individual. So the 1954 law replaced this 1872 Act.
      • The new Act allows two individuals to solemnize their marriage through a civil contract.
      • No religious formalities are needed to be carried out under the Act.
  • Provisions of the Special Marriage Act:
    • Section 4:
      • There are certain conditions laid down in Section 4 of the Act:
      • It says that neither of the parties should have a spouse living.
      • Both the parties should be capable of giving consent; should be sane at the time of marriage.
      • The parties shall not be within the prohibited degree of relations as prescribed under their law.
      • While considering the age, the male must be at least 21 and the female be 18 at least.
    • Section 5 and 6:
      • Under these sections, the parties wishing to marry are supposed to give a notice for their marriage to the Marriage Officer in an area where one of the spouses has been living for the last 30 days. Then, the marriage officer publishes the notice of marriage in his office.
      • Anyone having any objection to the marriage can file against it within a period of 30 days. If any such objection against the marriage is sustained by the marriage officer, the marriage can be rejected.
  • Details of the verdict
    • The provision for mandatory publication of the notice, derived through “simplistic reading” of the particular law, “would invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned”.
    • The court also noted that despite the secular law for marriage, a majority of marriages in the country happen as per religious customs. It said that when marriages under personal law do not require a notice or invitation for objections, such a requirement is obsolete in secular law and cannot be forced on a couple.
    • Publishing marriage details made optional: The court made it optional for the parties to the intended marriage to make a request in writing to the Marriage Officer to publish or not to publish a notice under Section 5 and 6 of the Act of 1954.
    • Directives for Marriage officer: In case the parties do not make such a request for publication of notice in writing, the Marriage Officer shall not publish any such notice or entertain objections to the intended marriage and proceed with the solemnization of the marriage. However, in case the officer has any doubt, he could ask for appropriate details/proof as per the facts of the case.
  • Basis of Judgement is progressive rulings by the Supreme Court:
    • The aadhaar case (2017) made the right to privacy a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
    • Hadiya Marriage Case (2018) held that the right to choose a partner is a fundamental right.
    • Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India case (2018) in which the court decriminalised homosexuality striking down Section 377 of IPC.
  • Benefits of the verdict
    • It would decrease the cases of conversion for marriage, as the delay under the special marriage Act 1954 was forcing many couples to marry by converting.
    • It shall remove hindrances to inter-faith and inter-caste marriages, and thus could promote ideals of secularism and egalitarianism.
    • It shall provide relief to interfaith couples from being targeted by vigilante groups.
  • Issue related to the verdict:
    • Doing away with the public notification of the marriage could increase the cases of cheating, for example, cases of duping by a married spouse.
    • It can facilitate anti-social activities such as forceful conversion.
  • Analysis of the Special Marriage Act:
    • 1872 Act allows the solemnisation of marriages between any two individuals without religious customs, rituals, or ceremonial requirements.
    • The 1954 Act critically creates provisions for the marriage of interfaith couples without religious conversions — a requirement for marriages under personal laws such as the Hindu or the Muslim marriage acts.
    • There exist some critical fundamental differences between civil marriages under the Special Marriage Act when compared to marriages under personal laws. These provisions are most problematic for couples who wish to marry against the wishes of their families.
    • So, those going for an inter¬faith marriage, as well as others, could register under the SMA. The effect of the SMA is that once your marriage is registered under it, your religion’s personal laws won’t apply.
    • Marriage under the Special Marriage Act requires an extra witness – three, instead of two in the case of marriage registration under personal laws. This extra responsibility might make one think twice before agreeing to be a witness, adding an extra layer of complexity in the overall process.
    • Despite these issues, couples who choose to use the Special Marriage Act find that there is a complete lack of transparency around the process. A lack of this can result in corruption and potential harassment by middlemen, especially in the case of interfaith couples.
  • Intersection Of Special Marriage Act And ‘Love Jihad’:
    • The Uttar Pradesh government cleared a law against forceful religious conversions. The law is now being used to target consenting interfaith couples, including those whose parents’ agree to the marriage.
    • Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are also contemplating laws on ‘Love Jihad’ or ‘anti-conversion', which use the garb of forced conversions to target inter-faith marriages and require individuals to take special permissions if they wish to convert their religion in order to marry under personal laws.
    • Contrary to the premise of the Special Marriage Act that accepts the existence of interfaith relationships, the current ‘Love Jihad’ laws create scenarios that suggest that every case of inter-faith marriage is actually a case of forced conversion.
  • Procedure mentioned:
    • The SMA prescribes an elaborate procedure to get the marriage registered:
      1. One of the parties to the marriage has to give notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.
      2. Such notice is then entered in the marriage notice book and the marriage officer publishes a notice of marriage at some conspicuous place in his office.
      3. The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number, etc.
      4. Anybody can then raise objections to the marriage on various grounds provided under the Act. If no objection is raised within the 30 day period, then the marriage can be solemnized. If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.

Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP)

  • Context:
    • Launched by the Haryana government.
  • Key features:
    • PPP will provide a unique identity to the complete family and it would have the name of the head of the family on top. The name of a family member will be added to the ‘Parivar Pehchan Patra’ right after his birth and after the marriage of a girl, her name will be transferred to the ‘Parivar Pehchan Patra’ of her in-laws.
  • Significance:
    • PPP will enable the citizens to get the benefits of various central and state government schemes at their doorstep in a fair and transparent manner.
  •  

POCSO Act

  • Context:
    • The Bombay High Court has acquitted a man of sexual assault charges under the POCSO Act for groping a child; instead convicted him under the IPC for a lesser offence.
    • Besides drawing criticism for its restricted interpretation of the offence, the ruling highlights the concept of mandatory minimum sentencing in legislation, including POCSO.
  • What is the case about?
    • The convict was accused of luring the 12-year old prosecutrix to his house on the pretext of giving her guava, and pressing her breast, and attempting to remove her salwar.
    • The sessions court had convicted the 39-year-old Bandu Ragde under Section 8 of the POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.
    • Section 8 prescribes the punishment for the offence of sexual assault defined in Section 7 of the Act.
    • It sentenced him to three years in jail.
    • The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court reversed the decision of the sessions court.
    • The High Court acquitted the man of sexual assault charges under the POCSO Act.
    • The allegation was said to be not serious enough for the greater punishment prescribed under the law.
    • It upheld the conviction under sections that carry a lesser minimum sentence of one year under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Why was he acquitted of charges under the POCSO Act?
    • The offence under POCSO carried a higher punishment.
    • So the court reasoned that a conviction under it would require a higher standard of proof and allegations that were more serious.
  • Section 7 of the Act says –
    • Whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person or does any other act with sexual intent…
    • The court said that since the convict groped the prosecutrix ‘over her clothes’, this indirect contact would not constitute sexual assault.
  • What is the mandatory minimum sentence?
    • Section 8 of the POCSO Act carries a sentence of rigorous imprisonment of 3 to 5 years.
    • However, imposing the minimum sentence is mandatory.
    • Minimum sentences have been prescribed for all sexual offences under the POCSO Act barring the offence of sexual harassment.
    • If a statute has prescribed a minimum sentence, courts do not have the discretion to pass lighter sentences.
    • This is irrespective of any specific circumstances that the case or the convict might present.
  • What is the need for a mandatory minimum sentence?
    • A mandatory sentence is prescribed to underline the seriousness of the offence.
    • It is often claimed to act as a deterrent to crime.
    • In 2013, criminal law reforms introduced in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang rape prescribed mandatory minimum sentences.
    • It applied for criminal use of force and outraging the modesty of a woman, among other charges.
    • Mandatory minimum sentences are also prescribed in some cases to remove the scope for arbitrariness by judges using their discretion.
  • What are the concerns with mandatory sentencing?
    • Mandatory sentencing regimes are put in place to remove judicial discretion.
    • But it is felt that the discretion is merely shifted within the system to the police, and is not removed.
    • Studies have shown that mandatory sentencing in-laws lead to fewer convictions.
    • When judges perceive that the punishment for the offence is harsh, they might prefer to acquit the accused instead.

POCSO Act weakening

  • Context:
    • In a recent judgment, Section 7 of the POCSO Act was interpreted in a controversial way by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. 
  • What was the interpretation?
    • The recent judgment of a single-judge bench of the Bombay High Court (at Nagpur) held that it is necessary for the accused to have a “skin-to-skin” contact with the survivor in order to bring the offense within the purview of Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Assault (POCSO) Act, which stipulates a minimum punishment of three years. 
    • Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which deals with outraging modesty of women and which provides for a lesser sentence, was held to be applicable in such cases.
    • This ruling raises several concerns.
    • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had asked the Maharashtra government to appeal this decision in the Supreme Court.
    • The Supreme Court has currently stayed the acquittal of the accused under this judgment.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

  • It was enacted to protect the children from offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.
  • It defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as a matter of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of the child.
  • It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
  • It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
  • It also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process.
  • The Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offense is reported.
  • It was amended in August 2019 to provide more stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for sexual crimes against children.

Software to track Child Pornography

  • Context:
    • Recently, the cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police acquired software from Interpol that would help them track down child pornography uploaded online.
  • What is Software to track Child Pornography?
    • Interpol has software that uses various mechanisms like detecting nudity in images, recognising age of the person through facial structures, among other filters.
    • It also has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes.
    • The software ‘crawler’ scans the internet looking for such images, videos and text.
  • TRACE team to counter child pornography:
    • The Maharashtra Cyber Cell has set up the Tactical Response Against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) team.
    • The team was comprised of 12 officers who went for training to the South Asian wing of Interpol.
    • The TRACE unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger campaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.

Gujarat's two-child Policy

  • Context:
    • Three candidates from the Municipal Corporations of Vadodara and Rajkot were disqualified under the two-child policy in place in the state for candidates. The nominations were challenged because each candidate had three children.
  • Background:
    • In 2005, the Gujarat government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act to “prevent a person having more than two children to be a member of panchayat or the councilor of a municipality or municipal corporation”.
    • The amendment also added the clause to the other Acts governing elections to local administrative bodies such as the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, and the Gujarat Panchayats Act.
    • The rationale behind the two-child policy was said to be the need to “order and stabilize” the growing population of the count. 
  • Criticisms related to two-child policy:
    • India is a country with a booming technology industry, one that relies on young people.
    • There is fear that, by restricting the number of children that can be born, there will not be enough educated young people in the next generation to carry on India’s technological revolution.
    • Critics also argue that the population growth of India will slow down naturally as the country grows richer and becomes more educated.
    • There are already well-documented problems with China’s one-child policy, namely the gender imbalance resulting from a strong preference for boys and millions of undocumented children who were born to parents that already had their one child.
    • These problems risk being replicated in India with the implementation of their two-child policy.
    • By interfering with the birth rate, India faces a future with severe negative population growth, a serious problem that most developed countries are trying to reverse.
    • With negative population growth, the number of old people receiving social services is larger than the young tax base that is paying for the social services.
    • The law related may also be anti-women. Human rights activists argue that not only does the law discriminate against women's right to birth (through abortion or infanticide of female fetuses and babies), but divorce and familial abandonment are at risk of increasing if a man with a large family wants to run for political office.
    • A legal restriction to two children could force couples to go for sex-selective abortions as there are only two ‘attempts’.
    • A significant proportion of such women, especially those from lower socio-economic strata, would be forced to go for unsafe abortions because of issues of access and affordability.
    • Besides being inhumane, this is bound to create gender imbalances.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

  • Context: ‘Child marriages may go unnoticed amid lockdown's weddings may be restricted to houses due to norms according to activists.

More about the News:

  • As the pandemic took a grip of the world and India went into lockdown, child rights activists were alarmed to see a slew of child marriages being reported in Karnataka. 
  • Now, with another lockdown in place and weddings being restricted to houses because of tough guidelines, there are fears of child marriages going unnoticed. 

More about The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006:

  • The legislation aims to discourage child marriages by making such acts illegal and placing specific authorities in charge of child marriage prevention and prohibition.
  • Age Limit: An individual who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age, is referred to as a “Child” under the Act.
  • A marriage in which one of the contracting parties is a minor is referred to as a “child marriage.”
  • Minor: An individual who has not attained his or her majority under the provisions of the Majority Act of 1875 is referred to as a “minor.” According to the Majority Act of 1875, every person residing in India reaches the age of majority when he or she reaches the age of eighteen.
  • Punishment: Child marriage is a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a fine of up to Rs.1 lakh, or both. The Act's offenses are both cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Whoever performs, executes, directs, or abets any child marriage is subject to the law's penalties.

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

  • Context: Adoption issues to the fore as COVID-19 leaves many orphaned.

More about CARA:

  • Statutory: The Ministry of Women and Child Development established the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) as a statutory body.
  • Role: It serves as a repository for Indian child adoptions and is responsible for overseeing and regulating both domestic and international adoptions. 
  • CARA is also mandated to frame regulations on adoption-related matters from time to time as per Section 68 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
  • Convention: In compliance with the provisions of the Hague Conventions on Inter-Country Adoptions, 1993, ratified by the Government of India in 2003, CARA has been named as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions.
  • Through its affiliated/recognized adoption agencies, CARA primarily deals with the adoption of orphaned, abandoned, and surrendered children

Hague convention:

  • The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that regulates the civil aspects of international child abduction.
  • It is a multilateral treaty that was established on December 1, 1983.
  • It is a treaty that guarantees the prompt return of a child who has been “abducted” from their “habitual residence” country.
  • The Convention refers to children under the age of sixteen.

SAMVEDNA

  • Context: Government has initiated the SAMVEDNA scheme for children.

More about the scheme:

  • Authority: SAMVEDNA (Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance) is a toll-free helpline launched by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • Objective: To provide psychological first-aid and emotional support to children affected during the COVID-19 Pandemic, NCPCR is providing Tele-Counselling to children through SAMVEDNA Toll-Free Helpline launched to provide psycho-social mental support.
  • Expert members: Tele-counselling is being provided through a network of qualified Experts/Counselors/Psychologists trained under the guidance of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), on various psychosocial issues about COVID-19, using different Tele counseling strategies. 
  • SAMVEDNA tele-counseling service will address stress, anxiety, fear, and other issues among children. 
  • Categories: Tele counselling is provided to children under three categories:
    • Children who are in Quarantine/isolation/COVID Care centers. 
    • Children who have COVID positive parents or family members and near ones. 
    • Children who have lost their parents due to Covid-19 Pandemic.

About the NCPCR:

  • Law: NCPCR is a statutory body established by the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • Ministry: It works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Function: It examines and reviews the safeguards provided by or under any law for the time being in force for the protection of child rights and recommends measures for their effective implementation.
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights:
    • NCPCR is a statutory body set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
    • The commission works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
    • The Child is defined as a person in the age group of 0 to 18 years.
    • The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    • It also has responsibilities under the POCSO Act, 2012, and RTE Act, 2009.

Domestic Violence

  • Context:
    • The Domestic violence cases in Karnatka doubled according to NFHS.
    • The term domestic violence is used in many countries to refer to intimate partner violence, but it also encompasses child or elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household. It includes acts of physical violence, sexual violence, emotional (psychological) abuse and controlling behaviours.
  • Causes of Domestic Violence:
    • Gender Disparity:
      • It is one of the deep-rooted causes of violence against women that put women at risk of several forms of violence. Discriminatory gender norms and gender stereotypes result in structural inequality.
    • Psychiatric Morbidity:
      • Generally refers to the incidence of both physical and psychological deterioration as a result of a mental or psychological condition, generally caused due to the consumption of alcohol.
    • Sociodemographic factors:
      • Patriarchy has been cited as the main cause of violence against women.
    • Family factors:
      • Exposure to harsh physical discipline during childhood and witnessing the father beating the mother during childhood is a predictor of victimization and perpetration of violence against his wife in adulthood.
    • Other challenges:
      • The violence negatively impacts the mental health of women. This further increases with job losses and other economic pressures on women.
      • Any form of violence against women hinders their realization of fundamental rights under articles 14, 21, and 19 of the Indian constitution.
      • It also impacts child well being, female and child mortality, intergenerational social and psychological costs.

Saral Jeevan Bima

  • Context: 
    • It is a standard individual term life insurance product unveiled recently by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI).
    • This will help customers make an informed choice and reduce mis-selling.
    • All life insurers will have to offer the standard product by January 1, 2021.
  • Key features of the product- Saral Jeevan Bima:
    1. It will be a non-linked, non-participating individual pure risk premium life insurance plan providing for payment of the sum assured in a lump sum to the nominee in case of the insured’s death during the policy term.
    2. Eligibility: The plan will be for those in the 18-65 years age group.
    3. The policy term will be 5-40 years.
    4. It allows for a maximum maturity age of 70 years.
    5. Sum assured will be a minimum of ₹5 lakh and a maximum of ₹25 lakh. Insurers, however, have the option of offering a sum assured beyond ₹25 lakh with all other terms and conditions remaining the same.
    6. No restrictions: The product shall be offered to individuals without restrictions on gender, place of residence, travel, occupation, or educational qualifications.
    7. There will be only one exclusion under the policy – exclusion for suicide.
    8. There will be no maturity benefit. Neither will there be any surrender value nor can any loan be taken against the product.
    9. The policy will also offer optional Accident Benefit and Permanent Disability Rider.
  • Why this product?
    • Don't we already have enough insurance products in the market?
    • There are many term products in the market with varying terms and conditions. But, Customers who cannot devote adequate time and energy to make informed choices find it difficult to select the right product.
    • Therefore, It was felt necessary to introduce a standard, individual life insurance product with simple features and standard terms and conditions. Mandatory pure life insurance will also help in inclusion and insurance penetration in the country.

Digital divide

  • Context:
    • The digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. This technology can include telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet.
    • Digital inequality is evident between communities living in urban areas and those living in rural settlements; between socioeconomic groups; between less economically developed countries and more economically developed countries; between the educated and uneducated population.
  • Statewise Internet Usage:
    • Gendered data
      • A very high differential is also seen among the female and male population who have ever used the internet. In every state, it is seen that the percentage of male users exceeds the female ones.
      • The states and Union territories with the highest percentage of internet users among men are Goa (82.9 %), Lakshadweep (80.3 %) and Mizoram (79.7 %).
      • Also, states like Sikkim (76.7 %), Goa (73.7 %) and Mizoram (67.6 %) have the highest percentage of female internet users. The lowest internet usage among men is seen in Meghalaya (42.1 %), Assam (42.3 %) and Bihar (43.6 %).
      • In some states like Bihar, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there is almost double the number of male internet users than female ones. Among women, it is seen in Bihar (20.6 %), Andhra Pradesh (21 %) and Tripura (22.9 %).
    • Urban-Rural divide
      • Except for West Bengal, there is no other state which shows a lower percentage of urban male internet users compared to rural ones.
      • States like Goa, Kerala and Lakshadweep don’t show a huge variation in internet accessibility in the urban and rural areas.
      • But in every other state, there is an approximate difference of 10-15 % between the two regions, with urban areas staying ahead.

The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

  • Context:
    • New IT rules to regulate digital content, featuring a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework, have come into force.
    • On February 25, the Centre framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, which will come into effect from May 26.
  • Overview of the new rules:
    • It mandates a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country. This is necessary for the users of social media to raise their grievances against the misuse of social media.
    • Significant social media firms have to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.
    • A grievance officer: Social media platforms will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and dispose of it in 15 days.
    • Removal of content: If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women – about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc – social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made.
  • A monthly report:
    • They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.
    • There will be three levels of regulation for news publishers — self-regulation, a self-regulatory body, headed by a retired judge or an eminent person, and oversight from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, including codes of practices and a grievance committee.
  • What is a significant social media intermediary and benefits obtained under it?
    • Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users will be considered ‘significant social media intermediaries’, as per the new norms.
  • What happens in case of non-compliance?
    • Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp messenger could face a ban if they do not comply with the new Information Technology rules.
    • They also run the risk of losing their status as “intermediaries” and may become liable for criminal action if they do not comply with the revised regulations.
  • What are the Concerns being raised?
    • Various industry bodies have written to the government for up to a one-year compliance window, particularly in view of the pandemic.
    • Concerns have also been expressed over the potential unavailability of ‘safe harbour’ protection given to intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act, under the new rules.
    • They have requested a re-think over a clause in the new rules which can lead to the imposition of criminal liability upon the employees for non-compliance by intermediaries, asking for it to be dropped in the interest of ease of doing business.
    • Originator traceability mandate in end-to-end encrypted platforms could end up weakening the security architecture of the platform. This could render the entire citizenry susceptible to cyberattacks by hostile actors.
    • Additionally, the extant data retention mandate entailed risking the privacy of users in India and abroad in addition to security risks and technical complexities which requires a lot of time for development and testing before integration with the existing ecosystem.

National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation 

  • Context:
    • NBCFDC and Apollo Medskills signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently for deliverance of Vaccine Administration Training to Nurses, Pharmacists belonging to the Other Backward Classes Communities and Economically Backward Classes persons using the co-funding of NBCFDC.
  • About:
    • It is a Govt. of India Undertaking under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
    • NBCFDC was incorporated under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 in 1992 (now section 8 of Companies Act 2013) as a Company, not for profit.
  • Objective:
    • It was incorporated with an objective to promote economic and developmental activities for the benefit of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and to assist the poorer section of these classes in skill development and self-employment ventures.
  • Functions:
    • NBCFDC provides financial assistance through State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs) nominated by the State Governments/UTs and Banks (RRBs & PSBs).
    • NBCFDC also provides Micro Financing through SCAs/ Self Help Groups (SHGs).
    • It additionally facilitates skill development of poor persons belonging to OBCs, persons of Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), De-notified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribe, Sr. Citizen, Beggars and Transgender.

Granting Minorities Status

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court issued a notice on a plea urging it to transfer to itself petitions pending before High Courts challenging the constitutional validity of Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, which empowers the Centre to declare a group as a minority.
  • What's the plea?
    • The plea is that the majority judgment of the Supreme Court in the 2002 T M A Pai case lays down that for the purposes of Article 30 that deals with the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, the religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered state-wise.
    • The plea has sought minority tag for Hindus in six states and two Union territories, where Upadhyay said their numbers have fallen according to the 2011 Census.
  • Rationale:
    • The Centre in the exercise of powers under Section 2(c) of NCM Act declaring only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians as a minority by way of a notification, groups like Hindus, Bahai’s and Jews had been deprived of legitimate rights, he contended.
    • “Hindus are the real minority in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur.
    • But their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily… because neither Centre nor respective states have notified them as a minority under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act.
    • Hence, Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights and protections guaranteed under Article 29-30,”.
    • According to the Census, Hindus are a minority in six states: Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, and in the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep.
    • Christians are in majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Nagaland and there is a significant Christian population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, but they are treated as a minority community.
    • Likewise, Sikhs are in majority in Punjab and there is a significant Sikh population in Delhi, Chandigarh, and Haryana, but they are treated as a minority community.
    • Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir and there is a significant representation of the community in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

National Commission for Minorities

  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Resolution 1978 envisaged the idea of setting up a National Commission for Minorities.
  • Until 1992, the Minorities Commission was a non-statutory body.
  • In 1984, the Minorities Commission was separated from MHA and was brought under the Ministry of Welfare.
  • Currently, the commission works under the Ministry of Minorities.
  • Linguistic Minorities do not come under the National Commission for Minorities’ Jurisdiction since the Ministry of Welfare Resolution 1988 was passed.
  • The first National Commission for Minorities was set up on 17th May 1993.

