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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (16th August)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Probing an amendment

  • The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to combat corruption in government agencies and public sector businesses in India.
  • This law defines who a public servant is and punishes public servants involved in corruption or bribery.
  • It also punishes anyone who helps him or her commit the crime corruption or bribery.

 

Context:

  • Parliament passed certain amendments to laws on corruption, which could have a far-reaching effect. The two aspects are-
  • Requiring prior approval for initiating investigation into allegations of corruption against public servants.
  • Requiring prior sanction for prosecution of public servants.

 

Aspects:

  1. Need for approval-
  • According to section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act amendment , it requires a prior approval for initiating investigation of corruption cases against all categories of public servants including the joint secretary.
  • Exception to this are cases of traps in which such public servants are caught red-handed while taking bribe.
  • Under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, previous sanction of the competent authority is required to prosecute public servants.This safeguard has been extended to retired public servants.
  • Hence a prior approval of the government is required to even initiate an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into allegations of corruption against public servants.
  • Also the police has unfettered jurisdiction to initiate investigation into a crime or acts of corruption
  • Even the courts can’t interfere in this exercise of power by a competent investing agency.

 

2.Political compulsions

  • The political class brought it back in the Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court set aside this provision of the Act.
  • The court had observed, –
  • The power of CBI to enquire and investigate into the allegations of bribery and corruption against a certain class of public servants and officials is subverted and impinged by Section 6A.
  • The scheme of Section 155 and Section 156 CrPC indicates that the local police may investigate a senior Government officer without previous approval of the Central Government.

Conclusion

  • The burden of the court order was that under the scheme of the criminal justice system, the police and the CBI are bound by the law and the Constitution to investigate a crime reported to them.
  • They have jurisdiction as per law and that the power to register and proceed with the investigation must remain unhindered.
  • Once the investigation is complete and the police or the CBI is ready with the report on the investigation, other authorities come into play.
  • The recent amendment, therefore, is backward in nature and is likely to be quashed if contested in the apex court.

2.  India’s abortion law needs a personalised approach.

  • Abortion has been legalised in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971.
  • It was hailed as one of the more progressive laws in the world. According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions.
  • When the Act was introduced, policymakers had two goals — to control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies and to reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions.

 

Background

  • It was just a year ago when a 10-year-old girl got pregnant after being raped by her uncles.
  • Both the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court, advised by a doctors’ panel, refusing her permission to terminate it.
  • Hence timely justice to our women and young girl was denied.

 

Current scenario

  • As of this day the Act is liberal for its time,but it has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions.
  • Though abortion was legalised almost 50 years ago, a woman’s right to decide for herself, did not and still does not fall within the intent or ambit of the MTP Act.
  • Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks.
  • However, when it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider.
  • Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit ,often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy.

 

Amendments

  • In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act.
  • Thus an increasing in the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in case of foetal abnormalities was brought in.
  • In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands.

 

Dilemma

  • Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination.
  • Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 percent of maternal deaths in India.
  • Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services.
  • According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities.
  • Doctors are responsible for advising and prescribing the right procedures to any girl or woman who comes to them.
  • However, if a foetal abnormality is detected post the 20-week limit or a rape survivor approaches us with a request for an abortion, they are torn between their duty and the legal caveats which bind them.

Conclusion

  • Abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights.
  • India had once led this in the forefront by legalising abortions.
  • Hence its the time to regain the position and make it personalised according to the needs of the hour.

3. Gaganyan: How to send an Indian into space

Gaganyaan 2022

  1. With PM’s announcement that an Indian astronaut would go into space by 2022, ISRO has finally got a definitive timeline for a project it has been working on for the last 15 years.
  2. In 2004 the manned space mission was first endorsed by the ISRO Policy Planning Committee.
  3. There was lack of clarity on when exactly the mission would be launched, although the target initially in discussion was 2015.

Defining a manned-Mission

  1. A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
  2. In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
  3. For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
  4. Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required, but many others are still to be developed and tested.

