Polity & Governance
- Revised guidelines on Parole, furlough
Issues related to Health & Education
- Teachers’ Day
- Young child outcomes report
- Yanomami Tribe talking to Indians about Blood Gold
- RBI alters priority sector norms
- What counts as ‘Act of God’?
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Project Dolphin: Why is it important to save a declining river species?
Bilateral & International Relations
- Defence minister addresses Combined Meeting in Moscow
Key Facts for Prelims
- Indra Navy
- 5th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meet
- Section 144(2) of the Railway Act, 1989
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Polity & Governance
Revised guidelines on Parole, furlough
Expressing concern over crimes being committed by prisoners on parole, furlough or by those prematurely released, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent an advisory to states, asking them to exercise due diligence in releasing prisoners and follow the guidelines it issued.
- MHA argued that “release on parole is not an absolute right” and is a “concession”, and has asked states to review their existing practices for such an exercise.
States were asked to include four new provisions in guidelines for release of prisoners:
- Grant of parole and furlough to those offenders whose release may have adverse impact on the security of the State or safety of individuals may be strictly restricted.
- The parole rules of states, including the criteria, duration and frequency, may be reviewed after making an assessment based on their experience about the benefits and detriments of such parole.
- Parole and furlough may not be granted as a matter of routine and may be decided by a committee of officers and behavioral experts, keeping in view all relevant factors, especially for inmates sentenced for sexual offences and serious crimes such as murder, child abduction, violence etc.
- It may be useful to invariably include an expert psychologist/ criminologist/ correctional administration expert as a member of the sentence review board and in the committee which decides grant of parole and furlough to inmates and obtain their opinion before such temporary release.
Parole and Furlough
- Parole is a system of releasing a prisoner with suspension of the sentence. The release is conditional, usually subject to behaviour, and requires periodic reporting to the authorities for a set period of time.
- Parole may be denied to a convict while furlough is seen as a matter of right, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason and to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties.
- Parole is not a matter of right and may be denied to a prisoner even when he makes out a sufficient case.
- Furlough is typically given in cases of long jail terms. The period of furlough granted to a prisoner is treated as remission of his sentence.
- Usually, furlough can be obtained thrice a year and is given to inmates with good behaviour.
How does the parole system work?
- Parole is granted by the state executive and competent authority takes a final decision on grant of parole on humanitarian considerations.
- If parole is rejected, the convict can move the High Court challenging the order of the competent authority.
- Also, apart from regular parole, the superintendent of a jail can also grant parole up to a period of seven days in emergent cases.
Issues related to Health & Education
The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, has greeted teachers across the country on the eve of Teachers’ Day.
The President of India also virtually confer National Award to Teachers of the country.
Key facts on Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
- Dr S Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary is celebrated as Teacher’s day in India since 1962.
- He was the first Vice President of India and the 2nd President of the country.
- Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on 5 September 1888 at Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu.
- He taught Philosophy at Madras Presidency College. He then held the post of Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936, followed by Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1939.
- He was named as Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford.
- He was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1954. In the same year he received the German “Order pour le Merite for Arts and Science” and in 1961 the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
- Radhakrishnan was nominated 16 times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and another 11 times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
- During his tenure as the Vice President, Radhakrishnan, he would quote slokas from Sanskrit classics or quotes from the Bible during the sessions in Rajya Sabha, to calm the agitated audience.
- Dr Radhakrishnan was elected chairman of UNESCO’s executive board in 1948.
National Awards to Teachers
- The national level awards are given to teachers on Teachers’ Day to celebrate the unique contribution of some of the finest teachers in the country and to honour those teachers who through their commitment have not only improved the quality of school education but also enriched the lives of their students.
- The guidelines for National Award to Teachers were revised in the year 2018 making the process online, transparent and three stage with inclusion of National Level Jury.
- Online self-nomination from teachers on mhrd.gov.in
- All regular teachers eligible. No minimum years of service required.
- No State/UT/Organization quota for final selection.
- Final selection by Independent National Jury from amongst shortlisted candidates’ list received from States/UTs/Organizations.
- Number of awards rationalized to 45 (the Jury may select 2 teachers under Special Category for differently abled teachers etc.).
