POLITY & CONSTITUTION
1. AMENDMENT TO THE RTI ACT
Recently, the Parliament passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Amendments brought in the RTI Act:
• Removal of fixed term- As per the act, the CIC and ICs will hold office for a term of five years. The Amendment removes this provision and states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.
• Determination of Salary- As per the act, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the central level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively. Similarly, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the state level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively.
o The Amendment empowers the Central Government to determine the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs.
Rationale behind the amendments
• The salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the CEC and EC are equal to a Judge of the Supreme Court, therefore, the CIC, IC and the State CIC becomes equivalent to a Judge of the Supreme Court in terms of their salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service.
o But, the functions being carried out by the Election Commission of India and the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different. Whereas the ECI is a constitutional body, but the CIC and SIC are statutory bodies.
o The decisions of ICs are challenged in high courts, therefore their status being equivalent to Supreme Court judges was causing legal hindrances.
o Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly.
2. PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (AMENDMENT) ACT 2019
President gave assent to the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019 in order to make NHRC more inclusive and efficient in its functioning.
Need for the amendment in the existing Act
• The NHRC was denied A-grade accreditation in 2017 by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN body based in Geneva, due Commission’s failure in ensuring gender balance and pluralism in its staff and lack of transparency in selecting its members and rising political interference.
o However, in February 2018, GANHRI, re-accredited India’s apex rights watchdog with the ‘A’ status.
• Demand from the certain State Governments have also proposed for amendment of the Act, as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective State Commissions owing to the existing eligibility criteria to the said post.
Significance of the recent amendment
• The proposed amendments will enable both the National Commission as well as the State Commissions to be more compliant with the Paris Principles concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.
• Filling up the Vacancies: The age limit for appointment to the panel has been reduced to fill the vacancies. The amendment has ensured transparency in the appointment of Chairman and members of the Commission.
• Enabling conditions to incorporate Civil Society: Effort is to also to increase the presence of civil Society in the composition of the Commission.
• Ease of accessibility: The applicants in Union Territories can now appeal in the human Rights Commission of nearby states instead of coming all the way to Delhi.
3. THE INTER-STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019
Recently, the Lok Sabha cleared the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which proposes to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust.
Key Provisions :
• Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC)- to be established by the Central Government before referring dispute to the tribunal, to resolve the dispute amicably by negotiations within one year (extendable by six months),and submit its report to the central government.
o If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal.
• Establishment of a Single Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal- by the Central Government, which can have multiple benches.
o All existing Tribunals will be dissolved, and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing Tribunals will be transferred to the new Tribunal.
• Composition of Tribunal- will include a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members, and three expert members.
o They will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
o The term of office of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson shall be five years or till they attain the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
o The central government may also appoint two experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service as assessors to advise the Bench in its proceedings.
o The assessor should not be from the state, which is a party to the dispute.
• Timeline: the proposed Tribunal must give its decision on the dispute within two years, which may be extended by another year.
• Finality – The decision of the Tribunal shall be final and binding. The bill also removes the requirement of publication of decision in the official gazette in the original Act. It also makes mandatory for the Central Government to make a scheme to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal.
• Data Collection and maintenance of a databank- at national level for each river basin by an agency to be appointed and authorized by central government.
Constitutional and Legal Provisions with regard to Water
• Article 262(1) provides that Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter State river or river valley.
• Article 262(2) empowers Parliament with the power to provide by law that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
• Under Article 262, two acts were enacted
o River Boards Act 1956: It was enacted with a declaration that centre should take control of regulation and development of Inter-state rivers and river valleys in public interest. However, not a single river board has been constituted so far.
o The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) confers a power upon union government to constitute tribunals to resolve such disputes. It also excludes jurisdiction of Supreme Court over such disputes.
• Despite Article 262, the Supreme Court does have jurisdiction to adjudicate water disputes, provided that the parties first go to water tribunal and then if they feel that the order is not satisfactory only then they can approach Supreme Court.
o This article gives discretion to allow leave to appeal against order, decree, judgment passed by any Court or tribunal in India.
PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEES
In the recent session of Parliament, all the bills were passed without the scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees.
• Parliamentary Committees are setup as an instrument to assist the working of Parliament in its various activities. They are classified into- Standing Committee and Adhoc Committee (temporary). Standing Committees are permanent, constituted every year and work in a continuous manner.
• Recently, after the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, parliamentary standing committees have not been constituted, as consultations among parties are still under way. Partly as a result of this, all the bills were passed without committee scrutiny.
o According to PRS Legislative Research, only 25% of the Bills introduced were referred to committees in the 16th Lok Sabha, as compared to 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.
LEGAL AID IN INDIA
• In India, right to free legal aid or free legal service is an essential fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. It forms the basis of reasonable, fair and just liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
• In 1976, government inserted Article 39A with 42nd Amendment act, which directs the State to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way
• To give statutory base to legal aid programmes, parliament passed Legal Services Authorities Act in 1987. Legal Service act, 1987
• This Act came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity.
• Under the act, the Central Government constituted National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
o The Central Authority shall consist of the Chief Justice of India who shall be the Patron-in-Chief and a serving or retired Judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, who shall be the Executive Chairman
• In every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee have been constituted.
o District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted in the Districts and most of the Taluks to provide free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
ARBITRATION IN INDIA
Recently, the government has passed New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Act and Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act.
• The Act envisages NDIAC to replace International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) as an Institution of National Importance.
• It will facilitate conducting of international and domestic arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings in a most professional, cost effective and timely manner.
• It will be headed by a chairperson, who has been a judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court or an eminent person having special knowledge and experience in the administration of arbitration.
Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019
• It was passed by the parliament recently and amends the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to deal with domestic and international arbitration.
• Under it, an independent body called the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) will be set up for
o promotion of alternative dispute redressal mechanisms,
o framing policies for grading arbitral institutions and accrediting arbitrators,
o maintaining a depository of arbitral judgments made in India and abroad, and
o maintenance of uniform professional standards for all alternate dispute redressal matters.
• Appointment of arbitrators will now be done by the Supreme Court designated arbitral institutions, which was earlier used to be done by parties themselves.
DEMAND FOR LOCAL JOB QUOTAS
Recently, Andhra Pradesh became the first state in the country to offer 75% reservation to locals in private jobs.
In this direction, the Andhra Pradesh assembly passed the Andhra Pradesh Employment of Local Candidates in Industries/Factories Act, 2019, under which 75% of the privates jobs across all factories, joint ventures, and industries in the state, including those taken up under public-private partnership mode, will be reserved for local Andhra people.
REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP
Currently, the 26th round of negotiations for the RCEP are being held in Melbourne, Australia.
About Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
• It is a proposed pact between 10 ASEAN economies and six others (New Zealand, Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea) with which the grouping currently has FTAs.
• The objective of launching RCEP negotiations is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high- quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN Member States and ASEAN’s FTA partners.
• It is often characterised as a China-led response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) put forward by the US.
How RCEP can be beneficial for India?
• Market Access: Owing to its size, it is expected to provide market access for India’s goods and services exports and encourage greater investments and technology into India.
• Enhance MSME sector: RCEP recognises the importance of being inclusive, especially to enable SMEs leverage on the agreement and cope with challenges arising from globalisation and trade liberalisation.
Hence, RCEP would facilitate India’s MSMEs to effectively integrate into the regional value and supply chains.
• Alternative to APEC: RCEP offers alternative to Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) on economic front in which India has been attempting to join APEC since 1993, but still has not got the membership.
• FDI gains:. The arrangement is expected to harmonise the trade-related rules, investment and competition regimes of India with those of other countries in the group. There would be a boost to inward and outward foreign direct investment, particularly export-oriented FDI.
