River Water Disputes Bill | PIB Summary

Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti introduced Inter-State River Water Disputes Bill (Amendment), 2017.

River Water Disputes Bill | Background

  • Inter-state river water disputes are on the rise on account of increase in water demands by the States. The Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956 which provides the legal framework to address such disputes, suffers from many drawbacks.
  • Under this Act, a separate Tribunal has to be established for each Inter State River Water Dispute.
  • Only three out of eight Tribunals have given awards accepted by the States, while Tribunals like Cauvery and Ravi Beas have been in existence for over 26 and 30 years respectively without any award.
  • Delays are on account of no time limit for adjudication by a Tribunal, no upper age limit for the Chairman or the Members, work getting stalled due to occurrence of any vacancy and no time limit for publishing the report of the Tribunal.

River Water Disputes Bill | Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill proposes a Single Standing Tribunal (with multiple benches) instead of existing multiple tribunals, which shall consist of one Chairperson, one Vice-Chairperson and not more than six other Members.
  • While the term of office of the Chairperson is five year or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier, the term of office of Vice Chairperson and other member of tribunal shall be co-terminus with the adjudication of the water dispute.
  • The Bill also provides for the appointment of Assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. They shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service not below the rank of Chief Engineer.
  • The total time period for adjudication of dispute has been fixed at maximum of four and half years. The decision of the Tribunal shall be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette.
  • The Bill also proposes to introduce mechanism to resolve the dispute amicably by negotiations, through a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) to be established by the Central Government consisting of relevant experts, before such dispute is referred to the tribunal.
  • The Bill also provides for transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and for this purpose, an agency to maintain data-bank and information system shall be appointed or authorized by Central Government.  

River Water Disputes Bill | Significance

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 proposes to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust.

FDDI Bill 2017 | PIB Summary

Commerce & Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill also called the FDDI Bill 2017 in short, in the Lok Sabha to declare the FDDI as an Institution of National Importance (INI).

FDDI Bill 2017 | Objective

The objective of the proposed legislation is to facilitate and promote teaching, training and research in all disciplines relating to design and development of Footwear and leather products and to enable FDDI to emerge as Centre of Excellence meeting international standards.

FDDI Bill 2017 | About Footwear Design and Development Institute

  • The Footwear Design & Development Institute was established in 1986 with the objective of providing trained human resource and assistance to the sector.
  • FDDI has Pan-India presence with campuses at Noida, Kolkata, Chennai, Fursatganj (UP), Rohtak (Haryana), Chhindwara (M.P) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) equipped with state of art academic facilities and infrastructure.
  • New campuses at Hyderabad, Patna, Ankleshwar (Gujarat), Banur(Punjab) and Guna (M.P) would also start functioning shortly.

Maternity Benefit Bill | PIN Summary

Lok Sabha passed today the Maternity Benefit Bill (Amendment), 2016. As the Rajya Sabha has already passed the bill last year, the bill stands passed by both the houses of the Parliament.

Proposed amendments

It inter-alia includes -:

  1. increasing maternity benefit to woman covered under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 from 12 weeks to 26 weeks up to two surviving children in order to allow the mother to take care of the child during his/her most formative stage,
  2. providing maternity benefit of 12 weeks to Commissioning mother and Adopting mother,
  3. facilitate “work from home” to a mother with mutual consent of the employee and the employer,
  4. making mandatory in respect of establishment having fifty or more employees,
  5. to have the facility of crèche either individually or as a shared common facility within such distance as may be prescribed by rules & also to allow four visits to the crèche by the woman daily, including the interval for rest allowed to her and every establishment to intimate in writing and electronically to every woman at the time of her initial appointment about the benefits available under the Act.

Background

The Maternity Benefit(Amendment) Bill, 2016 has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha on 11th August,2016. These changes will have major impact on the health, well-being and growth of the future generation in the Country. It will have positive impact on women’s participation in labour force and will improve the work- life balance of the women workers.

IBBI recognizes two IPEs | PIB Summary

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has recently recognised two Insolvency Professional Entities (IPEs)

Details

  • A limited liability partnership, a registered partnership firm or a company may be recognised by the IBBI as an IPE if
  1. a majority of the partners of the limited liability partnership or registered partnership firm are registered as insolvency professionals (IPs); or
  2. a majority of the whole-time directors of the company are registered as insolvency professionals, as the case may be.
  • An IPE is jointly and severally liable for all acts or omissions of its partners or directors as IPs committed during such partnership or directorship.

What are Insolvency Professionals?

  • The Insolvency Professionals (IPs) are registered and regulated by the IBBI.
  • They have a critical role in transactions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code).
  • The Code and regulations made there under provide for strengthening their capacity on a continuous basis.