Kerala tops in care for children
Young child outcomes report recently brought out by non-governmental organisation Mobile Creches.
About the report
- The index is part of the ‘State of the Young Child’ in India report released the 50-year-old NGO, which works in the field of early childhood care and development by ensuring creche services at construction sites and slum settlements across several cities.
- The index has been constructed for two time periods (2005–2006 and 2015–2016) to enable inter-State comparisons as well as provide an idea of change over time.
- Another index called the young child environment index by State of the Young Child’ in India to understand the policy and environment enablers that influence a child’s well-being.
- According to the environment index; Kerala, Goa, Sikkim, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh secured the top five positions.
- It uses five policy enablers that influence child well-being outcomes, including poverty alleviation, strengthening primary healthcare, improving education levels, safe water supply and promotion of gender equity.
Highlights of the report
- The index measures health, nutrition and cognitive growth with the help of indicators such as infant mortality rate, stunting and net attendance at the primary school level.
- Kerala, Goa, Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Mizoram are among the top five States for well-being of children.
- It identifies eight States that have scores below the country’s average: Assam, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- Towards child nutrition, healthcare, education and other necessary protection services, India spent ₹1723 per child in 2018–2019.
- The budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development has seen a year-on-year increase, all the additional funds have been allocated towards nutrition delivery under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Bilateral & International Relations
Defence minister addresses Combined Meeting in Moscow
Defence minister addressed the Combined Meeting of Defence Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Member States in Moscow.
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
- The CSTO is a Russia-led military alliance of seven former Soviet states that was created in 2002.
- The CSTO’s purpose is to ensure the collective defence of any member that faces external aggression. CSTO has six member states.
- It has been described by political scientists as the Eurasian counterpart of NATO.
- The organization supports arms sales and manufacturing as well as military training and exercises, making the CSTO the most important multilateral defence organization in the former Soviet Union.
- Current CSTO members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan.
- Afghanistan and Serbia hold observer status in the CSTO.
- The organization uses a rotating presidency system in which the state leading the CSTO changes every year.
- CSTO also coordinates efforts in fighting the illegal circulation of weapons among member states and has developed law enforcement training for its members in pursuit of these aims.
- Members also use organization to counter cyber warfare, narcotics trafficking, the illegal circulation of weapons, transnational crime, and terrorism.
- Collective Security Council (CSC) is the highest body of the CSTO and comprises the heads of member states.
- Chairman is the head of the country that holds the rotating chairmanship.
- Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs is the executive and advisory body of the CSTO.
- The CSTO Joint Staff is a permanent working body of the Organization.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
- The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
- In the adopted Declaration the participants of the Commonwealth declared their interaction on the basis of sovereign equality.
- At present the CIS unites: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
- In 2005, Turkmenistan withdrew from the CIS, and is now classified as an associate member.
- This group of states loosely agreed to work together on a large list of mutual issues, including economics, defense and foreign policy.
- The CIS performs its activities on the basis of the Charter, adopted by the Council of Heads of States on 22 January 1993 which stipulates the goals and principles of the Commonwealth, and rights and obligations of the countries.
- The Charter states that the Commonwealth was formed on the basis of sovereign equality of all its members and that the Member States were independent and equal subjects under international law.
- The Charter also states that the CIS serves the development and strengthening of friendship, inter-ethnic accord, trust, mutual understanding, and cooperation between States.
- The Commonwealth does not have supranational powers. Countries’ interaction within the CIS is accomplished through its coordinating institutions.
Charter Bodies of the CIS
- Council of the Heads of States
- Council of the Heads of Governments
- Council of Foreign Ministers
- Council of Defense Ministers
- Council of Commanders-in-Chief of Frontier Troops
- Inter-Parliamentary Assembly
- Economic Court
Executive Bodies of the CIS:
- Economic Council
- Council of Permanent Plenipotentiary Representatives of the States-Participants of the Commonwealth under Charter and Other Bodies of the Commonwealth
- Executive Committee
RBI alters priority sector norms
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has overhauled its priority sector lending (PSL) norms to augment funding to segments including start-ups and agriculture. The RBI last revised PSL norms in 2015.
