This thread is exclusively made for featured articles from original articles released in The Hindu editorials, Press Information bureau (PIB), Yojana magazine, PRS india, ISDA, MEA and other useful government sites. These articles will provide you with a comprehensive outlook for the current key issues and save your time to compile data from various sites. These articles will help you for your UPSC Mains preparation especially the Essay Paper.
This thread is exclusively made for featured articles from original articles released in The Hindu editorials, Press Information bureau (PIB), Yojana magazine, PRS india, ISDA, MEA and other useful government sites. These articles will provide you with a comprehensive outlook for the current key issues and save your time to compile data from various sites. These articles will help you for your UPSC Mains preparation especially the Essay Paper.
Real Estate Bill: A key effort to revive the realty sector
The Lok Sabha recently passed the landmark Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2013 in order to equally protect the interests of buyers and realty developers. It also strives to promote fair play in real estate transactions by eliminating corruption and project delays.
Introduced in 2013, the bill underwent several amendments and progressive changes over time until in December 2015, the Union Cabinet approved it with 20 major amendments.
In this article, we will discuss the salient features of the bill and analyse it in depth.
● To secure the interests of property buyers as well as project developers.
● To make real estate a corruption-free sector.
● To enhance efficiency by ensuring timely execution of projects.
● To ensure speedy settlement of disputes between stakeholders.
● To boost domestic and foreign investment in the sector.
● To enable the government to realise its 'Housing for all by 2022' mission with private partnership.
Highlights of the Real Estate Bill, 2013
1. State-level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) will be established to monitor and regulate transactions between buyers and promoters of residential real estate projects.
2. As per the provisions of the bill, the Appropriate Government will have the authority to frame rules for the subjects specified in the bill.
3. This bill is applicable for commercial and residential realty projects.
4. RERAs will register residential real estate projects, with some exceptions. Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale before registering them. Real estate agents intending to sell any plot, apartment or building will also have to mandatorily register with the RERAs.
5. The draft bill required developers to maintain 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project in a separate bank account and this was to be used only to meet construction costs. However, as per the current bill, only 50% of the amount has to be allocated to meet construction costs.
6. The bill mandates the establishment of Real Estate Appellate Tribunals in order enable developers/buyers to appeal against decision of the RERAs.
7. If developers delay the transfer of property to buyers, the Real Estate Appellate Tribunals are vested with the authority to intervene and impose fines on the developers within 60 days.
8. The bill prohibits civil courts from taking up real estate-related cases. However, aggrieved buyers can approach consumer courts which are allowed to hear real estate matters.
9. Project developers are ordained to disclose all information regarding registered projects, including details of promoters, layout plan, land status, schedule of execution and status of various approvals.
10. As per the bill, a developer cannot change the registered plan in a project unless two-third of the allottees agree to the change.
11. Builders will be responsible for correcting structural defects and settle other problems for five years after transfer of the property to the buyer.
12. The bill has provisions for imprisonment of developers up to 3 years in case they are found guilty of fraud.
13. The quoted price of the project will now be on the basis of carpet area instead of super built-up area.
Pros and cons
The real estate sector contributes around 9% of the nation's GDP and the new major amendments will have a sure impact on our economy. Also, perspectives of buyers and developers vary as per provisions of the bill.
Pros: Power to buyers
1. The establishment of a designated regulatory authority is a new ray of hope for buyers as earlier, due to absence of such authority, transactions were mostly carried out on goodwill or based on experiences of friends/family. However, now the RERAs will ensure more security in transactions.
2. In addition, mandatory registration of projects and real estate agents and disclosure of project-related information will reduce the possibility of frauds, thereby increasing consumer advantage.
3. The compulsory use of 50% of amount collected from buyers to meet construction costs of a particular project will ensure that developers do not delay completion of the property by diverting funds for other projects.
4. In case of delay, the Real Estate Appellate Tribunals is authorised to impose fines on the developers which is further beneficial for buyers.
5. As a developer cannot change the registered plan in a project unless 2/3rd of the allottees agree to the change, buyers have some assurance of getting what they originally paid for.
6. As builders have to fix structural defects for five years after transferring the property, buyers need have to spend more money by turning to other sources. Further, this provision will ensure quality construction work.
7. The bill clearly defines 'carpet area' and mandates buyers to pay only for the carpet area and not the super built-up area.
Cons: Ambiguity in provisions
1. The authority granted to Parliament to make real estate laws is questionable as the subject 'land' comes under the State List in the Constitution.
2. The real estate sector grapples with issues that fall under the State List like lengthy procedures for project approvals, lack of clear land titles and prevalence of black money. A few states already have laws to regulate realty projects. However, the new bill differs from state laws on several grounds and will overrule such state laws.
3. Though the bill provides for penalising developers for delay, it does not specify punitive action that should be taken on government officials and agencies who might delay project approvals.
4. The original bill required developers to keep 70% of amount collected from buyers for a project. Though this bill has reduced it to 50%, many developers have argued that this will adversely impact their liquidity and eventually lead to an increase in the selling price.
5. The bill states that only 'minor alterations' are allowed in the registered plan. However, the extent and nature of changes has not been specified. Builders are known to intimidate buyers to agree to changes in the registered project. However, there is no mechanism in the bill to counter such high-handedness.
6. The original bill empowered tribunals to punish real estate company officials in case of wrongdoings. However, the amended bill removes this provision.
We would also like to hear your opinions about this bill. You can share your views in the comment box below.
International Solar Alliance: Heralding India's rise as the solar energy hub
On November 30, 2015, at the UN Climate Change Conference held in Paris, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA) of over 120 countries with the French President Francois Hollande. The alliance was launched with the aim of creating a sustainable world by increasing access to affordable and clean energy.
International Solar Alliance - a background
a. The initiative has been launched to drive promotion and use of solar energy and its related applications across developing countries.
b. The alliance has been forged between solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
c. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) will be headquartered in Gurgaon. Its interim secretariat was recently inaugurated in National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) in Gwalpahari, Gurgaon.
1. The ISA envisions sustainable development by expanding reach of clean and affordable energy.
2. To achieve universal energy access and energy security for the present and future generations.
3. To reliably fulfill energy needs in a safe, convenient, equitable and sustainable manner.
1. To work towards increasing deployment of solar technologies in order to enhance energy security and sustainable development.
2. To increase the standard of living in rural and remote areas by improving energy access and providing opportunities for a better life.
3. To expand and accelerate existing clean solar energy technologies.
4. To create more direct and indirect employment opportunities in order to boost economic development of the ISA countries with special focus on rural areas.