India’s Concerns with RCEP
• Trade deficit: India’s trade deficits have always widened with nations after signing free-trade-agreements (FTAs) with them. The same is true for India’s FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan, Korea, and Singapore, most of which are RCEP nations.
o India’s merchandise trade deficit with the RCEP grouping hit $105 billion in FY19 (60% of its total deficit).
o The broad trade flows analysis indicates that the Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of imports was 9.06 per cent while for exports, it was 2.90 per cent during the period of 2014-2018, reflecting higher growth of imports than exports.
• Threat to domestic market: RCEP members, particularly China, are demanding zero tariffs over 90 per cent tariff lines which is a major concern for India as low cost Chinese manufacturing goods will swamp its domestic market by dumping cheaper goods.
o A large number of Indian industry including iron and steel, dairy, marine products, electronic products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and textiles have expressed concerns that proposed tariff elimination under RCEP would render them uncompetitive.
o India has several sensitive areas of competing interests in agriculture, horticulture and dairy with other non-FTA partners like Australia and New Zealand.
NATO ALLY-LIKE STATUS
The US Senate has passed a binding legislation to accord India the same status as its other NATO allies — South Korea, Japan and Australia.
• It will be part of the National Defense Authorisation Act for the current fiscal 2020.
• The legislation paves the way for improved maritime security and advanced technology transfer between the two countries.
• India and USA over the years have strengthened their defence relations thorough various agreements such as:
o Signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
o Signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).
o India has special status of a Major Defence Partner to the US, by virtue of the National Defence Authorisation of 2017.
50 YEARS OF BANK NATIONALISATION
19th July, 2019 marked the 50 th anniversary of Bank nationalization.
• On July 19, 1969, the Government of India had issued an ordinance ‘Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Ordinance, 1969’ and nationalized 14 banks with deposits of over Rs 50 crores.
• Ordinance was initiated by Indira Gandhi government which brought more than 75% banking sector under state control along with its assets, liabilities, entire paid-up-capital.
• For this purpose, the Central Government was supposed to pay compensation to the banks.
• The total amount of compensation could be determined by consensus between the bank and the government.
BANNING OF UNREGULATED DEPOSIT SCHEMES ACT, 2019
President gave assent to the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Act, 2019, to put in place a mechanism to secure poor depositors/investors from Ponzi schemes.
• Ponzi schemes, over the years have been a menace in the country. Rose Valley, Saradha, IMA Jewels scam in Bengaluru—are among the major scams in the recent past.
• The Act covers existing gaps in legislation that had been exploited by various parties to siphon large amounts of money away from small investors.
• In particular, it amends three laws, i.e.,
o The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934
o The Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 and
o The Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002.
Major Highlights of the Act
• Deposit: The Act defines a deposit as an amount of money received through an advance, a loan, or in any other form, with a promise to be returned with or without interest.
o Further, the Act defines certain amounts which shall not be included in the definition of deposits such as amounts received in the form of loans from relatives and contributions towards capital by partners in any partnership firm.
• All deposit-taking schemes are required to be registered with the relevant regulator: Currently, nine regulators oversee and regulate various deposit-taking schemes. These include: The Reserve Bank of India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs etc.
Recently, the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) becomes the first Central Public Secter Enterprise to enter into MoU with the Government e-Marketplace (GeM).
• The Government e Marketplace (GeM), launched in 2016, is an online market platform to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
o It owes its genesis to the recommendations of two Groups of Secretaries made to the Prime Minister in January 2016.
o The portal was developed by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D) with technical support of NeGD (MeitY).
o It has been envisaged by Government of India as the National Procurement Portal of India and is directly monitored by the PMO office.
o Procurement on GeM has been authorized by General Financial Rules by making necessary changes in government rules.
MULTIDIMENSIONAL POVERTY INDEX (MPI)
Recently, 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was released.
About Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)
• It was developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
• The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute multidimensional poverty covering over 100 developing countries.
