GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Cabinet approves National Steel Policy 2017

The Indian steel sector has grown exponentially over the past few years to be the third largest producer of steel globally, contributing to about 2% of the country’s GDP and employing about 5 lakh people directly and about 20 lakh people indirectly.

Key features of the National Steel Policy 2017:

  1. Create self-sufficiency in steel production by providing policy support & guidance to private manufacturers, MSME steel producers, CPSEs
  2. Encourage adequate capacity additions,
  3. Development of globally competitive steel manufacturing capabilities,
  4. Cost-efficient production
  5. Domestic availability of iron ore, coking coal & natural gas,
  6. Facilitating foreign investment
  7. Asset acquisitions of raw materials &
  8. Enhancing the domestic steel demand.

 

Big Picture, Uncategorized

Misleading Ads: Onus on Celebrity Endorsers Also

Celebrities endorsing various brands or companies might have to face some trouble in the coming time if the amendments proposed to the Consumer Protection Act are carried out in the next session of Parliament. They will put onus on celebrities in case of misleading ads. The issue came into light after Maggie noodles were found with presence of excess lead and monosodium glutamate. The amendments proposed by the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution have been approved by the Ministries of Consumer Affairs and Law.

Provisions:

According to the official amendment made to the Consumer Protection Bill in 2015;

Whoever makes an endorsement which is false or misleading and prejudicial to the interest of any consumer shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees; and for the second and subsequent offences, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and fine which may extend to fifty lakh rupees”.

  1. The amendment has put up a harsher mode of punishment for the celebrities endorsing a brand through misleading ads. It redefines endorsement as one of the features of advertisement thereby making celebrities liable as well.
  2. Endorsement under Section 17B is defined as “any message, verbal statement, demonstration” or depiction of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization “which make the consumer to believe that it reflects the opinion, findings or experience of the person making such endorsement”.
  3. Section 75B has provision for liability of an endorser, i.e. a celebrity would be liable if the endorsement is “false or misleading” and prejudices the interests of consumers and “mistaken belief” by the celebrity cannot be taken as a defence. He/she could also be liable in case it is proved that he or she had falsely claimed to have been using a product, be it noodles, RO or shampoo.
  4. According to the draft, cognizance of an offence under the provision can be taken by the court only on a written complaint by or on behalf of the Central Consumer Protection Authority. The provision to section 75B allows a celebrity to escape liability if it is proved that he/she took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence before endorsing the product or service.

Views and Counterviews:

  1. Consumers tend to believe advertisements promoted by eminent personalities or celebrities blindly. But when the unfair trade practices are exposed the celebrities are quick in disassociating themselves with the products/companies they were representing.
  2. While a celebrity has the ability to influence masses, he/she is also morally responsible of leading the people in right direction.
  3. Endorsers must be accountable for the ads they do. They are mature enough and know exactly what they are doing. Due diligence is required in the question of making wise choices. Consumers are more important than anyone else and this legislation takes care of this fact.A jail sentence might not be recommended by many, but a hefty fine should be levied.
  4. It has to be understood that a celebrity might be a perfectionist in his field but he is no specialist. He/she has been signed by the brand for his ability to connect to the masses only by lending his/her face and voice. For example: If a DTH is being advertised by a celebrity and its services are disrupted for some reasons, then the celebrity of course cannot be held guilty of misleading the people.
  5. If a celebrity has to be booked for misleading ads, then all media channels that played the ad should also be punished and similarly entire manufacturing unit or creator too as everyone made profit out of it. So, if the authorities need to do consumer protection, then it has to be full-fledged and cannot just attack celebs. Trust for a brand is a combination of several factors and celebrity is one of them. Liability is something that cannot be shifted to one person only.
  6. Before going to endorse a brand, the celebrities should ask for the tests or verifications that have been done by the company.

At present authorities like ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India) are engaged in scrutiny of ads i.e. after they are made. What is required is pre checking before the ads are run in the media and a national advertising standard which clearly lays down rules and regulations regarding advertisements. There is no control of ASCI over ads running in the print media or internet. So, a large chunk of ads remain unchecked as well. The provisions at present in the amendments leave a lot of grey area in terms of the words like “mistaken beliefs” and “misleading”. Evidence is required to prove a celebrity guilty whether he/she knowingly did an ad or not. In the present scenario what is apparent is the fact that a moral onus can be created on the celebrity but creating a legal one might be difficult.