5. To decrease the cost of finance and technology for immediate deployment of competitive solar technologies, thereby paving way for generation and storage of solar energy to cater to all the countries involved.
In order to achieve the set goals, ISA will focus on 5 crucial areas:
1. Promote solar technologies: Member countries will be encouraged to popularise solar technologies and increase investment in the solar sector so as to enhance income generation for the poor and global environment. The focus of the promotion will be on applications of solar energy in areas of lighting, heating, cooling, distillation, desalination, disinfection, sterilisation, pasteurisation, storage, refrigeration, telecommunication, irrigation, drinking water supply, energy efficiency, etc.
2. Initiate of projects and programmes: Innovative programmes, projects, policies, and capacity-building measures will be launched jointly by member countries with cooperation from international organisations, UN member countries, multilateral and bilateral agencies, corporates, non-profit organisations, etc. to provide light from solar energy for the energy-deprived households by the year 2022.
3. Build financial models to reduce costs: Innovative financial mechanisms will be worked out to cut back on capital costs and develop long-term financial resources from bilateral and multilateral agencies, among other sources.
4. Build a common Knowledge e-Portal: A knowledge forum will be built, including a 24x7 e-portal for exchange of policy development experiences and best practices among member countries in order to save time, effort and cost.
5. Enable capacity-building among member countries:
a. Encourage and forge partnerships among R&D centres of member countries for application-oriented research and delivering technologies to people.
b. To increase capacity building through training & educational programmes and exchange of officials/ entrepreneurs/sector experts/ students/interns/ apprentices, user groups etc. that will help people understand the obstacles and work collectively to achieve a common goal.
1. Recently, the total installed capacity of solar power in India crossed the 5 gigawatt (GW) mark.
Further, the nation has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022. By the end of next year, India is also planning to add another 12 GW.
2. India aspires to establish non-fossil fuel electricity-generating systems that will supply 40% of the country's cumulative installed capacity by 2030.
The ISA was proposed for the concerted benefit of solar energy-rich countries, in order to achieve universal access and create unlimited economic opportunities. The combined contribution of 121 countries will not only reduce research and technology costs but also strengthen international relations. It will enable ISA members to address climate change issues and switch to a low-carbon growth path.
In the long term, the alliance aims to create a secure future and clean environment for the coming generations. Currently, India has emerged as the global leader in this field with the potential to facilitate a constructive dialogue and partnership among the sun-rich nations of the world.
Bharat Emission Standards
Govt. to implement BS-VI emission norms by April 2020:
Soon after the success of the odd-even rule in Delhi, the Supreme Court ordered the implementation of the Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission norms earlier than the April 2021 deadline fixed by the Union government. Thus, in order to reduce pollution and promote overall public health, the government is all set to enforce stage VI emission standards by April 1, 2020.
Bharat Emission Standards- a background
The Union government launched the Bharat Stage emission norms in order to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipments, including motor vehicles. The norms aim to reduce sulphur content in fuels and make changes in the engine design of automobiles to cut down on emission quantities.
The Central Pollution Control Board, which falls under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change, formulates the standards and sets the timeline for their implementation.
History of emission standards in India
Though India introduced emission standards in the year 1991, laws became more stringent only in 1996 when vehicle manufacturers were directed to install Catalytic converters to curtail exhaust emissions for petrol vehicles which led to the introduction of unleaded petrol in the market.
Later, the government notified fuel specifications with regard to environmental considerations that were to be implemented from 2000 onwards. According to this, the emission standards were to be on par with European regulations. Thus, it was mandatory for the BS-I and BS-II standards to comply with Euro I and Euro II respectively.
In 2005, BS-III norms were implemented in 13 major cities, while and BS-II standards were enforced in the rest of India. In 2010, BS-IV and BS-III fuel emission norms were imposed in a similar manner.
At present, BS IV is applicable in 33 major cities with the required grade of fuel being available, while BS III is applicable for the rest of India.
Roadmap to achieve emission norms-National Auto Fuel Policy 2003
-The National Auto Fuel Policy 2003 addresses the issues of vehicular emissions and vehicular technologies by applying fuel quality norms.
-It promoted the use of LPG/CNG for cities with high pollution.
-It also stipulated the timeline for implementation of emission standards across India. The policy included guidelines for auto fuels, reduction of pollution from older vehicles and R&D for air quality data creation and health administration.
-Recently, the government constituted an Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of Soumitra Choudhuri to draft Auto Fuel Vision and Policy 2025. The report was published in May 2014.
The recommendations of the Expert Committee are as follows:
-It has devised a road map for auto fuel quality till 2025 considering the achievement under the last Auto Fuel Policy, reduction in vehicular emissions currently in use, supply and availability of fuels.
-It recommended the nationwide fuel standards to be BS-IV from April 2017. It also proposed revision of fuel standards to BS V in 2020 and BS VI in 2024.
-It also suggested that refineries should be upgraded and highly equipped to produce BS-V grade petrol and diesel.
-Further, it proposed that a Special Fuel Upgradation Cess of 75 paise/litre be imposed on fuel purchases to meet upgradation costs.
Challenges in the implementation of BS-VI norms
Engine development firms have cited technological difficulties in implementing the changes stating that jumping directly to BS-VI norms (skipping BS-V which itself is time-consuming) would give them little time to design requisite changes in their vehicle parts.
Making the desired quality fuel is also a big task for the refineries as their upgradation will require large sums of money. Yet if the fuel is not uniformly available, then it would not be possible to achieve the objective of reducing pollution.
Two major challenges lie ahead of auto firms that have to design vehicles that comply with the BS-VI norms:
a. Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF): The average size of cars in India provide lesser space to incorporate DPF which functions as an exhaust to remove particulate matter (majorly soot particles) generated from diesel. Also, driving speed in India is very less and hence it would be difficult to attain a temperature of 600° Celsius which is necessary for the DPF to burn soot particles. Thus, the optimisation of the DPF would be difficult.
b. Selective Catalytic Reduction Module: It reduces emission of nitrogen oxides. It needs injection of aqueous solution into the system, for which a separate infrastructure is required to ensure countrywide supply.
With a hope to achieve a clean environment and encourage the use of non-conventional energy sources, India has taken a few steps towards compliance with international regulations. This will promote a green environment and ensure good public health by improving overall air quality.
The Aadhaar Bill, 2016 : A new turn for the better
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently introduced the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 in Lok Sabha with the objective of creating unique identity numbers called Aadhaar numbers to individuals residing in India.
In this article, we will discuss the salient features of the bill and analyse it in depth.
What is a unique identity number?
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) collects the biometric and demographic data of every Indian resident, stores them in a centralised database, and issues the Aadhaar number which is a 12-digit unique identity number. This is considered to be the world's largest national identification number project.
