1. HC clears OBC quota in AIQ seats in State govt.-run medical colleges
Court orders formation of panel to decide quota in future
- The Madras High Court on Monday ruled that there was no constitutional or legal impediment to extending the benefit of reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in medical and dental seats contributed to the All India Quota (AIQ) by State government-run medical and dental colleges every year.
- Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy rejected the contention of the Medical Council of India that AIQ in non-central institutions was created at the instance of the Supreme Court in 1984, and hence only the latter could order OBC reservation under that quota.
- The verdict was delivered on a batch of writ petitions filed by the Government of Tamil Nadu and a host of parties, including the AIADMK and the DMK, seeking 50% reservation for OBCs in 15% of undergraduate and 50% of postgraduate seats under AIQ in government-run colleges.
- The judges directed the Centre to constitute a committee to fix the percentage and other terms for OBC reservation from next year.
|Other Backward Classes (OBC) Other Backward Classes (OBC) are socially and educationally backward classes in India. OBCs are distinct from Scheduled Classes (SC) or Scheduled Tribes (ST). The Central Government of India maintains a list of castes/communities to be considered as OBC. |
Benefits of being included in the OBC list: To uplift Other Backward Classes (OBC), both the Central Government and State Governments are running a lot of programs and schemes. Some benefits include:27% Reservation Quota with respect to the seats in Government Jobs (like IAS, IPS etc) and Government institutes (like the IIMs and IITs).There is relaxation with respect to the upper age limit for various examinations like UPSC Civil Services Exam.There is relaxation with respect to the number of attempts for exams.There is relaxation with respect to cut-off marks (only lower cut-off marks are usually needed to clear exams).
Will all OBCs get the reservation benefit? No. Only if you belong to Non-Creamy Layer OBC, you will get the reservation in jobs as well as in educational institutions. If you fall under the Creamy Layer of OBC, you will not get the benefit of OBC reservation.
OBC – creamy layer vs non creamy layer Due to the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, the Central Government issued an Office Memorandum to reserve 27% posts in central government services. The order was challenged by Indra Sawhney (Indra Sawhney and Others Vs Government of India) in Supreme Court (1992). The constitutional bench of the apex court upheld the decision to reserve 27% reservation for OBC’s in Central Government service. But in the verdict, Honorable Supreme Court cleared that the creamy layer among OBC’s should be excluded from the reservation. Central Government constituted a commission chaired by Justice Ram Nandan Prasad to identify the creamy layer among OBC’s. The commission recommendations were as such approved by the Central Government. Based on this, the Central Government issued an order regarding the guidelines and criteria for excluding Creamy Layer among OBC. The same criteria and guidelines are still in force for identifying Creamy Layer among OBC’s.
Note: There is no concept of the creamy layer with respect to SC/ST reservation.
How can you know if you get OBC Reservation? Central Government maintains a list of castes or communities which are given OBC status. Check the Central List of OBCs – based on your state. If your caste or community is mentioned there, you can apply under OBC quota – provided you meet the Non-Creamy Layer criteria as well. If the candidate’s community is mentioned in the above list, then the next step is to check whether he/she belongs to the creamy layer or to the non-creamy layer. You should note that reservations are offered only to candidates belonging to the OBC non-creamy layer.
How can you know if you belong to Creamy Layer OBC or Non-Creamy Layer OBC? Creamy Layer OBC Checklist Creamy layer is based on the status of your parents. For the jobs under the Central Government, if the parents of an applicant entered the service as Class I officer before the age 40 (direct recruitment), the applicant is considered as a creamy layer. Also, if both the parents of the candidates entered into service as class II officers, before the age 40 (direct recruitment), and entered into the service before the age of 40, the applicant is considered as a creamy layer.
