21 August Current Affairs
August 21, 2018
23 August Current Affairs
August 23, 2018
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22 August Current Affairs

NCRB to track complaints on sexual violence

In News:

A high-level meeting was recently convened to discuss recommendations on ways to curb “sexual violence” videos involving women and children.

Outcomes of the meeting:

It was decided in the meeting that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) would be the designated nodal agency for monitoring the complaints received on a government portal that records child pornography and sexual violence videos.

The NCRB would coordinate with service providers such as Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp and ask them to block malicious videos and contents.

Impact:

NCRB is only a crime record agency. Therefore, a government notification has been issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000 to enable it to take action against such videos. Now, whenever such incidents are reported, it can write to service providers and ask them to block the content.

About NCRB:

  • NCRB is the Nodal Agency for authentic source of Data on crime, accidents, suicides, and prisons for policy matters and research.
  • It was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task force (1985).
  • It was set up by merging the Directorate of Coordination and Police Computer (DCPC), Inter State Criminals Data Branch of CBI, Central Finger Print Bureau of CBI, and Statistical Branch of BPR&D.

Important functions:

Bureau is implementing & monitoring agency for implementation of Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan of Government of India. The project aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in the country.

NCRB also imparts training in Information Technology (IT) and Finger Print Science for Indian Police Officers as well Foreign Police officers. Central finger print bureau is under the administrative control of NCRB.

Important publications:

NCRB publishes 4 annual publications on Crime, Accidental Deaths & Suicides, Prison Statistics and Finger Prints. These publications serve as principal reference points on crime statistics not only police officers but also for criminologists, researchers, media and policy makers not only in India but abroad well.

Background:

In 2015, as many as 34,651 cases of rape were registered. The number increased to 38,947 in 2016. Overall crimes against women rose from 3,29,243 in 2015 to 3,38,954 in 2016, according to the NCRB data.

A majority of cases categorised as crimes against women were reported under “cruelty by husband or his relatives” (32.6 per cent), followed by “assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty” (25 per cent), “kidnapping and abduction of women” (19 per cent) and “rape” (11.5 per cent).

The highest number of rapes have been reported from Madhya Pradesh (4,882), followed by Uttar Pradesh (4,816) and Maharashtra (4,189) in 2016, according to the NCRB data.

Source: The Hindu

NOTA in Rajya Sabha

In News:

The Supreme Court has overruled an Election Commission notification, saying that NOTA (None Of The Above) option cannot be allowed in Rajya Sabha elections.

Details:

As per the court, the NOTA option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not polls held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.

NOTA in indirect elections, such as in the Rajya Sabha, would lead to horse-trading, corruption and use of extra constitutional methods to defeat a party candidate.

NOTA also makes the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote nugatory and otiose.

SC on the power of ECI:

The use of NOTA cannot be sanctioned by way of the impugned circulars which has the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4), the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.

The circular was ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and tainted with mala fides, as an executive instruction cannot override express statutory provisions.

The use of NOTA in elections:

The option of NOTA for Lok Sabha and assembly elections was prescribed by the SC in 2013. The option of NOTA in RS polls was introduced by the EC in 2014. Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting.

How is a NOTA vote cast?

The EVMs have the NOTA option at the end of the candidates’ list. Earlier, in order to cast a negative ballot, a voter had to inform the presiding officer at the polling booth. A NOTA vote doesn’t require the involvement of the presiding officer.

Why have NOTA if there’s ‘no electoral value’?

NOTA gives people dissatisfied with contesting candidates an opportunity to express their disapproval. This, in turn, increases the chances of more people turning up to cast their votes, even if they do not support any candidate, and decreases the count of bogus votes. Also, the Supreme Court has observed that negative voting could bring about “a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates”.

Why NOTA is good?

  • NOTA option will force the political parties to select the honest candidates, i.e with no criminal records.
  • NOTA ensures people’s ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’.
  • This will increase the polling percentage.

Source: The Hindu

Criminalization of Politics

In News:

The Supreme Court has proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalising politics by welcoming in “crooks” who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power. The court is hearing a batch of petitions to ban persons charged with heinous criminal charges from contesting elections.

Suggestion made by the court:

The Court may direct the Election Commission to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them so that the “entire country knows how many criminals there are in a party.”

The court said the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.

The suggestion was made by the court in a bid to prevent criminals from entering politics or later contesting elections to become parliamentarians, legislators and Ministers.