National Centre for Divyang Empowerment

  • Context:
    • The Minister of State for Home Affairs has inaugurated the National Centre for Divyang Empowerment(NCDE).
  • About:
    • NCDE was established by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
    • Objective: To skill, re-skill and rehabilitate Divyang warriors of the force suffering from a disability that occurred in the line of duty.
    • Located at Rangareddy, Telangana.
    • In order to empower the Divyangs, several market-driven expertise such as sports skills and computer skills will be imparted to Divyang Warriors. The initiative will enable them to serve the country despite their disabilities.
    • It also reskills them with vocational training and Information Technology courses to enable them to contribute to the organisation and safeguard their pride and dignity.
  • Programmes and Legislations for Divyangs in India:
    • Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016:
      • To improve the lives of the disabled population in the country.
      • The act increased the quantum of reservation of people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs.
      • The child between the age of 6 and 18 will have the right to free education.
      • The act set up separate national and state funds to create financial support to persons with disabilities.
    • The Deen Dayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme:
      • To provide services to persons with disabilities.
      • The services include vocational training centres, special schools, community-based rehabilitation centres, etc.
    • National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities:
      • Under the scheme, 200 students with disabilities are provided with grants.
    • Accessible India Campaign:
      • To achieve universal access to enable persons with disabilities to live independently.
      • The campaign targets to enhance the transport system, build an environment that is feasible for the disabled population.

Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) Program

  • Context: A 6- month CBID Program was launched by the Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment. 

About the CBID Program:

  • Aim: The program aims to create a pool of grass-root rehabilitation workers at the community level who can work alongside ASHA and Anganwadi workers to handle cross-disability issues and facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. 
  • The program has been designed to provide competency-based knowledge and skills among these workers to enhance their ability to successfully discharging their duties. 
  • These workers will be called 'Divyang Mitra' i.e. friends of persons with disabilities.
  • The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) will roll out the course initially on a pilot basis for two batches in vernacular languages.
  • The National Board of Examination in Rehabilitation under the RCI will conduct examinations and award certificates to pass-out candidates.
  • This CBID course has been co-designed by RCI and the University of Melbourne as a joint initiative under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Australia and the Government of India.

‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs shortlisted 25 cities for the ‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’. This challenge is covered under the Smart Cities Mission.
  • About:
    • It is a three-year initiative hosted by the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, in collaboration with the Bernard van Leer Foundation and World Resources Institute(WRI) India.
    • All cities with a population above 5 lakhs are eligible to participate.
    • The challenge aims to enable Indian cities to focus on early childhood development (0-5- year-old children). The focus will incorporate into the planning and management of Indian cities.
  • Objectives 
    • Promote early childhood-centric approach among Indian cities.
    • Facilitate demonstration of early childhood-centric solutions.
    • Catalyze cities to the mainstream and implement solutions in the long term.
    • Develop a peer-to-peer network of nurturing cities.
    • Collect and analyze data related to young children and their caregivers.
    • The challenge is open to all Smart Cities, capitals of States and UTs, and other cities with a population above 5 lakhs.
  • Cities Selected under the challenge:
    • The following cities have been selected for the Challenge: Agartala, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Dharamshala, Erode, Hubballi, Hyderabad, Indore, Jabalpur, Kakinada, Kochi, Kohima, Kota, Nagpur, Rajkot, Ranchi, Rohtak, Rourkela, Salem, Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruppur, Ujjain, Vadodara, and Warangal.
  • Benefits to Selected Cities:
    • Cities will receive technical assistance and capacity building. It will be helpful to develop, pilot, and scale solutions that enhance the quality of life of young children.
    • Over time, the programme will enable cities to incorporate a focus on early childhood development into the planning and management of Indian cities.

Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana

  • Context:
    • Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) has decided that in cases where the employer has shown “Zero” contribution in respect of an employee for some months before exiting him from the system, the relief under ABVKY for such period of “Zero” contribution, shall also be allowed.
  • About the Scheme:
    • Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana is a welfare measure being implemented by the Employee's State Insurance (ESI) Corporation.
    • It offers cash compensation to insured persons when they are rendered unemployed.
    • Benefits: 
      • The scheme provides relief to the extent of 50% of the average per day earning during the previous four contribution periods (total earning during the four contribution period/730) to be paid up to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment once in the lifetime of the Insured Person.
    • Eligibility: 
      • Employees covered under Section 2(9) of the ESI Act 1948.
      • The Insured Person (IP) should have been rendered unemployed during the period the relief is claimed.
      • The Insured Person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years.
      • The Insured Person should have contributed not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods.
      • The contribution in respect of him should have been paid or payable by the employer.
      • The contingency of the unemployment should not have been as a result of any punishment for misconduct or superannuation or voluntary retirement.
      • Aadhar and Bank Account of the Insured Person should be linked with the insured person database.

Elderly abuse a growing concern in India shows LASI

  • Context:
    • At least 5% of India’s elderly population (aged 60 years and above) stated they experienced ill-treatment in 2020, according to Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI).
  • Key Findings:
    • The pervasiveness of the practice among the elderly was proportionately more in Bihar (12%), Karnataka (10%), West Bengal (8%), Uttar Pradesh (6%), Chandigarh (6%), and Chhattisgarh (6%.
    • Among the elderly who felt ill-treated, 77.3% complained of verbal/emotional ill-treatment that can harm their self-worth or emotional well-being.
      • Examples include name-calling, causing embarrassment, destroying property, or not letting them see friends and family. The emotional harm that may emerge from verbal or emotional abuse encompasses torture, sorrow, fear, perverse emotional discomfort, loss of personal pride or sovereignty.
    • Almost a fifth experienced physical ill-treatment (23.7%); this occurs when a senior is wound due to hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, burning, or other show of force.
    • Close to a quarter experienced economic exploitation (26.5%), which means misuse of an elderly person’s money, property, and assets. More than half experienced neglect.
  • What is elderly abuse? What are the reasons for it?
    • Abuse of the elderly is a growing international problem with several manifestations in different countries and cultures. It is a fundamental violation of human rights and leads to several health and emotional problems.
    • The abuse can be classified as physical, sexual, psychological, or financial.
    • The ill-treatment is relatively more frequent among elderly women and those living in rural areas, according to the report.
    • A lot of women lose support as they lose their partners to old age. This group of people generally has no income source or economic activity.

Initiatives by government

  • Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)
    • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is a nodal agency for the welfare of elderly people.
    • The main objective of the scheme is to improve the quality of life of older persons by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care, and entertainment opportunities, etc.
  • Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY)
    • This scheme is run by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
    • This is a central sector scheme funded by the Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund.
    • The fund was notified in the year 2016.
    • All unclaimed amounts from small savings accounts, PPF, and EPF are to be transferred to this fund.
    • Under the RVY scheme, aids and assistive living devices are provided to senior citizens belonging to the BPL category who suffer from age-related disabilities such as low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth, and locomotor disabilities.
    • The aids and assistive devices, viz walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers/crutches, tripods/quad pods, hearing aids, wheelchairs, artificial dentures, and spectacles are provided to eligible beneficiaries.
    • The scheme is being implemented by Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), which is a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)
    • The Ministry of Rural Development runs the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) that extends social assistance for poor households for the aged, widows, disabled, and in cases of death where the breadwinner has passed away.
    • Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided to a person of 60 years and above and belonging to a family living below the poverty line as per the criteria prescribed by the Government of India.
    • Central assistance of Rs 200 per month is provided to persons in the age group of 60-79 years and Rs 500 per month to persons of 80 years and above.
  • Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY)
    • This scheme is run by the Ministry of Finance.
    • The Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY) was first launched in 2003 and then relaunched in 2014.
    • Both are social security schemes for senior citizens intended to give an assured minimum pension on a guaranteed minimum return on the subscription amount.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana
    • The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PNVVY) was launched in May 2017 to provide social security during old age.
    • This is a simplified version of the VPBY and will be implemented by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India.
    • Under the scheme, on payment of an initial lump sum amount ranging from Rs 1,50,000 for a minimum pension of Rs 1000 per month to a maximum of Rs 7,50,000/- for a maximum pension of Rs 5,000 per month, subscribers will get an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum payable monthly/quarterly/half-yearly/annually.
    • The Centre will bear 75% of the total budget and the state government will contribute 25% of the budget, for activities up to the district level.
  • Vayoshreshtha Samman
    • Conferred as a National award, and given to eminent senior citizens & institutions under various categories for their contributions on International day of older persons on 1st October.

State-specific schemes:

  • Bihar: Bihar first state to launch universal old-age pension scheme
    • The Bihar Mukhyamantri Vridhajan Pension Yojana (MVPY) scheme provides financial assistance to senior citizens of the state. This funding is provided to make all senior citizens in the State independent in their old age
    • The scheme applies to all senior citizens, wherein a sum of Rs. 400 is provided to the beneficiaries as a pension. The scheme can be availed by all senior citizens irrespective of their caste, income, community, and religion.
  • Assam: Institutionalization of PRANAM commission to handle all cases filed by parents against children who are employees of the State government.

Centre’s meager pensions

  • Context:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development submitted its report to the Lok Sabha recently.
  • Highlights of the report:
    • The report suggests the Centre increase the “meager” pensions provided for poor senior citizens, widows, and disabled people.
    • Assistance under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) has been very low ranging from ₹200 to ₹500 per month under the different components of this Scheme.
    • It also highlighted disparities in the payment of wages and unemployment allowances under the flagship MGNREGA scheme.
  • About National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP):
    • The NSAP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Ministry of Rural Development. It came into effect from 15th August 1995.
    • It represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the DPSP in Article 41 of the Constitution (It directs the State to provide public assistance to its citizens in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want within the limit of its economic capacity and development).
    • It aims to provide financial assistance to the elderly, widows, and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions.
  • Coverage:
    • It currently covers more than three crore people who are below the poverty line (BPL), including about 80 lakh widows, 10 lakh disabled, and 2.2 crores elderly.
  • Presently NSAP comprises of five schemes, namely:
    1. Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS).
    2. Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS).
    3. Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS).
    4. National Family Benefit Scheme NFBS).
    5. Annapurna.

Tele-Law Programme (TLP)

Context: Justice Department commemorated the milestone of crossing 9 lakh beneficiaries under its Tele-Law Programme (TLP).

About TLP:

  • Tele-Law means the use of communications and information technology for the delivery of legal information and advice.
  • It initiates to connect citizens with lawyers through video conferencing facilities by the Para-Legal Volunteers stationed at identified 50,000 Common Service Centres (CSC).
  • It is a continuation of the Access to Justice Project for Marginalised Persons, which is being implemented by the Department of Law and Justice and the United Nation Development Programme since 2008.
  • Department of Justice in partnership with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and CSC e-Governance Service India Limited is implementing the programme since 2017.
  • Legal advice is made available to everyone under Tele-Law service. Advice is free of Cost to those who are eligible for free legal aid under Section 12 of the Legal Services  Authorities (LSA) Act, 1987 such as marginalized communities like SC/ ST/ OBC, persons with disabilities, women, senior citizens, etc.
  • It is operational in 633 districts in 34 States/UTs covering 50,000 CSCs.

Additional Information:

  • Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before the law and a legal system that promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. 
  • Article 38(1) avows that the State shall promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting the social order including justice.
  • In 1987, LSA Act was enacted by the Parliament and it came into force in 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society. 
  • NALSA has been constituted under the LSA Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society.

Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the act of Begging

Context: The government of India has formulated a scheme covering comprehensive measures for the welfare of beggars.

About Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the act of Begging:

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme that is part of Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise (SMILE) formulated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. 
  • The focus of the scheme is extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages, etc.
  • It will be implemented with the support of State/Union Territory (UT) Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), etc.
  • It provides for the use of the existing shelter homes available with the State/UT Governments and Urban local bodies for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of Begging.
  • The ministry has also initiated pilot projects in ten cities namely Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Indore, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Patna, and Ahmedabad.

About SMILE:

  • It is a new scheme after the merger of existing schemes for Beggars and Transgenders.
  • With a budgetary outlay of Rs 70 crores, it is intended to cover the welfare measures for both transgender persons and persons who are engaged in the act of begging with focus extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, etc with the support of State Governments/UTs/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, etc.
  • It is estimated that approximately 60,000 poorest persons would be benefited under this scheme for leading a life of dignity.

Beggary Laws In India:

  • Beggary laws in India are a relic of the old colonial legacy. For example, according to the Criminal Tribes Act (1871), indigenous peoples were deemed criminals by birth and herded into concentration camps, where families were separated and forced labour was the norm.
  • There is no central Act on beggary, however, many States and Union Territories have used certain sections of the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959, as the basis for their own laws.
  • Through these legislations, the governments try to maintain public order, addresses forced begging or “begging rackets”, prevent annoyance to tourists.
  • According to the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalizes begging, the provision not only criminalizes begging in Mumbai but also in various metropolitan cities such as Delhi.
  • However, the Delhi High Court in a landmark judgment has held the Act as unconstitutional in Delhi, on grounds that it violates Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution restoring the rights of persons who have no other means of sustenance but to seek alms. 
  • The court has acknowledged that the application of the anti-beggary act has largely been arbitrary, leading to the detention of the poor who may not be engaged in begging, but could be people who have “fallen through the socially created net” — they could be homeless, poor persons living with disabilities, transgender persons, migrant or sex workers.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

  • Context:
    • Bhopal gas tragedy survivors took part in a protest near the defunct Union Carbide factory on the 36th anniversary of the tragedy 
  • About:
    • In the tragedy around 3000 lives of innocent people were lost and thousands and thousands of people were physically impaired or affected in several forms. Life stocks were killed, injured and infected. Businesses were interrupted. The lives of people were affected.
    • The environment becomes polluted, ecology affected, flora and fauna got disturbed.
    • It was estimated that 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas leakage took place with some other toxic chemicals from the Union Carbide Factory. 
    • It is estimated that about 40 tonnes of gas and other chemicals leaked from the Union Carbide factory.
    • Methyl isocyanate is an extremely toxic gas and if its concentration in the air touches 21ppm (parts per million), it can cause death within minutes of inhaling the gas.
    • It is one of the worst chemical disasters globally and still continues to have its ill effects on the people of the affected areas.
    • After the tragedy, the government of India enacted a Public Liability Insurance Act (1991), making it mandatory for industries to get insurance the premium for this insurance would contribute to an Environment Relief Fund to provide compensation to victims of a Bhopal-like disaster.

14 new minor forest produce items included under the MSP scheme

  • Context:
    • Recently, 14 new minor forest produce items were included under the MSP scheme to provide fair prices to tribal gatherers.
  • Details:
    • The government has decided to include 14 new minor forest produce items under the mechanism for marketing minor forest produce through a minimum support price scheme to provide remunerative and fair prices to tribal gatherers of forest produces.
    • Newly included items are Tasar Cocoon, elephant apple dry, bamboo shoot, malkangani seed, and wild dry mushroom among others.
  • MSP for MFP Scheme
    • The Central government had introduced a minimum support price for a selected list of minor produce items through a mechanism for the marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support price and development of Value Chain of MFP Scheme in 2011.
    • The Union Cabinet, in 2013, approved a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the marketing of non-nationalized / non monopolized Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and development of a value chain for MFP through Minimum Support Price (MSP).
    • This was a measure towards social safety for MFP gatherers, who are primarily members of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) most of them in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.
    • Features:
      • Ensure that the tribal population gets a remunerative price for the produce they collect from the forest and provide alternative employment avenues to them.
      • Establish a system to ensure fair monetary returns for forest dweller’s efforts in the collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation, etc, while ensuring the sustainability of the resource base.
      • Get them a share of the revenue from the sales proceeds with costs deducted.
    • Coverage:
      • Earlier, the scheme was extended only to Scheduled Areas in eight states. Later expanded to all states and UTs.
    • Implementation:
      • The responsibility of purchasing MFP on MSP will be with State designated agencies.
      • To ascertain market price, services of market correspondents would be availed by the designated agencies particularly for major markets trading in MFP.
      • The scheme supports primary value addition as well as provides for supply chain infrastructure like cold storage, warehouses, etc.
      • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs will be the nodal Ministry for implementation and monitoring of the scheme.
      • The Minimum Support Price would be determined by the Ministry with the technical help of TRIFED.
    • Significance of the scheme:
      • The Minor Forest Produce (MFP), also known as Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP), is a major source of livelihood and provides essential food, nutrition, medicinal needs, and cash income to a large number of STs who live in and around forests.
      • An estimated 100 million forest dwellers depend on the Minor Forest Produce for food, shelter, medicines, cash income, etc.
      • However, MFP production is highly dispersed spatially because of the poor accessibility of these areas and the competitive market not have evolved.
      • Consequently, MFP gatherers who are mostly poor are unable to bargain for fair prices.
      • This package of intervention can help in organizing unstructured MFP markets.

Maharashtra modifies Forest Rights Act

  • Context:
    • Maharashtra government has issued a notification modifying the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.
    • The notification has been issued by the Governor using his powers under subparagraph (1) of paragraph 5 of Schedule V of the Constitution.
  • What are the modifications?
    • The changes will enable tribals and other traditional forest dwelling families to build houses in the neighbourhood forest areas.
  • Significance:
    • The decision is likely to provide a major relief to Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling families residing in the scheduled areas of the State.
    • The move aims to prevent the migration of forest-dwelling families outside their native villages and provide them housing areas by extending the village site into forest land in their neighbourhood.
  • What is the 5th schedule?
    • The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • Special Provisions for Fifth Schedule Areas:
    • The Governor of each State having Scheduled Areas (SA) shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the administration of Scheduled Areas in that State.
    • The Union Government shall have executive powers to give directions to the States as to the administration of the Scheduled Areas.
    • Para 4 of the Fifth Schedule provides for the establishment of a Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) in any State having Scheduled Areas.
  • Composition:
    • Consisting of not more than twenty members of whom, three-fourths shall be the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State.
    • If the number of representatives of the STs in the Legislative Assembly of the State is less than the number of seats in the TAC to be filled by such representatives, the remaining seats shall be filled by other members of those Tribes.
  • Functions:
    • The TAC shall advise on such matters pertaining to the welfare and the advancement of the STs in the State as may be referred to them by the Governor.
  • The Governor may make rules prescribing or regulating:
    • The number of members of the Council, the mode of their appointment, and the appointment of the Chairman of the Council and of the officers and servants thereof, the conduct of its meetings and its procedure in general.
    • The Governor may, by public notification, direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall or shall not apply to a SA or any part thereof in the State, subject to such exceptions and modifications, as specified.
    • The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in the State which is for the time being a SA. Such regulations may prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area; regulate the allotment of land to members of the STs in such area.
    • In making such regulations, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of Legislature of the State or any existing law after obtaining the assent of the President.

Jal Survekshan under Jal Jeevan Mission- Urban

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a Pilot Pey Jal Survekshan under Jal Jeevan Mission- Urban, JJM-U.
  • About:
    • It is a pilot Survekshan programme launched under Jal Jeevan Mission- Urban (JJM-U).
    • As part of the survey, data will also be collected on wastewater management and the condition of water bodies in the cities.
    • The mission will be monitored through a technology-based platform on which beneficiary responses will be monitored.
    • Initially, the survey is being launched as a pilot in ten cities namely, Agra, Badlapur, Bhubaneswar, Churu, Kochi, Madurai, Patiala, Rohtak, Surat, and Tumkur.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban)
    • The Jal Jeevan Mission-Urban aims to create universal coverage of water supply in all 4,378 statutory towns as well as sewage management in 500 AMRUT cities.
    • The scheme will be implemented first through the signing of MoUs between the Centre, states, and the urban local bodies.
    • The cities will then prepare city water balance plans, recycle/reuse plans, and aquifer management plans.
    • The state will vet and approve the development of the project with a baseline assessment.
  • Funding :
    • For Union Territories, there will be 100% central funding. For North Eastern and Hill States, central funding for projects will be 90%.
    • Central funding will be 50% for cities will less than 1 lakh population, one third for cities with 1 lakh to 10 lakh population, and 25% for cities with a million-plus population.

Jal Jeevan Mission

  • Context:
    • Jal Jeevan Mission adds 1 lakh water connections daily
  • About:
    • Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) envisages a supply of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by 2024.
    • JJM focuses on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
    • Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
    • The Mission is based on a community approach to water and includes extensive Information, Education and Communication as a key component of the mission.
    • JJM looks to create a Jan Andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority.
  • Funding Pattern:
    • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
    • The total allocation to the scheme is over ₹3 lakh crore.
  • Performance review: 
    • 32.3% coverage: As of now, 6.15 crore (32.3%) households of the country are getting tap water supply into their homes. Every year, more than 3 crore households are to be given tap water connections.
    • Extra funding: In 2020-21, 50% of 15th Finance Commission Grants to Rural Local Bodies, that is, ₹30,375 crore as a tied grant, will be utilised for water supply and sanitation.

Jal Shakti Ministry

  • The government has created a new ministry called ‘Jal Shakti’ after merging Ministries of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation along with Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry will encompass issues ranging from providing clean drinking water, international and inter-state water disputes, to the Namami Gange project aimed at cleaning Ganga and its tributaries, and sub-tributaries.
  • The ministry will roll out the government’s ambitious plan (‘Nal se Jal’ scheme under Jal Jeevan Plan) to provide piped water connection to every household in India by 2024.

 

Tribes

TRIBES IN NEWS BASICS

https://samajho.com/upsc/spr-2020-tribes-in-news/ 

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED)

  • Context:
    • The 33rd Foundation Day of TRIFED was observed on 6th August 2020.
  • About TRIFED:
    • It is the national level cooperative body mandated to bring about socio-economic development of tribals of the country by institutionalising the trade of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) & Surplus Agricultural Produce (SAP) collected/cultivated by them.
    • It was established in 1987.
    • It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • Important Functions:
    • It plays the dual role of both a market developer and a service provider, empowering the tribals with knowledge and tools to better their operations in a systematic, scientific manner and also assist them in developing their marketing approach.
    • It is involved actively in the capacity building of the tribal people through sensitization and the formation of Self Help Groups (SHGs).
    • The organisation also assists them in exploring and creating opportunities to market the developed products in national and international markets on a sustainable basis.
  • Recent initiatives by TRIFED:
    1. Launched Van Dhan Samajik Doori Jagrookta Abhiyaan, which is aimed at educating Tribals engaged in gathering NTFPs in forest areas, on the covid-19 response, key preventive behaviour like social distancing, home quarantine, hygiene tips.
    2. Initiated steps to provide the Van Dhan Self Help Groups (SHGs) with protective masks and hygiene products (Soaps, Disinfectants, etc.) that are necessary for carrying out their operations in a safe manner.
    3. Focus on revamping the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for MFP to enhance tribal livelihood in these testing times and to ensure that they get the benefit of an equitable market price for their produce.
    4. TRIFOOD Scheme is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Food Processing Industry, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, and TRIFED.
    5. Tech for Tribals, an initiative of TRIFED supported by the Ministry of MSME, aims at capacity building and imparting entrepreneurship skills to tribal forest produce gatherers enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana(PMVDY).

Namath Basai

  • It is the Kerala government’s unique programme of teaching tribal children in their mother tongue. Implemented by the Samagra Siksha Kerala (SSK).
  • The SSK has distributed some 50 laptops exclusively for Namath Basai. Pre-recorded classes are offered through a YouTube channel.
  • It has succeeded in retaining hundreds of tribal children in their online classes by making them feel at home with the language of instruction.

Trifood Project

  • Context:
    • Trifood Project of TRIFED launched in Raigad, Maharashtra, and Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh.
  • Details of the project:
    • Being implemented by TRIFED, Ministry of Tribal Affairs in association with the Ministry of Food Processing (MoFPI).
    • Aims to enhance the income of tribals through better utilization of and value addition to the MFPs collected by the tribal forest gatherers.
  • How?
    • To achieve this, as a start, two Minor Forest Produce (MFP) processing units will be set up.

