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SOCIAL PROBLEMS

ECONOMIC TIMES, APR 16, 2016



Delhi government bans pan masala, gutkha
NEW DELHI: The Delhi government has banned all chewing tobacco products, including pan masala, gutkha, flavoured and scented tobacco and kharra, here for a year, an official said on Friday. The Department of Food Safety issued a notification declaring that manufacture and sale of gutkha, pan masala, zarda and khaini packed or unpacked are prohibited for a year as these products damage public health. The ban came into effect from Wednesday. "The said food products, if consumed, endanger human health," the government said in its notification, adding that consumption will adversely effect the life of future generations. The government said that all such forms of chewing tobacco, whether packaged or unpackaged, sold as one product, or through packaged separate products that could be mixed by consumers, come under the ambit of the ban.

STATESMAN, APR 21, 2016



Prohibition as a ploy

Amulya Ganguli
The revival of the moves in favour of prohibition is not due to a deep desire among politicians to keep the unthinking and unwashed hoi-polloi on the straight and narrow path. Notwithstanding the failure of such experiments in Haryana recently and in undivided Bombay in the 1950s and ‘60s, not to mention America in Al Capone’s time, several states like Kerala and Bihar have decided to bar -- no pun intended -- the consumption of alcohol and Tamil Nadu is threatening to do the same.
The drive for inducing sobriety stems less from moral considerations than from the inability of the state governments to push ahead with their development programmes. Considering that large segments of the population have to live in conditions of deprivation and scarcity where the basic needs of life are concerned  --  safe drinking water, decent living conditions for the lower middle class, an assured supply of power, schools with good teachers, hospitals with reliable doctors -- the ruling parties are aware that the grievances about them are forever piling up.
The complaints are further enhanced by their hallmark insensitivity, demonstrated by what has come to be known as the “red light” culture where the official cars with red beacons and the posse of armed commandos escorting the politicians underline the wide difference between the rulers and their subjects. In general, the average person accepts these signs of the gulf between him and his lord and master as a decree of fate. But when the government fails to provide routine administrative services, the patience of the citizen is strained beyond limit.

This is what has happened in Tamil Nadu where the exceptionally heavy rains last winter not only caused widespread inundation for days, but highlighted the callous disregard for environment by the builders, apparently acting in collusion with the government. The belief during the long periods of suffering faced by the waterlogged residents was that the calamity was the result of the reckless filling up of the shallow marshy lands by building construction, which prevented the drainage of water.


Not surprisingly, chief minister Jayalalitha was a target of the public disaffection, not least because the civic disaster highlighted her customary imperious behaviour. It may not be too far wide of the mark to suggest, therefore, that her announcement of the intention to introduce prohibition is an attempt to make up for the setbacks in her popularity which she suspects she has suffered.
Otherwise, there is no reason why a generally well-off state, compared to Bihar, should opt for a measure whose attendant woes -- loss of excise revenue, bootlegging and the consequent gangsterism, deaths from the consumption of illicit liquor -- are known. Jayalalitha has probably calculated that by the time these problems arise, she will be safely ensconced in power by unfurling the moral flag. Subsequently, she will try to tackle them by taking steps, including the lifting of prohibition as states like Haryana (which banned liquor between 1996 and 1999) have done.
Unlike Jayalalitha, who has promised to impose prohibition before an election, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has done so not only after winning an election, but winning handsomely. There is little doubt, therefore, about his popularity. If he has still felt impelled to impose prohibition, it is for that other reason which drives a politician -- cultivating vote-banks or groups of supporters devoted primarily to his party.
In this particular case, it is the women, mainly of the lower middle class, who have been victims of physical and financial maltreatment by their husbands. It is for their sake that Nitish Kumar has decided to forgo the excise revenue earnings of  Rs 4,000 crore in the hope that his party -- the Janata Dal (United) -- will get their votes.
He may indeed get them. But, in the process, Bihar may return to its familiar BIMARU status where it will be equated with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh as an ailing or backward state. Bimar in Hindi means sick and BIMARU stands for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The acronym was coined by an economic analyst, Ashis Bose, in the 1980s.
While securing the support of the lower middle class women, the Janata Dal (United) may lose the backing of the upper middle class. As is known, drinking is now quite common among the better-off sections of society where the earlier inhibitions about alcohol consumption have died out. The growing affluence of the middle class after the opening up of the economy has also enabled them to develop a taste for scotch and wines.
The upper middle class, therefore, may look for options other than the Janata Dal (United) at election time. The BJP is one, not least because a majority of this class comprises the upper castes who are naturally inclined towards the BJP.
Since Bihar will also be hurt by the revenue loss, its developmental projects will be stymied. The gains it made, therefore, by emerging from the dismal “jungle raj” of the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s years in power between 1990 and 2005 will be negated to a considerable extent.