Who is eligible?
According to this bill, every Indian resident who has lived for 182 days in India in the one year preceding the date of application for Aadhaar is entitled to have the unique identity number.
What are the personal details to be submitted?
To obtain the Aadhaar number, an individual has to submit his/her biometric and demographic information.
a) Biometric information:
● Iris scan
b) Demographic information:
● Date of Birth
How will your information be used?
While enrolling for the Aadhaar number, a candidate will be duly notified of-
i) the manner in which the information will be used.
ii) the nature of recipients with whom the information will be shared.
iii) the right to access this information.
What is the use of Aadhaar number?
In the previous National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, there was no unique provision for the application of Aadhaar number. However, this bill stipulates that a person's Aadhaar number is required to avail of a subsidy or service. However, in case a person has applied for an Aadhaar number and not been assigned one, the government will offer an alternative means of identification. As stated in the earlier bill, this bill also does not allow Aadhaar number to be used as a proof of citizenship or domicile.
What are the role & functions of UIDAI?
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a central government agency that was instituted to issue the Aadhaar card. The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Bill, 2016 was submitted into the parliament as a money bill. The UIDAI comprises a chairperson, two part-time members and a CEO. The chairperson and other members are required to have an experience of at least ten years in matters such as technology, governance, etc.
a) Specifying demographic and biometric information to be collected during enrolment
b) Assigning Aadhaar numbers to individuals
c) Authenticating Aadhaar numbers
d) Specifying the usage of Aadhaar numbers for delivery of subsidies and services.
How is the Aadhaar number authenticated?
Here is a list of facts specified in the Bill as regards the authentication of an individual's Aadhaar number:
a) UIDAI will authenticate an individual's Aadhaar number if s/he requests for it.
b) Consent of an individual regarding using his/her personal information for Aadhaar authentication is mandatory. Without consent UIDAI cannot use any individual's information.
c) UIDAI is not permitted to use an individual's biometric information such as fingerprint, iris scan and other biological attributes to share or display publicly. A person's biometric information will be used only in Aadhaar enrolment and authentication.
d) UIDAI authority will maintain records of a person's identity, the time of request and the response received by the entity.
e) The bill specifies two special cases where such information may be revealed. These are:
● In the interest of national security: A person's Aadhaar number, biometric information, demographic information and photograph can be revealed by a joint secretary in the Union government in the interest of national security. Such decision will be reviewed by an oversight committee which will comprise Cabinet Secretary, Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology. Such a decision will be only valid for six months.
● On court order: A revelation of a person's Aadhaar number, photograph and demographic information may be revealed on a court's order.
f) For unauthorised access of the centralised database and disclosure of any information stored in it, a person will be punished with imprisonment upto three years and a minimum fine of Rs.10 lakh.
What are the merits & demerits of the Bill?
a) The Aadhaar bill will ensure efficient delivery and implementation of various government subsidies and schemes. The centralised database will help in benefitting beneficiaries in a speedier way.
b) Creation of Aadhaar numbers, if done successfully, will transform the Indian economy to a cashless economy in the near future.
c) To protect personal data of individuals, the bill stipulates severe punishment for any individual accessing the database and divulging information stored in it.
a) The Aadhaar bill 2016 was criticised as it was introduced in the Lok Sabha as a money bill. Money bills cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha and thus this move was considered a deliberate step to pass the bill without any hindrance (with the ruling party's complete majority in the Lok Sabha).
b) Supreme Court had clearly made Aadhar bill non-mandatory in its interim orders. As per the two orders released by SC, no individual in India will be denied the subsidies and services for not possessing the Aadhaar number. However, 'by requiring recipients of subsidies to apply for it' the Aadhaar Bill, 2016, indirectly aims to make it mandatory, thereby contravening the orders of the Supreme Court.
c) Though sharing an individual's personal information is prohibited, the bill also provides two exceptions to this clause. Such personal information can be revealed in the interest of national security or on a court order. 'In the interest of national security' seems very vague if one considers the current imposition of sedition charges as regards the JNU incident. Thus, this will lead to constant monitoring of individuals and hence create an Orwellian system by which contradicts citizens' fundamental right to liberty.
d) There are various concerns over the safety of information shared. Indian cyber safety systems need to be highly fortified to keep data from going into wrong hands.
The Aadhaar bill primarily aims at speedy and efficient delivery of schemes, subsidies and services. It will also help to curb various malpractices done using citizens' ration cards. The ethical implementation of this bill might do wonders in a small span of time. However, without such implementation the collected information can be used against the liberty of Indian citizens. Overall, rather than just giving information to people while authentication, the government needs to educate the masses about the benefits of this bill to ensure holistic acceptance. Such mass education can be done through the advertisements, interactive seminars, teaching children in schools. Any new idea of system becomes a system if it percolates through all the sections of society and is accepted by them.
But also, we should keep in mind that in today's cyber age information is certainly a two edged sword, it should be used wisely.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana : Introduction
a. The Cabinet Committee on Economic affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approves the "Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana" which is a scheme that would provide free LPG connections to women from BPL households.
b. In this scheme, a sum of Rs. 8,000 crore has been fixed for providing connections to five crore LPG connections for such households.
c. The scheme provides Rs. 1,600/- per LPG connection to each household as a financial support.
d. The Scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
e. This is a unique initiative wherein the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas would implement a welfare scheme benefitting crores of women belonging to the poorest households.
f. The identification of eligible BPL families for the scheme will be made in consultation with the state governments and the union territories.
Background - The need for LPG
a. In India, only the middle class and rich families have an access to the LPG connections in the semi urban and urban areas. However, the rural households especially the poor families solely depend on fossil fuels for cooking purposes.
b. About 1.3 million death happen per year due to smoke from unclean cooking fuels. Most of these untimely deaths include stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor pollution also significantly contributes to acute respiratory illnesses in children.
Benefits of the scheme
a. The scheme focuses on the benefit of clean cooking energy which is important from the perspective of pollution control.
b. The scheme promises to improve the quality of life for poor women whose health interests are usually neglected.
c. According to a rural energy access survey by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, 95 per cent of LPG-deprived households admit their inability to pay as a barrier to their adopting LPG connections. Thus, it is a well planned scheme that addresses the compulsive barrier which curbs the transition towards LPG use.
