Polity & Governance
- Shyam Benegal committee submits recommendations on film certification
- Panel suggests fine or jail for celebs in misleading ads
- FSSAI expansion plans shelved by government
- Cure for high medicine bills: A generics prescription law
- PMO asks NITI Aayog to widen ambit of DBT
- Heart of Asia conference begins today in New Delhi
Polity & Governance
Shyam Benegal committee submits recommendations on film certification
A committee chaired by eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal has submitted its recommendations to the government.
- The recommendations broadly cover the areas related to Film Certification Process and its simplification, restructuring staffing pattern of Central & Regional censor advisory panels and Recertification of films for purposes of telecast on television and measures to preserve the identity of Indian Cinema.
- The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity.
- The CBFC should refuse certification only when a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 or when its content crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.
- The categorisation of films should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ and UA15+. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.
About the committee:
The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has constituted a committee, headed by the film-maker Shyam Benegal, to suggest measures to help Central Board of Film Certification members understand the nuances of film certification.
- The committee would also look into the CBFC’s staffing pattern so as to recommend a framework for efficient, transparent and user-friendly services.
- The other members are Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Bhawana Somaaya and Nina Lath Gupta.
About the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC):
The Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
- It is tasked with “regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952“.
- It assigns certifications to films, television shows, television ads, and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in India.
- Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board.
- The Board consists of non-official members and a Chairman (all of whom are appointed by Central Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai.
- The members of the panels are nominated by Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of 2 years.
- At present films are certified under 4 categories
- U: Unrestricted Public Exhibition
- UA: Unrestricted Public Exhibition – but with a word of caution that Parental discretion required for children below 12 years
- A: Restricted to adults
- S: Restricted to any special class of persons
Panel suggests fine or jail for celebs in misleading ads
In its report on the Consumer Protection Bill 2015, a parliamentary panel has suggested legal teeth to make celebrities accountable for misleading advertisements.
Reason for stringent provisions:
- According to the committee, the existing laws are not deterrent enough to discourage manufacturers or publishers from using such personalities for misleading ads. Therefore, it recommends that stringent provisions may be made in the bill to tackle misleading advertisement, as well as, to fix liability on endorsers/celebrities.
- To make celebrities accountable for misleading ads, a Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended stringent provisions including jail term up to five years and hefty penalty of up to 50 lakh in order to protect consumer interest.
- The panel has suggested legal teeth to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to curb misleading ads, besides proposing severe penalties, jail and cancellation of licence of those involved in food adulteration.
- The committee recommends that for first time offence, the offender may be penalised with either a fine of Rs 10 lakh or imprisonment up to two years or both. For second time offence, a fine of Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of five years. For subsequent offences, the penalties may be increased proportionately based on the value of sales volumes of such products or services.
- The panel also suggested the government to clearly and comprehensively define the word ‘endorsement’ in the bill so that there is no room for any misinterpretation or ambiguity.
- Some celebrities have come under fire for endorsing brands misleading consumers. Recently, Indian cricket captain M S Dhoni had to resign as brand ambassador of Amrapali after residents of a housing society started a protest against the builder and the cricketer on social media.
FSSAI expansion plans shelved by government
The plan to expand the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is proposed to be shelved by the government.
- In contrast to expansion, the FSSAI is expected to wind up its regional offices and leave enforcement of safety laws to state governments.
- Also, instead of setting up government labs to test food samples, as was previously planned, FSSAI is expected to depend on private labs.
- With the Rs 800 crore support to states under the central scheme being shelved, it has also been recommended to amend existing regulations, allowing state officials to monitor food safety as an additional duty and not necessarily on a full-time basis.
- In 2014, the government had mooted a draft cabinet note for a Rs 1,750 crore-central scheme for strengthening of FSSAI, e-governance, food safety surveillance and expansion of states’ capacity.
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
- Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
- It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
- The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India. The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.
Cure for high medicine bills: A generics prescription law
The Central government is considering the introduction of a law to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic drugs so that patients can access affordable medicines provided through state-run Jan Aushadhi stores.
Need for a law:
- Usually, doctors don’t prescribe generic medicines supplied through Jan Aushadhi stores. So patients find it tough to ask for the correct generic equivalents.
