IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 22nd September 2018
Drinking water programme not effective in Odisha, observes CAG
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Governance and Public services
- Findings of the CAG report on NRDWP
- The implementation of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has not been effective in Odisha.
- It has reached only 3.70% households against its target of covering 35% households by March 2017.
- Digging of tube wells without conducting scientific survey had led to dry wells which deprived the habitations of drinking water and expenditure incurred on them became wasteful.
- The vision of providing safe drinking water to the people living in rural areas at all times could not be achieved in the State.
- Inefficient fund management, instances of delay in the release of funds by the State government and low utilisation due to the slow pace of execution of works were also noticed.
- The target fixed under strategic plan was largely not achieved and water quality monitoring and surveillance was inadequate.
Do you know?
About National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP)
- The Centre had launched the NRDWP on April 1, 2009, and the Odisha State Water and Sanitation Mission, under the Rural Development Department, implement the programme in the State.
- The aim of the NRDWP is to provide every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other basic needs with a minimum water quality standard, which should be conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations.
ISRO setting up launch pad for Gaganyaan mission
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Science and Technology; Space research
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up a third launch pad at Sriharikota to undertake the Gaganyaan manned space flight programme.
- In addition, ISRO is scouting for a location on the western sea coast near Gujarat to set up another launch pad for Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV).
Manned mission to space
- In the Independence Day address this year from the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that an Indian will go to space by 2022.
- Following this, ISRO has announced an ambitious roadmap to put a three-man Indian crew in a low earth orbit for 5-7 days by the 75th Independence Day.
- ISRO has begun work on the manned mission in 2004, and that many of the critical technologies required for human spaceflight have already been validated through various tests — Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Crew Module Atmospheric Re-Entry Experiment and Pad Abort Test.
- ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle, which can carry the heavier payload of the Gaganyaan, and this will take off from the new launch pad.
Small satellite launch
- In addition to the third launch pad at Sriharikota, ISRO is also scouting for a new location near Gujarat for the SSLV.
- ISRO is developing the SSLV to offer affordable launch options for smaller satellites through Antrix, the space agency’s commercial arm.
- ISRO currently piggybacks smaller satellites on the PSLV and GSLV along with bigger satellites.
- The SSLV is expected to reduce the launch time as well as cost less to launch small satellites, which are much in demand.
- ISRO is ready to transfer the entire SSLV “as a whole” to the private industry while the agency would provide the initial hand-holding. The SSLV is expected to be cleared by next year.
Ban on adoption by live-in partners lifted
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Social justice
- Individuals in a live-in relationship will once again be able to adopt children from and within India after the country’s nodal adoption agency decided to withdraw a circular issued earlier this year disallowing them from doing so.
- The Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA), in an earlier circular, barred applicants in a live-in relationship from adopting a child on the ground that “the Authority would like the children to be placed only with a stable family and individuals in a live-in relationship cannot be considered as stable family.”
- It has now decided to withdraw the circular and applications from prospective adoptive parents will be examined on a case-by-case basis.
- The decision will benefit both domestic and international applicants.
Eligibility criteria for adoption
- The eligibility criteria under Adoption Regulations, 2017, permit single women to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys.
- When a married couple seeks to adopt a child, it needs to give its consent for adoption and should be stable marriage for at least two years.
- Applicants have to be physically, mentally and financially stable to raise a child.
Agencies to do eco-impact checks
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Environment and ecology; EIA
- The Union Environment Ministry proposes to allow research organisations and accredited agencies to monitor if companies are complying with environmental conditions.
- The Central Government proposes to introduce the concept of randomised third-party compliance monitoring of the environment clearance conditions through national-level reputed and competent government institutions to be empanelled by the Ministry.
Environment impact assessment in India
- India’s environmental laws require project developers to submit themselves to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), under which an independent agency, commissioned by the project developer, ascertains the likely environmental impact of a proposed project.
- The preparation of an environment impact assessment report and an environment management plan ensures that the adverse environmental impact of projects and activities are assessed and studied and mitigation measures are taken in the implementation of the project to avoid or minimise the adverse environmental impact.