Areas of Focus
a. A survey from rural households in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal highlights the fact of inability to pay for LPG connections (since most of the households depends on biomass and firewood for cooking energy purposes). Also, high recurring cost is not only a problem of purchasing capacity but also a perception and cash-flow issue. CEEW analysis suggests that households that buy some or all of their biomass end up paying more than those who rely on LPG. Thus, LPG would be an economically attractive proposal for such households.
b. Awareness needs to be created regarding the actual cost of LPG and its benefits over the traditional choolha method that poses a health hazard for the family.
c. Introducing cylinders of a smaller capacity (2 to 5 kg) could serve as a solution for population that finds refilling the large cylinders difficult.
d. With respect to LPG coverage in rural areas, Direct Benefits Transfer of LPG (DBTL) subsidy programme could possibly create problems for financially weaker households e.g no bank accounts or long distance travelling for people to have access to banking services. While the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana has increased the number of rural households with bank accounts, innovative payment approaches are needed to fill the gap of access to banking services.
e. Awareness amongst the rural and poor urban households is also needed regarding the process to get a LPG connection.
This is the first most crucial step by the government towards tackling the developmental issue of enabling clean cooking energy throughout the rural areas. This will not only be beneficial as a contribution towards a clean environment but also address the health issues faced by rural population (due to use of unclean fuels). However, the government also needs to focus on issues of cash flow, awareness, availability and administration apart from subsidising connections and fuel costs.
Detailed Analysis of Global Report on Diabetes by WHO
With an alarming increase in the number of diabetics all over the world (nearly four times between 1980 and 2014), WHO has selected diabetes, as the theme for the World Health Day 2016. WHO is marking its annual World Health Day (7 April), which celebrates the Organization's founding in 1948, by issuing a call for action on diabetes. In its first "Global report on diabetes", WHO highlights the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease. The findings of WHO's Global Report on Diabetes is in concurrence with a study published by the Lancet journal.
What is diabetes?
It is a chronic, progressive noncommunicable disease (NCD) characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (blood sugar). It occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough of the insulin hormone (known as insulin-dependent diabetes/ juvenile onset diabetes/ Type-1), which regulates blood sugar, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces ( non insulin - dependent diabetes mellitus/ adult - onset diabetes/ Type-2).
Key findings of the report
a. The number of diabetics and its prevalence in all regions of the world especially the developing regions is increasing rapidly. In 2014, 422 million adults suffered from diabetes, compared to 108 million in the 1980.
b. The epidemic of diabetes has major health and socioeconomic impacts, especially in developing countries.
c. In the year 2014, more than 1 out of 3 adults with age above 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.
d. Diabetes is a chronic progressive disease which gradually gives rise to many complications like heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. For example, rates of lower limb amputation are 10 to 20 times higher for people with diabetes.
e. Diabetes alone caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Prolonged abnormal blood glucose levels caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other related diseases.
f. Many of these deaths occur prematurely, before the age of 70 years, and can be prevented by adopting policies to create supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and earlier/ better detection followed by treatment.
g. Good management of diabetes includes use of a small set of generic medicines, different ways to promote healthy lifestyles, patient education to enhance self-care and regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications.
What causes diabetes?
Type - 1 diabetes: This occurs due to the body's inability to produce insulin (vital hormone responsible for utilization of glucose and its conversion to energy) as a result of the autoimmune destruction of beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. It often begins in childhood, hence known as juvenile. However, this disease can also develop in the late 30's and early 40's.
Type - 2 diabetes: It is a metabolic disorder characterised by hyperglycemia, (high levels of glucose circulating in the blood) which is a result of insulin resistance/ low production of insulin in the body (cells, fats and liver do not respond to insulin, thus excess glucose does not get stored in the cells).
Increasing inactivity can cause this type of diabetes at any age, especially in young adults with obesity.
Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs in pregnancy and carries long-term risk of type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is present when blood glucose values are above normal but still below those diagnostic of diabetes.
Typical symptoms for diabetes: Polydipsia (increased thirst), Polyuria (frequent urination), Polyphagia (increased hunger), unexplained and sudden loss of weight, blurring of vision, fatigue and nausea.
Prevention of diabetes - a systematic approach
a. The advent of diabetes (majorly type - 2) can be prevented with lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity and intake of healthy food and fruits. Also, early detection of the disease and required medical treatment can make the diabetics manage their disease easier and give them a long healthy life.
b. Since the availability of insulin and other medications for diabetes and other non communicable diseases is very less in low income countries (only one of three poor countries), increasing the supply of medical aid is of a priority.
c. Awareness regarding the disease, its symptoms and the available treatment is crucial for people since half of the complicated cases remain undiagnosed for a long time.
d. Countries across the globe are recommended to take action in line with the objectives of the WHO Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) Global Action Plan 2013 - 2020 that will help reach the highest attainable standards of health and productivity at every age.
India's role in prevention of the global epidemic
a. India contributes nearly one-sixth to the global epidemic burden while China continues to stay on the first position with the highest percentage of diabetics in the country.
b. Apart from obesity, increased consumption of sugar rich and refined foods, sedentary lifestyles and genetic predisposition significantly contribute to risk for diabetes in Indians.
c. With increasing incidences of diabetes every year, the economic burden of diabetes in India is considerable. Thus, efforts should be directed towards prevention and delay in the onset of the disease.
d. Awareness about pre-diabetes where the blood sugar level is higher than normal but not elevated enough to be classified as diabetes is essential. In such cases, with appropriate lifestyle changes and diet improvisations, this condition is totally reversible. This necessitates public awareness especially.
e. Programmes that include free diagnosis of diabetes and primary health care along with complete information (especially in the rural areas) about the disease would be a comprehensive approach in preventing and managing the disease.
Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement
India and the US are primed to bolster their defence and strategic ties by signing the much-awaited Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The two countries will also work to achieve military cooperation and technology transfer.
In this article, we will discuss highlights of LEMOA, its impact and strategic importance with reference to India.
What is LEMOA?
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is one of the three major foundational agreements between India and the US which facilitates the exchange of logistics between military forces of the two nations.
The Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) are two other foundational agreements.
Highlights of LEMOA:
1. A K Antony, who was the Defence Minister during the UPA regime, opposed all the three foundational pacts as it was deemed that the agreements would compromise India's strategic autonomy by allowing the US troops to establish military bases in India.
2. However, LEMOA (previously the Logistics Support Agreement)) prohibits the US military from stationing its troops on the Indian soil. Also, India would not have to support the US if it initiates military action against countries that maintain friendly ties with India. The agreement will be country-specific for India and focus on providing support that will primarily include food, fuel and stores.
3. Both the countries have agreed that the pact aims to strengthen bilateral strategic partnership with an emphasis on global peace and stability. The agreement does not lend credence to the forging of any military alliance in the Indian subcontinent against China.