Unlike Bihar’s all-or-nothing approach --  it favours death penalty for violators -- Kerala is trying to have it both ways. Drinks are  available in five-star hotels, but not elsewhere. It is something like the status of Mumbai’s dance bars before the Supreme Court’s intervention when dancing was allowed in posh establishments, but not in middle or lower middle class eateries. As long as politicians feel unwanted because of their poor developmental record, they will bank on prohibition to cross the electoral waters.


The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman.


TRAINING

STATESMAN, APR 22, 2016



Govt to set up ASTIS to impart skill training
The Odisha government has decided to set-up Advance Skill Development Training Institutes (ASTIs) with a view to impart skill training to around 2 lakh youths in five years time. The decision was taken at the first general body meeting of Odisha Skill Development Society (OSDS) held under the chairmanship of chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi on Thursday, said L N Gupta, principal secretary skill development and technical education department. 

The meeting deliberated on the institutional structure and modalities for implementation of the project. 


Chief secretary Padhi directed the department to build in the quality elements in the programme from the very beginning. He directed that the bid document itself should emphasise on quality parameters. 

“In the process we must bring in the best quality training partner. The courses need to be in alignment with National Skill Quality Framework (NSQF) so as to facilitate smooth migration between vocational training and general education,” he said. 


Gupta said that it was decided to set up eight STIs in different parts of the state out of which 6 would on be Demonstration mode with major investment from government and 2 would be on PPP mode. 
The places like Angul, Balasore, Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Jeypore, Bolangir, Jharsuguda and Rourkela were proposed for establishment of the ASTIs. These institutes would impart skill training in 142 courses of 12 priority sectors of the government.
The scheme targets to train 2 lakh youths, impart advanced and finishing skills to 50,000 ITI pass outs and support skill training to 5000 people for self employment. Besides, customised skill upgradation training and certification would be provided to 25,000 skill workforce in their respective trades under Recognition of Prior Learning provisions. 
Gupta added that the targeted group of the scheme includes unemployed IT pass outs, engineers, general graduates and polytechnic graduates. 
The estimated cost of the project is around Rs.1051 crore of which the state government will provide one-third and the rest will be loan from the Asian Development Bank.

TRANSPORT

HINDUSTAN TIMES, APR 21, 2016


Move proposed to punish parents of child drivers involved in crashes


Moushumi Das Gupta




The government is set to back a proposal to punish the parents of children who drive , a move aimed at curbing rising fatalities from the underage getting behind the wheel.

The plan is to amend the motor vehicles (MV) act to introduce a provision to charge the parents of juvenile drivers involved in crashes and send the errant minors to do community service. The road transport ministry is likely to discuss the proposal at a meeting of state transport secretaries on April 22.