• The MPI goes beyond income as the sole indicator for poverty, by exploring the ways in which people experience poverty in their health, education, and standard of living. It captures both the incidence and intensity of poverty.
o The MPI assesses poverty at the individual level.
o If someone is deprived in three or more of ten (weighted) indicators, the global index identifies them as ‘MPI poor’, and the extent – or intensity – of their poverty is measured by the percentage of deprivations they are experiencing.
India specific Findings
o India lifted 271 million people out of poverty (640 million to 369 million) between 2006 and 2016, recording the fastest reductions in the multidimensional poverty index values during the period with strong improvements in areas such as “assets, cooking fuel, sanitation and nutrition.
o India’s MPI value reduced from 0.283 in 2005-06vto 0.123 in 2015-16.
o Among the four Indian states with the most acute MPI — Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — Jharkhand has made the most progress.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)
Recently, President’s assent was given to the Companies Amendment Act, 2019 to provide specific penal provision in case of non-compliance of Corporate Social Responsibilities Rules.
About Corporate Social Responsibility
• The Companies Act, 2013 is a landmark legislation that made
India the first country to mandate and quantify CSR expenditure. The inclusion of CSR is an attempt by the government to engage the businesses with the national development agenda. • Section 135 of the Act lays down rules for CSR activity in India.
o It mandates that every company, private limited or public limited, which either has a net worth of Rs 500 crore or a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or net profit of Rs 5 crore, needs to spend at least 2% of its average net profit for the immediately preceding three financial years on CSR activities.
o The CSR activities in India should not be undertaken in the normal course of business and must be with respect to any of the 17 activities of CSR mentioned in Schedule VII of the act.
DRAFT MODEL TENANCY ACT, 2019
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MHUA) released the draft Model Tenancy Act, 2019.
About the Draft Model Tenancy Act
• It aims to establish a Rent Authority for regulating renting of premises in an efficient and transparent manner and to balance the interests of owner and tenant by establishing adjudicating mechanism for speedy dispute redressal and to establish Rent Court and Rent Tribunal to hear appeals and for matters connected.
• It will promote inclusive and sustainable ecosystem to various segments of society including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, professionals, students and urban poor.
UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) AMENDMENT ACT, 2019
Recently, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 was passed in the Parliament of India.
• The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 was enacted to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for matters connected therewith.
o It was enacted after the Indo-China war and threat posed by the DMK contesting elections in Tamil Nadu with secession from India being part of their manifesto.
• Owing to the changing nature of crime and need to have legal provisions to effectively deal with them, amendments were required.
o Its scope has been expanded and evolved over various amendments.
• This Amendment Act 2019 has also incorporated some of the aspects.
Key Amendments in the legislation
• Expands the scope of terror entities- Previously the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation, if it, prepares or commits or participates or promotes or otherwise involved in terrorism.
o Now the government is empowered to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
• Approval for seizure of property- Earlier an investigating officer was required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.
o Now, if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
• Empowering NIA: Earlier, the investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
o This Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
NIA (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019
The Parliament recently passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act 2019, which seeks to expand the powers and jurisdiction of the NIA.
• The NIA Act, 2008, governs the functioning of India’s premier counterterror agency, the National Investigation Agency, which was brought in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
o It makes NIA the only truly federal agency in the country, along the lines of the FBI in the United States, and more powerful than the CBI.
o It has various advantages over other investigation agencies such the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has to seek the permission of a state government before investigating a case against a central government employee in that state.
o Whereas, the NIA has powers to take suo motu cognisance of terrorist activity in any part of India and to register a case, to enter any state without needing permission from its government, and to investigate and arrest people.
• Enhances the scope of Offences: which are mentioned in the schedule to the Act, such as the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
o This amendment enhances this scope to include other offences like human trafficking; offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes; manufacture or sale of prohibited arms; cyber-terrorism; offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
• Enhances the jurisdiction of the NIA: as the officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.
o The Union government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases, as if the offence has been committed in India.
o The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.
• Additional Provisions for Special Courts: The NIA Act allowed the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
o Now the central government may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences, but in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning.
o When more than one Special Court has been designated for any area, the senior-most judge will distribute cases among the courts.
PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING ACT (PMLA)
Recently, Government made the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 law stricter via a recent amendment made to the Act through the Finance Act of 2019.
• The definition of “proceeds of crime” has been widened which now includes properties and assets created through any criminal activity even if it is not under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and it will now be considered as “relatable offence”.
• Other amendments have also been brought in to remove the grey areas and ambiguity in PMLA Act.
Framework for prevention of money laundering
• Statutory framework: It includes enactment of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002
• Institutional framework: It involves mainly two bodies:
o Enforcement Directorate for investigation and prosecution of cases under the PML.
o Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU- IND) for receiving, processing, analysing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions as well as for coordinating and strengthening efforts of national and international intelligence, investigation and enforcement agencies against money laundering.
JAL SHAKTI ABHIYAN
Recently, the Union Government launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, a campaign for water conservation and water security.
• Given the increasing water stress in the country, the government is aiming to create a jan-andolan along the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission, to save water and secure the future.
o The government also aims at providing drinking water to every household on priority and in a sustainable manner.
• Jal Shakti Abhiyan will run through citizen participation in two phases-
o Phase I: 1st July to 15th September 2019 (all States)
o Phase II: 1st October to 30th November 2019 (States with retreating monsoon)
• The focus of the campaign will be on water stressed districts and blocks with various focus activities as shown in the figure.
• There is no additional funding or specific targets for the campaign to achieve.
ALL INDIA TIGER ESTIMATE-2018
The four-year tiger census report, ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat, 2018’ shows the count of tigers in India, has risen to 2967, in 2018 from 2,226 in 2014.
Findings of All India Tiger Estimate-2018
• Biggest increase in tigers: The biggest increase has been in Madhya Pradesh from 308 in 2014 to 526, in Karnataka from 406 to 524, in Uttarakhand from 340 to 442 and in Maharashtra from 190 to 312.
• Continuing loss of tiger-occupied areas: The net loss in tiger-occupied area to be 17,881 sq km or 20% of the tiger habitat in four years. However, a significant rise in numbers this time, however, is from non-protected areas.
Recently, the Special Rhino Protection Force (SRPF) trained to combat poachers and understand animal behaviour was deployed in the Kaziranga National Park.
• The force has been raised by the initiative of both the central and state governments to control rhino poaching in tiger reserve.
• The process of setting up the special force was started in 2015 on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
• The Assam government would be paying the salaries of the SRPF members and the amount would be reimbursed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has initiated a project worth Rs 33.85 crore for the conservation and protection of the Great Indian Bustard. Only 130 such birds are left in India.
Reason for decline in population
• The biggest threat to this species is hunting, poaching, habitat erosion, ‘greening’ projects that transform arid grasslands to wooded areas, change of land use from grassland to farmland, fast moving vehicles and free-ranging dogs in villages
• In recent times, death due to collision with wind turbines and power transmission lines has emerged as major factor.
• Great Indian bustard is placed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the highest degree of legal protection in the country.
• It is categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
• Great Indian Bustard is Rajasthan’s state bird. The state government has started “Project Godawan” for its conservation at Desert National Park (DNP) in Jaisalmer.
DEEP OCEAN MISSION
India will launch its ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ by October, 2019 to enter hitherto untapped 75,000 sq km of area in international waters to tap vast marine resources.
About Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)
• It aims to explore the depths of the Ocean for the possibilities of deep-sea mining.
• The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO about 35 years ago.
o It would be an integrated programme where several scientific departments of the government such as ISRO, DBT, DST, DRDO and ICAR will work together for sustainable harnessing of ocean resources.
• Its focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining such as under water vehicles, under water robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among others.
• Two key projects planned under DOM include a desalination plant, powered by tidal energy and a submersible vehicle that can explore depths of at least 6,000 meters.
THE MUSLIM WOMEN (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS ON MARRIAGE) ACT, 2019
President gave assent to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019. It will replace the 1986 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, enacted after the Shah Bano Case.
