Government Schemes & Policies
- Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously passes Disha Act-2019
- Maternity scheme exclusionary, need benefits for all
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- No deal as longest climate talks end in Madrid
- Prime Minister chairs first meeting of National Ganga Council
- Coal Ministry to set up ‘Sustainable Development Cell’
Art & Culture
- Visitor centres at Ajanta, Ellora shut due to pending dues
Science & Technology
- How cars can run on hydrogen
- Government testing GIMs, its secure messaging app
Key Facts for Prelims
- Deepika Padukone to receive Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum
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Government Schemes & Policies
Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously passes Disha Act-2019
Days after the rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019 (Now, Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019). It provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gangrape and expediting trials of such cases to within 21 days.
- Disha is the name given to a veterinarian who was raped and murdered in Hyderabad on in November.
Highlights of the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act 2019:
The objective of the Act is to ensure expeditious trial of the accused arrested in connection with the specified offence perpetrated against women.
Introducing women and children offenders registry
- Provides for establishment of public accessible register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’. The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.
Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes
- At present, provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
Reducing the judgment period to 21 days
- The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period).
- Disha Act reduced it to 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence. (7 days for investigation and 14 for trial).
Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children
- In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from 3 to 7 years of imprisonment. Disha Act, apart from rape, prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
Punishment for harassment of women through social media
- In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years’ imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent.
Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh
- Government will establish special courts, which will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children.
- Andhra Pradesh introduced the ‘Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women & Children Act, 2019′.
Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases
- At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months. Disha Act reduced to three months.
Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts
- There is no such provision in existing laws. Disha Act provides for special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team for investigation of offences related to women and children. The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.
Areas of concern
Criticism over provision of 21-day period
The perception that the convicted would be executed in 21 days after the enactment comes is flawed for the following reasons:
- Can the defence party defend his/her client efficiently in such a short duration? Denial of fair trial is one of the primary reasons cited for challenging the death sentence of the Nibhaya convicts before the Supreme Court of India.
- As per the Act, the appeal must be decided in 45 days which categorically means that the right to appeal of the convicts is allowed. Once the appeal is decided by the High Court, the convicts may prefer an appeal in the Supreme Court by taking recourse to the Special Leave Petition (Criminal) further delaying their execution. The appeal made in 2014 before the apex court in the Nirbhaya case was only decided in 2018.
- Clemency petitions if filed before the President to grant pardon could take its own time before which the person who sought clemency should not be executed.
Other criticism :
- Punishment for abdication of responsibility on the part of law enforcement agencies, in dealing with “specified offence”, is not mentioned in the Act.
- The act does not provide for creating awareness among the public against atrocities perpetrated on women.
- Witness protection scheme also finds no mention in the Act.
- Compensation to the victim from the fund exclusively created for the purpose on the lines of Nirbhaya Fund also finds no mention in the Act.
Right to Speedy Trial Vs. Right to Fair Trial
Right to Speedy Trial in criminal cases is a right under Article 21 of the Constitution as laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Katar Singh vs. the State of Punjab.
However, Right to Fair Trial is also inherent in Article 21 and in the case of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Gujarat, the Supreme Court held that fair trial means:
- a) Trial before an impartial judge;
- b) A fair prosecutor;
- c) Atmosphere of judicial calm; and
- d) A fair trial means a trial in which bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the cause which is being tried is eliminated.
Paying complete heed to the “Justice delayed is justice denied” without paying due regard to “Justice hurried is justice buried” would not yield desired dividends. Therefore, legislation enacted even with a bona fide intention should strike a reasonable balance between the two possibly contradictory rights.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]
Maternity scheme exclusionary, need benefits for all
Three years after a pan-India maternity benefit programme, the chorus on its many exclusions is growing louder.
- The scheme has led to single women and young brides being left out of its purview. Activists urge for a need for reviewing the scheme and making it universal by removing restrictions on the number of children as well as including all women.
Reason for many exclusions under PMMVY
- To get PMMVY benefits, mother have to show the Aadhaar card of her husband. Women who are living with men they are not married to, single mothers and those who may be staying at their natal home were not able to shown her husband’s Aadhaar card and were excluded from the scheme.
- Women must also have the address of their marital home on their Aadhaar card, which often results in newly married couples being either left out or forced to travel.
- Long delays in transferring the cash amount to the beneficiaries
- Requirement of PMMVY that the applicant has to be at least 19 years old also leaves out younger brides, who hesitate in getting their marriages registered as the legal age of marriage is 18 years.
- Also, The PMMVY requires separate undertakings from the woman and her husband that the child for whom they are seeking the benefit is the first living child for both of them, further making it prohibitive.
- Some women have to pay a hefty bribe during the PMMVY application process.