- A comprehensive review of the Priority Sector Lending (PSL) guidelines done to align with emerging national priorities and bring sharper focus on inclusive development.
- The revised PSL guidelines will enable better credit penetration to credit deficient areas, increase the lending to small and marginal farmers and weaker sections, boost credit to renewable energy, and health infrastructure.
- Targets prescribed for small and marginal farmers and weaker sections will be increased in a phased manner.
- Banks can now lend up to Rs 5 crore to Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and individual households can get loans up to Rs 10 lakh for renewable energy generation.
- Loans up to Rs 5 crore for setting up schools, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities.
- New norms will benefit micro lenders who cater to the priority sector as the banks have been allowed to buy such loans or invest in securitised assets, representing loans to various categories of priority sector, except ‘others’ category, and these will qualify for priority sector.
- The fresh categories eligible for finance under priority sector include loans to farmers for installation of solar power plants for solarisation of grid-connected agriculture pumps and loans for setting up Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) plants.
- Loan limits for renewable energy have been doubled. Commercial banks have been instructed to adhere to the revised guidelines.
- Incentivize credit flow to specific segments like clean energy, weaker sections, health infrastructure and credit deficient geographies.
- Regional disparities have been corrected in the flow of priority sector credit by giving higher weightage to fresh loans in identified districts where priority sector credit flow is comparatively low.
- From FY 2021-22, a higher weight (125%) would be assigned to the incremental priority sector credit in the identified districts where the credit flow is comparatively lower (per capita PSL less than ₹6,000), and a lower weight (90%) would be assigned for incremental priority sector credit in identified districts where the credit flow is comparatively higher.
- The districts other than those mentioned in both the lists will continue to have existing weightage of 100%.
- Home loans have dominated priority sector lending as these were seen as the safest in this category by banks.
- Around 40% of bank loans are to mandatorily be made in the priority sector.
- Lenders who fail to do so are penalised by being forced to invest in low-yielding government investments.
What is Priority sector landing?
- A large portion of the population in India doesn’t have access to funds. Therefore, RBI has adopted Priority Sector Lending norms which relaxes the lending norms for poor and small businesses.
- Priority Sector includes the following categories:
- Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
- Export Credit
- Social Infrastructure
- Renewable Energy
- In total priority sector, targets given to domestic scheduled commercial banks is 40 per cent of Adjusted Net Bank Credit or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher.
- For agriculture, 18 per cent of ANBC or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher. The activities covered under Agriculture are classified under three sub-categories viz. Farm credit, Agriculture infrastructure and Ancillary activities.
- For Micro Enterprises, 7.5 percent of ANBC or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher.
- For Advances to Weaker Sections, 10 percent of ANBC or Credit Equivalent Amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher.
- All the above targets are applied to domestic scheduled commercial banks (excluding Regional Rural Banks and Small Finance Banks) and Foreign banks with 20 branches and above.
Priority Sector Lending Certificates (PSLCs)
- PSLCs are a mechanism to enable banks to achieve the priority sector lending target and sub-targets by purchase of these instruments in the event of shortfall.
What counts as ‘Act of God’?
Attributing the shortfall in GST collections to disruptions due to Covid-19, Finance Minister said the economy is facing an Act-of-God-like situation.
The Finance Ministry had issued an office memorandum inviting attention to the force majeure clause (FMC) in the 2017 Manual for Procurement of Goods issued by the Department of Expenditure clarifying that the pandemic “should be considered a case of natural calamity and FMC may be invoked, wherever considered appropriate”.
- The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed across the globe to contain the spread of the virus has resulted in major disruptions in economic activity.
- Businesses are looking towards a legal provision — the force majeure or “Act of God” clause that has its origins in the Napoleonic Code — to cut losses.
About Force Majeure Clause
- The law of contracts is built around a fundamental norm that the parties must perform the contract.
- When a party fails to perform its part of the contract, the loss to the other party is made good. However, the law carves out exceptions when performance of the contract becomes impossible to the parties.
- A force majeure clause is one such exception that releases the party of its obligations to an extent when events beyond their control take place and leave them unable to perform their part of the contract.
