Polity & Governance
- Legislation against Doping
- Lokpal panel: CJI among equals
- Judicial performance index proposed
- PM launches low-cost flights
- Flexible pension for informal staff mooted
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Sri Lanka ink key agreement on economic cooperation
- Bhutan out of vehicle pact
Key Facts for Prelims
- Poet Shankha Ghosh conferred Jnanpith Award
- All-woman battalion
- Bhubaneswar- First Indian city to win Pierre L’enfant Awards-2017
Polity & Governance
Legislation against Doping
Advocating a zero tolerance policy towards doping, Sports Minister Vijay Goel has asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to consider the possibility of making it a criminal offence.
- The minister has also directed NADA, the Indian Olympic Association, the National Sports Federations and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to adopt a policy of ‘Zero tolerance’ towards doping.
- NADA has also been directed to sensitise the players at grassroots level about the ill-effects of doping through regular seminars and information campaigns at schools and colleges.
About World Anti-Doping Agency:
- WADA is global Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that aims at harmonizing anti-doping regulations in all sports and countries.
- It is collective initiative led by the International Olympic Committee.
- It was established in 1999 in Lausanne Switzerland under so called Declaration of Lausanne to coordinate, promote and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. Its headquarters is in Montreal, Canada.
- The agency’s key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code, whose provisions are enforced by the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.
- Government of India is one of the Foundation Members of World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) (1999-2002).
- National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) was set up as registered society under the Societies Registration Act of 1890 on November 24, 2005 with a mandate for Dope free sports in India.
- The primary objectives are to implement anti-doping rules as per WADA code, regulate dope control programme, to promote education and research and creating awareness about doping and its ill effects.
About UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport:
Given that many governments cannot be legally bound by a non-governmental document such as the World Anti-Doping Code, they are implementing it by individually ratifying the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.
- It is the first global international treaty against doping in sport, which was unanimously adopted by 191 governments at the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005 and came into force in February 2007.
- The UNESCO Convention is a practical and legally binding tool enabling governments to align domestic policy with the World Anti-Doping Code, thus harmonizing the rules governing anti-doping in sport.
- It formalizes governments’ commitment to the fight against doping in sport, including by
- Facilitating doping controls and supporting national testing programs;
- Encouraging the establishment of “best practice” in the labelling, marketing, and distribution of products that might contain prohibited substances;
- Withholding financial support from those who engage in or support doping;
- Taking measures against manufacturing and trafficking;
- Encouraging the establishment of codes of conduct for professions relating to sport and anti-doping; and funding education and research.
Lokpal panel: CJI among equals
The Supreme Court has upheld the provision of the Lokpal law giving no primacy to the Chief Justice of India’s opinion on who should be appointed as Lokpal Chairperson and Members.
The judgement came based on a petition filed by an NGO — Just Society — against the Lokpal Act of 2013 not giving any primacy to the opinion of the CJI or his nominee judge in the matter of selection of Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal.
- The Chief Justice of India’s opinion need not always get primacy. It is the prerogative of the legislature to decide whether the opinion of the Chief Justice of India should get primacy.
- It is not the mandate of the Constitution that in all matters concerning the appointment to various offices in different bodies, primacy must be accorded to the opinion of the Chief Justice or his nominee.
Implementation of the act:
- Terming the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 an “eminently workable piece of legislation”, the court asked the government to proceed ahead with the appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members even in the absence of a recognised Leader of Opposition (LoP).
- The judgment goes against the very logic of the government’s argument that appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members is not currently possible, and would have to wait till the 2013 Act is amended to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader.
Judicial performance index proposed
NITI Aayog has proposed a slew of measures in its recently released draft three-year action plan to improve judicial performance and policing in the country.
Proposed measures to improve judicial performance:
- A judicial performance index should be introduced to reduce delays. This could help High Courts and their chief justices keep track of the performance and processes at district courts and subordinate levels for reducing delay.
- The performance index for courts will entail fixing of ‘non-mandatory time frames for different types of cases to benchmark when a case has been delayed.’
- The index can also include certain progress on process steps already approved by High Courts and such an annual evaluation should give judges in High Courts ‘a sense of where they are failing and what they need to fix.’
- Since the subordinate judiciary is largely within the domain of the High Courts, this could also spur competitive reform of the judiciary in those States.
- Repeal all irrelevant legislation by March 2019 and reform land ownership laws — which account for 67% of litigants in civil suits.
- Citing inordinate delays in India’s judicial system and its low rank on enforcing contracts in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report for 2017, the think tank has also called for streamlining judicial appointments on the basis of online real-time statistics on the workload of pending cases.
- Such data will help enable priority appointment of judges at the lower judiciary levels keeping in mind a scientific approach to assess the number of judges needed to tackle pendency.
Proposed measures to improve policing:
- Create a task force to identify ‘non-core functions’ that can be outsourced to private agents or government departments in order to reduce the workload of the police.
- Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and address verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced.
- India’s police to population ratio should reach the United Nations norms of 222 per lakh population, over the next seven years, from the current level of 137.
- Red-flagging the adverse implications of crimes against women beyond ‘the obvious horror for affected individuals’, the Aayog has asked the Home Ministry to push for greater hiring of women in the police force, with a target of 30% of all new recruits.
PM launches low-cost flights
The first flight under the UDAN —Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik — scheme for regional connectivity was recently inaugurated by the PM.
- The first UDAN flight was inaugurated on the Shimla-Delhi route.
- The Shimla-Delhi flight is operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India.
