Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 02nd August-2021

Topics

  • Reservation for the OBC and EWS categories within the All India Quota for NEET
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021
  • Ban on Conversion therapy
  • PM-CARES funds for orphaned children during pandemic
  • Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) Amendment Bill, 2021.
  • Controller General of Accounts:

 

  1. Reservation for the OBC and EWS categories within the All India Quota for NEET

#GS2 #Government policies and Interventions #Fundamental Rights #Directive Principles of State Policy

Context: Recently, the central government approved reservation for the OBC and EWS (Economically Weaker Section) categories within the All India Quota (AIQ) for NEET.

About:

  • Government has announced 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical/dental courses from 2021-22 onwards.

All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme:

  • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
  • Although the same examination is held across the country, a chunk of the seats in state medical/dental colleges is reserved for students domiciled in their respective states. The remaining seats —15% in UG and 50% in PG — are surrendered by the states to the All India Quota.
  • A student domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, for example, may be eligible for admission to a seat in a state government medical college in West Bengal, provided she scores high enough in the national merit list. If her score is not high enough for AIQ, she may still hope for admission under the state quota in her home state.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

What was the reservation policy followed so far?

  • Until 2007, no reservation was implemented within the All India Quota for medical admission.
  • On January 31, 2007, in Abhay Nath v/s University of Delhi and Others, the Supreme Court directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced in the AIQ.
  • The same year, the government passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2007 providing for 27% reservation to OBC students in central government institutions.
  • While state government medical and dental colleges provide reservation to OBCs in seats outside the All India Quota, this benefit was so far not extended to seats allocated under the AIQ in these state colleges.
  • The 10% EWS quota under the Constitution (One Hundred And Third Amendment) Act, 2019, too, has been implemented in central educational Institutions, but not in the NEET AIQ for state institutions.

What changes now?

  • Reservation for the OBC and EWS categories within the AIQ will be offered in medical colleges from the current academic year.
  • This would benefit nearly 1,500 OBC students in MBBS and 2,500 OBC students in postgraduate courses, and around 550 and 1,000 EWS students respectively, as per Health Ministry.

What led to the decision?

  • The denial of OBC and EWS reservation has been the subject of protests for years.
  • In July last year, on a petition by Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK and its allies, the Madras High Court ruled that OBC students too can avail reservation in the AIQ.

About NEET:

  • The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is the entrance examination for entry to all undergraduate (NEET-UG) and postgraduate (NEET-PG) medical and dental courses in the country.
  • Until 2016, the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) was the national-level entrance examination for medical colleges.
  • While state governments used to hold separate entrance tests for seats that were not contested at an all-India level.
  • In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the newly inserted section 10-D of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 which provides for a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions.
  • It is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
    • The National Testing Agency is an autonomous testing organisation established to conduct entrance examinations to various institutes of higher learning in India.
    • It was established in 2017.
    • It has become one of the largest competitive exam testing agencies in the world today.
    • It is mandated with creating an exam system that is scientific and at par with global standards.
    • It is registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • It will relieve the CBSE, AICTE and other bodies from their exam-conducting responsibilities.

 

  1. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021

#GS2 #Government policies and interventions #populations related issues #Fundamental rights #Issues related to Children

Context: Recently, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 which seeks amend certain provisions of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 was passed in the Parliament.

Background:

  • In an audit of Child care Institutes (CCIs) – 90% of which are run by NGOs, found that 39% CCIs were unregistered, even after the 2015 amendment was brought in.
    • 26% of CCIs had no child welfare officers.
    • Three-fifths have no toilets, one-tenth have no drinking water and 15% of homes don’t have provisions for separate beds or diet plans.
  • Rehabilitation of children is not a priority for childcare homes and children are reportedly kept in such institutions to get funds.
  • In 2020, the Supreme Court observed that the Act does not deal with offences where the maximum sentence is more than seven years of imprisonment, but there is no minimum sentence, or minimum sentence is of less than seven years.
  • The Supreme Court ordered that these offences should be categorised as serious offences.
    • The Bill seeks to give effect to this order.

