The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

By admin July 13, 2019 19:32

The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, in June 2019. It replaces an Ordinance promulgated on March 2, 2019.
Original Provisions
Changes Sought
Offline verification of Aadhaar number holder
Under the Aadhaar Act, an individual’s identity may be verified by Aadhaar ‘authentication’. Authentication involves submitting the Aadhaar number, and their biometric or demographic information to the Central Identities Data Repository for verification.
The Bill additionally allows ‘offline verification’ of an individual’s identity, without authentication, through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) by regulations.

Voluntary use
The Act provides for the use of Aadhaar number as proof of identity of a person, subject to authentication.
The Bill replaces this provision to state that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification.
Entities using Aadhaar
Under the Act, usage of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual, by the State or a body corporate under any law, is permitted.
The Bill removes this provision. An entity may be allowed to perform authentication through Aadhaar, if the UIDAI is satisfied that it is: (i) compliant with certain standards of privacy and security, or (ii) permitted by law, or (iii) seeking authentication for a purpose specified by the central government in the interest of the State.
Disclosure of information in certain cases
Under the Act, restrictions on security and confidentiality of Aadhaar related information do not apply in case the disclosure is pursuant to an order of a District Court (or above). Further, under the Act, an officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary may issue directions for disclosing information in the interest of national security.
The Bill amends this to allow such disclosure only for orders by High Courts (or above).
The Bill amends this to allow such disclosure on directions of officers not below the rank of a Secretary.
Under the Act, all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI will be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.
The Bill removes this provision, and creates the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund. All fees, grants, and charges received by the UIDAI shall be credited to this fund.
Under the Act, courts can take cognizance of an offence only if the UIDAI registers a complaint.
The Bill amends this to allow the individual to register complaints in certain cases, including impersonation or disclosure of their identity.

The decision would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhar.
Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.
For the convenience of general public in opening of bank accounts, the proposed amendments would allow the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
Amongst other things it envisages strengthening of the Aadhaar Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Justice B.N.Srikrishna(Retd) Committee.

Upper House, Deputy Chairman red-flagged the problems “plaguing” the MPLADS Scheme with Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) at the end of the last Lok Sabha.
MPLAD was introduced in 1993 to enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature based on locally felt needs.
It is a centrally sponsored scheme under which funds are released as grants-in-aid directly to the District Authorities by the Government of India.
The MPs may recommend projects in certain sectors such as infrastructure development, public health, sanitation, water, etc.
Elected members of Lok Sabha can suggest developmental works in their constituency, while elected members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works in one or more districts of their State. Nominated members of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha can recommend works in one or more districts anywhere in the country.
The MPs identify works, which are allowed under the guidelines, and recommend them to the District Authority, which in turn is responsible for the overall implementation of the works.
It is the responsibility of the District Authority to scrutinise and sanction the recommended works and to identify an implementing agency to execute the work.
Local self-governments such as the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies, government departments or reputed NGOs can be selected for implementing works.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation formulates the guidelines, releases funds, and monitors implementation. At the State level, a nodal department is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and supervising the implementation along with other relevant departments and the District Authorities.
It is the duty of the District Authority and the Implementing Agency to deposit the funds in a nationalised bank and a separate account is opened for each MP for this purpose. MPLADS funds are non-lapsable.
Against Constitutional Scheme -Besides the many implementation lapses (as pointed out by the Standing Committee on Finance in 1998-1199, the CAG and the Planning Commission), the constitutionality of the scheme has been questioned by various scholars and experts.
In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the ground that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.
The debate continued with the 2ndAdministrative Reforms Commission’s report on “Ethics in Governance” taking a firm stand against the scheme arguing that it seriously erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.
Committee on MPLADS in its 13th Report and its 15th Report stated that there was nothing wrong with the scheme per se except some procedural infirmities and recommended among other things a change of nomenclature to the Scheme for Local Area Development.
Other Issues
Issue of corruption – According to Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 2005, “Guidelines on MPLADS” there have been cases of widespread corruption and mis-appropriation of funds. In a lot of cases, private contractors (which are not permitted) are engaged to implement the works.
Choice of Districts – There are quite a few districts where several Rajya Sabha MPs have recommended works, in addition to the Lok Sabha MP. A disproportionately large amount of money is flowing into these districts out of MPLADS fund alone.
Unfounded Expenditures – According to MPLADS, Annual Report 2009-10, there have been instances where expenditure has been incurred on works which are prohibited under the scheme.
Under-utilisation of Funds – There are large amounts of unspent balances rising over the years, low utilisation of funds and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector.
Weaknesses in the process of sanction – The District Authorities tend to execute works without receiving any recommendations from MPs concerned or on the recommendation of the representatives of the MPs rather than the MPs themselves.
Lapses on the monitoring and supervision front with the District Authorities failing to inspect the required number of sanctioned works as well as in sending regular monitoring reports.
Against the spirit of the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, with MPs enjoying the privilege of an uninterrupted yearly flow of funds to do the work which local bodies are better placed to deliver.
Lack of adequate information available to MPs, which sometimes leads to a disproportionately large amount of money flowing into one district.
Absence of a proper mechanism to ensure constituent participation in order to determine locally felt needs, leaving open the possibility of a small group, having easy access to the MPs, impressing upon him to recommend works according to their needs.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has suggested that a single parliamentary committee be formed comprising of members of both Houses of Parliament to monitor MPLAD schemes.
There needs to be a greater focus on regular monitoring by the District Authorities.
Implementing agencies could involve the local community in the voluntary supervision of works. Since maintenance of public assets is where the system breaks down, arrangements can be made for the maintenance of assets or maintenance can be outsourced.
As Rajya Sabha MPs have a wider choice in the selection of district, information made available to MPs will help in proper selection of district. There is a need to lay emphasis on the completion of the selected projects.
In order to better assess the needs of the constituents, surveys can be conducted across the constituency. For this purpose, NGOs and local community can be involved. Once the needs of the constituency are determined, implementation can be linked to what’s needed.
For the scheme to be more effective, an impact assessment study should be undertaken at the constituency level, on a yearly basis, to assess the benefits of the works implemented to the community at large.
To tackle the issue of large unspent balances which have accumulated and are rising over the years, fund can be made lapsable. This way funds lying unused can be put to other uses.
As mentioned in the Annual Reports of the Ministry, thrust areas could be also modified so as to reflect the needs of the constituency, rather than taking a generic view.
A planned approach towards development based on detailed primary survey, data analysis and empirical research that also take into account central and state welfare schemes would yield better results. It is time to locate MPLADS in the broader context of district-level planned development, which requires a more systematic approach.
SCO Summit 2019: Bishkek Declaration