Editorials, Essay, GS-2, Uncategorized

Draft National Education Policy

Objective

The National Education Policy 2016 envisages creation of a credible education system capable of ensuring

  •       Inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all
  •       Producing students/graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values that are required to lead a productive life
  •       Participate in the country’s development process
  •       Respond to the ever changing requirements of a globalizing, knowledge based society
  •       Develop responsible citizens who respect the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of India’s heritage, culture and history as well as promote social cohesion and religious amity
  •       The vision recognizes the central role of education in India’s economic, social, political and cultural development

Key Challenges in India’s education system

I.  Access and Participation

  1.    Research highlights the importance of early childhood education. Participation in pre-school education remains low in the country
  2.    Expanding access to early childhood education and provide equal opportunity to all children to prepare them for formal education is a priority task
  3.    While nationally the % of out of school children aged 6-13 years has declined since 2000, still the absolute number remains high
  4.    Currently there is a situation of relatively lower enrolment rates in upper primary and secondary education. Ensuring mobility of students from elementary to primary to secondary to tertiary education is a key challenge. Currently Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education is 23.6%. The target is to increase it to 25.2% in 2017-18 and to 30% in 2020-21
  5.    Relatively slower progress in reducing the number of illiterates is also a huge challenge. India currently has the highest number of non literates in the world

II.   Quality Issues

1) Poor quality of education leading to unsatisfactory learning outcomes is a huge challenge. At the pre school level the following challenges are there

  •   Inappropriate curriculum
  •  Lack of trained educators
  •  Ineffective pedagogy

Resultantly students coming out of pre schools do not have school readiness in terms of cognitive and language domains

2)  Biggest challenge remains the unsatisfactory level of student learning. ASER reports, PISA reports all point towards the same. Finding of National Achievement Surveys covering Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 suggest that learning levels of a significant proportion of students do not measure up to expected learning levels which has a cascading effect on the next stage

3) Factors affecting unsatisfactory quality of school education are

  •   Large proportion of schools not compliant with prescribed norms and standards
  •    Students and teachers absenteeism
  •  Gaps in teacher motivation and training which affects teacher quality and performance
  •  Slow progress with regards to usage of ICT
  •  Sub optimal personnel management
  • Inadequate attention to monitoring and supervision of performance

Perceived failure of government schools has triggered entry of a large number of private schools, many of whom also fall prey to the same vices

4) Quality at higher education level – Issues are

  •   Very few universities and colleges accredited by NAAC are in A grade
  •  Mushrooming of private players of indifferent quality
  •   Shortage of well qualified faculty
  • Vacancy in faculty positions
  •  Poor infrastructure in both private as well as public institutions
  • Slow renewal of curriculum to align it more closely with skills demanded in a diversified economy
  • Inadequate funding for research and development

III   Equity

  1.    Whereas substantial improvement is seen in enhancing enrolment rate in pre-school, still, children from disadvantaged population still lack access to pre school education
  2.    Percentage of Out of school children (OOSC) has declined since 2000, but the absolute number is still high. Moreover, OOSC still very high among SC, ST and Muslims
  3.    Children from certain sections like children with disabilities, children in remote location, children belonging to nomadic families, migrant children and other vulnerable disadvantaged group are yet to take full benefit of educational opportunities
  4.    National Learning Achievement Surveys highlight the following
  • Urban students do better than rural
  •  Students of private schools do better than those in government schools
  •   General and OBC students do better than SC and ST students

5. Relatively higher gender gap in youth (8.2 % points) and adult (19.5 percentage points) literacy rates


 

IV  Skills and employability

  1.    India is a young nation with 54% of population below 25 years of age. Thus skilling is necessary to take care of livelihood needs
  2.    However institutional arrangements to support technical and vocational educational programme quite inadequate

V  Curriculum and Assessment

  1.    Growing disconnect between existing school and higher education curricula
  2.    Curriculum thrust needed for promoting acquisition of relevant skills by students is missing
  3.    Assessment criteria in schools focus primarily on rote learning and ability of students to reproduce content knowledge

VI   ICT potential not fully tapped by educational institutes in the country

VII   Teacher development and management

  1.    Not equipping teachers with competencies required to cope up with new profile and roles expected of teachers
  2.    Mismatch between institutional capacity and required teacher supply resulting in shortage of teachers. Problem more acute in Eastern part of the country
  3.    Research, innovation and experimentation in teacher education is very limited

VIII   Governance and Management

  1.    It has assumed complexity especially at tertiary level due to
  •  Advent of multiplicity of providers
  •  Multiplicity of programmes
  •  Multiplicity in modes of financing

IX   Research and Development – Following are the reasons for India’s poor performance in R&D

