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Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Context: The Tamil Nadu government has once again reiterated its opposition to the three-language formula proposed by the Centre in the draft National Education Policy. 
What is the formula?
It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States. 
Origin:
  • Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallised into a policy in an official document only in the National Policy on Education, 1968. This document said regional languages were already in use as the media of education in the primary and secondary stages.
  • In addition, it said, “At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula, which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.”
  • In the ‘non-Hindi speaking States’, Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English. It added: “Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the prescribed university standards.”

What did NEP 1968 say on promotion of Hindi as the link language?
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”.

Why is there opposition to the teaching of Hindi which crystallised into a policy in an official document in 1968?
The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language. 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.

What needs to be done?
There are numerous attractive ways to promote a language to the desired extent. So, instead of prescribing a set of languages, Draft NEP 2019 should give the freedom to choose “any three languages of 8th Schedule of the Constitution or official languages of the Union of India” as offered in the scheme of studies by the Boards of Secondary Education. This is a win-win solution for all.
Sources: the Hindu.


What to study?
For prelims and mains: AFRS- features, need, concerns and significance.

Context: On June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

What is automated facial recognition?
AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person. The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.

What does the NCRB request call for?
  1. The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  2. Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  3. The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  4. It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country. “Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.”

How will the new database fit in what already exists?
NCRB has proposed integrating this facial recognition system with multiple existing databases. The most prominent is the NCRB-managed Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS). Facial recognition has been proposed in the CCTNS program since its origin.
  • The idea is that integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities. It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.
  • The new facial recognition system will also be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Koya Paya portal on missing children.

Concerns:
  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
  • Amid NCRB’s controversial step to install an automated facial recognition system, India should take note of the ongoing privacy debate in the US.
  • In the absence of data protection law, Indian citizens are more vulnerable to privacy abuses.
  • Use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition constrict the rights of particular class of people.
  • In the US, the FBI and Department of State operate one of the largest facial recognition systems.
  • International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.
  • The AFRS is being contemplated at a time when India does not have a data protection law. In the absence of safeguards, law enforcement agencies will have a high degree of discretion. This can lead to a mission creep. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 is yet to come into force, and even if it does, the exceptions contemplated for state agencies are extremely wide.

Need of the hour:
The notion that sophisticated technology means greater efficiency needs to be critically analysed. A deliberative approach will benefit Indian law enforcement, as police departments around the world are currently learning that the technology is not as useful in practice as it seems in theory. Police departments in London are under pressure to put a complete end to use of facial recognition systems following evidence of discrimination and inefficiency. San Francisco recently implemented a complete ban on police use of facial recognition. India would do well to learn from their mistakes.

Sources: the Hindu.

The Parliament has extended the President Rule In Jammu & Kashmir for another six months.
Governance Issues in J&K
The Central government has extended its rule in the state while promoting grassroot democracy which seems contradictory and violation of spirit of federalism. Other issues involved are:
§  Poor economic development.
§  Failure to deliver even basic facilities.
§  Widespread corruption among government employees.
§  Human Rights Abuse.
§  Unemployment among youth.
§  Security threat from Cross border infiltration.
Initiatives Taken to address governance issues in J&K
§  ‘Back to Villages’ program under which government officers visit villages to redress grievances of people at their doorsteps.
President's Rule in J&K
§  In case of breakdown of Constitutional machinery in the state, there are two prescriptions 

o    Governor's Rule under J&K Constitution
o    Presidential Rule under the Indian Constitution (Article 356)
§  Governor's rule is first imposed for six months in the state with the approval of the President. In case, the constitutional crisis is not resolved within 6-months, President's Rule is extended to the state under article 356 of Indian Constitution for a maximum period of 3-years with Parliamentary approval after every 6 months.
§  President's Rule is extended to other states in case of breakdown of constitutional machinery under Art. 356 and under Art. 365 in case of failure of state govt to comply with orders of Central Govt. However, there is no such provision of Governor's Rule in other states.


Context: In the seven phases Lok Sabha polls, a record 18,02,646 eligible personnel were enrolled and 10,84,266 voted through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) or e-postal ballots.

Electronically transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS):
  • ETPBS is developed by Election Commission of India with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)for the use of the Service Voters.
  • It is a fully secured system, having two layers of security. Secrecy is maintained through the use of OTP and PIN and no duplication of casted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot (ETPB) is possible due to the unique QR Code.
  • Persons working in paramilitary forces and the military and government officials deployed in diplomatic missions outside India are classified as Service Voters.