- The fare for 24 seats onteh flight has been fixed at Rs. 2,036.
- Air India will receive a subsidy of Rs. 3,340 per passenger from the government for capping the fare.
- The government will collect 80% of the subsidy by charging a levy of up to Rs. 50 per ticket on flights deployed on the national route. The remaining 20% will come from respective State governments.
- Five airlines —SpiceJet, Alliance Air, TruJet, Air Deccan and Air Odisha Aviation — recently won bids to fly 128 routes connecting 70 airports under the regional connectivity scheme.
- The ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik’ RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) was launched in October 2016.
- The key objective of the UDAN scheme is to provide regional connectivity so that persons in regional towns are able to take affordable flights.
- It is considered as a vital component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released on June 15, 2016.
- The scheme has been launched to provide connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports.
- This is first of its kind scheme and will be implemented for a period of 10 years. As of now, 128 routes have been identified and declared in the RCS map of India.
- UDAN scheme will make flying easier and affordable for the common man.
- It is hailed as the first-of-its-kind scheme globally to stimulate regional connectivity through a market-based mechanism.
- UDAN network will cover the whole country. Accordingly, 24 airports in the western region, 17 airports in the northern region, 11 in the southern region, 12 in east and 6 in north-eastern parts of the country are proposed to be connected under UDAN.
- The scheme is expected to have positive effects on the economy in terms of employment and investment.
- The scheme will also promote tourism and balanced regional growth.
Flexible pension for informal staff mooted
The ‘Financial Security for India’s Elderly’ report by PFRDA has recommended providing flexibility to workers from the informal economy and the agricultural sector in contributions and withdrawals from pension plans.
- The report also recommends a specific pension scheme for young women along the lines of the government’s Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme for young girls.
Need for flexibility and specific scheme:
- Workers from the informal economy and the agricultural sector should be allowed flexible contributions and withdrawals from pension plans due to the vagaries of their incomes and the risk of disasters.
- Also, agriculture sector employs the highest population in India and is highly dependent on monsoons. In a year of bad monsoons, the earnings of many of the farmers are very low even to suffice their basic needs, let alone put something aside for pension in later years.
- Young girls are labourers who work on a daily basis and are unsure of whether they would be employed the next day.
- Also, since women, who account for 70% of non-workers in India, are financially dependent on their male counterparts, and generally outlive men, the ‘feminisation’ of the elderly is going to be increasingly evident in the years to come, and could bring with it huge fiscal burdens.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Sri Lanka ink key agreement on economic cooperation
Following an overarching Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed recently between India and Sri Lanka, both sides will collaborate in a host of energy and infrastructure projects across the island.
- The MoU provides a road map that will require further discussions.
The MoU includes:
- Setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur in Trincomalee.
- Indian assistance to enhanced use of natural gas in Sri Lanka.
- Joint investment in the petroleum sector and partnerships in highways and transportation, the spotlight remains on the proposed joint venture to develop a World War-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically located port town on the island’s east coast.
- As per the MoU, the countries will also jointly set up Industrial Zones and Special Economic Zones in Sri Lanka. Colombo has been keen on attracting Indian investment into the island.
Bhutan out of vehicle pact
Bhutan government has announced that it is not ready to go ahead with the process at present.
- It asked the other members of the ‘BBIN’ grouping — India, Bangladesh and Nepal — to continue to operationalise it without Bhutan.
- The decision to step out of the BBIN process comes on the back of severe domestic opposition to the motor vehicles agreement, primarily on fears of vehicular pollution and environmental degradation if trucks from neighbouring countries are given access to Bhutan, a country that prides itself on its “carbon neutrality” and preserving the environment.
- The BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement, signed on June 15, 2015, allows vehicles to enter each other’s territory and does away with trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another at the border, a time consuming and costly process.
Key Facts for Prelims
Poet Shankha Ghosh conferred Jnanpith Award
- Eminent Bengali poet and literary critic Sankha Ghosh has been conferred the 52nd Jnanpith Award.
- He is also a Sahitya Akademi awardee. Ghosh was also honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2011.
- The Jnanpith Award is one of the prestigious literary honours in the country. The award was instituted in 1961.
- Any Indian citizen who writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honour.
- The Centre has decided to raise an all-woman India Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Jammu and Kashmir to tackle women stone throwers.
- The all women contingent will be among the five IRBs sanctioned by the Centre for the State last year.
- The women battalion would also be assigned other law and order duties but its personnel will be primarily deployed for tackling protesters.
- The IRBs are being raised to provide jobs to the local youths with 60% of the vacancies to be filled with candidates from the border districts.
- The cost of raising each battalion is around Rs. 61 crore, and 75% of the expenditure will be borne by the Centre.
- IRB personnel are normally deployed in their respective States but they can be sent elsewhere if required.
- The Indian Reserve Battalion is an elite unit trained to deal with a specific situation. It is a type of Armed Police Force that has been sanctioned to States and Union Territories.
Bhubaneswar- First Indian city to win Pierre L’enfant Awards-2017
- Bhubaneswar has become the first Indian city to win Pierre L’enfant International Planning excellence award-2017 instituted by the American Planning Association (APA).
- Bhubaneswar has been chosen for its good and advanced town planning and engaging its residents in the planning process.
- Pierre L’enfant was a French-born American architect and civil engineer. He is credited for designing the layout of the streets of Washington, D.C.
- The American Planning Association (APA) has named an award in his honour to recognize excellence in international planning.
- APA was created in 1978. It is an independent, not for profit educational organization representing the field of urban planning in the United States