  1.    Limited initiative for upgrading skills of existing faculty
  2.    Lack of synergies between training and research to promote excellence in both
  3.    Lack of engagement with institutes around the globe to improve quality of research
  4.    Lack of creation and facilitation of alliances for research purpose
  5.    Lack of linkage between research institutions and industry to accelerate process of knowledge development

X   Budgetary Constraints

  1.    Target of 6% of GDP envisaged in National Education Policy 1986 yet to be met

Reforms Suggested

1) Pre-school Education:

  1. Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years will be implemented.
  2. To strengthen the pre-school education in Anganwadis, steps will be taken in consultation with states to frame curricula and develop learning materials.
  3. State Governments will prepare cadres of pre-primary teachers.
  4. All primary schools will cover pre-primary education.
  5. Appropriate regulatory and monitoring rules and mechanisms will be designed for private pre-schools.

2) Curriculum Renewal and Examination Reforms

  1. Curricular reforms will be carried out to meet the emerging aspirations and align to national goals of social cohesion, religious amity and national integration.
  2. NCERT will undergo a re-orientation to address issues of deteriorating quality of school education and periodic renewal of curricula and pedagogy to move from rote learning to facilitate understanding and encourage a spirit of enquiry.
  3. Procedural reforms will be undertaken, such as, doing away with migration certificate, school leaving certificate, etc. in order to encourage mobility of students from one institution to another.

3) Learning outcomes in School Education

  1. Norms for learning outcomes will be developed and applied uniformly to both private and government schools.
  2. Within the parameters prescribed by the RTE Act, States will have the flexibility to design and plan for the infrastructure keeping in view the local conditions.
  3. The present provisions of no-detention policy will be amended, as it has seriously affected the academic performance of students. The no detention policy will be limited up to class V and the system of detention will be restored at the upper primary stage.
  4. Effective steps will be taken to improve teaching standards in schools

4) School Education

  1. Each State will undertake a detailed exercise of school mapping to identify schools with low enrolment and inadequate infrastructure.
  2. Minimum standards for provision of facilities and student outcomes across all levels in school education will be laid down.
  3. Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) will be expanded and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) will be expanded and upgraded

5) Protection of Rights of the Child & Adolescent Education

  1. Framework and guidelines for ensuring school safety and security of children will be developed.
  2. Every Principal and teacher will be made aware of the provisions of the relevant Acts, Rules, Regulations, etc.
  3. The Adolescent Education Programme and National Population Education Programme will be integrated into the curriculum of schools in a phased manner.
  4. Adolescent Education will be included in pre- and in-service training programmes of secondary school teachers.
  5. Self-learning online programmes on child rights will be developed for the benefit of students, teachers and parents.
  6. Schools will engage trained counsellors to confidentially advise parents and teachers on adolescence problems faced by growing boys and girls.

6) Inclusive Education and Student Support

  1. Curriculum will cover the issues of social justice and harmony and legal measures in order to avoid social discrimination.
  2. With the objective of encouraging merit and promoting equity, a National Fellowship Fund, primarily designed to support the tuition fees, learning materials and living expenses for about 10 lakh students will be created.
  3. A zero tolerance approach on gender discrimination and violence will be adopted.
  4. There will be dedicated funds for R&D to strengthen disability studies in higher education.

7) Literacy and Lifelong Learning

  1. Existing initiatives will be strengthened and curricula revamped with multi-pronged strategies involving Self Help Groups, NGOs, Government etc.
  2. The Government will set up an apex body of experts to look into remodelling and strengthening of adult literacy programmes and develop scientific criteria for assessing the learning outcomes of adults in literacy, skill development, prior learning and equivalency for certification which may also facilitate entry into the formal education system.
  3. Adult literacy programme will incorporate skill development and digital, financial and legal literacy.

8) Skills in Education and Employability

  1. Skill development programmes in school and higher education system will be reoriented
  2. A detailed plan for the creation of skill schools for improving employment opportunities for secondary school students in special focus districts will be prepared.
  3. Joint certificates by the Sector Skill Council and the School/College authorities to help students take up wage-employment or start their own enterprise.

9) Use of ICT in Education

  1. A concerted effort will be made to make ICT an integral part of education across all levels and domains of learning.
  2. Online maintenance of all records of a child from the time of admission till the time of leaving the school will be made mandatory.
  3. IT reporting systems will be a powerful tool to better school management and performance.