Significance and benefits:
  • This system enables the entitled service voters to cast their vote using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • The voters who make such a choice will be entitled for Postal Ballot delivered through Electronic Media for a particular election.
  • The developed System is implemented inline with the existing Postal Ballot System. Postal Ballot will be transmitted through Electronic Means to the voters.
  • It enables the voters to cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot from their preferred location, which is outside their originally assigned voting constituency.
  • This system would be an easier option of facilitating voting by the electors as the time constraint for dispatch of postal ballot has been addressed using this system.

Class of Electors who are eligible for ETPBS:
  1. Service Voters, other than those who opt for proxy voting (Classified Service Voters).
  2. The wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him.
  3. Overseas Voters.

Features:
  • Service voters can avail this service from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • System facilitates creation of service voter electoral roll data.
  • Easy, Efficient and Hassle free.
  • It is a secure system, having two layer security.
  • OTP is required to download encrypted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot file.
  • Secrecy is maintained and no duplicate of casted ETPB is possible due to QR code.
  • PIN is required to decrypt, print and deliver ETPB.



Context: Giving further fillip to Regional Connectivity in the country, 8 more routes (including 2 DoNER Routes) became functional Under Regional Connectivity Scheme/UdeDeshKaAamNagrik- UDAN scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

About UDAN:
UDAN, launched in April 2017, is a flagship scheme of the Union Government to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.
The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP)which was launched in June 2016.

Objectives of the scheme:
  • The primary objective of RCS is to facilitate / stimulate regional air connectivity by making it cheap and affordable.
  • Promoting affordability of regional air connectivity is envisioned under RCS by supporting airline operators through: Concessions and Financial (viability gap funding or VGF) support.

Significance:
The scheme gives India’s aviation sector a boost by giving a chance to small and first-time operators to be a part of the rapid growth in passenger traffic.
Government has approved major reforms in the Indian Army which will begin with the restructuring of Army Headquarters.
§  The Army headquarters had instituted 4 studies with an overall aim to enhance the operational and functional efficiency of the force, optimize budget expenditure, facilitate modernization and address aspirations.
o    ‘Re-organisation and right-sizing of the Indian Army’ which focuses on operational structures to make the force efficient and future-ready by taking into account the operational situation on western and northern borders.
o    ‘Re-organisation of the Army Headquarters’ with an aim to bring in "integration and preclude the redundancies.
o    ‘Cadre review of officers' whose focus was to recommend how to carry out reorganization and restructuring to meet the aspirations of the officers' cadre.
o    'Review of terms of engagement of rank and file' which was aimed at harnessing the higher life expectancy and ensuring the younger profile of key commands and motivation of the personnel.

Shekatkar Committee
§  Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar had constituted a committee to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces in 2015.
§  Recommendations:
o    Closure of Military Farms and Army Postal Establishments in peace locations.
o    Enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army.
o    Improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.
o    Recommended a roll-on defence budget to have enough capital expenditure available for modernisation as against the present practice of surrendering unspent capital budget at the end of each financial year.


What to study?
For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.

Context: Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament have been passed, which makes it a highly productive session after many years. But these Bills have been passed without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees, their purpose being to enable detailed consideration of a piece of legislation.

What’s the issue?
After the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, parliamentary standing committees have not been constituted as consultations among parties are still under way. Partly as a result of this, the Bills were passed without committee scrutiny. They were discussed in Parliament over durations ranging between two and five hours.

Why have parliamentary committees?
  1. Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning
  2. Committees are platforms for threadbare discussion on a proposed law.
  3. The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  4. Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
  5. Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking. 
  6. Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
  7. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely

What are the types of committees?
  1. Most committees are ‘standing’ as their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis; some are ‘select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
  2. Financial control is a critical tool for Parliament’s authority over the executive; hence finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

Powers:
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

Significance:
Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees. 

What these committees do?
  • Support Parliament’s work.
  • Examine ministerial budgets, consider Demands for Grants, analyse legislation and scrutinise the government’s working.
  • Examine Bills referred to by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.
  • Consideration of Annual Reports.
  • Consideration of national basic long term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.

Advantages of having such committees:
  • The deliberations and scrutiny by committees ensure that Parliament is able to fulfil some of its constitutional obligations in a politically charged environment.
  • They also help in obtaining public feedback and building political consensus on contentious issues.
  • They help develop expertise in subjects, and enable consultation with independent experts and stakeholders.
  • The committees perform their functions without the cloud of political positioning and populist opinion.
  • These committees allow the views of diverse stakeholders.
  • They function through the year.
  • They also offer an opportunity for detailed scrutiny of bills being piloted by the government.
  • They increase the efficiency and expertise of Parliament.
  • Their reports allow for informed debate in Parliament.

How can these committees be made more effective?
  1. Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. The knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
  2. The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.
  3. Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body. Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.

Sources: the Hindu.

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