- Long documentation procedures. This is likely to result in many women living on the margins, such as women in custody, migrant and those living in post-conflict situations unable to claim benefits.
About Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
- It is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
- It was previously known as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY).
- This programme has been in force from 1st January 2017.
- Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child.
- Lactating mothers and pregnant women in case of the birth of the first child in the family.
- It is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme under which cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.
- Under the scheme, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) receive a cash benefit of INR 5,000 on fulfilling the respective conditionality.
- The eligible beneficiaries also receive INR 1000 under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets INR 6,000 in three instalments.
- PMMVY is implemented using the platform of Anganwadi Services scheme of Umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) under Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- Under the scheme, the cost sharing ratio between the Centre and the States & UTs with Legislature is 60:40, for North-Eastern States & three Himalayan States, it is 90:10 and 100% Central assistance for Union Territories without Legislature.
- In India, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anemic.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
No deal as longest climate talks end in Madrid
Marathon international climate talks ended with major polluters resisting calls to ramp up efforts to keep global warming at bay and negotiators postponing the regulation of global carbon markets until next year.
About UN Climate Change Conference COP 25
- The UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 took place under the Presidency of the Government of Chile in Madrid, Spain.
- This was the longest COP in history due to extra added days to deliberate on operationalization of global carbon markets. However, COP25 failed to get consensus on global carbon markets.
Decisions made during COP25
- Chile-Madrid Time for Action: A declaration calling on countries to improve their current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, line with the Paris Agreement target of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 1.5 C by the end of the century. So far, the world is on course for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius rise.
- Moreover, along with Carbon market, liability for damages caused by rising temperatures that developing countries were insisting on, will be discussed at the next COP26 at Glasgow, Scotland.
- Delegates agreed to designate funds for the most vulnerable countries to compensate them for the effects of extreme weather events, one of the most pressing issues for small island states and other developing nations.
What are Carbon markets?
- Carbon markets aim to reduce greenhouse gas(GHG, or “carbon”) emissions cost by setting limits on emissions and enabling the trading of emission units.
- Trading enables entities that can reduce emissions at lower cost to be paid to do so by higher-cost emitters, thus lowering the economic cost of reducing emissions.
- There are two main categories of carbon markets: Emissions Trading Systems (ETSs) and a new voluntary scheme defined in the Paris Agreement, article 6.2.
About Emissions Trading Systems (ETS)
- An ETS, also known as a cap-and-trade mechanism, sets a mandatory limit or cap on GHG emissions on a predefined set of emission sources.
- Tradable allowances (tradable emissions permits issued, representing the right to generate a metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent), are allocated to the emitters. The emitters must give allowances equivalent to the GHG emissions they produced. If their emissions exceed, they can purchase excess allowances or other eligible instruments to fill the gap, or pay a fine.
Need of Carbon markets
- Carbon market are conceived to reduce emissions over and above what countries are doing on their own.For example, if a developed country is unable to meet its reduction target, it can provide money or technology to developing country, and then claim the reduction of emission as its own.
- Alternatively, developing country can make the investment, and then offer on sale the emission reduction, called carbon credits. Another country, struggling to meet its own emission targets, can buy these credits and show these as their own.
Pros of Carbon markets
- ETSs have been shown to lower the cost of reducing emissions by internalizing environmental externalities.
- Carbon markets can complement other policy instruments such as carbon taxes and energy-efficiency standards.
- Concessional finance and other support are available to support carbon market development.
Cons of carbon markets
- Determining which sectors are to be covered under an ETS cap, the level of the cap (and successive tightening), and how allowances will be allocated to covered entities, can be a slow process fraught with potential for abuse.
- Allowances have little or no value until emission caps are lowered substantially below baseline levels.
- It is difficult for a carbon market mechanism to capture all GHG emissions, e.g. from transportation and other sectors where most emissions are at the end-user level.
- As opposed to carbon taxes whose prices are stable, carbon prices are affected by many rather unpredictable factors, notably the level of commitment to reducing GHG emissions.
- Under the Paris Agreement, every country has to take action to fight climate change.
The provisions relating to setting up a new carbon market are described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. These are enabling provisions that allow for two different approaches of carbon trading.
- Bilateral arrangements for transfer of emissions reductions. It talks about a wider carbon market in which reductions can be bought and sold by anyone.
- Making ‘non-market approaches’ available to countries to achieve targets. This could include collaboration on climate policy or common taxation, that are not market-based.
Prime Minister chairs first meeting of National Ganga Council
Prime Minister of India chaired the first meeting of the National Ganga Council and said that rejuvenation of the river should be a shining example of cooperative federalism.
