State Election Commission
The Supreme Court ruled that serving bureaucrats must not be appointed as election commissioners to ensure that the election commissioner's independence is not compromised.
➤ Supreme Court's Ruling:
- Independent persons and not government employees should be appointed Election Commissioners.
- Giving government employees additional charge as Election Commissioners is a mockery of the Constitution.
- Directed States to comply with the constitutional scheme of independent and fair functioning of election commissions.
- If they hold any such office (under the state government), they have to resign before taking charge of the election commissioner's office.
- Ordered all state governments to appoint whole-time election commissioners who will act independently and reasonably.
➤ About State Election Commissions (SECs):
- The State Election Commission has been entrusted with conducting free, fair, and impartial elections to the local bodies in the state.
- Article 243K(1): It states that the superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats (Municipalities under Article 243ZA) shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
- Article 243K(2): It states that the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature. However, State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his/ her office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as a High Court Judge.
Mera Ration Mobile App
To facilitate the 'One Nation One Ration Card' system in the country, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, launched the 'Mera Ration' mobile app to benefit citizens in identifying the nearest Fair Price Shop (FPS).
- This app will benefit especially those ration card holders who move to new areas for livelihoods.
➤ About the App: The app is developed by the National Informatics Center (NIC).
- Language: The application is currently available in English and Hindi.
- However, it is planned to be introduced in 14 languages which will be identified based on places where most migrant people move.
- Facilities to the Beneficiaries:
- Can identify and locate the nearest fair price shop.
- Can easily check details of their foodgrain entitlement, recent transactions, and Aadhaar seeding status.
- Can register their migration details.
- An option to enter suggestions/feedback.
➤ One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC):
- The ONORC scheme is being implemented by the Department of Food and Public Distribution for the nation-wide portability of ration cards under National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013.
- The Act legally entitled upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under Targeted Public Distribution System.
- This system allows all NFSA beneficiaries, mainly migrant beneficiaries, to claim either full or part foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) in the country through an existing ration card with biometric/Aadhaar authentication in a seamless manner.
- The freedom of choosing any FPS was not available earlier.
- States completing the One Nation-One Ration Card system reform were eligible for additional borrowing of 0.25% of gross state domestic product (GSDP).
- Seventeen states have operationalised the 'One Nation-One Ration Card' system with Uttarakhand being the latest to complete the reform.
- Coverage: The ONORC was started initially in 4 States in the year 2019 and was rolled out in 32 States/ UTs by the end of 2020.
- The integration of the remaining 4 States/ UT (Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal) is expected to be completed in next few months.
- It covers nearly 69 Crore NFSA beneficiaries (about 86% NFSA population) in the country and a monthly average of about 1.5~1.6 Crore portability transactions are being recorded under ONORC.
- Making ONORC Available to All:
- The government supplies 5 kg of subsidised food grains to each person per month through 5.4 lakh ration shops.
- The integration of Migrants' Portal with ONROC system is undertaken with the Ministry of Labour & Employment support.
- The ONORC has been made a part of PM SVANidhi program of the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs.
- Media publicity of the ONORC has been done with the help of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Press Information Bureau, MyGov, Bureau of Outreach & Communication.
Energy Efficiency Enterprise (E3) Certifications Programme
The "Energy Efficiency Enterprise (E3) Certifications Programme for the Brick Manufacturing Sector" has been launched by the Ministry of Power.
- The E3 Certification Scheme is aimed at tapping huge energy efficiency potential in this sector.
➤ About the Energy Efficiency Enterprise (E3) Certifications Programme: E3 certification is an accreditation process focused on the Brick industry. The certification will be provided by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).
- It is an initiative to recognise burnt clay brick manufacturers who adopt energy-efficient manufacturing and encourage customers to source bricks from such E3 certified manufacturing units.
- It will be awarded to Brick Manufacturing Enterprises that meet the minimum Specific Energy Consumption (SECVol) performance criteria specified in the Scheme.
- It is a shift from conventional to efficient technologies and product shift towards low density bricks with better thermal insulation.
- The adoption of the E3 Certification is currently voluntary for the Brick industry.
➤ Advantages of E3 Certification:
The implementation of E3 Certification will lead to multiple benefits:
- Energy savings in the brick manufacturing process.
- Improved quality of bricks.
- Cost savings to builders .
- Energy savings to occupiers of buildings due to better thermal comfort and improved insulation properties.