10) Teacher Development and Management

  1. A transparent and merit based norms and guidelines for recruitment of teachers will be formulated in consultation with the state governments.
  2. All vacancies in teacher education institutions and all positions of head teachers and principals will be filled up.
  3. At the National level, a Teacher Education University will be set up covering various aspects of teacher education and faculty development.
  4. A separate cadre for teacher educators will be established in every state.

11) Language and Culture in Education

  1. All states and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools, upto Class V, in mother tongue, local or regional language as the medium of instruction.
  2. Indian culture, local and traditional knowledge will be given adequate space in the school education.
  3. Keeping in view special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian languages and its unique contribution to the cultural unity of the country, facilities for teaching Sanskrit at the school and university stages will be offered on a more liberal scale.

12) Self -Development through Comprehensive Education

  1. Extra-curricular activities like games, yoga, NSS, Bal Sansad will be emphasized upon
  2. Funds will be earmarked by the government/ school management for all co-scholastic activities in schools.

13) School Assessment and Governance

  1. The framework of school standards with various parameters and indicators to measure school quality, professional competence of teachers, school leadership and the school management, as well as, self-appraisal and performance assessment will be used throughout the country
  2. A mechanism will be put in place for accreditation of school boards.
  3. Principals/head teachers will be held accountable for the academic performance of the schools and its improvement.

14) Regulation In Higher Education

  1. An independent mechanism for administering the National Higher Education Fellowship Programme will be put in place.
  2. A Central Educational Statistics Agency (CESA) will be established as the central data collection, compilation and consolidation agency with high quality statistical expertise and management information system which will be used for predictive analysis, manpower planning and future course corrections.

15) Quality Assurance In Higher Education

  1. An expert committee will be constituted to study the systems of accreditation in place internationally. It will draw from the experiences of some of the best practices followed by countries having well performing systems and will suggest restructuring of NAAC and NAB as well as redefining methodologies, parameters and criteria. .
  2. Evaluation/ Accreditation details of each institution will be available to the general public through a dedicated website, to enable students and other stakeholders to make informed choices.

16) Open and Distance Learning & MOOCs

  1. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), in collaboration with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, will redefine itself to address the large potential demand for vocational education. The issues of management, monitoring and oversight of NIOS will be addressed appropriately.
  2. A quality assurance mechanism for accreditation of all universities/institutions offering ODL / MOOCs will be put in place to ensure quality, promote, innovation and reshape and modernize the ODL / MOOCs courses and programmes.

17) Internationalization of Education

  1. Selected foreign universities, from the top 200 in the world, will be encouraged to establish their presence in India through collaboration with Indian universities.
  2. In order to increase acceptability of Indian students abroad and to attract international students, Indian HEIs will be encouraged to work towards internationalization of curricula aligned with international levels so as to make it globally compatible with best ranked institutions of the world.
  3. Internationalization will be included as one of the components for allocating additional financial resources to government-funded HEIs.

18) Faculty Development in Higher Education

  1. A task force of experts will be set up to study the recruitment, promotion and retention procedures, followed by internationally renowned universities and institutions and suggest measures to promote intellectual and academic excellence in HEIs.
  2. A national campaign will be launched to attract young talent into the teaching profession. In order to attract young talent into teaching profession, a career growth of research students, such as M.Phil & Ph.D scholars, will be created.
  3. A mechanism of assessment of academic performance of faculty including peer review will be put in place so as to ensure academic accountability of public-funded institutions.

19) Research, Innovation and New Knowledge

  1. A clear reorientation of research agenda of National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) will be undertaken to reflect actual issues on the ground.
  2. Steps will be taken to promote generation of new knowledge and their applications and introduction of these new domains into the curricula of higher education to consolidate and strengthen India’s position as a soft power.
  3. In order to promote innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, 100 more incubation centres will be established in HEIs over a period of next 5 years.
  4. International collaborations and networks will be promoted for developing human resources required to sustain new knowledge with special focus on inter-disciplinary research and studies.

20) Financing Education

  1. The government will take steps for reaching the long pending goal of raising the investment in education sector to at least 6% of GDP as a priority.
  2. Instead of setting up new institutions, which require huge investments, priority of the Government will be to expand the capacity of existing institutions.
  3. In order to encourage excellence and efficiency, performance-linked funding of higher education institutions will be implemented.
Editorials, Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Missing the wetlands for the water

Article Link

Environment Ministry has come up with new draft wetland conservation rules. With this, the government is all set to change the rules on wetlands.

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are ecosystems located at the interface of land and water and wherein water plays a dominant role in controlling plant and animal life and associated ecosystem processes.

