Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - July 18, 2018

FOCUS article Parliament Monsoon Session

The Monsoon Session of Parliament

  • Parliament Monsoon session is all set to begin on 18 July and will run till 10 August.
  • The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have released bulletins listing which ‘Bills’ are to be considered during the session, covering a wide range of controversial topics, from criminalising triple talaq to the unannounced amendments to the RTI Act.

Enlighten about the bills that is going to be considered in the upcoming session

1. Triple Talaq

  • Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017
  • The Bill makes any declaration of talaq-e-biddat (or any other instant form of talaq) void and illegal.
  • Doing so will also be a cognisable and non-bailable offence, punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment.
  • The woman will be entitled to get maintenance from her husband for herself and her children, and get custody of the children.

Controversial point

  • The criminalisation of triple talaq has also been criticised by social activists, women’s groups and Muslim groups since it means imprisonment of the husband.
  • This runs counter to the practical reasoning behind making triple talaq illegal - to prevent separation of families and ensuring that the wife and children are not left destitute.

What’s the present Status

  • The ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ was passed in the Lok Sabha, but Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha demanded that it needed to be referred to a Select Committee.
  • The Upper House will take the issue up again in the Monsoon Session.

2. Transgender Rights

  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016
  • The Bill defines transgender persons, and prohibits discrimination against them in relation to education, employment, healthcare, public goods and services, right of movement, and occupation of property.
  • The Bill also directs the Central and State Governments to provide welfare schemes in these areas.
  • It is also a criminal offence to (a) force transgenders to beg; (b) deny them access to public places; (c) force them out of their residence; or (d) harm or endanger their life, safety or well-being.

Controversial Point

  • The Supreme Court’s NALSA judgment in 2014, which set the ball rolling on transgender rights in India, specifically recognises their right to self-identify.
  • The Government’s Bill claims that it recognises the right to self-identify, but requires a certificate of identity as transgender to be obtained from the District Magistrate after assessment by a Screening Committee – which has been strongly criticised by rights activists and the transgender community.
  • The definition of transgender in the Bill has also been criticised, including by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, for being too rigid, going against global norms and violating the right to self-identification.
  • It also fails to provide for any reservations in education or offices, and provides no grievance redressal mechanism.
  • In this, it compares unfavourably to Tiruchi Siva’s 2014 private member’s bill which had been passed in the Rajya Sabha.

What’s the Present Status

  • The Lok Sabha will be considering the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recommendations to amend the Government’s Bill, and whether to pass it or not.

3. Revamp of OBC Commission

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) is currently a statutory body, which recommends which communities should be included in the Centre’s list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • The Government wants to change this into a constitutional body like the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), allowing the NCBC to hear grievances of OBCs (which are currently heard by the NCSC). This requires an amendment to the Constitution.

Controversial Points

  • There is a dispute between the Government and Opposition on the composition of the NCBC.
  • The Government version of the amendment, passed in the Lok Sabha, had a three-member commission.
  • The Opposition insisted in the Rajya Sabha that it needs to have two additional members – one woman, and one from a minority community.
  • The Government amendment also tries to change the way in which States decide which communities should be considered as OBCs (relevant for State-level reservations).
  • Currently, States decide for themselves, but if the amendment goes through as it stands, the Centre will make the decision in consultation with the States.

What’s the Present Status

  • Because of the special procedure for passing constitutional amendments, the Bill is back in the Lok Sabha to debate the Rajya Sabha’s amendments.
  • Both Houses have to agree on a draft, pass it by special majority, and get the State legislative assemblies to then agree to it.

4. National Medical Commission

  • The National Medical Commission Bill 2017
  • Under this Bill, the Government would scrap the existing Medical Council of India (run by doctors) and replace it with government-run National Medical Commission (NMC) to regulate medical education and practice.
  • Key regulations include (1) determining fees for up to 40% of seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities; (2) a National Licentiate Examination for doctors after their MBBS to obtain a licence to practice.

Controversial Points

  • The Cabinet had to remove provisions for a bridge course to allow AYUSH doctors to prescribe allopathic medicines after severe criticism.
  • Doctors were strongly against the idea, since it would require a lot of training and could be a severe risk.
  • Several State Governments expressed opposition to the idea when approached by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was looking into this Bill, leading to the Cabinet’s decision.
  • A number of medical associations including the World Medical Association and the Indian Medical Association have also criticised the move away from self-governance, which they fear could open the door for political and corporate interests to influence regulation.

What’s the Present Status

  • The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2017, and the Parliamentary Standing Committee submitted its report in March 2018.
  • The Lower House is scheduled to review the report and debate the Bill during the Monsoon Session.

5. Amendments to RTI Act

  • The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2018
  • The Centre wants to amend the RTI Act so that they get to decide the tenure and salaries of the Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions through rules.
  • Currently, the tenure of the Commissioners is fixed at 5 years (with a retirement age of 65) and the salary is at the same level as that of equivalent Election Commissioners.
  • The Statement of Objects and Reasons provided by the government claims that Information Commissioners should not have the same status as Election Commissioners, since the Election
  • Commission is a constitutional body, while the Information Commissions are statutory bodies.

