Polity & Governance
- Lok Sabha Passes Bill to Allow Proxy Voting for NRIs
- PM Modi kickstarts environment management system PARIVESH on World Biofuel Day
- WCD to move bill to widen Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act scope
- Rekha Sharma appointed chairperson of NCW
Government Schemes & Policies
- PENCIL online portal for effective enforcement of the Child Labour Act and NCLP Scheme
- Cabinet extends PM Gram Sadak Yojana beyond 12th five-year plan
- Centre clears construction of 4-lane bridge over Kosi river
- NITI Aayog discusses promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming
- Central Silk Board notifies races of silk worm seed
Key Facts for Prelims
- Colour for Registration Mark of Battery Operated Vehicles
- Joint issue of postage stamp between India and South Africa
- ‘Operation Madad and Sahyog’
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Polity & Governance
Lok Sabha Passes Bill to Allow Proxy Voting for NRIs
Lok Sabha has passed Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by voice vote to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters.
- The Bill seeks to amend Representation of People Act (RPA), 1950 and Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 to allow for proxy voting and make certain provisions of these Acts gender-neutral.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill proposes to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics on their own terms.
- The amendment paves the way to remove an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, which requires overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.
- The Bill replaces the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in both Acts. It replaces wife with spouse of a person holding service qualification to vote. It amends RPA, 1951 to permit overseas voter to cast their vote in person or by proxy in constituency where elections are being conducted.
Reasons for passage of this bill:
- Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act provides for registration and inclusion of overseas electors in the electoral rolls.
- Additionally, the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provide for overseas electors to register themselves in the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies on the basis of self-attested copies of their passport and valid visa, and exercise their franchise in person on production of the original passport at the time of voting at the specified polling booth.
- Thus, the rules demand for the physical presence of overseas electors in their respective polling stations in India on the day of polling. This causes hardship to the overseas electors.
This amendment proposes facilitating an external mode of voting, that is, voting by proxy, whereby such electors can exercise their franchise from their places of residence abroad.
Significance of this move:
- If the Bill is passed, overseas voters can appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to certain conditions to be laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. This would considerably mitigate the difficulties presently faced by overseas electors in exercising their franchise.
- The government’s decision to allow NRIs to vote from overseas could emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics as there are 114 countries that conduct such voting.
What is Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act?
Section 20A lays down the special provisions for citizens of India residing outside India. They are as follows:
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, every citizen of India —
- whose name is not included in the electoral roll;
- who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country; and
- who is absenting from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to his employment, education or otherwise outside India (whether temporarily or not), shall be entitled to have his name registered in the electoral roll in the constituency in which his place of residence in India as mentioned in his passport is located.
What is voting by proxy?
- According to the provisions of ‘Representation of the People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017 overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, can appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes on their behalf.
- Also, the overseas Indians would be allowed to use the option of proxy, which till now was only available to service personnel.
Need for Proxy Voting:
Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered.
- This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala).
- Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.
Arguments against proxy voting:
- The fundamental right to equality is the prime argument. How can we give special privilege of distance voting to some people who have migrated abroad when there are many times more domestic migrants who also seek to have a voting right at their homes? It is patently discriminatory.
- There are strict regulations including the model code for campaigning. Bribery and inducements of voters are strictly kept in check. These are impossible to implement abroad.
- There can be no guarantee of NRI voters exercising their vote in a free and fair manner as there can be no check on coercion or inducements by the employers and supervisors. Remember, a majority of foreign migrants are poor workers often at the mercy of their employers who even take their passports into custody.
- There is no guarantee that votes would not be sold to the so called proxy. Nor is it certain that the proxy will vote as per the wishes of the main voter. Secrecy of vote of course goes out of the window.
According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age.
- By granting them proxy voting rights, NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections.
- This decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.
PM Modi kickstarts environment management system PARIVESH on World Biofuel Day
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub) on the occasion of World Biofuel Day.
- PARIVESH is a single window hub for online submission, monitoring, and management of proposals submitted to the Environment Ministry by project proponents to seek various types of clearances.
- It is developed in pursuance of the spirit of ‘Digital India’ and capturing the essence of “minimum government and maximum governance”.