4. Both the nations acknowledged India's participation in the Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) multilateral naval exercise in 2016 as well as the Indian Air Force's participation in the multilateral Red Flag exercise in April-May 2016 in Alaska. Naval forces of the US participated in the International Fleet Review of the Indian Navy at Visakhapatnam in February 2016.
5. The two nations have also agreed to initiate navy-to-navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare, tracking commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean, etc.
6. They will widen collaboration under the Defence Technology & Trade Initiative (DTTI). Under DTTI by launching two new pathfinder projects on Digital Helmet Mounted Displays & the Joint Biological Tactical Detection System.
7. India and the US move forward in discussions in the Jet Engine Technology Joint Working Group (JETJWG) and the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation (JWGACTC) in order to deepen consultations on aircraft carrier design and operations, and jet engine technology.
8. They noted the understanding ended with the conclusion for an information exchange annex (IEA) that will enhance data and information sharing specific to aircraft carriers.
9. Maritime Security :
i) The two countries have agreed increase cooperation in maritime security so as to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, including the South China Sea.
ii) To improve data sharing and commercial shipping traffic, India and the US will conclude a 'white shipping' technical arrangement.
10. Make in India :
i) In a bid to give impetus to the Indian government's 'Make in India' campaign, the US has shared two proposals to bolster India's suite of fighter aircrafts.
ii) Defence ministers of both the countries have approved four major government-to-government project agreements in the area of science and technology, viz. Atmospheric Sciences for High Energy Lasers, Cognitive Tools for Target Detection, Small Intelligent Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Blast and Blunt Traumatic Brain Injury.
11. Indian Ocean: Both countries have expressed willingness to create a rules-based order conducive to peace in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean.
12. WWII heroes: India is working for repatriation of US's military personnel who died in the Eastern Himalayas during World War II.
What does India stand to gain?
1. Logistical support: This will greatly help the Indian military as we lack the technology and ability to provide speedy assistance. The US extended logistical support to India during the Tsunami in 2004. Also, during relief operations conducted after the Nepal earthquake last year, the US provided India with digital maps and geospatial data.
2. Thus, the LEMOA will prove to be beneficial for India during peacekeeping operations, terrorist attacks, during natural calamities and other emergencies, etc.
3. Support to counter China's String of Pearls: String of Pearls is a theory extrapolates China's increasing strategic presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It refers to a network of Chinese military and commercial facilities along the sea lines of communication which extends Chinese influence over strategic choke points in the Indian Ocean. India and the US have agreed to commence navy-to-navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare, among other aspects. This bilateral cooperation will surely help India to counter China's 'String of Pearls'.
4. Curbing piracy in Indian waters: Logistical support from the US will prove valuable to curb piracy in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. It will also help to keep a check on entry of terrorists through the sea (as was the case during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks).
5. New ventures under DTTI: Bringing together the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative with the Make in India campaign will surely boost bilateral trade relations between India and the US. It will facilitate the development of jet engine technology and aircraft carrier design. While the former will help India build new Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, the latter will prove beneficial for India's second indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vishal.
6. Strong foreign policy: The agreement gives teeth to India's foreign policy, especially to act against the China's dominance in the region. With frequent terror attacks and ceasefire violations by Pakistan and rising bilateral relations between Pakistan & China, India needs a strong partner to maintain balance of power in the region.
7. Keep Indian sovereignty intact: It does not allow the US to station its troops and create military bases on Indian soil. Further, the US cannot compel India to take part in its military actions around the world. For instance: Some of the NATO allies like Germany, France, etc. signed an LSA type of agreement with the US, but chose not be a part of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Pitfalls of LEMOA
1. Political parties in the opposition have asserted that by signing the agreements, India is allowing the US to enter the Indian geopolitical territory. This may pose a threat to India's strategic and sovereign defence sphere.
2. India is known for its Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) which was launched to keep its foreign policy separated from the cold war tactics of the US and Russia. Till date India has not become part of any such alliances, neither has it extended support to the NATO block and its misadventured blunders around the world.
3. However, with these agreements it will be difficult for foreign policy makers and think tanks to balance India's sovereign stand on controversial issues. This may land Indian opinion against the US or Russia.
4. Many also contend that India's increasing military partnership with the US may affect her ties with ally Russia that has been against the US on several fronts.
5. The agreement may also lead Chinese authorities to take an aggressive stance against India. Currently, China's activities in the South China Sea has become the issue of concern as regards the 'Freedom of Navigation'.
6. US's policy does not totally favour India as it continues to provide military aid to Pakistan.
This agreement can be viewed as an instrument to reinforce strategic defence alliance with the US. In the present era of multipolarism, having a better geopolitical relations with multiple countries will prove beneficial for all the countries in the alliance. With rising external and internal security threats, India needs to have a powerful ally like the US to sustain peace and bring prosperity within and around its borders through cooperation in areas like logistics, technology and defence. Thus, the agreement will be crucial for India to sustain its geopolitical strength in the coming years.
National Hydrology Project: To assess India's water resources
Over the years, natural calamities like flood and famine have dealt a crushing blow to the Indian economy. While the recent floods in Chennai caused unprecedented loss of life and property, the 2013 Uttarakhand flash floods had resulted in damage across Uttar Pradesh, NCR, and Nepal, among others regions.
Presently, many states in India are reeling from severe drought. For instance: Two-thirds of Maharashtra's 1.37crore farmers (90 lakh) farmers have been affected by drought, which has mainly hit the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Around 273 farmers in the state committed suicide in the first three months of 2016 alone.
Thus in order to tackle crippling effects of natural calamities, India needs a comprehensive database containing all the required hydro-meteorological data so that experts can analyse the same to recommend pertinent solutions.
What does hydrological data encompass?
Hydrological data refers to information on the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on the Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability. Such data provides us with impromptu knowledge on available water resources, amount of possible rainfall, snow and also the quantity & quality of surface water and groundwater.
Why is it the need of the hour?
A comprehensive database of hydrological data will help India on several fronts, like:
a) Efficient water management: Though India has abundant water resources, poor management has made water scarcity a major problem.
b) Reduce dependence on monsoon: Unreliable monsoon is also the big reason behind the floods as well as the drought conditions in the country.
c) Outdated records: The first phase of this project began 20 years back and has digitalised real time data in only 13 Indian states. Further, whatever hydrological data is available dates back to 1993. The data collection method is also quite primitive.
d) Lack of cooperation among states: With states being unwilling to share data on water resources impedes the process of comprehensive water assessment. Thus, a centralised hydrological data will enable access to all the states.
e) Illegal construction: Construction on the river banks leads to silting in the rivers which can cause water retention in the region and cause floods. An example would be the heavy floods that immobilised Mumbai on July 26, 2005. Silting in the Mithi River was left unattended which eventually flooded the area and beyond.