Brus reject resettlement sites

  • Context:
    • Three organisations representing the Bru community displaced from Mizoram have rejected the sites proposed by the Joint Movement Committee (JMC), an umbrella group of non-Brus in Tripura, for their resettlement.
  • What’s the issue?
    • The JMC had on July 21 submitted a memorandum to the Tripura government specifying six places in Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions of North Tripura district for the resettlement of the Brus who fled ethnic violence in Mizoram since 1997. The JMC also proposed settling 500 families at most in these places. However, the organisations representing the Bru Community have opposed the involvement of non-Brus in JMC.
  • What’s the demand now?
    • Resettle some 6,500 families in clusters of at least 500 families at each of the sites of their choice —seven in North Tripura district and five in the adjoining Dhalai district.
    • The sites proposed by the JMC, they said, are unconnected by road and electricity and too far from hospitals, schools, and other facilities.
  • Who is Brus?
    • The Brus also referred to as the Reangs, are spread across the northeastern states of Tripura, Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram.
    • In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group. In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state.
    • A permanent solution to the crisis:
    • The centre, in January 2020, signed a historic pact for a permanent solution to Bru refugees’ issue.
    • The agreement was between the Union Government, Governments of Tripura, and Mizoram, and Bru-Reang representatives to end the 23-year old Bru-Reang refugee crisis.
  • Highlights of the agreement:
    • Under the agreement, the centre has announced a package of Rs. 600 crore under this agreement.
    • As per the agreement, the Bru tribes would be given land to reside in Tripura.
    • A fixed deposit of Rs. 4 lakh will be given to each family as an amount of government aid. They will be able to withdraw this amount after two years.
    • Each of the displaced families will be given 40×30 sq ft residential plots.
    • Apart from them, each family will be given Rs. 5,000 cash per month for two years.
    • The agreement highlights that each displaced family will also be given free ration for two years and aid of Rs. 1.5 lakh to build their houses.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

  • Context:
    • Over 10 individuals belonging to the Great Andamanese tribe, a notified Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), with a population of just 56 individuals tested positive for COVID.
    • The island administration has since ramped up testing among the Onge, Little Andamanese, and the Great Andamanese, and the Jarawas.
  • About ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’:
    • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
    • They have a declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology, and are economically backward.
    • They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.
  • Identification:
    • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, which are less developed among the tribal groups.
    • In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate a category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs, spread over 18 states and one Union Territory (A&N Islands) in the country (2011 census).
    • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).
    • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.
  • Scheme for development of PVTGs:
    • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs implements the Scheme of “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)” exclusively for them.
    • Under the scheme, Conservation-cum-Development (CCD)/Annual Plans are to be prepared by each State/UT for their PVTGs based on their need assessment, which is then appraised and approved by the Project Appraisal Committee of the Ministry.
    • Priority is also assigned to PVTGs under the schemes of Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Tribal SubScheme (TSS), Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution, Grants-in-aid to Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Strengthening of Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts.
  • The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:
    1. A pre-agriculture level of technology.
    2. A stagnant or declining population.
    3. Extremely low literacy.
    4. A subsistence level of the economy.

Tech For Tribals 

  • Context: 
    • TRIFED, IIT Kanpur, and Chhattisgarh MFP Federation E-Launch “Tech for Tribals” Initiative.
  • What is it?
    • It is a programme by TRIFED, in collaboration with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) under the Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme (ESDP) programme.
    • It aims at the holistic development of tribals with a focus on entrepreneurship development, soft skills, IT, and business development through SHGs operating through Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs).
  • What is Van Dhan Kendras?
    • TRIFED under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is establishing 1,200 “Van Dhan Vikas Kendra (VDVK)”, across 28 States engaging 3.6 Lakhs Tribal Forest Produce gatherers.
    • One typical VDVK comprises 15 Self Help Groups, each consisting of 20 Tribal gatherers.
  • About Van Dhan Vikas Kendras initiative:
    • The initiative aims to promote MFPs-centric livelihood development of tribal gatherers and artisans.
    • It mainstreams the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at the grassroots level.
  • Significance:
    • Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.

SKOCH Gold Award

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has received SKOCH Gold Award for its “Empowerment of Tribals through IT-enabled Scholarship Schemes” project.
  • About SKOCH Awards:
    • Instituted in 2003, it is the highest civilian honour in the country conferred by an independent organisation.
    • It recognises people, projects, and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.
    • It is given in the areas of digital, financial and social inclusion; governance; inclusive growth; excellence in technology and applications; change management; corporate leadership; corporate governance; citizen service delivery; capacity building; empowerment and other such softer issues.
    • It is given to both institutions/organisations and individuals.

Violation of Tribal rights

  • Context:
    • Despite red flags, green nod for coal mining, new blocks put on auction.
  • About the news:
    • The National Commission on Scheduled Tribes(NCST) had intervened after villagers in the region approached the commission about the adverse social and ecological impact of mining in the region by Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MahaGenCo). 
    • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had also handed over a report regarding the adverse effects on the health of the tribals due to this project.
    • Despite all this, the Chhattisgarh government and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) facilitated the green clearance for a coal mine in the Gare Palma area of Tamnar tehsil in Rajgarh district.
    • The study authored by the National Institute of Research in Tribal Health for ICMR found that 42.7 percent of pre-school children were underweight. “Overall acute respiratory infection (20.9%) constituted the most common morbidity among children,” the report said, holding “nearby mining activities” responsible.
    • While the report recommended to strength in health infrastructure in the region along with looking at alcohol de-addiction, it also entailed provision for safe drinking water, that is water-free from “Fluoride, arsenic of any geogenic contamination.
  • Protection of tribal rights by law:
    • The Constitution provides autonomy to tribal areas in matters of governance under the Fifth and Sixth Schedules, which is further fortified by the Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors (1997) judgment where the Supreme Court declared that the transfer of tribal land to private parties for mining was null and void under the Fifth Schedule.
    • The framework for the protection of the rights of tribal and indigenous people is further strengthened by the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 which protects the individual and community rights of tribal people in forest areas and their right to free and prior informed consent in event of their displacement and resettlement.
  • Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana:
    • This programme is meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining-related operations.
    • The PMKKKY is, therefore, very sharply focused on safeguarding the health, environment, and economic conditions of the tribals and providing them with opportunities to benefit from the vast mineral resources that are extracted from the areas where they live.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) will be implemented by the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) of the respective districts using the funds accruing to the DMF.
    • The Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, mandated the setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining-related operations.
    • At least 60% of the funds are to be utilised will be utilized for high priority areas like (i)drinking water supply; (ii) environment preservation and pollution control measures; (iii) health care (iv) education; (v) welfare of women and children; (vi) welfare of aged and disabled people; (vii) skill development; and (viii) sanitation. 
    • The rest of the funds will be utilized for the following: (i) physical infrastructure; (ii) irrigation; (iii) energy and watershed development; and (iv) any other measures for enhancing environmental quality in the mining districts.

Tharu tribals

  • Context:
    • The Uttar Pradesh government has recently embarked upon a scheme to take the unique culture of its ethnic Tharu tribe across the world.
  • About Tharu tribals:
    • The word tharu is believed to be derived from sthavir, meaning followers of Theravada Buddhism.
    • The Tharu community belongs to the Terai lowlands, amid the Shivaliks or lower Himalayas.
    • Tharu is a scheduled tribe in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
    • Most of them are forest dwellers, and some practice agriculture.
    • They speak various dialects of Tharu, a language of the Indo-Aryan subgroup, and variants of Hindi, Urdu, and Awadhi.
    • Tharus worship Lord Shiva as Mahadev, and call their supreme being “Narayan”, who they believe is the provider of sunshine, rain, and harvests.
    • Tharu women have stronger property rights than is allowed to women in mainstream North Indian Hindu custom.
    • Standard items on the Tharu plate are bagiya or dhikri – which is a steamed dish of rice flour that is eaten with chutney or curry – and ghonghi, an edible snail that is cooked in a curry made of coriander, chili, garlic, and onion.

Sentinel Islands

  • Context:
    • Anthropological Survey of India (ANSI) policy document warns of threat to an endangered group from commercial activity. 
  • Key takeaways:
    • According to ANSI, any exploitation of the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans for commercial and strategic gain would be dangerous for its occupants – the Sentinelese. 
    • It also said that the Right of the people to the island is non-negotiable, unassailable and uninfringeable. 
    • The prime duty of the state is to protect these rights as eternal and sacrosanct.
    • Their island should not be eyed for any commercial or strategic gain. 
    • The document also calls for building a knowledge bank on the Sentinelese.
    • Since ‘on-the-spot study’ is not possible for the tribal community, anthropologists suggest the ‘study of a culture from distance’.

Katkari tribe

  • Context: Maharashtra government has neglected Brick Kiln Workers Struggle Amid the Second Lockdown this Year.

More about the Katkari tribe:

  • Katkari is one of the 75 Tribes in Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • Katkaris can be found mainly in the Maharashtra districts of Raigad and parts of Palghar, Ratnagiri, and Thane, as well as in some parts of Gujarat.
  • Katkaris were forest dwellers in the past. 
  • The name Katkari comes from a forest-based operation involving the production, bartering, and selling of Catechu from the Khair tree (Acacia Catechu).
  • Catechu is an acacia tree extract that is used as a food additive, dye, among other stuff. It's made by heating the wood in water and then evaporating the liquid.
  • The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 had been used by the British administration to categorize them.
  • Certain groups of people were labelled as “habitually criminal” under the Act. The Act's legitimacy continues to be tarnished.
  • Some of them have recently begun collecting Minor Forest Produce such as Giloy through SHGs under Tribal Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (TRIFED)'s Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY).

More about Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana:

  • Marketing: The PMVDY is a retail marketing-led value addition initiative for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) that is designed to help forest-based tribes maximize their local income.
  • Non-timber: MFP refers to all non-timber forest products derived from plants, such as bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins, and a variety of foods such as nuts, wild fruits, honey, lac, and tusser.
  • Local Income: People who live in or near forests benefit from it in terms of both subsistence and cash income. 
  • They provide a significant portion of their food, fruits, drugs, and other consumables, as well as cash income from sales.
  • SHG: MFP-based tribal groups/enterprises of around 300 members are created under the programme to collect, value add, package, and sell Minor Forest Produces (MFPs).
  • These tribal enterprises take the form of Van Dhan Self Help Groups (SHGs), which are groups of 15-20 people. These 15 SHGs will be federated into a larger community of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs), which will have about 300 people.
  • Cooperation: TRIFED assists VDVKs by offering model business plans, processing plans, and a preliminary list of equipment for carrying out MFP value-added work.

Dongria Kondh tribe

  • Context: The first cases of coronavirus infection have been reported among the Dongria Kondh tribe.

About the Dongria Kondh:

  • Dongria Kondh is a tribe that lives in the dense forests of Niyamgiri Hills, is spread across the Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of southwestern Odisha. 
  • Niyamgiri Hills is not only a sacred mountain to the Dongrias, but it also plays a major role in the region’s ecology. 
  • PVTG status: The Dongrias has earned the status of PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) from the Government of India because they still have a primitive lifestyle and are geographically isolated from others. 
  • They are more educationally and economically backward than other tribal groups in the country. 

What are the PVTGs?

 

  • It is a particular group of a tribe based on certain criteria that more marginalized section of the Scheduled tribes of India.
  • Committee: In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, which are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.
  • Criteria: The government of India follows the following criteria for the identification of PVTGs. 
    • Pre-agricultural level of technology 
    • Low level of literacy 
    • Economic backwardness 
    • A declining or stagnant population
  • Accordingly, 75 PTVGs have been identified in the country and Odisha has the highest number of PVTG.
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs is implementing the scheme of “Development of PVTGs” for their comprehensive socio-economic development.

Education

New Education Policy

  • Context:
    • The first new education policy in 34 years has been brought out. The Union Cabinet gave its nod to the new policy recently.
    • The aim of the National Education Policy 2020 is to create an education system that is deeply rooted in Indian ethos and can rebuild India as a global knowledge superpower, by providing high-quality education to all.
  • Background:
    • A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.
  • Highlights of the policy:
    1. Public spending on education by states, Centre to be raised to 6% of the GDP.
    2. Ministry of Human Resource Development to be renamed Minister of Education.
  • Digital Education- related:
    1. An autonomous body, the national educational technology forum, will be created for the exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, and administration.
    2. Separate technology unit to develop digital education resources. The new unit will coordinate digital infrastructure, content, and capacity building.
  • Teacher Education- related:
    1. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four year integrated B.Ed. degree.
    2. Teachers will also be given training in online educational methods relevant to the Indian situation in order to help bridge the digital divide.
  • School Education- related:
    1. Universalise the pre-primary education (age range of 3-6 years) by 2025.
    2. Universalization of Education from pre-school to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
    3. A new school curriculum with coding and vocational studies from class 6 will be introduced.
    4. A child’s mother tongue will be used as the medium of instruction till class 5.
    5. A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the preschool and Anganwadi years.
    6. A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the class 3 level by 2025.
    7. Board exams to be easier, redesigned. Exams will test core competencies rather than memorising facts, with all students allowed to take the exam twice.
    8. School governance is set to change, with a new accreditation framework and an independent authority to regulate both public and private schools.
  • Higher Education- related:
    1. Four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entries and exit options will be introduced.
    2. The M.Phil degree will be abolished.
    3. New umbrella regulator for all higher education except medical, legal courses.
    4. An Academic Bank of Credit will be set up to make it easier to transfer between institutions.
    5. College affiliation system to be phased out in 15 years, so that every college develops into either an autonomous degree-granting institution or a constituent college of a university.
    6. It also aims to double the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035, with an additional 3.5 crore new seats.
  • Traditional knowledge- related:
    1. Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.
  • Special focus:
    1. Regions such as aspirational districts, which have a large number of students facing economic, social, or caste barriers will be designated as ‘Special Educational Zones’.
    2. The Centre will also set up a Gender Inclusion Fund to build the country’s capacity to provide equitable quality education to all girls and transgender students.
  • Financial support:
    • Meritorious students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other socially and economically disadvantaged groups will be given incentives.
  • New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure:
    • The NEP proposes changing the existing 10+2 Curricular and Pedagogical Structure with 5+3+3+4 design covering the children in the age group 3-18 years. Under this :
      1. Five years of the Foundational Stage: 3 years of pre-primary school and Grades 1, 2;
      2. Three years of the Preparatory (or Latter Primary) Stage: Grades 3, 4, 5;
      3. Three years of the Middle (or Upper Primary) Stage: Grades 6, 7, 8;
      4. Four years of the High (or Secondary) Stage: Grades 9, 10, 11, 12.
  • Challenges ahead:
    • Since education is a concurrent subject most states have their own school boards. Therefore, state governments would have to be brought on board for the actual implementation of this decision.
  • Covered in detail in Samjaho's Corner: https://samajho.com/upsc/national-education-policy-2020-explained/

Rajasthan’s education guidelines irk NCPCR

  • Context:
    • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has pulled up the Rajasthan government for its new guidelines on elementary education.
  • What’s the issue?
    • NCPCR said the new guidelines “violate” the Right to Education Act of 2009 and deny children from economically weaker sections the right to free education in nursery classes.
    • The guidelines state that admissions to private schools under the RTE Act, 2009, for the 2020-21 academic year will take place only from class 1 or above, and that the law’s provisions will not be applicable for preschoolers.
    • This is in contravention of the RTE Act 2009, which states that private schools will have to admit, “to the extent of at least twenty-five percent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education till its completion.”
    • The guidelines also violate the RTE Act insofar as they recommend the age of admission to be “5 years or above but less than 7 years as of 31st March 2020.”
    • However, under Central law, there is no such restriction and a “male or female child of the age of six to fourteen years” can seek admission.
  • Powers of NCPCR to inquire into such complaints:
    • Under the RTE Act, 2009, the NCPCR can:
      1. inquire into complaints about violation of the law.
      2. summon an individual and demand evidence.
      3. seek a magisterial inquiry.
      4. file a writ petition in the High Court or Supreme Court.
      5. approach the government concerned for the prosecution of the offender.
      6. recommend interim relief to those affected.
  • About NCPCR:
    • Set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
    • It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
    • The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Composition:
    • This commission has a chairperson and six members of which at least two should be women.
    • All of them are appointed by the Central Government for three years.
    • The maximum age to serve in commission is 65 years for Chairman and 60 years for members.

Pragyata guidelines

  • Context:
    • PRAGYATA guidelines on digital education released.
  • About:
    • The guidelines include eight steps of digital learning that is, Plan- Review- Arrange- Guide- Yak (talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate.
    • These steps guide the planning and implementation of digital education step by step with examples.
    • These are only advisory in nature and state governments can formulate their own rules, based on local needs.
  • The guidelines outline suggestions for administrators, school heads, teachers, parents, and students in the following areas:
    1. Need Assessment.
    2. Concerns while planning online and digital education like duration, screen time, inclusiveness, Balanced online, and off-line activities.
    3. Modalities of intervention including resource curation, level-wise delivery, etc.
    4. Physical, mental health, and well-being during digital education.
    5. Cyber safety and ethical practices including precautions and measures maintaining cyber safety.
  • Need for guidelines on online education:
    • To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, schools will not only have to remodel and reimagine the way teaching and learning have happened so far but will also need to introduce a suitable method of delivering quality education through a healthy mix of schooling at home and schooling at school.

NISHTHA– National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement

  • Context:
    • Union HRD Minister launched the first on-line NISHTHA programme for 1,200 Key Resources Persons of Andhra Pradesh.
    • These resource persons will help in the mentoring of teachers of Andhra Pradesh, who will take online NISHTHA training on DIKSHA later on.
  • About NISHTHA:
    • The initiative is an Integrated Teacher Training Programme of the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of HRD as part of its National Mission to improve learning outcomes at the Elementary level under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha.
    • In 2019, NISHTHA was launched in face-to-face mode. Thereafter, 33 states/UTs have launched this programme in their states/UTs.
    • Around 23,000 Key Resource Persons and 17.5 lakh teachers and school heads have been covered under this NISHTHA face to face mode to date.
  • Features:
    • It has activity-based modules including educational games and quizzes, Social-emotional learning, motivational interactions, team building, preparation for the school-based assessment, in-built continuous feedback mechanism, online monitoring and support system, training need and impact analysis (Pre and Post training).

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

  • Context:
    • The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has received funding of ₹455.02 crores for the construction of new academic buildings, hostels, and research centres, among others, under the Union ministry of human resources development (MHRD)’s higher education funding agency (HEFA).
  • About Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA):
    • HEFA incorporated on 31st May 2017, is a joint venture of the Ministry of HRD, GOI, and Canara Bank with agreed equity participation in the ratio of 90.91% and 09.09% respectively.
    • HEFA is registered under the Companies Act 2013 as a Union Govt company and as Non–deposit-taking NBFC with RBI.
  • VISION:
    • To enable India’s premier educational institutions to excel and reach the top in global rankings by financing building world-class infrastructure including R&D Infra.
  • Functions:
    • It will mobilize resources from the market by way of equity from individuals/corporates and by the issue of bonds to finance the requirement.
    • It provides financial assistance for the creation of educational infrastructure and R&D in India’s premier educational institutions.
    • Encourages scientific and technological developments by supporting R&D facilities for conducting high-quality research.
    • Channelises CSR contributions from companies and donations for various schemes in uplifting higher education.
  • How HEFA works? What are the advantages?
    • The funding under HEFA will replace the current grant assistance by GOI for infrastructure projects in premier educational institutions.
    • All the Educational Institutions set up/funded referred by concerned ministries would be eligible for financing their capital expenditure from HEFA.
    • HEFA would be able to fund a larger basket of institutions as compared to the grants approach.
    • Top-class infrastructure can be created in a quick time so that the country realizes the potential of its demographic dividend in a faster time frame.
  • RISE 2022:
    • “Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022”, is a major initiative launched by GOI in the FY 2018-19 budget.
    • HEFA’s scope under rising has been greatly expanded from the initial objective of financing infrastructural needs of select Higher Educational Institutions in India to the extent of Rs. 20,000 crores.
    • It is proposed to accelerate the investment in these institutions to Rs.1,00,000 crores over the next 4 years as under.

Institutions of Eminence (IoEs)

  • Context:
    • In News- Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) amended its regulations, allowing Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) to set up campuses abroad.
  • About:
    • Amendments made:
      • Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) can set up campuses abroad with a maximum of three in five years after receiving no-objection certificates from the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs. 
      • The move is in line with the government’s new National Education Policy, which says that high-performing universities should be encouraged to set up campuses abroad.
      • The functioning of the offshore campuses shall be reviewed by an Empowered Experts Committee “independently and/or along with the IOE”.
  • About Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) scheme:
    • The Ministry of Education launched the IoE scheme in 2018 as per which 20 institutions were to be selected ( 10 public and 10 private ones ) that would enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy
    • It has been launched to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them in becoming world-class teaching and research institutions.
    • This will enhance affordable access to high-quality education for ordinary Indians.
    • Objectives- To develop the capacity of the students and researchers to compete in the global tertiary education marketplace through the acquisition and creation of advanced knowledge in those areas.
  • About National Education Policy 2020:
    • It replaced a 34 years old National Policy on Education which was framed in 1986.
    • The aim of the policy is to create an education system that contributes directly to transforming the country, providing high-quality education to all, and making India a global knowledge superpower.
    • It aims for an inclusive & equitable Education System by 2030  and to achieve 100 per cent youth and adult literacy in India.
    • It aims to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
  • Evolution of Education Policy:
    • University Education Commission (1948-49)
    • Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
    • Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr D. S. Kothari
    • National Policy on Education, 1968
    • 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976- Education in Concurrent List
    • National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education. Education is on the concurrent list. 
    • The 86th Amendment in 2002 made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
    • Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009 aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years and enforces education as a Fundamental Right.
    • It mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society where disadvantaged groups.

