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The objectives of the mid-day meal scheme are



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The objectives of the mid-day meal scheme are:

  • Improving the nutritional status of children in classes I-V in Government, Local Body and Government   aided schools, and EGS and AIE centres.

  • Encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities.

  • Providing nutritional support to children of primary stage in drought affected areas during summer vacation.

Courtesy- http://www.archive.india.gov.in/sectors/education/index.php?id=7 & Wikipedia

Military security, public interest ignored in Adarsh housing: PAC

In its report on the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Defence Ministry has said a group of select officials holding key posts have subverted rules and regulations, suppressed facts and took cover under  welfare of servicemen and war widows and children in cornering prime public land in Mumbai.



What does the report say?

The committee, chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, has deplored the “cavalier manner in which the serious issue of security was overlooked to the detriment of the security installation” by the Ministry. This despite the fact that the 31-storey Adarsh building has security imperatives as per its own admission.

According to the PAC, the Ministry and military authorities ignored these aspects when the building was coming up. But they had admitted before the panel that there was a security issue as the ‘Adarsh building is the tallest one and facilitated observation of military vehicles and personnel moving into and out of the Colaba Military Station.

It criticised the Ministry for “non-cooperation with the audit” with a view to blocking parliamentary scrutiny.

Regarding NoC (no-objection certificate) that was given to the society, the Ministry said it was issued by local defence authorities because of mismanagement of defence land, poor record keeping and lack of mutation of land already in the possession of the armed forces.

The multiplicity of agencies managing defence land contributed to the maladministration, with no centralised information available on the holdings.

Terming this a ‘monumental failure at all levels of governance,’ the PAC lamented that the public servants entrusted with safeguarding the public trust had brazenly betrayed it by acting against all norms of the public interest and probity.

Some ‘advertisements’ promote patriarchal set-up, finds parliamentary panel

Endorsing the move to broaden the scope of the definition of the word “advertisement” to include the new forms of communication within the ambit of The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), a parliamentary standing committee has taken note of regressive advertising along with the indecent portrayal of women across various media platforms.

Always a much-debated issue, indecent representation of women became a subject of much concern in the wake of the December 16, 2012 gang rape incident in Delhi which shook the nation. Incidentally, the Government moved a bill to amend the IRWA three days before the gang rape.

In its report on ‘The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012’ that seeks to widen the scope of the 1986 legislation — the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) has said that, some “advertisements promoted the patriarchal set-up by assigning traditional roles to women, thereby being regressive.”



Practical approach taken by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD:

Having raised this issue, the Committee has asserted that all forms of advertisements through any medium must be regulated to curb indecent representation of women. However, it has also taken on board the apprehension of some stakeholders that “what constituted as obscenity was highly subjective and interpretation of it may lead to unnecessary harassment at the hands of the police.”

In this regard, the Committee has suggested that police officers be trained properly to deal with cases of indecent representation of women so that there is no scope for subjective and personal interpretations of the term “indecent.” Further, the Bill could provide for seeking the opinion of senior police officers in such matters.

Besides it being a subjective matter, the Committee also acknowledged the fact that obscenity and indecent representation of women could vary in different places or different cultural contexts. Another reality factored in by the Committee is the changing perception in society on various issues.



More about Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (IRWA)

The IRWA focuses on indecent representation of women and brings under its ambit references that are derogatory to the dignity of women. The IRWA, 1986 was enacted with the specific objective of prohibiting the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting or in any other manner.

The existing Act, in its present form, covers the print media. However, over the years, technological revolution has resulted in the development of newer forms of communication such as internet and satellite based communication, multi-media messaging, cable television etc.

It has, therefore, become imperative to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media, on one hand, and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any such form.



Courtesy – http://pib.nic.in

Critical view over the ‘Role of Media in a Democratic country like India’

Despite the proliferation of media houses in India, what is actually missing is the ‘diversity of opinion.’

The media is not living upto it’s guiding principles of journalism- “comment is free, but facts are sacred” (as told by Scott, Editor of ‘The Guardian’).

