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1 September Current Affairs

Family Law Reform

In News:

Law Commission has released a Consultation Paper on Family Law Reform. This consultation on family law reforms in India, discusses a range of provisions within all family laws, secular or personal, and suggests a number of changes to in the form of potential amendments and fresh enactments.

Highlights:

Reform family law: As general suggestions to reforming family law, the paper discusses the introduction of new grounds for ‘no fault’ divorce accompanied by corresponding changes to provisions on alimony and maintenance, rights of differently-abled individuals within marriage, the thirty-day period for registration of marriages under Special Marriage Act; uncertainty and inequality in age of consent for marriage, compulsory registration of marriage, bigamy upon conversion etc.

Under Hindu law the paper among other issues discusses problems with provisions like restitution of conjugal rights, and further suggests the inclusion of concepts such as ‘community of property’ of a married couple, abolition of coparcenary, rights of illegitimate children et al.  There are further suggestions for addressing self-acquired property of a Hindu female.

Under Muslim law the paper discusses the reform in inheritance law through codification of Muslim law on inheritance, but ensuring that the codified law is gender just. The paper also discusses the rights of a widow, and the changes application to general laws such as introduction of community of (self-acquired) property after marriage, inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.

Under Parsi law there are suggestions relating to protecting married women’s right to inherit property even if they marry outside their community.

Adoption process: The paper also suggests the expansion of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, to make it into a robust secular law that can be accessed by individuals of all communities for adoption. There are suggestions for amending the guidelines for adoption and also a suggestion to alter the language of the Act to accommodate all gender identities. The paper discusses lacunae within custody and guardianship laws, statutory or customary, and suggests that the ‘best interest of the child’ has to remain the paramount consideration in deciding matters of custody regardless of any prevailing personal law in place.

Special attention to North- East: Although the sixth schedule provides exemptions and exemptions to states in the North East and tribal areas, it has suggested that efforts of women’s organisations in these areas be acknowledged and relied upon in this regard to suggest ways in which family law reform could be aided by the state even when direct intervention may not be possible. Since a number of these issues such as polygamy, nikah halala, settlement of a Parsi wife’s property for benefit of children, as well as the law on adultery among others is presently sub judice before the Supreme Court, they have been discussed in the paper.

Views on Uniform Civil Code:

The Law Commission feels that a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage.”

Why is UCC is not desirable at this point?

Secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country. Besides, cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.

The term ‘secularism’ has meaning only if it assures the expression of any form of difference. This diversity, both religious and regional, should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority. At the same time, discriminatory practices within a religion should not hide behind the cloak of that faith to gain legitimacy.

What is needed now?

The way forward may not be UCC, but the codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and stereotypes in every one of them would come to light and can be tested on the anvil of fundamental rights of the Constitution. By codification of different personal laws, one can arrive at certain universal principles that prioritise equity rather than imposition of a Uniform Code, which would discourage many from using the law altogether, given that matters of marriage and divorce can also be settled extra-judicially.

Way ahead:

Difference does not always imply discrimination in a robust democracy. A unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity.” Efforts have to be made to reconcile our diversity with universal and indisputable arguments on human rights.

What is uniform civil code?

Uniform civil Code is a proposal to have a generic set of governing laws for every citizen without taking into consideration the religion.

What the constitution says?

Article 44 of the Constitution says that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. According to this article, “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.

Source: The Hindu

Department of Official Language

In News:

The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh recently chaired first review meeting of the Department of Official Language of MHA to discuss the functioning and issues related to implementation of Hindi language in official work.

Department of Official Language:

With a view to ensuring compliance of the constitutional and legal provisions regarding official language and to promote the use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union, the Department of Official Language was set up in June 1975 as an independent Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Since then, this Department has been making efforts for accelerating the progressive use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union.

In accordance with the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, this Department has been entrusted with the following items of work:

Implementing the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Official Language and the provisions of the Official Languages Act, 1963 (19 of 1963), except to the extent such implementation has been assigned to any other Department.

Prior approval of the President for authorising the limited use of a language, other than English, in the proceedings in the High Court of a State.

Nodal responsibility for all matters relating to the progressive use of Hindi as the Official Language of the Union including Hindi Teaching Scheme for Central Government Employees and publication of magazines, journals & other literature related thereto.

Co-ordination in all matters relating to the progressive use of Hindi as the Official Language of the Union, including administrative terminology, syllabi, textbooks, training courses and equipment (with standardised script) required therefor.

Constitutional provisions:

Part 17 of the constitution of India (Articles 343 to Article 351) makes elaborate provisions dealing with the official language of the Republic of India. The main provisions dealing with the official language of the Union are embodied in Articles 343 and 344 of the Constitution of India. The Official languages have been listed in the 8th schedule of Constitution of India.

Official language of union:

Hindi written in Devanagari script is the Official Language of the Union.  The original constitution provided that for a period of 15 years from the commencement of the constitution, English will continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union.

The constitution made it clear that President may, during the said period, by order authorize the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.