IIM's and autonomy

  • Context:
    • The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), for decades the brightest jewel in the country’s higher education set-up, are going through a phase of turmoil.
    • The Board of Governors of one of the older IIMs (Calcutta) stripped its Director of important powers and reported that the Director of another old IIM (Ahmedabad) had pushed back against the government last year.
    • Although very different from each other, at the heart of both incidents is the question of the powers of the Director of the IIM, and the degree of autonomy that they, and the institutes themselves, enjoy.
  • What is the controversy at IIM-Ahmedabad?
    • At the heart of the controversy at IIM-Ahmedabad is a Ph.D. dissertation with three essays on electoral democracy.
    • About a year ago, the Ministry of Education asked the Institute for a copy of the thesis after Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy had sent a letter to the Prime Minister alleging that the dissertation describes the BJP and BSP as “ethnically constituted” parties.
    • When asked to share a copy of the thesis, however, IIM-A Director Prof Erol D’Souza pushed back. In his reply to the Ministry, he wrote that the government was not an arbiter of complaints regarding a Ph.D. thesis and that there were appropriate academic forums within the Institute to flag complaints.
  • And what is the case at IIM-Calcutta?
    • The Institute’s Board and the Director, Anju Seth, are locked in a turf war, with Seth accusing the Chairman of the Board of infringing on her executive powers and the Board, in turn, accusing her of improper conduct.
    • The confrontation snowballed into a full-blown crisis last week after the Board passed a resolution against Seth and stripped her of the key powers of making appointments and taking disciplinary action.
  • Historically, how autonomous have the IIMs been?
    • Before the enactment of the IIM Act in 2017, when the IIMs functioned as Societies, they had a fair amount of autonomy in academic matters and other issues such as the fixing of fees.
    • Because of the latter power, the older IIMs (Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore) were not dependent on the government for funds and were in a better position to assert their autonomy.
    • However, the appointment of Directors and Chairman remained in the government’s hands, and it often used this leverage to influence the IIMs.
    • However, this autonomy was only a product of convention and functioned as long as both sides respected it. When this respect was compromised, friction occurred.
    • The IIM Act cast autonomy in stone. The government cannot reduce it or pass orders which are not in consonance with the Act. The only way to undo anything is through an amendment passed by the legislature.
  • What limits do questions of funding and administration place on the principle of autonomy of higher education institutions?
    • Globally as well as in India, higher education is supported by the government in one form or the other. Normally this should not impact the autonomy of universities
    • However, if the government of the day thinks otherwise, there is no stopping it — irrespective of whether the institutions are funded or not, as has been shown in the recent case of IIM-A, which is financially totally independent.
    • Funding gives the extra handle to the government as Parliament and the CAG have by default the right to know the fate of the funds approved by it.
    • But this interference comes at a price, as universities that lack autonomy are less creative and therefore suffer in terms of quality and reputation.
  • What are the implications of the ongoing turmoil in the IIMs?
    • Many in the IIM community see the ongoing situations at IIM-Calcutta and IIM-Ahmedabad as stemming from the dramatic shift in power dynamics ushered in with the new IIM Act.
    • The government has relinquished control on paper, but the implementation of the Act will face hiccups as the Board assumes greater power in the functioning of the IIMs.
  • Indian Institutes of Management Act, 2017:
    • The Act declares Indian Institutes of Management as institutions of national importance and grants them the power to give degrees.
      • Board of governors:
        • The Act provides for the creation of a board of governors, which would act as the principal executive body for each IIM, and would appoint one director for each IIM.
      • Academic council:
        • The Act provides for the creation of an academic council for each IIM, which is principle academic body under the act and which would decide the:
          (a) academic content;
          (b) criteria and processes for admissions to the course; and
          (c) guidelines for the conduct of examinations.
      • Coordination forum:
        • The Act provides for the creation of a coordination forum, which would discuss matters pertaining to all IIMs.
        • The bill also proposes to incorporate many other changes like an audit of institutes by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Global QS Ranking

  • Context:
    • 25 programs offered by higher education institutions in India ranked among the top 100 in the world in their respective subject categories, according to the latest edition (11th) of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.
  • About the QS World Subject Rankings:
    • Quacquarelli Symonds (QS):
      • It is a leading global career and education network for ambitious professionals looking to further their personal and professional development.
      • QS develops and successfully implements methods of comparative data collection and analysis used to highlight institutions’ strengths.
    • QS World University Rankings:
      • It is an annual publication of university rankings which comprises the global overall and subject rankings.
    • Six parameters and their weightage for the evaluation:
      • Academic Reputation (40%)
      • Employer Reputation (10%)
      • Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)
      • Citations per faculty (20%)
      • International Faculty Ratio (5%)
      • International Student Ratio (5%)
    • QS World University Rankings by Subject:
      • It calculates performance based on four parameters — academic reputation, employer reputation, research impact (citations per paper), and the productivity of an institution’s research faculty.
    • Top Performers:
      • Globally Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT -USA) and Harvard (USA) are among the top performers, Russia and China record best-ever performances.
    • India’s Performance:
      • The 2021 QS’s global university performance comparison offered independent data on the performance of 253 programs at 52 Indian higher education institutions, across 51 academic disciplines.
      • The number of Indian universities/institutes in the top 100 subject rankings has increased from 8 to 12 this year.
        • 12 Indian institutions that have made it to the top 100 of the world – IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IISC Bangalore, IIT Guwahati, IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad, JNU, Anna University, the University of Delhi, and OP Jindal University.
        • IIT-Bombay has cornered more top 100 positions than any other Indian institution.
      • Except one, all the 25 programs are in institutions run by either the state or union government. However, last year, this number stood at 26.
      • 17 of the 25 globally ranked Indian programs are in engineering. IIT-Madras’s Petroleum Engineering program registered the best performance among Indian institutes – 30th in the world.
      • The government-run Institutions of Eminence (IoE) remains significantly better-represented in the rankings than the private ones.
      • OP Jindal Global University has entered the global top-100 for law (76th). This is the only top-100 result achieved by a private IoE.
      • IoE: It is a government's scheme to provide the regulatory architecture for setting up or upgrading of 20 Institutions (10 from the public sector and 10 from the private sector) as world-class teaching and research institutions.
      • The All India Institute of Medical Sciences remained the only institution in the top 300 in the area of life sciences and medicine but also dropped more than 10 places.

Happiness Curriculum

  • Context:
    • Uttar Pradesh government is likely to introduce a ‘happiness curriculum’ as a pilot project from this academic session.
    • To be called ‘realisation curriculum’, it would be introduced in Mathura schools this session onwards.
  • Objectives:
    • The purpose to launch the curriculum in UP is to support students in their journey to sustainable happiness through engagement in meaningful and reflective stories and activities.
  • What is Happiness Curriculum?
    • The happiness curriculum was first introduced by the Delhi government in 2018.
    • The curriculum calls for schools to promote development in cognition, language, literacy, numeracy, and the arts along with addressing the wellbeing and happiness of students.
  • How is the curriculum implemented?
    • The curriculum is designed for students of classes nursery through the eighth standard.
    • Group 1 consists of students in nursery and KG, who have bi-weekly classes (45 minutes each for one session, which is supervised by a teacher) involving mindfulness activities and exercise. Children between classes 1-2 attend classes on weekdays, which involves mindfulness activities and exercises along with taking up reflective questions.
    • The second group comprises students from classes 3-5 and the third group is comprised of students from classes 6-8 who apart from the aforementioned activities, take part in self-expression and reflect on their behavioural changes.
  • The learning outcomes of this curriculum are spread across four categories:
    1. Becoming mindful and attentive (developing increased levels of self-awareness, developing active listening, remaining in the present).
    2. Developing critical thinking and reflection (developing strong abilities to reflect on one’s own thoughts and behaviours, thinking beyond stereotypes and assumptions).
    3. Developing social-emotional skills (demonstrating empathy, coping with anxiety and stress.
    4. Developing better communication skills) and developing a confident and pleasant personality (developing a balanced outlook on daily life reflecting self-confidence, becoming responsible, and reflecting awareness towards cleanliness, health, and hygiene).
  • How the assessment is carried out?
    • For the evaluation, no examinations are conducted, neither will marks be awarded. The assessment under this curriculum is qualitative, focusing on the “process rather than the outcome” and noting that each student’s journey is unique and different.

School Bag Policy, 2020

  • Context:
    • The Directorate of Education has issued a circular asking school to follow the new ‘School Bag Policy, 2020’ released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
  • Why is there a need for a School Bag Policy?
    • Heavy school bags are a serious threat to the health and well-being of students. The heavy school bag has severe/adverse physical effects on growing children which can cause damage to their vertebral column and knees.
  • Key Features of the School Bag Policy,2020:
    • School Teachers should inform the students in advance about the books and notebooks to be brought to school on a particular day and frequently check their bags to ensure that they are not carrying unnecessary material.
    • Weight of School Bags: The weight of the school bags should be 1.6 to 2.2 kg for students of Classes I and II, 1.7 to 2.5 kg for Classes III, IV, and V, 2 to 3 kg for Classes VI and VII, 2.5 to 4 kg for Class VIII, 2.5 to 4.5 kg for Classes IX and X and 3.5 to 5 kg for Classes XI and XII.
    • Responsibility of Teachers: Teachers should take the responsibility of checking the weight of school bags of the students every three months on a day selected for the whole class and any information about heavy bags should be communicated to the parents.
    • Responsibility of School Management: It is the duty and the responsibility of the school management to provide quality potable water in sufficient quantities to all the students in the school so that they do not need to carry water bottles from their homes.

National Recruitment Agency (NRA)

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of National Recruitment Agency, an independent body to conduct examinations for government jobs.
    • Initially, it will organise a CET to screen/shortlist candidates for the Group B and C (non -technical) posts, which are now being conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railways Recruitment Board (RRBs), and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS). Later on, more exams may be brought under it.
  • When was it first announced?
    • The setting up of such an agency to conduct a common eligibility test (CET) was announced in the Union Budget by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February.
  • Composition:
    • It will be headed by a Chairman of the rank of the Secretary to the Government of India. It will have representatives of the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB & IBPS.
  • Functions of the proposed NRA:
    • It will conduct a common preliminary examination for various recruitments in the central government. Based on the common eligibility test (CET) score a candidate can apply for a vacancy with the respective agency.
  • How the test will be conducted?
    • The Common Eligibility Test will be held twice a year.
      1. The test will be conducted for three levels: graduate, higher secondary (12th pass), and the matriculate (10th pass) candidates.
      2. However, the present recruitment agencies– IBPS, RRB, and SCC — will remain in place.
      3. Based on the screening done at the CET score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised Tiers (II, III, etc.) of examination which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies.
  • Other details:
    • The CET score of a candidate shall be valid for a period of three years from the date of declaration of the result.
    • To make it easier for candidates, examination centres would be set up in every district of the country.
    • While there will be no restriction on the number of attempts to be taken by a candidate to appear in the CET, it will be subject to the upper age limit.
    • The examinations will be conducted in 12 languages.
  • Why is the NRA needed? What are the challenges faced by students and agencies?
    • As of now, aspirants have to take different exams that are conducted by various agencies for central government jobs.
    • Candidates have to pay fees to multiple recruiting agencies and also travel long distances for appearing in various exams.
    • On average 2.5 crore to 3 crore aspirants appear for about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the central government every year.

United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education

  • Context:
    • United Nations has released its policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education.
  • Key findings:
    1. More than 1.6 billion learners are affected across the world by the disruption of the education system.
    2. Disparities increased: The pandemic has served to exacerbate existing disparities, with vulnerable populations in low-income countries taking a harder and longer hit.
    3. School dropouts: Almost 24 million children are at risk of not returning to school next year due to the economic fallout of COVID-19.
    4. Girls and young women are likely to be disproportionately affected as school closures make them more vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence.
    5. Learning losses: Even for those who do not drop out of school, learning losses could be severe, especially in the foundational years.
  • Overall impact:
    • Simulations on developing countries participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggest that:
      1. Impact on learning: Without remediation, a loss of learning by one-third [equivalent to a three-month school closure] during Grade 3 might result in 72% of students falling so far behind that by Grade 10 they will have dropped out or will not be able to learn anything in school.
      2. The economic loss might reach $16,000 of lost earnings over a student’s lifetime, translating over time into $10 trillion of lost earnings globally.
      3. Increased financial gap: In early 2020, low and middle incomes faced a $148-billion gap between their education budgets and the money available to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of quality education. The COVID-19 crisis is likely to increase that financing gap by up to one-third.
  • What needs to be done?
    • Education budgets need to be protected and increased. And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

Performance Grading Index (PGI)

  • Context:
    • The Union Education Minister has approved the release of the Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20 for States and Union Territories.
    • The PGI is a tool to provide insights on the status of school education in States and UTs including key levers that drive their performance and critical areas for improvement.
  • About the Performance Grading Index (PGI):
    • The PGI for States and Union Territories was first published in 2019 with the reference year 2017-18.
    • The PGI: States/UTs for 2019-20 is the third publication in this series.
  • Objectives:
    • The PGI exercise envisages that the index would propel States and UTs towards undertaking multi-pronged interventions that will bring about the much-desired optimal education outcomes.
    • The PGI helps the States/UTs to pinpoint the gaps and accordingly prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.

  • Implementing Agency:
    • It is initiated by the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL).
  • Source of Information:
    • The information on the indicators are drawn from data available with the DoSEL from the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), National Achievement Survey (NAS) of NCERT, Mid Day Meal website, Public Financial Management System (PFMS) and the information uploaded by the States and UTs on the Shagun portal of DoSEL.
  • Methodology:
    • The PGI is structured in two categories, namely, Outcomes and Governance & Management and comprises 70 indicators in aggregate with a total weightage of 1000.
    • Domains under categories include:  Access, Infrastructure & Facilities, Equity, Governance process.
  • Important Findings of the PGI 2019-20:
    • State-wise Performance:
      • This shows that 33 States and UTs have improved their PGI scores in 2019-20 compared to the previous year.
      • Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Puducherry, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have improved their overall PGI scores by 10%.
    • Inter-state Differential:
      • On a maximum possible of 1000 points, the range between the States and UTs with the highest and the lowest score is more than 380 points in the year 2019-20.
      • Domain-wise Performance:
      • Access: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Punjab have shown improvement of 10% or more in the ‘Access’ domain.
      • Infrastructure and Facilities: Thirteen states and UTs have shown improvement by 10% or more in ‘Infrastructure and Facilities’ while Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Odisha have improved their scores in the domain by 20% or more.
    • Equity:
      • In ‘Equity', Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Odisha have shown an improvement of more than 10%.
    • Governance Process:
      • 19 states have shown improvement by 10% or more.
      • Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have shown improvement by at least 20%.

CBSE Assessment Formula

  • Context:
    • Earlier, the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE) cancelled Class 12th final exams due to COVID-19. Recently the Supreme Court of India has approved the formula submitted by the CBSE to assess the final marks of Class 12 students.
  • What is the CBSE assessment formula?
    • The CBSE assessment formula has divided the marks’ assessment process into two components — theory and practical.
  • Theory Component: The theory component is based on the 30:30:40 formula:
    • Firstly, the first 30% weightage will be given based on the average scores obtained by the students in Class 10 in their three best performing subjects out of a total of five.
    • Secondly, another 30% weightage would be given to marks based on the theory component of the final exam taken in Class 11.
    • Finally, 40% weightage would be given for marks obtained in one or more unit tests, mid-term exams and pre-board exams in Class 12.
  • Practical Component:
    • On the practical side, the calculation would be on the “actual basis” of the marks uploaded by the schools on the CBSE’s portal.
  • What happens to a student who does not get pass marks through this method?
    • Students who fall short in one subject will be placed in the ‘compartment’ category. The compartment examination will be conducted after the declaration of results to give them a chance to clear that subject.
    • However, those who fall short in more than one subject will be placed in the ‘essential repeat’ category.
  • What about students who are not happy with this assessment method?
    • Students who are not satisfied with the manner of assessment or the marks they will get will be allowed to sit for written examinations conducted by the board. The CBSE will conduct exams when conditions are conducive for holding the examinations.
    • The marks that they get in this exam will be considered as the final marks.

ASER 2020

  • Context: 
    • Recently, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey has been released by NGO Pratham.
  • Background:
    • It is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills that has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years.
    • It uses Census 2011 as the sampling frame and continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.
    • ASER 2018 surveyed children in the age group of 3 to 16 years and included almost all rural districts in India and generated estimates of foundational reading and arithmetic abilities of children in the age group 5 to 16 years.
    • ASER 2019 reported on the pre-schooling or schooling status of children in the age group 4 to 8 years in 26 rural districts, focused on the “early years” and laid emphasis on “developing problem-solving faculties and building a memory of children, and not content knowledge”.
    • ASER 2020 is the first-ever phone-based ASER survey and it was conducted in September 2020, the sixth month of national school closures.
  • Key Findings:
    • Enrollments:
      • 5.5% of rural children are not currently enrolled for the 2020 school year, up from 4% in 2018.
      • This difference is the sharpest among the youngest children (6 to 10) where 5.3% of rural children had not yet enrolled in school in 2020, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
      • Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, families are waiting for the physical opening of schools to enrol their youngest children, with about 10% of six-year-olds not in school.
      • Among 15-16 year-olds, however, enrollment levels are slightly higher than in 2018.
      • The proportion of boys enrolled in government schools has risen from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020, while for girls, that number has gone up from 70% to 73% in the corresponding period.
      • Patterns show a slight shift toward government schools, with private schools seeing a drop in enrolment in all age groups.
      • The Centre has now permitted States to start reopening schools if they can follow Covid-19 safety protocols but the majority of the country’s 25 crore students are still at home.
    • Availability of Smartphones:
      • Among enrolled children, 61.8% live in families that own at least one smartphone which was merely 36.5% in 2018.
      • About 11% of families bought a new phone after the lockdown, of which 80% were smartphones.
      • WhatsApp is by far the most popular mode of transmitting learning materials to students, with 75% of students receiving input via this app.
    • Availability of Learning Material:
      • Overall more than 80% of children said they had textbooks for their current grade.
      • This proportion was higher among students enrolled in government schools (84.1%) than in private ones (72.2%).
      • In Bihar, less than 8% got such materials from their schools, along with 20% in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
      • More than 80% of rural children in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat received such input.
    • Learning Activities:
      • Most children (70.2%) did some form of a learning activity through material shared by tutors or family members themselves, with or without regular input.
      • 11% had access to live online classes, and 21% had videos or recorded classes, with much higher levels in private schools.
      • About 60% studied from their textbooks and 20% watched classes broadcast on TV.

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  • Suggestions
    • Ease Situation: When schools reopen, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school as well as to understand whether there is learning losses compared to previous years.
    • Building on and Strengthening Family Support: Parents’ increasing levels of education can be integrated into planning for learning improvement, as advocated by National Education Policy, 2020. Reaching parents at the right level is essential to understand how they can help their children and older siblings also play an important role.
    • Hybrid Learning: As children do a variety of different activities at home, effective ways of hybrid learning need to be developed which combine traditional teaching-learning with newer ways of “reaching-learning”.
    • Assessment of Digital Modes and Content: In order to improve digital content and delivery for the future, an in-depth assessment of what works, how well it works, who it reaches, and who it excludes is needed.
    • Mediating the Digital Divide: Children from families who had low education and also did not have resources like smartphones had less access to learning opportunities. However, even among such households, there is evidence of effort with family members trying to help and schools trying to reach them. These children will need even more help than others when schools reopen.

Unnat Bharat Abhiyan

  • Context:
    • IIM Kozhikode to launch e-learning hub for villagers
    • IIM has adopted 5 villages under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan.
    • The baseline socio-economic survey and focus group discussions are being carried out with the involvement of faculties and students of IIMK, to prepare the Village Development Plan (VDP) for each village. The intervention activities will be brought into action based on the VDP.
    • IIM will soon be launching an e-learning hub and library as a pilot project for villagers in Mavoor, one of the five villages adopted by the institute under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA).
    • The program is aimed at creating a virtuous cycle between society and an inclusive academic system by providing knowledge and practices for emerging professions.
  • Unnat Bharat Abhiyan:
    • About:
      • A flagship programme of the Ministry of Education.
    • Vision
      • Unnat Bharat Abhiyan is inspired by the vision of transformational change in rural development processes by leveraging knowledge institutions to help build the architecture of an Inclusive India.
    • Mission:
      • To enable higher educational institutions to work with the people of rural India in identifying development challenges and evolving appropriate solutions for accelerating sustainable growth.
      • To create a virtuous cycle between society and an inclusive academic system by providing knowledge and practices for emerging professions and to upgrade the capabilities of both the public and the private sectors in responding to the development needs of rural India.

Imparting technical education in Mother Tongue

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Union Education Minister has set up a task force for preparing a roadmap on imparting technical education in Mother Tongue.
  • About:
    • It will be set up under the chairmanship of the secretary, higher education, Amit Khare.
  • Objective:
    • To achieve the Prime Minister’s vision that students may pursue professional courses such as medicine, engineering, law, etc in their mother tongue.
  • Mandate:
    • To prepare a roadmap on imparting technical education in Mother Tongue.
  • Function:
    • It will take into consideration the suggestions made by various stakeholders and will submit a report in a month.
  • Shiksha Parv Initiative:
    • It was organized by the Ministry of Education to felicitate the teachers and to take New Education Policy 2020 forward.
    • Under this, the Ministry has organised a series of webinars on NEP and its implementation.

Strengthening Teaching-learning And Results For States (STARS) Project

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet approved the STARS project partially funded by the World Bank under the new National Education Policy to support states in strengthening the school education system.
  • About STARS project:
    • It seeks to support the states in developing, implementing, evaluating, and improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labour market outcomes.
    • The overall focus and components of the STARS project are aligned with the objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality-Based Learning Outcomes.
    • The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, and Odisha.
    • The identified States will be supported by tor various interventions for improving the quality of education.
    • Besides this project, it is also envisaged to implement a similar ADB-funded project in 5 states namely Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Assam. All states will partner with one other state for sharing their experiences and best practices.
    • Around 25 crore students (between the age of 6-17) in 15 lakh schools and over 1 crore teachers will benefit from the programme.
    • It would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education (MOE).
  • Components:
    • It has two major components:
      • At the national level, the project envisages the interventions like:
        • Strengthen MOE’s national data systems to capture robust and authentic data on retention, transition, and completion rates of students.
        • Support MOE in improving states Performance Grading Index (PGI) scores by incentivizing states governance reform agenda through SIG (State Incentive Grants).
        • Support MOE’s efforts to establish a National Assessment Centre –PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development).
        • Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made, and health disasters.
      • At the State level, the project envisages interventions like:
        • Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Foundational Learning.
        • Improving Learning Assessment Systems.
        • Strengthening Vocational education in schools through mainstreaming, career guidance and counselling, internships, and coverage of out of school children.
    • It also aims to focus on initiatives of PM e-Vidya, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission, and National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
    • It will supply multi-year financing for India’s participation in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2021.

Manodarpan

  • Manodarpan initiative has been launched under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
  • This initiative will provide psycho-social support to students, teachers, and parents and address their issues related to mental health and emotional well being.
  • It was launched recently by the Union HRD Minister

Indian Scholastic Assessment (Ind-SAT) Test

  • Union HRD Ministry holds the first-ever INDSAT exam under the ‘Study in India’ Programme.
  • Ind-SAT is an exam for grant of scholarships and admissions to foreign students for studying in select Indian universities under the Study in India programme.

R P Tiwari Committee  

  • Context:
    • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has set up a seven-member committee headed by R P Tiwari.
  • About:
    • This committee will consider the issue of holding common entrance tests at the undergraduate (UG) level only from the next academic year in central universities to provide a single platform for admission.
    • The new National Education Policy (NEP) advocates reducing the number of entrance tests to eliminate the need for taking coaching for these exams.
    • If the NEP suggestion is implemented, the National Testing Agency will be established.
    • This Agency will be tasked to conduct a common aptitude test as well as specialised common exams for different disciplines at least twice a year, for admission to bachelor degrees in central universities.

Health

World Population trends

  • Context:
    • A study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
    • It analysed population trends in 195 countries.
    • A new analysis published in The Lancet has projected that the world population will peak in 2064
  • Key findings:
    • The world population will peak in 2064, at 9.73 billion. This is 36 years earlier than the 11 billion peaks projected for 2100 by last year’s UN report World Population Prospects.
    • For 2100, the report projects a decline to 8.79 billion from the 2064 peak.
  • What about TFR?
    • The global total fertility rate (TFR) is predicted to steadily decline from 2.37 in 2017 to 1.66 in 2100.
    • It is projected to fall below 2.1 in 183 countries.
    • In 23 countries including Japan, Thailand, Italy, and Spain, it is projected to shrink by more than 50%.
    • For a generation to exactly replace itself, the replacement-level total fertility rate (TFR) is taken to be 2.1.
  • India related findings:
    1. It projects a peak population of 1.6 billion in 2048, up from 1.38 billion in 2017.
    2. By 2100, the population is projected to decline by 32% to 1.09 billion.
    3. India’s TFR is already below 2.1 in 2019. It will reach 1.29 in 2100.
    4. The number of working-age adults (20–64 years) in India is projected to fall from around 748 million in 2017 to around 578 million in 2100. However, this will be the largest working-age population in the world by 2100.
    5. In the mid-2020s, India is expected to surpass China’s workforce population (950 million in 2017, and 357 million in 2100).
    6. From 2017 to 2100, India is projected to rise up the list of countries with the largest GDP, from 7th to 3rd.
    7. India is projected to have the second-largest net immigration in 2100, with an estimated half a million more people immigrating to India in 2100 than emigrating out.
    8. Among the 10 countries with the largest populations in 2017 or 2100, India is projected to have one of the lowest life expectancies (79.3 years in 2100, up from 69.1 in 2017).
  • Challenges ahead:
    • Forecasts highlight huge challenges to the economic growth of a shrinking workforce, the high burden on health and social support systems of an aging population.
    • It forecasts continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth.
  • What needs to be done?
    • Harnessing the Demographic dividend:
      • Developing human resources through appropriate education and skill development.
      • Occupational health and environmental health programme to ensure that working population remains healthy and productive.
      • Diplomatic efforts for negotiating favorable policies on migration in the global arena.
    • Striving towards gender parity:
      • Improved access to higher education for women
      • Ensuring equal pay and a safe workplace
      • Overcoming social barriers such as Son Meta-Preference
    • Strengthening social infrastructure for the elderly population:
      • The requirement of greater spending on pensions and geriatric healthcare with a focus on the management of non-communicable diseases.
      • Developing opportunities for elderly people to participate in economic and social activities and contribute to national development, such as increasing the age of retirement.
      • Meeting needs of the widowed women, since life expectancy in women is higher than in men.