Who comes under Non-Creamy Layer OBC? Except for the above children of the above-mentioned employees, almost all get the benefit of “Non-Creamy Layer” Status. If your parents are not directly recruited Class1 (Group A) or Class2 (GroupB) officers OR they do not occupy any constitutional posts (like that of President, Vice President, Governor etc) you are most likely to fall under Non-Creamy Layer OBC.If your parents are not employed by the government, their income should be within the limits by the government to be treated as Non-Creamy Layer OBC.Income Limit of determining the Non-Creamy Layer Status of OBCsIn order to qualify as an OBC non-creamy layer candidate, the applicant’s parents’ annual income should be less than Rs. 8 lakhs. Salary and agricultural income are not to be considered as income for calculating annual income for creamy layer status. As far as the Government employees are considered, the entry cadre/post is to be taken into consideration. While applying the “Income/Wealth Test” to determine creamy layer status of any candidate, income from the salaries and income from the agricultural land shall not be taken into account. It means that if income from other sources other than the salary and agriculture exceeds the income limit, then only the candidates shall be treated as Creamy Layer. Note: When the creamy layer concept was introduced, the income limit was set at Rs 1 lakh per annum (1993). Thereafter, it was raised to Rs 2.5 lakhs p.a (2004). It was subsequently increased to Rs 4.5 lakhs p.a. in 2008 and then to Rs 6 lakhs p.a in 2013. The current limit is Rs.8 lakhs per annum.
Who is the authority to issue the OBC Non-Creamy Layer Certificate? OBC Certificate – Non Creamy Layer Usually, the Non-Creamy Layer Certificate is issued by the Tahsildar of the concerned State Government. The procedure for obtaining the Non-Creamy Layer Certificate may differ from State to State.
Will the candidate’s Income is also included while determining the family income with respect to Non-Creamy Layer status? You may note that ”Income” here refers only to the income of the parents and not the candidate’s income. The creamy layer status of a candidate is determined on the basis of the status of his/her parents and not on the basis of his/her own status or income or that of his/her spouse (husband or wife). Therefore, while determining the creamy layer status of a person, the status or the income of the candidate himself or of his/her spouse (husband or wife) shall not be taken into account. In short, the candidate’s income is not considered for determining the Non-Creamy Layer Status of OBCs.
What is the validity of an OBC Non-Creamy Layer Certificate? The Non-creamy Layer (NCL) Certificate would be applicable to OBC candidates who are covered under the Income/Wealth Test criterion. The income limit is decided on the basis of income earned during three previous financial years preceding the year of appointment. To illustrate, the validity of non-creamy layer certificate issued during any month of the financial year 2016-17 covering 3 preceding financial years viz. 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 be accepted by the concerned authorities for any appointments or recruitments which would be valid during the period April 2016 to March 2017. The appointing authorities would accept production of a self-attested photocopy of the Non-creamy layer certificate, subject to verification of the original Non-creamy layer certificate, as is the practice being followed for verification of other original documents. With respect to exams conducted by UPSC, the candidates are expected to possess certificates dated than the closing date of the application for the preliminary exam. For example, with respect to UPSC CSE Prelims 2019, the OBC certificate should be dated before 18th March 2019. While the OBC status of a candidate may change only when the community of the concerned candidate is removed from the OBC list, his/her creamy layer status may change any time. Therefore, it is not possible to determine a fixed validity period for the OBC certificate. However, for most practical purposes, the validity of an OBC NCL Certificate is treated as 1 year. If your OBC NCL certificate was obtained before 1 year, it is always better to get a new OBC NCL before applying for exams. Also, it is advisable to get the OBC NCL Certificate in either English (prefered) or Hindi.
What if you fall under OBC creamy layer? Candidates who fall under OBC creamy layer (parents’ annual income more than 8 lakhs) are treated as general category students. They do not have any reservation at the Government institutions. They can compete in general merit.
2. Joint call to scrap hydro-electric project in Toda tribal territory
The Sillahalla project can lead to the direct submergence of 170 hectares of land
- Around 400 conservationists, scientists, people’s groups, members of Non-Governmental Organisations and the public have together signed an appeal to the government to scrap the proposed Sillahalla pumped hydro-electric storage project (PHESP).
- In the appeal made to the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley Projects, the signatories pointed out that “The Kundah watershed region in the Nilgiris supports important last remaining vestiges of the Shola-grassland mosaic vegetation, which is one of the most endangered vegetation types in India. This region has crucial amounts of green cover in terms of forested tracts (plantations) which have been naturalised and serve as important habitat and corridors for endangered populations of wildlife.”
- The proposed Sillahalla project, once implemented, will result in the construction of an upper and a lower reservoir along the Sillahalla stream and also past the existing Kundah Palam dam, and could lead to the direct submergence of 170 hectares of land.
- The appeal outlines fears that the Sillahalla PHESP project could have a drastic impact on more than 10,000 families whose livelihoods depend on the land which will be submerged.