The constitution also makes it clear that even after 15 years, the Parliament by law may provide for the continued use of English for any specific purpose.

The constitution has put all authority in the hands of the central government both for formulating and implementing the language policy.

It is also special responsibility of the centre to develop and spread the official language (Hindi) of the union (art. 351).

Facts for Prelims:

The department has developed a computer software called “Kanthasth” for translating the all kinds of official files from English to Hindi and vice versa to make the translation work simpler and quicker.

An E-learning platform called the “Pravah” also being developed by the department for use in 16 Indian languages including English. Anybody can learn Hindi through his mother tongue with the help of this E-learning platform.

Source: PIB

BIMSTEC summit

In News:

Fourth BIMSTEC summit was recently held in Nepal. The member states have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a Bimstec Gird Interconnection to enhance energy cooperation among the member states.

Details:

THEME OF BIMSTEC SUMMIT 2018: The theme of the fourth BIMSTEC summit is ‘Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region’.

Kathmandu Declaration:

The Fourth BIMSTEC Summit concluded with an 18-point Kathmandu Declaration. The declaration is expected to enhance the effectiveness of BIMSTEC Secretariat by engaging it in various technical and economic activities in the region.

Key highlights:

The Kathmandu Declaration has underlined the importance of multidimensional connectivity as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity of the region. The declaration also highlighted the importance of trade and investment as one of the major contributing factors for fostering economic and social development in the region.

The declaration said the “fight against terrorism should target not only terrorists, terror organisations and networks but also identify and hold accountable States and non-State entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism, provide sanctuaries to terrorists and terror groups and falsely extol their virtues.”

It asked all nations to devise a comprehensive approach which should include preventing financing of terrorists and terrorist actions from territories under their control, blocking recruitment and cross-border movement of terrorists, countering radicalisation, countering misuse of internet for purposes of terrorism and dismantling terrorist safe havens.

It said that combating terrorism and transnational organised crimes require sustained efforts and cooperation and comprehensive approach involving active participation and collaboration of the Member States.

The declaration also recognised that eradication of poverty is the greatest regional challenge in realising development objectives and expressed firm commitment to work together for implementing the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

WHAT IS BIMSTEC SUMMIT?

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising of seven member states in South Asia and Southeast Asia lying in littoral and adjacent areas of Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.

WHEN WAS BIMSTEC ESTABLISHED?

This sub-regional organisation came into being on June 6, 1997, through the Bangkok Declaration. It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Composition:

It comprises of seven member countries: five deriving from South Asia — including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka — and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.

AMENDMENTS IN THE BIMSTEC ORGANISATION:

Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).

Following the inclusion of Myanmar during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok on December 22, 1997, the group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).

With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting in February 2004, the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

Objectives of BIMSTEC:

BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization. Technological and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal is its main objective.

Starting with six sectors-including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries-for sectoral cooperation in late 1997, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors-including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change-in 2008.

Source: PIB

India Post Payments Bank

In News:

India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been launched. It will focus on providing banking and financial services to people in rural areas, by leveraging the reach of 1.55 lakh post office branches. The government aims to link all the 1.55 lakh post offices to the India Post Payments Bank system by 31 December, 2018.

Background:

In 2015, RBI had granted ‘in-principle’ approval to 11 entities, including Department of Posts, to set up payments banks and proposed to give such licences ‘on tap’ basis in future.

What is IPPB?

The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) is a public sector company under the department of posts and ministry of communication with a 100 per cent equity of the government of India, and governed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Key facts:

It started operations on 30 January, 2017, by opening two pilot branches, one at Raipur and the other at Ranchi.

India Post Payments Bank will offer 4 per cent interest rate on savings accounts.

India Post Payments Bank will offer a range of products such as savings and current accounts, money transfer, direct benefit transfers, bill and utility payments, and enterprise and merchant payments.

India Post Payments Bank has been allowed to link around 17 crore postal savings bank (PSB) accounts with its accounts.

What are payment banks?

Payment banks are non-full service banks, whose main objective is to accelerate financial inclusion. These banks have to use the word ‘Payment Bank’ in its name which will differentiate it from other banks.

Key facts:

Capital requirement: The minimum paid-up equity capital for payments banks is Rs. 100 crore.

Leverage ratio: The payments bank should have a leverage ratio of not less than 3%, i.e., its outside liabilities should not exceed 33.33 times its net worth (paid-up capital and reserves).

Promoter’s contribution: The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to the paid-up equity capital of such payments bank shall at least be 40% for the first five years from the commencement of its business.

Foreign shareholding: The foreign shareholding in the payments bank would be as per the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for private sector banks as amended from time to time.

SLR: Apart from amounts maintained as Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) with the Reserve Bank on its outside demand and time liabilities, it will be required to invest minimum 75% of its “demand deposit balances” in Statutory Liquidity Ratio(SLR) eligible Government securities/treasury bills with maturity up to one year and hold maximum 25% in current and time/fixed deposits with other scheduled commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management.

What are the scopes of activities of Payment Banks?