Partners in Population and Development

  • Context:
    • Inter-Ministerial Conference by Partners in Population and Development (PPD). India took part in it.
  • About PPD:
    • It is an intergovernmental organisation for promoting south-south cooperation in the fields of reproductive health, population, and development.
    • Secretariat is in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
    • Currently, PPD has the membership of 26 developing countries, representing more than 59% of the world’s population.
    • It was Launched at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) when ten developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America formed an intergovernmental alliance to help implement the Cairo Program of Action (POA).
    • This POA, endorsed by 179 nations, stresses the need to establish mechanisms to promote development through the sharing of experiences in reproductive health (RH) and family planning (FP) within and among countries and to promote effective partnerships among the governments, NGOs, research institutions and the private sector.

‘Health in India’ Report

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the report of a survey titled ‘Health in India’.
  • About:
    • Objective:
      • The main objective of the report is to gather basic quantitative information on India’s health sector.
    • Mandate:
      • The report details aspects of the role played by government and private sector facilities and also contains health information for separate religious communities.
  • Key findings:
    • Health condition of India:
      • Around 7.5 % of Indians reported that they were suffering from ailments.
    • Health information of religious communities:
      • The Zoroastrian community remains the most susceptible to ailments.
    • Sex-based classification:
      • The survey shows that women remain more susceptible to suffering from ailments than men.
      • In rural India, 6.1 % of males said that they were suffering from ailments, while 7.6 % of rural women said the same.
      • While 8.2 % of urban males said that they were sick, 10 % of urban females said the same.

“The State of Healthcare in India” Report

  • Context: The report titled ‘State of Healthcare in India – Indian cities through the lens of healthcare’ 2021 was released.

About the Report:

  • It is a report by the online real estate portal Housing.com.
  • It is a comparative assessment of the top eight cities including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune.
  • It is based on several parameters like the number of hospital beds, air quality, water quality, liveability index, etc.

Key Points:

  • Pune stood first in the City Health Card as it scored significantly high on parameters such as the number of beds, ease of living, water quality, and adoption of digital initiatives through e-governance.
  • Bengaluru has emerged as India’s third most equipped city in terms of health infrastructure, with 3.6 hospital beds per 1000 people.
  • According to the report, Bengaluru has the highest number of hospital beds as compared to the other top eight cities, but scores low on air quality and municipal performance. 
  • Delhi-NCR ranked the lowest among eight cities due to an inadequate number of hospital beds, poor air quality, and a low score on the liveability index. 
  • The report highlighted that 69% of hospital beds in the country are concentrated in urban areas.
  • In terms of states, Karnataka, Telangana, and Kerala have the maximum number of beds (of public and private hospitals) per 1,000 populations, while Bihar, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh have the least.
  • According to the report, India spends the least on its healthcare and has the lowest number of beds (public hospitals) per 1,000 populations (0.5).
  • With only 0.86 doctors per 1,000 people, India has the lowest number of healthcare providers compared to other major economies where the doctor to population ratio ranges between 2-4 doctors for every 1,000 people.
  •  

The National Family Health Survey 

  • Context:
    • The National Family Health Survey 2019-20 (NFHS-5), the fifth in the NFHS series, provides information on population, health, and nutrition for India and each state/union territory (UT). Like NFHS-4, NFHS-5 also provides district-level estimates for many important indicators. 
  • Wide Coverage:
    • NFHS-5 includes some new topics, such as preschool education, disability, access to a toilet facility, death registration, bathing practices during menstruation, and methods and reasons for abortion.
    • The latest data pertains to 17 states-  including Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal- and five UTs (including J&K) and, crucially, captures the state of health in these states before the Covid pandemic.
    • Phase 2 of the survey, which will cover other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, was delayed due to the covid and its results are expected to be made available in May 2021.
  • The Total Fertility Rates (TFR):
    • The total fertility rate (TFR) is defined as the average number of children that would be born to a woman by the time she ends childbearing.
    • Sikkim recorded the lowest TFR, with one woman bearing 1.1 children on average; Bihar recorded the highest TFR of three children per woman.
    • The Total Fertility Rates (TFR) has further declined since NFHS-4 in almost all the Phase-1 States and UTs. The replacement level of fertility (2.1) has been achieved in 19 out of the 22 States/UTs and only 3 states viz. Manipur (2.2), Meghalaya (2.9) and Bihar (3.0) have TFR above replacement levels now.
    • Overall Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) has increased substantially in most States/UTs and it is the highest in HP and WB (74%). The use of modern methods of contraception has also increased in almost all States/UTs.
    • Unmet needs of family planning have witnessed a declining trend in most of the Phase-1 States/UTs. The unmet need for spacing which remained a major issue in India in the past has come down to less than 10% in all the States except Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • Immunisation:
    • Full drive among children aged 12-23 months has recorded substantial improvement across States/UTs/districts. More than two-thirds of children are fully immunized in all the States and UTs except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam.  In almost three-fourths of districts, 70% or more children aged 12-23 months are fully immunized against childhood diseases.
    • On comparing NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 data, the increase in full immunization coverage is observed to be expeditious in many states and UTs; in 11 out of the 22 states/UTs, the increase was to the tune of over 10 percentage points and in another 4 states/UTs between 5 to 9 percentage point over the short span of 4 years.
    • This can be attributed to the flagship initiative of Mission Indradhanush launched by the government in 2015.
    • There is an increase in the % of women receiving the recommended four or more ANC visits by health providers in many States/UTs. This percentage has increased in 13 States/UTs between 2015-16 to 2019-20.
  • Institutional births:
    • Institutional births have increased substantially with over four-fifth of the women delivering in institutions in 19 States and UTs.  Institutional delivery is over 90 % in 14 out of the total 22 States and UTs. Almost 91% of districts recorded over 70% institutional deliveries of births in the 5 years preceding the survey.
  • Hunger :
    • The proportion of stunted children has risen in several of the 17 states and five UTs surveyed, putting India at risk of reversing previous gains in child nutrition made over previous decades.
    • The share of underweight and wasted children has also gone up in the majority of the states.
    • Worryingly, that includes richer states like Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Sex ratio at birth:
    • Sex ratio at birth has remained unchanged or increased in most States/UTs. Majority of the states are in a normal sex ratio of 952 or above. SRB is below 900 in Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, DNH & DD.
  • Under-5 and infant mortality rate (IMR): 
    • The Under 5 and infant mortality rate (IMR) has come down but in parallel recorded an increase in underweight and severely wasted under 5 children among 22 states that were surveyed.
    • These states are Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Lakshadweep and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
    • Child malnutrition parameters — such as infant and child (under 5 years of age) mortality, child stunting (low height for one’s age), child wasting ( low weight for one’s height) and proportion of underweight children — several states have either been stagnant or worsened.
    • In other words, children born between 2014 and 2019 (that is, 0 to 5 years of age) are more malnourished than the previous generation. The reversal in the proportion of children who are stunted is the most worrisome because unlike wasting and being underweight (which can be due to short term reasons and represent acute malnutrition), stunting represents chronic malnutrition. Reversals in stunting are unheard of in growing economies with stable democracies.
  • What can be done?
    • The government must begin identifying areas where malnutrition and anaemia among children are severe and work with communities and civil society to improve nutrition and food security policies. Stunting and wasting have long-term effects which include lower abilities in school, increased child mortality, vulnerability to diseases, and chronic illness in adulthood among others.
    • The paradox, in a sign of glaring inequality, is that this is accompanied by a rise in obesity, especially among women and children. Even before the pandemic, the trend towards obesity was driven by the lack of awareness of good food habits resulting in greater consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods and sedentary lifestyles. Increasing obesity will exacerbate conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.

National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021

  • Context:
    • National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill passed by Parliament to regulate the practice of allied and healthcare professionals.
  • Key features of the Bill:
    • The Bill seeks to set up a National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions to regulate and standardize the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals.
    • The functions of the proposed National Commission include framing of standards for education and practice, creating and maintaining an online Central Register of all registered professionals, providing basic standards of education, and providing for a uniform entrance and exit examination.
    • Under the legislation, only those enrolled in a State Register or the National Register as a qualified allied and healthcare practitioner would be allowed to practice as an allied and healthcare practitioner.
  • Definitions:
    1. The Bill defines an ‘allied health professional’ as an associate, technician, or technologist trained to support the diagnosis and treatment of any illness, disease, injury, or impairment. Such a professional should have obtained a diploma or degree under this Bill.
    2. A ‘healthcare professional’ includes a scientist, therapist, or any other professional who studies, advises, researches supervises or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or promotional health services. Such a professional should have obtained a degree under this Bill.
    3. Allied and healthcare professions that are mentioned in the Bill include professionals working in life sciences, trauma and burn care, surgical and anaesthesia related technology, physiotherapists, and nutrition science.
  • Significance:
    • The legislation will increase employment opportunities for the allied and healthcare professionals and provide dignity to their valuable works.
    • Also, there is an immense demand for qualified healthcare professionals and the legislation will provide the necessary impetus in providing affordable healthcare to the people.

Vital Statistics of India

  • Context:
    • The Office of the Registrar General of India has released a report titled “Vital Statistics of India Based on The Civil Registration System”.
  • About the Report:
    • The report provides an overview of the working of the Civil Registration System(CRS) in the country.
    • It presents a compilation of data on registered births, deaths, and sex ratios based on Civil Registration Records.
    • Data: The level of registration was arrived at using Sample Registration System Rates for 2018. It is because the survey for 2019 which was scheduled for 2020 could not be completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Key Findings of the Report: The level of birth and death registration with the Civil Registration System (CRS) in India has gone up considerably in 2019.
  • Birth Registration:
    • Based on information received from the 32 States/UTs, the share of institutional births to total registered births is 81.2 %.
    • The level of registration of births has increased to 92.7% in 2019 from 82.4% in 2011.
    • 14 States/UTs have achieved the 100% level of registration of births. Around 10 out of 20 major States have crossed the 90% level of registration of births.
    • Out of the total registered births, the share of males and females is 52.1% and 47.9% respectively.
    • In case of registration of births within the prescribed time period of 21 days, the 15 States/UTs have achieved more than 90% registration of births to the total births registered.
    • The three states namely Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have achieved 80 to 90% registration of births within 21 days.
    • The highest Sex Ratio at Birth(SRB) based on Registered events has been reported by Arunachal Pradesh(1024), followed by Nagaland(1001), Mizoram(975) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands(965).
    • The lowest Sex Ratio at Birth(SRB) has been reported by Gujarat(901), Assam(903), Madhya Pradesh(905) followed by Jammu & Kashmir (909).
  • Death Registration:
    • The number of registered deaths has increased from 69.5 lakhs in 2018 to 76.4 lakhs in 2019.
    • Out of the total registered deaths, the share of males and females is 59.6% and 40.4% respectively.
    • Based on the information provided from 31 States/UTs, the share of Institutional deaths in total registered deaths is 32.1%.
    • In case of registration of deaths within the prescribed time period of 21 days, 11 States/UTs have achieved more than 90% registration of deaths to the total deaths registered.
    • The level of registration of deaths has increased from 66.4% in 2011 to 92.0% in 2019.
    • Among the states, 19 States/UTs have achieved a 100% per cent level of registration of deaths.
    • In the case of registration of infant deaths, the share of urban areas is 75.5% compared to rural with only 24.5%.

Oxfam report on inequalities in health indicators

Context: The Oxfam report titled 'Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story' was released recently.

Statewise comparison:

  • The report says that states attempting to reduce existing inequalities and with higher expenditure on health had lower confirmed cases of Covid-19.
  • States that have for the past few years been reducing inequalities, such as inequalities to access to health between the general category and SC and ST populations, have less confirmed cases of Covid – such as Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
  • States that have had higher GDP expenditure on health, such as Assam, Bihar, and Goa, have higher recovery rates of Covid cases.
  • The report marks Kerala as a success story in handling the pandemic.

Intrapersonal comparison:

  • People from higher income brackets, and with access to health infrastructure, had faceless visits to hospitals and Covid centers than those belonging to lower-income groups.
  • People belonging to lower-income groups also faced five times more discrimination on being found Covid-positive than those in higher-income groups, it reported.

Castewise comparison and others:

  • Over 50 percent of people from SC and ST communities faced difficulties in accessing non-Covid medical facilities, compared to 18.2 percent of people in the ‘general’ category.
  • The general category performs better than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs); Hindus perform better than Muslims; the rich perform better than the poor; men are better off than women, and the urban population is better off than the rural population on various health indicators.

Digital Comparison:

  • The report points out that the vaccination drive against Covid-19 ignores the country’s digital divide — entering the pandemic, only 15 percent of rural households had an internet connection; smartphone users in rural India were almost half of those in urban areas. 
  • More than 60 percent of women across 12 states had never used the internet.

State of medical expenditure during Covid-19 pandemic:

  • The average medical expenditure per hospitalization case has tripled between 2004 and 2017, making it difficult for poorer and rural households.
  • one rupee in every Rs 6 spent on hospitalization came through borrowing; while urban households depended on savings, rural households depended on loans.
  • Less than one-third of households in the country were covered by a government insurance scheme in 2015-16.

Inequalities in health:

  • India’s low spending on public healthcare has left the poor and marginalized with two difficult options: suboptimal and weak public healthcare or expensive private healthcare.
  • Out-of-pocket health expenditure of 64.2 percent in India is higher than the world average of 18.2 percent. 
  • Over 63 million people are pushed to poverty every year due to health costs alone.

National Doctor’s Day 2020

  • Context:
    • Celebrated on July 1 every year to honour eminent physician Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. Doctor’s Day was established by the Government of India in 1991.
    • It is traditionally organised in the country by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
    • The theme this year is “lessen the mortality of COVID-19”.
    • Globally, the First Doctor’s Day was observed on March 28, 1933, in Winder, Georgia.
  • About Dr. Roy:
    1. He was the second chief minister of West Bengal.
    2. He was also Mahatma Gandhi’s friend and doctor.
    3. He was honoured with Bharat Ratna on February 4, 1961.

MTP Bill

  • Context:
    • Recently, Rajya Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in March 2020. 
    • The Bill seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  • Provisions:
    • Termination due to Failure of Contraceptive Method or Device:
      • Under the Act, a pregnancy may be terminated up to 20 weeks by a married woman in the case of failure of a contraceptive method or device. The Bill allows unmarried women to also terminate a pregnancy for this reason.
    • Opinion Needed for Termination of Pregnancy:
      • Opinion of one registered medical practitioner (instead of two or more) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
      • Gestation is the foetal development period from the time of conception until birth.
      • Opinion of two registered medical practitioners for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
      • Opinion of the State-level medical board is essential for a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities.
    • Medical Boards:
      • Every state government is required to constitute a Medical Board.
      • These Medical Boards will consist of the following members:
        1. a gynaecologist,
        2. a paediatrician,
        3. a radiologist or sonologist, and
        4. any other number of members, as may be notified by the state government.
    • Upper Gestation Limit for Special Categories:
      • It enhances the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include survivors of rape, victims of incest, and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors), etc.
    • Confidentiality:
      • The “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorized in any law that is currently in force.

Healthcare Sector Schemes in India

  • By 2025, the Government of India is planning to increase the expenditure on Health care to 2.5% of the GDP.
  • In the Union Budget 2020-21, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was allocated a budget of more than Rs 65,000 crores. 
  • In Budget 2020-21, the Government of India has approved the extension of the National Health Mission with an allocated budget of around Rs 34,000 crores.
  • The National Nutrition Mission has set an objective of reducing the undernutrition, problems of stunting by 2%
  • The Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) – This is the largest health care program funded by the Government. 
  • In the Union Budget 2020-21, PMJAY was allocated a budget of more than Rs 6400 crores.
  • As of Nov 2019, more than 63 lakh people have received free treatment under Ayushman Bharat – PMJAY.
  • In the Union Budget 2020-21, the Government of India allocated Rs 3,000 crores for Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

Women in Poland protesting a recent court ruling on abortions

  • Context:
    • Women protesting against the decision of the constitutional tribunal to further tighten Poland’s abortion laws, which were already some of the strictest in Europe.
  • What is the Polish court’s recent ruling on abortions?
    • Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that an existing law allowing abortions of malformed fetuses was unconstitutional, immediately provoking an outcry from women and pro-choice activists across the country.
    • In the ruling, the tribunal permitted abortions in the case of fetal deformities legalised “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity,”.
    • Since the Polish constitution assures a right to life, the tribunal argued that an abortion based on a fetal malfunction was “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”
  • Background:
    • Last year, MPs from the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party first launched a legal challenge against the country’s 1993 abortion law, which so far permitted the termination of pregnancy on the grounds of foetal defects. Significantly, a majority of the court’s judges were nominated by the ruling party itself.
    • Poland’s abortion laws were already considered some of the strictest in Europe. Now, once the court’s decision is enacted, abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.
  • What does the court’s decision mean for the people of Poland?
    • Fewer than 2,000 legal abortions are carried out in Poland each year, a majority of which are due to foetal defects.
    • Abortions in cases of rape, incest, or where there is a threat to the mother’s life account for merely 2% of all legal terminations. So the court’s ruling essentially translates to a near-complete ban on abortions in the country.
    • Women’s rights groups have said that an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 Polish women either go abroad or seek illegal abortions every year due to the country’s strict abortion laws.
    • Despite Poland being one of the most staunchly Catholic countries in Europe, a number of opinion polls have shown that a majority of its citizenry has been against a more restrictive abortion law over the years.

Abortion is a woman’s right to decide

  • Context: 
    • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 and how women are being deprived of their right to abortion.
  • After much stonewalling
    • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) may have been considered progressive at that time considering that provisions in the Indian Penal Code regarding termination of pregnancy were enacted over a century ago in keeping with the British law on the subject.
    • Abortions were made a crime and the woman concerned and her doctor would invariably land up in jail.
    • Section 3 put an outer limit of 20 weeks on the length of the pregnancy and required two doctors to certify that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health or that there was a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
    • Explanation 1 dealt with rape cases where it was to be presumed that the anguish caused would constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the woman.
    • Explanation 2 laid down that any pregnancy occurring as a result of the failure of contraception would likewise be presumed to constitute a grave injury.
    • Section 5 created an exception to the 20-week limit whenever such an abortion was immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
    • The 1971 Act was based on “The Report of the Shantilal H. Shah Committee to Study the Question of Legislation of Abortion” 1967, which set out the limitations of technology that made it hazardous for women to have abortions done after the 20th week.
    • This limitation disappeared with the phenomenal improvement in technology and processes rendering it possible to carry out abortions safely right up to full term.
    • Thus the excuse of “safety of the woman” was no longer tenable to be used for restricting women’s rights.
  • The after-effect
    • The limits for abortion have pushed women seeking abortions underground where terminations are carried out in unhygienic and dangerous places and in horrific situations.
    • Even today about 800,000 illegal and unsafe abortions are performed every year in India, many of them resulting in morbidities and death.
    • In Murugan Nayakkar vs Union of India & Ors, the abortion was permitted at 31 weeks, very close to full term.
    • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 fails miserably on the main count while introducing few collateral progressive measures.
    • First, the Act fails to recognise the absolute right of a woman over her body in taking decisions regarding abortions and reproductive health.
    • It still reserves to the state the right to dictate to the woman that she cannot have an abortion at will.
    • Second, even though the limit has been pushed back from 20 to 24 weeks, this comes with the same state conditionalities as before.
    • Third, 24 weeks is not rational given today’s technology where abortions can be done safely up to full term.
  • Medical boards are obstacles
    • By far the biggest failure of the government lies in enacting section 3(2B) which requires the pregnant woman to approach a medical board in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities and where she has crossed the 24-week limit.
    • These boards impose insurmountable obstacles to the woman seeking late abortions.
    • First, what used to be an exchange between the pregnant woman and her gynaecologist who would take a decision as to safety, has now been replaced by a board of a minimum of three doctors.
    • This is totally unnecessary and breaches privacy.
    • Second, and this is indicative of complete non-application of mind, the Act provides in section 3(2C) for a single board for a State.
    • Given the millions of abortions taking place in India past the deadline, it is impossible for one board to handle all cases.
    • Third, assuming multiple boards will be established, the records show that no State has the finances or the human resources to maintain the operation and functioning of these boards.
    • Fourth, the right to seek termination is restricted to “such category of women as may be prescribed by rules”.
    • One wonders what categories of women would be permitted termination of pregnancies.

Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH)

  • Context:
    • Indian Health Minister recently participated in PMNCH ‘Accountability Breakfast’ through Video Conference.
  • About:
    • The event was co-hosted by the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) and Every Woman Every Child (EWEC).
    • The theme of the Event was Protecting gains in Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health from the Covid pandemic.
  • PMNCH:
    • Launched in 2005.
    • PMNCH is an alliance of more than 1000 organizations in 77 countries from the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health communities, as well as health influencing sectors.
    • It is governed by a Board and administered by a Secretariat hosted at the World Health
    • Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Roles and functions:
    • The Partnership provides a platform for organizations to align objectives, strategies, and resources, and agree on interventions to improve maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health.
  • The White Ribbon Alliance:
    • WRA is a nonpartisan, non-profit, and non-governmental membership organization that aims to decrease maternal and newborn death globally.
    • It is Founded in 1999 and the same year it came to India as WRA India
    • Headquarters is in Washington, D.C., USA.
  • ‘Every Woman Every Child’ (EWEC) Movement:
    • It was launched by the United Nations during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010.
    • Every Woman Every Child is an unprecedented global movement that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action by governments, the private sector, and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women, children, and adolescents around the world.

Minimum Age For Girls Marriage

  • Context:
    • Recently, Prime Minister said that the government will soon decide on revising the minimum age of marriage for women.
  • Background:
    • The government, in June 2020, set up a Task Force (headed by Jaya Jaitly) to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR, improvement of nutritional levels, and related issues.
  • One of the Terms of Reference of the Task Force is to examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with:
    • Health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of mother and neonate/infant/child, during pregnancy, birth, and thereafter.
    • Key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), Child Sex Ratio (CSR), etc.
    • Any other relevant points pertaining to health and nutrition in this context.
  • Child marriage law in India:
    • In India, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for women and at 21 for men.
    • As per a report by SBI, the mean marriage age in India is already above 21 years (i.e. 22.3 years).
    • PCMA treats underage marriages as valid, but voidable. It means that underage marriage is valid as long as the minors involved in the marriage want it to remain valid.
    • PCMA allows the minor party to repudiate the marriage or to have it nullified right up till two years of attaining majority.
    • PCMA also treats those underage marriages as void or having no legal validity, where they involve trafficking, enticement, fraud, and deceit.
    • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act penalizes penetrative sexual assault on a child by anyone related to the child through marriage.
    • Section 375 of IPC penalizes sexual acts with a girl below 18 years of age, with or without her consent.
    • The exception to Section 375 permitting men to consummate a marriage with their brides above 15 but below 18 years of age was read down by Supreme Court in 2017 in the case of Independent Thought v. Union of India. Thus, now husbands can be booked for raping their minor wives.