The 2019 Shanghai Cooperation Summit, held in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on June 13-14, marked the second year in which India participated as a full member. SCO adopted the Bishkek Declaration, calling for greater cooperation among member countries.

Bishkek Declaration
On Afghanistan, the ‘Roadmap for Further Action of the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group’ was signed by the leaders and the declaration argued for an ‘inclusive peace process conducted and led by Afghans themselves’ with UN playing the main role even as multilateral forums continue to interact on the issue.
On Iran, the declaration called for ‘consistent implementation’ of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and asked all participants ‘for comprehensive and effective implementation of the document,’ a year after US pulled out of it.
On Syria, the declaration noted the Astana format and the process of political settlement through the dialogue process. It also extended support to ‘post-conflict restoration’ by different states in Syria.
On terror, the declaration largely followed language from the Qingdao Summit declaration, reiterating SCO’s condemnation of terrorism ‘in all its forms and manifestations.’ Member states pressed for consensus regarding the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
On trade, there was support for WTO and the multilateral trading system. Members noted the need for increased cooperation between SCO member states in trade and services.
On ICT, a document regarding cooperation among members on Digitalization and Information and Communications Technology was signed at the end of heads of state meeting.
The member states pledged to give more attention to increase the share of national currencies in mutual financial transaction and settlements.
It also reaffirmed the member states’ commitment to enhancing the central coordinating role of the UN and its Security Council as a body vested with the main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security under the UN Charter.
The declaration stressed the importance of further improving the architecture of global economic governance, and deepening cooperation to build a transparent, predictable and stable environment for the development of trade and investment cooperation.
SCO Member States call for unfailingly honouring the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.
A separate MoU was signed for establishment of Astana International Financial Centre.
The AIFC has been set up with the objective of creating an attractive environment for investment, development of Kazakhstan’s securities market, its integration with other internationally recognized financial institutions.
AIFC is positioning itself as a financial hub for Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Eurasian Economic Union, West Asia, western China, Mongolia and Europe.

India at SCO
India to the SCO leaders presented its vision for the organization in the form of HEALTH (healthcare cooperation, economic cooperation, alternate energy, literature and culture, terrorism-free society and humanitarian cooperation).
India stressed using the potential of RATS to counter terrorism and called upon member states to ensure that nations which support, promote or finance terror must be held accountable.
With regard to economic cooperation, India criticized protectionist tendencies in trade amidst the US ending GSP status for Indian products.
India refused to join the clause in the declaration in support of the Belt and Road Initiative. It noted the principles of respect for sovereignty, regional integrity, good governance, transparency to be essential for connectivity, obliquely referring to its reservations on CPEC in particular and BRI in general.
India noted the examples of International North South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port, Ashgabat Agreement and the air freight corridor between Kabul, Kandahar and New Delhi as proof of its focus on connectivity.

India – Kyrgyzstan
After the SCO summit engagement, Indian PM embarked on a bilateral visit to Kyrgyzstan. The two countries upgraded their ties to the level of a strategic partnership.
India announced it would extend $200 million line of credit to Bishkek.
A five year roadmap has also been developed to promote trade and economic cooperation, a sector where there is quite a scope for improvement as the bilateral trade in 2016-17 stood at just $ 24.98 million.
Addressing the first India-Kyrgyzstan Business Forum, the Indian PM emphasized on better connectivity as being crucial for better trade ties.
The two countries signed the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement as talks continue on the preferential trade agreement with the EAEU.
MoUs in areas of defense, ICT and health were also exchanged.

Prospects for India
SCO is an effective and constructive mechanism for multilateral cooperation that plays an important role in maintaining regional peace and stability and in facilitating the prosperity and development of the Member States.
Stronger presence in Eurasia – The opening of Chabahar port and entry into Ashgabat agreement can be utilized for a stronger presence in Eurasia besides a clear focus on operationalising INSTC.
India can capitalise on Russian concerns about China exercising disproportionate influence in Central Asia.
Engage with Pakistan – Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistan counterpart exchanged greetings during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit (talks did not take place).
SCO is a potential platform to advance India’s Connect Central Asia policy.