Highlights of the bill:

  • Adoption: According to the amendment, District Magistrates, including Additional District Magistrates, can now issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act.
    • Adoption processes were currently under the purview of courts, and with an overwhelming backlog, each adoption case could take years to be passed
    • This will ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.
  • Appeals: The Bill provides that any person aggrieved by an adoption order passed by the district magistrate may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, within 30 days of such order.
    • Such appeals should be disposed within four weeks from the date of filing of the appeal.
  • The Act provides that there will be no appeal for any order made by a Child Welfare Committee concluding that a person is not a child in need of care and protection. The Bill removes this provision.
  • Serious offences: The Act provides that the Juvenile Justice Board will inquire about a child who is accused of a serious offence.
    • Serious offences are those for which the punishment is imprisonment between three to seven years.
    • The Bill adds that serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than seven years.
  • Designated Court: The Bill amends to provide that all offences under the Act will be tried in the Children’s Court.
    • The Act provides that offences against children that are punishable with imprisonment of more than seven years, will be tried in the Children’s Court (equivalent to a Sessions Court).
    • Other offences (punishable with imprisonment of less than seven years) will be tried by a Judicial Magistrate.

# Status of disposal of cases filed against children in conflict with law

  • Offences against children: Currently an offence under the Act, which is punishable with imprisonment between three to seven years will be cognizable (where arrest is allowed without warrant) and non-bailable.
    • The Bill provides that such offences will be non-cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Child Welfare Committees (CWCs): The Act provides that states must constitute one or more CWCs for each district for dealing with children in need of care and protection.
    • The Bill adds certain criteria for a person to be ineligible to be a member of the CWC. These include:

(i) having any record of violation of human rights or child rights, or

(ii) being a part of the management of a child care institution in a district.

Have there been any concerns regarding the changes?

  • While the amendments have been welcomed by most, in its attempt to provide better protection to children in care of need, the challenge perceived is that of having given too many responsibilities to the District Magistrates (DM).
  • The DM is in charge of all processes in a district including all task forces and review meetings, and the fear is that the JJ Act amendment may fall through the cracks or not be given a priority.
  • To ensure proper implementation of the JJ Act, the DM will have to hold regular fortnightly meetings with all five arms – CWC, JJ Board, CCI, district child protection units and special juvenile police units.
  • Specific training in child protection rules will also need to be imparted, as district magistrates usually are not trained or equipped to deal with these specific laws.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Act, 2015:

  • Parliament introduced and passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2000.
  • The Act offered provisions to allow trials of juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years as an adult who were found to be in conflict with the law, especially heinous crimes.
  • The Act also offered provisions regarding adoption. The Act replaced the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956) and Guardians of the ward Act (1890) with more universally accessible adoption law.
  • The Act enabled smooth functioning of adoption procedures for orphans, surrendered, and abandoned children while making the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) the statutory body for adoption-related matters.

 

3.Ban on Conversion therapy

#GS1 # Diversity (Types – caste, linguistic, social and religious, race, tribe and ethnicity, culture) #Challenges posed by Diversity

#Pluralism # Impact of Globalisation on India – Socio-cultural

Context: New Zealand has introduced legislation seeking to ban conversion therapy, which refers to the practice of trying to “cure” people of their sexuality, gender expression, or LGBTQI identity.

About the bill:

  • The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill aims at preventing any harm caused by conversion therapy and promote healthy discussions on gender and sexuality.
  • The bill proposes to make an offence to perform conversion therapy on children, youngsters under the age of 18 or anyone with impaired decision-making capacity.
  • The punishment for the offence will be up to three years of imprisonment.
  • Under the bill, it is also an offence to make anyone go through conversion therapy, irrespective of their age, and cause them serious harm.
  • The punishment of this offence will be up to five years of imprisonment. Although, the bill is unclear on what “serious harm” means.
  • The Human Rights Commission would play a significant role in educating about conversion practices and in help survivors access any support that they need.
  • There is also an option of civil redress under which conversion therapy complaints can be filed with the Human Rights Commission, where they will try to “facilitate a resolution”.
  • If the complaint cannot be resolved it would be taken to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.
  • The Tribunal will “grant a range of remedies, such as a declaration that a wrong has occurred, an order restraining a person or organisation from continuing to perform conversion practices or an award of damages.