Over the news being aired these days, there are concerns over commercialisation and sensationalisation, besides the growing absence of objectivity in reportage; also there was a rise of fanaticism and intolerance. However, the social media has provided some relief from the ‘stark uniformity of print and television media.’

While freedom of the press is crucial, it should be used responsibly. ‘Quality Self-regulation’ is what is required for media to act as the fourth pillar of Democracy.

Speaker mentions notice for no-confidence motion

For the second consecutive, both Houses of Parliament could not conduct proceedings as Opposition parties continued their protests on a variety of issues, even as LokSabha Speaker Meira Kumar mentioned about the notice for a “no-confidence motion” received by her.

The Speaker was referring to the notices given separately by four Seemandhra Congress MPs, two MPs from the Telugu Desam Party and three from the YSR Congress for moving a “no-confidence motion” against the UPA government for its decision to carve a separate Telangana State out of Andhra Pradesh.

Earlier, question hour too could not be taken up due to the disruptions.

Unlike other motions which the Speaker decides whether to admit or not, it is the House which will have to approve the admissibility of a no-confidence/trust motion with at least 50 members (less than one-tenth of the total strength of the House) standing up to support it

A political party leader alleged that his dissent note had been altered. Quoting Article 105 of the Constitution, he had the right to administer a note of dissent as a member of the panel.



(This news is related to ‘Polity’ – Read about Article 105, No-Confidence Motion, Powers of the Speaker & Parliamentary proceedings for better understanding)

Women’s reservation Bill

The long-pending Bill, which seeks to provide 33% reservation for women in Parliament and the State Assemblies has been listed on the LokSabha agenda for the ongoing session. It has already been passed by the RajyaSabha. The women’s organisations feel this is a golden opportunity to remedy the injustice meted out to women.

The Bill was first introduced in 1996. Though it had been introduced in Parliament several times since then, the Bill could not be passed due to a so-called lack of political consensus.

Facts & Figures:

Recent elections show women’s entry into legislature is difficult without affirmative action. In Delhi, only 3 out of 70 elected members are women; situations were grim in other States too.

33.3 per cent seats in panchayat elections have already been reserved for women.

In the gender-related development index (GDI) – India ranks 113th among 177countries.

The average percentage of women’s representation in the Parliament, Assemblies and Council of Ministers taken together has been around 10%. (UNIFEM:2000)

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redress) Rules, 2013, notified

The Women and Child Development Ministry has notified rules for prevention of harassment at workplace. Following are the guidelines:

Any malicious complaint of sexual harassment by a woman will attract the same punishment a man who has been found guilty of it at the workplace suffers.

The Ministry has recommend that action for sexual harassment/malicious complaint would include –  a written apology; warning; reprimand or censure; withholding of promotion, pay rise or increments; termination from service; or undergoing counselling or doing community service. These will apply in cases where service rules do not exist.

Anyone who discloses the name or identity of the aggrieved woman or witnesses will be liable to pay a penalty of Rs 5,000.

On the inquiry procedure, internal complaints committee or local complaints committee can, on a written request, grant the complainant relief during the pendency of inquiry by restraining the accused from reporting on the work performance of the aggrieved woman or writing her confidential report, and, in case of an educational institution, by restraining the respondent from supervising any academic activity of the woman.

A complaint of sexual harassment can be filed by a relative or a friend, a co-worker or an officer of the National Commission for Women or the State Women’s Commission or any other person who has knowledge of the incident where the complainant is unable to do it herself because of physical incapacity. But this has to be done with her written consent.

Mind-mapping:


  • According to you what are the preventive measures to be taken in regard to sexual harassment at workplace? Also what are the measures/steps taken by the Government?

  • Impact that it would have on women participation at work(organized, unorganized employment)  and on Women Empowerment

  • Does the clause of punishment for malicious complaint act as a deterrent for women coming forward to give complaint?

  • Will law alone be suffice to prevent harassment of women, if not what r the additional steps to be taken?