Menstrual Leave 

  • Context:
    • Recently, Zomato announced a new paid period leave policy for employees.
  • About News:
    • The policy allows up to 10 days of period leave a year.
    • Company employees can apply for period leave through a human resources portal and a sexual harassment team will be in place to respond to any employees facing harassment for taking the time off.
  • Menstrual Leave discourse in India:
    • The State of Bihar has had two extra days of casual leave per month for women government employees to take time off for periods since 1992.
    • In 2017, the digital media company Culture Machine, which has offices in five cities in India, put in place a menstrual leave policy independent of vacation and sick days.
  • Menstruation Benefit Bill 2017(Tabled in Lok Sabha in 2018):
    • The Bill seeks to provide women working in the public and private sectors two days of paid menstrual leave every month as well as better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation.
    • The benefits would also be extended to female students of Class VIII and above in government recognized schools.
    • The Bill caters to girls and women across sector/industry/profession/job roles and not just for women engaged in white-collar work.

YuWaah Platform

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has launched the YuWaah Platform.
  • Targets:
    • To reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women, and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3%, and 2% per annum respectively. It would strive to achieve a reduction in Stunting from 38.4% (NFHS-4) to 25% by 2022.
  • About:
    • It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
    • YuWaah, also known as Generation Unlimited (GenU), is a global multi-stakeholder platform in India.
    • The Statement of Intent (SoI) between the Ministry and UNICEF provides the objectives of the YuWaah project which includes:
      • Support young people by providing entrepreneurship classes (online and offline) with successful entrepreneurs and experts, towards establishing an entrepreneurial mindset among young people.
      • Upskilling of young people on 21st-century skills, life skills, digital skills through online and offline channels and support them through self-learning, for their productive lives and the future of work.
      • Create linkages with aspirational economic opportunities to connect young people with employment opportunities, including building pathways to connect them with jobs or self-employment.
      • Providing career guidance support to young people through career portal as well as through job-readiness and self-exploration sessions to make young people career-ready.
      • The role of the Department of Youth Affairs is to provide relevant experts to participate in the YuWaah Technical Working Groups/Task Forces.
  • United Nations Children's Fund:
    • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a special program of the United Nations (UN) devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.
    • UNICEF was created in 1946 as the International Children’s Emergency Fund (ICEF) by the UN Relief Rehabilitation Administration to help children affected by World War II.
    • UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations in 1953.
    • The name was shortened to the United Nations Children's Fund but it is still referred to as UNICEF.

Two-Child Policy

  • Context: 
    • The latest data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) shows India doesn't need a two-child policy
    • The two-child policy is a state-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.
    • A two-child policy has previously been used in several countries including Iran, Singapore, and Vietnam.
    • In British Hong Kong in the 1970s, citizens were also highly encouraged to have two children as a limit (although it was not mandated by law), and it was used as part of the region’s family planning strategies.
    • Since 2016, it has been re-implemented in China replacing the country’s previous one-child policy.
  • Present status in India:
    • There is no national policy mandating two children per family.
    • A parliamentarian had tabled a Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2019 on the matter, proposing incentives for smaller families.
    • PM in 2019 had appealed to the country that population control was a form of patriotism.
    • Months later, the NITI Aayog called various stakeholders for a national-level consultation on the issue, which was subsequently cancelled following media glare on it.
    • In 2020, the PM spoke about a likely decision on revising the age of marriage for women, which many stakeholders view as an indirect attempt at controlling the population size.
  • Need for Two-Child Policy Norm:
    • India’s population has already crossed 125 crores and India is expected to surpass the world’s most populous nation-China in the next couple of decades.
    • Despite having the National Population Control Policy (2000), India is the second-most populous country in the world.
    • Thus, India’s natural resources are extremely over-burdened and facing over-exploitation.
  • Criticism of the Two-Child Policy:
    • The restricted child policy will create a shortage of educated young people needed to carry on India’s technological revolution.
    • The problems like gender imbalance, undocumented children, etc. faced by China (as a result of the one-child policy) might be experienced by India.
    • India's birth rate is slowing down to sustainable levels. In 2000, the fertility rate was still relatively high at 3.2 children per woman. By 2016, that number had already fallen to 2.3 children.

Child Care Leave

  • Context:
    • Union Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions said that the male employees of the government are also now entitled to Child Care Leave.
  • About:
    • However, the provision of Child Care Leave (CCL) will be available only for those male employees who happen to be “single male parents”.
    • This may include male employees who are widowers or divorcees or even unmarried and may, therefore, be expected to take up the responsibility of child care as a single-handed parent.
    • The orders regarding this had been issued quite some time back but somehow did not receive enough circulation in the public.
    • An employee on Child Care Leave may now leave the headquarter with the prior approval of the Competent Authority. In addition, the Leave Travel Concession (LTC) may be availed by the employee even if he is on Child Care Leave.
    • Child Care Leave can be granted at 100% of the leave salary for the first 365 days and 80% of leave salary for the next 365 days.
    • In the case of a disabled child, the condition of availing Child Care Leave up to the age of 22 years of the child has been removed and now Child Care Leave can be availed by a government servant for a disabled child of any age.

Price Monitoring and Resource Unit 

  • Context:
    • A Price Monitoring and Resource Unit (PMRU) has been set up in Karnataka under the aegis of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals, and Fertilizers.
  • What are the Price Monitoring and Resource Units (PMRU)?
    • It is a registered society and shall function under the direct control and supervision of the State Drug Controller of respective states. The unit shall be funded by NPPA for its recurring and non-recurring expenses.
    • The suggestion to set up PMRUs was made due to the lack of a field-level link between the NPPA and the State Drugs Controllers to monitor drug prices.
    • Kerala was the first state to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU) to track violations of prices of essential drugs and medical devices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).
  • Functions:
    1. Help NPPA and State Drug Controller in ensuring the availability and accessibility of medicines at affordable prices.
    2. Organise seminars, training programs, and other information, education, and communication (IEC) activities in the areas of availability and affordability of medicines for all.
    3. Collect samples of medicines, collect and analyze data, and make reports with respect to availability and over-pricing of medicines for taking action under the provisions of the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO).
  • Which other states have PMRUs?
    • NPPA, under its Central Sector Scheme named Consumer Awareness, Publicity and Price Monitoring (CAPPM), has already set up PMRUs in 12 States/ UTs, including Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram, and Jammu & Kashmir.
    • NPPA has plans to set up PMRUs in all 36 States/ UTs.
  • National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority(NPPA):
    • It was formed on 29 August 1997.
    • National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority is a government regulatory agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India.
    • NPPA fixes ceiling prices of essential medicines that are listed in Schedule I of DPCO, 2013.

Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP)

  • Context:
    • The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Health Care has expressed disappointment over the recent reply of Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Sadanada Gowda, in Parliament that there is no decision yet to make the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) mandatory.
  • What's the demand now?
    • The alliance has said that UCPMP should be made mandatory to bring fairness in the marketing of the drugs as the industry has failed to comply with the code on a voluntary basis.
  • What is UCPMP Code?
    • It is a voluntary code issued by the Department Of Pharmaceuticals relating to marketing practices for Indian Pharmaceutical Companies and as well as the medical devices industry.
  • Applicability:
    • At present, the UCPMP Code is applicable to Pharmaceutical Companies, Medical
    • Representatives, Agents of Pharmaceutical Companies such as Distributors, Wholesalers, Retailers, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Associations.
  • Key features and provisions:
    • No gifts, pecuniary advantages, or benefits in kind may be supplied, offered or promised, to persons qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents.
    • As regards travel facilities, the UCPMP Code prohibits extending travel facilities inside the country or outside, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets, paid vacations, etc., to HealthCare Professionals and their family members for vacation or for attending the conference.
    • The Code also provides that free samples of drugs shall not be supplied to any person who is not qualified to prescribe such a product.

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Priyojana (PMBJP)

  • Context:
    • 8 immunity-boosting products launched under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Priyojana (PMBJP) for sale through Janaushadhi Kendras across the country.
  • About PMBJP:
    • It is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
    • Initially launched in 2008, the scheme was rechristened in 2015.
  • Implementation:
    • Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP.
    • BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector
    • Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.
  • Salient Features Of The Scheme:
    1. Ensure access to quality medicines.
    2. Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of the pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.
    3. Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with only a high price.
    4. A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies, and other Institutions.
    5. Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment costs and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.

AYUSH GRID Project

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Ministry of AYUSH has endorsed the operational integration of the AYUSH GRID Project with the National Digital Health Mission.
  • About AYUSH GRID Project:
    • The project was initiated by the Ministry of AYUSH in 2018 for creating a comprehensive IT backbone for the entire sector.
    • It is conceptualized for the digitalization of the entire AYUSH Sector.
    • It is aimed at connecting all hospitals and laboratories so that case histories and observations can be collated to generate evidence about the efficacy of the traditional systems of medicine, including Ayurveda.
  • About National Digital Health Mission:
    • The NDHM is a complete digital health ecosystem. The digital platform will be launched with four key features — health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor, and health facility registry.
    • At a later stage, it will also include e-pharmacy and telemedicine services, regulatory guidelines for which are being framed.

E-Sanjeevani Telemedicine Service

  • Context:
    • In a landmark achievement, eSanjeevani, Health Ministry’s national telemedicine initiative today completed 9 lakh consultations.
  • About:
    • It is a national telemedicine service that offers teleconsultations enabling the patient to doctor consultations from the confines of their home, as well as doctor to doctor consultations.
    • This eSanjeevani platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services viz. Doctor-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani) and Patient-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani OPD) Tele-consultations.
  • eSanjeevani:
    • It is a doctor to doctor telemedicine system being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre(AB-HWCs) programme.
    • It seeks to connect all 1,50,000 HWCs using the hub-and-spoke model by December 2022.
  • eSanjeevaniOPD:
    • It was launched amid the Covid-19 pandemic to enable patient-to-doctor teleconsultation.

Global Hunger Index 2020

  • Context:
    • As per the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report 2020, India has ranked 94 out of 107 countries.
  • Global findings of the report:
    • Nearly 690 million people have undernourished out of which 144 million children suffer from stunting, 47 million children suffer from wasting, and in 2018, 5.3 million children died before their 5th birthday as a result of undernutrition.
    • Worldwide hunger is at a moderate level which translates to a score of 10-19.9 out of 100.
    • South Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest hunger and undernutrition levels among world regions, with 2020 GHI scores of 27.8 and 26.0, respectively—both considered serious.
      • 3 countries have alarming levels of hunger- Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar.
    • The world is not on track to achieve the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal – Zero Hunger – by 2030. At the current pace, approximately 37 countries will fail to even to reach low hunger by 2030.
  • About Global Hunger Index:
    • It is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels.
    • GHI is published by Concern Worldwide (an international humanitarian organization) and Welthungerhilfe (private aid organisations in Germany).
    • It is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger.
    • GHI scores are based on the values of 4 component indicators:
      • Undernourishment –the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake.
      • Child wasting – the share of children under age 5 who have low weight for their height.
      • Child stunting – the share of children under age 5 who have low height for their age.
      • Child mortality – a mortality rate of children under age 5.
    • GHI score is determined on a 100-point scale – 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. Each country’s score is classified by severity -from Low to Extremely alarming.
  • Related concepts
    • Hunger: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life. Hunger is usually understood to refer to the distress associated with a lack of sufficient calories.
    • Undernutrition: It is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these factors
    • Malnutrition: It refers more broadly to both undernutrition (problems caused by deficiencies) and overnutrition (problems caused by unbalanced diets).
  • India’s Hunger Dilemma:
    • Out of the total 107 countries, only 13 countries fare worse than India (Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, etc.). Countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are ahead of India.
    • GHI 2020 gave a score of 27.2 on a 100 point scale to India which puts the country in the “serious” category of hunger.
    • In terms of overall undernourishment, 14% of India’s population does not get enough calories.
      • Almost 35% of Indian children are stunted.
      • 17.3% of Indian children under five are wasted.
      • Under 5 mortality rate is at 3.7%.
    • Food insecurity, poor sanitation, inadequate housing, limited access to healthcare — all result in maternal distress, which leads to the kind of slow, chronic wasting seen in Indian children.
    • India has around 70 million tonnes of food stock (excluding un-milled paddy) in the central pool stored at Food Corporation of India’s warehouses. This is enough to ensure no one stays hungry.
    • The National Food Security Act, 2013 is in place to ensure food security for the most vulnerable communities.
    • Ration distribution through fair price shops, mid-day meal programmes at schools, nutrition, maternity benefit programmes for children and pregnant mothers at anganwadis all fall within the Act.

Committees on Nutrition

  • Context:
    • The government’s three top committees on nutrition responsible for providing policy directions, monitoring the implementation of various schemes and reviewing the nutritional status of various States and Union Territories have failed to meet even once since the COVID-19 pandemic, while they are required to meet every quarter, despite global warnings of rising levels of hunger, malnutrition and child mortality.
  • The three top committees are:
    • Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog headed National Nutrition Council (NNC), which also includes 12 Union Ministers and five Chief Ministers on a rotational basis;
    • The Executive Committee (EC) of the National Nutrition Mission headed by Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development; and
    • The National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN), headed by Member, NITI Aayog.
    • These committees were set up after the Cabinet approved the National Nutrition Mission in December 2017 and were mandated to meet once every quarter.
    • They have to supervise the policy framework and the implementation of the government programmes, review the performance of various States, give scientific and technical recommendations for the execution of various schemes and propose corrective measures.
  • UNICEF warning:
    • The UNICEF warned in July last that 6.7 million additional children under five could suffer from wasting and there could be nearly 10,000 more under-five deaths a month globally as a result of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
    • The recent National Family Health Survey-5 data shows that even before COVID-19, 16 out of 22 States surveyed had witnessed worsening levels of wasting among under-five children and 13 showed a surge in stunting among children.
    • The Hunger Watch Survey conducted by the Right to Food Campaign also shows that even five months after the lockdown was lifted, people continued to go to bed on an empty stomach, and more than 60% of the 4,000 respondents across 11 States said their consumption of pulses and vegetables had gone down.

POSHAN Abhiyaan

  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3%, and 2% per annum respectively.
  • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters.
  • Under the Abhiyaan, Swasth Bharat Preraks will be deployed one in each district for coordinating with district officials and enabling fast and efficient execution of the Abhiyaan across the country. Swasth Bharat Preraks would function as a catalyst for fast-tracking the implementation of the Abhiyaan.

POSHAN Abhiyaan’s Integrated Child Development Services Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS)

  • Context:
    • This nutrition portal, which is used to monitor services at anganwadis is down for nearly three months.
  • About the portal:
    • It is developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and is used by the Centre as well as most States to record and monitor the delivery of services to children and mothers across nearly seven lakh anganwadis.
    • The software was developed under the Poshan Abhiyaan approved by the Cabinet in 2017. While 50% of the amount is funded by government budgetary support, the remaining 50% is a loan from the World Bank.
    • It is an innovative web and mobile-phone-based application to improve service delivery and programme management.
    • The application facilitates Anganwadi workers (AWWs) in their daily tasks, helps supervisors to assess and provide feedback to the workers, and helps other programme officials to track service delivery and take informed decisions.
    • The ICDS-CAS has three components:
      • a mobile-based application for AWWs,
      • a mobile-based application for supervisors and
      • a web-based dashboard for other programme officials.
    • The software also helps in calculating incentives given to workers for each task, but in its absence, these have been pending since September despite the responsibilities of Anganwadi workers increasing manifold due to the pandemic.

Fish in nutrition

  • Context:
    • Odisha to introduce fish in the nutrition scheme.
  • About the news:
    • Adolescent girls and pregnant women will be given dried small fish as part of the take-home ration.
    • Small fish like anchovy, Indian Sardine, and lesser sardine would be given to the beneficiaries in powder form or in packets after being dried.
  • Benefits:
    • Small fish, especially when eaten whole, is a rich source of nutritious animal-source food.
    • Even the skeleton of the fish is highly nutritious and can be provided in the form of powder.
    • Fish is provided to students in many nations as well and have shown promising results.

Trans Fats

  • Context:
    • India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan were among the countries that need to act urgently against transfat, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
  • What has the WHO said?
    1. Industrially produced trans-fats are found in hardened vegetable fats such as margarine and ghee (clarified butter) and are often present in snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods.
    2. The substance is responsible for around 500,000 deaths due to coronary heart disease every year across the world. 15 countries account for two-thirds of the deaths linked to the substance.
    3. It is, however, often used by manufacturers because it has a longer shelf life and is cheaper than other, healthier choices that do not affect taste or cost.
    4. So far, 58 countries have introduced laws to protect 3.2 billion people from the substance by the end of 2021. But more than 100 countries still needed to take action to remove trans-fat from their food supply chains.
    5. None of the low-income or lower-middle-income countries has yet implemented best-practice policies, while seven of their upper-middle-income and 33 of their high-income counterparts did so.
  • What are Trans fats?
    • Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent.
    • These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.
    • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
    • In our diet, the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
  • Harmful effects:
    • TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease.
    • Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
    • It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.
  • Why they are increasingly being used?
    • TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.
  • Efforts to reduce their intake:
    1. FSSAI put in place regulation in 2016 halving the permissible quantum of trans-fats in edible fats and oils from 10% to 5%.
    2. WHO launched a REPLACE campaign in 2018 for global level elimination of trans-fats in industrially produced edible oils by 2023.
    3. FSSAI has set 2022 as the deadline.
    4. FSSAI plans to cap TFA at 3% by 2021 and 2% by 2022 in edible fats and oils.
    5. FSSAI launched a “Trans Fat-Free” logo for voluntary labelling to promote TFA-free products. The label can be used by bakeries, local food outlets, and shops for preparations containing TFA not exceeding 0.2 per 100 g/ml.

Sweet sellers need to display 'best before date', order FSSAI

  • Context:
    • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has released guidelines on the sale of loose sweets.
  • As per the new guidelines:
    • In the case of non-packaged/ loose sweets, the container/tray holding sweets at the outlet for the sale should display the 'Best Before Date' of the product mandatorily with effect from October 1, 2020.
    • The food business operators (FBOs) might also display the date of manufacturing. It is not mandatory, however.
    • The FBOs shall decide and display the 'Best Before Date' of sweets depending on the nature of the products and the local conditions.
    • Food safety commissioners should ensure compliance.
  • Significance:
    • The decision was based on various complaints about the quality and adulteration of sweets, mostly during the festive season.
    • This regulation will help to ensure that consumers are purchasing fresh products.
  • About the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):
    • It is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
    • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the administrative Ministry of FSSAI.
    • FSS Act, 2006 consolidates various acts & orders that had earlier handled food-related issues in various Ministries and Departments, such as:
      • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
      • Fruit Products Order, 1955
      • Meat Food Products Order, 1973
      • Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
      • Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order 1988
      • Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992

Swasthya

  • Context:
    • Union Tribal Affairs Minister e-launched Tribal Health & Nutrition Portal “Swasthya”.
  • About Swasthya:
    • It is an e-portal on tribal health and nutrition which will be providing all health and nutrition-related information of the tribal population of India in a single platform.
    • It will curate innovative practices, research briefs, etc. collected from different parts of India to facilitate the exchange of evidence, expertise, and experiences.
  • Other initiatives launched:
    • National Overseas Portal and National Tribal Fellowship Portal to bring greater transparency and easy information to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students.
    • Online Performance Dashboard “Empowering Tribals, Transforming India” under Digital India to work towards empowering STs and will bring efficiency and transparency.
    • e-newsletter on health and nutrition- ALEKH.
  • Status of tribal population in India:
    • According to the 2011 census, the tribal population in India is over 104 million which is spread across 705 tribes and accounts for 8.6% of the country’s population. More than 90% of tribal people live in rural areas.
    • M.P. has the highest tribal population followed by Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.

Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi

  • Context:
    • Union Cabinet has approved the creation of Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi (PMSSN).
  • About the fund:
    • It will be a single non-lapsable reserve fund for a share of Health from the proceeds of Health and Education Cess.
    • The accruals into the PMSSN will be utilised for the flagship schemes of the Health Ministry including Ayushmann Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) and National Health Mission and Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) and also disaster preparedness, and responses during health emergencies.
    • In any financial year, the expenditure on such schemes of the Health Ministry would be initially incurred from the PMSSN and thereafter, from Gross Budgetary Support (GBS).
  • Significance:
    • The major benefit will be enhanced access to universal and affordable health care through the availability of earmarked resources while ensuring that the amount does not lapse at the end of the financial year.

Serial interval

  • Context:
    • China, which has now gone over a month without any locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, was able to contain Covid-19 due to its ability to manage the serial interval.
  • What is it?
    • The serial interval is the duration between symptom onset of a primary case and symptom onset of secondary cases (contacts) generated by the primary case.
    • In simple terms, the serial interval is the gap between the onset of Covid-19 symptoms in Person A and Person B, who is infected by Person A.
  • When was it first used?
    • The term was first used by British physician William Pickles, who had initially referred to it as transmission interval with reference to a hepatitis epidemic in the United Kingdom during 1942-45.
  • Mains Factors on which Serial Interval depends:
    • Incubation period: The time between a person’s exposure to the virus and symptom onset.
    • Reproduction rate or R naught: The number of people who will be infected by one infected person.
  • Significance:
    • The serial interval helps to gauge the effectiveness of infection control interventions besides indicating rising population immunity and forecast future incidence.
    • Thus, the more quickly persons who contracted Covid-19 are identified and isolated, the shorter the serial interval becomes and cuts down opportunities for transmission of the virus.
  • What does India need to do?
    • To manage the serial interval, a robust system of contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols should be in place.
  • Case study:
    • China:
      • The serial interval in Wuhan came down from 7.8 days to 2.6 days between early January and early February.
      • Quarantining contacts within 1 day from symptom onset helped reduce Covid-19 transmission by 60 percent.
      • This was made possible due to aggressive contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation, thereby ensuring that infected patients, because they were isolated, could not infect any more people later in the infection cycle.

Health Ministry launches ‘Decade of Healthy Aging’

  • Context: 
    • Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the 'Decade of Healthy Aging’ a campaign on International Day for Older Persons.
    • The International Day of Older Persons is observed on 1st October (as designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990) every year.
    • The theme for International Day of Older Persons: “Promote a Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030)”
  • Aim:
    • Mainstreaming issues related to the elderly and to deliberate upon ways to ensure better and effective delivery of services, making full use of convergence mechanisms.
  • About:
    • The Decade of Healthy Ageing has been endorsed by the 73rd World Health Assembly (decision making body of the World Health Organisation) in 2020.
    • It is an opportunity to bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, the media, and the private sector for ten years of concerted, catalytic, and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.
  • Implementation:
    • Convergence within various national health programs and also promoting inter-sectoral coordination with other line Departments/Ministries.
    • Community-based organizations, NGOs and multinational agencies will also be involved in developing an implementation framework for multi-sectoral engagement on healthy ageing.
    • “Discussions/workshops/webinars with experts/academic bodies/professionals will be organized to bring out policy and programmatic responses to LASI data, highlighting the best practices for elder care and exploring effective means of promoting and strengthening the participation of older persons in various aspects of social, cultural, economic and civic and political life.”

About Longitudinal Ageing Study in India:

  • LASI is the largest study on the older population in the country.
  • The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Southern California (USC), USA is undertaking the “The Longitudinal Ageing Study in India” under the aegis of the Ministry of Union Health and Family Welfare.
  • LASI is jointly funded by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the United States- National Institute on Ageing, and the United Nations Population Fund-India. 
  • It will survey more than 60,000 elderly over 25 years plan.
  • The survey will provide scientifically validated data on various issues of the elderly.