Major Provisions of the 2019 Act:
• It invalidates the practice of instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) as void and illegal.
• It also makes instant triple talaq a criminal offence with imprisonment up to three years and fine.
• It also provides to make the offence cognizable, if information relating to the commission of an offence is given to the Police, by the married Muslim woman upon whom talaq is pronounced or by any person related to her by blood or marriage (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.).
• The Act also provides scope for reconciliation without undergoing the process of Nikah Halala if the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings and settle the dispute.
• Allowance: A Muslim woman, against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
• Custody: A Muslim woman, against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.
TRANSGENDER PERSONS (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS) BILL, 2019
Recently, the Lok Sabha passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019
• Definition of a transgender person: The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women (whether or not such person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
• A person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy. It also requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a trans-person.
• Prohibition against discrimination: It prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare.
o No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion. Every establishment is required to designate a person to be a complaint officer to deal with complaints in relation to the Act.
• Right of residence: Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household. If the immediate family is unable to care for the transgender person, the person may be placed in a rehabilitation centre, on the orders of a competent court.
• Welfare Measures: The Bill states that the relevant government will take measures to ensure their rescue and rehabilitation, vocational training and self-employment, create schemes that are transgender sensitive, and promote their participation in cultural activities.
Recently, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha.
• Surrogacy is the practice whereby one woman carries the child for another with the intention that the child should be handed over after birth. Such a surrogacy arrangement may be altruistic or commercial in nature.
• The government introduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 in the Parliament, which was then examined by the standing committee.
• After the dissolution of last Lok Sabha, the bill lapsed and now this bill was brought to replace it.
Provisions of the Bill
• Prohibition of Commercial Surrogacy- which includes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.
o It also prohibits surrogacy for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation.
o But the bill allows Altruistic Surrogacy, where no such other monetary compensation is paid to the surrogate mother.
o Other purposes where surrogacy is allowed- include for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility, for any condition or disease specified through regulations.
o For intending couple- who should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.
✓ The certificate of essentiality will be issued on grounds like proven infertility of one or both parents, order of parentage of the child passed by a Magistrate’s court and an insurance coverage.
✓ The eligibility criteria for the couple include-
▪ Couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years,
▪ Aged between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband),
▪ Do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate),
▪ Would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness.
o For surrogate mother- who should be a –
✓ Close relative of the intending couple,
✓ Married woman having a child of her own,
✓ 25 to 35 years old
✓ Surrogate only once in her lifetime
✓ Possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy
• Establishment of Authorities- Both the central and state governments shall appoint one or more appropriate authorities, including the National and State Surrogacy Boards, within 90 days of the Bill becoming an Act. Apart from regulation of surrogacy clinics, they will enforce standards, investigate any breach of the provisions of the Bill and recommend modifications to the rules and regulations.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Recently, Gaganyaan National Advisory Council has been created with members from different institutions and industries.
• An Indian manned mission to space was first mooted in 2004.
• The Gaganyaan programme, an indigenous mission that would take Indian astronauts to space, was announced in 2018.
• Over the years, the Indian Space Research Organisation has developed and tested a number of technologies that are critical to a human space flight. These include a Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-2007), Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE-2014), GSLV Mk-III (2014), Reusable Launch Vehicle- Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), Crew Escape System and Pad Abort Test. ISRO also recently unveiled a space capsule (crew module) and Space suit prototype.
• ISRO has signed a pact with the Russian firm Glavkosmos to select and train astronauts for the country’s Gaganyaan project.
o ISRO will receive assistance from the French space agency CNES, in terms of expertise various fields including space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, radiation protection and life support.
About Gaganyaan Mission
• It is a crewed orbital spacecraft which is expected to carry three people into the space for seven days.
• With this, India could potentially become the fourth country to send a man to space, after the erstwhile USSR, the US and China.
• The total programme is expected to be complete before 2022.