- Energy-saving of 7 Million Tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) per year and CO, savings of about 25 Million Tonnes by 2030 are estimated by adopting E3 Certification by 7500 Bricks manufacturing units. Modernization of Sector: The Scheme seeks to accelerate brick sector modernization, using market incentives to create customer demand to fulfill Aatmanirbhar Bharat's vision. o ECBC Compliance: Energy efficient bricks will be useful in complying with the Energy Conservation Buildings Code (ECBC).
➤ Bureau of Energy Efficiency
- Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power which was setup in 2002 under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
- It is mandated to implement policy and programmes in energy efficiency and conservation.
- It assists in developing policies and strategies to reduce energy intensity of the Indian economy.
- Major Programmes: State Energy Efficiency Index, Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, The Standards & Labeling Programme, Energy Conservation Building Code, etc.
Mid-day Meal Scheme
Due to an extension of the midday meal scheme envisaged by National Education Policy, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has proposed that all government schools begin offering free breakfast in the coming academic year.
- The National Education Policy identifies "providing food and nutrition" as one of the key long-term thrust areas for financing to cultivate a robust education system.
- Research shows that the morning hours nutritious breakfast can be productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects and hence these hours may be leveraged by providing a simple but energizing breakfast in addition to midday meals.
- Severe funding Crunch is likely to delay the scheme.
- The Centre's current expenditure on the Midday meals scheme is about 11000 crore. Free breakfast would involve an additional budget of 4000 crore but the School Education Department saw a budget cut of almost 5000 crore for the year 2020-21 .
- The Midday meal scheme (under the Ministry of Education) is a centrally sponsored scheme which was launched in 1995.
- It is the world's largest school meal programme aimed to attain universalization of primary education.
- Provides cooked meals to every child within the age group of six to fourteen years studying in classes I to VIII who enrolls and attends the school.
- Address hunger and malnutrition, increase enrolment and attendance in school, improve socialisation among castes, employ grassroot level especially to women.
➤ Quality Check:
- AGMARK quality items are procured, tasting meals by two or three adult members of the school management committee.
➤ Food Security:
- If the Mid-Day Meal is not provided in school on any school day due to non-availability of food grains or any other reason, the State Government shall pay food security allowance by 15th of the succeeding month.
- The State Steering-cum Monitoring Committee (SSMC) oversees the scheme's implementation, including establishing a mechanism for maintenance of nutritional standards and quality of meals.
➤ Nutritional Standards:
- Cooked meal having nutritional standards of 450 calories and 12 gm of protein for primary (I- V class) and 700 calories and 20 gm protein for upper primary (VI-VIII class)
- All government and government aided schools, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
➤ Issues and Challenges:
- Corrupt Practices: There have been instances of plain chapatis being served with salt, mixing of water in milk, food poisoning etc.
- Caste Bias and Discrimination: Food is central to the caste system. In many schools, children sit separately according to their caste status.
- Covid-19: Covid-19 has posed serious threats to children and their health and nutritional rights. The nationwide lockdown has disrupted access to essential services, including Mid-Day Meals.
- Menace of Malnutrition: According to the National Family Health Survey-5, several states across the country have reversed course and recorded worsening levels of child malnutrition.
- India is home to about 30% of the world's stunted children and nearly 50% of severely wasted children under five.
- Global Nutrition Report-2020: As per the Global Nutrition Report 2020, India is among 88 countries likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025.
- Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020: India has been ranked at 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020. India has a level of hunger that is "serious".
India Science Research Fellowship 2021
Forty scholars from six countries have been recommended for the Indian Science Research Fellowship (ISRF) 2021.
- This fellowship is a platform to establish research cooperation with neighboring countries of India, which is one of the mandates of DST's (Department of Science and Technology) International Science and Technology Cooperation.
➤ About India Science Research Fellowship (ISRF):
- As part of India's initiatives to engage with neighbouring countries to develop S&T partnerships, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched ISRF Programme.
- This fellowship is for scholars from the neighbouring countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
- ISRF programme has provided the young researchers from neighboring countries an opportunity to get access to the state of art facilities available in the Indian institutes/universities.
- ISRF has been implemented since 2015.
➤ Significance of the Fellowship:
- Science Diplomacy: Enlarging India's pursuit of influence in global arena/platforms and mainstreaming Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) into international diplomacy and foreign relation.
- Technological Advancement in the South Asia region.
International Science and Technology Cooperation
➤ About: The International S&T Cooperation (IC) Division of DST has the mandated responsibility of o negotiating, concluding and implementing Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Agreements between India and other countries, and o providing interventions on STI aspects in international forums.
- In showcasing and projecting India's scientific excellence in the global research landscape,
- Leveraging foreign alliances and partnerships to accelerate key priorities and programs devoted to strengthening India's national science and technology (S&T)/ Research and Development (R&D) competencies-capabilities-access to technologies in synergies with national flagship programs.
