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Prelims Booster

17th August – Prelims Booster

Expansion of NCC

Raksha Mantri has approved a proposal of the National Cadet Corps for a major expansion scheme to meet the aspirations of youth in all the border and coastal districts. The proposals of the scheme were announced by the Prime Minister Shri  Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on 15 August.

Details –

  • A total of one lakh cadets from 173 border and coastal districts will be inducted in the NCC. One-third of the Cadets would be girl Cadets. More than 1000 schools and colleges have been identified in border and coastal districts where NCC will be introduced.
  • As part of the expansion plan, a total of 83 NCC units will be upgraded (Army 53, Navy 20, Air Force 10), to impart NCC training to the cadets in the border and coastal areas. 
  • Army will provide training and administrative support to the NCC units located in the border areas, Navy shall provide support to NCC units in the coastal areas and similarly Air Force will provide support to the NCC units located close to the Air Force stations
  • This will not only provide exposure to the youth of the border and coastal areas to military training and disciplined way of life but will also motivate them to join the armed forces. 
  • The NCC expansion plan will be implemented in partnership with the States.

Significance of expansion –

  • While the NCC does have units in several border and coastal districts, officials believe there is a lot of scope for expansion. Restructuring of the NCC was one of the key recommendations of the Committee of Experts (CoE) headed by Lt General DB Shekatkar (Retd) and constituted by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar back in mid-2016.
  • General Shekatkar has said, “There is certainly scope for NCC to increase its footprint in coastal and border areas. In the coastal regions, where youth are already familiar with the sea, the training will increase interest in careers in Navy, Coast Guard and also Merchant shipping avenues. In the border area, the trained cadets can play an important role in various contingencies and also in supporting roles to the Armed forces in various roles.”

About National Cadet Corps –

  • NCC is a tri-service organisation comprising of the Army, Naval and Air wings.
  • The motto of the organisation is ‘Unity and Discipline’, following which it prepares youth as disciplined and patriotic citizens.
  • NCC was formed under the National Cadet Corps Act, 1948.
  • Cadets are given basic military and weapons training in NCC, by serving officers of the Armed forces.
  • It is a voluntary organisation which recruits cadets from high schools, higher secondary, colleges and universities all over India.
  • The officers and cadets have no liability for active military service once they complete their course.
  • It can be traced back to the ‘University Corps’, which was created under the Indian Defence Act 1917, with the objective to make up for the shortage in the Army.
  • The NCC is headed by a Director General with the rank of Lieutenant General.
  • NCC falls under the domain of Ministry of Defence.

National Health ID

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a national health ID for every Indian finds it roots in a 2018 Niti Aayog proposal to create a centralised mechanism to uniquely identify every participating user in the National Health Stack.

What is the national health ID system?

  • The national health ID will be a repository of all health-related information of a person.
  • According to the National Health Authority (NHA), every patient who wishes to have their health records available digitally must start by creating a Health ID. Each Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager — such as National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) — which will be used to seek the patient’s consent and allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.
  • The Health ID is created by using a person’s basic details and mobile number or Aadhaar number. This will make it unique to the person, who will have the option to link all of their health records to this ID.

Background – Health ID –

  • The National Health Policy 2017 had envisaged creation of a digital health technology eco-system aiming at developing an integrated health information system that serves the needs of all stakeholders and improves efficiency, transparency and citizens’ experience with linkage across public and private healthcare.
  • In the context of this, central government’s think-tank Niti Aayog, in June 2018, floated a consultation of a digital backbone for India’s health system — National Health Stack.
  • As part of its consultation, Niti Aayog proposed a Digital Health ID to “greatly reduce the risk of preventable medical errors and significantly increase quality of care”. This, in addition to the system enabling users “to obtain a longitudinal view of their healthcare records”.
  • This proposal was then further taken up by the Central government with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the NHA, and the Ministry of Electronics and IT preparing a strategy overview document last month for “Making India a Digital Health Nation Enabling Digital Healthcare for all”.

Which systems does the national health ID interact with?

As envisaged, various healthcare providers — such as hospitals, laboratories, insurance companies, online pharmacies, telemedicine firms — will be expected to participate in the health ID system. The strategy overview document points out that while option of digital Health ID will be there, in case a person does not want Health ID, then also treatment should be allowed.

Have there been global instances of such a centralised health record system?

  • In 2005, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) started deployment of an electronic health record systems with a goal to have all patients with a centralised electronic health record by 2010.
  • While several hospitals acquired electronic patient records systems as part of this process, there was no national healthcare information exchange. The program was ultimately dismantled after a cost to the UK taxpayer was more than £12 billion, and is considered one of the most expensive healthcare IT failures.

Loya Jirga – The Council of Elders

In most republics, the head of state is supreme. Thus, it may have seemed unusual when Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani pleaded “helplessness” in making the decision on whether to release 400 Taliban prisoners, and said he would convene a Loya Jirga, a gathering of elders, to deliberate on it.

What was the issue?