National Hydrology Project: An overview
The Centre is set to launch the Hydrological Project in order to avoid spending over Rs.6,000 crore to repair damages caused by floods. Under this project, the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) will be established as an independent body under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD&GR).
The core objective of this project is to gather hydro-meteorological data which will be accessible at the village/district/state level. The data will be analysed to plan water management, flood forecasting, drought management, etc.
It will be a Union government initiative with a total outlay of Rs.3679.7674 crore, of which Rs.3,640 crore has been allocated for the National Hydrology Project (NHP) and Rs.39.7674 crore for the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC).
Out of the total budget allocated for the NHP, 50% i.e. Rs.1839.8837 crore would be funded by a World Bank loan, while the remaining 50% will be provided by Central Assistance from the budgetary support.
The components of the proposal are:
a) In Situ Hydromet Monitoring System and Hydromet Data Acquisition System.
b) Setting up of National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC).
c) Water Resources Operation and Management System
d) Water Resources Institutions and Capacity Building
The National Hydrology Project will endeavour to improve various activities. These include-
1. Improve data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination through the NWIC.
2. The lead time in flood forecast will be changed from 1 day to 3 days.
3. To work towards mapping of inundated areas during floods to help disaster management authorities.
4. To facilitate better planning and allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), NHP will help in assessing surface and groundwater resources in river basins.
5. NHP will take up the tasks of reservoir operations through seasonal yield forecast, drought management, SCADA systems, etc.
6. NHP will also endeavour to create designs of SW & GW structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, smart cities, etc.
7. NHP will strive to fulfil objectives of the Digital India campaign with its __data storage and sharing systems.
8. It will provide tools for informed decision making through Decision Support Systems (DSS) for water resources assessment.
9. NHP also aims to build various state and central sector organisations, water resources management by use of Information Systems and adoption of technologies like remote sensing.
Adopting a people-centric approach:
a) NHP is a people and especially a farmer-centric programme which will help farmers in crop planning and other pivotal activities.
b) The automated speedy system for forecasting of floods will help the vulnerable masses in the respective regions beforehand and it will also help them for migration to the safe places, reducing the loss of life.
How would NHP benefit India?
a) The real-time flood forecasting and reservoir operations will be done systemically to enable authorities for disaster management during natural calamities.
b) The NHP will facilitate integrated water resource management. It will be done by adopting river basin approach through collation and management of hydro-meteorological data.
c) Integrated water resource management on will ensure proper planning of India's water resources.
d) With the data collected, an accurate water resource assessment will be possible. With this, prioritisation of water resources and their consumptive use various purposes can be done in order to avoid situations like the Marathwada water crisis.
e) At village level, NHP's data can facilitate equitable use of available ground water.
f) At an individual level, farmers will be informed about current groundwater levels in their region which will allow them to choose an appropriate cropping pattern.
g) The NHP will also provide useful information on quality of available water.
h) The data will also help in timely releasing of water from reservoirs and prevent untimely floods.
i) The project will use satellite information to help figure the amount of snow melt, and make projections on the flows into the reservoir. This is particularly useful in the case of the Bhakra basin.
j) The data collected by NHP will help in designing canals and channels for irrigation.
A systemised storage and analysis of Hydrological data is the primary need of an agriculture-dependent economy like India as around 70% of the total population is employed in agriculture and allied sectors. Despite abundant water resources in the form of rivers, lakes, etc. we still face water crisis because of a lack of a system for optimisation and conservation of water. The National Hydrology Project envisions to change the status quo. The 13 states where this project was introduced in the first phase have witnessed a noticeable drop in flood-related disasters. The exigencies related to irregular monsoon cycles in India can be minimised and tackled successfully if India works towards digitising its hydrological data. It will also play a vital role in stabilising the agriculture sector and eventually the Indian economy.
UPSC Exam Calendar 2016 available here.
Nuclear Security Summit 2016 : First step towards the future
The 4th National Nuclear Summit 2016, which was organised by the Nuclear Energy Institute, concluded on April 1, 2016 in Washington DC, US. Leaders from 52 countries converged in the city to finalise measures to secure nuclear facilities and begin to reduce nuclear stocks.
History of NSS :
The Nuclear Security Summit was started in 2010 with the objective of preventing nuclear terrorism in the world. The first edition was held in Washington DC in 2010. It is conducted once every two years. In 2012, it was held in Seoul, South Korea and the third edition was conducted in 2014 in Hague, the Netherlands.
The provenance of establishment of this summit lies in US President Barack Obama's speech in Prague in 2009 wherein he emphasised the importance of curbing nuclear terrorism and securing nuclear facilities across the globe.
After the first summit ended, countries started working towards ensuring nuclear security as per measures agreed in the Washington Work Plan. In the 2012 edition, a major highlight was the inclusion of the security of all radiological materials with fissile ones in deference to public fears of radioactivity after the Fukushima tragedy. While the Seoul summit focused on implementation of political agreements finalised in the first summit, a number of new action plans were also.
Significance of the NSS
- NSS was launched to limit the dangers posed by highly fissile and radiological material. There is around 2000 tonnes of such nuclear material dispersed around the world, of which around 5-25 kgs is enough to make a nuclear weapon. The world is also facing the threat of production of dirty bombs or radiological dispersal devices (RDD) i.e. a speculative radiological weapon which combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area with radioactive material against civilians. Unlike nuclear weapons, dirty bombs are relatively easy to produce as its raw materials are not protected with the stringency accorded to fissile materials used in nuclear weapons.
Key Highlights of NSS 2016
The key announcements made during the NSS 2016 are as follows:
a) Various countries, including Kazakhstan and Poland, undertook to reduce their highly-enriched uranium stockpiles.
b) Japan has agreed to ship additional plutonium to the US.
c) Canada has pledged $42 million in order to boost nuclear security.
d) Like Latin America and Caribbean, countries like Argentina, Switzerland and Uzbekistan are free from highly-enriched uranium.
e) Since the last summit in Hague in 2010, around 10 countries have removed or disposed around 450 kg of highly-enriched uranium.
f) As per US's recent declaration, its inventory of highly-enriched uranium has seen a steep decrease from 741 metric tonnes in 1990 to 586 metric tonnes in 2013.
g) President Obama urged India and Pakistan to reduce their nuclear arsenal. He also reiterated that that the acquiring of nuclear weapon by the terror group Islamic State (ISIS) is currently the biggest threat to global security.