The rocket: GSLV Mk-III

  1. One of the most important requirements is the development of a launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space.
  2. The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
  3. ISRO successfully tested GSLV Mk-III, now called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3).
  4. It successfully launched the first developmental flight of LVM-3, which carried the GSAT-19 satellite into space.
  5. The LVM-3 is the declared launch vehicle for taking the manned crew module into space as it will help for sending up heavier and heavier payloads.

Reentry & recovery tech

  1. The satellites normally launched by ISRO, like those for communication or remote sensing, are meant to remain in space, even when their life is over.
  2. Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous reentry and recovery ability.
  3. While reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures, in excess of several thousand degrees, which is created due to friction.
  4. Also, the spacecraft needs to reenter the atmosphere at a very precise speed and angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster.
  5. The first successful experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III also involved the successful testing of an experimental crew module that came back to Earth after being taken to an altitude of 126 km into space.
  6. Called the Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE), the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere at about 80 km altitude and landed in the sea near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Crew Escape System

  1. This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
  2. The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
  3. ISRO has completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system (the recent Pad Abort Test).

Life support

  1. The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
  2. The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts.
  3. It would be designed to carry two or three astronauts.
  4. The ECLSS maintains a steady cabin pressure and air composition, removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, controls temperature and humidity, and manages parameters like fire detection and suppression, food and water management, and emergency support.
  5. While the layout and design of the ECLSS has been finalised, its many individual components and systems are in the process of being tested.
  6. The design and configuration of the inside of the crew module have also been finalised. Ground testing will have to be followed by tests in the space orbit while simulating zero gravity and deep vacuum.

Astronaut training

  1. While ISRO still plans to set up a permanent facility, the selected candidates for the first manned mission will most likely train at a foreign facility.
  2. Candidates will need to train for at least two years in living in zero gravity and dealing with a variety of unexpected experiences of living in space.
  3. Some training would also be imparted at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Indian Air Force at Bengaluru.

4. Super-insulating gel could help build Mars habitats

  1. Scientists at University of Colorado at Boulder have developed a transparent heat-resistant gel using beer waste that may one day be used to build greenhouse-like habitats for human colonised on Mars.
  2. It is made up of common plant sugar cellulose and is a thin, flexible film that is roughly 100 times lighter than glass.
  3. The gel is transparent and so resistant to heat that you could put a strip of it on your hand and a fire on top without feeling a thing.

90% made up of air

  1. Aerogels are at least 90 per cent gas by weight, but their defining feature is air.
  2. Their thin films are made up of crisscrossing patterns of solid material that trap air inside billions of tiny pores, similar to the bubbles in bubble wrap.
  3. This trapping capacity makes them such good insulators.

Utility of Aerogel

  1. Transparency is an enabling feature hence it can be used in windows for extraterrestrial habitats. A peel-and-stick film could simply be attached to home windows.
  2. Its thermally-insulating nature helps protecting from big oscillations in temperature in Space.
  3. The group’s gel is also cheaper to produce because it comes from beer waste.
  4. It can be developed for many other applications, including smart clothes, for insulating cars and protecting firefighters.

5. Modi’s big-ticket Independence Day announcement is Ayushman Bharat

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch date for his ambitious health insurance scheme.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Abhiyan (PMJAA), touted as the world’s largest healthcare scheme, aims to provide a cover of RS.5 lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 10 crore poor families.
  • It will be launched on September 25.

PMJAA

  • The government-sponsored health insurance scheme will provide free treatment for up to Rs.5 lakh a family a year in any government or empanelled private hospitals all over India.
  • Meant to help the poor and the economically deprived, the scheme will be available for 10.74 crore beneficiary families and about 50 crore Indian citizens.

Significance

  • Healthcare experts said Ayushman Bharat was an attempt to ensure that universal healthcare reached the weaker sections of society and it could raise the ratio of people availing primary and secondary healthcare.
  • It is really good to see that the government is actively working on rolling out the policy on the ground.
  • The government has made this a technology-driven initiative, which is a great step to ensure transparency and effective implementation, and at a grander scale, this initiative would encourage more work in development of overall health infrastructure in the country.
  • Growing healthcare infrastructure in the country will help 50 crore poor people access medicines and essential drugs.
  • Besides addressing the challenges of geographic inaccessibility and unaffordability, Ayushman Bharat has the potential of creating a cost-effective digitised health economy and catapulting India to the league of developed nations.