To read:

The article on ‘Judicial appointment, Rule of Law & independence of Judiciary’ (OPED page)

The Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill, 2013, and the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013, seek to reform the appointment of High Court and Supreme Court judges by establishing a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC). This significant opportunity to reform a vital part of the Indian legal system must not be lost to misconceived rhetoric about the ‘independence of the judiciary’ and the ‘rule of law’ or the mistaken view that this measure simply pushes us back into past errors.

JAC that restores parity between the executive and judiciary in the judicial appointment process is constitutionally valid.

Rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, necessarily means that the judiciary must have primacy among the constitutional institutions in the judicial appointment process.

To continue reading -

‘Recasting the appointments debate’



http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/recasting-the-appointments-debate/article5454075.ece

Cabinet gives nod to Disabilities Bill

The Union Cabinet has approved the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, a comprehensive measure that covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities. It will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.



Provisions in the Bill:

The Bill provides for 5% reservation in public sector jobs and makes the private sector more accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment. It provides incentives for the private sector to take such measures.

On political participation, the proposed law says every person with disability who fulfills eligibility requirements is entitled to be registered as a voter. He/she should not be disqualified from exercising the voting right on the grounds of disability, irrespective of any stipulation to the contrary in any law for the time being in force.

Any person who is unable to vote in person due to disability or because of admission to hospital for treatment is entitled to opt for postal ballot. It requires the Election Commission to ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The proposed law also allows mentally unsound women the right to fertility and prescribes punishment for forced abortion or hysterectomy on them.

Mind-Mapping:


  • Why do we need such a Bill? What was missing in the Disability Act of 1995, which prompted for a new Bill?

  • What are the steps taken by the Government of India (GOI) with regard to persons with disabilities? What is the role of civil society groups or citizens in this regard?

  • How far as the government institutions or the private sectors have made their premises disabled-friendly?

  • Also look out for examples –where disabled persons have faced embarrassment. For example: Recently a disabled woman was prevented from entering the flight (or airport) due to some security checks.

  • Who are the other persons who have the option for ‘postal ballot’? Why is this option given?

–>

{

P.S : Currently the winter session of the Parliament is going on, so reading  “parliament’’ Chapter (Polity) will help you understanding the key-terms – ‘Vote-On-Account’ , ‘Consolidated Fund of India’, ‘ Demands and Appropriation Bill’, ‘Question hour’ etc.

}

Code of Conduct for Ministers revised

In order to insulate the bureaucracy from political interference, the Union Cabinet has revised the Code of Conduct for Ministers (both Union and States) by adding a new provision as per which Ministers cannot force civil servants to take decisions that may be in conflict with their duties and responsibilities.

The revised Code of Conduct states that the “Minister shall uphold the political impartiality of the civil services and not ask the civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the civil servants.”

The revised code will take immediate effect in the case of the Union Council of Ministers. In the case of the States and the Union Territories, the revised code will be forwarded to the Chief Ministers for adoption.



Mind-Mapping:

  • Why do we need a code of conduct for Ministers? Do we have a similar code of conduct for bureaucrats, civil society groups, media? If so how effective are these codes really?

  • With the revision of code of conduct, how would it impact the governance of the country?

  • Code of conduct is also related to Ethics; Significance of Code of Conduct.

Advocacy on Pending Bills

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has sought the simultaneous passage of the Lokpal Bill, the Grievance Redress Bill and the Whistleblower Protection Bill, contending that these laws formed would contain inter-linked measures that constituted the much required accountability regime.



The rights of citizens for time-bound delivery of Goods & Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill seeks to create a mechanism to ensure timely delivery of goods and services to citizens.

Every public authority is required to publish a citizens charter within six months of the commencement of the Act.  The Charter will detail the goods and services to be provided and their timelines for delivery.

A citizen may file a complaint regarding any grievance related to: (a) citizens charter; (b) functioning of a public authority; or (c) violation of a law, policy or scheme.

The Bill requires all public authorities to appoint officers to redress grievances.  Grievances are to be redressed within 30 working days.  The Bill also provides for the appointment of Central and State Public Grievance Redressal Commissions.

A penalty of up to Rs 50,000 may be levied upon the responsible officer or the Grievance Redressal Officer for failure to render services.