For example  The Insolvency Professional Agencies (IPAs) are obliged to promote continuous professional development of professional members enrolled with them. Similarly, the IPs have been enabled to engage other professionals as may be necessary and to use organisational resources of an IPE of which he is a partner or whole time director, as the case may be, for servicing the transactions.

About Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 is considered as the biggest economic reform next only to GST.
  • It offers a market determined, time bound mechanism for orderly resolution of insolvency, wherever possible, and orderly exit, wherever required.
  • The Code envisages an ecosystem comprising National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT), Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Board), Information Utilities (IUs), Insolvency Professionals (IPs), Insolvency Professional Agencies (IPAs) and Insolvency Professional Entities (IPEs) for implementation of the Code.
  • With concerted efforts of all concerned, there has been considerable progress in terms of putting in place some of the key elements of the ecosystem and also operationalisation of provisions relating to corporate insolvency resolution and liquidation.
  • The debtors and creditors alike have commenced transactions under the Code.

Disability Bill 2016 | Summary

Recently the Lok Sabha passed “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill – 2016”. The Disability Bill 2016 will replace the existing PwD Act, 1995, which was enacted 21 years back. The Rajya Sabha has already passed the Disability Bill 2016 on 14.12.2016.

Disability Bill 2016 | The salient features

The-Rights-of-Persons-with-Disabilities-is-passed-at-Lok-Sabha

  • Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
  • The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities. The 21 disabilities are given below: –

Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy Cured persons, Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), Locomotor Disability Dwarfism, Mental Illness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic Neurological conditions, Specific Learning Disabilities, Multiple Sclerosis, Speech and Language disability, Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Sickle Cell disease, Multiple Disabilities including deafblindness, Acid Attack victim, Parkinson’s disease

  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid Attack Victims have been included.
  • Dwarfism, muscular dystrophy has been indicated as separate class of specified disability.
  • The New categories of disabilities also included three blood disorders, Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell disease.
  • In addition, the Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
  • Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others.
  • Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education, government jobs, reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
  • Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities.
  • Office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities has been strengthened who will now be assisted by 2 Commissioners and an Advisory Committee comprising of not more than 11 members drawn from experts in various disabilities.
  • Similarly, the office of State Commissioners of Disabilities has been strengthened who will be assisted by an Advisory Committee comprising of not more than 5 members drawn from experts in various disabilities.
  • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies and also monitor implementation of the Act.
  • District level committees will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
  • Creation of National and State Fund will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for Persons with Disabilities and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities will be subsumed with the National Fund.

Disability Bill 2016 | Importance of the Bill

  • For strengthening the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame.
  • Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability. This would help them to effectively participate in the governance of the nation.
  • The Bill provides for grant of guardianship by District Court under which there will be joint decision making between the guardian and the persons with disabilities. This would impart a sense of security to the targeted people.
  • Broad based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy making bodies at the Central and State level. This reiterates the stand of the Government towards decentralisation of powers and ease of accessibility for the specially-abled population.
  • The Bill provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  • Minister of social justice and empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot announced that a scheme of “universal identity card for the disabled” was on the anvil and an agency had already been finalised for it. The proposed card would also be linked to Aadhaar to help the disabled all over the country in a seamless fashion. He said the universal identity card would overcome the problem of getting disability certificate.

Disability Bill 2016 |Conclusion

The New Act will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory. This will fulfill the obligations on the part of India in terms of UNCRD. Further, the new law will not only enhance the Rights and Entitlements of Divyangjan but also provide effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the Society in a satisfactory manner.

Populist Autocracy and India

Before we discuss Populist Autocracy and if India can achieve it we need to understand what is Populism. In 1967, the London School of Economics held a conference to define “populism”. Their general conclusion was that “everyone agreed that the subject is too vast not merely to be contained in one ‘definition’ but to be exhausted in one discussion.

What is popular sovereignty?

16498566-abstract-word-cloud-for-sovereignty-with-related-tags-and-terms-stock-photo

Popular sovereignty is the ‘Rule by the People’ in crude sense. Enlightenment notion of popular sovereignty is the legitimising principle of all political authority. It became the accepted norm with the American Revolution and French Revolutions, which ushered in the modern state.

  • The first based on English foundations was provided by the American constitution based on representative, not direct democracy, and with all sorts of checks and balances.
  • The second was an antithetical form as advocated by Rousseau (a form of representative democracy) which held that “the sovereignty of the people could never and should never be abridged”.

What is populism as per the above consideration?

A demagogic experience which promises to rise above the three organs of the state to secure his/her populist agenda of fulfilling the aspirations of the masses, most probably the majority of the masses.