  • Payments banks will mainly deal in remittance services and accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh.
  • They will not lend to customers and will have to deploy their funds in government papers and bank deposits.
  • The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to equity capital will have to be at least 40% for the first five years.
  • They can accept demand deposits.
  • Payments bank will initially be restricted to holding a maximum balance of Rs. 100,000 per individual customer.
  • They can issue ATM/debit cards but not credit cards.
  • They can carry out payments and remittance services through various channels.
  • Distribution of non-risk sharing simple financial products like mutual fund units and insurance products, etc. is allowed.

Source: PIB

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)

In News:

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has made public 13 standardised state-of-the-art ship designs suitable for large barge haulage on river Ganga (National Waterway-1).

Benefits of new designs:

The specially designed vessels will navigate on low drafts with high carrying capacity and at the same time, environment friendly. For the shipbuilding industry, the new designs will translate into a savings of Rs 30-50 lakhs in the building of a vessel.

The designs will remove ambiguity on the class and type of vessels that can sail on river Ganga with efficient manoeuvrability. They will help shipyards build vessels of standardised dimensions and capacity and make them available off the shelf besides developing the ‘sale and purchase’ market for inland vessels. The designs will lead to reduced fuel costs and in turn lesser logistics costs.

These vessels will sail even in depths of about two metres carrying about 350 cars on a five deck car carrier. Some of the designs would enable movement of bulk cargo carriers with capacity of 2500 tonnes at three metres depth, thereby, removing almost 150 truckloads of pressure from the road or one full rail rake with the plying of just one such vessel.

The new designs will obviate the dependence of Indian Ship builders on foreign ship designs for IWT and prove to be a boost to ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government.

Way ahead:

This marks attaining of a critical milestone in the growth of the country’s Inland Water Transport (IWT) sector as it will help overcome the unique navigation challenges river Ganga throws due to its complex river morphology, hydraulics, acute bends, shifting channels, meanders and current. It will serve as an enabler for domestic shipbuilding industry working on inland vessels and open huge possibilities for cargo and passenger movement on National Waterway-1.

About Jal Marg Vikas Project:

The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.

Implementation: The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.

Benefits of this project: Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.

Know about IWAI:

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.

Facts for Prelims:

NW 1: Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system from Allahabad to Haldia was declared as National Waterway No.1. States covered under NW-1: States: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

Source: PIB

Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects

In News:

India has invited Pakistani experts to visit the sites of its two hydropower projects on the Chenab river next month to address its concerns.

Details:

Pakal Dul: The 1,000 megawatt Pakal Dul hydroelectric power project on Marusadar River, a tributary of Chenab River, in Jammu and Kashmir will provide 12% free power to the state. The project will not only be the largest hydroelectric power project in the state but also the first storage unit.

Lower Kalnai hydroelectric power plant project involves the construction of a 48MW (2x24MW) hydroelectric power plant. It will include the construction of a dam, tunnel, powerhouse, and substations and installation of generators and transformers and the laying of transmission lines.

Source: PIB

Government e-Marketplace

  • National Mission on Government e Marketplace (GeM) will be launched by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  • GeM is a platform that provides online, end to end procurement of commonly used goods and services for all Central and State Government Departments, Public Sector Units and affiliated bodies.
  • It is developed by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D) with technical support of NeGD (National e-Governance Divsion of Ministry of Electronics and IT).
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value for their money.
  • The aim of the mission is to promote inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in public procurement and achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction.
  • The mission will accelerate the adoption and use of GeM by major central Ministries, State Governments and their agencies.

SC/ST Reservation

  • Supreme Court has quoted that SC/ST status entitling a person to quotas in jobs and educational institutions in one state will not automatically continue in another when the person migrates, except when he/she goes to Delhi.
  • Union Territory of Delhi is exempted because it is the national capital and a microcosm of India.
  • Thus, a person’s SC/ST status will not follow him to another state would not apply to the Union Territory (UT) of Delhi.
  • The court said, when a SC/ST person migrates, the automatic inclusion of them in another state would be detrimental to the interests of local communities and hence unconstitutional.
  • The court also quoted that mandate of Articles 341 and 342 will be compromised if special privileges of SC/ST are carried to another state.
  • However, the central list doesn’t discriminate between the reserved categories of one state from that of another.

Article 341 and 342

  • Article 341 of the constitution define as to who would be Scheduled Castes with respect to any State or UT.
  • Article 342 of the constitution define as to who would be Scheduled Tribe (ST) with respect to any State or UT.
  • The President of India in consultation with the Governor of a particular State may notify the castes, races or tribes be deemed to be Scheduled Castes (A-341) and to be Scheduled Tribes (A-342).
  • Parliament may by law include in or exclude any caste, race or tribe from the list of SC and ST specified.
  • Reservation in services/post – The following are the relevant articles which govern the reservation in services/post for SC/STs.
  • Article 16(4) of the constitution enables State to provide reservation in appointments in favour of any backward class of citizens who are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
  • Article 46 of the Constitution directs the State to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 335 states that the claims of the members of the SC and ST shall be taken into consideration in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
  • It shall be consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.

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