- FMC is a clause that is present in most commercial contracts and is a carefully drafted legal arrangement in the event of a crisis.
- When the clause is triggered, parties can decide to break from their obligations temporarily or permanently without necessarily breaching the contract.
- Companies in such situations use the clause as a safe exit route, without having to incur the penalty of breaching the contract.
- An “Act of God” is understood to include only natural unforeseen circumstances, whereas force majeure is wider in its ambit and includes both naturally occurring events and events that occur due to human intervention.
Situations that legally qualify for use of force majeure
- Some contracts would have specific circumstances that are more focused. For example, a shipping contract would have a force majeure clause that could cover natural disaster like tsunami.
- War, riots, natural disasters or acts of God, strikes, introduction of new government policy imposing an embargo, boycotts, outbreak of epidemics and such situations are generally listed.
- If an event is not described, then it is interpreted in a way that it falls in the same category of events that are described.
- A force majeure clause is negotiated by parties, and events that could potentially hamper the performance of the contract are catalogued.
- It is not invoked just by expressing that an unforeseen event has occurred.
- In case a contract does not have a force majeure clause, there are some protections in common law that can be invoked by parties.
- For example, the Indian Contract Act, 1872 provides that a contract becomes void if it becomes impossible due to an event after the contract was signed that the party could not prevent.
A force majeure clause triggered
- If a party to a contract believes that the other party has invoked the force majeure clause in an unjustified situation, it can move court seeking performance of the contract.
- Court looks into whether the party arguing impossibility of performance has tried all other avenues to fulfil its liabilities before invoking force majeure.
- The court would also look into how unforeseen the cited circumstance really is when catalogued in the contract specifically.
- In China, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated, the Council for Promotion of International Trade is issuing force majeure certificates to businesses.
- Singapore enacted the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act in April to provide relief to businesses that could not perform their contractual obligations due to the pandemic.
- The Paris Commercial Court in July ruled that the pandemic could be equated to a force majeure event.
- In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority has brought in a test case before the High Court to look into business insurance contracts and interpret the standard wordings in such contracts.
- The International Chamber of Commerce has developed a Model Code on the force majeure clause reflecting current international practice.
Yanomami Tribe talking to Indians about Blood Gold
From the remote rainforests of Brazil, a little-known tribe has made an emotional appeal to Indian government and the companies which import it to stop buying Blood Gold from Yanomami territory.
The appeal, by Dario Kopenawa was posted in a video online with English subtitles by Survival International.
Gold rush in Yanomami country
- Since the 1980s, the Yanomami have been facing an onslaught from illegal gold miners.
- Yanomami land was invaded by up to 40,000 miners who killed the indigenous people, destroyed their villages, and brought them deadly diseases. A fifth of the Yanomami population perished in just seven years.
- The situation is getting more desperate as the number of illegal gold miners has increased dramatically in the last few years.
- Yanomami communities near the illegal mining zones are facing dangerously high levels of mercury contamination.
- Following a sustained campaign led by Survival International, the Brazilian government notified a ‘Yanomami Park’ in 1992, and the miners were expelled.
- The Yanomami live in the rainforests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, and are the largest relatively isolated tribe in South America.
- The Yanomami are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait from Asia into North America perhaps 15,000 years ago, and travelled southward to their home in the Amazon.
- The Yanomami practise an ancient communal way of life. They live in large, circular houses called yanos or shabonos, some of which can hold up to 400 people.
- Rituals, feasts and games are held in the main, central area.
- Each family has its own hearth where food is prepared and cooked during the day. At night, hammocks are slung near the fire which is stoked all night to keep people warm.
- A hunter in Yanomami does not eat the meat he has killed. He shares it out among friends and family. In return, he will be given meat by another hunter.
- The Yanomami consider all people to be equal, and do not have a chief. Instead, all decisions are based on consensus after long discussions and debates.
- Gold mined illegally in Yanomami land has most likely been coming to India since at least 2018 or even before as traded on the black market for years.
- A third of the gold produced in Brazil is sold as jewellery in India and China.
- India was the fourth largest importer of Brazilian gold in the world.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Project Dolphin: Why is it important to save a declining river species?