Controversial Points

  • The Bill has only been made public one day before the Monsoon Session begins, and the Government had refused to divulge any details or drafts in advance, meaning there has been minimal opportunity for meaningful debate, public engagement or expert analysis.
  • This had already led to concerns among RTI activists, given the Government had previously sought to amend the RTI framework in ways that made it tougher for common people to obtain information, and even exposed them to threats to their lives.
  • The National Campaign for People’s’ Right to Information (NCPRI) believes that the proposed amendments will “fundamentally weaken the institution of the information commissions as it will adversely impact their ability to function in an independent manner.
  • Information Commissioners are the people who make a final determination on whether or not to provide access to information – as the Standing Committee which assessed the RTI Act when it was being drafted noted, it was essential that it be able to function with “utmost independence and autonomy”.
  • The elevated status of Information Commissioners – be it in terms of their fixed tenure or their high salary – was meant to be help ensure this. If their tenure can be cut short by the Centre and their salaries can be slashed, this leaves them in positions where they are dependent on the government, making them (more?) susceptible to political influence. Which would defeat the entire purpose of the RTI Act – transparency.

What’s the Present Status

  • The Bill is yet to be introduced.

6. DNA Profiling

  • DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018
  • The Bill seeks to regulate the use of DNA technology for establishing identity of victims, offenders, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unknown deceased persons.
  • There will be a DNA Regulatory Board which will certify which labs are authorised to carry out DNA testing, and establish DNA databanks. The Bill also propose the establishment of national and regional DNA Databanks which will maintain indices for crime scenes, suspects, undertrials, offenders and missing persons.

Controversial Points

  • This is the third iteration of the Bill, and follows recommendations from the Law Commission to amend previous proposals which had come in for severe criticism.
  • Serious privacy concerns over the legislation remain, as does the risk of profiling without sufficient safeguards.
  • The maintenance of an index for suspects is concerning because this could lead to violations of the right to life and liberty, and it is also worrying that the framework allows for “voluntarily” submitting one’s DNA, which raises the spectre of another Aadhaar.

What’s the Present Status

  • The Bill is yet to be introduced.

Economy

IMF cuts India growth forecast World Economic Outlook (WEO)

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday projected a growth rate of 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019 for India as against 6.7% in 2017, making it the fastest growing country among major economies.
  • However, the latest growth rate projection for India is slightly less — 0.1 percentage point in 2018 and 0.3 percentage points in 2019 — than its April projections.
  • India’s growth rate is expected to rise from 6.7% in 2017 to 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019, as drags from the currency exchange initiative and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax fade,
  • The projection is 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points lower for 2018 and 2019, respectively, than in the April WEO, reflecting negative effects of higher oil prices on domestic demand and faster than-anticipated monetary policy tightening due to higher expected inflation
  • India continues to outperform China, IMF’s WEO update figures reflect.
  • Growth in China is projected to moderate from 6.9% in 2017 to 6.6% in 2018 and 6.4% in 2019
  • The IMF said global growth is projected to reach 3.9% in 2018 and 2019, in line with the forecast of the April 2018 WEO.
  • Last week, the World Bank said India had emerged as the world’s sixth largest economy in 2017 with GDP of $2.59 trillion, surpassing France and is likely to go past the UK, which is at the fifth position.
  • While the IMF has cut GDP growth forecast for India and Brazil, it has retained it for the United States, Russia, and China, the outlook for some oil exporters has strengthened.

NATIONAL

President clears Bill against witch-hunting

  • President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent to the Bill against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago
  • It was prepared in lines with spirit of universal declaration of human rights, crimes in witch hunting cases cause gross violation of basic human rights

Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015

  • The law aims to eliminate superstition from society by making such offence under it as non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable. It prohibit an person from calling, identifying or defaming any other person as witch b words, signs, conducts or indications. State Government has already notice the Act.
  • Cases and offences registered under this law will undergo trail Special courts which will be set up in consultation with the high court.
  • The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch.
  • It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch.
  • The legislation is crucial in the present context in which communication technology is being used to magnify superstitious beliefs, black magic and social prejudices with fatal consequences, primarily affecting the life of marginal groups

Ministry of Road Transport & Highways

Amendments Proposed to Central Motor Vehicles Rules

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified draft amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, making FASTags and Vehicle Tracking System device mandatory for all commercial vehicles obtaining national permit.
  • The front wind screen of the vehicle will have to be affixed with a sticker confirming fitting of the Fastag.
  • The draft amendments also stipulate other additional conditions for obtaining national permit that include display of the words “National Permit or N/P” in the front and rear of the vehicles in bold letters.
  • The body of a tanker carrying dangerous or hazardous goods has to be painted in white colour and display the prescribed class label on both the sides and rear of the tanker.
  • The proposed amendment also provides that no fitness certification shall be required at the time of registration for new transport vehicles sold as fully built vehicles.
  • Such vehicles will be deemed to be having certificate of fitness for a period of two years from the date of registration.
  • It has also been proposed that fitness certificate of transport vehicles will be renewed for a period of two years for vehicles up to eight years old and for one year for vehicles older than eight years.
  • The proposed amendment also provides that Driving License and Pollution Under Control certificates can be carried in physical or digital form.

State Specific

Paudhagi campaign

What

  • Haryana Government has launched ‘Paudhagi campaign

WHY

  • to increase green cover the state.
  • It was launched by Chief Minister Manohar L Khattar by planting ‘maulsari’ sapling

Enlighten about the campaign

  • The campaign aims increase green cover in the state, help in stabilising environment and improve overall climatic conditions
  • Under this campaign, 22 lakh students studying in Class 6th to 12th of a government and private schools will plant sapling each, during three month of monsoon ( July, August and September).
  • State forest department w provide sapling to every student
  • Every student planting sapling will take care of it for next three years.
  • State Government will give incentive of Rs 50 in every six months from government, after student upload his selfie with his or her plant on App planted by him or her

Sources – PIB , The Hindu , Live mint and PRS