What is conversion therapy and how it causes harm?

  • Conversion therapy is a practice, usually carried out by religious or conservative groups, of “curing” people of their sexual orientations, and gender expression and identity.
  • “Conversion therapy is used as an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) can and should be changed.”
  • Practices of conversion therapy “are deeply harmful interventions that rely on the medically false idea that LGBT and other gender-diverse persons are sick, inflicting severe pain and suffering, and resulting in long-lasting psychological and physical damage.
  • As per studies, 77 per cent of people who have been a victim of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts report a significant long-term harm — depression, anxiety. lowered self-esteem, internalized homophobia, self-blame, intrusive imagery, sexual dysfunction, alienation, loneliness, social isolation, interference with intimate relationships and loss of social supports.

What is considered as a conversion therapy practice?

  • A practice that is,
    • Directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;
    • Performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
  • This excludes the practices carried out by healthcare workers and practices like assisting someone going through gender transition or helping someone in identity exploration.
  • It also excludes, “The expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Which are the other countries that have banned conversion therapy?

  • New Zealand is not the first country to impose a ban on conversion therapy practices.
  • Other countries that have, over the years, imposed a ban on such practices are Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan. Germany passed a ban on advertising and the practice of conversion therapy in minors, in May last year.
  • Other than these countries, 20 states in the US and a few cities in the US, Canada, Australia and Spain have banned the practice.
  • Conversion practices continue to remain legal in some US states and parts of the UK.

India and Conversion therapy:

  • The Madras High Court have explicitly called for an Indian ban on conversion therapy recently.
  • A number of Indians have become victims of conversion therapy, being subjected to physical and emotional abuse.
  • High court also demanded legal action against those who practise it.
    • It is a significant step in the fight against homophobia.
  • In India, laws and attitudes toward homosexuality have evolved in recent years.
  • The Indian Psychiatric Society has already declared that non-heterosexuality is not a mental illness and it cannot be changed by external attempts.
  • Also, Section 377 no longer applies to consensual homosexual relations.
  • The Mental Healthcare Act bans medical treatment without consent.
    • But victims may consent to conversion therapy when administered by medical professionals.
  • So, in effect, there is no law at present banning conversion therapy in India.

 

4.PM-CARES funds for orphaned children during pandemic

#GS2 #Issues related to Children and health # Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States

Context: Recently, the Supreme Court made an oral observation that the Centre’s welfare schemes should cover all the children who were orphaned after coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic struck, and not limit its benefit to those kids who lost their parents to the infection.

About the issue?

  • The observation was made by a two-judge bench that was hearing a Suo motu case regarding the condition of children in institutionalised care during the pandemic.
  • The Supreme Court noted that government-run schemes such as PM-Cares Fund, which proposed a corpus of ?10 lakh for children till they turn 23, covered only those who became orphans after losing their parents to Covid-19.
  • Bench highlighted the need to protect all orphans who became so during the pandemic.
  • The Court has pointed out that India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Child and therefore the State has an obligation to take care of orphans.

Background:

  • Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments and Union Territories to make provisions for the continuance of education of children, both in Government as well as private schools, who have either been orphaned, or lost a parent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • It directed the State Governments/Union Territories to take action against those NGOs/individuals, who are indulging in illegal adoption.
  • It also had directed the government to upload their information in the ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
  • The Court had directed the “District Child Protection Unit” to contact the affected child and his guardian immediately on the receipt of information about the death of the parent/parents.
  • Over 75,000 children have been orphaned, abandoned or have lost a parent during the COVID pandemic, and many of them may become victims of human trafficking rackets or descend into crime.

What needs to be done to help these children?

  • The State governments may work out a mechanism for continuing the education of orphaned children in the existing schools.
  • Eligible children who have either not enrolled or dropped out of schools should be enrolled in schools.
  • Authorities should reach out to the guardians of these orphans and gauge whether they really can afford to have these children and if they require financial help.
  • Increase the government sponsorship limits for these children under the various existing schemes.
  • Proper implementation of the existing schemes.