Significance of the study:

  • This study will help design policies to mainstream the elderly, to reduce their vulnerabilities, and enhance access to various services.
  • It will also help in framing evidence-based policy.
  • Related Statistic:
    • The global share of older people aged 60 years or over increased from 9.2% in 1990 to 11.7% in 2013 and will continue to grow as a proportion of the world population, reaching 21.1% by 2050.
    • Presently, about two-thirds of the world's older persons live in developing countries.
    • By 2050, nearly 8 in 10 of the world's older population will live in the less developed regions. 
    • The Covid-19 pandemic may significantly lower older persons’ incomes and living standards. Already, less than 20% of older persons of retirement age receive a pension.
  • India Specific Data:
    • As per Census 2011, the total population of Senior Citizens (people aged 60 years and above) is 10.38 crore, of which the population of males and females are 5.11 crore and 5.27 crore respectively.
    • The share of senior citizens in the total population as per Census 2011 is 8.57%.
    • As per the May 2006 Report of the “Technical Group on Population Projections” constituted by the National Commission on Population published by the Office of the Registrar General of India this share is expected to increase to 10.70% in 2021 and to 12.40% in 2026.
  • Initiatives for the elderly population:
    • Nodal Ministry:
      • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the Nodal Ministry for matters relating to the Senior Citizens.
    • Constitutional Provision:
      • Article 41 of the Constitution states that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.
    • Law:
      • Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act, 2007: To ensure need-based maintenance for Parents and Senior Citizens and their welfare.
    • Schemes:
      • Senior Citizens Saving Scheme (SCSS)
        • This is a government-backed savings instrument offered to Indian residents above the age of 60.
        • The deposit matures in five years and can be extended once for an additional three year period.
        • One can avail of this scheme either through a public/private bank or through the Indian Post office.
        • The interest rate for January to March 2019 has been set at 8.6% and is reviewed by the government every quarter.
        • The accrued interest is compounded and credited quarterly.
        • A minimum deposit of Rs 1,000 and a maximum of Rs 15 lakh can be made via this scheme.
        • Investments made under this scheme are eligible for tax exemptions.
      • Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY)
        • The scheme is managed by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).
        • Under this scheme, the beneficiary is assured of an 8% per annum return on the deposit. The ‘pension’, or the return will be payable for a period of 10 years and the beneficiary has the option of choosing the tenure of payment.
        • Under this scheme there is a cap on the amount that can be invested, an individual can invest up to Rs 15 lakh and a minimum of Rs 1,000.
        • The scheme has no tax benefits.
        • In case of the death of the beneficiary before the completion of the tenure, the principal amount will be credited to the nominated beneficiary’s account.
        • This scheme also has the provision for a premature exit in case of a critical illness of self or spouse. In such a case 2% will be withheld as a penalty charge.
      • Varishta Pension Bima Yojana
        • Launched by the LIC, this scheme provides its beneficiaries with a steady 8% per annum interest rate for a period of 10 years.
        • Unlike other schemes, one doesn’t have to go through any medical check-ups to avail of its benefits.
        • This scheme, however, has a lock-in period of 15 years.
        • If the policyholder is diagnosed with a critical illness then one can make an early withdrawal.
        • Under this scheme, the beneficiary will also get tax exemptions.
      • Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY)
        • Launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment of the Government of India.
        • This scheme is only available to those senior citizens who are below the poverty line, that is, are BPL cardholders.
        • Senior citizens suffering from low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth, and locomotor disability will be provided with assisted-living devices.
        • A committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner or District Collector with the help of the State governments identifies those who are eligible for this scheme.
        • 30% of the beneficiaries from each district will be women.
        • Walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and artificial dentures are some of the aids that are provided under this scheme.
        • The scheme will be implemented in 260 districts and benefit almost 5 lakh plus beneficiaries in 2019-2020.
      • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme
        • Introduced in 2007 by the Ministry of Rural Development of India, this scheme is popularly known as National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS).
        • This scheme provides social assistance benefits to senior citizens, widows, and those with disabilities.
        • Under this scheme, the beneficiary will receive a monthly pension.
        • The interesting part about this scheme is that it is a non-contributing scheme, which means that the beneficiary does not have to contribute any amount to receive the pension.
        • The beneficiary must be a BPL cardholder and have no regular source of financial support from any other source.
        • If the beneficiary is between 60 to 79 years old, a monthly amount of Rs 200 is given and for those above 80 years, a sum of Rs 500.
        • The pension amount will be credited to the bank account as furnished by the beneficiary or post office account.

World Malaria Report (WMR) 2020

  • Context:
    • Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the World Malaria Report (WMR) 2020.
  • About Key findings:
    • India has made considerable progress in reducing its malaria burden.
    • India is the only high endemic country which has reported a decline of 17.6% in 2019 as compared to 2018.
    • The Annual Parasitic Incidence (API) reduced by 27.6% in 2018 compared to 2017 and by 18.4% in 2019 as compared to 2018.
  • About Malaria:
    • It is caused by Plasmodium parasites.
    • In addition, P. knowlesi, a type of malaria that naturally infects macaques in Southeast Asia, also infects humans, causing malaria that is transmitted from animal to human (“zoonotic” malaria).
    • Symptoms are chills, fever and sweating, usually occurring a few weeks after being bitten.
    • World Malaria Day is observed on 25th April.
  • Spread:
    • Female Anopheles mosquitoes deposit parasite sporozoites into the skin of a human host.
  • Four kinds of malaria parasites infect humans:
    1. Plasmodium falciparum,
    2. P. vivax,
    3. P. ovale, and
    4. P. malariae.

India TB Report 2020

  • Context:
    • Recently, The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its 2020 edition of the Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report.
  • Key Highlights:
    • According to the report, this coronavirus situation could push Tuberculosis related deaths in the world to eight years back.
    • The UN had set a goal to reduce the incidence of TB by 20% and a 35% reduction in deaths due to TB by 2020.
    • India, China, and Russia have the largest number of drug-resistant TB Cases
    • As per the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report, the number of TB deaths could be between 200,000 and 400,000.
    • India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Russia are home to two-thirds of global TB cases.
    • India accounts for 26% of TB cases in the world.
    • Between 2015 and 2019, there were a 9% reduction in TB incidence and a 14% reduction in TB deaths.
  • About TB:
    • According to the WHO, TB is one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.
    • TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that most often affects the lungs.
    • It is a communicable disease that is spread from person to person through the air.
    • It is curable and preventable however, bacteria have become resistant to various strains of antibiotics leading to multiple drug-resistant TB which is difficult to treat.
    • India is committed to achieving the SDG goal of eliminating TB in the country by 2025, which is ambitiously five years ahead of the Global Target.
    • In order to achieve the target and align with the SDG, the existing programme Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) has been upgraded to Intensified National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP)
  • Concerns:
    • Despite increases in TB notifications, there is still a large gap between the number of new cases reported (7.0 million) and the estimated 10.0 million incident cases in 2018.
    • This gap is due to a combination of underreporting of detected cases and underdiagnosis (i.e. people with TB do not access health care or are not diagnosed when they do).
    • Ten countries accounted for about 80% of the gap, with India (25%), Nigeria (12%), Indonesia (10%), and the Philippines (8%) accounting for more than half of the total.
  • Major initiatives which are taken by India:
    • DOT Centres: Ensuring regular medications with DOT Centres, the treatment will be at individual door level leading to no defaulter.
    • Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY): About 35 lakh identified Tuberculosis patients across the country will soon get Rs. 500 every month from the Centre as social support. The cash benefit for social support will cover the loss of wages, travel, and mainly nutrition.
    • Nikshay: It is the National TB information system to enable health functionaries at various levels across the country to monitor TB cases in their areas
    • Cartridge-Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (CBNAAT): It is a revolutionary rapid molecular test that simultaneously detects Mycobacterium tuberculosis and rifampicin drug resistance. This test is fully automated and provides results within two hours. It is a highly sensitive diagnostic tool and can be used in remote and rural areas without sophisticated infrastructure or specialized training.
    • TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign: Launched In September 2019 it is showcasing the highest level of commitment for the elimination of TB.
    • The Saksham Project: It is a project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that has been providing psycho-social counselling to DR-TB patients.

National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021

  • Context:
    • Caregivers to patients with ‘rare diseases’ and affiliated organisations are dissatisfied with the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021.
  • What's the issue?
    • The policy specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh. But, caregivers say this doesn’t reflect the actual costs of treatment.
    • Advocacy groups, however, have expressed concerns about the lack of funding support in the policy for patients diagnosed with life-threatening rare, genetic disorders.
  • Highlights of the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021:
    • Patients of rare diseases will soon be eligible for a one-time treatment under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
    • Beneficiaries for financial assistance would not be limited to below poverty line (BPL) families, but extended to about 40% of the population, who are eligible as per 23 norms of Pradhan.
    • Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), for their treatment in Government tertiary hospitals only.
    • The policy has categorised rare diseases into three groups – disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment; those requiring long-term or lifelong treatment; and diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make an optimal patient selection for benefit.
  • What is a rare disease?
    • A rare disease also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.
    • Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.
  • The commonly reported rare diseases include:
    • Primary immunodeficiency disorders, Lysosomal storage disorders (Gaucher’s disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses, Pompe disease, fabry disease, etc.) small molecule inborn errors of metabolism (Maple Syrup urine disease, organic acidemias, etc.), cystic fibrosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, certain forms of muscular dystrophies, and spinal muscular atrophy.

Anemia Mukt Bharat Index

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has released the Anemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) Index.
  • About Key Highlights:
    • Haryana was ranked at the top slot with an AMB Index of 46.7 among the 29 states.
    • It is one of the 11 states of India that has achieved the national health policy targets well before 2020.
  • Anemia Mukt Bharat:
    • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNICEF.
    • The target beneficiaries are Children (6-59 months), Children(5-9 years), Adolescent Girls & Boys of 10-19 years, Women of Reproductive Age (15-49 years), Pregnant Women, and Lactating Mothers.
  • Aim:
    • To reduce the prevalence of Anemia all over India.
  • Target Interventions:
    • Prophylactic Iron and Folic Acid supplementation, Deworming, Intensified Year-round behaviour change communication activities, Testing of anemia using digital methods, Mandatory provision of Iron and Folic Acid fortified foods in government-funded health programmes and Addressing non-nutritional causes of anemia.
  • Anemia:
    • Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Having anemia can make you feel tired and weak.
    • Anemia is caused due to iron deficiency.
    • There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.
    • Symptoms may include fatigue, skin pallor, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat.

Fortified rice

  • Context:
    • Centre to extend the fortified rice scheme to 112 Aspirational districts.
  • About the news:
    • Children in anganwadis and government schools could soon be eating rice infused with iron, folic acid, and vitamin B-12.
    • In a bid to combat chronic anemia and undernutrition, the government is making plans to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meal schemes across the country from next year.

FSSAI Caps Trans Fatty Acids In Food

  • Context:
    • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has amended the rules to cap Trans Fats in food products.
  • Whats the rules says?
    • Food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient shall not contain industrial Trans fatty acids more than 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product, on and from 1st January 2022.
    • In December, the FSSAI had capped TFAs in oils and fats to 3% by 2021, and 2% by 2022 from the current levels of 5%.
    • The 2% cap is considered to be the elimination of trans fatty acids, which is to be achieved by 2022.
    • What are TFAs?
      • All-natural fats and oils are a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids or TFAs.
      • The human body needs the first two categories of ‘healthy’ fats as they are a significant source of energy, help absorb some vitamins and minerals and build cell membranes and the sheaths surrounding nerves.
      • These fats are free-flowing, unlike TFAs, which are considered harmful as they clog arteries.
      • There are two broad types of trans fats found in foods:
        • Naturally-occurring and
        • Artificial trans fats.
    • Artificial trans fats, which are considered harmful, are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, increase their shelf life, and for use as an adulterant as they are cheap.

  • Related information:
    • Eat Right campaign
      • It was launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
      • The movement aims to cut down salt/sugar and oil consumption by 30% in three years.
      • It also aims to engage and enable citizens to improve their health and well-being by making the right food choices.

Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS)

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing this flagship programme for early childhood care and development.
  • Objective:
    • to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
    • to lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
    • to reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition, and school dropout;
    • to achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and
    • to enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.
  • Mid-day Meal Scheme:
    • Mid-day meal (MDM) is a wholesome freshly-cooked lunch served to children in government and government-aided schools in India. It aims to:
      • avoid classroom hunger
      • increase school enrolment
      • increase school attendance
      • improve socialisation among castes
      • address malnutrition
      • empower women through employment

Indradhanush 3.0 launched

  • Context:
    • Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan launched Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 on February 19, 2021. The Minister also launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 portal and released the Operational Guidelines for IMI 3.0 and the awareness material/IEC package developed as part of the campaign.
  • Key Highlights:
    • The mission will be conducted in two rounds.
    • The first round will start on February 22, 2021, while the second phase will start on March 22, 2021.
    • It will run across 250 districts or urban areas across the 29 States or Union Territories.
    • Apart from that, the Minister also launched the IMI 3.0 portal and released Operational Guidelines for it.
    • He also launched the awareness material or IEC package developed under the campaign.
  • Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0
    • The IMI 3.0 initiative was launched by the central government in order to provide immunization to pregnant women and children free of cost in India.
    • The scheme will strengthen and re-energize the immunization program.
    • It will help in achieve full immunization coverage for children and pregnant women rapidly.
    • This mission also aims to reach the unreached population.
    • It will reach them with all the available vaccines under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
  • Mission Indradhanush
    • This Mission was launched in December 2014 with the aim of fully immunizing unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children under UIP.
    • The scheme targets children aged under 2 years and pregnant women for immunization.
    • The mission incorporated an immunization program against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) namely, Whooping cough, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, meningitis, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza type B infections, rotavirus vaccine, Japanese encephalitis (JE), measles-rubella (MR) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).

ODF+ and ODF++

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has stated that:
    • All the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Haryana have been certified Open Defecation Free (ODF), 21 ULBs ODF+, and 13 ODF++.
    • All cities in Punjab have been certified ODF, 33 are ODF+ and 17 are ODF++. Chandigarh is certified ODF++ and 3 Star (GFC).
  • What is the ODF tag?
    • The original ODF protocol, issued in March 2016, said, “A city/ward is notified as ODF city/ward if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open.”
  • What is ODF+, ODF++?
    • ODF+ and ODF++ were launched in August 2018 to further scale up and sustain the work undertaken by the cities after achieving the ODF status under Phase I of the Swachh Bharat Mission — Urban (SBM-Urban).
    • Eligibility: Cities that had been certified ODF at least once, on the basis of the ODF protocols, are eligible to declare themselves as SBM-ODF+ & SBM-ODF++.
  • What is ODF+?
    • A city, ward, or work circle could be declared ODF+ if, “at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained.”
  • What is ODF++?
    • The ODF++ protocol adds the condition that “fecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated fecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.”

Manual Scavenging

  • Context
    • The Ministry of Urban Affairs launched the 'Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge' on the occasion of World Toilet Day.
  • About 'Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge':
    • It aims to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning'. 
    • The law prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines
    • preventing ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning. 
    • the Chief Secretaries, State Mission Directors, and other senior State/ Union Territory and city officials took a pledge on behalf of 243 cities to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021 and gave their commitment to work towards preventing any deaths from hazardous entry.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013):
    • The law makes the construction and maintenance of the insanity latrines an offence, therefore no one can be employed or engaged as the manual scavenger.
    • It provides rehabilitation of manual scavengers and alternative employment to them in a time-bound manner.  
    • This Act and various judgments of the Supreme Court expressly prohibit hazardous cleaning, i.e. manual entry into a septic tank or sewer without protective gear and observing operating procedures.
    • Despite this, recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in the cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities of society, continue to be an issue of concern.

Sanitation and Hygiene Fund

  • Context:
    • The United Nations launched the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund to provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden of diseases.
  • About:
    • The aim is to provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden of diseases stemming from lack of sanitation services and have the least ability to respond to them.
    • It also aims to raise $2 billion over the next five years for these countries.
  • Objectives :
    • Expanding household sanitation
    • Ensuring menstrual health and hygiene
    • Providing sanitation and hygiene in schools and healthcare facilities
    • Supporting innovative sanitation solutions.
  • Host:
    • The fund is hosted by the UN Office for Project Services, which provides technical advice and project implementation to the UN and its partners.
  • Progress on drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene: 2000-2017: Report:
    • It was released by UNICEF.
    • It has been found that significant progress was made toward achieving universal access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene(WASH).
    • However, an estimated four billion people worldwide still do not have access to safely managed sanitation services.

An estimate of WASH across healthcare facilities in India

  • Context:
    • A study was conducted to estimate the cost of ensuring WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in healthcare facilities for one year across India. The study was published in  BMJ Global Health journal.
  • Key Findings of the study:
    • The study estimates that improving WASH across the public healthcare facilities in India and maintaining this for a year would cost $354 million in capital costs.
    • Further, it will need $289 million as a recurrent expense (all payments other than for capital expenses like maintenance, electricity, rent, etc).
    • The most costly interventions were providing clean water, linen reprocessing, and sanitation.
    • Similarly, the least expensive were hand hygiene, medical device reprocessing, and environmental surface cleaning.
  • Impact  of  Poor WASH Facilities:
    • A 2019 joint global baseline report by WHO and UNICEF had pointed out that globally, one in four healthcare facilities lacked basic water servicing. Further, one in five health care facilities had no sanitation service and 42% had no hygiene facilities.
  • Significance of providing WASH facilities:
    • WASH will reduce deaths: Approximately, the death of 3 lakh children under five years can be prevented each year.
    • Achieving SDGs: The status of WASH in healthcare facilities is an important issue in development. Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation is one of the 2030 sustainable development goals.
    • Infection prevention and control: The WASH interventions can help reduce healthcare-associated infections. Especially among the mother and neonates across the Indian healthcare system.
    • Cost-effective intervention: In 2012, the WHO report calculated ‘For every dollar invested in sanitation, there will be a $5.50 gain’. This will be in the form of lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths, etc.
  • WASH amenities?
    • Whatever the healthcare systems may be the adequate Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) amenities, including waste management and environmental cleaning services, are critical to their safe functioning.
    • According to a joint report of the World Health Organization and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) outlines, WASH services in many facilities across the world are missing or substandard.
    • According to data from 2016, an estimated 896 million people globally had no water service at their healthcare facility.
    • More than 1.5 billion had no sanitation service.
    • One in every six healthcare facilities was estimated to have no hygiene service (meaning it lacked hand hygiene facilities at points of care, as well as soap and water at toilets), while data on waste management and environmental cleaning was inadequate across the board.

Removing cannabis from the list of 'dangerous' narcotics

  • Context:
    • The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) recently reclassified out of the most dangerous category of drugs.
  • What is Cannabis?
    • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cannabis is a generic term used to denote marijuana, hemp, weed etc and several other psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa and other plants in Cannabis superfamily.
    • In general Cannabis family has two major components:
      • CBD (cannabidiol): It is a does not cause intoxication or psychoactive side effects and it is proven as effective chronic pain relief drug
      • Delta-9 Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC) is the major psychoactive constituent in cannabis.
      • The Mexican name ‘marijuana‘ is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries.
      • Most species of cannabis are dioecious plants that can be identified as either male or female.
      • The unpollinated female plants are called hashish. Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids — compounds which are structurally similar to THC — obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.
      • The WHO confirms that cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked, and abused illicit drug in the world.

What is Marijuana and the other terms associated with cannabis?

Marijuana:

  • Marijuana has high THC levels and intense psychoactive effects
  • Hydrophonic weed refers to a soilless medium of cultivation of marijuana whereby instead of being grown in a field, it is grown at home without soil.

Hemp/Weed:

  • It has lesser THC levels and has low psychoactive effects compare to Marijuana.
  • Generally, it is procured from the extract of the Marijuana leaves
  • It has a wide level of medicinal benefits and industrial uses.
  • It is known as Ganja in Hindi.

Bhang:

  • It is an edible preparation of cannabis, which is ‘consumed either in the form of a drink or smoked’
  • ‘Charas’ is the separated resin extracted from the cannabis plant.
  • The unpollinated female plants are called hashish. Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids
  • Key takeaways:
    • The CND has decided to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
    • Earlier, cannabis was listed alongside deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin.
    • Now, it is removed from the strictest control schedules that even discouraged its use for medical purposes.
    • The removal has opened the door to recognizing the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the commonly-used but still a largely illegal recreational drug.
    • The decision could also drive additional scientific research into the plant’s long-heralded medicinal properties and act as a catalyst for countries to legalize the drug for medicinal use, and reconsider laws on its recreational use.
    • Twenty-seven of the CND’s 53 Member States — including India, the USA and most European nations — voted “Yes” on the motion to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention.
    • Under India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, the production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, and use of cannabis is a punishable offence.
  • Background:
    • Back in January 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) made six recommendations related to the scheduling of cannabis in UN treaties, including the deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.
  • How Cannabis/Marijuana is regulated in India?
    • Bhang, charas and ganja were regulated by the state excise departments and legally sold till 1985.
    • In 1985 The Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances (NDPS) Act has been enacted central level commercial cultivation of cannabis by production, possession, sale/purchase, transportation, interstate import/export or any other forms is punishable. The Act has been amended three times – in 1988, 2001, and most recently in 2014.
    • While CBD oil manufacturing is licenced under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 can be legally used and sold. Some Indian websites do sell. But to purchase it one needs a prescription and many even facilitate it.
    • Similarly, Bhang, ganja and charas are enlisted in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 for use in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.

 

Women

 

National Commission for Women (NCW)

  • Context: The three-member committee of the National Commission for Women (NCW) was constituted to look into post-poll violence against women in West Bengal.

More about NCW:

  • Law: The National Commission for Women Act of 1990 established it as a statutory body in January 1992.
  • Equality: Its goal is to work toward achieving equality and equal participation for women in all aspects of life by ensuring their due rights and entitlements through appropriate policy formulation, legislative interventions, and other means. 
  • Composition: A chairperson, a member secretary, and the other five members must make up the Commission's minimum number of members.
  • Chairperson: The chairperson should be chosen by the central government.
  • Five members: The central government will select the five members from among people of competence, dignity, and status. 
  • They should have prior experience in fields such as law or regulation, trade unionism, management of women's industrial potential, women's voluntary organizations, education, administration, economic growth, and social well-being.

Its responsibilities include: 

  • Reviewing the constitutional and legal protections for women.
  • Recommend legislative changes to address the issue.
  • Facilitate the resolution of complaints.
  • Cases of Violation: Take up cases of infringement of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws relating to women with the relevant authorities
  • Suo Moto Notice: It looks into complaints, and takes Suo Motto's notice of matters relating to – deprivation of women’s rights, Non-implementation of the laws, and Non-compliance of policy decisions guaranteeing the welfare for women society.
  • Advise the government on all issues surrounding women's rights.