Driven to counter nuclear terrorism
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the summit in the last leg of his three-nation visit to Saudi Arabia, Belgium and the United States. He elaborated on initiatives implemented by the Indian government to maintain nuclear security. His key announcements are as follows:
a) The implementation of India's National Security is underway with strong institutional framework, independent agencies, trained and specialised manpower.
b) India will set up a facility for Medical grade 'Molly-99' using low-enriched uranium. An effective plan will be formulated to develop and deploy technology to counter physical as well as cyber barriers. Vitrified forms of vulnerable radioisotopes such as Ceasium-137 will be used.
c) A dedicated counter-nuclear smuggling team has been set up in India.
d) By contributing $1 million to the Nuclear Security Fund, India has extended its support towards the IAEA's (International Atomic Energy Agency) central role in global Nuclear Security. A workshop with IAEA experts on International Physical Protection Assessment Service (IPPAS) will also be held in India.
e) India will join the trilateral initiative of NSS chairs circulated at IAEA. This will be done by subscribing states as the joint statement on strengthening nuclear security implementation.
f) India will also join three gift baskets for this summit in priority areas of countering nuclear smuggling, nuclear security contact group in Vienna, and sharing of best practices through Centres of Excellence such as India's own.
g) India has also agreed to host a meeting of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in 2017 and plans to hold an international conference on countering nuclear smuggling with the Interpol.
h) India has harmonised its export control list and guidelines with those of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It is working towards bolstering its contribution to shared non-proliferation objectives through membership of export controls regimes.
Let's us now analyse how NSS 2016 would be effective in strengthening nuclear security in the world.
1. The most important outcome of NSS 2016 is the adoption of 'Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communique'. It urges those states are yet to ratify the International Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials & International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
2. The affirmation of shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation & peaceful use of nuclear energy.
3. At NSS, countries committed to increase international cooperation, including sharing of information in accordance with their national laws and procedures.
4. NSS reaffirmed the essential responsibility and central role of the IAEA in formation of a global nuclear security system and in enabling the coordination of member countries as well as various international organisations.
5. NSS supports in convening of regular ministerial-level international conferences.
6. It also proposes to implement action plans formulated by international organisations to which we respectively belong (the UN, the IAEA, INTERPOL, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction).
How NSS has failed to be noteworthy?
- Though plans formulated during NSS 2016 are set in the right path of achieving global nuclear security, countries have been known to fall back when it comes to effective implementation of these plans.
- Absence of fundamental nuclear security architecture globally has fragmented efforts to be undertaken by countries that possess nuclear material. The efforts are not directed toward one major goal, but are country-specific and non-binding.
- As per the Global Fissile Material Report 2015, there is around 1,370 tonnes of HEU (highly-enriched uranium) in the world with about 99% of this material held by countries known for their nuclear arsenal. However, such countries (like Russia, North Korea, Iran & Belarus) did not participate in this summit, thereby making it unproductive.
- The political unwillingness of nuclear material possessing countries is the major failure of such global-level talks on nuclear security. No country has taken interest in discussing nuclear disarmament. The summit has narrowed its focus to civilian holdings in non-nuclear weapon states which is already being monitored by the IAEA. Such holdings are a mere fraction of the global stockpile. However, the NSS has not proposed plans or commitments to reduce nuclear weapons in countries like the US and Russia.
- The situation in South Asia is worsening with countries amassing nuclear weapons in the name of so-called 'modernisation programmes'. There is no talk of scaling down of creation of these nuclear weapons. NSS 2016 failed to even broach this issue.
For many years now, India has been at the receiving end of terror attacks orchestrated by terror outfits in Pakistan and is facing new threats like the ISIS. With the way such militant groups operate, getting access to radioactive material is not out of their scope. India would surely be one of the most vulnerable nations in the face of nuclear attacks.
India has taken many measures to ensure the nuclear security within the country, including the voluntary unilateral moratorium post the 1998 nuclear tests in Pokhran. It has also managed to keep its own nuclear material safe from wrong hands. However, the nation needs cooperation from the international community, especially strong players like the US and Russia to strengthen its nuclear security. It is of high significance, especially in the wake of terror attacks in Paris & Brussels. Sharing of advanced technology for cyber security will go a long way in keeping India's nuclear material from falling into wrong hands.
Firstly, the member countries should commit to address issues related to reduction of military & civilian nuclear stocks and expansion of the endorsement of current gift baskets, especially the Trilateral Initiative.Countries should collectively devise an effective long-term plan to eliminate use of nuclear stocks for warfare.
A proper legal framework to create a nuclear security architecture with new standards, transparency & accountability is the need of the hour. All the member countries need to convene regular ministerial-level conferences to keep a track of progress. The gift basket policy is a good measure if implemented well. Focus should be more on such gift baskets so as to bring nations closer and facilitate cooperation.
Bolstering nuclear security should be the priority of the international community. Comprehensive and universal measures need to be taken to achieve the same.
The Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015
The Rajya Sabha has approved amendments to the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill in order to improve the quality of goods and services produced in India.
Introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2015 by Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, replaces the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
What is the Bureau of Indian Standards?
The Bureau of Indian Standards is the national standards body functioning under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. It was established as per provisions of the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986. The Minister in charge of this Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
The BIS comprises 25 members from the state/Central government, industry, scientific and research institutions and consumer organisations. Headquartered in New Delhi, it has regional offices in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Chandigarh and 20 other branch offices.
Objectives of the amended bill:
i. To establish BIS as the national standards body of the nation. Though presently not recognised as the national body, it has been representing India in international forums.
ii. The Bureau to discharge functions through a Governing Council, which will consist of its President and other members.
iii. To include more goods, services and systems, besides articles and processes under the standardisation regime.
iv. To enable the government to bring under the mandatory certification regime all the articles, processes or services that are essential from the standpoint of health, safety, environment, prevention of deceptive practices, security, etc. This will prevent supply of low quality products and help consumers receive ISI certified products.
v. To allow multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity (SDOC) against any standard which will give manufacturers simplified options to follow standards and get a certificate of conformity, thereby improving "ease of doing business".
vi. To enable the Centre to appoint any authority (in addition to the BIS) to ascertain the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue a certificate.
vii. To enable the government to implement mandatory hallmarking of precious metal articles.
viii. To strengthen penal provisions for effective compliance and enable compounding of offences for violations.
ix. To provide recall, including product liability of products bearing the Standard Mark, but not conforming to relevant Indian Standards.
x. Repeal of the BIS Act, 1986.
a. Scope of the Bureau of Indian Standards: Under the 1986 Act, standardisation and certification was applicable only to certain articles and processes. However, the amended Bill includes goods, services and systems that have been clearly defined in the Bill.