- Currently, depending on the size of projects, they are cleared or rejected — with accompanying caveats that must be adhered to — by the expert appraisal committees of the Central government and the States and the district environment impact assessment authorities.
- The process obligates the project proponent to file a six-monthly compliance report, and regional offices of the Ministry are supposed to check whether industries are complying with these norms.
- However, these offices are frequently understaffed; therefore, to ensure that the rules are complied with, environment and forest ministry proposes to have institutions like the IITs and accredited expert organisations conduct the compliance monitoring.
- Independent observers describe the proposal as a “big shift” in how projects are appraised.
- The core issue of the affected people being kept out of the monitoring and compliance paperwork is embedded in this proposal
SEBI revises KYC norms for foreign portfolio investors
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Indian Economy
- The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has announced the revised guidelines for know your client (KYC) requirement for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs), resident Indians (RIs) and overseas citizens of India (OCIs) to be part of such FPIs investing in India.
- Such NRIs, OCIs and RIs can be part of a FPI if their aggregate holding in such an overseas fund is less than 50% of the corpus of the fund. Further, the individual share of such entities cannot exceed 25% in an FPI.
- The regulator has also laid down that FPIs can be controlled by investment managers that are owned or controlled by NRIs, OCIs or RIs. Such, investment managers, however, need to be properly regulated in their home jurisdiction and also registered with the SEBI.
Time to fulfil norms
- Existing FPIs will be given two years’ time — from the date the new regulations come into force — to fulfill the new eligibility criteria. Also, in case of a temporary breach of the norms, the entity will get 90 days to comply with the regulations.
- Meanwhile, FPIs will be subject to periodic review and any change in material information or disclosure would warrant such a review. For category II and III FPIs from high risk jurisdictions, KYC review would be done annually.
- The new guidelines as laid down by SEBI are largely in line with the recommendations of the H. R. Khan Committee that reviewed the earlier circular issued in April after many overseas investors expressed their discomfort with the conditions stated in the circular.
- According to a section of foreign investors, the earlier requirements were such that they effectively barred NRIs, OCIs and RIs from managing foreign funds.
- While an industry body had pegged the potential outflows at $75 billion due to the earlier diktat of SEBI, the regulator had brushed aside those concerns.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Governance, Organisations
- Government policies and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Is NITI Aayog relevant?
- Independent India inherited an economy ridden with poverty and stagnation. For growth of the economy along with equitable distribution of resources India adopted planning method along with a closed economy.
- With the passing time and development of Indian Economy and society, our needs changed. Now we have an open economy and institutions accordingly.
Do you know?
- During 1947-1991, India had a closed economy with Public sector having dominant role. It was planner, financer as well as implementer. For this we adopted imperative planning.
- In 1991, we opened up our economy. It increased the role of private sector as financer and implementer and restricted the role of government to that of planner or facilitator. For this we need indicative planning.
- Since the nature of planning changed in India, accordingly it was felt that there is a need to change the institutional mechanism as well. Thus NITI Ayog was established with a focus on Indicative planning.
- The New institution NITI Ayog will act as a Think Tank for the government and will act as a systems reform commission.
Achievements of NITI Ayog
A think tank
- It can be visualised as a funnel through which new and innovative ideas come from all possible sources — industry, academia, civil society or foreign specialists — and flow into the government system for implementation.
- It has regular brainstorming sessions with stakeholders from various industries and sectors.
- Initiatives like Ayushmaan Bharat, our approach towards artificial intelligence and water conservation measures, and the draft bill to establish the National Medical Commission to replace the Medical Council of India have all been conceptualised in NITI Aayog, and are being taken forward by the respective Ministries.
An action think tank
- By collecting fresh ideas and sharing them with the Central and State governments, it pushes frontiers and ensures that there is no inertia, which is quite natural in any organisation or institution.
- If it succeeds, NITI Aayog could emerge as an agent of change over time and contribute to the Prime Minister’s agenda of improving governance and implementing innovative measures for better delivery of public services.
Role of Systems Reform commission
- It also works to improve coordination between various stake holders.