In his Independence Day Speech this year, Prime Minister announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin. The proposed project is aimed at saving both river and marine dolphins.
About Project Dolphin
- Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.
- Such an initiative got in-principle approval in December 2019, at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC), headed by the Prime Minister.
- Special Conservation program needs to be taken up for Gangetic Dolphin (national aquatic animal) and also indicator species for the river Ganga spread over several states.
- Project Dolphin will involve conservation of Dolphins and the aquatic habitat through use of modern technology specially in enumeration and anti-poaching activities.
- The project will engage the fishermen and other river/ ocean dependent population and will strive for improving the livelihood of the local communities.
- The conservation of Dolphin will also envisage activities which will also help in the mitigation of pollution in rivers and in the oceans.
- So far, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which implements the government’s flagship scheme Namami Gange, has been taking some initiatives for saving dolphins.
- Project Dolphin is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
About Gangatic river
- The Gangetic river system is home to a vast variety of aquatic life, including the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
- The Gangetic dolphin is one of five species of river dolphin.
- It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems.
- An adult dolphin could weigh between 70 kg and 90 kg.
- The breeding season of the Gangetic dolphin extends from January to June. They feed on several species of fishes, invertebrates etc.
- Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds.
- Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.
- This fresh water dolphin species is practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey.
- It has been declared endangered species and is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- Since the Gangetic Dolphin is a Schedule I animal under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, use of its body parts, such as tissue and oil, is illegal.
Important to save dolphins
- Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems. As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure conservation of aquatic lives of the river.
- Construction of dams and barrages, and increasing pollution have led to a decline in the population of aquatic animals in the rivers in general and of dolphins in particular.
Efforts so far to save Gangetic dolphins
- After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government on November 24, 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972.
- The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020.
- On October 5, 2009, Gangetic river dolphin was declared as the national aquatic animal.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.
[Ref: Indian Express]
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is a biennial bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy.
- Recently, 11th edition of exercise was held in Bay of Bengal from 04 to 05 September 2020.
- It was Initiated in 2003. Aim is to further consolidate inter-operability built up by the two Navies over the years.
- Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, INDRA NAVY-20 would be undertaken in a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ format.
- The last edition of the exercise was conducted off Visakhapatnam in December 2018.
- It is a “24×7 Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline.
- It has been developed by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to provide relief and support to persons with Mental Illness.
- This assumes great significance in view of the growing incidence of Mental Illness, particularly in the wake of COVID-19 Pandemic.
- This will offer early screening, first-aid, psychological support, distress management, mental well-being, promoting positive behaviors, psychological crisis management etc.
- It will provide 1st stage advice, counseling and reference to individuals, families, NGOs, Parent Associations, Professional Associations, Rehabilitation Institutes, Hospitals or anyone in need of support.
5th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meet
- Union Minister of State (I//C) for Culture and Tourism attended 5th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meeting on September 3, 2020.
- The meeting was held through video conference under Chairpersonship of Russian Federation.
- BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
- It is an association of five major emerging national economies established in 2009.
- It together represents about 42% of the world population, 23% of GDP, 30% of the territory and 18% of the global trade.
- The acronym BRIC was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, projecting that economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively be amongst the world’s largest economies in the next 50 years or so.
- South Africa joined this informal group in 2011 and BRIC became BRICS.
- The first formal summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
- The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries.
- All five BRICS nations are G-20 members.
- National Gallery of Modern Arts, New Delhi will host the BRICS Joint Exhibition titled ‘Bonding Regions & Imagining Cultural Synergies’ under the auspices of the BRICS Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries.
- The exhibition is proposed to be organized in 2021 coinciding with the BRICS event that India would be hosting in 2021.
Section 144(2) of the Railway Act, 1989
- Ministry of Railways has proposed to decriminalize begging on trains or railway premises.
- Section 144(2) of the Act says that if any person begs in any railway carriage or upon a railway station, he shall be liable for punishment as provided under sub-section (1), which prescribes imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine that may extend to ₹2,000, or with both.
- railway proposed to amend the Section stating that “No person shall be permitted to beg in any railway carriage or upon any part of the Railway”.