Concerns

  • But the current framework of the scheme will not be beneficial for people who need tertiary care as the remunerations under the scheme will not be sufficient to avail value-based healthcare.
  • Under the scheme, tertiary healthcare service providers will be forced to cut cost at every level, which will lead to offering substandard healthcare to patients under the scheme.
  • They may not be able to avail the necessary medication, technology and clinical expertise to get the best outcome and will soon lose confidence in the system.

Way forward

  • Today, nearly 80% of the healthcare in India is provided by the private healthcare system and to meet the burgeoning healthcare needs of Indian population through value-based medicine, the country needs a synchronised effort by both the private and public sectors.
  • The healthcare sector has noted that the government should look at mandatory universal health cover for all sections of society, which will increase the pool and allow cross-subsidy between the government and the private sector.

6. The market across the border

  • There is rising concern about declining trade between India and Pakistan due to escalation in tensions along the borders. So there is need for concerted efforts on both sides to ease tensions through people-centric measures.

Stats

  • Over the last five years, the bilateral trade trajectory has been volatile.
  • From a high of $2.70 billion in 2013-14, it fell to $2.40 billion in 2017-18. During this time, while Pakistan’s exports to India were (and have been) fairly consistent, India’s exports decreased.
  • Overall, India still manages to have a significant trade surplus with Pakistan (about $1.4 billion in 2017-18).

Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) Study on informal trade

  • Informal trade between India and Pakistan is almost twice the value of formal trade between the two countries.
  • Informal trade is broadly defined as all trade between two countries that should be included in the national income statistics, according to conventional national income accounting, but is not.

What drives informal trade?

  • Factors such as high tariffs, political tension, infrastructure impediments, and ease of trading goods via third countries have generated a thriving industry for informal trade between the two South Asian giants.
  • Pakistan’s negative list of 1,209 items as the most important factor pushing informal exports from India.
    • Items on the negative list are those that are not allowed to be imported from India.
    • More than one in every two items exported informally to Pakistan were on Pakistan’s negative list.

Which commodities are traded?

  • Real jewellery, including gold, diamond and precious stones, accounted for the largest share of 23% of informal exports from India to Pakistan. It also included chemicals, tyres, alcohol and tobacco products, among several others.
  • While India’s imports from Pakistan included items such as dry fruits and spices,
  • Informal exports from India to Pakistan in 2012-13 stood at $3.9 billion, much higher than the just over $2 billion worth of formal exports.
  • Informal imports, on the other hand, from Pakistan valued $0.7 billion, slightly more than formal imports of $0.5 billion.

How does informal trade take place?

  • Most of informal trade between the two countries were also found to be via a third country, in particular Dubai. About 68% of India’s informal export to Pakistan was found to be routed via Dubai.

Land or water route?

  • The efficiency of transport of goods via two routes
    • the Delhi-Lahore route
    • the Delhi-Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi-Lahore route
  • Found that the latter route was 2.75 times more efficient in terms of transport per transaction cost incurred per container-kilometre.
  • Higher transaction cost per-tonne-per-kilometre on the direct route is because of factors such as limited number of items that can be exported via road route, cumbersome customs checks at Attari/Wagah customs station, transaction costs in the form of bribes incurred in getting customs clearances, physical examination of goods and poor infrastructure, among others.
  • While the total cost of shipping would still be lower in the formal channel, given the fact that the distance is one-tenth of the route via Dubai, predictability and comfort encourages traders to incur these high costs.