- For example, India still has the largest number of malnourished children in the world. We want to reduce this number vastly, but this requires a huge degree of convergence across a number of Ministries, and between Central and State governments.
- NITI Aayog is best placed to achieve this convergence and push the agenda forward.
- NITI Aayog is also bringing about a greater level of accountability in the system. Earlier, we had 12 Five-Year Plans, but they were mostly evaluated long after the plan period had ended. Hence, there was no real accountability.
- NITI Aayog has established a Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office which collects data on the performance of various Ministries on a real-time basis.
- The data are then used at the highest policymaking levels to establish accountability and improve performance.
- This performance- and outcome-based real-time monitoring and evaluation of government work can have a significant impact on improving the efficiency of governance.
Competitive and cooperative federalism
- Using such data, we also come up with performance-based rankings of States across various verticals to foster a spirit of competitive federalism. That is another big mandate of NITI Aayog.
- It identifies the best practices in different States in various sectors and then try to replicate them in other States.
- It also plays an important role of being the States’ representative in Delhi, and facilitates direct interactions with the line ministries, which can address issues in a relatively shorter time.
- The Atal Innovation Mission, which is also established under NITI Aayog, has already done commendable work in improving the innovation ecosystem in India.
- It has established more than 1,500 Atal Tinkering Labs in schools across the country and this number is expected to go up to 5,000 by March 2019.
- It has also set up 20 Atal Incubation Centres for encouraging young innovators and start-ups.
Criticism of NITI Ayog
- It has no role in influencing, let alone directing, public or private investment. It does not seem to have any influence in policymaking with long-term consequences (for instance, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax).
- NITI Aayog is supposed to be a think tank. This implies that while generating new ideas, it maintains a respectable intellectual distance from the government of the day.
- Instead, it does uncritical praise of government schemes. It sings paeans to the virtues of the private corporate sector as the saviour of the Indian economy without realising, let alone appreciating, the foundational and socially oriented contribution of India’s vast public sector.
- Critics say that a country like India cannot transform itself with new ideas and strategies if it doesn’t have a paradigm of planning for development.
- It can’t lift its poor; it can’t be ensured that every working member of the Indian population has a decent job with at least a minimum wage and social/employment security.
- India requires planning that addresses social justice, reduces regional and gender inequalities, and ensures environmental sustainability.
Significance of planning institutions
- Learning from the experience of the now-industrialised countries, the Chinese state ensured that after its market-oriented economic reforms began, its State Planning Commission became more powerful in the state apparatus.
- The result was growth and poverty reduction on a scale unprecedented in history. China became the “factory of the world” — backed by an industrial policy driven by the National Development and Reforms Commission.
- Similarly, in all East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, industrial policy was planned and executed as part of five-year or longer-term plans.
- It was precisely because these countries had planning institutions which went hand in hand with industrial policy that they managed to steer policies through turbulent times in the global economy, thus sustaining growth.
- In most of Latin America/Caribbean (LAC) countries and in Subsaharan Africa (SSA), two full decades of potential economic growth and human development were lost when per capita income barely rose even as populations continued to grow. These countries abandoned planning and became captives of the Washington Consensus.
- On the other hand, the important identifier of East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, which did not experience such “lost decades” in the 1980s and 1990s, were their planning structures, backed by an industrial policy and implemented by learning bureaucracies.
- That is how they were able to ride the wave of their demographic dividend, which comes but once in the life of a nation. India cannot risk going the LAC/ SSA way, since it is already past the midpoint of its dividend.
- While East Asian and Southeast Asian countries still had, and have, five-year plans, what was also integral to their planning was productive use of labour, their most abundant factor, through an export-oriented manufacturing strategy.
- It was this strategy that was lacking in India’s planning. Giving ‘planning’ per se a bad name for poor policy is indicative of an ahistorical understanding of planning.
- If NITI Aayog is to implement such a strategy within a planning framework in India, two major changes in governance structures are needed.
- First, planning will have to become more decentralised, but within a five-year plan framework.