Main challenges for India
Growing closeness of Russia and China, even as India has promoted better relations with the US. One of the major factors for Russia pushing India’s inclusion into the SCO was to balance China’s power but the post-2014 realities have altered some of those geopolitical equations.
Low trade volumes – For instance, India’s bilateral trade with Central Asia stands at about $2 billion and with Russia about $10 billion in 2017. In contrast, China’s trade with Russia has crossed $100 billion in 2018 while the bilateral figures for Central Asia stands at over $50 billion.
Lack of connectivity – It has also hampered development of energy ties between the hydrocarbon-rich region and India.
Support for BRI – While India has made its opposition to BRI clear, all other SCO members have embraced the Chinese project.

If India is not able to exploit the economic potential of the region, its inclusion into an organization that covers 42 per cent of the world population and 20 per cent of the GDP will be a missed opportunity.

Whether the SCO grows into a successful regional forum depends on its ability to overcome bilateral differences between its members and their respective geopolitical calculations. The proliferation of other regional undertakings —EAEU, BRI, Greater Eurasian Partnership, CSTO, CICA will also pose a challenge for SCO. In this situation, India will have to clearly identify and promote its interests to enhance its presence in the Eurasian region.

Retaliatory Tariffs Against US
India has imposed retaliatory tariffs on 29 American goods, in retaliation to America’s withdrawal of preferential access for Indian products from 5 June.

US has terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the key GSP trade programme with effect from 5th June 2019, after determining that India has not assured the US that it will provide “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.
About GSP
The Generalized System of Preference (GSP) is the largest and oldest US trade preference programme and is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry for thousands of products from designated beneficiary countries.
It was established by the Trade Act of 1974.
GSP helps spur sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping them increase and diversify their trade with the U.S.
The U.S. also believes that moving GSP imports from the docks to U.S. consumers, farmers, and manufacturers supports tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.
The other benefit is that GSP boosts American competitiveness by reducing the costs of imported inputs used by U.S. companies to manufacture goods in the United States. GSP is thus important to U.S. small businesses, many of which rely on the programmes’ duty savings to stay competitive.
The U.S. conducts periodic reviews of the programme. The review for India, taken up last year, focussed on whether it is meeting the eligibility criterion that requires a GSP beneficiary country to assure the U.S. that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to its market.
The Trade Representative accepted that India did not meet the criteria:
India wants dairy products, which could form part of religious worship, certified that they were was only derived from animals that have not been fed food containing internal organs. Other exporters such as EU nations and New Zealand certify their products, but the U.S. has so far not done so.
India has recently placed a cap on the prices of medical devices, like stents, that impacts U.S. exports of such devices
India was the largest beneficiary of the programme in 2017 with $5.7 billion in imports to the US given duty-free status.
The Indian export industry however may not feel the pinch of the GSP removal for India by the U.S as the loss for the industry amounts to only about $190 million on exports of $5.6 billion falling under the GSP category.
But specific sectors, such as gem and jewellery, leather and processed foods will lose the benefits of the programme. A producer may be able to bear 2-3% of the loss from the change, but not more. The loss, in export of some kinds of rice for example, may even exceed 10%.

India has imposed retaliatory duties on certain specified goods originating in or exported from USA while preserving the existing most favoured nation (MFN) rate for all these goods for all countries other than USA.
(India first announced plans to impose new tariffs a year ago in retaliation for increased US import duties on Indian steel and aluminum. But it repeatedly delayed them while the two sides held a series of trade talks)
The duties are in retaliation to the US decision of significantly hiking customs duties on certain steel and aluminium products.
Among the targeted imports, duty on walnut has been raised from 30% to 120%, while duty on chickpeas, Bengal gram (chana) and masur dal has been raised from 30% to 70%. This would result in a higher rate for goods imported from USA vis-a-vis other countries.
India had repeatedly postponed the imposition of tariffs of more than $200 million on import of US goods worth $1.4 billion since they were first announced on 20 June 2018.
According to the Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI), the impact of the retaliatory tariffs imposed by India on the U.S. would amount to about $290 million about the same amount imposed by Washington on India in 2018.

The strain in trade ties between the two economies comes at a time when global economic growth rate is projected to slow down as trade tensions among major economies such as between the US and China weigh on business confidence and investments.
The International Monetary Fund’s world economic outlook had in April downgraded global growth to 3.3% for 2019, down from the 3.5% it had forecast in January.
According to the Reserve Bank of India weak global demand because of escalation in trade wars may further impact India’s exports and investment activity. The Central Statistics Office had in February lowered India’s growth estimate for FY19 to 7% from the 7.2% estimated earlier.
Higher Indian tariffs on U.S. goods could also impact growing political and security ties between the two nations.

Disruption caused because of trade wars among major economies offers India a chance to improve its share in the world market. India’s potential to make further gains from the gaps emerging in the supply chain in global markets should be tapped.

Note – For detailed analysis on India – US Trade Issues, please refer our Magazine’s May Edition.
Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting 2019

The Intersessional meeting of Kimberley Process (KP) was hosted by India from 17th to 21st June, 2019 in Mumbai.
The Kimberley Process is a joint initiative involving Government, international diamond industry and civil society to stem the flow of Conflict Diamonds.
Conflict Diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments. It is also described in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
In 1998, certain rebel movements in Africa (Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia) were selling, among other things, illegally obtained diamonds known as Conflict Diamonds to fund their wars against legitimate governments.
With a view to find ways to stop trade in Conflict Diamonds, world’s diamond industry, United Nations, Governments and leading NGOs came together and in 2002 at Interlaken, Switzerland, where the final draft of the Kimberley Process measures were ratified by more than fifty countries.
The KPCS came into effect from 1st January, 2003 and evolved into an effective mechanism for stopping the trade in Conflict Diamonds.