Area of cooperation

  • In textiles, while there is an existing bilateral engagement, there is potential for raw materials (raw cotton, fabric dye), grey fabric (polyester, chiffon, nylon), blended fabric (cotton-polyester-viscose blend for denim) and stitched clothes (track suits and sports wear) from Indian hubs such as Surat (Gujarat) and Tiruppur (Tamil Nadu) to Pakistan’s major production centre at Faisalabad and its Lahore and Karachi markets.
  • Similarly, from Pakistan, there is a huge demand for salwar-kameez-dupatta made of lawn fabric and wedding attire (shararas).
    • Given Pakistan’s expertise here, the demand in India for Pakistani fabric and designs as well as the cost benefits attached with trading between India and Pakistan, there is significant scope for collaboration.
  • Pakistan’s sports goods manufacturing sector is emerging as an original equipment manufacturer for major global brands. Sialkot is a global manufacturing hub for professional-level goods such as footballs, hockey sticks, quality leather goods, and weightlifting and cycling gloves, some of which is imported by India. Also, footballs manufactured here were used in the FIFA World Cup.
    • However, manufacturers in Sialkot require quality raw materials or semi-finished products to produce these goods.
    • India can play a key role here in exporting raw material and semi-finished goods such as latex, rubber, and football bladders, which would work out to be more economical for Sialkot than sourcing them from other countries such as Thailand.
    • In terms of finished goods, sportswear made of lycra is in demand in Pakistan.
  • Pakistan’s surgical instruments manufacturing industry, again based in Sialkot, is noted for its expertise. Pakistan is a major supplier of these instruments to the U.S., Germany, France and Belgium.
    • India, on the other hand, is a large medical market which imports these instruments from these developed countries at high rates. Direct imports from Pakistan to India in this area would ensure considerable cost benefits in terms of economics and logistics.
    • To strengthen value chain linkages, India can potentially increase the supply of stainless steel to Pakistan, a major raw material used in instrument manufacturing, or even import semi-finished products.

How to improve relationship?

  • First, it is important to alleviate fears, misconceptions and the trust deficit in the trading community.
  • Second, business-to-business linkages need to be formed and strengthened between actual traders.
  • Third, SAARC business traveller visas must be implemented in practice.
  • There also needs to be focus on other issues such as key items in the textiles and clothing sector, border infrastructure and security, improved connectivity by sea and air
  • Sporting events could play a pivotal role in boosting people-to-people relations on both sides of the Punjab border
  • More people-level contacts and educational exchanges between the two nations could help pave the way for long-term peace and stability in the region.

Conclusion

  • Tariff and non-tariff barriers should be addressed and steps should be taken towards increasing awareness and building confidence among the trading communities.
  • So, if appropriate measures are taken, a significant share of informal trade can be diverted to formal channels. The benefits of direct trade is much more than informal.

7. Getting down to business

  • The law defines “commercial disputes” to include regular commercial and business contracts, construction contracts, shareholder agreements, licensing agreements, etc.
  • The Bill intends to jump-start India as a sought-out business destination in the world. Its objective is to set India at the top of the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index of the World Bank. It aims to create a conducive regulatory environment for investors to set up and operate businesses.

Details

  • It seeks to bring down the specified value of commercial disputes from the existing Rs 1 crore each to Rs 3 lakh and for their speedy disposal.
    • The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, provides for commercial courts and commercial divisions of high courts to settle commercial disputes with a value of at least Rs 1 crore.
  • The bill provides for the establishment of commercial courts at the district judge level for the territories over which respective high courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
  • The law will be given prospective effect so that the authority of the judicial forum at present adjudicating the commercial disputes is not affected.
  • Pre-Institution Mediation (PIM) process is introduced in cases where no urgent or interim relief is contemplated would provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve commercial disputes outside the ambit of the courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
    • The Bill proposes a new Section, 21A, which enables the Centre to make rules and procedures for PIM.

Why is this done?

  • With rapid economic development, there has been a considerable increase in commercial activities and a consequent steep rise in the number of commercial disputes at the domestic and international levels.
  • Growing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and overseas commercial transactions have contributed to a significant increase in commercial disputes.

Significance

  • Bringing down the specified value of commercial disputes would reduce the time taken for resolution of such disputes and improve India’s ranking in the ease of doing business.
  • The introduction of the pre-institution mediation process in cases where no urgent interim relief is contemplated will provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve the commercial disputes outside the ambit of courts through authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act
    • However, in all other cases, the mediation is mandatory and will be conducted within a period of three months (extendable by another two months with the consent of the parties).
    • Any settlement arrived at through mediation will have the status of an arbitral award on agreed terms and be enforceable like a decree of the court.

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