- He also deliberated on various aspects of cleaning the river with focus on ‘swachhta’, ‘aviralta’ and ‘nirmalta’.
Namami Gange Programme
- Namami Gange Programme is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by Government in 2014 with budget outlay of 20,000 Crore to accomplish the twin objectives of i) Effective abatement of pollution, conservation and ii) Rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
- Namami Gange is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
Main pillars of the Namami Gange Programme:
- Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure
- River-Front Development
- River-Surface Cleaning
- Public Awareness
- Industrial Effluent Monitoring
- Ganga Gram
Salient features of Namami Gange programme
- Prime focus is on involving people living on the river’s banks in this project.
- Over 1,600-gram panchayats on the banks of Ganga to be made open defecation-free by 2022.
- Setting river-centric urban planning process to facilitate better citizen connects, through interventions at Ghats and Riverfronts.
- Expansion of coverage of sewerage infrastructure in urban habitations on banks of Ganga.
- Development of rational agricultural practices & efficient irrigation methods.
- Ganga Knowledge Centre
National Ganga Council
- The National Ganga Council (NGC) was created in 2016 by replacing National Ganga River Basin Authority.
- The Prime Minister is the head of NGC. NGC has chief ministers of five Ganga basin states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- It was supposed to meet once every year.
About Ganga river
- The Ganga River is among the largest rivers in Asia, flowing from Goumukh in Uttarakhand to the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal.
- It covers 26% of India’s landmass.
- It is a trans-boundary river forming the world’s largest delta, Sunderbans.
- The increasing demand for developmentin ganga basin has resulted in water scarcity and water quality degradation. Nearly all of the sewage, rarely treated, from these settlements enters the basin’s waterways.
- In addition to these domestic and industrial pollutants, hundreds of human corpses and animal carcassesare released in to the river each day as spiritual rites.
- The aquatic wildlife of the Ganga basin is in peril due to reduction in water level, pollution and over exploitation of riverine resources, leading to habitat degradation.
- Additionally, aquatic species like waterbirds and island nesting birdsare greatly impacted due to the change in the system.
- Initiatives to clean the Ganga began with the Ganga Action Plan I in 1986. However, the river remained dirty. So in 2015, government launched the Namami Gange Project.
- The Centre had also said it would establish a 4-battalion Ganga EcoTask Force to spread awareness about pollution and protecting the river. The government also tasked seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to prepare a report on the best strategies to clean up the river.
- The Ganga basin – which also extends into parts of Nepal, China and Bangladesh – accounts for 26 % of India’s landmass.
- The Government has set up the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) to facilitate contributions from individuals, NRIs, corporate entities for funding Ganga rejuvenation projects
Coal Ministry to set up ‘Sustainable Development Cell’
The Coal Ministry will set up ‘Sustainable Development Cell’ (SDC) to address environmental concerns.
About the Sustainable Development Cell
- SDC will promote environmentally sustainable coal mining in India and address environmental concerns during the decommissioning or closure of mines.
- SDC will focus on Land amelioration and afforestation, Air quality, emission and noise management, Mine water management, Sustainable Overburden Management and Sustainable Mine Tourism.
Role of SDC
- Advise, mentor, plan and monitor mitigation measures taken by coal companies for maximising utilisation of available resources in a sustainable way, minimising adverse impact of mining and mitigating it for further ecosystem services.
- Act as nodal point at Ministry of Coal level in this matter.
- Formulate the future policy framework for environmental mitigation measures, including the Mine Closure Fund. It will monitor effective utilization of Mine Closure Fund and Environment budgets of coal companies.
Art & Culture
Visitor centres at Ajanta, Ellora shut due to pending dues
Two tourist visitor centres set up at the Ajanta and Ellora caves by the Maharashtra government with funding from the Japanese International Co- operation Agency (JICA) have been shut due to their pending water and electricity dues worth ₹5 crores.
- These tourist centres have replicas of sculptures in the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Using multimedia, these facilities make tourists understand the Jataka tales. This helps in reducing the time spent by visitors in the caves, which will in-turn help in the longevity of these monuments.
- The Ajanta Caves (nearly 30) are rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the period between 200 BC and 650 AD, located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.
- These caves include paintings, murals, sculptures that illustrate the previous life of Buddha. This form of literature is known as Jataka Tales, and is primarily native to India. Jataka Tales shows Buddha in both human and animal form. They cast light on the possibility of reincarnation or future life of Buddha.
- The Ajanta Caves were carved in the 2nd century out of a horseshoe-shaped cliff along the Waghora River. They were used by Buddhist monks as prayer halls (chaitya grihas) and monasteries (viharas) for about nine centuries, then abruptly abandoned. They fell into oblivion until they were rediscovered in 1819.
