Insights Daily Current Events, 07 January 2015
Concessions for the West Pakistan Refugees of Jammu and Kashmir
Union Home Minister has approved certain concessions for the West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) settled in the State of Jammu and Kashmir after considering the problems being faced by them.
- He has directed the Heads of all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) that such WPRs from J&K, who are Indian citizens and have valid Voter IDs, be considered for recruitment in the forces, including the special recruitment drives conducted in the State.
- Similar concessions, like waiving off the condition of producing DC and other Identity Certificate, may be permitted in the recruitment to the Armed Forces.
- Instructions have also been issued to the Department of School Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development to accommodate the children of such WPRs of J&K for admission to the Kendriya Vidyalayas in the State.
- Similar instructions have also been issued to the Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development to extend those concessions available to the wards of Kashmiri migrants to the wards of WPRs of J&K for admission to technical/professional institutes outside J&K.
- A letter is also sent to the State Government of J&K to resume issuing the DC to WPRs settled in the State so as to enable such people avail equal employment opportunities.
- As of now, WPRs face difficulty to fulfil documentary evidence of residency in support of their applications as the CAPFs recruitment rules seek furnishing of Domicile Certificate (DC) from the candidates while the State Government issues only Voter ID with Non-Permanent Residency (NPR) status to such Indian nationals.
Guidelines issued by Dept. of Financial services
The Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance has issued a circular to the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of all Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Financial Institutions (FIs) and Insurance Companies assuring them of freedom of non-interference in matters of commercial decisions, transfers, and postings etc.
It was conveyed in very clear terms that the Government will not interfere in the commercial decisions of the Banks/FIs.
- The Banks/FIs should take all commercial decisions in the best interest of the organization without any fear or favour. All decisions should be taken based on facts of the case and objectivity. No such decision should be taken out of any other extraneous considerations such as the influence or the position that the borrower is holding.
- Each Bank/FI should have their own objective, well laid out transfer and posting rules which should be followed strictly. No exception should be made in such rules at the behest of any recommendation given by anyone including anybody from the Ministry of Finance. If, for genuine reasons, any exception to the rule is made, it should be done only by CMD by giving proper reasons.
- Each Bank/FI should have a robust grievance redressal mechanism for borrowers, depositors as well as staff. The aggrieved person should have an opportunity to represent his case at least at two levels.
To run the banks professionally such support from the government is necessary. Experts have appreciated this.
Six more test positive for swine flu
Six more people, including three children, tested positive for swine flu in Hyderabad, taking the number to 100 since last January in Telangana.
About H1N1/Swine flu:
H1N1 is a flu virus. When it was first detected in 2009, it was called “swine flu” because the virus was similar to those found in pigs.
Transmission from Pigs to Humans: The H1N1 virus is currently a seasonal flu virus found in humans. Although it also circulates in pigs, one cannot get it by eating properly handled and cooked pork or pork products.
In 2009, H1N1 was spreading fast around the world, so the World Health Organization called it a pandemic.
- Swine flu is contagious, and it spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu.
- When people who have it cough or sneeze, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air. If a person comes in contact with these drops or touch a surface that an infected person has recently touched, the person can catch H1N1 swine flu.
- Pregnant women who contract the H1N1 infection are at a greater risk of developing complications because of hormonal changes, physical changes and changes to their immune system to accommodate the growing foetus.
Most symptoms are the same as seasonal flu. They can include:
- sore throat
- stuffy or runny nose
- body aches
- If not controlled it can lead to more serious complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Influenza vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect people from contracting illness during influenza epidemics and pandemics. The antiviral drugs are sometimes prescribed to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, WHO.
HC sets aside disqualification of MLAs
The Patna High Court has set aside the Bihar Assembly Speaker’s November order, disqualifying four rebel MLAs on the grounds of “anti-party activities” and “voluntary surrender of membership.”
- Four JD(U) MLAs were disqualified from Bihar Assembly for anti-party activities, including cross voting in Rajya Sabha election.
- After the MLAs allegedly cross-voted during the Rajya Sabha by-poll in June last, the Speaker on November 1 terminated their membership and divested them of all facilities available to legislators.
- The speaker had disqualified them under the provisions of Anti defection law.
- The MLAs had challenged the ruling in the High Court.
- Defection and dissent were not synonymous, and what the MLAs had done during the Rajya Sabha by-poll was “dissent, and it does not come under the anti-defection law.”
- The MLAs had faith in the party and did not defect. Isolated act of dissent, and nothing further to add, cannot amount to voluntary surrender of membership.