- “The Nilgiris has already seen several layers of social unrest and injustice due to forced evictions, improper, and failed compensations for resettlements,” the authors of the appeal note, adding that the Kundah _ another similar project — and Sillahalla PHESPs are being pushed through without adequate consultations with local stakeholders.
Toda’s ancestral lands
- Gokul Halan, from the Keystone Foundation in Kotagiri, said that the lands which are being considered for the project are ancestral lands of the Todas, an indigenous tribal community in the Nilgiris.
- “Once more they stand to lose their cultural and sacred territories if this project is approved,” he said.
3. Needed, a map for India’s foreign policy
In the backdrop of setbacks, especially in the neighbourhood, the country has to reconsider its diplomacy’s trajectory
- Not long ago, India was seen as a natural rising power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. It was the de facto leader of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It has historical and cultural ties with Nepal. It enjoyed traditional goodwill and influence in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It had made investments worth billions of dollars in Afghanistan and cultivated vibrant ties with the post-Taliban stakeholders in Kabul. It had committed itself to multilateralism and the Central Asian connectivity project, with Iran being its gateway. It was competing and cooperating with China at the same time, while the long border between the two countries remained largely peaceful.
- Cut to the present. India is perhaps facing its gravest national security crisis in 20 years, with China having changed the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western sector in its favour. The border saw violent clashes last month, leading to fatalities for the first time in 45 years. SAARC is out of joint. Nepal has turned hostile having adopted a new map and revived border disputes with India. Sri Lanka has tilted towards China, which is undertaking massive infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean island. Bangladesh is clearly miffed at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. When Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition, India is out of the multi-party talks. Iran has inaugurated a railway link project connecting the Chabahar port, on the Gulf of Oman, to Zahedan (which India was to have constructed) without India. How did we get here?
- Specific reasons can be found for these setbacks. Also, foreign policy need not be static. There will be ups and downs depending on the changes in policy as well as the changes in global politics. But what makes the current downturn serious is that there is a relative decline in India’s smart power, especially in the neighbourhood and the extended neighbourhood, which demands a deeper perusal of the foreign policy trajectory itself. And when we dig deep, three problems can be found which are more or less linked to this decline — a closer alignment of policy with the U.S. line, coupling of foreign policy with domestic politics and hubris.
The U.S. line
- India’s official policy is that it is committed to multilateralism. Even after India started moving away from non-alignment, which it calls irrelevant in the post-Cold War world order, New Delhi maintained that strategic autonomy would remain the bedrock of its policy thinking. But there has been a steady erosion in India’s strategic autonomy, which predates the current government. When India started deepening its partnership with the United States (which was a historical necessity), New Delhi began steadily aligning its policies with U.S. interests. The case of Iran is the best example. The agreement to develop the Chabahar port was signed in 2003. But India, under pressure from the U.S., was moving slowly, despite the fact that the project offered India an alternative route to Central Asia bypassing Pakistan. India voted against Iran at the United Nations; scuttled an ambitious gas pipeline project and cut down trade ties drastically. After the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015, India immediately stepped up oil purchases and expanded works at Chabahar. In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Tehran and signed a trilateral connectivity project with Afghanistan and Iran. But when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the country, India toed the U.S. line, bringing down its oil imports to zero.
- This dilly-dallying to the tunes of policy changes in Washington co-existed with India’s deepening defence and military ties with the U.S. Washington wants India to play a bigger role in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region to contain China’s rise. While India has been cautious of becoming an ally, it has steadily deepened military-to-military cooperation in the recent past — the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is one example. These developments probably altered Beijing’s assessment of India. The border aggression at different points on the LAC could not be a localised conflict; it is part of a larger strategic move, initiated by the top brass of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). One of the reasons for the shift could be Beijing’s assessment that India has already become a de facto ally of the U.S. The forceful altering of the status quo on the border is a risky message as much to New Delhi as it is to Washington.
- At least two decisions taken by the government mainly keeping its domestic audience in mind have had foreign policy consequences. First, the passing of the CAA. The official narrative has been that India is offering citizenship to the persecuted minorities of select countries in its neighbourhood. There were two problems. One, this is regionalisation of the domestic problems of the countries in India’s neighbourhood, some of which are its long-time friends. These countries are genuinely upset with India’s move. Two, Muslims, including those sub-sects persecuted in neighbouring countries, were by design excluded from the citizenship programme. This drove new wedges between India and the countries that had a Muslim majority and were friendly to India in the neighbourhood. Forget Pakistan, which is a traditional rival. Bangladesh took offence at the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (from which the government has temporarily backed off) and the political rhetoric in India against the “termites” from other countries. Bangladeshi media reported recently that the Indian envoy in Dhaka had tried to fix an appointment with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for four months but did not get one. There were anti-India protests even in Afghanistan.