Till the time all the three powers of the state are conjoined in one person who incarnates the “Voice of the people” i.e. popular sovereignty being supreme, it is not populism’s success.

It has been witnessed in ‘totalitarian democracy’, taken by Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It is populist authoritarianism.

Are we moving towards populism / Populist Autocracy?

imagesCalling the current scenario in the world politics, a populist authoritarianism would be quite an exaggeration because of the presence of effective checks and balances by the institutional structures of the state. This explains why labelling the Brexit and the US election outcomes as populist is quite awkward.

Most probably, it is in continental countries – particularly some of the east European countries – where there is a growing dysfunction of the EU, the threat of populist authoritarianism lies.

What exactly is this pattern of change in politics worldwide?

Populist Autocracy 3

We might have to move a little backwards to understand this change. One of the consequences of the secularism promoted by the Enlightenment was “the disenchantment of the world” with the supremacy of religion. This led to the deep human desire for cosmological beliefs which give meaning and purpose to their lives and relationships to others.

These cosmological beliefs were threatened by the rise of progressive cultural agenda of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism of the left-libertarian parties and other progressive movements advocating non-traditional values and causes.

Therefore, Harvard Kennedy School finds that it is the “CULTURAL BACKLASH” rather than economic distress which is fuelling this populism like situation.

Is it possible that India will become a populist democracy if not Populist Autocracy?

Populist Autocracy 1

With by and large entrenched liberal democracy, Indian ‘populism’ has taken two major forms -:

  • The first which still retains is the intellectual dominance of ‘socialist’ ideas which is by and large fuel ‘redistribution’ of resources. It views the majority of the citizens as being dependent on the state for their material needs.
  • The second view is to ‘empower’ the people who are fully capable, autonomous beings held back by various impediments caused by state’s failure to provide the basic public goods of law and order and the merit goods of health and education.

There are of course who fear that, despite espousing the second form of classically liberal populism, the current government is likely to follow Rousseau’s recommendations of popular sovereignty under the garb of ‘majoritarianism’ and create a populist autocracy. It is doubtful, because it depends upon a robust judiciary which may cave in as it did under Indira Gandhi to prevent her Napoleonic instincts.

Conclusion

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Elections in India | State funding

Elections in India are due very soon. The recent demonetisation has brought forward many contentious issues at hand which are concerned with the proliferation of black money. Specifically, it has brought focus on the need to reform the electoral system, primarily the funding of elections. PM Modi, at an all-party meeting a week ago ahead of the Parliament session, strongly pitched for state funding of elections to enhance transparency in public life and combat corruption. The suggestion seems significant since the demonetisation has dried up dubious funds to fight elections.

History of State Funding of Elections

funding

  • The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government had in 1999 constituted a multi-party parliamentary panel under the chairmanship of senior Communist Party of India leader Indrajit Gupta to study the feasibility. Among other members were Dr. Manmohan Singh of the Congress and Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • The Dinesh Goswami panel in 1999, sought to endorse the state funding of elections to combat illegal and indiscriminate use of money in elections.
  • The Law Commission of India too had in its 1999 report said that ‘total’ state funding was a desirable goal so long as political parties were prohibited from accepting money from other sources.
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2008 had also endorsed partial state funding in a bid to check “illegitimate and unnecessary funding” of elections.

Report of Indrajit Gupta Panel

gavel

  • In the report submitted to the Union Ministry of Law & Justice as well as to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the committee strongly recommended state funding of political parties contesting elections.
  • It also added that such funding should be limited to parties recognised as ‘national’ or ‘State’ by the Election Commission of India, and to candidates directly fielded by such recognised parties.
  • The panel also believed that while ideally, there must be total state funding of elections, budgetary constraints could come in the way. Therefore, members of the committee broadly concurred with the view that a good start could be made with partial funding — that is, with the state taking care of certain expenditures of the recognised parties.
  • It added that the aim should be to discourage political parties from seeking external funding (except through a nominal membership fee) to run their affairs, carry out their programmes and contest elections.
  • The panel recommended the creation of a separate Election Fund with an annual contribution of some Rs 600 crore (at the rate of Rs 10 per voter, for the then total of 60 crore voters) by the Centre and a matching amount by all States put together.
  • It also said that only those parties which had submitted their income tax returns up to the previous financial year could avail of state funding.
  • The committee recommended that every candidate of the party eligible for state funding should be given a specified quantity of fuel for vehicles during an election campaign, a specified quantity of paper to prepare electoral literature, and an amplifier system for every Assembly segment of a Lok Sabha constituency, subject to six such sets for each Lok Sabha constituency.