Rough diamond trading under the KPCS
As per the Scheme, each shipment of rough diamonds being exported and imported by crossing an international border be transported in a tamper proof container and accompanied by a validated Kimberley Process Certificate.
The shipment can only be exported to a co-participant country in the KPCS. No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds are permitted to enter a participant country.

India and the KPCS
India is one of the founder members of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and is the Chair of Kimberley Process for the year 2019 with Russian Federation as Vice Chair.
India had earlier chaired KPCS in the year 2008.
At present, KPCS has 55 members representing 82 countries including EU with 28 members.
The Kimberley Process is chaired, on a rotating basis, by participating countries.
Since 2003, India has been actively participating in the KPCS process and is a member of all Working Groups of KP (except for Working Group on Artisanal and Alluvial Production, WGAAP).
Department of Commerce is the nodal Department and Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) is designated as the KPCS Importing and Exporting Authority in India.
GJEPC is responsible for issuing KP Certificates and is also the custodian of KP Certificates received in the country.
Japan to invest in Northeast
The Government of Japan has decided to invest an amount of 205.784 billion Yen, equivalent to approximately Rs.13,000 crore, in several ongoing as well as new projects in different states of India’s North- Eastern region.
This was disclosed after a meeting which the DoNER Minister had with the Japanese delegation.
Some of the important projects in which Japan will collaborate include Guwahati Water Supply Project, Northeast Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project, Northeast Network Connectivity Improvement Project in Meghalaya, Bio-diversity Conservation and Forest Management Project in Sikkim, Sustainable Forest Management Project in Tripura, Technical Cooperation Project for Sustainable Agriculture & Irrigation in Mizoram, Forest Management Project in Nagaland, etc.
Libra: Facebook’s Cryptocurrency

On June 18, Facebook announced the launch of a global digital currency by the first half of 2020. The currency has been named Libra.

Libra can be created through computer algorithms and is based on open source block-chain technology.

Some past attempts to make coins usable for commerce, such as Bitcoin, haven’t widely caught on yet because price volatility mainly attracted traders and speculators. Relatively stable coins, like Tether, have been used by some traders to park funds in during times of high volatility, but have not been broadly adopted for commerce.

The designers of Libra have tried to retain the strong points of the existing crypto-currencies while addressing the shortcomings.

A nonprofit association, Libra Association based in Geneva will oversee the blockchain-based Libra, maintaining a real-world asset reserve to keep its value stable.
The total number of Libra can change, and new digital coins can be issued whenever someone wants to exchange their Libra for an existing fiat currency.
Libra will run on the so-called blockchain, a database that can use millions of computers to verify transactions, eliminating risks that come with information being held centrally by a single entity.
Facebook has created a new subsidiary, called Calibra, to build the new wallet and to keep financial data gathered from Libra users separate from Facebook user data. Calibra will exist inside Messenger and its other standalone messaging service, WhatsApp.
The main problem with Bitcoin and others was lack of intrinsic value. This is being addressed by backing every Libra unit with reserves of real assets made of bank deposits and short-term government securities.

Help in cross-border transaction, with minimum regulatory intervention and cost.
The initiative has the potential to allow more than a billion “unbanked” people around the world access to online commerce and financial services.
Once Libra is up and running, the currency and the digital wallet would make it easier for people to send money through the apps.
As Libra units can be exchanged for fiat money, users would highly engage in its trading.
With large payment, technology, communication and venture capital companies backing the initiative, the usage of these units is likely to grow manifold in the coming years.
Remitting money globally will be easier, without central bank intervention, if done with Libra.
There could be derivatives and even exchange-traded funds based on Libras, if the usage increases.
A currency, to be a success, needs to have acceptability amongst many people. Facebook, with its over 2 billion users, has high potential to make it a success.

Concerns & Challenges
Problem of integration of this currency with the existing financial system as at present global central banks control the strings.
With currency in circulation having a major bearing on inflation and monetary policies, central banks are unlikely to allow digital currencies to disrupt the balance.
There are concerns about letting launch of a currency that can disrupt the entire global payment system. It can shift power from central banks to multinational corporations.
Libra Association’s governance structure is still in flux,and most of the group’s crucial decisions, including the creation of its charter, have not yet been decided.
Facebook has been known to trade user information in the past and it is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over the company’s privacy practices.
Other concerns include privacy, money laundering and terrorism finance.

In India, people can buy or sell these units only if the RBI gives permission to banks to facilitate transactions involving Libra. Bitcoin, though built on a sound technological base, has had to encounter challenges relating to regulation across the world. Governments of the world, including India, have been wary of crypto currency functioning outside the ambit of organized finance.