Identification of wetlands:

The Ramsar Convention rules are the loftiest form of wetland identification that the world follows. Ramsar has specific criteria for choosing a wetland as a Ramsar site, which distinguishes it as possessing ‘international importance’.

  • An important distinguishing marker is that Ramsar wetlands should support significant populations of birds, fish, or other non-avian animals.
  • India is one of the 169 signatories to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
  • There are 2,241 Ramsar sites across the world, including 26 spread across India from Wular Lake in Jammu and Kashmir to Ashtamudi Wetland in Kerala, and from Deepor Beel in Assam to Nal Sarovar in Gujarat.

What’s there in the new draft?

  • The new draft replaces the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010.
  • It seeks to give power to the States to decide what they must do with their wetlands. This includes deciding which wetlands should be protected and what activities should be allowed or regulated, while making affable calls for ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecosystem services’.
  • The draft restricts activities like reclamation of wetlands, and conversion for non-wetland uses, any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland and any activity having or likely to have an adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland.
  • According to the draft Rules, the power to identify and notify wetlands would be vested in the Chief Minister, who as chief executive of the state government as well as of the state wetland authority, will propose and notify wetlands after accepting or rejecting recommendations.

Contentious clauses in the new draft:

  • The draft does away with the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, which had suo moto cognisance of wetlands and their protection.
  • The draft rules contain no ecological criteria for recognising wetlands, such as biodiversity, reefs, mangroves, and wetland complexes.
  • The draft has deleted sections on the protection of wetlands, and interpretation of harmful activities which require regulation, which found reference in the 2010 rules.
  • It has also removed the list of prohibited activities which was in the previous one and has completely shifted the entire burden of wetlands protections from the Centre to the respective states.

What’s left out?

  • What comprises a wetland is an important question that the Draft Rules leave unanswered. However, the 2010 rules outline criteria for wetland identification including genetic diversity, outstanding natural beauty, wildlife habitats, corals, coral reefs, mangroves, heritage areas, and so on.
  • A detailed list of prohibited activities in the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, like setting up of new industries and expansion of existing industries, solid waste dumping, manufacturing or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances, discharge of untreated waste and effluents from industries, cities, towns and other human settlements, any construction of permanent nature is left out.
  • The rules have no mention of how communities or people can ensure conservation of wetlands. They have no provisions for carrying out environment impact assessment (EIA) for projects on wetlands either.
  • According to 2010 Rules, wetlands were to be notified within a year of the Rules coming into force, and there were deadlines for each process along the way. However, the new draft does away with the time-bound process for notification.
  • There are also no provisions for wetland complexes in the new rules.

Other concerns associated:

  • While the new draft calls for sustainability, this is a difficult concept to enforce, particularly with regard to water.
  • Regulation of activities in the draft rules do not make any obvious connection with existing groundwater legislations because these two aspects are still seen as separate.
  • The 2016 Draft Wetland Rules also call for wise use of wetlands. ‘Wise use’ is a concept used by the Ramsar Convention, and is open to interpretation. It could mean optimum use of resources for human purpose. It could mean not using a wetland so that we eventually strengthen future water security. It could also mean just leaving the wetland and its catchment area as is for flood control, carbon sequestration, and water recharge functions.

Conclusion:

Wetlands are seriously threatened by reclamation and degradation as a result of drainage and landfills, pollution (domestic and industrial effluents, disposal of solid waste) resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption of the wetland systems. Hence, it is imperative that the Draft Wetlands Rules, 2016 be looked at with a hard, if not cynical, eye.

GS-3, Uncategorized

PM Modi releases country’s first National Disaster Management Plan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently released the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP). This is thefirst ever national plan prepared in the country.

Key facts:

  • The plan aims to make India disaster resilient and reduces loss of lives.
  • The plan is based on the four priority themes of the “Sendai Framework,” namely: understanding disaster risk, improving disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction (through structural and non-structural measures) and disaster preparedness, early warning and building back better in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • The plan covers all phases of disaster management: Prevention, Mitigation, Response and Recovery.
  • It provides for horizontal and vertical integration among all the agencies and departments of the Government.
  • The plan also spells out the roles and responsibilities of all levels of Government right up to Panchayat and Urban local body level in a matrix format.
  • The plan has a regional approach, which will be beneficial not only for disaster management but also for development planning.
  • It is designed in such a way that it can be implemented in a scalable manner in all phases of disaster management.
  • It also identifies major activities such as early warning, information dissemination, medical care, fuel, transportation, search and rescue, evacuation, etc. to serve as a checklist for agencies responding to a disaster.
  • It also provides a generalised framework for recovery and offers flexibility to assess a situation and build back better.
  • To prepare communities to cope with disasters, it emphasises on a greater need for Information, Education and Communication activities.
  • It even calls for ethical guidelines for the media for coverage of disasters as well as self-regulation. The plan wants the media to respect the dignity and privacy of affected people.
  • Also, in a move aimed to stop rumours and spread of panic, the plan directed the authorities to schedule regular media briefing (depending on the severity of the disaster) and designate a nodal officer for interacting with the media on behalf of the government.
GS-2, Indian Polity, Uncategorized