The anti-defection law:
The 10th Schedule to the Constitution, popularly referred to as the ‘Anti-Defection Law,’ was inserted by the 52nd Amendment in 1985.
The grounds for disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law’s Articles 102 (2) and 191 (2):
A Member of Parliament or state legislature was deemed to have defected
- When the elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
- If he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party or anyone authorised to do so, without obtaining prior permission.
- Independent members would be disqualified if they joined a political party.
- Nominated members who were not members of a party could choose to join a party within six months; after that period, they were treated as a party member or independent member.
Exceptions under the Law:
- Any person elected as speaker or chairman could resign from his party, and rejoin the party if he demitted that post.
- A party could be merged into another if at least two-thirds of its party legislators voted for the merger.
- The law initially permitted splitting of parties, but that has now been outlawed.
The anti-defection law raises a number of questions, several of which have been addressed by the courts and the presiding officers.
Recommendations made by various committees:
- The Venkatachaliah Commission recommended that defectors should be barred from holding any ministerial or remunerative political office for the remaining term of the House. It also said that the vote of any defector should not be counted in a confidence or no-confidence motion.
- The rationale that a representative is elected on the basis of the party’s programme can be extended to pre-poll alliances. The Law Commission proposed this change with the condition that partners of such alliances inform the Election Commission before the elections.
- The Goswami Committee, the Election Commission and the Venkatachaliah Commission to Review the Constitution (2002) have recommended that the decision regarding disqualification should be made by the president or the governor on the advice of the Election Commission. This would be similar to the process for disqualification on grounds of office of profit.
SC’s interpretation on ‘Voluntarily giving up’ phrase:
- The Supreme Court, in the Ravi Naik vs. Union of India case, has interpreted the phrase ‘voluntarily gives up his membership.’ It says: “The words ‘voluntarily gives up his membership’ are not synonymous with ‘resignation’ and have a wider connotation. A person may voluntarily give up his membership of a political party even though he has not tendered his resignation from the membership of that party.
- Even in the absence of a formal resignation from membership, an inference can be drawn from the conduct of a member that he has voluntarily given up his membership of the political party to which he belongs.
- In another judgment in the case of Rajendra Singh Rana vs. Swami Prasad Maurya and Others, the Supreme Court held that the act of giving a letter requesting the Governor to call upon the leader of the other side to form a Government itself would amount to an act of voluntarily giving up membership of the party on whose ticket the said members had got elected.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB, prsindia.org.
Punjab bans sale of loose cigarettes and tobacco
The Punjab Health Department has banned the sale of loose cigarettes (as single sticks) and loose tobacco, becoming the first
State to do so.
Why they were banned?
- The State government has said the ban had been issued as the sale is in violation of Section 7 of the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products, Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution Act, 2003). Section 7 of COTPA prohibits any trade or commerce in cigarettes or any other tobacco products unless every package of cigarettes or any other tobacco products sold, supplied or distributed carries specified warning including pictorial warning.
- Since loose cigarettes are affordable and do not carry a pictorial or a written warning, hence, these will not be permitted to be sold.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 or COTPA is an Act of Parliament of India enacted in 2003 to prohibit advertisement and regulation of tobacco business in India. The Act put restriction on tobacco products including cigarettes, gutka, panmasala (containing tobacco), cigar, cheroot, Beedi, Snuff, chewing tobacco, hookah, tooth powder containing tobacco.
- The Act prohibits smoking of tobacco in public places, except in special smoking zones in hotels, restaurants and airports and open spaces.
- Advertisement of tobacco products including cigarettes is prohibited.
- Tobacco products cannot be sold to person below the age of 18 years, and in places within 100 metres radius from the outer boundary of an institution of education, which includes school colleges and institutions of higher learning established or recognized by an appropriate authority.
- Tobacco products must be sold, supplied or distributed in a package which shall contain an appropriate pictorial warning, its nicotine and tar contents.
- The Act also gives power to any police officer, not below the rank of a sub-inspector or any officer of State Food or Drug Administration or any other officer, holding the equivalent rank being not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police for search and seizure of premises where tobacco products are produced, stored or sold, if he suspects that the provision of the Act has been violated.
- A person who manufactures tobacco products fails to adhere to the norm related to warnings on packages on first conviction shall be punished with up to 2 years in imprisonment or with fine which can extend to Rs. 5000, in case of subsequent conviction shall be punished with up to 5 years in imprisonment or with fine which can extend to Rs. 10000.
- A fine up to Rs. 200 can be imposed for smoking in public place, selling tobacco products to minors, or selling tobacco products within a radius of 100 metres from any educational institution.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Amend law to protect Hindu wife, says panel
The Law Commission has, in a report to the government, recommended that the Hindu law should be amended to cast a legal obligation on the father-in-law to maintain and pay alimony to the daughter-in-law when her husband is unable to do so. The law commission noted that it is the “supreme duty” of a Hindu to protect those dependent on him.