- Second, the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. This was another popular move among those who form the support base of the ruling party. But it led to the suspension of fundamental rights in the Kashmir Valley for a prolonged period that damaged India’s reputation as a responsible democratic power and gave propaganda weapons to Pakistan. The move did not help India quell militancy either as the Valley continues to see violence nearly a year after the decision. More importantly, the change of status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, including the bifurcation and reduction of the erstwhile State into Union Territories, could be another factor that prompted the Chinese to move aggressively towards the border in Ladakh.
The perils of hubris
- Misplaced confidence does not do good for rising powers. Great powers wait to establish their standing before declaring that they have arrived. The Soviet Union started acting like a superpower after it won (with allies), the Second World War. China bided its time for four decades before it started taking on the mighty U.S. Since the 1970s, its focus has almost entirely been on its economic rise. India should learn from at least these modern examples. If it did, it would not have used high-handedness in Nepal during the country’s constitutional crisis and caused a traditional and civilisational ally to turn hostile. The updated political map which India released in November rubbed salt into the wound on the Nepal border.
- To address the current crises, India has to reconsider its foreign policy trajectory. It is a big power with one of the world’s biggest militaries. It is a natural naval force in the Indian Ocean. It does not lack resources to claim what is its due in global politics. What it lacks is strategic depth.
|Six phases of Indian foreign policy |
The first phase (1947-62): Optimistic Non-Alignment This period is marked with a setting of a bipolar world, with camps led by the United States and the USSR. India’s objectives in this phase were to resist dilution of its sovereignty, rebuild its economy and consolidate its integrity. India was one of the first countries to be decolonized. Thus, it was natural for India to lead Asia and Africa in a quest for a more equitable world order. In pursuit of this, India played a critical role in the establishment of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) (1961), which marked the peak of Third World solidarity. However, the 1962 conflict with China not only brought this period to an end but in a manner that significantly damaged India’s standing on NAM.
The second phase (1962-71): Decade of Realism and Recovery After the 1962 war, India made pragmatic choices on security and political challenges. It looked beyond non-alignment in the interest of national security, concluding a now largely forgotten defence agreement with the US in 1964. However, India faced external pressures on Kashmir (Tashkent agreement 1965) from the US and UK. Through Tashkent agreement both India and Pakistan agreed to withdraw all armed forces to pre-war positions, to restore diplomatic relations; and to discuss economic, refugee, and other questions. However, the agreement did not contain a no-war pact or any renunciation of Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir (as Pakistan was an ally of the US). Therefore, India now started tilting towards USSR.
The third phase (1971-91): Greater Indian Regional Assertion India showed remarkable use of hard power when it liberated Bangladesh in the India-Pakistan war in 1971. However, it was a particularly complex phase as the US-China-Pakistan axis that came into being at this time seriously threatened India’s prospects,as a regional power. India also faced sanctions from US and it allies after conducting a Peaceful nuclear explosion test in 1974 (Pokhran I). Further, the collapse of the USSR, India’s close ally, and the economic crisis in 1991 compelled India to look again at the first principles of both domestic and foreign policy. The combination of events as diverse as the Gulf War (1991-1992), the break-up of USSR (1991), long standing economic stagnation and domestic turbulence came together in 1991, creating a balance of payment crisis in India.
The fourth phase (1991-98): Safeguarding Strategic Autonomy The emergence of a unipolar world (led by the USA), encouraged India to change its approach to world affairs. This quest for strategic autonomy was particularly focused on securing its nuclear weapon option (Pokhran II 1998). This is a period where India reached out to engage the US, Israel and ASEAN countries more intensively.
This fifth phase (1998-2013): India, a Balancing Power In this period, India gradually acquired the attributes of a balancing power (against the rise of China). It is reflected in the India-US nuclear deal (123 Agreement). At the same time, India could also make common cause with China on climate change and trade, and consolidate further ties with Russia while helping to fashion BRICS into a major global forum.