Permanent commission to all women officers in Army

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has allowed a one-month extension to the government to implement its February 17 judgment to grant permanent commission/command posts to eligible women officers in the armed forces.
  • What’s the issue?
    • A petition was filed in the Supreme Court which said the government was creating hurdles in the implementation of the judgment.
    • However, the government has clarified that it is in the process of implementation of the judgment was at an “advanced state” and a circular would be issued soon.
  • Why such an order?
    • Following this, Army Chief had said it was an enabling one and gives a lot of clarity on how to move forward.
    • The order follows a Supreme Court verdict in February that directed the government that women Army officers be granted PC and command postings in all services other than combat.
    • He had stated that the same procedure for male SSC officers will be followed for women to give PC.
  • SC’s February order and its implications:
    1. Women officers are eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
    2. The court dismissed the government's stand that only women officers with less than 14 years of service ought to be considered for permanent commission, and those with over 20 years of service should be pensioned immediately.
    3. The court has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • Observations made by the Court in its judgment:
    • It rejected arguments against a greater role for women officers, saying this violated equality under the law (Article 14).
    • The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
    • The court had rejected the government’s arguments, saying they are based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women (Article 16).
    • It had also said that it only shows the need “to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.
  • What were the arguments put forth by the government in its defence?
    • Motherhood, childcare, psychological limitations have a bearing on the employment of women officers in the Army.
    • Family separation, career prospects of spouses, education of children, prolonged absence due to pregnancy, motherhood were a greater challenge for women to meet the exigencies of service.
  • Physical limitations:
    • Soldiers will be asked to work in difficult terrains, isolated posts, and adverse climate conditions.
    • Officers have to lead from the front.
    • They should be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
    • The Govt. said women were not fit to serve in ground combat roles. 
  • Challenges:
    • Army units were a “unique all-male environment”. The presence of women officers would require “moderated behaviour”.
    • The male troop predominantly comes from a rural background and may not be in a position to accept commands from a female leader.
  • Covered in detail in Samjaho's Corner: https://samajho.com/upsc/women-in-indian-armed-forces-prospects-challenges-and-issues/

Govt sanctions Permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Defence has issued the formal government sanction letter for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) to Women Officers in the Indian Army.
    • The order specifies a grant of permanent commission to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) Women Officers in all ten streams of the Indian Army.
    • The 10 streams are Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps in addition to the existing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).
  • Background:
    • Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had granted one more month to the Centre to implement its verdict directing that a permanent commission be given to all serving SSC women officers in the Army. The top court’s direction came on an application filed by the Centre seeking six months' time for implementation of the verdict citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Significance of the move:
    • This paves the way for empowering Women Officers to shoulder larger roles in the organisation.

Istanbul Convention

  • Context:
    • Poland is to withdraw from Istanbul Convention- a treaty aimed at preventing violence against women.
  • What’s the issue?
    • The reason behind withdrawal is that Poland thinks the Convention is harmful because it required schools to teach children about gender.
    • Also, it says, the treaty tries to construct a “socio-cultural gender against the biological gender”.
    • For example, some items of the convention foresee educating children and young people about forming homosexual families.
  • What is the Istanbul Convention?
    • The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe against violence against women and domestic violence. 
    • The convention aims at the prevention of violence, victim protection, and “to end with the impunity of perpetrators”. 
    • The Convention sets minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women.
    • When a government ratifies the Convention, it is legally bound to follow it. As of March 2019, it has been signed by 45 countries and the European Union.
    • The convention was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011.

Minimum age of marriage for women

  • Context:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the Centre will decide on the recommendations of a committee set up to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women.
    • The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a contentious issue.
  • Background:
    • The Union Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a committee in June, headed by Jaya Jaitley, to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering the Maternal Mortality Ratio, and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.
    • It will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
  • What does the law say?
    • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively.
    • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of the majority, which is gender-neutral.
    • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
    • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
    • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
    • The Special Marriage Act, 1954, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Why is the law being relooked at?
    • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women.
    • Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
    • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
    • Also, according to a study, children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years).

NCRB report on crimes against SCs and STs

  • Context:
    • The National Crime Record Bureau has recently released a report titled “Crime in India”, 2019.
  • Key Findings:
    • Crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) saw an increase of over 7% and 26% respectively in the year 2019 compared to 2018, according to the annual Crime in India 2019 report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
    • Crimes against SCs and STs include the following categories:
      • Atrocities committed by non-SC/ST members under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 (hereafter POA Act),
      • The Indian Penal Code and
      • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
    • The highest number of crimes against SCs: Uttar Pradesh>Rajasthan>Bihar.
    • The highest number of cases against STs: Madhya Pradesh>Rajasthan>Odisha.
    • Crime against women: In the number of cases of rape of women belonging to SCs, Rajasthan>Uttar Pradesh>Madhya Pradesh.
    • Cybercrime: Cybercrimes increased by 63.5% in 2019. In 2019, 60.4% of cybercrime cases registered were for the motive of fraud, followed by sexual exploitation, with 5.1%, and causing disrepute with 4.2%.

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About the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB):

  • Headquarter: New Delhi
  • Established: 1986 
  • Ministry: Ministry of Home Affairs 
  • Objective: To function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task Force (1985).

Law On Domestic Violence

  • Context: 
    • Supreme Court Terms 2005 Law On Domestic Violence As ''Milestone''
  • Provisions of Protection Of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005:
    • Includes physical and mental ill-treatment.
    • Primarily meant for the protection of wife or female live-in partners.
    • Law also extends to sisters, widows, or mothers.
    • Harassment in the form of dowry demands also included in this law.
    • Gives women the right to secure housing.
    • The court can also issue protection orders that prevent the abuser to harass the woman by acts at her workplace.
    • The act proposes the appointment of protection officers and NGOs.
    • A breach of a protection order is a non-bailable offense.

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  • Criticism:
    • Abused men are not covered; this law is specifically for women.
    • Violence against women is often perpetrated by women themselves – Eg: Mother-in-law/ Daughter-in-law.
    • Verbal abuse and mental harassment are subjective terms.
  • Domestic Violence in India:
    • Domestic violence: Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives. It is a form of violence involving sexual/reproductive coercion and marital rape.
    • Types of Assault: Women who experience domestic violence tend to have greater overall emotional distress, as well as high occurrences of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
      • Physical violence: Physical injury is the most visible form of domestic violence; more obvious than psychological ones.
      • Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse has been gaining more and more recognition. Psychological abuse can erode a woman's sense of self-worth and can be incredibly harmful to overall mental and physical wellbeing.
    • NFHS 2006 report on domestic sexual violence:
      • Sexual violence is lowest against women in the 15-19 age group.
      • Women with 10 years of education experienced sharply less sexual violence, compared to women with less education.
      • 85% of women who suffered sexual violence, in or outside of marriage, never sought help, and only 1% reported it to the police.

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  • Laws and policies on various aspects of Gender-Based Violence:
    • Dowry Prohibition Act (1961), Amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1862 (1986- Section 498A and Section 304B),
    • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986),
    • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986),
    • The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (1994),
    • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005),
    • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act(2006)
    • Information and Technology Act (2008),
    • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012),
    • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (2013),
    • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013),
    • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act (2016),
    • Decriminalization of Gay Sex (Section 377-2018),
    • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (Death penalty for raping a minor- 2018).

Issues with Tarun Tejpal case judgment

  • Context:
    • Tarun Tejpal case judgment needs to be overturned. It will, otherwise, remain as a bad precedent that will impede the workplace safety of women.
  • Background
    • Tarun Tejpal, the former Tehelka editor-in-chief was accused of sexually assaulting his female colleague.
    • Followingly he was arrested and released on bail by the Supreme Court.
    • Recently, an Additional Sessions Judge had acquitted Tarun Tejpal from charges of rape.
    • The judgment transforms the accused into the victim and the survivor into the accused. The judgment has been criticized on the following grounds.
    • The court had dismissed the rape charges based on unfounded rationality.
    • Further, this judgment will serve in history as an example of the worst kind of victim-blaming and shaming to benefit the accused.
  • What are the reasons for criticising the Tarun Tejpal case judgment?
    • Firstly, the judgment is criticized for its unprecedented interpretation in support of the accused.
    • One, the court denied accepting the victim as a sterling witness. It was stated that the survivor did not fit into the court’s preconceived ideas of a rape survivor’s behaviour.
    • This disregards the women’s struggles that forced changes in law, in case of law, and in approaches to victims of rape.
    • Two, even some evidence against the accused were ignored. Such as the accused’s personal apology, the draft of an official apology, and the conversations recorded by the survivor with the senior woman officer negotiating on behalf of the accused.
    • The judgment holds that the apology and the statements made by the accused were not sent voluntarily. But that it was under pressure and intimidation by the survivor.
    • Secondly, violation of privacy. Section 53A in the Indian Evidence Act rules out reference to past sexual history. However, the survivor was subjected to answer even intimate details of her life and her friendships.
    • Thirdly, the judgment criminalizes the right of a survivor to approach activists and lawyers for their help. Senior members of the Bar such as Indira Jaisingh were accused of doctoring and also of adding to incidents in support of the victim.

Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS)

  • Context: 
    • Recently, a special court in Mumbai granted bail to an accused of sexually assaulting a minor as he was suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS).
    • A syndrome is a combination of symptoms and signs that together represent a disease process.
  • About:
    • PPS is a psychological condition that is used to describe an adult who is socially immature.
    • People who develop similar behaviours of living life carefree, finding responsibilities challenging in adulthood, and basically never growing up suffer from PPS.
    • The term was coined by psychologist Dan Kiley to explain the behaviour of such men who ‘refuse to grow’ and behave their age in 1983.
    • Dan Kiley got the idea of PPS after noticing Peter Pan, a fictional character created by Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie.
    • Peter Pan was a carefree young boy, who never grew up.
    • While the WHO (World Health Organization) does not recognise Peter Pan Syndrome as a health disorder, many experts believe it is a mental health condition that can affect one’s quality of life.
  • People Affected:
    • It can affect anyone, irrespective of gender, race or culture. However, it appears to be more common among men.
    • It affects people who do not want or feel unable to grow up, people with the body of an adult but the mind of a child.
    • They don’t know how to or don’t want to stop being children and start being mothers or fathers.
    • It is not currently considered psychopathology. However, a large number of adults are presenting emotionally immature behaviours in Western society.
    • Psychopathology is a term that refers to either the study of mental illness or mental distress or the manifestation of behaviours and experiences which may be indicative of mental illness or psychological impairment.

Narco test

  • Context: 
    • Uttar Pradesh government is planning to subject the Hathras rape and murder victim’s family members to narco tests.
  • What are the concerns?
    • The consequences of such tests on “individuals from weaker sections of society who are unaware of their fundamental rights and unable to afford legal advice” can be devastating.
    • It may involve future abuse, harassment, and surveillance, even leakage of the video material to the Press for a “trial by media.”
    • Such tests are an affront to human dignity and liberty and have long-lasting effects.
  • What is the narco test?
    • Narco test involves the injection of a drug, sodium pentothal, which induces a hypnotic or sedated state in which the subject’s imagination is neutralised, and they are expected to divulge true information.
    • The drug, referred to as “truth serum” in this context, was used in larger doses as anaesthesia during surgery and is said to have been used during World War II for intelligence operations.
  • How is it different from the Polygraph test?
    • A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.
    • Instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes are attached to the person, and variables such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, change in sweat gland activity, blood flow, etc., are measured as questions are put to them.
    • A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person is telling the truth, is deceiving, or is uncertain.
  • Are Indian investigators allowed to put suspects through these tests?
    • In Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr (2010), a Supreme Court ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of the consent of the accused”.
    • It also said the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’ published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.
    • The court took into consideration international norms on human rights, the right to a fair trial, and the right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

‘Meri Saheli’ initiative

  • Context:
    • With a focus on women's safety, the Indian Railways has spread the ‘Meri Saheli’ initiative in all its zones, Parliament was told on Wednesday.
  • About:
    • Indian Railways has launched the ‘Meri Saheli’ initiative for focused action on the security of women with an objective to provide safety and security to lady passengers traveling by trains.
    • Under the initiative, a team of lady officer and staff have been formed. The team will visit all of the passenger coaches including ladies coaches to identify women passengers.
    • Details of their journey including coach number & seat number will be noted down by the team, especially if a lady is traveling alone on the train.
    • The passengers will be briefed about RPF Security Helpline No. 182, GRP Security Helpline No. 1512, and other precautions, for example, not taking food from strangers, buying food from IRCTC authorized stalls only & taking care of luggage.
    • The team will also advise them to feel free to contact the train escort party and dial 182 in case of any emergency.
    • The details of the passengers will be conveyed to en-route Divisions & Zones to meet the passengers at their convenience till they reach their final destination.
    • At the end of the journey, feedback will be collected from the lady passengers regarding their journey experience and safety measures taken.
    • The ‘Meri Saheli’ initiative was started by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) as a pilot project in the South Eastern Railway in September 2020 and after getting a positive response from women passengers, it was extended to all zones.
    • Dedicated teams of lady RPF personnel have been formed across all zonal railways for its implementation.

'Abhayam' app

  • Context:
    • Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh launched the 'Abhayam' mobile phone application.
  • About the App:
    • The app helps women and children travelling in taxis and auto-rickshaws, to raise alarm in case of any emergency.
    • It will be operated by the Transport Department.
    • It would help the women in alerting the police by pressing a panic button in the event of their landing in any trouble.
    • The policemen would be able to reach out to the women in need in just 10 minutes by virtue of the vehicle tracking facility provided by the IoT – based system.
    • The passengers have to scan QR codes displayed on the vehicles to facilitate tracking.
    • Mr. Reddy said the auto-rickshaw drivers should not consider it as viewing them with suspicion. Rather, Abhayam sends a message that taxis and auto-rickshaws in the State were as safe as the vehicles operated by multi-national cab aggregators Uber and Ola.
  • Other Women Safety initiatives:
    • Andhra Pradesh was the first state to bring out legislation (Disha Bill) for the security of women.
    • Disha police stations were set up and steps were taken for establishing special courts and posting dedicated public prosecutors to ensure speedy disposal of cases of attacks on women.
    • It also launched the Disha App with the following features:

 

NHRC notes a drop in women workers

  • Context:
    • A meeting of the NHRC’s core group on women, attended by representatives of the Women and Child Development and Skill Development Ministries, NGOs, lawyers and civil society members, discussed the reasons for the low participation of women in the labour force.
  • Women's participation in labour force:
    • According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey reports released by the National Statistical Office, women’s participation in the workforce “fell to its lowest points since Independence in the year 2017-18.
    • The most major decline can be seen since 2004, from 29.4% to 17.5% in 2017-18. This has marginally increased to 18.6% in the year 2018-19.” 

  • Suggestions provided by the meeting:
    • There should be an investment in the care economy as well as a regulatory mechanism. The state must come forward and private players can also participate. In Nepal, for example, there is a community care system.
    • It was suggested that an urban employment guarantee scheme should be started along the lines of the MGNREGA with a reservation for women. Many times, women want to work but the opportunities are not there.

Sex ratio

  • Context:
    • Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country while Manipur recorded the worst sex ratio, according to the 2018 report on “vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System”.
  • More about the news:
    • Top performers:
      1. Nagaland (965)
      2. Mizoram (964)
      3. Kerala (963)
      4. Karnataka (957)
    • Worst performers:
      1. Manipur (757)
      2. Lakshadweep (839)
      3. Daman & Diu (877)
      4. Punjab (896) and Gujarat (896)

  • Sex ratio in India
    • The sex ratio at birth is the number of females born per thousand males.
    • The biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 1,050 males to 1,000 females or 950 females to 1,000 males.
    • The Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) estimated that the sex ratio of India declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
    • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.

Marriage Equality is a Constitutional Right

  • Context: 
    • Recently, three couples (two male, one female) have filed petitions, two in the Delhi High Court, and one in the Kerala High Court, arguing that the state’s refusal to recognise their marriages violates their constitutional rights. 
  • Marriage rights of transgenders:
    • India has finally joined the democracies that have decriminalised same-sex relationships. It is now time to join the many democracies which recognise the right of a citizen to marry anyone she chooses.
    • Special Marriage Act allows couples whose marriage may be disapproved of for any reason (inter-religion, inter-caste, different income groups) to obtain the legal rights of marriage.
  • Right to marry:
    • Supreme Court has given a verdict that “The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.“
    • Justice Chandrachud also said, “The choice of a partner whether within or outside marriage lies within the exclusive domain of each individual. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable,” 
  • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. Its provisions are:
    • It defines a transperson as someone whose gender does not match the one assigned at birth. 
    • Recognition of identity of Transgender Persons and confer upon them right to self-perceived gender identity.
    • Provision of the right of Residence with parents and immediate family members.
    • Provision for the formulation of welfare schemes and programmes for education, social security, and health of Transgender Persons.
    • Provision for the National Council for Transgender Persons to advise, monitor, and evaluate measures for the protection of their rights.

Gender Self-Identification 

Context: The Spanish government has approved the first draft of a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 14 to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy. 

What is gender self-identification? 

  • Self-identification, or ‘self-made, is the concept that a person should be allowed to legally identify with the gender of their choice by simply declaring so, and without facing any medical tests.
  • This has been a long-held demand of trans-right groups around the world, including in India, as prejudice against trans people remains rampant.
  • While some believe that the current processes for declaring one’s desired gender are lengthy, expensive, and degrading, some feminist and gay-rights groups insist that such a law could endanger women and cause more gay teenagers to be told that they might be trans and thus encouraged towards hormones and surgery.
  • Feminist forums that believe that sex is not something which can be chosen have insisted that allowing self-identification could put at risk all laws that specifically prevent discrimination against women, and have instead asked lawmakers to look at concerns that they say are more pressing, such as the gender pay gap.

Where is self-ID legal? 

  • As per the advocacy group the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association(ILGA), 15 countries around the world recognize self-ID, including Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Malta, Argentina, Ireland, Luxembourg, Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico (only in Mexico City), Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay.
  • In Denmark, the law requires a six-month reflection period for formalizing gender change. In Portugal, changing one’s gender for the second time requires going to court. 

What is the process for declaring one’s desired sex in India? 

  • In India, the rights of transgender persons are governed by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules,2020. Under the Rules, an application to declare gender is to be made to the District Magistrate. Parents can also make an application on behalf of their children.
  • As per the Rules, state governments have also been directed to constitute welfare boards for transgender persons to protect their rights and interests, and facilitate access to schemes and welfare measures framed by the Centre.

Time Use Survey

  • Context:
    • The all India Time Use Survey, 2019 has been recently published by the Government of India. National Statistical Office (NSO) conducted the first Time Use Survey in India during January – December 2019.
  • About:
    • What is the time-use survey?
      • It provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities.
      • One distinguishing feature of the Time Use Survey from other household surveys is that it can capture time disposition on different aspects of human activities, be it paid, unpaid or other activities with such details which are not possible in other surveys.
      • The primary objective is to measure the participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
      • However, this valuation is not adequate, because it values only the labor input and leaves out the capital and technology used.
    • Data findings:
      • An average Indian woman spends 19.5% of her time engaged in either unpaid domestic work or unpaid caregiving services whereas men spend 2.5% of a 24-hour period on these activities.
      • There seems to be an inverse relationship between age and the amount of time spent by women on household chores, but a direct one between age and the time spent by men on these.
      • The proportion of males and females: 57.3% for males were engaged in employment and related activities while the proportion was 18.4% for females in the country.
    • Definition of work:
      • ILO defines work as 'any activity performed by persons of any sex and age to produce goods or provide services for use by others or own use'.
      • Work is divided into five categories:
        • employment (production of goods and services for pay, profit, or barter);
        • own use production of goods and services by households;
        • unpaid trainee work, volunteer work;
        • other work (compulsory work performed without pay to produce goods/services for others).
      • Unpaid domestic services and unpaid care are now formally recognized as work for the first time.
  • Other key findings:
    • Total percentage of employed population: As much as 38.2 percent of persons who were of the age of six years or above were engaged in employment and related activities in the country in 2019.
    • The proportion of males and females: 57.3 percent of males were engaged in employment and related activities while the proportion was 18.4 percent for females in the country.
    • Women in rural areas: In rural areas, the proportion of women engaged in employment and related activities was higher at 19.2 percent compared to 16.7 percent in cities.
    • Gainful employment: The proportion of males above the age of six years engaged in gainful employment or related activities was higher in cities at 59.8 compared to 56.1 percent in rural areas.
    • Unpaid domestic services: 53.2 percent of participants in the survey were engaged in unpaid domestic services for household members. The proportion of females in the category was higher at 81.2 percent compared to 26.1 percent for males. This figure for both men and women is higher in rural areas.
    • People engaged in the production of goods for own final use: 17.1 percent in the country. The proportion of such males was 14.3 percent while it was 20 percent for women in the country.

Feminist Foreign Policy

  • Context:
    • The World Economic Forum released its annual Gender Gap Report 2021. 
    • India had slipped 28 spots to rank 140 out of the 156 countries covered.
    • For the 12th time, Iceland is once again the most gender-equal country in the world.
  • Key findings of the report:
    • The report is a measure of the gender gap on four parameters: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
    • The data show that it will take 135.6 years to bridge the gender gap worldwide and the pandemic has impacted women more severely than men. 
    • The gap is the widest on the political empowerment dimension with economic participation and opportunity being next in line. 
    • Within the 156 countries covered, women hold only 26% of parliamentary seats and 22 percent of ministerial positions.
    • India in some ways reflects this widening gap, where the number of ministers declined from 23.1 percent in 2019 to 9.1 percent in 2021.
    • The number of women in Parliament stands low at 14.4 percent.
    • However, the gap on educational attainment and health and survival has been practically bridged.
  • Gender approach needs mainstreaming:
    • In a time when 104 countries still have laws preventing women from certain types of jobs, and over 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not punishable, a gendered approach has to be mainstreamed into broader policy objectives.
    • This means going beyond conventional considerations of development assistance and domestic policies to include core areas of foreign policy, economics, finance, trade, and security.
    • This also means that along with increasing representation, women and marginalised sections of society need to have a voice to provide alternative perspectives to policymaking.
  • A feminist foreign policy approach:
    • A feminist foreign policy as a political framework can ensure the voice of women and marginalised sections of society will be heard and increasing women's representation in political affairs, first introduced and advocated by Sweden in 2014.
    • Feminist approaches to international affairs can be traced back to the 1980s, though largely rooted in traditional thinking and activism. 
    • In many ways, feminist foreign policy translated to a bottom-up development approach, especially with a donor-based mindset, albeit often with caveats. 
    • While this slowly changed in the 1990s, core areas of security and diplomacy were still the domain of men, and remain so.
    • The realisation that it is not only necessary to include women in peacebuilding and peacekeeping but the wider gamut of diplomacy and foreign and security policy is growing.
    • Data also indicate that the inclusion of diverse voices makes for a better basket of options in decision making and is no longer simply a virtuous standard to follow.
  • Needs greater diversity in thinking:
    • Since Sweden embarked on this path, several other countries like Canada, France, Germany, and, more recently, Mexico has forged their own, adopting either a feminist foreign policy or a gendered approach to aspects of policymaking. 
    • However, the current conversation around a feminist/gendered foreign policy is still largely in small circles in North America and Europe. 
    • Greater diversity in thinking will allow for a global policy to be tailored and thus operationalised in a wider geography, accounting for vastly divergent social norms and practices, and lived histories.
  • India has a key role to play:
    • As a non-permanent member of the UNSC and recently elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term in September 2020, India has a key role to play.
    • Gender considerations in India’s foreign policy are not new. Though located largely under the development assistance paradigm and peacekeeping, these have been incredibly successful.
    • From 2007 when India deployed the first-ever female unit to the UN Mission in Libya to supporting gender empowerment programmes through SAARC, IBSA, IORA and other multilateral fora, India's programmes have been targeted at making women the engines for inclusive and sustainable growth. 
    • Many of India's overseas programmes in partner countries have a gender component, as seen in Afghanistan, Lesotho, and Cambodia. 
    • In India also, 2015 saw a gender budget exercise within the MEA towards development assistance.
  • Need more formal design approach:
    • India needs a more formal designed approach that goes beyond a pure development model to wider access, representation, and decision making.
    • The WEF report and other similar indices is a call to do better on the domestic front; no matter how “feminist” our foreign and security policy might be, without balance at home, it will not last.
    • India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador T N Trimurti said India's election to the CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) was a “ringing endorsement of our commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in all our endeavours”.
  • Conclusion:
    • India must now go further to sensitise and shape global discussions around gender mainstreaming.
    • The country’s gender-based foreign assistance needs to be broadened and deepened and equally matched with lower barriers to participation in politics, diplomacy, the bureaucracy, military and other spaces of decision making. 
    • In doing this, India can easily claim a new unique feminist foreign policy adding to and smartly shaping the global conversation.



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