15, March 2017

1.Inter-state River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha

Source: PIB

It is called as “Revolutionary step” towards the resolution of Inter- State River Water Disputes

Members:

  • 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.

Significance of this Bill:

  • 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.

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.

What are the Drawbacks?

  • 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.

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.

 

2.‘International Vision Zero Conference’ on Occupational, Safety and Health

Source: PIB

The concept of ‘Vision Zero’ is fast gaining international acceptance and is expected to leverage the efforts of the Government of India to raise the occupational safety and health standards in the country so as to improve the occupational safety and health situation.

  • The participants attending the conference from various sectors across a wide variety of industries are expected to be benefitted by the common platform provided by the conference through sharing of best practices both nationally and internationally.
  • On the other hand, the international community will get an appraisal of the occupational safety and health status in India thereby exposing the Indian industrial occupational safety and health scenario to the international community.

OSH(Occupational Safety & Health)

  • An exhibition on OSH – INOSH EXPO 2017 is also being organised during the conference to show-case new trends in Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs), Occupational Health Promotion, High-risk Management, Environmental Protection Technologies, all under one roof.
  • The exhibition will provide the most efficient platform to support technological communication and business trade. About 100 leading manufacturers /suppliers from India and Europe are likely to participate in the INOSH Expo.

Background:

  • India is a growing economy, the world’s most vibrant and largest democracy and an aspiring superpower. Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) for India is a ‘developmental tool’ and an empowering movement.
  • Progressive industries are launching many initiatives to spread awareness on OSH among all stakeholders and to reduce OSH risks at workplace.
  • Moreover, with implementation of new Govt. policies for ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) & ‘Swachh Bharat Kosh’ (Clean India Fund) has already generated a lot of awareness towards maintaining a clean environment ultimately encouraging hygiene and cleanliness at work. Our aim is to be the catalyst for this major change which the country will see in the next decade.

3.Madhukar Gupta Committee Report- (Ministry Home Affairs)

Source: PIB

The Committee constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri Madhukar Gupta, has submitted its report to the Government to strengthen border protection and address vulnerabilities in fencing along the Indo-Pakistan border.

  • The Committee has given its recommendations broadly on the issues of Threats and Border Protection, assessment of force level, deployment on the border, infrastructure and technology issues for protection of border and administrative issues.
  • It has been decided to initiate action in light of the recommendations of the Committee in consultation with the stakeholders.

Background

  • The MHA had constituted this committee in April 2016 to suggest ways to address the issue of gaps and vulnerability in border fencing.
  • It was constituted three months after the terror attack on Pathankot IAF base in January 2016 by Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists from Pakistan.
  • These terroritst had infiltrated into India by beaching the India-Pakistan border (through porous border) in Punjab especially from the riverine stretch.

4.Parliament passes Enemy Property Bill

Source: The Hindu

Successors of those who migrated to Pakistan and China during partition will have no claim over the properties left behind in India, with Parliament passes a bill to amend a 49-year-old law- The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968.

  • ’enemy’ property as introduce clarity with regard to those properties which had already been acquired by the heirs of the ’enemy’ property owners, a reference to nationals of Pakistan and China.
  • The LS had passed the Bill earlier but certain amendments were introduced to it in the RS, on the recommendations of a Select Committee. Those amendments had to be approved by the Lower House.

Enemy Property Bill 2016

  • According to the Bill, “enemy property” refers to any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm.
  • The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.
  • After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian’s powers.

The purpose of [the] Bill is to clarify the 1968 Act. Inheritance law will not be applicable on Enemy Property…This will put an end to the long-pending issue which should have ideally happened in 2010 when the Bill was introduced.

5.Ex-Gujarat BJP MLA set to head Safai Karamcharis Commission

Source: Indian Express

The government had extended the tenure of the Commission for another three years from April 1, 2016.

National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment:

Safai Karmachari Andolan, shall struggle and build solidarity to reclaim our dignity, equality and human personhood

SAFAI KARMACHARI ANDOLAN

  • Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) is a national movement committed to the total eradication of manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of all scavengers for dignified occupations.
  • The main reason for the continuation of the practise of manual scavenging is due to the presence of dry latrines. The presence of dry latrine poses a challenge in completing the sanitation chain. In India, a specific group of people are forced to complete this chain – The MANAUAL SCAVENGERS.
  • Manual scavenging, an occupation which involves cleaning the dry latrines and carrying human excreta, is considered as one of the lowest, polluted and most degrading occupation.
  • The caste system dictates that those born into a particular Dalit sub-caste should engage in manual scavenging and should remain doing so throughout their lives, prohibiting them to lead a dignified life in the community.

Laws and their activities:

  • Though the Indian government has various laws like ‘The Employment of Manual Scavenging and construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act,1993’ which prohibits the engagement or employment of persons for manually carrying human excreta, and further prohibits the construction or maintenance of dry latrines, this practise still continues in as many as 256 districts in India.
  • Apart from being employed by individual households there are many manual scavengers employed by the government for cleaning at the community dry latrines, Railway stations, government hospitals, etc.
  • Safai Karmachari Andolan, shall struggle and build solidarity to reclaim our dignity, equality and human personhood. Through eradicating manual scavenging, we will break the link imposed by the caste system between birth and dehumanizing occupations.