Citizens have right to safe water, say draft legislation

The proposed draft National Water Framework Bill promises to give every person the right to a minimum amount of “safe water”, while making the state “obliged” to “protect” and conserve water.

  • The law is prepared by the Water Resources Ministry. The draft law is being proposed as a model legislation that can be adopted by states, since water is in the jurisdiction of the state governments.

Details:

  • The draft National Water Framework Bill says every person would be entitled to “water for life” that shall not be denied to anyone on the ground of inability to pay.
  • The Bill defines this “water for life” as that basic requirement that is necessary for the “fundamental right of life of each human being, including drinking, cooking, bathing, sanitation, personal hygiene and related personal and domestic uses”. This would also include the additional requirement for women “for their special needs” and the water required by domestic livestock.
  • This minimum water requirement would be determined by the “appropriate” governments from time to time.

Background:

There is a need for a broad national consensus on issues related to water. Divergences of policies on water are inevitable and acceptable at the level of states, but these need to be within reasonable limits set by this national consensus.

GS-2, GS-3, Uncategorized

Digital vans all set to take e-governance to rural areas

The Hindu

Government’s new initiative:

  • The government will roll out a new campaign under which 66 digital vans.
  • Van will be equipped with Internet and audio-visual facilities, will go to 657 districts by March 2017 to increase awareness about various e-governance services in rural and semi-urban areas.

Aim:

  • To reach out to more than 10 lakh citizens and register over 1.5 lakh rural citizens for MyGov, digital locker, Aadhaar and other digital services.
  • These vans would cover more than 13 lakh km in 13,200 man days.
  • The campaign will be flagged off by Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a conference to present the report card of the Ministry’s two years in office.
  • It will run from May 30, 2016 to March 31, 2017.
  • The vans will use the Internet and audio visual facilities to interact with and educate the people in rural areas, especially the youth, about the various Digital India initiatives.

State government’s role:

  • State governments, along with the Department of Posts, Department of Telecommunications (BSNL) and CSC-SPV, will play an active role in the execution of this campaign.
  • A district level committee, headed by the District Collector, will foresee its ground level execution to ensure that the maximum benefit is generated out of this campaign.

34 districts in phase 1

  • During phase 1 of the campaign till July 2016, some 16 vans will cover 34 districts in nine States — Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

Service in 14 languages

  • Rural citizens will be informed about the services offered at CSC centres, national scholarship portal, e-hospital, digital lockers and Aadhaar in 14 languages — Hindi, English, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Manipuri, Urdu, Marathi and Malayalam.
GS-2, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

All you need to know about the new IPR Policy

Article Link

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently released India’s new National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy.

  • The Policy which is in compliance with WTO’s (World Trade Organisation) agreement on TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of IPRs), aims to sustain entrepreneurship and boost ‘Make in India’ scheme.
  • It also aims to create awareness about economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society.

What are IPRs?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are legal rights, which result from intellectual invention, innovation and discovery in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. These rights entitle an individual or group to the moral and economic rights of creators in their creation.

Why have an IPR?

IPR is required to safeguard creators and other producers of their intellectual commodity, goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of the manufactured goods. It gives protection to original ideas and avoids the commercial exploitation of the same.

What is the National IPR Policy?

According to the government, the National IPR Policy is a vision document that aims to create and exploit synergies between all forms of intellectual property (IP), concerned statutes and agencies.

  • It sets in place an institutional mechanism for implementation, monitoring and review.
  • It aims to incorporate and adapt global best practices to the Indian scenario.

Seven objectives of IPR Policy:

  1. IPR Awareness: To create public awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society.
  2. Generation of IPRs: To stimulate the generation of IPRs.
  3. Legal and Legislative Framework: To have strong and effective IPR laws, which balance the interests of rights owners with larger public interest.
  4. Administration and Management: To modernize and strengthen service-oriented IPR administration.
  5. Commercialization of IPRs: Get value for IPRs through commercialization.
  6. Enforcement and Adjudication: To strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements.
  7. Human Capital Development: To strengthen and expand human resources, institutions and capacities for teaching, training, research and skill building in IPRs.

Highlights of the policy:

  • The new policy calls for providing financial support to the less empowered groups of IP owners or creators such as farmers, weavers and artisans through financial institutions like rural banks or co-operative banks offering IP-friendly loans.
  • The work done by various ministries and departments will be monitored by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), which will be the nodal department to coordinate, guide and oversee implementation and future development of IPRs in India.
  • The policy, with a tagline of Creative India: Innovative India, also calls for updating various intellectual property laws, including the Indian Cinematography Act, to remove anomalies and inconsistencies in consultation with stakeholders.
  • For supporting financial aspects of IPR commercialisation, it asks for financial support to develop IP assets through links with financial institutions, including banks, VC funds, angel funds and crowd-funding mechanisms.
  • To achieve the objective of strengthening enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms to combat IPR infringements, it called for taking actions against attempts to treat generic drugs as spurious or counterfeit and undertake stringent measures to curb manufacture and sale of misbranded, adulterated and spurious drugs.
  • The policy will be reviewed after every five years to keep pace with further developments in the sector.

Why this policy was need of the hour?

  • Global drug brands led by US companies have been pushing for changes to India’s intellectual property rules for quite some time now. They have often complained about India’s price controls and marketing restrictions.
  • Also, an IPR policy is important for the government to formulate incentives in the form of tax concessions to encourage research and development (R&D). It is also critical to strengthen the Make In India, Startup and Digital India schemes.
  • The IPR policy comes at a time when India and other emerging countries faces fresh challenges from the developed world and mega regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Issues associated with this policy:

  • According to the policy, India will retain the right to issue so-called compulsory licenses to its drug firms, under “emergency” conditions. Also, the government has indicated that there is no urgent need to change patent laws that are already fully World Trade Organization-compliant. So India has resisted pressure from the US and other Western countries to amend its patent laws.
  • The policy also specifically does not open up Section 3(d) of the Patents Act, which sets the standard for what is considered an invention in India, for reinterpretation.

Benefits of this policy:

  • The new policy will try to safeguard the interests of rights owners with the wider public interest, while combating infringements of intellectual property rights.
  • By 2017, the window for trademark registration will be brought down to one month. This will help in clearing over 237,000 pending applications in India’s four patent offices.
  • It also seeks to promote R&D through tax benefits available under various laws and simplification of procedures for availing of direct and indirect tax benefits.
  • Unlike earlier where copyright was accorded to only books and publications, the recast regime will cover films, music and industrial drawings. A host of laws will also be streamlined — on semi-conductors, designs, geographical indications, trademarks and patents.
  • The policy also puts a premium on enhancing access to healthcare, food security and environmental protection.
  • Policy will provide both domestic and foreign investors a stable IPR framework in the country. This will promote a holistic and conducive ecosystem to catalyse the full potential of intellectual property for India’s growth and socio-cultural development while protecting public interest.
  • It is expected to lay the future roadmap for intellectual property in India, besides putting in place an institutional mechanism for implementation, monitoring and review. The idea is to incorporate global best practices in the Indian context and adapt to the same.

Why the US would not be happy with this policy?

Last month, the US Trade Representative kept India, China and Russia on its “Priority Watch List” for inadequate improvement in IPR protection. However, brushing aside concerns of the US on India’s IPR regime, the government said its intellectual property rights laws are legal-equitable and WTO-compliant. Thus, the government has not yielded to pressure from the United States to amend India’s patent laws.

TRIPS:

TRIPS is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulations as applied to the nationals of other WTO Members.

  • It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994.
  • TRIPS requires WTO members to provide copyright rights, covering content producers including performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations; geographical indications, including appellations of origin; industrial designs; integrated circuit layout-designs; patents; new plant varieties; trademarks; trade dress; and undisclosed or confidential information.
  • The agreement also specifies enforcement procedures, remedies, and dispute resolution procedures.
Big Picture, GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

FDI in E-Commerce – whom will it Benefit?

Recently government passed an order allowing 100 percent FDI in market place model of e commerce sector with some regulations and restrictions. The industry which has been growing at a phenomenal phase (1 billion $ to 14 Billion $) since few years, the 100% percent FDI in e commerce industry is welcomed with both prudence and Joy. This article deals with certain issues relating to E-commerce industry.

Definition of e – commerce:

Buying and selling of goods and services including digital products over digital and electronic network.