➤ IC Division is partnering in the following International programs:
- International Solar Alliance,
- Mission Innovation,
- International AIDS Vaccine Initiative,
- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), etc.
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan
The Union Education Minister chaired a review meeting on Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).
➤ About the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan:
- Aim: It aims at providing strategic funding to higher education institutions throughout the country.
- The scheme is being operated in mission mode for funding state universities and colleges to achieve equity, access and excellence.
- Funding: It is a centrally sponsored scheme launched in October 2013.
- Since 2016-17, the government has spent an average of Rs. 1,500 crore every year on RUSA.
- Objectives: Improve the overall quality of state institutions by conforming to the prescribed norms and standards.
- Adopting accreditation (certification of competency) as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
- Promoting autonomy in state universities and improving governance in institutions.
- Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination system.
- Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all employment levels.
- Create an enabling atmosphere for research in the higher education system.
- Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in unserved and underserved areas.
- Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities to the disadvantaged.
- Monitoring: The central ministry provides funding through the State governments and Union Territories (UTs), which in coordination with the Central Project Appraisal Board monitors the academic, administrative and financial advancements taken under the scheme.
➤ Highlights of the Meeting:
- Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): Need to draw plans on educating additional 3.5 crore students to increase GER to 50% by 2035.
- India's higher education enrollment is calculated in terms of GER, the population ratio in the 18-23 age group to the number of people enrolled in higher education.
- According to All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), the GER in higher education has increased from 25.8% in 201718 to 26.3% in 2018-19. In absolute terms the enrolment increased from 3.66 crores to 3.74 crore students.
- Focus on Local Skills: A total of 7 crore students with employable skills that suit local conditions should pass out from colleges and Universities. Education should lead to local employment. Education in Degree College should be aligned with the “One district one product (ODOP)" plan.
- Monitoring: The University Grants Commission will Promoting autonomy in state universities and improving governance in institutions.
Appointment of CBI Director
A writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a regular Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director.
- The Director of the CBI is appointed as per section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946.
➤ Director of CBI:
- The CBI is headed by a Director.
- The Director of CBI as Inspector General of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment, is responsible for the organization's administration.
- With the enactment of CVC Act, 2003, the superintendence of Delhi Special Police Establishment vests with the Central Government to save investigations of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in which, the superintendence vests with the Central Vigilance Commission.
- The Director of CBI has been provided security of two-year tenure in office by the CVC Act, 2003.
- The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (2013) amended the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (1946) and made the following changes concerning appointment of the Director of CBI:
- The Central Government shall appoint the Director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him.
- Later, the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act, 2014 made a change in the committee's composition related to the appointment of the Director of C.B.I.
- It states that where there is no recognized leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, then the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha would be a member of that committee.
- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
- The CBI was set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Now, the CBI comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- The establishment of the CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1962-1964).
- The CBI is not a statutory body. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
- The CBI is the main investigating agency of the Central Government.
- It also assists the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal.
- It is also the nodal police agency in India that coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme
The government plans to replace the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) with a new programme MERITE Project.
➤ About the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme:
- It was started in 2002 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development with the World Bank's assistance and is being implemented in a phased manner.
- It aims to upscale the quality of technical education and enhance the capacities of institutions.
- The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme III (TEQIP-III) was started in 2017 and will be completed by 2021.
- It aims to develop technical education as a critical component for improving the quality of Engineering Education.
- The Objective is to improve quality and equity in engineering institutions in focus states such as in low income states.
➤ About MERITE Project:
- The project has an objective to improve technical education like TEQIP.
- However, the MERITE Project is still in the conceptual stage and has not yet received Cabinet approval.
- Other Initiative to Improve Technical Education
- Margadarshan and Margadarshak (AICTE).
- Institutions of Eminence (IoE) scheme.
- Technical Education in Mother Tongue has been proposed by the National Education Policy (NEP).
- To achieve the objective, students may pursue professional courses such as medicine, engineering, law, etc in their mother tongue.
- It suggests teaching in regional language till class 8 and enabling teaching the curriculum in a language which a student is comfortable in.
- Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) schemes.
Rights of Overseas Citizens of India
Recently, the government has notified a consolidated list of rights of the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).
- The rights and restrictions are not new, they have been notified previously in 2005, 2007, and 2009.
➤ Multiple Entry Lifelong Visa:
- OCI cardholders will be entitled to get multiple entry lifelong visas for visiting India for any purpose.
➤ Prior Permission:
- OCI cards would need prior permission for a set of activities that include research, journalism, mountaineering, missionary or Tablighi work, and visits to restricted areas.