• ISRO also plans two unmanned Gaganyaan flights — by December 2020 and in July 2021 — before undertaking the manned mission by December 2021.
• GSLV Mk III, the three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle, will be used to launch Gaganyaan as it has the necessary payload capability.
• The spacecraft is expected to be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km. Within 16 minutes of taking off, the crew will be in space, where they will remain for five-seven days. The return journey is expected to take 36 minutes.
ISRO recently launched Chandrayaan-2 mission.
• Chandrayaan-2, a completely indigenous mission, is India’s second lunar exploration mission which the following basic components-
o Orbiter- will observe the lunar surface and relay communication between Earth and Chandrayaan 2’s Lander.
o Lander (called Vikram)- designed to execute India’s first soft landing on the lunar surface.
o Rover (called Pragyan)- a 6-wheeled, AI-powered vehicle, which will move on the lunar surface and perform on-site chemical analysis.
• Launcher- It was launched by Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1. It is India’s most powerful launcher to date, and has been completely designed and fabricated from within the country.
• Some notable features of Chandrayaan 2 Mission-
o 1st space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon’s south polar region.
o 1st Indian expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface with home-grown technology.
o 1st Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology.
o 4th country ever to soft land on the lunar surface after the United States, the U.S.S.R. and China.
DNA TECHNOLOGY (USE & APPLICATION) REGULATION BILL
Recently, the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, which provides for the regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons.
Key Provisions of the Bill-
• Use of DNA Data: DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the Schedule to the Bill, such as-
o Offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
o for civil matters such as paternity suits.
o for matters related to establishment of individual identity.
• Collection of DNA: the investigating authorities may collect bodily substances of persons.
o Requirement of consent for collection in certain situations-
✓ For arrested persons- Requirement of written consent if the offence carries a punishment of up to seven years. If the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required.
✓ If the person is a victim, or relative of a missing person, or a minor or disabled person, the authorities are required to obtain the written consent of such victim, or relative, or parent or guardian of the minor or disabled person. If consent is not given in these cases, the authorities can approach a Magistrate who may order the taking of bodily substances of such persons.
Recently, India has improved its ranking in the global innovation index by five places to 52nd in 2019 from 57th position last year.
• The Global Innovation Index (GII) has been developed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) together with top business universities like Cornell University, INSEAD etc.
o It measures the innovative capacity and outputs of 129 economies, using 80 indicators ranging from standard measurements such as research and development investments and patent and trademark filings, to mobile-phone app creation and high-tech net exports.
o This year, India is hosting the launch of the 2019 edition of the GII.
o This year’s GII theme “Creating Healthy Lives: The Future of Medical Innovation” is important and relevant for India because we would need a strong focus on medical innovation towards the goal of bringing healthcare and its delivery to all Indians.
• India has consistently worked on developing its intellectual property system to provide an enabling environment for innovation to flourish at all levels, including grassroots and frugal innovation.
USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IN ANIMAL FOOD
The health ministry has banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of the antibiotic colistin and its formulations for food producing animals and animal feed supplements.
• It is found that the misuse of colistin in the poultry industry is said to be a major reason for the increase in antibiotic resistance in India.
• The ban has been imposed under provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
• The ban follows recommendations by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, and the National Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan committee.
The Archaeological Survey of India is restoring the Markandeshwar group of temples in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
• This group of temples were built between the 9th and 12th centuries and may have had up to 24 different temples.
• It gets its name from the main temple dedicated to Lord Shiva called Markandeshwar or Markandadeo temple, which lies in Markanda village on the banks of the Wainganga river.
• They are famously known as the ‘mini Khajuraho’ or ‘Khajuraho of Vidarbha’. They belong to saiva, vaishnava and sakti faith.
• The temples belong to the Nagara group of temples of North India.
JAIPUR GETS WORLD HERITAGE STATUS
Recently, the Pink City, Jaipur got the UNESCO World Heritage status.
• In 2017, old Ahmedabad was India’s first city to win the ‘heritage city’ tag.
