January 17, 2014
NATIONAL & SOCIAL ISSUES
National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) (will be rolled out across the country in the coming months.)
- The NULM is actually an improved version of the earlier poverty alleviation programme for the urban poor titled Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) which was found to be wanting for a variety of reasons.
- Having identified the problem areas in the implementation of the SJSRY and recognising the need to address the needs of the growing population flocking to cities in search of a better livelihood, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) re structured the old scheme and unveiled it in its new avatar as the NULM.
- It has also expanded the beneficiaries of urban poor to include the homeless and street vendors who are invariably ignored in government programmes.
- A special provision has been made for the funding of all-weather 24/7 shelters with all essential facilities for the urban homeless. In addition, up to five per cent of the NULM budget has been earmarked to provide support to urban street vendors which will include skill up gradation and development of vendor markets.
- Under the improved programme urban poor, especially women, will be organized into self-help groups (SHGs), while infrastructure and trained manpower will be provided to upgrade their skills in keeping with the requirements of the market. In addition, beneficiaries will be helped to secure loans if anybody wants to set up his or her own enterprise.
This will be first time that women in cities will be organised into thrift and credit-based SHGs to meet their financial and social needs. This is the main emphasis in NULM. The concept has been borrowed from the rural areas where this experiment has proved to be extremely successful.
SHGs are typically small groups of 10-20 women who are bound by a common agenda. Not only are these groups an effective mechanism to improve the livelihood of its members but they are also found to be an excellent support system for the women and increases their levels of confidence and self-esteem.
There are innumerable studies from rural areas which also show how involvement of women in SHGs has empowered them to play an active role in community matters like provision of adequate drinking water facilities and children’s education.
Although municipal committees have been identified as nodal bodies for the implementation of NULM, they have been provided special funding to hire technical experts and also to draft civil society groups in the management of the programme since the local bodies do not have the expertise to do so.
These professionals will mobilise the women into SHGs and encourage them to develop a corpus through their savings which can be used by a member for a personal need or for setting up a small business. In addition, the women will be helped to open bank accounts so that they have access to credit. A provision of Rs. 10,000 has been made for the formation and activities of each SHG for the initial two years.
Now, he said, individuals and groups can get financial assistance under the mission’s Self-Employment Programme (SEP) at a subsidized interest rate to set up their own micro-enterprises. In addition, beneficiaries can also avail credit for other activities like carrying out repairs to their house or funding a child’s education through their SHG’s.
Being uneducated and having no skills, the urban poor are particularly vulnerable as they are forced to work as maids, cooks, guards or in sweat shops where they toil in poor working conditions, often being denied minimum wages. The framers of the NULM have decided to give them an opportunity to learn new skills so that they can command a better salary or set up self-employed ventures.
Since it is a critical component of the mission, 50 per cent of the budget is to be spent on the training of 2.8 million urban poor in the current five year plan. While training institutions will be set up for this purpose, the skill training providers will also place them in remunerative jobs and keep tabs on them for the first six months to guard against any exploitation.
“The skills imparted can range from retail to nursing, depending on what the market requires and on completion of the programme, each person will be given a certificate.
The NULM is indeed an ambitious programme as nobody has, so far, focused on improving the livelihood of the urban poor. If implemented well, it could have a far-reaching and visible impact on the lives of those eking out a living in the slums of the country’s urban centres.
Devyani Khobragade Case
What was the issue?
On December 12, American Authorities arrested Indian consular officer Devyani Khobragade. She was subjected to handcuffing, strip-searching and she was treated like an ordinary criminal. This followed a louder protest by Indian Government and the intense national outrage.
India’s stand: question of diplomatic and consular immunities and privileges.
The intense national outrage at the arrest and humiliation of Devyani Khobragade is justified. Indian society was deeply shocked that a senior Indian official was subject to a strip search. This also created a deep sense of cultural outrage.
There was no reason for the American authorities to treat her like an ordinary criminal, even if they believed she had breached US criminal laws and her actions were not covered by the immunity provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).
By handcuffing, strip-searching and locking her up with criminals, the Americans clearly violated the provisions of the VCCR, which requires that consular officials be treated, at all times, with respect.
Question of diplomatic and consular immunities and privileges.
Among the many issues brought into focus by Khobragade’s arrest is the question of diplomatic and consular immunities and privileges
These are codified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).
These conventions provide the formal basis for the conduct of diplomatic and consular intercourse among nations.
The VCDR provides complete immunity from any criminal action to accredited diplomats. It also ensures that embassy premises as well as homes of diplomats are secure, and cannot be entered by any person of the receiving country. The VCDR also protects the communications of diplomats, though it is well known that intelligence agencies try to clandestinely pry into them.