However, the centre has opposed this move suggesting the following reasons:

A political party has a right to field its candidate. Mere charges of having committed a crime cannot be used to prevent a person from contesting elections. The suggestion made by the court amounts to prematurely disqualifying a candidate. Besides, the court is taking on itself a matter of the legislature.

Provisions in this regard:

The court based its proposal on the following:

Article 324 and Section 29A of RPA: The power of the Election Commission to conduct an election and register/de-register political parties under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, respectively.

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968. Section 29A requires a party to swear to uphold the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.

Criminals in Politics:

Protecting the parliamentary system from criminalisation has been the intention of the law from the beginning.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections. The Lily Thomas case (2013), however, ended this unfair advantage.

Efforts by SC in this regard:

The SC has repeatedly expressed concern about the purity of legislatures.

  • In 2002, it made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.
  • The famous order to introduce NOTA was intended to make political parties think before giving tickets to the tainted.
  • In its landmark judgment of March 2014, the SC accepted the urgent need for cleansing politics of criminalisation and directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.

The trend:

According to the ADR’s analysis of EC data, 187 MPs in the current Lok Sabha face criminal charges (that is, 34.4 per cent). Of them, 113 face serious criminal charges. The number has gone up from 162 (76 serious) charges in 2009 and 128 (58 serious) in 2004.

Main reasons for Criminalization:

  • Corruption
  • Vote bank.
  • Lack of governance.

What is the way out?

There are three possible options.

  1. One, political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
  2. Two, the RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
  3. Three, fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.

Opposition to the proposal made by the Supreme Court:

Far from denying tickets to criminals, all political parties seem to have been in competition to give them more and more tickets. They have been unitedly opposing the proposal to debar perpetrators of even heinous offences during pendency of trial on the grounds that false criminal cases may be filed by opponents. This concern is partly valid.

Is this concern justified?

To counter the concern expressed, the proposal has three safeguards.

  • First, all criminal cases would not invite the ban — only heinous offences like murder, dacoity, rape, kidnapping or moral turpitude.
  • Second, the case should have been registered at least a year before the elections.
  • Third, the court must have framed the charges.

Suggested measure to curb criminalization of politics:

  • Bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters.
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law.
  • Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.
  • Fast-track courts are necessary because politicians are able to delay the judicial process and serve for decades before prosecution.
  • The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
  • The forms prescribed by the Election Commission for candidates disclosing their convictions, cases pending in courts and so on in their nomination papers is a step in the right direction if it applied properly.

Source: The Hindu

Plea challenges changes in SC/ST law

In News:

A central government amendment passed by both Houses of Parliament in the just-concluded monsoon session, reinstating a controversial clause allowing immediate arrests in complaints filed under the SC/ST Act, has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Arguments against the amendments by the petitioners:

It has been alleged that the amendment has been brought in with an eye on the 2019 polls. They also argued that there can be no presumption of guilt only because the person at the receiving end was from an upper caste.

Besides, the petitioners claimed that the number of cases being filed under the Act had shot up alarmingly in recent years to back their claim that the law was being misused.

Background:

On March 20, the Supreme Court issued a slew of guidelines to protect people against arbitrary arrests under the Act, directing that public servants could be arrested only with the written permission of their appointing authority, while in the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it.

A preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR was registered to check if the case fell within the ambit of the Act, and whether it was frivolous or motivated, the court ruled.

The ruling was greeted by a storm of protest from Dalit groups, which said the order diluted the law. However, the court refused to stay its ruling, leading to the demand from Dalit groups that the government introduce an ordinance or an Amendment Bill to restore the provisions.

Following this, the government introduced a Bill to restore the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The Amendment Bill seeks to insert three new clauses after Section 18 of the original Act:

 

  • The first stipulates that for the purposes of the Act, “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.”
  • The second stipulates that the arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval.
  • The third says that the provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — which deals with anticipatory bail — shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.”

Source: The Hindu

ILO report flags wage inequality in India

In News:

The International Labour Organization has published India Wage Report.

Highlights of the report:

Real average daily wages in India almost doubled in the first two decades after economic reforms, but low pay and wage inequality remains a serious challenge to inclusive growth.

Overall, in 2009-10, a third of all of wage workers were paid less than the national minimum wage, which is merely indicative and not legally binding. That includes 41% of all casual workers and 15% of salaried workers.