- Ellora caves are a group of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain rock cut caves also located in Maharashtra. The 34 caves (out of which 12 are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu and 5 are Jain) at Ellora were excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment.
- Unlike Ajanta caves, these have always remained accessible to human beings.
- Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5th and 11th century A.D., the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29). The Kailasa (Known as Verul in ancient times) in Cave 16 is celebrated as world’s largest monolithic unearthing in the world.
- The most mesmerizing part of the Caves is the Vishvakarma that exemplify Buddhist shrine along with stupas.
- These caves have multi-story building that served as living quarters, kitchens, sleeping cell to the Monks that lived here.
- The Ellora Caves also consist of magnificent sculptures and monuments dedicated to Lord Buddha, Lord Vishwakarma, dwarfs, dancing girls, yakshas and musicians.
Declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1983, the paintings and sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a great influence in the development of art in India.[Ref: The Hindu]
Science & Technology
How cars can run on hydrogen
Supreme Court has asked government to look into the feasibility of hydrogen-based tech to deal with vehicular air pollution in Delhi. India is looking closely at Japan, which has made progress in this field.
What is a Fuel Cell?
- A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical potential energy (energy stored in molecular bonds) into electrical energy.
- The fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate an electric current, water being the only byproduct.
- Stationary fuel cells are the largest and most powerful fuel cells.
Classification of Electric Vehicles
Battery electric vehicle (BEV): No internal combustion engine or fuel tank, and run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.
Conventional hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs): Combine a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, resulting in a hybrid vehicle drivetrain that substantially reduces fuel use.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs): Have a hybrid drivetrain that uses both an internal combustion engine and electric power for motive power, backed by rechargeable batteries that can be plugged into a power source.
Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEVs): They are powered entirely by electricity. They are considered EVs — but unlike BEVs, their range and refuelling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks.
About Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)
- While the fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process, unlike a battery-electricity vehicle, it does not store energy and, instead, relies on a constant supply of fuel and oxygen, in the same way that an internal combustion engine relies on a constant supply of petrol or diesel, and oxygen.
- But unlike the combustion engine cars, there are no moving parts in the fuel cell, so they are more efficient and reliable by comparison.
Pros and Cons of FCEV
Advantages of FCEV
- Produce much smaller quantities of greenhouse gases and none of the air pollutants that cause health problems.
- If pure hydrogen is used, fuel cells emit only heat and water as a byproduct. Such cells are also far more energy efficient than traditional combustion technologies.
Disadvantages of FCEV
- The process of making hydrogen needs energy which is often taken from fossil fuel sources.
- Also, there are questions of safety: hydrogen is more explosive than petrol.
- Electric vehicles are expensive and fuel dispensing pumps are scarce.
FCEV progress in India
- In India, so far, the definition of EV only covers BEVs. For BEVs, the government has lowered taxes to 12%. At 43%, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen FCEVs attract the same tax as petrol/diesel vehicles.
- 14 R&D projects on hydrogen and fuel cells are currently under implementation with the support of the Ministry.
- The Ministry of Science and Technology has supported two networked centres on hydrogen storage led by IIT Bombay and Nonferrous Materials Technology Development Centre, Hyderabad.
Government testing GIMs, its secure messaging app
The government is testing a prototype of an Indian equivalent of popular messaging platforms for secure internal use. GIMS (Government Instant Messaging System) is in the pilot testing stage across some states, including Odisha and have been released to the Indian Navy to be tried out on trial basis.
- The launch of GIMS comes amid the recent controversy over the WhatsApp breach where some Indian users’ mobile devices were targeted through a spyware called Pegasus (developed by Israel-based group)
About GIMS (Government Instant Messaging System)
- GIMS is a messaging platform for employees of Central and state government departments and organisations for intra and inter organisation communications.
- It is designed and developed by the Kerala unit of National Informatics Centre (NIC).
- Like WhatsApp, GIMS employs end-to-end encryption for one-to-one messaging.
- It is being developed as a secure Indian alternative without the security concerns attached with apps hosted abroad or those owned by foreign entities.
- GIMS is being touted as a safer platform as it has been developed in India. Moreover, the server hosting is within India and the information stored would be in NIC-operated data centres that are only meant for captive use by the government and its departments.
Key Facts for Prelims
Deepika Padukone to receive Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum
Deepika Padukone, China’s popular media personality Jin Xing and two other artists have been selected for Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
- Padukone would be given the award for her leadership in raising mental health awareness.
- Crystal Awards celebrate the achievements of leading artists and cultural figures whose leadership inspires inclusive and sustainable change.
- It is given by World Economic Forum (WEF).
- It is hosted by World Economic Forum’s World Arts Forum.