b. Establishment of BIS: It will be a national body which will devise, implement and certify quality standards for goods, services, articles, processes and systems. The Bureau will comprise expert panels in order to frame these standards. As per provisions of the Bill, a Governing Council would be responsible for the general superintendence, direction and management of the Bureau.
c. Certification of goods, services, etc: The Bureau would be a licensing authority for quality standards. A person should apply to the Bureau for a licence to obtain a standard mark, or a certificate of conformity, depending on the good, article, process, system, etc. The licence or certificate of conformity is proof that the item conforms to set standards. The Bureau will establish and maintain testing laboratories for quality assurance and conformity assessment of goods, articles, services, etc.
d. Certification of precious metals: A hallmark will be used to certify precious metal articles including silver, gold, platinum, and palladium or their alloys. A hallmark indicates a proportionate content of the precious metal in the article, as per the Indian standard. Such articles will be sold in certified sales outlets.
e. Mandatory certification of certain goods: The Bill allows the Union government to notify goods, articles, etc. that compulsorily need a standard mark. The government will notify goods/articles if it thinks them to be necessary for: (i) public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, (ii) environmental safety, (iii) prevention of unfair trade practices, or (iv) national security.
f. Recall of goods, services, articles, etc: The Bureau may recall a good/article which is already out for sale or supply if it is convinced that the said good/article does not conform to the requirement of a particular standard.
g. Penalties: The penalty for improper use of the Indian standard mark will be a fine of up to Rs.5 lakhs. The Bill also stipulates penalties for: (i) improper use of the standard mark by testing and marking centres, and (ii) manufacturing or selling of goods and articles that do not carry a standard mark and have been mandated to do so, among others. The Bill provides for compounding of offences punishable with fine except when a person has committed such an offence for the second time or if such an offence committed by him has been compounded earlier.
h. Offences by companies: When a company commits an offence punishable under the Bill, persons in charge of the company will be presumed to be guilty regardless of whether the offence was committed without their knowledge, consent or involvement.
i. Appeals: An appeal against an order as regards the approval of a license or certificate of conformity, or compounding of offences, etc. may be made to the Director General of the Bureau. A further appeal against the order of the Director General may then be made to the Centre.
Conclusion: Amendments in this bill aim to effect significant changes to ensure high quality and safety of products and services produced across India. Standardisation will not only increase consumer satisfaction, but also compensate for any loss consumers incur.
Amended provisions applicable to health-related sectors, especially food products and safety, are a major step towards safeguarding the health of India's populace.
Unanimous enforcement of the rules will result in global acceptance of Indian standards besides benefitting scores of domestic consumers.
Civil Services - Bedrock of Indian democracy
Civil servants across India annually observe Civil Services Day on April 21 so as to recommit themselves to the cause of the people. It is an opportunity for them to analyse themselves and review their approach and formulate strategies to tackle new challenges.
On this day, the Prime Minister honours officers of Central government and state governments for excellence in public administration. Under this category of awards instituted in 2006, the 'Prime Minister Award for Excellence in Public Administration' is presented in three different categories namely Individual (award comprises a medal, a scroll and a cash prize of Rs.1 lakh), Team (cash reward of Rs.5 lakh which is subject to a maximum of Rs.1 lakh per person) and Organisation (Rs. 5 lakh).
Indian civil service
Civil services comprise the permanent bureaucracy of the government and act as the supporting pillar of India's administrative system. As ours is a parliamentary democracy, the duty of ensuring smooth administrative functioning rests with the ministers. However, since a few ministers cannot deal with the wide range of issues that crop up, they devise policies that are implemented by civil servants.
Civil servants in a personal capacity are paid from the Civil List. Senior civil servants may be held accountable by the Parliament. However, Article 311 of the Constitution (Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State) safeguards them from politically driven or vindictive intents. It is important to note that not all government employees are civil servants. As of 2010, there were 6.4 million civil servants in India.
Sardar Patel's vision
The civil services structure during the British rule was divided into two categories - covenanted (comprised higher positions occupied only by British officials) and uncovenanted service (comprised lower positions occupied only by Indians).
The present system of civil service was formed after the partition of India in 1947. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, regarded as the Father of Indian Civil Services, envisaged an India where the civil service machinery promotes national unity. He wanted integrity, impartiality and merit to be the guiding principles of the Indian civil services.
PM Modi's address on Civil Services Day
During his address on Civil Services Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated Sardar Patel's vision of the civil services and their role in socio-economic and national integration. He stated that national unity implies an end of all socio-economic inequities, be it digital divide or urban-rural divide. He said that the entire administrative machinery today should be geared up to serve the needs of society.
The road ahead
Citizens have high expectations from bureaucrats as implementation of public policies lies with them. However, the Indian bureaucracy is mired with corruption, incompetence and lack of vision in bureaucracy. What needs to be corrected?
a. Indian bureaucracy needs to adopt a professional approach towards tackling issues. Indian bureaucrats are generalists and not specialists. While they have the basic know-how of administrative techniques, they lack expertise. What India needs is specialists across government departments who have the knowledge and vision to understand the depth of issues.
b. As much as possible, bureaucrats should be able to work in their field of expertise. For example: An MBBS student should be posted in the health department. They should be trained and exposed to research studies across academic institutions to be able to build their expertise.
c. Lateral entry of domain experts for policy-making positions should be encouraged. Experts like Nandan Nilekani, Sam Pitroda and Ratan Tata can bring in a wealth of knowledge to formulate best policies.
d. Bureaucrats should be free from political interference and hierarchical pressure politics. Many times, bureaucratic decisions are politically motivated and perilous for public welfare.
e. Transfers of bureaucrats should be kept to a minimum. Untimely and politically motivated transfers is the bone of contention in effective implementation of public policies. There should be a separate board to look into promotion and transfer of bureaucrats.
f. Performance appraisals should be carried out regularly in order to ensure professionalism and accountability. Positive reinforcement in the form of incentives and awards should be given to recognise efforts and reduce 'red-tapism' and lethargic attitude.
g. To make the bureaucrats truly professional, a proper 'code of ethics' should formulated and implemented.
h. Lastly, we need a foolproof mechanism to curb corruption across bureaucratic levels. Lokpal and Lokayukta officer should be strengthened to combat corruption.
As bureaucracy is the backbone of India's democracy, it should be free from corruption, tardiness and lack of vision. We, as future civil servants, need to change ourselves on a personal level. Sensitivity towards basic issues and an ethical build up is a soul of a good bureaucrat.
63rd National Film awards
The 63rd National Film Awards ceremony honoured the best films of 2015 in the Indian cinema. The awards were announced on 28 March 2016 and the ceremony was held on 3 May 2016.
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