Courtesy- http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-right-of-citizens-for-time-bound-delivery-of-goods-and-services-and-redressal-of-their-grievances-bill-2011-2125/

For more information refer the below link,

http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Citizen%20charter/Legislative%20Brief%20Citizens%20Charter%2027%20Sep.pdf

The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011

Commonly known as the Whistleblower’s Bill, it seeks to establish a mechanism to register complaints on any allegations of corruption or willful misuse of power against a public servant.  The Bill also provides safeguards against victimisation of the person who makes the complaint.



Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill seeks to protect whistleblowers, i.e. persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offence by a public servant.

Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.

Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant.

The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary.  The Bill penalises any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.

The Bill prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.

Courtesy – http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-public-interest-disclosure-and-protection-of-persons-making-the-disclosures-bill-2010-1252/

For more information refer the below link,

http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Public%20Disclosure/Legislative%20Brief%20-%20Public%20Interest%20Disclosure%20Bil.pdf

Lokpal: institutional mechanism to curb corruption

In the newly amended Lokpal Bill, the Union government has dropped the provisions relating to establishing Lok Ayuktas at the State level; instead, the States would need to put in place their own institutions within one year. A composite law may be preferable from the people’s point of view, but the concession is in compliance to the need to federalise the anti-corruption domain. Contrary to what its critics say, the bill cannot be dismissed as weak; nor can it be seriously contended that the Lokpal does not have an independent investigative mechanism.



Regarding CBI:

The CBI has been placed at the disposal of the Lokpal, which will have superintendence over that agency in cases under its consideration. The need for sanction from the respective governments to initiate prosecution has been waived for cases cleared by the Lokpal. The CBI Director’s appointment will be on the basis of a statutory process, and the Lokpal will have its own inquiry and prosecution wings.



Way forward:

The movement for such a law initiated by Anna Hazare, along with the success of the Aam Aadmi Party based on the campaign for a Lokpal, has made fresh legislation unavoidable. The development is unlikely to end the debate over the adequacy, independence and effectiveness of the anti-graft institution the new law will put in place, but it will certainly be a milestone in the quest for an institutional mechanism to combat corruption.

The mere enactment of this Bill is not enough. The amendment to the Constitution needed to confer constitutional status to the Lokpal and Lok Ayuktas also needs to be passed. And so does the proposed law on the right of citizens to time-bound delivery of goods and services and to have their grievances redressed. Only this will fulfil the need for a strong institutional framework to curb corruption.

Mind –Mapping:


  • What is Corruption? Types of Corruption? Impact of corruption on the society, economy? Also link it with Ethics and Integrity; Code of conduct.

  • What are the steps taken by the govt in order to curb corruption? Role of Civil society?

  • What are the existing mechanisms in India to curb corruption? How effective are these mechanisms?

  • What according to you should be really done in this regard? Suggestions from your side.

  • Is Lokpal a panacea for all problems?

Provisions of Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013 seeks to establish the institution of Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the States which would provide a uniform vigilance and anti-corruption mechanism across the country.



Jurisdiction of Lokpal with respect to Prime Minister:

The jurisdiction of the Lokpal will ‘include’ the Prime Minister ‘except’ on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space and unless a Full Bench of the Lokpal and at least two-thirds of members approve an inquiry. It will be held in-camera and if the Lokpal so desires, the records of the inquiry will not be published or made available to anyone.



With respect to Ministers, MP’s, Officials:

The Lokpal will also have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs but not in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there. Group A, B, C or D officers defined as such under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 will be covered under the Lokpal but any corruption complaint against Group A and B officers, after inquiry, will come to the Lokpal. However, in the case of Group C and D officers, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner will investigate and report to the Lokpal.

If the Lokpal decides to proceed on any complaint, it can order a preliminary inquiry against any public servant by its Inquiry Wing or any agency, including the CBI, to ascertain if there is a prima facie case, and the public servant will be given an opportunity of being heard.

The Lokpal will have powers of superintendence over cases referred by it to the CBI. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal will not be transferred without its approval. The Centre will fund the CBI investigations into the matters referred to it by the Lokpal.





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