QS World University Ranking
For the second consecutive year, IIT Bombay has emerged the country’s best university, rising ten places in the 2019 QS World University Ranking.
Produced by global higher education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds, QS ranks the world’s top 1,000 universities, in which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was named the world’s best for a record eighth consecutive year.
Asia’s top universities are National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University (both ranked 11th).
Twenty-three Indian institutes featured in the sixteenth edition of the QS World University Ranking in which IIT Bombay (152), IIT Delhi (182) and Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (184) are ranked in the global top 200.
IIT Bombay’s rise, according to the ranking, is attributed to improvements in its research performance.
IISc Bangalore, meanwhile, has achieved the world’s second-best score for research impact, adjusted for faculty size. The institute has achieved a perfect score of 100/100 for QS’s Citations per Faculty metric, and is the first Indian institution ever to see its research cited more than 100,000 times in a five-year period.
The key takeaway for India from the QS rankings is that its research performance is improving faster than the global average. While university research increased its average five-year citations impact by 30%, the global average grew 10%.
In the overall ranking, Indian universities in 2019 have seen an average decline of 12 ranks, attributable to two main criteria: Faculty/Student Ratio and International Student Ratio.
Experts deem the current budget inadequate for a country with incredible potential and great ambitions.
QS World University Rankings shows that the Indian Higher Education system is making progress in some key areas, the sector requires more substantial, sustained and strategic investments both in research and education.
‘UdChalo’ Portal
In a bid to make wounded soldiers, who are now confined to wheelchairs, self-reliant, an initiative ‘UdChalo’ has been launched at the Army’s Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC).
‘UdChalo’ is a travel portal, that caters for the personal travel of the military and paramilitary forces personnel by aggregating defence fares and getting exclusive discounts.
The PRC has joined hands with UdChalo with an aim to empower the disabled military veterans.
PRC provides institutionalised care to soldiers, who are wounded in military or insurgency operations and can’t adequately provide for themselves the constant medical care associated with quadriplegia and paraplegia. Currently, PRC has 31 ex-servicemen from across the country.

NDMA conducts Multi-State Earthquake Mock Exercise

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) conducted a Multi-State Mock Exercise on earthquake in Delhi (all 11 districts) and the National Capital Region – Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The exercise was aimed to practise the preparedness and response mechanism of the State Governments to mitigate the impact of a high intensity earthquake.
It was conducted in collaboration with the respective State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs).
The exercise simulated an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter Scale with its epicentre in Sohna, Haryana
Rescue drills were conducted in coordination with various agencies, such as the Army, Air Force, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) etc.
This Exercise was the first in a series of mock exercises on various disasters that will be conducted under the Centre’s 100-day Action Plan on disaster preparedness.
Scientists create a global map of where groundwater meets oceans
Scientists have created high-resolution maps of points around the globe where groundwater meets the oceans, the first such analysis of its kind that may help protect both drinking water and the seas.
In a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from The Ohio State University in the U.S. showed that;
Nearly one-half of fresh submarine groundwater discharge flows into the ocean near the tropics.
Regions near active fault lines send greater volumes of groundwater into the ocean than regions that are tectonically stable.
Dry, arid regions have very little groundwater discharge, opening the limited groundwater supplies in those parts of the world to saltwater intrusion.
In some parts of the world, groundwater could be polluting oceans and lakes with nutrients and other chemicals. Groundwater, for example, can carry higher concentrations of nitrates, a key contributor of the types of harmful algal blooms as well as high concentrations of mercury.
Climate heavily influences groundwater flow, and that cities in dry areas are especially vulnerable to salt water contamination of aquifers.
The team worked with researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Saskatchewan to combine topographical data from satellites and climate models to show the flow of groundwater around the world’s coasts.
The findings may help coastal communities better protect and manage their drinking water. Freshwater-groundwater discharge is a natural line of defense against saltwater intrusion.
First near-global and spatially distributed high-resolution map of fresh groundwater flow to the coast, could give scientists better clues about where to monitor groundwater discharge.
Help in understanding how and where groundwater gets to surface water could help policy-makers create better plans to improve those bodies of water.
Water clinic for elephants

India has opened its first specialised hydrotherapy treatment for elephants suffering from arthritis, joint pain and foot ailments, near the Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC), Mathura.

In captive elephants their bodies are weakened due to improper nutrition, their bodies and delicate feet are riddled with wounds and painful abscesses. Osteoarthritis and foot issues are common ailments.
Captive elephants are made to navigate environments that their bodies were not built for. Standing on concrete for long periods becomes an invitation to the early onset of arthritis.
Also, due to lack of proper foot care, the toenails and cuticles of the elephants overgrow and become more prone to cracking
Hydrotherapy is an effective complementary treatment for the elephants’ painful joints and feet.
It is, a form of physical therapy that uses the therapeutic benefits of water to perform physical rehabilitation in animals.
Exerting hydrostatic pressure that compresses muscle and joints, hydrotherapy helps in relieving chronic muscle aches as well as rebuild muscle memory with its natural resistance.
Hydrotherapy jumbo pool is 11-foot-deep and has 21 high pressure jet sprays that create water pressure that massage the elephants’ feet and body and help in increasing blood circulation.
Water resistance is useful for muscle strengthening and cardiovascular training while water pressure can reduce oedema and swelling.
Nipah Virus
Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans) and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people.
It is an emerging infectious disease that broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999.
It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep. The infection is also known to affect human beings.
Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – are the natural hosts for Nipah virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.
The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
The virus has been listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and must be reported to the OIE (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code).

Symptoms of the Nipah infection
Typically, the human infection presents as an encephalitic syndrome marked by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma, and potentially death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the infection has been found to be fatal in 40% to 75% of the infected patients.

Prevention of the Nipah infection
There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for the infection although WHO has identified the virus as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development
With fruits bats being the primary cause of infection, the farm animals should be prevented from eating fruit contaminated by bats.
Consumption of contaminated date palm sap including toddy should also be avoided.
Physical barriers can be put in place in order to prevent bats from accessing and contaminating palm sap.
Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus in swine populations, mass culling of seropositive animals may be necessary.
Intensive supportive care is recommended for treating severe respiratory and neurologic complications.

How Kerala contained Nipah virus outbreak

Once the disease was confirmed, all the cases and suspected cases were moved to the Government Medical College at Kozhikode.
Kerala acquired personal protection equipment (PPE) worth ₹30 lakh from VP Healthcare in the UAE for health workers who were dealing with Nipah patients.
People were mobilized to launch a massive search for all those who might have come in contact with the patient.
Toll-free numbers were set up for people to give information and get clarifications.
Rather than sending the sample and testing it in Pune, government allowed the whole set up to be shifted to Ernakulam.
There was no red tape for the ground staff to get approvals.
An isolation protocol, similar to that for Ebola, was instituted.
Health personnel in all hospitals were given training and safety equipment.
About 2,000 contacts of all the cases were traced and followed up on a daily basis.
If and when any of them fell ill, they were transported to the isolation facility in an ambulance.
The cases were treated symptomatically with life support measures, including ventilation.
The anti-viral drug Ribavirin and a monoclonal antibody were imported and tried in some patients for possible effect.

The way the potentially deadly virus hit Kerala without warning and the intensive efforts made by the state health authorities to contain its spread, has lessons for other states.

India to have its own space station

India plans to have its own space station, and modalities for it will be worked out after the first manned mission, Gaganyaan, scheduled for August 2022.

ISRO will launch a small module for microgravity experiments.
Proposed space station is envisaged to weigh 20 tonnes and serve as a facility where astronauts can stay for 15-20 days, and it would be placed in an orbit 400 km above earth.
The time frame for launch is 5-7 years after Gaganyaan.

A detailed report would be submitted to the government after the Gaganyaan mission.
‘Go Tribal Campaign’ of Tribes India

Government has launched the “Go Tribal Campaign” of Tribes India along with ‘Tribes India’ globally through Amazon Global Selling.
Go Tribals Campaign – Under this a number of innovative activities have been planned to be undertaken to promote use of tribal handicrafts, handicrafts and natural products.
Tribes India – Under this Tribes India and Amazon Global Marketing launched TRIBES India products globally through With this collaboration, tribal products shall be available in the US and will help establish export market of tribal products.
The campaigns have been launched to;
Widely promote the use of tribal products.
To economically strengthen the tribals of country as they are capable of producing many creative products including handicrafts.
To institutionalize collaborations and partnerships with different organizations to promote tribal products.

TRIFED is an organization under Ministry of Tribal Affairs and is engaged in marketing development of tribal products including tribal art and craft under the brand name “TRIBES INDIA”.
Irula Tribe
Irula are a Dravidian ethnic group inhabiting the area of the Nilgiri mountains, in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India.
Irular live in two south Indian states – Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu they live in the Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Erode, Namakkal, Salem and Dharmapuri. In Kerala they live in the Palakkad district and Attapady and Walayar panchayats.
People of Irula ethnicity are called Irular, and speak Irula, which belongs to the Dravidian family
Along with their knowledge in medicine, their skill at capturing snakes, especially venomous ones, is almost legendary.
Draft National Education Policy 2019
The Committee for Draft National Education Policy chaired by Dr. K. Kasturirangan submitted its report on May 31, 2019. It was constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in June 2017.
The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of: access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability faced by the current education system.

The draft Policy provides for reforms at all levels of education from school to higher education.
It seeks to increase the focus on early childhood care, reform the current exam system, strengthen teacher training, and restructure the education regulatory framework.
It also seeks to set up a National Education Commission, increase public investment in education, strengthen the use of technology and increase focus on vocational and adult education, among others.

School Education
Early Childhood Care and Education
Curriculum – Doesn’t meet the developmental needs of children
Lack of qualified and trained teachers – Currently, most early childhood education is delivered through anganwadis and private-preschools.
Substandard pedagogy

Developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education.
This will consist of: (i) guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and (ii) educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.
Improving and expanding the anganwadi system and co-locating anganwadis with primary schools.
The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act)
Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years.

Extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education i.e. to all children between the ages of three to 18 years.

No detention policy must be reviewed as there should be no detention of children till class eight. Instead, schools must ensure that children are achieving age-appropriate learning levels.

Curriculum framework
Current education system solely focuses on rote learning of facts and procedures.
The current structure of school education must be restructured on the basis of the development needs of students. This would consist of a 5-3-3-4 design.

Curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content.
School exam reforms
Current board examinations:
Force students to concentrate only on a few subjects
Do not test learning in a formative manner
Cause stress among students.

Track students’ progress throughout their school experience.
It proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
Restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.

School infrastructure
The small size of schools makes it operationally complex to deploy teachers and critical physical resources
Multiple public schools should be brought together to form a school complex.
Each school complex will be a semi-autonomous unit providing integrated education across all stages from early childhood to secondary education.
Teacher management
There has been a steep rise in teacher shortage, lack of professionally qualified teachers, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes.
Teachers should be deployed with a particular school complex for at least five to seven years.
Teachers should not be allowed to participate in any non-teaching activities (such as cooking mid-day meals) during school hours .
Existing B.Ed. programme should be replaced by a four-year integrated B.Ed. programme that combines high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training.
An integrated continuous professional development should also be developed for all subjects.
Regulation of schools

Separating the regulation of schools from aspects such as policymaking, school operations, and academic development.
Creating an independent State School Regulatory Authority for each state that would prescribe basic uniform standards for public and private schools.

Higher Education
According to the All India Survey on Higher Education, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education in India has increased from 20.8% in 2011-12 to 25.8% in 2017-18.
GER comparison across countries (2014)

Primary (Class 1-5)
Upper Primary (Class 6-8)
Upper Secondary (Class 9-12)
Higher Education

The Committee identified lack of access as a major reason behind low intake of higher education in the country. It aims to increase GER to 50% by 2035 from the current level of about 25.8%.

Regulatory structure and accreditation
Current higher education system has multiple regulators with overlapping mandates.
This reduces the autonomy of higher educational institutions and creates an environment of dependency and centralised decision making.
Setting up the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) to replace the existing individual regulators in higher education, including professional and vocational education.
Role of all professional councils such as AICTE and the Bar Council of India should be limited to setting standards for professional practice.
The role of the University Grants Commission (UGC) will be limited to providing grants to higher educational institutions.
Separating NAAC from the UGC into an independent and autonomous body. NAAC will function as the top level accreditor. All existing higher education institutions should be accredited by 2030.
Establishment of new higher educational institutions
Higher educational institutions can only be set up by Parliament or state legislatures.
Institutions could be allowed to be set up through a Higher Education Institution Charter from NHERA.
Restructuring of higher education institutions

Institutions should be restructured into three types:
Research universities focusing equally on research and teaching
Teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching; and
Colleges focusing only on teaching at undergraduate levels.

Establishing a National Research Foundation
Total investment on research and innovation in India has declined from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.69% in 2014. India also lags behind many nations in number of researchers (per lakh population), patents and publications.
Establish a National Research Foundation, an autonomous body, for funding, mentoring and building the capacity for quality research in India.
The Foundation should be provided with an annual grant of Rs 20,000 crore (0.1% of GDP).

Moving towards a liberal approach

Making undergraduate programmes interdisciplinary by redesigning their curriculum.
Four-year undergraduate programmes in Liberal Arts should be introduced and multiple exit options with appropriate certification must be made available to students.
Further, within the next five years, five Indian Institute of Liberal Arts must be setup as model multidisciplinary liberal arts institutions.
Professional development of faculty
Poor service conditions and heavy teaching loads at higher education institutions have resulted in low faculty motivation.
Further, lack of autonomy and no clear career progression system are also major impediments to faculty motivation.
Development of a Continuous Professional Development programme.
Introduction of a permanent employment (tenure) track system for faculty in all higher education institutions by 2030.
Further, a desirable student-teacher ratio of not more than 30:1 must be ensured.
Optimal learning environment
Curricula remain rigid, narrow, and archaic.
Moreover, the faculty often lacks the autonomy to design curricula, which negatively impacts pedagogy.
All higher education institutions must have complete autonomy on curricular, pedagogical and resource-related matters.

Education Governance
Bring in synergy and coordination among the different ministries, departments and agencies.
Creation of a National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, as an apex body for education, to be headed by the Prime Minister.
This body will be responsible for developing, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis.
It will oversee the implementation and functioning of several bodies including the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the proposed National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, and National Research Foundation.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Development must be renamed as the Ministry of Education in order to bring focus back on education.

Financing Education
Investment in 2017
(as % of GDP)
The Draft Policy reaffirmed the commitment of spending 6% of GDP as public investment in education.
First National Education Policy (NEP) 1968 had recommended public expenditure in education must be 6% of GDP, which was reiterated by the second NEP in 1986.
In 2017-18, public expenditure on education in India was 2.7% of GDP.
The draft Policy seeks to double the public investment in education from the current 10% of total public expenditure to 20% in the next 10 years.
The Committee also observed operational problems and leakages in disbursement of funds. For instance, it observed that District Institutes of Education and Training have about 45% vacancies which have led to their allocations not being used or being used ineffectively. It recommends optimal and timely utilisation of funds through the institutional development plans.

Technology in Education
Focused electrification of all educational institutions as electricity is a pre-requisite for all technology-based interventions.
National Mission on Education through information and communication technology: To encompass virtual laboratories that provide remote access to laboratories in various disciplines.
A National Education Technology Forum should also be setup under the Mission, as an autonomous body, to provide evidence-based advice to central and state-governments on technology-based interventions.
National Repository on Educational Data: To maintain all records related to institutions, teachers, and students in digital form.
Single online digital repository will be created where copyright-free educational resources will be made available in multiple languages.

Vocational Education
Less than 5% of the workforce in the age-group of 19-24 receives vocational education in India. This is in contrast to 52% in the USA, 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea.
Policy recommends integrating vocational educational programmes in all educational institutions in a phased manner over a period of 10 years.
Vocational courses: All school students must receive vocational education in at least one vocation in grades nine to 12.
The proposed Higher Education Institutions must also offer vocational courses that are integrated into the undergraduate education programmes.
The draft Policy targets to offer vocational education to up to 50% of the total enrolment in higher education institutions by 2025, up from the present level of enrolment of well below 10% in these institutions.
National Committee for the Integration of Vocational Education: To work out the steps that need to be taken towards achieving the above goals.
A separate fund to be setup for the integration of vocational education into educational institutions.

Adult Education
As per Census 2011, India still had over 3.26 crore youth non-literates (15-24 years of age) and a total of 26.5 crore adult non-literates (15 years and above).
Establishing an autonomous Central Institute of Adult Education, as a constituent unit of NCERT, to develop a National Curriculum Framework for adult education.
Adult Education Centres must be included within the proposed school complexes.
A cadre of adult education instructors and managers, as well as a team of one-on-one tutors should be created through a newly-established National Adult Tutors Programme.