The sixth phase (2013-until now): Energetic Engagement In this phase of transitional geopolitics, India’s policy of Non-Alignment has turned into Multi Alignment. Moreover, India is now more aware of its own capabilities and the expectations that the world has of India. That India is among the major economies of the world is one factor. The relevance of India’s talent in creating and sustaining global technology, is also likely to grow in time. India’s willingness to shape key global negotiations (such as conference in Paris on climate change) is equally significant. India has been able to assert itself beyond South Asia, through its approach towards the Indian Ocean Region (SAGAR initiative) and the extended neighbourhood (Act East policy and Think West policy).
4. In reverse gear
The draft EIA notification needs wider consultation and progressive changes
- The Union Ministry of Environment has been in the spotlight on more than one occasion during the pandemic, as it worked to push through retrograde environmental decisions in an atmosphere of general paralysis. In April, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar used a virtual conference to ensure that the National Board for Wildlife’s Standing Committee stamped its approval on several projects, with serious implications for conservation. He now wants to hurriedly make a fundamental change to the process of project approvals, by introducing a new Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification. Now in draft, it seeks to replace the existing EIA notification of 2006. The proposed provisions show that the Ministry has gone to great lengths to reduce or even remove public participation, and by extension independent expert opinion, from the process of granting environmental clearances; public reporting of violations may also not be taken cognisance of. While there can be no argument about the importance of development projects, it has resorted to sophistry in classifying activity for exemptions. Section 26 provides a list of projects that would not attract environmental clearance or permission, including coal mining and seismic surveys for oil, methane and shale gas on some lands. Section 14 provides exemption for these and some other projects from public consultation, also limiting the scope of public involvement to the districts concerned, in the case of national parks and sanctuaries where pipeline infrastructure will pass. Roads and highways get liberal concessions. Further, it retains the clause that if a public agency or authority considers the local situation not conducive to participation by citizens, the public consultation need not include a public hearing.
- In spite of the far-reaching nature of its proposed actions, the Centre has displayed unseemly haste to get them in place and Mr. Javadekar has not aided credibility by trying to shut down public responses to the draft early. It took a Delhi High Court order to extend the deadline to August 11. The exercise has been further muddied by the mysterious blocking of some activist websites calling for the EIA proposal to be dropped, and demanding a new approach towards conserving natural resources for future generations. Clearly, the Centre’s attempts at weakening checks and balances are not new. A study of coal mining clearances shows that 4,302 hectares of forest were diverted during 2014-18, favouring extraction over conservation. COVID-19 has powerfully demonstrated the value of nature for well-being: of lost forests and captured wildlife bringing virus reservoirs closer to humans and foul air destroying their health. While there might be a case for some changes, much of the proposed EIA system can only make things worse, and should not be pushed through.
5. The majority cannot afford a balanced diet
Even millions who are above the poverty line do not have access to healthy or nutritious food in India
- New analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that hundreds of millions of people in India above the international poverty line of $1.90 purchasing power parity (PPP) per person per day cannot afford a healthy or nutritious diet. This analysis confirms the fact that the problem of poor nutrition in India is largely on account of the unaffordability of good diets, and not on account of lack of information on nutrition or tastes or cultural preferences. The large majority of Indians cannot afford a balanced diet.
- Every year, the FAO, in partnership with other United Nations organisations, publishes a report on food security across the world. This year, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI 2020) was released on July 13. A new feature of SOFI 2020 is a detailed analysis of the “cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world”.
Types of diets
- Three types of diet are defined. The first is termed a “basic energy sufficient” diet. This is one in which the required calorie intake is met by consuming only the cheapest starchy cereal available (say, rice or wheat). A requirement of 2,329 Kcal for a healthy young woman of 30 years is taken as the standard reference. The second is a “nutrient adequate” diet, one where the required calorie norms and the stipulated requirement of 23 macro- and micro-nutrients are met. This diet includes least cost items from different food groups. The third diet is a “healthy diet”. This is one which meets the calorie norm and the macro- and micro-nutrient norm and also allows for consumption of a diverse diet, from several food groups. Defining a healthy diet is more complex than the other two diets, and the FAO uses actual recommendations for selected countries. The Indian recommendation includes consumption of items from six groups: starchy staples, protein-rich food (legumes, meat and eggs), dairy, vegetables, fruits, and fats.
- Using data on retail prices of commodities in 170 countries, linear programming techniques are used to identify the cost of each of these diets. The following are the findings for South Asia. First, the energy-sufficient diet or eating only cereals to meet your calorie requirement costs around 80 cents a day in South Asia, and is thus affordable to a poor person or one defined as having an income of $1.9 a day. In short, the poor in India and other South Asian countries can get their calories by sticking to rice or wheat alone.
