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3rd August Current Affairs

CJI offers to send Andhra-Telangana Krishna water dispute for mediation

(GS-I: About Rivers, GS-II: Interstate water disputes)

In News:

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana offered to send a water dispute case filed by Andhra Pradesh against Telangana for mediation while saying, in the background of the Assam-Manipur border flare-up, that the people of the two southern States were “brothers” and should not even “dream” of doing harm to each other.

Details:

During the hearing, Chief Justice Ramana said he hailed from both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He could not adjudicate the case legally.

CJI gave the parties an option that “If you want to settle the issue through mediation, I will send it for mediation. On the other hand, if you want the case to be adjudicated or to be heard legally, I will list it before another Bench.”

Background:

Andhra Pradesh said Telangana was refusing to follow decisions taken on river water management in the Apex Council constituted under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014. It had also ignored the directions of Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) constituted under the 2014 Act and the Central government.

What is Mediation?

In a mediation procedure, a neutral intermediary, the mediator, helps the parties to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement of their dispute. Any settlement is recorded in an enforceable contract.

Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956:

The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India on the eve of reorganization of states on linguistic basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley. Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments. This Act further has undergone amendments subsequently and its most recent amendment took place in the year 2002.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019:

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 25, 2019 by the Minister of Jal Shakti, Mr. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. It amends the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.  The Act provides for the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers and river valleys.

Under the Act, a state government may request the central government to refer an inter-state river dispute to a Tribunal for adjudication. If the central government is of the opinion that the dispute cannot be settled through negotiations, it is required to set up a Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication of the dispute, within a year of receiving such a complaint.  The Bill seeks to replace this mechanism.

Disputes Resolution Committee: Under the Bill, when a state puts in a request regarding any water dispute, the central government will set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), to resolve the dispute amicably.  The DRC will comprise of a Chairperson, and experts with at least 15 years of experience in relevant sectors, to be nominated by the central government.  It will also comprise one member from each state (at Joint Secretary level), who are party to the dispute, to be nominated by the concerned state government.

The DRC will seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations, within one year (extendable by six months), and submit its report to the central government. If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal.  Such referral must be made within three months from the receipt of the report from the DRC.

Tribunal: The central government will set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for the adjudication of water disputes.  This Tribunal can have multiple benches.  All existing Tribunals will be dissolved, and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing Tribunals will be transferred to the new Tribunal.

Composition of the Tribunal: The Tribunal will consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members, and three expert members.  They will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.  Each Tribunal Bench will consist of a Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson, a judicial member, and an expert member.  The central government may also appoint two experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service as assessors to advise the Bench in its proceedings.  The assessor should not be from the state which is a party to the dispute.

Time frames: Under the Act, the Tribunal must give its decision within three years, which may be extended by two years.  Under the Bill, the proposed Tribunal must give its decision on the dispute within two years, which may be extended by another year.

Under the Act, if the matter is again referred to the Tribunal by a state for further consideration, the Tribunal must submit its report to the central government within a period of one year. This period can be extended by the central government.  The Bill amends this to specify that such extension may be up to a maximum of six months.

Decision of the Tribunal: Under the Act, the decision of the Tribunal must be published by the central government in the official gazette.  This decision has the same force as that of an order of the Supreme Court.  The Bill removes the requirement of such publication.  It adds that the decision of the Bench of the Tribunal will be final and binding on the parties involved in the dispute.  The Act provided that the central government may make a scheme to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal. The Bill is making it mandatory for the central government to make such scheme.

Data bank: Under the Act, the central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin.  The Bill provides that the central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.

PM to launch digital payment solution e-RUPI

(GS-III: Digital economy and Science and Technology)

In News:

The Indian government launched an electronic voucher based digital payment system e-RUPI.

Details:

e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment. It is a QR code or SMS string-based e-Voucher, which is delivered to the mobile of the beneficiaries. The users of this seamless one-time payment mechanism will be able to redeem the voucher without a card, digital payments app or internet banking access, at the service provider. It has been developed by National Payments Corporation of India on its UPI platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and National Health Authority.

e-RUPI connects the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interface. It also ensures that the payment to the service provider is made only after the transaction is completed. Being pre-paid in nature, it assures timely payment to the service provider without involvement of any intermediary.

It is expected to be a revolutionary initiative in the direction of ensuring a leak-proof delivery of welfare services. It can also be used for delivering services under schemes meant for providing drugs and nutritional support under Mother and Child welfare schemes, TB eradication programmes, drugs & diagnostics under schemes like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, fertilizer subsidies etc. Even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and corporate social responsibility programmes.

Different from Virtual Currency:

In effect, e-RUPI is still backed by the existing Indian rupee as the underlying asset and specificity of its purpose makes it different to a virtual currency and puts it closer to a voucher-based payment system.

Issuing Entities & Beneficiary Identification:

The one-time payment mechanism has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India on its Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and National Health Authority.

It has boarded banks that will be the issuing entities. Any corporate or government agency will have to approach the partner banks, which are both private and public-sector lenders, with the details of specific persons and the purpose for which payments have to be made.

The beneficiaries will be identified using their mobile number and a voucher allocated by a bank to the service provider in the name of a given person would only be delivered to that person.

Minorities have to be treated as ‘weaker sections’

(GS-I: Indian Society, GS-II: Constitutional, Non-Constitutional and Statutory bodies)

In News:

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has told the Supreme Court that minorities have to be treated as the “weaker sections” in the country, where majority community is so “predominant.”

Points Noted by NCM:

Despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force there persist amongst the minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination.

In a country like India where the majority community is predominant, the minorities have to be treated as the weaker sections within the meaning of Article 46.

Article 46 states that “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”

About NCM:

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is in news for various reasons. In this post, let’s see the mandate of NCM and measures to make it more effective.

The Ministry of Home Affairs established the National Minorities Commission of India in a resolution on January 12, 1978. It mentioned that:

“despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force, there persists among the Minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination. In order to preserve secular traditions and to promote National Integration, the Government of India attaches the highest importance to the enforcement of the safeguards provided for the Minorities in the Constitution”.

The Minorities Commission was detached from the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1984, and placed under the Ministry of Welfare. Once the National Commission for Minorities Act was enacted in 1992, the Minorities Commission became a statutory body and was renamed as National Commission for Minorities.

Experts raise concerns over mandatory fortification of food items

(GS-III: Economy)

In News:

In a pushback against the Centre’s plan to mandatorily fortify rice and edible oils with vitamins and minerals, a group of scientists and activists have written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), warning of the adverse impacts on health and livelihoods.

Details:

Multiple studies to show that dietary diversity and higher protein consumption are key to solving undernutrition in India, rather than adding a few synthetic micronutrients which could harm the health of consumers.

Food Fortification:

Food fortification is defined as the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value.

It is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.

Types of food fortification

Food fortification can also be categorized according to the stage of addition:

  • Commercial and industrial fortification (wheat flour, cornmeal, cooking oils)
  • Biofortification (breeding crops to increase their nutritional value, which can include both conventional selective breeding, and genetic engineering)
  • Home fortification (example: vitamin D drops)

Advantages offered:

Health: Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near-natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.

Taste: It provides nutrition without any change in the characteristics of food or the course of our meals.

Nutrition: If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittently supplement.

Economy: The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.

Society: It upholds everyone’s right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger