Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 28th December 2021

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1.  Missionaries of Charity denied FCRA nod

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Indian polity and governance
Sub Theme: FCRA | UPSC

SALIENT FEATURES – FCRA amendments act 2020

  • Forbids a recipient of foreign contribution from transferring the same to any other entity.
  • Reduces the limit of usage of foreign contribution for administrative expenses from 50% to 20%.
  • Centre can direct an organisation to not utilise foreign contributions pending an inquiry on suspected violations.
  • Foreign contributions must be deposited in FCRA account created in the specified branch of the Scheduled Bank, which was later notified as New Delhi Branch of SBI.
  • Centre to obtain Aadhaar numbers of key functionaries of organisation for approval.
  • Suspension of NGOs in case of non-compliance.
  • Surrender of FCRA registrations.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR

  • Foreign powers and non-state actors continue to take up activities that amount to interference in the internal polity of the country with ulterior designs.
  • Ensuring effective monitoring and for ensuring accountability of the recipient association, the transfer of foreign contribution has been prohibited.
  • NGOs are expected to grow on the strength of their own genuine work undertaken for fulfilling societal needs.
  • NGOs lack inner democracy and siphon off to pay the owners of NGOs very high salaries. Thus, reducing limit on administrative expenses is necessary.
  • Some NGOs were routing foreign contributions to other entities. Approval to receive foreign contribution is granted for a specified purpose. However, if diversion of funds is allowed, it will be difficult to monitor the ultimate purpose for which funds are utilised.
  • FCRA is sovereignty and integrity legislation, with the over-riding purpose to ensure that foreign money does not dominate public life as well as political and social discourse in India.
  • It is difficult to monitor foreign contributions when branches are receiving foreign contributions are spread across the country. To make it easy for NGOs in complying with this requirement Centre has put in a system that accounts can be opened without needing to physically visit Delhi.

CRITICISM OF THE AMENDMENT

  • Provisions are blanket in nature.
  • It is wrong to colour all foreign contributions as terror financing or for illegal activity such as money laundering.
  • A large number of Indian citizens want to contribute for the development of their country.
  • Against equality: Policy keeps making access to FDI easier at the same time foreign contribution regulations are being made harsher.
  • Choosing only one bank, one branch in one city for foreign contribution does not seem logical.
  • Centre cannot have a free pass in the name of national security. Centre needs to show and establish how national security is affected and how it is subserving terrorism etc.
  • The blanket ban on transfer of assets such as money and donations
  • Many NGOs are doing exceptional work across the country and they are harmless as they have never been found to be violating any legislation

 

2.  The gaps in the plan to tackle plastic waste

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III: Environment and ecology
Sub Theme: Plastic waste | UPSC

What is Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR)?

  • It is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
  • Assigning such responsibility could in principle provide incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.
  • So in Essence, EPR requires the manufacturer of a product, or the party that introduces the product into the community, to take responsibility for its life cycle.

What are the benefits of EPR?

EPR leads to:

  • Integration of environmental costs
  • Improved waste management
  • Reduction of disposal
  • Reduction of burden on municipalities
  • Design of environmentally sound products

Achievements of the draft EPR policy:

  • Brand owners and e-commerce players have been brought under the ambit of EPR
  • EPR is now applicable to both pre-consumer and post-consumer plastic packaging waste
  • Producers and brand owners (PIBO) have finally been assigned targets for collection of plastic waste that they put out in the market
  • Provisions and targets for collection, re-use (by brand owners), recycling (by PIBOs) and use of recycled plastic (by PIBOs) have been laid out.
  • Bi-annual plastic characterisation studies.

Issues with the EPR Guidelines

  • Plastic waste reduction / minimisation, which is the first principle of waste management in the EPR mandate has not been included in the draft.
  • Compostable and biodegradable plastics should have an EPR mandate of collection and processing as it is important to channelise them to relevant facilities (industrial composting units) for proper treatment and processing.
  • Ambiguity around the action plan to be submitted by Producers and Brand owners (PBO): It is mandatory for PBOs to submit an action plan, according to the draft EPR policy. The template for the action plan, however, is not discussed or provided anywhere. The “must, should and could” elements have not been talked about.
  • Lack of Transparency as the centralised portal developed by CPCB is a closed door portal, which can only be accessed by the PIBO’s, plastic waste processors / recyclers, SPCBs / PCCBs and CPCB.
  • Non-Inclusion of the informal sector in the draft EPR as they turn waste into usable and tradable goods. Hence, the informal sector should be included in the draft EPR policy as most of the plastics in India are channelised by the informal sector.

 

3.   Kerala tops NITI Aayog Health Index again

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II, III: Public health and governance
Sub Theme: Health index | UPSC

State Health Index

NITI Aayog today released the 4th edition of the State Health Index for 2019–20. The report, titled “Healthy States, Progressive India”, ranks states and Union Territories on their year-on-year incremental performance in health outcomes as well as their overall status.

The Index assess the performance of states and UTs in the domains of ‘Health Outcomes’‘Governance and Information’, and ‘Key Inputs/Processes’. Each of these domains consists of multiple indicators.

Health outcomes: Governance and Information Key inputs/Processes
Neonatal mortality rate, Under 5 mortality rate, Sex ratio at birth, Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) etc. –          Average occupancy of key posts of state govt for last 3 years

(Mission Director and Director Health Services at the state level  and Chief medical officer at the district level etc..)

 

–          Proportion of state government health expenditure to total state expenditure

–          Proportion of health care providers against required number of health care providers in public health facilities etc.

 Key findings of the report:

  • On overall ranking based on the composite index score in 2019–20, the top-ranking states were Kerala and Tamil Nadu among the ‘Larger States’, Mizoram and Tripura among the ‘Smaller States’, and DH&DD and Chandigarh among the UTs.
  • Uttar Pradesh with the lowest Overall Reference Year (2019-20) Index Score ranked at the bottom (Rank 19) in Overall Performance, however, it ranked at the top in terms of Incremental Performance by registering the highest incremental change from the Base Year (2018-19) to Reference Year (2019-20)
  • Health Outcomes:
  • In majority of the states, progress was observed and NMR, U5MR and MMR. All the Larger States recorded a reduction in U5MR between 2014 and 2018, a critical indicator for child survival.
  • Some states like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have achieved the 2030 SDG Target for U5MR, i.e., 25 child deaths under 5 years per 1000 live births.
  • The SRB (Sex ratio at birth) varied widely between 840 girls per 1000 boys in Uttarakhand to 974 girls per 1000 boys in Kerala in the Year 2018. Between 2014 and 2018, the SRB (number of girls born for every 1000 boys) improved only in five Larger States (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh), while remaining 14 states registered a decline.
  • Governance and Information:
  • The average occupancy of key administrative positions at the state level and district level was about 14-15 months over a 36-month period (2017-20).
  • In half of the Larger States, the average occupancy of state level 3 key positions was 12 months or less.

A stable tenure of key administrative positions at the state and district level is essential for good governance. According to the findings of the report, there is clearly room for several states to decrease the frequency of transfer of administrators at the state and district level to ensure continuity, improved accountability and effectiveness.

  • Key Inputs/Processes:
  • All Larger States had shortage of required Specialists at the district hospitals.
  • Majority of the states have either not yet started or have only a small proportion of public health facilities with quality accreditation.
  • Half the states registered a decline in state government health expenditure to total state expenditure from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

The Health Index has been a useful tool to track Overall Performance and Incremental Performance of states and UTs and incentivising states/UTs to focus on outputs and outcomes rather than inputs and budget spends. The MoHFW’s decision to link the Index to incentives under the NHM (National Health Mission) has further incentivised the states to shifting the focus from budget spends, inputs and outputs to outcomes by shining the light on states/UTs that have shown most improvemen

Since most of the states are lagging behind in Health outcomes (only 5 states achieved SDG target of U5 mortality rate), the immediate policy consequence for the govt is to roll out PM atmanirbhar swasth Bharat yojana on a priority basis and utilise funds from Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi to improve Health infrastructure in low ranking states.

PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana:

Ø  Union govt, in the budget 2021-22, has launched a centrally sponsored scheme PM Atmanirbhar swasth bharat yojana.

Ø  The objective of the scheme is to develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions, to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.

Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi:

A single non-lapsable reserve fund for share of Health from the proceeds of Health and Education Cess levied.

Proceeds of share of health in the Health and Education Cess will be credited into PMSSN

Accruals into the PMSSN will be utilized for the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare namely,

Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY)

Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs)

National Health Mission

Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY)

Emergency & disaster preparedness and responses during health emergencies

 

4.   A century­ old ivory Nageswara

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper I: Indian History and culture
Sub Theme: nageswara | UPSC

A century-old ivory nagaswaram

It is a small timiri-type nagaswaram, capable of producing high pitch music. The

lower part — anusu — and upper part of the instrument are made of ivory.

According to A.N. Sattanathan, the first chairman of the Tamil Nadu Backward

Classes Commission, the instrument was gifted to Chitrai Nayakar by the Maharaja of

Mysore, probably by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV.

Chitrai Nayakar, the instrument’s original owner, is said to have played it at the

wedding of the famed poet Subramania Bharathi.

Plain Speaking: A Sudra’s Story- autobiography of Sattanthan (first chairman of the

Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission)

 

5.  Is the freedom of speech absolute?

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Indian Polity and governance
Sub Theme: Hate speech | UPSC

Freedom of expression and Hate speech 

  • Rights are the cornerstone of individual autonomy.
  • They are guaranteed as limits on the power of State.
  • In democratic societies they have been granted to protect individual from undue State interference. Freedom of expression has been enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
  • It is considered to be one of the most significant rights as it allows a person to attain self-fulfilment and strengthen the capacity to fully enjoy freedom.
  • Democracy thrives on disagreements provided they do not cross the boundaries of civil discourse. Critical and dissenting voices are important for a vibrant society.
  • However, care must be taken to prevent public discourse from becoming a tool to promote speech inimical to public order.
  • The mode of exercise, the context and the extent of abuse of freedom are important in determining the contours of permissible restrictions.
  • The State therefore assumes an important role in ensuring that freedoms are not exercised in an unconstitutional manner.
  • Article 19(2) places reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression in the interests of
    • the security of the State and sovereignty and integrity of India,
    • friendly relations with foreign States,
    • public order,
    • decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
  • Further Article 21  highlights that liberty is not exercised to the detriment of any individual or the disadvantaged section of the society.

Legal provisions for Hate speech 

Indian Penal Code : 

  • Section 124A IPC penalises sedition
  • Section 153A IPC penalises ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.
  • Section 153B IPC penalises ‘imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration’.
  • Section 295A IPC penalises ‘deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’.
  • Section 298 IPC penalises ‘uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person’.
  • Section 505(1) and (2) IPC penalises publication or circulation of any statement, rumour or report causing public mischief and enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.

The Representation of The People Act, 1951 

  • Section 8 disqualifies a person from contesting election if he is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression.
  • Section 123(3A) and section 125 prohibits promotion of enmity on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language in connection with election as a corrupt electoral practice and prohibits it.
  • Protection of civil Rights act 1955
  • The Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988
  • Section 107 empowers the Executive Magistrate to prevent a person from committing a breach of the peace or disturb the public 8 tranquillity or to do any wrongful act that may probably cause breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity.
  • Section 144 empowers the District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger.

Impact of Hate speech on freedom of expression 

  • Hate speech is an expression which is likely to cause distress or offend other individuals on the basis of their association with a particular group or incite hostility towards them.
  • It would undermine the “implicit assurance” that citizens of a democracy, particularly minorities or vulnerable groups are placed on the same footing as the majority
  • The accessibility of internet allows offensive speeches to affect a larger audience in a short span of time.

Human Rights Council’s ‘Report

Freedom of expression can be restricted on the following grounds –  child pornography (to protect the rights of children),

  • hate speech (to protect the rights of affected communities)
  • defamation (to protect the rights and reputation of others against unwarranted attacks)
  • direct and public incitement to commit genocide (to protect the rights of others)
  • advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (to protect the rights of others, such as the right to life).

Some of the Parameters to define Hate speech 

  • The extremity of hate speech – the speech must be offensive and project the extreme form of emotion.
  • Incitement 
  • Status of the author of the speech – People who hold power to influence society on a large scale.
  • Status of the victims of the speech – a politician for example knowingly lays himself open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed by both journalists and the public at large, and he must consequently display a greater degree of tolerance.
  • Context of the speech – Every seemingly hateful speech may not be termed as a hate speech. The context in which the speech was made is essential in determining its permissibility.

Manner of Regulation of hate speech  – 

  • Any attempt to regulate hate speech need not shrink the space for criticism and dissent, which are covered by the human right of a person to free speech and expression. As a consequence, not all hate speech can legitimately be made the subject of legal prohibition.
  • The right is curtailed by means of a law passed through the appropriate procedures and through provisions worded in explicit and unambiguous language
  • The measure must directly satisfy a legitimate aim.
  • The measure must be necessary to achieve its stated aim and must be proportionate to the harm that it attempts to prevent or redress.

Recommendation – 

  • Incitement to violence cannot be the sole test for determining whether a speech amounts to hate speech or not. Even speech that does not incite violence has the potential of marginalising a certain section of the society or individual.
  • The term “hate speech” has been used invariably to mean expression which is abusive, insulting, intimidating, harassing or which incites violence, hatred or discrimination against groups identified by characteristics such as one’s race, religion, place of birth, residence, region, language, caste or community, sexual orientation or personal convictions.
  • Political speeches should take place in an environment that does not foster abusive or hateful sentiments.
  • The Model code of conduct should be amended to expressly provide a provision that prohibits any kind of speech that promotes, or attempts to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language.
  • Care must also be taken to differentiate hate speech from sedition.

Non legal measures – 

  • Popular television dramas which subtly and effectively promote harmony between warring communities,
  • the involvement of religious heads to build empathy across religious lines to reduce communal tension, and
  • strategic interventions (especially in the context of social media) to monitor the dissemination of hate speech and mob mobilisation.
  • Persuading people who are the weakest links, to stop spreading a harmful rumour.

Amendments to IPC sections – 

  • Whoever on grounds of religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe –
  • (a) uses gravely threatening words either spoken or written, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause, fear or alarm; or
  • (b) advocates hatred by words either spoken or written, signs, visible representations, that causes incitement to violence 52 shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, and fine up to Rs 5000, or with both.
  • Whoever in public intentionally on grounds of religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribeuses words, or displays any writing, sign, or other visible representation which is gravely threatening, or derogatory;
  • (i) within the hearing or sight of a person, causing fear or alarm, or;
  • (ii) with the intent to provoke the use of unlawful violence, against that person or another, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and/or fine up to Rs 5000, or both”.

 

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