In 2011-12, the average wage in India was about ₹247 rupees a day, almost double the 1993-94 figure of ₹128. However, average labour productivity (as measured by GDP per worker) increased more rapidly than real average wages. Thus, India’s labour share — or the proportion of national income which goes into labour compensation, as opposed to capital or landowners — has declined.

The rise in average wages was more rapid in rural areas, and for casual workers. However, these groups started at such a low base that a yawning wage gap still remains. Thus, the average wage of casual workers — who make 62% of the earning population — was only ₹143 a day.

Daily wages in urban areas (₹384) also remain more than twice as high as those in rural areas (₹175). Regional disparities in average wages have actually increased over time, with wages rising more rapidly in high-wage States than in low-wage ones.

The gender wage gap decreased from 48% in 1993-94 to 34% in 2011-12, but still remains high by international standards. And of all worker groups, the average wages of casual rural female workers was the lowest, at just ₹104 a day.

Challenges:

As per the study the minimum wage system in India is quite complex. The minimum wages are set by state governments for employees in ‘selected, scheduled’ employment and this has led to 1709 different rates across the country. As the coverage is not complete these rates are applicable for an estimated of 66 % of wage workers.

A national minimum wage floor was introduced in the 1990s which has progressively increased to Rs 176 per day in 2017 but this wage floor is not legally binding, in spite of a recurrent discussion since the 1970s.

Way ahead:

The ILO report called for extending legal coverage to all workers in an employment relationship, ensuring full consultation with social partners on minimum wage systems, undertaking regular evidence-based adjustments, progressively consolidating and simplifying minimum wage structures, and taking stronger measures to ensure a more effective application of minimum wage law.

It also called for collection of statistical data on a timely and regular basis and recommended other complementary actions to comprehensively address how to achieve decent work and inclusive growth like fostering accumulation of skills to boost labour productivity and growth for sustainable enterprises, promoting equal pay for work of equal value, formalising the informal economy and strengthening social protection for workers.

Source: The Hindu

UDAN scheme for international routes

In News:

The centre has unveiled the draft International Air Connectivity (IAC) scheme.

Key highlights:

Target: The scheme envisages to increase the international ticketing to 20 crore by 2027.

The scheme is to be made operational only for states, which demonstrate their commitment to implement and provide the requisite support for promoting operations under the scheme.

Identification of routes: According to the draft, state governments will identify the routes to be connected, and airline operators will assess demand on the identified routes and submit proposals for providing connectivity.

Permitted aircrafts: Operations under the scheme will be permitted through fixed-wing aircraft only with more than 70 seats.

The scheme has proposed to set up an International Air Connectivity Fund (IACF) — a dedicated fund for providing subsidy support under the scheme. It will be created through the contributions of state governments.

The subsidy support shall be provided to selected airlines only for the passenger seats, which remain unsold at the time of IAC flight operation, from the total number of passenger seats for which subsidy has been requested by the selected airline as part of its proposal. The subsidy support will be extended only up to three years.

The Airport Authority of India will be the implementing agency of the scheme.

Source: The Hindu

Holocene Epoch

  • The Holocene Epoch is the current period of geologic time.
  • It refers to the last 11,700 years of the Earth’s history, the time since the end of the last major glacial epoch, or “ice age.”
  • Another term that is sometimes used is the Anthropocene Epoch or “The Age of Man”.
  • The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) had divided this Epoch in to three ages – Greenlandian, Northgrippian and Meghalayan which began at 11,700 year, 8200 year and 4200 year points.
  • There are controversies over this newly designated geological age, though the stratification by ICS is official.

International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS)

  • ICS is a body of geological timekeepers and is the largest and oldest constituent scientific body in the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).
  • Its primary objective is to precisely define global units (systems, series, and stages) which are basic for the units (periods, epochs and age) of the International Geological Time Scale.
  • It sets global standards for the fundamental scale for expressing the history of the Earth.

Presence of Water in the Moon

  • Scientists have found frozen water deposits in the Moon’s polar region using data from the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
  • The ice deposited on the surface would possibly acts as a resource for future expeditions to explore Moon.
  • Scientists used NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft to confirm the presence of solid ice using specific signatures.
  • This is not the first time that evidence of water has been found on the Moon.
  • In 2009, observations of NASA’s EPOXI spacecraft showed the evidence of presence of water across the lunar surface.
  • After 2009, the data from ISRO’s hyperspectral imager aboard Chandrayaan-1, supplemented the evidence.
  • The recent finding shows that water ice lies in the shadows of craters in the Moon’s polar region, where the warmest temperatures never reach above -2500

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