Convention on the Rights of Child:

  • It is an international agreement that is legally binding on the members.
  • It consists of 54 articles that spell out various children’s rights and also the measures governments should take in order to make these rights available to children.
  • The CRC was adopted by the United Nations in 1989..
  • It recognises a child as every human being under 18 years old.
  • It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.
  • It has been ratified by all members of the UN except for the United States. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the history of the world.
  • The CRC acknowledges that every child is entitled to fundamental rights, and some of the most important rights are as follows:
    • Right to life, survival and development.
    • Right to education that facilitates them to reach their full potential.
    • Right to protection from abuse, violence or neglect.
    • Right to express opinions and be heard.
    • Right to be raised by or have a relationship with their parents.

 

  1. Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) Amendment Bill, 2021.

#GS2 #Government policies and intervention #GS3 #Infrastructure #Growth and Development

Context: Recently, the Lok Sabha passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) Amendment Bill, 2021.

Key Provisions of the amendments:

  • It was first introduced in March 2021 and subsequently referred to a parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture, which approved it without any changes.
  • It seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
  • The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
    • The AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services (air traffic management, landing and parking of aircraft, ground handling services) at major airports.
  • The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.
    • The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport by a notification.
  • It will allow AERA to regulate tariff and other charges for aeronautical services for not just major airports with annual passenger traffic of more than 35 lakh, but also a group of airports.
  • The government will be able pair the smaller non-profitable airports with profitable airports as a combination/package to bidders to make it a viable combination for investment under PPP (public-private partnership) mode.

Significance of the bill:

  • It will help in expanding the air connectivity to relatively remote areas and as a result, expediting the UDAN regional connectivity scheme.
  • It will encourage development of smaller airports.
  • However, there is lack of clarity in the bill on the criterion for deciding which airports will be clubbed together to qualify under ‘a group of airports’ definitions.

 

6.Controller General of Accounts:

#GS2 # Provisions for Checks & Balances in Indian Constitution

# Statutory, Regulatory & Quasi-Judicial Bodies

Context: Recently, Deepak Das, a 1986-batch Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS) officer took charge as the new Controller General of Accounts (CGA)

  • Das is the 25th officer to hold the position of CGA after the retirement of Soma Roy Burman who held the position since 2019

About CGA:

  • CGA is the account keeper of the government and derives its mandate from Article 150 of the Constitution.
  • Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance acts as the parent agency for CGA.
  • It is the Principal Accounting Adviser to Government of India and is responsible for establishing and maintaining a technically sound Management Accounting System.

Functions:

  • It reconciles cash balance of the centre with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) apart from consolidating monthly accounts; preparing trends of revenue realization and expenditures as well as annual accounts of the central government.
  • Under Article 150 of the Constitution, the Annual Appropriation Accounts (Civil) and Union Finance Accounts are submitted to Parliament on the advice of Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
  • Along with these documents, an M.I.S Report titled ‘Accounts at a Glance’ is prepared and circulated to Hon’ble Members of Parliament.
  • It is also responsible for coordination and monitoring the progress of submission of corrective/remedial action taken notes (ATNs) on the recommendations contained in Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) reports as well as the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) reports through its web-based Audit Para Monitoring System (APMS).
  • The Allocation of Business Rules 1961 gives the duties and responsibilities of the CGA, which includes:
    • Coordinating and assisting in the introduction of management accounting systems in civil ministries and departments.
    • Cadre management of Group ‘A’ (Indian Civil Accounts Service) and Group ‘B’ Officers of the Central Civil Accounts Offices.
    • Matters about the Central Civil Accounts staff belonging to Group ‘C’ and ‘D’.
    • Disbursing pension to central civil pensioners, high court judges, ex-presidents, ex-MPs, and freedom fighters.

NOTE:

  • The CGA is not a constitutional body. But the CAG is a constitutional body. Another difference between the CGA and the CAG is that the CAG is an independent body while the CGA is not. It is under the Department of Expenditure.
  • The President lays down general principles of government accounting on the CAG’s advice, the CGA performs the function of maintaining them.

 

 

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