  • These 400 Taliban prisoners had been convicted of “serious crimes”, and it was not in the President’s “mandate” to pardon or release them.
  • The Loya Jirga of approximately 3,200 representatives from various parts of Afghanistan, including Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks, met on August 7-9, and directed the release of the men, under the condition they would not return to the battlefield, thus paving the way for the Intra-Afghan negotiations (IAN).
  • Signing the decree for the release of the last Taliban convicts, Mr. Ghani laid all the credit and responsibility for the decision at the Loya Jirga’s door.

Background –

Despite a decade or more of democracy, and years of being a republic, Afghanistan still gives its tradition of Loya Jirgas the kind of respect that allows even an elected head of state to defer to it. Since at least 1709, Jirgas have brought together tribal elders to settle issues of national crises in Afghanistan.

Historical decisions –

  • From the momentous decision to anoint Ahmed Shah Abdali (Durrani) King in 1747, to the historic endorsement of Hamid Karzai as President of the post-Taliban republic, all major decisions in the country flowed from the elders’ conference. Often, it is the leader who turns to the Jirga, as Mr. Ghani just did, when he wants a broader political consensus or a stamp of approval for a policy decision.
  • In 1928, the reformist King Amanullah was setting his country on course for a slew of moves to modernise society — declaring a constitutional monarchy, mandatory schooling for all, abolition of slavery and women’s rights. He convened a Jirga to give its stamp of removal to the measures. However, when he asked his wife Soraiya to remove her veil at a public function, the act led to considerable disquiet during the Jirga. Within the year, a civil war broke out, and King Amanullah was forced into exile.

Criticism of Loya Jirga –

  • Many in Afghanistan in modern times have been wary of the Jirga process, which is seen as a patriarchal structure with unlimited powers. In the run-up to the latest Jirga, activists criticised the decision to release Taliban fighters accused of the most heinous crimes as a ‘pre-ordained result’, under pressure from the U.S. government.
  • Others, especially women’s rights activists have criticised both the Jirga and its decision to release Taliban prisoners as a regressive step. During the recent Jirga, at least two women representatives were heckled, even assaulted when they tried to voice their protests.
  • Organisers countered that since 2002, the Jirga has always included women, and the latest one, which is a part of the consultative “Peace Jirga” convened by President Ghani last year to advise the government on the reconciliation process, comprises 30% women, ensuring participation, if not a resounding voice at the centuries old platform.

Minimum age of marriage for women

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women during his address to the nation on the 74th Independence Day.

Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 years and 18 years for men and women respectively. The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority which is gender-neutral. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.

Committee on minimum age of marriage –

  • Recently, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a task force to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women. The task force will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
  • It will also look at key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR), and will examine the possibility of increasing the age of marriage for women from the present 18 years to 21 years.
  • Headed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitely, the committee includes Member Health at the NITI Aayog, Dr Vinod Paul, and several Secretaries to the Government of India.

Why is there a minimum age of marriage?

  • The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent the abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. However, child marriages are not illegal — even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Additionally, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape, and the ‘consent’ of a minor is regarded as invalid since she is deemed incapable of giving consent at that age.

How did the law evolve?

  • The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10. The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through The Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid. The law faced opposition from conservative leaders of the Indian National Movement, who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
  • A legal framework for the age of consent for marriage in India only began in the 1880s.
  • In 1929, The Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively. The law, popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.

Why different ages for men and women?

  • There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. The laws are a codification of custom and religious practices.
  • The Law Commission consultation paper has argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”. 
  • Women’s rights activists have argued that the law also perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and, therefore, can be allowed to marry sooner.
  • The international treaty Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.

Why is the law being relooked at?

  • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women. Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
  • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.

Child marriages in India –

  • A report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the year 2020 said that while child marriages were almost universally banned, “yet they happen 33,000 times a day, every day, all around the world”.
  • An estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children, and by 2030, another 150 million girls under the age of 18 will be married. Although advances in India have contributed to a 50 per cent decline in child marriage in South Asia—to 30 per cent in 2018, the region still accounts for the largest number of child marriages each year, estimated at 4.1 million in 2017, the report said.
  • In India, an analysis of child marriage data show that among girls married by age 18, 46 per cent were also in the lowest income bracket.
  • UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India, which makes the country home to the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total. Nearly 16 per cent adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married.

Fly Ash

NTPC Ltd., a central PSU under Ministry of Power and country’s largest power generation company has developed an infrastructure at Rihand project in Uttar Pradesh to transport fly ash in bulk to cement plants, located at distance, at a cheaper cost. The development is in line with NTPC’s commitment towards 100 percent utilisation of fly ash from power plants.

What is ‘Fly Ash’?

  • Fly ash is the end product of combustion during the process of power generation in the coal-based thermal power plants.
  • Proper management of fly ash is important for not only the environment but for us also as the ash produced by the power plants occupies a lot of land space.
  • At present, 63% of the fly ash is being utilised in India but the target is for 100% utilisation of the fly ash.

Government Initiatives for Fly Ash utilisation –

  • GST rates on fly ash and its products have been reduced to 5%.
  • ASH TRACK Mobile App has been launched by the Ministry of Power for better management of fly ash produced by thermal power plants.
  • Ash-park, for promoting fly ash-based product manufacturing units, has been developed and awareness programme for utilisation of fly ash and its products have been conducted.

Daily MCQs

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