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28th July Current Affairs

Seeking to destroy India’s civil society

(GS-II: Governance: Government Policies & Interventions)

In News:

This article highlights the importance of civil societies and how recent amendments affect their working nature.

What are civil societies?

As per the EU, civil society means “All types of social action carried out by individuals or groups who are not related to, or managed by, the state“. India has over 3.4 million NGOs working in various fields.

Role of the civil societies:

Plugging the Implementation Gap: NGOs play important role in the promotion and implementation of important rights-based legislation such as RTI, FRA 2006, RTE 2010, and the MGNREGA

Support for sectors untouched by the state: g. providing aid to migrants, human and labour rights, Tribal welfare (Nilgiris Wynaad Tribal Welfare Society (NWTWS)), Women advocacy (ActionAid India, Sewa, Eklavya, Sathin, Disha work for women empowerment)

Promotes community-based organizations such as SHG, and Farmer’s organizations: these organizations are critical in bringing about changes at the grass-roots level

Work as Pressure Group: NGOs mobilize people for their rights as well as educate communities against harmful policies of government e.g. Narmada Bachao Andolan work for the rights of displaced people

Bring about behavioural changes: NGOs work against superstition, false faith, Beliefs, and Customs e.g. Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS); or Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith, CEBF)

Promoting Environmentalism: Green Peace, Vanashakti NGO, etc.

All the new initiatives of the government require the participation and awareness of people and there is no better organisation than the civil society to achieve this objective.

Involvement of civil society in the Swachha Bharat Mission has made it a huge success.

Role of Swacchagrahis has a visible impact in changing the behaviour of people to stop open defecation practices in rural areas.

Challenges faced by NGOs in India:

Inaccessibility of Funds: Government regulation will ban ‘regranting’ of funds to smaller NGOs thereby making them more dependent on government funds.

This will be counter-intuitive for NGOs independence and their ability to raise voices against governmental policies

The politicization of NGOs: Mushrooming of politically motivated NGOs that act as the conduit for political funds, money laundering, and advocacy is a challenge for Indian polity

Involvement in Anti-national activity: Some of the NGOs were involved in funding terrorism in J&K and promoting LWE activity in ‘Red Corridor Areas’

NGOs lack transparency and accountability: Only a small fraction of NGOs have submitted their account statement to Income tax and only a few have a Board of Governance

Undermine India’s Development: An IB report said in 2014 that working of NGOs such as Greenpeace, Cordaid, and Amnesty have reduced India’s GDP by 2-3%

Loss of registrations: Data suggests that of the 20,679 civil society organisations that lost their registration between 2011 and May 2022

Non-utilization of fund for which it was meant: Foreign contribution doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, however many recipients have not utilised the fundfor the purpose for which they were registered or granted under FCRA Act.

Department of Rural Development’s Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) blacklisted 833 NGOs for misutilization of funds provided to them by the Government

Civil societies are under deep suspicion: In the 73rd graduation ceremony of the Indian Police Academy in November 2021. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had warned budding police officers that “civil society was the new frontier of war”.

In 2017 the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the FCRA license of the Public Health Foundation of Indiaon grounds of misusing foreign funds to lobby Members of the Parliament in favour of tobacco control activities.

Draft Coffee (promotion and Development) Bill, 2022

In News:

This will replace the Coffee Act of 1942.

Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Aim: To modernize coffee board, promote export and support the domestic market

Provisions:

Mandate of coffee board expanded: It will now include support for production, research, extension, and quality improvement apart from regular work of control, marketing and sale.

Protection of interests of labour

Simplifying the procedures and registration process of curing units.

Scheme: Centre extended the RoDTEP (Refund of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products) scheme to the coffee sector to boost exports.

The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 passed

(GS-II: Government Policies)

In News:

The bill seeks to provide a statutory framework for the functioning of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the National Dope Testing Laboratory in sports.

Details:

It also seeks to give effect to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation International Convention against doping in sports and compliance with such other obligations and commitments.

Aim of the bill: It prohibits athletes, athlete support personnel and other persons from engaging in doping in sports.

Doping definition: It is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance.

Key Features of the passed bill:

Prohibition of doping: The Bill prohibits athletes, athlete support personnel and other persons from engaging in doping in sports.

Support personnel includes the coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medical personnel, and other persons working with or treating or assisting an athlete.

No violation of the following rules:

  • presence of prohibited substances or their markers in an athlete’s body
  • use, attempted use or possession of prohibited substances or methods
  • refusing to submit a sample
  • trafficking or attempted trafficking in prohibited substances or methods, and
  • aiding or covering up such violations.

If any athlete requires a prohibited substance or method due to a medical condition, they may apply to the National Anti-Doping Agency for a therapeutic use exemption.

Consequences of violations: Anti-doping rule violation by an individual athlete or athlete support personnel may result in disqualification from an event already held- seizer of prize, ineligibility to participate in a competition to be held, and financial sanctions.

Changes in National Anti-Doping Agency: Currently, anti-doping rules are implemented by the National Anti-Doping Agency, which was established as a society.

The Bill provides for constituting this National Anti-Doping Agency as a statutory  It will be headed by a Director General appointed by the central government.

Data related to athletes and doping: The Agency will also have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples).

National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports:The Bill establishes a National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports to make recommendations to the government on anti-doping regulation and compliance with international commitments on anti-doping.

Anti-doping Appeal Panels: The Board will constitute a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel for determining the consequences of anti-doping rule violations.   This Panel will consist of a Chairperson and four Vice-Chairpersons (all legal experts), and ten members (medical practitioners and retired eminent athletes).

Dope Testing Laboratories: The existing National Dope Testing Laboratory will be deemed to be the principal dope testing laboratory. The central government may establish more National Dope Testing Laboratories.

Key Issues:

Director General of NADA: the qualifications of the Director General are not specified in the Bill and are left to be notified through Rules.

Central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity or “such other ground”.

Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of the Director General.

Power to remove: Under the Bill, the Board has powers to remove the members of the Disciplinary Panel and Appeal Panel on grounds which will be specified by regulations and are not specified in the Bill.

Further, there is no requirement to give them an opportunity of being heard.  This may affect the independent functioning of these panels.

Fiberisation

In News:

5G spectrum auction has highlighted the need for requisite infrastructure in terms of fiberisation

Details:

Definition: It is a process of connecting radio towers via optical fibre cables, thus facilitating the flow of a large amount of data to be used in 5G services.

Issue:

  • Low fiberasition: Compared to the US, UK, and Japan (80-90% fiberisation), India has just 33% of the towers fiberized, which is becoming a hurdle in India transitioning to the 5G network.
  • Low funding: India requires a huge amount of funding (over 2.2 lakh cr) to fiberize 70% of the towers.
  • Slow speed of fiberization

Solution: Satellite-based networks (along with on-ground optical fibre networks) can help reduce dependence on fiberization and deliver 5G broadband to users on moving vessels, including cars, ships, aeroplanes and high-speed trains.

Government initiatives:

Amendment in Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules 2016, to make it easier to install aerial optical fibre cable. However, several states and local bodies have not agreed to RoW rules.

GatiShakti Sanchar Online Portal (DoTs): It will simplify approvals of RoW and granting of compensation.

BharatNet: Vision to connect every village with optical fibre cable in 1000 days