The VCCR provides all the immunities to consular officials that diplomats enjoy, except that it significantly excludes immunity against grave crimes.
The reason for this vital difference lies in the fact that the representative status of the consular officials is circumscribed to commercial, economic, cultural and scientific work, apart from looking after the interests of their nationals and servicing passports and issuing visas.
Immunities and privileges are meant to ensure that the conduct of diplomacy and consular work can take place without impediment and harassment and in a conducive environment.
The main objective of diplomats and consular officials is to foster good and beneficial bilateral relations through cultivating the government and opinion-makers of the countries of their postings.
In addition to the formal framework of the VCDR and the VCCR, there were informal customs and understandings that sought to ensure that aberrant or disturbing behaviour of diplomats and consular officials was managed in a discreet manner, so that it never reached a point where it cast a direct shadow on relations between countries.
In extreme cases, diplomats and consular officials were declared persona non grata and asked to leave. As the diplomatic world is governed by the principle of reciprocity, their countries asked an equivalent number of their counterparts to leave as well, and the matter ended there.
According to US officials, Devyani Khobragade had signed an agreement to pay her domestic help, Sangeeta Richard, $9.75 an hour. Instead she paid her only $3.31 an hour.
As Khobragade had violated US laws, it was both legal and legitimate for the US attorney, Preet Bharara, to have her arrested and charged.
US’s double standards exposed:
In the past there were cases when American government has literally whisked away their citizens from prosecution in foreign countries.e.g. Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, was whisked away from the Pakistani judicial system after shooting and killing two Pakistani citizens.
It is normal for American diplomats to receive diplomatic immunity. Rather abnormally, the American government expects that even its non-diplomats should receive immunity.
American government allows no foreign government officials, including a powerful person like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund, any immunity from American laws. Yet it expects its government officials to be — in theory and in practice — immune from other countries’ legal courts.
Whenever any US government official faces the threat of prosecution in a foreign legal court, he or she is quietly whisked away, as few governments can withstand bilateral pressure from the US government.
Cheer India cheer….!!!!!
All governments in the world are aware of this double stand attitude of the US government. On one hand, the US government is second to none in defending the rule of law at home. On the other hand, the US government is second to none in defending immunity for its officials from all foreign legal courts and judicial procedures.
This double stand attitude of the US government explains why virtually every other government in the world was quietly cheering on the Indian government as it insisted on total reciprocity in the treatment of Indian and American officials.
They hoped that India would finally succeed in persuading the US government to accept a level playing field in dealing with other countries. The Indian government’s success in persuading the American government to allow Khobragade to return home and not face charges in an American court will therefore be cheered all around the world.
Most countries realise that they would not have had the weight to shift the US government. India is one of the few who could do so. And in doing so, India has also enhanced the rights and standing of other foreign diplomats on American territory.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill 2013
What is Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India:- a proposed regulatory authority to regulate the research, transport, import, manufacture and use of organisms and products of biotechnology.
Why we need Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India:- because India has signed “US convection on biodiversity” and “Cartagena protocol on Bio-safety ” which make regulatory authority necessary.
Current status: Currently biotechnology is regulated by “Ministry of Environment and Forests” and “Department of Biotechnology” under “Ministry of Science and Technology”.
Highlight of bill:
- set up an independent authority .
- regulate products and processes of Biotechnology and certify that the product is safe.
- Doesn’t specify for any liability, the tribunal and the court will decide the liability.
- Field trials of the modified products will only be conducted after permission from BRAI.
- For a drug or vaccine with elements of biotechnology, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) will forward the application to BRAI to assess whether it is safe to proceed with a clinical trial.
- Risk Assessment Unit (RAU): The RAU will undertake science based safety assessments of the applications.
- Product Rulings Committee (PRC): The report of the RAU will be forwarded to the PRC and the PRC will make recommendations regarding the safety of the product or organism.
- Environmental Appraisal Panel (EAP): BRAI may refer an application to the EAP, in case of products or organisms having an environmental impact.
- The states are objecting that Center is trying to interfere in state right because the Bill brings the regulation of biotechnology under the powers of the center. The Centre claims that the states still have the powers in issues like GM technology as agriculture belongs to the State list
- The bill bypasses the RTI under the garb of being “Confidential Commercial Information”.
- Conflict of Interest : this bill seen as a quick one-stop clearing house to benefits GM corporation as a committee of just 5 scientists will be empowered to clear the patented technology for use in whole country.