Arguments in favour of State Funding of Elections

  • A legal ban on adding party and third party expenses in the constituency to the candidates’ overall accounts followed by strong public disclosure and penalties may bring the overall cost down at constituency level (for election related expenditures).
  • Chief Election Commissioner of India, Nasim Zaidi said that the existing rules that regulate donations were not enough to check the proliferation of black money in elections.
  • State funding of elections would boost the idea of democracy in the real sense as it would encourage public participation by eliminating the need of huge funds to contest elections.
  • State funding of elections would bring transparency and pave the way for bringing the funding of political parties under the umbrella of ‘Right to Information Act, 2005’.
  • The business houses and other lobby groups that illegally inject huge chunks of money through the channels of funding of political party would end up getting dejected post-elections as there would be no lure of funds for the political party in power.
  • The circulation of black money which promulgates during the election period and continues post-election would come down up to a huge extent.

Arguments against State Funding of Elections

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  • How a Government that is grappling with deficit budgets, can provide money to political parties to contest elections? Using the money collected from the de-monetisation drive for this purpose would be a “travesty” because that would mean more money for politicians at public expense.
  • Given that state expenditure on key social sectors such as primary healthcare is “pitifully small”, the very idea of the Government giving away money to political parties to contest polls, is revolting.
  • Public resources have to be channelled towards and not diverted from such essential services, and that, too, to finance something that already gets abundantly financed.
  • State funding will become one more additional tool, one more additional source, of funds without reduction of the use of illegal money in election campaign. This in a way can restrict the participation of right-thinking citizens.

International Experience

state funding

  • Some countries like Finland, Italy, Israel, Norway, Canada, the US, Japan, Australia and South Korea implemented the concept with mixed results. Italy, Israel and Finland, for instance, did not see any significant reduction in state expenditures due to public funding, despite the many checks and balances.
  • In most of these countries, the argument against state intervention has been that political parties, being a free association of citizens, are independent entities, and that they cannot be bound by financial strictures. It’s an argument that can well be applied to India by anti-state interventionists.

The idea of implementing such a well-intentioned electoral reform is welcome, specially followed by the demonetisation drive.  However, such efforts will have greater credibility if we have in place institutional mechanisms such as the Lokpal which, in some ways, is supposed to be the sentinel that state funding of polls is expected to be as well.

Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan

surakshit-matritva-abhiyan
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with UNICEF launched Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Yojana aimed at improving maternal and child health. It is aimed to realise the objective of providing effective, efficient and ensured delivery of medical services for the prenatal care of a large number of pregnant women across the country. Let us look at the salient features of the policy.
Features-
• On the 9th day of every month, any pregnant woman is free to avail any range of antenatal services along with ultra sound and other diagnostic facilities in government hospitals in every district of all the states. It aims to cover 3 crores of such women annually.
• It aims to help the country to achieve the designated Sustainable Development Goal of Maternal Mortality Rate and Infant Mortality Rate by targeting high risk pregnancy.
Pre-requisites for the scheme-
Success of the scheme will depend on the mind-set, implementation, infrastructure and preparation of the government and the ownership of the civil society in partnership with the private sector. A healthy India is a boon for all the pillars of our society.
Challenges-
• Lack of adequate infrastructure in the form of ‘Public Health Centres’ and insufficient human resources in the government hospitals. 1 doctor for every 2000 persons, which should come down to 1 doctor for every 1000 persons (as per WHO).
• Lack of uninterrupted power supply for the screening purpose in the rural areas. Ultra sound and other diagnostic facilities are useless without electricity.
• Nuclear families, late marriage, high rate of infertility and alienation in society is breeding high risk pregnancy for the women. It would be a daunting task to address such societal transitions.
• The pregnant mother gets infected with chronic diseases very easily in India due to insanitation, inadequate medical facilities and other factors.
Solution-
• It is important to build up a formal ground level structure to accommodate challenges of local level within its ambit. ASHA workers need to be sensitised, trained and educated effectively for the proper disbursal of relevant information in rural areas.
• Adequate transfer of funds, facilities, knowledge and attention to the rural areas would help to build up the base of rural health specialists and infrastructure facilities in India. Incentives for marketing of ideas would boost the morale of ground level staff too.
• Urban doctors and trainees should be incentivised and encouraged to travel to rural grounds for resolving the actual issues at hand. Indian Medical Association and top private hospitals could collaborate for such a noble initiative.
Conclusion
Previously the Government had launched ‘Mother Absolute Affection Programme’ and ‘Mission Indradhanush’ for exclusive breast feeding and immunisation, respectively. All the three schemes are very well synchronised and targeted delivery of services would brighten up our prospects to outshine our peers in the field of realising the goals mentioned under SDGs.

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