Insights Daily Current Events, 23 September 2015
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
HC stays sedition circular
The Bombay High Court has stayed the Maharashtra government’s controversial circular on sedition till the State files a reply to two petitions challenging its constitutional validity.
There were some petitions filed challenging the constitutional validity of Maharashtra government’s circular on sedition. The petitions sought to quash the circular on the ground that it violated the constitutional rights of people and was liable to be misused in the absence of training to police personnel about the circumstances in which sedition could be invoked.
About the circular:
- The Maharashtra government through a circular had given police the powers to take action against those critical of the state or central government if it deemed such critiques to be particularly offensive.
- The order allowed the police to invoke a colonial era sedition clause — 124-A of the Indian Penal Code — against any person who “by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, dissatisfaction and provoking violence against the central or the state government.”
- The Maharashtra home department had clarified that it has specifically instructed police officials in the Government Resolution that criticism by legal means cannot be a ground for sedition under the IPC.
- According to the circular those who lawfully try to change the government without invoking anger or disaffection should not be charged with sedition. But it is still left to the police to determine whether someone is employing “hatred and contempt” while democratically protesting against the government.
Previous observations made by the High Court:
The Bombay high court, while dropping the sedition charge against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi had asked the government to issue guidelines to police on how to invoke the sedition clause. The Mumbai police had arrested Trivedi in 2012 for drawing cartoons that allegedly insulted the national emblem and Parliament.
- Political observers apprehend this could threaten free speech.
- Some even described the government resolution as highly objectionable. They say this is the state’s attempt to gag people, which is against the Constitution and democracy.
- Legal experts say that the new guidelines have given unbridled discretionary powers to a police officer which is not permitted in a democracy. This is unconstitutional and against Article 14 of the Constitution.
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.
Draft encryption policy dropped following outcry
After a public outcry, the union government has withdrawn the controversial draft encryption policy that proposed to make it mandatory for every citizen to save all digital communications, including emails and chats, for a period of 90 days.
- The DeitY had posted a draft National Encryption Policy on its website inviting comments from the public on its mission, strategies, objectives, and regulatory framework.
- The encryption policy was proposed to enhance information security in India.
- The draft national encryption policy had put the onus not only on private citizens, but also on government institutions, public sector undertakings and private business establishments to maintain separate records.
- The policy proposed a series of government-controlled encryption measures for various kinds of electronic communications, while also asking the users to keep non-encrypted records of the same. It also says that encryption technology for storage and communications will be specified by the government.
- All citizens, including personnel of government/business performing non-official/personal functions, were required to store the plain texts of the corresponding encrypted information for 90 days from the date of transaction and provide the verifiable plain text to law and enforcement agencies as and when required as per the provision of the laws of the country.
- For government and business communications, it prescribed similar procedures and said that “protocols and algorithms for encryption, key exchange, digital signature and hashing will be as specified through notification by the Government from time to time.”
- It also said that service providers (located within and outside India) who use encryption technology – such as the various popular instant messengers like WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook – must enter into an agreement with the government.
- However, the draft policy was viewed as counter-productive to its proposed objectives.
- Critics said the policy had grave ramifications on the digital rights and liberty and privacy of private individuals.
- It was also seen as violative of the right to privacy and the right to life, and the registration of the service providers with the government will lead to a “license raj” era.
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
West Bengal seeks GI tag for Rasgulla
Amid controversy over the origins of the iconic sweet, rasagolla, the West Bengal government has set off the official process of staking its claim, by filing application for the Geographical Indication (GI) for the syrupy sweet.
- While West Bengal has already received GI for several of its food and agro items as well as its handicrafts and handlooms, and its teas, the rush for applying for a GI tag for a sweet that was almost synonymous with the State lay elsewhere.
- A bitter-war had recently broken out over the origins of the Rasgulla. The fight is between Odisha and West Bengal, with each one claiming ownership of rasagolla.
- Odisha has staked claim to have ‘invented’ years ago, the sweet associating it with a centuries old ritual of Lord Jagannath. West Bengal always thought of rasagolla as its own.
The GI tag is an indication which is definite to a geographical territory. It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods. For a product to get GI tag, the goods need to be produced or processed or prepared in that region. It is also essential that the product has special quality or reputation.
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.
National Health Profile highlights poor doctor-patient ratio
Union Minister for Health J.P. Nadda recently released the National Health Profile 2015. It was prepared by the Central Bureau for Health Intelligence (CBHI) along with officials of the Ministry, the Directorate General of Health Services and the CBHI.
The data shows:
- Every government hospital serves an estimated 61,000 people in India, with one bed for every 1833 people. In undivided Andhra Pradesh, every government hospital serves over 3 lakh patients while in Bihar, there is only one bed for every 8800 people.
- Every government allopathic doctor serves a population of over 11,000 people, with Bihar and Maharashtra having the worst ratios. The number of qualified allopathic doctors registered with medical councils fell in 2014 to 16,000, or less than half the previous year’s number.
- India now has cumulatively 9.4 lakh allopathic doctors, 1.54 lakh dental surgeons, and 7.37 lakh AYUSH doctors of whom more than half are Ayurvedic doctors.
- India’s 400 medical colleges admit an estimated 47,000 students annually.
- The Centre’s share of total public expenditure on health has fallen over the last two years, and India spends less of its GDP on health than some of the world’s poorest countries.
- Among all States, undivided Andhra Pradesh had the highest public expenditure on health in 2012-13. Goa and the north-eastern States spent the most on health per capita while Bihar and Jharkhand spent the least.
- Out-of-pocket private expenditure on health has risen steadily over the years, with the cost of medicines, followed by that of hospitalisation accounting for the largest share of the household expenditure.
- Absolute spending, as well as its share in total non-food expenditure, rises with income levels. Kerala spends the most privately on health.
- Deaths from most communicable diseases have been falling steadily in India. Despite recording over 10 lakh cases, deaths from malaria are officially down to just over 500 annually.
- However, 2014 saw a sharp spike in cases and deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, a disease concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, and West Bengal.
- Japanese Encephalitis, concentrated in Assam and Uttar Pradesh also rose last year.
- Pulmonary tuberculosis remains the biggest communicable disease killer in India, accounting for over 63,000 deaths in 2014. Since disease data is largely reported from government health facilities only, it is likely to be heavily underestimated.
- Non-communicable diseases are on the rise with cardiovascular diseases according for a quarter of deaths from non-communicable diseases and cancer accounting for six per cent.
Sources: The Hindu.