- Second, bureaucracy will need to change from generalist to specialist, and its accountability will have to be based on outcomes achieved, not inputs or funds spent. NITI Aayog should spell out how these reforms will be implemented.
- With its current mandate that is spread across a range of sectors and activities, and with its unique and vibrant work culture, NITI Aayog remains an integral and relevant component of the government’s plans to put in place an efficient, transparent, innovative and accountable governance system in the country.
- It will need to evolve into a much stronger organisation than it is now.
- Though it is introducing new ideas and bringing about a greater level of accountability in the system, but India cannot transform with new ideas without having a paradigm of planning for development.
Connecting the dots:
- Do you think planning in India still relevant today? Critically analyse the role and functioning of NITI Ayog.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Governance issues
- Social justice and empowerment
- Constitution: fundamental rights
Hasty step: Triple Talaq ordinance
- The government introduced a slew of changes to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill.
- It removed the clause that allowed anyone to file an FIR about a triple talaq case, and made the offence cognisable only if the complaint was filed by the victim or her relatives.
- A magistrate was also allowed to compound the offence if the husband and wife arrived at a compromise.
- These changes watered down the Bill’s most contentious provision, its criminality clause, and seemed to signal the government’s inclination to forge a consensus on a fraught issue.
- But these amendments were issued on the penultimate day of Parliament’s Monsoon Session, and there was scarcely any time to debate them in the Rajya Sabha. The matter was deferred to the Winter Session.
- The government decided to short-circuit the legislative process and took the route of an ordinance to criminalise triple talaq.
- The ordinance makes “triple talaq null and void” and will land the offending husband in jail for three years.
- The dilutions to the criminality clause, do constitute the core of the new law. However, by all accounts, several of the Opposition’s reservations remain unaddressed.
- It has reportedly criticised the provision that puts the onus of proving the pronouncement of triple talaq on the wife, while Muslim leaders have said it’s wrong to make the practice a penal offence.
- The government has wielded the argument of gender justice to make a case for the ordinance, and has blamed the Opposition for its intransigence.
- The discriminatory nature of triple talaq is, of course, undeniable, but the government’s approach flattens an issue that has more than one dimension.
- The political environment in the country has given rise to fears that the triple talaq issue is a ruse to stamp majoritarianism.
- With Muslims becoming vulnerable and targets of violence, such fears are not unfounded.
- They were left unaddressed when the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in December last year without much debate.
- However, in the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition raised apprehensions about the Bill’s criminality clause.
- The amendments introduced by the government in August showed its inclination to address such concerns.
- While introducing the changes, Union Law and Justice Minister had said that the government “does not want anyone to misuse the law while ensuring that justice is done”.
- Amplifying the message in that statement required the government to step up its engagement with the Opposition. The complexity of the triple talaq issue demanded thorough legislative scrutiny.
- By rushing through with the ordinance, the government has lost the chance to give the law the nuance such a process would have afforded.
Connecting the dots:
- Explain freedom of religion according to constitution of India. Do you think Triple Talaq Ordinance is breach of freedom of religion? Elucidate.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements with regard to National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP)
- It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme aimed at providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis.
- Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is the Nodal Ministry for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordination of NRDWP.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
Q.2) The Gaganyaan mission unveiled in the country on independence day aims to :
- To send communication satellites to the ISS.
- To send a manned mission to space for the first time.
- To send satellites to MARS to study its atmosphere.
- To build its own international space station in the outer space.
Q.3) Consider the following regarding ‘Central Adoption Resource Authority’ (CARA)
- It is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
- It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
Which of the given statements is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
Q.4) Which of the following Acts make Environment Impact Assessment mandatory in India?
- Indian Forest Act
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act
- Wildlife Protection Act
- Environment (Protection) Act
Q.5) Consider the below statements about NITI Aayog:
- It enjoys the power of allocating funds to ministries and state governments.
- It includes the Chief Ministers of all States and the Lieutenant Governors of all Union territories in its Governing Council.
- CEO of NITI Aayog is appointed by the Prime Minister.
Which of the statements given above is/are INCORRECT?
- 1 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
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