- Also, ex-factory cost of medicines gets marked up multiple times owing to supply chain costs and incentives for medical representatives. But, the Jan Aushadhi stores are able to provide the same drugs at very cheaper prices.
- The Government, in June 2015, had proposed to open 1000 more stores under the ‘Jan Aushadhi Scheme’ to make available quality generic medicines at affordable prices through these special outlets.
About Jan Aushadhi Scheme:
It is a scheme which seeks to make available quality medicines at affordable prices for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged.
- Under Scheme, less priced quality unbranded generic medicines will be made available through Jan Aushadhi stores which inherently are less priced but are of same and equivalent quality, efficacy and safety as compared to branded generic medicines.
- Under this Scheme, the State Government has to provide space in Government Hospital premises for the running of the outlets (JAS). Government hospitals, NGOs, Charitable Organisations and public societies like Red Cross Society, Rogi Kalyan Samiti typically constituted for the purpose can be operating agencies for the JAS.
- The operating agency for JAS is nominated on the basis of the recommendations of the State government. Operational expenditure is met from trade margins admissible for the medicines.
- The State Government has to ensure prescription of unbranded generic medicines by the Government doctors.
- The Jan Aushadhi Programme is accordingly a self-sustaining business model not dependent on government subsidies or assistance. It is run on the principle of “Not for Profits but with Minimal Profits”.
Importance of the scheme:
The Jan Aushadhi Campaign will help to-
- Improve access to healthcare in as much as cost of treatment would come down substantially. This would enable the Public Health System to increase the coverage.
- Secure a socio-economically viable mechanism/institutional arrangement for efficacious sales of Pharma CPSU products, thereby improving their viability.
- Educate doctors that unbranded generic medicines provide a better option that branded products since quality of generic medicines can be equally efficacious and safe at much lower prices.
- Promote & encourage private industry to sell their quality unbranded generic products through these retail outlets.
- Create consumer awareness by involving private, charitable bodies and NGOs by making them part of the campaign.
- Reduce promotional cost and profits for the benefit of patients.
PMO asks NITI Aayog to widen ambit of DBT
The government is considering expanding the ambit of Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT).
- In this regard, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the NITI Aayog to explore all government services and delivery schemes for this purpose.
- The idea is to try and provide all subsidies through an Aadhaar (the citizen identification scheme)-enabled DBT by 2017-end.
Present status of DBT:
DBT, at present, encompasses various government schemes including directly crediting Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme payments to bank accounts.
- At present, about 30% of DBT is through Aadhaar; about Rs 4,000 crore is paid monthly for 57 such schemes.
- The government has met success in using the mechanism for transfers in cooking gas (liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG) and foodgrain. DBT in LPG has enabled the Centre to eliminate duplication in these accounts.
- For beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System in foodgrain, there’s an option of getting the allotment directly or being paid cash directly into their accounts, especially the new accounts under the Jan-Dhan Yojana.
- Some new transfers, such as those for kerosene, are also planned to be through DBT, this financial year.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Aadhaar Bill, to provide a statutory basis for the scheme to give each citizen a unique identity number, and to give legal teeth for ensuring subsidies and services directly reach the beneficiaries.[Ref: BS]
Heart of Asia conference begins today in New Delhi
The Heart of Asia (HoA) conference began in New Delhi with the objective of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
- The conference is likely to deliberate on a host of issues like combating challenge of extremism and terrorism.
- The key elements of HoA process have been to devise a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the confidence building measures (CBM) in Afghanistan.
- It will also seek to speed up reconstruction in Afghanistan with a focus on enhancing investment and connectivity to the country.
About the Heart of Asia conference:
HoA conference is a part of the Istanbul Process established 2011 which provides a platform to discuss an agenda of regional cooperation with Afghanistan at its centre.
- The 14 member countries of HoA engage in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, by extension, a secure and prosperous region as a whole.
- As permanent co-chair of this regional process, Afghanistan has been recognized as the main focal point/ coordinator of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
14 participating countries are Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Supporting countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK and US.
Supporting Organisations are UN, NATO, SAARC, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).