Education and Indian Languages
The Committee observed that a large number of students are falling behind since classes in schools are being conducted in a language that they do not understand. Therefore, it recommended that the medium of instruction must either be the home language/mother tongue/local language till grade five, and preferable till grade eight, wherever possible.
To promote Indian languages, a National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit to be set up.
All higher education institutes must recruit high quality faculty for at least three Indian languages, in addition to the local Indian language.

A reference in draft NPE, 2019 to mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States set off a political storm in Tamil Nadu, which is traditionally opposed to the compulsory study of Hindi. The draft had a sentence on flexibility on choice of language for school students. Subsequently, the reference to Hindi was dropped by the committee.

Three Language Formula
Introduced by the first National Education Policy, the three-language formula stated that state governments should adopt and implement study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking states, and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in the non-Hindi speaking states.
The draft Policy recommended that this three language formula be continued and flexibility in the implementation of the formula should be provided.
On promotion of Hindi, the NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that “in developing Hindi as the link language, due care should be taken to ensure that it will serve, as provided for in Article 351 of the Constitution, as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged.
Incidentally, the NPE 1986 made no change in the 1968 policy on the three-language formula and the promotion of Hindi and repeated it verbatim.

Background of Hindi imposition row
In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965. This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place.
However, as early as in 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.
Southern states especially Tamil Nadu, have been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.

What is Tamil Nadu’s stand on this?
Southern states and Tamil Nadu in particular do not oppose the voluntary learning of Hindi. For example, the unhindered work of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, established in Chennai by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 should be given due consideration.
There is no bar on private schools, most of them affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, offering Hindi.
The State has been following the two-language formula for many decades, under which only English and one regional language are compulsory in schools.
An important aspect of the opposition to Hindi imposition is that many in Tamil Nadu see it as a fight to retain English.
English is seen as a bulwark against Hindi as well as the language of empowerment and knowledge.
There is an entrenched belief that the continued attempts to impose Hindi are essentially driven by those who want to eliminate English as the country’s link language.

Policy suggests a need to bring unrepresented groups into school and focus on educationally lagging special education zones, however, it misses to provide solutions to close the gap of access to quality education between India’s rich and poor children.
Anganwadis are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education and thus they have remained relatively light on the educational aspects of ECCE [or Early Childhood Care and Education].
Policy proposes to remove the expectations that all schools meet common minimum infrastructure and facility standards. Not specifying a common minimum standard below which schools cannot fall, creates conditions where quality of facilities in some schools will only sink lower, widening this gap.
It proposes a roll back of existing mechanisms of enforcement of private schools making parents “de-facto regulators” of private schools. Parents, and particularly poor and neo-literate parents, cannot hold the onus of ensuring that much more powerful and resourced schools comply with quality, safety and equity norms.
Draft policy is silent on the Institutions of Eminence and agencies like the Higher Education Funding Agency.
The policy specifically promotes private schools, yet there is scarce evidence worldwide to suggest that private schools by definition deliver better quality, let alone, equitable education.
Doubling of public funding to 6% of the GDP and increasing overall public expenditure on education to 20% from the current 10% is desirable but does not appear to be feasible in the near future given that most of the additional funding has to come from the States.
Idea of setting up the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog under the Prime Minister and having it serviced by the MHRD is crucial in order to integrate the approaches and programmes of multiple departments. However, it is fraught with many administrative problems and possible turf battles.
Bringing medical or agricultural or legal education under one umbrella is likely to be met with stiff opposition.
Idea of regulation being brought under the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, standard setting under the General Education Council and funding under the Higher Education Grants Council may require a revisit so that there is synchronisation with the current Bill for the Higher Education Commission of India.
Integrating pre school with government school system may pose infrastructure and logistics challenge.
Fee Control suggestion in private schools may face legal challenges.

Need for extension of the public school network to address the hitherto unreached populations in remote areas and urban slums where low fees private schools flourish.
The World Bank’s 2018 World Development report highlights that private schools often appear to do better because they enroll children from relatively advantaged backgrounds who can afford to pay and not because they deliver better quality of education.
While establishing new institutions for Pali, Prakrit and Persian appears to be a novel idea, government must strengthen and upgrade the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysuru with an extended mandate to take care of these languages.
Expanding coverage under the RTE Act be introduced gradually, keeping in mind the quality of infrastructure and teacher vacancies.
Push digital technology to address the issue of quality. The policy should explicitly suggest the use of technology in institutions of higher learning.
Steps need to be taken to ensure that there is genuine autonomy in HEIs. This can be ensured by providing regular rather than sporadic financial support, based on accountability, and estimates of the requirements of institutions.
Differentiate between deregulation and liberalisation. The incentive for the private sector to invest, grow and stand on quality parameters needs to be clearly articulated.

It is time for all conscientious persons to study the report and suggest the best path forward. If the political leadership backs it, implementation of the policy will transform our nation.
‘UdChalo’ Portal
In a bid to make wounded soldiers, who are now confined to wheelchairs, self-reliant, an initiative ‘UdChalo’ has been launched at the Army’s Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC).
‘UdChalo’ is a travel portal, that caters for the personal travel of the military and paramilitary forces personnel by aggregating defence fares and getting exclusive discounts.
The PRC has joined hands with UdChalo with an aim to empower the disabled military veterans.
PRC provides institutionalised care to soldiers, who are wounded in military or insurgency operations and can’t adequately provide for themselves the constant medical care associated with quadriplegia and paraplegia. Currently, PRC has 31 ex-servicemen from across the country.

By admin July 13, 2019 19:32