- Under the existing provisions, a woman does not have the right to claim alimony from her father-in-law or other in-laws if her husband fails to maintain her due to various reasons, including his physical or mental incapacitation, disappearance or renunciation of the world as a religious choice.
- The committee has recommended a clause to be inserted in the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 to financially protect a Hindu woman, whose husband suffers from physical or mental disability and has no means to maintain herself.
- The same applies to wives of those who have disappeared or chosen “renunciation of the world by entering any religious order or other reasons.
- The clause will exempt only those cases in which the husband has already received his share in the joint family property and in such cases, his wife could get maintenance out of the properties.
The panel said that in case of a man’s inability to provide for his wife, the only remedy available to the woman was to make endless rounds of the court to get some share out of her husband’s properties, which was apparently inadequate and time-taking.
- The issue was referred to the Commission by the Punjab and Haryana High Court last year in a case where the wife of a man of unsound mind had sought one-fourth share in the land belonging to the family from her father-in-law as maintenance for herself, her spouse and their children. The share was initially provided to her through a settlement but she was later dispossessed of the land by her father-in-law and the dispute then reached the high court.
The seven-member committee was led by the Law Commission of India Chairperson Justice A.P. Shah.
Sources: The Hindu, BS, IE.
Pension burden to increase: Crisil
Crisil has said that the fiscal burden of pensions could be 3.4 per cent to 4.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, and the pensions in the private sector would be a major challenge.
- There are nearly 100 million people aged over 60 in India today, and that the number will triple to 300 million by 2050. In other words, every fifth citizen will be a sexagenarian compared with every twelfth now.
- The worry is that most of them will be financially insecure in their sunset years if a social security net doesn’t get built starting right now. And if a large number of the old end up having no pension by 2030, the government will have to bear the heavy fiscal burden of providing minimum sustenance to them.
- A multi-fold increase in pension coverage to the private-sector workforce is therefore an imperative.
- With the focus on India’s demographic dividend, the fiscal cost of ageing is not at the forefront of discussion. However, unless addressed, this cost can be onerous in coming decades.
Government employees joining after 2004 are covered under the defined contribution formula of the National Pension System; hence the government’s pension liability on account of these employees will decline to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2050 from 2.2 per cent of GDP currently.
Problem in private sector:
- Crisil Research has built a best-case scenario where pension coverage expands such that 70 per cent of the private-sector retirees by 2030 (63 million) will get a pension compared with just 8 per cent (4.8 million) now. Even if this happens, and the government has to provide pension to only 30 per cent of the old, in addition to retired government employees by 2030, its pension bill will rise by 120 basis points to 3.4 per cent of GDP by 2030 from around 2.2 per cent now, assuming each pensioner gets Rs.2,000 every month.
- Under the worst-case scenario, if private-sector coverage stays chronically low at its current level of 8 per cent even by 2030, the government will have to formulate a pension scheme to support the entire population of the old. This will raise the fiscal burden to as high as 4.1 per cent of GDP, assuming a monthly payout of Rs. 1,000 per pensioner – or half the amount in the best-case scenario.
Sources: The Hindu.
Thyagaraja aradhana celebrations begin
168th aradhana celebration of saint composer Thyagaraja has begun.
- Tyagaraja Aradhana is an annual Carnatic music festival held in January.
- Many exponents of Carnatic music come to perform and are watched by thousands of ardent fans of Indian classical music.
- It is associated with the world famous singer and saint Tyagaraja and is one of the most important music festivals in India.
About Saint Thyagaraja:
- The contribution of Saint Tyagaraja, one of the Trinities of Carnatic music, has been immense not only through his compositions but also through his Sishya Parampara, who have preserved and enriched the true tradition of classical music.
- Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur district is the place where the great saint and music composer Thyagaraja lived and attained samadhi.
- Saint Tyagaraja is seen as an Avatharapurusha, who came to this world to savour the souls that suffer in this world. He is considered an avathara of Saint Valmiki.
- Tyagaraja’s compositions are rich in devotional and philosophical content.
- They are noted for their superior structure, superb handling of ragalakshanas and apt choice of raga and words.
- Tyagaraja’s spartan way of life reflects on his unshakable faith in Lord Rama and true devotion for him.
- Of special mention are five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Kritis, which are often sung in programs in his honour.
- It is said that a major portion of his incomparable musical work was lost to the world due to natural and man-made calamities.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.