• With Jaipur’s inclusion, the number of heritage sites across India that are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, has grown to 38, including 30 cultural properties, 7 natural properties and 1 mixed site.
• India had proposed the nomination of Jaipur as an “exceptional urban example in indigenous city planning and construction in South Asia”.
About Jaipur- City Planning
• The fortified city of Jaipur, in India’s north western state of Rajasthan was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II.
o Jaipur is distinguished for its exemplary development in town planning and architecture of the late medieval period.
o Unlike other cities in the region located in hilly terrain, Jaipur was established on the plain and built according to a grid plan interpreted in the light of Vedic architecture.
o The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures.
• Designed to be a commercial capital, the city has maintained its local commercial, artisanal and cooperative traditions to this day.
• Jaipur boasts of vibrant intangible culture and heritage reflected in it being preferred tourism destination owing to its iconic monuments such as the Govind Dev temple, Amer Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal among many.
• RBI launched ‘Utkarsh 2022’, the Reserve Bank of India’s Medium-term Strategy Framework to achieve excellence in the performance of RBI’s mandates and strengthening the trust of citizens and other institutions.
• It is a three-year road map for medium term objective which is in line with the global central banks’ plan to strengthen the regulatory and supervisory mechanism.
MOTIHARI-AMLEKHGUNJ OIL PIPELINE
• India and Nepal have successfully concluded the ‘testing transfer’ of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline.
• The 69-km long petroleum pipeline from Motihari in Bihar to Amelkhgunj in Nepal has been constructed by India.
• This is the first transnational petroleum pipeline from India, first South Asian oil pipeline corridor and first oil pipeline in Nepal.
• It will ensure smooth, cost-effective and environment-friendly supply of petroleum products to Nepal.
• Recently it was found that Sargasso seaweed algae belt is increasingly growing in Sargosso Sea.
• It is named for a genus of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum.
o Seaweed can be a boon for marine wildlife, providing habitat for creatures including fish and birds.
o At the same time, thick mats can block sunlight, while if large mats die and sink it can prove deadly for marine life, including coral.
AMRABAD TIGER RESERVE, TELANGANA
• Recently, Centre granted “in-principle” clearance for uranium exploration in Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana.
• The area proposed for mining falls under the Amrabad and Nudigal Reserved Forests of the ‘core area’ of the tiger reserve.
• Location: This tiger reserve lies in Nallamala hill that stretch in Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts of Telangana.
PLASTICRUST: NEW KIND OF POLLUTION
• Researchers have noticed a new type of rock formation: a thin coating of plastic that’s growing on the rocks at the shore. It is being called ‘Plasticrust’.
• Analysis of the crust indicated that it’s composed of polyethylene, which is the most commonly used plastic, often found in food and product packaging.
• When molluscs and similar creatures stick to rocks in order to feed from the algae coating them, they end up feeding on this plastic coating, further polluting the food chain.
• Ministry for Human Resource Development recently launched ‘Paramarsh’ – a University Grants Commission (UGC) scheme for Mentoring Institutions aspiring to achieve National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) Accreditation.
• Focus areas will include curricular aspects, teaching-learning & evaluation, research, innovation, institutional values & practices, etc.
• The scheme will target 1000 Higher Education Institutions for mentoring with a specific focus on quality as enumerated in the UGC “Quality Mandate”.
• The Indian armed forces are all set to conduct the country’s first-ever simulated space warfare exercise “IndSpaceEx”.
• The tri-Service integrated defence staff (IDS) under the defence ministry is conducting the two-day “IndSpaceEx”, with all military and scientific stakeholders in the backdrop of China’s rapidly expanding space and counter-space capabilities.
• World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of the HIV drug dolutegravir (DTG) as the preferred first-line and second-line treatment for all populations, including pregnant women.
• Recent studies comparing DTG to another drug Efavirenz (EFV) found it to be more effective, easier to take and having fewer side effects.
• In the present scenario of rising drug resistance, it is important that DTG has a high genetic barrier to developing drug resistance.