- Second, the nutrient-adequate diet costs $2.12 a day. This is more than the international poverty line. If a person with income just above the poverty line spent her entire daily expenditure on food (ignoring fuel, transport, rent, medicines or any other expenditure), even then she would not be able to afford the nutrient-adequate diet. No one can, of course, survive by spending their entire income on food. The SOFI Report assumes that a person cannot spend more than 63% of total expenditure on food (that is, 37% would be required for non-food essentials).
- Third, the healthy diet costs $4.07 a day, or more than twice the international poverty line. In other words, a healthy diet is totally unaffordable for those with incomes at even twice the poverty line. And what is this healthy diet? It includes 30 gm of cereal, 30 gm of pulses, 50 gm of meat/chicken/fish and 50 gm of eggs, 100 gm of milk, 100 gm of vegetables and fruit each, and 5 gm of oil a day. In short, a balanced and healthy meal but not excessive in any way.
- How does this translate into numbers of people? The SOFI Report estimates that 18% of South Asians (numbering 586 million people) cannot afford the nutrient-adequate diet and 58% of South Asians (1,337 million people) cannot afford the healthy diet.
Affordability of healthy diets
- These eye-opening and shocking numbers have got lost in the daily news of the pandemic. If anything, the number of people who cannot afford a healthy diet will have risen in the last three months, as employment and incomes collapsed for the majority of workers in the informal sector. Note that the Indian poverty line of 2011-12, as defined by the Tendulkar Committee, amounted to ₹33 per day in urban areas and ₹27 per day in rural areas, and corresponded roughly to $1 a day at international PPP prices. The Indian poverty line (there has been no redefinition in the last decade) is thus lower than the international poverty line used in the SOFI Report.
- Whatever the limitations of the SOFI methodology, there are some clear and simple messages. First, those we officially count as poor in India – with a cut-off that is lower than the international norm of $1.9 a day – cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet let alone a healthy diet. This result is completely contrary to the view of scholars such as Arvind Panagariya that the poverty line in India “may not permit a comfortable existence, including a balanced diet, (but) allows above subsistence existence.” Second, even those with incomes of twice the international poverty line cannot afford a healthy diet. If we want to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity, we have to address the problem of affordability of healthy diets.
- Should not at least one nutritious meal (with protein, fruits and vegetables) be ensured for the majority of our people, and particularly in this time of crisis? The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana offers, up to November 2020, an additional 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of gram or lentils a month free of cost to all households with ration cards. This is welcome, of course, but utterly inadequate to address the massive and growing problem of malnutrition.
- Madhura Swaminathan is Professor and Head of the Economic Analysis Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru
6. MPs oppose exemptions under data protection law
Immunity for govt. agencies nullify safeguards, say BJP, Opposition
- At a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, Opposition and BJP members opposed certain sections of the legislation that can be invoked to exempt government agencies, such as the National Investigation Agency (NIA), from the provisions of the law.
- According to the sources, the Union Home Ministry made a presentation on Monday to the committee explaining that agencies including the NIA, National Crime Record Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau and Registrar-General of India should be exempted from the provisions under Section 35 and Section 36 of the data protection law.
Of civil liberties
- It is learnt that BJP MPs S.S. Ahluwalia and P.P. Chaudhary among others, BJD MP B. Mahtab, Congress MPs Manish Tewari and Gaurav Gogoi, among others opposed the provisions, saying that these are in violation of civil liberties of an individual.
- The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 11, 2019. It seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals, and establish a Data Protection Authority for the same. The data can be anything from traits or attributes of identity, financial or biometric data, caste, religion or even political beliefs.
- Section 35 of the law says that “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order” all or any provisions of this Act shall not apply to any agency of the government. And as per Section 36 of the law the “safeguards for an individual can also be suspended in the interests of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence or any other contravention of any law for the time being in force”.
- The members, sources said, demanded that both these clauses of the law need to be revisited. They also argued that the government does not have a clear justification for seeking these exemptions. “This law flows out of a Supreme Court judgment which upheld privacy as a fundamental right. These clauses allow the state instruments to remove safeguards provided to an individual, thus completely diluting the essence of the law,” one of the members said, calling it a direct assault on civil liberties.
- Since the law only mentions any government agency, the exemptions could practically be extended to any government body, another member said.