Key features of PARIVESH:
- PARIVESH is a workflow-based application, based on the concept of web architecture.
- It has been rolled out for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by project proponents to the Environment Ministry as well as to the state-level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) to seek various types of clearances – environment, forest, wildlife and coastal regulation zone clearances – from central, state and district-level authorities.
- It has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with technical support from National Informatics Centre, New Delhi.
- The main highlights of PARIVESH include – single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances – environment, forest, wildlife; unique ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and a single window interface for the proponent to submit applications.
- It also assists in online submission and monitoring of compliance reports including geo-tagged images of the site by a regulatory body or inspecting officers even through the Mobile App for enhanced compliance monitoring.
- The facility of Geographic Information System interface for the Appraisal Committee will help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and e-mails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members, and higher authorities to check the delays, if any.
- PARIVESH enables project proponents, citizens to view, track and interact with scrutiny officers, generates online clearance letters, online mailers, and alerts to state functionaries in case of delays beyond stipulated time for processing of applications.
Benefits of PARIVESH:
- With PARIVESH, the Environment Ministry has become more of a facilitator than a regulator.
- PARIVESH offers a framework to generate economic growth and strengthens sustainable development through e-governance.
- PARIVESH automates the entire process of submitting the application and tracking the status of such proposals at each stage of processing.
- With automatic highlighting of non-compliance by the system, PARIVESH helps in improving the overall performance and efficiency of the whole appraisal process.
- PARIVESH also helps the processing authorities, as it has a single window system for central, state and district-level clearances and auto-generation of agenda (based on first come, first served principle), minutes of the meetings and online generation of approval letters.
WCD to move bill to widen Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act scope
Keeping in mind the recent technological advancement in the field of communications such as social media platforms, over the top services etc., The Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) has decided to move a fresh bill to broaden the scope of the Indecent Representation of the Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 to cover audio-visual media and content in electronic form.
About Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986:
- The Government of India has enacted the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986 to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
Need to broaden the scope of the bill:
Since the enactment of the Act, technological revolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication, such as internet, multi-media messaging, cable television, over-the-top (OTT) services and applications e.g. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat, Instagram etc.
- Keeping in mind these technological advancements, it has been decided to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media on one hand and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any media form on the other.
The reformulated Bill proposes following amendments in the parent Act:
- Amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS, MMS etc.
- Amendment in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device or in.
- Insertion of a new definition to define the term publish.
- Amendment in section 4 to include that No person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form.
- Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000
- Creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women (NCW).
- This Authority will be headed by Member Secretary, NCW, having representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.
- This Centralised Authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcasted or publication and investigate/ examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.
Rekha Sharma appointed chairperson of NCW
National Commission for Women (NCW) member Rekha Sharma has been appointed as the chairperson of the NCW.
- She recently stoked a controversy by suggesting abolition of confessions in churches.
- The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
- It was established in January 1992 under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as defined in the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
- The objective of the NCW is to represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
- The commission regularly publishes a monthly newsletter, Rashtra Mahila in both Hindi and English.
Government Schemes & Policies
PENCIL online portal for effective enforcement of the Child Labour Act and NCLP Scheme
As per Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government is following a multi-pronged strategy for elimination of child labour.
- To ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour Act and smooth implementation of the NCLP Scheme a separate online portal PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) has been launched in September 2017.
What is PENCIL portal?
- The PENCIL portal is an electronic platform that aims at involving Centre, State, District, Governments, civil society and general public in achieving the target of child labour free society.
- PENCIL portal has five components — Child Tracking System, Complaint Corner, State Government, National Child Labour Project and Convergence.
- Each district will nominate District Nodal Officers (DNOs) who will receive the complaints.
- Within 48 hours of receiving complaints, DNOs will check genuineness of complaint and take rescue measures in coordination with police, if complaint is genuine.
- So far, 7 states have appointed DNOs.
About National Child Labour Project (NCLP):
- NCLP is central sector scheme launched in in 1988 for rehabilitation of child labour.
- Under it, special schools/rehabilitation centres for rehabilitation of child labourers are opened so that they can be mainstreamed into formal schooling system.
- These centres also provide non-formal education, vocational training, supplementary nutrition and stipend to children withdrawn from employment.