Features of new FDI ruling:

  • 100% FDI allowed in market place model of e-commerce.
  • Market place model and inventory based model of e-commerce well defined.
  • Level playing field to all sellers in market place model.
  • Sales through one vendor not to exceed 25% in market place model.

As it turns out, the FDI ruling does not only come as a rude awakening to sellers but buyers as well. According to the guidelines, no seller has the right to revise the price of a product which ensures fair competition. This ruling could mean the end of special sale days like Flipkart’s Big Billion Day or special offers provided by the likes of Amazon, Snapdeal etc. In addition, sellers could be forced to sell products on their platform at prices much higher than what the Indian online shopper is used to. This is could bring brick-and-mortar stores back into the limelight.

Following are some of the concerns:

  • Indian market is not yet ready for opening up e-retail space to foreign investors. It will seriously impair small time trading of brick and mortar stores. Small time shopkeepers are not highly qualified and will not be able to compete with sound e-retail business format.
  • Because of scale of economic operations, e-commerce players in the inventory based model will have more bargaining power than standalone traders and will resort to predatory pricing.
  • The infrastructure created by major e-commerce players will be captive and government will not be able to achieve its objective of creating back end infrastructure.
  • Indian e-commerce market is at a nascent stage of development. With FDI in e-commerce, global players will have adverse impact on this domestic industry. It will lead to monopolies in ecommerce, manufacturing, logistics and retail sector.
  • Inventory based e-commerce competes directly with MSMEs. Indian e-commerce B2C is growing in an eco- system with Indian owned/led companies offering open marketplace models which provide a technology platform to help MSME reach across India and even globally. These marketplaces do not compete with MSME or retailers and allow everyone to trade. On the other hand, allowing the entry of inventory based large foreign e-tailers may shrink Indian entrepreneurship and the MSME sector.

 

However there are some advantages too:

  • Boost to the infrastructural development: Impetus to manufacturing sector: Growth in retail sector will have cascading effect in the manufacturing sector which will positively contribute to overall growth of economy and job creation.
  • More efficient supply chain management: Will reduce the need for middlemen leading to lower transaction costs, reduced overhead and reduced inventory and labour costs.
  • Adopting best global business practices: Will lead to better work culture and customer service.
  • Increased outreach: Will provide increased access to buyers/sellers; allow MSMEs and artisans to reach out to customers far beyond their immediate location, both locally within India and abroad.
  • Traceability and transparency: Will not only empower consumers with information and data but also help in better compliance of regulatory framework.
  • Reduced costs: On marketing and distribution, travel, materials and supplies will benefit businesses.
  • Improved customer service: providing more responsive order taking and after-sales service to customers and competitive pricing.

With new regulation in place ultimately government is legitimising the sector which before was neither regulated nor well defined. With new regulation in place there is a clarity which can help to assist growth by considering all the stake holders involved in the sector. However there are various concerns listed above that needs to be addressed through holistic approach.

GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

A healthcare prescription

India’s economy is posting among the fastest growth rates globally

Without Aarogya Bharat, the benefits from faster growth will be seriously compromised.

 Morbidity cost to India:

  • Is estimated at $6 trillion between now and 2030
  • Three times today’s gross domestic product (GDP).

 Public health spending

  •  Around 1% (1.2 %)of GDP while overall
  • The country spends over 4% (~3.9%)~

Health system is geared towards secondary and tertiary care.

Primary care, which is significantly less costly, is unorganized and largely not covered by insurance.

Pathetic Situation

  • Out of pocket expenditure is health in nearly 60% of health expenditure, three times the global average.
  • Insurance penetration is just 25% overall.
  • short of 2 million beds and doctors and 4 million nurses.
  • Urban India accounts for around 30% of the population but has 80% of healthcare infrastructure.
  • The average Indian’s life expectancy is only 66 years versus 75 in China and 74 in Brazil.
  • Some states such as Kerala, where outcomes are five times better today, learning can be taken from there and from international best practices.

Points to focus:

  • Increase health care spending from 1% of GDP to atleast 2.5–3%.
  •  Focus on 100% vaccination.
  •  Government, nongovernment and the private sector—must declare war on NCDs.
  •  Citizens must be supported with universal health insurance for primary care.
  • Improve healthcare quality. The way ahead is through institutionalizing minimum standards for healthcare.
  •  unleash technology to increase access and affordability. Example are Swasthya Slate and 3nethra.
  • Telehealth can expand reach and help scale scarce clinical talent, while mobile health can engage the population and improve adherence.
  • The private sector should also be key in enhancing the effectiveness of public infrastructure via public-private partnerships.