“If a minor is involved, it will be presumed that the parents know and willingly allowed or influenced the child. So, they should be held accountable for allowing the minor to drive,” a source said on Wednesday.
The quantum of punishment for parents and the duration of community service for errant minors will be worked out after consulting the states, the source said.
“Since road transport is on the concurrent list, states will have to agree. If there is unanimity, a decision can be taken at the April 29 meeting of the empowered group of state transport ministers reviewing road safety.”
The government’s push for stricter road safety comes amid a growing call to make parents accountable after a Class 12 student in north Delhi’s upmarket Civil Lines mowed down a 33-year-old marketing consultant with his father’s Mercedes car on Sunday.
The father of the teen, who turned 18 four days after the accident, was charged with abetment to culpable homicide not amounting to murder but was granted bail. The Juvenile Justice Board rejected the boy’s bail, saying it should be a lesson for all parents who give cars to underage children as their bad parenting endangers lives of people.
Existing provisions under the MV act penalise the owner or person in charge of the vehicle for allowing an unauthorised person such as a minor or someone without a driver’s licence to drive. The offence carries a maximum fine of Rs 1,000 and jail for three months or both.
“In case the vehicle is registered in a company or somebody else’s name, it is difficult to hold the parents accountable. The law is silent on this aspect,” a ministry official said.

Cases of underage drivers causing fatal crashes are on the rise in India, where a person dies every four minutes in road accidents. But weak laws and slack enforcement often mean a long wait for justice for the victims and their families.


The government began considering amending the existing law because a draft bill on road transport and safety, pending for over two years, will take some more time before it is approved by the Union cabinet and introduced in Parliament.
The draft bill is set to replace the 26-year-old MV act that was amended in 2001. It proposes to increase the quantum of punishment based on the gravity of the offence: a Rs 1 lakh fine for driving an unregistered vehicle, and a Rs 3 lakh fine and seven years in jail for killing a child in a road accident.

WOMEN

ASIAN AGE, APR 21, 2016


Navy to put women on selected warships



In the second major step towards enabling women officers in the armed forces to serve in combat roles in the past few months, it was the Navy’s turn on Wednesday to announce that it is “finalising” a policy for women officers “to serve on select warships that have appropriate facilities for women”.
In a path-breaking decision, the Navy also announced that “seven women officers from the batch of Short Service Commission officers of the education branch and naval constructor cadre, who joined in 2008-09, have been granted permanent commission” in service. The Navy also announced that “starting in 2017, women officers can choose to join as pilots of maritime reconnaissance planes — Boeing P8I, Dornier, etc. — as also in the Naval Armament Inspectorate cadre”, and that “a total of eight branches/cadres will be opened for women officers in the Navy”.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had recently announced that the first batch of Indian women fighter pilots, comprising three cadets, will be inducted in the Indian Air Force on June 18.
This marks a change in the positions of at least two of the three armed services compared to the positions they took about a decade ago. A report submitted by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) — comprising the then service chiefs — to the government in 2006-07 had recommended exclusion of women from combat roles in the armed forces.
The report was submitted then after a study was conducted by the COSC “on all aspects related to women officers in the armed forces, including induction in combat roles”. The study had recommended “exclusion of women officers for the present in close combat roles where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high”.
But the outlook seems to have changed rather drastically in the past decade. In a statement on Wednesday, the Navy said, “In order to demonstrate that women are second to none in tough adventure activities, a crew of six naval women officers, including the skipper, is meticulously preparing for the first all-women circumnavigation of the world in 2017 by an Indian team in an indigenously built ocean sailing vessel, Mhadei II.”
Naval sources had said a few months ago that naval women officers may also be posted on warships in the next few months and that warships being built are being configured such that they have separate accommodation quarters for women officers.
This is the second major step towards enabling women officers to serve in combat roles after the IAF and ministry of defence (MoD) decided last year to allow women IAF officers to serve as fighter pilots. Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had recently said, “We inducted women as pilots in 1991, but on only helicopter and transport (planes). I must thank the defence minister for having approved the IAF’s proposal to induct women as fighter pilots. Very soon... On June 18, the Air Force will get women fighter pilots. ... As of now three women trainees have volunteered to join the fighter stream. They are under the second phase of their training. Once they complete their training... They are on par with their male colleagues and the passing out parade is scheduled on June 18.” The three women IAF cadets are Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh. The three are expected to undergo advanced training for a year after they are inducted and are likely to be eligible to fly fighter aircraft from June, 2017.




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