- NCLP has been revised expanded and aligned to the new legislative provisions.
- The legislative changes have been accompanied by creation of additional institutional mechanisms at the district, state and national level for identification and rescue, along with revamping the rehabilitation scheme and a centralized database for case to case monitoring and accountability.
Cabinet extends PM Gram Sadak Yojana beyond 12th five-year plan
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) beyond 12th Five Year Plan period ((2012–2017)).
- It will help in connecting 38,412 habitations at estimated cost of Rs. 84,934 crore. The centre’s share will be Rs 54,900 crore and states’ share is Rs 30,034 crore.
- Initially the targets of PMGSY were to be achieved by March 2022, however, the sunset date of achievement of PMGSY-I was pre-poned to March, 2019, with enhanced fund allocation and changed funding pattern i.e. in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.
- Under, PMGSY-II, against the target length of 50,000 km works of upgradation almost 32,100 km road length have been sanctioned in 13 States, which have transited to PMGSY-II. Against the sanctions issued, 12,000 km road length has been completed up to March, 2018.
About the PMGSY:
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country.
- Union Ministry of Rural Development is nodal ministry for implementation of Scheme.
- The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
Key features of the scheme:
- For this scheme, 75 paise per litre has been earmarked out of cess levied on high speed diesel.
- It considers habitation as unit for providing connectivity and not revenue village.
- The scheme encourages use of green technologies and non-conventional materials (like waste plastic, geo-textiles, fly-ash, iron and copper slag etc) for constructing rural roads.
Centre clears construction of 4-lane bridge over Kosi river
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the project for construction of 6.930 km long 4-lane bridge at Phulaut in Bihar.
- The construction period for the project is three years and likely to be completed by June 2022.
Significance of this bridge:
- There is a 10 km long missing link between Phulaut and Bihpur on NH-106 and falling in the catchment area of Kosi River. The construction of this new Bridge will fill the existing 30 km long gap between Udakishanganj and Bihpur of National Highway Number 106 in Bihar.
About Kosi river:
- The Kosi river is an intermittent river running both in Nepal and India.
- It originates in Gosainath peak in Tibet.
- In Nepal, this river is commonly referred as ‘Sapta Kosi’ meaning ‘Seven River’. This is because of its seven tributaries — Tamar Koshi, Sun Kosi, Indravati, Dudh Kosi, Arna Kosi, Likhu and Tamur. These tributaries meet at Triveni, from where they are known as ‘Sapta Kosi’.
- It merges with river Ganga at Bhagalpur (Bihar).
- The Kosi drains a part of Tibet, the eastern third of Nepal and Bihar.
- The alluvial cone of the Kosi is one of the biggest in the world.
- In India, it is known as the “Sorrow of Bihar” as the annual floods affect fertile agricultural lands thereby disturbing the rural economy.
- The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and the Sagarmatha National Park are situated on the riverbanks of the Kosi River.
- Corn (maize) is extensively cultivated on the sandy soils of the Kosi’s basin.
NITI Aayog discusses promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming
NITI Aayog held a meeting to discuss the promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming.
What is Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)?
ZBNF is set of natural farming methods where cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero.
- It is a farming practice that believes in natural growth of crops without adding any fertilizers and pesticides or any other foreign elements. It is different from organic farming.
- The word Zero Budget refers to zero net cost of production of all crops. This means that farmers need not purchase fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the healthy growth of crops.
- The inputs used for seed treatments and other inoculations are locally available in form of cow dung and cow urine.
- It requires almost no monetary investment and envisages use of ‘Jeevamrutha’ and ‘Beejamrutha’.
- The main aim of ZBNF is eliminate use of chemical pesticides and uses biological pesticides and promote of good agronomic practices.
- Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection.
Significance of ZBNF:
- It lowers cost of inputs of farmers and gives better capacity to increase the incomes.
- It also protects soil from degradation and helps in retaining soil fertility and is climate change resilient.
Need for such farming methods:
- The neo-liberalization of the Indian economy led to a deep agrarian crisis that is making small scale farming an unviable vocation.