Bhim Yatra

  • The safaikaramcharis, have launched a country wide yatra – The Bhim Yatra, a journey of pain and anguish, to tell the country and the government to ‘STOP KILLING US’ in dry latrines, sewers and septic tanks.
  • The parliament held a discussion on “commitment to the constitution” to mark the 125 birth centenary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar when they have utterly failed in protecting the constitutional rights of the manual scavengers.
  • The Bhim Yatra is a journey of intolerance of the violence, discrimination and violation of our constitutional and fundamental rights. This journey is to expose the hypocrisy in the speeches and actions of the leaders and the shame of manual scavenging still rampant in the 21st century. The Bhim Yatra will simultaneously spread Ambedkar’s ideas of social justice, liberty, equality and fraternity while proclaiming his war cry ‘educate, organise and agitate’.

“ Ours is a battle not for wealth; nor for power, ours is a battle for freedom; for reclamation of human personality.” Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme

  • The Government of India, Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation alongwith HUDCO have joined hands in taking up a very major programme for Integrated Low Cost Sanitation for conversion of dry latrine system into water borne low cost sanitation system and at the same time liberating the manual scavengers. In addition, HUDCO has also been extending assistance to basic sanitation schemes.

Background:

The NCSK was established in 1993 as per the provisions of the NCSK Act 1993 initially for the period upto 31.3.1997. Later the validity of the Act was initially extended upto 31.3.2002 and thereafter upto 29.2.2004. The NCSK Act ceased to have effect from 29.2.2004. After that the tenure of the NCSK has been extended as a non-statutory body from time to time.

6.Centre’s FAME scheme to promote e-vehicles flawed: CSE – Centre for Science and Environment Under the Departmnt of Heavy industry

Source: Indian Express

The Centre’s FAME scheme to promote eco-friendly vehicles have ended up pushing “mild diesel hybrid cars” instead of electric or strong hybrid ones, a CSE analysis has found.

  • In a diesel mild hybrid vehicle the role of an electric motor is minimal while in the strong variants the electric motor propels the vehicle the entire time it runs, allowing significant fuel and emissions saving.
  • FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India – is part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
  • National Electric Mobility Plan which aims at a 20% penetration of electric/hybrid (eco-friendly) vehicles by 2020. They enjoy a subsidy under the Central government’s Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme.

Way Forward

In India, electric buses in future will have a big leap in mass public transport. It would support the government initiative of reducing fuel import bill. Besides, it will help to curb air pollution as these buses have zero tailpipe emissions and lower noise pollution.

What is National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020?

  • The NEMMP 2020 is one of most ambitious initiatives undertaken by Central Government to promote hybrid and electric vehicles in the country to achieve national fuel security. I
  • t has set an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.
  • The FAME India Scheme was launched under this mission to provide fiscal and monetary incentives to electric and hybrid vehicles ranging from two wheelers to buses.

7.Can’t allow bid to throttle freedom of media, says SC

Source: Indian Express

The Supreme Court today dismissed a PIL seeking an SIT probe into the role of media in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, saying it is an “attack” on media’s independence.

  • It seems there is a disguised attempt to curtail independence and freedom of media, the bench said, adding this is an attack on media.
  • SC says, cannot curtail the right of the media in this manner. Media has been given an independent status in our democratic polity.

The court, however, clarified that if the investigative agencies come across evidence with regard to involvement of certain individuals then they are free to probe.

However, there cannot be an investigation into the role of media as a whole.

Freedom of media is going to be curtailed and smothered…. We will not entertain this.”     The journalist in his PIL alleged that some media persons were bribed and extended unwarranted benefits in exchange for favouring the VVIP chopper deal.

Key events in the VVIP chopper scandal

An investigation begun by the Italian attorney general’s office into alleged unethical dealings by the state-backed defence major Finmeccanica had widened to include corruption in an over Rs 3,500-crore deal signed with India by the group’s subsidiary AugustaWestland for the supply of helicopters.

Freedom of Media:

The press is the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away.” –Thomas Jefferson

  • “Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression” is a fundamental right of the citizens of India. This is mentioned in Part III of the Constitution of India – Article 19(1).
  • This Article is so wide in scope that Freedom of the Press is included in Freedom of Speech and Expression. It includes the right of free propagation and free circulation without any previous restraint on publication.
  • The freedom of speech and expression does not give right to every possible use of language. It would lead to disorder and anarchy. The Article 19(2) of the Constitution imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub¬ clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • They are the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency of morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense. Whenever, emergency is declared in a country, these rights remain suspended.

All our governments have preferred press freedom to be linked with social and fundamental responsibilities and the obligation to report objectively.

  • Taking into consideration the constraints of the Indian model of democracy and socialism and the objectives laid in the Preamble of the Constitution or its Directive Principles of the State Policy, the second Press Commission has advocated that the press should be neither an adversary nor an ally of the Government, but a constructive critic.
  • The press is a great social asset, for it has to serve the entire community of varying minds with its raw material for though, as also to act as a watch-dog by exercising its role to warn and curb forces of repression, corruption and divisiveness. The freedom of press is the mother of all other freedoms.
  • There are media laws which curtail press freedom and the right of the citizen to information, as well as right to freedom of speech and expression, besides the restrictions imposed by constitution.

Press freedom can be weighed from two sides.

  • The external and internal pressures such as interference by political and business leaders, pressure from advertisers, physical attacks on the press people, and so on.
  • Various media laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, The Copy Right Act, 1957, impose restrictions on the exercise of the right of freedom of speech and expression by the press.

The second Press Commission has suggested certain amendments in the existing press laws to expand the scope of press freedom and at the same time to project the right to privacy of the individual and prevent newspapers from indulging into free style of character assassination.



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