➤ Parity with Non Resident Indians (NRIs):
- OCI cardholders will enjoy parity with NRIs in adopting children, appearing in competitive exams, purchasing or selling immovable property barring agricultural land and farmhouses, and pursuing professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and chartered accountants.
➤ Parity with Indian Nationals:
- They have parity with Indian nationals in domestic air fares, entry fees to monuments and public places.
➤ Entrance Exams and Admissions:
- OCIs can appear for all-India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) or such other tests to make them eligible for admission only against any NRI seat or any supernumerary seat.
- The OCI cardholder shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens.
➤ Other Economic, Financial and Educational fields:
- In respect of all other economic, financial and educational fields not specified in the latest notification or the rights and privileges not covered by the notifications made by the Reserve Bank of India under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, the OCI cardholder shall have the same rights and privileges as a foreigner.
- They are exempted from registration with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.
- Foreigners visiting India who hold long-term visas (more than 180 days) must register their presence in India with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
- There will be no restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses.
Overseas Citizen of India
- The Ministry of Home Affairs defines an OCI as a person who:
- Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or
- Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or
- Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
- According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh. The government introduced the category in 2005.
- The Government of India via Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015 merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) category with OCI category in 2015.
- Non Resident Indian
- A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) means a person resident outside India who is a citizen of India or is a person of Indian origin.
- An Indian citizen residing outside India for a combined total of at least 183 days in a financial year is considered an NRI.
- NRIs enjoy voting rights and are required to pay and file the income tax return on their Indian income like resident Indians.
- NRI is more of a technical classification for taxation purposes and investment purposes.
- However, if an NRI wishes to take up foreign citizenship, he/she will have to give up Indian citizenship as the Indian constitution does not allow dual citizenship.
- A person cannot hold Indian as well as foreign citizenship simultaneously.
- As per the the Foreigners Act, 1946, foreigner means a person who is not a citizen of India.
- The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 are available to all persons whether citizens or foreigners. The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 15, 16, 19, 29, and 30 are available only to citizens of India.
- However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distributing audio or visual display/pamphlets about religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc. will not be allowed.
Governments worldwide are looking into the possibility of using vaccine passports to reopen the economy by recognising those who are immune to the coronavirus.
➤ About Vaccine Passports:
- A vaccine passport is an e-certificate that stores and records jabs and Covid-19 test status.
- It can be kept in a smartphone app or in other digital formats.
- Its contents can be flashed at security checkpoints when people travel across borders.
- The idea is modelled on the proof of vaccination that several countries required even before the pandemic.
- Travellers from many African countries to the USA or India must submit proof that they have been vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever.
- In February 2021, Israel became the first country to introduce a certification system that allows those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to access certain facilities and events.
➤ Function of Vaccine Passports:
- Will digitise vaccination records across countries.
- Supposed to function as proof that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and is, therefore, safe.
➤ Potential Beneficiary of the Vaccine Passports:
- The primary benefit will be to the tourism and the hospitality industries, which are both seen as being at the heart of Covid-19 spread and are the worst hit by the pandemic.
- The international air travel, which suffered massively because of the outbreak.
➤ Similar Initiative: Several associations and non-profits have been issuing their versions for international travel:
- IATA Travel Pass: The global trade body representing airlines (The International Air Transport Association) is developing an app called IATA Travel Pass that will provide airlines and other aviation industry stakeholders with a common platform to check for the proof of vaccination and its validity.
- CommonPass: Non-profit Commons Project has been trying out an app called CommonPass, which contains a passenger's vaccination record.
➤ Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport:
- WHO's Stand:
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) is against the introduction of Covid-19 vaccination proofs as a requirement for international travel.
- There are still critical unknown facts regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.
- Lack of Uniformity: The primary difficulty in implementation will be the lack of uniformity across jurisdictions in requirement and issuance of proofs of vaccination.
- Inadequate Availability of Vaccines: Preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
- Introducing a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.
- Perpetuate Discrimination and Inequality:
- Experts argue that vaccine passports, in any form, might make travel inequitable. Adopting these digital passports can perpetuate discrimination and inequality, increasing the divide between socioeconomic groups.
- Rich countries that have already bought millions of doses from pharmaceutical companies are ahead in the race. The poorer nations may have to wait for months, if not years, to start injections.
- This means that if vaccine passports become a norm, then these lower-income nations will lose out on the advantage.
- It will lead to the exclusion of the younger generation who would be last in line to be vaccinated.
- Privacy Concerns: These are mainly digital certificates that a particular service provider accesses to check for proof of vaccination, there is a possibility that they would be used by authorities to track the movement of their holders.