- Both traditional farming, using chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and organic farming are becoming unviable for farmers. The organic farming was costlier than the traditional farming as the farm inputs were expensive.
- Privatized seeds, inputs, and markets are inaccessible and expensive for peasants.
- Indian farmers increasingly find themselves in a vicious cycle of debt, because of the high production costs, high interest rates for credit, the volatile market prices of crops, the rising costs of fossil fuel based inputs, and private seeds.
- More than a quarter of a million farmers have committed suicide in India in the last two decades. Various studies have linked farmer’s suicides to debt. Debt is a problem for farmers of all sizes in India.
Under such conditions, ‘zero budget’ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers.
Zero Budget Natural Farming in India:
- ZBNF has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.
Initiatives of Indian Government to support ZBNF:
- Government of India has been promoting organic farming in the country through the dedicated schemes of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015-16 and also through Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
- In the revised guidelines of PKVY scheme during the year 2018, various organic farming models like Natural Farming, Rishi Farming, Vedic Farming, Cow Farming, Homa Farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) etc. have been included wherein flexibility is given to states to adopt any model of Organic Farming including ZBNF depending on farmer’s choice.
- Under the RKVY scheme, organic farming/ natural farming project components are considered by the respective State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) according to their priority/ choice.
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under Network Project on Organic Farming (NPOF) and All India Coordinated Research Projects (AICRP) on Integrated Farming Systems, has initiated an experiment on “Evaluation of zero budget farming practices in basmati rice-wheat system” at Modipuram (Uttar Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Kurukshetra (Haryana) from rabi 2017 to study the zero budget farming practices on productivity, economics and soil health including soil organic carbon and soil fertility.
[Ref: The Hindu, FAO]
Central Silk Board notifies races of silk worm seed
Central Silk Board (CSB) has notified recently developed races of silkworm seed of mulberry and Vanya silk for increasing the productivity of cocoons and to increase the income of the farmers engaged in sericulture.
Significance of the move:
- Silk worm breeds for specific agro-climatic condition are essential for increasing the productivity of cocoons.
- The recently notified silkworm races will improve the income of the farmers by its enhanced productivity and quality.
Notified silkworm races:
Tropical Tasar Silkworm (BDR-10) race:
- It is developed by the CSB. It has 21% more productivity than the traditional Daba breed.
- Farmers can get upto 52 kg cocoons per 100 disease free layings (dfls).
- It will help the tribal farmers of Jharkhand, Chattishgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.
Multivoltine x Bivoltine Mulberry hybrid (PM x FC2) race:
- It can produce 60 kg per 100 Dfls and the race is better than earlier race PM x CSR.
- Due to high quality silk and significant egg recovery, this race is suitable for the farmers of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharastra.
Eri Silkworm (C2) race
- It has been found better than local breed and it can produce 247 numbers of Eri cocoons per 100 Dfls.
- This race is suitable for the farmers in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
About Central Silk Board (CSB):
- CSB is a statutory body established under the Central Silk Board Act, 1948.
- It functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Textile.
- It is a national organization for overall development of silk sector in India.
Key Facts for Prelims
Colour for Registration Mark of Battery Operated Vehicles
- Transport Ministry Notifies Colour for Registration Mark of Battery Operated Vehicles.
- All Battery Operated Vehicles shall now exhibit their registration mark in Yellow colour on Green background for transport vehicles and for all other cases, in White colour on Green background.
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified amendments to Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 to this effect.
Joint issue of postage stamp between India and South Africa
- The Union Cabinet gave its approval for the joint issue of postage stamps between India and South Africa on the theme of 20 years of strategic partnership between the two countries.
- Released in June 2018, a commemorative postage stamp depicts the images of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh thinker Deendayal Upadhyaya and Oliver Reginald Tambo of South Africa.
‘Operation Madad and Sahyog’
- The Southern Naval Command at Kochi has launched ‘Operation Madad’ to assist the state administration and undertake disaster relief operations due to unprecedented flooding in many parts of Kerala following incessant rainfall and release of excess water from Idukki and other dams.
- Karnataka and Kerala Sub area Headquartered at Bangalore was controlling the ‘Operation Sahyog’ in Kerala.
- Both operations will support rescue and relief efforts of civil administration and National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF).